Jason and Emma named their second set of triplets Cierra, Mary, and Luke. Cierra and Mary were claimed by Hades soon after, and Luke was claimed by Zeus. As Kayla, Colton, and Martin warmed up to being older siblings and help from other campers proved to be consistent, Jason and Emma got back to being their old selves again.
The rate at which new campers were arriving with satyrs and other seasoned campers was more overwhelming than the news of Jason and Emma’s new triplets. Though all of the cabins had been expanded when the cabins for the non-Olympian gods had been built, some of them started feeling full again, and Chiron promised rebuilds in the summer.
Among the new arrivals were three children of Zeus: Asher Roush, who was Nico and I’s age, and twin sisters Ashton and Alison Wells, who were a year younger than Asher. Kaylina’s two younger brothers, Aker and Jake, also came to live at camp in the spring.
By the summer, capture the flag was already super competitive with new alliances and new campers to put to the test. Nico and I finally got to play positions other than prison guard consistently, and we could not have been happier.
That was, until we both had new siblings arrive. Nico’s siblings, Aleckz and Jessica, were Xavier’s age and Nico’s age respectively, while my new siblings were Nick, Jordan, and Tori, who were my age, and Scott, who was younger than me. I was stoked to finally have a younger sibling, and everyone in the cabin quickly began calling Scott ‘Scotty’ because he and Matty bonded quickly and their mannerisms were so similar that it was almost as if they had grown up together.
Nick, Jordan, Tori, Keenan, and I were fast friends, and so were Nico and Jessica. Though I loved my new siblings and cousins, I couldn’t help but feel that the time that Nico and I got to spend alone was getting less and less all the time, and sometimes, even with my siblings, I felt so lonely that I wanted to cry. Even though I could hug them and hold their hands and tell them that I loved them, it wasn’t the same as Nico.
Finally, in July, I convinced Nico that we should do border patrol together. Border patrol had been relatively lax, considering the lack of threats we faced with the Fleece protecting us and Peleus guarding the Fleece, but at least two people were always on duty at night. Chiron reluctantly agreed to let Nico and I patrol together. Not because he knew we were dating and didn’t want us doing something, but because we were still just two seven year-olds. Extremely powerful ones, but still kids.
“It’s nice to be alone,” Nico said, sitting down on Half-Blood Hill and placing his sword and shield off to the side.
“That’s why I wanted to do this,” I said, smiling at him.
He smiled back, then leaned in to kiss me. I lost myself in his lips until a stick cracked in the distance.
Nico and I were on our feet, swords at the ready, in an instant. However, it seemed that the stick had merely been cracked by a deer or another normal woodland creature, so we sat back down, still straining our ears for another noise.
“I think Peyton likes Maddox,” I said, picturing the look that I had seen her giving him across the pavilion.
“Really?” Nico asked. “They would be good together, I think.”
I nodded. “Maddox is so nice. I don’t know if he likes her back, though.”
“Why not?” Nico asked. “She’s super pretty.”
I raised my eyebrows, and we both laughed. “Yeah, she is.” I agreed.
We continued our night, talking and kissing to keep ourselves awake, until Percy and Annabeth came around 2:30 to switch with us.
“Hey lovebirds,” Percy teased as they crested the hill.
“Hey yourselves,” Nico said, sticking his tongue out.
“You guys should hang out with us for a bit,” Annabeth said, placing her hand on my back.
Nico and I looked at each other and shrugged. We joined Percy and Annabeth, sitting on top of the hill and looking down at the rural road in front of us.
“It’s so beautiful out here at night,” Annabeth said, taking a deep breath.
The rest of us murmured in agreement, taking deep breaths of our own.
“We have news for you guys,” Percy said. “News for everyone, really.”
“What?” I asked.
“We both decided to take a gap year. Help out around camp.” Annabeth said.
Nico and I cheered quietly, so as not to wake up Peleus or anyone else down in the valley. “I really couldn’t be more excited,” I said, clenching my fists in front of my chest and smiling so hard that I had to close my eyes. “Especially with all of our new siblings.”
“The influx of campers is one thing that helped convince me,” Annabeth said. “It’s not fair of me to leave Malcolm in charge of everyone, you know? He never wanted to be a counselor, and none of the others are ready.”
“Plus,” Percy said, “since Chiron asked her to expand the cabins again… it just didn’t make sense to do a shoddy job over the summer and leave everyone to deal with the consequences.”
Annabeth nodded, looking down at the road. “To be honest, I’m terrified of college.”
Percy and I leaned into her from either side, and Nico leaned against me. “You’re going to be so good at it, though,” I said.
Annabeth shrugged, and Nico and I pulled away. “That’s the thing,” she said, resting her head on Percy’s. “It’s one thing to reconstruct Olympus and Camp Half-Blood. It’s totally different when mortals, who don’t know my name or anything about my parentage, look at my resume and there’s nothing there because they can’t see what I’ve done.”
“You still did so much in high school,” Percy said, sitting up and pulling her towards him. “You’re so smart, Annabeth. You’ll do a bunch of awesome stuff at college in New Rome, too, and it’ll be stuff you can put on your resume. You act like you’ll be giving your future employers a black piece of paper, but it’ll be far from blank.”
Annabeth gave in and slumped against him. “Still. No one in New Rome has any expectations from me, either.”
“Yeah, right,” Nico said, laughing. “All those Romans there who saw you fight know who you are. And Jason consulted you when he was planning all that stuff for the new temples.”
“He’s right,” Percy said in a sing-song voice, as if he had told Annabeth that exact thing.
She sighed and sat up, smiling. “I don’t know. Part of me knows that I’m being kind of silly, but I just can’t get the nerves to stop eating me alive.” “That’s how I feel when I go to mortal school,” I said, taking her hand. “I think it’s just a half-blood thing.”
“Well we should make it not be a half-blood thing, don’t you think?” Annabeth said. “I’ve thought about it a lot, but this second generation of half-bloods… This is kind of the first time that it’s happened here at camp. New Rome is full of families like that who are perfectly functional in the mortal world because they have New Rome, which brings both sides of their lives together, you know? Camp has nothing like that.”
We all nodded, lost in our own thoughts.
“We could be the ones to change that,” Annabeth said. “If I end up being gifted a child from Hera--”
“We,” Percy corrected, giving her a toothy grin.
Annabeth sighed, then laughed. “If we end up being gifted a child from Hera, I want them to be able to function in both worlds. That was how Kronos built his army bigger than we could imagine, you know? He found people who could function in both worlds, while Camp Half-Blood could only really pull resources from our strawberry fields.”
“So what?” Percy asked. “Are you saying we should grow blueberries, too?”
Annabeth glared at him, and I could tell that she was fighting the impulse to call him ‘Seaweed Brain.’ “Maybe. But other things, too. We have a bunch of super talented people here. We could have the Dionysus and Hermes cabin open a casino and swindle a bunch of rich people. We could have the Apollo cabin form a band and perform for money. Apollo and Hera both think cows are sacred, right? We could raise and sell dairy cows. And the Poseidon cabin could breed racehorses or something.”
“Whoa,” Percy said. “If you think that I’m going to force certain horses to have babies with each other, you can forget that. I’ll never hear the end of it.” Annabeth sighed. “It doesn’t have to be exactly these things. I’m just saying that we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.”
“You’re right,” I said, though I didn’t like the idea of breeding horses either. “We do need to connect to mortals. Chiron has been trying to teach Nico and I that for years.”
Annabeth nodded, smiling, but more to herself than at us.
“Well, I sure am connected with my family. I can’t wait to get home and see Estelle on my birthday. And my parents, of course.” Percy said.
“It can’t just be about our own families,” Annabeth said. “Even though they’re a great start, obviously. But our families know something about our lives here. We have to be able to connect with mortals who don’t.”
“Like my step-dad,” I said. “My mom hasn’t told him anything about me or Jacob.”
“I think his brain would explode if she did,” Nico said.
“Connecting with them doesn’t mean telling them about our world,” Annabeth said. “Because, like Nico said, for some of them, it would result in brain explosions. We just have to be able to work together without the chasm between us. They look down on us because our disabilities don’t help us look educated and our demigod aura keeps us as those kids who are always getting in trouble. We look down on them because they don’t understand the scope of the world they live in.”
“Sounds like a pretty impossible fix without letting everyone know the truth,” Percy said.
“We’ve all had friends at mortal school, right?” Annabeth said.
“Never been,” Nico said.
“Definitely not,” I said.
“One,” Percy said. “And a bunch of acquaintances.”
“But they didn’t hate you.”
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
“Well,” Annabeth said, brushing her ponytail off of her shoulder. “Accomplishing a goal is always easier when you know your starting place.”