It had only been five minutes, but Mira's trip to her dream world was not going well. She had pinched herself thrice, just to check, and tried to read the paper she'd stolen from Leo again (which she gave up on, because the letters were so terribly jumbled). Leo, her favorite character, had been giving her the cold shoulder since their argument. She couldn't believe that the lovable, hyperactive Latino she had read about and related to was behaving this way with her.
What was Leo doing when Mira turned back time? What was he so upset about? Why wasn't he happy that he was alive? Or did he not even know he had died? How much did he know?
Millions of questions were muddling through her brain, and Mira had never been so disoriented in her entire life. Of course, not counting the time when she had read that Leo had died. Or the part where Percy had disappeared. Or the part where Bianca had died. Or the part where Jason ended up being Thalia's brother.
All in all, the only thing that confused her was Rick's world. And now she was in it.
Deep in her thoughts, Mira gasped as a possibility overcame her. Were Sadie and Carter real too? Magnus Chase? They had to be, especially Magnus, considering his relation to Annabeth.
Wait... If she had turned back time here, had she turned back time for everyone else as well? That meant Percy's mother had to go through the torture of not knowing where her son was again. The Greeks and Romans would be against one another again. The Doors of Death would be open again. Nico.. Would he be stuck in Tartarus again? Would the others know she had turned back time too? The way Leo had?
She hoped not. She didn't want her idols to hate her. Even if she had just ruined their chances of moving on.
As Mira sagged against the window seat, she sighed deeply. She didn't want any of this to happen. She just wanted to escape... Escape from the places that would never be home. She tried not to think about that, about the place she left behind. All it would do was remind her of the family she used to have. Of the family she'd never have again.
Mira hadn't even noticed that she was crying, or that her tears were staining the glass window of the school bus until a hand met her shoulder. She whipped her head back to see Leo, the grief still present in his eyes. She tried desperately to wipe her tears.
"Look.. I'm sorry, ok? I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"T-thank you," Mira said. There was the Leo Valdez she knew and loved!
" —But that doesn't mean I trust you, or like you," he concluded, scowling. "This is still your fault. I just... didn't mean what I said about you working for Kronos or Gaea."
Mira winced. It hurt to be treated this way both here and back in her world.
"I guessed as much. I—I'm sorry," she looked up, sincerity written on her face. "I know it probably won't make you feel any better-"
"It probably won't," Leo agreed. And Leo 2.0 is back.
Mira sighed, exasperated.
"Can you just..." She struggled for words before giving up, frustrated.
"Can I just what?" Leo snapped.
Mira threw her hands in the air. "Stop being an asshole for, like, one second!" She burst out.
It felt good.
She hadn't been allowed to say what she really thought or felt for a long time, since the accident. She'd always had to been reserved and quiet and calm and thankful and apologetic. She couldn't ever get away with yelling at someone the way she did at Leo. It was kind of therapeutic, actually. One benefit to being here instead of the place she'd left behind was that she could stand up for herself.
Leo's face twisted into an ugly expression. He opened his mouth and Mira braced herself for a scathing retort, but before either of them could say another word—
"Ugh, don't tell me you two are fighting again."
The two teenagers whirled around to face Piper, who had just stirred. She rolled her eyes at them. "Seriously, can't you guys be nice to each other for an hour?"
Leo and Mira exchanged a startled glance.
"Uh, Pipes? You know her?"
"Don't call me that," Piper frowned. "And, yeah, duh. Mira's been at our school since the beginning of the year."
"I have?" Mira asked weakly. "What.... Uh, what do you know about me?"
Piper tilted her head, her eyebrows travelling up in confusion.
"Your name is Mira Morgan, you're fourteen but you'll be fifteen on New Years day, your favorite color is deep red, your favorite subject is history... I could keep going, but I don't think I need to. Why are you guys acting so weird?"
"Piper, what's the last thing you remember?" Leo asked urgently. Piper's eyebrows rose further.
"Um, getting on this bus and falling asleep. Are we near the Grand Canyon yet?"
Oh, gods, Mira thought. She doesn't remember.
"I'm not sure," Leo said absently. Piper grinned at him and turned to Mira.
"So, Mira..." She lowered her voice conversationally. "What did Dylan want to ask you last night?"
Leo coughed, but Mira had a sneaking suspicion it was to hide a laugh.
"Who?" She asked blankly.
"Dylan?" Piper said, grinning. "You know, the guy you can't be around for a second without turning into a stuttering mess? What did he ask you last night?"
Dylan? Alarm bells rang in Mira's head. There's something about Dylan... why can't I remember?
"Um, he—he, uh, wanted to ask me for a- a snack." Next to her, she heard Leo smack his forehead and sigh loudly, but she determinedly ignored him. Her face grew warm.
Piper gave her a disbelieving look. "He wanted... a snack."
"Yup! Uh-huh!" Mira squeaked. "So I gave him some, uh, animal crackers." There's no way this is real life, she thought to herself.
Piper would have responded, likely with the same tone of skepticism as before, but it was at that moment that Jason finally woke up. Mira was so grateful to him in that moment that she was almost ready to cry.
"Jason, you okay?" Piper asked.
Jason looked around wildly, confused. "Um, I don't—"
"All right cupcakes, listen up!" Coach Hedge called from the front of the bus. Mira flinched. Even if the Mist somehow made Piper believe she'd known Mira this whole time, Hedge would surely smell a rat.
Hedge was dressed in white workout pants and Nikes, paired with a beautifully tragic orange polo shirt and the worlds grubbiest baseball cap. He had both a whistle and a megaphone, which Mira found entirely unnecessary, considering both were loud enough by themselves to grab the attention of problem teens. Hedge scanned the group of teenagers and saw Jason. He scowled, and he stared at the blond for a second before his gaze resumed it's course. Mira held her breath, sure she'd be discovered next, but....
"We’ll arrive in five minutes! Stay with your partner. Don’t lose your worksheet. And if any of you precious little cupcakes causes any trouble on this trip, I will personally send you back to campus the hard way.”
Mira stared, jaw agape.
"Can he talk to us that way?" Jason asked Piper.
She shrugged. “Always does. This is the Wilderness School. ‘Where kids are the animals.’”
“This is some kind of mistake,” Jason said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
"Join the club, buddy," Mira mumbled under her breath.
Leo gave her a harsh glare before faking a laugh. “Yeah, right, Jason. We’ve all been framed! I didn’t run away six times. Piper didn’t steal a BMW. And Mira—” he turned to her, smirking. "What did you do?"
Mira glared at him, ready to retort, but Piper groaned. “Leo, stop being mean to Mira. She's told us a million times that she flushed so much weed in a toilet that she clogged it. And I didn’t steal that car!”
Hold up. What? Clogged a toilet by flushing weed? Was that even a real thing? Was Riordan-world Mira actively getting high, or something? And, most importantly, how much weed would you need to clog a toilet?
Mira almost face palmed at herself. Here she was, in the middle of a crisis, wondering how much weed was required to clog a toilet.
“Oh, I forgot, Piper. What was your story? You ‘talked’ the dealer into lending it to you?” He rolled his eyes. Mira nudged him.
"How do you—"
"Like I said, I remember enough. Doesn't mean I remember what's supposed to happen," Leo muttered back. "I remember that we're demigods, but I don't know who our godly parents are." He raised an eyebrow. "Got any clue?"
Mira wanted to open her mouth and spill everything, but she couldn't. Her brows furrowed together. "No," she said finally. "No, I-I can't remember."
That was scary. Mira knew this information! She'd spent years obsessing over the Percy Jackson books and their characters! She knew that Percy was a son of Poseidon, Annabeth was Athena's daughter, Will Solace was a child of Apollo, and Rachel Elizabeth Dare was the Oracle of Delphi—but when it came to Piper, Leo, and Jason, she was drawing a blank. Even when it came to the two Romans with Percy (what were their names again? Fred? Haley? She knew this!), she couldn't make even the most educated guess.
What was happening to her? Why couldn't she remember anything important or useful?
"Anyway,” Leo said to Jason, “I hope you’ve got your worksheet, ’cause... Mira... used mine for reading practice, apparently. And then got frustrated and crumpled it up. That was a jerk move, by the way. Why are you looking at me like that? Somebody draw on my face again?”
“I don’t know you,” Jason said.
Leo gave him a weak grin. “Sure. I’m not your best friend. I’m his evil clone.”
“Leo Valdez! Mira Morgan!” Coach Hedge yelled from the front. “Problem back there?”
"Me?" Mira said weakly. "Are you talking to me?"
Hedge knew who she was?
Leo let out a low groan. “You really don't know how to act natural, do you? Watch this.” He turned to the front. “Sorry, Coach! I was having trouble hearing you. Could you use your megaphone, please?”
Coach Hedge grunted like he was pleased to have an excuse. He unclipped the megaphone from his belt and continued giving directions, but his voice came out like Darth Vader’s. The kids cracked up. Even Mira started laughing. Gods, Leo might be a jerk, but he sure is a funny jerk. The coach tried again, but this time the megaphone blared: “The cow says moo!”
The kids howled, and the coach slammed down the megaphone. “Valdez!”
Piper stifled a laugh. “My god, Leo. How did you do that?”
Leo slipped a tiny Phillips head screwdriver from his sleeve. “I’m a special boy.”
"Yeah, we know," Mira sniped, still a little sore over her last encounter with her favorite character. Leo scowled at her.
“Guys, seriously,” Jason pleaded. “What am I doing here? Where are we going?”
Piper knit her eyebrows. “Jason, are you joking?”
“No! I have no idea—”
“Aw, yeah, he’s joking,” Leo said. “He’s trying to get me back for that shaving cream on the Jell-O thing, aren’t you?”
Jason and Mira stared at him blankly.
"No, dummy, he's actually serious!" Mira snapped. "You know that!"
Leo gave her a confused but affronted look. "Um, he's my best friend. I think I'd know if I'd never met him."
Mira's frown deepened. Leo remembered some parts of the fight with Gaea, right? He knew that he was reliving this moment, at least, and that Mira was not supposed to be there. So how could he just forget—
A chill went through her bones. Could it be that Leo didn't know exactly what was going on? The way she forgot the important plot points and only knew the minute details? Could Leo be simultaneously aware that he was reliving this moment, but have no idea what the future held?
“I agree with Mira. I think he’s serious.” Piper tried to take Jason's hand again, but he pulled it away.
Mira winced. Yikes.
“I’m sorry,” Jason said. “I don’t—I can’t—”
“That’s it!” Coach Hedge yelled from the front. “The back row has just volunteered to clean up after lunch!”
The rest of the kids cheered.
“There’s a shocker,” Leo muttered.
Piper, of course, was still focused on Jason. “Did you hit your head or something? You really don’t know who we are?”
Jason shrugged helplessly. “It’s worse than that. I don’t know who I am.”
Join the fucking club, Mira thought bitterly.
The bus dropped them in front of a big red stucco complex, like a museum, just sitting in the middle of nowhere. Now, in her own world, Mira would have been excited about going anywhere outside her small hometown of Wheeling, Illinois. But this was not her world, and this was definitely not a situation she would be excited about, though a small part of her was feeling enthusiastic about visiting the Grand Canyon.
Mira scoffed at that. So she could remember where this dumb place was, but not who Dylan was, or Piper's mom, and Jason's parents? Very helpful.
A cold wind blew across the desert. Mira then looked down at herself, and shivered. Of course. Of course, only she could be transported to another world in her pajamas! How embarrassing!
It wouldn't even have been that much of a problem if she had been wearing what she usually did- a shirt too big for her, with leggings or full pants. But no. Stupid Mrs. Beecher (aka ma'am) had told her if she didn't wear what she was given (oh so generously by the Beechers, who were not the worst foster parents she'd ever had but certainly not the best), she wouldn't be eating that night. So Mira was wearing thin, black capris, and a grey cap sleeve shirt which reached her thighs. So now, Mira was irritated, hungry, AND cold.
Wonderful combination for a teen stuck in a different world on her period.
Mira turned to look at her... Acquaintances... With a warm face. Jason looked disoriented, which Mira had expected. Leo was playing around with the screws in his hands, a scowl on his face. Piper was mainly hovering around Jason, worried about his well being.
Mira walked behind the group of three, not really wanting to get Leo any more upset than he already was. Plus, she didn't want the other kids to see her in these clothes. At least she wasn't wearing her 'Team Percy Leo' shirt.
“So, a crash course for the amnesiac,” Leo said, and Mira could tell from the furrow in his brow that he was trying to remember what had happened after they made it to the canyon. “We go to the ‘Wilderness School’”—Leo made air quotes with his fingers. “Which means we’re ‘bad kids.’ Your family, or the court, or whoever, decided you were too much trouble, so they shipped you off to this lovely prison—sorry, ‘boarding school’—in Armpit, Nevada, where you learn valuable nature skills like running ten miles a day through the cacti and weaving daisies into hats! And for a special treat we go on ‘educational’ field trips with Coach Hedge, who keeps order with a baseball bat. Is it all coming back to you now?”
“No.” Jason glanced apprehensively at the other kids. Mira followed his gaze. There were around twenty guys, and half as many girls. None of the kids looked like hardened criminals, but they must have done something. Mira wondered why she had such a weird excuse for being there. She had never even touched weed in her life! Maybe this was her punishment for not being tolerable to her foster families. Getting sent to the place she loved most only for their inhabitants to either hate her or think she belonged there when she didn't.
Leo rolled his eyes at Jason. “You’re really gonna play this out, huh? Okay, so the four of us started here together this semester. We’re totally tight. You and Mira do everything I say and give me your dessert and do my chores—”
“Leo!” Piper snapped, sneaking a glance back at Mira. Mira just shrugged. She just wanted everything to be over. Maybe this really was just a dream, and she'd wake up after falling asleep here?
“Fine. Ignore that last part. But we are friends. Mira's annoying as hell, but we tolerate her. And, well, Piper’s a little more than your friend, the last few weeks—”
“Leo, stop it!” Piper’s face turned red. Jason had gone all tomato, too. Mira just rolled her eyes at Leo's words. It hurt, but she was used to it. It might take a bit for her to accept the fact that it was Leo Valdez, the fictional character she admired greatly, acting that way, but.... Mira knew she'd get over it. Probably.
She walked over between Piper and Leo then, wanting to borrow Piper's jacket. She was freezing. But before she could utter a word, Piper began speaking, a concerned furrow to her brow.
“He's got amnesia or something,” Piper said. “We’ve got to tell somebody.”
Leo scoffed. “Who, Coach Hedge? He’d try to fix Jason by whacking him upside the head.”
The coach was at the front of the group, barking orders and blowing his whistle to keep the kids in line; but every so often he’d glance back at Jason and scowl.
"What did you do to Jason?" Leo hissed at Mira. She looked at him, shocked. She thought they were over the whole accusation thing.
"I didn't do anything!" she whispered back. "He's supposed to do this!"
"Oh yeah, Jason, the guy Piper and I have been friends with for a whole year just suddenly just forgets about us the day you get here? Very realistic," Leo taunted her.
"I'm telling you, even if someone did something, it wasn't me," Mira said, frowning. She knew Jason was supposed to behave this way, but who took away his memories? Why? Mira was starting to forget everything, and it frustrated her to no end.
“Leo, Mira, stop arguing! Jason needs help,” Piper insisted. Mira didn't think she'd overheard their conversation, but anyone could tell by the glares they were sending each other that they were certainly bickering. “He’s got a concussion or—”
“Yo, Piper.” One of the other guys dropped back to join them as the group was heading into the museum. The new guy wedged himself between Jason and Piper and knocked Leo down, who in turned pushed Mira down, too. “Don’t talk to these bottom-feeders. You’re my partner, remember?”
The new guy had dark hair cut Superman style, a deep tan, and teeth so white they should’ve come with a warning label: do not stare directly at teeth. Permanent blindness may occur. He wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey, western jeans and boots, and he smiled like he was God’s gift to juvenile delinquent girls everywhere. Mira hated him instantly. She felt uneasy again, as if she should know who he was.
Mostly, she just felt uncomfortable because Dylan sent her a smile. An average looking one to anyone else, but she got the feeling there was something sinister behind it. She had a feeling Dylan knew she was new around here. And she didn't like it at all.
“Go away, Dylan,” Piper grumbled. “I didn’t ask to work with you.”
Mira furrowed her brows as Piper turned to Leo and Jason. She could hear the other girl muttering something about how Mira should have been partnered up with him instead. She wrinkled her nose at that. No, thank you.
"So did you think it over?" Dylan asked Mira, shooting her a wink. Mira blinked.
"The offer I made yesterday..." he muttered, a devilish gleam in his eye. He walked closer to Mira, so he could whisper without anyone else hearing. Mira shuddered, leaning away. The closer he got, the more desperate she was to get away.
"I see... She will be pleased," he said, as Piper raised an eyebrow at Mira.
"Uh.. That's wonderful?" Mira said, racking her brain for information. Who was Dylan talking about? Mira could hear Leo snorting with laughter in the background at her discomfort. She was glad he did, because it distracted Dylan, and Mira got her personal space back again.
"See? I'm sure you'd rather be Mira's partner instead," Piper said, and Mira widened her eyes, shaking her head wordlessly. Did she not see how uncomfortable Dylan was making her?
"Ah, that’s no way to be. This is your lucky day, Pipes!” Dylan hooked his arm through Piper's and dragged her through the museum entrance.
"Oh yeah, and cute outfit," Dylan turned around to wink at Mira one last time. Mira stood there, embarrassed, confused, and disgusted as Piper shot one last look over her shoulder, like, 911.
Leo had already gotten up and was brushing himself off.
“I hate that guy.”
"But Mira doesn't," Jason commented.
Mira gagged, her eyes rolling backwards. "You're delusion