Summary: The thing about sometimes having feelings for your best friend is that it's easy to suppress them. After a few months, she even got used to it. Holding back smiles and refusing the shivers that threatened to wrack her body became a reflex and before she knew it, Annabeth could forget that she liked him at all. OR - Annabeth's loves Percy, sometimes.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, or characters I adopt from those books. Merely the characterization and plot are mine. I also don't own any books, movies, games, music, et cetera that I reference.
Author's Note: hiiiii everyone i know i know i've been pretty mia for a while but here i am and i've brought you friends to lovers! the best! i really reaaaally hope you enjoy it because i loved writing this so much. luna (lunaparr on tumblr) and rach (Innoverse/stainedglasss on tumblr) are the absolute best betas in the world. i hope you all had a nice weekend, and i wish you a good week!
When I was growing up, I remember watching my parents. Being the only child in a spacious house rendered me bored more often than not, and coloring pages could only capture my attention for so long. So, I started observing. I would watch the way light filtered through the window. I would peek around the corner and smile as my mother ran a reassuring hand across my father's tired shoulders. I would stare at a spot on the wall until my vision went blurry from focusing too hard.
Even at a young age, my mother had told me that I saw more than the average person. She's a novelist; has seventeen published books and thousands unwritten. All of them—including the unpursued plots scrawled in her journal—are about love.
When I was in the first grade, I asked her how she could write so many books about romance; about two people meeting and falling into each other. After all, at the time, I was struggling to compose a single paragraph to summarize my day. She told me that she found inspiration in my father and in their story; that she would write their love over and over in countless universes until she'd exhausted every one.
If there's one thing Annabeth hates, it's having English first period.
Her teacher is too cheery and excitable for the ungodly hour of seven in the morning. She asks for stimulating discussions before the sun's even properly woken up, probably, and definitely before Annabeth's managed to remain fully conscious for more than ten minutes at a time. And, just to make things worse, her peers in that class are borderline terrible—the 'I don't care, just give me a zero' type of seniors who aren't exactly college bound.
It's also before she's had her morning coffee, as well as her morning dose of Percy. He—having the foresight to take a few online classes the summer of his freshman year—comes in at eight, getting a glorious extra hour of sleep that Annabeth would kill for. She had been busy that summer, though, working both of her parents through a divorce that neither of them were prepared for. And Percy—despite having a full schedule—always seemed to be there when she needed a solid shoulder.
In regards to the extra hour of sleep, Annabeth's exercised that a time or two. Percy's couch is oftentimes more inviting than a stuffy English classroom; plus, they'd carpool and save a few dollars in gas. She might have a few more unexcused absences than what's commendable, but… semantics. The point is, it's their senior year. Annabeth thinks she owes herself a few lax days.
She starts, very nearly knocking the textbook on the edge of her desk to the floor. Annabeth's too tired to be embarrassed at the snickers that surround her after she stutters out a "Ma'am?"
"Not enough sleep?" Ms. Herron asks. Annabeth nods shortly with an apologetic smile. "It happens to the best of us. I was just telling the class that you've scored the highest grade on our last test, so you get to choose the prompt for the final essay of the year." The woman smiles warmly, and Annabeth feels herself bristle at the scoffs that fill the room, as if to say of course Chase did well.
"Pick a good one, Chase," someone from the back of the room says. She hears someone pop their gum, and it feels too loud in her ears.
"The easiest one you see," a girl corrects.
Ms. Herron laughs, shaking her head. "She's picking it out of a hat, children, she's not going to read them over and decide."
The class gives a collective groan, save the football player snoozing next to Annabeth. He snuffles in his sleep, though, so she assumes that's his two cents.
Ms. Herron brandishes a top hat from behind her back, grinning widely at Annabeth. "This is such a good idea, because if they end up hating the prompt they can't blame me for picking it," the teacher teases, eliciting a smile from Annabeth.
She dips her hand into the hat and pulls out the first sheet she grasps. Ms. Herron nods at her, a silent command to read it aloud.
"Um," Annabeth mumbles, rubbing her eyes. She's a star student, she promises, it's just too early for her sleep-deprived and insomnia-prone self. "It says 'Write about someone or something who inspires you.'"
"That's too vague," a boy who has yet to learn the skill of breathing from his nose announces. "How are we supposed to write something with so little direction?"
"Well, Mr. Stewart, that's my plan with this final paper," Ms. Herron announces, crossing the room to stand before her desk. "I want this to be easy, I suppose, so all I'm asking for is a creative piece where you write about anything. It can be whatever, honestly. I'll probably be grading it more on completion than I will quality"—a cheer rises up—"however, I will actually read them." She sends a few students pointed looks, probably the ones who choose to write about horses and video games no matter the prompt.
Annabeth stares at the slip of paper in her hand, trying to brainstorm through her sleep-hazy mind. She'll end up writing about her mom, probably. Maybe Rosa Parks or Mark Twain—someone from history is always a good way to go. Ms. Herron has shown favor for such examples in essays.
"In fact," the teacher continues, "the more personal, the better. Think of this as a journal entry, if you want. I'm not looking for in-depth analysis or evidence. All I'm asking is that you answer the prompt to the best of your ability, and in a creative manner. Now, let's talk about the rubric..."
She passes out a new worksheet, reading every grueling word aloud as if her students don't have perfectly capable eyes. It's too early for even uttering the word essay, Annabeth thinks, feeling tempted to put her head down. She'd tossed and turned until four in the morning last night, unable to lull her mind to sleep.
It's gotten worse, some part of her mind says. She scowls at that and examines a poster on the wall until the bell rings.
Annabeth tries not to think about it too much when she rushes out of the room before half the kids have even stood up. It's just—she's already having a taxing day, and the only person who's ever been able to help is Percy.
She and Percy are something, Annabeth knows. He understands what she wants before she asks, more often than not—whether it's a hug or a pair of shoes. Not too long ago, Annabeth had stepped in a puddle that reached her ankles, leaving her feet waterlogged and freezing. Percy had shown up to school with a pair of her shoes in his hand, claiming that he'd been meaning to give them back. Just last week he had bought her a pack of mechanical pencils, shrugging and mumbling that he'd heard her sighing over a worn down eraser while they studied the night before.
So, they're something. Annabeth hasn't exactly decided what yet, but he either ignores or hasn't noticed the fact that her eyes linger on his lips long after his smile's faded out. Maybe it's some sort of permission, or maybe Annabeth's just a huge creep who occasionally wonders if she loves Percy in that way. Most days, she decides that she doesn't.
The other days, though—those leave her with curled toes and a confused yet happy smile as she falls asleep. She tries not to think too much; tries to pretend like every second of her day is 7 A.M. in English class, where her brain's incapable of a substantial thought process.
Before she's made it three steps out of her class, there's an arm over Annabeth's shoulder and a warm, styrofoam cup pressed into her hands. "I had a feeling," Percy tells her, pulling back the plastic tab before she can reach up to do it herself.
"You are the best thing in my life," Annabeth proclaims. She's warmed up after a few sips, but it might just be Percy.
"I know," he says through a smug grin, pushing his free hand into his pocket. His eyes are a faded green—like a picture that's sat in direct sunlight for too long. He turns to her, concerned. "Not sleeping well?"
Annabeth shrugs, then scowls at him. "It's obscene how well rested you look."
Percy raises his eyebrows; laughs like today's the last day he'll be able to. "I offered my couch for a nap this morning," he points out, pinching her shoulder before dropping his arm. His knuckles knock against hers, and for a moment Annabeth loses herself in the feeling.
Right, then, she thinks. One of those days.
"How was English?"
Annabeth shakes herself, taking a right on autopilot. "Excruciating. Put me in a morgue."
Percy smiles, pulling open the door to their next class. "It wasn't that bad."
She groans as if to say you don't know the half of it. "I have to write another essay."
"Gross," he sympathizes, sliding onto the barstool beside her. Percy waves to a few friends across the room, and Annabeth's chest constricts.
Steeling herself, she knocks back a searing sip of coffee. "You should sit with them," she says lightly, searching for a pencil. "You aren't stuck with me, you know."
"I know." Percy sounds almost annoyed, so Annabeth avoids his eyes, scanning the walls of the room. He pushes at her shoulder with his own, silently urging her to look at him. "I choose to sit with you, as unbelievable as that may be. Best friends before... other friends."
Annabeth casts her eyes down to the table before her. Percy taps his knuckles against her temple lightly, grinning when she turns to frown at him in disapproval. "Tell me about the essay," he suggests, even as their art teacher begins calling out instructions.
She sighs, dropping her pencil. "I mean, it's nothing I can't handle. We just have to write about someone or something who inspires us, I guess."
"You guess," he muses, tracing a shape on the table. Annabeth watches, nearly having a heart attack when she thinks he's writing an A, but he stops halfway through. "That shouldn't be too hard. At least not for a Yale-bound girl like yourself."
Annabeth rolls her eyes, blushing at the compliment nonetheless. "I'm not going to Yale. 'S too far from home." Too far from you, she adds silently.
He shrugs, tapping the end of his pencil against his bottom lip. Annabeth stares at her hands rather than his lips, and it feels like she's giving something up. "My point stands. You can handle it."
"Thanks," she says, smiling. "I'm just—"
"Jackson? Chase? Something to share?" Mr. Maynes questions from the front of the room. He's teasing them, eyebrows raised impishly.
It takes Annabeth a moment to realize how Percy's directed his whole body towards hers, how she's leaned further into him like they were trading secrets. Percy turns back around, shrugging at Mr. Maynes. "Not unless you want to hear about an English essay."
Someone behind Annabeth snickers. "Is the essay on sitting so close you're practically in someone's lap?"
"Clarisse," Mr. Maynes and Percy say in unison. The girl raises her hands in defeat, hardly looking apologetic.
Percy huffs in annoyance, his shoulders tense as Mr. Maynes starts passing out papers. Annabeth elbows his side until he relaxes.
"For our next project, you'll be creating a biographical piece," Mr. Maynes announces, commanding the classroom. "Make it a collage of sorts, full of things that represent you. I should be able to look at the project and see you in it."
Annabeth purses her lips, and thinks about how she could draw Percy's so much easier than her own.
This essay isn't about either of my parents, though they've inspired me too. There's a boy who's been around me for a while; who's attached to every one of my favorite memories. All of my worst exclude him. I'm not sure what this boy means to me, but I've started this essay about him, so... He has to mean something.
Sometimes he inspires me with kind words, but sometimes it's with a joke that makes me laugh through a dreadful mood. He inspires me with the way he laughs like it might be his last chance. He inspires me with an uplifting attitude and a proclivity for the simpler things. He inspires me in a way that's hard to put into words; in a way that gives me the strength to roll out of my increasingly comfortable bed in the mornings.
Three days later, kicking off a lousy day, Annabeth's shirt tears after getting slammed in her car door.
Percy brings an extra sweater inside, even if there's already one on his back.
It's a few weeks before Annabeth has her go at the prompt. Her fingers hover over the keyboard for what feels like hours before she slams her laptop shut out of irritation.
She considers e-mailing her teacher and asking for guidance, but Ms. Herron had stressed how independent she wanted the essay to be. Everyone's been calling it The Easiest Essay of The Year, but for some reason it's got her stumped. When presented with too much freedom, Annabeth tends to lock up; she prefers the carefully outlined, step-by-step essays that only have one answer, rather than a million.
Annabeth flops onto her bed with a defeated sigh, fidgeting with her phone and pretending she won't text him. It takes her five minutes.
Annabeth: Entertain me I'm angry
Percy: entertain you over text or come over?
Annabeth considers that, flipping her phone over and over on top of her comforter.
Annabeth: Come over if you can?
Percy: give me fifteen
He's there in ten.
"She means well," Percy promises, adjusting the heat. Annabeth huffs, because he's right. That's the thing about Percy—he always seems to be right. It doesn't always sit well with her, because she hates to be wrong and often feels small when she's proven incorrect.
"I know she does. That doesn't mean that I'm not upset about it." She sinks down lower in Percy's passenger seat, fiddles with one of her curls until it's frizzy and misshapen.
"You're allowed to be upset. I just don't want it to keep you from doing what you think is right. Just because your mom doesn't approve of Michigan State, doesn't mean you have to lose your opinion of it." He seems lost in thought for a second, offering a shrug. "I mean, as long as you're doing what you want—what makes you happy—then I wouldn't worry about it. She'll adjust."
Annabeth mulls over that, attempts to fix the curl she ruined. That's the thing about them, she thinks, Percy mends things as Annabeth breaks others. "You make me happy," she decides, not looking at him. "And I don't want to go to some important college in Connecticut or Massachusetts if you aren't there too."
When she finally does spare him a glance, she catches the tail end of an Annabeth Smile. It's a smile he only shows around her, one that nearly looks painful with the force of it. "You make me happy, too," he says, soft like the look in his eyes. "But I don't want to be the reason you don't go to an amazing school."
"Shut up," Annabeth groans, nearly bashing her head against the dashboard. "I'm going to Michigan State because I want to. Not just because you got in, too." Percy nods, adjusting his rear-view mirror even though it's perfectly in place. "Plus, who else is going to cheer you on while you win every swimming competition there is?"
"I haven't even tried out yet," he informs her. "You don't know I'll be on the team." There's a redness high on his cheeks now, but it has to be a result of the heat pouring out of the vents.
Annabeth hugs his neck tightly before she gets out of his car. He doesn't leave until she's safe and inside.
Sometimes this boy makes me feel like I can do anything. He's never once made me feel inferior, even if we're discussing something he clearly knows more about. He's always been gentle with me, even though he knows I'm strong enough to handle the rough. Maybe it's because he knows I've had enough rough to last a lifetime. Maybe it's because he's a good person, through and through; the kind of man I expect to be giving speeches to middle schoolers about self-esteem in the years to come.
This boy keeps me strong in times where weakness feels like my only option. He offers encouragement where others can only find criticism; offers light where there only seems to be dark. He sees the good in everyone until they give him a reason not to, and even after he's proven wrong he still fights to find their grace.
"I'm just not so sure I get where you want me to go with the essay," Annabeth says, her frustration clear. She can feel herself flushing, from the embarrassment of not understanding and the watchful eyes of Ms. Herron. "I don't really have anything, or anyone, like that."
Ms. Herron stays quiet for a few moments, narrowing her eyes the slightest bit. "What do you think of your mother, Annabeth?"
The blonde shrugs, resting her hip against the whiteboard. "I mean, I think she's fine? I just don't view her as an inspiration, or at least not enough to write a three page essay on."
"And your father?"
Annabeth smiles ruefully. "Same there."
Ms. Herron hums in thought. "Any siblings?"
"Historical figures you look up to?"
"Yes, but—" Annabeth pauses, picks a piece of lint off her shirt. "I just feel like I won't be able to write so much about someone I don't really know, I guess? Like, most of the historical figures I look up to… I didn't even know about them until the eighth grade. How is someone supposed to inspire me if I only found out about them a few years ago?"
Ms. Herron appears indifferent. "I don't think inspiration necessarily has time qualifications," she entreats, "but perhaps, for you, you need a subject more tied to you. Think about family members; people you've encountered. Friends? Have any close friends?"
Annabeth goes quiet for a second. "Oh," she says simply.
Ms. Herron grins. "I'm assuming that means you have a subject now?"
The blonde laughs at herself, pressing her fingers against her temple. "Oh, wow, I'm just… so shocked that didn't occur to me."
The teacher nods, seemingly pleased. "Let me know if you need any more help."
After that, it's as if Annabeth is overflowing with words for her essay. The reasons keep piling on top of each other, and before she knows it, Annabeth feels like she could write a novel. The idea's gotten so big that she's not sure she can constrain it to a mere four pages—it needs line after line, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. It would probably never end, if she wrote it all.
"You should add a lightning bolt somewhere," Percy says, tapping her paper with his pencil. "You know, for your Harry Potter obsession."
"Only if you add a treehouse for your Magic Treehouse obsession," Annabeth teases, reaching for her ruler to sketch the lines.
"As if I could draw a treehouse," he snorts, going back to his uneven attempt of a band logo. "We aren't all an artist extraordinaire."
She rolls her eyes. "I'm not even that good. I'm just good compared to you."
Percy squawks indignantly, stealing her project in retaliation. "That was the rudest thing, Annabeth Chase!"
"I was kidding!" She reaches out to grab her paper, but he only shifts it away further. "Percy." He turns his back to her, shielding her paper with his body as he scrawls something down. "Please don't ruin it," she pleads, pushing at his back.
"Excuse you, I made it even better." He passes her paper back, tapping the addition with his pencil. "After all, I should be on your about me anyways."
It's a large scale signature that reads Percy, complete with a doodle of a wave. "Wow, so artsy and ocean-y, why didn't I think of that," Annabeth says flatly, holding her hand out for Percy's project.
"It's beautiful," he tells her poshly, places his paper in her hands. Annabeth writes her name in her best penmanship, quickly drawing a book that leans up against the 'A'. "Gross," he whines, scrunching up his nose. "You're making my project look nerdy."
Annabeth sends him a skeptical look. She goes back to work on the lightning bolt, shading it until she's satisfied. Humming in approval, she brushes the eraser shavings off of her desk.
Percy clears his throat three times, about a minute apart. By the time he's about to clear his throat for the fourth time, Annabeth gives a sigh. "What?"
"I have a date on Friday," he blurts quickly, like he's not sure if he'll say the words if he doesn't get them out right then and there.
Annabeth blinks. "Okay."
Percy raises an eyebrow. "'Okay'?" he asks. "That's it?"
"What do you want me to say?" she says, laughing as if he's being ridiculous. And, she supposes, if she didn't have this thing for Percy, it would be ridiculous.
"Nothing, no—I just. I figured you would have more to say," he stutters out, tracing over a shape he drew last week.
"Nope," she replies, popping the 'p'. "Who with?"
He hesitates. "Uh, Alexandra."
"Alexandra who? Barns?"
"No, um. Another Alexandra."
Annabeth nods once, lifting her eyebrows. "Right."
Percy sighs, dropping his pencil. "I'm not lying, I promise, I just don't know how to talk about this. It's weird."
"It's weird just talking about going on a date?" she inquires lightly. "I can't imagine how weird the date'll be then." She pushes her elbow into his rib, making him cradle his side. "I believe you, don't worry."
The bell rings in time with her final word, so Annabeth smiles breezily as she gathers up her books. "Um, I have to go to my locker," Percy says.
The blonde pulls her backpack over her shoulder, sending him a weird look. "You don't need my permission to go," she says slowly.
"Yeah, but I usually walk you to your third period, so I..." He cuts himself off, scratches at the point of his jaw—a habit he's had ever since Annabeth can remember. "Right. Bye."
"Bye," Annabeth says, waving. I have a date on Friday, her mind echoes. The very last of her oxygen follows him out the door.
No matter how well I knew this boy, there were times I felt like I didn't understand him. This boy has dreams that reach far beyond the stars; far beyond the millions and trillions of universes out there. He's never said these dreams aloud, but it's easy to see in the pale green of his eyes. Sometimes, he stares at one spot for minutes at a time, and doesn't seem to look away until he's managed to crawl out of his own head.
Even if I've never heard this boy's dreams, they still inspire my own hopes. They make my arms feel longer, like I can reach more things, like maybe if he's gripping my hand I can grasp onto anything.
Annabeth makes the executive decision to study away any feelings she has on Friday night. Anyways, by the time Friday night actually comes around, she's not even sure how she's feeling.
Disease, maybe. Like she's drank a rootbeer float too fast. There's other emotions too, swimming around in her head, but they don't stay long enough for Annabeth to pin them down and identify them. Her head starts to ache, probably from a combination of exhaustion and deliberately not thinking about certain things. A nap seems like the best idea, so she rests her head down on her open textbook.
A soft knock on the door breaks through her thin veil of unconsciousness, jostling her awake. She drops the pencil that she'd been holding even in her sleep and peels her face off the textbook pages. "Yeah?"
"Can I come in?"
Annabeth shoves her textbook off her bed, wincing at the loud thud. "Yeah," she answers, dropping her face into the nearest pillow. Her face aches a little. Lesson learned.
She doesn't speak again until she feels the bed sink with the weight of another body. "Back so soon?"
Percy seems to interpret that as an invitation to sprawl out on the other side of her bed. She can hear him kicking off his shoes like he plans on staying a while, which is okay. It's always okay, as far as Annabeth's concerned. She's had a special place carved out in her life for him since the first day she met him, probably. He faces her and pushes his cheek into a pillow. "'M never going on a date again."
There's a line between his eyes, set in place from scowling the whole drive to her. She almost reaches out to smooth it, but his words catch up to her. "I remember hearing that a time or two last year… That bad?" She can't keep the amusement out of her voice.
"You're laughing at my pain! You're my best friend, you're supposed to assuage me," Percy complains, opening one eye to glare at her.
"Ooooh, SAT word," Annabeth comments. "Assuage. Definition?"
"To provide physical relief, as from pain," he answers mechanically, flipping over to stare at the ceiling. Annabeth blinks at a memory from when they were ten, at her old house, reaching as high as they could to press the glow in the dark stars against her white ceiling. When she blinks again, Percy's directing a weak smile at her. "As if we didn't spend months studying. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat shouting the definition of destitute."
"You never could remember that one." Percy huffs out a half-laugh, half-sigh and rubs his hand over his chest. Annabeth sees it as a signal to throw herself across his chest and dig her elbow into his sternum.
"Ge'off," he mumbles, shoving at her feebly. He doesn't want her to move, Annabeth knows. She's learned Percy's mannerisms and body language better than she's learned her own.
"Not until you tell me what's up," Annabeth sing songs, poking at his shoulder. "It wasn't that bad, was it?" She yawns involuntarily, following up her question.
Percy frowns. "You're still having trouble sleeping?"
"I just woke up from a nap," she states, tapping his collarbone rhythmically. "Don't change the topic."
He sighs and catches her hand; doesn't let go for a pronounced second. It feels like a lifetime to Annabeth. "Worse than bad. The worst of all the worst. Worse than mayonnaise. Worse than that one movie I hate—"
"Napoleon Dynamite," she fills in.
"Yes, that. That movie sucks so bad." He smiles at her briefly, but it slips after a few moments. All of his smiles fade quicker than Annabeth prefers. If you ask her, Percy's the kind of person who deserves to keep smiling for years on end.
She rolls off of him and pushes her shoulder against his. "You okay?"
"Will be," is Percy's answer, and Annabeth knows that's the only honest answer he can give. "Just had high hopes I guess."
"It was your first date in a while," she mentions lightly. "Maybe you haven't gotten your groove back."
"I went on, like, forty dates last year," Percy says dramatically, throwing his arm over his eyes. "All of them were failures. I just thought this one would be different."
"You said that every time," she tells him, a little fondly. "You think the best of everyone."
"You gave me high expectations in life," Percy responds, and Annabeth hears a smile in his tone. He nudges closer to her, leaving every inch of his arm pressed against hers. "I miss the stars. On the ceiling."
Annabeth swallows thickly. "Think I might have to get them back."
She sees Percy nod out of her peripheral vision. "You know, I'm going to quit dating for now," he declares. His skin burns hers in a way she wants to get used to, but he never stays in one place long enough to let her.
"But you just started," she argues gently, turning her head to see him better. "You shouldn't give up so soon."
"Yeah, but college is coming up anyways," Percy shrugs, staring at the ceiling like he's still mapping out where the stars should be. "It'll be better there, I'd think. Besides—" He faces her, so close that Annabeth feels his nose just barely brush hers. "Don't really need a girlfriend when I have you, right?" He pulls her in for a quick, makeshift hug. "I should probably go."
"You better," Annabeth agrees. "Curfew and all that." She pulls her blanket up to her neck, digging her nails into her palm. "See you Monday."
"Actually… could I come over tomorrow?" Percy asks, sounding sheepish. "I, um. Mom's going to visit some family and she's leaving me here. I don't really feel like being alone."
Annabeth's heart clenches in her chest, but she can't bring herself to open her eyes and meet his. That would present the opportunity of a moment, which is something Annabeth has been denying herself, at least with Percy. "You're always welcome here," is what she tells him.
She feels him press a kiss to her forehead. It takes her three hours to get back to sleep.
His eyes light up when he sees an opportunity. He doesn't let things slip away from him; not time, not friends, not ideas. I doubt he's ever walked into a room and forgotten just why he went there in the first place. He's achingly sure of everything; so positive that things will go the way they're supposed to, and when they don't, he handles them with grace. I've never seen him lose his composure.
The best way to describe this boy is to call him my rock. He grounds me in a way not even my mother's been able to do. He taught that it's okay to want comfort and attention and love. He never invalidates my feelings nor opinions, no matter how unjust they may be. He gently corrects me, balances me out when I have a tendency to be biased. This boy keeps me steady, countering my dislikes with things to like about them; waning my anger with all the calm he can muster; soothing my pain with nothing but relief.
The thing about sometimes having feelings for your best friend is that it's easy to suppress them. After a few months, she even got used to it. Holding back smiles and refusing the shivers that threatened to wrack her body became a reflex, and before she knew it, Annabeth could forget that she liked him at all.
But then there's moments—moments where he says something especially thoughtful or when his eyes scrunch up in a special Annabeth Smile—where it all crashes in on her. Rather than a racing heart and an inability to breathe, her pulse steadies and she feels like she could breathe underwater. The way it makes her feel has to be something adopted from one of Athena Chase's bestselling novels. There's no way feelings like that exist out of the fictional realm.
So, sue her. She's a little in love. Just like everyone else in the world.
"How's the essay going?"
Annabeth jumps, her knee knocking against the bottom of her desk. Ms. Herron smiles down at her wanly. "Good. It's—good."
"Happy to hear that, Annabeth," Ms. Herron says, pleased. "I can't wait to read it." The teacher wanders over to the football player next to her, inquiring about the essay he probably doesn't even know is assigned.
Annabeth had forgotten that someone would read the essay she's writing. It leaves her palms clammy and her mind racy for the remainder of the morning.
Percy arrives at school with an extra calculator, and Annabeth doesn't even have to check her backpack to know she left hers at home.
"Mom wants to know if you'll come for dinner sometime next week," is how Percy greets Annabeth. He's standing on her doorstep in a old t-shirt with a hole in the seam of the collar and a pair of plaid pajama pants.
She agrees before he's even stepped inside her home. "Of course. I miss Sally."
"She says the same," Percy mutters, pulling Annabeth in for a hug. "Apparently I've been too selfish with you."
The blonde presses her forehead against his chest as she hugs him back. "Doubt that. You're generous. With everything. It's annoying, actually."
She hears him laugh through his chest, and it leaves her grinning madly. "Not with you, though. Why do you think I never introduce you to my friends? I'm scared you'll like them more than me."
His tone is light—teasing, almost—but Annabeth knows Percy better than she knows anything. He expresses his insecurities as jokes; through sarcastic and witty comments that leave the other person speechless. She squeezes his side before pulling away and settling on the couch. "No way. I haven't liked anyone more than you for eleven years."
"We've known each other for eleven years," Percy points out with a smile, sitting beside her.
Annabeth shoves a bowl of popcorn at him, placing her own in her lap. "That's the point, dork."
They watch movies all night, alternating between who gets to choose. Fridays are nice, Annabeth thinks, watching the way Percy removes the batteries from the remote and proceeds to press every button. It's another one of his quirks, one that he uses to cope with the restlessness he feels when he has to sit still for a few hours and watch a movie. She can still remember the first time he did it in front of her, with the newest Disney movie playing and Percy's leg bouncing up and down.
"Hey," Percy says, now, with National Treasure playing on the screen. It strikes Annabeth then how old they are—eighteen, for God's sake—and how long they've been staying in each other's pockets. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," Annabeth replies, and her voice is pitched higher than usual. She's seen him from his childhood to adolescence, and now—the definition of his jaw, the broadness of his shoulders. She's watched the goofy kid from her second grade class turn into a man. Annabeth clears her throat. "I'm fine."
He stares at her for a moment, probably trying to gauge whether or not she's telling the truth. In the end, he stretches his arm out across the back of the couch to squeeze her shoulder gently. Annabeth leans closer to him without really thinking about it, which is the problem. She doesn't think around him, or at least not nearly as much as she should. It's a wonder she hasn't blurted out embarrassing confessions about his eyes yet.
He doesn't speak again until the credits start rolling. "Something you want to talk about?" he questions casually, examining his nails.
"Yeah, actually." Annabeth stands up and stretches. "I want to talk about why there's not a hot chocolate in my hand."
"A very valid choice of topic," Percy responds with a grin, walking after her into the kitchen. "But, uh. You just got kind of far away? In there."
The blonde shrugs it off, searching for Percy's favorite mug in the cabinet. "Just thinking. Don't worry about it."
"You know you can talk to me, right? About anything. I've been around too long for you to scare me off." He pushes himself up to sit on the counter, settling into the space around him like it's his home.
"I know." She elbows his knee and finishes making their hot chocolate.
They don't speak for a few moments, but Annabeth knows what he's going to say the moment he opens his mouth. "I'm so sorry, can you just tell me? I hate prying, but it's bothering me now, so—"
"Loser," Annabeth says fondly, pushing a mug into his hand. "I was just thinking about how long we've known each other, that's it. We've grown up a lot, you know? And you're so different from the lanky middle schooler you were. You grew into your looks."
"Still a bit lanky," Percy admits with a shrug. "You still have the curls."
"You still have the inability to accept a compliment," Annabeth mentions, nearly rolling her eyes. "I swear, the prettiest girl in the world could call you hot and you'd just be like, no, I'm not really, it's pretty chilly in here." Her attempt at his voice is mediocre at best, but Percy smiles like it's the best thing he's heard all day.
"Well," he says, contemplative, "if the prettiest girl in the world calls me hot, I think I'll accept the compliment. Just that once."
"Be sure to record it for me. I need the evidence."
"You'd probably be there," Percy says easily. He blinks for a second. Annabeth blinks back. "I mean, like. We'll probably always be together when we're older, right? Nothing, um, changes. Or I hope not. Because that would be…"
"Not fun?" Annabeth offers.
"Not fun," Percy repeats, nodding like it's the best suggestion in the world. "Exactly."
The silence that follows is tense for reasons Annabeth isn't sure how to pin down. "Your pick."
"Where is your head, Jackson?" she teases, angling her head towards the living room. "Pick a movie, you loon."
"Name-calling is frowned upon," he chastises, leaving the kitchen.
"Your smile says otherwise!"
A pause, then "Shut up!"
"Real creative," Annabeth tells him, upon entering the living room. "Reeled me in. Write movie scripts. Write books. Write—"
"Speaking of writing," Percy says, carefully sitting on the couch, hot beverage in hand, "how's the essay?"
She nearly chokes. Instead, she swallows down a scorching sip and winces. "It's good."
"What did you end up writing about? I remember you saying you had trouble with it, and all." He rolls his shoulders until he's comfortably settled, serenely placing the remote batteries back where they belong and clicking play.
"I wrote about my mom," Annabeth blurts. It's the first time she's intentionally lied to Percy in a long time.
He sends her a smile. "That's good, right? You two are doing good?"
"We're fine." She nods, as if to confirm her own statement. "Yeah, I just figured it would be an easy paper? Like, my mom's a writer, she inspires me to… write. And go after what I want, like she did."
"You should let her read it when you finish," Percy proposes, turning his mug in his hands. "It's always nice to read good things about yourself."
Annabeth's throat feels inexplicably dry. "Maybe I will."
Percy sends her another soft grin before he turns his eyes to the movie.
I don't like lying to this boy. More often than not, it feels like I'm lying to myself when I do.
This is something I've considered before. I believe in soulmates, but I don't believe every person has one. I've wondered if this boy is mine; if he's the other half of my being. I've yet to come to a conclusion, but there's moments where I feel so close to finding out. Moments where I rest my head on his chest and his heart hits the same beats as mine. Moments where I look him in the eye, and it's almost like I see everything—the future, the now, the past.
When I'm with him, I feel like I could write sonnets. I feel as though I could write a million poems, a million paragraphs of thoughtful prose, and it would never be enough to satisfy my mind. This boy makes me think of words I didn't know I could use. I could fill a book with every metaphor I have for his eyes, his smile, his skin, his laugh.
This boy makes me feel something; something sickening and beautiful all at once. I'm not sure how to define it. Perhaps it doesn't need a definition. Maybe it's just a fact of life. The sky is blue. The grass is green. This boy makes me feel something undefinable.
"If you could," Percy says softly, "do you think you would touch a star?"
"If I could?"
"If you could," he repeats, sniffling. "If it wouldn't blind you or burn your hands and all."
Annabeth considers it carefully. "I think I would still be scared that it would burn me, to be honest."
He lets her words hang in the air. "I think I'd go for it," he says, finally. "No way I'd give up the chance, even if I died in the end."
Annabeth snorts, staring up at her ceiling. "I'm glad we put more up."
Percy shifts until he can nudge her temple with his own. "Ditto, pal."
Annabeth can feel his eyes on her as she draws blueprints on her project.
"You think you'll actually become an architect?" he asks, his pencil hitting his bottom lip rhythmically. Annabeth's been fine today; hasn't felt a weight on her chest, pushing closer and closer to her heart until she feels locked in place. It's for that reason that she finds the will to glance at him without zoning in on his lips or catching his eyes for a moment too long.
"Maybe," Annabeth says with a shrug. "I mean, it's one of those things that I would love to do, but… If it doesn't work out I won't be devastated."
"I feel like that's you in every situation," Percy observes, sounding proud. "You're really good about bouncing back, you know? There's a word for it... Uh..."
"Resilient," Annabeth puts in. Percy makes a noise of agreement, high-fiving her. "And I wouldn't be if someone didn't help me grow a backbone in the third grade." They share a smile, Percy's eyes crinkling at the corners before one of his friends calls him over. "Go on," Annabeth says with a nod. "Don't abandon all friendships for me."
He rolls his eyes, but visits with his friends anyways. Annabeth's noticed a change around her. The girls who hated each other but stayed friends for appearance's sake don't talk anymore. The boys who had a million friends are only seen with one or two. She feels like everyone's pulling apart, compartmentalizing, deciding who's important enough to keep as they move on from high school.
Percy throws his head back, laughing at something his friends say to him. He looks at Annabeth, gives her an uncharacteristically shy wave. She waves back.
Noise rises up from Percy's friends just before he turns on his heel and walks away. When he sits himself back beside Annabeth, she notes a blush on his cheeks. "You okay? Looking a little red there."
"I think," Percy says, "that people who point out embarrassment aren't very nice." He draws a pointless circle next to the pair of headphones he drew the day before.
"You've gotten so mouthy since elementary school," Annabeth teases, sliding his paper from underneath his arm. She turns the circle into a peppermint and hands it back with a flourish. "There you go."
"How does a peppermint represent me?"
"It's my favorite candy," she reasons, "and you're my favorite human. It works."
Percy smiles at her, narrowing his eyes. "Are you sure you just couldn't think of anything else to draw?"
Annabeth clears her throat, lifting her chin. "As if," she says, poshly.
Percy smiles widely at his paper and Annabeth messes up the line she was drawing, but she's fine. Even if her hands start itching with the want to hold his. Fine.
Dinner with the Jacksons has always been one of Annabeth's favorite things. There's something about their house that feels so much like a home, to anyone and everyone who passes through. Maybe it's because two of her favorite people in the world reside there, but Annabeth thinks it has to be how good of a family they are.
Percy—as usual—offers to help with dinner even if he's useless in the kitchen. Sally bats him away, but not before Percy greets her with a hug. They interact seamlessly; teasing without it becoming scathing and chastising without becoming preachy. It's something Annabeth's always longed for with her parents, but they're typically lost in their own heads. Her father spends his time researching, sometimes spending weeks in big cities, while her mother buries her nose in books, sometimes writing her own.
When Percy vacates the kitchen to finish some homework, Annabeth decides to help Sally with dinner. They work silently, besides a few directions from the older woman.
It takes ten minutes for Sally to clear her throat. "Anything you want to talk about?"
That's another thing Annabeth loves about the Jacksons—they always seem to know when something's wrong, but they don't tend to push for it. She offers up a shrug, staring at the blinking colon on the clock. "Not really. I've just been thinking about it all, I guess?"
"It all," Sally muses. "Funny, Percy said something pretty similar a few days ago."
Annabeth smiles at that. "I can't say that I'm shocked."
The woman grins at the blonde. "I'm guessing you two are still sharing a brain, then?"
"Might as well be." Annabeth fidgets with her hands, deciding just how much she wants to divulge. "It's just… Our senior year is coming to a close, right? And I know me and Percy plan on staying together, but I feel so… separated, I guess. Like, as much as the popular, obnoxious kids annoy me, sometimes I feel like I might miss them?" Sally stays quiet, waiting for Annabeth to finish. The teenager watches as she adds ingredients with grace that comes with thirty years' worth of cooking meals. "It probably sounds stupid. And sometimes I feel like I'm not giving Percy any options, I guess. It's almost like I'm forcing him to stay with me—and I don't mean to! I just don't want to hold him back. He could be hanging out with so many other people."
Sally hums as Annabeth rests her weight against the counter. "Well," she starts, "I think we both know Percy well enough to say that he wouldn't stay around someone he didn't want to be around. Besides, dear, it's been how many years now? If he wanted a different best friend, he surely would have made one."
Annabeth nods, knowing Sally's right. "I'm not sure what's going on in my head," she admits with a laugh. "We haven't been acting any differently around each other, I just feel like something's different. Like we're different, maybe."
Sally seems to contemplate that as she stirs the pasta. "Maybe you two are just growing up. Eighteen is a big age shift. You guys are still adjusting."
It's then that Annabeth realizes the sinking feeling in her chest as fear. The problem isn't that she sees herself as limiting Percy, but rather, she's frightened they'll grow out of each other. Being friends since they were seven is a long time, but maybe it's just long enough to make them sick of each other.
She can't imagine going to Michigan State without Percy at her side, meeting up after class; grabbing lunch together; studying in their dorms, making room on a small bed. Annabeth's positive that she could go it alone if it were imperative, but it's always easier to face a fear with someone next to you.
"I think you should talk to him," Sally voices, bringing Annabeth from her reverie. "He's not yet told me, but it's possible he's feeling the same way. If any two people in the world can work it out, it's you two."
Annabeth smiles a little. "Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Mother." Sally laughs lightly at that, just as Percy re-enters the kitchen.
"Dear Mom and Annabeth, my two favorite people, my two best girls, my sun and my stars, my light in the dark—"
"What do you want?" they question in unison, voices flat.
Percy pouts. "Where is the love in this house?" He leans against the counter next to Annabeth, tossing his arm over her shoulder. "Um. I have something to tell you guys over dinner."
"That sounds morbid and foreboding," Annabeth jokes, elbowing him. "Go ahead. There's still ten minutes til dinner's served."
He swallows visibly. "Don't get mad, okay?" he says, directly to Annabeth. "I mean it. No punching. No glaring."
"I'm not promising anything." She gives him a wary once-over. He returns the gesture.
"I don't trust you with this," he decides, clasping her wrists together in one hand, in hopes of preventing violence. Annabeth can feel the panic rising in her chest. What if he has a girlfriend? What if he's had a girlfriend? What if she's forty? What if she's pregnant—? "I might have a scholarship to the University of Florida."
Annabeth thinks her heart stops beating. "What?" Percy won't look at her, though, but he's staring at his mom with pleading eyes. "Since when? Why did you—?"
"I've just known for a few weeks." Annabeth glares at him heatedly, but he's still avoiding her eyes. "And I wasn't even sure about it, but I just wanted to tell you both in case—"
"In case what?" Annabeth whispers with enough aggression to wrangle an alligator. She attempts to pull her hands from his grasp, but he's too strong. "We promised, you promised—"
"Dinner's ready!" Sally announces, sounding frazzled. "Let's eat."
"I'm not hungry," Annabeth states, her face hot.
"I'm really not hungry."
"I don't even know about it yet. I haven't decided anything," he implores, squeezing her wrists. "C'mon, just eat. We'll talk after?"
"I'm leaving after," Annabeth snaps, finally pulling her hands from his grasp. She hears him sigh. She knows she's being unreasonable; knows she should be happy and proud of her best friend for getting into such a good college, but she can't help the knot of betrayal that's lodged in her chest, adjacent to her heart.
Dinner's nearly silent, save for the scraping of silverware against ceramic and Sally's stilted efforts to start a conversation. Annabeth stares at her plate, sometimes with contempt and frustration, sometimes with confusion and sadness. She remembers an eleven year-old boy swearing that he never broke promises, and it's almost enough to make her eyes sting with unshed tears.
Annabeth tries to wash the dishes, urging herself to remain polite, but Sally shoos her away with a look. It's for that reason that Annabeth follows Percy to his room instead of stalking outside and walking home herself.
As soon as he shuts the door, Annabeth lands a punch on his shoulder. He sucks in a quick breath, wincing, but nods. "I probably deserve that," he concedes, holding his hands up.
"'Probably,'" Annabeth says disbelievingly. "You break a promise we've had for years, and you—"
"I haven't agreed to go yet," he interjects. "I haven't broken a promise."
"You said 'yet,'" she repeats softly. "You haven't agreed yet. Which means you plan on agreeing at some point."
"It's a maybe," he says urgently. "I don't know what I want."
That makes two of us, Annabeth thinks without humor. "What happened to 'I can't imagine college without you'?" she questions, pushing at his chest. He barely stumbles. "What happened to 'no way, you can't go to Stanford or Yale or any other good college because I can't go and we have to stick together'?"
"I didn't ask for them to choose me!" Percy says, desperately. "They're scouts! I didn't tell them to look at me and think I'm a good swimmer!"
"You are a good swimmer!" Annabeth replies, nearly in a shout.
Percy inhales deeply, ready to argue back, but then he freezes. He narrows his eyes at her, lost. "I… Thanks? I don't know—"
"That's the stupid point," she continues, nails digging into her palm. "You're so good and it's just stupid and you shouldn't go to Michigan State because you're better than that. You should hang out with Axe and Leo and Jason and—"
"What are you even talking about?" Percy asks, his eyes flickering over every inch of her face. "Is this even about what college I'm choosing?"
Annabeth nearly cries in exasperation. "I don't know," she admits, her voice shaky. She rubs her temple, feeling disdainful towards herself. "I should just—"
"Hey, no," he says, catching her by the elbow. "What's going on?"
She catches her bottom lip between her teeth. She should apologize right now, offer him a hug and let him drive her home. She should congratulate him on his acceptance to a college that wants him for the thing he loves most. She should stop holding him back, like she can't seem to stop doing.
Instead, she blurts out, "Do you think we've grown out of each other?"
Percy stares at her, his brow furrowed. His jaw drops a little, as if he can't seem to believe what she's saying. "Do you?"
"I don't know."
"Then I don't either," he says, looking a little wounded. He drops her elbow, conflicted, and Annabeth nearly grabs his hand impulsively. "Is something going on? Did I miss something that made you feel like we weren't close anymore, or…?"
"We've just been so close to each other for so long," Annabeth entreats, picking at the hem of her shirt. "I've just started to wonder if we're getting tired of each other."
"I'm not tired of you," Percy says firmly. "You know that you're the only person in the world that doesn't annoy me, right? Even when I'm in the worst mood and I don't want to see anyone, I still want you to come over. It's like you don't count, or something. You're separate from the rest of the human race in my mind, I guess. I'm rambling, sorry, I just—you know that you're important to me, right? I don't really see myself getting tired of you. Ever."
Annabeth nods slowly, staring at her toes. "Alright."
"Are you tired of me?" Percy asks, not really sounding like he wants to know the answer.
"No," she says immediately, shaking her head. "But, just—something's different? I can feel it, and I know it's different, but I don't know what it is, and I feel like I'm losing you sometimes and it's the worst feeling in the world because you've always been a sure thing and lately I've been feeling like you aren't and now you want to go to Florida and—"
"Annabeth," Percy interrupts. She draws in a deep breath, willing her voice to go back to a normal pitch. "You know that I'd still be your best friend in Florida, right?"
She snorts softly. "I reckon you'd still be my best friend even if you were on Mars. I'm just worried about staying yours, I guess."
She can feel his face soften without even looking up. He pulls her in by her shoulders for a tight hug, and Annabeth lets herself relax. She's never liked arguing in any form, whether it's in books or on the television or right in front of her. It's exhausting. "You say that like you're easily replaceable."
"Maybe Florida people are really cool," Annabeth says, needlessly.
"I actually think it's pretty warm there," Percy muses, and she laughs despite herself. He smells like chlorine and laundry detergent—the same brand his mother's used since Annabeth's known them. "Are we okay?"
"We just promised Michigan State," she mutters against his collarbone. He rubs her back. "It'll be weird if you aren't there."
"I believe in you," Percy tells her, hand on the back of her neck. "If anyone can handle it, it's you."
"But it'd be easier with you."
She feels him nod. "Probably. But if I do choose Florida," he says, making Annabeth's heart clench, "I'd be just as miserable without you. That should make you feel better."
"It makes me feel worse. It's like double miserable, then. I swear, it's like if you're sad I automatically get sad, and if you're happy I'm happy, and if you're miserable and I'm miserable, it's doubled."
Percy laughs against her hair, and Annabeth feels herself smile even if she doesn't want to. "Well, I guess one of us will have to suck it up and be happy." She shrugs. "The reason I told you guys is because I was planning on touring the college in a weekend or two, just to see how I liked it. I already bought my plane ticket and everything, so I figured I couldn't put it off any longer. I was hoping I might change my mind, but…"
Annabeth feels cold. "I get it," she lies.
He sighs in relief. "That's good. We'll figure it out, you know? No matter what."
She nods against his chest. "Yeah. I should probably get home."
Percy flinches the slightest bit, so Annabeth hugs him a little tighter. "Not because I suddenly hate you, just because it's late."
"No, it's just… I might have already told your dad. About Florida and all."
She pinches him. "You told my dad before me?"
"I needed advice on how to go about it," he reasons, loosening the embrace to meet her eyes. "I wasn't sure how to tell you, and I figured he'd be the best person to go to for help. Earlier today I talked to him about it, and"—Percy pauses for dramatic effect—"I got us permission to have a sleepover."
Annabeth gasps. "On a school night?"
He nods proudly. "I'm a miracle worker. Imagine all the board games we can play."
"That sounds… horrifying," Annabeth confesses. Percy throws his head back in laughter, and Annabeth smiles, pleased.
"Maybe we can pencil in a movie or two," he says, a smile tugging at his lips. "Or… maybe I've bought brownie mix for the occasion. And sprinkles."
"Sprinkles," Annabeth gasps, shoving at his chest. "Someone's been planning!"
"Or someone's been looking for every possible way to soften the blow." Percy shrugs. "I really am sorry I didn't tell you earlier." He smiles shortly, stares down at his feet. "You intimidate me, sometimes. Not so much that I feel like I can't talk to you, but…"
Percy shakes his head, breaks the embrace and turns for the door. "Forget it. Come on, brownies to cook and movies to watch."
He's only broken a promise once. I'd been infuriated at the time; blinded by my own frustration and confusion, and entirely unable to see the big picture. That's another thing I find admirable about this boy: he takes chances, even if he knows the people around him won't see it the way he does. In the end, he follows his own heart and mind; isn't given to whims in any way. I've been told that I'm stubborn, but rather than that, I see him as secure in himself.
This boy has a very sure sense of being. He understands his place in the world and accepts it easily and without argument. This boy takes what he's given and doesn't ask for more, no matter how much he wants. He works hard for everything he gets, gets everything he needs, and learns how to resist what he wants. If you ask me, the human race could take a few lessons from him.
"What do I even pack for this sort of thing? Books? A resume? Swim gear? Some glasses to look intelligent-er?"
"That's not a word," Annabeth puts in, laughing.
Percy whips around, narrowing his eyes. "That's not my point. Traitor."
She rolls her eyes, falling flat on his bed. "I don't know… Shorts? It's hot in Florida, isn't it?"
"I don't know! I've never been!" Percy says, his voice teetering between amused and panicked. Annabeth attempts to turn her laughter into a cough, but he notices. "You're laughing at me."
"Shocker," she intones. "Just pack like normal. You're touring a college, not meeting the president."
Percy flops down on his bed beside her, burying his face in the comforter. "I don't want to go anymore. I think I'll nap. Nap with me." He lifts an arm in invitation, and she fits herself against his side. "I'm stressed."
"You'll be there for two days," Annabeth starts. "Pack three shirts, three pairs of shorts, and two pairs of jeans, just so you have choices. I'd also add a pair of slacks and a dress shirt just in case. You don't need glasses and I doubt they'll make you jump in a pool the second you get there. They want you on their team, so they're probably trying to win you over. It's not rocket science, weirdo."
"Where would I be without you?" Percy mutters. "I'd have gone to Florida with a ski equipment."
Annabeth snorts, shoving at him until he stands up. "Go on, pack. I'm here to help, not hinder."
"You're so responsible," he says distastefully, but he finishes packing all the same.
She indulges him in discursive conversation, only half-listening. There's something distinctly terrifying about Percy visiting another college—especially when it's the University of Florida, offering him a full scholarship so long as he swims and keeps his grades up. Both of which are things Percy's managed to master throughout high school. Annabeth can almost hear him saying, "Alright, I choose Florida."
She wants to be happy for him. Still, there's a part of her—the part that's hardly been away from him since they were seven and debating which color was the best—that gets more and more upset as Florida turns into the preferred option.
You know that I'd still be your best friend in Florida, right? Maybe for a few months, Annabeth thinks pessimistically. Even a year. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it also puts a lot of space between two people, figuratively and literally.
"Hey," Percy warns, "stop thinking about things."
"You don't own me," Annabeth shoots back, trying for teasing. It falls flat.
Percy appears in her field of vision, and Annabeth thinks she deserves a medal for not reacting to his proximity. "I know I don't. But I also know how you get sometimes. So, in conclusion, Percy knows best, stop thinking, let's go get a root beer float, et cetera."
He drops a kiss to her hair, and Annabeth might have to hold on tight to the hem of her shirt to restrain from pulling him back in for something proper.
Annabeth drives Percy to the airport at an early hour to see him off. Sally's probably just arriving home from her shift at the hospital; too tired from the usual hours to drive him. Annabeth doesn't mind—she never really minds when it comes to Percy—but she thinks it's far too early in the morning for goodbyes.
She doesn't walk him inside, refusing on the grounds that she's not dressed, which is a fair argument. In reality, she's been thinking about the airport scene that's in hundreds of romantic comedies, and Annabeth decides that she can't give herself that. Especially before he goes off to see a college that's looking more and more like his first choice, miles away from home and her.
He pulls her into a tight hug across the console, her seatbelt digging into her side. "I'll see you soon?"
"'Course," Annabeth says through a laugh. Her stomach gives a small lurch, no matter how much she gives her go at playing it off. "It's only two days. We've spent longer apart." She doesn't say what she's thinking—that these two days could result in years away from one another. Sure, they've managed weeks, even a month at some point, but Annabeth's not sure even their friendship could survive a year with roughly 878 miles between them. (She might have done some research. It didn't help to loosen the knot in her chest.)
He leans back, then shuffles forward again, pressing his forehead against hers with a sense of desperation. "You know you're my best friend, no matter what, right?"
Annabeth nods the slightest bit, not sure she could form an adequate answer. He sighs, presses a forceful kiss to her temple, and opens his door. "Two days and I'll be back. Annoying you constantly."
"You never annoy me," Annabeth tells him, finding her voice.
He gives her a small smile. "I know."
She tries her hardest not to flinch when the door slams shut. He gets his duffle bag out of the trunk without another word, knocks twice to tell her it's okay to leave, and she does.
Annabeth goes home and concludes that she needs a very, very long nap. When she wakes up, she has thirty-seven text messages. Thirty-six are from Percy.
Each and every one are variations of 'good fuck it's hot here' and 'there's so many people i'm going to die'. Annabeth reads all of them dutifully, replies with a, 'It's the adjustment period. I believe in you.' Percy answers with a frowning emoji.
The other text is from Sally herself, asking if she and Percy made it to the airport safely. It's several hours old, but Annabeth still replies.
Annabeth: We made it in one piece. He's complaining about the weather though…
Sally: Can't say I'm surprised. I heard it was in the high nineties there.
Annabeth winces a little before Googling pictures of ice and sending around fifteen to Percy. He responds with a picture of himself scowling, face flushed from the heat.
She works on her essay, going back and revising errors and rewording sentences. He sends her pictures of the city and it's people, a few of himself, clearly disoriented, and one of a restaurant titled French Fry Heaven.
i've achieved nirvana, he sends, along with another photo of the menu. i'm offended that they don't have these in michigan, i want to open one immediately, oh my god.
Annabeth types up a snarky response (We won't be able to do that if you move to Florida) but erases it in the end. Deal, she sends instead, setting her phone on silent. She proceeds to write a few lines of her essay before she gives up the pretense of thinking about anything else. All she knows is that Percy's falling in love with a new city, and definitely not her.
In the eighth grade, Annabeth's friend Silena had a crush on the captain of the football team. Annabeth believed that Silena was the prettiest girl in their grade, maybe even in the whole school, so she encouraged her friend to go for him.
Silena had waved her off at the time, laughing. No way, she had said, grinning like mad. I don't want to have him. If I did, I'd have to lose him at some point.
To this day, it's one of the saddest things Annabeth's ever heard. She wonders if—given a second chance—she would have given Percy up rather than becoming his best friend. Not having him at all might have been easier than having him, but not enough of him. Then again, Annabeth thinks as Percy stumbles through the airport doors, finding her eyes immediately, maybe she never had a chance in the first place.
"Friend!" Percy shouts, attracting the attention of a few strangers. Annabeth lets him make a scene; lets him have this moment because she's not so sure they'll have so many in the coming years. "It's so very delightfully chilly here. I was melting in Florida. I almost cried."
Annabeth rolls her eyes at his dramatics, but she smiles in the end. "And look at that, you made it out in one piece."
"Just barely," he says gravely. "I almost got hit by a car twice. Florida drivers are reckless."
"Or they just aren't used to a Michigan kid walking in the middle of the street, which is probably what you were doing," Annabeth says knowingly. Percy glares at her, but it fades into a smile before long.
They don't say much on the way home, letting the air rush out of the vents and their breaths steady themselves. Percy's still buzzing from arriving home, and Annabeth—well, she tends to feel a bit short of breath in his presence. "Can I change the station?"
The blonde raises an eyebrow at her best friend. "Having a sudden change of heart, Mr. I Must Control The Radio At All Times?"
He tries to huff in indignation, but it just results in a breathy laugh. Annabeth might tighten her hands on the wheel. "Alright, fine. Next time I won't ask."
"You say that like you've ever asked before," she says drily, giving him an accusing look while they're at the stoplight. Percy flicks until he finds a 90s hit, something they used to listen to as kids.
He slouches further down in his seat, startling Annabeth when his hand covers hers on the gearshift. She nearly pulls her hand back, but when she shoots him a glance out of the corner of her eye, he seems calm. Annabeth takes this as a sign that she shouldn't turn this into something, not when it's so clearly nothing to him.
He taps out the beat of the song on her hand, and she smiles when he's massively off. "I'm happy to be back," he tells Annabeth, patting her hand once more before locking his hands on top of his kneecaps. "Did I miss anything?"
"Oh, yeah, definitely. Me and all of your friends gathered around a fire and sewed some voodoo dolls of you. In fact, I was expecting you to be dead by now. Was a little peeved when you called me to come get you."
"Mhm," Percy hums, sounding convinced. "Chant a few Latin incantations?"
"A few?" Annabeth asks incredulously. "Please, I chanted out the entire book."
"Must not have been too authentic," he comments, "seeing as I'm still all in one piece."
"Yeah, well. Maybe I didn't chant them with as much sincerity as I should have."
"Aw, how cute! You don't want me dead! That's just charming—"
Annabeth turns the radio up as loud as it will go, but she still hears Percy's laughter over the beat.
This boy is so good, through and through. He gives his all in everything he does; never likes to end a day without making someone smile or laugh. He makes me want to be a better person.
I'm lucky to have this boy. I'm lucky to have his smiles and his laughter, his wisdom and his comicality, his comfort and his trust. There's something distinctly special about this boy; something that I see when he catches my eye in class when there's an underlying joke only we would get. There's something I see in him when he's handing money over to donate to whatever cause stands outside of Publix. There's something, something, something, and just like I can't define what I feel for him, I'm not sure what this quality is.
"3… 2… 1."
"Blue," Percy and Annabeth say in perfect sync.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Axe says, his reddened hair falling in his face. "Is there anything you two don't know about each other?"
"We're going to find it," Leo says, adding another tally to the back of his art project. "I won't rest."
Annabeth counts twenty-seven tallies. She doubts it. To pass the time in art, Percy and Annabeth decided to join the table in the far left corner that sat Percy's other friends. So far, they've played truth or dare—which was shut down by Mr. Maynes the second Leo started singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun at the top of his lungs—and a round or two of Never Have I Ever, which got a little too risky for Annabeth. (i.e. "Never have I ever liked one of my friends" spoken by an unknowing sophomore named Nico. Annabeth thought about taking him down right then and there.)
So, they resorted to asking Percy and Annabeth questions to see if their answers matched up. They have yet to give different answers.
"Okay, I got it." Axe clears his throat, leaning forward. "What's Percy's favorite song?"
Annabeth scoffs, rolling her eyes. "Can't Take My—" she starts, at the same time Percy says, "When You Were—"
She freezes, turning to him slowly. He blinks at her. "That's not your favorite song," she states, sure. "Maybe top three, but it's not your favorite."
"Wait," Percy says, giving her a skeptical look. "I'm wondering how you knew that was my actual favorite song."
"So you lied? I knew it," Annabeth replies, smug, but it's drowned out by the groans of the three boys sitting across from them.
Percy smiles a little at her, shaking his head. "I've just never said it out loud. It's like a secret favorite song."
"Well," Annabeth recounts, "I remember we watched Ten Things I Hate About You in—eighth grade, I think?—you said that Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You was one of the best songs of all time. And we all know you can't leave a song on for more than a minute before you get antsy, but every time that song plays you let it. From start to finish. So I just assumed…"
She trails off when Percy grins brightly at her. "I love you. You're the best friend."
Annabeth smiles back and tries not to focus too hard on the fact that he tacked on the last four words, like an afterthought. She might even allow herself the luxury of hope.
Maybe it's just something lovable. Something respectable and beautiful and worthy of so much love—so much more that I or anyone else has to give.
I've been with this boy for nearly twelve years. I know him so well that my head spins with it sometimes. I'd feel more comfortable living in his bones that I would in my own.
I've known this boy for twelve years, and I've been in love with him for an estimated five of the twelve. It took me four years and fifty-one weeks to realize it.
Annabeth knows his answer before he even says it, but it still makes her heart ache.
"Florida," he breathes, worrying at his lip.
She hugs him with a smile on her face and a sting behind her eyes.
No one on this planet could inspire me more than he does. In fact, if there is life on other planets, I doubt they would be able to either.
This boy makes me a better person just by standing near me and lifts my mood with a single smile. He's taught me that it's better to do what makes me happy, rather than suffer through what others want for me. He's taught me that home and comfort can be a single person, and that it doesn't take much to make me smile. He's helped me learn from my mistakes in ways I would be too prideful to analyze myself.
This boy is so much brighter and better than the world he lives in. If I could, I would buy land that stretches on for acres and build him a house. I'd steal him away from the world and ensure that he remains just as different and special as he is now.
He inspires me to believe in love, even after the divorce my parents went through. He reminds me that just because some relationships go sour, not every one has to.
This boy leaves for another state in a few weeks, ready to start his life there, where he'll go to college. I'll be home—here, in Michigan—and I don't have a doubt in my mind that he'll continue to keep me strong courageous, even there.
He inspires me in ways I couldn't even fit into this essay. I would end up writing a book or two, or hundreds, or thousands, trying my hardest to define how I feel and just what it is about him.
However, I know how fruitless and wasteful that would be. So, I'll stop while I'm ahead, finish this essay, and show up on his doorstep. I might find enough inspiration to kiss him, like I've wanted to for years, or I might not. As long as I've got him, I suppose it doesn't really matter, now, does it?
Annabeth shows up on his doorstep, but she doesn't kiss him. Percy squeezes her hand halfway through the movie they're watching, and it's more than enough.
When Annabeth turns in her essay, Ms. Herron looks ready to read it right then and there. "'This Boy'?" she questions, glancing at the title. "Interesting choice. I guess it'll make sense after I've read it?"
The blonde nods in confirmation, then shrugs a little regrettably. "I'm not even sure if I answered the prompt right, to be honest, but… It's helped me. Writing it. So, thanks, I guess?"
Ms. Herron lets out a bubbly laugh, moving down the aisle. "And that'll be the first and last time I ever hear a student thank me for an essay."
Percy arrives at school with two coffees. When he passes it over to her, he leans in and tilts his chin down, almost expectant. Annabeth thinks about it—considers it so greatly that she nearly drops her drink—but he moves his chair over before she can make a decision.
He's oddly subdued for the rest of the period. Annabeth hardly takes her eyes off the light blush high on his cheeks.
Ms. Herron gives her a perfect score on the paper. She writes a note, calling it "beautiful and simple." When she hands them back, the teacher slides the assignment onto a desk with a smile and a "I hope it works out."
The night before they're set to graduate, Percy shows up at Annabeth's house. His shirt is wrinkled—in fact, she has a hunch that he wore it earlier that week—and his left shoe is untied.
"Did you have to run through a jungle to get here?" she questions, eyeing his fluffed up hair suspiciously. It twitches, and Annabeth sincerely hopes there isn't a small rodent finding a new home.
"I was in a hurry, excuse me," he mutters, stepping inside as she widens the door. "I—um. Quarter-life crisis. I'm having one."
She makes them both hot chocolate without another word from him. He taps his fingers on the counter restlessly. "What does this quarter-life crisis entail?"
He looks like he would rather beat his head against the counter as opposed to answering her question. "I realized some things in the past, like, hour and a half." Annabeth nods, gesturing for him to go on. "For one, I'm going to die in Florida. It's too hot. There's too many people. I hate the beach. The water's horrible to swim in because you just get salt all in your nose. I don't know anyone at all, and it's really unlikely that people will take a shine to the college freshman on scholarship joining the swim team. I'm actually scared to be good, because I don't want to piss everyone off." He takes a deep breath, and Annabeth nudges his drink towards him. "Also—"
"What?" Annabeth asks, after he doesn't speak for a good ten seconds.
"This is going to sound weird," he says slowly, glancing at her. He gulps some of the hot chocolate.
"Name one thing you've said that doesn't sound weird," she replies, fondly.
He grins. "Right, so… I'm not sure if I know how to, like, conquer all. Without you there. If this makes sense." Annabeth cocks her head to the side, and he takes it as a sign to continue. "I mean, it's just always been us against the world, I guess? And now it's going to be just me against students at University of Florida—"
"I can be against them, too, if you want," Annabeth offers. "Tell them I'll beat them up if they're mean to my boy."
The my just slips out. She decides it's too late to pull it back in. Percy drops his head back and laughs, hardly taking notice. "Oh, yeah, they'll be real intimidated by my imaginary Annabeth."
"I'm not imaginary," she frowns, poking at his side. "See, I'm here." He looks down at her with something akin to adoration. Annabeth flicks his forehead and ignores his indignant noise. "Hey, you're being stupid. Everyone will love you in Florida, newbie or not. You'll have to work to find time to talk to me, you'll be invited to so many parties."
Percy shakes his head, sliding his now empty mug on the counter. "No way," he detests. "There's always Annabeth time." He takes a moment to push her hair out of her eyes, tapping her temple with his index finger. "Anything you want to talk about? I feel like I owe you a listen."
"I'll save it," Annabeth decides with a shrug. "But, just—you'll be fine, you know. You always are. And if you can always call or text or whatever you need. It'll still be us against the world, just a few hours apart."
"Fifteen hours and twenty-one minutes," Percy mumbles.
"Fifteen hours and twenty-one minutes," he repeats. "That's how many hours. And it's one-thousand fifty-four miles; a sixteen hour drive and a three hour flight. So."
Annabeth stares at him. "Why do you know all of that?"
He rolls his eyes, tugging at the collar of his shirt. "I wanted to know how far I'd be away from my girl. I mean, girls," Percy corrects. "Mom, too." He catches her eyes briefly. "Mostly you, though."
"Mostly me what?"
"You know," Percy says, nodding. Annabeth shakes her head. "Like—oh, come on, are you honestly making me say it?"
"I just don't really know—"
"We're each other's," he states, as if it's something she should know. "Hasn't it always been like that? You're mine, I'm yours, et cetera?"
He drops it casually. Annabeth wants to ask what he means by yours, and if it entails testing how soft his lips are.
"Sorry, um. That was—"
"No, you're right," Annabeth interjects, waving her hand. "I just spaced out. Yeah, I'm yours, mine, all that stuff."
"That's good," he breathes. "Was starting to think that we weren't on the same page." Percy leans forward, hesitates for a beat before he kisses the space between her eyebrows. "I'm sorry for coming over so late. You should sleep. Big day tomorrow."
Annabeth musters up a grin. "Yeah, I'll see you. Get home, you'll worry your mother."
He nods and moves to step around her, then stutters backwards again. "Yeah, so. Bye." Pulling her into a tight hug, he tugs on one of her curls. She pushes at his chest in retaliation, but ends up smoothing out his shirt out of guilt. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," she answers. Percy squeezes her arm before exiting the kitchen, and before long she hears the front door shut.
Annabeth mentions Percy in her valedictorian speech, and nearly the entire senior class rolls their eyes. Percy grins proudly.
He trips walking across the stage and nearly loses his diploma. Annabeth smiles.
Even if their last names aren't close together, they end up next to each other in the mass hug that the class shares. Percy holds onto her arm tight, and when the crowd disperses, he kisses her cheek in front of everyone.
Percy goes to Florida a few weeks later, promising to call and text as much as he can. He does, too, texts her random photos of whiteboards on dorm room doors and updates on how the weather is in Florida (fucking hot, apparently). He even Skypes her a few times, holding his phone up so she can see the sights surrounding him. On a particularly bored day, he gives her a tour of his compact room, and even lets her say hello to his roommate.
He tells her that he's swimming; training as much as he can and using up all the free time he has. Annabeth can see what the Florida sun's doing for him. He's received a light dusting of freckles beneath his eyes and a tan to every inch of him.
It's weird, being far away from him, but somehow it helps. Annabeth feels like it's easier to breathe rather than more difficult, at times. Maybe that's because she's not faced with his undeniable kindness and thoughtful eyes.
He calls her one morning, just past 8 o'clock and around five minutes after Annabeth's rolled out of bed. She stares out her window as she answers. "Yeah?"
"Oh, sorry, are you busy?" His voice is a little rough, and exactly what she recognizes as his 'I just woke up' tone. "I just had something to tell you and I'm too tired to text, so—"
"I'm not busy," she replies, shaking her head even if he can't see her. She prods at the window, testing if it still opens or not. "What's up?"
"I was just in Starbucks," he tells her. He doesn't continue for a few moments, and all she hears are a series of clicks from his side. "Look at what I sent you."
Annabeth obeys, opening up the most recent message from him. She proceeds to burst out laughing, resting her forehead against the cool window. "Oh, god, how did you manage that one?"
She can hear Percy's smile when he responds. "Well, I was ordering my drink, and thinking about you... So, when they asked my name, I just said Annabeth? The woman didn't even give me a second look."
"Aww," Annabeth teases. "How sweet."
"Can I say something weird?" His voice is sudden, if not urgent. "And, like, feel free to tell me to shut up. Or hang up on me, or whatever. You could even—"
"Right, so. Um." A small laugh crackles through her speaker. "God, it's too early for this. But I'm guessing since I brought it up..."
"I'm not letting it go," Annabeth affirms.
Percy lets out a breath. "I assumed." He goes quiet, and she hears the sound of Florida around him. It's surprisingly not too dissimilar from the pandemonium of Detroit. "Can I evoke the Best Friend Absolutely No Judgement And If I Ask You To You Have To Pretend This Didn't Happen Rule?"
"Consider it evoked." Annabeth waits, drawing a flower on the window with her fingertip. She might trace out his name, too.
"I've been having dreams," he offers vaguely. "Kind of weird dreams, maybe. It depends on how you look at it? I mean, in my dreams it feels normal, and I'm fine, then I wake up and I'm kind of confused and-slash-or disappointed? And they didn't just start, either, I used to have them when I lived in Michigan too, but they've just gotten worse. So... I started thinking, like, what if the dreams aren't so bad? What if I actually like them, and sometimes wish the dreams were real life? There's been times where I actually forgot they weren't, and Christ, that was embarrassing."
Annabeth taps her fingers rhythmically on the window. "I'm not sure I follow, but-"
Percy groans quietly, as if irritated at himself. "I don't know how to say this," he tells her slowly. "It's just been there for so long that I never really thought I would need to say it."
"Best Friend No Judgement Rule," she reminds him gently.
"I might, hypothetically, be having dreams about you," Percy admits, after a short and tense silence. "And when I wake up, I think I might be disappointed that I wasn't awake the whole time."
Annabeth squeezes her eyes shut, dropping her forehead against the window. The noise is more satisfying than the feeling. "Dreams?"
"Where we're, like, together," he continues. "Not sexually. Not usually, anyways. Just... Us. And in almost every one I keep kissing you, and you keep smiling, and sometimes you hold my hand and it's just—" He cuts himself off, and Annabeth can almost see the frown etched into his face. "When I wake up I'm sad," Percy finishes.
"Sad," Annabeth echoes. Her knees decide to stop working, so she sits against her wall.
"Sad," he affirms. "Sorry. We can forget about it. It's just—they've been there for a while? And the feeling sort of has too? I think I just didn't realize that I needed to confront it until I was away."
Annabeth nods. "Okay."
"Anything else?" he questions. She can hear the slight despondency in his tone even as he tries to mask it with nonchalance. "Comments? Questions? Call 1-800—"
She grins widely. "You're dumb."
"Yeah, a little," he agrees, voice soft. "Sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
"Never have and never will," Annabeth reassures him.
"That's good." A pause, then a laugh. "If it makes you feel better, Dream-Annabeth is a pretty good kisser."
She snorts out a laugh against her will. "Yeah, well so is Dream-Percy," Annabeth responds, before she weighs her words.
The line goes silent. Dead silent. Hear a piece of dust shift silent.
Percy clears his throat. "You too, then?" he asks softly.
Annabeth nods. "A time or two. Potentially twenty."
He huffs out a laugh, and she tries to manifest the expression he has to be wearing but doesn't quite succeed. "Oh, god," he groans. "Why oh why didn't I mention this before I went to Florida?"
Annabeth bites back a grin. "Yeah, that's seriously your loss. Real-Annabeth and Real-Percy could be kissing right now."
"Really?" he asks, just short of shy. "That would be swell. For the record, I'm glad this whole thing isn't unrequited love. That's so overused, especially with best friends."
"Already dropping the big L, Jackson?" Annabeth buries her face in her knees, small smile on her face.
"Reckon I should have dropped it a while ago." She somehow knows that he follows that confession up with a shrug. "The term starts next week," he complains. "I can't even pull a romantic gesture and jump on the first plane home."
"You could," Annabeth says, "but I'd prefer that you didn't." Before Percy can answer to that, she goes on. "I'm going to e-mail you something, and I'd prefer to not see you for a few weeks after. It's mildly embarrassing."
"Even your most embarrassing is oddly endearing," Percy comforts her. "Look, I planned some pool time today, so I should probably—"
"Go," Annabeth says immediately. "Yeah, go. Have fun. Swim a lap for me."
"Maybe they're all for you," Percy replies swiftly, making little to no sense. "I'll be expecting an e-mail."
"I'll be sending it," she promises. "Don't drown."
"If I do it's because I'm thinking of you."
"That makes me feel awful!" she nearly squawks, but Percy's laugh rises over her words.
Percy: YOU LIED
Percy: YOU SAID YOU WROTE ABOUT YOUR MOM
Percy: that was so nice though I don't know what to say
Percy: why am I not in Michigan
Percy: I'm really lucky to have you too even if I didn't write an essay to show my appreciation
Percy: I could if you wanted me to
Percy: have you decided how you feel about me I'm on the edge of my seat here
Percy: make this a movie
Percy: you did sign up for that creative writing class right please say yes
Percy: hey where are you I'm paying you attention and getting none in return this is an OUTRAGE
Smiling, Annabeth unlocks her phone and answers.
She doesn't make it into a movie, but when Percy visits a month later and kisses her, like reflex, in the middle of the airport, Annabeth feels like she should.
It's not always easy to be so far apart, but they make it work. Annabeth remains in Michigan as Percy attends the University of Florida. They phone when time permits and visit over the holidays. It's far from ideal, and not exactly effortless, but it's far from difficult. Being so close for ten years allows them a little distance without a falling out. And that's how Annabeth sees it—the 800-plus miles between them—a little distance. It could be far worse, as far as she's concerned, and it's well worth it when Percy raves about his courses.
"If you're happy I'm happy" has become a motto of sorts between them. Percy says it when signing off Skype for the night. Annabeth texts it to him in the middle of her history class. At the end of the day, as long as Percy's alright, so is she.
That has to be how it is, Annabeth reasons, when you find your person. And she decided long ago that Percy was her person; not just her soulmate or her best friend, and not just a guy she could see herself settling down with. He's her person in every sense of the phrase; she could see herself doing anything and everything with him, from studying in a coffee shop to exploring a jungle in another country.
He's her person, she's his person, and Annabeth thinks they'll always figure it out, no matter the obstacle. Whether it's distance or a broken promise, they'll work and work until they've managed their way through it.
The night before she graduates with a four-year degree in Business Management, Percy sends her a picture of his handwriting, reading "If you're happy I'm happy."
Annabeth doesn't reply, but he surprises her by showing up to her graduation the next day. She kisses him fairly enthusiastically to make up for it.
"The essay is beautiful," her mother says, handing the paper back to Annabeth. The woman even dabs at her eyes. "I never realized how serious it was between you two, back in high school."
Annabeth presses her lips together, fighting a smile. "Thanks. And I didn't really, either. At least not until I started the essay. I meant to show it to you ages ago, but I was digging through old papers yesterday and I found it."
"Right, packing up, aren't you?" Annabeth shrugs one shoulder with a soft grin. Her mother seems contemplative, and Annabeth can almost hear her mind buzzing and whirring with ideas. "It's a wonderful story," she says finally, sending a smile to Annabeth.
Eight months later, her mother publishes a book, and it's based on a true story.