*It's been way too long, so a simple summary of the past chapter won't help at all with jogging your memory.*
Disclaimer: I do not own Percy Jackson. Rick Riordan does. Nor do I own The Nightmare Before Christmas.
"Where are we going?" I asked for the nth time, practically whining at this point.
"You'll see," Percy repeated, with that small smirk still on his face.
I sighed, and continued to walk to wherever the heck he was taking me. After a while, I finally recognised the route he was following, and let out a long exhale. "We're going to your apartment, aren't we?"
He suddenly stopped in his tracks, and looked at me exasperatedly, "Was it really that obvious?"
His bottom lip jutted out into a pout, and I patted his arm, "Kind of, yeah."
Reluctantly, he started dragging his feet into a slow walk, but then eventually perked up after a few seconds of slouching. "You don't know what my plan is, though." He winked at me, and was nearly skipping in glee, at this point.
"Your mood swings worry me," I said, cautiously eying him to make sure that he isn't going to go back to being all down and grumpy.
He sent me a cheeky grin, and then returned to walking with a bounce in his step, without giving me a proper response. The rest of our journey was silent for the most part, except for the obvious sounds of "Trick or Treat" following us wherever we go. Before long, we already reached the Jackson household, and Percy went straight to his room, once we entered. I followed him begrudgingly, only to arrive to see him rummaging through his desk's drawers.
"What're you looking for...?" I hesitantly asked, taking a seat on his bed.
"You'll see," he said once again, and it took all the self-restraint I had to just not physically beat the information out of him. After an agonizing few minutes that felt like hours, he finally took out this small, white jar, a paintbrush, a sponge, and some other materials, and then started walking towards me.
"Please don't tell me that that is what I think it is," I warned, mentally preparing an escape route just in case worse gets to worst.
An evil grin appeared on his face, and he took a seat next to me. "Now we can match," he told me, taking out a cotton pad, and applying some liquid-like substance to it.
"I do not trust you with this," I said wearily, turning to face him so that nothing goes too horribly wrong.
He softly laughed, as he dabbed the cotton pad on my face. I cringed at the sudden coolness of the liquid, and scrunched my nose. "Don't move," he advised me, as I muffled my laughter from how ticklish it felt.
Once he finished cleaning my face, he moved on to applying the white face paint on me. "Do you even know what you're doing?" I asked him, because I wasn't entirely positive that he won't poison and kill me somehow.
He scoffed, and softly pressed the paint-dipped sponge onto my face. "Of course I know what I'm doing. I've learned from observation and YouTube."
I closed my eyes, and tried my best to stop flinching. "That isn't exactly reassuring."
"Well, what's the worst that could happen?" Percy questioned.
I waited until he was finished with painting my eyelids to respond. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe you'd lose balance somehow, and accidentally press the sponge just a bit too hard on my eyes, and blind me."
He was silent for a few seconds, and his voice was skeptical when he said, "That couldn't actually happen, could it?"
I shrugged. "You never know. The possibilities are endless."
"Maybe you shouldn't have trusted me with this, then," he mumbled, and I silently glared at him through my closed eyes.
"Are you actually serious right now?" I sighed with a bit of annoyance. "Where is Sally, by the way? If I die, I need someone to call the ambulance."
"She and Paul are at this Halloween gathering with their friends and coworkers." He started dabbing my neck, and I bit my lip. "They're coming home tomorrow."
I hesitantly opened my eyes, "Good to know they trust you enough to leave you home alone."
He scoffed, "Why wouldn't they trust me?"
I rose an eyebrow, "Really? Do you really want me to remind you of that one time they left you alone, and disaster struck the nation?"
Percy's eyes widened, "Geez, Annabeth. You're making it sound like I blew up a city, or something."
"That very well could've happened," I said, once he finished applying the white paint on my face and neck. "Are we done?"
He shook his head, as he cleaned his mess up a bit, "Now we need to add the blood."
"Are you sure this is safe to do on your bed?" I asked, looking around to make sure he hadn't stained anything.
"Yeah, it's not like we're working with anything too bad," he reassured. He then dipped a paintbrush into red paint, and told me to stay still. Thankfully, it didn't take too long this time, and he managed to finish just before I was about to get restless and fidgety. "And, voila." He gently held my face, and turned my head side to side. "Perfect. Now, feel free to go to the washroom and have a look at my masterpiece."
I cautiously eyed him, "You didn't draw anything vulgar on my face now, right?"
He gave me an innocent look. "I should be offended that you would think so low of me, but I'm not. Be thankful."
I rolled my eyes, and started to make my way to the nearest mirror. Once I finally looked at my reflection, my eyes widened in surprise. Percy actually did a fairly good job. I walked back to where Percy was, and he was already looking at me in anticipation. "So...?" He asked, nervously biting his lip.
"That could've actually turned out much worse," I told him, and his eyes brightened.
"Really?" He asked, and he was nearly bouncing with glee. "You like it?"
I gave him a small smile. "Sure. So, what now?"
The grin on his face was far too wide and way too contagious. "Now you need to actually get in costume." He went to his closet, and after searching for a while, he finally pulled out a white collar shirt. "You can borrow this. It might be a bit too big, but we'll see."
He handed it to me, and I took a step back. "Woah there. When was that last washed?"
He thought about it for a moment. "I haven't worn it in forever, so if anything, it might just be a bit dusty."
I contemplated it for a minute, before eventually taking it. "Fine. Anything else?"
He bit the inside of his cheek. "I'll give it to you after you get changed. Now shoo."
I laughed. "Rude."
"Love you too," he muttered, going back to cleaning up.
Once I got changed in the washroom, I walked back to his room, and took a seat on his bed. "So...?" I said expectantly, silently anticipating what else he had left to give me.
"Right," he took out a clip-on bowtie, and gave it to me. "Here you go."
"It amazes me how you just automatically assume that I know how to put these on," I mumbled, fiddling with the clip.
"Well, do you?" He rose his eyebrows. "'Cause I can help, if you want."
I sighed out of defeat, and handed the tie back to him. "Just because I'm lazy, you can help."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," he told me. "Such rudeness."
"Please?" I asked, adding in a pout for good measure.
He softly chuckled, and started to put the bowtie on me. I craned my neck to the side so that he can have an easier access, and I tried to regulate my heartbeat that started beating unnaturally fast for some reason. "There you go," he said, taking a few steps back to admire his job.
"How do I look?" I questioned, doing a small twirl.
He bit the inside of his cheek, "Just one more thing..." he trailed off. Percy removed his black cape that came with the costume, and handed it over to me.
"I can't just take this," I said, awkwardly taking it into my own hands.
"Well, you just did," he grinned at me, and I hesitantly put the cape on. It's not like I had a choice. "Now you're starting to look like a vampire. It's perfect."
"Err, thanks," I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans, and fidgeted a bit. "Now what?"
Percy smirked. "You seem to be asking a lot of questions today."
I rolled my eyes. "You aren't exactly giving any answers, so what am I supposed to do?"
"Maybe I'm being vague for a reason," he said mysteriously. "But, to answer your original question, now we're going trick-or-treating."
I shook my head. "We can't do that."
He pouted. "Why not? We're not too old."
I continued shaking my head. "No, we literally can't. It's getting late, and people are starting to stop giving out candy around this time."
"What?" His voice was quiet and absolutely heart-broken. He widened his eyes, and jutted out his bottom lip. "But-but—"
"It's okay," I patted his arm in an attempt to console him. "There's always next year."
"It's not the same, and that's so far away!" Percy exclaimed. "I guess I'll just have to jump ahead to my other plans, then..."
I sighed. "You have more plans?"
He nodded eagerly. "Yes, of course. This Halloween is going to be extra special because I didn't get to celebrate it with you last year."
I smiled, "Gee, thanks. I feel honoured."
"You should be," he said, walking towards his desk, and looking through his drawers for a bit. "Aha! Here it is," he finally told me, just as I was starting to lose patience. This was way too much spontaneity and mystery in one day. Percy eventually took out these two pieces of paper, and I nearly combusted with excitement.
"Are you serious?" I questioned, fighting a grin.
"Obviously," he flashed me a crooked smile. "We're going to go to the Empire State Building."
"Oh my gods," I gasped, as I stared up at the extremely tall building in front of me. I craned my head as far back as it can go, trying my best to see the top, but to no avail.
"It's pretty, isn't it?" Percy noted, with his voice small and almost wistful.
"Understatement," I said breathily, watching the top of the building change into a rainbow of colours.
"Excited?" Percy asked me, grinning. He handed me my ticket, and I tightly grasped onto it, not taking the risk of losing it.
"Also an understatement," I sent him a smile, and turned back to look longingly at the building. "Can we go in now? I can't wait any longer." I fidgeted with the edge of my coat, and my throat went dry from the nerves that I was feeling.
He laughed at me, and nodded. "Sure, let's go." It took everything in me to not just run through the doors and ditch him. It's been way too long since I've last been here, and I miss it too much. "I swear," he mumbled, "you're more excited than I am, and this is my first time."
I turned around to look at him with wide eyes, "That's your loss, then. Now hurry up!" I tugged on his hand, in an attempt to make him move faster. He was walking frustratingly slow right now, and it almost pained me. "I will abandon you if you do not walk quicker. Don't think that I won't, because I will. Then who would be your tour guide?"
He rose an eyebrow, and smirked. "You're my tour guide now? Are you going to be spouting random facts about this building now?"
I straightened my back, and held my chin up. "Don't underestimate my abilities; I will if I have to. Do you test my knowledge?"
He softly chuckled, and shook his head. "No."
"Well, too bad." I grinned devilishly. "Did you know that the Empire State Building was designed by a man named William Lamb?"
He shook his head again, and had a small smile on his face. "No, I didn't know that."
I turned back to the building, and walked to the entrance with Percy trailing a couple steps behind. "How about the fact that there are 73 elevators in the building, and 6514 windows?"
"How do you know all this?" He questioned, and I sent him a secretive smile, while putting a finger to my lips to shush him.
"Lightening strikes the rod at the top approximately 23 times each year, and—" My voice died in my throat, as I opened the door to the lobby. The fine details, general pristine-ness, and elegance of the place catches me off guard every time, and it will always continue to mesmerize me.
"Wow," I heard Percy breathe, as he too stopped in his tracks. I ignored all the stares we were getting for being in Halloween costumes, and just stared wide-eyed at the walls and decorations. Pictures never really did this place justice.
"Are you ready?" I asked him, shaking out of my daze, and breaking him out of his stupor.
He nodded eagerly. "Yes, of course! I was born ready."
My eyes lingered on his genuinely happy face for a little while longer, before I smiled. "Alrighty then. Let's go."
It took a while before we finally got to go on the elevator ride up to the 86th floor, and I was telling Percy facts the entire time. The other people in the elevator looked just a tab bit annoyed at my constant chatter, but Percy didn't look too irritated and instead had a small smile on his face, and that was all that mattered. Thankfully, for the others, the elevator ride only lasted for a few seconds, and I could almost hear their sighs of relief when we got off at our stop.
"Are you ready," I asked him again, as we followed the crowd to the observation deck outside. My heart was beating fast with enthusiasm, and I was not emotionally ready.
"Hades, yes." He replied, walking as fast as he could. He looked all around him, trying to take in as much as he could. I heard his breath catch in his throat, when he saw the view of the city through the window. "Oh my—" was all he could say, before his voice died completely.
"Just wait until you go outside and see it," I said, winking at him. After an agonizing few seconds that felt like hours, we finally made it outside on the observation deck, and we started to make our way to the railing. A chilly breeze passed by as my hands curled around the bars barricading us from falling off, and I stared down at the city. The city lights shone against the darkness of the night, and the sky had grey wisps of clouds.
"Wow," Percy sighed dreamily again, and I turned my head to look at him. His eyes shone with wonder and happiness, and his mouth seemed set into a small, yet permanent, smile. He turned his head to meet my gaze, and grinned even wider. "Do you see this?!" He exclaimed, making wide gestures with his arms.
I laughed, "Yes, I see this."
"This is freaking amazing," he said with glee, and turned back to look at the city. "It's so big, and we're so small and insignificant. Like, there are all these people in this city have their own stories and lives, and it's so weird to think about? They're just like us, except different, and it's weird you know?"
I smiled at his rambling, and nodded. "Yeah, I know." He continued to go off into another tangent about the same thing, and I forced myself to look at the view instead of staring at him. "The sky is pretty today," he noted, randomly changing the subject.
I looked up, and admired the dark sky. "Yeah, it is. Do you see those satellites? They're really beautiful."
"Hey!" He playfully poked my side. "Don't be so pessimistic. They could be stars for all we know."
"Don't you mean realistic?" I rose an eyebrow, and sighed with defeat when he pouted at me. "Okay, fine. The stars are really beautiful today," I said drily.
"That's the spirit!" He grinned, and our conversation fell flat after that. All that filled the silence were the chatters of others, and the usual sounds of the busy city. I stood there mesmerized by the sight of New York, and watched as the cars zoomed by in flashes of light, and every so often another light in a room would extinguish as that person called it a night. I didn't know how long I stared wide-eyed at everything, but it was long enough for almost everyone to leave the observation deck, and all that was left were a few more people.
"Should we also start leaving, then?" I asked Percy, who was still transfixed by the view. "It's almost nearing midnight."
He looked at me with glazed eyes, and tilted his head to the side. "What, I swear it was only nine o'clock just thirty minutes ago."
I shrugged, "Time's just an illusion, so don't get too worked up over it." I shivered as a cold breeze passed by, and I regretted not dressing more warmly. "It's getting cold, so I'll go wait inside, and you can stay out here as long as you need." I mustered a smile for him, and started to make my way inside.
"Wait," Percy said, before I even moved two steps away. He grabbed my hand, and pulled me closer to him. We just stayed there staring into each other's eyes for a few seconds, and the world seemed to just blur behind him while he remained in clear focus. "I think I owe you a dance."
I felt my heart beat faster, and I tried to not blush from how close we were. "What for?" I questioned, just a tad bit breathless.
He took a step back, with my hands still in his, "You promised that you would save the last song at the Halloween dance for me." Percy smiled at me, as he attempted to take a bow. " And I would like to take up that offer, if that's okay with you."
I laughed against my will, and brought him closer to me, "Come here, you dork." I lazily wrapped my arms around his neck, and his hands were hesitantly placed on my waist.
"Do we need music?" He whispered, with his breath fanning against my ear.
"No," I replied just as softly, leaning my head on his shoulder. The faint sounds of his heartbeat and the usual loudness of the city made for an odd, yet soothing, melody. "We have our own music."
We continued swaying around for a few minutes or a couple hours for all I knew, and it actually didn't matter because I didn't want this moment to end. I felt so safe and warm in Percy's arms, and I didn't want to go back to reality just yet. I could feel Percy's breath on my neck whenever he exhaled, and he was just so extremely close that I started getting nervous.
I could feel my hands start to get clammy, my heart was beating unbearably fast, and I didn't want to interrupt the silence, but my mouth started moving before my mind could tell it to shut up. "D-did you know that five workers died during the making of the Empire State Building?"
He was silent for a few seconds before he started bursting into laughter. Soon enough, I started laughing at my awkwardness too, and it took a while for us to stop, but even then, small giggles would erupt every so often. "What the Hades, Wise Girl?"
My heart seemed to skip a beat, and I crossed my arms. "I don't know! It was the first thing that came to my head."
He gave me a weird look. "I don't know what's going on in that head of yours." He tapped my head with his finger, and I ducked away from him.
"Shut up," I muttered. "I could say the same for you, Seaweed Brain."
"Wow, rude," he said, looking around him. "But, to answer your question before, yeah we should start going back home. Are you up for a movie night?"
I looked blankly at him. "It's already past midnight."
He rose an eyebrow. "I have Tim Burton's movies?"
My eyes widened, and I started dragging him towards the exit, "Then what're we waiting for? Let's go."
Percy and I were sat on his couch with cups of hot chocolate in hand, and The Nightmare Before Christmas playing on the tv. We already wiped off the makeup on our faces long ago, got changed into our pyjamas, and it was starting to near one o'clock.
"Did you have fun today?" Percy asked, taking a sip out of his cup.
"Yeah," I muttered softly, leaning into his side.
"Don't fall asleep on me, now," he said teasingly. "You have to stay awake during this movie marathon."
I scoffed, "You should try listening to your own advice sometime."
"Annabeth!" He exclaimed, sounding personally offended. "That was hurtful."
I patted his shoulder, "Yeah, I'm rude. I know."
About halfway through the movie, our empty cups lay discarded on the coffee table, and I was starting to get tired. "What would you do if a zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow?" Percy asked out of the blue. We must be nearing the delirious stage of tiredness, I'm guessing.
"I don't know," I sighed. "Try to survive?"
"But what's the point," he mumbled, shifting around a bit. "What's the point of trying to survive, when in the end you'd either die, become a zombie, or live the rest of your life in a ruined world. You'd survive the apocalypse, but at what cost?"
"For the sake of honouring those who died, or providing a first-hand account of what happened so that people will not forget the horrors of the past?" I suggested, and my head started to ache.
"I might just try surviving for the heck of it, though," he said, "Maybe I'll just protect some people, kill some zombies, and call it a day. I don't know." His voice sounded far away, and came slowly. I expected him to say more, but he didn't, so I looked at him in confusion, only to find that he fell asleep. I softly shook my head at him with a fond smile on my face, and I tucked a strand of hair out of his face.
The light of the television illuminated his peaceful face, and it reminded me of earlier that night, when the moonlight shone behind his hair when we danced on the Empire State Building. I remembered the way that the city lights were reflected in his dark green eyes, and I remembered feeling that something changed at that moment, and that I was scared.