Disclaimer: R.R. owns it all. Every right and regulation and sentence etc. You guys know the drill.
"Leo," Piper said, gently pushing her friend with an outstretched hand. "Leo, wake up."
Whether it was charmspeak at work or just the son of Hephaestus reacting to her voice, Leo shot up straight in his chair, eyes wide open the moment Piper's hand made contact with his shoulder.
"I'm awake," he said dumbly, bleary eyed and probably still half asleep.
Piper grinned and shook her head, helping him up out of his chair. "Leo, you were snoring. You were dead to the world."
"Sorry," Piper murmured. "Bad choice of words."
He shrugged standing straight up, taking in his surroundings as if trying to remember where he was.
Piper took in the surroundings as well. It was June the 3rd (or at least it had been. It may be past midnight by now) and they were in Bunker 9. The Argo II was very close to being finished. Apparently all that was left was protection things. The Hecate cabin were casting protection spells, regaining their strength and then casting even more. Leo and the Hephaestus cabin were handling building and installing while Annabeth was drilling the Athena cabin to make the plans, add in any extra weapon they could and improve the already built structure plans.
She was working them all to the bone, every Athena camper had bags under their eyes, dragged the limbs when they walked and were all as tired as the Hephaestus kids. Sometimes Piper wondered who was really in charge here, Annabeth or Leo.
Speaking of Annabeth-
"We should wake her up," Leo muttered, watching her with a strange expression on his face. "She's been sleeping here every night for days…"
Piper shook her head. "Don't. She needs the rest. If we wake her up now she'll just work herself harder so that she won't fall asleep again. Plus she has a knife that she can use pretty well even when she's half asleep. Believe me, I've been there."
Leo looked back up at her. "We can't just leave her here."
Piper watched the daughter of Athena, watched as her forehead creased and her mouth moved in silent words. It looked like she was having a nightmare.
Piper heard only one word, and even that was a quiet mutter. She was surprised she heard it at all considering the low humming of every single machine in the place and the other electronics that were doing their work, not needing to take a break to sleep. Then again, she may have only been reading Annabeth's lips- the name was spoken so often around here it wasn't hard to lip read it anymore.
"Percy," the blonde girl whimpered and Piper bit her lip in indecision.
Leo frowned again, making Piper certain he had heard her too. But he ignored it, pressing on with his earlier comment. "We'll carry her." He finally said.
"What?" Piper exclaimed quietly. "All the way back to the Athena Cabin?"
Leo shrugged. "Sure, why not? You've got arm muscle, I know that for a fact from all the punches you oh-so-kindly give me," he shot her a mock glare. "And I've been working on the Argo II for months so it's bound to have given me some strength…"
"I could go get Jason," Piper offered, blushing slightly when she said the name. She and Jason had been dating for a couple of months now but she still wasn't completely used to it.
"No way, he's probably asleep already," Leo objected. "Besides, how heavy can Annabeth be? We can do this."
Piper saw the determination in his eyes and wondered suddenly why he was pushing so hard. She really didn't see the harm in Annabeth sleeping out here again, the girl did it every night.
But both Annabeth and Leo were Piper's friends so she just shrugged instead of saying anything. "Alright then," she said. "But if we end up dropping her in a river or something it's your fault."
"C'mon Beauty Queen, there's no rivers around here," Leo muttered.
"There is," she said, moving to stand beside Leo and slip her arms under Annabeth's back and head. "It's just a little ways away from here."
Leo shrugged and whispered in return. "I've never seen it. Besides, we'll take the path. It's the safest and fastest way. No water. Ready? 1,2,3 lift."
Piper wasn't sure whether she should be jealous of how light Annabeth was or worried. She wasn't the only one who had noticed Annabeth was hardly eating anymore. A bite of toast at breakfast, a bowl of soup at lunch and maybe several big spoonful's of macaroni and cheese at supper surely wasn't enough for someone her age. Hades, it wasn't enough for a 10 year old. Piper didn't know if it was Annabeth being too distracted to notice, thinking about the Argo II or the upcoming quest, or whether it was worry over her boyfriend being missing.
Leo seemed to be thinking the same thing. As they lifted he shifted Annabeth's legs slightly. "She's lighter than I thought," he muttered, that crease appearing between his eyebrows once more. Worry.
"She's just been working it all off," Piper said, perhaps a bit too defensively. She knew Annabeth and Leo were friends, good friends, but Piper and Annabeth were also good friends. Annabeth hated people pitying her or worrying about her.
Unless it was Percy, Piper guessed. She had heard many stories about Percy and Annabeth. How Percy was the only one who could calm Annabeth down, or even talk to her when she was angry. How Percy had gone and fought the Titan Atlas just because Annabeth was kidnapped. How she had been stabbed on a bridge in the Battle of Manhattan and how Percy's face as he went to see her in the camps headquarters (a random hotel) was pure worry, desperation and fear. The campers had all made sure to get out of his way.
At least that's what Piper had heard. She hadn't seen any of it with her own eyes of course.
But she wanted to.
She wanted to see Percy be the only one to calm Annabeth down and get through to her on her worst days. She wanted to see Annabeth get jealous of Drew flirting with Percy. Piper wanted to see Percy worry over Annabeth when she got a little cut during Capture the Flag.
But mostly she just wanted to see them together. To see what all the campers here were really talking about when they said that the couple were so in love nothing else mattered or even existed. She wanted to see a love like that because even though she was a daughter of Aphrodite, she hadn't seen much of it. Not these days.
"Beauty Queen?" Leo interrupted her thoughts and she realized that they were already outside Bunker Nine.
"Huh?" She asked dumbly, remembering to be quiet at the last moment.
She shifted Annabeth's weight slightly, surprised even more when the older girl didn't even stir.
Gods, she must have been really tired to not even notice she was being transported from Bunker Nine to Cabin Six. How tired did someone have to be to not notice that? A demigod, no less, someone who was trained to have a guard up at all times, keep one eye open while they slept, etc.
"How did you know I was in Bunker Nine?" Leo asked her, just as quietly. He was looking at her curiously and Piper rolled her eyes.
"Where else would you be, Repair Boy?"
Leo smiled. "But why did you come?" He asked.
"You fall asleep there every night," Piper said. "I figured tonight you could take a break, get some sleep in your own bed for once."
"I do not fall asleep there every night!"
"Sure you don't," Piper said disbelieving. "It's not like I come out here at least once a week and wake you up to drag your butt back to Camp."
"But why? Why not just leave me out there like Annabeth?"
"Because we're friends, Repair Boy, any more stupid questions?"
Annabeth whimpered once more in her sleep and Piper shifted her hold slightly, lowering her voice. "I do wake Annabeth once in a while, by the way. It's just… she needs all the rest she can get."
Leo nodded. "I get it," he said, watching the blonde for signs of anymore discomfort. "Do you ever wonder what they'd be like if they were actually together again?" He asked her.
Piper knew immediately who he was talking about. Percy and Annabeth. Or, as her cabin liked to call them, Percabeth.
"All the time," she replied. "I've heard so many stories…"
"Me too," Leo said. "All those quests they did together, and then that one where he went to rescue her. Did you hear the story about Rachel?"
"Yeah," Piper grinned. Apparently Annabeth and Rachel hadn't always been as close as Piper thought. It had been an almost love triangle between them and Percy.
It was funny, if you thought about it. Considering how close Rachel and Annabeth were these days.
They were quiet for several steps more before Leo spoke again, almost too quiet to hear. "Do you think everyone gets a love like they have?"
Piper shot him a sideways glance but he was staring straight ahead so she looked away.
"I don't know," she finally replied. "I know people don't always end up with the people they're supposed to be with. But I think everyone experiences what they have, sometime in their life. You know, first loves, or the people they end up marrying. Maybe a fling they wish had lasted longer. Maybe a relationship killed by distance or something else." She shrugged. "I don't know."
Leo was quiet for a while after that, taking in her words. "Do you think we'll ever find a love like that?"
The question hung in the air and Jason's face flashed in Piper's mind before Leo laughed quietly.
"What am I saying, you and Jason are together. You guys already have a great love like Percy and Annabeth." Leo shook his head. "My bad, Beauty Queen, I forgot. I keep thinking things are just like they've always been."
Piper paused again, watching her friend. Was that a note of jealousy in his voice? Or bitterness?
She thought back, to the past days, weeks and even months. Did Leo feel shut out, discluded because of Jason and her starting to date? Did he feel like the third wheel more often than not now?
Now that she thought about it, she and Jason had been spending more time together than usual. Worrying over the war, distracting one another from whatever task they had to do. In fact Piper had hardly seen Leo at all apart from the times when she occasionally remembered and came to wake him up in Bunker Nine. He was always in here, planning, improving, adjusting and calibrating. Piper didn't understand most of it, wasn't able to follow his conversations with the rest of the Hephaestus and Athena campers. She tried to stay out of his way because she had learned from experience that most of the time she was only in the way.
She had thought he liked being alone to work. She had thought he needed that time to himself. But maybe he missed her and Jason and the way things had always been between the three of them.
They were best friends after all.
"You'll find somebody," she eventually murmured, looking over at him. "Any girl would be lucky to have you. I mean that."
Leo shrugged as well as you can shrug while carrying a 120 pound girl. "Maybe," he said. "I guess I just haven't met her yet, huh?"
Piper bit her lip. She wasn't good at things like this, relationship advice and keeping people hopeful that they would eventually find 'The One'. She had very definite views on love and fate and everything to do with it and she had learned that sometimes people didn't take kindly to having her views spoken.
But this was Leo and he was her best friend and he obviously needed to talk to somebody. She would always be here for him, no matter what.
"Right," she agreed with him. "You're going to meet a girl who's everything you need. Then you won't shut up about her for weeks."
Leo shot her a playful grin. "You'll know her just about as well as I will."
Piper smiled again before turning hesitant. "And… this girl. When you finally meet her… will you tell me? Let me meet her too?"
"Don't be stupid Beauty Queen," Leo scoffed. "You're like my sister, of course you have to meet her. Any girl I date has to get full approval from you and Jason. We're family, aren't we?"
Ignoring the technicality of gods DNA and whatnot, Piper was touched by Leo's words. She had always thought about the four of them as a family but to actually have Leo say them warmed her and made a worry she hadn't known she had unloosen in her stomach.
They were a family. And family stuck together.
She looked down at Annabeth. Did she have a friend like Piper had in Leo? Or was Percy the only one? Piper had met Grover Underwood, a satyr who was apparently Percy's best friend, but was Annabeth included in that? Was Rachel Annabeth's confidant and advice giver? Or Jason's older sister, Thalia?
Or maybe, because Percy and Annabeth had been best friends for years before they got together, Percy was the one Annabeth went to for all of those things. Maybe they had a relationship that was both like Piper's with Jason and Piper's with Leo.
Maybe they were each other's family.
Piper looked up, finally seeing the glow of lanterns, the remains of the campfire and the lights from the Big House windows. With a few more steps they were out of the woods completely.
Annabeth was still sound asleep.
Piper looked over at Leo. "Let's go to the Athena cabin?" She asked, unsure if they should bring Annabeth anywhere else. Maybe Chiron would want to see her in the Big House?
"Yeah let's take her there," Leo said. "I think everyone else is asleep."
They passed many of the cabins, finally making it to the Athena cabin and, moving carefully and making sure to be quiet, Piper lifted her right foot and gently hit the door three times.
Luckily one of the campers were awake and the door opened.
"What the-" Ella, a green eyed blond started to speak before catching sight of Annabeth. "What happened to Annabeth?"
Piper spoke before she could panic or scream and wake the others, scared that Ella would think their head counsellor was knocked out or something. "She fell asleep in Bunker Nine," she whispered. "We figured she should sleep in her own cabin."
Ella was only 14 but Piper knew, as with most Athena campers, that she was much smarter than most kids her age. She looked down at her head counsellor and, surprising both Leo and Piper, shook her head.
"She'll just toss and turn," Ella said, watching Annabeth with worry in her eyes and it struck Piper again just how much this entire camp cared about Percy and Annabeth. They were best friends with all of the older campers and like a mother and father to all the younger ones, at the very least like older siblings. Piper herself thought of Annabeth as a sort of older sister- one a lot less annoying than Drew at least.
Leo let out a breath. "Well we're not taking her back-"
"No, that's not what I was thinking," Ella said, still watching Annabeth with her tongue sticking out slightly and a crease between her eyebrows.
"Well what were you thinking?" Piper asked, perhaps a bit rudely. Sue her, she was tired and her arms were starting to hurt from Annabeth's weight. The girl still hadn't woken up.
"Well- and I know this is completely against the rules- I was just thinking that maybe you could, I don't know…" Ella looked up at Piper, uncertainty in her eyes. "Maybe she could sleep in Cabin Three?"
Piper almost dropped Annabeth.
"What?" Leo asked. "But that's-"
"Poseidon's cabin," Piper said, watching Ella. "You want Annabeth to sleep in Poseidon's cabin? Don't the gods, like, blast campers to pieces when that happens?"
Ella met both of their eyes. "She's slept there before," she said.
Piper raised her eyebrows and Leo coughed uncomfortably before Ella spoke again, fast and blushing.
"Not like that!" She said while red in the face. "I mean… since Percy disappeared. She sleeps there, sometimes. And it helps her. She always gets a full night of sleep when she's there. She sneaks in after lights out and sneaks back in here before she thinks we wake up. But we all know she does it."
"What about Chiron?" Piper asked.
"He knows too," Ella replied. "Most of the head counsellors do as well."
Piper looked at Leo, eyebrows still raised, and saw him shrug once more. "If it helps her sleep…" He started.
"If you guys are tired I could wake up some of my siblings," Ella offered. "We can take her. Or you can just drop her off here. But if you do that I'll bet drachma that she'll wake up in the middle of the night and head to Per- Poseidon's cabin."
Piper looked down at Annabeth, watched her face, and saw her frowning in her sleep once more.
"We can take her," she said suddenly. "It's just a couple of cabins away. No problem."
"Umm, Beauty Queen-"
"Where's all your manly muscles Leo?" Piper asked him before turning back to Ella before he could reply. "Thanks Ella, we'll see you tomorrow."
"No problem," Ella replied. "Have a good night you two."
With that the door closed softly and Piper finally met Leo's stare.
His mouth was open in surprise. "What was that for, Pipes? My arms are killing me!"
"Come on, Leo." Piper said. "The faster we get Annabeth to Cabin Three the faster we can get to sleep."
Leo stared at her for a few seconds before looking away and starting to move forward, muttering under his breath as he did. Piper heard the words, 'Beauty Queen', 'insane, could've just let her sleep in her own cabin', and 'now my arms will kill in the morning'.
Piper rolled her eyes but said nothing.
They both hesitated outside of Cabin Three and looked to meet each other's eyes.
She had heard a lot of stories about Percy Jackson (how could she not, living here) but she had never really come this close to knowing him. There was a difference between hearing camp gossip and campfire tales of his quests and actually going into where he lived. Going into the last place he was known to have been.
Leo was thinking along the same lines, Piper could see it in his hesitance to open the door.
Eventually, after what felt like minutes but what must have only been seconds, he took a breath. "Well let's get going," he said finally. "Faster we do this faster we can get to sleep." He said, quoting her.
Piper nodded and carefully moved so that her hand was on the door handle to the bunker like cabin.
She turned the handle and opened the door.
She let out a breath of relief when nothing out of the ordinary happened even though she had known nothing should happen. There was no gust of wind that came out of the cabin to whoosh past them, no shadowy shape standing in the empty doorway. No sounds except for the creak of the door.
It smelled like sea and chocolate chip cookies, an odd combination, one that didn't make much sense, but one Piper didn't question. She was too tired.
The inside of the cabin was surprisingly normal. There were 8 pairs of bunk beds, 16 beds in all. Beside the door Piper saw as she stepped in that there was a table and chest of drawers beside the bunk bed in the immediate right corner.
The blankets were also messy and there were wrappers under and around the bed. An empty coke can on top of the table (how in Hades did he manage to sneak in pop?!) and the walls were a shimmering, shiny blue that gave the illusion you were underwater.
"Beauty Queen," Leo interrupted her thoughts. He jerked his head up, towards the ceiling. "Check it out."
Piper followed his movement and was met with the sight of metal seahorses, hanging from the roof. They were gorgeous, albeit a bit dusty.
It suddenly struck Piper that Percy would be the only camper to do cabin clean up in here. And right now… nobody would be cleaning the Poseidon cabin.
She wasn't sure why the thought made her so sad when she already knew Percy was missing. It was just the fact that this place, which was obviously a home to Percy, was now empty and standing alone. No lights shone through the windows, no broom was brought in here to sweep, nobody dusted or made the beds or washed the sheets or anything. It was empty apart from a few chip bags, candy wrappers, an empty coke can and-
"Look," Leo said again, eyes on something on top of the chest of drawers. Piper looked where he was looking once again and saw something that made her sad all over again.
A picture, of Percy and Annabeth, both of them with snowflakes in their hair, snow falling around them. They were each sporting huge, wide, white grins and had their arms wrapped around one another. Annabeth was wearing a coral coloured scarf and white jacket and Percy seemed to have a beanie on his head.
It was the only picture of Percy that Piper had seen outside of the one in Chiron's office.
"Which bed should she go on?" Leo asked.
Piper looked away from the picture to look at her friend once more. "That one," she said, meaning the only unmade bed in the cabin.
"Percy's?" Leo asked. "Isn't that… I don't know, weird? Creepy or something?"
Piper rolled her eyes. "Leo they're dating," she said. "Besides, he won't find out if Annabeth doesn't tell him. Ella said she sleeps in here all the time anyway, and I don't see any other bed that looks like somebody's slept in it in the past 100 years."
Leo looked at her for a second before seeming to give up. "Whatever, I'm too tired to argue," he said. "Let's just put her on the bed and go to our own cabins to get to sleep."
"Fine with me," Piper said, moving towards Percy's bed.
With some careful maneuvering and gentle placement Annabeth was finally laying on the bed. Leo paused and pulled up the blanket to cover her.
When Piper looked at Annabeth's face she saw that instead of the frown that had been on the blonde's face since the daughter of Aphrodite had seen her in Bunker Nine she was now smiling. Such a small smile you hardly saw it, barely a turning up of the lips at the corners. But it was there.
As the two younger demigods watched Annabeth curled up into a loose fetal position and turned her head into the pillow beneath her head, breathing deeply.
"I hope she doesn't suffocate," Leo said.
"Leo!" Piper whacked his arm lightly. "Don't be dumb, she won't suffocate. Come on, before we wake her up."
Leo rolled his eyes but didn't say anything, heading out of the cabin. Piper hesitated, looking at the picture on the nightstand once more, taking it in, before following him out and shutting the door quietly behind her.
She knew with 100% certainty that she had never seen Annabeth look as happy as she did in that picture.
"We'll get Percy back," Leo said as they walked to their cabins. "For Annabeth I mean. I saw how you looked at that picture."
"I hope we do," Piper said. "For Annabeth's sake. And I- I want to see them together, too. Is that weird? Or stupid?"
"Nah," Leo said casually. "I kind of want to see them too. They looked happy in that photo. I've never seen Annabeth smile like that before."
They walked in comfortable silence before they both stopped in front of the Aphrodite Cabin and Piper turned in front of the door. "I'll see you tomorrow then, Repair Boy?"
"Of course, Beauty Queen, where else would I be?" He asked.
She shook her head, smiling. "Good night Leo."
She caught both of them by surprise by throwing her arms around him to give him a hug.
"We're all going to be okay, right?" She asked, her mouth moving without her brain giving it permission. "We're all going to survive this. And everyone will be together again. We'll beat Gaea and her giants, won't we?"
"Piper," Leo said gently, caught by surprise. He was quiet, hugging her back, until. "We'll win," he promised. "Because we're a family. And we all have something to fight for."
"So does Gaea," Piper said, stepping back, embarrassed by her show of emotion. "She wants to be completely awake."
Leo smiled at her, but there was worry in his eyes. He wasn't as confident as he would like her to believe. "Fine," he said. "But we each have someone to fight for."
Piper grinned at him, Jason's face in her mind's eye. "We'll win," she repeated, trying to convince herself and him as well.
He smiled. "Now go to sleep," he commanded. "Beauty queens need their beauty rest."
Piper shook her head but went inside, calling lights out to her cabin mates as she did so.
Not even Drew's sneer could bring her down. They were going to win. Because they were a family.
Because they all had loved ones to fight for and Gaea didn't. Gaea didn't know what love or friendship was, what it felt like.
Written for PJO Ship Weeks, Friendship week! Sorry for the late posting, my internet was down.
Thanks for reading!
Love you all!