So this is the product of two inspirations here on ff, net.

One of them being PjoHoOKCTHG, the lovely author of Encounters who struck up a conversation with me about handcuffs. And the other being Aria Taylor who enchanted me with the length of her infamous oneshot, The Book Nook.

(HA Aria, I beat the length! ;)

OKAY! I added numbers in between the page dividers to hopefully make it easier for anyone who's trying to find there place again. So while you're reading, just be sure to remember which number you're on and it should help. Enjoy :D


I was having one of those shitty days.

I don't mean by a moderately crappy day where you forget your lunch, and all of your friends just happen to be busy at lunch. Those days where, ya it sucked but you still survived.

I mean total wipe out, disgustingly awful days where you feel just so bloody down and depressed but the fates hate you so your day just keeps getting worse.

The day I'm talking about was an absolute freakin nightmare.

My car broke down on the way to school, my seat was taken by some half pass idiot who squirted ice tea at me when I asked for it back, my lunch had been towed away with my car that morning so I was starving, my friends took off for special club activities and left me to eat my food alone in my car, Mrs. Dodds had finally found an error on my math test and had cackled about it the whole freakin day, I was late for work, there was some scatter brained neanderthal who insisted that I point him in the direction the socks were sold even though it was a flippin bookstore, I mean seriously how freakin hard is it to read the freakin name of the freakin store and then he wanted to talk to my MANAGER for SASSING him, and on top of ALL that; I was handcuffed to the most obnoxiously stubborn and ill mannered person in the entire universe.

Nearly eight billion people on this itty bitty sphere we call a planet ladies and gentlemen, and I happened to get chained to this guy.

A delinquent. A guy who couldn't care less for trying his hand at anything besides being a jerkwad. A slack off.

Just my luck. My good for nothing hole riddled luck.

Again, the fates definitely despise me. There is no other explanation.

5:03 p.m. on a Thursday evening, on the very fringes of New York city. That's where I was. The wrong place at the wrong time.

Albert street, a cursed street if there ever was one. I could've taken another way home but I chose to walk down Albert Street. Something as simple as choosing which direction to walk altered the rest of my life. On top of that, it was a heartlessly cold dry and breezy day (which is the absolute worst combination). The crisp chilly air went right through my leggings while my grey buttoned cloth coat kept the biting wind at bay. As my anklet boots hit the sidewalk with dull knocks, my eyes wandered off the grey, sludge ridden snow splotched sidewalk and over to a police car parked on the curb in a hasty manner, a few yards dead ahead. It's alarming red and blue lights flickering silently in the traffic heavy air.

My nose wrinkled when I recognized the top heavy, short officer. The one who patrolled this area on a daily basis, and always gave me a ticket for parking in the employee's only lot.

Even though I was a freaking employee.

Brenda was just prejudiced against blondes. Blondes definitely couldn't work at a bookstore.

Blondes are supposed to be dumb.

Jokes on you Brenda. I sneered in my mind bitterly while frowning. My car is in the freakin shop.

Today, however, Brenda had snagged a teen. Probably for shoplifting or loitering or public disturbance or something else as stupid. Harshly, she had him pressed against the running vehicle. Running her grubby hands over his dark worn jeans and spiked leather jacket. His expertly tousled pitch black hair ruffling slightly in the wind.

Brenda was doing her job painstakingly slow. Like a snail eating a leaf.

Probably enjoying her power. Relishing her place above him in society.

Scoffing internally, I rolled my eyes with an air of disgust. Not only at the donut filled cop with short thin pigtails.

Typical teenaged boy. A tinge of bitterness was still in my gut. Biting my nerves and making my day worse.

It was when he tilted his head toward me that I caught a shock of crazy green eyes that looked fierce and angry.


I resisted another tempting eyeroll.

The guy looks angry for being stopped by the officer when he obviously deserved it. Seriously, If I'm being completely honest, boys these days were nothing but asshats most of the time. Cocky, belligerent and so full of themselves I'd vomit for them.

I could rant for hours, but I'll spare you that monologue.

Satisfyingly, a flash of cold shining silver was all I needed to see to understand where this young delinquent would be headed. Naturally a felt a throb of pleasure knowing that there was one more useless human being put in place. This guy wouldn't be spraying graffiti on walls like building herpes, or making unsavory and nasty comments at passing girls anymore. He'd be locked up, like he deserved. Off the streets and out of mind. How delightful.

As I walked, my sharp ears picked up the faint Click. One cuff was slipped into place just as I stepped right beside them. Stupidly I smirked, inhaling the next stingy throat stabbing breath before my life changed. For better or for worse it would change drastically, and I'm not saying that just to be dramatic.

The next second was a blur, like a smudge on a camera lens. The movement of a blade on a fan.

He acted so fast, I could barely react or move. I wasn't expecting it at all, but on the other hand who would be? Casually strolling down a winter cloaked street is hardly what I'd call exciting. Naturally you'd have your guard down being in such a familiar atmosphere.

Needless to say, by the time my breath left my lungs in a vaporous cloud, Brenda had been flipped to the ground with a yowl and the teenage boy was right beside me, holding my hand- Or my wrist more like.


It was sharp and it was biting. The sound of my freedom being taken from me bundled in one simple little piercing sound. Blinking, my eyes snapped over to my right. Mind swelling with confusion as my lips formed a tight purse.

I was met with the intense gaze of emerald eyes peering into my soul. He had the impression of pure confidence. A look of rugged boldness and challenged pride had entered his eyes, but also the look of understanding, and a clever hint hidden in the shadows.

He had it all figured out, I could see it in his eyes. He knew exactly what he was doing and he wasn't sorry about it. Not even a jot.

"Wha?" I barely had time to utter before I was being yanked, dragged even, away from the officer.

Biting into my wrist was a thick flat circlet of silver. It's solid chain reflecting the afternoon sun and linked my outstretched arm to the arm of the darkened clad guy now leading me through the pedestrian traffic at a rate so fast, that we should have been ramming into people left, right and center.

Feistily, I yanked back and gave him all the devil I had through my eyes. Anger bubbling in my stomach.

If this boy thinks he can use me as a getaway insurance, than he best be off his knocker.

With a glower at me he tugged harder and even though he looked lean, he was strong. Stronger than I anticipated.

So once again I was taken on this hay ride of being tugged through pedestrians and over puddles of solid ice. In between the general murmur, and the passing of pissed people and the honks of impatient cars buzzing on the streets, I heard the shouts of that one ditched officer following on our heels.

And for once I was grateful to hear Brenda's throaty man voice bellowing at me in the distance.

Before I could return a call, we wheeled sharply to the left.

Or at least he turned pointedly to the left while my feet stumbled out from underneath me.

I hit the bristly cold sandpapery cement and felt the burning pain as my palm shed a piece of skin. A stab of anger rolled dangerously around in my blood as I lay plastered to the sidewalk like a piece of flattened gum. Finding myself staring at litter jutting out from a small snow bank, and smelling the gritty salt on the icy sidewalk that my cheek was currently pressed against.

The guy (who I've already cursed to step in every kitchen puddle and grow bald in his old age) was leaning over me with his hand outstretched awkwardly. We were like two puppets tangled in the same string. Scratch that. I was the puppet getting tangled clumsily in the thread, he was the numbnut puppeteer who didn't pay attention while reading 'Marionettes for Dummies'. He was the one who tied us together like contestants in a three legged race. Not me.

"Hey!" the police officer yelled again while I sat there praying she would pop out of the crowd already. However, Brenda obviously had the stamina of an inflated walrus.

Damn you, Brenda.

"Come on, come on." The teen spoke for the first time and grabbed my hand impatiently before hauling me to my feet.

This time he didn't let the aching cuffs drag me. He did it himself, with his strong warm hand clutching mine. Gripping my fingers tightly as he lead on. Dodging black metal light posts, and metal postal boxes lined in glittering ice. Eyes scanning every turn, calculating every move to strategically and effectively separate us from Brenda. The way he confidently moved across streets and down lanes betrayed how well he knew this area.

Fine. I thought distastefully. I'll let him drag me to kingdom come. But he better believe that I'm going to beat that ass of his.

And I had full confidence that I could.

I had taken a precautionary self defense course which I had mastered (not to brag or anything) and was known to flip people who pissed me off. Which most of the time included teenage boys that hit on me or were just plain being a nuisance.

He definitely counted as being a nuisance, and lord help his darkened soul if he even thought about hitting on me.

The dude (whom I was convinced had crawled fresh out from the pits below) turned left, then right, than down a street then right and a left. Taking random streets and breaking through crowds as if they were water. Making me feel as if I were trapped in a dismal labyrinth. Finally, he stopped in the middle of an dank alley hidden from the sun. Trash dotted snow banked in tiny heaps against the brick walls that lined the sides coldly. A network of greasy black fire escapes above our heads in the dimmed sunlight.

I doubled over, trying to catch my breath that was currently coming out in throat achy uneven spasms. My fisted hand pressed numbly against my knees.

"I think we lost her." he heaved breathily. A cloud of vapor air puffing out of his mouth with each annoying syllable.

Oh really? You'll be beggin to see coppers once I'm through with ya.

"What the hell?" was the first way I was so brilliantly able to illustrate my burning hatred. Other than my piercing gaze looking up at him and my clenched fists biting into my palms.

"Oh yeah." The boy pinched his eyebrows together, looking like he had just remembered that he cuffed an innocent bystander and brought her on that rollercoaster ride.

Yup, a real bright one here.

"Oh yeah? Seriously? Are you so dumb that you can't even recall five minutes ago?" I glared through his eyes intimidatingly. Heat throbbing in my face as the anger rose in my body.


"Don't you 'well' me," I growled. "What were you thinking? Cuffing a random person and taking off with them? Seriously? This technically is considered kidnapping! And why the hell did you even do that! Couldn't you have gotten away so much faster if I wasn't attached to your wrist like some fish on a line?"

"I did that so she wouldn't use her taser," the boy argued in an irritated tone. His brows pinching down in sync with the corners of his lips.

"Great! So you locked a hand cuff onto a complete stranger and left the key with the cop. Seriously, you're so stupid I wouldn't be surprised if you had the IQ level of a jellyfish!" I tried to cross my arms but my left was currently unavailable, so I settled for an hostile right hand on hip.

"You say 'seriously' way too much." He looked at me with a you're incredibly annoying look while speaking with a mix of bored observation and exasperated nerves. Almost as if I was the one who was at fault in this situation.

That's when I lost any cool I had (not that I had much left anyways). My mouth formed a frown, my eyebrows pinched down aggressively, and my eyes were silver grey licks of flames in my eyes. Blood boiling at his belligerently stupid comment in hot waves that made my spine tingle and my hair stand up on edge.

My friends referred to this face as my R.B.B.A.J.B. face.


In one clean motion, I reached into my bag with my right hand and pulled out my handy dandy pepper spray before giving him a satisfying spritz directly to the eyes. I then fisted my hand around the small bottle and punched him in his sturdy gut. The force sending a jolt up my arm, but sweet cheetos it was satisfying to watch as he stumbled back. Groans emitting from his mouth at the same rate curses were. He sunk to the gritty filthy ground cursing vulgarities and wiping his eyes as tears started streaming.

"Damn. Shit. Ow. What the hell?! What type of girl carries around pepper spray!?" He cried.

I smirked smugly even though he couldn't see it. "A smart one you dingus."

"Ow ow ow."

My victorious feeling ran dry when I realized that I needed to get him back to Brenda.

Ew…. Brenda…

Or at least get him to a patrolling officer. In order to do that he needed to at least be able to see where he was going. Pepper spray, for those of you who don't know, can have lasting effects up to two hours. I wasn't about to wait two hours for this cry baby to be able to walk in a straight line again, and I sure as hell wasn't going to half piggyback him to a police.

Besides, I doubt he'd go willingly anyways.


"Here." I muttered as I yanked out my water bottle and threw it down to him. I may or may not have been aiming.

"OW!" he yelped as the metal cylinder connected with his head in a hollow 'tang'. Bouncing a slight echo around the alley comically.

"Oops," I responded indifferently. No hint of sympathy in my steady voice.

Eagerly, he unscrewed the cap and tilted his head to the sky while running the water gently over his red throbbing eyes. Blinking rapidly into the water he let out a sigh of utter relief. Water trickling down his cheek like bad prop tears and soaking into his clothes.

Even though I'd never say it out loud, this guy was kinda good looking. I wasn't blind.

His jawline was chiseled, his nose was perfect. He had those types of eyebrows that accentuated his eyes perfectly. If he maybe wore normal shirts and had a normal haircut than I might've even thought that he was attractive.

But no.

He had 'Just do it later' scribbled on his dark blue shirt under that leather shoulder studded jacket and a little shiny black earring in his earlobe. Knowing guys like him, he probably had a tattoo. Besides that I could probably safely assume his background of alcohol filled nights, and days spent stony eyed from drugs.

"Great," I spoke in a chirpier manner. "Now that you're done drama queening on the ground. We're going back."

I felt like I had stated my dominance pretty well. A sucker punch and some pepper spray oughta do the trick. If not I always had my whittling knife tucked under my wallet. I wouldn't hurt him. I'd just make a few false swings and convince him that I was a bonafide psychopath who'd escaped from the closest institution.

"No," he rasped while trying to meet my eyes.

I reached for the knife. This could be fun.

"NO NO NONONONONONO!" The guy held the hand not bound to me up defensively. "No more pepper spray!" He growled.

I sharpened my gaze at him pointedly as he extinguished my potential enjoyment. My hand still poised on the opening of the flap threateningly.

"I didn't do anything. That lady had no right to arrest me!" He resisted obnoxiously

My gaze hardened. "Whatever you were getting arrested for," I paused to take a challenging step toward him. "You. Obviously. Deserved. It." I uttered each clipped word with an added poke for good measure.

"But I didn't do anything!"

"Pshh, ya. Cops totally arrest people for not doing anything. Good one."

"Well if giving a cop sass is arrest worthy…."

"She can't arrest you for that," I hissed "You're just trying to get away with something scott free!"

"No," he insisted stubbornly. "I can't go back."

Maybe it was the determination in his eyes, or the solidness in his voice, or maybe I was just losing my grip with those green emeralds sucking my soul out.

"Give me a reason on how it would benefit me." My voice was cold, my eyes were slitted as I moved my face closer intimidatingly. Cocking it slightly like all the villains did in blockbuster movies.

I know, I know, I sound selfish. But if he could pull up a legit reason (which I was confident he couldn't) than maybe he wasn't as stupid as he looked. Maybe he was actually saying something truthful. As expected the boy's jaw set in a hard concentration. He kept staring at me. His eyes still bloodshot itchy looking while he nibbled on the corner of his lip. In this frigid alleyway with limited light, and the way he looked, this was the perfect scene for a mugging. In fact, if anyone decided to poke their head in they'd probably call the cops.

Which I was 100% okay with, just so ya know.

"Because," he started again suddenly. "Then you won't have to appear in court as a witness. Less time wasted for you." The beginning of a cocky smirk re-surfacing on his face.

I bit back an insult that had rolled up my throat like bile.

Well shit, he actually was able to come up with something.

And disgustingly enough for the first time, I was considering not going back. After all it was Brenda who had pinned him to the car. Being the imbecile she was, she probably had tried to arrest him without a warrant. How that woman passed police training would forever remain as one of the 8 mysterious of the world.

Gut tingling with contempt and shameful defeat I grit my teeth. "Fine," I spat. "But you have to find us a way to get out of these cuffs."

The boy's smirk materialized onto his face again and I glowered. Rolling my eyes for heaven's knows what time.

"Don't worry. I already had this figured out Princess."

"Call me Princess again and I'll carve your eyes out with a spoon," I snarled seriously.

Oh, I would. I confirmed with my dagger like glare.

Raven hair coughed/chuckled nervously. I liked to think of that as a display of quiet fear.

"Than what can I call you?" he asked with an on-edge sound lusciously lacing his voice.

Yas! Fear me! The tiger inside was grinning like a maniac.

"Annabeth," I answered curtly. "Now what's your name." It was a demand.


"Last name too." I cocked an eyebrow.


I reached for my bag.

"PERSEUS MARCUS JACKSON," he suddenly yelled while his free arm shot up to cover his eyes.

"Hmph." I nodded approvingly. Not to his name, but to his reaction. "And what exactly was your plan to get us unlinked from each other?" I questioned skeptically while he cautiously removed his hand from his stunning emerald eyes.

Yes, stunning.

A girl can have an opinion, obviously.

"Because I get around," Percy started arrogantly. "I know a guy. He works in a mechanic shop down in the meatpacking district. He has lock picks for everything."

I crossed my hand over my chest and glared. "Does this friend happen to steal things for a living Mr.-Oh-so-awesome?" I retorted sarcastically.

"No," he responded honestly while his eyes didn't waver from mine. A secure sense of truth echoing through those pools.

"And you said Meatpacking district? You never mentioned having to go across town to get there!"

"Well I assumed you had a car. Any chic wearing those types of clothes bounds to have a daddy who has given her a car."

"Well you assumed wrong you bimbo!" I stomped my foot against the frozen asphalt. "That's why the first three letters of assume are ass!"

"Well ya don't have to get so wound up about it!" He shrugged while I felt like making him eat those infuriatingly calm words. My heart was beating in my chest, my skin was boiling with unchecked anger, my face was flushed while he was completely relaxed. His broad shoulders down and his figure slightly slouched as he looked at me with a sort of amusement dancing in his eyes. As if he were enjoying himself.

That ticked the hell outta me.

He was acting as if he could push me over whenever he liked to. All I wanted to do was go home, take a hot shower and read a book or watch a few episodes of my favorite show. Maybe even complete that English essay.

But no.

My sharp grey eyes hardened on him icily, trying to send the message. "Should you really be criticizing the person you dragged into this mess?" I smiled coldly while my voice was filled with a deadly tinge. Anger pulsating in my system.

A dreaded silence from him let me know just how much he wanted to take those words back.

"I didn't think so," I whispered. "Now you're gonna get us both across town with your money on a stinky bus, and you're gonna get your friend to unlock us. Got it?"

He nodded slowly with his mouth slightly ajar. "Suuure."

"Good." with that, I grabbed the sleeve of his leather jacket using my cuffed hand and tugged him out of the foul cigarette budded alley. Squinting slightly at the brighter atmosphere outside the walls. I didn't stop, I chugged forward like a determined locomotive.

It was when we were passing the pastry shop just a few blocks away with the first bus station in sight that Percy talked. Between the bustle of New York and the beeping of yellow taxi's, I almost didn't hear him. I wasn't trying to pay attention to him either. I was too busy looking up at all the towering buildings caging us in.

"People are staring," he complained while being the caboose to my steam train action.

"Staring at what?"

"The cuffs."

"So? Let them stare," I bit back without so much as turning my shoulder to look at him.

Like a snake, his warm calloused hand slid into mine.

I felt like a violated cat as the hair on my neck rose and prickles bounced on my spine eerily. Wheeling around at him I was about to scream as my face darkened to a bright red. I was so done with his behavior. Just with him in general. I wanted to dispose of him like a piece of trash left on the counter. He, however, was looking at the ground with a light blush on his cheeks and a sour pout on his face. The cocky air and smirks were gone. He looked almost scared.

"I don't like it when people stare." he mumbled childishly.

My eyes snapped to our interlocked hands. Both our coat sleeves hid the silver circlets, it was only the three links of chain that had been visible. Now it was folded neatly into our palms, hidden by our hands.

I want to say that I was utterly repulsed by the hand holding thing. I want to say that I batted off his pet peeve of people staring and released my hand right away. But my knees were shivering together. My nose was red from Jack Frost and my teeth chattering away inside my mouth. My other hand had already been stuffed inside my pocket but with the bitter wind and the frigid air, my cuffed hand was numb from freezing.

So just maybe I was secretly relishing the soft warmth of his hand. And maybe a little bit of me also softened to the Percy who looked like a seal given a dosage of bad memories. I pursed my lips, tightened my hand in his and trekked on. Ready for this day to end. Ready to get on a warm, humid, greasy bus.

Ready to ditch this delinquent so fast that it would make his head spin.


It was when the bus was bumping down the road when Percy surprised me.

We were sitting on the bench, where that weird accordion part of the bus stretches and helps the bus turn. As soon as we sat down, I stuffed our hands behind the blue plasticy bench and put as much distance between us.

Which, disappointingly, was not very far.

During that time, I looked everywhere but him in hopes that he'd just disappear. At the ceiling, at the salt stained floors, straining my necks towards the key scratched windows and glaring vengefully at the grubby poles dotted with fingerpritns. It was so uncomfortable that it was almost funny.

The whole freakin time, he tried to talk to me!

He had the nerve to ask me things that I blatantly refused to acknowledge. How old are you? What school do you go to? Why are you ignoring me? Why are you pinching me? Ow stop it!

SERIOUSLY! It wouldn't end! I swear his mouth was moving faster than the bus! I had half a mind to pull out the pepper spray again, but since I was trapped in a social environment where it would be 'socially unacceptable' to pepper spray someone no matter how annoying I settled on just pinching my way out of answering.

Fortunately the bus wasn't too packed. Just the usual businessmen and women, parents with impatient children and older fat guys playing angry birds on their phones. A casual day so to speak. But even on casual days you have weirdos with no sense of personal space.

That was when I felt someone slide in beside me even though there was a limited amount of cushioned and plastic bench left.

"Hiya doll, where you heading with your boyfriend?" a light haired, black-eyed teen smiled at me dazzlingly then winked. His words were slightly slurred. Barely noticeable, unless he was breathing down your neck. Which he was to me.

Why? Why would you come here? Do you want to die?

"'Doll' me again and I'll make sure that winking eye gets sewn shut. Plus, that's not my boyfriend you twerp."

The guy looked unfazed as he set a daring hand on my knee. His eyes shining like I had just complimented him.

Tipsy, not completely drunk. I thought while irritatingly slapping his hand. He better go before I choke him to death.

"It's okay pretty Girly, you thinkin bout doing anything around tonight?"

He touched me, is flirting with me, AND used bad grammar in my presence.

Do I want to kill him?


But do I want jail time?

Hell no.

I was just about to go all out on him with every name and remark I could think of when Percy decided to shock me.

"Bro, backup." His bored yet daring tone matched the equally unimpressed look he was giving the guy to my right.

"What?" The improper teen to my right barked. Arms crossing lazily as if he were about to pick a fight and win.

You say 'Excuse me'! I wanted to correct while my teeth grit into each other. By the time I got home I'd probably need dentures.

"She's going to kill you. Your mom obviously didn't teach you how to treat a girl."

That line got my mouth gaping and my fury eyes settling on Percy like a lioness targeting its prey.

Like you know any better!

"How does this have anything to do with you?" The light haired guy grinned while leaning in closer. "You heard the hottie, you're not her boyfriend. Besides a chick as hot as this wouldn't want shit with you."

No etiquette. No manners. And no idea on how to court girls.

This guy was coming in close second as the worst boy on the planet.

First place was reserved for Perseus Jackson, naturally.

"I thought I might just warn you though," Percy offered. "She's a tiger. She's not scared to use violence."

Damn right I'm not.

"But as she'll show you in a moment. She doesn't put up with that sort of behavior very long."


"Girly here can tell me what she wants. Right babe?" The boy put a muscular arm around my shoulder. I grabbed his arm and flipped it off me roughly.

"Nope." I growled as I saw our stop come up. "The guy with me might be a complete loon, but he's right."

As the bus lurched to a stop I stood up with Percy's hand again in mine and turned to the rude clueless teen. "You're seriously unimpressive. You act desperate and way too touchy. It might just be your obviously low IQ level or your un-repressed lust."

The teen's smug look dissolved as he got told off so publically. People peering behind them curiously while the old lady with the carpet bag at the back of the bus was cackling.

"Overall, you came off as an pathetic immature schoolboy who still needs his mommy to wipe his nose everyday. In my opinion? Any girl you do manage to get under you will be as vapid as a breezy wind."

The harshness of my words left him struck dumb for a few seconds.

Just long enough for me to drag Percy off the bus and onto the street again.

"You go Honey!" the old lady called after me.

I almost yelled back to her a thanks before the cold air hit me like a wall of frigidness while I hurriedly stuffed my hand into my welcoming pocket again. That unearthly breeze brushed on my leggings and made my calves quake almost instantly.

"What was that?" Percy rumbled. (Okay, maybe his voice was an itty bitty bit attractive)

"Back there?" I asked while kinda weirded out that we were actually talking instead of arguing or attacking each other. That I had actually answered without pinching.

"Why didn't you completely freak out on him?" Percy asked a little miffed.

I noticed his eyes were still a little bit red, and where I punched him probably doesn't feel so good either.

I smiled.

"I don't prefer to fight," I answered tartly. "I like to tell people what I really think. It's more effective, I find."

"Than why the hell did you freak out on me?" Percy asked while looking at me innocently. Maybe like a little lost seal, but I wasn't really in the mood to compare him with lots of cute little sea creatures.

I glowered before shoving my chin in the air indignantly. "I don't know, maybe it was because you put a handcuff on my wrist, dragged me through crowds of people, and essentially kidnapped me."

Percy snorted and mumbled something under his breath while I pretended not to hear him grumble to himself. Anything that came out of those kissable lips of his was bound to be a load of BS.

"What about you." I challenged. "What was that whole bit about treating a girl right?" I felt his hand tense in mine while I felt like digging my nails into his flesh again.

"I was just saying that his mom obviously hasn't taught him how to treat girls," he muttered while looking at the ground.

"Ha!" I hooted unbelievingly. "And your mom has?! Handcuffing a girl is not your classic good guy move. What would your mom say if I told her this?"

"I don't have a mom," he said it like it was something that mildly annoyed him. Like not having a mom was that gnat twirling around your face.

"Oh." I tried not to sound too surprised. "That actually... explains a lot..."

Somehow an awkward silence was able to invade in between us. Suffocating me horribly while I turned my face away.

For once I wanted him to say something, to do something. Be arrogant or mutter like the moody teenager he was. But Percy just kept on walking, his cheeks starting to peak pink as the cold seeped in. Ignoring me and paying more attention to cloth covered people shuffling by, their noses stuffed under scarfs and their shoulders hunched awkwardly over their ears.

My numb feet were aching for warmth as we walked on the splotchy sidewalk.

All the way to the subway Percy didn't say anything. Meanwhile I pretended like I didn't notice the sudden silence. That the lack of talk wasn't bothering me. Or even on the train where we sat in the corner like gargoyles. I turned my face away from this boy.

And maybe that's when the heat of the train infiltrated the cold radiating off me. And the lull of the movement made my eyes heavy. I was really fighting it, I promise.

But with all that had happened that day.

My limbs just relaxed.

I relaxed.

And I let the warm bliss envelope me.


I was in one of those in between phases. Where your just so warm and cozy and in such a dwindling sleep that you just have to chase it?

But someone was nudging me lightly. Shifting my sleep again as it seemed to start sliding away. I curled my hands in closer to my chest and snuggled my face tighter into the warmth under my head while mumbling nonsense. Smelling something that was salty but soothing. Like a rock face of an ocean, or a sea.

"Hey, our stops coming up," the voice muttered somewhere in the clouds of dreams.

"No," I mumbled sleepily, nosing and clinging to the warmth.

They warmth shook. My senses started coming back to me.

My eyes cracked painfully open. Squinting into... fabric?

Tilting my head sideways I ended up staring up at the cold circular lights in the train. Confusion swam in my heart as I let my eyes follow the lines of the greasy bars and shiny yet grubby chairs. A subway car? The memories of the day just starting to come back to me. That's when I realized why the warmth beneath my head had a pulse, and rumbled every time the voice tried to wake me.

My head was on Percy's chest.

Somehow, Percy had slouched down against the corner and I had fallen asleep right on top of him. Curled onto him with my face buried into his chest like some lovesick chick.

That's why I was warm...

A blooming blush illuminated my face as I snapped up and stared at him still in a after-sleep stupor. Percy just smirked like the cocky devil he was.

"You're cute when you sleep," he chuckled while sitting upright again.

I stuttered to say something but nothing came. So I just glared and laid out a classic "Shut up," with a dark tone.

He shrugged indifferently with that same smirk plastered on his face. If I had some wax and a flame, I'd strip the look off. Harshly.

Before I could add an intelligent comment, the train lurched and screeched to a stop and we were released onto the platform. Emerging from those awful subway cars like fish in a tuna can.

"So," Percy looked smug, which was never a good thing. "Did you enjoy your nap?" He spoke over the noise of the subway station with a teasing sound laced in his voice.

I stuck my nose in the air. "No," I answered firmly while we brushed passed a group of kids.

Percy just chortled. "I think you did."

"I didn't."

"Do you know you talk in your sleep? It's adorable."

My blush deepened. "Yes," I snapped "I do know that I talk in my sleep. Now are you going to take me to get this horrible cuffs off or not!?"

Percy rolled his eyes humorously. "Alright Princess, take it easy. We're only a few blocks away."

"Call me Princess and I'll-"

"What? Pepper spray me? Not something you can do in public without drawing attention." Percy had that infuriating smirk on. A little bounce in his step as he walked.

I was seething. I was boiling. Not only had he embarrassed me but he dared to challenge my place. Who did this little upstart think he was!?

"Just wait until I get you alone," I snarled darkly.

Percy hummed. Just as fast as he had flipped Brenda, he twirled himself in front of me with that taunting look on his face. His body pressing up against mine revoltingly.

My already burning face went a few shades darker when he leaned in and whispered teasingly "Anything we do while we're alone I'd probably enjoy." Cue wink.

Shivering with rage, I looked him in the eyes and controlled my arm from moving up on its own and slapping him across that face of his.

"Fine," I whisper yelled. "How about we go to the police instead? How about I tell them that you held me against my will and threatened me to do what you wanted to. Because if you want to play games, just know that I always win."

Percy paled. "I was just fooling around!"

"Well. Don't. Fool. With. Me." Poke. Poke. Poke. Poke. Poke.

The tone in my voice just might've belonged to a grim reaper.

"Oh-kay." Percy back stepped with a wary move and lead the way out of that dirty dank subway platform. Up the grease dotted stairs with the sticky railings while I glared at the yellow strips on each stair. The pinch of the freezing cuff around my wrist was a painful reminder of my stolen freedom.

This time I was so thankful that his mouth was sealed. It was like a gift from above. It let me think without being rudely interrupted. But unfortunately that thankfulness soon shriveled up into a prune when we got out onto the streets again.

It was dark out.

Really dark out. In this side of town, even the streetlights looked dim. I didn't know how late it was, but if I was late for school in the morning than nothing was gonna stop me from plowing into that police department and giving a full 5 paged statement on what happened with the handcuffs and who had my blame.

Percy lead me down the street and around the bend. Once in awhile he'd softly curse when he took a wrong turn or we'd have to backtrack. Meanwhile all I did was follow like a dog. Trying to avoid patches of ice and staring at snow banks so heatedly that I swore they would melt.

By the time Percy did figure out exactly where he was going I had already swatted him across the head twice and was so cold that I wouldn't of been surprised if I turned into a solid ice statue. (Which, by the way is obviously impossible).

"Where Leo works is just three stores up," Percy was speaking nectar to my ears.

I couldn't wait to ditch him. Or to slap him with both hands.

Or do both.

Eagerly my eyes strained towards the store. Ignoring the dead LED signs and the obviously 'closed' word hanging on the door like a noose. Maybe I did see it, but was just in denial. Or maybe I was just suffocating from the amount of idiocy I was being forced to put up with. Either way, my heart still plummeted into my gut when Percy tried the door and failed to open it epically. It was like a bad ending to a low-budget comedy movie.

I stood there with my mouth open as he tried it again. His hand gripping the metal bar handle while he strained.

"Move over." I demanded intensely.

With both hands, I grabbed the door handle and took a deep breath with a whisper of a prayer. I pulled it, I pushed it, I shook it, I begged for it, but nothing happened. This store was closed. I was still handcuffed to an imbecile with an urge to kick through the glass of the door.

"Is there any chance that your friend might still be inside?" I asked with a serious hopefulness in my voice.

Percy scratched the back of his neck and ran a distressed hand through his ruffled black hawk.

"No, if he was there then the door would be unlocked," he sighed heatedly. "Shit." Percy punched the doors cold metal frame with aggravation. A vibration of noise following as the door shivered.

My fists formed into tight balls with my nails biting into my palms. With my teeth clenched and my eyes squeezed shut I counted down from ten. The roaring in my head beating drums and cursing like a sailor. It was all I could do instead of completely mauling the person standing next to me. Instead of fulfilling my deepest desires to haul out ye ole faithful pepper spray again, I spun on my heels and used the handcuffs to roughly drag Percy into a sitting position beside me on the icy concrete steps.

"Now what?" I asked sharply.

I was mad. But I was somehow able to contain it with some shreds of dignity. Percy however shrugged and gloomily looked onto the darkened street as cars with beaming headlights that passed quickly. I sighed and rested my head on my hand, trying to think of the most logical thing to do. The built up frustration in my chest threatening to pop.

"What?" Percy asked with mock surprise. "You aren't going to kill me?"

"I'm tempted to," I answered lowly while shooting him a warning look out of the corner of my eye. "If I have to put up with you any longer I just might go insane."

"News flash Princess, you haven't exactly been the peachiest addition to my day either," Percy replied sassily.

"And why should I be?" I spat back.

"I don't know, maybe so this could go easier for both of us? I've tried to stay civil."

"Civil?" I laughed unbelievingly while lifting my head to give him a dead humored look. "You've spent this whole time teasing me. As if it's my fault I'm in this situation. Not to mention when you weren't making flirty comments and stalkerish questions you were just being plain obnoxious! I certainly don't want to be chained to a punk brat who doesn't care about shit."

"What do expect me to do? Change?! You want me to change who I am just for your highness?" Percy scoffed.

"Why not at least try to act gentlemanly for the duration of time you've heartlessly stolen from an innocent bystander! It certainly isn't my fault we're sitting here!" My anger flashed white, while I was so ready to whip out that pepper spray.

"Well you could've acted nicer about the whole ordeal! It's not my fault that cop doesn't know how to do her job!"

"Lord! I'm about to cut off my own arm if I you don't find us a way out of this soon!" I declared.

"Well, be my guest Princess," Percy sniffed and turned his head away childishly.

I was equally as mature and huffed while I glared down the opposite side of the street.

My pulse was racing with enragement. A burning sensation on my face indicated that my face was flushed while the nippy cold cement kissing my butt did in fact not make my mood any better. I puffed some air out of my cheeks and watched the cloud of vapor dissipate.

As far as I was concerned, we were stuck. Not only with nowhere to go to get the cuffs off, but also with each other. A stalemate.

I was stuck to Perseus Jackson just as much as he was stuck to me.

And it sucked.

Gritting back a scream I clenched my hands. My blood steaming in my veins while rage in my mind went unquenched.

Who does this little asshat think he is?! Of course he doesn't have a mother. He probably drove her away with all his nastiness! One more minute of this asshole and I just might lose my mind!

There wasn't anything I wanted more than to get away from him. To go home and get warm and go to sleep.

Food. I needed food as well. I hadn't had lunch and the money in my pocket was reserved for bus fare home. Maybe that's why I was so cranky and easily angered. I just hadn't eaten.

I sighed heavily again as my emotions started to calm down and I counted the cars pass and the lingering pedestrians bustle and the then focused my attention on that one flickering lamp post. Lightly, it started to snow flakes so thin that they melted the moment you breathed on them. Like fragile filaments of crystals.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when Percy surprised me the second time that day.

"Look," Percy started by rubbing his neck. "I'm sorry I've been so annoying to you,-"

He's apologizing?!

That, to me, was incredible. I would've never imagined Percy Jackson to apologize. Apologizing took humility. Something I (according to my friends) didn't have thanks to my huge egotistic pride. So not only did it catch me off guard, but it also made me stare at him in wonder like a drunk.

"- I guess it's just a nervous reflex when I'm stuck with someone I don't know. I'm sorry I looped you into this, maybe I just wasn't thinking clearly at the time. I know I haven't been all that stellar-" he looked at me enchantingly with those emeralds filled with honesty "but in order to get through this, we need to work together." Percy finishing softly with an earnest ring.

Alright fine.

I melted. A little bit.

Looking at him with only the light of some dying streetlight while he poured out his heart in an apology? This was straight out of a sappy romance novel. It caught me off guard. It even took me a second to register that he had stopped talking and that's when I realized I was staring.

Awkwardly, I cleared my throat. "Agreed."

"Any ideas?" Percy asked hopefully.

Yes. I did have an idea. But I hated it.

I looked back into his crazy green eyes and cracked. "Yes I do," I answered glumly.

"What is it?"

"Well, awhile back I saw this show on how magicians got out of handcuffs. It pretty much involved a bobby pin and a pair of pliers," I answered knowing the questions that were to follow.

"Do you have a bobby pin?" Percy asked with wide eyes.

"At home I do. Along with some pliers."

"Can we just go there?"

My shoulders sagged while I ran my hand up and down my leg, trying to get some warmth back.

"Alright," I sighed. "But it's closer to the north side of New York."

I didn't want to bring this bimbo to my apartment. But if it was the only way, then it is the only way.

"Damn, I don't have enough bus money to get us anywhere." Percy leaned back and rested his head against the glass door with a groan of exasperation.

Struggling with my grey cloth coat pocket, I yanked out a few loose change and some bills. Percy watched as I counted through it.

Frustratedly I stuffed it back in the pocket. "And I don't have enough to get us even within walking distance."

I sat back beside him with the same mood of pent up aggravation.

"So?" I asked while folding an arm over my stomach.

"So what?" He asked perplexed.

"So what are we going to do?" I had to refrain from facepalming my cold chapped face.

Percy seemed to ponder to himself for a few moments. His eyes closed, his even breaths came out in thicker vaporous clouds, his dark hair just begging me to run my hands through it- wait, what?

Suddenly he let go a deep breath.

"My place," he said quietly, almost as if he were scared. "I have a little bit of money at my place. It's only a few blocks from here. We can pick up enough money then head down to your place."

His demeanor had suddenly become so serious.

It was almost scary.

"Alright," I said, my voice all quiet. "Let's go."

It was when we were walking shoulder to shoulder that I noticed the mood between us had changed. Maybe it was because Percy wasn't talking to me. Or even looking at me for that matter. The teases and flirts had stopped.

Or maybe it was because my opinion of Percy had changed. It had turned on a dime so to speak.

I assumed too many bad things of him. I thought soundly to myself. All because of what he looked like.

Looking at Percy now, I didn't see just a delinquent. Maybe there was something more to him. Maybe I had just been too upset and self centered to look farther.

He still might just be the delinquent I first met. My angry stubborn side persisted.

I snuck a glance at the boy beside me.

His brows were furrowed, he was staring at the cracked sidewalk as we passed over it with an element in his eye that I couldn't quite figure out. His shoulders were somewhat hunched while he gnawed away at his lip. Each time we passed into the shadows of the street lights, his features seemed to become ominous and dark.

Scary almost.

His hand suddenly found my fingers again. Tugging me closer beside him in one smooth movement. Anger building up in my gut, I was about to slap him and retract my hand when I heard the hoots and guffaws blare from across the street. Guys were hanging out around an old bus stop. Smashing bottles against the sign and puffing smoke into the air.

When they caught sight of me, a holler of whistles and 'hey babe!'s spoiled the night air. Sneering and spitting out a remark is what I'd normally do but Percy stopped me with the simplest squeeze of my hand.

"Rough neighborhood," he explained in a breath after we passed. Eyes never meeting mine as he tightened his grip on me.

And maybe I didn't let go, but that still doesn't mean anything! I wasn't just going to leave my hand out in the frigid air!

My hand and most of my body were colder than a day spent out on Everest. (Gross exaggeration of course, but you get what I mean.) Chattering together were my teeth while I tried to subdue the sound by biting my lip. Slowly, I built the hope up that Percy would give me his jacket.

You know, the whole gentlemen type way. But, as expected, he remained completely indifferent to my shivering legs and quavering jaw.

Instead Percy let out a worried murmur.

"You okay?" I asked while consciously squeezing his hand softly. No my voice wasn't concerned. I wasn't concerned.

The question was asked like a boring everyday conversation starter. Like 'How you doing?' or 'what's up?'.

Snapping out of his daze, he just shrugged before adding a "Yeah, Yeah."

Suuure, super convincing there buddy.

Taking a deep breath, Percy stopped us in front of a run down building going up 10 stories or so. It looked like a dwarf compared to the other complexes.

Rust stains leaking from the balcony poles onto the cracking grey cement made the whole building look like it was crying. A dull sparkle came from salt that had been crudely thrown onto a patched walkway while the snowbanks were a graveyard for cigarette buds and frozen grocery store bags of dog poo.

"When we go inside," Percy muttered lowly with a voice devoid of all emotion. "I don't want you saying one word."

I nodded while trying to meet his gaze. Percy's eyes however seemed be glued to something lying on the filthy ground.

Percy lead the way inside. The floor was clean of salt stains and the management looked alright. Maybe if the paint on the corners hadn't been chipped off in several places and the constant reek of cigarette smoke was cleared up than this place might've been considered pretty good. Decent even.

In the elevator (that still smelt of smoke), Percy hit the button number five while I just stood there and watched it glow in a matte yellow.

When the doors dinged open, he dragged me down the hall as if on a mission. Then cautiously he turned the knob with a deathly silent aura surrounding us.

I just wanted to know what he was being so serious about. The door was locked anyways.

Pulling out some keys, Percy jammed one in the lock and opened the creaky brown wooden door.

What first hit me was the overpowering smell of sickeningly sweet Vodka. Then it was the relentless smoke smell that made my nose itch along with a few other fermented alcohol's. The living room had sofa's with rips on the sides and threadbare armrests that were discolored with marks. Saggy and lifeless were the brown cushions, disfigured and moulded from years of use. The carpet was worn thin with stains randomly attacking area's like lepers disease. A few particularly ruddy brown splotches caked into the carpet seemed out of place.

Are those… blood stains? It wasn't hard to believe that a few drunken fights had gone on in here. Probably where the stains came from.

The cracked peacock green wall was blank of family photographs and the whole apartment lacked decorative trinkets and homely touches. It was bleak and depressing. The dark walls and insufficient light supply made it feel like a dungeon.

Now I could see why Percy didn't want me to say 'one word' when we went inside. This apartment was a living grease bucket. A red flag for poverty. But on the bright side, this made me shamelessly feel better about showing Percy my own apartment.

Not that I wanted this particular boy to know where I live.

"Come on," Percy ushered me in quickly while talking with a hushed voice.

"Why are we whispering?" I asked quietly as he directed me down a hall.

Percy chuckled nervously. "Just am. Now into my room," his voice as soft as before.

Hurriedly he threw open a door to the right at the end of the hall and dragged me inside.

I looked around with awed disgust. Just when I had been thinking it couldn't get any worse.

"This," I stepped tentatively off the rug on the faded floor. "Is your room?!"

"Yes," Percy muttered.

I could tell he was embarrassed.

I kid you not, this room was worse than the first one. Crowded in the corner was an air mattress with a raggy old sleeping bag laying on top and clothes folded neatly on the floor at the base of the bed. A few hygiene necessities lined a low shelf, razors, deodorant, toothbrush. In the other corner of the room was a wooden desk piled high with magazines and two freshly emptied cans of beer. The trashcan was already full of the empty tin canisters, with some scattered on the creaky hardwood. The only other thing in the room was a lamp with a yellow crooked shade. Radiating light that didn't reach the dank corners.

My heart started aching.

If this was how Percy was living…. No wonder he turned out like that….

Suddenly I felt stupendously guilty for the pepper spray. And everything else that I'd said. If he was living like this everyday then he didn't deserve the treatment I had given him. I was better off than him by a mile. Mournfully I looked at him. His attention busy with a little box he had picked up off the bed and was ruffling through it. Tears pricked my eyes and I bit my tongue harshly to keep them back. Crying over this would just be a disgrace in this situation. And if Percy saw my cry, than I'm sure that I would die of mortification.

"Alright," He whispered, completely oblivious to my heart bleeding out to him. "I have enough-"

Outside the room, the front door suddenly opened then slammed hollowly. Sloppily placed footsteps creaked on the hardwood and the distinct clink of glass clacking together met my ears.

"Hey Shithead. I'm back!" A voice bellowed from the hallway.

Our eyes found each other with a swivel of our heads. My hurricane grey eyes filled with questions and confusion, his wild green eyes filled with fear and panic.

'Out the window!' he mouthed slowly while tip toeing over the noisy wood. The urgency in his eyes made my skin prickle and the adrenaline sped up my heart beat.

He pushed me out the window first, and onto the cold black metal fire escape with the winter wind attacking me again.

I curled against the wall so that Percy could scoot out. His hand tightly gripping mine like he was holding on for life.


The bedroom door was open.

I was staring out into the dank night, the noise made my heart skip its scheduled beat. My eyes slid closed when I heard the heartless voice.

"Hey little dipshit. I called you." A raspy voice. A smoker.

Whoever was in the room with Percy, they couldn't see me. All they could see was Percy at the window with his left hand stuck out into the cold.

"Didn't hear you." Percy sounded emotionless, maybe a bit of sass wound in. The voice I only ever heard him use in this apartment building.

My shallow breathing shouldn't of given me enough oxygen to live off of. But somehow it did. Encouragingly I gave Percy's hand a squeeze while my beating heart thumped in my ears.

I felt him jolt when a slap sound was heard. My heart lurching painfully in my chest. Unconsciously, my mouth formed a silent gasp, and I grasped his hand like it was my life force this time. Fear skittering around my stomach.

"Next time answer me. And close the damn window. Its freezing. I don't pay good money for heat just so you could lose it all!"

I heard the shuffle of feet towards the door and almost let my breath go. Almost.

"I said shut the damn window shit head!"

Percy trembled slightly but his voice was bold. "I can't," he gritted.

The next sound was of glass shattering like the tinklings of little bells. I squeezed my eyes even tighter shut praying that I wouldn't cry. Praying that Percy would be alright. The nipping wind pinching my nose and the tips of my ears.

"See this shard?" the voice was close to the window again. Angry and aggressive sounding, with a dark threatening tone. Like an evil lord towering over his servant. "I'm going to jam his shard down your throat next time you disobey me. Got it?"

Percy sounded like he was breathing heavily, if he was seriously hurt or just scared I couldn't tell.

Then there was a thumping sound, kicks or punches. I couldn't decide which. But all I knew was that Percy was jerking with each wrenching noise. Moans, grunts and the occasional yelps were like alarm bells in my ears. Creating fearful dips in my heart.

"I'm sorry Gabe," Percy muttered painfully. He didn't sound sorry. He sounded like he had said sorry a million times. Like he was just turning off a light switch.

"You're gonna be you little punk!" 'Gabe' was whisper yelling sickly. Pure twisted anger soiling around in his voice.

Why is this happening?

Suddenly Percy was being yanked from my grip. Being pulled ferociously as if a filthy snake had latched unto him and was trying to drag him away to be eaten. Like a challenged tiger I gripped onto his hand and pulled back with all my might. Refusing to let him go while I hooked my feet in the iron bars to give me a hold.

"Let go. Damn it!" Gabe bellowed.

Percy cried out painfully when he was slammed into floor. His arm bent upward to the window while I still held on. My eyes flashed and heat bubbled over, flooding my veins with heat. Anger growled in my gut as I hungered for action when my limit was met. I was ready to make hell.

Maybe I thought I needed to pay back Percy for the way I had been treating him before. Or maybe I was angry that this 'Gabe' guy was treating Percy with the same amount of respect I originally had, but on a regular basis. Perhaps I was just plain angry for how the entire day had turned out and this was just a prime time to let it all out.

Either way, before I knew what I was doing, I had chicken hopped my way back into that depressing room and had sucker punched this old fat greasy man right in the eye. The impact of the force I had used made my arm jarr painfully but that didn't deter me in the slightest.

Before he could react, and before I could quench my anger, I had sacked him hard where the sun don't shine then kneed him in the nose when he doubled over. A satisfactory snap meeting my ears as his pudgy nose broke against my knee. His pitiful cry of pain reaching my merciless ears.

Grabbing Percy's hand (which was always in reach) I picked him up off the floor as he stared at me with an admirable shock. A bruise had started surfacing on his cheekbone while the sleeve of his leather jacket had been yanked off.

Probably so Gabe could have more contact hits. My mind was in a boil.

I turned to attack the old geaser again but Percy held me back by grabbing my shoulders. Fear in his eyes and concern in his touch.

"Run," he gasped into my ear as Gabe stood up with a stagger.

A glittering pocket knife flicking open in his sausage hand while he wiped the blood dripping from his nose viciously.

Panic tickled my stomach as Percy pushed toward the window again. This time, I was moving faster than a rabbit being hunted.

We scurried out the window with a fat angry semi drunk man on our tails. I'm impressed to say that in even in bootlet heels and handcuffed to a boy I'd only met 6 hours before, we made it up those fire escape stairs pretty damn fast. However, whoever chose to go up (I'm 58 percent sure that it wasn't me) made a very unwise decision. Seriously.

It was when we reached the roof that we realized our fatal mistake. The sparse roof top was a desolate desert of shin deep snow. Nothing there but vacant darkness and a large concrete cube with the door to the stairs. Trekking over to the snow in an awkward hobble, we threw ourselves at the metal bolted doors.

Yanking at the white spray painted handles like animals. But with each tug the door barely budged. It was locked from the inside, just like Leo's shop had been. Percy was breathing heavily. His serious eyes scanning everything for a way out. Panickly he looked at me, concern sprinkling in his eyes.

My brain was storing and analyzing more things than I could keep up with.

Cube, snow, doors. Got it. I suddenly had a game plan. My knees hit the icy snow while I used my free hand to shove the white nippy powder away from the door in a pizza slice.

"Help me," I whispered fearfully as the thunks and tangs of a fat man shimmying his way up a fire escape grew more distinct. Each resonating metal Tang made my skin shiver and my heart race. Knowing that my time was slowly trickling away.

Percy bent down beside me without a question and moved the snow while our linked wrists worked in sync. As a team.

"Perfect," I hissed as a stop signal. "Now follow me."

I used big steps only to have snow invade my boots.

"Quick." I motioned to behind the concrete cube into the chilly wind.

It was a shelf. A little shelf right behind the stairs.

Percy didn't need any directions. He covered up our footprints after us as we lunged behind the little cube rising from the building. Both of us praying that he'd fall for it. Praying that Gabe would think we used the stairs and locked the door behind us.

Just as I was about to press my back against the wall, my foot hit a patch of pure ice created by the overhang.

Muffling a terrified shriek, I went over.

I went over the edge.

A ten story drop.

I experienced every regret I had in a single second. I couldn't breath, move or even find my voice because I was seized up in frozen state of utter panic.

Like a nightmare you can't move in, can't scream in, can't play a part in.

You can only be apart of.

Suddenly hands were were on me.

Percy jumping forward. His warm comforting hands firmly grasping my elbows. He hit the snow on the shelf hard while I bashed into the side of the concrete building. My knees painfully knocking the frozen stone.

A guttural sound of relief and instilled fear crawled its way out of my mouth in a sort of whine. My heavy breath and shaking limbs fed my sick stomach with more nausea. My eyes found their way up to Percy.

His own gorgeous eyes were brimmed with dreaded fear. His breathing matching mine. Somehow my stiff and clenched hands had been able to claw onto Percy's navy blue shirt as I sat dangling over the edge of that building. Between the thunderous pounds of blood roaring in my ears I could hear the sharp and distant curses of an old man who had been scorned.


The fear in Percy's eyes doubled, while his hands tightened (if possible) around my elbows. His eyebrows flying up in a pinch of worry. His lips puckered in a quiet 'shush' language. A serious look of concentration swarmed his face as he listened intently to the man on the other side of the cube.

I pursed my lips to hide the quiver passing through them, while my dangling feet scuffed against the cement in a desperate attempt to keep my grip.

The incomplete silence was marred by my beating heart throbbing against the wall I was hanging off of. Percy winced when the doors clanged roughly. Twanging into the hollow night like thunder and erasing the background sounds of distant horns barely tickling my ears and a wailing ambulance crying so far away. Gabe was shaking them.

The doors I mean.

He was banging his body against those already scratched and dented doors with the angry frenzy of a mad man. So intent on delivering his revenge straight into our flesh.

Tears slipped out the corners of my eyes and leaked down the sides of my face. The feelings were wrecking the inside of my mind while my body was in an unfamiliar mode of complete panic.

'Don't let go' I mouthed silently while I was begging with my eyes. Looking up at the green emerald eyes darkened with fear.

Percy nodded reassuringly while his gentle eyes never left mine. Somehow it was comforting that it was him holding me up. That he was experienced in this type of situation. But at the same time it was terrifying that he was holding me up, someone who I had treated like dirt.

Gabe growled near the door. Shouting a string of curses at it like a sailor. I could hear this raspy voice cough and spit out a dozen ear stabbing vowels almost as if he were whispering right into my cold, numb ear.

In my imagination, I saw him come around the corner and through the snow. His livid face shadowed by the darkness. His stance rigid and savage like a wolf sick with rabies. I saw him stab Percy in the back because Percy refused to let me go. I saw us both fall, me alive, Percy dead.

I saw Gabe sneering above us. Laughing at the sky delightedly.

Instead of that scenario playing out, I felt Percy's shirt start to give way. Like a bullet shot, the little rip that spliced through the air sounded like the loudest thing on earth.

A tear, starting at the collar, had made its way to the sleeve of the shirt and continued to get bigger with every agonizing sound it made. Percy's hands tightened on my elbows, cutting off the blood flow and making my fingertips tingle, but to hell with that right now.

In defiance, I gripped it harder but that only seemed to make it worse. The beating in my chest intensified. My veins full of sense sharpening adrenaline.

My eyes met Percy's again and locked into place with the mutual emotions flooding through us. We were petrified. Not only for ourselves, but for one another. If I fell, I could drag Percy with me. Or my wrist might snap. Or even the handcuff chain might snap.

But somehow, nestled in the depths of Percy's eyes there was a calmed piece. Like not all of him was scared. Meanwhile I was freaking out. Completely and utterly so. If Gabe heard that shirt breaking strand by strand, it could be the end for both of us.

More tears burst through my eyes in inaudible hot flames. Copper tastes stung my mouth as my bitten lip bled through and swathed my tongue in a thin coat of red.

Another grunt, another clang as the door got the brunt of Gabe's frustration. Something shattered. Tinkling in the night. And then came the sweet sound of the metal fire escape being used. The resonating noise hardly filling this fatal silence. Percy kept staring at me long after the sounds had faded. Keeping his wild sea green eyes locked onto mine.

Now it was just us breathing puffs of labored vapor. The chill still pinching the back of our throats.

But alive.

Still breathing.

My body hanging over the edge of a 10 story drop, while the boy that had taken my freedom had also saved my life.

Quietly he strained, hauling me onto the roof again. Eagerly, I scrambled onto the security of the solid ground with limbs trembling.

Awkwardly, I collapsed and practically melted into Percy. Relishing that I could feel his heartbeat while comforted by the fact that he was shivering with as much terror as I was. It was short lived though. His trembles diminished like he had just shed a coat. Like he had just gotten off a rollercoaster and brushed off the exhilaration.

He was calm.

I was on the verge of sobbing.

Scratch that.

I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Maybe I wasn't thinking as straight then, but I buried my face into his chest and heaved a big humid breath. Thankful that I was alive. Percy's arms found there way around my back and he leaned against the cement cube with a sound of utter relief. His chin resting on the top of my head in a warm, almost protective way.

When my hand snaked around his back, under his leather jacket I shocked to feel something warm but slick. Something thicker but wet. Immediately I retracted and stared at the dark liquid tipping my fingers and glittering in the dim light of the night.


With shock knotting my esophagus, I stared at Percy with an open questioning mouth. Not daring to speak in case Gabe was still in earshot. The memory of the carpet stains still vivid in my mind.

Knowingly Percy's eyes turned guarded, and he stared shamefully into the distance. Almost like it was his fault that there was blood oozing out of his back.

There was more.

Droplets of sunken darkness had littered the snow. I ended up counting them as we got up. Without a word, we managed to get down the fire escape and onto the ground. We walked towards a bus stop with guilt panging in my chest the whole time. Each step was fiery reminder that I was alive because of him.

You were also dragged into that because of him. My defiant side seethed.

I ignored my head. The guilt in my gut was too prominent to think clearly anyways. When I couldn't take it any longer, I stopped Percy. Pulled the pepper spray out of my bag and threw it into the metal trash bin placed carefully at each street corner.

"You didn't need to do that," he said dully. I suspected that he was a little violated that I had seen what his personal life was like. Something that he had probably tried to hide from the rest of his friends.

"No," I muttered sourly. "I really did."

No more words were passed between us.


It was maybe on the second bus ride that I made a note of my groaning stomach. I, of course, ignored it.

By the third bus my stomach was gnawing away at itself so I busied my time looking at Percy, trying to find any other place on him that he needed some bandages. That's when I noticed how worn his black ripped jeans were, and how badly his pair of converses were falling apart.

Made me feel worse on how I was treating him earlier. Meanwhile, Percy refused to talk to me. Or even look at me. Maybe once he made a weak joke about the name of a street, but other than that he was quieter. More thoughtful. Like he was trying to think up excuses to say to me when the questions came.

And I had loads of questions. Loads.

But I wasn't about to assault him with them. The least I could do was let him be. The last thing he probably wanted to do was open up.

On the walk home I caught him hiding a limp.

Perhaps he twisted his ankle on the scurry up.

I gave him a look of semi concern but he brushed it off. With a sigh I brought out my keys in the sturdy elevator and let them jingle in my hands. The cold metal was numb in my fingers. Silently, I led Percy down the carpeted hallway and right to where my apartment was. I was thankful to see the golden 34 on the stony grey wooden door. Even if I was still handcuffed to a person I hardly knew, I was so grateful to slip the key in the lock and turn it until it gave a satisfying click.

When I threw open the door, for once I loved the way my homely but mismatched apartment looked in the dim light from the window. The fuzzy rugs on the hardwood and the throws and cozy pillows on the plush sofa. I liked the old wooden coffee table that had years of scratches, and I for once didn't dismiss the mismatched picture frames full of photos of cousins and aunts and relatives. I didn't scowl at the kitchen that looked liked it belonged in a farmer's daily catalogue. I threw open the door and I decided that this was good enough for me.

So with the flick of a switch and not so much as a glance at Percy, I threw off my shoes and went down the hallway to the three matching doors waiting for me. Him shuffling close behind me with the constricted amount of room.

"Nice place," Percy muttered while he looked around the hallway.

I mumbled a quick thanks out of formality before leading him into the very small and cramped bathroom.

"Sit," I demanded while bringing out the first aid kit.

Percy looked like he was about to protest, but I just pushed him to the cold cream tiled floor while I sat down on the lid of the porcelain throne.

"Aren't you going to get the bobby pin and the pliers?" Percy asked with his arm awkwardly over his shoulder.

You've probably never been handcuffed to anybody before. But if you have, you'd know just how hard it is to move around. Only one person could do something at a time.

"No," I sighed while using my free hand to open up the box in my lap. "I'm going to fix you up. And then I'm going to grab that crap."


"Oh shut up and slip off your jacket already," I grumbled.

I just wanted to go to bed. To eat. To live as I normally did.

But I needed to fix him up first. And that was something I'd at least do willingly.

Percy shook his arm out of the first studded sleeve. The second one was left bunched around his wrist because he couldn't get it over the cuffs.

The dark ruddy splotches of blood were prominent against the tee's backing. I looked over the area's with distaste as I spotted holes were shards of glass had ripped through. Gurgling in my gut was a heap of anger. But not at Gabe, or Brenda, or the guys catcalling me near Percy's place, or even the boy who hit on me on the bus. I was angry at myself.

I had been such a bitch. I had acted so shallowly. I had based my judgement on appearances. But that was the problem. I always had based my opinions on appearances. Or at least now I realized that I did.

I would rather swim through a pile of fresh cow manure then feel this angry I thought with my brows pinched down.

And anger is never pleasant on an empty stomach.

"Take off the shirt," I demanded.

"Whoa Princess! We just met!" He sent a wink and a smirk over his shoulder.

Annnnndd there was the Percy I knew. Cocky sounding with a flirtatious dash right down the middle.

My mouth made a pursed line.

But he's bluffing. Acting it all out.

Percy had a hint in his voice that I'd recognize anywhere. Even if it was cleverly hidden in his tone. Forced confidence. Nobody knew how to nitpick it out of conversations better than me. Maybe because I was the queen when it came to forced confidence. Mastering it in the mirror every morning. And Percy was trying to appear alright. Forcing the look onto his face. Like nothing that just happened had fazed him. Like he was over the past hour and that it was history to him.

Tryna act like a big boy. A confident one.

I sucked in a slight gasp through my teeth in alarm when the shirt ripped and disappeared right off his back. The sound was hateful to my ears.

Percy groaned and tore the rest off his arm. "There goes another good shirt," he complained. Balling up the shredded fabric and leaving it on the floor beside him.

"Another?" I asked, my hand twitching on the first aid box as I looked over his back, trying to decide what to do first.

He just grunted in reply while I ran my fingers wispily over his skin. I noticed a tattoo ringing around his left bicep with words I didn't have time to read. But the one at the small of his back was legible and clear in peaked blue hemmed black letters.

'Never Givin In.' I read silently. My eyes wandered up his muscular back and latched onto the little black ragged silhouette of a sparrow with its wings spread in between his shoulder blades. With a sigh I let my eyes hit the bloody patches, swearing that I'd need to bleach my mind from the sight.

Percy's back was a network of itty bitty scratches, and purpley red bruises that sometimes dipped to shades of sick yellow. Fresh blood oozed from the tiny lines because of the recently peeled off shirt that yanked off the crusty scabs. Most of the slivers of glass had been bled out while there were only three bigger cuts that I could bandage on. Four larger cuts closer to the top shoulder blade were needed to be washed and gauzed too.

Underneath it all though was a past I could pretty much read like code. The thin white marks criss crossing his back said it all. Percy had been enduring this a long time. A really long time.

"You've got a lot of scars," I commented lightly while taking out the cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol and balancing them on my knee.

Percy bobbed his head in a nodding motion. Almost like a robot.

I had the feeling that he was semi-blocking me out.

"Hold your breath." I pressed a soaked ball to the first cut expecting him to jump with the inevitable sting.

No flinching. No grit jaw or slight 'ow'. No reaction.

It was honestly kinda scary.

The next three were just as uneventful. He was damn used to rubbing alcohol on cuts. He had to be.

"Alright," I sighed. "You're done."

His figure remained stiffly motionless, sitting on the floor in front of me. The loaded quiet was already enough to fill your ear with serious composure. While I inspected my work again and snook peeks of the mysterious tattoos Percy spoke.

"What," He suddenly asked with a dead sarcasm. "No burning questions that you need need need to have answered?" his calm eyes swiveled around to look at me with a searching cold look.

Meeting the strength in his eyes, I stared back.

"Only one," I settled.

A minor look of surprise lit up his emerald eyes.

"Does anybody else know?"

The sullen silence returned. Crawling its way up my ear canal and making my mind ache for noise.

Percy's eyes were the first to drop from our little face down. His muscular shoulders stiffening in a defensive way while a section of his lower lip disappeared under his teeth as he chewed on it.

"Percy," I near chastised in a warning tone. "Does anyone else know about Gabe?"

"No," his hoarse voice was forced while a quiver passed through his muscles.

"So you didn't tell any of your friends."

Technically that wasn't a question. It was a statement. But it was a statement designed to draw out answers. Pushing his buttons into saying what I needed to hear.

I'm curious. Sue me.


"You don't trust them then." I cocked an eyebrow at the boy in front of me while absolutely refusing to let my eyes wander down to his chest. As defined as it was, I needed to weed out things.

"They'd just call the cops," Percy scowled.

"So you don't want to leave Gabe. You actually like him." I stood up off the toilet lid and squeezed passed Percy and the sink so I could plop down in front of him.

"No." He looked at me irritably. Almost as if he was figuring out the game I was playing here.

"But you just said you didn't want anybody to call the cops," I replied suspiciously, conscious that our hands were still frozen three inches away from each other.

"Doesn't mean I want to stay with that old slime-ball," Percy spat.

I looked at Percy calculatingly. Analyzing every detail of his appearance. Every well hidden emotion in his eyes.

The fact that I saw what I saw had broken into his mask. Had made a hole wide enough for me to peek inside and catch a glimpse of the broken boy still fighting with his shards of weapons, even though it seemed like he was already beat.

I squared my shoulders, ready for an argument.

"This, of course, doesn't have anything to do with the mother you don't have." My eyes were level with his. The suspicion in my brain was pieced together by the subtle looks and minor reactions I had observed of Percy.

Percy's gaze hit the cream ceramic tiles of the floor while a delicate glassy look watered his eyes. His pursed lips and expression of pain concealed so long that it was bursting the seams. My heart squeezed while the dismal silence was all I needed.

"So your mom has something to do with this," I said softly while looking down at the same tile between us.

I wanted to ask what. I wanted to know what happened to his mom and how she had to do with Gabe. I wanted to know who Gabe was to Percy. Father? Foster parent? Guardian?

Did his mom heartlessly leave Percy with Gabe? Because currently, that's what it looked like.

However, I didn't want to push him anymore. He was already on the verge of tears. Memories flitting sadly in his eyes as he glared at the floor with his lips pursed.

One more thing. I thought. Just one.

Scooting closer, I tried to get Percy's intense green eyes on mine. I needed the truth.

"Last thing," I murmured. "You need to tell me that you're fine with this. That you're not dying on the inside without anyone knowing. That you're okay."

Percy's shallow breath was hitting my face, but his wondrous green eyes were locked with mine. Years of hurt and pain swimming around his eyes helplessly.

In fact that's what his eyes seemed to be saying: Help.

A word started to form on his lips, but just as it did it shattered and escaped as a desperate exhale. Tears threatened to break the boundaries on the corners of his eyes. His entire mask melting like wax in front of a hot flame. But he was still trying so hard to keep it on, even as it fell off piece by piece. Like he was still trying to hide the alone and broken boy inside. The fact was, his ship was sinking, and no matter how much water he bailed he was still going down. As much as he claimed that he was 'just fine' and 'I'm used to it', it wouldn't mend the splinters and the smashed bits inside.

So I didn't wait for him to respond. Because I knew he couldn't. Or at least couldn't answer truthfully.

I let my arms wrap around his neck and I hugged him. I hugged him hard. Because for all the times I felt desperately alone, that's all I wanted. Hugs.

Percy was tense at first. Like he was still tryna guard those sullen little secrets. Then he gave in and his arm slipped around my back. Nestling his head into the crook of my neck. I could feel the my sweater moisten as it captured his hot, long held in tears. His breath was peppered with hiccups while his arms shuddered quietly.

I could feel his warm breath puffing against my neck and I just kept hugging. I shut my eyes and shamelessly hugged him until his breathing was normal, and his arms relaxed.

And even then I hugged.

Percy sniffed like a baby seal sneezing. "I don't want you to think that any of this is my Mom's fault," he spoke miserably into my sweater, sending chills down my spine.

"So she didn't leave you with Gabe," I muttered quietly on the discovery.

I'm hugging a hot shirtless boy alone in the middle of my cramped bathroom.

The realization made me let go of Percy in a zap. Nervously my hands fiddled with the hem to my coat.

Percy swallowed awkwardly while he gazed at the floor and ruffled his hair with one hand.

"My mom- she was an amazing person. I- She- she would have never left me with him if she had a choice." Percy's thick voice was directed to the floor. His bloodshot eyes refusing to meet mine.

"Was?" I asked softly.

Okay, one more question. Whatever.

"She- she died of cancer last year."

"Oh," I answered intelligently.

How much has this boy been through?!

"So is Gabe your dad?" I decided on saying.

Two questions more. I lied, so what?

"Step Dad," Percy corrected me in a mumble. "My real dad took off as soon as my mom told him that she was expecting. Didn't even leave a note," he added bitterly.

And now you feel like you weren't worth keeping. That you weren't good enough. I thought soberly.

I know the feeling.

Sympathetically I fiddled with my fingers. Eyes serious and calm. "Do you want me to call anyone? Do you need out?" I offered. Prepared to get my phone out at his command.

"No," Percy looked irritated. Posture becoming rigid as he spoke. "I promised my mom I would get out without being put into foster care. I'm not going to break that promise."

I let these words sink in and swirl around my brain for two minutes. Thinking through everything I just found out and storing them in my mind. Worries of what might happen to him in the future nagging at my mind. Wanting so badly to have Gabe arrested and tossed in jail.

The blissful quiet wasn't awkward or uneasy but in fact very calming. Peaceful, even. Percy looking just as thoughtful as I was.

That is, until my stomach let out a groaning dual note whine in protest to the amount of food I had eaten that day.

I sat pink with embarrassment while Percy smirked childishly at me. A little guffaw of emotional relief sweeping out his mouth while the tears on the corners of his eyes were wiped away.

Swatting at him across the head, I gave a scowl. "Hey, if you were as hungry as I was, your stomach would be complaining too."

"Yeah, but it wouldn't sound like a whale was dying inside of it," he joked in a weak voice and a little sniffle.

And just like that we were back to bantering teens handcuffed to each other.

The special moment not completely forgotten, but for the time being shoved to the back of our memories.

Thankful that it happened but not so certain that we wanted it to happen in the first place.

"Percy Jackson."


"Shutup and let's get food."

"Sounds good enough." A ghost smile ignited his lips.

Stumbling awkwardly out of the bathroom, I led the way down the hall and into the grey tiled kitchen. Eagerly leaning forward like a hound dog on the trail of a coon.

I threw open the fridge with Percy in tow, and was able to yank out lettuce, carrots, parsley and a watercress with one hand before chucking them on the counter and letting them roll and bounce in random directions.

Percy rolled his bloodshot eyes when I put my attention into the freezer.

"How am I not surprised that most of your food intake is salad stuff. Typical Princess."

I huffed indignantly and turned around to face him with hot pockets, a tub of potato salad and a bag of chips stuffed into the crook of my arm.

"Hold your tongue wise guy, or you might not get fed. And DON'T call me Princess." I looked at Percy willingly while throwing as many hot pockets I could fit on one plate into the microwave.

Wisely Percy just leaned against the counter and watched me as I struggled to grab spoons and bowls.

"Here." I muttered while shoving the bag of chips and lettuce into his hand. My stomach's whines intensifying from the greasy cheese and bread smell emanating from the microwave. Like lightning, I chopped the veggies and served large chunky amounts of potato salad into the two bowls. When the ding sounded, I whipped my hand into the big button and popped the door open.

I hissed when my fingers hit the hot plate, but it wasn't unbearable so I scooped it up and dragged the raven haired boy down the hall again.

"Uhhhmm… Where are we going?" Percy sounded perplexed.

"To my room. I always eat there." My short explanation didn't reveal anything.

I wasn't planning on revealing anything from my personal life. That's for sure.

Using my socked foot, I was able to open the door to my room without a spilling anything. The white wooden door swung open to the walls tacked with posters and polaroid photos to cover up the hospital white color underneath.

In my tiny room I had a white daybed sprinkled with various pink pillows, a small decrepit white desk pushed into the other corner with my laptop lying parallel to everything else. Under my window draped in christmas lights was a long waterless fish tank on an old browning coffee table while the hard wood flooring had a single circular purple rug in the only floor space I could do a starfish on.

Under my breath I prayed that he didn't notice. That he wouldn't ask. He wouldn't ask about the blonde tight bun lady looking intimidatingly over her glasses in every poster stuck to the wall. He wouldn't question the recurring author name on my bookshelves, or the CD's piled neatly on the corner of the desk with the same name printed on in Times New Roman and perfect fonts.

Lucky for me, this guy was impervious. Probably because he was too focused on the fact there was food in his presence.

Why I didn't want him asking about that one person? Well, because she was my idol, and I definitely didn't want to become chummy with this fellow.

Without a word, I dropped everything on the desk before plucking up the little bowl of greens and dragging Percy over to the tank unceremoniously.

"What's that?" Percy asked as I dumped the bowl of greens into the tank and checked the heat lamp.

"It's a tortoise." I answered breezily while searching the soil and sandy bottom for my pet.

"You have a pet tortoise?" his voice illustrating his surprise at me.

"Yep." I answered while popping the P. "He's hiding in his shack right now. But he'll come out."

"What's his name?"


"Burtwis?!" Percy sounded completely astounded. He was peering inside the humid tank with me now. Watching as a little murky yellow and dark brown pattern shell, no bigger than my fist, hoisted itself out of wooden cover and crawl meticulously around a rock towards the location of his food.

"Let me get this straight." Percy was still trying to wrap his head around this. "Not only do you own a tortoise of all animals, but you named him- Burtwis. Of all names."

"That's correct Einstein. Sheesh, it's not like this is rocket science or anything." I rolled my eyes before happily smiling at my little pet diving into his food with a gleeful 'crunch'.

"Burtwis." Percy repeated while looking at me dorkily. "Seriously?"

"Seriously." I replied unfazed.

"Burtwis sounds like a someone burped while they really had to go pee," Percy laughed.

I gasped in mock distress. "Don't say that! You'll hurt little Burty's feelings!"

"Burty? Seriously?"

"Do you even want food? I could just eat it all," I threatened with a smirk.

Percy rolled his eyes. "Like you would be able to eat all of that," he said while gesturing broadly to the dishes and bag of food lain out on my desk.

A quirky smile turned up my lips. "You underestimate my abilities," I challenged in a lowered voice.

Percy just sighed in defeat while leaning out and grabbing a bowl and the large plate of hot pockets.

I, in turn picked up my bowl of potato salad and bag of chips.

"So why are we eating in here?" Percy asked while looking at me in confusion.

"I always eat in here," I mumbled. "Just would've felt weird if we ate in the kitchen."

"Where it would be infinitely easier to actually eat while handcuffed to somebody," Percy pointed out with a twitch of his eyebrows.

He was still shirtless, might I add. I had been able to keep from staring this whole time. But now that I was upfrontedly talking to him, and that he was a bit taller than me, it was getting increasingly more difficult to not stare.

I wasn't exactly used to a shirtless guy who was this… muscled.

To say in the least, my teenaged girly head was drifting places that I didn't wanna be.

"Just sit on the floor with your back to the bed," I instructed. "And here," I ripped off a blanket from the perfectly made bed and handed it to him. "Cover up."

Percy pouted teasingly. "But I thought you liked it this way."

Blushing like mad, I refused to answer by shoving a piping hot pocket into my mouth.


"I twisted it the right way!" Percy complained. "It just wasn't bent properly!"

"Well how many fudging bobby pins is it going to take?!" I was losing my patience, and my bobby pins, at this fellow.

"Well maybe if you didn't bend them so weirdly they'd fit!"

"I'm just following the directions!" I cried while gesturing to my laptop screen with a 'Wikihow to escape from handcuffs' illuminating it brightly.

"But it never works!" Percy groaned in frustration.

"The page does say to have patience!" I pointed out with 'Euha Duh!' look on my face.

"I bet that they don't know that's it's almost three a.m!" Percy growled. "And that patience isn't something you have in the wee hours!"

He was grumpy. Super duper sleepy grumpy.

"Let's just give it three more tries okay?" I sighed wearily while glancing woefully at the time.

Burtwis had gone to bed an hour ago which made me dreamily jealous of the little guy. I would rather be tucked into a shell sound asleep then handcuffed to this twit.

The taxing day had caught up to me anyways. I was finding myself yawning and blearily drifting off more and more. Plus my well worn patience was starting to dwindle again and in a few minutes I swore I would be biting off a limb to get out of the situation.

Didn't matter who's.

"So what? After three tries, then what?" Percy asked while he rubbed his eye tiredly.

"We go to bed," I muttered. So tired that even the thought of Percy sleeping in the same bed as me didn't ruffle any feathers.

Percy gave me a cheeky smile while leaning in suggestively. Not far to follow was the inevitable flirtatious wink. "Well Princess, I'm not surprised."

Irritatedly I pushed his face away.

"Don't call me Princess you Seaweed Brain!" I snapped, wishing for that abandoned pepper spray.

As soon as I said it, I knew I had set myself up for an out pour of teases. I was so tired that my brain just wasn't functioning. Hence why my name calling abilities had fallen to the mentality of a preschooler.

"Seaweed Brain?" Percy laughed. "Seaweed Brain?!"

He slapped his hand on his black ripped jeaned knee. "That's even worse than Burtwis!" He cackled.

I put a hand on my hip and tried to make a defense but all that came out was a bunch of inconsistent babbles and a few loose ended giggles.

I was officially slap happy tired.

Soon I was laughing right along with Percy at the entire ridiculousness of the situation. From start to finish. My sides were convulsing with heaves and I choked for air as I just sat there, in front of a computer at 3:45 a.m on a school night laughing my head off with a boy I had been handcuffed to almost 10 hours ago.

"She's such a big clueless walrus," I giggled with the image of Brenda in my brain.

"And the look on her face when I flipped her." Percy rocked on the floor delightedly, the light blanket wrapped carelessly around his shoulder fluttering with him. His laughter was just as loud as mine. We were probably disturbing my neighbors.

But hell, screw it.

I was having fun.

"And that- that boy on the bus!" Percy's breathless voice was battling against the roars of laughter. "The- the way you dealt with him. And that old lady!"

Tears were streaming down my cheeks while I temporarily lost my ability to breath and took on the appearance of a gaping seal while smacking the floor with my palm. I finally found my breath in one raging gulp and the guffaws dwindled into gapped chuckles and giggles.

"Phew, okay. I'm gonna get ready for bed. This is the latest I've ever stayed up." I grinned while tugging Percy to his feet.

Percy sighed heavily while smiling like a maniac. "Alrighty."

"Don't you even dare look," I warned while taking out my PJ bottoms.

"Madame, I would hardly even dream of it." He smirked while turning away dramatically.

Unfortunately, because of the cuffs I couldn't take off the my grey cloth coat so it was hung awkwardly between us along with Percy's bulky leather jacket.

The chain between us was becoming a clothesline rather quickly.

Even then I couldn't take off my light blue sweater dress or bra (which is a royal pain in the butt).

So the only thing I was able to change out of was my black leggings and into a comfy pair of pj pants.

"Decent?" Percy asked as I tied the drawstring.

"Yup," I answered with a throat stretching yawn.

"Great. I really want to go to bed," he mumbled sleepily while making a move towards the fluffy duvet covered bed.

"Hold on," I yanked him back with the cuffs. "You can't sleep in jeans!" I pointed out.

Percy shrugged indifferently. "It won't hurt."

"Ya, well you'll be cranky in the morning," I argued while using the handcuffs to drag him out of my room. "And I'm not gonna deal with that kinda crap early in the morning. Plus you'll stink up my bed."

Percy followed without question.

Soundlessly, I curved the unfamiliar path to the door right next to mine. The sticky door knob hadn't even been turned in weeks. I shivered coolly at the thought of someone actually living in this room. Eerily, the door opened with a prolonged pitchy whine showing the dark wooden bed posts and gloomy looking mirror hanging over the bed. My hand groped the wall looking for the light switch as I squinted into the darkness. With a cold hit of the plastic nub, the light flooded from the overhanging fixtures.

I could see the old grey quilts now, laying out on the bed from the time they were folded. The ancient book case filled with historical facts and pages of stories happening up to a millenia ago. Even the newer IKEA white chest of drawers pressed against the grisly wallpaper to my left.

"Here," my tongue tasted sour in my mouth. "There should be some that fit you in here."

I squatted down to the drawers and started fumbling through them as fast as I could. Praying again that Percy didn't notice what was obvious in this room.

"Who's room is this?" He asked instead.

"My Dad's," I answered while lifting out a pair of musty smelling flannels.

Percy's gaze wandered to the paintings on the walls. I kept ruffling through the drawer while trying to decide what would better fit Percy.

"Hey, speaking of which. Where are your parents?" He asked curiously.

I froze. My hands shivering slightly before I returned to what I was doing as if nothing had happened.

"Well my mom left when I was young." I spoke chirpily. "And my Dad's just on a business trip."

"Oh," Percy commented.

Bless you! I thought. Bless you for not saying that you're 'oh so sorry'.

People had a habit of doing that. The moment they realized that my mom decided to take off on me I became the victim of 'you poor dear' and 'I'm so sorry to hear that' comments that infuriated my very soul while I pasted on a stretched and straining smile and nodded politely to them.

They acted as if I were a defenseless fawn left in the woods to die.

Percy however was the first to not push me to the corner of my seat with useless sympathies. Maybe because his father left him just like my mother.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him gaze around the room again. This time his brows furrowing in a perplexing way.

He noticed. My heart sunk like a coin in a fountain. He was going to ask about it. I could feel it.

I could tell that he could see the dust. The dust that had coated everything in an even layer. Thick enough that it gave a ghostly white sheen but thin enough that you had to look twice to see it. With the same look, Percy dragged his finger across the top of the drawers and cut a line through the flour like filaments. I pretended not to notice while finally deciding which one Percy would wear.

Idiot. I cursed. You should've just picked a pair and skedaddled out before he saw that.

"How long has your Dad been gone?" Percy beat me to saying anything.

I pursed my lips and sighed at the sun faded room. My eyes downcast when I said "Here you can wear these."

Shoving a pair into his chest I turned obtusely but before I could tug him out the door he stopped me with a sullen hand and a serious look.

"How long has your Dad been gone Annabeth?" he repeated quietly. Percy's tone was demanding but understanding. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand erect like soldiers and the urge to hiss like a cat at him and run away dwindled in my mind. But with strong hand gripping my shoulder and his crazy green eyes searching mine gently I had no escape.

Shakily, I exhaled and bit my lip.

I hated sharing anything personal. And this was personal.

"Three and a half years," I murmured.

"Is he-"

"He's coming back," I spoke defiantly. Angry almost, while staring back up at him challengingly. Honestly I felt a little violated that he had been able to open me up with only a look and the sound of his voice.

"He promised that he was coming back," I continued while my fathers blonde stubbled face came into mind. They way he always looked at me with that painful adoration.

He is. I tried to say with my eyes. I knew my dad was coming back. He just got caught up in his work so much that he would sometimes forget things, important things. And sure it was taking him awhile to come home. But he was coming. He just needed a bit more time.

Percy shrugged a little sadly. "You've been living alone for three years?."

I nodded meekly with my lips pursed. I let loose a little sigh before furrowing my eyebrows and tightening my jaw.

That's enough of that. I decided.

"Okay, get changed." I commanded before he could make any other comments. Before he could tell me otherwise about my dad's promises.

I wasn't in the mood to argue over it. So I waited patiently for Percy to get changed and I marched us back across the hall. The coats dangling from our cuffed hands banging against our sides with annoying static.

Tiredly, I crawled into bed while Percy took the other side to the cramped twin-sized mattress. Finding a comfortable position was proving to be extremely difficult. Percy and I had to face each other so that our arms were awkwardly twisted behind us. With the added coats on the chain made it nearly impossible. For a few heart stopping minutes it was a back and forth of us just looking into each other's eyes. Hidden thoughts behind our looks as we seemed to accept who was in front of us.

But somehow, with the warmth of the apartment and my brain screaming at me to fall asleep. I managed to slowly doze off with the sound of Percy breathing gently beside me.


I had dreams that night that confused the hell out of me.

I dreamt that I was in 1860 London. An orphan at an overcrowded and overworked orphanage. But I couldn't make out the faces of the people beside me. And through the muck and rain I worked hard. In this strange oliver twist dream, only the kids who deserved it got second helpings at meals. So I worked even harder and asked at every meal for a second helping. But the lady in the pencil skirt serving the food only laughed. Her blurry face hidden by my subconscious.

And I was caught.

Trapped in a vicious cycle of working so hard but never being good enough for this lady serving the food.

Needless to say, when I woke up the dream was still flitting in and out of my memory reminding me of the strangeness of it.

But what was stranger was how I was cuddling with Percy on my bed. One muscular arm was wrapped tightly around my waist while my head was cozied under the crook of his neck. Our legs were tangled uselessly while my cuffed hand was interlocked with Percys and the other was pressed against his bare chest sloppily. The skin to skin contact making me burn.

Groggily, I tried lifting my head but it seemed like the world outside was cold. So I thought screw it and curled in closer to him. Counting the beats of his heart and convincing myself that there was nothing I could do to get myself out without waking Percy up.

Beside, I wasn't going to drag him out of bed just to turn up the thermostat. I mean it was cold alright, but not cold enough to bother me. My face was heated with a blush so hot it would've kept an entire camp full in the north warm. But still I didn't move. Maybe because I liked the… heat.


Burtwis's tank was right under the window.

I turned his lamp off last night! I remembered horrified.

Like a bullet, I dashed to get out of bed and my feet hit the freezing hardwood.

My wrist yanking me back like whiplash. Groaning in frustration, I hopped back onto the warm mattress and started poking Percy in the face.

"Wake up. Get up. Wake up. Get up!" I chanted loudly with the panic in my voice.

Percy was only half awake when I dragged him off the bed. The thump that rattled floor from his falling body probably surprised the people in the apartment below us.

"Ouch," he mumbled against the carpet with his eyes squinting up into the light at me.

Grabbing his hand, I dragged him across the floor then lifted him up to his feet.

"What's going on," he mumbled in confusion with a deep morning voice.

"Burtwis!" I cried ignoring the boy next to me.

In the middle of his tank, Burtwis sat tucked into his shell looking more like a patterned rock than a live animal. At the sound of his name, he slowly untucked his head to look mournfully up at me with his little endearing eyes.

Earlier that morning, he probably crawled out of his little wooden hut filled with hay looking for food.

But I slept in! I realized with a curse.

"Baby, I'm sorry!" I crooned with a pang in my chest.

Scooping the little tortoise up with one hand, I flipped on the heat lamp so it would start to warm up and dragged Percy back to bed who complied as easily as a dog on a leash.

"Why did you bring a tortoise into the bed." Percy mumbled blearily while pulling the covers back over his body. He wasn't fully awake at all.

"Because Burtwis is cold. And he's a cold blooded animal so I need to warm him up," I answered. Hugging the tortoise into me lightly.

Percy's eyes were closed as he yawned. His mohawk undercut hair was flying everywhere and he wrinkled his nose to say; "That's weird. I thought you'd have a cat like most girls like you," he muttered into the pillow.

"Most girls like me?" I had to smile.

Percy's hella cute in the mornings.

"Ya. Usually-usually girls like you are, are bitchy towards guys like me. I mean you… you were... but you're not… you know? Girls like you like cats and never do anything wrong." Each husky word was drawled out as Percy rambled on in his dopey stupor. "But you're not a bitch to me anymore. But you're pretty like those- those girls. Prettier even… and you don't do things wrong like those girls. And you're just…. You're just…" he dwindled off as sleep started to envelope him again.

"I'm just what?" I asked innocently with a my lips turned up.

Percy's eyebrows pinched down as if he was thinking really hard. "You're different. You're… smarter. And you've got a big heart even though…. you act like you- you don't care at all." I almost didn't catch that last part because he was talking into the pillow.

"Seriously?" I asked through my smile.

"Seriously," Percy mumbled.

"Do you have anything else to say?" I prodded gently. My heart swelling in my chest.

Percy shook his head into his pillow like he was a little kid again. "I'm tryna sleep," he muttered softly.

"Alright," I chuckled fondly. "You can sleep."

Percy hummed in reply. His mouth slightly ajar while his face relaxed. Softly, I brushed the bruise on his cheek with tender fingers. A pursed smile on my lips as I scooted closer so I wouldn't fall off the bed. I guess that's when I realized that it was a school day.

Screw it. I thought again gleefully. I wasn't going to hear the end of it from my friends. My first absent in my highschool experience. Seriously.

Only two days ago, I would've blown my lid at whoever made me miss school. It would become R.B.B.A.J.B. all over again.

But now, looking at Percy and just knowing what his background story was, I realized that I could be worse off. And missing one day of school wasn't going to affect my future in the long run. In fact, it probably would benefit me.

Percy muttered something in his sleep. I simply chuckled and let Burty go in the warm atmosphere between us.

So maybe Percy isn't so bad after all.


"So Percy Jackson's weakness is coffee." I smirked while waiting for him to finish another long sip.

"Caffeine should be part of everyone's diet," he grumbled. His hair still looking untamable while his eyes had drooped tiredly. Both of us were still wearing PJ's.

Fifteen minutes after we'd gone back to bed, I found out exactly who was responsible for originally getting us into the cozy position I woke up in. Percy threw an arm over me whilst I was warming up Burtwis, muttered a few things before trying to reel me in.

Turns out Percy is a sleeper cuddle bug and needs to hug something while he's asleep.

"Tell me when you're awake, because like it or not we're getting these cuffs off today." I rested my elbow on the counter while teetering precariously on the stool I was sitting on.

It was weird, sitting at the kitchen counter. I hadn't used it in so long. Plagued by the memories of my dad and I actually sitting together here.

But Percy had insisted. And although I would never admit it aloud, it was actually nice to just sit and talk to someone in the apartment.

Usually it was just me.

"Sorry," Percy sighed through a gaping yawn. "That was the heaviest sleep I can ever remember."

"You're telling me," I snorted mischievously. "I had to yank you off the bed in order to wake you up the first time."

Percy stiffened on his stool beside me and steadily put the mug down. "First time?" he winced.

I smirked teasingly. "Oh, so you don't remember?"

Percy buried his head in his arms. "I thought it was a dream!" He exclaimed with embarrassment lacing his voice tightly.

I laughed lightly and leaned closer into the boy next to me. "So I learned that you turn soft and mushy when you want to sleep," I taunted. "Who knew the punk boy Percy would become such a softie when he's just woken up?"

Percy raised his head to shoot me a withering look. I knew I wasn't helping, but I couldn't help it! This was payback for all of yesterday's teases.

"What?" I asked innocently while raising my eyebrows. I leaned in closer with that same amused smile on my face. "I thought you thought I was pretty," I breathed coyly onto his lips. Close enough to see the shock in his eyes. Close enough to feel his breathing shallow in to quick panicked breaths. Close enough to see the blush bloom on his cheeks. Close enough until it was even a little too close for me.

I laughed brightly and fell back onto my stool. My golden ringlets pooling around my shoulders and down my back.

Percy's eyebrows pinched down and he grumbled into his coffee mug. Refusing to let me see his blushing face. I just kept chuckling to myself like a crazy person and pointed out a few things he had said earlier that morning.

"Let's go," Percy growled. Unamused at me poking fun at him for a change. He tugged at the cuffs finally done with his coffee. "I'm awake enough now to try to get these things off."

I followed willingly. Still with a smirk on might I add.

I'll spare you the next 2 hours of us mulling over a piece of destroyed bobby pins in which 3 arguments a bowl of popcorn and a piece of sheet metal involved.

Long story short; after countless bobby pins and nearly 400 tries, when Percy stuck that little piece of wire into the cuff hole and turned it, a miraculous click pierced my mind and suddenly Percy's cuff slipped off his wrist.

Suddenly his coat was able to be slipped off and he went dancing down the hall shirtless while I grabbed the wire bent right and unhooked my own throbbing wrist. A battered ring of irritated skin encircling my wrist in a angry pink hue.
"Thank heavens." I sighed in relief before falling back onto my bed and chucking my coat across the room and rubbing my aching joint.

Percy nearly pranced in a few minutes later, waving his arms about as a symbolism of his freedom.

He twirled once before flopping down next to me. Both of us staring at the ceiling with the celebrated silence between us.

"I can't believe it's over," Percy breathed without looking at me.

"Ya," I replied with the same tone in my voice. "I thought we'd never get out of those things."

A weighted silence left the obvious question in dangling in the air like a plastic bag caught in the wind.

Just the strenuity of our adventures together made the last 20 hours seem like an eternity. The arguments and the buses and the trip to Gabe, and the hanging off the roof-about-to-die, and the moment in the bathroom, and the hysterical laughter at 3 a.m., and the cute mutterings Percy did in the morning.

We might as well just had spent a lifetime together. But it was only 20 hours. And I learned so much in just that time. Now looking back on it all, those 20 hours, to me, were too short.

I suddenly felt a hollow ache drain in my chest. Because I knew what came next. That one question branding my mind.

"Now what?" Percy asked with a mellow sound chiming his voice.

"I guess," I mumbled. "It's goodbye?"

I didn't want to say goodbye. I wanted this time to stretch out further. Longer. But I wasn't supposed to say that. I wasn't supposed to admit that maybe spending time with one another wasn't as bad and that I wouldn't mind if he stayed.

Because my pride wouldn't permit me. My pride got in the way of myself again. I couldn't bring myself to just say. Hey, you're a decent person. Please don't leave me. I hate being alone.

Because I was supposed to hate guys like him. Guys who had tattoos and piercings and didn't like to follow rules. Punk guys weren't friends with girls like me.

Girls who wore cute outfits and we're always on time and had only the best grades and wanted to be the most successful people they could. Girls who were supposed to look down on guys like him.

"Yeah. I guess it is than." Percy sat up and scooped his leather jacket off the floor.

The readiness of him leaving startled me a little.

Eager to get outta here I thought quietly. You were a bitch to him.

"Well," I sat up and folded my hands over my lap. "See ya around I guess." I tried to hide the sadness welling up in my chest.

I didn't want to be alone again. But Percy needed to leave. He wanted to leave.

Percy shot me a half smile while slipping on his jacket. "Seeya."

See ya around… that's not gonna happen. It was a big city, and an even bigger community. The chances of seeing Percy again without planning were close to 0.

We both seemed to share a silent understanding of that. That now that this was over, we didn't have to see eachother anymore. He wouldn't have to put up a girl obsessed about having everything perfect and I wouldn't have to put up with a boy who was the polar opposite of me.

And yet, when the front door shut, when he was really gone, I found a million questions in my brain. Begging to be asked. Begging to have answers.

Is Percy really going to be alright? Is Gabe going to completely pummel him when he gets back home? What did that sparrow tattoo mean? Who was his mom and what was she like? Does he have friends who actually care? Will he be alright? Will he miss me?

I wandered down the hall again, resisting the urge to run after him and ask for his phone number so I could at least know if Gabe was too brutal the next time something happened. With a sigh of mellowness, I nudged the door to my room open with my toe and staggered in.

Collapsing on my bed, I felt the silence stinging in my ears again. The silence that reminded me that I was alone.

That I lived alone.

That the only things I used to survive was the microwave, fridge, bathroom and my bedroom just to avoid how hollow and unlively this place was.

So I did what I always did when I felt the panging loneliness at home. I made myself busy.

I took a shower, I put on some music, I got ready for work and put my hair up in a bun. I put my makeup on and set out early so I could pick up my car at the shop. My hours passed uneventfully. Once I spotted Brenda in her vehicle making her rounds, and my mood turned glummer, but other than that I sat at the front desk pretending to read a book. Mrs. Cowlin had to call my name three times to catch my attention.

"Go home and get some rest," she instructed motheringly. "You look as if you could faint any minute."

And I did. I went home and sat by myself on my bed. Typing furiously away at my english essay and refusing to take any breaks.

Once in awhile, looking up towards Burtwis's tank and wondering why I didn't buy a louder more active pet. But I knew the answer why.

Because he was just like me.


My weekend was absolutely dismal. I went on fourteen walks and edited four separate projects which were already done. By the time Monday putted in I was ready and waiting. I threw myself into the first two classes of the day and by lunch, was happier than what I had been.

"So you weren't here last Friday," Piper perched an eyebrow at me. "Because you were handcuffed to a boy who had a mohawk and stayed up too late trying to get the cuffs off?"

I nodded while popping a cheeto in my mouth while failing to add the part in where we slept in the same bed. Piper shared a look with her boyfriend sitting to her right.

"Oh come on Beth," Callie giggled. "Just say that you slept in for once. We know you did."

I rolled my eyes irritatedly. "I'm telling the truth!"

"What did you say his name was again?" Hazel asked. Her golden eyes settling on me with naive curiosity.

"Percy Jackson," I clarified. Searching each one of their faces hopefully.

Neither Frank or Jason looked very convinced. Piper seemed to shrug if off while Calypso just seemed amused by the whole story.

"I don't care if you don't believe me," I sniffed. "But that's what happened."

Hazel shrugged. "I believe you Beth."

"You do?"

Jason straightened his glasses. "It's not like you would make up a story like that."

"Ya," Piper piped in. "I guess I believe you too than." she would agree with whatever her boyfriend said.

Honestly? It was sometimes annoying.

"He sounded like a pain," Callie tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I know I wouldn't want a delinquent wearing icky studded things strapped to me for any period of time.

He saved my life. I wanted to say. He really wasn't a bad person.

But I'd wisely left the whole Gabe incident out. My friends didn't need to know too much. That was for sure.

Callie nudged me in the shoulder and pointed with a small grin at Hazel and Frank. The couple were whispering to each other again. Smiling sweet nothings and looking at each other in hazy half-lidded gazes. Pretending like they had their own little world right in between them.

Counting down with her fingers and a twinkling glint in her almond eyes she hit 0 and we loudly proclaimed. "Hazel and Frank sitting in a in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" in sync with broad smiles stretched over our faces.

Instantly Frank and Hazel separated while blushing so brightly, that they would've been mistaken for a pair of stop lights.

The rest of the group erupted into fits of laughter and giggles around our little caf table.

"N-n-n-not f-f-fair!" Hazel stuttered with a cross look on her features. "You n-never do that t-to Piper and J-Jason!"

"That's because they don't react like that," Calypso chortled.

"By the way," I grinned teasingly. "What were you two whispering about?"

Frank pinkened. "Well-er, we were uhhhhh"

"Report Cards!" Hazel squeaked. "We were talking about report cards!"

"Report cards?" I repeated while not believing a stitch in their story.

"We get our first semester ones today, right?" Piper chirped up and looked at Jason as if he held the answers to the universe.

"Yep," Calypso leaned back leisurely. "And I've definitely got you beat in Bio Mclean."

"You can dream doll." Piper stuck her her tongue out at the caramel haired girl.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Jason pushed the glasses back up on the bridge of his nose with his forefinger. "If anyone beat you two in Bio than it's me," he boasted.

Hazel huffed indignantly. "Don't you remember that Frank got %102 on the last Bio test?"

"Not to mention Hazel's ripped the rug under your feet in Calculus." Frank crossed his arms proudly.

I watched with a contemplated amusement as my friends bantered away at who got the highest marks that semester. This was an extremely common argument amongst my friends. In fact, I think that's how we all became friends. Bickering over grades and who's on top and who'd get the honors.

"Guys, guys," I chastised knowingly. "When it comes to grades," dramatic pause for effectiveness. "I've got you all in the bag," I finished with a satisfied arms crossed.

Callie deflated a little. "Because nobody can freakin beat you! You're like school whiz!"

Piper nodded quietly and blew a few strands of hair off her face while Jason just shrugged. "Who knows, maybe one of us managed to this year."

Frank snorted unbelievingly. "Are you kidding? Since grade 9 Annabeth's gotten every course above the 98th percentile!"

"You've been keeping track?" I sputtered suddenly while looking at the pudgy asian boy warily.

Frank played with his fingers. "Ya. I was trying to figure out how you did it." he mumbled.

I sighed internally with a tinge of a depressing cloud. Because I have nothing to do other than study.

"Whatever. To the best man or woman who succeeds second!" Piper announced determinedly.

Like in a cliche movie, the bell went off at just the right time. Ending our petty arguments and creating a loud annoyed groan ripple through the stuffed caf adding to the dramatic moment.

A lot of things like that happened around Piper.

Things like boys laying their coats over puddles so she could cross, birds suddenly deciding to land on her hand and sing, the icecream man giving her a freebie.

If she was dramatic; her surroundings became dramatic.

If she was angry; everything became darker.

If she was chirpy; the world was a place of lollipops and princesses.

Even though she had a brain that worked like a charm, it still seemed as if she was forever creating a disney world because of her enchanting elegant grace and her charmingly soothing voice.

The world was at her bidding so to speak. And willingly too.

Even me.

"Piper," I caught her wrist just as she was about to push through the doors, the crowds already parting for her.

"Yes?" she settled her kaleidoscope eyes on me with a warm happiness.

"Do you wanna come over tonight?" I asked with the fear hissing in my brain that I would be alone again.

I tried not to sound desperate. I tried not to sound like I was depending on this.

Piper sighed and I sagged, already knowing the answer from many many previous experiences.

"Sorry Beth," she looked at me pitifully. "Jason and I are going out to dinner. Maybe another time. Mkay?"

Maybe another time. The words rattling in my brain coldly. It's always 'maybe another time.' Always.

I smiled emptily at her. Knowing that she buys any smile I conjure. "No problem. Maybe next time."

And here I was again. Giving in to my friend. Acknowledging that I wasn't the first person in her life. Acknowledging that I wasn't the first person in Hazel's life either. Or even Calypso's.

I was very much alone.

And I was very much aware.

I've been aware for three years. I could be aware for three more years and nothing would change.

Well, maybe I would go insane. Or maybe I was already going insane. I couldn't decide. It was in Calculus that I did decide to just face it head on. That I could break through this loneliness somehow.

That it was an obstacle in my way.

But that theory, however, dried up into a raisin when I stepped through my front door that night. I could already feel the hollow silence hacking at my bones. I could feel the pangs in my chest of just utter bleak and gloom moaning for help in my mind.

The absolute stillness was acid in my brain. I yearned for something to move, to be making noise, to greet me at the door maybe.

That was all I wanted.

Looking in on my little apartment, the door behind me still wide open, I started hating every detail all over again.

The family photos of the people who never visited, the old coffee table from a time when coffee was actually put on it, the pillows and cushions on the sofa bought at a bargain price in a thriftstore, the kitchen that never held any more family meals, the little pathetic christmas tree sitting on a side table and reminding me that I had spent christmas curled up on my bed and staring at my ceiling.

It was all too much.

So I spun on my heels and locked the door behind me with a pinch of contempt. Without ever thinking, I got into my car and made the engine come rearing to life.

Jerkily, I pulled out of the parking lot. I don't know how long I was driving or how carelessly.

Seriously, I almost hit a guy jaywalking. Then I got angry at him.

Then I got angry at myself for being careless.

Then I was driving again. Not really thinking, just doing. Trying to get away from the awful apartment filled with foul memories and emptiness.

Then I was stopped.

Then I was staring at the old and decrepit apartment building through the ever layering darkness. Wondering how I had gotten there.

Wondering about how just a short 3 days ago I was almost killed there.

Wondering if a boy on the 5th floor was thinking of me. If he was alright. If he needed help. If Gabe had totally destroyed him. If he was even alive. Also confused on how I had ended up there in a parked car.

He wouldn't give a stitch about seeing me again. And I should feel the same. I gripped the steering wheel. Contemplating if I really was going crazy. If something like living completely by myself was too much for me to handle. If it had pushed me to actually end up here. The place of the person I was secretly worried for and the person that had ever made my home lively. Now that I had a small taste of what my home could be, I wanted more. I wanted to be able to go home and not feel like I've been shoved into corner.

With a bitter expression I glared at my lap. Just get over it! I told myself. People are lonely. That's Life!

Determined once more, I pulled the car out and drove away. Away from the dingy little apartment. Towards the mellow one I called home. But is it really a home?


My plush bed felt airy under my body as I lay curled up in a fetal position. A duvet hugged to my chest and a stack of dull colored library books piled crookedly on my mattress while they teetered precariously.

That was how I was spending my weekend. Distracting myself from my worries by immersing myself in books. A wonderful way to do it at that.

Once any homework I had was done, I'd just hop in bed and read away. A habit I had picked up a few years back. Even before my Dad left for that business trip I read books with a deep enthusiasm. It kept me from driving in circles with the radio blaring until I got tired. It kept me from passing Percy's apartment (which I had done 14 times in the past two weeks). It also kept my brain sharp and my English flawless. Bonus I guess. Like a tangy bang my phone started singing Hawaiian melody while a picture of Pipers smiling face appeared on the lively screen. I jumped, startled at the sudden noise attacking the impending silence. Burtwis looking up at me in his tank curiously. Eagerly, I pounced on the little machine.

"Hey," I breathed with my lips turning up into a smile.

"Sup Beth," Pipers chirpy voice was refreshing to my ears.

"Nothing much. I'm actually dying a bit of boredom." I confessed while slipping the bookmark into paper covered novel.

"Great," she responded indifferently.

"Pipes, it's not as great as you think." I rolled my eyes while flipping over to lie on my stomach.

She laughed briefly. "No I mean 'great' as in you're not doing anything. I wanted to know if you wanted to come over."

I wanted to say no. For all the times she's said she couldn't come over, I wanted to say the same thing. Maybe a small side of me just wanted her to understand how it was to be disappointed.

But if I didn't go, I would be stuck here…

"What about Jason? I thought you two always went bowling on Saturdays," I settled on asking. Hoping she could see what I meant.

"Oh. He was, but his parents decided to go to Niagara for the weekend, and he had to go too." Dear sweet innocent and yet naive Piper.

Couldn't she see that she was pretty much telling me that I was second best to Jason? That my years of friendship to her mean less than her significant other?

With a concealed snort I hid the feelings of being the shunned dog because my pride wouldn't permit me to let them out.

I'm independant. I reminded myself. I don't need to go.

But then I'll be stuck here. A small piece of me whined. Alone.

With a heavy sigh I sat up and grabbed my bag. "Alright." I relented. "You want me to come now?"

"Sure," Piper said. "See you in a few."

"See ya," I replied.

Turning off my phone I stuffed it in my back pocket and scoffed again at myself. Being so easily bent when it came to Piper. I was at her bidding call. While she so easily brushed me off even if she wasn't aware of it.

Jason's not available? Oh-kay I'll just call Annabeth!

It was infuriating! But it was my only escape from this wretched apartment. And it was the only time I was actually able to see Piper outside of school.

I wonder if Hazel and Calypso are there. That thought was immediately shut down. Both girls had boyfriends. Both girls were probably with said boyfriends.

They were just like Piper in that way. Unreachable. Only when they reached out to me, when they wanted to do something, that's when we ever did anything. I didn't have a say. Because I didn't have anyone else but them.

I wonder what they would do if I told them this. Told them that I feel like an inanimate object. Used when the person wants it used.

I thought on this while heading to the car. Trying to rid the feelings of being unloved. But then again, the feeling of being unloved and not being good enough walked hand and hand. I wasn't good enough to be equal to Jason or Frank or whoever Cal was dating apparently. I wasn't good enough for my mother to stay when I was young and I surely wasn't good enough to have my father running back home for me.

It's hard feeling unloved but then again….

I'm independent, I'm capable, I'm a trooper, I won't give in to useless emotions as these.


"Annabeth you don't look too happy, are you alright?" Calypso looked at me concerned while her almond amber eyes looked at me softly.

Typical Calypso, always knowing when someone was in the down and noticing every detail of her surroundings. Even if we were just standing by our lockers waiting for the pair of lovebirds to show up.

My lips broke into a half hearted smile. "Yeah I'm fine," I lied. "Just a little concerned about Burtwis."

"Your tortoise?" she asked lightly.

I nodded convincingly. A master of the masquerade. "Yeah, he's been eating less and coming out of his hollow less. I think he might be sick."

Calypso hugged me sympathetically. "That's too bad. But I'm sure under your care he'll be bright and happy soon!" she assured.

And that ladies and gentlemen was why everyone loved Calypso. She was caring and had the biggest heart with a cuisine to match. She knew what to say and when to say it. Not to mention a library of comebacks for whatever snob that challenged you.

Of course I would've felt instantly better if Burtwis was actually sick. But no, I was biting my nails over Percy. It had almost been three weeks since I had last seen him. When he left my apartment mid Saturday.

Ancient history right?

Well that was the problem. I'd passed by his apartment over 23 times nows. Sometimes sitting outside of it just thinking and to clear my head. Breathing in that rustic chemical air and remembering every shivering detail of that night on the roof. More than twenty three times ago.

Out of those 23 times I saw Percy 0 times. I should have seen him at least once right?

So now my overly active mind was leading me to believe that he was dead. Gabe killed him and tossed the body into the dumpster outside. Maybe even dismembered him to hide the evidence.

His gorgeous green eyes nothing but a memory, and his cocky demeanor forgotten. It was freaking me out. I was the one to go back and attack Gabe, I psyched his anger, I would've been the reason for Percy's death. Even though Percy was the one to cuff me and even though Percy was the one to bring me there I still felt like the guiltiest person alive.


I was running, people were chasing. My legs were moving but I was going nowhere. As if I were just on a treadmill at one of those fancy gyms I couldn't afford. People were chasing me. My eyes careening to see how close they were. A shock winded my chest as I realized that they were cops. Yelling and racing after me even though I wasn't moving. They're faces covered by masks twisted into sneers and yelling faces while they waved baton's crawling with spiders. Everyone of them panting like dogs and growling angrily at me while I ran nowhere.

Except Brenda.

Being carried by a golden carriage as she urged her brethren forward like slaves.

"You did that!" she bellowed while pointing ahead of me. "You did that."

In confusion I looked ahead of me.

A sob ripped my throat and sent my heart wheeling to my stomach.

Gabe was staring. Staring straight at me. His yellow eyes boring into my soul. His sausage torso jolting and jiggling with every kick he delivered to a broken body at his feet.

"Stop!" I cried desperately. "Stop! You've done enough!"

Gabe grinned a pointed smile. "Not enough," he chanted. "Never enough."

Again he kicked the body on the ground. Percy's body. His same mysterious tattoos on his back and arms. His raven mohawk as messy as ever but sticky with blood, his pleading eyes staring right at me while his arms reached out at me helplessly.

He tried to speak but blood was pouring from his mouth at a heart-wrenching rate. Tainting the ground with crimson and prickling the skin on my back as I ran harder, ignoring the yowls at me from behind.

Gabe pulled out that pocket knife.

Gabe stabbed Percy.

Percy went limp.

I was screaming.

The police were screaming at me.

Gabe was cackling at both of us.

My eyes flew open. My mouth was parched and crying for water. My eyelids heavy.

Just a dream. I rolled over and let my feet hit the freezing hardwood floor. My wide eyes scorched by the images my brain had barfed up. Percy's limp body. Gabe's sneers. Shaking my head, I stumbled into the bathroom blindly. The disgusting taste in my mouth needed some good ole Listerine and the images in my head needed some strong bleach.

But nothing could help the quivering remorse kneading my stomach.

In a sort of quiet mourning, I gazed deeply into the dark bagged eyes of my reflection. My golden curls pinned in a semi-undone lopsided bun while the large pj shirt hung off my body like a sack.

Nearly 2 a.m and I'm having a staring contest with myself. Tiredly I rubbed my temples, while the agitation of the nightmare still plaguing my mind horrendously. Wandering like a zombie I started making my back to bed.

I guess that's when I snapped.

I suddenly needed to make sure Percy was okay. I had to. There was no question about it. It was like that dream had finally hit my center, rattling my core like a gong had been hit beside my face.

So flicking on the lightswitch, I rummaged through my drawers and pulled out a pair of thick black leggings, a tight black t-shirt, midnight black hoodie and a pair of unused converses stuffed in the hallway closet. I snatched my keys off my desk after the fastest change I've ever done and marched down the hallway with a mission in mind. Before leaving through the dreary front door I ripped apart the bucket my dad used to hold his winter stuff in and yanked out an ominous looking ski mask. Noisily I sprinted down the hallway and skidded around the corner. My thumb jamming jarringly over and over into that elevator button. As each second dripped by my heartbeat rose steadily. Reinvigorating my mission with every pulsing buh-bump.

The route to Percy's apartment was engraved in my mind. Effective when I was on autopilot. By the time I did come to my senses, I was parked outside of that creaky crumbling apartment building. Half my brain urging me to just go home, the other half fired up so high that not even a rocket could bring me down to earth again. Gritting my teeth, I whitened my knuckles on the black leather steering wheel and squeezed my eyes shut. Butterflies were feathering my stomach, my nerves felt like they were hitting a wall over and over again, my hands shivering with adrenaline.

Ripping it all off like a band-aid, I bolted out of my warm safe car and crunched over the icy sidewalk glittering with salt. With the air biting my throat, and the wind sucking the hydration from my eyes, I pressed myself against the wall of the building praying that no one had spotted me.

Can't go in the front door. I cursed. Don't have a key…. Alright option two.

With a quaver of fear, I thrust my feet into the burning cold snow while ignoring the sensation of fresh meltwater from the heat of my skin soaking into my socks.

Breathing out a puff of quiet vapor, I listened in the tense silence for the sound of voices, or people, or alarms…. Or Brenda. To my pleasant relief, nothing stirred except the constant drum beat of my heart thumping wildly. Scanning again for any sign of light or life in the darkness of this dry and dank area, I made my move. With a swift jump I leapt up and snagged my hand on the lowest rung to the fire escape. Weakly, I pulled myself up before rolling onto the first floors of the escape. With a pant of exhilarated exhaustion I pulled the stuffy ski mask away from my face to relieve how hot my cheeks had become. Then, after tightening my soaked laces, I silently crawled up the twisted black iron fire escape. Nausea filling my gut slowly like a meticulously poured glass of milk as I got higher and higher.

Finally, I was able to peer into Percy's window. My heart rate eager and faster than ever, my skin prickling and my feet freezing.

Through the musty window slowly being engulfed by delicate designs of frost was a person lying in the corner on an inflatable mattress. He was hugging his sleeping bag and his mouth was slightly open. Waves of untamable hair in a hawk on his head while folded clothes lay at the base of his blue plasticy mattress. My view of him disappeared when I sighed heavily in relief, creating a short lasting filmy fog on the window.

He's alive. My mind cried. He's actually alive.

In the un-creepiest way possible, I leaned against the window frame and just watched him breath. A thankful smile adorning my lips while somewhat fond memories flitted in my head about the boy on the mattress.

Eating away at my ankles was the bitter air, but I ignored it. Too content to watch.

Suddenly Percy twitched and started to turn over, dragging the sleeping bag with him.

In a flash, my back was pressed against the freezing gritty wall next to the window again. My numb hands clenching onto the bars, turning my knuckles white while I held my breath.

1…. 2…. 3…. 4…. Subconsciously I counted away while biting down on my lip. The tension in my throat intensifying.

Curiously I tilted my head to take a peek into that dismal little room again.

This time Percy wasn't in the bed. In fact I couldn't see Percy at all. Only the ruffled red old sleeping bag and the empty mattress.

Did I just hallucinate? My mind went into panic and my limbs reeled with shivers. Did Gabe actually kill him?

I felt like hurling, my lips quavered while my eyes darted everywhere, looking for a sign that Percy was there. That he really was there. The dead quiet wasn't comforting me. It was taunting me.

And then out of the blue, there he was. Right in front of my nose while looking at me with an aggressively angry face that would've burned right through the glass.

A beer bottle in one hand raised high and ready.

I muffled a shriek of complete and utter terror. My blood ran cold while my heart stopped dead in my chest. Feeling like it was plummeting straight into hell. On instinct, I vaulted backwards and my head hit the solid metal rail of the fire escape. Pain blooming out the back of my skull.

Jerkily, Percy yanked opened the window and waved the bottle like he was flailing a flag in the air. "Who are you!?" he demanded harshly.

My heartbeat started to settle slowly and painfully, but the goosebumps on my arms and neck stayed upright and rigid. As my heart level went out of the 'heart attack' zone I gasped heavily and glared daggers at the boy who just scared me shitless.

"Heaven's of sweet crap monkey Percy!" I seethed chastisingly while ripping the ski mask off and freeing my sweaty curls and face. "I almost shat myself!"

Percy stared at me with a half blank half shocked look. Almost as if his brain decided to take a vacation.

Scratch that.

Almost as if the gumball of a brain he possessed had rolled mindlessly away.

"Annabeth?!" he hissed in alarm. Knuckles whitening against the window sill in surprise.

"Who did you think it was?!" I snapped as quietly as possible. "Barney the Dinosaur come to fulfill your childhood dreams!?" Whisper yelling sassily.

Percy opened and closed his mouth. Staring at me in disbelief while using some gestures for words that never made it out of his mouth.

"Spit it out," I demanded in a whisper. My irritation slowly building up like pressure to a volcano.

"Why the hell are you sitting outside my window at 3:30 a.m dressed as a burglar and watching me sleep?" Percy furrowed his eyebrows at me before running a hand through his hair in distress. Each word feeling like needles to my pride sensitive ears.

I crossed my arms over my chest arrogantly, a little miffed that I had been caught. "What does it matter to you?" I sniffed.

"Because it's creepy!" Percy looked at me with the Euha Duh! face. "And weird!"

"As if handcuffing a strange girl to yourself isn't any weirder," I spat back with my nose in the air.

A silence spaced our odd conversation/argument. Partially because Percy was staring at me like I was the spawn of the minotaur and a martian.

I ignored him, still freezing my butt off on the black bars. A vacancy still clinging to the crisp and airy night.

"Annabeth, why are you here?" Percy repeated. This time asking nicely and looking at me in a way that I just couldn't refuse to answer.

Trying to ignore him, I pouted and glared at brick wall. Following the cracks with my eyes and biting on the corner of my lip in pent up frustration.

But his eyes just kept looking at me.

I sighed with a moan and looked at my legs sheepishly.

"I was worried, okay?" I mumbled while thumbing the mask in my hands. Still pouting at how this whole thing turned out. My simple plan of action shattered in a second.

This is just miserable

Percy rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly while letting loose a heavy exhale. "Is that all?" He grumbled while leaning against the window frame.

I nodded with pursed lips. Refusing to meet his eyes. Too ashamed to at least.

"I had a nightmare." I murmured like a child. "That you died because of Gabe, and it was my fault. I had to make sure…."

Nibbling my bottom lip, I crossed my arms and almost started scooting towards the stair. Ready to depart like a dog with its tail between its legs.

"So you had a nightmare." Percy sounded a bit amused in dismay to my injured pride. "And the first thing you did was come out here to check on me…"

An insulting silence.

"Wow Princess," Percy murmured while rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm somewhat honored. Very creeped out though."

I managed a weak chuckled and met his wild green eyes. The eyes that I actually missed. When the silence grew as cold as the air, Percy shifted on his feet. Obviously about to say bye and shut the window. Or at least, that's what I imagined he'd do.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is when I had another one of my now common screw it moments. I leaned forward and stared at Percy directly in the eye so boldly that he almost backed down.

"Pack your things," I ordered hurriedly with a plan forming in my head. Excitement building in my chest.

"What?" the look of mini-martian spawn returned colorfully. His eyebrows pinched in the cutest way.

"You heard me," I insisted. "You're sick of living with Gabe, I'm sick of living alone. I just decided that you're moving in with me. And as annoying as it's going to be, at least I won't be plagued with nightmares of your death."

Percy gave me a blank look that read You're crazy, aannndd I'll be leaving now.

But I crossed my arms and glowered at him. "Well hurry up! It's not exactly a tropical paradise out here!"

And he did.

While I was left there wondering if I actually did what I just did. Inviting a boy I hardly knew into my house. Crazy right?

Ah well, screw it. I smirked.


"House rules!" I declared while Percy still looked dazed in the passenger seat beside me.

"You make a mess, you clean it up. Number two, you need to have a job. Number three, if you get the groceries than I'll do all the laundry. Deal?"

"Uh-ya, Deal," Percy nodded seriously while still looking as confused as ever.

"Alright, let's go inside." I pulled the keys out of the ignition of the already parked car while Percy grabbed his garbage bag of things.

He still looked shocked in the elevator and I was too tired as to question anything that I just did.

"Seriously?" Percy looked at me with wide eyes when I threw open the door to my dad's old room. "What about when your Dad comes back?" he asked while hugging the bag to his chest.

I shrugged. "I'm pretty the sofa's unfolds into a bed." I informed. "But for now it's not like he's using it or anything."

Percy blinked again. Like he was still trying to swallow what just happened.

Frankly, so was I.

He stumbled into the room in his finding nemo pajama pants and loose t-shirt. Looking around like he was in an undiscovered underground cave.

"Great," I smiled. "I'm going back to bed."

And I did. Wondering if what happened, really happened at all.


When my eyes flickered open the following morning I ended up staring at my hospital white ceiling. Slowly a sort of concerned fear settled heavily on my chest. Layering with every second that passed achingly slow.

The apartment was silent.

Was that all just a dream last night?

Hesitantly I sat up in bed while wrapping the duvet around my shoulders to keep the warmth in. With groggy eyes, I gazed around my room for a minute and squinted out the sun cloaked window curiously. Than, dragging my feet on the icy floor and trailing a train of a duvet, I stumbled into the hall and quietly cracked the second bedroom door open so I could just take a peek.

A gust of giddiness turmoiled around my gut as I saw the figure splayed out on the bed while hugging the grey quilts to his chest.

It wasn't a dream!

My breathing hitched as soon as I realized what I had actually done. What I had really gotten myself into. What my reckless 3 a.m mind had done. Because now…

I'm officially living with Percy Jackson. And there's no way around it.

I wouldn't be able to kick him out if he turned out to be a horrible roommate. He'd have nowhere to go. Plus, I probably couldn't take my two hour long bubble baths because I'd have to share that puny bathroom. Not to mention if Percy turned into a messy person I would probably throw a fit.

But still my mind murmured while I opened the door an inch more. You're not alone anymore.

Just out of curiousity, I let the door hang open and softly padded across the floor until I was standing over the queen sized bed. Percy's hair was a little more ruffled than usual, his face totally relaxed in his sleep state while his arms crushed the fluffy grey quilt. His mouth was slightly open and a little string of drool created a small dark patch on the sheets.

I suppressed a smile. Still cute in the mornings.

As quickly as the thought had come, I patted it down patiently. Chastising myself for having such petty thoughts over this pierced and tattooed fellow. Percy broke my thoughts while he mumbled something in his sleep. Groggily he stirred while his eyes started to open painstakingly.

With a squeak I ducked. Covering my head with my protective duvet while realizing if I was caught watching him sleep again I might just shrink from mortification. Against the gritty floor with my heartbeat in my throat, I heard the sheets shift and hiss softly above me. Brushing against each other as he turned over. I squeezed my eyes shut hopefully, praying that he would go to sleep again so that I could slink away. When the nerve wracking sound died, I started to inchworm my way to the door, wincing with every movement I made.

"Were you watching me sleep again?" I felt jarred when Percy's husky morning voice met my ears.

Pushing back the covers with a huff, I sat up on the floor and glared at Percy who was smirking at me with his elbow propped up against the pillow.

"I was not!" I frowned with a scorned tinge in my voice.

"Than what were you doing?" Percy challenged with that same signature smirk growing.

"I was trying to get something under the bed!" I informed while crossing my arms.

"Oh yeah? What was it?" I could tell by his cockiness that he knew I was lying but I'm stubborn. Remember?

"That doesn't concern you," I sniffed arrogantly.

"C'mon Princess," Percy chuckled amusingly. "You don't need to sneak looks while I'm asleep to check me out." Cue wink.

I let out a groan of aggravation that felt like I was gargling rough pebbles. "First off, call me princess one more time and I just might have to execute you. Secondly, why do you always assume that girls only look at you to check you out?" I cried in exasperation.

"Because I'm hot," Percy shrugged.


"Keep dreaming buddy," I deadpanned.

"I was," Percy stated. "Until I woke up to you creepily watching me."

"I just wanted to know if I really invited you to live with me last night or if it was all a dream. Okay?!" I blurted out in frustration with my cheeks flaming and my hair probably looking a mess.

Percy took a moment to consider this.

"Than why did you lie?" He asked in perplexity.

"Because I was embarrassed you caught me!" I revealed. "Anymore dumb questions?"

"Ya, can I get a lock for this door?" He looked at me innocently with a teasing ring in his voice.

"Oh shut up," I grumbled while he laughed.

As dignified as I could, I bunched up my duvet and shuffled out of the room then down the hall looking like a little worm burrito. I could hear Percy following me but I did my best to completely ignore him. In the kitchen I stacked up some hash browns and roasted them in the microwave with a can of noodles. While I was taking out the piping hot plate Percy gave me a critical look.

"That-" he said with a disgusted look. "Is what you're eating for breakfast?!"

I shrugged and tenderly picked up the plate indifferently. "It's not like I'm going to force feed you this."

Percy gazed down at the greasy food pile with a 'I-just-might-vomit' look on his face. "I'm concerned for your health," he deadpanned.

I picked up a hash brown and waved it in front of his face teasingly. "My health is brilliantly adequate. Thank you." I said pleasingly curt with a small smile.

Percy shook his head at me while he watched me make my way towards the hall, duvet still snugly wrapped around my shoulders and brushing my neck with each step.

"Let me guess. Going to your room?" he called after me.

"You know it." I responded before disappearing behind the walls. The door shutting softly behind me with a click.

I set the steaming food down on my desk and brought out a patterned paper back book. Reading slow while eating even slower. My emotions caught victim to a warmth bubbling that tingled in the bloodstream.


For the most part, I ignored Percy. I was just happy to have someone else in the apartment with me.

Didn't necessarily mean that I needed to interact 24/7.

I'd come out of my room and ask him if he needed any laundry done, and he'd poke his head through my door to see if I had any grocery favorites to pick up. Once in awhile we'd bump into eachother while getting food or yell from the door when we were going to work. Then there'd be the mornings where I just sat on his bed and he'd tease me and I'd threaten to withhold all coffee that morning until he apologized.

It was freeing in a way. Knowing that you weren't alone even when you went home.

Days at school seemed to become a bit longer. And I was just the tiniest bit eager to get home. Because I knew he'd be there before me and ask how my day was before I went to my room to do homework.

And I liked this routine. I liked how things were. Even if it was a bit questionable that a boy with an earring and tattoos was living with me.

If Piper ever found out, I'm sure she would kill me for letting such a person into my life.

But I could handle her.

In fact, I felt like I could handle just about anything.

I smiled to myself a little dreamily while hugging one knee to my chest. My eyes scanning my research paper over on my laptop while I briskly pressed the spacebar to let it roll down on my bright screen. A little bit of background music from my radio played like a buzz in the back of my mind while it mingled with the distant hum of Burtwis's heating lamp. I jumped slightly when my door knocked softly three times.

"Come in," I called, while watching the gold knob turned and the door crack open. Percy stuck his raven head in and smiled at me dorkily.

"Wanna go to the kitchen?" He smirked.

Looking at him sideways I tapped my chin thoughtfully. "Did you set a prank up in there or something?" I asked suspiciously.

Percy rolled his eyes. "No," he answered honestly. "I'm actually kinda protesting to your way of life."

I gave him a perplexed look while pushing my plastic office chair away from the desk with my foot.

I followed him out into the hallway while glancing around warily. Each footfall onto the floor made me feel like an exposed eel out of its hole. Expecting a jar of goop to fall from the doorway, or a mask to pop out at me suddenly or a fake spider to go skittering across the floor.

That last thought sent shivers down my spine and made sweat start prickling in my clenched palms.

I absolutely loathed spiders.

Anything even resembling a spider was a huge capitalized NOPE for me. Thankfully when I turned the corner into the kitchen there was no spider. Or goop or mask or what ever on earth I had initially created in my mind to happen.

Instead, there were two dinner plates on the island counter placed perfectly aligned with the stools and cutlery.

Steaming and wafting smells I hadn't inhaled in a while were fried beef, coated in salsa and sour cream and covered with layers of tomato, lettuce, onion and coated in cheese. All while being compacted in a hard cornflour shell.

Percy had made taco's. Something I hadn't had in years. It dawned memories in the back of my mind of my Dad bringing home taco shells and telling me every joke he could while I cut the onions. In the end I was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of my eyes regardless.

Percy paused to send me a dorky smile over his shoulder. "I'm kinda sick of this 'eat in your own room' thing. I thought I could mix things up a bit?"

Eat at the counter again? I thought with an unsure demeanor. Before Dad even comes back?

I stared at the tempting food with wide eyes before looking at Percy then back to the food.

Well he did spend time making it…..

I shrugged indifferently. "I'm cool with that." I hid a small smile before hopping onto the stool and scooting it in noisily.

Percy beamed at me and took his seat before digging in like an animal who had just crossed the desert. When I finally managed to fit the food in my mouth, my hands ended up being assaulted in squirts of salsa and sour cream mixed into a ruddy pink. I had to grab a napkin just to sop up the deliciously warm liquids now running up my forearms.

No, I'm not a slob.

Not even close to one.

Tacos are just hard to eat.

For a while, there was nothing but silence. But it wasn't unbearable. Not like the silence I was dealing with before. Just two people too wrapped up with eating to even get a word out.

Finally Percy took a deep sip of his water and looked at me questioningly. Almost as if he were asking to ask a question.

"What?" I implored him.

He took a pause, like he was thinking about what to say before resting his chin in the palm of his hand and looked at me with his dark eyebrows pinched together.

"Why do you always eat in your room anyways?" He finally asked lightly.

I pursed my lips and took a good hard stare at my taco. Regretting even letting him ask. (Even though it was a decently innocent question). I hate personal questions. Remember?

Sensing my sudden mood change he coughed awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck uneasily. "I mean, it's not weird. I'm sure lots of people do that too, I just thought maybe you...had a... reason… behind it?"

With a deep sigh and a mellow smile I met his gaze wondering how he was always able to pry the answers from me. Wondering how I always felt like I could spill the answers around him.

"I stopped eating at the counter," I started strongly. "Because it brought back too many memories of when my dad was here. Kinda made me ache y'know?"

Percy jumped, "Does eating here bother you now?"

I had to laugh. He had that I-screwed-up-gods-I'm-an-idiot look on his face. In all honesty, it was kinda adorable.

"No," I chortled. "When I'm eating here with someone else it doesn't bother me at all."

Percy let go a breath. "Good," he croaked. "I swore I just messed up so bad by making you sit here."

I swatted him over the head playfully. "You didn't make me sit here. I came here myself Seaweed Brain."

"Great. The nickname is sticking." He shot me a withering look.

I laughed quietly and smirked at him. "Ya well, it kinda fits you."

"I'm not as dumb as I look," Percy informed while taking a bite from his taco.

"You mean that your IQ is actually lower than I thought?" I gasped in mock surprise

Percy rolled his eyes. "Mmrf Nuff na siff lak na meeee," he promptly said with a few hand gestures.

"Ew, for decency sake Percy. Swallow before you speak!" I chastised. "You sound like a caveman sending out a mating call!"

Percy swallowed while waggling his eyebrows at me. "Is a female caveman responding?"

I scoffed and pushed his face away so far that he almost toppled off the stool. "Ya, with disgust!"

"Why did you buy a tortoise?"


"A tortoise."

"How did you just get on the topic of a tortoise? We were just talking about cavemen!"

Percy shrugged and leant against the counter. "Well I thought how cavemen drew things on walls, like this show I saw with drug dealers who drew on walls, and one of the signs they drew were a palm tree, and that made me think of beaches, and beaches made me think of the time I went with my mom and found a stone that she drew a turtle on, than I thought of reptiles in the ocean because of the turtle and then thought that turtles were like tortoises but thinner as if they're on a diet or something and then I remembered that you had a tortoise and I wondered why," he spoke in one deep breath.

I sat there a moment just absorbing everything he just babbled out. "Wow," was all I could manage to say.

"Ya," he rubbed his neck sheepishly. "I have ADHD."


"So-" he pushed his empty plate aside. "Why a tortoise?"

I fiddled with the side of my shirt and shrugged. "I was going to go get a dog," I started. "Because I just wanted some sort of companion at the apartment. So I started saving all the money I could. Read up on raising dogs and caring for them. Even bought a collar and pair of dog bowls. But-" I paused. Not to be dramatic or anything.

But being caught up in the memory. Remembering walking into that petstore with wads of bills bulging in my pocket. A dog leash pressed against my chest. Sending a smile to the store manager and looking at the fingerprint smudged glass enclosures filled with bouncing puppies. Watching them with wide eyes and wondering which one I was going to get.

Just a small 13 year old girl sick of being by herself. Scared at night from the noises outside and barely being able to use the microwave without burning something.

And then my eyes wandering to a little panel of glass tucked at the bottom. And a little lonely face looking up at me hopefully. All alone in his cube while all the other animals had been paired up.

And my heart melted.

Because I felt like I had been looking at myself. Tucked away in the corner. Forgotten and not really wanted by anyone. Looking back at the puppies, they'd probably be all adopted. But this little guy, he didn't look as if he were going anywhere.

So I slapped my money on the counter and bought everything I needed that day. Determined to make sure that, that tortoise never felt lonely again.

"But?" Percy broke my train of thought.

Right I was having a conversation.

"Oh yeah, I uh I uh bought a tortoise instead that day," I finished with a smile. "Less work." was the reason I added on the end.

Percy nodded and folded his arms. "But why did you name it Burtwis? Was that what you were going to name the dog or something?"

Burtwis. The short story my mom always used to read to me when I was little. The short story about a little ant who didn't have any friends. Who people tried to step on. But in the end found a home and an ant family to love him.

"Naw, I just kinda named him on the spot," I lied. "Doesn't really mean anything." I plucked my plate up off the counter and doused it in cold water before stuffing it in the dishwasher.

"What about you?" I twisted the conversation around. "Any past pets maybe?"

Percy set his dish in the washer and shut it. "Well I don't think this really counts," he started. "But when I was a kid I was put in charge of feeding Mr. Squiggles, the preschool classroom pet."

"Oh yea? How'd that turn out?" I asked while we walked down the hall.

"Guinea pigs apparently don't take chocolate very well," Percy shrugged.

I laughed loudly and rolled my eyes. "Gee Seaweed Brain. You were a terrorizer before you hit first grade."

"It was Mr. Squiggles fault for keeling over at play time! That guinea pig as already so fat that he probably had diabetes anyways!"

I leaned against my door frame and chortled quietly. "Percy, what made you feed Mr. Squiggles a chocolate bar?"

Percy paused at the door to 'his' room. "It had peanuts in it! I thought he'd like it! It was better than the jelly beans I fed him the day before."

I scoffed while settling my hands on my hips. "Pshh. What type of kid were you Percy?"

"An awesome one," he deadpanned.

I rolled my eyes again and pushed the door to my room open. "Alright Mr. Awesome. I gotta do homework now," I said before disappearing behind the wood and drywall.

I could hear Percy walking into his room and shutting the door softly behind him.

Smiling at the lustless hardwood I hugged the goosebumps on my arms.

"Percy?" I called out, looking at the wall that separated us.

"Ya?" his voice was somewhat muffled.

"I-... I think you should be in charge of mealtimes from now on."

I smiled when I heard him chuckle deeply.

"Alright," he agreed. "But only if you take over vacuuming."



Piper was wrinkling her nose. "Did you see the new kid?" she asked while setting her lunch down on the caf table.

"Pardon?" I asked, unsure of what she was really asking me.

"The new guy in our grade. He's revolting." Piper shamelessly stuck out her skinny arm and pointed to a boy all the way across the caf.

He was a lanky sort of guy. Combat boots and dark skinny jeans held up with a spiked belt. His light brown hair was shaved on one side of his head and dyed purple on the tips. Piercings through one eyebrow and a black skull on his bright yellow shirt gave him the complexion of a bumble bee.

"Why does he even bother coming to school?" Piper humphed. "It's not like he's trying to get good grades here or anything."

I looked over the guy one more time. And then realized, I found nothing wrong with him. He looked totally fine to me. Piercings, spikes and all.

He's not unlike Percy. I thought quietly.

I sent Piper a nonchalant look.

"You never know," I shrugged.

She pinched her eyebrows at me questioningly.

"You never know if he'll try in school or not. Maybe he just might try hard," I explained further.

Piper giggled while the rest of the gang trickled in. "Don't tell me you think he'll actually work hard."

"Who'll work hard?" Jason asked while he took the seat I used to have beside Piper.

"Oh, Annabeth and I were just talking about the guy over there," she gestured broadly to the guy still waiting in the lunch line. "And Annabeth said that he might get good grades but I'm pretty sure that he won't."

Jason squinted at the guy and shrugged. "He doesn't look like the type to try to get good grades," he deduced.

I clenched my fists. "Just because he doesn't look like it doesn't mean he won't!"

Callie shot me a concerned look. "What's brought this on? Usually you'd agree wholeheartedly with that statement."

A pinch of boiling resentment gurgled in my gut. "Ya, well now I don't! I don't think people should be so easily judged on how they look!"

Piper rolled her eyes. "I think that it's plausible that people dress as who they are. And it just so happens that people who dress like punks are rebels and don't do as much work."

The rest of the table nodded in agreement.

I kept quiet. Not because I didn't want to explode, but because I knew I was beat.

And here I was again, bending to Piper.

I even kept quiet for the rest of the day. Sending her loaded stares while thinking the conversation over and over in my head. Thinking of comebacks that I never got to say.

And by the time I was opening the door to the apartment, I was so tired I would have flopped on the floor and curled up in a ball if it was a sensible option. But unfortunately the neighbors would of reacted very hysterically to a girl lying on the floor in the hallway.

"I'm back," I called, even though Percy was right beside the stove hovering over frying fish and boiling rice.

He swiveled around and beamed at me. "Hey, how was your day?"

"Tiring," I grumbled. "Very tiring." I tossed the keys onto the hook and kicked off my aching boots from my weary feet.

Percy laughed, "School does that to us all."

I slid into the stool by the counter and let my bag hit the floor with a heavy thud.

"So," I asked while propping my elbows up on the counter. "How was your day at school?"

Percy turned the element down and turned on his heels. "Some kid threw his lunch at Nico today," he beamed like it was the best news ever. "And I didn't even get detention for showing him how I felt about that."

I gaped at him with a somewhat horrified laugh. Not sure whether to scold him for beating up somebody, or congratulate him for delivering justice. "Your school sounds so much more interesting than mine." I settled on saying.

Percy shrugged before going back to the stove. "Because it's filled with awesome people like me."

People like me.

I let that sink in and float around my mind.

What made people like Percy? Was it punk? Overall upbringing?

I examined his t-shirted back thoughtfully while remembering the tattoos and the scars.

There's really no one like Percy. No one really.

I contemplated harder, staring at the countertop island between us.

Than what ties us into different groups? Me in preppy or girly, him in punk, and what about people like Jason? He could be preppy or a jock.

And what Percy said so many weeks ago when he woke up? About girls like me being mean to guys like him.

But what are girls like me like?

Are they all just stereotypes?

Why are people grouped into different categories when we're more than just a girly girl, or a punk?

"You okay princess?" Percy looked at me with concern. "You look a little lost."

I smile ghostly at him while staring off into the distance. Still trying to grasp at the concept floating around my mind.



"Why are you a Punk?" I asked messily. Not really caring if my grammar was correct or not.

Percy's eyebrows came together. "Why do you ask?"

I shrugged and stretched my arms out stiffly while I looked at him tiredly, carelessly. "Today, Piper pointed out a punk boy in school. She said that there was no point in him being there because he probably wouldn't even try." I paused and rubbed my eyes. "And I don't even know what makes people punk anymore. In the dictionary a 'punk' is a worthless person. But are they really? I just wanted to know what makes you punk to maybe help me figure it out."

Percy ran a hand through his hawk quietly. "I think I qualify as punk because I hate any sort of oppression. Teachers, bosses, Brenda." Percy made a face which I couldn't help but chuckle at. "I mean, just hating and rebelling against people telling you what to do and how to live your life could make you qualified as punk so..."

Pursing my lips, I raised an eyebrow. "Then why the earring? Or black leather with spikes? Or the tattoo? Or music? If qualifying for punk just means that then what's with all… the punk look," I finished weakly. Unable to really get out the proper words.

Percy shrugged like it didn't matter to him. It probably did. "It all kinda says what you feel. Destroying that perfect citizen image with piercings and spikes and tattoos. Thalia calls it 'A proclamation that we don't give a piece of shit about the rules'. I think that sums it up pretty well actually."

I nodded at his answer and looked at my hands in thought. Folding and unfolding them on the cold smooth counter.

"But I don't think that's right," I started again. Tilting my head up at him wonderingly while thinking out loud. "Just because you like a certain type of music and dress a certain way and don't like powers doesn't mean you should be labeled as a 'punk'."

Percy shrugged again. Leaning against the counter leisurely. "I don't mind it."

"Even if it brings people to look down on you?"

I stared at him intensely, waiting for his next sentence eagerly.

Percy thought on this quietly. Stirring the rice patiently while the only sound was of the glubbing bubbles and the hiss of fish frying in oil.

"If people look down on me-" he started quietly. "Than I think that's at their own loss. They don't have the insight to even guess that a person is more than what they look like and even more than what they just believe."

Closing my eyes, I tapped my chin and thought how this related to Piper. How she didn't look past a person's skin to see what they were like. Or past their first burning impression.

Then again, that was how I was like just a month and a bit ago. Utterly blind and pompous about it. Not really thinking on the matter.

"Wait a minute." A thought suddenly struck me. "Why are you making dinner this early?"

"It's Tuesday," Percy answered as if it were obvious. "I have work. So I won't be back till ten."

But I have no homework tonight! I'll be so booorred.

I didn't give him the pleasure of me saying that.

Instead I opted on saying "Great, could you pick up some lettuce when you come back? The organic kind? Burtwis is running low on it."

Percy just nodded. "Sure."


As soon as Percy got home I knew something was up. Instead of popping his head in to let me know he was back, he went straight to his room and roughly shut the door behind him. I heard the bed creak heavily as he flopped onto it.

For a few seconds I sat there. Listening intently and wondering if I should pop over to see what was up. But the silence drifted into my ears and rattled my brain at the thought of what might've happened to him.

Probably should check.

With feet that were asleep and prickling, I hopped out of bed and creeped into the hallway. Keeping my ears open to any sounds coming from Percy's room while the floor creaked eerily underneath me and the dark hallway made me squint to see where I was going. A ribbon of light was peeping from under his door.

Softly, I rapped my knuckles against the smooth wood. "Percy?" I questioned. "Are you alright?"

"Mm fine," he answered from his room.

Obviously trying to hide the fact that his voice was thick and gruff. Probably because he was upset about something. Now all I had to do was figure out what was the center of his griefs.

Quietly, I cracked open the door and peeked in, looking at the figure splayed horizontally on the bed and staring at the ceiling with glassy eyes. Light steadily and softly setting the room a glow from the bedside lamp.

"Percy?" I asked again. This time stepping in boldly, fists clamped determinedly. "What's the matter?" My voice was quiet and illustrated the throb of worry in my throat.

In a sudden movement, he flipped over on his side to hide his face. A move I'm rather familiar with.

"I'm fine," he repeated forcefully. "Really."

I crossed my arms and stepped closer. "I may have not known you that long. But I know when you're upset."

Percy sat up swiftly and glared at the floor with a set jaw. "It's not like you would know anything." he hissed guardedly while I tried not to take offence to his tone.

His eyes were a stinging red and his fists clenched so hard he might as well of ruptured a vessel in his palm. There was a futile, fighting element flashing in his eyes as he refused to look at me. Ready to guard his broken emotions in and keep them there.

He needs a hug. My brain confirmed.

If you haven't figured it out already. I am a huge hugger. I give hugs. I take hugs. I live for hugs.

I guess that's why I hated living alone the most.

No one to hug.

And no, I didn't walk up to him and give him a nice gentle hug around the shoulders.

I tackled that sucker roomie of mine back onto the bed and held on with all my might.

"I'm not letting go until you tell me." I threatened. "Or at least tell someone. Because you have a bad habit of just bottling it all in until it rots you from the inside out." I tightened my arms around his back just to prove my point.

Steadily his heart beat thrum in my ear as my head was pressed against his chest. A look of determination was on my face while I breathed into his shirt.

"Annabeth, let go," Percy sighed wearily. "I'm fine, really."

"Do you really think I'll let go?" I challenged unamusingly. "You should know me better by now."

Percy planted two hands on my hips and pushed me away, forcibly prying my hands off his back. He set me down on feet and turned me towards the door as if I was a lost annoying child going in the wrong direction.

"Just go." he persisted. The same tone in his voice reminding me that he was hurting, but being so stubborn about it all the same.

"Fine," I sighed while taking five steps towards the door.

Don't worry, I wasn't actually leaving. I was just lulling Percy into a false sense of security. When I heard him fall backwards back onto the bed, I spun around like a tiger and threw myself at that emotionally unstable boy while yelling as a battle cry. "NOT IN MY APARTMENT YOU DON'T!"

Luckily he wasn't suspecting it, so I was able to grab ahold of him once more before he struggled against my grip.

Irritatedly he pushed me off him but I fought back. Turning this 'open up to me now' into a wrestling match.

I pushed him.

He pushed me.

The only bright side to it was that his eyes weren't red anymore. Probably because he was miffed at me for attacking him. Honestly, I'd be a bit miffed too.

Just when I thought I had him, he used all his body weight and strength to roll on top and grip my wrists, pinning me down. I struggled against the tight hold but he stayed hovered above me breathing just as heavily as I was.

The humid air around us not helping in the least bit.

"Annabeth," Percy panted. "Please, just stop."

"Never," I breathed defiantly. Still writhing to free myself.

"Why?" He asked. "Why are you doing this?" The pain in his sea green eyes was still there. Still resonating for whatever reason he was hurting. Gleaming sadly.

I relaxed a bit, ignoring the fact that his body was squishing mine uncomfortably.

"Because," I explained. "Remember when we first met, and I fixed you up in the bathroom and you completely fell apart?"

Percy nodded solemnly.

"Well, I consider you a friend now believe it or not, and friends look out for eachother. That means that not letting you get back to that state, where you completely fall apart."

Before he could protest, I wrenched one arm free and slapped it across his mouth. Surprised, he stared into my eyes with his intense emeralds questioningly. His hair twice as ruffled because of our wrestling match and his lips pursed under my palm in a way that hid the quivers.

I didn't waver, but looked back with a deep seriousness into his eyes. Trying to get my message across.

"I don't know you extremely well Percy, but I know when you're upset. And you're upset about something. I don't care how you get it off your shoulders but I know you need to get it off your shoulders. So at least tell somebody. It doesn't have to be me." I finished earnestly.

Hi eyes sparkled dangerous, and I could feel him bite his lip under my hand still pressed against his mouth.

With a defeated thump, he rolled off me and continued his fighting staring contest with the ceiling.

I didn't think he was going to say anything.

Scooting closer I was pressed against his side, ignoring any rules of personal space.

"It's about my mom." he mumbled miserably. His eyes squeezing shut painfully while a clear tear jerked its way down the side of his face.

I felt my heart skip a beat while it bled out to him.

"What happened?" I asked gently.

Percy sniffed. "There was this old lady at the cash today. Buying bags of cat food actually. Cat food and prunes. I recognized her. She was one of my mom's friends from her book club."

A dead silence followed as he trembled beside me. From grief or rage, I couldn't tell.

"She remembered me as soon as she she saw me." He sighed mournfully. "And she told me that I was selfish. Selfish to be working for money now when my mom had needed treatment. That I should have been working to get her money w-while she was still alive. That her death was all my fault." Tears streamed down his cheeks and he rolled over to look at me with an expression of such hurt.

He believed her, he believes that old sot. My mind boiled. Wishing I could've told that old lady off myself. Stuffed that cat food and prunes right up where the sun don't shine.

All the while my heart being pin-pricked with emotions of sadness that made my eye's well dangerously.

"You don't believe her do you? You can't believe her. Your mom's death had nothing to do with you!"

Percy shook his head vigorously. "She was right!" he cried. "She was right! I should've gone to work when Mom got sick. I should've done more. Maybe she would've still been alive. May-maybe she wouldn't of died. Maybe if I-"

"No!" I grit my teeth while throwing my arms around his neck. Gripping his cheeks, I forced his head to the side. Forcing him to look into my eyes. "It's not your fault! None of it's your fault!"

I grit my teeth angrily and clenched a fist full of his shirt.

"You don't deserve this." I almost growled. "You don't deserve any of this. You're too kind-hearted for it." Percy stared at me. Shock riddled in his eyes as I glared back fiercely.

"But I could've done more." he dared to protest quietly.

"And what difference would it have made? Working for 10.30 dollars an hour? You'd only get so much Percy. And treatment costs are so much more than that. So much more. You would of had to work nonstop. And the treatment might not of even worked! You might've eaten up all the time you had left with her working! Not seeing her!" I ranted. Feeling the emotions roll off me in a powerful wave.

"At least you got to spend time with her." My voice was growing hoarser as I spoke each word roughly into the air. "This is the now. Nothing you can do now will change what has happened. No what-ifs are going to help you Percy."

Quietly he looked back up at me with tears still clinging to his skin. "I miss her." he whispered as if it was a dark secret buried in his heart. As if he had never told anyone ever before that he missed his mom.

Sad truth: he probably hadn't.

"I miss her soo much. She was the greatest person in my life. I just wish I could've done something-"

"You did you moron." I broke in. My voice falling from its cusp of anger. "You gave her last moments meaning by being there. By being her son."

Percy didn't say anything. He sniffled pathetically and looked at me with his lips pursed and his eyes bloodshot.

"Seriously?" He asked. Almost hopefully. Relying that I knew the answer.


In need of comfort, Percy let his arms slide around me. Burying his face in my neck, he let loose a heavy sigh.

I patted his head sympathetically. "And Percy?"

"... yeah?" he mumbled into my shoulder.

"Why on earth would you believe a lady who was buying cat food and prunes?!"


"What about him?" Piper asked as she turned the wheel sharply to the left.

Briefly I looked over the guy bicycling down the street we were speeding on.

"No thanks. He's a little too old for me." I wrinkled my nose.

"Oooh, or him!" Calypso grabbed my hand and pointed out the window to a brown haired tall teenaged guy tying his boot against a hydrant.

I shook my head at her. "His girlfriend is right there Cal!"

"It could be his sister." she shrugged.

"If his sister was adopted from spain!" I threw my hands up in the air while talking irritatedly.

I knew the girls were only teasing around with me, but seriously, this minor car game of 'find Annabeth a suitable boyfriend' was getting a little out of hand.

"Um Annabeth?" Hazel asked quietly while we stopped at a red light.


"What about that guy." she said while pointing naively to a guy warming his hands on the corner of a building. He looked scruffy, but with a cigarette sticking out between his lips and that ratty winter jacket I wouldn't even consider it.

Anyone who smokes is a no no. I hate the smell of cigarettes. Almost as much as spiders.

"Hazel, Honey. That guy is homeless…. And old." I answered gently while rubbing my temples.

The cocoa skinned girl shrunk half in size like a frightened owl. "Oh… okay."

"Oh well." Piper shrugged. "Annabeth has pretty high standards in guys after all."

"But she'll be forever alone by Valentine's day!" Calypso whined.

I scoffed quietly. "Calypso, no one in this group has even seen your boyfriend. Are you sure he exists?"

"Leo exists!" Calypso crossed her arms with a pouty look on her face. "He's just busy. That's all."

I rolled my eyes and watched as the street signs and pedestrians pass. The grey dirty snow mounted on the banks were peppered occasionally with footprints while the high sun beat down heatlessly bright against the pavement, casting slanting shadows against the buildings.

"Cal, should you really be with someone who's so busy? I mean, does he even have time for you?" Piper shot a concerned glance over her shoulder. Eyebrows pinching upwards.

"Of course he does!" Calypso scoffed defensively. A little hurt mixed in with her voice. "Leo always makes time for me."

Piper's perfect face morphed into an apologetic look. "Alrighty then. I just didn't want you feeling forgotten."

I rolled my eyes in aggravation.

As if you know how it feels!

"Leo would never make me feel that way. Even though he's got a big fancy job, he makes time for me." Callie frowned at Piper. Arms crossing. "I don't think it very polite that you judged him without knowing him."

Isn't that what we do all the time? Like that guy in the caf? Like all the guys we saw passing?

Piper grimaced. "Oh I know Cals. I just don't want you with someone that doesn't make you happy. You deserve better. You all do."

A guy who could make you 'happy' in Pipers terms would be a carbon copy of Jason. Some law abiding boy who could insure you financial security and have hours of time to spend with you. A.K.A, everything not Percy.

Hazel just giggled. "No, Frank makes me feel happy."

Calypso snorted playfully. "You'll probably get married."

"Jason and Piper will probably get married." I interjected, while watching Hazel turn an amusing shade of pink.

"You really think so?" Piper's eyes met mine through the rearview mirror. A sort of curious excitement entered her eyes.

It scared the living crap out of me.

The thought of Piper getting excited at the thought of marrying Jason. Squealing over white dresses and cooing over a ring. Going off to be his little housewife.

It was disgusting.


My chances of getting my best friend back zipping down to 0% if that happened.

I shot her a forced half smile. "Well I wouldn't dwell on the idea too much." I chuckled nervously. "After all, you're only seventeen."

"Yeah… I guess." she answered thoughtfully while changing lanes.

I rubbed my hands against the black leather car seats and sighed. Feeling the relief seep into my limbs.

"Alright girls." Piper instructed while pulling up front to the painfully familiar swanky apartment complex. "I'll meet you there. Mkay?"

"Okay." Hazel answered for us while hopping out of the BMW. Slamming the door behind us, I hopped up the marble steps and step into the lobby, my bootlets knocking noisily against the floor.

Piper joined us up in her penthouse. Carelessly she threw off her shoes and hollered. "Daddy, I'm home!"

A few seconds dangled in the air as we waited for the response.

"Okay sweetie!" his distant voice yelled back. "I'm in my office!"

Piper grinned at us excitedly. "Alright girls. What she we do for our Gal night first?"


"Board game?"

"Ice cream." I groaned. My peckish hunger rising to the peaks of my stomach.

The other girls broke into fits of giggles while breaking into a walk.

"So Beth." Piper spoke coyly while pulling a big tub of chocolate mint out of the freezer. "Do you even like anybody at the moment? I mean, it is February after all."

I plopped onto the white sofa and looked up thoughtfully, fully aware that Hazel and Calypso were staring at me eagerly.

"Well…" An image of Percy smiling dorkily at me entered my mind as a thought briefly. Remembering him making me dinner, shirtless cuffed together in the bathroom, cuddling unintentionally and all the sweet things he said.

A flustered blush dusted my cheeks embarrassingly. Trying to pass it off as just my natural cheek color, I shrugged. "There's not anyone I'm even particularly attracted to. So no."

"But you're blushing." Hazel pointed out, cradling her bowl of ice-cream.

"Because I remembered something embarrassing." I covered up expertly while poking my cream with my long handled spoon.

Piper squealed. "You're definitely crushing on someone! Who is it? I bet I can make it happen!"

Horking and choking I swallowed the lump of ice-cream instead of spewing it out.

Clenching back a brainfreeze I gripped my spoon harder. "I'm not!"

"Oh yeah? Than why are you blushing?" she challenged with a grin as wide as the north pacific. Her kaleidoscope eyes shimmering with excitement.

"I told you! I remembered something embarrassing!" I insisted before shoving my mouth full of ice-cream.

"Awww c'mon Annieeeeee." Piper whined while coming up and pushing me into the couch. "Pweeaaase! Just tell uss!" she begged giving me her big eyes.

I sighed and set down my bowl on the table while rolling my eyes at the three excited girls looking at me.

"Guys, I'm telling you that I remembered-"

"Than what did you remember that was embarrassing?" Callie inquired. An eyebrow craned at me so to say 'cornered ya'.

I crossed my arms and stuck my nose in the air. "Fine. While I was handcuffed to that guy, we were in my little bathroom and he ripped his shirt off."

"Omygosh Annie!" Piper squealed in surprise.

Hazel started fanning her face with a scandalized expression on. Her big gold eyes wide and her lips pursed.

Calypso had fallen backward laughing. Teetering on her haunches with giggles while Piper was just staring at me. Not expecting me to spit that out.

"That's-that's" Callie heaved while bending forward. "That's something I- I never thought to happen to you. He just-" her sentence broken by more erupting giggles. "He just tore off his shirt like the guy from the spice commercials?! Thats hilarious!"

"No it's not." Hazel gasped out. "What an awful position to be in!"

I pretended to look down bashfully when really nothing from that night was embarrassing to me. Sure, Percy was shirtless and we happened to be in my bathroom. But it wasn't like it was anything promiscuous. I was just patching him up. He was on the verge of a breakdown for crying out loud!

However, since the girls are picturing Percy as this all bad boy punk guy with piercings galore and a pushy attitude, they were probably jumping to conclusions and assuming things.

Making it seem like a rather embarrassing and cringey situation to be in. (At least for us). And I'll just let them think that.

"Why on earth did you think of that when I asked you who you were crushing on?" Piper asked. A hard look came into her eyes. Defensive, protective, something like that.

It used to be a look she got when I became friends with other people.

I blinked. Unsure of myself. Unsure of my own answer.

Why did I think of that? … Did I? … Why did I think of Percy when she asked me for a crush?

I bit the inside of my cheeks to keep from grinding my teeth in nervous realization.

Do I like Percy?

But's it's not like I blush around him, or stutter or anything. Maybe I've just had an off day.

I looked at Piper confidently. "Because, your question involved boys and he was the most annoying I've ever come across. So naturally my mind recalled that incident." My perfect lying skills could probably let me apply to some undercover place.

Piper seemed to buy it. Then again, Piper always seemed to fall for my lies nowadays.

It was kinda sad.

Callie set her bowl on the coffee table and sighed. "I really would've loved to see your face, Beth, when he did that."

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms, watching my ice cream melt in its blue glass bowl. "It wasn't as funny as you would think." I said indifferently while remembering the way Percy broke down under my crushing hug. The broken life he was living before.

"I bet it was even funnier." Calypso persisted with a devilish smile on her face.

"Why do you think that? Has something like that happened to you?" Piper asked while sweeping her trimmed chocolate hair over her shoulder and wiggling her phone out of her pocket.

Calypso nodded slightly. "Didn't I tell you guys this story? It's practically how I met Leo."

"Dear goodness." Hazel's fanning doubled while she mumbled to herself. "Help our souls."

"You didn't tell us how you met Leo. You only said you met a guy." I pinched my eyebrows down. Interested in what story she had to share with us now.

"Well it didn't exactly play out like what happened to Annabeth." Cals informed.

"Thank goodness." sighed Hazel.

Meanwhile Piper had been enveloped in her phone again. I didn't know exactly was she was doing or who she was texting but I'm pretty sure the person was blonde and had the initials J.G.

"It was when I went in to have my car fixed, I just walked into the shop and there was. Standing shirtless at the counter."

"Doesn't he have any decency at all!" Hazel cried.

"Oh Hazel." Cals chastised. "You're too old fashioned. It's not like he had his pants off."

"Heavens forbid!" the cocoa skinned girl gasped.

I chuckled quietly. Glad that Hazel hadn't changed a stitch over all these years.

And hopefully she never would.

Unlike Piper…..

"Where's his shop again?" I asked, while trying to drag Piper back into the conversation and off her phone.

Callie rubbed her elbow. "It's some auto shop out of town. It's big and the workers there are some of the best in the country."

Piper lifted her eyes momentarily and hummed a reply. But her thumbs kept flickering on the screen of her phone.

"Didn't you say his parents owned it?" Hazel asked while leaning back into the white sofa.

Calypso nodded while fiddling with the tips of her hair that was wound into a braid. "He's awfully sweet to me. Even though he's something of a prankster."

Piper wrinkled her nose while her eyes never left the phone. "Please don't tell me he's like the guys who procrastinate till the last second."

So she's actually paying attention.

"Of course not." Calypso huffed. "I wish you'd stop trying to antagonize him."

Piper just shrugged. "I'm a little suspicious that we haven't met him yet. That's all."

"Not every boy is Jason." Calypso defended.

Piper shrugged again. "I know. And speaking of Jason does anyone mind if he drops in for a bit? His latin lesson was cancelled and he doesn't want to drive all the way back home before the company event starts with his parents."

My skin was bristling with every word she spoke. My hands clenching down on the innocent armrest of the chair.

This was supposed to be our gal night.

Ours. Not his.

Even though Jason's my friend, I still want private friendship time with my BFF. I just never get that anymore. BECAUSE of Jason freakin Grace.

"That's okay with me." Calypso replied indifferently while taking her phone out in turn.

Probably to talk to Leo.

Hazel would go down next.

Once Jason arrived they'd flick on a movie and there'd be no talking whatsoever. Piper would cuddle and giggle with Jason and the other two would ignore it by either watching the movie or their phones, talking with their boyfriends.

Meanwhile I would sit there in quiet agony waiting patiently for the blonde superman to get his ass out.

I didn't want to wait around. I didn't want to feel frustrated with him or Piper while they were together on a night meant only for us girls.

I just wanted to leave.

I could. I thought tentatively. I could leave and hang out with Percy tonight.

The idea seemed so much better than sit here for three hours and wait out Piper and Jason's cuddles and pet names.

Why don't I just leave? I looked toward the door temptingly.

I mean, it's not like I can't come back later. After this place is clear of him.

With a surge of rebellious nature, I acted on the thought.

"Oh my gosh!" I feigned surprise. "I forgot to turn on Burtwis's lamp! He'll freeze!"

Calypso looked at me with wide eyes. "Will it hurt him?" she asked, genuinely concerned for my tortoises health.

I nodded vigorously and grabbed my bag. "I gotta go. I'll be back once I turn it on!" I spoke hurriedly, acting as if I actually needed to go.

"Alright!" Piper called behind me. "Drive safe, text me to tell me how he's doing!"

"I will!" I called just as the elevator doors closed.

A shiver of giddiness warmed my veins. I smirked derpishly at the buttons filed neatly on the wall while leaning against the panels of mirror.

I felt a little devilish for ditching like that. But for the first time, I was leaving my friends early to go home.

Home because I liked it there. Home because Percy made it that way.

When I stepped out into the chilly breeze a sense of freedom had flown into my body. No loneliness was holding me back.

I was even happy on the bus. The bus. A stinky bus. A bus because I had forgotten that Piper had driven me and I had to bus back home.

Oh well.

I was too happy.


Even before I put the keys in the lock I knew something was up.

There was more than one voice in my apartment. One was indisputably Percy's.

While the other was higher, more feminine. My esophagus knotted tightly, creating a lump in my throat at the thought of Percy bringing home a girlfriend while he knew I was away. Silently, I slipped my hand onto the cold dulled metal of the handle and turned it softly.

"Please, just get out." Percy was saying before I saw him. Irritation meddling in his tone. "If Annabeth comes back then I'm screwed. She's been generous enough to me as it is and I don't want her to kick me out."

"C'mon Perce." the girl spoke teasingly. "You didn't tell us you moved. We were just curious."

As I opened the door quietly and stood in the frame I saw two strangers dawdling in my apartment.

A boy, short and skimpy with pasty olive skin and thick black hair was curiously going through the cupboards. Opening each of the worn wooden panels and curving his head to explore every nook. Meanwhile a girl was lazily perched on the edge of the counter, noshing on a green apple while her feet swung under her childishly.

She looked like the kind of girl you saw at a trash party. Spiky black hair, electric blue eyes lined thickly in eyeliner, leather fingerless gloves, leather jacket and combat boots. The two piercings jutting out of her eyebrow and the wolf tattoo that seemed to be crawling up the side of her neck didn't make my eyes bat once. I was officially used to that style.

"Thalia. Please. I don't want to get in trouble with her." Percy continued, his back to me and completely unaware of where I was.

The girl, Thalia, however had seen me as soon as I came in. For a brief moment we made eye contact.

Her perfectly relaxed figure never changed but her features took on some smug mischievousness. Somehow, just by using her eyes she made one message clear.

Keep Quiet.

Then, taking another crunching bite of her apple she smirked at Percy. "Oh? And what does this Annabeth look like?"

I could see Percy cross his arms deliberately. "You don't need to know." his voice hardening.

"Are you sure?" Thalia continued while sitting back leisurely.

"Thalia, haven't you been stalkerish enough?"

"Well, just making a rough guess on what her place looks like I'd assume that she's a blonde." The girl looked thoughtful and I stifled a chortle. Liking whoever the heck this person was already.

"Curly hair perhaps. Maybe tallish, a bit shorter than you Perce. Mmmhh I would think she would have a nice jawline. Grey eyes…."

"How did you do that?" Percy had taken two steps closer to the girl, his back still to me. "I mean you almost described her perfectly!"

The hollow faced boy who had now been watching for one whooping minute shot Percy a withering look before rolling his eyes and mumbling. "Dude, she's literally right behind you."

Percy spun around on his heels and stared at me in shock while the color drained from his face slowly.

"Annabeth?!" he sputtered while his eyes darted to Thalia and back in a blink. "This- It's- I didn't bring them here. Or like invite them!"

"Well you should more often." I scoffed at him. "It's not a sin to have friends over."

Percy visibly relaxed while Thalia offered me a fist bump which I took.

"Man, the look on his face! That was priceless." Thalia grinned at me. "By the way. Glad you're not a bitch about us being here."

Her in-your-face attitude didn't surprise me. It fit her perfectly. She was the carbon copy of a rebellious teenager. The perfect image of what society called Punk. She fit that bill.

I shrugged and slipped my bag off my shoulders. "Eh, it's fine. I'm just glad to know that Percy actually has friends." I teased sending him a smirk while he pouted at me.

"What?" Thalia acted scandalized. "Percy's never talked about his dear faithful friends?"

I shook my head tragically. "Only on rare occasions have I heard him even utter your names."

The boy leaning against the counter snorted. "Well at least Thalia has finally found someone else to tease Percy with her."

I craned my head to the side to get a good look at him. His eyes bore into my sockets but I looked him up and down all the same. The way his clothes hung drearily off his body, the bony fingers clasped on the counter edges and the glinting ring of a skull.

That part seemed to be a reoccurring theme. He had a skull shirt, skull belt, and skull studs on his thinner less expensive leather jacket.

"And what is that leaning against my counter?" I asked skeptically.

"That." Thalia said, stealing Percy's show. "Is a malnourished being who has no sunshine to give and likes to scare little children. That is a Nico."

I offered him a polite wave and looked back to Percy who seemed a little weirded out on how things had played out.

"What are you doing here?" Percy asked while looking perplexed. "You said you'd be out overnight."

I opened the fridge and nosed through it while feeling all three sets of eyes on my back. "Well, Piper decided to let her boyfriend come over and I didn't exactly want to watch them cuddle and croon at each other so I ditched. I'll go back though, after he leaves of course." I grabbed a little cup of yogurt and shut the door with my hip.

Shooed Nico out of the way and picked out a spoon from the cutlery drawer. I was surprised on how coolly I was with strangers in my apartment. Somehow the idea didn't bug me. Any friends of Percy were fine.

While I sat on the corner of the sofa, Thalia twisted her body around and stared at me weirdly.

Almost as if she wanted me to ask;


Thalia offhandedly shrugged. "I'm just wondering how this dork right here." she jammed a thumb in Percy's direction. "Could've moved into here, with a girl like you. He hasn't told us a thing."

Percy chuckled nervously and ran a hand through his hair. "Funny story actually-"

"Perce, you had your chance. Let Annabeth tell us." Thalia intervened while she flopped one leg carelessly over the other.

Eating my yogurt slowly I shrugged casually. "I was pretty much just walking down the street and then Percy handcuffed himself to me. Took almost a full day to get it off."

An unforeseen moment of silence made Thalia's blank expression seem priceless as the seconds ticked by.

Suddenly her head tilted back in an eruption of laughter that filled the little apartment area. She slapped the counter with her black nail polished hand and curled forward in an effort to stop the stream of laughs.

Nico looked indifferent to the whole situation, other than a slight smirk and moving his hands into the depths of his pockets.

Percy pouted. "Well you were the one who pepper sprayed me and then punched me unprovoked!" he defended cheaply over his friends howls.

Thalia's laughter intensified. "You pepper sprayed him?! I like you Annabeth!"

I crossed my arms after setting my yogurt on the counter and smirked at him mischievously. "And then after that you dragged me across town to a closed auto shop."

"That's really not as bad as when you crawled onto the fire escape outside the window of my apartment and watched me sleep."

"Gee whiz Percy." I rolled my eyes sarcastically. "None of this would've happened if you just hadn't handcuffed me."
"Alright, alright we get it." Nico intervened while Thalia was almost rolling off the counter from giggles. "You're both weird and creepy. Now are you going to give us an overview of the whole story?"

Percy and I eyes met and we shared an amused smile.

"Alright." I proclaimed. "But first someone's gonna have to make a snack."


After all was said and done. And the dishes were in the sink and the door locked tight and the gentle smell of leather a faint cigarette smoke lingered, Percy and I wound up talking in my room. The blanket of darkness around us because both of us were too lazy to just turn the light on.

Both of us staring at the dark ceiling and commenting on Thalia and Nico.

"They seem like nice people" I shrugged while my eyes wandered over all the posters, and magazine clips hanging on my walls.

Percy laughed. "They are, even though they'd never admit to it."

I let a comfortable pause between us while listening to the comforting hum of Burtwis's heat lamp.

"So… they never knew that Gabe abused you?" I asked tentatively.

Percy stiffened beside me guardedly before letting it go in one somber sigh. "Ya. I never told them. I guess I just didn't want to be put into a foster home or some crap."

I bit my lip in thought while running some fingers through my curls. Again, my eyes wandered around the posters that I'd already memorized.

"Percy?" I asked. Hoping my questions wouldn't be dismissed.

"Yeah?" he was looking up at all the posters too. His hands comfortably behind his head has he lay next to me.

"How long did Gabe abuse you?" the soft sound of my own voice sounded so foreign. Feeling a little obtuse for asking such a private question.

Percy puffed some air out of his cheeks. The world weary sound in his voice made my heart squeeze lightly.

"Well, my Mom married Gabe when I was around five. It started somewhere around there I guess."

"Twelve years?" I breathed in shock, twisting my head around to look at him alarmed.

Percy just shrugged like it was no big deal. "I can't remember exactly how old I was. And some years were better than others. It really depended on a lot of things."

I whistled softly. "And you didn't tell anyone."

"Well I didn't want my mom to get kicked out of the apartment."

Twiddling my thumbs over my stomach, I thought on this quietly. Remembering that night handcuffed and attempting to stitch Percy up in the bathroom. The scars layering his body in white proof of the amount of pain he had faced.

"Can I ask you another question?" I ventured, glancing at him through the corner of my eye.


"Does the sparrow tattoo between your shoulder blades mean anything?"

Percy was silent for a few seconds. Contemplating his answer probably.

"I got that one when my mom died." he mumbled. This time twisting around to meet my gaze. His intense green eyes serious but mellow. The memories shining through his eyes nostalgically.

"She always used to call herself a little sparrow. When she was at her worst in the hospital she would always say. 'This sparrow may have broken it's wings but it'll heal one way or another.'"

I looked at Percy attentively. Honored that he was actually sharing this with me of all people.

"Once she died, it was like her wings were healed again. And I got this tattoo to remind myself of that."

I nodded in understandment and wiggled a bit closer to him. "What about your other tattoo's?"

"Well" he started thoughtfully. "I got the 'Never Givin in one' just to spite Gabe." he smirked mischievously. "And I got this one because it was my mom's favorite quote."

Percy yanked up his t-shirt sleeve and showed my the letters ringing around his bicep.

The beautifully curved letters were bold against his skin. As if the ink was still fresh as the day it was layered in.

'Μια πρόσωπα ένα πρόσωπο, δεν έχει σημασία πόσο μικρή.' I read.

Pinching my brows at Percy I gave him a perplexed look. "A Dr. Seuss quote?"

"You can read Greek?!" Percy exclaimed.

Rolling my eyes, I scoffed. "It says, 'A person's a person. No matter how small.' that's from Horton hears a who, right? Why did you get it written in greek anyways?"

Percy chuckled. "It would've ruined my reputation at school obviously! A man can't look a person in the face when he had childrens book quote written on his arm!"

Playfully, I swatted his chest. "You softie. Why don't you just fess up to the world. You were the biggest Mama's boy."

Percy pouted. "So what if I was."

I just chortled and examined the tattoo a little closer. Tracing one of the lines delicately with my finger without even thinking.

My mind wandered to a thoughtful place in my mind. Imagining what Percy's mom was like, who she was and how she looked. How her life must've been.

"Can I ask you a question now?" Percy cocked an eyebrow at me.

I nodded quietly while he pointed up to the wall in a sort of accusation. "Why are you creepily obsessed with his weird blonde woman? Everything on your wall is about her!"

Again, I swatted at him irritatedly. "That's not just some 'weird blonde woman.' That happens to be one of the most brilliant CEO's in the world!" I informed.

"Seriously?" Percy looked unimpressed.

"Seriously." I huffed. "She's absolutely incredible. Her businesses are run effectively and perfectly and she controls absolutely everything."

"What's her name?"

"Athena Manning." I said proudly.

Ignoring the fact that her last name used to be Chase before she switched it back to her maiden name. Ignoring the fact that she used to live here. Ignoring the fact that she used to tuck me in. Used to tell me that she loved me.

But she loved her businesses more.

I sweeped the thoughts from my mind and looked admiring up to my mother's face. My role model.

I could be that successful. I knew I could. I just had to follow in her footsteps.

"Do you idolize her or something?" Percy asked while glancing at the same poster I was looking at.

I nodded with a faint smile. "I really want to work in her architecture firm. It's a sort of dream I have."

Work there. I thought silently. Get to the top. Then she'll recognize me. Know me. Perhaps I may even in some way get her back.

My head was filled with hope of the idea of having her as a mother again. Never was even the thought ridiculous to me.

Sure, I felt distraught when she left. But once she did leave she became so successful so magnificent. I could see why she had bent into the temptation of leaving boring me. The person tying her down to a sinking ship.

But once I worked my way up there, nothing would hold us apart. I would no longer be a dependant little child.

And I was already well on my way of being there. Being accepted as her daughter again.

"That's why you work so hard in school." Percy finally guessed with a dorky grin. "You want to be like her."

I nodded and smiled faintly at him. Amused on how he seemed to share a tiny piece of my excitement while grateful he was sitting next to me.

Suddenly Percy's face contorted into confusion. "Wait, didn't you say you were going back to Piper's?"

It was one of those moments.

The oh crap I forgot my keys, or to turn off the oven moments. I guess I was just enjoying being at home so much that I forgot.

I blanked. "Oh shit. I totally forgot."

Hurriedly, I checked my phone for the time but instead came up with a face full of text messages from Piper.

6:15: Beth, u get there yet?

7:10: Jason just left. Is ur tortoise ok?

7:31: Annabeth?

7:46: Are you ok?

7:50: Beth answer me!

8:03: wats goin on over ther?

8:47: Im worried for u.

9:02: Annabeth pleese answer!

9:08: Annabeth! I'm seriously startin to think you got kidnapped or something. You said you'd text!

9:15: If you don't answer by 10 then I'm coming over to check on you. Got it?!

9:25: pleeeessseee jjuuustt answer!

9:40: Come on annieee

9:56: I'm coming over. Just please be alright.

For a few seconds I stared at all the texts stony face. Feeling like a complete idiot for turning off my phone while talking to Thalia and Nico.

"Percy." I hissed tensely. "Pipers coming over. You need to hide. Now."

"What?!" Percy exclaimed while sitting up.

"I didn't answer so now she's coming to check up on me!"

"No not that." Percy scoffed with a scorned voice. "Why on earth do I have to hide from one of your friends?!"

I put my phone on my chest and shifted sideways to look at him seriously. "Because Piper is really prejudiced against people like you." I tried not to offend him. But his eyes darkened all the same.

"People like me, huh."

Carefully, I reached out my hand and touched the flat black earring in his earlobe. Trying to get my point across without using words that would upset him.

Percy grabbed my wrist near his face. Not roughly or harshly… almost tenderly.

His eyes were searching mine with a sort of attentiveness that I'd never seen before. As if he really cared.

I sighed heavily. Trying to find the words.

"Percy…. It's just that you… you look like the kind of guy who would throw a rock through a window. Piper will completely freak out if she sees you here."

"But why do I have to hide? Are you ashamed that I live here now?" His thumb softly rubbed the skin of my forearm.

I tried to ignore it. "No, heavens no Percy. It's just that….. Remember how I first reacted when we met? Piper will react the same way. Maybe even worse. She'll be on my back to kick you out as fast as I can."

"But she can't control you." Percy pointed out while the grip on my wrist tightened protectively.

I squeezed my eyes shut. "I know Perce. She doesn't. But I also don't want to make a rift in a friendship that I've had since preschool."


Knockity knock knock. Sound of knuckles on wood were at the front door. A little rushed and rapid, telling me exactly who it was.

"Please." I whispered desperately while scooting in closer to him. My hand on his cheek. "For my sake."

Percy blushed lightly while he pursed his lips. Then he nodded slowly.

The knocking continued.

"Where's the best place to hide?" he breathed, tickling my forearm.

"Under your bed. They never go into that room." I instructed while sitting up and hopping off my mattress.

Knock knock knock knock.

"Coming!" I called out. "I'm coming!"

Intentionally I rubbed my eyes to screw up the make up a bit, making me look very tired.

When I flicked the lock and opened the door, I stared out to three dubious looking faces.

Piper scowled at me. "Why didn't you answer!" she hissed. "I was worried sick!"

I tried to wave them off with slumped shoulders. "Sorry." I said through a fake yawn. "Accidently fell asleep."

Piper let herself in while embracing me in a squeezing hug. "Don't do that again!" she breathed. Worry evaporating from her voice as she spoke.

"I won't." I promised. My heart swelling a tad with glee at how much my friends cared about me.

Stepping back, Piper sighed with a disappointed look. "I guess our gal night is off then. I was just about to bring out the face masks too."

My jaw hung slack for a couple of seconds. "You invited Jason over though!" I pointed out.

Piper shrugged, while Cals and Hazel walked in. "It was only for like, an hour."

"Actually, he was there for three." Hazel piped in helpfully.

"Funny." I deadpanned. "I was literally asleep for only three hours."

Piper scowled at the floor with disappointment.

Sighing, I leant against the wall. "Piper, it's not the end of the world. There's always next week for gal night." I pointed out.

Piper sagged defeatedly. "Ya, I guess you're right."

Cal sat down on the back of the sofa. "Well we could always continue gal night here. I mean we are all here anyways."

My heart plummeted in a spiralling motion towards the ground. Percy would never be able to hide all night. I couldn't force him too either.

"You could." I shrugged nonchalantly. "But I think I might be coming down with something."

Warily, the three took a step back simultaneously. As if they were all germaphobes.

They just don't want to get sick and miss school.

"Really?" Piper asked.

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms over my stomach and feigned the half lidded look of nausea.

"Usually I don't sleep so much Pipes. I don't know what's up with me today."

It's hard not to compliment myself on my lying capabilities. Recently I have become a very good liar. That's a fact.

"I guess we'll leave you to sleep than." Calypso pushed off the sofa and headed for the door.

"Ya." Piper sighed. "Hope you feel better soon." She gave me an air hug and stood beside the door formally while waiting for Hazel.

Hazel however was caught up at looking at my wrought iron coat hook with my various hats and coats hanging like limp bodies from its branches.

She pointed curiously to something on it and said quiet innocently. "Why do you have a coat like that Annabeth?"

My eyes hooked onto the stand in confusion. What did she mean?

Oh snap.

On the top hook, hanging drearily and lustless was Percy's studded leather coat. Shining slightly in the lamp light. The sight of it jarred me terribly. Making my heart drop a beat.

How could I be so stupid as to leave that in sight?

"Well…" I was blanking for time. Trying to dig some excuse up out of my brain. "Remember when I told you about the handcuffing thing?"

All three of their heads bobbed.

"That… that guy left the coat behind." A weak lie really. No backing for it.

"But why keep it?" Piper asked perplexed.

I shrugged. "If anyone were to break in, they'd think someone tough lived here and best skedaddle."

It took a few moments for them to accept my explanation. And even longer for them to leave. By the time they did go I was relieve.

"You can come out now!" I called down the hall while leaning against the door. My heart still beating like a drum.

Is the rest of my life going to be like this?


"Shit," I swore as my car bubbled and choked instead of coming to life. A distasteful grinding noise coming from the engine felt like sandpaper against my ears.

I depended on this car to get to work. I depended on this car period. It was my chariot. It was my means of living. It was the one my dad left behind. It was as ancient as could be, but it was mine.

And as the current, it didn't work.

A little pissed and frost bitten, I made my way back inside. Grumbling in the elevator and murmuring to myself back to the apartment.

Percy looked surprise when I opened the door again roughly and flopped beside him on the sofa with an aggravated grunt.

"Weren't you… going to work?" he asked while I curled into a fetal position in the corner of the couch.

"I was." I grumbled. "But the car's broken again."

"Shouldn't you call someone then?" he asked while glancing at me from the corner of his eyes. Only tube television babbled away while I stared at him.

"Don't have enough money to get it fixed again. It's almost as if the car wants to die." I pulled the hood of my coat over my head and pouted.

"I bet Leo will charge less to fix it." Percy suggested with a tilt of his head.

I peeked at him with my lips pursed. "You think so?"

He shot me a white smile. "I know so! Leo's just that kind of person."

Scowling momentarily I glared at him. "Isn't this the same Leo who was supposed to 'get us out of these handcuffs'. That Leo?"

Percy didn't falter to send me a smirk. "The very same."

I contemplated on this seriously. Sending Percy a thoughtful look as I mulled over whether it was going to be worth it or not. Percy just put a hand through his messy locks and straightened his t-shirt.

"Alright." I sighed. "I'll get it towed to Leo's. But you're coming with me." I declared.

Percy shrugged. "Naturally."

Fifty minutes later I was freezing and standing on the same doorstep that Percy Jackson surprised me with an apology and some decent logic in the situation we were in. The situation that felt so long ago.

However, this time, the neon light was flashing and the little sign read 'open'. What a relief.

With a sturdy tug I opened the metal and glass door to a little shop that stunk of gasoline and rubber.

The red carpets sloppily plopped on the floors were covered in footprints of salt stains. Car parts, washers, and springs and tubes were packaged into little bags and hung orderly on a wall to the left while black new tires were displayed to the right. Those classic plastic cushioned metal legged chairs were lined against the window with cheap celebrity magazines on each seat. Presumably for anyone waiting for their car to be fixed.

One of the fluorescent tube lighters would occasionally flicker above, while the grey/blueish counter in the center of the tiny shop had one outdated computer on it that buzzed like a wasp in your ear.

I was surprised at how well kept the place was. From the outside it looked so dingy and gross. But now standing inside the store, it seemed like the owners really did care.

Two hallways plummeted backward on either side of the counter/checkout zone. From the noise and whirrs coming from the left one I assumed it was where the cars were worked on. I couldn't guess where the right one led to.

Percy stamped the snow off his feet on the mat and looked around before giving a loud whistle.

"Hey Leo!" he called afterwards. "You here?"

A clunking sound of someone walking down the hall met my ears and soon a short latino teen came around the corner with a huge smile dawning on his face.

"Hey Perce! Long time no see ma man!" His wildly curly brown locks seemed to bounce as he moved while his plain simple white tee shirt was sweat and grease stained. Steel toed boots clunked against the ground with every step while his tool heavy belt hung over his blackened jeans. All elements of his clothing looking way too big on his body.

"Been a bit busy lately." Percy shrugged while stepping forwards to give one of those weird man hugs.

"I'll say!" Leo joked. "Is the hot chick with you your girlfriend?"

I almost doubled over to feign barfing just to tease Percy. "Heavens no!" I cried instead before Percy could branch off on his own little jokes and flirts. I shot him a warning look just in case.

"Then who are you?" the question was asked with a mix between curiosity and a tone that said 'what the hec is a girl like you doing here?'.

"This is Annabeth. My… room mate?" Percy looked at me for clarification.

Are we really just roommates? I wondered. Friends ya, but more than just friends…. Definitely not lovers.

I wish...

Leo broke my train of thought by sticking out a black, grease covered hand. "Well, nice to meet you."

I gave him a polite smile and waved with a facial expression that said I'm not touching that hand.

Leo just laughed humored and put his hands on his hips. "Well Perce, What can I do you for?"

Percy gestured toward me in one jerky head bob. "Annabeth's car broke down. Think you can fix it up?"

Leo clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Naw, not tonight. I have a date. She'll be here any minute."

"Better start to clean up then." I advised helpfully with a skeptical look.

Leo just rolled his eyes while he spun around on his heels and reached over the counter. Quickly, he snatched up a piece of paper and jotted down something with a fickle pen. Then thrusting the piece of paper in my hand he pointed to the hallway he came from.

"If you go through the shop to the parking lot, and put the note under the wiper of your car, I might be able to get to it tomorrow." he informed.

I nodded mutely and made my way down the hall while Percy and Leo started up useless small talk. Pushing passed a baby blue metal door, I scampered passed a few workers loudly clunking away at the cars and watched with wide eyes at all the equipment and pieces, lying about the garage. By the time I reached the lot my ears were relieved. After that, it was only a matter of finding my silver little outdated car and sticking the note under the windshield wiper. Than I ran back inside, getting away from the dastardly cold.

While I was just making my way back down the hall my buzzing ears picked up something. A voice. Talking with Leo and Percy.

A girl's voice.

Could it be? I thought while wondering if I really did recognize the feminine tone.

Quietly, I pressed myself against the wall and crept up the side. Trying to take a peek of the mystery girl without giving away that I was present.

I angled my head around the corner and almost gave a gasp.

There she was.


Leo's arm slung casually around her waist. A big smile adorning her face while her braided caramel hair hung down her back.

I stood up straight in shock. My tongue unable to grasp any words.


Cals jumped out of Leo's arm like a frightened hare and looked at me with the same expression I was giving her. Her wide eyes focused on me as if she were panicking.

"Hey, Annabeth!" Leo grinned, completely oblivious. "You know Cals?"

In realization, I looked Leo up and down again.

This, was not what I was suspecting all the times Calypso was talking, boasting even about her man. I had expected to see a super guy. Uniformed in a classy company mechanic jumpsuit and sitting in a shining shop outside of town that did big brand car tune ups. Lincolns and Jaguar cars lined classily on the side of the building. A loud but humble laugh, joking but caring, and everything Cals had gushed about.

I couldn't get passed my head that the Leo I just met, with filthy hands, skinny arms and a wry sense of humor was Calypso's boyfriend.

"Ummm Callie?" I looked at her in question. So confused and not sure what to really do.

Calypso gave me a cornered look. "Annabeth." she said seriously. "We need to talk."


"Alone and like, now. As in right now." She jogged forward and grabbed my forearm, dragging me towards the door.

"I'll be right back Leo." Calypso informed urgently.

"I guess I'll be too?" I looked at Percy who was just as confused as I was and gave him a 'What can you do?' shrug.

Outside in the frigid wind, Calypso sighed heavily. Sheepishly she looked at the salt sprinkled sidewalk and shoved her hands in her coat pockets. "I guess you've figured it out." she murmured.

"That your boyfriend doesn't work at a big auto repair shop outta town, that he isn't extremely well mannered and gentlemen like, and that the only thing that you said about him that was true was his joking ways? Ya, I'm pretty sure I have it in the bag." I crossed my arms with a smirk.

Calypso pursed her lips and glanced up at me once. She shuffled her feet "I just… I'm sorry Annabeth. You know how Piper is. I felt like I had to lie."

I could feel a weight lift off my shoulders.

Finally, someone else knew the feeling of being just a little pressured by Piper.

It wasn't only me.

"I mean." Cals continued, finally meeting my gaze. "If Piper ever met Leo, she'd be so critical. About him skipping school, and his low income job and his manners… She'd probably want him to break up with me and…." tears were gathering in her almond eyes. Threatening to spill over.

And that never happens to Calypso. Calypso never ever cries. She's strong and faithful and sweet. But she doesn't cry.

If she was about to cry, that meant Leo meant an awful lot to her. And I could understand that.

"Whoa, whoa." I stopped her before she got too emotional and gave her a big hug. "I completely understand Cals." I spoke into her coat. Relishing just hugs.

Calypso sniffed. "You do?" she asked while pulling away from the hug and wiping underneath her eyes carefully.

I nodded. "Piper shouldn't make you feel like you should lie." I informed, even though I was the biggest hypocrite because of Piper too. "She doesn't mean to hurt you, obviously, she just-"

"Thinks she knows what's best for us." Callie finished for me. Relief flooding her eyes gratefully.

I shrugged. "It's kinda hard to tell her she doesn't know what's best for us when she's so sure right?"

Cals nodded while glancing back inside at the boys who were looking at us in confusement and a bit of worry. Percy met my eyes and I pursed my lips.

"Speaking of lies." I murmured. "See the guy Leo's talking to?"


"That's Percy….."

I think it took a couple of moments to register in Calypso's mind. But when it finally did, she gaped at me. "The dude who handcuffed himself to you!?"

"The very one." I answered. While glancing in at the black haired boy.

"But-...but.. You described him as such a thug!" Calypso looked at me questioningly then back inside at Percy.

"How do you think Piper would've reacted if I told her a guy about to be arrested, with a piercing and tattoos turned out to be a decent human being." I put it in a way that would get through easily.

Calypso blinked, trying to figure things out. "Makes sense I guess." she muttered. "But why is he with you here today? Is he your boyfriend or something?"

I gagged for show. "No, for crying out loud, no. He's my roommate."

"Roommate?! He's LIVING with you?!" Calypso hissed. Her eyes were wide. Not in a hostile way. Just completely surprised by the turn of events.

"I was lonely, okay? And Percy… I don't know. He was in a bad place. It just made sense." I explained, still looking at the him through the window.

"Do you trust him?" Calypso asked nonchalantly. I could see her eyes scanning over Percy with scrutiny on her features. Deducting him from top to bottom.

I nodded with a ghost smile. Remembering the night we hid from Gabe. How close I came to dying. "Of course, he's a good person."

Calypso grinned at me. "That's all I needed to hear."

"Now let's get back inside. Its freakin freezing."


"What are you doing?" I exclaimed when I peered into Percy's room and saw him cross legged in front of my father's box of treasures.

The light from the window made the room way more lively than I remember while the ancient crevices on the bookcase and bed frame gave the atmosphere an old feeling.

Percy had a WW1 dogfighter model in his hand while a bunch of other trinkets and documents were scattered around him in a semicircle.

"Your dad was some nerd." Were the first words out of his infuriating mouth.

"Put it back." I hissed, hating the sight of everything removed from that box. "That's my dad's personal items!"

"Toy planes?" Percy challenged with a deadpanned face. "Seriously?"

"Seriously! Those are collectible models! And what the heck are you doing rummaging around his stuff!"

Percy shrugged while setting the plane back into the box gingerly. "I just thought that maybe something cool would be in here. That's all."

Rolling my eyes, I carefully stepped over all the stuff laid out and made a spot for myself right beside him.

"These are cool." I informed while gently lifting the model bi-plane out of the box. "This was a World War 1 Sopwith Camel. The most popular fighter plane during the war. It could do flips and dives and sharp turns even though it had a weak motor compared to today's technology."

Percy huffed and his shoulders sank. "How is that 'cool'."

"Only one in five pilots lived through just two weeks of military activity. You had to be the best of the best or you were done for. It was as if the plane chose who would live and who wouldn't."

I let my fingers graze over the wings delicately while remembering when my dad had brought it home. Excited and eager, he had unboxed it and told me the entire history behind it during supper.

I was just happy to see him upbeat about something. After mom had left he had been pretty down on himself.

Gently, I set it on the carpet beside me while my eyes scanned the other articles of things lying useless on the ground.

I recognized most of the things.

Letters, news articles, a small sack with his grandfather's broken pocket watch. All the things in his life that he treasured put in one place.

And he would never just leave this stuff behind.

Percy picked up a newspaper clipping and made a face at it. "First ever Historian Convention to hit New York? Yeesh, your Dad is such a nerd. Not unlike you though." he teased.

I laughed lightly and took the paper, yellow from age, and examined it.

"He was so excited for this." I smiled faintly. Memories flooding back into my mind. "He didn't stop talking about it for weeks on end. And once he finally went he couldn't wait for next year. Almost like it was his new Christmas."

Percy never stopped watching me. He green eyes set warmly on my figure while his undercut hawk looking more messed up than ever. Realizing he was staring, he blushed and cleared his throat softly.

"And what about all the letters?" Percy asked, gesturing to different pieces of paper scattered around us. "And why is there white out on them?"

Tenderly, I picked up a paper and it crackled under my fingers softly. "These." I smiled warmly at it. Remembering the days that they were treasured. "Are love letters my Dad wrote to my mom while they were in University. The poor dork was too shy to talk to her upfrontedly so he wrote to her instead." a feeling of warmth blossomed in my chest. The memories of my parents sitting together at my bedside and reminiscing over each letter. "When my mom left… he was so broken. He wiped out everything that had her name on it. Including these."

Carefully my eyes wandered over each word. Admiring the swooping y's and the sharp w's of my Dad's unique penmanship.

"You really love your dad. Don't you." Percy murmured.

When my eyes met his was I stunned with the amount of admiration and sincerity was in them. Looking at me like I was currently the only person in existence.

I looked back at the little letter in my hand. It's words no longer meaning anything.

"Yeah. I guess I do." I muttered with something between a smile and a grimace on my face.

"Is he ever coming back?" Percy asked quietly, I could tell his eyes were still on me.

I pursed my lips and nodded stubbornly. "He said he was. He promised he was." I exclaimed. "And Dad never broke a promise."

"When's the last time he even called you?" Percy was asking all the wrong questions.

It was hard enough to stay positive as it was. To truly believe he was coming home. But when someone else questions it, the facts are placed in front of your face. And your faith starts to wane.

"Last April." I muttered. "To wish me a happy easter."

"He didn't even call at Christmas?"

The memory flashed of me sitting by the phone patiently. Eagerly awaiting a phone call, his phone call.

But it never came.

I shook my head miserably. Focused on the carpet below me rather than Percy's concerned eyes. Tears welling, blurring my vision as I bit down on my tongue and forced the swelling emotions back down. Crying was not an option.

"My mom used to think that." Percy scowled. "Used to think that my Dad was going to come back one day. It takes a special kind of person to still believe in people who disappoint us the most."

My eyes found his again with my lips pursed harshly.

"I think you're that special kind of person Annabeth. I really do."

Smiling bashfully I swatted Percy playfully. "Shut Up you Seaweed Brain. You're making me blush."

Percy didn't seem as humored. He was still just looking at me like that.

Making me wonder what was going on in his mind.


Valentine's day.


I could barely kept my lunch down while all my friends were sitting beside their significant others. Either snogging or getting pretty close to it. Callie sat next to me as usual now. Her and I had become impeccably close in the weeks following that mechanic shop find out. But even she was soooo occupied with her phone. Leo apparently didn't go to school. To caught up in working at the shop day in and day out.

A drop out in other words.

Each one of my gal pals had a rose they would unashamedly twirl in between their fingers while they popped chocolates into their mouth every class and cooed over the matching stuffed animals they were given.

By the time I got home, I was certain that I would be allergic to chocolate and heart shapes. Or just plain allergic to Valentines in general.

Although I did get a few of those cards…. I remembered. The ones that were sloppily shoved into the sides of my locker. Half bent and nearly coated in an uneven layer of glitter.

But cards don't taste good...

Flinging open the door, I half expected to see Percy eating chocolates and reading cards. Lord forbid I even saw him fiddle with a stuffed animal. I'm glad to say that I didn't see any of that. Instead I saw him flying down the hallway on a skateboard. Wheels rattling over the hardwood obnoxiously.

A skateboard, something I swore he didn't have when he came to my place.

"Where the heck did you get that thing?" I asked in alarm while chucking my bag onto the armchair.

Percy looked back at me in surprise. "Oh, uh. Sorry. Ya. It's something Nico gave to me." he scratched the back of his neck before knocking the thing up into his hands.

"Apparently his Dad's trying to make amends with gifts, and this was one of them." Percy twisted the skateboard over in his hands to show me the underside.

The glossy finish protected an intricate laser blue graphic design. I couldn't tell if the design was supposed to actually be anything besides just boxes and lines.

I snorted teasingly. "What, Nico didn't want to give you chocolates instead?"

Percy shrugged, "Nah he just wanted this taken off his hands. He was going to trash it."

I rolled my eyes and swatted his shoulder. "I was kidding Seaweed Brain. It's Valentine's day remember?"


Maneuvering around him, I made my usual walk to the fridge for my usual after school snack.

When I turned around again however, Percy was rummaging through my bag like a little squirrel. Tossing my books and binders out carelessly with a clatter.

"What are you doing!?" I huffed. Ready to walk over and retch my precious schoolbag outta his clumsy hands.

Percy sent a smirk over his shoulder. "Looking for chocolate obviously."

I rolled my eyes while tugging at the corner of the yogurt flap. "Sorry to disappoint but I didn't get any you idiot."

"Well you did get something." Percy twisted around at me to smirk with the stupid pink and purple Valentine notes fanned out in his hands.

My face burned as I dropped my yogurt on the counter. "Put those back!" I hissed while making a lunge for them.

Percy dodged and opened the first one teasingly. I snatched at him again but he just moved effortlessly out of the way. That stupid taunting smirk glued to his face.

"Annabeth." he read aloud dramatically. "I see you every day in the halls-" I pounced at him but he scampered back easily. "-your so beautiful. I just don't know what to say.-" swipe, miss. "Makes me believe that you're a perfect princess.-"

"Stop it!" I yelped. Covering my ears while my face was pink. Hot from embarrassment that someone could write this about me. Had they no shame?

"And I just hope that one day…. I could be your Prince." Percy finished. He scowled at the piece of paper in his hands and for a moment I thought he was going to tear it up. Instead, it gave me a chance to grab them and tear the little things to shreds before he could move on to the second little heart shaped note.

Awkwardly Percy stood there. Staring at me. A mix of a scowl and unsettledness on his face.

"Are all of them like that?" he asked with a tone I couldn't read.

I nodded while dropping the flimsy pieces of glittery paper in the trash and heading back to my snack. "All of them have bad grammar and ridiculousness in them. It's disgusting."

Percy fiddled with the wheel of his skateboard absently. Pointedly avoiding my eyes as the silence grew thick.

Somehow, an awkward cloud had started pelting us with discomfort. As if we were strangers all over again.

"Do you even know how to ride that thing?" I asked over my shoulder dubiously. Trying to shake the mood off my skin.

Percy leaned against the counter and examined the sides of his new toy. "Ya, pretty well. My mom gave me one when I was ten."

I pinched my nose up while jamming the spoon into my yogurt. "What happened to that one?"

He shrugged. "Gabe sold it for gambling dough."

My mouth fell open and shut in one gape motion. "And you put up with that guy for twelve years." I snorted. "Seriously."

He shrugged again as if it were no big deal. As if most of his life wasn't screwed up by one horrible being. But more than that, he looked preoccupied. Like he was too busy thinking of something else to bother with even the thought of Gabe.

I started eating my yogurt sourly. Thinking of what I should've done to Gabe when I had a chance. How I had my pepper spray on me and foolishly didn't use it on the old geezer.

Percy met my gaze with just the slightest cock of his head. Curiously he looked at me and the sides of his mouth quirked.

I knew that face.

He had an idea.

"Have you ever ridden on a skateboard?" he asked with a peculiar look on his features. Something between excitement and determination.

"Me?!" I choked.

"Yes you." Percy added sarcastically. "Do you see anyone else in the room princess?"

I glowered at him. "Don't call me Princess or I'll have to-"

"-do some despicable thing to me. Yes I know. Just answer the question."

"Of course not." I scoffed. "I would probably break my neck on that thing."

"Not if I help you." Percy suggested with his brows wriggling.

"No." I put my foot down.

"Aw come on Princess! It'll be fun!" he pestered, giving me big eyes.

"Don't call me Princess. And no."

"Pretty please? I promise I won't let you fall."

"No Percy." I crossed my arms in defiance.

"Just try it once. It can't hurt to try."

Normally I would never break.

But that kind of logic really got to me.

Here was a chance to learn and ride a skateboard. Even though I would never be caught dead on that thing, it irked me that maybe one day in the future I'd get myself into a stupid bet or something and the skill of riding a skateboard might be required.

So ya, I bent.

"Fine." I grumbled. "But if I fall once, then you're doing laundry for a month."


It was another half hour before the lesson even started.

Since Percy thought I needed more space to learn he wanted to drag me to a parking lot that was 'always cleared of snow'. And since we were going outside, I needed to get on my sweater, knitted mittens, grey cloth coat, knitted hat, infinity scarf, big fuzzy socks, boots without heels, and while I was at it, freshen up my makeup.

Because if anyone was going to see me outside, on a blasted skateboard, I might as well look fabulous.

I'll spare you the bits of me shrieking on a four wheel block of wood from hell, and the bits of me cursing at Percy when he let go. I'll also spare the part where my ass kissed the frozen ground just as many times as Percy was able to catch me.

I'll spare you all of that because honestly I'm embarrassed it ever happened, and yet somehow happy that I did it.

That when I finally got the feel of the flow and the movement of the pavement, when I was standing up straight, squealing at the top of my lungs, I felt a little freer than normal. A little lighter a little more rebellious even.

And somewhere after that we met up with Leo and Callie and got a few coffees and hot chocolates and just watched the traffic rush by the cafe window, and the snow drift down in razor thin crystals. Laughing and reliving moments we shared and just overall enjoying eachothers company.

But none of that is really the point to me.

The point is, while I was sitting in the moderately noisy cafe, with my drink warming my mittens and my nose still pink from the cold, almost in a cozy doze, I realized how much my life had improved.

How far I had come from that lonely depressed thirteen year old, sobbing alone in my room because I thought I was alone. (Sad truth: I was)

To sitting there.


Surrounded by friends and trying things I swore I'd never try just a few months ago.

And the funny thing is, all of this change, all of the new happiness that had donned in my life.

Everything that I was joyful about, was thanks to Percy.

The boy who I originally sniffed at for the way he dressed, for getting arrested, for just being who he was.

And now.

I couldn't imagine life without Percy.

He was the one that made my home feel like a home and less like an empty corner.

Without him, I would've never known that Calypso struggled with the same things about Piper.

He pushed me in his Percy ways to make me try things, to experience life, to see more than just school.

And somehow, in that cafe downtown, once Callie and Leo went off for a special VD date, I was able to look across that table and actually tell him thank you. Just for existing in my life. Nothing more.

And that was something that I had never done to anyone before.


It was a Thursday.

Percy was at work.

I was home alone.

It was almost april. I could tell by the earthy smell mingled in the air when I opened the window for a breeze.

Somebody had knocked on the door.

I was prepared for Percy to come back in muttering about his forgetfulness. Or girl guides offering cookies with big eyes I had a hard time rejecting.

I got a totally different person.

Somebody I hadn't seen in person in years, but who layered my walls in choppy cut outs.

Someone I couldn't believe was standing outside my little apartment.

Her short straightened blonde hair pinned back, her black dress pants and blazer top perfectly pressed and tailored to a Q.

Her black high heels pressed together and a neat file of papers at her torso crisply.

My mother hardly even offered me the hint of a smile as I stared at her gobsmacked. Wondering if she were truly there or not. Calculating if mirages were possible in small apartments in New York.

Or maybe I had lost my mind. Not truthfully even in reality anymore and only dreaming up things I so adamantly wished to happen.

Carelessly she marched right past me and glanced around my apartment skeptically before settling her identical grey eyes back on me.

Digging into my soul and sucking the air from my lungs.

A shiver passed over my spine when her same calculating eyes raked up and down my body as if she were reading the label on the side of a can.

I felt exposed. Naked. A bug under a microscope being prodded at and pinched with tweezers and needles.

I was panicking, sweat beading at the back of my neck while every second ticking painfully by made my heart rate pick up a notch. Slowly adding up, until it pounded in my chest like a gorilla banging on the walls of its cage.

Every detail of my appearance was raging in my mind.

How I was wearing sweatpants and a tank top, how my hair was in a sloppy bun and my makeup lazily left on from the day I just faced, how my socks were mismatched and the gritty bandaid on my left pinkie.

In that moment, I wanted to be dressed in my finest. I wanted to be the one who answered the door in a skirt and blouse with my studies splayed out on the counter just so I could impress her.

I wanted to be at my best, to show her who I had become.

Instead she caught me at my worst moment possible.

Murphy's law.

"Well." were the first starchy words out of her mouth. "You've certainly grown."

My mind swelled and throbbed, desperate to say something intelligent. Witty. Something, anything that would make up for the state she so cleverly caught me in.

Instead, I ended up gaping at her like a fish.

A big stupid fish that didn't even have the two brain cells needed to close it's mouth.

"Annabeth, I expect some sort of answer." she chastised with a scowl. "Your father should have raised you better."

Before I could contribute anything, my mother, Athena Manning, viewed the apartment again with a deeper expression of disgust. "Not to mention this decor is unequivocally tacky, drab and a few other words that would like to inform your father. Would you fetch him please? I have precisely 15 minutes left for this meeting."

With my spine as straight as and as tall as I could, I met Athena in the eye with as much boldness and moxy as I could muster. "He's not here at the moment." I managed to say at least elegantly. "Might I take a message?"

Athena sniffed and pulled the file out from under her arm curtly. The yellow flap curling slightly with the pressure of her fingers. "Well then, I'm entrusting you to get these papers signed. I expect them faxed to my office tomorrow at 6 a.m. Am I clear?"

"Yes." I stuttered, robotically clasping the file in my sweaty hands.

"Don't let me down." she spun on her heels and my mind seemed to cry out as she walked out the door frame again.

Again leaving me in this cramped apartment.

"WAIT!" I yelled after her, my heart lurching in protest and the desperate part of me taking over.

Coolly, my mother turned back to me. Her heartless eyes had no warmth for me in them. None at all. Or at least, not anymore...

"A lady doesn't shout, Annabeth." she spoke as if she had smooth stones for vocal cords.

"Sorry." my face heated up, probably looking pudgy and blotchy. Tears stubbornly being held back as pieces of my heart slowly were torn off painfully and fluttering to the floor like dying butterflies.

Nevertheless, I looked at the hardwood with a blurry vision and offered the files back shamefully. Like a disobedient dog waiting for punishment.

"Frederick isn't here." I muttered, my throat feeling like glue from the overpowering emotions of failure swimming around acidically in my gut. "He's on a business trip."

Athena sighed heavily and with a solid ring of scorn and disappointment. "My daughter is an embarrassment." it came out in an under breath scoff. "No style, short minded and very poor mannered." she seemed to almost groan. "I'm sorry you turned out like this Annabeth. I did offer Frederick the means to send you to boarding school."

My bottom lip quivered relentlessly. Trying to hide my face with it tilted downward, toward the unforgiving floor. Dark and worn from years of tread.

What was I thinking?! I could never be like her. She'll never accept me in her firm. ever.

She snatched the file back a little harshly.

I couldn't even muster myself to look her in the face. The unsettled fear and disappointment coiling around my heart like a snake. Squeezing it harshly as if to strangle any life out of me.

"I'll call when I've sorted things out." her hard voice continued. "Seems I have to do everything myself then."

Without even a goodbye, she walked into the hallway.

Her heels creating dull thumps against the thinly carpeted flooring. Slowly fading out of my life again. Each sound resonating back into my head with a vexed shiver. Until her heels were no longer in earshot. The empty silence filling where she had once stood as a mockery to my very existence.

I don't know how long I stood there. Staring helplessly at the floor. A sudden and growing sense of failure and sinking loss soiling my heart. Throbbing in my veins as it settled like a toxic dust of sulfur.

At some point I noticed that my cheeks were soaked and that their was dots of liquid falling and splashing in between my feet. Occasionally hitting my socks in wet splats.

Then I was on my bed. Retching in a zone of sobbing and just crying straight into my pillow. Feeling like the world had caved in on me, betrayed me in some unspoken way. Taking away the only future I had desired like thief stealing the painting away.

Soon I was on my feet again. Painstakingly yanking poster after magazine clipping down and shredding them with my aching fingertips. Tearing through face after face of the person I had so dearly admired. Each one with a purse serious expression. Scowling at me, shaking her head at me.

'You were not raised right.' 'an embarrassment.'

My room became a graveyard of broken dreams in the form of torn paper, shattered CD's and hacked at books. I was grasping, shredding, anything that even had her name on it. Her books, her products, her calibration set. Shattered plastic, ragged paper, snapped pencils littered the floor like debris from a violent tornado.

Everything was knocked over, flipped upside down in attempt to get at these things I had treasured, just to destroy them.

Tears burned on my cheeks while the hollowness in my chest felt overwhelming. Pain of bashed hopes felt like daggers to my mind

I was a wreck. My room was a wreck. My life was a wreck.

And just when I was pulling myself together. Telling myself that I could put everything back the way it was before Percy got home.

And live on.

Pretending like nothing had ever happened.

The phone rung.

The stupid deadly phone rung.

And what she said so emotionlessly over the line annihilated me in more ways than you can ever imagine.

My mother spoke so flippity. As if she were only discussing the dimensions of a support beam, or the calculations of a balanced budget.

Telling me that she had located my father.

In San Francisco.

With a new women.

New kids.

Two little boys to replace me.

Besides, who wanted me to begin with? I was only the product of a failed marriage.

Athena seemed to shrug off the shattered gasp that escaped my lips and continued talking about divorces and things to be settled so she herself could get married.

And I didn't even listen to the rest of the phone call sent from hell. I stumbled down the hall grief stricken, the phone clattering to the floor from my slackening fingers.

I was aiming for my bed. Aiming for a place of comfort. Somewhere I could wrap my emotions up in a cozy blanket and sleep away my worries.

But the pieces of dreams were still littered on the floor. And the filaments of a face I wanted to forget was shielding my bed from myself. Marring it in a way I couldn't muster to overcome.

Staggering, crying and completely miserable I crawled into the tub and curled up. So lost that I couldn't even form a coherent thought.

Hours were spent sobbing into my knees. Crying hard up at the shower head like a pathetic imbecile. The icy coldness of the tub seeping into my skin.

I'm ashamed to say that I let her ways get to me. I fell from the place I built myself up and was reduced to a lonely girl again.

All alone.


I was still in the icy cream colored tub when Percy came whistling in the front door. My eyes red and puffy with the slimist trickle of persistent tears marring my face.

Staring at the plastic blotchy curtains fearfully, I rubbed my eyes and listened intently as Percy called out my name.

"I'm home!" he shouted again. Sounding happy. Lighthearted.

I sniffed and tried to unclog my emotion thick throat. Trying to cover up what I just went through.


I breathed into my soaked sweatpants shakily. Trembling as I heard Percy's uncertain footsteps clunk down the hall, and stop at the door of my room.

"Annabeth?" he asked tentatively. Probably peeking into my room. Probably gaping at the mess I made.

"Annabeth?!" It was more urgent now. A call of panic.

I winced and wiped my eyes harder when Percy tried the handle to the bathroom door and joggled it, sending a sharp metallic bump with every motion.

"Annabeth?! Annabeth, are you in there?!"

"Go away Percy." I managed to say with some clarity in my lungs.

I didn't want his sympathy.

I didn't want him to see me crying.

Crying was never an option for me, so I'd be damned if anyone saw me doing it.

"Annabeth, what's wrong?" he asked concerned, his voice muffled by the door. Pressed against the wood as if he were whispering secrets to an unknown ear.

"Nothing." I sniffed and attempted to stop the tears. Wiping my cheeks with my palms in a childlike manner. "Just go away." my voice echoed off the ceramic tiled walls and re-entered my ears. Taunting me. Telling me just how weak I sounded.

How pathetic.


"Just go!" I snapped. The tears seemingly doubling over my cheeks as a headache formed in my exhausted brain. Wishing that I didn't live as the person I was. A hollow pain in my chest.

Percy's retreating footsteps feeling like pricks to my heart. Reminding me of the sound of my mother's on course foot falls away from me. And Dad's, the day he left. How confident they were. How confident he was.

How confident I was that he was coming home to me.

He lied. He lied.

It took all the self control I had to keep the burbling sobs down. To suppress them in my mouth and curl tighter into a ball. Blocking out the world and the reality I lived in.

The door handle joggled again. Twisted and fiddled with until the door creaked open.

Percy had picked the lock.

Seizing up, I buried my face into my knees. Intent on hiding it from him even though I knew that deep down it was useless.

Percy swept back the shower curtain in one swing of his arm. It clinked and brushed together noisily and a slight gasp escaped his lips. Meeting my ears like a razor to the skin.

"Annabeth? What happened?" he asked again. His voice clear and above me, offering comfort and help.

"Go away." I muttered. "I'm fine."

"No you're not." he uttered "Did someone hurt you?"

Weakly, I shook my head against my knees. Clenching my eyes shut and feeling like darkness was all there was. The darkness behind my eyelids.

"Come on. Please. Get out of the tub and just tell me Annabeth."

I shook my head in response again. Gripping onto my legs tightly.

"Annabeth look at me." Percy muttered quietly.

I refused.

"Annabeth." he repeated. "Look at me."

Defeated, my head tilted upwards to him and met his emerald green eyes almost hopefully. Feeling another tear roll steadily down the side of my cheek. No doubt, leaving a trail of shimmering moisture on my skin. Painfully, my breathed hiccuped relentlessly in my chest.

His figure blurry in my vision while he looked down at me, curled up in the tub. Probably looking like a drowned cat.

"What happened?" he repeated for the third time while hopping over the tub side and settling beside me. His solicitous voice penetrating my bubble of unhappy emotions for a second.

I pursed my lips and bit down on the inside of my cheek. Arranging the words in my mind so that they wouldn't come out in a jumbled cry. So they wouldn't sound like a complaining child.

"My-" I started weakly. "My dad's not- not coming back."

Saying it outloud made it so final, written in stone and shackling me in a fit of betrayal.

It hurt. It hurt so bad just to say that.

And maybe Percy could tell that it did because he paused, then he looped an arm around my waist and leaned forward to tug me into his lap. Yanking me up and hugging me close, pushing me into his chest.

The warmth, his sympathetic touch and gentle squeeze. Even his steady breath on my neck was enough to set my off.

I lost it again.

Crying into his chest like a child and clinging to his shirt, rubbing my worthless tears onto his shoulder. Hiccuping sporadically and choking on my own air.

I don't know how long we sat like that. How long I cried. It seemed timeless to me at least. Percy soothingly rubbing my shoulders while muttering things I couldn't make out. Cramped in the old and stubbornly icy tub.

When my sobs finally subsided, when I sat back and met his eyes in loss, I could feel the rhythm of my heart pushing against my head. Feeding the growing ache in my mind.

"Start from the top?" he offered, his voice vibrating in his chest and in a strange way that consoled me a bit. Because it reminded me that I wasn't helplessly hugging a stuffie. It was a person.

A person who cared about me.

"Athena Manning." I whispered hoarsely. "She's my mom."

"Your mom?" Percy met my eyes again while shooting a shocked face.

"Ya.…. She… she came here, looking for my dad to sign some dumb papers." I sniffed thick voiced while wiping my eyes. Ignoring the fact that I was sitting on Percy, alone in a bathtub. "I wasn't ready for her. I was shocked. I ended up giving her the impression that I was a sloppy nobody. She… she said I wasn't raised right. She… she said I was… an-an embarrassment."

Tenderly, Percy wiped a tear off my cheek with his hand. His ever attentive and concerned eyes on me. And a little flame of anger erupted in his pupils. Well concealed but still there.

"She found out where my dad's been all this time." I murmured regretfully. Knowing that Percy's suspicions were right and I was just too blind to see it. "He, he's married again. Has two sons. -He's been living there for the past three years."

A patient silence. Percy encouraging me to continue with his eyes.

"I-I'm such an idiot. Thinking that maybe I'd get them back. Maybe- maybe" I sighed heavily, biting down on my lower lip as my breath hiccuped.

Tugging at the corner of my tank top, I settled to just stare blankly at the shampoo bottles poised in the corner. The ones Athena recommended in her interview in Business magazine.

"You're better than your mom." Percy spoke softly but firmly. Like he was stating a fact with a tad of sadness swirling in his voice.

I turned back into his intense gaze. The look on his face seemed determined while his jaw was set hard.

"The billionaire who might possibly be the most capable and powerful person in the world?" I joked weakly while trying to get a point across. Chuckling hoarsely, I finally was able to dry the tears. Finally able to at least pretend that I was alright.

Spoiler: I wasn't.

"Better doesn't mean powerful, Princess." he whispered seriously.


Percy used it so endearingly. As if he were giving it to me as a pet name. Not as an insult.

The way he was looking at me, just like that night when I had to make him hide.

Like I was all that mattered to him.

A tickling sensation erupted in my stomach, sending chills down my limbs while I couldn't help but blush.

"She left after seeing a first impression of you." he murmured a bit bitterly, his green eyes set solely on me. "But you…you're…you're so much better than anyone I've ever met. You got passed first impressions. And if your parents are too blind to see it, if they're too ignorant to see just how amazing you are, then that's their loss." he paused to gently brush a curl behind my ear. "And its gonna hurt. " Percy muttered. "Knowing that they're not behind you. But that's not your fault. They don't….. They don't see you like I do…" he trailed off. His face contorting into concentration as if he were trying to find the right words to fit in the crossword puzzle.

"But my Dad." I choked, eyes blearing over again. "He didn't even bother to tell me he was married again -or had more kids. He wasn't like her. I thought he wasn't like her. I th- thought he'd never do that to me."

Tightening his muscular arms around me, Percy pressed a doleful kiss to my temple. Holding me as if I might just fall off the edge of the world at that moment. "I know." he whispered. "I know. But it's always the people we love who do the stupid things."

Pathetically, I rubbed my face into his shirt. "Dad-dad never used to do stupid things." I whimpered. "Never did stupid things."

"Than he'll probably be the first to regret it." Percy muttered encouragingly. "No one can not regret leaving you."

Sniffling, I looked up at him red eyed. Pondering mellowly on everything. Listening slowly to the beat of his heart.




I woke up on the couch feeling like shit.

A forlorn and doubtful pit buried deep in the chambers of my chest. Throbbing with every beat of my heart. Throat thick and eyes dry. Memories of fragmented nightmares unconsciously circling my brain like an absent minded pony in a corral. The dreams had plagued my mind throughout my entire sleep. Or at least, I think the entirety of my sleep.

And they weren't fun dreams either. Nightmares, as one would call them. Nasty 'dreams' of self accusation and my parents. Sometimes even forcing me awake during the night in an uncomfortable fit and making me look around in confusement.

But I was always on the couch. Nearly on top of Percy. My apartment dark and gloomy, seemingly full of shadow monsters shifting in the crannies. The streetlights outside looking mellow and dead lit. No moths buzzing around their warmth in these winter months.

Percy, this time, wasn't pressed underneath me like a lumpy mattress. He wasn't gripping me around my waist or muttering things into my ear when I woke up suddenly.

He was at the counter.

Pouring a steaming cup of coffee while I could hear the crackling eggs sizzle on the pan. Comforting me a smidget with the thought of warm food and a shot of caffeine.

Light was beaming in from the windows and falling across my eyes forcing me to squint. Sitting up, I stretched. Feeling my tired joints pop and my limbs liven with a fresh flow of blood.

"Morning." Percy grunted while sending me a sideways glance. Sporadically, his undercut hawk looked like tornadoe stirred grass. Bending all over the place in waves, while his black tee and nemo pj's did a small number in my mind.

Scratching my head, I offered him a half smile, half grimace in return. Tugging the old threadbare blanket to my chest and fiddling with the odd navy strands poking out of the loose knit.

"How are you feeling?" he asked quietly. Daring to tap into my emotions for a second.

I bit my lip and glared at the coffee table. "A- a little down on myself." I muttered with an edge of unwillingness. Truth ringing in my somber voice.

Wrinkling his face at me, Percy passed me a chalky white cup of steaming coffee before comfortably plopping down on the sofa, making the upholstery dip. "You really shouldn't be feeling that." he scowled.

Gingerly, I sat backwards onto him while letting my head loll back on his shoulder, coffee resting on my knee. Surprising myself at how comfortable I was with just doing that. Leaning into him, asking for a shoulder to support myself.

Literally and figuratively.

"I can't help it." I mumbled. The soft warmth of his torso in my back contrasting with sharper heat in the mug, pricking my fingers. "What else am I supposed to feel? They didn't want me… I wasn't good enough for them. But it wasn't my fault… I just can't help it."

Percy's hand snaked around my waist again while he let loose a heavy sigh. Tickling my ear as he rested his cheek against my head. "Usually people feel anger in this sort of situation." he revealed like it was a secret. "Are you mad at them? For leaving you?"

Am I?

For mom, the only thing I could be angry at her for was crushing my dreams like a bug under her boot. I was already over the fact that she left, that she vanished from my life. That truthfully she didn't love me.

For Dad… it was like my entire image of him had been shattered. Torn in two. Realizing that the man I thought he was didn't exist. Perhaps never existed. Maybe even his love for me never was real either. Just a figment of day to day get by.

But was I mad at them?

"Maybe." I finally answered hoarsely. My eyes staring blankly into space. "Maybe I am angry. But I'm just too… depressed to feel it."

It took a moment before Percy wrapped his other arm around me and squeezed me like a teddy bear. Saying nothing.

Thoughtfully, I looked around my apartment. Following the curves and lines of the shelves and trinkets. Examining the design of the painting beside the window and the cup rings staining that old wooden coffee table.

Decidedly I pursed my lips. Coming to the conclusion that I shouldn't give a darn about what my mother said.

I liked my apartment.

And even if it were drab and dull to her, to me it was home. So therefore it was more than enough.

Perhaps fifteen minutes later, after moving on from thought to thought with Percy half dozing on me, I grabbed the remote and switched on the ancient television. Browsing through the channels quietly and painstakingly. Absentmindedly tugging at the corner of my shirt with my free hand.

The beautiful sunshine filled day already feeling like it was wasted. Like feeling the warm beams of sun on my skin would be mutiny.

Relentlessly it slanted through my cramped square windows and unto the carpet. Illuminating the rooms naturally. Glaring against the TV in the most annoying fashion.

But I ignored it. Not really watching whatever was on in the first place. Just listening to the dim and dull voices with the dramatic music play out.

Sometime in the next hour Percy got up and shut the blinds for me, turning up the volume on the set and taking my empty mug from my hands silently. Replacing it with a plate smothered in fried eggs, a few sausages, and a watery slice of tomato.

Clinking and splashing he washed the few dishes piled in the sink. Stacking and storing them away in the cabinets and drawers. My eyes ever thoughtlessly trained on the TV. Glued to a useless show as the hollow in my chest throbbed with each beat. Eating silently while feeling like a useless numbskull.

Even later I could hear him in my room. Sounds of plastic and crumpling paper meeting my ears. Scraping and sweeping as he swept and trashed the posters littering my room. Each noise reminding me that he was cleaning up the mess in my room for me. Guaranteeing that I didn't have to deal with it.

I was grateful for it. But even more guilty on not being able to face it. It almost seemed to deepen the despondent feeling in my gut.

Still, I didn't do anything.

And before I knew it, half the day was up. Percy being back at my side in loyal silence. Giving me mental room to sort out all my aching emotions while supporting me with subtle touches to my hand and sweet hugs that lasted longer in my heart.

That was before he reached for his bus pass and jacket. Alarming me at the thought of him leaving for work.

Leaving me alone in a mellow apartment.

I couldn't handle being alone right now.

Not now.

"What?" he questioned my desperate eyes and rigid figure.

If my pride was intact at that moment I wouldn't of said a word. I would've zipped my lips or delivered something sassy. But it wasn't. My pride was a flower pot thrown to the ground. Dirt smearing the concrete and shards waved outward. That's just it I guess.

I was still, admittedly, a mess. A desperate one at that.

"I just don't want to be left alone." I uttered the confession like a guilty criminal.

There. The sultry and emotionally bruised side of me wanted to hiss. I said it. Now don't treat me like a baby.

Percy just shrugged like it didn't make a difference to him. "You could ride to the store with me if you want. We are a bit low on Burt's lettuce and it would give you something to do."

Nodding on autopilot, I stumbled into my room to actually get changed for the day. Blanking at my perfectly made bed and white pristine walls.

Seven minutes later, I shrugged on my coat and followed him out the door. Looping my arm with his and attempting to make a weak comment on the weather.

I was out of whack though. Apparently commenting on how dark the clouds look while its sunny outside isn't normal.

Percy didn't judge. He just laughed and started listing off things that we should do when spring finally came around. "When the clouds aren't so 'dark'." he chuckled.

Him mentioning the skateboard actually brought a smile to my lips.

Then we were standing in front of the grocery store again. Me deciding that maybe I should just meander back home. Or window shop for a few hours.

Percy's shift was only three measly hours anyways. I could shop until then.

Before leaving though, Percy encased me in one more gripping hug. Resting his arms on the small of my back, he sent me an encouraging smile.

"Things will get better." he promised with a twinkle in his eye. "They did for me. They will for you." I know it."

Appreciatively I smiled up at him. "Thanks, Seaweed Brain."

Stalling, I stared into his eyes. Drinking in his returned looks before hesitantly leaning up and placing a timid kiss to his warm cheek. Butterflies sweetly dancing in my gut.

I'm satisfied to say that I wasn't the only one blushing. Percy was dusted pink as he turned away and by the looks off it was trying to rub it off before he went inside.

With a ghost smile, I was prepared to occupy myself for the next three hours. Maybe buy Percy a small thank you gift or go pre-order his favorite pizza for him.

I was finally ready to take on the day.

But I should've known that it wouldn't be the case.

With my luck I should've known that as soon as I felt a little better on my own two feet that I'd be knocked down again.

And this time it was a doozy.

"What the hell was that?!" Piper suddenly materialized beside me. Eyes wide, mouth parted in disbelief. "Why the hell were you with that guy!?"

She looked good. Black cloth coat, blue matching scarf, mittens and earmuffs. Boots that came up to her knee and little hexagonal earrings glittering in her lobes.

If it wasn't for the fire buried in her stain glass eyes, and the miffed look she was streaming at me than I might've asked her where she got her scarf from.

Instead I stared at her in shock as the pedestrians strolled by in a constant river. Mouth pinched in a hard line and a growing sense of fluttering panic swelling in my stomach.

"Beth. Answer." Piper nearly growled. Her face growing hot as she planted two hands on her hips. A bristling wind suddenly picking up and nipping on my ears cruelly.

"Nobody." I answered while shuffling my boots in the thin packed snow.

If possible, Piper's face darkened. Her surroundings seeming to emanate her pissed off vibes with a cloud rolling over the sun. Shutting off the glowing happy sunshine.

"Don't lie to me." Anger trickled into my veins as she spoke. Throbbing through my vitals and growing like a mold against my lungs.

"What does it matter to you?" I spat, turning away from her and storming to the bus station. My shoes clacking against the salt splattered sidewalk. Heatedly, Piper tailed on my heels. "Of course it matters to me! You're my best friend!"

Don't you dare play the best friend card!

I wheeled around sharply and glared fiercely into her eyes. Daggers twisting in my mind as I formed the words. "Best friends don't ditch to hang out with their boyfriends. Best friends are actually there for eachother when one's feeling depressed or sad. Best friends don't pass up an opportunity to be in one others company. Best friends can actually see when their friend is upset. You and I, Piper, are not best friends. Not anymore at least. We're just people who have known eachother forever." I ranted sourly at her. An ironic ring in my voice and a solemn relieve flooding my heart.

It felt good to finally get that off my shoulders.

To finally make her understand that I was feeling betrayed and lost and lonely without her. That I was sad we weren't the friends we used to be.

"Where is this coming from!?" Pipers eyebrows pinched skyward while she let loose a little unbelieving guffaw. As if she were laughing at the notion that we weren't friends. "Of course we're best friends. We've always been! And why the hell are you talking about what best friends do? I'm talking about the punk weirdo you just hugged! You can't be possibly dating that junk bin."

I could feel my hands curling into fists but I couldn't feel the pain of my nails biting into my flesh. I could feel the heat bubbling in my throat, but not the my teeth clenching harshly. I could feel my pulse vibrating, gushing in my body, but not the prickles of sweat escaping my skin.

"I'm not dating him." I growled lowly. Eyes burning.

Maybe the complete loathing tone in my voice hit her. Or the threatening glint in my eye. Maybe she was just soothed a bit by the fact that I wasn't dating the 'weirdo' I just hugged.

"Okay." she muttered while rubbing her temples. Taking a deep breath she met my eyes again. "Okay, we're going about this all wrong. We got off wrong. This is probably all a misunderstanding." she spoke calmly while reaching out and gripping my arm. Carefully she led me to the corner of a store under the icicle toothed overhang and out of pedestrian traffic.

"Alright." she spoke again. Already calm and fresh faced, ready to figure things out. "Tell me exactly what that was. You didn't explain properly."

Unfortunately for her, I was still pissed off. And I wasn't going to take crap or deal out a shoddily made lie just to cover up the amazing person I had.

I was going to tell her about Percy, and she was just going to have to deal with it. To get over it.

"That was Percy." I spoke harshly. Daring her to challenge me with my eyes. "And he's my roommate."

Scowling Piper cocked her head curtly at me. "The Percy who HANDCUFFED himself to you?!"

"Ya. He's LIVING with me now." I sneered contemptuously while crossing my arms over my chest. Defiance burning in there like a warm ember.

"Are you a frickin idiot!?" She gaped stupidly. "Are you seriously too blind to see this? Wow, he was able to fricken smooth talk his way into your apartment! I can't believe this. I frickin can't believe this."

"Believe it." I huffed. My cheeks a lively red as the blood boiling in my system intensified. For a moment I was forced to look out to the street. To glare at the strangers passing in dark button coats or blue water resistant material. People with hats of multiple colors and scarves fluttering behind.

Staring at the grungy snow banks peaked with grey and the bolted street lights standing stiffly in the snow. Watching, glaring, trying to rein my temper in before it went too far.

But Piper was pushing my buttons in all the wrong places.

"DON'T YOU SEE?! He's just bloody using you!"

"HOW WOULD YOU KNOW!" I shrieked back. Ignoring the looks of wary passerbys. Ignoring the small piece inside of me telling me to stop. To back away slowly.

"I know his type Annie." Piper gritted in a sullen way. "And you've fallen right for his nasty trap. He's probably got you wrapped around his pinkie with fake gestures of kindness and pretend carings."

"You don't even know him." I spoke with a dour ring. Ready to make a rebuttal to anything piece of crap that came out of her mind.

"He's a punk." Piper seemed to think that that explained everything. That her simple words were suddenly going to make me cave and bend again to her will.

"And he's better than you." I added without thinking. The words flowing out of my mouth faster than I could zip it.

But it was true. Percy was more a friend to me than Piper had mostly ever been. In fact he might've been the BEST friend out of the two.

It perhaps took a moment to sink in. To hit Piper while the cars rolled past on the pot holed road, and the faint smell of meltwater spritzing the air. When it finally had sunk into the depths of her brain Piper looked scandalized. "HOW!? How is that shithead better than me?! Your BEST FRIEND!"

"Don't you DARE call Percy a shithead!" I nearly choked. My throat thickening from the rising emotions. The bubbles in my chest expanding like threatening mines. "Percy's a million times better than you in most ways. He's actually there when I need someone. And I thought I already clarified that we WEREN'T BEST FRIENDS!" A ragged hiccup crawled its way up my throat. Trembles already seizing my fists control while adrenaline was present.

"I'm there for you." Piper scoffed heatedly. "Don't make shit up."

"Oh ya?!" my voice felt hoarse and abused. "Then where were you when my dad left and I was all alone? Where were you two Christmases ago when I called you eleven times just looking for someone to talk to? Where were you on Halloween in Freshman when you promised we could go trick or treating together? Where were you when I was crying myself to sleep in loneliness? Where were you all those times I just wanted to do something together?!" I was seething. Ranting about all the pointless pain I had piled up in my system. It didn't make any sense. Storing it in there, it just made me hurt more.

"I'll tell you where you were." I snarled. "You were with freakin Jason Grace. Always. You're at his beckon call. And apparently you care way more about him than the likes of me."

"Annie, that's just no-"

"What? True? That's just not true?" I laughed sarcastically and darkly. Losing myself in this argument. My anger flying wildly about me uncontained. "Of course it's true! Actions speak louder than words Pipes. And your actions have stated plenty."


"Just don't come crying to me when he breaks your heart. Don't come crying to me when he steals your money and takes off. Don't you dare ever even come back to me." she hissed lowly. Eyes glinting in peaked anger… but filling, glassing over with tears. "Because if you don't give shit that all I'm trying to do is look out for you, than I don't think I should bother with you at all." that last broken part was thick and jumbled. More of a mutter than a grumble.

Than my world seemed to almost collapse. Crumbling as Piper turned sharply on her heels and marched away. A cloud of grisly grey following her like the plague.

Extracting another whopping hole from my chest like a cork of flesh.

All those memories, all those preschool days and park afternoons, all those classes together meant nothing. Piper stealing all the color away from them and sprinkling sourness overtop.

It was just the cherry on my horrible nasty depressing week sundae.

I ended up walking home. Dreary footed with a feeling of sinking through nothing. It was as if my consciousness had been catapulted into a weary silt filled free float. Nothing to do but mope aimlessly in despair and no obvious way to get out.

What else was I to do? Buck up? Just walk it off?

No. Those just weren't ethical. You can't force feelings away, just as you can't force a cold flu from your body. I knew it took time to get over things.

Rejection from both my parents and now my ex best friend weighed me down like a bluebird cemented to a rock.

I just wondered why all these things had happened to me. At that one point in time too. How it all lined up to coincide at the same moment in my life. Such cruel irony of it all.

Kicking off my shoes, I curled up against the door of my apartment and cried.

Cried over and over in agony. In loss and sadness.

But what else was I to do?


Percy found me again that night. Pressed against the door asleep.

Well not asleep after he nudged me awake with the door as he tried to open it. Groggily I got up to let him in.

Instantly he knew something else was wrong. How, I'll never know.

So of course I told him everything. Tearing up at the thought of having lost Piper forever. Even after all the things I felt and said, I still wanted to be friends with her. I still wanted to be able to hang out.

Percy's face pinched painfully for me than he gave me a hug. I think I cried a bit again on his shoulder, can't really remember though. After, he gently told me that I should go and sleep and he would call when dinner was ready. Again promising me that things would eventually get better.

Only after I was in my room did I realize I couldn't sleep anymore. My mind too wide awake and churning from this afternoon.

Her words too livid and streaming in my mind.

So I ended up staring up at my now heartless blank walls. Listening to the clash of pots and pans. Of seals being broken and jar tops being unscrewed. Percy's footsteps against the floor. The discreet puff of the fridge being yanked open and the eternal exhale of the heat flowing through the vent. Each detail seemed so realistic. So prominent in my head.

The faint hum of the electric reptile heater mixing in faintly. A tinkling drip from the faucet in the bathroom. Squeaks and groans from the iffy floorboards.

So real.

Then suddenly the sounds changed in one big


The front door had been roughly flung open. Brass handle ramming into the wall and making the windows shiver. Gasps and gulps of air being taken by a new individual in the apartment. Percy's footsteps stopping cold.

"Where-" someone gasped. "Where's Annabeth!"

Calypso. I'd recognize her voice anywhere. Her sweet birdsong voice that felt so out of place in a mechanic shop.

Percy must of gestured because suddenly her footsteps came pounding down the hallway, and her figure appearing at my door. Looking wind blown and pink faced. Part of her hair licked up at an odd angle while her coat had been buttoned up improperly.

"I showed her!" she wheezed proudly. "I showed that bitch who's who!"

"What?" I sat up bleary eyed. Looking at Calypso wonderingly. "What happened?"

With an air of excitement, Calypso plopped down beside me while unwinding the scarf from around her neck. "Piper called me and Hazel to her house on an 'emergency'. And she told us about the entire beef you two went through." she revealed wide eyed. "As you may suspect she made her entire side of the argument look like she was a saint!"

My jaw slackened a bit.

Unbelievable! She just went ahead and made sides?!

"But fool on her for ever thinking I would listen to her sob story." Calypso threw out her chest. Eyes twinkling and lips turned up. "As soon as she was done I gave her a piece of my mind!"

"What'd you do?" I leaned forward. Appalled at how this had turned out. Chest beating like a drum at the thought of what went down. Mood dipping again slowly.

How confused poor Hazel must be!

My room suddenly felt a lot smaller. More claustrophobic and tight. Feeding my slow ride down in deterioration again.

"What'd I do?!" Calypso scoffed like it should be obvious. "I slapped that bitch across the face and gave a good long rant about Leo, not leaving a juicy bit of lie out! Told her she had to grow up or kiss my ass goodbye. Left her stunned in her apartment."

I couldn't speak. I couldn't say anything. Uncontrollable tears started gathering in my eyes again.

Biting my trembling lip I looked away. Already feeling the familiar clench as my throat thickened.

"Annabeth? What's wrong?! You don't disagree with what I did do you?" Calypso's face morphed into immediate concern.

Unable to get the heavy words out I just shook my head. Squeezing my eyes shut as the depressing emotions rolled over me once more. Consuming my mind and making me feel like a genuine pile of shit.

"What's wrong?" she asked with so much sympathy. Grabbing my hand and squeezing it.

"I just… I'm…" I whimpered, wiping my eyes with the back of my hands.

I should probably clarify this seeing that I've already cried like six times in this story. When I cry, I don't get the big watery eyes, cute little red nose and tiny subtle blush like Piper. I get the raging river nose, red bloodshot eyes that look like I'm experiencing an allergic reaction, a blotchy pink and crimson complex and to top it off, smears of makeup on my face, hands, sleeves and whatever else I was wiping my tears away with (cough cough Percy).

And honestly, I don't mean to use things as makeup wipes, it just ends up happening. Especially this week.

So when I started blubbering it up again in front of Calypso, she knew exactly what to do.

"Hey! Lackey boy!" she yelled out the door of my room loudly. Cupping her hands to her mouth to amplify her call.

Percy appeared a second later like an obedient dog. Attentive as always. And surprisingly okay with being called 'lackey boy'.

Fishing around her black glossy purse, Calypso produced a crinkled twenty and passed it to him between her fingers.

"Go down to starbucks and pick up a caramel macchiato for Annabeth ask for-"

"Extra whip cream." Percy finished quickly while sending me a wink. "I know."

Calypso smirked creepily for a second. "And just get me a cappuccino. Treat yourself to something while you're at it."

Percy shot me a supportive grin before disappearing again down the hall. Pocketing the money as he left.

Sniffling, I smiled at Calypso gratefully.

"Right." she muttered seriously. "I have a feeling this is more than your argument with Piper."

And I burst.

I can't remember if I actually said anything clearly but I said plenty. Burbling out lines about my Dad and Mom. About the new kids he had, about the new marriage she was getting. About pretty much being disowned and told that I wasn't good enough and being topped off with Piper. About just genuinely feeling guilty for not being able to get back on my feet. About Percy acting like the support beam for me and how sweet it was of him. About every damned feeling that had been vaulted onto me within the past few days. I even started rambling and sobbing over the thought of never seeing Piper again.


Consistently Calypso nodded and encouraged me to tell her. Amber eyes occasionally wandering to the blank wall in thought and pursing her lips at my misfortunes.

"I can't offer you any advice." was what she murmured when I was finally done. Sounding so serious but soothing. A perfect mix. "I honestly don't know what to say. But I'm %100 with you. I don't think you did anything to anyone. It's just…. The people around you happen to be jerks."

Sniffling still, I took a shuddering breath. "Piper didn't use to be one."

Everything I said came out as a hoarse mumble. Making me sound like a smoker of 40 years. And I felt just as sickly as one too. Eyes puffy, throat raw and sore, and my lungs feeling heavy and clogged.

Calypso just nodded in agreement while folding her hands softly. "Her prejudice is way too high against certain folks. She'll cool off though. Then maybe, she might actually see our side of things."

Of course, she was right. Pipers prejudice did blind her at times. But I wanted to point out that we had been identical to her. We, would've probably reacted the exact same way if our paths hadn't crossed with Leo and Percy. Maybe we just needed to show Piper what we saw in these people. Past the outer layer.

I just couldn't find the words, or muster the moxie to speak up.

Calypso would probably agree with me so why waste the words?

With a little huff, Calypso knocked her purse of the bed. Allowing the makeup back and wallet and spare coins go tumbling across the floor.

"Let's talk about something else. Piper's to depressing of a topic." she announced with a sour address.

"What do you want to talk about though?" I asked quietly. Rubbing my emotion sore eyes again while sitting back into the cushions of my bed.

"Girly stuff. Hardcore girly sleepover, junky funk kinda thing. Ya know?" A gleam reignited in her eyes. "Let's talk about boys."

"Why?" I asked. Yanking my duvet up to cover my legs. Wishing my red eyes would fade. That I could at least pretend to be alright.

"Because you've got quite the hot one in your apartment."

I blushed, warmth sprouting up the sides of my cheeks.

Calypso smirked. "Oo-oohh." She crowed. "Does Annie have a crush?"

Embarrassed I dipped backward and looked to the ceiling. Biting my lip to hide the creeping smile. "Maybe." I uttered, refusing to meet Cals eager gaze.

"Don't play the nonchalant game." she huffed with a playful tone while grabbing my wrist. "You're smitten and you know it."

"Perhaps…" I smirked, twirling a loose curl.

"Well is it a yes or a no!?" Calypso sat up to sit overtop of me. Looking down on my face with a suggestive smile.

Curving over sideways, I plunged my face into my soft pillow bashfully. Mumbling nonsense at her when she shook me. My face hot against the cushion and my breath building humidity.

"Say it!" She demanded with a girlish giggle. "Say it. I need to hear you say it!"

"ALRIGHT!" I snapped, unable to not smile. Pealing away from my protective cushion I tilted my head to the sky. "I HAVE A FEAKIN CRUSH ON PERSEUS JACKSON!"

Calypso beamed. "That's the spirit!"

"Now, don't make me say it again." I complained with a pout. My mood rising slowly.

"When d'you get it then?" Calypso questioned. Eye sparkling with curiosity.

Pursing my lips, I smiled thinly. "Well, I think it started a little before that incident at the mechanic shop."

"Did Percy do anything particular to gain your affection?" she grinned. Enthusiastically awaiting an answer. Calypso, always so excited when even the hint of a budding romance was near. It was kinda funny actually.

I shook my head with a slight shrug. "Percy was just being… Percy. I guess that was good enough for me to fall."

"Do you think he likes you too?" she cocked an eyebrow suggestively with that devilish smile on. Grinning at me like she knew something I didn't. Relentlessly piling on the questions that seemed to built her facial expression.

I thought on this. Remembering everything he's done for me. His soft expressions. The somber moments. Comforting hugs and broken nights.

I frowned with a sense of realization. "I think… I think he likes me as a sister kinda thing." the pit in my chest deepening an inch more. A heavy sigh already building up in my throat.

"Oh, You think that?" Was all Calypso uttered. That infuriating smile never melting off her face. Eyes slitted to that of a cats. She seemed to be almost laughing at me.

"What?!" I was slightly alarmed at her reaction. Unsure how to handle such a smug Calypso.

"You'll see." she whispered ominously. "One day you'll see."

I was about to strangle her. Squeeze out what she was 'you'll see'ing me about! She knew something and I wanted to know what!

But the sound of the front door being opened cut me off. Percy coming into my room a moment later with a tray of piping drinks. Steam billowing off them and aromating the room with the distinct coffee bean smell. Eminently making the tiny room stuffier by adding another person.

"Thanks." I muttered as he passed me my drink. The warmth sinking into my hands as I gripped it.

"No problemo." he acknowledged me while setting the empty cardboard tray down on the desk. Arms teetering outward to reach while the clothing on his body stretched.

I couldn't help but notice that he was wearing a black t-shirt with green scribbled words across the front. Such a poor choice of clothing seeing as it was near the end of February. But, as it was rather tight in the right places, I wasn't really complaining. Instead I was blushing a beet hue because Calypso started smirking at me while wiggling her eyebrows.

"Oh stop it." I chastised. Flinging a cushion at her face softly.

"What's she doing?" Percy pinched his eyebrows and looked at me perplexed. Settling himself down on the office chair with a sigh and leaning back leisurely.

"Nothing." I grumbled, taking a sip of my drink to cover up.

"I was just teasing Annabeth because she was checking out y-" Calypso earned another pillow to the face.

Percy's eyebrow crease deepened as he glanced at me dubiously. Questioning with his eyes on what the heck was going on.

"Whatever comes out of Calypso's mouth should never, under no circumstances, be taken seriously." I deadpanned, preparing another pillow to fire off.

"Annie!" Calypso whined. "You'll make me spill my drink!"

"Than serves you right." I sniffed in humor. Threatening her with the little square pillow fisted in my hands.

"I'm just teasing!" she pouted at the same time her phone pinged.

With an exasperated and dramatic groan, Calypso set her cup down on bed frame rim and wiggled her phone from her tight pocket.

Percy and I exchanged glances when a dark scowl ignited Cals face. Glaring at her phone as if she wished it would explode, with her mouth open in a pissed off form of 'oh no you didn't'.

"Cals?" I asked tentatively. "Is something wrong?"

Sighing heavily, Calypso it the off switch of her phone and gripped it in her palm. Her bright blue phone case creaking as she seemed to be using it as a stress ball.

"It's nothing Beth. Pipes is just acting up again. Hazel doesn't know what to do."


I met Percy's eyes when my own phone went off. Scared of what message awaited me. Of who was probably texting. Encouragingly, Percy tilted his head at my phone with pursed lips and a stable gleam.

My suspicions were right.

"Speaking of the devil…." I muttered quietly. The phone light making me squint slightly as I reviewed the text that just came through.

Piper: I'm sorry for yelling at you today… I was surprised to read. Stunned at how straightforward it was.

If only the rest was as apologetic.

I think we're acting like idiots. Letting a person come between us. Be sensible Annabeth please. Like you always have been. Just see it from my side perhaps?

You of all people should know what punk people are like. I just can't bring myself to believe that you would put yourself in this much danger. Earrings, tattoos, and a mohawk for crying out loud are signs of clear mental instability. Lord knows if you even make him pay rent! If you don't, then he is, decidedly, a leech. Living off what you earn. If he does pay rent than have you ever even considered where he gets the money!?

Your housing a time bomb. Just think about it. Okay?

Please, if you want to still be friends (Which i do!) just kick him out. That's all.

Love you beth :'(

With pursed lips I looked back at Percy. Lost.

"So?" He asked quietly. Hesitating at every second. Almost as if he were scared for me. "What does it say?"

Both of them were looking at me in a reverent expectation. Knowing already that Piper was on the prowl and that the text was most likely from her.

Momentarily, I considered laying out a lie. Saying that it was just a reminder to pay my data bill or a text from my boss telling me that there was a shift up for grabs.

But the impulse to lie was contradicted by the fact that these were my closest friends asking. My friends requesting me to be truthful and share. Being open to them was the best possible thing I could do.

So with a sigh of aggravation, I tossed my grey cased phone to Percy. Trusting that he would only read what I intended him to.

Calypso was quick to hop off my bed and sidle up beside Percy as he flipped my phone the right way up. I watched as their expressions soured. As Calypso's hands formed fists and Percy scowl at the little device in his hands.

"Dear goodness." Calypso hissed. Eyes aflame, nose pinched in utter disgust. "She's making you choose!"

Percy didn't say anything. Didn't even open his mouth. Staring at me with a mix of deep contemplation and sympathy in his lively sea green eyes.

Maybe my quiet composure and sadness softened eyes lead to the question. The presumption that I would choose the wrong side. Maybe it was a misjudgement of character.

"Beth… you're not going to kick him out… are you?" she looked scared. Petrified that was going to give into Piper again.

Besides, she knew how close Piper and I had been, and how badly I wanted our friendship back. The one we had before Jason Grace was a person in our lives. Before Piper became who she was.

"Lands sakes no!" I yelped in surprise. "Besides! Where would he go? Percy doesn't have anywhere else but here. I'm absolutely not kicking him out."

Percy's face fell. And I registered my mistake just as his eyes hit the floor in a crestfallen way.

"So you're only keeping me around out of charity?" he growled bitterly. A layer of anger coating his voice. "That's nice to know."

"No!" I cried. "No! No! No! No! No! That came out all wrong!" Waving my arms around, I was able to lock eyes with him once more. Serious and desperation clear in my voice. "I don't just 'keep you around for charity'. I don't keep you at all. You live here Percy. That's not gonna change. I just…." my voice cracked. Making me appear weak and emotional again. Making it appear like I was about to cry. Maybe I was. "I just wish that there was another way. I- I don't want to lose Pipes forever." I added quietly. My eyes falling to my laced fingers as I spoke. "But nothing can be done I suppose. She's made her side clear."

Calypso leaned against my bed again with a creak. Eyes sullen and arms folded. Her caramel hair braided over her shoulder attractively. "So that's it, huh." she muttered. "No more Piper, no more gal nights?"

With my lips pressed into a thin line, I nodded. Fiddling with my fingers in attempt to keep my eyes from watering.

"Well Beth… I guess it's just us now… I have a hunch Hazel will stay loyal." Calypso pursed her lips into a mellow smile.

I chuckled with an ache in my throat. "Well this wasn't supposed to happen."

"I guess I always expected a fight somewhere along the line. I just assumed that things would go back to normal after though…."

Percy wouldn't meet my eyes. Instead, he glared at the speckled brown floor as if it were all the causes of our worries.

Perhaps it was.


I was caught at 3 a.m sitting on the kitchen island counter. Cross legged and staring blissfully at the cupboards and shiny fridge bathed in darkness. Remembering how my dad used to look stretching up to reach things on the high shelf. Blue button shirt becoming untucked as his face puckered with effort. Remembering the way he made a big dramatic scene of flipping pancakes just so I'd giggle.

It's funny, picturing him there, I almost felt like I'd be able to see him. His slightly crooked tie and constantly fumbling with his glasses. Muttering things under his breath as he read the paper against the cutlery drawer.

My concentration was broken, however, when Percy came stumbling in. Sporting a bed head and being completely shirtless. Questioning why I was doing what I was doing.

Well, I couldn't sleep.

Odd, I know. Normal people usually get a glass of warm milk or take melatonin. But this was soothing. Like therapy. Therapy that only worked for me.

Percy convinced me to get off the counter after a bit of banter and guided me back to bed with his hand in the small of my back. Wiping the silent tears off my cheeks that I didn't even know were there and giving me a quick hug.

I vaguely remember trying to say something about Piper to him. That I was never going to kick him out and I'd just have to miss her.

I don't know what I said in my partially slurry sleepy state. I can't remember.

But in the morning, Percy wasn't there.

Staggering out on that Sunday morning where I'd usually steer myself into his room and flop on his bed then poke him until he made breakfast. But when I swung open his door, eyes still bleary and tangles of golden curls falling to my midsection, his bed was empty.

The duvet in a knot and all the sheets in disarray. Sunshine beaming through the yellowed curtains cheerfully while I stared blankly at the empty room.

Confused, I hobbled down the hallway, hissing at how cold the floor was, and found the kitchen just as empty as his room. Vacant of any human being. The same sun pouring through window panes and making it look dreadfully cheery. Well I wasn't dreadfully cheery.

As you might imagine, I almost went into a complete state of panic. I might've done something rash like alert the police of a missing person. That is (thankfully) until I noticed the little white printer paper note folded in half and standing upright on the counter.

My name was scratched on the top with a drying out sharpie. Undoubtedly written in Percy's messy messy handwriting.

Plucking the sheet of paper off the counter I flipped it open expectantly.


Went out. Had some minor business to take care of. Make yourself a DECENT breakfast. No only hashbrowns don't count. -_- And for heavens sakes EAT IN THE KITCHEN!

I'll be back soon.


"Seaweed Brain." I uttered in exasperation. Flipping the note back onto the counter while poking my nose into the fridge in hopes for some dinner leftovers.

I was not disappointed.

Chicken, mashed potatoes and a quantity of peas. I slapped them on a plate and practically nuked them in the microwave.

And yes, I'll admit. I almost waddled back into my room to eat. But it was agonizing sitting there alone. Every second that went by tempted me to just pick up and move. Squat under my duvet on my bed and eat there like a demented hermit.

I was again left with nothing but memories in that empty kitchen. And no Percy there to distract me from them.

Even the 'no Percy' part in general was a bit painful. I was so used to just sitting beside him. Not really needing to talk. Just sitting. Keeping each other company. It felt wrong without him.

The oven clock read 9:14 a.m. in glowing green box like numbers. Trust me. I sat there for only four minutes. Shovelling the food I had 'prepared' and swallowing it like a boa constrictor.

Then I went to my room.

Staving off the silence by dragging the outdated radio into the bathroom with me.

After a refreshing shower that made moisture cling to the mirror, I toweled dried my curls and tiptoed to my room. Eagerly, I took out my new extra large loose knit grey sweater that was soft under my fingers, a worn pair of light stonewashed jeans and big fuzzy socks (because the floors felt like everest). Slipping them on, I was disappointed to find the jeans a tad snug and the sweater too ridiculously big.

The baggy sleeves dangled passed my hands, while the neckline exposed at least one of my shoulders. Useless, really, in weather like this.

But, as you may know, I'm stubborn. And that sweater costed me thirty bucks on amazon shipping. There was no way I was not going to wear it. I didn't have money like that just to flush.

Earphones in and blaring, I added a dab of makeup on just in case I had to take over Sindy's shift (which was 68% of the time).

Then it was down to business.

And by business I mean homework. Painstakingly I grappled with my iffy backpack. Yanking out my supplies and building them up on my desk.

Within two minutes, however, I was finished the one question I didn't get done in class and packed up my things.

And so I had the rest of the day to meander. Meaning by sitting on my bed and listen to music. Occasionally checking the time as minutes passed in the music world.

By the time I did emerge from my bedroom, doing a little jig to one of Taylor Swift's songs, I was nearly scared shitless from Percy coming out of his room.

Needless to say I almost slapped him silly.

Yanking my earphones out with my hand placed over my beating heart, I glared at him. "Donkeys and Needles Percy! Why didn't you tell me you were home?!"

Percy chuckled nervously at my reaction and shifted the cardboard box he was carrying to the other hip. "I assumed you were doing homework…"

Something was off. The way he talked and moved. It was flighty. Like any second he would take off in a fleeing run.

That wasn't the only thing suspicious. Percy always poked his head in my room to tell me when he was home. No matter how much homework I had he'd usually let me know when he was just in or going out.

Instantly my eyes narrowed and brows furrowed when I saw his clothes bundled in the box. Squished in beside his skateboard that jutted out awkwardly and a few rolled up posters he had collected over the months.

Seeing my expression of confusement, Percy sighed and set the box down gingerly. Guilt written on his face like a red inked sign.

"Listen, Annabeth… I've been thinking…" He started slowly. Not meeting my eyes while he scratched the back of his neck.

Dread slowly starting to build up in my gut like acid. Whispers of suspicions swirling in my mind icily at the guess on what he would utter next.

Finally Percy met my eyes. Honesty and an internal cringe ringing those deep green abyss. "Maybe… maybe it would be better if I moved out... A friend has offered me a room for at least a few nights and I might be able to-"

"What?!" I nearly choked on my own saliva. My heart plummeting to the floor and back in one swoop. "Why?!"

Fear was settling back in my gut.

Not the selfish fear of being alone, of getting vaulted back into that lonely void. The suffocating kind of fear. I was terrified of losing Percy. Of slowly because distant with him. Becoming strangers once more.

"I don't want to be the cause of you and Piper's broken friendship." he muttered. Leaning heavily against his room's door frame. Eyes steadily locked on mine now. Searching me for the emotions bubbling up.

I scoffed, shocked at him. Feeling betrayed and a little hurt at this. "And you think this is your decision? It was my choice! I don't regret anything. Pipers the cause of this. Not you!"

I crossed my arms, face burning with indignation. Heart pumping threads of fire through my system.

"Well this way, you don't have to choose. You can re-establish your friendship with her." he retorted sternly. Sounding like he was doing this for my own good. Like he was parenting me into an answer.

His green eyes were livid. Burning with the motive that what he was doing was right.

Huffing, I took a step towards him. "You think moving out will fix anything? It won't! Piper's the one who has to change. Not us!"

"Annabeth please! I don't want to. Really. But this is for the best… You said it yourself, you don't wanna lose Piper forever." Percy groaned. His shoulders falling in exhaustion while he pursed his lips at me. Looking at me with a pleading expression. Asking for me to give in with his enchanting eyes.

Glowering, I threw my arms to the side. "But I don't wanna lose you either." I growled, roughly pushing the rim of my grey knit sweater back onto my shoulder irritated.

Percy shrugged in exasperation. "It's not like I can't still text and see you!"

He made a move for the dented brown cardboard box at his feet, acting as if the argument was over. That he had won.

I scowled darkly while grabbing his bicep in my grey cotton swathed hand. Forcing him to his full height while I shoved him harshly against the white wooden doorframe.

"Listen here." I commanded heatedly. Meeting his eyes with a fierce intensity as I kept our faces inches apart. "Piper can do whatever the hell she wants. What only matters to me is that you don't feel the need to bow down to her. All her life that all anyone's ever done to her and I'm freakin sick of it. So put that bloody box back in your room and forget this ever happened."

Percy's breathing had shallowed. A blush streaking across his face while uncertainty meddled in his wavering eyes.

As if he were finally listening to me the Seaweed Brain.

At least, I thought I had finally broken through that thick skull of his. But instead of following orders through, Percy brushed me off his shoulder and picked up the box.

"I'm sorry." he spoke curtly. "But this is the only way you'll ever make amends with her at all."

And then he was walking away. Each step squeaking on the floor and stabbing my ears.

Feeling wretched, I couldn't bear to watch him leave. Not willing to be haunted by his back as well.

Catapulting myself back into my room, I was set on a stressful circled pace as I gripped my head. Pondering, mulling over what I could possibly do to make him stay. Tears pricking my eyes and welling over my vision. Panic rising and fluttering in my system as I muttered to myself over and over.

What do I do?! What do I do!? Memories of us surfacing and sinking. Becoming more meaningful in my mind than ever. But I didn't want those memories to end there. Or to be restricted. I wanted more memories with Percy in this damn apartment.

I wanted things to stay as they were. Forever even.

The handcuffs! I remember with a jarr. A gasp escaping my lips at the thought. Where are they?!

My pace was broken into a desperate scramble. Ripping open drawers and sliding books off my desk. Scouring my clothes drawers and desk. Sounds of things toppling and accidentally shattering my glass vase. My under breath curses and grunts of annoyance.

Suddenly there they were. Sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk with a cold gleam peeking out from under a few pamphlets. Glinting like the day they had been taken off.

Yanking them free, I hurriedly placed one on my own wrist. Sliding the band of metal down until a crisp click met my ears.

Heart pounding, skin crawling as I threw myself out of my room again and sloppily raced down the hall.

"PERCY!" I shrieked in a broken cry. Releasing all the building emotions in one anguished call. Amplifying my desperation.

Percy was situated at the end of the hall. Box on one hip, a glossy black garbage bag slung over his shoulder and walking slowly as if he were scared to leave. Taking short dreary steps.

At the sound of his name he had turned around to look at me. Green eyes filled with sadness and regret but with a kindle of determination. Determined to do what was best for me.

Screw it.

I didn't hesitate.

I think you can guess what I did. I lunged forward and slapped my hand onto his right wrist. Metal sliding smoothly into place as I pinched it closed.


When realization hit Percy on exactly what I had done, the box clattered to the floor. Spilling pictures, hygiene products, and jumbled sweaters across the hardwood.

The plastic bag soon following in a dull thump as he stared dumbfounded at the circlet of silver encasing his wrist. Eyes wide as he looked between the cuffs and me. Questions vortexing in his wild green eyes.

"Percy." I choked. The swelling tears slowly starting to drip down my face. My heart squeezing painfully. "Percy, don't leave me. Please, please don't leave me." It was the plead I never got to give my parents. The admitting of need for him in my life. And a confession of hidden love. "I can't-" My voice broke as the persistent tears burned down my cheeks. Splattering against the floor. "I can't live without you." I mumbled. "Please Percy."

Still in shock, he stared at me. Eyes wide, lips parted. Speechless to every syllable in existence.

Distraught, I buried my face in his chest. Hugging him with all the fear of losing him. Listening, to the quickened beat of his warm heart. Trying not to pathetically sob on him again while hoping that he'd hug me too. That he'd show some sort of sign that he was listening.

Momentarily Percy staggered, then slumping against the wall defeatedly. A puff of air escaping his lips in a simple sigh of surrender. Without uttering a word he slid down to sit on the floor, dragging me with him.

Shoulder to shoulder now with our legs arched to the other side of the hallway. Sunlight from the early noon slanting over the living room in a warm glow to our left. Never touching us in our corner of darkness while I looked at him expectantly. Hope dwindling in my soft grey eyes.

"Alright" he muttered quietly. His darkened green eyes set on the wall across from us. "Alright Annabeth. You win."

Sighing in complete relief, I felt an invisible weight fly off my shoulders as I attempted to dry my eyes (succeeding more or less). Feeling so grateful that I had finally gotten through his headstrong determination. "Thank you." I whispered hoarsely. Drawing my legs up to my chest gently as if I were a rodent afraid of exposure.

Percy murmured a reply I couldn't quite catch. Sullenly his eyes remained trained on his boots while we just sat there silently. Faraway whispers of running cars and subtle beeps. The constant hum of electricity filling my ears.

Percy shifted uncomfortably beside me. Brushing my shoulder as he shot a guilty look out of the corner of his eyes. Finally he tilted his head back against the wall with a groan and gazed at me tiredly. I only noticed the dark rings bagging under his eyes heavily when he set his eyes back on the wall.

"I visited Piper's this morning." he mumbled softly. His eyes glassing over as he stared into space.

My heart skipped a beat.

Stiffly, I gaped at him with a hiss on my lips. "You what?"

"I drove to Pipers apartment, and I spoke with her early this morning." he clarified with the same emotionless tone. "I was trying to convince her that she shouldn't force you to make a decision. That it was a cruel thing to do."

An aching pause spanned over our conversation. Making me look at Percy with big doleful eyes and a sudden understanding soothing my mind. "And she pushed you down." I uttered under my breath with a bitter tinge. Now realizing why Percy had suddenly announced that he was moving out.

All because of Pipers persuasive ways.

Chuckling softly, Percy gazed at me fondly. "She did more than that." he declared gently with a quirk of a half smile. "She nailed me. Pegged me to the wall. She said that I was in love with you… She was right."

My breath hitched as my chest tightened. Each inhale coming in shallow puffs as it became harder to breath.

Percy didn't seem to notice though. His eyes fell back to the wall across from us. Staring with a thought riddled expression as if he were lost in a dream.

"She also said all the truths I never wanted to believe. Like how I could never support you. That I probably would never have a stable career or income. How my group of friends would just be bad influences around you. How I would only distract you from your studies and dreams. Get in your way…" Percy trailed off. His features growing pained as he pursed his lips into a thin line. Shadows falling in his eyes. "But she was right… about everything really. She convinced me that you'd fly higher without me around… and you know… maybe she's right about that too."

Silently, I found myself staring at the grey walls with Percy. Running my eyes over the miniscule cracks starting to appear and trying to lower the beating in my chest. Trying to soothe the butterflies tickling my stomach. Trying to catch my breath. Listening to the sporadic beat of my own heart.

"Did you?" I uttered breathily. "Did you just confess to me?"

My words totally disregarded all his smashed hopes and nagging fears. Drawing back to the first sentence of his explanation and sweeping the rest into the garbage. Grabbing the most important slice out of it all and putting it in the spotlight.

Bashfully, Percy chuckled and ran his non cuffed hand through his ebony hair. Only messing up the hawk even more. "Ya… I guess I did." he sighed in a humored way. A blush creeping up his face slowly as I bit my lip to keep the shining smile down.

"Oh." Was all I could say. My heart pounding in my tight chest. My breath hard to grasp as goosebumps peppered my skin. Wondering over and over in a panic on what I should do. What did I say? Did I confess too?

"Now what?" I asked above a whisper. Staring at the wall across from me religiously while trying to get rid of that raging blush.



"You like me too... right?" There was no question of the term 'like' in his voice. Only fear. So much fear that I would say that I didn't, that I couldn't like him back.

My breath wouldn't come. My mouth wouldn't move. Finally I was able to gasp out "Ya." Butterflies wildly skittering around my stomach like a circus. I couldn't breath.


"Ya?" I turned my head slightly to Percy. My side burning with every contact our bodies had.

Suddenly Percy gently surged forward and connected out lips in one smooth movement. A wave of prickles rocketed through my body in hot and cold flashes as angled himself around to press me against the wall. His hands hooking around my neck and heating a spot on my hip. It was slow, and tentative. Like the first time you inch your way to the end of the diving board. Each gentle movement of his lips sending my heart into bouts of spasmodic flutters. A shiver passing down my spine when he tilted his head slightly deepening the kiss slowly. Running his hand gently up the curve of my neck to knot in the curls at the back of my head.

It was tender and chest achy. The kind of kiss I had now admittedly been dreaming of getting.

Warily, Percy broke away. Leaving a want in my chest for more. A little more.

Pouting, I huffed glaring at him with big eyes. "I thought you could do better than that." I whispered teasingly.

Percy smirked, the familiar sparks of mischievousness starting to dance in his gem green eyes. "If you insist Princess." was all he chuckled deeply. His chest rumbling under my fingertips.

He unleashed.

Pushing me to the floor with his body while pinning my arms beside my head. Warmth ebbing its way around my torso heatedly as he smirked down at me. Eyes dancing playfully. With the breath stuck in my throat, he connected our lips again. Kissing me hard and igniting a burning fire in my gut, making my face grow hot with each move.

Giving me shivers and goosebumps at the same time while he gently brushed his thumb up my jawline. His salt breeze soap was all I could smell. Intoxicating me as I fervently returned the kiss. Butterflies rocking my stomach with swirls.

Suddenly he broke back, letting nothing but a gasp come between us before crashing in again. Making me squirm under him when he tilted his head slightly to the side, maximizing the thumps of pure exhilaration in my chest. My free hand tightening the grip on his shirt.

Cockily, he pulled away. Looking down at my reddened face and gasping mouth. No doubt he could feel the beats of my heart under him as he smirked at me cheekily.

"How was that?" he whispered coyly. A blush dusting his cheeks. "I don't think you'll complain."

I glowered at him. Embarrassed at how red my face was. "Better." I mumbled. Hiking the stupid sweater back up unto my shoulder. He kissed me softly again. And again on my nose. Butterfly kissing his way to my jaw as each peppered kiss sent sparks to my mind.

"Does this make us a couple?" he asked breathily. Kissing me again on the lips before I could give an answer.

Fisting his shirt a little tighter in my fingers, I looked innocently up at him. "Of course you Seaweed Brain."

Consciously, Percy kissed the corner of my mouth with smile adorning his lips. "So, you wouldn't mind if I happened to take you on a first date, right?" his breath feathering my lips as he lowered himself in for another kiss.

"Only if you promise a second one." I deadpanned, eyes gleaming all the same.




Sunday: March 4th 4:19 p.m.

Annabeth: You totally already knew that Percy didn't love me as a sister. -_-

Caallsy: Did he kiss u alrdy?

Annabeth: maybe…

Caallsy: Kneeew ittt ;)


As you can imagine, Piper threw a fit when she realized that her words had lost their touch on Percy.

'Oh, and thanks. Without your stab at him to move out, I don't think we'd ever of gotten together. So at least you did some good.' I distinctly remember saying calmly with a smile on my face. Not a smile of sickly sweet fakeness or smugness, but of pure gratitude. Piper in fact had ended up giving us the push we needed to become a couple and I'd give her that much credit.

Her reaction, however, was less than gleeful.

She broke down actually. Sobbing into her sleeves at the cafe table we were sitting at. Muttering at how she couldn't watch me throw my life away to some nobody, and that it hurt to see me that way.

Piper crying in public is no easy feat to accomplish. Showing just how truly she thought she was right about my situation.

But really she was only deceiving herself.

I didn't stay much longer after that. Eyes wet and heart heavy I made my way back home and into the security of Percy's arms.

Roughly a month after that, when Percy had taken me on numerous dates and gone through one or two arguments, I was standing in front of the phone again. A ripped corner of looseleaf with a sloppy number jotted down in red sharpie was pinched in my fingers. Hands trembling as I dialed the number and looked at Percy for moral support.

Shooting me a supportive grin he put his thumbs up.

The long monotone buzzes rang in my ear as I waited with my heart beating wildly in my throat. Suddenly, a crisp click before: "Chase Residence, this is Helen." The voice was tired sounding, but gentle all the same. Distinctly feminine.

"Uh, Hi." I started weakly. "Is Frederick home?"

"Yes, he is. Can I ask who's calling?" Helen inquired. A tinge of skepticism in her voice.

"This is Annabeth." I answered politely. My voice feeling squeakier than normal. So unsure how to talk to my Dad's new wife.

"Alright, just give me a moment." Helen had no reaction to my name. None at all. She probably didn't even know I existed.

Mutters and background noises were prominent in the buzz. Among them was the distinct squeal of a kid yelling for his mom.

My heart squeezed.

Finally, a shocked and baffled voice came onto the line. So familiar it made my stomach churn.

"Annabeth?!" my dad stuttered. Uncertainty peppering his normally casual tone.

"Hi Dad." I uttered meekly, sadness silting around in my heart quietly.

"How did you get this number?" he was dumbfounded and defensive. Probably freaking out in his office chair.

"Mom gave it to me." I shuffled my feet somberly. Eyes trailing over the magazines littering the side table. "She came by a month or so ago looking for you to sign some papers."

"I know." he responded.

A suffocating silence drifted over the phone. Widening the seeming gap coming between us slowly, as each agonizing second ticked by.

Taking a deep breath, I felt my throat tighten. "Why'd you do it?" I asked thickly. Eyes already welling over as I bit down on my lip. "Why'd you leave me?"

Silence. Cold dead and quiet silence.

"You could've at least told me where you went." I hiccuped. Arms trembling as I clutched the phone harshly. "You could've told me that you weren't coming back."

"I was going to come back!" my father protested with a desperate noise. Guilt already embedded in his tone.

"When?" I cried as anger surfaced in my system. "When? Were you going to come back when your new kids moved out? When your wife retired?"

"Annabeth." The sound of my name jarred me a bit. Reminding me of times I would sneak into his room and play with his planes. Take out the books he didn't want me touching.

'Annabeth.' He'd use that tone, that look. 'What did I tell you about fiddling with my stuff?'

"I intended to come back." he muttered sadly. "I really did. But-"

"You make an excuse, and I'm hanging up." I threatened darkly. Lips pursing into a thin line. Eyes silently spilling over.

Percy's brows pinched up and he move towards me before I stopped him. If he hugged me, than I'd crumble. If he placed those comforting kisses to my temple like he did when I had nightmares, than their would be no way to finish this call. At all costs, I needed to finish this bloody phone call.

"Listen." I sighed heavily. Sniffling and wiping my eyes dry. "You might of intended to come home originally, but you didn't. You even kept me on the false idea that you actually were coming home. So save the excuses. I was only calling to let you know you don't need to lead me on anymore."

"We can still fix this." Frederick blurted out urgently. "You can move here with us. I could have everything arranged by next month-"

"And what? Leave the only people who've actually shown they care about me? Become a part of your new family? Does your wife even know I exist?" I snorted skeptically. Desperately trying to keep my voice from cracking. "After leaving me alone for four years, the cruelest thing you could possibly do would be ripping me out of my home and forcing me to move halfway across the country."

Silence. That aching silence. Always there to remind me of how distant we were now.

"Well, San Francisco does have pretty good secondary programs." he persisted weakly. Probably pushing his glasses up his nose nervously.

"I'm graduating High School next month, Dad." I couldn't help but hiss that last part. Ready to make it adamantly clear that he was no longer the paternal person in my books.

"Well maybe I could-"

"NO!" I snapped. "No you can't! You left me, a thirteen year old, in a New York apartment for four frickin years. I didn't know how to cook, I didn't know how to drive, and I didn't know how to defend myself if someone broke into the apartment!" tears slid in hot rolls down my cheeks again as I growled emotionally into the phone. "I was scared, and lonely most of the time with only the hope of you calling me to k-keep me going. But you didn't! And all this time… for the full four years you haven't even been on a business trip! You've been playing dollhouse with your new family!" My voice broke raggedly and I squeezed my eyes shut. Soothing my shuddering breath before trooping on. "Nothing you say can justify what you did. You're a mean horrible old man."

Percy was right. I was angry. Infuriated even.

Filled with contempt at how my dad dropped me like a hot ember as soon as he could. Abandoning me to start afresh, even though I had already been abandoned before.

After a few attempted starts, my father, Frederick, sighed into the phone. "You were so much like your mother. It was painful, really. I couldn't go a day without thinking about her."

"That sounds like an excuse." I mumbled quietly. Eyes streaming as I listened to him speak.

"Not an excuse." he bartered. "An explanation, and an apology."

He cleared his throat once before continuing. My heart squeezing as I bit my lip. Wishing that this phone call would just end already. That I could go back and pretend like everything was fine.

"I thought if I could clear my head for a week, forget about Athena, life would get better. So I left on that 'business' trip. I guess I just met Helen and things spiraled out of control. I'm sorry Annabeth. Really, truly I am. Is there any way for me to make up for this?"

Stalling, I met eyes with Percy. His patient figure sitting with a slight slouch on a bar stool. Cup in hand as he fiddled with his phone. I hugged my knees tighter to my chest from the sofa and exhaled the breath I didn't know I was holding. "Just be there for me." I whimpered. "Be there when I need you."

If my dad was crying too, I couldn't decipher. I know he sounded just as emotionally wrecked as I was. He apologized a few more times after that. Saying that he never should have left me to fend for myself.

Than we just started babbling on about his two twin boys who had just turned two.

How he promised that they would visit in the summer.

Or me visit them.

Whatever worked.

By the time I did hang up, most of the awkward void between us had faded considerably. My tears dry and Percy sitting agitated at the counter. Twisting a newspaper between his hands anxiously.

I'm thankful that Percy was an arms reach away so I could nab him and drag him onto the sofa. Curling up against his chest while he snaked his arm around my waist and hugged me close. Chin resting on the top of my head as he hummed in satisfaction.

Might I add that snuggling is the perfect remedy for after an emotionally stressful phone call.

"You know." he muttered with a smile in his voice. Arms squeezing me lightly. Obviously trying to change the pathetic mood I was in. "I was positive that you'd never fall for me."

"So was I." I snorted playfully. Nuzzling his neck and blowing just to tickle him. "But fate has its funny ways."

"Don't you mean I was just too charming to resist?" Percy teased in response. Drawing circles in my sides with his thumb thoughtfully. Effectively lightening my thought heavy mind.

"You were about as charming as a thumb tack when I met you. And don't you forget that." I huffed, squirming slightly to get into a more comfortable position.

"No seriously." Percy mumbled, starting up the conversation again after some contemplation. "I kinda hoped you would but…."

"Don't flatter yourself." I deadpanned sarcastically. "You were utterly desperate for me to fall for you. Don't try and protect your nonchalant bad boy rep around me."

Percy ran his fingers over my hips while he groaned with an amused undertone. "I'm not Princess."

"And what is with this Princess biz? You used to use that pet name to irritate me." I swiveled my head around to meet his eyes.

"Well, I did make up that nickname just bug you." he revealed like it was a big secret. Eyes gleaming as he looked down at me. "But I just thought you were so beautiful, like a live princess, that I couldn't help but keep calling you that."

Silence. A thoughtful silence as I tried to remember where the name started, and when it evolved. A dusty blush warming my cheeks. Goosebumps on my skin.


"Mhhh?" he hummed. Cheek pressed against my head again as the comforting warmth between us made my heart jump.

"When did you first start liking me?" I questioned curiously. Staring out the far window into the setting spring afternoon. Light reflecting on opposite building windows with a glare.

"Do you really wanna know?" he asked as if I wouldn't want to.

"Of course."

"Promise you won't think of me as a sap?" Percy persisted.

"I promise." I laughed. "Now tell me."

"You're gonna think I'm a creep." He whined. Rubbing his face in my hair as if to hide the embarrassment in his voice.

Sitting up, I swiveled around and I met his eyes with a happy smirk. "Tell me and I'll give you a kiss." I bartered.

Percy pouted. "I thought those were free!"

"Not today."

"...Fine." he complied. Moistening his lips lightly before he spoke again. "You know when we got on that subway and you fell asleep on me?" he asked with a little cute cringe on his face.

I gaped at him. "You Seaweed Brain! We only met like an hour before that!"

"I know! That's what I told myself" he sighed dramatically. "I told myself than that I should stay away from you, and that all you were was a vat of trouble but I just couldn't help it." he rambled. Blush high on his cheeks. "You were so damn cute when you talked in your sleep and the way you handled being flirted on by a jerk? I'd just never seen anything like it."

Shooting him a perplexed and doubtful look, I cocked my head to the side with a huff. "Than why were you teasing me all that time?"

"Because you'd make that adorable face." he muttered. Red from embarrassment. "And I knew I was 100% falling for you by the time we argued at Leo's because once I saw how distressed you looked… I just knew I couldn't stay angry."

"So you apologized." I fit together. Heart thumping in my chest as I looked at him enchanted. So enthralled at how he liked me this entire time and I didn't even know it.

"Wait." I realized. "If you liked me the first day we met, than why did you leave so readily when the cuffs came off?"

Percy pursed his lips, his intense and wild green eyes locked on mine hungrily. "A girl like you? Liking a guy like me? It seemed so unrealistic back then. I would've stubbornly stayed if I knew the future here with you would be this great."

Shit, could he get any perfecter? Could he legit surprise me anymore with his depth and empathy? Could he be any greater than he already was?

With a broad and beaming smile I hooked Percy around the neck and brought him in close. Kissing him slowly as I knotted my fingers in the back of his hawk. That feeling of my heart shuddering when he cupped my cheek and kissed me back tenderly. Butterflies still lively dancing in my gut.

Foreheads pressed, I pulled away. My soft grey eyes reflecting off his adoring green ones.

"Damn, I love you." I murmured. Small smile growing on my tingling lips. "Shit Percy, if you ever leave me you'd break me so bad."

Percy chortled. Squeezing me closer to bump noses. "Leaving you would be impossible." he smirked while tucking a stray curl behind my ear. "It was hard enough the first time. Now it's not even plausible."

Needless to say, Percy earned himself another kiss.


As you might of figured out by now, Percy is a supreme dork sometimes. This time being that he discovered my NYU acceptance letter on my shelf that I received in December.

Full scholarship for that architecture program I'd been dreaming about.

So Percy wanted to celebrate in someway and since I was craving for a muffin he dragged us down to the coffee shop on the corner of Green.

At first it was only us two sitting at a table and chatting. But things slowly turned from there.

Starting with Frank walking into the coffee shop and making things awkward.

You see, since my little 'beef' with Piper our group has been completely divided. Callie and I don't talk to anyone at that table anymore, including Frank and Hazel.

Not out of contempt, but we decided that it would be better if one of them approached us to talk instead of visa versa.

And that's exactly what Frank did when he spotted Percy and I getting up to leave.

"Annabeth!" he sounded genuinely happy to see me which I found weird.

Weirder still was when he spread his broad arms and crushed me in a hug. I didn't make a fuss because a hug is a hug.

"It's good to see you." he sighed, releasing me. His baby face pinching into a big smile.

Suddenly Percy's arm slithered around my waist, gripping me to him. "Hi." he introduced a little coldly. "I'm Percy."

"I could tell." Frank mumbled.

Elbowing Percy and sending him a warning look, I gave Frank a confused glance. "You realize you could just talk to me at school, right?" I asked with a cocked eyebrow.

Frank shook his head tiredly. "Things have been crazy." he muttered while dragging back a cafe chair and causing it to screech against the tiled floor, gesturing to the seat across from him as he sat down.

Percy, however, pulled back the seat across from Frank and to the left. I took it with one message in my hardened grey eyes.

Cut it out.

Percy plopped down in the seat across from Frank and beside me pointedly. Eyes guarded as he stared at the burly asian boy coolly. Frank seeming to squirm under the gaze.

"Right." I said curtly. "What were you about to say?"

"Well." Frank stalled, eyes scanning over the brown tiled floor. Emotions flashing over his face as he knitted his fingers together. "Maybe… maybe we should wait for Hazel to come? She's a lot better at explaining things than I am."

"Sure." Percy's unwavering voice made me cringe. Embarrassed that Frank was meeting the guy I had chosen Piper over and he was making a jerk of himself.

"So Frank." I started an obviously strained conversation. "How've you been?'

Shrugging, Frank shot me a kind smile. "Oh, same old, same old. Got accepted into NYU so I guess I'll be seeing you around next year."

"That's great!" I beamed. Genuinely feeling happiness for my friend. "What program?"

"The Veterinary one." he mumbled, leaning forward to yank his phone from his jean pocket. "Here, I took pictures last week when I was scouting." Tentatively he held the glossy black phone out to me.

Quickly, nimbly, Percy snatched up the phone and passed it to me gingerly. Eyeing Frank warily in the process.

With a pang of aggravation and lowering patience, I looked over the photo's flippantly. Watching Percy out of the corner of my eye. Planning carefully how I would deal with him.

Without warning, shot up and passed Frank back his phone. Eyes glued outside as I back up.

"I'm sorry Frank, but could you excuse us?" I pouted at him regretfully. "I just saw a friend pass outside and we weren't able to go to their event so could you save our seats while we go apologize?"

Shrugging, Frank pocketed his phone. "Sure. Hazel should take a few more minutes anyways."

Percy's eyebrows furrowed. "What friend?" he asked with complete obliviousness to my pointed looks.

"Quintum." I conjured up on the spot.

"But we don't-"

"C'mon Seaweed Brain. We'll lose him!" Grabbing him by the arm, I stubbornly yanked him through the little brown cafe. Weaving through polished mottled tables accompanied by old ladies and young friends. Bursting through the line up of tired looking civilians on their lunch break with stooped shoulders and baggy eyes.

Without a second thought, I pushed open the glass cafe door and tugged Percy around the building. Black skater skirt flying and cute white purse jiggling in the warm early april gusts. Sending my golden locks waving as I pushed through the pedestrian flow and swerving into a little alley. Settling to a stop beside a rusting dumpster reeking of rotting food, I crossed my arms over my light blue shirt and glared at Percy.

"What?" he asked dubiously. Looking lost while he searched my eyes. I tried to ignore how cute his pout was while I turned my nose up at him.

"You know." I huffed. "Acting so damn clingy in there! What's gotten into you?"

Percy scowled and jammed his hands deep into his jean pockets. Turning his face away as he glared at the cemented spaces in between the bricks.

"Nothing." he muttered. Eyes hard and cold, mouth pursed out. His inky undercut hawk looking silky but wild.

I took a dainty step forward while I poked him in the chest. "You were jealous!" I accused. Face flushing with anger as Percy refused to look at me.

"Was not." he defied childishly.

"Yes you were." I scoffed. "Denying it isn't helping your case."

"Alright fine." Percy frowned as he finally met my unruly gaze with the same amount of intensity. "I was a bit jealous. Happy?"

"No." I barked. "Why on earth would you be jealous of Frank Perce? He's my friend."

"It wasn't just Frank." Percy mumbled. Cheeks aflame as he shifted his gaze back to the wall. Shuffling his feet against the cracking black asphalt. "It was that barista, the guys sitting a few tables next to us. Even people in the line up. They were all giving you this look. Than Frank hugged you and I kinda lost my cool."

"You shouldn't give a pile of shit if those guys are looking at me or not." I snorted. "All they can do is stare."

"It still gets on my nerves." he growled in irritation. Eyes glinting

"It shouldn't." I countered. My hands defiantly on my hips as I glared up at him. Blood pulsating through my limbs.

"What if girls were looking at me all the time."

"They do!" I blurted out before I could put a cap on it. Me and my big mouth.

Truth be told, I had noticed girls staring at Percy. All the time in fact. There was no doubt about it that my boyfriend was one exquisite piece of eye candy. And in those moments when I noticed girls giggling over him, or taking 'secretive' photos, I had the same urges to act clingy. To grab Percy's hand, or give him a peck. Something to send out the signal back off ladies, he's mine. But I didn't do all those things. I restrained because deep down I knew that Percy would never pay them any attention. And that's why I was so aggravated with Percy. He was acting as if he had to ward boys off of me in order for me to stay his.

But that wasn't true.

Either way Percy gave me an odd look. His eyebrows slanting down as he puckered his lips in thought. "Do you mean to tell me that you notice girls that look at me?" he had a teasing ring in his voice as I turned a bright red. "So you get jealous too?"

"Not the point!" I waved my hands in front of my face. Partially to try and hide the unearthly color of red on my cheeks. "The point being, if guys look at me. Don't give a darn, because I'd never look at them-"

Grabbing my chin, Percy tilted my face up. His cocky signature smirk plastered on his face stupidly. "Whatever Princess."

Smoothly, Percy pinned me against the sand papery wall, his hands clutching my hips, his torso pressing against mine. Capturing my lips he kissed me hard, making stars dance behind my closed eyelids. Everything, the feeling of Percy's hands, the gritty wall biting my back, his rough shirt being knotted in my fingers, his lips working against mine, created this powerful bubbling sensation in my gut. Feeding my senses and almost overpowering me. Making me unleash a little surprised noise in the back of my throat that only seemed to make Percy kiss me harder.

By the time Percy pulled away, my lungs burned and my legs felt weak. Panting and dreamy eyed with my hands trembling as he smugly looked down on me.

"You- you can't- can't kiss y-your way out of t-this." I stuttered. Eyes wide as my heart was still racing, my skin still prickling.

Teasingly, Percy came in close again, confidence shining in his green gems as he brushed lips. "I just did Princess."

My breath hitched then got caught in my lungs again when he did that. Making the blush blooming on my face widen.

Pretending to be completely nonchalant about the whole thing, I pushed him away and started walking out the alley with my head held high. "We'll talk about it later." I sniffed.

Before I had a chance to wiggle my way back in the cafe and hide my burning face from my cocky boyfriend, heck, even before I was able to leave the alley, I caught sight of Hazel.

She was literally right at the and of the dumb alley, leaning against the same wall I was just heavily kissed against as she held a hand to her glowing face.

"HAZEL!" I squealed, suddenly feeling squeamish. "How long have you been standing there!?"

"A.K.A how much did you see?" Percy saundered up beside me smirking. I swatted him over the head.

"All of it." Hazel staggered with a scarred look on her pretty features. "I saw all of it."

"Oh My dear goodness." I squeaked. Burying my face in my hands as the blood rose to my face all over again. The feeling of pure mortification worming its way in my heart in all it's cringey glory. Now, all I wanted was to disappear in the shadows of the alley. Maybe do a flying dive into the dumpster and hide there forever.

"Hazel, Oh my gosh." I started. Awkwardly hobbling forward. "I'm sooo sorry. Shit this is so embarrassing. The first time I'm talking to you in like a month and this is how we meet."

"It's okay." she stuttered. Her soft eyes not meeting mine. Trying to hide behind her thick chocolate locks. "It's okay. It just caught me off guard."

After a delicate pause, she found enough courage to lift her eyes off the ground. "You must be Percy."

Percy's smirk widened and he was probably about to say something cocky, so I elbowed him in the gut.

"Uncalled for." he wheezed as it knocked the wind out of him.

I winked "Glad to see I can still take your breath away Seaweed Brain."



"Ummm?" Hazel looked between us like she was intruding on something.

"Hazels right!" I spoke a little too loudly, a little too eagerly. "Let's go back into the cafe. Franks waiting!"

Back in the actual cafe, I took my seat again and crossed my legs. Still attempting to hide my embarrassment from both my friends. Thankful when Hazel commented on my converses and saying I had a cute outfit rather than telling Frank exactly what she saw just a few short minutes ago.

"Right." I folded my hands on the table in front of me. Trying to ignore the obvious fact that both Frank and Hazel were uncomfortable with Percy. Eyeing him warily and glancing nervously at the table every few seconds.

"You wanted to say something?"

Frank nodded with a world weary expression. His eyes slanting over to Hazel as he passed off the subject to her.

"It's Piper." Hazel revealed, pushing her hair out of her face while leaning in. Distress written on her features. "She's become completely paranoid!"

My heart sank slowly as I looked between the couple in confusement.

"Paranoid?" I asked, confuzzled. "Paranoid how?"

"She's always asking if we've talked with you or Calypso, always pointing out when we even glance at the lunch table you two sit at."

"What?" My eyebrows pinch down as I listen to Hazel talk. Her words not matching Piper's character.

"It's why we don't talk to you two anymore." Hazel muttered, eyes downcast. "Pipers just so…. uptight about us even looking at you. She claims if we talk to you we're only going to encourage you decision of staying with Percy."

"Then why didn't you text me? Or Callie?" I questioned. Glancing at Percy for a touch of support.

"Piper's got that covered too." Frank sighed, leaning back in his chair as he looked at me in quiet thought.

"She's always asking who we're texting, whenever we're texting." Hazel embellished. "She gets super riled up if we don't tell her. Not to mention that I've caught her going through my phone more than once. Honestly, it's driving me mad." the african american girl pinched the bridge of her nose. "I've really missed you guys. It's not the same without you and Calypso around."

I clasped Hazel hand sympathetically over the table. Softly looking at her with a burdened heart.

"She's breaking down." I muttered hoarsely. Eyes watering at the idea of Piper in this state. "She's created sides and is terrified that you'll cross to my side." I tried to explain. "Plus, she's always been told that's she's right. Not in the spoilt brat way, but because she was right most of the time. Her ideas, opinions and answers were right most of the time so people listened. But now that she isn't right about something, she's trying desperately to back up her logic as correct with you guys."

A hesitant silence iced over the little cafe table. Sounds of fresh coffee pouring, pastry bags crumpling, people talking quietly, orders being yelled, feet shuffling, chairs squeaking and the coffee machines beeping felt more prominent in their silence.

I glanced outside to the sun filled street. Watching as the cars passed at all the same speed. Each one flashing a different color than at least the last one.

"What are we going to do?" Hazel mumbled miserably. "We wanna still be friends with you and Cals but… Piper just seems so fragile."

"Tell Piper that." Percy piped in. His eyes dead serious and calm. His demeanor sullen. "Piper needs to someday accept the fact that she's not right all the time. Tell her that you still want to be friends with Annabeth and Calypso and that she can't hold you back from it. Just because Piper thinks Annabeth screwed up in letting me stay doesn't mean she can drag you two into it."

Frank knitted his hands again. Thankfully the awkward tension between Percy and him starting to die. "It's not that easy. Pipers really… persuasive."

"Believe me." Percy met his eyes soundly. "I know she's persuasive. I've met her. She convinced me that I was a reckless nobody living in the wrong apartment. Luckily for me, Annabeth is a little more persuasive."

I blushed when they all looked at me at once. Percy's adoring eyes giving me happy tingles all over again.

Clearing my throat, I restarted the conversation. "Percy's right." I declared.

"That's a first." he mumbled with an amused tone. I swatted his shoulder.

"You're gonna have to make your own feelings and wishes clear to Piper or I don't think she'll even consider them. But be gentle on her okay? She's upset. She's probably doubting herself right now."

Hazel and Frank nodded after meeting eyes.


It was later on in the day when Hazel texted me. My heart tingling as she wrote.

She approved of Percy.

Said it took her awhile but she could totally see what I saw in him. Frank was okay with him but wasn't 100% convinced yet. But that was good enough for me.

I was grateful. Blessed even to have friends who loved me.


It all completely backfired.

Apparently, after telling her how they felt, Piper did nothing but burst into tears. Kicking them out of her apartment and only muttering one line on how she didn't think that they would betray her.

From then on Piper Mclean was unreachable to everyone but Jason, who kept his distance between us and him. Occasionally updating Frank through secretive texts about what was going on, but those were rare.

Piper herself stopped returning texts and never answered calls. Trying to talk to her in the halls was like trying to start up a conversation with the vending machine.

Even I tried.

But nothing worked. Soon, we gave up. Knowing that she was too stubborn to argue with.

Graduation came and went releasing us out of highschool and into summer. Excitement rising for the coming University days. For our entire lives ahead.

Seasons changed. Green lively leaves turned yellow and orange as the sun dipped below the horizon earlier and earlier.

By the start of first year Uni, Jason ended up at Frank's house. Depressed and emotionally drained after a messy breakup with Piper.

I was terrified that Piper would do something reckless. Anxious that I'd see in the news that her body had been found stiff and broken in the river, or smooshed against the road like a grease spot. Luckily that didn't come to pass. Instead I tried reaching out to her again only to find that her number had been changed and that she'd left home. Her father in a fit of worry as to her whereabouts.

The gang silent and secretly concerned for our ex-close friend. However, soon we were up to our necks in start of year projects. Balancing friend time and work time while we etched away at our education in hopes of a future. Piper's jagged hole starting to smoothen out.

We all like to hope that we'd never lose friends. Never lose the people who are closest to us. Whether they just get out of touch, or are violently ripped from our hearts it still hurts in the same way. But life is messy, and unkempt. In reality we do lose friends sometimes thanks to petty fights and inexperience in mercy.

Pipers sudden disappearance made me dread the day I'd lose any other friends. But that thought couldn't be dwelled upon. I had friends I dearly loved now, and as I once said to an emotionally stricken boy 'This is the now. Nothing you can do now will change what has happened'.

So my life went onwards, as life does.


"Do I have to wear this?" Percy complained as I straightened the collar on his blue button up dress shirt. Percy insisting that he roll up the sleeves at least.

"Yes." I answered simply, wondering if I should try and wrangle him into a tie. "This is Calypso's big send off. I'm not having you look like a biker at her Goodbye party. Besides, I was able to convince Nico to where a nice shirt too."

"Nico is going to be wearing something other than a skull t-shirt?!" Percy gaped. Eyes widening at me in shock.

I nodded smugly, eyes sparkling mischievously. "Well I am pretty persuasive." I chuckled.

Percy rolled his wild green eyes. A blinding smile following. "You totally cornered then threatened him didn't you."

"He was rather stubborn even after I brought out the pink nailpolish." I muttered with a broad smile. Turning on my heels to fetch my purse on the bathroom sink.

Lips pursed, I gave myself a quick look over in the mirror. Making sure my bouncy knee length green dress had no wrinkles as I ruffled the skirt, and examining my clipped back hair with more or less a sense satisfaction. Straightening my casual netted cover up before strolling back down the hall again.

"Alright, let's go." I declared as I swung a light jacket over my shoulders to protect me from the bitter october air.

Hooking arms with Percy, we walked down to the decrepit old car in silence. Even while driving not much was uttered. Only Percy commenting with a tease on my driving ability.

I stuck my tongue out and continued. Eyes focused on the road.

Noticing how grisly this even was. Dark swirling clouds blanketing the atmosphere ominously. The wet pavement evident of the lazy drizzles that had pestered New York all morning. Leaving puddles in crannies and potholes. Plastering orange, red, and yellow leaves to the ground and making cars and windows glitter with moisture.

"Hey you missed Calypso's turn!" Percy pointed out while his eyes followed the street we were passing.

"I know." I sighed airily, reaching down to slightly turn the radio up. Enjoying the slow beats of the song as they bumped through the speakers.

Percy's eyebrows furrowed and he crossed his arm. Shooting me a perplexed look as I calmly continued driving. Following the beams of my own headlights and near tailing the car in front of me.

Fifteen more minutes and we were there. Passing through an intricate arched gate of black wrought iron. Moulded white statues of angels sitting on either sides of the posts. Rainwater pooled in the wrinkles of their robes.

Parking the car in the many desolate spaces, I reached behind the seat and clasped onto the cool stems bouquet and wrapped in white papers.

Quietly, I passed Percy the Calla Lillies and stared straight ahead into the rows on rows of gravestones. Each one unique and chiseled with names. Crafted by caring hands and at some point looked upon with deep sadness. All of them darkened by the receded rain. Standing cold and lonesome in the darkening evening.

"I know you don't get to come out here often." I mumbled. Finally looking over to him as he stared at the flowers in his lap. "So I thought maybe we should spend more time visiting."

Gratitude swirling in his deep green eyes, Percy grabbed my hand and squeezed it. His lips pursing into a thin line.

Together, we navigated through the graves hand in hand. Feeling a little weird that we were currently walking over the dead. Shoes melting into the soggy grass littered with leaves. An occasional breeze sending shivers down my spine.

Finally we reached Sally Jackson's grave.

Her gravestone being the simplest slab of marble with her name, birth and death. Nothing more embellishing it. No intricate lettering, or sculpted hearts or crosses. No quotes or mention of family.

Probably because Gabe wouldn't pay a dime more than he had to. I gritted. Mouth turned downwards.

Percy placed the flowers carefully down in front of the curved stone jutting from the earth. Eyes focused on the lettering with tears still welling. His hair being combed through by the hushed wind.

It's strange.

Standing there, I felt more connected to Sally Jackson than I ever had before hand. Not just because of all the stories I had heard of her. Her infamous blue cookies, charming smile and happy attitude.

But because she loved Percy just like me.

Obviously she loved him like a mother, her being his mother, and I loved Percy romantically but love is love even if there are different kinds.

"She wanted me to find a way to get away from Gabe after she died." Percy suddenly muttered. His hands shoved deeply into the pits of his black jeans. Eyes lost in a dream. "She didn't want me to go into foster because she'd been bounced around in that system before. Said it was an acidic way to live."

Tentatively, with my ears wide open, I leaned against Percy. Squeezing his arm comfortingly.

"I tried saving money to pay rent for my own place." he revealed. Eyes darkening. "But stupid Gabe always found out some way to get his piggy hands on it. I was about to give up all together. Then you happened. Showing up outside my window like that in the middle of the night and telling me that I was moving in with you." Percy paused to moisten his lips. Locking eyes with me while a sigh of weariness escaping his lips. "I couldn't help but think that it was something organized from above."

With a simple whole hearted smile I wrapped my arms around him and crushed him in a hug. Relishing his warmth as he hugged me back. His breath tickling my neck.

"Who knows, maybe it was." I mumbled. Heart throbbing delightedly.

We stood there for heavens knows how long. Just holding each other. Grateful that we even had each other to hold.

By the time we did leave, the sky was a considerable shade darker and the wind had picked up quite a bit too. Messing up my hair and making the windows whistle as we drove.

We were only fashionably late to Calypso's party. Just in time for the breakout of the Just Dance games (unfortunately for me).

It took awhile to get Percy in the actual living room where the party was going on because he was too busy revelling how big Calypso's house was. (What a dork.)

"I didn't think you'd ever get here!" Calypso whispered to me. Looking lit in a pair of jeans and ruffled top.

"Stopped on an errand." I explained quietly. Following her into the large living room alive with lights. Three victorian styled grey sofas boxed in a large sturdy glass coffee table perfectly in the center. Each detail of the room was angled and precise, even the chirpy ornate fire place on the far wall.

"Eehhhh! Annnniiieee!" Thalia greeted while hoisting her can of soda in the air. Sitting by the edge of the fireplace and lolling back leisurely. She had about a dozen plastic forks in her hair and more being prodded in by Nico and Rachel. Faces twisted in concentration.

"What's going on here?" I looked at them skeptically as Rachel selected another white glossy plastic fork from a pile carefully.

"We're seeing how many forks we can fit." she explained without looking up.

"First person to make a fork fall loses." Nico added in.

I was pleased to see that he was wearing a very black, very new button shirt. The top and bottom buttons still unhooked and his rolled up sleeves uneven.

"They've been at it forever." Thalia groaned while pinching together her pierced eyebrows. The deep V neck shirt she was adorned in was showing off her beautiful wolf tattoo.

With a sigh, I flopped on the curve of the rough yet spongy sofa and watched them in a sort of amusement. Eyes lingering a while on Rachel while realizing that I'd only met her a few short weeks ago. Bumping into her outside NYU and accidently making her drop all her supplies.

Felt like I've known her longer.

"Pizza's here!" Jason announced as he strolled in the room. That kid from his science program tailing behind him.

Will Solstice or whatever.

"PIZZA!" Thalia bellowed while jumping to her feet. Forks flying off her while Rachel and Nico scowled deeply.

"HEY!" they complained in unison.

Thalia snatched the warm cardboard boxes from Jason's hands and cradled them, sending him a wink. "Thanks Sparky." she added sweetly.

Jason groaned with a sigh and pushed the glasses up his nose. "My names not sparky!"

"Sure it is." Thalia waved off. Eyes set on the boxes in front of her. Mouth practically dripping.

"I CLAIM THAT PLASTIC TABLE!" Leo called while waving his hand maniacally in the air.

Calypso just rolled her eyes at her childish boyfriend.

"No fair! I love those things!" Percy pouted while plopping in beside me. Swing a casual arm over my shoulders.

It was my turn to make a face.

"Is my boyfriend the only one who's mature here?" Hazel scoffed from the sofa across from me. Her hand intertwined with Franks.

Frank blushed. Still the big silent cuddly giant.

"C'mon Thalia, serve up the goods alreaady." Jason huffed in annoyance. His white shirt rippling as he sat cross legged on the pale carpeted floor beside the glass coffee table. Will copying him as he kept his eyes set enchantedly across the room.

"Jeez, calm your pants sonny." she grinned at him while holding out the first plate containing a slice of the mouth watering cheesy goodness.

"Me! Me!" Leo squirmed on the sofa, half crawling over Calypso to reach out towards it. "I'm starved!"

"Will?" Thalia offered the plate to the blonde headed boy who took it with a polite nod.

Leo deflated over Calypso's lap. She patted him on the back sympathetically and with a small smile. "There, there, patience is a virtue."

As the pizza was handed around and conversations flourished, Jason nudged Calypso with his elbow in a friendly manner. His question drawing everyone's attention to the pretty girl. "What made you decide to study overseas?" he asked eyebrows perching in curiousity.

"If I had a boyfriend like Leo, I'd wanna study overseas too." Thalia jibed, mouth half full and lips split into a teasing smile.

Leo shot her a withering look. "Haha, Hilarious Thals."

"Anytime, Squirt."

"The schools." Calypso decided finally, ignoring Thalia and Leo at the same time. "Some of the best programs in the world are in Europe."

"At least you're taking classes." Nico's half hearted grin appeared. "Thalia and Percy are gonna be left in the dust."

"Better than finger painting all day." Percy shot a grin at Rachel who crossed her arms with a huff.

I swatted him over the shoulders playfully. "I rather you did finger paint all day than fiddle on that stupid skateboard!"

"Oohh." Jason hooted, grin spreading over his face. "Shots fired."

"Shutup Nerd!" Percy and Thalia shouted synchronized. Eyes dancing.

I chortled lightheartedly as I watched Jason's ears turn pink. Rolling his eyes at Thalia with a little humor embedded in his sky blue pupils.

Calypso met my eyes with a gleeful grin. Mischievousness dancing in her orbs she gestured over to Frank and Hazel sitting on the sofa.

Whispering things to each other as they created their own little bubble around them. Dopey smiles plastered on their faces.

The finger countdown.

The intake of breath. We had down this a million times before and we'd do it a million times over.

"FRANK AND HAZEL SITTING IN A TREE! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Calypso and I shouted. Watching with giggles in our throats as Hazel shot away from Frank with her eyes wide. Arms clutched to her chest as if she were terrified.

The room burst into a chorus of laughs at their reaction. Rachel tumbling forward as her sides racked, thumping a still ill amused Nico on the back. Will on the other hand was heaving loudly, face lit up like a christmas tree.

"I can make you embarrassed too Beth!" Hazel squeaked. Curling tighter into fetal position as she spoke.

Stupidly, I gleamed wickedly at her. Accepting the challenge. "Try me." I was confident and smooth. Sure of myself.

"I caught Annabeth making out with Percy in an alley!"

All eyes turned to me. My heart beat rising and dipping with every thump. Thalia already losing it in a waves of guffaws.

Even Percy was staring at me, smirking like a bloody idiot as the feverish heat rose from my neck and assaulting my cheeks in flames of red.

"HAZEL!" I shrieked as my hands shot up to cover my mortified face. My friends laughed delightedly. Never seeing me so flushed before.

I was utterly humiliated. Sinking lower in the sofa and trying to hide.

Waiting, hoping that they'd stop staring so we could resume the party with at least some of my dignity intact.

Suddenly Percy leaned overtop of me. Body pressed to mine as his face hovered. His arms supporting him on either side of my head. Tenderly pecking me on my uncovered lips to coax my hands away from my eyes.

"GET A ROOM!" Someone hooted.

But I wasn't paying attention.

I was enchanted, encased by the look in Percy's swirling green eyes. Soft and clear. Filled with depth and adoration. Undoubtedly written in his eyes, in his body language and soft expression was a message.

-He wasn't ashamed to be with me.

He didn't care that most guys like him had girls who wore tight clothes and fake lashes. He didn't care that most guys like him preferred girls who would rather go clubbing or steal the parents alcohol and find a corner.

He didn't care that I was that classic good girl instead of the bad. He didn't care if our friends made faces at us.

He was willing to kiss me openly right then and there to prove it to everyone too.

So why was I hiding my face in shame over the fact that Hazel had caught us kissing?

I wasn't ashamed to be with Percy.

Even if he's the type of guy to sass an officer or teacher. Even if he's the kind of guy to get protective and arrogant when other guys are around me. Even if he occasionally starts fights at school.

He's my fudgin boyfriend. No way do I have to be ashamed of that.

I was proud in fact. Damn proud that I had this person in my life.

So I showed it in a way that made everyone start gagging and Thalia cheering.

I looped my arms around his neck and I kissed him. Hard.

Ya, it's long. If you read the whole thing THAT'S SO AWESOME! :D Please leave a review for any thoughts or feelings you had on this part. Trust me, the next part is NOTHING like the first one lol.

So your opinion on the first part would be really appreciated.