Just imagine me sitting behind my computer maniacally laughing and you've pretty much got the picture. This has been a year and a half of work and thank the heavens its over. I'm so happy I got it done.

You can thank TheWritingManiac for all of her hard work on betaing this for six freakin months. So please, go over and give her a big cyber high five because she deserves it. She's literally the best human being on the planet for putting up with my bizarre writing style. (Thanks Rachel, seriously your the greatest!)

Finally, for those of you who had difficulty finding their place last time, I've numbered the line breaks so when you're reading, just remember the last number you saw and it should help.

Finally! Enjoy!

Epilogue/ Mayhem/ Let's be real, this is a sequel

Seven years. Seven glorious years. That's how long ago I had seen Piper. That's how long I had been in a relationship with Percy. Cheesy start right? Well, at this moment in my life it didn't seem cheesy to think. It felt serious and nostalgic. I couldn't tell if seven years was all I was going to get out of this deal. I couldn't tell if this was the end of everything for me.

Hell, I couldn't even think. I was panicking as I raced through the hospital. Tears, so many tears were flying off my face as I rushed passed nurses and robed patients. Cheeks wet, heart praying, and mind in blurr of 'no's'.

No, don't you dare die on me, Seaweed Brain.

No, don't leave me.

No, I can't use handcuffs to make you stay this time.

I can't remember how I managed to make it to the floors office, but I did. Shrieking at the nurse when she asked if I meant the Perseus Jackson in room 301. Of course, that Perseus. She had no other Perseus on her list of names! Did she want me to jam my fist into her jaw?

Flutters and spasms of aches hit my stomach with every wrenching thought of losing Percy, my mind continuously assaulting me with doubts and nightmares.

What if I'm too late?

What if he's dead?

I hated hospitals. How they were always white or an offset cream with brown trims and doors, how they always smelt like blood, hand sanitizer and death. How the janitor caddies and nurses stations always seemed to be clogging the hallways. How one frickin light in this fluorescent bulb mine field was always flickering. How the nurses and doctors were always unnaturally calm. How they smiled at you fakely through your blind panic.

289, 291, 293. Black print numbers flashed as my eyes scanned the pale blue door frames. Each wrong number deepening the pit in my gut.

Sprinting in my heels, creating cracking noises against the scuffed cheap white and dull blue ceramic floor, I turned a corner. My vision tunneling when I saw the hefty African American standing at the end of the hallway, twirling a helmet in one hand as he loitered around the area. His thick black-and dull yellow suit made him look like a giant bumble bee.

"CHARLIE!" I yelled. My throat was hoarse as I collapsed against the big fire fighter, eyes streaming.

"Tell me he's alright," I sobbed, clutching him in a desperate panic. "Tell me he's fine. That he's okay."

Charlie smiled down at me while patting my shoulder encouragingly. "He's gonna be just fine." He delivered the news with a soft smile. "Percy's a trooper. You know that."

Relief washed over me, weakening my legs as I slumped against him. Tears of gratitude swept down my face.

"Thank you." I uttered to no one in particular as Charlie ushered me towards the door. My ragged breath breaking against my throat as I staggered into the darkened room.

Percy was pale.

Gods, so pale.

The thin white blanket draped over his sprawled figure looked ominous and ghostly in the dim light, like those sheets they covered the dead with after the plague had passed through Europe.

Strapped against Percy's face was an oxygen mask that glinted from the light streaming from the open door. A shushing sound and a cloud of fog appearing on the contraption every time Percy took a breath. His chest was rising so faintly that I almost didn't see it.

Tubes leading up to clear bags hung on cold metal rods, and the heart monitor blinked and beeped with every note of his heart.

It was such a typical scenario, and one I dreaded with every passing story that I heard. Now I was here. Gazing at my loved one who looked helpless and weak in the darkness.

From his bedside, Thalia rose as soon as I entered the room. Her sky-blue eyes were red and a weary ache appeared in her stance. I recalled faintly seeing her motorcycle in the parking lot, but didn't think anything of it at the time.

"How is he?" I asked hollowly as I floated forward, fixated on Percy's emotionless face. "What happened?"

"Idiot gave his breathing apparatus to an unconscious old guy while they were still in the building," Thalia muttered dully. Her eyes were stony as I took the seat beside Percy's bed and grabbed his warm hand. "Charlie carried the guy out, but Percy collapsed in the building's hallway from smoke inhalation and lack of oxygen. The crew took awhile to get Percy out because the stairs caught fire thanks to its Persian rug."

"But he's alright now," I heaved, tears building in my eyes. "He's gonna be alright."

"He didn't have a pulse when they pulled him out, 'beth." Thalia's heavy voice made my spine tingle. Dread climbed in the pit of my gut as she continued, trying to keep it together. "They sparked him back to life three times. I… I was there for one of them."

I could tell Thalia was crying now. Clutching herself as she stood behind me. Her gaze was on the same face I was looking at in the lonely dark hospital room.

"Worst three minutes of my life," she sobbed, hiccups taking hold of her breath in gasps.

"But he's gonna be alright," I cried desperately, fear and panic swarming and suffocating my heart in a dark cloud. Tears streaming hotly down my face as I swung around to look at her. "Charlie said he's going be alright. He's has to be alright!"

"What did that optimistic asshole tell you?" she hissed.

Never had Thalia looked so angry. So hateful, and miffed. Her jaw tightening and eyes burned with wrath. Her leather leggings creaked slightly as she shifted to peer at me with twisted features.

"Did he say Percy's gonna be alright?" she growled darkly through gritted teeth.

Numbly, I nodded, a hot stab entering my gut at the realization at how much worse this actually was. If Percy was really alright then Thalia would be more laid back, more at ease in the situation.

But no.

She had picked her fingernails raw, her hair was sticking up end in every direction and her lower lip was dented with nibble marks.

"That bitch." Thalia made a move towards the door with violent intentions before I flailed out to snatch her. Thankfully able to hook her arm and swing her violently back to look at me, forcing her to look into my searching eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked brokenly. "What's wrong with Percy?" I gasped. Pleading with every syllable.

Thalia yanked against my grip, eyes blazing. "First, I'm gonna beat up that fowl faced-"

"Thalia," I barked, shoving her harshly against the flimsy white wall with a resonating thump as I gripped both of her bulky shoulders. Shivering with raw emotion as I kept her pinned out of desperation. "What's the matter with my fiance?!" I demanded. Heat rising in my chest in an aching bubble. Goosebumps riddling my skin like a plague symptom.

"He's in a coma, 'beth." She tried to say strongly, but came out in such a fragile whisper. The fear was there. Losing Percy was in her mind. "They- they said he might never wake up. They said he might have brain damage from such a long time without air. Smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning or some shit like that. They think-they think it's unlikely that he'll ever wake up." My world was floating precariously when she finished. I barely registered what she was even saying. She ripped free of my weakened grip angry. Eyes swimming with hate brought on by sadness.

By the time Thalia pounded out of the room, I had sunk to the floor. Splayed there, numb and dazed as I stared off into the distant embedded in the darkness. No longer able to register even my own feelings as I blankly sat on the icy floor. The steady piercing beep in the back of my skull and the faraway babble of Charlie and Thalia squabbling seemed distant; so far away, and fluid sounding like I was underwater.

Or maybe Thalia was screaming.

I couldn't tell.

I couldn't feel.

At some point, I dragged my way across the few feet of floor to the rickety upholstered purple chair and hoisted myself in. Trembling with grief, I muffled the sobs burbling from my mouth in his sheets. The white blanket grew wet as my eyes kept streaming; pain snaking in and out of the arteries of my heart acidically. Weaving through my heartstrings, threatening to snap each one slowly.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Every gap between the heartbeats felt too long. Every pause caused a pang of panic to strike my chest. It was too much to take in. It was too much to even think about at once.

My Percy die?

No… no he wasn't allowed to just die. We were supposed to get married. We were supposed to live happily ever ever. He was supposed to be here for the rest of my life.

"Annabeth?" Charlie was standing concerned yet sheepishly at the door. "Annabeth, I'm sure he's going to be alright. You know Percy, he wouldn't-"

"Get out, Charles." I croaked. Bitterness stung my words while I stared, devoid of hope, at my Percy.

"Do you want a coffee? Or a muffin or something? I'm going down to the cafe-"

I was losing my mind. I was desperate and upset and just wanted to be left alone with Percy. I didn't want to hear opinions on his condition. I didn't want coffee or food or anything. I didn't want help, and I was sure as damned hell not about to have someone see me cry.

"GET OUT!" I snapped, chucking my leather purse angrily at the hefty guy in a blind act of rage. It hit noisily against the white wall and exploded on the floor, tubes of makeup and strings of keys tumbling over the cold tile and creating an orchestra of sounds. Charlie fled from my violence with a simple step out the door.

For the second time that night, I broke down. Sobbing and crying helplessly for the one person I was right beside. Gripping his hand as if I could wake him up with just the simple touch of my fingers. I was delirious with sorrow. Unsensible and thoughtless in this turmoil. I stared at the faint outline of his features while feeling the rough calluses on his worked hands.

"You said-you said you'd never leave," I bawled. Falling apart in a way that even I couldn't put together again. "Right after that first phone call with my dad… I … I told you then that if you ever left me you'd break me so bad." I paused, wishing beyond all hope that he would answer. To smile adoringly and kiss my cheek and tell me it was all fine. That we would get married and build that life we had been dreaming of so adamantly.

"This counts." I whimpered, wiping my swollen eyes sloppily. "If you leave me, if you never wake up, then count me as broken."

And all at once I was hit with a flush of memories. Of pepper spray and alleys. Of an angry fat guy and bitter air out on a roof. Of midnight giggles and cute morning mutterings. Of tears in a dark room and in a bathtub. Of family turmoil, of broken friendships, of hallway kisses, of harrowing skateboard escapades, of late night talkings, of early morning coffee fragrances.

"Oh, Percy." I mumbled miserably. "Percy, please. Please."

He didn't wake up for my pleas.

His expression never changed. All I could do was stare. Stare and stare and stare and stare. Waiting for a stir of movement - a flutter from his eyelids, or a twitch from his fingers. Anything, anything at all. But nothing made a sound, or moved except me and my flowing tears. I was completely alone as I sat next to the person who gave me the most company.

Suddenly there was a creak. Not from Percy, to my disappointment, but from behind me. A sound that betrayed someone's presence in the room with me.

Tiredly, I swung my head heavily to the door. Ready to fight back Charlie again or to dismiss Thalia. Hurt ached in my chest with every weary beat of my heart.

I was too worn to be surprised to see Piper. Or maybe I thought I was just imagining my childhood friend at the door. Seven years later, all grown up. So elegant and tall. Her once choppy hair now long and luscious. Garbed in the training uniform of a doctor. There was such a mature stance about her; so different from the girl I had left behind in high school. Her colorful eyes wide and glassy as she looked at me, frozen in shock.

For some reason, I immediately went on the defensive, acting like a lioness protecting her injured mate.

"Here to gloat?" I challenged sourly. Hurt in my eyes as my hold on Percy tightened. "Here to tell me that I never should've let him in my life?"

Piper was silent. Her shoulders drooping in what I hoped was guilt.

"Well I don't care what you say." I sobbed bitterly. My lungs heavy. "I love him, you hear? I LOVE HIM!"

"I… I…" Piper stuttered. Wringing her hands as her lip trembled. "Annabeth, I-"

"GET OUT! Just get out! I don't want to see anyone!" I crumpled all over again. Watching blurry with vision as the brunette retreated from the room until she was nothing but a silhouette being engulfed by a blob of light.

Blobs of light out the windows from the city, and blobs of light blinking from the heart monitor.

Sobbing, I drifted, wandering to a place in my mind where Percy was not at risk. A place where I was wearing white, not black.

A place I hoped my future would lie.


"Y'know you're beautiful, right?" Percy said for at least the billionth time that day.

With a content smile, I reached up to ruffle his toyable hair, enjoying the swing of the hammock and the shush of the Montauk waves crashing onto the shore. Percy's arms surrounding me comfortingly. Crying gulls livening the sky as they glided on the breeze slowly.

"Why do you keep asking me that?" I chortled lovingly.

"Because I think you're beautiful, obviously," Percy snuffed while squeezing me lightly. "I just wanna make sure you know that you are."


"And I really want to marry you." That comment followed behind so fast I almost missed it.

Shocked, I twisted around to stare at him wide-eyed. "Seriously?"

Percy produced a sparkling diamond ring with that signature smirk on his face. "Would I have this if I wasn't?"

"But-bu-" I stuttered. For once in my life I was speechless. "Seriously?"

"Seriously, Annabeth." Percy smiled adoringly while reaching up to cup my cheek tenderly. "I love you. You know that."

"Seriously." I was grinning now. Stupidly, my eyes were welling over as my heart beat wildly in my chest.

"Seriously." He smiled while leaning forward to kiss me.


I woke up with early morning light streaming in through the windows happily, the smell of fresh coffee and the faint sounds of squeaking wheels and hospital staff busy at work. My eyes were still swollen and the sheets still wet under my head.

Percy's heart monitor beeped quietly beside me. The green line bouncing with every sound. His closed eyes were painful to see even with the sunshine spilling onto his figure. Sitting up, I was confused to find a loose blanket tossed lightly over my shoulders and my black purse neatly beside me instead of across the room and on the floor.

Not only that, but placed carefully on the side table next to me was a steaming Starbucks cup filled with coffee, some napkins, and a little cardboard box filled with danishes, bagels and donuts.

Confused and still groggy, I stared at the arranged pastries, wondering if perhaps I had never woken up.

"Ah, you're up, my dear." A gentle voice drew my attention to the door where a nurse stood.

She was short and somewhat pudgy. Her thin auburn hair drawn back into a tight ponytail while her broad smile never ceased. Dressed head to toe in eye-popping purple that hugged her uncomfortably in some places. In her step was a sort of waddle as she walked. She drew closer so that she could check the levels of liquid in the clear plastic bag suspended above, still talking as she worked.

"Didn't think ya looked comfy last night. Can't blame ye for stayin though. He's yer fiance, right?"

With pursed lips, I nodded, unconsciously reaching forward to take his hand again.

"Did you give me this blanket?" The thought suddenly hit me as I looked up at her curiously.

The nurse shook her head with that same everlasting smile. "Not me, love. 'Twas that young doctor completin her residency. A sweet girl, but very quiet. Mostly keeps to herself."


I wasn't dreaming or hallucinating last night, she was there. She's here.

"She also went through the trouble of gettin ya some coffee and snacks. Stayed up nearly all night, the poor thing. Wasn't her shift time either."

I remained quiet, watching as the nurse busied herself with pushing buttons and checking temperatures. Humming sweetly to herself as she went about her work.

"Do you know her? The young doctor. Piper's her name, I think," she suddenly asked, pausing to look me in the eye with that cheerful glow still on her face. Too cheerful for a woman who probably witnessed countless deaths in her lifetime.

"I... Well, we used to go to highschool together," I said, putting it simply. Knotting my fingers through Percy's limp ones as I spoke.

"Ahh," the nurse nodded, beaming. "That makes sense."

Waddling to the door, she shot me one more chirpy, toothy grin, "Well, 'ave a good day, love."

"I'll try," I mumbled, watching her disappear behind the door.

I don't know how long I sat there from then on. Watching as the sunlight slowly creeped away from Percy's bed as the sun traveled higher in the sky.

Relying on that little beep that pierced the air over and over. Constantly invaded my mind in an almost comforting manner. It grounded me with the fact that Percy was still alive.

"Any change?" a voice rasped at the door. For a breathless moment, I expected to see Piper looking at me blankly, but was met instead with the exhausted bag ringed eyes of Thalia. Her hair was sticking up in random spikes, and her eyeliner was smudged in awkward angles. Her crumpled clothes proved that she had most probably slept in the cafeteria instead of going home.

"No." I pursed my lips. My voice felt detached and distant. Like it didn't belong to me anymore.

A weighted silence followed as Thalia's eyes grazed over Percy. His ruffled hair, and slack hands.

"Are those… Danishes?"

I nodded meekly as she trodded over, a sluggishness in her movements.

"How?" she asked as she plucked a pastry from the box and munched on it slowly.

"A doctor feels bad for me." I answered blandly while combing my curls back with my fingers.

"Coffee too?" Thalia asked with a full mouth. A little dab of lemon filling clung to her cheek as she spoke, strolling around to the other side of Percy's bed in the gap of our conversation.

"You can have it if you want." I sighed. "Although, it might be cold."

"Why didn't you drink it?" Thalia had just as much enthusiasm and energy in her voice as I did, which is another way of saying she was dead-eyed and monotoned.

"Tasted like pity," I scowled and leaned forward again to lay my head in my arms against Percy's side.

"Callie's been freaking out, she's on a plane over now." I heard Thalia fall into a chair across from me. The plastic limbs squeaking on the floor in protest.

I felt a jerk in my lungs as I snapped my head up. "Can she afford it?"

"Her parents are paying her this one. Don't worry." Thalia soothed, giving me a sympathetic tilted look.

"Do the others even know about Percy yet?" I asked in a jarred sensation hiking up my spine. Realizing how they needed to know. How I, being the closest kin to Percy, had been called when he was admitted, and I'd only thought to contact Thalia because she was near the hospital.

"I called them all around two in the morning but none of the buggers woke up to answer me, so texted them instead. Rachel answered me around 4 a.m and is driving in. She should be here by later this evening, I suppose. The rest, I guess, will get it when they wake up."

"What time is it now?" I questioned, momentarily looking at my bare wrist for the watch I had removed in the car.

"Roughly seven. It's Saturday, so we might be bombarded on soon."

Whatever question I had next shriveled up like a raisin in my throat when Charlie walked in. His firefighter jacket tossed casually over one shoulder and his helmet pressed under his arm.

"Just came in to see how he was doing before I went to work." he explained quietly, knowing that he had just brought the sudden tenseness into the room.

"Nobody would've cared if you didn't," Thalia sniffed. Her eyes slitted as she glared at the man in complete hatred.

"He's going to be fine, Thalia," Charlie stated sternly. A warning in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were a doctor. Where'd you get your degree, smartass?" Thalia shot back with a growl.

"Charlie, just go." I couldn't even bear to look at him. Percy's boss, and the young prodigy Chief Firefighter, had lied straight to my face. He took my trust in one foul swoop. How dare he come back and tell us the exact same lie.

"Do you think I haven't seen this before?" Charlie scowled, squeezing the edges of his helmet in frustration. An aggravated sadness tormenting his eyes.

"I've watched some of my boys come out of calls with burns all over their bodies. I've watched some of the women get limbs crushed by debris and faces blackened by smoke. I've had some of my team leave calls in stretchers with faces so blue you would've thought they were dead. And some of them-some of them don't make it out. Alright? I lose people on my team every year." A pained strain was in his voice. Memories of faces, friends, lost to fires flickering in his service worn eyes. Charlie made a grim face at the hospital bed. "But Percy's not gonna be one of them. He's a fighter. If he were to die, he'd be dead already." He turned to me solemnly, a burning defiance in his face. "When I told you last night that Percy was going to be fine, that wasn't a diagnoses. That was a promise."

My heart swelled, a speechless knot coiling in my throat as I just stared at him blankly.

I believed him. That was the first moment I believed anyone's hopeful words that said Percy was gonna be alright. It seemed so bleak before, but now, now it felt like Percy was going to wake up without a doubt.

Maybe Charlie did know a thing or two.

"Well, I'll see you girls later. I'll drop in after work to see how he's doing." Charlie gave a simple nod as he quietly slipped towards the door.

Thalia whistled lowly. "I was not expecting that speech and a half."

"I hope he's right." I uttered quietly as I flopped my head back onto the bed. The tip of my scalp against Percy's side. "He has to be right."


Thalia went down to meet with Jason, Leo and Hazel when they popped up. Messages kept hitting my phone again and again in obnoxious vibrates as people demanded to know what was going on.

I ignored them. Running my fingers over Percy's hand thoughtlessly as nurses came and went. Refilling bags and checking temperatures, disposing of waste and clicking on machines.

The ICU, as I learned, is a very busy place to be. Nurses check in on patients every fifteen or so minutes. It's kind of annoying, but comforting at the same time to know that Percy was being so closely monitored.

I was just anticipating the return of Thalia with our friends when something changed. It was slow at first, the gentle hush or whistle coming from Percy. Taking to my feet, I put my hand to his chest and listened as each breath grew rattled. Panic building in my throat as his rasping grew like a mold. By the time I called for a nurse, it had grown like a tumbling snowball. Before I knew it, Percy was jolting in seizure like movements. Black flecks were hacked out of his body and sticking to the breathing mask in dark splatters. An urgent and constant beep pierced and died like alarm bells from the machines.

"Somebody!" I screeched in utter panic. Clasping Percy's trembling hand as he convulsed violently. Tears streaming down my face as the fear overtook me, as I prayed that these weren't his last minutes.

Everything seemed to be underwater after that.

Doctors and nurses flooded the room. Yelling at each other about tubes and airways. About more oxygen loss and MRI scans. Clean white coats flying as they wheeled my Percy away with me stumbling behind him in the awful white hallways. Each step deepened the hollow void in my chest, suffocating me gradually. All this, until they pushed him through a set of doors.

I crumpled to the ground when two nurses held me back with firm grips and soothing words. Watching as the doors slid shut behind them and swayed even after they were gone. Swaying, swaying, until they finally rested in their original position. Stone still and completely white. White as the streaked floor, white as the trimmed walls with green guardrails, white as the paneled ceiling.

As white as the lights. Even if the lights were hemmed with grey, and had a hint of yellow. And how one in the corner was fickle.

It's funny, how even in that end of the hospital there was one stubborn fluorescent flickering light. Near the right corner of the room, above some janitor caddy. Pulsing like an erratic heartbeat and dying every few seconds before reviving.

Percy's that flickering light, I remember thinking so sullenly. Sure dramatic, but it was true.

He'd either stop flickering and come back to me burning strong, or go out and leave my life in the darkness. And what killed me was that I had no say in which way he went. If he burned out or kept on going wasn't my decision.

I was snapped out of my haze when the nurses started talking about Percy. I didn't respond to them as they clutched my arms on either side of me. Each nurse calling me 'dear, lamb and hun' as they continued to pat my hand and wipe my tears.

"You have to go to the waiting room now hun." The pudgy bright one from earlier that morning said soothingly. "The doctors will do everything they can."

"But is that enough?" I sobbed as I rose shakily to my feet. Feeling as if gravity was trying to drag me into the earth. As if my life was now nothing but a shattered mirror reflecting horrors.

They didn't answer as I drifted away like a ghost. My feet feeling like blocks of lead as I shuffled down halls and passed a few buzzing desks and rooms numb of sounds until I finally reached the waiting room. Thalia and Hazel rushing to my side at the sight of my tear streaked face.

I sobbed the whole story out to them. Jason's and Leo's faces growing grim with worry while Hazel started crying with me. It was only a matter of time until a doctor revealed himself to us with a set face and some news on a clipboard. When would he arrive? Minutes? Hours? Days?

I didn't know.

I couldn't think well enough to even guess.

But until he came, the lights kept flickering.


Percy's funeral was right beside central park in a little stone church framed with stained glass windows. Buckets of flowers were blooming on the steps and the bright sunshine felt displaced.

I got to walk down the aisle with him.

Not the way I imagined to walking down the aisle when it came to Percy. I always imagined him at the end in a neatly tailored suit, smiling in that adoring way that always made me feel special. I always imagined I'd be wearing white instead of black and not following a lacquered wooden coffin over the marble floor.

Sympathetic faces were peering at me from the pews. Each staring person garbed in mourning black with glossy eyes and wet noises. And yet still they stared at me, looking at me as if they expected a performance.

What more did they want? I was already crying. In fact, I was positive that at any moment I would run out of tears.

I couldn't muster up the courage to say my eulogy, so Nico stepped up and flicked open a piece of paper. My understudy per say if I was too emotionally wrecked to do anything.

Then there was the burial.

Percy's coffin being lowered into the ground right beside Sally's grave. A shower of roses following his descent. My heart tearing through my chest and following him down there. But I could never follow him. I was caught in a black cloud of bodies, stuck in the living like a fly caught in honey. I wanted to be dead.

So many people offering me there grievance. So many people telling me they were sorry. I was just sorry they were there. I wanted to be alone, I wanted everyone to just disappear.

But that didn't happen, I was left looking at the coffin. A deep chestnut with golden brackets. My reflection not there on the lacquered surface.

I looked away. Away from the coffin, away from the people muttering things amongst themselves, away from the sun and the chirpy birds.


A figure in black caught my attention. Half a distance away and standing ominously in the field of graves.

My mother. Head to toe in black as she locked eyes with me pitilessly. Dressed so formally with a black bird cage veiled chapeau, and pencil skirt. The same expression on as the photo that was in that article from a few years back. The one declaring Athena Manning's second failed marriage.

I guess that's when I realized that this had all been a horrid nightmare.


I cracked my eyes open painfully slow. Shapes shifting and morphing until my pupils focused.

Jason was prodding me gently on my position laid out on the waiting room chairs. The fluorescent lights above felt scorching even though they gave off no heat. "Annabeth, the doctors back. They want to speak with you."

I pulled myself upright with alarm bellowing in my gut in untamed shivers. "How's Percy?" I burbled blearily.

"That's what you have to go find out!" Jason urged while helping me to my feet and retrieving his bundled up light jacket that I had been using as a pillow. The waiting room air feeling stale in my lungs as I was pushed towards the hall. Hazel and Leo giving me supportive smiles as I turned towards the door with a knot in my throat.

I walked out straightening my blouse and almost smacked into the women I was looking for. A tall skinny gal with very prominent cheekbones and greying hair. Her little name tag that was clipped to her white coat read 'Dr. Immepson'. A strong name, but not one I cared to store in my memory.

"Annabeth Chase?" she asked kindly. Wrinkles outlining the corners of her eyes.

"Yes? How's Percy?" I demanded eagerly. Folding my hands together tightly, I held back the urge of snatching the file out of her fingertips. I probably looked like a madwoman anyways with my hair knotted and my eyes baggy.

"Oh yes, hi, your fiancee is currently in stable condition." she relieved the sky crushing my shoulders in a single sentence.

"Is he going to be alright?" I asked. Stressing my words with the weight of my concerns. The busy atmosphere of the hospital draining until we had our own little bubble.

"That's still to be determined." Dr. Immepson gave a grim face as she shifted her weight to another foot. "He's suffered two oxygen deficiencies in the last 24 hours which may prolong his coma and could've quite possibly given him brain damage."

"Brain damage?" I practically whimpered. Deflating a little as the lanky women pursed her lips in a pitying way. "It's a possibility." she spoke professionally. Eyes trained down to her paper. "We've completed a few PET scans which are being looked over as we speak and Percy's been intubated as a result of the mucus backing up his trachea. Luckily we were fast enough that Percy didn't need to have the tube inserted through his neck."

"So those black specks coming out of his mouth? And all that convulsing?" I asked. Trying to piece together his condition in my mind. Diagrams of the human body floating in my brain as the panic quelled and bounced fidgety.

"When Percy came in last night he was treated for minor burns on the back of his throat because of smoke inhalation. To avoid further damaging the tender area we selected a breathing mask instead of a breathing tube to administer oxygen. However, the burns lining the delicate tissue of his trachea we didn't see so overnight mucus built up and effectively blocked his airway. The convulsing you saw was his body's reaction to loss of oxygen." The doctor explained patiently while I nodded along. A growing sense of unease poisoning my gut.

"And the black he coughed up?" I asked while twisting my fingers.

"Just soot that got caught in the mucus." she shrugged.

"Just soot," I repeated out of relief. "Just soot. Okay, okay. Thank you, doctor." I sent her a half smile that didn't reach my eyes. I felt like I was falling in a liquid world, drifting through reality as my mind deliriously reviewed and processed the new info.

"Oh, and here on the current forms and bills you'll need to fill out."

A few loose sheets were thrust into my fingers. The paper smooth and cold against my burning hands.

"Er… Thank you doctor." I repeated a little less enthusiastically. Hoping that she couldn't tell that I was just about ready to collapse.

With a pursed nod, the doctor walked away. Coat fluttering and clipboard pressed to her side silently. Just like all those TV show doctors.

I should have waited to look at the sheets of paper lying in my hands. I should've set them aside or shoved them in my purse and forget they existed. I should've waited for a more suitable time.

But I didn't.

I brought them up and scanned through the entirety of the page. Looking over the neat black print as my eyes ate up the words. Locking down on the final cost of the treatment so far.

Thirteen thousand, eight hundred and ninety six dollars.

(That's $13,896 for all you dyslexic folk out there.)

And rising. As long as Percy was in their care, that bill would just rise and rise and rise. Growing bigger and bigger until it could crush me. Like an abominable snowman that was being fed acres of packable snow.

Its roughly one thousand dollars a night to stay in the ICU, plus the medicinal care including monitors, drips, the fifteen minute nurse check-ups, airway pump, and the actual medicine to soothe the burns on Percy's throat and heal them.

That checked out to over three thousand five hundred dollars every 24 hours. And with every complication Percy came across, every mucus build up, every organ trip up, every time his body tried to fail out was another 10,000 to the bill.

I felt like I was about to faint. The ground became jelly and the world around me spun with dollar bills and faint cries. Bile rose to the back of my throat as my eyes fluttered shut from the queasiness.

I felt like I was falling deeper and deeper into never ending hole. The sinking feeling in my gut grew more and more desperate as the seconds ticked by.

I guess that's when I snapped. Not in the ways I had previously snapped. I wasn't falling apart anymore, I wasn't drowning in grief.

I had just hit rock bottom and now the only way to go from there was up.

With determination firing in my gut, I pushed my way back into the bleak waiting room. Romping passed people texting and dozing, to my cluster of friends who had jumped to their feet. In the time that I had been gone, Frank and Nico had shown up and now were gazing at me in confusion as I barreled past them all to my purse where I whipped out the calculator on my phone.

"How's Percy?" the desperate question came from more than one person as they semi circled around me. Eyes anxious and hands sweaty. The claustrophobic waiting room making me hesitate for a second before diving into my work.

"He's stable." I revealed without a hint of emotion.

Maybe that's what snapping a final time had done to me. Maybe hitting rock bottom made me lose all emotion and thrusted me into a survival mode.

A few sighs of relief reached my ears but I was now thigh deep in mathematics. Typing numbers into the calculator and adding up sums in my head. Ignoring the concerned looks I was receiving with my stone cold stare and my heartless eyes.

Thalia lifted the piece of paper from my hands before I could give her so much as a withering look.

"Gods," she whistled lowly. Snapping me out of my number making escapades and staring dumbfounded at the number before her. "Annabeth… how in the devil are you going to pay this off?"

She passed the paper off to Jason, who passed it off to Leo, who passed it off to Nico, who passed it off to Frank, who passed it off to Hazel. Faces growing a morphing into worry and eyes falling onto me with such looks of pity. To be quite honest, I was sick of pity. Sick of people telling me that they were sorry and that it was gonna be alright. I was sick of everybody looking at me as if I were a fragile doe, or a sick puppy. They could all just take their pity and go to hell.

But was I going to tell them that? No. No I wasn't.

I was going to deal with my problems. I was going to break through these walls, and I could start with these bills.

In a way I was thankful for these costs. It gave me something to do for Percy instead of sit by his bed and try not to cry. It gave my mind something to think about other than my comatosed fiancee.

But then again, it also felt like the sky was crushing me with the added weight of the bills. I knew I'd have to give up a few dreams to get through this, but for Percy I'd do anything.

"Well I'll start by cancelling our venue reservation for the wedding." I choked out a little thickly. "And getting married in a courthouse would be cheaper than in a church so I'll just make a few changes. Of course if I sell my wedding dress that will give me a bit more money. Plus I'll ask if I can move up to having a full time job at the bookstore which means I'll have to quit my apprenticeship…."

Hazel gasped and fell into the seat beside me. Horror on her face as she clasped my hand in worry. Pity in her eyes. Always so much pity!

"But you've worked so hard for that apprenticeship! Annabeth, being an architect is your dream!"

"Hazel, being an architect can wait. My apprenticeship can wait. Percy's hospital bills can't. That number is only going to grow so I better get to work." I tried to keep my voice from shaking as I spoke. I tried to act like it was no big deal.

But it wasn't. This was a big deal.

I know I wouldn't get an apprenticeship in another huge firm like that ever again. I'd be banned to small apartment making firms. 'Insignificant buildings R us firms'. Not the skyscrapers I had dreamt of designing.

"This is ridiculous." Jason scoffed. His blonde brows turned down as he fought with his pocket to take out his phone. Than, without a word, Jason marched out the door and into the hallway. Leaving a very confused circle of friends.

"I'll help pay." Frank offered sweetly. His hands curling into defiant fists.

"Me too!" Hazel chirped up.

"Anything for Perce!" Leo added.

"We'll all pitch in." Nico nodded to Thalia in a silent understanding. For once a pinch of emotion in his usually devoid eyes.

Warmth swelled in my chest as I smiled fondly at my friends. So dear to me, so ready to make sacrifices for Percy and my sake.

And yet so stubborn.

"That's really sweet, you guys." I shook my head softly, eyes welling and prickling. "But Frank, Hazel, both of you are still swimming in tuition debt," I pointed out somberly as their eyes fell at the reality of it. "And Leo, I know you've been scraping together spare money every month to save for a life with Calypso."

Leo pursed his lips, looking at the floor while he shuffled his feet.

"Nico, you only just got a job again, and Thalia, you've just started paying off for your own apartment. I can't take money from you guys. It would hurt too much. I have to do this on my own, okay?"

"Don't you have insurance or anything? Wouldn't there be a firefighter's insurance to at least pay for part of it?" Nico asked with a hint of desperation in his voice. Wanting to help so badly but not being able to do a thing.

"We were planning on getting health insurance after the wedding and the only insurance New York state offers any firefighters is cancer care to volunteer firefighters."

"That's stupid." Leo snorted in disdain. A sour look taking over his face.

My heart throbbed painfully. Remembering that as we spoke, Percy was still hooked up to a machine. Sleeping in a way that I couldn't wake him.

"Stupid or not, it's the way things are." I scowled. Hating my own words. Hating how hopeless things were becoming.

"I've got you covered!" Jason suddenly burst back into the room, startling the heck out of a couple dozing in the corner.

He sauntered over with a huge smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye that told me he had been up to no good.

"I'm paying Percy's bill. I just contacted Alex and he says that I'm good to take out at least 60,000 from the bank!"

"And does your father approve?" Thalia humphed while crossing her arms skeptically. "He's not exactly the forgiving type."

Jason scoffed while waving her troubles away. "What Dad doesn't know, won't hurt him." he assured with a beaming smile that seemed to lift everyone's spirits a notch. I felt another heavy pang hit my heart at Jason's words. Feeling slightly guilty that I was more than ready to accept the money he offered me.

"Sure, as if your father won't notice a sixty thousand withdrawal from his family bank account." Thalia sniffed. Glaring at Jason slightly as if he were a deceptive fox.

Jason's eyebrows immediately creased as he gave Thalia a look of genuine shock. A mix of curiosity and fear dancing timidly in his striking blue eyes.

"How did you know I'd take it out of the joint account?" he questioned seriously. Bringing tension into the ring of people.

Nico rubbed the plastic armchair of his seat in subdued worry. Glancing between the two calmly before shooting me a look of support. I let go of the breath I didn't know I was holding.

"Easy," Thalia huffed. "Your dad wouldn't trust you with two quarters put together. I bet you don't even have your own bank account. Millionaire Mr. Grace is well known for his obsessive penny pinching ways."

"Whatever," Jason grumbled under his breath. "That's not the point. My Dad can go throw his tantrum elsewhere. The point is that I can pay for Percy's treatment! Consider it a wedding present, Beth!"

The weight I didn't know I was I carrying again flew off my shoulders, still caught in that vicious cycle of immense pain and occasional relief.

Seriously, I felt like I was caught in a literal emotional roller coaster.

Percy had an accident -but Charlie said he was okay- but Percy really wasn't okay- but the doctor said that he was stable- but the bills were too much for me to take- but Jason said he'd take care of them for me.

I wondered how many more loop-de-loops I had to go through before I was clear from all this pain. Before Percy was fine, and I was fine and the world went back to it's perfect spinning.

"Jason I… I don't know what to say. I mean, are you sure? Are you-" My already thick voice cracked in half. Crumbling my mask of bravery and leaking out tears like water from a chipped fish bowl. Leaving me to wipe at my eyes again stubbornly as I tried to sooth that inner war of background grief and total gratitude turmoiling and partying in my heart in the most tormenting way. I was at war with my emotions.

Happy for the free of debt, guilty for feeling happy while Percy was still comatosed, and grief for Percy balancing like this sick tightrope walk between life and death.

Suddenly Jason's firm reassuring grip landed on my shoulder. He shot me one of his smooth, compassionately gentleman smiles as his eyes reached mine. Reassurance beaming off him in the most comforting way.

"I'm positive," he stated. No ounce of doubt was in his unwaveringly kind voice. "Percy is one of my closest friends too. It's the least I can do."

"Thank you Jason. Thank you, thank you, thank you." I babbled. Trying to convey the raw emotion I was feeling through my very simple words.

"Well it's not like the dingus has a girlfriend to spend the money on." Leo's wisecrack came out of the blue, sending a well needed chuckle through the strained group and lightening the atmosphere.

"Shut up, Leo." Jason rolled his eyes with a hint of humor in his voice. But I could see the flash of pain in his eyes. The loss that still rolled over his heart from time to time.

Piper better stay well out of Jason's way. I mentally noted, recalling the weeks after their breakup and how completely torn my blonde friend was. Or I'll have to make sure she stays out of his way.


Percy had a tube clamped to his face. The clear gentle mask cupping his chin was history. It had been replaced by a cloudy stiff hose with rivets boning the surface to help it bend. White tape was strapped over his almost translucently pale cheeks to hold the breathing nozzle in place. An assortments of other miniscule tubes and wires were plugged in around his body. Ranging in colour from a blood red to a calming blue.

I felt my heart swell a tad when I saw his limp figure again. How his muscular arms were loose and lifeless, how his caring eyes rimmed with dark lashes were sealed away didn't daunt me.

I was glad I was still seeing him with a rising chest and a beating heart. Thankful that the nightmare was not my reality. At least not yet.

"Do you think he can hear us?" Frank mumbled timidly. Almost as if he were scared that he would wake Percy up.

"Sometimes people can hear things when they're in a coma," Thalia added helpfully. "It really depends on a variety of things."

"Sooo… should we talk to him?" Hazel asked quietly. Her wide brown eyes flickered between me and Percy with acute uncertainty. A sort of somber sadness was etched into the corners of her pupils.

I felt a hollow ache in my chest as I subconsciously glanced at Percy. Remembering how this used to play out before. How Hazel would ask a question directed at both of us and all we had to do was share a look to find the answer.

Percy and I weren't good at a lot of things, like sorting through arguments (because both of us are stubborn mules), and deciding on meals (because he likes spicy, and I'm a tongue wus), and sorting socks. But we were good at communicating. It made us the power couple. A glance, a raised eyebrow, a slight frown or tweak of of the lips was all it took to say anything to each other.

Without him awake, it felt like I was left holding a phone that's line had been cut.

"You can if you want," I muttered in Hazel's general direction. Suddenly feeling a tad overcome with something like nostalgia.

Damn, this was bad.

Even though I had seen Percy yesterday morning, right before we went to work I was getting nostalgia. Remembering how he held onto me in a loving bear hug as I was squirming to leave, coffee cup in one hand, files in another as he chuckled against my neck and asked for one more hug.

I should've taken it. I should've hugged him.

Not fuss about how late I was, or about how my coffee was gonna spill over the wedding plans spread out on the buried counter.

My friends seemed to be experiencing something close to what I was. Each one absentmindedly staring at my fiance with a lost look in their memory burdened eyes.

"He doesn't look too bad," Leo muttered quietly. "You'd never know he was in a coma if there weren't all those wires."

"Ya," Jason returned somberly. The conversation died as fast as it came.

Silence filling in, and weaving between the group as seconds ticked by. Hushed hisses of the breathing tube at work, and the city life just outside the window. Beeps, distant sirens, tires squealing, and the faint sound of some street musician asking for change with his trumpet.

Hazel squeaked drawing my attention to her. I was surprised to see her figure so tense and her lip buried beneath a row of teeth. Her eyes brimmed with hot sparkling tears as she tried to hold them in.

"It's okay, honey." Frank whispered as he pulled her into a hug. His own eyes were bright and teary. Rubbing her back as a few muffled sobs burst into his chest.

"I'm sorry." Hazel cried. Tears streaking down her face as she pulled away from Frank. "I- I can't bear to see him like this… it's just so…"

"Painful," I finished breathily with a lump in my throat. Glaring at the ground in hidden grief. "I know."

I could feel the pitiful glances being thrown at me now. The shameless twist upwards of their eyebrows and pursed frown on their lips. Even Nico seemed to have the element of sympathy in his black pools.

Hazel sniffed and shot another glance at Percy. Her eyes falling to the floor as she made quick steps to the open doorway. Muttering about how she just needed a few minutes.

Frank deciding that she needed that few minutes with something to console her, so he followed suite in exactly five seconds. The door being irritatedly left open as when they left. The sounds of the busy hospital drifting in.

Now here's where nothing happened. No one talked, no one commented on the weather or the time of day, no one said a thing.

We sat there. We listened to the sirens of leaving ambulances, we listened to the chatter of passing nurses and busy doctors. We listened to the the fluorescent lights hum above softly, we listened to a janitor sweeping outside the door in even strokes.

Waiting, listening for a change in Percy. You could call it a waste of time, or a moment of just pure thought. Either way we were there because we needed each other to get through this.

But just when I thought the rest of the day would be me listening to the background sounds of a hospital and holding Percy's hand; something happened.

A man walked through the hospital door. His polished black shoes striking the ground with deliberate steps. His tailored grey suit setting off his piercing blue eyes. The way he held himself displayed his unwavering confidence. A stylishly wardrobed woman following his heels like a glorified secretary. Her features pinched slightly upward from a obvious face lift, while the wrinkles still persisted around the bends of her eyes.

I didn't recognize either of him. His face was unfamiliar to me. Greying locks of hair fell to his shoulder and clung to his chin. His broad nose was stout but straight and his lips pressed so harshly into a thin line that I couldn't tell their width. Thalia, Nico and Jason stood all the straighter when he came barreling in the room. All of them seeming to know exactly who this man was.

"Dad!" Jason exclaimed in shock.

My heart skipped a beat at the man I'd never met. Tales of his business like nature swirling in my mind. His irrational strictness being one of his more prominent traits.

"Sixty thousand dollars, Jason? Sixty thousand dollars!?" Mr. Grace gritted out angrily. No gentle greetings or fatherly love in his gruff voice. "You show all this promise of being the perfect successor, and the perfect CEO only to have your name scarred by an undocumented, unproductive withdrawal of SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!?"

"Zeus." The woman cooed and patted his cheek gently as if she were consoling a child. "He must have room to make mistakes. He still is a boy. I'm sure Jason has a reasonable explanation. Right, honey?"

Jason's mom?

My mind was whirling as the people invited themselves in. Leo and I were sharing confused looks while Thalia and Nico seemed close to a collective panic attack.

"Hera, sweetheart. This is a matter you won't understan-" Mr. Grace stopped short suddenly. His eyes narrowing and his red face growing a few shades darker. I squeezed Percy's hand to stop my heart from pounding. Wishing he could hold me now, and watch with me as a scene unfolded.

"Thalia!?" he gasped. "What are you doing here?!"

"You bitch!" Hera's sweet voice turning sour in a second. "How could you do this to our family?!"

With a bubble in my gut, Leo and I shared a look as the attention was diverted to Thalia. Her eyes cold and steady, as she faced the man with her chin down and lips curled in. Anger throbbing in her eyes like blue flames. Nico's hand gripping her shoulder as if he knew she could attack at any second.

"What is going on?" Jason huffed as he ran a distressed hand through his hair, speaking my question perfectly. "Dad? How do you know Thalia?"

"You mean she didn't say anything?!" Hera's anger contorted face melted into horror. Her eyes wide with fear.

"Say what?" Jason demanded as he looked between the two tensely. Eyebrows down as the two parties suddenly became interested in the floor. Leo and I caught between a war about Jason we didn't even know about. So unsure what to do in the intense environment but standing by in case Jason needed help out of it.

"Jason. Honey." Hera reached towards her son timidly. An apologetic look on her motherly features. "Just forget about this please," she pleaded softly.

"How could I forget about this?" Jason scowled at her. "My parents and one of my best friends are apparently hiding something from me. I want to know how you know each other!"

It's gonna be okay. I tried to soothe the doom that was ringing in my mind. Telling me that this was bad, that this was another loop to the roller coaster.

For a moment, I foolishly believed myself. Watching helplessly as the silence invaded once more in a suffocating way. The Graces went back to looking at each other questioningly and Thalia went back to slouching in a plastic chair while picking moodily at her fingers. Except this time she had the aura of a vicious killer.

"Thalia?" Jason's voice fell from anger into a desperate plea. His eyes echoing how lost he was. "Please? What's going on?"

Thalia's jaw tightened as she looked up at him. Her striking blue eyes scanning across the room to resume her deathly glare at Jason's parents. An accusation lying unspoken but well insinuated into her look.

"Way to blow it, Dad." she spat mockingly as she stood leisurely from her chair. "Barging in here and making a total fool of yourself."

Dad?! My mind swam. Looking between everyone in such confusion. Trying to piece together what was going on. Leo was just as weirded out as I, while Nico just looked fed up, Thalia still looking like she could destroy manhattan, and Jason was lost between perplexion and shock.

"That's right Jason." Thalia growled menacingly. "I'm also a spawn of that good-for-nothing son of a bitch."

"You… you're what?"

"I'm your biological sister, dingbat."

"Sister?" he gaped.

Sister?! My mouth falling open, unable to grasp such a bizarre concept.

"Jason! Don't listen to her!" Hera smiled smoothly with a nervous laugh bouncing in her voice. "The girl's crazy."

"I'll show you who's crazy, you half witted bitch." Thalia jumped to her feet, fight mode on as she took a sturdy step towards Hera, who suddenly regretted her words.

All it took was a hand to her shoulder by Nico for Thalia to stop moving. Her tightened fists relaxing as he shot her a calm, collected look. Thalia succumbed sulkily and taking her seat again.

"Wait, wait, wait a damn moment." Jason waved his hands wildly in front of him. Almost as if his simple motions would clear the room of all the toxic energy. "You're..." he jabbed a finger at Thalia. "My sister?!"

"Well, Sparky, turns out you're not that dumb." Thalia spat back. I gripped Percy's hand impossibly tighter. Wanting to tell Thalia off for her harsh words in such a situation, but at the same time too shocked to do anything.

"Dad." Jason stoically ignored Thalia's comment while turning to his father for answers. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"And risk having the media figure out that his especially perfect son was from a side fling? My, my, Jason. You really don't know how good business works," Thalia hissed bitterly. Her eyes were level with Jason's.

Not making this any better, Thalia. I mentally groaned. Feeling the anxiety swirling in my chest.

"But… Mom wasn't a side fling." Jason muttered with pure confusion written on his face and entwined with his voice. Dazed, he looked searchingly between his parents and Thalia. "Mom, you said you and dad were married before I was born…."

"Oh, naive little Jason," Thalia crooned cruelly, sourness in her tone.

"Thalia, don't you-" Zeus made a move forward before Thalia cut him off by jumping to her feet. Spryly stepping towards Jason with ginger steps.

"Can it, Zeus." Thalia bit out. "You spilled the beans, so you get to deal with the farts."


"You want to know why you were the product of a fling, Jason? Because your mother dearest isn't your real mother at all. Your real mother was a drunk ex. A little plaything Zeus liked to screw around with whenever he felt unappreciated at home."

Thalia's voice was breaking. It was raw and powerful and angry, but I could still tell that she was crumbling. Her years of a hard-fought for life, and devastating days were bearing down on her. Cracking her shell slowly as she was forced to deal with emotions she had shoved down a lifetime ago.

I wanted to say something to her. I wanted to bring her to another room and calm her down. To hear her story and make sure she was alright. I wanted her to be okay.

I could tell she was treating Jason this way because she was hurt. Thalia always lashed out when she felt hurt.

Feeling hurt made her angry. Angry at Zeus and Hera for some reason. Angry at the situation because she had to spill a secret she had held in for so long. Angry at life, I suppose, for giving her the short end of the stick.

"Mom?" Jason stumbled back. Shock engraving itself onto his slack face. His eyes growing hollow as his world and identity was blown into filaments of dust.

"Jason…" Hera cried painfully, tears breaking through the corners of her eyes and smearing down her made up face. "You weren't supposed to find out this way… you weren't supposed to hear it from this… this..."

"Was I supposed to find out at all?!" Jason suddenly snapped. His voice was powerful and harsh as his fists tightened tensely. A gritted sneer of anger etching out his emotions, bizarrely similar to Thalia's expression now that I knew the connection.

Guiltily, his parents remained silent. His words affecting their eyes in a way that they refused to look at him directly.

"So… you're not my mom…" Jason heaved. A slight wobble in his steps as he robotically turned to Thalia. His eyes started to glaze as the truth hit his center. "And you're my sister. My full biological sister…"

"Bingo," Thalia said in the least enthusiastic voice imaginable.

Thalia and Jason have the same parents…. Thalia and Jason are siblings…. Truthfully, it was hard for even me to grasp at the concept. I couldn't fathom what was running through Jason's head in that moment. What he felt in that moment.

Grief, shock, disdain, betrayal. Could've been anything.

However, Jason's shock soon dissolved unexpectedly. His gaze grew cold and determined as he twisted on his heels to boldly stare at his parents.

"You may leave." he dismissed authoritatively. "I'm using the fifty thousand as payment for my friend's medical bills. I don't want to hear anymore disagreements on the matter." The stone cold look in Jason's eyes was eerily similar to that of Zeus when he had first stormed in. The tables had definitely turned. Perhaps for the worst, if this moment froze over his heart.

Zeus looked as if he were about to protest, but Hera grabbed his arm and tugged him out sadly. Tears cascaded down her cheeks quietly. Fresh pain in her eyes as she guided her husband out the door.

"Finally," Thalia snorted once they were gone. "I thought they'd never leave."

I couldn't breath as Jason turned tensely to stare at her. Anger burning in his eyes, and fight coiling in his shoulders.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.

His tone was colder than I'd ever seen. I watched as Jason turned into another person, telling myself that I should take ahold of the situation. Curb it before it grew deadly, but not daring to interrupt or cause anything else. The tenseness in my chest would only grow though.

"Do I look like your Dad?" Thalia sniffed. "I'm not the one obligated to tell you anything, Sparky!"

"I guess now I can see the family resemblance between Dad and you," Jason laughed darkly. "You're both as selfish as can be!"

This is bad. This is really bad. I felt my heart bumping out of my chest as I watched in horror as my friends started to descend on one another. Leo now only looking to the floor as it was evident that he wanted to be elsewhere.

"Thalia's not selfish," Nico chipped in roughly. A glimmer of contempt in his eyes. "You're blind if you can't see that."

"Keep out of this," Jason barked. "This has nothing to do with you!"

"Don't you dare talk to Nico like that!" Thalia snarled. Taking a menacing step in Jason's direction. Her eyes clear and sharp like a cats.

"He shouldn't be interfering!" Jason pointed out bluntly.

"You shouldn't be such a baby about this!"

"My mom isn't my mom and I'm related to some punk who crawled off the street! Do you just expect me to be all smiles?!"

Leo frowned as his eyes suddenly came off the floor. "Whoa, Jason. Buddy, I understand that you're upset, but that's kinda harsh-"

"Stay outta this, Valdez! You're not in this!" Jason sniffed, not even looking at Leo as a hurt confusion rose to his soft brown eyes.

My esophagus twisted with each anger burdened yell. Percy's heart monitor beeping in the background like Despairs slow yet sudden footsteps as they drew closer and closer.

"Leo's only trying to help!" Nico defended. His dark eyebrows twisting down as a shiver of rage passed through his body.

"What's going on-"

"Get out of here Frank! We're busy!" Thalia stomped her foot and glared at the newcomer to the room. Her eyes burning holes in his chest as her anger was getting out of hand.

"DON'T TALK TO FRANK LIKE THAT!" Jason's fists grew tighter as the tension grew. My heart in my throat as I watched my friends slowly form venomous sides. War breaking out between the two groups, and spears of words being vaulted at one another.



"Guys! Calm down! You just-"


"Franks hasn't done anythi-"


"THALIA, For goodness sakes STOP BEING A BITCH!"

"SHUT UP!" I snapped. My voice cracking as the words were thrown from my mouth. Prickles of disdain were waving down my spine as I glared heatedly at every single one of my friends. The floor suddenly mine as shocked eyes peeled away from heated stare downs to look at me. "SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! Percy's in a coma. A COMA! And all you guys can do is argue and yell and attack each other like disgruntled chimpanzees!" I was so livid that I didn't notice the hot tears racing down my face. The burning bubble in my chest expanding with every drop of anger that coursed through my system.

I had to drop Percy's hand so I wouldn't crush it when my fingers curled into biting fists. My nails digging red crescent shaped indents into my palms. All I felt was a vexed betrayal at how my friends fell upon each other. At how they selfishly decided to focus on such a trivial matter right in front of Percy. Didn't they see one of their best friends hovering between life and death? Didn't they know not to tear eachother down?

"GET OUT!" I demanded while throwing my hands up to grip my forehead. Turning my face away and letting my hair fall in a curtain to hide my thickening tears. My blood running hot with every pump from my heart.


"GET OUT!" I repeated with just as much conviction, if not more. Listening intensely as the paused silence broke into the sound of their footsteps trodded dismally out the door. A few apologies muttered under breaths as they exited. A few lingering friends seemed as if they wanted to say something but gave up, and also ended up in the hallway.

Percy's in a coma. My friends are falling apart. Can this get any worse?

"Knock knock?" came a concerned voice from the door. My neck prickling at the thought of it being one of my friends as I whirled around to defend my area.

Thankfully, it was the kind looking nurse from earlier that morning. Here soft eyes brimmed with concern and her hands clasped in front of her. Obviously, she heard the whole brawl. Obviously she came to make sure I was okay.

"Everything… alright dearie?" she asked softly as she stepped into the room. Her sympathetic voice making me well up with even more tears all over again.

I looked away as they doubled over my cheeks and as my throat started burbling with sobs again. Muffling them into my hand as if I could scrunch the noises into a tight ball and throw it far away from myself.

"No." I answered honestly barely over a whisper when I finally got control. "No, everything is not okay. My fiance is in a coma and might not even live and my friends are fighting and arguing and I'm trying, I'm trying so hard to keep it together but… but I can't. I just... I'm..."

The sobs overtook my throat and I folded over onto Percy. Two worked hands landing on my shoulders and squeezing them gently as the nurse came to my side to try and comfort me.

I thought she was going to say things, or give me empty promises but instead she just let me cry. She'd been working here long enough to know exactly what to do.

I just sat there for heaven knows how long crying my eyes out.

By the time I sat up my head pounded, and my eyes burned. Everything was swimming while noises felt as sharp as knives. The nurse offered me a rough kleenex from her pocket that smelled like a factory and disinfectant but I wiped my eyes with it anyways and thanked her nonetheless.

"Think ya can take a break from sittin by yer fiance's side?" She asked me warily while giving me a soft curious look. Her eyes so gentle and concerned as she looked at me I almost started crying again.

"Why." I croaked. Looking back to Percy's limp body once more.

"I think ya should see somethin."


"Follow me."

So I did. Hesitantly at first. Keeping my eyes on her back as I passed my friends and their curious looks and mutters. I followed her as she led me through the hospital. Passing more people in the halls and elevators and stairways. Going up a level, weaving passed some patients, and beds and machines. She waddled ahead of me chirpily being greeted by some nurses, or patients occasionally. Never once doubting which way she was going, meanwhile I was more lost than a camel in the arctic circle.

"Here." We finally came to a stop outside a wide room door. Peeking inside I could see the blue curtains quartering off patients from each other. Hanging motionless and eerie as they hid the sick people on meds. Hacks and coughs resonated inside with the occasional sniffs.

"What's here?" I asked looking deeper into the room.

There was a window on the far side showing the afternoon sun, and a busy street streaming with cars. A looming building on the opposite side gave a less than appealing view as it blocked out a majority of the chirpy sunlight. The room was large but not overbearingly so, and the curtained off areas gave a sort of hallway down the center.

"See that section?" the nurse asked below a murmur as she pointed to a powder blue curtain.

I nodded with my eyes fixated on it. My curiosity ebbing a hole in my mind as the nurse dragged on.

"In that section is the man your fiance saved. Your fiance saved someone's life. He's not in the hospital for no reason." The nurse turned to me. The first time her features weren't bright and chirpy. The first time she looked deeply serious rather than a escaped looney tunes character. "And that says something, dear. Your fiance is a good man. He's not in here because he OD'd or got alcohol poisoning or drove while drunk."

It did make me feel better. It made me feel a little stronger, even.

Yeah, I thought proudly Percy's only here because he has what it takes to risk his life for others. Looking back, it shouldn't of made me feel any better. Sure, Percy was a good person, but I already knew that.

No matter how Percy had gotten to that state, he was still in that state. Unconscious and floating between being alive or dead. To me, it wouldn't of mattered how he died if he died. All I would've known would that Percy died and my world would feel barren.

"Would you like to meet him?" the nurse asked. "The man your fiance saved?"

I don't know. Did I? I couldn't decide. Did I want to meet the person my loved one was willing to give his life for? At first, it was such a tough question to conquer. My mind was scattered in a million different places while my heart was leaning in one strong direction.

"Okay." I mumbled finally. Entranced by the curtain separating me from that person. Wondering what kind of a person this was.

And here ladies and gentleman is where my life changes. The moment before you meet someone who has a big impact on your life. The second before you are acquainted.

As soon as I stepped with the nurse into the dull blue curtained area, I felt as if I had been vaulted into outer space.

No oxygen, no warmth, and nothing to cling onto for comfort. My eyes seemed to glaze over as my breath left my body in one ragged puff when I saw him. My entire train of logical thought thrown out the window as I short circuited.

"Mr. Ugliano, you have a visitor," the nurse said sweetly, completely oblivious to my sudden lack of… well, anything.


No. No. It's…

No. Please no.

But it was. Just older, fatter, and even less hair. His beady shrew eyes locking onto me in a sickly way. A tray of hospital food set on his rolls of belly fat and cloaked in his hospital gown as a broad crooked yellow smile twisted onto his face. He held up a greasy sausage finger hand as if to greet me. As if I were an old friend.

"Nice to meet a pretty dame like yourself." he rasped. The obvious degraded state of his voice told me his smoking habit had only gotten worse. He even had the yellow cigarette stains patching between his middle and pointer fingers.

To be honest, I felt as if I was living in a vacuum. My vision blurred, my heart pumped and sank and the air felt as if it squishing me with pressure. I staggered dumbly as I hit another loop on this roller coaster. Splinters of glass shards seemed to race down my spine at the idea of it all. My breath coming in and out in painful gasps as it came crashing down finally, like a wave bursting from a broken dam. That hot bubble in my chest burst in one final eruption of built emotion.

Percy didn't just give his breathing apparatus to some old man in a burning building. Percy gave his breathing apparatus to Gabe Ugliano. His abuser, his lazy stepfather, the man his mother pleaded for him to get away from.

He saved his life and risked his own all for a man that almost killed us both one night on a roof of a crumbling New York apartment complex.

How could he? I felt betrayed. Shocked. Angry. But mostly desperately sad and burning pain as I stared at the greasy man with anguish in my grey eyes. I couldn't fathom this. I couldn't understand why. Just why?

I couldn't comprehend Percy. My Percy. My rock who suddenly now seemed like sand. My fiance who chose his abuser over a guaranteed life with me. I just didn't understand.

How could he risk dying… leaving me for the sake of… of Gabe Ugliano.

I bet you can guess what happened after that.

I started crying, duh. I've cried a million times thus far, and I felt like I could cry a million times more.

But this time it was different. I wasn't crying because Percy might die, or that my friends had been chewing each others heads off.

I cried for myself. I cried because I felt hurt, and dammit it hurt bad. My friends hurt me by tearing each other apart while I needed them. Percy hurt me by choosing Gabe over the safety of himself. Didn't he know how much it would kill me if he died? Didn't he know how much it hurt me that he in fact injured himself? Didn't he care?

With scorching tears flying off my face my heart feeling like it was encased in barbed wire I ran.

I should've stayed. I should've smashed Gabe's face in and told him exactly what I thought of him but I didn't. I didn't tell him he was an obese pig with the morals of a psychopath. I didn't rip out the tubes in his pasty saggy arm or find a syringe of random fluid and stab it into his doughy leg. That being the second time I ran from that man before taking out my anger on him. I ran and ran and ran. I didn't know where I was. I didn't know how to get back to Percy. I didn't even fully know if I wanted to get back to Percy's side if I'm being honest. I just wanted to be alone. Funny how being alone was the exact opposite of what I wanted when I lived alone. I feared being alone.

But now, its all I wanted. It's all I wanted because I had just learned that being around people could hurt. Hurt more than being alone.

Vaguely I recall crashing into a janitor, his shocked look and spilled trash before taking off again. The lights seemed to flash, the hallways seemed to go on forever. I didn't even have to think about running, I just was. Taking lefts and rights at random, passing patients, the walls screaming white as they bleached my eyes, and the floor feeling unsteady as if it were about to fall out from under my feet. My vision tunneling down halls as my tears flew off my cheeks. My ears closed to every nurse calling out to me. I was booking it down hallways even faster now and taking more turns faster than I could even think. This time, I couldn't keep the sobs in as I ran. I couldn't make them quiet either.

Turning a corner suddenly I jammed into a door and wretched myself through it.


My body collided with a vending machine. Pain erupting from my shoulder and knee as I hit the glass full force before I less than gracefully fell backwards onto my rump. The big boxy machine shivering from my impact and a few loose chocolate bars falling with a tumble to the black pit of a chute.

The floor was cold. It was hard and it was unforgiving. But it was a million times better than any other place in this damned hospital. Better than with my friends, better than beside a nurse.

Better than beside Percy? Well, at that moment, it was debateable.

The vending machine room was small and cramped. The lighting as white washed as ever and the two machines that miraculously fit in the room hummed in a deep melodious way. It smelled of old sweets and warm metal.

Slowly, I dragged myself to the crack between the two of them and squeezed through the humid sides. Behind was just enough room for me to sit, Maybe not sit comfortably but still sit down, and be alone. Sniffling and choking on my own spit, I pushed some chunky grey wrapped wires out of the way and sunk to the floor. Wiping my eyes heavily with my palms as my breath hiccuped out of my mouth. Ignoring how it smelt of grease and dust as I laid my head against the wall still choking on my own misery.

Why? Why does this have to happen?


Creeps usually come out at night anyways. I wasn't surprised when a gang of swaggering guys came strolling down the street as I waited outside the used bike store for Percy. The smell of rubber and rusting metal always made my stomach flip flop in nausea so I decided to just sit on a bench with the lovely view of trash and sewer steam. Percy never took too long anyways.

Should've known the sidewalk would bear nothing but trouble. Between the slow flow of pedestrians, and the constant stop and go of bright cars I almost didn't see them coming. But they had quite a bold presence about them. Just bursting at the seams with a rough smugness, and unmeasurable amounts of pride.

At first I thought they were just going to pass by. Maybe a few wolf whistles like the true scums of the world like to give out but nothing too extravagant.

Instead one of them approached. A very broad smile ripping up across his face like a scar.

"What's a girl like you doing alone in a place like this?" he asked while setting one foot up onto the bench and leaning onto his knee with a casual elbow.

"What is a guy like you talking to a girl like me for?" A sniffed back the normal retort. Keeping my eyes on my phone as the guy laughed.

"C'mon, I'm only playing."

"I'm not a toy, you dingbat."

"Cut it out, Neil, the girl's just cold. Offer her your jacket or something." Another guy from the group came up, sighing heavily as he shot me an exasperated grin. "Sorry about him. He's just prone to act like an idiot in front of beautiful girls."

"Apparently he's not the only one." I rolled my eyes as I diverted my attention back to my phone.

"Now you're just cold in more ways than one." The guy chuckled as if he were funny.

As expected, Percy came up beside me. A little stiff, but we'd been working on his reaction to pesky guys.

"Sorry, boys. This one's mine." he said coolly.

I flashed my ring helpfully, beaming at how it sparkled under the streetlight.

One snorted, and just like that, they were gone. Seriously, I loved this ring. It was a 'creep repellent'.

Jumping to my feet, I threw my arms around Percy joyously. "You were wonderful!" I cried. "That was perfect, Seaweed Brain! Finally!"

Percy's arms wound up around me in a second. "Seriously? I finally did it right?"

"Seriously! You didn't seem a tad jealous!" I praised. "You.. you were amazing!"

Percy sent me that troublemaker smile that I just adored. (And yes, I did melt a little).

"Well, would a wisegirl like some ice-cream to celebrate, then?" Percy perched an eyebrow at me. His deep earnest eyes searching mine with a hint of humor.

I slapped him playfully. "You idiot. You just want an excuse to get ice cream."

"Ah. You know me too well, Princess."


The door creaked. Someone hadn't oiled it in awhile so it creaked like the floorboards of an ancient home in every haunted house movie. Thankfully the door did squeak otherwise I wouldn't have been jolted awake by the eerie noise.

My eyes felt heavy and sore, and my tongue was feeling dry and thick. I was stiff and cramped still in that little space behind the vending machine. The dry tear tracks on my face made my skin feel tight and my leg was tingling from lack of circulation. Startled, I listened as light footsteps entered into the room. The faint melody of a hum on there lips as they clinked coins into one of the vending machines. The sparse clunking noise as a drink tumbled into the grabbing compartment.

Please leave, please leave. I hoped quietly. Please, please, please.

But they didn't. The drink was popped open with a crack and hiss noise and then sipped at slowly. The door never opened, and the person never left. I would be mortified if I was found behind there sitting like hermit. All I could do was stare at the plated back and few serial number stickers and try to breath as quietly as possible. Wishing my thudding heartbeat would slow down and not cause such a raucous in my ears.

"Would you mind if I came back there?" A voice broke the silence with a soft tone. A very distinct voice that I could recognize anywhere.

I paused. Shocked and confused. Opening and closing my mouth until it finally decided to work.

"How did you know where I was?" I croaked sadly. My mind was still burdened with every single freakin thing that had happened.

"You always like to jam yourself into tight small secluded places when you're upset. In elementary school you would crouch behind the air conditioner. In middle school you liked to hide in the cranny behind the dumpsters, and in high school you would jam yourself behind the vending machines or under the art tables in Mrs. Cannit's room."

I sighed heavily at how right that was. How well she knew me back then, and how some of my old habits were still there. How freaking predictable I was.

"What do you want, Piper." I muttered brokenly. My heart throbbing as she moved herself through the gap and settled on the opposite side of me. Her hair was now up in a bun and her eyes were heavy with bags. A can of ginger ale in her grip which she placed in front of her.

"I want to talk," she spoke seriously, her stained glass eyes falling to the floor. "And I want to apologize."

Piper had aged well. Really well, in fact. She has always been a stunner, but after seven years she became such a mature-looking stunner. She'd filled out a bit more, and her jawline was more distinct. Her eyes still as piercing, yet gorgeous as ever.

She also wasn't wearing any makeup, which proved to me that this Piper had changed. Old Piper wouldn't be seen without at least a dab of mascara. This Piper looked as if she could hardly care about her appearance while still looking drop-dead.

I tried not to stare, but I was truly shocked by the difference. I nearly gasped loudly when she tilted her head slightly and unconsciously showed off the branch of scars scraping down her neck like the imprint of a wicked lynching tree.

"Apologize," I repeated under my breath. I sounded like I didn't believe her, but in all reality I was just trying my hardest not to freak out over the fact that half of Pipers neck looked like it had been through a woodchipper in the past few years.

"I know, I know." She groaned as she buried her face in her arms. "I'm awful. I'm so sorry. I just- I didn't realize how much of a jerk I was. A prejudiced jerk who didn't deserve your friendship. I just… I got so caught up in making sure you got someone who I thought was good for you that I didn't… I didn't." Tears welled up into her eyes as her voice grew thick. Her mind searching for the right words as she visibly struggled. Finally she broke and groaned at the floor. "Sweet Cheetos, I've practiced apologizing to you a million times. Why can't I say it right?" she cried. Pain striking through her voice prominently. "I… I just-"

"You were so focused on making sure we were happy that you didn't realize we already knew what made us happy, and we already had it," I supplied with a lump in my throat. "Plus, I think we both have a different definition of 'happy'."

Piper pursed her lips and nodded, using the back of her hands to wipe away the tears sofly. Sniffling a few times before sighing heavily and looking at me.

"So." she started dismally. "Are you happy?"

A thorn embedded itself in my side as I shifted on the hard floor. Leaning against the bumpy wall to my right as I stared off into the distance wearily. My mind inflamed with the fresh memory of Gabe Ugliano and his disgusting ways. Of how Percy seemed to have done the unthinkable.

"I was." I revealed. "I was the happiest person alive. All until yesterday."

"I hear you and Percy are engaged," Piper muttered. "Congrats."

"Yeah…" I sighed. "I… I just hope that Percy makes it to our wedding…"

Another silence punctured our conversation. The layering feelings of depressing vibes souring any lively conversation.

That and the thick past of ups and downs we'd been through kind of made things awkward. What I was I supposed to say? How's life? Dating anyone? This wasn't your typical catch-up coffee date girls usually had.

Percy was in a coma and we were behind vending machines in the hospital, for goodness sake.

"Well… I'm sorry." Piper spoke slowly. A serious tone netting her voice. "That's all I want to say. I don't expect you to start talking to me again, or even accept my apology, I just want you to know that I'm sorry. I'm even past sorry. I can't believe how controlling I was… "

"Apology accepted." I surprised myself with how easily I could say it. Wondering if it would of come as easily to my lips seven years ago.

Piper smiled in a way that didn't reach her eyes. Her fingers absentmindedly twisting the laces of her shoes. Honestly, she looked just as uncomfortable and squished as I did but she never spoke it.

"Do you think I should apologize to… y'know. The rest of them?" she asked dubiously, peeking around the edge of the machine as if she were scared someone might be listening in.

I hugged my knees a little tighter and tried to picture how my friends would react when they saw Piper.

Hazel and Frank would probably forgive her no problem. Jason, however, seemed to be in an entirely different boat of gravy. He was already bouncing through choppy water, what with figuring out his mom isn't his actual mom and all. I didn't want anything else to hit him in the chest while he was unsteady.

But then again, this new Piper might just be what he needs. I glanced at the brunette quietly, remembering all the failed dates I had set up for him, remembering all the times I caught his eyes fall when Piper came up in conversation. Remembering just how he seemed to still miss her.

"I don't know," I settled on saying with a heavy sigh. "Everyone's just been… upset since yesterday. Everyone's worried about Percy. Seeing you might just add to the stress."

I didn't like this speed of conversation. I didn't like the way I had to think carefully about every answer I made. I knew that one wrong response could lead to one wrong action and one more person could be hurt.

I just didn't have this kind of energy anymore to deal with… well anything. I'd slept hunched over on Percy's bed, on a chair in the waiting room, and crammed behind a forsaken vending machine. No coffee in over 29 hours, and now thinking about it I hadn't eaten anything either for a pretty dang long time.

That explained why I felt tired beyond my years.

"I can tell," Piper replied quietly. "I saw them in the halls. They didn't see me me but I could tell that everyone adores Percy."

I chuckled softly. "Well, sue him if he's charismatic in the most idiotic way."

"Ugh, why couldn't I see that?" Piper groaned and flopped her head into her knees. "Why did I have to screw things up so badly?"

I sighed a bit bitterly and looked up at the ceiling. "It's called life. You screw up, you make amends. Now if you screw up and don't make amends, it's called being a jerk."

Biting her lip, Piper nodded at my answer. "Yeah… okay."

"Can I ask you something?" I sat up a little straighter to look at her head on.

"I guess?"

"What happened to your neck?" I finally got the question off my mind and into the open. My curiosity only spiking when Piper's eyes widened and she slapped a self conscious hand over the lines of wretched scars.

It took a few seconds but she gave in. Her hands falling to the soda can in front of her and her eyes staying far away from mine. A painfully purse grimace on her lips.

"Maybe another time," she muttered. "I'm really not ready to talk about it."

I felt my heart titter with curiosity but I respected her answer. The girl looked like she was trying not to cry, so my best bet was to not push it. Besides, I had no energy to barter her into telling me.

"That bad, huh?" I said instead, feeling the gravity of the moment tugging fiercely.

Piper nodded slowly, her eyes sliding closed. "Let's just call it the worst wakeup call of all time."

"Okay," I sighed, letting the conversation die. Readying myself for the eventual goodbyes, and maybe we'll actually talk sometimes, but no. Piper tapped a tune against her soda can. Her eyes were downcast, her lip under a row of pearly teeth. For a moment I wondered why she hadn't gotten up to leave yet, before I realized she expected me to make the next move.

Either I told her goodbye or started another conversation. My next actions would tell her just how eager I wanted her back in my life, or if I did at all.

We'd had our mandatory conversation; the apology with a bit of catching up woven in just to pillow it. Now that it was over and done with, there was nothing else that needed to be said.

For a heartless minute I was conflicted. I mean, did I really want Piper in my life again? Sure, it's what I had been hoping for a really long time, but that hope had faded. I was so adjusted with my life and group of friends. I really didn't want to stir up old drama, especially not now.

Old drama and new drama just wouldn't mix.

But it's Piper. My mind whispered. The girl who comforted you when your mom left. The girl who fought off bullies in elementary school for you. The girl who strayed in highschool, but hey everyone makes mistakes, and now she's back.

"So, how have you been?" I asked suddenly while rubbing my legs to hopefully get some feeling back into them.

Piper's eyes twisted worrisomely with thoughts. Her lips turned down in one brief twitch before she met my eyes again with a little pit of sadness in them.

"To be honest… not the peachiest." She laced her fingers around the can, slightly jostling it and emitting a sloshing sound.

I cocked my head at her, waiting patiently for her to explain, slightly nudging her with my curious looks to go in depth.

It worked, Piper melted under my gaze.

"All I do is work," she mumbled just above a whisper. The amount of ache in her voice struck me. Only now realizing that Piper could be hurting bad. "I have no friends, and it's been years since I've talked to my dad. My days are all the same. Go to work, then go home, go to work, then go home. I'm just so sick of being alone. It's so-"

"Suffocating." My voice felt tight. I could count each heavy beat of my heart as I felt the sympathy roll around my gut.

Our eyes met and Piper took a breath to let it go slowly.

"How did you kno-"

"That's what I felt like in high school." I half laughed, half muttered. "Remember? I yelled at you for never being there for me? I was so, so lonely then. I studied to pass time, that's why I always got highest marks."

Piper's eyes went blank and her head dropped as if she were remembering something bitter. "Studying to pass time…" She whispered. "That was me in med school."

"You probably dread holidays. They make you depressed because you know you aren't celebrating them with anyone." I continued softly. Remembering my own hated special days where Christmas music or chocolate bunnies did nothing.

Piper nodded numbly.

"And your best friend is the radio because sometimes the right song can make you forget."

Another nod, her eyes filling with tears.

"You've either gotten a pet or have seriously considered getting one," I predicted. My heart growing heavier at what she had to go through.

"A cat." Piper sniffled. "I got a cat. Named her Cheesecake. Cheesy for short."

"Wow, at least it was better purchase than a tortoise," I joked weakly. A ghost smile on the tips of my lips. "At least Cheesecake can meow."

"She's surprisingly quiet." Piper sniffled with just as much of a timid smile. "She's like a mouse as ironic as that is."

"Wow… ironic...hehe..."

The conversation abruptly died leaving me staring at an even more depressed Piper. My heart so, so, so sick of depressing moods. Of this DDH or 'Depressing Drama Hospital' in fact. I wanted to be out of here. I wanted to go home with Percy, as lively as he was the other day. I wanted what I had before.

"Why?" I found myself asking. "Why didn't you try reaching out?"

Piper snorted. "Yeah right, and ruin a whole bunch of other people's lives? Tell them how to live and what to do? Act like a moron again. I wouldn't be so lucky as to have another chance at that."

"You really think you're going to you'd do the exact same thing again?" I near guffawed. "Piper, c'mon, you're far from being that stupid. You're one of the smartest people I know, if anyone learns from their mistakes, it's you… "

Instead of a smile, Piper pursed her lips as she looked down on her soda can again. Eyes watering as she gripped harder. The aluminum releasing a hollow 'doink' sound as it bent under the pressure.

"I don't deserve friends," she mumbled. "Not after what I did."

I felt a scoff roll out of my throat as a spark of shock hit me from her words.

I mean, was she serious? Did she really think that because she made one mistake in the lines of friendship that she didn't deserve any friends? It was bonkers and ridiculous and I never felt a stronger urge to slap her across the face more than I did then.

She hates herself, I realized a second later. She legitimately hates herself.

And that's when I realized that I might've been dealing with more than a girl who used to be my friend. There was another thing here. A thing that made her forget about how awesome she was, about how pretty she was. A thing that probably made it hard for her to get up in the morning, and a thing that made her lose motivation in self presentation. A thing that sat on her shoulder and whispered things into her ear like an acidic dark troll.

"How long?" I demanded suddenly, my eyes soft with worry as I reached out to grab her hand.

"What?" Piper looked at me as if I were crazy.

"How long have you been suffering from depression?" The word tasted sour on my tongue. It probably felt like needles in the air to Piper by the way she froze up. Her eyes resembling that of doe caught in the headlights. A shiver passing through her shoulders before she almost shamefully looked to the floor with her head bowed low.

"Can we talk about it later?" she whispered brokenly. "This really isn't the time."


"Annabeth, how I fell into depression is not something I really want to talk about at the moment. Besides, your fiance is in a coma. You should really be with him instead of talking with me."

I thought on this for a moment, weighing my options before giving in with a reluctant sigh.

"Alright fine." I spoke slowly. My hand moving on its own to force her chin up. Forcing her to look into my eyes. "But I want to help, okay? You're still my friend."

I put a bit of pressure on still my friend. I wanted her to know that I meant it. That'd I'd be there for her.

That's when the grateful smile cracked her lips in the most desperately hopeful look I'd ever seen. Her eyes watering thickly over her stained glass eyes.

"Thank you." She uttered under her breath.

I could only think as much as to send her an understanding nod. My exhausted brain now jam packed with things I had to work out. Things I was more than happy to work out, but a lot of things none the less.

I still didn't know how I was going to clear up Jason and Thalia's spat, or how I was going to deal with Gabe Ugliano being the one Percy saved. I just knew I had to deal with them all in some orchestrated way.

"I should be getting back," I mumbled while struggling to get up. A burst of blood flew through my legs and sewing prickles into the soles of my feet.

"Yeah," Piper replied, not meeting my gaze.

Either she was upset I was leaving, or relieved she didn't have to have a deep conversation with me about her mental ailment. I couldn't really tell, nor did I try hard to discern the answer.

"Give me your cell number and I'll call you. Okay?" I said while squishing my way out the crack between the two vending machines. Momentarily getting my crumpled blouse snagged on a bolt and giving me a reason to curse at it darkly.

"Okay," Piper answered meekly from behind me. Sounding so small and fragile, like a child lost in a daunting mall. Asking her about her depression had made her feel vulnerable again, I knew that much. All her reassurances to herself that nobody could tell how much she was suffering had just been fractured. I promised myself that I'd patch it all up later.

A few moments later, Piper pressed a piece of torn pink paper into my palm with a series of digits on them. No more words passed between us as I held the door open for her to leave, and then following silently. We were apparently headed in the same direction, because Piper stayed by my side. As quiet as a mouse as I tried to come up with something to say.

I was just about to ask about her cat when-

"ANNABETH!" and there was Calypso. Down the hall, racing towards me in grey sweatpants and a half zipped up hoodie. Trailing a fat black luggage on wheels that clacked like a steam engine as she ran. Before I knew it, I was running towards her too. A smile breaching my lips and her name on my tongue. A few yards before we met, her eyes diverted to beside me before confusion swam on her face and she stopped mid step. She'd spotted Piper. I could see it in her eyes.

I smothered her in a tight hug before she could say anything (part of me giving Piper the chance to either flee or come up and say hi). Gripping her like a life force as all my pain and fear had momentarily taken a step away from me.

My best friend was here. Finally. Finally.

"Calypso." I breathed relieved into her shoulder. Trying to remember the last time I saw her in person and not through some dang screen with a glitch problem.

"Annabeth." she sounded happy but puzzled. Her hug fell away as she pulled back to look into my eyes.

"Was that-"

"So she's-"

"She works here."

"And did she-"
"Her apology was as sincere as they come." I straightened my shoulders and smiled softly, knowing that Calypso was probably feeling a little defensive. "Forget about that. You're finally here."
"I know, I'm so so sorry. My flight from Germany to Britain was fine but my flight from England to New York was delayed three times on account of heavy storms over the ocean."

"Please, please don't apologize. I'm so sick of people telling me they're sorry." I groaned and let my head fall back, casually breaking into a walk and letting Callie fall into stride with me.

"How's Percy?" Calypso changed the subject. Her eyebrows furrowing as she looked up at me.

"In a coma." I set it out flat. She probably knew all the details anyways. "His chances of waking up are looking better than yesterday at least. Also his PET scans were normal, thank God."

"You must've been through hell." Calypso sympathised as we took a turn. Her blasted luggage clacking obnoxiously the whole time.

"You don't know the half of it," I half chortled half whimpered emotionally.

Maybe it was the way I said it, but Calypso stopped. Her eyes scrutinizing everything on my face until she shifted her weight backwards and stared at me as if I were a simple child.

"Well, lead me to the sleeping princess." she sighed. "Maybe a kiss will wake him."

"Fat chance," I snorted.

"So you've already tried?"

I didn't answer. I just led her on through the hospital. It took me a few left turns and a lot of glancing around to realize that I was royally lost, but once this fact was discovered all I had to do was ask a nurse for help.

Well, several nurses… and a doctor. And then a janitor.

But finally I ended up on familiar territory and confidently lead Calypso straight to Percy's room, praying the whole time that none of my other friends were there. Just not wanting to deal with them in this moment.

As I opened the door to the room, I was shocked to see nothing but a head of fiery red frizzy curls sitting cross legged on the hospital chair with a leather bound sketchbook on her lap. An array of watercolor paints were set out on Percy's sheets as the redhead quietly hummed away contently.

"Rachel?" I asked unsurely, wondering when she showed up and how long she had been here.

Her head whipped around while her mouth formed a broad smile.

"Annabeth! I was wondering when you were- oh! And Calypso! It's been forever!"

"My God, Percy looks pale," Calypso wheezed, a placid look of shock draining the blood from her face.

I gave her shoulder a quick squeeze before quietly moving forward to stand next to Rachel. Peeking over her shoulder to take a glimpse at her latest masterpiece.

It was of Percy as he was before us. Pale, pricked with feeding tubes and colorful wires with ghostly sheets draped across him. The watercolour made it look so surreal, as if this were happening in a less vivid dimension. The likeness was admittedly terrifying because the image on paper made it so final, as if he were never going to wake up.

But Rachel had added her own artistic spin on it as always. In her painting, Percy was chained to the bed with thick silver links that wrapped tightly around his frame and locked him in place. His eyes were covered with a hot pink blindfold reading 'Sleep Child' in gold lettering and a bronze padlock was sitting on his chest, visibly weighing him down. On second glance I noticed that his right hand was not limp but was straining against the bonds, trying to grab a key that was placed on his sheets, just out of reach. The key to the padlock.

I felt a chill race down my spine as I sighed dismally.

"Please, Rach. Don't paint things like that," I pleaded softly.

She shrugged, nibbling on the end of her paintbrush as if she were wondering what else to add.

"I paint what I see," she hummed. "And this is what I see."

"Could you at least paint the key closer to his hand? It seems so hopeless that far away."

"Do you see the key?" Rachel suddenly asked me. Her murky green eyes lifting off Percy's figure and staring deep into my grey ones. A million universes might've been living in Rachel Dare's eyes for how deep they were. She had such a wise look just because of those eyes.

"The key on the paper?" I knew it was the wrong thing to say before Rachel clucked her tongue and simply looked back to her painting.

"You don't see the key," she mumbled lightly. No anger, no disappointment. Just her lively voice stating facts plain and simple as always. "Excuse me. I have to go wash my brushes."

She stuffed the utensils in a jar of murky water, stuffed her sketchbook under an arm and left her paints on Percy's bed. Only after she left did I notice the colour blots of paint on Percy's sheets where she'd been blotting.

I could only roll my eyes. There was no 'getting mad at Rachel'. Nobody was ever mad at Rachel.

"I hate this," Calypso uttered. "I'm not even in this room two minutes and I hate being in here. Percy's so lifeless. Might as well be at a wake."

Not the negativity I want at the moment, but okay, I thought brazenly. Accepting the fact that this was the first time Calypso was facing what happened and she was allowed to be negative at least a smidget.

I was at first, too.

"You've been through Hell, haven't you," she repeated her line from earlier as her face softened slowly. A concentrated look washed over her face as her eyes pierced me. "Tell me everything that's happened. I need to know."

And here we go again. I talk, I cry, I relate the whole story just written above to her. The only part I left out was Piper facing a deeper battle of her own, because I didn't own that piece of story.

I surprised myself by not crying too much. A few sniffles, a bit of a hiccup one or two tears at best but that's about it. I'm so used to turning over everything in my mind on repeat that I must've lost at least some emotion to it. Maybe the shock of it all had just faded, or the desperation seemed less.

Either way, I barely cried. It felt like an accomplishment.

When I was done, Calypso seemed shell-shocked. Her eyes were scanning the floor per usual when she's think a million miles a second and her hands were tightly crossed over her grey sweater.

"Jason's mom isn't his mom. Thalia and him are fighting and they're freaking siblings. Percy's former abuser is the one he saved. Then Piper's here and -Wow. This is just… a lot of information."

"I know," I breathed, finally able to get a bit of it off my chest as I gazed at Percy longingly. "I don't know what to do half the time. I just- I feel so betrayed. Why would Percy do that? He saved Gabe. He practically gave him his life."

To my shock, Calypso let loose a breathy chortle. Shaking her head as if she had found something humorous. "Do you know Percy at all?"

That question caught me off guard. "Well, I'm marrying him, so-"

"Annabeth, firefighters take an oath. They vow that saving lives is above themselves and any property. You know that. Percy probably saved Gabe because Gabe is a human being, and it's what he vowed to do. Besides, knowing Percy he would probably do it without the vow. He's just that kind of hero."

She was right. I could feel that pit sinking in my stomach when she said it. Calypso was always right about these things. I felt stupid for not seeing it before, blinding myself in my own grief perhaps. Maybe I just wanted a reason to be mad at him for getting into this mess. Or maybe my emotions caught up to me with pitchforks and torches and made me overreact.

"I just wish… he didn't, ya know? Not that I want to kill Gabe, I'm not a monster. I just wish Percy wasn't like… like this… I miss him. I miss him so much. I want him back… I- I want him to be okay. I want to be okay. I- I-" I gave in with a sigh, my shoulders crumpling and my heart withering to ash. I didn't cry. My voice was thicker than cream and my eyes were swimming again, but I didn't cry. I just felt like a husk of a shell. Totally empty. Maybe a few tears left, but other then that I was as hollow as a poor man's piggy bank.

Calypso swung an arm around my shoulder and tugged me closer. Sympathy running deep in her eyes.

"He'll come back. He's here, he just needs time heal. I promise." She soothed while rubbing my shoulder. Leaning her head against mine as we sat there looking at Percy.

"Seriously?" I whispered achingly. The hole in my heart burning hard.

There was no response.


I gave my keys to Calypso in a half hearted toss while explaining what she had to do to take care of Burtwis. It was late and she was exhausted from her trip. Hotels were pricey and I knew I wouldn't be using my bed tonight so I thought Calypso might as well. She tried to convince me to go home with her to clean up and eat something but I just chuckled and waved her off.

Fat chance she was getting me to leave. The memory of Percy convulsing and the traumatic beeping still haunted me. I wasn't leaving his side. I needed to make sure he wasn't sinking any further into this whole 'near death' thing then he already was.

Surprisingly she left without much argument after that. A grievous sigh escaped her lips once as she rolled her eyes, but other then that, not a peep of a fight.

A while later I staggered zombie like into the bathroom and almost slapped the mirror my reflection was so bad. My curls were frizzy, tangled and so scraggly I swear it was a birds nest, my eyes were ladened with dark bags, and I had never taken off my makeup from a day and half ago, so yeah, that was everywhere. My work clothes were crumpled, my eyes looked hollow, my face lost colour and my shoulders looked bent out of shape.

The list could go on and on. I might as well been a zombie.

I tried my best to clean up. Straightened my clothes, scrubbed my face with water, put my hair up in a bun.

In the end I just looked like a zombie who would whoop your ass in court but at least it was an improvement. At least the nurses stopped giving me odd looks out of the corners of their eyes. It was as if they thought I should be the one hospitalized.

And then my absolute ANGEL of a best friend came sauntering in with some sweatpants, a hoodie, slippers, books, a phone charger, a pillow, dry shampoo, a brush, deodorant, a bag of food she brought from home (chips, popcorn, pop tarts, grapes) and a bag of food she bought at Gracy's (burgers, fries, a salad, and soup) and to top it all off a caramel macchiato with extra whip cream from starbucks.

"Marry me," I groaned as I hugged all the precious items to my chest. Heat washing its way down my esophagus at how wonderful my friends were.

"And compete against sleeping beauty?" she huffed while pointing an accusational finger to Percy. "I know how to pick my battles. Besides, I have my eye on another hottie." Calypso mustered a wink tiredly. She was smiling, but it was obvious that she was about to collapse from pure exhaustion, so I got her an uber and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

The next hour was me sitting comfortably in snuggable things next to Percy, my stomach full and my phone before me as I texted my boss explaining why I wouldn't be in for a while. He was surprisingly cold about the whole thing, which only made me hate him more.

After that I just sat and stared at Percy, willing him to wake up. Talking nonsense and playing with his hands.

For too long of a time I agonized over how Gabe Ugliano was in the same building. How he was probably sleeping right now after a long day of making perverted comments at nurses and pressing his call button far too many times. How he would wake up in the morning and demand his breakfast, and yell vulgar things to other patients in the same room while my Percy was here, stepping far too close to death.

Gabe probably started that fire. My anger lashed out. He left a cigarette lit, or an oven on. He did this.

The more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. The more I felt just plain miserable and the harder it was for me to get some rest.

It was going on midnight when I just started drifting off. The lights had been turned off and the nurse coming in regularly kept pestering me to get some shut eye. She even offered mild sedatives, which of course I politely turned down even though I was having the worst time trying to fall asleep.

I was only half asleep when a pair of sturdy shoes carefully thudded in and took to my side.

I was about to grumble half-lidded and dopey that I was trying to fall asleep here, and you better get lost when I took a second to peek up at the person beside me.

Piper was unfolding a blanket. A dutiful look on her face as she concentrated on shaking it out. Her features boldly contrasted on her face thanks to the only light streaming from the city outside the window. A few strands of hair loose from her messy bun.

I sat up before she could drape it over me. Rubbing my eyes and popping my shoulders, slightly startling the brunette.

"Oh! Did I wake you up?"

I shook my head. "I was close to being asleep but not yet. Sleep's not coming easy to me tonight."

Piper plopped the blanket on the bed with a clear message; this is yours to take.

"Do you want some hot milk or tea or something? I'm sure I can get you something in the staff room or down at the caf." she offered sweetly.

I smiled at her tiredly. "No thanks. Calypso dropped off a feast earlier. I doubt I'd be able to fit anything else in my stomach."

"She's still Calypso then." Piper chuckled softly with a dash of nostalgia. Her eyes warm as if she were picturing memories from a long time ago.

I shrugged and leaned against Percy's bed again. "Nobody has really changed all that much."

"Frank has." Piper said absentmindedly. Her eyes wandering around the dark room. "He's really bulked up. And he talks so much louder then he used to. He walks with more confidence too. He's not the cute chubby nerd anymore. He's a real man."

I cocked my head quizzically. A wave of static seizing my mind for a few seconds as I turned this over in my brain. Realizing for the first time that yeah Frank has changed. How did I not notice?

It must've crawled on so gradually that I never had the chance to stop and realize how different he was. He was still Frank, just more so.

"Calypso seems sassier. Hazel's this model that I hardly recognize and Jason… well he's just so grown up. I saw him in the halls the other day bartering a deal for his dad's company and I just… I couldn't believe it."

I pursed my lips while weaving my fingers together. My eyes going up to find hers almost timidly.

"Have I changed?"

Piper shot me a pursed smile. So many memories behind her eyes that they seemed to visibly ache. "In some ways. You're a lot bolder than you used to be."

I balked. "Really?"

Piper nodded, twisting around to perch at the end of Percy's hospital bed. "Don't worry, it's a good change."

I snorted softly while looking back to Percy. A lock of dark hair had fallen over his forehead. "I hope so."

Percy had changed too. I knew that. He never really left his 'Punk' ways behind like most people do once leaving the teen stage. But he had changed.

He let his hair grow in for one. No more undercut hawk. I whined about it for a full month, and he'd kiss me just to shut me up. But then he had this hot behead look with hair that was just long enough to be perfectly toyable and I now I won't let him change it. His hate of policemen died away when he joined the firefighters. Realizing that risking your life is harder than it looks woke him up. He still hated politicians though. I could never watch debates when he was in the room.

He suddenly found a deep love for mochi and I caught him singing a song about it while dancing with Burtwis. I'm pretty sure that video is still somewhere on my phone (I plan on deputing it at our wedding).

His skateboard started accumulating dust in the corner. Sometimes when he thinks I'm not home, he'll take it out and do a quick joyride down the hall but never outside.

He also got more tattoos. On his bicep right above the greek quote: a stag breathing out a cloud of vapor with a moon to its back for Bianca, Nico's older sister, and bestfriend in his early highschool years who had died in a bus crash. (I could embellish on this story but it's a really long one.)

He also got his mom's signature under the pre-existing sparrow, and a cool compass design with water and some fish for his love of the ocean under his left arm (I helped design it).

The artist did a really good job. Too good of a job with the way Percy got looks at the beach.

"What's Percy like?" Piper seemed to be thinking along the same lines I was. Her hands were folded in her lap, her eyes focused on his relaxed face.

The heart monitor beeped, and the breathing tube would hiss. His eyes still as tightly closed as when I first saw him in this forsaken bed. Rachels painting flashing through my mind.

"Completely dependable." I said without hesitation. My heart pinching. "I know I can count on him for anything. Even when were in the middle of a fight he'll kill a spider for me or get something off the top shelf."

Piper hummed. "That's… really sweet."

"He's makes me laugh even when I'm in the most awful of moods. It's the worst because I can't stay mad at him when I'm laughing. He also doesn't mind me double checking practically everything, and he's really patient when I'm ranting about all the shit going on. He doesn't like getting up early on Saturdays but he does it anyways because I want to go on a jog. He's really really really whiny when he's sick, but I think that's because he enjoys bugging me. He always crumbles crackers into his soup and he secretly loves phantom of the opera even though he's denied it a million times. He really wants a dog, but I told him we need a house first because our apartment is too small. He's a really hard worker. Once he puts his mind to one task there's no stopping him… and… I'm rambling about him." I finished awkwardly. My eyes still glued to his sleeping face. Feeling an deeper emptiness I hadn't really felt before.

"It's okay." Piper smiled. "You're in love with him. You're deeply in love with him."

I reached for his hand. "Yeah." I agreed. Feeling my grip on my emotions starting to slip as my eyes watered. Cuz dammit I didn't want things to be this way.

It was Saturday night. Percy and I should be curled up on our couch squabbling over popcorn while we talk over the late night show. I should be telling Percy how my week has been, and what other great idea I have for our wedding. Instead I'm telling Piper how great Percy is when he's not in a fricken fracken coma.

"So." I decided to change the subject. "Any remarkable dates since high school?"

I tried to sound nonchalant. I didn't want to pressure her into saying anything or making her feel bad. However as soon I said it, I regretted it. Jason and Piper had been close. Very close. Bringing up this topic was like walking on eggshells.

Thankfully Piper shrugged casually. "A few." she revealed without a hint of emotion. "I even went on a second date with a handful of them but they never felt quite… right."



Beep… Beep… Beep…

Heart monitors always seemed to have a need to make their presence known. Percy's heart filled our silence and pointed it out like an annoying kid points out flaws in your work.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss.

With the air tube chiming in, the atmosphere grew more and more pressured to be filled with words leaving me scouring my brain for some subject of conversation. I didn't want to stop talking with Piper. It was nice, and refreshing and exactly what I needed when I didn't have Percy or Calypso by my side. Talking to Piper was the only break I got from talking in depth about Percy's condition, or how upset I was. We didn't talk about how it happened, or the price it was going to cost me, or about Thalia and Jason.

We were talking about who Percy was, and Pipers dating life. Things that seemed so preciously normal in that moment.

"Well, I should let you get some-"

"No!" I blurted out before she could say anything else.

"No?" she asked confused.

"You could stay." I offered. "I have chips, popcorn, pop tarts and half a burger. If I have any data left we could watch something cheesy on Netflix and make fun of it. It would be like a sleepover again. Y'know, except for the part where my comatosed fiance is here."

"But don't you need to-"

"I can't sleep. It's agony trying to sleep here, but I don't want to leave and I certainly don't want to stop talking to you."

Piper looked a little taken aback. Her eyes were wide and her shoulders drawn up tensely. It took her a moment to formulate words that would make sense. "You don't have to do this. You don't need to hang out with me just because I'm depressed." the weight of the world was on her shoulders as she spoke. Instantly looking drained and disheartened as if someone had suddenly injected her with poison.

I was my turn to be taken aback. "You think I'd be that fake?" I gaped at her. "Pipes, I want to hang out with you because you're helping me. I'm so… emotionally scattered with Percy like this. I need my friends in this time and most of them are acting like total loons. Talking to you reminds me of the good times and I just really need that right now. I need you. You're an incredible person, I would never hang out with you just for your depression… as messed up as that sounds."

It was all true of course. Not to brag or anything but when I spoke from the heart, I really nailed it down to every word. I was lucky because I knew how to express how I felt through the simplest of words.

Piper felt my words too. Her eyes flicked up to mine from the floor and I could see the shimmer of tears glaze over and pool like crystal waters. She was smiling, but she had as much pain as joy in her eyes. With a delicate sniffle she nodded while averting her gaze again.

"I could go get the staff wifi password. It's separate from the main hospitals so we won't be interfering with anyone's work." she offered.

I beamed. "Now that would be great."

"Okay, it might take a few minutes because the code is buried in the staff room which is a mess."

"No problem." I promised. "I'll find another chair or something so we can lounge like queens."

Piper smiled at me gratefully before she left. A spring in her step that wasn't there before.

I spent the next few minutes staring dully out the window of the room. The street lights were on, creating that artificial yellow glow that glared off the smudged glass. I could still hear cars and cabs honk and beep like impatient geese all in a line.

New York City's charm was all in the lights and the noise.

I was just about to smooth some of Percy's hair back when I heard footsteps timidly come padding into the room.

"That was fast." I commented as I swung around to Piper.

I would've eaten those words then if I could've.

Because it wasn't Piper.

Jason looked pretty confused, yet still solemn as he stared at me curiously. His hair had just been neatly combed and gelled to the side, and his work clothes had been replaced by some sweatpants and a t-shirt. His gym bag casually thrown over his shoulder.

He'd been working out to burn off his anger. I could tell by the way he stood that he'd probably been at it for hours. His eyes, however, said his anger still wasn't quenched.

"What was fast?" he asked dubiously. Taking a cautionary look behind his shoulder as if there could've been someone else I'd been talking to.

"Nothing." I covered up quickly. "I thought you were the nurse."


Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss… Beep…

"Why are you here? It's almost half past midnight. Shouldn't you be in bed?" I asked cynically. Praying that Piper didn't come back in the next few minutes.

"I couldn't sleep." Jason mumbled in a troubled way. Guilt ridden in his voice as he looked up to me sympathetically. His sky blue eyes filled with apologies. "I'm so sorry about this afternoon. I blew my top and it just was… a really inappropriate place and time. I don't know how I'm going to make this up to you."

I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily. A string tugging at my heart like a game of tug of war. "I agree it was a bad time, and bad place but I also understand that what you found out was really shocking. Even I'm shocked about it. Just promise me you'll sort this out with Thalia quickly okay?"

Jason frowned at the floor. His face a canvas for troubled expressions. "No guarantees," he uttered. "But I'll try."

"Thank you." I sighed deeply. Suddenly feeling the gravity of my exhaustion. I ignored it. "How'd you even get in here anyways? It's after visiting hours."

Jason smiled lightly. "My Dad unknowingly just made a huge donation to this hospital. The staff are happy to let a Grace roam."

I couldn't help but give a weak laugh. "That's awful."

"Yeah well, he's not so great for keeping that secret." Jason slid his hands into his pockets. Still smirking as if he had outsmarted the devil but with a mellow ring to it.

"But why come so late? You could've just dropped in early tomorrow within visiting hours." I questioned again. Propping my elbow onto Percy's bed and resting my head in my palm.

"I knew you'd be here now. Besides I wanted to avoid coming at a time Thalia would."

And that ladies and gentlemen is when you cue Thalia's entrance, stage left and spotlight lit.

I almost choked out a lung when I saw her, carrying a box of donuts and sporting the most spectacular array of black leather known to man.

She almost dropped her box of precious ring delicacies and Jason visibly flinched.

"What are you doing here?" she growled in a very Thalia like manner. Her dark eyebrows twisting down as she defiantly marched up to face him.

Oh Thalia. The one who always throws herself into a fight.

"Trying to avoid you." Jason answered honestly with an edge in his voice. "How did you even get in? Visiting hours are over."

"Apparently 'Grace' is a pretty powerful name around here. I was just going to knock heads but they backed right off when they heard my name. Wimps." Thalia gleamed. "I knew Annabeth would be here and still be up so I thought I would bring her donuts. What'd you bring?"

It was a challenge in her voice. Everything was on the defense. She was fighting before the first attack was made.

"A sincere apology." Jason deadpanned.

"Funny. I also brought that." Thalia scowled as she carelessly tossed the box of donuts onto Percy's hospital bed. Not hard enough to spill the contents. Flames licking her eyes as she glared the blonde boy down. Jason glaring back with a similar look.

I started to laugh. Not a crazed demonic kind of laugh one might think I'd have given my current lack of sleep and crazy environment, but a genuine laugh.

I mean, here were these two supposedly closely related people, showing up at the same spot at the same time for the same reason and arguing with each other? Could they scream 'brother and sister' any louder?

"What?" Jason asked with a little concern as I rocked forward with guffaws. My lungs convulsing in my chest heavily.

"It's just- It's just you two," I chortled. "I can totally see how you are siblings. How did I not see it before?"

Thalia seemed less than amused. "And it's funny to you?"

"Well, yeah. The last thing you two want to be is siblings, and yet here you are acting exactly like that! It's just so ironic."

"I don't see the hilarity." Jason crossed his arms.

"Finally, something we agree on," Thalia snuffed.

I waved them down. "Maybe one day you will," I giggled, still trying to get it out of my system.

"Probably not-" they deadpanned synchronized before glowering at each other.

I laughed again.

"Well, if you're done your little task of dropping off donuts, I think you can leave now," Jason coolly dismissed.

No, bad move.

"Excuse you, high and mighty, but I'm here to talk to Annabeth. So beat it." Thalia's tone was dark again. Her shoulders tightening as if she were getting ready to throw a right hook.

"I was here first," Jason sneered while swinging his gym bag to the floor, standing his ground foolishly.

Here we go again.

"What are you, four?" Thalia mocked. "Get your ass out, Sparky. It's my turn to talk to Annabeth."

"Don't call me Spark-"


"Now who's the one being immature?"

"Still the blonde with the dumb haircut," Thalia jibed heatedly. "Ass. Out."


"Why not?"

"Why didn't you tell me that I was your brother!?" Jason raised his voice, mouth twisting down in a disgusted way.

"Wasn't my job to," Thalia growled with a scorned look. But her tough girl look was fading. Her eyes were more skittish and her palms were sweaty. She was starting to fall apart. "Don't you think you should be angry at Daddy Dearest and not me?"

I was thinking about intervening. Thinking about how to intervene, and what I could do, but something inside of me held up a stop sign. Something told me not to.

That's when I realized that this needed to happen. Even though them fighting wasn't the best thing to happen in my life, this was their way of sorting through this. This was the only way they'd get through it. So I let it unfold as I held Percy's hand.

"I would expect him to do a thing like that, but not you." Jason spoke lowly with an accusing ring. "I thought we were friends."

"We are!"

"And you couldn't tell a friend about something as important as this?" Jason shook his head unbelieving.

"Again, I'm not the one who should've told you," Thalia gritted out, a shimmer in her eyes that wasn't there before. The faint light made her look smaller. "Just get lost, Sparky. I need to talk to Annabeth."

"My name is not Sparky," Jason barked. "Stop calling me that!"

"Yes it is!" Thalia insisted. Her voice growing ragged.

"No, it's not!"

"Yes, it is!" She almost sounded desperate.

"No, it's not!"

"You were two!" And that's when the tears rolled down her cheeks. Ashamed, she turned away and sniffled into her hand. Jason seemed to realize for the first time just how upset she was, and he could only stare in shock.

I watched in silence like an audience to a tragic play. All they needed was the whine of a dismal violin and a single spot light, and this would be award-worthy. It made my heart thump fiercely in my chest.

"What?" Jason asked softly. The anger had dissolved from his voice as he took a tentative step towards her. Fear gripping his movements as he wondered if he had done this to her.

"You were two," she repeated in a broken whisper. "I left you alone for a few minutes, just to grab something from the bathroom. You found… you found a fork and you saw an outlet…. And you just put two and two together and…." Another burble of sobs broke through her throat as Thalia seemed to crumble before us. Our tough girl now nothing but tears and bad memories.

"I saw you stick the stupid thing into the outlet. You convulsed with a shower of sparks before I could yank you away… I thought y-you were dead. I- I spent the next hour panicking and Mom… she couldn't care less. She was probably high. I hated her for that."

Jason stood silent for a second. His eyes wide as he looked at his sister. His mouth moving twice before words found his tongue.

"But I lived?"

Thalia nodded numbly. Tracks of tears glistening against her cheeks as she held herself miserably. "By some miracle," she uttered distantly. "You opened your big blue eyes and looked around, dazed. Then I screamed at you and told you to never ever ever do that to me again, and- and I called you Sparky… and you giggled. And giggled and giggled. And then you tried to grab the fork again."

She chuckled in a shattered way. Her eyes were unfocused as she remembered the past. Another burst of tears freshened the flow as she stared at the floor.

"You were the only thing I loved in my life," she whimpered quietly, bringing a hand up to cover her face again. "Then Zeus dropped by to drop some money off and he had his new show wife with him. And Hera saw you, and she wanted you. She begged Zeus like a child begs for a puppy. She couldn't have kids of her own, and here you were; this perfect little chubby blonde, blue eyed boy. And she took you. I… I tried to hide you, I locked us in the bathroom but she got you. She took you. You were gone. She took you-" Thalia was then reduced to sobs and whimpers. She shied away from us as we tried to comfort her.

But she was withered and vulnerable. She was cracked open and showing us her past. The seed of her misery started with that moment, I realized. Losing Jason was the start of her painful life. She could've only been five or six at the time.

She lived with her crackhead, drunk mom all throughout elementary and failed three grades because of it. She went hungry, and cold, and faced bullies, and dangerous neighbors, and lost her best friend (Bianca) and was homeless at one point, and was attacked. She fought her way through life all alone when she could've had a little brother for at least company.

"Why?" Jason croaked. "Why didn't they take you too?"

Thalia laughed bitterly. Her eyes were still streaming, her heart still out in the open.

"Me?" she hissed. "A rebelling little kid with black hair and a big attitude? Hera didn't want a problem child. She wanted a docile baby. She cherry-picked you."

Jason seemed to have more trouble with this. His lips trembled as he ran a hand through his hair. "But if… Mom was on drugs, and it was a bad place they should've taken you, too. They should've at least called someone."

"They didn't care about me," Thalia stated sourly. "I didn't need them to, anyways."

Yes you did. I wanted to say. You needed somebody, anybody, to be there for you and nobody was.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Jason asked, devastated. His eyes were glued to his older sister and filled with a deep sadness.

"What good would it do if you knew your real mom was a good-for-nothing crackhead and drunk who could barely pay bills or keep food in the cupboards, or that I was your sister? It was better if you thought Hera was your mom and you didn't know who I was. Your life was perfect. You were happy. I wanted you to stay happy." Thalia wiped her cheeks. Tears that were held in too long were still burning her face, but she fought on, like always. Thalia was always the warrior like that.

"Was?" Jason asked fearfully.

It took me a few seconds to sort out he was talking about his mom. How Thalia used a was instead of is.

"She OD'd when I was in grade ten," Thalia muttered without much emotion.

"Oh…" was all Jason could think to say. His eyes fell to the floor.

Then the silence came in again.

Should I say something? I thought, a little panicky. But this didn't feel like something I should be a part of. This was Thalia and Jason's business, not mine. Anything I said would just come off as intrusive. The fact that I was just present for this conversation felt a little intrusive.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss…

"I have to go," Thalia mumbled without looking up. The streaks on her cheeks shimmered as she turned towards the light and bolted out the door. A million tons of pain shone in her eyes.

"Thalia, wai-"
"Jason, don't!" I finally said something, stopping the boy from following her with a few words.

When he looked at me, I could feel the question harshly implemented in his eyes. The question of why was I was stopping him.

"Thalia's not an emotional person," I explained. "Opening up like that tonight tore through all the layers she's been building trying to bury her past. She needs time alone to cover it all up again. You'll just get her more upset if you chase after her."

The truth in my words was thankfully something he could see. His eyes lost their fight as he sighed heavily, burying his hands in his sweatpants pockets. His head hung low.

"You're right," he exhaled. "I'm sorry… I'm just so… argh. Mentally cramped."

"It's okay," I told him gently. "You've got a lot going on. No one is expecting you to be the same as you always are."

He nodded sternly. His eyes trailed up to the window as his mind turned like gears. I could tell he was thinking deeply by the way he clenched his jaw and how his eyes seemed to land on nothing. Each of my friends had their own 'deep thinking' quirk that I had been lucky enough to memorize.

"I need some air," he suddenly declared, turning quickly and marching out the door while staring at his feet. His footsteps fading into the sounds of the hospital.

I sighed heavily. Alone again in this little room.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss… Beep…

"Sounded like a party in here." Piper trotted in. Piece of paper in one hand, and apologetic smile lightly perking up her lips.

"Oh. You heard all that?" I asked with a pinch of worry, not knowing how Thalia would feel if someone else heard her breakdown. She'd probably hunt Piper down if she knew.

Piper shrugged. "A few heated sentences before I went behind the desk and hid. They didn't stay very long."

I returned her look. "Only a few things needed to be said. It's late, after all."


"So I was thinking we could watch something goofy like Wakko's Wish." I suggested, eager to move on from the other subject.

I wasn't exactly in the mood to explain the whole situation to Piper, nor did I think it would be appropriate of me to do so.

"We also have donuts now, so this night got infinitely better," I grinned while pointing to the box.

"We could watch Friends," Piper suggested while passing over the slip between her fingers. "Or Gilmore Girls."

I wrinkled my nose. "But those are so serious at times. I want to watch something totally out the window silly."

"Fine." she shook her head almost endearingly. "How about The Road to El Dorado?"

I felt a bubbling smile burst onto my lips as I nodded enthusiastically. "That's perfect."

"Even though its not 100% silly?" Piper raised a teasing eyebrow at me.

"Pshhh. It's Miguel and Tulio, the perfect silly duo. Even if the plot isn't silly at times, they are." I reasoned nonchalantly while bringing Netflix up on my phone.

"I guess I can't argue with that," Piper chortled while crossing her arms.

I looked back to smile up at her impishly when my eye caught on a figure by the light-flooded doorway. My blood running cold as my heart seemed to sink in my chest. Uh oh.

Jason's face was drained of colour. His eyes were locked on Piper's back. He stood there wordless and still as a cold marble statue.

Piper caught my expression and scrunched her eyebrows down in confusion. "What?"

"Piper?" his voice was hoarse and fragile. It sounded if he talked anymore, he would lose it altogether.

Piper whirled around. Their eyes met and she gasped loudly, reeling backwards a few feathery steps before her back hit the wall, and her hand went up to cover her mouth. Her eyes were wide and filled with the most scrambled fear you could ever witness.

I sat as a spectator as they did nothing. Staring at each other in shock. The tension building so rapidly that it pushed against my chest. I couldn't move.

"Jason," she whispered breathlessly when she finally found the gusto to speak. Her hand fell away from her face like a wilting leaf.

"Man, hasn't this been one soap opera of a night," I groaned, dramatically burying my head in Percy's sheets because I just didn't want to deal with this. All this drama, all this emotional drain buildup.

"Wha… what are you doing here?" He asked in a suffocated way. His eyes never leaving her form. Drinking her in as if he might be hallucinating. As if she might disappear.

"I work here," she mumbled as her gaze slipped to the floor. "I'm completing my residency here actually."

Jason seemed to sputter. "You're a doctor? I thought you wanted to be a biologist."

Piper shrugged and rubbed her arm sheepishly. She looked just about as comfortable as a mouse cornered by a cat. "People change."


"So… what are you doing here?" she asked shyly. "I thought you left."

Jason gestured to the end of Percy's hospital bed. "I forgot my gym bag."

Sure enough, there was the stupid bag. The dumb check mark on the side and everything. Why hadn't I noticed that it was there?

"Oh," Piper said this time. Every move with them was hesitant. Every look, and sound they made had doubt written in it like a damning sentence. They were tip-toeing around each other as if one of them could make a bad move. As if they could break each other at the flick of a finger.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss… Beep…

Jason suddenly burst into a stride and reached his bag. He shot me a very bizarre look before he scooped it up and headed straight for the welcoming door. No more words to say apparently.

I almost let go of my breath when-

"Wait," Piper cried out. Taking a few chasing steps towards him before he stopped to look at her. His eyes were sharp and yet full of exhaustion. He was so emotionally drained.

"I'm sorry," Piper bowed her head. "I'm so sorry about everything that happened in highschool. I was such a jerk back then and I regret it everyday."

Jason opened and closed his mouth. His eyes flicked to me with a question in them.

"I already apologized to her," Piper cleared up quickly with a glance over her shoulder. "I just need to slowly work my way through the group and tell everyone how horrible I feel about what happened. I didn't deserve you guys. I didn't deserve being put up with for that long. I'm so, so sorry. You don't need to accept my apology or anything. I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry…. I'm sorry," she babbled. A bit of a sheen working its way up in her eyes. She couldn't even look at him, her figure was so bowed with shame.

Jason was rigid and speechless. It looked like he was finding it hard to breath and for a moment I thought he was just going to bolt.

I wouldn't blame him. He'd faced a lot of emotionally challenging things today. Facing his ex just might send him over the top.

But he didn't. He just stared at her.

Then he stumbled forward like a drunk through the darkness. Piper looked up and her eyes widened just as he reached her. Hooking her into him around the waist and finding her lips with his. Piper made a surprised noise at the back of her throat before melting into him like chocolate near a flame. Her eyes fluttered closed as her hands moved up his chest to settle on his shoulders.

I yelped and totally forgot to cover my face and hide. I was frozen with total bafflement. I mean what the heck?! I didn't think Jason would do that in a million years. But there he was, kissing her hard and cradling her against him as if she were the only thing he'd want to hold.

They broke apart, both blushing, both looking totally starstruck while Piper gripped Jason's shoulders for support.

"Okay… wow," she panted, avoiding his gaze. Her eyes bugged out and her chest expanding dramatically with each breath. "That was… unexpected."

But Jason wasn't listening. He looked enchanted and bewitched. His eyes clouded as if he was in a dream. Before I could say anything, he kissed her again, and I felt even more awkward. Just sitting there, minding my own business. Trying to keep my focus on the window as the two people to my right practically made out. The noises kissing people make are actually quite disgusting come to think of it. All smacky-sounding like someone chewing with their mouth open.

I could hear them break apart for the second time and I snuck a peek, wondering is it over yet? All the while cursing myself for all the times I kissed Percy in front of them. How awkward had I made things for the gang?

This time they stayed apart. Staring at each other. Breathing and grasping at words that wouldn't come. The dramatic lighting and hospital backdrop perfect for a sappy medical TV romance.

And then he just left.

No, I'm not kidding.

Jason literally straightened the strap on his shoulder bag, gave Piper an indiscernible look and left. His footsteps quicker this time as he sped walked away. Piper left totally clueless and wavering in the middle of the room. Her eyes following his fleeting figure.

"I'm confused," she muttered while bringing her fingers up to brush her lips thoughtfully.

"Join the club," I replied.

"Why did he do that?"

"Jason's a little wacky right now. A lot of things have been happening," I tried to explain, but it fell so flat. That was no excuse for kissing someone you hadn't even seen in seven years.

"So I shouldn't read too much into the fact that he just kissed me?" Piper asked with the key element of doubt. I couldn't read her eyes very well in the darkness, but I knew they were full of questions.

"Twice," I added helpfully. "Kissed you twice."

"Kissing me twice should say something," Piper pondered with what sounded like concern. Her voice lacking strength, as if he had kissed it right out of her.

"I have no idea what to think of it," I spoke honestly. "I just… I'm as flabbergasted as you are."


I found him out with Thalia and Nico. I'd been searching for hours.

We'd just been through our first real fight. Our really, really bad, first real fight.

I said things, Percy said things. It was a mess of hurt and anger, and he'd stomped away with a heavy slam of the door.

I thought he wasn't going to come back, honestly, it was that bad.

It was right after he told me he wanted to become a firefighter. I told him no, I couldn't let him. I didn't want him risking his life, as selfish as that sounds.

"Lord, Percy, you're eighteen. You're not a superhero. Don't try to be one."

"You're not my mom-"

"She would say the same thing!"

I had no right to say that. I never knew Sally Jackson. I couldn't use her as a tool to get Percy on my side. It was cruel and outlandish of me to do. After that I scoured the streets forever, looking in shop windows and just hoping I'd stumble across him in this concrete jungle.

I was tired, and crying, and my feet ached when Nico called me. They were at a bar. Thalia got them all in because she just turned twenty one and her real ID looked good next to two fake ones.

Percy got in a fight. He was drunk.

I rushed over there as fast as I could with my fall coat flying and a hand clamped over my hat to keep it in place. The chilly air biting my cheeks until they were pink and prickly.

Nico was sitting beside a very drunk Percy while waiting for me outside a lit bar. He thanked several deities when he saw me and then promptly got up to leave while telling me sternly to talk to him. I watched him go, his hands deep in his pockets and his shoulders hunched over.

I looked back over to Percy sitting on the leaf speckled curb under a yellow street light. Our eyes met and we both shared this heavy mutual regret. My shoulders slumped and I gently sat down on the curb in front of me, a few feet away from him. I felt relieved, and scared and sorry, and upset but I couldn't voice a word. I just sat there as stupid as a lawn gnome. Too proud to go over and apologize but too scared to leave him.

It took a few minutes but Percy struggled to his feet and then staggered over to me. He sat heavily beside me, and then cursed a few times because the curb was apparently hard. His breath was humidly scented with a few strong drinks I didn't know the names of, and there was a dark bruise surfacing on his cheekbone.

For a moment he just sat there trying to sit straight, his eyes half-lidded, his body wavering from alcohol, before he looped an arm around me sloppily and dragged me into a hug. Fitting my head under his chin where I always felt secure.

"I'm sorry." I could feel the words rumble in his chest as he slurred them out softly. "I'm so sorry."

"Me too," I whimpered. Tears welled up into my eyes as I clung to him, so thankful that I hadn't lost him. My fear dissolving like cotton candy into water as he held me.

"I jus.. I wanna be able to buy you better things," he slurred and rocked backwards a bit more. "You deserve more…"

I squeezed him as tears pricked my eyes. A pained gasp escaping my lips as I tried desperately not to cry.

"I just need you," I sniveled, rubbing my face into his shirt while my tears burned wet blots into the fabric. "I don't want to live in fear of losing you."

"But I fit," he said dumbly. His drunkenness was really showing through. "I'd fit as a firefighter. I could do it. I could earn us more money."

"But I don't want more money," I cried, pulling away to look him in the eyes, my tears breaking free and fleeing down my cheeks like scorching demons. "I want you to be safe. Always."

"But the bills," Percy slurred, his eyebrows pinching down.

He was right. Ever since we'd turned eighteen, things had gone down hill. We suddenly had to file taxes, and my dad stopped paying for most things under the pressure of Helen. With just the two of us working part time minimum wage jobs, ends weren't meeting. We started skimping on how much water we used and how much electricity. Some nights we just sat in the dark with a few candles eating ramen and trying to keep the mood light.

But it was hard. The only reason we made it this far was because Jason was an angel who was loaded.

So he had me pinned there. We did need more money. We needed it badly. But I wasn't willing to get it if it meant putting Percy in any kind of danger. I didn't want that.

I just stared at him, tears running and heart slowly bleeding.

He smiled in a pursed way and sloppily cupped my chin. Wiping my tears away with a swipe of his thumb before setting a firm kiss on my forehead.

"Let me do this for you," he pleaded. His words were so jumbled that I almost didn't understand them. "I love you."

"I love you, too," I murmured, pressing my face lightly into the warmth of his chest.

"You shouldn't," he said so casually that I wanted to pluck the words from the air and shove them back into his gob.

"Percy, what-"

"Princess," he whispered softly with pain in his eyes before he shook his head lowly. "I had a coupla bucks saved from odd jobs and I was gonna take you out on a real nice date."

My heart swelled instantly. I sniffed my concerns away and tightened my grip on him. "You were?" I asked achingly. Joy filling me from the bottom up at how my boyfriend was this sweet. I was a lucky girl.

Percy nodded with a scowl. "But I blew it tonight on booze," he groaned while rubbing his eyes. "I always blow things for you."

"No you don't," I half cried, half laughed. "You're perfect, Percy. Dammit, you're perfect to me."

"I am?" He looked so shocked. He looked like he didn't know how much I needed him.

I nodded while smiling simply at my idiot boyfriend. My heart ached in my chest at how lucky I was.


"Seriously," I muttered. Then I kissed him.


"I don't know where. Central Park, a coffee shop, a zoo, I don't care. Let's just get outta here. I want to talk to you."

I woke up to the sound of a very distressed voice. Bitterness prickling in my mouth at last night's junk food binge-eating, and my eyes feeling so heavy from sleep deprivation that I could hardly open them.

So I sat there, motionless. Listening to the world around me as I tried to wake myself a bit more, but the tugging of sleep was very adamant. I was so close to just slipping again.

"... Jason… no. I can't just leave Annabeth. Besides, the sun hasn't even risen yet." Piper sounded weirded out. Her voice was defensive, and I could hear her shuffling her feet.

"Pipes, please? I didn't sleep a wink last night. I… kissed and ditched you and that was wrong. I just need a chance to explain myself and sort things out."

"If you want to just forget it ever happened then just say so," Piper murmured, a pinch of pain in her voice. "I understand."

Jason groaned in frustration. He was probably using wide hand gestures like he always did when he was upset. "No, Pipes, heavens no. I… I missed you. I missed you so much."

"Me?" she laughed unbelievingly, her voice thicker then before. "Even though I was crazily controlling? Even though I was such a bitch?"

"You weren't that bad," Jason comforted, his voice still pleading. "I loved you then. I still do now."

Yeah, I was fully awake at this point, I was just pretending to be out cold. Listening in and imagining how each one was moving. My brain tingled with curiosity at how this side of Jason was surfacing. Apparently he had only been showing us the tip of the iceberg before.

Piper was probably shaking her head. She was so full of self-doubt now that it hurt. "I'm not the same girl as back then, Jase." Her voice trembled. "I can't make you happy."

"Yes you can! You're the only one who can!" Jason's tone was turning desperate. "We can be like we were before." Again, I found myself shocked at him. Shocked at how he'd hidden these continuing feelings all these years. Shocked at how freaking cheesy he was being.

Be a man, you moron!

"No, we can't." Piper was close to crying. Her voice was heavy with pain.

"Why not?" he persisted. Always the stubborn one of the group. "Why not just go on a walk with me? We can talk this all out."

Piper sniffled and I let a breath loose into the sheets, secretly rooting for Jason as I felt my heart rise in anticipation. Knowing the reason behind Piper's words, my heart twisted. She was never going to give him a chance, or even a window into her life now.

"I'm scared," she cried. "I'm so scared I'm going to hurt you guys again."

But it was more than that, I could tell. Either she knew that if she let them back into her life they'd see her as she was now and she was ashamed, or she just didn't think that she was on the same level as the gang anymore as human beings. A ridiculous thought for sure, but some people actually believe they are worth less than the people next to them. Everyone's worth it.

"You won't," Jason encouraged with a scoff in his tone. "You're not going to. Now please, let's get outta here, this is no place to talk. We could go anywhere you want."

"But Annabeth…"

I snorted and lazily turned over. "If you don't scram and let me get my beauty sleep then I'll kick you out," I mumbled with a deadly tone. For a second my eyes connected with her watery ones and I gave a subtle nod. Reassuring her that this was okay. The only encouragement she needed from me.

"Just let me grab my jacket," she answered meekly while wiping her eyes. She left the room with a relieved Jason on her tail. He sent me a thankful look before shutting the door behind him.

My peace and quiet was restored and I tried to let myself drift off again.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss…

My eyes found their way up to Percy's face again. So relaxed, so at peace and so desperately unalive it ached. I slipped my hand over the sheets and found his. A hook in my heart as I wondered if I would've ever bumped into Piper without his accident. If Jason and her would've ever bumped into each other again. If this would happen.

How will Percy feel about Piper when he wakes up? I thought with a pinch of concern. Imagining what it would it be like if we could all get along. If Piper could rejoin our friend group.

When will he wake up? The hesitant thought followed with a scared curiosity.

Will he wake up?


I spent the next few hours watching the sunlight slowly start to lighten the purple sky until it was a deep blue. Outside was the normal rush rush rush of morning activities, and then a lull. I counted Percy's heartbeats, then his breaths, then the wires attached to him, then the number of times a nurse would come in.

I talked to him. I told him about our future together. Our house by the ocean, our kids being nothing less than perfect, our two big dogs and six dull fish. How he would get transferred to a rural area, and would no longer work in the dangerous city. How I would work in the prestigious architect office just outside the city.

I told him about the weekend dinners we would host in our especially large kitchen and dining area (which I designed) and how afterwards we'd all sit out back on the wrap around porch and watch the kids run around with sparklers. After the kids were tucked in bed with the dogs faithfully with them, and the guests were all gone, we'd sit on the couch and watch our favorite TV show.

Then I stopped talking.

It hurt too much after that. I couldn't help picturing what my future would be like if I went to a graveyard instead of a honeymoon. If Percy wasn't there.

And all I could see was a small dark apartment with me working. I had to scrub the image from my mind, and yet still it haunted me.

I was just staring at him in a depressed way when Nico came in. He looked refreshed, and surprisingly bright-eyed for a guy who seemed to always have the aura of death and darkness.

He looked around curiously, I stared at him curiously while the monitor beeped and the breathing tube hissed. Not a word was spoken. Just like Nico to skip greetings and get right down to the point.

"I thought Thalia would be here." He shrugged lightly while dragging the other chair up to take a seat across from me. As expressionless as ever as he gave Percy an indifferent look. "She's not answering any of my texts."

I nodded at him sympathetically. "She was here last night," I revealed quietly. "So was Jason. They had a little hash out and Thalia kind of fell apart. She was really upset."

Nico's brows furrowed. "How long ago was this?"

"Well if its seven a.m. now then I'd say…. Six hours ago?"

I was expecting some sort of reaction but Nico just sat back in his chair with a creak. A thoughtful look on his face as he mindlessly stared at Percy. The silence slowly pushing into my brain as I stared at the guy, remembering when I first met Nico. His quiet demeanor and simple yet rare smiles. By the way he held himself and his serious personality I'd assumed he was a bit older than Percy and I, but to my surprise he was actually a full year younger. (Well to be fair, my age judgement is shit anyways. Took me like two years to realize Thalia was three years older then all of us).

"You knew, didn't you." The thought suddenly struck me as my eyes locked on him again. Replaying yesterday when Zeus came storming in and both Thalia and Nico looked like a pair of panicked twins. "You knew that Jason was Thalia's brother."

"Yeah." He answered simply. Not embellishing a thing as per usual. The most unreadable expression on his face as he slightly tipped the chair he was leaning on backwards.

No, I wasn't surprised. Thalia and Nico were very close. They were BFF's in every realm of existence and had each others backs no matter the situation. The fact that Thalia opened up to Nico about it wasn't surprising.

I just thought that she might've told Percy too. But she didn't. Because Percy tells me everything. We're a package deal, if one of us is told a secret the other gets to know by default. It made me wonder how close of friends Thalia and Percy actually were. If Thalia didn't trust Percy with such personal information then what did that mean?

Then, out of the blue, something clicked. Something locked into place so perfectly I wondered why I hadn't seen it earlier.

Nico lost an older sister.

Thalia lost a younger brother.

They understood each other's pain in ways other people couldn't and they filled in for each others lost loved ones. It was why Thalia was so protective of Nico, and how Nico always knew the way to calm her down and keep her grounded. They were beyond friends now, they were family. They looked out for each other the way they used to look out for their siblings.

With that kind of connection, of course Percy wasn't going to hear about Thalia's super ultra secret brother. He wasn't on their level of closeness.

And now Jason's entering the mix, I realized, taking a chance to glance at Nico. My heart slightly bled for him. Heaven knows how that makes him feel…

"It's getting on eight." Nico suddenly got up and stretched in a very catlike way. His simple explanation leaving much to be desired. His very quick and fruitless visit leaving me confused.

"Going to work?" I guessed dubiously. My eyebrows furrowed as I followed him with my eyes.

Nico shook his head. "Thalia's favorite all-night bar closes at eight thirty for a good clean up before reopening at noon. If she was upset, then that's where she'll be, and I don't trust her enough to get herself home on her own."

Of course. I smiled at his loyalty and shook my head. So endeared at how this duo looked out for each other.

"Okay, see you later."

"Ciao." He sent a half-hearted waved over his shoulder as he disappeared through the door frame. His footsteps were so light I could barely hear them.


Nico texted explaining that Thalia was totally hammered so it might be awhile until I saw either of them. Calypso tiredly dragged herself through the door and promptly fell asleep sitting up in a chair.

Rachel came and went, singing a song about houses while sketching Percy on the edge of a cliff. I was not amused.

Hazel dropped in on her break from work, but started crying again as soon as she saw Percy in that state. I stayed with her for some time in the hallways while trying to give her the hope that Percy would get through this, but let's get real; I had only gotten the hope myself.

Frank's shift ended at three and he rolled in at four, bearing gifts of colorful balloons with get well soon written on them. I only hoped the balloons were magic while Calypso told Frank she'd have the same balloons ordered for his funeral.

Charlie dropped by just to see how things were going and to give me a few sweet encouraging cards from Percy's fellow crew mates. And Leo had a full day at the shop so he texted in his apologies but he really needed to work. (Calypso gave him a bit of a tongue lashing for letting his work get backed up).

I got a few other texts from people trying to encourage me. Will Solace, Michael Yew, Lacy from work, and surprisingly, Clarisse La Rue. I was ghost-smiling to myself while reading the texts aloud to Calypso when Jason came marching in. He was adorned in the same clothes he'd had on that morning, except the smile seemed new.

"Hi guys! How's Perce doing?"

Calypso's eyes slitted as she stared up at him skeptically. "You asked how your comatosed best friend is doing in a voice that belongs on Barney's show..."

Jason instantly mellowed "Uhh… sorry?"

"Jason, c'mere." I reached out in his direction without giving him so much as a glance and stuffed my phone back into my sweatpant pocket as I waved him over.



Confused, he obliged, stepping up beside me with an attentively confused look on his face. Pursing his lips as he awaited for the purpose of this to surface.

"Closer," I demanded.

He leaned in with his eyebrows furrowed. I could see the confusion swimming in his eyes like quick tail-flicking fish.

"Closer," I urged.

His face was was a good ten inches from mine. Far enough away to be at perfect arm's length. So I slapped him across the face lightly enough that it wouldn't sting, but still with some bite in it.

"Stupid," I scoffed.

"Ow," he complained in whiny tone. "What was that for?"

"'I loved you then. I still do now." I mimicked in a mocking voice, slightly smirking as his face turned a beet red. I only scoffed again. "Seriously? Could you get anymore cliche?"

"What was I supposed to say? I had something like deep feelings for you then. I still have them?" Jason weakly defended himself while holding his cheek.

"Wait, what's all this about?" Calypso flopped her phone onto the bed. Her almond eyes flipped between the two of us, eagerly waiting to be let in on the conversation. Jason tried to cut her out of it with a scowl and the beginning of a word.

Tried, being the key word.

"Jason saw Piper last night, and kissed her,"-cue gasp-"and then he professed his undying love to her this morning."

"Jason!" Calypso stared at him, open-mouthed. "All this time, you claimed to be over her!"

"I didn't claim anything!" he argued with a tinge of frustration. "You guys just assumed I was."

"So?" I poked at him. That feeling of prickling fun was lacking sorrowfully. Usually making fun of Jason was very light and pleasing. But right now, without the usual ring of Percy's voice as he chimed in on the fun, it just seemed fruitless, and frankly, depressing. I took my phone out again.

"So what?"

"So what's the verdict. Are you two back together?" I asked with a surprising amount of disinterest. Weaving my fingers through Percy's again and missing the way he squeezed my hand. The light of my phone made my eyes ache as I flicked through boring articles with my left hand.

Jason rubbed the back of his neck, a frustrated sigh slipping through his lips.

"No," he revealed. "Piper didn't want to get back together. She says she wants to formally apologized to everyone. She's actually looking for you right now, Cals."

Calypso groaned and dragged herself to her feet, bending out backwards to stretch her joints. I cringed when I heard her back pop several times. My own spine ached in sympathy.

"Didn't she know I was in here?" Calypso asked while raising an eyebrow in a purely unimpressed fashion. "Where else would I be?"

"She thought she saw you get on the elevator."

"Alrighty then," Calypso groaned. "Let's get this over with."

"Caals," I drawled after her in a warning voice.

"Yes?" she replied weakly.

"Be nice."

"I'll try," came the grumpy response.

I could tell she was frowning when she left the room. She always lets this little impish puff of indignant air out of her nose before she frowns. I couldn't help but smile.

"Why would Calypso be mean?" Jason was itching to follow her. He'd just found Piper again, he probably didn't want a miffed caramel haired angel scaring her off.

Because Piper made her feel pressured.

Because Piper would've tried to split her and Leo up just like she did to Percy and me.

Because Piper was a bit controlling.

"She feels threatened." The real reason, although Calypso would hardly even think to acknowledge it.

"Piper?" Jason's eyebrows dipped. He fell into the chair Cals just vacated right across from me. Percy in between us like an odd table.

"No, Calypso."

"What does she feel threatened by?"


"Wait, so this is Piper who feels threatened, or Calypso?" Jason rubbed his eyes deeply before he shook his head. "I'm sorry. I was up all night, I'm not usually this… slow."

"Calypso feels threatened by Piper," I clarified patiently, sending him a pursed smile because dang I knew what this kind of exhaustion felt like.

"So why does Calypso feel threatened?" Jason looked just as confused. Letting out an exasperated groan as he sunk into a slouch.

"Because Piper and I used to be best friends. When Piper went all… wild, Calypso and I became best friends pretty fast. I think she thinks that Piper is going to assume her old role."

Jason tapped his fingers together and squinted at me. Probably replaying things over in his mind just to get them down right.

"Will she?"

"No. Never." I shook my head solemnly. A finality in my words that made Jason's eyes fall. "Piper's right. Things can't be as they were."

"I don't see why not," Jason murmured. Stooping forward on his chair to crane his neck at me, trying to meet my eyes as I stared stubbornly at my phone.

"Because people change," I supplied while unconsciously gripping my phone tighter. "We all stayed friends. You, Hazel, Frank, Calypso and I. We grew together as friends. But Piper… she grew in a different direction. That doesn't mean we can't be friends with her again, it just means things won't be the same. Ever."

Jason sighed heavily. For a solid minute he stared at his hands, his eyes full of sadness. The heart monitor beeped and the breath tube hissed as a gentle quietness caressed the air, before Jason shattered it with another weighted sigh.

"Piper said nearly the exact same thing," he spoke with pursed lips, eyes still trained on the floor. This hollow look emptying his eyes as he kneaded his hands together in a slow, circular movement.

I didn't reply. I just scrolled through the feed on my phone, dead-eyed. Softly thinking about Piper and how much has changed. How, all of a sudden, our roles seemed to have switched. How I had been the happy one, and she, the desperately lonely. How her eyes were never bright anymore, and her smiles were genuine, but short-lived. How that rip of branching white scars tore up the side of her neck like white webbing viens. How secretive she was of how she got them.

"While you were talking…" I started slowly, trying to find the right words. "Did she mention anything at all about… these past seven years?"

Jason's eyes locked mine and his brows furrowed before he shook his head, perplexion in his lightning blue eyes as he looked over my face curiously.

"Did she mention anything to you?" he returned the question, leaning forward to catch my expression.

I puffed some air through my cheeks and leant back. Letting my face tilt towards the ceiling as I stuffed my phone away. "I guess she hasn't told anyone about that scar."

Jason frowned. "I wish she would. It's worrisome."

I nodded quietly. Letting my eyes slip closed and taking in the gentle background noise of the hospital. Exhaustion tugged slightly at my brain as I seemed to shut out half of the world.

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss…

"I wonder what's taking them so long," Jason muttered with a pinch of concern. His voice was barely able to pierce my fuzzy mind.

"Mmh," I agreed tiredly. "I hope Cals isn't being difficult."

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss…

"Maybe I should go and check on them." Jason started to fidget. I could hear his leg bouncing against the floor with soft, quick thuds.

"Not a good idea," I dissuaded. "This is between Calypso and Piper. You butt in, and you'll just complicate things."

Jason grumbled something under his breath, but stayed glued to his seat. Slightly swaying as if he were moving to the melody of a song. His lips pursed tightly and his eyes examined Percy for what seemed to be the millionth time. The fading light from outside made Jason's features seem a little more shallow than usual, but his blue shirt set his eyes off nicely.

I sat up and stretched my arms, popping my elbows and sending a stream of satisfaction through my shoulders. Leaning forward slightly, I brushed a dark lock away from Percy's forehead. My heart aching again as I missed the green of his eyes and the way his cheek dimpled when he smirked.

Just wake up… Please….

"How's Thalia?" Jason practically whispered. His voice was so burdened with regret that it threatened to crack. His eyes focused solely on Percy as he refused to meet my eyes.

I shot him a sympathetic smile. "Hung over."

Jason winced.

"Don't worry," I soothed while getting up. "Nico's taking care of her."

"Where are you going?"

"Bathroom." I explained lightly.

It felt good to be on my feet again. Sitting down for too long seems to do something to your legs.

I was almost to the door when the thought of Piper stopped me again. The way her lips turned down instead of up when she was complimented. How her thoughts had twisted themselves into monsters. How she was facing her own harrowing battles now.

"Jase?" I swiveled around. Pursing my lips in worry as our eyes locked.


"... Be careful with Piper, okay? She's just a little…" I trailed off.

Weak wasn't the right word. Piper wasn't weak. She was, in fact, probably stronger because of what she was going through. She wasn't delicate either. She was just… worn thin? She didn't need anything else to deal with other than what was already on her plate.

"I know," Jason said seriously. "In fact, that was the main reason she thought we shouldn't get back together."

"She told you?!"

That did make any sense. Piper wasn't one to open up like that. She wouldn't just casually tell anyone about her problems. As far as I knew, she felt this absurd shame for the way she was feeling and like her burdens weren't worth troubling other peoples ears.

"You're not the only one who knew Piper ridiculously well." Jason murmured with a dead tone in his voice. "It wasn't hard to figure out what's going on inside that head of hers with the way she was talking. Once I pointed it out, she became twice as defensive and told me I should stay away."



I shook my head while leaving the room. That tangled pit of emotions I was harboring felt heavy and tight. "What are we going to do with her?"


I passed Gabe once in the hallway. He was being wheeled around by a young nurse who seemed to be struggling a bit with the chair.

He winked at me and I almost blew a stack, but I didn't. I froze and counted down from ten while trying to remember that when Percy woke up, he'd be able to testify and justice would be served.

When Calypso returned from talking to Piper, she was ten times grumpier.

"I tried being civil," Calypso huffed. "I tried, but she doesn't just get to walk back into our lives!"

"She's not," I soothed. "She's just apologizing."

"Doesn't feel like that," the caramel-haired girl fumed. "Doesn't feel like that at all."


"How did Percy propose?" Piper asked after we'd finished watching 'Airplane' for the second time. I wasn't surprised when she showed up with another blanket tonight. I was ready with Netflix on and streaming. Didn't take much to convince her to sit down and join me. Now, I could barely register what the clock said so I didn't even bother finding out what time it was. I was mindlessly watching the helium balloons Frank brought as they sunk lower with every hour.

"We were just sitting in a hammock at the beach, and he said he wanted to marry me. Then he just gave me a ring," I droned quietly while straightening my fingers so I could absentmindedly examine my ring. A hook tugged at me at the sweet memory of the beach, and waves. How the warm bursts of air smelled like seaweed and salt. Percy's arms tucked around me and the rhythmic sway we were rocking to.

"That's it?" Piper sounded unimpressed. "Did he even get down on one knee?"

I chortled and rolled my head the other way to look at her. The warmth from Percy's side made me feel a little less hollow.

"No. If he did it any other way I would've seen it coming." I shrugged. "He knows I'm not one for tradition, and he knew that I would've said yes no matter how he proposed."

"Still," Piper persisted timidly. "You aren't… disappointed he didn't propose in a more… special way?"

"It was special to me." I mumbled. "The fact that he was so positive I'd say yes, that he knows me so well… I don't know, it was just perfect to me."

Piper fell quiet

Her kaleidoscope eyes spun with emotions as she looked at Percy. His skin somehow was becoming paler by the day, and the breathing tube hissed every few seconds or so like a snake hidden beneath his pillow.

"I called him worthless," she whispered suddenly. Her voice was so quiet and fragile I almost didn't hear it. "Right after I figured out he'd fallen for you I… I used how much he loved you to hurt him."

That day.

The day Percy left early in the morning, and snuck back into the apartment to try and move out. The day I had to handcuff myself to him to keep him from going. The day Piper used her words to strike him hard.

The day he confessed to me.

"I called him a shit head, and a loser… I told him he wasn't worth you."

"I know," I soothed. "It's alright, you're not that person anymore."

"You don't understand." Her voice shook. "Even after he was looking to the ground, and totally defeated by me, even after I broke him and he was on the verge of tears, I still attacked. I kept telling him how insignificant he was until the elevator closed. I… I was so cruel. He's never going to forgive me."

I reached over the bed and flicked her ear. "Don't say that."

She winced and looked at me oddly, a mix between wanting to cry and perplexion.

"Percy will forgive you," I murmured. Seriousness swelling in my voice with my eyes locked on her wide and unknowing ones. "Might take him awhile, and he might not even tell you that he's forgiven you, but he will do it. He might've forgiven you already and we just don't know."

It was still there. The doubt that hollowed out her eyes like tunnels reaching well into the depths of the earth. She wouldn't fully believe me until Percy was standing before her with those three magic words.

I forgive you.

She was never going to believe that something right was going to happen to her until it happened. Maybe she was just trying to save herself from the disappointment if things didn't pan out or maybe she was just so sure that nobody could accept her again that she couldn't believe in someone forgiving her.

I stared at her until she looked down. My heart twisting a little for her.

"Come to the wedding." I didn't realize how good of an idea that was until I said it out loud.

"What?" Piper gaped as if I were crazy.

"Come to my wedding."


"No, that's my line."


My stomach sank a bit as my gaze flickered to Percy momentarily. "Sorry, inside joke. Just come to my wedding. It's the perfect opportunity to reconnect."

I was scaring her. I could tell by the way she was grasping at words. She was going to say no. She was never going to give herself a chance to 'reconnect' with the others, other than a quick chat to apologize.

I was the only person officially back in her life. After that one talk with Jason she avoided him like the plague. Calypso too (but with more reason).

I was the only person in her life to try and encourage her to open up. I was the only person who could currently change her life. I remembered what it was like being in that lonely bubble and how hard it was to reach out and have someone there for me.

I wasn't going to be like Piper in high school. If she called me, if she needed me, I wasn't only going to reply, I was going to reach out first. I was going to make the first move in getting her out of this.

"You don't need to say yes." I intervened her thinking before she had a moment to utter 'no'. "Just promise me that you'll think about it?"

Numbly, she nodded.

And it sorta felt like success.


I was over the ledge again, holding on to Percy as clatters and clangs erupted into the night. Seventeen again, and feeling that sharp fear as we held on for our lives. The icy rooftop, the bitter wind, the sky of yellowed clouds. It was all so real again. It was all so vivid.

'Don't let go,' I mouthed silently while I was begging with my eyes, looking up into his emerald eyes darkened by fear.

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

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

Then the world was spinning, morphing, changing. Percy was gone, the roof was gone. Gabe stayed laughing, mocking me just by existing. His beady eyes glittered with malice and pride.

I was frozen, suspended. I was watching, not moving.

Suddenly a hallway shifted into focus around me. The walls were a sour green, the floors blackened with dirt and splintering with age. The grease-spotted Persian rug ran down the length of the hall to a set of uneven stairs that seemed to hold some termite damage.

Tongues of bright flames were slowly eating away at one wall, engulfing one of the wood doors as if it were a cracker and sizzling in enjoyment. In fact, the sound of fire feasting on the rickety building sounded like the roar of a million voices. Smoke and soot skipped and flowed through the air thickly as if dancing to the noise. Quickly filling the room with a dark fog.

I could almost feel it stinging my eyes and clogging my throat, and yet I couldn't at the same time. I was there, but I wasn't. I was watching.

Gabe was on the ground, wheezing with his shirt pressed against his nose. Slowly crumbling into himself as he wailed and cried pathetically for help. The plea of a man knowing he was about to die. I watched in horror as his yells fell to a panicked murmur and his writhing stilled. A beat of sympathy crawling through my heart while a conflicting laugh rolled around my gut. I hated him, he deserved it. Or did he?

A muffled holler came from down the hall. I turned just in time to see two firefighters reach the top of the stairs. They're black and yellow suits almost seemed to camouflage them through the thick black air. Heavy, dark masks obscuring their faces while only their eyes could be seen peering through some goggles.


"No! Go back!" I screamed, realizing what I was watching. What I was seeing. (What I was dreaming?) They didn't hear me.

"There he is!" Charlie yelled before the two of them fell beside the older man. "Sir! Sir!"

Through the grubby plastic of his goggles, I could see Percy's eyes go wide from recognition. As if in a trance, he froze. His eyebrows furrowed darkly before he snapped back into it a moment later, a new hardness in his green eyes. His hands fisting and unfisting.

"It's too late! He's unconscious," Percy shouted through his mask before fumbling with his glove.

He pressed a bare hand to Gabes flabby neck.

"His pulse is weak! If we lose him, he's not coming back!"

"No!" I cried. I knew what came next. I knew what he did.

But Percy was right. Gabe was old, and unhealthy. If he died there, reviving him would almost be impossible. It was a now or never moment.

To the right, the fire pulsed and roared even louder. It was spreading to the floor, to the roof, to the other doors. From their shoulders, the matching little yellow boxes flashed and beeped angrily.

Carbon Monoxide alert. My heart sank.


But it was too late. Percy was already peeling off his apparatus. Charlie put up a hand to stop him, but Percy just shrugged him aside and gave him this calm reassuring look. His eyes full of soft knowledge as if he were saying 'it's okay'.

Coughing and wheezing, Percy helped Charlie pick up Gabe, guiding them to the stairs. Pushing them away from the flames and from the scorching heat. Their shadows flying about against the opposite walls dramatically, like flags stating their existence.

I watched, stuck where I was as they made it to the top of the stairs.

Go, go go go go!

The fire flickered above them on the ceiling. The blackened plaster sagged a little, pieces of it crumbling away, racing cracks forming on its peak. It was going to fall on them! It was going to-

"PERCY!" I tried to shriek. I tried to warn them.

Percy saw it. Percy shoved Charlie as hard as he could and the Chief tumbled down the stairs with a barely conscious Gabe in tow. The blazing pile of wood and plaster landing heavily where they once stood in a flash of sparks and a crown of flames, forcing Percy to stumble back and throw an arm up to cover his face. The deafening crash echoing throughout the crumbling structure for one overpowering second.

"PERCY!" This time it was Charlie who bellowed in panic. His voice was merely a sound of many in the overall crackling, and hissing from the fire.

Percy hit the floor coughing. His face crinkling in effort as he heaved and wheezed between his gloved hands. Gasps breaking through his lips, but they seemed to have no effect. He wasn't getting enough air; he wasn't getting any air.

Squinting through the stinging smoke, Percy seemed to register the flames crawling towards him hungrily. Each ticking second gave the prowling fire a few more centimeters.

Loosely, he rolled to the opposite wall and grunted in surprise when he hit it. Beads of sweat dripping down his face like lost tears as his eyes fell onto the fire again, watching it with the expression of a person facing death.

"PERCY!" I sobbed, pain twisting around in my heart. I was trying to reach him. I was trying to protect him. "PERCY, NO!"

Suddenly his gaze went unfocused. He looked around, confused, with a violent fear flightily bouncing through his eyes. A hand still pressed over his mouth as he convulsed with hacks. But he was getting weaker. He was less tense, he was fading.

His hand fell away from his face. His eyes fluttered as each breath came and went in a fierce hyperventilation. His barking cough suddenly stilling to frail chokes.

"PERCY!" My voice was useless. I had no control. I couldn't save him. "PLEASE!"

"Mmh sorry," he croaked with the last of his breaths. "Mmh sorry, Princess."

His deep green eyes slid shut. His chest stopped moving, his face grew slack.

Percy went limp.


I woke up with wet cheeks and swollen eyes. Piper still bent over on the other side of the bed asleep in her chair. The first tendrils of soft morning sunshine breaking over the horizon in a wide array of pinks and oranges.


I snapped my head around to him. His peacefully slumbering face not any different then the day before. His hair all fussed about as usual, and his eyes as painfully closed as before.

I pressed my hand against his cheek, feeling the flush of warmth through my fingertips eased that kneading bubble that had built up against my chest. Reminding me that he was alive. He was still alive and things were going to be okay. Or at least they could be.

Tenderly, I brushed his hair away from his forehead, my thoughts spinning from my dream. How real it felt, how horrible it was. How horrible Gabe was.

And yet he's almost completely healed while Percy is still in coma. A hot burst of anger coiled around my heart. He doesn't deserve to sit without a care in the world. He deserves to rot in jail.

And just like that I snapped.


Yes, this is like the millionth time I've snapped, or felt horrible or la dee da. Dreams have a way of setting me off, okay? Like that time I dreamt Percy was killed by Gabe and then immediately went out and brought him into my home.

Anyways, I stormed out of the hospital room (quietly because Piper was still sleeping) and marched my ass all the way to Gabriel Ugliano's room. And yes, I did remember where his room was (miraculously).

The old tub of lard was asleep. His maw was squished ope, releasing rattling snores. His ugly face pressed into the white down of his pillow. Looking like a hog, and sounding like one too.

Viciously, I grabbed him by the neck and violently shook him until he coughed himself awake. His eyes wide and frightened while he let loose a bout of guttural questions.

"What? Who? Wha?"

I shoved him back into the bed with a growl made for a tiger. His eyes now clear and locked on me as he stared dumbfounded.

"Remember me?" I spat.

"...You're the dame that ran out of-"

"No," I barked. "Before that. Before any of this. Before Percy threw his life on the line for you."

Gabe's scruffy eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Percy…"

Then something inside him seemed to light up and the next time he looked at me there was recognition twinkling in beady eyes. Tendrils of hatred lining them as well. A shocked accusation in his body language as if I were the evil one here.

"You're the bitch who broke my nose!"

"Call me a bitch again and I'm liable to re-break it." I clenched my fist as if readying to wheel back and throw a good one. My voice heavy with contempt as I glared ice blades at him. My chest was coiled with a tense hot anger that leaked into my burning veins.

"But you-"

"You abused Percy for years. You hurt him, you used him, you were the most horrible person in his life and for that I hate you. You tried to kill both me and him that night on the roof," I snarled. "Percy did his job. He saved you. But that doesn't mean he's not going to save you from prison. Mark my words, you fat-assed maggot, the day Percy wakes up is the day he can testify against you and lock you away for the rest of your ground-grubbing life. You're going to jail."

Gabe seemed to barely be intaking this information. For a moment he just looked flabbergasted and astounded, his mouth hanging open as his slow mind processed the information.

Then came that delicious look of fear. His eyes looking up at me as if I could plunge a blade into his heart at any moment.

And I revelled in it.

This was the look I wanted. This was the way I wanted him to feel. Uncomfortable, unsafe and to know that I was in power. That I was going to take all his wrong doings and tax him a year for every little scar on Percy's body. That I was seeking my revenge.

"Better find a lawyer," I smiled smugly at him, backing out the door haughtily with a little hop in my step. Gabe's terror-filled eyes satisfied that angry hot hole in my chest just by a bit. The fact that I just informed a man that the rest of his life was doomed gave me no guilt.

When I practically pranced back into Percy's room Piper was sitting up blearily. Her hair sticking up oddly at one end and her clothes wrinkled lopsidedly.

"Where were you?" she inquired through a lengthy yawn.

"Just some self therapy," I hummed softly while somewhat chuckling to myself.

"Did it work?" Piper cocked her head at me. The question momentarily caught me off guard.

"... yeah. I guess it did." I smiled.


Piper had a shift that morning, so I was left alone for a good chunk of time. It gave me the opportunity to have a heated conversation with my boss as to why I wasn't coming in that morning. I also cleared things up with the chirpy nurse who suddenly reappeared. I told her to keep an eye on Gabe and explained that I was no stranger to him. Making sure that I apologized for running off in such a noisy way, but she understood and gave me a hug. She's a big sweetheart. (Those kinds of nurses are the best)

It was almost lunch time when a soft knock hit the door frame followed by a scoff and a muttered "Wimp. Just walk in."

I looked up just in time to see Jason glowering at Thalia from the door as she made herself at home across from me.

A bubble of anxiety swelled in my gut as I glanced between the two of them.

"Percy any better?" Thalia asked while peering at my comatosed fiance. Avoiding the elephant in the room.

I shook my head. Curiosity spinning in my system at how the two of them arrived together.

They made up? So fast?

Jason cleared his throat roughly and raised a skeptical eyebrow at Thalia.

Thalia, in turn, sighed and pursed her lips. Her lightning-blue eyes hit the floor before she looked at me seriously, an element of regret in her posture.

"Beth… we came to apologize."

"Apologize?" Again, I sounded like I didn't believe them.

"We're sorry. We were acting like neanderthals… especially now. We should've behaved better." She sent a fleeting glance in Jason's general direction while talking, as if the apology wasn't just meant for me.

"I should have pulled myself together. You have no idea how ashamed I am that I dragged you into my own useless drama when you have enough to worry about as it is. I'm so sorry." Jason failed to ever meet my eyes.

Instead, I reached out to him and gently took his hand. Only then did he look up and see my grateful smile and sparkling eyes. His own hollow look of utter regret fading into relief as he smiled in a pursed way at me.

"It's okay," I murmured, a deep sense of peace soothing my heart for the first time in days. The feeling of hope finally taking a firm grip on me. "Things will be okay."

And for a moment I thought of Charlie. His soft smile and gentle hug. How he tried to tell me at the beginning of all of this that everything was going to be okay. How he knew that, I'll never know.

Percy will wake up.

Gabe will go to jail.

Piper will be happy again.

Thalia got her brother back.

And I'm going to marry Percy. I'm going to have that life.

I was just about to make a comment on how similar the two looked, and how they made for a pair of pretty bomb siblings when the nurse came in again.

That lovely sweet one who I never got a name for.

She anxiously looked at me as if she wanted to ask for half the world. Her normally happy face puckered up as if in worry.

"What's wrong?" I asked fearfully. My brain suddenly swirling with fears while my heart was ready to face whatever problem came up.

I can deal with this. Bring it on, you damn rollercoaster.

"Sorry ta interrupt," she gave a shy smile to my friends. "But your friend, the resident one, well, she's mighty upset. She's been tearing up a bit and won't betray a hint as to what's been botherin her."


"Where is she?" I felt my throat go a little tight.

"Second floor, right wing making her rounds. I just supposed she might need her friend."

"Thank you." I breathed, jumping to my feet and casting aside my sweater. My quick eager steps were echoed by Jason's

I stopped.

"Jason… I think this is something I should deal with alone. Piper will-"

"Hey guys, how's Percy?" Frank appeared out of thin air, ultimately cutting my sentence short. He was forcing a smile as he entered, gripping Hazel's hand. Calypso following close behind them as the room seemed to become smaller, more claustrophobic.

"Jason will tell you," I directed without hesitation, ditching him immediately as I scrambled out the door and leaving him in the dust.

Piper was exactly where the nurse said she'd be. Her eyes were focused on a clipboard, and her hands gloved in blue latex as if she'd just been examining somebody.

When I marched bluntly up to her, she didn't acknowledge my presence. Her focus was elsewhere.

"Wanna tell me what's up?" I asked lightly, crossing my arms in a casual way as I sidled up to her. Pretending to be interested in what was on the clipboard as well. My eyes never even glanced at the papers.

"What do you mean?" she chirped.

She was good. Very good. But when it came to masking depressing emotions, I was always the Queen and I knew every trick in the book.

"A nurse says you've been in the dumps lately." I addressed the matter immediately, not really wanting to drag it out or beat around the bush for the sake of time.

Piper looked at me dead on. Her heart stopping eyes filled with honesty and sadness. "I'm always in the dumps, Annabeth. Talking about it just makes it worse."

My eyebrows furrowed before I could regain my cool kid composure. "Anything making you feel bad especially today?"

She let out a short sarcastic snort before shifting to look at me head on. "Depression doesn't need a reason Beth."

"Are you sure nothing today has…..?"

"Yes." She spoke with the same monotronic tone, her eyes trained back down onto her page.

She'd already read it. Her eyes were jumping from one line to another uselessly as she tried in vain to avoid me. Her fingers tightly gripping the plastic edges as if to relieve stress.

It only spurred me on more. My determination to help her seemed to fire up and I put my foot down. A flame of defiance burning in my chest as I tried a different approach.

"Did I do something?" I asked boldly, being sure to directly look her in the eyes when her head snapped up.


"Then what?" I demanded, a softness in my tone that almost pled. "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing!" The agitation in her voice started to rise. She shifted from one foot to the other as she reread the same page for a third time. Her eyes were glassier than before. Her eyebrows were more furrowed.

"It's something if it hurts," I pointed out gently. "And ignoring it doesn't mean it will go away."

"Could you please just-" her voice cracked, a moment of weakness forcing her to turn away from me. To hide her broken expression.

"What is it, Pipes?" I asked sympathetically, tentatively touching her shoulder and feeling a spark of hope that she would relent to me. That she would open up.

"It's stupid," she persisted, just barely above a whisper as she tried to roll my touch off of her with a slightly jerky movement.

"Let me be the judge of that." I shot her an encouraging look. Internally cheering her on as she finally seemed to crumble under my steady gaze.

"It's just… Hazel and Frank refused to even talk to me. I… I tried to apologize them but I don't know if they heard me. It was stupid for me to even hope that they would… I don't deserve their attention anyways."

"They should at least listen to you!" I defied. My heart twisting in confusion at the behaviour of my two close friends. I was so sure that Frank and Hazel would be the first to welcome Piper back with open arms. But perhaps, (like many things) I misinterpreted how they felt. They never spoke much of Pipe,r come to think of it.

They were the ones left with her after her and my fallout, after all. Along with Jason, they witnessed the truly ugly side of her in high school. How she wouldn't let them even touch their phones without getting antsy on who they were texting. And as I recall, Piper even went so far as to go through Hazel's phone without permission.

Piper shook her head lowly. Her gloved hand came up to rub her forehead as she seemed to hold back the ready tears.

"No, no," she insisted. "They shouldn't have to listen to me."

"I'll try talking to them," I offered a bit desperately, too eager to fix this. "I'm sure I could-"

"It's okay, Annabeth," she mumbled weakly. Her smile falling short of her eyes again as she rearranged the pieces of paper on her clipboard. "I just need to learn how to get over these petty things."

And then she just walked away, apparently done with our conversation. My heart sank lower than it was before as I tried fruitlessly to come up with something to say that would make it all better.

But I couldn't.

So I just stood there dumbly as Piper returned to her resident duties.


"Wow." My dad sounded a bit breathless. I couldn't tell if it was because the elevator was out of service or because of the rush of memories he was receiving. "Looks almost exactly as I left it."

I shot him a pursed smile as I set his heavy leather suitcase down on the worn floor.

"Yeah," I chuckled breezily. "Percy and I aren't exactly interior designers, so we've made practically no change."

"The pictures are new," my bewildered father pointed out as he looked at the frames lining the wall, his glasses perched on the end of his nose.

"Well, to be honest I was never fond of your cousins or Great-Aunt Sarah's scowling face, so I took the liberty in replacing them," I chortled, knocking the door closed with the ball of my foot before briskly stepping towards the kitchen. "Want a drink, Dad? Something to eat?"

"Uh, no thanks sweetheart," he waved off absentmindedly, his attention hooked. "Who's this girl in the fourth photo from the wall? The one with all the scary tattoos?"

I laughed with a sense of glee flitting around my heart. My poor old father trying to make sense of my social life now.

"That's Thalia," I called over my shoulder while pilfering through the fridge. "She's a blast. I should invite her over one time while you're here."

"No, no, don't feel like you have to," he dissuaded gently.

"Aw, come on. It'll be fun. She's a hoot on game night." I popped open my soda and downed a draught, content to just watch my father amaze at the little things inside my apartment.

Yes, my apartment. After all this time, it was my claim and both my father and I knew it. This place was fully mine. (And Percy's too, but mostly mine.)

"Maybe another time," he waved off again, running his hand nostalgically over the back of the couch. Looking as if he remembered some good times.

I wondered if I should tell him that the couch was new.

"Hey," Percy came leisurely into the apartment, kicking off his shoes as his eyes remained glued to his phone. Elegantly smacking his new favorite flavor of gum as he mindlessly started making his way to his room.

"Percy," I half hissed, pointedly looking at him then gesturing to my dad. "We have company."

"Oh..." my numbskull boyfriend looked taken aback. His eyes widened a bit and his lip disappeared under a row of teeth. I thought he was going to be at least formal and introduce himself, but instead he looked at me with a curious expression and said: "It's Friday already?"

Okay, leave all the introducing to me. I mentally groaned. Great job, Seaweed Brain.

"Dad, this is Percy. Percy, this is my Dad." I spoke a little more tensely then I meant to. My shoulders unconsciously wound back as my boyfriend met my ever skeptical father. Watching with an internal twitching feeling as my father seemed to eyeball Percy's very visible tattoos.

"Nice to meet you," my dad spoke in his indiscernible business voice. His eyes were hard as he held out a hand.

Percy shook it.

"Ditto," he replied without much care to the wind.

My father's brow furrowed slightly as he looked my boyfriend over. Percy being all the oblivious as he went back to his phone.

"Tell me, Percy, where do you go to school?" Frederick's tone was slipping to the darker side. His eyes were sharp and judging as he continued to examine my boyfriend with an unapproving eye.

"Oh, I don't go to school," Percy answered easily. His unreadable face was calm and collected but I could tell that his nerves were starting to be bitten at.

"Oh, really? Annabeth is a third year University student. I know some courses I'm sure would-"

"Okay, dad," I forced a laugh to try and lift the mood. "Shouldn't we get you settled?"

"Of course." Frederick seemed to switch gears as he looked around for his suitcase dorkishly. He patted his hands over his jacket pockets as if it could be hiding in there. "I'm staying in your room, Annabeth, right?"

I nodded while helpfully pointing him in the direction of his bags. Watching as he strained slightly in picking them up before disappearing down the hall with a fleeting smile.

The moment he was gone, Percy dropped the phone on the counter with a dull knocking sound and fell into a hug. Then, gripping me tight around the waist, he lifted me up and carried me easily to the kitchen. I tried not to giggle as he pressed his lips against my neck and blew. He knew how ticklish I was there and how I'd squirm relentlessly. His assault continuing even after her placed me on the counter and blocked me in.

"Percy!" I hissed with laughter in my breath. "Stop, Percy- Ah! Stop!"

He peeled back only to grin at me mischievously. "Why?" he challenged with a playful sparkle in his green eyes.

"Because what will my dad think?" I smiled at him adoringly, ruffling his hair as his grin grew.

"Oh, who cares what he thinks," he whispered rebelliously. "Can't I say hello to my girlfriend without all this speculation?"

"Then say hello and be quick about it!" I urged,my stomach vibrating with happiness.

Still grinning, Percy cupped my neck with his hand and drew me down for a tender, heart-throbbing kiss that set stars behind my eyelids.

Breaking apart, I could still feel his smile hovering over my lips.

"Hey," he beamed softly in an enchanted way.

"Hey," I returned the greeting a little half-lidded and dreamy-eyed myself.

"How was your day?" Percy stepped a little closer, leaning into me as I let my legs loosely wrap around his torso. Still playing with his hair that had just gotten to that deliciously toyable length.

"The airport was a mess, I was stuck in traffic for almost three hours today and Helen has already called twice."

"Mmh," Percy sympathized. "Will a second kiss make it better?"

"It might take three," I considered in a contemplative manner, relishing the moment I had with him as he kissed me again. His arms firmly wound around my back.

"Annabeth?" My dad's steps started padding down the narrow hallway.

Percy and I broke apart, and I gently slipped off the counter. A bubble of disappointment swelling in my chest that I patted down quickly.


"You painted your room?" he looked incredulous. Probably because when I was a kid I insisted that my walls be kept white. I liked the neat orderly appeal of black print on a white background so I always kept my style limited to that.

"Yeah, Percy and I did that last summer. He chose the colour for my bedroom, and I chose the colour for his."

"Is that why it's green?" My dad's voice had an element of disgust, a sound that Percy picked up on and seemed to grow all the more agitated.
"Uh, what's wrong with green?" Percy questioned with a curt quip in his voice as his eyes hardened.

"It's just such a… generic colour." Frederick shrugged. His eyes narrowing slightly at Percy as if he were trying to pick a fight. My alarm bells going off because Frederick never picked fights with anyone.

"Bobby's room is green." I pointed out with a defensive edge before Percy could add anything.

"Is it?" My father pushed his glasses up his nose, his eyes crinkling as if he were trying to remember a lifetime ago.

"Yeah. And I've visited your house twice so I think I know what I'm talking about." I crossed my arms.

"So it is," Frederick seemed to deflate, and yet not a single apology coming to his lips.

There was a painfully awkward silence that followed shortly afterward, and Percy plucked his phone off the counter nonchalantly. Nibbling more often on his lip as he seemed to feel the rising tension more than anyone else. His gaze occasionally darting to me as if to try and read my expression.

"So uh, we're going out to dinner at Carlo's on Albert St. Are you coming with us?" I directed my question at Percy with a pleading back tone that my father thankfully didn't pick up on.

"Aw, sorry." Percy shot me a pursed apologetic smile. "I promised I'd pick up Sam's shift tonight."

Disappointment flared in my chest as my eyes fell, trying not to look too upset in front of my dad, I shuffled my feet.

"But you picked up Sam's shift last night too. You've been working so much lately," I murmured rather hopelessly.

"I know," he looked kind of embarrassed. "But a little extra cash is never a bad thing, right?"

"Not if it deprives, and upsets the ones who love you," my dad said stiffly, looking at Percy with his head tilted back and his glasses on the end of his nose. That no nonsense air about him just seemed to add to the cringiness of the moment.

After a decent are you kidding me? pause, Percy shook his head and turned his sole attention to me.

"Anyways, I should get ready." He excused himself lightly before trodding down the hall with a kick of energy.

As soon as I heard his bedroom door click shut I turned on my dad. My eyes burrowing into his as I glared at him in anger and confusion.

"Dad, what the heck?" I growled lowly so Percy wouldn't hear. "What's gotten into you?"

"What do you mean?" He tried to play it cool, but I wasn't exactly in the mood.

"Why are you on Percy's back?" I crossed my arms indignantly. My voice was just above a whisper but full of venom.

"Sweetheart… he's just not exactly… quality material."

My face started burning in rage as my hands tightened on my arms, trying to keep my composure as I let loose a tense breath.

"You don't know him," I reminded him tersely, yhe hairs standing rigid on the back of my neck. "You can't say that."

"But I know his type," my dad argued stubbornly. "I… I just think you deserve better, Bethy."

"Okay whoa," I backtracked with a rather sassy wave of my hand. "Don't try and 'father' me now. You're in no place to tell me what's best for me. This is your first time visiting since you left seven years ago! Percy's been here for three, I'm not going to boot him outta my life just because you don't approve of your weak first impression of him!"

My dad looked like he was about to protest when Percy's voice came ringing down the hall.

"Princess? Do you know where my work shirt is?"

The sound of his voice seemed to soothe the tightness coiling in my chest. I had to shake my head softly at him with a crumbled ghost smile on my lips because this happened every single day.

"Which one? The white or the navy?" I answered loudly, keeping my eyes far away from my father's expression.


"Your navy one is hanging up in your closet, beside your blue button up."

I could hear him creak open the old doors to his closet, then let loose a little noise of recognition when he found it. His light 'Thanks!' confirmed he had it a few seconds later.

All conversation between my Dad and I seemed to come to a stop. (I might've knowingly struck a nerve.) We sat there and listened to the growing traffic outside. The hum of the refrigerator and the quick light steps from Percy as he got ready. I sipped my soda in silence and swished it around the can. Occasionally tapping an impatient tune out onto the counter as the silence grew more prominent.

Percy came marching down the hall a few moments later. His fitting navy T-shirt on and as dashing as ever. 'New York Fire Department' was printed neatly on the front along with the station's number and crest.

"Phone, wallet, keys- keys? Keys?" He began his usual list that he recited right before leaving the apartment, checking his pockets uselessly as he looked around with his cute eyebrows pinched up. "Keys?"

I pointed to the dish by the front door while taking another sip of my drink, ignoring my father as I softly grinned at my boyfriend.

"Ah, keys!" he declared triumphantly, plucking the little jingling things from the front door table. His quickened steps only telling me that he was indeed late as he came around the little island in the kitchen.

Gingerly, he grabbed an untoasted bagel from the pantry before swinging around and pressing a hurried kiss to my temple.

"I'm off," he declared. "My shift ends at one."

"You mean Sam's shift." I tried not to sound petty.

"Oh potato, tomato." Percy shook his head at me before shoving the bagel into his mouth. He left the room with a hum muffling through the pastry wedged in his mouth and a helium sensation in my chest.

I was just about to comment on how silly he was at times when I noticed the strange lacking of colour in my Dad's face. His posture had gone tense and he stood there motionless as if he had just witnessed a very intimidating ghost.

"He's a firefighter?" he asked in a lost tone, his eyes still glued to the door.

I couldn't help the smirk that surfaced on my lips. A sense of victory rose from my gut in a proud manner.

"That wouldn't change your bad opinion of him, now would it?" I gleamed.


Something woke me up. It could've been the general honking that always seems to go down outside, or the quiet gossiping of passing nurses; but it wasn't.

Something was off.

I woke up with my hair standing on end and a sense of fear rattling so deeply in my gut I could scarcely breath. Without even moving, I listened. My heart was pounding in my chest as I realized that someone else was in the room with me.

Someone who wasn't Percy.

Their breath was ragged and brittle as I heard them fumble with something plastic right across Percy's bed.

Praying that it was a nurse, I slowly opened my eyes and shifted them upwards. My throat constricting painfully as I saw Gabe Ugliano puncture a hole into Percy IV bag and fumble with a funnel in his left hand. The moonlight giving him an eerie, almost ghostly look as his crooked teeth appeared in a purely evil smile.

Fire instantly burst in my belly. Glass shards felt as if they were somersaulting through my veins as I jumped to my feet in alarm and yelled bloody murder. Throwing myself across the bed, I smacked the funnel out of his hand shoved him as hard as I could.

With a surprised grunt, Gabe went crashing to the ground like a building collapsing in on itself. The tumultuous sound echoed down the hall, and made the windows shudder in their panes.

The night shift nurses instantly appeared at the door, assuming something was wrong with Percy and proceeded to flutter around him like hens. Chirping and chattering about heart rate, and oxygen levels. How regular his breathing was and how balanced were his blood sugars.

My heart nearly fell out of my chest when I saw the fat man scramble to his feet and bolt out the door in with an unexpected amount of speed. His eyes shooting me an enraged look as he managed to get to the hall after shoving his way past a few entering nurses. Their cries of surprise were only challenged by my voice.

"Get him!" I screamed. "Get him! He tried to poison Percy!"

Through the confusion and the chaos, some of the nurses didn't even hear me. Some were confused as to who I was talking about. And every wasted second of trying to get them to act was a second Gabe was using to get away.

In my socks and sweatpants I abandoned Percy into the care of the nurses and took off sprinting, barely catching a glimpse of Gabe as he disappeared around the corner at the end of the hall. My legs soon were carrying me in hot pursuit as rage fueled and danced in my gut and in my mind. I could barely feel myself moving as the adrenaline, now pumping through my system, made my world sharper.

Skidding around the corner, I came inches from slipping onto my face while a thesaurus of curses lit up my lips. My stupid socks sliding against the smooth polished floors and inhabiting my pace.

Unswayed, I continued to follow the trail of bewildered looks, and far off stomping as my target started to slow.

Upon rounding the second corner, I couldn't see him. My mind balked for a few measly seconds as I scoped the quiet, dimly lit area hoping for a clue. The abandoned hallway was simply illuminated by the odd light and some glaring red exit signs while the general lack of movement sent my pulse down. My hammering heart sunk before I finally located a hint.

The stairs doorway was just swinging closed in a lazy manner. A sign I didn't need anymore evidence of. Like a bear, I threw myself against the cream wood door and went spinning into the stairwell with a gasp. My lungs heaving for air and for the first time actually feeling the slick of sweat against my brow as I gripped the cold metal railing and hauled myself forward. Without a second to rest I noted the clamoring noise of a hasty person going up and I broke into a run again. Taking two steps at a time as I passed floor level after floor level. My teeth grit and eyes on fire as I looked again and again for the man who tried to hurt Percy.

How dare he. How dare he! After Percy saved him, how dare he!

My pursuit finally coming to an end at the top of the staircase. The roof door was still slightly ajar and shivering as the nightly breeze battered against its edges creating a soft almost vacuum like sound.

I threw myself out there with high expectations. Ready to hold the old man to the ground until the proper authorities could deal with him. Ready to battle him into submission.

But instead, the roof seemed vacant. The empty black sky was dauntingly huge and devoid of stars. Sirens and honks and garbage trucks were sporadically filling the night with the classic New York City ambience. The crisp heavy air hit me hard when I realized just how long it had been since I had stepped foot outside of this hospital. The sensation of a breeze on my bare arms felt weird and oddly unnatural. But this wasn't something I could dwell upon now.

The shroud of darkness made my pulse flip as I scanned each corner of the rooftop. Momentarily taking a moment to scan the looming buildings in front of me that felt like giants spectating the drama. But there was no way Gabe got away by reaching any of those.

Stumbling forward with my socks catching on the rough, sandpapery ground, I swiveled in a hunting manner and noticed the giant red and white helicopter pad to my right. Its brightly lit surface was also devoid of the man I was searching for, but perhaps the other stairway door-


The door behind me was slammed shut. Swinging around, I felt my breath leave my body in one terrified exhale as I spotted Gabe's leering face. His arm was roughly thrown over the back of the door, blocking me off from my escape. He'd ambushed me.

In his right meaty-sausage hand he held a menacing switchblade. The meager amount of light flying from the helipad was catching on its cold, hard surface and making it glint in a horrifyingly awakening way.

Terror raced down my spine as I slowly backed up in a cautious manner. My ears ringing wildly as the back of my knees hit the ledge and a lump built up in my throat. Feeling suffocated and vulnerable, I kept my adrenaline-tipped eyes on the weapon. He laughed at me in a sickly delighted manner.

"You can't jail me," he breathed heavily. Sweat glistening against his bare head and clinging to the undersides of the flabs in his neck. Yet still, he smiled this devilishly triumphant smile. Such a manic look in his eyes that my lip started quivering.

My insides were stiff with the freezing power of fear, knowing my only escapes were to either jump off the twenty-story drop or face this demon of a man. My head began swimming with remorse for chasing after him in the first place.

"Yes, I can," I found the courage to growl back, still alive with the coursing anger that throbbed endlessly through my body. "It's called justice, you dimbulb."

"I'll cut you to ribbons," he barked like a mad dog. "I'll throw you right over the side of the building."

"And then get life in prison," I edged my way to the side. My footing feeling feeble but still a taunting tone laced in my voice. "Or the death penalty."

"Only if they find me," Gabe Uglinao seemed to be seized with hatred. His eyes following me in a wide, unblinking stare. His grip kept tightening and loosening on the knife with every mounting second. The forsaken darkness hiding half of his hell-bent expression.

"They'll find you," I assured with venom in my voice. "They always find the killers."

That seemed to strike a nerve. His beady malicious eyes sharpened as if he were imagining what part of my body he'd bury his knife into.

With a scream, he launched himself at me. Waving the eleven inch weapon in uncoordinated mayhem and gruffly calling me a million vulgar names. He was spitting and hissing as I prepared for impact.

He made a right swipe at me first. My instincts came in and I ducked in a sloppy, desperate manner. The knife following my movements and barely grazing my forearm. My heartbeat pounding in my throat as I swiveled and dodged two more half-thrown swipes. I never even registered the pain flaring from my arm, or the steady trickle of blood Gabe had brought on. In the moment I thought bitterly at how I may not get that life with Percy after all, but it was nothing but a passing inkling. I was in survivor mode.

Gabe's frustration grew to a point where he powerfully started stabbing in my direction. His twisted features right in my face as his inexperience with a knife saved me over and over.

Throwing off his first stabs with strikes to his arms and legs. Desperately trying to keep a hold of my balance as I leaned back too far. A vertigo sensation crawling in through my eyes and sending all kinds of worming, shrieking panic throughout my body.

Gabe's arm came down for a third time, and I managed to flail my arms up and grab him by the wrist. The bloodthirsty edge of the blade was hovering above my collarbone, inches from my neck. A sudden pause in our flurry of movements as I grit my teeth and pushed against his strength with my all. My shoulders cracking, my muscles screaming at all of his weight being thrust against my arms, my heart pounding against my chest when I looked into his revenge-brightened eyes. Sweat streaked down my cheeks, my chin, and dampened my loose curls as I glared back with every ounce of fierceness I possessed.

The knife dipped lower, delicately brushing against the skin of my collarbone. Erupting a new kind of fear into my head. Death knocking at my back door. My broken breath seeming to rattle in my lungs as I grew weaker.

NO! It was defiant and loud and all I could think of. It was NO. I'm not dying here. I'm not leaving Percy. I'm not losing to this criminal.

Trembling with effort and pride, I craned my neck forward and sunk my teeth into the doughy flesh of his hands, ignoring the burst of pain as the knife bit into my first layer of flesh. Biting down harder, and harder until the unsavory taste of coppery blood filled my mouth and Gabe's painful cry met my ears in a sweet woeful sound.

He didn't drop the knife.

He stumbled back with more profanities then the universe probably possessed and cradled his injured hand against his chest, drops of blood rolling over his meaty fingers.

My opening was clear, and in view; so I took it.

I bolted for the door. My quivering limbs did not fail me as I leapt past the old buggar. My fingertips just brushing the cold handle of my freedom when I was wretched back in one painful yank from my scalp.

My unrestrained gold curls fisted in Gabe's hand as I went flying backwards. The wind was royally knocked out of me as I landed back first onto the cruel cement ground. My skull met concrete with an echoing crack. Then pain, brilliant unceasing pain.

Wheezing, I made a move to get to my feet, but was thwarted by Gabe's knee landing heavily on my chest followed by his sweat and blood-soaked hand against my throat. Pain writhing its way around my torso at the pressure. His victory-rimmed eyes just screamed with haughtiness as he grinned one more crooked smile at me. The darkness gruesomely shadowing his face in a villainesque manner.

I choked and squirmed and wheezed. Tears spilling out the side of my eyes as my world turned fuzzy, watching in a fractured way as the silhouette of Gabe raised his knife for a final blow.

Closing my eyes as it fell towards my chest. Pain already snaked around my heart at how things were ending for me. At how Percy might wake up to no one at his bedside.

Clang, thump.

Something landed directly on top of me in a blur of fabric and warmth. The bone chilling schlick sound as metal pierced flesh was followed by a sheer cry of agony and a confused snort from Gabe that tainted the night. His hands being ripped off me and the presence of his knee also vanished giving me the chance to breathe.

I gasped violently, retching air into my lungs as fast as I could. Relief and confusion swirled in my mind as I scrambled against the warm, foreign body covering my own. Wet gobs of sticky crimson landed on my chest hotly as I pushed my way out from under the person. Bile rising to my throat as I recognized the acrylic smell of blood.

Piper was on the ground.

Her mouth was half open in an expression of pure pain, and her eyes were wide and lucid. Staring at me with open-ended fear skittering around her kaleidoscope pools.

The knife was jutting awkwardly out of her stomach. The hilt was barely visible as it stuck from her gut. Rivers of blood pouring, soaking, spreading from the wound and into her shirt, and white doctor's coat, dyeing it a deep, dooming red. A sick gurgling sound was emitted from her throat. Her eyes fluttering, her desperate clawing on the ground grew weaker. A bubble of red spilling out of her mouth before she went limp. Her body sprawled in a ghostly manner under the light from the helipad.

"You-" I cried in shock. Horror filling my stomach in a wave of emotion. Overpowering my everything as my eyes scanned her figure over and over. "You-"

Then it was all rage. Blindingly bright rage.

Screaming my throat raw as I attacked the demonic man. Kicking, kicking, kicking. He was on the ground and yet still I was kicking. Aiming for the nose, the mouth, the eyes, the throat. Kicking so hard my leg jolted painfully, but I didn't stop. Didn't stop screaming at him with everything I had.

For Percy's years of abuse. For Percy saving his life and still trying to kill him again. For attacking me. For that night out on the roof so many years ago. For Piper.

For Piper.

For Piper.

For Piper.

Blood came pouring from his nose and eyes. His lips swelled purple and his arms were peppered with dark veiny blotches as he attempted to soften the blows. Crying out in pain as I repeatedly drove my foot into his body. Pleading for me to stop. That he was just an old man.

For Piper.

For Piper.

Suddenly someone's stringy arms were around me. Tugging me back, trying to get me away from Gabes cowering figure. Trying to shush me into submission as I fought them. I thrashed and shrieked and screeched about how he deserved it. How he stabbed Piper. He stabbed Piper. To let me go.

Doctors suddenly descended onto Gabe. The moon against their backs made their white coats almost glow. Their features concentrated as I twisted and fought against my captor. Still screaming, still fighting.

I didn't stop until I realized I was crying. My cheeks glimmering with hot tears that streaked down my face in heavy torrents. My body falling limp as I gave into the sobs. Covering my face as if it would help block things out. As if I could forget them.

The doctor holding me back gently lowered me to the ground like a rag doll. His sympathetic touch was never registered by me. His soothing voice nothing but underwater sounds.

I crumpled into myself and cried, holding my head in my arms and unconsciously rocking back and forth in effort to comfort myself. My scorching tears burning spots into my knees as I cried. I cried and cried and cried. Piper with the knife jutting out of her was still in my mind, seared there like a brand.


I was still in the waiting room when they all came barrelling in.

Thalia, Nico, Frank, Hazel, Jason, Leo, Calypso and Rachel. Their eyes found me across the room and practically stampeding to my side.

I wasn't expecting all of them. In fact, I was only expecting one of them.


I sent him the text.

No one else should be here except him. He was the only one I wanted to see.

"What's wrong? What happened? Is Percy alright?" Hazel made a dash to sit right next to me. Her golden look probing me for answers, her buoyant curls bouncing around her face.

"'Emergency, come quick.' is not exactly the ideal text to recieve," Jason's brow was furrowed seriously. "What's happened?"

They must've seen my sunken look and cried-out eyes, the way I exhaustedly turned my head towards them without so much as a greeting because they went silent.

"Percy's the same," I muttered just above a croak. My eyes watering again as I stared into the distance. Remembering how Piper's blood dried on my shirt, how the doctors worked and danced around her from where she lay. The beeping of the heart monitor that...

"But-" My voice cracked. I couldn't say it. It was so painful just to review the last few hours. The numb feeling of uselessness sunk into me and hooked itself to my heart about forty minutes ago. I was barely functional as it was.

"Holy shit, what happened to your arm?!" Calypso hissed. Her impatiently curious eyes had a ring of fear in them as she spotted the bandage encasing the simple flesh wound Gabe had inflicted upon me. My group of friends were hauntingly silent as they waited for me to say something. To relieve them of the potential worries flitting through their skulls.

I didn't answer. My throat felt like sandpaper as I swabbed my thick tongue around my mouth. My eyes were still swollen and so sore from my wiping them with the back of my hand. I felt empty. As if I were nothing more than a crust where a soul once resided.

"Jason," I finally found the gusto to speak. To look him in the eyes albeit how weakly I did. "Jase… Piper's… Piper's been stabbed."

"Stabbed?!" he gaped. Shock and horror twisting his eyes as he took a step back. "Stabbed?" he repeated loosely. "Stabbed- Are you sure? Where is she?! Can I see her?!"

"Stabbed?" A few mutters rippled throughout the group. Glances were made as the news seemed to embed itself permanently into my friends.

I nodded in a devoid way, letting my eyes slip closed as the tears started surfacing again. "She's in surgery right now but… but they don't have very high hopes…"

A frozen silence. The differing way people processed information started to surface.

"How?" Jason breathed in a crumpled way. His bright blue eyes inflamed with a deep-rooted worry.

"It's a long story," I mumbled, cradling my arm as I drew my knees up to my chest. Still being able to feel a few crusty drops of Piper's blood in my hair. "It started when I first met Percy."

Only Calypso knew about Gabe's terrible treatment of Percy. None of them knew the background villian from Percy's past. I wasn't exactly keen on spilling his secret, but considering the circumstances, I felt partially obliged to.

"Who's Piper?" Rachel asked timidly. Her eyebrows furrowed as she clutched a sketchbook close to her chest.

"I'll explain that, too."


Gabe had to be readmitted into the hospital. I had the satisfaction of knowing that I wasn't the only one who needed stitches. There were questions wondering if Gabes face would ever look human again and I avidly hoped not. He should live out the rest of his life with a crooked nose knowing I did that to him.

But that didn't seem to matter because the moment he was deemed medically fit, he was carted off to a cell with the happy send off of two doctors administering the last dose of painkiller drugs via needle.

I watched the police wagon pull away from Percy's window. The sliver of peace it gave me to watch him get hauled off was unmatched to the heartful of pain I was feeling. It felt like someone had filled my arteries with lead.

The powder Gabe had been trying to funnel into Percy's IV was confirmed as cyanide. A dose large enough to kill him in three minutes flat. Had even a little powder gotten into that drip, and Percy would've been signing the terms and agreements with death. I shuddered to think of what might've happened if I hadn't been there. If I hadn't woken up, perhaps. I also thought deeply about what I could've done. What did I do so wrong up on the roof as to let Piper get stabbed?

Speaking of which: Piper survived the surgery, thank God, but she wasn't out of the woods yet. For the next few days she was under a heavily medicated comatose. I split my time between her and Percy carefully. Making triple sure to watch silly movies by her bedside every night with the hope that maybe she'd be able to listen too.

Jason hardly left her side.

It was terrifying because I got a glimpse at what I looked like to my friends when I was at Percy's bedside. How he hopelessly held her hand and lay his head on her sheets, the expression in his eyes when he looked at her. It was just a repeat of Percy and I. It made me shiver.

Of course Jason being Jason, he was blaming himself for the situation. Mumbling nonsense about how this would've never happened if he had visited, or if he'd noticed more, or if he'd spent more time at the hospital. I gave him a good slap over the head every time I heard him starting up on that crap again. Softer than my usual slaps, of course, because he was looking kind of delicate as of recently. His eyes were ringed with bags, and his posture took on that exhausted slouch I had come to own.

Together we looked like two malnourished, crabby twins who needed nothing but coffee and a steady supply of magazines.

Anyways, on the fourth one-viewer-only movie night, Piper woke up. She'd been off the coma inducing drugs for over forty eight hours at that point and had been shifting in and out of a drugged stupor, so she was liable to pop open an eye at any moment. Yet she still surprised the dickens out of me. (Apparently the magic movie to play to wake up the comatosed is Robin Hood: Men in Tights.)

I panicked at first, unsure if I should get a doctor or Jason first. So caught up in my back and forth inner dialogue that was bossing me in different directions, I didn't notice how her eyes fell upon me.

How there was heavy sadness that radiated from inside them.

"You're awake! Like really awake!" I gasped dumbly. "Oh my gods, you're awake! How are you feeling? Are you okay?"

Piper just stared. Her eyes were glassy and full of tormenting emotions. Through the fog of her oxygen mask I could see her lower lip start to quiver. My heart exploding into confusion and concern when the tears spilled over her eyes and down her cheeks, glittering like crystals as she cried quietly.

"Oh my- Does it hurt? Where does it hurt? I can go get a doctor if you-"

"They should've let me die." It was a whisper. A croak. A statement made on such a thin breath that I hardly caught it. The pain in her eyes seeming to double as I looked at her in shock.

"Piper!" I gasped. "How could you even say such a thing?"

"Liam." It was pained and low. Her voice taking on such a thick mix of emotions I couldn't sort through them all. Her one muddled word striking me oddly as my confusion grew exponentially.

She didn't seem a hundred percent awake. She seemed to be drifting through a wretched nightmare as her tears doubled.

"What?" I muttered with perplexion twisting my eyebrows, falling into my seat again as I stared at her in search of an answer. Her eyes following me with a ghostly look.

"Liam," she whispered again, reaching up with a thin hand to pry the mask off her face. Barely managing the simple movement without a wince of genuine pain before letting her head fall back into the cushions as she tossed the little piece of plastic aside. Her brown hair framing her pale face as she looked me in the eyes again. Her gaunt features and hollowed eyes were almost Tim Burtonish. "I saw him."

"Who's Liam?" I sank back into my chair, intrigued and worried as I realized that she was fully awake. That this was just an emotionally-wrecked Piper was finally letting her floodgates open.

"Two weeks after I broke up with Jason, I decided to leave. I was being stupid and petty and I just wanted to leave New York. I never wanted to be here again-" Piper stopped. Her eyes were streaming, her voice was thick and croaky from being asleep so long. "I got into a fight with my dad before I left. I shouldn't have been driving angry. I… I turned a corner and just smashed into this other car."

I tried to imagine how it must've felt to know you screwed up like that, hitting another car, but I couldn't. I didn't exactly want to, either. It sounded like an all-around bad experience.

Why is she telling me this now?

"How bad of an accident?" I asked warily, watching as tears started gaining momentum over the sides of her cheeks as she squeezed her eyes closed, pinching her lips into a tight purse and struggling to continue. Staring at the ceiling of the room with a desperate ache in her eyes.

"I wrecked both cars," she sobbed weakly. "And… and I killed somebody."

My blood ran cold. "You… you killed someone?" I gaped, searching her big glassy eyes over and over to make sure this wasn't some sick joke.

It wasn't.

Piper nodded jerkily, covering her face with her hands, but the tears just seemed to seep between her fingers, falling to the white sheets around her like rain. Ragged breaths gasped through her lips as she continued.

"The… people I hit were on their way to a- to a concert. Four guys, all of them 'punks'."

Ironic. I couldn't help but think sympathetically, horror soiling my gut at what Piper had been through.

"Liam, Marcus, Sage, and James," she recited under her breath while bringing her hands away from her face. A dead look was in her eyes now. "I hit Liam's side. I can remember the fear in his eyes before impact. I -I can remember his face too..." she hiccuped, not meeting my eyes, but not really looking at anything else either.

The most worn look descending upon her features.

"After I hit them, and the cars stopped spinning, I… I don't know. I somehow ended up on the road. I can't remember if I got out of the car or not. All I know is that I was covered in blood and the sun was too bright. I remember seeing…. seeing Liam's body being yanked out of the car onto the pavement. Something was on fire, and someone was screaming and… I just decided to lie down. I might've been in shock, I don't know. All I know is that after that one of Liam's friends came up to me. And even though I hit their car, and I killed their friend, they… they did everything they could to keep me alive until the paramedics showed up. Them. Guys dressed in leather jackets with earrings and spiked hair and ripped jeans."

Her tears were rolling down her cheeks silently now. She looked only like a ghost reciting its tale eerily as she stared into the distance. Probably reliving that horrible day over and over and over. Blaming herself over and over and over. Her hand now placed delicately against her throat.

Remembering the wound that had ripped it open. The brush of death she had seven years ago. The way it woke her up.

"Liam had a sister named Heather." Her breath shuddered now as she seemed to come back to earth. "His mom and dad worked together in the New York food lab. He was going to go to Canada to study at Mcgill in criminology. He had a life, Beth…. He had a life… everybody does. Including the punks."

She fell apart some more. This story being a cycle of Piper trying to pull herself together so she could finish telling it.

Her cheeks were slightly pink, and her eyes shone only a big kind of glassy. She was still the cute crier I had met in preschool. Gobs of tears and all.

"It was the worst wake up call ever," she rattled out the last line before falling into a completely inconsolable state, shaking her head and muttering over and over 'they should've let me die'.

She didn't seem to hear me after that. Her tears soaking her pillow and her pain-filled eyes focused upwards as if she were waiting for the ceiling to collapse on her. As if she were hoping it would anyways.

I fetched the doctor as quickly as I could. My head swimming with the new information as I tried to not imagine how it unfolded, keeping my thoughts away from streets, and blood. I followed the doctor back to her room with quick, focused steps as I counted the floor tiles instead.

The doctor's heavy concern that Piper would cry her delicate layers of stitches loose made him fill another syringe with heavy sedatives. Shushing her gently as he administered the liquid into her veins, explaining that everything would go dark in a few seconds with a gentle tone. Piper's raging sobs slowly stilled to protesting mewls. Her eyes found me once before they slid unwillingly closed.

Soon she was back asleep, looking just as peaceful and as ghostly as before. Almost as if she had never cracked open her eyes in the first place. As if her story was nothing more than a passing nightmare.

If only it was nothing but a nightmare. I watched her sleep, the traces of hot tears still clinging to her face.

If only all of this were nothing but a nightmare. But no, we don't get to decide these things. Our happiest moments can only be compared to our saddest hour.

Without that emotional contrast, our lives would be mundane and repetitive. If we were happy all the time, we'd never know true, heart-filling happiness. We'd take happiness for granted.

So even in our saddest moments, the ones we feel like we never should have, it's best to try and keep your head high. To hold on to those precious happy memories, because you know that they'll come again. They have to.


"She woke up," I mumbled while stumbling into Percy's room half an hour later. Jason's hunched-over figure instantly straightening as he leapt to his feet already making a move for the door when I held up an exhausted hand.

"But she was put to sleep again," I let him down with an apologetic smile as his features melted into disappointed confusion.

"What? Why?!"

"That's something Piper is going to have to tell you about."


The next time Piper did wake up, Jason was with her. He probably freaked the heck out and made the doctor check and then recheck her over and over, and she probably tried to get him to just stop, and slow down. She might've even told him to leave which, he obviously would refuse because he'd been waiting to see her eyes open for like five days, and he wasn't just going to take off after a first look.

I went to check on Piper that afternoon but some of my friends had already beat me to it. Calypso, Hazel and Frank were scattered around her room. Their heads low and their tones hushed as if they were talking about something deeply personal. Hazel was even gripping Pipers hand as tears cascaded down her cheeks. The look in her eyes spoke of a million apologies.

I didn't need to take a hint.

I quietly slipped out the door again before any of them noticed I had ever been there.


"She beat you," I hummed softly while gently fiddling with his black locks. The night outside looking ominous and full of bad memories. I felt thankful that I was warm and inside next to Percy.

"She woke up. You're still asleep. If this were a contest you would've lost."

Percy was as unmoving as ever. The breathing tube that propped open his mouth hissed softly, and the clip finding the pulse in his finger sent beeps up to the machine as lullingly as ever.

"She saved my life," my voice quavered slightly as I recalled the moment the knife came down. That stomach rolling noise of flesh being impaled. "She just threw her body over mine without a second thought."

The memories were bitter. Gabe had make a much bigger mark on my life then I ever had wanted.

"She got lucky though," I continued thoughtfully. "The knife stabbed her intestines, not her liver or spleen. Plus she didn't have to wait too long for medical treatment. We were at the hospital already after all..."

I stopped.

My mind seeming to take a step back as I sighed heavily, realizing something with an exhausted air.

"And now I'm just repeating things. I already told you all of this. See how out of it I am? I need you to wake up."

Beep… Hiss… Beep… Hiss…

Nothing. Always nothing. I was so, so tired of nothing. With a heavy heart, I laid my head against his bed.

"I'm intruding." A voice came from the door as it opened. The tone was laced with pain.

"Piper!" I exclaimed with a shock of surprise electrifying my blood, jumping to my feet to guide her to the chair. Her crooked, hobbling gait screamed of agony as she led a rolling IV drip with her. Its rickety wheels clicking against the floor in a sharp manner. The pale blue of her hospital gown making her seem all the more like a ghost as she slumped into the seat with tender movements. Her features were twisted and sickly as she grit the last of the pain away.

"Bad idea," she hissed. "Feels like my abdomen is on fire."

"Then why the heck would you decide to walk!" I chastised as I settled myself in the other chair, glaring fiercely at her while readying myself to call in a doctor. Worry flitting around my chest in quick, light bounces.

"I just wanted to see you," she mumbled with a shrug. Her eyes focused on her hands as she laced and unlaced them in her lap.

"Why now?" I asked in an incredulous manner. "I was going to visit you tomorrow morning."

"I… I just came to say that I'm sorry," she whispered. Her eyes finally finding their way up to my bewildered look. My mouth opening and closing without words as Piper started nervously playing with her hospital bracelet.

"You?!" I gaped. "Apologize? Do you know how crazy that is? You took a knife for me, Piper. You saved my life. And you want to apologize? You want to say sorry? For what? Getting blood on me? For being there for me?" I was borderline hysterical. Gesturing and waving my hands about wildly. Mirthless half-chuckles randomly coming out of my mouth as I tried to come to terms with what she just said. How she wanted to say that she was sorry. (Let's blame the craziness on my lack of sleep, shall we?)

I was the one who was filled with regret. I was the one who needed to apologize for letting my pride prod and pick on Gabe until he was provoked enough to attack. I was the problem in the first place.

"No, no," Piper weakly waved me down. Her exhausted bag rimmed eyes still holding an element of pain. "I'm sorry for pushing you away. I know you were just trying to help me. Well, now I know."




More of an awkward silence compared to other quiet moments, but not cringely so. It was a silence I could stand as I watched Piper's face turn up with conflicting thoughts and ideas. Obviously about to say something, but was having difficulty putting it together in her head.

"You know-" she paused, seeming to lose the grasp on her tongue momentarily. "You were right. I should've reached out. I've spent so long wishing for someone to just help me, or at least talk to me about how I feel at times but doing nothing about it. I thought I was doing everything I could to get better, when in reality I was just locking the door and hoping someone would see my smoke signals as I burned up internally."

I drew my lips into a purse as I cocked my head at her. Curiousness sparking in my gut at this sudden change. How she seemed more relaxed even just talking to me. It didn't look like she was trying to mask every emotion of sorrow anymore. She had let go.

"Is this why you opened up about the accident when you woke up?" I asked quietly, locking eyes with the brunette who finally seemed to have just a bit of peace. "You were reaching out?"

"Yeah." She raised a frail hand up to scratch her head, shaking her knotted hair out as an after movement. "It was just something I… I really really needed to get off my chest and..."

"You know it wasn't your fault, right?"


"You know it wasn't your fault. You didn't kill Liam. Car wrecks and accidents happen all the time," I repeated with a reassuring look in my eyes.

Piper seemed to deflate. Her eyes watering again as she tugged anxiously on the little plastic hospital bracelet.

"That's what the judge said," she murmured. A lost look in her gaze. "And if I'm being honest… I still think I'm the one who killed him. I was angry when I was driving. I could've done a million things wrong but… I don't know. I've never been the same since that day. When I learned he was dead, I pretty much made up my mind to be a doctor so I could somehow fill the hole I made on this earth. But since then I've realized that saving a life doesn't mean the one that was lost feels any better."

My heart twisted at the ache in her voice. How her eyes seemed to be looking for a horizon that didn't exist. For a moment I remembered the trance-like state she woke up in.

I saw him, she had said. Him being Liam. She came very close to meeting him again, much less seeing him.

"You saved my life," I reminded with a half smile, trying to catch her gaze but failing. "I'm eternally grateful for that even, though I know it won't change what happened to that boy."

Through the dimness, I saw Piper show her own smile. Her eyes holding a splinter of sparkle for the first time since we reunited.

"You saved mine too." Her statement confuzzled me, but her smile was unwavering. The words were spoken with such a warmth and grateful charm that I felt complimented regardless of my perplexion.

"No I didn't." My mouth moved on its own. My eyebrows scrunched down as I searched my brain for a memory I didn't have while tapping out a tune onto Percy's sheets. Finally I just looked at her to explain. My wandering hands finding Percy's warm limp ones and playing with his fingers again.

"The night you were attacked by that monster, I had no idea you were on the roof. Nobody did," she confessed in an almost timid way. Twisting a strand of hair as she sat back in the chair with a squeak. Spiking my curiosity again. "Sometimes, when I have a particularly cruddy day, I… I go to the roof and just walk around on the edge precariously. It's… not that I really want to fall and die… I just… I wouldn't mind if I did. I play with fate that way. I stand on the ledge of the roof and just imagine what it would be like if I mistepped… if I got blown over by the wind maybe. That's what I was doing up there. Looking to just play with the idea of dying."

"Piper... " I breathed. Half of it out of shock, half of it out of denial that she would ever even consider doing that. The background hush of the hospital fading as my focus centered solely on her.

"When I woke up, y'know, the first time, all I wanted was to be dead. All that guilt and hatred towards myself for what happened to Liam was fresh again. I wanted to die so badly, I felt like I didn't have any hope of having a happy life. But then I remembered what it felt like to actually be dying. The fear that just takes over your entire body and the sudden realization that you don't actually want to die… it's the most terrifying feeling. You get a sense of everything you haven't done. Your failures at life just seem to stick in your brain.

"Death is so romanticized nowaday. Everyone claims it to be this great escape, or the peacefulness you've been searching for but its not, Beth. It's brutally chaotic. There's nothing peaceful about it. Your soul is getting separated from your body it's anchored to and thrown into an afterlife, ideally. Your brain erupts in this excruciating mayhem of emotions and reactions that you could never of accounted for."

Her voice was so worn, yet alive. How she talked about this, spoke of the experience she just faced. That one close call seemed to have enlightened her, and it was brilliant to watch. I had this bubble intensifying in my chest but it was warm and full. I was so proud of her. She was figuring out these things about herself in giants steps. She was conquering herself. It was hard not to smile softly.

"What if you had died?" I asked while shaking my head numbly, trying not to imagine that world either as that wretched dream of the coffin and the funeral made my mouth taste sour. My grip on Percy's hand tightening.

"I'd either be regretting the life I never really lived in an afterlife or I would simply not exist."

"Which do you prefer?"

"Neither." She made a face while rubbing her side. Probably still in pain. "I'm not done with life yet. I've learned that much. I think I could only ever die 'peacefully' if I did more with myself. Even then I think death will still be scary."

I smiled softly at her. My eyes glittering with emotions as I felt the joy swell in my chest.

"So no more balancing on rooftop edges?" I asked serenely. My lips breaking into a wider smile as Pipers own lips quipped up.

"No. No more balancing on rooftops," she hummed tiredly, setting her head back against her chair in a tired yet peaceful manner. "No more locking the door either. If I'm going to beat this depression I need more than pills and sleep. I need to fight a little harder."


"Hmmh." The brunette sunk even deeper into her chair. Her beautiful eyes fluttering closed. Her arms falling loose as she seemed to start to drift. Or at least try to.

I smiled again when I realized that promise was probably going to be hard to keep. Balancing on rooftops was Pipers bizarre way of coping. Everytime she came down from there alive, it probably validated her life. Made her feel like if she survived this time, then maybe something good will finally happen. On rough days, she was still going to feel the need to go up there, but maybe this time she'd have more reason to fight the urge. She just declared war on this habit, and it wasn't going to be an easy one to break.

"C'mon, lets get you back to your room. We can watch a silly movie tonight if you want," I offered, utterly blossoming on the inside with reconnecting friendship for Piper. My mind lit up like a christmas tree of all our happy childhood memories we shared.

"I'll get you a wheelchair-"

As I rose to leave, Percy's hand twitched. His fingers knocking against my palm and sending a spasm of surprise down my spine. My heart started hammering in my chest as I regripped his limp fingers, letting my gaze rip up to his face and urgently bending myself over his body with butterflies racing around my gut. A million pleas racing around in my heart as I squeezed his hand again.

This time he squeezed it back.

"Oh my gods," I cried, watching with an open mouth and wide vivacious eyes as Percy's eyelids cracked open painfully. My heart tugging in a rending way when I saw his gorgeous sparkling green pools as they scoped the room with an element of fear. His eyebrows scrunching up and that insanely adorable look of concern and confusion flying onto his face. The heart monitor starting to pick up in pace steadily as he grew more confused, trying to speak, but the tube that fed down his throat inhibited him. I could see all the questions in his eyes though.

Where are we?

What happened?

What's wrong?"

"It's okay," I soothed with a slightly overwrought tone, almost hyperventilating as I smoothed my hair back several times. "It's okay, it's okay."

His eyes never left me. He just stared at me with that wild, frightful element in his gaze. Not even when my trembling fingers jammed the nurse call button over and over did he dare to look at the room. Finally the nurse appeared and commed Doctor Immepson.

"He's awake," I half laughed, half whimpered. Looking between the doctor and Percy over and over. The beep of the heart monitor growing stronger and less panicked as Dr. Immepson clearly explained the situation. Percy's eyes bugging when she told him he's been unconscious for two weeks. His eyes finding me again with underlining sympathy as he squeezed my fingers.

Finally, she took out the tube. His wince followed by a gagging noise made me shudder. A protective response coming in to play in my mind as I held my tongue. The first breath of air he took on his own was gasped and followed by hacking coughs that racked his body. Looking over his handsome features, now full of life, with pure disbelief on my face as the Doctor started asking routine questions. Percy's loose nods in the Doctors general direction seemed exhausted, but oh my sweet heaven above was it good to just see him moving. I was entranced, and experiencing tingles all over my body. It was like I had been unplugged for two weeks and someone had finally found the outlet. I was just overwhelmed with happiness.

"I'm glad to say that you have no lasting problems, Mr. Jackson." Dr. Immepson smiled becomingly. "How do you feel in general?"

"Like I could sleep for two more weeks," Percy croaked thickly, but with an undeniable shot of humor. Wetting his parched lips before he had the audacity to smirk. His eyes going up to mine as if he expected me to laugh. Instead I glared.

Two minutes awake and I could just smack him.

"Well, it's hard to determine how long your recovery period will be, but with all things considered it shouldn't be too long." Dr. Immepson smiled with her horse-ish pearly teeth. "You're a very lucky guy, Mr. Jackson. Your fiance hasn't left your side since you've gotten here."

I felt her eyes, beaming with pride, land on me and I swallowed down a bashful blush.

"I know," Percy smiled for the first time and I just about lost a grip on everything. Reaching up to me weakly so I could grab his hand and squeeze it. "I heard a few things at times."

He's back.

I felt my chest swell with emotions as I stared at Percy. Feeling relieved and elated and drained and excited and disbelief all at once. The jumble of emotions were flying through my bloodstream like shards of statically charged iron.

"Well, I'll let you two catch up. I look forward to seeing you fully recovered, Mr. Jackson."

I was about to thank the doctor when I clued in to Piper being scolded by my favorite nurse. Waving her hands about as she listed off all the things Piper could've damaged while walking to this room and repeating the reasons why she was bedridden in the first place. Genuine distress was in her voice as she started repeating the reasons over. Piper wincing at the gravity in her words.

"Come, you must get back ta your room immediately," the nurse demanded. Another brightly attired nurse came in pushing a squeaking black wheelchair.

"Ya on a strict bed rest," she chastised in a shrill manner.

Piper smiled at me weakly, her eyes painfully avoiding Percy as she seemed to be holding her breath.

"Well I guess I'm off," she groaned. "Visit me?"

"Everyday," I promised.

Carefully, like china being transported, Piper was helped into the wheelchair and gave a final yet dismal wave.

"Piper," Percy muttered huskily just before she was wheeled away.

Shyly, she let her eyes fall on him, her lips quipping down in an unsure way as she rubbed her hands together.

"Yeah?" she uttered with a trembling voice.

"I forgive you." He said it with a sad smile. The way his eyes softened told me just how much of my conversations with Piper he actually heard.

The nurses wheeled her away before she could respond, but I could already see the tears cresting in her eyes. The grateful sparkle that twinkled in the back of her pools.

Then we were alone together.

Me and my fully awake, tired yet alive fiance.

"You heard us," I whispered. Swaying slightly as the exhaustion hit me and I came down from the adrenaline high before dipping into my usual chair by his bedside. "How much did you hear?"

Percy's eyebrows furrowed thoughtfully. His enchanting green eyes finding the distance as he contemplated. "I don't know. It's all so… muddled. I can't tell between what was a dream and what I was hearing. Some parts were so clear though. I just… I can't believe I was out for two weeks. I feel as if I-"

Percy stopped when his eyes fell on me again. His lips forming a pursed and very apologetic smile as he pulled away his hand from mine and brought it tenderly up to my face.

I didn't even realize I was crying until he smeared the tears away with his thumb. The warmth of his hand pressed against my cheek as his circle ringed eyes searched between mine.

"Oh, Princess," he breathed softly. His sympathetic touch and deep understanding eyes made my emotions dance. My throat suddenly felt thick as the last two weeks caught up to me. As I remembered everything all over again.

My features twisted in an ugly way as I tried to hold back the sobs. Floods of tears overwhelming my cheeks before I finally broke in half, bending into him and just letting loose.

Percy stroked my hair and let me cry. When he pressed a kissed to my temple, I gripped him tighter and the sobs came out louder.

Internally, I was violently arguing with myself on whether or not I should tell him what happened. How Gabe tried to kill him. How Piper was stabbed, how Jason and Thalia fought and made up, how Calypso, Frank and Hazel made sides.

I wanted to tell him so badly. I wanted to share with him what I had dealt with all while he was asleep. How I felt so lost without him. How I felt like I was holding a dead phone.

But he looked so tired. So drained. His energy levels were already starting to drop as he muttered soft things near my ear. So I just cried. (Like the pathetic loser I am.)

And accepted the fact that people don't wake up from comas feeling 100% themselves. This wasn't a movie. Percy wasn't going to be completely okay right away. He was still healing.

So as my sobs died down into unholdable whimpers, and my tears slowly faded into glassy streaks on my face; I did what was possibly the most painful thing I could've done.

I let him fall back asleep.

I watched as his eyes grew heavy again and his expression relaxed. How his hands, still lazily stroking my head, stilled and his breathing became deep and peaceful. I watched with this knotting panic building up in my heart and this desperate yearn to wake him up again.

I'd been missing him for two weeks, I didn't want to wait anymore. I wanted to just sit and talk with him. Cuddle, and talk. Was that too much to ask for?

But he needs sleep. The logical side convinced me. He needs to get better.

And when you're in love, you know that your person's needs come before your own.

So I let him sleep. I watched him sleep.

Knowing that in the morning, he would wake up. Or at least with the hope that he would wake up.


"Did anyone talk about cotton candy?" Percy asked thoughtfully.

He was well enough to sit up in bed that morning. Seeing as he was no longer needed to be monitored 24/7 he was moved out of the ICU and into a basic hospital room shared with two other people.

The thin blue curtains only made the neighbors unviewable, but every other parts of their lives were heard and smelled.

"Not to my knowledge," I shook my head while reaching into the depths of my brain.

"Okay, well I have some really weird dreams about cotton candy," Percy chortled weakly. "What about the Road to El Dorado? I had some disturbingly vivid dreams about that hot trash heap of a movie."

I flicked him playfully with a smile on my lips. "It is not a hot trash heap!" I protested lively. "And yes, Piper and I watched that several times at your bedside."

"Ugh, no wonder I slept for two weeks. With that movie playing you might as well of dumped me mummies tomb and called it a night." Percy joked.

I rolled my eyes, but deep inside I was glowing with the fact that Percy's sarcasm was back and still intact.

"We also played Airplane and Airplane two. Hear any of those?" I cocked my head at him with my chin resting in the palm of my hand. Literally unable to wipe the smile from my face.

No, seriously, my cheeks hurt.

"No?" Percy scrunched his face up in concentration. "I might've had a dream about a plane? Or maybe a spoon?"

"Percy, you realize that those are totally unrelated right?" I cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Not to parents of small children," he snorted.

"I stand corrected." I chuckled at him. "That dream would make sense for you considering you are essentially a child."

"Heeyy," my fiance whined in a very manly manner.

"I don't hear you denying it," I teased lovingly.

"You two lovebirds have a weird way of showing affection," a deep older voice called through the curtain next to us. An undeniable element of humor in his tone.

"Don't make me come over there, Andrew," Percy ribbed. "You haven't seen what I look like yet. I'm actually a two hundred and thirty pound MMA wrestler."

"HA!" Andrew guffawed. "You sound like a shrimp!"

"Oop, he nailed you." I grinned at Percy cheekily. Andrews deep hearty laugh following my comment with a genuinely amused ring.

"Who's side are you on?" Percy blanked at me. His lips puckering out in a pout as he crossed his arms in a sulking manner.

"The winning one," I winked.

"Ecch, I think I had a dream about this." Percy wrinkled his nose in an adorable manner. "Traitor."

"You had a lot of crazy dreams," I pointed out. "Probably thanks to your ADHD."

A pause shifted between us softly as Percy seemed to whither a bit. I sat there staring at him as I heard Andrew shuffle the morning paper around, and Percy's other roomie, Parson, snore delicately. The familiar bustle of the hospital now felt like home to me.

"You okay?" I asked gently, rubbing his arm absentmindedly as I searched his green eyes with my probing grey ones.

"Just tired," he quipped his lips at me in an expression that said what can ya do about it? "Plus, now that I'm thinking about it, some of my dreams were straight down nightmarish."

"Again… you have a crazy mind." I tried for a smile but it came out more of a grimace. Something in the back of my head telling me that he actually heard what Gabe tried to do. That he heard me telling him about that dark night.

Yeah… I hadn't gotten around to telling him about what Gabe had done, or at least what he tried to do.

I didn't have the heart to. Percy would be crushed that the man he saved turned around and tried to kill me and him. He'd blame himself, and I couldn't let him do that.

In the meantime, I had on a long sleeved shirt to cover up the bandage encasing my arm and padding my collar. The tender areas burned more than I let on to believe.

"Was… was Piper in a wheelchair last night?" Percy's eyebrows met. The fear in his eyes confirmed to me what his suspicions were. My stomach dropped.

Well shit.


"Knock knock?" An eager voice caught our attention. Swinging our heads in unison, we were met with the welcoming sight of the gang at the door. Their sparkling eyes and relieved stances made their lips peel back in delighted smiles as they saw Percy up and alive.

"Come in!" I stood up from my chair with a lurch in my chest, thankful to be released from answering Percy's question as I gestured them in warmly.

There were the formal 'how are you feeling?'s' and 'are you okay?'s' that were given all the while Percy reassured them that he was only tired. There were a few tears from Hazel, Calypso and surprisingly an emotional Thalia, but Percy quickly dried them up with a few witty remarks on how the hospital food would kill him way before a fire did.

Thalia claimed she would punch him if he didn't look like a 'damn china doll' and Percy proceeded to take that as an invitation to try and provoke her into punching him.

(What a dork.)

Soon we were ankle-deep in lively conversation. Frank was disappointed to see the balloons he had brought earlier hadn't been moved with him while Thalia openly complained about how hard it was to find his new hospital room.

Hazel brought pastries which Percy, unfortunately, couldn't eat yet. (More for me.) Calypso came with updates from Burtwis, and Leo brought himself (so pretty much a walking comedy show). Nico said nothing, but gave Percy a fist bump (typical Nico). Rachel animatedly showed Percy all the creepy drawings of him she had made over the past two weeks and Jason just stood next to Thalia and smiled.

"Jason picked up your medical bill," I whispered to Percy in a very loud manner. My growing grin directed at the golden boy as I watched him melt into a bashful glow.

"Oh my gods," Percy gasped in a frail manner. His emerald eyes widened in shock. "We don't have insurance!"

"Hence the reason Jason has a halo."

"Jason…" Percy looked bewildered. "How are we ever going to repay you?"

"Oh stop," Jason wheezed in a slightly embarrassed way. "We all know who the real hero here is."

A gallery of nods and 'ya's' followed to agree with them. Our friends' faces holding an element of admiration towards my fiance.

"Who?" Percy raised an eyebrow before looking to me in a deep confusion.

Still dense.

"You," Hazel scoffed as if she couldn't believe he didn't know. "Percy… saving your stepdad like that, even after how he treated you… I'm just thankful I get to call you my friend."

A chorus of agreements echoed her statement as Percy's eyebrows continued to furrow in a worrying manner. My insides burning when he turned to me with something akin to betrayal written in his expression.

"You told them?"

He was looking at me as if he didn't know me. As if I wasn't his fiance at all.

It made my heart crack.

"Oh, it's not her fault." Calypso sympathized. "How else was she going to explain to us what happened with that monster?"

Panic fluttered in my chest as I shot Calypso a pointed look, trying to convey to her that Percy didn't know. But it was too late. She had caused a chain reaction.

"We needed to know the history of Gabe in order to really understand what happened to Piper," Jason added. "Annabeth just did what she thought was best."

"Yeah," Leo piped in solemnly. "Don't blame her, man. We would've jumped to weird conclusions if she didn't."


I made a pretty harsh zipper imitation over my lips at them, but it was too late. Percy's warm hand landed on mine, and I didn't have a choice but look into his puzzled eyes. The throbs of pain sparkling through them just about seared a hole in my arteries.

"What happened to Piper?" he asked quietly.

I just stared at him, trying to find the right words but unable to conjure them. My eyes starting to tear up as I looked down from his intense gaze.

"You don't know?" Frank's hollow tone filled the room before it fell into a deathly quiet. Parson's empty snores still grating through the air.

"I had this dream where Annabeth was telling this horror story about Gabe attacking her and Piper taking a knife for her and…" Percy paused. With feeble hands, he dragged my arm closer to him and peeled back the sleeve. The fabric ended up catching on my bandage and tugging it in a colourfully painful way.

Hissing, I tried to draw my arm away, but Percy stayed firm. His eyes locked on the white gauze and medical tape hiding the long row of neat, pitch-black stitches. Dread illuminating his eyes as his mouth fell open.

"It was real?" He breathed, his eyes pooling in a painfully slow manner. "Gabe tried to kill you?"

"He tried to kill you first," I defended immaturely, scowling into my lap as everyone's gaze shifted to my bent figure.

"Princess…" Percy huffed with a tinge of emotional thickness. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You just woke up. You shouldn't worry about anything. You should just get rest, and eat, and hear all of my lame jokes. Not have to think about everything that happened while you were-"

"But you could've died!" He protested in a marringly decrepit way.

"I know," I confessed. All the twisted barbed feelings I was holding close inside came dangerously close to the surface. I wanted to tell him so badly how I felt in those life threatening seconds. I wanted to share with him how scared I was at night that it would somehow happen again. The guilt I was feeling for Piper's injuries. How all I could see at times was her with the knife sticking out of her broken body.

Because Percy always knew what to say to me that made things better. He made things better.

Hold it in. I told myself. Wait until he's better.

So I swallowed it down again.

"Beth… what exactly happened?" Percy asked with his jaw set in a rugged way. His hair falling over his forehead attractively.

"Gabe tried to poison you. I stopped him, chased him up to the roof where he pulled a knife on me. Piper took the blow that would've killed me," I shrugged simply, laying the story out as if I had been talking about a trip to the grocery store and not an attempted murder. "Gabe's in jail, Pipers okay and you woke up. So win-win, right?"

Percy looked as if I had withheld the world from him. "Were you ever going to tell me?" He murmured in a crestfallen way.

"Of course!" I uttered a bit loudly. "I just… I thought it wasn't the right time!"

Percy had that face on. That face that could read every little detail of my innards. The way he could just open me up like a novel and find out exactly how I was feeling about these things.

"Could you guys just give us a moment?" Percy looked to our spectating friends pleadingly.

"Piper could use a visit," Jason suggested while pushing his glasses up his nose. The rest of the gang nodding in agreement as Rachel, Thalia, and Nico started murmuring about meeting the great 'Piper Mclean'. Their placid glances in my direction did not go unnoticed.

Once the gang had shuffled out the door, I felt like a little girl in the principal's office again. The somewhat disappointed look on Percy's face made my heart squeeze in all sorts of different directions.

"You're hurting," Percy said it so bluntly that my gut jumped.

"I'm fine," I defied a little defensively.

"Annabeth," Percy huffed. "You know that doesn't work on me. I can see when you're fine and when you're not. You're not fine."

I wanted to believe I was fine. That was the problem. Percy woke up, Piper was okay, Gabe was in jail. I didn't have any other reason to be feeling horrible, but I was. It wasn't fair. I should've been fine. I should've been nothing but happy. But no.

Part of me was still conceitedly angry that Percy had become a firefighter and saved Gabe and gotten hurt. Part of me was still throbbing and scarred over the night where Gabe was grinning above me with a knife. Part of me was still scared for the future and what other dangers awaited Percy. Part of me was worried about Piper and her future, and Thalia and Jason knowing how stubborn they were.

Part of me was so knotted with conflicting emotions of relieve, happiness, fear and anger that I didn't know what to do with myself anymore. But he was right. I was still hurting.

It was stupid, and I knew it, but there it was.

And all this time, I had been trying to hide it from him.

But of course he saw right through me.

"Princess," Percy shook his head at me tiredly, sinking deeper into his cushions as his eyes became soft. "How am I supposed to be a good husband if you can't tell me things?"

"I was going to tell you." I persisted quietly. My lip already quivering as I stared blankly into my lap. "It just didn't seem the right time. You need to get better. Not hear troubling stories that are over."

"I appreciate you trying to help me." Percy paused to wet his lips. His serious tone striking true with worry. "But we're a team, remember? If there's something bothering you, I should know."

I bit down on my lip as the guilt swarmed my gut. Those cursed tears that could never leave me alone surfaced again to glitter at the edges of my eyes.

"Yeah okay," I muttered sullenly.

Tenderly, Percy yanked on my hand. "C'mere," he held his arms open in an obvious invitation.

Quietly, I crawled beside him and melted into his warm grasp. My head nestled under his chin where I belonged.

"What are you feeling?" He asked. His chest rumbling with each word. "I wanna know everything."

Again, I'll save you from listening to everything you just read again. Or you could just go back and read the whole thing again because I simply told Percy everything. Everything.

Thalia and Jason's fight, finding out who he had saved, Piper and her troubles, the general pain I had of seeing him so lifeless, the rooftop, the way I attacked Gabe like an animal, Piper's crumpled body and the army of doctors working around her.

And we talked, and talked and talked.

And that's all I needed. To talk to Percy. He was my person who grounded me. Who made all the wretched feelings leave or at least subdued them. (Cheesy alert. I'm a cheeseball.) I knew he was the only person for me because he made all the ridiculous feelings I had float away. He got rid of my dumb concerns about pointless things. Without him, I'd worry about how one sock was more worn than the other, and how lunch had a few too many peanuts involved.

Calypso poked her head in an hour or so later, saw Percy playing with my hair and me still snuggled against him and left without a word. A smile on her lips at our sappy selves.

By the time I felt like I was back to normal pre-traumatized Annabeth, Percy was already half asleep again.

"Promise me we'll never not tell each other things," Percy hummed dreamily.

I looked up to him. His half lidded eyes looked heavy, but his mouth was quipped up in a delicate smile.

"I promise," I breathed against his lips. Naturally falling in for a kiss as Percy's grip tightened on me. An explosion of warmth and butterflies shuddered through my body as he deepened the kiss. My heartbeat sputtering in a tingling emotion.

"Good," he sighed when we broke apart. His eyes closed, and a look of contentment shone on his face.

"I love you." I reminded him while reaching up to smooth some hair off his forehead, letting my fingers trace his features absentmindedly.

"Love you too."

"You should sleep now," I mumbled lovingly.

"Already half there."

"Well, thank goodness. Any more of this sweetness and I swear my teeth would rot right out," the gruff voice broke through our moment. A twist of humor in his deep ringing voice.

Percy chortled weakly. Not even opening eyes, he shook his head. "Oh, shut up, Andrew."


"You nervous?" Calypso was holding her pink backed phone out with a devilish grin. Her navy lace bodiced flowing bridesmaid gown made her look like a goddess. In fact, all of my friends looked like goddesses. My sweetheart neckline, crisp white gown with lace detail was the only dress prettier than theirs.

"A bit," I confessed, feeling a cluster of tingles race down my spine and my ever blushing cheeks grow a bit darker as the camera was focused solely on me.

"Any second thoughts?" Thalia smirked devilishly.

"Excuse you," Calypso scoffed dramatically but with an undeniable element of pride. "As maid of honor, I am the only interviewer in this section. Now Annabeth Chase, here's a real thinker of a question: Any second thoughts?"

I laughed lightly at Thalia's scowl and shook my head a little too vigorously for the intricate braided updo my golden hair was pinned in. Feeling my viel brush against the bare skin of my back in a feathery way seemed to give me goosebumps. Or maybe it was because I was about to be married.

"No way!" I declared, regripping my bouquet with a vengeance. "I've gone through too much for this moment!"

Rachel threw up a joyous fist. "Cheers to that!"

"It's not cocktail hour yet, Rach." Hazel tutted as she rearranged the gown of her own stunning dress. The subtle breeze that wandered by while we stood outside the church doors patiently, ruffled there skirts in an enchanting way. Passersbyers were obviously struck by my wedding party's beauty.

"Oh please," Thalia huffed. "It's a wedding. The whole day is cocktail hour."

I felt like helium itself as I watched my friends start to banter. Thalia produced a flask that was cleverly hidden in her bouquet while Rachel and Hazel tried to swat it away from her. Calypso was laughing as she started shooting footage of them.

I didn't want this day to end. I didn't want this moment to end. But of course, things needed to keep on moving.

"Alright ladies, it's showtime," Rachel announced. Her eyes lit up as we heard the soft melody of the piano and violin startup in an captivating tune.

Giggling like mad, the girls got into the order. Thalia, Rachel, Hazel and then Calypso. Each bidding me good luck before they heard their cue and when jaunting down the aisle.

Well, Calypso and Thalia jaunted. Hazel kinda shuffled and Rachel almost tripped on her own two feet. (She wasn't drunk, I swear, she's just a bit of a klutz.)

When my turn came, and the large oak double doors were drawn back, I felt a rush of cold then warm blood. My limbs were tingling, and my face felt numb.

But I was smiling so broadly, and felt so incredible that I hardly noticed how breathless I was.

Everyone settled in their pews rose to their feet. Their eyes landing on me as I started my walk down the aisle. My gaze centered on a very dashing, very well-attired man at the end of my walk. His dark grey tuxedo complimented the burning hue of his eyes and the contrast his hair provided. The way his tie was somewhat askew and the forever upheaval that was his locks, he had a charmingly rakish appearance.

As each click of my heels against the white marble floor, as I drew in closer, I started taking in more and more.

The way the light streamed in from the stained glass windows in an array of soft colours set a wonderland effect on the church. The high domed ceilings were coated and adorned in hand painted images of angels singing, and playing with trumpets. The white marble columns that framed the altar I was to be wed at seemed to perfect everything.

The faces of my friends in the crowd. Piper, looking meek, flighty, and scared yet managing to shoot me a timid smile as she sat in the back pew. An elegant sundress displaying her figure. I hoped she'd stay for the the receptions, she seemed somewhat uncomfortable.

Charlie was on the other side near the middle with his wife, Silena, who dabbed a handkerchief to her eyes.

My father was a few rows ahead of them with the grinning faces of my two half brothers peeking out from behind him. Helen looking terse as normal, but not without happiness.

I shot a smile to them both before I finally reached the adoring face of my fiance. Bubbles of glee already spilling over as I saw his eyes were just as glassy as mine.

"Do I even need to say you look gorgeous?" Percy whispered softly to me as he took my hand.

I bit my lip to keep the brimming smile down. I didn't want my cheeks to be cramped before the reception.

"A compliment or two wouldn't hurt." I smirked devilishly at him.

"Well, Princess," he breathed in a taken way. "You are, by far, the most alluring, breathtaking, dazzling girl I have ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes upon. "

I chuckled with a fond eye roll and squeezed his hand. "You totally thought that up before."

"No." Percy spoke earnestly. His eyes were ardent and clear. "I was planning on saying something totally different and way more cliche. But when you walked in…"

"Oh." My heart seemed to do a little hick dance around my chest as my cheeks blossomed into a darker pink. "Well then, high praise. You look… incredible too."

"Oh please," Percy mumbled as we both watched the priest step forward. "We both know I look so hot you can barely keep your hands off me."

I nudged him playfully, trying not to snort at him as the priest starting speaking.


After the ceremony was over, we got to be the wedding party that walked around central park with a photographer in tow. You know, the loud laughing group that always seems to be hanging around Central parks most scenic areas.

Naturally I loved the way people responded to seeing me on my special day as Percy and I posed by the lake, and on a romantic little bridge. A few people would randomly shout out that we looked good. While others just shot us large smiles and thumbs ups.

Summer being in full throttle; the grass was lush and cropped, the trees were vibrant and behold worthy, the flowers were in a myriad of colours and the scenic backdrop of the city's most piercing skyscrapers was against a crystallin blue sky.

I was posing in a white gazebo when I saw her standing under an old oak with her hands folded elegantly.

My smile fading away, the click of the camera capturing my confused expression.

She was in a navy suit top and a matching pair of navy slacks. Her expression as stony as ever. The subtle twist down of her lips indicated how unthrilled she was to see me in such a dress.

"Is that-"

"Yes." I answered Percy's awed tone with a hard expression.

"She wasn't invited," he pointed out as he turned to look at me. The exasperated scoff of the photographer going unnoticed.

"I know." I balked. "I have no idea why she's here."

"I should go tell her to leave." Percy snorted a little darkly. His eyebrows furrowed as he looked back at my mother in distaste. Probably remembering the time she completely destroyed me with one visit.

"No no." I put a soothing hand on his chest. "I'll go talk to her."

"Want me to come with you?"

"No," I assured with a gentle smile. "It's okay. You get the photographer to start the bridal party shots and I'll be right back."

Percy looked as if he were about to protest, but I was already stepping down from the gazebo before he could form a syllable.

Awkwardly, I trodded through the grass with my heels. My throat tight, and my chest feeling heavy as I approached the woman I hadn't laid eyes on in seven years. I had hardly thought of her over all this time.

I was surprisingly happy with how much older she looked. The wrinkles that clustered around her eyes and mouth, the way her cheeks were slightly saggy and the faded sheen of her blonde hair as it started to turn grey.

It seemed to make her more human, and less android-like. Establishing that she wasn't some alien from a far off planet to exploit the world of its riches.

But, that being said, she was still the intimidating, respect demanding woman I had looked up to as a child. Her eyes still had that calculating, emotionless look to them that glinted at you threateningly when you made a wrong move.

"Mother," I spoke cordially, a tempestuous flame of defiance in my chest as I stared at her directly in the eyes. Knowing that I wasn't the girl she left broken in the apartment all those years ago. That she couldn't break me a second time no matter how hard she tried.

"You weren't invited." I made my wishes clear. I wanted her to not stick around.

"It's my daughter's wedding day. Does a mother really need an invitation?" Athena raised a cynical eyebrow at me. My heart was spinning circles in my chest as I thrust my chin out defiantly.

"Yes," I informed with the same cold civility she was giving me.

"I don't see as to why-"

"Athena, why are you here?" I spat out with an indignant look, glaring daggers as I squeezed my bouquet of flowers all the tighter.

Athena was quiet for a moment. Her stiff shoulders drawing back a bit more as if to improve her posture and her hard pressed mouth quipping back into a frown.

"To offer you a job," she finally said a little too quietly for my liking, as if offering me a job was a great pain to her pride. "I've reviewed some of the work you've completed in that apprenticeship you have with that moronic company. You show promise, and much improvement from my last speaking with you. I've come to a place in my life where I realize I have no suitable successor for my company. I believe, with some work you could make an eligible-"

"No." I muttered before letting her finish. No apologies on my tongue to offer for such a blatant answer. Sympathy rising in my chest for the woman in front of me as I realized how sad her life must be.

"No." Athena repeated in a confused surprise. The word probably feeling foreign to her high and mighty ears. A anger stricken expression starting to surface on her face.

"No," I repeated with more confidence, cocking my head slightly at her with a sad smile starting to surface. "I'm not an idiot."

Athena scoffed. "Are you implying that I am?"

"Oh no," I hummed with a shake of my head. "I'm not implying it. I'm saying it. You're an idiot, Athena."

Athena's mouth fell open in a complete look of outrage. Physically taking a step back as she seemed to be over processing exactly what I said. For once, the words weren't coming to her. She couldn't fire back at me for my undisguised attack.

"Here, let me explain," I offered gently, my gaze turning back to the beautiful park and my wonderful friends. A bubble of contentment warming my insides. "I could never be you. You gave up your family to have a career. You chose money, not me. Now, I believe, you're feeling the pain of it. You're realizing that one day you're going to die, and die alone at that. That terrifies you, doesn't it?"

She looked like she wanted to defy it. Like she wanted to laugh off such a ridiculous accusation, but she was having trouble putting her words together still. That's when I knew I had hit the nail on the head.

"I'm going to spend my life building a family, not a money-making empire. I know what the more important thing is to me, so I'm going to stick with it. Your job as head of your company is a life commitment, but so is marriage. And if I can only have one, then my answer to you has to be no. I'm not an idiot."

"Choosing to chase a career does not under any circumstance make me an idiot," Athena finally gritted out. A cold anger illuminating her words as her fists tightened into balls.

"Of course not." I agreed calmly. "It was the decision to give up your family for said career that makes you a numbskull. You didn't know the gift you had for a husband who loved you dearly and a daughter who wanted nothing more but to be like you. You left those things for a life where you were the boss and millionaire."

Athena seemed to have nothing to say to that. Her eyes were razor sharp and and dark, her expression was that of pure contempt and dislike, but she couldn't find anything to say against it.

She knew I was right, and it was in her better judgement to not go head to head with me.

I watched as Percy sent me a worried glance. My lips twisting up at his expression as the peaceful sensation I was experiencing sent warm waves down my arms.

"You'll soon realize that there are better things in life than being a simple little wife." Athena's tone turned bitter. "You'll want more than a day job."

"Then I'll pursue more," I quipped. Turning back to Athena with a determined look. "But I'll do it with Percy at my side."

"It won't be enough," Athena sniffed. "He'll just hold you back."

"He better," I informed matter-of-factly. "If he doesn't hold me back from becoming like you, then who will?"

"Thalia, Jason, Nico, literally everybody who knows you." Percy suddenly sidled up beside me. His hand found the curve of my waist before dragging me into him. Brightly, he offered Athena a dazzling smile. "Hi, I'm Percy. You must be my new mother-in-law. But seeing as you never were a mother to her, I guess that just makes you in-law."

Athena looked repulsed. "Charmed."

"Obviously," Percy returned sassily. "Now if you will excuse us, we have some pictures to take, some major partying to fulfill, a trip to Greece that has to be explored and the entirety of our lives to live out. So it was nice to meet you, but let's never have the pleasure of meeting again."

I elbowed him, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I disagreed with what he was suggesting.

My mother ignored him. Instead she focused herself entirely on me with a set look. "Final chance, Annabeth. Will you take up my offer?"

"No," I repeated a little more solemnly, finding Percy's hand and squeezing it.

"Oh well," my mother sighed. "Your loss."

"Actually, I believe it's your loss," I murmured truthfully, turning with Percy to head back to the party without so much as a second glance.

"And my gain," Percy smirked.

I nudged him again.


Jason secured us the use of his dad's luxury limo. Apparently the senior Mr. Grace had become very lenient after the whole 'Lolz your mother isn't actually your mom.'

And I was very grateful towards him for letting us use it. The limo ride was one of the greatest parts, surprisingly.

Seeing as the wedding party was just the gang, it wasn't long before things descended into puns, jokes, and playful jibes at one another.

The venue was absolutely exemplary. The table-clothed tables alternated between navy and white, and the centerpieces of roses floating in bowls of water, surrounded by candles made the ambience that much more perfect.

Rachel dragged Percy and I aside almost as soon as we got there, confessing that she wanted to give us her wedding present personally. I didn't protest. Together, Percy and I tore open the wrapping and carefully lifted the lid to the large cardboard box.

It was a painting. Not just any random painting, but one of the gang. Each one of us perfectly immortalized with Rachel's amazing artistic talent. Leo was making a funny face and Calypso was rolling her eyes at him. Thalia was squishing an unimpressed Nico's cheeks with Rachel seriously applying paint on his ear. Jason was looking straight and noble with that kind glimmer achingly visible in his eyes. Frank was hugging Hazel who was giving a peace sign and Percy and I were in the direct center. Everything about us so brilliantly perfect as I was kissing his cheek and he was smirking at me adoringly.

The clincher was that the painting was created masterfully upon a custom canvas in the obvious shape of an old victorian key.

"Now do you see the key?" She had grinned at me wily.

I had a hard time trying not to cry as I hugged her and Percy marveled at the detail of the painting. By far one of my most treasured gifts. (Don't tell Calypso.)

Then everything shifted back to as planned.

Cocktail hour flew by before I even noticed, and food was already being served by the time I could get my head around things. (Part of my mind was still on the beautiful painting.)

Leo made his best man speech, which included a few harrowing tales about Percy and also about how we met. He told the handcuffs story with such energy that I could never top it.

To my surprise, he had our special handcuffs in a box which he displayed to the crowd as proudly as if he were holding a trophy.

Then that lovely video of Percy dancing with Burtwis and singing about mochi surfaced and I watched with tears just about ready to ruin my makeup at how red he turned.

By and by, I was dragged from table to table by my proud father to talk to all of my beaming relatives. My cousins who I'd met once before, my aunts, my great-aunts and even my grandmother who was wheelchair-bound, and couldn't even remember what she just ate for dinner.

Every so once in awhile I'd catch Percy's gaze across the room. His questioning eyes piercing me with the wonderment of when exactly I was going to rejoin him at the table. I'd give a hopeless shrug before being led on to the next table. Each relative asking the same question.

Why didn't your father give you away at the altar?

I'd humbly say that he was more needed in the pew with two twin boys and all, but in reality it had been my decision to walk down the aisle unaccompanied.

A bride being given away by her father is a symbolism for how he's helped her along in life up to the point where she's then given into the care of her husband. Both my dad and I agreed that I had done far more by myself to get to where I was then he did. I had gotten myself to that altar, and I could walk down to it just fine, thank you very much.

Anyways. By the time I was released from his boastings, Percy was no long in his seat. In vain, I looked around to the sea of seated people clinking glasses and cutting into their food with vigor but to no avail.

"Jason, have you seen Percy?" I inquired softly. My gown was bunched up in my hands as I walked over to the blonde superman.

"I saw him heading towards the balcony," Jason's distracted response came. His gaze settled on a particular brunette across the room, a dreamily longing element in his eyes as I scoffed lightly at him.

"Jase," I sighed quietly. His startled eyes found mine (and he seemed almost guilty to be caught staring). "Just go to her." I urged. Not giving him a chance to say 'no' as I turned and briskly weaved through the circular tables. Smiling and thanking the familiar faces that congratulated me before I broke out of the somewhat stuffy room.

A sweet breath of relief filling and releasing my lungs as I stepped out onto the balcony. The warm night air feeling soft against my skin as I looked out over the garden below me. The small cherry blossom trees, and winding grey path were accentuated by an artificial stream and globes of warm yellow lights. The garden was rich in brilliantly coloured flowers, and totally empty of any passing people. The river just beyond it gave a lullaby sound of shushing water.

I was almost tempted to go down there and just sit on one of those stone carved benches. Take a breather and be thankful for how lucky I was.


Startled, I reeled back my arm in ready defense. The light tickle on my wrist I recognized as familiar before Percy expertly caught my sloppily thrown punch.

"Yeesh, the papers would've loved that. Just married, and already domestic abuse."

I scowled at him. "Don't joke. Domestic abuse is a real problem."

"I never said it wasn't," Percy smirked at me in a dashing manner. His green eyes still sparkled.

"Fair point," I shrugged with a melted smile.

"So…" Percy tugged me closer. His hand finding the curve of my waist as his smirk broadened. "Is this what it takes for a husband to get his new wife to stay two seconds beside him?"

Percy held up his wrist, and effectively held up mine as well, which was dangling uselessly on the other cuff.

"We are going to be stuck much longer than two seconds Mister." I reminded with a sassy eye roll. Remembering exactly how long it took to take the cuffs off last time. How many bobby pins I was missing because of it.

"Well, that's exactly what I signed up for, Mrs. Jackson." Percy grinned.

I fake gagged and gave him a comedically repulsed look. "Don't tell me you're going to do that cliched thing where you refer to me by my new surname all night."


"Ugh… you're such a dork," I huffed.

"A dork you married." He waggled his eyebrows at me.

"Don't rub it in."

Percy laughed in a delighted tone that made my stomach quiver before drawing me in closer. I could see the cocky preparation in his eyes as he was about to say something dumb when our lips brushed.

"Skip whatever sappy bullshit you're about to say and just kiss me," I commanded above a whisper. My eyes flickering between his green pools and his lips.

He chortled obnoxiously before complying, pressing me against the wood of the railing and kissing me practically senseless.

If you could feel stars, then I know what that sensation was.

"Shall we rejoin the party, my lady?" Percy grinned in a very debonair manner, mimicking a horrendous french accent that I couldn't help but snort at.

"Of course, you Seaweed Brain."

With our hands interlocked, we made a show of heading towards the door. That is, until something caught my eye and I stopped dead. My interest peaking, I twirled around suddenly, yanking an unknowing Percy with me awkwardly.

Piper was in the garden, her soft blue dress sweeping with the movement of the breeze and her hair loose and wild.

She looked peaceful and thoughtful, her face relaxed as she took in the view of the river to the right. Her hands folded softly. She probably wandered out there looking for a break from the people.

"Look!" I hissed as I ducked down by the railing as not to be seen. Percy following quickly as he noticed what had captured my attention.

Jason was approaching her. His broad shoulders were stiff and tense. His gait was rigid in an obvious display of nervous energy.

"Oooh, drama." Percy smiled evilly.

I smacked him.

Whatever Jason said to Piper, we couldn't hear. We could watch, though, as she swiveled around in a startled manner and pressed a conscious hand to her throat. Hiding her scars again.

"Damn that water," I cursed, creeping along the banister to get a closer look with Percy on my heels.

"What did the water ever do to you?"

"Made noise."

Piper looked scared. She was lightly keeping her distance from him with every bold step he was taking towards her. Her eyes were wide and unblinking, her posture straight and flighty.

"C'mon Pipes., I urged under my breath. "Take a chance on him."

With Pipers subtle head shakes and visible uncomfortableness, I could tell she still was hesitant. She thought she was going to hurt Jason again. She thought she wasn't worth him.

Jason grew more agitated, waving his arms wildly as if to drive across a point.

"He looks like an angry chicken when he does that," Percy commented.

"Or a downed dragonfly," I added onto his thought loosely.

Piper turned away. Her slight shoulders were tense with emotions as she let her gaze dip to the ground. Her hands fisted at her sides.

"He's losing her," Percy mumbled. "She's trying to get away from from him."

My stomach sunk. Nervously, I twisted the white fabric of my dress as I silently rooted for Jason. My eyes stuck to the complicated couple.

Jason's expressive arm-waving and gesturing died. He ran a distressed hand through his blonde hair before also looking to the ground, muttering something so provocative that Piper wheeled around at him with shock on her face followed by confusion.

"Did he just put himself in hot water?" Percy squinted as if he could hear them any better.

"He better not have," I scoffed.

Then Jason started walking away, defeat in his stance as he slid his hands deep into his pockets. A sense of finality in his movements that made me wince.

"Aw crap." I sunk away to the floor, a sour bitterness in my gut at how it turned out. Crossing my arms over my chest as I contemplated on other ways I could maybe get them back together.

"Oooh wait, but the plot thickens!" Percy gasped, yanking me back up to the banister edge to peek over again.

Piper looked torn. She was staring in a lost way at Jason's back as he slowly made his way towards the entrance, walking towards us. All he'd have to do was look up and he'd know how creepish we were.

Flightily, she took two more steps towards him before she stopped in a slew of conflicting feelings. She glanced behind her warily, as if someone could be watching and settling an anxious hand over her mouth. The warm lights cast hollow shadows against her willowy form.

"C'mon," I breathed again, anticipation building up in my throat. "C'mon!"

Finally, she stumbled after him, catching him in the middle of the garden and swinging him around powerfully. His confused expression was smothered as soon as she cupped his cheeks and dragged him down for a kiss.

His shoulders became tense again before he melted into her figure, cradling her back against him, as he fell willingly into the kiss.

She took a chance.

"Awww," Percy crooned. "How disgustingly romantic."

"How mushy," I grinned at him.

"How gooey."

"How sappy."

"Think we're ever like that?" Percy questioned with a twist of his lips, raising an eyebrow at me.

"Oh, all the time." I waved off.

"Oh look, they're kissing again." Percy made a face at the newly reunited couple, standing up to his full height before cupping a hand to his mouth for amplification. "Yo, lovebirds! Get a room!"

I giggled whilst shaking my head and joined my numbskull husband. Watching as Jason and Piper bloomed a deep red colour. "Yeah! Keep it PG!"

"Frick off!" Jason yelled up at us, but he was smiling, Piper falling naturally under his arm as her persistent shade of pink forced her to look bashfully at the ground. A visible tremble in her shoulders as she looked like she could bolt at any second. She was forcing herself to stay there. To admit that she wanted to be apart of Jason's life again, and convince herself that she was the person for him were not two things that were coming to her easily. Nevertheless, their starry eyes found each other again before they seemed to be drawn together for another overly tender kiss.

And that's when I figured out that things were going to be okay. My worries for my friends were all in vain. Life has its funny little ways of sorting itself.

Just think, if Percy never had saved Gabe. I would've never reunited with Piper, and Piper would've never gotten back together with Jason.

If Jason and Thalia never got into that fight, that nurse wouldn't have been prompted to show me Gabe, and I would've never had the anger to threaten him. He wouldn't have attacked me, and Piper wouldn't have been stabbed. Then Piper would still go to rooftops on bad days just to 'balance'. She could've died from that habit. Technically still could if she ever dared to do it again. But now she knew how she felt about death so it was less likely. Now she understood things she was grasping at before.

If none of this had ever happened, we would all be the worse for it. It really made me think on that quote 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. Because it was true. We were all alive. We were okay.

And I couldn't have been happier in that moment.

Percy shrugged suggestively at the two snogging lovebirds with a midnight-eyebrow raised questioningly. "Monkey see, monkey do?"

Okay, so I stand corrected. I could be a teeny-weeny bit happier.

I held out my arms to him happily, a bubbly sensation in my chest. "Sure, why not?"

And he kissed me again. Hard.

That's it! Please tell me how you liked it or how I could get better! No matter when you post a review, it always brightens my day!