Percy ducked as Annabeth aimed a vicious cut at his head, bringing Riptide up to parry the potentially deadly strike. Two can play at that game, Percy thought grimly, and aimed a flurry of blows at Annabeth's lithe frame, forcing her to switch to the defensive and surrender some ground to him. Satisfied, Percy disengaged and created some space between himself and Annabeth, circling her warily as he caught his breath. Annabeth mirrored his movements, her cheeks flushed and sweat glistening on her skin. Percy admired the way her stormy grey eyes sparkled with adrenalin.

"Getting tired, Seaweed Brain?" Annabeth teased, the determination in her face suddenly mixed with a very un-Athena-like playfulness as they continued to circle, unconsciously mirroring each other's footwork exactly.

"In your dreams, Wise Girl" Percy shot back, a grin forming unbidden on his face.

Suddenly Annabeth was leaping forward, launching a furious offensive and forcing Percy to backpedal frantically to avoid losing a limb. Slowly but surely she pushed him back, her eyes gleaming in anticipation of her triumph. Without looking Percy knew the edge of the ring was barely a metre from his back heel.

As Annabeth drew her arm back for her conquering strike Percy's half-blood instincts took over and quick as a snake he stepped inside her guard, his hand closing vice-like around her wrist to prevent the blow before it had fully begun. His fingers found a nerve ending at the base of her thumb and she unwillingly released her grip on her sword, letting it clatter to the ground. In one swift motion he swept her legs out from underneath her, his free arm supporting her torso before she hit the ground and his sword hand changing grips so he could hold his blade against her exposed neck like a dagger. The whole combination had taken no more than 4 seconds and Percy's eyes had never left hers.

"Dead," Percy grinned, his chest heaving as his body endeavoured to supply his fatigued muscles with oxygen. Annabeth's face, no more than five inches from his own, clouded with disappointment, but her gleaming eyes betrayed her exhilaration.

"I almost had you there," she insisted, panting. Percy's smile widened in response; he removed his sword from her carotid artery, stood up and offered her his hand, which she accepted.

As the battle haze cleared from his mind he became aware of cheering and clapping. As Annabeth bent to retrieve her sword Percy grinned around at the campers who surrounded the ring, the majority of whom were showing their appreciation of the bout by whooping and applauding. Spectators from Ares cabin either sat sulking in jealousy or boasting loudly that they were much better fighters. Aphrodite's children lounged gracefully looking exquisitely bored.

Percy bowed extravagantly to his audience and Annabeth punched him in the arm. "Show off," she accused in mock disgust, but she too couldn't help but smile at her fellow campers.

Percy knew what she was thinking; it was good to see the kids in such high spirits, especially in times like these, when being a half-blood was more dangerous than ever. When they were never truly safe, not even within Camp Half-Bloods borders. These grim thoughts doused his cheerfulness and he hated them for it. The grin slid from his face and he sighed.

"Well done, both of you," Chiron congratulated them as he clopped towards them. "That was a close one. You almost had him there," he added to Annabeth, causing her to smirk at Percy.

"Next time," she promised.

The campers began to drift away from the arena and Chiron watched them leave as he said "You two should go cool down before dinner, then I'd like you to meet me in the Big House; we need to have a talk." His serious eyes returned to Percy's as he said the last, causing the familiar feeling of dread to bubble up in his stomach. Chiron held his gaze for a moment, offered him a brief reassuring smile and then turned and trotted after the campers. Percy watched him leave with blank eyes, his mind suddenly a million miles away.

It had been twenty months since their clash with Atlas and the minions of Kronos, twenty months since Zoe had died and Thalia had taken her place as Artemis' lieutenant, twenty months since Nico (who Percy now knew was the son of Hades) had run away, twenty months since Luke had fallen off the cliff, only to survive and begin to regroup his forces. These had been the hardest twenty months of Percy's life.

So much had happened in this time, so many battles fought and just barely survived, so many half-bloods lost. Monsters had attacked with greater frequency and it was no longer safe for Percy to attend school; they had tried, but after the third time Percy destroyed a school building and had subsequently been expelled, his mother decided the danger was too great. Percy had felt horrible for putting his mother through those times.

One good thing had come of it, though. Annabeth's father, fearing for her safety, had asked whether she could live with the Jackson's during the school year, since living in San Francisco was out of the question. Percy's Mum had agreed enthusiastically, and had even winked at him knowingly, which he had found really embarrassing. Though Annabeth had hated it, she had agreed to leave school and since then they had been home tutored by Mrs. Jackson and Mr Blofis – or Paul, as he insisted they call him – or rather Annabeth had helped them tutor Percy because she already knew everything. It was during this time that Percy finally admitted to himself what Aphrodite had been trying to tell him; he had feelings for Annabeth other than the platonic. It had been killing him ever since.

Percy knew that Annabeth still had feelings for Luke – she refused to give up on him. Percy could feel the pain of this rip at his gut whenever he thought about it. But being Annabeth's friend was exponentially better than not being with her at all, so that's what he had done – been her friend.

Except his birthday was only a few weeks away – his sixteenth birthday, the birthday of the prophesy. Percy couldn't bear the thought that something would happen to either Annabeth or him, without her knowing how he truly felt.

Feeling a soft touch on his arm, Percy returned from his reverie to find Annabeth resting her hand on his arm, her expression concerned. They looked at each other for a few moments, and Percy took the opportunity to study her closely.

Her stormy grey eyes sparkled with hidden emotion as she gazed up at him – he had grown and filled out this year, and now stood half a foot higher than her, forcing her to look up to meet his eyes. Her blond hair, which she had grown long, was pulled up into a messy ponytail, though some wisps had escaped to frame her tanned face. She wore her camp necklace, as always, and small wooden earring's adorned her ears. No fancy jewellery, no makeup, just Annabeth, exactly as Percy liked her.

"Let's go to the lake," she suggested, putting her sword on a seat (Percy recapped Riptide and placed it in his pocket) and snaking her arm around his waist. Percy's stomach did a back flip, even though he should have been used to things like this by now. Since Thalia had joined the hunt and Grover had been occupied with his searches for both Pan and new Half-Bloods, Percy and Annabeth had begun turning to each other for support and comfort (especially during the rough times), and displays of affection like this were now as common occurrences as their fights were. Percy both loved and hated this. He draped his arm around her shoulders and let his fingers brush on her bare arm as they walked; her skin was warm and soft. He was well aware that they looked for all the world like a couple, the irony of which twisted the knife in his heart.

They walked in silence the whole way to the lake, with Percy simply enjoying Annabeth's presence. It was a beautiful day, as it always was at Camp Half-Blood, the afternoon sun warming but not too bright. The perfect day for a swim. When they reached the wharf they sat down and dangled their feet in the fresh cool water, watching for the mythical creatures that inhabited the lakes murky depths.

The silence between them wasn't heavy, but there was obviously a question hanging in the air, waiting to be asked and answered.

Annabeth sighed deeply, drawing Percy's attention to her face. Without speaking she stood up, pulled her hair tie out and arched a graceful dive into the lake, sending ripples radiating out from where her body broke the smooth surface. Percy waited and watched until her head broke the surface again about ten metres from the shore. He didn't follow her in (he wouldn't get wet anyway, and he didn't really feel like swimming at the moment), instead watching as Annabeth slowly swam back towards the wharf and pulled herself out, raking her wet hair out of her face. She shivered as the air hit her skin, smiled and held her hand out to Percy.

"Would you mind?" Percy smiled back and took her hand, willing her to be dry. The water jumped away from her skin in droplets and showered the worn wood beneath her feet, leaving Annabeth dry as a bone.

Annabeth held onto his hand, lightly tracing the lines that crisscrossed his palm. Her eyes were serious when she met his gaze once more.

"Luke will come after you." Percy winced inwardly; he hated talking about Luke with Annabeth, it always made them both mad. He gently pulled his hand away from her.

"I'll do what I have to," he replied.

Annabeth's mask broke and her face became stricken as she pleaded, "Why can't you give him a chance? He's not evil-"

"Yes he is, Annabeth! If you would put aside your obvious feelings for him for just a second then you would realise that!" Percy had his hands curled into fists, his body shaking as the feelings he had kept inside for so long boiled over and out. Annabeth hardened under his anger, just like she always did.

"I know Luke, Percy! I know him! This is not him! And as for my feelings for him-"

"I already know how you feel about him – you love him! It's obvious! That's why you won't admit that he's evil!"

"Perc-"

"I don't want to hear it!" Percy interrupted her angrily. "Don't you understand?! Don't you know how much it hurts?!"

"Bu-"

"If you love him so much then maybe you should-" This time it was Percy who was cut off as Annabeth lunged at him and crashed her lips against his fiercely, one hand pressed to the side of his head and the other gripping the front of his shirt and pulling him closer. Percy didn't have time to be surprised, or think about anything at all; instead he channelled all his anger into kissing her back. His hands flew to her back and the nape of her neck and he angled her head back for better access, pressing her against him. The kiss was savage and wildly uninhibited; Percy tasted the metallic tang of blood but couldn't have said who it belonged to.

Suddenly realising what he was doing Percy's eyes flew open and he jerked his lips away from hers. The anger coursing through his body was suddenly replaced by shock and confusion. Why did she do that? He watched her eyes fly open and saw the uncertainty in them, her mouth hanging open in shock at her own actions. Her lips were red and swollen and Percy's own lips tingled with aftershocks. They both stood there, panting, neither removing their hands from the others body, neither able to speak.

"You… you wouldn't be… quiet," Annabeth breathed the slightly lame explanation. Percy was still too shocked to move or speak; he just held her gaze.

"Percy, I… I love Luke…" Annabeth paused, and Percy's heart stopped beating. Then she continued with emphasis.

"Like a brother."

Percy's shell-shocked mind slowly made sense of the words; it took a while because Percy was forced to re-evaluate so many events, so many perspectives, so many things he had accepted as gospel. He was suddenly seeing things Annabeth had done and said in an entirely different light. It was like his mind was being forced into a total system reboot.

When his eyes finally cleared (he couldn't say how long they had been standing there) and he stared down at Annabeth once more, he found her looking back with an embarrassed blush colouring her cheeks, and the corners of her mouth curled up into a hesitant half smile, though her eyes radiated vulnerable uncertainty (the two feelings Annabeth hated the most mixed into one). Percy decided that she had never looked as exquisitely beautiful as she did in that moment, and brought a hand up to brush the side of her face with his fingertips. He looked down at her mouth, discovered a small cut on her top lip and remembered the taste of blood in the kiss.

"You're cut…" he brushed his fingers against her lips gently and felt her soft breath on them as she exhaled. His eyes flickered to hers; she was watching him through half closed lids. Waiting. He slowly lowered his head to hers and lightly brushed his lips over the cut, again tasting blood. He closed his eyes and felt her respond to him, her lips moving softly against his. Where their previous kiss had been angry, untamed and violent, this kiss was loving, tender and gentle. Percy could feel Annabeth's hand lightly caressing the side of his face, sending tingles through his body. He embedded one hand in the soft hair at the nape of her neck, massaging the area lightly as his other hand brushed along the exposed skin of her lower back. She shivered deliciously against him and a hot flush engulfed his body from head to toes.

Though he was loath to part from her soft lips he knew they should take this slowly, and if they kept going then he would lose what control he had. Giving her one last lingering kiss, Percy pulled back and slid his eyes open. Annabeth looked as dazed as he felt. They both smiled at each other, tentatively at first but then growing until they were both grinning goofily.

Percy looked around at the lengthening shadows and said happily, "We should head back; it's getting late." Annabeth nodded and again snaked her arm around his waist, resting her hand on his hip and stroking the skin through his shirt with her thumb. Percy's grin widened and he put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her against him and planting a kiss on her temple.

They set off towards the Big House, looking exactly the same as they had on the trip down save for for an extra spring to their steps.


That's all, folks! This is my first PJO fic and I think I did pretty okay .

This is a oneshot, but I was thinking of holding off the whole 'admission-of-feelings' thing and write a longer story. If you people think that's a good idea then let me know in the reviews your sure to post pouts and makes puppy dog eyes

Cheers, StBu