A/N: Didn't have the imagination to make up a backstory, so let's assume that this is after Titan's Curse and Grover, Percy, and Annabeth are hiking through a forest near the beach to get across America for some quest. A scene like this will undoubtedly pop up in Battle of the Labyrinth anyway! And, of course, it's so fluffy it makes Peeps marshmallows look dense. Corny? Cheesy? Of course! (ANNABETH'S POV)
We didn't stop tearing through the forest, if that tells you anything. Actually, thanks to the Jellyfish and his goat, we took the "thing that looked like a shortcut", which was code for the trail that had the most beetles and – ick – spiderwebs.
Grover was doing a weird blinking thing, like every few seconds he'd shiver, blink, and look left and right as if he were about to cross a busy intersection. Percy was almost as bad, because even though he was trying to act all confident, you could tell he wanted to turn around. I was being Annabeth the Grouchy and pretended not to notice that either of them were feeling as cold, wet, and tired as I was.
But Percy definitely noticed. "Hey," he said, crushing a vine into the dirt and gingerly stepping over it. "You'll thank me when we get there in an hour or two."
"We're not going to get there in an hour or two. We'll be lucky if we get there at all."
Grover shivered again. "Percy, maybe Annabeth's got the right idea…"
"Shut up," he said tiredly.
I shrugged. "I don't really mind if we're slow anymore. It's not like we can turn back, now that we've gone so far."
"That's a really bad apology."
"Who said that was an apology?"
Percy shook his head, not in the mood to argue. "Tree root,"
I stumbled over it. At least the trees were getting sparser. We were partly walking along dirt, partly along sand. It was like the ground couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be a forest or a rocky beach. I wondered if I should say something, but didn't. "So," I tried to think of a conversation-starter. "What did you guys want to be when you grew up? Before we got into all these quests?"
"A searcher," Grover said immediately.
Percy was more cynical. "Why do you care about what we wanted to be?"
"I don't, really. I'm just bored."
He paused for a moment. "I don't know," he said finally. "Does it matter, for half-bloods? Don't we all end up being warriors or heroes?"
I was about to answer him when I felt a plunk on my head.
"Did you feel that?" I asked, rubbing the place where it had hit. Plunk.
"Feel what?" they said in unison. Both boys stopped walking and starting looking up. I never get why people do that – looking up when they think there's rain. I mean, you're not only going to get hit in the eye, but you're not going to see rain better against a big, grayish sky than you would on the ground.
"I don't see anything," Grover said stupidly.
"Look at the ground," I pointed to the dirt. Little ice balls were littering the ground, frosting the black soil like dark gingerbread. "See? Hail."
"It's not that bad," Percy resumed his march and hacked down another spiderweb. "Keep going. We really won't be there in an hour if we keep stopping every five minutes."
"I'm not stopping every five minutes!"
"Oh, right. That was definitely the first time."
"Look, if you're still mad about me stopping to tie a ponytail, I'd like to see you with two feet of hair and no rubber band!"
"That's different!" He insisted.
I scoffed, "Exactly, how?"
"Um, guys?" Grover poked us both on the back. "I don't want to interrupt, but…"
He didn't have to go any further. We both snapped out of the argument and looked at the ground again. The hailstones were falling five times as fast, and were getting golf-ball sized. "Ow," I whimpered quietly.
"Yeah, I'm getting bruised," Grover said to Percy.
He rubbed his back, wincing. "Let's find a tree. Or a cave."
"A cave," I agreed, hitching my backpack over my head and looking around frantically. Suddenly, as if by magic or incredible luck, there it was. "A cave! Grover! Percy! Look!" I flailed my hand at the pile of boulders lying at the foot of a cliff on the rocky beach. It didn't look terribly comfortable, but that didn't stop us. I was already halfway there before the other two noticed where I was pointing.
Percy panted to keep up. "That's just plain lucky."
"I don't question luck, Seaweed-Brain!" I shouted as I dove into the stone-cold den.
A strange hush fell over us the moment we jumped inside. The rattling plunk! of the hail quieted to a muffled whoosh every few seconds. Without nature's background noises, it felt awkward. Too quiet.
I broke the ice with a bitingly witty remark. "Ouch,"
"Yeah," agreed Percy.
Grover winced and rubbed his head. "You said it," he said, sniffing the moist air. "No monsters, I think. But we have another problem."
"Angry gods? Goddesses?" Percy asked.
"No," Grover pointed up. "The roof's too thin."
I groaned. A thin roof could only mean one thing.
"Woah!" Percy said excitedly. "You can tell that just by smelling?"
"Nope," Grover shook his curly-haired head. "I can tell because hail is still hitting my head."
There was the sound again: plunk, plunk.
"It's going to get worse if we don't fix it now," I said sadly. "Should we see if there's another cave down the cliff?"
"Nah, I checked when I was running down," said Percy. "This is the only one within miles, probably."
"Fine, a tree then," I rolled my eyes and tapped a foot. "In half an hour, the top of this place will have collapsed on us. Then what?"
"Then we hope that the hail's stopped."
"Never mind, Jellyfish!"
Grover seemed very disturbed at the prospect of having rocks collapse on him. "There's clay in the forest soil," he said quickly. "It won't work to keep out the hail by itself, but it could patch up the roof and keep it from falling. Right?"
"Yeah," I said. "But how're we going to get any clay? I can't dig."
"I can," he said miserably. "I'll go get some. The hail won't be as bad under the trees."
We wished him good luck and watched him lope off into the distance. Suddenly the cave was quieter than ever.
I shivered. "I hope he knows where to go. I don't want to see him come back with a bruised skull."
"Or crumpled horns," Percy added. "Are you all right?"
"Of course," I said indifferently. "You?"
"Yeah, but…" He paused. After a moment, he finally turned to look at me and said, "I've been thinking about what you said, about what I wanted to be when I grew up."
"Well, what?" I urged.
"Let me finish," he snapped. "I was going to ask if you could answer my question. You know. Don't half-bloods all end up being warriors or something?"
"It's a tricky subject," I admitted. "There are the obvious ones, like Theseus or Hercules or Achilles. Yeah, they all ended up heroes. But there was this one girl at camp who was, like, nineteen when I first came here, and now she's the secretary to the C.E.O. of the company that makes Cheetos. Go figure."
"How'd she swing that? Wouldn't monsters have killed her the second she let her guard down?"
"No. She was the daughter of a normal dude and a minor goddess, so nothing would really…" I stopped.
Percy sneered. "So, pretty much, you can live a normal life as long as your parent's not a major god."
"Oh, shut up," I said irritably.
"So we're screwed?" he asked again.
"You can be whatever you want to be, Percy. Just promise me you won't do something stupid and be flipping burgers the rest of your life."
"Huh?" he said.
I tapped my foot and fiddled with my necklace. "You don't have to be some big warrior-dude, but you're the sea god's son. Do something big, okay? Like, save the next Titanic from sinking or build a huge dam or something."
He thought about it for a minute, and smiled a little. "Maybe. How about you? What did you want to be?"
"You know," I said automatically. "An architect."
"Yeah, but since when?"
"I always have. Like I said, I like building things, not just washing them away," I glared at him with an eyebrow raised. "And the earlier I get started, the better."
He scooted back against the wall and held up his hands in surrender. "Sheesh! Don't get all touchy, but why so focused on your job already?"
"Well," I stammered. "I don't know. It's good to be focused on something."
"There's more stuff than a job, though," he said. "My mom wanted to be a novelist, but she had me, so…"
"Her one mistake," I quipped.
He punched my arm and went on. "So what about normal stuff? You're never going to get a first job or have a family or any of—"
"You want a family?" I yelped, astonished. "You?"
"Uh, I guess so," he said, looking surprised and like he'd never really thought of it. "It'd be boring to be by yourself for, like, ever."
"It would be independent," I said loftily.
"No, it'd be stupid," he insisted. "Doing your architect-y stuff all day, then coming home to an empty apartment? Are you kidding me?"
"Ooh, but what about Percy the family man?" I laughed derisively. "He'd come home to an adoring Mrs. Jackson and the kiddies, right?"
"Shut up," he said. "I don't want one now, but what's wrong with having a normalfamily? When you're, you know, older."
"Because neither of us knows what a normal family is!" I hissed, standing up. Bonk.
"Your head," Percy warned me, too late.
"Why, thank you, Fishbrain." I muttered, rubbing the place where it had slammed against the ceiling of the cave. I sat back down, calmer. "So are you and Thalia planning the wedding already?"
"Thalia?!" he squeaked. "What are you talking about?!"
"Oh, you know," I said, smiling sweetly. "You've got to be all normal, so you've decided you'll start going out with Thalia."
"Gross," he shook his head quickly, embarrassed. "She's a Hunter, anyway."
"Hunters often break their vow," I reminded him. "They just don't get to follow Artemis anymore, you know."
"Still! Seriously, don't joke about that. No. No way. It's just…" he shuddered.
"Why not?" I sneered cruelly. "You hang around so much, she's funny, she's pretty, you want…"
"Wrong!" he said triumphantly. "Totally wrong. First, no, she isn't that pretty, or funny, or whatever. Second? Heck, I think a lot of girls are pretty. I thought you were pretty when I first…" he shut up, but not soon enough.
"What?" I asked, my anger vanishing. "What'd you just say?"
"I said, she's not that pretty or funny," he repeated quickly.
I shook my head. "No, after that," I said.
"I think a lot of girls are pretty, so it wouldn't matter even if I thought she was…"
"After that," I said, growing impatient.
"That's all I said," he finished, looking at the ceiling with incredible interest. "Wow, hail's coming through that thing almost as bad as it is outside. When's Grover coming back?"
"You think I'm pretty," I said, saying it more to myself than to him.
"Huh?" he turned back to me.
I grinned. "You think I'm pretty," I sang loudly.
"I said I used to think that!" he shouted over me, blushing. "When I was in a coma, half-dead! Like, three years ago!"
"Uh-uh," I said, laughing. "You're lying,"
"Are so," I stifled another laugh. "And you know what else?" He didn't know what else, but I told him anyway. "I think you like me."
His eyes widened. "I do not like--"
But he never finished. And I know this for a fact, because, when he couldn't say anything else, the silence just hung in the air, and there was nothing left to do but close our eyes and kiss.
So we did.
The second I leaned in, my head started spinning and I felt like Hermes' sandals had lifted me at least fifteen feet off the ground – since, I don't know about Percy, but this had never happened to me before. Ever. We sat there, kneeling and kissing for who knows how long. I would've said a couple days, but it was probably only a few seconds. The sound of the hail stopped in my mind, the cave went away. I honestly felt like I was flying.
But all that spinning and floating was interrupted by the maniac clapping and sobbing of one very emotional satyr.
"Grover!" both of us screamed, tearing apart to stare at him.
"That was beautiful," he sniffed. "Absolutely beautiful."
"How long have you been here?!" Percy exclaimed.
"Oh, a while," he said, brushing away a small tear. "Around the point where Annabeth started saying stuff about you and a Mrs. Jackson, and you yelled, and she bumped her head, and you gave everything away, and…"
"Why didn't you come in?" Percy asked through gritted teeth.
"What, and ruin all that?" he said. "Besides, you were yelling. I didn't want to interrupt."
Percy let out a deep breath and leaned against the cave wall.
I shook my head. "I can't believe we didn't see you there. Did you really see everything?"
"I just told it back to you, didn't I?" Grover said, plopping down next to us. "And I brought the clay, so ha, you lovebirds!"
He started patching up the holes with the thick clay he'd found in the dirt. Percy and I just stared ahead uncomfortably. Who knows what he was thinking? All I thought, as I shook my head to make sure this all was real, was: My gods – I think I just lost my first kiss to Seaweed Brain!
And worse, I think I was actually okay with that.