This one-shot was co-authored by haubing, percabeth777 (me), WriterAlex, and Athena's Hatchling. Special credit to Sheva Das for her awesome plot ideas and editing.
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"And the Blue Team has won the race!" Chiron announced just as the bow of the blue canoe crossed the finish line.
I high-fived a random Apollo camper on my team. Then, I made the mistake of turning around just in time to see the Red Team's canoe glide over next to us.
Clarisse gave me the "I'm watching you" gesture along with another...ruder one.
Annabeth just glared at me. I knew she hated losing.
The canoes were brought to the shore. The remaining campers poured out of the canoes and stampeded towards the picnic tables for dinner.
I stepped out after everyone had left the creek, and tied the boat to shore so it wouldn't drift off. I started to walk up to the picnic tables to join them, but then stopped. I wasn't hungry. A curl of smoke rose from the campfire, and I knew dinner had already started.
I sighed, and instead walked over to a grassy patch to look over the lake.
The sun was about to set. It made the water look orange, and the ripples dark blue-red. I absently picked at the grass. Time was running out. I would turn sixteen in thirty days. You know how everyone is excited for their sweet sixteen? Not me. My sweet-sixteen could end up being the end of the Western Civilization, which isn't too "sweet."
I didn't like to think too hard about it, but it was unavoidable. The day was coming and I wasn't sure if I was ready...I wasn't sure if I could trust myself. I tried to clear my head of the doubts, and instead focused on making different ripples in the lake.
"Percy?" I jumped at hearing my name. It was Annabeth.
"Oh. . .hey, Annabeth."
Her eyes shot daggers at me. "Why aren't you at dinner?"
"Why aren't you?" I shot back.
Annabeth didn't answer. She sat down next to me, and seemed to be making an effort to look only forward. I was hyper-aware of how close she was to me.
"You know, you didn't really win that canoe race today," she stated.
"Yeah, I did. My team's canoe crossed the finish line before yours. You're just upset that I won, Annabeth."
"You were using your control over water to win," she accused. "That's not fair."
"Yes it is! If you had an advantage I know you'd use it," I pointed out.
She scowled. "You're a cheater, Seaweed Brain, and don't deny it."
I rolled my eyes. I had given up with trying to think of a good comeback to "Seaweed Brain", and "Wise Girl" or "Owl-head" weren't exactly genius.
After a minute of silence, Annabeth raised her eyebrow. "What's this? You aren't going to deny it, or shoot back an insult?"
"No. . .not this time, Wise Girl." I looked away, and stared off into the woods as if I was looking at something interesting.
Her eyes bore into my back. I could swear ants were running up and down my spine.
"You know, you would think that after having four, almost five, years you would have a better comeback to 'Seaweed Brain,'" Annabeth laughed, rolling her eyes.
"I gave up, Annabeth." I sighed, "I'm hopeless."
"You really are."
I glared at her. And then after a second we both started laughing. It was nice getting my mind off of the prophecy for a while, and it seemed like Annabeth was the only person who could do that.
"Yeah. . ." I paused, pondering on a thought. "When did you first call me that?"
She laughed again, and the sound wasn't strained. "It was before we left on our first quest. I still remember your genius comeback to this day."
"Hades, yes. That first year was just wild; almost dying everyday, constantly on the run from monsters or mortal police-"
"Don't forget the fact you challenged the god of war to a sword fight. That has to be the stupidest thing you've ever done."
"No, I think challenging Atlas takes the cup."
She snorted. "You seriously need to keep your mouth shut and stop offending immortals. One of these days they're going to lose their patience with you."
I thought for a moment. "Too late now. Ares and Hera are already pissed. And Athena isn't too happy with me either."
Annabeth nodded. "You might as well add Hades to the list."
"Why, what did I do to him?"
"Hades loathes all heroes."
She had a point. Not only did I have to worry about Kronos killing me, but who knows? Maybe someone from my own extended family would do the job for him.
Just my luck. I had some pretty powerful enemies. But having really awesome friends made up for it. I could trust Annabeth to always have my back in a fight.
"You seem pretty distracted tonight, Percy. What's up?"
She snorted. "Nothing? You are never serious about anything, so nothing my ass. Talk, Seaweed Brain. What's going on?"
I fixed my eyes in front of me, "If you really want to know. . .the prophecy, my birthday, the war, my choice. . ."
She took in a breath. "Oh." If I didn't know any better, I'd say that her face has suddenly turned sympathetic.
I hadn't talked about this with anyone, not even Grover, though I was pretty sure he knew something was amiss through the empathy link.
There was another worry to add to the list; the empathy link. He needed to take it off. It couldn't help us anymore, and it made him a bigger target for Luke and Kronos by having it. They could kill him, and it would cripple me without them even having to try and capture me.
Then there was the decision to worry about. I wasn't sure if I trusted myself.
It wasn't likef I was good at making decisions. Even small ones, like driving Paul's car through a whole line of safety cones and trying to decide whether to go left or right. I couldn't make the wrong choice, screw up, and then have my friends pay for it.
"Hello, Percy?" She waved a hand in front my face, smiling. "You kinda zoned out there."
"Right," I focused back towards Annabeth. "Sorry,"
"Seaweed Brain," Annabeth's face turned somewhat serious, "Seriously. Tell me what's on your mind. You've never been so worried about the prophecy, or the war, or any of that stuff, before."
"I know. But, I mean, it's getting closer. I don't have a lot of time left."
I hesitantly began to tell Annabeth everything. She listened intently, her eyes steadily observing my face.
I finished, "And. . .I guess, I am just a little nervous. But I just don't want to make the wrong choice, you know? I just. . .I'm scared that I'll end up making the wrong choice and it will hurt my friends."
When I was done, all of my doubts and fears had been laid out in the open. I felt naked and really embarrassed.
Annabeth didn't say anything for the longest time, I began to worry that she wasn't going to take me seriously, or laugh at me. That would be the ultimate humiliation and betrayal.
"Percy-" she started, but stopped.
I bit my lip and tasted blood. My entire attention was focused on the lake, and how it had gone from orange to dark reddish blue. The wind skimmed the surface of the waters, and ripples ruined the almost perfect mirror of the sky. I heard Annabeth attempt to say something, but then stop, at least twice.
She touched my shoulder, and I slowly turned my head to look at her. Those gray eyes seemed to see right through me.
"I trust you, Percy," she murmured quietly. "You'll make the right choice."
I stared at her, my heart thumping hard. And everything was happening too fast for my mind to comprehend, when Annabeth suddenly leaned in and lightly kissed me on the cheek.
I think my mouth was frozen in a permanent "O".
Annabeth quickly looked away, her cheeks red.
"What was that for?" I blinked.
It took a while, but then Annabeth smiled slowly. "Nothing."
Maybe my mind was just playing tricks with me, but I could swear we shared a quick smile.
"And now," she said playfully. "You will forget that ever happened, and we can go on with life."
Before I could answer, a voice was heard in the distance.
"Hey! Percy, Annabeth! Where are you guys?" It was Grover.
Annabeth looked at his approaching figure and quickly said, "Percy, you better not bring that up again. Just forget it ever happened."
We stood up, and I touched her shoulder. "Too bad. I'm not going to."
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