Author's Note: Companion piece to Annabeth's Choice. You can read this without the first one, but you'll understand Annabeth's character a bit better if you read her side first. Hopefully this one will clear up any lingering questions about Percy you might have had. Because this is a companion piece, there are number of repeated scenes, but the majority are new scenes. Like the other fic, this one was inspired by the preview chapter of The Last Olympian and the idea of Percy's flaw.
Depending on my schedule, these may be the first in a series of fics centered around love and the other PJO characters, specifically Thalia, Luke, Rachel, and Nico. I'm going to be incredibly busy in the next few weeks, so fan fiction may have to take a backseat. We'll see how it goes.
Warning: This contains a couple of references to the preview chapter of The Last Olympian.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or situations in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
To a fifteen-year-old boy like Percy Jackson, love is as unfathomable as the deepest parts of the sea.
It's not that he's unfamiliar with love, because he's certainly been spoiled with it compared to other half-bloods. Love's just such a strange and unknowable subject, different for each person and always changing with the times. Is love his mother's blue chocolate chip cookies or his father's pride in his abilities? Is love comparable to Grover's constant craving for enchiladas or Tyson's skill in their father's forge? Or can love be disguised as an exasperated smirk and a half-hearted insult?
Percy has no answers, and neither does any of the romantic comedies his mother forces he and Paul to watch nor the books with swooning heroines he picks up on whim while in line at the grocery store. But what fifteen-year-old demigod understands love, except for maybe the children of Aphrodite?
For a while, he thinks he doesn't need to understand love. He has it, and that's all that matters. Then, out of the blue, Annabeth Chase stops talking to him and he becomes obsessed with the how's and why's of love.
He doesn't understand why she's doing this to him now, when he needs her and her strength the most. They've always been at the each other's side, ready for anything evil and Olympus could throw at them, and now she's gone because of Luke.
Well, he isn't positive that's the reason she's not talking to him, but what else could it be? The only thing they've ever seriously disagreed about was Luke, and now that Kronos is in Luke's body and Percy has to kill them both, Annabeth has to pick the one she loves the most.
It isn't Percy, and he wants to know why.
What has Luke done to earn Annabeth's unconditional love that Percy hasn't? How can she still love him, despite all the things he's done and the lives he's ruined? Does Percy have to become a traitor for Annabeth to love him?
Everything changes that day on Half-Blood Hill and the less he hears from Annabeth in the following months, the more he becomes convinced she hates him because of his stupid destiny. He tries to hate her too, so she'll know exactly how it feels, but it's hard to hate someone from so far away and when that someone doesn't answer any angry phone calls.
Because there's a distinct, Annabeth-shaped hole in his life, Percy finds himself spending more time with Rachel Elizabeth Dare. She's fun, a little bit weird and so not Annabeth it's refreshing. Rachel keeps his mind off Annabeth and everything half-blood related; he feels normal with her and that's a blessing considering his life is about to turn upside down.
Rachel's his new support system, his new best friend, and a selfish part of him wants nothing more than to rub their relationship in Annabeth's face when he gets back to camp. See, he doesn't need her and he can prove it!
But then he gets to camp, sees how unhappy Annabeth is and can't do it. She's absolutely miserable because of him and what he has to do. It makes him hate Annabeth even more that she makes him feel guilty. He doesn't want to be cause of her misery; he wants to make her happy and he just doesn't know how to do that!
The summer doesn't pass fast enough for him, and he leaves much earlier than he had planned because he's going to snap and do…do something like create an awkward scene at dinner by shouting at (or maybe just kissing) Annabeth if he stays another day.
He spends his last days with Rachel, soaking up the normality, and its perfect until Beckendorf shows up on Blackjack to take him back to camp. Rachel kisses him and…
Well, he's not sure if his feelings for her are romantic, but he thinks they can end up being that way if he really wants them to.
Camp Half-Blood is in a bit of disarray when he and Beckendorf get back. A monster had breached the borders and been vanquished, Artemis's hunters had appeared sans their goddess leader and were squabbling with the Aphrodite cabin already, and Nico di Angelo and a troop of skeleton warriors had shown up in the arena, all within in an hour.
Nico latches onto Percy immediately, and they head up to the main house where Thalia and Annabeth are sitting on the porch. The girls stop talking as they approach and Percy just knows they're talking about him.
"Ready to go to war, Seaweed Brain?" Thalia asks, smiling grimly at him.
"As ready as I'll ever be," he replies, ignoring Annabeth as she gets up to leave. He can't help himself, though, and he looks back at her retreating figure as he, Nico and Thalia go into the main house.
Mr. D's already gone and Chiron gives him the long-overdue prophecy: The children of the Big Three, plus two others, have until Percy's birthday five days from now to get to San Francisco and kill Kronos, otherwise Olympus falls, the Earth splits and the human race dies out. Percy thinks the Oracle could've gone a bit lighter with the Doom and Gloom in this one.
"You two in?" Percy asks, turning to Thalia and Nico. Even if they don't have a choice otherwise, he still feels it's right to ask.
"Of course," Nico says hesitantly.
"No place I'd rather be," Thalia adds, cracking her knuckles. Percy feels the air hum with energy and knows Thalia's been preparing for this as long as he has.
By process of elimination, Percy decides the other two coming with them will be Grover and Rachel. Nico seems surprised that Annabeth won't be coming along the quest, and Thalia, who he expected to protest her exclusion, just voices her disgust at Rachel's selection.
"What good can a mortal do us?" she sneers and Percy hopes she won't act this way in front of Rachel.
They decide to leave in the dead of night, flying by Pegasi to New York to pick up Rachel and going as far as they can before Blackjack and his friends get tired. Then they're on their own.
"We won't make an announcement until later, in case of spies," Chiron says. "Make your goodbyes as discretely as possible."
He gives Percy a pointed look, and Percy doesn't say anything. There isn't anyone at camp he really wants to say goodbye to anyway.
At sunset, there's a knock at Percy's cabin door. He hastily kicks his bag of supplies under his bed and out of sight, and turns around. Annabeth's standing in the doorway, illuminated in the dying light, and the sight of her takes his breath away, for more than one reason.
It's the most he's said to her in weeks. He runs a hand through his hair, just so he has something to do besides stand and stare.
"I talked to Thalia," she says, stepping across the threshold. "I just…I just wanted to give you this."
She pulls her Yankee's cap out from behind her back and Percy just stares at it for a long time. He's of half a mind to say, "No thanks," and shoo her out, but it's her mother's gift and he knows how much it means to her. Besides, she's making a gesture of friendship and he needs that more than anything else right now.
"Thanks," he says with a sincere smile. When he takes her cap from her, their fingers brush and she snatches her hand away, a guilty expression crossing her face.
They stand in another awkward silence and Percy wants to say something, but he doesn't know what. Sorry your true love's a jerk and I have to kill him? Why didn't you pick me? I love –
Annabeth makes her move first, crossing the distance between them and hugging him fiercely. Percy's too shocked to hug her back, but he says, "Annabeth – "
"Good luck and be safe, Percy," she whispers against the crook of his neck. She lets go, gives him one last watery smile and then she's gone as fast as she appeared, leaving Percy more confused than ever before.
"I don't understand," Percy says a day later, twisting the cap round and round in his hands. "She hates me."
Beside him, Thalia snorts and rolls her eyes, the silver circlet on her head glinting in the firelight. The other three have gone to bed, and he and Thalia are on the first watch of the night.
"Annabeth doesn't hate you, Seaweed Brain. Anyone with eyes can see that," she says impatiently. "She's just doing what she's thinks is best."
"And that's what, sitting at camp and moping about Luke?" he snaps before he can stop himself. He knows Luke is still a sore subject for the girl, so he starts to apologize, but she cuts him off.
"It's a good thing she didn't come then, seeing as though we can't have anyone who's going to hesitate on the final blow because of lingering feelings," she says with steel in her voice, reminding Percy that she certainly won't hesitate. "Besides, the Oracle said she couldn't come, remember?"
Percy can't recall any of lines of the prophecy directly referring to Annabeth. He goes over it several times in his head before he gives up and asks Thalia what she's talking about.
"The last lines, the ones that meant Tyson couldn't go too," she clarifies. "'But the darkness shall win the day, if the hero's heart and blood come along the way.' Who else do you think it meant?"
He hopes its dark enough to hide the blush of embarrassment that floods his cheeks. In truth, he hadn't thought much about the 'heart' part of the Oracle's prophecy and even if he had, it isn't the reason he didn't ask Annabeth to come.
He rubs his fingers over the Yankee's insignia on Annabeth's worn cap as he says, "That could mean any one of you. You all have a piece of my heart."
That's true enough. Nico, Rachel, Gover and Thalia are all his friends, and he loves them more than anything else. Surely his love for Annabeth couldn't be much different.
Thalia shakes her dark head. "Not as big of piece as Annabeth's."
"I don't love her," Percy says, although something in his chest aches in protest. "She is – was my friend, that's all."
"She's still your friend."
Percy scoffs loudly at this. "Yeah, a friend who hasn't talked to me in a year because I have to kill her one true love. Did you think she was a really great friend when she got you turned into a tree?"
It speaks to Thalia's newfound maturity that she doesn't shock him like she used to after he gets done with his short tirade. But Percy thinks he would've preferred the shock to the slap across the face he gets instead. He's forgotten what an arm Thalia has.
Percy rubs his sore cheek, glowering at her, but doesn't say anything. He's not going to apologize for what he said because some part of him, the nasty, selfish part that hates Annabeth, meant every word of it.
Thalia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, willing herself to calm down so she doesn't hit him again.
"Jackson, what's your fatal flaw again?" she asks in a level voice, her eyes still closed.
"Personal loyalty," Percy's cheek stings as he frowns. "I still don't understand why that's a flaw though."
"Do I have to spell it out for you, Captain Oblivious?" Thalia replies and opens her blue eyes to glare at him. "Love blinds you. The more you love someone, the more you're willing to risk and someone who's important to you might not be in the grand scheme of things. You can throw your sorry carcass in front of me all you want, but you sacrifice won't mean shit if it causes the end of the world." She lets out a huff, as if she's been holding that in for ages. "Besides that, it's a pretty obvious flaw compared to something like hubris or holding grudges. Kronos already knows, and so does Annabeth."
"What, so she stopped being my friend because she thinks I'd risk the fate of West on her?" Percy demands, feeling anger surge within him again. "That is so stupid."
Why is it always his fault? Why can't anyone blame Luke like they should, instead of placing all the blame on Percy's shoulders? He's only fifteen and he shouldn't be punished for what he doesn't understand about love. None of this is fair to him.
And who's Thalia to lecture him about personal loyalty anyway? She's the one who got turned into a tree because she wouldn't leave her friends behind. Then again, Thalia's not the child of prophecy - he is.
"I wouldn't do that," Percy says at length. "And she knows it."
Thalia shrugs and gets to her feet. She gives him a hard look, as if she can tell what he's thinking, and then says, "Well, I'd think otherwise too if a boy trekked across the country to hold up the sky for me."
She walks back to the tents and leaves Percy sitting by the fire, his mind going in a million directions, and Annabeth's cap still in his hands.
He keeps thinking about what Thalia said about Annabeth and his fatal flaw during their walk the next day, and the next night before he goes to bed.
Would he risk the fate of the entire would because of one person? He's thought about dying in someone else's place several times in the past, and he's never thought about the consequences of his actions beforehand. Now that the weight of the world rests on his shoulders, would he do the same, knowing he'd be dooming everyone else?
It kills him to even consider letting the others die on the quest if he can't save them because of his stupid destiny, but he knows they'd kill him if he, as Thalia so succinctly put it, throws his sorry carcass in front of one of them.
He's already lost his mother and Tyson once, and he doesn't think it'd be any easier the second time, yet when he imagines saving his mother from death, he doesn't see pride on her face. He sees disappointment in her son for making the most selfish choice imaginable as the world crumbles around them.
Percy doesn't have to think about what he'd do if Annabeth was put in that situation, seeing as though both she and Thalia have figured it out for him. Apparently she's the one person he would risk it all for, and maybe he would've a year or so ago when he thought he might love her. He'd always been there for her when she needed him, but it when it was his turn, she was nowhere to be found.
He wouldn't risk it for this new Annabeth, this selfish girl who had inhabited his best friend's body and left him out in the cold during the toughest year of his life.
And maybe, the little corner of his heart that doesn't hate Annabeth whispers right before he falls asleep, that's what she wanted all along.
What Percy thinks he'll do in the quiet of the night and what he actually does during the heat of battle turn out to be two radically different things.
The five of them have reached Kronos' throne room, all of them – even Rachel – fighting tooth and nail against the Titan lord's minions. Percy slays the final Fury in his way and gets his first view of the monster on the throne –
And he stops dead when he sees a bruised and battered Annabeth sitting at Kronos's feet, a Celestial Bronze chain wrapped around her neck. Something tells him that it doesn't make sense that she's there, but his heart's screams of agony and grief are the only thing he's listening to.
Because Kronos has Annabeth at his mercy and that can only mean one thing: Camp Half-Blood has been destroyed and they're the last ones left.
"Ah, Perseus Jackson and friends. Welcome!" Kronos booms in a voice that still contains traces of Luke.
He waves one of his hands; Percy hears shouts from behind him and glances over his shoulder. The Titan minions are gone, but the other four are trapped, chained to the columns holding up the throne room. Percy is the last one standing, the only one left to fight.
"See, my dear? I told you he'd come."
Percy turns back just as Kronos tugs on the chain, and Annabeth gasps, clawing at the band on her neck that's choking and killing her and Percy can't save her –
"Stop it!" Percy shouts, Riptide falling to his side as panic and horror overcome him. Annabeth can't die; he won't let her die! "Stop it, please!"
"I so do love making heroes beg," Kronos says with a smirk and slackens his hold. Annabeth falls forward, coughing and chest heaving. "Will you give up now, Percy Jackson, or shall I have to kill your friend here first?"
Kronos runs his fingers through Annabeth's ponytail, taunting him.
Percy suddenly finds that he's the one who can't breathe, that the ache in his chest is too great to overcome. His fatal flaw is staring him in the face, and he knows what choice he's going to make. Because no matter what Annabeth said or didn't say in the last year, no matter how many times she ignored him or how many times he insisted he hated her, she's still the girl he loves above all else and he can't live in a world without her.
"Percy!" Nico's shout breaks through the buzzing in his head briefly. "Percy, she's not real! Don't listen to him!"
Something inside him agrees. This situation is entirely too contrived to be…
"Real? Oh, she's definitely real, Son of Hades," Kronos replies, grabbing Annabeth's sword arm and squeezing it hard. A sound like a gunshot splits the air and Annabeth screams, her arm broken and twisted.
"No!" Percy shouts, stumbling forward. His heart is repeating the same mantra over and over again, all other thoughts forgotten: Annabeth can't die; he won't let her die!
"What will it be, Son of Poseidon? Shall we break another arm or have you had enough?"
Why do you have to be the one to sacrifice everything? a nasty voice in the back of mind asks. What has the West and the Olympians ever done for you?
"I – I – "
The voice has a point. Percy's just been a tool in the god's power plays. Why should he let Annabeth die just so the gods could keep their civilization? It isn't fair. He deserves to have Annabeth in his life, one little thing to call his own –
"Don't do it, Percy!" Grover yells. "That's not Annabeth!"
"And who else would it be?" Kronos continues, cupping Annabeth's face in his hands. She flinches away from his touch and pure hatred burns in Percy's chest. "Make the right choice, Perseus. Give up now, and I'll let the both of you live. You can be together, at my side…"
Percy hesitates. Would it really be so bad to let Kronos win? He'll let Percy have Annabeth and as long as he has her, nothing else matters.
"Her cap, Seaweed Brain!" Thalia screams, sobs in her voice. "Look at her cap!"
Kronos says something to Thalia and her voice becomes muffled, but Percy's attention has been drawn away from them. His eyes are focused and frozen on the crumpled Yankees cap at Annabeth's feet, the same Yankees cap that has been stuffed under his armor right by his heart for days. It's a one of a kind gift from her mother, and if he has the real one…
That means Camp Half-Blood is still standing, that is all a trick and the real Annabeth is a three thousand miles from here, safe from harm. He almost collapses to the floor, the relief flooding his system is so strong.
"You're not Annabeth," he breathes, the terrible ache in his chest receding. "You're not Annabeth!"
How could he have ever been fooled? Annabeth's eyes aren't that flat, steel grey and there are subtle differences about her, like she was designed by someone who hasn't looked at her properly in years.
"You've made your choice then?" Kronos asks, his voice as cold as ice. Filled with renewed determination, Percy nods. "I hope you make her sacrifice worthwhile, half-blood."
"Percy!" Annabeth sobs in horror as Kronos's hands wrap around her neck. Percy has a momentary flash of doubt and he opens his mouth to tell Kronos to wait, but the Titan Lord has already snapped Annabeth's neck.
Even if it's not the real Annabeth, watching her look-a-like slump to the floor and stare at him with dead, empty eyes is the hardest thing Percy has ever had to do. The brutality of it leaves him shocked, blind to everything else around him and deaf except for her dying scream ringing in his ears.
When he becomes aware of himself again, Kronos is standing over him with Backbiter in hand, and his friends are screaming for him.
"Goodbye, Perseus Jackson, Would-Be Hero of Olympus," he says, raising the blade overhead.
Percy knows he doesn't have the time to raise Riptide to block or to move out of the way of a killing blow. His fate is sealed, and he has failed the West because of loyalty and love –
But then a paint-splattered tennis shoe flies out of nowhere and hits Kronos in the face. It doesn't do much, other than draw his attention away from Percy for one moment.
"You again!" he snarls, just as the shoe's mate knocks Backbiter out of his hands and sends it flying across the throne room.
Kronos howls in annoyance as Rachel grabs Percy and pulls him out of harm's way behind a support column. It won't hide them for very long, but it's just enough time for Percy to get his senses back and shake off any of Kronos's remaining influence.
"That idiot forgot that mortals can pass through Celestial Bronze," Rachel says before he can even ask. There are tear tracks on her face, and Percy briefly wonders what caused them: the way he almost killed them all or the fact that Rachel now knows that he'd never sacrifice everything for her. "You still have the real Annabeth's cap? Because we've got a plan…"
The plan is so simple, so easy, Percy expects Kronos to figure out it immediately.
He doesn't, and the West lives on.
The first thing Percy wants to do when he gets back to Camp Half-Blood on the night of his sixteenth birthday is look for Annabeth. Even though he knows Kronos was lying and that that thing wasn't Annabeth, he has to be certain because if they – if he was wrong…
The campers have planned a huge, celebratory bonfire though, and he can't escape the crowd of well-wishers who insist on hoisting him on their shoulders every five seconds, patting him on the back and making him re-tell every gruesome detail of their adventure. He starts to get anxious after an hour with no Annabeth in sight, but surely someone would have told him if she had disappeared. Wouldn't they?
It's only when things die down a bit and the crowds part to give Nico, Thalia and Grover their own share of the spotlight does he spot her, hovering at the each of the bonfire, as if she doesn't know where she belongs. It's such a relief to see her up and breathing, not pale and lifeless on the floor, his knees buckle and he has to put his hand on Rachel's shoulder for balance.
Their eyes meet, and he nods. She returns the gesture and before he can do anything else, Rachel draws his attention and he glances away for just a moment. When he looks back, Annabeth has disappeared.
Instinctively, he knows where she's gone and he excuses himself to follow her into the woods. He's halfway up Half-Blood Hill when he hears distant sobs, and by the time he reaches the clearing with Thalia's tree, the sobs have become the most heart wrenching sounds he's ever heard.
Annabeth's form is illuminated in the moonlight; she's kneeled at the base of the tree, her head in her hands and crying so hard she's shaking. Percy's never seen her lose it this bad, not even when he saved her from the Sirens. What could be worse than losing your greatest dream?
Being in love with the one person in the world who doesn't love you back, that little corner of his heart replies. Percy tells it to shut up already because if it had understood anything at all, he could've avoided this situation altogether.
He approaches her quietly and sits beside her, saying nothing for a very long time. It hurts to see her in pain like this and to not do anything. But what can he do to comfort her? They're not the close any more, he reminds himself, and maybe she won't want him to touch her.
Whatever happens here tonight, Percy decides suddenly, he just wants to walk away being Annabeth's friend again. He can deal with his stupid feelings for her later, just as long as he knows she's in his life and by his side.
Her sobs begin to slow and then become less frequent. Her shaking becomes trembling and soon she's quiet except for a few sniffles now and again. Percy opens his mouth several times during this period, but nothing comes out. When he finally summons the courage to say something to her, he says the worst possible thing imaginable.
"I'm sorry about Luke."
He can't believe he even managed to sound bitter about it too. Percy wants to hit himself.
"It was never about Luke, you idiot," Annabeth croaks, her voice muffled by her hands.
Percy blinks, taken aback.
She pulls her hands away from her face and looks up at him. Her cheeks are splotchy and wet, eyes swollen and red, but Percy still thinks she's one of the prettiest girls he's ever known.
"You. It's always been you."
She could've stabbed him through the heart with Backbiter and it wouldn't have had near the same effect on it as her words did. He has to fight to stay in control of all the conflicting emotions rising like the tides within him. The angry, hurt side of him is stronger than the rejoicing little piece of his heart though.
"But I thought you hated me! You stopped talking to me, Annabeth!" he bursts out, unable to help himself. "You abandoned me…and now you're saying what, exactly? That you love me?"
Annabeth stares at him, tears still streaming from her eyes, and nods.
"You sure have a funny way of showing it!" he snaps, opening his big mouth when he shouldn't again.
He sees the anger flash in Annabeth's gray eyes, and he quickly realizes that just because she's crying doesn't mean she's going to sit back and take whatever he dishes out.
"Do you think I enjoyed putting you through all that? I was trying to protect you!" Annabeth replies, the vehemence in her voice shocking him. "I – I thought your fatal flaw was the people you love, so I made you hate me so you wouldn't do something ridiculous, like sacrifice yourself for me! I didn't want to see you die because of me. I couldn't bear it!"
Percy's temper dies as soon as it arose. He takes all of this in without saying a word because, really, what can he say to that? It's the cold, hard truth of the matter. It doesn't mean that her plan isn't any less stupid and painful, but now it makes sense. At least most of it does.
"But…why did you think I loved you?"
He's always thought he's done a pretty good job of hiding his feelings for Annabeth, so how does everyone else know? His fatal flaw can't be that obvious…
She stifles a sob and Percy realizes how cold that must have sounded.
"Does it matter? I made my choice and I was wrong," she says softly, sounding worn and defeated. "Love isn't your weakness – it's your strength. Rachel's love saved you in the end, not mine."
That isn't right, Percy thinks. Rachel bought him time, but if it hadn't been for Annabeth's gift, they'd all be dead.
"It wasn't Rachel," he says slowly, shaking his head. He pauses, making sure he has the words right, and presses on. "There was a line in the prophecy…'Love's token will send the Titan Lord to his doom.'"
He fishes her Yankee's cap out of his pocket, where it's been the entire time, and places it in her lap gently. She stares at it, and he sees comprehension begin to flicker on her face.
"And I wanted to hate you, I really did, but…I almost did give everything up for you," she draws in a sharp breath and he swallows the lump in his throat at the memory. "If it had really been you, I would have done it in a heartbeat."
"Why?" she asks in a broken voice.
It's the same question he's been asking himself for the past twelve months, and he finally knows the answer.
He touches her arm and pulls her in close, staring into her puffy gray eyes.
He kisses her then, like he's been meaning to for the last five years he's known her and she's kissing him back with her hands sliding into his hair, and it's the best Percy's felt in a year.
Percy Jackson may only be a sixteen-year-old boy, but he finally understands that love is how he feels whenever Annabeth Chase is in his arms.
Thanks for reading and please review. Be on the lookout for future installments of this series - Thalia's Duty and Luke's Desire - at a later date.