C l i c k
Seven months after a war to end or save modern civilisation, Annabeth Chase was labouring under the impression that she was in a serious relationship. As it turns out, she's not. Not even close. Why? Because she hasn't had the Click.
She doesn't know what it is. To be honest, she's never even heard of it. All she knows is that she wants it, she's got two weeks to get it - and she's going to get it, whatever the cost.
~ moderate language ~ minor sexual references ~ TLO spoilers ~
Song choice - 'Wild Young Hearts' by The Noisettes
Dedicated to Sam, in the hope that her life-long dreams of being in possession of all the worldly gadgets and of being a member of good will come true - and, of course, that she gets the Click.
C h a p t e r O n e ~ A R e l a t i o n s h i p - y K i n d o f P e r s o n
"'Scuse me! Sorry!" She winced as she squeezed between the pedestrians crowding the sidewalk, ignoring the grunts and shouts of indignation as she pushed through the rabble of people spilling out from the subway entrance. The lights from an overhead sky-scraper caused her to squint as she ploughed on, tripping over a crack in the pavement. "Sorry, I really am in a hurry – sorry, sorry, sorry –"
Thalia was going to kill her.
The biting cold of the January evening pressed like daggers to her cheeks. Annabeth tugged at her school scarf, bringing it higher up her face as the chill set in. She cursed as the bag in her hand toppled to the ground, snatching it up hastily and running on, darting between the people without glancing back. She was only – what? Ten, fifteen minutes late? Surely Thalia would forgive her that – she'd tried so hard to leave early, but things had just over-run...
She spied the restaurant from a few hundred yards away, breaking into a sprint until she reached the doors. She gave herself a quick look-over in the window of a passing car – gods, when did I get so vain? – before pushing open the door and making her way inside.
The warmth of the restaurant seemed to engulf her upon entry. She stood for a moment, panting, clutching the stitch in her side. The two suited businessmen by the window glared at her disapprovingly as she wrestled with her scarf – she spared them a withered glance – as she hung it on the rack by the door.
Tall pillars stretched to the dizzy heights of the rooms' ceiling, swathed in blue gossamer tied at the base. Huge canvases adorned the walls; pictures of heroes and gods, monsters and myths; tables of twos, threes and fours littered across the spacious room. The diners were all immersed in their own conversations as elegantly dressed waiters slid between tables and chairs, their hands held high, clutching rich platters of food and wine. Some rather questionable warbling music echoed from the overhead speakers, broken only by the dull hum of conversation and the scraping of cutlery on plates.
"Look what the cat dragged in."
She rolled her eyes, waving at Thalia from across the room. Thalia raised her eyebrows, folding her arms over her chest as Annabeth approached. She looked the same as ever – tussled, messy dark hair; black t-shirt wishing death to some poor, unassuming soul; silvery ski parka and jeans, with electric blue eyes staring out from beneath the layers of dark eyeliner. Set amongst the other, more smartly-dressed guests she looked somewhat out of place, though Annabeth knew better than to challenge her – defiantly different had always been, and would continue to be, Thalia Grace's trademark.
"I know, I know, I'm late!" Annabeth held up her hands in surrender, dropping the bags at the foot of the chair and collapsing down onto it with as little grace as possible. "I had sports after school, and the stupid coach decided on giving us a rallying pep talk ahead of tomorrow's game, which lasted about as long as the Trojan war." She sighed. "Have you been waiting long?"
Thalia laughed, clear and bright. "Annabeth, I'm immortal. I'm fifteen for eternity. Waiting twenty minutes isn't exactly going to piss me off that much, seen as I'm going to live forever."
"You sound like your singing the words to Fame."
Thalia nudged her with her foot under the table. "Quit with the lip. You may have celebrated more birthdays than me, Chase, but I'm still technically older than you. I'm also armed to the teeth."
"And you think the thing up my sleeve is what, a letter opener?" Annabeth grinned. "Trust me, anymore knife talk, and we'll be thrown out of a fancy place like this in no time." She surveyed the room. "Speaking of which, isn't this a bit too trendy and conventional for your tastes?"
Thalia narrowed her eyes a fraction. "Meaning?"
"Well, it's not got skulls and Greenday posters and mutated Barbie heads hanging off the walls for one."
"I tried to get reservations at that place, but they were full up," Thalia quipped, grinning as she took a sip of her coke. "No, I thought this place sounded good – see? 'Atlantis'. Y'know, after the –"
"– mythological city with huge naval prowess featured in Plato's Timaeus and Critias?" Annabeth glanced once down at the Menu. "Mmm, I know. You know, they're claiming that what now is the modern-day island of Santorini was once the lost island of Atlantis? I read an article about it, because they've found all this evidence from Egyptian philosophers as well as Greek that seem to hint at these ancient latitudes and longitudes."
Thalia wrinkled up her nose. "Whatever, smarty-pants. It sounded Greek, anyway. It was Nico who told me about it."
"Nico?" Annabeth looked up, surprised. "When have you been talking to Nico?!"
Thalia waved her hand dismissively. "I was in Vegas chasing a couple of forty-headed monsters," she said, speaking as casually as one would when discussing the weather. "I swear that kid's trying to out-goth me."
"Not an easy feat."
"Oh, ha-ha. Order up, will you? I'm starving, and unluckily for you I've got one nerve left and you just happen to be getting on it."
"And that's when the freaking thing blew up. It was like some kind of Jello waterfall." Thalia pushed aside her chocolate cake, clutching her stomach. "I think I ate too much. It's been so long since I stopped, I forgot what it was like to sit and stuff your face."
"I've got a baseball game tomorrow," Annabeth groaned, running a hand through her hair and drinking the last of her soda. "How am I supposed to play when I'm the size of the pitch, hmm?"
Thalia smiled. "You'll be fine. Just bounce them out of the way with your stomach."
"So helpful. Thanks." She sat back on her chair. "We should do this more often."
"Do what? Stuff our faces? These ski parkas only go up to a size 14, y'know."
"I mean, we should catch up more often, you air-head."
Thalia shrugged. "Easier said than done, my friend. I'm never in the same place longer than a couple of hours -"
"– and I'm too wrapped up in architecture programs and re-designing Olympus and school and...other stuff." Annabeth sighed. "I know, tell me about it. Go on, you were telling me about recruitment, right?"
"Honestly, I don't blame Artemis for being pissed off about the whole thing," said Thalia, stabbing a cherry from Annabeth's plate and speaking with her mouth full, earning her a disproving glance from the woman next to her. "I mean, recruitment just isn't as easy as it used to be, y'know? I mean, we've not got any unclaimed half-bloods we can pick up anymore, or anything, thanks to a certain Seaweed Brain, and up and down the country girls of ten and eleven – ten years old, for crying out loud – are getting all hung up on boys and dating and god damn romance and just aren't interested in joining up." She punctured another cherry savagely. "It's unreal. I mean, what's so great about men and relationships, for the gods' sakes?"
"Well, I'm no expert..." Annabeth snatched a cherry before Thalia's fork could select another victim. "And maybe two years ago I'd have had to agree with you, but I have to say that there is something to be said about having that feeling of being in a serious relationship. I mean, not when you're that young, but when you're older –"
Thalia furrowed her eyebrows. "When have you ever been in a serious relationship?"
"Hello, what do you think I've been doing for the last seven months?!"
Her companion shrugged, her fork crushing another cherry into the remains of the chocolate sauce in her bowl. "I dunno. I...well, I guess it just never occurred to me that you guys were in a 'serious relationship'."
"I guess..." Thalia hesitated, wrinkling up her nose. "Look, I know you're going to take this the wrong way, but at least try not to, okay? It's just – don't get me wrong, I'm happy for you guys. Well, as happy as you can be for another couple when you're an anti-male, outspoken feminist who has shunned the very idea of a physical relationship for the rest of eternity. But I guess I was just a little surprised you two got together, just because you're not...y'know, exactly a relationship-y kind of person."
Annabeth gaped at her.
"I am a relationship-y kind of person!" she protested, outraged. "Just because I'm not disgustingly gooey and vomit-worthy when it comes to my feelings doesn't make me not cut out to be in a relationship!"
"Alright alright, calm down!" Thalia said hastily, raising her eyebrows.
"I am calm!"
Thalia rolled her eyes. "Go on then," she said looking thoroughly unconvinced. "Prove to me that you're in a serious relationship."
Annabeth looked at her sceptically. "And how am I supposed to do that?"
"Well, are you living together?"
"I'm still at school!"
Thalia sighed. "Just answer the question," she said irritably.
"Well...no, but -"
"Are you in possession of keys to each other's houses/apartments?"
Annabeth rummaged around in her pocket, before proudly producing a set of assorted keys. "See?"
"Yeah, alright, alright." Thalia stopped momentarily to think, her heavily eye-linered eyes narrowing slightly. For a moment, all Annabeth could hear was the sound of a high pitched chirruping noise emanating from the speakers. "Have either of you ever told the other person that you love them?"
"Well...no, but –"
"Have you engaged in any aspect of a sexual relationship with one another?"
Annabeth blushed. "Well...no, but –"
"And finally – have you had the click?"
Thalia shrugged. "You know," she said casually, devouring two cherries at once. "The click."
"What in the name of Athena is the 'click'?"
"You don't know?" Thalia looked surprised. "I would've thought Silena at least would have told you, you knew her well enough. Anyway, I think these girls in the Aphrodite cabin told me about it when we were at the Plaza – you know, last summer?"
"When we were fighting a war that would end civilisation as we know it, yeah."
"Yeah, I don't fuss over details," Thalia said dismissively, stealing the final cherry and toying with it on her spoon. "Anyway, apparently it's this real profound moment in your relationship when everything clicks into place and it's all lovely and wonderful and sparkly – and, more importantly - where you know –" Thalia banged the palm of her hand against the table, "- you're supposed to be with this person for the long run, like the relationship is the Real Deal."
Annabeth stared at her. "How do you know this?" she demanded. "You're never even going to be in a relationship!"
Thalia shrugged. "I'm just a generally awesome and wondrous being, who happens to see-all, know-all, and generally amaze people with my awesome-ness," she said with a grin. "So. Have you had this click thing?"
Annabeth wracked her brains.
Thalia rolled her eyes. "Thought not. Look –" She dragged a pen from her pocket and scrawled a phone number on Annabeth's arm. "This is my cell phone number."
"You have a cell phone?"
"Sure. It's for emergencies and stuff, but I guess this'll be an exception. Don't care about attracting monsters anymore, being immortal kind of takes the pressure off. Anyway. You have one month in which to prove to me that you're in a serious relationship. Actually, scratch that. You've got two weeks."
"How am I supposed to do that in two weeks!?"
"You text me. One word. When you've had the moment."
Annabeth frowned. "Which moment? Which word?"
Thalia grinned, the light from the ceiling making her look almost evil in the silvery glow. She reached for her rucksack, slinging it over her shoulder and pressing a few notes down onto the table. She stood, reaching over and hugging Annabeth goodbye, and as she did so she whispered one word in her ear.
And with that, she vanished – disappearing into a silvery beam of moonlight before Annabeth's very eyes.