A/N: Character Death
The tick of the clock reigned over the room. Annabeth's pale eyes followed the second hand with persistence, her ears unable to bear the sound without the image to accompany it. She had always been very visual, after all.
Dr. Castellan was filling out paper work in the other room. Those files would decide the fate of their latest patient, she knew. This always happened, every time someone was brought in. There was a waiting period, a purgatory of sorts, and then they – or Dr. Castellan, rather – decided what to do. It was a unique and seemingly skeptical method, but Annabeth had learned not to question it. While he worked in mysterious ways, the doctor was one of the brightest in the psych ward field.
She was sweating profusely now, nibbling on the inside flesh of her cheek. It had been twenty minutes, which was a good fifteen minutes longer than usual. What was taking him so long?
She locked her fingers in straight lines, hoping to calm herself. These moments, right before the patient's destination was determined, were always painful ones. She grew attached to them, you see. The patients made strange company, but her pity for them nearly always endeared them to her. Many of them had been through more than she could imagine.
"Alright, Annabeth," Dr. Castellan said, returning. "Have a seat." He ignored the fact that she was already settled in a chair. He smiled warmly, his usual bravado evident. Annabeth blushed, in spite of herself, trying to ignore their ambiguous history. After all, in these situations he was her boss.
"Now, tell me how it's been going with," his eyes flickered to the files, "Percy Jackson."
Annabeth cleared her throat, lifting her chin just a little bit higher. She'd prepared for this. "Things are okay. He seems fairly lucid, most of the time."
"Does he?" Dr. Castellan mused softly, almost as if he were patronizing her.
"Yes," Annabeth repeated firmly, "He could be any average guy, a lot of the time. He's funny, he's sarcastic. He's made friends with some other patients."
"And when do his hallucinations come in?" the doctor inquired, coming very close to interrupting her.
She paused a moment, wondering if she should persist about Percy's good qualities. They deserved to be heard, she thought. Finally, she gave a small cough and obeyed the question. "Well, even as he's like this - acting normal, I mean – he has these delusions about the world."
"Explain," the doctor said, putting a pen to the paper. Annabeth's jaw swiveled on its hinges, ready to protest. He was only writing down that part? But that wouldn't do any good, not if they wanted to help the man. He was the doctor though, and past experience had taught her to listen to him.
"He thinks he's the son of a Greek deity," Annabeth explained, a smile twitching on her lips. "Poseidon, I think. He talks about the water a lot."
"Really?" He was smiling too, as if they were sharing a private joke. It was always wrong to poke fun at the residents, but this seemed to be a different case. "Well, that's a new one, isn't it?"
"Yes," Annabeth replied, her grin vanishing as soon as it had come. "He does have family, though. A mother, and a stepfather."
"Have they visited?"
"A few times, actually. The mother says that she thinks this is because of his father."
"Apparently the man died shortly after his mother became pregnant. Obviously, they've never met."
"How sad," Dr. Castellan interjected, sounding sorrowful rather than sincere.
Annabeth nodded. "And these delusions started years ago, apparently. At first he wasn't dangerous, though."
"So they didn't bring him in?"
"No. He had lots of problems in school. He was dyslexic, and he had… behavioral dilemmas. They thought it would complicate things if they took him to a doctor."
Dr. Castellan sighed, rubbing his temples. "How wrong they were. Alright, anything else?"
"One more thing," Annabeth said softly, ignoring the second thing that was stowed to the left of her mind. "When he goes into the delusions, really into them, I mean, he gets a bit confused."
"About his age," Annabeth replied, staring down at the linoleum tiles. "He thinks he's sixteen."
The doctor made a suspicious sound, doing a poor job of stifling a laugh. Annabeth frowned, irked by his tactlessness. This is why they'd broken up, her conscious chanted. "And how old is he really?" the doctor asked.
"Thirty three," Annabeth replied.
"Well," Dr. Castellan said, a touch of humor to his voice. "That's quite a discrepancy. Is there any particular reason?"
"I'm not sure, to be honest," Annabeth said. "He thinks he's at camp, and there's something to do with a war. And a prophecy," she added, in a low voice. She was leaving out the most important part, she knew. She was leaving out the part that would get him transferred to the terminal section.
"Greek deities, camp, war and prophecies," the doctor said. He cracked yet another grin, and Annabeth's skin prickled. For al of his brilliance, he could be so slimy. "That sounds like a book. You're sure he isn't just a fantasy addict?"
"Pretty sure," Annabeth responded dryly. "Is there anything else, doctor?" she asked, the last word poignant. They were no longer on casual terms, after all.
"Uh, no I think that's it," Dr. Castellan said, his smile gone as well. "How about we give it another week, and see how it goes. Then we can decide."
"Okay," Annabeth said, swallowing painfully. It already felt like a death sentence. This man was certainly not curable, and if he wasn't curable, the only place to go was the permanent ward. That would label him as terminal.
Still, she held her posture with distinction as she left the room. She had protected him, to the best of her ability. She hadn't told the doctor that Percy Jackson dreamt of the two of them, shouting things about monsters and betrayal. And he'd never met the doctor before.
"Here," she said, sitting beside him. "Would you like orange juice?'
"No thank you," Percy replied, shaking his head. He was smiling. "I'm not very thirsty."
"Okay," Annabeth said, sighing. He never wanted what they brought him.
"How did the meeting with Luke go?" Percy asked.
Annabeth snapped back to his bedside, momentarily stunned. "What? How did you know his first name?"
"I told you Annabeth," Percy said steadily, "He used to be our friend. But then he betrayed us, and went to join Kronos. You still like him, though. You can't say no to him, even though you and I are meant to be together."
Annabeth took a deep breath, trying desperately to separate the psychotic rambling from the bits that felt like he was reading her mind. "Percy, how did you all of that?" she whispered, silently referring to the part about her feelings for Luke. Percy seemed to know that's what she meant, too.
"It's so obvious," Percy replied, sounding angry. "You won't kill him. You cared more about him becoming Kronos than you do about the prophecy." He sounded so genuinely hurt; it wasn't as if he was insane at all.
"Oh Percy," Annabeth said, sitting beside him. Just for today, she would humor him. "I do care about you. And the prophecy, I promise." She smiled, relaxing as his anger lines melted away. It was odd; he never understood that they didn't believe his stories.
"Really? We can be together then?"
"Y-yes," Annabeth replied, shakily. She felt her heart squirm, hurting just a little bit, as he scooted over to make room for her on the bed.
"You choose me over Luke?"
Yes, Annabeth thought. She'd already done that, hadn't she, by not telling Luke about their involvement in the delusions.
"Yes," she said, as smoothly as she could. "I choose you."
There was a split second pause, as Percy seemed to snap out of it. Not out of his story, you see - that was always present. He always thought that he was a son of Poseidon, the sea god. But he only ever referenced the other things, such as Annabeth's feelings for Dr. Castellan, when he was truly hallucinating.
He smiled, rubbing at his dark hair. Unlike some of the other patients, he took showers and remained fairly hygienic. He was almost handsome, his adult face looking young for its age. "I'll - I'll have some of that juice now, if it's okay."
"Sure," Annabeth said, recognizing that he was back to normal. She walked over to the cart, pulling it towards them. The aroma of second-rate sausages and toast hit her nostrils, and she quickly clapped a hand to her face. Maybe it was the food that pushed them over the edge, she thought.
"Hey Annabeth, can I ask you a question?" Percy asked, sipping the juice from the paper cup. They ought to switch to porcelain, Annabeth thought to herself. It was better for the environment.
"Of course," she answered kindly. "That's what I'm here for."
"Okay," Percy said slowly, as if he was thinking this over. "Well… I was wondering why you didn't go to architectural school. That's all you ever wanted to be, right? An architect?"
She nearly fell over, scanning her brain for any recollection of when she might have told him this. Never… she thought. She'd never told him about her failed dreams, or her father's wishes. She'd become a nurse for him, after the doctors had been unable to save her mother… He'd said he wanted someone competent in the field. He'd died though, before he could see that she was in the psych ward rather than a hospital.
Percy was watching her closely, somehow able to see the flickering inside her retina. He could read her like a book.
"There was a lot of trouble in my family, Percy," Annabeth explained. She rubbed her hands together, feeling far too tired to tell him the story. It always made people uncomfortable. They would wince, and pretend that it didn't bother them, even thought it did.
"Incest, you see," she said, "On my mom's side. And my great grandfather… my mom's grandpa, he didn't like it. Not that anyone can blame him," she remarked, glancing up at the whitewashed ceiling. "He killed my mom, and a few of her siblings. The doctors couldn't save her, and my dad never really got over it. He wanted me to try and be better than they were." Her eyes helplessly filled with tears, and she fought them back. It was hard to talk about, but somehow she didn't mind sharing her stories with the patients. They had stories too, you see.
"Her grandpa killed her?" Percy asked, suddenly sounding panicked. Annabeth bit down her own worry, wondering if she had disgusted him, or if this was something else. Had she triggered his delusions?
He reached out a hand, waving it desperately. Annabeth grabbed it with both of hers, holding onto it tightly. She had gotten an award once, for being the best at calming the residents.
"It's okay," she said, slowly. He was flailing around in the bed, kicking at the blankets with his feet.
"No it isn't," he said, angry once again. "That's what happened to my dad, too. And I have to go and kill him now."
"Your dad's dead, Percy…" Annabeth said, gripping his hand as tightly as she could. Usually that would settle people, if they realized that they had an anchor to the real world.
"No, not my dad! I have to avenge my dad! I have to kill Luke!"
At this, a nurse from the third floor came hurrying into the room.
"Dr. Castellan wants to see you," she said, glancing to Annabeth with furrowed eyebrows.
It was Thalia, one of the other contenders for the doctor's romantic interest. She had lost out to Annabeth though, and had been bitter ever since.
"Please Thalia," Annabeth said desperately. She was beside Percy now, holding him in an attempt to make him stay still. "Tell him a few more minutes. Percy's upset."
"You want me to say exactly that?" Thalia asked. She was already softening, her sympathy frothing and flowing into her tone. Only people with hearts could take the jobs like theirs.
Annabeth's mind reeled, trying to decide what would hurt the fewest amount of people. "Yes please."
"Alright," Thalia said, sighing. She glanced at Percy, who was now shouting about golden eyes. "Good luck."
She left, and Annabeth returned to her attempt at restraining Percy. "Please Percy," she said, as if asking him to quit pretending. "Stop." The word did wonders, turning his head towards her.
"Is Grover okay?"
"Grover…" she said. He'd mentioned him a few times too, always talking about him and Annabeth in similar context. "He needs you to calm down," she improvised. "He said you're hurting him."
"Oh." Percy's muscular frame instantly relaxed, his body sagging in exhaustion. "Okay. Tell him I'm sorry."
"I will," she replied, weakly. It brought so much guilt, patronizing the patients the way she did.
She sighed, relieved that she didn't have to ask for help. They would just administer pills, which she knew Percy didn't need.
"I'll be back in a little while," she said. "I have to go see Dr. Castellan."
"Luke?" He looked worried.
She leaned over, surprising herself when she pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Don't worry," she said, her chest aching. "Remember, I choose you."
"Doctor?" she asked, opening the door lightly. He hadn't responded to her knock.
"Ah, Annabeth. Yes, sorry, I was lost in thought."
She smiled awkwardly. "That happens. Um, I'm sorry for the wait. I was with Percy."
"Yes, Thalia mentioned… Is he alright?" She didn't miss his hawk-like eyes, narrowing in on her in attempts to extract the truth from her calm front. The way he squinted, they did almost look golden.
"He's fine," Annabeth said. "He was just afraid. Dreaming, I think…" The last part was a complete lie, but a harmless one, she knew. Perhaps she'd been spending too much time with Percy, but suddenly she didn't trust him all the way through. They'd broken up on even terms, but she'd heard reports that he had cheated on her with other girls. Thalia, for one.
"Dreaming? Really?" He sounded surprised, rather than suspicious, and she felt badly. He did respect her, she knew.
"Yes, I think so."
"Oh… because I thought I had a lead on his problem."
"A lead?" Annabeth asked, confused. "What is it?"
"I knew a case once… that was, ah, similar to his."
"Who?" she said, already eyeing the file cabinet on the wall.
"My mother." He looked pained, stretched to be telling her this. She already knew a little bit, though. He'd mentioned it before, about his reason for joining the practice. They'd both joined because of their parents, he'd told her, they had lots in common. But that had been back when they were dating.
"She read a lot of mythology," he said. "And she talked about prophecies, a lot of the time. And sometimes, she would mention the gods. I wonder if they have a similar disease?"
"Disease…" Annabeth repeated, thinking to herself. No, that didn't seem right. Percy's fits had no relation to illness. They were pure fear, she thought. Panic attacks, even. Usually they occurred because people didn't believe him, or because somebody mentioned war or Luke.
"I'm going to do some research," Dr. Castellan said, sounding anguished. "And I'll tell you what I find."
See, Annabeth thought, trying to justify her debris of feelings for him. He cares sometimes.
"Goodnight doctor," she said, giving him a wave and a half-smile.
A week passed, and Luke had slyly snuck other assignments into Annabeth's schedule. She attended Nico di Angelo now, rather than Percy. It had been a quick move, and one that she wasn't able to protest. Thalia was with Percy now.
Nico suffered from depression and trauma rather than delusion, but they lived in a small town, and it seemed that the psych ward would be the best place for him.
"Hi…" He was staring out the window, eyes cloudy. Quite the opposite of Percy, he hardly took care of himself at all anymore. His hair was matted, his room's stench growing fouler by the day. "What's for breakfast?" he asked.
He made a face. "No thank you. Last time they weren't fully cooked." Like Percy, he held the art of wit and sarcasm rather closely, and managed to have full conversations with people. He paused, turning to Annabeth. "Can I ask you a question?"
She closed her eyes, recognizing that that was Percy's favorite phrase. Questions, questions, always questions. No one had any answers in that place.
"Sure," she said, masquerading her practiced brightness. "What is it?"
"Not that I don't like having you around, but why are you here all of a sudden?"
"Yeah," Nico replied. "I mean, I'm just curious."
"Right." Curiosity. It was so refreshing, that she couldn't help but fully satisfy it. "Well, Percy and I had been getting very close. The doctor thought that it might be better if I was with someone else."
"That's what Percy said."
"You two are friends?"
"He visits me, during free hours."
"He's a good guy. He likes mythology, you know."
"I noticed," Annabeth said, her own sarcasm revealing itself.
"It's interesting," Nico said. "He's an interesting guy, I mean. He thinks he knows me from somewhere."
"You too?" Annabeth asked. Her stomach fell through the garish tiles, splashing through the room below. That's what true shock and dismay was like, when she felt it. She lost her ability to breathe.
"Yeah. He apologized for killing my sister." Nico gave a dry laugh, shaking his head. "She died with my mom, Annabeth. In that explosion."
"I know," Annabeth said, in the spirit of full disclosure. "We have files and things…"
"Right," Nico replied. "Hey Annabeth?"
"I chose to be here. I want to get better, so I can leave someday. You'll help with that, won't you?"
"Of course," Annabeth said, meaning it so much that it hurt. When the patients said things like that, she knew why she liked her job.
Months passed. Nico's father came to pick him up, which was a nice surprise for everyone. It was always wonderful when things worked out.
There was a celebration in the office. It was for Nico's departure, in addition to an early birthday party for Percy. Nearly everyone was in a good mood, floating around the ward with smiles on their faces.
Annabeth, beaming for no reason at all, approached Percy's room with reluctance. She'd bought a book for him, about Greek mythology. It was against the rules, but she thought she might like it. Besides, she hadn't seen him in months.
"Annabeth." It was Luke, emerging from the crowded hallways. "Come to my office, okay? I want to show you a website on what we discussed earlier." It took Annabeth a minute to remember that he meant the "disease", and his mother.
"Sure," she replied, clutching the gift tightly. She noticed Thalia was right behind him.
"Check on Percy, will you?" the doctor asked her. "Make sure he has everything he wants. After all, this party is partially for him."
"Will do," Thalia said softly.
Annabeth stepped beside Luke, ready to follow him. Her happiness was fading though, replaced by skepticism. He was trying to keep her from Percy.
He gave a wide grin, turning to her. "Are you enjoying the party?"
"Very much," Annabeth answered honestly. "I'm so happy for Nico. We didn't know where his father was before, right?"
"No, we didn't," Luke replied. "He's a strange man, isn't he?"
"A little," Annabeth admitted. "I think he's a bit of a hermit."
"Yes, Nico mentioned that to me as well. I hope he's alright with him."
"He will be," Annabeth said, almost defensively. "I'm sure he will be."
"Right," Dr. Castellan said, sounding distracted. "Well, we'll have to get you a new patient, won't we?"
Annabeth's head sprung upward, every sense at full attention. Should she ask to go back with Percy? That would make Luke suspicious though, and then he would never move her back there.
He turned on his computer then, entering his website title into the address bar. She turned rigid, remembering what they were doing. This might mean answers, then.
He never got a chance to show it to her, though. The door burst open, it's wooden frame cracking against the wall. Thalia was there, her face red.
"Percy's having a fit," she said. "Not a normal one either," she continued, stepping over their rebuttals. "He's thrashing around, throwing things and – and stabbing at things. He says he's fighting Kronos."
"Where did you leave him?" Dr. Castellan asked, his face stretched out like plastic.
"In his room. I stuck him with a sedative, but I don't think it's working."
"Not working?" the doctor asked, already rising. "It's sedative, how could it not work?"
"Something with his body," Thalia said, sounding near tears. "I don't know. Please come quickly."
The three raced towards Percy's room, Annabeth the most panicked of all. Her mind was screaming, every muscle raging at Thalia and Luke. They shouldn't have used the sedative, they shouldn't have told him that it wasn't real. It was all a mistake…
She kept on running, her breathlessness hardly felt as she charged up the stairs.
Sure enough, Percy lay on the floor. She knelt immediately, reaching for him. He was still striking out at things, hitting the bed frame and the wall with everything he could reach. The sedative needle was stuck in his arm, evidently ineffective.
"Annabeth," he yelped, holding onto her with surprising force. "Annabeth, if you don't realize what he is, he's going to kill us both!" Percy yelled, furious. In a sickening moment, Annabeth realized what was going to happen. She bent over, trying to impair his vision. It was too late though, and he caught side of Dr. Castellan.
"NO!" he shrieked, somehow crawling forward. Annabeth stayed back, paralyzed in fear. Percy reached out again, grabbing one of the machines from the floor. He held it up, ready to strike at Luke. Annabeth and Thalia both shut their eyes on instinct, neither thinking fast enough to stop him.
Luke pushed back though, his self-defense overriding his protection of the patients. It was just a reaction then, one could say. Luke hadn't meant to do any harm. Both women heard the crack though, and opened their eyes at once.
Annabeth gasped, hands flying to her mouth. Luke had pushed too hard, hitting Percy on the head when he'd meant to push the machine to the floor. That's what he'd said later, anyway.
He was in shock, Thalia rushing to him as he looked away in horror.
Annabeth screamed, nearly incoherently. She ignored Luke entirely, sitting at Percy's side. He was covered in blood, an obvious dent to his skull. She wasn't expert in those things, but it was obvious he was near death.
"Call someone!" she wailed, flailing her arms towards the other two. How stupid were they? "Go!" They obeyed, racing down the hall.
Tears made tracks down her cheeks, and she listlessly held onto Percy's clammy hand. He used to have warm hands, she remembered.
"Percy…" she whispered, almost because she felt like she had to.
He opened his eyes, and Annabeth screamed again. She continued to clutch him and cry, only with renewed spirit. "Oh Percy," she whispered, "They're going to get you help. We'll all help you."
"Annabeth," he said, "No, it's a little late now." He smiled, a tiny bit, and she felt herself shake with fear and sadness. She was losing him, she could feel it.
"Listen Annabeth," he said, his voice irregular and slurred. Words were leaving him. "I have to tell you something. Luke's a good guy, okay?"
"What? He just – he just –"
"I know, but it'll bring him back to normal. You'll see. When he killed me, he killed Kronos too." For a second, he seemed to brighten. "I see. Kronos was in me, not in him. I understand it now, Annabeth." Before, Percy's psychobabble had always sounded sane, but this time it sounded insane too. His voice was high and quivering, slurring every word into unknowable syllables.
"I understand too," Annabeth said anyway, sobbing even as she tried to smile for him. "Will you be happier now?"
"I'd be happier if you were an architect," Percy said. "That's how it's supposed to be."
"Okay," she said, "I – I will." She meant it, too. She was tired of living in a vicious cycle, playing the uncertain one in Luke's domain. This was his world, his insanity to own.
"You will? You promise?" He sounded lucid now, almost as if he were truly, fully okay.
"Yes, I promise."
"Good. Good –" his voice faded, but Annabeth had a feeling he'd intended to say goodbye. She kissed him on the cheek, knowing that she was sadder than she should have been. They'd lost patients before, and nobody ever fell to pieces over it.
Thalia came into the room eventually, putting a blanket around her and handing her a mug of coffee. The paramedics took the body away. And Annabeth remained by the bloodstains, knowing she would quit in the morning. She would do it, for Percy. She would become an architect, like she had always wanted to. In light of his end, she would have her beginning. Crazy or not, Percy Jackson had brought her life.
A/N: That's it! I know it's a little bit strange and all, I felt like writing it. Thanks so much guys! Any sort of feedback would be really appreciated!