Author's note: This is an epic three-part Percy and Annabeth love story. Please enjoy.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Don't sue.
"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." – Orson Welles
The end couldn't really be the end, because that wasn't not how life worked. When all was said and done, when the Great War had finished, wrapped itself up in neat ends, when the dead were mourned and buried, and the laurels were given to survivors – everyone went home, hung up their trophies, and returned to the infinitely more mundane task of forging a way ahead.
Because life went on. It always went on.
Even for Percy and Annabeth.
It wasn't hard to fall into a pattern of normality at first, and Percy and Annabeth were probably the least normal couple to lease an apartment in Manhattan. Well, the two of them and Clarisse and Chris, who conveniently lived two blocks down. Astonishingly, either by way of proximity or simply because they were all demigods who remembered, the four became fast friends.
Nobody expected that, but nobody expected a lot of things. Percy, for one, had learned that expectations were misleading and Annabeth had always been efficient at having more accurate expectations, so it worked out. Besides, Chris was an excellent cook, and the rest of them were awful at creating anything edible not out of a can, so the relationship was almost borne out of necessity anyway.
College in New York had been rough, but it also provided for many nights of Clarisse drinking Percy under the table, and well, that kind of thing can really cement an expedient friendship into a lifelong one. What with Annabeth passed out on the couch, and Chris being the sober one to make sure they didn't all end up in the hospital the next morning, plenty of memories were created.
And by that time, Chris and Clarisse had gotten married and Percy and Annabeth had gotten engaged, and it seemed like there was a great future ahead of them.
They didn't need an Oracle for a prediction—there was.
(There was the promise of a growing family—growing at a faster rate than they'd planned.)
"Twins!" he exclaims at the office.
The doctor looks between them with a practiced smile, the one that said she had dealt with this situation many a time. "Congratulations," she says. "I'll give you two a moment to sort this out." She closes the door softly behind her.
Annabeth props herself up on her elbow. She is a little pale. "Yeah, when we said we were ready for kids, I wasn't expecting—"
"Twins," he repeats, finishing her sentence for her.
"That," she agrees. She looks unsure for a minute. Breathes a little. She passes her thumb lightly across the ultrasound photo. "Wow," she says under her breath. "Would you look at that?"
Percy crosses the room, where he had been gripping the armrest during the prognosis, grinding his molars down to the roots. He kisses her swiftly on the forehead. He studies it over her shoulder, tilting his head one way and then another. "Well, to be honest, it looks like a badly botched negative to me. I can't really tell a foot from an elbow, so uh, it could be twins or it could be a small giraffe in there; I have no idea. I guess I'll have to take the doctor's word for it, huh? There's no mistake, is there?"
Annabeth jerks the photo away from him. "Of course there's no mistake. What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing! I just don't want this to be the beginning of a long, downward spiral into The Percy and Annabeth version of Jon & Kate Plus Eight, you know?"
She stares at him, incredulous for a second, before bursting into a short, sharp laugh. "Really? Is that what you're thinking about right now?"
He rubs the back of his neck, sheepish.
"Let's see. We won't sign for a reality TV show – like we need cameras following us around when satyrs pop into our apartment every few weeks – I won't get that hideous, explosion haircut, and we'll try really hard not to sue TLC," she says, ticking off each one on her fingers. "Problem seems solved to me. And you would look horrible in Ed Hardy, so please don't try to pull it off."
He's grinning. "I won't make such a fashion faux pas as long as you're around." He twists to look at the ultrasound again. "So twins, eh? I think we can deal with those."
"That's good," she says, settling back and laying her head on the cushioned rest. "Because you knocked me up with your mutant sperm, so you better take full responsibility for it."
(And nobody could forget the bumpy road to parenthood.)
"Would you stop reading that fucking book?" she yells from across the room as she flips channels on the TV. "It's driving me crazy. The least you could do is stop reading it out loud. I have babies in my stomach, not ticking time bombs. Clarisse, please do something about it. I give you full permission to bring him down with whatever force necessary. If he passes out, all the better. More dinner for me."
Clarisse, who is sitting on another couch in the living room, looks thoroughly amused. "No, really, this is much better than Sunday night TV, so I'm going to let it go on. Even though it's a tempting offer."
Annabeth growls. "You're no help at all."
Percy's head pops out from behind the door. "According to the book, it's pretty typical of you to have mood swings at this time, so I'm going to let it pass."
Annabeth lets out a strangled shout before heaving a sigh and throwing her head back on the couch, eyes shut in exasperation. "He's going to induce premature labor," she says to her friend. "I swear. He's been carrying that book, what's it – What to Expect When You're Expecting – everywhere. He probably has it highlighted and post-it covered, I don't wonder. I think he memorizes passages at night so he can torture me the next day. You know what? He would've made a great college professor. One of the douche-y ones that is perpetually lecturing you about something."
"I'm just being prepared," Percy's voice carries into the living room.
"Percy! You're not the one expecting so it makes no sense for you to be reading it!" She huffs and continues in a conversational tone. "I think he's considering buying the audio book so he can listen to it in transit to work too." She rolls her eyes. "If he's this overprotective when the babies actually come, the twins can look forward to spending the rest of their life in a human-sized glass jar."
"I think it's cute," Chris says from the kitchen.
"Says you," Annabeth retorts and Clarisse agrees.
(There were the ordinary moments.)
"Taxes are due tomorrow," Annabeth says absentmindedly while flipping through a Home Décor magazine.
"So taxes are due tomorrow," Percy replies blithely while heating a microwavable dinner.
She looks up. "Okay, that was supposed to be the hint for you to buckle down and do the paperwork."
"I don't understand taxes," he says by way of pushing them off on her. "You'd do a better job at them."
"Thanks for the flattery, but that's not getting you out of it."
"Come on," he whines.
She shoots him a look.
He sighs and sits down next to her with the carton of bacon macaroni and cheese. "Compromise. Group effort."
She appears to consider it. "Deal."
"Since I helped save the world and all – the world, including the IRS – I should be exempt from taxes."
Annabeth pushes the magazine off to the side and steals a bite of his food. "You use that excuse for everything, including not having to go out and buy the groceries."
"It's a good excuse!"
(And there were extraordinary moments.)
"Quick," he murmurs. "The kids are all asleep. At the same time. This is the best luck we've had in weeks." He's wearing a loose tee and jeans, barefoot on the linoleum floor.
Annabeth sets up the baby monitor. "Shhh. Do you think it's on?" She puts it up to her ear and then to Percy's so he can sample it.
"We live in a five-room apartment. Do you really think we won't be able to hear them without the monitor?"
It's her turn to be protective now. "Yes. Bad things could happen and we could miss it!"
"Bad things are guaranteed to happen if you don't come with your husband to the bedroom right now." He puts his hand on her waist and steers her out of the kitchen. She snatches the baby monitor off the counter just before it goes out of reach.
Her hair in a frazzled bun and a big, loose maternity long-sleeve clashes with her dark blue teddy bear pajama pants. "I feel completely un-sexy."
"Well, that's why you have me. So I can make you feel sexy again," he says as he shuts the door with one foot.
By the time one of the boys starts sniffling on the monitor, Percy has succeeded in the task, of course, and Annabeth can't complain.
(But they could not leave everything behind. No demigod ever could.)
"Annabeth, unlock the door."
"It's 1:30 am, and it's freezing out here."
"You should've thought of that when you snuck out at nine o'clock."
"I left a note!" And the keys.
"You left me too! You didn't say anything before you left."
He exhales, irritated. "Can we have this conversation inside? Please?"
"Fine. I'm gonna bum at Chris and Clarisse's then for tonight."
There is a pause on the other side of the door, and he knows she's not mad enough to force him onto someone else's couch. The lock slides open and there she is, standing there in her pajamas, looking very angry and very alone. There are dark circles under her eyes and behind her, he sees a half-empty pot of coffee on the counter. Suddenly, he is very sorry indeed. "Can I come in?"
She gestures him in, her movements sharp and jerky. "I wouldn't have opened the door otherwise, would I?" she says shortly.
He steps inside and shuts the door behind him, and they just stand there, sizing each other up. She's the one who breaks the silence first. "Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"
She huffs. "Yeah, right."
"I am! They called me, saying there was an uprising of empousai at Yancy Academy where there were two new demigods. And it was Yancy, and the two kids hadn't a clue what they were doing. They were Athena siblings, and I just couldn't sit here. I was closest to the problem, so I went and fixed it. Honestly, Annabeth, you would've done the same thing. I couldn't help that it was late at night."
She looks close to the verge of tears. "You could've woken me up. I got up at eleven and you weren't here. And it scared the shit out of me, Percy. Why didn't you wake me?"
He glances to the side, which betrays his lie. "I didn't want to disturb you."
"Bullshit. I'm not stupid. We said when we were going to make this work that marriages were built on trust. And we said that we weren't going to let the complications of the mythological world screw everything up."
He is at a loss for what to say. She's right, of course, but she just doesn't understand.
"Why don't you trust me?" she asks.
"I trust you more than anybody," he says with complete, heartfelt truth.
The knot inside his stomach tightens. "I didn't want to bring you into it because…"
"Because I didn't want you to get hurt!" he bursts out. "Look, we've come so far, and we went through a ton of stuff. By chance or fate or sheer luck whatever it was, nothing ever happened, and we're here." He points over at the bedrooms, where twin boys and a new baby daughter slumber without any knowledge of monsters or gods or anything of Percy and Annabeth's dangerous world, yet anyway. He swallows. "I can't help thinking that one day – one day we might not be so lucky. And if anybody's luck runs out, it can't be yours. It has to be mine."
Annabeth stills, as motionless as a pillar of salt.
He waits for her to find her composure again, and when she does, he expects her to berate him some more or to cry. He finds he doesn't really like either option, but he's going to man up and take it anyway.
"You idiot," she says softly.
That, though, wasn't what he was expecting. "What?" he says inanely.
"When we were young, you wouldn't have been afraid to let me come along. I helped you. We helped each other."
"That's different. We're grown now." The subtext doesn't need to be said. They have gained so much. There is much more to lose.
Finally, she steps into his embrace and his arms circle up around her. "Together," she murmurs into his shoulder. "You have to promise to let us do it together. You don't get to make that decision to leave me out, no matter what you think. Get it, Seaweed Brain?"
So he promises her, but not without hesitation. And even when she falls asleep in the crook of his arm, warm under the covers, a shadow lays over his heart, one he can't entirely ignore.
(Even so, others could leave them behind.)
When Annabeth is forty-three, she sees the first shadow of what is to come. She sees it in Clarisse's face during the funeral wake. Clarisse, the daughter of Ares, the killer of a drakkon, is not afraid to cry.
It happened so suddenly on New Year's Day no less – a car accident. The drunk driver smashed into his car from the side. Chris was pronounced dead on the scene. The other man was whisked away to the hospital in a coma. And Clarisse? In that instant, Clarisse's life shattered with Chris's ribcage.
When Annabeth crawls into bed with Percy, bone-tired, too tired even to weep, she cannot sleep.
Percy presses his lips into her hair.
"Just like that," she whispers. "He was at the party four days ago. He was there – smiling and happy."
Obituaries are nothing, Annabeth thinks as she soaks the pillowcase with warm tears. They're a birth and a death. They forget everything in between.
(The in-between was not always so easy.)
Sometimes, he finds her side of the bed cold and empty in the middle of the night, a dim light slipping under the door. He follows it and finds her sitting in the kitchen with a glass of wine. He taps her on the shoulder, startles her.
"Hey," he says.
She looks at him briefly, dull eyes, dull heart. "It's constraining," she says.
"Being governed by fate. Some people don't know it, but we know the three old women making our lives for us."
He is reminded of the time when the Fates let his life pass before his eyes.
She doesn't even look at him, staring at the rise and fall of liquid in the wine glass as she swirls it slowly.
Standing there at her side while she is seeing something he cannot, he doesn't know what to say. He knows she is thinking about Luke, like she does sometimes when she cannot sleep. And at those times, he cannot pull her back from the deep, black cavern she has fallen into. She is lost.
Hands empty, he goes back to bed and waits for her to return to him.
(Yet the in-between could be the best part.)
"My vision is going," he bemoans as they sit in bed in the glow of the lamp on the night stand.
Annabeth lowers the book she's reading. "Yeah, it looks like you're getting on in years. Better embrace the old age, babe."
"This is not funny," he says, glaring at her while she hides a smile behind the pages.
"I'm not laughing."
"Yeah, right. To think, if I had picked immortality all of those years ago, I wouldn't have to be taking arthritis medication now. It's so un-manly when my joints creak."
"You're such a crybaby."
"It's completely unfair. You don't look old at all."
She laughs and pecks him on the cheek. "Thank you. If it makes you feel better, I think you are extremely attractive with bifocals."
He perks up. "Really?"
"Prove it," he says, and it effectively ends that conversation.
(For in the long years to pass, there was always laughter.)
After almost thirty years, they still play Apples to Apples on Christmas after they open the presents. Which is kind of ridiculous in a family of dyslexics, but it got the kids to like words in the beginning, and after that it just became tradition.
"Ha!" Annabeth crows. "One more pair for me. Take that, Seaweed Brain."
"Mom, stop it, seriously," Nathan, the sandy blond twin says, rolling his eyes. He's a sophomore in college, way too old for this kind of shenanigans, but he plays along anyway. "Nobody wants to cringe through your cheesy names for Dad."
"Yeah, no kidding," Jordan echoes, the light-brown haired twin. When they were younger, they used to complain about how uncool it was that they were fraternal instead of identical so they could play all the awesome pranks other twins did on TV.
"Oh shut up, you two," Annabeth says. "You're just jealous that I'm winning." Complacently, she adds Risky and Trailer Parks to her stash.
"She's on her competitive streak again," Nathan says, grabbing a new card from the deck.
"Great," Jordan deadpans. "Jeez, Sofie, how come you're always picking Mom's card? You're cheating, I know it. What'd she bribe you with this time?"
Sofie, the fifteen-year-old kid sister, tosses her long, dark brown hair. "I'm not cheating. Maybe you just suck at this game."
"I knew I had a daughter for a reason," Annabeth says, collecting Smiley and Tobacco Companies.
They drink hot chocolate, squabble, and play until Percy and Annabeth are tied. Sofie is third, and Nathan and Jordan are dead last, as usual. "Last round."
The green card reads Touchy-Feely so everyone knows this is going to be the best round of the bunch. Nathan and Jordan have blatantly begun exchanging cards under the table, but they're so far behind that nobody even bothers to reprimand them. Sofie is judging the last round, glass-green eyes sharp as she rolls them at her brothers.
Smugly, Annabeth slides her card, face-down, into the pile. "I've got this in the bag."
Beside her, Percy winks at his daughter and puts his choice down. The red cards are shuffled. Annabeth bumps him with her shoulder. "Get ready to lose again."
"Don't speak too soon, Wise Girl."
Sofie picks up the red cards and compares them. Halfway through, her usual serious, efficient self cracks down the center, and she begins laughing hysterically, almost to the point of tears. Nathan and Jordan stop what they're doing and stare at her. "Uh, has she gone nuts?"
Sofie flips the card that she has chosen, shoulders heaving with giggles. "This one," she says. "Definitely this one."
The red card says Helen Keller.
"Ha!" Percy shouts, snatching Touchy-Feely and Helen Keller. "What now? I win!"
Annabeth jumps up. "That is—that is—" Her face reddens.
"I'm the new Apples to Apples champion! Eat it!"
Annabeth makes a wild swipe at the cards in his hands, and he dances out of the room gloating. "Oh, no you don't," she threatens as she chases him into the kitchen, and they run around and around the counter.
Sofie patiently puts the cards left back into the box.
Nathan shakes his head at Jordan. "And this is why we should never play this game, ever again, at Christmas."
"But you know we will," Sofie says as she replaces the lid.
"Not unless I burn that box right now in the fireplace. Mom and Dad totally don't have to know."
"You can't burn tradition," she replies matter-of-factly. "Trust me, I've tried. This has to be the sixth game our family has gone through."
Jordan scratches his head. "Yeah, I was wondering why this game looked so new. Anyway, Touchy-Feely and Helen Keller are going to be completely demolished by the time the parentals stop playing tag in the kitchen, so we were probably going to have to get a new one no matter what."
And like this, laughter and love threaded through the fabric of their lives, and things were as good as they'd ever been. Percy and Annabeth were grateful. Nothing could halt the march of time, but as it went on, peace never seemed so sweet.
So they lived like that, the heroes of Olympus, in the small moments year after year, and their family of five turned into a family of six, then seven, then nine. Their hair grayed and their laugh lines deepened, and the Fates were spinning, spinning – spinning their life threads long and colorful and thick, waiting for the exact right moment to pull out the shears and cut.
Annabeth and Percy waited too, all the way up until the very special day she woke up, turned to kiss him in the morning the way she always did and realized that her husband had forgotten their fortieth anniversary.
It is the worst way she can imagine him going. Alzheimers. He won't even remember her in the end. She can't get over how cruel that is. It starts with small things, like forgetting birthdays of friends and the phone numbers of the twins. Then, inevitably, it gets worse. He forgets the song they danced to at their wedding. He forgets her birthday.
She pulls out photo albums and home videos to keep his memories as fresh as possible. But deterioration is inevitable.
He forgets his favorite color.
Finally, he forgets what the apple of his eye, Sofie, looks like. Dark hair and green eyes, she has inherited his every gene. How can he forget? But he points at the photo of her when she got married and says, "Who's she? That's a pretty face in a pretty dress." Sofie lives all the way across the country in San Francisco, but even so—the Percy she knew would never forget his daughter's wedding day.
In a way, Annabeth is perversely glad that Percy falls ill of heart disease two years later, because it means she can measure out the last of their time together, instead of if he dropped dead in two seconds of cardiac arrest. This, she thinks sadly, is much better than Chris Rodriguez.
Besides, she wouldn't be able to bear it if he couldn't remember to kiss her goodbye on her deathbed. But she can be his memory for him, in these last few days.
There is so much to say, even after a lifetime. There is never enough time, she realizes. There is so much she wants to tell him, if he'll even hear it, and so much she wants to do that will never be done and just –
"Percy," she says.
He stirs from the bed, gazing at her listlessly. She is tired of searching for recognition in his eyes, so much that she has stopped trying. So now, she just talks and hopes that some of it, even a little bit, is registering somewhere, somehow.
She puts a hand on his deeply wrinkled forehead. "How are you doing today?" She looks out the window where the sunshine is impossibly bright. It is a wonderful day for the beach. "Nathan, Jordan, Sofie, and the kids are flying out here tomorrow. They miss you, sweet. It'll—it'll be hard for them, I know. I didn't want them to come. But they insisted. And you know our kids. They never take no for an answer. That's probably our fault." She smoothes out a few gray hairs spilling over his hairline.
"I miss you too," she confesses. "And I keep thinking about what I'm going to do when you're gone. The doctors kept telling me to take you to a nursing home so I wouldn't have to watch you all of the time, but I couldn't do that. Put the hero of the world in a nursing home?" She laughs and it echoes in the empty hospital room, making her heart ache. She quiets. "I know you don't remember that. But you would laugh too, if you did."
He doesn't say anything.
"Well, anyway. Gods, I don't even know what to say. It'll be lonely. But I can do it. I'm a tough girl. I'm not long for the ways either, but don't tell the kids that. You'll just have to be a little patient when you get down there first. Don't take the E-Z Death line. And save a spot for me. It's probably cheating to budge, but I hate waiting in lines."
She takes a shaky breath to staunch the tears. It would be stupid to cry in front of him. He wouldn't recognize them anyway. He might not even be sad, and that would break her heart. Slowly, slowly, his brain and heart are deteriorating. The doctors say his body is strong, but what is the use of a strong body without a brain to remember and a heart to love? And that's why they die, she supposes. Because everything that is important withers away.
She is thinking this as she strokes his hand, the disconnected thoughts coming in streams, because she can't concentrate or focus anymore. Perhaps she's getting sick too.
The clock on the wall reads 4:45 pm, and she has fifteen minutes before she has to go. It's the worst part of her day, leaving him in the hospital. It was bad enough before, having to live with Percy's empty shell at home, but now, when she goes home, it is just empty. "Hey," she says, squeezing his hand. "It's almost time. So, I mean, this is morbid, but before it's – too late – let me just say everything I need to say, okay? You can just – listen. And try to remember. Please, please, try to remember this one thing. It's important."
She shifts and the crisp white bed sheets rustle under her. "A long time ago, we talked about what we would do, when we pass away from here. You said then that you wanted to try for the Isles of the Blest, because you wanted a challenge. At the time, I said it was a dumb idea, because what if our next life was shit or something and we ended up being murderers; we'd be throwing away Elysium." She glances outside where the trail of sunlight leaves the world in orange shimmers. "I thought about it, because I have a lot of time to think when I'm at home – it kind of sucks, Percy. I never thought I would get tired of analyzing, but I am. You're not there to tell me to stop. But I thought about what you said for a long time. I wouldn't leave something like this up to random chance, an impossible probability." She blinks away a wave of regret. "But I think – I think whatever happens – it's fate. We're fate, I mean."
"And if the Fates have anything in store for us that is like this life, which I believe they do, there is nothing to stop us from trying. Because you and I, we're meant to be." She smiles sadly at him. "You probably believed it back then, but you know how I'm shit at listening sometimes. I guess that's why I'm doing the talking and you're still doing the listening. And besides, I would never want to deprive you of a challenge, if that's what it is." She pauses, collecting her original point. "So yeah. What I'm trying to say is, I want you to pick rebirth, okay?" She cups his sunken cheek in her palm. "And when I follow you, in a day or a year, I'll pick it too. We just – have to remember to find each other next time."
She falls quiet then and listens to his breathing and heartbeat until it entwines with hers, creating one more moment to live in. At last, the nurse comes in and tells her it's time to go. This time, Annabeth knows, somewhere in her gut like a sixth sense, that this is the last time.
He is at an end.
So she leans down and brushes her lips across his forehead, whispers fiercely, "Please find me, Seaweed Brain."
His weak fingers somehow find their way to her wrist and curl around it. And even though he is too feeble to say a word, to even murmur her name, she knows he has heard her.
There, at that instant, is where their story comes to a close.
At the end – waiting for the beginning.
And the Fates too waited, to spin them new threads, holding off for just the right moment, just the right –
Author's note: (I'm sorry. I realize that this is the fourth death scene I have written for the two of them, and I swear I don't spend my nights awake thinking of ways to murder them. Also, don't worry about The End of You and Me. It will be updated in due time and is not abandoned. And for the record, I won NaNoWriMo and have a new, original manuscript on my hands.)
I am celebrating, because this story brings my number of PJO fan fics to ten. It has officially trumped all of my other fandoms in number of stories written. Thanks for the support, everyone. I am deeply grateful to anyone who has either read, reviewed, or favorited. I think I will stay in this fandom for some time yet.
Be prepared for an absolutely massive Part Two. Here is a preview:
"Well, that guy over there is a real ass," Rose says, glancing over.
"Surprise, surprise," Shondra drawls. "Best of luck. At least the boy's cute." She nudges Rose.
"Oh, please," Rose replies. "It's been a long time since I've ever looked at some boy, and I promise you, that one is not my type. Besides, he's probably married to some eighteen-year-old sorority girl with huge implants who asks for a new car each week. Those guys. They always have trophy wives."
Reviews are appreciated!