He can't get her out of his head.
He is trying. He's sat on the expanse of grass before the forest and he is trying, desperately trying. But nothing seems to help. Even the wind is whispering her name into his ear, each gust repeating it and making his heart beat faster and faster, pump-pump, pump-pump.
It doesn't matter what he's doing or where he's going or who he's with; she's always there, in the corner of his mind, slyly smiling at him. His thoughts always find a way to stumble across her face and her smile and the way her eyes light up when she's happy or when she's excited or when he behaves like such an idiot she has cause to take the piss out of him for weeks to come. He spends hours thinking about things he has said and what she has said back and what he has replied and whether or not it had been stupid, whether or not she thought it was stupid.
And all the while in the back of his mind a tiny little smile is whispering her name and he can't get it out of his head. He stares out at the forest and shakes it a little, tries to focus on history or swords or what his mum wants for her birthday or whether or not Thalia is annoyed with him for that thing he did which he can't quite remember and anyway wasn't even that bad. But the face won't slide out his ear. Her name is still echoing around the insides of his mind.
He runs an absent finger over the lid of the biro in his hand, his eyes unfocused. The forest before him is a shivering mass, blurred by the lack of attention he is paying it. It shakes in the wind like a group of very drunk bellydancers, trees rustling against other trees. The rich, bittersweet smell of pine sneaks up his nose, twists around in his mind.
The light is fading and the sun has already slipped over the tops of the trees; soap in wet fingers. The world is grey and blank and when he looks down at his hands they seem colourless and dead. He frowns, looks up at the sky and tries very hard not to curse Helois for being such a killjoy. Summer is just beginning to weaken , autumn subtly creeping through the cracks, and he doesn't want the days to end anymore. Just the thought of going home makes him want to slam the nib of his pen into someone's chest. Time makes fools of us all; but mainly it just annoys the crap out of people.
He lifts the plastic lid to his lips and presses his teeth against it, as the light steadily shrinks into the ground. A faint shadow of the moon is fading into the twilit sky, thin and curved, like an Art Nouveau boomerang. The wind is yawning, tiredly ruffling through his hair as if to say, alright sonny, time for bed.
But he doesn't want to go to bed. The cabin sits smug and fat and silent a half mile behind him but he can't face it. He knows once he is inside there and she is only a few metres from him his mind will go insane and there will be no way of getting any sleep. He shakes his head again as she walks persistently along the roads of his mind. He bites down on the lid and presses his fist into his eye socket.
"You know, that that biro is in fact not your average school-boy special, idiot. If you break it they'll remove your head and use it for target practice."
His heart zooms up to flutter about his ear. He spins around to watch Annabeth as she sits down on the grass and slides down the slope. She glances at him and raises her eyebrows; her eyes match the sky and he can see the weak, pathetic moon distorted within them.
"It's fine," he says, holding up the pen to her. "You couldn't break this thing if you flung it into a car crusher, I'd bet."
"Care to test that theory?"
He grins at her, and she takes the biro off him, holding it up to the fading light and squinting, searching for scratches. He watches her for a while, watches as her hair shifts slightly in the slowly cooling wind, watches as the skin between her eyebrows creases as she searches for evidence.
"Do you want to admit I'm right?"
"There is a scratch," she says, smiling sweetly and handing it back to him. He doesn't look down at it, and smiles back at her.
"There's no scratch."
"You're just blind, Percy."
"You're just proud, Annabeth." And her name repeats around and around in his head, spinning like socks in a tumble dryer, Annabeth Annabeth Annabeth.
They both smile at each other, spread lips hiding true feelings. After a while he looks away, partly because this really isn't helping the attempt to clear his head, and partly because he knows she won't. She turns seconds after he does, stares out at the forest.
"You going home, then?" she asks.
"Yep," he says, looking between the trees, at the dark shadows peering out amid them. He wants to look over at her again but forces himself not to; his thoughts are just settling down again and her face will mess them up again. His mind is the egg white and her face is the electric whisk. "You staying?"
"Don't have a choice, do I?" she says, glumly, picking up a blade of grass between her fingers and pulling it apart. "If I go home I'll just be a huge pain."
"You're a huge pain wherever you are."
"I've got my knife in my pocket, fishbrain, so watch it."
He laughs, and shakes the biro in her face. "No scratches."
They both laugh, but then the smiles fade off their faces and the world around slowly ebbs away into night. The first few stars have snuck into the sky while they were distracted, and the moon's outline is clearer now. The trees are darkening; he can no longer make out individual branches. She shifts beside him, pulls her knees up under her chin, and without being able to help it he looks over at her. She is staring forward, eyes wide, teeth deep in her lip like they always are whenever she's thinking.
"Annabeth?" he asks, quietly. She mhmms and turns her head, rests her cheek on the top of her knees. He looks at her for a moment, then sighs. "You okay?"
"Yep," she says, smiling at him, "Right as rain."
"We have got two whole weeks left, it's not like it's the last day," he says. A feeble attempt at comfort.
"I'm a glass half empty kind of person," she says, twisting a strand of dark, weeping grass between her fingers. He smiles, and the wind blows a strand of her hair across her face. His arm twitches as he impulsively moves to brush it away, only stopping himself just in time. She twists it behind her ear with her own hand, and looks up at the sky.
He looks at her face, at her eyes, the way he can see the whole sky reflected in them, the stars which dot the heavens here and there and the moon which shines above it like a hole cut in a lampshade. He looks at the few sparse freckles splattered across her face, the curve of her nose, the rise and fall of her lips. He twists his hands on the ground and he actually considers it. He so desperately wants to. He'd just lean forward, take her hand in his. He can practically see her eyes getting winder as he would move closer, could almost feel her breath as it would fall hot and soft on his face-
Suddenly, she takes a breath, closes her eyes, turns to face him."What do you think Luke's doing?" she whispers, quietly, urgently, eyes snapping wide. "Do you think he's okay?"
Percy's heart stops flittering madly around his ear and falls back into his chest with a thud. His face drops before he can stop it. He quickly rearranges his expression before he replies. "Yeah," he says, quietly, trying to keep his feelings out of his voice. But they manage to seep through; he can hear the disappointment in his tone. He only hopes she can't. "He's Luke. He can look after himself."
"I can't stop thinking about him," Annabeth says. "Like, his face is always in my head and something always makes me think of him. It doesn't matter what I'm doing or where I'm going or who I'm with; he's always there, in the corner of my mind. I really am trying," she says, with a bitter laugh. "I really am trying to let him go but I can't. And I've got a whole nine months ahead of me without you to distract me from him. Honestly, Percy, your idiocy is the only thing keeping me sane."
Percy looks at her, looks at the ground, looks away and closes his eyes tight. It takes a few seconds before he can trust himself to speak. Then he turns to face her again and smiles weakly. She turns away from the sky and looks over at him, and her eyes are big and wet.
"Hey," he says, struggling to block out the things his heart is screaming at him. "It's all going to be okay, you know it is."
"It isn't," she says, "You know it isn't. Your problem is that you're too 'glass half full' for your own good, Percy Jackson. Things are going to straight out suck for the next three seasons. That is, if we don't all wind up dead, which we probably will."
Silence falls around them and night perches warily over the surface of the world, waiting for the right time to drop.
Percy glances over at Annabeth and she's crying, and he doesn't know what to do. He wants to put his arm around her, but she doesn't want him to and if he does he'll probably just forget all reason and try and kiss her, and she wasn't joking when she said she had her knife. So he looks away and pretends he hasn't seen. He listens to her sniffing, listens to her breaths juttering sharply and irregularly up and down her throat. He desperately searches his mind for the right words.
He searches for a long time but they don't come.
Eventually, her quiet tears subside, and she wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. "We should go," the quiet, shaky voice next to him says, and he turns as she stands up. She glances at the moon, glances over at the camp. "C'mon, seaweed. I'm not going to leave you to sit here and stew." She sniffs, twists her hair behind her ear. Her eyelashes are all clumped together with tears. "You'll probably end up writing love songs or poetry or something else equally sappy, I can see it on your face."
He forces a grin and points both his thumbs at himself. "Dyslexic, remember?"
"I didn't say good poetry." She shoots him a grin and her face almost reasserts itself; apart from red rimmed eyes and the occasional sniff she could almost be her regular self. She starts up the hill and after a second he follows her.
The forest behind them shivers in the breeze and a thin, half-hearted cloud drifts lazily across the moon.
The biro disappears off the side of the slope. He doesn't even notice he left it behind.