Title: Bad Penny
Rating: PG/PG13 (some swearing I guess)
Word Count: 4,807
Characters/Pairings: Percy/Annabeth
Summary: Like a bad penny, the Minotaur comes around again every couple of years. Five events in Percy's life interrupted by the Minotaur.
A/N: I got nothing. This is heinous fluff that basically includes bits and pieces of my personal head canon. Completely ignores The Lost Hero

It starts off so innocently – in hindsight, Percy can't even say what kicked off their latest fight. All he knows is that when he and Annabeth start arguing in the middle of his living room one evening, he's absolutely at his wits end. It seems lately that all he and Annabeth are doing is fighting – and while he understands that she's stressed out and overworked, in her freshman year of college and finishing up work on Mt. Olympus, he doesn't think she's considering the stress that he's currently going through as well, facing his SATs and applying to colleges and seriously, who the hell is going to accept him to their college?

So they nag at each other, and they fight, and sometimes they don't talk for an evening but they're always talking again by the next morning – they each know that the first thing the other does every morning is check their phone for a message, or send one themselves. That's just how it is.

This fight is a little bit different – there's a charge in the air that hasn't been there since they were kids and trying to figure out how not to strangle each other. Annabeth has an ugly look on her face, and Percy realizes at some point that he's shouting - not just sort of talking loudly at her because they're bickering but actually shouting at Annabeth in anger and some part of him thinks that he needs to stop this because Annabeth sure isn't going to step down but he's just too angry to really think about it and then –

"So what are you saying?" she demands, her eyes so dark they're almost unrecognizable. "Are you saying you want to break up?"

He doesn't even consider it. "Fine!"

Annabeth recoils like she's been slapped, but by the time Percy works through what he just agreed to she's already grabbed up her coat and stormed through the door, away from him. In the ensuing silence, Percy replays their argument over in his head. When he looks up, Sally and Paul are peering at him cautiously from the kitchen doorway, where they retreated to give the kids some privacy. It's the look on his mother's face that makes him realize what he's just done.

"Shit!" he says, not caring that his mother flinches, because he does not want to break up. He doesn't know what he wants, but he knows he doesn't want it without Annabeth. He snatches up his cell phone, tries once to call her number – she can't be out of the building yet, can she? – but it rings twice and goes directly to voicemail. When he tries again it doesn't even ring, just goes straight to that prerecorded message.

"I'm going after her," he tells his parents, which seems like a good idea when he says it, but once he's outside on a cold sidewalk he realizes he has absolutely no idea where she might have gone, or even if she's visible while she's going there. The most logical place for her to go is back to school, but if she's upset enough she might go back to camp or up to Olympus or just as far away as she can get from him. He has no clue which way to go to find her.

The decision is made for him when he hears a bellow on the wind, and as much as he hates to admit it, Annabeth is put out of his mind by the sheer dismay that he can't help feeling: Who has let the Minotaur go, and why is he running around New York City?

He takes off towards the noise, concerned some poor demigod or – Olympus forbid – a mortal is mixed up in the Minotaur's rampage, but when he skids around the corner and is immediately greeted with a flying car across the forehead, he's less than surprised when an annoyed voice hisses from thin air, "Stay away from me."

"Wait, Annabeth!" He reaches out blindly for her; the Minotaur turns his head and sniffs for a moment as if perplexed – and then he looks directly at Percy.

"I was looking for you!" he shouts desperately, but she doesn't respond. The only clue he has that she hasn't run off entirely is the sudden yank to the Minotaur's head as she tries to pull herself up onto his shoulders. The Minotaur screams in fury and tries to shake her but all he really succeeds in doing is shaking off her hat.

"Shut up Percy!" Annabeth snarls at him, trying to keep her grasp on the beast and wound him at the same time.

"I don't want to break up!" he yells at her, and maybe it's not the best way to say it, not the way to really win her back, and yes, there's kind of a crowd forming and Percy's already dreading what picture the Mist is warping in their minds, but it's the truth and he needs her to hear it.

"I said shut up!" Annabeth yells back, and the Minotaur is reaching for her now, catching her hair on his claws, trying to get her off of him. He's distracted, and doesn't notice Percy until the last second; by the time he turns and tries to slash at him, Riptide's hilt is sticking out of his chest. When he disappears into a column of green smoke, Annabeth suddenly drops about five feet to the ground.

She barely catches herself, and immediately turns her back to him. He reaches out and snags her by the shoulder. Almost forcefully, she shrugs him away. "Wait, Annabeth, wait wait." He just doesn't want her to walk away; he doesn't want to have to chase after her, because – "I don't want to break up."

She turns and looks at him, and his heart almost breaks at the sight of her red eyes and tear stained cheeks. She looks at him, her eyes like stone, completely unreadable, and his knees are practically shaking with a combination of adrenaline from battle and fear that she won't call off their break up –

"Hey, are you kids alright?" someone finally calls, stepping towards them. Frankly, Percy's a little impressed. Other than a new crack in the sidewalk and somebody's trashed car – Not Paul's Prius! – there's surprisingly little damage.

Percy blinks at this guy, wondering what he should say, so it's a surprise when he feels Annabeth's hand take his, entwining their fingers. Her palm is sweaty, but the tone of her voice is cool and collected. "We're fine," she says quietly, feigning confusion. "My boyfriend and I were just coming home from a date."

Boyfriend. Percy turns and beams at her, and she smiles back, and Percy doesn't care what those mortals see anymore.

Moving in, Percy thinks, might be the best idea he's ever had. In hindsight, of course. At the moment, it's really a giant pain in the ass, hauling boxes and furniture up three flights of steps.

So it isn't the nicest or the biggest apartment – five rooms total, if you count the closet (which was meant for linens, but Annabeth already had books stacked in there) – but it was their apartment, and it was the best they could afford with Annabeth in school, Percy often away at the police academy, and absolutely no help from anyone's parents, except maybe Dr. Chase a little bit because he still had a guilt complex about giving Annabeth a home.

Percy has been waiting for move-in day for weeks, because it meant no more sneaking around Annabeth's roommate, no more discreet text messages from Paul warning him that they're on their way home, so be presentable – it means coming home to Annabeth every day, and waking up with her every morning. It means one of them is going to have to learn to cook something that isn't reheating leftovers in the microwave.

Or else they're going to have to buy a microwave.

He and Annabeth are trying to negotiate their couch around the twisting landings between floors. It is the ugliest couch either of them have ever seen, gray and plaid and straight-up hideous, but Sally had gotten it for them as a peace offering after her initially unenthusiastic reaction to the news that he and Annabeth were planning on cohabitating, and they didn't have the heart to refuse it.

They've stopped, but they're not stuck - not really. They're just taking a breather, because Percy made some crack that caused Annabeth to collapse into giggles, and then she kept on laughing and her hands went weak, so they're taking a moment: Annabeth as she tries to compose herself, and Percy taking advantage of an opportunity to enjoy the sight of her with her guard down. Annabeth is pretty, sure, but like this, her hair in a messy ponytail, dusty, wearing one of his ratty old t-shirts – this is when Percy thinks she's really beautiful.

It's a quiet, intimate moment that the Minotaur interrupts with a bellow and a bang. At first Percy only hears the crash of the door falling in, and the shouts of people on the street. He peers over the railing, down two flights of steps, and there at the bottom, his head tilted up and his beady black eyes squinted, is the Minotaur.

"Come on," Percy complains, more pissed than he'd like to admit that this particular monster has come around again.

"Are you kidding me?" Annabeth sighs, running a weary hand through her bangs and tugging her knife loose. She reaches for him, her hands just barely grasping his shoulder. "Let him come to us."

"Only horror movie victims run upstairs," Percy informs her dourly, but by now he knows not to argue with Annabeth about strategy, which turns out to be a good thing when the Minotaur bolts up the stairs – an entire flight in a single bound. He has an enormous flail, and he's swinging it around and tearing entire chunks of brick from the wall. Percy makes a mental note to have a little chat with Tyson about which forge is producing these weapons, and try to figure out who gave the beast one of these things.

When he's close – about half way up the last flight of steps where they are, Annabeth tips the couch up and over. The Minotaur doesn't even lower his head – and promptly gets stuck when the couch sinks onto his horns. He screams in fury, and Annabeth easily hops right over the couch, her knife flashing. The Minotaur stumbles back once, twisting and trying to shake himself loose from the piece of furniture, and he bucks wildly when Annabeth sinks her blade into his side.

He rears back, nearly catching both Percy and Annabeth with the ends of the couch; Annabeth falls back as the flail snakes out from underneath, stuffing and springs flying, but once she can dart close again she makes eye contact with Percy and they both have the same idea at the same time. Annabeth stabs him again, and Percy lifts – and the next thing they know they're leaning over two flights of stairs, looking at the green smoke rising from the ground floor and the remains of the couch that his mother bought for them.

Percy frowns. Annabeth leans against the rail, her face twisted into a grimace. "Well," she finally says. "At least we don't have to find a way to tell you mother that we hated it."

Percy's twenty first birthday is something like the biggest party seen in Olympian territory since the last time Hermes had broken into a couple of Dionysus' casks - a five year bash that included the beginning of the first world war and ended in Prohibition. It was kind of a big deal.

The day starts out solemn: there's always a memorial service at camp to commemorate the Battle of Manhattan, but after he and Annabeth have dinner with his parents they hit the town. His birthday conveniently falls on a Friday, so no waiting for a weekend, no waiting until midnight, ID in hand. It's just him, Annabeth, and their friends - which turns out to be the legal half of camp, a few guys from the academy, and some girls Annabeth goes to school with.

And also: "Nico!" Annabeth exclaims, nearly knocking over her drink as he appears suddenly behind her shoulder. She frowns at him. "Didn't you get arrested?"

This has been an issue all evening. He'd been forced to shadow travel into the bar after trying to get in once unsuccessfully with a fake ID.

Annabeth had looked at his ID, her face twisting in confusion. "Nico, this is the worst fake I've ever seen. It says you were born in 1944."

"I was," Nico had replied, sipping his beer.

He'd been caught almost immediately, unfortunately, and when he'd turned right around and shadow travelled right back in again, the bartender had called the cops.

"I did." Nico nods, holding up a wrist. There's a pair of handcuffs dangling from it.

Percy blinks, trying to process this. It is only within the last half hour that he's suspected that the alcohol is having an effect on him: which is funny, because he'a spent most of the evening operating on a higher plane of existence; he hadn't realized how smart he could be sometimes, how very much he knew and had opinions about the issues of the world until he turned twenty one. "Won't you get in trouble?" he asks, "Because I'm not covering for you." He'd been embarrassed enough when the cops had shown up in the first place, and then relieved when it hadn't been anyone he knew.

Nico shrugs. "I'll get Mrs. Dodds to talk to them."

Percy starts to say something in response, but then Rachel reappears, having roped a young man from the bar into carrying the tray for her. Percy can't help noticing that she's brought a drink back for Nico as well, as if she expected him to return.

"I figured you'd be back," she tells him, handing him a glass, dismissing the kid following her with a wave of her hand.

Annabeth raises an eyebrow. "Whose number did you give him?"

"Connor Stoll's," Rachel responds airily, pulling out the seat next to Annabeth. "I owe him one since he stole a couple of my paintings and gave them to the beginner archery classes for target practice."

Percy stares at the table. She brought shots back with her. Back in some part of his mind, he vaguely recalls pouting at being unable to join in the festivities of Annabeth's twenty first some months ago, and then the insult on top of the injury after he'd been the one to hold her hair back for hours on end once Rachel had returned her to their apartment at some obscene hour in the morning. She'd said something about mixing beer and liquor, which Percy had quickly dismissed in his haste to attend to Annabeth.

There is something important about that fact, something about mixing beer and liquor, so he's not sure he's very interested, and besides, the shots have whipped cream on them, so, you know, girl drinks, but then Annabeth and Rachel make eye contact and in one motion bend over the table, catch the shots in their lips, and tilt their heads back, their hands resting on the table. It's kind of one of the single hottest things Percy has ever seen in his entire life, the column of Annabeth's neck, the stray curls of Rachel's hair and he knows for a fact that his jaw is slack as Annabeth turns her gaze on him, eyes dark, and nudges a shot in his direction.

That's the last thing he remembers until he's leaning up against a sign post, the metal cool against his back, as Annabeth tries to hail a cab. He thinks his eyes are closed; his whole world is dark.

"What the hell," she mutters as another one drives right past her.

"Maybe it would help if you took your shirt off," Nico calls out cheerfully, only to follow up with, "Ow, hey, ow, Annabeth! Rachel, help!"

"Shut up," Rachel is hissing, and when Percy opens his eyes and pulls up his head, she's on her cell phone, probably calling for a ride and apparently not reaching anyone judging by the way she keeps cursing and redialing every couple of minutes.

Percy's the one who sees the Minotaur first, and he thinks he's making it up, or hallucinating. Because there is no way the Minotaur is crashing his twenty first birthday party. For one thing, while he has Riptide, he's not sure he can remember how to open it. For another thing, some part of him is pretty sure that the sign he's leaning against is the only thing holding him up.

But then Rachel says in a quiet tone, "Uh, Annabeth?"

Annabeth abruptly lets go of Nico to straighten up, squint her eyes, and demand, "Is that the Minotaur?"

"No!" Percy asserts. "There is no way! We just killed him like, last year. Can't be," he insists, shaking his head. The whole world tilts when he does that though, and he reaches out, looking for something to right himself with.

But then people start shouting, and Annabeth fumbles for her knife, and Percy, wanting to help, pushes away from his perch and gropes into his pocket for Riptide.

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Oh, stay back you moron." She steps in front of him, but she pushes him when she does so and Percy hits the ground.

When he wakes up again he's in the back of a cab. Rachel's in the front seat chatting with the driver. His head is on Annabeth's shoulder, and when he turns it to look up at her he can see Nico is passed out on her other shoulder. "Didja get him?" he slurs out, and Annabeth just gives him an amused smile.

"Go back to sleep," she tells him, running her fingers through his hair.

It's his birthday, but when Annabeth makes a remark about celebrating Percy puts her off.

"I already know what I want to do," he tells her. "I have it all planned out."

And he had, too – with Sally's help, of course – and it's totally worth the effort on his part that evening as he escorts her to their dinner reservations at The Oak Room, grinning at her and not hearing a single word as she chatters happily about the history of the place.

"It was opened in 1907, and they closed it for Prohibition. Do you see the murals in the arches? Those –" She looks stunning, her hair down and curling around her shoulders, her eyes lighting up as she looks around the restaurant and Percy can't help feeling a little bit smug at the looks they receive from other patrons.

He picked the restaurant at the Plaza for a reason – the Plaza is where he realized he really loved her, where he told Annabeth his greatest secret, his Achilles' spot. He thought he was going to lose her at the Plaza; it's important to their shared history and Percy wants to create a happy memory in the place.

Everything is going perfectly according to plan too. Dinner is perfect; a bottle of wine brings a pretty flush to Annabeth's face, and by the time they're looking at the dessert menu, the weight on Percy's shoulders and in his pocket doesn't seem quite as heavy as it did when they walked into the restaurant.

And then there's that familiar roar and the sound of breaking glass. Percy stiffens, and wheels around to look towards the front of the restaurant. He glances at Annabeth, and sees that despite the dismayed look on her face she's already working off her heels and reaching for the holster under her skirt.

Percy sighs. Of course, now. That's the way his life works. He stands up, reaching for Riptide, and hears vaguely somewhere to his right a panicked waiter shouting, "Sir, please stay down! Ma'am!"

Annabeth is at his shoulder in a minute, one of her hands catching just at the elbow. "I'll come up from behind?"

Percy nods.

"Watch your back," she says quietly, and Percy simply nods again. He has no armor with him, and his blazer won't be much protection for his vulnerable spot. The Minotaur catches Annabeth's scent as she darts off to the left, but Percy steps forward, and the monster's snout instantly swings around to face him.

This is the sixth time in his life that Percy has faced the Minotaur, but for a moment he feels like a scared child again; the Minotaur always seems so huge, especially because he was the first monster Percy ever faced.

Percy charges; the Minotaur lowers his head and does the same. They're about five steps apart when the Minotaur pulls up and swipes to his right, his sword singing in the air. Annabeth ducks the blow, but only barely – her invisibility cap is knocked off, and she shimmers back into view. The Minotaur turns away from Percy to face her; on the return swing she deflects the strike but he still catches her shoulder, tears her dress.

She stumbles. Percy bellows something incomprehensible and hits him so hard they nearly go down together in a heap. The Minotaur swings his arm around and while Percy blocks that blow, he can't ward off the counterstrike of the opposite arm. The claws rake down his side, and while it doesn't hurt, not even close, they tear his jacket and snag the pocket of his pants – the pocket where Annabeth's ring currently resides.

He shouts something, panic rising up in his chest; he cannot lose that ring. Sally helped him pick it out, she's going to strangle him if he comes back to her and says he needs another one, and that's not even justifying the cost to Annabeth once she sees how it impacts their finances. The Minotaur lurches forward though, and they hit a pane of glass, shattering it over top of them. Percy can feel shards sliding through his hair, down his neck, probably ruining his suit.

Annabeth recovers, and comes up from behind. It takes the combined hits of Annabeth slicing his throat and Percy aiming Riptide for his abdomen to make the Minotaur dissolve into the familiar green smoke. As soon as he's clear, Percy is up and scrambling for the little velvet box that's been torn away from him; his pants and shirttails are hanging in shreds. When he looks over his shoulder at Annabeth, he realizes she's trying to step away from the broken glass on the ground in her stocking-covered feet. When they make eye contact she lets out a small, tired giggle.

"Well," he says, sighing and pulling himself up onto one knee. "This isn't how I wanted to do this but it fits, doesn't it?"

Annabeth's face goes slack when he opens the box, her eyes wide. "Marry me?" he asks, while she goggles.


"…Annabeth?" he finally asks, because she's not doing anything but staring, her face almost white. He's starting to feel like a moron, kneeling down on the cement.

"Like… right now?" she asks faintly, and Percy's eyebrows crease in confusion, his heart hammering in his chest.

"I mean, whenever you want," he stumbles. He's not quite sure he understands why she looks so shocked. "Just, in general, you know? Will you marry me? Or at least let me know if I can stand up now, because people are looking?"

"Yes," she breathes, reaching for him. "Yes, you Seaweed Brain," she tells him, and he wraps his arms around her, Annabeth with a streak of blood across her shoulder, both of them dirty and clothes torn, and this is probably a sign of exactly how the rest of their lives is going to go but Percy doesn't care one bit.

She's kissing him, and the future has never looked brighter.

The theme of Theo's first birthday party is sharks.

Percy's the one who suggests it; Annabeth is the one who plans it and implements it, buying the streamers and balloons and decorations and spending three days straight in the kitchen with Sally making blue food. Percy's job mostly consists of walking around the party, showing off his son and explaining to the guests, "Well, Theo's really into sharks right now."

"Smile," he orders Nico, who's staring at the kid as if Percy's asked him to solve the Sphinx's test questions. Theo's busy glancing between Nico and his father, trying to decide if this is something worth crying over. Evidently not, judging by the gap-toothed grin he gives Nico as he reaches for the silver chain around Nico's neck.

Nico narrows his eyes. "Put that camera away," he commands Percy, hauling Theo up a little higher as if to hide behind him.

"Shut up and smile." Percy holds up the camera. "You're happy to be here, remember?" Okay, so Percy pretty much had to drag Nico to the house by his ear, but he likes to think of it as his revenge for Nico conveniently shadow travelling into the hospital room while Annabeth was trying to figure out breast feeding when Theo was born.

It's small, as far as parties go. Percy's partner from work is the only mortal besides his parents and a couple neighbors who've taken a liking to their small family to be invited – otherwise, it's simply friends from camp who happen to be in the area. To be honest, it's more for Percy and Annabeth than it is for Theo, a chance for them to brag: Look, we've had a kid a whole year and nothing bad has happened.

It's his chance, and Percy is basking in it right up until his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Zajac – who incidentally spends way too much time looking through windows – lifts an arm and pokes Percy sharply in the shoulder. "Who is that man in the back yard?"

"What man?" Percy asks absently, smiling as Theo turns his big grey eyes on the older woman apprehensively. He's starting to suspect that the kid is getting tired of being passed around from person to person.

"That tall man," she says disapprovingly. Theo cranes his head all the way around to look for his father, who waves. Percy is only half listening, figuring she's talking about Tyson.

"That's my broth-" he starts to say, only to be cut off:

"And I think he's wearing a skirt! In February!" That gets both Nico and Percy's attention. Percy reaches and yanks back the curtains. Sure enough, the Minotaur is approaching the house, dressed in plated Greek armor. Today, the beast is carrying a curved, wicked looking blade. Percy shouldn't have been surprised; the whole place had to reek of demigods.

"Huh," Nico remarks, raising an eyebrow. "I thought you said you weren't getting a piñata."

"Dude." Percy reaches and lifts Theo out of Nico's arms. "I don't think that's candy coming out of there."

The Minotaur has caught the other's attentions now, however – Percy can see Sally trying to herd his partner back away from the windows, and Nico has drawn his sword. Percy looks around for Annabeth to pass off Theo, but before he can she races by, calling, "My turn, you take the baby."

Some parents argue about how to raise their children. Percy and Annabeth argue over whose turn it is to kill the monster today. Percy was afraid, once, that pregnancy and motherhood might slow Annabeth down, dull her reflexes, but now he's harboring a secret suspicion that she's an even more ruthless fighter than she was when they were teenagers. He hadn't realized that the maternal instinct included semiautomatic weapons.

Percy turns his head to say something to Nico, but he's already disappeared. In his arms, Theo hiccups and promptly chooses that moment to spit up all of the blue icing that he's been fed during the smash cake portion of the party.

"Aw, man," Percy grumbles, turning towards the kitchen to wash off his son. "I should have taken the Minotaur."