A/N: My 20th fic! This is a really strange idea that popped into my head after reading the Son of Neptune preview. Takes place right before that, still in San Francisco. Enjoy, and please leave a review!
The worst thing about it, Percy thought, was that he could remember parts. Not the entire thing—just enough to tease him. Everything was tantalizingly out of reach.
He could only remember one name other than his own. Annabeth. He couldn't place her last name. Something with a ch, he thought. He wasn't sure, though. He wasn't sure about anything besides what Lupa had told him. His father was the ancient Roman god Neptune, which meant that Percy was a demigod. He had a blue ballpoint pen that turned into a glowing bronze sword called Anaklusmos - Riptide. He didn't know how he knew Ancient Greek, but Lupa definitely hadn't been happy when he was able to translate the inscription perfectly. He had an orange T-shirt that got burned to ashes back in Reno and a necklace with clay beads on it.
Fragments of memory sliced through him at random intervals, making it increasingly difficult to concentrate. It had been like this for… two months, now? He'd been on the move for a long time. Fighting monsters, grey eyes, grabbing half-eaten food out of trash cans, a blonde guy stabbing himself with a bronze knife, fighting more monsters, holding someone at the bottom of the sea, running to the next almost-safe spot, a bull bellowing in a thunderstorm.
Percy shook his head, trying to clear it. He was sitting outside a café somewhere in San Francisco, planning on booking it out of there once the waitress brought his food. It wasn't like they could catch him, anyway, he reasoned. He'd gotten a lot of practice running in the last month or two.
He stared at the people passing by. They were so completely, wonderfully oblivious to everything. They had no idea that ancient Roman gods actually existed. They had no idea that monsters walked among them every day. They had no idea that the disheveled-looking teenage guy sitting at that overpriced restaurant was an amnesiac demigod, the son of Neptune, to be exact.
His trusty pen-sword tapped against his leg nervously. He hated waiting around. Any minute, a monster could sneak up on him, and he'd have to cause a scene to get out of there, and the police would get involved. Those cops in Nevada were probably still looking for him.
Suddenly, a man walked up to him. Percy automatically tensed. No complete stranger ever approached a demigod—they were usually some kind of monster.
This guy didn't look like the usual monster, though. He had short, messy, sandy-colored hair and a scruffy beard. His eyes were a bit startling; they were incredibly bright, like he was either a genius or a madman, or maybe both. The buttons on his shirt were mismatched, making one side stick up higher than the other, and he held an old-fashioned aviator hat.
"Percy? Percy Jackson?" the man asked. He looked at Percy closely, as if he was trying to determine if it was really him. Percy was pretty sure that he'd never seen this middle-aged guy from San Francisco before. Then again, he could only remember one person from whatever life he'd had before this.
He must have looked pretty confused, because the guy said, "I'm Professor Chase. Annabeth's father, remember? We met a few years ago…"
Percy jumped up as if an electric shock had shot through him. "Annabeth? Did you say Annabeth? Who is she? Where is she? Gods, I'm sorry, I'm probably not making any sense—I just—oh, my gods…"
Dr. Chase's eyebrows were so far up on his forehead, they looked like they might disappear into his receding hair. Percy didn't blame him, of course; he must've seemed like a complete lunatic. Which wasn't an option he had ruled out for himself, yet.
He put both hands on Annabeth's father's shoulders firmly. "Annabeth Chase, you said? Blonde hair, grey eyes…?"
"Yes, of course. Percy, I must say, you're looking a little… unsettled. Maybe you want to come back to our apartment? We won't hold you up, I promise, wherever you're going."
His mom (not that he remembered her or anything) had probably told him a million times not to talk to strangers. And he definitely wasn't supposed to accept invitations to accompany said strangers into their houses in unfamiliar cities while he had amnesia.
But the funny thing was, he trusted Dr. Chase. Sure, he looked a little crazy, but he was Annabeth's father. Percy didn't doubt that—from what little he remembered about Annabeth, he could tell that the two were pretty similar.
So he said yes. He walked out of the little gated area outside that overpriced café just as the very confused-looking waitress came out with his food. He wasn't hungry anymore, though. Or rather, his hunger had shifted—he had to find out more about Annabeth. Annabeth Chase.
"I have to admit, Percy, I'm a bit surprised to see you here. I would think you'd be in New York," Dr. Chase said casually as they walked. The words New York sent a shiver down his spine. There was something he should remember about that place. He just couldn't remember what he should remember.
"New York…" he murmured.
"Yes," Mr. Chase nodded cheerfully. "At camp, or with your mother. Isn't that were you live? Or maybe she told me New Hampshire…"
His spine was practically vibrating with the force of the shivers running up and down it. New York. Camp. Mother. He lived in New York. He lived in New York?
"Oh! Percy, didn't you go missing?" Mr. Chase exclaimed, turning towards him suddenly and coming to a dead stop on the doorstep of a nice apartment building. "I thought Annabeth said something a while ago..."
Percy's mouth opened and closed a couple times. How in the name of Neptune could he answer that question?
Before he could formulate any sort of answer, Professor Chase ushered him in the door and up a flight or two of stairs.
"I'm home! And we've got company," Mr. Chase called, throwing his keys onto a cluttered table beside the door. Looking around, Percy felt a strange sense of déjà vu. He remembered this apartment. The multiple aviator hats hanging on the wall, the Lego bricks strewn across the floor, the smell of cookies coming from the kitchen through that archway with the black-and-white pictures. Maybe he had been here before he lost his memories.
"Good! You're just in time for the cookies," a lady called back, taking a baking sheet out of the oven. She set it down on a rack without turning around. Throwing the oven mitts down on the counter, she looked over her shoulder at her husband. (Or at least, that's what he thought. Yeah, he was pretty sure Dr. Chase was married…)
"Oh!" Mrs. Chase cried. "Percy? Is that you? My goodness, Annabeth will be so… Fred, where on earth did you find him?"
"He was wandering around San Francisco." He turned towards Percy again. "Percy, why have you been away from camp for so long? Everyone is frantic over there."
He floundered for a second. So people were looking for him. People from a camp in New York, one he used to go to.
"I… don't really know. I just woke up two months ago, somewhere in Colorado, without any memories." He shrugged.
"You lost your memory? Oh, no wonder they haven't been able to find you! You poor dear," Mrs. Chase bustled over to him and steered him into a seat at the counter before he could object.
"So that's why you looked so confused…" Professor Chase mused. "But you remembered Annabeth?"
He nodded cautiously. "Bits and pieces. I remember her name, and what she looks like, and a few memories… but she's the only part of my life I remember, other than my name. She's… she's a demigod, too, right? At camp…" He trailed off, wondering at the strange feel of the words in his mouth.
"Amazing. Oh, we have to call her—she'll be so happy! She's been so upset lately, you know. Looking for you all over the country…" Mrs. Chase grabbed a pile of cookies off the sheet and happily shoved them into his hands.
"Can you… tell me more about her? Anything. I just want to know." He said the words hesitatingly, trying to keep the sudden feelings of longing out of his voice. Mrs. Chase hugged him, which took him a bit off guard, but he hugged her back.
And the Chases told him about her, stories about when she was a little girl. How she killed an attacking dracaena at the age of five by electrocuting it. How she ran away when she was only seven. At some points, he interrupted to ask more questions, or repeat the Greek names uncertainly, or laugh, or ask "Did she really do that?"
And he felt so content in that cluttered little kitchen, eating cookies and listening to stories about the only person he could remember - the only person that mattered. Being there was the sole positive feeling he'd had since that awful day when he realized that he was completely alone, without friends, help, or even memories.
They were just getting to their first quest together—recovering Zeus's stolen lightning bolt—when something large and black and furry came crashing through the door, barking insanely and staring straight at him. A hellhound, he thought. He uncapped his pen-sword Riptide and ran forward, slashing at the monster's neck. A giant squeaky yak in the middle of an arena. He shook his head, wishing he knew what that glimpse of a memory meant.
Within seconds, the monster was only a pile of dust on the polished wooden floor of the apartment. He turned back to Dr. and Mrs. Chase with an apologetic expression.
"I'm sorry. I should go. More will be coming soon…" He started to backpedal towards the ruined door.
"Percy, wait, you don't have to—" Professor Chase said, reaching forward as if to stop him.
"I'm so sorry. Tell Annabeth that - that I love her. Please. And—" The words seemed to get stuck in his throat. "And that she can't give up. I'm sorry."
And he ran out the door, knowing that he was running away from every answer about his past, about Annabeth, that he would ever get, and not knowing why.