A/N: So, I know it's cutting it close, but here it is, the final chapter, just in time for the release of Son of Neptune! I hope you enjoy it.
Like a Trident
Chapter 3: Make a Pledge and Mischief is Nigh
The cabin was dark except for the green-blue light of the fountain dancing eerily on the walls. The only sounds in the stillness were the gentle trickle of falling water and soft, stilted breathing.
"I think…I think they're gone," Annabeth whispered, her invisible ear plastered against the Poseidon Cabin door.
"Man, that was close," Percy muttered beside her, a note of triumph in his voice. This was the closest the two of them had ever been to getting caught by the Harpies for being out of bed after hours. They had been taking a walk on the beach and gotten distracted…with each other.
"Take your hat off, I can't see you." Percy felt along her arm for her hand, which she withdrew. She skipped unseen, out of his reach.
"You should just be grateful I had it, or who would have made the distraction that let you get away?" Annabeth taunted.
"Well, if you take your hat off, maybe I'll show you how grateful I am," Percy threw back at her, the words dripping with promise. He moved further into the cabin, near where she stood by his trunk at the foot of the bed.
"You'll have to catch me first," she whispered before darting around his outstretched arm. He stood motionless for a moment, head cocked to the side, listening for any clue as to her location. Annabeth was tired of the game and more than willing to move onto the gratitude stage. She crept soundlessly up to Percy until a floorboard creaked just as she placed a fleeting kiss on his slightly pouted lips. His arms ensnared her before she could make a half-hearted attempt to flee.
"Gotcha," he smirked, flinging her hat to the ground before drawing her into a much more satisfactory kiss. Percy swept her up, bridal style, and Annabeth only gave a cursory protest. She secretly loved the way Percy would do things that made her feel girly but still respected her ability to fight for herself…most of the time.
He adjusted them on the bed so that he was propped up on the pillows and Annabeth was half sprawled across his chest. He sighed in contentment and Annabeth felt the movement flutter against her cheek.
"Let's stay like this forever," Percy murmured a few moments later. Annabeth rolled her eyes at the commonly expressed sentiment.
"Sure, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth returned, though the way she said it made it clear she hardly expected them to lay in the same position for all of eternity. This clearly was not good enough for Percy, who poked her in the side.
"Promise," he said childishly, poking her again.
"Only idiots make promises like that," Annabeth replied, trying to ignore the way his hands were brushing against her side, persistently trying to persuade her to give into his wishes. "The ancient Greeks knew that, it was one of the three credos carved on the temple of Apollo at Delphi." She quoted the phrase in ancient language of their forebears, but Percy understood it perfectly as, "Make a pledge and mischief is nigh."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Percy demanded with a sigh.
"Things go wrong when you promise things," Annabeth translated. "Look at Helen of Troy's suitors, they pledged themselves to help whoever Helen ended up marrying, and it landed them all in the Trojan War." She snorted at the imprudence of such an action.
Percy gave a small hum in the back his throat. Annabeth had come to interpret the sound as him having something to say but preventing himself because he was too content to potentially provoke her into debate.
"Why did the Greeks like threes so much?" Percy asked after a moment. He began engaging in a favored pastime, twining her golden curls around an index finger and watching them spring away as he waited for her answer. Annabeth propped her chin on his chest, her stormy eyes questioning.
"You know… three sayings on Apollo's temple, the Big Three, the world was divided into three parts…" he trailed off, eyebrows raised in expectation.
Annabeth's own brow furrowed. "I…I don't know," she responded, scowling as Percy's green eyes widened in delight.
"What was that?" he snickered. "I'm sorry, you were mumbling." He caught her hand in his as she raised it to smack him in irritation. "You know that'll only hurt you," he reminded. Percy was ever amused by his girlfriend's frustration at her inability to inflict real physical harm on him due to the Curse of Achilles.
"Shut up, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth snapped, readjusting her head so that her hair cascaded over his chest once more.
"Don't take is so personally," Percy advised, but the smile in his voice didn't improve Annabeth's mood. "Maybe the Greeks just thought three was a good number. My Mom always says that good things come in threes. Like a trident." He proclaimed the last with such simplicity, cheer, and Percy-ness, that Annabeth couldn't help but smile.
"I've always heard the opposite," she told him, covering her smile with snark. Percy's hands slid underneath the hem of her shirt to dance over the skin of her tanned hip.
"Nuh-uh." He hooked his ankle around hers, drawing her leg over his. Annabeth raised an eyebrow and wondered if Percy thought he was being subtle.
"So…you being the child of the Prophesy, almost dying, and then almost losing to Kronos weren't three bad things in a row?" Annabeth challenged. Percy's arms encircled her waist, drawing her up so that she could look at him eye to eye.
"But I didn't die, we won the war, and then you became my girlfriend. All good things," he countered, brushing his lips tantalizingly over hers. "Good things—come—in threes," he repeated, punctuating each phrase with a kiss.
"Like a trident," Annabeth sighed exasperatedly before Percy cut her off with a long, searing kiss.
Several minutes later, Percy looked down at her, glowing in the way that made her feel like a goddess. His calloused fingertips trailed tenderly down her cheek, his lips following in their wake. "Promise me we'll stay like this forever," he whispered.
And foolish in a way that only Percy could make her be, Annabeth replied with a soft whisper of her own.
Annabeth awoke with a start from the dream—memory—her eyes adjusting to the flickering light of braziers and torches lighting the canvas-covered ceiling of some sort of pavilion. Around her, the grunts of suppressed pain mingled with the chirping of crickets. The thought of pain alerted her quickly to her own, a constant caustic throbbing in her right forearm.
She must be in the infirmary. Her brain snapped the logical fact to the forefront. She hurt because she'd taken the knife- her knife-in her forearm in order to protect…
"Annabeth?" a soft feminine voice fluttered to her right. "Oh thank the gods you're awake."
Annabeth rolled her head slowly to the side, fighting the severe feeling of drowsiness and nausea which threatened to overwhelm her. Piper sat there, her eyes wide and concerned as she scooted closer to the edge of the hard stool she was sitting on. One hand nervously twisted one of her small braids around her fingers.
"Where-?" Annabeth murmured. Piper looked very far away through the haze of agony.
"Percy just went to talk to one of his friends who's a healer. He's trying to convince them to give Reyna stitches for her cut," Piper answered Annabeth's unfinished question. "Don't worry, he was here the entire time they were working on you. Once you're up to it, we can take you to get some nectar and ambrosia so it heals."
"Why didn't they just do that already?" Annabeth's brow rose.
Piper frowned, and scooted farther forward until she could whisper in Annabeth's ear. "They said they don't have godly food here. Suffering wounds makes you stronger or something like that." Piper rolled her eyes, "Jason said only heroes going on quests earn the right to use it, and they only give enough to use in near death situations."
Both girls shared a look which communicated their feelings of alienation at being stuck in this foreign world which seemed to contain no joy to counteract the grim reality of a hero's existence.
"Why won't they heal, Reyna?" It was obvious what Annabeth truly thought of the Roman's healing.
Piper's eyes darted around the room and she bent forward once more so that only Annabeth could hear. "The Romans…dislike strong displays of emotion," Piper explained, and Annabeth gathered from the way she pressed her palms into the canvas of the wooden cot, that dislike was a strong understatement. "What Reyna did, not the refusing to lose, but the sort of, well…losing it part has knocked her down the social food chain."
"So she's not worthy of healing?" the idea, while it pleased some small, bitter part of Annabeth's mind, found the practice rather barbaric. Camp Half-Blood had updated some of its practices and ideologies since ancient times, but it appeared the Roman camp still thought they should be run by the Caesar and the Senate.
Piper shrugged her shoulders. "They think she's weak," she said simply. "I feel bad for her but…" Piper trailed off, an anguished look on her face.
Annabeth understood the other girl's feelings perfectly. There were obviously things that Reyna had experienced which had scarred her, and she had watched her boyfriend disappear. It seemed that she had found something with Percy and Annabeth had shown up to reclaim him. But even though Annabeth understood, she knew that Percy would never truly belong with the Romans or with Reyna…
The image of Percy holding a sobbing Reyna in his arms just as she blacked out crackled viciously in front of her closed eyes. Maybe…just as Jason had developed feelings for Piper, Percy had changed his mind too.
Promise me we'll stay like this forever. The wraithlike words snaked themselves around her thoughts continuously.
"I should go get Percy," Piper said, pushing herself to her feet gracefully. Her likeness to a daughter of Aphrodite grew more apparent by the day. "He asked me to get him when you woke up."
Annabeth watched her go before pushing herself into a sitting position with her good arm. She paused for a moment, her head swimming as the room spun momentarily.
"Oh, good. You're up." A boy with short cropped blonde hair stood next to her. He lifted her arm without further introduction and his thorough examination of it all but branded him as a child of Apollo in his Roman aspect. "It should heal," he proclaimed. "Might scar, but from the way you fought out there I'm surprised you don't have more of those."
Annabeth glanced up to meet approving eyes. It was strange to be judged solely on her fighting prowess and nothing else. At Camp Half-Blood, while strength counted, it was not considered to be everything.
"You've made quite a name for yourself," the healer continued brightly. "I think Lupa might invite you to train with us." He sounded as if Annabeth should consider this pronouncement on par with Athena and Poseidon settling their ancient rivalry.
"We don't have time to train," Annabeth said as she stood up slowly. "We have to get to Greece." The healer didn't respond and Annabeth was grateful, for she desperately wanted to get out of the tent and back to the Argo before Percy came back. She wasn't certain what to say to him now. He didn't remember that they had been together…and if she discovered that he was with Reyna, after all this time…
For the first time in her life, Annabeth Chase willingly ran from the truth.
She thanked the healer for his help while mentally itching to drink some nectar and have one of her friends cut her stitches out. She had moved only a few yards away from the pavilion when a hand grabbed her good arm, the jerking motion of her abrupt stop jarred her arm, causing her to hiss in pain.
"Sorry," an all too recognizable voice panted slightly beside her. Percy had run to catch up with her. "Annabeth—"
"I'm fine," she cut him off sharply. "Go make sure Reyna gets taken care of."
"But," Percy protested, "I was worried about you." He strode around to stand in her field of vision, his hand sliding down her arm to grip her hand.
Annabeth stared at their intertwined fingers for a moment, before maneuvering her fingers out of his. He probably had no idea why he had done that anyway, she thought. She forced herself to look him straight in his anxiety-filled, fantastic ocean-green eyes. "Go help Reyna."
Something shifted in his face. It was remarkable to Annabeth that she didn't recognize the expression. Had they been apart so long that she could no longer remember her vast catalogue of Percy's facial expressions? Or was Percy no longer exactly her Percy.
Promise me we'll stay like this forever. His voice, full of warmth echoed again in her head.
"Can I see you later?" the Percy presently standing in front of her asked. His eyes searched her face boldly, like one so used to it they didn't give the action a second thought.
"Maybe," Annabeth replied neutrally. It reminded her of a conversation they had once had. "When a girl says maybe, Seaweed Brain, sometimes you have to guess that means no," she'd told him.
She wasn't sure what she meant by the word now. However, her answer seemed good enough for Percy who turned and jogged away. He glanced once over his shoulder, almost as if he was checking to see if she was still there, before ducking back into the canvas folds of the infirmary.
Annabeth brushed a strand of her hair out of her eyes. It was much longer than she remembered it, but she hadn't had the time to think about cutting it for months. She had been so focused on getting here… on seeing Percy.
She stared up at the stars, brightly sparking over the clearing, in brilliant view from the deck of the Argo. Annabeth was curled up on one of the large wooden chairs on the deck, wrapped against the slight chill of the air in a tattered blue hoodie. The garment had once been Percy's, but she'd borrowed it so often he'd simply given it to her.
Leo, Piper, and Jason were all below deck. Piper had made sure she'd been able to clean herself of all of the dirt and grime from the sword arena before settling her in the chair. Jason had prepared a glass of nectar for her to sip on, and once the godly drink made it possible, Leo promised to remove her stitches.
Annabeth's quicksilver eyes scanned the sky, wishing that the gods still wrote messages to their children in it, like they had in centuries before. Even though Aphrodite wasn't her favorite goddess, Annabeth still wished that she would send her some sort of sign. Was this the moment when Annabeth and Percy parted?
Almost as if the goddess had heard her, Annabeth heard a faint voice murmur, "Ladders." Dutifully, one of the escape ladders on the ship flipped over the side.
She knew who it was before his messy black head was visible over the railings. Annabeth walked over to the console near the wheel and disarmed the security systems. She wasn't quite sure how far Percy's control over the Argo went. While it was a ship, it was also mainly designed to fly.
She watched, half in endearment, half in exasperation as Percy attempt to sneak through the shadows of the railings, crawling on his hands and knees toward the entrance to the below deck cabins.
"Having fun?" she asked after a moment, gratified when he practically fell over.
"Annabeth, is everything okay up there?" Jason's voice carried up the staircase, alerted by the clatter.
"I'm fine," she called back, watching as Percy rose to his feet. He brushed his wild hair down in embarrassment.
"You could have just told me you were there, you know," he said testily as he followed her back to her deck chair. He picked up the glass of nectar so she wouldn't dislodge it when she sat before holding it out in front of her. Annabeth gave him a pointed look over the rim.
"You should have finished this already." The concern in his voice had Annabeth reaching out to take the glass before she really realized what she was doing.
"And you shouldn't be trespassing on other people's ships," Annabeth returned smoothly, taking a sip of nectar out of the straw. Her gaze followed Percy as he sat down in the chair next to her, his hands clasped in front of him. Annabeth recognized this as one of Percy's nervous gestures when he was about to say something he found particularly difficult to articulate.
"I remembered that you told me once that sometimes when a girl says 'maybe' she really means 'no,'" Percy started. "And I couldn't wait. I…I don't remember everything yet, but the more time I spend with you, the more I remember. And today…I remembered exactly who you are, Annabeth." The air around them seemed to thicken and freeze as Percy's eyes met hers, brimming with his always unfettered emotions.
"How's Reyna?" the question blurted itself out of Annabeth's mouth before she could stop it. Her logic seemed to always fall short when her emotions towards Percy came into play. It was a situation Annabeth found highly inconvenient, especially at times like this.
"She's fine." Percy sounded incredibly relieved by this and Annabeth's stomach dropped out from under her. She placed the glass of nectar down sharply on the armrest. She folded her arms across her chest as if it could help her reign her surging emotions in.
"Wise Girl," Percy began again, and the sound of her nickname falling from his lips felt almost like someone taking the knife and piercing her forearm again. "I…when I got here, it was pretty obvious to everyone that I didn't belong. I couldn't—didn't want to do everything the Roman way. If Reyna hadn't become my friend…I think I might have only survived because I was invulnerable."
Annabeth's eyes blinked. The stars looked like millions of winking eyes watching the boy who had made her promise him forever, cut his promise short.
There was a scrape of wood on wood, and suddenly, Percy was kneeling in front of her. "Reyna's been through a lot. She's lost her whole family. And she's my friend. But…it's not—we're not—she's not you."
Annabeth stared at him. "I don't understand."
"I'm sorry, what?" he teased, but Annabeth quelled his good humor with a look. "I kept having these dreams where there was lots of grey and gold," Percy stated. "A lot of times I remembered a girl, bending down to offer me a hand when I was drowning, but the face was always blurry."
Annabeth was about to protest that he couldn't drown, trying to find such an instance in her own memory when he reached out to cover her free hand with his own. "I don't remember all the details just yet. But I remember lots of things…" he tone turned apologetic, worried. It was almost as if he was scared she wouldn't want him anymore because he was fuzzy on a few of the particulars.
Annabeth picked up the cup of nectar and drained the rest of the glass quickly. It wouldn't do to have pain in her arm during the execution of her new plan.
"I know that you might not want to…pick up where we left off…" Percy blushed profusely, which reminded Annabeth of the younger Seaweed Brain, who had still been hers back then, even though neither of them had been aware of it at the time. "But I just wanted to let you know that while Hera made me forget you…a part of me always remem—"
Percy was cut off as Annabeth executed her latest, and possibly most enjoyable attack plans of all time…She wrapped both arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.
Percy lost his balance and fell backward, bringing Annabeth with him. She had one palm pressed against the wooden deck for balance as Percy's arms coiled around her waist. His lips yielded in new and utterly familiar ways against hers as his warmth soaked into her skin. She had almost forgotten what it had felt like after months of unconscious coldness. And the smell of him, the salty fresh smell of a clear day on the ocean embraced her. Annabeth couldn't help but vaguely think, as Percy's hand, splayed itself on the bare skin of her back, that this kiss may actually have topped their first.
The sound of footfalls on the staircase forced Annabeth to reluctantly remove her lips from Percy's. "Annabeth, are you sure you're okay?" Jason's voice grew nearer as he approached.
And beaming up at her, eyes lit with the smile that was solely her own, it was Percy who responded. "We're fine."
And sometimes, Annabeth thought, when boys say fine, they really mean fantastic.
A/N: Well, there it was! There's a short epilogue that accompanies it, which I will be happy to post (hopefully later today) in exchange for your thoughts/comments on the story! Thanks for reading!