Summary: Piper, struggling with thoughts of Jason, receives a gift from Aphrodite and gets to the see the progression of one of the greatest love stories of all time. Percabeth.
"There must be some kind of way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion,
I can't get no relief."
- Bob Dylan (as covered by Jimi Hendrix)
All Along the Watchtower
Piper kicked a loose piece of gravel out of her way and continued walking down the rarely used path to the beach. She was losing control. First rule in the guidebook to all things demigod: Never lose your calm. Demigods are supposed to be cool and composed. They are supposed to be the eye of the storm, in complete control.
She found a wayward branch lying on the ground and snapped it in half over her knee. Well, screw that, Piper was losing control.
It was because of one devastatingly handsome son of Zeus.
Jason was the most oblivious guy to ever walk the planet. He had no idea the effect he had on Piper. He didn't realize how much he toyed with her. Half the time she wondered if he thought she was his dog, or his best friend. And then finding out her entire relationship with him had been a lie was just icing on the cake.
More than anything, it was humiliating. Jason had no idea who she was, yet Piper still completely enthralled with him.
It was wrong, and uneven, and just not fair.
Piper hated being indebted to people, especially when she had no idea how to level the playing field.
She cared about Jason more than he cared about her.
And it sucked.
It was hard, and it hurt, and sometimes she wondered whether or not she had the energy to sustain so much hope that anything could happen between them.
He probably had a girlfriend back at the Roman camp, probably some beautiful, skilled, warrior that could slaughter Piper in battle like a piece of paper.
They probably had a past. Jason had actually been with her. The mist hadn't screwed with either of their heads. Piper was torn. She wasn't sure if she wanted to start slamming her forehead against a brick wall, or start crying hysterically. Her options were just endless.
Being a teenaged girl with overactive hormones sucked.
It smelled really good.
Piper lifted her head and sniffed again. It smelled like a strange mixture of things: flowers, cinnamon, salt, and apples, all at the same time. It was so strange. She was in the forest. Nothing smelled remotely like that in the woods, surrounded by trees. Piper inhaled through her nose again and the tension fell from her limbs. The scent was oddly relaxing, calming. It wafted through her brain and settled her raging thoughts.
It was nice.
She hadn't been relaxed in a really long time. Being in the middle of a war, a prophecy, and a camp full of under aged demigods was stressful; and not exactly predisposed to privacy either.
Okay, creepy, feminine voice calling her from the woods. Whatever it was, didn't sound threatening; their voice was actually slightly soothing, but then again, plenty of evil things could sound pretty.
"Dear child, I'm not evil and I do not appreciate you thinking of me so."
"Um… who are you, then?" Piper asked aloud. The person, thing, creature, could read her thoughts. And that only managed to freak her out more. One time, while learning to shoot a bow and arrow, Annabeth had told her it was good to be wary in his business. Being paranoid only saved your life.
"You have good intuition, Piper."
Her eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"You're doubting your relationship with the young Jason, are you not?"
"Well, I mean—. I guess—. Wait… Mom?" she asked, incredulously.
The voice chuckled sweetly. "That is flattering, dear, it truly is. But, no, I'm simply a correspondent, so to speak."
"So, you're like… cupid?"
"I suggest you don't compare me to that insufferable brat that thinks he's Miss Aphrodite's favorite, when he obviously IS NOT."
"Oh." Piper said. "Sorry?"
"Regardless, your mother sent me to deliver you a gift."
Piper's curiosity was sparked and her emotions deflated. "Why couldn't she give them to me herself?"
The voice sounded sad, pitiful. "Oh, honey, it's hard to get around direct interference. She does care about you. Give it time. The poor economy has put quite the strain on many relationships. But she heard your distress, dear. She wants to help you."
For a daughter of Aphrodite, Piper really didn't know anything about relationships.
"Well, uh… tell her thanks, for the gift thing. And—," she stopped. And what? Tell her mom that she would like to meet her for once in her life? That just sounded sad.
"You will find the letter. It had been nice talking to you, Piper McLean. We all expect great things to come from you. Do not be afraid."
Piper shut her mouth and didn't retort. The pretty smell faded from the air. She continued down the dirt path, keeping an eye out for anything that shouted her mom.
There was a slight popping nice and then a disembodied white letter hovered in front of Piper's eyes. She supposed her mom wasn't big about being inconspicuous. As soon as her finger closed around it, gravity caught up and it dropped in her hands. It was folded in thirds and was an embellished tan. Fancy cursive adorned the front, spelling out Piper's name. She opened the letter.
Your well-founded angst has not gone unnoticed. As beautiful, and as perfect, as love is, relationships are difficult. I understand you're facing confusion when it comes to that lovely boy, Jason? Honey, I am most definitely paying attention, never doubt that. He is just as troubled as you are. But I have given you this gift for a reason; you're losing hope, dear. You must never lose hope.
You are about to witness the progression of one of the greatest love stories I've ever come to be a part of.
I do believe you know one of them, if I am not mistaken.
Love is easy. People make it hard.
There was a silver symbol etched in the middle of the paper below her mom's signature. It was a circle with a thin flower stretching out from the center. The Flower of Aphrodite. On a whim, Piper pressed her finger against it and was forced to close her eyes as the sudden rush of pictures flooded her mind.
There was a little boy sitting on a beach, his arms were wrapped around his legs and he was just close enough, that when the tide was high, he could dip his fingers in the water. His hair was black and downy, random strands falling over his forehead and into stunningly green eyes. The vision zoomed in and Piper could clearly see the tear tracks running down his face. His chest jumped with hiccups and his lips quivered with reined in sobs.
"I hate that stupid school, that stupid teacher, and my stupid dad for leaving me and mom all alone. It's not fair," he huffed.
He buried his head in his crossed arms and Piper shouldn't have been able to hear him so clearly, but his words rang in her ears.
"I'm so lonely," he sobbed.
Piper blinked rapidly and cleared her line of sight.
She had just seen Percy Jackson.
A part of his past. A sad part of his past.
The tree branches were crashing and whipping into the little girl. She had mangled blond hair and a scratched up face. She was gasping for air and finally stumbled into a clearing.
"Luke! Luke! Thalia? Are you guys okay?" she screamed behind her. It was strange to see such a small child so in control; and panicking so terribly.
Creaking and snapping announced the arrival of a second body, this time of a tall, tan, and attractive teenaged boy. His blue eyes were flicking back and forth until they latched onto the little girl and he raced forward and crumpled her in a hug. Piper could hear more crashing through the woods.
"Thalia's okay, Annabeth. I'm okay. We're okay. We got away. It's okay."
Annabeth threw her arms around Luke's neck and sighed.
"Never leave me like that again."
Luke's face crumpled. "I won't. I promise. I'll never leave you guys, Annabeth."
Piper's eyebrows furrowed. Wasn't this story about Percy and Annabeth? Who was the blond guy; Luke? He looked more like a big brother to Annabeth than another love interest, especially with the age difference.
Another question: Where was he now?
A storm was raging on the top of the hill. People were screaming. Annabeth was screaming. Luke was pulling her down the other side of the tree line, struggling, because Annabeth was kicking and fighting him every step of the way. Tears were streaming down both of their faces.
Pain, lots and lots of pain, swallowed Piper, and the last thing she saw of the view was a beautiful pine tree sitting on top of the hill against a backdrop of vicious black clouds.
Piper recognized the tree. That scene was on the hill of Camp Half-Blood, when Thalia was turned into a tree because Zeus didn't want her to die.
She was back on top of the hill. Except this time, Annabeth and the blonde boy were nowhere to be found. It was storming again. The rain was pouring down in sheets. The wind was whipping the sturdy branches of Thalia's back and forth. There was a terrifying roar that seemed to shake the earth and the vision zeroed in.
Percy, a little older, a little taller, was staggering drunkenly, standing directly in the path of a giant walking bull that was running towards him. Pain, and pain, and pain, coupled with a horrible sense of loss engulfed Piper. Percy was devastated.
The monster disappeared with a spray of dust and a wash of black for Percy. The vision faded in and out.
Annabeth was leaning over him, features indescribable. Percy was obviously almost unconscious, blood dripping from his temple. Brilliant green eyes were blinking confusedly up at Annabeth. She looked stunned. Hooves clopped against wood and things folded around Chiron picking Percy up off the floor.
Things were getting even more confusing. Annabeth didn't even look like she cared that her future boyfriend was injured on the ground in front of her. It was strange.
Feelings touched Piper now. There was grim excitement, and pain, lots of confusion. Images flashed past her brain. Annabeth and Percy, cheering Oreo's while sitting in hay. Annabeth with a slight smirk on her face.
There were battles and scars and scratches and beatings. Fear, and terror, and relief. Annabeth's cynical heart, warming up to this reckless, self-sacrificial boy who doesn't mind helping her. He makes her laugh a lot.
Then calm. Mission over.
Percy, stumbling into a clearing, practically hanging from the arms of two nympths, his face was deathly pale.
A conch harm blared in the distance. The sound was deep and threatening. Annabeth flew into the circle of people that were a safe distance away from the danger.
She caught Percy just as he passed out.
Piper was engulfed with a suffocating fear.
Pure sweet relief. Percy was breathing.
Then, rejection. Pain. Absolute roaring betrayal.
Percy, pale, but standing on the porch. He was staring off into the distance, but he caught Annabeth's gaze and his face lit up in a warm smile.
Hope. It felt strange, but Annabeth liked it.
Luke was still gone.
Piper felt her stomach flutter. It was weird, viewing the past. But she had to guess it was all in Annabeth's point of view. Everything was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was all happening so fast. Then again, it was all the events and feelings of one year squeezed into two seconds of vivid flashbacks. Piper barely had a chance to catch her breath before she was sucked back in.
Annabeth punched the giant in the face with a happy sense of revenge.
Nobody could mess with Percy, except her, of course.
Then, relief when a crystal clear gaze met hers.
They were thrown into action. Fear, dread, absolute dread. Thalia's tree was dying. Determination. Heartwarming when Percy was just as angry as she was. More of that fear when something huge exploded and Annabeth was forced drag Percy out of the water.
Pain, desperate wanting. She wanted that life so much. Luke. Back again. It was perfect. She was perfect. Then offending hands were pulling her away from her dream.
How could he? How could he do this to her? Why?
Then the dream dissolved into absolute nothingness and Annabeth was clinging to Percy with everything she had.
Because he was warm and safe and here. And Luke wasn't.
Action, danger, mind-numbing pain in her head, and then peace.
Annabeth blinked, completely revitalized, and was met with thick black hair. Percy's face was calm and every time he exhaled it tickled her nose. Annabeth giggled. It was strange, how something so little could make her laugh like that. She never giggled. Too many memories, too much pain, all weighed her down.
Percy sighed, his nose twitching with a slight grimace. Annabeth frowned and lifted her head. He was bleeding. Numerous scratches ran haphazardly down his back, little lines of red leaking into his shirt. Annabeth wrapped her hand around the heavy Fleece that was tucked around her like a glove, and laid it over Percy's arm. She watched as the wounds healed, Percy's shirt stitched back together, and his hair got darker.
He sighed, completely exhausted, and melted into the hippocampi, hand curling against his cheek in pose that was reminiscent of his missing childhood that Annabeth never got to see.
And when Percy yawned and twisted to lie on his stomach, Annabeth definitely didn't stare at the way his shirt was unveiled the smooth, tan, dip in his spine, running up his back.
Annabeth shook off the sensation and rolled over, waiting for sleep to come.
It came slowly.
Shock, complete shock.
Annabeth was going to have to get to know Thalia all over again. And she was perfectly okay with it.
The warm sensation in her stomach was getting hotter and Piper struggled to make sure she didn't go awww. Their relationship was innocent, unwittingly cute. They irritated each other, but were so reliant on the other always being there, the tension rarely lasted long.
Percy had changed over the summer. He had always lagged a couple inches behind her, but now they were the same height. He was still all teenaged boy, with the thin set shoulders and lanky muscles to match. His hair was longer, just as messy, with bangs barely above just as green eyes. There was a certain maturity that had latched onto Percy while he'd been away.
And there was something about it that drove Annabeth crazy.
Why was she suddenly so self conscious?
Then there was embarrassment and a strange exhilaration that surrounded dancing with Percy in a school gym.
Wild fear, a surge of protectiveness, because she'd just gotten Thalia and Percy back again and there was no way she was letting them go.
That horrible betrayal stabbed her in the heart once more and Luke was confusing and everything was painful but she wouldn't have traded any of it for Percy's life.
Fire. She was burning. She couldn't survive this. It was too much. She wasn't strong enough. Annabeth was so close to giving up, and then…
Then it was gone. She survived. Percy had rescued her. He'd defied direct orders and traveled across the country to rescue her.
And then she was watching the green flicker grimly as she watched the mysterious "Zoe" girl pass away into the stars.
Percy was asleep. He hadn't lasted long after Argus had picked them up from the Empire State Building. The car was actually pretty large and the ride was smooth. Annabeth relished the sounds of an entire city waking up, horns honking, tires spinning, and voices chattering. All of it was muffled through the steel confines of the vehicle, and was threatening to pull her into peaceful oblivion, too. A hand bumped her thigh.
Immeasurably tired, Annabeth's eyes drifted downwards and then followed the arm. Percy was slumped against the door, eyes bloodshot; he looked uncomfortable.
Rolling her eyes, although the reaction held no true feeling, only exhaustion, Annabeth tugged her NYU sweatshirt off and gently pushed Percy's shoulder.
His head swung up, "'S'wrong?"
"Nothing, you looked uncomfortable, want my sweatshirt?" Her voice was strangely soothing. It even infiltrated her numb state of mind.
Percy stared incomprehensibly at her hands, eyes bleary and lids heavy.
"Yeah," he breathed. Percy pulled the sweatshirt out of her hands and propped it against the window. He didn't say thank you, which only proved how tired he was, because Percy was adamant with his gratitude.
He mumbled something she couldn't understand and slid farther down the seat. He had a mole on the left side of his mouth, right next to his lips. Black eyelashes that would've made the most blessed women kill for were curled elegantly over the hollow of his eyes.
Swallowing roughly, she tore her gaze away and stared resolutely at the back of the passenger seat.
Crystal blue eyes winked at her, Argus's.
Annabeth went into another school year filled with a confusing concoction of hope, doubt, and suspicion.
Piper's mouth was strangely dry and her head was aching. She barely had time to sort her own emotions before Annabeth's pulled her in.
Percy falling into her arms shouldn't have felt as good as it had. And watching that insufferably red-head tumble out after him shouldn't have bothered her so much.
But it did and Rachel was suddenly the antagonist. Because it turned out Percy was actually "hanging out" with her, and that meant he was trying to replace her. Annabeth wouldn't admit—not under danger of death—that she was feeling jealous. Not about Seaweed Brain. Not about Percy. He was her best friend.
Fear and danger and quests and monsters. Choices. Janus taunting her. She couldn't choose. Not between Percy and Luke. Percy was always there and Luke HAD always been there. Now one was gone and the other wasn't. It should've been simple.
Why couldn't she let go?
Annabeth wrapped her hand around Percy's neck and kissed him, fire licking at their feet, both literally and figuratively.
Pain, horrible, hideous, raging pain. Regret. Guilt. Stupid, plot-less hope. She wasn't letting go. Percy never gave up on her.
She faced his sacrifice with the same stoicism she'd faced everything else with.
Everyone in camp pretended that they didn't hear her screaming and sobbing in the rain.
Hope dried up like water in the desert inside of her and Annabeth said everything but what she really wanted to say at his funeral.
And then she saw beautiful green eyes and messy black hair and her knees were so painfully close to buckling she held onto Percy like he was a lifesaver and she was the drowning victim.
Annabeth wondered how far off that metaphor really was.
The entire conversation with Chiron she couldn't keep her eyes off of Percy, even when he mentioned Calypso's island. All she saw was stormy green eyes, slightly darker than they were four years ago, perfectly floppy black hair, smooth tan skin that she dreamed she could keep all year long, and that perfect jaw line that just wanted to screw with her hormones.
She was angry about Calypso. Jealousy burned hot in Annabeth those days, and she couldn't help but get mad when he didn't want to admit he was on her island.
This jealousy was a disease and she didn't stop to think that she owed Calypso a lot; she saved Percy's life when Annabeth couldn't.
Everything was wrong and they're all asking her to make a choice she couldn't make. Percy didn't mention the kiss and the gods knew Annabeth wasn't brave enough to bring it up. They tiptoed around each other because she couldn't help but snap at him when he was around and finally he started to snap back.
It hurt to be with Percy and it hurt more to be without him.
Annabeth was determined to crush this thing that was dangerous for her to keep and dangerous to Percy.
And she knew as she was running down that hill that he was hurt.
It killed her.
Oh gods that would be horrific. Piper couldn't imagine losing Jason for two weeks. She couldn't imagine losing him at all.
She couldn't fathom that pain. Even a small taste of it was crippling.
Annabeth was in so much agony.
Luke visited and she closed the door. Annabeth felt like it was one more step towards the line. Luke, or Percy.
The devastation on his face still stabbed a knife through her chest.
Indecision sucked. So did public school. So did being away from Percy. She absolutely despised not watching out for him. Percy constantly got himself hurt. She was supposed to prevent that.
She wanted to.
Annabeth didn't want Percy to go on that mission at all. But before he left, he smiled so widely it blinded her, and he winked.
And gods, why did she want him to do it again?
Her nerves were wrecked the entire time he was gone, and when he walked up that hill, bloodshot eyes and scratched up face, they all disappeared.
The guilt was almost crippling, and Annabeth wanted to go to Tartarus for thinking it; but in reality, she was glad Percy came back, and not Beckendorf.
Percy was going to die. He couldn't. He wasn't. How could he? Why would the prophecy do that?
Percy couldn't die.
Annabeth wasn't going to let him.
Then she found out Percy was invincible and it pissed her off because even though he was indestructible, one glance in the wrong spot and he was gone.
She leaped in front of the knife with no hesitations.
Percy was adorable when he was worried and the fact that he was holding her hand helped matters, too.
She saw Kronos and exploded, but Percy held her back. He didn't want her to die.
And then Luke, all blue. So different from green. Blue represented so many different things. Blue was love, but it was entirely separate from green.
It was so clear.
Annabeth let Luke go.
Then, peace. A soft, low sadness, humming.
It was over.
Fear, choking, mind-numbing fear. Percy couldn't, he—.
Wasn't going to.
Percy was sitting at the picnic table, eyes reflecting the sunset perfectly. Annabeth plopped the cake in front of him, and didn't even bother trying to ignore the hot feeling in her stomach when he smiled at her.
It was nice.
Her hand slipped behind his neck, and this time, the fire flared, and Annabeth didn't mind.
She clearly watched the loneliness the seep away from his eyes.
"Never going to leave you, Annabeth," Percy said, head cushioned on Annabeth's lap while he played with a curly lock of her hair.
Annabeth smiled stupidly.
So this was what happiness felt like.
Piper laughed wetly and wiped the errant tear running down her cheek. It was so… hard; but it was worth it. Annabeth knew it was worth it.
Everything they went through, made it all worth it.
Annabeth tried, she tried, Percy tried, and they succeeded. It was easy, it wasn't pretty, and it wasn't a lie.
It was life.
It was love.
"That was how it was supposed to end," a voice whispered from piece of paper. Her mom, Piper knew that voice. She sounded so sad, as if she were in mourning.
Piper got sucked back in.
"No, no, no, no, no!" Annabeth screamed hoarsely.
Her heart pounded in her throat, tears burned her eyes.
She stumbled from cabin to cabin, searching, hoping, she needed to breathe.
She was suffocating.
This wasn't happening. It couldn't. Not after everything they had been through.
Percy couldn't be gone. He wouldn't leave. Not like that.
He wouldn't leave her.
Her knees collided on the sandy beach with a dull thud. "No, no, no, no, no!" she screamed.
Annabeth's hand clutched at the sea water. It fell through her clenched fingers. It fell away. Disappeared like Percy. She wrapped her arms around herself, rocking back and forth, desperately trying to cover the gaping hole in her heart.
"You can't be gone," Annabeth started sobbing.
She started and she didn't stop and they ripped from her throat.
So this was what heartbreak felt like.
Piper stared numbly at the letter in her hand. Her hand drifted to her torso. Her chest hurt. Sympathy pains.
That was… There were no words.
She felt hollow.
The emptiness in Annabeth's eyes suddenly made sense. The rage, the anger, the cold, calculating looks she gave everyone.
This was Annabeth, and this was Annabeth hurting.
Piper gently ran her hand over the symbol on the soft paper.
"We'll find him, Annabeth," she whispered. "We have to. Otherwise, you won't make it. You can't survive that again."
Jason suddenly wasn't so far away.
"Piper! Piper! Answer me! Piper, are you okay?" Her shoulders shook again. "Piperrrr!" someone whined.
Piper blinked and was met with bright blue eyes inches from hers. Jason sighed, the tension melting from his body and sat across from her.
"You scared the crap out of me." His hand was still gripping her wrist. "What was that anyway? You like, sat there and stared off into space for at least four minutes. You didn't even respond to my voice!"
Piper blinked widely, marveling over the way the sun was highlighting his jaw line. She suddenly understood why Annabeth went all gooey over Percy's.
"Say something please."
She cleared her throat and met his gaze. "Hey."
"You practically go comatose for four minutes and the first thing you say is Hey?" he asked incredulously. Piper shrugged. Jason calmed down.
"Are you going to tell me what that was?"
Piper shook her head slowly, a small smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. She looked down at their hands, intertwining their fingers.
"Help me up."
Jason's eyebrow pulled up, but he effortlessly tugged her to her feet.
Piper smiled brightly at him, teeth showing, the whole works. All that crap she was feeling before—she was lucky. Jason was here; he was with her. She had time. He was her friend. That was enough. Annabeth went five years with only being friends. Piper could do it, too.
Jason was still here, and he was warm and his fingers weren't even close to letting go of hers.
She watched his eyes wander around her face, features indescribable.
"Let's go to the beach."
He looked at her with a quizzical glance. "Can I ask why?"
Piper shrugged, staring off into the distance.
"Percy Jackson, you know the guy?"
"Annabeth shouldn't be there alone."
First off, I have to apologize. It's been a month since I posted a chapter in Divided They Fall, and I'm really sorry. Yes, I can't really make any excuses, but with moving, going to a new school, and homework, I've been swamped and my muse has been silenced with an emotional rollercoaster. I'm either okay, or miserable and it sucks.
A Battle Once Lost should be finished pretty soon, I've got 2,000 already done. And I promiseeeeeeeeeee I'm going to get started on the next chapter.
I'm going to try and publish more one shots like this, mostly because I need to write something lighter after going through the emotional upheaval that is Divided They Fall. Most of them will be fluffy. :) With a touch of sadness. That's how I roll. Life isn't completely happy. But you try.
OH. And, I'm going to have a story, which is really a series of one-shots, but it's all the times Percy's ended up hurting himself, in Annabeth's point of view. Percabeth galore. :)
And if you finished reading this, thanks for checking me out! :D