Title: With a Will
Character/Pairing: Annabeth and Rachel, with background Percy/Annabeth
Summary: Four times Annabeth and Rachel rescued someone and one time they needed rescued.
A/N: Written for Kioko (also known as greenconverses), who won an auction for a fic. Her entire prompt was "Rachel and Annabeth being awesome."
If there was one thing that Rachel Dare had noticed – and honestly appreciated – about Annabeth Chase, it was her ability to announce volumes without speaking a single word. It took away a lot of those guessing games that the other girls at Clarion seemed so fond of; she never had to guess with Annabeth.
At the moment they were driving in one of Rachel's father's cars, speeding merrily down the highway with the top down and the radio blaring and their hair blowing every which way. It was one of those perfect almost-summer days, when it was almost too cool to have the top down but nice enough after the freezing winter and rainy spring that it was a relief anyway. Rachel was driving, drumming a beat on the steering wheel along with the songs on the radio, a picture of relaxation.
Annabeth, on the other hand, was sitting straight up, her legs crossed and an annoyed look on her face. She had the same posture Rachel imagined she'd hold if they were late for a war or something; impatient, unhappy, and entirely ready to attack at a moment's notice. She really didn't need to open her mouth in order to announce I'm annoyed.
Rachel thanked all of her lucky stars that it wasn't her that Annabeth was annoyed with. She'd figured out some time ago that when Annabeth got like this it was best to just let her stew until she could get a good sparring session in with someone. On the other hand, she couldn't be sure that she wasn't chauffeuring Annabeth to that very fight. Or that she wasn't the cause of it.
They were headed up the lonely stretch of highway to rescue Annabeth's boyfriend and his stepfather's Prius. Or maybe they were going to rescue Annabeth's boyfriend from his stepfather's Prius. Percy hadn't been very clear on that point when he'd called Rachel and discreetly requested help.
"Well lookie here," Rachel drawled, pulling up next to a familiar blue car. It was almost worth it to see the look on Percy's face: momentarily hopeful, until he caught a look at Annabeth in the passenger seat and his face fell.
Annabeth slammed her way out of the car, reaching into Rachel's backseat to pick up the jack that had been missing from trunk of the Prius. She didn't even say a word to Percy as she crouched and started to work.
"Sorry," Rachel greeted cheerfully. "I don't pick up hitchhikers."
"You know," Percy remarked to Rachel, leaning morosely back against her car and waiting for Annabeth to invite him to assist, "when I called you this wasn't exactly what I had in mind."
"What did you think would happen?" Rachel asked, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun.
"Oh you know," he answered blankly. "You, alone. That was what I'd meant with the whole 'don't tell anyone' thing."
"By which you really meant, 'don't tell Annabeth'?" Rachel cocked an eyebrow. "You expected me to come out here alone and help you change a tire?"
Percy blinked and shrugged helplessly while Rachel laughed. "Percy, I've had a chauffeur my entire life. I technically bought my driver's license. She – " and here she gestured to Annabeth, who was determinedly refusing to spare them even a glance – "can fly helicopters. Who else would I call?"
"Good point." At Percy's acknowledgement, Annabeth smirked. Sensing an opening, Percy sidled up beside her, offering her the lug wrench she'd just been reaching for.
"Sorry," he said softly. Rachel braced herself on the trunk of the car and lifted herself up, crossing her legs and taking in the scene with a grin. She and Aphrodite had a deal for good gossip.
Annabeth shot him a glare, but grudgingly took the wrench and started to replace the bolts on the newly changed tire.
"You know," Percy said, "I do know how to do this. Paul taught me, a long time ago."
"Paul didn't teach you to check the trunk to make sure you had everything you needed?" Percy flushed but apparently interpreted a friendly undertone that Rachel certainly didn't hear. Cautiously he slid to the ground next to her, his fingertips brushing her elbow.
Annabeth melted. All the tension drained from her shoulders, and she gave Percy a small smile. "Come on," she said, standing up and picking up her gear. "Let's go home."
She was still mad, judging by the fact that she chose to ride back with Rachel instead of Percy. Still, as she climbed into the passenger seat, she gave Percy a serious look and said in a reproachful tone, "You know you can call me no matter what."
"I know, I know," Percy was quick to reassure, appropriately scolded, but only Rachel heard him mumble as she passed, "But for this one I wanted a witness just in case."
She was snickering when she got back into the car, and Annabeth raised an eyebrow at her. "What?" she asked irritably, and Rachel knew she was still annoyed. Annabeth hadn't really forgiven Percy as much as she'd let him manipulate her with his pathetic puppy dog eyes.
Speaking of which…
"Look at him," Rachel prompted. "Look at how lonely he is in that Prius."
Annabeth snorted, but cast a look over her shoulder. Percy made eye contact for a moment before dropping his gaze back down into his lap.
"It's okay if you want to ride back with him," Rachel persuaded. Percy started the car, and Rachel pressed a little harder. "Even the Prius sounds sad."
Annabeth stared for a moment; Rachel tilted her head knowingly, and Annabeth's will crumbled. She wheeled out of the car and trotted over to the Prius, sliding into the passenger seat there and smiling tightly at Percy.
Rachel started her own car, checked her reflection in the review mirror, and decided she was two for two on the day.
Capture the Flag was well underway by the time the sun had set. Her cave was dark, lit only by the torches and candles (and a hot pink lava lamp, a gift from Apollo) that were scattered around her living space. From outside her cave Rachel could hear the sounds of battle raging. Kids were shouting and swords were clanging as they crashed against one another.
Rachel ran her fingers through her messy hair, frowning at the split ends, and pulled her hair up into a ponytail. The mirror showed only her reflection; behind her there was nothing but her bed and belongings. "You know, it gives me the screaming willies when you talk to me with your cap on."
"Sorry," Annabeth's voice said from thin air, not sounding very sorry at all. "But I'm supposed to be out there. Malcolm can only cover for me so long." Outside they heard someone chanting and counting, and then the distinct crack of a tree being pulled down. Rachel's eyebrows rose, surprised someone had resorted to such tactics. Capture the Flag got crazy competitive, but it was rare for campers to forget that they weren't the only ones in the forest.
"I hope that wasn't anyone on my team…" Annabeth said, distracted. She was clearly thinking the same way Rachel was; the curtain at the entrance of the cave rippled, as if gusted by the wind. "The satyrs will get mad if we cause too much damage to the forest. I didn't plan for that."
"I think your team knows better than to go against an Annabeth Chase plan." Rachel sat and pulled on a pair of combat boots, tucking away the ends of her jeans. "Speaking of which, what is the plan?"
"The plan," Annabeth responded, "is that you go out there and cause a big distraction so that I can free Nico." There was a distinct note of aggravation in her voice; having to resort to a backup plan always put her in a bad mood.
"Let me guess," Rachel remarked dryly, "You need his shadow travelling abilities to capture the flag?"
Annabeth was curiously silent. Rachel couldn't see her face, but could picture the guilty expression on it. The kids with what were considered "deal breaker" abilities, like Percy and Nico, were discouraged but not explicitly banned from using them in-game. There was always some grumbling, but Capture the Flag was really about a chance to run around in armor with weapons and actually putting to use all of the training that they received during the day. As long as nobody ended the game too quickly, who really cared if nobody could land a blow on Percy Jackson or that Nico di Angelo could appear and disappear around faster than you could blink?
"He plays a vital role in my game winning strategy." Annabeth finally conceded. "And I'm not letting the Ares cabin have the satisfaction of winning my flag just because Nico was stupid enough to get lured into a charmspeaking trap by Piper."
Rachel rolled her eyes, unsurprised. Nico was old enough to know better too. Boys. "Are you kidding me?"
Annabeth made an annoyed noise. "She got Jake Mason and Will Solace too."
Rachel laughed softly. They'd all been made a fool by Piper's abilities at one time or another, but it looked like the definition of "deal breaking" abilities would likely be changing soon. "All right," she said, pulling back the curtain. For a half moment she felt the heat of Annabeth's body as she brushed past her. "Let's do this."
It wasn't the first time that Rachel had been in battle with the Greeks. She was well aware of the fact that celestial bronze couldn't hurt her, and even if it could, the majority of the campers were pulling up when they saw her, their mouths dropping open to stare as she passed. It was rare for Rachel to appear right in the middle of the action during a camp wide event.
The most intense battle, right in the heart of the red team's zone, was between Clarisse and some unknown opponent. Rachel couldn't tell under the helmet, but she suspected Butch based on the blink-and-you'll-miss-it glimpse of the tattoo she thought she saw on one arm. Clarisse was slowly over taking Butch, who was barely holding his own – no worries, since Percy was merely toying with the three who were engaging him in the other corner. Butch would have backup when he needed it, but Rachel knew Percy wouldn't step in until absolutely necessary.
Strung up in the trees over their heads were the prisoners. Rachel wasn't sure which one was Nico, but that was Annabeth's problem as she strode into the heart of the battle, threw her arms out to separate Clarisse and Butch, and declared dramatically, "Stop!"
She had to give Annabeth credit – when the demigod had first revealed her plan, Rachel hadn't thought it would work at all. Faking a prophecy seemed like a good idea, but – "I don't know what I look like when I give a prophecy. They'll know it's not real immediately. And then Clarisse is going to skewer me on that spear thing she carries around."
Annabeth had brushed off her concerns. "Only a couple of people have ever seen you when you give a prophecy. They don't know what you look like. And you only need to hold Clarisse's attention long enough so that I can get away with Nico. After that she'll be more worried about me, I promise you."
Sure enough, as she dropped to her knees and rolled her eyes back, she caught a glimpse of the stunned look on Clarisse's face, the smirking one on Percy's as she started speaking, her voice deep and booming across the clearing where the fighting was concentrated.
She'd never heard her own prophecies before; people had repeated them to her but she'd never given much thought to their structure. Poetry was an art, and though Rachel considered herself an artistic soul it occurred to her that she had absolutely no idea what to say next.
"As war games rage a new moon rises -"Oh, the Muses were not on her side at all. Apollo would be eating this up.
"The forest cries tears as demigods seek prizes." She wasn't even sure if that was the right number of syllables. It was completely awful, but she could have heard a pin drop in the clearing. Every single half-blood within earshot was frozen, hanging on her every word. A public prophecy actually was very big news to Camp Half-Blood.
"A king will find his bonds shall break –" As soon as she said the words, she heard it: the sounds of rope snapping and tree branches breaking. Annabeth had freed Nico from his ties.
"Oh," Rachel said immediately, relieved. She straightened up and smiled at the crowd gathered around her. "Never mind."
For a moment everyone was stunned. Then Percy let out a long, smug "Haaa…" and Clarisse abruptly realized she'd been tricked.
"Move you idiots!" she snarled, pushing members of her team back towards the borders of their territory, away from the prisoners. Sensing the shift in battle, everyone cleared, leaving just her and Percy, who stuck around, whistling and scratching his head with the broadside of his sword.
"That was good," he offered her a hand up, his grin self-satisfied. "Annabeth told me what she was going to ask you to do and even I got nervous for a second there."
"It won't win me an Oscar or anything," Rachel admitted, taking it and standing up, picking leaves out of her hair. "But it got the job done."
"You know they'll never fall for that again." Percy said warningly. He sheathed Riptide and put it away, and Rachel found herself wondering if Annabeth's plan was that good, that he could presume the battle over now that it could finally be enacted.
"Not in a million years." Rachel agreed, patting down her jeans. "But I think Annabeth is banking on it working just this once."
"She didn't write that fake prophecy, did she?" he asked with a grimace on his face.
Somewhere in the distance, a loud cheer rose up through the trees. Percy's grin widened and his face took on that soft holy crap my girlfriend is a genius expression he got anytime he talked or thought about Annabeth. Rachel just shook her head.
"I improvised," she said defensively. "Are you telling me my acting skills aren't up to snuff?"
"Don't quit your day job Dare," Percy quipped, and took off for base, Rachel chasing him all the way.
Annabeth Chase was currently in the midst of some kind of identity crisis.
She'd survived running away from home at the age of seven. She'd survived a hell-trip to camp being chased by half of Hades' monsters. She'd survived a descent into the Underworld and into the Labyrinth. She'd survived the great freakin' prophecy, for Zeus' sake.
She was with Rachel Dare, one of her most reliable companions. Together they'd faced prophecies and missing boyfriends and quests. They'd sparred, they'd plotted, and they'd taken on everything from a pack of hellhounds to a horde of Aphrodite daughters with hair curlers and make-up kits. She trusted Rachel with her life.
Their current situation was so far out of her range of experience, so completely unacceptable and incomprehensible to her, that all she could really think to do was wonder how she'd ended up here.
"We're in jail," she said to Rachel, a shaky tone to her voice. She'd been in trouble before, sat in countless principal's offices and parent-teacher conferences. This was brand new, however. Maybe the alcohol was dulling her reflexes. "We went out for some margaritas, and now we're in jail."
"Yeah," Rachel agreed in a bored tone. She was leaning against the wall of their little cell, picking at her cuticles. "Mist doesn't always work in our favor."
"Bu – but." Annabeth was well aware of this fact – most demigods were – but she'd never ended up in jail before. "We have to – I can't call Percy with this!"
Percy would never let her live this down. Could she call Chiron? She was over eighteen, so they wouldn't call her father for her, but Annabeth didn't really want to imagine his face if he received that call all the way in California. It was late there too, even with the time difference.
What about Sally? How was she going to be able to look Sally and Paul Blofis in the eye after this? Was she going to get in trouble at school? If she applied for any jobs? She'd been in trouble before, but this was something entirely different.
At some point, she must have started asking out loud the questions running through her mind, because when she came back to herself she found Rachel staring at her with a raised eyebrow. "You okay?" Rachel asked, sounding far more concerned about Annabeth's possible mental breakdown than their current predicament.
She was sitting on a hard bench in a jail cell at three in the morning. She was facing a lifetime of teasing from her boyfriend, embarrassment with her family, and who knew the ramifications this could have on her career. All in the name of what Rachel liked to refer to as "Girl's Nights", which, judging by what she'd heard from other girls in her dorm, rarely involved posting bail. For as much as she'd imbibed that night, Annabeth didn't think she'd ever been more sober in her life.
"No I'm not okay!" she answered, her voice shrill and panicked. Her clothing was ripped, her hair was a mess, and her makeup had run. Rachel was in a similar state; she was idly trying to retie the spaghetti strap on her top that'd been broken during their struggles, but she kept her eyes on Annabeth as she hissed, "What are we going to do?"
The silence rang in their ears as Annabeth fell quiet. Rachel's face twisted in a casual grimace, and with a shrug she raised her wrist up and checked her watch. Annabeth watched as she tucked her hair back behind her ears and stood up, going to the door of their cell and reaching between the bars to signal for one of the officers.
It was an older man who responded, standing up and sidling up to Rachel, his hands in his pockets and a no-nonsense look on his face. "Miss?" he rumbled, and Rachel gave him her most sickeningly sweet smile.
"Excuse me sir," she said in her most polite tone, "but do you know who I am?"
They'd made it back to a residential area of the city, closer to Rachel's house than the Empire State Building, both sweating in the muggy, oppressive heat of New York City in the summer but enjoying being free and not reporting to any gods or parents or teachers too much to really care. Rachel was saying something, but Annabeth barely heard her.
In all honesty, she was a little stunned that she had made it as far as she had without someone calling her. It was rare for her to leave Olympus and not be deluged with phone calls and messages from gods who had suddenly remembered requests or questions that they had forgotten to ask her. It was easy to be distracted by the city, by the traffic honking impatiently around her and the chatter of the pedestrians pushing past them and the kid ignoring the calls of his mother in the alleyway next to Annabeth.
She'd been checking her cell phone, trying to ignore all of the white noise of the city surrounding her, when something in particular had reached through the fuzz of her brain and pressed the red alert on every single one of her instincts.
"Annabeth?" Rachel was about ten steps in front of her, looking perplexed.
She had stopped, and was staring down the alleyway they'd just passed. There'd been a kid just a moment ago…
"What are you doing?" Rachel asked.
A strange pit formed in Annabeth's stomach. She'd long gotten over many of the fears that had plagued her since childhood, had bravely faced many of them in battle time and time again, but the memories were still there, and fresh, and Zeus' sandals, she recognized that smell. The atmosphere was tense; instinctively, her hand when to her side to make sure her knife was in its holster.
"Are you armed?" she asked shortly. Rachel raised her eyebrows but nodded. Annabeth sighed and pulled her hair up, out of her face.
"Good," she replied, turning to look Rachel in the eyes, "because I'm pretty sure this is a Cyclops's lair, and I'm almost positive he just lured that kid in."
Rachel winced. "What do we do?"
Annabeth pulled herself up the fire escape, craning her head to get a better look. Sure enough, she could see the waves of heat coming off of the building farther up, the result of heat escaping the Cyclops' fire pit. "I'm going in."
Rachel didn't even hesitate, and stepped forward to pull herself up behind Annabeth. Annabeth leveled her with a stare. "Do not, do not under any circumstances listen to anything I say unless you can actually look me in the face and see the words coming out of my mouth. Do you understand?"
Rachel's eyes widened, but she nodded and together they climbed up the rickety ladder together. A couple of stories up there was a jimmied window – opened exactly far enough to allow a small child through. The hinges were rusted and stuck. The stench that wafted through was so unbearably familiar that Annabeth shivered despite the heat.
She threw her weight against the window frame and heard it crack; below her, Rachel let out an alarmed squeak as the fire escape vibrated with the force. Repeating the action and pulling up actually made the window shift a little bit. It took a few minutes, but Annabeth was able to open the window enough to pass though.
The floor was dirty, dusty and moldy. It was dark and poorly lit, but as Annabeth squinted her eyes and peered down the hallway, she couldn't see any doors or exits. The only way out would be the way they came in, and if her suspicions were correct, a child would never be able to find their way back here.
Rachel grunted as she shimmed through the window, rubbing her dirty palms against her thighs as she stood up next to Annabeth. "What now?" she asked, and Annabeth was surprised at the casual tone to her voice.
"Come on." Her knife was out in front of her defensively, but with her other hand she reached back and snagged Rachel's wrist. "You've only ever met Percy's brother, right? You've never run into a wild Cyclops have you?"
"No," Rachel answered, her voice hoarse and unsure. "Never. Tyson is sweet though."
Annabeth snorted. "Trust me, Tyson is the exception to the rule. The wild ones build mazes where they live to confuse kids and trap them. They can impersonate people you love and… paralyze you."
Rachel could hear the strain in Annabeth's voice and tactfully chose not to investigate further. "So what do we do?"
"They don't like fire," Annabeth said quietly. "They'll only light them to stay warm and to cook food. And – " she stopped, reached into her pocket, and pulled out her cap, plopping it onto Rachel's head. "They love the smell of half-bloods. He can probably already smell me. But you should be able to sneak up on him. Aim for the eye."
The smell got worse as they travelled, and Annabeth's heart raced as her ears strained, listening for the sounds of someone crying or footsteps coming up behind them. All she heard was the sound of her and Rachel's breathing until she stepped on something hard and brittle, crunching loudly under her feet. Rachel jumped about a mile into the air.
In the low light, Annabeth bent over and squinted at the ground. "Bones…" she said softly, confirming her suspicions. "This guy has been here a while."
Rachel let out an alarmed noise, and Annabeth found herself squaring her shoulders. "Come on."
The hallway twisted and turned, rose and fell, but Annabeth stayed steady, making only left hand turns when she was forced by a dead end. They knew they were close when light began to filter though the darkened hallways again; Annabeth sent a still invisible Rachel ahead only to have her suspicions confirmed: a Cyclops, an older, larger one, with a boy tied up while the beast stroked a fire in the middle of the room. Annabeth could picture it perfectly if she closed her eyes.
"You have your sword?" she asked softly.
"Yes," Rachel replied. She sounded unnerved but not frightened. Not much is frightening, Annabeth supposed, once you've faced the Lord God of the Titans with nothing more than a hairbrush.
"Good. You stay clear until you have a shot at his eye. I'll grab the kid. Remember what I said." The moment she stepped towards the door, however, she heard it:
"What are you doing?" It was her mother's voice. The Cyclops had plucked Athena's voice directly from her brain. For a moment she was frozen, and then it all comes back to her in a rush. She'd done this before and she wouldn't be afraid.
The beast was holding a large, wicked looking club. The room was stifling hot, choking the breath out of Annabeth's body and making sweat drip down her neck. When he brought down his weapon Annabeth managed to dodge by the skin of her teeth, the force of it bringing a gust of wind that blew back Annabeth's hair. The kid in the corner started screaming through his gag, but Annabeth remained focused, darting within the Cyclops's range and trying to land a blow.
Only once did it hit her, the club driving her into the nearest wall, driving the air from her lungs. Annabeth tried to catch her breath as plaster and dust rained over them, and took advantage of his proximity to drive her knife into the fleshy part of the Cyclops's hand, listening with satisfaction as he roared in rage and reeled back away from her.
It gave her the opening she was looking for; flitting forward it was if she were a frightened child again, relying entirely on muscle memory to sink her knife into the foot of the beast, trying to scramble out of the way as he tried to wheel away, losing his balance.
It was then that Rachel took the opening that Annabeth had given her. The Cyclops started screaming, and Annabeth turned her head once to glimpse blood running down his face, his hands clamped over his one eye as he stumbled and shrieked in pain.
She reached the kid and scooped him up, thanking the Fates that he was younger and lighter. Invisible hands grabbed at her – Rachel, trying to help them back out into the hallway. As soon as they were clear, the Cyclops's screams still echoing down the hallways, Annabeth stopped to free the kid from his ties.
"Can you walk?" she asked him, and despite the fact that he was mute with terror he nodded and grabbed up her hand. "Are you okay?" she asked, turning her head towards Rachel, who had suddenly reappeared and was combing out the ends of her hair with her fingers, looking apprehensively over her shoulder.
"Fine, I'm fine," she said shakily, and there was that moment again, where Annabeth could tell that Rachel was holding herself back, not asking questions that were clearly lingering in the air. "Let's get out of here."
The crash was what caught Rachel's attention – it was a sort of deep crack, the kind that signaled that something heavy had been broken. Something like her ceramic vase, tall enough that it reached her hip, that took her an entire day to craft and had required the help of two other people to lift it into the kiln when she'd been ready to fire it. She was proud of that piece, but she had only a second to comprehend it's possible destruction before the scream reached her ears, drawn out and frantic.
She lurched to her feet and wheeled around; at the far end of her living space was Annabeth, her face pale, standing on top of her coffee table and awkwardly looking to make the jump to the back of the couch. She had knocked over Rachel's vase, and had appeared to have forgotten that she had her knife tucked into the holster on her arm, as she was holding one of her tennis shoes out threateningly in front of her.
"What is the matter with you?" Rachel demanded, striding across the room, wondering if Annabeth had ticked off some god and been hit with a minor curse. They were at camp, so there couldn't be any serious threats. She had no idea what Annabeth could be so worked up over.
"It's gonna – stop it!" Annabeth shrieked, almost losing her balance as the couch tipped backwards towards the floor. She scrambled forward, feet slipping on the cushions as they spilled onto the floor. "Get it away from me!"
"Get what –" And then she saw it. "Oh."
"It" was a spider, and it was huge. Easily about the size of her hand, and speeding along towards Annabeth, who let out another wail of distress and continued her quest along Rachel's furniture. This wasn't the first time she'd seen Annabeth panic over a spider – and Rachel couldn't deny, they did seem to seek her out and find her almost everywhere she went. It was, however, the first time she'd seen Annabeth panic over a spider quite this size.
"Get it get it!" Annabeth was babbling, not even aware of what she was saying. With a sigh Rachel picked up the knife she'd been using to cut cookie dough and took exactly one step towards the spider. It seemed to sense her because it stopped, it's legs tensing, and leaned away from her.
And then it looked at her. Actually made eye contact; Rachel felt a chill go down her spine, and then the next thing she knew she was on top of the table in her little breakfast nook next to Annabeth, shrieking almost as loudly as the daughter of Athena.
It was Percy who finally responded to their cries of terror, bursting through the curtain into Rachel's cave with battle armor on and Riptide out, ready to attack. Somewhere in the vague haze of terror filling her mind Rachel thought that he must have run from the training arena – exactly how loudly were they screaming?
He looked alarmed for all of five seconds until he noticed what they were screaming at, and Rachel thought it must be a big spider because even he looked grossed out when he first laid eyes on it. Still, being the invulnerable Hero of Olympus must count for something, because Percy picked the thing up by one leg and walked out of the cave. Rachel wasn't sure – and frankly didn't care – what he did with it, because he reappeared alone, with a resigned look on his face.
"That was an ugly one," he said to a shaken Annabeth, who merely shuddered in agreement. To Rachel, however, he raised an eyebrow. "The possessed form of Kronos is cool, but a spider is where you draw the line?"
"Shut up," Rachel snapped, embarrassed. "It was big. And hairy. It looked at me."
Percy just rolled his eyes, but he was smiling and Rachel knew he was only teasing – if anything, he would just never let her forget this happened for the rest of her life. "Come on," he said, gesturing to Annabeth. "Lunch now."
They trooped out of the cave together, Percy still with an arm around Annabeth's shoulders. She looked normal again, standing tall, expression calm, but she snaked one arm around his waist as they walked, letting him hold her close. "Thanks Percy," she said quietly.
"I always got your back," Percy replied, grinning. His shoulders brushed Rachel's as they walked together, sticks snapping and leaves twirling at their feet.
Rachel shrugged. "I am definitely not worried about the spiders at camp anymore."
Percy's arm shot out and shoved her, almost pushing her directly into a dryad, but Rachel just laughed and pushed him back. In all honesty, there was something comforting about the fact that she could rely on her friends. Whatever they faced next, whether it was an angry spider or a vicious sea monster, they didn't have to face it alone.