Title: Neither Fight Nor Fly
Rating: R (For: a nongraphic sex scene in the beginning and then the entire thing isn't anymore than a "Teen" rating)
Character/Pairing: Percy/Annabeth (with background appearances from Nico, Rachel, and others)
Summary: Just because you've faced the worst doesn't mean nothing scares you. Five times in Percy's mortal life he thinks he'd rather face Kronos again.
A/N: Direct companion to Bad Penny, but I think it can stand on it's own. Reading that might give you some context for some mentionings in this one. Warnings for the not-really-graphic sex scene and also babies at the very end. Because apparently I write babyfic now, who knew?
His bedroom is too hot. Percy feels almost dizzy, like the air is too heavy, like it's not enough for his racing heart. They're alone in the apartment, him and Annabeth, and if his mom and Paul come home early he's not sure how he's going to explain this or even if he'd have to, because, really, it's all pretty straight forward.
They're naked and crammed together in his little bed, pressed up against the wall, and he has no idea why he feels so nervous because they've been in a similar position before. The only difference is that this time it is the Real Deal and they're actually going to have sex. This is a day Percy's looked forward to for a long, long time, and he and Annabeth have done practically everything else with no problems and yet there are definitely butterflies in his stomach as Annabeth kisses him.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that even if this is something he's been waiting for, this moment still seems to have arrived out of nowhere, in the blink of an eye. Just two weeks ago he and Annabeth had been breaking up, and while realistically it only lasted a grand total of about fifteen minutes it seemed like time had slowed down, and once everything had been righted and he and Annabeth were fine and back together time had snapped back into some kind of warp; only a week later Annabeth leaned over his shoulder, eyes skimming the study guide to a test and murmured, her breath hot in his ear, "You know, next time your parents have a date night we should… you know."
He'd spent the last week in a daze; now that the moment is here, however, his mind is racing. Annabeth is kissing him, her thigh pressing between his legs, her hips angling towards his. Vaguely he can still taste her on his tongue and wonders if she can too and oh gods oh gods were they really about to have sex because he was ready to go but was he really ready to go? Was she? Could he do this? Was he about to ruin everything?
Annabeth pulls away suddenly, her eyebrows creased. "Your lips stopped moving," she remarks, and Percy burns with embarrassment.
"Sorry," he murmurs, voice raspy, almost cracking. "I'm sorry." Even as he looks at her the uncontrolled ADHD part of his brain is happily informing him of all the points along his body where Annabeth's skin is touching his; her knee against his thighs and her fingertips at his shoulders and neck and the split ends of her hair trapped under his shoulder. As he looks at her face, however, he can see the dent between her furrowed eyebrows and the worried slant to her lips. Her eyes are as dark as storm clouds; she's just as scared as he is, he realizes.
The realization is almost enough to make him call it off, suggest they wait a little longer – he wants so badly to do right by her, and if they're both scared, maybe they're just not ready yet – but before Percy can open his mouth Annabeth blurts out, "Where'd you put the condoms?"
Automatically, he reaches. He fumbles with the drawer, drops the box on her chest while his fingers slip on the wrapper. Annabeth turns the box over in her hands, pointedly not looking as Percy gets himself situated.
"Why are some missing Percy?" she asks suddenly, interrupting the quiet that has fallen over the bedroom.
His face flushes instantly, and he stares down at himself, too embarrassed to look at her as he admits, "I um. Practiced, with a few of them."
When he finally gets the courage to look up at her, there's a strange, soft look on her face. "I didn't want to wait until now to figure them out!" he says defensively, and Annabeth breaks out into a smile, cups his neck with one hand and pulls him back down over her. She kisses him, pupils blown, knees creeping up around his hips, lips soft against his; she's his entire world right now. Percy's unstoppable in water, but right now he feels like he's drowning.
As worried as he is, when he sees her expression, the love on her face, the desire in her eyes – oh right, that's why they're doing this. He dips his neck and kisses her cheek, kisses her eyelids and nose and chin and thinks, we're the heroes of Olympus. We saved Manhattan. This cannot be as hard as fighting Kronos.
And then he rolls his hips forward, and ignores the fact that moments ago this had seemed just as daunting.
The world is dark; it takes him a minute to figure out how to open his eyes. When he does, Percy finds himself leaning heavily against the stone wall outside an apartment building while Nico dials and redials someone on his cell phone, cursing rudely under his breath every time the call cuts to voicemail.
"I said I'm not going home," Percy slurs, watching the lights of incoming traffic swim in front of his eyes. He's pretty sure he should have some thought about Nico using that cell phone – it's alarming, but he can't remember why. "She probably won't let me in anyways. Not going."
"You're not going home," Nico responds absently. "And Hera's hairy – why won't Rachel answer her godsdamned cell phone?"
"Why are you calling me anyways?" Rachel demands, standing in the doorway, barefoot and wearing pajamas. Her eyes land on Percy, who gives her a little wave. Judging by the fact that she's smiling at him, he guesses she hasn't spoken to Annabeth this evening.
He wasn't entirely sure how his night had turned out this way anyways. It was Saturday night, and he'd been planning a night in with Annabeth and then there'd been the monster, and then there'd been the fight, and then the argument, and then he'd been standing outside in the cool evening breeze, digesting the fact that, now that he and Annabeth lived together, he didn't exactly have a home to storm off to whenever he and Annabeth got into a spat.
Of course, it wasn't so much a spat as much as what would have happened if the Battle of Manhattan had gone nuclear. He still wasn't sure if he called Nico or if Nico found him, but by the time Nico tracked down the Stoll brothers and a couple sons of Hephaestus hanging around the city, the warm numbness of liquor being poured down his throat had been something of a relief.
Percy shrugs, feigning nonchalance. "Can't go home.
"Percy needs a place to sleep it off," Nico informs her, planting an arm and leaning against it, crossing his legs as he stands, all sixteen year old cockiness as he attempts to sweet talk Rachel. "And I thought, who better to help out her best friends than Rachel Dare?"
Rachel snorts and rolls her eyes before offering an arm to Percy, who takes it gratefully. The world is starting to tilt, and all he really wants is a bed. "Annabeth finally wise up and kick you out?" she asks sympathetically, and Percy groans in response.
"She's so mad at me," he complains uselessly. "We haven't fought this bad in years."
"I heard." Rachel waggled her phone at him. "Who do you think I was talking to when I was ignoring Nico?"
"Are you mad at me too?" he asks, watching as Rachel presses the button for the elevator. He wouldn't be surprised if she was; he'd blurted out some things to Annabeth in the heat of the moment that made him cringe how, and Rachel and Annabeth banded together was one of the more unassailable forces in the world.
"Of course not," Rachel says softly, but then adds, "First thing in the morning you're going home and groveling though."
Percy gives her his most pathetic puppy dog eyes. "Breakfast?"
"You're just putting off the inevitable," she responds. "You have to go home sooner or later, so you might as well go sooner and put everyone out of their misery."
"She's really, really mad," Percy defends weakly.
"Sack up," Rachel says, exasperated. "It's not like you're going home to face Kronos again."
"Easy for you to say," Percy mutters sourly, and thinks of Rachel Dare hitting the King of the Titans with a blue plastic hairbrush when she was just fifteen years old.
"Come on Dare," Nico challenges. "Give the kid breakfast. Or at least a shower, he can't go home stinking of booze. Annabeth will just kick him out again."
Rachel considers. "You can have some coffee in a travel mug."
"Deal." Percy thinks for a moment, and adds, "But only if you throw in a hairbrush too."
"So, I was thinking," Nico starts out of nowhere, sitting on top of the dresser in Cabin Three as his thumbs idly tap out battles on his Nintendo DSi. "It kind of sucks that this is how you spend your birthday every year."
Percy shrugs, playing with his hair nervously. The grey streak is particularly noticeable in the dark. "The prophecy revolved around my birthday," he responds. "I was kind of screwed in that respect."
"I guess so," Nico agrees thoughtfully, the heels of his feet drumming a rhythm into the drawers. "So really, we're lucky your birthday isn't like, Christmas or something."
"Yeah dude," Percy responds dryly. "Real lucky."
There are people gathering in the training arena for him to speak to. Every year since his sixteenth birthday they've held a memorial service at Camp, and every year he's been invited to speak. In the heat of battle rallying his troops is one thing; speaking in front of a large group just watching him is another thing entirely. Even with everyone looking to him as a leader, it's not an experience Percy especially enjoys.
He doesn't have to do this, he knows. In the long run, the Battle of Manhattan was just the culmination of another prophecy, and there's already a new one hanging over their heads anyway. He doesn't want to say it seems pointless, honoring one of many, when he could quietly let that battle pass into myth while he gets on with his real life. Hasn't he done his duty anyway, acting as the prophecy child?
He'd talked it over quietly with Annabeth the night before, watching the clock flip past midnight and ignoring the way his annual cupcake stains the tips of his fingers blue.
It was real, the battle. Olympus crumbling and New York burning. They'd been real, Silena and Beckendorf and Luke, long before they'd been a name etched onto a bead, a haunted cabin bunk, or a ghost in Annabeth's dreams.
And the best way he knows to keep them real is to talk about them.
Annabeth enters the cabin then, flashing him a quick smile. She's wearing a pretty sundress, but still carrying her sandals in her hands. He isn't sure when this had become a formal occasion, but as Annabeth pulls her blond curls over one shoulder he finds he doesn't mind too much.
He doesn't really like talking about that battle, but last night after he said his piece she gave him a soft smile and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed him the same way she had when they were sixteen, smelling like lemon and tasting like icing, all of it the same right down to that brain melting feeling. She gave him strength, and he woke up emotionally bolstered.
"Hey." Nico interrupts his thoughts, jumping down from the dresser. "Are you guys still going out for your twenty first tonight? I totally want to be there when Percy loses it and ralphs on a cop or something."
Annabeth frowns and tugs the tie balled in Nico's hands away, looping it around his neck. "You're eighteen."
"By whose calendar?" Nico challenges. "Besides, you know I hold my alcohol better than Percy does already."
Percy doesn't hear Annabeth's response, only that it's low, scolding, and resigned. Instead he stands in the doorway to Cabin Three and watches the stream of kids heading towards the arena. Some faces his recognizes. Others he doesn't. They're all waiting for him.
"Are you ready Percy?" Annabeth ask softly, having gotten Nico straightened out. Her fingertips dance along the notches of his spine.
He looks at her, and Nico interjects. "Seriously? All you have to do is talk. You've already lived through the battle, it's not like you have to do it again."
Annabeth's mouth twists, and Percy feels, feather light, the brush of her hand over his Achilles' heel, and remembers, more sensory than anything concrete: a thousand arcs of electricity.
"I'm ready," he announces, and takes Annabeth's hand.
"Come on Percy!" Nico shouts through the door, kicking it so that Percy can feel the thump against his back. "You're acting like a huge –"
There is absolutely no polite way to end that sentence, but someone interrupts at that moment – one of the Stoll twins, by the sound of it, and Percy takes advantage of the momentary quiet to push his weight firmly back against the door and insist, "No way. Not for a million dollars. Not if Zeus himself appeared in this bedroom. You're all crazy."
Some more conversation behind the door – Percy thinks he hears a murmured Get Jason on the phone – and then Nico says impatiently, "You know Percy, this is supposed to be a present for the groom. You could act a little thankful."
"The thought counts," Percy responds dryly, and somewhere further into the apartment he can hear someone appealing uselessly to his fiancée.
"Annabeth, Annabeth come on…" Percy's spine stiffens at the words, and he twists around to punch at the door halfheartedly.
"You leave her alone!" he scolds, but no one responds. Percy despairs.
Really, at the end of the day, he and Annabeth were a low-key couple, just trying to make a living in New York City, trying to avoid attention from monsters and nosy neighbors. While from the outside their relationship might look like some fairy tale feel-good story – high school sweethearts, staying together through college and settling down – no part of their courtship had been especially traditional. For one thing, she still regularly disarmed him when they sparred.
So maybe, as much as he really truly wants to be married to her (and not just because his mother started giving him meaningful looks every time a flyer from a jewelry store came stuffed in the mailbox), he hasn't really been counting on Annabeth to take a wedding, and the resulting traditions, very seriously. Turns out that once you descend into the Labyrinth, the logistics of a seating chart at a reception don't quite hold the same thrill.
So honestly, his instinct has been right. Annabeth hasn't been taking these traditions very seriously. Others, however…
He realizes, suddenly, that Nico has gone quiet outside – too quiet. Alarmed, he lunges away from the door, but it's too late – their closet door opens and Nico steps out, a triumphant look on his face as he crosses the room to face Percy.
"You're coming with me," Nico says, his eyes dark, intense, as serious as Percy's ever seen him, and Percy snorts in response.
"Don't pull that son-of-the-big-three crap with me." He raises an eyebrow, unimpressed. "And you better not have any of Annabeth's underwear in your pocket this time."
"Annabeth keeps her stuff in the drawers," Nico dismisses in the casual tone of someone imparting obvious information. "And don't try to change the subject Percy. I have plans for tonight, and just because they're in your honor doesn't mean that you have to attend willingly."
The door opens then – Connor's picked the lock, the jerk – and the other guests are standing there impatiently. Nico and Travis each take Percy by an elbow, and lead him out of the bedroom the same way prison guards might escort a Death Row inmate to the electric chair.
"I dunno what you're so worried about Percy," Nico mutters, elbowing their way to the front of the group. "What do you think I have planned anyway?"
"I saw the guest list," Percy snaps.
"It included Mata Hari."
"She RSVP'd maybe." Nico rolls his eyes, and Percy feels a pit in his stomach as they drag him down the hallway.
"It'll be fine Percy," Travis says in what he thinks is supposed to be a reassuring tone, but it'll be fine from a Stoll usually means dude, you've got nine other fingers, relax so it's kind of the exact opposite of reassuring. "You're acting like we're dragging you off to battle Kronos again."
"Annabeth," Nico halts them momentarily and salutes to her. "We're taking Percy for his bachelor party."
Percy makes a noise in his throat, high-pitched and helpless, casting a pleading look in her direction. She's sitting at their kitchen table with a cup of tea and paperback, but her expression when they make eye contact is entirely unsympathetic.
"Don't look at me," she says, flipping the page. "Rachel's planning mine."
Coming home is kind of the best part of his day.
Percy Jackson likes his job and all but the end of the day means he gets to leave work and return to his house and his wife and his son and while there are a lot of things that Percy has found gratifying on this planet the presence of his infant son has easily replaced them all in terms of priorities.
So while he spends his day handing out tickets and tracking down parole violators and filling out paperwork and – if he's really lucky – foiling an armed robbery, his mind is back in his little house, imagining how he'll be greeted when he gets home that evening.
If Annabeth and Theo aren't curled up together, napping, then usually they're waiting to meet him in the living room, where he can scoop his son into his arms and see the baby grin that Theo's only just starting to really work out and it's a case of that white-picket fence sitcom happiness that he'd thought was only a myth even in a world like his, where myths routinely poke their head through his kitchen window while he's trying to eat breakfast.
Today, however, when he gets home and steps through the doorway, shrugging out of his jacket and kicking off his shoes, Annabeth's shoulders are tense, her face drawn into a grimace. She's holding their son, who isn't exactly crying, but is definitely fussing, unhappy, and even though Percy swears he's starting to learn Theo's cries, he's not sure he recognizes these ones.
"I think Theo's sick," is how Annabeth greets him, and Percy's heartbeat rockets before settling again. Instinctively he reaches to take him off of Annabeth, and for a half moment Theo twists uselessly in his arms before settling. It's true, his little body feels warm and his nose is all red, and it seems like Theo's breathing hard for a baby.
He looks at Annabeth, his eyebrows creased. "What do we do?"
Annabeth looks just as helpless as he does, which is a look he's not used to seeing on her. "I already called the doctor. He's about the age where they get their first cold. As long as his temperature doesn't spike we should be able to just nurse him through it."
In theory that seems fine, but what results is one of the longest, most miserable nights in Percy's life. At some point, Theo's fussiness transcends into cries, and then the cries move into hoarse screaming, and for the life of them they cannot soothe him.
Theo decides on a whim which parent he wants, reaching for one as soon as the other hands him off, crying to be laid down and picked up, never satisfied with his parents' attempts to ease his suffering. They take turns, pacing through the house, alternating between bouncing him gently and rocking him softly. By midnight Percy's counted the exact number of steps between Theo's nursery and the back door. By two he's clocked exactly how long it takes Annabeth to complete the same lap.
It's a strange kind of heart-poking guilt that Percy hasn't felt since Annabeth took that knife for him. He's pretty new to this fatherhood thing, and he gets that he can't protect the kid from everything anymore than he can protect Annabeth, or his parents, or his partner but… Theo looks up at him, sniffly and crying and sick and confused, and Percy's pretty sure he's responsible for fixing that, and feeling helpless is not something he's especially good at.
He's got Theo when he finally settles into a snuffling, restless sleep around three in the morning. Actually, Annabeth has Theo cradled against her chest, but he's got Annabeth curled up in his lap in the rocking chair that he'd brought home for her a couple months into her pregnancy.
"Hey," Annabeth is the one that breaks the uneasy silence, her temple resting on his shoulder, her voice hoarse and exhausted. Somewhere in the static that's Percy's mind there's the vague thought that he's been awake for almost twenty four hours at this point. "Hey, we got this, don't we Seaweed Brain?"
"Huh?" His brain feels fuzzy, but at least it feels like the danger has passed. It's dark except for the shadow thrown on the ceiling by the streetlight outside, and though there's a loud, busy city right outside the window the room is hushed. He lets go of Annabeth's hip to stroke Theo's head. It doesn't feel quite as warm as it did earlier.
"I said we got this." Annabeth doesn't sound scared anymore, or alarmed, just tired. "We beat the Great Prophecy. We beat – we beat Kronos and the titans. We're not going to let the common cold bring us down."
Percy's been with Annabeth long enough to know at this point that what she's saying right now – out loud, almost like an oath – is for her own benefit as much as his. The Battle of Manhattan was a long time ago, a lifetime to some Greeks, a fraction of a lifetime to others, but Percy thinks that, at the moment, he's better prepared to face another war.
"Let's go to bed," Annabeth murmurs, and Percy, exhausted and anxious, collects himself and follows her quietly.