Percy Jackson was excited.
The sun was sinking behind the evergreen forest tops as he trotted towards the dining hall. Most of the campers were already making their way to dinner. His green eyes searched eagerly from face to face. When he spotted her, his face flushed with color. Annabeth stood in the shadowed half of the volleyball court, clutching a book and staring at the setting sun. Her eyebrows were knit in concentration. Taking a deep breath, Percy jogged in her direction.
Blinking heavily, Annabeth turned just in time to see Percy making his way across the camp green. She breathed in relief, but by the time Percy reached her side, she had regained her composure.
"Hey, Annabeth," Percy said giddily.
Annabeth arched an eyebrow. "Where have you been all day?"
"That's what I wanted to show you, Annabeth. C'mon, follow me."
Percy tried for her hand, but she pulled it back, skeptical. "Show me what? Where?"
He laughed. "It wouldn't be a surprise, then, would it?"
Annabeth pursed her lips. "No, I guess not."
"Alrighty then," Percy said. "Vamanos!" But when he reached for her hand, again she retreated.
"Wait, Percy. Where have you been all way? I've—I've been worried."
Percy hesitated. "Sorry, Annabeth. Truly. I didn't mean to worry you. And…well it took me a lot longer than I thought it would. But I got back as soon as I could."
"What took a long time, Percy? What's going on? You've been gone all day doing what? A surprise?"
Annabeth was raising her voice. And Annabeth never raised her voice. Percy suddenly felt a guilty. He sighed, glancing at the sinking sun. "Listen, I know this seems immature and ridiculous and I know you're kinda mad right now, but you just need to trust me. We need to hurry before the sun sets!"
For one moment, Annabeth just stared at Percy with a hard, blazing look. Then she sighed, smiling a bit. "Alright," she said, taking his hand. "You're lucky I like you."
And so Percy and Annabeth trekked into the woods, Percy leading the way and Annabeth rolling her eyes every few steps.
"So," said Percy, "how much trouble am I going to get in to ditching lessons all day? Was Chiron mad?"
Annabeth didn't answer right away. "No. He wasn't mad. I mean, he definitely wanted to know where you were, but he wasn't mad."
Percy looked down at his girlfriend. "Not mad? Wait—he wanted to find me, but he never checked the beach for the son of Poseidon? It seems pretty obvious to me."
"Oh, so that's where we're going. The beach?" Annabeth smiled.
Realizing what he had just done, Percy smacked himself in the forehead. "I can't believe I just said that."
"I guess that brain really is made of seaweed, eh Seaweed Brain?"
They both laughed for a moment. The shadows of the trees were growing longer across the forest floor, dancing as a squirrel, bird, or monster jumped between branches.
"So Chiron wasn't mad?" Percy asked as they walked.
"Nah," Annabeth said. "Not with today being what it is."
"Wha…" Percy trailed off, not understanding.
Annabeth looked up at the trees as she answered. "It's the anniversary of Beckendorf's death."
Percy grew quiet. "Oh, yeah."
It was silent except for the crunching of leaves under the pair's feet.
"We kinda thought you just needed some time for yourself," Annabeth elaborated. "Since you were there when it happened."
Percy suddenly felt sick. Not once today had he thought of Charles Beckendorf or how he gave his life for Percy that summer night aboard the Princess Andromeda.
Thankfully, the sound of crashing waves was the first to break the silence. "We're—" Percy cleared he throat, for his voice had cracked "—We're here."
Annabeth squeezed his hand in a reassuring way. "Can't wait," she said sarcastically.
Percy pulled Annabeth through the last of the trees and onto Long Island Sound. The sun was just about to hit the horizon as they approached what looked like a big chair made completely of sand. And flanked on each side was a pillar (also made of sand) with its own shape on top.
Annabeth smiled. "What is it?"
Percy led her to its front, which was facing the sea. "It's a couch. I think my mom calls it a loveseat or something," Percy said proudly. "It's for us to sit on and watch the sunset from."
Lying in front was a damp picnic blanket and an upturned basket.
"Oh Gods…" Percy groaned. "And this," he said picking up the basket and blanket, "was supposed to be dinner."
Annabeth laughed, her ringlet curls bouncing. "That's alright. I love it!"
"Really?" Percy asked.
"Yeah, really, Percy," she said. "It's perfect."
Upon further inspection, Annabeth realized that on top of either pillar was a small statue. One—a misshapen owl with seashells as eyes and a beak. The other—a trident made of driftwood.
"Wow, Percy," she said, "this is so cool. And it's all for me?"
"Of course, my queen," Percy joked.
"Ugh, don't talk to be about queens," Annabeth complained. "Hera is driving me up the wall." But they both chucked together.
"Shall we?" Percy asked, motioning toward the loveseat.
Percy and Annabeth joined hands and gingerly sat on the sand, which, to Annabeth's surprise, didn't topple immediately, although it was a bit unsteady. Once they got situated, Percy casually put his arm around Annabeth's shoulders and they sat in silence as the sun touched the horizon and began its daily decent.
After a few minutes of peaceful silence, Annabeth said, "You forgot about Beckendorf, didn't you?"
She didn't say it in a judgmental or accusing way, but that didn't make it any easier for Percy to answer. He hung his head slightly. "Yeah," he said. "I did."
"It's okay," Annabeth said. "Nobody's mad."
But even she seemed at a loss for words.
"Pretty terrible of me, huh?" Percy asked. Shame wasn't a powerful enough word.
"You wanna know what I think?" Annabeth said. Percy nodded.
"Honestly, yeah. It's pretty bad that you didn't remember today was the day that he died. But I know you, Percy. I know you thought for weeks about every way you could have gotten both of you off safely—everything you could have done differently. I know Beckendorf's face stuck with you every time you tried to sleep at night. You're not a bad person, Percy. In fact, you are a really, really good person. You wanna know how I know?"
Percy looked at her. "How?"
"You spent all day out here building me a couch out of sand so we could watch the sunset together," she replied.
"I still feel really bad about it," Percy confessed. "I mean, he died for me personally, and I didn't even remember it."
"Percy, there's a difference between forgetting what he did and forgetting what day it happened on. Which did you do?"
"Which day," Percy mumbled. "I know, I know. Thanks, Annabeth."
"No problem. I mean, what can I say? You built me a throne of sand."
"So you're not disappointed in me?" he asked.
Annabeth laid her head on his shoulder and sighed. "Of course not, Seaweed Brain," she answered happily.
The tangerine sun dipped below the water and the sky turned purplish. Percy look a deep breath. "Annabeth, the real reason I did all this was because—"
"Wait," Annabeth cut in. "How long have you been practicing this speech?"
"Practicing...I haven't been practicing," Percy denied.
"I know that voice," Annabeth said. "You've been planning this speech since, what? When you came to get me?"
"Uh, all day." Percy laughed nervously.
"Don't," Annabeth said. "Tell me what you're thinking right now instead."
"Well," Percy began. "I'm pretty annoyed that you interrupted me…but I also think you look really beautiful right now. And I really want to kiss you. And…" he took a gulp of air, "I love you."
And there it was.
Annabeth smiled and then did something Percy never expected; she shrugged out of his arms and threw her leg over Percy, straddling him. Percy's face and hands became hot. Annabeth leaned in close and said, "I love you, too."
She began to kiss him more passionately and with more aggression that ever before. Percy's hands found her back…her hips…the inside of her thighs—
Suddenly, (with a little help for his father, Percy reckoned) a strong wave came crashing up the shore. It hit full force into the couch, causing the now wet sand to crumple under their weight. Percy fell forward and landed on top of Annabeth, he back and hair now covered in wet sand.
For a moment, they looked at each other in shock. And then they burst into laughter, Percy sitting up and clutching his stomach. Annabeth propped herself up on one elbow and giggled along feverishly.
Eventually, as the sky began to darken, Percy and Annabeth made their way back to camp, laughing and remembering their destroyed sandcastle.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!