Chutes and Ladders

Because I want to write a cliché fluffy story with a touch of seriousness. And for some reason I want to write about characters I dislike. Enjoy.

Chapter One
Not Expecting Much

Annabeth Chase should have been in her advanced English studies class, presenting her semester project. It was going to be hell getting Professor Mathor to give her a second chance. Even with the doctor's note she was going to ask for as soon as her physician came back into the examination room.

She rubbed her arms. Her boyfriend – an older guy, a medical student – had once explained to her why hospitals and clinics always seemed to be so cold. Of course, Annabeth had a nasty habit of tuning out whatever he said once he got to talking about his career.

Honestly, she hardly cared about how House always showed it wrong and how people with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome were usually just a bunch of hypochondriacs. It wasn't as if Zach listened to her when she tried to tell him about her classes – he'd already been a college freshman.

And unless Annabeth got out of this damned doctor's office soon, it looked like freshman year was an experience she was doomed to repeat. Finals week was not the time to pass out on your walk to the campus cafeteria – especially after most teachers explicitly stated that there was absolutely no making up their exams.

She'd skipped supper last night and had stayed up until four in the morning studying for her last few tests – why didn't the doctor understand that? He'd insisted on doing blood work that would only take a few hours, but of course Annabeth couldn't leave during that time just in case she had something that was going to kill her in the next few hours.

God, she hated doctors. She hated the person who'd called an ambulance back at Harvard. She hated her dad for not thinking to give her their insurance information in case something like this happened.

And she hated herself for putting herself in this mess.

Annabeth rubbed her stomach and grabbed the backpack that somehow had come with her. Lately, she'd gotten into the habit of carrying food around with her. Finals stress was making her hungrier. That was all.

She grabbed a package of tiny peanut butter cups and ate the bag in less than a minute, then chased it down with a lukewarm Pepsi. A few seconds later, she wished she hadn't. The combination was not sitting well with her stomach.

A quick glance at the clock told Annabeth she'd been here for close to three hours. She'd already beat her high score on Temple Run, then beat the new high score, passed three levels of Angry Birds, and read the entire last month of The New York Times on her iPad.

The nice thing about having a medical student boyfriend who came from a rich family was at least he gave nice early Christmas gifts.

Annabeth sighed and leaned back on the bed. The paper they put over it crinkled every time she moved, and the pillow was hard as a rock. Yet she was so tired that in just a few short seconds she was out.

Percy Jackson wasn't having a good day. He'd overslept, his car wouldn't start, and after running two miles to get to his class, he found out he'd missed a biology test he hadn't known he had.

At this rate, he was never going to get his bachelor's degree in zoology.

Percy had decided to move to Miami for college in the hope of getting away from everything: his family, his old friends, Annabeth…

Oh, gods. She was one thing he didn't miss. He'd been with Annabeth since he turned 16, and by the time he was 19 and leaving for college, he was ready to pull his hair out. She was over-controlling, demanding, stuck up, and worst of all, patronizing.

Sometimes it had felt like he was dating his mom.

Speaking of which, he checked his phone. 9:59. Right on time, a media message from his mom arrived. He opened it to find a picture of a smiling toddler with dark hair pulled into pigtails. Her mouth and hands were covered with something that looked like pudding.

Ellie misses her big brother. Maybe you could call home sometime? Are you still coming home for Christmas break? Love, Mom.

Percy bit his lip and closed the message, not bothering to try and come up with a message. His mom sent him a message at 10:00 every morning, but he could count the number of times he'd responded on one hand.

He didn't like talking to his family. It made him homesick, simple as that. And the funny thing was, three months ago he'd felt like being around his mom and her husband, as well as their new daughter, was a slow death.

It was funny how things changed.

Percy's phone buzzed again. If it was his mom calling, he'd answer, he promised himself. However, it was another text message, from a name he hadn't expected to see ever again.


When he'd broken up with her, she hadn't exactly taken it well. She'd cursed him in two different languages, thrown a plate at his head, and then made it painstakingly clear that she'd never wanted to see him again.

So half-expecting his phone to blow up or something, Percy opened the message.

You need to call me.

Percy gritted his teeth. You need to call me? Why couldn't she just have called him? And really, besides people who were over 30, who used proper spelling and grammar while texting? God, she was a prick.

And he wasn't going to respond.

Percy tucked his phone back into his pocket and went to go talk to his very disagreeable biology teacher. Hopefully he'd be able to make up his test. And if not, Percy would just have to remind him that if he failed Percy, he'd have to teach him again next year.

It usually worked.

But for some reason, Percy had an undeniable feeling of dread sinking into his stomach.

Lately, Rachel Elizabeth Dare's life had been one bad decision after another.

She'd been accepted into a fancy arts school in Boston midway through her senior year. After putting off the decision till the last possible day, she'd ended up flipping a coin to decide whether or not to go. Heads had been yes; tails had been no.

It had come up heads.

Now she was taking classes she could hardly care less about that weren't teaching her a thing. Apparently there was a proper way to paint, and to be honest, Rachel had never been good at following instructions.

Rachel had agreed to let her father buy her a fancy apartment, lest she have to deal with the horrors that came from living in a college dorm. It was meant to buy her affection. It made her wish she had a dad who cared more.

Most of the other students didn't like her. She was a rich girl, someone who wasn't attending on scholarship. She didn't have to go on the Raman diet to make ends meet and buy all of her art supplies used.

It was funny how art school was the one place money couldn't buy her friends.

Art school had been bad decision number one.

And little did she know, she was about to make bad decision number two.

Rachel came home after a long day of school to her empty apartment – reason number 542 she didn't like living on her own: it was always so lonely. The counter of the kitchen was covered with pastels and half-painted canvases, as well as bits of clay sculptures she'd started.

She cleared off a space and dumped the contents of her backpack. There were projects she needed to do and papers she needed to write, but she hardly cared. Terribly, part of her thought if she started failing, her father could fix it with a nice donation to the school.

No, she wasn't going to be that kind of girl.

But still, she was tired. Projects could wait. She was going to take a hot bath and go to sleep. Tomorrow was Friday, and she'd have the whole weekend to worry about getting caught up in her classes.

Rachel bit her lip and grabbed her phone. Of course, she had no new messages. She never did. Her only friend was on the other side of the country, and he was probably busy with all of the friends he'd undoubtedly made.

She'd thought about texting him a few times, but could never bring herself to bother him. At first, she'd told herself it was because he'd just broken up with Annabeth and she didn't want to be the rebound. Then she told herself too much time had passed and he'd probably forgotten about her.

What happened next was the cliché moment that only happened in movies. Her phone began to vibrate, and it was the one person she wanted to hear from.

Rachel hit answer and placed the phone to her ear. "Hey," she said, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice.

"Rachel…" She swore her heart skipped a beat when he said her name. "I…uhh…I don't know how to say this."

Her voice caught in her throat. As much as she was hoping for some good news from Percy, something in his voice told her it wasn't going to come. "Okay, well…" she started, then trailed off. "Are you in trouble?" she finally asked.

"Kind of." There was an awkward silence. "Actually, yeah."

"What did you do?"

"I'm flying into Boston tonight," Percy said, ignoring her question. "All of the hotels are booked. Can I stay with you?"

"Yeah, sure. But you're going to have to give me a fair warning if I'm harboring a fugitive or something," Rachel said, trying to keep her voice light.

"Oh, gods. It's nothing like that. But maybe that would be easier. I don't know. Rachel, I don't know what I'm going to do."

That was when Rachel had one of those moments that she couldn't explain, where something just suddenly came to her. It was a side effect of being the oracle, or so Apollo told her. But at a time like this, Rachel wished she could remain oblivious.

"Percy, Annabeth's pregnant…isn't she?"

A silence stretched out between them. "My flight arrives at 11:30. I know it's late, but could you pick me up?"

That was all the confirmation she needed.

Notes: Chapter the first is done. Tell me what you think, lovelies.