Piper and Annabeth have an unexpected heart to heart about the boys they love.
Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson or any of his friends.
Piper wasn't sleeping well these days.
There were the normal demigod dreams, of course, filled with monsters and omens and darkness, but she was getting used to those. She'd been dealing with bad dreams all of her life. It wasn't even the stress she was feeling, though the air at camp was saturated with it.
Leo and the Hephaestus cabin spent every waking hour working on that stupid warship. They'd run into every problem in the book, but it was still getting closer to completion every day, which meant that it was a matter of weeks before Piper and her friends would be sailing for California and a hostile camp of Romans. That would have been enough to deal with alone, if it weren't for Jason himself.
She and Jason had spent a lot of time together the past for months—training, talking, trying to help Leo and getting yelled at for it—and Piper was now convinced of two things: first, that Jason was possibly the most amazing guy she'd ever known, and second, that somewhere along the way Jason had remembered a girl from that other camp. He wouldn't talk about it with her, which made her even more certain that he'd left someone behind.
The Romans were going to take him away.
That was the real problem. The idea of going there, of returning him to his former life where she didn't exist, made her sick to her stomach. She'd lie awake for hours, running possibilities through her head and trying to squelch the horrible feeling that there wasn't room for Piper McLean in Jason Grace's life.
Wide awake just before dawn, Piper threw off her covers. She obviously wasn't going to be getting any more sleep, so she might as well get up; go for a walk; clear her head. She pulled on her boots and a jacket as quietly as possible before heading out into the predawn mist.
It was quiet this early in the morning, which was slightly unnerving. Most of the time camp was nothing but noise. Piper stepped lightly, her hands jammed in her pockets and her thoughts trying to go everywhere at once. She'd made it halfway around the cabins when the stillness was broken by another camper stepping outside.
Piper watched as Annabeth Chase hugged herself in the chilly air. The older girl stood still for only a moment—long enough for Piper to think she saw tears on her face—before setting out in the opposite direction, towards the beach.
For the briefest of moments, Piper was able to forget about her own problems. Annabeth Chase was not someone you expected to lose control, even when she was alone. The girl was tough, almost inhumanly logical and composed. Newer campers had placed bets on whether or not the girl had ever cried.
But that was dumb, Piper realized. Annabeth didn't like showing those intense emotions, but that didn't mean she never felt them. Her boyfriend had been missing for over half a year now, and everyone in camp knew how close they'd been. It was probably even worse, knowing where he was now and not being able to do anything about it. Grover checked in often, but never with anything new, and Tyson had been unable to pick up Percy's scent, even with Jason's suggestions.
All in all, Piper couldn't blame her for crying. Annabeth hated feeling helpless and she missed her boyfriend. Piper could understand not being allowed to be with the one you loved, probably better than anyone.
A moment of indecision was all it took before Piper headed for the beach herself. As much as Annabeth hated showing weakness to anyone, Piper thought she could probably use a friend even more.
She found the daughter of Athena standing ankle-deep in the surf, staring at the horizon as the waves washed over her feet.
The girl turned slightly, long enough to ascertain who had snuck up on her. "Piper." She turned back to the ocean, wiping at her face as inconspicuously as possible. "What are you doing out here?"
"I was taking a walk when I saw you come out."
"It's kind of early for a walk."
"And yet here we both are." Piper crossed the sand, coming to stand next to Annabeth in the oncoming tide. "I couldn't sleep."
"That's two of us," Annabeth sighed. "That dumb ship can't be done soon enough."
This was exactly the opposite of how Piper felt, but she wisely kept that to herself for the moment. "It shouldn't be too long now. Leo said another week, maybe two. But…I guess after eight months, that doesn't mean much."
Annabeth shook her head. "He's everywhere, Piper. He's like the life of this camp. Everywhere I look…Cabin Three, the lake, the forest, the Fleece…he's had his hands in all of it. Camp Half-Blood is what it is because of Percy Jackson. It's…it's not right when he isn't here."
"I can't even begin to imagine,' Piper said quietly. "I see what you're going through, how you force yourself to function. Athena has won capture the flag for what, the past eight weeks?"
"Exactly my point. You're the strongest person I know, Annabeth. I can't even think…if it had been Jason… Well, I lost a fake relationship and it almost killed me."
"You're probably not looking forward to the warship being finished," Annabeth said, turning to look at Piper at last.
"Not really. I understand why it needs to be done, but I can't help feeling that I have a lot to lose to that Roman Camp."
Annabeth looked at Piper shrewdly, making the younger girl feel like she was being x-rayed and evaluated. "I'm sorry," she said at last.
Piper shrugged. "You don't have to apologize to me. If anyone's to blame here, it's Hera." Annabeth snorted her agreement, but she didn't say anything so Piper went on. "Still… My life wasn't that great before Jason fell out of the sky. I can't bring myself to wish that this had never happened, even if it does mean losing him."
"I don't know that you have much to be worried about, to be honest."
Piper couldn't help a small smile. "Thanks, but I think he left someone behind."
"He left a lot of people behind, and he's remembered them all now. It hasn't changed how he looks at you."
"It has changed how he acts around me, though. I don't know, Annabeth. I don't want to get in the way, but…I really like him. I don't want to say goodbye." Annabeth was no longer looking at Piper, but back out at the ocean, hugging herself tightly against the cold breeze.
"Perfectly understandable," she said quietly.
But it was Piper who understood with perfect clarity what Annabeth was thinking. "I'm your worst nightmare, aren't I? The girl on the other side who falls for your guy."
"He doesn't remember me," Annabeth said, the words bursting out as if they'd been dying to be said. "Look at Jason. He knew what, his first name? Percy and I, we had so much. He was my one constant, the only thing in my life that actually looked like it might be permanent, and now he's gone and I might not ever get him back. Piper, I can't…I can't look at him and see him not recognize me. Not after everything we went through."
"Jason's memory came back," Piper pointed out.
"Not before he met you."
It was gut-wrenching, the fear Annabeth was trying so hard to hide. In a life like theirs, when the likelihood of reaching adulthood was minimal at best, you had to go for what you wanted before you ran out of time. Piper could tell that Annabeth was afraid that her short season of happiness was already over, even if they did get Percy Jackson back. She felt a sharp pang of guilt for troubling Annabeth with her petty problems—especially since her problems were the very things the older girl was dreading so much.
"For the record, thanks for always being so nice to me. You know, all things considered."
At this, Annabeth turned a small smile on Piper, her full attention on her companion at last. "You're not trying to steal my boyfriend. Not that you're actually trying to…you know, steal anyone."
Piper shook her head, partially exasperated but mostly amused. "If this Percy is anything like I've heard, he'd be a complete idiot to let you go."
"He's an idiot alright," Annabeth sighed, "but he's stubborn. I like to think he wouldn't let Hera get the better of him, that maybe he's been hanging on to something, anything about me…" she shook her head wistfully. "Wishful thinking, right?"
"Maybe," Piper shrugged. "But maybe not. There's still the chance that we both come out of this happy, you know."
"You think so?"
The question was more resigned than hopeful, but Piper nodded resolutely. "My mom says I'm good at seeing possibilities, and there is a good one that you'll get him back. You'll see."
Piper had expected Annabeth to scoff or put up a fight, so the response that she got took her by surprise. "I'll hold on to that," Annabeth said quietly. "Thank you."
Silence fell after that, and Piper couldn't help noticing that she felt a little bit better.