Words. This is a bunch of words. Pretty sure I'm not as happy with it as I could be, but that's life. This is mostly the conversation that Percy and Annabeth are having while Frank and Jason have their little heart to heart.
Before I go, I just wanted to thank everyone who has bothered to review, fave, alert, or even just read this random little group of scenes. I know they're incoherent at times, but I do try. You know, usually. :) I really appreciate every one of you!
Disclaimer: Fortunately, especially after this, I am NOT actually in charge of writing MoA. Rick Riordan is my hero.
Percy hadn't let go of her yet. An entire day had passed and Annabeth hadn't been allowed more than a foot away from him, not that she minded. She finally had him back! She probably couldn't have forced herself to leave his side, even if he'd asked her to. There had been introductions and war councils and meals, and through it all Percy's arm had been around her, or his hand had held hers tightly. She wasn't paying much attention to the people around her, but she had managed to notice that Reyna, the Roman leader who was wearing purple bed sheets, seemed a little put off by her presence.
"That's just Reyna," Percy explained when Annabeth pointed this out. "She's all right, but she's not the most welcoming person. Probably doesn't help that she hated us for years, though."
"The Greeks?" Annabeth asked.
"No, you and me." Percy rubbed the back of his head with his free hand, somehow managing to look contrite. "She lived on Circe's island when we passed through. We kind of left her and her sister at the mercy of the pirates."
Annabeth thought that definitely merited a little cool treatment. "That's…awful."
Their attention was quickly grabbed by more Roman officials, but Annabeth made a mental note to apologize to Reyna at the next available opportunity.
It wasn't until the day was almost over that the flurry of activity died down. Percy had risen in the Roman ranks very quickly and was something of a celebrity at Camp Jupiter—nearly everyone they ran into wanted some of his attention. By the time the sun had set, the excitement of the day had worn down a bit and they were able to find a quiet table in the mess where they were left more or less to themselves.
At long last, Annabeth was able to ask the question that had been bugging her almost all day. "You do realize that you're wearing a toga, right?"
"It's a Roman thing," Percy grinned. "They're all about rules here; I didn't have much choice once they elected me as praetor." He looked down at himself skeptically. "I know purple's not really my color, either."
"I don't know," Annabeth teased. "I think you look kind of hot."
"You're not a man if you can't make a sheet-dress look good."
The heavy sarcasm was tempered by his smile, which Annabeth could not get enough of. She'd taken all of it for granted: his smile, his sense of humor, even the way he drove her absolutely crazy. She needed it all, no matter how much she grumbled or teased, and she still couldn't quite believe that she'd gotten him back.
For the first time since they had met that morning, Annabeth kissed him, lingering as long as she dared in a room that was still moderately full of people.
"Yeah, I probably deserved that," Percy said when they parted, both still smiling.
Annabeth couldn't resist a soft laugh. "You think you're so irresistible, Seaweed Brain?"
"Nah." Percy wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close; Annabeth was only too happy to curl up next to him. "It's just your favorite way of telling me that I'm saying something really stupid and need to shut up. That's one of the very first things I remembered about you."
"That I kiss you when you're being dumb?"
"Mostly that you've done it a lot." His grin was audible.
"You've got yourself the best girlfriend in the world, Percy," Annabeth grumbled.
"I know." It was one of those rare moments when he was being completely serious. Annabeth rested her head on his shoulder contentedly, reaching over to claim his free hand.
"You weren't being dumb. I just…realized how much I missed you, all over again." She toyed with his hand absentmindedly. "I thought for sure you weren't going to know who I was."
"You were the only one I could remember."
"You're not just saying that, are you?" Annabeth asked. "Jason knew his first name and nothing else. Hera wiped his mind completely. And yet you somehow managed to hold onto me?"
"You're not easy to forget, Wise Girl," Percy teased. "You leave quite the impression."
"Ha ha," Annabeth shouldered him lightly.
"I don't know," Percy went on. "I forgot everything else, but not you. Hera gave me a choice, you know, before I even got here. Something about disappearing into the ocean and surviving on my own, or carrying her across the river and suffering. She said the only way I'd see you again was to suffer."
"You had the option of living forever in the ocean and you chose to suffer instead?"
"If it meant getting you back."
"Stubborn." But Annabeth couldn't bite back the smile.
Percy's grip on her tightened. "I didn't know who or where you were, but I knew you were important to me. More important than anything else. I missed you, Annabeth."
She looked up at him, drinking the sight in. "Yeah, I know."
"It's not like you to work yourself up over stuff like this," Percy commented
Annabeth shuddered. "It wasn't so much that you'd forgotten, it was who else you might have met when you didn't remember me. You met Piper today—she's head of Aphrodite cabin now."
"Brown hair, braids? Yeah, she's kinda tomboyish for Aphrodite."
"That's her. When Jason showed up, he was planted in her life. Hera gave her fake memories of this whole life she'd had with him. She thought they'd been dating for months, but Jason didn't remember any of it. They've been dancing around each other all this time because he was afraid of hurting someone he couldn't remember. Watching all of that going on, I just…it was so easy to imagine it happening to you and me."
"Hey." Percy shifted so she could look straight at him. "I promise, nothing like that happened to me. Hera kept me asleep until she needed me, which meant until the very last second. She seems to think I'm a bit of a loose cannon."
"Well I wonder where she got that idea?"
"The point is this is that you anchored me to my real life. Again." He was thinking about the River Styx. "After everything we've done and been through together, I don't think I could forget you. You get that…that I love you, right?"
Fighting back tears, Annabeth buried her face in his shoulder. "I love you too." She took a deep, shuddering breath. "Don't ever do this again."