The voice woke me from an extremely strange dream involving Connor Stoll dancing around Camp Half-Blood in a pink tutu while Grover and Juniper provided a chorus of "I Feel Pretty". I mean, sure-all demigods had weird dreams, and I was no exception. But this one…well, this one had nothing to do with any prophecy. I was sure of that. (Maybe Apollo had discovered crack cocaine, Zeus forbid.)
"Percy!" The voice was harsher now, more insistent, snapping me out of my dream just as I was about to ask why the sun was purple. I blinked open my eyes to see a mass of blonde curls in front of me—Annabeth, asleep in my arms, her head resting on my chest. Wait a minute… if she was asleep, she hadn't woken me up. So who had?
I was on my feet in seconds, with Riptide—three feet of gleaming Celestial bronze, or (as Grover liked to call it) a great way to make shishkebabs—pointed at the stranger's neck. It took a few moments before I realized said stranger was wearing an orange camp t-shirt.
"Whoa, slow down there, hotshot." The girl standing across from me crossed her arms and smirked. "I mean, I know you've got the whole battle reflexes thing going on, but just chill out a minute."
I recognized the girl then; it was Nyssa, a girl about my age from the Hephaestus cabin. Dropping my sword to my side, I muttered, "Yeah, surviving a war does that to you."
Her eyes grew sad at the mention of the word war. "I know how it is. Nobody's been the same since… well, anyway…" She looked out the window (which, I noticed, was still dark, like it was the middle of the night) and let the sentence hang.
The atmosphere in the room was decidedly depressing at that point, so I changed the subject. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"To wake you guys up," Nyssa answered simply. "I wanted to get you before Clarisse got the whole camp in here and plastered the walls of the Big House with pictures."
I rolled my eyes. This was why you should never publicly be in a relationship at Camp Half-Blood. (And a word of advice to those of you out there with girlfriends—never, ever kiss them in close proximity to both a large body of water and a group of your friends. Yes, sadly, I speak from experience, but it's a long story.) Still, I felt an enormous wave of gratitude for the thoughtfulness of this girl—I would never live it down if pictures of me and Annabeth were displayed for all to see.
That flood of gratitude slowed to a trickle as I put down Riptide and read my watch by its faint glow.
"Four in the morning?" My voice got progressively higher with each word, until I was almost screaming. Still, I didn't care—it's not like anyone was awake to hear us, anyway.
Nyssa was already halfway out the window. "Clarisse wakes up early to go for a run, you know. See ya, Percy!"
…And she was gone. I grumbled, "What, is the door too mainstream for you?" before turning to look at my girlfriend, who was now awake and muffling her laughter in one of my pillows.
"Would you care to tell me what that was all about?" Annabeth asked breathlessly; even in the dark, I could tell that her face was bright red from laughing so hard.
"You don't want to know," I said, crossing the room to sit on the edge of my bed next to her. "Just trust me, Wise Girl, you don't want to know."
"All right, all right, I trust you!" She grinned and laid her head in my lap. "And why are we awake at four in the morning?"
"That," I said, "is a really good question. But I think Chiron mentioned something yesterday about a picture—do you know know anything?"
Her eyes widened with recognition. "The camp picture is today! Come on, Seaweed Brain, we have to get dressed!"
A chorus of oh no, oh no, oh no was running through my head. Two hundred ADHD demigods wielding weapons and standing in a field for hours? Holy Zeus. This was going to get messy.
"Want to do something before breakfast?" I asked Annabeth thirty minutes later. It was too early for breakfast, and nothing else was going on, so I figured she'd go for the plan I had in mind.
Her eyes narrowed. "What is it?"
"You. Me. Swimming. Right now." The shocked look on her face was priceless.
"But—but—your dad is—" The daughter of Athena seemed to be at a loss for words.
I grinned cheekily. "So what if my dad is Poseidon? Didn't you say you could beat me at anything?"
She stared at me in disbelief before her eyes flashed dangerously. "That was not what I meant, and you know it!"
"Scared, are you?" The words left my mouth before I had a chance to remember who I was talking to. Challenging Annabeth Chase was never a good idea.
"I'll show you scary," she snarled under her breath, spinning on her heel and marching off toward Long Island Sound. I followed, laughing quietly to myself. However competitive Annabeth was, she didn't stand a chance against me—in the water, at least.
We arrived at the beach just as a tiny sliver of sunlight peeked over the horizon, throwing a glittering orange ray over the water. In one fluid movement, I kicked off my shoes, pulled my shirt over my head, and plunged into the icy water.
I didn't realize Annabeth was there with me until I came up again and saw her, blonde ponytail soaking wet and thrown over one shoulder, floating in the water a few feet away. I swam up next to her and smiled.
She tried to look as fierce as she could when she was dripping wet with chattering teeth. "Y-you are so going to lose."
I hugged her briefly. "We'll see about that."
And then we swam as fast as we could for shore.
A/N: Hey, everyone! A lot of the credit for this chapter goes to my wonderful friend wombat-of-awesomeness. She is still trying to work up the courage to post her first fanfic, so *shameless promotion time* PLEASE send her a few words of encouragement through PM! She is an excellent writer with a ton of great ideas. (And we all remember how we felt when we were new to this site and praying that someone would read our fics, don't we?)
Thanks so much for reading! :)