Author's Note: I just wanted someone to give me Percabeth feels. Apparently that was too much to ask for, so I did it myself. (Insert non-PG13 joke here.)
I just finished The Lost Hero (I know, I know. So slow of me! But I didn't want to wait like, a year till finding out what happens. Now I only have 3 months. Much more tolerable. Sort of.), and I am so mad we didn't get a reunion closed. He knew that would be the selling point for the third novel, didn't he?
Yeah, RR. I've got my eyes on you. (And your website. Dude, update please?)
Percy never threw out his camp shirts—not until they were so tattered and ratty that nothing held the fabric together anymore. And even then, Annabeth usually had to relinquish him of the responsibility. More than once, she had thrown them—and many other shirts she considered unwearable—out while Percy was in class or something.
"We can always get another," she reminded him. They both had decided to go to college in New York, close enough to camp to feel secure and at home without actually being at camp. Chiron never turned them away when they came to visit though. They were among the oldest campers now, but they still returned every summer. They weren't alone. Often, those who didn't return… couldn't. But no one liked to think (let alone talk) about that. But Percy was more attached to the shirts than Annabeth was. The color orange always felt like it screamed "Come get me, monsters!" but to Percy, it was more like a beacon that summoned him back home. It identified him. Where Annabeth imagined a scream of fear, Percy imagined a challenging bellow. She was no coward, but she preferred quieter, less obtrusive ways of visiting memories and identifying herself. She fingered the beads—ten beads on the string now, a decade spent calling Camp Half-Blood home.
But Percy had a second—a third—home. There was his mother's apartment, of course, which he still visited all the time (often with Annabeth in tow). And then there was the other camp, Camp Jupiter. The Roman camp that had taken him in and claimed him as one of their own when he could barely remember more than his name. And hers. He assured her he never forgot her name or what she looked like, even when everything else was gone.
It made her smile, but it also made her want to cry. Eight months of terror and worry and anger and absence. Eight months. Damn Hera. Damn her to—
He kept that shirt too, a token from his other family. They had been nice, Annabeth remembered. Brave, strong, capable warriors. Good friends. But she couldn't help but resent them a little, when she was alone. They had been with Percy when she had no idea where to begin looking for him. She had envied their quest when she learned of it. She was used to always being there, battling at his side. But for that battle, she'd been too far away to help him.
He never wore the Camp Jupiter shirt, unlike his Camp Half-Blood attire. It looked brand new, at the bottom of the drawer. Nothing more than a keepsake, tucked away. He knew that seeing it upset her. Annabeth never told him not to wear that shirt, to throw it away, but he must have seen the pained look in her eyes the few times he had put it on. So he tucked it away, out of sight, unable to part with it but unwilling to hurt her more than he already had—even when it hadn't been his fault. He probably thought she'd forgotten about it, but Annabeth had near-perfect recall.
He wouldn't be home for an hour. Thursdays, she didn't have class, but he did. It was good, she thought. They needed time—minutes, hours—in the day to retain their own identity. They didn't always have to be The Couple. He needed time to be Percy, and she needed time to lick her wounds.
She took the Camp Jupiter shirt out of the drawer and sat on the edge of the bed with the shirt in her fists. Anger, hurt, resentment—gratitude, too. There had been danger, but there might have been so much worse if nobody had found him, if he hadn't made friends who protected him and had his back. She buried her face in the fabric, inhaled. It smelled a little like him, but mostly like laundry detergent. They kept him alive, believed in him. The way that she did.
Exhaled. Put the shirt away. Placed the Camp Half-Blood shirt(s) on top of it, arranged the drawer the way Percy had left it. If he'd ever noticed his things slightly awry, he'd never mentioned it. He knew he wasn't the only one who had felt at a loss those months he'd spent wandering, memory fuzzy, unsure of who he was.
Annabeth had been lost too.