I didn't quite know how I came to be standing in front of the apartment door on Christmas Eve.

Normally, at this time of year, I was either at Camp Half-Blood or at home in California with my dad, stepmom, and two stepbrothers, Bobby and Matthew. The five of us would be sitting around the Christmas tree, joking and laughing; it had gotten a lot more comfortable to be around them lately, like they had finally accepted me for what I was.

But I didn't feel like celebrating this year. The only person I really wanted to celebrate with was across the freaking country right now, and Chiron had expressly forbidden me to try and rescue him from the Roman camp for demigods that Jason had told us about.

East One-hundred-and-fourth and First was as close to him as I could get.

I took a deep breath and knocked once on the door. It flew open so fast, I jumped about a foot in the air, clutching for my knife.

But it was only Paul, who didn't even seem surprised that I was heavily armed and wearing full Greek battle armor under my jacket. (Living with Percy, I guess pretty much nothing could shock him anymore.)

He heaved a sigh. "Hey there, Annabeth. Come on in."

The minute I entered the apartment and stepped through the small kitchen to the living room, I was crushed in a hug by Sally—possibly the only person who truly understood the way I felt right now. She was crying into my shoulder—that's so weird that I'm taller than her, I thought—not even caring about my freezing armor. After a moment, I wrapped my arms around her, too.

"It'll be okay, Sally," I promised, although I had to fight had to keep my voice from shaking. "A guy at camp is working on something. We're going to find him."

"Annabeth's right, Sally," said Paul from the doorway, coming over and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Come on. You haven't slept in days—you should get some rest."

Sally nodded miserably, but looked back at me as Paul began to guide her from the room. "Annabeth, if you'd like—you can stay here for Christmas. I mean, it's up to you—"

"I'd like that. Thanks, Mrs. Jackson."

She gave me a halfhearted smile as they disappeared into the bedroom.

I couldn't see much out of the window, with the snow coming down as hard as it was, but I stood in front of it anyway. The glass was icy to the touch; my breath left foggy spots on the panes as I looked out at what was fast becoming a blizzard.

"Merry Christmas, Percy," I whispered. "Wherever you are."

I looked over my shoulder at the Christmas tree in the corner. All the ornaments were blue.

—•—

A/N: I know I haven't posted anything new in a while, but this just sort of jumped into my head and demanded to be written. It's my first attempt at any kind of angst—thoughts?

EPC