So guys, The Mark of Athena broke my heart, and here's a oneshot about it. Spoilers are present. Like, this is entirely about spoilers.
I just wrote this because it seemed like the old heroes were tired in Mark of Athena. Percy was even more annoyed with the gods than usual. They did their jobs and pressured through like heroes and I've never been more proud of them and Percy was beast, but this is just an exaggeration of what I got.
Disclaimer: Me no own. At the end, many parts are copied from the actual Mark of Athena and spiced with commentary from yours truly, so Riordan wrote that.
Luke had been ranting for a few minutes while pacing his cabin and using his hands actively, not even bothering to step above the sleeping bags and bed rolls sprawled on the floor of cabin eleven.
Annabeth sat on his bunk and ate a lollipop. Who knew that the children of Hermes had a soft spot for cute, lost, out of place seven year olds? Who knew that the children of Hermes had enough of a soft spot to share their candy stash with anybody?
"People get what they give Annabeth," Luke said. Annabeth raised her head, ready to catch another few sentences and nod dutifully. "It's only fair and it's karma and that's how the world works. But I'm getting really sick of getting bullstyx that I don't deserve."
Annabeth nodded. Luke froze and looked at her. He shook his head.
"Look at me, swearing in front of a seven year old." He held out his hand. "Come on; let's go to the climbing wall, or find something else that's fun to do."
Three Years Later
"Luke?" Annabeth asked. He groaned.
"Yes, child?" He asked. She was still ten, so he could still call her child even if she didn't like it. Usually she'd protest and put up a fight, but he was so hurt, and so tired and his new scar was so bad…
"You said that everyone got what they deserved." She said. "But I think you're wrong because only bad people deserve that." She pointed to his cheek even if he wasn't facing her.
He spun around and looked at her.
"Annabeth… if you don't get what you deserve in life once… well, it's because you'll get your just reward later. Okay? The universe always fixes itself that way, it's great."
"So when do you get your just reward?" Annabeth asked, eager for Luke to stop missing Thalia and to stop getting hurt and to stop being mad at his dad.
Luke locked his jaw and fell back into his pillows. "I'm tired, kiddo."
"But I really want an answer," she protested.
Luke rolled onto his side so he didn't face her, ignored her and eventually Annabeth got bored and left.
Two Years Later
Percy's knees kept hitting hers in the zoo truck now that he'd drifted off to sleep.
There, so she'd trusted.
Was her reward the sudden pressure lift from her chest?
Three Years Later
She broke the rules at camp: she broke some ribs in the sea of monsters.
Fine, karma, fine.
She'd carried the weight of the sky.
Now she was in a palace in the clouds, dancing with a boy whose eyes twinkled brighter than the stars and who mattered more than the planets.
Four Years Later
"So now that you've become a traitor you've decided that you like me?" Annabeth said. "Gods, Luke, I can't…"
He stood in the threshold of her house. She should have stabbed him the moment she'd recognised his face. It couldn't be good that he was here, it just couldn't.
"It's more than that," Luke said. "I trust you."
Annabeth closed her eyes. Her emotions swirled like pinwheels. It was perfect- her first crush, Luke, liked her. But then there was Percy who was just, oh gods… But he and Rachel, was that even a real thing? She looked back at Luke.
He'd come to find her in San Francisco to talk, he trusted her not the others.
But Percy had come to San Francisco to find her too once, breaking all the rules to do so.
And Percy had never turned evil.
But Luke had always been there for her, since she was a kid.
So had Percy since he'd met her.
What in the world had she done for Aphrodite to decide that this karmatic punishment was suiting?
"No, I won't help you. I don't care. You're lucky I'm not killing you, Luke."
Annabeth's stomach was filled with butterflies. It wasn't very often that she got her crush to invite her to see a movie before getting to Camp. Okay, it had never happened before (because Annabeth was really bad at picking them), and sure it was friendly, but still. Everything had a starting point.
That's when the school blew up, Percy ran out of it as a hello and…
There was another girl.
Annabeth broke down in the labyrinth with her face in her knees.
Oh gods. Oh gods, oh gods…
Why, Luke? Why did he turn into a Titan, and why did he do it where she could see him? She wondered about what might have happened if she'd have reached that coffin a few hours earlier. Would it still have been Luke?
Six Years Later
"You're a coward, Percy Jackson." She said before storming away from him. Tears were nearly stinging her eyes. Her emotions were so high strung that it just didn't take much these days.
She'd worked hard her whole life. She'd trained, she'd worshiped and prayed, and she'd paid her respects, and studied the ancient ways and stories.
She'd become senior counselor of the Athena cabin and came up with Capture-the-Flag plans that had never failed and never been understood by the enemy.
She'd made peace with her father.
She'd gone on quests and brought Percy and Grover back safely. She'd held the sky.
She'd sacrificed herself for other half-bloods, taking knives or abductions that she hadn't needed to.
She'd slaved over maps of the labyrinth and braved the sea of monsters. She'd led a quest.
And what did she get?
Confused feelings for a confused boy who didn't have long to live, but didn't know that last part.
And even with the confusion, Annabeth knew that she didn't want him to die in this war. She'd worked hard to get him, she'd let him slip a few times, but she didn't want him to fall.
Annabeth was tired. Her whole body was tired. Her mind was tired. Her brain was through with plan making and so forth. The war had exhausted her and she wanted to curl up and rest.
Then she spotted Percy, helping a camper walk with a new pair of braces and a prosthetic leg given by his godly parent.
She'd gotten her reward on Olympus- becoming their architect and so forth.
But her just reward…
Well, Luke had done a lot of things wrong but Annabeth thought that he was right on one thing; sometimes you had to go get your reward yourself.
Tyson walked past her and she grabbed his arm.
"Hey, Tyson," she said.
He turned back to her with eager and happy eyes.
"Hello to Annabeth!" He said.
"Hi Ty," she said. "Do you want to help me with something?"
"Tyson help Annabeth!" He cheered.
"Okay, but quiet down. It's a secret, and a surprise. Have you ever made a cake before?"
She got her just reward, but at the same time she didn't get a just reward. It felt like more than that.
Her reward was sweet. Her reward was soft. And not just because his lips tasted like cupcakes and icing.
Percy was gone.
She kept herself sane by repeating those lines- which was weird because usually your boyfriend's disappearance wasn't a cheerful thing, but other fall backs included 'dead' and 'being tortured'.
She sat down on a rock at Camp on day two, when she'd flown back in from Maine.
"Chase, have you had breakfast?" Clarisse paused to ask her. Annabeth shook her head. "Lunch?" She shook her head again. "Well you'll collapse. Come on."
"No, honest, I was just sitting down to think, I'm fine. I'm supposed to take Porkpie and fly to…"
Clarisse gripped her by the shoulder and walked her to the Big House. Annabeth nearly sobbed more.
"I need to find him."
"You need food to find him. Jackson's a weird cookie, but I know he'd want you to stay okay." The daughter of Ares insisted. "And until you do it for yourself, I swear on the Styx I'll do it for you."
Annabeth looked at Jason Grace over the Ping-Pong table.
"And he probably doesn't remember who he is." Jason said.
Clarisse slapped her hand on the table and looked away. The Stolls kind of just looked terrified of Jason, as if he might bite.
Annabeth just watched Jason. A bitterness filled her. She didn't want him. She hadn't waited her whole life and looked for days for him.
So why? Why couldn't she just have Percy?
Annabeth was making her weekly trip to Sally and Paul's for an update on Percy, and probably cookies.
Sure enough, when she was let into the apartment a plate of homemade cookies was waiting for her. She picked one up before sitting down on the couch.
"How are you?" Sally asked. "How's school?"
"I'm… okay," Annabeth said. "School's fine. Except it's like I can't focus on it."
"You told me that you got all your favourite courses this semester." Sally said. "Physics, science, math, history… that sounds amazing."
Annabeth looked up at Sally with sad eyes. "I just can't do it."
"I bet you're being hard on yourself," Sally said putting a hand on Annabeth's knee. "Of course you can. You can do anything. And if he were here, he'd tell you too."
Annabeth took a deep breath. People didn't even have to say his name anymore to get a reaction from her.
She wasn't loony eyed or obsessive. She didn't cry left and right, and she wasn't overly emotional around everyone. But Annabeth Chase missed Percy Jackson and gods damn it, she was allowed to be sad. Part of her told her that she was still strong and that this didn't change it. That part was getting beaten up by the other one.
"I think that's why I feel off. Because of him. I mean, doesn't everything feel off?"
"Yes sweetheart," Sally said. "It does."
She changed seats and sat next to Annabeth. "Don't let it stop you from being who you are and doing your thing. Don't let it make you think you're not strong no matter how bad you feel."
"Sally don't give me the concerned parent talk that my boyfriend isn't worth it." Annabeth said shaking your head. "Just don't."
"I wasn't going to say that. You're a smart girl, you can gauge importance and decide what Percy's worth. I was just going to tell you not to lose what the whole world, even Percy, fell in love with." Sally said. "Your courage and strength, love."
That was too much for Annabeth to take and her eyes got misty. As if they were on a timer, Sally's eyes got misty at the same time.
"Oh gods," Annabeth said putting the back of her hand to her eyes. Sally pulled her into a hug and Annabeth wrapped her arms around her.
"He has no idea how badly he's going to be grounded when he gets back here." Sally said after a while. Annabeth laughed, but it was the kind of laughter pierced with sobs that reminded you that something so horrible you would cry was going on and made you weep more.
She just held onto Sally for a while because Sally knew. She didn't just not-mind Annabeth's aches and pains, she understood them.
"I don't know why this happened to him," she said. "Can't we get a break? Both of us?"
"Don't start thinking that way," Sally said. "It's happening to you because you're the best and that's what the world needs."
"I wish they gave the best a rest, then." Annabeth said. "We defeated Titans. Why are we supposed to defeat Gaia again? Don't we deserve a- a break and a future?"
Sally didn't say anything.
"Maybe life isn't about what you deserve," Sally said.
"I wish it was," Annabeth said. Our just reward would be amazing.
Annabeth laid in bed in her cabin, perfectly still and starred at the ceiling. She waited until the sound of hooves and banging baseball bats told her that Coach Hedge had taken it upstairs. She was patient for a few more minutes for precaution's sake, and then kicked the sheets off her legs.
She'd waited seven months. Screw social values and Coach Hedge; if the universe wasn't going to cut her a break, Annabeth was getting them both their own reward for those months.
Fully dressed, she tied her knife at her waist and eased the cabin door shut and close. She walked quietly up to Percy's room and opened the door without making a sound. He was lying in his bed and oh my gods- yes he was drooling.
She fixed her hair stupidly, and just watched him sleep for a while. She didn't want to be a stalker, but she hadn't been near him in months. Even if he didn't know, even if he was sleeping, even if they weren't doing anything it felt good.
He woke up groggily, eyes shot open as if he'd just had a nightmare. She decided not to bring that up right away.
"Wh- what's going on?" He asked her. "Are we there?"
He was assuming she had no other motives to visit him.
"No," she said, her voice low. "It's the middle of the night."
"You mean… You sneaked into my cabin?"
Goodness gracious, he was slow. Or shy. Was he blushing?
"Percy, you'll be seventeen in two months. You can't seriously be worried about getting in trouble with Coach Hedge."
"Uh, have you seen his baseball bat?"
He wasn't yet aware of the fact that he himself carried a sword, apparently.
"Besides, Seaweed Brain," she said ignoring him. "I just thought we could take a walk. We haven't had any time to be together alone. I want to show you something- my favourite place aboard the ship."
His lips curled into a happy and excited smile and then faltered. "Can I, you know, brush my teeth first?"
"You'd better. Because I'm not kissing you until you do. And brush your hair while you're at it." She said.
Coach Hedge could yell all he wanted, and the others on the ship could make jokes and look scandalized (she was looking at Hazel, poor girl) all they wanted; Annabeth did not regret last night. She'd needed to fall asleep in his arms to make risking their lives and everything they'd built (again) okay.
"You know what's in the cavern," he guessed. "Does it have to do with spiders?"
"Yes," she said in a small voice.
"Then how can you even..?" He made himself stop.
Once Annabeth had made up her mind, arguing with her wouldn't do any good. He remembered the night three-and-a-half years ago, when they'd saved Nico and Bianca di Angelo in Maine. Annabeth had been captured by the Titan Atlas. For a while, Percy wasn't sure if she was alive or dead. He'd traveled across the country to save her from the Titan. It had been the hardest few days of his life- not just the monsters and the fighting, but the worry.
How could he intentionally let her go no, knowing she was heading into something even more dangerous?
Then it dawned on him: the way he had felt back then, for a few days, was probably how Annabeth had felt for the last six months he had been missing with amnesia.
That made him feel guilty, and a little bit selfish, to be standing here arguing with her. She had to go on this quest. The fate of the world might depend on it. But part of him wanted to say: Forget the world. He didn't want to be without her.
"You'll have to trust me," Annabeth said. She couldn't meet his eyes. "You've got to believe I'll come back."
If she didn't go, he'd never have to worry about that. If she stayed with him and they forgot the world for once, she'd never have to worry about keeping promises related to times and days and being present. Her mouth tasted metallic and bitter. Her heart felt bitter.
"I believe in you," he said. "That's not the problem. But come back from where?"
Maybe that was the upside to their hard lives.
There wasn't any doubt about anything- about other girls, other boys, other priorities. They knew each other well enough to know those. Maybe the beauty of having a hard life was the hard core relationships that emerged. She trusted him, he trusted her.
Maybe that would be enough to hold on until their troubles were over.
The sound of a Vespa interrupted them, and a man and a woman got off the big and baby blue old model.
"Annabeth must face the guardian of the shrine by herself," Tiberinus told Percy when he tried to come along. "It is the only way."
She swallowed, and since her heart was in her throat it hurt.
"And Percy Jackson, you have less time than you realized to rescue your friend in the jar. You must hurry." The god said.
"But-" His green eyes looked hurt and suddenly sad.
"It's all right, Percy." Annabeth intervened, squeezing his hand. "I need to do this."
He tried to protest.
She lost all guard and control she'd had on her expression, and didn't try to bring it back. He saw her for what she was inside: terrified. And she wanted him to know that she was only hiding it because of him. She wanted him to know that he was the most important thing to her, and she wanted him to know that she was the humane Wise Girl that he'd fallen in love with no matter what kind of grand quest entrepreneur the gods had decided to make her.
"You're right," he said, the words spat out one by one. "Be safe."
"Safe? Not at all!" Annabeth's mouth filled with venom. Rhea hadn't had to tell Percy that. "But necessary. Come, Annabeth, my dear. We will show you where your path starts. After that, you're on your own."
Annabeth didn't want to be on her own. She wanted to stomp her feet, grab Percy's arm and back away.
But a part of her wanted to do this. Wanted to prove to the gods that she and Percy were the best, and wanted to make sure that if the gods had separated them and assigned them special fates, it wouldn't be in vain, and it wouldn't go down the drain.
She kissed him. He kissed her back and it felt like the first time- magic and exciting and new. Probably because this was the first time they'd kissed goodbye while knowing it.
She hesitated. She wanted to say 'I love you' before leaving, but she wasn't sure of her chances of survival. She didn't want his last memory of her, if this was it, to sting in five, ten or twenty years. It could have been worst, after all. They'd had a nice lunch and a kiss before leaving. It was a good memory to leave.
So she pulled her backpack on, and climbed on the back of the scooter, and zoomed away from him.
Percy held onto her. She buried her face in his chest and broke into tears. Arachne's defeat had been the most difficult thing in her life and she wanted to go home. Percy was the closest thing.
"It's okay," he said. "We're together."
He didn't say you're okay, or we're alive. After all they'd been through over the last year, he knew the most important thing was that they were together. She loved him for saying that.
They were going to die.
"Percy, let me go," she croaked. The underworld was pulling her down. Tartarus was like a black hole, and also as dark and mysterious and unknown. "You can't pull me up."
His face was white with effort. She could see in his eyes that he knew it was hopeless.
"Never," he said. He looked up at Nico, fifteen feet above and yelled something to him about the other side.
"Lead them there!" Percy shouted. "Promise me!"
Her heart was beating. No. NO.
Below them the voices laughed in the darkness. Sacrifices. Beautiful sacrifices to wake the goddess.
Percy tightened his grip on her wrist. His face was gaunt, scraped and bloody, his hair dusted with cobwebs, but when he locked eyes with her, she thought he had never looked more handsome.
"We're staying together," he promised. "You're not getting away from me. Never again."
Only then did she understand what would happen. A one-way trip. A very hard fall.
But Percy wasn't letting go of her hand and she wasn't going to make him. She didn't want to fall alone, and he didn't want her to be left alone to fall.
Maybe their just reward wasn't a happily ever after; an apartment somewhere (maybe New Rome like Percy said) with two jobs, a kid, a dog and a mortgage. Maybe they were like Luke and they had to go get it themselves.
Justice for them was what they deserved. And if they deserved one thing, and this she knew they'd decided together by the look in his eyes, it was to fall together.
"As long as we're together," she said.
Because they deserved it if nothing else. Because they deserved it if everything else.
She heard Nico and Hazel still screaming for help. She saw the sunlight far, far above- maybe the last sunlight she would ever see.
Then Percy let go of his tiny ledge, and together, holding hands, he and Annabeth fell into the endless darkness.