AN: Long time, no fic. I've been busy and beset by writer's block the last few months, so hopefully you'll forgive me for being away so long.
In other news, this is probably going to be the last fic I post here. I'm making the switch to AO3, and you can find me there as hermyohknee. It's been a good long run with ffn, but I think I need a switch. ...And maybe fewer Nico/OC fighting off the forces of Chaos because Percy felt forgotten fics.
Fic contains major MOA spoilers. Some sort of angsty Percabethy post-cliffhangery mess split into three sections of 365 words each. Enjoy! Well, not that you can really enjoy the pain of characters you love, but…
There is no answer, but he can feel her trembling hand in his and that has to mean she's here with him. Together, they said.
"Annabeth, we … we have to start moving."
Tartarus is darkness beyond darkness and he can't see anything, not even Annabeth, and he feels himself inhaling monster dust with every breath. It swirls around them and it won't be long before the monsters (or whatever half-formed things they are down here) surround them.
Percy hears her take in a shaky breath. "You're right," she says. "But where should we go?"
He hadn't even considered which direction might lead them to the Doors of Death when he let go of the ledge. Of course, he hadn't been thinking much other than a colorful mixture of "I am dangling over an endless pit of eternal torture" and "Annabeth is dangling over an endless pit of eternal torture," so he thinks some lack in forethought is kind of forgivable.
Her grip on his hand tightens. He squeezes back and remembers falling into the Labyrinth two years ago with only the darkness and Annabeth's hand in his. Now everything is different, heightened, more intense.
Breathe in monster dust, breathe out monster dust.
Something or someone shrieks close to them and the sound echoes, filling the air along with the subtle hum of … stirring which Percy hadn't noticed until additional noise was added.
"Are we even, like, on the ground?" he asks suddenly. And he really isn't sure what he's standing on—is it a ledge? some kind of solid Mist? the very bottom of the most evil place in the universe?
"I think it's rock," Annabeth says. She sounds almost as confident as she usually does when she's telling him facts that he'll likely forget within five minutes. "But the surface might change in different sections. I wonder how long this part continues… We should just follow it, I guess."
Percy nods but it's still so dark that there's no way she could have seen. He wonders if their eyes will ever adjust.
He grips her hand tighter and they're both shaking and a monster growls and they set off into Tartarus together.
The moment after the last monster dies is silent. Dawn will break in a few minutes, but for now the light is dim and the morning is quiet and the monsters are gone.
Percy and Annabeth stumble out of the impenetrable darkness, and the silence breaks. Piper rushes over to them, tears running down her face already. Nico steps away from the Door with a relieved sigh. Percy and Annabeth are holding hands like they have been for most of those countless days in Tartarus. Though the sun hasn't yet risen, Annabeth squints as if staring into a spotlight and Percy shields his eyes from what little light comes from below the horizon.
Sometime between "We thought you were dead!" and "What happened?" Percy collapses. Frank sees blood and he rushes to get some nectar (half of which he spills on Percy, but it should still help a little bit, right?). Annabeth is leaning heavily on Piper as she kneels next to him. Jason is saying something about how she should go to the ship because it's dangerous here, but she's not moving until Percy does. If the two were inseparable before, now they must be practically the same person. Hazel glances up at Piper and she can tell they're both worrying about how Percy and Annabeth will… cope. If Nico was only down there for a few days, and he had nearly gone insane, she doesn't want to think about what weeks in Tartarus can do to a person.
Eventually Percy is stable enough to move and they all limp towards the Argo II, which is already ready to depart for a safer location thanks to Leo. The ship is quiet. Once Percy and Annabeth and Jason, who has yet another head injury, are safely in sickbay with Coach Hedge, everyone else wanders off. Piper goes to the stables to look out the bay doors. Frank and Hazel sit on the deck. Leo pilots the ship, hoping his fingers don't get stuck again. Festus spouts steam and acts as official GPS. Buford runs into a mast and dents himself.
The Argo II sails to a safer place, but the battles are not over yet.
She always sleeps in his cabin. It's empty and they don't have to worry about waking anybody else up when they have nightmares (every night).
It started in the infirmary at the Big House when they returned. One way or another, Chiron would find them in the morning in the same bed, arms wrapped tightly around each other and both half-falling off the small cot.
Then they're out of the infirmary but somehow Annabeth ends up sneaking into Percy's cabin almost every night because her siblings shouldn't have to listen to her scream and by this point it's become so commonplace for Percy and Annabeth to come to breakfast together that the only teasing comments left are the ones asking for an invitation to the wedding.
And she loves Percy and she loves being closer than ever and she loves waking up in his bed every morning but the nightmares are the cause and she hates them. Spiders tangle her up in webs and drag her down while Percy screams her name and she can't reach him and she can't see and it's too dark –
She wakes up in a different kind of darkness, one brightened by the fish-shaped night lights in the corners.
Percy is here, next to her. Not in pain, not being tortured, not dying…
His face is scrunched up; he's mumbling in his sleep. "Annabeth?" he asks. He sounds like a child. And that's when she knows it's a nightmare and she starts to wake him up as gently as she can. She strokes his hair and says his name up until he opens his eyes, confused and scared. He latches on to her and she wraps her arms around him.
"Thought you were gone," he says into her hair.
I'm here. I'm right here. It's okay. We're together.
Annabeth doesn't know how many times she's said those same phrases worded differently, but they both need the reminder that they're alive and here and safe, no matter what they've suffered.
He kisses her and she holds him until she falls asleep. In the morning they hold hands on the way to breakfast and the days go on and they are together.