She waits until they're alone in the dark sickbay before she speaks.
As she expects, he rolls over instantly—still my overprotective Seaweed Brain, she thinks. His once-bright green eyes are dull and exhausted.
"What is it?" he whispers, his voice grating and rough.
"Are you having trouble sleeping?
Her boyfriend sighs as he eases onto his back and stares at the ceiling. "Yeah. Are you?"
Don't cry, Annabeth. For the gods' sakes, don't cry. "Yeah, I…" She trails off, unable to keep going. Her thoughts are fractured and broken. She can't tell what's real and what isn't. (Her mental pep talk clearly didn't work—she feels a hot tear roll down her cheek. Then another. And another.)
It isn't until she's full-out shaking with sobs that Percy speaks again.
She looks up. Percy's expression has changed—it's something she can't quite place, something she's never seen before.
He pulls her down onto the narrow berth beside him (leaving them no room to move around) then rolls her over in one deft motion so her forehead is pressed into his chest and his arms are wrapped around her back.
"I don't want you to cry anymore," he murmurs. "I've got you now. I'll always protect you, okay?"
She nods, unable to speak, and presses herself closer to him. His shirt—her favorite, an old Camp Half-Blood one—smells like salt and ocean air. Chiseled muscles, dimpled with gashes and bruises, flex beneath the worn-out fabric.
"I love you," Annabeth whispers. "I've always loved you. Since the beginning… it was always there somehow."
He nods and smiles, pressing his face into her hair. "I love you, too."
They fall asleep together again, each knowing that the nightmares end if the other one stays.