Percy Jackson was having a perfectly normal night until the surprise package came in the mail.
He was crashed out on the couch, the only light in the tiny living room coming from the television (where the Giants were clobbering the Bears in Monday Night Football) and the decrepit Christmas tree in the corner (why the children of Greek gods celebrated Christmas, Percy wasn't sure), when his fiancée's voice called from the front door.
"Percy, I think you should see this."
Groaning, Percy reluctantly tore his gaze away from the game. "Annabeth, seriously, if this is something else about the wedding, I swear I'm going to—"
"Relax, idiot. I'm pretty sure it's an early wedding present."
Annabeth pulled off her jacket and scarf as she entered the living room. Her cheeks were pink from the cold, and there was snow in her hair.
(Percy thought she looked like an angel.)
"You think?" he asked. "So you didn't check to see if Connor and Travis sent us an exploding shoe or anything?"
She held up a flat, square package wrapped in heavy brown paper. "Does this look like it could fit a shoe?"
"That's what I thought."
In one fluid motion, Annabeth leapt neatly over the back of the couch and landed on top of Percy. Under their combined weights, the couch (which was already unstable) creaked in protest.
"Shut up, stupid IKEA furniture," Annabeth grumbled. "Percy, hand me that blanket behind you, would you? I'm freezing."
"Oh, come on, Wise Girl," Percy said with a grin. "We've lived in New York for years. Surely you're used to the weather by now?"
"You're forgetting that we can't afford real heat, which is why there are blankets stuffed under all the doors in our apartment." Annabeth shoved his shoulder gently and laid the package on Percy's chest. "Go on, Seaweed Brain, open it."
Percy tore off the paper and tossed it into the growing mess of wedding paraphernalia strewn across the floor—bowties in various shades of blue piled in a corner, stilettos and polished black dress shoes lined up by the kitchen doorway, and an enormous white garment bag (containing what Annabeth had already dubbed "The Satin Straitjacket") draped over the back of a chair. Turquoise bridesmaids dresses labeled with names—Piper, Hazel, Reyna, Thalia—were hanging off the curtain rod.
Honestly, Percy was excited to get married, but he'd be happy when it was all over. This wedding business was more trouble than it was worth.
The last of the paper fell away to reveal a...scrapbook?
"There's a note on it," Annabeth said, reaching over to pull a yellow sticky note off the white cover.
To Percy and Annabeth on their wedding day—well, sort of, since it's actually not for, like, a month. —Camp Half-Blood
"That looks kind of like Leo's handwriting," Percy commented idly, opening the scrapbook.
The first page had an enormous picture of—
"Holy Athena, is that..."
"My birthday? When we finally got together?" Percy couldn't stop the goofy smile from spreading over his face. "Yeah. Way to blackmail us, guys."
"Camp Half-Blood can't hear you, Percy."
The next page was full of handwritten notes on all sorts of paper—from fancy stationery to plain old notebook paper—glued haphazardly into a collage.
Congratulations, Percy and Annabeth! —Piper
Best of luck, you crazy kids! —Paul
Don't get her knocked up too soon, Percy. No one (especially NOT you) wants hormonal Annabeth. It won't be pretty. —Connor (The Sexy One)
"The Sexy One" is right, even though he's not the sexy one. I am. And trust me on this one: hormonal Annabeth equals BLOOD AND DEATH. We're going to hide if you guys have a baby, Percy. —Travis
"Well, that's nice," Annabeth said sarcastically. "Glad to know they're already planning on hiding in a doomsday bunker should you ever get me pregnant. And why are they immediately pegging me as highly dangerous? Have they even looked at themselves sometimes?"
"Everyone's a critic."
Percy went back to reading notes.
There better be wine at this wedding, Pablo. —Mr. D.
YOU'RE GONNA MAKE SUCH ADORABLE BABIES! —Leo
...that's not how we make friends, Valdez. —Jason
Love you guys—congrats, and don't forget that YOU DO NOT WASH RED SOCKS WITH WHITE SHIRTS, PERSEUS. DON'T DO IT. xoxo —Sally
After that came pages and pages of carefully placed pictures: the two of them scaling the lava wall, singing together at the campfire, holding hands when they thought no one could see.
The very last picture was of—
"Did someone seriously take a picture of you proposing to me?"
Percy could remember like it was yesterday. He had pulled Annabeth down to the canoe lake with him, saying there was something he wanted to show her...
"What is it, Seaweed Brain?"
"You'll see. I've been planning this for a long time."
They arrived at Percy's chosen spot—the dock on the far side of the lake—to find hundreds of flickering tea lights forming a circle.
But Percy had already let go of her hand, taken a deep breath, and turned to face her.
"Annabeth Chase, you are smart, beautiful, and totally capable of kicking my sorry ass at any time. I've known you since we were twelve, and—yes, even though it took me a long time—I think I've finally realized just how much I love you."
"Shut up and let me make the romantic speech, woman! It took me a long time to write this!"
"Annabeth Chase, will you marry—whoops!
He had accidentally dropped the ring through a crack in the planks of the dock.
"Um... I'm going to need you to wait just a sec."
"No need!" And Clarisse had come bursting through the trees with a horde of campers on her heels.
"Time to uphold our tradition. Into the lake!"
So Percy and Annabeth had played along and done their end of the deal—which involved plenty of kissing (not that they hadn't ever done that before)—before relaxing into a comfortable silence at the bottom of the lake.
After a while, Annabeth broke the silence, twisting her new engagement ring back and forth on her finger. "Percy, do you think they're just going to keep throwing us into the lake whenever we do anything romantic in front of them?"
"I sure as Hades hope not. Of course, that means it'll probably happen."
Percy smiled. This wedding present—the opportunity to remember some of the greatest moments of his life—was definitely way better than an exploding shoe.
(Of course, knowing Connor and Travis, they'd end up bringing hellhounds as dates to the ceremony or something like that.)