The first thing she notices when they get back onto the ship is that she can't feel her hand anymore because Percy's clutching it so tightly—like it's a lifeline. She's about to let go so she can shake some feeling back into her numb fingers when Percy looks at her with terrified green eyes. "No, Annabeth, don't let go. Please. I can't lose you now."
She swallows hard in understanding because she feels exactly the same way, nods, and drops her head onto his shoulder as they follow Jason downstairs. They're still running mostly on adrenaline at this point.
Jason turns to face them when they reach the hallway. "We left the ambrosia in Percy's cabin for you guys—figured you'd want some alone time. I'm going to go find Piper so we can work out a way to distract Coach Hedge. That way, you can at least pass out properly." He gently claps Percy on the shoulder and gives Annabeth a one-armed hug. "Good to have you back, guys." Then he leaves them alone in the middle of the hall.
Annabeth is grateful for the help somewhere in the back of her mind, but right now all she wants to do is sleep. She follows Percy into his cabin, locks the door, and right away they're both falling onto the bed wrapped up in each others' arms. She meets Percy's eyes and there's so much unspoken emotion that fills his gaze it makes her want to cry.
"Seaweed Brain," she whispers, burying her face in his chest. She can feel bare, bloody skin through his ripped t-shirt, feel his pulse pounding a steady beat against her forehead: the thump-thump-thump of life drumming against her boyfriend's ribs (three of which were spectacularly bruised when she landed on top of him after that horrible fall).
"Oh, gods, are you okay?" he asks shakily. "Beth..."
"No, I'm not okay. I'm covered in blood and everything hurts and I'm so overwhelmed..." Her voice is small and frightened, like a child's. Annabeth doesn't remember talking like that since she was seven years old and the world gave her the first of a spectacular series of lessons on the concept of unfair.
He just wraps his arms around her more tightly and lets her cry it all out, rubbing soothing circles on her back. She's even more grateful to him, the one person who knows exactly what makes her tick and how to calm her down and where she likes massages and what her favorite flavor of ice cream is and what times he's allowed to call her cell phone and how she hates red roses because they're too cliché and—
Annabeth has never really thought about all the ways she loves Percy before today, but Tartarus has somehow put it into perspective that the things you love can be gone in an instant and you should make every minute count. She considers every desperate kiss in the darkness, every time he squeezed her hand just to let her know he was there, and she suddenly masters her emotions and calms down. I'm not afraid. Percy's with me.
He scoops her off his bed bridal-style and they slip down the hall to the bathroom without seeing anyone. Percy starts the shower, pulling off what remains of his shirt, and climbs in—still wearing his shorts and old red sneakers.
"Well, Wise Girl? You coming?"
She has to laugh as she jumps into the water with him. At first, the stream is liquid fire against the exposed scarred skin, but she gradually builds up her tolerance level until it doesn't bother her so much anymore.
Annabeth has kissed underwater before, but this—standing in a boiling hot shower, fully clothed, with shirtless Percy pinned up against the wall—is a new kind of underwater kiss, a crooked kind of perfect.
After a while of this, they're just standing there together under the water, wrapped up in each other, when Percy brings up something interesting.
"You know, I've always thought we were going to get married someday."
Maybe if she had a little more energy she'd get defensive about this topic—ever since Hera the Eternally Perfect started messing around with her life, she's been touchy about the subject of marriage—but she's too tired to care, so she just half-smiles and lays her head back on Percy's chest. If she concentrates, she thinks she hears the ocean. "Did you just propose to me, Seaweed Brain?"
Percy laughs. "Yeah, maybe I did. Wow, two demigods in their junior year of high school. We're totally ready for such a huge commitment."
"Give it a few years, then we'll see." Annabeth sighs. "Mrs. Annabeth Jackson. You know, that sounds nice."
He rests his chin on the top of her head. "It sure does, Wise Girl. It sure does."
She looks up at him, calculating gray into battle-hardened green, and something inside her comes loose, and she falls in love all over again, and everything happens all at once.
"I love you," she says for the very first time.
There are an infinite number of tomorrows in the look he gives her, and maybe—just maybe—Annabeth Chase thinks that for once she is certain about her future.