A/N: HEY GUYS LONG TIME NO FIC HOW HAVE YOU BEEN AND EVERYTHING WHY AM I YELLING?
Sorry about not having written anything in a while. I have several unfinished fics that have been sitting at the top of my to-do list for AGES. I've got a Thalia one in the works that I plan to post on the seventh as my one-year anniversary fic (wow, time flies!)
I've had this one finished for a while, but with the holidays and everything I didn't have time to edit it much. Then I got some really great ideas that I could add, so here's the fully edited version. Oh, and for clarification, this takes place after 'Leo Valdez and the Quest for Buford'.
Happy New Year, guys!
Wiping an oil-spattered hand across his forehead, Leo heaved a sigh and looked at his equally greasy watch. Twenty-five minutes to midnight—way after curfew, and yet he wasn't even close to being tired.
Maybe that's just the adrenaline talking, said a dry voice in his head, and he had to agree. He'd pretty much been running on adrenaline since they started construction on the Argo II. Still, though, it was critically important that they finish on time—so much so that Leo's cabinmates had been taking it in turns to guard the entrance to Bunker 9 so he could work late (carrying weapons ranging from swords they had forged themselves to Leo's personal favorite: Nyssa's extremely threatening two-by-four).
A hand descended on his shoulder, and Leo whirled around in surprise. Jason was standing behind him. Piper, her head resting on Jason's shoulder, looked to be half-asleep.
"We're going to bed, man," said Jason. "What time do you want us here in the morning?"
Honestly, Leo was never going to get used to this whole "leader" thing. Being head counselor of the Hephaestus cabin was confusing enough, but having so many people looking up to him on this enormous project was making his head spin. He wasn't cut out for this—Jason was way better suited for leading.
"Nine? That should give you enough time for breakfast and whatnot."
"Cool." Jason smiled, and the scar on his lip curled upward. "Night, Valdez."
"Peace out." Leo gave Jason a fist bump, hugged Piper quickly so as to avoid death by angry boyfriend, and turned away as their footsteps receded behind him.
With a jolt, he realized he still wasn't alone.
Annabeth sat at the table in the corner, binders spread across the floor around her chair, blueprints piled on the surface in front of her. She was slumped over a diagram of the engine room, clearly asleep from the way she kept muttering things incoherently. Even in sleep, she looked completely stressed out.
No wonder she fell asleep while she was working, Leo thought. She's been running herself into the ground ever since I met her. She's got to be exhausted.
He crossed over to the table and—trying to be gentle—tapped her shoulder. "Annabeth, wake up."
"Huh?!" Her head shot up, eyes darting around wildly. Her hand went immediately to her dagger. Leo had to jump back to avoid getting hit in the face with her ponytail and stabbed through the heart at the same time.
That would be a pretty terrible way to die, the ADHD part of his brain said.
"It's okay, Annabeth. It's just Leo." He got down so his eyes were level with hers, keeping one hand on the edge of the table for balance. "You fell asleep while you were working."
"I—oh." Annabeth sighed and fell back against her chair. "Okay."
Leo studied the older girl's face critically. "You don't look too great."
Instead of getting angry like he'd thought she would, she just laughed tiredly. "Thanks, Leo. Exactly what every girl wants to hear."
He wasn't quite sure how to respond, so he just stood up and offered Annabeth a hand, which she took.
"What time is it?" she mumbled, fishing in her pocket for something that turned out to be a rubber band. She started fixing her hair as Leo checked his watch again.
"Eleven-forty on December thirty-first," he replied promptly, then froze. Wait, that means it's—
Annabeth stopped at the same time. "It's New Year's Eve," she said quietly, echoing Leo's thoughts. "Oh, gods..."
"You're thinking about Percy, aren't you?" Leo blurted before he could stop himself. He immediately felt stupid for opening his mouth when Annabeth fixed him with her signature shut-up-now-or-you're-going-to-die stare.
But instead of pulling her dagger on him, like he'd expected her to do, she just turned away. Her shoulders deflated. It took a few minutes for him to piece together that Annabeth Chase—one of the strongest people Leo knew—was crying.
"Annabeth—jeez, Annabeth, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up—"
"No, Leo." Annabeth's voice was muffled, but it had lost its usual steely hardness. She sounded so scared, so alone...Leo realized he was witnessing what only a few people had probably ever seen: Annabeth's vulnerable side. "I should just let it go. If I try to avoid talking about him, I'm just going to turn into a hermit."
They worked their way over to the unfinished Argo II, sitting down on the smooth bronze foundation for the hull. There was a long period of awkward silence before Annabeth finally started talking.
And talk she did. Somehow she managed to compact years and years of adventures and fights and the most complex relationship Leo had ever heard of into a fifteen-minute story: missing lightning bolts, a conversation in the back of a zoo truck, the Golden Fleece, holding up the sky, a trip through the Labyrinth, fighting a war and watching best friends die and blue cupcakes at the Poseidon table and the best underwater kiss of all time.
"...and I love him," she finished finally, lowering her gaze to her trembling hands in her lap. "I love him more than anything, and do you know what, Leo? I never got a chance to tell him that. He told me he loved me so many times, and I just didn't feel ready to say it back. My life's been...well, really hard. I'm sure you can relate."
Leo nodded in understanding, and Annabeth continued.
"I'd been betrayed so much in my life. I didn't want to get close to him only to have him run off." Her voice had dropped to barely a whisper now. "You don't understand how much I hate myself right now. Percy would die for me—Hades, he's already saved my life more times than I can count. And I didn't trust the strength of our relationship."
She lapsed into silence. Leo was rendered completely speechless. It wasn't like he had a Percy Jackson in his tool belt that he could just pull out and solve all Annabeth's problems immediately. Her heart was a machine that Leo just didn't know how to fix.
Finally he reached out and patted her shoulder awkwardly. Insteand of flinching away, Annabeth leaned into the touch. Leo guessed she hadn't had much physical contact with people since Percy disappeared.
Whoa, that could be interpreted wrongly, he thought, then quickly pushed it out of his mind. Definitely not the time to be making dirty jokes.
Leo's watch beeped abruptly, breaking the silence. He looked down at the glowing display as it changed from 11:59:59 P.M. 12/31/09 to 12:00:00 A.M. 01/01/10.
"Happy New Year, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth mumbled. "Wherever you are."