With a start, Annabeth looked up from the blueprints spread across the table in front of her. Since Zeus had reopened Olympus to the demigods, she'd been spending every other weekend overseeing construction (as they'd fallen really far behind during the war). This particular set of blueprints she was looking at involved a temple for Apollo. Inexplicably, the sun god had asked for a waterslide instead of a statue of himself in the temple—a request that both Annabeth and Poseidon had agreed to. After all, Apollo was a pretty easygoing god, but blatantly deny him something and he got angry. Really angry.
Malcolm—her second-in-command—was waving at her from the doorway of the Athena cabin. The darkening twilight behind him had reduced Annabeth's half-brother to a shadow, his narrow-shouldered frame silhouetted against the pinkish sky.
She blew a strand of hair out of her eyes. "What's up, Malcolm?"
"Have you seen Percy anywhere? I think Chiron wanted to talk to him about giving that new daughter of Hermes private swordfighting lessons."
Thirteen-year-old Melody—one of the youngest war veterans Camp Half-Blood had—piped up from her place on the floor beside Annabeth. "I haven't seen him since after dinner."
Cabin six was completely silent except for the sound of hushed breathing. Nobody was even pretending not to listen in.
A wave of dread swept over Annabeth. It had only been three months since the end of the war with Gaea and the giants—surely they wouldn't have to deal with any more mythological Armageddons any time soon? Besides, if Percy had gone missing again—no. She didn't want to think about having to go through another eight months without her boyfriend. Ever since they'd gotten out of Tartarus, they'd been practically glued to each other every minute of every day—
"That's it." She stood up abruptly, and her chair would have hit the ground were it not for Melody's quick fingers. "I know where he is."
Malcolm looked confused—an expression he didn't often wear. "Is this something you want to handle yourself?"
"Please," she said, already moving toward the door. "I'll be back eventually. Tell Chiron that everything's fine."
A look of understanding passed between Malcolm and some of the older Athena campers as Annabeth practically fled the room.
Camp Half-Blood at twilight was pleasant—nymphs and satyrs chasing each other through the woods, the Apollo cabin dominating the basketball court, Clarisse and her siblings pulverizing each other in the arena. Okay, so maybe that last part wasn't exactly pleasant, but Annabeth was used to it by now.
Tonight, though, she didn't have time to slow down and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. It must have been pretty evident on her face that anyone who bothered her was going to get their podex kicked, because the other campers took one look at her and immediately cleared a path.
Annabeth sped up slightly as she passed the mess hall, where three figures were still sitting at the Hermes table: Connor, Travis, and their new half-sister Liz. Even from a distance, Annabeth could tell why Chiron wanted her swordfighting lessons to be private—the new daughter of Hermes was positively tiny. In a regular class, even with her half-siblings going easy on her, she'd get into some serious trouble.
She waved at the three of them, not even bothering to look where she was going. Her feet effortlessly found the sandy path down to the beach. This was a result, Annabeth supposed, of having lived at Camp Half-Blood for ten years.
The weed-choked path had fully given way to the rolling, sandy expanse of Fireworks Beach (so dubbed a long time ago by the Hephaestus cabin) by the time Annabeth saw Percy.
She immediately knew that something was very, very wrong.
Wordlessly, she eased herself into the sand beside her boyfriend—his body language made it quite clear he wasn't in the mood to talk. Instead, she reached for one of his hands—clenched into fists, another very non-Percy gesture—pried his fingers apart, and laced her hand with his, trying to say more through a gentle, reassuring squeeze than words ever could. It's okay. I'm here now. You're okay.
When he finally did speak, his voice was low and cold and hard. She wanted to flinch—his tone scared her to death—but she stayed perfectly still, like the nonexistent statue of Apollo that was originally going to go in his temple on Olympus. The ADHD part of her brain wanted to laugh (Really? A waterslide?), but she kept her mouth shut.
"What do you want?"
She fought off the urge to sob. Percy didn't normally act like this, but when he had one of his nightmarish visions, the sheer terror forced him into the back of his head. Imprisoned him in his own mind. Made him…not himself. And Annabeth had to admit that it scared the crap out of her.
"I wanted to see if you were okay." Her voice, gentle and soothing, surprised her. Normally, when he got hostile, she'd return that hostility right back—and it seemed to snap him out of this daze he got into. However, something was telling her not to do that—not this time.
Percy was silent for a long time. Then he asked, "How do you stop seeing them?"
"Seeing what?" She had to work to keep her voice light. This side of Percy made her terrified and angry at the same time—terrified that he was going to snap suddenly, angry that Tartarus had done this to her sarcastic, ordinarily easygoing boyfriend.
" Oh, don't pretend you don't know. These visions—Annabeth, I—"
He cut himself off suddenly and met her eyes for the first time since she'd come down to the beach. Once again, she had to fight off the urge to cry. Percy's eyes—the beautiful green eyes she'd fallen in love with, the eyes that changed like the sea—were full of an all-too-familiar mix of despair and cold rage. It was painful to see him like this, a shell of his former self.
"Kiss me," he muttered, his voice so low it was almost a whisper. "Please."
Annabeth wasn't sure whether to pity him or laugh at his unfailing politeness—but either way, she did as he asked.
It was like the shock from Jason's lightning; the familiar heat spread through the pit of Annabeth's stomach and Percy's heartbeat slammed against her hands. His lips—soft and full, slightly chapped—still tasted like salt and chocolate chip cookies.
They were a paradox, Annabeth thought. He was unpredictable—she was logical. His father embodied changing emotions—her mother was the physical embodiment of the mind. He jumped right into potentially dangerous situations—she always, always had a plan. Their relationship shouldn't exist, shouldn't work the way it did—but it did, born out of one's necessity for the other's presence in order to feel safe and protected. She didn't know what she felt most, honestly; maybe lucky, or perhaps it was extreme relief that she'd finally gotten Percy for herself.
Of course, though, one thing was abundantly clear: She loved Percy. And she sure as Hades wasn't going to let him go again any time soon.
Percy's grip on her now was so tight, she let out an involuntary squeak of pain. And just like that, he let her go, both of them breathing hard.
He made a disgusted noise. "Gods, Annabeth, I'm sorry. I lost control. I don't know" —he took a sharp, ragged breath— "I don't know what's gotten into me."
Mind already racing, Annabeth replied, "Remember what Chiron told us? It's PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder. You get the nightmares and the visions; I get those random panic attacks and the screaming and that weird thing where I kind of forget how to breathe."
She scooted back over so her head was resting on his shoulder. After a long pause, he said, "I don't know what I'm supposed to feel anymore. I'm scared and confused and…lost, I guess. From the way Nico looked, I thought it was bad, but now I know I'm wrong. It's worse. Worse than anything I could ever imagine."
Annabeth wasn't sure exactly what to say to that. Her hand found his again. "We'll be okay, Percy. We can get through this."
He rested his forehead against the top of her head. "As long as we're together, right?"
She swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat and hoping to all the gods that Percy couldn't see her tears. "Yeah. As long as we're together."
A/N: D'aww. My OTP. *proceeds to have a massive attack of the feels*
So…Son of Sobek! I forgot to ask you guys what you think. Personally, I want it to end up with Percy and Carter being SASSY BROS 4 LYFE. Still, don't you think it's weird that everyone expected Percy and Jason to hate each other and now they're best friends, but the presumed Percy/Carter instant bromance is clearly not happening? Uncle Rick always manages to surprise us :)
Type me some things in the box, my friends.
Type me some things in the box.