*Happy New Year! To start off the new year I post a new chapter.*
*Chapter 24: We Play Catch Up*
Annabeth and I stared at each other across the table, neither of us really sure what to say.
Around us people laughed and chatted without a care in the world, while I felt like I might vomit. Silena and Beckendorf were twirling on the dance floor, so all the attention was on them. I was glad, the last thing I needed was our friends' awkward stares. I was getting plenty of that from the girl sitting across from me.
Annabeth cleared her throat. "So ... How've you been?"
I played with my napkin, trying to avoid looking at her. "Fine. You?"
"Good." Her eyes darted around the room, as if trying to find an excuse to leave. During the wedding we'd kept staring at each other, but now she was looking at everything but me.
"So you're an architect now?" I asked, trying to keep up the conversation.
She straightened up a little, a smile coming to her lips. "Yes. I love it. Oh, you should see some of the things we've created, Percy ..."
"I don't doubt," I laughed. "I knew you'd be amazing."
"Says the boy whose eyes would glaze over whenever I mentioned it." She gave a short, girly laugh, then covered her mouth with her hand, embarrassed, but I thought it was cute.
And just like that, we slipped back into our familiar easy role. Talking with her had always been easy and comfortable. I listened while she explained about her projects, and I found myself actually interested. She seemed to have made a lot of awesome things. Annabeth tried to keep her explanations simple so I could keep up, but I still had trouble following. I didn't really care, though. I was happy enough just hearing her voice.
When Thalia and Nico finally joined us, I felt like I was waking from a dream. Everything else had been forgotten except for Annabeth.
"I've missed you!" Thalia gave me a huge hug. "It's been too long."
"Where have you been?" I asked. "It seems like every time I've called you've had bad cell service."
Thalia smiled. "Oh, you know. Places."
"That's scary," Annabeth commented. "You haven't been getting into trouble have you?"
Thalia shrugged. "No more than usual."
"That means yes," Nico and I said. Thalia punched us.
"So ..." Thalia seemed to finally notice that Annabeth and I were sitting together. "Oh ... um, hey Nico, lets go get some drinks."
"But I already have one." Nico held up his cup, not taking the hint.
Thalia rolled her eyes. "You're so stupid. Lets go dance or something." She grabbed his arm and hauled him away.
I watched them go, amusement bubbling in my chest at Thalia's pushiness. "I've missed them."
Annabeth smiled, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Me too." Our eyes locked.
A lot of emotions swirled in my chest, and memories going back to the days when things were simpler. Well, simple. There was the whole killer thing, and not to mention Athena and Poseidon dictating our relationship and splitting us up because they couldn't stand each other.
All of the happiness and good feelings were suddenly washed away. It felt like someone was poking at my heart with a cold metal rod. The killer ... would he know I was here? Would he come looking for me, or worse, Annabeth?
No, I told myself. I was leaving in three days anyway. It didn't matter. I'd be gone again, and so would Annabeth, and Thalia and Nico. The guy obviously didn't want my other friends, otherwise he would've gotten to them by now. I didn't know how much longer I could take feeling like this, feeling nervous and jumpy when I was here and not knowing who or where he is or if he was going to hurt someone else I loved. Then again, it wasn't like me to run away, either.
Annabeth touched my hand, breaking me of my thoughts. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked softly.
I gave her a smile. "Yeah, why?"
She studied my face. "You looked scared for a second there. What are you thinking?"
"Nothing," I lied.
"Percy." Her voice was hard. "It may have been five years, but I know you. What's bothering you?"
I looked into those stormy gray eyes, and knew I couldn't keep it in anymore. This was Annabeth; If I couldn't trust her I couldn't trust anyone.
"Not here," I told her. "Can we ... go somewhere?"
After saying a quick good bye to Silena and Beckendorf and congratulating them, Percy and I found a local cafe a couple of blocks away. We ordered two hot chocolates and then walked to the park. We sat in an old spot of ours, by an old oak tree facing the river.
Percy told me everything, from working with Luke to believing the killer was after him and his friends. Well, after me, Thalia and Nico specifically.
Suddenly my hot chocolate seemed a lot harder to swallow. "So, you think he's after us?"
Percy nodded grimly. "I do, and that's why it would be better if I left and stayed gone." He gently blew on his drink before taking a sip. "I'm putting you in danger, even right now. Here in the dark, alone. He could sneak up on us and-"
"Stop." I took his hand. It was warm, and his fingers gently squeezed mine. I didn't realize how much I missed him, or the way his fingers felt intwined with mine. I'd worked so hard to push my feelings for him away, but I failed miserably. Warmth and passion spread through my body. I wanted to scoot closer and snuggle against him, but I held myself back. "It's going to be okay. You'll be okay."
His fingers gripped mine. "I wish I knew who it was," he said angrily. "I honestly have no clue."
"Hey, no more talking about it," I said gently. I wanted him to calm down, so I decided to change the subject. "What happened with your dad and the other two?"
He took a deep, steady breath and told me about how he, Thalia and Nico stood up to the Big Three and got disowned by their fathers.
"It doesn't matter," he finished. "Now my brother will probably take over." He shrugged. "Better him than me."
"Brother?" I stared, shocked. I never knew Percy had any siblings.
"Yeah," he muttered. "Two. Tyson and Triton, the creep. They're both younger than me, but Tyson is my brother way more then him. We're closer, I mean. Triton is a year younger, but since I bowed out the company will probably go to him and whoever else Zeus and Hades dig up."
"So, your dad ...?"
"Is married to Triton's mom but had had an affair with mine and Tyson's mom, yeah," he said bitterly. "I haven't seen Tyson since we were kids, though. I think he still lives with his mom in Chicago or something."
"Wow." I blinked, shocked. I never knew very much about Percy's family besides the fact that his mother,whom I've only met once before, was probably one of the nicest women I've ever met, and his dad was an all-powerful creep.
Percy grinned, finishing off his hot chocolate, and I knew he didn't want to talk about his family anymore. I'd barely touched mine, and sipped it. It had cooled enough for me to drink it without burning my mouth or tongue.
"Come on," he said suddenly, getting to his feet. "I've got something to show you."
"Like what?" I asked, getting to my feet.
We walked out of the park, tossing our cups in a nearby trash can. "It's really cool."
So I followed him. He led me to what looked like a party, but smaller. It was more like just a group gathering. People were loitering around, holding cups and laughing and talking. Some were dancing to the music. It was nice, comfortable. Percy took my hand and pulled me forward. Through the mix of people I saw a couple of our friends. Travis and Connor were at the food table swiping plate fulls of chips and anything else they could get their hands on. Jason and Piper were among the dancers, though I didn't see Silena and Beckendorf. They must have already left for their honeymoon.
What really caught my attention, though, was the fire. Along with the vibrant orange and yellow flames were flicks of purple and blue and green.
"Woah!" I said. "How did-?"
"Fiberglass," Percy told me, laughing at my awestruck expression. "When it burns it makes different colors. Cool, right?"
"Very," I agreed, but my attention switched to Percy. Looking at him now, seeing the firelight dance across his handsome face, I felt more at ease than I had in a long time, and knew that the second time Percy and I parted ways, it would hurt so much worse the first.