PLAYING THE PLAYER:
Percy's P.O.V:


"Call all your friends, tell them I'm never coming back. 'Cause this is the end, pretend that you want it, don't react. The damage is done, the police are coming too slow now. I would've died, I would've loved you all my life. You're losing your memory now. You're losing your memory now. You're losing your memory now. You're losing your memory...now. Where have you gone, the beach is so cold in winter here? And where have I gone, I wake in Montague with you near." -Losing Your Memory, Ryan Star.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE:

"I need your help," Annabeth stated. Almost like everything that she told me never happened before. Almost like she expected me to actually aid her in whatever she needed to get. Her grey eyes were dark with inhibition, her blonde hair in a mop of frizz and tangles, like she hadn't taken proper care of herself in days. It seemed to have been pulled lazily into a pony-tail, almost as if it was done in a rush. Her tan cheeks and curved nose were a bright red, puffs of smoke coming through her chapped lips. She licked them before rubbing her hands together impulsively, avoiding my gaze, her eyes lingering towards the door frame, like she didn't know whether or not she was allowed to step through into the Hotel room. A winter hat covered her cold-burned ears, causing her locks to bend around her chin, making it look like her hair was done in a bob cut.

"And you can't tell me no. This is important. I've tried to get into contact with you so I didn't just show up, but you've been M.I.A for a while. No one knows where you've been." Well, obviously someone knew. Otherwise I doubted that she would've been able to find me in the first place. Calypso and I had gone to stay at a Hotel, splitting the bill. Not really splitting it, I suppose. Callie paid for most of it, charging all of the room service and food with her father's credit card, going to unbelievable lengths with buying forty dollar hamburgers and shrimp scampi just to piss her father off. Lobster, fish, stake... even some food that I had never even heard of. It was the happiest I had ever been in my entire life- the happiest I had ever been since before middle school. There was no pressures of Annabeth, of Gabe, of nothing. It was like my own perfect world. We both knew that soon Calypo's father Atlas would eventually cancel the card once he realized the bill that she was racking up, or we would run out of money on it and would be forcibly evicted from room C23, but it was nice while it lasted. No school, no Luke, no Rachel, no abuse. And most importantly, no pain. It was my perfect world, and I knew it would end soon. I just never thought it would be this soon. Seeing Annabeth had reminded me of everything that was weighing in on me, the burden that I had to carry everywhere. And my mom. I still felt guilty for leaving her. The only reason that I hadn't already ran away from Gabe was because I had to protect her, or at least take most of the blows. I wondered how she was holding up with Gabe taking all his frustration on her instead of both of us. I winced at the thought, blinking back the tears threatening to rise in the corners of my eyes. I wasn't going to cry. Not yet, anyways.

"Sorry," I apologized, although I wasn't really sorry at all. "I've been busy."

"I know," she said, her eyes sparking with a fire I never saw before. "You've been quite busy with Carrie."

"And why do you care?" I questioned, arching my eyebrows and crossing my arms. Oh, no, I wasn't going to be the bad guy this time. She couldn't pin that on me. She- she was the one that was leaving. And maybe I deserved it. After all, I had left her more than once. But I had never really left. I was still around. I always came back. "Jealous? I heard that you beat the crap out of her. Can't say that I'm not impressed. You've developed quite a backbone, haven't you?"

She scoffed, but I thought I saw her cheeks burn even redder. Her eyes gazed to the floor, almost like she had been reprimanded and patronized, but that determined expression was still there. "Perhaps. I'm not going to take anyone's shit anymore. And I'm not jealous. I've had too much on my mind to worry about childish things like that. Don't flatter yourself, Percy; that fight wasn't about you."

I attempted to hold back my lazy laugh, but it escaped my lips anyway. "You're such a hypocrite, Annabeth."

Her eyes narrowed and her tiny fists curled into balls at her sides. "Excuse me? I'm the hypocrite? You're the one who's lecturing me for leaving, despite the fact that you've left more than once." I inwardly winced, but managed to keep my guarded front. "That's different. I was still there- I wasn't gone. I didn't move all the way to San Francisco on a split-second decision! Now if that's all you came here to tell me, then feel free to leave." I knew my eyes were hard, and I tried to ignore the hurt that flashed across her features. This scene was all too familiar. Middle School. End of Summer. Pushing Annabeth away. She bit down on her bottom lip, barely nodding, but made no attempt to leave. I briefly wondered why- she was leaving in a few days, anyway, so what did it matter whether or not she earned my approval? But that wasn't what she showed up here to tell me, I knew. I could tell by her troubled features, the lines underneath her grey eyes. The way she wasn't wearing any makeup (I preferred it that way) and how her hair frizzed to the point that she could be mistaken for a homeless girl. I didn't want to listen to what she had to say, but it might be vital. I had half the mind to kick Annabeth out right here and then, but the other half of me, the one that didn't hate Annabeth, the one that understood why she was leaving, influenced me enough to keep my mouth shut.

"Fine," I snapped, clenching my jaw; aggravated with myself for not shooing her away. "Talk. You have a minute." She nodded and started to explain, her eyes wide with concentration, trying to fit everything into the measly minute that I had given her. Sometimes her eyes would darken, other times her arms would jolt in emphasis, and her voice would raise whenever she got to something that couldn't be overlooked. I stopped her half-way through her wild story, when she mentioned Aaron..."Wait. You talked to Aaron? Even when I said not to trust him, you went around my back and questioned him?"

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, looking sheepish. "It wasn't like that- I bumped him to him after I left home."

"Bumped into him? Annabeth, how stupid can you get?"

"I may have been careless lately, but I'm not an idiot Jackson, contrary to people's beliefs! I know he was following me, or tailing me, but what choice did I have? He had answers. Answers that I needed."

"Answers cost things! With my brother, everything is a price!" I could feel my green eyes darken, shaking her shoulders. "What did you bargain with?"

"That," she exclaimed, looking guilty, "is none of your business."

I threw up my hands in the air. "Fine. Fine." My eyes burned into hers. I yelled angrily, shaking her, "Just be prepared for whatever secret you gave him to come back and bite you in the ass!"

"I am fully aware of that!" She struggled in my grip. "Percy, let go of me!" I released her, not reluctantly, and turned around and gave an exasperated sigh, while resisting the urge to rip my own hair out. She should have never gotten involved with Aaron Samuels. Didn't she see that I couldn't protect her if she went around doing such idiotic things? This was rare for her. I was the impulsive one. The one who went with whatever his gut told him. If I thought that jumping off a cliff was the best way to solve a situation, I would act first then think later. Annabeth was different. She was the one who thought about the consequences before she made a move. She was the one who spent a long time obsessing over what she should do before she actually put her plan into action. She was the strategist. Which was why this rattled me so. The incident had obviously effected her- a lot more than I had previously assumed. She wanted to find her attacker, that was evident. But what I hadn't realized was the dangerous lengths that she would go through to find out. I still didn't know. And that was what was frustrating me. Annabeth rubber her shoulder, glaring at me.

She hissed sarcastically, "Thanks."

"Just continue your story."

She huffed stubbornly, but continued. "If I find Piper, I get my answers. I finally get to know what's happening. The big plan, as Silena so vaguely put it on the phone. If I find her, I'll know who tried to kill me." Her eyes were wide with concentration, dark and pleading. "Everything that I don't know, I'll finally figure out."

By the time she was finished, I sighed.

God, I was so whipped. It wasn't like I was proud of the influence that she had on me. It seemed that whenever she needed something, it felt like my responsibility to give it to her. I knew I shouldn't be feeling like she was just another burden, but that's how I felt. I couldn't control it, and the thought of considering Annabeth Chase, my- I didn't even know how to identify her anymore- something as just another thing that I was forced to carry, it just added to the guilt. But I had to suck up whatever I was feeling, and keep pushing on. It was all I could do. Or else I would fall. Annabeth doesn't fix me, not nearly, she simply lays out whatever I'm feeling in front of me. The pain, the sorrow, the remorse, the guilt, the burden. She tells me what I need to do to fix myself. She patches me up sometimes, gluing everything together, being the bridge. But one mistake, one flustered, frustrated word- and oh look, my world was breaking again.

"I'll go get my coat."

. . .

"How long have you been on the streets?" I questioned, trying to act like I didn't care about her anymore, as if it was casual conversation.

"Just for today," her gaze was permanently away from me, linked on the blur of buildings out the window. "It was mostly spent in a diner. Eventually they kicked me out. And I finally made it back to the Hotel that you're were staying in. Aaron texted me the address- don't even ask me how he got my number."

I stiffened. Aaron was getting a little too close for comfort. He knew where I was. I keep underestimating him.

"Where are you going to go?"

"I was originally planning on going to Thals. But..."

"But what? I'm sure Ms. Grace would let you stay there for a few days."

"Yeah," she said quietly, her fingers running along the fabric of the car door. "But I can't. It wouldn't be fair of me."

My tone turned metallic, metal sounding, as I finally realized what she meant. "You told Aaron about Thalia."

"Yes," she confirmed. "I feel so guilty about it."

I was tempted to lecture her, to snap, 'You should feel guilty about it.' I bit it back, exclaiming instead, "You should tell Thalia. Before it's too late. Before Aaron uses it against you."

"Think she'll be mad?"

"Probably. But I think she'd understand." I didn't know whether or not Thalia would understand, but if it was the only way to get Annabeth to tell Thalia the truth, I said it. There were too many lies already.

"Hopefully," she muttered so quietly that it was barely audible. We broke in a small pregnant pause until her voice grew louder and she asked, "Where are we going, anyway?"

"Travis and Connor's place," my lips twitched up at the thought of my two goofball friends. I hadn't seen them in forever. "If you want to find Piper, they're the men for the job."

"Men," she snorted. "More like five year old boys."

I smirked. "Can't argue with that." My phone buzzed and I released one hand from the steering wheel. Call me reckless for texting while driving, but honestly, after all that's happened over the course of a few months, I didn't consider this to be a threat. Annabeth's eyes flittered over to me- I could feel them on me, watching, analyzing my reaction. Kind of creepy. But that was just Annabeth.

TO: Percy
FROM: Callie

Where are you? (Not to sound clingy)

I almost forgot I had left her back at the Hotel. I felt like kicking myself. Instead, I inwardly groaned. It completely slipped my mind in the midst of all the drama that had just happened.

"You really shouldn't be texting while driving. Haven't you ever seen those depressing commercials?" Annabeth reprimanded. I ignored her and continued, watching her cross her arms from the corner of my eye when I didn't respond.

TO: Callie
FROM: Percy

Don't worry. I'm with Annabeth- she needed my help. I would've asked you to come, but you were getting the pizza.

Oh, you're with ANNABETH? ;) Don't sweat it. Don't even worry about it. Just...enjoy yourselves. ;) But be back soon! As in, before 11:00.

I rolled my eyes, but grinned.

Poor Calypso. Can't even be away from me for a few hours.

I could almost see her sarcastic eye-roll. My phone buzzed shortly later, Annabeth falling silent throughout the entire time.

I'm absolutely moping without the oh-so-great Percy Jackson in my presence. Oh, well. I guess I'll have to eat this large pepperoni pizza all by myself while watching a movie on a flat screen TV. Oh, the horror!

...Bitch. xD

...Jerk. See what I did there? Supernatural reference!

I didn't know what she was talking about, but figured it best not to question the dorky ways of my gay best friend. I clicked the side of my phone, locking it, then stole a quick glance at Annabeth, prepared for her to interrogate me about who I was texting. Instead I found her leaning against the small indentation between the window and door, her temple resting on it. Her curls had escaped her hate, leaving them brushed up against her cheeks and forehead. Her eyebrows were furrowed and jaw tightly clenched, but her eyelids were relaxed and her breathing was steady. I couldn't help it- I smiled. It disappeared quickly though, with the knowledge that she was leaving. I was the hypocrite, not her. I had told myself countless times that I didn't care about anyone, even her, when I obviously knew that wasn't the truth. If Annabeth meant nothing to me, then why was I so troubled by her departure?

Because you're in love with her.

...No.

Why not just admit it? You've said it aloud before.

Things have changed since then. My therapy session with Chiron seemed years ago, decades. Annabeth was strangled. Maybe it was best if she did leave. She would be safe from Gabe, Aaron, and from anyone else who wanted to hurt her. Wasn't that more important than any lingering feelings that I felt for her? Yes. It was. But that didn't mean it wasn't going to be hard. I had to let her go.

I brushed strands of Annabeth's hair behind her ear, my fingers grazing against her cheek. She felt warm. Real.

"I miss the way we were," I started, staring at her sleeping form, retracting my hand. "When everything was simple and I didn't have to push you away." My voice dropped to a whisper. I really hoped she didn't wake up. Judging by the way her chest was moving up and down, it was un-doubtable that she was unconscious. I didn't know why I was doing this- it felt like a dam had exploded within me and I couldn't stop myself. All the emotions that I had been feeling from the last few years came pouring out- the pain, the regret, the anger, the fear. It seemed to posses me. For the past few days I felt like I was being suffocated; almost as if I didn't spill what I was thinking, what I was feeling, I would explode. And now I had. "The only reason I pushed you away was because of my stupid Step-Father. Not because of you."

. . .

Everything was falling apart and I didn't know what to do. I had heard plenty on the news about domestic violence and abuse, in school, but it was happening to me. I felt like pinching myself, but figured that would be too ironic. At first he was nice. Cool, even. He played video games with me and let me see his police gear. Even his badge. It made me feel like my soon-to-be-father was a superhero. I idolized him. I could even go as far to say I loved him. He took me to basketball games and to the beach. My mother even brought him to Montauk on a family vacation. That was how I knew he was going to stay. He told me beforehand that he was going to propose. Helped me pick out the ring. Everything was going smoothly, perfectly. I couldn't wait until they were married, until I actually could make a card on Father's Day. But after their honeymoon, thing's started to abruptly change. He snapped and began drinking, then finally revealed that he had a son, Aaron. It sparked an argument between them. They never fought, but I didn't think much of it.

Until he hit her.

And once he hit her, it seemed he couldn't stop. I tiptoed around him, trying to ignore my mother's battered look. Trying not to acknowledge the bruises that wouldn't seem to go away. I longed to call the police, to tell a teacher, but who would believe me? Trusted police chief or me? Gabe was a top official in the chain of command of a police department and I was just some boy, some pig, some bastard, (those were often the names that he called me) that couldn't manage to make it through school without getting into trouble. A delinquent. A police officer or a teenage boy who got detention every day? I mean, who would you pick?

I couldn't defend myself either. I was barely pulling a passing grade in gym, and that was only because of Annabeth.

Annabeth. Thalia. My two best friend's who I had to push away because of...him.

I pulled my jacket tighter around me. It was pretty cold for summer. Or maybe it was just my fear of going back to the apartment. Sixth grade was long over and I hadn't contacted Annabeth or Thalia since June. It was now September, two days away from school. I began to climb up the fire escape. My mother, Sally, would kill me if she knew. I had been recently sneaking out from there, climbing down and exploring New York. I always went down to the beach. It was my little haven. A safe place away from Gabe. A place where I was free. I was glad I didn't have my fear of heights anymore, I thought, staring down at the stories below. If I fell, I would die. But somehow I managed to numb that thought out. Ever since Annabeth had helped me climb the tree house, I no longer feared it. Thalia, however, that was a different story. But what did I know? She could've conquered her fear already, without me being there. My grip tightened and I climbed the next row of stairs. I eventually got there, winded and out of breath. It came with being scrawny. I threw myself in, landing on my bed. And just like that, I was trapped in my own personal cage. A cage that also held a inhumane monster.

I sighed, opening my door and walking down the hallway. I froze when I heard voices.

"I know, honey. I'm afraid that's partially my fault. Percy and I-we've been busy."

Annabeth.

She was here.

She shouldn't be, my mom should've already ushered her out, but despite my thoughts, hope stirred in my stomach. Maybe I could tell her. Maybe everything would be okay. My hopefulness left. No, she could never know.

I could hear hurt lingering in her voice. "Right. This isn't a bad time, is it?"

"Oh no," my mom protested, her voice cracking."I've missed you so much." But I knew that she knew this visit could never happen again.

"And Percy...?" My heart hammered against my rib cage at the sound of her speaking my name.

"I'm sorry for that, too. Percy's been, uh..."

"Busy?" Annabeth supplied in a hollow voice. They fell into a short pause. "Is he here?"

No. Say no. Please, say no.

"Yes. I'll go get him for you, if you want."

"Yes please," was all I heard from Annabeth. I ran back to my room, closing it gently behind me. I let out a shaky breath. I could try and make a run for it, climb out the fire escape. But something told me that I had to stay and face her. I heard a small crack outside my door. I had became an expert at listening. Now I knew where every soft spot in the apartment was, so I could go undetected by Gabe whenever I snuck around.

"Percy?"

"Yes?" I called back, trying to let the shakiness disappear from my voice. My mom opened the door, standing there with a pained look on her face. "Come on out." I took a glance at myself in the mirror. I had gotten taller. I looked less scrawny and more filled in. My hair had gotten longer, messier, stringier. Gabe had said not to waste any more money on haircuts. I was pale. I hoped she wouldn't notice. My green eyes looked hollow. I scowled at my appearance, walking out the threshold and into the room. She was tanner than I last saw her. Taller, too, but I was surprised to discover that I now excelled in height. Her blonde hair had extended down to her waist and her grey eyes were nervous. She was fiddling with her fingers, looking frigid and scared. I tried my best to look anywhere but her eyes, and it was hard to.

"Annabeth's here," Sally announced to me, nudging me foreword. I glared at Annabeth. Why did she have to be here? Didn't she know she was playing with a loaded gun when she did something like this? Annabeth winced at my expression, her eyes blinking. I felt guilt stir in my stomach, but shoved it down. Now was not the time. Sally saw Annabeth's hurt look and shot a meaningful look at me. "Be nice." I rolled my eyes, completely ignoring her. She gave Annabeth a sympathetic look, before exiting the room.

She cleared her throat. "Hey, Seaweed Brain." My nickname. It's been so long since I last heard it. I felt like crying. "How was your Summer?"

"Fine." I spat out the words, my eyes looming over to the door. She followed my gaze.

"That's good," she responded cautiously, then glanced over to the door. "You're not going to bolt on me, are you?"

"How long is this going to take?" I snapped, immediately regretting it. "You do realize that I have things to do, right?"

I watched as her grey eyes glimmered with hurt, then filled with tears. She blinked them back furiously. I watched her falter, but also noticed how she didn't show it outwardly. "I'm sorry about your dad leaving. About the divorce, I mean."

That's okay, I felt like saying bitterly. My mom remarried shortly after. To an abusive man.

"And, um, I was just wondering if you wanted to hang out? Get ice cream maybe? I mean, we could do whatever you want to do..." it was a desperate attempt, her voice cracking at the last few words.

I heaved a deep breath, trying to say what I needed to say. I had to hurt her. That was the only way I could get her to leave me alone once and for all. "What makes you think I want to hang out with you?"

Annabeth froze. A tear spilled over her blurry eyes and she wiped it away furiously.

My face softened when I saw the tear, and my hand reached out to her, on instinct, to build her back up when she fell apart. That was what Percy Jackson did, right? I was there for my friends when they needed a shoulder to cry on. My hand lingered towards her, but I felt my face harden at the thought of Gabe. I pulled it away from her, placing it firmly at my side. I clenched it into a fist so it wouldn't pull another stunt like that again. "I think you should go." I turned away when I said this, staring out the window, but not really looking at anything.

Annabeth whimpered, but she stifled it quickly.

I muttered under my breath, "I can't be your friend anymore, Annabeth. I can't protect you."

"I'm sorry, but I'm not asking for your permission."

I turned around, bewildered. How was she still...? After all that I had said? "What? Annabeth-"

"I don't care if you can't protect me, Percy."

"I don't want to protect you." I spat, growing exasperated. Why couldn't she see that she couldn't keep coming over? Thalia had gotten the message, so why couldn't Annabeth just accept it? "I don't like you. I don't want to be friends with such a low life, spoiled, stupid girl. Every time I'm with you I can't wait for it to be over. You're pathetic. Completely pathetic. And here you are, whining for me to be your friend. You probably thought that our friendship was real. Well, guess what? It wasn't. I hate you and I never want to see your sniveling face around here again." I was shocked at myself. It felt like Annabeth had said those things to me instead of the other way around. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut, winding me.

She nodded, more tears spilling over her cheeks. "Is that really how you feel?"

More shaky breaths. "Yes."

"Goodbye, Percy Jackson."

She bolted out the door, her sneakers thumping loudly off the carpeting. She paused at the door, but I saw her flinch, then she yanked it open and ran faster. The door was left swinging open.

She didn't look back once.

. . .

"I hated that day. I think it was the worst day of my life. I didn't want to hurt you, but I had no choice. Maybe things would be different now if I just told you the truth that day. I probably should've just told you both the truth so you could understand why. Why I left you guys, why I pushed you away. But he scared me so much. Not as much now. I'm only scared of what he'll do. Back then, though, I was petrified every time he was in the room. I didn't know what to do. I guess I still don't."

I watched her sleeping form beside me.

"And then at the dinner party- I had to hurt you. There was no other way. He knows where you live. He knows what you look like, how much I care about you," I heaved another deep breath. "I thought that if I proved to him I didn't, he would finally leave you alone for good. But then you were strangled and I didn't know what to think. So, I guess that's my secret," I laughed breathlessly. "Why I look so beat-up all the time. Why I push everyone away. My father abuses me."

"How long?" I heard her murmur from the corner. I felt the car swerve as I flinched in surprise. She didn't move, her position the same, almost making me think that she was just sleeping-talking. But, no. I knew she wasn't.

"You were supposed to be asleep," I said, my voice hard as ice. My hands tightened against the steering wheel, expanding the skin on my knuckles and turning them white.

"I asked you how long," she replied numbly, her words sounding like fog being cut through. She turned towards me, her face expressionless, but her grey eyes gave all her emotions away. Horror, shock, and...guilt. "How long, Percy?"

"Six years."

Her hands were trembling. "In detention...the bruises."

"Yes."

"And when I asked you what happened...?"

"I lied."

Maybe I knew she was actually awake the moment I opened her mouth. Maybe, a part of me, deep down inside, wanted her to finally know.

She leaned back in her seat, her cheeks losing color. "Pull the car over, Percy." I wish she could've been screaming. Because the deathly calm tone that she had now was too much to bear. When I didn't respond, she repeated again, her voice sounding strangled. "Pull the car over. I need a minute." I chewed on the inside of my cheek, biting down so hard that it drew blood. I parked the car on the side of the road, tearing my gaze off her and watching the cars and trucks pass. She opened the door, climbing out, the wind roaring overhead, snow falling quicker now. I hit the steering wheel. And again, feeling frustrated tears well up. What the hell was wrong with me? Why did I say all those things? How had I not known that she was awake? I took five deep breaths, calming myself, then climbed from the car. She was standing near a fence to a building, her breathing uneven. She kicked the gate, just as I had done with the steering wheel.

"Stupid," I could hear her muttering as she kicked. Who or what she was referring to I didn't know. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Her cries grew ragged as she punched the metal gate, then threw more punches. When she retracted her hand, I noticed red liquid dripping down her knuckles- blood. "Ow- shit!" I grabbed her fist to refrain her from punching it again, analyzing it carefully. "Fuck."

"Why did you do that for?" I snapped, rubbing the blood off her hand with my jacket. "It's rusted metal."

"I don't give a shit about rusted metal," she cried angrily, taking me aback from her outburst. "Why didn't you tell me?" Her grey eyes were the most pained I had ever seen them. "All these years I thought you abandoned me and- and, it was sitting there right in FUCKING FRONT OF ME!" She used her other fist to punch the gate. "I'm so fucking stupid. The damn bruises, how you almost killed yourself, how- how you kept dropping little hints. And I was so blind!" She ripped her hand away from mine and punched it again, wincing when it came into contact with her cut.

"Stop it!"

She did, but only to pace back and forth. "It's my fault. You didn't leave me, I left you!"

"Why are you blaming yourself? You should be angry with me! Not you! Not anyone else! Me!" I exploded, throwing my hands up in the air. More tears leaked from her eyes, and she linked her fingers through the fence, almost like it was holding her upright. The wind picked up even more, the snow burning into my cheeks. "So yell at me. Punch me. Hit me. Tell me what a sorry-ass-excuse for a friend I am."

"You don't get it!" She sobbed, her body shuddering against it. "All this time I hated you for what you did. Six years. For six years I glared at you and cursed you and talked shit behind your back. And all this time-"

"I deserved it!" I cut off, growing angry at her hate for herself, my voice sounding raw and sore. "You don't get it, either! Just because I'm abused doesn't mean I'm some innocent little angel! I fucked girls, I played with them, I took advantage of them! I toyed with you and broke you! I did drugs and I got drunk! I got high and wasted! I hurt Rachel, I hurt Thalia, I hurt my friends, and I hurt you. I could've easily just avoided you. But, no. I hurt people because it makes me feel good. I might as well be classified as a sadist! Sex, drugs, alcohol, seeing people stoop to my level of pain- it took the edge off mine. It made me forget about what I was going through. That doesn't mean everything I've done is excused just because my asshole Step-Father pounds on me!" My voice sounded like a whisper, catching on the roaring wind. I couldn't see the road or any of the cars. It was a complete white-out.

I stood there for a moment, breathily heavily, the snow that was raging down sticking to my cheek and Annabeth's blonde hair. Her hands were curled into fists between the fence, her eyes tightly shut, her face twisted painfully. The inside of my mouth tasted like blood from how I had been biting it. I spat some on the snowy ground. Already the red was being covered, proof of how the storm was worsening.

"It's still my fault not for noticing," she stated numbly, and I was barely able to catch her words. "I just wish I could've done something." Her eyes opened, sparking and flashing wildly. I could only make out the outline of her body now. I glanced back at the car and found myself unable to see its color. Panic leapt at my throat; we had to get out of here. Now. "Percy, we could tell someone! We could get him locked up for good-"

"Annabeth." My voice was gentle. "Don't you think I've already considered that possibility? Now, come on. We'll talk about this later. Let's get out of this storm." I held out my hand to her, the snow suddenly feeling like pieces of rock. She nodded mutely. It looked like she said something, but whatever it was, it got snatched away and carried by the wind. Stolen words.

Annabeth hesitated, her hand stopping midway. I could just make out her hand, but I could no longer see her dark grey eyes.

"Do you trust me?" She didn't respond. If she did, I couldn't hear her. "Take my hand."

No response. Her bare hand was covered with white. "Annabeth!" I yelled desperately. "Take my hand. Now."

She yelped abruptly, and I watched as she stumbled. My hand shot out to grab her and I latched onto her shoulder, catching her before she could fall. I led her back to the car, her head held high. I had expected her to cling to me, to bury her face in my chest, but her eyes were focused on what used to be the road, looking for incoming cars. I felt the large car, running my hands along the side until I felt the car door. Annabeth slid in first, then me after her.

I had expected a weight to be lifted from my chest from my confession.

Instead it felt heavier.

She opened her mouth to speak, but I cut her off. "Just give me a minute," I exclaimed, my eyes squinting through the blankness. I revved the engine, pulling the car foreword. Annabeth buckled her seatbelt, her grey eyes narrowing in on the white.

"You're right," she stated determinedly. "We need to focus on getting out of this."

I glanced at her in surprise. She had gotten stronger. When I said she had gotten a back bone, I hadn't been kidding. Annabeth Chase wasn't anyone's toy anymore; she would see sure to that. I brought a jeep to a halt on a small slope, but could only slam on the brakes as hard as I could when I felt it tilt. It didn't do anything.

"Shit!" I cursed as Annabeth watched, her fist tightly clenched. The car swung downhill. Fast. I couldn't see anything except for white, white, and more white. I put the car in reverse, but gravity pushed us onward. We were now in endless white oblivion.

The car rolled backward, slamming into a snow back. Annabeth gasped as it continued to tip upward, so the front of the car was sticking nearly completely upward. I grabbed my seat buckle and clicked it into place, then glanced at Annabeth.

"Are you okay?"

She nodded. "You?"

"I'm fine." I grabbed the stick and pulled it into drive and nudged my foot with the pedal. "Although I don't think I can get us out of this."

The life in Annabeth's cheeks suddenly slid from her face. "W-what?"

"Don't freak out," I exclaimed. "We'll just call someone."

"Percy," she said, her tone serious. "The car's almost out of gas."

I swallowed, glancing around for my phone. "I brought it with me, I know I did. I was texting earlier." Annabeth nodded, beginning to look under the seats. "Unless-"

"It must've fallen out when you caught me." She swore. "How convenient for us. Stuck here in the middle of the nowhere. Before you ask; my phone's dead." Annabeth's eyes were wide with concentration and I watched as her lips began to quiver. She sucked in an airy breath, fumbling with her dead phone. Annabeth closed her eyes, but the fear was evident on her expression.

I placed my hand on her knee. "We'll be fine." Her eyes flickered open. "I promise."

She nodded and I instantly released my hand from her knee. I would've turned red, but I was too cold. She grabbed a bandage from her purse and covered her cut hand. She wasn't convinced. "Do you have a blanket?"

I glanced backwards, shaking my head. "I'm so sorry, Annabeth. This is my fault."

"Don't be sorry," she stated firmly, her eyes pained. "Don't you dare be sorry ever again."

The car ran out of gas.


A/N: I am so sorry for not updating sooner. It's almost been a month. I've been pretty busy. On the upside, I turned fourteen. I feel the exact same, but still nice to know that I am now older than my friend. :)

I actually had this chapter done a long time ago, but I was too nervous to post it. I didn't know whether or not to reveal Percy's secret to Annabeth in this chapter, or another one. But I figured I'd already tortured you guys enough, and that it was finally time for her to know. Hopefully it wasn't as bad as I thought it was, so drop in a review to let me know your thoughts, yeah?

(I skimmed this chapter, my beta is still unavailable to me, but I was too impatient to edit at the moment. I hope the grammar isn't that horrendous)