Chapter Six

Annabeth stayed on the line as she hurried to the hospital, but Percy hadn't said anything to her after that. She strained her ears to hear what he told the paramedics and what they'd told him, but she couldn't understand the muffled voices over the phone – Percy must've covered it, and there was so much traffic around her that she wouldn't have been able to hear, anyway.

She arrived at the emergency waiting room twenty minutes later. The voices on the other end of the line were quiet, and she couldn't hear him. She cupped the end of the phone. "Percy?"

He cleared his throat before he answered. "Yeah?"

"I'm here."

"Okay." He cleared his throat again, but his voice was still shaking. "I'll be there in a second."

A click, and the dial tone began beeping. Annabeth hung up and stuffed her phone in her pocket, looking around the waiting room. People sat in chairs, some seeming completely fine, others clearly injured or expecting. She began to pace, anxious. She could feel the dread building in her stomach. Luckily, Annabeth only waited a minute before the doors to the rooms opened, and Percy came out.

As soon as she saw him, she knew.

She wasn't sure who'd charged forward first, but suddenly they'd met in the middle of the waiting room, tangled in each other's arms. Annabeth could feel Percy's tears at the back of her neck, and she gripped him tighter.

"Percy," she whispered. She pressed her lips against his ear. "Let's go."

She unwound her arms slowly. His face was pink and streaked with tears. He only gripped her hand tightly as she led him out of the hospital. She couldn't remember his address, but she didn't want to push him to say anything at the moment.

He didn't cry anymore as they took a taxi home, but he also didn't say anything. Annabeth took him to her own apartment. Percy had his backpack with him, the one he packed his things in for Montauk, and she made sure he changed into pyjamas and was warm before pushing him into her bed to rest.

He didn't argue or question it – just turned over, facing her wall, and closed his eyes. When Annabeth cuddled up to him later, he was silent. If it weren't for his shaking, she would've thought he was asleep. But he wasn't. His words were choked in his sobs, and he was at a loss.

A loss for his loss.

He didn't stop trembling all night.


Percy could feel the blood rushing to his head as he sank beside his mother's bed. Her chest had become oddly still – God, she wasn't moving – but she was wrapped up in blankets, so she was fine. She had to be fine. He grabbed her tiny, bony, wrist. Her skin was cold as he ran his thumb over her vein.

Nothing.

She wasn't breathing.

Percy heaved as he woke, blinking rapidly in the sudden blinding sunlight. There was a heavy weight just below his chest, and as things came into focus, he realized it was Annabeth. She was sitting on top of him, leaning over and grasping at the sides of his jaw.

"Percy." She was whispering, and he tried to make sense of the words. "It was just a dream."

"A dream?" he asked groggily.

"A dream," she confirmed. He looked around, realizing he was panting and sweating and in Annabeth's bedroom. Why was he in there? It was morning, wasn't it? Why was Annabeth pinning him down? Was he thrashing in his sleep? And then his head was falling back into his pillow as he realized it.

"It wasn't a dream," he croaked sadly.

"What did you…" Annabeth trailed off as she realized what Percy must've dreamed. She leaned down and kissed his forehead. "I'm sorry."

But he was already shaking again. "She's really gone."

"Percy..."

"Fuck." He was crying now. Annabeth was practically cradling his head as he remembered. "She's... my mom is..."

"Shhhh." Annabeth kissed his forehead again. "Don't say anything."

Percy didn't know how long they stayed like this, clinging to each other - admittedly, him clinging rather tightly to her - and crying. Annabeth didn't rush him. She kept gently wiping away his tears.

When he finally had a hold of himself, she slid beside him as he sat up. "Sorry," she said. "You started thrashing and wrestling with me in your sleep."

"What?" Percy said in horror.

"Don't worry," she said, grinning at him as she waved a hand. "I can take you."

"Okay." He shook his head, but he believed her. She was definitely more likely to beat him up than the other way around. "Did I keep you up?"

"Of course not." She pushed her hand through his hair affectionately. He couldn't quite put a word to her expression – not pity. Caring? "How are you feeling?"

"Shitty," he stated obviously, and she snorted.

"Stupid question."

"A little." He suddenly pulled her onto his lap, surprising her. "Thanks for letting me stay here."

"Anytime," she said softly. Percy could see that look in her eyes. She was sad, too. Her grey eyes were a little bloodshot, and he noticed tiny, dried tear tracks on her cheeks. He reached up and traced one with the back of his finger.

"You were crying," he told her.

She shrugged. "Last night. Before you called."

"What happened?"

"It was dumb." He gestured for her to go on, and she shook her head. "I'm serious. It doesn't even begin to compare to what you're going through."

"But it made you cry." He nudged her cheek with his forehead. "Come on. Distract me."

"It's not a welcome distraction." She sighed, closing her eyes wearily. "You know that feeling when everything you know - that you trusted in - comes apart?"

"Yeah." He smiled bitterly to himself, thinking of when his mom was diagnosed. "Definitely."

"I think I've been in denial for a long time." She leaned her forehead to his shoulder. "I found out last night that Luke and Thalia dated. Right up until I finished high school."

He tensed. "What?"

"And they broke up because he cheated." She practically spat the word into his shirt. "Can you believe him? He cheated on Thalia, our best friend, his best friend since he could talk! He cheated on her!" Annabeth was shaking in fury. "Can you believe him?"

"Breathe," Percy said quietly, rubbing her back. "Breathe."

"And he's getting married." Annabeth mumbled this part into collarbone. "To this girl he cheated with. Some bitch named Amanda who will never measure up to Thalia."

"Annabeth..."

"I hate anyone who… betrays me." Percy could feel his shirt getting a little wet. He had a feeling it ran deeper than Thalia and Luke, but he didn't want to pry. "I hate when people make promises. Or people who lie. My two best friends in the world lied to me, and I just..."

"Hey..." Percy pulled her so she was facing him. "Forget them. It's okay."

"It's not okay."

"Okay, it's not," he agreed, wiping her tears with his fingers. "But people do that. They hurt you. They're not perfect. Not like you," he added teasingly.

She chuckled. "Don't be cheesy."

"I am never cheesy." He dropped the grin and held her gaze. "But I won't lie to you, ever. I'll be your best friend. I'll be more than that." Annabeth went very quiet at this, and he couldn't tell if was a good or bad thing. He noticed her curly hair was falling out of ponytail, her eyes had pink circles underneath them she looked so tired, as though she'd aged a few years.

She finally spoke after several long moments. "You already are."

He kissed her.

And then again and again and again, until Annabeth had him pressed back to the bed again, his hands in her hair and hers under his shirt, mouths sealed together. It wasn't slow or wondering or any kind of nervousness. It was desperation. It was hot, clinging, gasping for breath, for comfort they could really only find in each other.

Annabeth had to whisper against his lips, because he wouldn't let go. She said it in between kisses. "I missed you." She grasped for him and pressed her lips against his, long and hard before she broke off and added, "so much."

He couldn't help but notice how close it was to 'I love you.'


"So what are you going to do now?"

Annabeth was still lying on top of him, but after being in the position for so long, she was way past blushing. She'd pulled the blankets around them, and Percy's arms were warm around her. She'd settled into the crook of his neck and mumbled into it, even though she really was enjoying the comfortable silence they had after making out until they couldn't breathe.

It was pretty great, while it lasted.

Percy tensed. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

"A funeral…"

"Yeah." He exhaled loudly and looked at her. "A funeral. And then I have to talk to Grace. And I have to pay for the cabin. And the alcohol I drank. And the hospital bill. And the funeral –"

"Okay, okay, calm down," Annabeth said, putting her hand over his mouth. "We can figure it out."

He took her hand off of his lips. "You don't have to – mmfgh." She'd put his hand over his mouth again.

"Yes, I do," she said, trying not to laugh, "because you're freaking out already."

Percy stared defiantly at her for a few moments before sighing. He shrugged as she moved her hand and nodded. "Yeah, okay. As long as you don't pay for anything."

"I don't have that kind of money." She suddenly remembered the check Grace had given her for working the one week, and she turned towards her desk, reaching for the envelope. "Oh, but you can have the Starbucks –"

"No," Percy interrupted, intercepting her hand. She raised an eyebrow at him. "I know what you're going to say."

"I'm just –"

"It's your money," he insisted. "You were subbing in for me, you did the work. And I can afford my bills right now."

Annabeth stared at him before giving in. "Fine."

Percy smiled, but it faltered quickly in his eyes. She pressed a tiny kiss to his lips, which he immediately deepened, squeezing her waist and pulling her closer.

"Stop avoiding it," she whispered.

"I'm not." His eyes were still closed as he pressed his lips against hers again. "Well, just a little."

"Stop."

"I'm going to cry if I do." She felt his lips trembling as he said it. He swallowed and kissed her, a little more desperately. So he wouldn't cry. "I don't want to do that."

"But – mmm." He was very good at distracting her, too. She leaned back, and he opened his eyes. His green eyes were reddening at the edges, on the verge of tears. "Percy, if you can't cry in front of me…"

"I clearly can –"

"Please don't feel like you have to hide anything from me," she cut in, and he fell quiet. She saw the tears welling in his eyes seconds before he pressed his face against her neck and let go.

He cried silently until he fell asleep, slumping into her. Annabeth was glad; he hadn't slept well in ages, most likely, and though she was sort of hungry and kind of needed to pee and really wanted to brush her teeth, she stayed, stroking his hair and holding him tightly.

He said he loved her.

She wouldn't let herself think about it before, when he'd drunk-texted it to her. But now, as she watched his long eyelashes flutter in his sleep, the tear tracks still etched onto his face, she couldn't help but wonder if he meant it. She saw him with his mom; Percy loved people with all of his heart. Was Annabeth worth that?

Did she love him too?

She carefully untangled herself from his limbs, making sure he didn't wake up. Her heart was pounding in her chest from the thought of loving someone again. It hadn't worked so well the first time, and the worst had only just happened.

Annabeth kissed his forehead and got up to brush her teeth. Love or not, she wanted to make sure Percy was feeling a little bit better before he started going back to work and figuring out how the funeral would go. That meant she was going to cook breakfast… and it had been a long time since she'd had more than cereal at the start of the day.

Determined, she brushed her teeth and headed to the fridge. There wasn't much in there – eggs, toast and orange juice were enough for breakfast, wasn't it? Unless he wanted chocolate for breakfast...

Fifteen minutes later, Annabeth had two burnt eggs, a completely blackened piece of toast and arms sliding around her middle. She sighed and turned off the stove. "Don't laugh at me."

She could feel Percy lips turn upwards against her shoulder. "Okay."

"My step-mother never really let me in the kitchen."

"I'm not saying anything."

"I've made toast before, I just distracted by the eggs burning –"

"Stop," he said, sounding extremely amused now. "It's fine."

The blush was hot, creeping up her neck and ears, and all she could think about how Percy was really lucky that his mother was around, because even if she died too early and had an unfortunate life, he got to spend time with her and learn how to cook and laugh with her and –

"Are you meaning to say this out loud?" Percy asked softly, squeezing her. If Annabeth was blushing before, it wasn't anything compared to now she felt now. She felt the heat flushing down her back from embarrassment. Guilt.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, feeling ashamed.

"It's okay." He was quiet for a moment. "You said you felt at home with us."

"Yeah," she said, immediately remembering.

"Do you still feel that way?" He cleared his throat. "With me?"

She gave it a thought. Past the current feeling of mortification, she never felt like she had to try too hard with Percy – and at the same time, she did try. But not because she had to.

"Yeah," she admitted softly. She opened her mouth to say more, but immediately shut up again. She didn't feel at home with him. Percy was home. It was too much to say, too soon, and definitely not the right time… so she kept it in.

She heard the joy in his voice, even as he tried to conceal it. He pressed a small kiss to the nape of her neck. "It's just nice to know that I somehow manage make you happy."

"Of course you do. You make everyone happy, you're…" She paused. "You're threadbare."

"Threadbare?" he asked incredulously, turning her around. "Is that a description?"

"You're worn," she said thoughtfully, fingering the thin cotton at the collar of his t-shirt. "Worn down. You give. Not take."

He stared at her, bright green eyes widening with comprehension. She suddenly felt a strike of fear, because she liked to analyze, but maybe she'd gone too far.

He took a breath. "So I –"

"You hurt me!"

Percy and Annabeth both spun around to see Thalia, not noticing them in the kitchen as she stormed into the living room, furious. Annabeth had only seen her this furious once before, and it was at –

"That's complete bullshit, Thalia, and you know it!" A second, tall, shirtless blonde stomped in after her.

Luke.

"Excuse me?" Thalia retorted, twisting around and standing at her fullest height, face-to-face with Luke. "You do not get to tell me how I feel –"

"I never got to tell you anything," Luke said, barely calm. Annabeth had never seen him so worked up before. "Anything that didn't fit into your perfect ideal relationship was just buried down and ignored –"

"That's not true!"

"It is!" Luke said frustrated, pulling his hands through his hair. "When I told you I cheated, you didn't act hurt at all!"

"Who isn't hurt when they get cheated on?" she countered.

"You, maybe?" he suggested angrily. "Because we'd been drifting apart for months and months and I liked Amanda and you kept running away every time I tried to break up with you –"

Thalia gave a sarcastic, slightly watery laugh. "Right. You tried to break up with me. Was that before or after all those times you tried to use gifts to pay me off?"

Luke stopped, caught. "I –"

"You were sleeping with her for months," Thalia said, her smile becoming twistedly sad and painful. "And in between, you bought me gifts to distract me from the fact that you were never around anymore. Don't try to tell me you did the right thing."

"You didn't care," he shot back, rather weakly. "You didn't give a shit."

"Me?" She laughed another hollow laugh. "Right, after all those times I told you I loved you? Because I meant it. And Annabeth meant it too, in that way."

"She didn't –" he began, shaking his head.

"Bullshit," Thalia spat. "Why don't you stop lying to yourself? Why can't you just admit that you hurt her, always teasing her every time she tried to impress you and you noticed? Why do you think she never had the guts to ask anyone out?"

Annabeth's eyes immediately welled over and fell on her cheeks. He noticed?

"I never –"

"Shut up." Thalia looked on the verge of tears. "Shut the fuck up. You hurt both of us, and you're always in denial. I didn't move here because I wasn't hurt. Maybe I couldn't admit it then, but I admit it now."

"But last night…" Annabeth felt a shiver down her spine as she realized – Thalia and Luke had slept together. Luke moved closer to Thalia, who was shaking. "What was last night?"

"Nothing. Closure." She closed her eyes for a moment before snapping them back open, angry again. "We're done, Luke. With both of us."

"That's what you said the first time," he said, voice breaking. "When I told you I slept with Amanda. You said you didn't feel anything."

"I'm sure Amanda will," Thalia said dryly. Annabeth knew her tears were on the surface, but they wouldn't come until Luke had left. Thalia pushed Luke back into her room, urging him to take his stuff and leave. She didn't realize Percy was pushing her back into her own room until she heard the door shut and she blinked.

"Annabeth…" Percy was calling her softly, reaching up and wiping her cheeks. "Shh, come on. Don't cry."

She came out of her trance, slowly, like she was waking up. She was slowly realizing the lead feeling in her limbs and feet and had she been shaking a second ago? Then she was fighting for air, gasping, sobbing –

"Stop." Percy's voice was sharp. He grasped her jaw and leaned down to look in her eyes. "Breathe. In… out. In… out."

In. Out. Her heart returned its normal pace, and she could breathe again.

"Good," he murmured in a low voice, loosening his grip, but didn't remove his hands from her jaw. "It's okay. I know you're just shocked."

Annabeth blinked. "He knew."

"Luke?"

"He knew I was in love with him." The words felt numb on her lips. "But all these years… I thought he was joking…"

"Joking about what?"

"About not dating me," she whispered. "I was like his sister… my hair was too crazy… I wasn't ready…"

"He said that?"

"He manipulated me." It was sinking in, and her mind felt disoriented, spinning of all the memories over the years. "He…"

Percy was looking at her worriedly, but she liked that he didn't panic. He was just helping – giving. Always giving. "What should I do?"

"Nothing, nothing," she said. Annabeth took his hands in hers and pulled them off her cheeks before sitting down on her bed.

"You want me to leave?"

"I just need to think," she clarified. All those times Luke had brought her down, being possessive or jealous that she had a chance of happiness, she didn't know, but everything was making more and more sense now.

"But what if he comes back?"

"He won't." Percy cleared his throat nervously, which made Annabeth look up. He looked very uncomfortable. "Percy?"

"Are you still in love with him?" he rushed out, his words jumbling together. "With Luke, are you –"

"Wait, I told you," she said, moving up off her bed. "Didn't I? I remember, I –"

"It just seems like – you were just crying so – tell me the truth," he said, distress written all over his face. "Are you in love with him?

Annabeth stared at Percy in surprise. "Of course not."

"Are you sure?" he asked, his voice tight in his throat. "Completely?"

"Yes – I mean –" She was nearly speechless. She didn't take him to be the jealous type, but then again, she'd practically had a mental breakdown in front of him because of another guy. Annabeth took a deep breath. "Look, just a year ago today, I was still ridiculously in love with him, so obviously everything is still fresh, and –"

"Just a year ago," he interrupted impassively. "So I'm a rebound."

"Percy." Annabeth's mind was racing in two opposite directions. "Stop it."

"No, I need to know – I need you to figure it out," he said decidedly. Annabeth watched listlessly as he shoved his jeans over his pajama shorts and stuffed his toothbrush back in his bag. "I'm going home… and whenever you figure it out…" He heaved his bag over his shoulder.

Annabeth felt like latching onto him and refusing to let go. Childish, but it's all she wanted to do, so maybe he would just listen. "Percy, I know –"

"Think about it some more," he stated firmly, and she wanted to slap him. For doubting that he was less than Luke, that Luke might've shown her more love than Percy did. She didn't need to think about it, but he was adamant.

And as he left, she thought she heard him mutter, "And so will I."