They were almost brutally killed within ten seconds of meeting each other.

Not even exaggerating there. All it took was a really bad cold and one magical pen for everything to go completely wrong. You might think that that would sound some warning bells in her head or maybe she'd have enough common sense to just turn tail and run and not look back, but Rachel Elizabeth Dare was never really one to back down from anything.

People—Greeks, mostly—still didn't understand why she stuck around. Seriously, he tried to decapitate her for blowing her nose and called her a mortal like she was some sort of weird, endangered species. Flattering, really. Not "oh, your eyes are pretty" or "your hair looks nice," it was, in the most incredulous voice Rachel had ever heard, "You're a mortal."

Granted, he wasn't the only one with improper educate and a streak of bad first impressions. Instead of calling for security or, you know, run away like she probably should have done, Rachel accused him of violating animal rights. Frankly, Percy should've been grateful she only chose to nag at him for that.

And then naturally, as soon as she noticed the skeletons, she shoved him into girls' restroom to save his life. (Thank gods no one was in there, Rachel wasn't an expert, but she was fairly certain the scandalized screams would've tipped the monsters off.)

It wasn't exactly the conventional beginning for…well, come to think of it, nothing. But somehow they managed. Maybe it was Aphrodite, or the Fates, or just the fact that Percy and Rachel didn't take life or death situations as seriously as either of them probably should've, but somehow, through all the wars and teenage drama of ultra-powerful half-bloods, the son of Poseidon and the clear-sighted mortal managed to stay friends.

Like, actual friends. Not the whole I-don't-really-hate-you-anymore-but-fighting-with- you-is-just-too-much-fun-to-pass-up kind of friendship between Percy and Clarisse. Or the fetus I-like-you-but-totally-don't relationship between him and a certain daughter of Athena. Not even the infamous you-guys-make-me-want-to-stab-myself-in-the-jugula r-with-a-fork-but-deep-down-I-love-you-anyways kind of bond with the children of the Big Three.

Percy and Rachel were actual, normal friends that you'd catch walking around the mall or just hanging out at some greasy, fast-food joint, eating funky smelling stuff that probably shortened their lifespans. (Whatever, better to die because of what you ate than because of what ate you.)

None of that weird demigod love-hate friendship for those two (but seriously, after interacting with them so much, Rachel wasn't even sure Camp Half-Blood still knew the difference between actually liking someone and gently teasing them or full out hate crimes). Just a lot of cheeseburgers and reminiscing over that one time Rachel pegged the Titan Lord Kronos in the eye with her blue plastic hairbrush.

Granted, it wasn't always like that. They had their rough spots, and Karma was just way too sadistic to just let things be simple because, yes, here's the guilty confession: at one point, Rachel did like Percy. As in like-like.

Yeah, he tried to kill her, but you know, it would've been a quick and painless death (for whatever that's worth). And hey, life was short and he was hot—even better, he saw the monsters too. So that proved that either Rachel wasn't alone in the world or that they were both completely and utterly insane, unstable kids.

Either one amounted to the same thing though so the latter was totally okay with her.

Within ten seconds of meeting each other they were almost infected via sneeze, mauled by skeleton warriors, shoved into restrooms of the opposite gender, and beheaded—not necessarily in that order. But when Rachel saw him, despite the crooked front teeth and ridiculouslymessy hair, she just knew that Percy gotta-go would be someone she'd never forget.

(Psh, like it'd be hard not to remember a kid with a three foot-long sword and lion fur.)

The second time they met, it was fairly clear that some things would just never change. Like…ever. Here they were again, Rachel was saving him from a couple of monsters and he was back to calling her mortal in that voice. Honestly, it was starting to scare her a little more than the vampire cheerleaders.

"You did that at Hoover Dam," she whispered, half accusing, half curious. "You called me a mortal. Like you're not."

Something like regret or uncertainty flashed across Percy's face. He winced a little and sat back on his heels like he'd just spilled some super top secret piece of info.

Rachel jumped on it in a heartbeat. "Tell me," she begged. "You know what it means. All these horrible things I see?"

A monster with eight heads, the vampires, bird women, ice giants, people with only one eye, girls who could walk into trees literally—lately, she'd been seeing more monsters than ever. Sometimes traveling in a pack, sometimes in masses…and, sometimes…with kids like her.

Percy rubbed the back of his neck and did a quick scan of the room. "Look," he started, "this is going to sound weird. Do you know anything about Greek myths?"

"Like…the Minotaur and the Hydra?"

He nodded once. "Yeah, just try not to say those names when I'm around, okay?"

"And the Furies," Rachel continued, counting on her fingers. "And the Sirens, and—"

"Okay!" Percy's hand inched toward his pocket, and he looked around the band hall again. Down the hallway, Rachel could hear a mob of kids coming out of the gymnasium. They were starting the group tours. Whatever Percy was going to say, he'd better spit it out fast because they didn't have long to talk.

"All those monsters," Percy said quietly, "all the Greek gods—they're real."

And that was about when Rachel realized that she was stuck with this kid. That was how Rachel was officially introduced to the world behind the Mist, Greek gods who wore pinstripe suits and all. And…the funny thing? Rachel wasn't surprised one bit. Still, Percy hadn't really cleared up one little detail.

"I'm not a monster," he assured her, and when Rachel looked at him she thought slowly, No, no you are not. But that didn't really answer her question now, did it?

"Well, I know that," Rachel said obviously, rolling her eyes. "I could see if you were. You look like…you." She was going to say a cute boy, but well, that didn't seem like it'd put him at ease. He looked like he was going to bolt any second now. Plus, she was totally not that kind of girl.

Rachel studied him carefully. "But…" She chewed on her lip and furrowed her brow. "…you're not human, are you?"

After a few beats of dead silence, he said, in a low, haunting voice Rachel would never forget (or you know, it could've just been his voice echoing against the wall), "I'm a half-blood. I'm half-human."

"…And half what?"

Rachel had a sneaking suspicion already, but, unfortunately, she wouldn't get her answer for a while. It would eat at her for days until Percy met her in Times Square because at that moment, at the pinnacle of Percy's confession, the two demon cheerleaders (for the record, she means that in the literal sense) burst into the band hall.

They were horrible. Red eyes, fangs, mismatching legs, how could people not see that? How could Percy not see that? He obviously knew monsters, Greek monsters to be specific, existed so just—

…Why did he look like he wanted to kiss one of them?

Oh good Lord this boy was hopeless. Maybe she should've been a little more scared of the hags with pointy teeth and claws, maybe she should've started panicking right about then (it was a little overdue), but she was kind of getting used to these situations. Rachel made a mental note to rethink her life. You know, if she survived orientation.

"Percy," Rachel warned.

Percy's eyes stayed focused on Tammi, and he said, oh-so-intelligently, "Uhhh?"

The monster was right in front of him now, reaching her shriveled, clawed hands, and fear sparked in Rachel's heart.

"Percy!" she yelled. "Snap out of it!"

A second later, Rachel got her answer on how he snuck his sword passed Hoover Dam's security. Percy sliced through Kelli with ease, like he'd been killing for years (a little disturbing but at the time, she was totally into the dangerous type).

And to sum it all up, Rachel left Goode that day, completely convinced that, yeah, knowing Percy was like: a) constantly being in a life-or-death scenario or b) hugging a grizzly bear just because it looked like it was in a good mood. Either way, Rachel would never be bored. (…Maybe she did have more problems than just really keen eyesight.)

That meeting between Percy and Rachel ended with a vampire setting herself on fire, Percy sprinting out the back door, and Rachel sprinting out after him, covered from head to toe in gold monster dust. And just to clear it all up, they did almost die that time as well. Percy—one; Rachel—one. What can they say? It's kind of their tradition.

Admittedly, running into a pretty (slightly terrifying) blond with grey eyes who looked at Rachel like she wanted to skin her alive was a new one.

Percy—one; Rachel—two.

The next time Rachel saw him and the blond, she was still covered in gold. Not too much had changed for her, physically at least (the knowledge that Greek gods really existed can be so enlightening). Percy, on the other hand, looked like he'd been dragged through hell.

Maybe that's pushing it a little, but the guy had obviously seen better days. His hair was messier than ever and singed at the tips like someone decided to use his head to start a bonfire, his skin was a couple shades paler than normal, and he looked like he'd lost a lot of weight he couldn't afford to lose. And all things considered, Rachel shouldn't really have noticed any of it, but she did.

Rachel wasn't quite sure if that was acceptable or not, but she blamed it on her sharp eyesight. Still, even if Percy did kind of look like a homeless kid, his eyes were enough to make Rachel's stomach do flips….

Okay, now that was definitely unacceptable. The blond eyed Rachel, like she knew exactly what she was thinking, and even though Rachel was completely used to people staring, it took every ounce of willpower to not fidget under the other girl's piercing gaze.

Rachel bit her lip and glanced down at her espresso. "So," she started, finally breaking the silence, "it's Annabell, right?"

The blond wrinkled her nose a little and slowly stirred her smoothie with her straw. "Annabeth," she said.

If Rachel were anyone else, she would've just passed off Annabeth's tone as somewhat easy-going, but she knew better. It was even, controlled, and smooth but underneath it all, politely rude and condescending. Not that Rachel seriously minded—after all, she lived with William Dare and his trophy wife.

Annabeth raised an eyebrow. "Do you always dress in gold?"

"Not usually," Rachel shrugged, not rising to the bait. "We're raising money for our group. We do volunteer art projects for elementary kids 'cause they're cutting art from the schools, you know? We do this once a month, take in about five hundred dollars on a good weekend."

Annabeth gave her a deadpan stare.

"…But I'm guessing you don't want to talk about that. You're a half-blood, too?"

Annabeth stiffened. "Shhh!" Her grey eyes darted around the café, and Rachel wondered if it was just in some demigod handbook to always be aware of their surroundings or whatever. You'd think they'd come up with something a little more subtle.

Annabeth glared at her irritably. "Just announce it to the world, how about?"

Rachel nodded. "Good idea," she said, already standing up. "Hey, everybody! These two aren't human! They're half Greek god!"

Annabeth's jaw dropped, and Percy hid his hand behind his mouth, but Rachel swore she saw him smile. Nobody in the café even looked over. Rachel shrugged and sat down. "They don't seem to care."

"That's not funny," Annabeth said. "This isn't a joke, mortal girl."

Rachel pursed her lips. The word mortal sounded a lot friendlier when Percy said it. And that was saying something.

Percy's smile melted. "Hold it, you two," he said. "Just calm down."

"I'm calm," Rachel insisted, giving him a look. "Every time I'm around you, some monster attacks us. What's to be nervous about?"

"Look," Percy said apologetically. "I'm really sorry about the band room. I hope they didn't kick you out or anything."

"Nah. They asked me a lot of questions about you. I played dumb."

"Was it hard?" Annabeth asked innocently.

"Okay, stop!" Percy intervened. "Rachel, we've got a problem. And we need your help."

Rachel glanced up mid-sip and set her espresso down slowly. She narrowed her eyes at Annabeth, finally bothering to get a good look at her. Even if Rachel sat up straight, Annabeth still would've been a couple inches taller than her. With the kind of detailed observance only an artist possessed, she looked over the other girl's calloused hands and her intelligent, stormy grey eyes. Rachel got the vibe the vibe that Annabeth could answer every question on Jeopardy without even batting an eye while slicing down monsters left and right.

Rachel gaze didn't waver. "You need my help?"

Annabeth's intense eyes bore into hers, and Rachel got the message. Annabeth didn't want to work with her any more than Rachel wanted to work with Annabeth. But this wasn't about either of them. It was for Percy.

"Yeah," Annabeth said, voice taking on a softer edge. "Maybe."

Annabeth's reasoning was simple. She and Percy were obviously close (maybe closer than best friends should be if you ask Rachel) and seeing how much trouble Percy managed to get into, it wasn't a stretch to assume that the demigods had been through more than a couple life-or-death incidents. But Rachel had to wonder, when did he become so important in her life?

"Look," Percy said softly, "Rachel, you did awesome. You led us through the maze. You were so brave. That's the only thing I'm going to judge you on. I don't care what your dad does."

Warmth spread in her stomach, and she smiled up at him a little meekly. "Well," she hesitated. "If you ever, you know, feel like hanging out with a mortal again…you could call me or something."

"Uh, yeah. Sure."

Rachel knit her eyebrows, and self-consciously shifted from foot to foot. She wasn't an Annabeth by any means, or a demigod, but…after everything, she thought he'd at least like her—in a totally friendly way, of course. An-anything else would be totally weird. And not right. Whatsoever. Yeah.

Rachel was never one to really care about what other people thought of her, but when it came to Percy, well…

"I mean…I'd like that," Percy corrected, probably just trying to make her feel better, still she smiled at the attempt.

"My number's not in the book," she pointed out.

"I've got it."

Rachel raised her eyebrows. She used a Sharpie, she didn't tattoo it onto his hand. Annabeth would have killed her. "Still on your hand? No way."

"No," Percy said, flushing a little. "I kind of…memorized it."

A slow grin stretched across Rachel's face, and she felt butterflies in her stomach. Almost being ripped to shreds by a bunch of drooling, ugly monsters? Suddenly worth it all.

So just a recap, first: Rachel saved his life. Second: No change. She still rescued his demigod butt. Third? Oh boy, Rachel fell head over heels for him. Hard.

Of course, it never really worked out, after all, a prophecy stating Percy was going to die before he was even legal tended to screw with one's love life. Not to mention, as cheesy as it sounds, I just wasn't meant for him. I had a destiny involving a curse and the spirit of Delphi hijacking my body every now and then, and Percy…well, he had one long life of adventure set out for him.

And even then, even though our fates weren't really intertwined, we're still friends. Besides, it's hard to not keep in touch with the person who guided you through the darkest, most twisted places imaginable (and I mean that in both senses).

I never went on a quest with him again, and I never saved his life again, but all in all, that's totally okay with me. Annabeth's always had his back—long before I'd even known Percy and, most likely, for the foreseeable future (and you know, for me, that's saying a lot).

Percy and Annabeth were messy and crazy. They could go from cute and cuddly to ultra-competitive in two seconds flat (timed it). And they are, by far, the best example of Camp Half-Blood's confusion with love and hate.

But they're perfect.

I'll say it like this, Percy and Annabeth are powerful and dangerous and polar opposites, but Percy and I would've been the couple that made sense. But just when were either of us the type to play it safe?

Besides, Annabeth had dibs first.