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While You Were Sleeping

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Annabeth hasn’t seen Percy Jackson’s name light up her phone for over two years and the sight of it immediately sends her heart racing.

They had dated for eight months in their senior years of college before Percy had left New York for the opportunity to complete his college course aboard a research boat in the arctic circle. She remembers arguing with him because he was reluctant to go and she couldn’t believe he was about to pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay in New York. She had shouted at him until he had yelled back that he didn’t want to leave her. Then she had just gone soft and held him and talked him rationally through his options. A month later, she had waved goodbye to him at the airport and had not seen him since.

They had decided against attempting anything long distance, feeling too young and pragmatic about the situation. For the first three months, they had managed intermittent contact using the ship’s satellite phone, but that stopped too, after a while.

Annabeth hasn’t stopped thinking about him ever since that day in the airport though.

Here and now, standing in front of rows of candy bars in her local bodega, his face lights up her phone screen as she holds it in her hand and stares. Startling herself into movement, she swipes her thumb across the screen and holds it to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Annabeth Chase?” says a voice that definitely does not belong to Percy Jackson. It’s a woman, with a clear and clinical voice. The sound of it settles dread deep into Annabeth’s bones though.

“It is. Who is this?”

“I’m calling from Lenox Hill Hospital Emergency Room.”

“Oh god. What? Is Percy in hospital? Is he okay?”

The person on the other end of the phone continues calmly despite Annabeth’s fretting. “He’s in a stable condition now. Miss Chase, the reason I am calling is because we don’t have any identification for him but you were listed in his phone as an emergency contact, so-”

“Holy fuck.”

 


 

 

It’s all a blur after that. Annabeth vaguely remembers leaving the bodega, after hurriedly shoving her candy selection back on the shelf rather than attempting to pay for it and shouting an apology on her way out as the owner yells in her direction. She gets a cab to the hospital and spends at least ten minutes at the front desk, trying to figure out where she needs to go and getting lost twice in the labyrinthian halls of the vast building. After nearly hyperventilating in a stairwell, she eventually makes it onto the right wing and finds the woman who had spoken to her on the phone. A nurse, of course, with the strained smile of somebody who is already thinking about the next ten tasks she has to complete before her shift ends.

She explains the basics to Annabeth. Car accident. He was a pedestrian. An uncomplicated surgery from which he is now recovering. No ID, only a phone with her name listed as an emergency contact, the first, due to the spelling of her name.

Annabeth isn’t sure she’s breathing as she is directed into a room with eight beds lined up against the walls, feet sticking into the centre, with curtains half way pulled between them to indicate privacy but not actually provide it. Percy’s bed is the one at the end on the right, she is told. Visiting hours are over in half an hour. Then the nurse is gone. Annabeth hadn’t even caught her name.

Panic seizes her throat and she forces herself to breathe. Then to walk, one foot in front of the other. She can’t look at the other beds as she passes them. They seem to be filled with patients in similar states of unconsciousness as Percy. And there he is. As promised, in the final bed next to the window. Annabeth stands at the foot of his bed and stares.

There are a variety of tubes connected to him, helping him breathe and monitoring heart beat and a hundred other things which she has no clue about. It’s so impossibly strange, to see him like this, after such a long time apart. It’s cruel. She had imagined their reunion in a multitude of ways. Crossing paths in a coffee shop or a bar or a bodega, like the one she had just left. An arranged meet up after reconnecting on Instagram. Hesitant smiles and each other’s names softly spoken, like a secret, before a handshake, a hug, lingering.

Not like this.

He looks lifeless, despite the machines around him telling her otherwise. The droop of his chin underneath the breathing tube acting as a violent reminder of his current state. Stable, was the word used. A hundred scenes from medical dramas flashed before her eyes as she thinks of patients who had been stable one moment and crashing into cardiac arrest the next.

She shakes her head. Despite it's namesake, Grey’s Anatomy isn’t actually a textbook for medical conditions. If the nurse says he is stable then he is stable.

Releasing a shaky breath, Annabeth moves to sit in the chair beside his bed. It’s hard plastic and makes a noise when she sits down on it, perched on the edge. She doesn’t quite know whether to reach out and take Percy’s hand or not. This whole situation is too strange. Why was she called? Surely there is someone else in Percy’s phone who is better suited for this.

Why on earth is she listed as his emergency contact?

For a few moments, she just watches the slow rise and fall of Percy’s chest and remembers that he is, in fact alive, regardless of the corpse-like appearance before her. She remembers resting her own head against that chest, pressing her hands against the hard planes, feeling the solid warmth of his skin beneath her cheek as he breathed slowly and calmly as they spent the morning in bed. She’s overwhelmed with memories wrapped up in sheets and him and the weight of missing him hits her like a goddamn freight train.

What they had was so good. Better than anything she had experienced before or since. Eight months had not been enough. Percy had been so much joy to be with. Sometimes infuriating, usually forgiving, patient, kind, hilarious. She had loved him. He was such an easy person to love.

There must be others who love him and have loved him since she was a part of his life. She is struck by this certainty as she sits by his bedside and watches him slowly breathe. She grabs her phone from her pocket and does what she should have done the second she hung up with the nurse in the bodega. Sally Jackson’s number has not been touched since Annabeth said goodbye to her son at the airport. Not dialled nor deleted.

She hesitates for another moment, watching Percy’s still face, and hits the call button. Sally answers after five rings, sounding surprised and a little breathless.

“Annabeth?”

“Um. Hi.”

“Hello, sweetheart. How are you.”

Oh, she had forgotten the kindness of this family. She wishes so desperately that she doesn’t have to say what she is about to say.

Sally makes it to the hospital within fifteen minutes and the first thing she does is to hug Annabeth. Then Annabeth has to watch her face contort into a distinctive pain as her gaze turns to Percy laying in the hospital bed. Her hands come up to cover her mouth.

“Oh, Percy.”

Annabeth feels like she should leave now. But she also doesn’t want to leave Sally alone like this. The decision is taken away from her when Sally grasps her hand and does not let go.

“Thank you so much for calling me,” she whispers.

Annabeth nods absently, following Sally’s gaze to where Percy is laying.

“Of course,” she says. “I’m so sorry, Sally.”

Sally sniffs. “I haven’t seen him yet since I got back in town. We were supposed to get breakfast tomorrow. Oh, I’m sure he told you that. God, I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Why don’t you sit down?” Annabeth suggested, gesturing to the chair and tripping over Sally’s words in her head. “He’s okay. The nurse told me he’s stable.”

Sally keeps hold of her hand and nods. She looks up at Annabeth and gives her a watery smile.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Annabeth. It’s so wonderful you two are back together.”

And. Wow, okay. That’s not something she expected.

Sally is already looking at Percy again and she actually starts to cry then, so Annabeth puts her free hand on Sally’s shoulder, trying to offer some comfort through touch, and the moment to correct her is lost. They stay that way until a man in scrubs to tell them that visiting hours are over and Sally is asking for more information about her son’s condition while Annabeth gives her a half hug in farewell before leaving.

She isn’t sure how she got home but she finds herself sitting on the couch in her empty apartment with her keys still in her hand, still wearing her coat and boots. Her phone lights up with a message from Sally which she reads in a daze.

Thank you again, Annabeth. Hope you got home safe. I’ll be at the hospital again tomorrow. Visiting hours are 4-11pm xx

What the fuck is she going to do?

***

Annabeth goes to hospital the next day with the full intention of telling Sally exactly what had happened. She finishes work at five and picks up a bunch of flowers on her way. She manages to not get lost this time and walks straight into the ward where Percy’s bed is. But this time, Sally is not alone.

“Grover!”

Her old friend wraps her in a warm hug which Annabeth returns gratefully. Losing Percy from her life had also meant losing his friends, which had been another chip to her broken heart. She had adored Grover and his fierce optimism and unhidden emotions pouring out of him at every opportunity. He is crying still as he hugs her and Annabeth feels herself tear up as he pulls away.

“It’s so good to see you,” he says and Annabeth smiles.

Then she is swept up in conversation with them both as she is updated about Percy’s current medical condition and there is no opening for her to correct Sally’s assumption from the evening before.

She does manage to collect some information about Percy’s recent activity though. He’d arrived back in New York just under a month ago, staying in his mom’s apartment while she’d finished her book tour. He’s here to stay, for the foreseeable future, by the sounds of things. Annabeth supposes there are opportunities for her to say something, to jump in and correct Sally that she is, in fact, not Percy’s current girlfriend. She assumes though, that this means there isn’t actually a current partner who is about to show up and start weeping at the state of their boyfriend. She tries not to feel too happy about this.

There are opportunities. But she doesn’t take them. She sort of wants to live in this. Not the Percy-being-in-a-coma part, but rather the spending time with his loved ones part. She had missed them. Even in the eight months she and Percy had been dating, she had become so familiar with these people, spending time at Sally’s apartment being plied with food and playing video games with Percy and Grover on the tiny couch of Grover’s shared apartment. She had missed this group of people more than she had let herself realise, and now that they have suddenly been thrown back into her life, even under terrible circumstances, she is loathed to let them go.

So she lets herself live in it. Just for a bit.

***

The thing is, days turn quite quickly into weeks without her realising.

She goes to the hospital almost every day and is often accompanied by Grover or Sally. Sometimes others drift in, colleagues and friends of Percy who she doesn’t know and is introduced to as his girlfriend by Grover or Sally before she can do anything to interrupt it. The snowball is gaining volume as it plummets down the hill and Annabeth does nothing to stop it, keeping her lips pressed together as she mutely nods and accepts people’s sympathies like she is a widow at a funeral.

She doesn’t tell her friends the extent of the situation she has found herself in, knowing that Piper, especially, will call her ridiculous to her face and instruct her to fix this mistake before she hurts anybody. As it is, Piper wonders aloud at the amount of time that Annabeth is spending at her ex-boyfriend’s bedside, but accepts that Annabeth is in a weird situation and feels somewhat bound to return there until Percy opens his eyes again.

She does not resent that feeling though, far from it. It hurts her more than she can comprehend to see Percy like this. To see him helpless and weakened as he is moved by physiotherapists and prodded by doctors who assure her that he is recovering and they are preventing his body from becoming too weak from disuse. She wants nothing more than to hear Percy’s laugh again, to see his smile and watch the joy light up his face as he teases her. She is struck by how much she misses him, misses them, over and over again. She finds herself going through old photos and videos on her phone, from over two years ago, and smiling to herself.

Sometimes, she is at the hospital by herself. On days where Sally and Grover can’t get away from other commitments and she has assured them both that she is there and she will update them with any change. Sometimes she sits close to Percy’s bed and talks to him, at first self-conscious and quiet, becoming more comfortable with the feeling of the one-way conversation after several days in this position. She tells him about her work and the last phone conversation she had to have with her dad at the weekend. She complains about her annoying colleague, Nancy, and brags about her current project which she is feeling very proud of. She imagines his response in her mind, Of course it’s amazing, Annabeth. It’s you. Duh. The silence offered instead is a painful reminder of her situation.

Some days, like today, she sits in the plastic chair and reads her book. It’s strange, but despite all of the noise that comes with a hospital ward, she feels calm as she sits next to Percy’s bedside. Her hand rests on the bed next to his and she lets her knuckles brush against his, like a strange ode to the days they used to spend together in one another’s company in comfortable quiet as they studied or watched TV or just dozed. Annabeth thumbs the page she is reading, has been reading for the past twenty minutes. She can’t move past this passage as she lets the sharp edge of the paper press a line into her thumb and threaten to break through the skin. She feels Percy’s knuckles, painfully still, against hers on the bed. She reads the passage again, from the book which Piper had persuaded her to read.

“You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won’t tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you’ve done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you’re tired. You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and you’re trying not to tell him that you love him, and you’re trying to choke down the feeling, and you’re trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you’ve discovered something you didn’t even have a name for.”

Annabeth feels like she can't breathe. She snaps the book shut and stares at Percy.

There is no longer a breathing tube because he’s doing that by himself now. The steady rise and fall of his chest confirms this for her. His hair is getting long and his stubble is growing in again after the shave he was given two days ago.

She loves him, she is certain of it.

It’s completely unfathomable given that he’s been unconscious for the past three weeks of her knowing him. But the truth of it is that she never stopped loving him even after he walked out of her life two years ago. If someone were to ask her if she had been in love then she would have to tell them yes, yes I have. I am. Past, present, and future.

Gripping Percy’s hand in earnest now, Annabeth scoots to the edge of the chair and leans closer to him. He’s unconscious and unhearing, but she speaks to him anyway.

“I would really like for you to wake up now,” she tells him. “I’ve sort of dug myself into a hole and I’m hoping you can help me out of it. I also just miss you. God, I miss you. I’ve been missing you for years without really realising. Percy, I know we’ve both grown from the people we were when we were together, but I also know that you’re still the person I loved back then. Grover and your mom have told me enough to know that. Fuck, I wish I had kept contact with you. How different might things be now. I might be here as your girlfriend for real. I might have stopped you from walking in front of a damn car.” She laughs to herself, shocked to hear it come out as a bit of a sob. She wipes at her face, embarrassed and then realising how ridiculous she is.

She is at the bedside of her ex-boyfriend whom she hasn’t spoken to in two years, confessing her love for him.

Piper might be proud, or incredulous. Probably both.

“I do still love you,” she says, voice barely above a whisper. “As crazy as that is, I do.”

Percy’s hand twitches.

Annabeth stops breathing.

Had she imagined it? She stares at his face, frozen in place as she waits for him to move again. His eyes seem to be moving back and forth behind his eyelids and - there - his hand squeezes around hers, unmistakably.

“Oh my god,” she murmurs. “Percy?”

He groans and then, slowly, unbelievably, his eyes open.

She feels like a whole minute passes before either of them move again.

He blinks, frowns, opens and closes his mouth, and stares at her. “Annabeth?”

“Oh my god,” she says again.

“I don’t- ugh, wow.”

Annabeth is reaching to pour him a glass of water before he can move and helps him scoot up the bed as she guides the cup to his mouth. He grips the glass and their fingers overlap and she can’t quite breathe. She can’t believe he’s awake and looking at her with those eyes. God, she had forgotten the bright wonder of those eyes.

“Thanks,” he says, sounding slightly less croaky.

Annabeth nods and sits back down. She feels like she should call for a nurse or a doctor or something. But Percy seems to be okay as he blinks around himself and takes another sip of water, unassisted this time, so she stays where she is.

“I’m confused,” he tells her.

She nods, because yeah. “You were in a car accident three weeks ago.”

“Three weeks? Fuck.”

“You’re okay. I should get someone to come in and look at you.”

She rises but Percy reaches out and grabs her wrist. “Wait. You’re...here?”

Annabeth feels her cheeks get hot as she nods and doesn’t quite meet his gaze. How to explain this one. She had begged him to wake up and now he is awake and she doesn’t quite know what to say.

“About that…”

“Ah, Mr Jackson. You’re awake!”

The doctor who interrupts them proceeds then to ask Percy several questions and gives him a physical examination while she’s at it. Percy moves slowly and clumsily and Annabeth can’t blame him for it. She’s amazed by each simple movement, shocked by how quickly he is able to sit up in bed and follow the doctor’s instructions. His body had healed while he slept, she explains to them both and Annabeth can only nod dumbly.

“I should call your mom,” she says, and steps out of the room before either of them can stop her.

When she comes back, the doctor has gone and Percy is still sitting on the side of the bed, staring at his hands in his lap. He looks up at Annabeth when she stops at the foot of the bed and blinks at her slowly.

“Everything good?” she asks him.

He nods. “Fit as a fiddle, she tells me.”

“That’s great. Your mom’s on her way.”

“Oh god. Wow, yeah.” He swallows. “Thanks.”

“Mhm.”

Annabeth twists her fingers together, feeling impossibly awkward as she stands there. Her book is sitting in the chair, abandoned, so she moves to retrieve it and put it in her bag. The move brings her into Percy’s space again though and he doesn’t reach for her this time but his cleared throat makes her face him.

“I wondered…” he starts. “Um, what you’re-”

“What I’m doing here?” she finishes for him.

He lets out a breath, halfway to a laugh. “Yeah. Doc doesn’t seem to think I have amnesia, so I don’t think I’m blanking the part where we got back together?”

Annabeth sighs, cursing herself for the idiot she is. “You did not, but um… Here’s the thing. They called me.”

He blinks at her. “What?”

She shakes her head, trying to clear it. “From your phone. The night it happened, you didn’t have ID on you but they had your phone and my number was the first the found so they called me and I came and then I called your mom and she kind of assumed that…”

“...What?”

“That we’re together.” She gulps and looks at his shoulder, mapping the pattern of the hospital gown he wears with her eyes. “And I sort of...didn’t correct her?”

“Oh… Okay?”

“I-”

She’s interrupted again, this time by Sally, who is crying before she even reaches Percy. Annabeth moves out of the way as the two embrace and finds herself meeting Percy’s eye over his mother’s shoulder briefly, before he tucks his face against her shoulder. Annabeth hovers behind them, feeling like she should flee yet unable to do so. Then Sally is breaking the hug and reaching for her hand again and she is being drawn into this family once again, somehow.

“Oh, I’m so relieved,” Sally gushes. “I’m so glad you’re okay. Oh, Annabeth, I’m so happy you were here when he woke up.”

Annabeth swallows. She can’t look at Percy so she manages a weak smile at Sally instead, nodding slightly.

“I, um. I should go. Let you guys catch up.”

“No, you don’t have to,” Sally says.

Annabeth is already picking up her bag though. “No, please. I’ll speak to you later.”

This is probably creating more problems than it solves, leaving Percy to decide all by himself whether he is going to expose her lie or go along with it. But she just has to get out of there. She cannot stand the idea of admitting to Sally’s face that she has been lying to her. She can’t face the humiliation and the rejection. So she flees instead.

She picks up a bottle of wine on her way home and slumps against her apartment door as soon as it is closed, sliding to the ground and remaining there for at least forty minutes as she stares into space and questions her entire life decisions. What was she thinking? How the hell did she think that this would ever be resolved in a way that didn’t leave her looking like an absolute fool?

She contemplates calling Piper and asking her to come round and share her misery, but decides to wallow by herself instead. Eventually, she drags herself off the floor and puts the wine in the fridge to cool. She methodically puts her coat away and starts taking out food to make dinner for herself. She picks a recipe which will take at least an hour and demand all of her attention. She puts on music and turns the volume up and pours herself a glass of wine as she starts chopping onions and blames them for the tears which prick in her eyes.

The food is in the oven and she is washing up when her buzzer goes. She frowns to herself, dries her hands, and turns the music down before crossing her small apartment to press the button by the speaker.

“Who is it?”

“Um, it’s Percy.”

Annabeth steps away from the intercom like it has sent an electric shock down her arm. She blinks at it a few times, wondering whether her fevered brain had just conjured that out of nowhere, when Percy’s voice comes through the speaker again, quite clearly not a figment of her imagination.

“Annabeth? Um, can I come up? It’s fucking cold out here.”

She lurches forward, pressing the buzzer for the door rather than saying anything. Then she spins in a circle, clutching her head as she wonders what the fuck she is going to do now. All too soon, there’s a knock at the door. She lets out a steadying breath and moves to open it.

And there he is. Taller than she remembered and looking a little pale but otherwise perfectly healthy. It seems unbelievable that he has been in a coma for the past three weeks.

“Hi,” he says, all casual.

Annabeth clears her throat. “Hello.”

“Um. Can I come in?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Come in.”

She moves aside and holds the door open for him. He’s wearing dark jeans and a warm looking sweater under his coat. He pulls off his beanie to reveal his still long hair underneath. He has managed to shave since she saw him in the hospital, but otherwise looks much the same. He looks around her apartment slowly before his gaze falls to her again.

“How, um. How did you find me?” she asks him. This is not the apartment she lived in when they were together.

“Grover,” he says and Annabeth nods, understanding. Grover had been here two days ago delivering a house plant which she dearly hopes she will not kill through neglect. “Sorry, I should have texted or...something.”

“No. It’s fine. I think...I think maybe we’re past that.”

And there’s the elephant in the room. They can’t ignore it now.

Percy is nodding and still standing there, somewhat awkwardly, wringing his hat in his hands as he meets and then avoids her gaze.

“Do you want a drink?” Annabeth asks him, because she wants her wine glass back in her hand.

“Uh, the doc says I shouldn’t drink for a few days…”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. I’ll take a glass of water?”

“Sure. Yeah”

She hurries into the kitchen and pours him a glass from the faucet, taking the moment to breathe without looking at him. She had forgotten what it feels like to be around him while he is conscious. In the first weeks of their relationship, she was constantly jittery, faking bravado through flirting and hiding how nervous he actually made her. The comfort had come later, the ease of being in his proximity, like a warm blanket over her shoulders at the end of a long day. She longs for that in this moment.

Percy had followed her into the kitchen so when she turns around, she hands the glass directly to him and tries not to let her breath catch when their fingers brush. She’s ridiculous. She’s being entirely ridiculous. Percy leans against the opposite counter and takes a long drink from the glass before placing it on the side next to him.

“So,” she starts, attempting to gain some higher ground before he inevitably sweeps it from under her feet. “Why’d you have me listed as your emergency contact?”

The blush on his cheeks makes her chest go tight pleasantly. He brings up a hand to the back of his neck as he looks down at his feet.

“Oh, um. I suppose I never changed it?”

Annabeth blinks at him. “It’s been two years and you never changed your emergency contact from your ex-girlfriend?”

“In my defence, I haven’t used my phone in two years, really. Only when I’ve come back to the city for the holidays.”

“Right. But still.”

He nods, glancing up at her. “Still,” he agrees.

Annabeth gives him a rueful smile. “I’m glad you kept me listed.”

Percy nods slowly. “So am I.” He crosses his arms, ready to tug the rug out. “So about this other business.”

“Oh god.”

“Mhm.”

“Look,” she hurries to explain. “I really didn’t mean for it to happen. Your mom just assumed and then she was crying and I didn’t want to upset her more, and it sort of got out of hand from there.”

“I can see how that happened.”

“You can?”

Percy is smiling when she looks up at him and Annabeth bites her lip at the sight of that dimple pressed into his left cheek. She remembers pressing her lips to that dimple, poking her pinky finger there and laughing as he had squirmed away. She twists her hands together, pressing nail into skin, as he watches her with too much fondness.

“I can,” he tells her.

“Well, I’m sorry anyway.”

“Hey, don’t be.” He steps away from the counter, moving into her space. “I’ve missed you too,” he says, voice barely above a whisper.

Annabeth’s head snaps up as she blinks at him. “What?”

Percy meets her eyes. “Did I hear you right? I know I wasn’t fully awake, but I’m hoping that wasn’t all a dream…”

“Oh my god.”

Her cheeks burn. Her confession, clutching onto his hand at his bedside with her barely contained sobs, as he had laid there, hearing all of it. She covers her face with her hands.

“Annabeth?”

“She’s not here.”

Percy laughs gently and then his fingers are moving around her wrists and tugging her hands down so that she is forced to face him.

“Did you hear what I said?” he asks her.

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m drowning in self-pity right now, it’s hard to hear things.”

He grins and leans closer to whisper against the shell of her ear. “I told you I missed you as well.”

Annabeth stares at him as he straightens, catching up to where he is. “You…?”

He nods. “Me. I’m still in love with you, too, in case that part wasn’t clear.”

That feeling sparks in her chest again and she can’t help the smile that takes over her face. Percy Jackson is here, in her kitchen, telling her that he loves her. She wants to pinch herself. Surely this isn’t real. Surely she is about to wake up from a coma of her own and find that this has been a figment of her imagination.

Better than pinching herself, she moves against him instead, pressing into his space urgently. The moment their lips press together, she knows this cannot be anything other than real. The slide of his mouth against hers is everything she remembered. His chest is warm and solid against hers, his hands cup the back of her neck with familiar gentleness, like they belong there. Annabeth could cry for how wonderful he feels against her. Regardless of how they have gotten here, it could not be denied that the way they fit together is nothing less than perfect.

“Do you want to stay for dinner?” she asks him in a brief moment when they separate.

“Yes please,” he says, kissing her neck. “Can I stay for breakfast too?”

Annabeth laughs, wrapping her arms around his neck as he smothers more kisses against hers. The giddy sound fills up her small kitchen and she marvels at the sound of it, feeling full and happy and spoilt with the affection he adorns her with.

“Yes please,” she tells him.

***

Two months later, they find themselves at Sally’s apartment on a Friday evening for dinner. This is now standard practice for the four of them and one of the highlights of Annabeth’s week. Grover is already there when she and Percy arrive, apple pie and wine bottle in hand as they are shuffled in like he owns the place.

“Where’s my mom?” Percy asks, taking his coat off.

Grover holds the pie for Annabeth as she removes her own coat. “Kitchen.”

Percy disappears down the hall to find his mom. Technically, he still lives here, still looking for his own apartment close to his new workplace. In reality, he has spent more time at Annabeth’s place than here, not that she is complaining at all.

They fall into a familiar rhythm as Annabeth stands around in the kitchen “looking pretty” according to Percy, as the others finish up cooking and setting the table. Sally updates her about the plot for her latest book and Annabeth tells her about her latest designs for an office building in the city. It’s probably boring but Sally manages to look interested enough to let her continue rambling on.

Finally, they are seated around the table and serving up portions of casserole. Before they dig in, Percy clears his throat and lifts his glass in a toast.

“Thank you, mom, for dinner. It looks awesome. I just wanted to raise a toast to mine and Annabeth’s two month anniversary and nearly three months since I walked into the street like a dumbass.”

They all laugh, Annabeth rolls her eyes, and clink their glasses together before drinking.

“Hold up,” Grover says. “Your two month anniversary is today? I’m confused.”

Annabeth sighs, internally bracing for what is to come.

“Well,” Percy says, grinning as he glances over at her. “Here’s the thing…”