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The Heart of the Matter

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Explaining everything to everyone was a lot harder than had Percy expected it to be. But he managed to do alright. He was happy that Andréa and Paul, the only ones who didn’t seem to know about mermaids, took the news relatively well. There was no freak out over the new information that would shake up anyone’s world. Just confusion and eventual acceptance, once they actually saw Annabeth and Piper in their full mermaid glory.

Zeus had gone through with his word, thanks to the threats Jason had yelled at him. He could understand why national and international publicity and scandals would not do well for the company, and why Zeus wanted to avoid it at all costs.

Every day Poseidon would go to the Lake, and Percy would come along too. The had opened up the fence that had bordered off the waters, and it was now free once more. The water, unfortunately, was still not clean enough to swim in yet. But thanks to Poseidon and his magic he would able to clear some of the toxins out. They only knew it was working because Annabeth and Piper, who they had brought back to the house, looked better than they did before. Soon they would be waking up, and everything would go back to the way it was.

It was a few weeks after the incident when he finally saw Annabeth and Piper had woken up. Percy was doing his regular check-up on them when he saw their eyes open. They looked groggy and confused, but none of that mattered because they were awake. He ran out of the room and shouted, “they’re awake! Piper and Annabeth are awake!”

Everyone who was in the house screamed with joy and stampeded their way to the room. Piper looked over at them and her eyes widened in surprise. Annabeth was still getting her bearings, looking like she had just woken up from a nap.

“Why are you all so happy?” Piper asked, yawning.

“You look like you’ve never seen us before,” Annabeth groaned.

Percy walked up to the two of them. They didn’t seem to realize they were in their mermaid forms.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked them.

Annabeth shook her head, her golden curls waving around her shoulders.

“We ate some really good food, and Piper and I were talking about something...then it’s a blur from there.”

“You don’t remember anything after that?” he prodded.

Annabeth slowly blinked her eyes, giving him a glare, and ran a hand through her hair.

“If we did, don’t you think we’d tell you?” she muttered sarcastically.

That got a laugh from everyone in the room, making the atmosphere much lighter and happier.

“At least you didn’t lose your sarcasm.”

Jason walked up to them and engulfed Piper in a big hug, which she returned graciously. They shared a kiss, which made everyone coo. When they broke apart, Piper looked around once more.

“So, what did we miss exactly?”

Everyone took turns giving snippets of the story. Annabeth looked down, noticing that she was in mermaid form. Her eyes widened in surprise and she looked around. But once she saw that no one seemed to care, she relaxed. The two of them listened closely to the story, taking in every detail of it. When they were done, the two of them looked at each other, seeming to be having a silent conversation, which wouldn’t surprise him. Annabeth had the ability to communicate through her mind, (which Percy unfortunately, found out the hard way. Other than that time, he would’ve found it pretty awesome).

“We’re thankful for all of your help. Without it, I’m sure we wouldn’t be awake, or even alive right now. We will join you and help cleanse all the toxins out of the Lake once and for all. We just might need some help getting there, considering,” Annabeth added gesturing to their tails which hung off the side of the bed, touching the floor.

Everyone laughed, and Annabeth cracked a smile. Percy couldn’t believe how much more alive she looked now. So different from when he’d first seen her all those weeks ago at the hospital.

“I know you two might want to be macho men,” Piper said pointing to Percy and Jason, “and try to pick us up alone, but it won’t work. If you try, you’ll probably throw your back out, and I wouldn’t feel sorry about it.”

Percy placed a hand over his heart, pretending he was hurt by her sentiment and shook his head. “You hurt me, Piper,” he teased.

Jason and Andréa went over to Piper. Jason picked her up by where the crease of her legs would be, while Andréa picked up the end of the tail to keep it from dragging on the floor. Percy and Rachel picked up Annabeth, who didn’t seem pleased about it but held back her complaints. Her tail was slick and slimy, almost what touching a stingray felt like. Rachel was startled by this, not experiencing whatever she was expecting. Even though Percy had held her before, he still wasn’t used to it.

Moira draped sheets over their tails without any preamble. When Percy looked at her in question she just shrugged her shoulders.

“Can’t go around just carrying mermaids about in public, can we? This will make it seem like you’re all just drunk and doing something young adults do, instead of causing mass panic. People will look at you weird, but won’t question,” she explained.

“Can’t argue with that logic,” Grover said in approval.

Percy nodded, thanking his sister for being so smart. She just shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal, always the modest one.

They all walked out to the cars and placed Piper and Annabeth in the back seats. Their tails were much too long which Annabeth was vocal about pointing out, but they made sure every inch of them was inside the car.

“It’s only a five-minute drive, I think you can handle it,” Percy said.

Annabeth just crossed her arms and didn’t say anything else. Percy hopped in the driver's seat, with Jason beside him, and they drove off to the Lake.

When they arrived, everyone helped carry Annabeth and Piper again, who was still covered with the sheets. Percy hoped his sister wouldn’t miss them too much. Poseidon was already walking over to the shore, where there was still no people. He took off his flip-flops and stepped into the surf. Percy followed with Rachel and Annabeth, and they stepped in the water next to his father. Jason and Andréa were beside them carrying Piper.

“Are you ready?” Percy asked.

Annabeth just nodded. On the count of three, both mermaids were tossed back into the water, with a huge heave from all of them. From the air, the two of them dove perfectly beneath the surface. They didn’t come back up for a good minute, but when they did, their aura seemed to be brighter. Not that Percy could see it, but he could practically feel it coming from them. They swam back over.

“Poseidon, are you ready?” Piper asked.

His father took more steps into the water, nodding his head. Percy looked on with curiosity at the three of them. He couldn’t see their faces since their backs were turned to him, but he heard them start to talk in a language he didn’t understand. The tattoos on their bodies were glowing, and all around, he could see black mist rising from the water. It gathered in a big cloud above them, covering the sun from view. Percy took a step back in awe, he saw Rachel do the same. And then it was gone, evaporated into thin air.

Percy looked down, the water looked exactly the same as it did before, but he could sense it was cleaner. They had removed the toxins from the Lake.

He watched as their shoulders slumped and the glowing from their tattoos faded back to their normal ink colors. His father muttered something to the both of them, who nodded back with smiles of gratitude. Then he walked back toward Percy with a smile on his face.

“All has been restored.”

Percy took a step into the water to talk to Annabeth, but then she disappeared under the water, her tail flicking up and making a little splash. He looked to Piper who had a small smile on her face.

“She’ll be back.”

“Where’d she go?”

Piper looked down at the water. “To get something.”

The two of them waited for a few minutes in silence, just letting the water lap against them. When Annabeth emerged from the surface, her blonde hair clinging to her face and neck, her eyes clear and bright and she smiled at Percy.

“Here you go,” she said. She opened up his palm and placed something inside before closing it again with her hand over his. When Percy opened it, he saw it was the sand dollar he had given her all those years ago, still in pristine condition.

“You saved my life with your gift, I think it’s only fair to give back yours as a token of my gratitude.”

Piper excused herself from the moment by diving underwater and swimming towards Jason. Percy gave Annabeth a smile.

“No, I gave it to you for a reason, and I want you to keep it. My father told me it has the same properties that your scale had. Keep it, and one day you can use the wish for something you want.”

Annabeth was about to argue, but she saw the look on his face and it dropped off her tongue. She looked away from him, her eyes on something else. Percy turned his head and saw she was looking at Rachel, who still had her ankles in the water. For once, Percy couldn’t read Annabeth’s expression. Then she turned her attention back to him and gently took the sand dollar from his hand.

She looked at it from all angles, feeling the roundness and closed her eyes. She brought the sand dollar to her lips.

“I wish Percy and Rachel all the happiness, and for them to know that I will always protect their family for the rest of time,” she whispered. Then she broke the sand dollar in half, and it crumbled into her palm. She opened her eyes again, and spread some of it onto Percy, and then blew the rest over to Rachel. The wind seemed to carry it to her. Percy was shocked.

“Annabeth…” he breathed.

Gently, she placed her hands on his shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes and smiled at him.

“I want you to know, that I will always look after your family. But you have to do me a favor too.”

“What is it?” he asked feeling like he was in a daze.

“You have to come visit me every once in awhile. I don’t want to have to wait another ten years to see you, and I don’t want it to be because something terrible happened.”

Percy felt a grin take over his face and he let out a joyous laugh. Annabeth laughed too and they hugged.

“I promise. I’ll even make some trips for the holidays, then you’ll see me at least twice every few months.”

“I will look forward to your visits, from San Diego is it?”

Percy chuckled and nodded his head. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked fondly down at Annabeth. He was glad they were friends again.

“You were always the smarter one, remembered the most peculiar details about things,” he complimented with a hint of teasing.

“Can you tell Rachel to come over, please? I’d like to talk to her.”

Percy nodded and waded back into the shallows where his girlfriend was still standing. She smiled at him.

“Annabeth wants to speak with you.”

Rachel looked worried but walked over anyway. Percy watched as the two of them talked, wondering what they were talking about. He saw Annabeth grimace and nod, looking at Percy once more before diving under the water leaving Rachel alone.

Slowly she made her way back to him, smiling as she looked down at the water. Percy wrapped his arm around her and gave her a kiss on her temple and they started to wade back to the shore.

“What did Annabeth want?”

Rachel shrugged her shoulders and looked up at him.

“She just told me to take care of you, and that she promised to look over our family. I guess like a guardian angel… mermaid?” she said letting out a laugh.

“She always did have little faith in me to take care of myself,” he joked.

“Well, she’s not wrong,” Rachel teased with a wink, “but seriously, I’m just glad she likes me. I’m not usually a kiss up or a people pleaser, but it gives me a little bit of comfort knowing I’m on a mermaid's good side.”

“The only request she had, was that we visit often. Think we can manage that?” he asked.

Rachel raised her eyebrows. The sun reflecting off her green eyes and emphasizing her red hair and freckles.

“Yeah, I think we can. Plus it’s a win for everyone. I think they’ll all be happy they won’t have to fly out to California for every holiday now.”

“All this magic and running around has made me starving. How does Burger Barn sound to you?”

Rachel shoved him off her, causing him to fall into the water. She burst into hysterics and he couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“I can see why Annabeth called you Seaweed Brain,” she said taking a piece of kelp off his face, “but yeah sounds good to me. You need to dry off first, though.”

Percy stood up, picked up Rachel and threw her over his shoulder. She let out a screech before he ran out of the water and towards the car. He saw Jason waiting by the car along with Andréa.

“Whoever gets to Burger Barn last pays the bill!” he shouted running into the car.

Jason and Andréa whipped their heads toward each other before running to the other car.

“Not fair! We have to pick up the others at my house!” Andréa yelled.

“Too bad, so sad!” he shouted out the window pulling out of the parking.

Percy already couldn’t wait to be back home, and he hadn’t even left yet. He couldn’t help but notice how cliché it looked, driving off into the sunset with everything falling perfectly into place; but he couldn’t find himself to care.