“I’m sorry Mr. Jackson, but as I’ve explained to the previous passenger, there won’t be another flight to JFK, New York before half past one in the morning.”
Percy checked his watch. 21:42.
“We’ve already replaced your ticket,” the employee assured him. He bit his lip and nodded.
With no other choice but having to wait for four hours, Percy sighed and let himself fall into one of the chairs of the gate. He put his face in his hands and tried to think.
Text mom, he decided. Text mom, and then wait.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialled the number to his parents’ apartment, deciding that a call would be more reassuring. The line only rang twice before Sally picked it up.
Percy could hear the faint sound of Latin music echoing behind her voice. He smiled fondly.
“Hey mom, it’s me.”
“Percy, amor, is everything okay?” She asked. Percy could practically see the frown on her face.
“Yes, yes everything is fine, it’s just— well, I missed my flight,” he leaned back against the chair.
“Did you get a ticket to the next one?”
“Yeah, it leaves in about four hours. I’m waiting in the airport, but I just wanted you to know I’ll be a bit late tomorrow morning.”
“That’s fine, love, we’re all waiting for you to come home.”
Percy didn’t know if it was the exam-induced stress or the ache he felt in his chest at how much he missed his family, but he felt tears prickling up in his eyes. “Okay,” he said. “I’m— I’m supposed to get there around ten.”
“We’ll be there.”
Percy heard multiple voices in the background and smiled at his sister’s excited yells.
“We love you kid!” Paul’s voice took over the phone. “Take care.”
“Percyyy! Hurry up and get here!” Estelle called. Percy chuckled.
“I’ll be there soon, love. Keep dad out of trouble, will you?”
Estelle laughed, and the phone returned to Sally.
“Keep us updated, okay?”
“I promise mom. I love you three.”
“We love you too.”
His mom hung up.
Well, he thought, at least being four hours early to a flight— accidentally, in this case— allowed for some peace and quiet.
He reached for his bag and started looking for his laptop when a girl to his right caught his attention. She was tall and seemed to be about his age. Her blonde hair was tied back in a mess of a high ponytail, and if Percy was to judge by her clothes, she seemed to be more worried about being practical than looking pretty— sneakers, jeans and a UC Berkeley hoodie. She also looked ready to commit murder, glaring at the vending machine in front of her.
“Ugh, really?” She groaned and pressed the change button multiple times. Nothing.
“Fuck!” She gave the base of the machine a kick. Still nothing. Percy looked around to see if any of the airport workers were going to tell her off, but nobody seemed bothered by her yelling and kicking. He wondered if it was a common occurence for passengers to attack the vending machines.
The girl dropped in the row of chairs facing him, a few seats to his right. He remained silent for a few more moments, before leaning forward in his chair.
“Hey, uh, are you okay?” He asked. She looked up at him, eyes still intense with anger.
“Do I look okay?” She grumbled. Percy raised his hands in surrender.
“Fine. Didn’t mean to intrude, just wanted to check.”
The girl sighed, her features softening. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you, it’s just— I’m kind of dealing with a lot right now.”
Percy chuckled. “It’s okay. Did you miss the flight to New York, too?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I kind of got derailed before leaving my apartment and I had to go back for my passport.”
There was a pause.
“Do you want to tell me about it? The stuff that’s on your mind, I mean.”
The girl blinked in surprise. An amused smile appeared at the corner of her mouth.
“Is it a habit of yours to ask strangers if they want to rant to you about their lives?”
Percy didn’t really know how to answer that, so he shrugged. The girl chuckled.
“I mean, sure. We do have time to kill.”
He grabbed his bag and put it down, clearing the seat next to him and giving her a nod as she came forward. “I’m Percy Jackson, by the way.”
“Annabeth Chase,” she sighed, sitting down next to him. “Exhausted architecture major with relationship issues.”
Percy hummed in understanding. “I feel you.”
Annabeth gave him an intrigued look. “You have someone fucking you up, too?”
“You could say that. But go ahead, tell me about your stuff first,” he said, turning to face her and tucking his legs up in the chair, his hand under his chin. She laughed.
“Okay, Percy. Our story begins a year and three months ago, in my local coffee shop.”
“You fell for someone in a coffee shop? How much of a stereotype are you?”
“Shh, let me tell the story. Picture it. I’m nineteen and sleep-deprived and I walk in there half-dead, and then! The most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen is standing behind the counter, taking orders.”
“What’s she like?” Percy asks, amused. Annabeth’s eyes sparkled.
“Long dark hair, brown skin, brown eyes, the sharpest cheekbones of California, probably.”
Percy laughed. “Okay yeah, sure.”
Annabeth’s grin matched his. “Wait, I have a picture,” she said, grabbing her phone and unlocking it. “Look.”
The girl in her phone background was wearing winter clothes and standing under a streetlight, holding a snowball in her gloved hands. Annabeth had a point. She was seriously attractive.
“Okay,” he nodded. “I see it.”
“What’s her name?”
“Long story short,” she proceeded, putting her phone in the back pocket of her jeans, “she wrote her number on my cup and I called her because I was absolutely in love with her.”
“We officially started dating around Christmas of that year, so three months later. If you followed my story, you would understand that our one-year anniversary would be sometime soon.”
Percy must have looked confused, because Annabeth waved a hand. “Whatever, just take my word for it. The point is, our first anniversary is in two days.”
Percy frowned. “So where’s the problem? Are you joining her in New York?”
Annabeth sighed and leaned her head back against the chair. “It’s the exact opposite, in fact. Piper’s here in Los Angeles.”
Percy made an ‘oh’. “Where are you heading to, then?”
Annabeth chewed on her lip. “A job interview.”
Percy raised his eyebrows. “You’re ditching her for a job—”
“It’s not what it sounds like,” Annabeth cut him off. “it’s for one of the biggest architecture firms in the world, Percy, and they reached out to me. I couldn’t just throw that away.”
Percy thought about it. “Yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. So I’m guessing Piper didn’t take it too well?”
Annabeth pursed her lips. “It’s complicated. She supports me through all my bullshit, I couldn’t be more grateful for her, honestly. But Piper used to have issues with her dad and his job. He was this really famous actor back in the nineties, and she basically had to grow up on her own. I guess she tied it all together.”
Percy winced. “That’s tough. I’m sorry.”
“But wait, you said your anniversary was in two days, right?”
“Don’t you have time to go back?”
“I thought about it. The interview is tomorrow afternoon, and my flight back to Los Angeles leaves the next day around three. I’ll get home by seven at best, and she will have spent the whole day alone.”
“Hey,” Percy reasoned, “having dinner together is better than nothing, isn’t it? It could still be a great anniversary.”
Annabeth shrugged. “I just didn’t want to hurt her feelings, you know? She means the world to me.”
Percy nodded. Annabeth took a deep breath and sat up straighter.
“Anyway, enough about me. Tell me about you. What are your relationship issues?”
Percy chuckled as she gave him a smug look. “Well, for starters, I’m not even in a proper relationship.”
Annabeth raised an eyebrow. “Friends with benefits?”
Percy shook his head.
“Well I can only hope it’s mutual, but you got the pining part right.”
Annabeth grinned. “What’s her name?”
Percy bit back a laugh, but ended up snorting. “… Jason.”
Annabeth held her hand up for a high five. Percy took it gladly.
“Do you have a picture?”
“I mean, probably.”
Percy was lying through his teeth. He had pictures of Jason everywhere. It was pathetic.
“Show,” Annabeth brought her knees up to her chest. Percy turned the screen of his phone to her. She whistled appreciatively.
Percy sighed and glanced at the picture before locking his phone. It was one of his favorites, taken in Nico’s apartment that summer. Jason was leaning against the kitchen counter, laughing and looking at Percy behind the camera.
“So what’s going on?”
“We became friends in freshman year, and by friends I mean that I was already crushing hard while he dated his childhood best friend Reyna.”
Annabeth grimaced. “Ouch.”
“Yeah,” Percy agreed. “It didn’t last long, though. They broke up before the summer, and we ended up growing a lot closer. Sophomore year was pretty uneventful until his birthday party in early July.”
Annabeth looked at him expectantly.
“We, uh, kind of got drunk and made out on my best friend’s couch.”
Annabeth stared at him, mouth agape. “No way.”
Percy hummed in confirmation. Before he could say anything else, Annabeth gave a sharp gasp.
“Don’t tell me he doesn’t remember.”
Percy’s silence spoke for him. Annabeth gasped even louder.
“He doesn’t remember?”
“Not a single thing.”
As expected, Annabeth succumbed to laughter. Percy didn’t resist a few chuckles himself.
“Percy, that’s— oh my god—”
Annabeth grasped the metal armrest between their two chairs. “You need to tell him.”
“Are you insane? I can’t do that!”
“And why not?”
Percy realized their voices had grown too loud for a public place, and gently signalled for her to lower her tone.
“What do you even want me to say?” He continued. “Just go up to him? Be like ‘oh hey, by the way, we totally made out for half an hour six months ago, I just forgot to mention’?”
Annabeth laughed again. “Dear god, that’s a mess.”
Percy huffed. “Tell me about it.”
They remained silent for a bit.
“Well,” Annabeth said, “at least you know he likes you.”
Percy had considered that before, but he still wasn’t convinced. “Does he though?”
Annabeth looked ready to punch him in exasperation.
“He made out with you.”
“Yeah, and never mentioned anything or showed any interest ever again.”
“For fuck’s sake, he made out with you! You don’t make out with a friend!”
Percy sighed. “Annabeth, it’s just weird, okay? One minute I feel like it might work out, and the next it’s just friendship stuff. It’s all so confusing, I hate having feelings,” he muttered.
“I still think you should talk to him. You guys can’t be together if you don’t even communicate,” she shrugged. Percy gave her a side-eyed look.
“Funnily enough, you could use your own advice.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Here’s a deal,” he started. “I’ll talk to Jason if you talk to Piper.”
Annabeth gave a short chuckle. “You caught me at my own game.”
Percy grinned. She gave his shoulder a soft push.
“Fine, I’ll call her. If you don’t do the same I’m getting you off that plane in three hours.”
“And how exactly do you intend to do that?” Percy smirked, crossing his arms. Annabeth raised her eyebrow as she stood up and brushed out the wrinkles on her jeans.
“Don’t test me, Jackson.”
She walked off, her phone in her hand. Percy being a man of honorable word, he unlocked his own and found Jason’s contact.
Percy, 22:48 - you awake?
The response came a lot faster than he expected.
Jason, 22:49 - how old do you think I am
Percy smiled fondly.
Percy, 22:49 - like 12
Jason, 22:49 - I’m not even a year younger than you asshole
Jason, 22:50 - anyway why arent you in a plane rn
Percy, 22:50 - missed it, but that’s beside the point
Jason, 22:50 - oh so you did have a point? okya
Percy, 22:50 - okya
Jason, 22:51 - fuck you
Percy looked to his far left, where Annabeth was leaning against the wall as she spoke on the phone. She caught his eye, and he gave her a thumbs up. He took a deep breath and turned back to his screen.
Percy, 22:51 - anyway my point is
Percy, 22:51 - would you maybe want to go out sometime
Percy, 22:51 - alone I mean
Percy, 22:51 - idk if i waited too long to ask you this but let me tell you it feels v awkward
Jason took longer to answer, despite the blue marks confirming he had read the text. Percy’s heart hammered in his chest.
Percy, 22:53 - im sorry nvmd you dont have to answer that
Blue marks again. Another minute passed. Percy felt ready to cry.
“Are you okay?”
He glanced up to meet Annabeth’s eyes. She seemed to be feeling better, but her expression soon turned to worry at Percy’s face.
“Yeah,” he assured her, looking down in an attempt to hide his face. “Fine. Great.”
Annabeth bit her lip, pretending not to see the tear he brushed away. “I’m sorry, Percy.”
She put a hand on his shoulder. As thankful as he was, Percy couldn’t open his mouth to speak. He’d probably start crying for good, and the last thing he wanted was to embarrass himself even more in front of his new acquaintance.
“If you look at the bright side, at least you won’t have all that anxiety bottled up anymore,” Annabeth tried.
As it turned out, anxiety came to him in the form of Jason Grace giving him a phone call.
His eyes widened. Annabeth brought him back to his senses.
“Take it! Percy, come on! He’s your friend!”
He looked into her eyes.
“Nothing bad will happen,” she assured. “You’re fine.”
He hit the green button.
“Hey,” he greeted, his tone too forcefully happy to his own ears. Jason didn’t seem to notice.
“Percy, are you— are you asking me out?” His voice sounded confused. “Like, on a date?”
Annabeth gave him a tiny nod. He took a breath. “Yeah.”
A pause. Percy could feel his pulse in his entire body.
“Took you long enough.”
Percy froze. “What?”
Jason’s laugh made Percy completely flustered, and he wasn’t even there.
You really are a mess, he thought to himself.
“Look, Perce, you probably don’t remember, we were pretty hammered, but this summer—”
“No way,” he whispered. Jason didn’t seem to hear him.
“I kissed you at my birthday party. You never mentioned it again, so I kind of assumed you didn’t want any of that.”
Percy was biting back a smile. “I thought you didn’t remember.”
Jason paused. “Wait, so you knew?”
They both started laughing.
“God, we are so awful at this.”
Percy was grinning at this point, one hand hiding his red face from Annabeth’s ‘I told you so’ looks.
“How does next Wednesday sound?” Percy finally asked, his tone suddenly a lot more shy. “We could go for dinner around eight. If you want.”
Jason chuckled. When he spoke, Percy heard his smile.
“That would be great, Percy.”
He bit his lip. “Great,” he agreed.
“Text me when you get on the plane?”
“Okay. See you Wednesday, then.”
Percy nodded, which was stupid since Jason couldn’t see him. “See you Wednesday.”
He barely had time to hang up before Annabeth hugged him.
“I’m proud of you, asshole I met an hour ago.”
Percy laughed. “How did things go with Piper?”
Annabeth pulled back, a grin still in place. “We’re a lot better. Thank you.”
“I’m glad. And thank you for helping me get a date.”
He glanced back at the vending machine. “What were you trying to get earlier?”
“Oh, nothing, just a Kit Kat.”
Percy pulled out his wallet. “Okay, we’re getting coffee and a snack over there to celebrate,” he nodded to a nearby pastry shop. “On me.”
Annabeth didn’t complain, picking up her backpack and following him.
“So this is where we part ways, huh?” Annabeth smiled at him as they walked out of JFK airport to the cab station. He chuckled and put an arm around her shoulders.
“It has been lovely meeting you and discussing relationship catastrophes with you, Annabeth Chase.”
“Don’t lose my number, okay? We’re remaining friends after this.”
“Absolutely,” he nodded. A cab driver waved his hand at him, and he rushed towards the car. “I’m waiting for the invite to your wedding!”
One year later
“Where the fuck are my shoes oh my god—”
Percy caught Annabeth’s arm as she ran past in a panic, the side of her white gown crumpled up in her hand to allow her to walk.
“Calm down, dude, they’re right there by the mirror,” he pointed to the back of the room. Annabeth turned and sighed in relief.
“Thank you, Percy. I feel like I’m gonna pass out.”
Percy helped her sit down on the chair despite the size of her dress, and slipped her heels on her feet. “Relax,” he said, a hand on her knee. “Everything is going to be great.”
Annabeth gave a hesitant smile. “Do you think Piper is a mess too?”
“Oh, definitely,” Percy snickered. “Let’s hope Jason is handling it.”
Annabeth grinned as he handed her a glass of water from the buffet. “God, making you two the best men is the best decision we ever made.”
“Nah,” Percy shrugged. “The best decision you made was being my friend.”
Annabeth stared at him, amused. “I can’t tell if you’re just bragging, or if you’re trying to be sweet but you suck at it.”
Before Percy could answer, there was a knock at the door.
“Come in!” Annabeth said.
Jason’s head poked through the door. Percy was handling it until he beamed, and his heart made a somersault.
“Hey there,” his boyfriend said. “Ready?”
Percy helped Annabeth to her feet. “How’s Piper?” Percy asked.
“Kind of freaking out, but she’ll be fine. It’s going to be great,” Jason guaranteed. Annabeth took a deep breath. Percy chuckled and put his hands on her shoulders.
“Let’s get you married.”
“You are such a lightweight,” Percy laughed as Annabeth sat down by the bar, obviously tipsy. She moved her head to the beat of the music instead of answering, still holding her empty glass. Percy looked around them. The wedding ceremony had been absolutely beautiful, and according to Annabeth, ‘deserved a good two or seven drinks’.
The second bride was dancing to Spice Girls in the middle of the dance floor with her sister, and Percy had lost Jason to Leo at some point.
“Hey!” Piper approached them as the song ended, and gave her wife quite a thorough kiss. Percy cleared his throat.
“Do you want me to leave, or—”
Piper pulled away and settled for intertwining Annabeth’s fingers with her own. “Are you having fun?” She asked Percy, her smile the biggest he had ever seen. He nodded.
Annabeth suddenly waved at someone behind him. He turned to see Jason coming towards them, bow tie forgotten loose around his neck, a red tinge to his cheeks Percy blamed on his few margaritas.
He didn’t bother holding back his grin as Jason came closer and settled a hand on his cheek. “Hey.”
They kissed for a beat longer than necessary. They had never been big on PDA, but Tipsy Jason definitely enjoyed it more than Sober Jason.
Percy wasn’t going to complain.
“So,” Piper looked at Jason, then at Percy. “When’s your turn?”
Percy choked on his gin & tonic. Jason laughed it off, his cheeks getting even more red. Piper only raised her eyebrow, stare unwavering.
Annabeth suddenly perked up and grabbed Percy’s hand. “Do you want to dance?”
Percy chuckled at her drunken state, glancing at his boyfriend and shaking his head in amusement. “I’ll be right back.”
Jason nodded, sitting on his stool when he left for the dance floor. Piper was still staring at him, intimidating as ever.
“What?” Jason asked.
“So when are you asking him?”
Jason paused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh no?” Piper smiled, making a head sign to the pocket of his pants. “You think I haven’t seen you fidget with that suspiciously tiny box all night?”
As stubborn as he could be, Jason recognized when he was defeated. He sighed.
“Goddamnit, Piper. Fine.”
He glanced at Percy, making sure that he was distracted dancing, before showing her the small velvet box. Piper’s typical satisfied smile bloomed on her face as she took another sip of her drink.
“So what are you waiting for to ask him?”
“Well, I was planning to do it after,” Jason said, putting the ring back in his pocket. “Didn’t want to take attention away from the brides, you know.”
Piper downed the rest of her drink, under Jason’s impressed eyes.
“Well,” she started, wiping a drop on the back of her hand. “I’m one of the brides and I declare that that’s stupid.”
Jason waited for confirmation, a dreamy smile appearing at the corner of his lips. “Really?”
“Go get yourself a husband, you absolute idiot.”