Percy Jackson was dyslexic and therefore never cared for reading, despite his mother's best efforts to encourage the hobby. Being ADHD made it hard enough to concentrate on the pages as it was, but when all the words were blurry and ill-defined on top of that, it was completely unsurprising that he'd avoid books as much as humanly possible.
Sadly, this was college, and now they had enormous college textbooks with hundreds of figures a page and lots and lots of content he needed to learn. And if Percy was going to become a marine biologist, he kinda had to pass all of his preliminaries with decent grades, despite being only mediocre at school. He tried, really, but this had never been his strong-suit.
Still, with the threat of the next round of exams looming over his head, Percy Jackson had to go read in the library and hope he'd be able to find and decipher additional texts for his classes.
In his two years of college, he'd never actually been to the campus library. It was an extravagant creature, with polished oaken floors, tall, thick bookshelves, hand-carved railings, and roll-away ladders spanning up to the roof. If he had actually enjoyed anything to do with novels, it may have been somewhat of a paradise, though the grandiose wasn't entirely lost on him. In a mildly impressed silence, he makes his way to the back of the room, settling down at the only remaining spare desk.
As he cracks open the books, time flows by, and soon the minutes slip away.
"You're at my table," comes a voice after a while, and when he looks up there's a blonde girl with hands on her hips. She's pretty, in an intimidating way, and her eyes, a steely silver, are sizing him up. Despite her jeans, converse, and regular university t-shirt, she seems like she could beat him to a pulp in about ten seconds flat.
So. Beautiful, scary, and out of his league. The epic triumvirate.
"Oh, sorry, it was the only one available. I don't really . . . study? I guess?" he answers, feeling as if he was somehow intruding on her territory. Which, since he was there first and this was totally a public place, wasn't true. But he's used to schools judging him, and being on campus has a way of making him shrivel beneath authority figures. "I'm dyslexic and ADHD, so reading isn't really my strong-suit."
"That's not an excuse. I'm dyslexic and ADHD and I love reading," she remarks, raising a pale eyebrow. "Clearly you didn't adapt like me."
"Well, it was kinda just me and my mom for a while, and she introduced me to audio books. Sadly, there weren't recordings for outdated college textbooks." He grins sheepishly. "Sorry if I'm sitting in your usual spot or something. I'm just sort of struggling with life right now." With a sigh, she slid into the chair next to him, dropping her books onto the counter.
"You're staying?" the student asks in a way that was barely a question.
"If I want to pass, then yes."
"I can help with this section, then. One of my roommates is taking this class right now and I've been giving her a hand with the content." He kind of just nods like an idiot, because he hadn't meant to mooch off of terrifying stranger ex-machina. But, at the same time, he's sitting at her table and he has less than no experience using this material. He could stand to get some help.
"Are you sure? It's not a problem?"
"I was just going to brush up on the history of the aqueduct, so it's not like I had a lot going on, I guess. Just, shush, I'll read it out loud." She clears her throat and tightens her ponytail, hands flattening out the page. "So, the . . ."
The next two hours (yes, Percy Jackson who can barely comprehend the word 'accidentally' when written down, was actually in a library with books and everything for hours at a time without combusting) went by in another blur. Annabeth, as he learned her name was, was not only intimidatingly pretty, she was intimidatingly clever and an amazing reader and tutor. She coached him through the areas he failed to understand and repeated the sections he couldn't quite wrap his head around without complaint. The blonde rolled her eyes, stuck out her tongue, scolded him, and groaned often, but on the whole she did her absolute best to make sure he got the concepts.
After realizing the time when her phone went off, loudly jolting both students out of their studying, Annabeth winces, apologizes, and packs up her things.
"Shoot, I've got to go. Can you be here at the same time next week?" she tells him, hefting up her bag and already walking for the door. Quickly doing the same (why, he had no clue; she had to go, not him, but something about her commanded following, anyhow), he attempts to keep stride with her.
"Um, sure, maybe. You were a huge help." She nods quickly, flashes him a brief smile, and continues onwards.
"Thanks, see you then!" Practically racing across the quad, she dials someone on her phone, the beginnings of a conversation becoming fuzzier with each step she took. "Thals? Sorry, sorry, I completely forgot. Yes I know it's not like me, yeah, yeah . . ."
Well. It looks like he was saved.
He goes back to the library for at least an hour each day. He doesn't really run into Annabeth during that time, but he wants to have some notion of what he's doing when she comes around to see him again.
Percy Jackson wasn't made for school, but he was the hardest worker a person could find. He did make flashcards, tried mnemonics, and dutifully went over and over content with his mother, though it didn't always stick despite his efforts. Again, though he was clearly not the next genius, high school had left him with a decent GPA, and a 3.37 was nothing to scoff at. Frankly, he was here on a swimming scholarship and nothing else; his mother wasn't made of money and they hadn't managed to save up much for college, financial aid set aside. He had practiced relentlessly to be the best athlete, to find a way to get in, and he had made it happen.
This was serious, though. He did not want his grades to drop and risk loosing all of his funding.
"So, you're studying I see," comes her voice, pleasantly surprised, and he finds himself smiling back.
"Yeah, impossible, I know. I'm trying my best."
"Liquefied your brains yet?"
"Almost there. It's like my frontal lobe is floating in kelp."
"Big words there, Seaweed Brain. One might almost believe you were an intellectual." He swivels around, grinning.
"Oh, like you?"
She grins back, ruffling his hair. "Yeah, like me. Now what section are you on?"
"In chem? I'm on the seventh chapter, halfway through advanced ionic bonds and balancing concentrations. In bio, I'm reviewing a part on interior cell structure in chapter four. Now, in calc and business . . ." He winces as if physically pained. Annabeth easily grasps the situation.
"Well, calculus is pretty simple once you get your head around the basic principles and memorize the rules. A lot of it steams from repetition and solvable proofs, but flat-out remembering a lot of the formulas - especially with limits - helps get around the actual derivations. How comfortable are you with piece-wise functions and particle velocity?" She takes his textbook into her hands and pours over one of the earlier chapters, pointing at a picture for reference.
"Um," he replies back, the model of intellect and responsibility. (A true mental giant. It's amazing he's gotten this far, really.)
"Great, so, we're starting there," she announces, flipping back to the beginning of a header. "Now, an important thing to remember here is that a lot of function rules stem from systems of equations. You typically set functions equal to eachother and solve for a missing variable based on a secondary number provided. For example, to find the constant for the variable c at any time in which the input, x, is less than or equal to three, the equation is x plus five. So, if the remaining equation were cx minus four, once a separate value was added to find the constant at a certain point - take three, since that's the x value used to divide the piece-wise function - you would make the function three plus five equals three times c minus four. The end resultant is the solved value for c, and the restrictions on the separate functions in relation to three tell a lot about the graph's parameters." She sketches it all out on paper as she explains, illustrating a practice problem alongside the book, and when she finishes, despite the fact that all the numbers and letters blur at the edges and take a bit to comprehend properly, it's so simple afterwards that it's incredible he didn't understand it the first time.
"That's a lot of the fundamental stuff behind actually solving for visible constants, yeah. It's fairly easy to pick up if it's presented right; I think they're starting to incorporate it into high schools now."
"Wow," he breathes, and suddenly the world makes a little more sense. "So, can you help me with another?"
"No problem. And then we'll work our way up, alright?"
She stays for the next five hours, literally doing nothing but explaining and re-explaining the principles behind level one calculus. Math, though it shared much with chemistry and bio, had never truly clicked the way his other accredited classes had. This was different. Annabeth made things logical, and she never teased him about not getting the basics before (well, never in a cruel way, anyhow). It was . . . nice, almost.
Yeah. It was nice.
"I owe you. Like, my firstborn child."
She snorts as she gathers up her notes again, tucking her calculator back into its case like a gunslinger sliding his pistol through a sheath. "I'll pass. With your winning qualities, it's going to be a heathen."
"An attractive, rakish heathen, though," he adds, pushing in her chair, "complete with a great disdain of math and a passion for destruction. The best kind."
"Someone has a high opinion of himself." She retorts instead, eyeing him sideways. "You're positively debonair in a ramen-stained hoodie and scuffed up tennis shoes. The bedhead adds to the appeal."
"Ah, so you agree. I ooze charm."
The blonde smirks. "You ooze something, yeah. I fear for the ozone." As Annabeth leaves, she waves and promises to be back in three days. Percy, like the ladies' man he is, sticks out his tongue in response. She rolls her eyes and walks away quickly after that, but he gets the distinct feeling that he might have made a friend.
(How, though, he has no clue.)
Over the next month, they meet up a grand total of seven times. She always finds something to mock him about, even when it's completely out of his own control ("You drool when you sleep, by the way. Nice to see you taking your studies so seriously, Seaweed Brain." "Annabeth, I'm running on bitterness and my mother's expectations, I had two essays to write, and I've gotten less than ten hours of sleep over the course of this week. I swear to all gods that are listening, I will end you."). He, in response, continues to exercise all the social poise he's manifested over his lifespan to keep on her good side, if that exists ("Is that coffee?" "I figured I owed you a Starbucks, Wise Girl. You have singlehandedly overtaken my entire course schedule, so. I'd be dying if you hadn't saved me." "Thanks . . . Percy?" "Yeah?" "Is there a reason it's cold as ice and very, very black?" "Like your heart, right? Had to show my appreciation in the most accurate way possible. You're welcome." "You're still self conscious about the drooling thing? Percy, you are almost a grown-ass adult, get over yourself, I'll hurt you so help me -").
The friends thing, though?
Kind of official. Kind of great, actually. At the very least, they have 'competitive banter' down to a polished shine.
It's after half a year that he meets Rachel.
Rachel is red-haired and creative, a confident art major who smiles brightly and laughs like wildfire. Her eyes light up when she discusses her future and her paintings, which she eagerly shows him pictures of. He begins to tell Annabeth about her, and the blonde isn't as receptive as he'd hoped.
"Rachel said that she's doing some sort of charity event to raise money for the art and theater departments this Saturday. You think it'd be fun to go?"
"I don't know, Percy," Annabeth says calmly, clutching her pencil a bit too tight. "What do you think?"
"I don't know, it looks cool. And it's always nice to show support for a friend. Last year, she was part of this 'living art' program where the students had to hand-make costumes and paint on themselves based on a famous painting. I really couldn't handle standing still for so long, but the pictures came out really good. Here, I think I have one on my -"
She gets up suddenly, slamming shut her textbook. It sends an audible ripple in sound throughout the library, almost echoing across the main floor. "Sorry, finished, just had to complete that section of notes. Anyways, Saturday sounds . . . neat, maybe I'll go if I have time." Which, Percy knows, she does. It's one of the rare weekends when she isn't swamped in coursework, and that's why he had wanted to do something fun with her. Rachel in particular had been dying to meet "the world-famous Annabeth Chase, future conqueror of Earth", which had also been nice.
So he smiles enthusiastically, saying, "Great, that's great, let me tell Rachel to count us in -"
"Now? Like, right now? You have her number and everything?" she interjects, face flushed red. He shrugs, as if it were simple.
"Well, yeah. How else are we supposed to talk outside of class?" The blonde ran a hand through her hair, eyes slightly slanted.
"Ah. I see."
"Yeah, not one for phones, but at least texting doesn't require proper spelling, so. It's easier to keep in touch."
"Oh, alright," the blonde responds in a way that strains her voice. She might not be so 'alright'.
"You okay, Beth?" he questions cautiously, because when Annabeth is upset she's more likely to flip over several tables and start pounding faces into the sand then break down crying. It's not that it's not more than a little impressive, but it is scary as hell and Percy doesn't want to die in the collateral damage.
"Fine, fine, everything's fine," she tells him, waving away his concern. "Really, it's cool. I've just . . . I think I'm gonna go."
"Percy, yes. Let me go die in a corner somewhere. This is college, we're all supposed to be miserable." Wearily, he lets her escape, brushing her shoulder as she goes.
(She smells like lemons and sunshine, but he doesn't say anything about that. She already thinks he's a dork as it is; he doesn't want to add fuel to the fire.)
Strangely enough, she catches a bug next Saturday night and can't make it to Rachel's event, so Percy takes Grover and his girlfriend and they peddle around the fundraiser like the uneducated swines they are. He takes pictures of the really good pieces and sends them to her, figuring that maybe the concept will cheer her up. Something must have clicked, though, because Annabeth seems right as rain next Monday.
Percy kinda-sorta springs Rachel on Annabeth one day in the library, because after a few weeks he figures it's time for them to meet.
"Hi, I'm Rachel Dare," she smiles, extending a hand splotched with dried blue paint. Annabeth shakes it with much reserve, squinting her eyes slightly.
"Um, yeah, nice to meet you. I'm Annabeth Chase, future architect." The redhead's grin turned crooked.
"Nice! I admire you for doing that, I'm really terrible at math. Frankly, you can build the new world, I'll just repaint the promos for it. Maybe we can tag-team, you know?" she says, and the blonde nods slowly. "It really is a pleasure, by the way. Percy talks about you all the time, so it's nice to put a face to the name."
"Okay, not all the time," he interjects weakly, but as Rachel laughs it off, Annabeth relaxes a little, starting to quirk her lips into something resembling a smile.
"Oh yeah, Seaweed Brain?"
"Shut up. I hate you."
"Excuse you, I'm the only reason you're passing half your classes, you know that, right?"
"As if." She raises a pale brow, crossing her arms, and he relents. Her death glare is terrifying, and he's no genius, but he's smart enough to know that no one who angers Annabeth Chase is allowed to live afterwards. "Alright, yes, I would be lost without you, roaming this mortal coil forever. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"You're so stupid."
"Damn, Percy," Rachel whistles, holding in mirth, "can you go twelve seconds without getting roasted?"
"Once he got to half a minute," Annabeth muses, shaking her head. "He didn't know what to do with the newfound freedom. His brain struggled to comprehend basic facts after that and I think he began seizing."
"Gods, I need to record this," the redhead smirks, taking out her phone. "K, so this is going into a new audio-folder on my laptop labeled 'Jackson's Shortcomings'. Just pretend I'm not here."
"Why did I ever think introducing you would be a good idea?" he moans, burying his hands in his hair. The aspiring architect flicks her fingers through the raven locks and sighs sympathetically.
"Oh, Percy, you don't have any of those. Ever. I thought you knew that by now." He simply sinks further into the table as the redhead cackles across from him. He truly despises his friends.
Annabeth declares she doesn't hate Rachel ("That's stupid, Percy, I'm not five." "You sure?") and Percy deems that in and of itself a victory. Of course, they aren't the best of friends, but Rachel is warm and Annabeth isn't actively trying to kill her. You know, yet.
(Rachel voices Percy the radical idea that, just maybe, the blonde was jealous or something.
"That's ridiculous," he had snorted. "It's not like Annabeth needs anything. She's smart, talented, sarcastic, and really, really beautiful. Like, unfairly so. What would she be jealous of?" Rachel stared at him for a long, long time. When it began to become uncomfortable she breathed deeply and said, "probably nothing.")
Percy gets a few days off (classes got canceled due to a small chemical leak in the science building, score!) and decides to take a beach trip. Naturally, he invites Grover and Juniper, but they're busy on an environmental protest, which is just typical to be honest. He tries for Annabeth, but apparently she's working some major project, so it's just him and Rachel driving down the surf in his stepdad's Prius, watching the water as they pull up to the side of the sound.
"Thanks for inviting me," she smiles, hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. Frankly, he's never seen her in anything besides art-sanctioned clothing and paint-smeared jeans before, so in her loose white blouse and swimsuit she looks like a million gold drachma. It's very distracting.
"Yeah, no problem," he replies back, and tries not to freak out. Because to some, this might qualify as a date, and he's not entirely sure he doesn't want it to be. Rachel's pretty, funny, and genuinely seems to like him, not to mention the fact that she's extremely gifted with a brush and great at what she does. Dare is the whole package, honestly, so he doesn't quite get how there's an iota of uncertainty over the 'is this a date' debate. It should be a no-brainer.
It's not a no-brainer, though. Percy's not so sure he wants to go out with Rachel, despite all her good points, and it's confusing as hell.
He dodges the subject for the rest of the day, snorting saltwater out his nose when she trips and gets a face-full of sand and laughing when she splashes him upside the head. At one point she takes out a camera and snaps at least a dozen photos, claiming she'd paint them later. As things wind down, they pile back into the Prius, and the redhead clears her throat.
"So, suppose two people, hypothetically, might like eachother," she starts, the setting sun through the windshield making her hair come alive in shades of gold and auburn. "What would it take to get the stupid guy to kiss the girl?"
"Um," he mumbles back intelligently, trying to remember more words. Any words, really. (How did talking go? He was pretty sure he'd done it all day.) "You. Huh?" Better, slightly, but that inspiring speech wouldn't exactly make it into the next english lecture.
"Yeah, me," she says with a smile, and in a deft move she's turning his face and kissing him gently. It's nice, and rather brain-numbing, but that's about it.
It doesn't go on for very long. Percy is sitting in a stunned silence, wondering what on earth just happened, and Rachel is pulling away, brow slightly taunt.
"That was . . . weird, right?" the redhead notes. Her tone isn't upset or regretful, merely introspective. "I mean, I thought, maybe, but . . . no, that was weird, right?"
"Yeah," the raven haired student replies, clearing his throat. Red is creeping up his neck, dark and deep, but he feels alright. Something akin to relief, oddly enough. "Definitely weird." She looks at him a while, and he looks back. It's not that anything has changed, per say, but he is absolutely sure on one thing now: he will not be dating Rachel.
They drive back to campus and it's honestly like the whole thing never happened. Rachel is quick to slip back into her role as a friend, joking and teasing him along the way, and he lets her ruffle his hair over the console without thinking about the romantic implications. It's pleasant, and a whole lot easier once the will-they-won't-they element sprinkled into their interactions.
He feels a bit like he's been dumped, which is pretty pathetic considering they never dated. It's freeing, though, and he can truly relax now.
"See you later, Percy," the redhead grins as she gets out of the car. "Thanks, by the way. It was fun."
"It was," he tells her, and he means it. "See you around, Dare." She salutes as she backs away, probably off to her dorm or the studio, and he doesn't experience a tinge of regret.
That night, Annabeth meets him for coffee, stressed out of her mind and wearing an ancient blue sweater. It's falling off one of her shoulders and is threatening to slip down to her knees. She's dressed in old, need-to-be-washed jeans, truly beaten up converses, and a hair-tie that's loosing its elastic. The only jewelry she has on is a chain strung with her father's college ring and a few beads from high school summer camp. Frankly, her lips are chapped and her eyes have bags and she must really, really need a nap.
All he can think as he sees her is that she's never been more pretty. Annabeth Chase, even at her worst, is undeniably beautiful.
And, on a side note, blue just happens to be his favorite color, and she looks awful good in blue. She should never change outfits.
(She should never change, period.)
"How did it go with Rachel?" the blonde asks, yawning as she manages the words. It's cuter than it should be. She hasn't always been this adorable, right?
"Good. Really good," he tells her, and she cocks her head to the side the way she always does when she wants him to elaborate. Annabeth thinks that, despite his average intelligence, he's a hapless idiot who should really use his words more. (How he knows that, he can't remember. It's just something he picked up about her.) "We're not dating, by the way," he ends up blurting out, lacing a nervous hand back through his darkened locks. "Rachel and I aren't a thing. And we won't be. We're just not like that."
There might be a blush forming on his tutor's cheeks, the lightest possible shade of pink. But she's Annabeth Chase, and she only really gets red in the face when she's passionate (read: angry) about something or fully, truly embarrassed, so that's probably ridiculous. And anyways, Annabeth is pretty damn fearless and has a will of titanium, making her absolutely terrifying to 'hapless idiots' like himself, so making her blush is impossible. That's not something he's physically capable of doing - she's too everything to be impressed by him.
That doesn't necessarily stop the hope, though.
"I thought you liked her," the blonde eventually tries, trying to suppress a grin (and failing epically). "Are you upset by that, or -"
"No, not really. I mean, I thought I did, a little, but . . . nope. She's just a friend." At that, Annabeth mentally abandons all hope of moderation and smiles wide, teeth and all. Percy smiles back. "What are we so happy about?"
"Nothing, just. Homework's done and your day was good. Rachel's good. I'm good. Everything's good." She orders her coffee and they spend the rest of the night watching cable TV flicks in Annabeth's dorm, just across from her equally scary roommate/best friend Thalia Grace, who looks like she could rip Percy a new one. However, she joins them with popcorn and cynical commentary during the screening and he doesn't end up dead, so apparently she doesn't hate him yet. Annabeth snorts when he does something especially stupid, which is fairly often, and Thalia stubbornly hogs the blankets.
It's about as close to perfect as he can get.
Annabeth wasn't ever about to mount Rachel's head on a stake, exactly, but there is a very telling lack of tension between the two now after it was established that Rachel wouldn't be dating anyone. The girls hang out, exchange numbers, and seem to get fairly close.
"You know, I think we have a lot more in common than I first thought," the architect student comments in a matter-of-fact way, tying up her hair again. "You know, besides berating you constantly." She smirks slyly. He hates/loves her conniving grins. "And, you know, we trade secrets. Your fifth grade was a true horror."
Percy likes that they are getting along. Really, he does. He just wishes that 'getting along' entailed activities other than conspiring against him.
"Annabeth, I swear to any god that will listen, if you tell her about the fifth grade field trip I will straight up kill you. I mean it. Swords and stabbing and everything. I told you that in confidence you little-" The rest of that conversation does not need rehashing. Suffice to say, Percy's only loyal friend is Grover.
Percy Jackson, at the end of his second year, manages to pass all his classes well within a good receiving range. It's all As and Bs across the board, with only one high C, and considering his track record with schools it's downright incredible.
He proudly gives Annabeth credit for his performance, and his mother (whilst smiling rather suspiciously) asks if he's ever going to bring Annabeth over for dinner. He shrugs, says "Probably", and Sally Jackson struts away, his little sister Estelle buzzing around the kitchen with curiosity about his friend. Coincidentally, it's only a few days later when he ends up doing just that.
When Annabeth tells him she's not going home to her dad this summer, he eagerly invites her to camp out with his family. Estelle is thrilled to have another girl in the house, being five and excitable, and Sally warmly agrees to her impending arrival. Though she insists that she doesn't want to be an inconvenience, Percy loudly recites the alphabet until she cedes, mainly to keep them from getting thrown out of the library.
The blonde moves into their spare room, which happened to belong to Percy until he moved to college. Like a gentleman, he takes the fold-out sofa. Annabeth insists that she'll survive sleeping in the same bed as him, to which he replies that she'd probably try to murder him in his sleep, and after that she rolls her eyes and lets the issue lie.
As it turns out, it's one thing to see Annabeth almost every day and hang out often. It's another to wake up in your mom's apartment and see the blonde in oversized pajamas, laughing with your step-dad and chatting about the environmental impact of smog on New York property and people. Now, that is endearing in a way that Percy hadn't even begun to imagine, but now he's seen it and he can't unsee it. She fits too well.
"Percy, Annabeth here is quite something. Did you know about her ideas for irrigation and carbon sequestration around new builds?" Paul Blofis questions, eyes practically sparkling. "It's genius. I really think your friend is onto something." His five year old sibling, already a menace, mouths the words 'girl-friend' behind her father. Percy doesn't insta-kill her, but it's a near thing.
Annabeth practically glows with pride, though, and then he can't even be bothered to muster back anger.
They stay with his parents for a week and five days, doing things with the family and generally hanging out, and it's physically hard for his heart to handle. Something just feels nice about the way he finds her toothpaste in his bathroom and his socks in her laundry, or even just her on his couch, occupying Estelle's attention span as his mom leaves on a shopping trip. He likes having Annabeth around too much, and it might be a sign of a greater problem but he cannot possibly force himself to think about anything right now - school is out, and that means he shouldn't have to think anymore, period.
So he ignores all those feelings and thoughts and bundles them up in the recesses of his mind, far away from prodding logic. He's not about to loose the marvel that is Annabeth Chase over some confusion.
She ends up getting a place near campus on a short lease, just until school starts up again. He does the same in a building conveniently located less than a mile away and visits often, mainly to convince himself that whatever fluke of nature that occurred when they camped out at Casa Blofis-Jackson was purely situational. The problem with that is that he'll see her half-asleep at her desk, ruffled and sleep-deprived, or he'll start itching to grab her hands as she flails them around mid-monologue, or he'll smile for no reason when she snorts. It's not natural. He doesn't know what to think.
By the end of the summer, she's met his family, been introduced to Grover and Juniper, voluntarily hung out with Rachel, and has spent most of her free time in his presence, calling him an idiot. It's . . . Percy's not sure he's ever been closer to someone, actually.
He needs an outlet. Some sort of distraction from the noise he gets in his head when he looks at her.
A girlfriend. He needs a girlfriend.