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Percy Sucks At Dating (And Other True Facts)

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For a split second, he considers ding-dong-ditching. It barely worked in the sixth grade but that's alright, he's just desperate enough to try again as an almost full grown man with rent and a career lined up. Would his age make his actions more or less pathetic? He could drop the flowers and run fast enough to be out of sight, right?

That's a stupid plan. Bad plan. He should forget that plan.

He swallows very hard and pulls down his shirt, which really doesn't need to be adjusted. Percy knocks on the door to her room.

A second after doing this, he realizes one Thalia Grace also lives there and he might get her instead. Thalia, who is both very uninterested and very vocal about her ability to maim things with her bare fists.

Nope nope nope don't think about that right now, he mentally scolds himself. That is actually going to give you a panic attack. Please don't faint of fear.

Though he tries to make the voices in his head settle, they continue to run around manically insisting that he should take cover. So many things could go wrong, like he could get smited. By who, he's not sure, but that sort of thing must happen all the time, right?

(Gods, he hates his overactive imagination sometimes.)

Percy attempts to remind himself of why this was a good idea. He's got something resembling a shot. He's reasonably intelligent, fairly attractive, athletic, decently funny, not an ass, and he genuinely knows, cares about, and is close to Annabeth. Maybe she'll go out with him, maybe she won't. Hopefully it won't be too awkward following any possible 'let's just be friends' declarations. Maybe -

"Hey, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth smiles, opening the door to the hall wide open. The ends of her hair are wet - she must have just come back from the showers. She smells, overwhelmingly so, like fresh soap and lavender, and, as her hair always does, lemons (recently accompanied by sweet mint). She's in a black summer dress, the kind she usually never wears, but he knows for a fact that this one was a present from her dad and stepmom for Christmas so she'd liked that they cared enough to send it - their relationship had been tumultuous at best when she was little and her widowed father had remarried and the opposing parties had only made amends about seven years ago. "It has pockets," she had announced affirmatively when she got the package, and he had melted. As a general observer might note, the dress looked good on her. Like, really good. It was flowy and light yet cinched at the waste, spaghetti strap with a sweetheart neckline. And, as any preteen boy might tell you, bare shoulders were the epitome of sexiness.

(What was his name again?

That part doesn't matter so much - he can't seem to forget hers.)

"Wise Girl," he says, hoping she doesn't realize that he's sweating bullets. He has no clue what exactly to tell her - all the words left his head the moment he saw her and it's some sort of silent agony.

Percy, as a rule of thumb, is pretty good with girls. He was never the most popular or most handsome prospect in every stomping ground, but he did have girlfriends throughout his schooling days and he managed to be somewhat charming and suave around them. With 'Beth, it's different. He's never been less than utterly himself and that means she's seen him at his worst and most desperate. He relies on her heavily. He can't exactly pre-plan elegance with her; she knows better.

Luckily, she spies the bouquet and her ears go pink. "Did you get me flowers? Like, actual flowers?"

That, at least, jolts him out of his stupor. "Yeah, this morning I went to this shop downtown. I know you like the fall color scheme and that dahlias are some of your favorites, so. I hope you like them and that you somehow have a vase in your dorm room so these don't wither and die."

"I don't, but I do have a spare water bottle," she replies, tucking a strand of almost-dry hair behind her ear. Her grin doesn't so much get wider as it grows softer, more vulnerable. It's a side of her that he doesn't see all that often, only catches glimpses of in particular moments that mean something (TM). He supposes this qualifies as one.

(Well, that's a confidence boost he sorely needed.)

As she fills the top-less hydro-flask and he sits on her tiny couch, he has to admit, he does relax. Percy begins to float into the Annabeth-designated mode his brain establishes for whenever his heart convulses around her and the world grows foggy. It's nice, as it reminds him that his was a good idea and this doesn't need to send his thoughts into a madcap, terrified scramble.

A healthy amount of anxious adrenaline remains, don't get him wrong. It's just that now it's accompanied by other things, like a pinch of perspective.

"So, out of curiosity," she says from the sink, finally shutting off the tap, "what inspired you to bring me flowers?"

"I guess I just wanted to," he shrugs, and oh look at that, he's smiling uncontrollably. That's the opposite of suave and sexy. (His chest is pounding. He might just combust. He's never felt so alive.)

"Alllll-righhhhhht," she drawls with a laugh, but now her neck is blossoming into shades of pink, the light and delicate colors creeping up her skin. "That makes a lot of sense."

"It's not a lie, if that's what you mean."

"It's just . . . weird, I guess. When was the last time you got someone flowers, Seaweed Brain?"

He's pretty damn honest when he responds with, "Never. I mean, I got flowers for my mom when she published her books and sometimes on holidays, but other than that, never. But you're one of my best friends and I've known you for years and honestly it's a lot different than when I get my mom flowers, so."

The blonde blinks. For someone so incredibly smart she's a little taken aback by where this conversation is going. " . . . So, the reason behind the flowers is . . ."

For this part, he has to stand up and look her straight in the eyes, so he does. "Well, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you. Or, at the very least, that I have a suedo-psychotic crush on you that's been around since a few summers ago. You are almost entirely to blame for the fact that I'm emotionally oblivious around other girls and the reason that I'm not currently dating anyone, because no matter how many times I can say 'we're just friends, don't get carried away', I can't stop looking at you and feeling things." She appears frozen solid. That's better than traumatized, honestly, and at least she's not running for cover. "Like, for some entirely unholy reason I freaking love it when you argue with people. Full-blown anger comes out when someone asks you questions you've deemed below your mental level because you know you're smarter than that, and when you fight with me it's honestly the most fun I've ever had, even though you win a lot. And when you talk about architecture, about building something to last for centuries, your face literally lights up like a Christmas tree, 'Beth, and it's incredible to find someone so passionate about concrete and scaffolding as you. I do not understand exactly what you see in peanut butter and banana sandwiches but you are absolutely ready to fight anyone who calls them an abomination, and the same goes for your friends, broken and messed up as they may be." He pauses, there, squinting. "And just so you know, peanut butter and bananas are an abomination, Annabeth, it's awful. But your flaws are kind of lovable too, like your defense of shitty sandwiches. You are an irredeemable perfectionist and you have no self control around chocolate, you push yourself way too hard - I wish you wouldn't, but you do, and you should let us take care of you more often - and you can never say no to someone in need. You think you could fix the world if you were in charge and you absolutely despise giving up control. I know you better than I know myself so when I say I love you, I'm not joking around or anything. I'm a bit of a lost cause." He finally tears his eyes from hers, noting how wide they are. It's almost like Annabeth has evolved into a state of paraplegic shock and will require extensive resuscitation.

He waits for a minute, and about ten seconds in his antsy ADHD brain, despite medication, is begging him to bolt or scream or tap-dance because it wants to do anything other than stand here and await the proverbial guillotine.

He essentially unleashed, with little to no internal deliberation or lead in, several years worth of repressed thoughts and emotions in a single long-as-hell monologue. Gods, it was a lot to take in, he knows. He just wishes she'd say something so he could stop panicking.

(Shit shit shit he's about to panic if she doesn't say something soon.

That was dumb. That was really, really dumb.)

"You don't have to . . ." he starts, but her face is so glossy - that better not be tears welling up - that he just has to fade out of conversation. (Shoot!)

He clears his throat again.

"You don't have to say anything right now, it's fine if you . . ." Mercilessly pound my heart into the ground? "Don't feel the same way, or something, it's okay." Nope, that makes it sound like he doesn't care. "I mean, it's not okay, I'll sort of be a mess -" Too desperate, too selfish, stop now abort abort . . . "- but after a few rounds or resuscitative therapy I should be okay, and I don't want to force you into anything. I mean, whatever you want I'll be good with. Or I'll try to be. I just . . ." What did he want? What did he think this would accomplish? "You." He coughs. That was . . . not helping. "To continue being my friend. Even if it doesn't work out."

"Percy, I don't . . ." she finally says, and oh look, he's actually made her cry. That's a not-good thing he's done - no one is ever supposed to make Annabeth Chase cry. He wishes there was a button he could press to eject himself into the void of space, but alas, he's button-less. "I don't know what to say."

(Instinctively, he takes a step back - retreating is just what he does when he's about to lose people, and he's terrified of what she's about to do. She's probably finding the words to let him down easy with, right? Shoot. Grover and Rachel and Reyna and all his other friends were going to die a bloody death by his lonely, incredibly single hands, provided he's able to recover from his depression slump and regain the motivation to kill them one by one.)

And then, out of nowhere, Annabeth sees his subconscious shuffle and acts on what he has to assume is pure animal instinct. Her eyes narrow, her back draws back, and she leans forward and actually judo-flips him.

What. The ever-loving hell.

Now, he'd assumed that Beth could physically destroy him for years, as could most of the members of his closed circle of friends. However, he never once thought that after sensing his utter panic she'd actually be able to grab his wrist and swing him into the floor like a sack of potatoes. It's incredibly surreal.

Mind you, every bone in his body is aching from being driven into the carpet at 120 mph and he's pretty sure she's dislocated his hand, but it's nothing short of incredible. Even broken, he's too far gone.

"Seaweed Brain, still alive?" she questions, worry seeping in seconds afterwards.

He groans, which probably doesn't inspire much confidence. "All my limbs are still attached."

"Good, because I'm not finished talking and you're not going anywhere, idiot," she tells him, chest heaving ferociously from both the sudden motion and the blatant concern. Her arm is still squeezing his. "You were actually going to leave before hearing what I had to say?"

"Well, is there another declaration you want me to make tonight? A rousing speech about ending global hunger and instating world peace as a -"

"Dammit, Percy, I really hate you sometimes," Annabeth groans, and it's then that she sinks to the ground next to him. Her freckles glow against the red of her face. "You're so damn lucky I love you."

His eyes . . . well. In cartoons, he'd seriously doubted that conventional physics would be able to allow human facial features to grow dramatically to the size of saucers, but now he's fairly certain the myth's been confirmed. "You . . ."

"Please be quiet now," she says, and then it's a very simple slotting of lips to lips.

In books and movies, the potency of first kisses is captured with fireworks and whistles and bright flashes of color and light. There's heat and passion and alarms blaring and world halting and it's all meant to be wrapped up in a blanket of awe and magic. Percy, absentmindedly, doesn't believe any of it after kissing Annabeth. All the dramatic attraction and commotion is a smokescreen, and all the heavy romanticism would be much better attributed to the quick and desperate explorations undertook with his first few girlfriends (a bunch of Stacey Smiths or Celia Mays or Anne Grants or a slew of other forgettable, unremarkable footnotes better left forgotten). This is nothing like that because she is nothing like that.

Annabeth is a symphony of sensation, as she always is: there is the sweeping curve of her neck, the intense blonde and lemon of her hair, the rolling thunder behind her irises, the pianist fingers that might, given more time, dance across his ribs like black-and-white keys. When she kisses him, it's as if thoughts fly away, caught in that crucial place between reality and dreams. Her lips breed smiles than flit from her mouth to his, that bleed into her toes and pool through his very being. Skin on skin is warmth that culminates, that spreads like spools of silken gold and wrap tightly around his brain, continuing to draw his hands instinctively to her waist, that pull her arms around his chest. They are a tangle on the floor, an absolute jumble of poured sunshine and new beginnings and an awful lot of feelings and hope, but the world does not stop like stereotypes insist it should. The planet spins on, faster and more vibrant, the ill-defined corners and hazy shadows illuminated by new understanding and acceptance. It's not raunchy, or particularly suggestive, but Percy feels it like a fever he can't - and doesn't want to - sweat out. This is what it's like, he manages to think deliriously. This is what it's supposed to be like. This is what right is. And it begins and ends with Annabeth Chase.

The one thing that media has managed to capture correctly: loving someone is a hell of a lot like finally coming home.

When they first disconnect, Percy's conscious mind takes a few moments to fully register that life is no longer the same. He's jittery, unstable, and yet he feels like his very blood has been hot-wired, like he can take on the world and come out on top. And when he looks at Annabeth, hair disheveled, pupils blown wide and dotted with extra silver, he can't help but grin all over again.

This was, quite possibly, the best idea he's ever had.

(Why the hell did he get so scared?

Annabeth inflicts raging destruction on those who cross her, but he was special. She loved him.)

"Wise Girl," he starts to tell her. There's no attempt at a grand romantic gesture - right now, she's curled on her living room floor next to him, arm still strewn atop his side, mouth puffy and tweaked from a kiss she gave him, and with her so close he'd honestly pay to stay there forever. "I would absolutely love it if you would go to dinner with me tonight." The aspiring architect hums as if thinking it over, burying her cheek in his shoulder as if she hasn't given herself away. It's endearing, and now he'll think thoughts like that whenever he wants.

"Dinner and a movie," she eventually responds. "A terrible one. A complete waste of money. I want to plot-poke it to hell and back." He grins wider, if that's possible.

"And after?"

"Bold of you to presume there's going to be an after," the blonde replies immediately, biting down a full beam.

"What can I say? I'll take my chances."

"If you survive -"

"I'm fairly confident I will."

"- an entire evening in my presence -" she continues, and oh look, the smile has burned through after all.

"I have faith in my capabilities of charm and persuasion, thank you very much."

"- then maybe I'd allow you to walk around the park with me, followed by an escort back to my humble domicile."

He quirks up an eyebrow. "And we'd be eating ice cream, right?"

"At eleven at night, Seaweed Brain?"

"It's very us, you have to admit," the marine biology student grins. For no reason she finds herself laughing (her laughs are not delicate but full and deep, never faked and dosed with a healthy amount of snort, and even though it's throaty and she hates it slightly he finds the sound addictive), he laughs with her, and it's an awful good thing that they're both already horizontal - they would have fallen over and died otherwise.

"We're an 'us', Percy?" she finally asks him between frantic gasps for air. This is how it's meant to be - her and him, a mess on the floor together. He wants to spend the rest of his life laughing.

"I would really really like there to be an Us, full stop, 'Beth," he says. It's the truth. "And if you actually go out with me tonight, there will be. I'm all or nothing."

She knits her fingers through his, eye twinkling with mirth. "You know, I always thought we made a pretty good team."

They eat at a small hole-in-the-wall burger joint because Annabeth wants shake fries, and frankly he's inclined to give Annabeth whatever she wants at the present. (If he were feeling more sappy - or, alternatively, was a little tipsy - he'd offer up his heart. But that's rather silly - he already gave her that thing years ago.)

It's not fancy. Annabeth is in two-day old eyeliner, a messy ponytail that keeps getting yanked by the wind, and a blouse that's escaping its careful tuck into her jeans, but she's also wearing one of his oversized flannels so all in all he's a fan of the ensemble. When she walks along the street she holds his hand, and when she points at historic buildings it's always to show him some unique design feature she's passionate about. True to form, she talks through the whole film, which was a god-awful chick flick about two average busy adults finding love (read: She's a small-town baker with big dreams and he's an ex-model settling down as the new elementary school teacher, will their instant attraction grow into something that lasts?). He cannot remember being more obnoxious in a theater - he couldn't stop goading her on or snorting, which probably didn't endear them to the people around them. Annabeth's digs frankly made the whole experience survivable.

Lastly, they do in fact get ice cream and walk around the city. It's low key, there are no concrete plans, and the dimming street lamps and reemergence of sun spots on the horizon as they finally arrive back at campus probably mean that they spent way too much time out. But when she tries to hand back his shirt and he stops her, probably reciting a stupid line his brain kindly decided to whitewash from his memory, she smiles so widely it's almost painful to watch.

"You're free tomorrow, too," she announces. It's not a question, just a command of fact.

"And so are you," he agrees, cottoning on instantly.

"So, can we say six?"

"I'm coming directly after classes, Wise Girl, and then I'm abducting you for the whole night. This is a non-negotiable thing."

"Sounds great." It does, doesn't it? "Oh, and Percy?"

"Yeah?" She kisses him again. It's just as warm and sensational and all-consuming as it was before, and her mouth burns a hole in his stomach.

She's far too smug when she pulls back. Now there's the sadistic streak he knows and loves, she's been far too accommodating all day for it to be banished completely.

"Have fun walking home," the blonde calls, quickly pecking his cheek and closing the door. His fragile ego is only appeased when he hears her squeal to Thalia from behind the door ("Thals, I have to tell you everything, it's been a day and I -" "Annie, I love you, but it's two in the freaking morning and you just woke me up and I am not lucid enough for you to start pterodactyl screaming yet, okay?").

Being his mother, Sally Jackson is the first to find out. He happens to text her something along the lines of: So Annabeth and I are kinda dating now, just thought I'd let you know. Seeing that, not a minute later she calls and he can hear the tears in her eyes.

"Percy?" she starts. "Something you want to elaborate on?"

He goes for cheeky first - he's feeling bashful. "Well, it's a lovely morning today, Mom, blue skies as far as the eyes can see. Want me to tell you about my new haircut? It's not a mullet, so I've got that going for me."

"Oh honey, you know why I'm calling," she fusses, smiling over the other end. "Stop being charming and tell me exactly how it happened."

"The non-mullet?"

The brunette woman laughs heartily, the kind of echoing chuckle that fills a room with warmth. "Annabeth, Percy. How did you snag my future daughter in law?"

The college student has to admit that he melts beneath those words. "Well, I came to her room with flowers -"

"Orange ones?" she interrupts, and he realizes with a grin that he's told his mom just about everything he knows on Annabeth Chase.

"Yes, orange ones, her favorites. And then she let me in and I kind of just . . . spewed the words? Everywhere?" His tone turns grim. "Mom, it was worse than the fifth grade field trip."

"Aquarium shark tank and all?"

"It was a new level of disaster, even for me."

"I doubt that highly if she's still going out with you," his mother appraises with her infinite wisdom. "Now, what was it like? What did she say?"

"Well . . ." He tells her the rest of the story in borderline-excruciating detail and lots of rambling, to which Sally replies with fond comments and much cooing.

He leaves out the part about her judo-flipping him, though. Much as she loves him, Sally would never let him live it down.

At the very end of the hour-long conversation his mother states simply, "She's the one." It is in no way a question.

"It's . . . well, it's been a day. A lot can happen."

"Percy, it's been years. She's your one." She says it with absolute conviction. "There can be multiple ones in a lifetime, but she is a one. I really hope you two are happy, alright?"

"Alright, mom," the raven-haired boy replies softly, and oh, when did that tear roll down his face? (He elects to ignore it - he's entitled to feel sensitive now and again, okay?) "We'll try our best."

"I know you will, honey. Bring her along next time you visit, okay?"

"Sounds like a plan."

When the friend group finds out, it's at a mass trip to the beach they'd planned almost nine weeks prior, but it almost seems a bit like fate when Percy looks out at all his makeshift family and sees them all in one place, happy and bursting with life.

Seriously, they rented out an enormous cabin for the weekend and it's. Well. It's probably everyone he actually knows and cares about.

Of course there's Grover and Juniper, his actual oldest and dearest companions who happened to be back in town again for a visit. Currently they're sitting on a blanket in the sand, June laughing hysterically at something her boyfriend said - probably a plant pun, if he's being totally honest. They're terrible at best but Grover never runs out of them and Juniper never stops giggling, so Percy figures it's just one of their many things that couples develop. As she leans against his shoulder and they take in the afternoon, legs intertwined, Percy cannot imagine them anywhere else.

Rachel is there, splashing in the waves eagerly as Thalia attempts to teach her how to surf. Thalia, much to Percy's surprise, is a master of every damn sport known to man and in only a bathing suit, it's abundantly clear that she has a pristine six-pack and calves that can cut glass, which is more than a little intimidating. He's not out of shape by any stretch of the imagination, but he's not superhuman. Frankly, in mannerisms alone Thalia is an apex predator, and when she smiles it's downright wolfish. But seeing her like this, patiently teaching a bubbly Rachel Dare how to jump up on a board, is almost a little touching. Thalia is a genuinely caring, patient, kind person when around those she loves.

A bunch of his new buddies pitched in, too - Hazel had never been to a beach before and was practically squealing with excitement when she got there, reveling in the feel of sand beneath her feet and salt against her skin. Frank trailed behind her like a lumbering giant, at one point throwing her over his shoulder and tugging her into the water with a booming laugh. The younger girl wasn't put out by it in the slightest - in fact, she welcomed the waves and requested he dunk her with a twinkle in her eyes.

"it's like drowning, but fun!" she exclaims upon coming back up to the surface, curly dark hair plastered sideways against her forehead. "Throw me again?" Frank did. And again. And again.

"She's going to get seawater in her brain," Reyna comments, but it's entirely without bite. She's more than happy to lean back on the grainy white and read a book, bathing in the sun and occasionally picking up shells around her. Suddenly, stiffing a grin, she turns back to the ocean and yells, "Piper, you need some help?!"

"Betrayal!" Jason screeches as his girlfriend maniacally slaps him with another wall of water. He made the mistake of splashing her in the eyes once, and it was just about the biggest regret of his life currently. "Reyna, you're supposed to be on MY side, I'm the victim!"

"She loves me moooooooore!" Piper cackles as she spurts him again. It's not quite a water war that's cultivated, it's more akin to the pulverizing of a single standing army. "Help me destroy him, Rey, steal his glasses!"

Setting down her book and cracking her knuckles, she gets up without hesitation. "Oh, with pleasure." Together, Piper and Reyna are terrifying. Despite the many reasons why Reyna shouldn't like the other girl, she had instead come to know her and sincerely enjoyed being around her. Jason . . . well, it still hurt sometimes, the phantom feelings that flared up, but every day was a little easier to manage, and since becoming Piper McLean's friend it was a lot easier for Rey to move on. Turns out they had a lot in common - no moms, an addiction to all things sweet, and a healthy obsession with making life for their blonde idiot as difficult as possible. It's good for them, and frankly Percy couldn't be happier that they're getting along.

"Leooooooo, avenge me," Jason calls out desperately towards his last ally on the shore, "I need you!"

The latino boy snorts, not bothering to look up from the watch he's carefully dissecting with a screwdriver. "Are you insane? I'm not going up against Piper and Reyna, I value my life thank you very much." The look on Jason's face - absolute and devastating abandonment - is worth a thousand words.

And speaking of a thousand words, Percy's got about ten times as many to describe the girl standing next to him, tucked beneath his arm as if she belongs there.

"How long until they kill themselves?" she asks fondly. He buries his head in her hair - it's as lemony and familiar as always.

"Less than three minutes, tops," he hums, running a hand through the golden locks. He loves that he's able to do that now.

(Also, the kissing thing is great, too. Fantastic, even. But it's the little things like this that bring him joy in life, so.)

"Should we intervene?" she mumbles, tucking her arms around his neck so she can look him in the eyes. "I mean, dragging the bodies back to the cabin is going to be a pain."

"Eh, they can survive a little longer," he whispers back, and when she presses her lips to his it's like liquid sunshine. For a few blissful seconds he truly and fully forgets the rest of the world exists, content to just keep smiling against her mouth.

And then he can hear a loud whoop from one meddlesome Leo Valdez, accompanied by, "Since WHEN?!" and what he assumes is a whistle coming from Rachel's general direction.

Because oops, there are other people around them and this is a public space. Too late, now.

"How long?" Reyna starts, crossing her arms. But, despite the authoritative tone she uses as she walks back to the sands to begin interrogation, he knows she's happy for them.

"About two weeks," he informs, grinning widely. "Sorry for not saying anything." He's not sorry. Like, at all.

"You guys," Hazel says and she begins fanning her face. When she runs up to them her small stature doesn't keep her from positively crushing the pair in a hug. "I knew it I knew it I knew it!"

Thalia has a shit-eating grin, as she should since she was one of the few that knew - he may have called up Grover at about midnight a week ago and mentioned something, so. He might have possibly been in on it.

"It's not that big a deal," Annabeth insists with a helpless smile. "We're just happy, is all."

"Break her heart we break your spine," Piper casually throws out from the back. He sticks out his tongue at her. Jason takes this opportunity to steal back his glasses before his psychotic friends can regain situational priority again.

"Trust me, I'll be doing that myself," the blonde says, pecking his cheek in a way that sends tingles down his spine. "Right, Seaweed Brain?"

"Nothing to worry about, Wise Girl," he responds, and with that they link hands. Leo pretends to hurl and they all gladly ignore it.

(Later in the night, one Thalia Grace comes up to him and pokes him in the stomach. It takes all his willpower not to double over - that would only give her the satisfaction of knowing her evil plan came to fruition.

"I'm glad you two finally got together," she states, ruffling his hair like a mischievous older sister. Coming from Thalia, it means a lot.

"Thanks, 'Lia."

She shrugs. "It's true. Just remember to name one of the kids with me in mind, okay? You wouldn't believe how many rants I got from Annie - trust me, I've earned the right to be immortalized in the next generation."

"Kids?!" he sputters, red in the face.

The spiky-haired woman merely snorts and pats him on the back. "Your happiness is clearly contagious. Just like chlamydia." In a flash, she's gone, probably traveling back to the hellhole from which she spawned.

But kids. Now that's an idea.)

Their fourth year begins with Annabeth Chase muttering the words, "So I was thinking . . ." Percy, from his position on her tiny dorm couch, looks up from the newspaper he was attempting (and failing) to decipher. The print was just so small and blocky, so blotted with thick ink, that it was near impossible for him to read. However, he'd really tried to get better at reading over the summer, though it was all greek to him - his girlfriend did it proficiently, so he would too. If the marine biology student had been so worried about finding a guy good enough for her, it was only fair that once he actually got the dream he should work to become the man he thought she deserved. This was a step in that direction.

(Rachel flat-out told him, "That's the cheesiest thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth, Jackson, and I've heard you romanticize her elbows before." It was a scathing blow, though probably not an undeserved one.

When Rachel eventually finds someone to obsess over he really needs to remind her of this, followed by a healthy dose of mockery and persistent nagging. He'll start a fan-club. Hell, he'll even print out shirts to sell and a portion of the proceeds will go to an obscure art-oriented charity so she can't complain about his meddling. Dare-related escapades are truly a wellspring of opportunity for him - if the whole marine biology thing doesn't work out, maybe this will be his fall-back.)

"You were thinking," he repeats, jarring himself from his inner-monologue as he neatly folds the paper in two. "Well that sounds terrifying. Am I getting executed tonight? If you're planning my demise I'd appreciate it if you could not do that at my mom's tonight, she's really protective of her new carpet and it'd be a shame if my blood stained it forever."

She hums silently as if mulling over the prospect. "Tempting, but not at the moment. Your death at my hands would be a lot more elegant and clean than that, though, Seaweed Brain, the best killers don't leave messy evidence like that. Too much work to hide."

"Ah, so my murder is a mere inconvenience. That's all that's keeping you from doing a hit-and-run on a day-to-day basis?"

She rolls her stormy eyes, not offended in the slightest. As she does nothing but maneuver the kitchen in sweatpants and a racer's back tank, a sock slipping down her right foot and her hair messy and loose, he soaks in the scene. That girl, he thinks, is entirely mine. It's a miracle.

"You're lucky I love you," the blonde sighs, which isn't an answer but he rather likes her response anyhow. She deposits a mug of freshly-brewed coffee from a truly terrible Keurig machine that was probably outdated twenty years ago. It's just about the worst swill they've ever had but it's cheap and located in the comforts of her place which makes it preferable to bearing the autumnal streets.

"Love you too, 'Beth." He means it. When her mouth briefly meets his and she lazily sinks into his side, murmuring softly about how damn freezing her pad is and how heat would be nice when it's less than forty degrees out, he knows she means it too. That more than just about anything - the way she falls into him without thinking or trying - gives him hope. So much so that it's deafening. "You want to say something?"

Her nose scrunches. "About my idea or in general? Because my US History class has made me seriously question the expertise behind executive positions of power. Like, Reagan's economic policies actually spiraled the national debt out of proportion and added a grand two hundred billion a year to loses via defense spending. Isn't that crazy?"

"While that's very interesting I'd much prefer to know what exactly you had to say earlier," the raven haired boy states, casually fiddling with her fingers in his lap. On her palms he sketches invisible circles, looping over the skin in a ceaseless pattern.

"I don't know, I was just thinking maybe we could move in together?"

Percy blinks.

That was . . . not what he was expecting.

"I mean, I obviously trust you," the aspiring architect says with confidence, "and I really don't see us splitting up any time soon."

"What a relief, Wise Girl," he replies wryly, "you're not sick of me after six months of pure agony." His companion swats him with surprising strength. He probably deserved it.

"What I mean," she glares without any true heat, "is that the new semester is starting and it's cheaper and smarter to live off campus and maybe, since you kinda almost live here anyways, that you could live with me. That we could, I don't know, buy or rent a place together?" He opens his mouth to talk and then she cuts him off without allowing for a word edgewise. "Look, I don't know what you were envisioning when you saw us but right now I see waking up with you and sharing shitty coffee just like this, maybe sitting by the television late at night and not saying goodbye because you have to go home to sleep. I think this is a semi-permanent thing that we've got going and I want to build something that lasts, Percy, and after these last few months I'm seriously thinking about building that with you. Because I don't know what life without you is like but I hate the idea of not having you around like this, just sharing the paper on the couch." She swallows loudly and for half a second he gets the insane notion that Annabeth Chase might be nervous. "So what I'm really asking, I think, is if you want a future, and if that begins with moving in and graduating and sticking together as we job-hunt and maybe even move again. And if you think I'm moving too fast here or if that sounds a little crazy, I'd like to know now. Because I know I'm a control freak and I like planning things out, but when it's about this I just -"

"Annabeth," he interrupts, trying not to laugh and thus cause her to implode. "I'd love to go apartment hunting with you. Pull up the listings and I'll go wherever you do." Now his girlfriend blinks, long and hard, and a smile of pure relief breaks out over her features. When she leans into his lap and hugs him it takes forever for her to let go. (In fact, he almost believes she never will.)

As weeks pass, it's evident that Annabeth and Percy are not the only ones making plans for the future. Jason and Piper are definitely considering getting a place together, Frank and Hazel are actually talking child names if you can believe if, Grover and Juniper are discussing opening a small renewable energy firm as a kick-starter company due to their majors in environmental law and business, and Reyna is now beginning to mention an annoying guy who grates her nerves like no one else in her english lecture, a development that makes Percy root for her final shift in the moving on process.

And then, of course, the very single and very erratic Leo Valdez comes up to the group at lunch in the quad with an intriguing tale.

"I've met someone," Leo Valdez declares with a strangely serious and contemplative look on his face. "And I think I like her. A lot."

"Oh, Leo," Piper says softly, glancing at her friend with such hope and pride, almost resembling a touched older sister. "We knew you would."

"What's she like?" Hazel questions encouragingly, leaning forward with anticipation. "I'm sure she's wonderful."

"She's really smart," he begins with, and Percy's eyebrows fly skywards as he realizes that these descriptors will be actual characteristics as opposed to a long list of body features justifying why the girl in question is attractive. All that to say, Leo talked to the woman instead of just observing her from afar and driving her off with cheap pick-up lines.

What do you know? The illusive Leo Valdez might just have found a probably mate after all.

"She's smart in math, yeah, but she's just . . . observant, you know?" the latino boy continues, running a hand through his curly dark hair. "And she's quick, and really funny once you get her humor. She loves helping people and she volunteers a lot, but she's also freaking terrifying when she's mad. Like, seriously, I was afraid she'd kill me, she was so mad . . . but she's also really kind, too, and considerate. She loves music and sings like an angel and she's decent at mechanics and great at sewing and she can cook better than gourmet chefs, I'm not even exaggerating." Here, he grows quiet. "I'm . . . pretty sure her heart's been broken before. By a bunch of guys who didn't hold a candle to her, I'm sure, but she has a hard time trusting people because they never seem to stay, and as a foster-care-troubled-youth-next-family-new-town kid I guess I get that but - guys, she thought my dream of opening up a shop was brave, and I just don't go around and tell women stuff like that. Hell, I'm lucky if I text them once or twice, I just . . . this connection, this thread, it's not like anything else." He slumps back in his chair. He looks completely and utterly destroyed, and for the first time since Percy's met Leo, the mechanic is completely still. "She's beautiful, guys. Way out of my league, way too clever and witty and selfless and gorgeous and everything and I am absolutely certain that there's no way I'd be good enough for her."

Now, if there's one thing that Percy's learned, it's that the dream is absolutely achievable - he gets to get up in the morning tangled in the sheets with her, a blonde girl with long legs and big ideas who whispers stupid stuff like, "You drool too much," at six every damn day. He gets to hear about her grievances, gets to watch her devour food like a banshee after finals, gets to walk her to classes in the afternoons. And it's not because he was superhuman, it's because she wanted him in all his entirety, the idiot who needs help with classes and probably couldn't tie his shoelaces anymore without her supervision. If Percy gets all that, then who says Leo Valdez, the orphaned boy with his head in the clouds and his hands in constant motion, can't win the girl who makes him feel again?

The answer is no one. Absolutely no one.

"If you like her all that much, go for it, man," Percy nudges, giving Leo a pat on the back. "And if she doesn't reciprocate you'll still want her around, right?"

"Ideally yes," the other man grumbles, scratching the back of his neck self-consciously. "But that also implies that she'll want me to continue hanging out with her, and as someone entirely beneath her I can say with confidence that she will be calling the shots."

"Whipped already?" Rachel comments. It's more of an observation than a real jab, but the aspiring mechanic flushes deeply anyhow.

"Rachel Elizabeth Dare, I will actually set fire to your house tonight."

She shrugs. "That's alright. The property's insured." He groans and drops his head into his arms, mumbling something lowly about redheads being more trouble than they're worth.

Reyna simply pats his head. "If she's the one, you'll find out soon enough."

"i appreciate your pity, Rey," he responds quietly, not looking up. Piper fiddles with his hair across the table for the rest of the hour whilst Jason and Hazel attempt to gently pry more details from him.

Annabeth squeezes Percy's hand in sympathy beneath the table. He rests his chin atop her forehead and proceeds to press careful swirls into her knuckles.

Leo will get there, and if he doesn't, then he'll still have all of them. It's not the same thing, but it's a damn sight better than nothing at all.

Reyna happens to go apartment searching with them. At times the two girls make him feel like an awkward third wheel observer in an unpopular episode of House Hunters.

"This one has a great location and the floors are in decent shape, but the kitchen countertops do not go with the cabinets, Annabeth," the modern-day Valkyrie notes. "I mean, black on lime green? It's ghastly. Like a Tim Burton movie set."

"Yes, but the layout is really convenient and if we painted over the preexisting cabinets -"

"Maybe you should negotiate the paint costs with the landlord, that color is actually an affront to my eyesight and I think you can legally call it a hazard to human health, so -"

"We could do that, yeah, but about the window placement -" the blonde starts, gesturing at the white windowpanes and taking out an actual ruler to measure the sides.

"Only twenty inches? But for an apartment this size I mean -"

"Where do we sign?" Percy interrupts with a cough. The frazzled realtor standing in the corner straightens her blazer and begins pulling up documents from inside her manila folder.

"Seaweed Brain," Annabeth responds, "we didn't even start to say anything about price point or feasibility or -"

"As you and your surrogate girlfriend have so nicely put -" Reyna waves from the side. "- it makes sense. It's close to campus and our favorite haunts, it's got good bones, and if the worst thing we can debate on is the color of the cabinets then I think we'll survive." He pauses. "Plus, you were in love with it since we stepped inside, so. It's a win for me."

The aspiring architect blinks, then blurts out, "I love you."

"Yup, and don't forget it, I'm going to be painting cabinets for you and it's going to get all over my jeans. I only have, like, two good pairs, Annabeth, I'm sacrificing so much for your happiness."

"I love you," she repeats again, a giddy expression overtaking her face, and Reyna uncomfortably shuffles in the corner.

"If you guys are about to viciously make out, say something now so I can leave," she mutters with genuine fear. "While I love you guys, I don't want to witness the conception of your future spawn."

"It'll only be a minute," his girlfriend tells their friend with a wink that's only half-joking before she crashes her lips to his.

If anyone's curious, they sign the contract exactly forty five minutes later.

Of all the different Annabeth Chases Percy is lucky enough to know, this one is definitely his favorite. The one with golden hair fanning out against their pillows, eyelashes fluttered closed and makeup-less. She's got sleep around her eyes and a bit of a snoring problem and yes, there's a few blackheads here and there. A pajama sock is slipping down her heel and a pant leg is halfway up her knee, and frankly her arms are strewn out akimbo in a way that would be physically impossible to achieve while conscious. As far as attractiveness goes, she's far from picturesque when sleeping - it's about her least put together, actually. Contrary to the media's fond and long-held belief that beautiful people remain just as beautiful and alluring when dead to the world, sleeping people are just about the most uncomposed and unappealing batch of humans you could possibly find. And yet, this is a relaxed and utterly trusting Annabeth, one that doesn't know worry or stress or fear. The rise and fall of her chest is remarkably stable and calm, a metronome he cannot fall asleep without now that he's memorized it's steady hum, and it continues to amaze him that she feels safe and unafraid because heis sleeping beside her. This is an Annabeth no one can see but him, an Annabeth he doesn't have to share or describe or riddle out, and it's incredible that such a woman exists.

Eventually, though, she stirs - it might be due to the sunlight streaming in from the curtains they forgot to draw shut the night before, or the fact that he's been doodling invisible stars on her forearms with his fingers for the past half hour. When she actually returns to the realm of the living it's similarly un-dainty. She yawns and he gets full exposure to the natural phenomena known as morning breath, coupled with a stretch that nearly ends with a fist breaking his nose. But then she snuggles her head into the crook of his neck and in a throaty voice utters the words, "'Morning, Seaweed Brain, you slept well?"

"Good morning, Wise Girl," he responds, grinning lazily. "I slept like an actual rock, as usual."

She grimaces. "Your mouth smells like death." Because he's a good boyfriend, he proceeds to breathe directly into her face. You know, like a child. "Stop, gross, get away!"

"Come closer?" he responds haughtily, grabbing her waist and deflecting her many shoves. He's tickling her until she's gasping for air, protests bubbling between spouts of laughter. The blonde knees him hard but he refuses to yield, not until she stops squirming.

"I hate you so much, Percy," his girlfriend ekes out, swatting his arm. "Somedays I forget you're, like, an actual adult working to get his degree in a serious field of study."

The college student kisses her on the cheek - sloppily, to maintain his current image as 'terror of her existence', but with genuine sentiment. "Love you too, 'Beth, accidental maiming and all."

She huffs. "Like any maiming on my part would be accidental." The blonde smiles at him, small and resigned, her lips saying simply, What am I going to do with you? He has no clue where that essential strain of logic will lead to, but he's pretty damn glad that she cares enough to try and figure it out.

When they all graduate, tears are shed. Sally definitely cries, Paul gets misty, and Percy refuses to acknowledge that he may or may not have been emotional (but he was, and Grover will testify that he tears up in the stands just a few minutes before tossing his cap).

Grover, Juniper, Rachel, Jason, and Piper are staying local as of now. Though Leo had constantly toyed with the idea of changing locale - he was a bit of a runner as a child and the habit stuck - his new girlfriend threatens to keep him in one place as of now. To the mechanic's utter surprise he was able to ask her out successfully and they had been together for a few months now (Percy hasn't met 'Callie' yet but based on the way Leo talks about her it's an inevitable conclusion). Reyna's going back to San Francisco to finish up another year of schooling ("Percy, this was just meant to be a few semesters abroad, I didn't actually transfer here, I'm getting a five year degree, why are you shocked to hear this?) and Frank and Hazel are seriously thinking about moving to Alaska. Apparently Hazel lived there for a short while with her late mother and despite some of the less-than-happy memories she has of it, they both agree it's something that gives them a lot of new opportunities.

And then, of course, there's Annabeth, who isn't going anywhere. Obviously.

"No more library study sessions, huh?" she snorts, bumping him. The idea that he's a fully-fledged adult with a degree and a possible career path is still awing and slightly unbelievable.

"I think I'll miss it," he responds, suddenly feeling as if the world's a bit too big to handle. He grips her hand tighter.

"I won't," she remarks, "because we've still got everything else back at home."

"Home," the graduate echos, and he can't help but think that he's holding his right now.

(Even though they're not in college anymore, the story never really ends.

Come along, let them tell you a story. They'll show you some things.)

When Leo makes the introductions, Percy realizes with a shock that it's actually been over four years since he's seen Calypso.

She's just as vibrant and beautiful as he remembers, with her smooth creamy skin and light chestnut hair tucked back into a neat updo. When she stands next to Leo, though, she seems more concretethan he recalls. There are familiar smirks exchanged, hands that intertwine firmly, and she wears her red blouse (Leo's favorite color, he dimly thinks) and jeans that fit just a little loose like a person, not a model. The mechanic, in turn, softens all his edges when he's around her, is far more aware and attentive and grounded than when he's alone.

They fit. It's an odd fit, one Percy didn't expect, but a good fit nonetheless.

Calypso, luckily, doesn't do anything but smile fondly at Percy when she sees him, asks him how he's been doing.

"I see you got the girl," she grins mischievously, gesturing subtly at Annabeth. "Nicely done, Jackson."

"You aren't doing too bad yourself," he responds, relieved that it isn't awkward. (But then again, 'Callie' never seemed like the type to seriously hate or hold a murderous grudge, so.) "Why Leo, out of curiosity?"

She blushes slightly, there. "Well, I think it's that he's about the smartest person I know. He's an absolute idiot, yes, but his brain is incredible, like nothing I've ever seen. He sings out of tune and actually listens when I talk about my major and what I'd even do with a minor in botany, and he's actually pretty darn sweet. He's protective of those he loves and he can't stand not being able to fix things. But I think . . . I think the main thing is that he's passionate about me, not about my looks or my work ethic, just me as a person. It's been a while since I had that and it's good, it's really good."

"I'm happy for you, Cal," he tells her warmly, and he means it.

"Careful there, Percy," she calls back, "Only my boyfriend calls me Cal."

(Later, Leo comes up to him.

"I know she's alright, but you did hurt her a little," the latino boy informs him, looking up at the sky. "She's used to being left behind, and it's not fair and it's not alright and I've exhausted every available option I know of trying to convince her that I won't be next. When I met her, she wasn't broken because of you or anything, but - she always holds out hope that the next guy she meets will come back, you know? Just to say hi, or to ask her about her day. No one remembers to ask her about her day and it sucks." He lets out a strangled breath of air. "Look, we're in a good place. I consider you a friend. But if anyone, you included, ever hurts her again, I will actually brain you with a wrench. It's a painful death."

"Will do, Valdez," he responds, and after the other man gets up, claps him on the back, and returns to his lovely girlfriend, Percy sits there a while and continues to look at the stars. Of all the people he may have once hurt, he never meant to harm Calypso, who was nothing but kind.

But she had clearly moved on, and dwelling on the past only stirred up old resentments. So when Annabeth calls his name from across the way, he gets up, brushes off his pants, and simply resolves not to hurt the women in his life again. He has no idea how long he can keep that resolution, but hey, it's a decent start.)

"Opinion on paint colors?" she asks, holding up two colors to the light.

"Um," he starts helplessly. "The blue one?"

"Percy, both swatches are blue," Annabeth frowns, squinting at the sample cards. "Which one for this room?"

"I mean," he says, knowing he's about to do something very stupid, "does it really matter?"

She drops the cards and crosses her arms.

"Does it really matter?" she repeats.

His girlfriend is tapping her foot on the ground and damn she can glare.

He swallows. Hard.

"Does," she says again, slower this time with her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, "it really matter?"


Bail now. BAIL NOW.)

"This is," she begins in a sickeningly sweet, extremely false tone, "the color going on the walls of the bedroom of our house. The first house we've actually saved for and went to sign on and agreed upon. Together. We've been a couple for, what, three years?"

"And two months come next week," he mentions weakly, but it fails to win him any brownie points - Annabeth's on a roll.

"Yes, exactly. And I'd prefer it if my future husband was a little more involved in decisions regarding the state of our very first home. We're discussing paint, soon it will move into cabinet fixtures, and then I'll start showing tile selections to fix the travesty that is the stonework on the outside porch steps. So think for half a second and then tell me which damn shade of blue you want so I can start looking for matching drapes, Percy, it's like I'm the only one who cares right now!" Her chest is actually heaving. It would almost be funny if she wasn't so mad.

And then Percy remembers a very crucial detail about what day it is and he completely understands her outrage.

"Wise Girl, we're out of hot chocolate again, huh?" he replies, stepping forwards and catching her in a hug. "I can run and go get some right now if it helps."

"It just sucks this time, you know?" she groans into his shoulder, the swatches forgotten. "What did women in prehistoric times do when they got their periods? Maybe that's why the rumor about clubbing people got perpetuated - I want to kill. Literally anything and anyone. For no reason at all."

"The color blue is a very important matter, Annabeth," he tells her seriously. She scoffs.

"Sorry I'm murderous?" It's almost phrased like a question.

"I don't mind, you're always a little murderous anyways."

"I am not, that's a blatant exaggeration."

"When I forget to wash the dishes in the sink you threaten to actually impale me, 'Beth."

"Fair point, but that's entirely self-inflicted," the blonde accuses, sticking a finger in his face. "You know when it's your day."

"I do. I just happen to forget a lot."

"Likely story." They sit there a while, content to just stand in eachother's arms. The room is quiet and empty, full of potential just like the vacant house they'd bought. With enough time, this would be a home.

Their home.

" . . . So, the second sample?" he eventually mumbles into her hair. She attempts to shake her head.

"The second sample, for sure."

(He makes sure the pantry is filled to the brim with hot cocoa mix afterwards. Annabeth shows her appreciation with snuggles and the retraction of her many death threats.)

When Reyna flies back in for spring break and Frank and Hazel video-chat, Jason and Piper have news to share.

"So we're thinking a fall wedding," Piper exclaims, showing everyone her ring yet again. It's a simple golden band with intricate little flowers, a small diamond sparkling in the center. Beautiful but not overstated, it's the perfect fit for the feisty brunette. "Jason and I haven't set dates yet but I honestly can't see it being much later than mid-to-late September, maybe the beginning of October. Even though it's a long ways away, we'd be honored if you guys could make it." Jason rubs his fiance's shoulder warmly as they share a smile meant only for eachother.

Secretly, Percy hopes that him and Annabeth don't look like that. It's downright sappy.

But then she squeezes his knee in support and he starts grinning to himself for no reason, so. He supposes he's a lost cause.

"Anyways, Leo, you and Calypso are obviously coming, but I'd really like it if you could be my best man," the blonde graduate says with curved lips, pushing up his glasses. "Besides Rey, I never really had a close group of friends before I met you and Piper, and frankly you're the best friend I could ask for. I can't really see anyone else being there with me on the big day." Leo is obviously touched but doesn't want anyone to know.

(They all know. They all pretend they don't see the way his eyes glaze over and his mouth tilts upwards.)

"Whatever you need, Jason," he replies, wiping his nose and muttering something about allergies.

Meanwhile, Piper regains the narrative by grabbing Reyna's hands and smiling kindly. "Rey, you were Jason's best friend before I met you, but now I honestly consider you one of the closest of mine. Like my boyfriend, I honestly didn't have a solid group of girl friends before, probably because I really wasn't all that girly. But then I got off the bus and I met you, and then through you and Percy I got to know Annie and Rachel and Hazel and Thalia, and I simply can't imagine not having you guys in my life. I would love for you to be my maid of honor, if you want to."

Reyna Avila Ramirez Arellano does not cry. They all know she cannot cry because she's literally made of steel.

But there does appear to be some sort of vagrant cutting onions in the vicinity that no one happens to mention.

"I'd love to," she tells the other brunette with a strong swallow that probably tastes of saline. Piper lights up like a candle.

"You have no idea how much I appreciate this," Piper replies, and she totally cries sans-onion cutter. "I really wanted you to be maid of honor, and for the rest of the girls to be my bridesmaids. I can't think of anyone else I'd prefer to be there for me."

Rachel snaps her fingers. "So this artist friend of mine does custom dresses modified for any occasion, he's opened a small shop down the main strip that could totally meet all our needs."

"I will gladly punch anyone who tries to rip us off," Thalia says solemnly.

Annabeth pulls out her phone and starts looking up names and addresses. "There's a neat flower shop two blocks away that does big events, the bouquets are really nice if you want to look -"

"I love you all," Piper breathes, and pretty damn instantly she's swarmed with a mass of women.

Jason watches the scene fondly before looking at the men in his life and saying, "We don't need to group hug. Leo, I don't think you've showered in days - your fingers have engine grease beneath them. And Percy, you smell like a pool. Frank, you are absolutely fine but you'll crush me like a toothpick."

(As they're leaving, Percy tackles Jason anyways. He laughs as they both fall onto the pavement.)

When he sees the ring in the window - a small, ornately carved silver thing, thin around the finger with a shining milky stone in the middle - he buys it on impulse. Percy doesn't need it now, but the thing might just come in handy in the far-off-but-strangely-foreseeable future.

"Their ceremony was beautiful," Annabeth sighs afterwards, picking pale petals off of her lavender bridesmaid's gown. The reception was stunning - a beautiful pavilion ripe with fallen leaves and golden lanterns in the trees, coated with freshly tossed red and white blooms and candles on every centerpiece. "Piper looked like a fairy."

"We can slap wings on you, if that makes you feel better," he jokes. She tries to shove him in the gut, but by now he anticipates her violent antics and is able to dodge. Level 900 stealth.

"You think that'll be us one day?" the blonde asks absentmindedly, swinging his hand between them as they walk.

"I'm hoping so," he replies, and as he pulls out the velvet box in his pocket his heart kicks into overdrive. "And, if we're being really serious, then . . ."

"You didn't . . ." Her hand suddenly drops his and goes to cover her gaping mouth. "Right now?"

He absolutely did not plan on doing this now. In fact, he had a whole romantic walk complete with a trip to her favorite bookstore and - well, that would just have to be its own separate thing. This was going down.

Percy opens the box and kneels on his knees. Here they go.

"Annabeth Chase, I am very in love with you and I have been for years. I can't imagine not knowing you, not following you, not getting punched by you, not listening to you talk about your day. You are the first person I see in the morning and the last person I see at night and I want you to be that person forever. Now I think there was more to that speech, but to be honest this is kind of an uncomfortable position and these dress pants might actually split if I stay like this for too long so I can't actually remember it." He looks deep into her eyes - they're moist, and so are his. Well then. "Regardless, will you marry me?"

For a scary second, she parts her lips and then closes them, almost a little lost, and then she breaks into the biggest smile he's ever seen.

"Of course I will, Seaweed Brain," she tells him, slipping the ring on her own finger. "You utter dork."

His girlfriend (read: fiance) kisses him and he can't remember ever being happier.

"You sure?" she whispers subtly, hoping the crowd can't hear her. Even if he wasn't supposed to be keeping his eyes on her, his absolutely smitten ass couldn't help but stare. Her curly yellow locks were brushed up into an elegant bun studded with jewels, her body draped in a stunning white Grecian gown that shimmers when she moves. It's entrancing.

Annabeth Chase is always entrancing, though, and this is no different.

"Am I sure?" he whispers back, trying to keep a chuckle out of his voice. "Um, 'Beth, the priest is actually reading out the vows right now, I don't think there's room for me to be un-sure anymore."

She smiles softly into her bouquet - her favorites, mixed with daisies. "I just wanted to ask again. Because, of course, I'm pretty darn sure. I just wanted to double check."

He squeezes her hand so hard it could almost begin to atrophy. "Annabeth, I've never been more sure of anything in my life." She raises an eyebrow. "It also helps that I'd hate to be single again. I kinda suck at dating."

"You got me, didn't you?" she laughs quietly, and seconds later the priest recites the essential question.

"Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

Without a trace of hesitation, Percy Jackson grins. "I do."

And that's all there is to it.