The images in front of Annabeth’s eyes rippled, and voices reverberated through her head. She groggily tried to sit up, lifting herself slightly higher onto the chair? Bed?
Ow! She winced, immediately letting go of herself. The pain in her arm bloomed, radiating an ache throughout her whole body.
“I just...medicine...she should be all...to go,” Will spoke. Though his broken speech was not quite registering in her mind, she pieced the words together.
“No visitors.” Annabeth heard Travis shooing people away. “She’ll be fine, everyone. Just give her space.”
Fine? Annabeth thought, stifling a huff. She was already perfectly fine. It was a shallow puncture, and in a couple of hours, the venom would be out of her system.
“Why am I feeling so woozy?” She asked the blurry figure in front of her, who subsequently pushed a canteen to her lips, urging her to drink.
“Will just performed a healing ritual. You’re going to start feeling incredibly weak, and soon enough, you’ll pass out. But the symptoms are normal. It’s the fastest way you’ll recover,” Silena explained, wiping away the drop of nectar that was making a stream down Annabeth’s chin.
Annabeth frowned, trying to focus on Silena. She only slightly made out her face, as well has her battered orange t-shirt. “Silena. I’m fine. Let me fight! They need me -”
“To rest,” Silena finished. “And you’re not fine. But you soon will be, if you just take a little nap.”
Despite her frustration, Annabeth knew that she needed rest. The venom on that knife was potent —the moment the blade slid into her skin, she had fallen. It was as if tiny little needles were being coaxed into her whole body. Her skin was still stinging, but Will’s ritual seemed to have helped. And, she was feeling a lot more tired now…
“Where is she?” A voice demanded.
Annabeth’s eyes fluttered back open, and she willed herself to focus on her surroundings. The voice she knew so well was enough to keep her awake for as long as possible.
“Shhhhh,” Silena scolded. “On the couch. She’s resting.”
Withstanding the pain, Annabeth lifted herself slightly higher onto what she now understood was a couch. She craned her neck, looking for —
“Percy,” she spoke hoarsely, straining her eyes to focus on his rippling image.
She felt a gentle yet firm press to her forehead, and then a sharp intake of breath.
“Are you —are you feeling okay?” Percy asked. He nervously ran his fingers through his hair and sat down beside her, letting his arms rest by his side.
Annabeth cleared her throat, moistening her lips. “I’m alright.” She paused, trying to focus on his face. The edges around her vision fuzzed off and everything seemed to be slightly tilted to the left. “You look cute when you’re worried. Your...eyebrows get scrunched up and everything.”
His eyes clouded with concern. “You collapsed when he —he hurt you. How did you know?”
Percy’s body tensed, but he leaned forward. Despite the fuzziness, his jewel toned eyes stood out. She couldn’t really see the rest of his face, but tried to imagine what his expression was. Based on his eyes, he looked vulnerable. Almost...scared. He looked around, checking their surroundings.
“My achilles spot,” he breathed. His breath met Annabeth’s neck, which seemed to raise every hair on her body. “If it weren’t for you...I would have died.”
She was supposed to feel shock, but there had been something different about him for the past few months. A part of him did seem seem stronger. During every training session, she had noticed the muscular physique he seemed to acquire. His initial swimmer’s body —slender yet lean— had slowly started to form thicker muscle. Every tremble of his bicep, or simply a flex of his calf, was enough to make Annabeth look away and tell the younger giggling campers to get back to archery practice.
Another part of him felt more brittle, and somewhat more susceptible, like he was aware of something that could be taken away from him at any minute. He was on high alert, from that moment she’d accidentally brushed against his ribs to apply a healing balm to the pesky burn on his arm from the lava course.
His face was getting blurrier, and Annabeth had to look down for a moment to stop the dizziness. “I don’t really know. I —I had a bad feeling.”
He continued looking at her with those vibrant green eyes, searching for a look of disgust or repulsion. She realized that he felt self-conscious for bathing in the River Styx. He’d expected her to be mad at him for risking his life for strength. For being stupid and not telling her what he was going to do, and what could’ve happened to him.
She was, maybe, a little bit mad at him for all the danger he went through. But instead of being upset, she whispered, “I understand why you did it.”
He exhaled slowly, deeply. “I hoped you would.”
She tested the waters, looking at the expression in his face. She glanced over his body, checking for signs of weakness. He hid it well. “Where —where is the spot?”
Despite Annabeth’s blistering fever, her hands felt as if they’d just been cupped around a frozen drink. Percy’s body tensed, but his hand reached out to take hers. Her hand wilted into his, seeking the warmth that radiated from him. Percy guided her behind him, under the hem of his shirt. She almost retaliated at the heat of his skin, wondering why he was so willingly able to trust her. How...close she felt to him.
He shifted her hand, and then she felt it. From the blazing, fearful yet intense look in Percy’s eyes, she knew that this was it. The corded muscles in his back bunched together, and sweat began to glisten on his forehead.
“You saved me,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. “I —I owe you one.”
Annabeth withdrew her hand slowly from his back, unable to meet his eyes. There was no stopping anyone —if she stayed on that strip of skin for a moment longer, there would be no more self control. She allowed their hands to stay together, for at least a little while longer. Holding hands was safe territory, ever since they were 12. But now, with him brushing his thumb over her knuckles, easing a soft sigh from her…
Annabeth cleared her throat again. “So...you owe me.”
As far as she was concerned, the only thing Percy owed her was his love.