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Won't Leave Any Doubt

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;;;

When you're ten, you learn about soulmates.

Well, properly learn, anyways. The thing is, in a world like this, everyone knows about soulmates. From the moment you are born, your aura bursts into a color that only one person in the world can see—not you, not your parents, but your soulmate alone. They will be the only person to see it. And, granted that you have a match, upon meeting them, you will be the only one able to see theirs.

There are inconsistencies. There are some born without soulmates and without auras—some who can live their whole life waiting without finding. Some do not get to experience love in it's purest form and are not given the privilege of finding the one person who sees them clearer than everyone else, understanding them on a level only attainable by a soulmate. There are, though very few, occurrences where people's matches die before fate can do her job and permit their meeting.

There are offices in every city that allow you to receive updates on your soulmate—if you fear they're injured or, fate forbid, deceased. These offices cannot tell you much about your soulmate, since it's all numbers matched up rather than names and brief biographies, but knowing they are alive and well is something. If you believe your soulmate has been injured, it is imperative that you visit an office to hear word. Your soulmate will be alerted of your worry.

There will be a buzzing beneath your skin, it's been said, a tug in your chest and a sensation that that, as soon as you lay eyes on them, you are taking your first breath of true air. You will see an aura that surrounds them, the color reflecting who they are, and they will see yours. Your soulmate will be unmissable and unmistakable.

Like any other world, there are rules. The first and most prominent being: Do not search for your soulmate. It's considered unlawful to search, and many who do are considered untrustworthy—mostly because they refused to trust in fate and let her bring their soulmate to them. One day, they'll come. It's a mantra of sorts for the unfound.

If you are caught searching, you will be plucked up by authorities and released after a firm talking to. No one is quite sure of the conversations held between authorities and searchers, but it's enough to keep searchers from both searching and divulging what was said behind closed doors.

"Don't ever go looking for them, Annabeth," her mother warns, the day she turns ten. Annabeth promises herself that she won't.

;;

When Annabeth is twelve, she feels a pain in the palm her hand that's so overwhelming and sharp it causes her to keel over, right there in math class.

"Miss Chase?"

She ignores her teacher and counts backwards from ten, just like her mother taught her to when she gets charlie horses. The pain isn't her own, Annabeth can tell—it feels different and foreign and, above all, alarming.

"Miss Chase, do you need a nurse's pass?"

Annabeth's finished counting by now, and when she glances up, the whole room has turned to her. Some have looks of pity, some have sympathetic fear, and some look rather confused. "Um, I think I actually need to go to the local office?"

Her teacher nods then, grimacing briefly before she turns back to the board. "You'll have to wait after classes, but I hope your match is alright."

Annabeth's pretty sure they are, since the pain's already waning and it would last for a little longer if it was serious injury. If it was fatal, well. Annabeth has only heard the stories of how badly that hurts; has only heard about how it feels like two of your limbs have been ripped off and you've lost something priceless, something that you can't get back. Annabeth prays every night that she won't ever have to suffer through that.

She makes it through the rest of the day, worrying herself sick as there are short little jabs of pain every half hour. What kind of injury is it? Is it their own fault, or someone elses? Have they visited the hospital? Are they safe?

Annabeth's always thought that being able to feel their pain is the sickest and worst part of having a soulmate. Not only are you aware of their agony, but there's no way to help them without being considered a criminal for searching. It's like—well, it's like being told that your other half is hurt and that you can have no part in their recovery.

She chains her bike up in a hurry just outside the office, nearly tripping over her own two feet on her way up the marble steps. After that, Annabeth walks slowly, not wanting to trip and cause her soulmate even more pain.

There are short lines at every window available, so Annabeth chooses one at random and waits. The walls of the office are covered with murals—some magnificent and some less polished, but all offering a feeling of safety and comfort, somehow. Each painting features someone with an aura, and sometimes two people—matches that have found each other. The place feels hospitable and warm, as if it plans on softening the blow of learning your soulmate's poor status.

Once Annabeth reaches the front of the line, she recites her number—the one everyone is given and learns as soon as they're old enough to memorize a 10-digit string of numbers. They're all one of a kind and, within the database, matched up to your soulmate's number. Annabeth, pointlessly, wonders what her soulmate's is. She wonders if it's nearly the same as hers or practically the opposite—which is a silly thought seeing as she's not even sure if they're safe. That should be at the forefront of her mind.

"9-1-8-0-9-5-6-4-5-9," the lady in front of her repeats, punching it into her keypad. "Ah, here's your match right here. According to our records, they're safe." Relief sweeps through Annabeth upon hearing the words, even if she knew the answer before she really asked. "And they've visited the hospital—a scorpion sting to the hand. Easily remedied. You have no reason to worry, Miss."

Annabeth smiles at the sweet woman who has blonde curls similar to her own. "Thank you so much."

The woman grins at her. "You're welcome. I hope you find each other soon!"

Annabeth walks back out to her bike, feeling much less panicky than she was upon arrival, and hopes the same.

;;

Her match is smart enough not to get themselves hurt, at least not seriously, for the next few years. There are times where she feels rushes of emotion—disappointment or triumph or loneliness or contentment—but her mother says that's something only 'special' soulmates get. The ones that have brighter and bigger auras—the ones who have a bond deeper than what's average. Annabeth is thirteen when her mother tells her this, and even if she nods, she doesn't quite understand.

Why are some soulmate bonds stronger than others? she wants to ask. And what does that mean for me? Will we find each other easier, or maybe even sooner?

She doesn't ask these, of course, mostly because Annabeth's mother hesitates to answer soulmate questions, not wanting to give too much away. She claims that the surprise and spontaneity is the best part. Annabeth hopes that her soulmate is nothing like her mother.

She lets herself imagine, sometimes. She likes to think that her soulmate likes the same music as she does, and hopes they'll enjoy silence and reading, which they'll obviously do together. She likes to think that her soulmate is a good cook, since she's a great cleaner, and she likes to hope that they lean more towards comfort and continuity rather than adventure and spontaneity. She imagines them as careful and thoughtful, with a nice smile and a contagious laugh. If she lets her mind wander too much, she likes to think that their favorite color is a light green—a nice compliment to her favorite, lavender.

Some days, Annabeth wakes up and she's so sure that it's the day she'll meet them—only to come home with a heavy heart. Some days, she feels bold enough to glance around while she reads at the park, biting the inside of her cheek and searching for someone with a field of color framing them. She never finds it.

When she's fifteen, she visits the office again, but all they tell her is that her match is safe and sound. Annabeth feels something like impatience deep in her bones, but she knows that's one of the most dangerous feelings, at least in her world.

Impatience leads to searching, and searching leads to becoming a searcher, and becoming a searcher leads to being chastised thoroughly by authorities for the crimes committed. Annabeth wants nothing more than to meet her soulmate and just touch them—whether it's a kiss or a hug or a brushing of knuckles or, hell, she'd even accept them stepping on her toes at this point. She just wants to see them—for real, and not some formless and faceless thing in her imagination.

"In due time," her mother says, when Annabeth expresses her anticipation. "I didn't meet your father until I was twenty-seven."

Which, like, is so far from comforting. Annabeth doesn't want to wait twelve more years to meet her match. That seems hardly fair—a quarter of her life will have gone by until she gets to see the color of their eyes or hear the sound of their voice.

Annabeth appreciates the system more than anything, but that doesn't mean she isn't disappointed. Every day feels like it might be the day, and every time, it never is.

;;

The first time Annabeth wholly forgets about an essay due the next day, she's sixteen. It's midnight when she realizes the assignment's gone undone.

She curses to herself—quietly, of course, since her parents are just across the hall—and fumbles her way off her bed, plopping down into her desk chair with frustration. She's the biggest idiot on Earth, and can't remember for the life of her why she didn't start the essay the day it was assigned, like she always does.

Putting all thoughts aside, Annabeth goes into work mode. She turns off her phone and turns on her laptop, opening up a word document.

It takes her three hours to finish the essay, partially because it required a lot more research than she assumed it would, and by the time she's saving it to her jump drive and resolving to print it out in the morning, Annabeth's ready to fall into bed and sleep like the dead. Regardless of her exhaustion, she feels something warm and buzzing rise up in her chest—accomplishment, surely. She's managed to finish this essay in a fair amount of time and without any severe stress.

Her alarm clock tells her loud and clear that it's 3:05 A.M. and it makes Annabeth groan pitifully. She's going to hate herself even more in the morning.

She's shifting, pulling the covers up to her chin, and right when she gets comfortable, someone knocks on her window.

She shoots up in bed, staring at her curtains with fear rising up in her chest. It's not that Annabeth doesn't have friends, but it's more like she doesn't have friends that would have the gall to knock on her window at 3 A.M. Which means it's either an axe murderer, her father playing an uncharacteristic prank, or those eleven year-olds who live next door. Annabeth's leaning towards the last and praying it's not the first. Then again, she's not sure that an axe murderer would knock. She's not well-educated on axe murderer etiquette.

Whoever it is, they knock again. Annabeth's light is clearly off. She could pretend she's sleeping. Her hands are shaking, her skin buzzing, and Annabeth learned in psychology about her sympathetic nervous system and the adrenaline it offers as a reaction to fear. Somehow, it's interesting to feel it first hand, and so strongly—she'll have to tell her teacher about this.

Annabeth slides out of bed, tiptoeing towards the window, but not before she grabs the umbrella hooked on her door. If it is a killer, she'd prefer to poke their eye out before they can knife her, or something.

A third knock sounds right as she's reaching out for the curtains, but this time it sounds a little quieter; more hesitant. Annabeth leans back, wondering if the person'll give up and walk away on their own.

No chance. Not a minute later, the tap-tap returns at full confidence. Annabeth's nearly annoyed at this point, wondering why this person sees it fit to knock on her window at 3 A.M. Sure, she wasn't exactly sleeping just yet, but what if she had been? This is incredibly rude.

Annabeth, with her umbrella posed to attack her potential attacker, reaches past the curtain, slides the window up, and pushes the curtain aside in under a second. She's impressed with her own skills.

Before she even sees the person's face, she sees bright blue—a light that's far too bright for this time of night. Annabeth wonders how someone else hasn't already leaned out their window and shouted at this person for this blinding light they're carrying around at such a late hour.

It takes Annabeth about five full seconds to realize it's not a light—it's one of the auras she's seen only in paintings, and even the most beautiful of paintings couldn't have prepared her for this.

"Oh, thank God," is the first thing the person—Annabeth's soulmate—says, which renders her speechless. Then, even more bewildering, the person says, "Can I come in?"

Annabeth uses the umbrella anyways, nudging him backwards—and, yes, she's sure it's a boy. "What are you doing here?" she hisses, glancing to the left and to the right outside her window. "Are you… Were you searching?"

He holds his hands up, and Annabeth has yet to make out the color of his eyes. Although the aura is an explosion of blue, it casts no light on the things surrounding it. "I might have been. Please don't kill me with your umbrella."

She almost laughs, but then she realizes—the buzzing beneath her skin for the past ten minutes, the feeling that keeps rising in her chest. "You're my soulmate. And you're a searcher."

"Hey," the guy says, sounding offended at her accusation. "I was just eager to meet you. What's your name, by the way?"

Annabeth doesn't know why she lies. "Judith" is what ends up tumbling out her mouth, despite the fact that it's not the name on her birth certificate. She doesn't even know someone with that name.

"Right, then, Judith. I'm Percy. Nice to meet you." He holds out one of his hands, still keeping the other raised as a white flag.

She bats the hand away with the umbrella, though a bit more gently than she would with anyone else, and scowls at him. "You aren't supposed to search!"

"Yeah, but I—" Percy sighs, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Look, Judith, this would be easier to explain if I came inside."

Annabeth's pretty sure she isn't allowed to have boys in her room, especially not a boy whose knocked on her window at 3 A.M. with an aura that takes up most of the width of her window. She can't believe that she's been matched with a searcher. With a heavy sigh, she steps back. "Get in here, you idiot." She's not sure if it's fond name-calling or just name-calling in general.

"Thank you," he says politely, like he's just brought a pie over to his neighbors and they've invited him in for tea. Then, without any semblance of grace, he tumbles through her window. She barely manages to save her lamp when his leg has a run-in with the cord, reaching out to catch it just before it falls on his face. He breathes an audible sigh of relief. "Thanks."

Annabeth doesn't answer, but she does set the lamp back where it was and switch it on. After closing the window, she turns to her soulmate.

His aura's gotten no less beautiful nor less bright, but she can at least make out his face now. He's kind of cute, in an odd way. And she's a little endeared by the clumsiness, though it wasn't in her plan at all. Pale green eyes, dark hair, relaxed posture—like he's right at home after falling into her room at 3 A.M. via the window.

"Nice place," he comments, eyes catching on the Ed Sheeran poster taped to the right of her dresser. "Weird. Never been much for Ed Sheeran myself, but. Do you like purple? I always thought you would like red, for some reason. Your aura's orange, by the way, if you were wondering. It's really bright, actually. Pretty."

Annabeth scowls at him. "Yours is blue. Now explain."

"Bossy," he mutters. "I was hoping you wouldn't be. Anyways, I'm not a searcher."

"You knocked on my window at 3 A.M. and I've never seen you around town. How did you find me unless you were searching? How many doors have you knocked on with some flimsy excuse to see the whole family before going to the next house?"

"I didn't do that," Percy tells her. "Really, I swear I didn't—well. You can probably tell I'm being honest. Because of the emotion thing."

"Emotion thing," Annabeth repeats.

"Yeah, like how I can tell when you're happy or sad. Or scared, like you were a few minutes ago."

Annabeth narrows her eyes at him. "How did you find me if you weren't knocking on doors and checking? Have you been stalking me?"

"Judith, I swear—"

"My name's not Judith," she snaps, being sure to keep her voice low. "It's Annabeth."

Percy looks a little hurt by that. "You lied to me."

"Are you going to explain to me what's going on, or what?" she asks, feeling more exhausted but somehow less tired. She keeps glancing over Percy's face, taking in his features—it's not what she imagined, not really, though Annabeth never had a specific image in mind, but it feels right. His presence feels right, in any case.

Percy stares at her quietly for a moment, too, and Annabeth doesn't rush him to get on with it. It feels like her entire being is vibrating in place; her mother wasn't lying when she told Annabeth that their bond was stronger than most. It's overwhelming. "It wasn't searching because I knew where you were."

Annabeth raises both eyebrows. "What are you talking about?"

"Like—" He cuts himself off, gesturing vaguely. "I was walking one day, back in my town. And, like, I wasn't really… You know, looking, per se, but I was thinking about you. Well, not you specifically. But. My soulmate. Which is you."

Annabeth's pretty sure Percy speaks in the most annoying pattern she's ever heard, but somehow it's familiar. And she's not disappointed, because she almost expected as much deep down. Must be a soulmate thing. "Which is me," she agrees, when he doesn't continue.

"Right," he says, cracking his knuckles and leaning back on his elbows. Make yourself at home, Annabeth thinks sarcastically, but she supposes they're both home in some sense, now that they've found one another. "So, I was just casually glancing around, and like… It's so hard to describe, but I felt a pull. In this direction."

"A pull," Annabeth echoes, more that a little confused. "What do you mean?"

"Like, I could feel you, or something? I mean, our towns are only about a half hour's walk apart, so I suppose with auras as strong as ours and with the emotions and stuff it wasn't out of the question. So, I started walking. And every time I turned the wrong way, or something, the pull would drop, and I'd feel like I was in the middle of nowhere." He sits up again, rolling his shoulders. "So, I snuck out tonight and decided to follow the pull."

"How long have you known about it?" Annabeth questions, a little surprised. She's never heard about a 'pull' before, not from her mother and not from the dozens of soulmate information packets that lie around the offices.

"About a month," Percy replies, ducking his head. "I was a little nervous, at first? Because I could tell it was you—I just knew. Without question. But also, I wasn't sure if it was searching? So I didn't want to follow it only to be picked up by authorities. I got that pamphlet on searching—you know, the one that explains why it's illegal and all—and it didn't say anything was wrong with following a gut feeling."

Annabeth considers that. By definition, searching is seeking out your soulmate by means of asking around or somehow getting into files only accessible by office employees—and even then, the employees take an oath not to look at their own. Percy has done neither of those things.

"So you aren't a searcher," Annabeth says with finality, a weight lifting off her chest. She isn't destined to be with a criminal.

"I'm not," he agrees. "I am out past curfew, though."

"Oh!" Annabeth exclaims, a thought coming to her. "What's your age?"

"Seventeen, just turned. You?" He looks pleased at the change of subject, apparently just as eager as she is to learn about each other.

"Sixteen. Seventeen in February."

Percy smiles a little, meeting her eyes. "Is that why you're always so happy on February 3rd?"

Annabeth's heart jumps a little—he's memorized a date she felt happy on. It's sweet, if nothing else. "That's right," she answers, a similar smile on her face.

"So, birthday—February 3rd. Favorite color?" he asks, leaning forward like he wants nothing more than to hear her reply. She knows the feeling.

"Purple, like you guessed. Just lighter. More like lavender. You?" Annabeth questions back.

Percy hums in thought. "If you would have asked me twenty minutes ago, I'd have said blue. Thinking orange, now. Or maybe I'm just really excited to meet you, I don't know, to be honest." He laughs a little, to himself. It's contagious, just like she hoped, and before long they're laughing quietly, sitting across from each other on her floor. Once they've stopped, he just looks at her for a long second, making Annabeth feel uncharacteristically shy. "So, did you feel that scorpion bite or what?" he asks abruptly.

"Oh my god," Annabeth replies, groaning to herself. "I thought I was going to die. I was in math when that happened."

"Ah," Percy says, smiling gently. "I was at lunch. Well, supposed to be at lunch. I decided to take a walk in the woods. Still have the battle scar and all." He lifts up his hand, and Annabeth sees a pale scar in the center of his hand. She wants to reach out and hold on tight; wants to press her thumb against the age-old, faded out scar. "They, um, they told me that you were worried about me?"

She nods. "Visited the office as soon as school was out."

Percy full-on grins at that, like he couldn't be more delighted that she cared about her other half. "Thanks." He clears his throat after a moment, seemingly sobering up. "Feel free to tell me if it's not my business, but sometimes you would get really scared? Like, terrified, really, maybe even panic attacks?"

Annabeth smiles apologetically. "Phobia of spiders. Those things pop up everywhere."

"I hated it," Percy admits. "Like, it was horrible, knowing you were upset. But I couldn't help."

Even if Percy doesn't hold the grace or charm that Annabeth imagined, she's glad that they're agreeing on some things. "Yeah, I always thought that was the worst part about it. You get really frustrated a lot of the time, during the day?"

"School," Percy says with a sharp nod. "Yeah, that's because of school. I'm not—I'm not all that smart. Or good at learning."

There goes Annabeth's dreams of spending Sunday mornings cuddled close reading their respective books. "I'm sorry," she says, rather than voicing her thoughts.

"Me too," he responds, but smiles not long after. "I should probably get home. My mom's waiting on me."

She sputters for a second, shocked. "Your mother knew?"

"Oh, yeah, of course. I tell Mom everything," he says. "She's the one who told me I should go."

"At 3 A.M.?" Annabeth asks, incredulous.

"Well, to be fair it was 2:30 A.M. when I left," Percy tells her with a shrug. "Mom worked late and I was still up when she got home. That was at, like, 2 A.M., probably. And she said there's no time like the present. Even if I wouldn't have gotten permission, I would have left today anyways."

"Why?" Percy is odd, Annabeth decides. "Do you sleep at all?"

"Because I could feel you being frustrated and upset since, like, midnight. And I do sleep, probably not as much as I should, but I function better on less sleep, believe it or not. I'm a big fan of naps, though."

She hates when people take naps—they waste daylight and precious time, but she supposes she'll have to cope. "You came to my house at 3 A.M.—"

"2:30, technically—"

"—just because I was feeling a little stressed? At this hour, you just had to see me all of a sudden?"

Percy doesn't seem embarrassed by his decision in the slightest. "I've always wanted to see you," he says, slowly, but no less genuinely.

Annabeth wants to be annoyed—in fact, she orders herself to be annoyed—but she ends up smiling at him softly. It's 3:37 A.M. when she glances at the clock, and Percy's mother probably needs more sleep than he does, so Annabeth stands up and walks him to her window, just like one would walk a guest to the door. "Nice meeting you," she says, without any inflection, wondering if he'll come back or if it'll be years before they see each other again.

"'Nice,'" Percy says, rolling his eyes. "Like our whole lives haven't been leading up to this moment." He sends her a grin, then turns to the window, cocking his head to the side and sanding his hands together. "All right. How do I do this without looking stupid?"

"I reckon you'll look stupid no matter what," Annabeth says, teasingly—and she likes that it comes so easy; that he comes so easily. She's heard a million stories about soulmates meeting; she's heard from her parents and her friends' parents and even a few friends, but nothing compares to the actual experience. Despite having met him just minutes ago, she feels like they're close enough to tease and joke with each other.

"I reckon I will," Percy says, a little forlornly. He turns back to her. "Can I have your number?"

"My number?"

Percy might be blushing, but she can't see as well now that they've stepped further away from the lamp. "If you have a phone. I would like to talk to you more, if that's alright?"

For some silly reason, Annabeth had thought he meant her ten-digit identification number assigned to her long ago. "Oh, yeah, of course. Sorry."

He hands her a black phone, unlocking it for her when she prompts him. He taps four numbers and 'enter' before the lock screen disappears.

"Your password is my birthday," Annabeth notes lightly.

"No, it's not," Percy says, far too quickly to be honest. "I just really like the number 0-2-0-3."

"That's not even a real number," she points out. Percy digs his elbow into her side, eliciting a smirk from her. "August… 18th. Right?"

Percy beams like she's told him he won the lottery, and Annabeth feels herself smile back, stomach turning over pleasantly. Percy's a little more than 'kind of cute,' now. "You know my birthday."

She keys her number into his phone, ignoring his comment. "There you go. Now go home and sleep for the few hours you have left. And don't die, either. Or get bit by another scorpion—that really didn't feel good. At all."

Percy holds out a hand, and Annabeth decides not to bat it away this time. She shakes it, briefly, but he holds onto her for longer than the typical handshake, squeezing her hand gently. The skin-on-skin contact is a little intoxicating, and Annabeth feels giddy that this is her match—her boy that fate chose just for her, forever until death, with a gorgeous blue aura and a nice smile. He pulls her in closer until he can wrap his free arm over her shoulders for a hug, and Annabeth's probably never felt more at home, not even in her very own house. "I'll see you soon," he promises, answering the only question running through Annabeth's mind. "And I'll text and call so much you'll just start to ignore me." He laughs, close to her ear, and it's a sound she commits to memory. She squeezes his hand where they're trapped between their bodies, and Percy hugs her tighter.

He leaves not long after, and Annabeth stares after the blue until her eyes start drooping. She sleeps better than she has in her sixteen years of life.

;;

"Sleep well?" her mother asks, making small talk the next morning over breakfast. Annabeth has school in twenty minutes, and, if she doesn't want to be late, she should be leaving right about now. "You look rejuvenated."

Actually, I stayed up until 3 A.M. writing an essay I completely forgot about, and then my soulmate crawled through my window, Annabeth thinks, considering whether or not that's a good response. "Slept great," she says instead. "I have to leave, but thank you for breakfast. I'll see you tonight."

Her mother bids her goodbye, and she'll be leaving for work not far behind Annabeth. Once she's in her car, she gets the nerve to check her phone.

There's only one text, from an unknown number, but Annabeth feels like she can see his aura through the screen.

Im actually thinking this was a horrible idea because now I just miss you a lot

She saves the number to her contacts, and it's only as she's typing out his first name that it occurs to her that she never asked for his last.

A truly awful idea indeed. What's your last name by the way?

Jackson, he replies.

Percy Jackson, she thinks, and the name is on the tip of her tongue all day long.

;;

Percy visits her that weekend, and with him, he brings purple flowers and a backpack. "I'm here to study," he tells her with a very serious nod, even though he knows Annabeth's parents are out for the night and there's no need to arrive under a pretense. "Also, my mother owns a flower shop."

"These are lavenders," Annabeth mentions, biting back a smile as she accepts them.

He rolls his eyes. "That was the point."

They do study, but it's not exactly math or science. Annabeth learns a bit of history, though—Percy's history. He tells her about his mother's soulmate, lost at sea, and how his mother's still the best person in the world regardless. He tells her silly stories from his childhood and sadder ones from his middle school days, where he was teased for being less knowledgeable than others in his class. Annabeth tells him that she doesn't need a smart boy because she would probably feel threatened anyways, and Percy smiles and says, "Then I'm your man."

It takes them a few seconds to realize that he's kind of her man regardless. Annabeth doesn't stop smiling for the entirety of his visit.

He leaves at 8 o'clock and her parents arrive at 9 o'clock. If Annabeth got rushes of incompleteness before she met him, they're ten times as worse now. She wants to be by his side all the time, regardless of his constant commentary and endless supply of distractions from her actual studying. Being around him makes her feel like she's at her best—happier and fuller and calmer.

Her mother might kill her if she knew Annabeth was having a boy over, but aren't there some soulmate exception rules somewhere out there? Besides, they'll come up with a fake, charming story later to satisfy her parents. She met him at some park, or something, saw him at the Wal-Mart in his town. They'll figure it out.

For now, Annabeth likes having the secret. She's happier than ever and straight-up giddy half the time, but Annabeth and fate have both decided that Percy's, well, it for her. And she'll raise an eyebrow at anyone who isn't thrilled to find their it, assuming the it is a quarter as great as Percy is.

Percy visits when he can, and one night they even meet at what they've decided is the halfway point. It's nearing dark out when she arrives at the park. Percy sinks onto the bench beside her a few minutes later and, without being prompted, tells her about his day.

"My mom wants to meet you," he says, once night's fallen and they're likely to return home soon. They're facing each other on the bench, unintentionally mirroring one another's posture and position, and Annabeth thinks soulmates. Percy takes her hand, coinciding with the thought. "Would that be okay?"

He runs a thumb over her knuckles and she watches him do so. "We should tell my parents, then just have a dinner or something. I'm sure they'd want to meet you, too."

"Is it too early to meet the 'rents?" Percy muses. "I haven't even known you a month."

Annabeth gives him a dry look—they've both agreed that they've known each other for way longer, probably starting around the time Percy got bit by a scorpion and she felt a pain similar to his. "I would have introduced you the second I met you, if you weren't a potential criminal."

"We agreed that I wasn't!" Percy protests, but he's smiling at her, eyes bright. She's helpless not to smile back. He stares at her for a second, cocking his head to the side and narrowing his eyes. "Hey, I like you."

Annabeth rolls her eyes, but probably blushes a little. "I like you, too, loser. Even if I didn't, I don't really have a choice now do I?"

Percy gasps, apparently offended. "I can't believe you said that!" His lips are turning up at the corners. Annabeth might feel like kissing him, a bit.

It occurs to her then that she can. Soulmates are soulmates—for companionship or for courtship, and all that they entail. That includes kissing, Annabeth thinks, watching his smile grow by the second. It's a very nice smile.

"I have an idea," Annabeth says, very seriously.

Percy perks up, forgetting that he's supposed to be offended. "What's that? Think of a better story for your parents?"

"No," she replies, since their current story of meeting at the park is pretty solid. "It's a different idea."

"Hit me," Percy says, lacing their fingers together. Annabeth bites the inside of her cheek at the warmth that courses through her at the action. "Wait—don't actually hit me. Like, I swear I still have a bruise from when you punched my shoulder after I said…" Percy trails off when Annabeth leans closer to him until their foreheads are touching, squeezing his hand. "Oh," he half-says and half-squeaks. "That kind of idea."

Annabeth laughs at him, thinking that, even if she couldn't see his aura and soulmates weren't real, she would still fall in love with him somehow. "Am I going to have to take the initiative or are you going to go for it, kiddo?"

"I am not a 'kiddo,'" Percy says haughtily, pressing their foreheads together and catching her other hand in his. "Besides, I took the initial initiative. I found you. Who knows how long we would have had to wait?"

"Who knows how long I'm gonna have to wait until you kiss me," Annabeth mutters, making Percy snort lightly. "Seriously, Percy. I can feel the wrinkles forming. I think my grey hair is coming in."

"Oh my god," he says flatly, and then he kisses her.

The only think Annabeth can think is that it feels right , like a one-of-a-kind key fitting into the only lock it can. Her heart swoops along with her stomach, and it's not far off from some silly fairy-tale kiss that only happens in the movies. She feels intoxicated and sober at the same time—he's grounding her and making her feel like she's floating all the same. Even when she thinks that, Annabeth knows how ridiculous it sounds, so she resolves it just like everyone else does—by claiming that the feeling is indescribable; unable to be put into words.

Percy pulls back, dropping one of her hands so that he can cradle the back of her neck. "Well, hello there," Percy says, soft smile spreading across his face.

"Hi," Annabeth replies, a little breathless but faring pretty well otherwise. Her body is warm all over, pulse jumping and skin burning at every place they touch, like there's something absolutely thrumming beneath her skin, urging her to move closer and then some. She tries to clear her head, but when she closes her eyes there's no calming and sobering darkness, only bright blue, the unmistakable shade of Percy's aura. She wonders when that came along. "That was nice."

"You're so hard to please," Percy says, nothing but amused. Annabeth opens her eyes to see the smile she knows he's biting back. "Honestly, I put my whole heart into a kiss and I'm over here breathing like a cow in labor and you're all 'that was nice, yeah, pretty cool and casual.'"

"I don't sound like that," Annabeth responds to his attempt at mocking her voice, but she's laughing at the simile he chose. "Besides, your breathing's just fine as far as I'm concerned."

"My heart is beating really fast," Percy says without thinking, ducking his head like he's embarrassed a second after the words leave his mouth. "I didn't just say that." He gives her a firm look, sighing when Annabeth hums in agreement, nothing but sarcastic. "I'm serious, Annabeth. I'll lose cred."

"'Cred'?" she laughs, shaking her head. "What kind of 'cred' are you talking about?"

"Like, I don't know—cool cred? Or something. That was so lame of me. Honestly."

"I thought it was sweet," Annabeth says decisively. "Really cute."

Percy seems interested, doubling back on his word. "Oh, well in that case, I totally said it. I can say it again, if you want, maybe even get you a little voice recording of it—"

Annabeth laughs, smiling so wide her cheeks ache a little. "You're dumb," she tells him. It might sound more fond than she planned, but. She decides that's alright.

"I'm leaving now that I've thoroughly embarrassed myself," Percy says bluntly, smacking a kiss on her cheek and then a second one on her mouth. "Goodnight."

Annabeth stays on the bench for a little while longer, until Percy disappears behind a row of trees lining the park. She can still see his aura through the branches, thanks to it's strength and boldness. Annabeth wonders how other people's auras look—if they're half as strong or bright as his. She thinks that they aren't, but then again, everyone likes to think that their special someone is more special than any other special someones.

She wonders if it's too soon to be in love, too, but she supposes it's always easier to fall when you're with your match. The feeling in her chest feels like love, or at least her definition of it.

When she leaves to go to her house, she takes a left. Home's the other way, probably walking to his own house with his hands in his pockets and a head tipped back to keep an eye on the stars.

;;

Her mother nearly cries when Annabeth comes home with Percy in tow, a fairly chilly day in the middle of September. Her father smiles and shakes Percy's hand, all business, and they explain how they ran into each other at the park. They manage to pull it off, regardless of how far from the truth it is. Annabeth explains that she invited Percy for dinner and then extended the invitation to his mother, like it was a split-second decision rather than one that was decided a week ago.

They all sit down to have dinner, and Percy steps on Annabeth's toes continuously, just to get her attention. Annabeth supposes she should be more careful when she wishes for something. She vows not to include toe-stepping in any further wishes while their parents talk about the special bond their children have.

Percy leaves with his mom and scowls at her when he leans in to hug her goodbye, as if to say I don't get to kiss you right now and let me tell you I am outraged. Annabeth gets the message loud and clear.

;;

When you're twenty-three, you might marry your soulmate. And sometimes, your soulmate will buy you your dream house, even if you were both sure it wasn't in your price range. Sometimes your soulmate will agree to paint the kitchen your favorite color, even if they'll be the one cooking more often than not, and you might agree to bed sheets that are their favorite color, just to be fair. Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to spend your Sunday mornings reading cuddled up to your soulmate's side. Your soulmate might play a game on their phone all morning, but it's close enough to what you've imagined.

The day Annabeth's first daughter turns ten, she tells her exactly what her mother told her. Well, almost exactly, anyways.

"Don't go looking for them," Annabeth warns her child, using the same tone her mother did, but smiling afterwards. "They might come looking for you, anyways."

;;;