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Stucco Hearts

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Percy used to look up at skies like these and call them gray.

 

He had always missed the different colors that could be splashed among the gray strands of a sky like this one. Sometimes, when the house is quiet and there’s nothing else to do, he hunts for those colors in Annabeth’s eyes. And when the sky is like this, all misty and shadowy and seemingly nondescript, Percy can find the darker and lighter pieces of blue and gray that he often locates within the eyes of his wife.

 

Perhaps, if Percy had been paying attention for the first twenty-two years of his life, he would have been able to pick out the different grays in a world that had seemed colorless to him. But he had been so busy searching for something that hadn’t existed, and he had never stopped to kick puddles on rainy days and see the different pinks and blues that accompanied his image in the rippling water.

 

Back then, his reflection had seemed like nothing without his soul mate’s next to him. Now, his reflection would seem like nothing without Annabeth Jackson.

 

The difference between these two things is not lost on him-- will never be lost on him. Never again.

 

“Did I tell you that I love you at any point today?” Percy questions, tilting his head to the side and frowning. His wife of seven years is standing behind him, her arms wrapped around his torso, her chin on his shoulder. She’s equal in height to him with the slight heel on the boots that she’s wearing, so when she presses her cold cheek against his, he’s able to simply close his eyes and nuzzle softly against her.

 

“Hmmm,” replies Annabeth, speaking just loud enough that he can hear her over the raucous children on the playground. “I think you said it this morning. After I poured coffee into your mug and before you poured it all over your shirt.”

 

“Well, that’s a prime timeslot.”

 

“Oh, I know. I feel very privileged.”

 

He turns his head to make a silly face at her and is rewarded with a kiss on his nose. Annabeth leans in closer, so that their noses are pressed together, and says, “I love you too,” before pushing his new glasses further up, pressing the bridge against the spot between his eyes. The thick black frames are new, and he isn’t quite used to the way they slide down his nose. But Annabeth loves them, and that makes Percy want to wear them every moment of every day, even if he only truly needs them for reading.

 

Percy is pretty sure that Annabeth is hoping his eyes will get steadily worse until he’s forced to wear the glasses constantly. She denies it when he asks, though, and won’t stop protesting even when he tickles her. Which doesn’t really mean much, except for showing that she feels bad about desiring optical misfortune for him.

 

“How was work yesterday?”


Percy wrinkles his nose and heaves an exaggerated sigh, letting his warm breath mingle in the cool winter air. Annabeth brings her hands up to his mouth and smirks.

 

“Put your annoyance to good use, will you?”

 

Dutifully, he blows hot hair onto her cold hands.

 

“Work wasn’t awful,” he says between huffs. “I’m just having a hard time with this one couple. I need them to be honest with me, but they’re still treating me like I’m the enemy, not like I’m the only person in that entire building who has the power to help them.”

 

“I think that people who are against the Timers often feel like it’s them against the world,” Annabeth says mildly, her eyes searching the playground. When she spots Nova, she smiles and waves. The girl returns the wave before refocusing herself on Ben, tousling his dark-hair playfully before giving him another push on the swing. The dark-haired boy screeches in delight, kicking his tiny feet in the air. “Even though they don’t always feel congruent with each other, ironically enough.”

 

“I know that you’re right,” Percy admits. “I know. It’s just… getting them to see that in themselves seems impossible when I have to monitor what I say to them so carefully. I can’t just run my mouth about the Timer laws and how they’ve changed over the years and how-”

 

“Daddy! Mommy!”

 

Percy manages to open his arms just in time to catch the seven-year-old bundle that is running at him. Sophie is tiny, but she tends to forget the fact that she isn’t a toddler anymore, and Percy can’t help but grunt loudly when his little girl catapults herself into his chest.

 

“Hey, sweetie,” Annabeth says, trying not to laugh. “Are you having fun?”

 

Sophie nods vigorously.

 

“I am,” she says, green eyes bright with enthusiasm. Her arms are wrapped around Percy’s neck, swinging her feet back and forth from where she dangles, but he’s used to this by now. Sophie is a daddy’s girl, and they seem to go through this exercise every time he gets home from work. He just makes sure that he doesn’t tug on any of her waist-length blond hair as he secures her into place against him. “But guess what?”

 

Percy can’t help the smile that plays at his lips as he stares down at his baby girl.

 

“What?” he asks, scrunching up his eyes at her and straightening his mouth in a serious manner. Sophie starts to giggle, and when Percy looks down, he sees Annabeth tickling her side playfully. Their eyes meet and Percy just grins at her cruelty.

 

“Mommy, stop! I don’t want you to be tickling me when I meet my soulmate!”

 

The smile slips from Annabeth’s face immediately.

 

“What, honey?”

 

“My soulmate,” repeats Sophie, releasing herself from Percy’s neck and letting him place her on the ground. “My Timer said that I had three whole minutes, so I went to find you.”

 

Annabeth drops to her knees and pulls back the decorative cover that stores started selling for Timers a few years ago. Some people had begun to prefer not having to stare at the numbers all day, every day, letting the digital numbers tick them off into insanity. Some people had decided that they’d rather be adventurous and not let numbers dictate what they did and where they went in their final 24 hours. It had become stylish for people to cover their Timers when they weren’t zeroed-out yet. Percy and Annabeth had bought Sophie a cover simply because she claimed that all of her classmates had them and she wanted one too, but they had both admitted that it was a relief to not have to see the numbers so constantly.

 

They hadn’t checked it in a while, except when they bought Sophie a new cover for Christmas once, and for her seventh birthday the following year. The most current one is brown with small turquoise polka-dots. Sophie had picked it out herself.  

 

There are only a few minutes left on Sophie’s clock, and suddenly Percy wishes that they had prepared themselves a little more. From the desperate look on Annabeth’s face, he knows that she wishes the same. They had known that this was coming, but Percy knows that he’s as stunned as Annabeth looks, and he also knows that it’s their fault. God, they should have talked to Sophie about it first! They should have told her their story; made sure she knew that hers would end just as happily as theirs did.

 

At least she doesn’t have to get married-- not right now. At least she’ll have time to fall in love with her soulmate before they are shoved together for the rest of their lives. Although, Percy will be the first to admit that, if he doesn’t like his daughter’s in-laws, he’s sneaking his family out of the country and that is that.

 

“Who do you think it is?” his little girl is saying, standing on her toes and bouncing excitedly. Annabeth buries her face in her free hand, still crouched on the ground despite the fact that Sophie is fidgeting to get out of her grasp.

 

Percy leans down to his wife and takes her by the elbow, pulling her up to him.


“It’s going to be okay,” he murmurs in her ear, but she’s shaking and he knows that he can’t fix this for her. He can’t give her more time.

 

“Where’s Ben?” she asks dazedly. “And Nova? I told Piper and Jason that I would watch Nova while they took Leela to the… I need… we should… they-”

 

It’s too overwhelming to think about his own feelings, so Percy focuses on keeping Annabeth’s in check. He wraps her hand in his as they stand behind Sophie, who is searching the playground happily.

 

“She has no idea,” Percy whispers, staring at their daughter. He looks up at Annabeth, and when he meets her eyes, he finds that they are wide and terrified. “She’s too young to understand what an entire lifetime with someone means.”

 

He closes his eyes at the high pitched beep.

 

---

 

“What is that beeping noise, and how do I make it stop?”

 

Annabeth pauses, her paint roller pressed firmly against the wall, and turns around to look at Percy.

 

“That,” she says, “is the beep of me meeting my new soulmate, who is excited at the sound of corn dogs being ready, unlike the swine that I am married to currently.”

 

Percy’s eyes widen.

 

“Holy fuck, there are corn dogs?”

 

“THAT’S THE SPIRIT!” Annabeth yells after him as he runs into the kitchen.

 

It is a mark of how much Percy loves Annabeth that he waits until he gets back into the nursery to eat his corn dog. They sit on the floor, munch on their food, and stare at the blank wall that is in front of him.

 

“So, given the fact that this bedroom has to be gender neutral, I’m thinking that we forgo the turquoise paint that we bought and switch to pink,” says Percy thoughtfully.

 

“I hate pink. I’m not rocking our children to sleep in a pink bedroom every night,” Annabeth tells him, swatting him on the arm with the hand that is not holding up her corn dog.

 

“It was just a suggestion,” says Percy lightly. “A good suggestion, I might add.”

 

Annabeth spares him one disdainful look before slapping her leg and starting to stand up.

 

“Get up,” she directs. “It’s time to paint.”

 

With a loud groan, Percy uncrosses his legs and uses the wall to pull himself up. He scrutinizes their small nursery and scratches his nose musingly.

 

“Is there any way that we can turn this into a drinking game?”Annabeth stares at him, glances down at her stomach, and then pointedly looks back up at him. “Right. You’re pregnant.”

 

She exchanges a sarcastic glance with Pinky, who is perched on top of one of the cribs.

 

“I’m so glad that one of us forgot.”

 

“Stop ganging up on me with my Pinky!” Percy teases, wrapping an arm around Annabeth’s waist and pulling her close so that he can kiss the top of her head. “I just think that it would be more fun to do this with our friends.”

 

“What friends?” Annabeth asks, and this time, she sounds glum. “Jason and Piper just had a baby, Hazel and Frank are friends who can barely look at each other, and Leo is… well, to be honest, I don’t really know what Leo is doing. Where is Leo? Have you seen him since the baby was born?”

 

“He gets on these weird engineering kicks and disappears for weeks,” says Percy, searching the floor for a paint roller. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

 

“You have surrounded us with odd people, Mr. Jackson.”

 

“Yet you cannot stop yourself from loving me.”

 

Annabeth rolls her eyes.


“Ready to paint, Perce?”


He wrinkles his nose at the walls which are covered in a base coat. It had taken them long enough to do that-- applying the actual color is going to take two eternities and one small forever.


“Why do we have to paint again?”

 

It sounds like a question, but really, he’s whining.

 

“Because we want to get it done before the Honeymoon,” Annabeth recites, monotone. “Because Piper is letting us use her dad’s house on Nantucket for two weeks so that we don’t have to be surrounded by paint fumes.”

 

“Well, in that case, what a thoughtful wedding gift. And here I thought we were just going to be able to bang in peace for two weeks,” Percy says lightly, eyes scouring the floor for the paint roller that he’d borrowed from Jason. When he picks it up and turns around, brandishing the paint roller in Annabeth’s direction, she is staring at him, her head tilted to the side.

 

“Are you nervous?” she questions, watching him closely for his reaction.

 

“Nervous for what? Banging?”


“No. This. Painting the nursery. We’re getting married tomorrow. I picked up the paperwork to change my name earlier today, and after Monday, I’m not going to be Annabeth Chase anymore.”

Percy rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, staring at the soft white carpet.

 

“I think I would be more nervous if we weren’t doing this. I mean… a vow renewal means something that a marriage doesn’t. It means that we love each other enough to actually make an effort. That’s more than a marriage. And ever since you brought up the idea of renewing our vows, the idea of living without doing it seems… stifling. To live with someone for the rest of your life and not want to do this with them? That’s the thing that makes me nervous. I want to raise these babies with someone who is my wife in every sense of the word, not my wife simply by marriage.”

 

She laughs, the sound bitter in the air. They’re on opposite sides of the room, but he feels close to her, like he could brush back some of the hair that has fallen into her eyes.

 

“Wife by marriage.” She sounds disgusted. “That’s equivalent of… wife-in-law. How impersonal.”

 

Percy shakes his head.


“Nope. Don’t think about it. Doesn’t apply to us.”

 

He grins at her, and Annabeth stares at him with a straight face until Percy flares his nostrils, pulls on his ears, crosses his eyes, and sticks out his tongue. After that, Annabeth can’t help but laugh. She walks into his arms and kisses him, backing him up against the wall. By the time he’s opened his eyes, she has one paint can open and is rubbing it onto the wall.

 

“Ready?” she asks, quirking an eyebrow as Percy gapes in amazement.

 

Her paint roller is narrowly missing his hair. If he were a lesser man, he would not be able to stand for this.

 

“I don’t think we have much of a choice at this point,” he says, ducking out of Annabeth’s arms. She laughs loudly, eyes following him as he crosses the room.

 

“I call this wall,” he says decisively, opening the paint can that he’d brought with him. “This is my wall.”

 

“Weirdo,” Annabeth snorts. She pauses. Frowns at the wall. “Is it strange of us to be doing this on the night before our wedding? Should we be doing something else? They used to have parties on the night before they got married, you know.”

 

“I’m not really sure if we have any other option,” Percy points out, turning towards Annabeth just in time to see her lean into the wall. Before he can warn her, Annabeth’s protruding stomach rubs up against the paint, getting his old t-shirt covered in turquoise. “All of our main ‘people’ are unavailable. Do we have any other friends?”

 

“That depends,” Annabeth says. “Is Grover talking to us yet?”

 

“Very funny.”

 

“I thought so, yeah.”

 

“I could call my mom,” Percy suggests. “We could hang out with her and Paul instead of painting tonight.”

 

“My god. Our life has become lonely and pathetic and we haven’t even had the kids yet.”

 

He doesn’t know how to stop smiling at the fact that she’s just said ‘our life,’ so he tells her that it’s because he really likes the paint color before allowing her to drag some of it onto his cheek.

 

They decide to paint until it is done, watching turquoise splash across their walls as the sun sinks in the sky, displaying its own set of unique colors. Percy watches it slink out of sight as he paints by the window, only turning around a few times to see the way the shadows affect Annabeth’s face.

 

His wife flicks on the lights at some point, and soon after that, Percy puts on the radio despite the fact that they could probably talk for hours and not run out of sarcastic things to say to each other. Annabeth sings along without realizing it, and Percy sings the most lewd and most romantic lyrics in her ear, both of which cause her to blush.

 

Eventually, he checks his phone and sees that it is past twelve.

 

“Happy wedding day,” he say quietly, showing Annabeth the screen.

 

She doesn’t look tired, despite the fact that they’ve been painting all night. Instead, she shakes her head, her eyes filling with tears.


“God,” she exclaims. “Apparently I’m not over the emotion part of the pregnancy.”

 

“Or maybe you’re just super happy to be marrying me,” Percy says offhandedly, already turning back to the last white section of his wall.

 

“Actually, you might be right,” sighs Annabeth, pausing as she scratches her head. “Have I actually gotten to the point where I can’t tell if my emotions are real emotions or hormone emotions?”

 

“Have I mentioned how glad I am that I’m not the pregnant one,” jokes Percy.

 

“Me too,” Annabeth says drily. “You wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

 

He saves his revenge for later, when they’re brushing their teeth together. Annabeth is sitting on the bathroom counter, freshly showered and in one of his old t-shirts. As she goes in to spit out her toothpaste, he ducks under and does it before she can, smirking widely as Annabeth puffs out her toothpaste-filled cheeks indignantly at him. When she finally does spit, she crosses her arms over her chest and glares until he kisses the pout off of her lips.

 

“Looove you,” he sings, quirking an eyebrow. Annabeth just groans and shoves him away with her open palm.

 

“I love you too,” she says, sounding regretful of this fact. “You big baby.”

 

“I am not a baby!”

 

“You literally just revenge-spat.”

 

“How did you just create a name for it?”

 

“I’m creative,” Annabeth shoots back quickly, keeping the fast-paced rhythm of their conversation going. Percy nods knowingly and allows her to wrap her arms around his neck, knotting her ankles together at his waist when he lifts her from the bathroom counter.

 

“I am so ready to go to sleep,” he tells her, stifling a yawn.

 

“Me too,” Annabeth says, burying her face in his cotton t-shirt. “Mmm. You smell like you.”

 

“Do I now?” he asks, amused.

 

“Mhmmm,” Annabeth moans, rubbing her nose along the length of his collar bone. “This shirt is soft. I think I’m going to spend our entire Honeymoon wearing this t-shirt.”

 

“And I’m going to spend our entire Honeymoon trying to get this t-shirt off of you,” promises Percy as he tugs back the covers and gently lowers Annabeth to her spot on the left side of the bed. She releases him long enough for him to walk around to the right side, then grabs his hand and pulls him back to her, lowering his mouth to hers as soon as he’s close enough.

 

“Goodnight, husband. See you at the alter.”

 

He chuckles.


“Or for breakfast.”

 

“Oh no. As a wedding gift to you, I’m letting you sleep in tomorrow morning.”

 

“What a selfless woman you are,” he says passionately, then wraps an arm around her waist and pulls her against his body. “Let me know if you have a hot flash,” he adds before tucking his chin into her neck and falling asleep.

 

When Percy wakes up, he is in an empty bed. As per usual, he rolls over to Annabeth’s side and buries his face in her pillow, trying to fall back asleep. But his life is never that simple, and he is quickly interrupted by a small child leaping onto his bed.

 

“Uncle Percy!” Leela sings, slapping his cheek. “Daddy told me to wake you up.”

 

“He did?” Percy’s words are smushed against his pillow.

 

“Yep,” giggles Leela. “He said that you wouldn’t want to wake up but you wouldn’t hit a little girl. And then he told me not to repeat that because it made him sound like a bad parent.”

 

“Whoops,” says Percy, lifting his head from the pillow and smiling blearily at her. “I won’t tell.”

 

He was totally going to tell. There was no universe in which Percy wouldn’t snatch the opportunity to rib Jason about this.

 

The rest of the day is an insane whirl as Percy gets tossed from place to place. He is pushed into a kitchen chair and forced to eat a breakfast that is more like lunch. Then he is pulled into the bathroom so he can take a shower, then marched out of his apartment and tossed into a borrowed car. He allows Jason, Frank, and Leo to throw him in any direction he needs to go. They have their assignments, and his is simply to listen to them.

 

Although, from the way they’re acting, Percy wouldn’t be surprise if they’ve got earpieces with Annabeth’s voice bleating in their ears.

 

At least his mom calls him while they’re in the car, which effectively calms Percy down. He can hear noise in the background, and his mom tells him that there’s a group of girls all fighting over how they should do Annabeth’s hair while Piper works silently, sticking with the hair that she and Annabeth had planned.

 

“Can I talk to her?” Percy asks, suddenly realizing that he hasn’t talked to Annabeth in about twelve hours, and that is totally unacceptable. But his mother just laughs in his ear and promptly hangs up the phone. “Rude,” he says, turning to Jason with a bewildered expression. “Do all the women in my life know things that I don’t know?”

 

Jason considers this carefully. Percy can see him ticking off the females that Percy is close to- Annabeth, Hazel, his mom, and Piper.

 

“Yeah, definitely,” Jason says, nodding definitively. “That’s bad luck, dude. A lifetime of always being the last to figure it out.”

 

“I’m going back to college in August, Jason. I think I’m the last for just about everything.”

 

“You’re not the last person to fall in love,” says Jason, sounding upbeat as the car pulls up at the inn. “You’re also not the first.”

 

“Thanks?”

 

“Don’t mention it.”

 

Jason opens the car door first, then allows the other boys to crawl out after him. Although Percy and Annabeth have visited their wedding venue a few times over the past couple of weeks, he takes a moment to study it, wanting to capture everything about what it looks like on their wedding day. As he stares, snow drops onto his lashes and clings to them, dripping down his face when he blinks.

 

The rooftop of the white building is lined with snow, making it look like it’s directly out of a Christmas card. It’s reasonably small, and old, but Annabeth had called it charming the first time she saw it, and Percy agrees. His mother is old friends with the owner, and they had been lucky to rent out the hall at a cheap price. As they cross the porch to the heavy front door and pull it open, Percy finds himself walking into a warmly heated building with old wooden staircases and soft red carpet which has dimmed in color over time. And he loves this place. This is the place he gets married.

 

For real this time.

 

“We did the decorations last night,” Frank comments casually as he takes over from Jason, leading Percy into the reception hall.  

 

“Who did?” Percy asks, following him.

 

“Me, Hazel, Leo, and Piper.”

 

“I was at home with Nova and Leela,” Jason admits. “Nova’s too young to leave with a babysitter.”

 

He’s so amazed by their decorations that he doesn’t even reply. There are fairy lights strung all across the walls, unlit given the fact that it’s still light out. There are folding chairs set up for the guests, and a little table for the officiant to stand behind, and a tiny aisle for Annabeth to walk down, lined with flowers.

 

They’re getting married in two hours, at 3 o’clock because that’s when Annabeth thinks that the sun is prettiest, and Percy wonders if other people used to get jittery before their weddings. He’s fidgeting with his ring as he surveys the room, trying to imagine it filled with the twenty-five people that they had deemed most important to them.

 

In truth, he doesn’t even know why he’s nervous. He’s already married. He’s already living the life that he’s going to be living for the rest of his life with Annabeth.

 

But, in a way, this feels like one of the last things they’re ever going to do that is for themselves and not for the babies. And, because of that, he wants today to be perfect.

 

“You gotta change,” Leo says, slapping Percy on the back. “You can’t remarried in that hoodie.”

 

“C’mon, there are two rooms for us upstairs,” Jason says. “I checked in earlier today.”

 

It’s all too easy - so easy that Percy is pretty sure something is going to go horribly, horribly wrong. They tromp up the stairs and find themselves in a small room, with all of their tuxes lined up neatly. Leo looks at his with great disdain, wrinkling his nose when Jason suggests that he put it on early.

 

He knows when Annabeth arrives because Frank looks down at his phone, then casually moves to stand in front of the door, looking like a bodyguard when he crosses his arms over his chest. It makes all of them laugh, and Frank turns a bit red but doesn’t shift from his position until the girls are already in their room down the hall.

 

“You know that this is pointless, right?” Percy asks, taking the soda that Jason is handing to him. “I’m not going to burst from the room and run down the hall screaming my love for Annabeth Chase.”

 

“Jackson,” Leo says absently from where he is sitting in front of the desk and fiddling with the inside of the lamp that is there.

 

“What?”

 

“Didn’t you say that the paperwork was cleared today? She’s Annabeth Jackson now.”

 

They all sort of stare at each other, slow grins blooming across each of their faces. Percy is smiling because Annabeth is now Annabeth Jackson and his friends are smiling because he looks like an idiot when he grins like this and there are guests probably on their way or just arriving his wife is down the hallway getting ready to marry him in an hour.

 

“In any case,” Jason says, “he’s not going to run after her. Percy has more self control than that.”

 

They all glance at him, then at each other, and then there’s a subtle shift as the three boys slightly move their bodies so that they are situated closer towards the door. Percy rolls his eyes and takes a seat on the bed.

 

“Let’s just hang out until we get called down,” he suggests. “Leo, you can tell us what you were working on when you went missing for multiple weeks.”

 

There isn’t a knock on the door until Frank is nearing the end of a long story about his experiences with a fish when he was six years old. Jason calls for the person to enter, and then Percy’s mom is sticking her head into the crack between the door and the frame and telling him that it’s time to go downstairs.

 

The staircase seems shorter on the way down than it had on the way up, and he holds tightly onto the banister for just a moment too long, his knuckles turning white. When he lets go, it’s only to step closer to his mother, who is smiling gently at him. He thinks that she can probably hear his heart beating out of his chest, or maybe she just knows him well.

 

“There’s just twenty-five people,” she says to him, pausing at the entrance of the room. Their guests are all murmuring among themselves, and as Percy’s eyes search the room, he suddenly realizes that he’s not at all worried about the wedding. Nope. He’s worried about the after part.

 

Because Annabeth’s mom is here.

 

“Twenty-six,” he says shakily. “Look.”

 

He only knows that it’s Annabeth’s mom because her hair is cascading down her back in the same princess ringlets that Percy had been so taken with the first time he had seen Annabeth. Although her hair has streaks of gray in the blond, it is cut in the same way as Annabeth’s usually is, and has been left down.

 

Oh god. He totally hasn’t been thinking about this! He’s been thinking about baby, and then babies, and then how little sex they’re going to be having once there are babies. What he hasn’t been thinking about is the fact that Annabeth hasn’t seen her mother in years, and she hadn’t even expected her mother to come when she sent out the invitation, and now Athena is sitting at their wedding with her limbs locked close to her body and her mouth set in a hard line across her face.

 

“Mom?”


“Yes, dear?”

“I take it back. I don’t want to be remarried.”


“What are you nervous about?” Jason asks, his voice disdainful. “Annabeth doesn’t give a damn about that woman’s opinion. It doesn’t matter whether or not she likes you. You two are already married.”

 

Now that Percy thinks about it, he’s pretty sure Jason’s opinion of him matters way more than Annabeth’s mom’s. At least in Annabeth’s eyes.

 

“Maybe she won’t even know that it’s you,” Leo says, trying to be helpful.

 

“Yeah,” Percy replies drily. “Who could the asshole standing at the end of the aisle in a suit possibly be?”

 

“Annabeth’s coming down in a minute,” Jason says, glancing at his phone. “You ready, Jackson?”

 

He taps his wrist twice, right over the Timer that lies there.

 

“Born ready,” he says, and there’s a twinge somewhere in the depths of his stomach for the part of him that is still mourning the boy who used to believe that. The boy who used to believe that love was manufactured by something bigger, not created by two people who chose each other in the most quiet of ways.

 

He waves to a few people as he walks down the aisle, purposefully avoiding the eyes of Annabeth’s mother. He wonders if she can tell- tell that Percy doesn’t know why she’s here and doesn’t know how to handle that fact.

 

“So, now’s the part when you go and stand at the end of the aisle,” Percy’s mom says gently, reaching a hand up to tousle his hair slightly. “C’mon, honey. You won’t get there by staring.”

 

He barely notices Annabeth’s dad saying hi to him, and her step-mom giving Percy an encouraging smile. Percy keeps his eyes focused solidly on Annabeth’s mom, and he knows that as soon as Annabeth enters the room, all she’s going to do is focus on this woman instead of focusing on what they’re doing.

 

It kind of stings, actually.

 

Except Percy tries his best to ignore it as Hazel enters the room, clad in a pretty dress and carrying a violin case. He returns her cheerful smile as she sits in a chair and starts to play. And then Hazel’s music fills the room and Leela teeters down the aisle, carelessly throwing around flower petals. They drift to the floor of the carpet that creates the aisle, occasionally landing on the knees of wedding guests when Leela throws a bit overzealously.

 

Piper follows her down the aisle, holding a small bunch of white flowers against her dark red dress, a proud beam still on her face as she gazes at her eldest daughter. Percy tries not to laugh when he sees Jason taking rapid pictures of the two of them on his camera phone. As soon as Piper has taken her place, his eyes dart away from their family and over to his own.

 

His family has just peered around the doorway and is peeking out at the audience, clutching tightly onto her small bouquet of flowers, which look like red daisies. When she sees Percy looking at her, Annabeth’s face brightens, and she walks all the way around the doorway. The guests stand up, and for a moment, Percy thinks that Annabeth is going to see her mother and panic. But she doesn’t look at the guests- she gazes at him as he stares at her, trying to control the flutter of his heart as he looks at her.

 

She is beautiful. She’s wearing a simple wedding dress: lace all over, with sheer sleeves that come down to her elbows. There’s a white sash just above her baby bump, which she is clutching the flowers in front of, but Percy can still see it. Her hair is down and curly, except for a braid that winds around the back, and she’s wearing more makeup than he’s ever seen her in, but not in a bad way. She’s glowing, is all. And she’s glowing at him.

 

He reaches out for her hand before her dad can even have the chance to offer it. Annabeth is already touching his palm by the time her father has finished kissing her cheek and nodding seriously at Percy.

 

They stare at each other, and suddenly Annabeth gets the giggles and Percy gets the giggles and they’re both trying to stifle their laughter as the officiator makes a short speech welcoming everybody to the joining of this man and this woman. Percy kind of floats through the rest of the ceremony.

 

He goes back into focus when it’s time to do his vows, though, and only because Frank, standing behind him, pokes him in the back to get him to pay attention to what’s going on. Percy startles, and Annabeth smirks at him as he fumbles for the vows in his tux jacket.

 

“Okay,” he says, staring hard at the page. He’d made Hazel write out the vows in her neat handwriting - right after she proofread them to make sure he didn’t accidentally say something insulting - so Percy can actually read what’s in front of him, which is a true blessing. “Okay. So. The thing is, usually, in vows, people divulge this information to their future spouse that the spouse didn’t know. I researched. They tell a secret, or a story, or an opinion that the other person has somehow changed. But… Annabeth, the thing is, you know everything about me. All my little pieces… they’re yours. If I somehow magically get famous, there’s nobody more qualified than you to write my biography. And I would write yours. We’d sit side by side and write each other’s biographies and tease each other about our progress. And I don’t know when, but, at some point, that became my definition of love. Because of you. Love isn’t automatic or guaranteed. It’s knowing someone even when their skin gets turned inside out. I’m not whimsical about it anymore - I don’t believe that everybody has the ability to fall madly in love with their soul mate. I don’t even believe that you’re the only person I could have ever fallen in love with. But you are the person that I fell in love with, and it’s not because your name is written across my wrist. It’s because of all of your good and your bad, and how they compile into this woman who takes my breath away at any random moment. I love the little things about you, and the big things. I love our friendship, and our passion, and our teasing. I love our love story, and I’m so glad it’s ours. And it is. It is ours. It doesn’t belong to anyone else but you and me and now these babies. And, to me, that means more than a Timer ever could.”

 

He watches Annabeth exhale slowly and smile a watery smile that he’s sure she’d blame on hormones if they were standing anywhere but at an altar getting married in front of twenty six of their closest friends and family. She turns away from him slightly to accept a piece of paper from Piper.

 

She unfolds the paper and takes in a breath. “Right. Tough act to follow.” This gathers a few laughs from their audience and Percy grins at her, pleased. “Percy,” she says, and saying his name seems to ground her. “It was never part of my plan to love you. For such a long time, the numbers on my wrist were counting down to an inevitable fate I had no wish to meet. But I had no idea that what was waiting at the end of that clock... was you; incredible, wonderful, impossible, you. And I did fall in love with you, with my eyes wide open. I don’t believe that there is a bigger plan out there, I don’t know about destiny or fate or what is supposed to happen to us in this life. But if there is any truth in all of that, then I believe we are only fated to do the things we would choose to do anyway. Because I choose you in every capacity there is. Whatever bigger plan there may or may not be, whatever is written on my wrist, I choose you, and I will always choose you. Because you’re the unexpected love of my life, Percy Jackson.”

 

They don’t give each other rings. Instead, they officiant asks them if they promise to love and cherish and honor and respect each other, and they do.

 

When they kiss, Percy thinks of his first kiss with Annabeth, and how she had lunged across the room at him and thrown herself into his arms and how she hadn’t known how much she would love him yet, but she did know that she could love him someday. He remembers how that felt, and when he conjures that feeling, it makes him kiss her even harder. He loves her all the more for how far they’ve come.

 

“Your hair is a mess,” Annabeth mumbles against his lips as he pulls away.

 

“You’re not helping,” he teases, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

She pulls him back down to her and kisses him again, winding the strands around her fingers while their friends and family clap for them.

 

The fairy lights are turned on as they move to the part of the room set up with tables and dancing, standing in a line to wait to greet their guests. His mom and Paul welcome Annabeth to the family by hugging her warmly. Percy gets pats on the back from both of Annabeth’s brothers. Piper is crying, and that makes Annabeth cry because they’re both totally messed up from hormones. But that doesn’t explain why Jason’s crying, and then he sets off Percy, so naturally they gruffly shake hands before Percy pulls Jason into a hug.

 

Annabeth’s mother looks too much like her daughter, almost to the point that it is overwhelming. Percy tugs Annabeth closer to him with the arm that is wrapped around her waist, squeezing as Athena approaches and Annabeth stiffens against him.

 

“Mom,” she says, her voice shocked. “You… you’re here.”

 

Athena nods.

 

“I was grateful for your invitation,” she says, and her voice is so controlled that Percy suddenly can’t see her as Annabeth anymore. This isn’t how Annabeth acts. This isn’t what she sounds like. “It seems that you two are very happy.”

 

Her eyes flicker down to Annabeth’s stomach.

 

“Twins,” Annabeth replies, answering her unasked question. “A boy and a girl.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Her voice is guarded, but when her eyes flit to Percy’s and search his face, he realizes that she’s not guarding herself against Annabeth. She’s guarding herself against herself. What she has done to this child - the way she has affected her.

 

“You’re welcome to meet them,” Percy blurts out, ignoring Annabeth’s incredulous look. “I… if you want. You have Annabeth’s number.”

 

She ducks her head guiltily.

 

“Thank you,” she says. “And… have a lovely Honeymoon.”

 

Annabeth chews on her lower lip as she watches her mother walk away.

 

“Okay,” she says, exhaling the word. “Okay. Was there a different way that I could have handled that?”

“Yeah,” Percy admits. “But I think you were okay.”

 

“I don’t know if I want her to meet the babies,” Annabeth whispers nervously.

 

“If she says she wants to meet them, would you change your mind?”

 

She tilts her head thoughtfully as the next person moves up in line, and he lets her continue to think as he greets the next person.

 

They eat dinner and all Percy can think is how badly he wants to get Annabeth on her own. He hasn’t really talked to her all day, and he doesn’t seem to have a chance to talk to her now, even as they eat dinner together. Annabeth is talking to his mom and Percy is leaning behind her to talk to Piper and everything is crazy.

 

Eventually, Leo speaks into the microphone and asks that they please stand on the floor to share their first dance as husband and wife. Hazel gets out her violin and plays the song that Annabeth picks and Percy spins around the floor as Annabeth nearly falls asleep on his shoulder, leaning the entire weight of her body on him. He lets her nap until the song ends, and then other people join them and there’s music spurting from the speakers, and Annabeth snaps back to earth with a start.

 

“Hey, wife,” Percy says, beaming at her. “You wanna get outta here?”

 

She frowns, smiling, and tilts her head at him.

 

“What do you have in mind, deviant?”

 

He glances around to see if anyone is watching them, but nobody is. Hazel and Frank are standing awkwardly next to each other, trying to decide if they’re going to dance together. Jason and Piper are slow dancing to the fast beat, and Leela is skipping around the two of them. Nico is dancing terribly, and Will is trying to help him while roaring with unsuppressed laughter. And Thalia has her arms crossed and is glaring at Annabeth’s mom, who is standing closest to the door.

 

Percy grabs Annabeth’s wrist and tugs her towards the stairs of the inn. A few minutes later, they’re tip-toeing down the stairs wrapped up in coats and hats and mittens over their wedding clothes. Annabeth has boots on, and Percy has a scarf covering his skinny black tie. They quietly open the door and shush each other as they close it as quickly as they can.

 

It only takes a few moments after that to rush across the street and start leaping around in the snow.

 

A few moments later, they’re screeching with laughter as they throw snowballs at each other. Annabeth’s hair begins to fall, and she doesn’t even care when he tells her.

 

“Now it’s as messy as yours,” she says mischievously, and he’s kind of closing his eyes and tilting his head to kiss her when she smashes a snowball over his head.

 

“This is too violent!” Percy pronounces. “We just got married. We need to make love, not war.”

 

“It’s too cold for that,” says Annabeth flippantly.

 

“What? No, you freak. I mean we should create something beautiful!”

 

“We already made babies; isn’t that enough for you, Mr. Jackson?”

 

“Just build a snowman with me, woman!” he hollers.

 

He fastens his tie around the snowman and Annabeth makes eyes and a mouth out of pebbles and they take a picture with it, grinning at his camera. When Percy pulls up the picture on his phone, checking to see what it looks like, Annabeth stands on her toes to lean over him, resting her chin on his shoulder.

 

“We created this,” she murmurs in his ear.

 

“Are you just talking about the snowman, or?”

 

“I love you,” she replies, ignoring his question. She kisses him, soft and long and tender and he wants to stay like this forever, just the two of them and their wedding snowman.

 

They only pull apart when she smashes another snowball over his head.

 

---

 

“I’m Sophie,” says his daughter. She doesn’t stare at her wrist. Instead, she looks at the little girl on whom her Timer had bottomed out. “It’s really nice to meet you.”

 

Annabeth whimpers quietly in Percy’s ear and he wraps an arm around her waist to squeeze her hip.

 

The little girl has her arms wound around the legs of her mother and is staring at Sophie, peering out at her from her dark brown hair. Percy watches her carefully, beginning to smile as he sees her molton brown eyes and large nose.

 

“Sweetie, say your name to Sophie,” her mom says, ruffling her hair tenderly. “Be polite.”

 

“I’m Rivka,” says the petite girl, a slow smile starting to play at her lips. “It’s nice to meet you.”

 

“And I’m Shaina,” says her mother warmly, sticking out a hand to shake Percy and Annabeth’s. “This is my soul mate, Cormac.”

 

“I’m Percy,” says Percy to the little girl and her mother and father. “This is my wife, Annabeth.”

 

“Ben’s around here somewhere as well,” Annabeth says, speaking for the first time. She’s flustered; her cheeks are slightly flushed and she looks so intensely uncomfortable that Percy wants to extract her from the situation just so she can compose herself. “Sophie’s twin brother.”

 

“Can we go play?” Sophie asks Percy.

 

“Why don’t you ask Rivka?” he nudges gently.

 

Sophie nods, then steps forward and holds out a hand to her soul mate.

 

“Rivka,” she says politely. “Would you like to go on the swings?”

 

The little girl hesitates before nodding and releasing herself from her mother. The four of them watch them walk away, standing in silence. Finally, Annabeth turns to Percy, searching his face with frantic eyes. He glances back at Rivka’s parents, who are both staring uncomfortably at the ground.

 

“I’m sorry!” Annabeth bursts out suddenly. “I’m just… not ready.”

 

Shaina lets out a sigh of relief.

 

“Me neither,” she admits. “She’s my baby.”

 

“Sophie’s my baby too!” Annabeth says enthusiastically.

 

“But we should make sure they grow up as friends,” says Shaina, watching the two girls with a small smile on her face. “They’ll be close by the time they get married.”

 

“Soul mates can be difficult,” Cormac says quietly.

 

For a moment, it’s awkward again.

 

“Yeah, hopefully it won’t be like when we first got together,” says Percy, teasing his wife. He gestures towards her with his thumb. “You should have seen this one. Getting her to like me was like trying to chip away a wall of stucco with a hammer.”

 

“That’s me,” Annabeth says cheerfully, immediately launching into the familiar banter that the two of them share. “Hard hearted.”

 

“But if worked out in the end,” Percy says. “Y’know. She’s okay.”


“He’s okay,” she echoes, laughing at him. “Kinda getting gray, but we’ll get over that eventually.”

 

“I am not!” Percy says indignantly. “That was one hair, Annabeth Jackson!”

 

“I guess I’ll keep you,” she shrugs, scrunching her nose at him.

 

When she meets his eyes, he sees the woman he is married to - the one who is his, without walls at all. And he sees different colors of gray and blue and white, all streaked across her irises. There is so much more to them than just icy gray. And there is so much more to Percy and Annabeth than strictly soulmates. They are life partners, they are mommy and daddy, they are two people who are irretrievably in love and fell too hard to get back up.

 

As Shaina and Cormac turn towards their children, Percy lifts up Annabeth’s wrist and presses a tender kiss to his name.

 

“You know what my first thought was when I met you?”

 

She smiles, and he can tell that she’s still skittish from what has just happened.

 

“What?”

 

“I thought ‘wow, she’s kinda hot.’ And then I thought that you were too hot for me, but you’d have to get used to it if we were going to grow old together and make babies and live happily ever after.”

 

Annabeth snorts. “You thought I was too hot for you?”

 

“Still do, honey.”

“And are we still living happily ever after?” she inquires playfully, turning towards him so she can wrap her arms around his neck.

 

He doesn’t even have to consider.

 

“I think we always will be.”

 

Fin.