Annabeth hasn’t slept in two weeks. She spends every waking minute looking for him, contacting every single half-blood and magical creature she can think of. She’s called Sally every day to check if she’s heard anything, but the older woman seems to be growing more desperate by the day, not unlike Annabeth herself.
The new kids don’t help either. She absolutely hates them, for no particular reason other than none of them are Percy. The rational side of her brain is telling her they did nothing wrong, and none of this is her fault, by the side of her brain that is sleep-deprived and constantly angry is telling her that if they’re not helping, they’re in her way.
Jason is the biggest problem. He’s strange, different and he is definitely hiding something behind his nice boy façade. And, oh—he’s not Percy. The fact that Hera would try to send him as some sort of replacement is maddening to her. He is nothing like Percy. Not as kind, not as funny, not as smart. Annabeth hates how he seems to be winning people over, too. He’s a natural leader, much like the boy he came to replace, but she’d rather have him lead his Romans in California, where Percy may or may not be.
She’s staring at her breakfast one morning when Connor Stoll asks to talk to her.
“Hey, Annabeth,” he says. His tone is hesitant, like he’s scared she’ll snap at him.
“What’s up, Connor?”
He sighs. “Okay, I’m just going to say it, but the only reason I mention it is because I’m your friend and—”
“Just spit it out.”
“Annabeth, we’re worried about you. You haven’t been eating or sleeping right, it’s not healthy.”
Annabeth has no answer. She knows he’s right. She looks at her untouched plate on the Athena table and her stomach rumbles.
“I know you’re worried,” Connor continues. “We all are. But we could probably do a better job with… dealing with all of this if we’re all taking care of ourselves.”
A lump forms in the back of her throat.
“I don’t think you know,” she replies.
“You don’t know how worried I am.” Annabeth hears her own voice become shaky, despite her willing herself to stay calm.
“Of course,” Connor tries. “I’m just saying that—”
“Thanks. I’ll try my best to do a better job. Let me know if you have any more suggestions.”
She storms off before he can respond. Her scrambled eggs lay uneaten on her plate until the harpies come to clean the tables.
“If you’re not going to eat that, I will.”
A hand enters Annabeth’s field of vision and grabs the half-muffin she placed next to her blueprints. A second later, Piper is already biting into it.
“Who says I wasn’t going to eat it?” Annabeth asks.
Piper shrugs. “You haven’t even looked at it in several minutes.”
“Okay. You can have it—not that you were waiting for my permission.”
“You know it.” Piper winks, and Annabeth laughs.
It feels strange. Annabeth doesn’t remember the last time she laughed. She doesn’t think Piper realizes she’s the first one who’s made her laugh in a while.
She thinks back to the first day they met, when Piper was still convinced her false memories were real. Maybe she’s not that bad, after all.
Annabeth looks around the room. She’s spent more time in the Bunker 9 than anywhere else lately, with Leo Valdez of all people. He’s chatty and incredibly smart. She wishes she could do without him, but she’d have to study for ages to be able to build the flying war ship he was planning.
Right now, the Argo II was just a large metal engine lying on the floor of the bunker. Leo sits on it, a screwdriver in hand, putting parts together. Annabeth is more concerned with the inside of the ship—it needs to be functional, light, and fit as much as possible in the least space necessary. It wasn’t easy. She glances at the trash bin, filled to the brim with discarded blueprints, before huffing and getting back to her sketch.
The top level of the cabin would be the living area—rooms, mess hall, galley. Eight small squares represented each room, and one of them would be Percy’s.
She’d considered whether or not to draw a room for him. It’s a hopeful addition at best. However, Annabeth wants, no, needs to think she’ll get him back for this quest, whatever it is. If she doesn’t, she’ll probably walk out of this bunker, get in the first bus to New York City and disappear.
She can’t. He needs her. The problem is, Annabeth doesn’t know how. She’s been praying to every god, over analyzing every dream. She has no idea where he is, what he is doing, if he’s alive.
She shakes off the thought.
He’s alive and he needs her.
“I don’t see anything.”
Rachel is sitting on the sand by the beach in Camp Half Blood, her eyes shut tight in concentration.
She opens them, looking up at Annabeth. Her brows are furrowed.
“I’m sorry, Annabeth. There’s nothing.”
The word is a punch in the gut.
For the past few weeks, Rachel has always had at least something. A name, a vague location, even a feeling. Something that indicates Percy is still out there, or will be eventually.
Annabeth can’t hear whatever Rachel says next. Panic is quickly building up, she feels her heart being clutched by a cold fist, she can’t breathe. She’s barely aware that she’s sitting on the sand now too, clutching her knees and crying.
For all intents and purposes, it’s like Percy doesn’t exist. There is no one in the world that knows where he is, so he might as well be nowhere. If he’s dead, no one has heard of it. If he’s been attacked, ripped apart by a monster, Annabeth will never know.
She is useless, powerless. No matter how many nights she’s stayed up, how many blueprints she’s scrapped, she can only find him if fate decides it that way.
Annabeth realizes she’s being held. She blinks back tears long enough to see a mess of red hair in front of her. Rachel has her arms around her shoulders, pulling her tightly against her chest. Annabeth wraps shaking arms around Rachel’s waist.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel whispers. “I’m so sorry, Annabeth. I wish I knew.”
Annabeth cannot answer. She cries into her friend’s shoulder and wishes she knew, too.
Percy’s in her dreams every single night, even though they’re not the kind of dream she wants—the prophetic ones, the ones that will give her clues, images to explore, meanings to understand. No, the ones she gets are memories.
Some are vivid. Sometimes, she can feel the exact texture of his fingertips running down her arm. She sees the green in his eyes be replaced by black as his pupils dilate. His laughter is crystal clear. In these dreams, his hand reaches out and he intertwines his calloused fingers in hers, rubbing his thumb on the side of her hand. He looks at her, smiles and presses a kiss to her cheek. His smile grows wider when she laughs then pulls him closer by the front of his shirt and kisses his lips. His cheeks are covered by freckles, ones that Annabeth has vowed to memorize. If a new one appeared, she would know, even in a memory.
Some are blurry. Sometimes, they’re a feeling, like the twisting of her stomach when he pulls her waist and kisses her passionately; or the way her head spins afterwards. They’re shadows, glimpses, flashes. When those come, Annabeth wakes up in fear that she’s forgotten. She closes her eyes and remembers, conjures every single memory she can think of, pieces him together in her mind—his face, his hair, his eyes, his body. Afterwards, just to be sure, she reaches under her pillow for the picture.
She hadn’t seen Rachel take it. She’s sitting next to him at the Poseidon table. It was against the rules, but she didn’t care. She wanted to be with him. Percy’s arm is slinged around her shoulder, and her hand is covering her mouth. She’s laughing at something he said, and he’s watching her like she hung the moon. After the picture was snapped, he leaned down and kissed her, quickly, before Chiron could tell her to go back to her table.
She wants him back more than anything.
It’s all-consuming and painful like Annabeth had never felt. She curses the certainty he’d made her feel, the way he made her think he’d never leave. Why wouldn’t she? Percy had come back to her, again and again, no matter how terribly she treated him. He’s kind, good. He wouldn’t leave… so where was he? She doesn’t think he wanted to leave, so maybe the problem is her. Maybe she can’t have anyone after all.
Annabeth never knew missing someone could hurt this bad. She supposes it’s what she gets for letting herself fall in love.
The ship looks like a ship now. Annabeth is still not sure how on Earth it’s going to fly, but if it doesn’t, she’ll walk all the way to California herself, barge into the Roman camp and pull Percy away by the arm. Truth is, she probably would have done that by now if she knew for sure that he was there.
Chiron has told her not to try to look for him. She feels like a child again, when she would beg him for a quest and he’d just tell her to be patient. Annabeth is tired of being patient. She’s gone on quests, fought a war, seen death and almost died. She’s paid her dues, so why can’t she get what she wants?
The answer doesn’t matter. Even if she knew, the course of action would be the same—wait, and when it’s time, go find him.
Rachel hasn’t seen anything in weeks. The only thing Annabeth’s dreams reveal remains that she misses him. The only semblance of progress she has is the giant wooden structure taking shape at the beach at Camp Half-Blood.
The Argo II has taken up most, if not all of her time. She hasn’t been paying school a lot of attention, if she even goes at all. She’s sure they’ve called her dad, and there might be a few missed calls from him on her phone, but she doesn’t have the energy to explain anything to him. She can practically hear her stepmother’s voice in the background, asking why she threw her life away.
However, that is nothing compared to what her mother had told her. Ever since their encounter at Grand Central Station, Annabeth’s nightmares had only gotten worse. The only thing more haunting than them were her words— If he has gone over to the Romans, let him perish. Kill him. Kill all the Romans. Did she mean Percy had abandoned the Greek? She couldn’t stand being his enemy. No, Annabeth thinks. Percy would never abandon them, abandon her like that.
“Before going to Camp Jupiter, he needs to go through the Wolf House,” Jason tells Annabeth. “He will be trained by Lupa.”
“He doesn’t need training,” Annabeth counters. “He’s a fierce fighter.”
“Maybe by Greek standards, but he’ll have to learn the Roman ways to get into Camp Jupiter.”
Annabeth hates it. She cringes at the thought of Percy being rebuilt, stripped of his Greekness. He’s won wars, saved lives. The Romans don’t understand that, they don’t know him like she does.
She cannot carry on with this conversation any longer, so she gets up and leaves.
Camp Jupiter. The Wolf House.
She digs through her things and finds her prism and a couple of drachmas. She goes to the beach and holds up the small crystal, shifting it until it produces a rainbow. She shakes the golden coins in her hands, hesitating before speaking aloud.
“O Iris, goddess of the rainbow, accept my offering.” She tosses the drachma into the colorful spectrum. “Percy Jackson, Camp Jupiter.”
She waits for a few seconds. The rainbow dims for a moment before spitting out her drachma.
Annabeth huffs out and tries again. “Percy Jackson, the Wolf House.”
The coin is consumed by the rainbow. Annabeth’s breath catches in her throat when the colors turn darker. She seeks darkness, dark green like leaves and hears wind blowing, but the image is not clear, like the connection is unstable. She thinks she sees a flash of dark skin running past her before the picture disappears.
Cabin 3 has been collecting dust. It breaks Annabeth’s heart. She tries to go in there every once in a while, clean a little bit, fluff his pillow, but it hurts too much to know that the furniture will be dusty once again by the time he returns.
Meanwhile, the rooms in the Argo II are being decorated. Leo, Jason and Piper have each chosen their own. Percy’s is empty, with just a bunk and a set of drawers. It shouldn’t be, Annabeth thinks. He deserves better than that.
When she thinks nobody is watching, she sneaks into his cabin and grabs his minotaur horn. She opens his backpack and collects some clothes, his toothbrush, his phone. It’s dead, but if she turned it on, she would see his background picture—the two of them sticking their tongues out at the camera. She stores his belongings in a bag and takes them to the Argo II. She hangs the horn on the wall above his bed, but the room still feels incomplete, or maybe she does. She can’t tell the difference.
When she wants to be alone, she goes to the sea. She stares at the waves and pretends he’s going to walk out any time soon, returning from a swim. Sometimes, when he did that, he would bring her little gifts. A shell, a little coral. He brought her a pearl once, claiming the clam from which it came offered it to him.
“It would look way better on you,” he’d told her.
Today, Annabeth sees a large shell washed up on the shore. It’s a bluish grey, with a pretty texture. Like most things she sees, it reminds her of him. So, she builds him a sink that looks like that shell. She attaches it below his little window, so he can use it while he looks at the ocean. She wants it to feel like home.
Finally, she takes the picture she keeps under her pillow and frames it. She places it on top of his small nightstand, and hopes he will remember the moment when it was taken.
When she dreams of Percy that night, she thinks it will be like the others. It is his height that tells her it is not.
Annabeth is running, but Percy is drifting away. She tries to go faster, sprinting beside him until her legs hurt. She reaches out her hand—he’s so close she can almost touch him, pull him to her. Her arm strains from the effort, but she’s desperate.
Percy looks back and meets her eyes.
In the back of her mind, she notices his freckles have not changed. His skin is darker, like he’s been in the sun for many days.
His eyes grow wide, and Annabeth’s heart races at the recognition she sees in them. She runs faster, but she can’t catch up. She needs to talk to him, tell him anything. She forces herself to speak.
“Thank the gods!” she calls. “For months and months we couldn’t see you! Are you alright?”
Percy stares at her like he can’t understand what she’s saying. He scans her face, mouth slightly ajar.
“Are you real?” He asks her. His voice is broken.
Before she can think to answer, he starts to dissolve.
No, she thinks, don’t go.
“Stay put!” She tries, but he’s still disappearing. “It’ll be easier for Tyson to find you! Stay where you are!”
She wakes up. She’s in Bunker 9, sprawled over a pile of sketches. She can hear Leo snoring over his metal dragon somewhere behind her. The overhead light on her desk makes her eyes hurt, so she closes them. When she does, she feels tears stream down her face.
She doesn’t know if she feels happy, sad, or even more desperate than before.
Percy is alive. He spoke to her, he remembers. So why did he look so hopeless? What does he know? What have they done to him? Is he alright?
I’m coming, she thinks to herself, willing all the gods to carry along the message. I’m real.
Annabeth knows he didn’t hear her, but she still wants him to have hope.
The Argo II flies past the Oakland Hills through a sea of clouds. When they part, Annabeth sees a small city in the distance. Closer, below them, a small crowd is forming. Among those hundreds of people is Percy.
She’s certain her heart will beat out of her chest when she finally spots him. She barely has time to register that he has his arms around two other people when he once again disappears into the crowd.
She forces herself to swallow her panic. This is it. He is there.
The next few minutes are a blur. She argues with a talking statue, follows Jason’s careful directions and meets Reyna. That is, interacts with her for no more than ten seconds before Percy steps out of the sea of people watching them attentively.
For a moment, it’s like he’s a statue. He’s a monument, he’s not real, not flesh and bone before her.
Then, he smiles. It feels like a million volts of electricity that jump start Annabeth’s mind.
She runs and so does he.
His arms around her almost erase the months she waited. His skin is as warm as she remembered, and he smells like the ocean, like she thought he would. Even when they let go, he still holds onto her hand.
She’d been right all along. Percy didn’t leave.
Every day she searched for him and did not succeed, she cursed herself for loving him. Now, she’s glad she does, because his eyes on hers are brighter and more beautiful than anything she’s ever seen.