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you're my lover

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Sometimes it’s easy for Annabeth to forget about being forgotten.

With the sand between her toes and a book in her lap, it’s easy to see what she's been missing out on for so long. She watches as Percy summons a small wave for Matthew and Bobby, the two yelling as they body surf it back to shore. Lips tugging upwards when the wave collides and the two boys cheer and try to tackle Percy into the water.

“He’s great with them.” Her father appears, dropping into the beach chair to her right.

“He’s always been great with kids.” She replies, dog-earing her book and folding her arms over her chest. Leaning back in the beach chair, she adjusts the floppy beach hat she has on. She might need to put more sunscreen on, but a little fluttering in her stomach tells her that Percy would love to be present for that.

Her father, ever the stoic, just hums his agreement and folds his legs, one over the other. Watching as Percy tosses Matthew farther into the surf and immediately pulls him back, it’s easy to get lost in it. It’s easy to imagine her life if it was different––if she wasn't an unwanted, constant burden, if she hadn’t forged her own path at the age of seven, if her father actually cared about her.

Or showed her he cared, at least.

The memory still swirls in her like a fever dream mixed with a nightmare; her behind the dumpster, hammer in hand and mind racing as she thinks about what to do next. Being on her own for weeks, months, not having anyone to talk to, not having anyone. It's a solemn feeling now, seeing all she’s accomplished. The war is over, her boy is safe, and she’s happy. For once she’s happy. And it’s all because her father never cared; never showed the slightest bit of interest in her and instead treated her like the burden she always feared she was.

If her life was different, she would’ve hated it.

Looking over to her gorgeous boy now, watching his easy smile, she knows that she’s at least doing something right to be afforded such a luxury as Percy Jackson.

“Are you okay?”

Her stepmother’s voice breaks her out of the moment, and Annabeth looks up to see Helen handing her father a lemonade with three blocks of ice before sipping her own and sitting down beside him, farthest away from her. These micro-actions, these little things that Helen doesn’t realize she does, but Annabeth notices. She always has, always will.

Her eyes narrow just the slightest under her sunglasses.

“I’m fine, thank you, though.” Curt, to the point, not as cold as she wants to be. Perfect.

Annabeth understands that today's barbecue and beach day is meant to be the extension of a new branch––something for Annabeth to bond over her father with. Helen and the boys coming was a formality; expected, of course, they would want to be here too. Not that it’s a problem, but Annabeth was hoping to have some alone time with the man she never actually got to know.

“How are your classes?” Voice impassive, eyes distant on the boys, some interest present. It’s the olive branch she was talking about earlier.

And so she talks. She talks about her classes at both colleges, about how it’s a bit harder than she thought it would be but she’s handling it, and about how she and Percy are doing. It’s easier to fill the spaces with her talking about anything and everything, and so that’s what she does. She talks about arches and columns and lovely dates that her boyfriend takes her on. It’s easier.

Her father just sits there and nods and nods, that small smile tugging his lips in a somewhat more comfortable fashion. She doesn’t know how she feels about that. After all, this is the man that has missed out on so, so much, but it’s also the man that has tried to repair it. Flew a plane to save her, constantly reminded her that she wasn’t a burden even though everything he did proved she was one.

She’s saved momentarily by Bobby and Matthew wrestling towards them, Percy following behind with that signature troublemaker smirk on his lips. If fifteen year old Annabeth thought Percy was beautiful, her knees would give out now. “Hey, good lookin.”

“Hey yourself, gorgeous.” He smiles in that gut-churning, cheek reddening way. Jogs up to her, drops himself down and pecks her on the cheek. Reaching out with her thumb, she wipes away sand on his eyebrow before pulling him in for a kiss that tastes like bright sunshine, her knees wobbling in her seat.

“We’re going to take the boys back to shower and change. Dinner in an hour?” Frederick stands, grabbing his chair and wiping off any sand before walking up the beach without awaiting any further response. Helen looks to Annabeth then follows soon after, calling the boys to relax before they get onto the patio as Matthew tries to throw Bobby down into the sand.

Percy takes a deep breath, bringing his arms around his knees. She can feel him staring at her, pensive greens tracing her features before his cheeks flush. His shoulder nudges her leg, and he raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

She rolls her neck, feels some of the tension. “I’m… not sure.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Not right now.”

He hums, eyes now distant as his father stirs several waves. “I think you’ll feel better if you do.”

“You always say that.” She mutters, fingers skimming the cover of her book.

“And you always agree it’s better.” He replies curtly, reaching out a hand and massaging her calf. “Why not try word vomiting?”

She laughs, “We’d be here all night.”

“Well, we can save that for another day.”

She watches him continue to stare off in the distance. From this angle, it looks as though he’s carved from the finest marble. The quintessential hero. His shoulders are more broad now than the gangly thing he was at fifteen. Skin is still just as golden and tan, hair just as messy but better suited for the man he’s become.

How could she get so lucky?

There have been so many nights she’s spent wondering that. Secure in the darkness of their room, her hand going softly in his hair as all the worries and stress in his face completely disappear. A special part of her loves that version of Percy more than anything. Loves his skin reflecting in the moonlight. Loves the small spittle of drool that hangs from the corner of his mouth. Loves the way that his fresh stubble feels under her thumb as she caresses his cheek.

Nobody in the world has ever made her feel the way she does for him.

Which is exactly why her dad is so exhausting. There’s this energy she feels when he’s around, this almost unnatural sense of unease mixed with anxiety mixed with frustration. It crawls up her spine into the back of her head, leeching there as she tries her best but still knows she’s not what he wanted.

Of its own accord, her hand sweeps through his hair and scratches his scalp the way she knows he loves. Leaning into the touch, he moves the tiniest bit closer, arm now around her leg. “Did you think this is what we would get?”

She hums with the wind. “Yeah.”

His lips tug upwards as he turns to her. “Really?”

“There were times where I thought we would, you know––” She gestures with her hand and he nods, “––but otherwise, this is what I always pictured. You, me, a beautiful sunset.”

“Aren’t you a romantic.”

His eyes go wide as she pushes him into the sand, smiles huge and laughs louder than ever. Gods, that laugh. It’s a little ridiculous what this man can do to her, the feelings he’s able to draw from her without even fucking trying.

“I thought about the same thing alot, you know?” Percy admits, still smiling. “The two of us, going to college, waking up early and drinking coffee with your legs over mine on a couch and just being us.” He takes a deep, harrowing breath. “It’s what kept me going a lot of the time.”

“Even with Rachel?” She smirks, raises an eyebrow.

He goes stiff. “Look, about that whole thing… You know I never–– I never felt the same thing for her, not even close.”

“You don’t have to explain, babe. We’ve talked about this.” She smiles down at him.

“I just wanna remind you, especially after that whole jealous thing last week... you’re it for me. There’s nobody that even comes close to you.”

The guest room they were graciously given to change in is a smaller, cold thing. There’s a twin sized bed in the middle of the room, flanked by two nightstands on either side and a small desk right under the only window in the room. It faces the ocean.

Annabeth changes into a crop top, taking a deep breath as she tries her best to tame the lion's mane on the top of her head. For a minute, she braids her hair and lefts her mind wander.

Both her father and Helen barely noticed them walking in, only asking them to go change as Helen was in the midst of finishing cooking. Percy, ever the sweetheart, offered to help four or five times before realizing that there was no way her stepmother was budging on that subject. Matthew and Bobby busied themselves with playing games upstairs, the sounds of gunfire coming from their room as they both screamed in triumph.

The shower opposite the room stops, and the humming that’s sweeter than honey becomes a bit louder as it’s no longer masked by the roar of running water. She smiles, rolling her eyes at him. There’s a little stumble, a muttered fuck, whoops, before Percy’s stepping into the room with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. Small water droplets stream down his chest. He hadn’t fully dried off, the bastard.

Cue the delicious smirk, the way his eyes rove her body and go wide. “Hey.”

“Hi.”

He moves to go past her, but she swings him back around. Hands mold to his chest, fingers roving over the white scars that mark his body. Absolutely beautiful. “You’re not going to get dressed without kissing me, are you?”

“Thought that would be a little dangerous.” He laughs nervously.

“You’re right.” She purrs, pulling his neck down so their foreheads touch. “You are a little dangerous.”

Strong hands envelop her waist, pull her closer. “And why is that?”

Her thighs press together and she gulps. “Don’t you know? You’re sex on legs, Jackson.”

“I could say the same for you, Chase.” His hands wander, one finds her ass and squeezes. She sighs into his lips.

And then her lips are his. Claimed by teeth, tongue, eagerness that only Percy could bring. She eases into it, feeling the sea of his lips along hers, pulls him closer because she absolutely needs him as close as possible. Her hand must have a mind of its own, because it slithers down his chest. Feels the indentations, the scars and marks and flat plain of muscles. His mouth stills against hers.

Then it snakes under his towel, and he almost jumps. He’s half hard, and she smiles into the kiss more. Slow motion, arm moving back and forth. He’s slack jawed, and she keeps going.

“Are you ready for dinner with my dad?”

He groans, shoulders falling. “Fuck off.” Falling back onto the bed, “I hate you so much.”

She taps his nose. “No, ya don’t. You looooove me.”

His nose scrunches, and she laughs. “I’m regretting that now.”

“Well, it’s too late.” She stands up, slaps his exposed thigh. “Get up, seaweed brain. It’s time to sit through a very uncomfortable dinner.”

Uncomfortable is an understatement.

The only sound is the ticktock of the antique clock in the other room. Dreadful silence. Her lungs feel short of air, almost like it’s hard to squeeze a breath out. Her leg shakes intermittently. Forks and knives clatter against fine china as their steaks are cut. Percy sits next to her, wolf stare aimed at his plate as he continues to zone out over the silence.

“Great steak.” Helen comments, dabbing the side of her mouth with a napkin.

“Thank you.” Her father replies curtly, cutting a smaller bite of his own.

Matthew cocks his head at Annabeth. “Hey Annabeth?”

She smiles. “What’s up?”

He points to her stomach, “What’s that from?”

She looks at the deep scar running from her lower abdomen to the upper edge of her ribs. “It’s... a long story.” She stammers, pulling the bottom of her shirt down just a little more. Her stomach churns, and suddenly she’s never felt more uncomfortable in this shirt before.

“That’s an inappropriate question, Matthew.” Helen chimes in, giving her son a chilling stare. She turns to Annabeth. “Sorry about him, though if you hadn’t worn that, he wouldn’t have seen it.”

“What?” Percy cringes. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“I just meant that if they weren’t visible, he wouldn’t have asked.”

“So she shouldn’t be proud of her scars?” Percy asks, hands tightening to fist around the dinner utensils.

Helen’s eyes widen.

“Percy.” Annabeth mutters, squeezing his leg. “I’ll be okay.”

Some part of her knows it won’t, but she doesn’t want to lie to him.

She turns to Matthew. “It was from a battle a while ago.”

“Do you have lots of those?” Bobby chimes in. “They sound fun.”

Fun.

Screaming, crying. Burning; the smell of smoke in her nostrils. A child of Hermes bleeding out, calling to someone, anyone. Titanic monsters. Fuck. She can’t control it. Her mind is racing. “It’s… not very fun, Bobby.”

“Sounds like one of our video games.” Matthew chimes in.

“It’s not.” Percy answers quickly.

“I’m just saying-”

“Bobby, Matthew.” Annabeth takes in a breath and rubs her face. “It wasn’t fun. I’m not going to go deep into it, but it wasn’t some video game. It was real, we watched our best friends die. We almost––”

“Annabeth.” Helen scolds. “They don’t need to hear that.”

“They’re curious about it. She’s answering their questions.” Percy’s eyebrows furrow deeper.

“Well, it’s not an appropriate topic of conversation at the dinner table.” Helen looks back to her plate.

Her father hasn’t said a single word during the entire conversation. From what she can tell, he’s basically been staring off into space while the rest of the family has bickered. What a bitch. “What do you think, dad?”

He almost seems to wake up then. Head snaps to attention, he looks around the table, unknowing wide eyes and a slack mouth. He seems desperately out of place, as if he’s been completely thrown out of his comfort zone and can’t make sense of what’s going on. All in three seconds, and then the tired, disappointed sigh falls out of his mouth, and she sneers at him. “Annabeth, I understand that you may be upset, but––”

“Gods, it’s so like you.” She chuckles without any humor. Her fist is clenched around the fork, her other hand having dropped the knife just to be safe. Really, she shouldn’t be around sharp objects right now.

“Like me?” He raises a thick eyebrow.

“Yes. This––” She gestures around the table. “––is so like you. The distance, the cold looks. You’ve been like this the entire day!”

“Annabeth!” Helen stage whispers. “Sit––”

“Don’t tell her what to do.” Percy levels, burning green eyes turning on her stepmother. He points a finger. “You lost that privilege when you forced her out at the age of seven.”

“Me?” Helen scoffs. “Please, I wasn’t––”

“You gaslit her for years!” Percy shouts, almost jumping to his feet. Plates clatter around the table, silverware dropping as the chair screeches backwards against the wooden floor. “You made a seven year old think she was the problem! Do you even know what her life was like? The danger she put herself in because you couldn’t take care of her? Gods––”

“Percy.” Her father rubs his temple, crows feet suddenly evident as he pulls off his glasses. “Let us––”

“And you.” Percy turns his wrath onto Frederick.

“Perce––” Annabeth tries, but he just shakes her off.

“You have no idea how many times I’ve framed this conversation in my head. Probably too many, to be honest. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” He narrows his eyes. “Do you? No, of course you don’t. I mean, beyond the abandonment of your only daughter and the fact that you never wanted her, you have no idea what you’ve put her through.” He gulps now, voice slightly shaking. “She’s–– she’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I consider myself lucky to even have the chance of meeting her. Why she chose me of all people is beyond me, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to tell you how shitty of a father you are.”

Her heart bursts.

“You have no––” Helen growls. Matthew and Bobby back away from the table subtly, in something Annabeth can tell is a practiced maneuver.

“I have every right.” Percy snarls right back. “I have every right because you’re too shortsighted to see your own daughter right in front of you. All the achievements she’s made, everything she’s done, she’s had to do on her own. She’s carried the weight of the world just as much as I have since we were twelve, and who’s been there for her? Even when she tried to live with you two, there were always the snide comments and frustration and you’re just so…”

He balls his fists once, twice. Breathes in and out of his nose. Annabeth wants to smile because it means he’s working on his anger, but she knows that now isn’t the moment to. She turns back to the table. “What he means to say is that you two haven’t been the best to me in the past. Which is an understatement.”

Frederick moves to cut in, but she ploughs onwards. “And I know you’re not perfect, that you’ve tried and wanted to keep your family safe, which is fine. The keyword there is your family. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t been a member of this-” she gestures around the table. “since I left. My family-” She enunciates, her hand reaching out and wrapping around Percy’s own. “-has always been there for me no matter what.”

Her father’s done with this conversation. He makes a resigned sigh, something that sounds between a huff and a yawn. “You’re not even angry, Annabeth,” He sounds tired, way too tired. Too bad, though. She’s been way past tired for years at this point.

“Oh I’m angry. I’m so fucking angry. Built up years of resentment and exhaustion and the want. The want for you to love me, to actually pay attention to me for once. I spent years trying my best to get my mother’s attention alone, and do you know what that showed me?”

The table stays quiet. The clock sounds off in the background.

“It showed me that none of this matters. Your opinion of me doesn’t matter. Your expectations don’t matter. None of what you say or mean will matter to me. Which, frankly, sucks, because I was hoping today would be a good day. Two sides of my life could come together and I could finally bridge that gap. But, I see now that you two aren’t mature enough for that yet.” She stands, squeezing Percy’s hand three times. I love you. He squeezes back quickly, brow still furrowed at the oak table. “Thanks for the decent steaks. Give me a couple days before you call and apologize, that's all that I ask.”

She takes two steps, Percy following closely behind her. Then it hits her, slaps her square in the side of the head. She needs to say something else.

“I…” The words fail her at first. She takes a quick deep breath before continuing. “I don’t know what my mother saw in you. Whatever it was, it’s definitely gone now.”

Percy opens the car door for her quietly, watching as she slides in before softly shutting it and walking around to the driver's side. For a moment, he blows out a breath, then cranes his head back to the house. His eyes narrow, then he shakes his head and mouths something akin to motherfuckers, but she can’t tell exactly.

Then he’s sliding into the driver's seat, gripping the wheel and sliding his free hand over to her thigh, squeezing three times. She grabs his hand, squeezes back.

They get burgers and eat on the hood of his car. Turbulent waves crash hard along the wharf they’re parked in front of, and she’s not sure if it’s natural or if Percy’s behind it. Either way, she wouldn’t blame him. He swallows his first burger, a double with everything on it, in three bites, then blushes when she raises an eyebrow.

“I’m––I’m sorry for getting so angry back there.” His voice is quiet, like he’s ashamed. Annabeth never wants him to feel that way again.

“Why are you sorry?” She turns to face him fully, taking a small bite from her own burger.

“I just..,I know how much you were looking forward to today, and I––well I burned that bridge, if I'm being honest.”

“Well, at least you’re being honest.” She teases.

He rolls his eyes. “No, seriously, I’m just… I’m really––”

“I don’t want you to be.” She interrupts him, rubbing his arm. “I thought it was really sweet.”

“You did?”

“Di Immortales, Jackson.” She laughs, setting her food down and wiping the grease off her hands. She crosses the distance, takes his face in her hands. “You were defending me, thank you. I really appreciate it. You’ve made this entire day better, and I’m not exactly sure if I could’ve done that without you.”

“You don’t need defending, though.” He mutters. “You’re the strongest person I know, but it was like my old anger just, like, flared up. Seeing them treat you like that––” he shakes his head, refusing to meet her eyes. “––it’s such bullshit! You deserve so, so much more than those two lousy asses.”

“You’re right, I do deserve more.” She cranes his head to hers, touches their foreheads together. “And you’ve given me more, so much more than I could ask for. There are days where I wake up before you and just wonder how I got so lucky. I mean between you, the touchiest person on the eastern seaboard––” his smile is like the most addicting sugar, and she laughs like a giddy little girl, “––and your mom and Paul and even little Estelle now, I’m lucky. So, so lucky to have all of you in my life.”

Their lips meet, a slow and languorous pace as the sun begins to dip in the sky and the crashing waves calm, everything around them being drowned out. Her fingers go into his hair as their tongues are introduced in the middle, and he pulls her waist closer.

After the Labyrinth, she thinks of how he had found her sitting on that rock. The sun was setting then, and despite the terrible gulf between them at the time, she wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch him, hold him in her hands and make promises with her lips. She does that now, as she takes his lip between her own, biting lightly, she says I love you more than anything; an intense burning from my toes to my chest to my tongue. You are the reason I wake up everyday, the reason that I push myself. You are my future.. My reward after years of loneliness and sadness and the drumbeat of war. I’ll give you all that I can promise, and then more.

You’re my lover.

You’re my family.

“I love you.” She couldn’t say those three words then, and that mistake has haunted her since that night. Times have changed. She says it freely now, probably more than most would. It’s a constant reminder, and easily her favorite phrase. There’s nothing quite like loving Percy Jackson. It’s a storm, a perfect, brewing tsunami of feelings that crash and never recede. Just when she thinks it’s at its most intense, the eye of the storm pulses, and grows in category.

“And I love you.” He pulls her close, and she thinks that the warmth of sunshine has never felt as hot and bright as when she’s close to him.

“Okay, enough sappiness. My burgers are getting cold.”

“Can’t have that.” He teases, grabbing another fistful of fries.

“Well, they taste terrible when you reheat them and the cheese gets so plastic-y and then reheated fries are even worse-”

“Beth?”

“What?”

“Shut up.”

She elbows him in the side as he laughs into her forehead, then plants a kiss there. Pulling herself away, she chews on her burger as they both stare at the setting red-orange California sun.

Picking up his second burger, Percy takes an eager bite and chews quietly. He grabs a handful of fries and shoves them in his mouth, and the rush of affection she feels is so stupid. She opens her mouth instantly, words flowing before she can even stop herself. “Better get those calories up, baby boy.”

He almost chokes on his food. “Wha-”

“You’re gonna need ‘em once we get home.” And she slaps his ass.