Her heart was beating so hard she was sure if there were people near her they could hear it, but she didn’t care, because all she could focus on was to make it to his place as fast as possible. Not for the first time she was glad the Jackson’s apartment and her boarding school were on the Upper East Side because it was fucking cold and she didn’t have to run that many blocks at midnight. The sight of his building didn’t give her the relief she was expecting, instead making her anxiety worse to the point it took her a few tries to start climbing the fire staircase because of how hard her hands were shaking. She took a deep breath and forced herself to slow down her ascension to his floor. At some point during her frantic run, snow had started to fall on the already icy sidewalks, making her fall more than once. Her body was probably already so bruised without having to add an injury from tripping on the stairs.
If she had known she was going to be this affected she would have accepted Sally’s offer of staying the night. But it had been a school night and she was having her last final in less than 28 hours, so after dinner Paul and Percy had driven her back to her boarding school. And it had been okay; she and Addison, her roommate, were exchanging notes until Addie fell asleep and that’s when Annabeth had seen the time. Thursday 12:47 am December 14. She had tried to forget the date so badly, she thought studying would be a good distraction, but in the silence every thought and fear that she had tried to avoid came crashing in.
One year ago, Percy had been taken in his sleep, and she spent the next six months looking desperately for him. The war had been won, Gaea had lost and they were supposed to be okay, but wasn’t that what had also happened last year? Kronos had been defeated, Percy and her were together and happy, with nothing to worry about except high school classes, and then she had woken up one day to find her world upside down.
Once the full effect of the date washed over her, she forgot how to breathe, for a second her brain forgot how to work. Her first instinct was that she needed to see him as soon as possible, even as the rational part of her brain told her it was probably -5° Celsius outside and she needed to calm herself down before giving herself some hypothermia. She tried to take a few breaths while she called his number, but it wouldn’t give her a line, trying a few more times to the same result. If her brain had forgotten how to work a few minutes now, it was working overtime. Multiple scenarios were starting to form in her brain and she was trying really hard to find a reasonable one of why her call wasn’t going through. She couldn’t even blame sleep mode on his phone; he had changed the settings so his parents calls and Annabeth’s would always go through after a second try. More than often Percy would forget to charge his phone and wouldn’t realize the battery died, which is what probably what had happened: he had been exhausted, he had had his last two finals that morning and was still catching up with the work he had missed those six months, his phone battery was probably the last thing on his mind.
But having a reasonable reason why Percy wasn’t picking up her calls didn’t make her anxiety go away. She knew she couldn’t relax until Percy was standing in front of her, with his messy hair, warm hoodie, and a lazy but beautiful smile. So she grabbed the first jacket she could find, put on her running shoes without bothering to find socks first and her invisibility cap, and ran the few blocks in between her dorm and his apartment.
Which led her to her current state, finally having reached the fifth floor and kneeling in front of Percy’s window. The window was closed, of course the window was closed, but there were still small mercies because he had forgotten to close his curtains. She was thankful for the brightness the snow was bringing because she could see inside his room. She couldn’t fully see the bed, but she could see enough to what she hoped was Percy under the covers. She should have taken that moment to go back to her dorm and pretend this breakdown she was having never happened, but there was a tiny doubt in her head that wouldn’t let her rest until she had actually seen and touched her boyfriend. She needed to make sure he wasn’t gone again.
The knocks she made on the window had been stronger than anticipated and she would have felt guilty about making noise at midnight if it wasn’t because the most wonderful sight happened in front of her. A lamp was turned on in Percy's room and then he was standing up and slowly walking towards the window, Riptide in pen form in his hand. When he realized it was her in the window, his posture changed from defensive to a mix of happiness and confusion that Annabeth would have found adorable if she wasn't currently a puddle of anxiety.
The moment he opened the window, Annabeth touched his face before pulling him for a kiss. It wasn’t a comfortable position, with her kneeling on the cold steel of the fire stairs and Percy inside his room with a bookshelf between him and the window.
His hands touched hers before he gasped and broke the kiss. “Fuck, Annabeth you are freezing.”
He took a step back and actually looked at her. For a second she let herself think what she looked like at that moment to him; the mess of curls wet from the snow, her flushed face that probably rivaled a tomato, her wrinkled and wet pajamas from her falls on the sidewalk. She could see the concern in his eyes, in the way he was scrunching his eyebrows, and she could cry in relief of seeing him in front of her, of feeling his warm skin under her cold hands. Percy didn’t say anything, instead he gently grabbed her arm and helped her get into his room, before turning around and closing the window, stopping the cold air from entering his warm room.
He ran a hand through her messy curls. “What happened?” His voice was raspy, deep, sleep still tinting it, but she could hear the concern in his tone.
“I had to make sure you were here.”
He titled his head to the side, confusion clear on his face. “Okay, may I ask why?”
She tried to tell him, but the moment she parted her lips, what came from her was not words, but a sob.
“Annabeth, you are scaring me, what’s wrong?”
She choked on a sob, she wasn’t crying yet, she was still fighting to stop the sobs but managed to say. “It’s December 14th.”
He still looked confused by her words, but she couldn’t blame him, he had been woken up to find his girlfriend being hysterical in his window. But then his eyes winded, his mouth formed an ‘o’ and she could see understanding written on his face.
“Oh babe,” Percy said, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer to him. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry, I was terrified and you weren’t picking up the phone so I just ran here,” Annabeth said against his neck.
“I know, I understand,” he kissed the side of her head. “I’m here, you are here, we are together.”
It was in that moment, after his words of comfort, when she had finally started to relax against him, that Annabeth realized she was shaking and she was cold, oh so cold. She probably had been the whole time, the jacket wasn’t warm enough and she had forgotten to grab a scarf or gloves, and while the adrenaline and anxiety on her body hadn’t let her focus on the cold weather, her body had felt it all along. Percy seemed to come to the same realization as her.
“I really want to stay like this and hug you all night but you really need to change into warm clothes, you are freezing.” Percy kissed her forehead. “I’m going to make you some hot chocolate while you change, okay?”
Between wearing his sweater and old sweatpants, and having his blanket around her shoulders, she was wrapped by the smell of Percy. And with an almost empty mug on her hands, she was finally warm enough to stop shaking.
“I’m sorry for waking you up,” Annabeth said once Percy had walked back into his room. He had left a note on his parents’ door to let them know Annabeth was staying over.
“Don’t worry about it, I need to remember to charge my phone.” To make his point he grabbed his phone and connected it to the charging cable, the screen lighting up in the process confirming that his battery had been dead all along.
“It's not your fault.” Annabeth took the last sip of her hot chocolate and passed the mug to Percy who left it on the nightstand.
He sat down next to her and gently cupped her cheek, at the feeling of his warm skin against her cheek she couldn’t help but lean into his touch. “It’s also not your fault.”
“I ran like ten blocks while snowing to wake you up just because you didn’t answer your phone.”
“Yeah, because of a terrible thing that happened a year ago.” He gently kissed her forehead. “So yeah, it is not my fault and neither is your fault, and we both know whose fault it is.” He pointed to the ceiling.
Annabeth laughed humorlessly. “I’m so tired.”
“Then we should sleep.”
Annabeth closed her eyes. “I’m afraid of going to sleep.”
“I can stay awake for both of us.”
“You need to sleep.”
“Maybe, but my winter break has already started so I can afford to sleep all day tomorrow instead of you Miss you-still-have-an-econ-final-left.” He bopped her nose, and she could feel herself smiling at him.
She yawned, she really was tired, and feeling Percy’s warm body next to her was only making sleep more tempting. She wanted him to promise her that he would be there in the morning, but it was a promise he couldn’t make because the gods were cruel and no one knew what the fates had planned for them. So she didn’t ask and he didn’t offer those words, but instead, he offered her the best thing he could actually promise her.
“You are the love of my life, and nothing can change that.” He gently guided her body so she was fully laying on the bed. “My heart is yours, it has always been and it will always be.”
“My heart is yours, too.”
He got himself under the covers and laid down next to her. “Do you want me to turn off the lamp?”
He had closed the curtains, so his room was slightly illuminated by the warm light on his nightstand. After Tartarus and the Arais’ curse, Annabeth sometimes found comfort at night when the lights were on and the past refused to let her sleep. Tonight she needed that comfort.
“Leave it on, please.”
Percy wrapped her left arm around her, and she found herself resting her head against his chest, her body curled against his. She knew it was an uncomfortable position for Percy, and his arm would eventually end up under her pillow instead, but for now he would hold her close and that’s all she wanted.
“I love you,” she whispered to him.
“I love you, too.”
And with Percy’s heartbeat as a soundtrack, she closed her eyes and let the sleep take over.