Looking back Annabeth could see all the red flags everybody but she noticed. The fact his social media accounts barely had any traces of her while they had been dating should have been her first flag. His accounts painted a clear picture of him living his best college life but it barely had any hints of their relationship, of her , instead, any outsider would have assumed he was living his best single life. They had dated for eighteen months and even after a year of dating people close to him were surprised when Annabeth mentioned she was his girlfriend. And the only time she met his parents was when they accidentally ran into them in some restaurant that she had begged him to go to. She knew he had a decent relationship with his parents, he usually had dinner with them a few times a week and yet the only time she talked with them had been the most awkward minutes of her life. During that first year of dating, they had spent the holidays with her family in Boston, but instead of staying with her in her childhood bedroom like, he had decided to book himself a room in a five stars hotel room without consulting her, and most important he planned on staying there without her.
“Is not like we are going to have sex, so no need for us to share a bed, right?” He had said when he told her about the hotel reservation, it had been like a punch to her heart. He knew she was in the asexual spectrum, she had talked with him numerous times about her boundaries and her feelings regarding not being ready to have sex yet, he knew how she already felt bad herself respecting the topic without t him making those types of comments.
“That’s a little uncalled for, don’t you think?”
Nathan had sighed and wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I know that you are not ready to have sex, I will wait for you,” he kissed her cheek. “I promise.”
But like most of his promises, he ended up not keeping them. Instead, he ended up cheating on Annabeth during their relationship, even going as far as to say ‘Well if you weren’t opening your legs for me can you blame me for going to someone who will? ’ when she had caught him in the act. It took everything on her to finally muster the words we are done that night.
Those first weeks, months, after the breakup had been one of the hardest times in her life. Little by little Nate had taken her confidence, her happiness, her self-esteem during those eighteen months of the relationship, leaving a shell of her former self. But the worst part was that for a while she still wanted him back. Back then she thought she was the one wrong, that she was the evil one, that she had been the reason he had looked for passion in somebody else's bed. Nate had been her only relationship and she hadn’t known it had been a toxic and abusive relationship until it was too late and she was too deep in.
During their relationship, he had barely let her interact with his friends when they went to places together and he would try his best to stop her hanging with her friends, calling her every thirty minutes when she was hanging with classmates. More often than he would get mad if she went out with Piper but it wasn’t anything compared to his fury when she dared to mention Percy. Nathan would get pissed when she talked to Percy and had gone as far as to try to forbid her to see or talk to Percy, when she had refused he had ignored her for almost two weeks. He would reject her calls, leave her message on seen, and post stories to his Instagram of him having too much fun at bars and nightclubs. During that fight was when Piper had begged her to break up with him. It wasn’t a secret that her friends didn’t like Nathan, that they tolerated him for her sake but Piper have had enough of his bullshit behavior. She kept trying to explain to Annabeth how crying almost every day because of your partner wasn’t what love was supposed to be, how feeling sick to your stomach when you saw a missed call from them wasn’t normal. If Nathan had taken longer ignoring her, Piper’s words might have finally broken through and she would have probably broken up with him, but instead, Nathan had appeared on her door with flowers, apologizing to her with fake promises and the cycle started again.
Things calmed down when he found out Percy had started dating Calypso, to the point Nathan had proposed going on a double date. On it, Nathan had taken control of most of the conversation, Percy had been mostly quiet, his jaw clenched most of the dinner while Calypso had been going for polite fake laughter at Nathan’s jokes, and Annabeth, like Percy, had been mostly quiet, except she had been afraid of doing something wrong that would end up with Nathan giving her another silent treatment for days.
“ Annabeth ,” Percy had called her hours later, voice filled with concern.
“Please don’t,” Annabeth told him.
“He is a fucking asshole, he doesn’t respect you, he barely interacted with you all night, Annabeth he is not good to you.” She could hear the frustration in his voice. Unlike the rest of their friends, Percy had never tried to mask his disapproval towards Nate, probably one of the reasons why Nathan had hated Percy so much.
“You are my best friend, Annabeth, I tried to support this relationship, I truly did but please, you can do so much better than him.”
“I love him, and he loves me,” Annabeth said with tears in her eyes.
Percy was quiet for a while, she checked her phone a few times to make sure the call was still going through. “You are my best friend, you have been in my life for over a decade and I love you, I truly do, but I also can’t keep seeing you lose yourself to him.”
“No, Percy, no, please,” she was sobbing, her heart was hurting so much, she had fought with Nathan so many times so she would be able to keep Percy in her life and she was losing him anyway.
“I will always be here for you, I promise you this is not a goodbye, if you need me I’m here but I can’t keep pretending I support a relationship that is breaking you.”
Less than an hour ago Nate had spent all the drive to her place telling her how lucky Percy was for dating someone as beautiful as Calypso and how Calypso was probably a better girlfriend than Annabeth could ever be and it had hurt Annabeth so much, but the pain she had felt then had been nothing compared to the pain cruising on her body right now.
After that night Annabeth and Nathan still dated for almost three months, if he had noticed how tired, exhausted and sad she looked during that time he never asked her about it. Some weeks after living in hell from the aftermath of Percy’s call while dealing with finishing her junior year of college, she had learned from Piper that things between him and Calypso haven’t lasted. She spent numerous nights with her phone open on his contact info, fingers hovering over the call button, but every night she turned the screen off without having made the call. And then the massive fight with Piper happened. Her friend had insulted Nate in his face, now Annabeth could barely remember what Piper had said back then, she probably stood up for Annabeth after one of Nathan’s cruel remarks he passed as jokes. But what Annabeth could remember even time later was the panic bursting from her because Nathan had looked at her with that face that always made her fill with dread, anxiety, and fear, he coldy told her ‘we will talk later' and left her apartment. He had barely closed the door when Annabeth had started yelling at Piper about how she had fucked up everything, they exchanged ugly words that none of them meant and Piper had slammed the door on her way out while Annabeth dropped to her knees crying.
Three weeks later she had walked unannounced into Nathan’s place, she had brought his favorite dinner and wanted to surprise him only to find him having sex with a girl she had never seen before on the couch.
Nathan had tried to play himself as the victim, telling her it was her fault for refusing to sleep with him, if she had truly loved him she would have already had sex with him, that it wasn’t his fault girls threw at him and that every man had needs. Annabeth wasn’t sure how she found the strength to break up with him that night, but she had left his apartment with her eyes full of tears knowing there was turning back.
She walked aimlessly for a while, crying and sobbing on the city streets, her phone vibrating with calls and texts from Nathan until she turned it off. It was past midnight when she found herself outside Percy’s apartment, she subconsciously had walked all the way from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side where Percy shared an apartment with his cousins. A few months ago Percy had said it wasn’t an end and he would be there if she ever needed him, and he had meant it back then. if the calls he make to her the day after her fight with Piper were enough proof. But she had been too afraid to answer her phone and maybe that had been the last straw Percy needed to cut her completely from his life. But she didn’t have anyone else to go, she was terrified of calling Piper even if she knew her friend (were they still friends?) had been only looking out for her. She missed Piper terribly, she missed Percy terribly, and even after what she saw in his apartment, she missed Nate so much and wished she could be in his arms instead.
“Who is it?” Jason’s voice came from the buzzer.
“It’s Annabeth.” She managed to say between sobs.
For some terrifying long seconds nothing happened, Annabeth was sure she had blown her friendship with Percy, but then the door buzzed letting her in and Annabeth slowly made her way to the third floor. The door of his apartment opened before she could knock and Percy was standing in front of her, the golden light from the apartment me framing his body. He was in pajamas and his hair was in its usual messy state. Seeing him for the first time in almost three months made her freeze on the spot and it took her a few seconds to find her words.
“I broke up with Nathan.”
One breath, one second, one step, and then his arms were around her, holding her thigh while she cried her heart out in his arms.
The next few days were all a blurb, Percy had moved them from the doorframe to his room, she couldn’t even remember if he had carried her or if she had walked there. She had spent most of the time either crying on Percy’s bed or just staring at nothing trying to calm down the pain in her heart. At some point, Piper had walked through the door and they hugged and cried together, apologizing to each other over and over. While she had been too ashamed to tell them about how everything had ended and the way he had actually treated her, she had managed to tell them he had cheated and how they had been right all along. Percy and Piper took turns staying at her apartment checking on her, sometimes even Hazel or Jason would tag along, little by little they helped her pick up the pieces of her heart that Nathaniel had destroyed. She was glad it was the summer break and she didn’t have to go to classes, the fact she had passed her junior year of college with decent grades had been a miracle altogether.
June was close to an end when Piper had invited her to spend the weekend at her dad’s upstate cabin, one last girl’s trip before Annabeth’s internship started and Piper went to Paris to visit her mom. They were driving past a scenic view of a river when Piper pulled over at a turning point and got out of the car, motioning Annabeth to follow her.
“Come on, let it out of your system.”
“What do you mean?”
Piper smiled at her. “This.” She moved to the rock rail, cupped her hands around her mouth to amplify her voice, and yelled. “FUCK YOU NATHAN .”
“Piper, oh my god.” Annabeth laughed incredulously.
“Come on, it’s your turn.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can,”
Annabeth took a deep breath and walked closer to the railing, dropped her hands on the smooth surface on top of it, and with all the rage, pain, and hurt she had suffered let out a scream. “ FUCK YOU NATHAN, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT. ”
“Again!” Piper laughed
“ FUCK YOU !”
“And again!” Piper cheered her on
Annabeth yelled some more, some more insults, some curses but by the time they got back to the car, she was laughing and she felt a burden had left her shoulders.
“That felt so good.” Annabeth sighed. “God, thank you Pipes. I didn’t realize I needed that.”
Piper blew her a kiss before starting to drive back into the road. “Anytime babe.”
Days turned into weeks and they turned into months and her heart was healing and she was starting to find her true self, not the person that Nathan wanted her to be. It took her a little bit to realize she could never go back to the girl she was before him, that person no longer existed but once she accepted that fact it had been a little bit easier to move forward, to meet her new self. And the fact she wasn’t the only one who was changing, that her relationship with Percy was slowly growing from friendship to something different was helping her too.
She couldn’t point to the moment their relationship had started to become more. When the touches started to linger and eyes started to follow the other everywhere they went, she found herself glancing at his lips more often than not, simple touches that before had been innocent now made her shiver, made her body burn. There was an ease about Percy that made her feel comfortable like no one had before. Her senior year of college had started, her workload had been drowning since the start of the semester and but Percy was always there for her. Six am calls where she was having a breakdown because she had been all night working on a building model while he was getting ready to start his shift at The Montauk Bakery , his family pastry store. Percy hung out in her apartment making her dinner while she worked on an essay. She would spend her afternoons reading and working on homework at his bakery during his afternoon shifts or would arrive at closing with his favorite takeout food after he complained about insane days. They had always gravitated to each other, but lately, the pull was stronger, like if there was an invisible string pulling them closer and closer.
The day everything changed was a perfect fall day, the trees were changing colors, the air was the perfect cold and Central Park was turning yellow. Percy had surprised her at Columbia after her classes were done for the day and had invited her for a walk.
“There aren’t enough red trees,” Percy complained making her snort. They were sitting on a bench in Central Park after enjoying the sandwiches Percy had brought with him.
“Give it a week or two.” She rested her head against his shoulder and feeling a rush of courage, she interlocked their hands.
“How are you feeling?” His voice was warm and soft and Annabeth felt herself relaxing against him..
“I’m sorry, we can go back to your apartment if you want.”
“No, it’s okay I like this.”
She could hear Percy take a deep breath. “I like us.”
She couldn’t see his face but she could feel the way his body had tensed at his words, waiting for her to say something. She changed her position, turning slightly to the side, and with her free hand gently grabbed his face so he could face her. “I like us too.”
With hands were still intertwined and his thumb had started to caress her skin. Percy spoke in a low voice. “I don’t want to rush you. I know it has only been a few months.”
“Is not rushing when it comes to you.”
“We can take things slow.”
Annabeth looked at his beautiful green eyes and her heart did a cardio routine at the sight because they were filled with adoration and hope and love for her.
“You make me happy, so happy and this,” she raised their interlocked hands. “Feels right, is right.”
Percy smiled at her. “We are right.”
“You are what I want.” She leaned closer to him and she wasn’t sure who closed the space first, the next thing she knew was that her lips were moving against his and everything was right in the world.
Annabeth had come to learn that Percy was an amazing boyfriend, he was attentive, and kind, and just overall as close as perfect as anyone can get. But she still had scars from her past relationship and simple things that Percy did shock her. A few weeks after they started dating Percy had posted a picture of them on his Instagram, one taken at the orchard they had gone when they had just barely started to move into dating territory and were on a double date with Piper and Jason. In the picture Percy was kissing her cheek, his arms wrapped around her and Annabeth was laughing, the caption only said ‘ Her ♥️ ’ and Annabeth teared up a little when she had gotten the tag notification. It was a simple action that meant everything to her, but then again, Percy had always loved and celebrated her even before they had moved from best friends to lovers. He had been the loudest cheer at her valedictorian speech at High School graduation, he had held her hand and yelled with her when she had opened her college admission status on her phone.
The first time she accidentally missed Percy’s calls she had called him back apologizing a thousand times, her boyfriend had calmly told her it was okay to miss calls from him, he would never expect her to drop everything just to pick his call. When some classmates invited her for drinks after class Percy’s response was simply to call him if she needed him to pick her up when she was done. Time later after a late-night talk with Piper, after confessing her confusion and shock towards Percy’s action, her friend smiled at her gently told her that that was how healthy relationships worked. Annabeth was slowly learning that being in a relationship wasn’t always being on the edge, terrified of the reaction of her pattern but instead being calm, and comfortable. And missed calls didn’t give her anxiety anymore, she stopped checking her phone for texts when she was out with classmates and she stopped holding herself back.
But some scars run deeper than others, something Annabeth wouldn’t realize until she had to face them. They had been together for around two months and with Hazel in California for a long weekend visiting family and Jason staying at Piper’s, they had the apartment for themselves. Making out with Percy was definitely one of Annabeth’s favorite things, especially when his shirt ended on the floor of his room, but tonight was different. If she was absolutely honest, she was terrified of what she was going to do, it was something she wanted but wasn’t fully ready for, but a little voice in the back of her head told her this was the only way to keep Percy. She made sure her shirt joined Percy’s on the floor and then he was kissing skin he hadn’t kissed before and it felt good , definitely good and so much better than the few times she and Nathan had gotten this far. The touch of Percy’s lips on her skin was making her shiver in pleasure, the idea of taking off her bra and moving further made her want to throw up. Her shaky hands started to move from his hair to the clasp of her bra, but she was stopped before she could reach it.
He was looking at her, concern and confusion clear on his face, his hands were currently holding hers, he had stopped her from unclasping her bra. “Annabeth, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said quickly and tried to continue kissing him, but he shook his head.
“You are shaking and you look like you want to puke.” Percy gently guided her hands until they were in between them, and she could see how they couldn’t stop trembling. “You are not enjoying this.”
It was a statement, not a question and yet Annabeth found herself lying to him. “Yes, I am.”
“Why are you lying?”
Because I don’t want you to get mad at me. She thought immediately but didn’t say it because it wasn’t fair. Because while Nathan usually rolled his eyes at her and would make passive-aggressive comments when she stopped him from going further than a make-out, Percy was looking at her with concern and worry, there was not even a hint of annoyance or anger on his face. He was Percy, her best friend since they were twelve who was always kind and understanding and the first person she talked to when she started to realize she could be in the asexual spectrum. But he was not only her confident and rock, but he was also the man she was falling in love with and he deserved the truth, even if she was absolutely embarrassed by it.
“Nathan used to tell me I didn’t love him because I never slept with him.” She said to their interlocked hands, too ashamed to tell him that to his face. Because this was one of the things she had never told anyone, not him or Piper. While they knew she never took that step with Nathan, she never told them how badly he would make her feel because of it, the hurtful comments, the actions, the mocking when movies they watched had sex scenes even if she wasn’t bothered by them.
When seconds passed by and Percy didn’t say anything she forced herself to look at him. Horrified was the only way to describe Percy’s facial expression. And for some terrible seconds, she thought that was directed at her.
Her voice was small when she broke the silence. “I’m sorry for not being able to go through with it right now.”
“ No , no no, Annabeth, no you did nothing wrong, I just- don’t apologize please, you don’t have to do anything you are not comfortable with,” he gently cupped her face, his thumbs slowly caressing her skin. “Contrary to what that asshole said, sex is not everything in a relationship, I promise you that my love for you doesn’t depend on it and I would never think you don’t love me because of it.”
“You are not expecting-?” Her voice broke before she could finish her sentence.
“No, of course not,” he said gently. “I know that sometimes talking about sex can be really hard on you, I don’t even want to picture what having sex when you are not ready would do to you and I definitely don’t want you to go through that.”
“Is not that I don’t want to have sex with you, because I do but also not right now because I am a little scared because this is all new and if I’m being honest…” She bit her lip at his words and took a deep breath before telling him something she had never let herself think for more than a couple of minutes in the past. “I don’t think I ever truly wanted to do it with Nathan.”
The fact he kept pressuring her and was an ass about it hadn’t helped with her ever feeling comfortable taking that step with him.
“I’m not expecting anything from you on that end,” Percy said slowly, his hands still gently holding her face and hers were resting on top of his. “If we end up having sex or not will not change how I feel about you, okay?”
“How far we go in this relationship will always be your decision according to what you want and feel comfortable with.”
“I want you,” Annabeth said, her cheeks going red as how quickly she said that. “But I also want time.”
Percy gently laughed at her and leaned in to kiss her. “All the time you need, babe.”
It wouldn’t be until a few months later, after an unexpected spring snowstorm with Annabeth enjoying the aftermath of Percy making her his own, that Annabeth would feel at peace, going to sleep on his arm, their naked bodies warm under the blankets and a smile on her face.
The mornings were Annabeth would wake up before Percy were rare, because of his schedule at The Montauk Cafe, most mornings Percy would be leaving for work around the time Annabeth was starting to get ready for her workday. But that morning was different. Sally was opening the Bakery that day and Percy wasn’t expected to be there until later in the afternoon. They had gone to sleep into the early hours of the morning, they had decided to watch Camila Cabello’s Cinderella while eating takeout in her apartment, and that had somehow ended with them trying to watch every adaptation of Cinderella and they had passed out in the couch during Lily James’ Cinderella dance with her prince.
Her phone told her it wasn’t even eight am on a Sunday morning, and as comfortable as her couch was, it was nothing compared to comfort on her bed. She gently unwrapped herself from Percy and sat down on the floor next to the couch, she turned to look at Percy, deciding to wake him up so they could move to the bed and keep sleeping but she ended up catching her breath when she looked at him. The early morning light showered Percy, making his tan skin glow, his mouth was slightly open and she found his little snores adorable, his chest moving slowly and then he scrunched up his nose probably at something in his dreams. He looked ethereal like he should belong on a painting in a museum instead of her old couch in her tiny apartment and not for the first time she was overwhelmed about how much she loved him.
Once upon a time Annabeth thought she knew what love was, she thought love was angry and had thorns and could be used as a weapon, that passion was supposed to hurt, but she had been so wrong, she knew now that love was kind, soft, like the morning sunlight. Love was kissing Percy and feeling safe in his arms, the way he would hold her hand and slowly caress her skin with his fingers, secret glances, and smiles, the relaxing silence when they were together, how it was calming and not having her on an edge. Loving Percy was laughter, walking with their hands interlocked under the autumn trees, jokes and teasing, a hot mug of apple cider on a cold day, that first fresh breeze of fall air against her skin and the joy of the first snow of the season. With a smile on her face, she kissed his forehead before waking him up.
“Babe,” Annabeth gently shook him. “Come let’s go to bed.”
“No,” came his sleepily reply.
“The bed is comfier.”
“Cuddles,” Percy mumbled.
Annabeth laughed at her boyfriend's antics. “I will give you all the cuddles once we are on a bed.”
At that Percy finally opened his eyes, blinking a few times, trying to get adjusted to the bright room. “ Wha -?”
“Hey there sleeping beauty, we fell asleep on the couch, it is not even eight in the morning, let’s go to bed.”
Annabeth gently laughed at the combination of his raspy voice and confusion, he was looking at her with sleepy eyes and messy hair, and again she was hit with how much she loved him.
“I love you,” Percy said.
They were in his apartment, he had been working extra hours at the bakery because his little sister Estelle had a nasty cold and Sally had been staying at home taking care of her, because of it they had barely seen each other that week. But that day Sally had finally gone back to work and by the afternoon Percy had been sent back to his place to rest, Annabeth had decided to leave work early to surprise him with his favorite takeaway food. Now, hours later, Percy was on the couch playing with his phone while Annabeth read some romance novel she had been meaning to read for months.
Annabeth smiled and turned a page on her book. “I know”.
“Don’t you Han Solo me,” Percy laughed and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her towards while at the same starting to tickle the sides of her body, making her yelp. “Say it back.”
“No!” Annabeth was laughing so hard, her book had fallen from her hands. “Never!” she joked.
“Annabeeeeeeeth,” Percy playfully whined. “Say you love me.”
Since they exchanged I love you’s to each other on New Year's Day for the first time, Annabeth told him I love you at least once a day, either in texts, calls or in person. And yet she couldn’t help but laugh and tease her boyfriend.
“Give me a kiss and maybe I might consider it,” Annabeth said between laughs and Percy happily agreed to kiss her, over and over, and didn’t stop until Hazel walked into the apartment complaining loudly on her phone about some grade that she didn’t deserve.
A little bit later, after Hazel had also complained to them about her stupid professor and had also decided to call Jason to complain some more, Percy was in the kitchen grabbing something to drink. “Oh yeah, I forgot, Mom wants to know if we are going to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with her.”
“She is wondering because Paul’s parents are asking them if they should take them into consideration this year or not,” Percy said, finishing his glass of water and coming back to sit next to her. “She wants to know if she should start looking into hotels because she doesn’t want to stay at Paul’s parent’s place because Aunt Stephanie is going to stay there too and you know how much we hate her.”
“You want to spend the holidays with me?” Annabeth asked him. Last year by the time the holiday season had arrived they had barely been dating for a little more than a month so Thanksgiving and Christmas had been spent apart, Percy in New York with his family and Annabeth in Boston with hers. She had come back just in time for Piper’s New Year’s party where they received the new year kissing.
Percy shrugged and she could see his cheeks starting to get red. “I mean yeah, if you want me to.”
“Of course I want you.”
“Good to know.” Percy joked, raising an eyebrow at her.
She playfully hit him with a pillow. “You know what I meant.”
“Is also good to know you want me.” Percy raised his arms in surrender when she pretended to throw the pillow at him. “But yeah, how do you want to do it?”
She started to think about it but honestly it was not a hard decision. “Thanksgiving in Boston, Christmas with your family.”
It wouldn’t be her first time celebrating Christmas with the Jackson-Blofis, but it would be her first time as Percy’s girlfriend and she was nervous and excited.
He smiled at her. “Good, good, that sounds like a plan.”
“Do you want to look for a hotel?”
“You don’t want to stay at your uncle’s?” Percy's tone was full of confusion.
Annabeth could feel heat reach her cheeks “I mean yeah, but if you don’t want to stay there or share a room with me.”
“Of course I wanna share the room with you, you are my girlfriend where you stay I stay.”
“Okay then, I’m going to call Dad and Uncle Randolph soon to call dibs on a guest room.”
“And I will tell mom to enjoy the drive to Vermont to the Blofis’s home”
Percy leaned back into the couch and started using his phone with a pleased smile on his face. Annabeth knew that smile, that was his Cheshire cat smile. “You already knew I was going to say Christmas with your parents, didn't you?”
“I can’t either confirm or deny that.” Percy laughed. “But I can say I was really hoping you would say that.”
There was something magical about fall, Annabeth thought while sitting at the porch of The McLean’s cabin. The way everything was tinted yellow and how when the sun hit the trees at the right time it all looked like a golden explosion. And then there were the browns, oranges, and reds from the trees, painting the perfect picture of fall. The air was fresh but not cold enough to bring out the winter coats, and then there was that hint of anticipation in the air of the holidays to come. Their upstate fall escapes were something Annabeth looked forward to.
It had started that first October two years ago when Piper had decided to go apple picking and wouldn’t take a no for an answer. And then it was something they had started doing on long weekends during fall and winter, Piper, Jason, Percy, and her would pack their bags and drive to Piper’s family cabin and on occasions, Annabeth and Percy would go by themselves when they needed a break from the busy city life and work.
Lunchtime was getting closer and Annabeth was passing time reading on the porch waiting for everyone to regroup. Piper and Jason were in town running some errands and Percy had gone back to sleep, after claiming he had gotten a terrible night of sleep. Annabeth was so focused on her book she jumped when she felt someone touch her shoulder.
“Percy, fuck, you scared me!”
“Sorry,” Percy chuckled. “I called you a few times but you didn’t hear me.”
“Are Piper and Jason on their way?”
“Nah,” Percy kissed the side of her head. “Jason called, he and Piper are going to need a little bit more time in town but they will bring food, do you wanna go for a walk in the meantime?”
Annabeth smiled at him. “Sure.”
The thing Annabeth loved about the cabin was that it was close enough to the town that it took less than a ten minute drive to reach downtown but far away enough that the hiking trails were close by. She and Percy walked hand in hand enjoying the view and the fresh air. She was doing most of the conversation, Percy was quiet next to her, occasionally commenting on her stories. The further they walk the more lost in his thoughts he would become so instead of trying to get his attention back she let the sounds of the woods surround them. She didn’t mind the silence, she knew Percy had been stressed lately with the upcoming holiday season at work and he was probably enjoying the quiet time creating new pastries on his head, the fact he would occasionally guide her hand to his lips and kiss her knuckles helped her be at ease.
She was about to mention maybe going back to see if Jason and Piper had arrived with food when she saw it. Fairy Lights surrounded trees, some of the trees had flowers and lanterns hanging from them, and in the middle of the clearing, there was a half-moon made out of candles. It was beautiful, it looked like a perfect little dreamy fall wonderland.
“Oh, I think someone got proposed here,” Annabeth whispered, wondering if the couple was still near them.
Percy laughed next to her and let go of her hand. “No, not yet.”
“ Yet- ?” She turned to face him and a gasp escaped her lips because Percy was down on one knee in front of her, a small velvet box open on his hands, and inside of it the most beautiful ring Annabeth had seen. An oval sapphire in the middle with three little oval white gems on each side, like little leaves.
“Yes,” Annabeth said before Percy could say anything, making him laugh.
“Can I ask you first?”
“I mean yeah, but the answer is yes.”
“There is a little speech that I have practiced a little too much.”
“Okay, still yes. I love you.”
Percy laughed and shook his head, a fond smile on his face.
“There is a Greek myth about how Zeus split humans in half and they will spend the rest of their lives looking for their soulmate. While we didn't have to look for too long because we found each other at twelve, we did have to wait to realize we were meant to be. You are not only my best friend but the love of my life, these two years with you have been everything.” His voice was breaking and she could see him fighting against his tears, she had already lost the battle against hers. “You bring sunshine to my world that no one else does, and if you accept to marry me, I will promise you I will do everything I can to bring the same sunshine to you.”
“You already do.” Tears were flowign freely from her eyes and she found herself fighting back sobs.
“Annabeth Chase, will you let me have the honor of being your husband and marry me?”
“ Yes , yes a thousand times yes.”
He slid the ring on her finger and then they were kissing, her arms around his neck, his around her waist and then he was spinning them while laughing with happiness.
“How did you pull this?”
Percy pointed to her back and Annabeth turned to see Jason and Piper waving at them. A professional camera on Piper’s hands.
“There were never errands to run in town,” Piper said while making her way towards her and pulling Annabeth in a big hug while Jason hugged Percy. “Congratulations, I am so incredibly happy for you.”
“I’m so glad we pulled this off.” Jason laughed after hugging her and congratulated them. And Piper took some more pictures of the newly engaged couple.
“When did you guys put everything up?” Annabeth asked once Piper was done taking pictures.
“It took all morning of sneaking around, phone calls, and hoping you didn’t suspect anything,” Percy said.
“You didn’t go to take a nap, did you?”
“I couldn’t let them do all of this alone!”
“Oh my god, you truly put so much faith into me not asking too many questions.” Annabeth laughed. “What if I haven’t said yes to the walk?”
“There were alternative plans.” Piper joked.
“Thank god we didn’t need them because I can’t remember them right now,” Percy laughed. “But I just had to trust in your love of seeing fall leaves.”
“And on that note, I think it is time for the lovebirds to go and celebrate,” Jason said. “Piper and I will clean things here.”
“We can help,” Annabeth said.
Piper dismissed her with a wave. “You guys can buy us dinner when you are back in the city.”
Percy kissed her forehead. “I rented us a small cabin near here, just for you and me.”
“I love you,” Annabeth stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. “So much.”
“I love you too, fiancé .”
Time was a funny thing, each day that passed the more little by little she had started to forget, things that once upon a time would break now brought her indifference, without her realizing her heart had healed, she had healed and had learned to love herself and let others love her again. And then that morning happened weeks later, it had been the first snow of the season and she and Percy were leaving her favorite brunch place where they had spent hours talking about their wedding plans. Her heart was so full of happiness and love, the excitement of planning her future with the love of her life made her not pay attention to where she was walking, her eyes set on Percy when a stranger accidentally bumped into her. She mumbled an apology and was about to start walking again when the stranger called her name.
She turned and stared at the guy, confusion probably clear on her face, a little nagging on the back of her head telling her she should know who he has. It took Annabeth a moment to place him and when she did, she didn’t have time to think about her reply, the words simply left her mouth winning a loud laugh from Percy. “Nathaniel? shit hi, I totally forgot you existed.”