A feeling he'd grown too familiar with. And he hated it.
They had been falling for so long now, and Percy was pretty sure his ADHD had nothing to do with the fact that he felt they had been falling for days now.
"Annabeth?" he croaked out. His voice was raw from screaming the first few hours-or days- of the fall, but then he'd shut up when he realized the only thing he'll get was a sore throat.
"Percy?" she rasped.
"How long do you think the fall is?" he asked, a little bit afraid of the answer.
"Nine days and nights, I think. At least that's how long a bronze anvil takes."
"Nothing," he couldn't see her, but by the way her hair whipped around (hitting him in the eye, unfortunately), he guessed she was shaking her head. "Nine days and nights." Percy stayed quiet.
He was gripping Annabeth's hand so tightly his fingers had gone numb long ago, but she was not complaining, as she was doing the same thing.
With Annabeth and him holding hands, he had a brief flashback of that first time they fell into Daedalus' labyrinth and Annabeth had grabbed his hand. Under normal circumstances, he remembered thinking, he would have been embarrassed. But not then. Annabeth was the only thing he was sure of in that-- and this-- suffocating darkness.
Another thing he'd grown too familiar with. He hated it even more than falling.
He'd lost the feeling on his limbs long ago, but now struggled to gain control again. Slowly but surely, he wrapped his free hand-- his left-- around Annabeth's waist, bringing her closer to him.
Percy knew that Annabeth must be tired-- she had fought Arachne and did the journey, after all; her ankle was still sprained, something he was reminded of every now and then every time the improvised cast pressed against his own foot.
The sunlight had long since faded, but if Percy remembered where it had been correctly, then his back was to the floor- or bottom. Good. He was willing to take as most as he could of the impact, shielding Annabeth with his body. She was just too tired to realize this now, luckily.
Annabeth relaxed a little into him, trying to fight off sleep but clearly losing. He kissed her temple gently.
That had been one of the few moments when they were not in imminent death threat in a while.
TWO DAYS AFTER
Annabeth was dead.
Her body laid limp against his arms, her face bloody and badly bruised. Her limbs were bent at weird angles, and Percy winced. She was not even breathing.
"Help!" the voice was so full of grief it was hard to recognize as his own.
Tears blurred his vision as he looked around. Piper, Leo, Jason, Hazel, Frank, Nico and Coach Hedge were looking at him coldly, indifferent to his pleas of help. Why did they do that!? Annabeth was dying, for the gods sake!
He looked down at Annabeth's broken body again, a heart-racking sob making his way through his chest as he pressed his cheek against Annabeth's neck. "Someone help."
He woke up with tears running down his face, looking frantically around.
Navy blue walls, wood-paneled floor, a window looking out at the sea, whose waves were splashing the hull wildly. There was a night table with the white desk lamp he now slept with next to his bed, whose sheets were green. And tangled in those sheets, looking with obvious worry at him was-
"Annabeth." At the mention of her name, Annabeth wrapped his arms around him without saying a word. He put his head in her shoulder and cried, like she had done just the night before. He had been the one comforting her then.
"It's okay," Annabeth murmured soothingly. "You're okay. I'm okay. We're together." She repeated this again and again, like some sort of chant.
Percy nodded against her shoulder. He was still crying, although now it was more like sobbing. Tartarus had scarred them both deeply; not only physically but emotionally.
He hated crying, especially in front of Annabeth, but he couldn't stop himself. And she understood him--and it-- perfectly.
Eventually, he calmed down. He felt abashed, but looked up at her, pulling away a bit.
Annabeth had dark circles under her eyes that contrasted greatly with her now pale skin, her cheeks looked a little hollow, like his, because of the lack of food they had gone under in Tartarus; her hair was messy and her shirt was tear-streaked.
She looked beautiful, was all Percy could think before he leaned in and kissed her gently.
"Sorry," Percy said, referring to earlier. Annabeth shook her head.
"Same dream as always?" she asked quietly. Percy nodded, and she sighed.
They both knew they were not going to be able to sleep again, so Annabeth slipped out of bed and held her hand out for him. "C'mon, let's take a walk to the stables, shall we? For old-time's sake."Annabeth winked in a very un-Annabeth-like way. Percy grinned and took her hand.
"Are you not afraid of having a bell tied to your neck this time?" Annabeth teased once they were in the Argo II corridors, and smiled remembering Coach Hedge's threat after the night they spent in the stables.
Percy laughed this time. "I'd like to see him try. Don't you?"
Annabeth bumped him with her hip playfully. "Honestly, I'd be more worried about Frank having a cardiac attack this time, " she blushed a little bit at the memory.
But when Frank checked both Percy and Annabeth's room to tell them they were going to be late for breakfast next morning and realized they were not there, he didn't panic.
Instead, he went to the stables.
Sure enough, they were both sleeping over the glass panel, a quilt on top of the glass, wrapped in each other's arms like last time. Some things never change, Frank thought.
Frank closed the door and let them sleep in late, for once.
A WEEK AFTER
Now that everything was pretty much settled, the gods had called on a big reunion and party at Olympus.
When all the gods were assembled and the demigods were in the throne room, Zeus began his welcoming and thank-you speech, and then Percy started saying something but was stopped shortly when Zeus realized that-
"You two did not bow," he pointed out at Percy and Annabeth, both of whom had, indeed, not bowed like the others when they came in. They were both just too tired to put up with the gods whims anymore.
Percy raised his eyebrows; Annabeth glared at Zeus, even though Percy considered that was not much daughter-of-Athena like. Still, he liked the attitude.
They both communicated one silent message: so?
"It's rude," there was an edge to his voice as he answered the silent question.
Percy looked at Annabeth, and Annabeth gave the tiniest of nods.
The throne room was so silent, for no one dared to speak. The Lord of the Skies was beginning to feel somewhat triumphant about making the two demigods bow at him in front of everyone, but was unpleasantly surprised.
Annabeth and Percy had turned towards Hestia, who sat by the edge of the hearth in her nine-year-old self. Then they both bowed respectfully at her. Hestia seemed amused by this, the flames in her eyes turned warmed. She smiled and nodded in their direction.
Slowly, the couple turned back to Zeus, who looked furious. Then Percy continued talking like nothing had happened.
And nobody protested.
THREE WEEKS AFTER
They were teased a lot because of it, but they didn't mind.
They had been almost translucently pale after Tartarus. Now that they were finally back, they were working to change that.
The only problem was that time Percy forgot to take his sunscreen cream with him when they went to the Montauk beach, Annabeth had scolded him for it but let it pass.
After swimming and playing around for a good three hours, they'd sat down to eat lunch (peanut-butter sandwiches and two Coke cans). It was very quiet, the only sound being the waves crashing against the shore.
Annabeth had woken in the middle of the night and was unable to sleep again; after being woken up by your girlfriend's terrified screams, you kind of lost the ability to sleep, too.
With their backs against a rock and their entwined hands, they were lulled to sleep by the sea.
Leo and Jason had smirked, Frank had laughed, Hazel and Piper aww'd when they appeared in Camp Half-Blood at dinner, lobster-red expect for the white finger marks on the back of their hands.
But then again, they didn't mind.