Detentions and Replacements
To say that he had been in a bad mood for the rest of the day, would've been an understatement.
He wasn't in a bad mood, he was in an awful mood. That much was obvious. He'd gotten a few snide remarks from the few friends he had at Goode, and had even talked back at some of the teachers. He wasn't exactly angry over what had happened in the morning, it was something else entirely. Watching how easily Annabeth had laughed and talked with that other guy had sparked something in Percy, that he wasn't sure he could put into words. He guessed it was the initial shock, what had disturbed him the most.
The fact that Annabeth had a life outside of everything, while he still had trouble sleeping for the majority of the night. And maybe that was what had pushed her away too. After all what was he other than the same old, stupid, seaweed brained, good for nothing Percy he'd always been? Maybe she had finally gotten tired of him and was slowly replacing him with a smarter, handsomer, cooler model. Maybe it was time to call it quits, now that they had distanced themselves.
But that was it, he didn't want to break up with her, not now, even though he was still angry at her for flirting with some guy and hadn't returned any of her calls. He was in the wrong and he knew it, he was being an ass over nothing and he should've just called her back and said he was sorry and bottle everything up like he'd done before. But he hadn't done any of those things, because he was Percy. And because he was Percy, he was currently sitting in an empty classroom with his step-father staring at him from across the room because he had taken out his anger on any living thing that had come within 5 feet from him and had managed to get himself detention.
He let out a heavy sigh and let his head slump on his shoulders. His dark hair stood up in different directions as he continuously ran his hands through them, a gesture he'd become accustomed to do whenever he was aggravated about something. Paul must've caught on, because he sed aside papers, and with both hands on his desk looked at Percy.
"I haven't seen that much angst in you since I started dating your mother." He said jokingly, but Percy wasn't in the mood for jokes.
He rolled his eyes, and laid his head over the side of his arm on his desk. He didn't want to talk about Annabeth in an old crappy classroom with his stepdad, he just wanted to not think about anything for a while. The lights, and walls in the classroom were too bright, they made his eyes hurt and they reminded him of the week he'd spent at the hospital.
There were things he couldn't talk about without becoming a complete and utter mess, things he'd seen that had kept him up for weeks, things that no matter how hard he tried he couldn't explain to anyone. Anyone except Annabeth...His thoughts were a vicious cycle. They always seemed to start and end the same way, with Annabeth. No matter how many detours he tried to take, he was always back to where he started. The silence was broken by Paul again.
"Fighting with Annabeth again?" He asked and Percy groaned.
"We're not fighting, we're... I don't want to talk about it." Paul looked at Percy worriedly.
"Not 'fighting'? I see..." He said leaning back in his chair.
Percy had been bottling up his feelings about his issue with Annabeth for weeks now, and maybe it was the way Paul had shown his genuine concern that made Percy crack. He threw his hands up in exasperation and before he knew it, the words were just spilling out of his mouth.
"It's just... Ever since we got back things have been so different between us. Like, half of the time she'll just call me to cancel whatever plans we had, and the other half, when she does decide to show up, it's like she's there but she's not. Like I'm trying to communicate with her but the signal is all messed up." He threw his head back, closed his eyes and spoke quietly.
"Before it used to be so easy. Before Gaea, and any of this. Sure, we argued but it was always about the stupid stuff, and it never meant anything cause we would always make up for it, but now it just doesn't feel the same. She'll look at me like I'm some kind of ghost, just vacant air waiting to be occupied, and whenever I think about saying or doing something. I just feel like I'll fuck up everything even more, like I did this morning..."
Paul remained silent and Percy let out a soft groan. He didn't mention him and Annabeth's trip to Tartarus, he had told his parents vaguely what had happened during his quest on the Argo II, but he never got into the specifics. He decided that being missing for 8 months was enough trouble, and he didn't need to worry them anymore. He ran his hands through his face and hair again before looking at Paul, his sea green eyes lost and empty.
"I don't know what to do anymore. She's my best friend." His voice was low, and the air around him felt thick and heavy.
Percy had never been to keen on sharing his feelings with other people, not even with Grover, with whom he had shared an empathy link. He didn't really know why he had told all of this to Paul, but he knew that the man sitting in front of him was as close to having a real dad as he was ever going to get. It was still a little strange talking to him without his mom around, but it also felt nice. Comforting. Paul didn't ask him what had happened in the morning, or tell Percy to stop over analyzing everything, instead he calmly look of his glasses and ruffled his hair.
"It seems to me that the biggest issue you two are having is simply a matter of miscommunication. Annabeth's a smart girl, one that really cares about you, and I bet that whatever is going on, probably has more to do with her, than you." Percy just crossed his hands over his chest and slumped in his chair.
"But that's the thing though, what if she doesn't care anymore? What if..."
Paul interrupted him before he could finish his dreadful speculations.
"Did your mom ever tell you what Annabeth did? While you were gone?"
Percy remained silent and shook his head. Annabeth hadn't talked much about the month when he'd been missing. He hadn't asked her about it either, he figured it was better to simply move on.
"Well, when Chiron told us what had happened, I don't need to tell you that your mother was a complete mess. Annabeth came to our apartment, she would come at the end of every week to deliver whatever news they had about you in person. Then, she would sit with your mom and just talk about you. About your quests and how many people you had saved and all the great things you had done, and she would just tell Sally that everything was going to be okay. That you were okay..." Paul took a deep breath and put on his glasses again.
He seemed older with them on. A wave of guilt had washed over Percy as he spoke again.
"I don't know if she said that, to reassure your mom, or herself. I don't think that girl could've been more heartbroken, yet without a fail, she'd come here and just put on a brave face for your mother, and I strongly suspect that it's because she knew that's what you would've wanted." Paul didn't say any more.
He didn't have to, Percy felt like shit over how he had stormed out on his girlfriend. He let out a deep sigh and with it his last remaining question.
"What if when I talk to her I just fuck it up, then what?" He asked innocently, his eyes fixed on a spot on the floor.
"Oh, but what if you don't?" He said, and gave Percy a small, wistful smile.
Percy looked at him, and then absentmindedly glanced at his phone. He could see all the notifications from missed calls and messages, and felt like a jerk. Paul pretended to glance at his watch before gathering up his papers.
"Look, detention is almost over, so why don't we call it a day? And while we do that, why don't you call her and apologize, and invite her to the bonfire the student council is having this Friday? Just an idea." Paul said, looking at the mount of essays on his desk.
Percy looked up.
"Bonfire?" Paul simply gestured to the wall.
Sure enough, there was a bright neon flyer with all the information, posted to the wall. "You can take it if you want." Paul said, as Percy gathered his things. He took the poster and hastily shoved it in his backpack. With his phone in his hand he made his way to the door, turning around before exiting the classroom.
"Hey Paul... Thanks." He said shyly and his stepfather looked at him.
"No problem, kid." He said, and Percy gave him a small smile.
With that, he rushed into the hallway and dialed Annabeth's number. C'mon, he thought, Pick up, please Annabeth pick up! After a few rings, she answered. He spoke, barely even stopping to catch his breath.
"We need to talk."