Misplaced Trust and Old Friends
He felt like he'd just been slapped in the back.
"A what?" He asked setting down the lukewarm liquid.
It felt pleasant against his tastebuds, and its subtle perfume roamed through his lungs freely and delicately.
"You've never had one before, have you?" She asked, a sad look momentarily passing over her eyes.
Percy shook his head, his gaze still fixed in the cup. He could see the bottom of the cup through the murky golden colored drink. Annabeth bit down on her lip, as she pushed her hair back. Everything around him felt cold, but she was warm. She felt comfortable, approachable, reliable. He knew her well enough, even know, when he wasn't looking at her directly, he knew she was coming up with a plan of some sort, the perfect answer.
"Basically, it feels like you're dying. They usually only last for a couple of minutes..." She continued.
"And, the cold water?" He asked curiously.
"It helps you snap out of it." She answered quickly.
She was studying him, awaiting some sort of reaction, or explanation. One he wasn't sure he had. He waited for her to say more. When she didn't, he spoke up.
"Did I say anything? About—"
"You said lots of things Percy. None of which made much sense, you mumbled something and then, when I got you here you broke down, and now we're drinking tea." She shook her head slightly. "It doesn't matter though, words are just words."
"It does. It does matter, to me at least." He took a deep breath, and looked at her, his green eyes taking on a blue hue in the dim light. "I was a jerk. I was a complete jerk to you, and still you make me tea, and answer my stupid questions, and... You haven't let me go." He ran his hand through his hair, and focused on anything but her.
He was an idiot. Faint images of what had happened between them earlier still floated around in his mind. He could still feel her skin around his fingers as he tightened his grip. He could hear the faint and hallow sound that escaped her lips as he held on. He was sober enough now, to remember the words spat at her, like daggers protruding from her body, and feel the deep and fatal blow of shame, just from looking at her. He might've been angry, and drunk, and every other thing in this world, but that did not justify any of his actions. He knew that. He knew she would forever be more deserving of anything he might've been able to offer her.
"Break up with me." He spoke, no sign of amusement in his voice.
She looked at him reluctantly, as if waiting for him to tell her it was a joke, or that'd she'd heard wrong.
"I said, break up with me." His voice was firm, and this time he met her eyes. He held off her stare long enough for her to understand the gravity of the matter.
There weren't any outbursts of anger, or array of insults mixed with unanswerable questions, just dead silence. When she did speak again, her voice sounded like it had burned out and all that was left was a fine trail of smoke.
"Why?" There was a panicky hitch in her tone, one that slipped past her lips as she asked the dreadful question.
He rubbed his temple and let out a sharp breath. The answer seemed too obvious to point out. It surrounded him and made him feel small, it pushed him into a corner he no longer wanted to be in.
"Because, Annabeth... I- I could've hurt you! I could've—"
"But you didn't! You barely even touched me! Percy, where is this coming from? That was a stupid fight—" It was his turn to interrupt her, his words bursting out of his mouth as soon as his brain procured them.
"C'mon Annabeth, that was not a stupid fight, you know it wasn't! And I did hurt you, and you don't deserve to be hurt. You don't deserve this," He motioned to himself in a small, restricted movement. She was looking at him wide-eyed, not daring to speak. "Gods, it's not that I don't love you, it's... You deserve someone better. You deserve someone who can take you out and not have to worry about getting killed every two seconds, someone who isn't terrified of what they're capable of, of what they might do. You deserve normalcy. And let's face it, me... I'm a fucking mess." There was a small pause.
He felt as if someone had taken his heart out and twisted it into all sorts of knots. It was a sharp and penetrating pain that crossed through his body, like his blood had turned into lead and his body was now too heavy to carry. He felt hell-bound, they way he had when he'd learned about the prophecy, or when he'd thought his mom had died. This, he felt, was just another deathless death served to him delicately by whatever god, or fate, or deity he had managed to piss off now. But this one, weighted him down the most, it was an albatross he could no longer fathom to move. He had to let it go. Let her go.
"Percy," She began, but he spoke, finalizing his trail of thoughts.
"No! Annabeth, I've made up my mind. It's not fair to you. You're not even in love with me anymore, it's obvious, this has been dead for months now. Please. Thank you, for what you did tonight, and, I'm sorry... for everything." He started getting up, but she reached for his arm, a soft and weak attempt to stop him.
"Stop! You can't just do that, you can't just say something like that and walk away! That's not how it works!" There was a desperate plea in her voice as she tugged onto the damp and stretched out sleeves on her dress.
"Gods, you're right, you were an ass and it did hurt, but you are wrong about so many things too. You want to play the blame game, fine, tonight was a mess. But it wasn't unprecedented and it wasn't just on you." She took a deep and shaky breath, and ran her fingers through her tangled, ashy locks.
"I was the one who cancelled our dates, and didn't talk to you, and locked you out when you needed me, and I... It was because of me, that you fell in that pit." Her voice broke as she finished that statement. Her breaths were hallow and hard, and her eyes stung with the words not yet said.
"It's the truth. All of that, that's on me! And I know I should've said something, done something—" She started again but he burst before she could finish. His eyes darting to her maniacally.
"Then why didn't you? Why didn't you talk to me Annabeth!"
"Because, you tried to kill yourself and I was terrified!" The words came out in a breath of air, a sudden silence feeling the room as small collections of tears threatened to fall from her glassy eyes. "I was terrified of you, for you. Everything, it was all too much... So I did what I knew how to do best and I ran away, because I didn't have a plan, and I didn't have any answers and it hurt too much! I couldn't see you, because... seeing you was just a reminder of how easy it is to lose someone..." She buried her face in her hands, brushing away her masked sadness. Her hands trembled and her voice quivered.
Percy looked at her, the way she curled her fingers and the way her puffy, red rimmed eyes were transfixed on his. He felt like a child who had just been struck for the first time, a wave of realization coming over him. All the signs had been there, since the beginning, and he'd been too blind too see them. She had needed him, and he hadn't been there. She had needed him to be there for her, and instead he had done the exact opposite of what he'd promised her during the summer.
"I'm never letting you go." Were the words ringing in his head, he'd promised her, yet in a way that was exactly what he'd done. They had both been at huge faults, and he realized she was just as helplessly afraid as he was.
"I'm sorry..." Was all he could muster, and he repeated those words, almost like a chant. "I'm sorry..."
She let out a small breath, and spoke, her lips dry and chapped.
"You want to break up with me because you are no longer in love with me, I can understand that. But don't fucking leave because you think it's what's best for me Percy, it's not. Please." Her voice was stern and her gaze did not leave him. He stared at her, there were no words he could say that could possibly make it okay.
He followed the lines of her body with his eyes, from the bones on her back, to the tremble in her hands. He captured her in that moment. A small flash of hope passed by her dull, watered down eyes. The dress hang on her loosely, probably several sizes too big. It sagged and danced in odd places of her body as she moved. He reached across and held her hand, a small and frail thing. She stretched her hand towards him, her sleeve getting caught on the edge of the small table. She rushed to pull down the dark piece of fabric, but it was too late. Percy had seen enough.
"Annabeth, what in the world?" She attempted to get away from his grip, but he pulled her newly exposed arm towards him.
Her lips gaped as her eyes moved back and forth from her pale arm, to Percy's eyes. A collection of small scrapes and scratches covered her pale arm, some raging from old, white scars, to fresher, crimson colored wounds. He looked at her worriedly, a dark fear consuming him. How much had she needed him?, he thought. He felt his throat tighten, like all the air had been jerked out of his lungs. She remained silent, devastated breaths escaping her lips.
"Annabeth?" He asked again.
She pulled her hand out of his grip and stood up, rushing past him.
"Annabeth, talk to me! Don't push me out again! I—"
"You were gone." She yelled.
Her voice was crude, raw with emotion. She turned around to face him, tears streaming down her face, as she looked anywhere but him.
"You were gone, and I was completely and utterly alone." She spoke softer now, like something might've broken if she spoke too loudly. Something probably had.
"But, what about camp and..." She shook her head.
"After a while, while Leo worked on the ship, Chiron suggested I returned my normal life. Here... He said it would help keep my mind busy, not be surrounded by memories and ghosts... So I did, I came here, and I went to school and I pretended that my boyfriend wasn't missing, or amnesiac, or dead." She scoffed. " 'It'll do you good, keep your mind busy,' busy, busy, busy... Like my mind would ever stop turning gears and spinning possibilities. It never stopped. It was just you, over and over and over again. And the same unanswerable question, replaying every minute of every day. Like a broken record... It was Luke, and Thalia, and my dad, and every other god damn person whose ever left." She spoke with a deep and unmistakable sorrow, her eyes glazing over him.
"You think I'm strong, and brave, and that I have all this fight in me. But I don't. I'm not any of those things, Percy! I'm the girl who ran away from her parents when she was seven, I'm the girl who couldn't save her best friend on Half-Blood Hill, I'm the girl who couldn't save Luke from going evil, who couldn't save you when you were kidnapped. Hell, I'm the girl who couldn't even save herself!" There was a silence and neither of them moved.
"I wanted to tell you, to say something, and hope that you wouldn't think I had lost it completely. I should've. Hunter said—" She spoke softly and bit her lip.
"He knew?" Percy asked, he held his hands together to keep them from trembling. A chill running through his bod with every word she spoke.
"He was one of the first people to actually talk to me at school. One day, about a month or two before we left for New Rome, he was my sleeve rise up and noticed the scars. He didn't say anything at first, he just went quiet. After a while he brought it up, told me his sister did the same thing, like it was some sort of club, or something. I wanted to punch him, but he was a friend, one that I didn't have to appear to be strong in front of, or lead. Someone I didn't really have to try that hard, and pretend that I wasn't completely affected by you. It made me feel not so crazy...That's what he wanted me to tell you, that's what was on the texts you saw. Something about how it was obvious you cared about me, and that if I cared for you, I had to be honest. I was hoping it would've been less accidentally and more... I don't know. I guess different. Either way, he was right. I should've told you." The last words came rushed.
Without another word he moved over to her, and wrapped his arms around her. He felt her breakdown, and sob into his chest. Crude and jolting, heartbreaking sobs. There was a long silence, as they fell on to the floor, holding on to each other, desperately. His body ached, as he held on, to the one piece of truth he had in his life. The room was dark, just enough light coming from the window for him to see the slight, glimpses of gold that bounced off of her curls. It was the only light needed in the room. He breathed in her lemon and vanilla scent, and kissed the top of her head. He was completely, inconceivably, stupidly in love with her.
"I know I can't make it all go away. I know that I can't make it all alright by just saying some pretty words. Trust me, I know. But I'm here for you, and I'm not leaving you alone, not if I can help it. I love you Annabeth, and you are the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me." He pressed his cheek against hers and whispered into her ear.
He let go of her, and let the silence fill the room. They both sat, kneeling in front of each other, simply staring at the person in front of them. They remained like that for the longest time, simply keeping each other company, speaking softly about nothings, ever so often, breaking the silence with deep and long puffs of air. Percy told her about Gabe, about what it was like when he was a kid, and why he broke down on that street. No tears fell from his eyes, and his voice stayed alarmingly calm, but his hands shook. She took them in hers and kissed them, and laid her head on his shoulder. They didn't really say anything else after that, it was enough to just sit and listen to the quiet city sounds of the world outside their small shelter, and count the glowing plastic stars stuck to Annabeth's celling. The minutes went by slowly, like the night ceased to end, only for them.
After a while, when both their breathings had calmed, and their hearts no longer felt weighted down by their own, selfish fears. He turned to look at her and reached for her hand. The air felt thick and heavy as it filled up his nostrils, and there was a sudden, almost mad urge to touch her, to hold her, to brush away any remains of sadness from her tear stained cheeks. It must've been the proximity, or maybe it was the burden of words that had been released into the room hours earlier, and the heat of emotions that had clouded his judgement. Either way, he craved her and her touch. He wanted to brush up next to her, to feel the warmth emitted from her skin. She was the air he so desperately wanted to fill his lungs with. She was a gasp, and a whisper, and a scream all at once. She was home, and he'd been traveling for far too long.
There were no more words to be spoken, no more fights to be fought, just two teenagers, in a small crowded room, seeing each other for what felt like the first time. Raw, unadulterated feelings and images overwhelmed him. Every touch, kiss, fight, gaze, talk, dream, feeling came rushing to him in a collection of images and memories coated with nostalgia. The jab of uncertainty hit him as shallowed breaths consumed the silence.
They were just two pair of eyes lost in a sea of time, in-between forgetting and remembering. In-between holding on too tightly and plummeting down, loving too fiercely and walking away. He was fairly certain she must've felt it too, the urgency of longing and the ambiguity of the future; because without any reluctancy, she clashed her lips unto his, shattering any previous agreements of separation, either one of them had made.