Winter Parks and New Beginnings
It was the last week of winter break, and the cold wind cut through the city like a freshly sharpened knife. A thick, white layer of snow decorated New York City's only patch of green, making it look like a winter wonderland. He breathed in the frozen air, as he made his way through the snowy forest that once was Central Park. Miniature snowflakes stuck themselves to his jacket, leaving behind small, wet patches on the dark piece of cloth. If he was honest, he liked the park more like this, despite the cold.
Everything around him, except for the steel grey pathways, was coated in a layer of frost. Some couples were making their way down one of the pathways, meanwhile children everywhere, ran around and played with the snow. Some were dragging their parents around to go see "Santa Claus", others were too busy rolling on the ground to pay any attention to any pedestrian walking by, one kid even smiled at Percy before he took off running. The kid had taken one look at him before excitedly running away, a smile plastered on his lips. Percy shook his head, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, before he continued down the small, stone pathway. His hands gripped the small communication device tightly as the wind blew in his direction.
"Hello, Percy-Kelp Face-Jackson." The girl's voice flooded his ears.
"Nice to hear from you too, feather brain." He responded with a chuckle.
He could hear her laughter through the other end of the line.
"Still better than having a head full of fish food," She joked, to which he nodded absentmindedly, before remembering she couldn't see him.
"Don't start with me Chase!" He complained, although he was still smiling.
A couple of kids pushed past him, playing what seemed to be a very intense game of tag.
"Tag, you're it!" One of the boys yelled as he ran past Percy.
"Where are you? Are you playing... Tag?" Annabeth asked, and he could hear the confusion in her voice, which was something that was very rare for her.
Percy let out a light chuckle.
"I'm not playing tag with anyone, I'm at Central Park!" He responded.
"What are you doing there? It's freezing out! I swear Percy if you catch something—"
"Relax, I just came for a walk... I'm heading back now." He spoke into the phone, dubiously, while kicking the pebbles at his feet.
Percy thought about telling Annabeth about the idea that had been roaming around, in the back of his mind lately. It'd started the morning he'd snuck into his room after the night from the party a few weeks back. It'd been strange, right before he'd fallen asleep, for whatever reason, he'd thought of Nico DiAngelo. As soon as he'd closed his eyes he dreamed about the son of Hades' journey through Tartarus, alone. When he woke up, he'd felt as if the oxygen in the room had suddenly become scarce. He'd thought that even though the war was over, there were still many things wrong in a world where things like that happened.
He'd told Annabeth when he walked her to school the following day, but she had just kept quiet. She held her coffee close to her body, trying to absorb its warmth before shaking her head, helplessly.
"Shit like that happens to demigods all the time Percy. One minute you have someone you think you'll always count on, the next that person's gone. That's just life." She said, staring straight ahead.
Percy felt a pang of guilt, he knew she was right, of course. When you were constantly being threatened by monsters and angry gods and goddesses, the people around you tended to be in serious danger. The people you cared about could end up betraying you, or with their memories taken away, or dead. Even if you made friends who seemed to be in the same situation as you, sooner or later you would have to say goodbye. Life was already hard without adding magical greek immortal beings to the equation, being a demigod simply made things harder. He shook his head, softly biting into his lip.
"Well, it shouldn't be that way, no one should have to go through that alone." He'd responded, while looking at his feet, kicking the ground softly.
"You're right, it shouldn't be that way, but it is. You can't save everyone Percy." Annabeth had said, taking a hold of his hand, and resting her head on his shoulder as they walked.
That had been the end of their conversation about the subject, but the thought hadn't exactly left his mind. It wasn't simply the dreams about Nico that were bothering him either, it was everything. Every night he'd have these dreams, no, flashes. Memories of things, some that weren't even his. He felt as if his subconscious was trying to tell him something, he just didn't know what it was. Things just felt...Odd, out of place.
He thought about the scars on Annabeth's wrist. He hadn't seen any new ones in weeks, which was a good thing, but at the same time, he couldn't help but feel responsible for them in the first place. She didn't exactly talk much about it, he understood, there are somethings you simply can't convey in words. The only time he'd ever asked her about them, after knowing she'd hurt herself, she'd told him it hadn't been his fault, that that was just life. He hadn't pressed her on it, he knew that if it had been him, he wouldn't have wanted anyone to ask him about it, not even if it was his girlfriend.
"Jackson... Earth to Percy... PERSEUS JACKSON!" Annabeth's voice rang in his ears, breaking him away from the memory.
His ear felt warm from having the phone pressed to the side of his head, and he no longer knew where he was standing.
"Huh? What? I'm here, I'm here!" He said confused, staring blankly ahead. Where the hell am I?, he thought to himself.
In the few seconds he'd spaced out, he had somehow managed to step into a totally new area of the park. Great, Percy thought to himself.
"Finally ladies and gentlemen, he speaks!" She said mockingly, and Percy rolled his eyes.
"I think I might be a little lost..." He spoke sheepishly into the phone.
"Define a little."
"I have no idea where I am right now." He said, looking around, trying to pinpoint his location.
"Wait... but weren't you in Central Park?" Annabeth asked, taken aback a little.
"Well, yeah... I think I still am." Percy said, noticing the trees.
That was a good sign.
"Then how are you lost?" She asked impatiently, Percy thought about it for a second.
"Well, Annabeth, Central Park is a pretty big park." He said sarcastically, he could feel her rolling her eyes at him through the phone.
"Yeah, but you've lived here your entire life, haven't you? How does someone even get lost in Central Park, they have like, huge signs and stuff!" Percy could hear the exasperation in her, the truth was he was asking himself that exact same question.
"I got distracted, okay!" He said defensively.
There was a bridge a few feet away from him, and more trees. He wondered if maybe he should've just turn back, but his feet were starting to ache.
"With WHAT?" A high pitched voice spoke into the phone, and Percy could practically see her throwing her hands into the air in frustration.
She probably would've hit him for being so out of it.
Percy shrugged, trying to clear his thoughts. He dug his hand deeper into his pocket, as a single gust of wind blew in his face.
"It doesn't matter, I'm still very much lost." He said, taking in his surroundings.
"Oh my gods... your head really is full of kelp isn't it?" She said, a small laugh escaping her lips as she said the last part.
He smiled shyly as he crossed the tiny bridge. He saw a few people gathered up ahead, so he assumed he couldn't be completely immersed into the wilderness of New York City.
"I have found the humans, I think I'm good!" He said jokingly and he heard her laugh, which made him smile.
Percy thanked the gods for his not-so-horrible sense of direction.
"That's a first step, now you just have to, you know, make your way back, Seaweed Brain." She asked lightheartedly, and Percy smiled.
There was a pause before Percy spoke again. "I was thinking about maybe visiting camp, I don't know..." He said abruptly, making his way back to one of the park's main pathways.
"Okay... Why so serious? What's up?" She said her tone suddenly turning more solemn than before.
Percy bit his lower lip. He wondered how could she already tell how he was feeling, without even looking at him.
He took a deep breath.
"It's like... I keep having these dreams Annabeth and... They're not even dreams anymore, you know? They're like these... Flashes, memories, and some aren't even mine!" Percy said, struggling to find the right words to explain what was happening. He lifted his gaze from the ground, he could already see the city's skyline in front of him.
"Wait, hold up, what exactly do you mean?" She asked, curiosity flooding her voice.
"Well I'm not entirely sure how to explain it, I just... I feel like something is missing. Like things aren't bad, but they aren't exactly great either." He said, his fingers still fidgeting inside his coat's pocket.
"I'm all ears, if you want to talk..." Annabeth responded, waiting patiently for Percy to continue.
"Wait, are you still walking around the city?"
"Yeah..." He responded.
"Come over, we'll talk here."
Percy nodded and hung up, making his way over to Annabeth's apartment.
There was long pause between the time it took Percy to finish explaining himself, and Annabeth's response time.
He had no idea what she was thinking, and it terrified him.
"What are you thinking?" He asked.
Annabeth was leaning against her desk, the gears in her mind working furiously. She bit into her lower lip, trying to work out a plausible answer in her mind.
"I'm thinking..." Annabeth mumbled, delicately.
She shook her head, preparing him for the worst. "I don't know Percy. Everything you've described to me just sounds odd... I think I might be out of depth here."
"That doesn't sound very good..." He mumbled, as he paced around the room impatiently.
He let out a heavy sigh.
"So you have no idea what's wrong with me?" He asked, looking at her.
"I'm sure nothing's wrong with you—"
"Annabeth," He interrupted her before she could continue. "Do you seriously think it's normal for me to dream about Nico, and Tartarus, and Leo, and whatever else at this point? I thought I was over that..." Percy mumbled, slouching on the mattress, deep in thought.
He knew he was being silly, he knew that that he would never be entirely over everything that had happened to him, specially not after six months, but he couldn't help but think... Why couldn't it all be over already? The dreams about the war, among other things had stopped months ago, and then suddenly, POOF!, they were back. Why couldn't he just be normal? Because you're a demigod. You're not normal, a voice spoke in the back of his mind. Annabeth seemed to be lost in concentration, but she still made her way over to him.
"Well, maybe you're not over it Perce, and from what you've told me, it sounds more like your mind's the one playing the tricks on you this time. Maybe this is just the aftermath of being... Well, us."
Annabeth's voice seemed to be faraway, as she leaned her head against his shoulder. Her blonde curls fell over his arm, and he felt her grab his hand. Her fingers laced his as his mind drifted along the lines of what he had just heard her say.
"It still isn't fair... For us, for any demigod... And the gods,"
"The gods have their own business to attend to Percy..." She said lowly, looking out the frosted window.
"So what? We're their kids, and... They can't even pop up and say, 'Hey you guys, great job on not dying! Here's a manual on how to survive everything else, we throw your way! Good luck!' or whatever! I mean, look at us Annabeth, look at our lives this past year! I had you, and honestly that's the only thing that got me through this... But if I hadn't... If I were alone..." Percy shook his head, he didn't want to finish that trail of thoughts.
Annabeth looked at him, her grey eyes full of worry. She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the lips, slowly backing away.
"I know it's hard Percy, and you're right. But sometimes... You just have to accept the fact that there are somethings you simply can't change." She spoke softly, her eyes looking directly at his, as she ran her hands through the sides of his face.
She laid her head on the crook of his neck.
Percy thought wistfully about what she had said for a few minutes, silence overcoming the small room. His voice was low and coarse, almost a whisper in the cold room. "You're wrong... About not being able to do something..." He said stubbornly, which earned him a strange look from Annabeth.
"There's always something we can do..." An idea had formed itself in his mind when he'd gone on his rant about the gods.
It was probably stupid, and it probably wouldn't work, but it was all he had.
"What are you thinking?" She asked, watching him closely.
"I don't know Percy... I mean it can be risky, if the gods found out... It can be dangerous, specially coming from you." Annabeth said, taking a sip from her coffee mug, pacing around the room nervously.
They still had some details to work on, but as far as he was concerned the idea was a fairly simple one.
"I know, but think about it Annabeth... Say we do succeed with this, we could actually make everything we've been through mean something, and I don't just mean just for now, I mean for everyone who might go through a similar thing, at some point. It's the only thing I can think of that might actually work, besides, I need to do something. I need to do this, at least for me." He said earnestly, waiting for her to reply.
"Yeah I get it, and I hate to say it, but you're right. This is the only thing that might actually work..." She seemed to be lost in thought as she spoke.
The words fell from her lips, like small droplets of water.
"So you're with me on this?" Percy asked, wondering if maybe she was right.
Maybe what he was suggesting was a stupid, not to mention, reckless. He had to make sure he and his girlfriend were on the same page on this, or else it would never work. Him and Annabeth were a team, she was always the brains behind every operation they carried out, not the other way around, so he had to know she was on board with this.
"We'll have to be careful..." She said thoughtfully.
"Aren't we always?" He responded.
"Percy, I'm serious..." Annabeth spoke sternly, he could feel her glare at him.
"So am I! Are you with me on this?" He responded impatiently, waiting for a straight answer.
She let out a small breath and rubbed her temple.
"Of course I am, Seaweed Brain! When do you want to start" She looked at him as she tapped her foot on the floor, a small sideways smirk played on his lips.
Maybe this would work after all.
"Uh..." He mumbled and she sighed.
"Come back here tomorrow afternoon and we'll work it out. Are you completely sure about this?" She asked, almost as if she was trying to convince herself.
"Yes, Annabeth, it's a deal, I'll be here." Percy spoke, eliminating any trace of doubt in her mind.
He looked out the window, and to much of his surprise it had stopped snowing.
"You have to go?" She asked, crossing her arms, mug in hand, facing him.
He gave her a half smile.
"I promised my mom I'd be out of here as soon as it stopped snowing." He said reaching down to kiss her cheek.
She headed for the door, facing him before opening it.
"I'll see you tomorrow then." She said with a small smile, her grey eyes shining as the soft light hit her face.
"Goodbye, Wise Girl." He said, leaning in t give her a small goodbye kiss.
"Goodbye, Seaweed Brain." She spoke against his lips, before letting him leave her apartment.
Annabeth looked at him, her grey eyes stormier than ever.
Percy couldn't keep his fingers from moving, and there was a familiar pull in his gut, and a nervousness that overpowered his stomach. He knew that if they went through with this, things would never be the same again.
He sat down on the edge her mattress, aggressively tapping his fingers against his thigh. What was he thinking? Did he seriously think he could go ahead with this? Who was he kidding? He looked down at the neat, blank page that rested on his lap. Not a single ink stain covered the page. He'd somehow managed to lose his pen again, or maybe he'd simply thrown it against the wall for the fifteenth time? He didn't know, nor did he care. The point was, he couldn't get his thoughts collected enough to spill them into the page, which was stupid considering this had been his idea. He saw the pen a few feet away, laying on the ground, in a single empty spot in the room. Percy was about to grab it, when Annabeth walked over and handed it to him.
She sat down besides him, wrapping her arms around his waist. She smelled like lemon soap, and her skin felt soft against him. He let out a small sigh of frustration, and directed his gaze at her.
"I don't know if I can do this..." He said softly, the pen slightly trembling in his hand.
"You can, I know you can." Annabeth spoke into his ear, and gave him a small kiss.
Her hair curled around her face, making her eyes stand out.
"How?" Percy asked, he directed his gaze once again to the notebook in front of him, wondering whether or not this was the best idea.
He felt Annabeth shrug next to him.
"Don't think about it too hard, just try and remember what it felt like, that first day... What did you think about? What did you feel? Focus on that, and the write it down." She said, her voice was soft and soothing.
Percy closed his eyes and tried to envision himself five years ago, he tried to thing about how it had all started. Before Gaea, or Kronos, or the gods, or even Annabeth. No, he knew his story hadn't started when he arrived to camp, nor had it started when with the twelve year old boy who had slain the Minotaur out of anger, and sheer dumb luck. It had started before, and so many things had happened in between it was hard to keep track. His story hadn't started with him as a hero, or anything remotely similar, it had started with a troubled kid, who had a knack for blue food, and adored his mom. He let out a deep breath, and let the word flow through him, making the white, blank page come alive with the blue ink. The first words, the beginning of something extraordinary had been permanently seared into the page...
Look, I didn't wan't to be a Half-Blood...
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