Pretty Girls and Brooklyn
After about ten minutes Percy thought maybe they could go over to the bridge.
It wasn't anything special, and it was probably still crowded at this time, but it felt right. Maybe it was because he would always go there during his worst nights, and somehow he thought having Annabeth with him would make it better. Percy felt guilty, he'd asked her out, only to not have any idea of where to take her, and show up late looking like a homeless person. His hair, he was sure, looked wilder than usual and his eyes still looked baggy.
He looked better than he had a week ago, but that in no way meant he looked anywhere remotely close to good. He hadn't even changed since he'd left the hospital. He was still wearing his old sneakers, that were covered in mud and dirt, some baggy dark grey sweatpants and a navy colored hoodie, he'd put on in an effort to try and hide his old t-shirt that reeked of antiseptics and medication.
It was a miracle Annabeth hadn't dumped him on the spot. He pulled her over to the side of the rode, with one foot on the sidewalk and the other on the road, he lifted one hand in the air to hail a cab.
"We're taking a taxi?" She asked and he nodded.
In less than 30 seconds, a bright yellow car swerved around the sidewalk and came to a halt next to them. It was a trick Paul had taught him, whenever you wanted to call a cab, just put one foot on the sidewalk and another on the street, it's like the universal: Hey, look at me! in taxi talk.
He opened the door, and Annabeth got in, he got in after her and closed the door.
"Where to?" Asked the driver.
"Chambers Street, please." Percy responded instinctively.
He wasn't quite sure how he knew the street name but he hoped he'd gotten it right. Annabeth looked at him questioningly. Brooklyn Bridge?, her eyes seemed to ask, Percy smiled and nodded his head. Even though, she'd lived in Manhattan for a lot less time than him, she probably knew more about the borough than he ever would. She gave him a small smile and turned to look outside the window. Percy noticed she still hadn't let go of his hand, that made him smile. He decided to look out the window as well, and watch the cars pass by. He almost felt like he was in a movie, but he knew no film could be as shitty as his life was. Between the hectic traffic and the overpopulated streets of the city, it took Percy and Annabeth more or less fifteen minutes to get to the bridge. Percy had paid for the cab fare with some money he'd found in his hoodie's pocket and now him and Annabeth were walking across the boardwalk, towards the bridge's middle shaft.
This is the spot, Percy thought as he reached the rails. It was almost twilight and it was unusually quiet. Only a few bikers and joggers passed by them, here and there; most of the street artist had already packed their stuff and were ready to leave, and the few tourists that remained were on the other side of the bridge. For the most part, Percy and Annabeth stood alone over the railing.
Percy glanced both ways, before hauling himself up.
"Percy, what in the holy hell are you doing?" Annabeth half-asked, half-shouted.
"Relax! I've done this, like" He paused for a moment, pretending to count.
"a hundred times before, it's fine!" He said.
He was now standing on the edge of the rails. Below them he could see the sea, it looked peaceful.
"Percy, I don't think those railings are meant for standing unless you're planning to jump!"
The way she said it, she sounded terrified for a second and Percy turned around to face her. He extended his arm.
"The view from here is great, c'mon wise girl." He said to her, his voice was sweet and she just looked at him like he was crazy.
"Jackson, I'm serious." She said. She had her arms crossed over her chest, like she was trying to hold herself together.
"So am I Chase!"
She didn't look at him. He leaned down until he could see her eye-to-eye.
"Look, trust me, just give me five minutes, tops, then I'll promise not to do anymore stupid shit." He said, her grey eyes met his and she gave him a small smile.
"Please seaweed brain, you know better than to make promises you can't keep." She teased and took his hand.
He helped her up, until both of them were standing on the railing. Percy noticed that even in flats, he was only a few inches taller than her, so he thanked the gods she never wore heels because then she would've been just as tall as Percy was. Anyone who saw them would've probably thought they were crazy, and maybe they were, but no one seemed to pay attention to the two teenagers.
Annabeth let out a small breath, she was still holding on tightly to Percy's hand.
"What now?" She breathed.
"We sit, and we enjoy this fabulous view." He answered, getting down and patting the spot besides him.
She nodded and sat down. Their feet were dangling below them and Annabeth had rested her head on his shoulder. They were quiet for a couple of minutes but Percy could feel Annabeth's gaze burn holes in him.
"What?" He asked.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" He said and she pretended not to know what he was talking about.
"Like what?" She asked, her voice sounded small. He turned to face her
. "Like… like I'm one of your battle plans and you're trying to find out wether you should fix me or throw me away." He responded bluntly.
Annabeth's eyes looked stormier than ever. She softened her gaze and turned to look at the horizon in front of them. She let out a small breath.
"I.. I didn't mean to… I'm–" She began, her hand pulled away slightly.
"What's going on between us? One second we're fine, the next you are pulling away." He interrupted, he wasn't facing her anymore but he knew she was looking at him again.
She sighed and twirled her hair, the way she did when she was nervous.
"I'm not!" She said in defiance and Percy sighed.
"Avoiding me…" Percy finished.
His gaze fell to the water below them and his hair fell in his eyes. His hoodie had fallen off and he had a severe case of the bed-head. There was a small silence between them, before Annabeth responded.
"Why did you take those pills?" Her voice was small and shaky.
Percy was afraid to look at her, but he did it anyway. She hadn't moved, her eyes were still fixed on the skyline and her face remained emotionless, but the way she sat there, holding her hands to keep them from trembling. She looked a lot more like a scared kid than anything else. The only other times Percy had seen her like this, were back at the sea of monsters, when the sirens had told her the truth about her fatal flaw, and at Daedalus' labyrinth when he'd asked her to leave him behind.
"I-I told you, I didn't meant to, I was just trying to–"
"No!" her voice still sounded shaky but her tone was firm. "No… I don't want the bullshit answer Percy, I want the truth… Why'd you do it?" She asked again.
This time she turned to face him. He shrugged.
"I–I… I don't know… I mean, I really hadn't been sleeping, like at all but… I don't know I…"
He took a deep breath for a moment. His eyes were still fixed on the water below them and his voice kept getting stuck in his throat.
"I kind of wanted it all to stop, you know? I was just so… tired and I didn't know what to do, and… I don't know if this makes any sense or not, but I didn't want to be me, anymore… I–I don't think I wanted to kill myself but… I kind of didn't care if I died, either…" His voice broke at the end.
This was what he'd been so scared to admit, like if he'd say it out loud then it'd become a lot more real. Annabeth didn't say anything, she just looked at him and he felt her lean on his shoulder.
"..And when we were down there… In Tartarus, with Akhlys… I wanted to kill her Annabeth, I-I knew it was wrong but it just felt so…good, and I hated myself for it! I hated myself for thinking that and for scaring you, but... If you hadn't stopped me, I-I think I would've done it. " He said.
His voice was coarse and muffled, and his eyes stung. His breaths were hallow and uneven.
"Percy…" Annabeth said but he just shook his head.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards. I was… Disgusted with myself, I…" He stopped himself short for a second.
His hands had turned into fists, his knuckles were white. His hands were shaking. He bit his lip so hard, he could taste the blood again.
"When Jason and I went to defeat Kym-whatever her name was, Polybotes, he tried to choke me with poison. I knew I could've easily moved it away if I tried but I didn't. I didn't even try, I felt... I felt like I deserved it, like I deserved to die the same way I had tried to kill that goddess…."
"Why didn't you tell me any of this?" Annabeth said.
Her voice was small and her eyes had watered. There was nothing easy about hearing those words leave Percy's mouth, seeing him like this. So scared. So broken. He turned to face her, but he wouldn't meet her eyes. He sniffled and pursed his lips. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and a tear rolled down his cheek. She notices how sunken his cheeks looked, and his lips were so chapped, they were bleeding.
"I mentioned it to Jason, I made him promise not to say anything to the rest of the crew, but um, he didn't say anything when we were underwater either, so I kind of just ignore it. I guess, I thought the feeling would go away…" He mumbled.
Annabeth stayed quiet, and Percy continued.
"Then, we got here, and we had to pretend everything was back to normal. I couldn't Annabeth I just… I'm so terrified all the fucking time."
He said the last part as a whisper. It was barely audible but Annabeth had heard it.
"I know…" She said and ran her hand through her boyfriend's hair.
"I know…" She repeated, this time as a whisper.
His lower lip was trembling and she kissed him. She was in love with him, she was so incomprehensibly in love with him and here he was, crumbling in front of her. She hadn't meant to cry but the tears just fell from her eyes. He was the only one who understood her, the only one who'd cared enough to get to know her, faults and all. He'd even fallen in hell with her! Annabeth wasn't going to just let him go, she couldn't. She kissed him again.
"Percy, I love you. Whatever you what to do to yourself, please don't do that to me. I love you, please…"
She begged between kisses. She didn't know if he understood her, but she couldn't muster enough courage to speak louder.
"You're my best friend and I love you.."
She whispered. He didn't say anything, he didn't even look at her, he just wrapped his arms around her, right there on the ledge. He buried his face on the nook of his neck and she could feel his whole body tremble.
"I-I am so sorry… I-It should've been me on that explosion, I'm so sorry, Annabeth, I'm so sorry…" His voice was muffled and she could tell he was crying.
He kept repeating the words over and over again. You selfish idiot, was all that was running through his mind. He wasn't a hero, he wasn't anything, he was as scared as he'd been when he was twelve and he'd first stepped foot into camp thinking his mother was dead. Annabeth ran her hands through his hair and back trying to soothe him.
"Shhh… Percy don't say that, shhh…." She whispered.
She rested a hand on the small of his back, where his Achilles curse used to be. He slowly pulled away form the hug, his face was only inches away from hers and he looked her in the eyes.
"How can you not hate me, even after everything?" His breathing was shaky and he fidgeted with the strings on his hoodie. She cupped his face with her hands.
"Perseus Jackson, when are you going to get through that thick head of yours that I could never hate you, not even if I tried?" She said and he nodded his head.
He didn't know how much time they'd been sitting there, but the sun had already set and it was pretty dark out. He wiped his face with the sleeves of his jacket. He stood up and gave her his hand, she took it.
"I guess we should head back…" He mumbled and she nodded. He climbed off the ledge, and extended his arm to help her get down. She took it and followed him to the boardwalk.
Percy's sleeve had ridden up a little above his forearm. Annabeth traced her fingers around his S.P.Q.R. tattoo and then following his arm downwards, she found a plastic bracelet. It was the kind that they give you in hospitals. Annabeth traced the circle with her fingers and looked at it. Percy had forgotten to take it off after he was sent home.
"I went to visit you a couple of times, but the said family members only…" She said.
"I didn't know…" He mumbled and she gave him a small smile.
"I was just glad you were there, and not…" She didn't finish the statement.
"Yeah… me too." He mumbled.
They kept walking in comfortable silence until they reached Chamber Street. They were standing on the sidewalk, Annabeth turned to him.
"Well, I should probably catch a taxi here, and you should probably head home. It's getting pretty late." She said.
"Oh, um yeah, no, I mean you're right, I probably should too." Percy responded.
She nodded and smiled at him.
"Call me tomorrow okay? Or any day, for that matter." She said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Okay…" He said and shoved his hands in his pocket nervously.
"Goodnight seaweed brain." She mumbled.
She turned around and started to walk away, and Percy did the same. He didn't even take five steps before turning around and chasing after her.
"Annabeth, wait!" He shouted and she stopped in her tracks.
She turned around to face him, as he caught up to her. His hands were still shoved in his pocket and he furrowed his brows in concentration.
"What is it? Are you okay?" She asked and he nodded.
"Yeah I'm fine, um, I just…" He paused to take a breath.
"I don't want to spend the night alone…" He mumbled and looked at her waiting for a reaction. His eyes were wide and his expression looked so innocent, he reminded her of a baby seal. Annabeth hesitated for a moment before answering.
"Then… It's a good thing you don't have to."