This is a multi chapter fic I've been working on based around the "fake dating" trope. Hopefully I'll be posting every week, though I'm not sure of what day exactly.
Cover art is by the lovely anxiouspineapples on tumblr!
Shout out to ananbeth for helping me out! Go check her out on tumblr.
Annabeth digs her fingers into her curls and stares at the report spread across her desk. The grammar is perfect, the figures are exact, and every name is spelled correctly. She glances at the clock on her desk that ticks down to doomsday. Her iron will crumbles long enough for her to grab her phone and punch in Piper's number. There's only one sharp ring before the other girl picks up.
"Hey, Annabeth." There's an excited edge to her voice that pinches Annabeth's nerves.
"Piper, please tell me he's cancelled," she says with more pleading in her voice than she'd like.
"Nope, and he's not going to. I threatened him with extreme bodily harm if he even tried," Piper says all too happily on the other end of the phone.
"Piper, please, this is ridiculous."
"No, ridiculous is that you haven't been on a date in nearly a year. You're going to show up at the restaurant and talk to him and, weirdly enough, you might have a good time." Annabeth digs her fingers into her scalp and lets her mind work.
"Annabeth?" The phone crackles in her ear.
"Hold on, I'm thinking."
"What I can blackmail you with to get out of this," Annabeth says seriously.
"You've got nothing," Piper growls. "Besides you're too late, your escort will be at your door in three, two, one."
Annabeth glances up to an empty doorway and frowns.
"Piper, I don't-"
"He's not there is he?" Piper asks and cuts her off.
"Uh, no." Annabeth pushes back from her desk and stands.
"Just, just wait a second." Annabeth pins the phone between her shoulder and cheek to shift papers around on her desk.
"Piper, how long am I going to have to wait?"
"Hey." Jason answers her question by appearing in her doorway.
"One," Piper says triumphantly.
"Ha, ha." Annabeth pours all of her unease and reluctance into her tone.
"Have fun, I'll call you later for the details." The call ends and Annabeth scrunches up her nose.
"So, Piper sent you to make sure I get to the date?" Annabeth grabs what she needs off her desk and dumps it in her bag.
"Percy is a really nice guy, and you need to do something other than work." Jason crosses his arms over his chest as he speaks.
"So you and Piper think I should do Percy?" Her comment is bitter but she blames being tired and forced into this.
"No, no!" Jason looks like he's just been accused of kicking a puppy. "We just think you'd have fun with him. I know you're proving you're better at this than everyone else in the building but you are going to work yourself to death," he says gesturing to desk.
"If you and Piper weren't practically family-"
"You'd destroy us and unravel our plan, I know."
"Sometimes I regret being your best friend," Annabeth says and hoists her bag onto her shoulder.
"That's not true so I'll let it go." Jason turns to let her pass and gestures for her to lead. "Besides I think Piper is beating you out for position of best friend."
"She's already your girlfriend and you've abandoned me to spend all your time with her, now she gets best friend too?" Annabeth says only half-teasingly.
"First off, you abandoned me. Second, yes. Third, I guess this means you're not going to be happy to hear I'm going to ask her to marry me." He finishes with a nervous laugh and Annabeth turns on him.
"You're what?" She throws a half hearted punch at his shoulder. "That's how you tell me? Four years you two have been dancing around each other and that's how you tell me?" Annabeth wraps him in a hug before he can respond.
"So, is that a congratulations?"
"Absolutely, but I'm going with you to get the ring," she says matter-of-factly.
"How do you know I haven't already gotten it?" Jason pouts.
"Because you're smart enough to know I want to be there, besides you're terrified." Annabeth stops as soon as she's said it and sees the worry on his face.
"Of course I'm terrified," he mumbles and she squeezes his arm.
"She's going to say yes. I'm sure of that, and you know I'm always right." Annabeth throws a softer punch and grins at him.
"You are always right," he says with a shrug.
"Now, let's talk proposal ideas." Annabeth links her arm through his and pulls him down the hallway towards the elevator.
Annabeth uses the walk to the restaurant as a chance to grill Jason on his plans which are a bit lacking but he's excited. She throws him a couple general ideas but doesn't push anything. Jason isn't a complete dunce and whatever he comes up with will amaze Piper.
It's Jason who stops first in front of the large window looking into the restaurant and Annabeth positions herself slightly behind him. A handful of tables have patrons seated around them, talking and eating in the dimmed lighting, but most are empty and the place has a half-haunted feeling. It doesn't take her long to pick out the one guy sitting alone off to the right. Annabeth feels the same half worried look that appears just before he gives her the speech.
"Annabeth," he starts softly. "You know I love you-"
"Like a sister," Annabeth continues for him. "And you're just trying to do what's best for me and sometimes I need to get out of my own head and that's your job, because what else is family for." She rolls her eyes and doesn't bother to hide it.
"I guess I give that talk to you a lot, but I mean it." The concern in his words manages to get to her and she sighs softly.
"What if he's a jerk?"
"Then you'll tear him apart." Jason says calmly.
"What if he tries something?"
"Then you'll tear him apart," he repeats. "Look, if you don't like him you never have to see him again. There are no strings attached to this and even if you do like him that doesn't mean you two have to rush out and get married. Weigh the options here Annabeth, what do you have to lose?" Jason turns and faces her while he waits for a response.
"Why is he here?" She asks bluntly and stares into the restaurant.
"Because he's desperately lacking in the romance department, like you, and needs some experience so Piper suggested she set him up with you. And I now realize that's kind of like teaching a kid to swim by throwing him into the ocean." Annabeth glances sideways and notices Jason's furrowed brow.
Annabeth mulls over her options; she could run and blow the guy off but that means dealing with an irate Piper and Jason, she could feign and emergency part way through and bail which still leaves her with an irate Piper and Jason, or she could suck it up and spend a few hours with this guy.
"I'll give him one chance," she mutters and Jason's arm snakes around her.
"Thank you, I honestly do think you'll like him. And remember to take it easy on him." Annabeth nods and gives Jason a hug goodnight.
Jason tucks his hands into his pockets and heads towards home. Annabeth watches him until he's turned the corner before moving back to the window and finally scrutinizing her date. He's tucked against one of the walls pushing the wedge of lemon in his water around with is straw. From what she can make out he's got raven black hair and poor posture but he's dressed nice. The glare off the window makes it hard to pick out any real detail but he seems harmless enough.
She tells herself this is going to be simple, that it's one date and then it's over. She'll make small talk, ask him generic first date questions, answer his generic first date questions, maybe get a dessert to make the night worth it, go home, and never hear from him again. Admittedly it's not the most optimistic outlook but she's not exactly a willing participant in this pseudo-science experiment Piper and Jason have contrived. Really it's him that's getting the short end of the stick being set up with a grouchy spinster but that's not on her. He can blame the matchmakers for pushing her into this, even if she's trying to torpedo the date.
Annabeth gnaws on the inside of her cheek for a second before squaring her shoulders and heading inside. She brushes past the hostess, winds her way between empty tables and stops a few feet from him. She has to clear her throat to get his attention and he lifts his eyes slowly from the table. Piper must have given him a description of her because he jumps to his feet, nearly knocking his chair over in the process, and brushes at the wrinkles out of his shirt.
"Hi," he says in a soft croak. "I'm Percy."