A/N: Once again I want to say thank you for the support this story has gotten. I appreciate every review, follow, and favorite I get. If you want to ask any questions about the story I'm on tumblr as son-of-rome. Feel free to drop in and ask whatever you want.
Annabeth can count the number of times she's seen Piper wake up before seven on one hand. So when her phone plays Piper's selected ring tone of "Hollaback Girl" and not her normal default alarm she jumped.
"I'm surprised you waited until this morning to call me," Annabeth says, skipping a normal greeting since it's Piper.
"Jason took my phone, then I tried to seduce him to get it back... it's a long story." The frustration is more than apparent in Piper's tone.
Annabeth rolls her eyes and pushes herself out of bed.
"Remind me to thank him," Annabeth says with a muted groan as she stretches.
"So how'd it go? Second date? We should get you an actual date outfit not just work clothes, but we'll deal with that later." Piper talks so fast the sentences merge together.
"Why don't we have lunch later and you can grill me then?" Annabeth bends at the waist, reaching for her toes and letting out a muffled moan.
"Oh my god," Piper gasps. "Is he still there? Yeah girl!"
"No," Annabeth says quickly and stands up straight. "But even as a morning person I don't have the energy to deal with this right now."
"Fine, enjoy your run," Piper says, her voice loaded with disappointment. "See you here at twelve?"
"Can you make it until then?" Annabeth teases.
"I'll suffer through," Piper says melodramatically.
They exchange a clipped goodbye before hanging up and Annabeth gets ready for her morning run. Saturdays are her days to run errands and take care of the little tasks that make up the ever growing list on her fridge, but first comes her run. She pulls on her shoes and stretches her legs on the elevator ride down from her apartment.
She keeps her pace easy, aiming for a longer run and prepping for the conversation with Piper. Five miles later she steps back into the elevator and checks her phone. She flips through the junk and work emails and opens the new messages from an unknown number.
Hey was wondering when we could meet up again
It's Percy btw
Should I have waited the 24 hrs or whatever to text you?
Annabeth shakes her head but smiles, she has to give him credit for at least being eager.
You may want to start off with your name first next time, and does Tuesday work for you? She shoots the text off just as the elevator reaches her floor. Annabeth leaves her phone in her living room while she showers and when she comes back to it another message is waiting for her.
Sorry yeah that works great
I'll text you the time and address, she sends back and checks the time.
Lunch with Piper isn't for a few hours and Annabeth sets to work knocking things off her to-do list, though Percy lingers in the back of her mind. There's something about him that's stuck with her, but she can't figure out if it's in a fond-memory type of way or more of a stomach-bug-that-won't-go-away type thing. Either way, her mind plays the date on a loop, like a movie in the background while she does her chores.
On her list of things she gets checked off is setting up a reservation for two under the name Percy at a good first date spot she knows of. It's the last thing she gets done before she has to head out for her appointment with the Inquisition Piper has prepared.
The walk over to Jason and Piper's isn't long but it gives her time to think about the date again and turn it over in the light of day. The start was rough, well a lot of it was rough, but Percy really is nice and easy enough to talk once you get him out of his shell. The guy is definitely out of his element with her and, while that strokes her ego, he could use to relax a little. By the end of the night she was enjoying herself and Percy seemed to be having a good time too. It just took a common interest to get things feeling natural. She decides that will be the focus of their first practice date. Now she just has to come up with an explanation for all of this to Piper.
Annabeth only has a chance to knock once before Piper flings the door open and grabs her by the arm. Annabeth uses her free hand to wave to Jason while she's pulled towards the couch. Piper pushes her down and drops down right beside her.
"Tell me what you thought, come on." Piper stares at her wide eyed and excited.
"Percy is really great. I get what Jason said about needing some practice in the romantic department, but the date was okay." Annabeth shrugs and leans back into the couch.
Piper flashes Jason a look that Annabeth imagines means he'll pay for his comment about Percy's lack of romantic skills later before turning back to Annabeth.
"Yeah I know that, but what do you think? Does he have potential?" Piper slowly leans forward as she speaks.
Annabeth sees exactly where Piper is aiming but doesn't want to get into that discussion again.
"Piper, I don't need to find a husband and settle down and have kids and be the perfect house wife," Annabeth says bitterly, tilting slightly away from her friend.
"I'm not saying you do! I'm saying you need to find someone to be a giant grouch with though." Piper keeps her voice level but Annabeth hears the steel in it.
"Maybe I don't, I can be a grouch on my own for a while." Annabeth turns slightly away from Piper and crosses her arms.
"Annabeth, be honest with me, are you really happy right now?" Piper reaches out and puts her hand on Annabeth's arm.
"Piper I have a great job and-"
"Are you really happy?" Piper says over her and squeezes gently.
Annabeth glares at her friend who glares back. The fear is visible in Piper's eyes but there's also determination and Piper can be plenty stubborn when she wants to be.
"You know the plan, I'm not deviating from it," Annabeth says firmly.
"I also know Percy is your walking checklist, and yeah he isn't what you'd see yourself with but that's good. He's not the typical hot nerd type you hang out with but he's going to push you and make you be you." Piper softens her tone and Annabeth relaxes a little.
"Hey wait, were you talking about me with the nerd comment?" Jason's complaint makes Piper roll her eyes.
"Hot nerd, sweetie. But yes." Piper flashes him a flirty smile and Annabeth watches Jason's hurt melt.
"Uhg," Annabeth groans. "The two of you." She leans her head back to rest it on the couch but watches Piper out of the corner of her eye.
"You could be grossing us out with your own hottie, maybe a hottie that's also a firefighter with a tight butt," Piper says with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
"He does have a pretty nice butt," Jason mutters and Annabeth's eyebrows knit together.
"See even Jason agrees!" Piper nearly bounces into Annabeth's lap. "So? Another date maybe?"
Annabeth looks between Piper's ever-eager puppy eyes and Jason's reassuring smile. Her muscles tense and her mind gets ready to start putting out the fires as soon as she admits the truth. If she plays her cards right she can swing Jason to her side and divert some of Piper's attention away from herself.
"There's already a second date planned." The words come out confident and assured.
Piper immediately squints and searches Annabeth's eyes.
"That's awesome!" Jason says with a grin that slowly fades as he looks between Annabeth and Piper in their silent war. "Pipes?"
"What's the catch?" Piper asks cooly.
"It's not exactly a real date." The muscles in her shoulders tense, her eyes locked on her lap. "It's more of an instructional date."
"A what? What does that mean?" Jason crosses the room to sit down on the coffee table with a frown.
"It means I'm helping him with his dating, showing him where to go, giving him tips on what to do. Teaching him." Annabeth directs her words towards Jason but watches for how Piper reacts.
Piper has stayed quiet so far and the silence is weighing on Annabeth. Years of friendship has taught Annabeth silence isn't a good sign from Piper.
"So this is good?" Jason asks like he's standing in a minefield and probing for a way out.
"Technically it's what you guys want, I'm going out and not spending all my time at work." Annabeth uses her best I-know-what-I'm-doing voice and keeps her shoulders squared.
There's a flicker in Piper's eyes for a second and Annabeth braces for the torrent of complaints but there's nothing. Piper stays silent a little longer and Jason starts to look like he wants to crawl out of his skin.
"So, you're just, what? Stringing him along?" Piper asks, breaking the silence.
Piper's eyes are cold and bore into Annabeth, the air in the room feels like a wet blanket around her.
"I'm not stringing him along, I'm helping him out," Annabeth growls back.
Jason inches away from them with a look of terror in his eyes.
"Helping him out until he falls for you and you rip out his heart out," Piper snaps.
"I won't let it get that far, if Percy starts to get too attached I'll let him down easy." Annabeth holds her head high using a confidence she doesn't actually feel.
"And then that's it? Percy is out on his ass because he started to fall for you?" Piper turns away from Annabeth suddenly.
"He's not helpless and I've told him exactly what this is," Annabeth narrows her eyes and turns away from her friend.
Jason looks between them like a kid caught between arguing parents that can't decide if the arguing is his fault or not.
"I know what I'm doing, Piper. Trust me." Annabeth doesn't look at the other girl as she speaks.
"If you say so."
"So are we okay?" Annabeth asks cooly.
"Yeah," Piper says quickly, her shoulders dropping slightly.
The tension leaves Jason but there's still something in the way Piper holds herself. Annabeth feels a splinter of doubt lodge in the back of her mind, she gets the feeling this isn't over yet.
"Well, don't we look nice?" Annabeth asks coyly.
Percy spins to face her and cracks a nervous smile.
"Thanks, Jason let me borrow his sports coat," Percy pulls at the lapels of the jacket as he speaks.
Annabeth looks over the outfit he's wearing for their date. He has a checkered white and blue shirt with a dark blue sports coat over it, he's also traded out slacks for a pair of dark jeans that fit him perfectly and it all works. He still has his scruffy, unkempt edge but there's no attempt at hiding it. This Percy already feels more confident and Annabeth is having a hard time keeping her eyes from lingering.
"Well, it was a good choice," Annabeth nods as she looks him over, hitching her purse higher on her shoulder. "Shall we?" She uses her free hand to point at the door.
"After you." Percy steps to the door quickly and opens it for her.
"Good start," she says as she steps around him
Percy beams at the compliment.
"So how exactly is this going to work?" he asks nervously and rubs the back of his neck. "Am I going to get graded or are there going to be like quizzes? Because I'll need a note sheet if that's happening." The worry in voice makes Annabeth laugh.
"I'll more of coach you through it, give you objectives and areas of improvements. I could come up with quizzes if you really want."
"Yeah, let's not," he says quickly.
"Shame, I was already working on a pop-quiz for later."
"Oh god," he groans and Annabeth laughs again.
"You must have loved school."
"Loved isn't exactly the word I'd use, loathed is better, not as good as desperately wanted to burn it down, but that's more than one word so what can you do?" Percy shrugs and glances around the restaurant. "So…" he trails off and looks back to her.
"Reservation is under your name," Annabeth says and nods towards the hostess.
"Right, so I should get us our table," he says but doesn't move.
"Sure, or we could stand here all night, the draft is quite nice," Annabeth says in her fake-happy voice.
"Wow, sarcasm, already?" Percy shakes his head and slips through the handful of people waiting around for tables to get to the hostess.
He talks to the hostess for a minute before turning and waving Annabeth over. She falls into step behind Percy and they follow the hostess to a booth, he lets her pick her side before sliding in across from her. The waitress hands them menus and gives them the name of their waiter before heading off. She leaves them to the slowly building silent tension.
Percy sits across the table from her staring like he's trying to read her mind and since he hasn't started a conversation she's guessing it's not working.
"This is normally when you'd try and make conversation," she informs him.
"Why do I have to start the conversation?" He frowns.
"Because I'm trying to figure you out and expect you to start the conversation, I can do that because I'm the girl. Also, you're not allowed to talk about Piper or Jason, that's too easy." She flashes a cheesy smile and looks over the menu.
"Fine," he says and slumps a little in his seat.
"Sit up, it gives the impression you're really listening," Annabeth instructs.
"Would me listening give the impression I'm really listening?"
"Not as well as you sitting up," Annabeth shoots back and eyes him for a second.
Percy straightens and even leans forward a bit while searching for something to say.
"So, do you come here often?" Percy grins like an idiot.
"Only when I'm being dragged out on dates with weird, dark-haired guys," Annabeth deadpans and doesn't bother looking up from her menu.
"Ha ha," Percy grumbles and it's Annabeth's turn to smile.
"Try asking how my day was."
"Okay." Percy squirms in his seat for a second. "How was your day?" His tone is curious and he keeps his eyes on her after the question.
"It was good." She gives him a reassuring smile. "Closed on a new project and got assigned to pitch the final concept."
"That's amazing, congratulations!" Annabeth blushes at the excitement in his words.
"Thank you," she says and ducks her face.
Her excitement deflates a little but she reminds herself that this is why she's here. Annabeth takes a deep breath and looks back up at him.
"You keep the conversation going, ask questions and make comments that will get me to open up more."
Percy stares at the table, his face scrunched up in thought and Annabeth finds it hard to tear her eyes away.
"So this contract, what's the company do?"
"Good," Annabeth says. "It's the New York headquarters for a telecommunications conglomerate. They own cellphone towers and some of the smaller cell companies." Annabeth looks at him expectantly and gestures for him to keep going.
"What- what are they looking for in their new building?"
"They want something very modern but not too out there, typical business building with lots of glass and brushed steel." She purposely gives him little to work with and waits to see how he handles it.
"Uh, have you done a lot of work like this?" Annabeth grins and feels the swell of pride from having her student pass his first test.
"Very nice question." Percy grins at the praises and sits a little taller."Yeah, we've done quite a few similar things."
For the most part Percy does well from there on out. There's a handful of times that Annabeth has to guide him away from certain topics or towards others but being open with him makes everything easy enough. Percy also never takes any of her comments to heart and makes a real effort.
He tells her stories from incidents at work and she prompts him to talk about how he felt during each step and less about the blood and gross stuff. Percy complains that those are the cool parts until she gives him a look and he quickly changes his attitude.
By the time the check comes the conversation is easy and Annabeth is only slightly wishing she was at home with her book.
"So, how'd I do?" Percy says and reaches for the check.
"What do you mean?" Annabeth is faster and grabs the check first.
"Hey!" Percy protests but Annabeth puts the money for her half of the bill in the little black case and slides it over to him.
"I'm paying my half, and what do you mean how'd you do?" She rests her elbows on the table and watches him.
"I mean on the date, how'd I do?" He says sourly and pulls out his wallet.
Annabeth chuckles which makes him look up and stare blankly.
"What's so funny?"
"It's cute you think the date is over, that's all."
"Wait I'm still getting graded? That's not fair!" He puts the rest of the bill down and pushes the check towards the edge of the table.
"Percy, the grading doesn't end when the date is over, which it's not by the way, this is an all inclusive deal. It covers texts and phonecalls, the whole shebang." Annabeth grabs her purse and scoots out of the booth.
"Everything? All the time? Oh gods," Percy groans and follows after her.
Annabeth waits until they're out of the restaurant before she gives out her next piece of wisdom.
"The date is over when we say goodnight." She skips over his complaints and continues her lesson. "So we've just had a nice date but it's not exactly memorable yet, now you have to close on getting the third date."
"Okay, well how exactly am I supposed to do that, I mean I'm guessing if I tried to kiss you-"
"I'd deck you," she says seriously.
"See, I'm not getting the whole experience, I should get a refund."
"A refund? I'm not a hooker!" She debates decking him anyways.
"I know!" He steps back and puts up his hands so Annabeth decides against hitting him. "I'm just saying we're getting into a grey area here."
"Okay, so show me your best move, do everything you would leading up to kissing me and we'll see if you've got game."
"I've got game," Percy says defensively.
"Good, then bring it." Annabeth gives him a cocky grin and waits.
Percy nods for a second before taking a deep breath and letting it out. She's about to ask if this is his game when he takes a step closer to her and they're only a few inches apart.
"I had a really great time tonight." His voice is soft and she has to lean in slightly to hear him better.
Being this close to him she can smell his cologne, making her want to close her eyes and take a deep breath but that would mean looking away from his eyes. In the warm light given off by the streetlights his eyes have turned a golden-green and pull her in.
"I'd really like to do it again soon," he continues and reaches up to brush back a curl of hair. "This is when I'd kiss you," he whispers, his breath washes across her cheek and her eyes drift to his lips.
"Not bad, Jackson." Annabeth looks up into his eyes and ignores the heat in her neck or the smell of him that washing over her.
"Yeah. Except you're shaking like a leaf." Annabeth grabs his hand that's still half raised and they both look at his trembling fingers.
"Okay but that's not fair! You're terrifying and I was afraid you'd punch me anyways," Percy protests.
"Maybe I still will." Percy looks at her in horror and his eyes flick between hers.
"You wouldn't," he says, his eyes narrow and he searches her face.
"Try me," she shoots back.
There's a weird moment between them where she holds onto his arm and can't stop thinking about actually kissing him. While she can't say he's her typical type he's tall, dark, and gorgeous which is a fact not lost on the part of her brain that keeps track of how long it's been since she's kissed a guy.
"You'd actually do it wouldn't you?" He asks and Annabeth buries that thought.
"You'll never know," she says dropping his arm and stepping towards the curb.
Annabeth hails the next cab and waves goodbye to him over her shoulder as she ducks into it. The warmth of Percy's gaze follows her as the car pulls away and the feeling of standing so close to him lingers the entire ride home.