He was awake. He didn't dare open his eyes yet. There was something he was dreading but he couldn't quite remember what it was. Then the memories came flooding in. Her. He cautiously swept his hand across the other side of the bed. No one was there.
He could almost hear his own heart breaking. He had really thought that this time would be different. He'd done so much different. He'd gone slow. They'd been dating for half a year now. He should have known though. It always ended the same way. He thought briefly of blond princess curls and stormy grey eyes and corrected himself, almost always. She'd lasted the longest and made him the happiest. He had hoped she'd be his only one but in the end they were just too different. In the end she'd chosen a great job over him and left without a second thought. Percy couldn't blame her though. Obviously if so many people kept leaving him there must be something wrong with him not them.
He remembered something at that moment that forced him to get out of bed and let him push past the stinging disappointment. Princess Curls was back in Manhattan for a while helping design a new apartment building and everyone had decided to meet up at Calypso's Cafe, which belonged to his friend, (and other ex-girlfriend) Calypso and was closed for the occasion. He threw on a clean pair of jeans and his old Camp-Halfblood T-shirt. Camp-Halfblood had been this really cool role-playing camp him and most of his friends had attended. Pretty much the rest of his friends came from its rival camp in California, Camp-Jupiter.
He was halfway to the Cafe when he realized he should have taken his bike. He knocked on the door and was let in by his favorite latino elf Leo. Suddenly some weird music started playing. "Percy!" He looked up at the sound of Piper's voice, "You're phones ringing," she said with a hint of a smile in her voice. "Oh!" He said loudly and slipped his phone out of his pocket. Then after seeing that it was Rachel he pressed ignore. The second time she called he turned off his ringer. He was going to have a good time with his friends and not think of her.
Annabeth walked in then and it truly became a party. The last time anyone had seen her was almost a year ago so everyone was pretty excited to have her around. Everyone started talking and catching up in one big rush and giving her hugs and stuff and it was a while before everything calmed down again. They really just hung around and talked about everything and nothing for hours and it was great. Until it wasn't.
"I'm better at this dating stuff than Jackson over there," Jason teased after Piper had made a joke about his awkwardness.
"Hey better watch yourself Grace I could have your girl in a heartbeat," Percy shot back with a laugh then blew Pipes a kiss.
Piper pretended to grab it out of the air and held it to her heart then fake swooned. "He's got a point," Piper told Jason.
Annabeth walked up behind the trio. " Don't encourage Percy you two. He's got a big enough ego as it is. Plus," she added with a smile, "you don't want to go making his girlfriend jealous. I'm excited to meet someone who can stand to be around this guy for more than a couple days," Percy winced and hoped no one noticed. Then, as if summoned magically by Annabeth mentioning her Rachel stormed through the door looking pissed.
"WHAT THE HELL!" She screamed marching up to Percy, "TEN TIMES! I called you ten times!"
"And ten times I ignored you. Your point?" The hard anger in his voice shut Rachel up for a second.
"Awkward," Leo said reminding Percy that the others were there and watching. Percy walked out the door and rachel followed after only a moment's hesitation.
"Why'd you ignore my calls then?"
"Because you LEFT! Just like everyone else. Gods I don't know why I was stupid enough to think that this time would be any different," Percy said ina mix of anger, hurt, and hopelessness.
"Yeah I was calling you about that so next time I call you-" She started to say still not sure why just because she had to leave he was so upset.
"Don't!" Percy cut her off harshly.
"Don't what?" Rachel asked hoping he didn't mean what she thought he did.
"Don't call me again. There's no need to"
"Don't you dare! I didn't leave because i got what i wanted from you or whatever stupid fucking thing you must have convnced yourself of!" Rachel glared at him.
"Then why did you leave," Silence. It stretched on and on and as it did so did Percy's thoughts that Rachel, like all the others, was just in it for the fun. It must have only been a few seconds but it felt like hours to Percy. "Exactly now if you'll excuse me I have friend's to get back to." He finished and turned around. He didn't want to do this, he'd never had to do it before. Normally after the first time he never saw the girl again He didn't want to but he had to. He couldn't keep doing this.
"Percy!" Rachel grabbed his arm as he took the first step towards the door. "Come on it was one time. I don't know why this is so important to you but please. Give me another chance. Another night. I swear I'll still be there in the morning."
Percy closed his eyes. He needed to say no. He'd done this a thousand times. He knew how it ended. If it had been someone else he wouldn't have had to even think about it. Rachel wasn't anyone else. She was different. She was funny and pretty and nice and perfect. She hadn't pushed him to take things faster than he wanted to. Then he thought back again to this morning. Whatever he felt or had hoped for didn't matte. She wasn't different enough. She had still left. He really should be used to this by now. It'd been happening ever since college.
Percy opened his eyes and decided. He wouldn't, no couldn't, do this again. He was going to say NO! There was no way he could say "Alright." He blinked. He couldn't believe he'd just done that. Knowingly decided to put himself through that again. "I-I'll think about it," he corrected himself, hoping she didn't notice the voice crack.
Rachel sighed. It was better than nothing. She stood on her tiptoes and leaned in, at some point they had gotten rather close without either of them noticing, and gave him a quick kiss. "You do that," she said and walked away. Still slightly confused as to how that had become such a big deal so quickly. For a few moments Percy could do nothing but stand there and watch her walk away hoping everything would end up ok but not being able to believe that could happen. He shook his head at his own stupidity and walked inside, determined to forget about this again until later. He wanted this thing with rachel to work but plenty of past experiences told him it just wouldn't.
Percy walked back into the Cafe, dodged quite a large amount of questions from his concerned friends about how him and Rachel were doing before everyone decided to just pretend it didn't happen and move on with the rest of the night. They didn't stay at the Cafe much longer after that though. They went out to enjoy what little time with Annabeth that they had. They went strolling out in the park laughing and telling stupid jokes until it grew so dark in the park they could barely see then were shocked at how bright the city lights made the city compared to the park. They spent some time in an arcade watching Leo rig a bunch of games together to make one confusing and near impossible game then laughed as he had people try it out. The laughs only grew louder at Leo's shocked expression after someone came by and beat the thing on the first try. Soon after that though the manager had security throw them out. After that, they headed to a club and get wasted while dancing and singing terribly to karaoke. They weren't sure how long they were there but eventually everyone grew exhausted and headed home.
Before going home he tried stopping at Sally's place but no one was awake so instead he headed over just a couple buildings and visited Nico who, not being a very social person, had decided not to go to the Cafe get-together. They talked for awhile and Nico updated Percy on how things were going between him and his semi-new boyfriend Will. Percy didn't stay long because Nico, the night-owl, seemed half asleep even as they were talking. Then he decided to head home for real this was actually a terrible idea because he was still thoroughly trashed. He walked through the blue and green striped door of his apartment and saw Rachel sitting on her couch looking upset. It took him a second to remember how Rachel had painted his door with him after he had commented on how cool hers looked. He was still a little confused because his apartment was like fifteen minutes away from hers.
"Do you know what time it is?" She screeched when she noticed him. In response Percy just shrugged and continued looking lost.
"Ten? Eleven? I don't know I lost my watch," He said finally.
"It's almost three," Rachel deadpanned. "In the morning. Where you drinking?"
"A little bit," Percy said as his phone went off. He pulled out a phone from his pocket and noticed it wasn't him. It was silver-grey with an owl decal on the back. Annabeth's. He had a text from his phone asking for his phone back.
"Who is it," Rachel asks him.
"Me. I'm asking who has my phone but no one's answering."
"No who just texted you?"
Percy looked at Rachel like she's stupid," I just said I sent the message. I can't ask again cause I don't have my phone!" Annabeth's phone ding's again."Oh? Why am I saying I'm Annabeth?"
Rachel jump's up off the couch and snatches his phone then types a quick reply. "Just a little my ass! That was Annabeth. She has your phone. Now go home!" Percy smiles at her as he flops down on the couch. "No. Go home," she repeats.
"Can you walk me home?" Rachel shakes her head no. "Oh come ooooooooooooooooooooon. I need your help," Percy begs and gives her is best wide eyed puppy look.
Rachel looks away and says, "No!" He's still doing it so she shakes her head sharply no. When she looks back again his eyes have, impossibly, gotten even wider and more sad. She sighs, "Percy that's cheating," a couple more seconds and she caves. "Fine come on but you owe me one!"
Rachel stops at the door, unsure if Percy wants her to come in or not. Percy stops her internal debate by tugging her through the door. He stops at the fridge to pick up a plate of blue cookies then tugs her out the door to the fire escape. She grinds her heels and they come to a stop when she realizes where he's going. Noone ever used the roof but him. It's where he went to be alone. He had told her this every time she'd tried to follow him up there. She looked up at him and asked, "You sure," he was pretty drunk and this was something important to him. When he looked at her, his eyes were clear and filled with certainty.
"Yeah, now hurry up before I change my mind." She follows him up still a little hesitant. When she gets up top it's not at all what she had expected to see. From the way he had been about being the only one allowed up there she'd been expecting a small personal haven. Maybe a chair and some books but not this. It looked like it had been made for a group. There was a big canopy tent and underneath it where two chairs and a small couch. There was a small coffee table with an open book on top and on the shelf underneath it where a whole bunch of group games like twister. Percy catches her eye and knows what she's thinking. "It didn't use to be just my place. It was where we all came to hang out. Me, Grover, Nico, and Annabeth. Ya know, back before she went off to college and Grover got so busy with his job. After they stopped coming it wasn't really the same. Nobody but me has been up here since then and I can't quite bring myself to just take it all down for some reason."
He slumps down onto the couch with a tired shrug. She goes and sits across from him in one of the chairs. He talks about it like it was yesterday but Annabeth went off to college like six years ago. That was a long time to leave all this stuff up here. From the way it was all set up it was almost like one day he still hoped everyone would come up here and everything would go back to the way it used to be. Then it hits her. Thatś why he hadn let anyone up here since then. It would be like admitting that things aren going back to the way they used to be.
̈So what made you change your mind? About me? About letting me up here? And why was it such a big deal that I had to go somewhere?" She assaults him with a barrage of questions not actually expecting any answers. Heś never been one for heart to hearts.
Percy sitś up and looks at her. Heś unusually serious. ¨I´ve been in lots of relationships. I blame the other person for leaving but the truth is even if they hadn't left it would never have worked out.¨
She looks at him, curious ̈Why?¨
̈ ̈Because I was never actually looking for something serious. I was just looking for someone who could distract me. Keep me from thinking about Annabeth," Rachelś teeth grind in anger as once more something comeś back to her.
"So what? You're saying this was doomed from the start!" she turns away to hide the tears that are now falling. She'd been so stupid. She thought he wanted her to come here so they could make up and go back to being happy. Guess she was wrong.
Percy shifts on the couch, sitting up so he can look her in the eye. "No. Because this time is different. It has been from the start," he turns away from her, flopping back down onto the couch like he can't yet say why it's different. "They're beautiful aren't they?" he asks and the quick change of topic throws her off a little.
Rachel looks down at him a little confused but also a little hopeful. "What," she asked not quite sure herself whether she was asking what he was talking about or what made this, them, her, different from all the others.
"The stars. Up there shining so bright even though they are all so alone. Just waiting for someone to need them, to want them." She's pretty sure he's not just talking about the stars. She turns to him to say something, anything. To get him to understand that she needed him. That she wanted him. But when she turns around he's already fallen asleep with a peaceful smile on his face. Instead she walks over and curls up next to him as she finally falls asleep herself.
Percy wakes up the next morning on the couch on the roof. He's cold and alone. He's pretty sure he can hear his heart shatter as he reluctantly drags himself out of bed. It must have rained because his shirt's a little wet. He tears it off, flinging the the thing away rather violently in disgust. He has a nasty headache and he's a little dizzy. He stumbles down the fire escape and enters the main part of his apartment, still feeling mostly asleep and really wishing he just hadn't woken up.
As he comes through the door he can smell something cooking and heads out to the Kitchen to investigate. She's standing there. Flipping blue pancakes out of the pan and into the air then catching them as she makes breakfast. He walks forward quietly while her back is turned and waits for her to toss another one up in the air. It goes up but before it can get to the coming down part he reaches forward and snatches it out of the air and takes a big bite. She whirls around with a smile. "Your up finally?"
He's suddenly and inexplicably happy. "Mhmmmf," he decides to wait till he's done swallowing to answer her. "These are really good!"
She smiles up at him. "They better be. I stole the recipe from your mother," he smiles and pulls her into a kiss.
When they pull apart she's blushing a little bit with a happy smile. She takes a step back leaving a hand on his chest, her face turns serious. "So what is it?"
"What makes us different?"
Percy smiles back at her. "Oh that. I love you,' he says nonchalantly. Like it's something he figures she should know already. "And I never loved any of them."
She smiles back at him and can't resist giving him another kiss. "I love you too," she whispers quietly as she pulls away. It's not always perfect. But they'll always fight for it.