Annabeth hated going to clubs, but her best friend, Piper, always wanted to go on her nights off. Piper loved dancing and god forbid there was ever a karaoke night. Annabeth much preferred to stay home, catch up on some of her favorite TV shows. Or read a book. That was much more entertaining. It wasn't that she led a boring life per say, it was more that she hated the noise. The crush of people on all sides made her feel claustrophobic.
Regardless, a few times each month, Annabeth accompanied her friends to one of the bars around the college campus and tried – and failed – to have a good time.
Piper had drug Annabeth back to the bar, intent on getting a refill to quench her thirst before heading back to the dance floor, or in Annabeth's case, sitting at a table, staring into her drink, and thinking – or trying to at least. She had wanted to be an architect for as long as she could remember, and sometimes zoning out at a club had stoked her muse.
Piper was arguing with her, trying to get her to join in for a song during the karaoke hour later that night, something which Annabeth was refusing to do, flat out. It was one thing to embarrass yourself by tripping when sober. It was a whole other ballpark to sing while drunk, in front of people, most of whom were sporting phones with cameras. Annabeth was adamantly opposed to having herself appear on YouTube that way.
"For the last time, no! I will not be singing with you. You a good singer. I sound like a dying cat." Annabeth threw her hands up in a gesture that was admittedly too explosive for being in a crowded bar, surrounded by people clamoring for their drinks.
Her knuckles collided with something hard that gave way with a crack. She winced. Piper looked over Annabeth's shoulder, eyes wide.
Annabeth turned around, dreading the conversation she was about to have. But she was also very relieved. Getting chewed out by a stranger would effectively end her argument with Piper. And it would reduce her chances of being forced into karaoke by one hundred percent.
The guy behind her was tall. Tall enough to make Annabeth wonder how on earth she had managed to hit him in the nose.
He looked like he was ready for a fight – or more accurately like he was in the middle of one judging from the way he was clutching his nose with one hand. His hair was dark and messy. His jawline was chiseled. And his eyes, they were a startling bright sea green. If looks could kill, Annabeth would already be dead. The way he was looking at her scared her shitless. She glanced over her shoulder looking for backup, but Piper was already gone.
She turned back around reluctantly. He smiled. It was a troublemaker smile, which didn't exactly reassure Annabeth. She was no longer going to be killed. Robbed at knife point seemed more likely.
"Is that yours?" He pointed to the whiskey tumbler that had been placed on the bar surface next to Annabeth.
She nodded mutely. She knew she should apologize for hitting him in the face, but she couldn't make the words come.
He grabbed the tumbler and some sort of smoothie in one hand and walked away through the crowd.
Okay, Annabeth thought, he took my drink as payment for his bloody nose.
He looked over his shoulder at her, still holding his nose. He gave her a look that Annabeth could read, clear as day: Here. Now.
She swallowed hard and followed him through the crowds. He slipped into a booth and gestured that she should take the other side.
She took the seat and he slid her whiskey across the table, very much like a bartender would.
"Hi." He looked at her expectantly.
"Hello," she answered, unenthused.
He nodded. "I'm Percy." He took the hand off of his nose and held it out to her. "Nice to meet you."
Annabeth looked from his hand, which was covered in blood, to his face, that was also covered in blood. His expression revealed nothing.
She hesitated and against her better judgment shook his hand. "Annabeth."
She looked down at her own hand, now sticky and dark with blood.
Percy fiddled with the straw in his drink before taking a sip. He made a face.
"Tastes like blood." He gave her an accusatory look.
That was her opportunity. "I'm sorry," she started, but the smile on his face unhinged her. She changed tactics. "I'm sorry your nose got in the way of my fist."
He let out a short, sharp laugh. Like the sea lions Annabeth had seen – or rather smelled and heard – when she visited Pier 39 in San Francisco. "I'm sorry about that too."
He wiped under his nose and his mouth with the back of his hand, smearing the blood onto his cheek and doing nothing to stop the flow from his nose.
"Are you going to do something about that?" Annabeth asked before she could stop herself.
"Something about what?" he asked.
"The waterfall coming out of your nose."
The corners of his mouth quirked upwards. "Does it bother you?"
"Blood running down my face would bother me," Annabeth corrected.
"Oh, this is nothing. I've had much worse." He took another sip of the drink and made a face. He pulled the bloody straw out of the drink. He slid it across the table, so it skidded to a stop right in front of Annabeth. "That's yours." He slid out of the booth to stand up.
"What?" Annabeth asked. Why was he giving her a drink that he thought tasted bad?
"Be right back."
He came back five minutes later with the exact same drink. "It's good." He sucked down half of it, while Annabeth narrowed her eyes at him.
She knew that she shouldn't drink anything that a strange guy in a bar gave her. And she definitely did not want to drink it until she knew why he rejected it.
"What's wrong with it."
Annabeth arched an eyebrow.
"You so kindly injured me before I could get to the specifics." At Annabeth's confused look he explained. "That has rum in it. This," he shook his glass, "does not."
"You don't drink?"
"Nope." He popped the p and fiddled with his straw.
"Then why are you at a bar, alone?"
"Hey," he smiled. "I could be here with friends."
"Right. Thanks for calling me out. I am here for the exclusive reason that this bar makes the best smoothies in the entire city."
"The entire city."
"Yep. I have personally tried them all." At Annabeth's skeptical look, he continued. "It took twelve years. And I spent all my car money on it."
Annabeth studied him for a moment. "You're serious," she decided.
"Of course I am. Here." He pulled out his phone and pulled up an Instagram page. Lo and behold, thousands of smoothie pictures were on the account and each picture was captioned with the location and a rating. The account had more than 10,000 followers.
She slid the phone back across the table and took a hesitant sip of the smoothie.
She shrugged. "Yeah, I guess that's pretty good."
"Pretty good?" he said incredulously. "It's excellent!"
That night, Annabeth tried her hardest to be mad at Piper for leaving her alone to deal with a potentially hostile guy who she had just punched in the nose. But what she would never admit to Piper was that she had a great time talking to Percy. She had even followed his smoothie Instagram, which was not how she had expected her night to go. Having a good time at such a noisy bar was not an experience she had ever had before.
Piper was having none of Annabeth's attitude, insisting that she knew all along that Percy was "a great person" and totally "Annabeth's type." Which was true and something that Annabeth really didn't have the time or energy to debate about.
"What was his name anyway?"
Piper pursed her lips. "Why is that familiar?"
"Well, I told you two minutes ago, but you weren't paying attention."
"No, no, that's not it. I think he looked familiar too."
"You probably saw him at the bar another night. He made it sound like he is there a lot."
"No. I definitely know him from somewhere. Percy… I definitely know him. I can't for the life of me remember his last name."
"Did you smoke a blunt tonight?" Annabeth asked. Piper was rambling on and on, seemingly delirious. How could she possibly know Percy?
"What? No! I'd never!"
Annabeth rolled her eyes.
"I'm serious. I know I know him, okay?" Piper turned on the laptop resting on her desk and opened Google. She typed in the name Percy and paused, her hands hovering over the keyboard.
"Civil War! … No, that's not right."
Annabeth leaned down and looked over Piper's shoulder. "Try Revolutionary War," she said while trying not to laugh. The entire situation was ridiculous.
"No, you're right! That's it!" she hurriedly typed Percy Jackson Revolutionary War Cannon into the search engine. She misspelled it drastically, but the suggested searches popped up.
"My dad was doing a project in New York one year so I attended a private school in the area. On a field trip to a battle ground when I was in third grade, this kid blew up a school bus with a cannon. He got expelled. I completely forgot about it."
"You forgot about it? How do you forget about an exploding school bus?"
"It's probably not the same person," Annabeth appealed.
Piper entered the search. She clicked on a newspaper article and read through it, Annabeth still peering over her shoulder. At the bottom was a school picture of Percy Jackson. The steely glint in his eye and the troublemaker smile were the exact same as the ones worn by the guy she had spent the past two hours talking to.
Annabeth sat down on her bed. How was this the same guy? How did he manage to do that? The Percy she had met seemed nice and not capable of doing any harm. Then she remembered the look he had given her right after she punched him.
Piper tried another suggested search. "Percy Jackson blows up school gymnasium… oh wait. He blew up two schools?" She paused to finish reading. "No, he wasn't charged for the gym… hmm… or the music hall… he just ran away like a guilty bitch. I distinctly remember him blowing up the school bus though. Wait! He also blew up a greyhound."
Annabeth groaned and pushed away the computer when Piper tried to show her the pictures.
"He's wanted for arson in five states. Oh my God! Remember the St. Louis Arch blowing up like 10 years ago?"
Annabeth groaned again and buried her face in her pillows. "Don't tell me he did that too."
"He was only suspected of doing it. A kid that looked like him fell out of the arch into the river. They never found a body."
Piper put her laptop on Annabeth's lap. "Watch this."
The video was of a skateboarder doing some Tony Hawk-esque tricks on a halfpipe. At the top on one of the passes, the kid missed grabbing his board and slid the 15 feet to the bottom.
Annabeth gasped, but the kid hopped right back up. He took off his helmet and examined the new hole in his black jeans. There wasn't so much as a scratch or scrape on his body, which was impossible. Nevertheless, he looked directly at the camera and gave a thumbs up, laughing. There was no way that the smoothie boy she had just met was the same kid that pulled those stunts.
But it was undeniable. It was the same guy. In the video he was probably closer to 16 or 17, but he hadn't changed much over the years. Same messy hair, same facial expressions, he was better looking now, with a more mature bone structure. Annabeth was almost certain that he had been wearing the same pair of jeans that night.
"He doesn't have a personal Instagram but there's some pictures here." Piper reached around the side of the computer to click another link. The first picture showed him in an orange t-shirt leaning on a bronze sword. Annabeth leaned into the screen for a better look.
"You interested?" Piper teased.
"In the photographer. The picture is really good."
"Me too, but just wait." Piper clicked the next arrow. The next picture showed him shirtless standing ankle deep in the ocean. Annabeth had to admit that he looked good.
"You should go for it."
"Hardened criminals aren't really my type."
"He's never actually gotten in legal trouble. You should DM him."
"Maybe. Any other explosions I should know about?"
"No more explosions."
Annabeth studied her expression. She was definitely not being entirely truthful. "What?"
"He was at the Smithsonian when all the planes broke. And a train derailment in Alaska. And the collapse of the Parthenon. And that riot at the Hoover Dam. And he was in Charleston when Fort Sumter caught fire, but no one actually saw him at the Fort so that doesn't really count. Maybe he's just really unlucky."
"No one is that unlucky."
"DM him," Piper persisted.
Annabeth sighed. She knew Piper wasn't going to leave this alone. "What do I say?"
Piper shrugged and took her laptop back to her side of the room.
Annabeth started typing, deleting, typing and deleting. She eventually settled for "so, did you actually blow up the St. Louis Arch?" and hit send. It was unlikely that he would even see it, let alone respond. He probably got lots of DMs everyday with having 10,000 followers.
This was inspired by a list of "meet ugly" headcanons. But oh, buy do I have some fun stuff planned. ;) I've already written 30k words which is really exciting!
As always, thanks for reading!