This reporter would like to stress that she did not set the fire to draw out the superhero known as Riptide.
Or at all, Annabeth reminded herself. It wasn’t her fault the police and fire departments couldn’t do their their job properly. It wasn’t her fault that she was smart enough and savvy enough to track the movements of an unknown arsonist through the city. It…okay, it was kind of her fault that she’d decided to go after the guy herself. In her defence, nothing had pointed to him setting a fire right at that moment.
“Go after an arsonist in an abandoned building without a fire extinguisher, Annabeth, great job,” she muttered, dropping to the ground. The smoke was a filmy haze around her, the crackling roar of flames very much not in the distance.
The urge to run had seized her bones, but she fought it off, crawling determinedly towards a window, ignoring the frisson of fear creeping slowly up her spine. The flames had come up too fast to be born of any natural development, the creaks and groans of the rotting building around her giving voice to the structural damage already taking place.
Had the window always been so far away? Annabeth coughed, squeezing her eyes shut against the smoke. But the faint hint of a breeze through the open glass pulled her on, and she had almost reached the ledge.
“Hello?” A masculine voice, neither childish or elderly. That still left a big gap and oh my god Annabeth Chase now is not the time to start profiling voices. “Is anyone else here? Hello?”
Later, she would realise that there had been no fear in the voice. Not even a little bit of concern. But that would be later, when she wasn’t in the middle (okay, the edge) of a building on fire. She reacted the way she hoped any decent human being would. She stripped off her shirt, soaked it in water from the plastic bottle in her bag already starting to warp from the heat, and threw herself back towards the flames.
The impromptu filter gave her maybe a minute, and would do nothing to protect her from the flames. But this (sadly) wasn’t Annabeth’s first disaster, or even her first burning building. She judged the weak spots and hot spots as best she could, stepping lightly around around them, moving as fast as she could on as little breath as possible.
“Hold on!” she called. “I’m coming!”
“You - what? No, don’t do that! Stay where you are, I’ll - uh, I’ll come to you?”
There was the panic. It occurred to Annabeth that she might have just found her arsonist, but ‘plucky reporter brings madman to light’ was as good a headline as any. She grit her teeth and shifted awkwardly around a fallen beam, ignoring the heat of the flames licking at her.
“Is that - are you coming closer? Are you a crazy person?”
“I’m not the one standing in the middle of a burning building!” she yelled back.
“No, you’re the person walking into it.”
She was, all fire-wise advice aside, about to yell something back, when thinks started happening very fast. There was a loud crack from overhead, a roar of flames and billowing heat. Annabeth only barely had time to think one quick oh, shit before instinct prompted her to throw her body aside as the roof caved in, blocking her exit back.
That might have been a problem, if not for the veritable tidal wave of water that, just as abruptly, crashed through the building. It didn’t get all of the flames, but it hit most of them. The hiss and steam were just as disorienting as the smoke, and Annabeth was cursing her luck - Ripide was probably taking the opportunity to get away unidentified, and so was the arsonist - when a hand thrust itself into her vision.
“Hey. Hey, are you okay?”
She accepted the hand. It was a nice one, tan and calloused. And extremely strong. She kind of wished she was wearing a shirt, for meeting the own of that hand,
“I’ve had worse,” she grumbled, accepting the hand. The soupy mess of air was starting to clear, and she caught sight of a mop of unruly black hair, the flash of sea-green eyes in the dim light.
“Are you kidding me? Who has worse than a burning building collapsing on them?”
“Nearly collapsing.” Annabeth squared her shoulders, and set to work on untangling the sodden shirt in her hands. It wasn’t until she had the thing pulled uncomfortably over her head that she allowed herself to look up at the man. “And I’d say you probably do, Riptide.”
He was gorgeous. Of course he was; as time went on, Annabeth was discovering that that was apparently a rule in the superhero handbook. He was–
Groaning. In irritation. “Oh man, it’s you. Don’t you have a job?”
“This is my job!”
“Crashing an arsonist’s crappy party is your job?”
“Reporting is my job!”
“Reporting doesn’t involve nearly killing yourself! What’s wrong with you?”
“Well excuse me for thinking someone was trapped in here and trying to save them!”
The man opened his mouth, shut it again with a click of teeth. His jaw, Annabeth noted, was excellent. Even - especially? - when clenched out of frustration.
“Whatever,” he muttered, waving his hand in disgust. “I’m glad you’re not dead. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
He turned his back on her and started to pick his way through the rubble. Annabeth, never one to rest on her laurels, started doing the same. “Hold on, aren’t you worried I’m going to - I don’t know, report on you?”
He glanced at her over his shoulder at her, offered a grin. It did not help his general face situation of being ridiculously good looking. “You didn’t take a picture, and you don’t know my name. How many guys with black hair and green eyes to you think are in this city?”
Annabeth thought about adding the other details out loud - skin tone, height, general build, approximate weight, manner of moving - but was very aware that that was both creepy, and not likely to get her out of this situation unscathed. Sure, he’d saved her, but that was when she wasn’t a threat. Just because he had a nice face, didn’t mean the rest of him would be as nice when put under pressure.
“Okay, good point.” She fell back. “I guess I’ll see you at the next one.”
The look he gave her was distinctly unimpressed, but he didn’t try to discourage her. It was almost enough to make her feel bad about filching his wallet.
“What kind of superhero carries identification on them anyway?” she muttered, tugging out the drivers licence once she was sure he was gone, and there was no sign of the arsonist.
Percy Jackson did, apparently.