Percy blinked once. Twice. Three times for good measure.
“W-what?” Was the smartest thing his brain could supply under the circumstances. Because really, what else do you say to an accusation like that?
“You. Left. Me.” Annabeth choked again through gritted teeth, clenching her hands tightly to her chest and holy crap she was crying. That was the first thing his malfunctioning mind registered. Annabeth was crying and she was yelling at him about something and she looked so scared and hurt and what on earth was she talking abou-
“You think I left you?” Percy asked slowly, connecting some invisible dots inside his mind.
“I don’t think anything. You did! You left me! You left me with those Raiders and- ARGH! I can’t believe I trusted you and-”
“Woah, woah, woah!” Percy said, putting his hands up defensively, daring to take a few careful steps towards Annabeth, who only retreated every step he advanced. “Annabeth, what are you talking about? I didn’t leave you-”
“Yes you did! You did, you absolute jerk! God! I can’t believe-”
“-that I thought I could trust you! I let my guard down for one second, confident that you wouldn’t betray me-”
“-but oh, fool me once, right? I should have known better than to let it happen again, I should have known, but I thought you-I thought you would be different and-ACK, STUPID! I’m so stupid for hoping otherwise. So stupid for thinking that I could trust you-”
He didn’t mean to back her into a wall, or to shout so loudly, but it worked long enough to snap her out of her hysterical breakdown. He held her shaking arms secure enough to be able to hold her up if need be, and stared at her puffy grey eyes, the tears were now cascading down her cheeks. Her breathing was hitched and rigid, and Percy felt his stomach drop to the floor at the sight of her.
“Ok, first of all, breathe. You’re having an anxiety attack, just, breathe. Please,” Percy cooed in his softest voice, trying to calm down Annabeth as best he could. But in all honesty, he was having a hard enough time trying to calm himself.
His gut twisted uncomfortably. They’d been traveling together for a month now, practically spending every waking moment with each other trying to survive. You get to know someone pretty well when you’re both stuck in an apocalyptic setting trying to stay alive. But he never thought, it never even occurred to him, that Annabeth could break down like this. That the headstrong, resilient, stubborn and wickedly smart Annabeth could cry like it was the end of the world all over again.
Except this time, it was his fault.
“Annabeth, I didn’t leave you,” Percy started off again once Annabeth’s breathing had regulated and it looked like she wasn’t about to sock him in the stomach for touching her. “I would never- could never leave you.”
His mind briefly wandered to the events from earlier, because, truth be told, he did leave her. But it was only for a second and that was never meant to be a lasting thing.
They had been cornered by a small gang of Raiders. Only about eight of them, which wasn’t huge by any standards, but they still outnumbered him. How they had even snuck up on them without Percy noticing, he’d never know. But they did, and Percy was quickly trying to rack his mind around how to get Stella the heck out of there.
He had a bat with nails in it. Annabeth had a sharp dagger. They both had Stella cowering behind them. Really, they weren’t the most threatening bunch.
But the Raiders didn’t seem very tough either. It was an all-male gang, which wasn’t uncommon but it was still unsettling. They were a scraggly looking bunch, probably the runts of the litter of other larger and more intimidating Raider groups. All they had between them were a few metal poles and bloody fists.
We could take them, Percy had decided, but not with Stella around and in immediate danger. He needed a quick out. Just long enough so that he could hide Stella away for just a second.
The out came with a price.
Annabeth, for their freedom.
Of course, he hated the suggestion as soon as the bastards offered it. There were no women in their group. So of course, they’d think Annabeth was the perfect ‘prize’ to bet over. It made Percy sick to even think about it. But it had sparked another plan and frankly, in the moment, Percy couldn’t think of another option.
So he agreed, only if they could catch her. He quickly told a horrified Annabeth to run and booked it in the opposite direction, Estelle thrown over his shoulder.
He knew he’d have no trouble finding Annabeth again once they separated, and he knew that the Raiders wouldn’t hurt her even if they did capture her before Percy could hide away Stella. He found an old black minivan with all of the windows still intact and with the keys still in the ignition. He told Stella to wait quietly for him to return, ‘hide under the seats and don’t move a muscle’, locked the car behind him, and hauled ass back towards the sounds of shouting and ugly grunts.
Thankfully, they led him right back to Annabeth. She had managed to knock out two of them, but they had quickly surrounded her, Annabeth swinging around her knife widely in a protective ring around her, daring them to take a chance forward. Obviously, none of them did.
Which was just fine with Percy, because it gave him the chance to sneak up on them and take a few out. They fought for what felt like half an hour. Finally, Annabeth and him managed to knock them all out and get away, Percy not hesitating to grab Annabeth’s wrists and drag her along behind him as he led her back towards the black mini-van. Stella, thank God, was totally and completely unharmed, which was better than what Percy and Annabeth had to show for the encounter.
But they were ok. The few scratches and cuts they got in the quarrel were nothing compared to what it could have been. They escaped with only a few words spoken between them, and Percy (dumbly) just chalked it up to being a bit shaken by the whole thing.
Obviously, looking back on it, it wasn’t the best thing to do in the slightest. But he never intended to leave, leave Annabeth. Never intended to leave like he was never going to come back for her. Because of course he was going to come back for her. The fact that she even thought so, that she was so afraid that he would actually even consider abandoning her, left an awful taste in his mouth that he felt he was never going to get rid of.
“I’m sorry. Listen, I’m so sorry if it seemed like I’d just run out on you. But I wouldn’t. Annabeth, honest to God, you gotta know that I would never abandon you,” he didn’t realize his hold on her arms lesson as he slowly let them drop to her hands, squeezing them gently. “And you’re right, that was such a jerk move, I’m sorry I did that. I promise I’ll never do something like that ever again.”
And it was true. He really did feel awful about it, because she had a right to be mad and feel hurt. In her eyes, he just upped and left her, a seventeen-year-old girl, to fend for herself against eight grown men while her only chance of escaping just bailed on her. Percy was angry at himself for the douche move.
“But Annabeth, I trust you more than anyone on this planet. I knew you’d be fine long enough for me find a safe place for Stella. You’re so amazing and prepared and just so goddamn smart, I knew you’d find a way to be safe until I could come back, but that’s no excuse. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I made you feel like you couldn’t trust me and I shouldn’t have just expected you to understand my plan at the time, and yeah, again. Jerk move. But I really do trust you.” Her breathing had regulated out, thank God, and for the time being, it seemed like she had stopped crying so Percy guessed this would have been the best place to stop monologuing.
He dared to let go of one of her hands, and gently placed a thumb on her cheek, wiping away a tear streak. “I need you. I really can’t do anything right without you. So I’ll do whatever it takes to get you to trust me again.”
They stayed that way for awhile, just taking in each other’s presence. Percy slowly started to panic as he came to terms with that fact that his hand was still palming Annabeth’s cheek and the fact that she hadn’t slapped it away meant that she was either really, really pissed at him or-
“Do you… do you really mean that. You really wouldn’t have left me?” And Percy tried not let the crack in her voice break his heart as he gave her a soft smile.
“I mean, I didn’t, did I?” He tried to joke, then cleared his throat because come on Percy, now was not the time for a sense humor. “No. Not for a heartbeat.”
And when she sighed and closed her eyes, leaning into his hand, Percy just about felt his heart palpitate to almost dangerous speeds.
“Thanks,” was all she said as she closed the distance between them, pulling him into a hug. She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head just under his chin. Percy prayed to all the gods of every religion that she couldn’t hear his racing heart through his chest as he slowly lowered his awkward arms around her and held her back.
They stood there for what felt like hours. There breathing slowly matching each other’s paces. Percy tried to keep his mind off the fact that a very pretty girl was hugging him and how she just seemed to fit perfectly in his arms when Annabeth interrupted their rapport.
“I’m… I’m sorry for all those things I said. I was just, scared. And angry. And I just thought you’d… I’m sorry.” She sighed again. And Percy shook his head, even though he knew she couldn’t see him do it.
“No. No, don’t be. You had every right to be mad and it was like you said, I-.”
Suddenly, Percy’s once racing heartbeat practically stopped as a recalled what she had said earlier. Grabbing her shoulders and pulling them apart, Percy looked at her hard. Dread and concern weighing heavily on his chest.
“Wait. What did you mean by 'let it happen again’?” Percy asked, and the look on her face sent a cold shiver through his fingers where they connected to her shoulders. “Annabeth, did something happen before we met?”
She immediately looked at the ground, a flash of panic washed over her face, like just remembering the incident was as painful as sticking your hand in a fire. She leaned backwards, out of Percy’s reach (regrettably so because after seeing that look, Percy didn’t want her farther from arm’s length again) until her back hit the wall. She slid down it until she was sitting on the ground, hugging her knees that she pulled close to her chest. Percy didn’t hesitate to sit next to her.
“It was right after the virus boom,” she said after a long pause of just them sitting together in silence. “After my dad got infected and died, I knew I had to prepare myself for the worst to come. I had to get back to the camp. I knew it would be safe there. We knew it would be safe. Luke and I.”
Percy had remembered her mentioning Luke a few times before, just in conversations they had to pass the time during their long drives when it was actually safe to drive between towns. He was always curious about who the guy was or what he meant to Annabeth, but he didn’t press the matter. It never seemed like Annabeth liked talking about him for long. Percy just assumed it was because he had died in some horrible fashion.
“Since neither of us was infected, we thought the best thing to do was to travel together. Go back to the camp that we both went to over the summers when our dads were too busy with work. Luke was my childhood friend. We did almost everything together. I’d known him practically my whole life. He was… he was my best friend.” Percy didn’t like the pause she took as she admitted that, or the fact that her nails had begun digging into her arms so hard the tips were turning white.
Percy didn’t bother stopping himself from grabbing her hand nearest him and holding it. If this was going to be painful, Percy rather her hurt him than herself by remembering it. She didn’t seem to acknowledge it, which Percy was thankful for, but she didn’t let go either. And every time she squeezed his hand, he squeezed back.
“After a few days of traveling, we barely saw or ran into anyone. Just a few zombies, here and there, but nothing Luke couldn’t handle. Which, honestly, should have set off alarm bells in my head, cause California is huge, but all I could think of was just how easy this was and how safe Luke made it.” She paused again, this time squeezing Percy’s hand so tightly that he’d have imprints of her fingerprints on his skin for the rest of his life. If that were the case, Percy could live with the pain. “But then, one day, we ran into them.”
“Them?” Percy propped, only to the response of Annabeth’s face frowning darkly and he immediately wished he hadn’t asked it at all.
“The Crooked Ones.”
This time it was Percy’s turn to frown, almost mirroring Annabeth’s disdain. She didn’t need to explain further who they were, they were infamous across America.
A Raider gang, a large and nasty one. Said to have over 200 members, which, considering that most of the population was dead or part of the undead, was a frighteningly substantial amount. And they really were a crooked, awful bunch. They raided other groups, pillaged, really, it was their group that first incorporated keeping some prisoners as slaves. And they killed for sport. Most of the time, their game wasn’t just limited to zombies.
Percy hoped they’d never came to face to face with them. He squeezed Annabeth’s hand back.
“It was just a small group at the time, only about 30 or so people. But they were horrible. And they had their leader with them. The self-acclaimed Kronos.” She spat out the name like it was bile on her tongue. Percy didn’t blame her. From the rumors he’s heard, that guy made Hitler look like nothing more than a grumpy painter.
“We tried to escape, but there was just too many of them, and I ran out of bullets and Luke ended up getting a really nasty cut over one of his eyes so he couldn’t see anything. It seemed hopeless, but to be honest, in that moment, I wasn’t afraid. All I could think was, ’as long as Luke is beside me, we can get through this. We’ll survive this and make it to camp and everything will be just fine.’”
This time, instead of squeezing his hand, she squeezed her eyes shut tightly. Tears threatening to fall once more. Percy couldn’t very well hold her face to soothe that pain, so he opted to sling an arm around her shoulders. She fell into it almost immediately, and once again, she was in his arms, clutching the front of his shirt.
“But he- Luke- He gave me up. He begged, pleaded with them to let him go in exchange for me becoming Kronos’s personal slave. As if it was as easy as flicking on a light switch, he betrayed me like that. Years of friendship. Years of having each other’s back. PLaying together. Laughing together. All of it. He threw it all away. He threw me away.” Annabeth sobbed into Percy’s shirt, and Percy did his best to ignore the wet stains he felt through the fabric as he held Annabeth tight, rubbing smooth circles into her back.
“He left me to rot with that slimy, horrible, low-life- I don’t even know why Kronus let him go. He’s never let anyone go. But I guess he liked the way Luke groveled at his feet pathetically and thought that was a fair enough trade. His skin and dignity, over me.” She was now trembling in his arms, her shaking and hitched breathing hiccuping her words as she cried into Percy’s chest. And Percy felt like just about the most useless guy in the world, able to do nothing but hold Annabeth tightly and listen as she continued.
“And you know what the worst thing about it was?” She asked, as if handing Percy a loaded gun and aiming it at her. Percy was smart enough not to take it. He only held Annabeth closer.
“It wasn’t the two weeks I spent with those monsters, indulging in their senseless murders and horrid raids. It wasn’t the skimpy clothes they made me wear or the awful things they said to me as they paraded me around like some kind of show pony. It wasn’t even… It wasn’t even when that bastard Kronus would… touch me,” and Percy held his breath at the part, not realizing he was digging his nails so hard into his palms that they were starting to bleed.
“It was that during all that time, all that time, I kept believing that he would come back for me. Luke would show up like the knight in shining armor he’d always been and rescue me with some amazing daring plan like he always did. And everything would go back to the way it was and be ok but he- hic- he didn’t come back. He was never going to come back.” She was practically whispering now, but every word she spoke held so much anger and pain, she might as well have been shouting with how much her words stung Percy to his very core. And Percy would have held her tighter to him, but she was already so close she was practically on top of him.
“It finally took Kronos threatening to take it too far that I knew he was never going to come back. So I made my escape, cost me a nasty cut on my arm, but I finally got free of him. Of them. Of everyone.” She growled, and Percy subconsciously rubbed the bandage on her right arm. “After that, I thought if I couldn’t trust someone like Luke, someone who’d been my friend for so long, then I couldn’t trust anyone. No one was safe. I had to be smarter, tougher, more careful about every single move cause I knew that I was the only one I could trust. There was no one else. I was all alone.”
They sat there in silence, letting the atmosphere that was created settle and sink into their bones, making them feel heavy against each other.
Percy didn’t know what to say. What could he say? Words couldn’t even begin to describe the rage that was boiling in his chest. The murderous intent that was plaguing his mind at the thought of what Annabeth went through. What Kronos put her through. What Luke put her through. Percy hoped he never got the chance to meet either of them. Because if he did, well, Percy wouldn’t know how to explain to Stella why there was dirty blood on his hands.
But in a way, there wasn’t anything he needed to say that she didn’t already know now. Because she had said it herself. She was alone. Was. Past tense. She wasn’t anymore. She knew that; she had to know that now. Percy didn’t know how else to convey it any better that he was gonna make sure that she was never going to be alone again than by continuing to hold her tight against his chest.
She was not alone. Never again was Percy going to leave her side. He’d fight all the zombies and raiders in the world to make sure of it.
“I’m not Luke.” Was all Percy dared to say, mumbling it firmly into her hair.
“I know,” she whispered back, her voice rigid and hoarse from crying against his skin.
“I’ll never be Luke,” Percy replied, more defiantly. Annabeth only squeezed him tighter, burying her face into his neck.
Guess which sad bitch is going to Iceland, Norway and Sweden for Christmas! It me! My first white Christmas!!!! My first Christmas I won’t be dying of heat stroke I’ll be making friends with reindeer and freezing to death I can’t wait
soft daddy Louis when Harry's had a long/bad day! just wants to make his baby feel good!
I FINALLY FINISHED THIS!!!!! HOLY SHIT!!!!! I DIDN’T MEAN FOR IT TO BE SO LONG OR FOR IT TO JUST, LIKE, BE THIS WAY IN GENERAL. IT TOOK FOREVER. I AM SO SORRY. WARNING 4 SOME NOT-TOO-FILTHY SMUT AHEAD.
Louis’s got a bad habit of falling
asleep on the sofa — to be fair, it’s a great
sofa — and, consequently, spends a lot of time getting an earful over how
awful it is for his back, as if Harry’s not
twenty-three going on eighty.
Which is why it’s a bit strange
when, rather than being prodded at unceremoniously, Louis awakens to Harry
spilling into the tiny space between Louis’s body and the edge of the seat
cushion, carefully arranging himself to fit. His arms slide around Louis’s
middle, and Louis chuckles as he ducks his chin, buries his nose into Harry’s
hair and inhales shampoo and summer-musk.
“You’ll fall, love,” Louis murmurs,
even as he winds an arm over Harry and shifts farther back into the couch,
tugging Harry in closer. Harry only hums disinterestedly and tilts his chin up
with a languid blink.
“Can I have a kiss, Daddy?” he
asks. Louis obliges, soft-lipped and easy, brushing his knuckles over Harry’s
cheek. He’s been Daddyfor years now,
but it never stops feeling like a gift, like something he needs to keep safe
and secure behind his heart, because Harry’s trusted him to do so.
Eventually, Louis tugs Harry’s head
back with his fingers wound into his hair. His brow furrows.
I’ve got a
sixth sense for these things, Louis’s joked, always know when my Hazza needs me. My baby.