Chapter Six - CLAW

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Bright and early on Saturday morning, Annabeth was out of bed, hair brushed, fully dressed, and ready to leave. At ten, she left the house, leaving a note for her step mother- one that would probably get discarded without a thought -and went to meet Percy. For hours they hung out, making each other laugh, and just having fun. Percy took Annabeth to an arcade she never knew existed, and she proved her skills on the crane machine. He leaned against it as she put in a token, determined to get the owl at the back of the machine.

"I bet you lunch that you can't get it." Percy grinned, clearly confident of his win already.

"Don't be so sure, Seaweed Brain... I am the queen at this game... Just you watch..." Annabeth smiled, and two minutes later, she had a new owl, and Percy was walking with her to an old pizzeria a few blocks away.

"I don't get how you did it!" He laughed.

"I'm just that good." Annabeth smiled, barely noticing when Percy's hand took hers as he led her into an old restaurant that Annabeth vaguely remembered. "I know this place..."

"You do? Not many people know about it. It's kind of a hidden gem... The pizza is-"

"Amazing." Annabeth finished for him, and they laughed.

A woman at the counter turned to see them, and a grin split her face. Percy saw her, and looked a little sad, glancing around for someone before his green eyes settled on the young woman's face. "What can I do for you guys?"

"How about just a pepperoni pizza?"

"A whole Pizza?" She looked a little doubtful. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. It's what I always get when I come here." He grinned.

"Oh, you must be Percy." Percy's grin fell to confusion. Annabeth bit her lip, glancing over her shoulder, feeling eyes on her. "Roseanne told me to expect you to come back."

"Yeah... About Roseanne... Where is she?"

"She got cancer a few weeks back..." Percy's face fell entirely, and his eyes darkened a little sadly. "She refused to take chemo, and passed away a couple days ago... I'm afraid you just missed her... She said to give you this, though."

The woman went to the counter and grabbed something from under it, before returning and holding her hand out. Percy's hand shook as he took whatever it was that she handed him. Percy slowly went to sit down, taking Annabeth with him. They sat in a booth and Annabeth watched him as he stared at the necklace in his hands. It had a bronze rose pendant on it with a latch on the side.

"Who was Roseanne?" Annabeth whispered.

Percy met her eyes, and put the necklace on the table. "An old family friend... My mom grew up in the foster system, and Roseanne kind of took her under her wing when she got emancipated and started living in New York. She helped raise me, and was kind of like a grandmother to me." Percy shrugged. "Not a big deal."

"Yeah, it's a big deal, Percy. She was like family, right?" He nodded. "Then it's a big deal. You can take me home, if you want. We can hang out some other-"

"No. It's fine, I promise. I've got a whole day planned out already, I'm not cancelling it because of a little bit of news." He brushed it off, but Annabeth could tell as they ate that he wasn't feeling it anymore. His eyes were darker, his smile less vibrant. He didn't crack a joke at all, no matter how many opportunities Annabeth gave him. Typically, Annabeth wouldn't say anything, but she was worried... Why was he so determined to continue the day if he was so bothered by this? He couldn't say he wasn't bothered, either, because... Well... It was obvious. Body language was the dead give away.

"Percy-"

"Aww, look, two losers on a date." A voice Annabeth hated turned her to stone. "Heard you stood back while Jake died last night. Why'd you push him, Annie? Huh?"

Maisie and Drew stood beside the table, with Maisie actually having the decency to look heartbroken. Annabeth saw right through it. It was all an act. Percy got defensive immediately. "Don't act like you were there, Drew. You didn't see what that bastard did."

"I didn't need too. I know everything there is to know. Jake was alone, and didn't want to sleep with Annie when she asked him to have sex with her. So she killed him."

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Annabeth snapped, her voice shattered, broken. "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"

She got up and ran, completely forgetting that Percy was there, completely forgetting that anyone in the city could probably attack her without her having a chance. She didn't care. She wanted out. She wanted somewhere different, somewhere safe, somewhere she wasn't going to be picked on for existing. In that moment, she didn't even want to exist anymore.

***

Percy dropped money on the counter before running after Annabeth, ignoring the two totally shocked teenage girls as they tried to stop him. He lost her immediately, though, in the sea of New Yorkers. She had vanished, like she probably wanted too. Percy ran though, hoping he could find her, help her, protect her. He didn't know why he was so desperate to take care of her, but he was. He just wanted to help her and make her feel better... He just wanted her to be safe. Percy wasn't going to stop caring until she was safe.

He ran, and ran, and ran, until he saw her turn into an alleyway. Panic set in, and he ran faster until he got to the opening. Inside, Annabeth was stood, alone, leaning against the wall. Her shoulders shook and Percy stepped towards her slowly, gently taking her hand. Annabeth spun around, eyes wide. She relaxed when she saw it was Percy, but tears still ran down her cheeks.

"Are you alright?" He put one hand on her back, the other holding onto her elbow. She nodded, but Percy could tell she was lying. "Do you want me to take you home, now?"

"No..." She mumbled. "But I don't want to keep going around the city... Can we go watch a movie or something? Anything but risk seeing them again?" Percy nodded and Annabeth hugged him, hands on his shoulderblades, arms under his. "I'm sorry... I'm ruining what you had planned-"

"You're really not. My next plan was go watch cartoon reruns while my mom's at work." Percy said softly. "We'll be there early, but that means you can meet my mom. Let's just hope she isn't taking selfies in a bikini again."

Annabeth gave him a weird look and he laughed, "Long story, Wise Girl."

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