Chapter 20 - A REASON WHY

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"Why do you love me?" Annabeth asked randomly as Percy drove. Percy glanced at her in surprise, almost wrecking the pick up they were in.

"What?" He frowned, looking between her and the road.

"Why do you love me? I'm just curious..."

"Do I need a reason why?" He took her hand in his as the truck continued down the water adjacent road. She shrugged, looking out the window at the water. "Do I, baby?"

She smiled at him and shook her head. He smiled back and continued to drive. They were in California, on a trip with Piper - who was at her dad's house a few miles back. They'd done as Percy wanted. No thinking. Just running.

That's when Percy realized that he'd just admitted to loving her. He never even said it before, she'd just assumed... She was right, but still... He loved the fact that she just knew. Before he said anything, she knew.

He smiled more. "I love you." He didn't hesitate to say it. She already knew. Why would he heaitate?

"I love you, too." Annabeth sighed happily, a brilliant smile on her face. "Oh, I made it onto the team!"

"I knew you would." She grinned proudly as he pulled off the main road. Soon, they'd stopped in the sand of a secluded beachy area. "Come on."

Percy got out and walked over to Annabeth's side. He opened the door and helped her out, hands on her hips - careful to not hurt her. The bruises had healed, but the scabs had turned into scars, and were still painful for her. She didn't have to say it. He could see it on her face whenever he touched her hips. Percy pulled his shirt and jeans off, revealing his blue swim trunks. Annabeth was more hesitant, careful with removing her own tank top and shorts to reveal her blue bikini, the same one Percy had bought her their day at Montuak Beach.

"Where are we?" She glanced around the empty beach curiously.

"The beach." Percy grinned cheekily. She rolled her eyes.

"Smart ass." She put her arms around his neck, and he rested his hands on her hips.

"Better than a dumb ass, am I right?" She smirked, and he leaned in, kissing her passionately. He held her close, and for a while, they rested happily in each other's arms, kissing, standing in the sunlight.

When Annabeth broke away, Percy had to force himself not to chase her lips. She took his hand in hers and led him towards the water. Percy ran ahead, diving under. Annabeth stood in the shallower water, watching him. Every once in a while, he'd return with a seashell he found particularly beautiful and give it to her, kissing her again.

He knew why she didn't venture farther. She'd never learned to swim. Her parents never allowed it. He offered to teach her, but she said she'd rather watch him enjoy himself in the water. Percy went under the waves again, catching sight of a beautiful conch shell, one that made all the others pale in comparison. He brought it to the surface and smiled, admiring it, before swimming back to Annabeth.

Only... She wasn't there.

***

Annabeth couldn't believe it. One of the times Percy went underwater, she heard her name. She'd turned around to see a woman, probably the age of Annabeth's father, and she felt herself panic. She'd seen pictures of Athena Chase before, but... She didn't think someone would look so much like her mother.

Dark hair, falling in beautiful curls around her pale face, stormy grey eyes like the cloudy sky beyond the waters edge. Annabeth felt sick. The woman look ready to cry.

"Annabeth? Is it really you?"

"I... I'm sorry, do I know you?" Annabeth internally yelled at herself. For some reason, she felt she should know this woman. She felt she should have a connection with her.

"You don't recognize me? Did your father never show you a picture of me?" Annabeth frowned. It was impossible. This woman couldn't be her mom. Her mom had drove away from them shortly after Annabeth's birth, and took a swan dive off a cliff in her Jeep. "Annabeth, maybe you should sit down, you don't look alright..."

The woman moved forwards, and Annabeth jerked backwards, tripping over one of the shells Percy had brought to her. She fell into the water and looked out to see Percy go under the water again, pretty far out. She wanted to call out to him, but this woman was getting closer. Annabeth stood and ran for the pick up truck.

She was scared.

Annabeth got to their stuff and pulled out her phone, ready to call someone, probably Piper.

The woman had followed. "Annabeth wait, I just want to talk to you!"

"I don't know you! Stay away!" Annabeth pointed at her. "Please! Just stay away!"

"Annabeth, calm down. I'm not gonna hurt you. Please."

"Annabeth!" Percy appeared out of nowhere, running to her. He reached her, embracing her tightly, holding her to his chest, his breathing labored. She clung to him, shaking, eyes closed tight. "You scared me."

"I'm sorry..." She panted. "I'm so, so sorry. I'm okay. I promise I'm okay."

She had one hand on the back of his head, the other on his back, her arm under his. His breaths had calmed, and he seemed less panicked. He broke away and pressed his forehead to hers. "Don't do that to me, baby. Promise you won't do that to me again."

She forgot completely about the woman behind Percy. "I promise." He smiled beautifully, and all her worries washed away, she forgot all her problems. He hugged her again, and Annabeth sighed, relaxing in his strong arms.

Annabeth opened her eyes to see the woman, who was smiling, looking reoieved, as if Percy holding her was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Annabeth whispered to Percy. "Percy, I'm acared."

"Why?" He pulled away to look at her.

"Behind you... She looks exactly like my mom... Just... Older." Percy turned, arms around her still, holding her to his body.

"Uh... I'm sorry, but... Who are you?"

"I'm Athena Chase. Annabeth's mother." Annabeth sagged against Percy, and he held her tighter to him. "What about you?"

"Percy Jackson. Her boyfriend." Annabeth sank to the sand, and Percy sat with her, holding her lovingly. She didn't need the warmth his embrace provided, but her body felt like someone had shot ice through her heart. It was cold, and it hurt. His warmth melted that cold, made her less scared, made her pain fade.

That's all she needed. And that's what she got.

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