Chapter 32 - STUPID PLASTIC TIARA

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Have you ever willingly picked a fight with your worst enemy?

Have you ever threatened to make a bully do what they made you do?

And most importantly... Have you ever succeeded?

Annabeth never has. As a five year old, when the question of 'What do you want to do as a teenager' came into class, her thoughts were on designing a library, or maybe publishing a book. Certainly not standing up to a bully, and almost definitely not earning the respect she deserved as a human being.

Little did she know as a five year old, she would do those very things... Even if she didn't succeed.

As Albus Dumbledore once said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

***

"Are you crazy, Annabeth!?" Piper demanded after Drew stalked off in fury. "She'll kill you!"

Annabeth turned to her friend as Percy and Piper go to their feet. Percy immediately took her hand in his, intertwining their fingers together. "I'll be fine, Piper. I've let her treat me like trash for way too long."

"Let someone else do it! She fractured your jaw-"

"I wasn't expecting her to hit me. If I'd been expecting it, she never would have gotten past my guard."

"When have you ever started a fight with someone who could break your jaw with one hit!?"

Annabeth hesitated. "You don't think I can do it?"

"No, Annabeth, it's not that-"

"Then what is it!?"

"I... I don't... I just-"

"Will you spit it out!?" She could feel Percy's heartbeat squeezed between her fingers, like his heart was in her hand. It felt like he was panicked, and when she glanced back at him, she could see the wide eyed look of terror on his face. No one wanted to be stuck in the middle of a fight between best girl friends.

It could be scary.

She let go of his hand, not wanting to drag him into this. "Percy, back me up!" Piper snapped.

"I... Well, I..."

"Leave him out of this, Piper. I doubt he wants to deal with this any more than you do." She cut Percy off. Piper had no right to drag him into their argument. Piper groaned.

"How can you be so blind, Annabeth!?" People were beginning to surround them, making her less confident. But she wouldn't back down. She was getting angy. She was hurt. Did Piper really think that Annabeth couldn't do it!? It hurt to think that her best friend doubted her... She suddenly feared that Percy might feel the same way. "She'll kill you!"

"I can take care of myself! I've gone 16 years on my own! Surviving my dad! Surviving Drew! Surviving 16 years worth of physical and mental attacks! I've survived being thrown off the school roof! I've survived two suicide attempts, and two different rapists!"

Pipers eyes widened. Annabeth never told her about Mark. Only about Jake. Only Percy, Drew, Annabeth, and Mark himself knew. "I think I can win a god damn fist fight."

She was choked up. Tears were hot in her eyes, her chest swallowed up, inable to breathe. Piper didn't seem to have any words. She backed down, and grabbed her bag, walking away. Annabeth forced her shaking legs to hold her up as the frozen and shocked crowd around them dispersed.

Once the area was clear, Annabeth turned to Percy and sagged against him. He held her, his embrace comforting and loving. Her vision began to go black. She'd been holding her fingers closed, her fingernails breaking through the skin, causing blood to pool in her palms. She was almost too weak to stand. Annabeth whimpered, falling to the side.

"Annabeth!?" His voice was panicked. She let out a weak whisper.

"I'm okay..." He set her on the floor, her back against his knee, arms around her, clutching her to his torso. "Just dizzy."

Her bravery and the exhaustion caused by it caught up to her quickly. She'd bitten through her lip, blood pooling in her mouth. Regrettably, she swallowed it, cringing at the metallic taste against her tongue. It wasn't good.

She coughed, leaning into him. Percy kissed her cheek, holding her tightly. "I love you, Wise Girl." He whispered. "And I promise to back you up. If you go along with kicking Drew's ass, I'll be right beside you. If you decide she's not worth your time, I'll still be there. I won't let you go."

She opened her eyes and looked up at him, smiling in relief. "I love you so much, Percy."

"I love you, too." He smiled, kissing her forehead.

***

"You ready, Wise Girl?" Percy asked, hugging Annabeth. He knew she was dreading the fight she'd set up, but he knew she wouldn't back down from a challenge. He didn't care. Whether she backed out, or showed Drew how badly Drew had treated her, Percy wouldn't walk in the opposite direction. He wouldn't challenge the love of his life. She was everything to him. Changing her mind would be like trying to change his feelings for her, anyways. Impossible. It was the only word to describe it.

Annabeth Chase's head was as stubborn as Percy Jackson's heart.

And he was perfectly fine with that.

"Not really. I mean..." She looked at the book in her hands, a Hunger Games book, and held it up. "I'd rather be at Hogwarts. Maybe even Panem." She huffed.

He smiled and kissed her forehead. "You must be really hating the thought of fighting her."

"That's one way to describe it." She sighed, hugging herself. Annabeth leaned on him, and she closed her eyes, ear over his heart. He wondered if his heart was beating as fast as it usually did when she was so close to him. Percy looped his arms around her shoulders, kissing the crown of her head.

"Hating it, or loving it, I know you'll kick her ass." He'd taught her how to block a punch, the right way to punch without causing herself damage, and the best places to punch to get out of a tricky situation. She questioned how he knew what to do and he just kissed her. She didn't need to worry about it.

Annabeth had also joked about shaving her head so Drew couldn't grab her hair, and Percy had forced her to stay sitting in his arms, giving several excuses as to why she shouldn't shave her head. She'd laughed at him and promised she wouldn't do it.

Annabeth smiled up at him and kissed him. "I'm just glad you believe in me." She sighed, and Percy kissed her forehead, staying there, his eyes closed.

"I'll follow you anywhere." He promised, voice a whisper.

"And if I can't always lead?" Percy leaned back from her.

"I'll carry you." He grinned. Annabeth let out a quiet laugh, shaking her head. "So long as I'm by your side, I don't care what I have to do. Lead, follow, carry. Just as long as your in my life."

The bell rang, and Annabeth winced. The last day of school. The day before senior graduation. Annabeth said she'd fight Drew that day, after school was out, so that when Drew, a Senior, graduated, she'd be an example of Annabeth's fury.

"Ready, blondie?"  A cruel voice laughed, and Annabeth let out a soft sigh. Percy's hands moved to her hips and he looked her in the eyes.

"Show her the girl I see every day. And remember, no matter what happens, I'll be right here."

Annabeth looked scared. Whatever burst of confidence had made her challenge Drew had faded. She could get it back. He knew she could. No matter what Jake or Mark had done to her, she had the strength and confidence to prove to Drew and everyone else that she deserved to be higher than where they put her.

Annabeth handed him the copy of Hunger Games she held and turned to face Drew. He wondered if she was feigning the confidence she showed, or if it was really there. And for some reason, Drew was still wearing that stupid plastic tiara.

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