Annabeth was starting to get suspicious. At first, I had been able to fool her into believing I was only anxious about my finals, but it wasn’t working so well anymore. It didn’t make much of a difference, since I hadn’t actually thought I’d be able to trick her for so long.
We spent our afternoon walking down the Central Park and just having a good time. Everything was going great, except for the times I felt shivers running down my spine, as if Athena was watching my every move closely. Even though I had talked to the goddess, she hadn’t been absolutely happy about my plans. But she gave her blessing in the end – after threatening me, naturally.
Talking to Poseidon had been easy, really. He was quite fond of Annabeth, after all, and helped concealing from her that I had travelled to San Francisco to talk to her father, claiming that I was with him under the sea.
I thought I’d been nervous when I talked to Annabeth’s dad. Oh, how I was wrong.
It wasn’t like I actually believed Dr. Chase had a gun to threaten me with. Only he did, but, fortunately, he chose not to use it to warn me to take care of his daughter or else…
Her stepmother opened the door, and she was very surprised. I could hear Annabeth’s stepbrothers yelling at each other – possibly playfully, possibly not – from the living room, and the sound of Legos being thrown around.
“Percy! You didn’t say you were coming,” she said. “Is Annabeth with you?”
I transferred my weight from foot to foot, anxiously. “Hm, no, she isn’t, Mrs. Chase. I came on my own. Actually,” I let out a nervous laugh, “she doesn’t even know I’m here. I’m sorry for not saying anything, but it’s kind of important. Is Dr. Chase home?”
She eyed me suspiciously. Now, I figure it didn’t mean she thought I was going to do something bad, necessarily, but my mind was too cloudy to notice. I could barely keep myself still.
“Yes, he’s upstairs. Come on in,” Mrs. Chase stepped away for me to enter, and she closed the door behind me. As soon as one of the twins saw me – I think it was Bobby, but I could never be quite sure –, he ran to me with big puppy eyes. “Percy, Percy! Tell him that his boat is completely wrong! I know it is! Come show him,” he tugged my jacket, trying to drag me to the living room with him. His brother came in running as well. “Mine is better than yours!”
Mrs. Chase looked down at her sons. “Bobby, Matthew, leave Percy. He came here to talk with dad.” I laughed and looked at her. “It’s fine, Mrs. Chase. I can wait here.” She opened her mouth to say something, but Bobby had already screamed “YAY!” and dragged me to where they were playing with Legos. Ever since Annabeth had started bringing me to family dinners, it was clear I was a blessing from the gods as the only person who could play with them without wanting to chop off their heads, even after three years. And they adored me for that.
Turned out it was a good thing the twins kept me occupied with teaching them the best way to build a boat with Lego (my specialty). It helped keeping my nerves under control, but it was hard to put the pieces together with shaking hands. They noticed.
“Why are you shaking so much?” Matthew asked. “Are you cold? You can take a jacket of mine, if you are.”
I almost laughed. “No, I just…” I took a glance at the door, to check if Dr. Chase hadn’t come down yet. Then I took a shaky breath and stared down at a blue Lego before looking back up. “I want to marry your sister. I came here to ask for your father’s permission.”
Their mouths fell open, which would’ve been funny under normal circumstances. They looked at each other, and then back at me. Bobby spoke, “So you’re gonna be like… family?” Before I could answer, Matthew added, “And you’re gonna be around more?”
I opened my mouth at first, not knowing what to say, until I finally found the words. I pointed at Matthew, “Not sure about that, but yeah, I’m gonna be family.” It was the first time it downed on me that these would be my brothers-in-law; of course, if Annabeth said yes. “Awesome,” they said in unison.
Suddenly, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs and got up as Dr. Chase arrived. I was so nervous I felt sick, but I was able to put on a normal expression. “I am very sorry for taking this long, Percy,” the man started, shaking my hand. “I was just finishing grading some papers.”
“Daddy!” Matthew screamed before I could say a word. “Did you know that Percy here wants to m–” My eyes widened. In a split second, I realized he was going to ruin the whole thing, and acted quickly, turning to him with a murderer’s glare, causing him to quiet down. Being trained by Lupa had its perks. People were scared of your glare.
Dr. Chase frowned. Immediately I turned to him with the most innocent face I could manage. “I was just teaching them how to build a trireme, sir.”
Okay, so things had yet to start going well. To my relief, Bobby understood the gravity of the situation and interfered. “He did, dad. Matthew was saying that we wished we had more time, because Percy wanted to be our referee to tell which one of us built it better.”
I wanted to hug the little guy. He had done more than it was needed.
Dr. Chase nodded. “He can come here later.” He turned to me. “Should we go to my office upstairs?” I tried not to be so obvious when I gulped. “Yeah, t-that’d be great.”
I walked past Mrs. Chase, who smiled and asked if I wanted to eat anything. I probably would have said yes, seeing that I always did, because her sandwiches were really tasty, but I feared that if I ate something I might throw up. The butterflies in my stomach didn’t leave any space for hunger or whatsoever. So, unfortunately, I had to decline her offer.
I had been to Dr. Chase’s office before, with Thalia and Zoë, back when we were trying to rescue Annabeth, Artemis, and the Ophiotaurus, and a couple of times after that. Although I was familiar with the room, I only sat down when Dr. Chase frowned at me standing and kindly reminded me of the existence of the chair in front of me.
“Is everything okay?” he asked. “Did something happen with Annabeth? You look a bit… uneasy.”
Yep, definitely I looked uneasy. Thank for the reminder.
I cleared my throat. “No, no. She’s absolutely fine. No evil creature decided to have their revenge or anything. Everything’s normal, sorry if I worried you. I-I just needed to talk to you about something. I mean, I already talked to Athena, and since she didn’t kill me I figured it was a good sign and…” I slapped myself mentally to stop rambling. I took a deep breath and reached into my pocket, taking the velvet box out and placing it on the desk. “I’d like to marry your daughter.”
I raised my eyes to his, fearing a bit for my life. I had no idea what his reaction would be whatsoever, so I had to be prepared for everything. But Dr. Chase was quiet for a while, eyeing the ring’s box in front of him. He took his glasses off and put them aside. “I’m certainly not going to stop you, considering the things Annabeth said you’ve done. You’re very powerful; I trust you are capable of taking care of her.” I felt myself blushing. “But, I guess, if you’ve taken the time to cross the country, you probably want to hear something from me.”
“I-I…” I stammered cleverly, as always. “I just t-thought it’d be nice to… to know that you wouldn’t blow my head off or anything.”
Dr. Chase smiled. “I surely have a shotgun that could do that; one little thing I sometimes like to take for my students to see. But, you see, Percy,” he leaned on the desk, “as hard as this is for me, to have my only daughter taken away, I can’t stop her from doing whatever she thinks is right.” He paused. “And… I know she wants to be with you. I also know it’s the right thing to do.”
I did not expect that. My face probably showed it, because Dr. Chase smiled again and leaned back on his chair. “The first time I met you, you were off with an immortal girl and a punk one trying to save Annabeth on Mount Tam. I didn’t forget how determined you looked to do so, and it was over six years ago. It’d be foolish not to see you cared about her. Also, back when you all had to save the world from the… giants? Is that right?” He frowned. I nodded and he went on. “Annabeth told me you were both in Tartarus for some time.”
Now my face probably showed how touchy the subject was. I was full aware that my expression had darkened, even if I’d tried not to let it out through that it still wasn’t okay. Dr. Chase pursed his lips. “She told me she was going to fall anyway, and that you chose to go with her.”
My lips were completely dry, but I thought it was the right time for me to just tell the truth. “Yes, I did, sir. I couldn’t let her go alone. She’d die.”
He pointed at me. “You could die.”
“My goal at that point was keeping her alive. I didn’t mind dying as long as she could make it out of there.”
Dr. Chase nodded. “Exactly. I couldn’t ask for more.”
I was still pretty dazzled by his reaction. I had seriously been expecting at least a threat; definitely not what sounded like a compliment. I couldn’t form words as Dr. Chase took the velvet box into his hands and analyzed the ring. “She’s gonna love it,” he said before returning it to me. I grabbed it slowly. “So… that means you’re okay with it?”
He shrugged. “The boys love you, my wife likes it that you always eat her food endlessly, I, for once, can’t find anything not to like in you, you’ve saved Annabeth’s life many times, and she loves you. I don’t see a reason to tell you no; except, perhaps, that you both are twenty and still a bit young.”
I chuckled nervously. “I thought you’d say that.”
“I wasn’t going to, because I can only imagine how easy it is for demigods to die. Annabeth told me you weren’t supposed to live this long, so I’m gonna stay quiet about that and just give both of you my blessing.” He stopped, and then laughed. “I never thought I’d actually say that.”
I kept quiet, mainly because I didn’t know what to say apart from thanking him. I was so happy he didn’t feel the urge to kill me that I wished Annabeth were just outside the door so I could propose to her already. Unfortunately, I still had to travel all the way back to New York, calm myself down, and take her out on a date as if it was just an average day.
Annabeth really started to frown when we were finished walking down the Central Park – after a couple of stops, of course – and I suggested we kept on walking down the fifth avenue. Okay, I knew we had like, 26 blocks to go to where I wanted, but I felt like taking a cab wouldn’t have the same effect, even if she complained.
“Do you have any specific destination in mind, Seaweed Brain, or are you just willing to tire my legs to death today?”
I made a thoughtful face for a moment. “Nah, I do have something in mind.”
“And you may wanna tell me where it is that we’re headed to?”
“Oh, I might, but you see…” I stopped in front of her and kissed the tip of her nose. “It’s a surprise,” I whispered before sending her a wink and resuming our walk. Annabeth was speechless enough not to say anything for the next ten blocks. Until…
“Percy, we’re on the 36th street already. We could have taken a taxi,” Annabeth stated. Well, it was good while it lasted, but, honestly, the thought of what I was about to do was catching up with me and I was sure she could feel my hand shaking against hers.
“Just two more blocks,” I said trying to sound normal, but it came out in a small voice.
Annabeth looked ahead and saw what building was two blocks away. “Oh. We could have taken a taxi. You could have just said you wanted to go –”
“We’re not going up.”
She frowned. “But then –”
“Just come with me.”
I could see in her face that she was about to ask me why I was acting so weird. Fortunately, she chose to simply nod and follow me. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown when I stopped her in the corner of the 34th with the fifth avenue, right outside the Empire State Building.
Annabeth crossed her arms. “Now can you tell me why you made me walk all the way over here?”
I put my hand in my pocket one last time to be sure the ring was still there – knowing myself, it could have easily fallen out on the way. Then I took a deep, shaky breath. “Because I want the gods and the New York citizens to see this.”
She shook her head. “See what? What are you talking ab–” She interrupted herself with a gasp when I dropped down on one knee and brought up the velvet box. Her hand went to her mouth and her eyes already started glimmering.
“Annabeth Chase,” I started, and she laughed. “I’m aware that you would probably punch me if I gave a cheesy speech right now and talked about how I met you when we were twelve and everything.” Annabeth laughed again, and I mentally noted again how much I loved that sound. “But I have known you for eight years and was saved by you so many times I lost count. I stopped to think one day, and realized that…” I paused to take one of her hands from her face and hold it. “I really want to be with you forever.”
“You said no cheesy speech,” she commented, her voice choked by emotion.
“No, I said you’d punch me, not that I wasn’t gonna do it.”
Annabeth looked like she wanted to hit me, but I resumed talking before she could get the chance. “It wasn’t like I hadn’t consider it before, but only when we were in Tartarus,” her smile fell a bit, and I squeezed her hand, “when I was willing to stay behind if that meant getting you out, was that I realized I was serious about this. I wanted to marry you.”
“But that was three years ago.”
“I had to build up the courage. And talk to Athena and your dad.”
Her eyes widened a bit. I could feel the eyes of people who had stopped to watch on me, and although I had tried to prepare myself for it, it almost made me panic. If I wanted to escape humiliation, Annabeth had to say yes.
“You talked to them?” she whispered. I shrugged. “I’m old-fashioned that way.”
“My mother could have killed you.”
“Yeah… there’s always that possibility. But,” I put on a serious face and stared into her eyes. “I needed to do it. I’m always afraid of doing something stupid and losing you. I wanted to do this the right way. I want to make you mine forever.”
I breathed in one last time to get a grip on myself for long enough not to stutter. Then, with the hand that wasn’t holding hers, I opened the velvet box. “Will you marry me?”
I panicked for a moment while Annabeth was frozen. Her eyes went from me to the ring and back to me again. A smile began to form on her lips and the tears threatened to fall from her eyes. “Do you even need to ask?”
“Of course I will, you idiot,” she punched my shoulder. I took that, and her answer, as a good sign and jumped to my feet, lancing one arm around her and placing a hand on her cheek to kiss her. Though I could barely do that, because I was too busy smiling and not believing what had just happened. I could hear some people clapping.
I took my hand from around her waist and opened the velvet box. I exaggeratedly offered my hand for her to place her left one in, which she did and I slipped the ring onto her finger. Annabeth looked up to me smiling crazily with a tear on her cheek. As I wiped it away, she said, “You don’t have to worry about losing me, Seaweed Brain. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Certainly hope so. Now you’re stuck with me.”
“Oh,” she said dramatically, “what will be of my life now?”
I brought her closer for another kiss. This time, though, I got a little excited and lifted her feet off the ground, twirling her around and grinning like a mad man. It’s probably very cliché for me to say it, but I couldn’t have been happier.
Later that day, we showed up at my mom’s apartment. She and Paul knew I had taken Annabeth out that day meaning to propose, so I figured they should be the firsts to know she had agreed, inexplicably, to spend the rest of her life with annoying me.
My mom herself opened the door. She opened her mouth to say something, but I only grinned as Annabeth stepped up from behind me raising her left hand to show the ring. And we didn’t need words. Pretty much, my mom hugged Annabeth so strongly that I felt it.
We decided one thing about the wedding that day: it would be in June. Hera had to bless them all, right? And that would completely piss her off. We thought, why not?