THE DEMIGODS, ONE by one, sauntered down off the Argo II and into the indigo of a late fall twilight. There was a sharp cold wind that made Annabeth regret not taking a warmer coat- she had only a light blue windbreaker her father had given to her for her last birthday. But Percy took her hand in his, and after that the wind seemed a little warmer.
For what seemed like a long time, the seven trudged through long gusts of icy air on flat land. It was a roaring in their ears that blew their hair back and numbed their cheeks. It was for this reason that Percy still cupped Annabeth's hand in his own, through their intertwined fingers were deep in Percy's Northface pocket. The couple walked quickly along, so that their sides were touching, and Annabeth leaned into her boyfriend; his hand was the only warm sensation she felt.
As the sky grew darker, the temperature dropped- and it dropped fast.
Piper felt like her lungs were iced over. She had her hood fit snugly around her head, her hands stuck through the pouch in her sweatshirt were clutched together. She didn't dare move them- a small part of her feared they were stuck, her knuckles frozen in place. Jason wasn't much help. He looked the same, only his eyebrows were pushed together with a sheer determination; his head was held down and his blue eyes glued to his shoes and he walked ahead.
The daughter of Aphrodite glanced back at Annabeth and Percy. They were trailing behind, Annabeth looking like she was ready to pass out. She glared at their arms twisted together, Percy's coat pocket obviously holding both of their hands. In spite of herself, she felt a twinge of envy. Why couldn't she do that with Jason? Besides the fact, of course, that her hands were possibly never going to work again.
But Jason had seen her face, the way she looked at them with jealousy, and his expression changed. Although the wind stung his skin, he took a hand out of his pocket and held it loosely at her side. She must have put two and two together, because she slowly pulled his hand into the cubby in her sweatshirt. At first they couldn't feel one another's skin at all, but slowly feeling started to come back with half painful, half pleasurable tingles.
Jason's hand didn't leave her's again.
IT WAS LATE, and they were all was becoming more and more anxious. The only good news was that the wind was almost completely gone. The only thing the seven half-bloods could hear was the shuffling of their own feet and and occasional bat flying over head.
Leo lead them down a long dirt road, a ball of fire flaring at his fingertips (Hazel and Frank were now walking in the very back of everyone.) Still, the moon was already more than halfway full and provided just enough light for them to see each other.
They were surrounded by grassy plains- very flat, dry grassy plains. All around them, there was nothing. Leo found it hard to believe there wasn't one single tree in sight, though Percy had mentioned he'd seen one a while back.
Other than a few debates as to which direction they should take, the half-bloods didn't talk much. There seemed to be anxiety lavished in the freezing air, a thick and uncomfortable coat. About halfway in, though, the growing nag in Percy's stomach became unbearable.
"Wise Girl," He whispered softly. She didn't hear him.
Annabeth lifted her head to look at her boyfriend. What she didn't realize was that the lack of sleep had made violet indents under her blood shut eyes, or that her hair hadn't been brushed in two days. Or that the boy holding her hand was seriously concerned for her health.
"Yeah," She was speaking under her breath, not wanting the others to hear.
"...Are you doin' okay?"
"Sure," She gave him a small smile. "Don't worry about me. I'm just a little tired-"
Percy knew this conversation was over by the tone of her voice. Honestly, he felt pretty frustrated. Every time Percy showed Annabeth any kind of concern, she translated it as pity.
Prideful...yeah, that seemed accurate.
But Annabeth was definitely not "okay". Prideful of not, he was going to help her- it's not like she could protest in the state she was in, anyway.
So Percy, sensing her weariness, decided to take a chance. He first placed her hand on his shoulder. Annabeth shot him an impressive I-don't-know-what-you're-up-to-but-watch-it-cause-I'll-kick-your-ass look. The boy, in return, stifled a chuckle.
He gave her a sideways glace before moving in front of her, bending forward slightly and forcing her to hoist herself up to the small of his back.
"Perc-" Annabeth began, but then it dawned on her what was really happening. Percy wasn't trying to annoy her (which he most often did), but was giving her a break. He continued walking as if nothing had happened, with her on his back- the others didn't seem notice.
She felt Percy's arms wrap sternly around the back of her thighs. After a few tense moments, she comforted herself between the boy's shoulder blades; her head rested tenderly on his (well-muscled, to Annabeth's utter surprise) shoulder. Her lips were so close to his neck that she felt an urge to kiss him there- the soft spot just under his ear- and she sensed his smile widen in effect.
Annabeth wrapped her legs tightly around Percy's torso, as not to strain his neck by holding on that way. She breathed in his scent- a light, pleasant ocean aroma- oblivious that in a few minutes time she would be drifting in and out of sleep.
It was the kind of refreshing sleep which people have when they first begin to lie out of doors. At first she only dipped below the surface of sleep, and skimmed along like a fish in shallow water, so close to the surface that she delighted herself in air. She saw herself, on Percy's back, awake when she was already asleep. She saw the stars illuminating their faces, whirling on their silent and sleepless axis. Every faint sound of the night, an insect's wings beating persistently by her ear at first frightened or interested her, so that she moved to see what they were (but never saw), then soothed her, so that she no longer cared to see what they were but trusted them to be themselves, and at last left her mind absent altogether as she swam deeper and deeper, nuzzling into the demigod's soft back, her body growing limp in his warm protection.*