Annabeth had somehow convinced Percy to avoid all the stereotypical sappy stuff on Valentine’s Day. Even though it was their first Valentine’s Day as a couple (technically, though, their first was when Percy was missing), Annabeth thought it was a useless holiday. “Let’s just not do it, okay?” she’d told Percy. “It’s way too predictable.”
“But this is our first Valentine’s Day together!” His features subconsciously molded into that cute-baby-seal expression.
Annabeth held firm. “I’d really rather not. No romantic dinner, no box of chocolates, no dozen roses. Honestly, you have 364 other days to tell me you love me. What makes Valentine’s Day any different?”
Even when February fourteenth rolled around, Annabeth felt that she was right. She really didn’t want to deal with that stuff, though she wasn’t sure why. Maybe she just didn’t want Percy to make a big deal out of it or anything. Or propose. She wasn’t sure what she’d do if he got down on one knee.
Shortly after dinner and an entire day spent with Percy—cuddling, kissing, half-arguing—Annabeth found herself suddenly alone. The sun was gone and snow drifted in through the camp’s magic boundaries. Most of the campers had gathered at the campfire or were trying to sneak away from Chiron’s watchful eye and make out or something. But Percy wasn’t at the campfire. He wasn’t in his cabin. She doubted she’d find him at the bottom of the canoe lake, as it was half frozen. Not in the training arena. Not in the Big House.
That left the dining pavilion.
Annabeth climbed the slick, icy stairs carefully, head down to make sure she didn’t slip. She finally looked up after reaching the top of the steps and nearly fell, after trying so hard not to.
One lone brazier burned off to the side, providing warmth but little illumination. Light filled the pavilion, though, reflecting off the marble columns. The source was dozens of candles of various sizes and scents. Several of them were lined along the floor, making a path toward the Poseidon table. Where Percy was waiting.
He stood next to the table, candlelight falling in his green eyes warmly. He was wearing a thick coat and a black winter hat that flattened his dark hair into his eyes. He looked nervous and adorable at the same time, but Annabeth couldn’t help but notice the scar that ran along his cheek, courtesy of Tartarus. It was almost identical to Luke’s. She tried to push this comparison out of her mind.
“What is all this?” she asked, her voice a little quieter than she’d expected.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Percy supplied with a smile. “I, uh… you said no romantic dinner, so I did romantic dessert.” He stepped aside to reveal the table setting: one cupcake and a single, perfect, red rose. “No chocolates, so I made sure the cupcake was red velvet. And you said no dozen roses, so I just got you one.” He placed it in her hand, brushing her palm lightly with his fingertips.
Annabeth’s heart pounded. “I… Percy, I don’t know what to say.”
He held out his hand as an indication to sit down, but Annabeth seemed unable to move. Further complicating her arrhythmia and inability to speak, Percy lifted her up wedding style and carried her to her seat.
They split the cupcake, much as they had nearly two years ago in the same spot. The entire time they ate, Annabeth couldn’t think of a single thing to say. It was… incredible.
“Thank you,” she managed, blushing in spite of herself.
Percy wrapped an arm around her shoulder and kissed her cheek, warming her right to her toes. “Let’s just hope we don’t end up in the lake this time.”
Annabeth smiled contentedly, resting her head on Percy’s shoulder. She didn’t speak. She was perfectly happy sitting in the silence, just enjoying being with her adorable boyfriend. Until he surprised her with a question.
“How many Valentines did you get?”
Annabeth sat up. “What do you mean?”
Percy dug around in the pocket of his jacket and pulled out some cheap paper Valentines, throwing the pink and red cards down on the table. There must have been at least twenty. “People have been giving these to me all day.”
For a long moment, Annabeth didn’t know what to say. Anger—it was jealousy, but she wanted to call it anger—bubbled up inside her. “What—they’re all from… other girls?”
Percy knit his brow in confusion. “I should hope so.” He flipped a few of the cards over, reading the curly script. “Half are from the Aphrodite cabin.”
She was mad now. Sure, she could see how all the girls at camp would find Percy absolutely gorgeous, but he was her boyfriend. He was taken. One does not simply give Percy Jackson a Valentine, especially not when he’s dating Annabeth Chase. She clenched her fist. “And what did you… say… when these girls were giving you these cards?”
“You’re mad at me.”
Annabeth sighed, releasing the tension in her hands. “Not you exactly…”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I didn’t want to be rude, or anything…”
“It’s okay, Percy.”
“And I can’t help it if everyone here thinks I’m h-a-w-t, hot.”
“What did you just say?”
He sifted through the multicolored cards until he found the one he was looking for. “Here, see? Some girl thinks I’m h-a-w-t.” He pointed to each of the letters individually, looking at Annabeth with a strange mixture of shyness, and pride in his apparent “hawtness.”
Annabeth found her lips spreading in a grin. “Well, you are pretty hawt.”
“Of course I am!”
“You’re such a Seaweed Brain.”
“Of course I am!” He flashed that trademark troublemaker smile. “But you know I’ll only ever love you, right?”
“I know.” Annabeth leaned in closer, crumpling the Valentines that covered the table with her hand. They were just stupid cards anyway. “I mean, it’s not like you did all this, with the candles and the rose and everything for all the other girls at camp.”
Percy stayed silent.
“You didn’t… did you?”
He broke into a grin. “Gods, Annabeth, have a little faith in me.” He pulled her in suddenly, his lips inches from hers. “I’m just messing with you.”
She sighed heavily. “Shut up and kiss me, would you?”