~~Annabeth groaned when she heard someone knocking on the door. She threw the comforter off of her legs and hurried to the door, pulling her sweatshirt back up onto her shoulder. She had been curled up on the couch, having a Harry Potter movie marathon. She had already opened her presents from her dad while she talked to him on the phone, so now she was alone again.
Yeah. Her dad had an emergency meeting in California, so now, she was on her own for Christmas.
Which, she guessed that it wasn't that bad, but still. Her dad did work a lot, and normally she could count on Christmas to force him into spending time with her. Normally, they piled on the couch after they opened presents until they ordered Chinese take-out for lunch and dinner.
But he wasn't here this year. Annabeth would probably go back to bed in a few hours.
She trudged to the door and pulled it open, shivering against the cold wind that flew inside. Her eyes widened when she recognized the guy standing there.
Percy Jackson was wearing his leather jacket. His shoulders were hunched over against the wind, and he had one of his hands shoved into his jacket pocket. In his other hand, he was holding a small box wrapped in colorful Christmas paper. Annabeth noticed that it was wrapped too neatly to be done by him. His mother had probably done it.
Annabeth and her dad had lived across the street from Percy and his family forever. Back when they were younger, they had been really good friends, but once they had gotten to high school, they had drifted apart. It was probably inevitable. Percy was in a band. Annabeth was in Honors classes. It just wouldn't work.
Sometimes she wished that it would. Sometimes she wished that they could be best friends like they had been when they were little. She wished that they could talk and ride to school together like normal people that lived across the street from each other would.
But that was beside the point.
"Percy?" Annabeth asked, pulling her sweater back up onto her shoulder. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged and held out the box. "Mom wanted me to bring you this. Merry Christmas, Annabeth."
She gingerly took the gift in her hand. Her throat was burning, and she felt a swell of tears behind her eyes. Oh, please don't let her cry in front of him. That was all she needed. When she thought her voice wouldn't break, she said, "Thank you. Tell your mom I said thanks, too."
He nodded, but instead of turning away like she thought he would, he looked past her shoulder before glancing back at her face. "Are you here by yourself? Shouldn't you and your dad be going somewhere for Christmas?"
Crap. She had really been hoping that he wouldn't ask her that.
She glanced down at the present in her hands before she shrugged her shoulder. Her voice was embarrassingly quiet when she said, "He's not here. He had an emergency meeting in California, so he won't be back until the end of the week."
"You're alone on Christmas?"
"I mean, I talked to him on the phone, and I opened my presents from him this morning," she said defensively.
Percy's eyes were wide, and his expression did not match his black outfit. He was wearing his usual choice of clothing: black jeans, black band t-shirt, black leather jacket, and black Vans. His hair was cropped short, and his green eyes were staring into hers.
"But what were you going to do for the rest of the day?" He asked, leaning against the side of the door and shoving his other hand into his pocket.
Annabeth crossed her arms, "Marathon Harry Potter and go to bed early. And I don't see how that's your business."
Percy smirked at her, and Annabeth thought about punching him in the face right then. His mood swings were intolerable. Annabeth didn't know how she expected to be friends with him.
"How long will it take you to get dressed?"
She scowled, "I'm not going with—"
"Annabeth, there's really no point in arguing with me. I'm not going to let you sit here by yourself on Christmas," he said. "Go get dressed, and I'm going to come inside and wait on you."
She sighed and turned around, leaving the door open as she stomped inside the house and up the stairs to her room. She couldn't believe that Percy was inviting her (or really, making her) spend Christmas with him. Some part of her resented him for pulling her away from leftover pizza and Harry Potter, while another part of her wanted to throw her arms around him for offering her a way out of this empty house.
She heard Percy laughing quietly when she shouted, "Wipe that smirk off of your face, and give me fifteen minutes."
Percy opened the door for them and stepped inside, shedding his jacket and shoes immediately. He helped Annabeth out of her jacket before he yelled, "Mom?"
Annabeth heard Sally yell, "We're in the kitchen!"
As Percy hung up her coat, Annabeth studied the room. To her left, the living room was a disaster. It was filled with ripped wrapping paper and opened boxes. There were several presents still wrapped, and there was a brand new guitar sitting in a stand that Annabeth assumed was for Percy. Their Christmas tree was decorated haphazardly, with ornaments and lights thrown in random places, but Annabeth thought that it was really beautiful. Her thoughts flickered back to her own living room. Clean. Organized. Perfectly matched tree.
Percy motioned for her to follow him.
It had been years since Annabeth had been inside Percy's house. She was surprised to see that it looked almost the same. There were new pictures hanging on the walls and new furniture sitting around in various places.
But being here… Her heart felt heavier. Their house felt so much like a home, and Annabeth honestly felt bad for thinking it when her own house just felt like a place to live sometimes.
Sally had given her a beautiful necklace. It was a small silver pendant with an owl engraved inside the small circle. Annabeth had loved it the second that she opened it. It had always surprised her that Sally gave her the best birthday and Christmas presents. Sometimes it felt like Sally knew her better than her own dad.
Percy glanced back at her just before they turned to go inside the kitchen. He said, "You okay?"
She nodded immediately and cleared the worried expression from her face. She said, "I'm fine."
He studied her for another second before he rounded the corner into the kitchen.
Sally was standing at the oven, scrambling eggs in a pan. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a blue blouse. To the side, Annabeth could see Percy's little sister, Hannah, sitting in the doorway to the dining room with three new dolls that she must have gotten for Christmas. She was still in her pajamas, and as Annabeth watched, Percy's stepdad, Paul Blofis (incidentally her English teacher at school too) stepped over Hannah and walked farther into the kitchen.
"Hey, Mom," Percy said. Paul looked over at them, and he smiled at Annabeth when he saw her.
"Did Annabeth like her gift?" Sally asked immediately, her back still turned toward them. "What did she say?"
"I love it, Sally," Annabeth said before Percy could. "Thank you so much."
Percy's mom turned around at her voice, and Annabeth grinned shyly. Sally smiled too and reached out, pulling Annabeth into a hug. Annabeth tried not to sigh happily, but Sally's hugs were the best. Annabeth would have been happy with just a hug for Christmas.
"Annabeth! I'm so glad that you liked it! It took forever to find something that both Percy and I agreed on!" Sally said, pulling back from the hug to push one of Annabeth's curls behind her ear.
Percy had helped pick out her necklace? That was weird. Annabeth figured that he didn't care that much.
Instead of saying that, she said, "Well, I love it. Thank you!"
"Mom," Percy said before Sally could answer. "Annabeth was at home by herself. Her dad had a meeting or something, and since it was Christmas I thought that she shouldn't be there alone. Is it cool if she comes with us to Nana's?"
Sally hugged Annabeth again and quickly kissed her cheek. She smiled and said, "Of course, sweetheart. You didn't have to ask."
Annabeth blushed and said, "Thank you."
"Annabeth!" Hannah shouted suddenly from her seat in the doorway. "Look at my new doll Santa brought me!"
"She's so pretty!" Annabeth exclaimed, walking away from Sally to crouch down beside Hannah. Her light brown hair was sticking up in every direction, like she had rolled out of bed and then ran downstairs to see her presents.
Hannah smiled up at her, "Thanks! What did Santa bring you?"
"I got some new clothes, these boots, and some new books," Annabeth said, tickling Hannah's side and making her squeal loudly.
"Breakfast is finished," Sally announced. "Hannah, take Annabeth into the dining room and sit down. Percy, grab these dishes."
Before Annabeth could offer to help, Hannah grabbed her hand and dragged her into the dining room, seating her in the chair beside herself.
Breakfast with Percy and his family was really great. They talked the whole time, and they even included Annabeth into their conversations. It was awesome. She felt like she was part of their family.
When they were finished eating, Annabeth helped Percy clean the kitchen and wash dishes while Sally got Hannah ready to go. It wasn't necessarily awkward, but they didn't exactly hold a conversation. Once, Percy leaned over her to grab a handful of silverware from the sink, and Annabeth jumped when she felt his hand on her lower back. He had laughed, and Annabeth had blushed before she had stomped on his foot.
Now, they were at his Nana's house. After all of the awkward introductions, they had started eating lunch and opening presents. Annabeth had been sitting beside Hannah, helping her open her presents before she got up and snuck off to get a drink. She turned a corner into the kitchen and bumped into someone.
"Sorry! My bad—" Annabeth started, but when she looked up, Percy was grinning down at her and her apology died in her throat.
Instead, she scowled up at him. She said, "Never mind."
Percy laughed and set his hand on her waist as he squeezed past her. He said, "Where are you going?"
"To get a drink," she answered. His hand stayed on her side for a long moment before he pulled away.
"Want me to come with?" He asked.
"I think I can handle it."
He laughed again, and then he looked up before grinning at her, "Annabeth, look up."
She looked up and mentally groaned.
They were standing under mistletoe. Annabeth wondered if he had planned this.
Percy was still grinning at her, and he raised his eyebrows when she leaned closer to him.
She stared up at him, and for a few seconds, she actually thought about doing it. She was drowning in his green gaze, and his lips were right there.
When she was barely a centimeter from his lips, she smiled and whispered, "In your dreams, Jackson."
She heard Percy laughing as she moved and walked away from him.
Really, Annabeth had a great Christmas this year.
Since her mom died a few years ago, Annabeth hadn't had a "real" Christmas. Sure, she hung out with her dad and they opened presents, but it wasn't like it used to be.
But spending Christmas with Percy and his family… She had a lot of fun, and it was one of the best Christmases that she could remember. His family was so nice, and when they saw that she was tagging along, they had hugged her excitedly and asked if she would help them hand out presents. She felt like she fit in with them.
They had spent all afternoon at Percy's Nana's house, and it was about four in the evening when they pulled back into the driveway. Sally and Hannah had both hugged her goodbye, and Paul had told her to come eat dinner with them anytime.
Percy walked her across the street as his family went inside. When she shivered against the cold, Percy stepped closer to her, and her hand bumped into his.
They walked in silence to her door, and Percy stood behind her as she used the key from under the mat to open the door.
"Thanks for letting me go with you," she said softly, looking up at him.
He shrugged, "It's not a big deal. Sorry that they were so crazy today."
Annabeth shook her head, "No, it was great. I'm glad that I went."
"Yeah?" He asked. There was a small smile on his face.
She stepped a little closer, "Yeah."
They stood in silence for a few seconds before Percy said, "Annabeth?"
"I think you owe me a kiss."
She blinked up at him. He was grinning, but a light blush ghosted across his cheeks. She said, "Do I?"
"Mmm. I think so."
She laughed, "Okay."
Percy didn't move.
Annabeth rolled her eyes and took another step forward until their chests were brushing. She carefully ran her hand up his back and cupped his shoulder blade. Her other hand brushed against his cheek before she threaded it through his hair. She tried not to grimace at how soft it was.
Percy was watching her carefully, and slowly, one of his arms circled her waist, pulling her closer. She smiled up at him and leaned forward until their noses touched.
"Kiss me," she said.
He smirked, "No way. You owe me a kiss, remember?"
She rolled her eyes again and titled his chin down. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his.
She was smiling when she pulled back because damn he was a good kisser. Percy was blushing this time, and she pulled her hand from his hair and ran her fingertips over his cheek. He was smiling softly, and Annabeth never wanted to let go.
She slipped his phone from his back pocket and put her number in it. While she was typing at the screen, Percy leaned forward and pressed his lips to the spot just underneath her ear, and Annabeth laughed and stepped on his toes.
When she pulled back to hand him his phone back, Percy framed her face in his hands and kissed her again. He pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers before he whispered, "Merry Christmas, Annabeth."
Annabeth smiled again, and she tried to ignore that her eyes were watering. She leaned forward and murmured against his lips, "Merry Christmas, Percy."