A man with sunken eyes is staring at Percy. The man’s gaze makes Percy’s skin crawl and suddenly he feels trapped in his own body. His skin too tight and leathery, stretching too thin across his body imprisoning him in ways no other monster has before.
But Percy doesn’t fight it, exhaustion has long since set in. Percy doesn’t want to fight anymore. He doesn’t want to lead. To get up. To breathe. To be. He doesn’t want much of anything anymore. Except... maybe Annabeth.
Annabeth is excelling at school. She does well in classes and is making friends, Somehow she has already managed to get several job offers for once she has obtained her degree in architecture.
Percy dropped out of university. His mother didn’t say it, but he knew she was disappointed. But it’s okay, because he is too. He really, really tried to stay on top of his studies… just not hard enough apparently.
When he should have been studying, he was fighting.
He fought something new every day. Most days it was monsters: Cyclops, Empousa, Telkhines, Hellhounds. Other days it was bigger things: Giants, Gods and Titans.
Sometimes when he was fighting to stay alive, Annabeth would tell him there was nothing there and that there was never anything there. It was those days where Percy would go back to their room and not leave it at all.
Annabeth told him he should talk to someone if he wouldn’t talk to her. He told her too harshly that telling some shrink that he’d fought in two wars and had literally been hell would create more problems than it would solve.
She went to class after that and Percy didn’t apologize.
He loved her. She was beautiful, smart and brave, way too many other things to list. She tried so hard, and was really trying to be patient and understanding with him.
Percy resented her for that. He resented the fact that while he was struggling to survive, she was thriving. She didn’t struggle to pull herself out of bed in the morning. She didn’t walk around the university campus at Camp Jupiter and see the faces of all their dead friends that should of been there too. She didn’t struggle to forget Tartarus, or the Giants, or the Titans. She was able to find a home in the classrooms and solace in the books. He didn’t get that luxury.
A part of him that, Percy hates sort of wishes it was her fault, because at least then his feelings might make sense. But it isn’t and they don’t, and she is his only lifeline right now making everything just barely bearable.
Percy’s fingers uncurl around the edges of the porcelain sink. The bandages on his back from his last fight come away bloodied and soiled.
Disinfect. Stitch. Bandage. Repeat.
Percy is tired and his bones creak and groan from nineteen years of fighting.
He’s turning twenty in two weeks and a man he doesn’t recognize stares at him in the mirror.