She really did bring a footy jersey all the way with her to England, even though it was going to be seen by exactly zero other people as she watched the game by herself in her room.
But hey, it feels like home, and from the excited text she gets from her brothers in response to the photo she sends them of her in it lets her know that she made them smile, which makes it worth it.
They’re halfway into the first half, Blues up by 2, when her phone dings.
are you around i’m bored
watching the footy
you may join me but no talking this is important
if it’s australian football it’s not important
When she opens the door for him a few minutes later Percy squints at her.
“Are you wearing a jersey? Did you bring a jersey all the way here?” He sounds incredulous.
“Gotta support the boys!” She says in reply, turning around and racing back to her bed and her laptop so she doesn’t miss anymore game time.
Annabeth hears Percy shut the door before he joins her, poking her in the side to get her to make room for him on the bed. She shuffles over and he settles in beside her, stretching an arm behind her as she sinks into his side.
“Oh, it’s rugby league. That’s acceptable at least.”
“What did you think I was watching?” She asks him, eyes not leaving the screen.
“I thought you were going to make me sit through your country’s sorry excuse for soccer.”
“You know what, I’m not even going to try and defend us on that one.”
He chuckles, “Good.”
They fall into a silence and Annabeth is wholly focused on the game. She fills Percy in on the importance of this game, the long, intense rivalry of the teams, who her favourite and least favourite players are. For his part, he seems to actually care, or does a good job of pretending.
At half time he raises his eyebrows, “This is actually pretty entertaining.”
“Well duh,” she says, turning to face him, “We’re world number 1s and this is an all-stars match.”
“I don’t know about world number ones,” he says. The smile on his face tells her he’s just trying to rile her up, but she can’t help herself.
“We literally won the World Cup last year.”
“Home ground advantage. Doesn’t count.”
She’s smiling as she shakes her head, “Shut up.”
“Make me.” He says, and she doesn’t miss the way his eyes flick to her lips for the briefest of seconds.
It sends butterflies shooting through her stomach, and she’s suddenly very much aware of all the places he’s touching her. She loves it, this game they’ve been playing for the past couple of weeks, dancing around each other. She only loves it, she thinks, because she knows he feels the same.
There’s no mystery about either of their feelings for each other, the question is only when they’ll crack and act on them.
Not right now, she thinks to herself, I haven’t waited this long for our first kiss not to be romantic.
She grabs a pillow from her other side and whacks his face with it, laughing at the exclamation she gets out of him.
He grabs her and smothers her with it. She manages to blindly locate his armpit and starts tickling him there. Maybe not the most graceful way of getting him off of her, but it works.
“Did you just tickle me?!”
“Yes and if you try to do it back I can’t promise that I won’t draw blood.” She states simply, getting up from the bed and walking to the kitchenette. “Hungry?” She asks.
“Surely you know the answer to that.”
She rolls her eyes but she’s smiling, “I’ve only got snacks. Do you want chips or bread?”
He rolls onto his back, his head hanging off the side of the bed as he watches her, “Will that bread have Vegemite on it?”
“You know it will!” Her voice is cheery from inside a cupboard as she brings out her 1kg tub of Vegemite.
“Have I told you how happy I am that you recognise the sheer deliciousness of Vegemite?” She says, passing him a plate with two slices of Vegemite-lathered bread as she returns to the bed.
“Yes, many times.”
“Well, I’m telling you again. I’m so glad you have taste, unlike everyone else in this country who thinks Marmite is edible.”
“It’s a gift.” He says, grinning through a mouthful of bread. She scrunches her nose in disgust and fetches her laptop from the end of her bed.
“Perfect timing,” she mutters as the game restarts for the second half. They settle into their comfortable silence again, the only sounds the voices of the commentators, their mouths chewing the bread and Annabeth’s occasional gasps and muttered curses.
He takes their plates when they’re done and puts them on the floor next to the bed. They rearrange themselves so that she’s leaning against him again and this time his arm rests around her waist, hand laying on her hip.
It starts as nothing, but at some point his hand finds his way under the thick, blue cotton of her jersey and onto the smooth warmth of her skin underneath.
She hears her own sharp intake of breath and wishes her body wouldn’t be so obvious about the effect Percy has on her. He sounds genuinely worried when he says, “Sorry, should I–”
“No! No, you’re fine.” She says, glancing at him in reassurance, “It’s nice.”
Nice, she thinks, ugh. But she refocuses on the game, his hand a weight burning into her side.
They sit a few more minutes until he rubs his thumb slowly upwards along her stomach, and Annabeth thinks she might die. Involuntarily, she inhales again.
She can hear a small smile in Percy’s voice when he asks, “You ok?”
She doesn’t trust her voice so she nods and hums the affirmative, but her breathing is shallow.
“Ok,” he says, and brings his head down to rest on her shoulder, lips brushing the top of her back. She fights the urge to tense her body in anticipation and instead turns on him. He jerks back in surprise.
“Actually, you’re being distracting. I’m going to need to you stop this until the game is over.”
He raises an eyebrow, a smirk curling his lips. “I’m distracting am I?”
“Yep,” she says, turning back around, “I already said it, not saying it again.”
“What about what I’m doing is distracting you, ‘Beth?” He asks, bringing his head back down to near her shoulder.
“I’m not talking about this while there’s a game on, unfortunately.”
“Ok I’ll just chill here then.”
“Unfortunately, you can’t do that either.”
“Should I leave then?”
She huffs in frustration, “Percy!” She turns towards him, mouth open to berate him but the words get stuck in her throat at the way he is positively beaming at her. She hates him for it. She falls a little more in love with him for it.
She exhales, deflating. “Why now?” She asks.
He tilts his head, “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” she turns her body so that she’s fully facing him now, the game momentarily forgotten. “Why now of all times to be so forward?”
She can see his brain thinking, oh ok so we’re actually talking about this now, as he blinks a few times. “Why not?”
She thinks about spitting some more banter about how she’s in the middle of a very important rugby game and it’s actually quite rude of him to interrupt her with this but decides instead to try and be honest, to let herself be vulnerable. Because if one thing has become clear to her over the months she’s been living in England, is that she can trust this man in front of her. He’s listened to her talk about architecture and Australian politics just as intently as he’s listened to her tell him about her parents and step-family and her attempts to start living a life for herself instead of a life to try and please the people around her.
Her voice is small when she responds. “Why me?”
She’s staring at him with an openness that scares her a little bit, but she feels a bit better when she sees his entire body soften.
Percy’s gaze searches hers for a moment, the expression on his face as if he’s asking, are you joking?
He shakes his head a little in disbelief, “Because, Annabeth, how could I know you and not be desperately in love with you?”
A sound falls out of her, like she’s released a weight she’s been holding for years. She hesitates for one last moment before both of her hands reach out and grab his shirt, pulling him close and capturing his lips with hers, because she has to.
His words are ones she’s been wishing to hear for years, a suggestion of a romance she’s been blindly, naively hoping she’ll find one day. She kisses him with the force of twenty-two years of yearning for someone to see her and love her as she is; she kisses him with the relief of finally finding it.
His arms come around her and hug her closer to him and her hands slide up his chest and around his neck, pulling herself into his lap so that they are flush against each other. She’s not sure how long they’re kissing, but when she eventually pulls back they’re both out of breath. Her hair is hanging around them both like a curtain, enclosing them in their own world where they are totally lost in this moment, in each other. His eyes are sparkling up at her and there’s a beautiful redness to his cheeks that make his eyes shine even brighter. She brings her hands up to cup his face, thumbs tracing his cheeks, and he just stares and stares until she closes the space between them again with one more long, searing kiss. One that she feels deep in her belly.
He rolls them over so they’re lying next to each other on the bed when they break apart again, and she keeps one hand resting on his face as they just look at each other, entranced.
An eruption of cheers from the tinny laptop speakers snaps her out of her daze. She bolts upright and checks the score – it’s full time and the Blues have won the game. She shouts with joy, shuts the laptop and tosses it to the end of the bed before falling back down next to him.
“I guess I’ve won twice today.” She says, shuffling closer so that her nose brushes his.
“Well, congratulations,” He says, “What’s the prize?”
She smiles slowly, her lips taking time to break apart and expose her grinning teeth. His eyes follow the movement, and his soft exhale as her smile grows bigger fills her chest with a golden warmth.
“He’s right here,” is all she says before leaning in again.