Hi! So, this is incredibly long Paul one-shot I've been going on about for forever and that has been sitting half-written on my computer for just as long. Be prepared for bunches of fatherly feels and Paul awesomeness, because we all know Paul is pretty awesome.
I really hope you enjoy reading this, because it was a ton of fun to write.
Disclaimer: I don't own PJATO
Thank you, beta-reader, you know who you are. :)
[IMPORTANT] EDIT: A very kind reviewer has brought to my attention that not everyone is comfortable with slightly suggestive scenarios. My writing is geared more towards a PG-13 audience and this story is rated T for a reason, but I'd like to try and accommodate everyone. So I'll put a little warning label around the small section of this story that might make anyone uncomfortable. Feel free to skip it—it won't affect the story at all.
- Complexity: Paul's POV -
Paul, apparently, hadn't gotten the memo.
When he'd gotten home that afternoon after teaching his English class, he had been fairly excited. He'd just thrown the stack of papers that needed to be graded onto his coffee table, tossed his laptop bag onto his couch, and went to go get ready. He was finally taking his new girlfriend, Sally Jackson, on an actual, formal date. She was a lovely woman, and he thought that he couldn't have gotten luckier by finding her. Being a teacher, his love life had been a little lacking over the past few years, since he really didn't have a lot of time for himself, or ways to meet people. So he'd been hell-bent on making this date a good one, and not scaring her off.
But when he'd gone up to knock on the door of Sally's apartment, Paul had not been either physically or mentally prepared for a fourteen year-old boy to answer the door.
When he first saw him, Paul thought he had the wrong apartment number. The boy looked nothing like Sally. He was a bit tanner, with messy, ink black hair, sharp green eyes, and more angular features, while Sally had long brown hair, light blue eyes, and a softer looking face. He had a relaxed, but vigilant look, almost as if he was constantly on guard. Really, the only thing that they had in common was that they were both a little bit on the shorter side. But the most interesting thing was the streak of gray hair in his bangs. Paul wondered if it was some kind of teenage fad—dying your hair weird colors. Who would want gray hair before their time?
He looked up at Paul, his eyebrows lowered slightly, and his piercing eyes studying Paul like he was a complicated math problem. "You must be Mr. Blofis."
Paul tried not to look as intimidated by a teenager as he felt. Don't get him wrong—he did teach ninth grade, after all—but something about this kid looked dangerous. He looked like someone you definitely wouldn't want to mess with.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Yes, I am. I'm... um, I'm looking for Sally Jackson."
"She's coming," he informed Paul, and then stuck out a hand. "I'm Percy Jackson. I'm her son."
As Paul shook his hand—he had to admit, he had a good handshake—his first thought was, Well, there goes my relationship. When Sally had briefly mentioned a son, Paul had thought a young kid, maybe two or three. Not a fourteen year-old teenager who looked like he could trust Paul about as far as he could throw him. Paul knew all about teenagers, and he knew all about stepfathers. He had a feeling that this kid wouldn't enjoy having some stranger coming into his home, and dating his mother. Paul didn't want to feel like he was a replacement, anyways. It was disappointing, to say the least, but he figured there was someone else out there. Just get through the date, he thought to himself. Hope that the kid won't judo throw you...
"Nice to meet you," Paul said, trying not to sound forced.
"Same," Percy said, releasing his hand. "You can wait inside, if you want."
The last thing Paul wanted to was to be alone in the same room with this kid, but he followed him into the apartment anyways. He'd been there before, studying with Sally, hanging out, things like that. He hovered awkwardly in the middle of the room, while Percy briskly walked back into the hallway and knocked on what Paul assumed was Sally's door.
"Mom," he called in, and Paul tried not to wince. "Mr. Blofis is here."
"Oh!" he heard Sally's voice call. "Um... tell him I'll be out in fifteen minutes."
"Okay," he said, and wandered back out of the hallway. He leaned on the back of their couch, arms folded, looking back at Paul. "She'll be out in fifteen," he added uselessly.
Paul nodded. "Alright."
An awkward silence settled over them. Percy didn't take his eyes off of Paul, which made him very, very uncomfortable. He tried to keep his mind away from that by looking around the apartment, but it wasn't a very good distraction. So, he figured he might as well try to get to know the kid.
He turned to face Percy. "So..." he began awkwardly. "What grade are you in?"
"Eighth," he answered shortly.
Paul nodded. "What school do you go to?"
"MS-54 in Manhattan," he murmured, folding his arms tighter and looking at his shoes. Paul had heard about that school—one of the teachers he worked with told him it was basically a school for the kids nobody else would take. He tried to shrug that off.
"I'm actually an English teacher at Goode High School," he said, hoping to make some sort of connection. "Do you like reading?"
"I'm dyslexic," he answered. Of course you are...
Paul tried for a smile. "Well, you can't like everything, right?"
"I guess not."
Another beat of awkward silence and eye contact. God, this was not part of the deal. "So... do you play any sports?"
"I like playing basketball," he said. "But I don't play for the school." Paul thought that might've been the longest answer so far.
"Basketball, huh?" he said, half-relieved that they had something in common. "I used to coach basketball for Goode High, but then I didn't really have the time for it."
He nodded stiffly. "Sounds fun." He didn't really sound like he meant it.
Paul tried not to feel offended. It's a natural response, he reminded himself. They stood in silence for a little while, neither of them looking at each other. Paul shuffled his feet, and Percy—oddly enough—was tapping a ballpoint pen against his thigh. He sank into the couch, shoving the pen in pocket, and rubbed his face tiredly.
He looked exhausted. Paul suddenly felt a little guilty for showing up when he didn't seem to be feeling great. "Long day?" he asked quietly.
Percy nodded. "School," he murmured. "I've never had the best experience with it."
"I hated school when I was your age, too," Paul told him. "And I still hate it, really."
Percy looked up at him and frowned slightly. "But... you're a teacher."
"I never said I hated teaching," Paul said. "Do you hate learning?"
"No," he said, sounding much more receptive than earlier. "So, you like teaching kids things, but you hate the school system?"
"Pretty much like that," Paul said. "It's ridiculous, really. Limited resources, confined to desks and classroom, treating high-school kids like five year-olds..."
"We have to walk in straight lines everywhere," Percy muttered. "But maybe that's because I go to a military school, and half the kids there have already committed arson and robbed a convenience store."
Paul snorted. "Why do you go to a military school? I mean... you don't seem like a delinquent."
Percy looked up at Paul. "I think you are the only adult other than my mother who doesn't think that," he said. "But... I... well, my mom is running out of places to put me." He looked highly embarrassed, and kept glancing at Paul out of the corner of his eye, obviously expecting to be judged. "I mean, I don't try to get kicked out places, I... things just happen."
Paul sat down on the couch next to him. The teacher in Paul wanted to help him out some. "Why do you think that happens?"
He shrugged. "Well, they make fun of me for my dyslexia. It hurts because it's something I can't control, and... I have short temper." He said the last part so quietly Paul almost couldn't hear it. He suddenly stood up very quickly, startling Paul slightly. "Um... anyways..." He seemed to be grasping for a different subject. Clearly, he didn't trust Paul, and seemed a little mortified that he'd already said so much to him.
"So, you said you like basketball, right?" he asked Paul, looking almost a little desperate. Paul raised his eyebrows.
"I'm getting the feeling you don't trust me," he said openly. The tips of Percy's ears turned red and he sat back down, hard.
"I don't," he said quietly. "I mean, it's not that I don't trust you but I don't really know you so I don't trust you, and it's hard to trust someone when you never feel like you're really going to know them—" he rambled, making absolutely no sense to Paul. He must've noticed because he just finished lamely, "It's hard to explain."
"So you're saying you don't trust me because you don't know me?" Paul tried to clarify.
"No," Percy muttered. "I kind of trust you because my mom says you're a nice guy, but I don't trust you because I can't really know if it's true or not."
"So basically you don't trust me because you don't know me."
"No, you're not getting it," he said, turning to Paul. "Even if I get to know you how am I supposed to know you're a nice guy?"
Paul stared at him blankly. "I... I'm lost."
"The first guy was nice at first, too!"
That statement hit Paul like a ton of bricks. Sally hadn't ever told him she'd been married before—other than the fact that Paul assumed she'd probably been married to Percy's father, though that wasn't always the case. But now he understood why Percy was trying to shut him out—it was because he was afraid of getting hurt again. He was now staring at his feet, gripping the sides of his jeans.
Paul reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "God, Percy... I would never do that."
"How am I supposed to know that you won't?" he muttered. "I just don't want you to hurt my mother. She's had enough crap already in her lifetime, and I definitely don't make anything easier, and... I don't want you to break her heart on top of all that."
Paul's heart turned to putty. He wished he hadn't judged Percy so soon. "Percy..." he started, giving his shoulder another squeeze, "I know I can't prove to you that I'm not going to just bail out right away. But if you give me a chance... I promise I'll try my best. Because I really like your mother too, okay?"
Percy sighed. "Promise you won't turn into a drunkard jerk like the other guy?"
"That," Paul said, "I can assure you of."
Just then, Sally burst out of the back room, carrying one heel in her left hand and digging through her purse with the other. "I'm so sorry, Paul," she apologized, throwing the heel on the floor and slipping into it. "I got a late start on getting dressed and—" She suddenly seemed to notice the fact that Percy and Paul were both sitting on the same couch. "I see you're getting to know my son, huh?"
Paul smiled, patting Percy on the back. "He's a nice kid."
Percy flushed, while Sally beamed with pride. "Isn't he! Thanks for keeping him occupied while I got ready, Perce."
"Um... you're welcome, mom."
Sally turned to Paul. "Ready?"
"Of course," Paul said, rising from the couch.
"Don't burn down the house while I'm gone, honey," Sally said, kissing Percy on the cheek.
"No promises," he said, grinning, which apparently Sally accepted as normal because she began to make her way towards the door. As they were about to leave, Paul turned around one last time.
"It was nice meeting you, Percy."
He smiled. "It was nice meeting you too, Mr. Blofis."
"Please," he said. "Call me Paul."
[WARNING: Skip this section if slightly more suggestive content bothers you]
The first time Paul had ever slept over at Sally's apartment, they had never taken into account the fact that she had a son who woke up earlier than either of them on most days. Or, the fact that the child had eyes and ears, and probably noticed that his mother's boyfriend had never left their apartment the night before. Paul also hadn't thought about the fact that her son was not only intelligent, but also a fourteen year old who probably knew what had been going on. In other words, he was pretty much stuck with a completely awkward conversation and eye contact that should never really happen in the first place.
"Should I just leave through the fire escape?" he asked Sally, who was sitting on her bed, looking a little amused rather than worried. She was wearing a rumbled tank top and sweat pants.
"The entrance is in Percy's room," she informed him, smirking a little.
"I'm glad you're enjoying my discomfort," Paul grumbled, straightening his tie. "Maybe I'll jump out of a window."
Sally snorted. "Just walk out there like a man, Paul."
"Did you ever have step parents, Sally?" he fretted. "I remember how absolutely strange it was to see my father's girlfriend in the same outfit as the day before."
"Nobody said you had to stay for breakfast," she said. "And my uncle had several girlfriends. You act like teenagers are oblivious."
"Most of them are!" he protested. "I teach ninth grade, for heaven's sake, Sally. But your son doesn't miss anything. I don't see how in the world he has ADHD."
Sally got that weird sparkle in her eye that happened whenever Paul pointed out various strange things about Percy. "Just go out there, Paul. It's not it's the end of the world."
"But what if he secretly doesn't like me?" he protested. "And he find out things are getting more serious, and then he hates that..."
"Paul, Percy likes you. A lot, actually," Sally assured him. "Trust me, he would tell me if he didn't. I'm fairly sure I know my own son. Now come on, as much as I enjoy your company, you need to get out of here so you have time to change and go to work."
Paul sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, fine. I'm going now."
He pecked Sally on the cheek and then ducked out into the hallway, praying that Percy either wasn't up, or had already left for school. But as he swiftly made his way through the living room and to the door, he could see Percy sitting at the kitchen table not very far away, making his way through a bowl of Cheerios.
Percy raised his eyebrows a little. "Morning," he said carefully.
"Morning," Paul responded. Then, the awkward eye contact began. All it took was for Percy to look at Paul's messy hair or his wrinkled clothes once to get that 'too much information' look. He continued staring at Paul, chewing his cereal slowly and deliberately, like he was already trying to figure out how to erase this moment from his mind forever. Paul wanted to just turn and run, but that wouldn't be very manly, now would it?
Finally, Percy swallowed his latest spoonful of cereal, and said simply, "Congratulations."
Paul never knew a human being could turn that shade of red.
[END OF T-RATED SECTION]
"Mom, they already declined my application," Percy's voice said. "They... they didn't like my record."
Paul had gently eased the door of the Jackson household open, trying not to be a nuisance. He'd knocked five times already, and they'd still been oblivious to his presence. He had one of Sally's jackets he'd wanted to return, since she'd accidentally left it in his car, and even thought he might not want to admit it, he'd kind of wanted an excuse to see her.
But when he'd awkwardly stood in the living room, he'd seen another sight other than a normally happy Sally. She was sitting at the kitchen table with Percy, poring over different papers with him, the laptop she used for writing out and open on the table. She was chewing on the stub of a pencil as she scrolled through a page of Google results, looking a little tired, but determined. Percy was slumped over, staring dejectedly at a letter that was open on the table in front of him.
"Um, hello?" Paul said awkwardly. They both jumped.
Sally ran a hand through her hair. "Oh, hi Paul." She chuckled nervously. "You scared me."
"Sorry," Paul said. "I knocked, but you didn't seem to hear me." He held up the jacket. "Just wanted to return this..."
Sally smiled a little. "Just hang it up on the rack, please."
Paul hung the jacket up, and turned around to where Sally was still frowning at her laptop, and Percy sank even lower in his chair as he read another letter. "Um... if you don't mind me asking," he began, both of them looking up at him, "what are you doing?"
Percy sighed. "Trying to find a high school I can go to in the fall," he mumbled. "None of them will take me."
Paul didn't really blame them. Since he knew Percy personally, Paul knew that he was a friendly, kindhearted kid. But his discipline record told a completely different story. He'd been kicked out of every single school he'd ever gone to, and Paul could tell he was getting tired of it. He didn't understand how someone who was so friendly and polite to Paul could ever manage to get himself kicked out of every school. But then again, Percy was a rather complex kid.
Paul pulled up a chair near Percy and sat down at the table their papers were spread on. "How many schools have you tried? There are tons in New York."
"We've tried five," Percy muttered. "All of them denied me."
Paul frowned. "I don't get it. You're not a bad kid, Percy."
His ears turned pink while at the same time Sally said, "Exactly! Half of these schools have accepted kids with minor police charges! I should write to some of these headmasters and show them a piece of my—"
"Mom," Percy interrupted, running a hand through his hair. "That's not going to help anything."
Sally sighed. "I know. This is just ridiculous... There's got to be somewhere that will actually take a second glance at your record!" Sally started typing again.
"I can just go to public sc—"
"Don't you even finish that sentence," she interrupted. "We've had this conversation. You're not going there."
Sally borrowed her head back into her laptop, and Percy rolled his eyes. Paul gave him a quizzical look and he explained, "She thinks that I'll be miserable there."
"Because you will!" she said, her head snapping up. "All the teachers there know you already, and they're going to be biased. They won't even give you a chance. And the kids there... they all know you too. You won't have friends. The teachers will hate you. It's not happening."
"Teachers hate me anyways," he sighed. "And I don't need friends. I have plenty of friends outside of school."
"Not to mention public schools are more dangerous than private ones," Sally continued, giving no sign of having acknowledged that Percy said anything. "And they have less funding and higher dropout rates and—"
"Dangerous?" Percy asked, raising his eyebrows in his mother's direction. "You think I can't handle dangerous?"
They shared a look that Paul couldn't exactly read, and wasn't sure if he wanted to. From what he'd experienced, there seemed to be a lot of things that were kept from him in the Jackson household, and even more things that they both got weird about whenever Paul accidentally brought them up. Like Percy's father, for instance. As far as Paul could tell, the guy was still around, and Percy had seen him a handful of times, but that was pretty much it. He'd once asked Sally about what had happened, and she'd given him the vaguest answer she could think up.
"It wasn't meant to be."
Paul had learned not to ask questions about those kinds of things anymore.
"Right, right," Sally said dismissively, returning to her laptop. "We'll find something good, Perc—"
"That's it!" Paul said, standing up so fast his chair almost tipped over. "You could come to Goode!"
Percy blinked. "Your school...?"
"Sure," Paul said, smiling at his stroke of genius. "I could put in a good word for you, and maybe get them to look at your record twice..."
Percy and Sally shared a nervous glance. The back of Paul's brain noted that from that angle, he could finally see how Percy looked alike to her. At the same time, they both said, "No."
Paul's mood deflated a little. "Why not? It's a good idea."
"I... I appreciate the offer," Percy said quietly, "but that's not going to work out."
"Why not?" Paul asked again. Briefly, he worried it was because Percy didn't want to be around him any more than he already had to.
"Because... because trouble follows me, Paul," he said. "And I'd hate to do something that makes you look bad..."
"It wouldn't hurt to give it a try," Paul encouraged. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Sally and Percy looked at each other again, and Paul had a feeling that they thought a lot could go wrong.
Percy sighed. "Well... okay, I guess. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Paul briefly wondered if he regretted his decision as he watched Percy jump out of a broken window in the burning band room, with a red head—whom Paul vaguely recognized by face—in tow. Then he saw the look of deep apology and worry that he cast over his should towards Paul, and Paul remembered exactly what he'd said. Trouble follows me, Paul. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Nope. Paul didn't regret his decision at all.
Paul was probably the most nervous man in the world right now.
He, Paul Blofis, was going to propose to the woman of his dreams, Sally Jackson. But that wasn't why he was nervous. Not at all. He and Sally were very close, and he was comfortable around her, so he didn't expect it to be a really big huzzah when he did whip out the ring. But the thing he was extremely nervous about? Telling Percy.
Paul was attending Percy's birthday party, at Sally's request, with Percy's friend Tyson, who was a bit strange, but Paul wasn't really surprised. The two of them were in the kitchen, Paul attempting to make small talk about Percy getting his driver's license to hopefully fumble his way to the conversation that was inevitably coming up. But when he answered Paul, he'd been staring almost mournfully at the fifteen candles on his birthday cake, almost like an old man looking at his 100th birthday cake and knowing that he didn't much time left.
Percy looked different after he came home from the summer camp that he went to this year. He looked a lot older, and had tended to be a bit more sullen and closed. He seemed to be carrying something huge, and Paul wasn't exactly sure what could be pressuring a teenager in such a manner. So Paul had decided to say something about it.
"You've had a rough summer," he said. It was a statement, not a question. "I'm guessing you lost someone important. And... girl trouble?"
Percy's head snapped up like he'd been shocked. "How do you know that? Did my mom—"
Paul held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Your mom hasn't said a thing. And I won't pry. I just know there's something unusual about you, Percy. You've got a lot going on that I can't figure. But I was also fifteen once, and I'm just guessing from your expression... Well, you've had a rough time."
He nodded slightly, still gazing at the cake. "I lost a couple of friends at this camp I got to," he muttered. "I mean, not close friends, but still—"
"Yeah," he said. "And, uh, I guess the girl stuff..."
Paul picked up a cup of punch and handed it to him, deciding he needed some cheering up. "Here. To your fifteenth birthday. And a better year to come."
He didn't seem so sure about that, but they drank anyways. Paul hoped the punch would get rid of the knot that was forming in his throat, but it didn't. He swallowed hard, and looked back at Percy.
"Percy, I kind of feel bad giving you one more thing to think about," he admitted. "But I wanted to ask you something."
"Yeah?" he asked, gazing up at him.
Percy frowned slightly, as if he didn't understand why a grown man would be asking him about girls. "What do you mean?"
"Your mom," he said, thinking, It's now or never. "I'm thinking about proposing to her."
Percy nearly spilled his punch onto the floor. "You mean... marrying her? You and her?" He sounded like he was still trying to wrap his mind around that.
"Well, that was the general idea," he said. "Would that be okay with you?"
"You're asking my permission?" he said, still sounding a little dumbstruck.
"I don't know if it's permission, so much, but she's your mother. And I know you're going through a lot. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't talk to you about it first, man to man."
"Man to man," he mumbled, staring at the punch cup in his hand. Paul held his breath. Moment of truth... Suddenly, a small smile spread over his face. He looked up at Paul. "I think that's a great idea, Paul. Go for it."
Paul couldn't help the giant smile that enveloped his face. "Cheers, Percy. Let's join the party."
Paul jogged hurriedly down the sidewalk, dodging pedestrians and their dogs, trying not to run into the parking meters, and also trying not to lose his fiance's son in the crowd all at the same time. Paul had been walking home from work that evening, to his separate apartment since he and Sally hadn't yet worked out the details of him moving into the Jackson's apartment, when he'd spotted the fifteen year-old walking down the street with a fairly bad limp.
Naturally, Paul had gotten worried. What if he was badly injured? What if someone had jumped him, and they'd stabbed him and he wasn't able to get home in time? Images of Percy bleeding out in a gutter and Sally crying into his shoulder at a funeral were enough to throw the 'creepy stalker dad' idea out of the window, and make Paul start to follow him down the street. He'd tried to catch up to him, but the crowd of angry, afternoon New Yorkers weren't taking kindly to his pushing and shoving, so he'd tried to stay at least a reasonable distance close to him.
The worst part was that Percy seemed to be moving faster, and trying to get away from the people on the street. If he was injured, why didn't he just flag someone down and get them to help him? It's not like the people in New York were that unkind.
"Percy!" he called again, narrowly jumping over a small crate that someone had left in the street. Unfortunately, his voice was lost in the throng of people walking home from their jobs, and Percy disappeared in an empty alley right outside Sally's apartment. Paul cursed under his breath, causing the middle-aged mother who was ushering her daughter across the street to frown at him in disapproval.
He ducked into the alley, scanning the dim passageways for any traces of his future stepson, when he saw the dusty sneaker scuffs on the ground. He rounded a corner, and stopped short when he saw Percy leaning against a wall with his back turned towards Paul, bent over and seemingly exhausted. He was fumbling with a bag of some type, trying to get it open.
"Percy!" Paul exclaimed.
Percy jumped, stuffing the bag in his pocket and whipping around to face Paul. He looked worse than Paul had originally thought—there were slash marks on his left thigh and right shoulder, scratches down his cheek, and a good chunk of the bottom of his t-shirt had been ripped off. He also looked like he had road burn on the sides of his arms.
"Dear god," Paul said in astonishment. "What happened to you?"
Percy stared at him—all the color had drained from his face. "Um... uh..." He struggled to find an explanation. "It's nothing you need to worry about. I'm fine."
"Fine?" Paul asked incredulously. "Look at yourself!" He gestured to the trickle of blood that was slowly soaking into the frayed part where Percy's jeans had been ripped open.
Percy's face flushed. "I know it looks bad, but it's happened before—"
"This has happened to you before?" Even Paul could hear the overprotective parent in his voice.
"What did this to you?"
Percy's eyes darted around. "Um... an uh... stray dog. Yeah."
"A stray dog?" Paul asked, pulling out his cellphone. "Then we need to call animal control because if there's a dog going around attacking people—"
"No!" Percy said quickly. "It's fine! It was just after... um, me."
"It could have rabies, Percy," he said. "Animal control needs to handle it. You should probably go to the hospital, and get tested for it, especially if it's happened before—"
"Paul," Percy half-pleaded, "I swear I'm fine."
Paul frowned at him. Why did he seem so hell-bent on keeping Paul from telling anyone? If there was a dog out there, it needed to be dealt with. Unless... he hadn't been attacked by a dog...
"Percy," Paul said deathly calm, "did someone do this to you?"
"No!" he cried. "I swear, I'm fine, if you'll just let me go inside—"
Paul ignored him, and stepped around the corner, looking for any signs of a gang. "If someone hurt you, Percy, you shouldn't be trying to defend them—"
"Nobody hurt me!"
"Paul!" Paul was cut off by the sharp cry of his fiance as she appeared in his line of vision and rushed down the alley, hastily tugging on a jacket. "Have you seen—oh, my baby!" Sally rushed past Paul and crushed Percy in a hug; all while lecturing him at the same time. "Where have you been? You didn't come home from school on time! Never do that again! I'm glad you're okay!"
Percy mumbled something like, "Huh?" into her shoulder, looking slightly dazed.
Sally backed up slightly, holding him at arms length away from her and inspecting his wounds. As she looked over the slash marks, something changed in her face completely. Paul was half afraid that her mama-bear instinct was going to come out, and judging by how much she loved Percy, that wouldn't be a pretty sight.
Instead, all she asked was, "How many?"
"One," Percy muttered. "Caught me off guard."
"You know about the stray dog?" Paul blurted.
Sally looked at him strangely for a moment, as if she didn't understand what on Earth he was talking about. Then she glanced at Percy, and her face abruptly cleared. "Oh, right. Yes, I... we can... er... handle it. Thanks, Paul."
She began to usher Percy towards the door the apartment—still limping, and looking pained. She quickly tossed a "Bye, Paul!" over her shoulder, and they disappeared around the corner. Paul scratched the back of his head, wondering what that was about. He just decided to file it under the 'strange things about Percy' category and call it day.
"...you're a what now?"
Paul stared at Percy and Sally blankly as they sat on the couch, stone faced and completely serious. He wondered how long they'd been practicing to pull this joke on Paul. Greek gods? Mythology? It was ridiculous. He wondered how they'd come up with this idea, anyways. Maybe it was because of Paul's love of mythology...?
He let out a light chuckle. "Right. And I'm the emperor of China."
"Hello, emperor," Percy said dryly. "Because I'm not kidding."
Paul sighed. "I don't honestly know what this is about, you two, but cut it out. This is insane and illogical. I'm refusing to fall into whatever cleverly made joke this is."
"It's not a joke, Paul," Sally said. "I know it sounds insane, and that it's hard to believe... but they exist, and they're here."
"B-but they're myths!" Paul said, suddenly becoming uneasy. "They can't be real..."
"They are," Percy said.
Paul looked at Sally fearfully. "And how do you know about this?"
"Some mortals are born with the ability to see all of the magical elements of the Earth," Sally said. "I'm one of them. It's how I met his father..."
"Who is your father?" Paul asked hesitantly.
"You've met him," Percy said blandly.
Paul tried to think back. Suddenly, Percy's fifteenth birthday was revived in his mind. The sudden appearance of Percy's father—who was named Poseidon. Paul's face drained of color. Ancient history, that's me. Like the god of the sea. Very much like that, yes.
"Oh my god," he muttered, burying his face into his hands. "You're the son of the god of the freaking ocean?"
Percy smiled vacantly. Paul suddenly realized that Percy's eyes looked exactly the color of the sea. "Yes, yes I am."
"But... but..." Paul stammered, "it's so... unrealistic! I mean... you..." He gestured weakly at Percy, and could hardly believe that the fate of the world was balanced on this kid's shoulders. But the depressed mood, the vagueness about his father, the several strange occurrences that they had tried to convince Paul of... the pieces were all fitting together.
For the first time, Paul really looked at Percy. He wasn't sure why, but his glances as his fiance's son were always quick and never went into detail—almost as if something drove him away. But now, he stared into his face, and it was all right there. Paul could see the purple tinge under his eyes from lack of sleep, the worry crease that was barely visible under his dark hair, and the callouses on his hands that weren't from basketball, Paul realized. They were probably from some type of weapon. His eyes looked so much older than Paul thought a child could look. He'd seen more things in his short years than most people saw in lifetimes.
Paul immediately felt guilty for thinking this was a joke. He'd also seen the nervousness—the part of Percy that was desperately wishing for Paul to accept him the way he was, the part that was afraid of rejection and that feared he'd ruined everything. This wasn't a lie. Even if he was the son of some old god from the myths, Paul was going to support him. He could see that he had enough on his plate without dealing with Paul walking around ignorantly all the time.
Paul sat back on the couch. "I'm not sure if I should be frightened or interested."
Percy smiled slightly, breathing a small sigh of relief. "Probably a little bit of both."
"So..." Paul scratched the back of his head. "I have no idea what to ask first."
"Start with the basics," Sally recommended, squeezing Percy's shoulder.
"What are the basics anymore?" Paul muttered.
Finding his stepson crashed out on the couch when he returned from work scared Paul more than it should have.
True, Paul was still fairly new to the whole, "Your stepson is the son of a three-thousand year-old sea god from the myths" concept, but he couldn't help but freak out a little. He was just laying there on the couch, his book-bag dumped at his feet—he hadn't even bothered to take off his shoes. He didn't look like he was moving. Did demigods hibernate?
"Percy!" he said, rushing over and shaking his shoulder, fearing that something had gone horribly wrong, or that when he flipped his stepson over that there would be a giant monster claw protruding from his stomach. Percy startled awake abruptly, rolling off the couch and landing with a loud thump on the floor.
He groaned, laying his head on the wooden floor of the apartment. "What?"
"Are you alright?" Paul asked, crouching down. "You didn't look like you were moving and I got worried..."
Percy sighed and picked himself up off the floor. "I'm fine, Paul. I'm glad you're concerned, but... please don't make me fall off the couch next time, okay?"
Paul blushed uncomfortably. "Sorry... I didn't mean to."
"I know," he muttered, sinking back down into the cushions. His face looked a little redder than normal, and he looked very tired. He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles.
Paul sat down beside him. "You feeling okay, Perce? You look a little worse for wear."
He shrugged. "It's just a headache. I've been getting them a lot lately. It'll go away."
But, unfortunately, as the night wore on, it didn't seem to go away. Percy had become confined to the couch, barely eating dinner, and just sat for seemingly hours on end huddled under a blanket, vacantly flipping through channels on the television. His face seemed to get progressively redder while the rest of his body became pale, and he started to shiver a little.
This was one of the times Paul wished Sally were around. He'd come to enjoy spending time with Percy, but right now he really wasn't sure what he needed to do. Unfortunately, Sally wasn't going to be coming back until the next afternoon since she was all the way across the state, listening to lectures from a famous author.
So he'd just sat in another chair in the living room, keeping a close eye on Percy while he graded some student papers from his English class that they'd been working on today in class. At around the tenth time Paul saw Percy flipping past the local news, he pulled his paper out of the stack. He'd been expecting the messy scrawl of English and eraser marks that he normally got from Percy because of the dyslexia, but instead he found a paper that had been written almost entirely in Greek. It faded into English in some places, and the first three letters of his name had been written in English, but the rest of it was in ancient Greek. Paul frowned. He must've been too tired to pay attention to what language he was using.
He looked up blearily from the blanket, his hair sticking to the side of his face from sweat. "Hmm?"
"How long have you had this headache?"
Percy thought about it for a second. "Since breakfast."
His head flopped back down onto the throw pillow he had wedged between his shoulder and the arm rest. Paul sighed softly. He hoped Percy hadn't had to hand in anything in his other classes, or it might raise some eyebrows with other teachers if they received papers written entirely in a dead language.
Paul sighed and rose from the chair, setting the stack of papers down. He walked over to the couch that Percy was sprawled out across, and bent down next to his face. His eyes were rimmed with red and a bit watery, and he was still shivering a little under the blanket even though he was sweating buckets.
Paul smoothed his hair out of his eyes and felt his forehead with the back of his hand, then grimaced. "You're feeling warm, Percy."
Percy grumbled a little. "I'm fine. It's just stress."
"You look sick," Paul persisted. "Let me take your temperature, at least."
"Fine," he sighed.
Paul ran into the bathroom and grabbed the thermometer out of a drawer, then walked over to his stepson and promptly popped it into his mouth. Percy rolled his eyes like he thought this wasn't necessary, but Paul could tell that he felt like crap and was just trying to hide it. Why, he wasn't really sure, but he seemed determined not to be sick.
The thermometer beeped. 103.1.
"Hate to say I told you so..." Paul said, and showed it to him.
He groaned loudly. "Great."
"Aren't demigods not supposed to get sick?" Paul asked.
"We get sick," Percy said, shifting a little, "just not a lot. Besides, it's not too bad."
"Your fever is at 103."
"I've been blasted out of a volcano," he said dismissively. "That's nothing."
That's nothing, was definitely an understatement.
By the time Paul was about a half an hour away from retiring to his bed, Percy was glued to the couch, too miserable to move or even continue his endless channel surfing. He was laying on his stomach with his face pressed into the pillow, shivering every once in a while. Paul felt a little bad for him. He figured being sick on top of all the stress wasn't doing him any favors.
"You might want to twist your head to the side some," Paul commented, holding a wet wash cloth. "It would be horrible if you suffocated yourself in a pillow."
Percy groaned, and grudgingly moved his head to the side so that his cheek was resting on the pillow. His eyes were half-closed, and looked nearly asleep. Paul put the washcloth on the back of his neck, hoping that he wouldn't burn up overnight.
"Thanks," he muttered, slurring his words slightly since he was on the edge of sleep. "You're the best dad I've ever had." His eyes fluttered shut, and his breathing evened out.
Paul felt his face get warm, and was a little surprised when he had to blink the tears out of his eyes. He squeezed Percy's shoulder, and even though he couldn't hear him, Paul murmured, "You're the best son I've ever had."
Ah, the end of the world.
Part of Paul was fascinated with being there—being able to witness the battle. There were limited things he could see through the Mist, but either way, watching creatures from myth walk down the street you lived on was a life-changing experience. This was his first real encounter with the mythological world unless you counted Percy riding a giant hellhound into his living room, and Paul was practically in a daze.
Another part of Paul was sympathetic. He saw groups of children and teenagers—none of them a day over twenty—running through the streets, chasing nightmares. He could clearly see the terror written all over their faces, and he remembered that they were the only ones who could do this—that they were the ones who had to lay down their lives everyday for everyone. They were all outfitted for war, and attacked like each and every monster had done a personal wrong to them. In a way, Paul guessed, they all had.
And the most sane part of Paul was scared out of his mind. He watched Percy—his own stepson—slice through hundreds of enemies with the skill of a practiced warrior and the desperation of someone who was trying to survive. He was stronger than Paul had ever mentally given him credit for.
They rushed towards the fight—at Sally's insistence—and Paul could see two things that were equally amazing and scary. One happened to be the enormous god standing in a pitch black chariot, circling over the battle. Hades. The other was what seemed to be a man in his mid-twenties—except his eyes were bright gold and his voice scraped along the inside of Paul's head like fingernails on a chalk board.
"Nakamura," he said, turning to a demigod with an eye-patch standing next to him. "Attend me. Giants—deal with them."
For a moment, Paul watched some kind of giant blue monster than occasionally morphed into some weird distorted mass (thanks to the wonders of the Mist) charge at Percy. It tried to club him, and he just rolled between it's legs and stabbed it in the hind quarters. He saw Thalia—who he had met briefly and thought was a nice young lady—sprint up another's back like she was simply climbing a ladder. These kids have been trained to kill, Paul realized.
But then a creature decided to make it's way over to Paul. It looked like a woman with the lower head of a snake, but she kept flickering and ending up looking like a hag—God, Paul didn't even want to know. He just snatched a sword up off the ground and did his best to get rid of it, remembering some of the swordplay techniques he'd learned and half remembering watching Percy. It exploded into golden dust, and Paul felt a temporary flush of pride.
"Paul?" Percy asked, standing somewhere nearby, gawking at him.
Paul gave him the craziest grin he'd ever done. "I hope that was a monster I just killed. I was a Shakespearean actor in college! Picked up a little swordplay!"
Percy started to smile, but his expression quickly turned to horror as he looked behind Paul. "Mom!" he yelled.
Paul turned. There was something large and lumbering barreling towards her as she fumbled around in a police car—Paul felt his heart rate double. At least until she whipped out the shotgun and blasted it back to Nico, the freaky son of Hades that used to pop by their house every once in a while.
"Nice one," Paul said breathlessly.
Percy looked thoroughly freaked out. "When did you learn to fire a shotgun?!"
"About two seconds ago," she said. Paul wondered where this woman had been his entire life. "Percy, we'll be fine. Go!"
"Yes," Nico said, "we'll handle the army. You have to get Kronos!"
The smart blonde named Annabeth grabbed Percy's arm. "Come on, Seaweed Brain!"
He nodded, said something to the enormous dog that was nearby, and then turned and raced into the Empire State Building with Annabeth, Thalia, and the satyr Grover.
Sally blasted another monster back with the shotgun. She and Paul shared a grin.
This was his family.
And he couldn't have been prouder.
When Annabeth finally left the apartment—red eyed and serious—was when Sally finally let go. Paul had watched her be strong as Annabeth had sat down and told her about her son, asking if she'd seen him recently, and he watched as her face had cracked and she'd had to swallow her sadness and tell Annabeth no.
But now she was sobbing on her couch, banging her hand on the armrest. Paul approached her warily, gathering her into his arms.
"It's not fair!" Sally gasped, crying into his shoulder. "He just finished saving the world! He's supposed to have a happy ending!"
"It's not over yet, Sally," he reassured her, praying to the boy's own father that his words wouldn't be empty promises. "It's only been a few days. I'm sure there is an explanation."
Sally didn't say anything else, and Paul just let her cry it out. He figured he wouldn't be very happy either if the one person that had been the only thing he'd had for years was gone. But he found that he wasn't considering the possibility of Percy dead—not at all. He was thinking about how much perseverance his stepson had, and how there was no way that after all he'd done that it would end so abruptly. No. Percy was too persistent for that. He'd fight—Paul knew it. He would claw his way tooth and nail out of anything.
He was the strongest person Paul knew.
And so Paul would wait with Sally, wait for him to finish fighting and return again to live his life. He'd wait for his son to come back, safe and sound, smiling like he'd always been. There was nothing that had ever been too much for him before. He proved everyone and everything wrong—rising above everything the world threw at him.
As near as Paul could figure, Percy was a complex kid. But the one thing he did know about him?
He always came home.
Feels! I really hope that Percy does get to see his family again... Okay, I'll stop before I start ranting and gushing MoA spoilers.
But I hope you liked reading this. A review would be awesome, since this took me a long time to write. :)