Percy stopped outside the door to his apartment and faced the seven demigods behind him. "Okay, guys. Uh—Annabeth, you've met my mom before..."
"Several times," she finished, smiling at him. Even after the Tartarus ordeal, where he'd looked at her constantly because she was the only thing keeping him sane, every look or touch from his girlfriend still made Percy go weak at the knees.
He squeezed her hand (just to reassure himself that she was really there) before turning back to the others, keeping one hand on the door handle and one tightly clenched around Annabeth's. "The rest of you don't know her yet, which would have been resolved earlier, but" —Percy made a growling noise deep in his throat, thinking about all the reasons he hadn't been able to come home sooner— "we've kind of got this war going on here. So we're going to make this visit really quick, got it?"
"And then can we go to Camp Half-Blood?" Annabeth almost begged, her eyes a curious mix of imploring and if-you-don't-agree-to-this-i-will-gut-you-like-a-fish. "The Romans will be there any day now, and I just want to see everybody before we have to...leave again."
"Yes, Wise Girl," Percy agreed, grinning. "First my parents, then Camp Half-Blood."
Taking a deep breath, he eased open the door.
The memories hit him like a speeding cement truck: he'd helped Paul lug boxes through this door, banging into walls like drunks as they went, ignoring Sally's laughter as they tried to maintain their dignity...he and Annabeth had sparred in the living room with all the furniture pushed against the walls, Paul watching with utter fascination as the weapons flashed, Sally quite obviously rooting for Annabeth and calling out ways to help her get under Percy's guard (she hadn't realized this was actually helping Percy anticipate the moves until the duel was fifteen minutes in)...he remembered lying on the couch with his mom while Paul graded papers next to them and watching bad TV on Friday nights, happy to just be there with his family.
Everyone else crept in behind him, somehow understanding the unspoken quiet rule: Jason and Piper, both bloody, scraped and completely exhausted; Leo, who perpetually smelled like smoke and flames now; Frank, who sported a spectacular black eye and a broken arm; Hazel, gold eyes glowing brighter than ever; Nico, who used his sword as a cane ever since nearly killing himself with the efforts he had put forth at the Doors of Death; and Annabeth, who was nearly as pale and scarred as Percy was and still managed to look stunningly beautiful.
There were quiet voices coming from the kitchen. Percy's heart gave a leap as he recognized his mother:
"—something's coming, I just know it is, but I haven't heard anything...Percy hasn't called me again since he phoned from his last quest, and I know he and Annabeth fell into Tartarus—"
There was a loud CRASH behind Percy. His mom abruptly stopped talking. Percy wheeled around to see Frank had just knocked over the small hallway table with the tray for car keys (Percy was pleased to see that the key for his ancient black Toyota was among those now strewn across the floor), wallets, and cell phones.
"Oh, gods, dude. I'm so sorry," Frank said, looking so embarrassed Percy knew he probably wanted to sink through the floor and never return. "It's just that the hallway is really narrow and we're wearing full battle armor—"
Then a woman practically sprinted through the kitchen doorway and Frank shut up. She was very pretty, with long brown hair that brushed her shoulders—perhaps in her late twenties, though Percy knew she was actually nearing thirty-six. Her blue eyes were fixated on the group. She didn't express any shock at seeing eight fully armed half-bloods dressed for combat standing in her front hallway; instead, she seemed to be trying very, very hard not to burst into tears on the spot.
"Percy?" she asked in a wavering voice, pressing a hand over her mouth.
He half-smiled and spread his arms, knowing full well he looked like he'd died and come back from the Underworld in not quite as healthy a way as Hazel had, feeling tears welling in his own eyes. After everything he'd been through over the past months (and with the biggest battles of his life still looming in front of him), Percy felt he had a right to cry all he wanted at the sight of his own mother.
"I told you I'd come home soon."
Sally ran forward and crashed into her son at full tilt, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face in his shoulder. Percy hung onto her tightly, afraid that if he let her go she would disappear. If she was uncomfortable being squashed against his full compliment of bronze armor, his mother didn't show it.
"Perseus Jackson, you are never leaving this house again as long as you live, do you hear me?" she mumbled into his chest.
Percy didn't even get mad that she'd used his full name, though he did hear a couple sniggers from Leo behind him. He didn't react, just pulled back and looked down at his mom, green eyes boring into blue.
"I missed you too, Mom." The word felt nice rolling off his tongue. He hadn't said it in so long.
"My baby boy," she whispered, running her fingers through Percy's hair. "Gods of Olympus, Percy, what happened to you?"
"It would be easier to ask what didn't happen to us, Mrs. B," saod Annabeth quietly from behind him. "It's been a tough few weeks."
"Understatement," Jason muttered under his breath.
Percy's mother smiled at Annabeth. "How've you been, sweetheart? I haven't seen you since you left for Berkeley on the quest."
"Like I said," replied Annabeth breathlessly as she took her turn getting strangled by one of Sally's amazing mom hugs, "it's been tough...but at least we're still alive."
"Mom," Percy said, "where's Paul?"
His mother grinned at him. "That's for me to know and you to find out in a minute, honey. Come on into the living room. I want to meet your new friends."
When they had all moved into the living room and been loaded up with enough food for an army of Laistrygonians, introductions were made all around. Frank and Hazel looked extremely nervous; Jason, Piper, and Leo just sat awkwardly while Sally, Percy, Annabeth, and Nico sat and bantered back and forth like little old ladies, reminiscing about past quests and that one time when Nico had shadow-traveled right into Percy's bathroom at two-thirty on a Tuesday morning (long story).
Finally, Percy turned to Frank, who was sitting right next to him, and bumped him with an elbow. "Dude, you look like you're about to pee your pants. What's wrong?"
"I think Frank's slightly terrified that your mom's going to murder us Romans for stealing you away from her when it wasn't actually us. He's got this whole oh-my-gods-we're-so-sorry-please-don't-unleash-your-motherly-wrath-upon-us speech planned out and an escape plan to use if it doesn't work," said Hazel to Percy.
No one could stop laughing at that. Every time they started to settle down, someone would squeak out "escape plan?" and that would set them off again. In fact, they only managed to stop (with the occasional hiccup from Leo) when Paul called, "Hey, Sally, when do you want me to come out here?"
Percy looked expectantly at his mom. "Is this the surprise?"
She just smiled at him and called back, "Whenever you're ready, Paul."
Percy's stepfather appeared in the living room doorway. In his arms was—
"Oh my gods, there is no way. Holy Poseidon. I have a sister?!"
His head was spinning, trying (and failing) to process thoughts as fast as they came. I have a little sister—a half-sister. My mom had a baby. While I was gone, my parents actually had a baby. Did my mom get pregnant before I went missing and not tell me? Because I now have a sister. I HAVE A YOUNGER SISTER.
Carefully, Paul handed the baby to Percy. Annabeth scooted over on the couch and dropped her head onto his shoulder so she could look as well. Everyone else clustered behind them.
The new baby looked almost exactly like Sally, with a little fluff of soft brown hair. Percy could see the similarities (same cheekbones, same naturally tan skin) between himself, his mom, and—
"Mom, what's her name?"
She smiled. "Well, Paul was all for carrying on with the whole Greek mythology thing. I know she's mortal and you're a demigod, but we just decided that it might be interesting. We thought about it for a ridiculously long time, but eventually it was Annabeth who stepped in and decided on Andromeda."
"Great...so my wife in the old stories is now my sister?"
Annabeth laughed. "Not quite, Seaweed Brain. Just try not to think that way—I don't need any more dirty-mindedness around you than the Stolls and Valdez over there." She punched his shoulder lightly. "They're going to call her Andie."
"Andie Blofis." Percy loved the way that sounded when he said it. "I love it. It's perfect."
He looked down at his half-sister and felt a rush of affection as her little fist closed around his orange t-shirt collar, exposed from under his armor. I'll win this war for you, Andie, he thought. You can have a future—you will have a future—I swear it on the River Styx.
Suddenly, Leo sniffed from behind him. "Hey, guys, does anyone smell smoke?"
"Gods of Olympus!" Percy's mom jumped up. "Did I forget the cookies were in the oven?"
Paul had already run from the room. "Who was on kitchen duty, Sally?"
"I was, why?"
"Burning stove, BURNING STOVE!"
Percy handed Andie off to Annabeth. "Son of Poseidon to the rescue, then."
As he jogged down the hallway to the kitchen, armor clanking, he had to laugh. Just another day in the crazy life of a demigod.
A/N: Yo, world, wassup? I have so much energy! WHO WANTS TO SWIM TO AFRICA AND BACK?!
Ha, just kidding. Welcome to finals week (read: Tartarus), fellow students.
I didn't want to do anything else tonight that involved physics or chemistry in any way, shape, or form or I was going to fling my books across the room, so I rocked the porcrastination skills and typed this up for Hope (wombat-of-awesomeness), whose birthday is TODAY! She's like my best friend ever IRL and you should go spam her with awesome schist and possibly pet reindeer.
(A note to Hope herself: You sorta-kinda requested this on tumblr in a very indirect way AND I GOT THE HINT. You should be so proud of me. And SCHIST, TYRONE, YOU ARE TEARING THIS FAMILY APART!)