Percy practically skipped all the way to his house, his heart feeling almost light as he clutched the green sticky note in his hand. He rounded the corner of his street, and nearly started humming to himself before he saw something that made his heart stop.

Gabe's car was in the driveway.

Percy hadn't seen Gabe since he drunkenly interrupted his mom's funeral, almost a week ago. Percy walked up the driveway and noticed there were numerous small dents and scratches all over the Ford, which hadn't been there last week.

He walked towards the door and sat on the porch steps, his mind suddenly racing. Now that his mom was dead, and they didn't need Gabe to pay for her medical treatments, did that mean... He was free?

Percy gasped softly.

Can I just leave then? Just grab some of my stuff and tell Gabe I'm going? He shook his head. But what am I gonna do? I don't have any money, and nowhere to go. I can't stay at Jason's house, and he's the only friend I have- had, he quickly corrected himself. What am I thinking? I can't leave. Percy sighed and looked down at his folded hands.

He frowned.

Percy held his left hand up to eye level and examined it. His pinky and ring fingers were a little crooked from where they hadn't set right when they were broken when he was little. The memory came rushing back to him; he had been just a toddler. He remembered waving his foam sword around in the living room while Gabe watched tv, pretending to be a prince fighting a dragon, when he whirled around and knocked over his stepfather's beer. Gabe had jumped up so quickly, Percy could do nothing but run in fear. He ran down the hallway, Gabe right behind him, and grabbed onto a door frame to help himself round a corner. Gabe had slammed the door onto his five-year-old stepson's fingers, smashing them against the frame. Percy remembered crying, and his mom shouting at Gabe, who immediately apologized and tried to put the blame on Percy.

"I don't care if he spilled a whole keg of beer, don't you dare touch my son!" Sally had yelled. That had been when Gabe was in love with Sally, so he had the decency to at least look ashamed. She then went on to bandage Percy's hand, but as soon as she mentioned the hospital, Gabe had put his foot down.

"No, they'll ask questions," he said, and walked out of the house with the car keys.

Percy remembered the heartbroken look in his mother's eyes, so he had said, "It's okay mommy, my hand doesn't hurt very much. I'm alright." Then he did his best not to cry, and Sally smiled lovingly at him. The day ended well, though. Gabe didn't come home that night, and Sally made Percy an ice pack and blue sherbet, which they ate while watching The Little Mermaid.

Percy shook his head to clear his thoughts and bring himself back to the present, focusing on his two crooked fingers. He then yanked his jacket sleeve up to examine his arm: burn marks, scars, and fading bruises.

He was suddenly angry. There's no way I'm staying with this monster a second longer, he decided, standing up and turning towards the front door. I don't care where I go, I'm turning Gabe in to the police, because I don't ever want to deal with him again.

Bravely, he turned the knob and entered his house.

"Gabe, you shithead!" he called, with all the anger that had been building up over seventeen years of abuse. "Where are you?"

A clanking of bottles directed Percy to the living room, where a pathetically hungover Gabe was sprawled over the couch.

"Hey, asshole," Percy scowled, which seemed to immediately sober his stepfather.

"What the hell did you just call me?" Gabe demanded, sitting up a little straighter.

"I called you an asshole," Percy said, and it was the first time in a long time that he had spoken to Gabe without his voice shaking. He was so tired of putting up with him, and he wasn't going to put up with him a moment longer.

Gabe suddenly grabbed one of the empty beer bottles on the coffee table and flung it at Percy, who barely had time to put his hands over his head before it shattered on his shoulder.

Percy felt a few drops of blood trickle down his neck, and when he put his hand up to the spot to inspect the damage, he drew his fingers away bright red.

"That's it!" Percy shouted, more angry than hurt, though getting hit with the bottle hadn't been fun. "Screw you, I'm so sick of this! You deserve to burn in hell, and I'm calling the cops on you!"

"You wouldn't," Gabe smirked, reaching for another empty bottle.

"I'm going to right now," Percy said, pulling out his cell phone.

"Don't you threaten me!" Gabe warned, raising the bottle over his head. Percy saw it coming this time, and ducked behind a reclining chair. The bottle shattered on the wall behind him, and he stood up purposefully.

"It's not a threat, it's a promise," Percy said, punching in three numbers.

Gabe smirked. "Well I can promise you one thing, boy."

"And what's that?" Percy asked sarcastically, as he pressed the "call" button.

"I promise you if you call the police on me now, you'll never get to read your letter from Sally," Gabe taunted.

Percy froze. "What letter?"

"Do you really think Sally would let herself die without leaving something behind for you?" Gabe smirked again.

The phone rang once in his ear, and Percy quickly hung up.

"Sh-she wrote me a letter?" Percy asked disbelievingly.

Gabe nodded.

"Wh-where is it?" Percy asked.

"I've got it safe somewhere," Gabe said casually.

"Give it to me!" Percy demanded, feeling almost panicky.

"No," Gabe said, crossing his arms.

"Why not?" Percy frowned.

Gabe laughed harshly. "Why would I give up my only bargaining chip? I know I've done some shitty things in the past, and that letter is my only out from them."

"What do you want?"

"Look, here's the deal, kid," Gabe said, leaning his elbows on his knees and looking Percy straight in the eye. "You continue to live under this roof. Clean the house. Make dinner. Keep on not complaining if I beat you when I get drunk, or when I'm sober. I'll be bringing home enough money to pay the rent, and put food on the table and clothes on you back. If you keep your mouth shut, I'll give you the letter when you turn eighteen, after I get your word to never go to the police with what I've done. After you turn eighteen, I'm gonna disappear from your life forever, and move far away from here. You'll never see me again. Do we have a deal?"

Percy was reeling in disbelief. He was still shocked that his mother had left him something, but now this weird deal Gabe wanted to make? He wanted Percy to let him keep using him as his personal punching bag until his birthday?

Then again, the deal didn't sound so bad. Just another few months of this, and he'd get the letter his mom left for him, and he'd never have to see Gabe again. Of course, Gabe would never have to pay for what he'd done, but on the other hand, Percy would never have to deal with him again. Plus, Percy couldn't bear the thought of never reading his mother's last words to him. He still missed her so much his heart ached almost constantly, and he hoped that somehow that letter would ease the suffering a little bit.

"Do I have your word?" Percy asked warily. "Not that it means much."

"I swear to those terms on my best bottle of whiskey," Gabe said solemnly, and Percy could tell that Gabe was speaking with conviction. "And believe it or not, I actually did love your mother. Why else would I have put up with a brat like you for so long? People do stupid things for love. So, I also swear on Sally's grave."

His stepfather stuck out his right hand. "So?"

Percy locked eyes with him, glaring frustratedly.




I apologize for the ridiculous delay. I honestly had a lot to deal with over the holidays/winter:( To sum it up in one sentence without throwing myself a pity party: my long-distance (now ex) boyfriend cheated on me, I had mid-terms to focus on, I got a part-time job (that sucks up all my time and energy), my best friend tried to kill himself, I've been focusing on getting a scholarship for college, and I've been getting involved in ROTC. My life has been hectic, but since midterms and the boyfriend drama is (almost) over, I've found more time to write:) So please don't hate me!

I'd like to thank you all for the overwhelming amount of support and positive reviews I've gotten:) They honestly mean the world to me, and each review is my motivation to keep writing!

Thanks again. I will post as soon as I finish the next chapter.