Here is my take on Percy's stay at Sally's from TackAttack's story, Tartarus. It is really incredible. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you do so now.
The first time wasn't so bad, because Annabeth was here. I didn't think that Percy would be so frail, so volatile—well I guess I didn't think, period. I should have realized by the wild look in his eyes, the scars that spread across his skin. I took hold of his arm, not in an aggressive manner, I don't think (though it really doesn't matter) and he just collapsed. I remember I just stood there, thinking, who is this boy? What's going on? This can't be my son, because he was shaking like he was having a seizure and retching, choking, on my carpet.
Annabeth was knelt down next to him, hollering "Percy, Percy!" and I stooped beside her, not knowing what else there was to do. I was so fixated in my horror that I couldn't function. My son, my Percy, having some kind of attack right in front of me. While I had always known there were things in his life—things in his demigod life—I couldn't protect him from, I never thought one of those things would be himself.
After a few moments of panic and despair, he came to, sputtering and gasping, and my terror almost overcame me. But Annabeth's cool about the whole situation soothed me, and I thought maybe this wasn't as bad as it looked. (and God, did it look bad)
He looked up and saw me—and I'm sure I looked positively distraught—and muttered sheepishly, "Flashback, sorry."
The second time was really different. Percy didn't just go out like a light as he did the first time. It was gradual, him falling out of consciousness. He seemed to get caught in an in-between at one point, tugged two ways by both worlds in his head. And then he was overcome by the dark one, and he slumped over on the couch. Paul looked stupefied, and he moved aside as Annabeth and I flocked to Percy's aid. We laid him out on the couch, Annabeth murmuring words of encouragement to Percy all the while, stroking his head and hands and cheeks. The mother lioness in me rallied against her—only I should be able to touch my son like that—but in my heart of hearts, I knew he needed her as much as he needed me. We were the two sides to the Percy-Female-Influence coin, and I had to be mature.
Percy's face contorted in sudden pain and he cried out, his hands forming shaking fists. Annabeth took one and pressed a spot on his wrist and I watched in awe as his hand relaxed. She slid hers into it and squeezed. He moans once more before his eyes fluttered open, wandering, unfocused.
He began to push himself into a sitting position, but made a pained expression and pressed his hand to his shoulder. Blood was seeping from the fabric, and I remember my stomach dropping, dropping into a flash-freezer, dropping into a deep-fryer, dropping down, down, down, never stopping, never slowing, accelerating at that precious 9.8 meters-per-second-squared that binds one to the earth, but my stomach was dropping through the earth, into the core, into Tartarus. I felt sick, I felt faint, I felt like I was going to drop at any moment. I leaned heavily into Paul, who was kneeling behind me.
Annabeth dashed to the kitchen, returning with a bag of ambrosia from the refrigerator. She fed it to Percy and the bleeding stopped. As he changed shirts, a furious red scar was in place where the gash was, moments before.
"It was worse this time, wasn't it?" Annabeth asks quietly, wrapping her arms around him.
He released her and ran his hand down his face. "A lot worse."
Paul's hands tightened on my shoulders, which he had been massaging. "Does this happen often?"
"More and more," Percy said, avoiding eye contact. "We're not sure why yet."
The room fell silent. Paul rubbed my shoulders, and Annabeth rubbed Percy's. And somehow, in that moment, surrounded by my most precious loved ones, I didn't feel safe, I didn't feel happy. I felt the deepest sorrow, and worse yet, I felt like I was being tossed into a boxing ring, with orders to kill my enemy.
And my enemy was a part of my son.
Percy chose to stay the rest of the week with us, and Annabeth went back to camp to both prepare things for Percy's homecoming and to give us some space to be together. Paul was absent for almost all of the day, which meant Percy and I had reign of the apartment from 9 AM to 8 PM. I called in sick and we slept in the first day.
When I woke up, I walked into the living room to find Percy sitting on the couch, staring at a picture of him and me from when he was about five. He didn't notice when I entered.
"Morning, tiger," I said as softly as I could, as not to startle him, and he looked up blearily, setting down the photo and rubbing his eyes.
"Morning, Mom," he said, yawning.
"Did you sleep okay?" I asked, trying to maintain a sort of usualness in the conversation, but the flow of it was awkward. My timing was off.
His eyes traveled to the window, and I could tell he was trying to avoid the truth. "Yeah," he said, "Just fine."
"What do you want to eat?"
A smile graced his face, and I felt suddenly so much better. The room seemed to start glowing, and I fell back into the rhythm of being with him. "Pancakes, of course."
The secret to making blue pancakes blue is, naturally, blue food dye. But the secret to making them good is me and Percy making them. Sure I could make them fine without him, but they just weren't the same without him sneaking around behind me, tossing in more sugar than called for, adding an extra tablespoon of butter, and just generally making the calorie count of the pancakes skyrocket.
While I flipped the pancakes, he sat on the counter, drawing in the flour left from the inevitably messy making of the batter. I could feel his eyes on my back, and I wanted to ask him about Tartarus, about whatever the hell had been happening, but I couldn't find my voice to. Everything was going too well.
I was surprisingly relieved when he brought it up first.
"I haven't really told anyone what happened then," he began tentatively, and I didn't turn around, didn't pressure him with my gaze. "But I feel like if I don't talk about it, it's going to stay in me forever, and I'm going to… I don't know. Self-destruct."
I didn't feel comfortable turning around to face him, but I felt that he needed to know I was listening. I slid a pancake onto the pre-existing stack and turned around; looking into his distraught eyes, which immediately darted away. He looked out the window.
"Percy, no one wants to see you self-destruct. You're too strong for that, anyway."
"No, I'm not," he mumbled, his voice low and husky, distant eyes glassy.
Tears raced down his cheeks, and he buried his face in his hands, trying to control his breathing. I placed my hand gently on his back and suddenly he was bawling, his shoulders wracking with sobs. I pulled him into my arms and he slid off the counter, wrapping his arms around me and crying into my shoulder. We stood there, frozen in the kitchen as he wept into my hair. I looked at the drawings in the flour.
They were all of dead people.
That night, I decided to make pasta, which was one of Percy's favorite dishes. As we were preparing the vegetables, he sliced his finger open.
And that's how the third episode began.
Percy stumbled back into the counter, his eyes wide and dark. Blood dribbled down his hand, and he crumbled to his knees.
"Percy," I said frantically, kneeling down next to him as he struggled for consciousness. He looked at me with pure fear in his eyes once, before passing out.
For a moment he was calm, almost as if he was just sleeping. But then a scream escaped his mouth, and blood began to seep through the chest of his shirt. Another wound broke open on his thigh and he cried out again, the blood staining his jeans. Scar after scar came undone, his skin unzipping, his precious life-blood spilling out. I sat in frozen horror as my son was nearly stripped bare, his flesh peeling back, his lips cracking, voice shaking. The whites of his eyes would occasionally peek out from behind his dark lashes, pure pain radiating from them. Desperate shouts of "Help me!" and "Stop, please!" came and went, before he finally fell silent again.
A minute or so passed before his eyes opened and he scanned me groggily.
"Mom…? Where a-am— Ah!" He squirmed, realizing his pain.
"Percy, please hold still. You're really hurt. I'll be right back."
I jaunted to the refrigerator and retrieved the bag of ambrosia that Annabeth had cleverly left, helping Percy manage it into his mouth. He closed his eyes as his skin knitted itself back together, resting his head on my lap.
"Better?" I queried.
" 'M tired," he responded.
And so we went to bed without dinner.
The next day was spent on the couch watching Chaplin movies rented from Pay-Per-View. Percy, still drowsy from the previous day's attack, curled up next to me, snacking on the blue cookies I had made that morning in my inability to sleep. We only exchanged a few words, the rest of the day was spent using the over-exaggerated language of silent films; Percy would gesture grandly for a glass of milk, I'd make a big show of getting distracted while pouring it and letting it spill out of the glass. We didn't even laugh out loud; silence had become a comfortable medium between Percy having so much to say and I having so little.
As we lay on the couch, I would massage Percy's back, feeling all the knots and tense muscles. Occasionally I would hit a sore spot and he would whimper, but rather than apologizing, I'd just move to a different spot. He had more knots than I did, which I thought was hardly fair.
Now and then he'd fall asleep, and while he slept he would have nightmares. His breathing would quicken, his eyelids shuddering. He'd ball his fists up and hold back yells until it was too much, and he'd cry out. It was then that I would shake him gently and when he awoke, I'd feign sleep, just so he could avoid the embarrassment of being so vulnerable (and knowing Percy, he would be).
It was almost night when Percy decided to go to the bathroom. We had resolved to order pizza, neither of us wanting a replay of the night before. I was ordering Dominoes when I heard him collapse. Not a moment later did the screams begin, echoing brutally through the apartment. I muttered an apology to the girl on the phone before racing to the bathroom.
I didn't bother to knock as I busted into the bathroom. The water was running, steam rising from the basin. Percy was on the floor, writhing, as his skin bubbled with burns. Red welts would rise up before bursting, sending pus and blood cascading down his skin. He was no longer outright screaming, instead he was coughing up water that seemed to leave a trail of red down the side of his face.
I knelt down beside him. "Percy, you're okay. You're safe! You've got to wake up, it's going to be okay!"
He continued to choke on the water; it spilled out of his mouth in alarming volumes, endlessly pouring from his lungs.
I sat him up and leaned him forward in an attempt to help expel the water from his lungs, but there was no such luck. It seemed this episode would have to play itself out.
Some time passed when he finally came to, bloody and wet and shaking.
"The water was too hot," he mumbled.
I hugged his head to my chest, worried out of my mind, because things were not getting better, they were getting worse.
And I had decided to do something about it.
After Paul had come home and Percy had gone to bed, I went out.
Though the Empire State Building observation platform closes at 10 PM, I managed to get there somehow at 12:30, not surprised to find someone was waiting for me.
Rage, hatred, hurt, and love bubbled up inside of me. But the strongest one I felt was rage.
"What have you done to him?!" I shouted.
Poseidon turned to me, his deep blue-green eyes swirling with sorrow. "I'm so sorry," he moaned.
But I wasn't finished. "You broke him! Not a day has gone by that he hasn't been tormented by this—this—demigod CURSE! And it's all. Your. Fault. If it weren't for you claiming him, if it weren't for you at all, this wouldn't have happened! He could have been normal. Instead, he's spending his life being chased by monsters while running errands for selfish, immature, narcissistic 'gods' that should have died out a millennia ago!He's done everything for you, and you've ruined him."
"Hear me out," he began.
"No! I'm done 'hearing you out'. I'm done with you playing games with our lives, with you stealing my son, with you pulling the wool over our eyes. I'm done, Poseidon! Do you know how screwed up things have been? He was gone for a month, and I didn't know if he was on a quest or if he was at camp or if he was at the gods-damned bottom of the sea until Annabeth finally called me to tell me he was missing." My words were turning shrill.
"I didn't even know they had found him until three days later, because they said they weren't sure if he was even going to live. And even then they didn't know if he would wake up. My son, in a coma, and they wouldn't allow me to see him.
"I'm so tired of you messing with our heads. I'm tired of not knowing where Percy is or if he is safe, I'm tired of thinking that at any moment my life could come crashing down, I'm tired of thinking that he's going to go through all this bull shit and still die in the end. Because, gods dammit, he's my son, and he deserves a long, happy life, free of gods and demigods and monsters, because this isn't his mess, it's yours."
"Sally, you're not being fair."
"Not being fair?! What's not fair is that I have to go to sleep wondering if my son is dead. What's not fair is that Percy has to deal with all of your dirty work. What's not fair is that he's been to hell and back and you're still not done with him. You're not done with him, and neither is hell."
"Please, just think this through and be reasonable."
"How can I be reasonable?! He's my son, and he almost died down there."
Poseidon looked positively grievant. "Sally, he's my son, too."
"Then why didn't you look harder?" I was trying to be malicious, but my voice broke and tears rolled down my cheeks.
"You have to know that we did all we could."
"You're omnipresent gods! You can do whatever the fuck you want! So tell me, Poseidon," I asked, cutting him with my eyes, "Why didn't you look harder?"
Poseidon sat on one of the metal benches and buried his head in his hands. "Gods, Sally, I don't know. There was this—this barrier thing, and it prevented us from being able to read through. And Hades has this thing against Percy—you know that—so that didn't play in our favor. And, well, dammit Sally I don't know. I did everything in my power.
"And… I saw it."
"Saw what?" I asked, wiping away stray tears.
"I saw what they were doing to him," Poseidon said darkly. He looked up at me, his ocean eyes rolling with contempt. "I had nightmares about it. I swear, if they ever get out of Tartarus, I will personally deliver them back."
"Can you… can you show me?"
Poseidon's eyes widened, the sea in them rapidly retreating. "Why would you want to see?"
"Because…" I mumbled, "Because he's been having these attacks, and he'll flashback to an event when he was being tortured, but it will actually physically happen. Earlier today he had one where they boiled him, which—"
"Healed his wounds, but caused them, too," Poseidon muttered. He took a slow deep breath, then looked up at me. "Sally, I can't possibly show you. It's not in my power."
"You're an omnipresent god, you are power."
He sighed heavily, and I knew I had won. He pressed his thumb to my forehead.
Percy is laying on a slab of concrete in the middle of a dank, obsidian colored room. Blood mingles with vomit next to his head, and his eyes are unfocused and wandering, one pupil blown out of proportion. His chest rises and falls irregularly, like some sort of twisted heartbeat. Every exhale is accompanied by the softest moan.
"Rise and shine, precious!" An evil voice calls. A dark figure traipses into the room, and slaps Percy hard upside the face. Percy grits his teeth but doesn't cry out. The shadow's sleeve pulls up to reveal a bony hand, which grips Percy's gaunt jaw, bunching up what little fat there is. Percy's eyes screw shut. "So I've been doing a little brainstorming," says the figure. "Of how I can torture you past your… physical limits. And yes, it's been a challenge, but,"—the figure's head draws closer to Percy, who tries to draw away, but is apparently too weak—"who doesn't love a good brainteaser every now and then?"
Percy spits in its face.
"Now, now! Such spunk for such a weak creature." Its hand grips Percy's shoulder and squeezes. There is a resounding crack. Percy screams.
"As I was saying, I've been thinking about other ways to hurt you. And it came to me, as if in a dream, that you have loved ones! Friends! Family! And I thought to myself, if I were a little self-important, egotistical demigod, what would I make a point of doing? Well protecting my loved ones of course!
"Not that I'd know," it adds. "You know me, I have family, but it's not like I loved them or anything. I ate my children for gods' sake."
Percy is finally recovering from pain in his shoulder. "D-don't hurt them…" he manages.
"Oh, I don't know. I think I'll start with your immediate family. You know, that step-father of yours, and your mother."
Percy's unfocused eyes flare. "You hurt her and—"
The boney hand squeezes Percy's injure shoulder, causing him to scream.
"Don't get ahead of yourself, boy. Where was I? Oh yeah, killing your mother. I think I'll do it fast. The only torture I'll do there is make her watch her husband die. Nothing big.
"But let's work our way down the family tree, shall we? How about that niece of yours? You know, Annabeth? I bet you've never thought about it that way. That you're her uncle, technically. You should be disgusted, truly, but I wouldn't expect that much consciousness from you filthy buffoons. You're just horny beasts looking for the next best thing to mate with. And I can't blame you, Annabeth is pretty. Which is why I'll kill her slowly, and probably… have a little fun with her, if you know what I mean."
Percy comes unhinged. "I WILL TEAR YOU APART, YOU FILTHY—"
The figure abruptly stabs Percy in the abdomen. Percy makes some sort of strangled cry before his eyes roll back into his head. "Ah, ah, ah," the voice chides, "It won't be that easy." The figure grabs Percy by the neck and slams him against a wall, and Percy's eyes flutter open. "We can get back to the mental torture later. In the meantime, welcome back to the world of the living," the voice chuckles. The figure trails it's fingernail down Percy's cheek, raking the skin away. "Or should I say, the world of the almost-dead."
When I opened my eyes, Poseidon was gone.
I sat down on a bench and cried.
I stood in his doorway, watching him. A sliver of yellow light penetrated his room and sliced across his bed, but other than that, he was bathed completely in the blue-black of night. Tears cascaded down my cheeks and I cupped my hand to my mouth, trying as best as I can to not cry aloud. I could see the highlights of his face, if not peaceful then blank, and he looked much younger than I'd seen him in a long time. His face was not creased by worry or pain or forced happiness, it was utterly and completely empty, free of wrinkles or blemishes. Innocent.
At that thought another sob tore through me, and I wanted to go to my knees, to sit sobbing on the threshold of his room, but I knew I couldn't, because that would be weak and right then the last thing I needed to be for my son was weak. Another part of me wanted to climb into bed next to him, to stroke his back like I used to, to pull him to my chest, even though he was bigger than me now and I couldn't offer the same feeling of protection that I used to. We both knew I was basically useless, more a hindrance than anything. Where was I? Oh yeah, killing your mother. I was just a target. Just another way to hurt him.
I pressed my palms to my eyes and took three deep breathes. If it were anything else, I'd jump to immediate detachment. I can't save him, so why stress about it? But this was Percy, and I couldn't settle with that. I just couldn't accept it. I longed to call his father, to try and work something out, but Poseidon had said there was no way around these things. Percy was a demigod. Percy was doomed from the start.
I snuck back to my room and crawled into bed next to Paul, who stirred a little.
"Paul?" I whispered, my voice muffled by tears.
"Yes, sweetheart?" he mumbled back.
"I made a mistake."
"How so?" he asked, rolling over to face me, his eyes half open.
Suddenly a sob burst forth, and I pressed my head into his chest. "I ruined his life," I moaned.
"Shhhh, shh." He rubbed my back, and I felt him settle his chin on my head. "Tell me what you mean."
"Paul, he's never going to be happy again. I shouldn't—" I hesitated at the words on my lips. Is this what I was really thinking? Were these words in my mouth really true? Yes. "I shouldn't have had him in the first place," I whispered. The bitter truth ousted itself.
"Sally," he said, pulling my head up to look at him. "Tell me that that boy isn't the love of your life. If you hadn't had him, you wouldn't be nearly as happy as you are. We wouldn't have even met! He's great. He's saved the world on more than one occasion."
"B-but he's miserable. His life is hell. He doesn't deserve this." Heat was welling up in my face and my mouth and my chest.
Paul kissed my forehead softly. "Nothing can be done."
I cried harder.
"Everything is going to get better, I promise."
He stroked my back until I finally fell asleep, still crying.
I woke up to the sound of the shower. Paul wasn't next to me, so I figured it was at least 8:00. I rolled over and checked the clock. Sure enough; 8:02.
The first thing I wanted to do was take a bath, but I knew Paul was in the bathroom getting ready, so I went to the small vanity we had in the bedroom and put in my contacts using the mirror. My eyes were still a little swollen, but not as red as one would expect from spending a good three hours crying. I twisted my hair out of my face and pinned it back, not bothering with the small pieces that fell free. Pulling on a heavy wool cardigan, I walked out into the hallway, sniffling. That's when I heard it; the sound of a body hitting wood floor.
"Percy?" I called as I rushed to his door. I knocked once before barging in to find Percy curled on his side in a pool of blood, tears streaming down his face, eyes squeezed shut. "Percy!"
I knelt down beside him and put a hand on his face. He gasped as his eyes opened, and for a moment I could have sworn he was just a child again, just a toddler. "Mom," he sobbed, and that's when I realized his wrists were both slit vertically, three cuts each. The hand that wasn't wrapped around waist went to my hand on his face, taking it, squeezing it. "Make it stop, please," he begged. His breath was ragged and desperate. I hadn't heard him cry this hard since he was eight.
First, I sat him up, helping him lean against the bed. I did my best to staunch the bleeding with a towel that was laying on the floor (thank good Percy didn't pick up after himself), tearing pieces off and wrapping them around his wrists. He held his arms out like a child, without purpose or sense or forethought. He was crying frantically, hysterically, trying to cling to me in whatever way possible.
"Okay, okay," I muttered. I could feel tears clogging up my throat. "Okay, you have to let go, honey. I need to get you some ambrosia, just you have to let me go."
"No—! Please don't leave me," he sobbed.
Something was wrong. He hadn't called me mommy in ages. Tears trickled down my cheeks.
"I'll be right back. I promise."
With the most heartbreaking sob, he let go.
I rushed to the fridge and pulled out the ambrosia and nectar, then hurried back to Percy's room, where he seemed calmer, but not from peace; from blood loss.
After feeding him the ambrosia, I helped him back into the bed, and he pulled the covers up to his chin, shivering. I stroked his dark bangs back from his face, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head into my palm. There were dark smudges under his eyes, and his skin was warm, clammy.
"Will you tell me what that one was about, Perce?"
He didn't open his eyes. "No."
"It was the worst one." His voice was quiet.
There was a fragile silence that grew between us, like frost creeping across a window. It was finally melted with a sigh, and he rolled away from me.
"They left me alone."
For a moment I was confused. "What do you mean?"
His voice was watery. "They left me there. In my cell. Alone."
Dread was creeping into my stomach. My brain was slowing down. It didn't want to process. Didn't want to compute.
"With a knife."
"I didn't know what else to do," he whimpered.
"Oh—oh gods— " I couldn't breathe.
He turned over again and looked at me, his eyes made even greener by their gleaming red sclera. "Mom—"
"Oh gods." I threw my face into my hands, desperate to escape. Desperate to just not even exist. There was too much pain between the two of us. If I had never existed, neither would he have, and maybe the world would have been a little happier. Lighter without our sorrow. That's how I felt.
Then rough hands took mine, prying them off my face. I opened my eyes to see my son, his eyes red and green and black and his cheeks pink and his lips dry white, smiling slowly at me, cautiously at first, then growing, warm and tender and, despite every attempt not to be, sad.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered.
"Me too." My voice was hysterical.
He squeezed my hands in his and pulled the covers down a little, and I crawled under them. He nuzzled up against me, both of our bodies quaking with the final sniffles of tears. He pressed my hand to his face and I put his to mine. I felt like he was a child again, curled up next to me for warmth and security. I felt like I was capable of protecting him again for the first time in what seemed like forever, only this time, I could feel that he was capable of protecting me, too. And that felt good.
"I love you," I whispered.
"I love you too."
About an hour later I woke up again, feeling somewhat sick and somewhat happy. The puddle of blood on Percy's floor seemed to have vanished. I didn't concern myself too much with it.
I wandered around the apartment for a little, looking at some old photos and listening to the sounds of Paul getting ready in the morning: him singing while he shaved (some rendition of I Need a Hero), brushing his teeth (he liked to make Darth Vader noises while he did this), mumbling about ties ("As if monkey suits in ninety-degree weather isn't bad enough."), stubbing his toe on the vanity ("Dammit! Again!").
Finally I was calm enough to make some breakfast, so I pulled out the old waffle iron and got started on some blue waffles. I wasn't particularly into making them this morning; my mind was elsewhere, thinking about my son, laying in a chamber by himself with nothing but a knife for companionship. What would you do?
I had a healthy stack of waffles made when Percy traipsed in, rubbing his eye and yawning simultaneously. He took a seat on one of the stools by the bar, flinching when it squealed. Without much ado, I put a decent stack of waffles before him, doused with syrup and copious amounts of whipped cream. He smiled crookedly.
For a moment I was lost in thoughts about being a mother; thoughts about how I had always dreaded the idea of being tied down, of someone else being my own priority, of having to be responsible. How the day I had him was the day everything in my life got better, and how I had thought that things could never be bad again, even if I didn't have a husband, or parents of my own, or anyone else. Because I had him, and even if he hated me as much as I had hated my own mother, I would love him and that would be enough. I thought about how there was one person in the world who didn't know me as Sally or Ms. Jackson or any of that; just Mom. And then I smiled at him, because he was that person and he was my person, and I loved him. "You're very welcome." I ruffled his hair.
I could never let him try to kill himself again.
I worked my way around the bar and next to him, cautiously placing a hand on his shoulders, which tensed at first, but then relaxed, letting me know that it was okay.
As I started in on the tense muscles in Percy's shoulders, Paul came in, on a warpath for the coffee that I had brewed for him.
"Addicted to coffee now, are we?" Percy teased.
Paul gives me a meaningful look, glancing from me to Percy, then back to me. Then he laughs. "You need to stock up on it, teaching summer middle school in New York City."
Percy shrugged and went back to eating.
"So you feeling better from last night?" Paul asked me pointedly, after pecking me on the forehead.
"Yes, I am," I responded. "I was just tired, I guess."
"Well I'm going to come home early today, since I deserve a little time off. I'll have Doug watch the little menaces for me." He looked over at Percy. "Your kind is the devil."
Percy made no effort to respond.
Paul looked at me and sighed, clearly exhausted at trying.
I smiled at him, because his attempts with Percy were both painful and funny. It's not like they didn't get along; they did. Their perspectives were rather different, though. And that seemed to drive a wedge between them, especially when I was around.
Percy excused himself to change, and Paul came around the bar, standing close to me. "Sally, I'm worried about you."
I rolled my eyes, redirecting my attention to Percy's plate. "You have no reason to be."
Taking my chin, he pulls my face back to look at him. "Your son comes home after being missing for a month, is exhibiting every sign of magical PTSD in the book, and you expect me to believe you're perfectly fine? You crawled into bed crying last night. You were… You were broken, Sally." His eyes boar into mine, and I felt intensely uncomfortable.
"Paul, we can talk about it all you want when— "
Then came a knock on the door.
After checking the peephole, I sighed. Annabeth. I opened the door and smiled at her. "Come on in."
"Hi Ms. Jackson," she said lightly, smiling.
"There's some coffee in the pot if you want any," Paul offered.
Annabeth laughed. "How'd you know?"
Paul tapped his temple twice, slyly. "I have ESPN."
Annabeth's smile faded, and she nodded slowly. The reference sailed right over her head.
"It's a joke."
Just then, Percy came in. Upon spotting Annabeth, he began to beam. She was grinning just as big. They hugged for a moment, then she pulled away. "How are you?"
His eyes wandered. "Fine."
Annabeth dragged him down the corridor and into his room. I watched them go, with a certain interest. Alone, it was easy to mistake them for adults. But when they were together, they brought each other's maturity down, and it was almost funny to watch them try to handle each other.
As I began on the breakfast dishes, Paul glanced over at me. "Don't think what we were talking about earlier is obsolete."
"It's not. You're right," I sighed. "I'm not okay."
He looked at me sideways, confused. "Did you just concede that I was right?"
"Well yeah. I'm just not prepared to talk about it I don't think." I sighed, looking down at the dirty plate in my hand. "It's a lot."
"I'm coming home early tonight. Maybe we can go grab some dinner, then come back and talk about it. Or we could… well, we'll decide later." He winked at me.
Percy entered again, with Annabeth trailing behind, arms crossed and deflated looking.
"Leaving?" I asked, though I knew the answer and I didn't care to hear it.
"Yes, Ms. Jackson," Annabeth chirped, smiling apologetically. A smile that comforted and annoyed me.
"Oh Annabeth, call me Sally," I chided for the umpteenth-and-first time. That girl clung to her manners like a cobra to its kill.
Percy rushed to me and pulled me into his arms. We hung there for a few beats, embracing, and I felt all the security and reassurance of having Percy near drain out of me, siphoning elsewhere (probably Annabeth). As much as I wanted to stay there forever, holding my son, protecting him, shielding him—I knew I had to be the one to pull away. To break the contact. It would be my silent display of faith, and his silent promise of return.
I drew away.
Percy retrieved a few bags from his room and made his way to the door. Paul called goodbye from the couch. Annabeth grinned at me in an attempt to be reassuring.
And as I finished the breakfast dishes, my son walked out the door.
I sighed and put my hands on the counter, doubling over, stretching. Trying to release the nervous energy coursing through me. Trying to dispense the worry in the arc of my back.
From somewhere behind my hands appeared, kneading into my shoulders and neck. I stood up and leaned into the familiar body behind me.
"I had to throw away the mop," Paul said.
"It was ruined after I finished cleaning all that blood off the floor."
I turned abruptly and laced my arms around him, pressing my face into his neck.
And as I cried, I exhaled the scent of one of my loves and inhaled the scent of another.
Special thanks to TackAttack for writing such an immense story and giving me the permission and inspiration to write my own. If you haven't read Tartarus, I greatly suggest it. Also, it would help this make more sense.
I cut out the fight seen at the end because I felt like it would be to clumsy a way to end a story like this (meaning not fight related AT ALL). I hope you don't mind :) Also, I could probably never do it justice.
Anywho, thanks for reading. See you around.