~* Chapter 12 *~
Percy's temperature was much better the following morning, but Poseidon still had him take it easy around the house. He went stir crazy before night fell. The day after he repeatedly insisted he was perfectly fine (his cough and inability to eat a whole meal said otherwise), complained loudly about being bored, and generally just gave Poseidon a headache.
"If you can eat all your lunch then maybe we can go out," Poseidon ground out through clenched teeth when Percy's grumbling got obnoxious enough.
Percy slouched down in his seat, moodily knocking his spoon against the side of his half-eaten soup, "Your eyes are bigger then my stomach, it's not my fault I can't eat all of it."
"It's just over half a bowl," Poseidon groaned, rubbing his temple. Percy muttered something unintelligible and his father's eye twitched. "What was that?"
"Nothing," Percy sighed. He blindly moved his spoon around for the next few minutes, the metal clanging noisily against the side of the bowl and eating away at what little patience Poseidon still had. He tried to eat a few bites, but Poseidon doubted any soup actually got in his mouth. Finally, Percy sighed and pushed the bowl away from him. His mouth opened, clearly intending to continue bellyaching and moaning, so Poseidon stood up, making sure his chair scrapped against the ground so the boy would know he was leaving.
"Fine then," Poseidon said curtly, "if you're so fine then we will go out." Percy's head perked up at the statement, "and you can also take care of your own bowl."
No objections came from Percy, who, in his excitement, got to his feet so fast he swayed dizzily for a moment. Poseidon had no sympathy for him. After Percy took care of his half-eaten lunch and took five minutes to find and pull on his shoes, Poseidon ushered him out to the car.
"Does Nereid run things while you're away?" Percy asked, fidgeting in his seat.
"Yes, but we're not going to the aquarium." Poseidon said and out of the corner of his eye he could see the boy frown.
"Because I don't want you getting anyone sick. Besides, you need some new clothes," Poseidon said, eyeing the ratty too small shirt Percy had on.
"Clothes?" Percy repeated, bewildered, "We're going shopping?"
"Why do I need new clothes?"
Poseidon blinked in surprise at the question, "Because the ones you own are too small and worn out."
"They're not that small."
"They're small so you need new clothes," Poseidon said, puzzled at Percy's reaction. "And they're worn out, ratty, and you just need new clothes. Now, where do you usually get your clothes from?"
"Right," Poseidon said, nodding to himself. Second hand. "Well then, we'll just try a few shops up here."
"What's wrong with Goodwill?"
"Nothing," Poseidon assured him quickly, "But I have the money to spoil you so spoil you I shall. Percy, money is not a problem anymore, not for me. I don't want you worrying about that okay? That's my job - you're the child and I'm the parent. You're supposed to ask me for new clothes, new games, or whatever you want. Okay?"
Percy frowned and Poseidon sighed. It was obvious that this was new concept to him. It would clearly take Percy some time to get use to not worrying about money, or whatever other "things" he worried over, after the way he grew up. Poseidon could not help but feel a little resentful towards Sally. Percy could've had all he wanted or needed if she had just come to him. He would not have worried about money; he wouldn't have had to worry about anything but normal prepubescent problems. It was not fair.
"Here we are," Poseidon said, pulling into the parking lot of a local mall.
"We're not at some fancy store are we?" Percy asked suspiciously.
"A mall," Poseidon explained, "And we can shop where ever you feel most comfortable - be it Aeropostale, American Eagle or whatever."
"I don't need designer jeans."
"Of course, but you do need jeans that fit and that you like," Poseidon stressed; willing Percy to understand that his happiness mattered, as he helped Percy out of the car. The boy was still a bit wobbly. Poseidon kept an arm around Percy's shoulder as they walked towards the mall.
"I just wanted something that fits," Percy complained.
"Then we'll get something that fits and is comfortable," Poseidon agreed lightly. They ended up going to a little local store in the mall. Since it had been such a long time since Percy went shopping (or had been able to read his clothes tags) it took them a little while to figure out what size pants he was.
"Just try these on," Poseidon said, throwing three or four pairs of jeans into Percy's arms and ushering him into a changing room. "And see which one fits best."
Percy grumbled but the closing door prevented Poseidon from really understanding what he was muttering about.
"Didn't catch that," Poseidon said cheerfully, looking through racks of clothes. Percy needed some new shirts as well, although he feared those would be harder to pick out then jeans.
"These ones fit fine." Percy's voice called.
"Do they?" Poseidon asked, "Are they comfortable."
"Well a little stiff - "
"Try on another pair." He heard a sigh and could not help but chuckle. He did not get a reply but two pairs of jeans eventually appeared over Percy's door. Poseidon figured the boy finally realized they were not leaving until they found something he liked so Percy was genuinely trying to find something he liked. Poseidon was glad.
"I like this pair," Percy announced, stepping out of the changing room with the discarded pants on one arm and the ones he liked on the other.
"Good," Poseidon said proudly, grinning. "Now you just need to pick out a few more." Percy groaned.
Four bags later Percy was looking decidedly more pale than Poseidon liked and, content that at least now his closet would actually fit him, he called it a day. It did not escape his notice that Percy gratefully sank into the seat when they climbed into the car. When they got back to the house, Percy went upstairs to put away his clothes and Poseidon made a light dinner. They ate in comfortable silence and Poseidon was pleased to note his boy almost finished an entire plate. Percy may complain of being bored and restless, but he was still rather pale and tired looking.
"Hestia seems to think we need a vacation," Poseidon told him and Percy reclined in his chair, eyes drooping.
"A vacation?" Percy repeated, frowning.
"Yeah, she seems to think it'll do you some good," Poseidon said, "Is there anywhere you'd like to go? Or anything you'd like to do? A vacation place you like?"
"Mom and I use to go to Mantuak beach every summer. We'd rent a cabin and stay for a weekend." Percy recalled with a smile. "But I don't know, where do you take a blind kid on vacation to?"
"Fishing doesn't necessarily require eyesight," Poseidon said lightly, "nor does beach-going, boating, parasailing - "
"Do all of your ideas involve water?" Percy interrupted laughing.
"Most things worth doing involve the water," Poseidon shot back, smiling, "But if you have a better non-water based idea please share." When no such activities were forthcoming he continued, "There must be somewhere you'd like to go."
"I've never really thought about it, vacations were a little impossible for me and Mom..." Percy said thoughtfully. He turned his head towards his father, "Where do you like to go?"
"Personally, I'm a fan of Florida, California and Hawaii - sunshine, warm water, abundant sea life."
Percy laughed, "That sounds nice. I don't think I've ever really been out of state."
"Never?" Poseidon raised an eyebrow, "Well then we're going out of state. You know what, I often work with a research center down in Florida; perhaps we could go there. Its right next to the beach, we could use their boats and equipment, how's that sound?"
"Fun," Percy said thoughtfully, "that sounds fun." He sounded surprised, but tilted his head up and smiled.
"Good," Poseidon said fondly, "we'll leave when you don't look so pale."
Percy groaned, "I'm fine."
"When I say you're fine," Poseidon said pleasantly and Percy let his head fall on the table. Poseidon laughed.
Percy's color returned in the following week along with his appetite. Poseidon went ahead and called the research center and set up a date with them, booking a flight for Friday morning. Nereid told Percy stories all week, outlining all the exciting things to do in Florida and making Poseidon promise to take the boy to this and make sure you do that. As Friday got closer, Percy got more and more excited. Whenever Poseidon complained, he would always point out that this was his first real vacation ever and he was allowed to be excited so there.
Percy could hardly contain his obvious glee Friday morning, running around the house as they got ready to leave.
"Hey," Percy called, "do you - " his voice was suddenly cut off, followed instead by a loud thump and a few muffled curses that would have Hera washing his mouth with soap if she heard.
"You alright?" Poseidon asked, frowning as he peered around the corner to see Percy picking himself up off of the floor, Poseidon's suitcase sprawled next to him.
"Dad," Percy complained, "You can't leave things in the middle of the room - I'm blind."
"I'm sorry," Poseidon said mildly, picking up the suitcase Percy tripped over. "But you would not have fallen if you weren't running." He huffed and Poseidon laughed, ruffling his hair.
"Come on, we have a plane to catch, do you have everything?"
"Yeah," Percy said, gently moving his feet around to find the suitcase he dropped.
"I got that," Poseidon said, picking up both suitcases, "just put your shoes on and I'll put this in the car."
Five minutes later they were on the road and Poseidon happily described the research facility to Percy. The boy listened, interested, but grew more and more restless as they drove closer to the airport.
"You alright?" Poseidon asked, sensing that this restless was different then Percy's earlier excitement.
"I've never been on a plane before," Percy confessed, his voice carefully guarded.
"It's not that bad," Poseidon soothed, "it'll be fine."
Without his sight to pacify him, Percy did not take the flight very well. He gripped his armrest so tight his knuckles turned white and he barely spoke a word the entire trip. Normally, nervous fliers amused Poseidon, but he managed to produce some sympathy for his poor boy, keeping up a stream of assurances and generally distracting him. All the same, Percy could not get off the plane fast enough.
"That wasn't to bad was it?" Poseidon teased lightly as they finally left the airport. Percy grumbled in reply and Poseidon laughed.
"Come one, we'll get checked into the hotel and then we'll head off to the research center okay?"
They checked into the hotel and brought their luggage up to the room before driving to the seaside research center.
"Here we are," Poseidon said, stepping out the car and waiting for Percy to do the same. He had noticed that ever since they left the house, Percy walked stiffly and kept a tight grip on Poseidon. He clearly was not comfortable with the new surroundings.
"You okay?" Poseidon asked, putting an arm around his son's shoulder.
"Yeah." Percy said, putting one of his hands out to guide him as Poseidon gently led him towards the door.
"Perhaps we should get you a cane," Poseidon suggested as he caught Percy when he stumbled on a pothole.
"A cane?" Percy repeated in disgust, his face contorting in apparent horror, "I'm not an old man! I don't need a cane, I have you."
"A cane would help you not trip over cracks and suitcases," Poseidon said reasonably, surprised at Percy's animosity.
"I don't need a cane," Percy repeated firmly, shaking his head.
"There's no shame in needing help," Poseidon said, but Percy shook his head determinedly.
"Poseidon," came a bright cheerful voice and a woman stepped out of the building. "Welcome! And is this Percy?"
"Hello Lilaea," Poseidon greeted, feeling Percy relax as he let their conversation drop. He squeezed Percy's shoulder, this conversation is not over yet, and smiled, "Yes, this is my son Percy. Percy this is Dr. Lilaee, she works here at the Miami Marine Conservation and Research Center. "
"Pleasure," Lilaea said brightly, giving Percy a quick once over before turning to Poseidon, waving a clipboard for him to see, "We've got everything set up and are ready to leave when you are."
"Leave to go where?" Percy asked as Poseidon ushered him into the building.
"You wouldn't want me to ruin the surprise now would you?" Poseidon laughed. "Now here," he handed Percy his wet suit and guided him towards the bathroom, "change into your wet suit and I'll be back in a minute."
Leaving him to it, Poseidon left to set up the 'surprise' with Lilaea and change into his own wetsuit. He came back to get Percy and lead him outside the building, towards the dock. Percy's head turned towards the water and he grinned.
"Is that the ocean I hear? Are we going out on the ocean?" Percy asked excitedly, his face lighting up.
"We are," Poseidon confirmed, "Lilaea and her team are monitoring a local reef and we are going to join them." He took Percy over to the dock and helped him onto the boat.
"I don't suppose you'll be assisting us rather then playing around in the water now will you?" Lilaea teased, stepping onto the boat after them.
"I don't see why we can't do both," Poseidon said.
"What will we be doing?" Percy asked.
"Checking out a local reef, I'll show you the coral, hopefully introduce you to some fish, and perhaps if she needs it collect some samples for Lilaea." He smiled charmingly at the biologist who laughed and shook her head.
It took about fifteen minutes to reach the reef and another half hour to get ready to dive. Poseidon helped Percy put on his oxygen tank and mask. Even though the boy had already worn it once, Poseidon still went over all the basics.
"I have used one before," Percy reminded him exasperated as Poseidon adjusted his mask.
"Yes, but that was in a controlled environment," Poseidon reminded him, "This is a bit different."
"You're going to have a cable attached to your belt," Lilaea told him as Poseidon fastened the offered cable to his son's belt, "The other end is attached to dear Daddy over here to make sure you don't float off or get lost."
Poseidon gave the cable an experimental tug and Percy, unprepared, stumbled a little. He scowled as his father laughed.
"How long's this thing?" He grumbled.
"Don't worry, you're not going to be attached to his hip, you'll have wiggle room," Lilaea soothed, double checking all of Percy's valves, "Well, looks like everything's in order. You two are ready to go."
"Fantastic," Poseidon said, steering Percy to the end of the boat. "You all set?" Poseidon asked, peering down at the boy. He looked slightly unsure, but curious and excited all the same.
"Yeah, I think so."
"Good, now if you ever want to get out, just let me know it's no big deal okay? Okay. Now, have fun." Poseidon said, and promptly pushed the boy overboard. Percy flailed as he fell and landed ungracefully in the water.
"Gee thanks Dad," he said sarcastically as he bobbed back to the surface, spitting out seawater.
Poseidon just laughed, "You're welcome, now stay to the side." With far more grace than his son, Poseidon jumped into the water. "All set then, let's dive."
Taking care not to become entangled in the cord, Poseidon guided (pulled) Percy towards the reef below. It was a relatively small reef, bright and beautiful, and while it was not exactly teeming with life, there were plenty of fish floundering about.
"Now, I want to show you the reef, but you gotta be real careful okay? Keep your gloves on at all times and be gentle," Poseidon instructed over their radio. "This is a staghorn coral, it's a branching stony coral. Feel that?"
Poseidon thought he saw Percy nod, it was hard to tell, but he saw his son's fingers gently trace the coral. "What color is it?"
"A brown yellow color," Poseidon explained, happy to have captivated the boy. They continued this way for a while, Poseidon pointing out coral that was safe to touch and Percy was completely engrossed, asking questions and exploring every crevasse. As Poseidon was describing a particular coral, a fish flapped against Percy's face and the boy flinched.
"Relax, its just a little fish," Poseidon laughed.
"Fish?" Percy repeated.
"Yes, they live here you know."
"Oh shut up," Percy grumbled, but his head moved around, as if he could see the fish. "Are there a lot of them?"
"A good amount. The one ran into you was just a little guppy."
"What do they look like?"
Poseidon began to describe the different types of fish around them. He tried to find fish Percy could actually interact with. A few of the bigger docile fish allowed Percy to pet them, and his son's face light up with delight and wonder.
"What do we have here?" Poseidon said out loud, delighted as a large shadow swam leisurely overhead. "Well if it isn't our lucky day!"
"What is it?" Percy asked.
Poseidon said, pulling Percy towards the beautiful creature. "A shark?" Percy repeated, startled, "aren't they dangerous?"
"Only if you provoke them, and we are trespassing in their home," Poseidon said, "But this is nurse shark, the friendliest shark you ever will meet." He went on to list more facts about the shark, watching the creature carefully, "They only hunt at night as well, so he shouldn't be any trouble... If we get close enough he might let you touch him."
''A shark," Percy said, and Poseidon could hear the grin in his voice, "wicked."
The shark lazily swam around the reef, looking completely disinterested in the hullabaloo around him. As to not startle the creature, the pair did not approach it directly, instead they swam a little ahead of it so the shark swam right by them. As it made its casual swim by, Poseidon guided Percy's hand over the back of the shark. Percy let his fingers glide over the shark's back, clearly enraptured. The shark was not bothered by the intrusion; it continued its leisurely swim. A little ways off, while Percy turned to give Poseidon an excited thumbs up, it turned back around and swam closer to them.
"Looks like he's curious," Poseidon explained to Percy, "after all, there are two big bubble spewing creatures in his reef." The shark hung around for a while long, occasionally coming close enough that Percy could reach out and pet it again, before swimming off.
They stayed underwater for hours, happily explaining the little reef. Lilaea radioed them with a few requests every now and again – they collected sand samples, drew blood from a turtle, and took temperature readings. After their last errand, Lilaea told them they were packing up and heading back.
"So how was that?" Poseidon asked as Lilaea team finished packing away their equipment.
Percy turned towards him, the widest, most brilliant grin on his face, "That was awesome. Can we go again tomorrow?"
Poseidon laughed in delight and ruffled his hair, "Of course. Maybe we'll even get to see a dolphin…well at least I might."
"Poseidon," Lilaea scowled, but Percy just laughed, shaking his head and looking… looking like a normal thirteen year old kid. Nothing like the sad and angry boy in the photograph Poseidon received all those weeks ago.
"Want to drive the boat?" Poseidon asked, throwing an arm over Percy's shoulder and leading him towards the helm.
"Poseidon, he can't drive the boat," Lilaea said exasperatedly.
"Why not? At least for a little while, it's not like he has to stay between lines. It's the ocean. We're far enough away from the reef and there are no other boats around, what's the problem?"
Lilaea sighed and looked over at Percy's hopeful face, "Fine, but only for a little while and you better be watching out for him! And make sure to go nice and slow all right? Do you hear me Olympia, slow."
A/N So this update was a little (lot) later then I hoped, sorry about that. I hope it was worth the wait! To be clear, do NOT touch coral without the okay from a trained professional, most coral species are highly sensitive and can be damaged by a simple touch! Same with sharks, all types of sharks are potentially dangerous and should be approached with caution and reverences. Remember, leave them alone and they'll leave you alone. Sorry if any information was incorrect, I'm no expert but theoretically Poseidon is so he knows what he's doing.
Anyway, some here's some personal growth and recovery in this chapter, and bigger issues will be resolved in the next few :). I think there'll only be about three more chapters. A big thank you to everyone who's reviewed, favorited and followed, I really appreciate all of it :) You guys rock, and I hope you enjoyed ~!