~* Chapter13 *~
Lilaea kept them busy for the rest of their stay. They went out to the reef three more times, and visited a few others. While Lilaea's team was busy doing more advanced research (or research that required sight) Poseidon and Percy did what Hestia called 'real tourist' activities. Poseidon found these particular experiences to be terribly boring and did not hesitate to voice this opinion whenever the time arose. On their last night, they sat on the Miami Beach roasting marshmallows over a fire pit after an afternoon of swimming, watching as the sun slowly set (or at least Poseidon was).
"I don't know why people come here for anything other than the ocean," Poseidon reiterated, putting a marshmallow on the end of Percy's stick for him, "Nothing else here is even remotely exciting."
"You're just jealous of the Miami Seaqaurium." Percy snorted, unimpressed, trying to hold his marshmallow over the fire.
"What do you expect, I'm blind," Percy grumbled, but he was smiling as well.
"A little to the left. And jealous? Nonsense. So, they attract more people with their pretty fancy shows, pah! We have far more species of fish then them, and more exotic too. Our main goal is to rescue and release animals, or allow them to live out the rest of their lives comfortably, not train them like monkey for people's amusement." Poseidon grumbled.
"You're so jealous," Percy laughed. "You were so amazed and impressed with the aquarium and you can't stand it."
"I don't know what you're talking about, it's not like you could even see the shows. Or the fish. At least at home you get to interact with them," Poseidon said stiffly, which only caused Percy to laugh at him some more. He could not help but smile at that. "You're not even holding it over the fire anymore," he chuckled, using his own stick to steer Percy's over the fire.
"Your birthday's coming up soon," Poseidon said after a moment of comfortable silence.
"Is it?" Percy asked with a frown, "Already? What's today's date?"
"The second of August. And I know - it doesn't feel like it." Poseidon said. It truly did not feel like it had almost been an entire summer. Three months ago he did not even know he had a son...now he could barely remember life without one.
"Anyway, your birthday. What would you like to do?"
Percy's brow furrowed, "Are you asking me if I want to have a birthday party?"
"Sort of," Poseidon chuckled, "I'm asking what you'd like to do. Do you want a birthday party, do you just want to hang out with Nico and Thalia, or do something else?"
Percy sat back, chewing on his lip, "I don't know."
"Okay. What do you want?"
"Like as a present?"
"That's the general idea."
Percy took longer to answer this time, his head tilting to the side and still chewing on his lip. "Can I think about it?"
"Of course," Poseidon assured him. "Just so you know, Hestia is going to spoil you something awful. And Thalia's text me already asking about you, although how she knew it was your birthday I don't know."
Percy bowed his head, and in the dying light Poseidon saw the boy's eyes mist over as he smiled. He let Percy collect himself, turning back to the fire.
"Oh, watch it, your marshmallow's caught fire." Poseidon said as he noticed the flame that was quickly consuming the sugary treat. Percy dropped his stick in surprise and Poseidon laughed, simply replacing Percy's charred marshmallow with a new one. They spent the rest of the night trying not to burn anymore marshmallows, lightly bantering back and forth, the subject of Percy's birthday dropped for the time.
"Yes, Hestia we had a wonderful time." Poseidon told his beloved sister as he bustled around the kitchen, getting breakfast ready. "Our plane landed nice and safe, I believe I sent you a text last night when we came in. Yes, I think Percy had lots of fun. He looks much healthier, happier, and tanner, you can see him yourself if you'd like. He'd love it if you'd stop by."
"I haven't seen him in a while," Hestia's voiced mused from his phone.
"Dad?" Percy called, "Have you seen my sweatshirt?"
"No, I haven't," Poseidon shouted back, "Breakfast is ready though so come on down."
Hestia giggled in his ear, "Aw isn't that lovely. You two have gone domestic. Have you talked to him about his birthday?"
"Yes, he doesn't know what he wants yet."
"Do you have any ideas what you're going to get him?"
Poseidon smiled, "I have an idea or two."
"Hera told me something interesting," his sister said slyly and he grinned some more.
"Hera has a big mouth and does not know when to mind her own business."
"She said you called Zeus inquiring about lawyers."
"Did she now? Hey Percy, breakfast I said!" Poseidon yelled, carefully avoiding his sister's happy suspicions. He heard her laugh at his evasion.
"Fine, then, keep your secrets. I think I will stop by later, if that's alright with you."
"Of course it is, we'll see you at dinner then sister dearest." Poseidon said as he finally heard the sound of Percy's footsteps coming down the stairs. "Bye-bye."
"Was that Aunt Hestia?" Percy asked, stumbling into the kitchen, feeling around for what Poseidon could only assume was the allusive sweatshirt.
"Yes, she's coming over for dinner tonight. Are you still looking for that sweatshirt?"
"Yeah," Percy said, frowning, "it's the only one I own, and since you're trying to freeze out the aquarium - "
"It's a new arctic exhibit Percy, they need the cold. And it's only one room, don't be such a baby."
" - Since you're trying to freeze the aquarium I need it." Percy straightened up, frowning. "You know...I think it's at the apartment."
"The apartment?" Poseidon repeated, "what apartment?"
"The one in New York, with Gabe." Percy clarified, "I don't think I ever brought it over. Actually I don't think I brought a lot of anything over, you just kinda bought me stuff."
"We've been over this Percy, that's what parents do." Poseidon said, but he was frowning as well. Gabe was a problem he never really gave much thought to. The man gladly left them alone so Poseidon never saw the need to give him any more attention. "But there's more of your stuff still at that apartment? Things you want?" Percy nodded. "Well, then, we'll just have to go get it."
Percy hesitated, but Poseidon kept talking, "I'll go grab one of the suitcases, I already unpacked mine so we'll take that."
"And bring my stuff back here?" Percy questioned slowly.
"Of course," Poseidon said, surprised, "You live here now, Percy, with me."
Percy blinked, before giving Poseidon a wide grin. "Right, okay. So are we going before or after work? 'Cause I really don't wanna freeze."
"Brat, it's not that cold." Poseidon said, swatting the boy upside the head. "If you hurry up and eat we'll go get your sweatshirt first."
An hour later, Poseidon and Percy stood outside the boy's old apartment. It felt like a lifetime ago that I came here, waiting to meet my son for the first time, Poseidon mused as Percy hesitated outside the door.
"Do I knock or what?" Percy asked, "I mean - I don't live here anymore and we haven't talk - "
"Let me worry about Ugliano," Poseidon soothed, knocking forcefully on the door, "you just get your stuff." They waited a moment, but nobody came to the door. "Do you have a key?"
"No, Gabe never locked the door," Percy explained, trying the handle and finding the door unlocked.
"We'll leave him a note," Poseidon decided, pushing the door open, "Besides, we're only taking your stuff, he can't complain."
"Are you sure?" Percy asked nervously as Poseidon steered him inside the unsanitary apartment. Poseidon wrinkled his nose at the sight - it was even filthier than he remembered. "Here's the suitcase," Poseidon said, handling the object to Percy, "go ahead and gather together all your stuff. And be careful, there's garbage all over the floor."
"There always was," Percy said, shuffling his way to his old room, one hand on the wall.
Poseidon let him be, turning instead to survey his disgusting surroundings. Now where could he find a pen and some paper to leave Ugliano a note? As he halfheartedly searched the apartment, he noticed a few photographs propped up along a shoddy mantle. Curious, he leaned closer to inspect them and found himself looking at Sally Jackson.
She was just as lovely as he remembered, but there was a tightness around her eyes and mouth that he never saw. She was in a hospital bed, smiling lovingly down at the little bundle in her arms, a wisp of black hair and bright green eyes peeking out. He was looking at Percy's first baby picture.
He scanned the shelf and found two more pictures. One was clearly the last school picture Sally received. Percy was only half smiling, looking slightly exasperate in a nice crisp blue shirt. Even though Poseidon knew it probably was taken just over a year ago, Percy looked so much younger in it. Before the accident, Poseidon thought sadly. The contrast between this boy and the one Poseidon knew seemed so much greater then one year...
The last picture was a bit older; Percy did not look any older then five or six in it. He was at the beach, his little bare feet in the surf, mouth open in what probably was a shriek of laughter. He looked absolutely ecstatic, childish wonder and delight at its best. Poseidon could not help but smile, even as his chest tightened.
He suddenly wondered what Percy looked like as a baby, not just the scrawny little newborn in the first picture, but as a growing infant, as a waddling toddler, as an inquisitive child... There must be more pictures, Poseidon hoped, turning around. He searched through the cupboards and drawers in the living room, growing frustrated as he shoved junk and garbage out of his way. He was about to go ask Percy if his mother kept any pictures from when he was younger when he found a well-worn album.
Clearing a section on the disgusting coach, Poseidon sat down and began riffling through the album. The first page or so was full of Sally. He felt a little bad as he skipped passed them, but his main concern was his son. He slowly flipped through the rest of the album, gazing with interest as Percy grew from an adorable little baby to the boy he knew today. He laughed at the silly pictures and smiled at the earnest ones, filled with a warm and yet hollow feeling.
He did not know how long he sat on the couch flipping through the album when Percy appeared. He opened his mouth to say something, but Percy kept walking the other bedroom. Curious, Poseidon peered into the room Percy disappeared into. It was clearly Ugliano's room, and Poseidon wrinkled his nose in disgust - did Sally sleep in this room?
Percy was sitting on the floor, his back to Poseidon, holding something on his lap. His shoulders were hunched and he was very still.
"Are you okay?" Poseidon asked.
Percy jerked slightly at his voice, but did not turn around. "Yeah," He croaked, his voice wavering and tight.
"Okay...I'm just going to run down to the front desk to leave a note for Ugliano alright? I'll be right back." Poseidon improvised, sensing Percy wanted to be left alone. He saw Percy give a jerky nod so he beat a hasty retreat. He made sure to close the door with a rather loud bang so his son would know he left and proceeded down the lobby. He took his sweet time, trying to buy Percy some extra alone time.
He leaned against the wall of the lobby and watched people pass by. He tapped his foot impatiently; he was not very good at waiting.
He went over to the front desk and asked, "Gabe Ugliano works here correct?" The man nodded. "Do you know when he'll be back?"
The man gave him a confused look, "He hasn't left today."
Poseidon frowned, "He hasn't? Then where is he?"
"He's probably visiting another apartment," the man said, picking up the lobby phone, "would you like me to reach him?"
"No, no," Poseidon said distracted, already moving towards the stairs. Ugliano would not have headed back to the apartment would he? Poseidon hurried back to the apartment, not wanting Percy to be alone if the pungent man did come back.
He was a few feet away from the door when he heard it - the loud clash of glass shattering.
"Percy?" Poseidon called, throwing the door open and rushing inside. Percy stood in the back of the kitchen, his arms held over his face and head, the ground around him covered in shards of glass. Their suitcase was overturned in front of him and its contents spewed about the room. Ugliano himself stood at the head of the mess, his arm outstretched in the finish of a throw.
"Percy," Poseidon repeated, his heart in his throat as he leaned over his son, checking anxiously for injury.
"I'm okay, it didn't hit me," Percy said, and his voice shook ever so slightly as he lowered his arms, "he missed me."
"Shh, stay still," Poseidon fretted, gently reaching out to pull a piece of glass from Percy's hair. He quickly scanned the rest of the boy. Little glass shards were sprinkled in his hair and lightly dusted on the front of his shirt. There was a small cut on his forehead. "It doesn't look bad, but don't move okay?" Percy nodded, a sharp short jerk of the head that sent glass tumbling from his hair.
"You're the father right?" Came a gruff voice from behind and Poseidon started - he had forgotten about Ugliano but now he turned around to face the man, a cold anger boiling under his skin. Ugliano continued, oblivious to Poseidon's growing fury, "What do you think your doing stealing my things?"
"Your - " Poseidon repeated, too angry and disbelieving to form a sentence, "your things? Those, those teenager sweatshirts and games and pictures are yours? I - you threw a bottle at my son." Poseidon advanced slowly towards the despicable man, breathing heavily. Ugliano wisely took a step back.
"You. Threw. A bottle. At. My. Son."
"Now see here -"
He never got to finish his sentence. Poseidon punched him square in the face, taking great satisfaction in the crunch and spurt of blood that followed. Ugliano stumbled backwards and blinked stupidly up at the fuming father.
"You son of - "
"Dad - "
Poseidon glanced over his shoulder at his uncertain, glass covered son who was standing anxiously by the wall before glaring murderously down at the pathetic being on the floor. He took a few deep calming breaths and spat, "Get out."
"What?! This is my apartment - "
Poseidon hauled Ugliano to his feet and shoved him forcefully towards the door, "Out! Get out if you value your life. I don't want you to ever come near my son ever again, do you hear me? I don't want you to talk to him, to look at him; I don't want you to even think about him got it? And you better thank God that you missed him," Poseidon left the threat hanging. Ugliano stood uncertain, clutching at his bleeding nose, staring wide-eyed at Poseidon. When he made no move to leave, Poseidon advanced threateningly and he backpedaled quickly, spewing out curses.
"Don't know who you think you are, can't do this - " Ugliano managed to sputter out before Poseidon slammed the door in his face. He stood there, breathing heavily as he listened to Ugliano's steps fade. When they faded away, he slowly walked back over to Percy; bending down to pick up the contents of Percy's suitcase and piled them back in. He paused, then grabbed the photo album from where he left it. He had no doubt that Sally would have wanted him to have it. He carefully tucked that away in the suitcase.
"Dad," Percy repeated hesitantly. Poseidon was at his side the next instant.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he muttered, brushing glass from Percy's hair. The little cut on his forehead was bleeding, a mini trail of red trickling down his temple.
"Why are you sorry?" Percy asked, confused.
"For leaving you alone," Poseidon said, picking at the glass stuck to Percy's shirt. "We'll have to cut this off. I'll find some scissors." Percy said nothing as Poseidon cut off his shirt and sat still as his father continued to pick glass out of his hair. "I think I got it all, but we'll wash your hair when we get home."
"Okay...thanks." Percy said. Poseidon hesitated before pulling the quiet boy into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"I'm okay, Dad."
"That bruise," Poseidon recalled, "from earlier this summer...where did you get that bruise Percy?"
"He never really hit me," Percy avoided, "He just liked to push me around, and it was harder to avoid him or protect myself without my sight."
"I should've hit him harder," Poseidon grumbled, tucking Percy's head under his chin. "You're never going to see him okay? I'll make sure of it."
"I believe you," Percy said, and it sounded like he did. "I trust you." Poseidon smiled and started to laugh. He buried his face into his son's hair and laughed and laughed and laughed. He was worried, angry, and disgusted - but he was also so very relieved...and happy. He was happy. He ruffled Percy's hair and let the boy go.
"Come on, let's go home."
A/n I know this chapter's a little shorter, but yay a quicker update! I can't believe we broke 200 reviews thank you all so much! Your support means so much :) Two more chapters to go now, a brithday and an ending. I hope you enjoyed ~ *