Gabe was used to having his picture taken. He was used to people lining up to see him, and going "ooh" and "ahhh" and "wow, who made that?" And what could he say? He looked amazing. All he had to do was sit there and play poker. Well, really that was all Gabe could do.
He still didn't know what Sally and her punk son did to him. All he knew was that he had a bad hand and Sally barged in and asked his buddies to leave. Gabe could've slapped her. He usually did when she acted up like that, but as he slammed down his cards and looked at her, he saw the ugliest thing ever and he was suddenly too terrified to move.
It had a head full of little snakes, disgusting mottled and disfigured features, crooked tusks, and horrible misshapen eyes. Gabe's best shot at describing the thing couldn't do it justice. It was simply too ugly to portray. Even to this day he shuddered at the image. Or at least, he would've if he could move.
Crazy, messed up Jacksons. Gabe should've known that they - especially the kid, would've been trouble from the beginning. But hey, Sally was the sweetest and prettiest thing in a skirt, and an excellent cook to boot. The embodiment of the poker player's definition of perfect, how could Gabe refuse?
Well, except for her bastard son, she was perfect. Gabe hated the kid from when he first laid eyes on him. Yes, he was adorable and sweet at the time, but he just knew that Percy was going to grow up to be a troublemaker and not even the lovable kind. He was probably going to join a gang when he got big enough - if he got big enough. The punk was a peanut.
Gabe put up with the kid because he found that if he hurt the kid's feelings, then Sally's feeling got hurt too. Crying women were a pain. They were loud, pathetic, and their faces would get all scrunched up and they looked bad. And if the timing was wrong, Gabe's food was in danger of getting soggy with her tears, so he stopped picking on the punk. While she was around.
Sally was gone a lot, juggling weird jobs at even stranger hours, trying to support the Jackson-Ugliano household. Gabe once suggested that money wouldn't be so tight if they didn't have a growing kid to feed. She didn't say one unkind word to him, but her glare was enough of warning to Gabe that if he ever implied giving her son up again, she'd do something unspeakably bad. For her that would probably be making microwave dinners for Gabe for the rest of the year. That didn't sound bad. Cheap meals and beer was what he survived on before he married Sally, and he turned out fine. But after being spoiled with homemade meals, well, Gabe could keep his opinions on what to do with Percy to himself.
But that didn't mean he liked the kid any better. In fact, Percy had seriously started to get on his nerves even more when he reached the frustrating age of eight. The punk was starting to get sarcastic and rebellious, calling him "Smelly Gabe" and asking why he didn't get his own beer; the fridge was just a couple of feet away.
The gambler slammed his hands on the coffee table, making the kid jump. "Punk," he growled, "I think it's about time you learned some manners." And that was the first time Gabe hit him. Beat him really.
The next morning, Sally screamed in horror at her baby's bruises and rushed over to pull him into her lap, even though he deemed himself too old for shows of affection. She brushed his messy hair out of his face and tears welled up in her own eyes like she was the one that was hurt. Women. "Oh, Percy, what happened?"
Gabe glared at the punk, giving him a warning look. Then he pounded his fist into his hand twice. The kid got the message and swallowed. He looked up into his mother's scared and loving eyes and said, "Nothing, mommy, I was just trying to do a flip like I saw the acrobats do on TV."
She frowned at him, detecting that he was hiding something. Nevertheless, Sally kissed his forehead and told him to be more careful and that some things seen on TV weren't safe to try. Ever.
Later, Gabe wondered why she didn't confront him about it. It was obvious that she didn't believe Percy for a second, the little punk. But Sally wasn't stupid like Gabe wished she was sometimes. Sally should've been able to put the pieces together, but she didn't. She acted like something else had hurt her son. Gabe took it as a green light to continue "disciplining" his stepson.
At first, he didn't hurt Percy just for the heck of it, even though he wanted to. Gabe waited for him to slip up and do something wrong, like forget to clean up after him and his friends after a guys' night, or when he didn't clean up the blood from his last beating and Sally almost saw it.
But then, Gabe started hitting the punk if he lost his poker game and, therefore, his temper. Percy became his own little punching bag. He could never take it too far for fear of accidentally killing the kid and being put in jail, or worse, hurting him really badly and having to take him to the hospital. The stupid doctor's bills were way too expensive.
But one day, Sally came home early. She didn't see Gabe actually hurt Percy. But the sight of her almost eleven year-old son lying unconscious on the kitchen floor and Gabe sitting on the couch, like always, with bleeding knuckles was enough for her realize instantly what had really been happening while she was at work.
It wasn't the Greek monsters she should've been worrying about. It was the vile monster of a mortal she and her son were living with. In her effort to protect him from sharing the fate of the last child of the Big Three, she forced him to condone with the beatings of a drunk, disgusting man.
Sally almost threw him out. Almost. She knew it was selfish. And she hated herself for it, but she couldn't force her baby into the life of a hero at such a young age. Sally couldn't give up her last and most treasured gift from Poseidon just yet.
So the love of the sea god steeled herself and looked Gabe in the eye. "Hit me."
The beer addict raised his greasy eyebrows. His puny mind tried to understand what Sally was implying. "Hit me. But not my son. Not Percy, never him. You can do whatever you like to me, but leave him alone."
No, Sally couldn't give up her baby, even though she knew she'd have to in a couple more years. But keeping Percy meant keeping Gabe and keeping Gabe meant that either one of the Jacksons was going to get hurt. Better it be me than Percy, thought Sally. Percy will have to endure enough pain when he faces the life of a demigod. I'll give him time to be a kid, time to just be a boy, even if it means letting Gabe breaking every bone in my body.
And so, the poker player moved on from the son to mother, who he would continue to hurt until, one day she'd break up his poker party and place the head of Medusa before Gabe's tiny, pig-like eyes. He'd be petrified, bean dip forever stuck to his chin from whenever he'd miss his mouth, a permanent scowl, and eternally clutching a losing hand. And Sally Jackson would sell him to the freaking Soho gallery where he would spend the remainder of his everlasting life being stared at.
To say he was furious with the Jacksons was a horrible understatement. When I get out of this, I'm going to kill that little punk and his little-
"Whoa, that was Percy's first stepdad?"
Gabe's brain shut down, and all he could think was: What?
Percy isn't as uncommon of a name most people believe it is. He had heard the punk's name called many times. But it was the words surrounding the kid's name the got the poker player. He went through the words again in his head slowly.
Gabe looked for the owner of the voice. His eyes zeroed in on a teenager with dark curly hair, arched eyebrows, and a mischievous smile eating Skittles out of a family sized bag. He looked like he was with a group of kids, but Gabe couldn't tell which school they were from. He briefly wondered if they were those kinds of people who came to museums for fun, but quickly nixed that idea. If they were those people, they didn't look like it.
Other than the Latino Santa's elf, there was pretty tall kid with bright blue eyes and blond hair, and for some, reason Gabe felt like smashing his perfect face in. The blond superman had his arm around a short but really pretty girl brunette with choppy locks and eyes that never stayed the same color. On the other side of the blond was a girl who looked like she could be his little sister. She had the same eyes and nose, but that was where the resemblance ended. While the male Barbie kid was tan and light haired, she was pale and had short, punk styled hair. She looked like the scariest thing on two legs.
Gabe quickly decided that he was wrong to make that assumption when he saw the next kid. He was bonier and more raggedy than the other kids, but he was obviously someone you did not want to mess with. He was wearing all black even though it was summer and most kids tried to work brighter, happier colors. His eyes and hair were black and had a slightly crazed edge to them. Something about his slouch posture told Gabe that he wasn't looking depressed or scary because he thought it was cool, but because there simply wasn't a lot for him to be happy about.
If Gabe could've, he would've run away from the kid, but he obviously couldn't so he did the next best thing which was looking away. The redhead standing next to Mr. Gloomy looked like the complete opposite of him. She seemed as energetic as the first kid, and for some reason she reminded Gabe of his art teacher in kindergarten. The girl was wearing paint splattered pants and a worn out HARVARD ART DEPT. T-shirt. The poker player figured that she was the sole reason these kids came here on a Saturday.
The next two teenagers were another couple but an odd one. For starters, the boy was huge. He might've looked intimidating, but he still had a baby face that Gabe found stupid. The girl was tiny compared to her boyfriend and probably a few years younger which was strange 'cause for most teenagers, a three year age difference was huge. She was pretty though, she had cocoa skin and golden eyes that made Gabe look twice.
If Gabe saw them on the streets, he'd probably tell them to beat it, but unfortunately, cement sculptures couldn't speak so he had to bare with eight teenagers with nothing better to do on a weekend other than staring at him. They were an odd bunch, it was no wonder the punk probably knew these kids.
"Yep," the redhead said. "There's Smelly Gabe in all his card sharking glory."
Smelly Gabe...there was no doubt about it anymore. The punk knew these kids. Gabe's temper flared and he wondered if it was possible for him to explode in rock form.
"When I first met Sally," the redhead continued, "I thought that she was the most amazing sculptor ever. I pestered her about making another statue for a while until Percy told me about the whole Medusa thing."
"I still can't believe she and Percy had to put up with this creep."
Gabe would've snarled at the girl if he could. But alas, he was still frozen so he settled with mentally strangling her.
"Sally loved Percy, Thalia," said the goth boy. "He wouldn't have survived long without Gabe's scent."
What's with everyone and my odor? he thought irritably.
"Percy almost didn't survive with him," the girl - Thalia snapped. "You've seen his scars, too, Nico."
The chubby Chinese kid blinked at her. "Wait, what?"
The redhead pursed her lips and shared a look with Thalia and Nico. "You've seen Percy fight, Frank. He rarely gets that badly hurt."
...Percy Jackson fighting?
The blond superman looked horrified. "You mean that" - he nodded towards Gabe - "used to hurt Percy when he was just a kid?"
"That's sick!" cried the golden eyes one, fanning her face like she was about to faint from the thought of the punk being abused as a child. Gabe wondered just how much his soon-to-be-dead stepson was paying these people to like him.
The really pretty girl glowered at Gabe which he found adorable. "Why didn't he say anything to us about it?"
Thalia sighed and tugged at her Green Day T-shirt. "Don't feel left out, Piper. He never said anything about it period. Nico and I noticed the scars one day when us three were hanging out on the beach." She frowned at the redhead. "How come you knew?"
The redhead was scrutinizing a painting on the wall to the left of Gabe. "Katarina Davis' pool party."
"Who's that?" the Latino elf asked.
"Oh, one of the popular girls with a rich daddy from Goode High. And before you ask, Leo, she's not single."
Leo frowned with mock hurt and tossed a skittle into his mouth. "Rachel, since when were you a killjoy?"
"And hypocrite," the pretty girl teased.
The art fanatic raised a playful eyebrow. "Look who's talking."
Gabe studied the girls again. They definitely didn't seem rich. Rachel looked like she pulled her clothes from a donation box and Piper - whatever kind of name that was for a kid, looked she was wearing hand-me-downs.
"Yes," drawled Leo, "we get it, you two, your daddies are both loaded. Now please continue."
"Right," said Rachel, "well, anyways, Percy and I were invited to it, and you know, we went, ate food, hung out. It was actually really fun until they asked him to get in the water. At first, he just told them he didn't feel like swimming, and that was fine. But the more he refused, but the more they started pressuring him to get in. They tried baiting him by asking if he couldn't swim," - Thalia and the blond snorted at that -"the cheerleaders tried to flirt with him, saying they'd love to see him shirtless, and it turned into some huge game of trying to get Percy into the water."
The youngest girl frowned. "That's so mean."
"I don't get it," added her boyfriend. "Why didn't he just get in? He loves swimming."
"Yeah," agreed Rachel. "But that's in the ocean, or at camp where it's normal to have scars all over your body. Not a high school birthday party.
"Anyways, a couple of the jocks got a little annoyed with Percy. They thought he was making a huge deal over it for the attention, so they grabbed him and threw him into the water while his back was turned. It wouldn't have been a big deal, he could've laughed it off and the party would've continued, but he was wearing a pretty thin, white T-shirt at the time so it became pretty much see through. And he couldn't just magically dry himself like usual because, you know, mortals. So he had to climb out of the pool and just let everyone at Goode see his scars.
"I grabbed him, called my chauffeur, and brought him home after that, of course. But no one in Goode has ever really looked at him the same since. No one's mean about it...well, maybe a few who've been calling him a cutter, but everyone just kind of skirts around him like he has some sort of disease."
Thalia's and Nico's eyes flash. "I'd like to see the jerks who did that to him," she growled.
The sumo wrestler wannabe stared at her. "I thought you were a Hunter, so you know..."
Thalia rolled her eyes. "Oh, Kelp Head's all Annabeth's, Frank. He, Nico, and Jason are like my little brothers that I never really wanted."
Nico scowled and the male model of a boy muttered, "Gee, thanks." But it was obvious that both boys weren't offended by their pseudo sister's words.
"You know, he never really did tell us about his childhood," said Frank.
Jason stared up Gabe. "Well," he said, his voice taking on a hard edge. "Now we know why."
"I always figured he had a perfect life," said the golden eyed one. She held out her hand for Leo to pour candy into. "He just seemed like that type of guy; leader, hero, all that good stuff."
Piper leaned into her boyfriend's shoulder and played with her pheasant feathers. "I think that's what we all thought, Hazel."
For a while, Jason, Nico, and Thalia glowered at the Percy's former stepfather, wishing it were possible to hurt stone. Leo eyed Gabe like he was thinking of stealing him and blowing him up, and the Latino elf popped a few skittles in his mouth. Frank and Hazel watched the sculpture like it was going to move to attack them any time now, little did they know that Gabe truly, deeply wanted to. Piper just stared at the statue, wondering how someone could be so cruel to hurt their friend when he was just a boy. And Rachel admired the way Sally managed to petrify her late husband and abuser in his really, really bad angle.
Gabe simply ignored the angry teenagers' looks, and mulled over what he heard. Rachel had mentioned something about magic and Medusa earlier, and that Hazel chick had called the punk a leader and hero. That made the poker player want to laugh. The thought of that puny, weak, insignificant little kid becoming-
"Hey, what are you guys looking at?"
Gabe mind stopped. He knew that voice. Oh god, how he hated that voice. It was much deeper now, but Gabe could still remember how it sounded before puberty. He wanted to grit his teeth and block it out, but at the same time he was curious. He wondered what kind of nut job the punk's become hang out with these freaks.
Gabe looked. He didn't see the lanky, short boy he was expecting. No, he saw a strong, tall boy with broad shoulders and chiseled, tan features. His jet black hair was still untamable, but now it fell in messy waves rather than the troll hair it used to be. Then his eyes, instead of the terrified, cow eyes Gabe remembered, he met intense sea green eyes that made him feel like he was drowning. And there was a gorgeous blonde on his arm to boot.
"Nothing," Rachel said breezily. "Just admiring your mom's artwork Percy."
His eyes shot up to stare at Gabe, and for once, the gambler was okay with the fact that he couldn't talk because he doesn't know what he'd say. He didn't even know what to think.
Percy's friends watched him look at his stepdad. Six long years had passed since the boy last saw Smelly Gabe, and they studied his face, trying to gouge out any sign of emotion. To their disappointment, they couldn't. The son of Poseidon's face was completely unreadable.
"Anything you want to say, Percy?" asked Jason, hesitantly trying to get his friend to talk. He knew he shouldn't pry, but still, after they'd saved the world together, Jason figured it gave him some sort of free pass.
"I don't think there's anything to say, Jason," said the blonde, Percy's hand still on her waist. And Gabe thinks that with her stormy grey eyes, she's just as scary as Thalia and Nico if not worse. She looked up to what Gabe figured was her boyfriend. Ha, Percy Jackson having a girlfriend, if Gabe wasn't looking at the punk now, he never would've believed it. "Is there?" she asked him, her eyes taking on a softer glint to them as she looked at him.
Percy's vibrant eyes met Gabe's stone ones, and even though he's just a hunk of cement now, he gets the message. You beat me when I was just a boy. I bled and hurt and hated myself for being weak. For letting you get your way. When I was a kid, I feared you with every fiber in my being, and I let you towered over me, bigger, stronger.
Now look at where we are. I've killed monsters that would give any grown mortals and demigods nightmares. I've fought the Titan Lord Kronos himself. I've fought the giants and Gaea, I've walked through Tartarus and lived to tell the tale.
I am Percy Jackson. I am the son of Poseidon. I am the hero of Olympus. And you, Gabe Ugliano, are just a statue.
He smiled casually at his friends. "Nah, not really."
And the son of Poseidon walked out of the Soho gallery flanked by people who loved him. And as the lights in the gallery flickered off, Gabe silently relived his life from the moment he first hit Percy Jackson.
He wishes to this day that he'd just gotten his own stupid beer.
I think that this'll be a three-shot of all of Percy's dads, if you guys want that. Tell me what you think. Reviews are always appreciated, even if it's just a smiley face.