Hi! So this is my first story. I thought it was a good idea, so let me know what you think. I'm thinking about adding on to this and making it into a two-shot. Please read and review!

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this story!

Paul sat at the kitchen table, pretending to read a newspaper. He was really watching his wife, Sally, as she did the dishes. Normally, dish washing was a team effort, she'd wash, he'd dry and put away. However, lately, she'd insisted on doing them alone. At first, he'd resisted, but finally surrendered to his wife's wishes.

Paul knew why. As he sat there, watching his wife work, his suspicions were confirmed. As Sally was rinsing off a plate, she stared at the water. She placed the dish down and absentmindedly ran her hand under the water. Paul knew she was thinking about Percy. The water reminded her of him, which made sense, being as Percy was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Water meant the sea, and the sea meant Percy, their lost hero. He hated seeing Sally this way, but she'd gotten more distant each day since she'd heard the news. Paul still couldn't believe it.

About a month ago, Chiron had Iris Messaged Sally and him, explaining that Percy and Annabeth had fallen into Tartarus, the deepest, worst part of the Underworld. Sally had completely lost it, and Paul wasn't far behind. Slowly, things were becoming easier, but the pain was still there, right under the surface, threatening to overtake them at any time. Some days were worse than others, but things were never the same. That day, he and Sally were forced to go from optimistic to praying for the miraculous.

Honestly, Paul tried not to think about it, because when he did, the tears came with the hopelessness of the situation. Paul was still pretty new to the whole idea of gods, demigods, and monsters, but from what he'd learned from teaching Ancient History at Goode, Tartarus was no place you'd want to be. Chiron had explained the situation in detail, and the pain in his voice had resonated deep inside the both of them.

Paul was jolted back to reality by a persistent knocking on the door of their apartment. He glanced at Sally questioningly, but her face told him that she wasn't expecting anyone either. He made his way to the door, preparing to get rid of whatever salesman it was this time, but who he found on the other side of the door was no salesman. Paul almost didn't believe his eyes.

He was a teenager, but a shell of one. His clothes looked clean enough, jeans and a T-shirt, but the exposed skin told a different story. Covering his arms, neck and face were scratches, scars, and bruises. His dark hair was disheveled and needing to be cut, but parts of it were uneven, as if it had been torn out. His face was that of someone who hadn't eaten in a while, and it matched his too skinny frame. His eyes were the same shocking, sea green with their usual glint, but underneath, they told of such fear and torment that Paul instantly wondered what the poor kid must have experienced in that horrid place, and he didn't like it one bit. Under those eyes were dark bags, which made Paul wonder if he'd slept at all in weeks. Some would say that Percy looked absolutely terrible. To Paul, he'd never looked better.

"Percy," Paul whispered, mostly to himself.

Paul stood in the doorway, stunned, and the look on his face must have been pretty funny, because Percy, even in his current state, gave a small smile, before stumbling forward and enveloping Paul in a huge hug. They stood there, in the doorway, hugging, for a few minutes. Percy was home, and, gods, it felt good!

When they pulled away, Percy looked at him, tears threatening to spill over.

"Good gods, what happened to you?" Paul asked.

Percy paused, and for a second, Paul wondered if he shouldn't have asked, then Percy shook his head and said, in a very unPercy-like way, "So many things, but please don't make me explain…" He trailed off and his eyes seemed to glaze over. He got a faraway look in his eyes, and for a second, Paul honestly questioned his sanity. Then, Percy closed his eyes tightly and shook his head, as if to shake the awful memories from it. He looked back at Paul and asked, "Is mom…"

Paul nodded, chastising himself for not getting her sooner. "Sally!" he called, "Come in here!"

A moment later, Sally appeared in the entrance to the kitchen. "Wha-" she began, cutting off when she saw her son standing there. Immediately the tears welled up in her eyes.

"Hi, mom," Percy said softly, as he made his way, limping, but trying to hide it, over to her. Sally closed the distance quickly, hugging Percy so tightly, Paul worried his step-son's broken form would shatter.

"Percy… oh, Percy," Sally crooned, crying openly now. Paul watched the reunion with tears in his eyes, and a smile on his face. He glanced toward the door and noticed Annabeth standing in the corner, watching with a smile. She looked about as healthy as Percy, and she was on crutches with, what looked like, a broken ankle. Paul felt a little guilty for not noticing her sooner, as he made his way over to her and pulled her in for a hug. She felt so small and breakable, so unhealthy compared to when he'd last seen her, which was the day before she and the other members of the quest had left for California. When he pulled away, he noticed that Annabeth was also covered head to toe in injuries, and had that same broken look in her eyes.

What on earth went on down there? Paul wondered as he looked back and forth between Annabeth and Percy, who was still hugging his mother.

When Sally finally let Percy go, she did a quick once-over of Percy, and Paul could tell from her face that she was wondering the same thing that he was. Her eyes welled up again as she looked back into her son's eyes.

"Mom, I know… but I'm okay, I promise," Percy assured her as he pulled her in for another hug, but Paul had looked into those eyes of his, that now seemed to harbor so much pain, and he wondered if that was really true. Sally looked over at Paul, and seemed to notice Annabeth for the first time. She immediately ran to greet her in a similar manner to the way she did Percy.

Percy looked to Paul and gave him a look that said: Can you believe it? I'm gone for nine months, and she still loves her more! In that moment, the dark undertone seemed to disappear from Percy's eyes, and Paul was momentarily reassured that underneath all those injuries and pain, Percy was still in there somewhere. Paul knew that it would just take a little while before he came out again.

After Sally was done fussing over Percy and Annabeth, she led (more like carefully dragged) them into the kitchen and insisted that they eat. Paul sat across from the two, and noticed how much the both of them had really changed. They sat next to each other, but closer than was usual for them. Both seemed on edge, as if ready for an attack at any moment. They seemed more serious and sullen, and there wasn't the usual joking or banter. Paul realized that before him, sat two teenagers who had literally been through hell and back. They'd been torn apart, both physically and emotionally. They'd each seen and been through more than probably anyone else on the planet. He saw how they tried to cover it up, but their eyes gave them away. No matter what they said, it was obvious that they weren't okay, and wouldn't be for a long, long time, if ever. It was obvious that, without the other, one would completely fall apart.

As Paul sat there, he realized that ahead of the two of them, laid a long road to recovery, and it wasn't a pretty one. Paul didn't know what the future held for either of them, but he did know one thing. Paul knew that no matter what happened, he would be there for the both of them, and he would do whatever he could to help. They would get better. They had to, not only for themselves, but for the other, for Sally, for their friends at Camp, and yes, even for himself.

Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it! :)

Please R&R