Close To Home
The next couple of months went tortuously slow. Percy kept me posted on his situations by sending me e-mails. We hadn't managed to talk on the web-cam again, our luck was clearly gone. He wrote me about a conversation he overheard between Grover and Mr. Brunner, 'something about me dying' the idiot wrote. He was lucky I knew what the conversation was probably about or I would have been down there in a heartbeat carrying my non-existent shotgun.
Percy really needed to watch what he wrote in the letters he sent me before he scared me to death by actually giving me a heart attack.I wrote to him to be careful and stressed the importance of keeping a low profile. I also warned him to stop sneaking around before someone caught him and sold his virginal ass into slavery or marriage with the pod people king. He kept telling me not to worry, but still thought nothing of writing 'death' and 'me' in the same sentence.
Like I said; fucking idiot.
With the end of the school year fast approaching I was starting to feel nervous. Everything I'd been waiting for was finally on my door step, two seconds away from either knocking on my door, or kicking it down. And on top of everything else that was going on in my life, Dag was starting to act weird, or weirder than usual, at least.
"So...Jackson...have you noticed anything...weird...going on lately? With you, I mean?" he added hastily when I gave him a confused frown.
"No... Can't say that I have..." I replied slowly, honestly confused about what he was trying to say.
"So, no changes with your, um, body, or anything. There's nothing happening that wasn't before...maybe things going on around you, people acting differently...?" he choked awkwardly.
"Are you talking about puberty?"
At his panicked wide-eyed look I knew he wasn't but decided to continue this line of questioning anyway - the look on his face was too fucking funny to stop.
"Riding the crimson wave, growing hair in strange places...? Or are you talking about B.O? Seriously dude, is that what you mean with 'things going on around you, people acting differently'? Are you trying to tell me I smell bad or something?" I gave him my best 'you wounded me for life' look, knowing it was good enough to fool most people effortlessly.
"W-what?" he stammered. "No, that's not what I meant! Not at all! You smell lovely, h-honest. A little salty, maybe, nothing like the smell of a beautiful green forest, but with the way you throw insane amounts of salt on everything but your beloved Fanta that's to be expected. You still smell nice though, really. And I'm not sure what exactly a crimson wave is, but I wish you a lot of luck riding it, it sounds fun, maybe we could do it together sometime - I've always wanted to try surfing," he rambled breathlessly.
I managed to keep in the snort that would undoubtedly be followed by a symphony of laughter, barely. I turned my back towards him and put my hands on the lower half of my face, trying to hide it from view while simultaneously trying to keep my laughter from bursting out.
"I just meant...strange things. Maybe you suddenly have the strange urge to take things that don't really belong to you? Or the desire to learn how to play a musical instrument, or a fondness for sunbathing, and maybe, um, cows or grapes? Or you could want to build things...?"
Oh. That was what his weird questions were about. He was trying to figure out who my father was. I should have known what he was trying to do the second he asked me if I could see dead people. I figured he'd been watching The Sixth Sense too many times again. I was so used to having Dag around and hanging out with him there were times where I almost forgot he was here for a reason. It was funny that he never asked anything Poseidon or Zeus related. I found it ironic that he suspected Hades of breaking the oath while he was in fact the only one of his brothers that hadn't. I also had no idea I smelled of salt and wondered how exactly salt smelled and me by extension. It wasn't a bad small, at least, if Dag was to be believed. And he miraculously hadn't connected my salty smell to my sea-ruling father but attributed it to my love of salty food.
I stayed silent while I tried to pull myself together but didn't turn back towards Dag until I was fairly certain I wouldn't outright laugh in his face. It took a while, turning the situation even more awkward, but in the end I managed.
"No. I don't take things that don't belong to me," at least not unless I have a damn good reason, "I don't particularity enjoy sunbathing," I don't mind the sun, but I don't like sitting still for the sole purpose of getting a tan, "I've always wanted to play a musical instrument, but I'm too lazy to actually make an effort to learn," who wouldn't want to be a fucking guitar hero?
"I've always admired people who can build things from scratch," I continued after taking a deep breath, "But know better than to try building something myself because I'd undoubtedly fail epically," It was true, I loved Hephaestus because he could build the most amazing things. He was all kinds of awesome and I would have chosen to be his kid if the dude upstairs would have given me a choice,"And I don't have an inappropriate love for cows-," thank you very much for that image by the way. "- Or grapes. Since I've seen my fair share of Internet porn so I'm very much aware of what those chicks do with grapes, and though I haven't seen anything with cows, I did notice what they do with horses, and let me just tell you; Dude, no. Just, no."
"Oh..." Dag said slowly. "That's, um, good, that's good. Because, you know, grapes taste good, and cows are fun, but no one should love them...inappropriately," he said choking on the word while his ears reddened, "Because that would be bad."
"Alright," I smiled brightly. "I'm glad we got that sorted. I'm gonna take a shower now, 'cause I'm not sure I believe you about the not smelling bad part," I gave him one last bright smile before I walked away as fast as I could without making it seem like I was running, which I so was. I didn't even make it to my room before I started laughing so bad I almost peed myself.
He didn't ask me any weird questions after that - obviously too embarrassed to even try, but he didn't stop acting weird. The closer we came to leaving school for the summer the more he seemed to worry.
"What are your plans for the summer?" he asked three days before I was set to leave for home.
"Um, not sure. Hang out with my big brother, I guess," I shrugged casually. "Maybe my mom will take us somewhere before the summer ends, but with Gabe being his usual stingy bastard self, I highly doubt it."
My mother would probably take us to Montauk if everything went the way it was meant to go, not that they ever did. I couldn't wait.
"Gabe...that's your dad, right."
"No. Hell no. I told you, Dag, my dad's gone, has been most of my life. Gabe's just the dude my mom married 'cause she had the misguided notion that Percy and I needed a positive male influence in our lives." not a complete lie. Hell, if you squinted just right I was almost being truthful.
I snorted disdainfully still hating the fact that I had to put up with Gabe being in our lives, and knowing I couldn't do anything about it because it was a necessary evil. "And look how well that turned out. He showed me exactly what a man shouldn't be like." I shrugged casually, "I guess he served his purpose in the end, even if it wasn't in the way my mom intended."
As it was, my dad was the only positive male influence I ever had in this life, and all I ever had with him was the first year of my life and a thirty minute conversation more than a decade after that.
"I'm sorry I brought it up," Dag said softly, sounding very remorseful.
"Nah, don't worry about it," I replied softly, "It's not like it's your fault or anything. It's just a sore subject for me. You understand, right?"
"Yeah, I get it," he replied, eyes far away, as if he was thinking of something else.
"Why'd you wanna know anyway? Planning on visiting me this summer?" I grinned widely, hoping to change the subject.
"Actually, I was thinking more like the other way around," he said taking out a small card out of his back-pocket and handing it to me.
Long Island, New York
Whoever ordered this cards was fucking evil. Seriously, the card was impossible to read without getting nauseous. Knowing that the person behind ordering them knew that the satyrs would be handing them out to dyslexic demigods only enforced my believe that they had to be a demon from the deepest parts of hell.
"Dude, I knew you were faking it with the whole 'I have a rare muscle disease' thing!" I exclaimed after swallowing back my nausea at having to read the card, and excitement at being handed an invitation to Camp Half-blood.
"What?" Dag yelped. "I'm not faking, Rhea, what gave you that idea?"
"Well how the hell do you manage to play soccer if you really do have a disease?" I asked making sure to look just confused enough to make it believable.
"I don't play soccer? Why would I want to ruin a perfectly good field of grass by running around on it like a maniac?" he asked offended.
"It says so here," I said pointing at the card he gave me. "Silas Dagwood, keeper. You're a goalie, right?"
"No I'm not!" he yelped in outrage, obviously still offended I thought he would do something so bad to a perfectly good patch of grass. Satyrs. Seriously, to them implying they did something 'bad' to nature was like saying 'yo mamma' to a mamma's boy.
"What the hell else would it mean?"
He sighed exasperatedly, "Look, Rhea, ignore what it says, okay?" he held up his hand to cut me off when I started protesting, "Just think about it, okay? I'd love to have you over this summer."
"Fine, fine, I'll let it go, and I'll think about visiting you too. I'll ask my mom and she'll probably say it's okay, but...can I bring my brother?"
Dag scratched the back of his neck, looking anything but comfortable, "Um, I actually thought it would be just us, you know. I mean I'm sure your brother is nice and all, but I just wanted to spend some time with you. Alone. You know, without your brother."
Well that answered that question. They didn't know Percy and I were related. If they'd known Dag wouldn't have any problems with Percy tagging along. Not that it really mattered, not any more. But still, it was good to know.
"Oh," I said making sure to sound disappointed. "I'm sorry, Dag, but I don't think I'll be able to come. Percy and I see each other so rarely as it is so I don't really want to spend any time away from him."
"Oh," Dag actually looked crestfallen and I couldn't help but feel bad for playing with him. Not enough to stop, but still enough to feel guilty, it was progress I guess.
"Maybe next time," I said, trying to give him back the evil card.
"No," he protested, "Keep it. Maybe you'll change your mind. And...if your ever in need of a place to stay because you're scared, or something...weird happened, you can come to that address. I'll be there to help you if you're in trouble..." he grinned widely before adding, "Or if you're ever in need of an alibi or just need someone to help you hide a body."
I decided not to give him a hard time by pointing out all the weird shit he said to me. It was almost physically painful but I managed to restrain myself. Somehow. It showed I was clearly growing as a person.
"Alright. Thanks, Dag. And I'll definitely come to you if I ever commit homicide," my lips curled up into a faint smile, "It's always nice to know I have options.".
Three days later we were on a bus to Manhattan talking about our plans for the summer, Dag's plans to save the trees, and my plans to hang out with my brother. There were no broken down buses, no freaky monsters out to kill me, and best of all, no fates trying to screw with me. On the one hand I was beyond relieved, but on the other, nothing weird happened to me because they were too busy messing with my brother. Fucking assholes.
Saying goodbye to Dag was harder than I though it would be. He was the first friend I'd ever made as Rhea Jackson, it didn't matter that he had hidden motives for gaining my friendship, he was still a good friend. It took some time convincing him to let me go home on my own - he insisted on taking me to my doorstep like a good prom date or something - but he listened eventually...after I threatened to thoroughly kick his ass if he didn't stop being weird. I gave him an awkward hug which he returned just as awkwardly, and took a cab home.
Coming home felt awesome. Just sitting in the back of the cab listening to Punjabi music blaring out of the speakers while we arrived at my street made me feel like building a sand castle at the beach. Yes, I truly was that excited about building sand castles at the beach, being Poseidon's kid made me feel good about the weirdest shit, seriously.
The second the cab stopped in front of my home the door to my apartment building opened with a big bang by an excited and breathless Percy. I was instantly pulled out of the cab and into Percy's arms the second I opened the door.
"Rhea, you're home!" Percy exclaimed happily, holding me tightly in his arms.
"Hey Percy," I sighed blissfully, happy to be back in the arms of my brother. "How long have you been home?"
"Not long, only a couple of hours." he slowly released me from his embrace and studied me carefully, his hands holding me by my shoulders. "You've changed."
I snorted disbelievingly, "No I haven't, besides, it hasn't been that long, we just saw each other when we spoke over the web-cam," I pointed out.
"Yeah," he grinned wryly, "But that's different. I was distracted then, and it wasn't like I had a good look or anything. You've definitely changed," he tilted his head looking puzzled before his expression turned to realization, "You've become even prettier than you were before," he finally said.
I couldn't suppress the blush that tinted my cheeks no matter how much I wanted to. I knew I was pretty, I looked like the kind of girl my previous incarnation often wished she could have looked like, but it wasn't as important to me as I once believed it was. Boys often complimented me and tried to ask me out on dates but I had never really though about it, or blushed, until Percy called me pretty in a way that made it seem like he was genuine and simply stating a fact of life.
"Are you blushing?" Percy asked incredulously.
"No! Shut up," I retorted trying to hide my blush.
Thankfully the cab driver chose that moment to interrupt. I had been so busy talking to Percy that I hadn't even noticed the cab driver had already taken my bags out of his trunk and was waiting for payment.
"Here you go, kid," he said, eyes glinting with amusement as he pointed to my suitcase and military style duffel bag.
"Thanks! Sorry about that, was kinda distracted by my brother. How much do I owe you?"
"Thirteen bucks, kid."
"Oh, hey, mom sent me down with cab money," Percy said while taking out a crumpled twenty out of his pocket and paying the driver. The driver returned the change, wished us a good night and drove off.
"Why isn't mom down here with you?"
Percy scowled, "Because stinky Gabe's being a dick."
I snorted, "So business as usual then?" I replied dryly, making him burst out in surprised laughter.
"I really did miss you," he grinned giving me another hug.
"Yeah, yeah, you say that now," I replied jokingly. "Give it a couple of days, and you'll start wishing you were an only child."
"Nah, I'll probably wish you were back at school, but I stopped wishing you were never born a while ago."
I grinned widely, "Progress. Maybe in a couple of years you'll be able to put up with me for at least a couple of weeks without wanting to kill me."
"Hey now, let's not go that far," he smirked.
"Ass," I retorted, playfully punching his arm.
"Let's get you home, mom can't wait to see you."
"Yeah," I sighed, feeling suddenly tired. "Let's go home."
"Honey!" my mom exclaimed happily when I walked through the front door of our apartment. She gave me a long tight hug. She pulled back a little to see my face and sighed tearfully while gently cupping my face with her hands. "You look so much like your father," she sighed wistfully.
I smiled at the compliment and returned to her warm embrace, holding her tight while burrowing my face in her shoulder. "Thanks, Mom," I whispered happily.
She smelled good, like a mom was supposed to smell, like chocolate, licorice, and all the other stuff she sold at the candy shop in Grand Central, but most of all being in her arms and smelling her familiar scent made me feel safe. It was a doubled edged sword because it made me miss my first mother so damn much.
I didn't really think a lot about my first life anymore. My initial suspicions of someone or something messing with my emotions to make the transfer to this world more bearable only grew as time went by and I let go of my old life almost effortlessly. Whenever I did think about my family the memories weren't accompanied by the crushing pain of loss like they should have been. The only times I felt any deep emotions was when I held my mother close and felt the loss of my first mother like a big gaping hole. Or when Percy did something so utterly stupid I couldn't help but be reminded of my little brother in my previous life, and the dumb shit he could get up to at times.
"Sally? Are you done with my bean-dip? Why is it taking forever?" Gabe yelled interrupting our happy reunion.
I opened my mouth to yell at the behemoth to make his own damn bean dip, but my mother clasped her hand over my mouth, hushing me before I could make a sound.
"Montauk," she said firmly, saying only one world but conveying a thousand meanings.
I instantly deflated. "But-," I protested weakly.
"Montauk," she said again, making me sigh and nod in resignation.
She gave me another bright heartwarming smile before disappearing into the kitchen to make bean-dip for the dipshit.
I turned to Percy with a furious scowl when I heard the dipshit say 'finally' like he'd been waiting for an eternity. He returned my scowl with one of his own, but took a deep breath before exhaling loudly.
"Montauk," my brother said through clenched teeth.
I grimaced but nodded in agreement. "Montauk."
The truth was that no matter how much we hated the behemoth we'd swallow a lot of his shit if it meant being able to go to Montauk with our mother.
"Are you sure he's gonna let us go?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"Well he wasn't at first," Percy admitted, still looking angry, "Hence the bean-dip."
I snorted with disgust. Fucking pig was easy to bribe if you waved the prospect of good food under his nose.
"So how was school? Did you happen to overhear another conversation about people wanting to kill you that you want to tell me about like you're just, you know, commenting on the bad weather?"
My eyes snapped to his face when he stayed suspiciously quiet. "You did?" I whisper yelled.
"No!" he denied vehemently.
I studied him closely to watch for any sign of deception. He had a strange look on his face, one I couldn't really identify, which worried me because I could usually read my brother like an open book.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, shook his head in denial, closed his mouth with a snap looking very thoughtful, and opened it again after taking a deep breath. "Rhea...with all the strange things we've seen over the years...do you believe in...monsters?" he asked hesitantly. He looked like he couldn't believe he was asking me something so stupid.
It was heartwarming really, to see how close Percy and I were. He would never have asked anyone else a question like that, not even if he'd seen proof, which he kind of did. He'd be too worried about their reaction to his normally insane question.
"Honestly?" I asked slightly cocking my head to the side, "Yeah, I kinda do, actually."
The relief on his face would've been funny under any other circumstances, now though it just made me want to hug him very tightly.
"Me too," he said quietly. "There are some strange things happening around me lately, scary things," he shook his head as if to clear it of all thoughts and sighed deeply. "I don't know, just keep an eye out and if anything weird happens just run."
I burst out in a startled laugh, "Yeah, sure, 'cause that's really gonna happen," I replied incredulously.
"Hell no. Hell. Fucking. No."
"Rhea, I need you to listen-,"
I took a deep calming breath hoping it would make the urge to show him exactly what I thought of that little suggestion by systematically kicking his ass go away. It didn't.
"No you listen, Percy. You're my brother and I love you, but you can be a real idiot sometimes. Do you really think I'd just run away if something bad happened to you? Let alone if you're attacked by some monster."
"Rhea, I don't want to see you hurt," he said, brushing his hand through his hair with an air of frustration.
I snorted at the ridiculousness of that statement, "And I don't wanna see you hurt," I fired back sharply.
"Rhea," Percy almost growled. "It's my job to protect you, you're my little sister-"
"Only by a couple of minutes, moron. Would you leave me if I was being chased by someone or something?"
"Of course not!" Percy snapped.
"Then why do you expect me to?"
"You're my little sister, Rhea," he repeated quietly, like it explained anything.
"And you're my big brother. I'll never leave you, especially not if you're in danger."
He needed to get this through his thick skull before we were sent on a quest because if he didn't, he'd probably try to leave me behind.
"If you ever try to do something dangerous, and decide to ditch me for my own safety, keep in mind that I'll follow you anyway and will probably get in more trouble on my own without you there to keep an eye on me. Honestly, Perce, you know me, it's in your best interest to keep me close."
I gave him a bright smile, "Besides, you need me to keep you from puling your usual moronic shit, you're not going anywhere without me."
I grabbed my military style duffel bag from the floor where I dropped it earlier to hug my mother, and hauled it over my shoulder leaving my suitcase for Percy to grab, and walked into the living-room.
"We're not done talking about this," Percy hissed as he lifted my suitcase and followed after me.
"Yeah, we kinda are," I replied airily.
I halted for a couple of seconds when I saw Gabe and his buddies playing cards laughing it up and - I crinkled my nose in disgust - gassing it up. I really, really, wanted to set his ass on fire. Hell, with the way he was passing gas all the time I wouldn't even need a fucking accelerant. Disgusting pig.
He must have felt my glare because he turned around to look at us.
Gabe and I had an understanding; he could be his usual pig self, but the second he touched my mother in any other way than with respect, I would cut off his dick and feed it to him before setting him on fire. He knew this because I explained it to him very nicely while holding a big butcher knife in my hand, incidentally the same knife I was going to use to cut off his genitals if he was ever out of line. Seeing as how I was eight years old when this incident occurred, he suspected I was a little - or possibly a lot - insane. I couldn't shake the thought that if mom was a little less proficient at making bean-dip, Gabe would've run for the hills a long time ago.
"Girl," he said almost politely.
I wanted to retort with my usual greeting of pig but I clenched my teeth and hissed out a venomous, "Gabe," instead.
Percy walked up beside me glaring at Gabe, "Come on, Rhea, let's take your stuff to our room."
"Yeah, let's go before I decide to call the CDC to report a biohazard," I sneered as I tried not to breathe in through my nose. I so did not want to inhale anything that came out of Gabe, especially not if it came out of his ass. I slowly continued walking to my room followed by a snickering Percy.
"I really hate that man," I sighed as soon as I walked into our room and smelled the air. Fucking Gabe, using our room as a study while Percy and I were at school. Don't even know what the fuck he's supposed to be studying, but whatever.
"You and me both," Percy sighed, as he set down my suitcase and collapsed face-down on his bed.
I put down my duffel bag and crawled besides him lying down on my back, looking up at the underside of the top bunk mattress. It was probably weird for a fourteen year old boy and girl to share a bedroom even if they were siblings, but it never was between me and Percy. I never felt awkward or in need of privacy, and I never even once wished that our apartment was bigger so that I could have a room to myself. I felt comfortable sharing with my brother, it came natural. Maybe it was because we were twins, I didn't know, but knew Percy felt the same.
"You okay?" I finally said breaking the comfortable silence.
"Yeah," he said sounding half asleep, voice muffled by his pillow, "I'm good."
"Good?" I repeated softly, "You'll be better than good when we get to Montauk. You'll be great. We'll be great. Everything will be great," I sighed softly. I truly did miss my father. I couldn't wait to stand in the ocean and feel his power again, feel him so close to me. I had a lot to tell him.
Percy lifted his head from his pillow and gave me a soft sleepy smile, "I really did miss you, Ray."
I gave him a bright happy smile, "Me too, Percy," my smile turned into a frown, "But don't call me Ray." In all honesty I didn't mind, he rarely called me Ray and it reminded me of when we were children and he couldn't pronounce my name correctly.
"Whatever you say, Ray," Percy's sleepy but muted voice sounded from where he had buried his face back into his pillow.
I couldn't help but smile at the cute picture my big brother made when he was half asleep and fighting to stay awake, and watched as his breathing slowed as he finally surrendered. I yawned feeling very tired myself and briefly thought about climbing up to my own bed but decided I was too comfortable to move. It didn't take me long to fall asleep next to my brother, feeling like I was finally close to home. The only thing missing was my father.
A/N: Thanks for your kind words.
ANSWER: Poseidon. I simply love him, he's awesome. I've always been fascinated by Hades from Greek mythology, but I don't really like him in the Percy Jackson series. He's okay I guess, but nowhere near my favorite character. Nico makes up for it though.
QUESTION: What do you look for in a good Percy Jackson fan fic?