Perseus Jackson, son of Poseidon, Savior of Olympus, Bane of the Titan Lord, Head Counselor of Cabin Three, was dying. He was dying. His head throbbed, a steady thrumming that echoed nauseatingly around his skull. Coughs racked his body, causing his aching chest to seize and convulse with every rattling exhale. His skin burned, a terrible fire that blazed all over his body, hotter than the forges of Hephaestus'. Breathing was difficult, loud wet coughs disturbing his desperate bid for air.
"I'm dying," he gravely informed Annabeth Chase over their Iris Message.
"You've got a cold," Annabeth said, totally unsympathetic to her boyfriend's miserable plight. She did not even look up from the architecture design she was working on to make sure he stilled breathed.
"'M dying," Percy protested, his throat scratchy and protesting its unnecessary usage. He coughed, a miserable pathetic sound that rattled in his chest.
"It's a cold," Annabeth corrected, unconcerned.
The Iris message shimmered as Annabeth reached over to drag some papers towards her. While Percy was in his apartment, wallowing away from this terrible deadly disease that gripped him, she was safe and comfortable up on Mount Olympus, redesigning buildings and archways. She made a mark on one of her designs. He sneezed, a terrible, loud wet sound and the thin tissue in his hand disintegrated under its powerful blow. He wrinkled his sore nose in disgust and cast the disgraced paper aside.
"Make sure to drink lots of fluids," Annabeth instructed him. "And have hot soup for lunch. It'll help your throat. Cough drops wouldn't go amiss."
"'M dyin'," Percy petulantly repeated, sinking lower into his blanket as he resolved not to pout.
Both his mom and new step dad, Paul, went off to work this morning. Not that Percy tried to stop them, aside from some light moaning and groaning. He was a big boy, he could take care of himself. Still, it would be nice if somebody cared. No, no that was not right. It would be nice if somebody fretted over him. That was better. Somebody like the beautiful blonde in the shimmering message before him.
Annabeth sighed and looked up at his sad and pitiful form. He gave a weak cough.
"I'm almost finished with Artemis' new temple," Annabeth said slowly, tucking a wayward strand of curly blonde hair behind her ear, "When I'm done with that I'll stop by okay? I'll bring ice cream and some cheesy movie, as long as you promise not to cough all over me. I will not have you getting me sick."
He had the best girlfriend in the world, Percy decided fondly.
"Blue ice cream?"
Annabeth groaned, but she was smiling as well as she waved her pencil at him.
"Yes, blue ice cream. Now I have work to do. Enjoy your moaning and groaning."
"Dying!" Percy called after her as she waved her hand through the message, disconnecting them.
Percy snuggled deeper into his bed, feeling significantly more cheerful after his chat with Annabeth. At least he had something to look forward to now. He sneezed loud enough to wake the dead and nuzzled back into his pillow, swallowing back the disgusting bile that rose in his throat. Between some coughing and sneezing, Percy dozed on and off for about an hour before the coughs woke him up for good. His throat was raw and aching and each cough sounded more pathetic then the last.
At this rate, I won't have a voice by noon, Percy thought crossly as he struggled to get out of bed. His body shook from the cold so he wrapped his comforter around him, tucking it firmly around his trembling frame and he waddled from his room. Getting to the kitchen turned out to be a tough trial. It was hard not to trip over the edge of his blanket and often had to stop, doubling over from the coughs that racked his body. Snot ran down his face, congealing against his already sweaty and gross face.
Disgusting, he whined to himself as he scrubbed at his face with a wet washcloth when he finally made it into the kitchen. When he finished cleaning up, he squinted up at the cabinet. He would have to extract his arm from its comfortable and warm oasis inside his blanket to get a cup. With a great sigh, he braved the cold air to reach for the cup. Trembling, he filled the cup as quickly as he could before tucking his arm back in his blanket. The water was cold and soothing on his raw throat. Percy sort of hoped the water's healing ability would cure his cold, but alas he still sniffled and coughed. But his throat did feel slightly better.
Clutching the glass of water against his chest, Percy made his way over to the couch, his blanket trailing behind him like the world's most pathetic cape. As he trudged into the living room, he paused at the television, leaned over to squint at the miserably small collection of DVDs they owned. He pursed his lips and coughed a little, his eyes darted around the room as he thought. His mom and Paul were both at work and would not be back until later in the evening, and Annabeth definitely would not be done with her project until well after that. He had the apartment completely to his (albeit miserable) self.
Rationalizing that he was feverous and not completely in control of his emotions, and secure in the knowledge that nobody would waltz in on him, Percy slipped Disney's Hercules in the DVD player. It would be his guilty little secret. No one had to know.
As the movie started Percy curled up on the couch, swaddling himself up in the oversized blanket he dragged from his bed. With his knees to his chest and the blanket tucked around his head he bet he looked rather like an over large demigod burrito. Percy closed his eyes and fell into a light sleep, only occasionally disturbed by an over-exuberant cough or sneeze.
Percy startled awake some time later when he found himself being unceremoniously plucked up from his warm and comfortable bundle on the couch. He started to make a sound – he liked to think it would have been something like an impressive Greek curse but probably would have been more along the lines of a high pitched scream – but found his throat was too raw to make any noise. The best he could muster was a weak half straggled noise that was the epitome of embarrassing. Seriously. He was never going to live that down.
All of this filtered through Percy's head in a matter of seconds (thank you ADHD and years of demigod instinct) and he lashed out at his attacker even as he made said pathetic sound.
"Peace my son," his captor said, and Percy paused in his struggle as he recognized the deep voice.
Come to think of it, he recognized the smell as well, the clean and crisp scent of a midsummer ocean's breeze: Poseidon. Percy took a moment to bemoan the pitiful conditions his father found him in (curled up on the couch, covered in snot and whimpering as, oh gods, Hercules still played in the background). Poseidon did not give him time to reply, shifting Percy so he held the demigod against his oddly warm chest (did gods have body heat? Was that a heartbeat Percy heard or his own mortification pounding in his ears?).
"I will not let him take you from me," Poseidon, lord of the sea, declared fiercely.
Percy had no idea what that meant, but he barely had time for his feverous brain to process what the hades was even happening and suddenly he was not in his apartment anymore. They were not even on land anymore. Percy could feel the cool of the ocean pressing around his heated skin, and while it actually felt quite nice and soothing, this left him even more confused.
"Da – " Percy coughed, the word burning in his throat and causing his entire body to shake as he coughed uncontrollably. Speaking shouldn't be so painful, Percy lamented to himself.
Poseidon's arms tightened around him. Percy managed to calm his coughing fit with just a few tears leaking out of his eyes. As he hastened to blink them away, he realized that they were inside Poseidon's undersea castle, Atlantis itself. While the castle had been decimated after the Second Titan War, Poseidon and his people seemed to have made good headway on the repairs. Grand stone columns towered above his head, not unlike the ones that stood proud on Mount Olympus, but they had a special oceanic flare that Percy distractedly admired.
"Save your strength," Poseidon told him gently, much to Percy's ever growing surprise.
He laid Percy down on a bed of some sorts, and Percy fought a groan (which would undoubtedly just burn his throat even more should he give it life) as he realized his father had carried him through the halls of Atlantis. Poseidon, one of the Big Three and the all-powerful ruler under the sea, carried the hero of Olympus like a child.
"Wh - ?" Percy tried again, only to be hushed by his father once more.
He called out something in an ancient language Percy had never heard before and a strange creature floated into the room. Percy could not help but stare at it in surprise. He looked rather like Poseidon did in his aquatic form. He had the dual tail of Poseidon's merfolk, both an almost sickly green that shimmered as light reflected off them, but his skin was blue. Like his actual skin was the color blue. Percy blinked at him, then at his father, not entirely convinced this was not a feverish dream of his.
The blue merman bowed deeply to Poseidon, so low his nose almost touched his tails, before straightening up and swimming right up to Percy. He placed cold hands on either side of Percy's face and the demigod automatically tried to pull away.
"Peace, son, he is a doctor," Poseidon explained, hovering over the blue man's shoulder with a barely concealed worried expression. Percy's brow furrowed in confusion as the merman poked and prodded at him.
"He's very sick," the blue doctor addressed Poseidon over his shoulder as he released Percy's face.
Wait what? No, no no –
"It's just a cold," Percy said. Or at least, that is what he wanted to say. Instead, through a rather painful cough, all that managed to actually come out of his mouth was – "cold."
Poseidon turned to him in concern, waving his trident through the water. Immediately, Percy felt the water surrounding him grow warmer. Percy groaned, regretting the sound as it aggravated his throat. No, not that kind of cold. The blue doctor and Poseidon continued to talk while Percy gathered himself.
"'M fine," Percy managed to rasp out.
Poseidon frowned, but reached out to lay a solemn hand on Percy's shoulder. "It's alright my son," he said, his eyes crinkling as he looked at Percy in what the demigod could only label as fondness (which warmed him quite a deal and almost made this entire strange ordeal worth it), "You do not have to be brave. I know of your strength and your courage, and I do not doubt them for a moment. Let me take care of you; my brother shall not take you."
Percy grinned rather foolishly at that – his dad thought he was brave and strong – but it turned into a frown as he considered the latter part of his statement. What did he mean, he would not let his brother take Percy? Before Percy could question him further, his father gave his shoulder a warm squeeze and straightened, beckoning the blue doctor to follow him out of the room.
"I shall send Tyson," Poseidon promised solemnly, "and I shall be back."
With that he swam away, leaving Percy to stare after him in utmost confusion. He had no idea what just happened.
Percy took this time to admire his room. The area was quite spacious and open. A large window spanned the wall to his left, giving him a grand view of what he assumed would be the courtyard when it was completed. Already there were coral of all kinds lining the way not unlike flower beds on land, in a kaleidoscope of colors and forms. In the center of the space stood a giant stone statue, not yet completed, but from the rough edge of the face Percy assumed it would one day be a perfect stone copy of Poseidon. His attention turned back to his room. The bed he laid on was sinfully comfortable, and the sheets flowed over his hand like the water around them.
All in all, Percy rather liked the room. Now if only he could actually enjoy it instead of, you know, coughing up a lung. He doubled over, a terrible wet cough rattling in his chest, as a distressed voice cried:
Percy could not quite quell the coughs fast enough to return the greeting and he watched through watery eyes as Tyson practically threw himself beside Percy, his eye large and fearful. He seemed almost afraid to touch Percy.
"Brother!" He cried, just as fearfully as before and tears actually welled up in his great eye. Percy watched him in alarm, reaching out to lay a reassuring hand on the cyclops' arm.
"M'okay," he managed to gasp out. Tyson actually did burst into tears at his raspy voice. Percy suddenly found himself with an armful of Tyson as his brother tried to bury himself in Percy's aching chest. Terrible sobs shook his giant frame as Percy wrapped his arms around Tyson, his mind in a panic. What was wrong? Was he hurt? Was somebody else hurt? Had something happened at camp while he was away? Had someone hurt Tyson? Because if they did then Percy was going to murder them, oh why wouldn't his voice work?
A series of harsh but wordless sounds escaped Percy's lips as he tried anxiously to figure out what was wrong. It made Tyson cling to him tighter.
"Don't worry," Tyson sobbed, "it's going to be okay. Dad will fix it. Dad will take care of you. Dad promised."
Okay, now Percy was really lost. Even Tyson was not making any sense. And that was two people now who told Percy he would be 'taken care of'. He was the Hero of Olympus, he had been on numerous quests and bested hundreds of monsters he did not need someone to take care of him, Percy could take care of himself!
Tyson's lower lip trembled as he pulled back enough to stare miserably at his brother.
"They say you're dying," Tyson hiccupped. Percy froze.
Dying? He was not dying. Honestly, had not the gods ever heard of a cold before? He was just a little sick, no matter what he told Annabeth earlier –
Percy thoughts stuttered there. What he told Annabeth earlier. Over an Iris Message. About himself 'dying'. Which the rainbow god undoubtedly heard and, for some terrible reason, felt the need to inform Poseidon. He could have slapped himself.
"N' dyin'," Percy gasped.
"We won't let you," Tyson told him, his face deathly serious and determined as he hugged his brother tight.
"Tyson," Poseidon's stern voice washed over the boys and Percy glanced up to see his father in the doorway. He looked at his hugging sons with a soft expression, but he schooled his face into one of sternness after a moment. "Release your brother. He is already struggling to breath."
Tyson released Percy, gasping in alarm.
"I'm sorry brother!" He cried in distress. Percy got the urge to slap himself again.
"S'k," He tried to assure his brother even as his throat protested.
"Hush," Poseidon told him, and to Percy's immense surprise a large callous hand came to rest on his forehead. Percy wondered if Poseidon was honestly checking his temperature or if it he was simply copying what he saw mortals do when a child was ill. Either way, it was kind of nice.
"You shouldn't speak," Poseidon continued, oddly gentle. "Keep your strength. You will get better."
This is a giant misunderstanding, Percy wanted to say, it's just a cold. All he managed was another cough however. Tyson looked at him in concern as Poseidon's hand fell from his forehead to rub soothing circles on his back.
"Rest," Poseidon urged, gently pushing Percy down on the bed. "It is alright. I am watching over you."
Unnecessary! Percy thought but his eyes had closed. He was pretty tired (Poseidon did wake him up from his impromptu nap earlier). Perhaps his throat would feel better when he woke and he could explain things properly. Besides, Percy thought hazily as a hand carded through his hair, it was rather nice having Poseidon fret over him. The ocean hummed around him, a soothing and comforting lullaby. Percy easily slipped into a deep restful sleep.
A hand was on his cheek. A large, rough hand that most certainly did not belong to his sweet dainty mother so Percy pulled away, snuggling deeper into his pillow. His head pounded something awful, his throat burned as though he swallowed living fire, and breathing was made near impossible by the sheer disgusting amount of phlegm that clogged his mouth and nose. Gods, he hated being sick.
Leave me to my misery Paul, Percy wanted to moan but his throat did not comply and he simply whined instead.
"I need you to wake Percy," a deep voice that did not belong to his step father called. Percy frowned. His brain worked lethargically, slowed by fever and the haze of slumber, until he remembered. When he did, his eyes flew open and he almost jerked upright, but a strong hand held him down.
"Relax," Poseidon soothed, running his fingers through Percy's sweaty hair. "You need to take your medicine."
So it was not a dream, Percy thought, blinking up at his father's face. Poseidon was really here, at Percy's sick and frankly disgusting side, his fingers still idly running through his hair as he held some black vile out to Percy. Percy stared at it.
"Drink it," Poseidon commanded, placing the vile in Percy's hand. Percy glanced at the thick black substance then back up at his father as if to say seriously? Poseidon's lips twitched.
"Unfortunately. But the idea is to get you healthy."
Just a cold, Percy thought, but he was selfishly glad he could not say it out loud. He did not want this to go away. He wanted Poseidon to fret and worry over him, to have his dad by his side. Yes, Percy Jackson, Savior of Olympus, wanted his dad. So sue him. He really did not think it was all that big of a deal to want some quality time with his father who he never knew existed until four years ago and could never really spend time with. He did not think it all that unreasonable.
Percy tilted the black substance back and almost gagged. He somehow managed to swallow the entire vile thing, if only to get it out of his mouth because dear gods that was horrible. Poseidon patted him sympathetically on the back.
"I have relieved Tyson of his duties for the day," Poseidon told him as Percy collected himself after that terrible experience. "So he can keep you company. I will check on you."
He continued to rub soothingly on Percy's back. Percy did not even think he realized he was doing it. Not that the demigod was going to complain however. He hummed, knowing his voice would not corporate even if he tried, to acknowledge he heard Poseidon. The lord of the sea nodded absently, but still did not leave. Percy waited for him to say something more, but none was forthcoming. His eyes were fixed reluctantly on the door, but he made no sign of leaving.
"'M 'k," Percy said suddenly. He was not sure what possessed him to say that. The corner of Poseidon's eyes crinkled however and his father smiled down at him.
"Always so brave," he muttered. His hand came up to clasp Percy's shoulder. He seemed unsure, which was so strange and foreign to see on a god's face that Percy did not know how to respond. Poseidon's fingers twitched as he slowly withdrew his hand.
Tyson appeared in the doorway, his eye wide and searching as he anxiously scanned Percy's face. Making sure he was still alive, Percy realized. He was carrying a large woven basket in his arms.
"Tyson," Poseidon cleared his throat as his large son stumbled to his side and took a seat next to Percy.
"Percy okay?" Tyson asked fearfully.
"He will be," Poseidon said firmly. Percy happened to cough at the exact moment, a terrible rasping sound that seemed to contradict Poseidon's statement. Tyson looked at him in alarm, reaching out for his brother. Percy waved him off.
"M'fin'," Percy sneezed, rubbing his nose and trying to hide his snot covered face from the lord of the sea.
Poseidon still hovered much to Percy's embarrassment.
"M'fin," Percy repeated from behind the safety of his hands.
"M'lord?" A strange voice timidly asked. A nereid hovered around the door, glancing in concern at Percy's red face and then Poseidon's stony one, his grave eyes trained on Percy.
"I am coming," Poseidon dismissed. The nereid bowed and disappeared, her small eyes still nervously watching Percy, as if she was afraid he was going to keel over any second.
"Call and I will come," Poseidon told him. "If you worsen."
Poseidon heaved a great sign, looking torn between exasperation and fondness. It was a familiar expression; Sally wore it a lot.
"I will get you if he gets worse," Tyson promised. Poseidon nodded, satisfied. He gave Percy's shoulder one last squeeze, ruffled Tyson's hair, and was gone.
"I brought breakfast!" Tyson told him excitedly. "To keep you strong."
He dumped the contents of his basket out on Percy's bed. Food tumbled out, but so did little bits of metal and toys and games and all sort of paraphernalia that was just so Tyson it brought a smile to Percy's face.
"Breakfast," Tyson repeated as he pulled a jar of peanut butter towards his brother, along with some seaweed, a pack of jelly beans, and some strange orange and purple fruit Percy had never seen before in his life. He glanced at the odd array then back at his brother's hopeful face.
He tried to say 'thanks but no thanks' or something along those lines but the mere act of speaking felt exhausting so Percy merely smiled at Tyson and tapped his arm gratefully. Tyson beamed, but worry still lurked in his eye.
"Eat," Tyson entreated.
With a sigh, Percy went for the safest option: the jellybeans. Not exactly the breakfast of heroes, but hey give him some slack. He was sick, thousands of miles away from home and did not want to disappoint Tyson's wide hopeful eye. He popped a blue jelly bean in his mouth and sucked on it, intent on savoring the tart flavor. Instead, his throat burned at the intrusion and he ended up spitting it right back out. Tyson's smile dropped and Percy immediately felt guilty. He forced a smile, but he started sneezing a moment later and that rather ruined any comfort he might have given.
He leaned against the bedframe, exhausted. Sneezing really should not have taken so much out of him, he was a demigod for gods' sake! He could face the entire titan army but could not even sit straight after a couple of sneezes? Pathetic.
Tyson, bless his heart, tried to keep Percy entertained. He showed Percy some of the things he had created down in the deep sea forges. Every token he put in Percy's palm amazed the half-blood. He could not believe the amazing and beautiful things his brother created. He grinned at all the right moments and traced their intricate patterns as Tyson babbled about how he made them and what they reminded him of.
"Like Amphitrite," Tyson explained as he showed Percy a bracelet he called the pearl of the sea.
At the mention of his step mother, Percy froze. He had completely forgotten about her. What did she think, having her husband's other child, the one by another woman, down here? Percy felt guilt worm into his heart as he turned the bracelet over. He did not mean to encroach on the goddess' home. He bet she did not feel too great about having him here. Percy did not blame her. He was an ugly reminder of her husband's infidelity. Which was another uncomfortable subject he did not want to get into.
"She's not here," Tyson said, as if reading Percy's mind. "The queen wanted to visit her daddy. Brother Triton went too."
Percy felt himself relax. Oh good. Because he really did not want to leave. He was very much happy and content where he was, despite his monstrous cold.
"She would like you," Tyson continued, taking the bracelet back from Percy's fingers. Percy wanted to snort. He doubted it.
"She would!" Tyson insisted, his brown eye earnestly boring into Percy's green ones. Percy waved him off, too sick and worn to have this discussion. Tyson thankfully let it drop.
Percy leaned against the wall and let Tyson continue to entertain him. He was in the middle of telling Percy about the other cyclops he worked with when a long coughing fit hit. Instead of passing in a manner of seconds or even a minute or two, Percy kept hacking. Which, by the way, was utterly disgusting and physically draining. He could hear the phlegm gargling in the back of his throat and it just did not want to come out, no matter how hard he coughed.
Tyson overreacted. He thumped Percy on the back, hard. Besides jarring his smaller and very much mortal brother, it did not really do anything. That's when he started calling out for Poseidon.
Not necessary! Percy wanted to say as his brother called for Poseidon, but of course he was too busy trying to breath to give voice to the objection. Poseidon was at his side before Tyson had even finished his call. His father's eyes were wide, the green eyes they shared stared down at him in alarm and uncertainty. Thankfully, that's when his coughing subsided. His brother and father watched uselessly as he took in great gasps of air (or water…whatever).
"'M'fin," Percy finally gargled.
"Doctor?" Tyson asked in concern, ignoring Percy's statement.
"Has that happened before?" Poseidon asked, reaching over to gently pat Percy on the back. The attention was nice, although it would have been nicer if he had done that when Percy was, you know, actually coughing.
"No." Tyson hesitantly replied, but his eye was fearfully fixed on Percy's face. He tried to smile. Tyson did not look convinced.
"Perhaps we should wait," Poseidon said.
Yes, doctor totally not needed, Percy thought. Obviously satisfied with his decision, Poseidon nodded to himself. And then sat down beside Percy. Percy stared at his father, not understanding. Poseidon gave him a thin smile and turned to Tyson, inquiring about the delicate metal work in his hand. Tyson gladly obliged him and started prattling on about his project, Percy's coughing bout forgotten. Percy waited for Poseidon to cut him off, or to stand up and leave, but the lord of the sea never did.
Instead, he caught Percy's eye and winked.
Satisfied, Poseidon turned back to Tyson's rambling and Percy leaned against the bed, fully content to watch two of his favorite people chat back and forth. He could not remember the last time he was so content. Poseidon sat so close to him he could feel the heat of the sea god against his arm, and every once in a while his father would reach out and pat him on the back as he coughed. Tyson sent him worried gazes but for the most part amiably chatted on.
As much as Percy enjoyed this moment, he was worried. He was pretty sure the Rules, with a capital R because they were that important, you know the Ancient Rules that supposedly governed the gods, forbid this kind of behavior. Poseidon did bring Percy right down into his domain, specifically took time out of his busy schedule to care for and tend to Percy. While it warmed Percy's heart and brought a stupid grin to his face, he was pretty sure it was still against the Rules. It was not as though Percy was ungrateful; indeed he was the farthest thing from. He loved it. He loved being down here in Atlantis, loved his father actually paying attention to and caring for Percy. It was like a childhood dream come true. But Bad Things (yes the capital letters were again necessary because Bad Things including dismemberment, death, war, the end of life as we know it, capital letter worthy atrocities) were bound to happen when you broke the Rules.
As if sensing the direction of his thoughts, Poseidon turned to him and gave him a small smile. Tyson paused mid-sentence to peer curiously at their father.
"Worry not," Poseidon rumbled soothingly. "Nico has roamed his father's halls for a year now. If Hades can keep him, I can keep you if I so wish."
Percy was pretty sure it did not work like that, but he settled back against the wall and let Tyson resume his chattering. He had faced terrible atrocities already in his short life, and undoubtedly would face more, so what could it hurt? If staying here with his father and brother brought the ire of the Fates down on him, well Percy was kind of okay with that.
He must have dozed off because what felt like a moment later he found himself being woken by a soft voice
Percy cracked an eye open. Poseidon glared disapprovingly at the nereid in the doorway. He reached out to mess with the blanket tucked around Percy. Idly, Percy thought he should be embarrassed by his father's mother-henning but he honestly could not be happier. Fuss away, he thought deliriously.
"I am sorry my lord," the unfortunate nereid stammered, bowing low, "but the council requires - "
Poseidon waved a hand in dismissal. "The council is adjourned until further notice. I have more important things to take care of."
Maybe he really was dying, Percy mused, because Poseidon could not possible think that he was more important than the sacred oceanic council. The nereid opened her mouth - to apologize or grovel or whatever - when Percy started to cough. Poseidon head swiveled around and his hands came to rest on Percy's back. Tyson jerked awake from his light doze.
Percy hacked and cough, mucus gargling sickeningly in his throat as he shook. It seemed to go on forever, and hardly any of the stuff came up. When he was through and his coughing settled, Percy leaned back against the wall, utterly exhausted. Poseidon and Tyson were staring at him with wide eyes. (Well, eye singular in Tyson's case.)
"This one lasted longer," Poseidon said gravely.
"M'fin," Percy slurred, but the syllables all ran together in a non-coherent jumble. He sniffled.
"Perhaps I should retrieve the doctor," Poseidon muttered, more to himself then his sons. Percy shook his head. He was fine. He just needed to sleep on it and it would all go away. Poseidon surveyed him with a critical eye.
"We'll see," his father said vaguely, "go back to sleep."
He put a hand over Percy's eyes, as if he thought the sudden lack of light would lull Percy back into Morpheus' arms. Which maybe it did, because Percy was asleep a moment later. Percy slept more or less through the night (although it was hard to tell if it really was night, Apollo's light didn't exactly reach the depth of the ocean). He woke up frequently, to cough or sneeze or toss about in misery. Poseidon was always there. His father silently watched over him, sitting calmly by his side, running his fingers through Percy's hair, or watching him with dark concerned eyes. The blue doctor was there once, his strange blue hand on Percy's forehead and asking his frowning father questions in that ancient tongue Percy did not understand. Percy could not stay awake for long. Darkness claimed him.
He drifted in a semi-stream of consciousness, idly aware of the commotion around him. Strong arms lifted him up as he sputtered, less from indignation and more due to the fact that he couldn't breathe, and propped him up against the wall. He felt strange, both present and distance. He was aware that he was leaning against the wall, the rough stone that built Poseidon's palace digging against his thin shirt, his head lobbing back against the wall. A blanket secured his legs tightly, warm and comforting even though a part of his brain whispered he should feel restricted.
"He didn't eat anything yesterday," a voice worried, loud and booming in Percy's skull.
"Nothing at all?" A deep voice answered, a now familiar calloused hand on Percy's head.
Poseidon and Tyson, Percy realized hazily. The voices belonged to Poseidon and Tyson and it should not have taken him so long to figure that out. Perhaps he was a little more sick than he thought. The voices faded out, or maybe Percy was the one who faded out.
His body shook. No wait, something shook his body. Percy scowled and batted them away; he was too sick for such nonsense. He cracked one eye open to glare at the offender, with the full power and might that only a child of the big three could. He was met with a chuckle. Which bruised his pride a little, to be honest.
"Your enemies would tremble before you," Poseidon soothed. Percy blinked hazily up at his father, his brain sluggishly coming to the conclusion that it was he who woke Percy up. His father's eyes were crinkled with amusement, but it quickly faded as he held something out to Percy.
In his hands was a bowl with some steaming liquid inside. How Poseidon got a liquid to stay in the bowl instead of diffusing into the ocean was beyond Percy, but he figured it probably had something to do with the fact that he was, you know, the god of the sea.
"Tyson has informed me you did not eat yesterday," Poseidon intoned, his face drawn in concern.
"No." Came Percy's weak reply. Poseidon held the soup out; Percy wrinkled up his nose at the smell. He was sure, under any other circumstances, it would smell good. But now it made his stomach turn. He coughed, weakly pushing the soup way.
"Percy," his father pressed, his brow furrowed in growing concern. "You need to eat."
Percy made a noise of protest, unable to form any coherent response. The thought of eating made him feel nauseous. No, he thought desperately as his father firmly held the soup out.
"Perseus." His father snapped. Percy shook his head, the movement making the world spin nauseatingly and for a moment he was afraid he might black out.
"Son, you are very ill." Poseidon's face was pale, his brow and eyes drawn. Percy did not like it. It was not the expression an all-powerful god should wear. "Your body needs nourishment to combat this Styx-damned disease. I know you do not want to, that your body rejects the notion of food. But you need it. Please."
He held the spoon to Percy's lips. Percy opened his mouth and reluctantly swallowed the spoonful. The smell turned his stomach, but he determinedly kept his mouth shut and forced it down. It was hard to swallow, the mucus that coated his throat did not want to let the soup by. He gagged a little and Poseidon rubbed his back encouragingly.
"It's okay," his father's low tone rumbled.
Was it? Percy wondered, his eyes watering. He started to cough, a thin rasping that progressed until his entire body shook with wet heaves. His wet coughs had progressed. He could hear liquid gargling in his lungs, flooding his throat as it tried to escape. Blocking his air passages, causing him to gasp desperately for breath between his tremendous coughs. A hand cupped the back of his head, preventing him from bashing his skull against the wall as he rocked, another patting on his back in an effort to get him to breath.
As the episode subsided, Percy wheezed in silence. Liquid cackled in his lungs, an ominous reminder. He greedily sucked in oxygen, feeling light headed and woozy. He was not getting enough air. He met his father's pale gaze. Whatever he saw on his son's face hardened Poseidon resolve.
"I will return, quickly," Poseidon swore, disappearing in an instant.
Percy foolishly wanted to call after him, get him to stay, but the lord of the sea was gone. Percy tried to focus on breathing, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. All he could hear was the gargling in his lungs. The coughing started again and panic fogged Percy's mind.
The liquid clogged his throat. It filled his lungs and his throat and his mouth and Percy could not breathe. He could not breathe. He gargled and choked, his body trembling as he tried desperately to get in air. His body failed him, unable to expel the liquid substance clogging his airway. He was drowning.
Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, was drowning.
Percy embarked on many quests in his life, met real life dragons and monsters of the lowest realms of Tartarus, fought with gods and immortals alike. He watched his city burn, saw brave demigods of the highest order fall. He faced the titan lord in singular battle. He asked Annabeth Chase to be his girlfriend. But he had never been more afraid then he was now. He was drowning, and he was terrified.
"Percy!" Poseidon's alarmed voice barely registered. Strong arms were around him again, blue arms and tan arms both jostling him as people shouted and someone cried.
Can't breathe. Drowning.
He was being lifted up, cradled in the protective safety of Poseidon's arms. Percy sputtered, just barely able to get little gasps of air as Poseidon's magic surrounded him. His father was moving. Suddenly, everything was bright but it hardly mattered because Percy still could not breathe, Percy was still drowning.
Warm hands on him.
Bright lights and flashing colors.
Then he was gasping, his throat opening up and gladly taking in fresh oxygen as he violently heaved.
"That's it," a shrill voice peppered his eardrums and Percy winced, but warms hands kept running up and down his back. "That's it, just breathe."
That sounded like a good idea. Percy breathed, his body trembling and convulsing as he took in great gasps of much needed oxygen. Coughs still burst forth from his chest, but with less frequency. The liquid settled back down in his lungs. Uncomfortable and foreboding, but no longer drowning him. The thought made his chest seize.
"No, no none of that! Just breathe, don't think little cousin, just breathe."
Percy sucked in another breath, finally daring to open his eyes. He squeezed them shut again when bright lights assaulted his brain. Breathe, in…out. He opened them again. It was better this time, less oppressive. He was in a healing room of some sort. But it was not a mortal hospital or the Apollo cabin at camp. No, this place was much grander. The walls were strung with gold, brilliantly gleaming in almost blinding sunlight. Percy blinked owlishly, turning his head sluggishly to peer at the person giving him a pep talk (one that fell upon deaf ears).
Apollo beamed down at him.
"Gave your dad a right scare you did Percy! I think you took a few millenniums off his life!"
"Wha - ?"
"Just breathe," Apollo recommended, patting his back in sympathy. "You have acute pneumonia. Which is like, really bad. Like, you should be hooked up in a hospital with so many tubes connected to you we can't find the person underneath, bad. Damn kid, you almost died."
"Drowning," Percy choked, trying not to let panic overcome him.
"Yeah," Apollo cleared his throat awkwardly, giving Percy an unreadable look. "Yeah kid you were. So Daddy brought you here! To me, because clearly I am the best. I saved your life, no need to thank me although I recommend it unless you want to be stuck speaking in rhyme for the rest of your life."
"Thanks," Percy quickly stammered through his coughs.
"Of course! Old Barnacle Beard probably would have cast me into Tartarus if I hadn't anyway," Apollo mused, his eye glazing over. It occurred to Percy that he might be seeing futures that may have been, futures where Percy did drown in his own body. It sent a shiver down his back and Apollo's eyes returned to him. He flashed Percy a blinding smile.
"Not to worry though, you're good as new."
"Scratch that, you're almost good as new. Give it a few days and then you'll be good as new," Apollo amended, rummaging around behind him before exclaiming, 'aha!' and dropping a golden medicine bottle in front of Percy.
"Not alcohol, sorry. Don't exactly recommend that in your condition. Nectar mixed with my very own, patent pending, mixture of pneumonia banishing medicine. Take a cap full of medicine every hour and by time this baby's gone, poof! You'll be right as rain, shiny as a new pearl, healthy as a horse, I'm running out of Poseidon-related idioms so take the bottle."
Apollo shook the bottle in front of his face and Percy took it in a slightly shaking hand. Under the medicine lord's watchful eye he poured a cap full of the golden liquid and swallowed it. He was immensely grateful that it tasted nothing like mortal medicine – in fact it had a rather fruity aftertaste. Warmth spread through his chest, radiating out through his limbs and he wiggled his fingers experimentally as the tingling even reached their tips.
"Don't forget, take a cap full every hour," Apollo repeated, standing up and brushing invisible dust from his pants.
"Apollo – Lord Apollo," he quickly corrected himself, "where exactly am I?"
"Mount Olympus of course," the sun god laughed, "what other infirmary is so grand? Do you like it? Your girlfriend helped design it you know."
Percy was pretty sure Annabeth designed all of it, but he bit his tongue. Now was probably not the best time to get into it with the sun god, especially since he did just save Percy's life.
"Thank you," Percy repeated, meaning it from the bottom of his heart. Monsters he could handle, but an illness was not exactly something he could take a sword to. He now knew why mortals feared drowning so much – it was utterly terrifying.
Apollo clasped him on the shoulder.
"Don't mention it. Can't let Olympus' favorite hero die now can I? Now sit tight, I'll go fetch Salt Breath. I had to kick him out of my infirmary for being such a nuisance. I don't think California can withstand any more of his ire, so I'll go get the nervous father."
With that declaration Apollo joyfully strode from the room, throwing open a door beautifully adorned with miniature heroes and battles.
"Congratulations!" Percy heard the sun god call, "It's a boy!"
Percy could not help but snicker at Apollo's antics, although the sharp laughter hurt his chest. He leaned against the bright bed, feeling exhausted. A light cough shook him, liquid gargling in the back of his throat, but he did not feel in danger. He peered through half open eyes at Apollo's infirmary. Annabeth had done a beautiful job, not that he expected anything less.
As he examined the intricate arches above his head, the door slammed open and Poseidon stormed in. He came right up to Percy's bed and faltered, his face closed off. His hand twitched, as if resisting the urge to reach out. Staring up at him, the memories of the last few days (days? day? how long had it been exactly?) came back to him: Poseidon carried him, sat by his side, spoon fed him, and felt Percy's fear when he almost drown.
Percy hoped his face was not as red as it felt. It probably was.
"Apollo tells me in a few days you will be better," Poseidon finally said, breaking the awkward silence and blessedly not mentioning Percy's burning face.
Percy nodded, holding out the bottle of medicine the sun god gave him for his father to see. Poseidon nodded absently.
"Good. That is…good."
"Uh – " Percy started to say, at the same time his father spoke:
"He - "
They both paused, blinking at each other. Poseidon recovered first.
"Apollo insists there is not real reason you remain here, as long as you take that." Poseidon nodded towards the bottle.
"Oh," Percy said. He refused to acknowledge the well of disappointment in his gut, but forced himself to nod. "Okay."
"You would be more comfortable in the ocean," Poseidon continued. That brought a grin to Percy's face and he peered up at his father, trying to keep his face neutral.
"Yeah, I think I would recover faster," Percy agreed in a forced light tone. Poseidon's lips twitched, his eye crinkling as he examined his son.
"Quite," he agreed. "Come along then. Zeus shall return shortly and I do not wish to delay."
Percy unsteadily got to his feet, grateful that at least this time he could walk on his own. Poseidon placed a hand on the small of his back and lead him from the infirmary, and back into the ocean.
Percy stayed with Poseidon for three more days. He improved tremendously and by the end of the first, he was up and moving around (strongly discouraged by his father and brother, who swam along beside him as if he were a teetering toddler in danger of falling and hurting himself). On the last day, Percy cheerfully accompanied Tyson to the forge and later even happily remained at his father's side as he showed Percy the logistics of ruling the sea.
But near a week had passed, Amphitrite was due home soon, and Percy missed a lot of school. It was time to go.
"Percy come back soon?" Tyson asked hesitantly as he bid his brother goodbye. He hugged his pneumonia-free brother tightly and Percy patting his large shoulders.
"I don't know big guy," Percy consoled him, with a shrug of his shoulders as Tyson finally released him.
"Had fun," Tyson declared, beaming down at Percy. His smile faltered for a moment, "Except when you were sick. Not fun. Scary."
"A little," Percy was not afraid to admit. At least, not to Tyson. "Take care Tyson okay?"
Tyson nodded solemnly. Behind him, Poseidon walk towards his sons. Tyson caught Percy's gaze and peered over his shoulder, grinning and waving at their father.
"Tyson," Poseidon greeted. "The forge master calls for you."
Tyson nodded eagerly. He hugged Percy one more time and raced off, like a ridiculously large child. Percy did not even try to withhold his grin. It faded as he turned to meet his father's gaze. Poseidon leveled him with an unreadable expression. Percy tried not to fidget.
The last few days had been great (if you did not count the being sick and almost dying part – but Percy was so use to the latter it barely fazed him anymore). He got to spend time with his father. He got to see how much his father cared. Poseidon had been worried. Poseidon had been attentive. Poseidon had been…well Poseidon had been a dad. And Percy would not trade those precious few days for anything in the world.
"Soon," Poseidon ambiguously declared.
"You'll be back soon," Poseidon clarified, placing a warm hand on Percy's shoulder. "Your presence here was most – "
He paused, searching for a right word. Percy waited, none to patiently but determined not to fidget with his father's hand on his shoulder.
"Wanted." Poseidon finally decided. "Your presence was most wanted."
Percy's heart soared. He could not think of a better word then 'wanted'.
"Are you sure that's a good - ?"
"Yes," Poseidon cut him off. "My wife and Triton will come around. You are my son. I will not shrink from that."
A silent anymore hung after his words.
"Your mother waits for you," Poseidon said, "so this is goodbye for now. I shall let you recover your strength before I retrieve you once again."
"Retrieve me? And bring me here?"
"Yes Perseus," Poseidon said, with an air of patience not unlike one speaking to a child.
"Just checking," Percy defended. Poseidon's eyes crinkled. He raised his trident and the ocean around Percy swirled.
"Oh and Dad?" Percy called, even as Poseidon's magic wrapped around him and transported him away, "Thanks."
He did not hear Poseidon reply but warmth seeped into his bones and he saw his father smile. Percy blinked and then he was standing in the middle of his apartment.
There was a blur of blonde and orange before Percy was tackled, arms winding tightly around him as a familiar head buried in his chest.
Percy barely managed to keep upright, stumbling back a few steps as he returned Annabeth's exuberant hug.
"Why don't you always greet me like this?" He mused, letting his arms fall around his particularly affectionate girlfriend. Annabeth pulled back enough to punch his shoulder. Hard.
"Ow," he complained, "what was that for?"
"You had pneumonia." Annabeth scolded, hands on her hips. Her stormy gray eyes narrowed, flickering over his body. Her hands reached out and she cupped the back of his head, squinting at his face before pressing her ear against his chest.
"I thought you said it was cold," Percy protested.
"Breathe," his girlfriend instructed, ignoring him. He did as he was commanded.
"You sound fine. No crackling or gargling," Annabeth declared, pulling back.
"Not anymore," Percy grumbled. He still had nightmares about being unable to breathe, drowning inside his own body as his father was unable to help him. He shivered. Annabeth noticed. Her eyes narrowed a fraction of an inch but she let it slide. For now. He knew he would get interrogated later.
"Only you would think you were dying when you had a cold and then insist you were fine when you had acute pneumonia."
"I think everybody just overreacted."
"Seaweed Brain," she sighed, raising her eyes skyward like what am I going to do with him? Nobody answered; the gods did not know what to do with him either. She hugged him again, her hands idly tracing patterns on his back.
"I'm glad you're okay."
"Yeah, me too." Percy muttered, deeply breathing in the scent of paper and lemon and ink and everything that was Annabeth.
"Don't ever scare me like that again." Annabeth scolded into his shirt, her fingers tightening around him. "Or I'll kill you myself."
"I came to your apartment after I left Olympus and Sally thought you were with me. Do you have any idea how worried I was? You were sick, what if someone had attacked or kidnapped you?"
Percy was about to protest, just because he was sick didn't mean he was invalid. Sick or not he was the Hero of Olympus. Then he remembered that Poseidon, one of the most powerful gods in the world, walked right into his apartment and literally picked Percy up without him noticing. Okay, so maybe she had a point.
"I called Grover and camp, but they hadn't heard from you. I was about ready to call Thalia to help hunt you down when Mr. D said Poseidon took you. Then he wouldn't tell me anymore!" Annabeth's face screwed up in fury, her nose wrinkling rather cutely (not that Percy would ever tell her that) as she indignantly continued, "So I had to storm back to camp and try to get him to explain. You know what he told me? He said 'Old Barnacle Beard is afraid he's dying. Probably isn't, Zeus knows how dramatic he is'! Can you believe that? It's a good thing Chiron was there, or I might have…." Annabeth trailed off darkly and he sympathetically patted her on the back.
"Ah, yeah, Iris kind of told him I was dying," Percy said awkwardly, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck as he gave Annabeth his best puppy dog eyes, "Because of what I told you."
"Seaweed Brain," she growled.
"How was I supposed to know?" Percy objected, hugging Annabeth tight so she could not pull away and hit him again. "I'm sorry I worried you."
"I had to hear from Will that you had pneumonia," Annabeth grumbled.
"I'm sorry," Percy repeated but she was not trying to pull away and assault him again so he thought he was forgiven. "I really didn't mean to scare you."
Whatever Annabeth may have said in response was interrupted by the loud growling of Percy's stomach.
"I haven't eaten real food in almost a week." Percy complained. Poseidon kept a very strict eye on what he ate, which usually ended up being some sort of seaweed soup because mortal food was not the nereids' specialty. "Hey, did you end up getting that blue ice cream? I could really go for some blue ice cream. Like an entire gallon."
"Seaweed Brain," she scoffed, but she was grinning. She pressed a light kiss to his lips. "You still haven't told me the whole story."
"Later," Percy promised, grinning. "It was…"
He paused and Annabeth tilted her head to the side, a curtain of blonde curls falling over her eyes as she waited for him to finish.
"I was wanted."
His father's words echoed in his head as Percy pulled a slightly confused daughter of Athena into the kitchen with him. But that was okay. He would explain later. For now, he was content with his father's favor and the blue ice cream that waited in the freezer.