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Definite AU story.

Jason is 22 in this, Percy 21. Paige is 26. Peter is 28. Harry and Ron are 17.

I didn't know where the Fox's really lived, so I chose Michigan, because I was watching Animal Precinct, or maybe it was Animal Cops. Either way, I was watching the show that's set in Detroit, where the ASPCA sends out cops to arrest people that hurt and abuse their animals.

This was supposed to be part of a series. There were 2-3 other stories all planned out.

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SEPTEMBER

.

He thought that maybe if he didn't get a rest soon he was going to go completely insane. The events of the last few years were finally starting to catch up with him, and he hated it.

"Weasley, since you do not want to take a leave of absence, but you seem to need one, I have come up with a proper solution. A representative from the Ministry needs to go to America and meet with the American delegates there. I think it should be you."

"I am to go to America?" Percy looked at his boss in surprise.

"Yes. I think you will be perfect for the job, which is why I already sent in the forms. You leave in three days. Here is your information packet," a folder was slid across the oak desk, "don't be late."

Percy clutched the folder to his chest and didn't know what to say. He just sort of bobbed his head a couple of times, then hurried out of the office. He needed to get somewhere private in case his nerves finally gave out and he had a panic attack.

Strangely, though, when he paused to contemplate what he was feeling, he wasn't anxious about going to a foreign country at all. In fact, he was rather excited.

Though very few people would ever believe it, he had always wanted to travel and have great adventures. He had just given up his dreams to live the life he thought he was supposed to have. But this was his chance to do what he had wanted since he was a child--see a part of the world he wouldn't regularly visit. It was actually pretty wonderful.

Leaning against the side of his desk, the folder still in his hand, he felt his lips twitch.

The smile started small, but it grew until it encompassed his whole face. He was going to finally do something fun in his life, and since it was a part of his job, there was no reason to feel guilty about it.

"America," he said aloud. "I am going to America."

Percy Weasley laughed. He hadn't laughed for real in so long that it almost hurt at first, but it was nice.

 ***

 "'Science is a wonder/ science is the greatest friend./ We all live in a world of splendor/ and hopefully the scientific breakthroughs will never end,'" he sang as he showered, then laughed. "Damn, maybe I can replace Raffi someday."

He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a large towel off the rack to wrap around himself.

"Jason! The lecture starts in twenty minutes. Move your ass!"

Jason shook his head at the force of the voice coming through the door. "I'm already out of the shower. I just have to brush my teeth and get dressed. Don't give yourself a heart attack."

He could almost hear Marcus' huff of indignation. It was pretty funny.

He hurried up and dried off, then wrapped the towel around his waist before walking out of the bathroom with a puff of steam. "I don't even know why we have to go to this, it's just so stupid. Dr. Vorkoff is such a huge idiot, brilliant at his job, but an idiot anyway."

"Yeah, but we've all got to make great sacrifices to get the big checks," Marcus called from the living room.

Walking down the hall, Jason could see his friend's feet from where he was reclining back in his chair. His socks were blazing white from the Great Bleach Disaster that had also turned his red shirt white, three pairs of jeans white, and his green shirt white. But at least the socks he'd thrown into the wash had stayed white, so it was a happy ending after all. And Jason had gotten a good laugh out of it.

Jason went into his room and pulled his black pants and black blazer from the closet. With a white shirt, red and black striped tie, and recently shined shoes, he was ready to go. He felt like a nerd, but he knew Vorkoff was impressed by well-dressed employees, thought that they reflected his own glory or something. And he had a sneaking suspicion that the guy had a bit of a crush on him, though it wasn't like he was going to do anything about it. Vorkoff was nice for something so evil as a boss, but there was no way Jason was taking his pants off near him.

Walking out into the living room, Jason looked Marcus over. "Are you really going dressed like that?" he asked.

Marcus smirked. "I'm fine. You're the one Vorkoff likes. I can get away with looking a little scruffy. You're my cover."

Jason shook his head. "You suck, man. I don't want to be some sex object, or your excuse to dress like a slob."

"You're only mad 'cause it's you and you have to dress up fancy all the time. If it was me... you'd be laughing your ass off."

"Nuh uh," Jason said, knowing it was true. Really, he didn't mind providing cover for Marcus. If it was Marcus Vorkoff was after, Jason would have used his best friend status to dress the way he wanted and get extra time off, and it wasn't like Marcus was slacking where it counted. Marcus was doing the work, he was just doing it in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. "Put on your blazer and let's go."

Marcus smiled at him, bringing his feet down and standing up. He reached down and pulled his shoes out from under the side table, slipping them on. Then he wandered over toward the hall closet. "I can't wait until this day is over. We've got some tweaking to do on our program still."

"I can't wait until we can send in the prospectus to Arengame Systems. It'd be nice to get some more money," Jason said.

"What's it with you and money lately?" Marcus asked, shrugging on his navy blue blazer. "We've got almost a quarter million dollars in the bank already, and we've paid up our rent and utilities for the next six months. What do you need to buy?"

Jason shrugged. "I don't know. I just figured we might puff up our bank account so we don't ever have to worry. Besides, I kind of want to take a really awesome vacation this summer and who knows what kind of souvenir crap we might want to buy while we're there, you know?"

"Whatever." Marcus grabbed his keys off the table by the door. "Let's go. We're already going to be a few minutes late. Do you think we should stop off for coffee on the way?"

"Oh yeah, I need me some caffeine!" Jason crowed, hurrying over.

"You're so lame," Marcus smirked

"So are you."

They laughed and Marcus bumped his hip against Jason's.

 ***

 "Mother, I am being sent to America," Percy said.

The hustle and bustle of the Weasley household came to a halt. The twins' annoying babble about their joke shop stopped. Ron stopped fighting with Ginny over the last bread roll. Bill and Charlie stopped talking about dragons and curse breakers. Arthur stopped fiddling with his strange muggle toy--a television remote control. The whole family looked at Percy like he had suddenly grown a new head.

"What are you talking about, Percy?" Molly asked.

Percy put down his fork and looked at his mother, focusing on her so he wouldn't have to look at his brothers. They were probably getting ready to mock him again, like they always did. "I have been chosen to go to America and meet with the American counterparts of the British Ministry of Magic. I will be gone for two months, and will be leaving in three days."

"Why didn't you tell us earlier, Perce? This is something kind of important."

Percy looked at Bill and shrugged slightly. "I was only told about it today. My boss called me into his office and told me that he had selected me to go."

"But you don't really want to, do you?" Ginny asked. "I mean, to go all the way to America by yourself. You wouldn't like something like that, would you?"

For a second, Percy wanted to yell at her. She didn't think he was adventurous enough to want to go to America. She thought that he should hide shivering in his office at the Ministry in fear of leaving England and seeing parts of the world where he had never been. He wanted to reach across the table, grab her by the shoulders, and shake her until her brain turned into a pile of goo in her head. But he didn't. Instead, he gave her a little smile and twitched two fingers through his hair quickly. "Don't worry about me, Ginny. I have a job to do and I won't back out of it. Going to America is just one of my duties."

She still looked worried, but nodded. She knew that he was incredibly focused on his job, even if the rest of the family--the twins--thought it was stupid. "You'll do a good job," she said, sounding just a little uncertain.

He quirked his lips at her, not letting even a tiny bit of the hurt he felt inside show. His whole family thought he was a coward and a braggart. Nobody seemed to have noticed that he'd grown up, that he'd actually developed personality. They still expected him to be Perfect Percy. It made him so angry sometimes.

"I will bring you all gifts back," he said.

"Well," Molly said briskly, "don't spend too much money. There's nothing we really need, and presents are nice, but there's no reason for you to empty out your wallet on us."

"Oh please, do empty your wallet," Fred said, propping an elbow on the table as he peered at Percy from around George. "You should buy us some expensive presents for all the times we had to put up with you as a brother." He sounded like he was joking, but Percy felt like he wasn't. There was a thread of truth in there.

Fred actually thought that Percy owed him something just because Fred had to put up with him as a brother. It almost hurt, would have if he wasn't so used to it.

Pressing his lips together to keep himself from saying anything, Percy reached for his glass of pumpkin juice. After a careful sip, he thought that maybe he had himself enough under control to speak.

"Anyway," he said, "I am going to be gone for two months. I wanted to let you know, Mother, so you would not have to worry."

"Well of course I'm going to worry," Molly said. "But I still hope you enjoy your trip and that you're safe. You will be sending us letters, won't you?"

"Yes, Mother," Percy said. "I promise to write you at least twice a week."

"Yeah, Percy's gonna write to Mum and make it like he never left," Ron whispered to George. "He's such a Mummy's boy."

George snorted. "So are you, Ronnikins." He reached over and mussed Ron's hair, making it stand up in spikes.

"Hey, not my hair! Your hands are filthy," Ron complained, grabbing up his napkin and wiping it over the top of his head.

"Such a baby," Fred said, shaking his head in mock-disappointment. "I don't know why we even bother with you, Ronny. You have all the potential, but none of the drive. You'll never make a proper Weasley."

"Shut up you!" Ron yelled, throwing a chunk of bread at him.

"Boys! Boys! Stop that right this instant!" Molly yelled.

"Why don't you just let them battle it out, Mum? Maybe if one of them finally wins, they'll stop fighting!" Ginny called.

Bill shook his head at her. "If one of them won, they'd be after you next, sprout."

She stuck her tongue out at him, then giggled. "How long are you staying for?" she asked.

"Just a few more days, then I have to get back to work. Same with Charlie, right?" He turned to Charlie, who had just stuffed a large chunk of pot roast in his mouth.

"Y'eh," Charlie said, bobbing his head. "I hav'ta be ba' by Fri'ay." He swallowed audibly, a large bulge going down his throat. "Maleficient is being a bit of a porker. There's worry that she might be suffering from Dragon Fungitus. Someone might have to crawl down her throat to check things over, and I'm hoping it's not going to be me, which is why I have to get back. If I don't attend the biweekly meeting, I'll automatically be volunteered for the 'honor.'"

"They do that to you too?" Bill said.

"Yeah, and there's..."

Percy sighed, tuning them all out. His moment was over, and now the rest of the family would get back to what they were doing. He wondered if they would even remember tomorrow that he was going to be leaving.

He picked up his fork and resumed eating, bowing his head enough that his hair fell across his eyes. He didn't want any of them to look at him. He didn't want them to see the way his eyes watered stupidly.

It wasn't like he cared anyway. He was going to America and they weren't.

 __________

 He stepped out of the fireplace in the British Ministry of Magic's embassy in Detroit. There was the sound of muggle automobiles coming through the walls, but it was muted to an almost pleasant background buzz.

"Percy Weasley?" a nasal voice asked.

Percy looked up. "Yes, that is me," he said.

The round-faced, squash-nosed man stepped forward, offering a hand. "Randall Weams, personal assistant to the ambassador, Franklin Muntz. How was your trip? Please come this way."

With the man pressing a hand against his shoulder, Percy allowed himself to be steered out of the room. He was still a little floo-shaky, but he didn't put up a fight, just carried his suitcase with his left hand and pretended that he was in perfect control.

They left the sparsely furnished room Percy had flooed into, and Percy was a little awed by the embassy. Tall ceilings, an large arched doorway that led into what looked like the lobby of an expensive hotel, oriental rugs on the polished wood floors, curl-footed tables and matching chairs, and a broad, red carpeted stairway directly opposite the ten foot tall double doors that led outside. The embassy had been built to impress the American wizarding world, and it certainly impressed Percy.

"I'll show you to your room and talk to you in the morning, since you've arrived so late," Weams said. "You have an appointment with the ambassador in three days. Until then, you have the time to yourself."

Percy nodded. "Very well."

Weams led Percy up the marble staircase and down a long hallway to a white door that looked like every other one in the hall. "The rooms in this hall are the guest quarters. This is your room." He opened the door and gestured inside. "Why don't you settle yourself and we'll see you tomorrow at breakfast. Someone will be along in the morning to show you the way to the dining room"

Percy entered the room and turned to say something, but the man had already left. He hadn't even bothered to show Percy anything about the room.

Percy sighed heavily and laid his suitcase on the desk and looked around. The room was about twice as large as his old room in the Burrow. The wallpaper had a pastel floral design and the carpet was a smooth cream. There was a double bed with a dark blue comforter, a desk next to the door, and a window that looked out on the nighttime city.

Percy wandered over to the window and looked out. It seemed that the embassy had been set up in the middle of the city. Percy could feel the charms surrounding it that kept muggles from feeling curious about the large brick building surrounded by the tall, imposing spiked metal fence.

He huffed a small laugh to himself, then pulled the curtains closed before turning away from the window. He needed to get some sleep if he wanted to make sure he was well rested for breakfast tomorrow. He didn't want to be late.

Crossing the room to the two doors that stood side-by-side and opened the first door. It was a closet, hangers hanging on the rack. He closed the closet and opened the other door.

His eyes went wide and he couldn't help the big smile that spread his lips. He had never had a bathroom all to himself before. At the Burrow he had shared with the rest of the family, and in his apartment building he shared with three other rooms. But here he had a bathroom all to himself, with a wonderfully white ceramic tub, pink tile on the walls, a linen cabinet full of fluffy white towels, a large peach colored shell-shaped basin of a sink sitting on a marble column, and a white ceramic toilet.

Walking into the bathroom, he felt like he had stepped into heaven. The wall in front of the sink was one large mirror, and the walls echoed with his footsteps. A bathroom of his own. He could live in here.

Meeting his own eyes in the mirror, he grinned like a maniac.

"I'm taking a bath before bed," he said, just to hear his own voice echoing off the tiles. It was nice to be alone, without his brothers to burst in and bother him and without his neighbors to complain that he was taking too long.

 ___________

 Dear Mother,

I have arrived safely at the embassy where I am to be staying during my visit.

I am supposed to meet Ambassador Franklin Muntz in two days, but until then I have the time to myself. I have decided to see some of Detroit tomorrow. I will tell you about what I see in my next letter.

Your Son,

Percy

 ___________

 Breakfast the next morning was an uncomfortable affair. The food was delicious, but no one said anything. The meal passed in complete silence.

Seated in the middle of the table, Percy couldn't help wishing his brothers were here, just for the noise they would make while they tried to annoy him. The silence was almost deafening, but the occasional slurp or swallow was kind of disquieting.

He wasn't the first to finish, but no one left until everyone was done. After sitting in the painful quiet, fiddling with his silverware, he was relieved when the last bite was taken and breakfast was over.

Some strange signal seemed to be given that he missed completely, because he was surprised when everyone rose from the table as one and wandered from the room. He was left sitting in his chair, blinking in confusion. He had no idea what was going on.

"Well, that was weird," he muttered to himself, pushing his chair back.

When he had come down to breakfast, he had thought that important things would be discussed over the meal. He hadn't expected the awkwardness of complete silence. He didn't like it. It actually made him miss his noisy family.

He made his way back to his room, having to count doors to find the right one.

With practiced efficiency, he slipped off his green half-robe and exchanged his pressed trousers and starch-collared white shirt for a more comfortable outfit of jeans, a light yellow oxford shirt, and a hunter green cashmere sweater.

He brushed a hand over the sleeve of his sweater, smiling a little. He liked the softness of it, and hadn't even minded the expense. Nice clothes brought him comfort whenever he had a bad day, let him pretend that everything was going to be all right and that maybe someday he would wake up and be someone else, someone that was actually happy with their life.

He pulled on a pair of green canvas sneakers and grabbed his muggle wallet off the desk. Before coming to America he had exchanged some wizard money for American dollars. He figured there'd be some things his family would appreciate from muggle America, and since wizard money was worth more than muggle money, he would be able to buy them more and better presents than otherwise.

Though when he paused to think about it, he had to wonder why he was even bothering to bring them back gifts. They never seemed to appreciate anything that he did for them. But he just kept trying. Like any of it really and truly mattered.

Sighing, he left the room, walking down the hallway toward the stairs. He wanted to see a bit of the city, get a real feel for it.

The wizards guarding the doors nodded to him as he went past, but they didn't say anything. It was actually rather creepy.

Fourteen steps down to the walkway that led to the gate. He took a deep breath before he passed through it, feeling strangely as though he had been let out of prison. For this moment, he wasn't standing in the wizarding world anymore, but in the muggle one.

He walked down the sidewalk, letting it lead him where it would. If he got lost, he could always apparate back to the embassy, but it wasn't like he really cared. Right this minute, all he could do was breathe in the clear, slightly cold air and walk where his feet wanted to go. The sky was covered in light-grey clouds, not quite a shade for rain. The weather was actually pretty nice for September, not yet too cold to walk through.

.

After twenty minutes of wandering through Detroit, he was pleased to find himself in a shopping district. There weren't too many people out on a weekday morning, so he pretty much had the shops to himself. He wasn't going to have to deal with long lines and pushy people. And shop keepers were always more understanding when there weren't crowds of people clamoring for their attention.

After a long moment looking around to see what stores were available, he walked into a bookstore called the Literary Megacenter.

The place was huge. It was three levels of books, a café, computer terminals where shoppers could pay to access the internet, and a small toy and souvenir shop for children and tourists. He had never seen such a wonderful bookstore. There were books on every subject, whole sections on the arts, literature, fiction, the occult (which he couldn't help snickering at), cooking, home repair, photography, agriculture, herbal remedies, everything. It somehow felt like he had finally come home.

It was while he was gazing raptly at the titles in the science-fiction aisle that he ran into a young man, literally.

One minute he was crab walking down the aisle, staring at the books on the shelves, and the next he was sprawled on the ground with a pile of hardback books raining down around him.

"Shit!" a masculine voice said.

Percy looked at the young man that was on his knees in front of him. A mop of yellow hair obscured the man's face, but Percy could clearly see his hands. Long fingered, graceful looking hands that were at the same time strong and artistically delicate. The knuckles were a little knobby, but the nails were neatly trimmed and clean. They were nice hands, attractive hands, hands that deserved to be running over hot, pulsating flesh, stroking down...

Percy blinked and shook his head. He had no idea where those thoughts had come from, but he wasn't sure that he wanted them. Not in his Weasley brain, anyway.

"I'm terribly sorry," he stuttered.

The young man raised his head and Percy felt his breath catch. Behind thin gold wire framed glasses, blue eyes sparkled at him. Those lips that were just a little too wide twisted in a flashing smile that made something seize in Percy's chest.

"It's all right," a warm tenor said. "The stack of books I was carrying was too high to see over. It was more my fault than yours."

A shy smile curved Percy's lips. "I wasn't looking where I was going either," he said. "Maybe we should share the blame. I'm Percy Weasley." He offered his hand.

The man looked at it for a second before taking it, squeezing gently as they shook. "I'm Jason Fox, and you're British."

"Yes, is it that obvious?" Percy asked, surprised.

Jason grinned. "Well, you do kind of have the accent."

"Oh." Percy blushed and barely kept from squirming in embarrassment, but his lips insisted on twitching on a smile. "This is my first time in America."

"Oh yeah? Well, me too." Jason smoothly climbed to his feet, pulling Percy up with him by the hand he still held. "Maybe I should help you out, you know, seeing as you're not from around here. There must be tons of cool things to see that aren't listed in the guide books."

"Yes, I would like that," Percy breathed, gazing into those hypnotic blue eyes. It took him a moment to realize that he was standing almost too close to the man, and that they were still holding hands.

He flushed and tried to pull his hand away while stepping back. Jason stopped him. "Don't go."

Percy cocked his head. "What do you mean?"

"I don't know," Jason said, sounding vaguely surprised. His eyes were wide, almost dazed behind his glasses. "I just feel like if you take your hand away, I'll never see you again. And I do. I do want to see you."

"I want to see you too," Percy half-whispered.

They stood there drinking each other in, books lying on the ground around their feet. Neither one wanted to be the first to look away. They could have stood there forever, just gazing into each other's eyes, the warm flesh of their hands joining them as one organism.

"Excuse me," a loud voice said.

Percy blinked away from Jason, shaking his head clear. He looked at the short girl standing next to them. "Yes?" he asked.

She gave him a little frown, her brow pulling tight over one eye. "I kind of want to get through. There are other people here too, you know. A little consideration, why don't ya."

Percy gasped and ripped his hand out of Jason's, stumbling backward. He made a little "ip" sound when his back hit the bookcase. "I'm sorry," he said quickly.

The girl shook her head and stomped forward down the aisle, gently pushing Jason out of her way. "Geez, you guys need to get yourselves a room and work out some of your hormone issues, 'cause obviously there's not enough sex in your relationship."

Percy watched her go, his eyes feeling wide enough to swallow his face. "But we're not..." he started to say, but his voice was breaking so bad that he couldn't finish.

He couldn't look at Jason, though he could feel those eyes on him. He knew that every freckle on his face was burning brightly, and the tips of his ears felt like they were on fire. He bowed his head a little, letting his hair fall forward to hide him, though it wasn't long enough to do much more than brush against his glasses.

"Well this is awkward, isn't it?" Jason said.

Percy risked a glance up, peeking over the tops of his glasses.

Jason was standing with his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulder blades up nearly around his ears. His hair looked freshly finger raked and the toe of his right sneaker seemed to be trying to dig a hole through the grey carpet of the floor.

"I have younger twin brothers and another younger brother that just live to embarrass me," Percy said, his voice coming out lower than he planned, sounding almost intimate. He could feel Jason leaning a little toward him, his body unconsciously trying to get close to the sound of Percy's voice. It made Percy's skin prickle, a not unpleasant sensation. "I've been humiliated so many times that I think my skin is twelve inches thick."

"I'm not so used to it," Jason said, a tiny smile edging one corner of his lips. "I was the younger brother torturing my brother and sister. I don't know what I would have done if I'd had a little brother like me. I probably would have killed him."

Something seemed to release, the tension dissipating. Percy grinned and bent down to gather up some of the books. "Maybe if I'd killed one of the twins when I was young enough to get away with it, the other two would have left me alone."

Jason laughed. "That's probably what Peter and Paige think. If they could have gotten rid of me and not gotten in trouble, I probably wouldn't be here right now." He leant down and starting picking up the other books.

They both reached for the same book at the same time, and their fingers brushed. Percy froze for a moment, then glanced up at Jason. Those eyes were focused on him, sucking him into their blue-blue depths. It was just so hard to breathe when those eyes looked right at him, yet it seemed like it wouldn't matter if he never breathed again. He let go of the book, grasping the ones he already held with both hands, pressing them against his chest like a shield, squeezing them like he wanted to squeeze someone else.

"Um, I," he said intelligently. He drew in a gasping breath. "I was going to buy books to send back to my family. I should... I should probably go do that."

Jason grabbed the last book and stood upright. He was about four inches taller than Percy, his body skinny and angular, but so damn appealing at the same time. "Yeah," he said, then bit his lower lip, nibbling at it the way Percy wanted to. "How about I help you find some books, then we go get something to eat?"

Percy cocked his head, trying to force his brain to think. He should say no, Jason was a muggle, it would never work out between them, but he couldn't say no. Those eyes were looking at him and he never wanted them to look away. And the charming way Jason bit his lip... it made his pants feel tight. "Yes," he said, throwing sensibility to the wind.

Jason grinned, looking so pleased that Percy was almost blinded by his beauty.

 ***

 His body seemed to run hot and cold at the same time. He kept looking at Percy, he couldn't help it. The other man was just so handsome.

It had never been much of a deal to him that he looked at both men and women. He had just put it down to a quirk of his personality. But on first sight of Percy, he felt like he never wanted to look at anyone else again. It was like he'd found something he hadn't even known he was looking for.

After asking Percy a few questions about his family, he helped him pick out a few books they both thought would be of interest. Then, each carrying a plastic bag holding their books, they wandered to the coffee shop for mochas and a shared piece of raspberry cheesecake.

"This is very good," Percy said, licking his fork clean.

Jason smiled at him. It seemed like he'd been smiling all day, and he didn't really want to stop. "Yeah, it is. So," he tried to sound casual, "how long are you here for?"

Percy shrugged. "I'm here for my work for the next two months. I think I'm going to have a lot of free time while I'm here."

Jason felt his heart leap a little. "That's nice," he said suavely. "We'll have to get together while you're here. You'll need someone to show you around. When you go home I want you to have plenty of nice things to say about America."

A shy smile curved Percy's lips and he looked down, his hair falling forward. "I already have some nice things to say about America."

Jason took a hurried drink of coffee to keep from cackling like a loon. He didn't want to scare Percy off. He wanted to keep him here forever, and not in a stalkerish, psycho-killer kind of way either. It was just that he'd never had such an instant rapport with someone before, and he didn't want to lose it.

Putting his empty cup down, he glanced at his watch. "I have a lecture at three-thirty, but I'm free until then. Do you want me to show you around for the next two hours? You can find some more souvenirs and there's tons of things to do in the middle of a working week."

Percy ran the first two fingers of his left hand through his hair. His skin was milk pale with a faint hint of freckles that really stood out when he blushed, which he was doing right now. Jason had wanted to lick each separate freckle, wanted to strip Percy naked and see if he had them on other parts of his body and taste those ones too. It was hard to stay focused when Percy was looking so beautiful.

"I didn't really have any plans for today," Percy said. "I would like it if you want to show me around."

"Cool." Jason reached across the table and brushed a touch across the top of Percy's right hand. The skin was warm under his fingers.

Their eyes met for another of those long moments, then Jason stood up, grabbing up the empty cups and the paper plate. "Let me get rid of this and we can go."

"All right."

 ***

 After spending three hours with Jason, Percy was reluctant to return to the silence of the embassy, but he knew he had to let the man go do his job. The only good thing about having to say good-bye was knowing that they had plans to meet the next day.

It seemed that Jason had a week of lectures, which meant no real work during most of the day, which left him free to spend time with Percy.

With the piece of paper holding Jason's phone number neatly folded in his pocket, he didn't even mind the silent dinner eaten in the embassy's dining room. And after the meal, while he held a mostly one-sided conversation with the embassy archivist, David Whittier, Percy didn't even really mind that the man didn't seem to even notice he was there. Usually he would have been fostering feelings of hurt about the way everyone seemed to ignore him, but with the memory of Jason on his mind, he didn't even care.

Percy retreated to his room for a soak in his private bath. It was a luxury he was determined to enjoy while he was here.

Lying back in the long tub, the hot water reached all the way up to his chin. It was like a full body hug, which somehow made him think of Jason, who he'd already been thinking about all day anyway.

He's so wonderful, Percy thought. He looks like he'd be fit, not too muscly, but nice. His arse was rounded just enough, and those eyes... they kept trying to suck me in. I wonder what he tastes like.

His penis, bobbing free in the water, hardened at the thought of sucking on Jason's cock. He could feel his balls drawing tight.

What a delicious prick he probably has, he thought. Even alone with no one to guess what he was thinking, he could feel himself blush, but he didn't really mind. The blush spread from his cheeks to cover his whole body in a flash of warmth that was actually rather pleasant, as long as no one saw it.

Half-closing his eyes, he trailed lazy fingers along his inner thighs, not ready to really touch himself yet. He ran his fingers alongside his groin, upward over his flat stomach, circling his belly button a few times, before passing on. With a low chuckle, he tweaked his nipples, liking how they hardened under his touch. He twisted them, liking the almost-pain of abused flesh. He thought about Jason's teeth grazing the nubs, nibbling them like he had nibbled his lip.

Never in his life had Percy been so instantly attracted to someone. Sure, there had been that bit of a crush on Oliver Wood when they were at Hogwarts, but nothing had ever come of that. He just hadn't been brave enough to tell the other boy what he felt, and he'd been afraid that Oliver might hit him with those big Keeper hands, but it didn't matter anyway, because they had graduated and Percy hadn't seen Oliver since. And he liked Jason more than he ever had Oliver.

There was a chance that today's attraction might come to nothing tomorrow. Maybe they'd get to know each other better and find out that what they felt was only a momentary thing and that they didn't really even like each other. But Percy didn't care, not right this moment. All he knew was that just thinking about Jason's yellow-blond hair and cute, kind of quirky smile was getting him very aroused. He wanted to try with Jason, just to see if they had anything to build a relationship on. And there was always the joy of having a wild affair if the long-term didn't work out.

Giving into his body's demands, he grasped his cock with his left hand, stroking it firmly. His eyes closed all the way and he sank further down in the water until he was breathing just out of his nose.

Stroking with his left hand, he tweaked his nipples a couple of times with his right before moving that hand over his side and down the small of his back, raking the smooth curves of his ass with his fingernails.

Pumping his erection, he arched his hips, liking the way the water swished over his sides as he rose up out of it before slipping back down. Biting his lip, he fingered his hole, slowly working a finger inside. He groaned loudly, releasing a wild burst of bubbles, and thrashed his head back and forth, his left hand working faster and faster, his thumb rubbing over the head of his cock on the upstroke. He was breathing hard through his nose.

The sounds of his pleasure, the splash of the water, and the rough in-and-out huff of his breathing echoed back to his ears from the tiled walls, spurring him on. And when he got two fingers into his hole and finally reached that nub inside, he had to clench his teeth hard and close his throat muscles tight to keep from wailing loudly. His thumb flicked one last time over the head of his cock, he rubbed that spot inside again, and he came, squeezing his cock in his fist to milk out every last drop, emptying his balls of cum.

He opened his eyes as he came. He loved to watch himself ejaculate in the bathtub, seeing that cloudy spurt of fluid leaving his cock to melt into the clear water. There was just something so real about that.

With a "sploosh!" of water, he sat up in the tub, pressing his thighs against his chest, hugging them tight against him. He lay his cheek against his bony knees and sat there for a long while, looking at nothing. His body was satiated, murmuring in pleasure, but his mind refused to remain quiet. He was still restless.

What do I want to do? he asked himself

You want to find Jason and fuck him into the mattress, his inner voice replied. If anyone else had been able to hear it, they would have been shocked and horrified that perfect Percy Weasley could ever think such a thing.

A smile quirked Percy's lips, but it wasn't really a happy expression. It sometimes seemed to him that everyone that knew him--his family and co-workers since he really didn't have any friends--all seemed to assume that he was still the arrogant braggart he'd been at fifteen. They all thought that he was some asexual creature without any real human emotion in him. As though he was a two-dimensional caricature meant to duplicate real life, his sole purpose to either annoy them with his incessant craving for acknowledgement or to do all of the things none of them wanted to do. He wasn't a person to them.

Hello, he thought, pretending to introduce himself to a crowd of people. It was a game he liked to play in his own head, imagining that he was a guest on an American talk show. I am Percy Weasley, annoying appendage. My twin brothers hate me, my little sister pities me, Ron has been taught by the twins to see me as either an idiot, an obsessive nitpicker, or a killjoy, and my older brothers see me as just another younger sibling, vaguely annoying and not to be taken seriously. My mother used me as a free child-rearing tool when I was a child, and now that I've grown up and don't really have a purpose anymore, she lavishes attention on my siblings and overlooks me. Oh, and I don't think my father even knows I exist.

My job at the Ministry is basically a make-work position, with no real authority; I'm certain that my mother forced my father to get it for me. I have no friends, no "significant other," and I haven't had sex with another person in almost three years. But at least I'm on good terms with my hand.

I hate my life. I think I might hate my job. I've screwed up things so terribly that when I'm at home I'm afraid all the time, especially that I might get one of my brothers or my sister hurt or killed. I don't want to be Percy Weasley anymore, I want to be someone else. I'm not perfect. I'm a human being, and no one will believe that. They all treat me like I have some incurable "stick up my arse" disease and they might catch it if they're around me. And Voldemort is giving me nightmares, the sick bastard.

But on the upswing, I've just met a lovely young man that I'm desperate to shag.

Rubbing his nose over his kneecap, he gave a little laugh.

He'd had a lot of fun with Jason today, but realistically he knew that there was a more than good chance that nothing was going to happen between them. Past experience had taught Percy that no matter how interesting or accommodating he tried to be, the object of his affections never seemed to want him. They might show initial interest, but it never lasted, and they tended to push him away with hurtful contempt.

No one wanted him, and no one probably ever would, though he persisted in dreaming that things might be otherwise. And every rejection hurt a little more than the last.

He didn't really understand what was so wrong with him, which left him unable to fix the problem. He knew that he wasn't too ugly, he was fairly intelligent, he didn't hurt children or animals, and he tried hard to be what people wanted him to be. So why didn't anyone like him? Why did people either ignore him or push him away? What was so terrible about him that no one could love him?

Tears trickled down his cheeks, and he angrily mashed his eyes against his knees, trying to press the tears back inside, but they persisted in coming. He was just so lonely. Tired and lonely and afraid he was going to die with no one to hold his hand.

"What's wrong with me?" he whispered.

This was why he didn't often allow himself to think and fantasize about having relations with anyone. After the bubbling euphoria and wild masturbation to images of happy sex with someone else, his mood always spiraled downward to a dark place he really didn't want to be.

Pressing his lips tight together and forcing his head up, he purposely reached for the plug, letting out the dirty water. He had to change the water and scrub himself clean before getting out and putting on his pajamas. He had to put on a stoic front and pretend that everything was all right, that he was Percy Weasley and nothing could touch him.

It was getting harder and harder to pull himself out of the darkness. When he had been fourteen and had entertained his first thoughts of just letting everything go, it had been a simple matter to force himself to a place of mental balance where every emotion was under firm control and he didn't have to feel anything. But as the years passed, his control was becoming more tenuous. It was just so hard to pretend that everything was all right. He didn't know what was going to happen when he finally lost control.

He had strange flashes of walls covered in blood and screaming mouths, but he forced himself to never really think of that. He didn't want to see shadowed darkness closing around him and familiar faces disappearing under spatters of gore. He didn't want to think about any of that, or feel any of the bad things that lived inside him.

He didn't really want to be Percy Weasley, but he didn't want to be what the darkness inside him urged him to become either. He knew that if he ever let go, there would be no coming back. And he loved his family just enough to not let that happen, not yet and not ever if he could help it.

But he was so damn tired.

 ***

 "I'm telling you, I think I might have found the one." Jason knew he was gushing like an idiot, but he couldn't help it.

Marcus rolled his eyes. "You just met the guy today. You don't really know anything about him. It's just a crush for now. Don't get your hopes too up. I'm not going to hold you while you cry again."

Jason pulled his pillow out from under him and threw it at his friend, hitting him in the face. "Quiet, you. I'm in the midst of a first class high. Let me enjoy it while it lasts."

"Whatever," Marcus said, lifting his head just enough to slip the pillow under it.

They were both lying on Jason's bed in their "conversation poses." Jason was sitting cross-legged at the top of his bed, his back resting against the headboard. Marcus lay with his back on the bed while his legs resting along the wall, the heels of his socked feet digging into a poster of Spike from the Cowboy Bebop anime.

"I just want to find someone I like that likes me, and not in a perverted Dr. Vorkoff stalker way. Percy just seems like the one, I mean, he's smart, funny, a little shy, and he makes... well, just looking at him gets me really horny."

"Ew, I don't want to hear about that kind of stuff!" Marcus made a face, but he was kind of smiling when he did it. Then he went all serious, which brought Jason the usual sense of dread. "I just worry about you when you get too excited about someone, and you only just met this guy today. Don't..." He closed his eyes for a second, then opened them to look at Jason, piercing him with his love and fear. "I don't want you to get hurt again, Jason. Please, just take your time with this and don't get too serious too fast."

"I never do!" Jason exclaimed.

Marcus held up a hand for silence. "I know you don't. But there's just... you're acting different this time, and I believe that you really do like this guy, but I still have to worry. 'Cause if he's not what you think he is or what you really need, you're going to get hurt, and I hate when that happens. You deserve something better than another Don."

"Percy is not Don!" Jason curled fingers that wanted to become fists. "I really thought I loved Don, but at the same time I always knew he wasn't quite right for me. I just let my desire get away from me. He was too handsome, too charming, and he always had an excuse for everything he did; it made it hard for me to push him away, even though I knew he was hurting me. Percy's different though. He just really feels like the one. He makes me happy, and I know I just met him today, but I really want to get to know him more.

"But I know you worry." He gave Marcus a little smile and understanding eyes. "I know you care about me. You're my best friend, Marcus, so I don't want you to worry about me letting another Don into my life. I may really like Percy and really believe that there's something between us, but I won't let things get away from me. I'm going to take this one slow and figure everything out before I throw myself into it wholeheartedly."

Marcus reached out to touch Jason's knee with the tips of his fingers. "I worry about you--best friend's prerogative--but I want you to be happy. Just be careful, and if this guy's the one, I'll support you all the way."

Jason grinned at him. "I really want him to be the one. I like him a lot."

"If you really like him, then I like him too. Just slow and steady, all right?"

"Yeah."

Marcus smiled at him, and it was like the sun coming out... a particularly devilish sun. "Now tell me what this guy looks like. Is he really hot?"

Jason laughed.

 ***

 Percy faced the prospect of his second real day in America happily. After breakfast, he was going to meet Jason. He didn't know what they were going to be doing, but just to spend time with the man... it made him happy.

Ignoring the silence of the breakfast table, he focused on picturing Jason's face in his mind. He wondered if Jason was going to be as attractive today as he was yesterday, or if his mind had fooled him. There had been times when that had happened before.

He would meet somebody and be attracted to them on first sight, but when he saw them again they wouldn't be as good. But he had hopes that Jason would make his heart rush just as much today as he had yesterday. He wanted to believe.

Wearing a navy blue wool coat over his tee shirt and jeans, he hurried to the Literary Megacenter where he was going to meet Jason. His heart was fluttering in his chest and he thought that anyone that saw him would be blinded by his smile. He just had so much hope that things were going to happen between him and Jason.

Even just two days out of England, without his family pressing down on him he felt freer than he had ever been in his entire life. There was no one thinking things about him, sure that he should be some certain way or other. He could be himself and no one had to know what Percy Weasley was really like, how much of a non-person he really was.

"There you are, I was worried you weren't going to come," a glad voice called.

Percy smiled and hurried his step. Jason was waiting in the coffee shop at "their" table.

Percy slid into the chair across from Jason, puffing a little as he caught his breath. "I'm glad to see you. You are perhaps the first truly friendly face I've seen since I came to this country. I have yet to meet my boss here, but if he's like the rest of the staff... well, they all seem just a little distant. I don't think anyone's said ten words to me since Weams showed me to my room." He lay his head on his arms and sighed.

Jason laughed. "I guess it's a good thing I got here a little early and already ordered for us."

Percy sat up. "What did you get?"

"Mochas, blueberry muffins, double-chocolate fudge brownies, and a plate of biscotti," Jason said, licking his lips.

"That's a lot! Are you sure we're going to be able to eat all that?"

"We'll try." Jason stood and crossed to the counter and the green apron clad girl offering him a tray.

"Do you need any help?" Percy asked, halfway standing.

"No, I got it," Jason said. He carried the tray with exaggerated care back over to the table, setting it down with a sigh. "There we go."

While they ate and drank their coffee, they talked.

"So, what do you do?" Percy asked.

"I'm a head researcher and developer for Sci-Tech Incorporated and on the side I write some of the programming for the project. It's not really very interesting," Jason said, shrugging it off.

Percy huffed a small laugh. "Sounds like my job, just not quite as tedious. I basically make sure all the... products... shipped out by our... company... are of a standard weight and density. My brothers make fun of me all the time for it. They think my job's stupid."

"Well, someone's got to be a product inspector, right?" Jason bit into a biscotti with a moist crunch--he'd dipped it a couple of times in his coffee to soften it. "The world would basically fall apart if inspectors didn't make sure a company's products were up to spec."

"Well," Percy shook his head, "my job's not that serious, not really. I mean, I like to think that I make things better and ensure that the job is done right, but... Sometimes I have to agree with my brothers that my job is boring and stupid and entirely worthless. I go in every single day and basically push paper around until it's time to go home. I'm middle management, which means that the things that cross my desk are usually completely worthless nothings, because the more important and interesting issues come from the people below me and are passed directly to my boss. I just waste my time and try to pretend to my family that what I'm doing is important to someone."

Jason reached across the table to lay his hand on Percy's wrist. He could practically see Percy struggling with the need to be depressed. Percy Weasley was not happy with his life or career or family, but he had tried for the longest time to pretend that everything was all right, but now Jason could see how unhappy he'd been. It was just so obvious... so why hadn't anyone else noticed?

"It's all right," Jason said, "really. I don't care that you hate your job or that you're miserable. All I care about is the fact that you're smart, funny, kind, considerate, and cute. I like you." He blushed a little, looking down at his hands.

There was a stunned silence for a moment, then Percy whispered, "I like you too."

They looked at each other and both their eyes shone. For the first time in a long time, neither one was alone.

 ___________

 Dear Mother,

I met with the Ambassador yesterday. He seemed a nice enough sort, very focused on his job. I greatly respect him already.

While I was wandering around the city, I met a nice young man named Jason Fox. I ran into him in the bookstore, so he was nice enough to help me find some books that I will be shipping home shortly. I think Father will like them... they're all about muggle inventions and one is a science text that explains muggle electricity, metal working, and many other things he's been asking about. I also found a book called "An Encyclopedia of Favorite Recipes Around the World" that I thought you might like. There are over 200,000 illustrated recipes. I'll have to find a sturdy owl to send it with.

Jason bought me a "hamburger and French fries" at McDonalds. I am meeting him in a few days because he says I need to "taste real American food." He said his friend Marcus enjoys a place called The Mongolian Grill, and Jason wants me to try it. I'm a little nervous, but I am willing to give it a try.

I'll write again soon.

Your Son,

Percy

 ___________

 Dear Mother,

I think I have decided that I like Asian food. It is very tasty, and nutritious. Jason and I had a lot of fun watching the man cooking it. He poured all the vegetables and meat right on the flat grill and he cooked it while we watched. I chose soy sauce, garlic sauce, and a little bit of chili sauce to put on it. It was a little spicy, but very good.

Things in the muggle world are just so different, but I like it, I really do. I have been having a wonderful time.

Your Son,

Percy

P.S. I have enclosed an Asian cookbook. It has recipes from all over Asia. I am sure there are many dishes in it that you can make for the family.

 ___________

 Dear Mother,

I went to a muggle movie theater tonight with Jason. We ate "popcorn" and drank "soda" as we watched the "movie." Jason says that next time he will buy me one or two of every muggle candy in the concession. I do not know how he expects us to eat all that candy, but he just laughed when I voiced my doubts. He says that trying is half the fun.

Tell the twins that I will send them a sample of the candies that I like. I know that they have said that they're too old for such things, and that they might not accept anything from me... but maybe they will.

I am going to meet Jason's best friend Marcus tomorrow. I am a little nervous. I want him to like me. It will be nice to have two friends in America.

Your Son,

Percy

 ___________

 Nervous acid roiled in his belly and he kept reaching up to tug on the collar of his shirt. His leg jiggled slightly.

"What's wrong?" Jason asked.

"I'm just a little nervous about meeting your friend," Percy said. "What if he doesn't like me?"

Jason stroked Percy's arm. "Don't worry. He's going to like you, I promise. You're a great person."

Percy gave him a little smile. "You have to say that. It's the only way you're ever going to get in my pants."

Jason's face twisted in mock-outrage, but he couldn't hold it and grinned. "You betcha. I'd tell a million lies for you, baby. But this isn't a lie. You're a wonderful person, and Marcus is going to love you."

"I hope so." Percy nibbled on his bottom lip. "But what if he doesn't?"

"Well, if for any reason Marcus isn't instantly struck by the wondrousness of your wonderfulness, I'll still like you. We just won't invite Marcus on a double date, that's all."

Percy smiled and leaned across the seat, resting his hand on the center console. Jason met him halfway and their lips touched, brushing lightly at first, then locking together, neither wanting to be the first to pull away. Jason's left hand rose to cup the back of Percy's head, pulling him closer.

Percy moaned in his throat. They had only kissed a couple of times before, and this was by far the longest, juiciest one, and the first with even a hint of tongue.

After a minute Jason pulled away, panting slightly. "Later, we have to finish this later," he said. "Marcus is waiting for us inside."

Percy barely muffled a groan. "Why don't we just stay out here? I'm sure we could live quite happy lives here in your car."

"Yeah, that's a wonderful future to look forward too. Sorry Perce, but I'm too tall to live out my days in a Saturn." Jason gently pushed his hand away and turned to open the driver's side door. "Come on. You're going to like Marcus, and he's going to like you. I promise."

Percy sighed heavily and forced himself to open his door. He stepped out into crisp cool air and drew it deep into his lungs, hoping to suck up some courage with the oxygen. He slammed the door. "Very well then."

He walked around the side of the car and met Jason on the sidewalk, taking his hand. Together, they followed the curving walkways from the parking lot toward Jason and Marcus' apartment.

"Huh, who'da thunk I lived in an apartment complex, right?" Jason said.

Percy's answering smile was just a little weak. "Yeah, who would have."

This was his first time visiting a muggle home. He wished now that he'd paid better attention to the stories Harry Potter had shared with Ron about his life with the Dursleys. It wasn't like Muggle Studies had really taught him a whole lot about muggle life... there was just too much to be covered in an hour long class, and the field trips had left a bit to be desired. Being able to find his way around a bus station wasn't all that helpful right now.

"Come on, Marcus is waiting. He said he was going to order some Thai food tonight. I hope you like it," Jason said, taking his hand.

"I've never had it," Percy said.

"Really? Huh, it seems like you haven't tried a lot of stuff. You must've been really sheltered growing up."

"Yeah, I was," Percy hurriedly said. "This is my first real taste of freedom without my family."

"How are you liking it?" Jason asked.

Percy looked at the side of his friend's face, drinking in that sight he was becoming so fond of. "I think that I'm liking it a lot. I don't know how I'm ever going to go home."

"Maybe..." Jason stopped walking and turned to face Percy, though he couldn't meet Percy's eyes and stared at the ground. He bit his lip, chewing at it for a long moment as he gathered his courage. Finally, he looked right at Percy. "Maybe you don't have to go back. Maybe you can stay here in the United States with... with me."

Percy felt himself pale then flush bright red. "I... I don't know," he stammered, turning his head to look at the side of the nearest building. "I've never been away from home for very long, and we've really only just met. What if... what if next month you decide that you don't like me, that you can't stand me at all, that I'm a horrible prissy bother that you hate more than anything? I don't... I don't want you to not like me, and maybe if you spent a whole lot of time with me you might decide that I'm a horrible person or something and..."

Jason touched his arm. "It was just a suggestion, an idea for you to think about. You've still got months left here. And I don't think that I could ever not like you. I don't know who ever told you that you were prissy and horrible, but I don't think that you are. I just think you haven't ever had a real chance to be yourself."

Percy glanced at Jason out of the corner of his eye. "I could think about it," he whispered.

Jason stepped forward, giving him a quick hug. "That's all I want. Now," he added briskly, raising his voice back to normal, "let's get inside so you can meet Marcus."

"Can't we just stay out here?" Percy whined.

"No. There's Thai food waiting, and I, for one, am hungry."

 ***

 Oh God, I'm going to meet Jason's boyfriend for the first time tonight. I hope he likes me, I hope I like him, I hope he's not a total asshole that I'm going to have to destroy and...

Marcus drew in a deep breath, trying to calm down. He was just so nervous. He knew how much Jason liked Percy, and he really didn't want to ruin things for his best friend.

He was so nervous that his stomach was making intermittent rumble-and-squeak noises. He didn't want to see Jason hurt again, didn't know if he could stand it.

The last time one of Jason's relationships had fallen apart, Marcus had been the one to hold him as he cried. It had taken almost six months for him to put Jason back together enough that he was acting like Jason again, and not some automaton sleepwalking through his days. He didn't want that to happen again.

He hated it when Jason was hurting. He was still pissed at Don.

There was the scrape of a key in the lock and he felt nervousness shoot through him. They were here.

The door opened and Jason strolled in, pulling a redheaded guy in after him by the hand. There was a pink flush to Jason's cheeks and his eyes were almost too bright. "Hey Marcus," he said, trying to sound casual.

Marcus looked closely at the new guy, trying to see if he was going to hurt Jason. "Hey Jase," he said, just as faux casually.

Jason pulled his friend across the living room, kicking the door shut behind them. "This is Percy," he said, pushing the guy a little in front of him. He just looked so damn proud presenting his new boyfriend that Marcus felt either like laughing or crying--he wasn't really sure which.

Jason really seemed to like this one, which meant there was even more of a chance of him ending up hurt than if it had been a more flingish-fling.

"Um, hello Percy," Marcus offered, holding out his hand.

Percy took it with an awkward smile. He seemed rather stiff, his face trying to hold to an expressing of semi-friendly blankness while his eyes screamed in bloody panic. "Hullo," he said, then cleared his throat a little, his cheeks flushing. "Hello," he said again, clearer. "It's very nice to meet you. Jason has told me a lot about you."

"Oh yeah. And he's told me about you too," Marcus said, giving the guy a minorly sideways glance.

Percy blushed brighter and dropped Marcus' hand as he looked down at his feet. He seemed really nervous, which was a good sign.

Marcus figured that if the guy was worried about making a good impression, there was a chance that he could care about hurting Jason. Don had been almost preternaturally self-confident when they'd met, sure that Marcus and the rest of the world was going to have to love him, even if he was kind of a snotty asshole.

"Well, why don't you guys come and sit down. The food's getting cold, so we should probably get to eating," Marcus said, leading the way into the living room.

It was almost cute how Jason sat on the couch and pulled his boyfriend down next to him. There was just something so possessive about a Fox in love, though Jason's version of the Alpha-male wore glasses.

.

"What's your favorite show?" Marcus asked.

"Show?" Percy looked confused. "Show what?"

Jason touched Percy's knee lightly, drawing his attention. "Television show, Percy. He wants to know what your favorite television show is."

Percy shrugged. "I've never really watched much television, just a few minutes here and there in passing."

A moment of stunned silence by the televisionophiles.

.

"And then Bilbo Baggins..."

"I still think Frodo is the best hobbit, and Gandalf the Gray is my favorite character because he..."

Jason just raised his voice to speak over his friend's. "And then Bilbo Baggins..."

.

"I have a brother and a sister," Jason said, "and Marcus has a couple of sisters. How about you?"

Percy glanced at his twisted hands in his lap. "Well, Bill is my oldest brother, then there's Charlie, then me, then the twins Fred and George, then Ron, and then there's Ginny, the only girl. Mum was so happy to finally have at least one girl in a household full of boys, but then Ginny... well, she's got her own ideas and opinions. Their quarrels can get quite vocal, and Ginny has developed the habit of breaking dishes and this ugly old lamp my father keeps fixing. It's shaped like a woman's leg and he calls it an 'award,' for some strange reason."

"Wow, you have five brothers and a sister. I can't believe you survived childhood," Jason whispered in awe.

Percy's traitorous cheeks decided to color again. For some reason, whenever Jason lowered his voice past anything normal, he felt waves of heat go through him. There was just something so intimate about a whispering Jason, like they were alone in a bed somewhere, cuddled up together with their hands idly running down each other's body, comfortable in the touches they shared.

"Well... it wasn't like any of them were going to physically harm me," he said.

Marcus cocked his head, hearing something in Percy's voice that the man himself didn't even seem to notice. "They wouldn't physically hurt you? But what about non-physically?" he asked. He had decided that he liked Percy, which meant his protective instincts had the right to overpower his common sense.

Percy shrugged. "Sometimes... sometimes they would forget I was even there unless they needed me. I was always..." his voice failed him for a moment, but he was Percy Weasley and couldn't let it go. He looked right at Marcus with terribly clear eyes. "Every single achievement I had, I had to bring it up and make it seem more important than it was, just to get them to notice me. They called me Perfect Percy and a braggart and a pillock and an arse. The twins seem to like calling me an insufferable git even now. I just... I just wanted them to look at me and really see me. I don't... I didn't like how they always seemed to just look right through me until they needed something from me, like they wanted me to watch after the twins, then after Ron and Ginny. The rest of the time I was invisible and even after I went away to school everyone just seemed to be like at home, and I was just another Weasley no matter how hard I tried to be Percy."

He fell silent, ashamed of how he had just opened up and let all the stupid stuff inside him spill out. They'd been having fun until he'd opened his big mouth. He bowed his head, staring down into his lap so he didn't have to see the mocking light creep into Marcus' eyes or the realization of how unlovable he was filled Jason's.

A warm arm slipped around his shoulders and he was pulled against a flat chest. Jason pressed a kiss down on the top of his head. "It's all right Percy. I see you."

A shy smile tilted Percy's lips a little.

.

By the time Jason left to take Percy home, Marcus had decided that it was official. Jason really liked Percy, was maybe even beginning to fall in love with him. And Percy was worth all of Jason's affections.

I guess that works out, Marcus thought, going into his bedroom to change into pajamas and get ready for bed.

He liked Percy and thought he and Jason could actually be happy together.

Percy seemed to have some problems with his family, but that didn't mean he wasn't a good person. Besides, Jason had a family that would suck Percy in and give him all of the attention and love he seemed to crave.

Marcus was brushing his teeth when Jason came home.

Still holding his toothbrush, Marcus went out to meet him. "Hey, I really like Percy." He nodded his head to give the declaration more weight.

Jason smiled and leaned back against the closed door. His lips had that just-kissed look to them and his eyes were bright. "Me too."

"In awhile you should take him to meet your mom and dad," Marcus suggested. "He seems like he needs a little bit of positive parental contact."

"You think?" Jason asked, cocking his head.

"Oh yeah. And your parents... they're probably just what he needs. They'll treat him like a real person, and I really think they'll get along."

Jason shivered dramatically. "Shudder. My mom and Percy getting along... I can just see the ways she's going to warp him." He stood up straight and stepped away from the door. "Seriously though, thanks for the suggestion. It's a good idea."

"Yeah."

"I don't think I like his family."

"Yeah."

"They seem like jerks."

"Jerks that haven't read any children's psychology books about the treatment of middle children."

Jason rolled his shoulders. "You going to bed now?"

"Thinking about it." Marcus cocked his head. "I could stay up a little later. You wanna play the X-Box?"

"Yeah."

"Okay then. Just let me put my toothbrush away. You set up the game." He started walking toward the bathroom.

"Hey Marcus." He stopped, not turning to look at his friend. "Thanks for tonight, you know, being so nice to Percy and everything."

Marcus started walking again. "He's a nice guy. I like him."

He could practically feel the blister-burn of Jason's sudden happiness. There were very few of Jason's crushes and boyfriends that Marcus had ever liked. Now Percy was one of them. It was high praise.

 ***

 It was funny. When the house seemed to be overflowing with the presence of three active kids she'd dreamed about the day they'd all move out and get their own lives, becoming separate people. But now that it had happened, the house seemed too quiet and too big with just her and Roger.

Peter had married a cute little blond waitress named Anne. Andy still thought he'd fallen too fast into the relationship with Anne, but she had never said anything about it. She knew he was still hurting over Denise and the way she'd died. It was a grotesque irony how a girl could lose her sight to a drunk driver when she was seven, then lose her life to another one when she was twenty-one. Peter still had the engagement ring he'd bought a week before she died. He'd never gotten the chance to ask her the question, and it burned inside him like an incurable rage. He wasn't as easy-going as he used to be, though on the surface he still laughed and joked. On the inside he was a silent scream looking for a way out.

Paige was desperate to be a model, even though everyone knew it was never going to happen--she didn't have the right kind of look. She lived in the city and went out to auditions and just generally had her dream trampled to dust beneath her feet. When she came to visit her parents, Roger would slip a few hundred dollars into her hand and press a kiss against the side of her forehead. Andy knew about the money, but never said anything about it. Paige had her own version of pride and wouldn't have accepted anything if she thought her mother knew about it. Paige was going to make it on her own even if it killed her.

And Jason... well, he was the only one whose life seemed to be going well. He made good money working at a job he loved. He and Marcus were still inseparable. And he was gay.

Andy had had her suspicions about her youngest son for years, but it had still been a giant shock when he'd said the words. It still ached inside to know that her baby was never going to meet a nice girl and get married. But she never let any of her pain show, because he didn't need to see that. He was happy the way he was and she wasn't going to change him for her own peace of mind.

She was folding laundry when the phone rang. Laying aside one of Roger's favorite shirts--which had a small, but incredibly noticeable ketchup stain on the front pocket, but that he wouldn't let her throw out--she went to answer it.

"Hello?"

There was a second of silence, then Jason's voice filled her head. "Hey Mom, it's me. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Jason, just doing some laundry. You know how it is around here on a Saturday."

"Dad's hiding in the garage, huh?" His rich laugh brought a smile to her lips. He sounded so happy. "Um, I'm coming for dinner next Sunday."

"I know. You usually make the Sunday dinners, unlike Paige who could really use a good meal, but who insists on..." She broke off and drew in a deep breath. "Sorry about that. It's just that she's gotten so skinny."

"I know," brief tone of worry marring the happiness in his voice. "But Paige isn't why I called."

"What is it?" Andy asked.

"Well, you know I'm coming for dinner, but I was wondering if I could bring someone with me."

"Of course you can bring someone. Who is it?" she asked, already guessing what was coming.

"He's a friend. My... my boyfriend. His name's Percy. I want you to meet him." There was a tiny hint of pleading, a desperation for his parents to like his boyfriend, a need for some kind of acceptance.

"Well, just bring him on Sunday and we'll feed him," she said, keeping her voice cheerful.

"Thanks Mom. I gotta go, but... um," little boy uncertainty. "Can you make real food? I mean, your tofu and lima beans are great and everything, but... well, we don't want to scare him off too soon, right?"

Andy sighed heavily into the phone, making sure he heard it. "Tofu and lima beans are healthy Jason, and with all the junk food you eat, you can really use at least one good meal a month." Then she relented, "I think I might be able to round up some steaks and a nice potato salad," she said. "Just this once."

"Thanks Mom, I love you!" He hung up with a click.

Laying the receiver back down in its cradle, Andy leaned against the table for a moment, getting herself back under control.

She tried so hard to be supportive of her gay son, but there was still a part of her that cried at the thought of never having any little-Jason grandchildren running around. He had been a terror as a kid, but had also been sweet and wonderful, and she missed the little boy he used to be.

Jason had grown up so much, and she was happy to see him as a mature man. But that secret mother part of her still saw him as her towheaded little baby, trouble on two legs. He was her youngest son and always would be, no matter how old he got.

I hope his boyfriend is a good person, she thought. He's been hurt so many times. He didn't want me to know, but it was so obvious that that jackass Don ripped his heart out and stomped on it. I don't want this... Percy to do the same thing.

 ***

 During the forty-five minute drive out of the city to the suburb where the Fox house was located, Jason kept Percy from completely freaking out by keeping up a running commentary on the music playing on the radio. He actually got the fear-pale Englishman to laugh a few times and almost forget the fact that he was terrified. It was a great accomplishment.

"Don't worry, Percy," Jason said. "My parents are going to love you. After about half an hour, they're probably going to start thinking of you as just another member of the family. After an hour or two, my mom's probably going to be looking to replace me with you and is going to be loudly wondering why I can't be as polite as you naturally are and if maybe we got switched at birth. Then she'll be looking to get us married so she can keep you. And after about five years everyone's going to start thinking you're married to her and not me, she's going to monopolize your time so badly."

Percy managed a wan smile. "I highly doubt that. I will be happy if they simply don't hate me on first sight. There are very few people in the world that actually like me, and that includes my own family."

Jason reached across to touch Percy's hand, his eyes flicking from the road to his boyfriend and back again. "I like you," he said.

Percy gave a much realer smile, though the distance in his eyes said that he was still occupied with his thoughts. "I'm glad you do," he said, "because I really like you." His cheeks colored charmingly and Jason couldn't help his pleased smile.

Even though their relationship was still pretty new and they hadn't gone past kissing, Jason instinctively knew that they were perfect for each other. There was just something about Percy that he couldn't and wouldn't deny.

"It's gonna be all right, I promise," he said. "The accent alone is cool enough that my family is going to like you, and just meeting you will win them the rest of the way over."

"I highly doubt that they're going to like me that much," Percy said. "I'm just too boring and rule bound."

 

====

NOTES --

hereherehere

 

It was a strange world where Percy wasn't around to annoy. Ron had never thought it would happen, but he actually missed his older brother.

Glancing over his shoulder to make sure he was still alone in the kitchen, he faced the fireplace and spoke firmly, "Bill Weasley."

Bill's head formed in the flames. He was laughing at something someone in the room with him had said, then sobered a little when he saw Ron. "Hullo Ron, what's wrong?"

Ron shrugged. "There's nothing wrong. I just..." He closed his eyes and looked down for a moment, regaining his courage. "I don't think Percy's ever coming back, and I'm worried."

"What's happening over there, Ron?" Bill asked, sounding just a little worried.

"Percy went to America, you know. He was supposed to come back after two months, but he keeps putting it off. I don't think he wants to come back, Bill."

"What? But he loves his job at the Ministry. There's no way he'd ever jeopardize his position just to stay in bloody America."

 

 

 

hereherehere

 

Percy's first real day in America. He arrived the night before and hasn't seen much of anything.

he's not supposed to meet the delegates for two days. He decides to wander around some, which is how he ends up in the bookstore, where he accidentally runs into Jason, who's loaded down with a stack of books so high he didn't seen Percy at all.

Percy kneels down to help pick up the books, and when he looks up--pushing his glasses back up his nose while apologizing profusely--he gets his first clear view of Jason and is almost dumbstruck.

 

 

Jason and Marcus have to attend a week of lectures.

 

Harry's 18th birthday is just before 7th year starts. (August/or/September something. late August, early September)

 

 

Detroit, Michigan

 

 

Jason--yellow-blond hair, blue eyes, thin gold wire framed glasses, flashing smile, cute.

 

he carefully doesn't mention the fact that Jason is a muggle. He's hoping his mother will assume that Jason's a wizard.

 

OCTOBER

Jason takes Percy to a Halloween party.

 

NOVEMBER

Percy's supposed to go back to England on November 12th. He doesn't really want to go and takes some of his vacation time so that he can stay for awhile.

 

 

 

needing a break after all that's happened recently, Percy takes on an assignment from the Ministry of Magic, and heads to America to meet with his American counterpart.

While there, since his workload is so light, he decides to use some of his time to "take in the local color." He wanders around looking at how American muggles live.

While in a bookstore he accidentally runs into Jason Fox (who's 22 years old, a year older than Percy.) The two hit it off, finding out that they have a lot in common, though Jason, who has calmed down a lot as he's grown up, is still a little more wild and adventurous than Percy. Still, they immediately hit it off.

The two young men begin spending time together, Jason showing Percy around the city.

Andy calls Jason, reminding him that he promised to come home for a family dinner. Since Percy is only going to be in America for a little while, and Jason doesn't want to miss any time with him, he invites Percy to come home with him. At first Percy says no because he doesn't want to get between Jason's family, but Jason insists, and Percy agrees.

The Fox's live outside of the city in a suburb (Jason lives in the city where he works. He graduated early from college since he skipped the eighth and ninth grades.)

Percy and the Fox's hit it off. They are so different from his own family. There are fewer of them, they actually seem to like and respect him, and they actually pay attention to him as a living breathing human being. They are, in some ways, better to him than his own family, and his attraction to Jason only makes him like them more.

 

Eventually--

Jason finds out Percy's a wizard

Percy decides he doesn't want to go back home to England. He wants to stay with Jason.

Percy takes a leave of absence from work.

Their relationship heats up. (Sex, sex, movie, sex)

Bill shows up, intent on dragging Percy back home. Molly was complaining and worried.

Percy refuses to go back to England. He tells Bill that he loves Jason.

Percy accepts a change of job, becoming a diplomat/go-between between the Ministry and their American counterparts.

 

2nd story-- SUMMER (9 months into relationship)

An American Fox in England

Jason and Marcus go to England with Percy for summer vacation.

Harry just finished his 6th year.

 

3rd story-- SIDE STORY (during Jason and Marcus' summer visit)

Harry Potter and the American Crush

Harry has a crush on Marcus from when Jason and Marcus came to England.

Harry has just finished his 6th year. Ron brings him back to the Burrow.

He's struck almost speechless by Marcus. He can barely say two words to the guy, but he likes him a lot. He thinks Marcus is smart, funny, handsome, charming.

mostly Harry thinking.

 

4th story-- SUMMER (21 months into their relationship)

 

The twins come to visit their brother. They bring Ron and Harry (who have just graduated) with them.

Ron falls in a lot of like with Paige.

Harry gets the hots for Jason's friend Marcus, though it's mostly just angst and lots of secret lusting.

Lots of sight seeing.

Character study of how Percy forms a close attachment to Andy. Molly was always so busy with the other kids that Percy was always left out. He kind of rather raised himself. With Andy he feels like he has found a mother for the first time in his life.