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"I didn't know you had a brother," Annabeth goes, and it's the most off-put he's ever heard her sound, like the girl who knows more about Percy's dad than he does is almost insulted that this fact has slipped her notice.

"Yeah," he shrugs. They're at the movies, because the movies and the mall are the only places twelve-year-olds can reasonably go without their mothers tagging along and hovering, but Sally had put a twenty into his hand and said, "take Logan," so all three of them are here, which hadn't really fit into anyone's plans. He'd rolled and rolled and rolled the twenty in his pocket the entire ride over, while Logan stared out the window and Annabeth tried not to stare at both of them and Sally nervously flipped radio stations in the front seat, so he'd wound up paying the ticket teller with this scrunched-up, rolled-up thing that might have been a twenty in another life, but she hadn't said a word as she unrolled it and picked his pocket-lint off of it, so he's a little grateful for that.

Logan's over by the arcade, hands in his pockets, watching a couple of older teenagers duke it out at DDR. "He's my twin," Percy explains, somewhat helplessly.

People tend to look at him kind of funny whenever he announces this and points at Logan like they need clarification, because apparently "he's my twin" is kind of obvious? He doesn't really care, he just likes saying it. Maybe there are a lot of twins in the world, but none of them are Percy-and-Logan, and that feels important enough to mention every time he meets someone.

"So I can see," says Annabeth faintly, which has to be girl for, "no shit, really," because she's got that kind of tone.

Logan trudges back over, giving Annabeth a cursory look like she's some strange part of the scenery, and nudges at Percy with the toe of his sneaker. "Hey, you have the money, yeah? I'm going to get tokens for the DDR machine."

"Do we have the time? I thought the movie started soon," he's already fishing the crumpled change out of his pocket.

Logan shrugs. "We can miss the previews, they always run too long anyway," which is something Smelly Gabe always says when he's taking too long because he wants to see the end of his television program. He hated it when they went to the movies without him, but he always made them late.

Percy likes previews, though: they're just the right length for his attention span and tend to give away the important parts of the movie so that he doesn't actually have to sit through it later. He knows Logan knows this, and tries not to frown too hard when he just takes a one and smoothes it out, not meeting his eye. He wanders away.

"How come he didn't come to Camp with you?" Annabeth bursts out, like it's what she's been dying to say since she came over and Logan answered the door and she thought he was Percy. "You're both sons of Poseidon, you don't have to wallow in self-pity in that cabin all by yourself! Oh, gods, the prophecy could be about either one of you, since you're both going to turn sixteen at --"

"I don't think he can cross the border," Percy answers quietly, and she falls silent like he's hit a mute button. "I don't think he can get into Camp. He's never ... he's not dyslexic, he's never had the behavioral problems. I don't -- I don't think he's a half-blood."

"... that's impossible," Annabeth murmurs. "He's your twin, you share the same genetic material, he's part Greek god like you and me, this isn't like that Arnold Schwarzenagger movie where you've got different dads, he ..."

"Maybe that particular hero gene skipped him."

She looks at him sharply. "He's angry at you," she realizes, eyes rounding.

Percy tries to smile at her, but it feels a little funny on his face, like it got lost somewhere between his brain and his mouth. "This summer was the longest we've spent apart our entire lives. He's probably mad because I get to decide the fate of the world and he doesn't."

 

They always go to the same school. The first time Percy got expelled (it was the second grade, and he'd pushed Ivonne Jacobsen off the monkey bars. She hadn't even gotten hurt, but she cried like the big stupid girl she was and everybody kept on telling him how this was the Last Straw, which was stupid because they hadn't told him about any other straws,) Sally had worried her lips as she waited for them to buckle themselves into the backseat and then she gave them a choice. "Logan, honey," she'd said into the rearview mirror. "They haven't expelled you, you can stay, if you want."

Logan hadn't even paused, not even long enough for Percy to feel a bolt of pure terror at the thought. "No," he said, easily. "I wanna go with Percy."

Their mother hesitated for a moment, and then said, "All right," and when Percy got kicked out of the next school, she didn't ask and Logan didn't, either, just quietly put all his cursive worksheets into his backpack while everyone else was out at recess and came home with them.

They look alike -- which admittedly is the point of twins, although they're both eight before they learn that there's such thing as fraternal twins, too -- but once you know them, they're fairly easy to tell apart: Logan's the smart one, and when they were learning their multiplication tables and Percy grew frustrated to the point of tears with the way the numbers were doing gynmastics on the page, he pulled Percy's worksheet do him across the table and soundlessly started filling in the answers.

Sally caught them in weeks, of course, and got that look on her face, like she was sad and scared and trying to hide it because she was the adult. "You need to let Percy do his own work," she reprimanded, taking the worksheet back.

Logan gave her a very flat "that's dumb" look. "That's dumb," he said out loud. "He can't do it, and I can. I like doing it, and it gets done." He shrugs his shoulders, like, what's the problem?

He's better at lying than Percy is. Percy's too loud and too quick to get angry at an accusation or even an imagined accusation, and comparatively, Logan's just the right shade of quiet and earnest that gets adults to trust him instinctively, like he must be golden just because Percy's a wild child. It doesn't really stop them from getting into trouble, but at least it gets the other party expelled as well, 85% of the time.

Kids pick fights with Percy all the time, but none of them have a twin. They don't stand a chance.

On a field trip in the sixth grade, Mrs. Dodds pulls Percy to the side to give him a talking to, and Logan finds Nancy Bobofit eating her lunch on the lawn outside and pins her to the grass and gives her a bloody nose: he might be smart and he might be calm, but he is not a goody-two-shoes and the stupid, freckled kleptomaniac is going to get his brother expelled.

On the cosmic scale, Nancy Bobofit winds up not mattering on a truly epic level, because Percy vaporizes Mrs. Dodds, Grover's got hooves and so does Mr. Brunner, and that's the night Hades kills Logan Jackson and his mother and appropriates them as bargaining pieces.

"Do you remember much about it?" Percy asks, as they share a plate of Pizza Rolls on the couch, wiping their greasy fingertips on the cushions because their mother isn't in the room to see it.

Logan thinks for a moment. He remembers dying -- it hurt, in case anybody wanted to know -- but everything after that is kind of bleary, like the mornings Sally used to drive them to school while the fog was rolling in from the Long Island Sound, and it was like nothing existed beyond them in the car. "Not really," he answers, finally. "I don't remember you rescuing me."

On the screen, Captain Jack Sparrow flails around somewhat uselessly as Elizabeth Swann sets an island on fire. "Well, I did," Percy answers mulishly, and settles his head on Logan's shoulder.

Logan jostles him with his elbow. They can hear their mom and stepdad in the kitchen, arguing, Gabe impossibly loud compared to Sally's quiet, firm tone; the kind women get when they're about to kill their husbands.

"Do it again," he demands.

Percy looks up, crinkling his nose slightly. "Are you sure? It's kind of weird."

"I think it's cool," Logan answers, surprised to find this isn't a lie. Percy notices, too, because his eyes light up like the sun catching on the surface of the ocean, and he stretches out his hand. He looks silly, like Spiderman trying to get his web power to work, but then the two glasses of Coke on the coffee table tip over without any provocation at all. The Coke never hits the table surface, but floats, instead, an amorphous mass just sitting in midair.

 

Thalia and Logan get along like someone lit a fire under them. She's over at their apartment all the time anyway, since it's either that or stay at Camp all year round, and having sat around as a pine tree for a number of years before she got Fleece'd, she's a little sick of Camp.

She teaches him how to play the guitar, which is something Logan has been pestering their mom about since they were six and saw the Goofy Movie for the first time, but they never really had the money for lessons, much less an instrument.

As far as Percy can tell, "playing guitar" is actually an excuse to sit on the couch and make atrocious noises as often as possible and then spend the rest of their time coming up with strange things to call their band, like Virtual Morphine and El Pants on Elephants, but having Thalia around means they don't need an amp and when she's really happy, all the lights glow brilliant sun-white regardless of whether or not you flipped the switch.

Logan can probably navigate IMDB three-stages unconscious, and Sally and Percy have given up trying to change their Internet homepage to anything else, so the fact that Thalia has personally played pick-up sticks and freeze tag with a number of the 90s stars they idolized as children is incomparably cool to him. Thalia seems mostly bemused by this, but in September, Logan helps her dye the tips of her hair bright turquoise and, apparently, that's the same as exchanging friendship bracelets in their world.

Percy spends most of that school year learning how to cook, because his sudden upheaval as the coolest person in Logan's universe has left him nobody to hang out with except for his mom, because Annabeth's in California giving her family a second try and Grover's off doing ... important satyr things.

He tried learning music, since Thalia offered to teach them both, but notes and scores are as incomprehensible to him as letters and numbers are, and cooking's a lot easier in comparison. Sally's a full-time student now, working days and going to evening classes, so dinner usually falls to one of them to do.

"Oh, sweetheart," she says sympathetically, watching Percy jab at a curry stir-fry with more vehemence than it requires. "You had to know this was coming. Remember the first couple of times Annabeth came over? Someone's always going to be the odd one out."

"It's not the same!" Percy retorts, deeply offended in the way that fourteen-year-olds always are. "It's not the same at all!"

Come Christmas break, however, they get news of a possible half-blood pair up in Maine and a satyr gone missing, and everyone knows how that story ends.

Percy wakes up in the middle of the night to the sensation of someone climbing into the bottom bunk with him, the mattress dipping with the movement. He is bone-tired exhausted in a way he has never been in his entire life, but he still rolls over, up against the wall, making room for his brother to slide under the duvet with him.

"'re you been?" he slurs with a sleep-thick mouth. "'ren't here when I got home."

"Yeah," goes Logan, and he's still wearing his sneakers, because he accidentally gets Percy in the shin with one of them. "I was in Los Angeles."

This and the kick wakes Percy up some. "Wait, what? Why w're you in LA?"

Logan doesn't answer, just breathes quietly on the pillow space next to Percy's head until he's practically asleep again. Then he lifts a hand with a rustle of movement and touches the shock of pure white that streaks along Percy's temple.

"Hey, yeah," goes Percy, just then remembering that it's there, and the phantom weight of the entire world across the mantle of his back. "Now they'll be able to tell us apart, isn't that cool?"

"... yeah," answers Logan in the dark, but in that moment, he sounds so impossibly sad: sad the way Zoe Nightshade was sad, sad the way Thalia was sad, small and strangely hurt.

 

Anyway, it turns out that there's this kid in the Apollo cabin whose stepdad is a novelist or something down in Texas, and he wants to write this action/adventure series aimed at potential half-bloods to help them realize what they could be, blah blah blah lessening rates of child fatality and misunderstood youth blah. And since a pamphlet wasn't exactly going to get widely circulated, he wanted a fictional story with a little meat to it.

So Percy spends something upwards of a week on the phone with Mr. Riordan, talking until his throat is as sticky and raspy as the underside of an ant trap.

Mr. Riordan is nice enough to send him a draft of the first chapter of The Lightning Thief, and sure, it's good, it sounds like him -- well, if he was twice as witty and actually delivered said witty lines when they were cuttingly appropriate instead of thinking of them later -- but, "you mention in the very beginning that anyone who thinks they might be one of us should close the book immediately and walk away," he points out, deeply bemused.

"Well, sure, son," goes Riordan. "No better way to make recalcitrant preteens do something than to tell them not to do it."

Percy doesn't know what recalcitrant means, but he has to admit there's a point to be made there.

"He doesn't mention me," Logan brings up later. He always reads faster than Percy does, and reaches the end of the Word document first, finger absently playing with the little scroll wheel on the mouse.

Percy startles, because he's right, and it really should have been the first thing he noticed: the Perseus Jackson that Rick Riordan is going to push to literary fame doesn't have a mortal twin brother, and the wrongness of that crawls underneath Percy's skin, raising the hairs on his arms, because there's no way he would have made it as far as the showdown with Mrs. Dodds, much less the rest of the mess he's in, without Logan looking out after him: that's just simple fact.

His hand jerks for the cordless phone. "I'm going to call him back --"

"No, don't, it's fine," Logan goes immediately, budging him with his hip. They used to share the office chair in front of the computer without any trouble at all, but it's harder to fit these days, on account of puberty and all. "It wouldn't make sense anyway, right, for the hero of the series to have a twin brother who doesn't have any part in his adventures. It doesn't --"

He falters, almost helplessly, and Percy looks at him sideways. He keeps his hair short for practical, life-or-death related reasons, but Logan's started to grow it out like he thinks he's a rocker now, always giving his head an impatient shake to clear his bangs out of his eyes. He does it all the time: it's more familiar to Percy, that movement in his peripheral, than Riptide is in his pocket.

 

Percy was named after the only half-blood hero in Greek mythology who got a happy ending, and Logan was named after the protagonist of Sally's favorite book series as a child, and Percy's always wondered if, somehow, she'd known which of them was going to be normal and which of them was going to almost die on a semi-annual basis.

She's never complained, being a single mother raising twins on a retail worker's salary, and she's beautiful in her wedding dress, fabric an off-white shade of ivory and the gown drop-waisted. They couldn't afford real diamonds, so Percy made her a gossamer net of ice crystals to wear in her hair, so the lights in the church set her to sparkling.

In some weird speciality store that Rachel dragged them to earlier that month, Logan found a pair of cheap, plastic vampire fangs that, through some manufacturing mistake, had come out bright blue. "Look, Mom, something blue! You were looking for something, remember, since you have everything else," he'd insisted, and now, up at the altar, Sally greets Paul with a blue vampiric grin, and he laughs so hard it's another four minutes before they can actually start the ceremony. Standing directly behind the best man, Percy and Logan bump fists.

Much later, at the reception (which is held at the bowling alley because Sally and Paul think they're ironic like that,) they wind up drunk on something that's a little more cider than carbon and huddled together in the back room where they keep little broken pencil stubs and mismatched bowling shoes while, outside, one of Paul's cousins makes out with somebody else's girlfriend up against the door. They're giggling helplessly, hands clutching at the lapels of the other's formal suits, and they're both wearing the same ridiculous two-toned bowling shoes that sit somewhat rancidly in a discarded bin in the corner, and every time they catch a glimpse of them at the ends of their trousers, it sets them off again.

"Did you get the bottle?" Percy gasps out, like a fish left flopping.

Logan's eyes widen with comic horror. "God, no," he groans. "I left it on the table."

Percy grabs him round the neck in a faux choke-hold and shakes him back and forth. "It was at least three-quarters full," he moans in acute agony. "You left a three-quarters full bottle just sitting on the table when we could be in here, enjoying it."

Logan snorts and giggles at the same time, a distinctive hee-hee-hee. "That sounds dirty," he goes nonsensically, and then they're off again, shaking with laughter.

When they quiet, Logan covers Percy's hands with his own, and he startles a little bit, because he's forgotten he's still got them around his brother's neck. Logan brushes his thumbs over the knobs in his wrists, seemingly lost in thought.

"When the school year's over," he says, and even through the disconnected haze Percy's in, some internal part of him snaps to attention, because Logan is using his this-is-important tone and he's hardwired to listen to his brother when he uses that tone. "When the school year's over, I have this internship in LA. Thalia's ... Thalia said I should do it, so I'm going to. I'm going to LA."

Percy absorbs this. "Okay," he goes, nodding. "That's good. It's like a summer internship, right, so you'll be there while I'm at Camp. That'll work."

But Logan's shaking his head, and they're so close together at this point that when he bites his lip, it's like his teeth swallow half of Percy's world. "No, if I'm good at it, then they'll keep me. Permanently. It's not just a summer internship. It -- it might be forever, yeah?"

It's funny -- Mr. Riordan's books describe sudden shocks as similar to being hit in the face with cold water, and it does, it really does. The happy-drunk urge to start giggling evaporates like it was never there.

Seeing the roadkill, shipwrecked look that has to be all over his face, Logan grabs onto him, tighter this time, like he's somehow drifting away even though he's still sitting right there.

"It's Hollywood, Percy," goes Logan, kind of darkly desperate. "You don't say no when Hollywood asks, you know? And I can do it, you know I'm good at it --" this is true, at least. Being high school freshmen and therefore lowly bottomfeeders didn't stop Logan from immediately falling in with Rachel and the rest of the drama crowd, and the two of them had spent way too much of November cooped up in a lightbox for Goode's production of A Few Good Men. Percy'd kind of been hoping Logan would try out for the band, because statistically the band geeks are bullied the hardest in high school and go on to be the most well-rounded and functioning members of society, but, as Rachel kindly pointed out to him, there were no band geeks for the 08-09 school year because he'd so conveniently destroyed the band room during orientation.

But.

But still. Logan is his brother, his twin. Hades' holy handbaskets, they used to share the same uterus; that kind of thing tends to bond people together. Sure, Percy spent his summers with a bunch of other half-gods desperately trying not to get themselves killed in Luke's great quest for revenge, but that didn't change the fact that nine months out of the year, he was at home with his brother, bitching about the damn turrets on Portal and wondering what real life application he could get out of the Pythagorean Theorem. The idea that Logan will be gone for the whole year, that the time spent without him with outweigh the time spent with him...

There's no point in having bottom bunk if there's no one in the top bunk.

When he comes back to himself, he realizes he's clutching Logan as close as humanly possible, something that's too much of a frantic crush to really be a hug. It feels more like he's trying to press himself into Logan's bones, like somehow they can be like the hero in The Lightning Thief, the one who's the best of Percy and the best of Logan in one character.

Logan clings back just as tightly, suit jackets wrinkled in great handfuls.

Don't go, Percy wants to say, and he buries his face in the junction where Logan's shoulder meets his neck, because he can't do that. It isn't fair.

 

When he leaves for LA, Logan takes one photograph with him. Percy knows, because he slipped it into the toiletries pouch in his suitcase when Logan was in the bathroom, probably making off with whichever shampoo bottle is the most full.

It's an older photograph: in it, Sally's wearing a denim jacket like she thinks it's still the 80s, and the colors are too bold, the backgrounds too-dark, the way photographs were when the flash bulb was the zenith of portable camera technology. Sally's got a boy under each arm; Logan's face is squinched up, laughing, and Percy's got his arms outspread like an airplane, and Sally is all grinning teeth, easily joyful.

They never had the money for professional portraits, so it's their favorite family photo. It seems fitting that Logan should take it with him, heading into foreign lands, where there be monsters, there be dragons, there be the things Percy can't protect him from.

 

The River Styx burns the skin from his bones, and he can't stop screaming.

Nico's waiting on the shore, alone and panicked, and Percy's seconds away from losing that tether back to him, when Annabeth materializes on the inside of his eyelids, half-smiling in that way she gets when she thinks he's being particularly dense.

Come on, Seaweed Brain, she says coaxingly, soft and easy and only a little exasperated. Come on, you can do this.

It hurts, Annabeth, he tells her, half-sobbing with it.

She smiles, touching her fingertips to his temple soothingly, catching where the white streak starts. You have to hang on, she says. You can't die, and you know why? Because you're twelve minutes older. You'll turn sixteen first, and if you die now, you kelp head, then the prophecy will fall to Logan. He's still a child of the Big Three, hero or not, and you can't do that to him. Logan can't do jack squat besides look pretty and breathe through his mouth: I think you'll find it's a genetic trait.

Are you saying I'm pretty?

She rolls her eyes. I'm saying you've got things you need to live for.

This, Percy realizes, is true, and it's like a sudden focal point in the middle of all the pain, like taking a magnifying glass to the sun and getting all that light pinpointed into one bright, concentrated spot.

That's it, says Annabeth, and she offers him her hand. Time to go.

 

The Riordan kid from Apollo comes bounding up to them in the arena some afternoon (Tuesday, Thursday, something beginning with T,) taking the bleachers two at a time.

"Did you hear?" he goes breathlessly, plopping down beside them with so much force that the whole row shudders. "They bought the script and the rights! They're turning The Lightning Thief into a movie!"

Annabeth sits up so fast she dislodges Percy's arm from around her shoulders. "Ohmygods," she says, really fast and without any space at all between the words. She twists around to face him, and he can see they're on the exact same page. "Percy, Logan. He has to play the part, quick, we need to call him and tell him to audition!"

She leaps to her feet, grabbing hold of his hand by the wrist bone and yanking him so they both went clattering down the bleachers -- and behind them, Riordan protests, "really, with the running, do we have to, I just came all the way up here!"

"I don't know, Annabeth," Percy points out mildly, feeling a little itchy at being the voice of reason in this. "He's only had those small little parts, remember, do you think they're going to take him seriously for the title role?"

"That's why you're going to call Mr. Riordan, too," she tosses over her shoulder, voice firm, as they duck out of the arena and spill out onto the rest of the campgrounds. "If the author has a preference for the movie adaptation, they're going to at least pretend to take it into consideration -- it worked with the lady who wrote Inkheart and Brendan Fraser, remember? -- and come on, like Logan won't play you note-perfect."

"He's going to make me sound like an idiot."

"Yeah, note-perfect, like I said."

"Sorry, wait, who's Logan?" the Riordan kid pipes up from behind, jogging to keep up.

"My twin brother," Percy explains, pretending not to notice when Riordan kind of trips over himself in surprise, arresting his momentum. "He's a mortal and he wants to be an actor."

"I didn't know you had a brother," the Apollo kid goes, blankly.

"Yeah, I get that a lot," Percy says, dry and pointed, and Annabeth ignores him.

"You have to admit it makes a certain amount of sense," his mother had said to him, finding him at the kitchen table one morning shortly after Logan left for his internship, sitting and staring at his vacant spot at the table. "He's never been able to see through the Mist, you know, so he's always had to take our word for it that it was really there. It's probably almost a talent of his by now, to believe in a make-believe world. It's why acting comes so naturally to him."

"Thank you, Mom, that was very deep. Very burgeoning novelist of you," he'd replied, and she'd rolled her eyes at his early morning wit and knocked her (thankfully empty) coffee mug against the side of his head.

 

Logan has a Beverly Hills address, but in actuality, he falls on the wrong side of the 405 to truly be in the right zipcode: he lives with a bunch of very nice, Stepford people called the Lermans, who are Thalia's only surviving mortal family.

"I thought her last name was Grace," Percy goes, perplexed, the first time Logan explains this to him.

His brother waves this off with an easy, "It's Hollywood."

The Lermans live in a one-story right snug up against the noise reduction walls, which doesn't actually stop the twenty-four-seven sound of the freeway; Logan's mattress is tucked underneath the window, blankets half-dragging to the floor and pillow permanently indented, and when he props it open to let the night breeze off the Pacific in, you can still hear the howling of semi-trucks up on the other side of the high stone wall. Mom Lerman had offered Percy a sleeping bag, but the first night he spends in Logan's breathing space, heads on the same pillow the way they used to when they were little, having successfully coerced themselves into their mother's bed by faking nightmares (in hindsight, Percy's pretty sure Sally knew what they were doing, because at four, their acting skills were not fine-tuned, but she let them get away with it and her sheets always smelled like her soap.) Logan talks the whole time, voice a low, steady stream of words, tripping over each other as he falls into story after story, about the places he's gone to and the people he's worked with.

Percy, whose only memories of LA are mattresses! and dead people! and oh shit Ares is trying to kill me what do I do, listens attentively to all of it, no matter that his time zones are messed up and he's so tired the insides of his eyelids drag like sandpaper, because there's a brownness to Logan's cheeks and forearms that wasn't there before, definition to his shoulders and biceps that had materialized out of nowhere. He'd seen them as they appeared on TV, sure, but it's different seeing them in person, because LA has lit Logan up the way Manhattan never did.

"Don't you have school?"Logan asks him when September 1st has come and gone and Percy's still in the Lermans' kitchen in the morning, eating Kix straight out of the box.

He chews with his mouth open, probably treating Logan to the sight of half-mashed cereal. "No. I got expelled again."

"From Paul's school?" Logan's eyebrows make a vaguely disapproving shape in his general direction. "I thought Paul's school was our perfect fit."

Percy shrugs again. "You left, dude. Turns out staying out of trouble is a lot harder without my wingman."

"Babysitter," Logan corrects, less frowning now and more exasperatedly smiling.

"Brother," Percy shoots back, and it sounds like a much deeper statement than he meant it to be, like he's saying something more important than he really was.

The first time he and his mom got to see one of Logan's movies start to finish, it wasn't much of a part, but they still gathered practically everyone they knew and dragged them to the theaters and stayed well into the credits just to be able to point to his name and go, ours, ours, that's our Logan, so it hurt, in a papercut, sudden gape-smiling flesh kind of way to see the name change: from Logan Jackson who'd seen the inside of practically every magnet school in the greater Manhattan area, to Logan Lerman, who delivered key character developing lines in cheap-budget remade westerns on a screen so big it made his face the size of mattresses.

"It's not -- it's not --" Logan tried, when Percy indulged later, and dragged his covers up to his chin with the landline phone tucked against his ear, like that made it easy to pretend his brother was in the room, not just a voice vibrated down thousands of miles of cable. "You know it's not because of you. Or Mom. God, I wouldn't do that to hurt Mom. It's honestly one hundred percent more superficial than that."

"Is it?"

"Oh come on, I was thinking that with a last name like Jackson, I would have a lot of contenders. Michael and Janet, for one. Motherfucking Samuel T, for another, okay, I am never going to be able to compete with snakes on a plane."

"I fought snakes on a boat once," Percy offers, doesn't know why, it's just the stupid shit he says. "What do you think Lonely Island can do with that?"

And Logan laughed at him. Something eased in Percy's chest, because if he can still make his twin brother laugh like that, then the world was not as radically different as it seemed.

 

So anyway, for all that Logan's always been pretty smart and Percy's working very, very hard at developing an instinct for survival (which has been conspicuously absent most of his life,) the both of them are still caught off guard when Logan takes him to the set of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief, and there's the bad moment when they realize they can't actually introduce Percy as Percy Jackson.

"This is my brother ... um, Bob," says Logan to Cindy, the amphibian-faced lady who drives them across the 20th Century campus in a golf cart, one hand on the wheel and the other cradling a Coffee & Bean protectively.

Percy dies a little on the inside, because way to suck at improv, but he offers Cindy his best smile, looping his arm around Logan's shoulder and adding, "We're twins," seeing her face flip from semi-amused your parents were sadists, weren't they, to the ever familiar squinched-brow no shit really.

Mom Lerman knows the truth, because she's been in the Hollywood business since she was twelve and got her first summer job bringing glasses of water to Maria Montez in Arabian Nights. Her sister, Thalia's mom, became a big-haired eighties superstar and fell in with Zeus, so Percy and Logan don't have to explain the Greek god thing: Mrs. Lerman sees through the Mist just fine, and seems as remarkably unperturbed about that as she does everything else.

"You're Thalia's cousins, it's the least I can do," she had waved away Percy's concern that they were perhaps outstaying their welcome. She smiled, somewhat waveringly, and tugged at the hem of her suit jacket. "I never thought I was going to see her again."

The set is kind of insane: Percy knows, objectively, that LA is a very large city, but he can't help but thinking that half the population has to be here, milling around with clipboards and headsets or otherwise walking here to there like they think they're doing something productive. Logan beelines him right past a squat, balding man who he later learns to be Chris Columbus and Jake Abel (who double-takes at the sight of them and then goes, "woah, twins? That's hot,") to introduce him to more important people, like Pierce fucking Brosnan.

The very small part of Percy that is not flailing around like Kermit the Frog notes, somewhat acerbically, that his resemblance to James Bond is minimal at best, as Pierce Brosnan currently has on skintight pants so radioactively green they were probably fished out of Chernobyl, and what looks like electrodes attached to certain parts of his head -- "that's for the CGI people later," Logan explains, unfazed -- and the overall bare-chested effect leaves Percy's small, idolizing heart a little confused.

Before he can do more than imply he might have more than three brain cells firing together, someone materializes to shepherd Logan off to make-up, so all Percy gets to do is this half-assed little wave thing, and spends the next five minutes in a deep, critical well of mourning for how spectacularly, horribly star-struck he'd come off as.

His brother's laughing at him, of course, which doesn't seem all that fair considering there's a very young, cheerfully upbeat man with shark tooth earrings putting false eyelashes on him.

Logan takes pity on him eventually, though, and drags him close to the make-up chair in order to point and go, "see her? That's Alex D. She plays Annabeth."

Using Logan's Blackberry (oh, the benefits of having a mortal twin brother who will not have his head bitten off by something Greek and toothy for using a cell phone) they surreptitiously try to take a creeper photograph of her (the make-up guy is laughing at their complete failure at subtlety, and exaggeratedly leans out of their way) in order to e-mail it to Annabeth.

Her reply is instantaneous: They didn't dye her hair.

Logan plucks the Blackberry out of Percy's fingers and thumbs out a reply: well observed. white collar needed her to be their resident brunette love interest, so she wouldn't let them touch it. sorry if that offends you ;__;

No, I like it, Annabeth e-mails back. Did you read the books? Because Rick Riordan made it kind of obvious that my character was flying in the face of the dumb blonde stereotype -- he used my hair color to try and break a social stigma. But it's really not my most important quality, so as long as whoever-she-is kicks your ass to kingdom come on screen, I will be happy.

Alex D kicks ass with the best, Logan reassures her, then grins at Percy, fingering the lock button and stowing his phone underneath his breastplate. "I think your girlfriend just ordered me to do some kinky S&M stuff with her character on screen."

"Uh, I don't think she'd go for that," Percy answers, meaning Alex across the room, who has her legs crossed and a Kindle balanced on her knee like the make-up artist that's arranging her hair is beneath her notice.

"Percy, she's twenty-six," says Logan, like this is in any way an answer to the question. He purses his lips. "Is Annabeth your girlfriend, then?"

He'd asked the same exact question when they were twelve, when Percy came home at the end of June with a pen that turned into a sword and a new best friend, only then it'd been much more hurt, much more of a cold-shouldered sneer. This is just curious, a little self-conscious and self-aware, like maybe significant others are that kind of thing that twins should know about each other.

"I guess?" Percy shrugs. "I don't know, we make out a lot. Does that mean we're dating? She could probably tell you."

It comes out a little more dismissive than he means it to, so he isn't really surprised at Logan's next question. "Do you love her?"

"Of course I do," he replies, immediate and sure, and flicks his eyes sideways when the make up-guy (Ian, maybe?) murmurs, good on ya, Bob, under his breath. "More than anyone in that world."

There's a long pause.

Logan says, "I made out with Rachel in Paul's car after you left."

If Percy had been holding an ice cream cone, this would have been the comedically-timed moment when the ice cream fell off the cone to splat on the cement.

"You bitch," he says, staring, and Logan just kind of shrugs, like, what are you going to do?

 

Their seventeenth birthday comes and goes without fanfare, although Alex and Brandon T. Jackson ("shut up," Logan says preemptively, and Percy just holds up his hands like, hey, it's your professional insecurity that made you take a stage name, it's not my fault they got Brandon to come and show you up) buy Logan a bright blue baby bonnet, since he's the youngest cast member and needs Mom Lerman to still sign his personal risk assessment forms. Logan one-ups them by proudly wearing it around all day, to the stage hands' endless amusement and the frustration of Chris Columbus.

A couple weeks later, when they have more or less come to the wordless agreement that they've unofficially dropped out of high school, Percy balls up his rain jacket underneath his head on the ride back to the Lermans' place and says, "we should get a place of our own when we turn eighteen, yeah?"

He knows without opening his eyes that both Logan and Mom Lerman shoot him lightning-strike looks, like he said something completely different from what came out of his mouth.

When Logan says, "yeah, okay, sounds like a plan," he's a little bit hoarse, like he breathed through fire to say it.

Percy basically wants to live as far away from Santa Monica as possible while still feasibly being inside the city, so on one of Logan's breaks from filming, they go down to the Newport Beach boardwalks in Costa Mesa, where there are girls in bikinis with parrots on their shoulders talking to tourists and bungalows with rusting tin roofs sitting on the dunes, well inside the flooding zone. He's close enough to the ocean that it makes him a little dizzy, like he's got his headphones in and each is playing something different -- the hippocampi just beyond the breakers are complaining about the sea otters that've been over-farming their kelp, and Logan's talking to a shop owner about hula-dancing bobbleheads.

"You don't have to, you know," their mother tells them when they call her, standing in line together in a crowded Chinese buffet off of Pomona Ave; three hours time difference means she's just about to head to her senior seminar class. "I'm not the kind of mother that boots her sons out of the house when they turn eighteen."

"No, we know," Logan assures her.

"You're a fabulous mother," Percy adds, leaning in close to the mouthpiece to be heard. This close, he gets a whiff of Logan's breath right in his face (he wrinkles his nose at him to let him know what he thinks of that) and, underneath it, the pervasive smell of cosmetic paint and Degree for Men.

"And it's not like we're not making money," Logan continues, rolling his eyes and huffing deliberately in Percy's face. "Okay, well, I'm making money. I suppose if we get desperate for cash, we can sell Percy by the side of the road. People still buy circus attractions, right?"

Sally laughs, tolerant, but she quiets and says, "Give the phone to Percy, Logan," and Logan does without even making a comment about it.

Possible kinetic attraction of monsters to cell-phone-using half-bloods be damned, Percy tucks the warm Blackberry up against his ear.

"Are you sure, honey?" his mother says, her voice low, serious, and probing. "Manhattan is your home -- your world is here."

"Camp is there," Percy replies. He's thought about this in the abstract, so this is the first time he's tried to put it into words. He finds that they're all already there, and they come readily to his tongue. "Mt. Olympus is there. And I've pretty much been as useful to them as I can, what with the sacrificial lamb shtick they made me play, so it's probably time I do something else, right?"

"I don't like the idea of both of you being so far away," Sally goes, but it's quieter now.

"It's not that far away, come on," Percy laughs. "It's LA and New York -- like anybody really cares about the states in between."

The man in front of them with the Missouri State Cup-Stacking Championship t-shirt turns around to look at him, flat and disapproving, and Percy cracks him a wise-ass smile, because, please, he almost fell to his death off the St. Louis Arch, like he was going to forget Missouri.

There's a long pause from Sally's end, and then she says, "You take care of your brother, okay?"

Percy jerks at that, like she'd taken an electric cattle prod to him. He feels a little shocked and incredulous, like gravity had chosen that exact moment to start applying: it may, in fact, be the most important thing anyone's ever said to him, trumping even, "yer a wizard, Harry," and "the hero's soul cursed blade shall reap."

He looks at Logan, who lifts his eyebrows questioningly.

And Percy -- Percy is done. Just like that. He's done, because he's a half-blood, right, he's very good at being a half-blood. In fact, he might be the best half-blood of the last half-century, considering he saved the world and everything a couple months before he was supposed to. But that's over, that's done: you can grow out of being a hero, apparently, because you can save the world and people will still look at you and say, cool trick, now what, but Logan ... Logan is just beginning. Logan is just starting at what he wants to do, and Percy wants, suddenly, more than anything in the world, to be there for Logan the way Logan couldn't be there for him.

"Dude, what?" goes Logan, blinking at him.

He hadn't been lying. He's served his purpose to Camp, to Olympus. He hasn't been Grover's best friend for years, despite the emphatic link that still sometimes twinges in the back of his head, and Annabeth loves him, he knows this, but she doesn't need him, doesn't need him because she has places to go, Olympus to rebuild, badassery to be, and she wasn't raised to need a voice in the bunk above her after lights out, or toothbrushes tilted towards each other by the sink, because she's too clear-eyed and strong to let him, and he refuses to be the deadbeat boy who's only going to disappoint her, because Annabeth deserves to never be disappointed.

Nobody needs a twin except the other twin, and Percy drags Logan in close right there in the middle of the Chinese buffet in Costa Mesa, hugging him tightly.

"Oh, um, okay, hi there," his brother says. His brother, and Percy has a flash of thought: of going back to Manhattan, of growing up and doing nothing particularly useful and getting mistaken for his silver-screen brother on the streets, of only seeing Logan at holidays to exchange abbreviated versions of their lives, of telling people, hey, guess what, I'm a twin, yeah, I know you didn't know, like it's some kind of party trick, and then he just holds onto Logan all the tighter, telling that future, not on your life.

"Yeah," Percy tells his mother. "Yeah, always."

 

Logan's half-asleep in the bean-bag chair, running through his lines and scrolling through Very Demotivational on his laptop, which makes him break character in various distracting ways in order to snicker and swing the laptop around in order to show Percy the latest macro.

They're on one of the final scenes, and Percy thumbs to the next page, skimming to the end. The words are settled today, letters lying tranquil on the page, which makes them easier to read, and in turn, it's giving Percy an almost eerie sense of calm, like it does right before a battle's about to start and everything is so crystalline and clear.

Logan delivers his last line, all triumph and cockiness, and Percy lets the script flutter closed. He thumps his head back against the side of the mattress.

"That's a little caustic, don't you think?" he says, mostly directed at the ceiling.

"What is?" goes Logan.

"This whole wannabe epic showdown scene," Percy says, folding down the beat-up, bent corner of the script cover. "I mean, I know that they had to remove Kronos from the story because they didn't want to make a series of movies, so they bumped Luke up to be the big bad villain and half-assedly stapled 'I want world domination' to his forehead. But is killing him necessary?"

He hears a click as Logan shuts the laptop; the bean bag creaks and groans in protest as he shifts his weight.

"Percy Jackson's not like that," Percy murmurs, still at the ceiling. "Not the character -- he's this dumb kid, he's scared for his mom and he's just discovered he's got this power and he's not quite over being all Peter Parker about it and he's not the kind of kid who would just ... kill someone else like that, and then brush it off like business as usual."

"Maybe he doesn't die --" Logan tries, but half-heartedly. At the end of The Lightning Thief, Luke -- poor, trivialized Luke with all the depth stripped out of his character -- falls into Long Island Sound and is dragged down to the mud to drown. It's not explicit, because it's still a kid's movie, but it's heavily implied.

"It doesn't -- Luke was our friend." Percy scrubs at his face with the backs of his hands; it feels over-hot and itchy. "We've known him as long as we knew Annabeth, or Grover, and so if we can kill him when he does something we don't like, what's to stop us from killing them when they get out of line? It's not the right way to go."

"It's just a movie," Logan says, even quieter.

Percy sighs.

"He deserves better than that," he says, soft. "He was just a kid who had daddy issues and made decisions in the wrong places at the wrong times, and he died right in front of me."

Suddenly, Logan says, "I would have done it."

Percy drops his gaze to his brother, unbidden. Logan's sitting forward in the bean-bag chair, and there's an impossible fierceness strike-hot in his eyes -- pure and focused and furious in a way Percy's never seen from him. It's like the center of gravity in the room is changing, everything drawn towards Logan like the pull of a star gone supernova.

"I would have done it," he repeats, in that white-star, shipwrecked voice, breathless and fathomless. "If I had known what was going to happen, what Luke would do -- you bet I would have drowned him. In the drinking fountain, if I had to, and I would have been like, what, hey, bitch, I am a son of Poseidon, and look, I just solved your Prophecy."

Percy just kind of rolls his eyes at him. "No, you wouldn't have."

"Yes, yes, I would," and with another loud protest from the bean bag chair, Logan is right in front of him, on hands and knees and reaching for the skunk stripe in Percy's hair; a brush of a knuckle at Percy's temple, and it's like gravity reasserts itself.

"That's the thing, Percy -- I get you out of trouble, I always have. And if that meant killing Luke before he could kill your friends and rile up a bunch of Titans to beat on the US, I would have." He gets a grip on Percy's hair, twisting a fistful to make sure that Percy's looking right at him as he says it, spits it, writes it in concrete in the space of air between them. "I don't have your kind of heart, the one that actually cares what other people think and do. You're my brother, and to spare you four years of being groomed and sent off to fight and that whole mess with the River Styx, I would have held Luke down myself."

"No --" Percy protests instantly, because there's no way he could have missed something this big about his brother, but he remembers the presence at his back in all his schoolyard fights, the straightforward way Logan had held Nancy Bobofit down on their sixth grade field trip, his cold-shouldering of Annabeth that'd lasted for years, like Luke being a traitor meant it was just a matter of time before Annabeth was one too.

He swallows, hard, and is just going through the steps it would take to break Logan's hold and get out of the room when some of the ferocity on Logan's face cracks, shifts, becomes something else entirely, something that's a little too close to hopelessness for comfort.

It's a look he recognizes, clicking into place and widening his eyes; it was the look their mother wore when she met him on the landing outside their apartment after he won her back from Hades; it was the look that broke around the edges of Zoe Nightshade's eyes when she talked about Hercules; it was the look that Silena wore, seconds before she died -- a love, a love worth ending worlds for.

Percy reaches up, hand catching against the curve of his brother's cheek, jaw, ear, using it to drag him in, swallow his mouth in a kiss.

It's immediate, visceral, the feeling of everything suddenly being exactly where it's supposed to be, like yin meeting yang for an endless spin. Logan presses in, no surprise, no hesitation, just flattens him back against the side of his bed and mouths back at him.

There's no intent to the kiss, not the way you'd kiss other people: this is just another way to fight, communicate, punish, love, just another extension of the way they've known each other since they were put into their mom's arms together, wrinkly red and newborn and already innately loving each other, because that's just what twins do.

You have no idea, are the words on Logan's lips, movement and breath and Percy can read them as clearly as if they'd been given to him in Ancient Greek. You have no idea what it was like to watch that stupid war swallow you up, and Percy hooks his arm around the back of Logan's neck and hauls him close, kisses him deeper like he can climb inside.

It's only when they can feel every involuntary shiver of muscle in the other's body, heartbeat and stretch-breath of their lungs filling, no secrets left anywhere, that the kiss fades, becomes just two brothers holding onto each other on the carpet in a house on the wrong side of the 405.

But despite that, or maybe because of it, the triumph in Logan's voice at that confrontation scene stays, all the way to the final cut; the scripted line delivered cocky and sure, with all the dismissiveness of someone play-acting, someone who's never had to kill another person in their entire life and isn't old enough yet to appreciate that fact.

Logan stares Percy down, defiant, and Percy lets it go. It's just a movie.

 

The thing is, Percy is never going to forget: fifteen years old, and he went to the top of the Empire State Building never intending to come down, intending to die a hero the way the Great Prophecy said he would, and when he came back down, alive, Logan wasn't even there. It will always feel wrong, like a CD suddenly starting to skip in the middle of a favorite song, like breathing down the wrong pipe, and Percy isn't going to miss a single important moment in Logan's life, just to make up for it. Because that, at least, he knows is right.

He wakes up to his brother's heartbeat, his left ear over-warm and his mouth gummy with sleep.

He lifts his head, uncurling his hand from under Logan's ribs to wipe at his lips, relieved to find he hasn't been drooling. Sound rushes in to replace the percussion beat of Logan's heartbeat; there's rain falling outside, drumming against the windscreen, and he's so disoriented that he thinks for a moment that he's listening to the heartbeat of the entire world, because the rush of sound is eerily similar.

"Percy," says Logan, just that.

Percy looks up the line of his brother's body to find Logan with his head tilted back, watching the rain outside, the blur of it smudging out the sky, and the feeling of it hits him hard underneath his sternum, a kick in his heart like love, like love, and he wonders for an all-consuming moment how it is that anybody does anything, how anybody gets up or goes to work or commits murder in the dead of night, when it means leaving this; someone beloved tangled up with them in bed.

"Look," breathes Logan, in that I'm your brother pay attention voice that Percy has been obeying since they were toddlers. Logan lifts his hand, looking strangely like Peter Parker trying to get his web action to go, and gestures at the window.

The sound changes, and the movement pulls low in Percy's gut like it was his own power, and he looks at Logan in shock.

Outside, the rain slowly begins to fall upward.

 

 

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fin