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What If?

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“Mommy, mommy! Can I go play soccer with the other kids?” Percy was looking at her with those baby seal eyes that his father had warned her about, it was almost too hard to resist. “I promise I’ll stay close by...” 

    Sally smiled softly as she leaned down to ruffle his hair, kissing the top of his head lightly. She was forever grateful that he never had the phase where mom wasn’t cool. “Go make some friends. But if you can’t see me..” 

    “You can’t see me. I know, I promise.” He giddily ran off to play with the other kids, kicking up grass as he went. It was a good day, Gabe had been sober most of the week and had worked enough to pay off all the bills early so he could save up for his next poker game. Percy’s scent was covered for at least the next few days and Gabe’s family had offered to take responsibility for some of the wedding payments, which meant that she had enough saved to cover getting Percy to school next year and some new things he’d need. 

    Sally watched him play for as long as she could before feeling her phone buzzing in her pocket. His mother. “Hello Mrs...” Sally almost flinched as she listened to this woman squeal about how excited she was that Sally had finally agreed to wear her wedding dress since her daughter had ran off with that “ugly mess of a snake womanizer of hers” and ruined the family name. Like it wasn’t a terrible name anyway. “Thank you, I’ll let you...” Her breath caught in her throat as she saw the boy with one eye waving Percy over to the tree. “Oh god, Percy?” She tried to keep the frantic tone out of her voice as she tried to get him to leave the boy alone. Did babies eat demigods or was that learned when they were big enough to fight? She quickly said that Percy was getting too far away and she needed to hang up. Luckily, as a mother Mrs. Ugliano understood. 

    But Percy just waved back and smiled next to the boy, moving to look at the tree. Her heart raced as she walked over and tried to put on a smile for the other parents. Percy beamed at her when she reached them, grabbing for her hand and bringing her over to see the bird’s nest. “Look what my friend Tyson found!” He was four years old, almost five and she was completely terrified of losing him. His friend , the cyclops child, was almost a head taller than him but he barely spoke three words and those were “My name Tyson.” 

    “Percy we should get going. Maybe you can meet Tyson here later, after I get back from work.” They would never be coming back to this park again, but Percy was never good with directions so he would just be sad that he didn’t see his friend again. 

    But it was barely a week later that they found him outside a shop while the owner took a broom to his side to try and get the boy off his step. This mortal couldn’t see that he wasn’t a mortal boy, he just saw some homeless kid sleeping on his step and he was hitting him. Percy was there in a second, blocking the hits. As soon as one of them landed on him, Tyson suddenly had the energy to stand up and get in front of him with his eye red from tears but angry as hell. “No!” 

    Sally sprinted forward and grabbed the broom right out of his hands, glaring him in the eye. “I would close your shop for the day if I was you.” As soon as the man was gone, she kneeled by Tyson’s side as he collapsed next to her. “Oh baby, what did he do to you? Let me see. I’m Percy’s mom remember? I’m gonna help you.” She almost sobbed when she saw the scrapes all over his body, she thought that was the was the worst of it. But his back....“Percy, pick up my phone please and the bag. We’re taking Tyson home.” 

    He wasn’t bleeding anymore but the scars were ugly and blistering. She was carrying him the whole way, almost in a piggy back but she had to keep him from slipping. She almost cried out in relief when she saw Gabe wasn’t at home when she got there, putting Tyson on the couch and checking Percy over. He was fine, maybe a bruise on his arm. “Run your arm under cold water. Get Tyson some new clothes, the ones Mrs. Santiago dropped off.” She prayed Tyson was the son of who she thought he was because if not this was going to do nothing. He was only foggily conscious and she prayed Gabe nor anyone he associated with walked in as she stripped the child down to his shorts and filled the tub with as much water as she could before lifting him into it. She made sure he could sit up and not slide under the water before she grabbed a washcloth and started cleaning him. She had to drain the water two times before finally the water stayed clear. He blinked at her as he slowly seemed to wake up, tensing as he looked around. 

    “You’re okay!” Percy looked at him from the doorway holding the new clothes that he had picked out. “And you’re clean!” It was like magic as Tyson immediately relaxed when he saw his half brother, her suspicions confirmed when she saw the thin white lines on his back instead of what was there before. “Mommy, is he staying?” 

    Sally didn’t know what to do. She remembered the empousa that tried to eat her first boyfriend and the cyclops, the cyclops , that crashed her high school graduation. She remembered the one that mimicked his voice and drew her into a dark warehouse. She knew immediately something was wrong so she tried to leave...Poseidon got her out of there but she was being dragged by the hair to a spit when he got there. Every time she thought of the cyclopes she’d seen, she would feel her throat tightening in anxiety of them coming for Percy. But the baby cy...the boy in front of her didn’t give her that feeling. He was just as scared as she was, looking like he was expecting her to hit him or eat him. Just like she originally thought of him. “I’m going to see if he has a family, But until then, yes.” 

    Tyson ate. Not in the, I’m growing and I need it, kind of way. But the, I’ve been starving on the streets and this is real food kind of way. So she made all the soup she had in the house for him because the apple she offered confused him and made his nose wrinkle and the pasta she made would have choked him because he didn’t know how to chew. He took in three cans before deciding he liked tomato soup with bread. Her smile only waned when he asked what she did with the blue fuzzy bits. 

    “Can Tyson stay in my room?” The question squeezed her chest and threatened to steal her breath, but her lungs were made of iron and her smile was painted on. Percy pouted when she told him he would have to stay on the couch but Tyson’s face when she showed him made it all okay. Because this was better than his box in the alley. “Is Tyson going to brush his teeth?” 

    That was almost a complete disaster but at least it got Percy to do it without complaint because he wanted to show his new friend. Tyson’s teeth were mangled and disgusting but nothing Percy’s old toothbrush and floss couldn’t handle. It wasn’t that bad considering, he might have been younger than Percy which would give him only three to four years of not brushing. Percy was sent to bed before they finished though. “Clean!” 

    They were still kind of yellow stained and still mangled, but they were clean. Sally ruffled his hair and decided it needed a brushing through before bed to make sure it wasn’t a matted mess in the morning. She took out a brush, holding it to his eye. “Watch me, this is what I’m going to do for your hair. It keeps falling in your eye so I thought I could...” She showed him how she was going to brush his hair. 

    “My eye?” Tyson asked as she started brushing and she almost fainted. For one, it seemed like he learned more words and two, he knew she saw him. “No friends with Percy?” He sounded like he knew this was coming, like he was just waiting for her to turn him away. 

    Sally realized in that second that he was a child, someone’s child and Percy’s half brother. He shared the same goldy DNA that Percy did and there was nothing, nothing that made them any different but their moms. Sure if he was older and grew up on the streets or with a mom that taught him wrong, she would have grabbed the knife he gave her and stabbed him the first chance she got. But he was small and he was scared and... “Tyson, do remember when the man with the stick tried to hit Percy? Can you tell me why you got in front of him?” 

    “Tyson sleepy but Percy in trouble.” Tyson said it like it was the simplest thing in the world to him. “Percy is friend.” When Sally smiled at him he tried to smile back, like he didn’t know how so he was mimicking her. 

    “Do you look at Percy the way you look at the bread I gave you or the soup?” When he shook his head and said Percy smelled good but her food smelled better, she didn’t know how to feel. On one hand, Percy smelled like food. But on the other, as long as she fed him bread and soup he wouldn’t look at Percy like that. And maybe if they stayed friends, he would forget that he smelled good. “You can be friends with Percy then.” 

    Tyson stayed the night. And the next. On the third day of Tyson’s stay, she took him to the police station to see if there was any record of a family. She knew there wasn’t going to be but at the very least it was something to tell Gabe and a way to show anyone else she wasn’t just kidnapping him. And when one of the ladies told her that she should have just left him, that his junkie of a mom would probably find him sooner or later, she just sort of smiled and said, “I’m not sorry to tell you, but I’m not a junkie. And if no one finds his family, he’s going to be part of mine.”

    Two days later and Tyson had a cot in Percy’s room, a couple sets of clothes and could speak in full sentences. He had his own toothbrush, a purple one she got from the dentist after she went. Percy and him decided they were brothers and went everywhere together. When Percy had to go to school, he cried and said it wasn’t fair. But then Sally told him that Tyson would be there when he got home and he would be going to school next year too; he would get to come home and tell Tyson all about school. And so he went and they hugged goodbye and Sally took Tyson to get a haircut. The day was almost perfect. And the best part? Percy wasn’t there when Gabe got home.