"Hey mom?" Percy asks, his mouth full of popcorn and his feet propped up on the coffee table. Sally has an arm around his shoulder as they watch a documentary on sea turtles. A year ago he would have complained about cuddling with his mother on their sofa, but after spending the summer fighting Mother Nature and technically a year away from home he couldn't care less.
"Yes Percy." She responds, eyes following the baby turtle's path towards the sea.
"Do we know anyone that's,... well, gay?" He asks, eyes fixated on the baby turtle as well.
Sally breaks eye contact with the tv to stare at her son for a few seconds. Hearing the newspaper rustling she looks up in time to see her husband's rising eyebrow from where he's sitting in the armchair next to them.
"Well,.. Uhm... Why do you...?" She begins to ask, but stops when Paul shakes his head. Percy is still too invested in the documentary to pay much attention to the silent conversation happening between his parents mere inches above his head.
"I dated a few guys back in college, if that helps." Paul answers, folding up the newspaper he was not going to be able to keep reading. This seems to snap Percy out of trying to translate the fight two of the baby turtles are having as they topple along in the sand.
"What? Seriously? I didn't know that!" He exclaims, but his expression turns pensive again. He mulls over the thought while Paul waits patiently, his teacher face on. "Well, I'd definitely prefer you do it, cause you're awesome and all that, but I don't know if it's a good idea,... Was it like, a phase or something? Cause I think it'd be better if someone that was 100% gay did it..." Percy's voice trails off at the end of the sentence, thinking hard once more.
Paul chuckles. "It wasn't a phase, if that's what you want to hear." He smiles at Sally, who simply smiles back, her fingers finding their way to her son's hair and ruffling it. "When I went to college I discovered I liked both men and women. It really just depended on the person for me. So I've had a few girlfriends and a couple of boyfriends before meeting your mother." Paul explained, leaning forward and propping his elbows on his knees. "Sexuality is a complicated subject, but I find it's easier to think about it more as a spectrum instead of being 100% something."
"Oh." Percy said, not really fully understanding the concept but apparently convinced.
"Percy, maybe it'd help if we knew what you want me to do..." Paul said calmly, giving his stepson more time to recollect his thoughts.
"Oh, right!" He had almost forgotten the reason they were having this conversation to begin with. "Mom, do you remember that conversation we had when I turned fifteen?"
"The "don't leave your swords and shields on the floor where someone can trip on them" one?" Sally asked teasingly.
"Ha ha, very funny mom. No, I'm talking about, well, you know,... the one about, uhm,... sex." His voice lost strength as the sentence progressed and his cheeks turned rosy.
"Yes Percy, I remember." She said, locking eyes with Paul once more since her son was avoiding both their gazes. "Do you want Paul to explain to you how gay sex works?"
The answer was instantaneous; Percy sat up from where he was slouching on the sofa and began waving his hands in front of his body. "No, no, not me. I'm perfectly fine without that information thank you very much!"
"Sweetie, it's perfectly fine if you-"
"Yes yes mom I know. Believe me, I know. But seriously, it's not for me." Percy admitted, but he stopped himself from saying more. His parents gave him a minute to puts his thoughts in order once again. Meanwhile on the tv the focus on the documentary had somehow shifted to penguins. "You guys remember Nico? Short, wears mostly black. He's come over a few times, but he doesn't talk much."
His parents nodded. "He used to come by about once a week when you disappeared, to keep us updated on how the search was going." Sally mumbled, arms hugging her son once more as she set her chin on his hair. "Always very polite, that boy was. I could never convince him to stay the night, but he stayed for dinner a few times. While you were, well, not here."
Percy nodded, hands going up to his mother's to give them a squeeze and remind her that he was here now.
"Well, a month ago, a few days after the battle, he came up to me and told me he used to have a crush on me." He confessed with a sad expression.
"That explains quite a bit,..." Paul added while Percy grimaced and nodded. Over the past few weeks he would constantly remember things the boy had done for him and his guilt would exponentially grow. But as he had done during this last month (after a belated talk with Nico himself) he put the guilt behind him and decided to concentrate on being a good friend and not on the what ifs.
"The thing is, he's going to turn fifteen soon. We think." He added, scratching his head. Nico and Hazel's age had been a topic of debate that was yet to be solved so they had assigned ages arbitrarily and thought nothing more of it. "And I was wondering, well, I remember having a lot of questions about sex at that age." Sally snorted but didn't interrupt. "So I guess Nico probably has a lot of them too. I was just thinking that maybe he'd like someone to talk to. Or at least know that there's someone he can come to if he needs answers. I don't know, but I don't really see Hades sitting him down to explain, you know?"
The entire family was silent for a few minutes, thinking the idea over until Paul finally spoke.
“I think that’s a great idea Percy. I don’t mind having a sit down with him to explain anything he might want to know. Just don’t push him into it though, let him know that the option is available and whenever he feels comfortable he can come find me.” Paul said, giving his stepson a proud smile. Percy returned it as he got up from the sofa.
“Thanks Paul, I’ll send him an iris message, just to give him a heads up. Hopefully he decides to come by sooner rather than later, cause with the way he and the camp medic make eyes at each other when they think no one’s looking I’m guessing he’s gonna want the info as soon as possible.” He chuckled, making his way to his room in search of a rainbow.
“Well, that was a bit of a roller-coaster.” Paul admitted, unfolding the newspaper again and leaning back in the armchair.
“Tell me about it.” Sally responded, covering herself with a quilt she had been sitting on all afternoon. The tv was now talking about flamingos and neither were very sure if it was still the same documentary or something completely different.