All roads lead in one direction: Percy Jackson/One Direction Cross over


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4. Creation of Zayn

 

Islamabad is bright and hot and beautiful. He didn’t expect it to be beautiful. There are as many lights as in New York, and spires and columns and arches and domes. He darkens his skin just a little and crops his black hair short. He’s grateful for his blue eyes and keeps them, blinks against the sudden sting of smoke as a hotpot of crabs sizzles into spicy-smelling life at the side of the road near a knot of boisterous people. There are cars and men and children and oxen in the street, and it’s as crowded as New York, but differently.

He stops at a towering pyramid display of pickled vegetables and fruits in colors so bright they’re nearly neon, and looks from the violent purple of the striped beetroot to the gentle lavender of the cloth being traded at the stand beside and he smiles even as his heart trip-hammers off-rhythm in his chest.

Islamabad presses against his skin like a warning: This is not your place, pater. Go back to the West.

Zeus has nothing in the West but a twice-broken pact and an angry Sea brother with his own mistake growing in Manhattan; an angry wife and the ruins of the 1980s scraping up against the base of Olympus on Wall Street.

The horns sound for prayer alert one minute after the sun hits its zenith (not Apollo, this sun is brighter and hotter and does not give Zeus the same hug as his son’s sky) and the street around Zeus slows and stops and gets to its knees.

The East presses against Zeus’ bones and he buckles to his knees, too, as the East whispers this is not your place, pater, this is ours and you will revere us.

Zeus breathes in deep and touches his head to the ground and follows the crowd around him, mimicking movement for movement. He feels like a human.

This was what he wanted.

He spends the next month wandering around Islamabad, and slowly, the ache in his bones eases. This is still not his place, the sun is still not Apollo’s and the moon not Artemis’, but it stops hurting. He kneels in prayer with everyone else because he wants to, because he wanted to feel human and prayer makes him feel human, makes him forget that Jupiter has a son in California and Zeus has a daughter in New York and damned Poseidon has that baby in Manhattan and he never thought that Hades would be the most – 

It’s not to worry about. He is outside of Olympus’ domain now, and he has no worries. 

On some days, he is an old man with a long white beard and milky eyes. He wraps a turban around his head and sits in the teahouses drinking Kashmiri subz chai from flat dishes and listening to the old men’s stories. He learns about his domain – how people see Olympus’ West. Sometimes it makes him sad. Sometimes, it makes him think. He drinks thick green tea fragrant with cardamom and pistachio and almost prickling with carbonate, and he eats dahi burra with hot chutneys and he listens to what the problems are with his West in the way that only an old man can.

On other days, he is a child, and he plays in the street with the other children. They roll hoops and play with bouncing balls and he learns that some people do not even know there is a West. There is no Olympus to them, there is no Zeus. There is home, and there is Allah, and there is mummy and daddy and prayer and play, but there is no pact and no Kronos and no Tartarus and no struggle for power between the sky, sea, and earth. He feeds oxen lumps of food from his palm and lets their lips tickle his hand, and sings songs to learn clapping games for. His heart aches from missing the West, but for the first time in all eternity, he thinks that maybe the East has its place, too.

And on the rest of the days, he is a young man, and he loves Tricia. She has a student visa and is studying Urdu for Foreigners at NUML, and even though she’s from his West she’s immersed herself in the culture of the city so much that sometimes he feels like he can feel the East buzzing inside her like a light when he touches her. She lived ‘abroad’ as a child, she tells him on their first date as she eats a karela pyaz masala with pieces of bread – as though ‘abroad’ is a place. Zeus smiles and laughs as says as much as he tucks her hair behind her ear, and she smiles and kisses his wrist with lips that smell of spices.

She takes him to the university, which has a funny mix of his own Grecian columns and the East’s domes on its main building, and he touches the column gently with his fingertips as he kisses Tricia goodbye for the day at the front steps. He sits on the grass and watches the handball players while he waits for Tricia to come out of classes.

She’s radiant when she comes down the university steps, wearing a bright turquoise shalwar khameez and speaking earnestly in Urdu to a dark-skinned woman in a hijab. Zeus waits to the side until she notices him and smiles brilliantly, and he produces a bouquet of jasmine behind his back to hand her, and she breathes them in and her hair blows up behind her.

And Zeus finally seduces her that night. They’re lying in his bed afterwards while she draws patterns against his side, practicing her Arabic, and he tells her who he is. He splits the sky into a twelve-hue sunset and swirls it over with clouds to spike lightning from cloud-to-cloud without spilling a drop of rain, and it hurts because this is not your sky, pater, you have no rights here, but the smile on Tricia’s face and the awe in her eyes when she climbs over him again makes it worth it.

She believes him. Zeus cradles her close and calls her malka, queen. 

Somewhere distant inside him, he can feel the West slipping away from him. And he doesn’t think he minds.

Weeks later, though, he lies awake beside her, watching her face in sleep. Outside, the rainy season is beginning the first assault of monsoons, roaring against the roof and the windows and the buzzing in his bones is back. This is not your domain. You cannot stop the rains here. We are going to wash you away. Zeus lifts his hand to touch the side of Tricia’s face and watches the color drain from his skin as he becomes himself again, curly black hair and olive skin and the shadow of a beard on his jaw. His eyes rage blue.

Tricia wakes slowly, humming. She blinks in surprise at his Greek face, but smiles and touches his prickly jaw. “What’s wrong?”

Zeus blinks sadly and slides his hand beneath the linen of Tricia’s nightdress to rest against her belly. 

“I can’t protect you here,” he murmurs. “This isn’t my domain. I can’t protect him here.”

Tricia sucks in a breath and her hands fly down to her belly, too, and her palms press Zeus’ fingers closer into her skin. “Him?”

Zeus doesn’t speak. He just kisses the crest of her hairline. 

“Are we going back to New York?” Tricia asks, her mind reeling. 

Zeus looks so sad. “He wouldn’t be safe in New York, either. He isn’t supposed to exist – I made a pact. With my brothers. He’s my son. He’s too powerful. Olympus isn’t a place for him.”

Tricia’s eyes darken. “You’re leaving me. You’re leaving – us. You told me that there are monsters and…”

Zeus touches his forehead to Tricia’s brow. “I am still his father. He will be strong and protected and very, very hard to kill. And even when I’m not there, you are his mother, malka. You can protect him because that is what you would do.”

“Where can we go?”

Zeus sighs and scrubs his stubbly chin against her neck. “England. Raise him in England. Keep him off boats and out of the sky.” He kisses her, sweet and lingering, while the monsoon blows hard against the roof, trying to get inside.

“You’re leaving now.” She touches the side of his neck. 

Zeus closes his eyes. “After the rain season. Go to England. You can protect him there.”

“Okay.” She doesn’t cry. Her hand runs soft circuits over her belly, like she can’t believe that she’s really pregnant. “Will we ever see you again?”

Zeus doesn’t answer her. Instead he stands, his peplos and himation swathing him and the crown of oak leaves growing to settle around his head. He looks down at Tricia and touches her chin. “Will you do me a favor?”

She nods and kisses his fingers.

“Raise him Muslim,” Zeus says. “Make sure he knows that he is from both the West and the East. I have had many children,malka. But make sure he knows that he is special.”

 
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