Cold shot through Percy's body when he heard that scream. He knew that voice- it had haunted him through many dreams after Bianca died- but even then it had never sounded like this.
"Nico!" shouted Percy scrambling onto deck with Annabeth hot on his heals.
"There!" cried Leo pointing up towards the crows nest where a small darkly clad figure was tangled and trashing in the ropes that had temporarily caught the boy's fall. Percy ran towards the ladder but Jason was already ahead of him as the blond leapt into the air flew to the son of Hades aid. The screaming increased in pitch and agony the moment Jason wrapped his arms around the boy and the son of Jupiter seemed to be struggling not to drop him as Nico thrashed wildly in his grip. Frank quickly came to their aid as a large eagle, supporting the boy's upper body in his talons. Between the two of them they managed to lower the son of Hades safely to the deck.
"What happened?!" demanded Hazel kneeling next to the whimpering boy who had stopped thrashing now that no one was touching him but was still in obvious agony. Even with all of them around he did not seem to be conscious of their presence though his eyes were wide open, just curled in tighter around himself as he cradled his arm against his chest. Hazel tried to touch his shoulder lightly but quickly withdrew her hand as her brother gave a cry of pain at the contact. Percy felt horrible as the girl he had come to view as a little sister looked desperately at the rest of them for some kind of an explanation that no one was able to give, "Why is he in so much pain?"
"Something seems to be wrong with his arm," noted Percy frowning as he cautiously lowered himself on the boy's other side to get a better look, "Maybe he got hit with some sort of poison dart or something…?"
Jason made a soft horrified sound, which Percy ignored in favor of hesitantly reaching out to tug Nico's arm out by his sleeve for examination while trying to not make contact with Nico himself. With some difficulty, Percy worked the boy's sleeve up his arm without touching him. Cursing quietly, the son of Poseidon took in the sight of a deep wound on Nico's arm(an arrow if Percy had to guess, but he wasn't really an expert at medical stuff) but that was not what was most alarming since the wound itself looked weeks old; A dangerous looking blackness seemed to be seeping out of the wound and spreading rapidly to the rest of the young demi-gods body. Then something happened that threw the son of Poseidon into even greater confusion; Percy's hand slipped ever so slightly in it's place holding the black sleeve and his bare fingers brushed the injured boy's skin. However, instead of crying out in pain Nico just let out a soft sigh of relief and let his eyes flutter close as the progress of the blackness halted though didn't go away.
"The fuck…?" muttered Percy his brain swimming with confusion.
"Oh gods… please no…" muttered Jason before sighing and dragging a hand through his hair, "Percy, I need to speak to you in private… Actually, maybe you should come along too Annabeth."
"Why can't you just tell us here?" asked Percy frowning, "I don't think we should leave Nico out here anyway while this blackness is still spreading."
"You're right about that," admitted Jason, "You'll need to carry Nico with us… If my theory is correct he should be fine so long as you're the one to do it."
"Jason! If you know what is wrong with my brother-!" began Hazel jumping to her feet.
"Hazel, I don't want to keep you in the dark… but it really isn't my secret to tell. I will already be breaking a promise by telling Percy and Annabeth." Pleaded Jason, "Hopefully if this works then he can tell you himself."
"Then lets go quickly," said Annabeth laying a comforting hand on Percy's shoulder. He instantly felt better as he was reminded of her presence. Sometimes Percy felt like as long as the daughter of Athena was next to him there was no challenge that they wouldn't be able to overcome.
Cautiously, Percy scooped up the gaunt boy into his arms. To his increasing unease, Nico simply made a sound of content and curled into his chest. With Annabeth's help he was able to stand up and fallowed Jason below decks leaving the rest of the shocked crew behind with a quick worried glance. Jason led them to Percy's room where, with a glance at his girlfriend who was also frowning, the son of Poseidon laid the boy in his arms onto the bed. Nico whimpered pitifully when he let go of him so with some uncertainty Percy took ahold of the boy's hand and rubbed soothing circles into his skin after which the son of Hades once again relaxed.
"So what's this about, Jason?" said Annabeth coming to sit next to Percy and taking his other hand.
"I am not entirely sure but…" began Jason uncertainly his eyes fixed on the wound on Nico's arm and then at Percy and then back before sighing, "He's going to hate me for telling you this but I am not sure if we can help him if you don't know."
"Jason…" growled Percy warningly not liking to be kept in suspense.
"Alright, alright… I am just trying to figure out how to explain…" said Jason dragging a stressed hand through his short hair again before looking first at Percy and then fixing pitying eyes on Annabeth, "While you two were in Tartarus Nico had a run in with Cupid."
"Oh…" Annabeth breathed out her eyes widening with understanding and her fingers tightening almost possessively around Percy's, "I am such an idiot…"
"Well I still don't get it," said Percy feeling annoyed that he was the only one in the dark once again, "Isn't cupid that chubby love guy with the arrows and valentines and all that? What on earth does that have to do with Nico?"
"He got shot I am guessing?" said Annabeth slowly with a swift glance at the wound on Nico's arm.
"Yeah, I was there." Sighed Jason also giving the injury a miserable look.
"So… what does that mean?" asked Percy impatiently, "Is Nico now in love with Jason or something because he was the first person he saw or something?"
"No, that's Midsummer Nights Dream, Percy." Sighed Annabeth with a chuckle at how even after all these years Percy still got his Mythology mixed up, "More likely it would increase the power of the love that already existed to a near agonizing state."
"You mean," Percy said his eyes widening as he looked at Nico's suffering frame, "all this is because Nico's crush on Annabeth was made to go crazy and-"
"No Percy," said Annabeth sounding pained, "I might have thought that too, but I am not the one person who can touch him and relieve this pain."
"But- wait… but that's- no way…" whispered Percy his eyes widening as he finally got what they had been hinting at. But it just couldn't be true! Even if now that he thought about it a lot of things make and awful sort of sense, "But I am- but Annabeth…"
He looked helplessly at the other two.
"Yeah," agreed Jason with a sad smile, "I know. And Nico knew too. Why do you think he's never said anything?"
"But then… How do we help Nico?" asked Percy looking back at his hand that held Nico's as if it belonged to someone else. He felt rather then saw the look that Jason and Annabeth exchanged.
"I- uh- really only know what I've heard from myths… um I mean, they did get the word "Erotic" from Eros… Erm actually, I will let you and Annabeth figure this one out." Said Jason awkwardly excusing himself, "I'll make sure the crew stays far away."
"Stay far away?" asked Percy nervously.
"Percy…" said Annabeth pursing her lips, "Because of Eros's arrow, Nico is being killed by his love for you… if the stories are to be believed then only your own love for Nico can heal him."
"My own-? But Annabeth I don't- Not like that!" said Percy finally letting go of Nico's hand and reaching for both of Annabeth's hoping she could read in his eyes what he meant.
"Then you'll have to find it within yourself to." Said Annabeth leaning forward to kiss him softly, "I want to be selfish and keep you only ever for myself… but you would never forgive yourself if you let Nico die because of this."
"Annabeth…" whispered Percy his eyes widening.
"Take care of him Seaweed-brain," said Annabeth tears shinning in her eyes, "I won't forgive you if you don't."
"Annabeth-!" said Percy in alarm but the blond daughter of Athena had already strode out the door, "Damnit!"
Behind him Percy heard Nico make a pitiful sound.
Turning back to the son of Hades Percy wanted to be angry at him, wanted to hate him for the fact that Annabeth might never get over something like this… or he might not. But he knew it wasn't actually Nico's fault. Not what Nico would have chosen. Heck, the boy had already suffered plenty trying to keep his feelings a secret so that Percy and Annabeth could enjoy their relationship guilt free… not that that would be an option if Percy went through with this. At least not for a while… maybe someday… Percy shook his head as he noticed that Nico was starting to shake in pain.
"Hey… shh… Nico I am here." Said Percy awkwardly gathering the young teen into his arms and carding his fingers through dark hair. He laid back on his bed and tried to have as much of Nico touching him as possible. It seemed to help, at least the shake stopped and the blackness had stopped in it's progress.
"Percy…?" came Nico's voice softly and slightly slurred.
"You're awake Nico! Thank the gods, you gave us all a-!?" Percy cut himself off as Nico sat up slightly. Something was wrong. Nico's normally cynical dark eyes were dazed and unfocused and his skin was hot and flushed, "Are you okay?"
"Percy." Said Nico again with more certainty reaching forward to cup the son of Poseidon's face and kiss him deeply, "Percy, I love you."
"Nico!" spluttered Percy between the boy's desperate kisses, "Nico hold on one second! You're hurt and-"
"Don't care." Said Nico with a frantic hint to his voice as he began to pull off his cloths, "Please Percy, I want you… want you, want you, want you."
"Nico…" whispered Percy staring at the boy who was almost naked in his lap. It was heart breaking. There seemed to be no trace of the boy he knew in the person before him, just a desperate sort of passion and directionless lust.
"Please Percy-" and the son of Poseidon's eyes widened at the glassiness of the dark eyes before him, "I know you'll never- never love me. But please just let me pretend I am yours."
Percy felt like he was in a state of shock- he probably was- as the boy he'd gone through quests with all over the world kissed him deeply and pressed his fingers into Nico's ass.
"No." said Percy firmly trying to jerk away unsuccessfully, "Absolutely not Nico."
"Why not?" asked Nico breathlessly as his slim frame tried to adjust to the intrusion of Percy's fingers. Percy tried to pull away again but stopped as he realized that in doing so he might physically hurt Nico, "I can make you feel good. You can pretend I am Annabeth."
"Because…" said Percy not sure why that idea appalled him even more then what they were doing, maybe because it was a reminder that he was betraying Annabeth… regardless of the fact that she was the one who had told him to, "Because this is wrong."
"Always such a- ah!- perfect hero Percy." Laughed Nico with no humor as he worked Percy's fingers inside him. Percy caught sight of blackness spreading up Nico's neck. For a moment Percy was baffled- after all, he was more then just touching Nico right now. Shouldn't it be going away not getting worse?- but then suddenly he understood.
Because of Eros's arrow, Nico is being killed by his love for you… if the stories are to be believed then only your own love for Nico can heal him.
Looking at Nico's lust drunk face and the intense suffering in his eyes Percy suddenly knew what he had to do. He couldn't suddenly force or pretend to love the son of Hades in ways that did not currently exist… but that didn't mean he couldn't offer what love he did have. He just hoped his love would be enough. Percy stopped fighting the grip Nico had on him and instead leaned up and pressed a chaste kiss on Nico's forehead.
"Eros… Let him go now." Percy commanded firmly.
"Impressive… you're not as stupid as they say." Came a vaguely mocking voice from everywhere but nowhere at once.
"It's obvious that Nico isn't in control of himself, so someone must be." Said Percy tilting Nico's face up with his free hand and looking into black eyes that held a tint of pink to them.
"And what will you do if I let little di Angelo go? I can see it written all over you; you're heart belongs to someone else right now. You won't be able to heal him this way. You can't." said Eros.
"We'll see. Now let him go, because I sure as hell am not doing anything to a friend who isn't even in his right mind." Said Percy firmly.
"The affect of my arrow won't go away just because I leave," warned Eros, "He will still require something of you that you can not give."
"I wouldn't bet on that." Said Percy with a sad smile sitting up and holding Nico even closer, "Now leave."
He thought he heard one more soft chuckle before suddenly the pink in Nico's eyes disappeared and only horrified black remained. Nico's hips quivered to a stop in their quest of impale themselves on Percy's fingers and the boy quickly released their grip on Percy's wrist as if it burned him. He tried to shove away from Percy too, but stopped with a gasp as that only buried his fingers deeper within him.
"H-here, hang on a second." Said Percy with some embarrassment as he tilted Nico's hips slightly and gently worked his fingers out of the smaller boy, "Better?"
Instead of a response he felt Nico start to shake as hot mortified tears drip onto his shoulder. Percy wanted to simply hold him or maybe even leave and give the boy the space that no doubt he desperately wanted. However, Percy could still feel the hardness pressed into his side and see the blackness spreading even more quickly as Nico's shame consumed him. So Percy did the only thing he could think of.
"Hey Nico, did you know I love you?" asked Percy conversationally as he pressed a small kiss to the top of Nico's head. That made the Ghost King snap out of it.
"Don't!" snarled Nico sitting up so quickly he nearly bonked his head on Percy's chin, "Don't you dare mock me Percy Jackson!"
"Who says I am mocking you?" Percy challenged him evenly staring back at him with serious green eyes that Nico seemed to have trouble meeting.
"Because there is no way… Annabeth…" muttered Nico bitterly trailing off.
"Yes, Annabeth." Agreed Percy acknowledging the elephant in the room, "I love her as you know. But I also love you. Just because I love you in a different way from her, dose not mean I love you any less. You know that don't you?"
"No, No! Don't lie! I am sitting on your lap!" Nico said in mortification, "After all of that, you never once got even a little bit hard so you obviously-"
"Who says I have to lust after you in order to love you? And besides, you were hurting and miserable. Honestly Nico, how could you ever think I could get turned on by watching someone I love being controlled like that?" said Percy frowning and slightly offended in spite of himself.
"Stop saying that!" begged Nico burying his face in his shoulder again, "How cruel are you that you would just-"
"But it's the truth." Said Percy blinking. Now he was really confused, didn't Nico want his love? Wasn't that the point?
"No it's not! I don't want your pity love!" said Nico starting to punch him in the shoulder. Percy grunted, Nico may be a skinny thing but he was still a demi-god and he packed quite a punch.
"It's not pity love." Insisted Percy.
"I don't believe you! You're still feeling guilty about Bianca and you're just misplacing you're guilt and- and- I am not you're little brother! I don't want you to see me as some stupid little brother!" Nico growled out, "I don't want to sit n-naked on your lap and you to only see me as some winy, bratty, pathetic, replaceable-"
"No!" said Percy suddenly grabbing Nico by his tearstained face and forcing him to look at him, "No, you are none of those things. You are precious to me in ways that honestly I don't have words for, please get that into your head!"
"But not precious like Annabeth." Said Nico challengingly and Percy saw the resigned despair in his face, "Admit it, no matter what fancy words about love you tell me, no matter what we do here, I can never be you're Annabeth."
Ah, thought Percy, So that's the real heart of the problem.
"Of course not. You're a different person than Annabeth. If I loved you the exact way that I love her then I wouldn't be loving you." Said Percy.
A deep silence came after that statement in which Percy could hear every creak and groan of the ship as Nico stared at him.
"You…" whispered Nico seeming to struggle with his words and Percy saw the blackness upon him was starting to retreat slightly, "So you are saying that I am precious to you and that you love me, not like a brother, but that you don't lust after me?"
"Yes." Said Percy honestly, praying that Nico could see the truth in his eyes.
"Could you?" asked Nico suddenly catching Percy off guard.
"Could I what?" asked Percy.
"Could you ever lust for me too?" asked Nico his solemn features unreadable. Percy paused to think about that for a moment before answering.
"I don't know. I can't speak for the future me. Only the present. I don't want to lead you on, or keep you waiting for something that might never occur. I want you to be able to find happiness Nico, wherever and however that might be." Said Percy pressing chaste kisses to each of Nico's eyelids. The son of Hades let out a soft broken sound at the touch and Percy saw the last of the blackness disappear from his body though the wound remained with darkness flickering around the edges.
"Here, let's get you dressed." Smiled Percy as Nico reopened eyes full of tears that Percy politely didn't comment on. Nico nodded silently. With every article of clothing Nico seemed to become more and more himself, though he looked like he had just finished an enormous battle. Well in many ways he had, Percy reasoned.
"I might need some space for a while." Said Nico softly as they finished and Percy's heart plummeted.
"I understand. You can take as long as you need… but if you ever need me, or if that," Percy pointed to the wound hidden on Nico's arm, "Ever gives you trouble, just call me. It doesn't matter what I am doing, I'll come."
Nico stared at him for a long moment before smiling one of his rare smiles.
"I know." He said.
"So…" said Percy after he finished telling Annabeth everything, "Where does this leave us?"
"I don't know." Admitted Annabeth sighing. Honestly, Percy never ceased to amaze her. Just because he hadn't ended up having sex with Nico like she assumed he would didn't completely erase the damage that all the vicious little scenarios she had envisioned in his absence had done. She wondered if she would ever be able to get imaginary scenes of Percy and Nico wrapped up together in passion and Percy proclaiming that he didn't love Annabeth and that he loved only- Well, it didn't matter, since it didn't happen. But it still hurt and made her fear that someday, like Nico probably hoped from the sound of it, it would.
"I love you, you know." Said Percy quietly after her long silence, "But I would understand if after something like that you wanted to break u-"
"What?! No!" said Annabeth her heart skyrocketing.
"No?" Percy said looking startled by her passionate outburst.
"I mean- I don't know… Maybe… but I told you I don't know. I can't make that kind of decision in the middle of such an intense quest... with all these emotions and adrenaline running through us always…. It's just not a good atmosphere to make such important decisions. Once- Once we're back at Camp Half-blood we'll decide." Said Annabeth sighing.
"Okay." Said Percy pressing a soft sweet kiss to her mouth, "Just know that no matter your decision I will love you."
"Yes, I love you too, seaweed brain." Smiled Annabeth and she knew in that moment that whether or not they were together romantically when all was said and done that it would be okay. Because this man who had never betrayed her even when he had been plenty of good reasons and opportunities would still love her and she would still love him. And if it turned out they weren't meant for each other, and Nico still cared for her man then… Maybe that could be okay too. Maybe. But for now he was still her's and she wouldn't be letting him go just yet and certainly not without a fight, "It'll be okay."
"Whatever you say wise girl." Smiled Percy.
10 years later
The whole gang had met up in a café that Annabeth had designed on the lower levels of Olympus. They had all changed a great deal over the years and not much had ended up the way that they had thought it would when they were teens. Still, all was good and now several young demi-god children played around them on white cobblestones. They swapped stories of what each had been up to since the last time they had all seen each other, laughing and reliving moments from various quests that were much more humorous in hindsight then they had been in the moment.
"Ah I am hurt, the party started without me." Grinned a lean dark haired man from where he stood against a column. He was hardly recognizable as the dark and brooding boy he had once been as a teen, his eyes so much brighter and happier then they had been.
"Then maybe you should be late." Teased Percy standing to greet the man while Annabeth and Rachel quietly shook their heads smiling.
"Percy." Said Nico with mock sternness.
"Nico." Percy shot back with a grin.
All was right.
This ending was left purposefully vague so that you could decided which two you wanted to become good friends and which you wanted to become a couple.