"Nico, love, I can't help but think you're making this a bigger deal than it really is."
"Percy, honeybunchkins," Okay, now I know he's mocking me, "I think you fail to remember that we are having our parents over for dinner to see the new flat. Our parents, Perce. In case you forgot, that includes my father, the God of the Dead, your father, the God of the Sea, and your mother—oh hey, is the Blowfish guy coming?"
"It's Blofis and no, he's not coming. He's got midyear parent teacher conferences." I said absently, having already listened to Nico rant for hours about how much he dreaded tonight. "And my mother's nice!" How could he imply that my gentle mom could be scarier than having two all-powerful, immortal (sometimes enemies) gods for dinner? The carrot I was peeling was violently ripped out of my hands. In a flurry of sharp, expert movements, Nico had the carrot completely naked. He impatiently shoved me out of the way so he could sauté the carrots in the large pan.
"That makes it even worse! I can handle my father, but Sally smiles at me once and my brain turns to mush."
"Don't tell me you've got the hots for my mom."
"Shut up," Nico, 19 and the self-proclaimed King of Ghosts, was blushing. "You have her smile."
I beamed, delighted to watch him blush even further as he stirred the ingredients. He may not look like it with his dark clothes and death aura thing, but he is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. Sometimes he'll just unintentionally spout out the most adorable things. I kissed him on the cheek and asked what he wanted me to do next.
"Go check if the garlic bread's done." I dutifully checked the oven where the neatly cut slices of bread were toasting. Neither of us were great cooks, but Nico had taken it upon himself to make everything from scratch. He insisted that since our parents—
Well, you're probably wondering, "What in Olympus' name is going on here?" Let me to backtrack a bit. Okay, maybe say a couple of years.
So after kicking some serious Titan butt and getting the Olympians' promise to acknowledge minor gods and their children (not including Hades as a minor god), we rested for about oh, a week before beginning the preparations for building the new cabins began. Blueprints were unfurled. Materials as well as bewildered campers were shipped in.
I spent most of my time training at the borders, ready to receive new campers or help the satyrs fend off monsters. I actually made friends with Peleus, the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece. And all it took was—well, I probably shouldn't disclose it here. Breach of Camp Security and all that. Apparently, someone had used the red ball on Cerberus. Hm, maybe I should be worried about this dinner with Hades.
But I guess it really started when Nico arrived to camp to set up the Hades cabin. He worked alone, summoning skeletons to do the manual labour. The first time he spoke to me after the Last Battle was to confide in me that he feared the skull over the door may be a bit much. The furrow in his brow made me reassure him that it had personality. He had looked at me sceptically, and then smiled as if amused and relieved all at once, his deception forgiven.
I found myself hanging out with Nico more than I was with Annabeth, my girlfriend at the time. She was always busy with an architectural idea, leaving me in the middle of a date to plan out a sewer or something. Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind. It was one of those quirks that made her Annabeth. (Okay. I didn't mind too much, I'm more interesting than a sewer, right?)
I really did think I loved her. Love her. There really are no lesser emotions to describe how I feel. She was the one I thought about when I was taking a dive in the River of Styx. She was probably also the one who tipped my decision in refusing immortality. Our relationship was chaste like kids from a sandbox who finally got the courage to hold hands and kiss.
We dated for about two years. It was kind of like an on-and-off relationship. We had the occasional date in between the school years and then we got to see each other nearly every day at Camp. It was during the second summer after the Last Battle when I realized that I was kissing her and planning tomorrow's lesson I was going to teach on canoeing. I mean, I realize I'm probably not the most sensitive guys out there (Annabeth always said I my head was full of kelp), but you'd think that if your girlfriend was kissing you, you'd be paying attention. I pulled away from her and apologized frantically, telling her how tired I was.
That was the first sign.
I started thinking really deeply about what I wanted for my future. You know with monsters and the child of the prophecy, you wouldn't have time to consider what kind of career you would like to have or if you were going to live long enough for kids. But now, it was like, 'Do I want to spend the rest of my life with Annabeth?'
And the answer was yes. Yes I do. I can see myself growing contently old with her. Little grandchildren with my black hair or her blond hair.
Contently and maybe that was where the problem was. I think the best way to explain how I felt was our... um. Physical relationship. I like kissing. So yeah, I liked kissing Annabeth, but Harry Potter described it the best: wet. (Wait, does this mean that Harry Potter might be gay, too?) And as much as I like water and Annabeth, there wasn't that spark and fireworks thing that my mom's romance novels described. (Okay, they were my romance novels. They were part of my Greek literature class. Give me a break here, I mean really, if your life is one big fantasy novel, you wouldn't have the energy to read even more action packed novels. Besides, you wouldn't believe the sheer amount of affairs the gods have.)
So we mutually came to a conclusion that it was better for both of us if we tried 'seeing other people'. That's what Aphrodite said when she forced her advice on me. She said that we both deserved better. She also said to try to be a little daring.
I'm still not sure if she was suggesting I should go bat for the opposite team. (But really, considering the history—and I know my history now—my family should have no problems with same sex relationships.)
And no, I won't tell you how far Annabeth and I went, because really, I'm not the kind of guy who kisses and tells.
"Let's hear it doc, good news or bad news?" Somewhere along the way, Nico had slipped on an apron which would have been cute if it hadn't been an imitation of Scylla. The upper portion of the apron covered in tentacles and monstrous teeth and the bottom consisted of dog-heads and even more tentacles that gave the illusion that it was erupting from the apron. How does that get someone into a cooking mood? Maybe it was meant to scare off foodnappers. Not that I'm a foodnapper or anything.
"What?" I said, having forgotten his question already.
"Does the garlic spell out a prophecy that foretells my grand and gruesome demise?" He said with a completely straight face that made me smile.
That's just like Nico. He quite often made me laugh deliberately or unintentionally. I was attracted to his sarcastic humour like Marlin and Dory was to the angler fish. Dangerous and so irresistible. (Finding Nemo reference. Heh. Nico thought it would be funny to watch it when he found out that my dad had a hand in the making of the movie).
He finally got back to playing Mythomagic by the way, and taught me how to. He still kicks my ass. It's not my fault the Ares hologram card always finds itself in the graveyard.
I said solemnly, "They say that death will come at our doorsteps carrying potato salad."
"Oh very funny. Besides, I told Father not to bring anything." He slapped me with one of the oven mitts before putting them on and taking out the garlic bread for closer examination as if to confirm that Apollo didn't really a give us a prophecy in our garlic bread. Declaring them done, he turned down the mini-oven so they were kept warm. "Go be useful and set up the table." He said before hustling over to the larger oven where the lasagne was baking. Nico was uncertain if we should have served seafood or not, so he kept to a simple chicken lasagne.
Don't be fooled. The citrusy smell isn't due to some other dish that Nico had prepared. It was the Febreeze masking the previous two times the lasagne had burnt. The first time, Nico didn't hear the bell. The second time, it wasn't cooked all the way through, so he placed it in again to cook. And then it burned. Let's just say it's lucky that one of us in the room could control tap water.
I could smell cheese melting lovingly over the pasta and I thought 'third time's the charm.' Taking one last whiff, I escorted the newly bought placemats and our silverware to the makeshift dining room. Soon this little dining room will hold two out of the three most powerful gods in the world. Looking thoughtfully at the placemats, it finally sunk in how seriously Nico was taking it. One of them had a dolphin swimming on a clear blue sea, the other had skulls set somewhere in a graveyard, and—was that a unicorn?
"The lasagne's done, I'm leaving it heated in the oven, and the soup's done, so I turned off the stove. The lid should keep it hot till our parents come." Nico said walking into the dining room. I spotted a wild orange blob on one of the wolf heads on his apron as he took it off. Then he took off his t-shirt, bunching it up with one hand. "I'm going to go take a shower." I straightened up. "You're not coming."
"Nicooo—" I began to whinge.
"But I smell."
"Perce, you smell of salt water. You love salt water. Your father loves salt water."
That was true. I smelt of salt water and saltier sea animals even though I took a shower at work. I worked at the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Long Island. I volunteered at first with their rescue centre before they hired me fulltime. Being a son of the sea god helped with the communicating with the animals thing. My job is pretty awesome. I once traveled all the way to visit Vancouver Aquarium to learn about their marine animals rehabilitation centre.
But I tried staying as close as possible to Camp Half Blood. In this time of moderate peace, I lead water based activities, mostly teaching the kids how to canoe. There were always quests going on now. The gods got it in their heads that they needed to keep their children busy and quick on their feet. I'm still the only child of the Poseidon cabin, with the occasional visit from Tyson. I don't know how long that's going to last. I keep expecting a new half-blood brother or sister to come to camp.
"It's still a no, no matter how much you pout."
"Nico, that Iris message was nearly two months ago. No one is brave enough to ever send one again."
He only narrowed his eyes and gave me his 'death glare', "You step near my shower and not even the thought of Sally's disappointment will stop me from sending you to the pits of Tartarus."
I knew his threat was empty, but I conceded and sat back down. I waited till the water started running before sneaking in.
Mom was the first to arrive. She chatted with Nico who smelled of mandarin oranges. Mom didn't notice or was tactful enough not to mention that I smelled the same.
Mom had taken an instant liking to Nico since my fifteenth birthday when he stopped for cake. Despite his nervousness, he looked at ease even when she placed hand on his shoulder to emphasize a point.
"...he was only four at the time, mind you. And then he held out his pudgy little fingers, sticky with ice cream and asked the mailman—"
"Mom! Not that story again." I scowled.
"But I've never heard of it before." Nico looked bemused.
My mom laughed and looked like she was about to continue the story when the doorbell rang.
Phew, saved by the bell. I thought and ran out to get the door. Then I realized I just left Nico alone with my mom.
My scowl immediately lifted when I saw it was my father who was at the door. "Dad!"
"Percy. Good to see you, son." His eyes resembled the tranquility of the sea at rest and automatically put me at ease with him. "How is young Nico doing?"
"Why don't you ask him yourself? He's been going cooking himself a frenzy preparing for dinner tonight." I ushered him into the flat, taking the covered waiter-serving dish from him to place into the kitchen.
I heard him say, "Sally, it's good to see you! My, you are looking as wonderful as always."
Remembering the last time Mom was reduced to stutters and nervous smiles, I quickly rejoined them. I found that I didn't have to worry; Mom expressed the same kind of joy and effortlessness with Poseidon as with Nico.
Hades came fashionably late. Tonight Hades was dressed impressively in a three piece pinstripe tux which made him look sleek and untouchable compared to my father's casual Hawaiian shirt. But there was no denying the unmistakable power each of them held at bay. Something about presence and the way they walked.
When I answered the door Hades greeted me with a cool look and said a simple, "Percy." We had on a mutual agreement to dislike each other quietly and not violently, partially because I was dating his son. When Hades looked at Nico, I could see a grudging respect and pride and what could be called affection in Death God language.
In his hands was a box which he handed to Nico coupled with an exasperated look, "From your step-grandmother." I read the label from where I was: Demeter's Cornflake Delights.
"Thank you Father." And Nico took the box of cereal as though he had been bestowed with a precious family heirloom, "Please pass on my thanks to Demeter."
"I am not your messenger, child."
Nico said placatingly, "I'll write a thank you card to Demeter as soon as a possible."
Hades nodded his consent.
And when Poseidon caught the eye of Hades, the tension in the air was tangible. I found it hard to swallow, my mouth dry as I waited for something to happen. "Poseidon." Hades addressed Poseidon with utmost formality.
"Brother," My dad said in return. "You are looking..."
"Like the dead?"
"I was going to say that you needed to get a bit more sun. You are looking pale."
"The sun does not exactly reach down in the Underworld.'
"I remember a time of before, when we did not inherit the Earth..."
"The sun did not reach Father's stomach either."
It was strange to hear the gods talk about when they were younger. A time before man. It was even stranger to hear my dad talk about Hades' complexion. And when they didn't exchange any more pleasantries other than just stare at each other, I hastily sat everyone around the circular table. Mom would sit to my right, next to Poseidon, and then I had Nico to separate him from Hades who sat to my left. Nico had planned this out beforehand as a strategic battle plan.
As I brought the garlic bread and lasagne while Nico served the soup, my mom said with a winning smile, "Lord Hades, won't you sit next to me? It would be a shame to separate the boys!"
It was a little nerve racking, that my mom, whose petite height I dominated when I turned seventeen became the mediator between the two gods. But it was a bit more reassuring that Nico sat beside me, more or less together when facing our parents.
Out of habit more than anything, I scrapped a bit of food off my plate into the small, cozy fireplace. "To the gods," I murmured and then I shot up to look sheepishly at the two gods sitting at my dining room table. What exactly was the protocol when you dine with gods anyways?
Mom came to my rescue by following my example, throwing a fair bit of food into the fireplace. "To the gods," tilting the plate as if toasting the Poseidon and Hades. They both wore amusement on their faces. My father said, "Thank you," and gestured for us to sit down.
Nico then piped up and asked, "What is this?"
I looked to where he lifted the waiter-serving dish to reveal thinly cut slices of what I could immediately tell were sashimi. Translucent raw fish prepped to look like a large, blossoming flower.
"Ah, that would be fugu sashimi." My father answered, "Puffer fish is quite the delicacy in Japan. It's highly poisonous, and if prepared wrong it can kill you. No worries though, I had a professional to prepare it."
As Poseidon conversed with Nico, something about the circle of life and it was okay to eat seafood, but torturing and food-wasting was a no-no, I tried one of the sashimi slices. While I was chewing, there was a tingly feeling dancing along my tongue. I can see where the appeal came from, though if I wanted a brush of death all I had to do was lean a bit over to my right.
I couldn't help but think, while taking a second slice, that puffer fishes looked uncomfortably like blowfishes.
I took the lasagne and cut a square and place it in my mom's dish first. As soon as it sat on her dish, the carefully levelled pasta toppled over like a cheerleader pyramid gone bad. My mom just smiles, "It smells delicious. I can't resist good cheese."
She tasted it.
"This is delicious, Percy! What recipe did you use?"
"No, it was Nico who slaved over this. I just peeled the carrots for the soup. Wait till you taste the brownies, the batter itself tasted totally awesome," I told my mom. Nico insisted that we had brownies for desert, insisting that this was the mortal food of the gods. He had a brownie once at camp and interrogated the cooks until they forfeited their recipe. One time we just finished off an entree of monsters and he pulled me into a grocery store with renewed energy to buy chocolates.
She smiled and asked Hades if he had been the one to teach Nico. Tersely, Hades explained that Nico might have picked it up from his mother-in-law. But then, after the initial tenseness in the gods' shoulders, to my surprise, mom and Hades were talking amiably like he had never set her prisoner in the Underworld.
Dinner conversation continued like this:
"Congratulations, boys, for completing the quest."
"...Traffic has gotten better due to the Daedalus fellow, though certainly not enough..."
"...reconstruction on the castle has been progressing finely, especially since some minor gods are volunteering their help. We might actually get the game room in the next fifty years..."
"Pass the sugar, Percy." "Nico, you're not putting more of that in your soup."
"Really it was Father's fault for being so paranoid and eating us all. Couldn't he have swallowed Zeus and be done with it?" (At this there was a lightning storm with no storm. Mom said pleasantly though, "Lord Zeus is a little nosy, isn't he? Do invite him for dinner next time, boys.")
"Besides Mother Rhea always liked me best."
Nico, bless his soul, put a break into that conversation by saying loudly, "Speaking of siblings, how is little Jacob?"
"Yeah, how is the squirt?" I inquired.
Mom tsked both of us, seeming unnerved by the petty quarrel between the gods, "You both need to visit more often. Jacob misses you both. He keeps asking me when his big brother and his friend Nico will come visit him." She fishes out her wallet and shows us a picture, "He's grown quite a bit since you last saw him."
And it was true. The picture depicts a black haired boy with my mother's heart warming smile and Paul's eyes. With that face, the kid would charm himself out of any—if any—delinquent trouble.
"Paul's mother is babysitting him. She holds some sort of secret to get him to go to bed at his bedtime. I wish I had that power when Percy was in his naughty, younger years. No matter what time it was, he wouldn't stop bouncing unless I told him at least two bedtime stories, sang him a lullaby, and gave him a goodnight kiss." Mom said giving me a fond look while I blushed before the present company. At least her talking seemed to distract the two gods. Nico inconspicuously tossed me a saucy look.
Then he said, "You've got tomato sauce on your mouth, Percy."
My hands shot up to wipe my mouth with my sleeve. Nico grabbed me by the wrist, "With a napkin, you slob." And he took his own napkin to wipe the corner of my mouth.
I could see that our fathers were still talking but were looking at us with the corner of their eyes. My mom was looking at us directly with a fond smile.
"There you go." Nico said, turning back to his food, chewing the sashimi with a puzzled expression as if he couldn't decide if he liked the squishy rawness of it or not.
"Thank you." I kissed his cheek. It was a little late and he sort of looked at me as if he couldn't believe that I did that in front of our parents, but was charmed at the same time.
When the food had dwindled, I brought out the dessert. I savoured the blueberry tarts my mom made and the gods were quite taken with the brownies—to Nico's pleasure. ("Theobroma cacao, you did your research. Very impressive, Nico.") All in all, it was weird to see Poseidon and Hades eat like normal humans.
Poseidon was the first to go because he promised to be back in time to settle the case between some water nymphs over the possession of a certain coral reef garden.
"And Hades? Come visit me sometime before the next decade. We'll go to the beach and get you a tan." My father said, his mischievous eyes that I inherited (which got me into a lot of trouble with my teachers) twinkled.
Hades made this long suffering sigh, but maybe it way I could interpret Nico's emotions that I could tell that he was pleased with the offer.
Mom engulfed me in her warm smell that I associated with my childhood. And though she only came up to my shoulders now, I still felt small and protected in her arms. Before leaving, she wrung a promise out of me to visit next weekend. Nico escorted her out the door.
It seemed that left me and Hades. We looked at each other and I silently communicated that it was best if we didn't start chatting. Hades, perhaps didn't like listening to demigods, had other ideas, "At least now I know your manners came from my brother and not from that lovely woman."
"You're complimenting my mom." I stated incredulously. "Are you hitting on her? Because if you are, don't bother. If my mother can resist Poseidon and his castle under the sea, then she can resist you."
"Are you implying that I am inferior to that of my brother?"
"Well appearance wise, I suppose I have nothing to complain about since I think Nico is quite attractive." I gave a long appreciative look to Nico who was getting a hug from my mom too, "Then again, more likely Maria di Angelo was one gorgeous mother."
He sighed out, "She was.
"In any case, the three Judges have waited for my appearance. Some pop star recently died of a heart attack and they want me to be there." There was a silence in which I waited for him to disappear in a flash of light, or something. When it didn't happen, I glanced at him curiously.
"Percy Jackson," Hades said. And turned his gaze upon me, the force of his eyes was so intense as if he were judging my soul ahead of time. What could I have possibly done? I made sure to give him the larger piece of lasagne! Then to my surprised, there was a small twitch to his lips as if they were attempting to smile, "Nico is content here with you. And for your sake, you should pray I lose the wager I have with the Fates. They are certain on the everlasting longevity of your relationship with my son."
I tore my gaze away from him, weirded out by his sort-of smile. "Wait, you have a bet on how long I'm going to be Nico's boyfriend? And you bet against the Fates?"
"I did it before they started spouted the Destiny rubbish. They haven't been this excited since Merlin and that Arthur fellow. You know what they said to me?" I risked a look at the God of Death. The sort-of smile had died. I think I prefer his smite-you-where-you-stand-expression.
"They told me you were two sides of the same coin."
When his words sank in, I felt my jaw drop. Was it just me, or was Hades in a roundabout way giving me his blessings? I backpedaled to what Hades had been saying, the Fates said 'everlasting longevity'. I was swept by a rush of thrill. That meant like for as long as you shall live, right?
I can do that.
He nodded once and went back to pretending I didn't exist. Then in comparably companionable silence, we walked towards the door where Nico stood alone. Hades said something curtly to Nico and we turned away so not to be blinded by his true form.
Then when we were both alone, Nico, the Nico who was I going to spend everlasting longevity with, said, "That was the single most horrifying, and scariest thing I have ever endured in my life. I'd take a war any day of the week."
"It wasn't that bad." I smiled, still stuck on the as-long-as-you-both-shall-live bit. I was itching to tell him.
But Nico was silent.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked, looping an arm around his shoulders to lead us both to the living room couch. Though I was jittering to tell him, something seemed to be troubling Nico.
He sighed then breathed. "Family."
I hugged him close to me, his back to my chest. He had grown so that he was taller than I was by an inch or two, but he was still able to curl comfortably on my lap. I liked feeling like I was protecting him in my arms, and maybe he liked feeling that he was taken care of.
"It was always Bianca and me. I can't remember having any other family. Later, I intellectually knew that my deity family was large. After all, we are direct descendants of Gaia. Our grandmother is the Great Mother of all Gods, but I never really felt like I belonged. And yeah, I guess that's partially due to being a child of Hades, but I wanted to have something human to do. Something normal like help a grandparent weed their garden, instead of Demeter's insanely large harvest fields, or take out their garbage, or sit down and have tea and cookies with them. I never really had that."
"You have me," I promptly said then added, "And our garbage bin overflowing with burnt lasagne."
Nico shook his head fondly, "Now I have you."
Suddenly I felt shy about telling Nico about the conversation I had with Hades. It felt too big to give it words and too big for it to be contained. What if Nico didn't feel the same way? What if he felt trapped by the word Destiny.
I let that word roll in my mind. Destiny was predetermined. Was it encoded that I felt being with Nico was so easy? Not to say that being with Annabeth was difficult, per say. Okay, so maybe sometimes she was difficult to understand her (maybe it's a girl thing?) and maybe her bossiness became a little too much on occasion. With Nico, he wouldn't constantly nag and ask about every secret you have. He trusted you to know when it was the right time, if it concerns him.
And when something was wrong, he wouldn't dodge around it. He doesn't act like he's too mature for me. Worse comes to worse, he blocks my way with a wall of black earth and make me confront it.
And he could always pick up when something was bothering me.
"What's up with you?" He smoothed back a lock of hair from my face. His hands were cold, and the proper action was to catch it between my own and lay kisses on his knuckles.
"Don't change the subject."
"M'not." I turned to mouth the back of his neck, because I wanted to and could.
He sighed and let me kiss him on the lips, a soft and tired searching of tongues seeking reassurance in one another.
"You boys are so sweet."
We jumped apart at the voice. An eight year old girl with mousy brown hair sat next to the gently crackling fireplace. The fire was reflected in her eyes.
"Lady Hestia." Nico stumbled onto his feet to bow. I managed to do the same, without looking too embarrassed at being caught making-out on the couch.
"Sit, Percy Jackson and Nico di Angelo. No doubt you are exhausted from such an eventful evening."
"We apologize for not inviting you, Lady." Nico said respectfully.
"Two gods are enough at one table." Hestia smiled sweetly.
"Ah, but I should have known a dinner without you is a dinner diminished. Can I offer you refreshments now as compensation?"
"Always such a gentleman with me, Nico." Hestia laughed. And when she did, her baby cheeks were flushed with healthiness. A god's physical state reflected on the condition of their realm. It could only mean good for Olympus if the goddess of hearth and home looked like a million bucks.
"Well, I figured it wouldn't hurt to be on a few gods' good side. Brownie?" Nico grinned.
"I have already had a taste of the lovely pastries you threw into the fire."
"But I managed to save a few from Percy's bottomless stomach."
"Hey!" I protested, "The Achilles Curse thing still takes a lot out of me. I thought you said you'd stop teasing me about it."
"Did I say that? I'm pretty sure I didn't."
"Are you sure you weren't just dreaming? You do take an awful lot of naps."
"You're doing it again." I pouted. The traitor. He was making me look bad in front of a goddess. And right now, Hestia looked awfully amused. "Ah I remember Achilles. The boy had two switches, eating and sleeping. Then again there was Patroclus..."
Nico interrupted, "Lady Hestia, if not for my brownies, may I ask why you have graced us with your presence?"
"As it is, Nico di Angelo, you and Percy are both on my good side. As the goddess of the hearth and home, I come bearing a gift for your housewarming party." She waved a hand and a vacuum cleaner appeared before us.
"Vacuum cleaners are the epitome of domesticity and it's got the latest hair-and-dirt pick up technology, so you won't have a problem if Mrs. O'Leary visits."
"Um, thank you Lady Hestia." I said.
"You're welcome, Percy Jackson. I wish you a joyful future together." And with one last smile, the hearth's flames licked up her arms and she was enveloped by the fire.
I walked over to the violet vacuum cleaner where there was a red bow obnoxiously perched on a card. I read it out loud, "Home is where the heart is."
Was it just me, or did the gods pay too much attention on our relationship? Not that I minded Hestia's quick visit, but seriously—
"Come on, Percy." Nico yawned, "Let's go upstairs so I can sing you a lullaby and kiss you goodnight." He looped an arm around my waist. I agreed with him, three gods and my mother were more than enough reason to call it a night before 9:00pm.
"Mmm, I like it when you kiss me." I leaned forward to sneak one.
Later in the dark, when we were under covers, I nestled against Nico's left side, minding the injury to his chest. A manticore's scorpion tail had lashed out suddenly, catching us off guard. The poison had severely weakened him. I remember how he fell during that battle.
I don't remember what happened afterwards.
Sometimes the Achilles' Curse frightens me with the intensity of it. I got it mostly under control, but sometimes... Anyways, the dork tells me between wheezes that I handled it brilliantly. But I could see the worry and the pain he was trying to hide from me.
The worst of the injury was staved off by ambrosia squares. Nevertheless it reminded me how vulnerable he still was to physical wounds. When I redid his bandages today, the skin looked still looked sore.
"Do the bandages itch?"
"Only when you pick at it like that, Perce."
"Sing me a lullaby, Nico. You said you would." I kissed the skin closest to me. He paused, in the silence I could almost hear the whirling of his brain.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine."
I stuffed my laughter in Nico's armpit, "Are you ser—"
"Shhh," He hushed me. The silence between us was intimate and warm, and his voice was tender when he sang again, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray." When he was fifteen and his voice broke, it still retained a soft, endearing quality to it. I reached up to touch his lips, as if I can catch his words between my fingertips. I felt the lick of his tongue as he sang, "You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away. I'll always love you and make you happy. If you will only say the same."
I felt Nico's lips quirk in a sheepish smile. "I don't remember the rest of the song."
I stretched up and gave him a chaste kiss. "You sang the important bits. Sing it to me again?" I placed my ear carefully against his chest to listen to the vibrations. I felt the day unwind with the closeness of this.
When he finished singing the verse a second time and was just humming, I gathered up my courage and asked, "You know what your dad said to me?"
I felt him jerk in surprise, "You and my father had a conversation? When was this?"
"Just before he left. No listen," I was getting excited again to tell him. I wanted to share what I was feeling with him. "He said that the Fates told him that we were 'two sides of the same coin.'" I tried to say it in the same solemn and prophetic voice that Hades used, but only managed to sound a little bit goofy.
Nico kind of gave me a crooked smile, "A half cannot be truly hate that which makes it whole."
When he saw my confused and inquiring face, he said, "Aphrodite's been talking to me since I figured out that I was a child of Hades. I think they have some sort of bet going on up on there."
"I think Aphrodite invests too much attention on my love life."
"At least it's not your father who's sizing up your boyfriend."
"No, it's my uncle."
"Low blow, Percy!" Nico cried and tackled me onto my back.
"Whatever, my dear cousin."
"You doofus!" He tried to smother my breathless laughter with a pillow.
"Okay Nico, stop! I'll stop. I'm sorry." I covered the last of my giggles by kissing him on the cheek.
"Jerk." Nico rolled his eyes and gave me the 'you-are-so-stupid-but-I-love-you-anyways' look.
"Mmm, you are my sunshine, my only sunshine." I sang.
"Ah, no more! My ears are bleeding!"
"Heey, don't insult my singing." I pouted, just because I was tone deaf, doesn't mean I couldn't sing.
"Of course, you are entitled to anything after saving my life, master of the tap waters." Nico teased.
"That's right, you better remember." I hummed into his bare shoulder and then when I reached to end of the verse, I looked him into the eyes and sang as sincerely as I could, "I'll always love you and make you happy."
"You sap." He ducked his head and swatted my shoulder.
I kissed him full on the lips, ludicrously happy. Not just content, but the bubbly and full feeling, like I can't keep my hands off him. "Your sap."
"Alright, the lack of sleep has you saying stupid, mushy girl stuff. Good night, Percy." Nico said, pointedly flopping back onto the bed.
I whispered by his ear, making sure that my lips grazed along the soft skin of his earlobe, "Good night, love."
Disclaimer: The following belongs to their respected owners.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Rick Riordan
Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
Finding Nemo – Disney Pixar Productions