A/N: i've edited this story in response to Amethyst Grey's review - i'm attempting to find time to give you the desererved response, my lovely! not dropped out a window, or ignoring you :P - so now, hopefully has fewer spelling mistakes, and makes more sense as a whole :) oh, and Amethyst? Dearest? Though i'd take this moment to ask you to marry me - then you can write me amazing and helpful reviews all the time! :D
so. to sumerise. Story's been edited for the better. And you. me. altar. now.
One Fell Swoop
[i] – disconcerting
It's always a disconcerting feeling, when something very safe, and sure, something you would have relied on forever, ups and leaves. Sort like when you miss a step going downstairs, and your stomach swoops, and you wonder how you could've missed it. I understand this. It happened when I lost Bianca, first to the Hunters, and then to our father. But I hadn't noticed it, the sheer oddness of change: I'd been too blinded by grief and rage. It wasn't until much, much later that I had realised how weird it was, being on my own, without Bianca to take care of me; to dry my eyes and tidy my clothes and to always, always watch my back.
It'd been me, Percy and Annabeth, for a while. Percy and Annabeth had moved onto the next, logical step of their happy co-existence, by moving in together. Of course, Annabeth was away for most of the year, at Yale, which was so predictable, that when I had heard, I had laughed for hours, while Percy had stared at me bemused, but she came back every other weekend, unless she had something on. Percy point black refused to even go near a college application.
I had always found it so very funny when Annabeth and Percy argued. Annabeth got pissed off when I'd burst out laughing, but didn't kick me out, just made up with Percy. I would leave of my own accord, then.
[ii] – intruding
"Why are you always here?" Percy had asked one day over cornflakes – his with milk that Annabeth had mixed blue die into, ever thoughtful, mine bone dry. Annabeth had sat on the counter eating toast. "I mean, I don't mind, I was just wondering..."
I had shrugged, not wanting to talk about how I didn't have a home (like I was going to live at camp all year) and how the Underworld was seemed even more depressing when Persephone wasn't there – I did love my step-mother, it was inevitable, what with that light she seemed to emit – and that Percy and Annabeth were the only friends I had left. I would never dream of telling them that.
I had looked up to see Annabeth's scrutinising gaze on me. "Why don't you move in with us?" She had asked. I had stammered, protested about intruding, but by that time Percy had latched onto the idea and didn't seem inclined to let go anytime soon, so I had said yes.
[iii] – masochist
Percy found out about my nightmares a week later. Annabeth was back at college, and I was screaming. I woke up to cool fingers on the back of my hand, and another set moving over my face softly.
"What was it?" Percy asked, sitting on the edge of my bed. I drew up my legs, away from him, and wrapped my arms around them. He didn't let go off my hand, and I couldn't tell whether that made me happy or not.
"Was it Bianca?"
Percy seemed almost confused now, "Your dad?"
"Oh." Percy was still holding my hand, and I was astonished that I didn't mind. I'd only ever let Bianca do that, and she hadn't wanted to very often. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Percy left after giving my hand a comforting squeeze. After that, everything was a bit blurry. Disjointed – my thoughts leaping from one thing to another. There was one coherent thought that managed to claw its way out of the mess: that the boy who I'd let hold my hand was perfect. Well, maybe not in other's eyes, but he was perfect for me. He always said what I needed to hear, whether he knew he was or not. And he was beautiful. I could see that, suddenly.
It seemed only natural that I should fall for someone so unattainable: the son of Poseidon, straight, and with a girlfriend. But it had always been my way, I supposed. I think I liked making life difficult for myself. I discover that I'm something of a masochist.
[iv] – withered
But back to this ever present, inescapable feeling, of loss of someone so dear to you, that it's like a hole had been opened in your chest that refuses to heal, I took the chance of explaining it to Percy. Percy had looked down, and nodded. We didn't speak for eight days, and even then, it was just Percy asking me to pass the orange juice.
I ended up in the Underworld barely an hour later. It was January; Persephone would be there, making my father's life bright again. She was in her garden, just sitting to one side, her face bent over her hands, full of small, pale pink flowers; she looked happy. Her golden skin was giving off the faint glow it always did down here, in the dark, her hair tumbling over one shoulder and threaded with flowers, eyelashes almost black against her cheek. She looked up, saw me, and smiled. I didn't know anyone who can light up a room, just by their smile, as Persephone could. She stood, the pink flowers falling to the floor where they instantly withered and died, and she opened her arms as she came towards me.
I let her hug me to her. "Oh, Nico, you've been crying, what's happened?"
"No I haven't."
She laughed as she led me to her bench, and sat me down next to her, "I know, I know, you refuse to cry as part of your 'macho-man' act. Fine, you're as close to crying as you ever come. Now will you tell me?"
"Oh. Well I never liked him. What's he done now?"
"Nothing. Just been his normal, heroic, fucking perfect self." I seemed to be increasingly bitter these days.
"Nico..." She reprimanded, just like a real mother would, like my real mother had. The sting of tears again, but they were gone in a moment.
"Sorry." She waited patiently for me to carry on talking. "It's not anything he's done in particular, either, more something I realised."
"Nico, you're not... are you?"
She smiled gently, and hugged me again. "Aphrodite's gonna be so pissed that she doesn't know about this! I can't wait until I see her face!" I shot her a look. "Sorry, sweetheart," She put her hand on my cheek, suddenly looking worried, "Isn't Percy living with Athena's girl, the clever one?" She took my silence for a yes. "I don't think... Can you find someone else?"
I shrugged again. She lent my head against her shoulder and stroked my hair.
[v] – worried
When I got back to the flat, Percy was waiting, looking furious. As soon as I walked through the door, he grabbed my shoulders, half-shaking, half-holding me, "Where have you been!"
"Why didn't you tell me you were going out! I've been worried out of my mind, Nico! Anything could have happened to you: you could have been attacked, or kidnapped; you know how all the monsters track us! Gods, how could you be so stupid?" He'd let me go by now, and was pacing, dragging a hand through his hair. "You're still a kid, Nico, just, just please try and be more careful."
I ignored him and stalked into my room.
"Nico? What's wrong?"
"You do realise that I've been living on my own since Bianca died, right? Having to fend for myself? I don't need you to protect me."
"That's not what I meant-"
"Yes it is."
"You know what? It is, I'm older than you, and I can't be killed. Let me look after you! I'm protecting pretty much everyone else in this city, why not you too?"
"You're... you're what?"
[vi] – saviour
He wouldn't let me go with him, but I followed him one night. Saved him from a rogue satyr – which I didn't think were physically possible – who wanted to skewer him with an arrow, right in his Achilles' spot. Percy had just stopped an armed robbery, where he'd been shot in the arm. He was waiting for it to heal so was a tad distracted. I stabbed the thing before Percy would turn around.
"Why on earth did you do that? And what the hell are you doing here in the first place?"
"Saving your ass, by the looks of things."
"I didn't need saving." He said petulantly, sounding like a whining child.
I snorted, "Sure you didn't. Say thank you to your saviour."
He looked up at me, his eyes glowing in the dark, one side of his face covered in shadow, and with a more serious expression on his face than I'd ever seen before. When he spoke, it was a in a hoarse whisper, "Thank you."
Somehow I got the feeling we weren't talking about the satyr anymore.
[vii] – fondly
I suppose I should have seen it coming really, but I was still too wrapped up Percy – he was everywhere, I'd never noticed his scent before, the sea obviously, but something else, something so quintessentially Percy that I found myself clutching one of the cushions of the sofa to my face and inhaling so deeply, as if I was trying to suffocate myself in the smell of him – that when Annabeth, home one weekend and in her usual place next to Percy, with her legs over his lap, suggested that I go to school, I stared at her like she was completely insane.
"School?" I said slowly. "Are you freaking kidding me?"
She was already shaking her head, and that spark had come into her eyes that she always got whenever she got a plan. "Percy can pull some strings with Paul, can't you Percy?" She turned to her boyfriend then, who didn't seem to have been paying any attention whatsoever.
She sighed exasperatedly, but smiled fondly at him, "Your stepdad Paul? See if he can get Nico a place at Goode."
If Percy was being his normal self, instead of this odd, distant being, then he would have laughed at the thought of me going to a normal school, but instead he just shrugged and said yeah and resumed staring out of the window as the overcast sky rumbled with the promise of thunder.
[viii] – blatantly
I didn't get into Goode, but into another school, just outside New York that took boarders. I only just got in academic wise, but was able to snag a sport scholarship. Percy and I were still hardly speaking, so I left without any goodbye, and I didn't want it to be the ceremonious occasion that Annabeth had been picturing – she'd had to go back to college for a lecturing or some sort – and I certainly didn't want to talk to Percy, not since he'd been blanking me for days, so I got a taxi at five in the morning and arrived before everyone else.
It wasn't bad, school that is. I did as little work as possible, and made a couple of friends who I hung out of the dormitory windows and smoked with. The other guys didn't really take to me that much, I guess. They were mostly rich little nerds, who had no time for a guy who couldn't spell, could outrun them by miles without breaking a sweat, and who blatantly liked both kinds of fags.
"Oi! Nico! Your girlfriend's here!" Which is why I think I was as stunned as they were when someone yelled that.
I opened my door to see Rachael smiling at me. She flicked a glance at the silent boys behind her, lent forward, took my face between her hands and kissed me. I put my hands on her hips and it wasn't bad, in general. I was a bit confused why she did it in the first place, but hey, kisses are kisses, and a boy who's never ever got laid, and has only ever snogged one person before, and that was a wannabe punk round the back of a MacDonald's, isn't going to say no to a free kiss.
"Hey, baby," She said, lacing her fingers through mine and pushing past me into my room, dragging me after her. She let go the instant the door was shut – I could hear the guys outside instantly roar into life, giggling the way guys at boarding school do at a girl in their midst – and hugged me tightly. "Sorry about that – thought it'd give some cred with the boys."
I stared at her. Rachael had never ever said the word 'cred' before, and I was a little scared that she had.
"Oh stop looking at me like that! You know what I mean!"
"Yeah, yeah." I graced her with a smile, since she is one of the four females in the world I don't find annoying. "As for your attempt to increase my 'cred', it probably would've helped if you were six foot one with a tan and head of thick blonde hair. Oh, and a guy." She raised her eyebrows, "Yes, really. My collection of gay bffs would be so totally jealous!" I put on a girly accent.
She laughed, sat on one of the beds and crossed her arms. "So, how long have been in love with Percy?"
I shrugged, leaning against the desk with my hands in my pockets. "A few months. Since I first met him. Forever. Any of the above."
"Oh goodie." She said, smiling and clapping her hands delightedly, like a toddler.
"Why?" I'd stopped wondering how Rachael knew things; she was the Oracle, after all; she must have seen me pining after him for months.
"I was just wondering. How did Annabeth take the news?"
I gave her an odd look. "She doesn't know. Obviously."
"But I saw... Oh." Her eyes went very big. "It hasn't happened yet."
"What hasn't happened yet? What are you talking about? Rachael."
She became very flustered, jumping up. "N...nothing. Talk soon, Nico! You have to call and tell me all about any rendezvous with handsome men. Bye!"
She was gone in the second. I stared after her. A head appeared in the doorway, "Dude, who was that?"
[ix] – appreciate
I was outside when Percy (finally) showed up. It was lunch, and me and three others were grouped under a tree, away from the main building so we could smoke unseen. A group of older kids were sitting at the picnic tables nearby, working in the sunlight and continuously glancing over at us.
"Do you think he's working up the courage to ask me out?" I asked.
The blond – Peter – next to me chuckled, then his grey eyes – lined with kohl, really, and they call me gay – lit up, "Oh, looks like he's got the balls after all: and he's even brought a friend for me! How considerate."
A couple of the tougher nerds were stalking over, looking pissed off, and, I had to admit, rather hot with their glasses hiding determined gazes and smart clean uniform over firm bodies. In the last few months I'd been here my hormones had veered out of control. One of the perks of having close, and equally horny, friends at a sleep-away school was that I never usually had to worry about that sort of thing anymore, but it had made me sort of appreciate the way guys looked more.
Before it had just been Percy, and still was in a way, but my feelings for him were more of a faded memory than solid love.
"Your smoke is polluting our air. Stop."
"Hm, let me think about that, no. Ask nicely." I retaliated, half-laughing at them.
"What do you want us to do? Beg?" One of them sneered.
"Oh yes please." Peter inserted, purring as he winked languidly.
They seemed to be squaring up for a fight – which delighted me no end – when a voice came from my left. "These guys bothering you, Nico?"
And there he was. With the sunlight illuminating him from behind (it would be, wouldn't it?), lighting up his dark hair and putting his turbulent eyes into shadow.
"Oh fuck, Ni'." Peter whispered, "Care to share?"
"No." I was just about able to bite back, as Percy ignored me totally.
"Come on, Weston, we've got better things to do. But Nico, your boyfriend won't always be around to look after you, don't forget it."
Percy looked like he wanted to eat them, to I distracted him. "Why the hell did you do that? I could handle it."
Percy looks at me, as if seeing me for the first time. "Nico." He was kneeling in front of me the next second, his hand on my face. His eyes were stormy.
"Oh yeah, I would definitely tap that." I felt Peter's chin on my shoulder as he no doubt batted his lashes at Percy.
"Sure. Whatever. Why will nobody share anymore? What's happened to generosity? Caring for your fellow man and his needs or whatever. I have needs! God, I just hate people who make out with their smoking hot boyfriends in front of me, don't you, 'Ren?" Peter said pointedly as he left, but smiled at me and fluttered his fingers.
"We're not making out!" I called after him, out of habit, but then Percy was still looking at me.
With those eyes. And I was lost again, from the moment I saw his eyelids flutter shut, and I realised what he was about to do. I tipped my face up to his, and tried my very hardest to keep the smile off my face.
I knew that for as long as I lived (unlikely to be past my teens, so it isn't much of a promise), that I would never ever be able to get used to this: of Percy rutting against me: of the taste of Percy's skin slicked with sweat: Percy as his eyes rolled to the back of his skull: Percy's blunt fingernails scrabbling over my back: and, oh Gods, the noises Percy made.
The excitement made it better. The danger of being caught. Of knowing that he could be with Annabeth now, if he wanted. Since Percy and Annabeth were still together, and unlikely to ever break up, Percy and I could never do anything when she was home, well, nothing long anyway. And I knew that it will be like this forever. Just like this, the cold tiles beneath my knees, Percy's hands pulling on my hair so hard it hurts, while both of us shushes the other, in case Annabeth wakes up.
But suddenly I was proved wrong (again) and everything changed. Someone who you were so used to being a fundamental part of your life, left. Said that they'd grown apart. Said that that wonderful, exciting, heart-skipping chemistry wasn't there anymore. I knew why: because of me, and it shouldn't have made me as happy as it did. So I gave her a sympathetic smile – I'd always been more Percy's friend than hers, from the very beginning – and warned Rachael what would be heading her way. She already knew, but beamed a 'congrats!' at me, before waving her hand through the mist quickly as Annabeth's footsteps could be heard on the stairs.
I find Percy. Put my arms around him. He holds me tightly and cries into my hair for an hour. Then he gives me a sad smile, and I know then that he understands.
He stands up, stretches out his hand at me, and let his lips curve into a damp grin. Leading me through his – our– flat, I want to dance. Or scream. Or laugh out loud. Do something. His fingers graze my stomach as he curses at the buttons on my shirt. It hits me. He's mine. And, then there's that feeling again, and my stomach swoops.
A/N: if you love Peter as much as i do, ive done an admittedly vr self-indulgent fic that carries on from this one, but Peter centered - it's called Misunderstood :) oh, and reviews = love + blue cookies + blue milk, cz really, who can resisit cookies and milk in such a funky colour?