A short story I wrote in and out around the chapters of Break Myself as a way to keep my ideas awake during writer's block. Tried to do a slightly different take on a Percy/Nico relationship.

This may or may not be part of a small miniseries comprised of short stories. Feedback will help me decide. Although it's a probably.

Heat

It was actually kind of peaceful. Nothing but the endless blue sky stretched out all around him. And quiet – not the kind of quiet in the Underworld from just sheer nothingness, but the quiet of hushed wind whispering around him. Nico liked that. He also liked the sun soaking through his clothes and skin as he idly kicked his feet – one sock and one shoe lazily moving back and forth. He felt somewhat warm for the first time…in a damn long time. He could blame the constant cold as well, he realized, and mentally logged that away even though there was no one to tell now. Warm and quiet and peaceful.

When he focused, he could barely hear the voices in the building his back was to, or the faint sirens far below. It had been irritating at first, everyone crowding around nearby windows and screaming out at him. When one brave soul had tried to climb out after him onto the narrow ledge, he had chucked his sneaker. The would-be hero quickly ducked back inside, and Nico had watched his shoe take the long plummet to the street below. He felt bad about that and watched to make sure it didn't hit anyone. Although he figured terminal velocity would make sure it didn't kill anyone – but it would still hurt. See, he had learned something from those textbooks, ADHD, screwed-over demigod brain and all. But he knew his body would kill someone if it fell on them, so he was glad when the sirens showed up and cleared people off the street surrounding the building.

The officer had shown up on the floor shortly after that and talked everyone away from the window. Nico had almost laughed when he heard the officer say something about going out on the ledge after him was a foolish thing to do. Then the officer had tried to talk to Nico himself, about wouldn't his family miss him and wasn't there so much he had left to live for.

Nico had laughed so hard he almost slipped off the narrow ledge. And the officer stopped before causing Nico to fall. So now it was quiet and peaceful and warm. Some naïve part of him hoped death would be something like this, but he knew better than anyone it wasn't.

Another thing he blamed. All the death, all the time, all around him. It sucked when you hung out with people who were dead more than people who were alive. It really brought down any sense of optimism to be staring at someone and knowing exactly when, where, and how they died. As well as their last thoughts. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda.

At least he didn't have many of those. Well, one, to be exact. Okay, two. He felt bad about Annabeth and Percy breaking up. It sucked to see your best friends end their relationship. And it was really awkward with all the glares he got at camp, so he knew he had something to do with it. Was he spending too much time with them instead of giving them alone time? He was invited each time. Almost like he was a deliberate block between the two of them by the couple themselves. But they broke up, that perfect heroic couple, and Nico knew he was somehow to blame. He just wished he could really apologize and figure out what he had done. But removing himself from the picture would help in that department anyways. And help with his other regret too.

Nico wondered if he could stay out here until sunset. It would be a terrific view. But no… he knew the winds would kick up and the sunshine would fade, and he'd be cold and miserable and alone. He was done with that. He wanted to be warm for once.

Like the kind of warmth he got when Percy hugged him, after winning a game of capture the flag or after they had successfully pranked another camper, or like the long hug Percy gave him when he and Annabeth broke up – apologizing and saying it wasn't Nico's fault all at the same time. Gods, Percy confused him.

Even in his dreams. Nico didn't even want to think about those. Especially not the occasional ones which made him wake up in a dead sweat. He felt so damn hot all over after those and afterwards he'd blush every time Percy gave him an odd look.

But he had enjoyed the heat compared to the cold. He liked this quiet compared to the constant white noise of a silence in the underworld, broken by the hums in his brain of the dead. That's what he ultimately blamed in the end… the cold and the silence. He already felt dead. He was just completing the circuit.

He watched the crowd, so far below they were just a dark mass. He wondered if they were just there to see his head splatter open on the concrete or not. Well, he wouldn't want to deny them the show. He shifted about on the ledge. Another minute, another minute to soak up the sunshine and the peaceful quiet. Then he'd shove off with only two regrets. That'd be okay with him.

"Nico di-fucking-Angelo!"

Nico nearly fell off the ledge at the voice. The voice that belonged to the very pissed looking boy currently half-way out the nearest window. "What in Hades do you think you're doing?"

"Percy?" Nico gaped as he finished pulling himself through the window. Percy's green eyes darted a look down before quickly shifting away with a slight sway. "Percy, get back inside! What are you doing here?"

"I am asking you the same damn question," Percy snapped. He slowly worked his way over to Nico.

"Percy, you're going to fall!"

"Shut up Nico," Percy said with such a stony tone Nico couldn't help but obey. Percy carefully side-saddled his way over to Nico and slid down the building wall to sit next to him. Only then did Percy dare a glance downward. He jerked back against the wall and gasped for a second.

"Oh shit."

"You shouldn't have come out here," Nico said with an accusing tone.

"Neither should you! Have. Come out here, I mean-oh stuff it!" Percy glared at him. "Are you going to tell me what you're doing out here?"

Nico gave him a look that asked 'Isn't it obvious?'

"I would punch you right now if I didn't think we'd both fall to our deaths," Percy retorted harshly.

"No way," Nico protested, horrified. The thought of Percy dying drained him. "No. You can't die, Percy."

"And you can?" Percy glanced downward again, shoved back against the wall and shut his eyes tightly. "Oh shit oh shit oh shit…"

"Percy…" the wind had picked up a little as the day faded more from the sky, picking at Percy's white streak and fluffing it out from the black strands all wet with sweat. "Are you afraid of heights?"

"Just of falling from them," Percy snapped. "Son of Poseidon, remember? Zeus is not going to be happy with us being up in his territory. I'm surprised he hasn't bolted both our butts yet."

That would have made this whole thing a lot easier, Nico realized. But now if Zeus did hit him, he'd hit Percy too. And Nico couldn't bear that.

"Percy, please go back inside," he pleaded.

"So you can jump? No effin' way." Percy quickly reached out and grabbed a fistful of Nico's hoodie. "If you jump, you are pulling me with you," he threatened.

"Percy, let go," Nico ordered. He wasn't going to pull Percy to his death too.

"No." Percy's gaze hardened. "Tell me, what exactly prompted you to do this?"

"It doesn't matter, just let go and go back inside."

"No."

Nico's frustration broke. "You are so damn stubborn!"

"Hello kettle, it's pot, you're black!"

"And stupid!"

"I'm stupid? Who's out here trying to jump?"

"Shut up Percy!"

"What's so bad that you're going to kill yourself?"

"Get off!"

"Not until you grow some brains and come inside with me!"

"No! Leave me alone, dammit!"

"We either fall together or go inside together!"

"Gods dammit, If you had left me alone before maybe you and Annabeth would still be together!"

"If I had- …say what?" Percy's face twisted from his yelling match to utter confusion.

"I know I was a damn cock block," Nico snapped, glaring down below. "If I hadn't been around, if you had told Annabeth not to invite me all the time, I wouldn't have gotten between you two and you'd would still be together."

Percy started laughing. He was laughing so hard, he had to let go of Nico and hold on for dear life. Nico stared, wondering if the thinned air had gotten to the prince of the sea and he was going into hysterics. As the laughter subsided into giggles and stray tears, Nico stammered out, "Never. Do that. Again."

"Oh gods Nico, you think Annabeth was using you as… as a buffer? Between us?" Percy giggled a bit again. "And that we broke up because of that?"

"…yeeees..." Nico said uncertainly. "You laughing is starting to scare me…"

"Well you're kind of right," Percy wiped at his eyes as a few stray laughs escaped. "You were a …'cock block'." Nico was about to exclaim his victory. "But I invited you. Not Annabeth."

That statement had to roll through Nico's head a few times before it registered. "Wait…wait. What? You… you were using me to…block yourself from Annabeth?"

Percy started to say something, closed his mouth, then opened it against just to shut up. He let out a shaky breath. "I…I've been meaning to tell you. But… I was scared."

"Scared? Of what?" Nico couldn't resist the downward glance. The air was getting colder as the wind kicked up more.

"That you'd run away from me." Percy rested his head back against the building wall. "Guess you're kind of a captive audience now, though."

"Funny," Nico replied sarcastically.

"Nico… I… I like you Nico." Nico froze as Percy stared up at the sky. "I like you. More than like you. I'm not sure how much yet, but… but definitely more… more than I think I can ever say."

The wind suddenly wasn't so quiet, and the tension had all but broken any kind of peace Nico had felt earlier. He sat, dumbfounded, heart racing and head spinning in circles as he stared at Percy, trying to make sense of what he had just said.

Percy finally looked at him. "Say something."

" 'Something'," Nico barely croaked out.

Percy looked worried as he reached a hand out to Nico again, but hesitating short of touching him. "You… you don't have to do anything. I mean, you don't have to… return any feelings." Percy swallowed hard. "Just… know, if you do this-" he couldn't even look completely down, "I will never, ever forgive you. I will go to the Underworld and drag you back."

Nico continued to stare.

"Please," Percy asked in a gentle tone. He held out his hand. "Nico… please come inside with me?"

Nico stared for a moment, before slowly nodding and sliding his hand into Nico's. Percy smiled at him. It took a moment for the two of them to get up on the small ledge without falling off. Percy refused to let go of Nico's hand as they started working across the ledge. As Percy's hand reached into the window, Nico could hear faint cheering, and started blushing like crazy. Well this wasn't embarrassing.

Without warning, his socked foot lost its hold and Nico lost his balance, tipping over the edge and hearing Percy scream his name in the same heartbeat. His arm was caught taunt between him and Percy. Percy screamed his name again, eyes wide with fear as Nico's feet scrambled for a purchase. There was screaming from beyond the window, voices raised in sheer panic and Nico could barely see the several hands grasping at Percy to hold him on the ledge as he hung out, latched to Nico's arm.

The detached, ADD part of Nico's brain that wasn't really all there gleefully pointed out he was getting his death wish granted. That thought seemed to kick-start the common sense part of his brain that had been asleep.

"Nico!" Percy screamed again, and Nico's brow furrowed as he flung his free hand up and clasped onto Percy's wrist. With a hitch and a wiggle, Nico started to swing himself to the side using Percy as a lever. Either Percy caught on immediately or inherently knew to follow through with the swing, giving Nico enough momentum to catch onto the ledge and pull himself up.

As he panted lying on the concrete of the ledge, he could hear cheering from inside the building. He looked up through sweat-glazed hair to see Percy smiling despite his white-knuckled grip on Nico's arm.

It was that hold that pulled Nico through the window after Percy, the strangers' hands disappearing as they stepped back. Nico stumbled through the sill, his arm tugged by Percy until he collapsed on Percy's chest, where he found himself pinned.

"Never do that again," Percy ordered harshly, his lips in Nico's hair as he clutched the younger boy tightly. Nico could feel the heat of Percy's body, shaking as it held him, and heard the racing heartbeat of Poseidon's son. "Never, ever, ever…"

Nico pulled back far enough to look at Percy, feeling ashamed. "I'm… I'm sorry." He was very aware of all the people around them, their attention focused on the two boys lying entangled on the floor. But Percy refused to let go, and his green eyes made Nico forget all about the people watching.

"Did you mean that?" Nico asked in a hushed voice.

"Yes." Percy's face had never looked so self-assured. "I meant all of it. And more."

"I don't know how I feel."

A glimmer of hope crossed Percy's face and his arms tightened around Nico, pressing him closer into the warmth of Percy's chest. "So… that's not a 'no', right?"

"It's not a 'no'," Nico agreed, and felt the heat staining his cheeks. Officers were starting to crowd around them. He felt hot with embarrassment, lying trapped on top of Percy.

But it was forgotten as Percy pressed his lips to Nico's, and Nico felt a lot warmer than he had in a long time.