Fandom: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan
Story Title: "The Five Times Someone Felt Left Out (And How They Were All Rectified with Kisses)"
Character/Relationships: Percy/Annabeth/Nico, Percy/Nico/Rachel, Nico/Rachel/Annabeth, Rachel/Annabeth/Percy, Percy/Nico/Annabeth/Rachel
Warnings: Some mild sexual content.
Wordcount: 3,335/~15,000... this one ran away from me.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All characters, settings, and proprietary language are owned by the author of the work from which this is derived.
Notes: Um, okay, so this one is turning out way lengthier than I intended, and is taking way longer to write than I'd intended, so I'm going to break ~code~ and post it as a five-part fic instead of a superlong one-shot. Hopefully that will also motivate me to keep working on it until it's all finished instead of getting discouraged by how much more involved it's become and losing steam. So, yeah, um, keep checking back?
The Five Times Someone Felt Left Out (And How They Were All Rectified with Kisses)
So for the first time in quite a while in Nico di Angelo's life, everything was pretty stellar, actually. He'd finally caught up to his own grade and didn't feel stupid at school all the time anymore (even though dyslexia still sucked and he wanted to castrate everyone who thought ADD equaled a viral disease); he got to live in a sweet-ass apartment, and not, you know, in a cursed hotel or the Underworld, and it was nice to go home at the end of each day and have it be a home and not the dormitory of some crappy military school or a bone palace where he might get turned into a geranium; his cabin at Camp Half-Blood made him way happier than he'd ever let Chiron or Mr. D know, just to save face; and he had the best roommate in the entire world.
The only thing that sucked was that Nico was a little bit in love. Just a little bit.
It was okay, though, as long as Annabeth never found out. She'd never let him stay if she knew.
So, consequently, another thing that kind of rocked was that Nico got to slut around a lot with the mortal girls at school, just to keep anyone from getting suspicious. He even kissed a few boys, just, well, because he was descended from the Greek gods and if they didn't care, why should anyone else? It was just a thing. Nico didn't owe anyone any explanations.
Nico was in the middle of one such assignation (with a punky hipster girl who looked a lot like Thalia, actually, but the family resemblance wasn't something Nico wanted to consider) – his shirt off, her bra off, two pairs of jeans open – on the couch when the front door opened.
"Gods, Nico, in the living room? We've talked about this!"
"Nothing you haven't seen," Nico said cheerfully, even as Not-Thalia squawked and yanked her shirt down.
"Um, but I haven't, and I'd rather not right now."
Nico shot upward and peered over the back of the couch, blinking black curls out of his eye. Somewhere over his shoulder, Not-Thalia slunk away to get her shoes and let herself shamefully out. Nico probably wouldn't talk to her at school on Monday.
It wasn't like he didn't like her or anything. He wasn't a total asshole.
It was just that the first person he ever fell in love with just walked through the door and he was kind of busy trying to stuff his dick back into his pants before they noticed it.
"What are you doing here?" Nico asked, a little breathlessly in spite of himself, as he pat his black curls into some semblance of a shape (meaning, 'roguishly into his eyes, because it had been looking frighteningly neat').
And Percy Jackson smiled at him, his green eyes twinkling a little like the reflection of starlight off soft waves. "Spring Break! Woo!" He pulled up the front of his t-shirt to flash Nico, then Annabeth, who rolled her eyes. "No? Okay, well. I just thought LA would have a bigger party vibe than New York. I can see now that I picked the wrong apartment for that."
"Not my fault," Nico said. He shrugged into his Bubonic Dance t-shirt. "I bring Spring Break spirit to this domicile daily. I make sure we're always teeming with half-naked underage co-eds."
Annabeth hit him in the back of the head, not quite as friendly as she tried to make it look for Percy's benefit. "Seaweed Brain, I blame you for this. You told everyone you'd look after the twerp, and what did you do? You transferred to NYU two weeks into the semester."
The complicated long-and-short of it was this: It was supposed to be Percy and Annabeth's apartment in Los Angeles, while they went to UCLA, but Percy wanted to be around for his mom's new baby so his half-sister would know him, and besides – even though he'd never admit it – he needed Camp Half-Blood even more than they'd ever needed him. So, Percy got homesick more quickly than anyone expected, except maybe Rachel Elizabeth Dare, and got on the red-eye home before they'd even finished unpacking.
So… Annabeth Chase had a two-bedroom apartment that she couldn't afford and exactly one friend in Los Angeles.
The son of the god of wealth.
Yeah, it was a little useful, but Nico got a nice Upperworld home and a normal high school and a really pretty roommate who sometimes baked cookies and always made him dinner, so no one complained about it.
The first few weeks had been a little awkward, just because Nico had this propensity for shadowtraveling to-and-from school and the Underworld and startling the naiads' bikinis out of Annabeth, and Annabeth had to reconfigure her entire living plan for the next few years from "living with boyfriend" to "living with younger cousin of boyfriend, who is really kind of awkward and sees dead people and has zero social skills whatsoever," which mainly meant that she needed, very quickly, to dispose of most of the… lounging clothes… she'd bought for sharing with Percy and replace them with baggy yoga pants and light t-shirts.
Eventually, Nico stopped barging silently through the shadows into her bedroom and Annabeth stopped having to remind him to close the door, for gods' sakes, Nico! and they got comfortable with each other. Sometimes she would rest her head in his lap while they watched TV after dinner, or he'd put his feet annoyingly up on her thigh while he did his homework and pestered her for help with those seventy years of history that he didn't know.
Annabeth was the first person to figure out that Nico's favorite food was macaroni and cheese, the kind with the crumbled-up crackers on top and little cut-up hot dogs inside.
Nico discovered, when even Percy never had, that Annabeth's "tell" when she was stressed was that her right eyebrow curved over her eye like a coda, and nothing smoothed her out again like a shoulder-rub and someone braiding her hair for her, tickly and loose and soft. It was a skill he'd learned living with Bianca for almost a century, but neither of them ever had to talk about that.
They had a good understanding of that, too. The things not to be talked about.
When Percy was gone. When Percy was gone, and they found him again, and he came to Los Angeles to be close to them and then he left again, just because he wanted to leave them. They didn't talk about that.
And really, Percy constantly talked to them. More, maybe, than he would have if he'd stayed at UCLA. So it wasn't like he'd abandoned them, or anything. But still. It was a connection that Annabeth and Nico shared deeply – missing Percy Jackson.
Nico thought he'd hidden his feelings so well, but Annabeth wasn't nicknamed Wise Girl for nothing. The younger boy had never brought home a blonde girl or a boy with green eyes.
So when Percy went around the couch and pulled Nico into a lame cool-guy hug with the fists and the three abrasive pats on the back, and Nico turned his face into Percy's shoulder to breathe in that sea-air smell and Percy grinned into the top of Nico's head, smelling the sulfur and stardust of shadowtravel, Annabeth had to smile, a little forlorn.
That night, Nico tried, really tried, not to listen.
But he was a sixteen-year-old boy, and he couldn't help it. He lay there in his bed, wide awake and wide eyed, as on the other side of his wall, Annabeth's bedsprings creaked. She giggled softly. Percy said something soft and low and dirty, and Nico couldn't quite hear the words, but it carried well enough that he shivered anyway. Annabeth's breath was shaky, and Percy made no sound, and Nico could almost feel – in the same way he could feel when someone had a broken bone or an ulcer or an irreparably broken heart – that Percy was on his knees at the edge of Annabeth's gray-blue bed, his dark head tucked between Annabeth's long, pale thighs.
He'd heard Annabeth before, a few times. Mostly when she thought he was out and she called Percy, late at night, and touched herself while he talked her off. She had no idea that Nico knew, because really, that just wasn't responsible roommating. But he'd listened then, too, and it was kind of one of the things Nico loved about her. She didn't make a big deal about it, like the girls at school, who tried to pretend like it was some gross thing that only perverts did. Annabeth didn't advertise it or anything, but it wasn't like she would have lied about it if he asked her. Nico appreciated honesty.
Nico had never heard Percy, though, and the sound of Percy's low words just barely ghosting over the hollow, flat space of the wall was what tipped Nico di Angelo over the edge that first night, fisting himself in one clammy hand beneath his pajama bottoms and spilling carelessly into his sheets.
After, he just rolled over, putting his back to the wall.
The next night, Nico shadowtraveled silently into the corner of Annabeth's room. They were mostly under the blankets; all he could see was the moonlight reflecting off the curve of Percy's spine and the long, muscled flat of his back as he moved over Annabeth, and one of Annabeth's familiar, lean legs hooked up over Percy's shoulder, her blonde hair fanned out over the dark pillowcase like trapped moonbeams. Nico hid, half his body literally in shadow and the other half in the world, one hand down his pants and the other half-hiding his eyes.
Don't ever tell them.
He felt bad about it afterwards.
Other than nighttime, things were pretty awesome for Nico while Percy was visiting. Really, other than Annabeth, Percy was his best friend – well, kind of his only friend, unless you counted his gothy fangirls at school, and frankly, Nico didn't – and Nico had missed the hell out of him.
Not to make a really bad pun, or anything.
So while Annabeth was running around with her internship and her part-time job and her responsible Annabeth-ness, Nico showed Percy around LA. It's a much better city when you're not there to die. They did a lot of Teenage Boy things, like pretending they know how to surf (only of course Percy actually did freakishly well, that jackwad) and practicing throwing a Frisbee around behind their backs on the beach, and Nico showed Percy how to order off the secret menu at In-N-Out and Percy looked at him like he's the best thing since ever.
It was how Nico had always looked at Percy, but he didn't think the older boy noticed.
Then Nico got really sunburned at the beach, because, well, Upperworld: not used to it/Underworlder skin, et cetera. He was so dark that he'd passed red into maroon and practically purple. He didn't want to make a big deal of it, but it hurt even to breathe, and he was miserable and Percy felt terrible. They went back to the apartment and Nico ran a tubful of cold water, and he hissed when he slid in because it felt like his skin would crackle right off.
He could hear Percy speaking softly outside the door, probably telling Annabeth what happened, and he felt like a dumb little kid and a pain in their necks and it was so dumb, but Nico felt embarrassed tears prickling behind his eyes because… they shouldn't have to take care of some stupid high schooler. This was supposed to be their apartment, anyway; Nico was just in the way. He knew that they didn't really think that, but he couldn't help feeling it was true. Nico closed his eyes and slouched uncomfortably in the cold water, feeling his skin crunch and burn. It just wasn't his day. It wasn't his week.
And then cold fingers of water were gently weaving their way up his spine, massaging his shoulders and combing like soft raindrops through his hair.
Nico opened his eyes in surprise and Percy was sitting there, at the edge of the bathtub, one hand dipped into the water near Nico's knee, telling the water what to do and where to go. His green eyes were deep and sad and he was staring at Nico like he's a revelation he's always known, a favorite song he'd forgotten, the secret language of horses and water.
And Nico's just sitting there going, I'm naked. I'm naked.
"Hey," Percy saod sadly, and the water curved over Nico's chest, trickling in long drips down over his heart. "I'm so sorry."
"For what?" Nico asked, shifting a little. The water was gentle and felt good.
"I should have noticed you were burning," Percy sighed. "I should have been paying more attention. Now you've got sun poisoning and it's all my fault."
"Shut up, Hero," Nico mumbled, tipping his head back into the water as it soothes his scalp. "I'm not a baby. I should have said something. End of story."
There was a long stretch of no sound save for the soft swishing and clinking of the water as it moved around Nico, never warming too much, leeching the heat out of his skin.
"I know you're not a baby," Percy said finally.
Nico didn't say a word. It was a long time before anything new happened – just Nico and Percy and the water.
And then Annabeth burst into the room and Nico's sitting there going I'm naked! I'm naked! again and Annabeth poured – oatmeal? – into his bathtub and Percy grumbled something about viscosity and Nico was just like, Annabeth, what are you doing?
"Sally said oatmeal would help," Annabeth said stubbornly. "It soothes your skin."
"I feel stupid," Nico muttered, flushing even under the bright red-purple splotches of sun poisoning on his skin.
Annabeth crouched down beside Percy next to his bathtub and reached out like she was going to cup his face in her hand before remembering his burn and thinking better of it. "Don't feel stupid, Nico. It could happen to anyone."
Nico sighed. "Go away, Annabeth. I'm naked."
Annabeth laughed. "Nico, you're still really bad at locking doors. I've seen it all before. You said so yourself."
Nico couldn't help snorting. "Yes, but that's always when I'm gloriously virile and swoonworthy. This is just pathetic."
"You're never pathetic, Nico," Percy said softly. The water gently kneaded at the tension knots at the base of Nico's spine, and it felt unspeakably good.
"Says the invincible boy who's never been a geranium." It's not a great retort, but at that point, Nico was beyond caring.
Later that night, Nico sat on the couch in his underwear, too burned and miserable to wear much more clothing than was strictly necessary, watching reruns of Futurama on Adult Swim and eating an enormous bowl of orange sherbet.
"I have a very sexy learning disorder," said Captain Zapp Brannigan on the screen. "What do I call that, Kif?"
Behind Nico, Percy replied: "Sexlexia."
Nico jumped and a dribble of orange sherbet landed in the crease of the sofa. He smudged it into the fabric. "Damn straight."
"It's true," Percy agreed. "Sexlexia is an acute condition." Then he looked at Nico, his eyes ranging over the dark glow under the skin of Nico's wiry arms and shoulders. "How you feeling?"
Nico shrugged. "Okay."
Annabeth came in and very gently pushed her fingers through Nico's hair, fluffing up the damp curls. He hummed and tilted his head back into the warmth of her hands.
In the corner of his eye, he saw Percy look up at Annabeth. He knew Percy well, and he knew Annabeth even better, but he never understood the silent words they spoke to each other with their eyes, the language of years of adventure and having no one but each other. The only person he'd ever known like that was Bianca, but – well, now was not the right time to think about that, and these were not the right people to compare to her.
"Nico," Annabeth said softly, still scratching gently behind his ears, "Do you want to sleep with us tonight?"
Silence, except for Kif and Leela in the background.
"In our bed," Percy clarified. "Not like – I mean, if you don't want."
Nico looked at Percy: green eyes, the color shifting into turquoise and blue and deep-sea dark; black hair with just the hint of a curl around his ears and the silver streak from bearing the weight of the world hidden under his messy bangs; just the slightest hint of a five o'clock shadow around his sharp jaw. The older boy chewed on his lip.
Nico tilted his head back and looked at Annabeth – beautiful, familiar, gray-eyed Annabeth. She smiled down at him like all they'd offered was to scoop him another bowl of orange sherbet, and the small hand that wasn't tangled in his hair went to smooth through Percy's.
"Yeah," Nico whispered. "Yeah, okay."
The sheets hurt his skin.
Percy and Annabeth were too warm; wherever they touched him, Nico felt like he was burning again. He whimpered pitifully and squirmed as he tried to find a way to sleep that didn't ache, and Percy and Annabeth looked helpless and sad and like this was just… very much not what they had planned.
"I'm sorry," Nico muttered, moving slow and awkward to get out of their bed and leave them in peace.
"Don't – " Percy said, touching Nico's shoulder and pulling away. He swooped up to press his lips against Nico's once, just for a moment, the only parts of them touching. "Just let us know how we can help."
Nico sat down and swallowed. "I don't know."
Annabeth leaned over Percy's lap and pressed her mouth to Nico's, too, a little more awkwardly, like she wasn't really sure how to fit her lips to anyone's but Percy's – not yet – and smiled at him, tucking her blonde hair behind her ear. "Well, the – it doesn't have to be tonight, if you don't feel well. Just so you know."
Nico blinked between Percy and Annabeth and carefully, he lay back down against her blue-gray sheets. "I think – well, I'd be uncomfortable anywhere. I might as well be uncomfortable with you guys."