Speed of Lightning Competition
Prompt: Include the line, "Why do you love him/her and not me?"
"The Only Human Thing"
"You're going to wear a hole in the floor, the way you're carrying on."
Percy doesn't even have to look up to know that it's Oliver speaking, or that he's smirking. By now, Percy knows Oliver's smirking voice – they've only been roommates for six years, after all.
Reluctantly, he stops pacing and glances up. Oliver has clearly just returned from practice – his Nimbus is slung over one shoulder, his hair wind-tousled, and his cheeks are wind burnt. He does, in fact, have a broad smirk crossing the contours of his familiar face.
Percy ducks his head quickly to hide his own coloring cheeks, though, when he realizes that he's been staring.
Oliver sets his Nimbus gently in the corner and then tosses his gloves haphazardly on the bed.
"What's wrong?" he asks, and Percy can hear the frown in his voice.
Percy shakes his head. "It's nothing."
"It isn't," Oliver replies without hesitation. "You've been… off, all week. I even asked Penelope if she knew why – and you know how much I hate talking to that girl – and she said you've been avoiding her, though I don't know where she got that notion. I told her you've probably just been busy, by the way, and you're welcome for that. She seemed a bit peeved, frankly."
"I have been avoiding her," Percy says softly. He glances up to see Oliver's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"You have? Why?"
Sighing, Percy purses his lips. He's contemplative, because he's not sure, at this point, what exactly he wants Oliver to know. This is new territory for him – he's never hidden anything from Oliver. Ever. Not since first year, when the two of them started out on rocky footing but wound up the best of friends – mostly due to the fact that they were the only two Gryffindor boys of their year.
"I… I realized that I'm sort of in love with someone else," Percy finally says. His eyes can't help but follow Oliver, who wanders over to his trunk and digs through it for whichever T-shirt is cleanest. He sniffs one and wrinkles his nose, tossing it on the floor. Percy suppresses a wince. Finally deciding on a black one, Oliver pulls off his Quidditch robes and piles them on top of the apparently smelly T-shirt and changes his shirt, putting the shirt he was wearing on the top of the pile as well. While all this is going on, he appears to have said something, but Percy didn't hear it. He was rather distracted.
Oliver turns around. "Perce?"
"I asked you a question?"
Oliver laughs. "Where's your head today? Yes. I asked, sort of?"
Percy shrugs, blushing. He curses his pale skin, but Oliver doesn't seem to notice, as he's now digging through his bag for something else. "Well, more than sort of, I suppose."
Oliver chuckles again. "So who's the lucky lady?" he asks.
"There isn't one," Percy murmurs wryly, and then his eyes widen. He curses his mouth for running away without the say-so of his brain.
Oliver looks up, meeting Percy's eyes. Percy can only hold his gaze for an instant before he looks down. He hadn't meant to let that slip, but all he can do now is hope. He hears a rustle of fabric and glances up to see Oliver standing. He's smiling softly, which Percy takes as a good sign.
"What are you so worried about, Perce?"
"What do you mean?"
Oliver puts a hand on Percy's shoulder, and it's only then that Percy realizes that he's shaking.
"Your whole body is trembling. Merlin, Percy, you don't honestly think I'd… What is it that you're afraid of, exactly? Be angry? Hate you?"
Percy shakes his head. "It's not… I don't think you'd hate me. That's not… That's not who you are. But… I just… I don't want to lose this." He gestures, encompassing everything. "This friendship, and how… natural it all is."
Oliver grins good-naturedly. " 'Course not. Won't let it change a thing, I promise."
Sighing internally, Percy thinks, That was the other thing I was afraid of.
But he shoves that thought to the back of his mind and plasters on a smile. "Thanks, Ol."
For a moment, Percy thinks he sees a glimmer of something in Oliver's eyes, but it's gone in an instant, and so is Oliver. He flops across his bed gracefully – and, really, Oliver is the only person Percy knows who can flop gracefully. It doesn't make logical sense, but that's Oliver.
"So?" Oliver asks. Percy frowns, confused. Oliver pats the bed near the headboard and Percy strides across the room to his customary spot, leaned back against the headboard, knees tucked up.
"So what?" he replies.
"Who's the lucky guy, then?"
Percy chokes on an inhalation of breath.
"I… I'd rather not say," he sputters. Oliver sits up and slides over so that he's reclining against the wall, turned toward Percy. His head is canted slightly, and Percy feels like he's being scrutinized. Apparently Oliver finds what he's looking for, because he nods sharply.
"All right, then. Whenever you're ready to say."
Percy closes his eyes, breathing out a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Ol."
Oliver just nods, and that's that, and the conversation moves on to other things.
"Penelope? Could I have a word?"
She turns, her face disdainful. "Finally decided I exist again, have you?"
Percy looks down at the floor. "I'm sorry for ignoring you."
"So you were ignoring me, then? I thought so."
Percy glances at Penelope's friends, who are listening intently and pretending not to. "Could we… Could we not do this here?"
She shrugs, but she follows him when he leads her to a spare classroom.
Percy chews on his bottom lip, unable to face her. He's planned everything he wants to say in his head, but of course, as always tends to happen, all his plans went out the window the minute he actually found himself in the situation.
"Look, Pen, I'm really sorry for avoiding you. It… I know it wasn't exactly the best way to… But I needed to think about things, you see, and I just didn't know how to…" He groans in frustration.
"I'm not exactly making sense, am I?"
Penelope just shakes her head, holding in a laugh. Percy can tell that she's vindictively enjoying seeing him lose his composure when he's normally so controlled – and he can't blame her. He takes a deep breath and starts again.
"Look, I was… avoiding you because… I needed some time. To think about things. Because I realized something. Something that I think has been true for a very long time, only I just realized it." He bites his lip again. "Look, Penny. You're a great person. You're smart, and responsible, and clever, and kind. But I'm not in love with you."
He glances up at her and sees a myriad of emotions swirling in her brown eyes. Disappointment, bitterness, resignation. She doesn't seem surprised, though, which confuses Percy.
"You aren't shocked."
She shakes her head. "Not particularly. Look, Percy, you're a good person, but you aren't exactly the most… emotional, if you know what I mean." She laughs, but not maliciously..
Percy's eyebrows furrow as he attempts to make sense of this comment. "Are you trying to say that I'm incapable of love?" he asks, hoping that isn't what she's trying to imply but unable to figure any other meaning.
She shrugs. "It's okay, Percy. Some people are just different, you know."
But Percy's already shaking his head. "I'm not incapable of love, Penelope. I just don't love you."
Her eyes flash with anger. "So you're in love with someone else?"
Percy wonders how these conversations wander so far out of his control. He hadn't meant to let her know that anymore than he'd intended to tell Oliver that he was in love with a guy. It's a miracle no one knows who it is yet.
"As a matter of fact," he says, though, unable to lie, "I am."
She laughs, almost derisively. "Please. Percy, you haven't spent enough time with anyone else to fall in love."
Percy just looks at her. Just a moment later, he watches realization dawn in her eyes, and he muses that he really shouldn't count his chickens so soon.
She chokes. "You can't possibly…" she murmurs. Percy smiles at her gently. "Oliver Wood?" she asks, her voice no louder than a whisper.
Percy just nods once, still smiling. He watches the look in Penelope's eyes go from shock to horror to fury in seconds. Then they turn cold as ice.
"That's… You're…" She can't seem to properly express her anger. Then, suddenly, she deflates, and she just looks forlorn. "I just don't understand," she says quietly. "Why do you love him and not me?"
Percy's never really known how to handle Penelope when she gets like this – she looks defeated, and it's not something he's used to. He likes being the cause of it even less.
"I'm sorry, Penelope. I didn't… It's not like I just decided this. It just sort of happened. I think maybe it's been happening for a while."
"But why him? What did I do wrong?"
"No, Pen, don't think like that. It's not something you did wrong."
"Then why?" she asks, and Percy muses that he wasn't formerly aware that a person could put so much agony into one word.
"I… I don't know. I suppose, because, when I'm with him, I feel alive in a way I never have before. Because I'd trust him with my life, and that… That should scare me, but it doesn't, because it's him. Because he's like a hurricane, a tornado, a force of nature that I can't stay away from and it's intoxicating, the adrenaline, and I should be terrified out of my wits, but I'm not. For the first time in my entire existence, I'm not afraid."
Penelope is staring at him with something akin to longing in her brown eyes. "I'm happy for you," she says, but it comes out sounding half-strangled.
"I appreciate that," Percy replies, and he means it.
She sighs. "It's the way of things, I suppose," she says. "It's never the first date that's the one."
"I truly am sorry, Penny. I never intended to hurt you."
"I know, Percy. It's not in your nature to be intentionally cruel."
The word intentionally says a lot, Percy muses. It means she's more hurt than she's showing, and that she does, in fact, think him cruel. For now, at least. And he can respect that, he supposes. It's her right.
With one last murmured apology, Percy takes his leave. As the door shuts behind him, he hears a soft sound that could be a half-muffled sob. He winces, but he can't turn back. She wouldn't want him to – she waited until he left for her pride, and the least he can do is give her that.
"How interesting can a canopy be, exactly? You've only had the same one for six years."
"Oh, be quiet," Percy replies, but he can't put any feeling behind it. He glances away from the canopy that he's been staring at absently, not really seeing it.
Oliver is smirking again. "I'm dead serious, Perce. Have they redecorated? You really should have told me. You know I don't notice these things on my own."
Percy sits up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "You think you're so clever, don't you?"
Oliver puts on a thoughtful face for a moment. Eventually, he says, "Well, yes. Yes I do. I'm glad you can appreciate my cleverness as well, though. 'Cause it would be tragic if I were left to appreciate it all by myself."
Rolling his eyes, Percy drawls, "Certainly."
Oliver has a grin crossing his face as he says, "I'm glad you agree."
And Percy can't help the smile that grows across his face. "Prat," he says, but he's half laughing as he does. This, he thinks, is exactly what I don't want to lose. And it is. It took months, years, for them to be this comfortable. Oliver is the only one who's ever even seen Sarcastic Percy – most of the world wouldn't believe he exists. And yet, with Oliver, it's so completely natural, this playful teasing.
Laughing, Oliver turns around and drops on the bed next to Percy, arms splayed out. "You're in a good mood," Oliver comments after a moment of comfortable silence. Percy considers this.
"I suppose I am," he agrees.
"Any particular reason?" Oliver sits up and leans against the canopy post at the foot of the bed, one leg loosely off the side, the other bent at the knee on top of the blanket.
Percy shrugs. Silence descends for a moment, then he says, "I broke up with Penelope today."
The pause between the question and Percy's statement is long enough that they could seem unrelated, but Oliver knows better.
"Good for you," Oliver says firmly.
Percy frowns. "Aren't I supposed to be upset? Or at least guilty?"
Oliver laughs again. "Percy, emotions aren't something that have a 'supposed to' attached. You feel what you feel. And if you're in a good mood after breaking up with her, well, that says something about the relationship."
"How did you get so smart?"
Chuckling, Oliver replies, "You're the smart one. I just make things sound good." He smirks.
Percy is stricken by simultaneous thoughts that Oliver really ought to smirk more often and that he really shouldn't smirk like that ever again, because it does things to Percy. He shoves both thoughts away and looks up at Oliver, who appears to have gotten much closer since the last time Percy looked. Percy stops breathing. Oliver leans forward and whispers in his ear, "Penelope has a big mouth. I guess this is what they mean by sweet revenge."
And Percy isn't really sure how it happens, but suddenly Oliver's lips are on his. He freezes, and Oliver pulls away, doubt in his eyes.
"Ol?" Percy squeaks, only able to get out the single syllable.
"She didn't lie, did she?" Oliver asks worriedly. Percy can only shake his head mutely, fully able to infer what Penelope obviously let slip. Oliver lets out a breath of relief.
"Good," he says. "Because that would suck."
Percy lets out a shaky laugh. "Indeed," he manages. "But… What…" Percy can't seem to decide the proper question to ask. Oliver doesn't need it.
"When she told me, I guess I just realized that I felt the same."
"But… Are you sure about this?"
Oliver is, for once, not laughing when he replies. "I've never been more sure."
"What if… What if it doesn't work? What if it messes things up?"
"You worry too much."
Percy blinks, unable to refute that, but still not quite sure. "I guess… I just don't understand. Why me?"
"Why? Because you're you."
"Exactly!" Percy says. "I'm me. I'm awkward and clutzy and nerdy and I hate Quidditch and-"
"And you're clever and sneaky but you hide it so well that the teachers believe your innocent face every time and you can get out of anything, which makes me laugh. Because I feel like I should protect you from the world, and I think you'd let me. Because I've always, always felt like I can be myself with you."
"Ol, Quidditch is your life. I hate it," Percy says flatly. It's still the strongest doubt.
"But you respect the fact that I love it. You'd never try and make me give it up."
"Try to," Percy corrects automatically. Oliver grins.
"And because with you, I know my grammar will always be impeccable."
And with that, Percy finds he can't resist anymore. Willpower or not, the person he's in love with is sitting in front of him, saying they should at least try. Percy does the only human thing. He kisses him.