Let Me Be Your Armor
A/N: Fanfiction repost of livejournal author, grabi-hands
They were staying in a Marriott, because Hermes had a discount there and it was the only hotel nearby with a pool, which Percy had been very insistent on. Technically, they were snowed in. Technically, the whole area was on a severe weather warning, but what it actually meant was that Hypnos the ice titan was on the move, and every bit of Olympian force had been called out against it.
It wasn't really a titan. It was sort of the handicapped second cousin of titandom, not smart enough to do more than just lumber around and blow snow everywhere, and usually it was pretty comfortable chewing on scientists in the Antarctic. But, for some unknown reason, it had come over to the US, and that meant trouble.
Trouble that Percy, big damn hero, was sleeping through.
Nico looked across the room and sighed. Everyone else had left already and it was just the two of them, just him and the sleeping machine. Fighting for twelve hours straight had left everyoneexhausted, but Percy had very nearly passed out right then and there. It had taken half the Ares cabin to get him to a bed, and he hadn't moved since.
But really, it was time to get up.
Nico fiddled with a strap of his arm guard, delaying the inevitable. Percy looked so contented in his sleep, so happy. He always found himself wondering what the Son of Poseidon dreamed of. Anything would be better than his own dreams.
Nico hadn't slept at all last night.
It had been four years since the final battle. Six, since it had all began. And he still couldn't get it out of his head - his sister's face, his mother's, Percy - Percy entreating him, distrusting him, Percy falling deeper and deeper into the Styx and -
He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. That was years ago, and he has plenty of memories to fill the gap. Percy smiling. Sparring. Clapping him on the back - too hard - Percy gritting his teeth and swirling Riptide in an arc, the cold having no more effect on him than a breath of air.
And sleeping, now.
Nico sighed and finally succumbed to the inevitability of their situation. He sat on the bed and gently shook at Percy's shoulder. Nothing. He shook harder. Nothing.
He frowned, then leaned close, his lips not an inch away from Percy's ear.
"Wake up, Achilles."
Percy's eyes slowly unsticked. There was someone sitting - well, practically on him, actually, and whispering - something - in his ear.
He tried to roll over, and accidentally pushed Nico off the bed.
"Jeez!" He scrambled to his knees in the covers, then reached a hand out. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't be," Nico muttered, scathingly. "Just remember that some of us can break bones?" He did, however, take Percy's hand, and allow himself to be pulled up onto the bed.
"You're wearing your armor," Percy pointed out.
Percy knew Nico couldn't stay mad at him long, though, so he just smiled, taking a minute to just... look at him. He'd always liked Nico's armor - black-lacquered leather, dipped in the Styx - but even more with the latest additions, a pair of flared pauldrons, silver greaves, and jointed black gauntlets over his hands. He looked fierce.
"You look fierce."
Nico sighed with impatience. "That's the point. Get up."
The reason someone was still here - well, Percy would hope that they wouldn't all just run off without him, and actually, he was kind of pissed that no one had woken him up sooner - was that, unlike most of the other campers, he really could not get his armor on himself.
He had special armor.
Made by Tyson.
Out of sea monster scales.
Aw, heck yeah.
He took a minute to dunk his head in the shower, and change into clean clothes. The shirt and pants he wore under the new armor was a little like wetsuit material, but stronger, and it clung to him like a second skin. Yet another good reason that he was glad to be mostly alone.
Wait, when he did he say that?
"Arms up," Nico said, and they'd done this before. Of all the people who'd ever helped him on with his armor, Percy didn't trust anyone more.
He understood, see, why the backplate was so heavily reinforced.
Percy heard a very delicate sigh, behind him, as small hands did up the buckles and ties. Yes, he thought. I know. But it's worth it.
"Come on," he said quietly, when Nico's hands were resting on his belt. "Let's go kick some ice monster ass."
Nico was pretty sure that Percy Jackson was going to get him killed someday. Not intentionally - but they'd be fighting, and Nico would get distracted, because Percy moved like poetry itself and some clever beastie would take advantage of that split second of intervention.
They hadn't found the others. They weren't anywhere around, and they certainly weren't fighting, and Nico knew they weren't dead but that was only a small comfort. And it was cold and he hated cold and Percy was beautiful.
It just wasn't fair.
"Looks like it's just the two of us," Percy muttered, tapping the point of his sword on a snowdrift.
"Scared?" Nico cracked a grin at him.
"Petrified." Yes, they'd watched Troy. It was supposed to be a big group thing, but somehow, when they'd got around to it, only Percy and Nico had been left. So they'd piled on Percy's couch like kittens, and Nico had to fight to keep his heart from imitating a hummingbird's, but it had been completely worth it. He was never going to stop teasing Percy about Achilles, now.
In unison - because they were cool like that - they each slipped on a pair of sunglasses. Hey, the snow was bright and sunlight only made it brighter.
So they fought.
Nico only lost track of what he was doing a few times, which really wasn't all that bad, all things considered.
It got harder and harder to focus, though, with the cold wet soaking in under his armor and crawling up the fabric of his clothes. They weren't doing much good anyway - I mean, there were only two of them and the monster was huge, but they at least needed to keep it from reaching New Jersey. Or something.
Thinking was hard. Thinking was very, very hard.
Percy looked around, couldn't see a goddamn thing in the swirl of snow.
Shit. This was bad. This was really, really bad. Percy swore under his breath; the ice giant could just wait a damn minute because this was important and he needed to find Nico, like, now.
He turned Riptide back into a pen and shoved it in his pocket. Only now was he beginning to realize that it was very cold indeed - when he was fighting, he lost track of everything, he entered some weird overdrive mode where he could fight like a beast... but he couldn't do anything else. Including keeping track of his partners.
After a good five minutes of blindly wandering around, Percy finally ran into him - literally. Nico had collapsed and he was already half-buried in the snow, shivering uncontrollably.
"Fuck," Percy whispered. He dropped to his knees and yanked Nico free, wrapping his arms around him without hesitation. Fuck. "Nico. Hey, Nico, you in there?"
No dice. He was still out cold - literally, there wasn't any warmth at all coming from his body and if Percy had been scared before, he was terrified now.
And, because it was the sort of thing that worked in movies and honestly, Percy's brain cells were not firing all that well at the moment, the next thing to do was obviously to kiss him.
Which, you know, didn't exactly work. Percy swore loudly and gathered Nico up into his arms - at least his heart was still beating, if sluggishly - and made off for the nearest dark shape of a building. His own heart was going crazy. Monster? What fucking monster? Who cared? It could get to Olympus and kill all the stupid, idiotic gods and he would not care.
Annabeth would probably tell him that that was his fatal flaw talking, but she wasn't here. And Nico was simply more important.
It turned out to be some sort of shed. Quite possibly someone's garage, actually, but Percy didn't spare a thought for breaking and entering - he was a Big Damn Hero, he could do whatever he wanted. Right?
He started unbuckling Nico's armor, pulling it free, so he could separate the frigid snow-soaked underlayers from his skin.
"...I'd ask what the hell you're doing, but there really isn't much room for interpretation, is there?"
Percy jumped, knocking his head on a rake. "Shit! Oh, fuck, Nico-" and he didn't even care that he'd been in the process of taking Nico's pants off, he simply grabbed him in a hug and yanked him in close. "Oh gods oh gods oh gods."
"Uh, yeah, they exist. Why am I naked?"
"You almost died!" Percy yelled, and it bounced around the tiny room until they were both wincing. He tried for a softer tone next. "...I found you lying in the snow, you'd collapsed."
"I didn't," Nico mumbled.
"Almost die. Know when I'm going to die, this isn't it." He was starting to slip away again. Percy panicked.
So he kissed him again.
Well, he was naked. And freezing cold. And very probably in a shed.
And Percy Jackson was kissing him.
Nico really wasn't sure how he felt about the first three, especially in conjunction with the last.
He made a noise against his lips and pushed at his chest, though after a moment he gripped at Percy's arm, making sure he didn't go far. "Percy?"
"Are we in a shed?"
He looked around like he hadn't even noticed. "Um, yes. I guess we are."
Nico finally gave up. "You know what? I don't care. I just done care. Did you leave the ice monster to rescue me instead?"
"And you headed for the nearest shelter and took off my clothes."
That much made sense. "...And then you kissed me."
Percy turned pink over the bridge of his nose. "You know, to... warm you up."
If there had been crickets to chirp, they would've been chirping.
"Percy," Nico said, very patiently, "that doesn't make any sense at all."
He didn't give Percy any room to respond, though. He pulled him back down, pressed their lips together again. If anything, having Percy's body bent over him like that was better than all that cold space between them.
He didn't believe, for a second, that any of it was real. People do stupid things in the heat of the moment, and Percy, with his curse, in particular. But for now, he'd ride the waves and let himself enjoy it.
It was almost sundown by the time they stumbled back into the lobby of the Marriott, Nico shivering in his still-damp underlayers and Percy carrying the armor, bundled neatly under one arm.
"Where have you been?"
They looked up halfway to the elevator, surprised. Annabeth was standing there, in nothing more than an oversized math league shirt and fleecy plaid pajama bottoms. She wasn't alone - half the heroes were there, sprawled out over couches in front of the first, all equally undressed.
Percy had no idea what to make of it. "Uh."
"Where have we been, where have you been?" Nico snarled. "We were fighting."
Well, mostly, Percy thought, but he didn't say that bit out loud. Annabeth definitely, definitely didn't need to know that. And that led to him thinking about it, remembering Nico's lips on his, wriggling up against him in the dark shed-
"Apollo told us to go home. Persephone and Demeter finally got permission to intervene directly. Where were you?"
They exchanged a look. It was either this morning, while they were procrastinating, or in the afternoon, when they were... busy. Neither seemed like a good excuse.
Nico sighed and shrugged. "Well, that's a relief. I'm going to go drown myself in the jacuzzi tub now. Have fun." And before Percy could say a word, he'd taken off, and he was left with a bundle of armor and one of Annabeth's penetrating Looks.
He shifted from foot to foot. "I'll just... go put this away, then?"
She followed him into the elevator. "Hey. Seaweed Brain."
"Wise Girl," he acknowledged, grudgingly, not looking at her.
She pushed the button for the highest floor, which they were definitely not staying in. Uh-oh. "So, are you gonna tell me why Nico isn't wearing his armor?"
"It's a long story."
"I bet it is."
And, well. Percy couldn't help himself. He told her, all of it, every detail. To her credit, she didn't laugh, or yell, or anything so dramatic, but her lips did thin and one eyebrow started to creep upwards.
"So... do you like him, them?"
The elevator dinged into the silence. The doors slid open. The doors closed. Percy hit the botton for the right floor, this time, and they started going down again.
"I think I do," he finally said, three floors later.
"You think you do?"
He snapped. "Well I don't know! I never really thought about it before, did I, but now he's there and I'm thinking about it and I can't stop thinking about it and he's really kind of adorable! Is that enough for you?"
The elevator glided through ten floors in absolute silence.
The door opened, and Percy stormed through, leaving Annabeth there. He didn't care. He didn't care what she thought, their relationship had fallen apart weeks after it had started, but the awkward hadn't faded and he just missed his friend. He missed having someone that he could talk about this to, he missed his cool logician. But Annabeth was going to be jealous. Ridiculous, unnecessarily so. And that knowledge was already exhausting.
He dumped Nico's armor on one of the beds, and began unbuckling his own. Pulling apart fastenings that Nico had done up only this morning, his hands quiet and careful with a kind of reverence for the necessary protection. While everyone else was laughing, and making fun, and leaving them in the dust.
Shit, he couldn't stop thinking about it.
He wasn't very good at this whole thinking thing, he decided. In fact, he was much better at doing.
Nico sank into the Jacuzzi tub in nothing but boxer shorts, grateful that the hotel was mostly empty, except for the demigods. He let his selfconsciousness bleed out of him, and slowly, muscle by muscle, he relaxed.
So, no more fighting the ice monster. No more hotel rooms, no more bed sharing, no more loud noises and morning rituals of armor donning, no more freezing to near-death and -
And no more Percy Achilles Jackson, hotblooded and desperate. No more kisses. He knew exactly how this was going to go.
He slipped slowly under the water until everything was submerged but his nose, and had another hot little wrench of jealousy. Sometimes, Nico couldn't tell the difference between loving Percy and wanting to become him.
He heard someone approach in that dull, watery way, where he could feel it in the back of his head more than anything. Regretfully, he surfaced, and leaned back against the side of the tub. No need for anyone else thinking he was dying, we all know how well that went.
His eyes flew open - which, in retrospect, was a bad plan, because he had to blink furiously to wipe the water from them. "Percy?"
"No, Santa Claus."
He was grinning, which would have been a good sign on anyone else, but Percy was always grinning. Nico scowled, out of habit. "Oh, sorry. My mistake."
"I need your help."
It wasn't until then that Nico noticed that Percy was still wearing his chest armor - the locked chest and back plates, that protected his weak point. The ones he couldn't take off by himself, and Nico flushed, somewhere under the tan of his skin. He could've gotten anyone to undo it, and yet - he was here.
Nico beckoned, then, and Percy just stepped into the tub - the hot jacuzzi water was slower to respond to him, lazy, drugged from all the chemicals they pumped it with. But it hugged along his curves, and rubbed against him, and Nico felt his throat going slowly dry. There was a reason he avoided beaches with Percy Jackson.
He looked up and realized that Percy was staring. Real, honest-to-gods staring. He waved a hand in front of Percy's face - too flustered to be annoyed, but too nervous to really appreciate it - and he smiled, low and sensual, and turned around.
Nico unblucked his armor with slick, shaking fingers. What was Percy doing? Why was he here? Why did everything have to be so complicated?
The scales parted and he lifted the whole thing free, then set it on the side of the tub without pulling away. He didn't want to pull away and Percy was shivering, just a little. Not from the cold. It couldn't've been from the cold, now.
Nico sighed deeply and pressed his forehead to the back of Percy's neck. "Give me your armor to put on your shoulders; the Trojans might suppose I was you. Hold back, and give the Acheans' sons a breather, for breathing spells in war are very few."
"Then, with a shout, fresh men might easily turn tired men from the ships toward the city." Percy leaned his head back, and Nico could almost feel him smile. "I wish I could remember what Achilles says."
"I think it's something along the lines of, 'how dare you insult me!'"
Nico felt a rippling laugh through the water itself, and he wound his hands in Percy's shirt, unable to help smiling himself. It was so easy to smile around Percy, so easy to think that everything would be fine.
"Nico," Percy murmured, and his heart twisted in his chest. Here it comes, he thought. "Nothing's going to change, you know."
I know, he thought, but he couldn't speak. The words had ballooned in his throat until they were suffocating him.
"...No, I mean - " he twisted, and Nico had to let go of him, but only so Percy could grab his arms and shake him until he finally looked up. "When we get home, nothing's going to change. I mean, it won't go back to how things were."
He wasn't actually seeing Percy's face, and yet he was - it was in bits and pieces, the razor edge of his lips, the flecks in his irises, but it wasn't coming together properly. He didn't want to have any idea what Percy was talking about. "...What are you talking about. If nothing's going to change, then - "
"I mean it already has."
Something in Nico's head just was not getting this. It simply could not comprehend what Percy was, very badly, trying to communicate. "Look, I don't care, it doesn't matter to me one way or another, just - stop jerking around. Seriously." What was he even saying?
Percy's eyebrows climbed an inch or two. "You don't care? Really?"
"No," Nico bit back, finally fed up already. "Of course I care, dumb shit! But what you do in the heat of the moment isn't going to change any of that, it isn't going to change who you are and - "
Percy pressed a hand to his mouth, and Nico realized he was trying not to laugh.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
"What, what the hell is it?"
"I just - " He was covering his whole face now, shaking with the effort not to burst with it. "I just really can't believe it took me this long, that's all. I am an idiot. I am the biggest idiot on the face of the earth."
Nico scowled. "Well, duh."
And Percy's eyes flashed between his fingers in a sudden rush of affection. "See, that's why I love you."
Nico froze. He absolutely froze. Because in all of Percy's teasing he'd never, ever heard him say 'love' like he didn't mean it. And this time was no exception. "Yeah, all right." It was kind of a pity that pigs flying wasn't so impossible anymore, it took all the fun out of saying it. "Except not."
"No, see, if this were just some stupid crush we wouldn't've made out in a shed for three hours and then laughed about it later. We wouldn't be having this conversation. You get it now? I amstupid but that's no excuse to run off and mope around because you think this sort of thing happens all the time. Let me give you a hint, cousin," which was even funnier now, because it was true, "you're never getting rid of me."
Nico just sort of stared. He could see all of him now, oh yes. Perseus Jackson, big damn hero, letting his clothes soak through with his hands on Nico's shoulders and smiling like he held all the secrets of the universe and he was holding them out, beckoning. Inviting someone to share them with.
So he sighed, and looked mildly affronted. "Such a pity. I was so looking forward to hearing you bitch about Annabeth, oh, another nine hundred times-"
And Percy kissed him then, and they both laughed into it. He still wasn't sure he believed any of this, not when it was such a cliche dream-come-true - but he gave into it, helplessly. Percy would always be Percy and he would always be Nico and if Percy said jump, he'd jump, because that's just how things worked.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"When you have driven the Trojans from the ships, come back again. Though Juno's thundering husband should put triumph within your reach, do not fight the Trojans further in my absence - or you will rob me of glory that should be mine." ~Achilles