"Francy," you say, "didn't you say you were going to get this chapter up in January?" Well, my reader, it's February which I think is close enough to January. So we're all good. This chapter is more of a buffer than anything, so the story will move a lot more forward next update. As always, I lack a beta so please forgive all of my terrible mistakes. I'm donnatroys on tumblr. Feel free to send me questions, prompts, or puppy eyes because I'm taking too long to update. SMOOCHES.
I'm donnatroys on tumblr. Feel free to send me questions, prompts, or puppy eyes because I'm taking too long to update. SMOOCHES.
The five of them sat huddled in Percy and Jason's hotel room, spread out on the sofas and large bed. When Thalia had first settled on top of the mattress, Percy felt a surge of panic. After all, he and the son of Jupiter had only recently done things on that bed. And Thalia was one of the few people who knew about the Aphrodite situation, so if anyone could pick up on what just happened, it would be her.
She didn't say anything when she first walked into the room though. She simply dumped her bags onto the ground next to the door, and then went to drag Nico and Hazel over from their room. Jason barely had enough time to put his clothes back on, cursing under his breath as he struggled to yank his jeans back up. Percy did his best not to watch the movements, he really did. But his head was still fuzzy from the high of touching him and he couldn't help but let his eyes memorize the way Jason's back arched as he bent.
He was in so much trouble.
His mind was still attempting to process everything that had happened in the last hour. Jason and Piper were no longer together. That was probably a temporary matter, they were certain to date again once this was fixed. But that changed things. Because now Jason could technically do whatever he wanted, like how he leaned over and pressed his lips against Percy's. He could do that, and while he'd still probably feel guilty over it, he wouldn't get in trouble.
Percy, on the other hand, was still very much dating Annabeth. That was something he knew very well when he did—stuff. All that stuff. With Jason. The moment Thalia's knock resounded through the room, Percy had been brought back to reality. He both regretted what he did and didn't. It was confusing. He really wanted that stupid bubble bath.
Now they were all together and attempting to retell their journeys to the hotel. He and Thalia sat on the bed, all the pillows thrown together to support them. Nearby, Jason and Hazel were seated on the large chairs that were probably big enough to comfortably fit Tyson. Nico was on the other side of the room, his back to the wall, only speaking when needed. Percy had tried to get him to hop on the bed with them, but he just sputtered some low reply and shook his head. Weird. Jason covered his face afterwards. Even weirder.
Anyway, there they were, all finally together and ready to kick this quest's ass. Now all they had to do was figure out who exactly they were supposed to run into in the hotel and then mosey on out. Piece of cake, right?
"Wrong," Thalia said, fluffing up a pair of pillows before leaning against them. "I snooped around a bit, and apparently this place is a pretty popular hangout for deities. Especially minor ones. We could be looking for any of them."
"Like hiding a needle in a haystack," Hazel muttered, biting her thumbnail. "So do we just split up and search the place?"
Thalia shook her head. "I think they'll come to us. We can look around anyway, to make sure it isn't some kind of trap like"—she glanced at Nico—"you know."
"We can do a quick look around now," Jason said, standing up to stretch. Percy did not notice the way his shirt slid up, revealing Jason's stomach. Percy was in desperate need of help.
They all nodded in response and followed him out the door. Thalia's bags remained where they were originally put, and he wondered if that meant she was sleeping with them. He wasn't sure if that would be a relief or not. Either way, they were going to have to talk about it at some point.
He wasn't too crazy over the idea of all of them walking so closely together, but Thalia assured them that as long as they were in the hotel they would be fine. No monster would attack when there was such a large godly presence around. At least, no monster that actually valued its life. Still, he kept his hand firmly attached to his pen. Sword. Pen sword. Just in case anything tried to eat them or something.
Nothing did. Every person they passed was bright and cheery, and Percy thought he recognized a few of them from his trips to Olympus. One of them, a guy who looked barely older than he did, glanced between him and Jason and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. Percy considered uncapping Riptide but decided that fighting a god over something like this would not end well. Thalia snickered to his left.
"You shouldn't pull things out the moment you're in the mood, Jackson," she said, biting back a smile. "That'll get you in trouble."
"I hate you so much," Percy groaned, hoping that no one else caught the double meaning. Jason was watching them with a concerned expression, and if the innuendo didn't bother Percy then that certainly did. "Anything else you need to get off your chest?"
Thalia actually seemed to consider it. "Yeah. Let's do that later though."
Percy didn't think she would go along with it. But there were a few things he knew Thalia probably would want to talk to him about, and most of those things ended with her strangling him for messing with her best friend and sibling. So, that was a conversation Percy had no problem with postponing. Then again, every time he had delayed something it blew up in his face.
In any case, there were more important metaphorical fish to fry at the moment. He had to set his personal matters aside and focus on the quest before them. Even if right now they were walking around blind for said quest, but that was just one of the expected downsides to the whole demigod business. It was like 20% kicking monster booty and 80% having no clue what was going on. The math there was completely accurate. Probably.
They managed to explore four floors and a laundry room until they ran into someone who looked official. She could have been Susan's twin, except she was more blue than green. She also appeared somewhat less friendly, although Percy didn't mind that so much. He wasn't a big fan of Susan's "cheerfulness." He almost gagged just at the thought of it, but doing that when someone who most likely worked at the hotel was in front of them was possibly a bad idea.
"Is there a reason you're loitering around here?" the nymph asked, frowning at each of them in turn. Her gaze softened a fraction when it landed on Hazel, and Percy tucked that observation away. It might come in handy later.
"We're looking for a guest," Jason replied. "It's for a quest. We're not exactly sure who it—"
"Ugh," she cut him off, rolling her eyes. "Half-bloods. You and your stupid quests. Do you have any idea how much damage this facility has gotten over the years because of you people questing? How many lawsuits I have dealt with? Do you?"
"No," Percy shrugged. "I have a feeling we're about to find out either way."
"Too many!" the nymph continued, ignoring him. "We had to completely rebuild floors twelve and up just a few years back. Do you have any idea how expensive that is? No, I will not have you fighting hydras or giants or whatever it is that you do here."
The group all exchanged looks. The fact that she wasn't attacking them was a vast improvement compared to what they were used to. But they couldn't afford to get kicked out. Well, they would just sneak back in if they were, but they would prefer not to get kicked out. As weird as this place was, actually having soft beds to sleep in was a luxury they didn't want to waste.
"We're not going to fight anyone," Hazel offered. She left out the if we can help it. The nymph seemed to actually be listening to her, though, so Hazel continued, "We just need to find a god and then we'll be out of your way."
"I suppose if that's all," she muttered, tapping her chin. "Fine. Just don't disturb the other guests. If you need anything, ask for Susie. I'm the manager here."
"Are you related to Susan?" Percy asked.
She answered with a dirty look. Percy did not like this family at all. Before he could be rude back, though, she turned on her heel and marched away. Possibly to scare young children or do whatever it is that strict adults do. They silently watched her go, and only let out a sigh of relief once she was out of their sights. All things considered, that went pretty well.
"I think she has a crush," Thalia smirked, nudging Hazel's side. The daughter of Pluto blushed fiercely, and Percy had to force the smile off his face. He was incredibly fond of Hazel; she was kind of like the little sister he never had, so the urge to tease her like any brother would was incredibly high right now. Well, almost any brother. Nico was pointedly looking away from them, frowning. Percy may need to talk to him later. It looked like this quest was going to be full of conversations.
"Why don't we try some of the common areas," Hazel suggested, steering the conversation away from Susie. "It might be easier to find them where people hang out than wandering around here."
So they made their way back to the lobby. Percy immediately caught Susan's eye, and she flipped her hair and fluttered her eyelashes in Jason's direction. Percy practically pushed the blonde outside towards the pool area to get him away from her. The other three casted them looks of confusion, but he gave an excuse of wanting to hurry. He ignored Jason's raised eyebrow. He did not fight Kronos to deal with this.
The pool was, predictably, full. He could tell right away that a few of the people lounging around were definitely of the godly nature, but some of the kids splashing in the shallow water were mortals. It was an odd mix, seeing the mythical and normal interact with each other. Percy sometimes divided the two in his mind, but it was sights like this that reminded him that the two worlds were connected.
Hazel pressed against him. "Do any of them look like who you saw in the dream?"
Right. That. He summarized the vision he saw to the others, but Hazel was the only one who knew the full details. He probably would have told Jason it too if they weren't ignoring each other when it happened. But in all honesty, the dream gave him the creeps. Like, major creeps. Serial killer level creeps. He didn't think they were in any actual danger, but he had a feeling that something was going to go wrong while they were here. He just had no idea if it was because of the god they were supposed to meet or something else.
"No," he replied, "but I didn't really get a good look at them, remember?"
"What's going on?" Nico asked. Percy was definitely more used to the guy's sudden appearances than most people, but he still jumped slightly.
"Nothing," Hazel brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. It sprung back into place immediately and she scowled. "We're just trying to figure out where our little friend could be."
He didn't look completely pleased with the answer, but he gave a small shrug of his shoulders and continued on. Jason went after him. That was another thing Percy noticed—Jason following Nico around a lot. Not that he was complaining or anything. Nico definitely needed more friends. Or friends in general. Whatever. But Percy had spent enough time around Jason the last few weeks to get a good idea when something was bothering him, and something was definitely up right now. And although his curiosity poked at him, Percy knew when to step off.
Hazel hummed next to him. "They seem close. I'm kind of surprised, but it's nice."
Percy watched as Jason whispered something to Nico, causing the younger teen to quickly walk away. Interesting. "It is. It feels like just yesterday when he was feeding cheeseburgers to ghosts."
She paused. "He still feeds cheeseburgers to ghosts sometimes."
"Details, details. The point is, this is nice. Not the whole risking our lives part. But I kind of like these big group quests. More people to scream with when things go horribly wrong."
"You so just jinxed us," she said sternly, but she couldn't hide the smile that appeared on her face. "When everything blows up in our faces I now know who to blame."
"I thought we decided to blame everything on Hera."
"I'm afraid scapegoat status has transferred from her to you, Percy."
Thalia appeared behind them, wrapping her arms around both their shoulders. "What are we blaming Seaweed Brain for now?"
"What haven't I been blamed for?"
"The fall of Troy," she replied without missing a beat. "Anyway, I'm starving. Why don't we have a break?"
They honestly hadn't done enough work to warrant a break, but Percy still agreed anyway. He was strangely exhausted by the day's events even though they really hadn't done much. It probably had to do with all the Jason stuff. He had to stop thinking about that or else nothing was going to get accomplished. Hero or not, he was still a teenager boy, okay.
They all gathered around a small hut selling refreshments. It was relatively empty except for the worker behind the counter and an attractive woman a few seats down. Jason continuously peeked over at her, which Percy thought was sketchy, but he kept his mouth shut. If Sparky wanted to ogle at ladies then he was free to do so now.
Even though he thought that, he didn't expect Jason to actually get up and walk over to her. Which was what he did. Everyone stopped eating to watch, their expressions showing confusion. The two of them spoke softly, but they definitely did not seem to be in agreement over something. The woman was clearly amused, even laughing a few times. But Jason looked annoyed. Like, extremely annoyed. And that was when it hit Percy. Her appearance was one that he had not seen before, but it was definitely Aphrodite that Jason was arguing with. If he looked more closely, he could see her appearance shimmering slightly.
"I'm going to go see what's up," he said, sliding off his stool to join Jason. He was relieved when no one offered to follow, but it was only a matter of time before their curiosity got the better of them. When he reached the two it became apparent that they really were fighting.
"For the last time," the goddess said with an exaggerated eye roll that she probably spent a millennia perfecting, "I have nothing to do with this silly quest."
"I find that really hard to believe," Jason growled. "There is no way you being here is a coincidence."
She sniffed. "This is a pretty popular spot to hang out at, you know. And I'm not one to miss a chance to socialize, unlike you people."
Percy cleared his throat. They both looked at him, surprised at his sudden appearance. Jason quickly glanced at the others, as if making sure they were still as far away from the current conversation as possible. When neither of them said anything, Percy took that as his cue to speak. "What are you doing here?"
"Like I was saying to your little boyfriend here," Aphrodite took a quick sip of her drink, ignoring the way both of them grimaced. "I'm here for pleasure. I actually have better things to do than follow your misadventures all day."
"You can stop following them any time," Percy snapped back. He was only around her for under a minute and he was already mad. Deities do that to a person. "Really. We won't be disappointed."
"Nonsense," she laughed. "Who else is going to give you tips? Jackson, your technique is sloppy."
Oh my gods. "Oh my gods."
"This isn't funny," Jason rubbed at his face. He looked tired. "If you're here just to play around, that's fine, but if you're actually involved can you please tell us? Before we meet Sue or Suzette or whoever next."
Aphrodite frowned. "I know that we've been chatting more often, but do not forget your place. Making Percy fall in love with you is nothing compared to what I could have done otherwise. Just open a history book and find out."
"Actually," Percy said, "it'll more likely be in a literature book than history. Most people don't really… never mind." He shut up when he saw the look on her face. Gods were so sensitive. This was exactly why he didn't want to become immortal.
Before any of them could have another chance to be rude at each other, the sound of approaching footsteps made them turn around. Thalia was behind them, arms folded across her chest. Considering she was already in the know of what was going on, it wasn't that bad that she came by. But Percy was still uncomfortable with her overhearing this conversation. It was one thing to explain to someone the situation, but it was something else entirely for them to witness it firsthand.
"Aphrodite," Thalia said coldly. The Hunters were not exactly fond of Aphrodite and her children, and the current fiasco most likely did not help that dislike. "What a surprise."
"Is it just me or did it get a little chilly?" Aphrodite giggled. That only made Thalia scowl even more.
Percy could cut the tension in the air with Riptide. "She says that she isn't involved with the quest."
"I find that hard to believe," Jason muttered.
"I agree," Thalia replied.
"I did not come here to be insulted by Zeus' spawn," she huffed, indignant. "If that's all, I have a massage therapy appointment at four. Goodbye."
"Wait," Percy called out, much louder than he intended. Nico and Hazel started at the sound, and were now walking towards them. Perfect. "Do you know anything at all that might help us?"
She paused and looked to actually consider the question. Percy knew, despite all the trouble she caused for him, that the goddess did like him. She usually sided with him whenever the gods were voting on whether to smite him or not, so that had to mean something. And she did have a point—she could have done much worse to them than putting some dumb love spell on them.
No. When she brought it up just now, didn't she phrase it strangely? She said she made him fall for Jason, but she didn't mention the other way around. That was… He'd think about that later. There were other things to take care of at the moment.
"I'll see you later," she said with a wink. They, even the employee who was pretending not to eavesdrop, all averted their eyes as she vanished.
Nico and Hazel were both expectantly looking at the group, clearly waiting for some sort of explanation of what was going on. Luckily, Thalia filled them in. Percy was having trouble coming up with some excuse as to why they were so insistent that Aphrodite had to be involved. Thalia was at least able to catch them both up without sounding like she was hiding something. Which only annoyed Percy slightly. He was supposed to be a pro at bullshitting, but right now he felt like he was in the minor leagues. And now he was making baseball metaphors. What happened to his life?
Just like Percy had thought, Thalia's appearance changed the sleeping arrangements. She was staying with Hazel in the other room while Nico joined his. For some reason, the son of Hades was extremely unhappy with this arrangement, but Thalia refused to sleep with guys because of her whole misandry thing so this seemed like the most logical outcome.
Logical, but not the easiest. Percy sat on the bed while Jason and Nico awkwardly stood on opposite ends of the room. There was obviously something he was missing about all this, but he had a feeling that he should probably not be the one to approach it first. So instead he just watched them fidget while he flipped through the TV stations.
They were silent for a while until Jason finally spoke. "I'll take the couch."
Okay, so. Percy may have been a tiny bit disappointed at those words. Only a tad. But Nico looked like he was ready to have a seizure, and that is not an expression Percy is used to seeing on the kid's face. "Why don't I have the couch instead? You two can get the bed."
Nico relaxed somewhat. And now Percy was kind of insulted. Why didn't Nico want to sleep with him? "I'm guessing that's fine?"
Jason nodded, but his lips were pulled into a thin line. "I actually think we could all probably fit on the bed if we wanted. It's pretty huge."
Percy gave the bed another look over. Yeah, it could easily and comfortably fit all three of them. He did not fail to notice how jittery Nico got when it came to being in extreme close quarters with him though. Jason was the same as well, but Percy at least knew why he might be nervous. The teen peered over at the bathroom; he was going to finish that bath one way or another. It didn't even have anything to do with Jason at that point, he just really enjoyed bubble baths and it was a crime to cut one short.
"I'm good with whatever," Percy shrugged. He went through all the channels like three times already, and he finally chose some nature documentary. Even learning was better than the awkward atmosphere that was happening in the room.
Suddenly there was a dip in the bed, and Percy saw Jason crawling onto the mattress. His features were hesitant, like he wasn't exactly sure whether or not this was okay. Percy almost rolled his eyes at the very thought; they were well beyond the point of not entering each other's personal space. He moved over to give the blond some room.
"I think I'm going to look around more," Nico said before promptly marching out the door. Percy stared blankly as it shut after him, wondering what the Hades was his hurry. Weird. What was even weirder was the fact that Jason actually looked guilty after he left.
"Is something bothering Nico?" he asked, just as a hippo and crocodile started battling on screen. He winced slightly at the images before turning his attention to Jason. "He's been acting funny all night."
Jason shook his head. "He just has some things on his mind. Don't worry about it. But, hey, since we're alone—"
"You could at least take me out to dinner first, Grace."
"—what do you think about Aphrodite?"
The question was accompanied by a pillow thrown at Percy's face, which was to be expected. Percy knew exactly what he thought about the goddess though, and most of it could not be said out loud or else he'd probably be made to fall in love with a wallaby or something. He was completely convinced she was somehow involved in all of this. She probably wasn't teaming up with whoever was stealing everything, but Percy had a feeling that she really was the person who might lead them in the right direction.
"I dunno," he answered. "She said that she'll see us later though, so I'm kind of expecting her to be hanging off the ceiling any second now."
They both looked up. Luckily the ceiling remained clear of any lurking ladies. For now.
"Actually," Percy continued, "there was something else she said that was kind of weird. She said that she made me fall in love with you. But it was the both of us, not just me, right?"
Jason froze. Like, he legitimately stopped moving for a good amount of time. Honestly, Percy didn't think much of what she had said. It could have just been a slip of the tongue, but it stuck with him enough that he figured he might as well ask about it. Jason's reaction was very suspicious though. If Percy had a goatee, he would be stroking it while wondering why the blond was acting like he got caught with his hand in the ambrosia jar.
"She was talking directly to me when she said it," Jason finally managed to say. His eyes were focused on the television, but he was obviously not actually paying attention to the program.
That was a good point, and Percy would almost believe it if Jason hadn't reacted so strangely at first. And Percy wasn't dumb. He was just surrounded by a lot of people who were freakishly intelligent, so in comparison he would occasionally look like an idiot. But no, Percy was definitely a smart guy and he could sense when someone was lying to him.
Without thinking about his actions, he scooted closer to the other demigod so that they were aligned from their shoulders to their hips. It was probably a risky move, especially since Nico could technically walk in at any moment, but he refused to be not told things. Again. It happened a lot. And they weren't actually doing anything that would land them in trouble. Friends were totally allowed to sit next to each other. These things happened.
"Jason," he said. "Even without all this weird stuff, we're friends, right? So if something else is going on, feel free to tell me. I've heard I'm great at giving advice."
The blond raised an eyebrow. "Heard from who?"
"Frank," he paused. "Blackjack."
"How did that wise old saying go? Oh, right. Takes one to know one."
Jason laughed, loud and rich, and the sound echoed around the room. Percy wasn't really used to him laughing that much; Jason was more of a smirk while quietly chuckling guy. Except for that time he snorted milk out of his nose on the Argo II when Leo did his Elvis impersonation. Good times.
"I thought the older you were the more mature you became," Jason said, and that stupid smirk made an appearance.
"Uh. I'm about twenty times more mature than you."
And he laughed again, except this time it was a less pleasant one and more mocking. "Only less mature people say stuff like that."
"Bullshit," Percy huffed. Even though Jason technically had a point there, but he would never admit to it because he was being mature. He knew that the easiest way to end their arguments would be for him to repeatedly smack him over the head with his sword. It was how they usually solved their fights when their girlfriends weren't around.
He frowned at the thought. Girlfriend, now, since Jason and Piper were no longer together. And with how things were going lately, he couldn't be sure if he and Annabeth were fated to go down that same path as well. Groaning, Percy fell over and let his back hit the mattress. He needed to contact Annabeth again to see how she was doing. She was probably annoyed with herself for wasting valuable research time, and the very thought of her angrily pouring through material in an effort to make up for lost time made Percy smile. Thinking about her also made him acutely aware of how close he was to Jason, though, so he shuffled over a few inches.
Jason glanced down at him after the loss of contact, as if he couldn't comprehend why Percy would move. He opened his mouth to say something, but whether it was another joke or something serious, Percy didn't get to find out. The door swung open and Nico walked in again, much earlier than Percy expected. The boy froze when he noticed what position the two were in and for a moment it looked like he was going to walk right back out.
"Hey," Jason called out, sliding off the bed. "I was wondering where you went."
"I forgot to tell Hazel something," Nico responded, shrugging before sitting down on one of the large chairs. He still looked uncomfortable, but sleepiness was smoothing out the edges of his appearance. He was probably ready to pass out at any moment. It reminded Percy of when he had first met Nico, which was the last time he had actually acted his age. That was kind of a depressing thought.
But there were important matters that needed immediate attention to focus on. "Nico, who's more mature, me or Grace?"
Nico brought his knees to his chest and rested his chin on top of them, his eyes flitting from Percy to Jason. "I don't know. Jason has a lot of accomplishments under his belt."
Percy gaped at him. "I defeated Kronos!"
"Technically, Luke did."
"I survived Tartarus."
"So did I."
From the corner of his eye Percy could see Jason trying very hard not to laugh. Did Percy's entire life lead to this moment? All of those near death experiences and trials accumulated to right here, where he was being viciously taunted by his so-called friends? Was this the fate of demigods? The world was a terrible place.
"Let's be nice," Jason finally managed to say. "Percy has a lot of skills. Like that whole horse thing. Where would we be without it?"
Percy glared at both of them. "If you think I'm above hitting below the belt, you are wrong."
"Oh, we know," said a voice that definitely did not belong to either Jason or Nico. All three of them turned, their weapons out, but it was only Aphrodite. He lowered his sword.
Wait. Aphrodite. Nico was here. Oh shit. He raised his sword again.
Nico was definitely confused, staring at the goddess like he couldn't quite believe what he was saying. That was probably the case. As far as Nico knew, there was no reason for her to pay them a private visit in the middle of the night.
Aphrodite waved at him, smiling brightly, and Percy just knew that she did this on purpose. She was probably still offended by how they spoke to her earlier in the day so she waited until they had company to see them. There was probably a lesson in this somewhere, but Percy was too busy panicking to properly ponder possible morals.
"I hope I'm not interrupting quality bonding time," she said while inspecting one of the seats. After coming to the conclusion that it was good enough for her, she sat down. "But I'm on a tight schedule right now. I had to squeeze this visit in before I head back to Olympus for the meeting."
"Meeting?" Jason asked, putting his sword away. "What kind of meeting?"
The goddess looked apologetic, like she wasn't supposed to let that out. "That's not important. How are my boys doing?"
"We're not your boys," Percy crossed his arms over his chest. He was already tired of the conversation and it barely started.
"Can you believe this?" she turned to Nico, gesturing at the other two exasperatedly. "After all I've done for them, and this is how they treat me? You would think they'd be in a better mood after all of the—"
"Aren't you in a rush?" Jason hurriedly interrupted. He made a show of peeking at the digital clock on the bedside table. "We wouldn't want you to be late."
Nico furrowed his eyebrows, and his expression was the very definition of someone who was suspicious. He didn't say anything though, and instead just silently watched the fiasco as it unfolded before him. Percy really wished he had mind reading powers at that moment. It would make a whole lot of things easier.
Aphrodite simply smiled, like she was enjoying this. She probably was. "How silly of me to forget. Percy, do you remember visiting the Sea of Monsters?"
"I'm ADHD, not an Alzheimer's patient," Percy muttered. "Yeah. Wait, don't tell me we have to go there?"
"No, no. Think a little more… sunny!"
He blinked. "Miami? That's the east coast though."
"Maybe we were taking 'west' too literally?" Nico offered. "The prophecy might have meant western civilization in general instead of the western United States. Is that what it—" he looked over at Aphrodite, but she had vanished.
What was the point of that? Percy gave the room a once over, making sure that she wasn't hiding behind the drapes. He didn't understand why she couldn't give them that information at the snack bar. It would have saved them all a lot of time and frustration, especially if she was supposedly in some kind of hurry. He just did not understand the Olympians.
But Nico's gaze was now focused on them, and Percy instantly knew what it was all about. She probably wanted to spice things up, make the situation even more convoluted than it already was. They weren't even sitting next to each other anymore, but Percy felt like he was way too close to Jason at that moment.
Something else bothered him. That was way too easy, especially considering the dream he had. He knew that a lot more was supposed to happen while they were in Vegas. Something that made his skin crawl. But if they already have their next destination, then there was no point in staying here any longer. They would be out by tomorrow to continue onto Miami. So what was going on here?
Jason spoke before anyone else could. "Should we go tell the girls now?"
"They were getting ready for bed when I left," Nico answered, still looking at them as if he was piecing together a puzzle. "They might be asleep already."
"Tomorrow then," Jason nodded before yawning. "I think I'm going to bed too."
He wandered away to the bathroom, leaving Percy and Nico by themselves. It was just a little uncomfortable, which was probably why Jason escaped. Nico was still staring at him as if he would unlock all of his secrets at any moment. He wondered how suspicious it would be if he suddenly ran after Jason into the bathroom.
"Is something going on between you guys and Aphrodite?" Nico finally asked, getting up from his seat. "It sounded like you've been dealing with her a lot lately."
"We just keep running into each other," Percy shrugged. "We had a quest involving her a few months ago."
This was not a conversation he wanted to have with Nico, so Percy excused himself and went to the bathroom on the pretense of brushing his teeth. The door was slightly ajar, so he just knocked on it once to let Jason know he was coming in before entering. Jason stood at the sink, a toothbrush hanging from his mouth, and Percy almost laughed at the image. Jason spat some paste out into the sink, and gods, Percy was above jokes like that. He was so above making fun of the blond spitting out white stuff. He wasn't a middle schooler.
"I see you're not a swallowing type of guy." Dammit.
Jason frowned, but then his eyes widened when he understood the joke. He splashed water at Percy's direction. There were numerous reasons why that was a dumb idea. Percy could write a book on why trying to use water against him was absurd. In fact, it could be his autobiography. He should definitely write one of those at some point. Or at least try to. He could plan out his possible book later though. He concentrated on the faucet until the stream of water sprayed out at Jason, soaking him thoroughly. Percy barked out a laugh in triumph, congratulating himself on winning this battle.
Jason eyed his wet clothes and shrugged. He pulled the shirt over his head and tossed it to the ground nonchalantly. Percy gaped at him, his mouth opening and closing like some sort of sexually frustrated fish. Jason went back to brushing his teeth.
Percy, not wanting to lose the upper hand, grabbed his own toothbrush and squeezed some toothpaste onto the bristles. He considered what he was about to do for a second, comparing the pros to the cons, before deciding he just did not care. He let out a moan around his brush, hoping it was enough to bother the Roman.
Jason's cheeks flushed, and he looked incredulously at Percy's reflection. Percy just shrugged, as if he always made obscene noises while taking care of his dental hygiene. Once Jason returned his gaze back to his own face in the mirror, Percy did it again. He was louder this time, and he hoped that the sound of the water running was loud enough to drown it out from outside the room.
"Do you have to do that?" Jason hissed, setting his brush on top of the counter. He was fully facing Percy now, his features a mix of annoyed and—something else. Amused? Ridiculously turned on? Gassy? It was difficult to tell.
"I'm really into battling cavities," Percy answered with a grin.
And then Percy's back was suddenly hitting a wall, and Jason's arms were caging him in. The blond crowded into his space, his breath smelling like fresh peppermint. Percy wanted to congratulate himself for managing to rile Jason up like this by just brushing his teeth, but he was having trouble forming a coherent train of thought.
Jason's lips ghosted along Percy's jaw until they were right beside his ear. He gently bit the lobe, causing Percy to involuntarily shudder. Finally, Jason whispered, "You're drooling toothpaste, Jackson."
He pulled away, smiling innocently, and Percy sputtered. The son of Jupiter merrily went back to brushing his teeth and Percy wasn't sure if he hated him more or the goddess. A cough behind them interrupted the internal debate, though, and both boys hastily turned around to face a very pale looking Nico. Jason dropped his toothbrush, and it clattered to the ground. He did not move to pick it up.
"I was—I," Nico started. He took a deep breath. And then another. After what felt like an eternity, he walked out.
Jason went instantly after him, calling out his name and telling him to wait. Percy stood where he was, listening as their footsteps faded outside of the door. He was definitely missing something here. While Nico would obviously be shocked at what he saw, his reaction was a little… extreme. Then again, didn't he have a crush on Annabeth? So he was probably angry that her boyfriend would be messing around with another person. Once again, Percy realized he was winning the award of worst boyfriend to have ever existed in every single universe. He was going to have to talk to her soon. And also Thalia. And now, urgently, Nico.
Percy walked out of the bathroom only to find the place empty. He could go after them in the hallways, but he doubted that he would catch up to them. And whatever Nico's problem was, Jason appeared to know about it, so it might be best to let him handle it instead. Whatever it was.
Still, he wasn't very good at just sitting around and waiting. He paced the room. He sat down and watched more of that nature documentary that was, apparently, still airing. He paced again. He actually finished brushing his teeth. After what felt like an eternity, the front door finally opened. He turned towards the door, ready to ask a million questions and find out what exactly was going on here.
He could barely get a syllable out when something slammed into his stomach, sending him flying into a wall. His head knocked against the wall, hard, and his vision blurred until all he could see were spots and white light. It looked like his dream might come true after all.