Nico and Leo hadn't been friends for long.

After they'd saved Nico from certain doom, he'd warmed up to everyone pretty quickly. As intimidating and stand offish as Leo had found him at first, he was actually incredibly sweet. He got along with everyone. He would listen to music with Frank and Piper, since they had the same tastes. He would talk to Jason and coach about battle tactics. Him and Hazel were brother and sister and were like two peas in a pod. Leo? Well... Leo found Nico fascinating.

Leo never expected to find himself calling Nico a friend, and he definitely never expected to be calling him a best friend.

Leo's relationship with Nico wasn't like how the other's relationships with Nico were. Leo just listened to Nico. That was all their relationship was based on. Nico talked, Leo listened.

It had been strange at first. The first thing Nico had told him that he hadn't told anyone else about was his time in Tartarus.

"Imagine hell," he told Leo suddenly one evening after they took the night watch.

"You mean like the underworld?" Leo asked, taken aback by the sudden conversation-it had been silence seconds before, the two of them sitting at the back of the Argo II, just gazing into the water.

Nico shook his head and turned to look at Leo.

"I mean like hell. The Christian hell." He gave Leo a second to process that before he continued. "Now imagine every other hell from every other religion. Mix it together and add about 100% more fear, pain and hatred. That's what Tartarus is like."

Leo had nothing to say to that, so he said nothing. He'd asked Nico what Tartarus was like more than a couple times-they all had-but he would never speak. Leo had barely spoken to Nico at all since Annabeth and Percy had been sucked into the pit. He had never expected the first real conversation they had to be something like this.

The silence spanned a couple of minutes before Nico's head bowed, his shoulder length black hair falling in front of his face.

"Thank you," he breathed, barely audible, but Leo caught it as if it was whispered right into his ear.

"For what?" Leo asked.

Nico just looked up at Leo and smiled sadly.

Leo went to sleep a couple hours later with that smile etched into his vision.

The next time they'd spoken like that was a couple nights later.

Leo had been sitting in the mess hall, looking over some designs while he ate a very early breakfast. He hadn't been able to sleep the night before-still haunted by that smile.

Nico had looked so broken, so vulnerable, that Leo had wanted to hold him and tell him everything was going to be alright. He had no idea what had happened to Nico in Tartarus, but it scared him. It scared him because Nico had said that he'd been lucky to get out with his sanity, let alone his life. What if he hadn't gotten out with his sanity? Not all of it at least. Annabeth and Percy were down there now. What if they broke, just like Nico had?

Leo jumped when he felt someone put their hand on his shoulder. He spun around and looked up into those dark eyes. He let out a soft sigh of relief. "Gods, dude, don't sneak up on me like that. You're like a ninja." He turned back to his design and sketched out a couple more lines. He heard the chair beside his scratch on the hardwood floor as Nico dragged it out and slipped into it. Leo looked over and him. He looked ready to collapse. Leo frowned.

"When was the last time you slept?" he asked, putting down his pencil and turning in his seat.

Nico shrugged, eyes closing for a moment or two. "A couple days," he whispered tirely.

Leo frowned. "Nico... you got out of the jar a couple days ago..."

Nico looked up at him, that broken look on his face again, but this time it was just sad. There was no attempt at a smile.

"Gods," Leo whispered, leaning back in his chair as it sunk in. The last time Nico had slept was when he'd had to sleep. He'd forced himself into a death trance to keep himself alive. Nico was still frail and weak. He couldn't eat much because his stomach had shrunk. He got tired easily and needed to sit down or else he would collapse. His voice was still quiet, constantly whispered.

"Nico, you need to sleep," he said, reaching out and putting a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder. They were the same age, but Nico had this ability to seem so much younger yet so much older at the same time. It was like a child had lived through countless wars. In truth, Nico had. He was from the time of World War II. He'd seen more bloodshed and pain and hatred than anyone on the ship and yet he'd held it together-until Tartarus, at least. Hitler and the Nazis had tried to destroy his life and yet it was Tartarus that had broken him. Leo couldn't help the shudder that passed through his body. "Please sleep. You're scaring me a little."

Nico looked like he wanted to curl up into a ball and do just that, but something was holding him back. Leo sighed and put his hands in his lap.

"Alright," he said, managing a small smile. "Talk. I'll listen. Just like before. I'm good at listening." Truth be told, Leo sucked at listening. But for some reason, with Nico, he couldn't help but shut up and let the other boy talk.

Nico looked at him in surprise. He obviously hadn't been expecting something like that. Leo sat in silence, smiling softly at Nico, as he waited for him to start talking.

Nico looked at the table and picked at the surface. "I've always had trouble with nightmares," he whispered softly, refusing to look up from the table.

"When I was younger," he continued, "my sister would hold me until I fell asleep. As long as she did that, I would sleep peacefully. She died a couple years ago, fighting with Percy and a couple others to defeat Atlas, the titan. You know, for the longest time, I blamed Percy. I thought that it was his fault that Bianca had died, when really, he was just the one who had been kind enough to bring me the news. He was nice to me, he acted like he cared, and I just threw that back into his face.

"I got over it eventually. Well... I've never really gotten over her death. I just accepted it. I couldn't change what had happened. Gods know, I tried, but I couldn't. She was gone and I was alone."

Nico fell silent for another moment and Leo was worried he might actually start crying. Leo knew that if he was in Nico's situation, he would be crying by now.

"I found Hazel while I was looking for a way to bring my sister back. I had someone, finally, who understood what I was going through. I know it was wrong of me to pull her out, I had already messed with death enough, but I'll never regret what I did. I guess it was fated for me to find her, anyways. Hera needs her for this quest."

"The nightmares got worse again after Bianca died," he said, going back to his original point. "I couldn't control them. Dreams from every horrible thing that had ever happened to me. My mother dying, the wars, losing Bianca... my father. It was all too much and the dreams got worse and worse until it was all I could do to just stay awake and try and make it through the day."

Nico finally looked at Leo and, to Leo's surprise, he was crying. It was just a single tear, but it rolled down his cheek silently, like in the movies. Leo wanted to reach out and wipe it away and before he knew it, he was doing exactly that.

Nico looked surprised for a moment, but he recovered quickly, looking away and going back to his story.

"I got them under control a year ago, after the titan war was over. There was finally peace. It didn't last, though, obviously. Percy disappeared... It was like I was losing Bianca all over again."

Leo tried to contain his surprise. He never knew how much Percy meant to Nico. He had no idea what their relationship was like. Nico had tried to kill Percy for a while, and yet he thought of him so highly. Leo didn't know how Percy felt about Nico, but he had a feeling it might not be the same way.

"Percy never knew how I felt about him," Nico said, snapping Leo out of his thoughts and confirming his suspicions. "I mean, how could he? I barely ever saw him, and when I did, he never spoke more than two words to me. 'Hi Nico'. That was all I ever got, really."

Nico looked so heartbroken that Leo couldn't help but reach out and touch Nico's shoulder again, fingers brushing against his neck. Leo had missed the true meaning behind Nico's words, but it wouldn't be long before he understood everything.

Nico was so shocked by Leo's movements that he shifted backwards, eyes darting to Leo's in confusion. Leo could do nothing but blush and retract his hand, placing it back onto his lap before letting out a soft chuckle. "Go on," he whispered.

Nico looked down at the table and was silent. Leo was worried for a moment that he'd scared away that piece of Nico that had decided to open up to someone who was practically a stranger.

After another moment of silence in which Leo was trying to run over all the ways he could make up for making Nico uncomfortable, Nico spoke.

"He's gone again."

Leo's eyes darted to Nico's face. "Percy?" Leo asked, even though it was a stupid question because Leo already knew the answer and it was pretty damn obvious. Nico nodded anyways; either not noticing the unnecessary question or not caring.

"I got out and he was there... but he hates me now."

Leo had no idea what Nico was talking about at first until it dawned on him. Duh. Nico was the only demigod who had known what was going on the whole time-everything from Gaea to Hera frying Percy and Jason's memories and modifying Leo and Piper's. Nico was the piece of the puzzle that had always been in place. Leo wouldn't lie, the fact that Nico had hidden everything from them was kind of a dick move and more than a little suspicious, but he'd gotten over that. He regretted agreeing with Jason that day when he'd accused Nico of being a spy. Not only because it had hurt Hazel, but because, now that he'd met Nico, he knew he would never do anything to hurt them.

"He doesn't hate you," Leo said, smiling a little. "He trusted you to get us to the other side of the doors, right? Why would he do that if he hated you?"

Nico looked like he wanted to laugh but he couldn't remember how. It was probably the saddest thing Leo had ever seen.

He was silent for another moment before finally speaking, voice coming out even quieter than before, causing Leo to have to lean in to hear him.

"I've had more nightmares than I can count," he breathed. "Everytime I close my eyes, I see them there... it's hell in that pit. Constant torture. I was born for the underworld and I barely survived... I'm so scared that one day I'm going to close my eyes and see him laying dead on the ground."

Leo winced, shaking that mental image from his mind.

"I know it's a bad idea to stay up constantly, but I can't sleep... Even if I try, I never sleep longer than an hour and I wake up feeling more exhausted than when I went to sleep."

Leo sighed and rubbed his forehead. He was probably going to regret this later. He stood and held his hand out. Nico looked up at the hand and blinked in confusion. His gaze shifted upwards more until he caught Leo's eyes, the silent question written on his face. Leo reached down further and took Nico's hand from his lap. He pulled him up from his chair, leading him out of the mess hall and down the stairs to the bunks. Nico stumbled behind him, obviously still very confused.

Leo stopped outside Nico's room and pushed the door open. It had started off being just a spare bedroom, but Nico had taken it once he'd gotten on the ship. It wasn't until he'd already led Nico inside the room and sat down on the bed that Nico started asking questions.

"What are you doing?" he asked quietly, confused and-if you could believe it-scared.

"I am waiting for you to get your butt in bed so that you can get some sleep. If you need a body pillow, I'm here for your personal use."

Nico continued to look at Leo like he'd grown a third head.

Leo rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. "Don't make this such a big deal, okay? One time thing. You need to sleep. I don't care how awkward it is, just get over here and sleep."

Nico hesitated for a moment longer before slowly inching towards the bed. He paused right in front of Leo, looking at his feet. "I, uh... can't sleep in these clothes."

Leo's face flushed against his will. He looked away before Nico could notice. "As long as you don't sleep nude, I don't care. Hurry up and change."

Leo didn't look up as Nico changed, but he had the strangest urge to do so. He only shifted his eyes from the floor when he felt the bed sag and someone sit down next to him. He looked over at Nico and breathed in sharply. Nico had changed out of his clothes and into black sweats and nothing else. His chest was completely exposed. Leo discovered at that moment just how skinny Nico really was. His shoulder blades jutted out like daggers. Leo could see every single one of his ribs like keys on a piano. His stomach was concave and his bony shoulders sagged a little as he pulled his knees to his chest and hugged them tightly, his spine seeming to want to break through his ghostly pale skin.

And despite all that, Leo still found him hauntingly beautiful.

Leo looked away. Yes, beautiful in the way one would find a painting of a bloody battle scene beautiful. He looked so fragile-as if Leo could touch him and he would crumble.

Leo coughed awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair. He shifted on the bed so his back was pressed against the wall. He pulled the blankets back and nodded at Nico, suggesting he get under the covers. Nico did just that, his eyes not meeting Leo's. Leo watched his lithe body move as he slithered under the blankets.

Creepy and yet oddly sexual.

Leo willed away the blush that had crept up onto his cheeks at the thought. He slid under the blankets beside Nico, who had his back towards him. Leo had no idea how he was supposed to hold someone while they slept, seeing as he had absolutely zero experience to go on. He looked up at the ceiling and said a silent prayer that he wouldn't seem like a total creep before putting his arm over Nico and pressing his body against Nico's back.

For someone as tiny and sickly as Nico was, he was so warm. He was stiff and unmoving, probably as nervous as Leo was.

"Just... relax and close your eyes. Sleep, I'll be here to keep the nightmares away so don't worry."

Nico actually managed to chuckle. "Leo, you're using cheesy pickup lines. Stop it." He already sounded like he was half asleep.

Leo blushed and was about to answer but he felt Nico relax in his arms. He peeked over Nico's shoulder and couldn't help but smile.

Only two seconds and he was asleep. Leo wondered if being held like this actually did make it easier to sleep.

Leo closed his eyes and unconsciously pulled Nico a little tighter against his chest, slipping into sleep himself.

Hazel had found them that morning when she'd gone to check on Nico. It hadn't been the most comfortable of conversations.

She'd understood after Leo had explained about Nico getting nightmares and how being held made it easier for him to sleep. She said that he could have just asked her but he blushed and shook his head, saying that Leo hadn't asked, he'd just done.

Leo had never seen Nico look so well rested. He's known him for less than a week, but still. He'd had a hot shower that morning and came out looking and smelling refreshed.

What else was Leo supposed to do after finding out that his presence was such an improvement to Nico's sleep than to offer to do it again the next night?

"I know I said it was just a one time thing," Leo said, raising his hands in surrender when Nico eyed him suspiciously. "But you slept so well last night that I thought maybe, if it helped, you would want to do it again tonight."

Leo refused to mention that sleeping with Nico in his arms had greatly improved his own sleeping as well.

Nico considered him for a moment before rolling his eyes. "Okay, if you insist," he said, turning away. Leo just caught a dark blush raising on his cheeks before he walked down the hall towards his bunk.

It was like that for a week. They'd gotten closer and closer over the days they spent together until they were rarely apart from each other. Jason teased Leo about him having his best friend status revoked and given to Nico. Leo didn't argue because he quickly found out that Nico was in fact his best friend.

"What's your type?" Leo asked one night as they sat in Leo's bunk playing cards barefoot on his bed.

Nico looked up at him in surprise, his fingers halfway to grab a card from his hand. He frowned.

"My type?" he asked, plucking a card from his hand and placing it on the bed.

Leo shrugged and countered Nico's move. "Yeah, your type. Like, what type of girl do you like?"

Nico froze, staring at the cards on the bed for almost a full minute before he spoke. "What kind of conversation is this?" he asked, forcing out an awkward laugh as he played a card.

"Isn't this what guys our age do?" Leo said, placing his hand on the bed face down because he was quickly losing interest in the game when the conversation started to take a turn. "Talk about girls and stuff."

Nico raised an eyebrow at Leo and set down his own hand. "No, Leo, that's what girls do. Girls sit around and talk about boys. You're getting the roles reversed."

Leo pouted a little and huffed. He plucked a twizzler out of the plastic bag sitting on the bed beside their card game and took a bite out of it. "Guys can talk about girls too," he said defensively. "It is a perfectly manly pastime."

"Yeah, if the conversation consists of 'she's got nice tits' and 'I wonder how much dick she can fit in her mouth'."

Leo brandished his twizzler at Nico. "That's sexist."

Nico rolled his eyes. "Whatever, you know it's true. When have you ever had a conversation with another man about a girl that was about something reasonable; like her personality for example or her smile or how cute she is when she zones out or how nice you think her laugh is..." Nico trailed off a little, staring at the bed with a dark blush before puffing out his cheeks and grabbing his own twizzler.

Leo raised an eyebrow. Did Nico have a crush?

Leo's lips spread into a grin at the thought. "Who is she?" he sang, causing Nico to look up at him in surprise. "The girl you're thinking about right now. Who is she? Have I met her? Is she at Camp Half-Blood? If she's at Camp Jupiter I wouldn't know her. Is she cute? How old is she? What's her name?"

Nico just stared at Leo as he attacked him with questions. He snorted softly and took a bite of his candy. "You see that right there?" he said, grinning. "That's what I mean. Guys don't do that. You sound like a girl."

Leo blushed darkly and threw the remainder of his twizzler at Nico's face before retrieving a new one. Nico laughed and caught the candy assault between his fingers.

"Anyways," Leo said, brushing his hair out of his face and huffing. "You're wrong about the guy thing. Not all guys are pigs, you know. And no, I'm not saying that we don't on occasion say that a girl has nice tits because if it's true why not talk about it? I'm sure girls are talking about what nice chests men have. It only makes a guy a pig if they say it to the girl's face. Cat calling is trashy. Talking about a girl's womanly figure to a friend is totally acceptable."

Nico raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Dude, you sound like a total knob, you know that right?"

Leo just smiled widely at him and picked up his cards again.

"I still want to know who that girl is, by the way," he said a minute or two after they'd resumed their game. Nico sighed softly and put his cards back down.

"Man, why can't we just play a game without you bringing up something increasingly embarrassing?"

Leo smirked, setting down his cards as well. "I'm your best friend, it's my job to make you uncomfortable with personal questions and demand answers to them. Now spill."

Nico was silent for a while, just staring at the sheets and picking at his pant leg. Leo didn't say anything either, feeling from the atmosphere that this was something Nico wouldn't talk to people about normally.

"It's not... a girl," he muttered softly. "I'm not... I'm not into girls."

It took Leo a moment to process that.

"Oh..." he said softly, leaning back against the headboard. "Ooh."

Nico looked up at Leo, cheeks flaming, and nodded.

"The dude likes dudes, I can roll with that," he said softly, smiling a little.

Nico blushed harder and smacked Leo's knee.

"So...?" Leo said, leaning in again and drawing out the word. Nico looked up at him with a questioning expression. "So, who is it?"

Nico's eyes widened, like he hadn't realized the conversation would get this far. Maybe he'd assumed Leo would drop it after finding out Nico was gay.

Nico opened his mouth to say something but closed it when no sound came out. He chewed his lip before taking a deep breath. "Percy Jackson," he mumbled softly, still picking at the seam on his pants.

Leo's mouth dropped open. Suddenly, Nico's feelings for Percy became a lot clearer. That would explain the hero worship.

"Damn," was all that came out of Leo's mouth. From the glare Nico gave him, he decided that had been a bad idea. "Uh... sorry, that was rude," he murmured quietly, rubbing the back of his head.

"Wait, so is this like, just a crush or... I mean, how deep are your feelings for him."

Nico blushed even darker, if it was possible, and straightened a little. "Would head over heels cover it?"

Leo whistled lowly. "Man... I uh... I'm sorry."

Nico shook his head and forced a small smile. "It's okay. I've sort of gotten over it. Well... I haven't gotten over him, but I've accepted that he'll never be mine. He's in love with Annabeth. He's proved that time and time again. Besides, why would he want a skinny little brat who's tried to kill him?"

Leo shrugged. He couldn't really argue with that. Nico hadn't made the best decisions for someone trying to woo a lover.

"No matter how much I want him," Nico whispered, pulling his knees up to his chest. "No matter how hard it makes my heart beat when he touches me or looks at me or even says my name, he'll never be mine."

Leo chewed his lip and looked Nico up and down. He wanted to comfort him in some way but he had no idea how.

Apparently, his body had already decided how it was going to comfort Nico, because suddenly he was leaning over their abandoned card game and kissing Nico on the corner of his mouth.

He pulled back quickly when he realized what he'd done. The blush flooded his cheeks. Nico looked at him like he wanted to be pissed but he was too surprised and confused to muster the effort.

"I... Uh, I... Look, I suck at this whole comforting thing and my body just moved on it's own. I guess maybe I thought that I could distract you from him because there are plenty of other people out there who will love you the way you deserve to be loved and the sooner you get over him the sooner you can find that person and I'm not saying that person is me, I'm just saying that you could take a first step and maybe I could be that first step if you... want."

He'd spoken in one breath, the words pouring out of him without any restraint and he mentally smacked himself when he was finished. Now he totally sounded like a creep. Leo didn't even know if he really wanted to comfort Nico that way he just hated seeing him so broken.

Nico stared at him in shock, his fingers curling in the blankets beneath him. "You..." he whispered softly. "Are you saying what I think you're saying because it sounds like you're saying what I think you're saying and if you're saying that... then yes."

Leo blinked rapidly, trying to figure out if this was reality or not. Did they just proposition each other in a very strange and awkward way?

Leo didn't move, still too stunned by his own actions and Nico's response to do anything. Nico took charge, leaning over and kissing Leo full on the mouth. It was a quick kiss. He pulled back after a couple seconds and watched to see what Leo would do.

There was suddenly a lump the size of Leo's fist in his throat and he had no idea how to get rid of it. Swallowing only made his mouth go dry.

He dived forward, taking Nico's face in his hands and kissing him again. The cards on the bed scattered and shifted and some fluttered onto the floor but Leo barely even noticed because Nico's lips were so soft.

Leo had never kissed anyone before. Were girl's lips this soft? Did they make soft whimpering noises like Nico was making right now? Did they feel as warm and smooth and fragile as Nico did?

Leo moved his lips against Nico's, his instinct taking over while his brain ran wild. Okay, maybe he really did want this.

His fingers slid into Nico's hair as his other hand moved down to wrap around Nico's waist. He pulled the smaller boy onto his lap. Nico straddled him, gasping softly against his lips. His hands were fisted in Leo's shirt, his arms the only thing separating their chests.

Leo didn't know what he was doing, really, so Nico lead. Cards crinkled under Nico's back as they lay on top of the blankets, hands moving to touch as much skin as they could find. Leo could barely think or breathe. Nico felt so right.

Sex with a man had never been something he'd been interested in before, but with Nico it was a whole different world. Nico made Leo's heart stop dead in his chest with the simplest of movements, the tiniest of noises. By the time they lay curled around each other under the blankets, chests heaving and fingers laced together, Leo could barely see his head was swimming so much.

Nico fell asleep with his head against Leo's chest. Leo watched him sleep as he let his mind turn faster and faster. He felt like he might pass out from dizziness.

He'd just had sex with Nico di Angelo and it had been fantastic. He'd never thought he would have sex with his best friend, a man, or probably anyone. He didn't think that far ahead. Nemesis had told him he was the seventh wheel and he always would be. Nico had come along and clicked right next to him, supported him. Leo felt like Nico was helping him stay afloat as much as he was helping Nico.

Maybe this was exactly what he needed. Maybe he needed someone as broken as Nico.

Leo shook his head. He didn't have a thing for Nico. Nico was just his best friend and he was helping him get over the man he was in love with. Leo wondered to himself if Nico had been thinking about Percy while they had been connected.

He felt the .lump form again in his throat; painful this time, constricting. He felt like he was going to choke on it. He had a gross feeling in his stomach, making him scowl. He hated the thought of that.

He turned on his side, pulling Nico to his chest and breathing in the sweet scent curling from his hair. He squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath.

"Goodnight, Nico," he whispered softly, sliding his nose down Nico's cheek and pressing a soft kiss against his skin before sleep took him as well.

"Fuck it's cold."

Leo held his arms tight around himself and shivered, staring out over the frosty water. The Argo sliced through the thin ice like it was butter. It made a horrible racket though, and the icy breeze cut through Leo's coat in painful bursts.

Frank chuckled, wearing only a light jacket verses Leo's parka. "Americans," Leo heard him snicker. Leo glared at him as he pulled the neck of his coat up to cover his nose. "Polar bear," Leo shot back.

Frank came up behind Leo and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "Polar bear isn't much of an insult when I can literally turn into a polar bear." Leo looked him up and down.

"Could you do it now?" he asked, his voice a little hopeful as he grinned up at Frank in a way that showed he wanted something. "Fur and massive amounts of body heat wouldn't go amiss right now."

Frank retracted his arm and moved back to the sword he'd been sharpening. "No way. I'm not being your cuddle buddy. Go find Nico."

Leo pouted and turned on his heels. "Fine then," muttered softly as he slipped inside off the deck. "I didn't want to be out there any longer anyways."

The others had become embarrassingly aware of Nico and Leo's growing relationship over the last couple days. They had sex practically every night and Nico wasn't exactly quiet. He was surprised Coach hadn't torn his balls off yet, but he figured the goat was too busy trying to huddle in a ball in his bunk avoiding the cold and watching basketball to bother with them.

Leo had been both relieved and strangely, almost disappointed when Nico's attitude towards Leo hadn't changed at all after the first night they'd had sex. Leo was surprised with himself for being so completely okay with having sexual intercourse with another man. He'd tried to think about what it would be like with a different man but it just wasn't right. He doubted that he would ever feel that way with any man but Nico.

It wasn't that Leo had feelings for Nico. He didn't, really. Not the kind of feelings that one would normally have for a person they were having sex with. Leo almost wanted to have feelings for Nico because then they could be together and Nico wouldn't have to hurt so much because he wasn't with Percy.

Even though Leo was determined that his feelings for Nico were purely those of friendship, he couldn't help but feel the sharp stab of jealousy when he walked into the main room and found Piper and Nico sitting together on a couch in the corner, their heads close while a wire hung from each of their ears. Nico smiled and said something to Piper before taking the ear bud out of his ear and handing it back to Piper. They listened to music together all the time, it wasn't like they were flirting or anything. Leo knew he had zero reason to feel jealous. Besides, Piper was with Jason and Nico was gay. Nonetheless, Leo scowled a little and moved towards the couch. He unzipped his parka and sat down beside Nico. He curled against him, arms wrapping around Nico's waist as he buried his face in the smaller man's chest. His parka opened up on either side of Nico, almost as if the coat was trying to eat Nico.

"Leo?" he heard the surprise and confusion in Nico's voice.

"It's fuckin' freezing outside," Leo said muffled into Nico's shirt. Nico laughed softly and slid his fingers into Leo's messy curls.

Leo vaguely heard Piper stand and leave, the door clicking shut behind her.

Leo looked up at Nico, catching his eyes, and leaned up to press a hard determined kiss against his lips. Nico started a little and frowned when Leo pulled back. "Freezing and horny, are we?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Leo felt his chest ache and it confused him a little. "No," he whispered, looking back down at Nico's shirt.

Nico was definitely confused now and more than a little concerned. "Then why did you kiss me?"

Leo shrugged and followed the pattern of the design on Nico's shirt with his fingers. "Because I wanted to kiss you," he whispered softly. He didn't know exactly why he'd had the urge to claim Nico's lips at that moment. Maybe it was because of the lingering jealousy which was still making his stomach curl uncomfortably.

Nico stayed silent, his fingers stilling in Leo's hair. Leo closed his eyes and moved so that he was laying on the couch with his head on Nico's lap. He was exhausted. The cold had sucked all the energy out of him. He felt himself being pulled to unconsciousness.

"Leo," Nico started, but Leo was already asleep.

Another week and they would be there. Another week before they got to the doors of death and hopefully got to Percy and Annabeth. Leo could see Nico's tension rising. He wished he could relax him, make all of his negative bad thoughts disappear but he wasn't really capable of doing that right now seeing as he was as high strung as Nico was.

He watched Nico a lot. Just watched him. He noticed everything about him. He noticed the way Nico picked at his fingers and scabs when he was nervous or bored. He noticed the way Nico's toes curled when he was turned on. He noticed the way he didn't smile any more.

Nico caught Leo looking at him and frowned with concern.

"Are you okay?" he asked, leaning in towards Leo who was staring at him with a mixture of sadness and longing.

Leo snapped out of his reprieve and forced a smile. "I'm fine," he said softly, his voice sounding as forced as his smile.

Leo's chest felt tight. He felt like the tightness was trying to consume him. What if it did? What if he just caved in on himself because of this pain? It was centered around his chest and he didn't know what it was. Something in the back of his mind kept nagging at him that he did in fact know but he ignored it, having the strongest feeling he didn't want to know.

That night when they fell into bed as was their normal routine, it felt different. It felt stronger and all-consuming. Just like the feeling of tightness in Leo's chest.

He rolled his hips against Nico's, hands sliding down the smaller man's sides and resting on his waist. Nico groaned lowly and rolled his eyes back in his head. Leo watched every movement. He listened to every sound; breathy moans and purrs. He buried himself inside of Nico and gasped softly as the tightness almost took over his entire being. He tried to see though the darkness that was clouding his vision and kissed the air from Nico's lungs.

"Nico," Leo breathed against Nico's lips, the name rolling from his tongue like a prayer.

Nico whimpered and arched against his chest. Nico felt so perfect beneath him. So warm and small and soft and right. Leo never wanted this feeling to end. Even the tightness in his chest was beginning to feel pleasant.

They rolled together fluidly. They knew each other's bodies so well by now it was like dancing a dance they could both do without even thinking.

Leo sucked at Nico's clavicle, biting down gently against his collarbone. Nico was panting loudly in his ear and it sent waves of heat down to his groan.

Leo loved the way Nico felt against him when they were like this. It was one of the only times that he got to feel like he was the only one who mattered to Nico.

The feeling slipped away as quickly as it had come and Leo forgot how to breathe when Nico spoke.

"Percy," he breathed out without meaning to, eyes rolling back in his head and nails digging into Leo's arms.

Leo felt like someone was holding onto his heart and squeezing it. He made a noise in the back of his throat somewhat resembling a sob and he buried his face in Nico's neck. He arched his back downwards, his hand sliding into Nico's and lacing their fingers, his nose sliding up the side of Nico's neck. He needed to feel him close. He needed Nico to feel him. To think about him and not some other man.

It took Leo a moment to realize he was crying. He felt the hot tears slide down his cheeks and drip onto Nico's shoulder.

"W-what?" Nico panted, turning his head to the side when he realized there were tears on his shoulder. Leo bit Nico's neck hard and grabbed his wrists, pinning them beside his head. He shifted, sliding deeper inside the smaller man and drawing a long moan from him. Leo shushed him shakily, refusing to let Nico know the emotions and thoughts that were stirring inside him. This was so wrong. It hurt so much. He never knew how much he'd wished that Nico would say his name. He hadn't realized how much he needed Nico to love him.

His insides twisted painfully but he kept moving, holding Nico tightly, almost bruisingly. Nico whimpered softly.

He pushed Nico to completion quicker than normal. A small voice in the back of Leo's head suggested bitterly that maybe it was because he'd been thinking about Percy. No. Leo knew that Nico thought about Percy every time they were together. This was no different. It had always been Percy to Nico. It probably always would. He would love that man forever and Leo would be alone in his affection; still the seventh wheel, just like Nemesis had said. He wouldn't find a place in Nico's heart because it already belonged to another man. No matter how tightly Leo held Nico and how many times he soothed him when his nightmares woke him, no matter how much Leo wanted Nico, cared about Nico, even loved Nico. No matter what, Nico would love Percy. They had a week to be together before one of them possibly died fighting against the mother of the earth, of all people. A week to live and Leo felt like his life was already over.

He pulled out when he felt his stomach give a twisted lurch. He couldn't help the small moan that left his throat as he came over Nico's stomach.

Before Leo had even come down off the high the orgasm had given him, he was slipping out of bed. He pulled his pants back on with shaking hands and tried not to let the tears come again. He was proud of himself for managing to stop crying in the first place.


Leo paused, shirt in his hand. He didn't turn to look at him. He didn't turn to see the look of confusion he knew was on Nico's face.

"Where are you going?"

Leo pulled the shirt over his head and straightened it at his waist. "I'm going to bed, Nico," he said, surprised at how calm his voice was.

"The bed is right here," Nico said, feeling like he was trying to tend to a wounded animal. The confusion was still evident in his voice and Leo almost wanted to laugh. He had no idea, did he? He had no recollection of saying Percy's name or unintentionally pushing the feelings Leo had been subconsciously trying to repress to the front of Leo's mind and breaking his heart at the same time. He had no idea what Leo was going through right now. He knew that he ought to have noticed his feelings a while ago, and something told him he had. He hadn't wanted to accept them because he knew, he knew that Nico loved Percy and this was more painful than he could ever imagine.

"I'm going to my bed, Nico," he said, walking towards the door, hand resting on the knob.

"Why?" came Nico's quick, frantic reply. They hadn't slept in separate beds since that first night. Leo doubted he would sleep tonight anyways, regardless of what bed he was in.

Leo stared at his hand on the doorknob and decided whether or not to say anything. What was the chances that they would go back to being best friends with benefits if he said anything? No, that didn't matter because Leo didn't think he would be able to hold Nico again and hear him whisper that name, thinking about a man that was not even in the same realm as them.

When Leo's silence got too long for Nico, he stood from the bed, the sheet clung to his chest so it covered his body. "Did I do something wrong?" Leo could hear the panic in Nico's voice and he wanted to hold him; comfort him and tell him that everything would be alright but he couldn't bring himself to turn around.

"I'm going to my own room because I'm in love with you," Leo whispered, his voice ripping out of his throat along with something that sounded like a barely suppressed sob.

He didn't wait to hear what Nico had to say. He opened the door and walked out, hearing the click of it close behind him as the tears slid down his cheeks again.

Leo hadn't spoken to anyone the following day. Nico hadn't come to try and talk to him so Leo figured that they weren't friends anymore.

When he didn't go down for dinner Piper came to try and interrogate him.

"What's going on with you two?" she asked through the door which Leo had kept locked to keep out unwanted visitations.

Leo didn't answer and Piper started to get frustrated.

"Nico hasn't spoken a word since yesterday and you won't come out of your room. Did you two have a fight or something?"

Still, Leo said nothing. Piper jiggled the knob but the door didn't budge. He heard Piper let out a noise that sounded like a mix between a groan and a scream.

"Leo Valdez open the door this instant!" she shouted, her charmspeak so strong that Leo stood from the bed and opened the door before his mind had even processed that he was moving. He stood in the doorway looking at a very peeved Piper. She grabbed Leo's wrist and yanked him from the room. Leo didn't protest. He had a feeling that he didn't have much say in this. She would just charmspeak him again if he tried to argue.

She shoved him into the main room and grabbed Hazel's hand from where she sat beside her brother on the couch.

"Work it out," Piper snapped, her no-nonsense tone ringing around the room before she stalked out of the room dragging Hazel behind her and slammed the door shut. Leo stood there watching Nico carefully.

He didn't make a move to get Nico's attention. He didn't move at all. He just watched to see what Nico would do next.

Leo didn't know what he was expecting, but he knew that he wasn't expecting Nico to laugh which was exactly what he did.

It sounded slightly hysterical.

"You're an idiot," Nico whispered, lowering his head to his hands. "You're stupid and selfish and you can't let anyone love you even when they're standing right in front of you practically waving a neon sign. All you do is hide."

It took Leo a moment to realize that Nico was talking to himself.

"Selfish. Nothing but selfish. Everything to do is for yourself. You don't think about other people's feelings. You don't think about how your actions could hurt people who you never want to hurt. You don't think that maybe if you stopped being such a jerk and let someone love you that you could be happy."

Leo moved as Nico kept monologuing to himself. He sat down on the couch beside Nico and tentatively rested his hand on Nico's wrist, pulling his hand away from his face.

"You're not an idiot," Leo whispered softly, brushing his fingers down Nico's cheek and trying to keep his feelings in check. Here he was again. Back at the beginning, trying to figure out how to comfort Nico.

"You're adorable and funny and beautiful and sweet and so caring."

Nico shook his head, laughing that hysterical laugh again. "I'm not, though," he said, trying to hold back a sob. "I'm not any of those things. All I do is make people hate me."

Leo looked down at his lap for a moment, his hand letting go of Nico's wrist. "I don't hate you," he whispered softly. "All you did was make me love you."

Nico looked up at Leo, the expression on his face looking broken and sad. "Don't say that," he whispered, voice thick.

Leo tried not to be offended but it was hard. "I'm sorry," he whispered, turning his head away. He suddenly wanted to be anywhere but here.

Nico shook his head and grabbed Leo's hand before he could bolt. "No, that's... that's not what I mean," he said, rushing to have Leo understand. "I just... Leo, I don't deserve you."

Leo looked at Nico sadly and slid his fingers up across Nico's cheek. He paused a moment before leaning in and pressing a kiss to the corner of the younger man's mouth.

"I hate it when you do this," he said, his voice strained with emotion.

Nico frowned. "Do what?" he asked quietly.

Leo looked down at the hand that was still holding his. He curled his fingers around Nico's and kissed his knuckles. He tried to find the right words.

"It's like you're trying to fly away but you're drowning instead," Leo whispered, watching Nico with hurt eyes. "Don't do either. It's too cold for flying or drowning." He managed a small chuckle, although it was weak and obviously forced. "Stay here... with me." This was his last hope.

Nico's eyes never left Leo's. He let out a long, low breath that he had probably been holding for a while. "Man," he breathed. "You're just full of cheesy lines." Leo was about to say that they were supposed to be having a serious conversation when Nico kissed him.

It was a small, chaste kiss but it sent Leo's mind reeling. It was what he wanted. It was the weightless feeling of the tightness in his chest loosening and letting go.

Leo instantly slid his arms around Nico's waist, pulling him close as Nico melted against his chest.

"And if I stay here?" Nico whispered when he pulled back after a moment if pure bliss which made the world around them disappear. "If I stay, what then? Where do we go from here?"

Leo stared down into Nico's eyes and slid his fingers through the dark locks. "I don't know," he chuckled breathlessly. "Live the rest of our lives together?"

Nico smiled sadly, like he liked the idea but he found it nothing more than a childish dream.

"The rest of my life isn't looking like it's going to be very long."

Leo silenced him with another kiss. "Don't talk like that," he hissed softly against Nico's lips. "You're not going to die. Not on my watch."

Nico's face didn't change. He really didn't think he was going to survive this. Why had he resigned himself into thinking that he was going to die? Why did he have to act like this after he'd absconded with Leo's heart?

"Why do you do this to me?" Leo whispered, resting his forehead against Nico's. He sighed loudly. "Fine. Believe what you want. I still want an answer."

Nico closed his eyes. "Whether my life lasts a year or 100 years, I'll spend the rest of it with you."

Leo felt his heart flutter down to the butterflies already beating their wings in his stomach.

"Now who's the one with the cheesy lines?" he asked softly, his hands cupping Nico's cheeks as a grin spread over his lips.

Nico rolled his eyes. "Just kiss me, you jerk," he demanding, unable to hide his own smile.

And Leo did just that.

I edited it a little bit because I read it over and realized there were a lot of errors. Apparently I'd posted the unbeta'd version. Oops