Tell me: what do normal people think of at midnight?
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters shown below or the setting they're running amok in.
Scientifically Proven and Historically Accurate
'Mitchell was staring into thin air' would be the wrong way to start this story.
See, children of Aphrodite were never staring at nothing. Sometimes they were staring at people- taking in their features, their faces, the way they were and maybe even thinking about why. Sometimes they were staring at colours all around them and associating them with things they'd seen or where they'd like to see that particular shade again, or the way things caught the light. Sometimes they were staring at clothes and over-analyzing why you were wearing them and what they did for you.
This particular son of Aphrodite was staring at Malcolm, who was leaning over his notebook. It was a brave thing to do- bring a book or notebook to the docks. To the very end of the docks too- that was basically fearless. You were basically asking for the nymphs to ruin whatever paper item you were currently holding. But maybe they knew better than to mess with a child of Athena and his work or research. For their sakes, Mitchell hoped that the naiads knew.
Malcolm was working on some kind of algorithm or mathematical sequence. Pages filled with just numbers filled up over half of his current notebook and at least ten of its precedents. Mitchell had befriended Malcolm very early on in the son of Athena's camp life, though only in recent years had they become close, and he'd never seen him work this hard or so persistently on anything.
Speaking of hard work and persistency…
"Hey, the fireworks are next month." Mitchell said.
"I know," Malcolm said finishing filling up a line in his notebook. 3 1 8…
"Do you want to go with me?" Mitchell asked.
Malcolm didn't reply right away. The lack of shock or surprise or reaction in general was probably due to the fact that Mitchell asked Malcolm out about once a week, though two was common as well. He wasn't even kidding about it or saying it as a joke. The first time had been about three months ago while they were rock climbing. Malcolm had looked at him a little freaked out, had shaken his head, and the two of them had just kept climbing and going on with their day. Nothing was weird, nothing was awkward. Malcolm just always said no and the conversation changed. Mitchell, however, was persistent and adamant. He wanted this date, and the fireworks were the summer's dating hot spot. This was his best chance yet.
"No," Malcolm answered not even looking up from his book. 3 4 34 7 2 29 7…
"Can I ask why not this time?" Mitchell asked. "Like, seriously? Do I need to say please? Will you please go to the fireworks with me?"
Malcolm shook his head.
"What do I have to do to even make you think about it?" Mitchell asked. "Come on Mal, you're a guy of logic. There has to be something. Right?"
"Fine," Malcolm said shutting his book. He shut the book, Mitchell cheered to himself. That could be nothing but progress! "I'm giving you one chance."
The excitement drained out of Mitchell as if Malcolm had opened a faucet.
"Give me a good reason why I should date you," Malcolm said. "One good reason, one excellent reason, and I'll be convinced."
"Define 'good'. Does it have to be historically accurate? Scientifically proven? Do you want a stat in there?" Mitchell teased.
Malcolm should have cracked a smile, even when Mitchell was being whiny and needy he managed to make the guy laugh. He didn't.
"It depends if you want brownie points."
"What can I trade brownie points in for?" Mitchell asked.
Malcolm's book was open over his lap again. "I'm not kidding," he said as his eyes and pen flew furiously across the page. "My sister died three years ago for the guy she loved. Demigods and dating and et cetera… It's a pretty big thing, and I don't like launching myself into big things without any data or some kind of positive prognosis."
His nerdy talk and clear-cut logic made Mitchell smile. That was the weird thing about their relationship, the thing that Lacy and all the rest of camp couldn't wrap their heads around. Mitchell was a loose cannon who never made plans. He was the master of winging it. He was relaxed and laidback and chill. Malcolm was about none of those things. It was baffling that they were even friends, ("Much less anything more," as Lacy would helpfully point out). More than once Mitchell had wondered why the hell that one trait of Malcolm kept tugging at his heart more than nearly anything.
Anyways: however Malcolm's request did not make him smile.
"Do you want this reason elaborated in a ten-thousand word report, sir?" Mitchell teased. He didn't want to look at loss for anything right now.
"On my desk by Monday." Malcolm replied, going with his jokes. That was the thing with Malcolm, he didn't take bull from anyone. But not by stomping on your face and destroying you, by going along with the bull or the joke you were throwing at him to take away all its worth. Mitchell loved that about him.
"Cool," Mitchell said.
Malcolm kept reading and Mitchell just laid back on the dock, starring at the sky and starting to brainstorm ideas.
Just to be annoying and mocking, Mitchell showed up at the Athena cabin next Monday. He moved a pile of books, he was one of the few people in this world who could touch Malcolm's stuff without losing a finger, and sat down on a corner of his desk.
"What are you doing?" Malcolm asked looking up from one of Daedalus' designs. Only in very recent months had the Athena cabin managed to clean or rewire or whatever-had-needed-to-be-done the hard drive to re-access and save Annabeth's old laptop, damaged in the last war. They hadn't managed to completely make the laptop better, but they'd save some files. It was new and exciting, stressful and tricky business to find all the folders and open some of Daedalus' blueprints and explore, redesign and build prototypes of them.
"You said you needed a reason on your desk by Monday," Mitchell said. He shrugged. "Here I am."
Malcolm kicked his chair back from the desk. The wheels slid him away from the desk.
"Okay. Shoot," he said.
"Well, I've had a massive crush on you for ages. Literally. Two years before I started asking you out all the time," Mitchell said. His throat was dry. He'd never admitted that out loud, not even to Lacy- his socially anxious telepathic little sister had figured it out all by herself like a big girl. "And I know that you like certainty and good odds in your favour and whatnot, so this should be good for you to hear. It's not like suddenly someone's going to flip a switch and all that's going to change. If you want good odds, than that's you promise. Literally Malcolm I… I care for you. Tons."
With a push off the ground with his toes, Malcolm swiveled back to his desk. Mitchell tried not to give up hope right away. Often when he had to think about something fully with undivided attention Malcolm had to be doing something else- which was weird but how his brain worked, so it was okay.
"Do I get my yes-Mitchell-I'm-willing-to-go-out-with-you?" He asked.
For a stalling, agonizing second his pen hovered over his blueprint.
"Nope," he finally said. "Better luck next Monday."
Mitchell snuck into the Athena cabin before Malcolm was even back from wherever he was helping one of his little sisters –a tiny peanut of a kid- catch a specific butterfly she was looking for. To quote this scary nine year old: "I don't recognise the subject's species when it flies freely so I'll need a closer specimen to work with, preferably in captivity and live."
Malcolm walked back inside on his own, and was surprised when he saw Mitchell sitting on his desk.
"What are you doing here?" He asked with his eyebrows furrowed.
"It's Monday," Mitchell said. "And your favourite colour, Malcolm Elias Goode, is blue and I know that because your pens, notebooks, pencil case and USB sticks are all blue. You like salty over sweet- I can tell since the only crumbs ever on your desk are pretzel crumbs. I knew that you were gay back when you were still so freaked out and deep in the closet that you were in Narnia, my friend. You're fascinated by science-fiction and fantasy above all- once you told me that your favourite books took you to whole new worlds. I'm observant, Malcolm. I pay attention to you, I care about what you say and love and think, and I worry about you when I see that's something's not right. I know you, Malcolm."
"Better than most campers," Malcolm agreed softly nodding.
"And you let me know you, so that has to count for something, right?" Mitchell added hopefully.
"That's not a very strong argument right there in your conclusion," Malcolm said kicking off his shoes and picking up some kind of extra complex rubik's cube from his desk.
And Mitchell knew to take that as a no.
He'd been very quiet. He'd just sat on Malcolm's desk since he'd gotten there, on this fine Monday afternoon, and had kid himself into thinking that he could understand the blueprints, posters, fun and light chemistry jokes, Smart Board content and whiteboards hanging around the cabin if he read them. Turns out, he couldn't.
"Hmm," Malcolm said. He was sitting on his bed reading.
"What is it?" Mitchell asked. Another of Mitchell's rare privileges- he could talk to Malcolm while he was reading without losing any digits.
"Out of the 350 different breads of sharks, 80% of them grow to be less than 1,6 meters long. That's 5, 24 feet if I'm not mistaken," his friend said.
"I'm sure you aren't mistaken," Mitchell said. "You know, I am terrified of water."
Just a little inconvenience that came with being thrown in a pool at the age of three by a grandmother who was sure that your mother was some kind of she-Incubus.
"That's not news to me," Malcolm said. "It's your grandmother's fault, right?"
"Yup. And I know I've told you this already. I'm refreshing your scarily accurate memory."
"To what end?"
"Remember that one time that you and Annabeth got in a fight about the true identity of William Shakespeare?"
Malcolm snickered. "That one time?"
"Okay, one of the times," Mitchell said. "The time that she bumped you down the ranks to a, how did you put it, 'lousy creek border guard' for Capture-the-flag?"
"Yes," Malcolm nodded. Of course he remembered, that boy had the memory of an elephant. Plus he considered it to be a very, very low move on his sister's part.
"And you were posted alone because of numbers and you said that you'd be useless, therefore bored and lonely?"
"Yes. And you came to stand guard with me instead of helping Lacy stay in the conversation with the other girls." Malcolm said.
"Exactly," he said. "I played Capture-the-Flag and stood by a running creek of death for you. Those are two things I hate. And I would do much more for you."
Malcolm nodded. "I remember that." He hesitated. "And I know that."
"Is this my yes-Mitchell-I'm-willing-to-go-out-with-you?" Mitchell asked feeling victorious.
"Afraid not," Malcolm said before turning back to his book.
That's when Mitchell lost it.
"Gods damn!" He said. Mitchell never swore. That made the penny drop. Malcolm looked up around just as Mitchell kicked the desk.
"Mitch!" He said.
"Okay- I have just presented you with three fairly fantastic reasons that probe that I really, really undoubtedly care about you and want to go out with you for serious reasons and not just as a joke or whatever you were thinking it was. And somehow that's not good enough for Mr Big Shot Brains? Okay. Okay, fine. Here's a reason then, and this one you can't deny: you are making me do this," Mitchell said. "You told me that you wanted to check how serious this would be because your sister has died for someone she was serious about. You know what, that's because you know that there's something going on between us. Something cool and real and legit. And because you, like me, wouldn't be able to handle it if this wasn't serious after all."
He starred Malcolm down.
"So there's your reason, Mal. Because I want to, you want to, and nothing is stopping us. And that, although very unscientific, is one 100% awesome reason. There's your stat, too."
Malcolm got up and got towards a fuming Mitchell. He took his hand.
"I just wanted to see how much of my crap you could take," Malcolm said. "Because I'm not like you and my crap is annoying instead of funny. But it turns out, you understand my crazy, messed up brain too. Enough for everything that you've said today –and last Monday, and the day before that- to be true. Plus I have a good reason of my own."
"Oh yeah?" Mitchell asked softening up like butter in the sun.
Malcolm kissed him softly and pulled back before Mitchell's brain got out of the whatwherewhatwhohuh? phase. He realised that maybe this was Malcolm's first time kissing someone.
"Yeah," Malcolm said.
Mitchell couldn't believe it. Probably because his brain had just exploded.
He managed to breathlessly say, "Oh yeah. Good reason."