There's a tiny antique store down near the dead end of King's street. It's one of those used antique stores, one of those stores that feel very warm and comforting. It's been in Percy's family for two generations now, and when his mother died unexpectedly, he took it over at the age of nineteen.
Hundreds of knick-knacks call this place home, as well as the two old armchairs and an over-the-top lamp that his mother bought from a garage sale. The floor is wood, and it's in pretty good condition because Percy is constantly cleaning it. Business isn't very rapid in the antique store, and at most he has two or three people lingering.
Generally, Percy knows every single person that comes through the door. There's Mrs. Johnson, who has tried on every piece of jewelry in the store but continues to return as though some might just appear if she stares hard enough (Percy appreciates the effort).
There's Grover, who Percy used to go to the skate park with every night before he owned the antique shop, and he stops by to have a chat (maybe buy a pretty thing for his girlfriend). He's a bit of a klutz, always scuffing up the floors and never wiping his feet at the door, but Percy likes the company.
Annabeth used to come by every day. She used to live in the flat above the store, actually, and Percy used to kiss her forehead before she fell asleep. He tries not to think about when he'd read her a story when she couldn't sleep, or when she had a nightmare how he'd hold her so close his bones ached in the morning. He tries not to think about when she said goodbye.
But she was going to be successful. She went off to college in some faraway place that Percy pretends he's forgotten when it comes up in conversation, and sometimes she'll leave a message on the answering machine.
College is going pretty well, I really like all my classes. I hope everything's good back home, and it'd mean a lot if you'd pick up the phone. Or, I mean, just call me back.
Her messages are really repetitive, if he's honest, but that doesn't change the fact that he hasn't deleted any of them.
Percy's not sad though, he just needs time.
It took Percy a couple weeks to realize that he didn't really like coffee, he just liked those moments out on the terrace with Annabeth, sipping his coffee and listening to her talk about architecture as the sun rose. He wishes he could go back to those moments, when his hands would glide along her sides as she said she loved him and told him one day she'd build something permanent. He thought they were already doing that.
Luckily enough for Percy, his mother's contacts seem to have lived through the years because a new shipment of items come every other week. He did notice the bills they sent him were much smaller; sometimes they wouldn't even send a bill (Percy would still reimburse them).
It's one of those nights when Percy thinks he won't sleep in the upstairs flat, because it's already dark out and he can't stand looking at the pink sweater he found in the back of his closet that morning. It still smells like that vanilla perfume Annabeth used, and he had nearly lost his breakfast.
The old clock that he made in wood shop in high school makes a little ding to signify nine o'clock, and he shuffles around the store to close blinds and turn the sign from open to closed. He makes himself as comfortable as he can get in the old blue armchair, and he lets his mind become muddled.
The next morning, his entire body creaks as he clambers up the far too steep stairs to his home. He looks through his kitchen cupboards, even though he knows he's finished every breakfast food in the house.
Percy delays the trip to the supermarket as long as he can, because people try to talk to him and he hates telling people how well Annabeth is doing. He frowns, because he'll probably have to go the next day but he decides on the three leftover pizza rolls for now because no one is going to tell him not to.
The store is supposed to open at eight, but he wakes up around six, still tired but unable to sleep every single morning so it generally opens around seven. He ignores the growls of his stomach, as he starts dusting the shelves and winding some of the old clocks.
Percy hears the first customers before they even come in, their boisterous laughter and loud footsteps going right through the thin walls of the shop. He runs his fingers through his hair, attempting to make himself look respectable as the door chimes (he gives up quickly though, he's still a t-shirt and shorts anyways).
"See? I told you this place was adorable!" The girl squeals, and the boy with her rolls his eyes. The girl was in there the week before, and didn't say a word in the five minutes she was inside, not even giving him a chance to ask for her name.
"Yeah, yeah, go buy something for mom so we can go." He murmurs, and Percy pieces together that they're siblings.
"Do you need any help finding something?" Percy says, but the girl has already run off and the boy looks unimpressed.
"You work here?" He asks, looking Percy over shamelessly.
He nods, before holding out his hand. "Yeah, I'm Percy."
"Nico di Angelo, that's my sister, Bianca." He jabs a finger behind him towards the general direction Bianca ran off to, and Percy nods. He's always wondered what it'd be like to have a sibling.
They don't really strike up any small talk, the only noises filling the shop being Percy's pen tapping on the desk and Bianca's adventure around the shop. It's quite peaceful, until there's a loud crash of glass shattering on the floor.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" She squeals, and Nico runs over to assist her while Percy just grabs the broom and dustpan. This isn't the first time this has happened; actually if he's honest he's probably broken nearly a dozen things himself.
"Bianca, you could have just asked me to get it down for you!" Nico says, sighing as Percy approaches the back of the store.
It could have been worse, she could've broken something that Percy remembered his mother buying or something Grover would've liked. The candle holder that fell was actually something Annabeth would've liked, and Percy's thankful that it happened.
Nico helps Bianca get out of the shattered glass area (she's wearing sandals) and once she gets out she's tugging at Percy's shirt. "I'm really sorry; I mean I can pay for it and everything!"
"It's fine, really." Percy insisted, squatting down to pick up the larger pieces and sweep up the tinier ones. It's more broken than he anticipated, and he's going to have to lug the vacuum all the way down from the flat but it was an accident. Picking up pieces of glass is a lot easier than picking up his thoughts (or pink sweaters).
"It really isn't, actually," Nico states bluntly, squatting down to help him pick it up. "We'll take you to lunch, and we can pay for it."
"Yeah, we can do that!" Bianca says quickly in agreement.
Percy doesn't know why, but he actually feels bad about how bad they feel and hurries to attempt to fix it. "I've actually got to go and get the vacuum; you can make this up to me by watching the store for a moment."
They nod, and Percy trudges up the stairs to grab the prehistoric vacuum to clean up the tiny shards. He hopes that the glass didn't hurt his wood floor.
"Jesus, here let me help you." Nico says, as he sees Percy struggling to get the vacuum back down the stairs. The vacuum is so big he can't really see his feet, and it doesn't really help that he's kind of skinny to start with.
Nico sort of takes the vacuum out of his hands, but Percy doesn't feel that upset because if he wants to carry that monstrosity, then he can go ahead and do that. He carries it with ease, and Percy's ego is slightly injured at this.
The vacuum is loud enough that Percy doesn't need to make any more small talk as he sweeps, but he can lightly heard the hum of Bianca and Nico whispering. He ignores it, and focuses on thinking about how much money it will cost to fix the new dent in his floor.
Once he turns it off, Nico picks it back up again before Percy can say a word. "Lead the way."
"I can take it; I mean it's not really a problem." Percy mutters, but he starts going up the stairs anyways. Nico isn't even breathing heavy when they get to the top, and Percy thinks he has to start swimming again.
Nico carries it all the way into the apartment, and when Percy opens the closet door he tucks it into the corner. The closet door squeaks as he shuts it, and Percy starts going back to the stairs.
Percy rushes to get Nico out, his apartment is covered in dirty clothes and dishes but Nico lingers. He looks at the pictures that Percy has on the walls, as well as the ones that he's put face down on the side tables.
"Who's she?" Nico hums, holding up the picture that Percy put behind a potted plant. Of course, he would pick one with Annabeth in it, and it had to be one where Percy couldn't just call her his sister (she's on his lap, he's kissing her neck and Percy is strongly against incest).
"An ex-girlfriend of mine." Percy replies, and he intends it to be carefree but his voice cracks at girlfriend.
Nico looks at little startled, and Percy wishes he had just carried the vacuum himself. "Oh, that's tough."
Percy appreciates the fact that Nico doesn't try to apologize, but his fingernails dig into his palm as Nico puts the frame back in its proper place. He wishes he would be able to smash it, or maybe draw a mustache on her face but since he can't, he wishes it would just stay behind the plant.
They stumble back down the stairs, and Percy's cheeks flare when he nearly falls on top of Nico. Fate seems to be against him today.
"So, ready to go eat? I'm starved." Bianca chips in, and Percy looks over to see her by the cash register with maybe ten items with her. It's nice of her to do that, but Percy knows the items aren't cheap and he wonders if she really wants all that or if she just feels guilty.
"Um," Percy starts, but Nico cuts in.
"Yeah, let's go to that place down the street with those meatballs I like." He says, and Percy's stomach growls awkwardly so he can't even argue he's not hungry. Bianca holds his hand as they walk out of the shop, and Nico wraps an arm around his shoulder. Percy likes meatballs anyways.
Percy is sitting in the middle of the two, in a pretty round booth with mahogany wood that puts his to shame. Despite the large amount of attention he's put towards the table top (he's sort of in love with it, he decides, after staring for a while), they actually manage to keep up a decent conversation (mostly between Nico and Bianca) before fate decides that Percy is having too much fun.
They're talking about some celebrity that's been making crazy twitter posts before Nico pulls at Percy's jeans. He motions across the restaurant, and there she is.
Annabeth is sitting at a table, laughing with a large group of people that Percy vaguely remembers. She used to make him go with her to those lunches with all these smart people, and Percy always felt really stupid (he never missed one though).
Nico leans over to whisper with Bianca, and Percy knows he's telling her but he can't even get embarrassed because there she is. She's wearing her hair in a new way, and it looks a little shorter than it used to be. It's definitely more blonde, but she's going to school in California. Why is she in New York?
Percy watches her, and he can't help but be taken away by the sight. He's terrified because he knows, if she just asked, he would take her back in a heartbeat. He's just glad he's run into her on one of the few nights he's not dining alone.
"Do you want to leave?" Nico asks, and in answer Percy flags down the waitress for the check.
"I'll pay." He murmurs, as he takes the check from the waitress but Nico snatches it from his hands.
"It's our apology lunch, I'll pay." Nico states and Percy just isn't in the mood for arguing.
They walk Percy back to his store despite his protests, but Percy doesn't really protest after Nico's arm returns to his shoulders and Bianca's hand in his. It shouldn't take this much to hold him together.
When they get to the shop, Bianca goes to pull their car around while Nico goes to walk Percy up the stairs when he makes a little noise of indignation. If Nico brings him up there, he's not only going to have to look at the picture again but he's going to have to face the pink sweater. He's not ready for that battle.
"Percy, we've got to get upstairs and get you to bed." Nico comforts and Percy wonders how Nico figured him out so fast. It's kind of strange, going to bed at only one o'clock, and Percy attempts to go to his chair to rest (he's really tired).
"Thank, Nico." Percy replies, stepping out of his grasp and going to his armchair that still has his body's imprint.
"You can't sleep there; you'll kill your back." Nico scolds, but he goes to sit in the armchair opposite of Percy.
Percy falls asleep in a measly ten minutes, and Nico heaves him over his shoulder. He frowns as he realizes how light Percy is, but he carries him up the stairs nevertheless.
He walks through Percy's apartment slower this time, appraising the things that seem to have just been randomly placed. For an antique store owner, Percy doesn't seem to have taken advantage of his discount and most places seem bare. There's several spots on the wall where it's obvious a pictures been taken down, the outlines of where a picture once made this place a home.
In the only bedroom of the apartment, several dresser drawers have been left open and there's a pink sweater in the center of the bed. He sets Percy down on the side of the bed with the alarm clock and blue retainer, assuming that's the side he normally slept. He hangs the sweater up in the open closet, and he can't help but smile at how cute Percy looks when he's sleeping
Nico knows it's kind of stupid, but he scribbles out a little note for Percy anyways. He shakes his head at himself, but he leaves the note on the night stand before joining Bianca in the car. He doesn't stop thinking about Percy for the rest of the day.
The next morning, Percy wakes up from the sun shining through the window instead of the alarm. Normally, he would close the blinds before he went to bed but Nico helped him to bed. Nico helped him to bed last night.
Percy sits up, looking around the room and he doesn't know exactly what he's looking for but everything seems to be the same. He stumbles out of bed, and out of instinct he goes to take his retainer out but instead his hand comes into contact with a piece of paper.
You seemed pretty off last night, I hope you're better in the morning. Call me, we can go for coffee or something. xxx-xxx-xxxx
A big smile spreads across Percy's face as he reads the note. The kind of smile that's all teeth, and sort of hurts your face but at the same time feels like your happiness is literally flowing out of you.
Percy gets dressed into nice clothes (for the first time in ages) and he even uses an actual comb for his hair. He thinks about washing his sheets, but they're still the blue ones that Annabeth picked out so he decides to throw them out.
He digs around in his drawers for a couple minutes to find his phone (it's been a while since he's used his mobile) before running down to the shop. He officially opens the store (Nico must've closed it for him the day before), before texting Nico.
[8:56 am : To: Nico]
Hey Nico, it's Percy
He decides to drink some orange juice and eat some popcorn (he really needs to go to the supermarket) while he waits. Luckily enough, he doesn't have to wait long.
[9:02 am : To: Percy]
Hey man! Want to go out for coffee?
He frowns. Yeah, he wants to go to coffee but he has the store. This shop is like his baby, he can't just leave it for a new friend he met. Plus, his floor still has a dent in it and he's sure it could use a nice polishing.
[9:05 am : To: Nico]
I've got to watch the store, could you come here?
The door chimes, and Percy looks up to see Mrs. Johnson come in. He's happy to see her though, it's been too long and he'd been kind of worried. Plus, he got a new shipment of earrings only half a week ago (he may have tucked them away for her).
"Hi Perseus!" She greets, going to kiss his cheek and give him a warm hug. She's the only person Percy knows who calls him by his full name (which he doesn't really like), but she's also the only person who greets him so warmly (which he really likes) so it evens out.
"Nice to see you, Mrs. Johnson, I've got some nice new jewelry that came in." He says, rushing to get the box from behind the counter.
"Oh, how sweet Perseus!" She squeals, her eyes already scrutinizing the bright silver and gold earrings.
"It's brand new, from somewhere in Oregon…" He trails off when he sees his phone light up, but Mrs. Johnson doesn't seem to notice as she picks up one of the shinier ones.
[9:12 am : To: Percy]
On my way!
How's Percy supposed to respond to that? Just an okay would be good right? Or maybe something about how excited he is? I mean, Nico did use an exclamation point; did that require an equal response of exclamation?
He decides on a smiley face (you can't go wrong with an emoji).
[9:14 am : To: Nico]
Mrs. Johnson really is the sweetest lady Percy's ever met, and she gives him a hard candy after she pays for all the jewelry (she literally bought all the new jewelry). Percy gives her a little more than the senior citizen discount, but she deserves it.
Percy cleans his wood floors as he waits, working until it really shines and he winds his clocks because yet again they are a few minutes fast. It's not long until the door chimes again. His silly looking smile has returned to his face, and he rushes to greet him.
But it's Annabeth, and her tone is surprised (probably because he hasn't been this happy since she left). "Hi Percy."
"Oh, er, Annabeth, what're you doing here?" His smile is gone, and he wonders why she's not wearing a coat, the weather outside is dreadful.
"I just came by to say hello, you never pick up your phone anymore." She explains, and Percy wishes she was at least a little bit guilty.
"I've been busy." He mutters, going back behind the counter to fiddle with a pen.
"With what, Percy? People talk, you know, and people are worried about you." Annabeth says slowly, and Percy scowls at the pen. He knows the pen doesn't deserve his hate, but he's never been able to scowl at Annabeth.
When the door chimes again, Nico's warm voice once again fills the shop. "Hey, Percy! Sorry I'm late, traffic was shit."
"It's okay." Percy squeaks out, and Nico notices the difference in his voice instantly.
"Nico." He introduces himself, holding his hand out. Percy wonders if he's supposed to step in there, handle introductions or something. He stands quietly.
"Annabeth. Percy, we can handle this another time, I'll be in town till Sunday." She says, and her tone is as icy as the day she left.
"Alright." He says quietly, and Annabeth looks like she wants to say something else but she leaves regardless.
"Are you okay?" Nico walks over to Percy's side. He wraps his arm around Percy, just like he did the day before, and since he's shorter it should be awkward but Percy melts into his side.
They don't say anything for a few moments, and the only sound in the room is the ticking of Percy's slightly too fast clocks. Nico must've already figured out that Percy's a little broken, but he hasn't left yet so Percy thinks he might stick around a while.
Percy's heart is made of glass, his closet still has that damn pink sweater and his wooden floors still have a dent in them but Nico's still there, smiling at him like he's the mahogany table top at the restaurant.
Things get better from there.