Juniper wakes up on the couch, Grover's familiar snore coming from the floor beside her and memories of the night before start flooding back to her as she looks at her beautiful ring. She carefully maneuvers through the room which is filled with old beer cups and drunk bodies, smiling all the while. It had started to get to the point where she thought he would never do it.
She vividly remembers the beginning of the night, Grover anxiously worrying about whether Percy would make it, getting her nails done with a few friends of hers and of course the proposal but beyond that it's blurry. She changes into fresh clothes and brushes her teeth before starting to clean the house.
Percy wakes up to his stomach lurching and he barely makes it to the bathroom before he loses the contents of his stomach. He hears Nico come up beside him, attempting to soothe Percy by running his fingers through his hair and lightly rubbing his back.
When he's finished, Nico takes a shot of mouthwash before a cup to Percy. After the vile taste of last night's endeavors has left their mouths, Percy decides the best course of action would be to put on his pants which had ended up underneath the bed.
Next, they wander out into the house quietly. They have to tiptoe around several people who passed out on the stairs, but they make it to the first floor safely and somehow somewhat discreet (quite the achievement considering Percy's clumsiness). The wreckage gets worse the closer they get to the source of alcohol, and they find Juniper in the kitchen, giant trash bag in hand as she shovels all the leftovers of the night before.
"Morning," Percy greets, and Nico remembers her as the newly-engaged girl. He wonders if Percy has more friends that he just doesn't talk about, maybe the whole loner thing was just some façade and he's a gold digger. Nico decides this is next to impossible.
"Percy, it's good to see you! I didn't even get a chance to talk to you last night," Juniper gives him a warm hug, before realizing Nico's presence and stepping towards him to shake his hand. "I'm Juniper, we haven't had the pleasure."
"I'm Nico," He starts, shaking her hand and surprisingly Percy interjects, clearly still recovering from the loss of his dinner but his head still working.
"He's my boyfriend," It rolls of his tongue, and his smile reaches his eyes. Juniper hasn't seen him like this since high school, and she doesn't even question his sudden homosexuality. There would be a better opportunity to ask him about it, preferably not around the boyfriend in question.
"It's nice to meet you, I'm so glad you two could make it." Juniper says, touching Percy's shoulder lightly before returning to her cleaning.
"Do you know where Grover ended up?" Percy asks, as Nico and he start helping Juniper throw cups into the bag. Most of the damage is cosmetic, and will simply take some elbow grease to get rid of. Considering how many people were in the house last night, Nico thinks she got lucky.
"He passed out by the couch, won't be up for a while." Juniper replies and Nico checks his watch. It's nearly noon, on a Saturday, and the shop should've been open hours ago.
"Percy, we should probably get home," Nico mutters, showing his watch to Percy whose eyes nearly pop out of his head.
Nico wonders how long it has been since Percy has gone on a vacation. He clearly doesn't have any employees, so leaving the store can't be an option but with such a small store taking a day off shouldn't be either.
"Jesus, yeah, nice to see you Juniper," Percy kisses her cheek chastely, before grabbing Nico's hand and starting out the door.
"You too, Percy," Juniper looks startled as they rush out to Nico's car, and Percy makes a mental note to give her a discount next time she comes by.
Nico's car is one of the many still parked around the house, understandably so considering the amount of drunks inside, and they are quickly able to pull out to a main road. Percy fidgets in his seat in a combination of being in a car and being so late to open. Punctuality is one of the few things that he prides himself in, and his belated beginning today is messing with psyche.
The world hasn't ended even though Percy flips the sign to open at half past twelve, and they both breathe a sigh of relief. It's ridiculous that they're opening late the day before Christmas Eve, one of the biggest selling days for stores across the country, but things happen and Percy isn't even having a panic attack so it's really a victory.
While Percy compulsively starts cleaning, Nico decides to take a closer look at some of the items in the store. It's a nice shop, really, and even if he hadn't met Percy he probably would've come back at some point to look around.
There is a plethora of decorated boxes and incomplete tea sets, but his eyes zero in on an old vintage radio on the shelf. It's faded, clearly at least a decade or two old, but he still attempts to turn it on. Unsurprisingly, nothing happens and it's times like this he wishes he was a movie character.
"There are batteries behind the counter," Percy comments, amused at Nico who looks more like a frustrated child with a puzzle instead of a grown man in an antique store. "If you wanted to try to get it going again."
"I think I will," He grins, carefully picking up the radio and carrying it over to the home of the batteries.
A screwdriver is conveniently in a cup full of pencils on the top of the counter, and he scrupulously opens the bottom of the radio. It's not bad, considering how old he guesses the thing is, and the dust in the compartment is manageable. He has never considered himself handy, but maybe he has stumbled upon a talent for putting new batteries in things.
He has to yank the drawer open because it's filled to the brim with all sorts of things, namely a Canadian loonie and a small rubber duck which he generously decides not to mention. There's no kind of organization, just random batteries tucked in here and there so it takes him a couple minutes of digging to find the required three.
Percy is happy to let Nico do whatever he'd like with the radio, since it was just something he picked up at a yard sale and he's happy that Nico's taking some interest in the store. It would be very hard if he hadn't, because Percy spends so much time there and has put so much of his life into it.
He notices as he's adjusting a picture frame that the wallpaper is starting to look scrappy, and he thinks that for Christmas he'll ask for Nico to hire one of those professionals instead of doing it himself (that never goes well anyways). The holiday is right around the corner, and Percy's still lacking any kind of gift for Nico which is terrifying to say the least.
A lot of time has been spent thinking about it, but there's a discrepancy between a big dream of buying him the perfect gift and giving him macaroni art. He knows that Nico's a lot more mature than he is, with a degree that will never go out of fashion and a downtown job but he's still tempted to buy him something silly.
Nico puts the screwdriver back in the cup, flipping the radio upright and hits the button again. A loud beep interrupts Percy from his Christmas worries, hands flying to cover his ears and Nico rushes to turn the volume down.
Once the thing is no longer making the two deaf, he fiddles with the seeker to find something that doesn't just sound like white noise. Eventually, he stumbles upon a Spanish channel and decides that might be the best he can get.
"Can you speak Spanish?" Percy asks, and Nico shrugs. He decides to leave out the fact that he was nearly fluent in high school.
"A little bit here and there," Nico says offhandedly, before looking at up at him. Percy knows that look any day, the smirk matched with bright eyes means he's probably going to do something out of his comfort zone and there's no way he can brace himself for it.
Nico can definitely keep to a beat, even one that is garbled by a bad quality radio and not in English – he's starting to believe it's Portuguese - and he shimmies over to Percy, who was raising his hands in surrender before he had even begun.
"I can't dance," Percy laughs, letting Nico twirl him around nevertheless. Taking the time to listen to the music, the Spanish education he received in high school starts to trickle back in and he slows their dancing to really hear the words.
"This song is pretty dirty." He grins proudly as Percy blushes, not making eye contact as Percy tries to listen to the end of the song and sadly doesn't hear anything that sounds like a swear. It would probably help he actually knew any Spanish.
"Thanks for fixing the radio," Percy chips in, as Nico turns off the radio because as cool as it is, the quality is terrible and slightly painful to their ears.
"No problem, maybe you could hire me as your official antique engineer." Nico suggests, liking the title (even though he has a full time job), and always wanting to humor Percy's obsession with the store.
"I could work with that," Percy says easily, and he's starting to get used to this whole witty banter thing that they get into so often. With Annabeth, it was more like she used really big words when she talked and he awkwardly laughed in the pauses.
It's long after the store's closing time when Nico carries the radio upstairs, placing it on one of the bare dressers that Annabeth used to decorate with books and plants because Percy's trophy for participation in middle school soccer was "childish" and "lacked sophistication" (he worked hard for that damn trophy though).
Christmas time is either lovely or horrid in New York, the weather dictating whether they get a sweet white Christmas or the snow storm for the year. This year it's in the middle, the weather too cold for caroling yet warm enough that you don't need a shovel to dig your car out.
The fight to get Percy a coat was practically a war to the death, full of comments that could be considered harsh if not enveloped in hugs and cheap tricks that would be considered malicious if anyone else tried to pull them.
Inevitably, the boy gets sick before Nico can convince him to just buy new goddamn coat, and Nico delves a little deeper into the world of Percy.
Turns out that when Percy's sick, he doesn't like to admit he's sick so it takes him nearly falling down the stairs (more than usual) to admit to Nico that he's feeling a bit drowsy. Then, he falls asleep on the floor while he's bending down to tie his shoes and Nico has to literally shove the boy into bed.
"I'm fine," Percy shivers out, but even then he's tugging blankets tighter around himself and clenching the hot bowl of soup so tight in his fingers that Nico worries it might break (but then again, Percy would never waste perfectly good soup).
This is the first time Percy allows Nico to mind the shop alone, and it's only because he cannot pull himself out of bed without a head rush and the sudden need to cough up his lungs. He gets better in time, and when he can finally escape his bed he's pleasantly surprised to see the floors have been freshly polished by Nico that morning. Who knew the easiest way to get to Percy's heart was through a sparkling mahogany floor?
Percy's not poor, he could easily buy himself a coat while making ends meet and buying a lifetime supply of pizza rolls but since Nico doesn't even get to pay rent (a current argument which was somewhat lost in the rush of the season) he buys Percy a nice coat.
Nico had wanted to save the coat for a Christmas present, thinking that Percy would at least steal something of his or buy himself something to brave the cold in but the parsimonious boy refused and there went Nico's brilliant Christmas gift.
A Christmas present for Percy is constantly on Nico's mind, nagging him like he forgot to check if he turned the oven off or a scratch that he can't quite reach but by the time Christmas comes, Percy might die of hypothermia so he buys a thick blue jacket and throws some ugly pink sweater away to make room for it in the closet.
The closet has especially benefited since Nico's arrival, with clothes actually on hangers and shelves without a single article of clothing on the floor. There is a cardboard box, duct-taped shut with marks on the sides that make it look like it has gone through a lot and Nico decides he'll let the poor thing stay for a little longer before he installs any new organization system.
Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve, Nico's first vacation day and he may or may not have invited Bianca over without asking Percy first.
Everything seemed to go well when they took Percy out to dinner as an apology, though Percy can be hard to read and that seems like lifetimes ago. He chooses to confront him about it late at night, when he's slightly tipsy from a beer or two with dinner and especially cuddly, clinging to Nico's side like he thinks he won't be there in the morning (or maybe he's just cold, the heater in the house is awful).
"Percy," Nico pauses from where he was playing with Percy's hair, poking his stomach and causing him to stir.
"Nico, it's time for sleeping," Percy murmurs, shifting away from the poke and burrowing his head a little deeper into the sheets.
"I was wondering if you would mind having Bianca over tomorrow?" He says, trying to make his case more convincing by patting Percy's tummy and pulling him a little closer.
Percy tended to become a bit cat-like when he was tired, and he knows that Percy was or will be at least a little scared of Bianca. She's bubbly, overwhelmingly so and Nico knows without saying that Percy's scared of loud noises from the flinching to the jumping but his sister has been begging to come over so here they are.
"When?" Percy responds after a moment, whether it's from hesitation or just general fogginess due to the need of sleep Nico doesn't know and he guesses that's one of the down sides of asking him when he's half asleep.
"Tomorrow, she'll just stop by and we'll talk, maybe have something to eat." He softly runs his fingers along the sliver of skin exposed where Percy's shirt has run up, pleading his case in the best way he knows how.
"If I say yes, can we go to sleep?" Percy slurs, eyes barely cracking open to look up at Nico who's nodding even though he's starting to think this is starting to be considered blackmail. "Fine, now lie down."
"Thanks, you're the best!" Nico pours on the enthusiasm best he can at this time of night, placing an over exaggerated kiss on Percy's cheek before pulling the covers over them. He takes it as a huge success, although he's not sure what tomorrow will bring.
"Yeah, yeah," Percy's trying not to smile, and Nico can see the corners of his mouth tugging to go up but he tucks his face underneath Nico's chin before he has a chance to see the real smile. He doesn't move though- if things keep going like this he'll be able to see Percy smile all the time.
It's no surprise for Nico that Bianca claims credit for their relationship, and in hindsight inviting her for Christmas Eve might have been a risky plan.
Bianca even came in loudly singing some pop song that Nico has heard Percy say explicitly that he didn't like and he rushes to greet her (and quiet her down). She has always been a touchy-feely person, but she's in an especially bright mood and if Nico hadn't grown up with her he'd probably be pretty overwhelmed too as she pulls both of them into strong embraces.
He feels bad for Percy, who clearly has strict boundaries that Nico can barely surpass, and does not take too kindly to Bianca's overfriendly manner of acting. She had only been there for twenty minutes and in the time period she kissed Percy's cheek five times (every time Percy takes a bigger step backwards- the strategy is ineffective).
Percy's trying to be polite, not flinching when the girl makes wild movements with her hands and not squeaking when she leaps in to kiss his cheek but those are all the promises he can make. Bianca's nice, really, and he has grown quite fond of her but she's a lot to handle.
"Nico!" She shouts out in the middle of Percy's sentence and he guesses that's one way to say that he's not very interesting. He already knew that his story about a music box in the store wasn't very interesting, but he doesn't think it was that bad. Nico eyes his sympathetically, but lets her talk.
"I totally forget to tell you, Zoë is throwing this huge party later tonight, and she's dying to meet you two." Bianca exclaims, and Percy takes a step into Nico.
"We can't go," He mumbles, "Tomorrow's Christmas we can't go," He insists, gripping tight on Nico's coat with one hand as the other stays clenched by his side.
Percy's Christmas present to Nico is something that he spent far too much time on, and if it was for anyone else he would be slightly ashamed. But this will be their first Christmas, and it's important that everything goes well. Everything has to go well.
Nico knows that Percy doesn't have the same social skills that most people have, too quiet and polite to ever speak up for himself so when Percy outright turns his back to Bianca- it's a warning sign.
"Sorry Bianca, we've got Christmas plans for tomorrow." Nico says, trying to be gentle with her and at the same time keep a firm grip on Percy's arm, like he's anchoring Percy's feet to the floor.
"You guys are no fun," She pouts, but she gives Percy a little more breathing room and gives Nico a look like she's going to have a serious conversation with him the second she gets the chance. He's not sure if Percy's hiding behind him or the other way around anymore.
Bianca's great at small talk, a piece of gossip or some slightly risqué joke on the tip of her tongue and a smile constantly on her face. She's good at keeping things light, even when she accidently brings up Percy's mother and has to make a quick save by running away to make everyone tea.
Thankfully, she leaves around six with promises of some sort of drunk call later in the evening and only kisses Nico's cheek. She leaves Percy with a light clap on the shoulder and a genuine smile.
"What sort of plans do you have for Christmas?" Nico asks, flipping the finished piece of grilled chicken onto a plate and joining Percy at the kitchen table. The recipe is one that Jason used to use before football season when he was trying to gain some weight, and he's hoping it will work for Percy.
Percy holds back a frown at the chicken, acclimated to pizza rolls and sugary cereals but he puts on a brave face, stabbing a piece with his fork.
"It's our first Christmas together; I just thought we should have a proper one." Percy grabs another giant bite of the chicken, which is well-cooked but still not as good as the greasy food he has learned to love. He's shrugging, hoping Nico won't push too hard because he's terrible with secrets and it would be horrid to let slip what he got him for Christmas.
"When did you become such a cheeseball?" Nico scoffs, because he is totally not turning a little pink and he's absolutely not feeling totally and completely enamored in the boy beside him. Nope, that does not happen.
Percy would have some brilliant comeback, but he's currently trying to eat the chicken without grimacing and doing an awful job of it. Nico rolls his eyes, taking a bite of the chicken to prove that he's simply being childish and nearly spits it out because that is most certainly not a healthy substitute to fried chicken with all the exploding flavors!
The chicken sits like a stalemate between the two of them. Nico could own up to the fact that it's repugnant or he could take it like a man, the latter with clearer benefits because Percy's most certainly not at a healthy weight right now. He caves, tossing the chicken in the trash and flips Percy the bird when he cheers (it's a playful middle finger though, and after he ruffles his hair before kissing the top of his head – there's nothing wrong with being domestic).
They end up ordering Chinese from some place down the street, and the delivery guy doesn't speak English so they hope that says something about the authenticity of the food. It does not, and most of it tastes like they literally solidified grease; Percy enjoys it until Nico tosses it into the trash.
"Why are Chinese places so expensive?" Nico complains, thumbs moving quickly over his screen as he searches for a better option. It's edging on eight o'clock, and by now they should probably just forget the idea of Chinese food but they're nothing if not determined. "I mean this one's fifty bucks just to get the dumplings and two meals, what the hell is so good about their dumplings?"
"Are you willing to sell your soul for fifty dollars?" Percy's ask, off topic and sprawled out on the couch beside Nico, not really worried about the situation but curious to see how far they're willing to go for healthier Chinese takeout.
They end up paying about fifteen dollars for dumplings, and Nico goes to pick it up instead of getting the extremely expensive delivery boy. He doesn't leave a tip, and when he gets home Percy's fast asleep.