Title: Underneath the Glow of Twinkling Lights
Word Count: ~5,300
Summary: His breath is warm against her cheeks and she feels her hip brush against his as he twirls her, and this is certainly the closest she's been to him since… well, since before he'd disappeared for eight months.
Underneath the Glow of Twinkling Lights
She'd be lying if she said she hadn't missed him, and she's not one to lie, so she's just going to stay put and not say anything.
Jason seems to think otherwise, though.
She's not really sure how he manages to find her the second he's arrived, but no sooner than she's looked away from the Senator that roped her into conversation and spots him walking down the marble steps into the forum, Dakota and Frank at his side, Jason turns his head and meets her gaze. She knows it's him, even behind the mask. She'd recognized that disheveled blonde hair anywhere, as frustratingly perfect as she remembers it, even after it'd been caked in dirt and matted with sweat after a particularly rigorous War Game.
There are no less than a hundred people in the courtyard right now and it's a masquerade. How the two of them had managed to make eye contact without even trying to find each other is beyond her, but she's a little relieved that Jason gets stopped by someone calling his name, giving her a chance to slide her mask over her eyes again and look away.
He looked like he was determined to reach her and she's not quite ready for that yet.
She's not sure if she'll ever be.
He's stayed at Camp Half-Blood for a year and a half, and in the three months since he came back, she's only seen him a handful of times, all of them in passing. She wasn't running late on any of those days, but she knows that, having experienced the schedule of a praetor himself, he can't really argue otherwise whenever she gave him that excuse.
Tonight, though, she can't run.
A few minutes later, she feels hand grasp her wrist and someone say over her shoulder, "If you don't mind, Senator, I'm going to steal Reyna from you."
Though, rather than panicking, Reyna turns and smiles widely at the girl lacing their fingers together. Gwen gives a charming smile to the Senator and doesn't even wait for a reply before tugging Reyna away into the crowd.
"I have been looking everywhere for you," Gwen says over the noise, drawing stares that the girl ignores, of course. Reyna chuckles and shakes her head. If it's one thing she's always loved about Gwen, even before they became best friends, it's the girl's attitude. She's bubbly in an endearing away, full of energy that's pure confidence rather than childishness.
She misses her.
If it's anything she really needed over the last few months with everything that's happened and all that's changed, it's her best friend. But Reyna would never do something like bother the Gwen with her problems while she's at college and trying to focus on a future outside of Camp.
Gwen pulls her away from the crowd, down a short cobblestone pathway until they're sitting on a bench surrounded by crescent of plants and twinkling lights. It's basically as away from the party as they're going to get and it's enough for Reyna right now, because she hadn't realized how much she needed to get off of her stilettos. Gwen fans herself with the hand that's not still holding onto Reyna's and laughs a bit for no particular reason. Reyna pushes her hair off of her shoulders and takes a deep breath, enjoying the chilled air.
"You ought to wear dresses more often," Gwen says suddenly.
Reyna laughs a little and slides her free hand over the lace skirt of the evening gown Hazel had picked out for her. Reyna had liked it enough when she'd first tried it on, though compared to Gwen's glittering champagne satin gown, it seems rather plain now. "They're not really my thing," she admits.
"Of course not, because Jupiter forbid you actually wear something that shows off those amazing legs or how you manage to be both curvy and skinny at the same time," Gwen says, waving her hand dismissively when Reyna rolls her eyes. "Then again, your beauty would be too distracting for everyone at Camp and then get everyone in New Rome killed."
"How would I get everyone killed?"
"Well, Paris's infatuation with Helen of Troy started the Trojan War and I've seen artists' depictions of her." Gwen leans in, nudging Reyna with her elbow. "You're much prettier."
"Gwen," Reyna says.
Reyna shakes her head again and then looks at her as Gwen's laughter trails off, her smile fading a bit. "He's here tonight, you know." She says it so quietly that Reyna thinks for a second that she'd imagined it. "Of course you already knew that, right?"
It's a statement rather than a question, though. Of course she knew. It's the first major celebration that's been thrown since he moved back. He wasn't going to miss it.
"I saw him a little before you'd gotten to me."
"You talked with him?"
"No, I saw him walk in. Gwen," she says so the girl meets her eyes. "You don't have to babysit me."
"I'm your best friend. Since you're not going to be petty and childish about this, I'm going to." Gwen squeezes their joined hands. "Besides, this is for my sanity, too. I actually missed the idiot when he moved away, but now if I'm around him for too long, I end up wanting to slap him. Especially since I know you're the one who deserves to but you won't."
"I might," Reyna corrects.
Gwen lifts her eyebrows, looks genuinely surprised. "You're kind of serious," she says, more to herself than anything, and then stands up suddenly. "Come on. We're going to find Dakota. Maybe if he and I can get enough drinks into you, you'll actually do it."
She's alone for no more than a minute when she feels a soft material brush against her bare shoulder, and she doesn't even have to look up from the hors d'oeuvres spread know who's standing beside her. She almost doesn't look up, because the part of her that does want to be petty about everything is kind of all she can hear in her head right now, but she does, anyway, because a larger part of her really wants to. It's been about a half hour since he arrived and she's not sure if she's grateful or disappointed that it took him so long to come up to her.
His dark red mask makes his eyes so much brighter. It's unfair, really.
"You look beautiful, Rey," he tells her, sounding… breathless. She watches as his eyes take in everything, from the heels she doesn't remember buying to the intricate braid she'd put her hair in. She's not really sure why he looks so surprised considering he's seen her dressed up for senate-held events very similar to this one before.
He flinches ever so slightly at the curtness of her tone and she feels guilty. It's stupid for so many reasons, but she can't help it.
"Hazel picked out the dress," she continues, hoping she sounds as polite and conversational as she's trying to be. "It's not particularly my style, but…"
"Yes, because Jupiter only knows why you won't wear anything that actually show off your figure."
She tilts her head slightly, meeting his eyes. Part of her feels irritated. He's acting far too casually with her, talking easily with her as if their history was far less complicated than it actually was. She knows that that's supposed to be a good thing, that they can co-exist enough without the awkwardness, but the petty side of her had kind of hoped he'd feel ashamed – or at the very least nervous or abashed – to be in her presence after everything. But, of course he isn't,and it's hardly fair, if fairness was something she still cared for.
So she finds herself smilingat him despite it all, even laughing a little, because he sounds so much like Gwen in that moment. It's understandable considering that those two have been close since forever, long before Reyna entered the picture.
"So, how've you been?"
Oh, for gods sakes.
She presses her lips together, pretending to be momentarily distracted as a woman's laughter cuts through their conversation.
She'd been avoiding him for this exact reason. Polite conversation, she could handle, but she knows Jason. His infuriatingly friendly personality would make him feel as if he still needs to check up on her, because she knows that he still sees that girl Gwen and Dakota brought back to Camp Jupiter one day with shredded clothes and cuts and bruises all over her body. He has always felt the need to take care of everyone, to protect them, and it was admirable in a leader. It was endearing in a friend, if a little suffocating, and once upon a time, she relented and began to think that all of his persistent efforts to get her to warm up to him were actually kind of sweet. She allowed herself to take a liking to him.
Look how well that ended.
So, no, she wasn't exactly looking forward to him asking her a dozen questions on how she's doing, especially since he'll want her to talk about how she's feeling rather than just updating him on her agendas and the specifics of her paperwork. He hardly deserves to know what's going on in her head anymore.
"Gwen has been spending a lot of time with Dakota," she tells him, because that topic's a safe enough distance from her personal life. Plus, it pertains to him, sort of.
His eyebrows shoot up and he smiles, looking pleasantly surprised. She shrugs one shoulder. Truthfully, she's known the two of them have been sleeping with each other since the begging of summer. It's the middle of fall now and she is surprised that one of them hasn't caved yet and admitted that their relationship is much more than friends with benefits.
"Really?" he asks. She nods. "I had a hunch, but… wow. Good for them."
"Those two have always been interesting," she agrees. "It's been going on since late June, or at least, that's when I found out. They still claim that they're not in anything, though."
"Then I give it until Thanksgiving."
"Before they end it?"
"Before they suck it up and admit they're in a relationship." She chuckles but doesn't say anything else, taking a sip of her drink and watching as he blinks in surprise, staring at the glass in her hand as if he's only now noticed it. "Since when did you drink? You're not even—"
"Gwen can be very convincing when she wants to be," Reyna admits with a shrug. "And it's just one glass of wine. That's like water to a Roman."
He doesn't look convinced. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"I'll be fine."
He flinches at her tone again but she doesn't care as much about it as she did before. He lets out a sigh. "Reyna—"
"Reyna!" a voice interrupts, and Reyna looks over her shoulder as Gwen slips from the crowd. She looks like she's about to announce something, but then stops when she notices that Reyna isn't alone. "Jason," she says needlessly, blinking, and she looks between him and Reyna like she's not sure if she should be happy or worried to see him. "Hi."
There's a brief moment of something (disappointment?) that flashes across Jason's face at Gwen's interruption before he dissolves into a wide smile. That's the kind of smile you'd give to an old friend. If he'd smile at Reyna like that, maybe it'd be easier for the both of them to move on.
"Hey," he greets. Gwen beams, letting him pull her into a hug, and then he holds her at arm's length as he looks over her dress. "You look great, Gwen."
"So do you," she replies, ruffling his hair. He chuckles. "In fact, you look so charming right now I may just forgive you for not coming to find me as soon as you arrived."
"Sorry. I just…"
He trails off, looking unsure of how to respond. Gwen meets Reyna's eyes, raises both eyebrows, and Reyna knows without needing to hear the question that the girl's wondering whether she should be getting rid of herself or Jason right now.
She's not really sure of the answer.
"Jason!" Dakota appears suddenly with Bobby at his heels and claps a hand to Jason's shoulder. "I've been looking everywhere for you, man."
"Lovely," Gwen blurts out, sounding entirely too cheerful for the situation. Dakota looks at her with a strange expression as Bobby looks at Reyna, eyes widening slightly. Dakota starts saying something to Gwen until his eyes land on Reyna and the words die on his tongue.
"Um…" Dakota says.
Gwen glares, practically threatening him to not continue his thought out loud. He presses his lips together.
And then no one says anything.
Honestly, this is much worse than actually talking about it.
And… well, she's probably going to end up regretting this, but she just really needs to be away from the three of them right now because – though she loves them for the efforts – they're making the issue a lot more complicated than it needs to be… than it already is. So she looks at Jason, waits for him to meet her eyes and asks, "Would you like to dance?"
He blinks, surprised, but then replies, "Yes," in this hushed tone, like he can't get the word out fast enough. (She pretends like it doesn't make her as happy as it actually does.)
He takes her hand when she holds it out for him and suddenly she's not sure if this is such a good idea, because his skin feels calloused and warm against hers and while they've only held hands a few times (which no one else knows about), she finds herself missing it. He's holding onto her a little more tightly than she remembers he would as he brings her a little closer to the center of the clearing that's become the dance floor, far enough that she's lost sight of the bewildered expressions on Gwen, Dakota and Bobby's faces as they walked away. He comes to a stop before turning her a bit until they're facing, and, rather than hesitating like she thought he might, he just slides his free hand over her waist and pulls her closer to him as she lays her arm against his shoulder.
And then they're dancing.
They're not pressed up against each other like almost every other couple around them, but his breath is warm against her cheeks and she feels her hip brush against his as he twirls her, and this is certainly the closest she's been to him since… well, since before he'd disappeared for eight months.
That feels much longer ago than it actually was.
"I'm sorry about earlier," she says after a long moment. She's not really sure why she's apologizing, though. "Gwen's just… She makes a bigger deal out of things than she should."
"She's protective of you. Trust me, I know the feeling." He lets out an empty laugh as he shakes his head. "She's just protecting you from me this time around."
"Well, it's unnecessary."
"It is?" he asks. She nods. "Why?"
She looks away. "I don't want to talk about this, Jason."
"I think we need to, Reyna."
"I think I don't owe you anything." It comes out in a whisper, because she just knows if she talks any louder, she may end up yelling or crying or both. She doesn't want to do that with hundreds of people and a party going on around them. "Jason, just… just drop it." She meets his eyes. "I don't want to argue. Let's just dance. Please?"
For a second, she thinks he's going to press on, anyway, because Jason's nothing if not stubborn when he wants to be. They wouldn't have been as close as they were before if he wasn't so persistent.
But he just smiles kind of sadly, nods and twirls her again.
Sometimes she hates how considerate Jason is, because then maybe he wouldn't have insisted on walking her home. And of course one of the senators they'd worked with as praetors commented that Jason was still as much of a gentleman as ever, looking at Reyna like he'd be disappointed if she didn't act like a proper lady and accept the gesture.
She didn't really have a choice.
And, okay, maybe she did have a choice whether or not to invite him inside once they'd gotten to hers and Gwen's villa. But she knows (has known all night) that Jason will want to talk about everything, and at least they're alone right now. She'd rather not have this discussion with Gwen home or out in public with everyone around them.
"Are you thirsty?" she asks to be polite. He shakes his head, follows her into the living room and then grabs onto her elbow to steady her when her heel slides across the tiled floor.
"Time to get out of those heels?" He's trying to be casual, she knows, but she just pulls her elbow from his grasp and continues walking. "Reyna…"
"Thank you for catching me."
"That's not what I meant. Please, don't just… don't do this." She meets his eyes. "Don't treat me like a stranger."
"I wouldn't let a stranger come into my villa in the middle of the night," she replies, even though she knows that's not what he'd meant, either. He frowns. "Jason, I'm tired," she breathes, because she's not feeling as strong as she thought she could be to talk about this, to talk about them, whatever that may mean anymore.
"Be mad at me, Reyna. I know you are." She takes a breath to protest but he continues. "You are. Of course you are. You have every right to be, but don't just hold it in. Don't act like we're strangers. Be mad at me, Reyna," he says again. "You used to be so cruel to me when we first met when it wasn't even my fault, and now that it is—"
"You want me to fight back?" she guesses. "Will that make you feel better, to see me undone?" He (wisely) does not answer. "Why would you rather I be mad than accepting?"
She blinks at the outburst, unconsciously taking a step back.
It didn't feel as if he was yelling at her, but just in frustration, releasing everything he'd been trying to hold back for Jupiter knows how long. He reaches for her and, surprisingly, she doesn't even flinch away when he touches her arm. It's dark in the villa, with nothing but the faint light from the moon and the stars outside coming in through the large windows to keep it from being pitch black, but her eyes have adjusted and she has no problem seeing the blueness of his eyes or the expression on his face – exasperated, tired, desperate.
"Because," he repeats, softly this time, "you being so okay, so casual around me… It's like you've given up on us. Maybe you have, and I have no right to ask you to not to move on from me, but Reyna… I will literally go completely insane if you don't take everything out on me."
And it's silly, really, that this does make her mad.
"I'm furious with you, Jason." It comes out in this hushed tone, because she knows she really will yell if she tries to raise her voice. She feels her eyes sting and she practically yanks off her mask, having not remembered until that moment that she still had it on. "Don't think for a second that I am okay with any of this. I was so mad when you came back."
"Why?" He knows he doesn't need to ask, but she knows this dance. They've done it before. He's trying to make her angry.
"Because it would've been so much easier if I didn't have to see you!" This time she does yell, throwing her fist against his shoulder. She never acts like this, but as she's frustratingly experienced all night, she can't really help herself. "You think I wasn't going insane while you were gone? I was. But you weren't here anymore! You left on your own choice this time and before you came back, there were weeks at a time where I was busy enough to not even think about you. A year and a half, you were in New York with Piper"—he flinches at the name but Reyna she cares—"and I could've gotten over all of this if you hadn't come back." She shakes her head, looking away and hating how her voice cracks as she asks, "Why did you come back?"
"I couldn't stay away." His voice sounded distant. "I needed to come home."
She's genuinely surprised. "You were homesick?"
"Sometimes home is a person," he tells her, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she wonders what book he might be quoting that from. "I needed to come back to you."
She narrows her eyes. "You were never in love with me, Jason. I know that's what you told Piper."
"Maybe," he says. She blinks, her vision blurring slightly. "And for a while after the war was over and I'd gone to New York, it was fine. I felt… fine. But then I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't concentrate. There were days where I couldn't even look at Piper. I dreamt of you, wondering if you were okay, how you were doing."
"You were probably just feeling guilty. That doesn't mean you were in love with me."
"So why am I here?"
She presses her lips together, unable to answer.
"Maybe you're right and what I felt was just guilt, but it wouldn't have been so intense if there wasn't more, right? Reyna," he says, absently smoothing his thumb over her skin where his hand still held onto her arm. "Whatever it was that I felt while I was in New York… It drove me crazy. Maybe I didn't remember it, or even know it, at the time, but Reyna, I'm—"
"Don't say it!" she yells, startling herself. But Jason didn't so much as flinch at her outburst. "Don't you dare say it."
"You need to hear it, even if it's just this once." She shakes her head, tries to take a step back, but he's holding her in place. "I'm in love with you, Reyna."
And, for the first time since he'd come home, she gives in.
She takes a step towards him, pushing the mask off of his face before setting her hand against his cheek and pressing their lips together. She feels him stiffen in surprise, but then he's sliding his hands over her hips and drawing her closer, as close as physically possible, as she drops her own mask to the floor and combs both hands through his hair. She can taste the chocolate from the chocolate-covered strawberries he'd been eating earlier, and when he swipes his tongue across her lips and makes this noise from the back of his throat, she knows he can taste the wine. He steps forward until her back is against the wall, kissing her harder and making her whimper and grasp his bicep, digging her nails into his arm.
He pulls away, breathless. "Reyna—"
"Don't say a word." She opens her eyes, staring back into his as she whispers, "You're not off the hook, Jason. I'm still incredibly pissed off at you."
But he just smiles and kisses her neck, her breath catching. She knows there's a very real chance that Gwen come home and walk in on them right now, but Jason probably doesn't realize this or maybe just couldn't care less about getting caught, because he slides his hand up the skirt of her dress and runs his fingers over the front of her panties.
She gasps a little. "Jason… Gwen might…"
He hums against her skin before wrapping an arm around her, lifting her off of the wall as her legs wrap around his hips.
They make it to the floor of her bedroom, him kicking the door shut behind him before he lays her against her carpeted floor. Had this been anyone else, any other person, there'd be no way in Pluto that she'd let any of this happen so quickly. Except it is Jason, and honestly, between them, none of this is terribly uncalled for.
So she just brings their lips together again, kisses him harder and angles her hips against his.
He mutters something she doesn't catch and he grinds his hips down against hers, making her gasp again and dig her hand into the carpet. Her skirt's already gathered around her waist, leaving only the thin, wet material of her panties between them as the front of his pants brush against her nerves. Her legs are locked around him so tightly that he has to set a hand on her knee to pry her legs off from around his waist, and when she brings her hands between them to undo the front of his slacks, he grasps her wrists and pulls them away.
He kisses her, and it's strangely gentle and sweet considering he's tugging her panties off of her hips, then he kisses her neck once, twice, three times, sliding his tongue along her pulse as he slides her panties down her legs and tosses them aside. Her breath comes out in this uneven pants and he kisses her lips again before pressing her legs apart.
When his tongue passes through her folds, she lets out this whimper and can't even be bothered to be embarrassed by it, just breathes his name.
He licks slowly all the way up her center before closing his lips around her nerves and her eyelids flutter closed as she tries to roll her hips, only he's got a hand pressing her hip to the carpet and she can't really move at all. He moves his tongue against her lightly a few times and then presses harder. He gathers her skirt in his hands and pushes it completely off of her hips, and when he closes his lips around her clit again, she rolls her hips against him, digging her fingers into the carpet so hard that she feels like she's going to peel it off of the floor.
"Jason," she breathes, and then he flattens his tongue against her nerves and she dissolves into a moan. "Jason."
She can feel his hand moving over her leg, his fingers drawing lightly up the inside of her thigh and making her skin tingle. Then he presses his tongue inside her and passes his thumb over her nerves and she snaps her hips up and lets out a whimper.
He brings her so, so close before stopping, and he does this twice more before passing his tongue lightly against her nerves before pulling away, leaving her practically trembling.
"I love you," he says, like he needs to.
"I love you, too," she breathes, because she knows that, beyond the arousal, it's true. She loves him. Of course she does.
Then he closes his lips around her clit and she gasps as she comes undone, barely making a sound until he starts moving his tongue against her, pulling these whimpers from the back of her throat and dragging out her orgasm. She feels entirely weightless right now and she has to literally push Jason away from her to get him to stop.
He kisses her, hard, pressing his tongue against hers and making her shiver as she tastes herself on him. Her cheeks are flushed, her head dizzy.
Neither of them says anything, not until her breathing slows down a little more and she brings her hands between them, grasping the waistband of his slacks and making this rough groan come from his throat. "Rey, we don't have to…" She kisses him. "I don't have a—"
"I trust you."
He nods and she pushes his pants and boxers down his hips, and then brings her hands up to grasp his biceps as he kisses her again in a way that's completely gentle and sweet and feels somehow innocent despite what they're doing.
Then he sinks into her slowly and she digs her nails into his arms as she moans out his name.
She wakes up in her bed with her back against his chest and his hand covering hers where it's resting against her stomach. Her dress and his tuxedo are tossed haphazardly across her carpet, and because she remembers practically passing out on the floor, Jason must've undressed her and brought her to the bed, pulling the covers over them.
She shifts and feels him hum against her skin, kissing her shoulder. "Don't leave," he mumbles, words slurred together with sleep.
"I'm just going into the kitchen," she tells him.
"Well don't," he replies stubbornly.
She laughs and twists herself in his arms, kisses him on the lips before slipping out from underneath the covers. He blinks a few times, trying to wake up, and gives her this sleepy, stupidly adorable smile as he watches her slip into a clean underwear and bra. They don't even match, but whatever. She grabs her bathrobe from the closet and pulls it on, tugging it closed and knotting it in the front. It has short sleeves and hardly covers passed the middle of her thighs and she ignores the look he gives her as he looks it up and down. He doesn't say anything, doesn't so much as chuckle or even raise his eyebrows, but she knows, anyway, how badly he wants to comment on how much skin she's still showing.
"Shut up," she exhales in a laugh. He grins. "I'm still incredibly mad at you."
He's laughing a little, too, but he knows that she's being serious. "Just making sure," she replies, and then slips her feet into a pair of sandals and walks outside.
She can hear noises coming from the kitchen, Dakota and Gwen arguing as they're trying to make breakfast, and no, unfortunately this is not nearly the first time she's woken up to this particular scene. They both look at her when she walks in and must completely miss the smile Reyna knows she has on, because Reyna can practically feel their worry.
"How're you feeling?" Gwen asks, smiling in that way only she can manage, that's both optimistic and incredibly concerned at the same time.
"Fine," Reyna replies easily, opening the fridge and then shivering against the sudden cold. She pulls out the orange juice inside and shuts the door, setting the pitcher onto the island countertop. "I didn't hear you guys come home last night."
"We just got in this morning," Dakota admits. "Gwen wanted to come over as soon as we woke up."
"Why didn't you just sleep here?"
"We wanted to give you your space," Gwen tells her. She opens her mouth to continue, but then her eyes widen almost comically and she trails off, and Reyna feels an arm wrap around her waist from behind as Jason kisses her hair. Dakota mutters a curse, nearly dropping a piece of (burnt) bacon from the pan. "You wench," Gwen laughs.
"Hey," Jason says half-teasing, half-warning.
"Spill," Gwen orders, pointing a spatula caked in pancake batter at the both of them.
"After breakfast, please." Jason rubs the heel of his hand against his eyes until Reyna bats his hand away, shooting him a look. (Honestly, did he want to get dirt in them?) He chuckles, kisses her cheek and says, "I love you," and then the three of them are wincing at the high-pitched squeal that Gwen lets out.