What Colour is the Sea
A bare moment passes between Percy considering and Percy doing.
Nico thinks Percy could have paused for a whole year and it still wouldn't have been enough time to brace himself.
He hadn't even meant it. Not like this.
Jason doesn't even look startled. That might just be his face, to be fair; Nico doesn't know him all that well, and he is kind of the stoic type… but somehow he doesn’t think so. He thinks Jason saw this coming. Maybe they even arranged it in advance—no, belay that, Percy's too impulsive and wide-open to pull off something so organized, so orchestrated as this. Maybe they have an empathy link for some reason. Maybe Jason is more observant that Nico gave him credit for. Maybe… maybe a lot of things.
It's kind of hard to think when he's sandwiched between them, practically sitting on Jason's lap, watching from an awkward low angle as Percy kisses Jason like he's been waiting years for the chance. (Maybe he has. So many maybes; Nico can't keep track.)
"I didn't—" he tries to say, but the words run into each other in his throat and subside.
I didn't mean it, he tries.
What about Annabeth?
That's no good either. Percy and Annabeth are still in love, but they're not together anymore, not in the way that requires whole and total fidelity. Annabeth spends a lot of time at the Roman camp these days. Nico's there a lot too, and he's seen the way Reyna looks at her, and the way Annabeth's always careful to be looking somewhere else when people are watching. She'll still kiss Percy when she comes back, and he'll enthusiastically kiss her back, and Nico's pretty sure they're best friends for life, but they're not what they used to be. Asking about her now would warrant a confused look at best.
I seriously didn't mean it.
It's too late for that already. Percy's hand is creeping up under the hem of his black t-shirt, and Jason has one stereotypically perfect arm clamped around his waist from behind, and they're so focused on each other they seem to have almost forgotten he's there.
"Uh," he says at last, and rejoices when the sound actually leaves his stupid uncooperative mouth and gets their attention.
"Hm?" says Percy, breaking away to look down at him. Then, with a grin that Nico would probably have punched off anyone else's mouth: "So? Did it work?"
"I didn't mean it literally, you morons," Nico says.
"Oh," say Percy and Jason in unison, looking up to meet each other's eyes. "Oh well."
Then Percy's eyes are back on him, and he's pretty sure Jason's are too, and suddenly the art of breathing escapes him.
Percy looses his hand from Jason's forearm to carefully run it through the hair at Nico's temple and rest it against the side of his face. "Still. Did it work?"
It did. Nico has no idea how to admit that without dying of embarrassment. "Uh." He manages a nod.
Percy grins at him, as bright and devastating as lightning. The smile vanishes as quickly as it appeared, though, and the thoughtful expression that replaces it is even worse. "Would you freak if I… uh."
Nico can see the rest of the question written on Percy's face and has no idea how to answer that, either. It's like he totally forgot how to do the person thing when Jason pulled him back into his chest and Percy leaned in, a year ago. Two minutes. Close enough. "Uh."
"If you don't like it, you can just say so," Jason murmurs in his ear. "Don't worry. It'll be okay."
Nico watches his impending doom with a kind of detached fascination. His doom has dark hair, and eyes that people would probably describe as "sea green," which he privately thinks is stupid. The sea is a million colours, depending on where you stand and where the sun hangs and what lives there and what rivers run into it. The colour of Percy's eyes does belong to the sea, though: the green of cold northern shallows, where the mountains run down. Annabeth always calls him "seaweed-brain," and that fits, too. So maybe it's not so stupid. Sea-green isn't a colour, it's a spectrum, and Percy's eyes are on it somewhere, so it's… okay, probably.
And that's all academic and cowardly distraction, because Percy's closed his eyes anyway and has two fingers brushing the back of Nico's neck while the rest curl around the hair behind his ear, and his mouth is softer than Nico expected, and years of fantasies never came close to this.
If not for Jason's reassuring solidity at his back he might have run for it. He's been through some pretty intense stuff in his life, but he's never been in love before, and he was lying, lying, lying through his pretty pearly whites when he told Jason he was over Percy, back in Europe. He'd only said it to avoid having Jason on his tail all the time, telling him to confess, get it off his chest already. He hadn't understood who Jason was at the time. He could tell the truth now, if he had the chance, but how's he supposed to say anything with Percy Jackson's hand in his hair and Percy Jackson's tongue saying an enthusiastic hello and Percy Jackson this incredibly close? How's he supposed to do anything but slump into Jason's arms and drown?
He realizes he has his hands fisted in Percy's purple t-shirt—he alternates between purple and orange these days, and neither of them should be his colour but he pulls them off and it's so obnoxious, Nico can't even begin to address it—and he's making weird squeaky noises under his breath. He hasn't had anything to drink that was remotely alcoholic, not in the last month at least, but he remembers what it felt like when they got into Mr. D's stash and it's not far off, honestly. He has no self-control at all, and his head is swimming, and he'll probably wake up tomorrow… well, wishing he could forget, probably.
Percy may not have a girlfriend, exactly, but Nico's pretty sure he's not in the market for a boyfriend. And Jason sort of does have a girlfriend, though they're nothing like Percy and Annabeth were.
Piper's spent the past few years discovering her power and her limits as a daughter of Aphrodite, and while Nico's sure she loves Jason, he's also sure it's not the one-and-only kind of love. Jason is hers, named and claimed, but she isn't exactly his. Nobody at either camp can make heads or tails of what they are to each other, but Nico's pretty sure he doesn’t have to worry about Piper murdering him for this.
Pretty sure. Mostly sure.
Even so, he would bet that neither of them are going to be interested in anything much beyond tonight, right now, when it comes to him, and it sucks. It sucks so much.
Percy's getting inventive with his tongue, and Jason has both hands under his shirt now, and everything sucks.
Everything but this. He can't tell them to stop. He just can't.
"You okay?" Jason whispers, way too close to his ear.
"Fine," says Nico, around Percy.
"Mm," says Percy, "is that so," says Percy, "maybe I’m not trying hard enough," says Percy, and suddenly he's gone.
Nico reaches out for him, blindly, bereft, and finds him halfway down Nico's chest. The hand that was in Nico's hair a moment ago has teleported to somewhere dangerous. Percy's breath is hot and damp, Nico can feel it through his thin t-shirt, and he's is stuck in a moment of anticipation and agony, and this is really unfair.
This is a very bad idea. He knows it. Percy should know it. Jason, thankfully, definitely knows it, and puts a hand on Percy's shoulder. "Hey, man, maybe you shouldn't—"
"It's fine," says Percy, and the discussion is suddenly over before it could start, and now his mouth is going somewhere dangerous, following his hand, full speed ahead.
"Nico?" Jason asks, concerned.
Nico has no answer. He has no words. He feels like one giant vibrating nerve, trembling at the mere foresight of the touch he knows is coming.
He's never heard anything filthier than the high serrated groan of his zipper coming undone, or the sound he makes to accompany it. Whole new realms of filth, here. He's seen some pretty hairy things in the far corners of Hades' realm, but it's really different when he's an uncomfortable participant rather than an uncomfortable observer.
"Percy," he gasps, giving up on any pretense of self-control or grace. "Percy, please—"
Percy's a pretty obliging guy, all right, in the right circumstances.
Nico throws his head back onto Jason's shoulder, reaching back to clutch at his shirt, searching for some kind of stability in the storm. Jason's not a big help, though, because he's sucking in one breath after another like they're hard to find—and harder to catch—and he's trembling against Nico's back, and one of his hands has wandered to the back of Percy's neck to encourage him, and the whole world is conspiring against Nico's self-control, apparently.
He's tempted to swear, but the gods are related to him so calling their names in vain at a time like this feels weirdly incestuous, and he's never been one for the more abstract modern inventions, and anything he remembers from his era would be embarrassingly anachronistic. He settles for high-pitched keening noises in the back of his throat, which probably sound ridiculous, but he has to do something with his voice or it'll cut him open.
Jason presses a kiss to the side of his throat, and another to the taut stretch of muscle where his throat meets his shoulder, and his gentleness contrasted with Percy's relentless tide is almost too much. Almost. Almost.
"Percy," he gasps, "Jason," using their names in lieu of the gods' because he has to say something or he'll explode and he can't find anything else.
"It's okay, Nico," Jason says. "It's okay, it's okay."
He's been holding himself together by picturing the day after, picturing seeing them both in camp and trying to meet their eyes and the (probably) inevitable misery of humiliation or hurt—one or the other—but Jason's voice is inexorable as the wheeling of stars and he can't anymore. There have been so many things he's failed to do already, so many times he just couldn't manage. What's one more failure in light of all that history?
"Percy," he moans, curling forward around Percy's head, shaking fingers and shuddering breath. Jason follows, wrapping one hand around Nico's forehead and tightening the one around his waist to keep him steady, to bear him out through the tempest.
Percy's left hand dances up his spine, soundlessly laughing, even as his right drags Nico's hips closer and down.
"It's okay, it's okay," Jason says, and the words have devolved into meaningless syllables at this point but Nico still needs to hear them, still needs to know that he'll be forgiven for this.
Nico falls a very long way.
Eventually, the tide that is Percy rises again, looking wickedly self-satisfied. He leans his forehead against Nico's shoulder. "Hey," he says. "If anybody ever does it better, let me know so I can try and beat the record, okay?"
"Fuck you," Nico says, but there's nothing behind it but languor and exhaustion.
"Anytime," says Percy, because he has to ruin everything.
"Go home," Jason says, chiding. "Nico, you can stay here for tonight if you want."
Jason has the Zeus cabin to himself whenever he visits Camp Half-Blood, which is often. Faced with the choice between staying where he is, warm and comfortable in Jason's arms, and trudging outside to the Poseidon cabin and the stertorous company of Percy's visiting half-brother, or to the intolerably well-populated swelter of the Hermes cabin… not much of a choice, really.
"Okay," he says.
"Sleep tight," Percy says, leaning forward to kiss the corner of Nico's mouth before standing up. "You know where to find me if you need me."
"As if I would."
Percy laughs soft and low as he walks out, and Nico gathers that sound close to his chest and keeps it safe. Tomorrow might be terrible, depending on how badly one or more of the concerned parties takes things after sleeping on it.
That's tomorrow, though, and right now it's still barely midnight and Jason is cradling him like he means to shield Nico from the entirety of every existing world, and that's nice. That's really nice.
Nico tucks his head under Jason's chin and listens to Jason's heartbeat get slower and steadier, and lets his own follow it into sleep, death's warmest shadow.
It'll be okay. He's never known Jason to lie to a friend.