To Percy, it’s a no-brainer.
“I want a family,” he blurts out to Annabeth. It’s late when he says this, when the three of them are huddled in their bed together. It's another night, another close call. They’ve had too many of those. Tonight it’s Nico who’s sleeping with a glass of nectar within arm’s reach; Percy knows the reason he’s still awake is because if he closes his eyes he’ll relive it over and over and his nerves can’t take that.
“What?” Annabeth asks, her voice hushed. There usually isn’t a lot of talking on nights like this.
“You heard me." His tone picks up confidence. He’s been thinking about this for a long while. “I want a family.”
Annabeth’s eyes are wide, and even though there’s not a lot of light filtering through the room, Percy can see her fear. “Percy,” she whispers, because they’ve talked about this, but it’s never been asked for this way; it’s always been acknowledged in a “someday, probably” sort of sense. “There’s a lot to think about. To worry about – we’re not naïve – we know the risks –”
Percy reaches across and fumbles for her hand in the dark, resting across her stomach. When he grasps it his fingers clench in the fabric of her nightshirt. “What’s more permanent than a family, Annabeth?”
“In a literal sense?” she asks, her breath hitching. “Lots.”
She probably hadn’t realized that he remembered that conversation, has no clue that it’s seared into his memory the same way he knows the feel of Riptide balancing in his hand or the scent of her old lemon shampoo or the taste of Nico’s lips the first time the younger man hesitantly pressed forward. It was the first time he’d really felt like the clouds had cleared from his view of Annabeth and he’d really understood what she wanted and needed and how he could provide it for her.
Before she can answer Nico stirs; both Percy and Annabeth unconsciously hold their breaths, turning their heads to look at him. He mutters something blearily, only-half awake, and Annabeth reaches over and strokes the hair at the base of his neck.
“What do you think, Nico?” she asks kindly. “Do you want a family?”
He takes so long to answer that Percy assumes he’s dropped back off. Finally he mumbles, mostly into his pillow, “Thought we already were a family.”
Annabeth snorts. “The kind with babies,” Percy explains.
“Oh…” Nico shifts again and sighs. “Okay.”
Annabeth raises her eyebrows at Percy. “Does his consent still count if his judgment is impaired?”
To Annabeth, it’s as though she’s carrying the world on her shoulders all over again.
“No, I don’t want to move this to the bedroom,” she laughs while Percy kisses her neck. He’s got her cornered against the counter while she’s trying to peel carrots for dinner and he’s doing that thing where he pins her with his hips and wraps all the way around her so that she feels like she’s simultaneously drowning in him and anchored firmly to him.
“Are you sure?” he asks, his breath hot against her skin. “This’ll only take a few minutes, we’d be done before dinner’s ready. Here, we can just do it on the kitchen table –”
“It’s not worth it, Annabeth,” Nico calls, pretending to be flipping through the newspaper but really watching Percy’s come-on attempt closely to see who will be victorious. Nico likes to watch the two of them and pick sides accordingly; if Percy wins, the chances of him getting laid as well go up exponentially, but if she manages to hold out, Annabeth knows, he can claim superiority over Percy in his ability to keep it in his pants. “You’ll bruise, and the table’s wobbly.”
“After dinner,” she tells Percy, wriggling in his arms to lay a warning hand on his chest. “Later.”
She needs to relax, first. There’s a difference, she’s learned, between having sex and Trying to have Sex. The sense of anticipation that’s been hanging over their house their last few months has turned the former into the latter, and the sense of responsibility she feels to both of the boys – and herself; she wants this – makes it difficult for her to completely lose herself in the experience.
“Come on Percy,” Nico calls in a patient tone, standing up. He disentangles Percy from Annabeth and kisses him hard before pushing him back into one of the kitchen chairs. “Dinner first, then dessert.”
He turns his gaze on Annabeth, his dark eyes wide and serious, and gives her one of those looks that both runs a chill up her spine and makes her knees weak. It’s one of those looks that means he’s reading way more about her than she’s projecting, like he knows her beginning and her end and he wants her right here and now in this middle. She has no idea how Nico does that but he reaches out and gently pulls the peeler from her hands, pushes her towards the kitchen table. “I’ll finish these,” he volunteers.
“Oh no.” Annabeth wheels back around to face the counter again. “If I walk away Percy will get all grabby again.”
“Fine, fine,” Nico sighs, like he’s doing her a favor. “I’ll allow you to help me finish making dinner.”
She squeezes in close to him, and a minute later, unable to resist the temptation, Percy returns to wrap his arms around both of them. And there’s something satisfying, Annabeth admits, about having Nico pushed up against one hip and Percy pressed against her back.
“Maybe,” Percy suggests, “we’re thinking about it the wrong way. Maybe this is dinner, and our dinner is dessert.”
Annabeth shares a side-long glance at Nico, who looks about as amused as she feels. “That doesn’t make any sense!” she protests, but this time, when Percy kisses her, she doesn’t push him away.
To Nico, it’s fun to have a little secret all his own.
As a child he was annoying and chatty, while he spent the majority of his teen years embracing the weird, quiet mold. With Percy and Annabeth he’s some mutated version of the two, and so neither one is alarmed whenever Nico makes a swing back towards weird and quiet.
He can’t bring himself to spoil this though – and normally he’s not this nice, because he gleefully spoils the endings of books and movies to Percy and Annabeth all the time – because some part of him recognizes that it’ll be worth it whenever Annabeth finally wises up and realizes what’s going on.
Sometimes he thinks it’s easy for them to forget that he’s a son of Hades, a son of the Big Three – or at least it’s not constantly in the forefront of their minds the way it is with Percy, who practically walks around wearing a sign declaring himself Son of Poseidon, Prophecy Child – and that being a son of Hades grants him his own set of special powers that normal demigods don't have.
It was a little traumatizing, during the war, watching life aura after life aura wink out during that final battle of Olympus, and he still recalls the draining terror of watching Rachel Dare’s aura flicker as she took on the Oracle before roaring back, more powerful than ever.
This might be, he thinks, the absolute best use of the power he’s given as a son of Hades.
He can only see it at night, in the dark, and it’s still so tiny and tenuous but it’s there, and that’s all that counts.
There’s another life aura.
He likes this secret. It’s possibly the best secret he’s ever kept in his life, and Nico isn’t really the sort who keeps secrets, not when it’s too easy to act on them and spoil others.
This one though. This one he’s going to keep a little longer, and maybe he'll pay closer attention when he asks Annabeth how her day was.
To Percy, it’s a no brainer.
When he arrives home from work, there’s an entire flock of owls who’ve taken up residence along the power lines outside of his home. And they’re all looking at him while he jiggles his key in the lock.
He’s no expert in ornithology, but he can recognize a sign from Athena when he sees one.
When he walks into the house, the first thing he sees is Nico standing between the couch and the window that faces the front of their house, as if he can’t decide where he’d rather be. When Percy gets closer, he can see that it’s because Annabeth is sprawled across the couch, a washcloth across her face.
He clears his throat and loosens his tie. “Is there something you want to tell me?”