Five Seven Virtues (And How Nico Corrupted Them All)
001. Υπομονή (Patience)
When Percy walks out of the stables one morning, his hands covered in powdered sugar from feeding Blackjack (got any coffee for me, boss?) and sees Nico engaged in animated conversation with one of the new boys, he’s mostly confused. Nico doesn’t engage in animated conversation with anyone, not even passably-attractive new demigods, which Percy knows because once upon a time, he was the passably-attractive new demigod in Nico’s life and Nico – well, it was pretty much literally a situation of Percy being on fire and Nico having water and selling the water to his dad.
So he walks up behind Nico and wraps his arms around his ribs, resting his chin over Nico’s bony shoulder. “Hey.”
Nico turns his head and he’s actually grinning and Percy would have been a little worried, had Nico not caught his lips in a little bit of a show-offy kiss at that moment.
“You’re getting sugar on my shirt,” Nico says flatly. He threads his fingers through Percy’s sticky ones and moves their hands to his hips instead, just under the hem of his black t-shirt and quite squarely under the hem of societal appropriateness.
The new guy was just kind of staring on awkwardly, like he wasn’t really sure whether he was supposed to walk away, or like, say hi to Percy, or say bye to Nico, or like what was going on, really. Nico liked doing that to people. He was one of those boys who would walk around completely naked in the showers except for a pair of socks, just because it made everyone else feel a little squirmy. It was just one of those things that Nico did.
“Oh,” Nico says blithely, as though he’s just remembered that the boy is still standing there at all, “Percy, this is Jules. He’s in Demeter. So, get this – !” Nico sounds delighted, which makes Percy’s heart start to sink preemptively into his stomach– “So, Jules’ mom is our cousin on my dad’s side, and his sister, who is also our cousin, is my step-mom!”
Percy groans and pushes his boyfriend away, hips first so Nico stumbles a little on the dusty campground and almost falls in a great peal of laughter. Shower, Percy thinks firmly, heading towards Cabin Three at a quick clip. A nice healing shower. Maybe so hot it will burn the Olympian bloodline out of my skin.
“Demeter used to have a thing with your dad!” Nico calls after him, still sounding gleeful.
002. Αγνότητα (Chastity)
Percy’s about to say something indignant, but an elbow in his kidney stops him.
“Give it up, Perseus,” says the son of Hades, shaking his head ruefully. “She’s onto us.”
And Percy kind of gapes at him for a second before he notices the swimming look in Nico’s eye, the kind of dark, naked look that shouldn’t be allowed in almost-fifteen-year-old boys, but is there more often than people tend to choose to remember when they grow up.
And then Percy gets it.
Nico really is a devious little shithead, he’ll give him that.
Sally shakes her head and smacks her son with the bowl-end of a wooden spoon, not hard enough that it’d even kill a fly, before sticking it right back in the pot of bubbling blue-dyed pasta. It would clash horribly with the tomato sauce, but that was okay. She thought she was being so slick, trying to make sure that all of the half-bloods (and one oracle, just to mix things up) who had been marooned in her apartment for the summer got the occasional taste of home. She’d already screwed up Nico with a pomegranate that made him laugh for about two hours until Annabeth hit him in the gut for being insensitive, so a blue Bolognese was going to be Sally’s salvation.
“C’mon, Perseus,” Nico says, shrugging his way out of the kitchen. “Sorry, Mrs. Jackson. It was all Percy’s idea. He led me astray in my tender young age.”
“Nico, aren’t you almost eighty?” Sally asks, her voice flat in that way that only the mothers of teenage boys can achieve.
Nico smiles angelically, which is really sort of ironic every time he does it. Actually, literary-figuratively ironic. “It depends on how you count it.”
The two boys head back to Percy’s bedroom, where Rachel and Annabeth are waiting with bated breath and legs tangled familiarly together.
“So?” Annabeth asks, jumping up and putting her hands consolingly on Percy’s shoulders. As usual, she leaves Nico to fend for himself, but really, Nico totally gets why. He’s not a hundred percent fond of her yet, either, but he’ll like her eventually. Maybe. Probably. Kind of.
Percy sits down at his cluttered desk with a sort of hollow, wooden expression. “I told my mom that I’m gay and have been seeing Nico for months, and she thought it was a conspiracy so I could share my room with you.”
Annabeth tries really hard to look sympathetic. Nico will give her that, at least. “Well, she did walk in on you and me, that one time.”
“She walked in on nothing,” hisses Percy. “You got your shirt back on before she came in.”
“Yeah, but we were under the covers and there were two pairs of jeans on the floor,” Annabeth points out, and Nico’s forehead throbs a little. She has Malcolm now, he reminds himself. She can mack on her brother and leave my cousin alone. Then he kind of winces and tries to rephrase in his head, but the damage is already done.
Rachel just looks bemused, and Nico almost envies the Virgin Oracle of Delphi a little bit for being outside of this whole drama.
Percy heaves this long-suffering sigh like he hates everything about his life and buries his face in his hands.
Nico settles himself into Percy’s lap, snaking his arms around the older boy’s neck. He presses his face into Percy’s collarbone and likes the ocean smell that clings to Percy, the way he always feels like he just came out of the sunshine even on a rainy New York Tuesday.
“But now you and me can share a room,” he points out quietly, playing with a stray thread on Percy’s t-shirt. He winds the thread around his finger until the tip turns purple and numb and ugly, then lets it go and feels it tingle.
Percy melts a little at that and puts his arms around Nico’s skinny, pokey waist. “Only because you’re better at lying than anyone should be.”
“No,” Nico argues, without any malice or energy; just to be contrary because he’s Nico. “Because you and Annabeth are sluts.”
Annabeth smacks him on the back of the head and the reverberations knock his sharp jaw into Percy’s clavicle (just as they’re meant to; that slap is for both of them). “Hey!”
But they’re in Percy’s room, and Sally comes in and says good night and she kisses Percy on the head and kind of moves in like she’s going to attempt it with Nico, but decides it’s not really time yet for that kind of familiarity and steps back. Nico surprises them both when he flings his arms around Sally and hugs her tight.
Sometimes, Nico just needs love. It’s something Percy’s learned about him without Nico’s permission. The son of Hades likes to pretend like he’s cool and that emotions are futile and everything’s always hunky-dorey because even if it’s not, everyone just ends up dead anyway and he likes dead people. But what Nico’s still coming to terms with, Percy thinks, is that he himself is alive, and he needs the same things every other living person does. Percy just wants Nico to have a chance at happy.
Annabeth and Rachel come in next; they’re sharing the fold-out sofa in the living room and Nico whines at them that if they keep him awake with all of their girly giggling over Tyrone Powers all night, he’ll make their lives hell (har har har).
“Who’s Tyrone Powers?” asks Annabeth.
Sometimes Nico forgets just how long seventy years really is.
And then the blonde and the redhead giggle their way out of the room, and Nico shuts the door behind them, and… they’re alone.
It’s not like they haven’t done things. They make out a lot; long, drawn-out kisses that make Nico’s mouth pretty and red and swollen and probably would do the same for Percy’s if he hadn’t gotten so much water from the River Styx in his mouth when he took his plunge (on Nico’s word). Sometimes they kiss in Cabin Three for so long that they don’t notice the sun’s going down until either someone’s stomach gurgles for dinner or Nico has to pull back and probe tentatively at the stubble-burn on his jaw from Percy’s five-o’clock shadow. He takes after his father that way, and Nico probably will in a year or two, too – the gods are all very beardy.
Percy likes giving Nico hickeys, too. Probably just because Nico likes getting them, because it’s sort of weird to bruise someone on purpose – especially when it’s someone you never want to see hurt – but it’s sort of fun in a sick way. Like little trophies all over Nico’s chest and once over his wrist, the white, flat plain with translucent skin, right where his heart beats strongest. That was Percy’s favorite.
Percy’s wearing long pajama pants, like he usually does, but Nico strips right down to his black-with-orange-bats-on-them underwear as soon as the door is closed. He’s so skinny it looks painful, but his long bones are graceful and Percy thinks he’s sort of – sort of beautiful, honestly.
His black hair falls into one dark, simmering eye and he smiles over his sharp shoulder at Percy. “Hi.”
Percy smiles back. “Hi.”
Nico tugs on the ties of Percy’s yellow Spongebob pants. “Take these off. They’re ridiculous.”
Percy wraps his hands around Nico’s wrists, and the younger boy knows Percy well enough to look up into his face.
“I’m not ready to have sex with you,” Percy says softly. His lips brush Nico’s forehead, and it’s neither an apology nor a consolation; Nico knows he means yet even though he doesn’t voice it.
Nico strums his knuckles against the skin between Percy’s hipbones, just above the hem of the blindingly yellow pants. “I’m not ready to have sex with you, either.” He smiles up at Percy and it’s like a ten-ton weight is lifted from their shoulders. Percy slides his hands up Nico’s wiry-strong arms and down his back, thumbing over the broken-angel wings of his shoulder blades in a way that makes Nico groan and drop his head to Percy’s shoulder. He plays with the ties to Percy’s pajama pants again.
“These still need to go, though. Seriously, Perseus. They’re hideous.”
Later that night, under dark blue covers, Percy sucks a blue-ribbon worthy black hickey into the crease of Nico’s pointed hip, and Nico comes all over the sheets. Percy won’t let him apologize, though, and just curls himself around Nico’s body, kissing his shoulders until he feels Nico fall asleep, tuned-tight muscles finally relaxed.
It’s a start.
003. Φιλανθρωπία (Charity)
Everyone at Camp Half-Blood loves Percy.
The Hermes cabin love him because he’s friends with Grover and Hermes was the father of Pan, and there aren’t really very many half-bloods who manage to stay friends with their satyrs once they’re safely at camp, so Percy is pretty legendary. He’s also a son of the Big Three, so he’s got really cool stuff in his cabin and he doesn’t even mind when they borrow it without asking.
Although that’s mostly because Percy always knows which cabin’s door to knock to get it back.
The Hermes cabin also loves him because the Stoll twins want to bone him, even though Percy would never admit that to be true. Nico, however, knows it perfectly well, and he glowers whenever they come around.
Hestia adores him. She throws her little arms around his waist every time he nears the fire to offer the gods some of his food, and Percy’s never really sure of the protocol for shaking off a little girl who also happens to be a major goddess.
Demeter like him because of Nico. Nico thinks that isn’t true, but Percy thinks it is, and Percy’s going to pull rank on this one, because he has no idea what else they could like about him. Maybe because his cousin-slash-niece is his boyfriend’s cousin-slash-stepmother. He really hates thinking about it.
Ares like anyone who’s led a fucking army all by himself. They also like seeing if they can find his Cursed spot in sparring practice, but that might not be out of affection.
Hephaestus – well, Nico doesn’t like to think about Hephaestus because of Bianca and Percy doesn’t like to think about Hephaestus because of Beckendorf, but the current campers in his Cabin seem to enjoy Percy’s company as much as anyone else. They like to show him their little inventions and crafts and ask for him to try out their armor and weaponry before anyone else, since he won’t be hurt no matter how early their learning curve is.
The Athena cabin’s a little cold, because – well, awkward, but – he still saved the Earth, so they didn’t give him the cold shoulder if he wanted to spar, or anything.
But the little Aphrodite girls love him most (and most annoyingly, in Nico’s opinion) because Percy is so beautiful and look at how he treats Nico(;) it’s so romantic and ooh, he touched my arm! Ooh, you’re so lucky!
Well, they can all fuck right off, as far as Nico’s concerned. He’s greedy for Percy’s time and attention and every camper who tries to take that from him can just go rot in Tartarus.
Percy awakens with a low, surprised groan as Nico swallows around him. Even before his eyes open, he’s got a hand carded in Nico’s damp hair and his hips pistoning once, twice into Nico’s throat.
Then his eyes open and he looks down at the seventeen-year-old and smiles. “Whattime izzit?”
Nico slides up and grins. “Dunno. Clock broke.”
Percy’s brow pinches and he looks over to the nightstand, where it’s pretty clear that the clock was smashed with a hammer at some point during the night. It’s also clear, from the sunlight streaming in through their window, that it’s already, like, noon.
“I have to teach swimming today at two,” Percy mumbles, running his finger absently along the strong length of Nico’s neck. “The campers – ”
Nico does something very intriguing with his tongue. “The campers can wait another day to swim.”
004. Επιμέλεια (Diligence)
When Percy manages to fall off Blackjack right in the middle of a riding demonstration for some of the new little campers, he’s pretty certain it’s Nico’s fault.
Who else in camp would be sparring without a shirt on?
005. Ευγένεια (Kindness)
Here’s the thing about mortal bones being punched by an Invulnerable fist:
They crunch like Lucky Charms that have been sitting around in milk for fifteen minutes.
And here’s the thing about Percy Jackson –
He actually really loathes violence. He’s seen far too much of it in his eighteen years, and it never really solves anything. It takes away the futures of people he loves and it hurts a further spiderweb network of people than you’d ever think.
But if you fuck with Nico di Angelo, Percy will show up in your homeroom and punch you in the fucking face, you pretentious hipster douchebag.
006. Μετριοπάθεια (Temperance)
Sally Jackson hears creaking from her son’s bedroom when she gets home. Yes, Percy and Annabeth are both eighteen now, but it’s still under her roof, and she’s seriously peeved; after she accidentally-on-purpose very nearly caught them at it last time, all those months ago – almost a year now, she guesses – they stopped for a while. At least that she noticed. Pretty much until today, actually.
So Sally is pretty much a righteous storm of fury with all of the firepower to rival anyone with whom she’s maybe, oh, conceived a child, when she throws open Percy’s door.
And immediately wishes she hadn’t.
Not quite as much as Nico wishes she hadn’t, because somehow he thinks that having your boyfriend’s mother see your butt is something that neither of you can ever fully come back from. Not really. And he likes Sally Jackson; she makes good pasta and she’s funny by accident, which he appreciates, so really, he wishes she hadn’t opened the door.
Not quite as much as Percy, who’s about two inches into losing his virginity and he’s really really thinking that Nico’s doing something wrong and now his mother is seeing this and everything in the world is terrible.
Sally covers her eyes with her hands. “I am calling your fathers. And your uncle. And now I feel like a complete ass for thinking this was a conspiracy so you could sleep with Annabeth.”
And she leaves, but doesn’t shut the door, but really, they can’t blame her. After a few awkward minutes, Nico is hopping around trying to cover himself and put jeans on at the same time while Percy puts on, literally, every article of clothing he can reach.
“Well, I mean, it’s good she really knows now,” Nico says hopefully. “Right? I mean, we’re spared the awkwardness of having to tell her that you really have been gay all along, right?”
Percy slides a third t-shirt over the two, and undershirt, he already has on and gingerly bends over a drawer to look for a hoodie. “I don’t think there is any planet where this spares anyone any amount of awkwardness.” He stands up and winces and Nico pouts, feeling bad. “Why aren’t you putting on your shirt?”
“You took it,” Nico says mildly. “It’s your inner-most layer. You took one of my socks, too.”
Percy puts his head in his hands and tries to sit down on the bed, thinks better of it, tries to stand up, thinks better of it, and sort of… hovers, awaiting his fate. Which will probably be terrible, and frankly, Percy Jackson knows from terrible.
And that’s how Sally Jackson ends up serving blue spaghetti Bolognese to the twelve Olympians; Hades, Persephone, and Mrs. O’Leary; Annabeth; Rachel, the Oracle of Delphi; and about fifteen minor gods who heard what was going on and wanted to come to the party. Poseidon had pulled Nico out into the hallway for about ten minutes and when they came back, the Sea God was laughing like a madman and Nico looked paler than, well, his father.
Who, speak of the devil, just pats Percy on the head. At least Persephone has the decency to laugh at him a little bit.
It is, without a doubt, among the worst days of Percy’s life. He can’t help but note that all of the worst days of his life have involved Nico’s father.
At least, Percy consoles himself, staring resolutely down into his blue noodles, it’s all being gotten over with now. There’s no one left in the Upperworld or Underworld to come out to, and that’s probably good. And someday… in like, fifty or maybe a hundred years… this will be a really funny story. Nico reaches over timidly and squeezes his hand, and Percy feels a little bit better, even though the room is full of Greek deities going, “awww!”
‘Cause it’s cute, dammit.
But then Ganymede starts stroking both boys’ hair tenderly, cooing, and offers all these lube recommendations and suggests kegel exercises and suddenly everything in the world is so much worse.
007. Ταπεινότητα (Humility)
After the last Battle of Olympus, Percy tries to lay pretty low at Camp. He helps out with whatever he could whenever he’s asked, because that’s just who Percy is, but he really spends most of his time in the lake. He tried once or twice to bring his DS with him, but the whole battle-to-the-death-with-mystical-weapons thing was still a little too topical and he decided, in the end, that it wasn’t really worth it.
So he just sits on the bottom and watches ugly fish. Sometimes a Naiad will come up to him with some message from his father, or to squeal about this kiss that they heard about and was it true, did a son of Poseidon really kiss a daughter of Athena and was it really the best underwater kiss of all time?
And Percy would always grimace internally and just think, oh. That.
Because here’s the thing about Annabeth: Annabeth wants a hero. She doesn’t want a boyfriend, or a lover, or a best friend, or anything that Percy wants to be right now, now that he’s already saved the world, been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt (literally, if you count the hideously orange Camp Half-Blood uniforms that makes up the majority of his closet). She wants a hero, and Percy Jackson just wants to grow up to be a man.
So it’s kind of like, well that night moved too quickly, didn’t it, considering Annabeth probably would have put out for whoever stood up for the half-bloods against Olympus, in that moment. And Percy feels a little like trash, used and wrung out to dry, so he’s just avoiding that whole situation. Down here. On the bottom of the lake.
The worst part? It was something Percy knew about Annabeth. All she’d ever cared about was going on this Quest and avenging Thalia and whatever, and he totally fell for her anyway. But after – after that, it was like the only thing she noticed about him was that he wasn’t on a Quest anymore and everything that he thought she accepted about him was this big disappointment. Like even that next morning, the morning after, she’d been like, why are you putting food coloring in the egg whites? That’s so gross, Percy, when are you going to grow out of that? and it was just like,
this is who I am, Annabeth.
And a few days later it was over.
Whatever; Percy hopes that she and Malcolm are happy. He doesn’t even mean it maliciously. Sometimes it skeeves him out that he’s her brother, but honestly, everyone at Camp Half-Blood is someone’s brother or cousin or nephew or niece or, most commonly, some kind of (d) all of the above. So if she’s happy, then… it’s fine. You know? At least someone here is.
Because everyone at Camp Half-Blood is family, and everyone lost someone in the Battle at Olympus, and it’s Percy’s fault. Everyone – well, okay, most people – insists that it’s not his fault and he can’t blame himself and that people choose their own paths, but Percy knows better. Percy understands the power of a charismatic leader and being led to follow a path not really his own – had everyone else forgotten what it was like to be under Luke’s spell?
And there was the thing of it. The big, unavoidable, anvil-over-the-head thing of it.
Because here’s the thing of it: Percy misses Annabeth. She’s around, but it isn’t really her anymore, to Percy, and so it’s basically like he’d lost her in the Battle, too. So he misses her. He misses her like you miss a wedding ring that went down the disposal, or when you finally give that last stuffed animal to the Salvation Army. It was yours and it was special and even if you can get another, it will never really be the same.
But he misses Luke more.
He wonders sometimes, down at the bottom of the lake, whether maybe that’s why he and Annabeth stopped liking each other. Not that Annabeth blamed him for Luke’s suicide; she was too logical for that.
But because Percy resents – really resents, and he hates himself for it – that Luke loved Annabeth so much that he killed himself for her.
He thought, at first, that it was because obviously, you know, he loved Annabeth so much and now Annabeth would live the rest of her life with this darkly glowing knowledge that this other man, this older, taller, heroic, Prophecied, perfect-victim kind of man with the blond hair and the scar on his face, loved her so much that he killed himself for her… and that Percy was the guy who handed him the knife.
But he knows that isn’t it. He just wishes Luke had loved him that much .
And so he thought, at first, that it was really just a case of wishing anyone loved him that much, you know? The whole absentee father thing really hitting him and whatnot. But he knew that wasn’t it. It was Luke.
It was Luke with the blond hair,
and Luke with the scar on his face,
and Luke who loved Annabeth and Thalia so much,
and Luke who never knew how much Percy loved him,
and Luke who was a boy.
So really, when it came down to it, Percy is sitting on the bottom of the lake because he isn’t quite ready to come up.
It’s the middle of September when Percy looks up through the water and notices that someone is treading water above him, staring down from the surface expectantly.
Percy heaves a long-suffering sigh and heads for the surface to see what Nico di Angelo wants now. Nico always wants something, and honestly, he’s one of the people Percy feels deserves it most. He doesn’t feel obligated to Nico, exactly, because that makes it sound like a bad thing, like he would have to be nice against his will, and it’s not that, exactly. It’s just more like Nico has nothing in such a profound way; he’s more alone than anyone else at Camp Half-Blood – and it’s a close contest, really – and he just deserves – Percy just thinks that Nico should get a chance at happy.
He breaks the surface and blinks at Nico, trying to adjust to the sunlight up in the world. “What’s up?”
Nico looks really small in the water, like he’s not quite sure what to do with himself. It makes sense – here, it’s all water beneath and air above and the land is across the way, and it occurs to Percy that Nico’s kind of putting himself out there by being here.
Nico’s hair is wet and sticking to his forehead in his absurd sort of curl that makes him look a little bit like Betty Boop, if Betty Boop were a twelve-year-old boy with cheekbones for days and a black Mythomagic t-shirt sticking to bony ribs. Water ripples around them as Nico treads water, a little more slowly now, and Percy wonders just how long he’s been waiting out here.
“I just – ” Nico starts and sputters to a stop, blinking some water out of his eyelashes as behind him, a leaf falls off a tree – the first one, Percy notes, and realizes that means Persephone is back and Nico probably can’t go home for a while, and so maybe what he needs to ask is if there’s anywhere at Camp where he can stay or something.
“I just wanted to tell you,” Nico starts again, looking down into the water. He looks up again and his black eyes are ancient when he stares at Percy. “I just wanted you to know that I think you’re the best person in the whole world. Everybody thinks so. It just didn’t seem like you noticed, and you should know. You’re the best person in the world.”
And Nico, all eighty pounds of him, soaking wet, awkwardly swims back to the shore and climbs out of the lake, shrugging into his bomber jacket. He wanders, shivering, back to the bustle of camp.
Percy watches him go, feeling the warm comfort of the water below him and smelling the change of the seasons in the air above, the way the red-brown-black gold of the ground melted into the soft still-green of the grass as Demeter bid her daughter goodbye; seeing the campers doing what they do – a few Apollo are causing trouble, some Ares are tinkering with a chariot, Chiron is chatting with a very small girl who looks Hephaestus, his hands on her shoulders. They’re all here.
Nico walks up to Chiron and asks something, ducking his head and scratching his ear, and Chiron casts a look towards the lake like he knows Percy wants to listen in before he answers Nico.
And then Nico is suddenly in the middle of the sparring practice group, his Stygian sword shining black like hellfire against their celestial bronze blades, and the Ghost King laughs and a son of Nemesis laughs, too and it’s like life at Camp Half-Blood has been rolling along for all these months, even though everyone lost someone. Maybe it’s okay, because there are so many people who are still here, and everyone lost someone and they can all feel together. And they’re here and they’re living on and they’re feeling because Percy is here.
They are here because Percy had the courage to go where he needed to go, and do what needed to be done, and the courage to love a boy so much that he let him show his love for a girl that Percy thought would be his own love. And Percy’s here because he listened to Nico di Angelo.
Percy starts to head towards shore and thinks maybe Riptide could use a feint-n-parry or two. See how she holds up against Stygian steel, maybe.