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flirting with strangers at an art museum

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Studying the painting, The Lament for Icarus, Nico scribbled some notes down on his notepad, taking care to jot down - as his teacher instructed - the title of the piece, the artist, and the year it was painted. He added a few notes on the painting itself, the way Icarus was sprawled out and the wings spread over the canvas, the nymphs that cried for the fallen man. He and his partner, Mitchell, were supposed to pick a painting from the museum’s mythology exhibit to research and present on for class, but it seemed like Mitchell had run off on him (probably making out with his boyfriend, the choir’s golden boy, Will).

Whatever, Nico decided. Knowing Mitchell, the other boy would just charm his way into getting notes from Nico and catch up on the assignment once they had something to go on.

Moving on the next painting, Nico caught sight of an older boy looking his way. He’d seen this boy a few times since coming to the museum with Mitchell, always in the company of a red-haired girl more enthusiastic about the art in the museum than both her friend and Nico. The girl was currently explaining the art piece in front of them, while the boy shifted his gaze from the painting to Nico. When he saw that Nico was looking back, he gave a wink, making Nico avert his gaze quickly before the blush on his face could be seen.

As Nico moved through the exhibit, he’d occasionally see the other boy and, every time, the boy would wait for Nico to look before flashing a grin or giving a salute or even just waving at him. Nico would pretend to be looking around for Mitchell before ducking back to his notes, scribbling and doodling on his pad. Anything but look at the boy and catch sight of sea green eyes and a crooked smile that was beginning to make his stomach flutter.

Finally, the other boy must have been dragged away by the red-head, as the next time Nico looked around, he was nowhere in sight. Nico gave a sigh - of relief or disappointment, he wasn’t sure; he’d actually started to smile a bit the last few times he’d seen the other boy - and returned to his task. It took him another half an hour before he was satisfied with his notes and ready to pick a painting to research for his class project. He’d give Mitchell a call later to fill him in and chastise the older boy fro ditching him.

Before leaving the museum, Nico decided to stop at the cafe. He’d been wandering the museum for a couple of hours now and a cup of coffee sounded pretty good. The moment he entered the cafe, he saw the same green-eyed boy that had been tailing him for most of his visit. The red-haired girl that had been with him was nowhere to be seen and Nico wondered if she’d ditched him or if he’d ditched her or what the circumstances even were - were they dating? Just friends? If the girl had caught her companion flirting with Nico (and there was no doubt the older boy had been flirting with him), was she mad?

Turning away from the older boy and getting in line, Nico tried not to think about it. What business was it of his what kind of relationship was going on between a spunky art-enthusiast and a good-looking guy that made his stomach flip?

Nico ordered his coffee - okay, it was a mocha frappé, sue him, he liked cold drinks and chocolate - and was just digging into his pockets to pay for it when someone else stepped in.

"I got it." The older boy from earlier slid in next to Nico, handing the barista the money to pay for Nico’s drink. He shot Nico a smile.

"You didn’t have to do that," Nico told him. While it was a nice gesture, Nico wasn’t that keen on people paying for him. He moved over to wait for his order to be made so someone else could order.

The boy shrugged. “I wanted to,” he replied. “Can’t a guy buy a drink for another guy?”

"I suppose he can, but usually that kind of thing happens in bars, not museum cafes."

"I don’t think either of us is old enough to go to a bar." The boy gave another shrug. "I’m Percy, by the way."

"Nico." Picking up his drink, Nico started to head for one of the tables. Percy followed him and sat down across from him at the same table. "So, is ‘Percy’ short for ‘Persistent’ or what?"

Percy laughed and Nico had to force the mouthful of mocha frappé he’d swallowed not to come back up with the butterflies dancing in his stomach. “Okay, that’s a new one on me,” he told Nico. “No, it’s short for Perseus. My mom wanted to name me after a Greek hero and Perseus was one of the few with a happier tale than most.”

"It’s a good name," Nico commented. He’d taken notes on a painting of the hero Perseus earlier. The mythological Perseus didn’t interest him all that much, but the Perseus sitting across from him was definitely piquing his interest. "Do you always flirt with strangers at the art museum or did you just make an exception today?"

"Usually when Rachel drags me to an art museum, there aren’t any strangers I want  to flirt with,” Percy grinned. “On the other hand, do you usually flirt back with strangers at the art museum or did you just make an exception today?”

"Touché. I don’t usually flirt back with anyone."

"So you’re admitting you made an exception today?" Percy’s grin grew wider.

"Don’t get ahead of yourself, Percy, I barely know you." Nico rolled his eyes and took another drink of his frappé. It was true, he barely knew Percy, but now that he thought about it, he did recognize the older boy from school; he’d seen him around and he was pretty sure Percy was a senior, where Nico was a sophomore. 

"You know, that can be changed. Do you want to know me?"

"I dunno, do I want to know the guy who flirts with me while I’m studying and buys me coffee before he even knows my name?” Nico asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he tapped his straw against his lower lip. “Sounds like the basis of every cheap teen romance movie my sisters deny they watch.”

"You haven’t said no," Percy pointed out. He reached for Nico’s notepad and pulled a pen out of his pocket before flipping to the inside cover of the notepad. He wrote down his name and his phone number. "I told my mom I’d be home by three. Here’s my number. Give me a call sometime if you make up your mind."

Nico didn’t get a chance to say anything, since it was already quarter-past three and Percy was already late. The older boy flashed Nico one more smile and headed out of the cafe. Left a little more than bewildered, Nico sat at the table for a minute, staring down at Percy’s number. 

"What are you doing?" Mitchell asked, surprising Nico a few moments later by stepping up behind him. He put one hand on Nico’s shoulder, then leaned forward so he could reach around into the pocket of his friend’s hoodie to pull out Nico’s cellphone. "He was cute, call him!

"Where have you been?” Nico asked, not yet taking his phone back from his friend. 

"Around," Mitchell replied. He shoved Nico’s phone into the younger boy’s hand. "C’mon, Nico, he was totally into you. Call him!"

"Alright, alright." Nico dialed the number Percy left, hoping that it was a cell number and not a home line. While Mitchell grabbed the notepad to look over Nico’s notes from the visit to the exhibit, Nico waited as the dial tone rang once, twice, three times. 

"Hello?" Percy’s voice called through on the other end.

Nico, despite himself, gave a small smile. “Hi, Percy. It’s Nico. Do you want to go to a movie sometime?”

Nico was sure Percy was smiling as he responded. “I’d like that.”