“Do boobs freak you out?”
Percy looks up from his laundry basket with an expression of slight disdain and mild horror at Jason, who is holding up a bra by the arm with cups so large Percy could probably fit his whole head inside- and he is tempted to try.
“Who’s bra is that?”
Jason checks the label “Clarisse’s.”
Percy swallows a scream “Put it down!” he glances about the laundry room, which is empty save for the two of them, as if she might pop out of the washing machine and gut them both for the transgression. “Gods, I hate laundry! They should separate the boys’ and girls’ stuff out! I’m all for gender equality, but I don’t want to handle my friends’ bras and panties.”
Jason on the other hand is not in the least bit bothered “Boobs freak me out. They look like eyes, y’know? With the nipples. Eyes that are judging me for looking.”
“What boobs have you seen?” Percy is interested in spite of himself “I thought you and Piper were still…uh…well aren’t you kind of afraid of taking it a step further?”
Now it’s Jason’s turn to check under the clothes-folding table for spies “In movies and stuff, when there’s a sex scene.”
“You cover your eyes during those. And Nico’s.” points out Percy, adding a folded sweater to his pile of clothes.
“Sometimes I peek through my fingers. Also, this one time I accidentally walked into the girl’s changing room and they almost killed me. That was the time Drew shot me in the foot with the arrow, remember? I guess that might be why boobs freak me out, because I associate them with the trauma of being shot in the foot?”
Sweating, Percy tugs at his lose shirt collar “Girls are kind intimidating. They’re like…I don’t know. They’re another species. Half the time I have no idea if they’re saying what they’re really saying or if there’s this bunch of subtext under it that I’m missing because I’m an inferior male. I don’t know how the guys in the Amazon headquarters survive it.”
Jason chuckles in spite of himself “Still terrified of Annabeth, huh?”
“You know it brother.”
The two of them get back to folding the clothes. The harpies do most of the slave labour in camp like picking up after herds of messy children, including doing their laundry and the like, but with the recent explosions in population in both the Greek and Roman camps, the staff are stretched thin to the point where the eldest campers have taken up the incredibly adult, very scary responsibility of washing their own clothes. There has been an influx of toddlers and small babies into both camps. Apparently, the gods have generously taken it upon themselves to replenish the ranks of the camps. Every night before he goes to bed Percy sends up a little awkward prayer to his dad, politely requesting that Poseidon keeps it in his pants. The camps can barely handle one hyperactive, clumsy water-bender, let alone the two necromancers and the lightning-flinging superman. Nico has made a solemn vow that if he and Hazel get another sibling, he will personally travel to the Underworld and neuter both aspects of their father with a letter opener. Fortunately Hazel doesn’t take this as an insult.
Today, Percy is in charge of retrieving the clothes of Leo, Piper, Annabeth and his own. Since the other three are the councillors of large, dangerous cabins Percy takes it upon himself to do their laundry for them, despite the scary amount of women’s underwear he has to handle to do it. Sometimes when they have a spare moment, someone will rotate duties with Percy and give him some free time. He usually spends it in the laundry room anyway, making small talk and a nuisance of himself. Even with the classes he instructs Percy has too much time on his own while the others are still working.
The case is the same with Jason, although he only does his own. Mostly he is down here to keep Percy company and admire interesting patterns on boxers.
“Put that bra down.” mutters Percy, because Jason is still inspecting the clasps with interest.
“I don’t get why underwear is sexy,” says Jason “It’s like…well girls fart in their pants just like boys, right? You know I didn’t even know girls could fart until I was fourteen…I always assumed it was a guy thing then this one time Reyna was taking a nap in the praetor’s office on the couch and she let rip like no one’s business. It wasn’t even a fart. It was a battle cry.”
The two boys have to pause to laugh about this for a while, because farts are hysterical.
Jason wipes his eyes and struggles to get his breath back “Why would you get turned on by something somebody’s farted in?”
Percy is slightly surprised to find himself having such a frank sexually-oriented conversation with Jason, who is about as squeamish as Hazel when it comes to the mechanics of sex and anything pertaining to it. Percy’s not sure why: he’s seen Jason’s dick before and the guy is hung like a Minotaur, but he guesses a big part of it has to do with his girlfriend being a daughter of Aphrodite. Percy also has some trouble picturing himself in sexual situations, mostly because the whole thing seems so ridiculous to him right now he ends up cracking up and people want to know what’s so funny. It’s not that he doesn’t entertain the lustful fantasies expected of his gender and age, it’s just not a habit for him. He thinks of it as a grown-up activity. Excepting the responsibility of becoming sexually active and possibly spawning a line of little Percys is scary. He wonders if all demigods worry they’re going to be a deserter like their godly parent, and if they do, how many of them does it put off of sex?
Jason holds up Clarisse’s bra again “And what about bras? They go under the arms. Think of how sweaty they must get! They’re like sweaty boob hammocks. Why is that sexy?”
Percy shrugs. He has no problems with boobs or their equipment, which is to say Jason waving this thing in his face is making him blush “It just sorta is because it’s forbidden I guess.”
Jason’s face grows troubled “Hey, man, you don’t think I’m gay do you?”
“Uh, I don’t know. You’re attracted to Piper, right?” this conversation is speeding into uncharted territory and Percy is not enough of an adult to know how to keep it under control “Like, physically?”
“Then I think you’re not gay…maybe you’re bisexual?”
He shrugs “I don’t know…I don’t think of guys as hot. I mean I can appreciate when someone is good looking, but I’ve never really wanted to be with a guy,” his face clouds with thought “Except for Gamzee from Homestuck. If he were real I might…and if Pipes and me weren’t a thing…I might do stuff with him.”
The confession lights Jason’s face stop-light red. Wanting to reassure him, Percy unearths one of his more embarrassing dreams, one of the few wet dreams he’s ever had where he has actually woken up wet “That’s a guy crush Jason. Straight guys can get attracted to other guys and not be not straight. I mean, I’d do Chris Pine. Or I’d have a really hard time refusing him if he came up to me and asked me to do stuff.”
They both squirm.
“This is awkward.” notes Percy.
Jason turns the bra over in his hands again “Maybe boobs are just not my thing. An anti-fetish.”
“Anti-fetish?” Percy repeats incredulously “That’s a thing?”
“According to Leo. So if a fetish turns you on then an anti-fetish is like the opposite, a major turn-off.”
Rolling his eyes, Percy grins “That’s our Leo. Expert on all things sexy.”
Leo became something of a legend after returning to Camp Half-blood. It was kind of hard not to, considering he’d taken out Gaia in a tremendous explosion and had been presumed blasted to smithereens for two months. Also, he rode in on dragon-back with an incredibly hot goddess in tow. He has privately admitted to the rest of his crew that nothing happened with Calypso in the two months they spent globe-hopping excepting some chaste spooning and an accidental butt-touch, despite what the wider public likes to believe.
Even so Leo claims ownership of expertise on the more physical side of relationships, with Piper advising romantically (although she likes to warn people before she suggests things that she barely has an idea of what she’s doing anyway). When Percy was concerned it might not have been entirely kosher of him to have woken up spooning with Frank one time when they were sharing a bed on a trip, and it was Leo who assured him a little just-friends spooning is a healthy part of the male bonding experience.
“Some people really like feet. Some people really hate feet. It depends on what you like.” Percy is reassured to see his job is mostly done, but at the time he regrets that he may lose his excuse for this conversation, which he finds kind of comforting and cathartic even though Jason is swinging his former mortal enemy’s bra like a pendulum while they talk. “I think it’s ok not be, like, really hungry for this kind of stuff yet. You’re just not ready. I know boys are supposed to be sticking it into everything in a skirt with a pulse the moment they hit 16, well, you know not legally but if you want to claim stud-ship you sort of have to start early, but I think it’s fine not to feel like that. Anyway I think the whole sleeping-around thing is kind of silly anyway. Not just because there’s a double standard, but ‘cuz it’s like a breeding instinct.”
Again he looks around the room uncomfortably. He could probably never say these sorts of things to anyone but one of the boys; Jason, Nico, Leo and Frank. He feels perfectly at ease around his friends about personal things like the sexy stuff because he knows none of them will look down on him for not whipping out his dick at every opportunity. Also, if he trusts these guys with his life then it stands to reason he can trust them with the few sexy secrets he has to hide.
As for the girls? Percy may die if he ever talks about sex with one of them. When he thinks about a future with Annabeth that includes kids, he sort of shivers and ignores the origin stories of his theoretical offspring as much as he can. During make-out sessions with Annabeth if he ever needs to cool off, he just pictures himself as a dead-beat dad with a bulging beer belly, a bald spot and child support to pay and it never fails to shrink him like an eel zooming back into its cave.
He may need therapy for this at some point in the near future.
“Hey…” Percy realises with alarm that Jason is wearing his ‘dangerous idea’ face “What do you think these feel like?”
His mouth drops open “Jason Grace you are not going to put on a daughter of Ares’ bra. Don’t even think about it.”
Jason picks at one of the little grips “Look at this though. This is one of those extra-padding, extra-protective models the girls have to wear under their armour. Don’t you wonder what it feels like to be in one of these?”
The model of bra he holds is much more complicated and twisted-looking than the ones Percy regularly folds (and has become sort of numb towards) for Piper and Annabeth and even more like a medieval torture device than normal bras do to him. It’s kind of like a corset and a flak jacket had a baby.
Percy would be lying if he said he had never wondered. The girls complain about their bras a lot, not Hazel though who still makes a noise like a dying rat every time she hears the word ‘boob’, so naturally Percy has become curious about what they might feel like. Obviously he doesn’t have the right set of equipment to necessitate one, but he’s still dying to know. He has never had the courage up to this point.
He swallows “I’ll do it with you if you promise never to tell anyone about this.”
“On the Styx?” asks Jason nervously.
“Hades no! Just don’t scream about it yet, ok?”
Jason passes him another bra of Clarisse’s, identical to the one he has. After some serious struggling Percy manages to get the thing over his head and around his stomach, kind of like a belt with ears. He notes with faint embarrassment that Clarisse’s chest would have to be quite impressive to fill in what he’s wearing. He has never noticed Clarisse for having a particularly major pair, like some of the girls who have to hold theirs or fold an arm over them when they run or fight. Next time he sees her, he’ll look a little closer…no wait that’s perverted. That’s a big concern of Percy’s, mistreating his female (and male) colleagues by treating them like sexual items. In retrospect, he may be a bit of a hypocrite for putting on Clarisse’s bra right now.
Too late to get out of it.
“How do put one of these things on?” he stares at the maze straps and clasps and wires .
Jason is having less trouble with his “I dunno. Haven’t you…you know.”
His face heats up “No! I haven’t. Annabeth takes off her shirt around me all the time (she hates summer heat and argues that bras are just like bikini tops) but she hasn’t taken off her bra in front of me before.”
“I’ll bet Nico would know how to do this.”
“B-because he’s gay?”
“Uh, no. He just knows stuff. He has a sister.”
“That’s gross Jason.”
“No I mean guys with sisters hear about them bitching about their bras all the time! Kind of like dating a mechanic or something, right? If you hear them complain enough you kinda get an idea of what it’s like to work with…machines.” Jason looks like he wants to melt into the floor and never appear again “Forget I said anything. Oh gods, now I’m thinking about dating Leo. I hate being sexually confused.”
Percy manages to get one of the straps over his shoulder “You like Leo? Like, polyamorous?”
He might as well have struck Jason in the crotch with a hammer for the face he pulls “NO! NONONNONNO WE’RE JUST BROS!! Oh my gods, no, I could never ever date Leo! I know I kissed him last month when I was drunk, but that was the fireworks beach party! Everyone does crazy shit like that! You kissed Travis!”
Percy shudders at the memory “He used tongue.”
With some difficulty, Percy clips all the clips in approximation of the right places. He twists a few more things and suddenly the bra is on correctly. The two boys stand face-to-face, chests thrust forward proudly.
Jason looks at the little trim of lace on his cups “This is easily the dumbest thing I have ever done.”
Percy laughs “Me too.”
“Does this count as crossdressing?”
Percy nods towards some dresses hung on a rail “Not unless you want to get into those as well.”
The boys laugh and flex their arms, testing the feel of the straps. At Jason’s suggestion they stuff the cups full of socks and try sparring inside them, which proves to be much tougher than anticipated. Socks keep whipping Percy in the face. With the limited quarters, it’s hard to have a proper sparring match so they just throw a few punches, then collapse into chairs, amused and excited.
“So how do we get out of these?”
(Half an hour later)
Realising Nico is no longer listening, Leo stops in mid-sentence and follows the younger demigod’s eyes to a dark spot at the edge of the forest.
“See something?” his hands instinctively go to his tool-belt. When Nico stares at something wordlessly, it’s generally not friendly.
“Is that Percy and Jason passed out in parkas? Or are my eyes playing tricks on me?”
Leo squints, suspecting it is the latter. But no. There are indeed two lumpy figures sprawled in the shade of the trees, identifiable and Jason by bright his hair and Percy by the familiar pair of beaten up tennis shoes on the figure’s feet.
“Why are they in parkas in 100 degree heat?” Nico tends to ask and point out the most obvious things.
“…a stupid dare? Those two love them.” Leo approaches cautiously, Nico at his elbow “Or maybe they’re gonna prank us.”
“I’ll be anxious to see the punchline of this one.” says Nico.
They crouch beside the two boys. Seeing their faces, Leo glances at the unforgiving sun overhead with concern “They’ve passed out.”
“Heat stroke?” suggests Nico.
He unzips the front of Jason’s jacket and freezes. “What the fuck?”
“What the fuck?” Leo repeats in confusion “What’s what the fuck?”
Nico gestures to Jason’s chest with a mixture of horror and mirth. He doesn’t quite know if he should laugh or scream, but seems to be edging to the first option. Jason is wearing a bra with very large cups, lots of padding for protection and something metal on the front that makes it look slightly demonic.
“I’m open to suggestions.” says Nico.
Leo fights hard to keep his amusement in check “They got stuck in bras? That would explain the parkas. Musta made a break for help and passed out in the heat, with these heavy things on.”
“They’ll be crushed if we laugh in their faces. We should get it out of our systems while they’re unconscious.”
Five minutes later, by the time they are both done laughing, Nico is wiping his eyes on the back of his hand and Leo is afraid he may have peed a little.
“Ok we need to get th-them out of the heat.” Nico can’t quite look at their friends without giggling like a schoolgirl yet “Let’s take them back to my cabin. Hazel hasn’t arrived yet, so it should be empty. We should leave the parkas on too, just in case anyone sees us carrying them.”
Leo nods in mute agreement. He scoops up Percy and slings him over his shoulder, trying to ignore the butt in his face. Nico picks up Jason as easily as he would pick up a backpack, which is kind of amazing considering he’s almost a foot shorter and at least seventy pounds lighter, at his dainty weight of 98 pounds soaking wet.
They stick to the dark treeline, out of sight and pass some possible explanations back and forth on the way.
“Maybe they were experimenting.”
Nico shrugs “I can’t really see Jace or Percy wanting to cross-dress. Actually I can but this seems kind of accidental.”
“They’re on laundry duty today. Maybe they were just fucking around.” Leo pauses to look at the label on Percy’s bra. His heart skips several beats “Or maybe they have a death wish. This is Larry’s bra.”
Larry is Leo’s affectionate nickname for Clarisse La Rue. He is even bold enough to use it in front of her, or rather fast enough to dodge her retaliation attacks.
Nico checks Jason’s “Ditto. Gods, it would be World War Three if she had found them instead of us. If anyone had found them instead of us. They would die of the shame if it were Piper or Annabeth. Let’s just thank the gods Hazie and Frank live in another camp. Hazie doesn’t know cross-dressing is a thing yet and Frank would probably swallow his tongue if he saw this.”
Finally, they make it to the Hades cabin without incident, luckily. There is some trouble opening the door without showing Percy and Jason to the people milling in the centre of the circle made by the cabins. Nico solves this problem by shoving both of them through an open window. They land with soft thuds.
“Oh great it looks like Percy’s giving Jason head.” mutters Leo, separating the bodies “Damn! I should have taken a picture for blackmail!”
Nico crouches over Percy and pulls off his parka, then his eyes widen as he sees the mesh of clasps holding the bra up “We’ll need a can opener.”
Doing the same for Jason, Leo concedes “The patriarchy must die. We can’t make women go around in these things.”
Rolling his shoulders back, Nico looks up at Leo through his heavy fringe “You have some…experience with these contraptions, right?”
His face flushes “Uh, no, excuse you, but I never touched Calypso like-like that!”
“Methinks he doth protest too much.” mutters Nico, plucking at the straps like a harp string.
“I’ve never touched a boob before unless you count that time I gave Lou Ellen CPR.” he shudders at the memory from last month, when a camper slipped in the bathroom and drowned in a bathtub she fell unconscious into. She was fine, and in fact Leo has come away with more scars from the experience since she was completely naked when he resuscitated her.
“Should they be off in La-La land this long?” asks Leo.
Nico leans towards him and whispers “They may be pretending to avoid facing us.”
Tugging at the back of Jason’s bra, he tries to figure out what the hell kind of person would invent a thing like this bra. Maybe a veteran professional torturer? Leo is kind of afraid he will find rows of teeth inside the lining of the bra, sucking Percy and Jason’s blood.
“I’m going to cut them out and sew it up.”
“Clarisse will notice.” says Leo.
Nico shrugs “But she’ll never suspect me. No one ever suspects me, unless there’s a corpse involved.”
“Oh my gods it was you wasn’t it? You filled Mr D’s office with condoms when his new daughter came in, didn’t you? And you let the Stolls take the heat!”
“They owed me after they set up those skeletons in my room.”
Leo has fond memories of that day, when Nico found his room full of skeletons sleeping at his desk , trying on his clothes, playing cards at his table and one reclining suggestively on his bed with a rose clamped between its teeth. Drawing a knife from his shoe (which doesn’t surprise Leo), Nico cuts open Percy’s bra and then moves onto Jason. The two demigods are lying on their fronts with twin troubled expressions, as if they are vaguely aware of the shame they face when they wake up.
“Help me move them, please.” Nico grabs Jason under the arms, Leo gets his feet and together they carefully stretch him out on the couch.
Since Nico refuses to put Percy on his bed, they just flip him over and put a pillow under his head. Nico sets to work on repairing the damage done to Clarisse’s bras.
“Is it gay to like boys?” blurts Leo suddenly, regretting it immediately. But it has been troubling him for a few weeks, the question of what he’s going to do after that Calypso-fiasco and whether or not he really is attracted to guys as well as the ladies, and has not simply been scared off of women for a while.
“That’s the general definition.” says Nico, not looking up “Got your eye on someone?”
Somehow, Leo expected a siren to blare the moment he revealed he might not be entirely as heterosexual as he has lead his audience to believe, and if relieved this is not the case. However it does freak him out a little bit that he’s asking Nico for advice, of all the people he could choose.
“No.” he isn’t lying, but he has noticed his eyes straying towards this particular demigod’s rump every time he bends over “Just…for future reference.”
“I’m sure you know this but I’ll say it anyway, your sexuality isn’t a switch you can flip whenever it suits you. I mean, if’s you’re bi that’s an entirely different thing…” Nico glances up “I thought you were the macho-straight man.”
Wow. He can be really intimidating when he questions sexuality with a big-ass needle in his hand.
“How do you know if you’re bi?” asks Leo nervously, fidgeting with a screwdriver until he notices what the shape of the shaft reminds him of, then he stops and is mortified.
“I guess you’d need to have a serious relationship with either gender.” The younger demigod suddenly becomes violently embarrassed “Why the Styx are you asking me? I’m only 15 and my track record is awful.”
“That whole thing with Will.”
“We do not speak of the thing with Will.” growls Nico.
“You’re right, we don’t. I’m sorry I brought it up. And I sure am sorry he blew Dakota.”
“Don’t antagonise me while I have a needle in my hand, Valdez.” Nico’s voice has progressed from a growl to one of those voices that the girl in the Exorcist would have made.
Eager to move on from the tabooed subject of Will Solace, Nico’s ex-almost-boyfriend (the relationship blew up before it got anywhere due to some unpredictably nympho tendencies of Will’s), Leo asks something else and effectively jams his foot stomach-deep into his mouth “How do I know if I’m bi? Should I kiss a boy? Can I-”
The atmosphere immediately becomes awkward. They both look at each other.
“I wasn’t going to finish that sentence the way you think I was.” Leo assures him, although it is a lie and Nico knows it.
“This is already super awkward because I’m sewing up a bra,” Nico can’t look at him “Let’s not make it worse.”
“So is that a rain check or what?” it amazes Leo how he consistently makes it worse, no matter how firmly his foot is already lodged in his mouth.
When the other boy doesn’t say another word for the next fifteen minutes, Leo resolves to go away and never come back again. Ten seconds later he is still on the couch with Jason’s head in his lap, trying not to mentally undress Nico and failing badly.
(The next day)
“Hey Connor.” Jason addresses a trash can at the side of the path.
Connor, or maybe Travis, peers out at him with fearful eyes “Don’t give me away you fool!!! Clarisse is trying to kill me!”
“Why? I mean, specifically what did you do this time?” Jason’s insides grow cold.
Out comes the furious whisper “She thinks I messed with her panties or something! She said there are stitches all over two of her bras and she thinks it was me!”
Jason considers this for a moment.
Then he says “Make room. I’m getting in there with you.”