Hell And High Water

Ever since the first time Nico set his eyes on the son of Poseidon, he wanted him. Not just as a friend, or even just a boyfriend, but he wanted him. After he admitted that it was Percy he had been crushing on, Percy left. He snuck away from the Argo II in the dead of night. Nico goes after him, of course, but things don't go as Nico thought. What seemed like an easy task turned into a three year hunt for the son of Poseidon. So, what happens when Nico finally finds Percy? Will things explode in his face or will they pay off abundantly? Read and find out.

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15. Fourteen

The whole night through, the hit was taking its toll: Nico was dead silent, not really sure what to say or if he should say anything at all. His face bore a constant expression of mixed emotions and the whole thing was messing with his mind pretty badly. But all that was nothing in comparison with Percy.

It wasn't hard to tell that the son of Poseidon was totally distraught; he cried in his sleep and even woke up once screaming. Nico wasn't sure what to say then, either. He had never been around someone who that had happened to and, when it happened to him, he was left to deal with it on his own. He did, however, do the best he could (or at least the best he thought he could) and told the son of Poseidon, very flaty, that it was over. He even added in "It's okay to cry", despite fact he himself didn't want to hear Percys sobs. The older demigod just nodded his head gently and laid back down, rolled over to face away from Nico, and tried to fall back asleep.

It was about sunrise when Percy woke to yet another flash of a head rolling onto the ground with angry eyes staring into his soul. He shot up in bed and stifled a scream into a whimper before covering his face with his hands. He rubbed his eyes harshly, trying to wipe away the image; it was almost torturous. Nico was still sleeping at that point and Percy was relieved that he hadn't woken the son of Hades like he had during the night. He pushed the covers off of himself and slipped from his bed and into the bathroom.

Percy attempted to get the memory and images from the night before to fade from his thoughts with a few splashes of cold water and a couple of heavy sighes. He managed, for a short moment, and even opened the bathroom door to go back to bed. But then he thought of the 'congratulations' Ares thought was in order. The son of Poseidon wandered mindlessly around the small hotel bathroom, thinking about how Ares said he and Nico got to live.

Percy closed the door again and leaned up against it, wondering why in the world anyone should ever be congratulated for committing murder; it seemed barbaric. He forced himself to calm enough to use the bathroom and splash another handful of cold water on his face before he left the little room to find a still sleeping Nico wrapped up in his blankets.

The cold water was supposed to help, but, instead, it made it harder to think of anything other than what he had done. But, still, Percy curled into his own bed and shut his eyes again. And, as much as he tried to fight it, a single tear came falling over his bottom eye lid. He pinched the lids tighter, just wanting everything to go away.

As the son of Poseidon lay awake, he couldnt help but think that the day before had felt like it dragged by. From the moment he woke up, he wished the numbers on the clock would change a little fatser. But, that was seeming like nothing. Time was now passing slower than it ever had before, almost as if it had actually stopped, and each second was harder to get through than the last. Unable to clear his thoughts, Percy crawled deeper under his blankets and willed the day to pass a little quicker.

 

Nico woke up about an hour after sunrise and the first thing he did was look over at Percys bed. The son of Poseidon was facing away from him and was hidden entirely by the blankets so Nico assumed he was still asleep. He hoped so, anyway, what with all the times Percy had woken up the night before...

Nico groaned out into the early morning air before he climbed out of bed and snatched a pair of clothes and headed for a shower. He shook his head at his own reflection when he saw it in the mirror, feeling ashamed about the night before. He knew he wasn't the one to kill Horme, but he felt guilty all the same. Guilty because it was his fault. Almost everything that had gone on in the past month was his fault; and he could admit to that.

Nicos shower wasn't nearly as refreshing as he recalled they once were but it would have to suffice for the time being. He heaved a sigh once he finished, dried and dressed and used the toilet before leaving the bathroom, all without looking into the mirror. Percy was still curled in his blankets when Nico came back into the room so he figured it would be alright if he meandered down to the hotel lobby and got some breakfast for the two. He had the feeling Percy wasn't going to want to eat, but he had to try to get him to all the same.

The lobby was empty so Nico took his time, not having to worry about holding anybody up. He searched through the food and tried to find something he thought Percy would actually agree to eat before he would flop some onto a plate. He fixed a plate for himself, as well, before heading back to the room.

Percy was awake this time, which was probably due to the incessant ringing of Nicos phone on the bed side table. Nico was a little freaked and he wondered who would be calling him and why. His first thought was the caller was Ares wanting to hire one of them for another hit. Nicos fists tightened around the tray and he looked at Percy, who was now sitting up on his bed.

"How long has it been ringing?" He tried to keep his voice calm.

"Since you left." Percys own voice was low and monotonous.

Nico placed the tray on the desk and looked at the ringing phone for a second longer before he answered it.

'Nico!' Apollos voice was pretty loud coming through the speaker and Nico had to hold the phone a little ways from his ear, even if he was somewhat relieved to hear the voice.

"Yes."

Apollo let out an audible sigh and Nico had to wonder why he seemed so panicked.

The demigod, too, sighed and hoped he would be able to find out why. "What's going on?"

'I heard about the hit.' Apollo said speedily and with even more panic than before. 'Is the kid okay?'

Nico, now ignoring Apollos tone, looked over at Percy and sighed. "No."

'What happened? Is he alive? You should take him to a hospital. This is why I don't like working with beginners.' Apollo sounded more tense and frightened than Nico had ever heard him. He even seemed to be more tense than Nico himself was.

The son of Hades shook his head. "Shut up, Paul. He's not physically hurt, okay? He's a little messed up, but he'll be fine."

Apollo was silent for a second. 'Wait,' Nico could figure that Apollo seemed shocked by something. 'Are you saying he got away with killing Horme and he's not hurt? He didn't get shot, or stabbed, or anything?'

Nico still hadn't torn his eyes from Percy. "No. He was probably seen, but it's better than him being dead."

Percy kept his mouth shut the whole time, not saying anything and not even regestering much of what he could hear. He knew he was being talked about but he didn't really care; everything was a little much for him right now. The images of yesterday and the distortions the nightmares had turned them into were the only things he was thinking of.

The phone call between Nico and Apollo continued on for a couple of minutes before the son of Hades told Apollo to hang up; Nico was hungry and he knew his time could be better spent eating than by talking with Apollo. Reluctantly, the man hung up and Nico tossed his phone onto the bed. He looked at Percy once again and saw that he held the same blank expression he had the night before, and all morning long.

He cleared his throat. "Percy?"

Percy managed to look up from the floor and face the son of Hades.

Nico licked his lips a slight bit. "Are you hungry?"

Percy shook his head lightly and let his eyes fall away from Nicos and rest back on the floor again. The son of Hades sighed in a slight agitation. He knew Percy would have a hard time recovering but he himself didn't feel like dealing with a pity party. As cold as it seemed, Percys feelings were kind of the least of his worries. The hit was done, Percy was alive, and Ares had revoked the threat on their lives; Nico was relaxed. Percy would soon get over the way he was feeling, Nico knew that, so he allowed himself to think of other things. His first thought was of Typhon and the Manticore. After all, just because Ares had dropped thinking of he and Percy, it didn't mean the two of them had, as well. He wondered where the two were and if they had heard about the hit. He wondered if it would make them want Percy more or less. He actually hoped they wouldn't want him at all anymore. But he wasn't sure why they wanted him to begin with. Lust? Money? Power? Revenge? Who knows?

So Nico, having more important things to think about than the son of Poseidon, left Percy to sulk on his bed and told him food was there if he wanted it.

Nico pulled a notebook from his bag before he sat to eat. Since things were complicated, he figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and come up with an 'escape' plan in case it was needed. He had only done it once before, when he literally didn't think he would make it through another week in his life, and he wasn't fond of the idea of running away from his problems. But, since he had Percy with him, he had some more reasons to run if necessary: if anything else were to go wrong, he would want Percy to get away from it as fast as possible and get somewhere where he would be safe. And that made him think of a number of places he could send the son of Poseidon if he were to ever need to get him away from anything. Plenty of ideas came to his mind but the only one that made sense, the only real place Percy could go, was Camp Half Blood. It was easy to figure... the hard part was getting him there.

Nico flipped some cartoons on, for Percy, and plugged his ear buds in to drown out the sound of the children's shows as he worked. He clicked his pen and hoped that Percy would be done pouting once he himself was done planning.

Nico started to scribble things down in his notebook without even really thinking too much; there were multiple names of people Percy could get a hold of if he needed to. There were even names of cabs services and buses that Nico trusted and would be okay with Percy using. The son of Hades was sure to put Apollos name and number on the paper so Percy would be able to call him if he needed anything. He knew Apollo would supply Percy with weapons, money, anything Percy might need; all he had to do was ask. Especially now that Percy was, technically, 'in the business'. The phone call Nico had recieved a little earlier from Apollo showed that he was growing to think of Percy as a friend and Nico just hoped he would do for Percy what he would do for Nico.

As the music flowed into Nicos ears, he began to relax, even though he didn't know he was tense, and he was able to think a little clearer. He made sure to write things in the notebook he knew Percy would need to know: like what places to stay away from and how to get ahold of people at Camp Half Blood if he needed to. Nico was able to see that Percy wasn't the same kid, a blind man could have seen it, so he was also sure to write things that would help Percy keep his head on straight.

At one point during the hours Nico was writing, he looked over at Percy and noticed that he was finally starting to eat. It had taken him until lunch time to eat breakfast, but he was eating. Nico couldn't argue and just went back to his work.

As the hours continued to pass on, the notebook became full of notes, advice, names, numbers, directions, and small, messy, hand drawn maps Nico hoped Percy could follow. He tried to make things as clear as possible but some things still seemed so complicated, even to the world experienced son of Hades.

The biggest thing he had on his mind at the moment, though, was how the son of Poseidon would respond to the plan. He knew Percy would ask why he had even done it and the only answer was 'just in case'. Just in case what, though, Nico didn't know. Just in case Nico had to leave? Just in case Percy had to leave? Just in case Nico was killed? As much as he didn't want to think of that as a possibility, he knew very well it was one. He had told Percy, when he first found him, that Percy was going to stick around with him because it was probably safest for him. All of these plans were just in case that changed... more than it already had, that is.

Nico was mentally exhausted when he finished Percys escape plan, after hours and hours, ideas and ideas, and attempts and attempts, and he just hoped it was good enough to allow Percy to actually get away. But not just away... he needed to make sure Percy would be able to get as far away as possible if the future called for it. He pulled the ear buds from his ears and looked over at the son of Poseidon. He mentally punched himself when he saw the elder demigod... He was so wrapped up in making sure Percy was set if something went wrong later on that he had almost forgotten that something was going wrong right then and there. Nico sat up on his bed and swung his legs over the edge.

"Percy?"

The son of Poseidon had turned the cartoons off long ago and he was now just staring mindlessly at the ceiling, his half eaten breakfast still sitting on the bed beside him. He didn't respond when Nico said his name.

The younger demigod heaved a sigh. "How do you feel?"

Percy shrugged but nothing more. He didn't make any sound or speak a single word. He didn't even turn his head to look at Nico.

The son of Hades had ignored Percy for long enough to be able to feel slightly sorry for him again. It made him get an idea, too. Something he hoped would keep Percy from getting too screwed up. "Get up."

Percy looked at Nico with a deep confusion corrupting his features.

"You can't just mope around in bed all day. Get up." Nico stood and headed toward the bathroom. He stopped at Percys bag and tossed him his swim trunks before picking up the son of Poseidons bloodied shirt from the night before. Percy wasn't sure what Nico planned on doing with it, but he didn't care. He looked at the trunks on the bed. He may not have been in the mood to move but he was definitely not in the mood to start an argument. Especially not about going to the pool. So, swimming it was.

Nico dropped Percys blood covered shirt into the bathtub and pulled his favorite lighter out of his pocket. He dropped down to his knees as he flicked the Zippos flint wheel and watched as a bright flame came to be out of the top of the lighter. Nico sighed, thinking about what Percy had done with a lighter not long ago. Just the night before, another favorite lighter of the son of Hades' had been used to help lure in his oldest friend. Lure him in so he could be killed. Nico shook his head and focused on what he was doing rather than what had already been done and couldn't be changed. With one fluid motion, the son of Hades used the lighter to set a small fire in the tub, with the bloodied shirt as a burning material. The smell of the burning blood was not the most pleasant but Nico wasn't leaving any chances that it could be found.

It didn't take long for the fire to eat up the fabric and Nico ran the water to put out the flame and smoke when it had. He pocketed the lighter again as he saw the last of the ashes washed down the tub drain. He turned the bathroom fan on to help the smell of the smoke dissipate while he and Percy were gone.

Percy changed into his swim trunks at a leisurely pace, still being kind of out of it. He could smell a light fragrance of smoke and hear water running but he had no clue what either was, nor did he care to find out: his mind was too wrapped up with the idea of going to the pool. He had finally found something that was clearing his thoughts, to an extent, and he wasn't about to let it go. Even if it hadn't been his idea to go at the moment in the first place.

Percy had finished when Nico left the bathroom and the son of Hades prepared himself for a couple hours of waterside tortue. He didn't really like pools much but he liked seeing Percy in swim trunks even less. It made it clear to see that he really was, truly, perfect.

It was becoming somewhat strange that the hotel pools always happened to be empty when Nico took Percy to swim. At first, Nico had chalked it up to chance. After a few times, though, chance was seeming a little too generous and Nico started having a feeling a higher power was playing a role.

Percy swam longer than Nico thought was humanly possible, leaving the younger sitting in a pool chair, watching silently. At one point, Nico actually had room service bring him something to eat: he was more than hungry and he wasn't about to ask Percy if he was ready to go. For the first time since the hit, the son of Poseidon looked like he was at peace. As dark as Nico had become over the past three years, he was still human and didn't want to see anybody, especially Percy, in a state of disarray.

So, Nico occupied himself in any way he could. He read, planned a little more, listened to music, ate; anything he could to get his mind off the pool and the guy swimming in it. After all, being the son of Hades and spending hours on end at a hotel swimming pool was a little awkward for him: he really didn't like that much water, at all. He liked seeing Percy in the water, yes, but water itself was one of his worst enemies. Especially when it came to such large amounts of it: he couldn't swim for the life of him and seeing a body of water bigger than a bathtub could be a little nerve racking for him at times. So, he kept his mind off the water by doing things he considered to be normal.

The hours passed on, as they always did, and with each one that did so, Percy was feeling more and more free of the world around him. The only problem with the swimming pool is that he knew he couldn't stay there forever, but he could pretend he could. And that's just what he did. He also made sure not to spend too much time under the water because he knew how freaked Nico had gotten the last time he came up a little out of breath: he didn't want Nico to scold him and tell him they had to go just because Percy was too desperate to clear his mind. That would be overly counterproductive.

In time, Nicos music and notebooks began to bore him almost as much as being at the pool did. All he wanted to do was go back to the hotel room where he could be comfortable and not have to worry so much about being caught by any searching parties, whether they be police, gangbangers, or anyone else that may have been looking for him for some reason or another. He couldn't actually be sure anyone knew where he was or if there was even anyone out looking, but he didn't want to find out the hard way.

It was getting pretty late and Nico had grown tired from the hours of boredom, but the son of Poseidon was still going strong in the pool. Nico laid his head back and tried to relax as Percy continued to swim back and forth and in circles in the kidney shaped hotel pool. He closed his eyes for just a second, resting them.

Percy had been making laps and circles for hours. It was probably the longest he had ever spent in a pool, in his life, and he was pretty close to being done. He was getting tired and his muscles were begining to ache a little from the swim. He made his way to the edge of the pool and lifted himself up before he noticed Nico laying his head back with his eyes closed. Percy paid him little attention until he heard the son of Hades' phone vibrating against the metal arm rest of the chair. He slipped his shirt on quickly before he approached the son of Hades to alert him. A nudge was all that was needed and his head rolled to the side before it shot back up and Nico came to. He let his mind register before he looked at his ringing phone and paused when he saw the number, recognizing it as one he would prefer not to see.

"Let's go."

The two made their way back to the room as quickly as possible. The phone had stopped ringing along the way and Nico was actually hoping that the caller would try again. He may not have particularly liked talking to the guy but he wanted to know what he and his associate had to say. And, much to his demented pleasure, the ringing began again and a panicked expression spread across Percys face. He wasn't sure who would be so persistent and feel such a need to talk to Nico.

Nico finally answered the phone once they were in the room and the door was closed tightly behind them. He took a deep breath and looked at Percy before he answered the call and put it on speaker.

'Hades?'

Percy tensed. This voice wasn't one he recognized.

Nico knew, though... It belonged to the Manticore.

'Hades? Are you there?' The person was speaking with a very playful tone. Nico already knew the man was borderline psychopathic, but the way he was speaking gave Nico a whole new reason to believe it.

'Hmm. I hope you are there. What about your friend? Is he there, too?'

Percys heart beat quickened when he heard himself being mentioned, even if it wasn't by name. Nico looked up at him for a split second before he looked back down at the phone. He still didn't say anything.

'I really don't like how quiet you're being. I wanna hear you speak. I wanna hear your fear.'

Nico gritted his teeth. "What makes you think I'm afraid of you?"

'There it is!' The man clapped. 'I know you're not afraid. You should be, but you're too stupid to fear me. I just wanted to hear your voice. Anyway, I have something I wanna talk about. Do you wanna know what it is?'

Nico remained silent.

'I asked you a question, kiddo.' His psychopath tone deepened.

Nico sighed and looked over at Percy. He knew the son of Poseidon had no clue who he was hearing speak but that didn't mean he shouldn't fear him. Nico tried to remain calm and maintain his anger to keep Percy as relaxed as possible.

"Not particularly."

The man chuckled. 'That's too bad, because I wanna tell you anyway. Are you listening? Both of you?'

Both Nico and Percy were silent.

'I hope you are, because this is important. It's about Horme.'

Percy felt nauseous just hearing the man's name. He felt his head begin to spin as he seemingly relived the occurrences of the night before. 'One of you killed Horme.' The mans voice deepened further, sending shivers down Percys spine with just a few words. 'My associates and I don't think it was you, Hades.' His tone now sounded somewhat childish, like he thought he whole thing was a game. 'The autopsy said that he had been decapitated.' He seemed to find that much more amusing than it should have been. Nico, on the other hand, looked like he had just seen a ghost. No, worse. He was the son of Hades and he dealt with ghosts often... 'And that's how he died.' The man chuckled darkly. 'That's just not you.' He made a tsk tsk sound with his tongue. 'It must be that other guy.' He sounded as if he had just thought about that possibility and was pleased with himself. 'He becomes more intriguing to me with every passing day. He could come in handy, I feel.' He paused for a second and took a breath. When he spoke again, his voice sounded angry and it dripped with distain once again. 'I will get my hands on him. You can bet that.'

The line went silent after that and Nico hung up his own phone shortly after.

Percy couldn't understand why in the world all these people felt the need to 'get their hands on him'. He really wasn't anything special...

Nico, too, was curious about the phone call but for different reasons. The Manticore was the kind of individual that never said anything unless he meant it. When it came to phone calls and such, he was incapable of changing words around to make people believe what he wanted them to. And that's what made things curious. The Manticore spoke of his 'associates'... Clearly, there was more than one. Nico knew the man was working with Typhon but if that was all, he would have simply said Typhons name or spoken of just one associate. But he had mentioned more. Nico thought back to the phone call when Apollo told him he had seen the two men, along with others, at a gas station. He wondered who else was with them. He wondered if it had something to do with what Apollo wasn't telling him all that time ago.

Percy was still reeling and wondering. He was still processing the words he had heard. It wasn't hard to understand that there were people after him, and he kind of understood why. Nico had told him before that it was because of something he had done a while ago. Someone he had killed. He remembered the letter from The Manticore, who he figured was the caller, and what Nico said it was about. But why had the man said something about Percy intriguing him?

Percys thoughts were interrupted by Nicos voice. "Do you know who that was?"

Percy nodded his head, thinking back to the letter.

Nico stood from his bed where he had sat once he hung up the phone. He approached Percy and stopped as close as he dared. He wasn't afraid of Percy but he didn't know what the son of Poseidon would do if he felt cornered.

"Do you remember what I said to you? About staying with me?"

Percy nodded slowly.

"Okay. Nothing has changed. I will still do everything in my power to keep you safe, no matter what. Do you understand?"

Percy was about ready to lose it. He was so confused with everything that was going on and each day that passed just made it worse. Why would Nico try so hard to keep him safe? Why would he care?

"Percy, did you hear me?" Despite his best efforts, Nicos patience was beginning to wear thin.

Percy managed to nod even though his mind was still going a million miles a minute. Nico had tried to calm him, but he wasn't the best at it. It seemed as though no one in Percys current life was too awful good at that.

Nico shook his head. He was never good at talking to people and he was worse at listening to them. However, he figured the only way Percy could clear his mind would be to talk.

Nico hung his head and sighed, not entirely sure of exactly what he was getting himself into with all of this. "Talk to me, Percy." He wasn't even sure what he was getting himself into with that...

Percy held his breath for a second before he exhaled then refilled his lungs with a sharp intake. He didn't realize how scared he was until he tried to speak and his voice shook. "What's going on?"

That was the last question Nico wanted to hear Percy ask. He had no clue how to explain the whole situation to someone who didn't understand anything about his life. Percy was, probably, in more danger than he had ever been in before; fighting Greek creatures and trying to outsmart gods and goddesses was a walk in the park compared to this. But, the son of Hades knew he couldn't say it like that.

Nico snorted a chuckle and shook his head, wondering, to an extent, the same thing. "I don't want you to worry about what's going on. It's alot to think about and, truthfully, I'm pretty sure you're better off not really knowing."

Percy picked up his head and glared sharply at the son of hades, really hating the answer he was given. "What the hell are you talking about?" Percys sudden explosion came as a little bit of a surprise. "You seriously think I'd be better off not having a clue about what's going on right now?"

Nico didn't even try to keep himself calm this time. "Yes! I do!"

"How the hell does that even make sense?" Percy retorted.

It was odd how quickly a fight between the two could begin...

"It just does! Now shut up! I don't feel like talking about this with you right now."

Percy stood from his bed. "I couldn't care less if you don't feel like talking about it. You have put me through living hell over the past month. You're dragging me all over with you, introducing me to people I never wanted to meet, implementing me in murders, and expecting me to commit one on my own. Well, ya know what, I did it. And it's your fault that I had to because you used me as bait in your own. And now, Riptide is a blood stained murder weapon. I think I have the right to know. Now tell me what the hell is going on."

Nico stared intensely at Percy as those words left his lips. For the first time since Percys return to the real world from the Lotus, he seemed like Percy again. The Percy Nico had met at Camp. The Percy Nico had known from the Argo. The Percy Nico had fallen for three years ago and had wanted more than anything since then.

Nico turned away from Percy.

"Look at me and give me an answer." Percy hadn't yelled that time but his tone was still harsh.

Nico turned back and nodded, speaking much more softly than Percy expected. "You want to know what's going on? Fine. Right now, there are at least two men looking for you for reasons that are currently unknown to me. I know the Manticore wants to get back at me but since he's working with Typhon and mentioned an associate, there is something else they want you for. As of now, I'm not entirely sure what that is. Along with that, I am doing everything in my power to keep you safe, just like I've been trying to do for over a month. Does that clear things up for you?"

Percy seemed to have calmed a little but his answer to Nicos question made the son of Hades feel firey. "No. Not really."

He gritted his teeth. "Then what do you want to know?" He was preparing himself for Percy to ask a beyond stupid question. He figured the son of Poseidon was going to be his typical self and twist everything around and make Nico even more angry.

"I want to know," Percy said sharply, "what the whole point of this is."

It was a something stupid... Nico shook his head.

"Start talking, Nico. Why is all this going on? You started it when you had to play hero. Give me a reason not to blame you for all this shit."

Percy had sworn plenty of times before but something about the way he used that word and the tone in which he said it made it sound different.

"Play hero?" Nico questioned, his anger growing. "I saved your ass! Show some appreciation!"

"Appreciation? Are you kidding? Why the hell should I?"

Nico forced himself to think of someone other than Percy to help him hold it together. Otherwise, who knows what he would have done to the son of Poseidon. "Because I left my own family to save you."

Percy couldn't have cared less who Nico had to leave. In Percys opinion, he hadn't really been saved so Nico had done nothing and his leaving was pointless. "Why? Why was my life and safety so important to you?"

Nico didn't respond.

"C'mon Nico, tell me why I mattered more to you more than your own sister."

Nico turned his glare to Percy. "Because of the way I felt!"

Percy recoiled a bit, not having expected that. "What does that have to do with it?" He was very aware of the way Nico had felt about him but he couldn't understand why that would cause Nico to spend three years of his life looking for him.

Nico had no intention of saying what he had said but he couldn't take it back now. He turned away from Percy for a moment, realizing he had just added more to the tension and stress.

"I knew Hazel was safe. I knew that as long as she stayed with the others she would be fine. My biggest concern was you."

Percys tone deepened. "Why did you even care?"

Nicos tone followed suit and he had the serious feeling the yelling would begin again shortly. "I had already lost my sister. I wasn't going to let myself lose someone else when there was something I could do about it."

Percy silenced and blinked in a slight confusion. ...Was that really it? Was Nico afraid of losing him? It didn't seem very like Nico... But, after all, nothing Percy was doing seemed like Percy. They both seemed to have changed so much from what Percy remembered. Was that the effect the Lotus had? Percy couldn't help but let his tone soften. "I don't understand."

"Of course you don't." Nico shook his head and turned away.

Percy watched him as he sat in the desk chair.

The son of Poseidon studied Nico for a second as he plunked his elbow onto the arm of the chair and rested his head in his palm. Percy took Nicos momentary silence as an opportunity to try to figure the younger demigod out. The son of Poseidon felt as though he was so busy trying to learn of his own changes that he hadn't bothered to think of Nicos, although he definitely should have. 

At one point, Nico had been a shy and quiet kid. A little dark and mysterious but quiet and reserved all the same. Now, he was the one to be overly blunt. He didn't care how his words and actions could effect someone. The real world had changed him. It had darkened him even further. It had made him more mysterious, more dangerous, and more difficult to read.

Percy, on the other hand, had become the exact opposite. He was afraid; he felt alone. He was once the one to speak his mind but, now, he couldn't manage to organize his thoughts. He was once a quick thinker, smart, logical, everything a demigod should be. Now, he felt slow, confused, and lost; pretty much everything a demigod should not be. But the worst part about the whole thing was that he didn't have an explanation as to why.

Percy swallowed hard at those thoughts but wasn't the only one who had something on his mind: Nico, too, had been wondering about something for a few minutes. Now, he was trying to find the right way to put his thoughts into words and try not to offend Percy with them, since he wasn't in the mood to fight with the son of Poseidon any more than he had.

With one final consideration on what to say, Nico spoke. "...Why did you actually do it?"

Percy bit his lip, knowing exactly what Nico was talking about. He wondered if the son of Hades actually knew how stupid his question sounded. Percy didn't answer.

Nico had to force himself to stay calm yet again but he hated being egnored. "I asked you a question."

"You've been doin an awful lot of that lately." The son of Poseidon shook his head a bit and spoke the words softly.

Nico wished Percy would be a little more compliant sometimes. No, all the time. He was trying to keep his cool even though he had all the right in the world to be beyond angry at the son of Poseidon and Percy was lucky he wasn't. Percy had killed his oldest friend and Nico wanted to hate him for it. But he couldn't make himself. At the moment, though, he was feeling like it might be a little easier to.

"Listen here, Jackson." He spat, causing Percy to look him in the face. "You're luckier than hell that you're not dead right now. Horme could have killed you and I'm not even really sure why he didn't. Not to mention the fact that I could have left you to die when I found he was your hit."

Percy stood and tried to act authoritative and strong. "Then why didn't you?!"

Both demigod boys were burning with anger as another escalation was added onto the, already well developed, argument. 

Nico, too, spoke harshly and with extreme force. "There was no way in hell I was gonna let three years of my life be wasted by letting you be killed! You should be greatful!"

The words had just barely left Nicos lips when Percy was shouting something back at him. "Why should I be greatful? Because you exploited my fatal flaw?!"

The entire room silenced. Both demigods still held angry expressions but they were softening ever so slightly with the slow seconds that the words processed.

Nico was quite taken aback by them, since he didn't know what Percys fatal flaw was. Should he have known? The room stayed filled with silence, as it had been very often, as Nico thought. He tried to figure how the son of Poseidons fatal flaw could have tied in with murder.

When the younger demigod spoke again, his voice had quieted to being barely audible. "What's your fatal flaw?"

Percy was angry that Nico would even have the audacity to ask something like that. But, he calmed himself the best he could before speaking, answering the question. "I was told once that I would sacrifice the world to save a friend."

Silence, once again, followed the words. Deafening silence. Nico drew in a shakey breath and thought: Percy was right. Nico pretty much had exploited his fatal flaw, more than once, without even knowing.

"Are you saying you committed murder because of your fatal flaw? To save your own life, as well as mine?"

Percy looked down. He felt like it was a stupid reason to give, but he had nothing else. Saying it out loud had actually made it a bit easier for him to come to terms with himself. Before, he had thought he had done it for his own sake. Now, he had a feeling it was more for Nico. He owed the son of Hades and this seemed to be the best, and only, way to repay him and try, at least, to keep him safe: saving his life by taking another. ...His fatal flaw...

Nico sat in a flop on his bed as his mind buzzed with thought. One single thought that had many parts: his oldest friend had been killed a day earlier. The person who killed him was the one Nico had risked his life, time and time again, in order to find. But, his own fatal flaw was threatening to make all of it pointless. Nico could hold a grudge better than anyone. Percy had killed a friend. In order to save him, yes. But still. And then he came up with excuses. Yes, Nico was happy Ares was off their case but he probably could have thought up some plan to fake a death and get Horme out of the country so Percy didn't actually have to kill him. He wished he would have thought of that a little sooner...

"Look," Percy broke the silence "Nico, I'm sorry. I realize you think it's a shit excuse but it's not really an excuse. It's the true reason I did what I did. In the end, that was the deciding factor. Believe it, don't believe it. I don't care. Hate me, kill me, whatever. It doesn't matter anymore. I let my flaw run me again and this is what I get for it."

Nico was awestruck. That was, probably, the deepest thing he had ever heard Percy say to date. The smart kid he had known three years was nothing in comparison with the wise one that stood before him now.

Nico shook his head lightly. "I don't hate you, Percy. I'm not going to kill you. I shouldn't have said what I said. Your flaw isn't a shit excuse. Mine has run me so many times. My grudges have led to even more brutal things than your pride has."

Percy would have preferred not to call it pride but, in the end, it was probably best described with that word.

The rest of the day went by quickly and smoothly. The two didn't say much to one another until late into the evening. Neither was able to sleep, not that it was late enough to, so they made a mutual, unspoken agreement to sit up in silence and have the others company be enough. Two demigods being stuck in a silent room was awkward enough as it was. Not being able to know what the person might do next could be tough to get one's self through. When they were Nico and Percy, things were a little more difficult. Nico could barely control himself around Percy as it was but to have him sprawled on a bed was not the easiest thing in the world to deal with. If Nico wanted to, he could- NO! Those thoughts popped up at the strangest of times...

Nico had sat in silence for so long that it startled him a little when Percy spoke.

"What now?"

Nico sat up. He wasn't a big fan of not being able to look at someone when he was talking to them.

"Now, we go day by day." Since the only thing he had planned was a way to get Percy away from him, that was the best answer he had. "We don't worry about tomorrow until it becomes today."

Percy nodded but he wasn't quite satisfied. There was something more he wanted to ask but he figured he was better off not saying anything. Nico, apparently, didn't have the same feeling. When he noticed Percy had something else on his mind, he had to ask what it was.

"Spit it out."

Percy looked at him. "Spit what out?"

Nico held back a growl, not being sure if Percy was being serious or just typical Percy. "Whatever it is your thinking about."

Percy sighed. He was really starting to hate the feeling of incompetence and naivety he had been experiencing for the past moth and a half straight.

"What's gonna happen to me?"

Nico narrowed his eyes. "Nothing is going to happen to you, Percy. What would even make you ask a question like that?" Once again, Nico realized how much Percy had changed. He could go from yelling in anger, not being able to control himslf, to child like fear in mere seconds.

"Those guys are out looking for me, Ares, and Herc. It's almost like I went from being invisible to being America's Most Wanted in a month. What's gonna happen to me?"

Nico stood from his bed and walked to Percys. He stood in front of him and the son of Poseidon looked up at him with his famous puppy eyes that had been the reason he won many an argument with Annabeth. Even Nico could feel himself melt a little on the inside because of them.

"Can I sit?" Why was he asking?...

Percy nodded softly and Nico took a seat gently on his bed. He had no clue why he was doing it but he felt he had something to tell the elder demigod. He didn't even know what he was going to say, though.

"Percy, you can't be afraid of these guys."

The son of Poseidon scoffed. He was actually pretty sure he could be. And Nico knew that. Percy knew Nico knew it. And that's why the younger said something more.

"They pretty much feed off of fear."

Things were cleared up a little after that but there were still more questions to be asked. Percys voice was soft when he asked one. "How am I supposed to not be afraid of them?"

Nico took a breath. He had nothing, literally nothing, to answer Percys question with. In all honesty, the son of Poseidon should be afraid of them. But Nico had already said not to be. If he told Percy otherwise now, he would sound stupid and afraid himself.

"You let me worry about them."

Percy looked at him with the puppy eyes again. "You're being left to worry about an awful lot..."

Nico nodded. "It's better than you being left to worry about it. All I want you to do is stick close to me. I will do whatever I can to keep you safe. This world is not your friend. I will be your... protector from it."

Percy shook his head. The confusion that had been finding its way into his mind and onto his features had returned. "Why?"

Nico spoke softly and with as much compassion as he could muster. "Three years, Percy. Three years I spent thinking about you."

Percys expression changed to one that seemed a little creeped out. Nico couldn't blame him, though.

The son of Hades took a breath. "During those three years, the way I felt about you only changed in one way." There was no way Nico was going to come right out and say it...

Percy shook his head; another sign of the confusion that had become his version of normal.

Okay, maybe Nico would have to say it. "You drive me crazy, Percy." He shook his own head. "You know how I felt before?"

Percy nodded.

"Multiply that by a thousand." Nico turned away from Percy. He knew he had to say it. He sighed heavily. "I'm gonna tell you something. Once I say it, there's a few things you can do. You can accept it and deal with it. Or, you can deny it. After that, who knows..." He paused before studdering out another sentence. "Do you still want to know?"

Another small nod came from Percy.

Nico wasn't sure if he had ever felt more nervous in his whole life. Ever. Over something as stupid as admitting his feelings to someone. "I feel more for you than I have ever felt for anyone before." He shook his head. "Over the past three years, the 'like' (he made quotation marks with his fingers) has grown to a want."

Percys eyes widened, kind of grasping what the younger demigod was saying. But Nico wasn't done yet.

"When I found you, that want grew to somewhat of a need. For over a month, you have been the most important thing in my life... the only important thing. You and your safety."

Percy nodded but it was clear he still wasn't fully understanding. It was also clear he was quite creeped out, and with good reason.

Nico dropped his head back and sighed. "Never mind."

"No" Percy was quick to say. "T-tell me." He was feeling like he was begining to understand, but he didn't want to have the wrong idea about the whole thing.

Nico took a breath that turned to a slight growl when he released it. "Percy," he paused. "Percy, I want you. I need you. I know it sounds cheesy and stupid but..."

Percy swallowed hard. Nico wanted him how? Needed him how? "You mean... like... my body?" It seemed to be the only thing that made sense considering it was Nico talking and, also, what he had already said.

Gods, Nico felt like a stupid dick. "I'm sorry, Percy. Forget I said anything."

Percy shook his head. "It's alright."

Nico froze and had to replay Percys words in his mind a few times to make sure he had heard them properly. And he had heard them properly. Percy had said it was alright. The son of Hades fought to keep his thoughts in check.

"I'm gonna go to bed. It's been kind of a long day."

Nico nodded as Percy walked into the bathroom. He stood from the son of Poseidons bed and made his way back to the desk. He couldn't believe he had actually told Percy. Percys reaction, though, was a little more difficult to process.

Percy had so much to deal with and this had added to it. Nico seemed to be good at throwing things at him that made his life more complicated than Percy ever thought was possible.

That night, Percy fell asleep with two simple sentences repeating over and over again and running through his brain.

"I want you. I need you."

Part of it was frightening. What would Nico do to get what he wanted? Another part of it made Percy feel good, though. He felt needed. Even when he was with Annabeth, he didn't really feel needed. Annabeth was beyond independent. Nico, though, had admitted to needing Percy and to wanting nothing more than to have him be safe. But Percy was able to figure Nico did want more than that...

He could have thought for hours about the whole thing but he was tired. He wiped it from his mind, along with his beyond mixed feelings about the whole thing, and closed his eyes. He didn't know how tired he was but sleep overtook him fatser than it ever had before.

Nico sat up for a short while, wondering what would happen now. All he knew for sure was that he would do everything in his power to keep Percy safe.

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