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Percy Jackson, The Olympian | Percy Jackson & The Olympians | Percy/Nico, Percy/Tom Daley | ~6,300 | For [livejournal.com profile] finkpishnets' prompt over at Citius, Altius, Fortius: percy is a diver and nico, well, no one knows exactly what nico does. | The majority of this story was written between the hours of three and eight in the morning with the equestrian team jumping in the background. I tried to be true to diving and swimming stuff but the Internet only helps you so much, so, sorry if there are any inaccuracies. Also, in this story, Olympic diver Thomas Finchum doesn't exist (Percy replaces him).

**

Percy Jackson is first put in a swimming pool at age three and a half. It’s part of what his mother calls “the tadpole program” and she watches as her only son takes to the water the same way a bird takes to the air.

Percy swims every day after that at Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side. “Don’t you maybe want to try something else?” his mum asks him one day as she and Percy walk to the facility. “Soccer or baseball or something?”

For a six-year-old, Percy manages to portray the perfect look of scandalized. “Mum,” he says, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. Pedestrians stare and swerve around him, grumbling under their breath. “Mum, I love swimming.”

And that’s the end of that.

Because, the thing about it, is that it’s more than just swimming to Percy. From the first moment he stepped into a pool he knew that he was born to be in the water. Everything felt right and easy and perfect. If Percy had his way, he’d never get out of the pool.

“Why do you swim so much?” Grover asks him one day at recess. He’s hanging upside down from the monkey bars, staring as Percy and Annabeth race themselves on the swings to see who can go the highest. “You don’t even do, like, fun swimming. You just train.”

Percy shrugs as he pumps his legs, plummeting backwards in a graceful arc. “It is fun,” he says defensively. “I just want to be the best. I want to be an Olympic swimmer.”

**

Two years later, that dream is gone.

He swims competitively now, part of the top team in Manhattan, and he’s already got a national championship under his belt.
Percy is eight.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and Percy’s in the middle of a timed run for his fifty meter butterfly when he sees it. A kid is plummeting into the pool, twisting and turning and slicing through the water with barely a splash. It’s so captivating that Percy stops in the middle of his trial and stares.

“I want to do that,” he announces, although no one can hear him. His teammates are all finishing and his coach is yelling, but Percy can’t hear any of them.

His mum signs him up for diving after that, frowning as she writes the cheque for the aquatics centre. “You’re sure about this, Percy?” she asks. “It’s a lot of money and I want you to be sure that you want to do this.”

“Mum,” he says, “it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Sally Jackson sighs and hands the cheque in to the administrator. “If you say so, dear.”

**

Percy starts diving the next Saturday and after a month Grover and Annabeth corner him on the playground.

“Percy,” Annabeth complains, “we never see you anymore! You’re always at the pool.”

“Come watch me then,” Percy retorts. He bounces on the balls of his feet and smiles at his friends excitedly.

“It’s one thing to watch you compete,” Grover says kindly, “but another to watch you just practice. C’mon. Annie and I were going to go see Harry Potter this weekend. Do you want to come?”

The thing is, Percy does want to go. He misses spending time with Annabeth and Grover, but his need to swim, his love of the water, is too much.

“I can’t,” he says finally. “I have diving practice.”

“Fine,” Grover replies. “We’ll tell you how the movie is.”

**

After the fifteen Saturday sessions are finished, Percy asks his mum to sign him up for more diving lessons.

“I thought you liked swimming,” his mother asks, sitting him down at the kitchen table when Percy makes his announcement.
“I do,” Percy assures her. “I just like diving too.”

“Percy,” Sally says. “You’re just … you’re so good at swimming. Remember when you won Nationals this year? Dear, I really think you have a shot at this.” He knows she means the Olympics, and it makes something inside Percy’s heart twinge.

“I can do both,” he says with a grin, but Sally shakes her head.

“You’re going to have to pick one eventually,” she tells him. “And I hope it’s swimming.”

The comment stings more than it’s supposed to, Percy figures. He’s eight years old and he is the best swimmer of his age in the entirety of the United States of America. Why can’t he also be the best diver?

**

He trains harder than he ever has before, attending national events in both swimming and diving. When Percy turns ten, his friends stop coming to his competitions.

The first time it happens, Percy is in a national qualifying match for diving right there at Asphalt Green. He can see his mother in the stands but in the spots that are usually filled by Annabeth and Grover on either side of her, there are only more mothers. It makes Percy’s heart sink and for the first time ever, Percy lets his mind wander.

The climb to the five meter platform feels like an eternity, the air crackling around him with electricity. It’s almost like a force of nature is trying to pull him down, pull him back to the ground, and Percy knows that if he were outside, a bolt of lightning would strike him out of the sky the moment his feet left the platform.

The water looks like it’s a million miles away as Percy sets up for his first dive. It’s a backward half-twist with a two and a half rotated somersault, an easy dive that he’s been working on for ages and something that shouldn’t hurt as much as it does when he lands in the water two seconds after he jumps. When Percy comes up for air he knows that there are tears prickling at the corners of his eyes and he clambers out of the pool as quickly as he can.

When Percy Jackson is ten years old he finishes out of the top ten for the first time in his life and he cries in the boys’ locker room after everyone else is gone.

Percy Jackson also meets Nico di Angelo when he is ten years old.

**

“I thought you were supposed to be good,” Nico says, startling Percy out of his sobbing. He looks up at Nico with his shaggy brown hair and pale olive skin and eyes the colour of coal and thinks belatedly at how he never bothered to get changed and is still sitting on the bench in just his Speedo.

“I thought so too,” Percy says, because he did. He thought he was a great diver.

“Then why did you do so badly out there?” Nico asks. He sits down at the other end of the bench and stares as Percy stands and goes to his locker to find clothes.

Percy tries his best to ignore Nico but he can’t help retorting when Nico demands, “Well, answer me!”

“I don’t even know you! What are you doing here, anyway? This is for athletes only,” Percy snaps. He wonders idly if Nico is a diver but he decides that he would have recognized his eyes if he were.

Nico shrugs. “I’m Nico di Angelo. And you’re Percy Jackson. You’re supposed to be the best ten-year-old swimmer in Manhattan. You’re also supposed to be a good diver.”

“I’m supposed to be meeting my mum outside,” Percy mumbles in reply. He goes to the showers to wash off the chlorine that’s dried on his skin when he hears Nico ask again, “Why did you do so badly out there?”

Percy jams the button for the hot water and lets it cascade over his body. He strips off his Speedo and scrubs down his body with a bar of soap. “My friends didn’t come today,” he says finally, answering his question. “They always come to my competitions, but they didn’t this time. I miss them.”

Percy doesn’t hear Nico approach the shower curtain that separates them, so when he speaks again the loudness of his voice startles Percy.

“I’ll come to your competitions,” Nico offers. “I’ll come to all of them. And you better win, Percy Jackson.”

When Percy comes out of the showers, Nico isn’t there anymore.

**

Percy sees Nico everywhere. Or at least, he thinks he does.

He sees him on the playground at school, or in the 7-Eleven on the weekends. He sees him on the subway with Annabeth and at Asphalt Greens while training.

The only places Percy actually does see Nico is at his competitions, both for swimming and diving. He’s always there, sitting alone in the far parts of the stands, so small that if Percy hadn’t been looking for him, he never would have seen him.

But he does.

**

One year later, Percy is forced to make the hardest decision of his life.

The doorbell rings at eleven in the morning and Percy goes and answers the door. It’s his coaches, Robb for swimming and Alex for diving.

“What are you doing here?” Percy asks, disregarding manners. He doesn’t see Robb and Alex outside of Asphalt Green; it’s like seeing his teacher at the grocery store.

“We need to have a little chat, Percy,” Robb says. “May we come in?”

Percy nods dumbly and leads the way into the kitchen. His mum is sitting at the table with three mugs of coffee and a glass of juice and suddenly, Percy is wary.

“What’s going on?” he asks. He stands in the doorway as Robb and Alex move to sit behind the coffee cups his mother’s put out and blinks owlishly at the three of them. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, Percy,” his mum sighs. She pats the table beside the juice and wordlessly, Percy sinks into the chair.

“You need to pick, sweetie,” Sally says. “You need to pick between swimming and diving.”

The air turns cold and Percy’s blood turns to molten lead. “Wh-what?” he stutters, eyes flickering to his coaches who tactfully avoid his gaze. “Why?”

“It’s just becoming too much, Percy,” his mum continues. “It was alright when you were younger but we just can’t afford both anymore. You need to choose.”

“But I can’t!” Percy says, and he’s a little dismayed to discover how high and squeaky his voice sounds. “I’m the best! I’m the best at both! I’m a national champion!”

“Percy,” Robb says sternly, “you’re not going to be a champion in both forever. You need to choose.”

“We’ll give you time,” Alex adds. “You don’t have to decide right now. Just … soon.”

Percy shakes his head, the words sinking in slowly. He doesn’t have to choose. He’s Percy Jackson, best twelve-year-old swimmer and diver in America. It’s almost like a betrayal, he thinks to himself as he looks up at his mother and his two coaches who are staring curiously back at him. He can’t stand to watch them watch him so wordlessly, he pushes back his chair and leaves the room.

**

He finds Nico waiting for him on the fire escape; Percy’s long since stopped asking him where he comes from and how he always knows where Percy is. It’s just what Nico does.

“They’re making you choose, huh?” Nico asks, plucking at the sleeve of his sweater. It used to belong to Percy.

“They can’t make me!” Percy snarls, leaning against the metal railing and staring into the alleyway below them. “They can’t make me choose one over the other.”

“No, they can’t,” Nico replies impassively. They sit in silence, nothing but the sounds of Manhattan’s traffic between them until Nico says, “Because you’ll choose anyway.”

Percy stares because Nico is supposed to be on his side and telling him to choose between diving and swimming does not put them on the same page.

Nico,” he says, his voice straining. “Please.

Nico stands and comes to stand next to Percy. They’re almost the same height but Percy has the long, gangly limbs of a swimmer whereas Nico does not. “Tell me about swimming,” Nico says quietly, encouragingly. “Tell me why you love it.”

So Percy does. He tells Nico about how the water feels like home, how he feels like he would never get out of the water if he didn’t have to. He explains how it’s like being wrapped in a blanket that doubles as a second skin, how his heart feels calm and collected and he feels confident and happy.

“And diving?” Nico asks.

Percy gulps because diving is different than swimming. “It’s … exhilarating,” he says finally. “It’s like, every time I climb up the ladder now I can feel it, this tingling sensation. It starts in my fingers and just radiates throughout my whole body, like the whole facility is full of lightning. And as soon as I start my dive it’s like a clash of forces: the weird tingling and then the call of the water, pulling me to safety. It’s dangerous, but I like the danger.”

Nico nods as if he understands, and somehow, Percy thinks he does. He watches as his friend digs around in the pockets of his worn out jeans and pulls out a nickel. “Flip it,” Nico orders, making for the stairs.

“I’m not making this decision based on a coin toss,” Percy says, slightly offended. “This choice is way too important.”
Nico laughs and Percy’s surprised at how bitter it sounds for a kid. “You’re not actually supposed to listen to what it tells you,” Nico says. “You’re just supposed to let it fall so that you know which one you truly want.”

**

Percy Jackson is twelve years old when he gives up swimming in favor of diving.

**

Percy leans quickly after that that he made the right decision. He wins title after title and Nico is there at every competition to cheer him on.

**

Somewhere between Percy’s twelfth and thirteenth birthday he and Annabeth and Grover become friends again. They brush off their falling out as if it never happens and, in return, Percy agrees to spend more time with them.

(He pretends not to notice how Nico is never at competitions if Grover and Annabeth come. Percy stops inviting them to competitions that are capitalized like Regionals and States and Nationals.)

**

When Percy Jackson is fourteen years old he qualifies for the Olympics in Beijing.

His mother cries and hugs him and tells him how proud she is and how she always knew he’d make it to the world stage someday. She does not mention how they will not be able to afford the training camp price or the air fare to China, so Percy does not either.

**

“I have a lot of money,” Nico says casually one day. He’s at one of Percy’s practices, something he’s only recently started attending. “I can send you to Beijing.”

“Yeah, Nico, because I’m going to let you pay for me to probably fail at the Olympics,” Percy says idly from the pool. He doesn’t mention how he doesn’t actually believe that Nico has the money.

“You’re not going to fail and you are going to let me,” Nico demands, and Percy hates this, hates how Nico always knows. That’s not exactly normal best friend behavior.

“You’ll come with me though, right?” Percy asks, climbing from the pool. He’s suddenly reminded of the day he first met Nico and how they were both wearing outfits very similar to the ones their wearing now: Nico in an aviator jacket and dark jeans and Percy in, well, his Speedo.

Nico pulls a face. “I don’t think so,” he says. “I don’t like flying.”

“I’ve never flown,” Percy offers in return, but Nico shakes his head.

“Just go, Percy. It’s the Olympics. You’ll do fine, have fun, all that wonderful stuff.”

Percy doesn’t really believe him, but he’s learned by now that Nico is almost always right.

**

Two days later Percy’s plane tickets arrive in the mail and four days after that he’s jetting off to Beijing.

**

The first night in Beijing Percy misses his mum and Annabeth and Grover and Nico. He cries himself to sleep and then apologizes to his roommate profusely.

The second night is significantly better because by then Percy has met Tom Daley.

Tom is also fourteen and also a diver and even though he’s diving for Great Britain, Percy likes him. He’s sweet and funny and ducks his head nervously whenever Percy asks him a serious question. It’s endearing in a way that he’s only ever associated with Nico, and that maybe concerns Percy for all of five minutes.

“I wish our event wasn’t on the second-to-last day,” Tom says to Percy one evening. They’re lying on the rooftop at the Athlete’s Village, tucked away in a secluded corner. There are other couples there too, sneaking in kisses and whispered promises, but Percy can’t see them. Out of sight, out of mind.

“Me too. It makes me nervous, having to wait all this time,” Percy says. They’ve only been in Beijing for four days and Percy has spent most of his time when not training at the aquatic centre with Tom.

“Percy,” Tom says after a long while, and suddenly, Percy feels the way he does when he climbs the ladder to any of the diving platforms: tingly and nervous, but excited as well.

“Yeah?” Percy asks. He turns his head ever-so-slightly to the side and catches Tom’s eye.

“I’m really glad that you’re here. With me. That we’re in this together.”

“Me too,” Percy replies, and he smiles.

When Percy Jackson is fourteen years old he gets his first kiss.

**

By day eight of the Olympics Michael Phelps has won five medals and Percy spends the time that he’s not at the aquatics centre making out with Tom in Tom’s room.

“That could’ve been me,” Percy mutters between kisses, pinning Tom’s body with his own.

“Hmm,” Tom hums in reply. He doesn’t understand, is what Percy realizes, but he doesn’t care. Tom understands how Percy feels about diving and that’s more than he can say about most people in his life.

Except for Nico.

**

Percy and Nico exchange emails almost daily. The time difference is difficult, but Percy almost always gets a report from Nico about how his mother’s doing and how Grover and Annabeth are just as nervous as Percy feels and how he’s going to do great at the Olympics.

Percy, in return, tells Nico about how lovely Beijing is and how amazing Michael Phelps was and how the U.S. is just tearing up the field.

He does not mention Tom.

**

Percy turns fifteen in Beijing and his teammates take him out to have one single beer.

“You only turn fifteen once,” David Boudia tells him. He’s only nineteen, but he seems to be utterly set on corrupting Percy terribly.
“What’s one beer between friends?” Haley Ishimatsu adds. Percy seems to recall that she’s sixteen and beautiful and way out of his league anyway.

Percy nurses his beer well into the morning and stumbles back to his room with David rather drunkenly. Tom is waiting outside the door for him and he grins cheekily when he sees Percy.

“Happy birthday,” he says cheerfully as David unlocks the door. Percy’s teammate throws him a wink before leaving the door ajar.

“It is a happy birthday,” Percy agrees, kissing Tom. They make out lazily in the hallway for a few minutes before David tells Percy that he should go to bed.

“Sleep is for the weak,” Percy announces, but his yawn gives him away.

“Go to bed,” Tom says with a laugh. He gives Percy one last lingering kiss before sauntering off towards the elevators.

Percy officially deems this as his best birthday ever.

**

The rest of the Olympics pass by in a bit of a blur and all too soon it is Percy’s time to shine.

Somehow the ten meter platform looks a lot higher than it used to. Percy climbs the cool metal stairs and tries not to think of how far down David placed and how much better Percy needs to do in order to show that the Americans can dive.

Because Percy can dive. He’s been the best diver in the United States for a long time.

His first dive is sloppy to the untrained eye and it makes the electricity crackle around Percy as he angrily climbs his way to the top and goes again. And again. By the end of his six dives, Percy is feeling shaky and unsure and he and Tom and David sit huddled together in the hot tub and wait to know if they’ve made semis.

“You did fine,” they tell each other. “You were great.”

They all place within the middle of the pack, David in sixth, Percy in seventh, and Tom in twelfth. They’ve qualified for semis and Percy should be happy. Instead he feels homesick, for the first time since meeting Tom, and he wants nothing more than to call his friends and family and go home.

**

Percy has never felt out of place in the water, but after semi-finals, he feels like he’s drowning.

He watches as Dave moves up to fifth and Tom claws his way up four spots to eighth. Percy stays where he is at seventh.
“You’re just saving it all for finals, aren’t you Perce?” Dave says, nudging him. They’ve got nine hours to kill before finals and even though they’re out and about in Beijing on their second-to-last day in China, Percy doesn’t want to be outside. He wants to be under the covers of his bed and pretend that his mum is just down the hall and that Annabeth and Grover are coming to collect him for a movie and that Nico will just show up the way that Nico always does.

Nico.

Percy hadn’t lent a spare thought to Nico much over the course of the games, but he does now. In his most desperate hour, Percy prays that Nico will somehow show up at finals and watch him, the same way he’s been watching Percy since he was ten.

**

Somewhere in the craziness that is finals, Percy finds himself ranked eighth in the world behind Tom and two spots ahead of Dave. They watch the medal ceremony with bittersweet smiles on their faces and the anxiety lifted from their hearts.

“You weren’t there,” Percy demands over the phone to Nico later that night. He doesn’t even care what time it is in New York City. He’d called his mum with every intent to tell her how great he did and instead he got Nico at his house.

“I told you, I don’t like flying,” Nico replies.

“I needed you,” Percy insists.

“You came in eighth,” Nico points out.

“That’s not a medal.”

“You had Tom. You didn’t need me.”

The fact that Nico knows about Tom Daley is unnerving to Percy because he’s pretty sure that he never mentioned Tom in an email ever.

“You didn’t need to tell me, Percy,” Nico adds, softly this time. “I just sort of knew.”

“You should’ve known I needed you,” Percy says, defeated, and hangs up.

**

Percy’s total command of the diving field in America diminishes slightly since that point. He’s still a fantastic diver, medaling at all his competitions, but the difference now is that none of them are gold.

“You’re just going through a rough patch, dude,” Grover assures him after his final qualifier for States; he just squeaked in.

“You’ll be ready for London in no time,” Annabeth adds, patting Percy on the arm.

Percy doesn’t doubt that he’ll make London. He knows he will the same way he knows that Nico will come back. Nico has to come back.

“Yeah,” he tells his friends, slinging his arms across their shoulders. “All in good time, my friends. All in good time.”

**

Percy starts to see Nico every where again, just like he did when he was ten. He sees him at the grocery store when his mum asks him to get the milk after dive practice. He sees him at the movies when he goes with Annabeth and Grover to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. He even sees Nico when he takes Rachel Elizabeth Dare on a date to Broadway.

The only time that Percy actually does see Nico is very briefly at States. Percy sees him just as he climbs to the top of the tower, positioning himself at the edge of the platform. Nico’s standing in the doorway to the pool, aviator jacket unzipped and sunglasses perched on top of his shaggy brown hair.

Percy smiles to himself and goes on to win gold.

**

London approaches quickly and, unsurprisingly, Percy is asked back to the dive team along with David. The two chat for a while over Skype (because the world made wonderful technological advances since Beijing) and Dave casually brings up Tom, who is said to be a favourite for Team GB.

“You two talk much?” David asks, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“Um, the occasional email,” Percy admits. He’s not sure he likes where this is going.

“Mhmm.” David hums. “He’s single.”

The thing is, Percy doesn’t really know where he and Tom stand. They left Beijing with the promise to meet in London and to email over the years, but Percy has the distinct feeling that he really doesn’t know Tom that well anymore. Like somehow everything has changed.

Percy logs off of Skype after promising David that they’d kick butt in synchro this year (last Olympics was so horrific Percy prefers to just not remember it at all) and that’d he’d be the one to beat in individual.

“Sure, sure,” Dave says with a laugh, but he signs off anyway and leaves Percy to his thoughts.

The first thing Percy does is open an incognito window and look up Tom Daley on the Internet. The pictures that Google spits back at him in return are all of an older, more muscular, and more handsome man than the boy that Percy had met in Beijing.

And he was single, Dave had said.

Percy closes the window and spends a long time after that looking at himself in the bedroom mirror. He’s still as gangly as ever, but the long length of his arms are lined with toned muscle now and his hair is a little shorter than it had been four years ago. His eyes, sea-green, are just as dull as they had been, but Percy only knows that’s because he hasn’t seen Nico in almost two weeks.

As if on cue, there’s a knock on Percy’s bedroom window and he turns around to see Nico rapping on the glass and demanding a Call of Duty marathon.

**

“So, I’m thinking of going to London.”

Percy looks up from his slice of pizza, a smile stretching across his lips. “Yeah?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Nico confirms.

**

In fact, everyone comes out to London. Nico pays the way for Percy, his mother, Annabeth, Grover, and himself. It’s seriously the coolest thing ever.

“What do your parents do?” Annabeth asks as they sail over the Atlantic Ocean. “Are they drug dealers or something?”

Nico forces out a laugh and mumbles, “They’re in the mining business.” Percy knows that family is a tough subject for Nico.

But beyond the one mishap, they have a smooth flight to London, and despite the fact that Percy has his synchro with David two days into the competition, he feels totally at ease and ready in a way that he hasn't felt in ages.

**

Percy has mixed feelings about seeing Tom again, but all the doubt vanishes when they meet at the pool the day before synchro for training.

“Percy,” Tom exclaims. His voice is deeper and his smile is straighter, but Percy doesn’t mind. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed Tom till now.

They hug briefly and promise to catch up at a bar later on (“Because they don’t have to sneak us drinks anymore!” Tom exclaims) before David is dragging Percy up the stairs to the platform.

“Save it, lover boy,” Dave orders. “I’m sure it can wait till after we win synchro.”

**

They don’t win synchro.

But they do come third.

They leave themselves a comfortable margin of nine points between them and Team GB, which Tom is part of. The look of sadness on Tom’s face is almost enough to make him wish that their roles were reversed, but then someone is draping a bronze medal around his neck and Percy realizes that he’s done it, won himself a medal at the Olympics, and he never wants to trade the experience for anything.

**

Percy definitely can sense the difference between his relationship with Tom this time around. It’s not like the last time, which was full of making out and corruption and just general goofiness. This time, it’s mature, laid back, subdued. Percy doesn’t know if he likes this better, but Tom looks content to just sit and talk over beers, so that’s fine with Percy too.

He spends a lot of time with his family and friends though, and because all of Tom’s family is in London anyway, he does the same. In fact, they’re so caught up with everything else that Percy’s first kiss of the games doesn’t occur until day ten when Tom kisses Percy outside the Athlete’s Village.

In front of their families.

“Um,” Percy begins, but Tom just pats his cheek with a grin and hurries off after his mother and two brothers.

“PERCY!”

Annabeth is the first to his side, her face glowing with an odd mixture of pride and amusement. “You didn’t tell us you had a boyfriend!”

“He’s, um, he’s not my boyfriend?” Percy offers, but no one buys it.

“And he’s cute too,” Annabeth gushes. “That’s Tom Daley, isn’t it? From Team GB?”

Percy nods faintly. His smiles weakly at his mother and bumps his fist obligingly against Grover’s, but he can’t bring himself to meet Nico’s eye. When he finally does look up, Nico isn’t looking back.

Oh.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Percy insists again, but he doubts that it matters. By the sounds of it, Annabeth and his mother are already planning the wedding.

**

Nico becomes very distant after that and Tom remains the same and Annabeth texts him about a million times a day to ask about his boyfriend and really, it’s just a little too much. By the time his individual event comes around, Percy is more nervous than he had been going into synchro.

“You’ll kick butt,” David assures him. “Just not mine.”

Percy laughs weakly and changes into his Speedo. He grabs a towel and follows David out onto the pool deck.

It’s a little strange, but even out of all the people, Percy can still spot his little group. His mother is waving a huge American flag above her head while Annabeth and Grover cheer from their usual spots on either side of her.

Nico, however, is not present.

Percy scans the entire crowd once from the ground and then on his way up to the platform. He’s standing on the edge, waiting to do his first jump when he decides that Nico is just simply not there.

The thought is a bit distressing and, just like in Beijing, his first dive is sloppy.

“C’mon, Perce,” David calls from the hot tub. “You’re better than that!”

What Percy hears is you’re better than him.

Percy nails all five of his remaining dives and kisses Tom in the locker room just for good measure.

**

When Percy signed up for the London Olympics, he didn’t expect there to be so much emotional baggage with it. He spends the evening in his room with David and tries to sink into a zone that’ll get him through semi-finals.

“Tom and I aren’t dating,” he says suddenly, breaking the silence. David is reading a book on the bed next to Percy’s and he sets it down carefully so as not to lose his page.

“No?” he asks.

“No,” Percy confirms.

Dave pauses for a moment before nodding his head. “Yeah, alright,” he says. “You guys just hook up.”

“Uh, actually, we don’t,” Percy replies.

“You mean to tell me that the Olympic Committee ordered over one hundred thousand condoms and you and Tom aren’t using any of them?”

Percy flushes. “David, just shut up.”

David cackles from his bed and buries his nose back in his book, but it makes Percy feel a little better getting that off his chest. He’s not really sure why, but at this point, he doesn’t really care either.

**

Percy goes into the semi-finals feeling confident and leaves feeling shaky. It was a day full of too many mistakes on too little jumps and Percy just feels lucky that he’s going to finals at all.

He also tries to pretend that he didn’t notice that Nico was not in attendance.

His mum tells him how proud she is and Annabeth and Grover are excited, but what Percy wants is for Nico to tell him to suck it up and do better next time. He wants Nico to tell him the things he needs to hear instead of what he wants to hear.

“Tom Daley is not my boyfriend,” Percy says as he and Nico walk around London. It’s their second to last day in England.

“You mentioned that,” Nico replies.

“But you didn’t believe me,” Percy points out. “Listen, Nico, whatever I said or did, I’m sorry, but you have to be at finals today. Please. I need you.”

“You don’t need me.”

It feels like a repeat of four years ago and Percy realizes now what he’s done, how he’s messed up.

“Nico,” he says. He stops in front of the boy and grabs him by the shoulders. The height difference is awkward now even though Percy suspects there’s less than a year’s age difference between them (among family issues, age is also something Nico never discusses). “Listen. I’ve always needed you. You’re always there, right from the beginning. You saw me swim races, win titles, jump off five meter platforms and seven and a half meter platforms and now ten meter platforms. I need you all the time. Not my mum or Annabeth or Grover and not David or Tom. You. Only you.”

Percy leaves Nico standing there on the streets of London and all but runs back to the aquatic centre. He suddenly feels like a million dollars, like a diving machine.

Like the best.

**

Finals feel different somehow, lighter, better, easy as breathing. Percy barely notices the prickles as he climbs the stairs, the first contestant of the event. As he goes, he glances down at David and Tom, who give him the thumbs up. He looks out across the crowd and spots his mother and Annabeth and Grover with their t-shirts and flags and cheering.

And he sees Nico.

So when Percy Jackson is one week away from his eighteenth birthday, he dives the six best dives of his life in the London Olympic finals and no one beats his scores all evening.

**

Tom is the first one to hug him after the anthem is over and the pictures are done.

“You deserve it,” he tells Percy earnestly. He is not decorated, having fallen just short of his goals.

“You deserve it too,” Percy replies. He holds the medal up for Tom and after a moment, the other diver kisses it. His smile is sad when he pulls away and when he kisses Percy on the lips, Percy knows that this is it.

“Tom,” he says when they break apart. His heart, which was beating extremely contently in his chest just a moment ago, is now pounding somewhere up in his windpipe. “You’re not my boyfriend.”

Tom tilts his head to the side and looks at Percy quizzically, and dimly, Percy thinks that Tom should not be allowed to look like a puppy when Percy is trying to break up with him.

“I- yeah, got it,” Tom says, but he sounds bright and happy and there’s a smile stretched across his face. “It’s that boy you brought with you, right? The shorter one?”

“Um,” Percy begins, but Tom laughs.

“Don’t worry about it, mate,” he says. He leans up and presses a kiss against the corner of Percy’s mouth. “I’ll get you at Worlds.”
“Is that a threat?” Percy asks, the shock finally leaving his body.

“A promise,” Tom corrects, and then he’s gone.

**

On Percy’s eighteenth birthday, back in the United States after the whirlwind that will forever be remembered as London 2012, Percy kisses Nico for the first time.

It is hesitant and awkward and a little bit odd, but Percy needs this the same way he needs the water. He needs Nico the way a car needs fuel and their passion eventually leads to them panting for breath against each other on Percy’s bed.

“You’re such a good kisser,” Percy mumbles into Nico’s ear. He shuts his eyes and holds on tight to the memory, in case it fades too fast.

“Good to know that I’m useful to you in other ways besides just showing up for your diving competitions, Jackson,” Nico sneers, but there’s a fond expression on his face.

“Yeah,” Percy says. “I guess I’ll only need you till Rio then.”

Nico scowls and ducks out of the way as Percy swings a pillow at his head. The two tussle a little until they roll onto the floor, Nico pinning Percy affectively.

“I have a feeling you’re going to need me a lot longer than just Rio,” he snarls.

Percy smiles. He’s always needed Nico and he always will, so he agrees by stretching his neck and sealing their mouths together.




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