Percy Jackson doesn't believe in soulmates.
He doesn't believe in them since about that time Luke Castellan had tried to kill him for the very first time.
He doesn't believe in them, even when bleak from the dust and sweat of the fight soulmark burns like acid.
He doesn't believe in them when his skin turns to fire the same second a shroud of the son of Hermes catches first sparkles.
He doesn't believe.
The broken image of winged shoes on his ankle defies all beliefs.
A month later Annabeth points something to him in the book she was searching in.
"Look," she says. "It's said the mind connection a satire can create with another mortal being what affects both of them, transferring feelings and thoughts through, is a "bond to life, never to be broken, if both of participants to accept the offer." Sounds like it's their version of soulmates, don't you think?"
Grover nods, a little apologetic.
"That's true," he says, not stopping to chew the jar though. Grover always eats then he's nervous. He looks at Percy sheepishly. "I've originally reached to you because I was, you know, in the grave danger and really didn't want to die, and you're my friend-"
"Your best friend," Percy corrects.
"Yeah, right," the satire is still biting into metal, uncertain. "I could turn it back once this all was over; but you refused and kind of accepted the link, so," he shrugs. "It's about forever now."
It's not the first time Percy hears of someone having more than a single soulmate, nor the first when he meets the platonic bond, and still it's wild to him; he never thought he'd ever have even one soulmate, never thought he'd deserved that. Smelly Gabe made sure of that.
Percy smiles, placing his palm on the Grover's shoulder meaningfully.
"Dude," he says, transferring all the affection he can master through their bond. "You're my partner for life now."
Grover chokes on the jar and Annabeth has to pat him on the back. Percy isn't so sure if tears what shows on his friend's eyes are because of gulping the air.
He doesn't have to believe in soulmates to know Grover is one of the best people he has ever met.
Annabeth doesn't have soulmate, neither romantic nor platonic.
She doesn't have any mark, despite of the fact what she and Percy are currently dating.
Percy thinks it's unfair, Annabeth says it's alright.
She says "you doesn't care about soulmates anyway, so let's be together and forget about this."
Turns out, Percy's gut feeling was right.
It was right, because once Percy and Annabeth successfully run from the camp Jupiter after the "possessed Leo" incident, Annabeth asks him to talk in private.
She looks sorry, and Percy knows what's about to happen.
"Where?" he simply asks. "Show me."
On Annabeth's right arm, exactly where the line of pulse is, is an image what wasn't there before.
It is the roman plumed helmet, crossed with two golden spears.
Percy knows this helmet. He also knows these spears.
"Reyna?" he asks sadly.
"Reyna," Annabeth agrees.
The cruel irony, Percy thinks.
The girl whom Percy had to turn down for his girlfriend is his girlfriend's bond-for-life.
"Is it..?" Percy asks, already knowing the answer.
He knows Annabeth for years, he learned how to decipher her expressions long time ago.
"Romantic," Annabeth lowers her head. "I'm sorry."
Percy just hugs her tightly.
"You're still my best friend," he whispers.
"And you're mine." she whispers back.
And it's fine, because Percy doesn't care about soulmates.
And it's not, because Annabeth does.
"Wow," Jason says, and he does sound surprised. "Never thought the first thing you'll tell us after your "trip" to Tartarus will be this."
"I just don't think there is any reason to hide the truth," Percy says. "Reyna has probably noticed it too."
"Have you ever had the idea what not every single soul connection is mutual? There is such thing as unrequited soulmate."
Percy frowns in return.
"I know that," he says, coming out unexpectedly bitter even to himself. His ankle strikes with a sudden sharp pain. "But are you implying," Jackson pushes forward, his voice getting a rare threatening edge. "What Annabeth's feelings are unrequited?"
The way he highlights Annabeth's name makes Nico wince.
Wise girl interferes. "I think it's a little bit early to talk about feelings," she mentions. "But I'm almost positive Reyna has it too."
"See?" Percy says, as if he's trying to prove something. He doesn't even know what or why. Nico's scoff only deepens.
"Why do you care?" he asks angrily. "You don't even believe in soulmates!"
Percy would like to be as sure of that as di Angelo seems to be.
The back of his head aches in the way what Percy knows is a forecasting of the migraine. The son of Hades always gives Percy migraines.
"It's not about me," he cuts off sharply, touching his head. Annabeth frowns, she knows about his head pains. "It's about Annabeth and Reyna. I'm sure they can solve it on their own."
Nico and Percy don't talk much until the War with Gaea is over.
And even after that Nico is clear to avoid Percy at any cost, and fine, whatever, not like Percy cares or anything.
Jason insists Leo is alive and as well as it's possible; he basically shaves his fist into Percy's face to prove it.
Percy is confused at first, borderline angry, till he sees a little fire burning in the skin of Grace's knuckles.
"You get it now?" Jason asks. "I know he's alive. Pipes too, she has the mark on her neck. Leo is fine."
Leo indeed is fine, as proven later by his triumphant appearance on Festus' back.
One day Jackson hastily notices what Nico and Will had broken up.
One day Percy notices he's not the only one Nico avoids now.
It's not his fucking business, and Nico never especially liked Jackson anyway; but Percy is used to ignore common sense whatsoever.
One day he just flops down the Hades' table, using an opportunity to catch Nico alone before Hazel joins.
Nico looks at him with the look what, if Percy was asked, he'd described as the quintessence of displeasure.
"What are you doing?" he asks in a low voice, what would sound intimate if Nico wouldn't give away this "touch me and die" vibe.
Percy shrugs, unimpressed. "Sitting," he answers in the most casual way.
"That I can see," Nico all but hisses, "But why do you-"
"I thought you needed some company," Percy says as nonchalant as possible. "After your break up," he knows he's terribly insensitive now, but apparently he has no sense of people's personal space. He can't make himself to care. "Break ups suck, you know?"
Nico stares at Percy without blinking for so long Percy is about to check if he's still alive.
When he sighs out. "I know," he admits.
"So...why?" Percy pushes more. He's ready to whatever Nico is about to through at him in response; he isn't ready for him to chucke sadly.
"What are you, Jason?" he asks, and Percy manages to catch a faint glimpse of his smile. "It's not your deal."
Percy grins. "Never stopped me before, "he mentions casually. "So...soulmate?"
Nico knows you can't just get rid of Perseus Jackson easily. So he just frowns deeper.
"Yes," he lets out.
"Not you?" Percy guesses again. Nico's expression darkens.
"Not me," he agrees.
One day Percy manages to hurt his head enough what children of Apollo have to actually shave part of his hair.
"Stop moving," Will commands as he holds electric razor; the buzz of it unnerves Percy and reminds of Zeus's lightings.
"I'm not moving," he complains.
Solace grabs Percy's grown hair to hold him still; a calm and patient at the beginning, he's about to lose it now. Percy can't blame him.
"Stop moving or I'll call Clarisse to shave you," Will threatens. "I'm sure you'll love her military cut."
"You're secretly a bad guy, aren't you?" he accuses. Will laughs.
"No one will believe you."
He has successfully shaven part of Jackson's hair at the back of the head (at least Percy thinks so, guessing by the sudden cold feel on his occiput) when he suddenly stops.
The razor keeps cutting through the silence.
"Hey," Percy calls out. "Something's wrong? Is it bad?"
"Gods," Will whispers more to himself. When he turns the razor off. "Stay here, don't go anywhere. I'll be right back!"
"Wait," Percy calls for him. "Where are you going?"
"I need to find Nico," Will screams back.
Percy tries his best to process this information. "You're starting to freak me out!" he calls, but the sound of the door closing cuts his words away.
"Well, isn't it great."
Percy almost manages to fall asleep when the door finally opens again. He hears the sound of steps.
"Why did you call for me?" Nico asks, clearly annoyed, but also with undertones of worry. "What's about Percy? Was he hurt badly?"
Percy wonders why would Nico care about that. Oh, right, he remembers, he owns his life to Bianca.
Nico once said Jackson has to live because Bianca sacrificed her life for him to live. Percy guesses that much hadn't changed.
"It's not that," Will says."You just have to see with your own eyes."
"Totally not ominous, Solace!" Percy raises a voice from where he lays. "Also you've left me alone and with a naked head."
"Stop crying like a baby," Will commands. "You'll thank me later."
"But for what?!"
The steps are getting closer.
"See?" Will asks, showing Nico something on the back of Percy's head and totally ignoring Percy himself. "I had to call you."
Percy shifts uncomfortably, because, honestly, he doesn't feel that great.
His head still hurts from the hit; he swears some blood manages to leak through his scull; and now he's laying in med bay, full of painkillers, with his head slowly spinning around and Nico di Angelo staring at his bare occiput. The situation is far from being great.
"Okay, doc, so what's the deal?" he manages to ask.
And when Nico, who was just standing here silently as the memento of the statue, gasps.
"Oh," he says, and his voice sounds restrained yet full of mixed feelings Percy can't get a grip on.
"Oh," di Angelo repeats, and Jackson feels cold fingers brushing bare skin of his head lightly. Seriously, way to calm down someone.
"Is it that bad?" he worries. "It's not fatal, is it?"
"Oh, but it is," and Will Solace, this smug fucker, actually grins.
"You are very bad person," Percy reminds him. "No one will believe me, but I know."
Will grins wider.
"You have a skull back there," he says.
Percy thinks about it for a moment. "You mean in my head?" he asks. "I sure hope I do have some skull in there!"
"No," Will disagrees. "You don't get it. You have an image of a skull on the back of your head."
Percy opens his mouth. When he closes it. When he tries to think.
Nico is suspiciously silent, but he's still in the room.
"How does it look?" Percy finally asks, weakly. He has an awful suspicion about his headaches.
"It's a skull," Nico scoffs. "How could it look?"
"Oh, I dunno," Percy shrugs. "You tell me; as, you see, I can't see my own occiput. Like at all."
"You know," Will suddenly says. "I'll give you some privacy."
"No!" shout Nico and Percy at the same time, but Solace has a mind of his own.
"Yes," he singsongs from the door. "Have fun!"
"I hate him," Nico finally states.
"Same," Percy sighs.
They're silent for a while.
"But seriously though, how does it look?"
"It's a skull, Percy," Nico says and Jackson can bet di Angelo is rolling his eyes right now. "And it looks like a skull. White," he adds. "With a pair of two black wings."
"Wait!" Percy complains. "No one said a thing about wings! Does it look punk-rock?"
Nico sighs exaggeratedly. "Maybe," he confesses. "A little bit. How would I know?"
"Dude," Percy says. "You're the most punk-rock person I've ever met, and I've met Thalia. You rebel against the authority, you rock the dead!"
"I do not rock the dead!" Nico denies. "It's disrespectful!"
"Okay," Percy agrees easily. "But you totally rock the Earth."
"...was it a pun?"
They just...stay in the med bay for a while.
Percy takes more ambrosia and Nico helps him to disinfect the wound.
"How did you even manage to get it," he grumbles, as Percy hisses in pain.
"Why was Will so adamant for you to see my mark?" Percy asks in return.
Nico looks away, avoiding the eye contact.
"Fine," he finally says. "I don't care. Whatever," and when he reaches to take his shirt off.
"Whoa," Percy exclaims. "Not like I'm judging you or anything, but what in the hell are you doing?"
"Just wait," Nico asks, as he gets wrapped in his own shirt. "Damn it. Some help, please?"
"Well, since you asked so nicely," and he reaches for the shirt.
And when he sees it.
It's hard not to notice, a mark being bright blue color and all.
"Seriously?" Percy asks, holding a laughter; Nico might not appreciate it. "The cake?"
Nico scoffs. "Hey, it's your soulmark! I didn't even understood it till..." he cuts off.
"Your fifteenth birthday; I saw the piece of your cake and just...got it. Wasn't the happiest revelation in my life."
"Oh, well, excuse me; I didn't ask for a skull on my skull either! And with the wings, honestly, I've had enough of these in life."
"It still doesn't mean anything,"Nico says, and it sounds like he's trying to convince himself. "You don't believe in soulmates."
"Well, yeah," Percy admits. "Because they suck!"
And maybe these are the wrong words, because Nico's face distorts with the pain and when he's standing up and-
Percy grabs him by the hand. "Soulmates suck," he repeats, not wanting to stop; not being able to. "Because a single fact what you have someone's mark on your body doesn't mean happy freaking ever after. It doesn't mean it's mutual. It doesn't mean your soulmate won't try to throw you into Tartarus; and it doesn't mean he won't poison you with a scorpion; and it doesn't mean he isn't your grave enemy; it doesn't mean he won't die at the end of the war and be a hero after all!"
He is screaming now. He doesn't care. Nico is looking at him wide-eyed.
"You," he starts.
"I hate wings," Percy pursues. "I hate fucking wings and fucking flying shoes and fucking soulmate links what burn and ache and literally break apart when your soulmate dies!"
Nico still stares.
Percy just realizes he's crying.
It's weird at first; neither Nico nor Percy know what you're supposed to do with your soulmate.
They just. Most of the time they just stare at each other from across their respective tables.
Annabeth notices, of course; Hazel notices too.
Grover, as it appears, always knew. "I didn't think you were ready," he says. "At first it was the middle of the war and you had two soulmate marks burning; and when Luke died and...It was complicated. You didn't need it back then."
Percy agrees. He just isn't sure he needs it now.
Sometimes they spar; other days - walk Mrs. O'Leary together.
They still don't talk much.
Once Percy just reaches for Nico's hand and holds it. Neither of them mention that time.
Percy still doesn't believe in soulmates.
He believes in more real things.
Like long, cold fingers getting trapped in his hair, while he's trying to steal di Angelo's breath away. Like the way Nico curls around him protectively when Percy wakes up screaming, his t-shirt wet from the sweat, and the voice of Misery in his head.
Like the way the son of Hades jumps up when he hugs him from behind, putting a head on other demigod's shoulder.
"Percy," Nico hisses. "People are staring."
"They always do," he just shrugs, not breaking the embrace.
"Jackson, that's gay!" Clarisse shouts across the yard. Percy blows a raspberry at her.
Nico tenses under the touch, and Jackson isn't even sure why; but he wraps his hands around Nico even more, snuggling into his neck.
"She doesn't mean anything, you know, mean by this," Percy says. "That's just Clarisse being Clarisse."
Percy sighs into his skin.
"You're aware we're dating, right?"
Nico's breath hitches.
"Are we?" he asks.
Percy deliberately brushes lips over his neck.
"Well, I'm pretty sure of it," his breath hot against the skin. Nico shrugs.
"Jackson," he warns, but his voice fails him. Percy laughs.
It's Annabeth and Reyna's wedding and they're invited.
Or, more like threatened if they won't show up.
Percy is Annabeth's best man, and Reyna chooses Nico.
Jason pouts. "Sure," he says, pretending not to be bothered. "Not like I'm your friend or anything."
Reyna pats his on the shoulder. "Get over it," she whispers, and Nico tries his best not to smile. He's failing.
Hazel is a flower girl and man, she takes her position way too serious. Flowers are everywhere.
Just like owls.
One of them planes on Percy's shoulders and just sits there.
He tries his best not to move. From all the gods of both greek and roman pantheon, Athena is the one who manages to scare him shitless.
"Nico," he calls desperately. "Help."
His boyfriend is unhelpful.
"No, seriously," Percy continues. "I think she's out for my soul."
"Jackson," Nico reminds him. "Half of the gods, titans, giants and monsters are out for your soul."
Percy pouts. "Way to make me feel special," he grumbles. Nico leans on him.
"You are special," he mentions casually.
And no, Percy isn't blushing at all, shut up, Grover.
He tries his best not to sob when Reyna reaches to his her new wed wife. Annabeth is - she is beaming with this soft light what makes Percy think of home, Sally Jackson, Paul's embarrassing dad jokes and little ball of happiness Percy's little sister is.
"Harold," he says, whispering into Nico's ear in the attempt of brush the tender thoughts away. "They're lesbians."
Nico chuckles. "College has ruined you as a person," he accuses, not turning away little peeping kisses Percy plants though.
"Please," Percy insists. "I wasn't a person to begin with."
Percy Jackson doesn't believe in soulmates; he doesn't believe in the fate, connected lives and all that crap.
He pulls blanket gently, trying to not wake up the other person in the bed.
"No," Nico states, grabbing blanket and curling into it deeper.
He doesn't believe in soulmate marks; he doesn't believe in mates for life either.
To be honest, he's a committed non-believer.
Bianca climbs into their bed as if she belongs there.
"Well, excuse me," Percy tries, but his daughter is already fast asleep.
"You two are ruining my life," he complains, and this is a terrible lie. These two are his life.
Percy Jackson doesn't believe in soulmates. But he sure does believe in love.