Percy doesn’t do this. Going—out on the pull. Do people still call it that? Pulling? Did they ever call it that? He doesn’t know! He really has no idea! Probably because he’s never done it, which is his original point. He doesn’t go out to meet people. Or, well, he goes—he—goes out, yes, and on occasion upon being out he meets someone. He’s a friendly guy! But he doesn’t go out for the specific purpose of meeting someone, and certainly not—for—sexy purposes. Definitely not, that’s not the sort of thing he’s ever done, and it might sound like he’s being sarcastic or insincere right now but he promises he is being very unsarcastic and very sincere. He’s not done this before ever.
Which is why it’s kind of strange to him, just, like, ideologically maybe, that he’s in a bar right now, and not like a bar you go to just to drink beers and—whatever it is else that people do in bars, he doesn’t do bars either. This is like, one of those bars where the bards playing music are playing something kind of slow and thump-y and sexy, and where the lighting is really dim and people are pressed up against walls and shit, and Percy feels very out of place as he swings his legs on the barstool and nurses what the bartender told him was a fantasy Shirley Temple but tastes sort of like they might have put alcohol in there also. He’s not against alcohol, don't get him wrong, but it doesn’t really go in fantasy Shirley Temples.
He doesn’t even know why he’s here. Or. Okay. Yes, he totally knows why he’s here, it’s just a really terrible reason, which is that he’s shadowing someone. Which is, yes, a very polite and possibly straight-up inaccurate way of saying that he’s been trying to catch something more than a glimpse of the guy who’s been auditing the (purely theoretical, maybe kind of sort of partially underground) necromancy classes in the Academy. Percy is undeclared, because there’s a lot of magic to learn about and he’s really having a hard time figuring out how to limit himself to just—one of them? One, um, magic? One school, discipline, whatever, he’s not going to specialize in words—but in the past few weeks in particular he’s been working his way through the necromancy offerings at the Academy. Or—offered by—offered by someone who had put up posters at the Academy, and like, it’s not like Percy thinks he’s going to do necromancy, like, professionally. How do—how do you even do that? As a job? Like what is the job that tells you ‘so uhh today you’re gonna do pentagrams from 9-2, that’ll take a good chunk of the day just doing pentagrams, and then we’re going to raise some kid’s skeleton iguana’, or—okay, yeah, again that’s the point. He has no idea how this becomes a thing long-term. Do cults pay? Do cults have, like, health benefits? And anyway, necromancy definitely doesn’t help with train stuff, he’s pretty sure. Mostly, like—ninety—eighty-eight percent. And he doesn’t know for sure the train thing will pan out even if he wants it to, but he should probably be weighting stuff towards that, um, goal, like—
He’s getting distracted. His original original point, right, that’s that there is this—really—really cute guy, okay, and he’s in these classes Percy has been checking out. Like! The classes are what Percy was checking out! Not the guy! He’s—well this is weird, what he’s doing right now, but the—it wasn’t his original intention. He promises. He’s a good guy. Or—maybe moralizing isn’t—anyway, Gods, his head is spinning, and there’s definitely alcohol in this, and he should really just leave already. The guy, however cute he is, clearly isn’t here, so, like. He doesn’t really have a reason to be here either.
Percy stands up, sighing, then leaves the bar. Almost as soon as he does, he’s pulled into an alleyway and pressed up against the wall. He knocks his nose against the brick and yelps, “Hey!”
“Oh—sorry, sorry, uh—fuck. Wait, no. Fuck. Who are you?”
“Who are you?” Percy asks, head still swimming, partially from the alcohol he hadn’t meant to have and the maybe-concussion, which obviously he also didn’t mean to have. Nobody ever means to have a concussion, he thinks. “Like, why is the onus on me here? I—this is—can you let me go maybe? I don’t have very good pain tolerance, and, like—” The arm presses him more firmly into the wall. “Well okay then. You’re a delight. People probably tell you that, a-at parties, probably.”
“You’ve been following me,” the voice says, sounding irritated, then it pauses. “Wait, do your robes say—Juicy on the back?”
“So do my pants,” Percy says reasonably. “Their leisurewear is very, um. Good. I like it. Can I ask the question again about who you are? And maybe the letting me go part? Like, I’m not gonna—I’m not giving up on that. It’s important to me that I am not here forever.” Not that he’s doing much with his life apart from this, but, well.
When the voice speaks next, it just sounds confused. “Well—okay, yeah, I’ll give you that the brand is—”
Percy brightens, as much as he can with his face smooshed into a wall. “Oh, do you have any Juicy products? I don’t have too many, ruined a whole bunch in this class last semester—evocation magic, yeesh—but—”
“I don’t have any, no, but I hear they’re comfortable.” Exasperation, now. Percy is familiar with that. “I’m more of a jeans guy myself.”
Percy would tilt his head in thought if he could move his head. That would be so, so very nice right now, for the—emotions expressing thing but also—also the, like, just general freedom of movement and body thing. “Oh. Jeans. Wait—oh! Yeah, I was following you! I’m sorry, I—yeah, I’m sorry.”
The pressure lightens slightly. Now the guy is definitely confused, and—yeah, it’s jeans guy, must be, the hot guy he’s been shadowing. (Nice word for it, yes.) He’s never heard him actually, uh, talk before, that he can think of, so he thinks he can be pardoned for the confusion. “You’re—what? I didn’t expect…” He sighs, and the air tickles the nape of Percy’s neck. “Okay. Well, you admitted it. Can you explain why, maybe?”
“Oh. No. That’s a—hard no, right there. I mean. That resolve probably wouldn’t hold up under torture, in like a—torture situation—please don’t torture me, by the way.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Cool, cool. Yeah, but if given the option, I would prefer not to sp-specify, yeah. Please.”
There’s a long-suffering exhale, then Jeans Guy carefully turns him around. He’s even more attractive up close, which is—just a fact, even if it’s maybe not the sort of thing to notice in this situation in particular. Hm. But, like, also so so true, he’s got these deep brown sparkling eyes and the slightest hint of stubble on his chin which—is a great chin, very great, he is way into that chin, just a—primo, primo chin. And the hair, gods, it’s curly and tousled and Percy would maybe like to touch it. Maybe tug it? No. Okay. Definitely wrong situation for that. Maybe later. Probably not.
“Who are you?” Jeans Guy asks again, sounding very tired. “You show up in the necromancy circles, and then you’re following me all over town. Badly, by the way, I need to stress that. I really hope this isn’t a career path for you.”
“Oh, definitely not.” Percy nods emphatically. “I was hoping for more along the lines of—train—wizardry? Engineering? Not engineering trains, being an engineer—on a—” Gosh he’s cute. The words fizzle out as he looks into Jean Guy’s eyes, and he licks his lips reflexively, then mumbles, “Train,” and looks down at his feet, flush spreading high up his cheeks.
Even though he’s not making eye contact, he can see that Jeans Guy is still gazing steadily at him. Probably his eyebrows are furrowed. Great eyebrows, too. Another fact, just—an eyebrows fact.
“You didn’t answer my question, you know.”
“Graham.” He blinks for a second, brain stalling. “No. That’s not right—it’s, uh, uh—well, it’s Percy. That’s—well—okay, but Graham is the sort of name you’d give to a hot stranger in an alleyway, right? Not for—oh, gods, not for, like, uh, not for…the other type of thing you might do in an alleyway, I’m totally not coming onto you. I could be, but presently I’m—I’m not, so—yeah, the question you asked, Percy is my name name, we can call Graham my alley name.”
He peeks up at Jean Guy, who—he really needs to get a name for him, just for convenience’s sake—and if Percy had thought he looked confused before, now he just looks flabbergasted, eyes wide, mouth parted slightly. He recovers quickly, though, stepping back and frowning. “Okay, Graham,” and whoa, that name sounds—very nice on him. From him. He also does not need to major in prepositions. But, like, fuck, the way his mouth forms around the consonants— “Can you please tell me what the fuck is going on here? Because I thought you were trying to kill me, but you don’t really—fit the profile. If you don’t mind me saying.”
“Nope! I do not mind at all,” Percy—or—well, he really likes Graham now, all of a sudden—Percy-Graham says cheerfully, wiping the dirt off the back of his robes, twisting around to make sure there’s not anything on the Juicy logo. It’s important to him, so—like—yeah, uh, he was answering a question—“I would actually, uh, um, I would sort of prefer to not be the sort of person who fit a murder profile, if—if I had the option, I would not—be that way. I don’t think I’d be very intimidating anyway, do you? It's the beard.” He thinks about that for a moment, then shakes his head. “No. Robe. Or maybe…maybe it’s my face? I have a baby face, they tell me. 36 years young, with an emphasis on the young part, in terms of—in terms of my face, I think, and also sort of my voice.” He consciously pitches his voice down lower. “Is this better? Could I murder someone now? Like, profile-wise, not in terms of the actual murder part. Is this the voice of someone who could murder someone?”
Jean Guy looks sort of like he’s thinking about leaving. Whoops. “But, uh, okay, so you—asked what was going on and—I still don’t want to tell you, but.” He shrugs. “Like, also, what’s the worst that can happen? I mean, like, the worst thing that can happen is you kill me, which would—really put—put a damper in my day, okay, so please don’t do that either. But, uh. Basically? I saw you in those classes, and—don’t—take this the wrong way, but, like—Jean Guy.” Percy-Graham places a hand on his shoulder, solemnly. “I would super hop on your dick.”
Jean Guy immediately chokes, freezing in place.
“Sorry! That was, uh—what did they use to say—indelicate, right. But, like, just another incredibly true statement, also. I-I, uh, you’re just, like, very hot? And your hair is amazing, and your chin is—I could specialize in your chin, there’s an idea. Probably also not going to help with my train goals, but then again it, um, um, yeah, it sort of seems like not much will.” His cheery grin falters for a moment as he grips the sleeve of his robe. “Anyway, like, hopefully this doesn’t make things too awkward, with the dick-hopping statement, but that’s why I was following you. Sort of, uh, sort of was thinking more along the lines of for a date than an—alleyway shakedown—”
“Fuck,” Jean Guy wheezes.
“Well, yeah, that was also in my thoughts, but not on a first date unless you really—consent is important, so, I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to pressure you. Hypothetically. This is not, obviously, a real situation, u-uh—this is not a date. I know the difference now,” Graham-Percy says ruefully, patting the wall behind him almost contemplatively. It’s a little bit wobbly? Which he wouldn’t expect of a wall, but here we are.
“Now,” Jean Guy mouths, awesome eyebrows knitting together again, and Graham—yeah, let’s just go with that—shrugs.
“Yeah, uh—it turns out when they ask to take you to someplace alone, maybe—check that it’s not, um, like, a mugging? Or—you know—” Graham clutches his sleeve even tighter, willing himself not to think of that. In retrospect, now he’s thinking of it, maybe he hasn’t learned his lesson so much. He followed Jean Guy to a really seedy part of town, after all. “Hey, Jean Guy,” he says, and he’s realizing now that the world is swaying, just a little bit.
“Barry,” Jean Guy-Barry says distractedly, and Graham shrugs.
“Sure, that works. Barry Guy Jeans, um—I’m not—feeling too good.”
And well then, he’s collapsing, and Barry Jeans Jeans is hauling him up, cursing a blue streak, and—and the words all stop, then, sort of coagulate and slow, until there’s no thinking at all, just a blackness falling like a blanket on his consciousness.
He wakes up to Barry pacing near his bed. His head hurts, and it’s with a combination of that and his usual morning eloquence that he groans out, “What in the helling fuck.”
“Graham,” Barry says, sounding surprisingly relieved, and Graham—or—no, Percy, that’s his name— lets out a noise of protest and burrows far into the covers.
“Percy,” he says, voice muffled by the pillow.
“I—okay. Percy. Do you remember anything from yesterday?”
“I had a Shirley Temple an’ you pushed me into a wall.” He really doesn’t want to be talking right now. Talking hurts. “Can I sleep?”
“You’ve been sleeping for eighteen hours, because you were poisoned,” Barry says, matter-of-factly. “And you’re doing better, but I need you to try to help me find out who did it.”
Percy snorts, nestling his head into the pillow again. “Figures,” he says quietly into the fabric.
“Like. The one—the one time I try to—fuck, my head. The one time I try to put myself out there, I-I end up getting poisoned.” He chuckles, turning over to look up at Barry, who looks a bit stricken. “It’s just—how things always are, uh. In my life. With magic, with trains, with cute boys.” He yawns, stretching as he makes a valiant attempt at sitting up—ooh, bad idea, his head likes this even less—then scratching sleepily at his beard. “Well, anyway, let’s—let’s get going, then. This day might as well get worse.”
When he looks back at Barry once more, he still is frozen in the same place, eyes wide again, staring at Percy like he doesn’t quite know what to do with him.
“What?” Percy frowns, thinking. “Oh, that wasn’t meant—meant to be, uh, um, like a guilt trip, or anything. You don’t need to think I’m—much of anything, uh—like, I don’t? Shit. That also sounds like a guilt trip.” Gods, his head. “But, I just mean, you don’t have any—obli—obligations here, you know?”
“No, I—” Barry shakes his head. “Cute?”
Percy blinks at him. “I thought, I—hah. Yeah, um, I thought I made that—pretty clear, with how—I said it out loud, and all.”
“You were kind of under the influence of a strong benzodiazepine,” he mutters, running his hand through his hair, making it even more tousled than it already is. Percy still wants to touch it, even after all this, which—which is probably fucked up, a little bit, probably.
“Yeah, w-well.” Percy shrugs, the barest movement of his shoulders. “Doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“I mean.” Barry looks away now, finally, adjusting his glasses, fiddling with a pouch at his hip. “Don’t—don’t take this the wrong way, uh—it’s not like—you’re cute too. For what that’s worth.”
And—he’s not going to say it. He knows what Barry is saying by asking him not to take it the wrong way, knows it doesn’t mean anything beyond this guy he barely knows trying to be nice, but also—it’s sort of worth everything. He bunches the fabric of his robe in his fingers again, then relaxes his fingers, breathes, stands up, and smiles. “Thanks. Anyway, uh—so—let’s go kick some ass, I guess?”
Barry huffs a bit, not quite a laugh. “Yeah, I mean—we have to figure out who it is, first, but yeah. After that.”
“Oh, nah, I know who it was.” Percy pulls out his wand, casts Locate Creature—he had learned that from the year and a half he spent in Divination—and grins at Barry, who has that sort of incomprehensible, confused, wide-eyed expression again. “But first, we’re going to have to go to class.”
He strides forwards, then stops in his tracks thoughtfully. “Because it’s the guy who was teaching the necromancy classes,” he adds. “I thought—I thought I should specify. He was the bartender, but it was, like—a really bad disguise. So.”
“And you didn’t think this was suspicious?” Barry asks, voice somewhere between incredulous and something Percy might almost think is fond, if he didn’t know better, which—which he totally does. Yeah.
“I’m not here, uh, I’m not here to judge anybody for what they get up to on a Saturday—like, okay, this spell duration is only one hour, so—”
“Yeah, okay,” Barry says, amused now and still with that not-fondness, and Percy ignores how that tears at his heart and moves forward.
Then stops again. “Okay, but first, do you like—have any fantasy ibuprofen, because, uh—this is really bad.” Barry laughs properly at that and moves to dig around in his desk. (And. Okay, he doesn’t know why he hadn’t registered this yet, but yeah, this is definitely Barry’s room, which means that was—definitely his bed, probably. Fuck. Okay.)
They track the guy—his name is Aaron, but he calls himself Lord of the Rats in class, which is super lame, Graham is so much better as far as nicknames go, in Percy’s humble opinion—down to a warehouse on the edge of town. “Cliché, really,” Percy mumbles, and delights in how Barry flashes him a smile. “Like, this isn’t—this isn’t subtle.”
“They rarely are, in my experience. Okay, so—what magic do you know, anyway? Divination, obviously, but—you were in those necromancy classes as well, so—”
“I’m, uh, I’m undeclared. So I’ve got, sort of—low level, 4 or below, in most things, uh—not necromancy. None of those, but, yeah. Some conjuration, divination, like you said, uh, a smattering of abjuration, some evocation. I can do some really basic, like—imbuing small objects with basic magic—”
“Holy crap, that’s amazing,” Barry breathes, and Percy’s heart stops a bit more, even, because he can tell Barry means it. His eyes are sparkling a bit, and his fingers are twitching at his waist, where—there’s a notebook in a weird holster, fuck, that’s adorable. “We’ll have to talk sometime, like, most people specialize because of the benefits, but that kind of breadth is—okay, sorry, nerding out here, we can get back to that. Anyway, okay. Do you have Nondetection? He probably has wards set up, so—”
“Oh, yeah, totally.” Percy casts the spell, touching Barry’s hand with an embarrassed, apologetic smile. “Sorry, uh—touch spell only.”
Barry smiles back, almost soft. “It’s fine. Okay, so, yeah, hopefully we can get in and apprehend him without him noticing us and firing any spells, but—shit, I just realized I never asked you, uh—are you okay with this? You don’t have to go in. I’ve done this—I’ve done this alone for a long time, you know.”
“You know what I’ve done for a long time? Like, uh, like 36 years to be specific?”
“Boring shit,” Percy says simply. “Let’s fuck him up.”
Barry’s grin is sudden, sharp, fierce, and very attractive, which is—not presently relevant, right. “Fuck yeah.”
The actual infiltration is pretty uneventful. They get to a main chamber, and Barry peeks around a corner and casts Blindness with a whispered incantation, and then he strides forward.
“What the fuck,” Aaron screeches, “what the fuck,” and Percy follows behind Barry and resolutely does not at all even a little bit think about how sexy it is when he straightens his posture and walks all confident like that. Like—there’s not even—a very small thought in his entire brain about that, yep.
“Aaron Stoutblaze,” Barry says in a loud, commanding voice, and Percy is still absolutely not thinking about how sexy that is, but he does snort loudly at the last name. Barry looks back, flashes one of those smiles again, mouths, I know, right. “Look, I don’t usually interfere with people who aren’t hurting anybody, but—you’re definitely hurting people right now.”
“I’m not fucking doing anything right fucking now, you blinded me,” Aaron hisses.
“Yes, I did, and no, you’re not at this exact moment,” Barry says patiently. “I’m mostly referring to the general thing where you kidnap people and then harvest their organs.”
“H-holy fuck,” Percy says faintly, finally registering what that must mean. Barry winces almost imperceptibly, looking back again with an apologetic expression.
“Yeah. So, like—I’m going to have to ask you to stop? And, uh—allow yourself to be restrained while I make a call, like—yeah, just, sorry, this shit isn’t going to fly.”
“Fuck you, and also, my name is Lord of the Rats,” Aaron spits, and blindly reaches out his hand in the vague direction of a covered—something on a table, gross, Percy doesn’t want to think about that either. Percy blanches and casts Counterspell. He doesn’t know what spell Aaron is going for, but he can only hope it’s either low-level or that his spellcasting ability will be good enough.
Nothing happens. Percy sighs happily, gives Barry a thumbs up, and that weird look is back in Barry’s eyes.
“Cool,” Barry says dryly as he turns back to Aaron. “Doesn’t really matter what your name is, where you’re going.” With that, he opens the pouch on his hip that Percy noticed him fidgeting with earlier and, with a sweep, empties it. And empties it, and empties it—must be some kind of pocket dimension—leaving Barry with a pile of bones, which shudder and separate themselves into five smaller piles, which then form into skeletons, which stalk towards Aaron. Apparently Blindness ran out, too, because now he’s just screaming and cowering on the floor, and Barry is watching with a raised eyebrow, part pity and part derision.
“Fuck me,” Percy says admiringly, and Barry gives him a loose, embarrassed grin, and Percy is done pretending it’s not sexy as hell and also, like, really endearing. Like, actually fuck him, this has gone way past just—just checking out a hot guy territory and far into—like, something that’s going to hurt a bit when it’s over.
Aaron appears to have passed out, so Barry pulls out a Stone of Far Speech and mumbles something into it. Within instants, a tall dark-skinned man appears through a portal that rips its way into existence out of nowhere. He just gazes at the unconscious man, flanked by skeletons, then massages his temple and says, “Barry, I know we’ve sort of given you a pass on the necromancy because of our arrangement, but fuck, you don’t have to shove your flagrant disregard for the Raven Queen’s rules in my face—” He looks up, then freezes.
“Sorry,” Barry says, not sounding very sorry. “You know they all donated their bones to arcane research, though, like it’s not—”
“Barry, who the fuck is that?” the man asks in a strangled, affected accent, skin dissolving away, robe forming out of the ether to fall over his form.
“Oh. That’s Percy.” Barry looks at Percy. “Percy, uh…hey, do you have a last name?”
“None that was ever given to me!” Percy says cheerfully, with a little wave. “Hello.”
“Just Percy then. He’s—a new friend.” That weird look is back, and Percy really wishes he could tell what it means, but he’ll content himself with the softness around Barry’s eyes and the hint of a smile in the corner of his lips.
“This is so—” The guy exhales roughly. “This is so outside of protocol—”
“What’s your name?” Percy interrupts. “Like, I’d like to not call you ‘the guy’ in my head anymore. I mean, uh—like, no—no pressure or anything—”
“Kravitz,” he says, swiping a frustrated hand over his face. “Okay. Fuck, fine, whatever. You already violate pretty much every protocol we have in place anyway, Bluejeans. So—”
“Bluejeans?” Percy asks, utterly delighted, interrupting again.
“It’s a family name.”
“I like it! Wouldn’t mind having Bluejeans as a last name myself.”
Barry goes bright red and opens his mouth. Nothing comes out.
“Oh! Fuck! No, n-not like that, that’s like—third date talk at least,” Percy jokes ineffectually, “And we haven’t even gone on one yet. Or—like—uh, hah, yet is a bad word, yet implies I expect to ever see you again, which—I mean I’d like to, but—not—well yes—but—” A blush is steadily rising up his cheeks as well. “Like, of course I’d want to go on a date with you, or even just to be friends, ‘cause like you’re really—r-really hot and also sweet and cool and interesting and—um, but, like, you seem busy, and I’m kind of—” He clamps his mouth shut, shuffling his feet. “Kind of a person who should stop talking,” he squeaks out, clasping his robe. “Sorry, fuck.”
Kravitz, who has been looking between them with a look of abject despair in his eyes, says, “I’m not even going to—get into that. I’ll get this guy checked into the Stockade, and we can debrief later, Barry.” A scythe appears in his hand, and with a dramatic swipe, a bright, bobbing ball of energy is floating above Aaron’s body, and then with a gesture, that winks up and out of sight, and he steps back through the portal and is gone.
“Uh—sorry, I should’ve—warned you, probably,” Barry murmurs, not making eye contact. “I’m sort of like—something of an independent contractor for the Raven Queen? Just, like—they send me to infiltrate—yeah.”
“Cool,” Percy says, and his voice is still awkwardly high-pitched. He sounds like a ten-year-old boy. It’s very embarrassing, but then again, so was all that shit he just said, just, like, generally.
“So, uh—fuck.” Barry runs his hands through his hair again, scrubs them over his face, then stares directly at Percy. “Percy. I don’t—do this, like—ever, okay? So, uh, I don’t really know—how to—but—fuck. Okay. Like—we don’t know each other super well or anything, yet, but—you seem like an interesting guy, and, uh. I’d like to talk about the whole multi-magic-class thing, like I said, and—maybe—we could do it, like, over? Dinner?”
Percy’s eyes go wide, round, and he doesn’t even know if he’s audible when he whispers, “Like a date?”
“I—yeah, um. Sort of like that, yes. Or. Exactly like.” The blush extends down his neck, to the tips of his ears, and he’s fidgeting again, and it’s—very, very cute, and, fuck. He should probably say something. Saying things is usually what he does best.
“Yes,” he breathes, and really, as Barry’s smile grows, that same embarrassed one from before, with that same look in his eyes that might be something like affection, he knows it’s the only thing he needed to say anyway.