Jason collapsed against the deck, panting heavily.
The Seven had just returned to the Argo II after the final battle against Gaea.
The final battle. The words sounded weird even in his head. It seemed impossible that just a week ago, they'd been preparing for their war. And now it was over. Despite the odds, all of the Seven had lived. There had been no wounds that couldn't be healed by nectar or ambrosia and rest couldn't fix.
He observed the deck. It was quiet save the harsh breathing from the other demigods; everyone seemed to be in a state of disbelief similar to Jason's.
Percy and Annabeth were on the opposite side of the deck, clasping each others' hands as they tried to catch their breath. To their left, Frank huffed and morphed back into a human (as he'd flown to the ship), Hazel leaning against him after he did so. The rope latter rattled as Reyna climbed up it, turning to sit next to Piper in silence. The Roman had showed up mid battle after negotiating with the Greeks, and had been a major asset in the fight. Leo had gone by the front of the ship to recover, lying sprawled across the floor.
A few minutes passed by the time Jason felt that he could stand. Nearly a week fighting monsters day in and day out really takes it out of a person. He walked towards Leo, who looked like he was in the middle of a conversation with Festus. He didn't even try to understand how the two could communicate.
Call him cliche, but Jason thought that Leo looked pretty good for someone who'd run themselves ragged building a warship, going on a quest and constantly repairing said warship, and fought a a war in the past six months. Even though his hair was a bigger, curlier mess than usual, and his clothes were somewhere between ripped, stained, and worn out, his eyes remained somewhat alert.
Leo was clearly ready to drop.
But he still managed to put on a smile when Jason got near, which was something that always baffled him. Leo was not the happiest person in the world, no matter how often he acted like he was. Jason knew it, and Leo knew that Jason knew. How he was able to seem happy all of the time was a complete mystery to him. Leo was much stronger than anyone gave him credit for, even Jason sometimes.
Jason had learned the hard way that no matter how well Leo acted, all was not as it seemed. The demigod's flight or fight sense was whacked up, probably from his childhood of running from home to home, so whenever a situation was uncomfortable, he would get away as soon as possible. If escape wasn't immediate, then he would crack jokes until the topic changed. If you took him by surprise, he would be jumpy until you left again, so he made sure that Leo could hear him coming.
They exchanged greeting, but Jason mostly just watched Leo tap away at the soundboard, entering commands into the ship's system.
The sun started to go down, and the others had regained their energy enough to start conversations and drag themselves up. Annabeth, Percy, Reyna and Piper went below deck, probably to get some well earned rest. Jason sort of wished that he and Leo wouldn't be on the second shift, but he was okay for now. Dead tired, but okay.
It got cooler quickly, and Jason shivered. Even though they'd been in Athens that afternoon and Greece was a warm place, up in the air it got cold. He silently wrapped his arms around Leo from behind, tugging the boy to his chest and, with a sound of content, rested his chin on his head.
So maybe the two had a little thing going on. It wasn't official or anything, they were basically at the point of 'best friends who used to flirt as a joke but now actually dig each other a lot'. It wasn't as if neither of them had wanted to be official, but they were in the middle of a war! Jason didn't want to start something like that at such a bad and risky time, and Leo agreed.
He sort of felt bad for Frank, Hazel, Percy, and Annabeth, because in a war there was almost no time to act like a couple. Just fighting for your life.
Leo tilted his head back for a moment, closing his eyes. "This is nice," he said. Jason wasn't sure if he meant the war being over (in which case it would be an understatement), or the fact that they finally had time to pursue their own relationship.
He nodded mutely and Leo eventually pried his eyes open again, reaching around Jason's arms to try and continue his work.
Jason tutted. "Leo, we just finished fighting a war. Relax, you really should rest. What are you even doing?"
Leo frowned. "I can't relax for a few reasons, Sparky, one of which being that I'm pretty much the only one who knows how to work the boat, and Annabeth is sleeping." He scrubbed at his eyes. "I'm setting up the radar again, and doing a general checkup on the ship. I don't want to have to do more repairs."
"Oh." Jason let Leo work, because even if they were all exhausted, they were taking turns on who slept when.
He wasn't sure how much time passed, but it was dark out and Jason could see his breath in the air when he realized just how hungry he was. "Leo," he tapped on the son of Hephaestus' shoulder. "C'mon, we should get some food."
He took a minute to answer. "Yeah, alright."
Jason frowned slightly as they made their way to the mess hall. Leo was being pretty quiet and serious, and he hoped it was only because he was tired. He turned on the light, pulling a couple of magical plates from the cupboards.
They sat in silence for a bit. Jason summoned some roast beef and potatoes to his plate; it'd been his favorite food in New Rome, and suddenly he was craving it. The thought of staying at Camp Half-Blood full time still made him nauseous, he'd had friends and responsibilities at Camp Jupiter. Was it really okay that he abandon them (again), even if he'd never fully fit in with the Legion again? Sure, Frank was praetor now, but he was an outcast too.
He sighed. He knew that he'd probably end up staying at Camp Half-Blood, and while he might feel guilty for a while, he wouldn't regret it. Especially not if it meant he got to be with Leo.
"What's wrong?" Leo asked quietly. The boy had made a small car out of pipe cleaners and Jason smiled, watching as Leo turned the wheels for a moment before answering.
"I should be asking you." Leo raised his eyebrows questioningly, and Jason copied him (though in exasperation). "Come on, Leo, did you think you could fool me? You're being quiet."
"Have you considered that maybe I don't have the energy to be as annoying as I'd like? We both know how much I like to annoy."
Jason let a small smile slip at the inside joke, but tried to stay serious. "Yes, I've considered it, but usually when you're tired you ignore it and crack jokes anyways. Something's bothering you." Leo stayed silent, which confirmed his thoughts. "Spill, Valdez."
He said it gently, but hopefully sternly enough for Leo to listen to him. He really didn't want to be shut out like he had been when Leo was building the Argo II.
The Latino hesitated. "Okay. Just.. promise me that you won't get upset."
Jason nodded, but bit his lip nervously. What could Leo possibly have to tell him? Was it about the relationship they'd wanted to start? Did he find someone else? Okay, that last one wasn't likely, Leo had barely been out of Jason's sight the entire trip. Certainly not long enough to meet someone else.
"Why do you want to date me?"
"What?" The word slipped out almost instantly, leaving Jason dazed.
Taking a deep breath, Leo repeated himself. "Why... Do you want to date me? Me. You could have had Piper, or Reyna, or someone else. Anyone else. They'd be better for you."
For a minute, all Jason could do was stare. Silence reigned in the room, and Leo's natural fidgeting came back. Part of Jason was relieved to see the habit, but most of his brain was busy processing what he'd just heard. "Leo, what're you talking about?"
He looked down at his empty plate. "You could do so much better than me, Jay. You're smart and handsome, you can fight, and you're powerful. You're a son of Jupiter! You shouldn't date someone like me."
"Shouldn't, are you kidding me?" Jason gripped one of Leo's hands across the table. "Leo, there isn't anyone I'd rather be with!"
"Reyna would be better for you than me!" Leo stood, but his voice cracked. In the dim light of the kitchen, Jason thought he saw tears. "She's praetor, the Romans accepted her back, they'd do the same for you! Or Piper, you had a crush on her, and she'd make a great girlfriend." A sound of frustration made it's way out of the son of Hephaestus as Jason walked quickly around the table. "You deserve so much more," he whispered into Jason's side.
Arm wrapped around the brunet, Jason thought that he could actually hear his heart breaking. He could certainly feel it. "Leo, look at me."
Hesitantly, he did.
"I could never want anyone better than you. Such a person doesn't exist, okay? I love you."
If this kid was trying to make Jason feel like shit, he was succeeding. Leo shouldn't have to ask that question to know that he loved him. "More than anything."
Apparently that was good enough for Leo, because he just nodded, gripping the front of Jason's shirt. After a moment, he could feel the other's tears seeping through. Feeling a little lost, Jason just held him. There wasn't anything left for him to say, even though he wanted to reassure Leo again and again that there was no one better. Not being with Leo- the energetic, creative tinkerer- but with someone as distinctive as Reyna or as hard to read as Piper was something that he didn't want to have to think about.
Eventually, Leo looked up at him again and managed a smile. An honest to Gods smile, because Jason could tell that the fire user was just a happy as he was to be there at that moment as he was.
They lived through a war together, and they had been best friends for months before either of them had made a move. Jason liked to think that he knew Leo well enough to know that, at least for now, Leo wouldn't run. It was the beginning of an era, a time for new beginnings. They could make anything they wanted of it.
And as they curled up together in Jason's bed after their shift ended, that was more than enough to send him into a blissful sleep.