They're at it again, this time in the early morning.
It's about four o'clock, and the sun is just starting to rise. It does so sooner than Percy expected, but he supposes that's an affect of being in Greece, especially after not seeing the sun for a few weeks and then fighting a war. The practice room is split into three parts- one for weapon storage, another for sparring and other combat training, and a third for personal improvement, i.e. muscle building.
The room is filled with nothing except the clang of metal on metal and the heavy pants of the training room's only occupants. The early morning light reflects off of Jason's gladius, making Percy squint a little more than strictly necessary. They'd been sparring against each other for an hour already, the sea against the sky.
It still felt weird, he thinks, even though they've just fought a war together. Since the incident in Kansas, his and Jason's relationship had been more strained than it'd already been. Percy took Jason's spot as a leader of Rome, and Jason became a hero of Camp Half Blood. They've walked a mile in the other's shoes, so to speak, and left them half filled.
Both of them have noticed the tension, he's sure, and it's a wonder that it didn't somehow compromise their mission. They won, they're alive, they're supposed to be a team; and yet they're still pitted against each other- by lineage, by parentage, by circumstance.
This isn't the first time that they've done this. Other than the times they've actually fought (mostly in Kansas), Jason and Percy have made a habit of finding each other and training together- sparring, hand-to-hand combat, whatever they can find. It's their way of acknowledging they rift and saying, I have no idea how to fix this, but I don't want to fight you all of the time so I'm just going to do it now.
They want to be content with themselves without having to have these small excursions to the training room. But they're not, so they're doing their best. But it's a long way back home, and each day Percy gets antsier and Jason gets more uncomfortable and this is the only way they know how to work this out.
Percy's never been the 'emotions guy', and Jason's had it drilled into his head that only the mission at hand matters, not his own feelings, so they don't talk it out. The two know that they can't show up at Camp Half Blood with this silent feud continuing, because it might break the fragile peace that the Romans and Greeks have managed to form.
Leo says that they'll be home in a few days. Percy and Jason aren't ready.
Percy slams Riptide into Jason's gladius, but the other parries. Slice, jab, duck, roll. It's a continuous cycle, has been since it started.
The sun is higher in the sky now, and Percy knows that the others will be up soon. Which means that they'll have to make it look like they haven't been fighting again. They'll have to end soon. Jason knows it to, Percy can tell by the look in his eye.
The noirette chuckles, and Jason furrows his brow. "What're you thinking about this time?"
It isn't the first time that Jason's called him out on his cynical thoughts, which Percy more often than not keeps to himself to think about, but sometimes he still manages to surprise him. "You know."
And the blond does. It's all that they've worried about since Gaea went back to sleep. "Me too." Jason swings his sword swiftly through the air and Percy has to dodge.
"What're we going to do?" A frustrated groan escapes his lips, and for a moment Percy thinks that Jason is considering lowering his sword. "If we don't fix this, it could ruin everything!"
It's almost uncanny how Jason feels exactly the same as Percy on the matter, and how they care for each other but still manage to have this uneasiness between them. Annabeth calls it irony. Percy calls it bullshit.
"Agreeing on something doesn't automatically make you on a person's good side," she'd told him.
There's a spark and a small screech as their swords cross and hold in midair, equal strength pushing on either side as they remain stationary. Percy pulls his sword down after a moment, he and Jason coming to the silent agreement that they're done for today. He caps Riptide and returns it to his pocket, sliding down against the mats.
"I thought about it again last night," Jason informs him before joining Percy on the floor. "We know that there isn't a reason for us to fight, don't we? Then why can't we stop?"
"I don't know." Percy has always felt responsible to counsel other demigods, even if he's never let anyone do the same for him. "There isn't a reason anymore, but we're still feeling the effects of the ones we had before, I guess."
"I was sure that when you came back from-" Jason folds his hands in his lap. "-From Tartarus, things would be different. I though we'd just be able to forget it and move on, but I don't think that's the case."
Percy stays quiet, but he agrees. He'd hoped the same things, and had been disappointing and frustrated when they didn't follow through. They didn't have time for the rivalry.
"And now- we're just acting but they can tell."
He's referring to the others on the ship- of course they can tell. Even if it wasn't as obvious as it was, the seven know each other better than anyone.
This is what they need, Percy knows, even if neither of them are men of words.
"I was afraid that you wouldn't come back, you know." Jason's voice cuts through the atmosphere, adding to the melancholy. "I was so afraid that you wouldn't come back and that you'd die thinking that I wanted to kill you or something."
They're an odd sort of friends, and they've got problems, so they're not particularly close. But the younger demigod is sort of bearing his soul to Percy, and he's not going to leave him hanging (even though he has absolutely no idea what to say).
Jason's voice is thicker than usual as he continues. "It could've happened. It still could, Percy, we could die without resolving this thing! I-"
Jason isn't done talking but Percy wraps his arms around him anyways. It's nice, in a weird sort of way, because Percy's only ever been touchy with Annabeth and his mom. Jason probably thinks it's weirder than Percy does, because he knew that hugs weren't a common thing in New Rome.
It takes a minute but it stops being awkward, and Percy waits for it to pass before he starts. "I think we'll be okay." It's been getting better, their spars shorter and wrestles less powerful. It feels oddly intimate in the room, and Percy tells Jason so.
He laughs, but it's wet and damn it if Percy isn't a little teary eyed himself.
They talk for a little while longer, knowing that they'll have to clean up soon. Percy ignores this fact further when Jason's head end up against his shoulder for a moment. It's fleeting, but Jason whispers a quiet, "Fuck you, Percy Jackson. Fuck you," and gets up, whipping his face, but they're smiling and it's okay.
Maybe Percy sniffs a few times, and perhaps he runs his sleeve over his eye, but hey, they've just won a war, and they're alive, and they're becoming a team, so Percy thinks a few tears shed won't do any harm.
He offers Jason one last piece of solace before they leave. "We're a team, Jason. We're still getting the bugs worked out, but we've made it this far."
He turns the lights off and Jason sheaths his gladius. They turn to leave the room, hopefully for the last time. "And this team? It's worth fighting for."