It’d been a day and a half since Nico left his cabin (the first time that happened since Nico'd come back to stay), so the saying around camp was that he had returned to his extremely anti-social past behavior. Some even dared to say the boy had shadow-traveled to the Underworld, or to the dark, small confines of a deep cave somewhere.
Will, of course, ignored them all.
He could feel Nico’s presence in camp the same way he could locate Kayla or Austin if they were nearby. Their heartbeats and health information were always there in the background of his mind, and all he had to do was focus on them to have a more detailed grasp on their situation.
It was like shadows; his mind knew they were there and he always saw them (obviously), but he had to focus to really study them, to try to see where they were coming from and why they were there.
So, yeah. Nico was safe and sound in his cabin. Heartbeat loud and brain apparently apparently releasing… adrenaline?
Will paused his eating, the fork halfway to his lips.
Why would Nico be agitated? Was he having a panic attack? Yeah, he hadn’t been out of his cabin for a day and a half, but Will had visited and Nico insisted he just needed some time to come back to himself. Will understood that. Nico wasn’t leaving everything behind and he hadn’t given up. He just needed time. So Will waited.
Maybe this was enough waiting.
He abandoned his meal and made his way to the Hades in large strides. He heard the whispering of the other kids, but didn’t have the focus (or the curiosity) to give it any attention.
Once in Nico’s porch, he knocked twice.
“Neeks? It’s Will. Can I come in?” he asked the door, trying not to speak too loudly in case Nico was having a panic attack. He didn’t mean to scare him, after all.
He needn’t have worried, though, because he could hear Nico’s footsteps, louder than usual, as he hurried to open the door.
“Thank the gods!” was all the warning he got from his very pale, very disheveled and slightly sweaty boyfriend before Will was dragged into the cabin. Nico kicked the door closed behind them.
“What’s going on?” Will asked, a bit hesitant, trying to read the situation.
“Okay, so there was a cat. Black, tiny, very scared. It just jumped into the room by the window and kept staring at me, so I went out to get you, but then I realized I was in my pajamas, and, you know, I wouldn’t have cared if it wasn’t—”
“That one,” Will finished the sentence, giving an appreciative look over Nico’s skeleton onesie, complete with a hood and all.
Not to brag, but he had the most adorable, extra, aesthetic-driven boyfriend ever, and he loved every part of him.
“Yeah. No one would ever stop bothering me about it.” Nico rolled his eyes. “So, I came back, and the cat is nowhere. Nowhere , Will!” He frowned, looking around the place.
Will imitated him out of reflex, but it was way too dark (‘cause the heavy curtains were closed) and way too messy (‘cause Nico was the one living here).
“Where did it come from?” Nico sighed. “Where did it go?”
“Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed-Joe,” Will added in the lowest voice possible, but of course Nico heard it.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, nothing. Just a stupid song,” he mumbled. “Okay, I can try to locate him.”
“Yeah, do it.”
Will nodded, then closed his eyes and breathed in, trying to look out for another heartbeat within the room.
“Look under the bed.”
Will frowned, opening his eyes.
“Did you look… on the bed?”
Nico blinked once. Twice. And then he turned and brusquely lifted the blanket off the mattress.
Someone — something — whimpered.
And then Will saw it, the tiny black lump with huge eyes staring right at them, seemingly out of breath.
“ Aw , it’s a kitten!” Will did notice his voice had gotten ridiculously high-pitched, but did he really care? Nah.
With slow movements, he tiptoed toward the bed.
“What are you doing?” Nico’s voice was skeptical.
“I don’t wanna scare the poor thing.”
He heard Nico snort, but he ignored it.
Once he was close enough, he offered his hand to the kitten, not wanting to straight-up touch it. It was panting (Will hadn’t heard it before ‘cause the kids outside were too noisy; it distracted him), its little pink tongue out. The black fur was the exact same tone of the bedsheets’.
The kitten didn’t really react to Will’s hand, so he decided to be a big boy and touch the wide-eyed, possibly sick wild-looking cat anyway.
The dehydration was the first thing that yelled at him. He usually couldn’t get that much from animals unless there was something seriously wrong, so this wasn’t a good sign.
“It needs water,” he said, unconsciously using his doctor-voice. Nico felt it too, apparently, ‘cause he rushed to the bathroom.
He held the kitten in his hands until Nico returned with a glass of water. Together, they managed to make the cat drink it.
“What now?” Nico asked once they were both sitting side-by-side on the bed and the cat was resting on Will’s hands (it was that tiny).
“We take it to Chiron. He must have treated a cat in his three-millennia-old life.”
“Hm. Yeah, good plan.”
“Do you think it has an owner? Maybe it ran away. Or maybe it was abandoned. It looks so young…”
“Someone must be looking for it,” Nico said after giving the matter some thought. “I can send some skeletons around. Look for possible owners.”
Will faltered a little, but tried not to let it show.
“Yeah. But, you know, in the meantime…” He looked at Nico, expression hopeful.
Nico rolled his eyes.
“In the meantime we can keep it.”
“ Yes! ” In an impulsive act, he leaned forward and kissed Nico in the cheek, in an attempt to convey his joy. “Thanks. Can I name it?”
“Yeah, Will, you can name it.” Nico sounded amused. “You are great with names.”
Will ignored the sarcasm in that statement.
He carefully lifted the kitten so it was at eye-level with him.
“I hereby name you…” He paused merely for dramatic effect. “Cotton Eyed-Joe.”
As expected, Nico immediately groaned beside him, and he laughed out loud.
“Seriously? Why can’t you give something a normal name for once? Ugh, I’m so done with you.” Nico punched him in the arm, very lightly. Will barely felt it.
“Don’t listen to him, Cotton Eyed-Joe,” he told the cat, very seriously. Cotton Eyed-Joe stared at him, uncomprehending. “Your name is perfect the way it is.”
When Will turned to look at Nico, Nico was already staring at him, all judgemental and amused and giving him that trying-not-to-smile smile that Will adored.
“Go shower so we can take Cotton Eyed-Joe to Chiron, Death Boy.”
Nico stuck out his tongue at him — and Will was a mature fifteen-year-old boy, so he immediately responded the same way —, but he did stand up and went to the bathroom, grabbing some clothes on the way.
Once Nico was out of his earshot, Will turned to the cat again.
“Welcome to your new home, little buddy. You’ll like camp a lot…”