Figuring out Nico di Angelo was hard. Literally anyone at camp knew Nico didn’t like physical affection. With the emphasis on affection, as he had no issues punching a camper in the face if they threw an insulting comment his way, or anyone's way, really. A whopping total of two people could hug Nico freely, and those were his ‘sisters’. Hazel and Reyna. But both girls spend most of their time at Camp Jupiter, so it wasn’t like many people were even able to witness the brief moments of physical affection Nico tolerated. Jason Grace, who probably was one of Nico’s closest and oldest friends, had to work hard to even get a fist bump out of Nico. Though, reasonably enough, Nico at first didn’t even know what a fist bump was till Percy and Jason demonstrated it.
So, long story short, Nico wasn’t fond of physical affection. Will knew that. He had experienced it first hand when he finally had hauled an exhausted Nico to the infirmary for a seventy-two-hour stay. Nico had flinched when Will even just had touched his arm to check the Werewolf scratches. His reaction when Will had patted him on the shoulder in a friendly manner hadn’t been too great either- the freshly infirmary-released demigod had jumped into the air in fright.
But, knowing all this, things were started to make less and less sense as time progresses. After a year of the giant war, Nico had grown just comfortable enough to fully hug his sisters and not to flinch as Jason eagerly patted him on the back. With the slow development of that, it made no sense at all, that within a year of knowing each other, Nico had no issues with laying curled-up in his lap, napping, as if Will was just a soft, comfortable pillow and not a real-life person.
Will was reading through an almost ancient book, maybe it actually was ancient, on the ageing of the Hebe children. It wasn’t the most interesting piece he had read, but with the rapidly growing group of Hebe campers, it was useful as a healer to know what he was dealing with. The book had been on his mandatory reading list for ages anyway, but with being head of the Apollo cabin and head of the infirmary, Will had little time to read. It didn’t help either that the Apollo cabin was always buzzing with life- it was never quiet which made it hard to concentrate, even when reading ancient Greek was easier than English.
Thankfully, being friends with Nico had its privileges. A cabin solely occupied by him, which meant that there was nobody to be noisy or annoying. The cabin, despite its scary exterior, was pretty comfortable on the inside. After a renovation, the dark walls had turned into a softer grey colour, the beds had been replaced with basic twin-beds because there weren’t many children of Hades. Will had occupied one of the twin-beds, Nico’s to be exact, nearly drowning in the plush headboard. The owner of the bed was curled up next to Will, fast asleep. Sleeping wasn’t weird for Nico- the son of Hades seemed to have a fondness of napping- but being so close to Will was. Whenever meaning to or not, Nico had hooked his own foot around Will’s ankle, his cold toes pressing against Will’s foot.
It was oddly endearing, and it made it hard for Will to really focus on the book, despite the peace and quiet. Because he had realised months ago, nothing was more distracting than Nico di Angelo. Whenever awake or asleep, whenever he was in a good or bad mood- at all didn’t matter. His friend always managed to distract him in some way. This time, it was Nico’s impossibly cold toes rubbing against his foot and the Italian’s messy hair that looked impossibly soft- what he would give to run his fingers through it.
In all fairness, Nico probably wouldn’t be so distracting if Will didn’t have this ridiculous crush on him. But here he was, almost a year after properly befriending Nico, with a stupid crush on the son of Hades. It hadn’t been hard, really, with them being just what the other needed. Will being Nico’s shoulder to lean on, at least when it came to medical things, and Nico is the only one brave enough to drag Will out of the infirmary. His siblings had, on multiple occasions, asked how Nico managed to move Will’s stubborn and dedicated ass of the infirmary. In return, Nico just had shrugged and explained that ‘trying’ was the key. In Will’s opinion, it was just Nico being Nico.
Groaning softly, Will pushed a piece of paper between the pages- a receipt from Nico and his’ last McDonalds visit- and let his head sink into the plush headboard. This wasn’t working, at all. Maybe he just should accept his fate and return his sparse reading sessions to the loudness of the Apollo cabin.
Wallowing in unnecessary self-pity, Will gently placed the book on the soft covers and contently watched Nico. It was odd to see Nico relaxed, peaceful. His overall mood had improved over the year, there was an occasional smile, less scowling and he had managed to scare the living hell out of some campers by laughing out of seemingly nowhere. But the peaceful expression that came with a sleeping Nico was a rare sight- a rare sight Will would treasure forever because there were only two people Nico let his guard down around. Hazel and Will- maybe Reyna which made the count three, but that was it.
Will almost jumped when someone knocked on the cabin door. Shame painted his cheeks dark as he realised he almost had started to run his fingers through Nico’s messy hair, unconsciously, but he was still guilty as charged. Yeah, it was time to return to the Apollo cabin- he clearly wasn’t allowed to be alone with Nico if he couldn’t properly control himself.
Recalling that someone actually knocked on the door, Will cleared his throat and answered- hoping that his voice didn’t betray his embarrassment. “The door is open.”
The door was gently opened and Jason Grace stuck his head around the corner.
Eyebrows shot up in surprise, lips parted in mild confusion. “Nico is asleep?”
The question was quiet, gentle even, but the surprise was still laced between the words.
A fond, almost brotherly smile curled on Jason’s lips. Will could recognise such a smile from miles away- he had offered many of his siblings the same smile, he had seen the same smile on faces of the likes of Connor Stoll and Annabeth Chase when they watched their younger siblings.
“Then I’ll leave waking him up to you.”
Will groaned audibly. Waking up Nico was terrible- the guy wasn’t charming after waking up, the time of the day didn’t even matter. In all fairness, Nico usually didn’t sleep well, so he treasured all the minutes he actually could sleep, and so was grumpy when someone took his treasured sleep away.
Throwing Jason a hopeful look, Will wondered if he could bribe the son of Jupiter in waking up Nico. “Is it necessary? You know what’s he like when he wakes up.”
Jason didn’t have mercy on him. “Nah, if he’s comfortable enough to sleep with you, he probably won’t be so grumpy if you wake him up.”
How again was Jason older than him? “Nico and I aren’t ‘sleeping’ together,” despite knowing that Jason was just teasing him, Will couldn’t help but stutter slightly. “But I’ll wake him- though can I have a reason why?”
“Annabeth wants to go over the Capture-the-Flag strategy for tonight, she and Percy have this bet going on, so she definitely wants to win.”
Will groaned loudly. He hated Capture-the-Flag, because that meant many hours in the infirmary, especially if it was Annabeth against Percy. It was even worse than when the Hermes and Ares's cabin were leading the opposite teams. It was war when that happened.
“Fine,” Will grumbled, mentally going through their stock at the infirmary and wondered if it was plenty for the upcoming blood-shedding. “He’ll be there in ten.”
Smiling appreciatively, Jason nodded curtly and slipped out of the cabin, closing the door behind him.
Praying that Nico was a decently good mood, Will gently shook the son of Hades’ shoulder. Nico didn’t budge, at all. This was going to be a difficult chore with little reward because the better Nico slept, the grumpier he was when he woke up.
“Nico,” Will whispered, shaking Nico’s shoulder with more force. “Can you wake up? Annabeth will kill me if you aren’t there for debriefing.”
Nico groaned, batting Will’s hand away and grumbled under his breath in Italian.
Time to tempt Nico to wake up, and Will had a good idea how to motivate Nico. After all, he had heard Nico complain this week about the Hermes cabin’s latest prank that had painted his cabin an offending shade of orange.
“Remember that the Hermes cabin is teaming up with Percy? If you ask Annabeth nicely you might join the attack,” Will paused, grinning slightly as Nico stirred in acknowledgement. “And if you aren’t there at the last debriefing, you might be stuck with a guarding job.”
Finally, Nico decided that it was worth-while waking up. He didn’t particularly look grumpy, just a bit drowsy, adorably drowsy if Will dared to say.
“It’s too early,” Nico grumbled, unhooking his ankle from Will’s, not even looking remotely embarrassed.
“It’s four in the afternoon,” Will deadpanned, unable to stop a smile from forming on his lips.
Nico shrugged and settled down in a cross-legged position, his knees bumping against Will’s bare legs. “It’s still too early. Anyway, did you succeed in your readings?”
Will was grinning fully this time. Sometimes Will hardly could believe that Nico showed interest in his interests, even if it was out of politeness. But, in all fairness, even after knowing Nico for a year the guy still managed to surprise him.
“Somewhat,” Will admitted, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly. “Got a bit distracted.”
Nico quirked an eyebrow as in ‘go on, explain’.
“Mentally preparing how busy the infirmary will be after Capture-the-Flag, especially with Percy and Annabeth leading. I think the Hermes cabin has to start ordering more Ambrosia.”
It wasn’t exactly a lie, but he wasn’t going to tell Nico that he was the reason Will was distracted. He liked Nico way too much as a friend to throw it away for a plausible relationship. After all, Nico only recently had come out as gay to him, after Will coming out as bisexual and explaining it to Nico. Because as they were friends, Will didn’t want to keep secrets.
“So, you’re not joining?” it wasn’t hard to notice the faint sadness lingering on Nico’s face, but Will choose to ignore it. Will knew Nico appreciated his presence, and Apollo cabin played with the Athena cabin tonight.
Not quite mustering a smile, Will shook his head. “I’ll, Annabeth bribed me, and in addition my cabin, with some new medical textbooks. Couldn’t say no, but we’re still the ones who have to take care of the infirmary.”
Will was slightly taken aback by the small, barely noticeable smile that had grown on Nico’s lips. Maybe he misreading things after all- maybe Nico actually was interested.
“Then I’m allowed to use my powers, right?” Nico asked, a slightly devilish grin on his face. “You can monitor me, so you don’t have to worry about me fading away.”
Of course, that’s why Nico was happy that Will joined. “You hardly need to be monitored,” Will pointed out, which was fair.
Nico hadn’t had a fading incident since the giant war- which was over a year ago. After that, partly, thanks to Will’s constant nagging and worrying, Nico had gotten it through his thick skull that he couldn’t exhaust himself anymore if he wanted to live. The nagging, however, thankfully only lasted a couple of weeks before Nico snapped and Will decided that it was up to the son of Hades if he was willing to take care of himself. Thankfully that seemed to be the case.
“Still,” this time, Nico didn’t sound as confident as before, an almost shy expression on his face. A faint blush coloured his olive skin darker. “I know you feel more at ease keeping an eye on me.”
That made little sense.
“You know that I’m not your babysitter- you’re free to do what you want to do,” Will pointed out.
Nico huffed. “I like your company, okay.”
Oh. Oh. Will gaped slightly as he stared at Nico.
“Okay,” Will beamed. “I guess I should join the meeting if that’s the case- I doubt Austin is too thrilled with listening to war strategies.”
The subtle grin was worth agreeing to join the very same game that caused the bane of Will’s existence.
Will regretted asking it the moment he asked it, if that made any sense.
“I couldn’t help but notice that you, well,” Will hesitated, regret already clouding his mind. “How does it comes that, you’re, well… comfortable with me?”
Nico looked up with an owlish expression. The son of Hades was laying in Will’s lap- well, with a pillow stuffed in Will’s lap because he was too bony apparently. It was slightly amusing to hear Nico rant about the fact that Will was making sure that Nico ate enough, while the son of Apollo himself occasionally forgot to eat himself due to his busy hours in the infirmary. Still, the whole fact that Nico was laying in Will’s lap was astonishing.
“What do you mean?” Nico looked slightly puzzled, eyebrows were drawn together. “Comfortable?”
Looking down, unable to hide his smile, Will gently prodded Nico’s forehead, smoothing out the frown. “I mean that you’re basically lying in my lap and you still flinch when Jason hugs you.”
A subtle flush darkened Nico’s cheeks. “You’re warm,” he mumbled, eyes for once not meeting Will’s. “It’s nice- you’re like my personal heater.”
Will snorted. “I’m slightly wounded,” he teased. “If you want someone as your personal heater, you should ask Valdez. I assume he’s pretty warm.”
Nico rolled his eyes in distaste, throwing Will a pointed look. “I don’t want Valdez in my bed. I probably would spend months getting every piece of machinery from between my sheets.”
Sometimes Will wondered if Nico even realised what he said. A week or two ago, when Jason had teased him with ‘sleeping’ with Nico, Will knew for sure that the son of Jupiter had known what he had said. Nico, on the other hand, probably had no idea what he was implying.
“So you don’t mind me in your bed, but you would mind Valdez?” Will asked almost innocently.
It seemed his acting could do some work, as Nico stared up at him with an almost distrusting expression.
“Will,” Nico said slowly, eyes narrowed into a stern expression. “What did I just miss?”
Breaking out into a grin, Will shrugged nonchalantly, staring off into the distance. “You know, sharing a bed could be interpreted as, you know, sleeping together.”
Nico remained blissfully unaware. Maybe it was time to have ‘the talk’ with Nico, so that he finally would be safe from all the lewd jokes the assholes that he considered friends made.
This seemed to do the trick, as Nico’s face caught fire, his lips parted in surprise.
“Oh gods,” Nico mumbled, shielding his face with his arm. “That’s what Jason meant- I’m going to kill him.”
In all fairness, Will wasn’t surprised that Jason had made the same joke twice. After all, somebody had to be the dad friend, though Jason was more of a brother towards Nico than a dad- nonetheless, after the war, Jason had eased in a more laid-back persona, which included making subtle sexual jokes, apparently. Percy probably had a bad influence on him, or Piper. He didn’t entirely trust Piper to have an innocent mind.
Gently patting Nico’s shoulder, Will muttered a ‘there-there’ under his breath.
“I’ll look away if you kill him,” he assured Nico.
Even hidden behind an arm, Will noticed Nico’s face relaxing slightly, probably even smiling a little. “If you hide the body you’re in.”
Will hummed, taking his sweet time to ‘think’. He would never allow Nico to actually kill Jason, and he doubted the son of Hades would actually go that far. Because, despite denying it, Nico clearly is fond of Jason, probably considered him to be one of his closest friends at camp.
“You got your partner in crime, I guess.”
His breath caught in his throat as his met Nico’s gaze, dark eyes bright with mirth. It was weird seeing Nico really expressive- though it still wasn’t expressive. It wasn’t the thousand-watt smile Will occasionally sported, but for Nico’s standards, it was expressive. Eyes, if looking close enough, brimming with life that wasn’t even thinkable a year ago, a faint quirk in his mouth that definitely counted as a smile.
Will realised that he still hadn’t gotten a proper answer from Nico, why he was more comfortable around Will than the likes of Jason or Annabeth, with who he got along well after the whole ‘crush on Percy’ thing had been cleared up. On the other hand, why did Will had to know? He was perfectly content with this- it didn’t make him uncomfortable being close to Nico, the opposite quite honestly, and if Nico was comfortable enough. Who was he to destroy the trust he and Nico had been building for the last year.
“So…” Nico drew out, the quirk in his lips having yet to disappear. “When is the best time to actually kill Jason? Nighttime? I mean, I have an advantage during nighttime.”
Quirking an eyebrow, Will gestured to his mop of blond hair. “I obviously don’t.”
Nico was eyeing him as if he was solving a difficult math-equation. “I believe you have something like a beanie for that,” he pointed out, but for whatever reason Will doubted that was Nico’s choice of solution. At least, judging by the slight devilish air hanging around him. “Or you can go bald.”
Grabbing his hair protectively, Will shook his head. “You won’t even be able to come close to my hair with a razor.”
He wasn’t even that obsessed with his hair- it was hair. Hair would grow back. But going bald was like losing a bit of himself, his low-key safety blanket. The blond mop of curls was just a part of his identity.
Looking far from impressed, Nico looked up in a challenging fashion. “How will you do that? Blind me with your dazzling smile?”
Surprisingly, the compliment completely flew by Will. Instead, he was feverishly thinking how he could save his hair.
“Well…” Will knew he basically lit up when the idea struck him. “If you value your eardrums.”
To demonstrate his plan, Will let out a sharp whistle. Nico groaned, covering his ears on instinct despite that the noise had faded away in mere seconds.
“Shaving is a no-go,” Nico concluded. “A beanie will do, I guess.”
Will could hardly believe Nico was actually considering killing Jason. On the other hand, it wasn’t like Will never had the urge to strangle one of his friends for being annoying. Especially when Lou Ellen, again, pointed out that his crush on Nico was both ridiculous and absolutely endearing, because opposites. Only, if one of them had to be the sun, Nico definitely would be it.
Will wasn’t surprised that Jason had decided to corner him. Or, well, sort of. It was Will, Jason, the infirmary, a sprained wrist and a lot of ace bandage. But with Will being the only healer on duty- at least the only one who could properly wrap a wrist- he was stuck with the son of Jupiter for a bit.
“How do you do it?” Jason asked, even before Will had started the wrapping.
Stopping mid-air, bandage stretched between his hands, Will offered Jason a confused look. “What?”
Blue eyes blinked behind a pair of glasses before Jason realised his ‘mistake’. “I mean,” a faint blush coloured his cheeks. “How do you get Nico to touch you, hug you.”
Ah, the hug. That had been quite the surprise. Nico had been gone to camp Jupiter to see Hazel, Reyna and to an extent Frank, for two weeks. Will had missed him, he usually spends quite some time with Nico, but it hadn’t been the end of the world. Nico, on the other hand, apparently had missed him. At least, judging by the full-on hug he had given Will. Though it was more like suddenly, a tiny body had barrelled right into Will, arms wrapped around him in a crushing grip. A ‘missed you’ had followed, before Nico realised that they were in public and everyone could see him willingly hug someone that wasn’t family.
“If I knew the secret, I would share it with you,” deciding that this conversation wasn’t going anywhere dangerous- at least not dangerous enough to catch Will off guard and accidentally stab Jason, he started to carefully wrap Jason’s wrist. “But I don’t know.”
Jason didn’t seem overly convinced. “Are you sure?”
“I see no reason to lie to you,” Will pointed out, focusing on carefully wrapping the bandage around Jason’s hand so that it wasn’t restricting. “I once asked, and he said I was like his personal heater or something.”
Will was slightly relieved when Jason chuckled- he wasn’t afraid of him, but Jason remained a son of Zeus, Jupiter, same lightning-shooting guy. He had seen each of the big three kids fight, Jason, Percy, Nico, and each of them were fearsome. Will never wanted to have any of them as his enemy, he would be crowned loser even before the fight had started.
Will shrugged. “To quote him: ‘You’re warm. It’s nice- you’re like my personal heater’ or something along those lines.” He hoped that Jason didn’t notice his faint blush- why did he have to quote it word for word? Because that meant it had been on his mind, a lot, otherwise he wouldn’t have remembered it.
Jason had noticed. The son of Jupiter started to look gleeful, like a kid in a candy shop.
“This is going to sound childish,” that was reassuring. “But you like him, don’t you?”
He knew what Jason was implying, but if he had to be childish, Will felt obligated to do the same.
Will rolled his eyes in a dramatic fashion. He probably had picked up that habit from Lou Ellen after Cecil’s nth attempt to pull off a prank and failing miserably. “Of course I like Nico, we’re friends.”
In all fairness, he was just delaying on being on the receiving end of a shovel talk.
“Listen,” the faint childishness that had been there had melted away like snow in the sun. “I’m not going to tell you off; Nico can handle himself perfectly well. I just want to make sure he’s happy.”
A year ago, he would have considered it odd. Jason was someone who could get along with people but never actually created a deep bond with them. At least not visibly. Jason’s expressions had been pretty closed off. Will never really could read him well. But the fondness for Nico was evident, as a friend, as an older brother. They had grown so close in the past year- it almost seemed that Nico not only had acquired two new sisters but also a brother.
“Do you really have to ask?”
Jason made a shrugging motion.
“Yes, I mean,” in his head he sounded a lot more confident than he actually sounded. “It’s pretty obvious, I guess. But I do like Nico more as a friend then being more. Yes, I wouldn’t say no to a romantic relationship but,” surprisingly, Will realised he wasn’t even lying, he did treasure their friendship. “I’m content being friends. Nico’s friendship, his trust, is so much more important to me than a relationship.”
Looking down at Jason’s wrist, Will realised he had used way too much tape. Though, it seemed that Jason hadn’t been paying attention either, as he looked equally puzzled as Will.
“That’s a bit… much,” Jason kindly pointed out.
Snorting, Will started unwrapping some of the bandages. It was useless by now- because hygiene’s were very important when it came to medical related things.
“I believe you,” Jason said out seemingly nowhere. “That you truly care about Nico, so make sure you make the right choices.”
When Will briefly looked up to meet Jason’s gaze, he was surprised with the amount of confidence his gaze held.
For whatever reason, he had the feeling Jason knew more. Or maybe Jason had spent too much time with Piper and her ability to read people had rubbed off, and suddenly Jason thought he was an expert on love and his confidence radiated that.
“I have never been good at making the right choices.”
“You decided to befriend Nico, I suppose that’s was a good choice.”
Smiling like the love-sick fool he is, Will finally finished wrapping Jason’s wrist. “One of the best decisions I made.”
It was hard to focus on the test results when Nico was so damn distracting. Reading over the test-results another time, Will looked up through his eyelashes, enjoying the sight that was Nico di Angelo.
The hospital gown he was wearing was a bit short, showing off lean, smooth legs that had a subtle olive colour to them. The scars didn’t bother Will, it actually added to the fact that Nico was a flawed human with an imperfect body- plus they all told a story, a story of the hardships Nico went through. In an almost childish manner, he was swinging his legs as he sat on the edge of the cot, a rather content look on his face, which seemed to stare off into nowhere.
He was absolutely smitten.
“So, doc,” tearing his gaze away from Nico’s legs, Will met Nico’s gaze. Nico was slightly smirking. “What’s the verdict?”
Thankfully, Will didn’t have to recheck the results, as otherwise, he had to explain what took him so long. “I first worried about your weight,” Will admitted. “But with you eating regularly, it seems that your build is just that way. So, as long as you eat, you don’t have to worry about anything weight-related. It appears that you’re using your powers responsible, as there is little darkness in you, and what’s there is very controlled. Your sleeping habits are still poor though.”
There was no accusation in Will’s voice. He knew that Nico just didn’t sleep well, but that wasn’t for the lack of trying.
Nico ended up offering him a sheepish smile. “So I have to get monitored on my sleep for now on?”
There was a faint hint of fear in Nico’s voice, as actually fearing that Will would say yes.
“No,” Will saw Nico’s face express relief. “As long as you’re aware of it- and if your nightmares ever act up, you know that you can get permissions for medicines from us.”
Will hesitated briefly, before deciding to just wrap it up. It had no use to bother Nico with all the medical details. “But long story short, as your doctor I can tell you your health has improved significantly from last year.”
“And as my friend?”
“Well,” Will offered Nico a brilliant smile. “I’m happy you’re in a better place than last year, both physically and emotionally.”
Nico’s smile wasn’t bright and full, but the content was clearly visible. “Could you note that down? Jason has been bugging me about my sleeping habits but with a doctor’s approval, I can finally get him off my back.”
“You know that he just cares, right?”
It wasn’t hard to spot the blush that had appeared on Nico’s cheeks, whenever it was from embarrassment or infatuation. Oh gods, what if Nico liked Jason? Would that mean that Will actually had to give Jason the shovel talk? Was Jason even into men? Also, Will was pretty sure he was still dating Piper.
“Yeah, you also care, but you aren’t constantly nagging,” Nico pointed out, which was fair. Will cared a great deal about Nico, but he dropped the nagging a few weeks into knowing each other, knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t getting him anywhere.
“Well, Jason and I are different,” Will patiently pointed out, hoping that he wouldn’t blurt out anything stupid. “I’m just your friend- Jason thinks you as a younger brother almost, of course he’s more worried.”
Will wasn’t sure how to interpret Nico’s surprised expression. Either he was surprised that Jason thought about him as a brother, or that he was severely disappointed that Jason only saw him as a little brother. Most people would kill to be adopted by the amazing Jason Grace. But Nico wasn’t most people, and he didn’t hold the same worship for Jason as others had for him. Jason was just his friend and apparently annoying older brother.
“I’m pretty sure Jason and I aren't related.”
Thank gods they weren’t, because otherwise it would mean that he and Nico were cousins, and while incest in Greek mythology wasn’t all that farfetched, the idea of dating his cousin was far from appealing.
“You and Reyna aren’t related either,” Will pointed out. “But you still see her as your older sister and she sees you as her older brother.”
“Will?” as soon as Nico spoke his name, he felt someone tug his camp-shirt.
It was slightly surprising to have Nico seek him out after campfire. Usually, it was the other way around, or they went their separated ways with a quick goodnight because Will had to collect all his siblings for bed. So, Nico actively seeking him out wasn’t something he was used to.
Meeting Nico’s gaze, hoping he wasn’t looking too surprised, Will nodded. “You need help with something?”
Will cursed himself slightly as Nico shrunk into himself, face radiating discomfort. He should have been more tactful with his answer.
“Yes- no, well,” hesitation was evident in Nico’s voice.
Frowning slightly, Will tried to figure out what got Nico all twisted up. Nico was a far cry from a social bee, and Will knew that, but it was rare that he showed such level of discomfort around Will. Maybe something had happened on the quest he had returned from yesterday? That could be entirely plausible, after all, it had been a complicated quest, complicated enough to send Nico, Jason and Malcolm, the head of the Athena cabin while Annabeth was off to camp Jupiter for some businesses.
“You know that I’ve been doing better with my nightmares, right?” Nico explained, purposely not meeting Will’s gaze. “Well, usually after quests, when I exhaust myself, they come back and well…”
Ah. “You aren’t sleeping well,” Will pointed out.
Nico nodded curtly.
“So, you want medicine for that?” Will recalled offering Nico medical aid if he had troubles with his nightmares.
Shaking his head, Nico kicked the dirt, eyes downcasted. “I sleep better with company.”
That’s why Nico asked him. He would need permission for that as usually campers were only allowed to sleep in their own cabin, and as Nico’s doctor, Will was the one who could actually sign that permit. And, as the only Hades camper, they easily could set up a spare bed in the Hades cabin so someone could keep an eye on Nico without invading his personal space.
“Shouldn’t be an issue. Chiron surely wouldn’t mind, though I’m not sure if the ‘no boy and girl in the same cabin that aren’t siblings’ rule doesn’t count in this situation.”
Nico offered him a frown before realisation settled in. “Oh. I was actually asking you if you wouldn’t mind….”
The insecurity in Nico’s voice was almost heartbreaking.
Will almost had forgotten that Nico wasn’t as comfortable around others as he was around Will, which also meant that he would be Nico’s go-to guy.
“I’m okay with it,” he heard himself say, barely even conscious that he was saying that. It would be just like a sleep-over, no reason to bring his ever-growing feelings into the whole thing. After all, he was the one who told Jason that he was perfectly content with being friends with Nico. It still wasn’t a lie- but the prospect of having a more intimate relationship had started to look more appealing.
Nico didn’t say anything, but the relief was clear as day. With the promise that he would head to the Hades cabin after informing Chiron, getting his siblings to bed and fetch some sleepwear, Will and Nico went separated ways.
Will crossed the camping grounds like a man on the run. It was well after curfew, it had taken longer than expected to get his siblings to bed, and the last thing he wanted was having the cleaning Harpies after his ass. Making sure his clothes and pillow were still secure under his arm, Will basically jumped over the steps of the Hades cabin, landing on the wooden deck with a dull thud. Now the cleaning Harpies definitely would have heard him.
Knocking rapidly on the door, Will looked around, ears strained for the screeches of the Harpies. He hoped that Nico actually would have waited for him because otherwise, he would be bird-food.
Before the screeching started, the cabin-door was opened carefully, Nico’s head eyeing him wearily. Nico looked pretty like this, the moonlight making him look younger, almost ethereal. But the moonlight had nothing to do with the faint quirk in his lips and the shine in his eyes, which were so much more captivating.
“Sorry, took me a bit to get everyone to bed,” Will apologised as he slipped inside the cabin. Tension fell off his shoulder as he took in the familiar decoration. No hungry birds who were willing to eat him and he knew how to handle a sleepover.
“It’s fine,” Nico mumbled, running a hand through the mess he called hair. It was endearing. “Um,” Nico’s face grew flustered. “I have no idea how this works.”
Muffling his chuckle behind his hand, Will looked around the room. Hazel’s bed was off-limits, of course, but surely there was a spare bed. There was none, the only available bed was Nico’s twin-bed.
“Well, somewhere I can sleep would be… appreciated.”
He always could fetch a cot from the infirmary, but that also meant he was risking actually meeting the Harpies this time, and he had to explain the one on duty why he was borrowing a cot.
“Well… I was assuming my bed,” Nico’s words were a mere whisper, only picked up by Will’s hearing due to his demigod senses. “I mean, a while ago, when you were on a quest, Jason stayed with me, but he slept in a separate bed but it didn’t help, and I wasn’t comfortable enough to share a bed with him.”
Will could finish the rest of Nico’s explanation. The only one who he comfortable enough with to share a bed with was Will, aside from probably Hazel but she was back at Camp Jupiter.
“I can work with that,” Will said nonchalantly.
He didn’t feel calm and collected. Apparently, he was a better actor than he gave himself credit for because his body was buzzing with nerves. It was one thing sharing Nico’s bed during daylight when Will usually was reading and Nico sleeping, but at night, when both were going to sleep. Will desperately hoped he wasn’t a clingy sleeper- he would never be able to look Nico in the eyes if he woke up cuddling with him. If Nico was a clingy sleeper- which he somewhat was- it wasn’t too bad, because Will was pretty comfortable with physical contact.
Nico eyed him with hidden insecurity- one that Will solely caught because he spends a lot of time with him- and clearly there was a question on the tip of his tongue, one he probably didn’t dare to ask.
Letting his well-collected expression fall, Will offered his friend a more open, honest look. One that showed the nerves, the hesitation, but also the care. “Nico?” he asked.
Will smiled a little in relief when Nico grew at ease all of the sudden. “You don’t mind? That I’m comfortable doesn’t mean you’re. I’m still a son of Hades- people always say my skin feels cold.”
Whenever it was a habit that he had before he had lost all his memories or it was one he picked up, Nico seemed always to be expressive with his hands, especially when he was excited or nervous. Right now, Will assumed Nico was nervous.
Doing what felt right, Will caught one of Nico’s flailing hands mid-air, clasping it between his own. They were cold, but Will didn’t care. His hands usually were too warm anyway, so it was a nice contrast.
“I really don’t mind,” Will assured. “I mean, I’m already more of a touchy-feel kind of person, so you really have to try your best to scare me off. Plus, if you think it helps you sleep better, who am I to refuse.”
Staring at Nico with determined eyes, he noticed that his friend was obviously flustered, the flush going as far as dipping below the neckline of a worn shirt. However, his gaze wasn’t returned, as Nico’s eyes had settled on the hand Will was holding, lips parted in what seemed surprise.
“Okay,” Nico croaked, yanking his hand free. “Uhm, you can get changed in the bathroom,” with a stiff movement, Nico gestured to the only other door in the room that didn’t lead outside. “I’ll fetch you a blanket in the meantime.”
Wanting to give his friend some space- he probably did cross the boundaries this time- Will nodded and hurried over to the bathroom after dropping his pillow on Nico’s bed.
He took his sweet time changing and brushing his teeth, hoping that Nico wouldn’t kick him out the moment he left the bathroom.
After stalling for quite a bit, Will decided that he couldn’t be holed up in the bathroom, so reluctantly, he left. Nico was already in bed, occupying the left side. Surprisingly, he had replaced the second pillow with Will’s, and a plush looking blanket was draped over his side of the bed.
“I didn’t know if you preferred a side, so I just took the one I usually used” Nico was stumbling over his words, nerves laced between the pauses.
Feeling his heart melt a little, Will shook his head. “It’s fine, I haven’t slept in a double bed in ages- I’m not even sure if I have a preference.”
Dropping his clothes somewhere out of sight, Will crawled in his side of the bed, curling up in his blanket and nuzzling into his pillow. This was so much more comfortable than his creaky bunkbed back in the Apollo cabin.
“Good night,” Will murmured, cracking one eyes op to watch Nico.
Surprisingly, Nico wasn’t even eyeing him back, instead, he was lying flat on his back, shoulders tense, fingers clutching his blanket and eyes squeezed shut. This wasn’t going to work.
“Nico,” Will murmured, gently placing a hand on Nico’s shoulder. The skin underneath his fingertips was taunt and Nico exhaled sharply. “This isn’t going to work.”
Will was taken aback when Nico roughly shoved his hand away. “Than do something about it,” Nico hissed back. It had been ages since Will had seen Nico this tense, this… scared? He almost looked like a scared animal, eyes narrowed, teeth bared and body ready to lash out if necessary.
Taking a deep breath, Will nodded. “Okay, I'll”
Moving around so that he was lying on his back, Will reached out for Nico’s hand with his own, intertwining their fingers.
Nico’s breath stuttered, and the grip on Will’s hand tightened almost painfully. He was crossing so many boundaries right now that Will wondered when Nico would summon his skeleton army and drag Will out of his cabin.
“Deep breaths,” Will murmured, rubbing his thumb over the top of Nico’s hand. “And exhale- you know how it works. It has no use inviting me in your bed when you exhaust yourself into sleep, that’s a recipe for nightmares.”
It was quite surprising to feel Nico relax his hold on Will’s hand. Actually, it was surprising that Nico hadn’t pried his hand away yet. Will felt weirdly honoured to be trusted to this level- or at least tolerated.
Will hadn’t realised how tired he was when he had started to doze off, not even thinking of letting go of Nico’s hand. So when Nico suddenly spoke, or more like whispered, it caught him by surprise.
The words were filled with such high level of earnest that Will couldn’t help but smile. Gently squeezing Nico’s hand, Will instinctively curled up around his arm, facing Nico.
The words had left his lips before Will had even realised it. “You’re precious.”
Thankfully, noticing the way Nico’s grip had loosened, and his breathing and heartbeat had evened out, Nico probably had never heard Will’s response.
Will had forgotten that he wasn’t the only one who had the tendency to kick Nico out of bed. Thankfully, Jason didn’t tease them, at all. He actually looked pretty happy, especially when Nico woke up, bleary-eyed, hair looking like it just had returned from war, but Nico looked better rested than he had done in months. The expected second version of the shovel talk never happened, though Jason had given him a subtle nudge that maybe, it was worth testing his luck with his ‘bad decision-making’ skills.
“Go on a date with me.”
Nico froze on the spot, his expression growing more speechless as the seconds ticked by. Nervously, Will also stopped walking, turning around, so he was facing Nico.
“Go on a date with me,” Will repeated, cursing his voice for cracking under the nerves. “Please?”
Will had considered a few scenarios. A reasonable ‘no’, a stuttered ‘yes’ or Nico bolting away, flustered from the tip of his ears till somewhere hidden under his shirt. None of these scenarios happened. Instead, Nico started to grin widely, eyes bright with happiness and relief.
“I thought you never would ask,” Nico said, relief accentuation the words.
Will blinked almost stupidly. “Wait, you expected it?”
Kicking the dirt with the nose of his shoe, Nico nodded shyly. “Yes,” a pregnant pause followed. “You should reconsider using a public space like the infirmary as a place to have a heart-to-heart, I was on my way to check up on Jason when I stumbled on you and him discussing me.”
Or foremost, Will’s romantic interest towards Nico. Though, that conversation was old, it has been months, and the faint interest he had back then was nothing compared to the feelings he currently held for Nico.
Swallowing away the nerves, Will started to consider Nico’s response. It was… optimistic. Did that mean Nico actually did return his feelings? Or was Nico just glad that he properly could let Will down without blaming their fallout on himself?
“That still doesn’t answer my question,” Will said, voice unsure. “Do you actually want to.”
The confidence that Nico had radiated had evaporated. Will was greeted with a bashful smile, a flustered face and a batch of nerves and insecurities Will could relate to. “I would love to.”
Will was surprised when Nico pulled him aside during his infirmary shift. It wasn’t to make out- they didn’t even have their first kiss- so Nico probably was going to ask him a rather personal, possibly embarrassing, question.
“So,” Will drew out. “How can I help you?”
“How do you properly thank someone?”
The question seemed a bit… odd. Like, a ‘thank you’ usually sufficed.
“Physically,” Nico added, probably noticing Will’s confusion. “Like, do you shake their hand, a shoulder pat or-”
“A hug will do nicely,” Will advised.
Surprisingly, Nico took it all in a stride, nodding as he was taking in the information. It was slightly odd, as Nico still wasn’t too fond of physical contact with anyone aside from Will, and even Will had learnt that there were boundaries he shouldn’t cross.
He expected Nico to leave, probably on a mission to thank and awkwardly hug one of the campers. Instead, he waited, eyes settled on something that was behind Will.
“I- do you want to tag along?”
It wasn’t a question, it was a silent plea because Nico didn’t do well with social interaction, and apparently Will being there caused miracles. Or, more like that if things went awkward, he could fall back on Will who usually talked them right of the situation.
Will doubted that the people in the infirmary would actually miss him if he were gone for a bit, so he agreed, was greeted with a relieved looking Nico, and he excused himself from work.
He wasn’t particularly surprised to see Nico leading him to the arena where Jason was teaching a sword-fighting class. Though he never pointed it out to Nico, Will had a feeling Jason low-key had played a role in getting him and Nico together.
“Might I know why Jason?” Will asked, probably enjoying the fact Nico blushed prettily too much.
Faking a cough, Nico looked away. “Well, he told me to drop by the infirmary for moral support when he sprained his wrist, and, well, I would have never stumbled upon you, you know…”
It was slightly scary to hear that Jason probably had more success playing matchmaker than the Aphrodite children, though maybe Piper’s influences had rubbed off on him. After all, Jason spends most of his time with Piper, with Nico being a surprisingly close second.
Stepping closer to Nico, Will waited a few seconds for any clues of discomfort, but as soon when there weren’t any, he pressed a dry kiss against Nico’s forehead. “Well, you know what to do. Thank him, hug him, and watch him probably tear up.”
The last part had been meant as a bit of a joke. But when Nico pulled Jason in an actual, proper hug, Will swore he saw the son of Jupiter tear up a little. Especially once the hug had reached well past the ‘this has to be quick’ phase Will dared to say he never had seen Jason with such a dopey expression. Maybe he should ask Piper if Jason often rocked such an expression, or it took one Nico ‘Jason’s unofficial baby brother’ di Angelo and some physical affection.