Nico was glad he had decided to stay at Camp Half-Blood—he really, truly was—but the knocking on his door in the middle of the night had to stop.
Yeah, he had actual friends now, and apparently, unbeknownst to him, the side effects included waking up at ungodly hours of the morning because said friends wanted to drag him out of bed for some ridiculous reason or another.
Still, after groaning and rubbing his eyes open, he rolled out of bed, dragged his feet over to the door, and opened it.
He was not surprised to see Will Solace standing there. He would have bet fifty-fifty on either him or Jason.
“What,” he deadpanned.
Will stood there, in his yellow plaid pajama pants, blue t-shirt, and slippers, and cleared his throat. “Um, hi.”
Nico raised his eyebrows, using his shoulder to hold the door open. “Hi. What do you want.”
Will smiled, but he shifted his feet. “Can’t a friend just stop by and say hi?”
“No,” Nico replied. He then moved to close the door and retreat back into his cabin, but Will lunged forward and caught it.
“Wait!” he yelped.
Nico paused, giving him a look and waiting for him to continue.
He cleared his throat again, his eyes darting from Nico to the floor and then back again. “Can you come over to my cabin?”
Nico ignored the stupid way in which his heart started speeding up. “Why?”
“There’s something I need you to see,” Will said. Then he visibly swallowed. “Please?”
His eyes were round and glinted brightly even in the dark as they stared at him, unblinking.
Nico glanced back at his bed. He really wanted to sleep, goddamnit.
“Fine,” he said, turning back to Will. “Let me just put some shoes on.”
During the short walk to the Apollo cabin, Nico asked Will three times what this “something” was that he was supposed to look at, and Will, three times, refused to tell him.
He was growing more and more visibly nervous by the second, especially as they walked up onto the porch and approached the door. Once Will had set his hand on the doorknob, he turned back to look at Nico.
“Okay. So, don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements. I don’t want to scare it away. ‘Cause then we’ll never find it.”
“What?” Nico asked. But he was already opening the door.
He pushed it so slowly that Nico probably could’ve ran back and taken a short power nap in his cabin before he was able to follow him inside. Once they were in, though, he finally got an idea of what was going on.
The rest of the Apollo campers were in their bunks, which were arranged in a half-circle along three of the four walls. All five of them were awake—it would have been impossible not to be with the obnoxious brightness of their ceiling lights—and their eyes were all directed toward something on the floor.
Something invisible, apparently, because there was nothing there.
“What is it?” Nico asked.
Kayla’s eyes darted over to him. “Nico! Thank the gods you’re here. Look!”
She pointed toward the ground, and still, he saw nothing. Will must have noticed this, because he put a hand on his shoulder and raised his other arm, pointing just like his sister.
“Right there,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. Nico followed the line of his index finger, ignoring the warmth traveling down his arm from Will practically leaning against him from behind.
And then he finally saw it. A tiny black dot.
With legs. Eight of them. Still, it was not much bigger than his fingernail.
“A spider?” he asks.
One of Will’s little sisters gasped like the word itself was cursed. “Yeah! Right there!” Just then, the black dot twitched a little, and she shrieked, hugging a pillow to her chest. “Will! It’s coming toward me!”
“Don’t panic!” Austin shouted back from across the room. He leaned over the side rail of his bunk and looked down at Nico. “Nico’s here now; he’ll kill it.”
Then it clicked. “Wait,” he said, stepping away from Will and turning back to face him. “You woke me up and brought me here to kill a tiny spider?”
Will frowned. “Well, yeah. They’re scary.”
“And who’s to say I’m not scared of them?”
He snorted. “Please. You’re not scared of anything.” Then he reached up to scratch his neck. “But, uh, sorry about waking you up. I sort of panicked.”
Nico didn’t respond and instead turned to look at the rest of the cabin. “And none of you were capable of doing this? I figured Will would be like this, but all of you?”
Behind him, Will huffed indignantly, and he ignored it. The other kids—Kayla, Austin, and one boy and two girls whose names he’s still learning—all shook their heads.
“Fine,” he said, sighing. “I’ll kill the damn spider.”
Later that night, as he lay awake in bed, Nico wondered if perhaps they had thought he was going to do some crazy Underworld trick, like sucking the life out of the spider without touching it or turning it to shadow, because after he took two steps forward and squished it under his sneaker, they all just stared at his foot in silence.
“There you go,” he said awkwardly. He was about to turn around and head back to his cabin—he really wanted to go back to sleep—but he was stopped by a pair of arms grabbing him from behind and squeezing his shoulders.
“You’re the best!” Will said, resting his head right beside Nico’s ear.
He tried his best not to jerk away in shock and instead slowly untangled himself from Will’s arms. And, honestly? He would’ve stayed there for a little while longer, maybe, if all of Will’s siblings weren’t watching.
“Thanks, I guess,” he mumbled, stepping away and rubbing at the back of his neck.
Will beamed at him. “Thank you. We’d been freaking out for like, twenty minutes over that thing until Kayla had the bright idea to get you.”
“Hey,” Kayla shouted. “Don’t blame me! Will just didn’t want to suggest you because he—”
“Okay,” Will interrupted, a lot louder, dragging out the o. “I think Nico’s had enough of our antics.” He put his hand on Nico’s shoulder and started leading him to the door. “I’ll walk you home.”
Will opened the door and gestured for him to exit. As he closed it behind them, he cut off another shout from Kayla.
“Don’t stay out too late!”
Will rolled his eyes as he met Nico at the bottom of the steps. “Sorry about them. They’re obnoxious.”
“Like you’re any different,” Nico muttered.
To that, he received a nudge to his shoulder, and he wasn’t sure if it was due to exhaustion or Will pushing him too hard, but he stumbled a little, only to be caught and righted again against Will’s side, firm hands holding him around his waist.
Will laughed. “Whoops. Sorry. Didn’t mean to push you over.”
“It’s fine,” Nico replied. Will didn’t let go, for some reason, and he didn’t try to move away. He glanced up, and Will was already staring down at him.
They both fell silent for a moment. Nico wondered if Will could hear his heartbeat.
It was nice, in a strange way. Exciting, even though they were just standing still.
But after a moment, it was too much, and Nico had to break the silence.
“So, you’re really that scared of spiders?”
Will’s entire face flushed—he could see it even in the dim light outside of the cabin—and he pulled back a little. “I am,” he said. “I promise.”
Nico started walking back toward his cabin, and Will followed. “So you’re sure you didn’t just wake me up for fun, then.”
“I didn’t,” Will whined. “I swear on the Styx. I really hate spiders.”
Their hands brushed together as they walked side-by-side, sending a tingle of electricity up Nico’s arm. He wondered if Will felt the same.
“Well,” he said, “I guess I wouldn’t mind being hired as the official Apollo cabin spider-killer. As long as I’m getting paid.”
Will hummed softly as they reached the front porch of the Hades cabin. “That’s fair.” Then they both stopped, and he turned to face Nico, resting his elbow on the railing. “What do you want?”
He couldn’t say what he wanted to say—couldn’t even think it without his face turning bright red—so he just shrugged.
But they were close. So close.
And then Will was smiling, and then he was leaning down, and then he was leaving a kiss on Nico’s cheek.
When he pulled away, he was grinning. “How’s that, Spiderman?”
Nico somehow resisted the urge to reach up and touch his face. He was too busy gaping like a fish anyway.
Will then had the audacity to laugh a little and flick a strand of his hair away before leaning back and stepping away. “Get some sleep. Sorry again about waking you up. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
It wasn’t until he was already about ten paces away that Nico shook himself out of his daze. “Hey! That’s not my new nickname!”
Will laughed again without turning around. “We’ll see, Spiderman.”