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Tell all the truth but tell it slant

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Nico didn’t feel great after capture the flag. The wound on his arm from where a son of Ares had managed to slash him with his sword was dripping blood, although sometimes it felt more like liquid shadow threatening to swallow him whole. His body didn’t feel entirely solid either and he was certain his hands were mostly translucent. As he made it out of the forest, he saw the chaos that always ensued after the game was much worse than normal. Will and the rest of the Apollo cabin seemed to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, to the point where children of Athena were helping transport people to the infirmary as well.


Guilt stirred in Nico’s chest. He’d promised Will he would be careful and he clearly hadn’t succeeded, but he couldn’t burden Will with another person to take care of. Especially not one as difficult as himself. He wasn’t the best patient, always a little grumpy and reluctant no matter how hard he tried, and he knew it was especially trying to deal with his tendency to nearly dissolve into shadows. He glanced at his hands, seeing the rays of the setting sun shine through them slightly, and winced as he jostled his injured arm, then steeled himself. He would be fine. He just had to clean the wound and sleep it off. He could do that, he assured himself.


Nico began to try and skirt along the edge of the crowd, hoping to slip away unnoticed. Of course, almost immediately, Will called out for him, “Nico!”


Nico winced and then took a breath and straightened his shoulders, turning around and walking toward Will with his hands shoved in his pockets and ignoring the way his arm was burning. “What’s up?” he asked, hoping to keep his voice even and casual.


Will glanced up at him from where he was kneeling and bandaging a daughter of Aphrodite’s leg. Even as he felt like keeling over, the sight of Will’s blue eyes sparked an unexplainable feeling of adoration in him. “Are you alright?” Will asked, his eyes roaming all over Nico.


Nico would never admit how Will’s gaze on him made butterflies erupt in his stomach. “I’m fine,” he said.


Will narrowed his eyes at him and frowned, “Are you sure? You’re looking a little pale.”


“I’m sure, Will,” Nico rolled his eyes, “And I’m always pale.”


Will didn’t drop his suspicious look as he hmphed . “Well, come by the infirmary later so I can give you a once over,” Will instructed.


Anxiety crawled up Nico’s throat. “That’s really not necessary,” he tried to argue.


“Humor me,” Will said, though nothing in his tone suggested any kind of amusement. 


Nico could never really deny Will anything, and it wasn’t like Will wouldn’t show up at his cabin and drag him to the infirmary if he didn’t show. “Fine,” he grunted.


Will offered him a grin that sent Nico’s heart racing. “Good,” he said, “I’ll hold you to that.”


“Uh-huh,” Nico huffed before turning on his heel and beginning to stalk back to his cabin. 


When he made it back, he just felt worse. He was nauseous and had cold sweats and the translucency seemed to be creeping up his arms. He rushed to his bedside table and fumbled to pull out the ambrosia he kept there, not focusing on the way his hand seemed to pass through everything the first time before he could grab onto it.


He ate it quickly and then pulled off his jacket, crying out quietly as the fabric passed over the slash mark. Nico walked to the bathroom and looked at the wound in the mirror to see it better and immediately cringed. It was already red and puffy and his arm was covered in blood. He swore he could see the bone if he shifted enough. It was way worse than he thought it was and the ambrosia didn’t seem to be doing much to help it. Or maybe it did and this is what it looked like partially healed. Either way, he needed to clean it off.


Very carefully, he pulled his shirt off, tears springing to his eyes, and then turned the shower on. He stuck his arm beneath the gentle spray and couldn’t help the gasp of pain he let out. But he bit his cheek and muscled through it, watching the water rinse away the blood and swirl down the drain. 


Honestly, cleaning it made it seem worse. It was clear now how deep the cut was and how irritated the skin around it was. And it was still bleeding steadily. Panic began to set in and Nico knew that he really should go to the infirmary now but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not after he’d promised Will he would be fine and then assured him he was, especially when the infirmary was surely still bustling with other injured demigods who probably deserved the care more than Nico did. 


So Nico grabbed a clean towel and pressed it to the wound, applying pressure. He whimpered and a couple of tears slipped down his cheeks but he shuddered and shuffled back out to his room. He ate another square of ambrosia, half afraid he was going to disintegrate, and really did try to make it to his bed to lay down but instead ended up on the middle of the floor.


He stared up at the ceiling, still applying pressure to his wound with a hand that wasn’t even all the way there. His whole body ached and his breathing felt concerningly shallow, but the only thing that he could focus on was the look of disappointment Will would have when he discovered just how not okay Nico is. 


No matter what he does, he always feels like he’s disappointing Will. He’s too antisocial, too self-destructive, too secretive, too moody, too everything, and too nothing to be anything that Will would want. ‘He would never want me,’ Nico thought bitterly, ‘Nobody wants another problem to deal with.’ His heart ached as much as the rest of him and he couldn’t tell if the tears were from the pain or from the crushing feeling of being unlovable. 


He laid on his floor until the sun was nearly set. The room had slowly darkened and when he finally moved enough to glance out the window, he could see the last rays of sunshine and the moon sharing the sky. He knew he had to go to the infirmary or Will would track him down. And maybe if he could act okay enough, Will wouldn’t feel the need to check him out at all and they could both avoid the shame and disappointment. 


Nico sat up with a groan, pulling the towel away from his arm to see it soaked in his blood. A lot of blood. Too much blood. As he stood up, he realized how lightheaded he was. But he pulled a shirt on anyway, nearly screaming as he had to lift his arm up, and then shrugged on a jacket that didn’t have a slash in the arm. His whole arm felt like it was burning and though the translucency seemed to have stopped spreading, his hands were still alarmingly sheer. 


But despite all of that, he began a very slow walk to the infirmary on shaky legs. His vision was swimming and every sound seemed very far away. He was grateful he didn’t run into anyone on his way over because he didn’t think he’d be able to process a single word they’d have said to him.


He stopped just outside the infirmary and sucked in a breath, tucking his hands in his pockets and plastering on a smirk that probably looked more like a grimace than anything. When he walked in, Will was sitting at the desk in the front filling out paperwork. He looked up at Nico as the door opened with a smile that quickly dropped. “Nico,” he said in a cautious voice, “Are you okay?”


Nico’s head was pounding and his vision had black spots and he was certain his knees were about to buckle. “Will, I’m—“


He didn’t get to finish before the world went back and he collapsed to the ground.




Nico woke up in an infirmary bed and the first thing he noticed was how bright the room was and how he was freezing . Even with the blanket tucked up to his chest, he was shivering. His jacket and shirt were gone and when he glanced around, he saw bandages wrapped around his arm and sun lamps set up around him. To his side, Will was asleep in a chair, one hand stretched out and resting limply beside Nico’s. The sight made his heart constrict and he sat up, grunting in pain.


Will woke up at the sound, a panicked look on his face until his eyes landed on Nico and his expression changed to barely concealed anger. “You’re up,” Will said, his voice raspy. 


Nico saw the red rim around his eyes and guilt started to choke him. He looked away and frowned. “It’s cold in here,” he whispered.


“It isn’t actually,” Will’s voice was tight, “But blood loss and almost melting into shadows tends to lower the body temperature.”


Nico grimaced, “How long was I asleep?” he asked weakly.


Asleep ,” Will scoffed, “Try unconscious or on the verge of death .”


Nico flinched and looked down, setting his hands in his lap. They seemed solid now. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.


“I don’t want to be sorry , Nico,” Will said, barely stopping himself from yelling, “I want you to care about yourself!”


Nico didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t that he didn’t care about himself, he just didn’t think anybody else did or should. “I do,” he said. 


“It doesn’t seem like it!” Will’s voice wavered, “Not when you lie to me about whether or not you’re okay. Not when you show up half-dead at the door of the infirmary, bleeding out and half made of shadows! Nico, I— you can’t do that anymore.”


“I know, I just—“


“You don’t know! I was terrified, Nico. I thought you were going to die and I didn’t even know you were so… not okay until it was almost too late! Austin had to mop your blood off of the floor!” Will yelled, his eyes watering, “Why would you do that? I can’t— I can’t lose you, Nico.”


Nico couldn’t stand the sadness and anger radiating off of Will. Even as he was the one laid up in an infirmary bed, bandaged to Elysium and back and barely solid, all he wanted to do was make Will better. “What can I do, Will?” he begged, “How do I… how do I fix this?”


“You have to tell me the truth ,” Will said, his voice steady and powerful. 


Nico felt himself jolt, a strange warmth passing over him as his tongue suddenly felt heavy in his mouth. Panic began to swell in his chest and he shuddered. “Nico?” Will asked, his anger immediately replaced with concern, “What happened?”


“I— I don’t know,” Nico said. 


“How do you feel?” Will asked, placing a hand on Nico’s cheek and studying his face, searching for any kind of distress.


Nico hoped he wasn’t blushing from the touch and from how close Will’s face was to his. ‘Okay,’ is what Nico wanted to say but what he said instead was, “Flustered.”


His jaw slackened and his face turned red. “Uh, I mean,” he tried to correct himself or walk back what he said but all he could say was, “You’re very close to me.”


Will leaned back, an unreadable expression on his face. “And that made you… flustered?” he asked slowly.


‘No,’ Nico thought. “Yes,” he said, flinching as soon as the word left his mouth. 


Will cocked his head, “Because you don’t like people getting too close to you?”


Panic began to set in again as he started to realize what was happening. “Because it’s you ,” he told him before snapping his mouth shut.


“What does that—“ Will started.


“Please stop!” Nico shouted. 


Will looked bewildered and backed up. “I’m sorry,” Nico continued, “I just— please stop asking me questions.”


“Why?” Will asked.


“Because I can’t stop telling you the truth,” Nico answered before slapping a hand over his mouth, his eyes widened in shock. “Please,” he said dejectedly, “I can’t— something is wrong and I don’t know what and I can’t handle answering your questions right now.”


A range of emotions crossed Will’s face before he settled on something alarmingly neutral. “Okay,” he huffed, “Ignoring the fact that you were trying to lie to me again ,” he gave Nico a pointed look, “Something clearly happened and I think that’s a bit more pressing. But we are coming back to this conversation.”


Nico hummed in acknowledgment, biting his lip to keep his mouth closed. “I’m going to go get Kayla,” Will told him, “And maybe Annabeth too. They should be able to help me figure out what’s wrong with you.”


Nico nodded and Will stared at him for a moment in earnest, looking like he was going to say something before he sighed and his shoulders deflated. “I’ll be right back,” he mumbled, turning on his heel and sweeping out of Nico’s room.


He wasn’t sure what was worse, having to be with Will, of all people, when he was in such a vulnerable and panicked state or being without him. His mind was at war. He craved the comfort and assurance he felt around Will but was terrified of what would happen since it seemed like he couldn’t just hold his tongue. Nico couldn’t ruin whatever he had with Will. Even if it wasn’t exactly what he wanted, it was more than he ever expected to have with anyone, let alone someone like Will, someone so kind and caring and good . And every single instinct in him was screaming at him, telling him that if he didn’t keep it together, that if he did something stupid like confess , he would lose Will. And he just couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t be able to bear it. His hands started to shake with anxiety and his breathing came rapidly as the realization of how close he might be to losing Will set in. His eyes were burning with tears and his lip was trembling. He couldn’t get the image of the look of disgust and pity Will would have if ever found out how Nico felt, how much Nico loved him, and it was making him nauseous. He could feel his heart rate picking up and the blankets around him suddenly felt horribly constricting. Nico thrashed around, trying to free himself but it just made him gasp in pain.


He made a choked sound and tried to calm himself down as he heard Will’s voice in the hallway, approaching his room. It didn’t help, his whole body was trembling and he was beginning to hyperventilate. Will opened the door, Kayla, and Annabeth right behind him, and immediately rushed to Nico’s side when he saw the state he was in. “Oh gods,” Will said, “What’s wrong?”


The question just made Nico nauseous. “I’m having a panic attack,” Nico croaked before groaning and laying back, burying his face in the pillow as he squeezed his eyes shut. 


Will gently placed a hand on Nico’s cheek and guided his jaw so they were face to face. “Nico, sweetheart,” he said in a soothing tone, “I need you to look at me.”


Nico whimpered but blinked his eyes open, tears spilling down his cheeks as he did. “It’s going to be okay,” Will assured him, tracing his thumb against his cheekbone and wiping the tears away, “We just need to calm you down. Can you breathe with me, love?”


Nico nodded, his face crumpling as he grabbed at the collar of Will’s shirt to steady himself. “Okay, deep breath in and hold it,” Will instructed, following his own directions exaggeratedly. 


Nico tried to listen but he could only hold it for a second before he gasped, a sob bubbling out from his throat. “I’m sorry,” he cried.


“Hey, it’s okay,” Will assured him, “We’ll try again. I know you can do it, sweetheart. Breathe in for me.”


Nico tried again, lasting barely a second longer but Will smiled at him, “Good job, let’s just keep breathing.”


Will guided Nico through breathing exercises until he calmed down enough. His eyes were puffy and his breathing was still shaky but he didn’t feel like he was going to throw up or that his lungs were crawling up his throat any more. 


“Do you feel better?” Will asked.


“Yeah,” Nico rasped, “I’m sorry.”


“Don’t be sorry,” Will told him, “You don’t ever have to be sorry for being upset or needing help, Nico.”


Nico didn’t dare say anything so he just looked down. Will pulled his hand from Nico’s face and stepped back, clearing his throat as he glanced at Annabeth and Kayla who were watching the pair with concern. “Do you know why you were panicking?” he asked.


“Yes,” Nico muttered.


“Can you—“ Will began.


“Will,” Annabeth cut him off, “I think we should avoid asking Nico any questions that aren’t entirely necessary until we figure out what’s wrong.”


“Oh,” Will huffed, “Yeah, okay.”


“Nico?” Kayla asked, her voice even and calm, “What did you mean when you said that you couldn’t stop telling Will the truth?”


“I mean that no matter what I wanted to say, it was only the truth that would come out,” Nico said quietly. 


“What was happening before that started?” Annabeth asked.


Both Will and Nico suddenly looked guilty. “We were arguing,” Will mumbled.


“About what?” Annabeth focused on Will, which Nico was grateful for. 


“About him not taking care of himself and about him lying to me when he needed help,” Will crossed his arms across his chest, “And I told him he had to tell me the truth.”


Kayla and Annabeth shared a look before Kayla looked at Nico. “And what did you feel after he said that, Nico?” she asked.


“Strange,” Nico told her, “I felt really warm for a second, and then my… tongue felt heavy.”


Kayla pursed her lips and then quickly turned to whisper in Annabeth’s ear. Annabeth’s expression darkened and she grimaced. “What are you saying?” Will asked, “What happened?”


Annabeth paused for a moment, her eyes flickering towards Nico before she looked back at Will, sighing. “You cursed him,” she said calmly.


“I what ?” Will screeched, “That’s not possible.”


“It is, Will,” Kayla told him, “Apollo is the god of truth. You cursed Nico to tell the truth, whether you meant to or not.”


“Oh gods,” Will whispered, looking at Nico with a panicked and apologetic look, “I’m so sorry.”


Nico was frozen, but he scrambled to get out of the bed as he met Will’s eyes. As he stood on shaky legs, he became distinctly aware that he wasn’t wearing a shirt or socks but all he could focus on was escaping. “I need to—“ he mumbled, “I need to go.”


He bolted for the door, slipping past the three of them before one of them could grab hold of him and stop him. “Nico!” Annabeth called. 


He ignored her as he ran out of the infirmary and booked it across the lawn. It was sunny out and Nico realized he had slept through the night. That meant there were campers all around who watched in shock as he ran shirtless and barefoot toward his cabin before deciding at the last second to run toward Jason’s. 


He banged on the door, praying that Jason was actually in there and not off somewhere else. The door swung open and the easy smile Jason had at first immediately dropped from his face. “Nico?” he asked, “Shouldn’t you be in the infirmary?”


“I need a shirt,” Nico huffed.


Jason nodded and stepped back, letting Nico walk in. “You can sit on the bed,” he told him as he moved to grab a t-shirt from one of his drawers.


Nico sat down cautiously and accepted the purple SPQR shirt Jason handed him with a quiet “Thank you.”


“How did you know I was in the infirmary?” Nico questioned.


“Uh, generally when your best friend almost dies, you’re informed about it,” Jason shot him a pointed look, “Will told us last night. Or, Will told Kayla to tell us. He wasn’t really in a position to be talking to anyone.”


Nico pulled on the shirt, wincing at the pain that shot through his arm. “What happened?” Jason asked him as he sat on the bed across from him.


“Will cursed me,” Nico told him before cringing at how blunt that sounded. 


“What?” Jason exclaimed, his face twisting with anger.


“It was an accident,” Nico tried to add.


Jason’s brow furrowed and he looked at Nico curiously. “What did he curse you with? You aren’t rhyming or speaking in haikus.”


“Uh, truth,” Nico gulped, “I have to tell the truth.”


Jason’s face fell and he blinked in surprise. “Oh,” he mumbled, “That’s…”


“Yeah,” Nico’s voice was strained. 


“And you’re hiding here because you’re afraid you’ll tell him that you—“


“Don’t,” Nico snapped before his shoulders slackened, “Please don’t.”


“How did that even happen?” Jason asked.


“He was yelling at me,” Nico frowned and looked at the floor, “Because I didn’t tell him I was hurt.”


“He was really upset when you were unconscious. I think Kayla had to bring him food and force him to eat because he wouldn’t leave you alone.”


“Will was only there to keep an eye on me, it’s his job.”


Jason snorted, “If you didn’t literally have an obligation to only say what you think is the truth right now, I would say that you’re great at lying.”


Nico’s brow furrowed, “What do you mean?”


“You really think that Will stayed with you all night and most of the morning just because it was his job?” Jason raised an eyebrow.


Nico frowned, “I mean, yes.”


“You’re oblivious, Neeks,” Jason stated.


“I don’t understand,” Nico said.


“Will didn’t stay with you because it was his job , Nico. He stayed with you because he loves you,” Jason told him.


Nico’s face fell and he visibly shrunk in on himself. “Jason,” his voice cracked, “Please don’t lie to me right now.”


“I’m not lying to you, Nico,” he said earnestly, “I wouldn’t. Not about this and especially not now. Will loves you just as much as you love him. That’s why he stayed with you and that’s probably why he yelled at you, even if that wasn’t his best choice.”


Nico blinked back the tears threatening to spill out again. He’s cried too much in the past twenty-four hours. “But… why?”


A sad look settled on Jason’s face as he sighed and stood up before squatting down in front of Nico and placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not Will, so I can’t tell you for sure. But it probably has to do with all the reasons I love you, and the reasons Hazel and Reyna and Annabeth and Percy and everyone else loves you. You’re smart and brave and kind and funny and so, stupidly selfless. And even though sometimes it’s infuriating that you don’t see all of that too and you do self-destructive stuff like not tell people when you’re bleeding out , we love you anyway and we always will.”


Nico glanced at Jason, his lips trembling. “Thank you,” he whispered.


“Of course,” Jason said, smiling reassuringly, “But I think you need to talk to Will, not me.”


“I’m afraid,” Nico confessed.


“I know,” Jason dropped his hand from his shoulder, “But I promise it will be okay.”


He held his hand out for Nico to grab onto as he stood up. Nico was grateful for the subtle contact and he smiled softly. “But before you go,” Jason added quickly, his eyes glinting with amusement, “I have to ask you something while you’re compelled toward honesty.”


Nico frowned and glared at him. “You might not like the answer,” he said.


“I’m pretty sure that I will, actually,” Jason grinned. “I overheard you talking to Hazel over IM the other day.”


Nico groaned but Jason continued anyway, “And you mentioned that you really liked pirates when you were little. Is that true?”


“Yes, and?” 


“When we were all on the Argo and you would climb to the top of the mast, were you pretending to be a pirate?” Jason asked, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet with glee.


Nico flushed bright red and nearly opened a hole in the floor directly to the Underworld for him to drop into as he mumbled out a “ Yes .”


Jason laughed triumphantly as he held his cabin door open for Nico. “That’s incredible information,” he said, “Now go to talk to your boy.”


Nico huffed as he shuffled out the door. “And Nico?” Jason called.


Nico looked over his shoulder to see Jason looking at him with a caring smile, “I really do promise that he loves you too. You just need to trust him.”


Nico nodded slowly and turned back around, walking toward his cabin. As he approached it, he saw Will sitting dejectedly on the stairs, his head in his hands. 


“Will,” Nico said softly, drawing his attention to him.


Will looked up, bewildered, and scrambled to stand up. Nico climbed the stairs to meet him. “Nico,” he breathed, “I thought that you were just ignoring me.”


Nico frowned, “No, I was with Jason.”


Will’s gaze dropped to the too big shirt Nico had on and a tight look settled on his face. “Oh,” he said. 


“Look, Will—“


“I understand if you’re mad at me, Nico. Really, I do. But I swear I didn’t mean to curse you. I would never do that on purpose, especially not to you,” Will cut him off.


Nico furrowed his brow and looked down as he took a steadying breath. “I’m not mad at you, Will,” he said.


“I know that you genuinely cannot lie right now,” Will joked weakly, “But I don’t totally believe you. Why did you run away if you’re not mad at me?”


“I was afraid,” Nico told him.


He could feel that same fear crawling up his throat now but he pushed it down. Jason was right, he needed to talk to Will and to trust him. “Afraid of what?” Will asked.


“Of telling you the truth.”


“What truth?”


“That I love you.”


Will was silent and Nico dared to look up. Will had a shocked expression on his face and it made Nico’s mouth fill with the taste of regret. “It’s okay if you don’t feel the same. I understand if you don’t. I mean, I’m—“


“Don’t,” Will snapped harshly before visibly deflating. His voice was softer now, “Don’t you dare think that I am anything other than stupidly in love with you, Nico di Angelo.”


Now it was Nico’s turn to look shocked. Even after Jason had so confidently assured him it was true, he would never have been prepared to actually hear it from Will. “Oh,” he said breathlessly. 


“Yeah,” Will’s hands twitched forward but he pulled them back, “Can I— can I touch you?”


“Yes,” Nico told him.


Will placed one hand on the side of his and the other on his neck, his fingers tracing across his skin soothingly. He leaned forward, so their faces were no more than an inch apart. “Can I kiss you?” Will asked, searching Nico’s eyes for any sign of hesitation.


Yes ,” Nico repeated.


Will kissed him softly and it made Nico’s knees weak. His lips moved against Nico’s with such tenderness that it was nearly heartbreaking. Nico gasped quietly when Will pulled back and pressed their foreheads together. “I’m sorry that I cursed you,” Will whispered.


“I’m sorry that I lied to you,” Nico whispered back, “I just… I was afraid of being a burden.”


Will frowned, a pained look across his face. “You’re not a burden, Nico,” he said earnestly, “You never will be.”


Nico squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m working on believing that,” he said.


“Well, I’ll tell you that every day if you want me to,” he promised, “In fact, I think I might even if you don’t ask me to.”


Nico huffed a laugh and opened his eyes, meeting Will’s gaze. “Did Annabeth or Kayla say anything about when the curse will wear off?”


Will grimaced sheepishly, “They think at least a day or two.”


Nico groaned and pulled away from Will for just a second so he could bury his face in his shoulder. “Ugh, I’m not going to talk to anyone,” he complained.


“You can talk to me . I’m your boyfriend ,” Will grinned, “I’m not gonna make fun of you. At least not too much.”


Nico looked up at him with a bewildered look and Will’s eyes widened in panic as he began to stumble over his words, “I mean, uh, I just assumed that we were, you know, boyfriends , because of the whole ‘I love you’ thing. Is that… okay?”


Nico smiled slowly and nodded. “Yeah,” he said, “That’s okay. Great, actually. Boyfriends.”


“Awesome,” Will huffed, “You’re my boyfriend.”


“Uh-huh,” Nico agreed.


“And I am your boyfriend.”




“We are boyfriends, who are dating.”


“Yes, Will,” Nico grinned.


“I’m gonna stop saying the word ‘boyfriend’ now,” Will huffed, blushing. 


“I don’t mind,” Nico told him, inching closer to him.


Will smiled and darted forward to press a kiss to the tip of his nose. “Good to know,” he whispered.


Nico hummed and tipped his chin up to stare at Will. “I love you,” he said.


Will grinned, mumbling “I love you too,” as he kissed him again.