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Nico took a deep breath. His nerve endings were tingling all over his body and he could feel himself beginning to sweat.
"Calm down, calm down, calm down." He told himself, shaking out his skinny limbs.

The lights in the hall went out and from behind the curtain where he stood he could hear the roar of the crowd.

His familiar black guitar was pushed into his hands and he took another deep breath before finding his way into the strap so the instrument hung comfortably on his shoulder.

He looked around and saw his two bandmates, oozing confidence and smiling brightly. Percy was tapping his drumsticks against his leg, while Jason clenched and unclenched his fingers, warming them up.

Percy walked out onto the stage when the lights were still off, but not without being noticed by the fans on the front row, who launched into a loud bout of screaming. Jason was soon to follow, slowly striding all the way across the stage before picking up his bass and hanging it around his shoulder.

The screaming got louder and louder as Nico grabbed the neck of his guitar and ran onto the stage, stopping at the microphone stand just to the left of the center. He grabbed the wire hanging off the stand and plugged it into his guitar, stepping down on one of his pedals as he fidgeted with the strings. He took a pick from the holder attached to the stand and for the first time looked out at the crowd gathered in front of him. It wasn't a large venue, maybe it held 1500 people but it was packed to the rafters.

He'd gotten good at tuning out the screaming. Before, when they'd just started out as a band, playing their first gigs, he'd manage to power through the show, being fueled by the music, only to nearly collapse backstage after the concert. It took Jason almost an hour of soothing and gently rocking Nico in his hold to calm him down.

He was glad his hair hung low in his eyes as he stepped up to the microphone and struck a chord on his guitar.
"Good evening New York! We're Thrice Greek!"
Percy didn't wait for Nico to finish speaking, he smacked his drumsticks together one, two, three, four times and the band launched into their first song.

The gig passed by in a blur. Steady, staccato drums, deep bass, screeching guitar. 'The next Muse', a magazine had called them. Nico went from crooning low into his microphone to launching away from it as he belted out a chorus.

17 songs later, the band made its way off the stage, Nico and Jason having thrown their picks into the crowd, Percy enthusiastically having thrown at least 8 drumsticks.

"How's it going, Neeks?" Jason asked as he swung his arm around his smaller bandmate.
"Get your sweaty arm off me, Grace, I'm fine." Nico blurted out, shoving Jason's arm away from him with a chuckle as they were lead to their dressing room.

"Man, that was a good crowd." Percy told his bandmates with a big grin as he walked into their dressing room a little bit later. "Been a while since we had a crowd this loud."

Jason grinned and nodded, shooting a glance to the youngest member of their group, who was sprawled over a couch with a steaming mug of herbal tea in his hands.

"Didn't hear them." Nico murmured. "It was perfect."

They sat around and discussed their gig a little bit more, before they took turns showering.

As Jason came back into the room with a towel still on his muscular shoulders a brunette peeked her head in through the door.
"Guys, be back out there in 5 minutes, there's a crowd and you're doing a signing session."

Nico's eyes immediately widened as he looked at their tour manager standing in the doorway.
"But-" He managed to blurt out before Jason interrupted him.
"Come on, Piper, can't you see he's not up to it?" He silenced Nico's oncoming interruption with a held up finger. "Neither am I, to be honest. That gig took a lot out of me."

Piper raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow. "Jason, you play bass and stand in the background, there is no way you're tired. Besides, I asked Frank to round up some security."

"I tried." Jason informed Nico as he got up off the couch, pulling at his band mate's arm.

Percy was already halfway out the door, probably eager to see if that blond girl who'd followed them to shows all over the east coast showed up again.

Jason ducked down to look at Nico in the eye. "You can do this, Nico. Stay close to me and let me know if it's getting too much, I'll make up an excuse and we'll get out of there, okay?"

Nico smiled and kissed Jason on the cheek. "Thanks, Jay. Remind me again why we broke up?"

Jason smirked and stood upright, pulling Nico towards the stage doors. "Come on, time to face the wolves."

Jason knew all about Nico and his anxiety issues. He was deathly shy and would have a panic attack every time he was confronted with a large crowd. Eventually he grew out of it on stage, and even managed to speak up during their interviews. He couldn't be more proud of his friend. Or well, his ex-lover. When they were in college, playing parties for free beers, they'd gotten together on more than one occasion. Nico was comfortable in his sexuality, while Jason had taken that time to experiment. While he did love Nico, and he did eventually decide that, yes, he was indeed gay, they weren't right for each other. They worked better as best friends, and best friends they remained.

The doors swung open and Nico stepped into the dimly lit hall, hiding behind Jason out of habit. With his skinny frame and Jason being freakishly tall he could easily stand behind him and avoid being seen all together.

They noticed Percy out of the corners of their eyes, chatting with some fans animatedly, signing albums without even looking at them.

Nico was happy that the venue's security had made the fans form a queue, so they wouldn't all storm the merchandise table at once, surely sending Nico into a blind panic.
He forced a smile on his face as he made his way to the middle of the table and sat down on his stool, Jason plopping down next to him.

The fans were being lead by their table three at a time, each one having a bit of time for a short chat and an autograph. Fortunately for Nico, Percy was the first one they came across, and he took up most of their time excitedly chatting to them, asking them about the show and how they liked it. The fans ended up having to rush past Nico and Jason with a quick hello and a scribble.

Jason looked over at Nico and reached over to give him a reassuring squeeze on his arm as the last of the fans walked by. Nico smiled at him as they were interrupted by a nervous "Hello" coming from the other side of the table.

Nico looked up into bright blue eyes and was immediately taken aback. Not just because the eyes looking at him were the bluest blue he'd ever seen, giving Jason and his electric blues a run for his money, but also because the owner of those eyes was... A man? Blond hair, tall. He would have mistaken him for Jason if he hadn't had his contacts in. Nico felt his stomach do a backflip.

"H-hello..." Nico stammered out, reaching for an album to sign that wasn't there.

The man in front of him blushed and stared at the floor, audibly scuffing his sneakers against the concrete flooring. "I... I-uh, I'm a fan."

Nico couldn't help but smile. He mumbled a thanks before he felt Jason's hand on his shoulder. The blonde was standing next to him, as if having sensed his discomfort.

"Hi!" Jason exclaimed, holding out his hand for the other man to shake. "It's always great to meet the fans. Did you like the show?"

The other man looked at Jason's hand, seeming to study it before he shook it. "I loved it. I've been waiting for years to see you guys live, and it was the best show I've ever seen." He managed to grin at Jason before turning his eyes back to Nico.

"I have a favor to ask... I've got my guitar downstairs, being held by security because I couldn't take it inside. Will you sign it for me?"

Nico's eyes widened. He loved guitars, and hearing that this, let's be honest here, attractive man, also owned one made his heart skip a beat. He perked up and turned around to wave Piper over.

"Pipes, this young man here has his guitar being held by security, would you please go pick it up for him so we can sign it?" Jason asked as he gestured at the man standing on the other side of the merch table. "I'll go find Percy, for something special like a guitar, you're going to want the complete set."

Nico nodded, and watched as Piper and Jason walked off in different directions. "So," Nico said, realizing he was alone now and trying to squash his nerves. "What kind of guitar is it? Do you play?"

The man beamed at him and nodded. "It's a black Les Paul, the same as yours. It used to belong to my brother, but it's mine now..." He looked up at Nico with a sad look on his face before quickly replacing it with a bright grin.
"Thanks for doing this, it really means a lot to me. Your music means a lot to me."

Nico was taken aback again. Night after night, he saw waves of girls and young women at their shows. Whenever they did a signing session, the only guys he saw were being dragged there by their girlfriends. They never meant to focus on a single gender or age group, but to see a man in front of him telling him his music meant a lot to him made him smile.

"Happy to do it, anything for the fans." Nico said, remembering the words Reyna had drilled into their heads when they signed their record deal.

The blond smiled, only barely managing to hide the sad look that passed across his face for a split second, seemingly recognizing the standard answer.
Nico smiled back. He didn't know what to say. He was bad at making conversation, let alone conversation with complete strangers. He let out a barely audible sigh of relief when he saw Jason, with Percy in tow, who was holding three bottles of beer.

"Here you go, Neeks." He said, as he passed one of the bottles to Jason and put the other one down in front of Nico. "So, who's this?"

"I'm your number one fan." The blond blurted out.
"No way, man. I've seen people come to our shows dressed in self made Thrice Greek pajamas. You gotta step up your game, dude." Percy laughed.

Nico sipped at his beer, letting the bitter taste warm his throat as he watched Percy crack joke after joke about their fans. It's a good thing everyone knew never to take him seriously, otherwise half the world would feel insulted by now.

"Sorry kid, it's time to go." A hoarse voice came from behind the young man. At the same time the house lights flicked on and Nico noticed that the hall was completely empty, save for their roadies and some other staff still walking about.

Jason took his phone out of his pocket. "I'll call Pipes, see how she's doing with that guitar." He stepped away from the table.

"It's cool, dude." Percy squinted to read the name printed on the man's security uniform. Hege? Heged? Something like that. "We're waiting on his guitar. Gonna sign it and we'll send him out. No worries."

At that moment Piper came walking in empty-handed, and with a serious expression on her face.
"You!" She pointed at the security guard. "You take people's possessions and then give them back to anyone who claims to own it? What kind of place are you running, here?"

The blond man froze. "What? You mean- My guitar! It's- it's gone?!"

The three band members looked at the blonde in shock before slowly turning their heads to the security guard. "You what?!" Jason exclaimed.

"Hey, we took the guitar from a blond kid, and after the show a blond kid came to get it, so we assumed it was the same one." The guard shrugged.

The blond man sank down to the floor, trembling. "My guitar..." he whispered out.

"Sorry kid, nothing we can do about it now. Now come on, I have a wife to get to and I want to close the place up." The big man moved to grab his arm and pull him off the floor.

Piper put on her most furious expression and scowled at the man. "You'll leave us. We'll call the police backstage and see what we can do about this." With that, she turned around and pulled her phone out of her pocket, walking towards the backstage doors.

The blond was holding his head in his hands as the guard walked off. "I.. I can't believe it. My brother's guitar..." His voice broke.

Jason and Percy crouched down beside him, feeling sorry for their fan. They wrapped their arms around his shoulders and hoisted him up, walking off towards their dressing room.

Piper came back to the merchandise table a few minutes later, where Nico sat, almost frozen.

"The police said there's nothing we can do. There aren't any security cameras here so we've got nothing to go on. Poor guy."

Nico mumbled something, lost in thought. He was thinking about what it would be like if someone stole his treasured guitar. The white one his sister used to play on before....
He shook his head, he was not thinking about that right now.

Down in the dressing room, Jason and Percy sat the man down on the couch. "Can I get you a water, or a beer?" Percy asked, but the man only shook his head.

"I can't believe it... Who would do such a thing?" The blond was fighting to keep the tears from his eyes.

"You said it belonged to your brother." Jason said softly. "What's the story there, if I might ask?"

The young man looked up at Jason. "Michael was in the army. He went missing in Afghanistan a few years ago. He never came home. That guitar is the only thing I have left of him." He squeezed his eyes shut, unable to keep the tears from flowing.

Standing outside the dressing room, Nico took a moment to steady himself after what he'd just heard. It all sounded so similar to Bianca. He needed to force himself to remain grounded and not slip into a panic attack. He quietly walked away to get some air, bumming a cigarette off Chris, their roadie.

As Jason and Percy were quietly consoling the fan on their dressing room couch, Nico walked back in, unheard by anyone.

"I, uhm..." He interrupted them from the dressing room door. "I heard your story. I... Piper told me there's not much we can do to get your guitar back. I'm sorry..." He felt Jason's look boring into him, no doubt he was wondering how Nico was doing. "It's... It's not much, but I want you to have this." He said, walking up to their fan and holding out a black guitar case.

Percy and Jason locked eyes, they knew the story of Bianca, and they knew how it affected Nico.

As the blond got off the couch, his eyes widened. "Oh, no. I couldn't possibly. It's too much." He exclaimed, his whole face flushed red from the crying and blushing.

"Please," Nico said. "I know how much a guitar can mean to someone. If you still want we can even sign it for you."

He rested the guitar case on the back of the couch and opened it. Inside was the black Gibson Les Paul that they'd talked about earlier.

"You should take it before he changes his mind. He LOVES that guitar!" Percy exclaimed, digging through his suitcase for a silver marker.

"I want you to have it." Nico said. "I've been meaning to retire her anyway, and I'll rest easy knowing she'll be in a good home." He smiled.

"Catch!" Jason shouted from across the room, and Nico managed to grab the silver pen from the air.

The man stood speechless as Nico turned the guitar case around. His pen was hovering above the cool surface of the guitar body before he jerked up.

"I never even caught your name..." Nico murmured, looking at the man's shoulder to avoid having to look him in those bright blue eyes, the contrast with the red skin around them making them appear even more blue.

The man stepped forward and held out his hand.

"I'm Will. Will Solace."

Nico switched the pen to his other hand, and stepped towards Will and shook his hand. "Nico. It's good to meet you, Will."

Will blushed a bright red as he stared down at their connected hands. "I-I knew that." he chuckled out nervously.

A knock from the door jerked them from the moment. "Five minutes, guys. We've almost got all the gear loaded in so we'll be on our way to the hotel soon."
Piper's voice drifted into the room before they heard her footsteps retreating.

Nico broke the connection between their hands as Percy jerked the silver pen from his other one. "I'll make this an extra pretty one for you, Will!" He exclaimed with a bright smile as he swirled the pen on the body of the guitar in the shape of a giant 'P'.

Jason got off the couch. "You're such an overachiever, Perce. Give me that." He held out his hand and took the pen, stepping up to the open guitar case just as Percy stepped away from it and went to grab his bags.

"You're very lucky. Nico's not the type to give gifts. I'm pretty sure I've yet to get my first ever birthday present from that one." He laughed as Nico blushed and stared at a scuff on the nose of his boot.

Will chuckled nervously, looking between Nico, who was becoming redder by the second, and Jason, who was signing Nico's guitar.
"I can't believe you're doing this for me. You really don't have to..." He trailed off, watching Jason nudge Nico with his elbow and passing the pen to him.

"It was great to meet you, Will. I'm very sorry about your guitar, and I hope this whole thing won't stop you from coming to see us again. We'll be staying in the New York area, so there'll be plenty of shows to choose from." Jason smiled a bright smile and clapped Will on the shoulder before picking his bag up off the floor and following Percy out of the dressing room.

Nico was bent over his guitar, scrawling down his autograph. When he finished, he closed the case, making sure all the latches were fastened securely before picking it up.

"I hope this makes up just a little bit for the loss of your own guitar. I know nothing could possibly replace that-" He was interrupted by Will heaving a sob.

"I-I-I... I'm sorry, I just... Thank you, Nico. Nobody has ever done something like this for me. After my brother... I... I fell into a hole, and..." he trailed off, taking a deep steadying breath before looking Nico in the eyes. "Your music pulled me out of that hole. I can't thank you enough."

Nico stood frozen. Sure, he'd heard it before, during signing sessions, but never in such a private setting. He didn't know what to do. He stood there awkwardly for a few moments, trying to think of what to say.

Will spoke before he could. "Wow, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dump that all on you." He wiped at his nose with his sleeve. "R-Really, I just wanted to thank you."

Blushing heavily, Nico nodded. "Just be good to her." He said, handing the case over to Will, who took it by the handle. His fingers briefly touched Nico's and both men turned the brightest red they'd ever seen.

Nico turned around and looked for his suitcase, seeing it standing in a corner of the room. "I'm sorry but we have to leave now." He said. "Piper will come after me with a broom if I don't show up at our bus in time."

Will chuckled and nodded, walking towards the door, case in hand. "Thank you again. I promise I'll be good to her." He flashed a last smile at Nico before turning around and making his way to the exit.

Nico took a deep breath. And another one. And another one. He didn't notice anyone step into the room until a strong pair of arms wrapped around his shoulders from behind, pulling him into a firm chest. "You okay, Neeks?"

Nico stood frozen and closed his eyes, inhaling Jason's scent. A scent that always managed to calm him.
"I'm fine. I... I felt so sorry for him, with his brother-"

"Shhh." Jason cooed. "I know. Your sister."
They just stood there for a few moments. Nico let Jason's warmth sap the anxiety from him, before he nodded and turned around in his embrace. "Thanks Jay, I don't know what I'd do without you."

Jason smiled down at his best friend and band mate, and gave him one last squeeze before picking up Nico's suitcase. "You coming?"

As they stepped onto their tour bus a few minutes later they were confronted by a widely smiling Percy. "Sooo, managed to land yourself an admirer, Neeks?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Perce. He was a fan." Nico scoffed, sitting down opposite Jason.

"Oh come on! If you were to give a guitar to every fan, we'd all be broke and living out of a box instead of hotels." He leaned in close to Nico. "Besides, he was just your type."

Nico's eyes widened. "I-I don't have a type!" He sputtered out. "You're imagining things, Perce."
He looked across the table to find Jason holding up his hands in surrender, signaling that he wasn't about to join the conversation.

Percy clapped a hand on Jason's shoulder. "What about this one, then? Am I the only one who saw the similarities? Tall, blond, blue eyes."

"He was a fan, that's all. I'd been meaning to get a new guitar anyway." Nico leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, hoping it was clear to Percy that he was done having this talk.

When they got to the hotel they wished each other a good night and left for their bedrooms. It had been a long night and they were all eager to get some sleep.

All but Nico. He pulled a notepad and a pencil from his suitcase and made his way to the balcony. He breathed in the cool night air and started writing.

Across town, Will walked into his shoebox apartment and reverently laid the guitar case on his bed. He couldn't believe what had happened to him tonight. Seeing him in the flesh, it was almost too much, and if that wasn't bad enough, he had to go and do something amazing. He sighed and knelt in front of the case, thinking back about the man who'd managed to put his feelings into song, as if he reached into Will's mind and wrote songs about what he saw. The good and the bad.

Will smiled to himself and stared at the case before opening it gently, like handling a newborn baby.

He saw the giant 'P' in the upper left corner, and an intermingled 'J' and 'G' in the upper right. He couldn't believe this was actually his now.
Then his eyes fell upon the writing on the bottom half of the guitar.

"The only thing that's left to do is live. -NdA"

Will felt tears well up in his eyes, quickly closing the guitar case before tears could fall on his prized possession. He recognized the quote from a magazine, an article in which Nico was talking about his newest tattoo. It had a picture of him proudly raising his forearm where those exact words were inked in cursive script.

He smiled as he felt his eyes get heavy, and fell asleep curled around the guitar case.

Chapter Text

In the morning, Nico opened his eyes. He blinked a few times, adjusting to the light streaming into the room. Deciding that no matter what time it was, it was still too early to get up, he dug himself deep under the covers and snuggled in.

As he rolled around, trying to find the most comfortable position, he bumped into something, or rather, someone. He lifted his head from the fluffy pillow to see Jason lying next to him, still fast asleep.

Confused, Nico thought back to the events of last evening. They'd played a show, did a signing session and came back to the hotel. He was pretty sure he didn't seduce Jason into his bed.Ever since they'd decided they'd worked better as friends they'd stayed out of each other's beds.Mostly. He and Jason were both single so every now and again, after a particularly rowdy after party and too much alcohol, or even to blow off some steam when they were both worked up, they couldn't keep their hands off the other.

He dropped his head back on the pillow as memories of the fan came flowing back into his mind.

He smiled a little to himself, hoping that... Will, was it? Hoping that Will felt a little better after having his guitar stolen. Which reminded him, he'd have to go get a new guitar to replace the one he'd given away.

He rolled over again, blindly searching for his phone on the nightstand. His eyes hurt as he squinted at the screen to make out the time. 9:30. Shit, his eyes hurt.

Sighing, he threw the covers back and noticed he was naked down to his boxers. A quick scan across the room revealed his clothes neatly folded in a pile on a chair. Now he was sure that nothing had happened between him and Jason last night.

He got up and started dressing himself before reaching into his suitcase. He fell asleep wearing his contacts again. His optometrist was going to kick his ass when he went for his next checkup.

Swapping out his contacts for a sleek pair of black framed glasses, the ones he tended to wear whenever he was not playing, he heard a soft groan coming from the bed.

"Morning, Grace," He grumbled and lightly kicked at Jason's leg under the covers.

His friend mumbled something unintelligible before rubbing his hands through his face. He sat up straight and Nico couldn't help smiling at the ruffled mess that was Jason's hair.

"Morning," he yawned out, scratching at his chest. "What time is it?"

"It's 9:45. Mind telling me what you were doing in my bed? The record company's paying for three separate rooms, you know." Nico asked from in front of the full length mirror on his bedroom door as he ran a hand through the raven mess that he called his hair, trying to tame it enough to be presentable.

Jason yawned again, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "I came up to check on you before I went to sleep. Found you slumped over a table on the balcony. You were shivering, so I put you to bed and warmed you up. Guess I fell asleep too."

Nico turned around and walked over to his friend, who was still sitting on the edge of the bed. "And you even helped me out of my clothes," He snorted. "Ever the gentleman, Grace."

Jason smirked. "Nothing I haven't seen before, Neeks. Besides, I'm pretty sure those pants you wear cut off your circulation. You should be thanking me."

Nico grinned and bowed at Jason. "My sincerest gratitude, Sir Grace. Thank you for saving me from the skinny jeans of doom." He rolled his eyes. "Get dressed, I need a new guitar and I'm pretty sure Percy is going to visit his mother today, so you're coming with me. I'll buy lunch after."

 

 

-

 

 

On the other side of the city, Will was jerked from his sleep by a harsh beeping sound.
As he lifted his arm to slam down on his alarm clock, he bumped into something hard.
Will's eyes widened as he looked at the guitar case next to him on the bed. Somehow he'd thought it was all a dream.

He couldn't believe it. After months of studying and exams, and countless piles of homework and reports to write, he'd finally gotten the day off. His friend Cecil had to retake an exam and had given Will his ticket to the Thrice Greek show across town.  Will had been so excited, he'd had an exam on the day the tickets went on sale, and it had sold out by the time he could get online to order one.

Will had been a fan for years. After the news came that his brother was missing, he'd slipped into grief, refusing to speak to anyone, not going to school, barely eating and generally taking bad care of himself. He'd locked himself in his room and refused to come out.

He'd cried until he ran out of tears. His friends couldn't get him to talk to them, nothing helped.

Eventually he couldn't take the silence any longer. He had turned his radio on to drown out the static filling his head.

A few days followed after that, the music coming from the radio his only companion. The songs he recognized and usually liked did little to perk him up, it was as if his whole world had lost all colour and taste. Everything looked gray, everything tasted of cardboard.

He didn't remember when it happened exactly, or even what time of day it was. Everything had blurred together as he heard a slow, low bass tone coming from his radio. He paid little attention to it, opting to roll over on his bed.

You let the dark in, somehow
I feel the winter more now, more now

A dark and low voice reached his ears before the song exploded into guitars and drums. It reached down into Will's very core and rattled him. The melody was angry and melancholic at the same time. For the first time that week, Will felt something, like the song brought just the barest hint of color into his life.

Some things do matter, a price to pay
We will find our own way, always

More drums, more bass, more guitars. More of that voice that seemed to sing for him and him alone. More feelings beginning to stir.

Sharks swim around your drowning soul
Let your good heart lead you home

Will closed his eyes at let the music take over. He hadn't even noticed he'd been crying, this time for a whole different reason.
He felt. He listened and he felt. His heart hurt and his head hurt but he felt.

As he slowly pulled himself out of the hole he'd fallen into over the next few weeks, he'd learned more and more about the song that started it all.

He'd heard it a couple times on the radio and about a thousand times in his head, that voice not leaving him alone for a second. The voice had become a companion to him, singing to him before he slept, as he tried to punch his pillows apart and as he cried over his brother.

He'd learned that it was the first single of this new band from California, Thrice Greek. He'd looked them up on the internet and signed up for their newsletter.

As Will thought back to how it all started, he couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness in his chest along with the happiness of last night's memories.

He'd wanted to see if he could get his guitar signed, and it had been stolen right from under his nose. The only thing his beloved brother had left him in the will the army had made him draw up before shipping him halfway across the world.

He should never have left it in the hands of people he didn't know. He was mistaken to think that security would... Well... Keep it secure for him.

He shouldn't have gotten in and out of the queue for the signing session three times. He should have made up his mind and gotten over his nerves. The pressure of coming face to face with the voice that had done so much for him was almost too much.

Here it was, though. He ran his hand over the surface of the guitar case, still warm from where he'd slept against it.

Nico di Angelo, owner of the voice. He'd been nothing short of awe inspiring during the show. The venue had been packed but Will had felt as if he was all alone, like the band had been playing just for him. The world had faded away.

He was glad he'd been able to see them in person and even say hello. Meeting Nico, especially, had been a pleasure. He was shorter than he'd expected, and when he spoke his voice was soft, and nothing like the voice that had boomed through the speakers earlier that evening. He was a force to be reckoned with during the show, but he seemed to have a different persona off the stage; a quiet, shy one. Will knew a thing or two about pretending to be stronger than you are and he was pretty sure he recognized it in the singer.

They'd been more amazing people than he ever could have imagined. Instead of sending him home with a "Sorry, kid, nothing we can do." they'd taken him backstage after he'd been told the news about his guitar. Jason had spoken soft and soothing words as if he was used to doing so every day. Percy had fussed over him, offering him everything but the kitchen sink to make him feel better.

He was heartbroken, and while Jason made him feel calmer, it was Nico who'd once again given him some light in the darkness.

Will opened the case in front of him, revealing the sleek black guitar, exactly like the one he used to own. The silver signatures glistened in the light coming through the curtains he'd forgotten to close last night.

He couldn't believe it. Nico di Angelo had given him his own guitar, as if he knew what Will had felt, as if he knew what a simple instrument could mean to someone.

He gently touched the neck of the guitar and lifted it from its case to study it from all angles. As his hands touched the cool surface of the guitar, he thought back to how Nico's fingers had felt equally cool under his own. His stomach did a backflip and a blush crept up his cheeks.

He shook his head. Nico was a rockstar who had accidentally touched him while trying to be nice,and that was that. Nico had turned red because he was clearly uncomfortable. "Don't get any ideas, Will." He mumbled to himself.

He was not about to fall headfirst into a crush on an unattainable rockstar. He wasn't.

 

-

 

Nico and Jason stepped out of a taxi onto the busy New York streets. They'd asked the cab driver to drop them off at one of New York's many guitar shops. Nico had swapped his glasses for a pair of unnecessary sunglasses -"Nico, it's October."- and had hidden his hair under a black snapback. He buried himself in the giant hoodie he was wearing under his leather jacket, trying to keep most of the crowd on the streets out of his view.

"Over there." Jason pointed to a shop window full of guitars in all shapes and colours. Nico nodded and they walked to the storefront together. As they pushed the door open, a jingling bell alerted whoever was inside to new customers in the store.

A woman peeked her head from behind a giant rack filled with guitars. "Hi there! Welcome to Lou's. How can I help you?"

Jason smiled warmly at her. "My friend here is looking for a new guitar. Do you mind if we look around for a bit?"

The woman nodded, smiling a bright smile that reached her green eyes. "Of course, handsome. Come find me if you need any help or if you want to try one out. I'm Lou Ellen, but you can call me Lou."

Nico and Jason nodded at her and walked further into the store. It was quite large and Nico really didn't know where to begin, instead focusing on feasting his eyes on the wealth of instruments the store had to offer.

Jason opened his light gray peacoat. "You'll catch flies if you keep gaping like that, Neeks."

Nico glared at him. "I can't choose, Jason. I want them all. How much do you think she'll ask for the whole lot?"

His friend chuckled. "I think we're about five albums and a couple of stadium tours away from having that kind of money, even if we pooled all of it together."

"Urgh. Well that's not fair, is it? I'm going to need all of these guitars to fill those five albums with!" He grumbled and walked to a rack of guitars, choosing to admire one up close. "I think I'm just going to get the same one. But... Hey, how would a Rickenbacker look on me?"

Jason furrowed his brows in thought, trying to imagine. "No offense, Neeks, but I think you might be a bit too scrawny for that one. It's a big guitar. Maybe they'll have a kid size?" He snickered.

Nico scowled at his so called friend and stomped off, choosing to go look for the guitar and seeing how it would look and feel for himself.

On the other end of the store he saw it hanging on the wall, calling to him as if it were a newborn puppy in a storefront window, begging for a passerby to take it home.

He heard a drawn out whistle from behind him, and he startled and turned around. Lou was standing there, her arms crossed over her chest.

"That's a beautiful one," She nodded her head in the direction of the beauty on the wall. "Costs a pretty penny, too. I think I'd recommend a different model if you're a beginner, though."

Nico grew bright red. First Jason, now this woman? Before he could open his mouth and say something he'd probably regret later, Jason appeared behind her, drawing his lips closed with an imaginary zipper as he shot a glare at Nico.

Nico regretted shaving that morning. Every time he did so he was mistaken for a high schooler. He preferred having some scruff on his face. It made him look cooler and he was certain people took him more seriously.

"I'm not a beginner." He mumbled out, thankful that his hat and hoodie combination was enough to hide who he was from the shop owner.
"Always played a Les Paul, thought I'd switch it up."

"Well let's see, then." Lou said in a chipper tone, lifting the guitar from the hooks on the wall. "If you'll follow me, I've got a few amps set up in the back and you can try this baby out."

Nico and Jason followed her to a stack of amps, each glaring at the other. Nico stomped down on Jason's foot. "Kid size, huh. You're a dick, Grace. You're paying for your own lunch."

Jason grimaced in pain as Nico's heavy boot made contact with his foot, limping after him as his friend went to take the guitar from Lou.

He adjusted the strap and hung the guitar around his shoulder, holding the neck in his left hand and letting himself get used to the difference in weight.

"It's a bit lighter than my old one, but I think I can get used to it. How do I look?" He had a childish grin on his face as he looked at Jason, who was keeping the weight off his right foot.

"Like a rockstar!" Lou exclaimed. She plugged a cord in one of the amps and turned it on, handing the other end to Nico. "Try it out, kid. I want to hear what you've got."

Nico plugged the guitar in, grabbed a pick off the amp and let his fingers dance across the strings. He played a few quick riffs before stopping, fiddling with the tuning keys and playing some more. He repeated the process a few times until he was happy with the way his new baby sounded.

From a few feet away, Lou was beaming at him.

As he unplugged the cord and turned the amp off, he nodded at Lou. "I'll take her."

She took the guitar off him and went to go put it in its case. "Meet me at the register, I'll have her all good to go for you."

Jason winced as he walked forward. "I think you may have broken my foot, Neeks. Damn." Nico smirked. "Served you right for joking about my height. Not all of us can look like underwear models. Now stop whining, if we're going to keep track of who made who limp then I'm pretty sure I owe you a lot more of those." Nico retorted. "C'mon, let's go pay for my new baby."

 

After paying for the new guitar and asking Lou to have it delivered at their hotel, they found themselves at a small restaurant not far from where they were staying.

Jason checked his phone after it vibrated loudly on the table surface. "Percy's going to meet us back at the hotel in an hour. Says Sally said 'Hi' and we'd better come visit her before we leave New York."

Nico smiled, thinking about Percy's mother, and how she had always thought of Nico as a family member, even though he hadn't met Percy until he was 13. "For sure."

When he looked back up from his plate, he noticed Jason looking at him with a smile on his face, his eyes glistening mischievously.

"What?" Nico furrowed his brows. That look could only mean one thing.

"So, Neeks. Bad memories aside, that fan last night was something, huh?" There it was. Nico rolled his eyes at the question.

"I'm not doing this, Grace. His guitar was stolen, I gave him mine because his story reminded me of..." His voice trailed off.

"I'm not talking about that, Nico, and you know it. I could feel the tension rising between you two, and I know you well enough by now to know when you're attracted to someone." He smirked. "After all, he wasn't the first cute blond guy to get your blood flowing faster."

Nico threw his napkin at Jason's face. "Really, Jay? Do you never tire of people telling you how good looking you are? Do you really have to go and fish for compliments too? You're a dick. A handsome one, but still a dick."

"Of course not, now answer my question and stop changing the subject." Jason reached over and straightened Nico's glasses. "I swear it's like having an actual teenager around." He muttered to himself.

"Fine, he was good looking. A blind man could've seen that, Jay." Nico could never have imagined that at the age of 21 he'd be talking to his ex-slash-sometimes lover about cute boys.

"But what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm not going to do anything about it. I'll probably never see him again and in a week I'll have forgotten he exists. I don't do unrequited crushes anymore, Jay. I've learned my lesson." Nico huffed and pushed the last of his food around on his plate.

Jason nodded. "Let's get going, then. Percy should be back soon and we have the whole night off so we can finally have that movie marathon we've been talking about forever."

 

-

 

Later that afternoon, when Will got back from his lectures and was bent over a large medical volume in the campus library, his phone buzzed.

"You'll never guess who just bought a new guitar from me."

"I can guess."

"Oh sure, Mr. Psychic."

Will blushed. Would he really have gone out to buy a new guitar? He felt a little bit guilty for being the reason.

"Nico, from Thrice Greek?"

"Yes! How did you guess?"

"Just a hunch. Thank your brother for the ticket. The show was really great, last night."

"No worries, I'll pass it along. I'm going back to work. See ya, Will."

"Later, Lou."

As he dropped his phone into his bag, his fingers brushed along the edges of an envelope. Shit! The envelope!

The memory had almost slipped Will's mind. After he'd left the dressing room in a daze, he'd bumped into Thrice Greek's tour manager. Piper? Something like that. She'd given him a blue envelope, telling him to open it when he got home, and once again apologized for what had happened with his guitar.
He'd tucked the envelope in his bag and completely forgot about it.

With trembling hands he pulled the envelope from his messenger bag. He pried a paperclip apart and used it to slice it open in the fold, not wanting to damage it any more than he had to.

He took a deep breath and pulled a white piece of paper from within and opened it.

"Hey Will. Sorry about your guitar, man. Really wish we could've been of more help to you. Piper will make sure management speaks to the owners of the venue about their security staff.

Anyway, I hope you'll come see us again. We're happy to have you as our #1 fan!

-Percy J."

 

Wow. Will could hardly believe it. He looked down at the note, more scratched out words than legible ones, like it had taken him a great deal of effort to write it.

He thought back to some of the interviews he'd read. Was Percy the one with dyslexia? He couldn't remember. It warmed Will's heart that he had taken the time to write him a note.

Will lifted the envelope, meaning to put the note back inside and something slid out. A rectangular piece of laminated paper, so it seemed. It was covered by a yellow post-it.

"Pick a show and show this at the doors. They'll let you in for free."

The handwriting on the post-it was different from the note. Percy must've given instructions to include this in the envelope.

He turned the laminate over. It showed a photo of Thrice Greek and had "GUEST" written under it in big, fat letters.

He stared at it for what must have been a good five minutes, his homework long forgotten. He'd get to see them again. Before he went to class this morning he'd checked for tickets, but all shows on the tour were sold out. And yet here it was.

He slammed his book closed and shoved it in his bag. He carefully placed the laminate and the note back in the envelope, and made sure it was safely tucked in his bag before quickly making his way out of the library.

He'd see them again. He'd see him again. An involuntary blush crept up his cheeks.

 

-

 

"Is he even watching this movie?" Percy asked Jason, who was sitting beside him on the couch. Jason looked over at Nico, who seemed to be paying a lot of attention to his notebook.

"Probably writing a song. You know how he gets." Jason stretched his tall body before sinking back into the comfy couch cushions.

Nico carried the notebook everywhere he went. If and when the songs would come to him, he'd write them down immediately.

Percy smiled at the ratty old notebook. "You'd think that thing would be full by now. I'll have to buy him a new brooding book."

He had barely spoken the words before a pillow hit him square in the face.

"Heard that, asshole." Nico spoke up, without taking his eyes from his notebook. He scribbled something in with a frown on his face and walked to his bedroom, leaving his notebook open on the armrest of the chair.

"Is he okay, Grace?" Percy looked concerned as he turned to his band mate.

Jason furrowed his brows and was about to speak when Nico walked back into the room, carrying a small amp and a set of oversized headphones. He sat down in the giant recliner he'd been sitting in before and pulled his guitar onto his lap.

"Welp, that's the last we'll see of him today." Percy snickered before nudging Jason in the arm.

Their movie long forgotten, Jason nodded at Percy. "I think he's okay. I think the story we heard last night rattled him more than he's letting on, though."

Percy chewed on the inside of his cheek. "That's the vibe I got. Other than the gay vibes that hung in the air." He waggled his eyebrows exaggeratedly.

"Oh, you got that too, huh?" Jason smirked. "He's been refusing to talk about it all day, but I think there was a spark there. Not that there's much to be done about it. We play in front of thousands of people every week, what's the chance that he'll see him again?"

As Nico quietly strummed away on his guitar, Percy turned his eyes back to the giant TV-set in their suite. "Right. One in a million, I'd say."


Chapter Text

Two days later, Will sat behind his desk. He was putting the finishing touches on a paper that wasn't due until the end of the month. He'd worked on it for two days straight, desperate to clear time in his busy schedule.

Just six more months and Will would finally finish the pre-Med program and get into a Medical school. His father was a world renowned surgeon and to Will it made sense to follow in his footsteps. His grades were the highest in his year, and with his father's last name he would no doubt get accepted into any school he wanted.

Strangely, he'd never had any trouble studying. Sure, it was a lot of information to take in, stacks upon stacks of medical volumes crammed in his bookcase, but the information seemed to be ingrained in his DNA. While that made studying easier, and exams pretty much a breeze, it didn't mean that all the papers and essays and reports would write themselves.

Will sighed as he read over his work one more time. It had been hard to take his mind off the blue envelope that he could see from the corner of his eye. He'd made a deal with himself, finish the paper first, and then he could finally go online and check the tour dates, trying to see if and when he could go to a show.

As he closed his laptop, satisfied with the work he'd done, he opened the envelope again. He took the laminate out and held it between his fingers.

A bright smile broke out across his face as he studied the card from all angles. Just a few nights ago he'd been able to do what he'd wanted to do for years, see -and hear- his heroes in person. And they'd given him another chance to do so.

He placed the laminate back in the envelope and opened his laptop. Hovering his fingers over the trackpad, he worked up the courage to go to Thrice Greek's website, where a gorgeous black and white photo of the band beamed at him from the header.

Nico was looking straight into the camera, straight at him, with that brooding expression on his face that he seemed to have in every picture taken of him. The lighting accentuated his features. A light dusting of scruff on his jawline, thick, dark eyebrows half hidden behind his messy hair and... Those eyes. In the low lighting they looked like two pools of pitch black. He had an attraction hanging over him that totally did it for Will.

People seemed to agree that Nico di Angelo was a bit of a weirdo. Granted, he didn't look like was sculpted out of marble, much like modern day Greek Gods Percy Jackson and Jason Grace - who seemed to both have personalities that could light up a city, much less a room - but to Will he was beautiful in his own right. Not at all the scrawny little scarecrow that people made him out to be, no matter how much they adored his work. The fact that he was rumoured to be Jason's boyfriend made many a fan turn green with envy.

Will frowned, why was he thinking about this? He refused to admit to himself that the thought made his stomach turn a little bit. Jason seemed like a perfect guy. He'd been nothing but kind to Will, and if he was anything remotely like that to his band mates, then Nico was in good hands. That's all he wanted, for Nico to be happy. He didn't know him at all, other than the half an hour they'd spent together at that signing session and in their dressing room, but Will admired the man enough to want to see him happy, no matter what.

From his songwriting, and the way his songs spoke to Will's feelings and pain inside, he felt that Nico had dark feelings and pain inside as well. He hoped Jason helped Nico deal with that and was a light in his band mate's darkness, just as Nico had been a light in Will's.
Still, he couldn't help but maybe want to be that light himself.

Will shook himself out of his thoughts and clicked on the words "Tour Dates".

A new page opened and he saw a slew of tour dates in the area. How was he expected to choose from this many? He groaned and rubbed his hands through his face, scrolling through the list to see if he recognized any of the venues.

His eyes widened as he saw the words "The Labyrinth". He knew that place, he used to go there with his friends after class for drinks, before he was drowned in schoolwork and his social life had taken a blow. It wasn't that big a place, more a bar than a venue, so he'd be able to get a good view of the stage from anywhere inside.

His heart started beating faster. All the shows on the list were in pretty large venues, with at least a crowd of a thousand, and The Labyrinth held maybe a hundred. The stage there was small, not more than a slightly raised platform in the back of the room.

He'd be able to get up close to the band again. His nerves struck immediately. What would happen if he got face to face with them again? What would he say? What would he do? What would they say or do? They'd been nothing like the distant musicians that Will had had the honor of meeting before.

He shook his head again, trying to keep his wits. He looked at the date on the website. November 2nd. Shit, that was this weekend! He only had four days.

He closed his laptop, trying not to think about it too much so his nerves wouldn't catch up to him.

Picking up his acoustic guitar that was leaned against his desk, he walked over to his bed. By now he knew all of Thrice Greek's songs by heart  and it had taken him no effort at all to learn how to play the guitar parts. He leaned against the wall and started playing one of his favourite songs, hearing Nico's voice singing to him in his head.

 

-

 

Flesh is flesh 'til blood runs cold
Blood is blood, so I'm told.

Nico murmured the lyrics into his microphone. His fingers danced across the strings of his new guitar. This was the first time he played his new instrument on a stage, and with his bandmates playing along with him, and tonight he'd get to try it out in front of three thousand people.

Your carbon makes a star, your carbon makes a star
After all that's all we are
That's all we are

He stopped playing, looking at the empty hall in front of him. "I think it sounds good, Frank. How's it sound on your end?"

From behind a giant device that had about a million different buttons on it, placed all the way in the back of the hall, a bear of a man looked over and gave Nico a thumbs up.

He nodded and handed his guitar off to Chris who was in charge of their instruments. "Need me for anything else or are we good here?" He turned around to face his band members. "You guys satisfied? I'm going out for a smoke."

Jason wrinkled his nose but nodded anyway. As Nico walked off he grabbed a bottle of water from the stack of amps placed behind him. "Pass me that, Grace," a sweating Percy told him from behind his drum kit.

Percy caught the bottle and made his way off the stage, grabbing a towel and flinging it around his shoulders. Jason was right behind him and they made their way to the dressing room.

The pair passed a side door that must have lead outside, if the smell of smoke wafting by was anything to go on.

"Urgh, I really wish he'd stop smoking," Jason said as he pushed the door to their little home for the day open. "It's disgusting."

"Leave him be, Jay. Clearly he needs to let some stress out, and knowing Nico, smoking isn't the unhealthiest way he can do that. It's filthy but it could be worse."

Jason narrowed his eyes at his band mate. "I know. I just want him to not have to, you know." He shook his head and plopped down on the couch.

Percy sat beside him and dropped his feet on Jason's lap. "Well, you know what usually cheers him up for a couple days, right?" He smirked at the blond next to him.

"If you're suggesting that his dick is magic, Percy, save it. His ego's big enough already."

Nico padded into the dressing room, closing the door behind him.  

Jason held his hand over his heart, as if wounded. "Ouch. No more magic dick for you, Nico."

The raven haired singer took the beanie off Jason's head and ruffled his blond hair before sitting down on the other couch.
"Anyway, I saw there's a queue forming already." he shook his head. "Any day now they're going to be lying in wait before we even get to town."

He visibly shivered. "At least they didn't spot me." He thought back to a show they'd played a few months ago. The fans had seen him stepping out for a cigarette and had launched themselves at him with questions, cameras and requests. He was lucky Frank had heard the commotion and had pulled him back inside. He really did love his fans, and he sincerely hoped that one day he'd get used to the attention. He knew some fans thought of him as an arrogant asshole because he rarely interacted with them, and that pained him.

Jason's lips curled up in a comforting smile, probably guessing what Nico was thinking about.

Percy nodded, having witnessed how after those events Jason had held a shivering Nico in his arms for what must've been two solid hours, trying to bring him down from a panic attack. He knew how Nico felt, and while he clearly wasn't the calming influence that Jason was, he tried to interact with the fans enough for two, inadvertently leading to him having become the fan favourite, his picture undoubtedly gracing the walls above many teenager's bed.

"I'm strangely flattered that they're out there in the cold. Because it's for us, you know? It's insane. I mean, I am pretty awesome but I'm not worth sitting outside for. For hours, no less. I don't think the doors open for another three hours!"

He got up off the couch. "Now I feel bad. He took his coat from the rack hanging on the door and waved at the pair left in the room. "I'm going to see if I can get some hot chocolate for them or something. See ya!"

Nico scoffed as the door closed. "He's really got a hero complex, that one."

Jason beamed at him. "Oh I remember this story about this adorable 13 year old boy, who'd fallen in the lake at music camp and couldn't swim. And before his best friend could even react, this handsome, dashing, 17 year old white knight had come galloping down on the back of a pegasus-"

Nico opened his mouth to object but Jason held up a hand.

"He'd gone into the lake to save the tiny boy who couldn't swim. Legends say that as he was dragged from the water, the boy had looked up at his savior and fell instantly in love as he caught a glimpse of the most beautiful green eyes he'd ever seen." Jason smiled fondly at the, granted, exaggerated story of how they'd met Percy.

Nico was as red as a tomato, his forehead creased in anger. He didn't like to be reminded of his stupid crush on the boy who was now his bandmate. "Gee, thanks, Grace. Way to make fun of me," he spat out. "It took me five years to grow out of that crush, and you're still poking fun at it. It wasn't a fairy tale, asshole." He glared at Jason.

"I was there, Neeks, I'm aware." He got up off the couch and knelt in front of the one Nico was sitting on. Putting on his best pout, he ducked his head to make eye contact with a huffing Nico.

"Sooooorryyyyyy!"

Nico whined and pushed Jason away. "Nope. Angry with you now. Don't even try to make pretty blue puppy eyes at me."

Jason stood upright before letting himself fall forward onto the couch, right on top of a curled up Nico. "Neeks! I'm so sorry, forgive me!" His tone was dramatic, a clearly fake sob following after.

The smaller man yelped and tried to shove Jason off him, but he wouldn't budge. "Get off me, Grace. I mean it."

He kept trying to squirm his way out from under Jason but only managed to get completely stuck with their legs entangled. "Shit, Jay, move your leg."

Jason wiggled around some as he spoke to his friend in a singsong voice. "Not until you forgive me."

Nico writhed around and suddenly froze. "I mean it, move your- ack!" He huffed out a quick breath and redoubled his efforts in trying to gain freedom and having it backfire spectacularly. His voice sounded hoarse and strained as he rasped out "Fine, fine, I forgive you, just move-"

"Are you..? Shit!" Jason pulled back as fast as he could, scrambling to get off the couch. "Sorry about that..." He rubbed at his neck while his face quickly took on the colour of a tomato.

"Damnit, Grace!" Nico was as red in the face as Jason was. He got up off the couch and walked towards the door, but instead of leaving, he locked it with a loud click.

"Oh come on, Nico. Not here, not now. Percy will kill us." Jason frowned.

"Oh yes, here. You can't get me all..." He gestured wildly to his groin. "Like this before a show. I do not need more stress."

It had been months since he'd done anything sexual with Jason, the one and only lover he'd ever known. While he rarely ever initiated sex when sober anymore - ever since they'd officially broken things off between them they tended to get drunk on alcohol and lust until they fell into bed together - he wasn't lying when he said he didn't need the additional stress.

Jason got up off the couch and walked over to where his friend was leaning against the door. Planting his hands on either side of Nico's face, he leaned in with a smirk on his face, voice dropping an octave as he whispered "No more magic dick for you, Neeks, I told you this."

If possible, Nico turned ever redder, feeling his head might explode as Jason wrapped his fingers around the back of his hand and guided it to the bulge in his jeans. "You know you can use your hands for something other than playing guitar, right?"

With a quick nip to Nico's earlobe he leaned away, the brown eyed man left squirming against the door. Jason had always been able to get him from zero to hard in about ten seconds flat.

Jason smiled smugly to himself and nodded, clearly thinking he had won the battle, turning to walk back to the couch. He barely saw the pair of hands that grabbed onto his shirt coming, yanking him forward with surprising strength.

Their lips crashed together and it took Jason approximately 0.4 seconds to shove Nico against the door again, months of pent up need and want taking control.

Hands tangled in hair and clothing as the kiss grew more passionate. Nico tore his mouth away from Jason to whine his name needily.

Jason grinned and moved one of his hands to the zipper on Nico's hoodie. As he zipped it down, he saw that his friend was wearing nothing underneath, probably opting to keep his shirt clean until showtime. He should really make sure his friend packed an extra shirt.

He latched his lips onto Nico's collarbone and kissed his way down the path of the zipper.

The opened hoodie fell off the brown eyed man's shoulders as he arched his back off the door, closing his eyes.

Nico inhaled sharply through bared teeth when Jason dropped to his knees with a thud and started nuzzling at the trail of fine hairs trailing down from his belly button and disappearing into his jeans.

Jason's hands made quick work of his belt and the button of his jeans while his lips kissed over the wilted flowers tattooed on Nico's lower belly, to where one of his hipbones jutted out sharply, his pale skin stretched taut over it. Nico felt Jason's lips curling against his skin. The bastard was grinning as he sucked a bruise right above the waistband of his pants.

"Jay..." he breathed out, fingers tangling in the blond's ruffled hair. He yanked on it lightly, trying to pull Jason to where he wanted him to go.

Jason obliged, hands working to open Nico's jeans up, revealing the black briefs he wore underneath, doing a poor job of hiding Nico's arousal. He smirked and curled his fingers around the waistband, ever so lightly tugging at the briefs, resulting in a not-so-light tug at his hair.  Nico hissed when after a torturous minute his erection was finally, finally exposed to the air in the dressing room.

He froze as he heard footsteps behind the door, but quickly relaxed as they trailed off again. Jason evidently hadn't noticed, too busy planting the teasingest of light kisses along his length. Now that he was busy, he was going to take his time.

 

-

 

"Surprise, people!"

Percy walked out of the building with a tray full of steaming paper cups. "Hot chocolate for everyone!"

A collective gasp went up from the 12 or so people that had gathered at the entrance to the venue. "Percy Jackson! Oh my gods!"

He smiled his brightest smile and held out the tray in front of him. "Don't be shy, now. I don't bite."

As the girls took their turns taking a cup, he was tapped on the shoulder. "Uhm. Sorry, but would you mind taking a picture with me?"

The dam had broken. Suddenly, all the young women were asking him the same question.
He grinned and knocked on the door, handing the empty tray to the person that opened it.

"Of course, ladies!" He ruffled his hair, hoping it looked good before opening his arms. "Who wants to go first?"

After all the girls had taken their turns taking a picture with him, and he'd signed some bags, albums, posters - even a shoe? Fans are weird - he gathered them all in front of him, like a group of churchgoers in front of their priest. "Okay, guys, while I'm flattered and all that... We all are, by the way, you really shouldn't sit out here in the cold like that. Hot chocolate aside, it's getting colder by the day and we don't want to be responsible for you guys getting pneumonia. I'd love to see you all up on the front row, but I'm pretty sure Nico's not going to appreciate it if he gets sneezed on every five seconds. Take care of yourselves. We're not worth risking your health over." And with that, he knocked on the door again, fully intending to go inside. He threw one last smile over his shoulder and saw that another young woman had joined the group. This one he recognized, though.

He nodded his head towards the side door Nico had used earlier and stepped inside the venue.

He walked past the dressing room, debating on whether he should go inside and let his bandmates know that he would be gone a little while longer. He shrugged, he would just text them.

He stepped back out through the side door, finding the blonde woman there waiting for him.

He smiled. "Annabeth, what a surprise," he deadpanned. "What's this, the 20th show you've come to, this year?"

She blushed and shook her head. "22nd, actually. So, got the afternoon off?"

"Yep!" Percy popped the 'p' and stuck his hands in his pockets. "It's cold out here, and I just finished lecturing that group of fans over there about not standing in the cold for too long, so how about we go and I go buy us a coffee?"

He held out his arm for her to hook her own into as she nodded at him. "I'd like that."

 

-

 

Percy whistled a tune as he walked back into the dressing room and hung his coat back on one of the hooks on the door. He immediately stopped whistling when he turned around and saw Nico curled into Jason, both fast asleep on the couch.

He walked over and shook them lightly. "Wake up, sleepyheads. It's almost dinner time."

Jason groaned as he stirred from his nap while Nico simply turned around in his embrace and flipped his hood up over his head.

"Nico, seriously. Piper's going to have our balls if we're running late for the show again," Percy pleaded. Piper could be a scary lady when she wanted to be. Their tours were tightly managed, and their record company had clearly hired the best.

"Urgh, fiiiine." Nico yawned and stretched his arms over his head.

Jason sat up and ran a hand through his hair, yawning loudly. "Whatcha been up to all afternoon, Percy?"

Percy sat down on the opposite couch. "Oh you know, hung out with the fans," A light blush crept up Percy's cheeks. "Got them hot chocolates, which I now realize was a dumb thing to do because if they tell people, then there'll be more fans showing up demanding hot chocolate and I can't get hundreds of hot chocolates for them! I'll go broke! What if they all catch a cold and sneeze on Nico and he'll get sick and we'll have to cancel the tour and-"

Percy was interrupted by a snort and what suspiciously sounded like... "Did you just giggle at me, di Angelo?"

Nico froze, shaking his head, forcing his expression to stay neutral and willing his blood to stay out of his cheeks. "Uhm, no."

Percy pointed an accusing finger at him. "You giggled! You never giggle! Unless..." He shot up off the couch as if burned.

"REALLY?! HERE?!" He turned around and glared at the couch like it had insulted him and his entire family. "I leave you guys alone for one afternoon, and- Damn it, Jason, how hard is it to keep it in your pants?"

A bright grin broke out on Jason's face. "You want to know how hard it is, Percy? All you have to do is ask."

Percy threw his hands in the air exasperatedly. "Don't even start, Jason." He pointed at Nico, who was grinning toothily at Jason's remark. "Where?"

Nico mumbled something as Percy tried to put as much distance between him and the couch, leaning against the door, which caused Jason to snicker quietly.

"Use your words, Nico. I don't want to sit where your sweaty, naked butts have been, now spill it."

Jason cracked up, his shoulders heaving. Nico let out another honest to goodness giggle and looked Percy straight in the eyes, his expression forced to be neutral but unable to hide a smirk.

"Well, if you have to know, the couch is safe. That door you've got your hands on there? Not so much." He shrugged and got up off the couch, stretching his body out once again.

Percy jumped off the door as if it were covered in spikes. "You guys," he pointed at his bandmates, who were cracking up, "are assholes. I'm going to wash my hands." He grabbed his jacket off the hook, opened the door and stalked off. Before the door could fall closed he kicked it open again, throwing his jacket at Jason. "You two are paying for dry cleaning." He stomped over to Jason's bag and rummaged around until he pulled out a warm hoodie. "I can't believe it. One of these days I'm going to have so much sex in our dressing room, and I won't tell you a damned thing. See you much you like sitting in your bro's buttsweat."

Jason swung his arm around Percy. "If I'm not mistaken, it was you who suggested this in the first place, Perce."

Percy hung his head in defeat. "Damn you guys."

Nico grinned, unzipping his hoodie and shrugging it off his shoulders. He pulled his shirt out of his bag and nearly dropped it again as he spotted the purple bruise on his hip. His shirt tended to ride up while he was playing, and while he was a fully grown man who could have sex whenever he damn well pleased, he really didn't need their fans to know when he'd gotten some.

He glared at Jason and pointed at his hip before putting the shirt on.

Jason shrugged innocently, like the bruise had magically appeared while they were sleeping, and took his coat off the rack.

"Let's go find Piper and get some food."

"Yeah, you two must be hungry," Percy drawled out, wrapping himself in Jason's hoodie.





Chapter Text

"You're joking. Tell me you're joking."

Nico stared at the intimidating woman pacing around in their suite. He was sat between Jason and Percy on the couch.

"No, Nico. I'm not. You're the frontman of this band, the singer, the face of the band. You're going to have to start doing more promotion. You're going to do that radio show this afternoon and that's final."

Nico whimpered, he didn't like doing interviews of any kind. They'd always ask him stupid questions he didn't know how to answer. He preferred to be in the background, ironic as it was.

"But Reyna-"

She held up a finger to silence him. "Listen, you guys signed with me because I'm the best at what I do," Pinching the bridge of her nose, she gestured at the couch. "I can't make you guys do anything you don't want, but it wouldn't hurt you to crawl out of your shell a little, Nico. I'm not asking you to light up the room, but you can't just stay away."

Nico opened his mouth in protest but forgot what he wanted to say as he felt Jason lay his hand on his knee. His friend shot him a look that said they would talk about this later.

A sigh. "Fine. Just the radio show this afternoon, right?"

Reyna nodded. "For now. We're trying to arrange a few instore gigs. Maybe with a ticket giveaway or a contest. Nothing big, maybe 25 people at a time, real special and intimate for the fans. Possibly acoustic, around Christmas time. For this afternoon , just answer a few questions, play a song and you can be on your way again."

Nico hung his head. "Urgh, this isn't what I signed up for."

The woman in front of him grinned like a shark. "I'll take this opportunity to remind you that, yes, you did."

She stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Nico, I'm not the devil, just the messenger. If at any point you feel that this is all getting too much, be sure to let me know. We're not out to ruin you, but there are certain responsibilities you can't duck, it comes with the territory. I can, however, try to keep everything to a minimum. But we simply can't have Thrice Greek showing up everywhere without their singer, you understand that, don't you?"

Nico nodded glumly. He understood, but he hadn't yet reached the point where he would even resemble an outgoing person.

She straightened herself and pointed at Percy. "As for you, do try to keep your, ahem, relations with certain fans under wraps."

Percy grew bright red, his mouth hanging open as he stared at Reyna. From the other side of the couch, he could hear Jason mumbling as he tapped away on his phone.

"Subtlety isn't one of your strengths, Jackson," He held out his phone to his fellow band members with a smug grin on his face, and Percy took it. He rubbed his forehead as the screen showed a picture of a man who was obviously Percy pressing a blond woman into a wall. They were clearly making out. Percy winced and he could hear Nico quietly snickering next to him.

"Thesetwohadsexinthedressingroom!" Percy suddenly blurted out, gesturing at his bandmates, clearly trying to take the attention away from himself.

Nico and Jason whipped their heads around to glare at him, and by now the trio on the couch were sporting a matching blush.

Reyna sighed deeply. "You know what? I don't care. Do whatever you want. Just don't come crying to me if at the next interviews you get asked about your mystery blonde, Percy. Or the mystery redhead last month. I could go on and on."

She gestured at Jason and Nico. "And I expected better from you two. I honestly don't care about what's going on between the two of you, but keep it out of the public's eye unless you plan on answering questions about it."

With that, she turned around and walked out of the room, leaving the three bandmates staring blankly into empty space for a few moments.

"She scares me," Percy whimpered.

The other two nodded.

 

-

 

"'sup, Will?"

"I'm good. Drowning in coursework, what else is new..."

"How's life, Cecil?"

"I'm perfect! My classes are finally letting up a bit. Want to go do something this weekend?"

"Can't, got places to be. Sorry."

"Ooh! Got a hot date?"

 

Will grimaced. If only.

 

"Nah, going to a gig. Been working my ass off trying to get my assignments done so I'll have the time."

"You didn't tell me about a gig! Which band? Are there still tickets? We could go together."

"Sadly not. Sold out. Seeing a Thrice Greek show at the Labyrinth."

"WHAT?! Those tickets have been sold out for months, how'd you manage that?"

"I kind of got a spot on the guest list."

"Who did you blow for that, Will? Damn, I'd give and arm and a leg for that."

"Percy Jackson gave me one. It's a long story, no blowjobs involved. I've got an time after classes later. Coffee?"

"Shit! That's awesome. You'd better tell me the whole story and not leave out any details! Coffee at the Olympian at 4?"

"Sure thing. See you then."

 

Will smiled and shoved his phone back into his pocket. He was glad he had a friend who was also into Thrice Greek, since the majority of their fans seemed to be teenaged girls. He hadn't told Cecil about the guitar yet, but boy, was he in for a surprise.

 

-

 

Nico rested his head on the cool glass of the window, quietly staring at the people on the sidewalk. He quietly thanked whoever invented tinted glass, since they'd been stuck in busy Manhattan traffic for about twenty minutes already.

Percy was in the passenger seat, talking animatedly on his phone. "Yes, Mom. I promise. We'll be there for Christmas if the record company's not making us do other stuff." ... "All three of us, yes."

A soft "Hey," came from Nico's left. He lifted his head to the window and leaned in towards Jason  who had a concerned look on his face.

"You okay?"

Nico frowned. Was he? The talk with Reyna hadn't gone well, exactly, but he'd come to get used to the pressure of doing interviews and the like. He knew he couldn't hide away in his private little world anymore. After their first single had shot its way up the charts, he'd been yanked out of his comfort zone and dropped in a new world where other people made decisions for him. He was a rock star now, and things were expected from him. He'd signed his name under the contract, knowing full well what he was getting into, he wasn't a stranger to the music industry.

It wasn't that he couldn't deliver, it was just hard to do so. He'd managed to reign in his anxiety during shows, and appear on stage as a confident man, hopping around as he shredded out riffs. Sometimes he felt like a superhero, his guitar being his weapon of choice, battling the darkness inside and around him with melodic tunes, belting out lyrics as if they were spells to hold off evil, strengthened further by his two sidekicks on bass and drums.

He could even deal with the media, provided they didn't ask questions that were too personal. It didn't leave too many topics that weren't, though. While he made sure that management informed the media that questions about his personal life were off-limits, he couldn't declare his music a barred topic as well, as closely as the two were intertwined. His music was his personal life, melodies representing feelings, lyrics coming from his experiences. While he chose to share his music with the world, he didn't want anyone to delve too deep into its meaning.

It just drained him. Physically and emotionally drained him. He'd need time after every show, after every interaction with the media, after every photo shoot, after every interaction with their fans.

He was working on it, he really was. While he still tried to tune the crowd out as much as he could when he played, he'd manage to mumble a few words in between songs. Baby steps, sure, but progress was progress.

He knew he'd have to interact with their fans a bit more, though, both on and off the stage. Their fans had given him a chance to do what he loved for a living, and he wasn't going to fuck that up. He did the signing sessions, smiling dutifully at every fan that stood before him, but usually never really got past "Hello/Did you enjoy the show?/Thanks."

His eyebrows disappeared into his fringe as he realized that he'd made more progress in the fan department than he'd thought. Just a few days ago he'd spoken to a fan beyond those three standard phrases. He mentally patted himself on the back for that.

His lips curled up the faintest bit as he thought back to that sunday. How he'd just started talking to... Will? Will. How the words come from his mouth without all too much anxiety after the man had mentioned his guitar. Yep, definitely progress.

He could still feel the warmth of the man's fingers around his own, even if they had only touched for a brief moment. He could still see those bright blue ey-

"-Ico... Earth to Nico"

Jason's voice pulled him from his memories. "Mmm?"

"I asked if you were okay and you got lost in your own head." Jason raised his eyebrows at him.

"You know what? I think I am." Nico smiled. "Don't give me that look, Grace. It's not a miracle. But feel free to announce it to the world later. Tabloids might pay you handsomely for that mind blowing piece of information," he deadpanned.

Electric blue eyes scanned his face. "I'm glad you're feeling okay. I'd honestly thought Reyna's speech earlier would've put a dampener on your day."

Nico shook his head. "She's been hounding us for months about that, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. I know I can't dump everything on you guys," he frowned. "But sometimes it's easier to."

Jason nodded. "Don't worry about that, Neeks. That's what we're there for. I don't mind picking up the slack here and and there, and we all know Jackson over there doesn't mind hanging out with the fans one bit." His lips split into a bright grin.

Nico grinned right back. "I can't believe he let himself get photographed again. You'd think he'd have learned by now."

The blond barked out a short laugh. "We are talking about the same Percy Jackson, right? Percy 'Do before you think' Jackson?"

"I heard that!"

Green eyes glared at the duo on the back seat. "I'm perfectly capable of thinking, thank you very much. I'm a grown man, and if I choose to make out with a hottie, I'll make out with a hottie. Media be damned." He took his hand off his phone and pressed the device to his ear. "Yes mom, I'm still here."

Jason and Nico both turned their faces to look at each other and burst out laughing as the car finally started moving again.

 

-

 

Will walked into the small coffee place just a little off campus. Cecil hadn't shown up yet, but his classes were further away from their meeting place, and Will had gotten there early.

He went ahead and ordered two coffees and slid into an unoccupied booth. He was rather nervous, rubbing his sweaty hands on his jeans as he waited for his friend.

His classes had been a breeze, and he'd spent all his free time finishing up his homework. He'd just have to put the finishing touches on some reports later that night and then he'd have the rest of the weekend off.

The week had flown by, and tomorrow he'd go see his second Thrice Greek show. The second one that week, the second one ever. He smiled a little as he remembered that last sunday his life had taken an interesting new turn.

He'd been happy, the past week. The guitar, which now hung proudly on the hooks on his wall where...

Michael. Where Michael's guitar used to hang. He swallowed as the memories of his brother bubbled up to the surface. Will had filled out an online police report report earlier in the week, and when the officer who'd called him later had taken his story, he had been told that NYPD had better things to do than go out and search for lost guitars, and not to expect to ever see it again.

It had stung, and it still hurt. In a way it was like he lost his brother all over again. He tried not to let it affect him too much but he didn't succeed. Throwing himself into his coursework had distracted him enough to function, and of course there was the envelope.

It was a bittersweet feeling. The events that had caused him pain were the direct cause to the events that brought him happiness. He'd happily give up Nico's guitar, the envelope, and everything Thrice Greek if it meant he could get Michael's guitar back. But he knew that wasn't going to happen, and while he'd learned not to dwell on the past, and to accept what happened and move on, the memory was fresh in his head.

Two guitars, identical in every way but for the silver markings. Yin and yang. Positive and negative. Pain and happiness. Will wasn't sure what to think anymore. He lived on cloud nine whenever Nico's guitar came up in his thoughts, and was yanked down below earth whenever Michael's did.

He was glad he'd decided to meet Cecil for coffee. When Michael had disappeared, he'd grieved alone. Maybe talking to his friend would help him, even if just a little. That was yet another thing that Nico had taught him without knowing he did. He hadn't realized it at the time, but if Nico's voice hadn't been his companion in the darkness, God knows how much longer he'd have been stuck in that hole.

A finger poking at his nose shook him from his thoughts. He tried to focus his eyes on the fingertip still pointed at him, but ended up going cross-eyed. He shook his head and looked up.

"Hey Cecil."

Cecil dropped his bag on the floor and slid into the booth opposite his friend. "How's it going, daydreamer?"

Will smiled just slightly, he really had zoned out, hadn't he? Sitting up straight, he clasped his hands around the significantly cooler mug in front of him, the coffee inside no longer steaming.

"Just got lost in some thoughts," he shrugged. "It happens."

Cecil nodded, taking a sip from his mug and pulling a disgusted face before grabbing the sugar and pouring a generous amount into his coffee.

"So, do tell. Percy Jackson put you on the guest list for tomorrow? The Percy Jackson? Did you meet him? What happened? Is he as awesome as everybody says he is? Details, Will. I need details!"

Will chuckled at his rambling friend. Of course he'd want to know everything.

He took a deep breath and started his story.


"Wait, it got STOLEN? You're joking! Oh, Will. I'm so sorry," Cecil glanced at Will with a sincere look of sadness. "I can't believe someone would do that, urgh."

Will looked down at the table. "Yeah. I'm pretty heartbroken about it. It's like he's truly gone now, you know? I know he's gone and... And never coming back but now I've lost the last thing that tied us together..."

He felt tears well up in his eyes and furiously tried to blink them away. He wasn't going to have a breakdown in a coffee shop.

Cecil squeezed Will's shoulder. "Hey," he said softly. "What ties the two of you together isn't a guitar. I know, I know that thing means the world to you," He lifted his hand from Will's shoulder to tap at his chest. "But this is what matters most. Guitar or no guitar, you have the same blood in your veins, Will. I get that I'm being very 'Simba, he lives in you', but that doesn't make it any less true. He's there with you, always. A piece of wood and some strings aren't going to change that. He'll never be truly gone."

Will blinked at hearing Cecil's words. He was right. A lot of complicated thoughts entered his head at the same time, and he shook his head in an attempt to clear it.

"I've never looked at it that way..."

Cecil smiled at Will. "I don't know if I'm right, but that's what I believe. I'm not saying that guitar is just a useless collection of firewood, and I get its importance to you, but..." He took a deep breath."You get what I mean."

Will nodded. "I do. Thanks, Cecil. You're a good friend."

His friend squeezed his shoulder again and leaned back against the backrest of the booth. "I'm a good friend who is dying to hear the rest of the story"


-

 


"Gooooooood afternoon New York City."

"It's just after 5 PM..."

"...and you're listening to Twin Sanity on 96.6FM!"

 Nico rolled his eyes as the identical radio hosts announced the show. He'd been in the building for 5 minutes and the endless barrage of jingles and 'wacky' noises made him feel the beginnings of a headache already.

"... Special guests for you today, but first, music!"

 Nico felt his temples throbbing against the legs of his glasses. He was sat at a table covered in wires and broadcasting equipment and was staring at the black microphone in front of him as though it were covered in filth.

 He clenched and unclenched his calloused fingers, worn from years of playing the guitar. He'd be playing a song later, all alone. He didn't like performing alone, and acoustic, no less. He'd written the songs as he'd meant them to be, to be played by the three of them. If he'd intended to play acoustic songs, he'd have written them that way. Too bad it was just one song and it made no sense for them to haul all their gear around town and set it up just for three or four minutes.

 He smiled inwardly as he remembered walking into the small room where the radio show was being broadcast from, and seeing a bar stool and a microphone already set up for him. He was going to be hidden from view by a partition, as to have as little reverb as possible on the broadcast.

 Thankfully, that meant he could focus on the music and not be stressed about playing in front of complete strangers, and if the number of shitty jokes was anything to go by, those strangers were complete idiots.

 Percy and Jason were talking sports with the radio hosts -Travis and Connor? Nico couldn't tell who was who - which made Nico smile. He wasn't into sports, really, though his bandmates' 'friendly' rivalry when it came to hockey amused him to no end. It had been a while since Nico had been forced to sit and watch a hockey game with the two, and he wondered when he would be forced to sit in between his friends again, while Percy donned an eye-searing orange Flyers jersey, and Jason wore a vintage purple Kings jersey. His headache only worsened as he pictured his two friends, the colour combination of orange and purple making him want to gouge his eyes out.

 Looking up at Jason and Percy he saw them glaring at each other, while the two radio hosts sported identical - Seriously, that was so creepy - grins.

 Nico sighed and got off his seat to push his friends away from one another. He was 5'9" but barely reached up to Percy's nose, and he didn't even want to think about where that left him with Jason, but he managed to push both hotheads apart. "Seriously, guys. Not this "Who won the trade?" bullshit again."

 He shot a glare at the suddenly way too innocent looking men across the room. The bastards had goaded his bandmates into one of their infamous hockey-offs.

 "When are we up? I have a headache and I'm hungry. Reyna said we'd be done by dinner time."

 Travis... Or was it Connor? Urgh, who cares. One of the twins piped up. "Five minutes. We'll have a couple of questions in between songs." He had barely finished his sentence before the other one started in. "And then you'll play the song, and we'll wrap it up. You'll be out of here by six."

 They finished each other's sentences? Nico was seriously weirded out. The fact that they both had a look on their faces that made Nico look for a whoopee cushion on his seat every time he went to sit down made the whole thing worse.

 Nico zipped the bag that held his black acoustic guitar open and took it out. He plucked at the strings and tuned them meticulously.

 "Alright guys, you ready?"

 The trio nodded and Nico set his guitar in the corner near the stool before joining Jason and Percy at the booth. He was given a large pair of headphones and put them on, feeling a little embarrassed at Jason having to bend the middle microphone down. He wasn't that small, damn it.

 The twins started welcoming people back to their show after a commercial break, and introduced the band members. Nico rolled his eyes as one of the two pressed a button and a canned applause was broadcast over the air.

 "We're happy to have you guys join us! How's the tour going, guys?"

 Jason nodded at his friends to signal that he was going to take this question.

 "It's been quite a ride so far. We're in New York for three months and doing shows all over the city, and even before we got here they were all sold out. We're honored that so many fans want to come see our shows. We've only played a few so far, but the crowds have been great. It's a rush, really," He babbled excitedly.

 Nico and Percy nodded at his statement. Leave it to Jason to come up with the political answers, true as they might be.

 "It's been a while since 'Let Your Good Heart' stormed the charts. Can you give us a hint about the next single you're releasing?"

 Percy signaled. "Actually, we've been told that we can now reveal that the new single will be called 'Blue Days'," he grinned brightly as he continued. "Nico's going to play it later on, so you'll have the national premiere, but since it's an acoustic performance we'll leave you wondering what the end result will be, which will be featured on our second album."

 The canned applause. Again. It would be a miracle if Nico managed to get through the next half hour without smashing that button to pieces.

 A song started playing, and they all took their headphones off. A little timer on the wall counted down to when the song would be finished and they'd have to put them on again.

 "You see? It's not so bad," Jason whispered into Nico's ear.

 Nico nodded his head away from the table. "I'm fine. All these bells and whistles are hurting my head, though." His glasses slid up his forehead as he rubbed at the bridge of his nose.

 As the song came to an end, everybody took their seats again.

 "And we're still here with Thrice Greek! Nico, as the creative force behind the group, can you tell us a little about your songwriting process?"

 Nico sighed. There it was. He felt Jason's hand press at the small of his back, and Percy's lightly patting on his arm.

 He cleared his throat. "Uhm, I don't know, it's not all that special, really. I get inspired by the people around me and write songs based on that."

 "And what would you say was the inspiration behind your biggest hit so far, 'Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home'?"

 Nico froze. This was getting too close. He never talked about his sister in public. "Uhm, well..."

 He realized he was trapped. Jason couldn't answer this one for him, and he really hated lying. "I uh..."

 A loud thud came from beside him and all heads snapped to Nico's right, where the sound had come from.

 "Folks, you're not going to believe this but Percy Jackson just fell off his chair!"

 The canned applause sounded, and one of the twins announced a commercial break.

 Percy jumped up and patted at his jeans. "I'm fine, I'm fine!" He shot a barely detectable wink at Nico. Jason shot out of his seat to look his friend over for injuries as the radio hosts were doubled over in laughter.

 Percy... As caring as Jason was, Nico sometimes forgot just how close a friend Percy was. He was pretty sure his band mate had fallen off the chair on purpose to take the spotlight off of Nico.

 Percy had a knack of doing anything for his friends, it was part of what had attracted Nico to him in the first place, back when he was still a boy at the young age of 13.

 "Yeah, I think we're about done here. Let's do the song. My shoulder hurts a bit and I want to get it looked at, we have a gig tomorrow." Percy winced and held his shoulder.

 After explaining what had happened to the twins - "I thought I saw a bear and it startled me so much I just fell off!" - and then repeating his pathetic excuse on air, undoubtedly much to the humor of everybody in broadcasting range, Nico headed to the back of the room and sat down, pulling his guitar into his lap.

 "We're proud to announce Thrice Greek's new single 'Blue Days' live in our show. It's the first time you'll hear this so turn up the volume and enjoy!"

 Nico closed his eyes and played. It was easy, being hidden by the partition, and the giant headphones blocked everything out beside his playing and singing.

 

A little while later, as they'd said their goodbyes on air and thanked the hosts for having them, they were making their way into the parking lot of the building, where their SUV stood waiting with the motor running.

 Percy slipped into the back seat with Nico, while Jason took the passenger seat.

 "Thanks, Percy. Really, I mean it. You did me a huge solid back there. I'm sorry about your shoulder, does it hurt badly?" Nico spoke softly.

 Percy snorted. "Of course not, I know how to fake a fall. I just wanted to get us out of there." He stopped clutching his shoulder and swung his arm around Nico. "You did great, Neeks. I'm proud of you." His eyebrows creased as he pulled his vibrating phone from his pocket and read the name on the screen. "Reyna..."



Chapter Text

"Wait, you ended up in their dressing room? Backstage?"

Will nodded. He'd just finished telling Cecil how hard he'd taken the news of his stolen guitar, and how Percy and Jason had scooped him off the floor. "Yeah. I kind of zoned out trying to process what they told me and before I knew it, I was on their couch."

Cecil could hardly contain his excitement. His friend, backstage, in Thrice Greek's dressing room.

"What was it like? Do they really have a bowl of only blue M&M's? Details!"

Will snickered. "Not that I saw. But I'm pretty sure the article you read that in was bogus. There was no stripper pole either, to answer your next question. It was just... A room, I guess. Couches, table, suitcases... A fridge, and that was it. Nothing fancy and not at all what I expected."

Cecil grinned a cat-like grin. "I bet they keep the blue M&M's in the fridge."

"Anyway, next thing I remember is Percy asking me if he could get me anything, like water or food or if I'd like..." Will looked up at Cecil's hopeful expression. "Damn it, Cecil. He did not offer me any blue M&M's. Get over it!"

He chuckled at Cecil's defeated look. "Jason's sitting there next to me, squeezing my shoulder, telling me everything's going to be okay, asking me if I wanted to talk about it, et cetera. It was... Really sweet." He grew a little red in the face.

Cecil nodded. "So Percy bribed you into going away with a free ticket?"

Will shook his head. "Let's order another coffee, because I haven't even told you the best part."

 

-

 

"Yes Ma'am... No Ma'am... I'm sure. I actually fell off the chair."

The other passengers in the car could hear Reyna lecturing Percy through the phone which was held away from his ear, undoubtedly to avoid damage to his hearing. She sounded furious. Reyna wasn't a stupid woman, she'd probably figured out that Percy's 'accident' was a stunt to keep Nico from having to answer questions he wasn't comfortable with in no time at all.

"Of course I didn't actually see a bear. Nico shoved me."

Nico whipped his head around to glare at Percy, but the venomous look in his eyes quickly slipped away. Nico knew that if Percy could take the fall for him at the radio station, literally, even, then he could deal with Reyna's anger.

"I don't know, Reyna. He's been a dick to me all day! Probably because I told on him and Jason."

Nico rubbed at his forehead. He could have seen that one coming. Percy wasn't going to let him get off easy.

"I know. Nico's apologized already. He offered to buy dinner, so we're cool now."

Percy had mirth in his green eyes, and he could barely hold his laughter in. He was hoping Reyna would hang up soon, if she thought he was laughing at her, he was pretty sure he wouldn't like what was coming to him.

"Yes, Ma'am. But it all went well. Nico played Blue Days and it sounded amazing, as you probably heard."

The voice on the other side of the phone grew quieter, and Percy deemed it safe to press the device to his ear again.

"No way! That's awesome! I'll tell the rest! Anything else, Reyna?"

He moved his mouth in a 'blah blah' kind of way and rolled his eyes exaggeratedly at Nico, who was smiling a toothy grin at his antics.

"Talk later, then. Bye!"

He shoved his phone back in his pocket and  beamed.

"Guess what, guys. The number of listeners spiked to a new record after they announced we would be playing a new song."

Jason looked over his shoulder, staring at Percy with wide eyes. "No way!"

Nico fell silent. That had to have been a lot of listeners. "Did, uh, did she say just how many listeners that was?"

Percy's smile grew impossibly wider as he turned to look at his friend. "You, my friend, have just played a song to a crowd of Five. Million. People."

All the colour drained from Nico's face. Five million people heard him play?

Jason was staring with wide eyes. "Damn. That's a lot of people. Proud of you, Neeks. Biggest crowd to date and you did it all by yourself."

Nico narrowed his eyes at the blond. "Do not make fun of me, Grace. You know as well as I do that shit like this doesn't count." His expression softened. "I'm sorry. My head hurts, and shit, five million."

"That's not all," Percy said. "Reyna said the first reactions on social media were overwhelmingly positive, and 'Blue Days' is now trending on Twitter, whatever the hell that means."

Nico felt pride bubbling up inside of him. He never took any of this for granted. Just because they'd had a number one single, and the other three had reached the top ten, that didn't mean that something like that would happen again. He'd seen it over and over, growing up around the bands his father worked with. One minute you could be the best thing since peanut butter, and the next nobody remembered who you were.

Contrary to popular belief, Nico wasn't an arrogant guy. Even if he were capable of it emotionally, Nico would never let himself think that every song he wrote was sure to be a hit. It wasn't even his intention. He'd had to sit through countless talks with the bigwigs at the record company, going so far as to threaten to break contract and sign with another label if Nico couldn't have full creative control.

His songs were personal, dear to him. He would never dream of changing them so people would find them easier to listen to, or so they would have more hit potential. If that meant going broke and having to go back to playing music at frat parties, so be it.

As the car pulled up to the hotel, Jason called ahead for pizza. They'd enjoy a quiet night in before their show tomorrow.

 

-

 

Will cradled the steaming mug in front of him into his hands. "I was sitting on the couch, being fussed over by two of the greatest rock stars of the year, which, damn, Cecil... It was so surreal."

He'd gotten a huge smile on his face from recounting his events of last sunday night.

"And they were so kind and then suddenly, there he was." Will closed his eyes, seeing the memory play out before him.

Cecil's eyes went wide. "No way, Will. Everyone knows he's this huge creepy asshole who doesn't want anything to do with fans."

Will opened his eyes again, and scowled at the friend sitting across the table. "You really need to stop reading those damned articles. It was... He..." He sighed and rubbed at his face in an attempt to pass the redness of his cheeks off on the friction.

"He was nice, Cecil. Not just that, he was amazing. He walks in, and he's like "I want you to have this." and I... I said it was too much but he insisted."

Cecil raised an eyebrow at his flustered friend. "Wait, you said Percy had given you the guest spot, not Nico..."

After taking a sip of his coffee, Will looked down at the table, taking in a deep breath before he looked back up, just in time to see Cecil putting the puzzle pieces together.

"Y-You mean," he sputtered. "That can't be true! So that's why Nico was in my sister's shop? He gave you his guitar? NO WAY!"

Will nodded. "Yeah. Wouldn't take no for an answer, either. He told me he knew what a guitar could mean to someone, and then they all signed it."

If Cecil's would've widened further they'd have fallen out of his head. "You're making this up!"

"Nope. It's 100% true. I have the guitar and the case back at home. But anyway," He ran a hand through his hair. "Their tour manager comes in and tells them they have 5 minutes before they have to leave, so Nico locks the guitar case and he's telling me to take good care of it and hands it over. He asked for my name and tells me that it was nice to meet me, shakes my hand and everything." He leaves out the part where they'd lingered in their handshake a little longer than was considered normal, and then they'd once again accidentally touched hands afterwards.

"Nico di Angelo spoke more than 5 words to you? Damn, Will. That's huge. All I've ever heard from people who've been lucky enough to meet him said he never said anything other than 'thanks' and 'hello', comes off as this huge egomaniac who doesn't even look people in the eye as if they're all beneath him. Even my sister said he seemed offended or something, when he went to buy that guitar. And then in you come and you have an actual conversation with him."
Cecil gestured wildly with his hands, almost knocking his coffee over in the process.

"Yeah," Will's voice was soft. "I don't know. He was really nice to me. I don't think he's an asshole at all. I just think he's shy. And I might be projecting, but I swear that when I looked at him it was like looking in a mirror. He's been hurt. I really wish I could do something in return, you know." He gulped the last of his coffee down. "There's definitely more than meets the eye with him."

"...And what meets the eye is quite something, already," he finished the sentence in his head.

Cecil almost dropped his mug. He sat up straight and leaned over the table, looking Will in the eye.
"You're crushing on him!" he exclaimed.

Will's eyes widened and his head took on the colour of a ruby. "I said that out loud, didn't I?"
He sighed and slumped over the table. "Yeah. I've got it bad. And there's nothing to be done about it because he's a big rock star and I'm Will Stupid Solace."

Cecil reached over and pulled Will upright. "Yeah, you're Will Solace and you deserve all the rock stars. I wish I had some helpful advice for you here but..."

"He's with Jason, and it turns out Jason is every bit as perfect as advertised." Will groaned. "It doesn't matter. As long as he's happy with Jason, then I'm happy."

His friend pinched the bridge of his nose. "William Solace," he said in a serious tone. "Everyone knows they're not together. They used to be, but now they're just friends. Jason said so himself in an interview 2 months ago."

"That hardly even matters. Urgh, I'm pathetic," he hung his head, deciding to get it all in the open. "Our hands touched when he gave me the guitar case and I swear he blushed! I'm probably reading way too much into it but I can't stop thinking about it!"

Cecil got up, zipped up his coat and pulled his bag off the floor. "You look like you need some air. C'mon, I'll walk you to your place."

Will got up after him and they were soon outside, walking in silence towards Will's apartment.

"So, you're seeing them again tomorrow," Cecil broke the silence hanging between them like a thick blanket. "The Lab is a small place, and I know for a fact they don't have a dressing room, which means you'll likely be able to talk to them again. Wear something nice and be yourself. There's no way he could resist you, Will. Heck, if I didn't like the ladies so much, I'd have scooped you up myself."

A faint smile appeared on Will's face. "Thanks, Cecil. You're full of shit, but thanks."

Cecil stopped walking. "I mean it, Will. You're the nicest guy I know, and you're not bad to look at. I can't see how he wouldn't want you. You've got that whole hot surfer dude thing going on." He gestured wildly at Will's body before he sighed and he put a serious expression on his face. "Just see what happens tomorrow, yeah?"

Will nodded at his friend. Seeing what happened was all he could really do.

"Good. Now you still haven't told me how you ended up with that ticket!"

Will smiled. It had been quite the story to tell. "I was on my way out of the building when I bumped into their tour manager again. She gave me this envelope and told me to open it when I got home," he shrugged.

"That's still not Percy."

Will snickered. "I'd forgotten about the envelope for a bit, but when I ended up opening it there was a note inside from Percy. It said he was sorry about the guitar, and said to come see another show. There was a guest laminate in the envelope. It was blank so I could choose any date I wanted. The Labyrinth is small and close by, so I chose that one."

Cecil's eyes went wide again. "Wow, Percy Jackson wrote you a note. He's got mad dyslexia! And yet he wrote you something!" he shook his head. "You must've made quite the impression."

As they walked up to Will's apartment building, they said their goodbyes.

"I have to go do some more homework. Thanks for hearing me out, Cecil." Will smiled at his friend, already halfway through the door of his building.

"See you around, Will. Remember, you're awesome. Have fun tomorrow, and text me all the details!" And with a wave of his hand, he was gone.

 

-

 

After dinner in their suite, the trio had excused themselves. Percy stayed in the living room area, playing video games, while Jason and Nico went to their bedrooms. Nico to sleep off his headache, Jason to Skype his sister.

Three hours of video games later, Percy found himself in their kitchen, pouring himself some blueberry juice. He'd have gone for a beer but Reyna insisted they at least try to eat and drink healthy things, so alcohol was banned from the tour. They could have alcohol after playing shows, but that was it.

"What's up, Jackson?" Jason padded into the kitchen, having already changed into his pajamas.

"Not much, I played some video games but I got stuck. I had enough of the 'game over' screen." Percy dropped onto a stool so he could lean into the counter. "How's Thalia?"

Jason's voice was muffled by the fridge door as he rummaged around. "She's fine. Still helping women getting out of gang life with that charity she works at."

He came back up with a bottle of water and leaned into the counter opposite Percy. "Hey, about what you did today... That was really great, man. Those two would have eaten him alive with their questions."

Percy smiled. "We're all bros. That's what bros do. I couldn't think of any way to stop that question so I did the first thing I could think of and launched myself out that chair." His brow creased and he reached around to rub at his butt. "Pretty sure my ass is bruised now, but whatever."

Jason laughed. "I'll get you an extra fluffy pillow to sit on during the show tomorrow."

Percy grinned and held out his fist for Jason to bump, which he did.

They hung around for a bit, taking in the silence. Percy was the first to break it after a few minutes had passed. "Jason," he spoke hesitantly, after turning around to make sure the door to Nico's bedroom was still closed. "You know I love you guys, right?"

Jason raised an eyebrow at Percy, and mentally braced himself for the conversation ahead. Percy didn't get serious all too often, but when he did it was usually worth listening to. "Of course we do, bro. And we love you right back. What's this about?"

Percy sighed. "You're not going to like this..." He nodded to himself, deciding he'd go out and say it instead of skirting around the issue. "I think you and Nico should break up."

Jason blinked and stared at his friend, his mouth hanging open just slightly. "If you didn't get the memo, we broke up two years ago."

Another sigh. "But what's really changed, huh? You're still sleeping with each other. Sure, you guys aren't glued together in the way that you were back when you were still officially together," He looked Jason in the eyes. "And you're not making out in public anymore, but aside from that, what's different?"

Jason frowned. He had a point. "I... We-" he was at a loss for words. He took a moment to gather his thoughts. "I don't know, Percy. I really don't know how I'd define whatever it is we are. I'd hardly call it a relationship, more like a very close friendship?" He scratched at the back of his neck, trying to make sense of it all.

"Regardless of what you would call it, I think you should stop." Percy said bluntly.

"And why is that? You've been cool with this ever since we started dating back in college, and now you're against it? If you feel like a third wheel or-"

"Jason, stop. There's no need to get angry." Percy had gotten up from his seat and was beckoning the blond over to their couch. He waited for his friend to sit down before he continued. "I have nothing against you guys being in a relationship or anything of the sort. It's just... Do you remember last sunday?"

Blue eyes looked into green ones. "Sunday? We had that show, right?" He blinked as the pieces started falling to place. "The guy with the guitar, you mean?"

Percy nodded. "Yeah. You were standing next to him, so you probably didn't see, but I was at the bar. When that guy came up to you two, Nico looked at him. Like, looked at him in the same way he looked at me when we first met."

Jason pondered over this new information. "I pretty much had to force it out of him, but yeah, he admitted that he thought the guy was good looking."

A smug smile crept onto Percy's face. "Exactly."

"I don't get it, you want Nico and me to stop sleeping together because he thought another dude was hot?" Jason frowned, it didn't make sense to him at all.

"No, damnit!" Percy hissed. "Let me finish. I went back to hand Piper something later that night, remember?" He looked over at his friend, who had a puzzled look on his face, but nodded. "I walked past the dressing room, and Neeks was alone with the guy. I must've walked by at exactly the right time, because both their hands were holding the handle to the case, touching and everything. Their heads were so red, you should have seen it, Jay."

More puzzle pieces started falling into place for Jason. He had a pretty good idea of where this was going.

"They were clearly having a moment." Percy took a deep breath. "Now you know I want nothing more than the very best for you guys, and I'm worried that as long as he's got you in, you know, that way, he's never going to explore other options. I want him to be happy, Jason. Not that you can't or won't make him happy, but there's a reason why you decided to break it off way back when. You work better as friends."

Jason nodded, having seen this coming. He held up his hands, stopping Percy from speaking further as he had a quick mental debate. "I get it. I do. There's nothing I want more than to see him happy, too. But..." He sighed. This was harder than he thought it would be. "I still love him, you know," he admitted in a small voice. "We tried, we failed, we tried again and failed again, and you're right, we do work better as friends, but it's so hard to give him up." He curled up into a ball, trying to hide himself away in the couch cushions.

To say that a love confession had been the thing that Percy had expected would be a lie. He scooted close to Jason and gently placed a hand on his head. "I know, Jay. It's hard, I get that. And you don't have to do as I say, but think about it, hrm?"

Jason nodded under Percy's hand. He had buried his face in his arms, which he had draped over his knees. "I know you're right. I'll try to give him some space, but it's hard to even think about, you know. But his happiness comes first." His voice was soft and shaky.

Percy started threading his fingers through Jason's hair, softly petting him in a gesture of comfort. "Just think about it, Jay. I worry about you guys sometimes. I thought you guys had maybe finally figured it out, and then you guys had sex again."

Jason looked up, fragile blue eyes peeking out from behind his arms. "It's a mess, Perce," He sighed deeply. "I'm in too deep to be rational, and I hate it."

"It's going to be okay," Percy cooed. "Your happiness matters as much as Nico's does. Take your time and think about it."

Blonde hair moved through Percy's fingers as Jason nodded. "Yeah. I will. There's just one thing I don't get..."

"And what's that, Jay?"

"You're telling me this based on one meeting with a guy. A fan, no less. We'll probably never see him again." He looked up and rested his chin on his arms, eyes fixed on Percy for an explanation.

Percy sat back. "Well, you see... I kind of maybe..."

Jason scowled at his friend, who was now fidgeting with his hands. "What did you do, Jackson?"

"Remember when I went to give something to Piper? Well, I kind of made sure she gave him a blank guest laminate before he left. No fixed date, so he can choose any show on the tour. Please don't be mad, I just saw how Nico looked at him and I just had to do something." Now it was Percy's turn to curl up, not expecting his friend's response to be positive.

Jason froze, processing what Percy had just told him. "That's still not a guarantee that he'll actually show up, much less that we'll actually see him." He rubbed his hands through his face. "It's a long shot, Perce. You're asking a lot for a maybe."

Percy nodded. "I know. We'll just have to wait and see. Now come on over and give me a hug, big guy."

 

-

 

His conversation with Cecil had gone pretty well, and Will felt refreshed as he entered his apartment. He was still nervous about tomorrow, but Cecil's encouragements helped.

He groaned as he realized that there was still some homework left to finish. Grabbing a bottle of water, he sat down at his desk and opened his laptop.

After a couple minutes of reading over his reports, the silence was driving him insane. He didn't like silence, it left him with his thoughts that tended to get louder as time went on.

So he did what he always did. He turned on the radio and closed his eyes, trying to focus on his schoolwork.

"-ative force behind the group, can you tell us a little about your songwriting process?""

"Uhm, I don't know, it's not all that special, really. I get inspired by the people around me and write songs based on that."

Will perked up. He would recognize that voice anywhere. He closed his laptop and leaned back in his chair.

"And what would you say was the inspiration behind your biggest hit so far, 'Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home?'"

Silence. Will could only hear the soft crackle of static and he found himself leaning in and turning up the volume to hear the answer.

"Uhm, well..."

More silence. He was becoming more certain that there was more to Nico. He clearly either didn't know how to, or didn't want to answer the question.

"I uh..."

Will was starting to feel bad. Wasn't it obvious that he didn't want to answer to this obnoxious guy? He had barely finished the thought before a loud thud came over his speakers, followed by hysterical laughter.

"Folks, you're not going to believe this but Percy Jackson just fell off his chair!"

Will laughed right along with the radio, even as the laughter faded into applause.

"We'll be right back with more Thrice Greek, after these messages!"

He turned down the volume as annoying car commercials blared through his room and walked to his pathetic excuse for a kitchen to start cooking up some food.

As he fished some leftovers from his fridge, the commercials ended.

"And we're back! If you're just tuning in, we have Thrice Greek here. Before the break our interview got interrupted by the one and only Percy Jackson, who fell out of his chair!"

Will snickered quietly, pushing some buttons on his microwave before sitting down on his bed, close to the radio.

"I thought I saw a bear and it startled me so much I just fell off!"

More laughter. Will had tears in his eyes from hearing the stupid excuse.
He froze mid-laughter when he heard the hosts say that Nico would be playing next.

His food long forgotten, even though he'd heard the microwave beep during some annoying dance song, he waited patiently by the radio.

"We're proud to announce Thrice Greek's new single 'Blue Days' live in our show. It's the first time you'll hear this so turn up the volume and enjoy!"

Will's heart caught in his throat. Their new single? He hadn't even known there was another one on the way. He did as he was told, turning up the volume and fully intending to enjoy himself.

The soft crackle of static. Rustling. A few quick notes on the guitar. A quiet tap-tap-tap-tap, probably Nico's foot so he could find a rhythm. Then, finally, the song started.

The melody alone made Will's heart beat faster and his throat go dry.

"All broken down and shut-eyed, dangers down the road
People's tricky business tend to overload
I don't remember clearly, it's blank behind the eye
I caught up with a memory; I never said goodbye
I never said goodbye"

Shit. It was beautiful. Will always  wondered how songs about something as awful as emotional pain could bring forth something so hauntingly beautiful.

"Day by day it hits in
Thanks for all you did in the blue days
Bit by bit it hits in
Thanks for all you did in the blue days"

Nico's voice was quiet and melodic, like the song. Nothing at all like he sounded at the show he'd seen, or on the songs that had been on their album. Will wondered if this would take the band in a new direction.

"I gotta try a little more.
I'm an asshole, but I'm learning."

As Nico played the last of the song's notes, Will sat up. That was a great song, and he had to hear it again. He shot over to his laptop and took to the internet so see if there was a recording up already.

Food and homework would have to wait until later.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Neeks? Hey, Nico, wake up. Come on..."

No. It was too early. After sleeping off his headache, Nico had woken up at 3 AM and had gotten his notebook. He'd worked on what would or wouldn't be some new lyrics before he went back to sleep what felt like five minutes ago.

His beloved notebook was full of stories. Lyrics, crappy poetry, events that he had written down with the intention of maybe basing a song on them. It was his life in book form, spanning the years from his mother's death when he was just a boy all the way up to last night.

His father had gotten him and Bianca matching notebooks, very thick and bound in black leather. They had been distraught after their mother's death, and writing their feelings down was a good way to cope, or so his father's shrink friend had said. Ten years worth of stories and Nico was only about halfway to filling it.

Writing his life down was therapeutic, in a way. He could see his emotions staring back at him, written in black ink on tan paper, making them tangible. He liked turning his pain, his love, his anger, his fear into art, warping them enough so he felt comfortable sharing them with the world, so other people could feel them, but left them guessing about his true emotions.

His notebook was his dearest possession. He had a few other things he could never part with, but he couldn't bring those on tour with him, opting to keep them in storage in his father's mansion back home since Nico didn't see the point in having his own apartment, being on the road as much as he was. He'd lived out of hotels for much of his entire life, and he couldn't imagine being tied down to one place for a length of time.

That was what had ultimately led to Jason and him breaking up when they had. Their relationship was good, and they loved each other very much, but the fabric that tied them together had started wearing thin after about two years.

At some point Nico had thought Jason was the love of his life, but as time went on he became less and less sure of that fact. Nico was a bit of a rebel, always had been, and Jason was the exact opposite. Jason had the future all planned out and Nico hadn't even planned ahead to dinner.

One night they talked and realized they had different expectations of the future, and the other. It had been the most difficult decision of their lives up until then, but it was as amicable as could be. They'd remain the best of friends, but they weren't right for each other, not in that way.

Such were the things that Nico wrote down. Difficult decisions, complicated emotions. He'd written song after song about falling in and out of love, loss, the depression that followed, et cetera. It was deeply personal to him.

Which is why he shot upright in his bed when he heard whoever had been trying to wake him before softly thumbing through pages. Neither Jason nor Percy had ever read in his notebook. If he wanted to show them lyrics, he'd write them down elsewhere before he showed them.

Somehow, he was expecting Jason to be the one sitting on his bed, notebook in hand. It turned out to be Percy, who abruptly dropped the heavy notebook at the sound of Nico waking up so suddenly.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

Percy looked like a helpless puppy who got caught tearing the newspaper to shreds as he stared at Nico with big green eyes. "N-Nothing..."

Nico raised a brow and stared back into those green pools. "You sure about that?"

The puppy look made way for a confident one. "Absolutely! Sleep well?"

"Don't change the subject on me, Percy. Why were you reading in my notebook?" Nico glared at Percy, reaching for his glasses on his nightstand.

As quickly as the puppy look had disappeared, it had nothing on the speed with which it reappeared. "I uh... Want to talk to you? I thought maybe I'd find some answers in there."

Nico blinked. Percy never wanted to talk about things he'd write down. Personal things. He sighed and looked over at the man at the foot of his bed, clad only in hideous blue and green plaid pajama pants that made Nico's eyes bleed and made him want to set his glasses on fire for bringing them into sharp focus.

What a way to wake up, though. Percy Jackson, half-naked, on his bed. There had been times where he would have gladly watched the world burn just for a moment like this. Yeah, he'd had a crush on Percy, after the boy had pulled him from that lake. They'd become reluctant friends because Nico was always around Jason, and Jason had struck up a friendship with Percy. And even though it had been 3 years since he had officially gotten over that crush, it didn't mean Percy was any less attractive.

Nico indulged himself and let his eyes roam over Percy's torso. The tanned skin, the oceanic scene Percy had tattooed in a sleeve covering his entire left arm, the well-defined muscles, the little metal barbell poking out of both sides of his right nipple, the trident he had recently gotten tattooed on the side of his hip, only the top part visible, the rest hidden under those god awful pajamas. If there wasn't already a Percy Jackson fan club, Nico would have started one.

Percy cleared his throat. "Ahem. Nico? I know I'm gorgeous but you're going to start drooling if you're not careful."

Deep brown eyes snapped up from Percy's chest to his face. "Yeah. Uhm, you wanted to talk"

Percy nodded and crawled his way up the bed, choosing to sit next to Nico and lean against the headboard. "So.. Um..."

Nico's eyes widened. "If you're here because you're suddenly having a gay crisis, put a shirt on because I will not be responsible for my actions if you don't."

Percy grinned and shook his head, but rolled off the bed anyway, going to rummage through Nico's suitcase. He came up with a black shirt that would undoubtedly be too small. He started wrestling with it to get his arms through the small holes and pulled it over his head.

Nico was curious as to what Percy wanted to talk about. He did silly things such as this when he was nervous, trying to take the tension out of the air with humor.

"I'm waiting, Percy." He was watching the scene play out in front of him. Not only did he get a good view of Percy's muscles at work, the end result was hilarious. His shirt was about three sizes too small, the sleeves only barely covering his shoulders, and it was short enough so Percy's stomach was left uncovered from his belly button to the waistband of his pants. It clung to his body as if it had been painted on, the ends of the nipple piercing raising the fabric being the only clue that it was an actual shirt.

"You know we're going to have to cut that off later, right? You owe me a new shirt."

Percy twirled around and strutted up to Nico's bed as if he were on a catwalk. "I feel fucking sexy and I'm keeping it!"

Nico sat up against the headboard and rubbed at this temples. "Stop changing the subject. Now spit it out."

"Yeah uh, never mind. It can wait. We should go get ready anyway, Piper's coming to pick us up in two hours. We have to be in early for soundcheck." Percy ruffled through the bird's nest that was Nico's morning hair and stepped out of the room.

Nico frowned. Just a few minutes ago, Percy had wanted to talk about something he thought he would find the answers to in Nico's notebook, and now he was brushed off. Just what was going on?






"What do you mean, that's it?"

The three members of the band were in a doorway in the back of The Labyrinth, the small bar they would be playing in later that night.

"Like I've said three times, that's it, guys. This is a bar, not an opera house." Piper sighed and left the men alone to go check on their gear.

Jason stepped inside the small room, crates of beer and various other drinks stacked to the ceiling and taking up over half the space. "Well. At least we can have a bitching afterparty in here, with all these drinks."

The room was completely bare, save for a little bench where the three of them could maybe sit, but only if Jason and Percy took Nico on their laps. A small light bulb overhead buzzed and blinked.

"Now we really made it, huh? Stardom isn't what it's cracked up to be." Percy plopped down on the bench, which creaked dangerously.

"Feels like we've stepped into a time machine," Nico dropped his bag at the door. "Reyna would say it's to keep us humble."

Jason snorted. "Then where's our dressing room, di Angelo? Everyone knows it's Percy that lets everything go to his head." He easily jumped out of the way of Percy's leg swinging at him from the bench, having seen it coming a mile away. "Just kidding, Perce. It's very spartan but we'll make do. We'll only really have to be in here before the show, we can just hang out at the bar afterwards."

Nico paled a little, which the other two quickly noticed.

"I've asked. They only sold 75 tickets. It won't be too crowded and if it gets too much you can hide out in here." Percy slung an arm around Nico and steered them out of the storage room that would double as their dressing room for this night. "Now come on, soundcheck!"

 


 

Will stared up at the door that he'd been through so many times before. It was open, and the sound of music pouring from inside the bar filled Will's ears.

This was it. He dug the laminate from his wallet and headed up to the door. He stopped to check his reflection in the window quickly, making sure his wavy blonde hair fell just right.

He showed his laminate at the person checking the tickets and was surprised when she didn't take it away from him and waved him right on through.

After stepping through the little hall and hanging his jacket, he finally got to the bar. The lights were low, the music a comfort to his ears.

He looked towards the back and there it was: a low stage filled with amps and instruments. A shiny black and white guitar stood on a stand and Will felt a pang of guilt for being the reason that it was shiny and new, and not the well-loved guitar that now hung on his wall.

Will navigated through the small crowd and made his way to the bar. He would have ordered a beer - maybe the alcohol would squash his nerves just a little bit - but he decided to get some water. The night was still young, after all. He'd just placed his order when he saw them, all three band members huddled in the corner beside the stage. He had barely looked their way before his eyes met green ones that seemed to sparkle in the low lighting of the room.

Percy acknowledged him with a small smile and a barely visible nod of his head, but quickly directed his attention back to the conversation he was having with the two others who'd had their backs turned to them.

Will's cheeks burned and he hoped to every god he could think of that it had gone unnoticed. Percy Jackson had recognized him. He did a mental happy dance and took his water, stepping away from the bar before he could make a fool of himself.

He had lost track of how long he'd been standing off to the side, trying not to let his nerves overtake him when the lights dimmed and the music was turned off. The only light that remained was a yellowish spotlight aimed at the stage, where he could see the three band members of Thrice Greek make their way over to their respective instruments.

He saw Nico's form lean into his microphone. "Hello New York, we're Thrice Greek and this is Blue Days."

Will smiled and forgot all about his nerves when the first notes reached him. The other night had been amazing, but this was infinitely more so. He was so close to the stage and the feeling that he was the only one being played to was stronger. He loved it.

He looked around and saw that he was the only one quietly singing along to their new single. He wasn't even going to pretend that after listening to a recorded radio stream for the better part of the night he didn't know all the lyrics already. The song was even better when it was played the way it was meant to, in a full band setting.




An hour and a half later, Will had barely been able to take his eyes off Nico, oblivious to the fact that two sets of eyes were watching him. He watched the singer's every move, how he lost himself in the music, how his brow creased and his eyes closed when he sang the lyrics, how his dark eyes flitted over the crowd nervously and how his grip on his guitar became firmer because of it.

As the last notes were played Will clapped along with the crowd. Nervousness seeped back into his body when the band members disappeared through a side door next to the bar and the lights came back on.

That had been amazing. He was in awe, and before he snapped himself out of his reverie half the bar had emptied and the stage was being cleared.

It was also the moment when the side door opened back up and the trio of musicians emerged with towel-fluffed hair, still slightly damp from sweating during the show.

Will hung around in a corner of the bar as the musicians were quickly surrounded by a group of fans. Percy and Jason had big smiles on their faces, Nico a smaller one.

He watched the trio for a moment as they signed autographs and took pictures with their fans. Once again his eyes met Percy's and he saw the drummer raise a bottle of beer at him, as if saying 'cheers!'.

Even though there were still a couple of fans hanging around them, he saw Nico disappear into the room where they'd come from, only to reappear a moment later, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He nodded at the fans still gathered and made his way outside.

Will felt a pang of disappointment. Had he missed his window? Once again his own nervousness had worked against him.

He decided to head on over to where Percy and Jason were talking to the last of the fans still gathered around them. He made a quick stop at the bar to order four bottles of beer - four, in case Nico returned.

He was greeted by a cheerful Percy and a slightly morose Jason. "Hello there, #1 fan!" Percy's voice was cheerful as he plucked a bottle of beer from Will's grip. "How did you enjoy the show tonight?"

Will beamed. "It was fantastic. I don't really have the words to describe it. Thank you for the chance." He dug around in his pocket and handed the laminate to Percy.

Jason chimed in. "Least we could do after the unfortunate events of last time, right?" He smiled at Will, but his eyes were cool, seemingly sizing Will up. "Thanks for the beer."

"Least I could do, I figured." He put Nico's beer down on the bar, the man himself still nowhere in sight. "I heard your new song on the radio yesterday. It was beautiful!"

They made more small talk about the show and their music, and drank a few more beers until last call rang out. Will thanked the two musicians one last time before he made his way out of the bar.

As he shrugged his jacket on and zipped it up, he couldn't help but feel sadness at having missed his chance to talk to Nico. Maybe it was for the best. This way, Will didn't get his hopes up and he could go back do doing what he did best, quietly admiring Nico from afar.

He made his way outside and looked around. He was about to head home when he heard a ruckus coming from the alleyway off to the side of the bar.

As he got closer and closer, he could make out voices and when he rounded the corner he saw them; The group of fans that had been inside moments before stood crowded around Nico di Angelo.

The young women whooped and were launching question after question at Nico, but Will could barely make out his responses. The entire alleyway was lit up from the constant camera flashes. Curiosity took over and before he knew it he was standing right beside the group, and his heart sank into his shoes.

Nico was sweating, even though it was cold outside, probably close to freezing. He could see the rapid rise and fall of his chest as the man scrambled for breath.

Will recognized the signs, and while he couldn't see any other ones standing a few feet away from him, he was certain.

Nico di Angelo was teetering on the edge of a panic attack.

He steeled himself and pushed his way through the small crowd to get to the singer. He wasn't sure what he'd shouted at the fans, but moments later they were all gone and Will half-heard a few very rude insults being directed at him as the group dispersed.

"Hey." Will went to stand in front of Nico and bent down to look him in the eye. Nico's pupils were blown wide and there was no other response than gasps for breath.

This wasn't good. It was 2AM on a saturday and they were in a shoddy alleyway. Nobody would hear him if he called for help and he couldn't leave Nico alone in this state.

Nico's skin was glistening with sweat and he was shaking like a leaf. Will didn't hesitate and took his jacket off, quickly wrapping it around Nico's shoulders.

It was at that moment that Nico's knees gave in and he slumped against the wall, slowly sinking down.

Shit. Okay, he needed to stay calm himself. The rush of cold prickling his skin as the wind blew through his clothing steadied his head.

He sank down on his knees in front of Nico.

"Tell me what you need, Nico, can you do that for me?"

Wide eyes still blown with panic looked at him, and the sight made Will's heart break into a million pieces. Nico shook his head frantically.

"I'm here to help, okay? I'm not going to leave you alone." Will quickly ran over the list of things his father had told him when his mother had broken down after Michael's death.

"I need you to breathe with me, Nico. I'm going to grab your hand." Will gently took Nico's hand in his own, carefully watching for any signs that Nico didn't want it.

He brought the smaller hand to his own chest, placing it on the right side so the man wouldn't feel his rapidly beating heart, and let go, making sure Nico could pull away the second the he became uncomfortable, and made sure to take deep and slow breaths in through his nose before releasing them through his mouth. "Do you feel it, Nico? Do you feel my breathing? Can you copy me?"

Will sat quietly opposite Nico for a moment, letting Nico feel the steady rise and fall of his chest. Slowly, but surely, the man's rasping breaths slowed down.

"You're doing great, Nico."

Another minute of breathing and Nico's breathing had slowed quite a bit, and before long he could see tears welling up in the other man's eyes.

Will's heart broke again at the sight and he shuddered to think what might have happened if he hadn't chased those fans away.

Slowly, Nico's rapid breathing turned into heaving gasps and sobs, and he threw himself forward into Will's chest, clutching onto the fabric of his shirt as if he were holding on to life itself.

Will didn't quite know what to do from here, so he did the only thing he could think of. He gently draped his arms around Nico's trembling form and quietly hummed an old lullaby his mother used to sing to him when he was just a boy, scared of the monsters hiding under his bed.

They sat there for a good 10 minutes, with Nico quietly crying into his shirt and Will humming soothing notes when he heard voices coming from the other end of the alleyway.

"Found him!"

The sound of feet thundered around the alleyway before it came to a stop a few feet away from where Will sat huddled with Nico.

"Fuck! Jason! It's happening again!"

Will threw a glare at the person who had practically screamed. It was Percy, whose eyes were wide as he saw Nico crying in Will's arms.
The blond lifted a finger and put it to his lips, hoping Percy got the hint. Nico did not need more reasons to panic right now.

Jason's tall and imposing silhouette appeared behind Percy, and a large hand came down on his shoulder. Will barely missed how the blond had hissed at Percy to "Calm the fuck down and go clear the bar."

As Percy ran off to do as Jason had told, Jason squatted beside the pair. "Hey Neeks," he spoke softly in a comforting voice. "It's Jason. Do you want to come inside?"

Nico detached himself from Will's chest and nodded, tears and snot streaking his face. "Up we go then," Jason told him, before gently lifting him out of Will's grasp. "Can you walk, Neeks?"

"Y-yeah." Nico's voice sounded hoarse and strained, as if someone had taken a cheese grater to his vocal cords.

"Alright. We're going to head on inside." He threw his arm around Nico's shoulders and let him lean against his side for support. They slowly made their way out of the alley when Jason looked over his shoulder. "You too, c'mon. You look like you could use a drink."

Will nodded and followed after the pair. He was so cold, suddenly. His t-shirt was no match for the icy wind, and the fact that his shirt was soaked at the front didn't help matters. He hadn't noticed, being too preoccupied with calming Nico down, but now the cold came back with a vengeance.

Jason sat Nico down on the side of the stage, reaching for a bottle of water that Percy was holding up. He opened it and put it to Nico's lips, waiting until the other man grabbed the bottle himself before letting go.

"I'm going to go talk to Piper and tell her we'll take a cab back to the hotel later. Don't leave him alone." Jason disappeared out the back door, and Will could briefly see the last of their gear being loaded into a van.

"I've never seen anyone able to bring Nico down from a panic attack other than Jason. I've never been able to, anyway." Percy's voice was quiet as he sat down beside Nico, who was quietly hiccuping into Will's jacket sleeve. "Feeling a bit better, Neeks?"

Nico nodded and leaned into Percy, who slung an arm around him and started rubbing his back slowly. "We'll get you back home soon."

Will stood awkwardly off to the side. He felt like an intruder in this private moment. A hand came down on his shoulder and his head whipped around. It was Jason, motioning for Will to follow him to the other end of the bar.

"I got you this. It's mine, so it'll probably be a little too big on you but you probably want to change into something dry." Jason handed him a deep purple hoodie, and pulled two bar stools down from the bar top and rummaged around blindly behind the bar until he came up with two glasses and a bottle of what turned out to be whiskey.

He gestured for Will to sit down as he poured them both drinks and sat down himself. "First time seeing panic attack?"

Will nodded. All the adrenalin that had been in his system moments before had disappeared. He was trembling, and if he was being honest he just wanted to go sleep for a month, Jason be damned. He quickly changed into the hoodie and sat down next to the blond.

"He gets them from time to time. Did you happen to see what started it?" Jason knocked back his drink and pulled a sour face.

Will took a tiny sip of the amber liquid in his glass, feeling it burn his throat and all the way down to his stomach, glad for the warmth of the alcohol and the hoodie after being outside in nothing but a damp t-shirt.

"I don't know. I saw him in the alley and there was a group of fans around him with camera's. They were asking for pictures and autographs and the like. He already looked on the verge of breaking down when I got there." Will looked down at the bar. "Is he going to be okay?"

Jason nodded, looking over to where Percy sat with Nico. "Yeah. He's exhausted now, but he'll be okay," He turned his eyes to Will and smiled, but this one didn't have that calculating stare from earlier, it was a genuine smile. "Thanks to you. I should have gone to find him sooner."

Will shook his head. "I couldn't just leave him alone." Another sip and when he put the glass down he was surprised to feel Jason's hand on his shoulder again. "And what about you? Are you okay? It can be pretty scary seeing someone go through that."

Will managed a light smile and nodded. "I'm okay. Bit overwhelmed, but I'll live." He covered his mouth and yawned behind his hand. "Just a bit tired."

Jason got up and reached into his pocket, putting money on the bar for the drinks, hoping the owner would find it tomorrow. "Let's get you home, then. C'mon, I'll pay for a cab."

Will got one last glance at Nico who sat slumped against Percy, seemingly asleep. Percy threw him a smile and waved at him as Jason directed him outside.

"Don't worry about the hoodie. And here." Jason took Will by the wrist and placed a familiar laminate in his hand. "You don't have to give that back. What you did tonight was great, and we owe you thanks. Any show you want to visit, you'll be there as our guest."

Will stared up at Jason, once again feeling entirely overwhelmed. "Uhm, thanks. I don't quite know what to say."

Jason just smiled and hailed a cab. "Get home safe, and I'm sure we'll meet again. Thanks again." He handed the cab driver enough money to take Will all the way to the other side of the city and turned around, giving Will a small wave before stepping back into the bar.

Will waved back and got in the cab, thinking about what a strange night it had been. He couldn't wait to get home and fall in bed, sleeping until he couldn't sleep no more. He'd think about all of this later.

 

Chapter Text

Jason couldn't sleep. He'd been lying awake for the past three hours, mulling everything over in his head.

He was beating himself up over not being there for Nico when he'd needed him most. He'd gotten caught up in sizing up the blond fan, after what Percy had said to him the night before.

His thoughts drifted back to that conversation. Percy had been right, as much as it pained Jason to admit it. Even though Nico and him had decided to break up, they'd pretty much fallen back into that pattern.

He knew things would never work for them in the way that he wanted. He didn't know if Nico would never be able to settle down or that he just wasn't ready for it. He definitely hadn't been ready at the time, but Nico had only been 19.

So he accepted their parting, and tried to move on, quietly holding on to the hope that Nico would one day change his mind and come back to him.

Shortly after, their life had gotten turned on its head, forcing them to make the decision of staying in college or chasing after their shared dream of being rock stars.

The decision had been easy. It hadn't been a walk in the park to let go of his carefully planned future, but Jason wouldn't let the opportunity slip by. He'd get to stay close to his best friends and make a job out of his favourite pastime.

He sometimes wondered if Nico begrudged him for making that decision. He had held on to his vision of the future and it lead to them breaking up, but he had given all of that up for the band. For the band, but not for Nico.

Life on the road was harder than he thought it would be. The constant travel and the hotels took a lot out of Jason, and that was when they only toured around in California. He had slowly adjusted, with the help of his friends, and in return, he helped his friends adjust. Nico had a lot of trouble dealing with the crowds and trying to control his anxiety, and Jason tried his damnedest to always be there for him. Because he didn't want his best friend to feel like shit, and maybe, just maybe, because he wanted Nico to feel like he needed Jason.

Another one to add to the ‘Jason is a selfish asshole’ list, he thought to himself.

He'd fallen back into bed with Nico more times than he could count, but it never turned to more than that, more like they were before. Jason wondered if Nico's feelings had watered over the years, maybe or maybe not because of his selfish actions, or if he'd gotten better at hiding them.

It wasn't fair, and he wished he had the balls to ask Nico if he still had feelings for him. But if he did that he would give away that his feelings had never really disappeared, and it might scare him off. All Jason wanted was to be close to Nico, in any way that he would have him. He would gladly take meaningless sex, or just friendship over nothing at all, as fucked up as it was.

Then Percy had talked to him and had thrown a monkey wrench into his whole life. He'd said Nico had looked at the blond fan like he did after he'd pulled Nico from the lake.

Jason had been there that moment, witnessing how Nico's eyes had shone when Percy leaned over him and asked him if he was okay. The exact moment that Nico had fallen in love with Percy.

Of course, he hadn't known that until 3 years later, when Nico had come out as gay and confessed his crush on Percy to the two of them. Percy had taken it like a champ and refused to let things get weird between them, even though he was 100% straight, truth or dare makeouts be damned.

It had taken another year of close friendship when Jason began to realize that he hadn't really been interested in any of the girls he'd tried to date under peer pressure.

A drunken dare where he'd been forced to kiss his best friend had furthered his beliefs that he wasn't exactly straight himself. He'd ended up falling for his best friend and shortly after they had found themselves dating.

Jason had been happy. He was in college, he had the best boyfriend and he enjoyed relative popularity around the student body as the bass player in Thrice Greek, until that one night where it all went to shit and Jason ended up vowing that they'd remain friends.

He eyed the clock. It was almost 6 in the morning and he was exhausted. He rolled around, trying to get comfortable, and he briefly got the idea to get up and slide in bed next to Nico but he scrapped the thought. Not right now.

Nico. When Percy had basically told him to step aside his heart had cracked in two. He would fight for him, try to keep him close, and above all else he wouldn't give him up to some fan they'd only met once.

Then tonight had happened, and while Jason had kept up appearances and smiled at the blond, thanking him for the beers and talking to him like he would to any other fan that approached him, all the while trying to see what the competition was made of, Nico had been left alone. When the blond left, he'd been too busy talking about him with Percy that his best friend had slipped his mind.

He'd failed his friend, and that's what hurt the most. He always went to find Nico when he was gone too long, except for last night. And where Jason had failed, Will had come to his rescue.

He couldn't and wouldn't deny it, not even to himself. Will had managed to get Nico calmed down considerably when Percy had found them, something usually reserved for Jason and Jason alone. He wouldn't let his jealousy interfere with this one, Nico's health and happiness mattered more than some dick measuring contest with a fan.

He was thankful. Will could have easily missed Nico in that alley. Instead he took the time to calm him down, sacrificing his jacket in the process. Jason had meant it when he'd given his hoodie and the guest laminate to the blond. Nico was safe, and he had Will to thank for that.

He didn't know how to take it from here. Last night, he'd pretty much guaranteed that they were to meet again. Which meant that Nico would meet him again too, and if Percy had been right in his observations, that meant that Jason stood a chance of losing the one he loved.

He didn't know if he would be able to if it came to that, but he owed Nico every chance at happiness.

Maybe it was time to let go.


 

Will jerked awake at the sound of loud pounding on his door. Yawning loudly, he got up from his bed and stumbled over to give whoever was using his door for a drum kit a piece of his mind.

He'd hardly turned the lock before the door burst open, revealing a wide awake Cecil, who didn't hesitate to storm right on in.

"Morning! I brought coffee and bagels!" He dropped a bag full of the breakfast goods on Will's table before pressing a coffee into his friend's hand. "Now tell me everything, starting with... why you look like you just got home an hour ago. Had a rough night, Will?"

Will didn't like to toot his own horn but he prided himself on being a nice guy. That didn't mean that he wasn't going to throw his steaming coffee at Cecil if he didn't stop it with the cheerful morning person behaviour in the next ten seconds.

"Shut up, Cecil. I woke up two minutes ago. Give me a second to-" He yawned loudly and trudged over to his tiny but well-loved couch. "Urgh, what time is it even?"

Cecil laughed and started rifling through the bagels. "It's half past noon."

Will's eyes finally opened for real. "What? Damn, I guess I really needed to sleep." He ran a hand through his messy blond locks and took a sip of his coffee. "Was a bit of a long night." Closing his eyes, he let the sleepy fog clear from his mind, letting the memories of what happened turn clearer. When he opened his eyes back up, he saw Cecil had plopped down next to him on the couch and was holding out a bagel.

"Come on, Will. I called you like five times this morning. I want the details! Judging by how ravaged you look I'd say it went well?"

Will took a bite from his bagel and for the first time that day, looked down at himself. He was still wearing last night's clothes. When he'd stumbled in after getting home last night, he'd barely managed to toe off his shoes before collapsing on top of his bed. He was still wearing Jason's hoodie.

Ignoring his friend's rambling for now, he stuck his hand in the pocket of the hoodie and pulled the shiny laminate from it. So it hadn't all been a bad dream. Everything had happened just the way he remembered.

"How do you still have that thing? Oh my Gods, Will. Don't make me force it out of you! I'm dying here!"

"Nothing happened, Cecil." He sighed deeply. "I still have to process it, you know? I fell asleep right when I got home and I didn't wake up until you tried to smash my door in half."

Cecil frowned. It wasn't like Will to sleep in until past noon. "Have some food, drink your coffee, and start at the beginning. How was the show?"

A small smile tugged at Will's lips. "Amazing. They played some new songs and... It was amazing."

"But?"

"But things got pretty awful after the show." Will said a silent prayer of thanks to whatever God was in charge of coffee as he settled into his couch cushions. "They were in the bar after the show and they had a group of people around them, so felt like I was... I don't know... Intruding or whatever."

Cecil grinned. "Let me guess, you chickened out, got very, very drunk and spent the night in some stranger's bed."

The glare that he received from his friend made him sit back and wait patiently for him to finish the story.

"What do you take me for, dude? No, eventually Nico went outside for a- Did you know he smokes? That's disgusting." Another sip of coffee. "Anyway, he went outside and I finally decided to go for it, so I bought them all a beer and went to return the laminate."

Cecil frowned, utterly confused. Will had a way of telling stories that didn't make sense until he got right to the end. "But you still have it."

Will shook his head, his hair swaying with the movement. "No, I have it again." He took the laminate and held it up in the light before placing it on the table before he lost it. "I had a really nice talk with Jason and Percy, about the band and all that. Just chit chat, really. But it was still so cool to just, I don't know... Hang out with them for a bit without, y'know, crying."

"And what about Mr. Creepy?"

Another glare. Cecil smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. What about Nico?"

"Well, last call rang out and they were getting ready to load up their gear and leave, and I was kind of sad that I didn't get to talk to Nico or even say 'Hi', but what was I going to do, right? So I left, and when I came outside there was like a mob of fans." Will shuddered as the memory played out before him.

"And they were all gathered around Nico. I was kind of happy because now I'd get to say something to him," His voice got shaky as he continued speaking. "So I got closer and, damn, Cecil. It was heart breaking. The guy was like a deer in headlights."

Cecil's frown got bigger by the second. What was it with Will and this band? Couldn't he just have a nice evening with an amazing concert and some great interaction with the band and then go home and live on cloud nine for a solid week or two?

"They weren't even being nice to him, just asking him to sign things and they were taking pictures. It was like a pack of wolves."

"So what happened?" Cecil was almost afraid to ask.

"When I got a good look I... I don't know if I can tell you." Will hung his head low. "It's kind of personal, I guess."

"Personal to you or personal to him?"

"Personal to him, I suppose." Will sighed. "I'm pretty sure it's not out on the streets for all to read."

Cecil scooted closer to Will. "Look, if you don't want to tell me, then don't. But I swear that if you do, I won't tell a living soul."

"I don't know, Cecil."

His friend laid a hand on his shoulder. "Then don't, talk to me when you're ready. Just don't let whatever happened eat at you, okay?"

Will managed a faint smile. "I won't. Thanks, dude. I think I just have to process it for myself, y'know." He caught Cecil's look of concern from the corner of his eye. "I promise you we're both okay and nothing scary happened."

Cecil was about to open his mouth when they were interrupted by a knock on the door.

Will got up to answer, stretching out as he walked over.


 When he'd woken up, he had felt as if he had slept for three days. His head hurt and his eyes burned, lids feeling raw and chafed from crying so much.

Nico wasn't a stranger to this, having woken up quite a number of times in the exact same way.

Last night had been awful. He thought he had been ready to face the fans after their show. The venue was small, the number of people there even smaller, how bad could it be?

His nerves had started playing up when he had been at the bar, flanked by his best friends and bandmates. The fans were nothing less than friendly at that time, but he had still felt a bit overwhelmed.

He had chosen to get some air and a much needed cigarette. Smoking was bad, and Nico wasn't proud of it but it had turned into a coping mechanism. The nicotine numbed him, taking the edge off the stress his anxiety caused him.

Stepping outside to have a cigarette had been a mistake. Not only because it was unhealthy and all that, but because as soon as he was finished he had found himself surrounded by fans.

Even though he was well hidden behind a dumpster, and in his all-black clothes he probably looked as if he was trying to become one with the shadows, they'd spotted him and had run up to him, not even giving him a chance to say something or make up some excuse - any excuse - as to why he had to go back inside.

He'd felt cornered, trapped. He remembered camera flashes, lots of voices shouting at him, pieces of paper and pens being shoved in his direction.

He'd stepped back, somehow expecting to find Jason's comforting presence there, but his back was met with cold brick. He couldn't take it. The world started to blur, the voices merged together into deafening noise and all he wanted to do was scream at the world and tell it to leave him alone.

But he'd frozen. Sheer panic had wrapped him in its icy embrace and it wouldn't let go.

Nico groaned as he remembered, wrapping himself tightly in the blanket he was half under as if it were a magical barrier to protect him from the outside world.

He hated the panic attacks. He hated the feeling of utter helplessness that followed after. He hated feeling like a complete loser for not being strong enough to withstand them. He hated clinging to Jason like a needy child. He hated it all.

He curled up, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep and to forget about the whole thing.

As the blanket warmed his body, he was reminded of the night before once again.

There had been a sound. A voice? A yell? He couldn’t remember. It wasn't part of the cacophony of voices that were demanding and harsh. He hadn't known what it was at the time, but shortly after the voices had faded and the flashes had stopped.

Unshed tears had made his vision blurry, but he vaguely recalled shaggy blond hair and blue eyes to go with the muffled voice that was apparently speaking to him. Good old Jason.

He'd felt something warm being wrapped around his shoulders, and then the voice had been back. He'd barely been able to make out what it was saying. Not that it really mattered, he hadn't been able to respond other than to shake his head.

The voice had kept on speaking, but it was pretty much all garbled to him. He remembered sinking to the floor and Jason joining him there. Jason had taken his hand and had placed it on his warm chest where he could feel the rhythm of his breath. It was soothing and gave him something to focus on, other than the panic in his head. It hadn't been Jason's tried and true method of calming him down, but at that moment he hadn't realized.

He had felt less light headed as his breathing had become less and less laboured. Jason was always a comfort, a warm blanket that would wrap itself around Nico and stay there until he felt ready to take on the world again. A warm blanket that didn't judge, wouldn't tell him off.

He'd started crying, like he always did when the panic started subsiding. He remembered burying his face into Jason's shoulder and chest, revelling in his comfort, the way he always made him feel safe.

He recalled a soothing melody, soft singing and humming.

Close your eyes, you might see something beautiful
It's not all pitch black in the back of your mind
Close your eyes, you might see something prettier
You pick a dream right out of the night

The next thing he remembered was a second voice. And then a third. They were familiar but he couldn't place them at that moment. Not until he felt a warm hand on his shoulder, and Jason announcing his presence.

Wait.

If he had been in Jason's embrace all this time how did Jason only arrive after he'd calmed down considerably?

He frowned. That didn't make any sense. He had been sure it had been Jason who'd calmed and comforted him. The warmth that had washed over him had to have been Jason's. Not even Percy had ever been able to calm Nico in the way that Jason could. Nobody felt as warm as Jason did.

But the singing, and the different way his breathing had been helped to slow down...

He definitely remembered Jason pulling him to his feet and taking him inside, where Percy had rubbed his back for a bit, but that's where the memory ended. He figured he'd fallen asleep, much like he always did after the drain of a panic attack.

Nico got up off the bed and went to take a shower, trying to sort out his thoughts. Jason, but not Jason. It had to have been him, right? It was making his head throb.

When he checked himself in the mirror after drying off, he saw that his eyes were still red. He looked like death incarnate, dark circles under his eyes standing out against the pale skin of his face, despite having slept a good long time.

After slipping into his clothes he walked into their suite, which was suspiciously empty. His eyes were drawn to a hotel laundry bag sitting on the table by their door, along with a plain brown messenger bag.

Was there someone else in their suite? Maybe Percy picked up another girl, it wouldn't be the first time. It would also explain why he was apparently still in bed at this hour. After all, the times that Nico had been the first to get out of bed were few and far between.

He had some coffee and started to feel like more of a person. He was rather bored without his friends, and he was too confused about his memories to start writing about them in his journal.

He was a curious person, and he liked to nose around, so eventually he couldn't help but being drawn to the bags on the table.

He opened the laundry bag first, expecting to find his clothes from last night, before he remembered that he had still been wearing those when he had woken up.

It was a navy blue woolen coat, with a high collar that felt warm to the touch. He didn't recognize it straight away. It wasn't Jason's coat, and Percy always insisted on wearing something awful. This coat was quite stylish, and he could have sworn that he had seen it before, but the memory had escaped him.

He put it back in the bag and zipped the messenger bag open. There wasn't a whole lot inside. Breath mints, a half empty bottle of water, a small first aid kit, a pen, a wallet, a- A wallet.

He shouldn't. By the looks of it, the bag didn't look like it belonged to a woman, so it was probably not the property one of Percy's conquests.

But why was the bag here? His heart went cold at the thought that flowed into his head. What if Jason had brought somebody home?

Manners be damned.

Nico dug the wallet out of the bag and opened it. Library card, Starbucks card, et cetera. Before long he had found what he was looking for.

New York State
Driver's License
Solace
William

Nico almost dropped the wallet. He knew that name, and as if an anvil dropped on his head, last night's memory became clear.

It hadn't been Jason who had been there for him. It was as he remembered, Jason hadn't shown up until later.

It had been Will. Will Solace, the fan with the beautiful blue eyes. The fan that now owned his old guitar.

He was too shocked to think, staring at the smiling face that stared up from the driver's license. Nico couldn't help but smile back, before he realized that he was smiling at a piece of plastic and he probably looked like an idiot.

Now he knew why the coat looked and felt familiar to him. It had been the coat that had been wrapped around his shoulders last night. The coat he'd unceremoniously wiped his nose on, which explained why it was currently in the laundry bag; Percy or Jason must have sent it to be cleaned when they'd gotten back last night.

So here he was, finally having pieced all of last night's memories together. He felt ashamed that a fan had seen him at his most vulnerable.

What was he going to do? He couldn't pretend that it never happened, as much as he wanted to. What if Will went to the press and told them that Nico was a weakling? He could deal with being called a cold asshole in the media, but he absolutely wouldn't be able to cope if this part of his life got out.

Before he knew it he found himself outside, wrapped up in his own coat, hat and sunglasses -anything to make sure no one would recognize him - with Will's bag slung over his shoulder and the laundry bag in his hand. He hailed a cab and checked Will's driver's license for the address.

After about ten minutes he found himself in front of a nondescript apartment building.

The doubts hit him like a ton of bricks. Why had he come here? What was he thinking? He couldn't do this.

He had half a mind to chicken out and go back to their hotel, letting Percy and Jason take care of getting this stuff back to Will.

No, he couldn't. He couldn't just dump his responsibilities on their shoulders all the time. This was one thing he would have to face. He would go up there, and give Will his stuff back, thank him for last night, and if he had the balls to do it, ask him to please keep the story to himself.

Apartment 7C, or so the tableau near the doors told him. He had his finger hovering over the doorbell while he tried to think of what to say and trying to keep his nerves from sending him right into another panic attack.

Just as he went to press down, the door opened and a woman and child came out of the building. Well, that was one problem solved. Now he wouldn't have to stand on the streets and try to get Will to let him up to his apartment.

He caught the door before it closed and slipped inside. He eyed the elevator and decided to take the stairs. He told himself it was because he didn't like elevators and that it had nothing to do with his nerves and the fact that he wanted to delay this as long as he could.

Eventually, he reached the seventh floor and walked into the hallway.

Apartment 7C. He stood before the door and stared at it as if it might come alive and eat him right where he stood. He was so nervous, a slight sheen of sweat on his face making his glasses slip down his nose.

After what felt like half an hour, he straightened himself out and knocked on the door. His heart threatened to jump out of his chest and run away crying when he heard the soft noises of movement coming from inside.

He had just decided that he would leave the stuff in front of the door and run away, when it opened and he was met with a startled Will, who looked as though he had seen a ghost.

"Nico."

Chapter Text

Percy was feeling down.

He had woken up, ready to face the day when last night had hit him like a ton of bricks.

Everything had gone great leading up to their show. He'd get on stage, play his heart out, do his thing with the fans and after that he'd sneak out of the hotel as soon as his friends were asleep to go meet up with his own special fan.

It ended up going differently, though. He ended up having to cancel on Annabeth who apparently had a very special night planned for them, if the pictures on his phone were anything to go by.

He didn't mind as much, though. Yes, he had a raging libido and it had been a while for him, but he would be there for his friends when they needed him, no questions asked.

Percy always felt kind of useless whenever Nico had one of his panic attacks. He couldn't really do anything for him, because it was Jason who had the magic ability to calm him down. He didn't know why that was, but his ADHD probably had something to do with it. He could never really be calm in situations like that, and if he fussed over Nico in that state he would probably do more harm than good.

That didn't mean he didn't care about Nico as much as Jason did. He just didn't have the same romantic feelings in the mix.

While Jason would tend to Nico, Percy would find them a quiet place and get them water, or whatever they needed.

Which is what he had done last night. He had convinced the bar's owner to let them lock up and hand off the keys on their way home, and had made sure that all their gear was outside so they would have the place all to themselves.

He'd been outright shocked to find Nico in the arms of Will. For half a second he thought that Jason had already found him, since at first glance Will sort of looked like him, until he remembered that Jason was still on the other side of the alleyway.

He had never seen Nico respond to anyone else other than Jason when he had been in that state. People had tried, but Nico would flinch away from their contact, or even their voices, sometimes panicking even more.

After he saw the way Nico had looked at Will, and the way Will had looked at Nico, he knew there had to be something there. He didn't know if Will even swung that way, and if he did, if he was even attracted to Nico, but he couldn't resist making sure that their paths would cross again.

Of course, this wasn’t what he’d had in mind when he wanted them to meet again. Clearly, a big romantic moment with white doves and violin music was too much to ask for. He really didn’t know what to expect going forward.

And then of course there was Jason to take into account.

Jason. Percy’s best friend ever since they’d met at the summer camp his mother had sent him to. Jason, who had surprised everyone when he came out as gay. Even Percy had been taken aback. He didn’t mind, not at all, but he hadn’t seen that one coming.

He loved both of his band mates, and he wished for them to be happy. After all these years, it was clear to Percy that yes, they were happy with each other, but not as happy as they could be. The way he saw it, they were too young to simply settle for each other, and if it turned out that, yes, they were destined to be together, it would happen regardless.

Yesterday, he had snuck into Nico’s room to talk to him about their ‘relationship’, much the same way as he had talked to Jason. When Nico refused to wake up, he had seen the notebook and couldn’t resist. He’d never read anything Nico had written there.

He flipped through the pages, finding nothing more than scrawled notes that he could never decipher. Nico should have been a doctor, judging by his chicken scratch writing. What a disappointment.

He was lucky to have escaped that room with his life. Once Nico caught him reading his notebook, he was sure that he was done for. So he had done what he always did; do something silly to distract him from what he’d done. And like Nico had said, it ended up with Jason cutting a way too small t-shirt from his torso.

He hadn’t even been able to have the talk with Nico, figuring he had pissed Nico off enough for one day.

His curiosity was piqued, though. After last night, he needed to talk to Nico more than ever.


 

“Nico”

Will was shocked. When he had opened the door, the last person he expected to be standing there was Nico. His father, his mother, a classmate. Heck, a three-headed dog would be higher on his list of people to expect at his door.

His mind was racing, but his body was frozen. He could barely get a breath out as he stood there, staring at the man in front of him, who was pretty much doing the same thing.

“Will?”

Cecil’s voice shook him from the moment. He didn’t have time to respond, barely registering the question, only keeping his eyes trained on Nico.

“OH MY G-”

Before Will knew it, Cecil was behind him, staring over his shoulder with eyes as wide as they could go without rolling out of his skull.

And still, he just stood there, too shocked to think.

There was some rustling inside before Cecil dashed past him and into the hallway, coming to a standstill between him and Nico.

“Hello! I’m Cecil and I’m a huge fan! It’s so nice to meet you!”

That was all he said before he walked off into the direction of the elevators. “See you later, Will!”

Once he was out of Nico’s line of sight he turned around and started waving his arms around like a complete idiot. Will was briefly distracted by the movement in the corner of his eye, so he turned his head away from Nico, just in time to catch Cecil, with the biggest smile Will had ever seen, having a one man party in the hallway, mounting ‘Oh my God!’ and giving Will two thumbs up before finally disappearing into the elevator.

He smiled. Cecil was a good friend. He loved Thrice Greek as much as Will did, but he had guessed correctly that this was something Will would want to deal with alone.

He turned his head back to Nico, who was still standing in front of him, looking highly uncomfortable.

“Hey.”

Nico looked up from the floor. “Hey.”

Well, this conversation was going great.

“Uhm, do you want to come in?”

Nico’s breath hitched. “Uh, yeah, sure.”

Discomfort hung in the air. Neither of them moved away from their position, both just staring at the other but not daring to make eye contact.

Don’t be an idiot, move!

Will pulled the door further open with a small smile and took a step back. “Come on in.”

Nico took a step forward, seemingly hesitating in the doorway before walking to the middle of the room. He took his sunglasses off and looked around.

More silence. Urgh, this was so awkward.

Okay, Will. He’s just a human, you can do this. Take a breath and start talking.

"Uhm, want some coffee or anything?"

Nico turned around and for the first time that day, made eye contact with Will. His eyes looked fragile, his pupils blown wide, though it was hard to tell, with how dark his irises were. "Coffee would be nice, thanks," he spoke in a soft voice.

When Will turned around to make coffee, he had to remind himself to breathe. Nico di Angelo, in his apartment. He briefly considered slamming his head into a cupboard to see if it wasn't all a dream.

Turning around with two mugs of coffee in his hand, he saw that Nico hadn't moved from his spot in the center of the room. He had shed his jacket, and was staring at the corner of the room where the guitar hung on the wall.

"I'm..." Nico seemed startled as Will's voice cut through the silence, even though he hadn't spoken loudly. "I'm sorry. About last night."

Nico spun around to face Will, raising his eyebrows. "You're sorry?"

"Uh, yeah. I'm sorry that had to happen to you. I'm sorry for not being able to do more." Will's voice took on a hint of sadness and he stared at his socked feet.

Shaking his head, Nico took a tentative step forward. "You don't have anything to be sorry about." He paused. "If anything, I'm sorry that you had to see that."

Now it was Will's turn to raise his eyebrows. "That's alright. Don't be sorry for that. I-" he took a deep breath and looked up again. "I'm just glad you're okay." He placed the mugs down on the table and sat down on the couch, rubbing at his face in an attempt to clear his mind.

He heard shuffling, and felt the couch dip under Nico's weight when the man sat down on the other end of the couch, keeping his distance. "I have- I-" He groaned. "Thank you."

Will looked over at the other end of the couch, where Nico was slumped forward with his forearms resting on his knees. "You're welcome."

And there it was, the silence that had been threatening to fall over them ever since the door had opened, had descended. Both men stared at anything but each other as the minutes ticked on.

Will could feel his heart beat loudly in his throat. This was a disaster. Why couldn’t he think of anything to say? Why did he have to choke up now, of all times?

A soft rustle of fabric came from beside him and when he looked over he saw that Nico was getting off the couch.

He fucked up. Shit. He had so much he wanted to say but he couldn't find the courage to do it, and now, his chance had passed. Nico was going to leave and Will would spend the rest of his life beating himself up for for not being able to act like a normal human.

"-oat."

The brown-eyed man's voice filtered in through his thoughts, so quiet it was barely audible, even in the nearly painful silence that hung between them. "Sorry, what was that?"

Nico cleared his throat, but it didn't help his voice from sounding shaky. "I said..." He swallowed. "I brought your bag and your coat."

Will perked up, he had completely forgotten that he had left his coat around Nico when he left the bar last night. Apparently he had forgotten his bag as well. "Oh! Thank you!"

Nico gave a quiet snort. "Figured you'd need them back. Thanks for the coffee."

An alarm went off in Will's head when Nico started making his way to the door.

"Nico?"

The other man halted and turned around. "Yes?"

It was now or never. "I..." He swallowed hard. "You know... I just wanted to say..."

Nico looked uncomfortable standing around, waiting for Will to get on with it.

"Your music helped me a lot. Back when my brother... He-" He exhaled nervously and took a deep breath. "I was depressed. Not eating, not sleeping, barely responding to anything. For weeks. And... And then I heard 'Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home' on the radio, and it just... I was in the dark and that song just... Brought a tiny spark of light and..." A deep sigh. “As cheesy as it sounds, it was my guide out of the darkness.”

He didn't dare look Nico in the eyes, afraid that he wouldn't care, that he would laugh at him, that he would leave. He had laid his soul bare, and it was frightening. Finally being able to say what he felt to whom he had wanted to say it to for so long was both a blessing and a curse.

"That song means so much to me, and I just wanted you to know that, I guess." His voice broke, the memories still fresh in his mind. He hung his head low and waited for the inevitable.

What happened next was a complete surprise. He heard feet shuffling closer on the carpet, and he was startled when a pair of beat up Converse sneakers moved into his line of sight.

He looked up to find Nico leaning over him, a shaking hand hovering above his shoulder before making contact, fingers curling on his skin in a gentle squeeze.

He smiled sadly up at the man in front of him, not really knowing what to say or do at this point.

The hand left his shoulder and Nico sat down on the couch again, closer this time.

His voice was barely above a whisper when he spoke next. "You know... I wrote that song about my sister."

Will turned his head, and was met with the sight of an utterly defeated Nico, a far cry from the rock star he had seen on stage the night before.

"She..." Nico looked over at the guitar on the wall. "She joined the military, some all-woman combat team or something." His eyes closed and his face twisted into a grimace. "She died overseas, killed by friendly fire."

Will was shocked. He didn't know that Nico had had a sister. "I'm sorry."

Nico nodded sadly. "Yeah. She's the reason I got into music in the first place, the reason why I started playing the guitar."

Will nodded right back. "Michael was the reason why I took up the guitar, too."

"I didn't know you played."

"Acoustic, mostly. Otherwise the neighbours would skin me alive." He managed to choke out something resembling a chuckle.

It seemed as if getting their stories out lifted some tension from the room. Will was starting to realize they had more in common than just a love for music. In a way, it was strange. He had laid his soul bare to Nico, and in return he had been allowed to see a tiny glimpse of his. In his eyes, it made him seem more human, and less God-like rock star.

“So how is it, playing on stage?”

Nico smiled drily. “Scary, to be honest. Don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Panicking doesn’t help.”

“Hey.” Will looked up with a frown. “Don’t beat yourself up over that. I was there last night, I saw how they wouldn’t leave you alone.”

Nico pulled his feet up on the couch and hugged his knees to his chest. “I should be stronger, should be able to handle a few fans. I’m supposed to be a fucking rock star, damn it!”

Will turned his whole body towards Nico and laid a hand on his knee. “Listen to me. I might not know you, but panic attacks are never your fault. You’re not weak for experiencing them. Don’t ever think that.” He could feel Nico’s hair brush against his knuckles when the other man turned his head to look at him.

Nico spoke with the same raspy voice that he had heard last night, when Jason had brought him inside. “I know. Jason tells me the same thing. Doesn’t feel that way at all, though.”

Will managed a smile and squeezed Nico’s bony knee. “Nothing I can do about that. But you are a rock star, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. You’ve gone through what I have and came out as someone I admire. The pain never really goes away, but don’t for a second think you’re weak.”

He meant it. He meant every word that he said. He really hoped he didn’t put Nico off.

“Thank you.” Nico managed a watery smile.

Will watched as deep brown eyes fell on the laminate, still laying on the table where he had put it earlier.

“Jason, I take it?” Nico nodded his head at the little plastic rectangle.

Finally, Will could smile again. “Yeah. As a thank you for last night. And he also- oh.” Looking down at himself, he got up off the couch. As he walked towards his bed in the opposite corner of the room, he pulled the hoodie that he forgot he was wearing over his head and rummaged around in one of his dresser drawers, coming up with a faded yellow t-shirt that probably had some print on it at one time or another. He put it on and folded the hoodie.

When he walked back to the couch, Nico was looking… Flustered? Way to go, Will, you made it even more awkward.

“Here.” He handed the folded hoodie to Nico and sat back down next to him. “He also gave me that, because…” He scratched at the back of his neck and chuckled awkwardly. “Well, you kind of ruined my shirt, heh.”

Nico’s eyes went wide, and Will kept on talking. “No, it’s no big deal. Small sacrifice to make. Don’t worry about it.”

“But-”

“I’d feel guilty if I kept his hoodie. Please give it back to him, and tell him I said thank you.”

Nico nodded, clutching the hoodie in his hands. “I will.” He made a move to get off the couch, but changed his mind at the last moment. “I uh, I have a question before I go.”

Will looked him in the eyes. “Yes?”

The eye contact was broken almost as soon as it had started. “This might sound weird but…” Nico’s face went red and for a millisecond, Will’s mind went to a happy place. “Could you…” He sighed. “Could you keep this to yourself?”

Will frowned. “What do you mean?”

“All of it. Mostly the panic attack. I don’t want to be a dick but I kind of keep that part of my life out of the press,” he started fidgeting with the drawstrings of the hoodie. “Please?”

The other man looked so fragile at that moment that Will wanted to wrap his arms around him and hold him until he felt better. “Of course. I completely understand. I won’t say anything.”

Nico smiled warmly. “Thanks. For everything.” He stood up and started walking to the door, closely followed by Will. “So, I guess I’ll see you at our shows, then?”

Will’s lips curled up into a toothy grin, before he remembered that he hadn’t brushed his teeth yet that day and oh god what if his breath smelled the whole time and-

“Will?”

He shook himself out of his thoughts. “Yeah, definitely. Wouldn’t miss them for the world.” He opened the door for Nico, catching a glimpse of the man's smile. He remained in the doorway as the other man walked out. “Thank you for bringing me my stuff.” He waited for Nico to turn around and held his hand out to him.

Nico held out his own and shook Will’s hand. “No problem. See you around, Will.”

“See ya.”

As he watched the other man walk away in the direction of the staircase, he leaned against the doorframe. His hand tingled where Nico had touched it, as if it had been burned into his skin.

He couldn’t believe that just happened. Nico di Angelo, in his apartment. He groaned. He probably made a fool of himself. That had been one part awesome and two parts awkward as all hell.

The whole thing did make him realize one thing. Nico di Angelo was just another human being. Not some rock god to be placed upon a pedestal. Not a flawless man without a care in the world. It was easy to look at him that way due to his fame, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Nico had his own flaws. He had feelings and doubts just like he did. Maybe he was crazy, but that kind of made him like Nico all the more.

He could never have imagined that Nico had gone through the same thing as he did. He knew how hard it was to lose a sibling, and he wouldn’t wish that upon his worst enemies. Maybe that’s why Thrice Greek’s music appealed to Will so much.

He shut the door behind him and collapsed on his bed. More sleep, that was what he needed.


 

Nico sank down to the floor in the 6th floor stairwell. That had taken a lot out of him.
He’d thought he could do it, he thought he was strong enough to just go up to the apartment of what was essentially a stranger, and hold a damned conversation.
The second he had stepped into Will’s apartment, he had felt that it was a mistake. He wasn’t ready for this. Maybe one day he would be, but today was not that day.

The apartment itself could only be described as… Cozy. That’s what it was. It felt warm and homely, something Nico rarely ever felt, being on the road as much as he was. Not to mention that his father’s huge mansion was about as far from cozy as you could get.

No, the apartment itself was a cozy little world all on its own, and it had made him feel a little bit better. It looked lived in, with that beat up but surprisingly comfortable couch.
Some old movie posters hung on the wall, which were a soft blue colour, like the sky on a warm, summery California day. He briefly wondered if one day he would have a place like that. Somewhere warm and welcoming.

Then there was Will. Yeah, Will. It had started out so awkward between them. Honestly, he hadn’t planned to stay as long as he did. Or say as much as he had, either.

The first thing that came out of Will’s mouth caught him completely by surprise. He apologized. Will apologized to him. He didn’t have anything to apologize for. Absolutely nothing.

That had come so far out of left field that he hadn’t known how to go on from there, and before long, an icy silence had fallen over them, turning the cozy little studio into a harsh box that held them prisoner.

It was then that he had remembered why he had come there in the first place, but when he got off the couch and went to grab his - no, Will’s - things, the blond had been unresponsive, clearly lost in thought. Probably thinking of ways to get the weirdo out of his apartment.

So he did the only thing that came to mind. Well, it didn’t exactly came to mind as much as it had been in the forefront of it since before he stepped foot in the studio. “LEAVE.” The words were etched into his brain in big, fat, angry, red neon letters, blinking for emphasis.

And again, Will had surprised him. He had heard it quite a few times, but never before had they made such an impact. “Your music means so much to me.”

As confident as he was, it wasn’t the weirdest thing in the world that he could never believe that people meant it. He just assumed that people said it to make him feel good about himself, or tried to schmooze up to him.

He was never the best at taking compliments. He felt undeserving of them. It was hard for him to process that people actually liked him, or the things he did.

But Will… Will had looked so fragile as he said those words. For the first time, Nico heard them and knew that they were sincere. It shocked him. Yes, he knew that people liked their music, otherwise they wouldn’t have a record deal in their pocket and they wouldn’t be on the other side of the country for a tour. But there’s like, and then there’s… more.

The sudden wave of emotions that had washed over him when he realized that Will meant it had made him want to scream. He didn’t know if it was out of happiness or anything else, but… Yes, definitely happiness. The song that he’d written in an attempt to get rid of the pain that he felt had helped someone else deal with their pain. His way of coping had turned into someone else’s way of coping.

He felt honored, and proud.

Like his comfy little home, Will exuded warmth. He was open, welcoming, kind and his demeanor was disarming. He was still a virtual stranger to Nico, but he didn’t quite feel any hostility.

He didn’t know why he ended up telling Will about his sister. He had never told anyone about that, aside from his closest circle of friends. Perhaps he had wanted to let Will know that he wasn’t the only one who had gone through such a thing. He would figure it out later.

Last night, he had felt so safe in his arms, much like he always felt safe in Jason’s. Maybe that had been the reason why he had dared to open up a little.

It was pointless to pretend that he wasn’t broken on in the inside. Will had seen it first hand. He had seen him at his lowest. It apparently hadn’t scared him away. Sure, he was acting a little weird and shy, but Nico could relate. In a way it was nice, being around a fan and not having to be Mr. Big Bad Rockstar. It was almost liberating, to tell an outsider that he didn’t feel like one.

He had been so kind. Not only had he taken the time to calm him down last night, but he further emphasized his kindness by telling Nico that he didn’t think he was weak. His gentle voice combined with the spark in those beautiful blue eyes made Nico feel warm on the inside. Maybe it would be enough to keep the nagging little voice in his head that told him that he was worthless quiet for a while. He hoped so.

Speaking of warm. Holy shit.

Down here in the stairwell, slumped against a cold wall, he could feel his cheeks warming up, his stupid blush reaching from his ears all the way down to his chest.

He couldn’t suppress the smirk that broke out over his face as he thought about how Will had taken his shirt off.
Okay, he had tried not to look. But he was a man and he had needs and Will was attractive. It wasn’t like he had seen a whole lot but, damn. He wasn’t as chiseled as Jason, but it was attractive in his own way. He looked… soft. Muscular, but soft around the edges. His shoulders looked like someone had flung a paintbrush at him, dozens upon dozens of freckles splattered around the skin. Will seemed to have a tattoo just below the neckline of his shirt, but he had been too far away to make out what the words said. Not that he was looking that hard. Not at all.

Okay, so Will was attractive. Shirtless, even more so. Not that it mattered because he was probably straight and Nico was so done with crushing on straight guys.

Anyway, it wasn’t like they would- Actually, they would. Jason had given him a laminate. Wow, if that didn’t bring on some mixed feelings, then he didn’t know what would.

He wouldn’t think of that right now. He was feeling good for once and he wasn’t going to doubt things, and he wouldn’t let his good mood get ruined by anything.

Despite how awkward it had been, he had made it through. He had gone out on his own, he had talked to another person without Jason or Percy to fall back on and he didn’t curl up into a ball and cower like a child. He knew it was a normal thing to do for most people, but for him it had been a big deal, and he was proud of himself.

He lifted himself to his feet and started making his way outside the building. As he hailed a cab he watched how his fingers caught the last rays of sunshine, making them feel warm. Warm, like how his hand had felt around Will’s.

Chapter Text

"So, after talking it over with the sponsors, we decided to add ten new dates to the tour."

Percy's brow raised. "Ten? Wait, since when do we have sponsors?"

They couldn't see Reyna, but sitting there with the three of them huddled around Jason's phone, they could all perfectly imagine how she would pinch the bridge of her nose and give them a bored look.

"We won't be selling tickets for those. They're small gigs around town. In a guitar shop, in a pavilion in Central Park, et cetera. I'll e-mail you guys a list of them later."

Nico cleared his throat. "So just anyone-"

He was interrupted by Reyna. "No, no. Let me finish. We've worked out a deal with 96.6FM, and they'll be giving away a small number of tickets. I think they're holding a contest, but we're still working out the details."

"Can you give us a number?" Jason asked before Nico could, probably because he knew that his band mate would want to know.

"Some places are bigger than the others, but no more than twenty-five. There will be a limited guest list for you guys, but expect a maximum of thirty people for every show."

Nico was both horrified and relieved. Horrified because he was pretty sure what Reyna was going to say next, and relieved that the crowds would be relatively small.

"Anyway, because the gigs will be so small, you'll have to do them acoustic."

Okay, so he hadn't predicted that one. Acoustic gigs weren't his favourite, but... "Reyna, I won't have to do them alone, right?"

Reyna chuckled. "No, Nico. So I've booked some extra rehearsal time in for you guys, so make sure you've got the acoustic versions down by next week."

Okay, they could do that. Nico wouldn't have to do the shows alone. Ten acoustic gigs, what could go wrong?

"Oh, and the tickets will probably be coupled with a meet and greet."

Right. That could go wrong. Nico groaned and was pulled into Jason when he wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

"I know, Nico. It's only twenty-five people, you-"

"Reyna, he had a panic attack just last week because he was mobbed by a group of fans. It's out of the question." Jason's voice was firm, though he would probably regret interrupting Reyna later.

There was silence. Jason had managed to catch Reyna off-guard.

They heard some rustling of papers before Reyna’s voice came through the phone once again. "Okay. We'll talk about that later. I'll see if we can get the meet and greet down to a few people to make it even more exclusive."

While Nico was happy to hear that, he was crestfallen. He was a weakling who needed his friends to look out for him, and that both angered and saddened him. He wished he didn't need everyone to micromanage his life. Well, he did. But he also didn't. Not to this degree.

Yes, he knew they did it because they loved him, and they wanted him to feel comfortable, but he was so tired of being treated like a delicate flower who would crumble under even the slightest pressure. He wasn't going to spiral into a panic attack just from hearing about a show he'd have to play.

He shrugged Jason's arm off his shoulder and trudged into his bedroom, closing the door behind him with a resounding click.

"Uhm..." Percy's voice cut through the silence that followed. "Nico's gone. Hang on, Reyna," He pressed the mute button on Jason's phone and turned to its owner. "Go, I'll take care of this."

Jason nodded and got off the couch, picking up his bottle of water from the table before heading to Nico's bedroom.

Percy unmuted Reyna and took the phone off speaker. "Hey. It's just me now."

He listened to Reyna, patiently nodding along with what she said.

"I don't know. He's been on edge all week." He sighed. "He'll be fine."

He thought back to last sunday, when Nico had come home. He'd told his bandmates about what he'd done that afternoon, and Percy couldn't be more proud. Proud of Nico because he did it all by himself, and proud of himself, because even though it wasn't in his original plan, Nico and Will had spent some time together. He had made a mental note to demand to be Nico's best man for bringing them together, should all of this end in marriage.

Right, maybe his thoughts had gone overboard a little, but he was proud regardless.

He barely paid attention when Reyna droned on about boring details that he never listened to. Paying attention to the boring stuff was Jason’s job.

Instead, he thought more of the events of last week. Jason had done his best to be supportive of Nico, and he didn't think Nico had noticed, but Percy hadn't missed the downtrodden look in his eyes and the way he showed his support in a more tactile way than usual.

The rest of the week had been business as usual. They'd played a show in front of a thousand people, rehearsed and had done some interviews with several magazines. Nothing especially big, scary or awesome happened, unless he counted the amazing night he'd spend with Annabeth in her apartment to make up for missing their ‘date’ last weekend.

Nico had gone from being in a good mood to his usual self. He'd been uncharacteristically nervous before their show, but that had quickly dissipated afterwards. Other than that nothing had changed. He'd spent a little more time in his room, but he could just be working on some new lyrics, or something.

Sunday's events had gone undiscussed since their talk after Nico had come home that day, and as time went on, Percy grew more desperate in wanting to have his big talk with Nico.

It was much easier to talk to Jason. He'd have to bide his time and wait for the perfect opportunity to talk to Nico, if only to improve his chances of the talk going well.

Aside from having to talk to Nico, he would also have to talk to Jason. He needed to know that despite being responsible for Nico meeting Will again, he would never let his bro down. Rain or shine, Percy would be there for his buddy. He didn't quite know if Jason would take a swing at him or use him as a shoulder to cry on, and it didn't matter as far as he was concerned.

The voice in his ear got louder and louder and he realized that Reyna was calling his name. Uh oh.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm here. Sorry, I zoned out for a bit."

In a reflex, he pulled the phone away from his ear and he had been right to do just that.

When Reyna was especially angry, she would curse in Spanish. And after the third time he heard the word pendejo, he hung up the phone, put it on silent and dug his laptop out of his bag. He'd just email her and ask her to send them the details.

Maybe he should also arrange for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered at her office.

He picked up his own phone and dialled Annabeth, he didn’t want to be around when Reyna would call back.


 

Nico stood slumped against the balcony railing. He watched as the smoke curled off the tip of his cigarette, dissipating against a gorgeous view of downtown Manhattan.

His thoughts were all over the place.

He felt like he was being irrational, and absolutely loathed feeling this way. He was fed up with everyone for trying to help him, for babying him, for making sure nothing was said or done that would set him off. Everyone was walking on eggshells around him.

A delicate snowflake, that’s what everyone treated him as, ready to melt when any pressure was applied, spiralling into a panic attack as soon as one person outside of their precious little inner circle as much as looked at him.

Okay, maybe he was exaggerating a little, but that’s what it felt like sometimes. He’d felt so proud of himself for going out on his own last week, and he’d been fine ever since then. He’d made it through their show a few nights ago without anything happening.

The way Jason had spoken about him back in the living room irked him. It wasn’t Jason’s call to flat out make decisions about his life. He’d merely groaned and Jason had thrown the idea of a meet and greet out the window, without asking for his opinion.

He actually liked the idea of a meet and greet better than a signing session. At least the former would involve small, controlled groups and he would feel more at ease. He would have told Jason as much if he had asked for his input.

Yes, he knew Jason was only looking out for him, but this wasn’t the way to do it. He felt like an asshole for thinking this way - at least he had friends who looked out for him - and there was some truth to the whole matter. Nico wasn’t okay. He was pretty sure that one successful conversation with a fan hadn’t made his anxiety and panic attacks magically disappear. He did need someone to fall back on, but instead of making progress, he had been forced to take steps backward. He didn’t work on his problems as much as he used to, because Jason’s arms were always open and welcoming. It was easier to fall back against that warm chest and forget that the world existed, rather than to stand up and face it. He was never nudged out of his arms, never challenged to face the world more.

It had gone from Jason comforting him and calming him whenever the anxiety was too much, to Jason trying to prevent his anxiety from coming on at all costs. He knew he meant well, but this way he would forever be trapped in having to choose between Jason and the world, and Jason would win every time.

It angered him. He was starting to feel like the walls were closing in on him, like the breath was being squeezed out of him. It was getting to be too much. Jason was getting too overbearing, and he had to put a stop to it.

As he took one last drag from his cigarette and stubbed it out on the railing, he turned around. He breathed out a puff of smoke, made even hazier by a chill in the air, and only noticed that Jason was standing at the foot of his bed when it cleared.

He stepped through his balcony door and closed it behind them, choosing to sit on the edge of his bed without saying a word.

“Are you okay?” Jason’s voice was quiet.

Nico groaned, deep brown eyes snapping up to meet electric blues. “Stop fucking asking me if I’m okay, Grace. I’m not a porcelain doll, I won’t break from hearing I have to meet people.”

Jason’s brows rose. “Hey, hey, what’s going on?” He leaned closer to Nico, reaching his hand out to lay it on his shoulder.

A loud slap echoed across the room as Nico swatted Jason’s hand away from him. “Just stop it. Stop treating me like a damned child,” he rose to his feet in an attempt to show he was serious, but Jason still towered above him.

“I’m not-”

Nico looked up, straight into Jason’s eyes. “You are! I don’t know what the hell’s going on with you but for the past week you’ve been smothering me. You’re not my mom, Jason!”

Jason looked defeated, his voice barely above a whisper when he spoke. “I’m just trying to look out for you.”

“How? By making decisions for me without asking how I feel about it? By not letting me out of your sight for one goddamned minute?” Nico gestured wildly with his hands, clearly frustrated.

“If you’ll let me explain-”

“Explain what? How I’m such a fragile child in your eyes that I need constant mothering? I know I’m pathetic, Jason, you don’t need to rub it in every fucking chance that you get.”

Jason’s head snapped up, and there was a fire in his eyes. “Stop it, Nico. Just fucking stop it right now. You don’t have the right to say that to me. Not after everything I’ve done for you!”

Nico was so shocked by the words coming out of Jason’s mouth that for a moment he forgot how to speak. When he pulled himself together he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “All you’ve done in the past week is make me feel like a complete loser. Do you have any idea how shitty it makes me feel when I can’t even get a bottle of water out of the fridge without you asking me if I’m okay? I don’t need you to hold my hand every step of the way, Jason. I’ve never needed it and I sure as shit don’t need it now.”

Jason was dumbstruck. His mouth hung open as he stared at Nico with wide, bleary eyes.

“I can’t believe it, even now you’re pulling that crap on me.” He walked over to Jason who still looked as if he had been struck by lightning, and shoved against his chest.

Despite of the force Nico put into the shove, Jason did little other than take a small step back, more startled than forced to move.

“Say something, you asshole! Stop trying to protect my precious feelings!” Nico’s hands came up once more, but this time Jason caught them by the wrists.

“Stop it, Nico.” His lips were set in a hard line and his voice took on a steely tone.

Nico struggled to get his wrists out of Jason’s grasp, but he wouldn’t let go, tightening his grip instead.

“Will you fucking stop?!” Jason snarled, straightening his stance. He jerked Nico forward by the wrists. “What’s gotten into you?” He raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

With a series of firm tugs, Nico finally managed to get his hands free, only to shove Jason again. “Do you have any clue how happy I felt last week? I finally did something by myself!”

Nico scoffed when he saw the look on Jason’s face. He pointed a finger at him accusingly. “That! That right there. That’s the same look you’ve been giving me all week. Why in the world would you look like I backed up over your dog when I did something huge? I was on top of the world, and you ruined that. Stop trying to make me feel guilty for finally feeling good about myself!”

Jason’s face hardened, his own finger came up and he pressed it into Nico’s chest, with a little bit more force than necessary. “Damn it, Nico! You don’t think that I felt like a complete fucking asshole for not being there for you saturday? You think I haven’t been beating myself up for leaving you alone in that alleyway? You think I liked seeing you in the arms of that guy?” He emphasized every sentence with a jab at Nico’s chest.

Nico pulled away from the offending finger prodding away at his sternum. “Is that was this is about? Are you jealous? You can’t be serious! Get your head out of your ass, Jason.”

Jason threw his hands up in surrender and backed away. “I’m so done with this, Nico.”

Nico took a step forward, getting up close to his friend again. “Well I’m not, so deal with it. I’m sick and tired of your goddamned hero complex. Is that what you’re trying to pull? Keep me small and pathetic so you can come in and save the day?”

A look of disbelief flashed over Jason’s face, before it was replaced with an angry one. “You think I want to do that? Do you think I want to spend hours upon hours trying to get you to calm down from those fucking panic attacks? Do you-” His face fell as he realized what he’d just said.

“What?!” Nico looked absolutely murderous. “I’m sorry to be such a big fucking burden on your life, Grace. I’m sorry for being a pathetic loser. But guess what?” He picked up a bottle of water from his bed and clutched it so hard that his knuckles turned white. “I don’t fucking need you! I got through the last one just fine without you and I can do it again. Now leave me the fuck alone!”

Jason squared his shoulders. “Stop acting like a kid, I did-” He was cut off by the bottle of water flying at him and hitting him square in the shoulder.

“Get out.”

“Nico, I-” His voice could barely be heard over Nico’s harsh breathing.

Get out!” Nico’s voice broke mid-scream, dark eyes glistening with unshed tears.

Jason nodded curtly. “Fine. You want to wallow in self pity? Be my fucking guest. Enjoy the panic attack, you little shit.” He turned around, and stormed out of Nico’s bedroom, slamming the door behind him.


 

“Dude! I have some great news!”

“Do tell, Cecil. Is the cafeteria selling meatball subs again?”

“No, man. It’s a surprise!”

“And you’re texting me about this because???”

“Pull your head out of the books, Will. I’m coming over! :D”

“Fine. I have this report due by midnight, but I can probably spare half an hour.”

“Bring food.”

Will groaned. He hated typing out reports.

He’d spent pretty much all of last sunday in bed, and it had resulted in him losing an entire day. A day he should have spent doing homework and starting on this damned report.

Who was he kidding, he didn’t lose an entire day, he lost about half a week. Every time he started to work on something he would zone out half an hour later. He’d get lost in his thoughts, unable to stop thinking about Nico and how he’d come to his apartment. About Nico’s touches, his quiet voice. How cute he looked when he was flustered.

He’d kept his promise, though. He was glad that he hadn’t told Cecil about the panic attack before Nico showed up. Cecil was his very best friend and they’d known each other for a long while, but if there was one thing he loved, it was gossip. He read every article and interview out there, just so he’d have something to talk about. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust him with Nico’s secret, but… He didn’t trust him with Nico’s secret. He wouldn’t be the reason that word got out about it, and be hated forever by the man he admired so much.

Another groan. This had to stop. He kept on losing precious time because of this stupid crush on someone who would never be interested in him. But no matter how hard he tried, Nico wouldn't leave his thoughts alone.

And now Cecil had some great news that he didn’t want to share via text. Most times, that was a reason to be downright frightened.

Heaving a sigh, he checked the clock. It was at least another hour before Cecil would be at his door, so he’d better make the most of it and at least try to get his homework done.


 

He didn’t know what the hell just happened. The fight came out of left field, and right now the only thing he wanted to do was get away. Away from Nico, away from his feelings, and away from conflict.

It’s not the first time he and Nico had ever fought, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But as far as intensity went, this was one of the higher ranking ones.

He was such an idiot. Nico had managed to rile him up enough to say things he didn’t mean. Well, he had meant them, but they came out all wrong. He didn’t know who he was more upset with, Nico or himself.

He grabbed his coat and his wallet, and made his way out of the suite. His face was flushed, and he felt too warm, and his shoulder hurt when he zipped his coat up with entirely too much vigor. He stomped for the elevator and smashed the button for the ground floor.

He caught a good look of himself in one of the mirrored walls of the elevator. He had to hold himself back from punching at his own reflection.

After a long ride down, he finally exited the hotel’s lobby, and headed onto the busy streets of New York. He had no idea where he was going, but in his anger he let his feet take him where they wanted to go.

It was entirely too sunny for his mood, and when he came up to the entrance of Central Park he was thankful for the shade that the trees provided.

His feet kept on walking without his permission as he lost himself in thoughts about what the hell he was going to do now.

His relationship with Nico was over, and it was about time that he owned up to that fact. He’d been stupid to think that it was ever going to work between them again, no matter how much he wanted it to happen.

As much as he wanted to strangle Percy for pointing it out to him, the bastard had been right all along.

He finally sat down on a bench located on the edge of a large field. He stared ahead, trying to keep his thoughts from consuming him. He needed to calm down if he had any chance of making this right. A relationship with Nico may be out of the cards right now, but he wasn’t going to give up his friendship. Not that, not ever. He would find a way to fix this.

His eyes fell on the people in front of him. Families having a picnic, kids throwing baseballs around. He couldn’t help but smile.

A family, that’s what he’d always wanted. He wanted the house with the white picket fence and two point five kids, even the dog. His heart ached as he realized that he’d never get to have that with the person that he wanted the most.

He’d never been part of a family. His father had been an absentee asshole, nothing but a name on the checks in the mail. His mother never really cared about him either. When his father had left the family, all he’d had to fall back on was Thalia.

He sometimes envied her. She’d come out of that ordeal a strong person, determined to help others. He didn’t know exactly what she did for a living, but from what he did know she worked for a charity. She helped young women stay off the streets and out of gang life. She did something worthwhile.

And here was Jason. He didn’t quite know what the hell he was doing with his life, especially not now that he’d had such a fight with what was supposed to be his best friend.

He’d given everything up to go live a life on the road. He’d dropped out of college, stopped his lease on the first place he’d called home since he’d left the house he grew up in, and all for what? To get chewed out by his best friend for having the audacity to care about him?

He wouldn’t lie, he was happy for the opportunity, and it was incredibly great to see thousands upon thousands of people turning out to see him and his friends do what they did best.

But sometimes he felt like a third arm on Nico’s body, especially where band matters were concerned. Nico wrote all the music, wrote all the lyrics. Everything they did was centered around Nico, even though he never wanted to be the center of attention. He didn’t matter to the band as much as Nico did. It was probably the same for Percy, but he was sure that Percy was having a great time.

For a split second, he was worried that after this fight Nico would kick him out of the band. It would probably take no more than a few phone calls and he would easily be replaced. He didn’t bring anything to the table that couldn’t be done by anyone else.

And right at that point was the first time he wondered if he did the right thing by turning his life upside down for a childhood dream. Did he really have anything to show for it? He didn’t have a social life or an education. If things were to end right now he’d be royally screwed.

He shouldn’t make decisions when angry, but he’d certainly have something to think about. At the very least, he’d have to see if there was a university that offered online classes. It couldn’t hurt to pick his studies back up, and he’d have more options as time went on.

He’d always been passionate about his studies. Back in college, his classes and homework always came before the band, right up until the point where they had been given a record deal.

He’d basically been a kid back then, barely knowing what he was getting into. He’d been tempted by the big bucks and the fame. What boy didn’t want to grow up to be a rockstar?

It didn’t mean that he wasn’t thankful that he’d gotten the opportunity. He knew all too well that there were a lot more musicians in this world who would never get to do what he’d been able to, no matter how hard they worked for it.

It wasn’t like there wasn’t still time to come up with a plan to fall back on. Very few bands made it through their peak years and came out relevant on the other side. The way he saw it, he would enjoy this while it lasted, and make sure he’d have a field to fall back on if and when it ended. Since he didn’t have as much skill as Nico did, he would probably have a hard time staying in the music industry.

Not that he would ever want to. He couldn’t see himself wasting away in some recording studio, making sure that other people could live the life that he was living right now.

All he ever wanted was to help people. The same way Thalia was helping people, the way he had helped Nico. Had tried to help Nico, anyway.

Maybe he could combine that with his love of music. Thalia was keeping people off the streets, maybe Jason could do the same. Music could mean a lot in someone’s life, and if Jason hadn’t been offered the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument at the community center he’d used to spend his free afternoons at, then he was sure that he could do the same for other kids.

For now, all he knew for sure was that he’d sign up for online classes, and try to get his degree.

He wrapped his jacket tightly around him, only now noticing that the sun had started to set, bathing everything around him in an orange light.

Hopefully, the time he’d been gone helped Nico calm down. They would have to talk about their fight.

Jason hadn't had an honest conversation with Nico in a long, long time. He was too scared to accidentally push the wrong button and lose Nico, he would dance around sensitive subjects, never pushed Nico any more than absolutely necessary, and all the while he had hidden his own feelings.

Not anymore. It was time they sat down and had a good long talk.

Chapter Text

Nico collapsed in a heap the second he saw Jason slam the door. What had he done? He hadn’t meant to be such a dick to his friend, but the second he had asked if he was okay, it was like something snapped in him. Everything bubbled to the surface all at once.

The tears that he’d been holding back started to fill his vision, his nose and mouth burning with the need to let them all out.

When he heard the door to their suite slam in the distance, he couldn’t stop them anymore, and they rolled freely down his face. He was all alone now. He’d gotten what he asked for, and he regretted it already. What if he’d pushed Jason away forever and he wasn’t coming back?

"Enjoy your panic attack, you little shit."

His breathing had been erratic ever since Jason had told him that he didn’t want to help him with his panic attacks, and it had only gotten worse when Jason said to enjoy the panic attack that he knew was coming.

That had hurt. The words themselves were like a dagger to the heart, and that dagger was given a firm twist because those words had come from Jason.

He closed his eyes and hugged his knees close to his chest, rocking himself in an attempt to calm himself down. It wasn’t working. The immense guilt that clung to him made sure of that.

He had lied when he said he didn’t need Jason. He needed him now more than ever. What he wouldn’t give right now to hear Jason’s comforting voice cooing sweet things in his ear, his strong arms wrapped around him, holding him firmly to his chest. With his ear pressed to his chest, so the strong rhythm of his heartbeat gave him something to hold on to as he tried to calm down.

But Jason wasn’t coming. Jason had probably held him for the last time, and as the realization hit him his heart rate climbed even higher and he could feel his breath coming out in short pants. He wasn’t ready to be on his own, not after a fight like this.

Percy.

Percy was still in the suite. He had never been great at helping him calm down, often freaking out himself, but anything would do right now.

Nico crawled his way to his bedroom door, hoisting himself up from the handle. He opened it and peeked into the suite, but as he looked around, he realized that it was empty. His coat was the only one that hung by the door.

He was truly alone now. This was it. His throat closed on him, and the room started spinning.
He sank to his knees and wrapped his shaking arms around himself, tears continuing to spill from his eyes.

He felt lightheaded, felt the blood rush around his body way too fast, his breathing coming in wheezing gasps now, but it did little to drown out the voice of Jason reverberating in his head.

“Enjoy your panic attack, you little shit.”

He squeezed his eyes shut and curled up in a ball, letting out a loud wail. He felt like he was going to die. He was going to die and he would never get to tell Jason that he was sorry for being a jerk.

He gasped for air, trying to steer his thoughts away from Jason, and their fight. Memories flashed through his head, but he couldn’t seem to focus on one for long enough.

After a few minutes of crippling panic, he grabbed on to a glimpse of a memory. It was hazy, almost blurred but he remembered a hand grabbing his wrist and placing it against a warm expanse of skin.

As time went on the memory became clearer, and he remembered. He remembered the gentle rise and fall of that chest. He focused on it as best he could, using it as an anchor to tie himself to.

After what felt like hours, he slowly started to realize that he was breathing in time with the memory, and that he could no longer hear the blood rushing in his ears.

He forced himself to stay with the memory as he slowly sat up, and started to focus more on his own breathing.

Breathe in slow. Hold. Exhale. Breathe in slow. Hold. Exhale.

He kept this up until he felt good enough to get up off the floor, and started thinking about a distraction. He couldn’t let himself fall into those thoughts again or he’d be right back where he started. He wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Wiping at his eyes with the hem of his shirt, his eyes fell on his guitar leaning against the couch. Before Reyna had called he’d been trying to come up with the chords to go with some lyrics he’d written the other day.

That’s what he’d do. He walked back to his bedroom on shaky legs and grabbed his notebook off his nightstand.


 “So, what’s the big surprise?”

Cecil had arrived at Will’s a few minutes earlier, along with a big pizza they could share between them. They were currently sitting on Will’s couch, slice in hand.

“You’re never going to believe this!” Cecil said around a mouthful.

Will pulled a disgusted face and waited until he’d swallowed his food until he spoke. “Well? Stop taunting me and spit it out!” He went to take another bite, but before he could he caught the look on Cecil’s face. “Not the food!” He groaned. “Let’s eat first and talk later, you pig.”

Cecil gave him a stupid smirk, made even more ridiculous by the tomato sauce in the corners of his mouth, but they managed to eat the rest of their pizza in comfortable silence.

“So,” Cecil said, wiping the crumbs from his face with his sleeve. “You’re going to love this! We get to go to a Thrice Greek show together!” His smile was so bright it could have lit up Will's entire apartment.

Will blinked once, twice, before he broke out in a grin that put Cecil’s to shame. “How?! All the shows have been sold out! Did you manage to get tickets? When? Where?”

The smug look on Cecil’s face made Will a little bit wary. “Private gig, I sold a kidney and they’re playing on my birthday," he deadpanned.

Will pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, exhaling audibly.

“Okay, okay, fine.” Cecil sat up straight. “They’re playing at Lou Ellen’s shop!”

Will’s eyes went wide. How in the word had Lou pulled that one off? “What?”

“Like I said, they’re playing at Lou Ellen’s shop. She called me this afternoon. They’re still working out the details, but it’ll be a small acoustic show, and you can only win tickets. Of course I immediately blackmailed her into letting me in that day!” Cecil looked so happy, Will thought he might burst.

He could barely believe it. Every single time, shows would fall into his lap. Not just any shows, no, special ones, intimate ones. Thrice Greek was on the verge of becoming such a big name that their days of playing in tiny little venues were nearing their end. He was unbelievably lucky that he’d have the chance to see them so many times before they would inevitably play in nothing but stadiums and he would be forced to watch them from afar where they would be mere blips in his field of vision.

“No way, that’s awesome! I could kiss your sister right now, Cecil!”

It was Cecil’s turn to pull a disgusted face. “That’s gross, dude. Please don’t do that.”

Will groaned. Leave it to Cecil to take things literally. “Of course I’m not going to kiss her, come on.” He leaned back against the couch, pulling his feet up beneath him. “You said she’d let you in, but I’m honestly not sure if that laminate I’ve got works for special occasions such as that.” As an afterthought he added “And I’m not going to be kept outside like an idiot because I didn’t win a ticket.”

Cecil frowned. “But, can’t you find out? E-mail them or something? Send them a tweet?”

“Oh no,” Will shook his head, sending his shaggy hair flying in all directions. “That’s an awful idea. What would I say? “Hey, thank you for giving me this laminate but I want to know if it works for contests as well because I feel entitled to show up to every gig ever.” That’s not going to work. I’m not going to beg them to attend that one. I feel uncomfortable about that laminate as it is."

“Hrm,” Cecil scratched at his head in thought. “Okay, I see your point. No worries, I’ll just get Lou Ellen to let you in that day if your laminate isn’t accepted. I’m sure she wouldn't mind, though she’ll probably ask us to help out around the shop sometime.”

Will shrugged. “There are worse things. I’d love to be at that show, especially if we can go together. It’ll be great. They’re so amazing live, Cecil!”

Cecil chuckled. “So I’ve heard. But you haven’t heard the best part yet!”

“Yeeeees?” Will waved his hands around in a way that said ‘go on’.

“Okay, are you sitting?”

Will sighed deeply. “You’re on the couch with me, Cecil. You know that I’m sitting. Now tell me!”

He was about to burst, Cecil was keeping silent, knowing that it would bug the hell out of him. “Please?” He tried to sound as innocent as he possibly could, batting his eyes at his friend.

“Okay, okay! Damn, stop it with the puppy eyes.” Cecil laughed. His friend could probably charm the pants off the pope if he gave him that look. “They’re doing a meet and greet!”

Will froze. “A meet and greet? Oh no, no, no. I can’t. Every time I make plans to talk to them, something awful happens.”

He looked up just in time to see his friend wear an incredulous expression. “Are you serious right now, Will? There’s no way you’re getting out of this one. Besides, you’re going to have to land your man sometime.” Cecil wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and was immediately hit with a throw pillow.

“Land my man? Really?” He scoffed, but he could feel his cheeks heating up.

The grin on Cecil’s face was sharklike. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, Will. I’ll totally be your wingman.”

Will gulped. This was a disaster waiting to happen.


 

Jason was nervous as he walked back to the hotel. It was time that he came clean to Nico, about everything.

He was scared that confessing his feelings would hammer the last nail in the coffin for their friendship, that it would drive Nico further away than he already had.

He guessed that his feelings wouldn’t be returned, and he didn’t quite know how to feel about that. But he needed to explain to Nico why he’d been so overbearing, as he’d put it.

When he came up to the hotel, his heart started beating faster and faster, his stomach twisting in knots. He briefly thought that this was how Nico must feel before a panic attack.

No.

He shook his head to get rid of the thought. He shouldn’t compare his nerves playing up to what Nico had to go through.

He stopped at the elevators, drawing a deep breath and letting it out slowly. The doors opened and he stepped in, hitting the button for the penthouse suite they called home these days.

Closing his eyes, he tried to psych himself up for the upcoming confrontation. Would it be a confrontation, or would it be a talk? He didn’t know what to expect, and in what state Nico would be when he got to their suite. Would he still be angry? Would he have calmed down? Would he be in a panicked state? He didn’t know. It could be either of those, or a whole slew of other things.

He was honestly a bit scared at what he’d find. Leaving Nico in a vulnerable state was a stupid thing to do. He should have gone to his bedroom, or to their kitchen. Anywhere but outside.

And it wasn’t like he’d just left him. No, he had to pull the biggest dick move he could come up with in his anger.

He felt like throwing up when the elevator came to a gentle stop and the doors slid open before him. He could see the door to their suite on the end of a hallway.

His legs felt stiff and heavy as he started making his way towards it. This was it. It felt like he was walking towards his execution.

In a moment he’d go through that door and his life would change. He didn’t yet know how, but he was sure it would. It could go in a million different directions from here, and all he had to do was walk through it. Turning back was not an option, he had to do this. He felt like he was at the entrance of a maze; so many possible roads to take, but only a few, or maybe only one would lead him to his goal.

He was just about to open the door, his hand already on the knob, when his attention was drawn by the sounds of an acoustic guitar being played.

Okay, that was good. If Nico were still angry, he wouldn’t be playing the guitar. Well, maybe he would, but he doubted that the melody would be this… gentle.

With that in mind he slowly opened the door, carefully, as to not startle his band mate. Nico was always focused when he was playing and he had upset him enough for one day, probably the whole year.

He saw Nico sitting on the couch, his head leaned back in the big cushions. As Jason silently padded closer, he saw that the skin around his closed eyes looked raw and red, lashes clumped together with tears, and just seeing that, and knowing that he was the reason for it, made his heart break.

Swallowing around the lump that had wedged itself in his throat, he listened to the notes that floated around the room for a moment longer.

He was about to open his mouth and make his presence known to Nico, when the other man opened his mouth and started singing.

I’ve done nothing to prevent myself from slowly breaking down
I don’t know when to stop or to begin
Unlike everything I do
This one proves too hard to figure out for me

Jason’s face fell. He’d never heard this song before, and it wasn’t like Nico to be so… forward with his lyrics. He knew the way he wrote songs. Half the time not even he could figure out what Nico was truly thinking when he’d written it, and he probably knew more about Nico than any other person.

And I let the river carry me to wherever it may take me
Too many questions remain unsolved and I wonder why
God knows I’m in desperate need of some sort of clarity
But I just can’t make up my mind

He felt like was intruding. This felt personal, and it wasn’t meant to reach his ears, especially not after their blowup. He should probably stop Nico, but his curiosity got the better of him, and he kept listening.

I’ve got all the answers
And I know how to fix this
But how come I never get around to really doing it
Too many choices to make
And time is slipping away from me
Me and I don’t see eye to eye

He didn’t miss the tremble in Nico’s voice during the last line, and he decided that enough was enough. He cleared his throat to make his presence known.

Nico had heard him. His eyes shot open and he lifted his head from the backrest, the last notes he played sounding very out of tune. He laid his guitar to the side and turned his head towards Jason, but he didn’t speak.

His face was expressionless, if his eyes weren’t bloodshot and the skin around them didn’t look puffy and red, Jason would never be able to tell that he was upset. But he knew. Because he was the reason for it.

They stared at each other for long minutes, neither of them saying a word or even moving an inch, aside from the occasional blink.

Jason didn’t quite know where to begin. Out of all possible scenarios, he didn’t quite think that a stoic Nico would be the one he was faced with.

He knew he had to take the first step, Nico was nothing if not stubborn, and Jason knew that he’d have no qualms about standing there for the rest of the day, staring at Jason with those big brown eyes, waiting for him to make the first move.

He mentally pulled himself together, before taking a deep breath in through his nose. He closed his eyes and let the air escape from his lungs, pretending that it carried his nerves and reservations with it.

“Nico…” His voice was scratchy, as if it had been days since he’d spoken last.

“Jason.” Nico’s voice sounded unaffected. The guy was too good at hiding his emotions away. It gave Jason little to work with; he had to tread carefully here, in order to prevent himself from giving their friendship the kiss of death.

“Can we, uh, can we talk?”

Nico shrugged, but didn’t back down. His eyes remained fixed on Jason’s. Instead, he got off the couch and came to a stand just a few feet from where Jason was standing. “We’re talking, aren’t we?”

“A-about earlier, I meant.”

To the rest of the world, he seemed like he always had everything figured out. He was thought of as the stable one of the band, balancing out Nico and Percy, who seemed like polar opposites most times.

He didn’t mind that one bit. He liked having the world think that he had all his shit together.

But it was a far cry from the truth. He had his own demons to battle, he just preferred to do it privately. In that was he was a lot more similar to Nico than people thought he would ever be.

Nico was one of the few people that he dared bare his demons to. He regretted that he’d started treading on eggshells around him, keeping his feelings hidden. Not just his romantic feelings, but his fears as well.

This would have been an easier confrontation a year or so ago, before he had decided to close himself off from his best friend, hoping that he wouldn’t be pushed away.

He now realized that it had been a stupid thing to do, and it had screwed him over in more ways than one. He was nervous about opening up, because he’d hidden so much away.

Nico shrugged once more. “If you want.”

Nico…

“Yes?”

Jason cast his eyes down, took another deep breath before he dared look into Nico’s eyes again.

“I’m sorry.”

All it earned him was another shrug, which again, was something that he did not expect. This was not going to the way he wanted it to, and fear started building up in his stomach. Was it really over?

“Will you please say something?” He was starting to get frustrated already, and despite his inner monologue about no longer hiding himself away, he felt like it was a bad idea to show it. He had no right to get upset about something like this, not after what he’d done before.

Nico’s lips curled into a wry smile that didn’t even reach his eyes.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” His voice was level, and Nico looked more stable and determined than he had in a long while. “Yep,” he popped the p at the end. “Sucks when people aren’t clear about their feelings, isn’t it, Jason?”

Oh.

Okay, he had that one coming. Nico was giving him a taste of his own medicine.

He hung his head low in shame. Having his own actions mirrored against him made it all the clearer how Nico must have felt.

“I- I just- Nico-” He groaned, rubbing at his face in frustration. The words wouldn’t come out.

Nico only raised an eyebrow, making it very clear that he wasn’t going to be the one to take the next step. He was going to make Jason work for it.

Jason’s palms were turning warm and sweaty, and he didn’t know what to do with his arms. He didn’t know if he wanted to pace, or stand, or sit. His throat was starting to feel constricted, and he was all too aware of the blood gushing through his body.

“Nico, I… I’m just so sorry. For everything. I-I… I’ve been a dick and you didn’t deserve it,” he barely managed to stop himself from tripping all over his words.

Nico folded his arms across his chest, lifting his chin up in a rare display of confidence. “Don’t.”

Jason felt like he was hanging on by a thread. If Nico rejected his apology, what was left?

“Nico, I-”

No.

There was anger in Nico’s eyes. Jason was relieved that there was some form of emotion on his face right now, but it didn’t help much; anger was what he’d expected.

Jason allowed himself to think for a minute, and decided to take his own advice from earlier.

His eyes narrowed and he looked at Nico with resolve clear on his face. “Yes. You and I are going to sit down and talk about this like the adults that we are.” He gestured at the couch.

That finally seemed to incite a reaction from the other man. He looked surprised for a brief moment, before the motionless expression returned. Only a hint of a smile was different from the earlier one. “Okay.”

They made their way over to the couch, each deciding to sit on opposite corners.

“So,” Jason began. Being able to gauge Nico’s responses made him a little bit more confident, and the fact that he was willing to listen made all the difference. This might be his last chance and he wasn’t going to waste it.

“I have some things to say to you,” he reached for Nico’s hand that laid on the armrest, frowning when Nico jerked it back out of his reach. He swallowed thickly. “But first, let me say that I’m really sorry. For earlier. I shouldn’t have said those things to you.”

Nico nodded, but didn’t move to speak.

“I was way out of line, and you were right to throw me out.” He looked up at Nico hopefully, wishing that he gave him something to go on. He didn’t want to dump everything on Nico all at once.

“Okay.” Nico sighed. “I’m sorry too. Maybe I overreacted. It’s just…” He broke his insistent eye contact with Jason and stared at a hole in his jeans, muttering something under his breath.

“Hrm?”

Nico groaned quietly. “I’m not weak.” His voice sounded so fragile that Jason had a hard time believing that this was the same man he shared a stage with, the same man that could sing so beautifully.

Jason’s heart shattered into a million pieces. Never, ever had he thought that Nico was weak or anything of the sort. He was strong, stronger than Jason, who hadn’t even been able to muster up the courage to tell him that his feelings had never gone away. While Nico tried to deal with his demons, Jason hadn’t moved from where he was left two years ago. No setbacks, no progress.

“Nico, I don’t think you’re weak. I’ve never thought that you’re weak. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. Look at all the shit life throws at you, and you’re still standing. I think you’re brave and I wish I had half your courage.”

Nico’s head snapped up, incredulity plastered all over his face.

“I don’t think I’ve told you that enough times, but it’s really what I think. And on top of everything you have to deal with the biggest asshole in the universe.” His eyes, wide with guilt, met Nico’s.

“You don’t have to try and cheer me up, Jason.” Nico looked down again, hands coming up to pull at the drawstrings of… Was that his hoodie?

Jason didn’t have time to think about the stupid hoodie, at this particular moment, he felt rather confident.

“I am trying to cheer you up, but not by lying. I meant every word I just said, Nico.”

Either Nico didn’t want to or didn’t know how to respond, because he remained silent.

Jason scooted a bit closer, carefully watching if Nico would give any reaction. “Listen, you were right.” The tone of his voice had changed; It was no longer firm or gentle, but hesitant instead.

Nico’s fists clenched around the drawstrings. “About what?”

Jason sat up straight, but kept his head bent low so he could keep looking into Nico’s eyes. “About what you said earlier, during the... “ he gestured with his hands, uncomfortable with voicing that it had been a fight. “I’ve been overbearing. I see that now. I tried to keep you safe and comfortable and I ended up smothering you and holding you back.” He sighed deeply. “But please know that I meant well. Just because it was selfish doesn’t mean that I didn’t want the best for you.”

Nico’s eyebrows furrowed, and he appeared to be deep in thought. His voice was barely a whisper when he spoke next. “Selfish?”

The lump in Jason’s throat had returned with a vengeance. He swallowed around it as best as he could, closing his eyes for a moment to work up the courage to say what he needed to. “Yeah. Another thing you were right about. I was… I was jealous.”

By now, Nico was frowning so deeply that there was a deep groove between his eyebrows, and Jason wanted nothing more than to make that frown disappear and for his gorgeous features to smooth themselves out. “Why?”

This was it.

“After last saturday, when I knew you were going to be okay, I- I just…” He trailed off before taking a deep, slow breath. “Seeing you with- with Will, I know he just calmed you down but…” He held up a finger, indicating to Nico that he wasn’t done speaking. The other man had his mouth already open, just waiting for an opening, and if Jason didn’t get this off his chest now then he might lose the courage to ever do so. “That used to be my thing, you know?” He started rubbing at his eyes. “I know it makes no sense, believe me, I know, and I don’t mean to imply that I want you to have panic attacks because… Nico, I just want you to be happy. I want the best for you because you deserve it and… I was afraid that you’d pull away from me. Seeing someone else having what I had, so easily, I just…”

His own words were making no sense to him.

“I just don’t want to lose you. I went overboard in trying to prove to you that I could still take care of you.” He closed his eyes, not sure if he would be able to handle seeing Nico’s expression after what he was going to say next. “I don’t want to lose you, because I’m still in love with you. I haven’t stopped loving you, and I’m so, so sorry.”

He couldn’t stop the tears from forming. Jason had never been one to outright show his emotion, but something in him just broke. He didn’t feel liberated, or lighter. The weight on his shoulders was still there.

To his surprise, Nico scooted closer, and he felt his arms wrap tightly around his shoulders. Nico’s hand pressed down at the base of his neck and guided him to lay his head down on the other’s shoulder. Slender fingers started making their way through his blond locks, and he heard the gentle sounds of Nico quietly shushing him. He didn’t realize that he had started crying until he felt the fabric of the hoodie getting moist under his skin.

“It’s okay, Jason. I know,” he cooed softly, and if Jason's head had been clear at that moment, he would have found the situation to be ironic in a bitter way.

Nico let Jason continue for a moment, not saying a word outside of whispering sweet words of comfort.

When the tears started drying up Jason lifted his head from Nico’s shoulder and leaned back a little. He wiped at his eyes and sniffled a little, letting out a bitter chuckle. “I’m sorry, Nico.”

Nico offered a small smile. “I know, Jason. I’m sorry too.”

After that little cry, Jason actually felt a lot better. He knew what was going to come next, and in his head he had already accepted it. “I don’t suppose you…”

Nico’s smile was empathetic, but he shook his head. “I’m sorry Jay, but I don’t.”

Jason nodded, it hurt, but he had been preparing for this. “Can I still be your friend, now that you know the truth?”

Nico’s eyes went wide and he took Jason’s chin between his fingers, lifting it up so he could meet his eyes. “Jason, you’re my best friend. Do you honestly think that I’d kick you to the curb after one shitty fight and a love confession?”

Jason shrugged his shoulders, letting out another bitter chuckle. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was so scared that I’d drive you away that I guess I kind of… latched on.”

Nico nodded, gently squeezing Jason’s shoulders. “We both let things go too far. We should have spoken up sooner and it escalated. I’m sorry too. I felt cornered and I lashed out, and I shouldn’t have.”

It was Jason’s turn to nod. “So, we’re good now? I mean…”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. I’m glad.” Jason felt the knot in his stomach untangle itself, finally relaxing a little. He wasn’t going to lose their friendship and that’s what mattered the most. “Nico?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you- I mean- After I left-”

Nico looked down, causing Jason to stop speaking. “I’m sorry.”

He was rewarded with a firm shake of Nico’s head. “Shut up, Jason. I know. I had one and I made it through.” His eyes glinted with pride for just a small moment. “I’m okay now.”
Jason reached out and draped his arms over Nico’s shoulders, pulling him close to his chest, smiling at the way Nico fit under his chin just right. He’d always thought of it as proof that they belonged together, and in hindsight it seemed a silly notion.

“Is this okay?”

Nico pinched Jason’s side in answer. “Jason, if you’re going to start asking me if everything you do is okay from now on, I’m going to hit you. Trust me when I say that I’ll let you know when I don’t want something.”

Jason chuckled, raising a hand to rake his hands through Nico’s unruly hair, he tried to be gentle when his fingers hit a snag, and gently untangled whatever knots he could find. They stayed like that for a few minutes, both of them needing the warmth and the comfort that the other provided after all that had gone down that day.

It was Jason who broke the comfortable silence that had settled over them.

“Is that my hoodie?”

Nico tensed, refusing to lift his head from Jason’s shoulder. “It was in my room… Forgot to give it back to you. It’s warm and comfy.” He would have shrugged if Jason’s arms hadn’t prevented him from doing so.

“Okay. Keep it, then.” Jason suspected that Nico wasn’t telling the whole truth; he was pretty sure that it was the same hoodie that he’d given to Will on that saturday.

The realization sent a stab of jealousy through him, and he unconsciously tightened his hold on Nico, who shrugged him off just a few seconds later.

The other man sat up, fidgeting with the sleeves of the hoodie that was about 3 sizes too big for him. “Jason?” He paused until he was sure that he had Jason’s full attention. “You know we can’t…” His cheeks took on a faint pink hue. “We can’t have sex any more.”

Yeah. He’d figured as much. He sighed deeply and tried not to sound sad. “I know. We’re officially over now.” They were. It was the end of a chapter in Jason’s life, but he was sure he would mourn it for a while longer. It wasn’t about the sex itself, but the intimacy, being close to Nico in a way that no one else would, feeling special and in return trying to make Nico feel even more so - he’d miss that.

Nico smiled at him and nodded, and there was that proud glint in his eyes again. The smile didn’t leave his face as he leaned in close to Jason and cupped his face with sleeve-covered hands, only the tips of his fingers feeling cold against Jason’s heated skin.

Jason was taken aback when he felt Nico’s chapped lips press carefully against his own, which felt like they were burning from all the times he’d licked them in his nervousness. He closed his eyes without thinking about it and didn’t dare kiss back with any more fervor than Nico. It was a sweet, chaste kiss, just their lips moving together for a few long seconds.

It was over all too soon when Nico leaned back enough to whisper “Goodbye, Jason,” onto his lips.

Jason was dumbstruck, his eyes shooting open just in time to see Nico getting up off the couch. “Wh-Where are you going?”

Nico crossed his arms in front on his chest with a smug smile on his face. “Just thought it’d be a poetic way to end our relationship. I’m going to get a snack. You coming, or are you going to sit there like an idiot for the rest of the night?”

Jason huffed out a quick breath, shaking his head. He got off the couch and followed Nico to the kitchen.

Chapter Text

Will rubbed at his eyes and absently stirred in his coffee.

“Remind me again why we had to be here early?”

Cecil yawned loudly and let his head fall onto the counter. “Slavery.” He was promptly slapped upside the head by the owner of the store they were standing in. “Ouch! Sorry, sis. I meant unpaid manual labor.” He flinched away from what would undoubtedly have been a second slap.

“It’s almost noon, boys. Now stop whining and get those chairs set up, or you can watch the show from the other side of the shop window.”

Will decided that Lou Ellen was an evil witch.

Okay, maybe not, but she drove a hard bargain. Cecil had asked her if she would let Will in for the show, and she had said yes, on the condition that the both of them would help move things around the shop to make room for the gig. They’d both thought that it would be easy, because guitars aren’t heavy.

As it turned out, the racks that held the guitars were quite heavy, and Lou had insisted that the gig should be held in the back, so it involved moving a lot of amps out of the way. Will had developed a healthy respect for roadies in the past couple hours.

The show was to be after closing time, with the doors opening for the lucky winners at around six. It gave them plenty of time. In just three hours they had made enough room for the band and the crowd, and all they had to do was set up a few chairs and standing tables before they’d be done, which left them with a lot of hours to kill.

As Cecil dragged the first chairs in from the storage room - which Will understood was also to be the band’s dressing room for later - Will took a look at the back of the shop. It would make for a cozy show, and knowing he’d be one of twenty people in attendance made his nerves play up.

He’d been nervous before the Labyrinth show as well, but this was even more intimate. And of course, with the meet and greet, he was guaranteed to meet the band members again.

He decided to get back to work to take his mind off things, as long as he didn’t think about the million ways in which tonight could go wrong, he would be fine.


 

“What’s up, kiddo?”

Great. He’d just woken up after a restless night, and the first thing he heard upon waking up was Percy calling him kiddo.

He flipped Percy the bird and made his way over to their kitchen, where Jason was leaned against the counter with a bowl of cereal in one hand and a spoon in the other.

“Morning.” His voice was gravelly from sleep, he hated waking up to his alarm blaring.

“Morning. Sleep well?”

“Not really.” Nico made his way over to the love of his life and pressed down on the button. He waited eagerly for the coffee that it would so generously bestow upon him. “You?”

Jason shrugged. “Okay, I guess. How come you didn’t sleep well?”

Nico took his mug out from under the machine and blew into it - nobody liked a singer with burned vocal cords. “Dunno, had some weird dreams. Can’t remember them, though.” He shrugged. “Oh well.”

He looked up at Jason who smiled at him and they fell in a companionable silence.

The truth was that ever since their fight last week, Nico had trouble sleeping. He felt guilty for not being able to return Jason’s feelings. He knew that he couldn’t force himself to fall in love - and that in turn Jason couldn’t force himself to fall out of love - but it did irk him a little. He wanted Jason to be happy, and he was unable to give him the one thing he wanted.

He was happy that over the past week everything had stayed the same. Not that he was expecting his world to turn itself upside down, but when Jason confessed to him, and Nico had him hugged close, his first thought had been about how awkward it could turn between them.

Nico wanted to prevent that at all costs, it was part of the reason why his anger had disappeared the second Jason started get his feelings off his chest. He had finally done what Nico had wanted him to do for so long; he finally opened up to him, disregarding what Nico might have thought or felt about it and laying all his cards on the table.

He wouldn’t let Jason’s feelings get between them. A couple of years ago, when he had come out to his friends and ended up confessing his feelings for Percy, his friend had taken it in stride, never once giving him any notion that he was uncomfortable with Nico’s feelings, and Nico was planning to do the same thing in this situation.

He didn’t know if Percy had just been great at hiding his discomfort, or if he really hadn’t had any negative reactions to it, but if he had to make an educated guess he’d go for the latter.

Honestly, he wasn’t bothered by the fact that Jason still loved him. And he would be lying if he said that deep down, he hadn’t suspected it.

But it had been easy. Easy to have someone who he could fall back on at a moment’s notice, someone to sleep with when he was horny, someone to cuddle up to when he felt down, someone who would never dream of hurting him.

He felt guilty for using him like that, and he made a promise to himself after Jason had confessed that he would stop all of that. They were going to be friends from now on, and no more. Jason had to learn to stop putting Nico above himself, and Nico had to stop taking advantage of that fact. They would have to find a new balance, and this week had been a nice start.

He walked out of the kitchen and took a seat next to Percy on the couch.

Percy had been a great friend to the both of them that week. He’d patiently listened to what they had to say, and in the end he had told them that he was happy for them. Happy, because they’d finally figured it out and had been honest with each other.

So they all settled into a new routine that didn’t feel weird at all. Percy still made lewd comments about them, Jason still wrapped an arm around his shoulder when they were outside, and the cuddle piles during movie nights were still very much a thing. It was like nothing ever changed and their conversation hadn’t happened.

It felt like walking on a tightrope at times, though. Where would he draw the line between friendly and romantic gestures? Was leaning into Jason too much? Did Jason simply mean to be friendly when he wrapped his arm around him? It didn’t make him uncomfortable - not yet, anyway - but he couldn’t stop those questions from floating around in his head.

The big question was if there was even a line that needed to be drawn. After he had told Jason that he was not in love with him and they could no longer sleep together, he thought he had set his boundaries. And Jason hadn’t given him any reason to think otherwise.

He trusted Jason to respect his feelings and try to move on, but had he made that clear enough? He didn’t want to start another conversation about that topic unless he absolutely had to. So for the moment he would try to keep his mind off it, and assume that his friend had gotten the message.

The moment that Jason stepped back into his bedroom to take a shower, Percy wrapped an arm around Nico and pulled him close, using his other hand to ruffle his hair into an utter mess. “So, now that Goldilocks is in the shower, how’s it going?”

Nico glared up at his band mate, wriggling about until he got comfortable with his head in Percy’s lap and his legs dangling over the armrest of the couch. He winced when he ran his hands through his hair, Percy’s ruffling had left it all tangled.

“I’m fine.”

Percy smiled down at him, but it wasn’t his usual shit eating grin. “Good to hear.”

They settled into a comfortable silence, with only the sounds of a shower running and the cartoons on the TV as background noise.

“Perce?”

“Yeah?”

Nico had been dancing around the question all week. The opportune moment never came up, and he wanted to avoid making things awkward. His curiosity hadn’t faded, though.

“How come things didn’t get awkward between us?”

Percy’s lips curled up and he broke out in a toothy grin. “Please, Neeks. If people wanting me would make me feel awkward, I wouldn’t be able to put a single foot outside.”

He said it with so much conviction that Nico had to wonder if he actually meant it. He shook his head with a smile and made to get off the couch.

Before he walked through his bedroom door, Percy calling to him from the couch made him turn around.

“I wouldn’t worry so much, Neeks. If you’re fine around Jason, you’re fine around Jason. It’s only when you start to overthink things that it starts to get awkward.”

That… actually made sense. Percy Jackson making sense was not a common thing. He’d known the guy for eight years and he still couldn’t tell whenever he was being serious or not. Not that he was stupid, no, Percy was far more clever than people gave him credit for, a fact made clear that he’d picked up on what Nico had really wanted to ask.

“Just be yourself, kiddo.” He winked and turned his attention back to the cartoons.

Nico sighed deeply, torn between wanting to wring Percy’s neck and wanting to thank him for the advice, and walked into his bedroom. It was about time that he got ready for their gig.


 

“And that’s the last of them,” Cecil said as he carried a crate full of soda and beer cans over to the counter.

Will ran a hand through his hair, brushing it away from his eyes. After they had hauled all the tables and chairs inside and set them up, Lou had sent them to get drinks and some snacks. Everything was all set up now, and all he had to do was wait for the show to start.

Lou walked around the back of the shop, looking at all the work they’d done. She sat down in some of the chairs and stood by some tables in order to see if everyone would be able to see the show from their positions.

“Good job, boys. I guess I can let you stay for the show.”

Cecil fistpumped, and Will smiled at Lou. He’d known her for as long as he’d known Cecil, but it wasn’t like they were close. He simply knew her as his best friend’s sister. They really didn’t have all that much in common, but those times where he’d been over and Cecil hadn’t been around, they ended up bonding some over music.

He supposed he should be thankful for that bonding right now; he was sure that if he didn’t know her, then he wouldn’t be here today. Sure, he had the laminate, but he wasn’t going to assume that it would let him in for shows such as these, and he absolutely wasn’t going to try.

“Earth to Will?” Lou’s voice broke through his thoughts.

“Huh? Yeah?”

Lou chuckled, and before she could open her mouth, she was interrupted by Cecil. “Leave him be, he’s just nervous.”

Lou raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Nervous? I thought you’ve seen them already?”

Will opened his mouth to respond but she just kept on rambling. “It’s actually rather cute. I bet you’re looking forward to the meet and greet part of the day, then?”

He could feel his cheeks heating up, and he cursed himself for blushing so easily.

“Oh you bet he’s looking forward to it.”

Will didn’t miss the teasing lilt to Cecil’s voice and he barely managed to stop a groan from coming out. Why did he have to confess his crush to Cecil? It was all fine and dandy when it was pretty much certain that Nico and Cecil would never be in the same room together, much less with Will himself around. His biggest fear at that moment was that Cecil would try to play Cupid later.

“Aw, look at you, you’re going all red!” Lou was grinning from ear to ear.

Will shot the siblings his most threatening glare, which in reality probably looked about as threatening as a newborn kitten trying to stare down a rottweiler, but he hoped they got that the message came across. Drop it.

They didn’t. Both Cecil and Lou burst out in a fit of laughter. Lou actually came up to him and pinched his cheek. “You’re such a cutie, Will.”

He huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. He’d get them back for this one day.

Lou actually giggled at him. “So, what’s got you so nervous, then?”

Will pursed his lips, deciding to say it before Cecil would do so and humiliate him further, but he couldn’t actually bring himself to say it out loud. The words ended up coming out muffled and unrecognizable.

Lou raised her eyebrows and leaned in closer, trying to hear what he had to say, but Cecil was the one who surprised him by throwing an arm around his shoulder and holding him in a vise-like grip. “Will here’s got a big crush.” He shook Will around in emphasis.

Will ducked out from under Cecil’s arm and frowned, just as Lou exclaimed “What?!”

“Just go shout it from the rooftops, why don’t ya?” It wasn’t funny. He knew they only meant to tease but he was embarrassed enough, crushing on a rock star like that. He wasn’t a teenager any more.

Lou Ellen stepped closer once more and put both her hands on his shoulders. “Don’t worry, Will. We’re just teasing.” She patted his cheek and jumped up to sit on the counter. “So… Who is it? Is it that tall hunk of man-candy that was in my shop the other day? What’s his name again? I wouldn’t mind taking that one for a spin.”

“Jason,” Cecil answered. “And no. He’s got a crush on Nico.”

Will hid his face in his hands, not sure if he should be embarrassed, sad or angry, or a combination thereof.

“The creepy kid?”

Angry. Definitely angry. “Oh just shut up, the both of you.”

“I could have sworn he was together with tall, blond and handsome,” Lou muttered, before Cecil chimed in citing his immense knowledge when it came to gossip. They argued back and forth for a bit.

Great, just what he needed. Leave it to Lou and Cecil to make his day even worse. As if he wasn’t nervous enough about the whole thing.

It was bad enough that he was going to be face to face with Nico again, let alone Jason. He really didn’t know what was going on between the two, but he knew he could never compete. In addition to being incredibly handsome, he had to be a great guy as well. He just seemed so… perfect.

The point was moot anyway, it wasn’t like Will would have any chance with Nico to begin with. Nico was a rock star, and Will was just a fan, just another average guy. He had no business even thinking about these things.

Will huffed out a breath. He was getting uncomfortable, and at that moment he wanted to be anywhere but in the shop. The last thing he wanted was to be made fun of for a harmless crush, especially when said crush would be stopping by later.

All of that changed with what Lou said next.

“I’ve got an idea!” she blurted out. Hopping off the counter, she pressed her hand between Will’s shoulder blades and started guiding him to a little corner in the store where the acoustic guitars hung on the wall.

She seemed to study them for a moment before pulling one down from its pegs, and handed it to Will. “We need someone to check if the sound system works right, you up for it?”

Will knew that Lou Ellen played the guitar better than he did, and she would better at this than he was, but he appreciated the gesture.

“Sure.”

He was led over to the stool on which Nico would be sitting later that day. He smiled at the thought of being on the same ‘stage’ as Nico.

He sat down on the stool and started tuning the guitar. It was brand new, and had clearly never been tuned before. He fiddled with the strings, tightening and loosening them, all the while carefully listening for the right notes.

It took him about thirty minutes to tune the guitar to perfection, but he got it done. The guitar sounded beautiful, and the wood felt warm in his hands by now.

He started playing some random tunes. Not really any songs that he knew, but he just went with the flow and played what felt right.

He knew how to play the guitar, but he wasn’t a genius at composing songs. In fact, he’d never played anything that he’d come up with himself. Instead, he learned the chords for the songs that he liked, eventually knowing most of them by heart.

It wasn’t a surprise that he eventually moved onto playing chords that were familiar to him, slowly but surely going from a random collection of notes to an actual song.

With all the things going on today, he ended up playing a Thrice Greek song, and then another, and another, trying to envision how they would sound acoustic, all the while quietly humming where the lyrics would be sung.

Lou and Cecil had paid him no mind. It had taken about ten minutes for Lou to make sure that the sound system was in order, and after that she had joined Cecil at the front of the shop, going over the list of things that they needed to have prepared for the show that some woman named Reyna had dropped off the day before.

Fifteen minutes later and Will was still playing, completely engrossed in his own little world. Humming and playing, even quietly singing. His eyes were closed, fingers deftly moving around the strings.

He became so lost in his playing that he didn’t notice the little bell that hung on the shop’s door was ringing repeatedly, he didn’t notice the footsteps on the carpet or the thud of guitar cases being put down. He didn’t even notice the exchange of greetings at the front of the store.

He was floating on the music, letting the notes soothe his nerves and calm his soul. He’d completely lost track of time, just enjoying the moment. 


 

The SUV came to a halt just outside of the store. Percy got out first, looking around to see if there were fans gathered around. It wasn’t the case, so he nodded his head towards Nico and Jason, and they climbed out after him.

It had been a long week of acoustic rehearsals, in between their regular gigs, but they settled on ten different songs to play. All in all, they would have to play six or seven songs at each of the gigs, but they had decided to have backups, so they could change up the setlist a little bit.

It had been a painstaking process, and Nico had almost thrown in the towel more than once. This wasn’t the way he’d meant for their songs to sound, but after locking himself in his room for a full day he’d come up with a bunch of songs that he felt would still sound good when played acoustic.

Nico never really liked doing acoustic shows, but the one who disliked them the most was Percy. While Nico and Jason could still play their instruments - Nico, at least, Jason switched to a guitar as well - Percy was left with a tambourine, which he complained about every chance he got. “It’s not in any way a cool instrument! What’s next, me playing the triangle?”

Predictably, Percy huffed when they got their instruments out of the back of the SUV and found the thing - he refused to call it an actual instrument - staring up at him. He resisted the urge to throw it into Manhattan traffic and tossed it in his bag. He would not be seen carrying that thing around in public. He had a rock star image to uphold, damn it!

They started making their way inside the store, saying hello to the woman behind the counter, when their attention was drawn by the sounds of a guitar being played, and not only that, but the song that was being played sounded familiar.


 

Will was finishing up on this last song, still quietly humming along. His throat was getting a bit dry and his fingers were starting to hurt from playing so much, so decided that he would stop after this one. He actually felt a whole lot better, his nerves having made way for excitement.

He had a smile on his face when he strummed out the last notes quietly. He opened his eyes and went to set the guitar down.

No.

He blinked a few times, letting his eyes adjust to the lights aimed at the makeshift stage.

It couldn’t be.

There had to be something in his eyes, if he didn’t know better he would have sworn that…

Shit. He could feel himself blush from the tips of his ears all the way down to his chest.

On the other side of the shop, he could see Nico di Angelo looking his way, with a small smile on his face. His heart felt like it was going to hammer out of his chest when the man raised a hand in greeting.

To his left stood Percy, with that usual smirk on his face, shooting a wink at him and giving him two thumbs up.

To his right was Jason, wearing a stoic expression, who gave him a brief nod of the head.

Will stared up at the trio sheepishly, his smile long since fallen. He quickly put the guitar down and moved out of their view, leaning against the back of a rack, clenching his fists and taking deep breaths.

He was so stupid, how could he have forgotten about this? All day he had been so focused on the show and the meet and greet that would follow that the fact that the band would come in before the show had completely slipped his mind.

He ran a hand through his hair and smoothed his clothing down his body.

Okay, Will, you got this.

He would go get that guitar, give it back to Lou, and make some damn conversation like a human being.

Having psyched himself up, he made to walk around the rack again, bumping straight into Nico, who stumbled back a little.

“Oh, shit! I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

Nico looked a little bit dazed, but he nodded. “No big deal. I’m fine. Sorry.”

Will smiled down at him, trying to ignore the way his heart seemed to beat against his chest in morse code. Act normal, act normal, act normal.

“So uh, that was good.”

He would never stop to marvel at how soft spoken Nico was, especially compared to his on-stage persona, who belted out lyrics with a firm voice. By now he had spoken to him enough to know that the two were basically two different people. Or rather, two sides to the same coin.

He had ended up crushing on the Nico he saw in pictures, music videos, interviews, et cetera, but after all that had happened in the past few weeks he found himself drawn to this Nico more and more, and this was not the time to be thinking about this.

He couldn’t help smiling, Nico liked his playing! “Th-thanks! It wasn’t anything, really. Just playing.” He exhaled a nervous breath, shoving his hands in his pockets in an attempt to look, well, he didn’t actually know what he was going for, but he didn’t know what to do with his hands.

“Were you playing Shine On?” Nico looked genuinely interested.

Will raised his eyebrows. “Whoah, you actually got that? I was!” Since Shine On had some heavy guitar riffs in it, he’d put quite some time in translating the song to fit his acoustic guitar. He’d spent long hours at home trying to figure it out, and he was surprised that Nico had known what song it was.

He got a challenging look in return. “Of course I did, I wrote it.”

Was that a smirk? Oh gods, Nico di Angelo was smirking at him.

Will felt like he was going to spontaneously combust if his blush didn’t go down. “Heh, yeah. I knew that.”

Once again Will felt like dying on the spot. Just how hard was it to have a decent conversation with Nico, without looking like a complete idiot?

“Don’t pout, I was just messing,” Nico chuckled. “It was good, I’m impressed.”

And the tomato of the year award goes to… Will Solace!

Nico should really stop paying him compliments, it was making him so uncomfortable. Not that he didn’t appreciate it but at the moment he really didn’t know what to do with himself.

“Thanks.” He was trying so hard to keep it together, and here Nico was, looking quite comfortable. “I’m looking forward to the show, I’m sure it’s going to be great.”

His heart skipped a beat when Nico smiled at him. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”

Nico looked up and over Will’s shoulder, and Will could’ve imagined it, but he thought that he could see annoyance flash across his face before he turned his attention back to him. “I have to go get set up, but I’m sure I’ll see you later.”

Will smiled. Yes. He would.

Chapter Text

Will watched as the band set up and tune their instruments - Except for Percy, who tapped on a tambourine gloomily all of two times before slamming the thing down on his stool - and sitting down to play some quick notes, before Cecil’s hand came down on his shoulder.

He moved to the other side of the rack that would hide the show from the windows, and found Cecil grinning at him. “Soooooo?”

Tugging at his collar in an attempt to get some cool air circulating under his shirt, he tried to put on a straight face. “So, what?”

“Don’t you “So, what?” me, Will. You and Nico, spill it! Or is it more of that top secret stuff like last week?”

Will frowned, he did feel bad about still not having told Cecil exactly what had gone down the night of the Labyrinth show. “He, uhm, he said he liked my playing.”

Before Cecil could respond - and Will knew he would deliver a long speech about how it meant that Nico actually liked him, or something of the sorts - they were interrupted by Percy, who threw an arm around him.

“Hey, Will! That was some nice playing! Good to see you!” That infectious half-grin/half-smirk was back on his face.

Will could barely suppress a chuckle when he saw Cecil’s eyes widen almost comically. He knew that Percy was Cecil’s favourite band member by far, so to see him standing there and being all chummy with his idol would make him look like the coolest person on the planet to his friend. Well, second coolest, Percy would win that title by a landslide, obviously.

“Good to see you too, Percy, thanks.”

He barely finished his sentence before Cecil piped up. “Oh! Percy! I’m Cecil!” His friend bounced on his heels excitedly.

Percy let go of Will and held out his fist to bump, which Cecil did, maybe a little too excitedly. It caused the drummer to laugh. “Easy on the knuckles, kid. I’m gonna need those later.”

Cecil started to launch question after question at Percy, who answered all of them with a grin on his face, while Will stood awkwardly off to their side, trying to follow the conversation, which went way too fast for him.

After a few minutes, he decided to leave them to their excited babbling and give Cecil some time with his idol, and he went to stand near the counter, where Lou was busy setting up plastic cups and bowls, and going through what appeared to be a list of names - probably the lucky contest winners who would be coming to the show later.

From there he had a perfect view of the shop’s corner that doubled as the stage that day, and he could see Nico and Jason quietly playing their guitars. They seemed so perfectly in sync, and a wave of sadness washed over him for a moment, before he pushed the feeling down.

He admired Nico, he really did. He loves his music, his band - and Jason was, and would always be, a part of that. And from the way that Jason and Nico played together like this, just two guys with their guitars, perfectly in tune with each other, he was once again reminded of what he would never have.

He couldn’t find it in himself to dislike Jason. He’d done nothing to him, in fact, he’d been nothing other than a genuinely nice guy. One of those guys that everyone would like to have as their friend. Nico seemed so comfortable around him, all smiles and it seemed like he radiated confidence around him.

He knew what they had said in the interviews - Cecil never stopped reminding him of that - but he trusted his own eyes more than some article in a magazine. He knew that at some point they had been together, and were supposedly nothing more than friends right now, but there was something in the way they interacted that told him otherwise.

Nico was unreadable to Will, and he just seemed like a guarded individual in general, not someone who would wear their heart on their sleeve. Jason, however, was far more open. Will hadn’t seen a whole lot of them together, but there were a lot of subtle touches and glances, akin to the way lovers behave.

Will didn’t want to - and even if he did, he stood no chance to - get between them. It was a silly crush anyway. When he thought about it, he realized that he actually knew very little of Nico. He guessed that he knew more than an average fan would - his encounter with Nico in that alley way and the day after in his apartment were proof of that - but he didn’t actually know him. Not that he wouldn’t like to, he seemed like a great guy, but there was a hierarchy of band member and fan that he would never overcome.

Right then and there was the point that he decided to try and get over his crush, and to try and stop acting like a blushing fangirl whenever he spoke to him. It would lead to nothing but heartbreak. With the second album being released in a few months, Thrice Greek’s tour would be over and they would likely return to California, or start another leg of the tour.

It was like crushing on a fictional character. He felt like they had some sort of connection, with the both of them having faced similar adversities, but the similarities ended there.
Nico was so close, yet so far away.

All in all, he would enjoy the moment and try to limit the sadness that would follow to the bare minimum. He was lucky to be here right now, watching them do a soundcheck, before attending a special show.

He shook himself out of his thoughts just in time to see the empty stools in front of him.


 

When Nico had stepped into the storage room after the soundcheck, he’d found the emergency exit to the store hidden away behind a stack of guitar cases. Perfect, now he wouldn’t have to go out of the front of the store and risk being out in the open in one of the busiest parts of Manhattan.

A quick look in the alleyway behind the exit told him that the alleyway was gated off, so he would be able to stand there in peace and have a much needed cigarette.

He waited until Jason left the storage room before he wedged a piece of cardboard in the doorway, preventing the door from falling shut when he stepped outside.

Letting himself slump against the wall outside, he dug around in his coat pocket for his cigarettes, drawing one out of the pack and lighting it. When he took his first drag, he let his eyes fall shut.

Today was good. After Percy’s advice this morning he felt a whole lot lighter, and during a long shower he decided to take his advice. He’d try to stop worrying about everything, try to stop analyzing every single one of Jason’s words and actions, stop trying to see if everything had a hidden layer or meaning. He’d just be himself and let the day take him where it wanted to go.

He was glad that today’s show would take place somewhere that he’d been to before, not that it mattered all that much, a stage was a stage, and once he got on it they were all the same to him. But without Piper around - shows this small didn’t really need managing - they’d be on their own.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear familiar notes coming from the back of the shop. It had taken him a minute to figure out exactly why the song seemed familiar, but it all fell into place when he rounded the rack and saw a friendly face playing out those tunes.

He had honestly been surprised to find Will there, but it was good to see him nonetheless.

Will had looked so at ease playing the guitar, with his eyes closed and his lips turned up into a soft smile, quietly humming along. It was great to see, and even better to hear. Shine On had been on Nico’s list of songs to play during the acoustic gigs, and he was amazed that Will’s version sounded pretty much like the way Nico had wanted it to sound acoustically; the way they would play it during other shows. It was impressive, and he couldn’t help but smile as he watched the man play.

He struck up the courage to go tell him that he loved what he’d heard. He wasn’t quite comfortable around Will, but he was getting more so every time they met.

It had been two weeks since he ended up in his arms during a panic attack, and Will had vowed to keep his mouth shut to the press. He’d taken a leap of faith, placing his secret in the hands of a virtual stranger, but the man had kept his word and there wasn’t a single rumor going around.

He hadn’t given it all that much thought, but now that they’d met again he realized that he could trust Will, and it lit a fire in his belly.

Nico never had a lot of friends, and had never felt the need to have many of them. His shyness and the fact that for some reason people thought that he was kind of creepy always stood in the way of potential friendships. And after Thrice Greek had started to get popular, the band members had suddenly found themselves surrounded by a lot of people who wanted to be their friend, but those people always had other motives; So they could say they were friends with rock stars, to share in the fame and the money.

That had led him to choose his company wisely, and not just him, but Jason too, and even Percy, who up until that point considered everyone he met his new best friend.

It had been years since he’d felt at ease around someone new. Will didn’t give off the ‘I only care about you because you’re rich and famous’ vibe, he seemed to genuinely want to get to know him for who he was, rather than what he was. It was refreshing.

As comfortable as he was starting to get around Will, the same couldn’t be said for the man himself. He could barely get any words out, and there was that blush that always formed on his cheeks whenever they spoke. He didn’t know if that was due to their rockstar/fan dynamic, or maybe… Nah. There was no way.

He took a last drag of his cigarette before flicking it away and stepping back inside, finding Jason on a chair, tapping away on his phone.


 

After a lot of last-minute preparations, Lou-Ellen had asked the band members to go wait in the storage room until showtime.

Will had honestly expected a very one-sided conversation with Cecil, during which his friend would tell him a lot of stuff that he already knew, or perhaps come up with more useless advice for him on how to land himself a rockstar boyfriend, but Cecil had been too busy talking to Percy to even notice Will. He counted his blessings; that conversation would have to wait until after the show.

Cecil had really hit it off with Percy, and Will was happy for him. He supposed that it could be compared to the way he had felt when he’d first met Nico, except maybe without the physical attraction - maybe, because if there was one man who could make the straightest guys turn their heads it was Percy Jackson.

They had just opened the door again and were waiting for the first people to show up. Lou would be welcoming everybody in and providing them with drinks, while Will and Cecil would be in charge of making sure nobody snuck in.

The list of names was small, only ten names, and each of those people could bring a friend, so it didn’t take them very long until they were all accounted for.

The sun had gone down already, and since Lou had turned the lights off and had lit about a hundred candles, the shop looked cozy, almost homely. There were so many little lights dancing about in the reflections of the guitars that it made Will’s heart sing.

He couldn’t help the stupid smile that he’d been wearing ever since they’d taken their place by a table, which is where they waited in silence for the show to begin.


 

The quiet whispering of the people waiting for the show died down when the band came out and headed for the stage; nodding their heads at the crowd as they sat down and picked up their instruments.

Nico cleared his throat and let his fingers dance across the strings for a moment, shaking his head which made his hair fall across his eyes. Will thought it was weird for a moment, until he remembered what Nico had said, about how performing was a bit scary.

“Hey everyone, thanks for coming. We’re Thrice Greek, but you probably already know that. Here’s the first song, Young Lions.” Jason’s voice carried across the room before Nico launched into the song.

Cecil elbowed Will in the side and grinned excitedly, as if he was saying “I can’t believe this is happening!”

Will just smiled at his friend and turned his attention back to the stage, or rather, to Nico.

He watched him for a moment as he played the intro to the song, before closing his eyes when he started singing, letting the music take over.

That voice that he loved so much sounded so different now. Different from all the times he’d heard him sing on their album, and during their other shows. He supposed that it was because of the acoustic setting; it gave the song a whole other vibe. Nico’s voice was quiet but full of emotion, hauntingly beautiful and fragile.

He was trying not to, but he couldn’t stop mouthing the lyrics, although he was keeping the movement of his lips to a minimum.

After the first song ended, he opened his eyes again, and joined in the sparse applause that came from the small crowd.

The next song started with the light jingling of Percy’s tambourine, before Nico and Jason joined in.

Take me down the road
Take me where you need me to
Will all their arms hold me like they love me?

Calm down, calm down
When all their eyes are on me
Calm down, calm down
When all their eyes are cold

Will recognized the song as being a b-side to their second single, so he assumed that it wasn’t often that they played it. It sounded beautiful, though, and the lyrics hit him like a ton of bricks. He hadn’t listened to the song all that much since it was a rather obscure one, but by now he knew enough to guess that the song was about Nico himself, and instead of gently swaying along to the music he kept his eyes trained on the man in front of him.

For all the ones holding on
We share the same blood
We are the young

For all the ones holding on
We are the same, we are
We are the young

He could see the raw emotion on Nico’s face as he sang, with his eyes tightly closed and well hidden behind the curtain of messy black hair. This song felt personal to him, and it sounded even more so in this atmosphere. He even thought he could see Nico breathe a sigh of relief when the song had ended. 


All too soon the show had come to an end, but the band members didn’t get off the stage. The band exchanged some hushed whispers, and Will could see Percy’s face light up, shining brighter than any of the candles that were all around them, while Jason just looked like someone had punched him in the stomach, but eventually he nodded.

“Actually,” Nico’s voice rang out. “We’re going to do one more.” There was a small smile on his face, that disappeared all too soon.

It took a few seconds for Will’s brain to put the pieces together after hearing the first few notes, but he was floored when it clicked into place. It didn’t take Cecil much longer to do the same because he grabbed Will by the shoulder and shook him excitedly.

Shine On.

It sounded all too similar to the way Will had played it earlier, with the only difference being the addition of a second guitar and the jingle-jangle of the tambourine.

His heart sang, and the smile on his face could have rivaled Percy’s. This was sensational.

He was too busy revelling in the music to see the pair of eyes watching him from behind dark hair.

 

“Hey, we have to go do the meet and greet in a little bit.” Percy poked his head out of the emergency exit.

Nico nodded. “Be right there.” After he’d crushed his cigarette under his sneaker, he stepped back inside, closing the door behind him.

He was met with the sight of Jason, who sat slumped in a chair, looking as unhappy as Nico had seen him since- Well, since last week. “What’s wrong?”

The blond looked up and shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. I’m good. Let’s get out there.” He forced a smile on his face and made to get off the chair.

Nico knew that something was bothering him, but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. When he’d made the decision to play the extra song, it felt like Jason’s mood had shifted, but it couldn’t have been simply because they’d play one more. He’d get to the bottom of it later, right now he had things to do.

He gently patted Jason on the shoulder before opening the door. “Come on, big guy.”

It was quiet in the shop when they joined Percy at one of the tables. There was nothing really set up to determine which of the fans would get to go first, but they seemed to respect the others and patiently wait for their turn, which made Nico feel more at ease.

The fans were kind, and Nico couldn’t be happier. These people were nothing like the rabid pack that had mobbed him after that show. He managed to smile dutifully whenever they wanted to take pictures, and his comfort level was even visible in his autographs; the letters were loopier and looser than usual.

It had taken them an hour but eventually all the fans were happy, and after saying goodbye to each and every one of them, the band returned to the storage room.


 

Will had spent the last hour helping Lou pour drinks, all the while having his ears talked off by Cecil about how incredibly cool Percy was.

He’d cast some wistful glances across the room from the time to time, trying not to let his jumbled feelings get the better of him.

On the one hand he really wanted to be there in that moment, he wanted to talk to Nico and his band mates, but on the other hand he wanted to distinguish himself from the fans. Would Nico think it was weird if Will got in line, waiting to talk to him like the fan that he was?

It was everything that he’d thought about earlier, he was stuck in a strange limbo between friend and fan.

So he waited, thinking he’d get his chance to talk before the band left. Lou had told him that he didn’t have to help her, that he could go right up to them if he wanted to, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He wanted to be casual, even though he knew that he would probably be anything but.

It was shortly after the last fans had left that Lou Ellen got one of those classic smirks on her face that he knew all too well - he’d seen them on her brother far too often.

“Grab some chairs, boys,” she said, rummaging around under the counter. After a couple of seconds she came up with a stack of plastic cups and a bottle of whiskey. “Come along now.”

Will had hoped that he would be able to talk to the band for a bit before Lou had them straighten the place up again, but he did as he was asked. While he stacked some chairs, he heard a door opening and Lou’s voice calling out. “A drink before you head on out, boys?”


 

“So then,” Percy laughed, tears visible in the corners of his eyes. “This idiot got hit in the head with a shoe and was knocked out cold!” He pointed at Jason, who tried his damnedest not to laugh at his own misfortune. “And we had to cancel the show because he’d forgotten his own name when he woke up!”

It had been about an hour since they had joined the band in the storage room, and while the conversation had started out light, they had quickly moved on to Percy’s enormous list of embarrassing stories that had happened to them on the road.

The more the alcohol flowed, the better they got, and by now Will had belly cramps from trying to contain his laughter.

Out of the people in the room, Will was the only one who hadn’t yet finished his first drink. He knew that he had a low alcohol tolerance, and he wanted to consciously enjoy the night as much as he could.

When they’d walked in the room, he’d been happy that the only place where he could park his chair was next to Nico, but the happiness had faded when he couldn’t keep his cheeks from turning pink. All of that led to Will taking a big gulp of whiskey, so he could at least blame his blooming skin on the alcohol.

From that point on, he’d stuck to nipping his drink like an old lady; he was already feeling the effects of that first gulp, and though it had taken the edge off his nerves, he knew there was a fine line between loosening up and making an ass out of yourself - something he would avoid at all costs.

They were listening to a story about how Nico had been forced to wear an eye-searing floral shirt during one of their earlier shows, after an unfortunate sprinkler incident, when Nico nudged him with his elbow.

He looked up to see Nico lean in a little, which made his heart skip a beat. “He’s leaving out all the stupid shit that he did,” he snickered quietly and nodded his to his hand. He was holding his phone under the table, but Will could clearly see a picture of Percy on the screen. The man in the picture was getting tattooed, and Will didn’t see what was so funny about the photo until Nico tapped his thumb on the screen and pulled up a close up of Percy’s face. The man was red-faced and tears were streaming down his cheeks, face twisted in a painful grimace.

Then it happened; Will guffawed. He immediately clamped his hands over his mouth, but the damage had already been done; everyone was staring up at him with surprise on their faces.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Percy muttered.

Will hoped against all hope that the ground would swallow him up right then and there, even more so when he turned his head and saw Nico staring him right in the eye with an unreadable expression on his face.

He was about to say something to lift the tension - he briefly considered ratting Percy out and telling everyone about the photo - before he was interrupted by none other than Nico himself, laughing even louder than he himself had just done.

Damn, even his laugh was musical, and the way that the skin around his eyes crinkled made Will happy that he was sitting down or his knees would have surely buckled. It was borderline magical to see Nico like this, so loose and happy.

It didn’t take long for everyone to start laughing at that point. Even Will managed to shove his unease into the back of his mind and laugh along until the muscles in his sides started to hurt.

When the laughter started dying down, he realized that all this time he’d been staring at Nico with a goofy smile on his face. It hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Around them, the talking picked up again, and while the last laughs bubbled up out of their throats, Will and Nico locked eyes.

Will could feel the blush rising on his cheeks once more, but he didn’t want the moment to end. Besides, the blush that formed on Nico’s cheeks was probably giving his a run for its money.

His grin eventually made way for a gentler smile, and his eyes flickered down to his lap, he was getting too shy to keep up the eye contact. He forced himself to look back up, and when he did Nico’s whole face was lit up.

Will’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the dimples that had appeared in Nico's cheeks, the way his eyes sparkled, the downright cute way his nose was scrunched up, the way his lips revealed his teeth. Will wanted nothing more than to plant kisses all over that beautiful face.

He stopped caring about his ridiculous blush, if Nico hadn’t guessed that he liked him before, he would surely have figured it out by now. But before he could make a decision he’d end up regretting, Nico let out something that sounded suspiciously like a quiet giggle and turned his attention back to the conversation.

Will decided that this was as good as his evening was going to get, and he downed the rest of his cup in one go. He hadn’t even properly set the cup back down when Nico filled it back up, before doing the same with his own.

The man lifted his cup and cleared his throat. “We’re definitely going to hell-”

Will tapped his cup against Nico’s and finished his sentence for him. “But we’ll have all the best stories to tell.”

They shared a laugh and downed their drinks, which caused Will to sputter - he would never get used to the burn of hard liquor as it went down his throat.

Nico reached out and started patting him firmly on the back until he stopped coughing, and he looked up to find everyone staring at him with amused smiles on their faces.

Great, that’s the second time he’d embarrassed himself in a way that made everyone stop what they were doing to laugh at him.

This time, however, he didn’t care as much; the alcohol had left him with a fuzzy warm feeling in his stomach. He wasn’t quite drunk, but definitely tipsy.

He could feel Nico smiling at him, but it was Percy who caught his eye. The other man was clearly much further down the road to drunkenness than he was, but there was a self-satisfied smirk on his face and his eyes kept flicking between him and Nico.

Will took a look around the table, and saw that both Cecil and Lou wore similar expressions.

The only exception was Jason, who was looking their way with narrowed eyes and his lips set in a hard line. Will was sure that he had heard Jason laugh numerous times that evening, and even though he hadn’t been paying all that much attention to the blond, he looked to be having a good time, and he didn’t know what had changed.

The room had gone quiet, and Will felt like he had ruined the fun with his damned coughing.

The sudden scraping of a chair across the floor broke the silence, and it was Jason who got up. “I think we should get going, guys. It’s getting late.”

Percy protested loudly, having a few choice words for Jason for ruining his fun, but eventually he got up as well. “Fine, let’s go get our stuff.”

Percy ushered Jason out of the room rather quickly, and just like that the fun was over.

“I’ll get the candles and stuff,” Lou said, checking her watch. “It’s too late to move everything back in the shop, so don’t worry about that.” She thought for a moment before pointing at Cecil. “You, come help me clean up the mess in there.”

She made to leave the room with Cecil following her, but Will spoke up. “I’ll clean up in here.” Lou nodded, and just like that he was alone with Nico, who was still looking at him with a smile on his face.

It didn’t last long. Nico got up as well and patted Will on the shoulder. “I had fun tonight.”

And with one last grin, Nico, too, disappeared.

Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath, desperate for a moment of calm so he could process all of this. He didn’t know what the hell that had been between Nico and him, and didn’t know how to feel about it, but he’d have plenty of time to think about all of that later, when he was home.

He got to work, clearing the table of crumbs and cups, wrappers and half-eaten bags of chips, wiping the table with a wet cloth afterwards.

He moved the table back to its corner and was just stacking the chairs when the door opened behind him and he saw Nico walk back into the room.

“Forgot my coat,” he explained, giving Will a small wave of his hand as he crossed the room again, with the coat tucked under his arm.

He stopped at the doorway and threw a look over his shoulder. All Will could do was offer a sheepish smile. “Bye, Nico.”

Instead of walking through the door like he was planning to do, Nico turned around and threw his coat onto the table, closing the distance between him and Will in a few strides.

What?

Will felt Nico’s hands curl around his shoulders, and his back met the cold wall.

This isn’t happen-

His brain came to a complete and screeching halt the second he felt Nico’s lips press against his own, and before he had registered what had happened, Nico was halfway out of the room again.

“See you next time, Will.”

He didn’t get the chance to respond before the door fell closed and he was left alone again.

Chapter Text

The car ride back to the hotel had been uneventful and quiet.

Usually, they would be rowdy after they’d been drinking, but tonight was different. The atmosphere was tense and not even Percy had dared to break the silence.

They had been silent all the way back to the suite, making for one very awkward elevator ride up.

Nico had gone straight to bed, which left Jason and Percy in the living room.

“Sit down, dude,” Percy said after Nico had closed the door to his bedroom.

Jason shook his head, going straight for his own room without as much as a look in Percy’s direction.

Percy ran after him and managed to stop him before he could reach the door and threw himself in front of it, staring up at Jason defiantly.

Jason didn’t look amused. “I want to go to bed. Move, Jackson.”

Percy crossed his arms in front of his chest, wary of the look in Jason’s eyes, but didn’t move away from his spot. “Not until you sit down and talk to me.”

The blond scoffed. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

But there was. There was so much to talk about. Out of everyone involved, Percy was the one who had the complete story. A story spun from guesses and half-truths, but - especially after tonight - he finally had a more or less complete picture.

Nico was attracted to Will. He’d guessed that one right. But up until tonight he really hadn’t had a clue whether Will was attracted to Nico or not.

All of that had changed when he’d ended up talking to Will’s friend. They managed to have a purely hypothetical conversation about a rock star named Rico and a fan named Bill. Percy had offered that maybe Rico liked Bill, and the kid had told him that Bill was head over heels for Rico.

But that was only one part of the story. What the rest of the world didn’t know was that Jason was still totally in love with Nico, and Percy felt that it was his personal duty to help him get through, and eventually over that. He’d been a bit hesitant before, when he hadn’t known how Nico felt, but after last week - when he’d returned home to find two sniffling idiots curled up on the couch - he knew that Jason would have to pull himself together and move on.

He felt bad for him, he really did. It wasn’t easy, seeing the person you’re in love with flirt with someone else right in front of you, for the most part due to the fact that everything still had to be fresh in Jason’s mind.

He’d been too tipsy to make sure Jason’s attention stayed on their conversation, so he wouldn’t notice Nico and Will making goo-goo eyes at each other, and he regretted that now.

Obviously the wrong thing to do would be for Jason to bottle up his feelings, so here he was, standing between a door and a man who easily had fifteen pounds of muscle on him.

“Come on, man. Something’s bothering you, I know it. Sit your ass down and tell me.”

He was getting to Jason. He could see the blond grit his teeth.

“Just let me go to bed.” His voice sounded strained, like it was taking all of his strength to keep himself together.

“Look,” Percy sighed. “Bro. I know that tonight was-”

He was cut off when Jason roughly shoved him away from the door and opened it. He had one foot inside when Percy jumped onto his back, making the two fall straight into the room.

Jason was the first to get to his feet, towering over Percy with a look on his face that made Percy want to run from the room and barricade the door. If he hadn’t been busy, he would be patting himself on the back for not doing exactly that.

Jason didn’t get angry often, but when he did, he got angry. Percy was happy that he’d managed to get Jason to show some damn emotion, but getting all of his friend’s anger aimed at him hadn’t quite been his plan.

“Jay…”

“Get lost, Percy. I’m not doing this.”

Oh, so now he was still going to play it like this? Not on my watch.

Percy scrambled to his feet and threw Jason his most intimidating glare. “No, Grace. Sit the fuck down and listen to me.” He’d be in big trouble if his plan backfired, but he had to try.

Jason flinched, but all too soon the anger returned to him, visible in his face, his stance, the way his arms and hands were trembling.

“Percy…” There was a warning in his voice. Back off.

Okay, so trying to intimidate Jason wasn’t going to work - it never did, and he didn’t know why he’d even tried. Percy decided to try a different approach, and he raised his hands in surrender.

“Dude, come on, you can’t just-”

He didn’t see it coming, even though he should have, from miles away. He stumbled back when Jason’s fist collided with his jaw.

“Ow, fuck. Dude!” Percy immediately clutched his jaw, wincing as he ran his hand over the sore spot.

“Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do!” Jason was fuming, his chest heaving with every heavy breath.

“That’s not what I meant, you asshole!” Percy shouted, getting equally worked up. “You want to wallow in self-pity? Fine. I’ll be in the living room when you’ve cooled off.”

And with a slam of the door, he left Jason alone in his room.

 


 

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

The word reverberated through Nico’s skull, taunting him with his every move. He just had to go and plant one on Will.

For fuck’s sake, he didn’t even know if Will had wanted it. Heck, he didn’t even know if he himself had wanted it. Okay, that was a lie. He had definitely wanted to kiss him, it was no use denying it to himself.

He hadn’t quite known what he’d been thinking. He didn’t even know if Will even liked him.

Okay, first, he would have to make sense of everything that had happened today if he had any hope of fixing it.

Playing Shine On, that had been a spur of the moment thing. They hadn’t planned on playing that one today, but he really wanted to do something nice for Will and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then during the meet and greet, he’d felt a pang of disappointment when he’d glanced over and saw Will on the other side of the room. Did he not want to talk to him anymore? Had Nico scared him off by playing that song? Maybe Will thought that Nico had been showing off, letting him know that he could play it better than Will?

Urgh, so many questions, and he still didn’t have the answer to most of them; in fact, the list of questions that needed answering was growing longer by the minute.

Will had been quiet for a long while when they’d sat down for a drink, opting to listen to Percy’s ridiculous stories instead of trying to make conversation, and the disappointment had returned.

He’d just sat there, growing more annoyed as the seconds ticked on before he decided to take one last chance. Quickly scrolling through his phone’s photo album, he’d found just the thing to break the ice.

The laugh that had torn itself from Will’s throat at that moment had made his stomach do a backflip. It was such a joyful belly laugh that it had sent all his nerve endings tingling.

The laughter was infectious, and after he’d seen the absolute horror on Will’s face when everyone stopped what they were doing to look at him, he hadn’t been able to stop himself from letting out a laugh of his own. Not to mock Will, just no longer able to contain the happiness that he’d felt at that moment.

He’d be on his bed right now, thinking about how Will may have thought that he’d been mocking him, if not for the fact that as the laughter died down around them, Will had still been looking at him with a crooked smile on his face that was perfect in its imperfection.

Something in him had snapped and he’d started blushing, unable to look away from Will’s eyes. He didn’t know why he’d had the courage to do so; maybe that was the alcohol.

It was all a bit fuzzy in his mind, still - another thing he could blame on the whiskey.

But somehow they’d ended up smiling at each other like two giddy teenagers. At the time he hadn’t known if it was flirting or something else, and he still wasn’t sure about it.

More drinks, more laughter, more not-quite-flirting-but-maybe-it-is.

Then it was time to go home, and to avoid an awkward goodbye he’d just told him that he’d had fun. Will could interpret that as he wanted to. It was a nice, ambiguous way to end the night. No matter what would happen, he’d have deniability.

Of course, all of that changed when he’d gone back into the room to get his coat. He didn’t quite know what had come over him at that point, and at the moment he hadn’t really cared.

He’d kissed him. He’d kissed him without knowing if Will wanted him to.

When he thought about it, he realized that he didn’t regret it. Maybe he had been stupid or selfish to do so, but at the very least he’d laid his cards on the table.

It was up to Will now. Up to Will to decide if he even wanted to be near Nico from now on, to decide if he would take it further, to decide if he would even acknowledge what happened.

It was scary. He’d never done something like this. Jason had been the one to make the first move all those years ago.

Jason. He really felt bad for his friend. Here he was, awkwardly making the moves on one of their fans right in front of Jason. Looking back, he realized that it was a shitty thing to do, and he really couldn’t blame Jason for getting them all out of there. If that had even been Jason’s reasoning. All he could do was guess.

He was stuck in a shitty situation, between his best friend that was still in love with him, and the fan that Nico just might be developing something resembling feelings for. He was definitely attracted to Will, no matter how much he tried to deny it - even to himself.

If - and that was a pretty big if - something like this were to happen again, he would have to make sure not to do it in front of Jason. The least he could do was try to be considerate of his friend’s feelings.

For now, all he could do was wait. Wait until he would see Will again - even though after tonight it might never happen again.

 


 

Percy was sitting on the couch, texting Annabeth about their crazy night when something cold hit the back of his neck.

He jumped off the couch to find Jason standing behind it, holding out a dishcloth that looked to be filled with ice.

“For your, uh…” Jason gestured at his own jaw.

Percy frowned, but took the bundle from Jason anyway. He sat back down with his back turned to the blond and pressed the cold, wet fabric to his face, hissing in a breath through his teeth in pain.

Jason wasn’t going to get away with this so easily. Not that Percy wouldn’t forgive him, because he totally would. He’d just make him work for it a little bit.

He returned to his phone, making a show of scrolling through his e-mails and photo’s, completely ignoring the man that was still standing behind the couch.

They stayed like that for a minute or two, before Jason started to clear his throat. It got louder and louder, in an obvious attempt to get Percy’s attention, but he stubbornly kept his eyes on his phone.

Jason mumbled something, and still Percy did not respond.

He heard Jason sigh and the shuffling of his feet on the carpet until he saw him sit down on the other couch.

“Message from Jason”
I’m sorry.

Really? He was ten feet away and he was texting him? Percy forced his expression to stay neutral, debating whether he should respond or not.

He guessed Jason’s day had been rough enough already, so he got up and padded over to the other couch. “Feeling better?”

“Nope.” Jason shook his head. “I already felt like shit and then I punched my best friend so no, not really.”

“Huh, you punched other people beside me? Damn, Grace, you’re getting violent.” Percy smirked as he said it.

Jason grinned, and Percy stopped himself from fistpumping in triumph. “I guess I really fucked up, huh?”

Percy plopped down beside Jason, lifting his legs and laying them across Jason’s lap. “Just a little bit, maybe.”

They fell into a companionable silence, with Percy waiting to see if Jason would want to talk about what had happened, instead of trying to force him. He knew Jason, all he had to do from here on in was wait.

From the corner of his eye he could see Jason open and close his mouth a few times, as if trying to speak but unable to find the words.

He’d get there. Percy had faith, and all the time in the world.

Eventually, Jason sat up a little. Percy didn’t know how long it had been since they’d fallen silent, but enough time had passed to make him fight the sleep that was threatening to overtake him.

He stifled a yawn and turned his head to Jason, who was chewing on the inside of his cheek.

“Come on, Grace. It’s bothering you. Spit it out.”

Jason closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Do you-” Another deep sigh. “You know what? That fucking sucked.”

Okay. Well, at least he was talking.

“You told me this would happen and I didn’t believe you until it slapped me right in the face, and it hurt. I knew it would all be over after last week, but I didn’t think he’d move on this quickly,” he said, burying his face in his hands. “Maybe he didn’t, I guess it’s quickly from my point of view. I just - I just thought it wouldn’t happen this soon, you know?”

Percy opened his mouth to speak, but Jason cut him off.

“I know I need to step aside and let him do his thing but…” His words were muffled by his hands, and as he tore them away from his face, he let out a groan. “I can’t even hate Will. I was angry for a bit there but I just can’t. He got him out of that panic attack and he seems like a good guy.”

Percy sat back, Jason was getting it all out and he wouldn’t stop him until he was done.

“You know what the worst part is? Back at the store, all I could think was ‘I should have never given this asshole that laminate’. I’m such a jerk. This could be a great thing for Nico and I can’t even find it in me to be happy for him.”

Whoah, whoah. Percy grabbed Jason by the wrist and looked him in the eye. “Don’t go there.” He let go of Jason again but continued to stare him down. “I will kick your ass if you start with this self-deprecating bullshit, Grace.”

He sighed, brushing his hair away from his eyes. “Listen to me.” Jason tried to cut him off, but Percy just tapped a finger against his chest. “Nobody’s blaming you for feeling like shit. I’d feel the same if this all happened to me. Nobody can blame you for being jealous.”

Jason huffed, but Percy kept going, insistently tapping away on Jason’s chest to emphasize his words. “Don’t even try to deny that you’re jealous, but it’s okay. Of course you’re not happy to see Nico flirting with someone else. Nobody’s expecting you to throw a parade, nobody’s asking you to host the wedding. It’s okay to mope around for a while and hate the world, but you can’t go around sabotaging Nico’s life, dude. You just can’t.”

The guilt was practically dripping off Jason’s face by now.

“And you’re forgetting the big picture here, Jason. It was just a bit of flirting. It could go up or down from here, but c’mon, man, give him the chance to decide where it goes.”

Jason nodded slowly. Percy knew that Jason wasn’t stupid, and that he knew that everything Percy had said was true, but sometimes you just need someone to spell it out for you before it sinks in.

“You’re right. I’m a dick.”

Percy rolled his eyes and bumped Jason’s shoulder with his fist. “You’re just human, bro.”

Jason pushed Percy’s legs out of his lap and got up from the couch with a yawn.

“I should go to bed and sleep it off. Thanks, bro.”

Percy smiled up at him before getting off the couch as well, throwing his arms around Jason to pull him into a firm hug. “Nahhh, that’s why we’re bros.”

With a last pat on Jason’s back, Percy stepped away from his friend and watched him step into his bedroom.

He flopped back onto the couch and pulled out his phone, he had a new number to add, after all.

 


 

“Will?”

He was leaning against the wall, still in a daze. He was grateful that Nico had pushed him into the wall before that kiss, otherwise he probably would have toppled over.

He could hear Cecil’s voice calling out to him, but the world was a blur.

He didn’t know how long he’d been standing there for, and he didn’t really care. The building could have caught fire right then and there, and he wouldn’t have cared.

Nico di Angelo had kissed him.

Nico di Angelo had kissed him!

His head felt like it was filled with clouds and cotton balls. It felt a little bit like that time he’d let Cecil talk him into getting high at some frat party.

As Cecil’s voice got louder and louder, he was thrown back into the harsh reality of the moment.

Nico di Angelo had kissed him and then left without saying a word. He was still in the storage room, and Cecil was giving him a funny look.

“What’s the matter with you? What’s got you so dreamy all of a sudden?”

Will really didn’t want to talk about this right now, he’d need to make sense of it first.

Talking would ruin the moment. Nico’s kiss had been the last thing to touch his lips, and he didn’t want to use them for anything else, much less to try and put what happened to words that would never accurately describe it.

“What’s up with him?”

Lou-Ellen dropped the last of the trash bags in the storage room, and walked over to where Cecil and Will stood. “Alcohol not agreeing with you, Will?

He really didn’t want to have the Nico kissed me conversation right now, so he just nodded his head. It would be a valid excuse to go home as soon as humanly possible so he could process all of this evening in peace.

Once again he felt guilty for not telling his best friend about what happened. Aside from wanting to stay on cloud nine for the rest of the night, he also really didn’t want Cecil to let the world know what had happened. He would tell him later, just not now.

Cecil grabbed him by the forearms and dragged him over to a chair. “You go sit down for a bit, and I’ll get our things. I’ll be back before you know it.”

He left the room, mumbling something about Will being a lightweight.

Lou patted Will on the back and put a water bottle into his hand. “Drink up, you’ll thank me in the morning.”

He managed to smile up at her in thanks, but he didn’t touch the bottle. He wasn’t drunk, and wasn’t going to be hungover in the morning. That kiss had sobered him up faster than any water in the world could. He didn’t want to drink, lest the feeling that lingered on his lips be watered down.

Will continued to sit there in a daze - and what a pleasant daze it was - until Cecil came back, with their coats and bags in his arms.

It took them a little while, but after a few minutes they were inside a cab and on their way to Will’s apartment.

“Are you going to be okay, Will? You’re looking a little pale. Want me to stick around tonight? I could crash on your couch.”

Cecil was such a great friend to have, but the last thing Will wanted was for him to stay over. All he wanted to be right now was alone. “I’m fine,” he managed to rasp out.

He handed Cecil money for the cab fare as the car came to a stop outside his building.

“Straight to bed, Will. Take some painkillers, and let me know how you’re doing when you wake up, okay?”

Will nodded at his friend and gave him a little wave as the cab drove off again. In just a few minutes, he’d be in the comfort of his own apartment and he would finally allow himself to really think about the kiss.

 


 

Cecil didn’t live too far away from Will, so it took him only a few more minutes to get home.

Will had been acting weird. He’d never seen his friend like that.

The whole drinking thing had to be bullshit, Will never let himself get that drunk, and the very few times that he had, he turned out to be a giggly drunk.

Something was going on, and he would get to the bottom of it. Will had been acting secretive about all things Nico, and there was a big chance that his behaviour after the band had left had something to do with the guitarist.

Maybe it had something to do with what he’d talked about with Percy. The thought of their purely hypothetical conversation about Bill and Rico made him laugh out loud because of its silliness, but it also made him happy. If Percy was right, it meant that Nico liked Will.

They’d agreed to keep it between them, and to keep each other in the loop. They’d both poke and prod at their respective best friends, and try to get some proof of their feelings - that was more Percy’s job than his, Will had already told him that he had a crush on Nico.

They didn’t know what they would do if the time came when Percy would get Nico to admit that he liked Will, but that was a conversation for another day.

As he dropped his keys on the table, his phone vibrated in his pocket. His face lit up when he saw the name on the screen, and the accompanying text.

Percy.

 


 

The second he closed the door behind him he sank to the floor and pulled his knees up to his chest. He took a deep breath and he finally let the memory play in his head.

Every touch he remembered seemed to be branded into his skin; Nico’s little nudge with his elbow, the firm pats on the back to help his cough, the way Nico’s fingers clamped down on his shoulders, and most of all, the kiss.

He had honestly thought that he’d made an ass out of himself during the… He didn’t even know what to call it. Afterparty? Get-together? Hangout? It didn’t even matter.

Twice he’d managed to get the whole room look up at him as if he’d grown two heads.
Twice he’d wanted to die of embarrassment. And while Nico had saved him the first time with that laugh that couldn’t be described as anything but joyful, but by the second time Jason had evidently had enough of his antics and wanted to get out of there shortly after.

Everything had pointed to a lame end to his evening, but the opposite had proven to be true.

I had fun tonight.

Did he really mean that? Maybe Nico was just saying that because the embarrassment on his face could probably still be seen on Mars.

He supposed that in between the blushing and the awkwardness, the evening had been fun. At least he’d gotten Nico to laugh, and that was worth any and all humiliation Will might have felt.

And then the kiss happened. Gods, what he wouldn’t give for that to happen again. And again. And again.

It had just been a simple, chaste peck on the lips that might have lasted a few milliseconds longer than any peck had business lasting, but to him, it was as if all the planets had aligned right then and there. For one small moment the world had stopped turning.

But he had to be rational about this. It was just a kiss. It could mean anything. Did it mean Nico actually liked him that way? He didn’t think so. Nico’d had plenty to drink as well. Maybe he was just an affectionate drunk. And then there was Jason.

Maybe he was sitting here trying to read too much into a kiss that meant a whole lot to him and absolutely nothing to the other man.

See you next time, Will.

Would it be smart to even let there be a next time? He couldn’t let himself get his hopes up.
Would Nico even want to see him? What if Nico woke up tomorrow and regretted the whole thing? What if Will went to see another show and Nico wanted nothing to do with him?

He’d have to think long and hard about this, and make a decision once he got his head out of the clouds.

He didn’t want to get his heart broken over a stupid crush and one kiss. He shouldn’t make it out to be more than it was.

It was just a kiss, and maybe that was all he would ever need. A sweet memory to hold on to for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

Two weeks.

For two whole weeks, Will hadn’t allowed himself to think of anything other than his schoolwork.

He’d given himself the whole day after the last Thrice Greek show to figure out what he was going to do next, and he hadn’t been able to figure it out. He still didn’t know what to make of the kiss and what it meant, if it had any meaning at all.

So he did the one thing that seemed right at that point. He dove headfirst into the pile of work he had to have finished by Christmas.

Christmas was a little over three weeks away, and he was running out of assignments. At this rate, he’d have everything done with a lot of time to spare. He wouldn’t even need to work on anything over the holidays if he kept this up.

Cecil had stopped by a couple of times, but as soon as he’d brought up the topic of Thrice Greek, Will had managed to find an excuse to get his friend out of there.

Every now and then he would glance at the cork board on his wall, where he’d pinned the laminate. It made feelings of sadness rise up in him like bile after a bad meal.

The jury was still out on what he’d do. Every night, before bed, he’d allow himself a few minutes to think about it, and see if he could come to a decision.

If he stopped going, he’d have the kiss forever. 

He didn’t know what to expect if he went to another show. There were so many different outcomes that his brain had stopped trying to process all of them.

But there was one thing that scared him enough to keep him from making a decision: There was a very real possibility that Nico would pretend it never happened.

Even the thought of that drove a dagger into his heart. At the very least he had the kiss to remember, and he wasn’t sure if he would be willing to risk that memory.

He’d figure it out eventually. Maybe by now Nico had forgotten all about him, and maybe that was for the best. For now, he’d finish the rest of his quickly diminishing stack of work.


 

A couple hours had passed and the sun had already set when there was a knock on his door. Ever since Nico had been the one on the other side all those weeks ago, the mere sound was enough to set Will’s nerves on edge. He knew Nico had no reason to come to his apartment again, but he couldn’t help but silently hoping that when he’d open the door he’d find him standing there.

It had lead to him always checking his appearance in the mirror before he’d answer the door, to avoid looking like he’d just rolled out of bed.

He should have known that it was Cecil.

His friend simply pushed past him and walked into the room, flopping down on his couch with one of those grins on his face. “Got plans for tonight, Will?”

Will frowned. It had been a while since he’d allowed himself a night off to go do something with his friend. It was getting around dinnertime, so maybe they could go somewhere to eat. “I have to finish my coursework, but I have some time if you want to grab something to eat.”

He might have imagined it, but he thought he saw a familiar glint in Cecil’s eyes. He’d seen it before; his friend was up to something.

“Dinner sounds good, I know just the place! Now get out of those sweatpants because I’m not going out with you dressed like that.”

More frowning. Why couldn’t he just go in his sweatpants? It wasn’t like they ever went to a fancy place. Most likely they’d end up grabbing some junk food on campus somewhere.

He wasn’t going to question it, however. In the past two weeks, all he’d done was go to class and work on his projects in nothing but sweats and oversized hoodies. He’d been keeping himself too busy to worry about his appearance, so he’d let his facial hair grow out, and by now even he had to admit that it was starting to look ridiculous.

He needed a reason to get dressed up, and even if it was just to go get burgers with his friend, he was glad that Cecil had given him one.

His stomach rumbled as he changed into a fresh pair of clothing. He debated just going out like this but decided to quickly step into his bathroom to shave off the patchy-looking beard that Cecil mockingly called his face-fungus.

He stepped out of the bathroom looking and feeling like a new person, and found Cecil holding his coat out to him. “We have to hurry, dude.”

Why would they have to hurry to grab dinner? It was starting to make less and less sense by the minute.

He shrugged his coat on and made sure that his wallet was in his bag when he went after Cecil, who had stepped out a minute earlier to hail a cab.


 

“This isn’t the way to campus. Where are we going?” Will was truly getting suspicious by now; they wouldn’t have to drive for over twenty minutes to get food. He lived in New York, you couldn’t take two steps without running into a food cart or bistro.

“You’ll see. Don’t worry, you’ll love it!” Cecil smiled at him, but quickly averted his gaze again.

They rode on in silence, and after about ten more minutes, they pulled up to… The Apollo Theater? Surely this wasn’t their actual destination. The building looked closed and all the lights were off, which was unusual.

Still, Cecil got out of the cab and motioned for Will to do the same. They approached the building and Will watched Cecil dig around in his bag for something.

As they got closer, he noticed that one of the doors was open, and there was a woman standing by it holding a clipboard. The whole situation suddenly felt eerily familiar, and before they got too close to the woman it all clicked in place for Will.

Just two weeks ago he’d been the one holding the clipboard. Cecil was taking him to a Thrice Greek show. He should have seen it coming, why hadn’t he?

“Are you kidding me, Cecil?” Will wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. The decision that he’d mulled over so many times in the past few weeks had apparently been made for him.

Cecil only smirked, and pulled a well-known piece of plastic from his bag and handed it to Will. The bastard must’ve taken it off his memo board while he was in the bathroom.

That left the question of how Cecil was going to get in. Surely he’d have told Will if he’d won tickets? And even if he had, they wouldn’t have needed the laminate.

He was starting to get nervous. He was certain that the band wouldn’t play in the Apollo, he’d have seen it listed with the rest of the tour dates. It could only mean that this was another acoustic show. He’d heard that they would be held in and around random parts of town.

He looked dejectedly at the guest pass that would determine his fate tonight. He still didn’t know if it would allow him entry to shows such as these, but he guessed that Cecil wouldn’t let him turn back around now, so the only way forward was to try and see.

His heart was beating in his throat when they came up to the woman.

“Hi,” Cecil said in a chipper tone. “I’m Cecil and I should be on the guestlist.”

The woman mumbled something as she went over the list of names on her clipboard and smiled when she apparently found Cecil’s name and crossed it out. She wished him a good show and let him walk inside, turning her attention to Will.

“I, uh, I have a guest pass,” Will managed to say, and he hoped he at least sounded a little bit confident. He held out the laminate for the woman to see, and she waved him on in with a smile on her face.

So, the laminate worked, and that question had been answered. Somewhere deep down, he’d been hoping that he wouldn’t be let in, so he could do this on another night. Any other night. He was unprepared, and he didn’t know what would await him.

As he caught up to Cecil, another question popped into his head. “Hey, how’d you get onto the guestlist?”

Cecil shrugged and kept walking. “I know old man Apollo and he owed me a favor, so…”

Jeez, the least he could do was come up with a believable story. But it didn’t look like Will was going to get the truth out of him any time soon, so he wouldn’t prod.

They came up into the foyer, where a few other people stood gathered around tables. Across the room, Will could see three barstools, with instruments surrounding them. This was it, it was really happening. In a little while, he would be face to face with Nico once again and the crowd would be too small to really blend into. He’d have nowhere to hide.

They ended up getting drinks. Will just had some water. This time he’d be sober, not letting alcohol influence him in any way, shape or form.

They stood around, waiting for the show to begin when the woman from earlier walked up to the group of people gathered in the room and clapped her hands to get their attention.

“I’m very sorry, but we’ve just learned that it’ll take a while longer for the band to start their show. Please be patient, and we’ll have them out here for you as soon as possible!”

Huh. That was weird. Not that it truly mattered, they had all the time in the world. The only thing that Will didn’t like about it was that he now had plenty of time to let his nerves play up.

They ended up listening to and talking about the music that was softly playing in the background, until Cecil looked over Will’s shoulder and perked up. He was grabbed by the arm and pulled towards a half-open door not far from where they were standing.

“Oh gods, Will. Boy, am I happy to see you! We’ve got a problem.”

He jerked himself out of Cecil’s grasp and looked up to find Percy staring at him, with concern plastered all over his face. “Wha-”

“You need to come with me, right now.” Percy quickly wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him through the doorway, away from Cecil and the group of people.

As he was lead through a hallway, he cursed whatever God was responsible for concerts, for making each and every one of the shows that he attended a unique experience. He recognized the cruel irony when he realized that it would probably be Apollo, the very same God the theater was named after.

“Where are we going?”

Percy didn’t smile, his face still had that troubled look upon it. Whatever it was, it must be serious. Not that Will knew Percy all that well, but from what he did know, Percy seemed to always have a happy-go-lucky attitude.

After a few more steps in the long hallway, Percy suddenly stopped in front of a door and threw it open. “Look who I found!”

Will could see Nico sitting inside with his back facing him, and Jason kneeling down next to him. Jason was the only one to acknowledge him, and quickly got up to rush to the doorway. “Percy, this is really not the time.”

Percy scoffed and pushed past Jason, leaving Will standing outside of the room, trying his best to smile up at Jason, who looked anything but amused.

“Did you forget? He can help!” Percy exclaimed, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “C’mon, man, it’s genius.”

Will had absolutely no idea what was going on, and he waited patiently for someone to fill him in. He felt a stab of pain go through his heart when he realized that Nico was behaving like he wasn’t even there. That answered yet another question.

Before the sadness could overwhelm him, Jason nodded his head to invite him into the room. He stepped in and the door was closed behind him. Percy seemed to be busy with Nico, so he looked up at Jason with a hopeful expression, maybe he’d finally get filled in on why he was in what seemed to be their dressing room. Again.

Jason seemed to ignore him for now and went on over to where Nico still sat, leaving Will to stand there awkwardly for a few minutes.

The band members talked amongst themselves for a few moments in hushed whispers, before Percy beckoned him closer.

When Will rounded the chair that Nico was sat upon, and saw the man clutching an ice pack to his wrist with a look of pure pain in his face, mouth twisted in a soundless snarl and his eyes forced closed.

The second Will saw the pain that Nico was in, he threw his bag off his shoulder and pulled up another chair to face Nico. “What happened?”

Someone left a bottle of water on the floor, so he tripped and fell. Broke his fall, but now his wrist hurts,” Jason explained. “I’ve told him we need to get to a hospital to get it looked at, but he doesn’t want to.”

Will frowned. It looked like it really hurt, and Nico would obviously not be able to play tonight. Back in the foyer they’d been told that the show would be running a bit late, but with the way things looked right now, the show would have to be cancelled.

Suddenly Percy coming to get him made sense, even though he wasn’t quite sure if he had ever mentioned wanting to be a doctor and knowing first aid. Maybe Cecil told him. Either way, it didn’t matter, Nico needed his help, and the least he could do was take a look at his wrist.

He gently laid a hand on Nico’s arm, making sure to stay well away from his wrist as to not hurt him. “Mind if I take a look, Nico?”

“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Jason spoke hesitantly.

From the corner of his eye he could see Percy standing up and lead Jason to the other side of the room, but he remained focused on Nico.

“Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

All nerves he might have felt before walking into the room had completely disappeared. It was like a switch had been flicked and his instincts had taken over. His head was clear, and he was calm as he could be.

Nico slowly lifted the ice pack from his arm, wincing as the weight of the ice shifted on his skin, and dropped it on the floor.

Will reached for Nico’s free hand and pulled it closer to the other one, so he could compare his wrists, to see if there was any swelling. It was definitely swollen, but it could have been a whole lot worse. He let go and sat back in his chair.

“Can you move your fingers? Try to make a fist.”

Nico wiggled his fingers around slowly, but kept his jaw firmly locked.

“That’s great, Nico. I’m going to touch your wrist, okay? I’ll be gentle.” He waited for Nico to nod his approval, before curling his hand around Nico’s injured wrist, not missing the way Nico looked at him with wary eyes.

His wrist felt warm, like a localized fever, which was concerning, considering it had been covered in ice just a few minutes ago.

“Hrm.” He thought for a moment, before lifting Nico’s arm carefully. “Move your wrist for me, Nico.” When he saw the look in the other’s eyes he quickly added “It’ll hurt, yes, but I need to know if you can.”

He could both hear and see Nico take a deep breath, staring at his arm as if it could fall off in the next second. Nico winced and hissed through bared teeth as he tried to move the sore joint. Thankfully, he was able to, but Will was worried that he was being too careful, so he took Nico’s hand in his and slowly moved his hand for him.

“Motherf-” Nico yelled out before biting down on his lip, making it clear to Will that he’d moved his hand too far.

“Sorry, sorry!” Will let go of Nico’s hand and sat back. “Well, the good news is that it doesn’t seem broken. I think it’s just a mild sprain, but you can’t be too careful. I can wrap it up in a compression bandage, but there’s no way you’re going to be able to play tonight and I’d suggest you get it x-rayed to be absolutely sure. At the very least you’re going to need to rest it for a few days.” He picked the ice pack off the floor and handed it back to Nico, who immediately wrapped it around his wrist again.

Nico looked dejected. “Well that sucks. Thanks again, Perce.”

Percy got a crestfallen look on his face and stared at the floor. “I already said I was sorry,” he mumbled. “But I got Will to help?”

“And we’re thankful for that,” Jason chimed in, with a snarky edge to his voice. “Alright, I’ll go call Reyna, tell her we need to cancel.”

He hadn’t even moved before Percy heaved a sigh. “You two are idiots. I know Will can help!”

Will was confused, but judging from the way Jason and Nico were looking at Percy he was sure that he wasn’t the only one. Percy’d gotten him here to help, and he’d helped out as best as he could. He’d just have to bandage Nico’s wrist up, but that wouldn’t help them with the show at all.

“But… I just did? I told you guys, it needs rest. You can’t rush it.”

Percy let out a groan and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Scratch that, you three are idiots.” He looked around with his eyebrows raised, gesturing with his hands as if that would make everyone catch up with his idea.

“Oh come on you guys! He-” he gestured at Will, “-can play! We all heard it the last time, right? We can do the show-”

“Whoah, whoah, whoah!” Jason and Will interrupted Percy at the same time.

“You can’t seriously-” Jason began. “-expect me to play?” Will finished.

Nico was silent, looking like he was lost in thought.

Percy rolled his eyes, and waited for Jason and Will to be quiet as well. “Think about it, okay? Just hear me out. Will, your playing was awesome two weeks ago. Do you know any of our other songs?”

Three sets of eyes were suddenly looking at him, and all the calm from a few minutes ago left his body. “Uh, yeah. I-I know a lot of them, but-”

“Okay, great! Let’s talk about how we’re going to make this happen. If we can get a quick rehearsal in we should be able to do it. We won’t have to cancel, Reyna won’t beat my ass for breaking Nico, and everything will be awesome!” The words came out of his mouth with such a large amount of confidence that it strengthened Will. Yes, he was beyond nervous but if he could get the chance to actually play with his favourite band he’d just have to get over it somehow. This was a once in many lifetimes kind of thing, so he’d take the opportunity with both hands.

Percy had a smug grin on his face as he looked around the room. “What do you guys think? Cancel, or give it a shot?”

To Will’s surprise, Nico had a small smile tugging at his lips. The singer shrugged. “Why not? Worth a try, right?”

He heard Jason sighing. “Yeah, sure. If you guys are in, so am I.”

Percy clapped his hands. “Okay, awesome! I’ll go get the guitars so we can rehearse real quick!” He dashed out of the room right after, leaving the three of them to stand around, looking dumbfounded.

“Nico,” Jason said, “You sure you’re not in too much pain?”

Nico shook his head. “I can’t play, but I can sing. I’ll be fine.”

“Hey, do you guys have a first aid kit around here? I’ve got a small one in my bag but it doesn’t have any compression bandages. If I don’t wrap this up, it’s going to hurt like hell every time you move it, Nico.”

Jason looked around. “There should definitely be one in the building. I’ll ask around for a bit. What do you need?”

He looked down at Nico’s wrist and thought for a moment. “Just the compression bandages. See if you can find some ibuprofen or some other painkiller, too.”

Jason nodded, and after exchanging a few glances with Nico, left the room.

It took him a moment to realize it, but he was now alone in the room with Nico. It only took one quick look at the other man and the memory washed over him like a tidal wave, making him turn his trademark tomato red.

“Hey,” Nico said. “Thanks, for looking at it, and stuff. It feels better already.”

That small smile was still in place, and Will found himself returning it. “It’s nothing. I’m glad to help.” He scratched at the back of his neck. “Good thing I had an exam about sprains the other day, heh.”

Nico raised an eyebrow. “Oh? You’re in med school?”

“Pre-med, actually. Med school next year.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you were around, then. I might have ended up in a splint made from duct tape and drumsticks otherwise.” Nico chuckled, and it sounded like music to Will’s ears.

Will snickered along with him. He could just imagine Percy taping drumsticks to Nico’s arm.

The room fell silent as the quiet laughter died down.

The kiss. Oh, how he wanted to bring it up. He wanted to know if Nico had meant something with it, or if it was just a drunken display of affection. Had he just been the sap that had the (mis-)fortune of being there at the right place and time, or had Nico kissed him for who he was?

He wanted to ask, but the words died in his throat.

It would be a bad time to bring it up, anyway. Jason and Percy could be back any second, and if he was going to play this show he’d need his head to stay as clear as he could get it. Maybe he’d find the courage to do so after the show. What mattered was-

“So,” Nico said, before clearing his throat. “I didn’t see you at any of the shows since… since-”

Nico was bringing it up himself? Oh, gods.

Of course Jason would choose this moment to step back into the room, clutching a first aid kit under his arm. He made his way over to the table and opened it. “I have no idea what compression stuff looks like, but there seem to be plenty of bandages in here.”

Will, grateful for the distraction, joined him at the table and took a look inside the well-stocked kit, easily spotting the rolled up bandage and taking it out.

Jason had picked up a water bottle, and handed it to Nico, along with a bottle of painkillers. “There you go, bud.”

As Nico popped a pill into his mouth and chased it down with a half a bottle of water, Will sat down in front of him again.

“Give me your wrist.” He waited patiently for Nico to put the bottle down and hold his wrist up between the two of them.

As he started wrapping the bandages around Nico’s forearm, Jason started talking again. “So, let’s talk setlist. We’ve rehearsed ten songs and we’re supposed to play about six or seven, but let’s go with six. Any songs you can play best?”

Will told Jason all the songs that he could play, all the while making sure that the bandages wouldn’t be too tight. He held Nico’s fingers in the palm of his hand without a second thought, but it felt nice. He just wished that he wouldn’t be doing this because Nico was hurt.


 

Nico’s wrist had been bandaged, and they had managed to come to an agreement about the setlist. Percy had walked in carrying both Jason’s and Nico’s guitars, and soon enough they were sitting down to quickly rehearse the songs.

Will was trying not to have a freakout about getting to play on Nico’s guitar, and trying to focus on playing. He just needed to get into the right mindset, where the world would fall away and only he and the music existed.

It was harder than usual, knowing that he was surrounded by three musicians he admired greatly, but he closed his eyes and started to play, letting the music come to him.

They wouldn’t have time to go through all of the songs from start to finish, so it was just Jason and Will, for now.

After about fifteen minutes, they had played a verse, a chorus and the bridge to every song, with Nico giving Will pointers here and there, on how to make his playing fit Jason’s chords better.

“It sounds great, I think we’re ready,” Nico said after they had finished rehearsing, and he smiled down at Will, who was starting to feel the nerves. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

He managed to nod and smile back before it really hit him what he was about to do. In a few minutes, he’d be on stage, playing with Thrice Greek. Not even in his wildest dreams could he have come up with anything resembling this.

As they started making their way down the long hallway leading back to the foyer, his arms started trembling and he slowed his pace, giving himself more time to get his nerves under control before he reached the foyer.

Jason and Percy didn’t notice and kept on walking, but Nico did, and he waited for Will to catch up to him.

“Hey,” Nico stopped him with an hand on his shoulder. “Don’t be nervous. You’re going to be great.”

Will barely managed a smile, but on the inside he was this close to having a nervous breakdown. He’d never played in front of people before, at least, not while he was aware of them. His heart was threatening to burst out of his chest, and he felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the hallway.

“Breathe, Will.” Nico’s voice was quiet and gentle. “It’s scary but once you get up there, just close your eyes and play. Pretend that they’re not even out there. It’s just you and the guitar.”

He nodded, taking a few deep breaths to steady himself. “I’ll be fine, thanks. Let’s go.”

As much as he liked Nico’s encouragements, he could only deal with one thing at once. He’d get this gig over with and then he’d have time to think about Nico and everything else. For now, he’d just do as Nico said. Keep his eyes closed, and play.

Percy and Jason had reached the end of the hallway already, and swung the door open, much to the delight of the crowd inside the foyer, if the cheers were anything to go by.

Will took a few deep breaths at the end of the hallway, giving himself a few seconds to stand there with his eyes closed, to ground himself. He imagined all his fears and nerves sinking down to the ground, and away from him. It was an old technique his brother had taught him when he was just a kid, afraid to go to school all by himself.

His eyes shot open when he felt Nico’s calloused fingers, rough from years of playing the guitar, intertwine with his own. “Remember, you’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”

And with a smile and a squeeze of his hand, Nico let go and stepped into the foyer.

Chapter Text

Will stood in the hallway, frozen to the ground. What was he thinking? He couldn’t do this.

The warmth of Nico’s hand still stuck to his skin, and it was too much. What did it mean? Was it just a friendly gesture of comfort? Did it mean he actually liked Will?

It was the kiss all over again, and everything he had tried so hard not to think about. And here, at this moment, in this hallway, right before he would go out there, it all became too much.

He could see the band up on the stage already, looking at him with confused expressions on their face. All he could do was look back, like a deer caught in headlights and shake his head.

No, I can’t do this.

He saw Nico jump off his barstool and make his way over.

Please, not now. Not you.

He closed his eyes, and let himself lean against the wall.

I should never have come here. This was a mistake.

He knew full well that it was stupid to bury himself in schoolwork. He should have processed it, he should have talked to someone, anyone, about it. And now it was too late.

Burying his hands in his hair, he let out a strangled noise. He tugged at his locks in frustration, and banged the back of his head against the wall.

Before he knew it, hands wrapped around his wrists and pulled his hands away from his hair.

“Walk with me, Will.”


 

See? This is why he hadn’t thought it was a good idea. You don’t just pressure people into playing along with you.

No matter how Percy would spin it, he knew that pressured was the right word for it. His bandmate hadn’t given Will much of a choice. Any fan would have said yes.

He wasn’t stupid, he could see what Percy was trying to do. And while Percy’s intentions were good enough, he hadn’t been sure if this was a good idea from the beginning.

He’d strangle Percy later. There was a time and a place for that, and this definitely wasn’t either.

He could see it. A few steps away from the door stood Will, with a familiar expression on his face that made a wave of sadness wash over him. He’d seen that expression so many times, but never really on another person. He could see the trembling of Will’s hands even from this distance.

The poor kid looked so stressed, like all it would take for him to blow over was a gust of wind.

He was elbowed in the ribs by Percy, who nodded at the doorway. “Do something,” Percy hissed under his breath.

For just a moment, he was torn. He didn’t know the kid that well, and he was sure that Will’s friend was around. He didn’t even know if he wanted Will around and letting him make a fool out of himself and have a terrible night might just be the perfect way to get him out of the picture.

The next moment he wanted to punch himself in the face for even allowing that thought to surface. It wasn’t a matter of liking Will. He wasn’t a stranger to panic, and he had firsthand experience with what it could do. He had to do something, and he needed to stop acting like a jealous asshole, even in his own thoughts.

He nodded at Percy, who was holding Nico by the wrist and made his way over to the hallway, where Will was looking even more upset than he had half a minute ago.

When Will started pulling at his hair, Jason decided that enough was enough, and he grabbed him by the wrists to stop him from doing so.

Will’s eyes shot open, and he tried his best to look as calm and non-threatening as he could.

“Walk with me, Will.”


 

Oh no. This wasn’t good. Not good at all.

Poor Will looked to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Not that he considered himself an expert, but he’d seen them happen before.

Maybe he had pushed the guy too far.

Percy wanted to go check up on him, but like all those times where Nico had been in that situation, Jason was probably the most qualified to handle it.

It was another gamble that he would have to take. Either Jason was going to end up strangling Will to reinforce his alpha-male status and claim Nico as his prize, or something good might come of it. Who knew.

What he did know - well, he didn’t know so much as make an educated guess - was that Nico was not the person to talk to Will right now. If he had to guess, the reason why Will was bordering on a nervous wreck right now was two parts nervousness and one part Nico.

If his friend thought that he hadn’t just seen that little squeeze Nico had given Will’s hand, he was sorely mistaken. But he would have to save that talk for another time.

He caught Nico by the wrist after his bandmate had jumped off his barstool to run over to Will. “Hang on,” he told him. He quietly thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t end up grabbing the bandaged wrist, otherwise he’d probably be sporting a black eye right now.

He elbowed Jason in the ribs and told him to do something, before tugging sharply at Nico’s wrist and let go, hoping that Nico got the message. Don’t go anywhere.

He bit back his sigh of relief when Jason walked offstage and into the hallway, closing the door behind him. Nico was giving him a look of utter disbelief, but he only turned his head to the crowd, making sure that one of his million-dollar smiles was on his face.

“We’re sorry! Nico here injured himself, and we’ve had some trouble finding a replacement for him, so right now we’re unable to play.”

The crowd broke out in whispers, and he caught sight of one very confused-looking Cecil.

“We’ll be back as soon as we possibly can, but we promise to figure something out. For now, drinks are on me!”

A cheer rose from the crowd, and he flashed Cecil a thumbs up. He didn’t have the time, right now, but he’d have to remember to send the guy a text later.

When he looked back, he saw that Nico had already made his way off the stage and was coming up near the door. He broke out into a sprint and caught him just before Nico could pull it open. “Nico, stop.”

“What’s your fucking problem, Percy?” Nico growled.

Okay, maybe he had to explain himself.

“Just… Give me one second.” He opened the door and peeked inside, finding the hallway empty. “Come with me.”

They made their way to the dressing room in silence. Shortly before they the door, Nico stopped.

“Where’s Will? And why did you stop me?” Nico was frowning, and Percy could tell that he was in for a long overdue conversation.

“Jason’s with Will,” Percy said as he pushed the door open and stepped inside. For now, he was just going to pretend that he hadn’t heard the second question.

“Why Jason? I really don’t think that’s a good idea, Perce. I don’t think they really... get along.

Nico closed the door and let himself fall onto the couch, where Percy joined him a few seconds later.

“Okay, okay,” Percy sighed. “I think- I think Will’s panicking because of you.” He was sure that Nico was going to hit him, so he angled his body away from him, so that if Nico did it, he wouldn’t get socked in the face. Again.

Nico just blinked at him, as if he’d talked to him in ancient Greek or something.

“M-me?”

Percy ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “Yes. You. Don’t take me for an idiot, Nico. I know what’s going on.”

Nico crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned back against the armrest. “Oh, really? Do tell, Percy. What exactly is going on?”

Of course Nico was going to make him spell it out.

“You like Will,” he held up his hands when he saw the angry look on Nico’s face. “Let me finish first, then you can hit me later.” Another deep breath. “And Will likes you.

Nico scoffed. “What gave you that idea?”

“Did I not just say not to take me for an idiot? I’ve got eyes, Nico. And a brain. Sometimes I actually use it, too,” he deadpanned. “I’ve seen the way you look at him. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”

Nico raised an eyebrow. “That’s it? So, because I think he’s hot, you think I’m in love? Please, Percy. I’m not a teenager any more.”

“Really? You’re only twenty-one-”

“I’m not a kid, and besides, I’m almost twenty-two.”

Percy sighed deeply and glared at Nico. “You don’t get to pull the ‘I’m not a kid’-card just yet. Anyway, that’s not the point. You’re forgetting that for a long time, you used to look at me the same way, so I can tell.”

Nico pursed his lips. Percy could tell that he was getting angry. “Why the fuck would you bring that up?”

Percy groaned. Nico was about as receptive to this conversation as he’d thought he’d be. “I’m just saying that it’s okay. Just be honest, Neeks. Jason’s not here, so forget all about him for a moment.” He sat up straight. “Now, what’s the deal with Will?”

It was silent for a minute. Nico was gnawing on his lip so fiercely that Percy was starting to worry that he’d bite clean through it, but he kept quiet. He couldn’t force Nico to talk about this, and he wasn’t even going to try. Whatever it was, it needed to come from Nico, and Nico alone.

Nico let out a sigh. “I-I don’t know…”

Percy nodded, but kept quiet.

“I kissed him, the last time…” Nico’s voice was but a whisper. “I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have… It’s just-” Nico rubbed his hands over his face, shaking his head. “I don’t even know if he likes me that way. I-I don’t even know if I like him that way.”

Nico had kissed Will? That was new. Whatever, he couldn’t dwell on this right now, and he absolutely could not jump onto the couch and pump his fist in triumph because he’d been right all along.

All this time he’d gone off on the way Nico had looked at Will, and the way he seemed to be more comfortable around him than around others, but to hear Nico say it… It was good to have some sort of confirmation, even though Nico hadn’t sorted his feelings out.

“Okay. I’ll stop sticking my nose in your business, but promise me one thing.” Percy laid a hand on Nico’s shoulder, which made the other man look up. “You come talk to me if you need to get things off your chest. Don’t bottle this stuff up.”

He got off the couch and held his fist out at Nico, who bumped it with just a hint of a smile tugging at his lips.

“Okay,” Nico nodded.

Percy smiled his brightest smile. “Good. And for what it’s worth, I think Will is a great guy.” Opening the dressing room door again, he stepped out. “Now come on, let’s see if we can find Jason.”


 

“Feeling better?”

He was leaning against the wall next to Will. Just a few minutes ago he’d taken the man outside to get some fresh air, but it didn’t seem to help all that much. Will was still frowning, his hands were still trembling, and he hadn’t said a word.

To answer Jason’s question, Will just shook his head.

Jason sighed. He had nothing in common with Will, and if what Percy kept saying was true - and he guessed it had been proven true the last time they met, when Nico and Will had been flirting up a storm - Will wanted what he couldn’t have. He didn’t really want to get to know him, either.

It was tiring. You couldn’t help who you fell for, and it would be wrong to put any blame whatsoever on Will. He couldn’t help but wonder if meeting with Will was the catalyst that drove Nico to end his relationship with Jason once and for all, and wonder what would have happened if Will hadn’t come along. Would he still have had a chance at happiness with Nico?

He promised himself after hitting Percy that he wouldn’t let these thoughts consume him. It was bad for him, and he didn’t want to turn out bitter. He’d meant what he’d said; Will seemed like a good guy, and he couldn’t hate him. It didn’t mean that he had to make an effort to get to know him, though.

Yet here he was, tasked with calming Will down. He supposed that he should be happy that Percy had asked him instead of Nico - and even holding Nico back so he couldn’t.

“You don’t have to do it, you know… Play, I mean.”

Will’s head just lolled from side to side, until his eyes locked with Jason’s.

“I get it. It’s scary to get up on stage. Believe me, I know. So don’t feel pressured.”

Will opened his mouth, but no words came out.

He’d been through this with Nico so many times, and while he’d been there early enough for Will not to spiral into a full-blown panic attack, Jason still felt bad for the guy. He looked like a puppy left out on the streets, and Jason couldn’t help but want to make sure that he felt better again.

“I- I…” Will rasped out, coughing before he could get more words out of his mouth.

Jason twisted the cap off the bottle of water that he’d grabbed on their way to the side door, and handed it to Will. “Small sips,” he advised.

Will took the bottle with a shaking hand, causing some water to spill out and run down his arm. He leaned back against the wall and huffed in frustration.

Jason shook his head and took the bottle back from Will, who immediately wiped his hand off on his jeans. He held the bottle to Will’s lips, and let him drink from it. When Will shot him an apologetic look, he smiled in understanding.

Will pulled back from the bottle, and cleared his throat. “Sorry.” His voice sounded so fragile, it made something break inside of Jason. What was he doing, hating on this kid? He wasn’t a threat.

“Don’t worry about it.” Jason patted him on the shoulder. “What’s got you so nervous, hrm?”

Will took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. “I doubt you’d want to hear any of it.”

Jason didn’t like where this was going, but he couldn’t just abandon Will in an alley just so he wouldn't get his feelings hurt. He had to be the bigger man and listen to what he had to say. “Try me.”

Will balled his hands into fists. “It’s… It’s about Nico…”

Jason flinched, and was thankful that Will had his eyes closed so he didn’t see it. Of course it would be about Nico. He was in too deep now, and so he gritted his teeth and listened.

“I mean, I-I’ve always been shy, and you guys are my favourite band… And then I met you guys for the first time and you were all so kind.” Will let out a displeased groan. “And, I’ve always kind of had a crush on Nico from afar, you know.”

Will fell silent for a moment. Jason let him gather his thoughts, and tried to let the information sink in without becoming upset. Nico was a rock star, it would be fair to say that Will wasn’t the only person out there with a crush on him. If anyone could understand why it would be easy to fall for Nico, it was Jason, and so he could sympathize, as much as he didn’t want to.

“With the panic attack, I don’t know, he showed up at my apartment the day after and I just…” He started trembling all over, which made Jason frown. It was clearly taking a lot out of Will, just telling the story.

Jason laid a hand on Will’s shoulder. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “Take your time.”

“Ever since then I’ve been wondering if we maybe have a connection or something.” His voice was starting to sound more and more strained, and Jason was bracing himself for what would inevitably come later.

Will shrugged. “Maybe that’s stupid. It’s all stupid. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. I keep getting these mixed signals from him and it’s eating me up. I can’t even talk to my friend about it because it’d end up in the tabloids and I promised Nico that I’d keep it from the press.”

That was true. If Jason was being honest, he had to admit that he hadn’t even thought about that possibility. Even after everything that happened - Nico’s panic attack, Nico going over to Will’s apartment, getting a guest pass, and even staying after a show to drink with the band - he had yet to read a single word about it. It would have been so easy for Will to go to the media, but he hadn’t. As the realization hit Jason, he found himself respecting Will all the more.

He looked up to see Will blinking desperately to keep the tears from welling up in his eyes.

“I just don’t know what to think. I really like him, but not knowing if he likes me is driving me insane. I haven’t had a good night of sleep in two weeks because he just had to go and kiss me-”

“Wait,” Jason said. “He kissed you?”

Will nodded, and he squeezed his eyes closed, making a few tears roll down his cheek. “Yeah, and I just don’t know if he did it because he was drunk, or if he was just messing with me, and I don’t want to think about it, but then he sort of mentioned it earlier, and I was nervous about the stupid show already and that made it even worse, because I’d tried so hard not to think about it for the past two weeks, and-” he sobbed. “And then it all came up again, and he took my hand before going onstage and-” he was drawing heaving breaths, now, and Jason gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze.

“I-I just froze. It’s driving me insane, and I just can’t do this…” Will couldn’t stop the tears from flowing now, and he pressed his palms onto his forehead. “And now here I am-” he sobbed. “Confessing my stupid crush on your boyfriend.”

It was a lot to take in for Jason. A lot. But right now, he had to be strong, and he was going to help Will as best as he could. Will deserved it.

And besides, helping people always made him feel good. He briefly thought back to that afternoon he’d spent in Central Park, after he’d had his big fight with Nico, and how he’d thought about his future, and how he wanted to help people. Making a difference in people's lives made him feel amazing, and if he could make a difference for Will, right now, he would do it. Especially if it meant just showing a little kindness.

Will was slumped against the wall, tears streaming down his face. His whole body jerked with his sobs.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Jason felt a little uncomfortable even thinking about it, since he hardly knew the guy, but he pulled Will into a hug. “It’s okay, man. Let it out.”

He kept whispering gentle words of reassurance into Will’s shaggy hair, that - due to the way Will’s head rested on his shoulder - tickled at his cheek.

Standing there, with Will in his arms, gently swaying them in a comforting manner, gave him some time to think about everything he’d just heard.

Percy had been right all along. It hadn’t been difficult to believe that Will liked Nico, but it had been harder to believe that Nico liked Will. Even after the awkward flirting two weeks ago, he’d been in denial about the whole thing.

But now he learned that Nico had kissed Will, and it changed everything. While Will feared that Nico may have been toying with him, Jason knew that Nico would never do such a thing. Or well, maybe he would, but at the very least he would be bragging about it, Percy-style.

No, the fact that neither Jason - and because Percy had left the subject alone ever since that night - nor Percy knew about the kiss, made Jason realize that there had to be at least something.

He shouldn’t guess at Nico’s feelings, but he was starting to realize that the possibility of Nico falling for someone else was a definite reality now. He’d made a promise to himself to never stand in the way of Nico’s happiness - even if that happiness was with someone else - so he wasn’t going to interfere. Not anymore.

As he shook himself out of his thoughts, he realized that Will’s sobs were just sniffles now. He grimaced at the cold creeping into the wet patch of his t-shirt when Will lifted his head from his shoulder.

He let Will step out of his embrace, and smiled sympathetically at him. “Feeling better?”

Will sniffled and nodded. His eyes were red and watery, but he didn’t seem as tense as before. Maybe he really just needed to get everything off his chest.

Jason picked up the bottle of water and handed it to Will, who took it and drank about half of it eagerly.

“I’m sorry,” Will mumbled.

Jason shook his head. “Don’t be. We all have our breaking points, and after what you’ve just told me, I completely understand. It’s okay, Will.”

Will looked like he was going to start crying all over again. “I really wish I could just go to one of your shows and not have anything happen, you know?” He chuckled sadly.

Jason took the bottle from Will and drank the rest in one go. He hadn’t realized that he was so thirsty, and he really needed to keep his throat from going dry if he was going to have to perform later.

He patted Will on the back. “It’s the unique Thrice Greek gig experience.” He managed a smile. “It’s only for special fans.”

Jason sighed. “Hey, about what you said… I can’t speak for Nico, but try not to worry about it all that much. Nico’s just as shy as you are. And,” he sighed. “And he’s not my boyfriend. Not-not anymore anyway.”

He couldn’t believe that he had just said that, but Will had actually managed to grow on him a bit with his little outburst. “You ready to go inside?”

Will nodded. “Thanks. You know, for every-everything.”

Jason nodded. It hadn’t exactly been his pleasure, but it hadn’t been the exact opposite either. He had some mixed feelings, and after tonight he’d have a lot of soul searching to do, but for now, the knowledge that he’d helped someone out of their funk was reward enough.


 

While they searched the other dressing rooms for Jason and Will, Percy and Nico had talked some more, and Percy had confessed to Nico that he had seen them holding hands for a moment. He’d explained to Nico that he thought that Will had panicked because of that. It had been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

He had no way of knowing for sure, though. Will might just have been overwhelmed with stage fright.

He couldn’t help but feel a little bit responsible for Will having a near-breakdown. Okay, a whole lot. Nico had gotten hurt because he had been a slob, and while it was in no way his intention for Nico to get hurt, he had quickly found a way to turn the situation to his advantage.

He hadn’t thought about the consequences, and now everything was a mess. He hadn’t thought about how Will might find it terrifying to go up on stage.

If he was being honest, he had to confess that he hadn’t known about Will’s medical training. Another lucky coincidence, that had led to another misunderstanding.

Percy would simply have to remember to apologize to Will. He hadn’t meant for any of this to happen when he’d put Cecil on the guest list for the show. He’d conspired with Cecil and Cecil had promised him to drag Will along, but that had been the extent of their scheming.

As Percy and Nico rounded the corner, they could see Jason and Will coming towards them, and Percy was happy to see that Will looked a lot more like himself, and less like Nico on a bad day.

“There you are!”

Will smiled up at the pair. It was a weak smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Percy was surprised to see that Jason looked relaxed as well. It was great to see. Usually, whenever Jason was around Will, he acted like he had an icicle up his ass, but that seemed to have finally melted.

Nico cleared his throat. “So, what are we going to do?”

Jason turned to Will, who nodded. “I can play. If-if you still want me to, that is.”

Percy honestly hadn’t expected that. He’d been ready to call Reyna and explain to her that they’d have to cancel the show after pushing the start time back by two whole hours, because he’d been too dumb to really think things through. It wouldn’t have been a pleasant conversation at all.

“Are you sure? Like, really, really sure? Because if for whatever reason you don’t want to, or can’t, you can tell us. Don’t feel forced into this.” Percy felt like he couldn’t emphasize it enough. Will didn’t deserve to pay for his mistakes. If Will was truly okay to go onstage, he’d support him all the way through and it would be fun, but he didn’t want to put him through hell.

Will nodded, and his smile widened. “I can do this. I want to do this.”

“Everyone cool with it?”

Jason immediately nodded, and just what had happened while Nico and he were away? Percy wanted to grab his friend by the shoulders and shake him. Who are you and what have you done with Jason?

This was good. After everything that had gone wrong over the course of the evening, things were finally looking up now.

He turned to Nico, who had a small smile playing on his lips. “I can’t wait.”

Percy grinned, and held out his fist to bump for Nico and Jason, but as he got to Will he swung an arm around the man and they started towards the foyer.

“Okay, we’re good to go! Come on, Will. We have a show to play, and just for tonight you’re the Fourth Greek.”

Chapter Text

“As you may have noticed, we have a fourth person up on stage with us today.” Percy told the crowd.

Just a minute ago, they had finally made it into the foyer, after the band had asked him one final time if he was truly okay with it.

He appreciated their concerns, but after his little meltdown earlier, most of his tension seemed to have drained from him, and whatever nervousness was left had been reduced to a faint thrum in the back of his mind.

There were a lot of things that needed to be done, but they could wait until after the show. Right now, he felt good. He was about to get the opportunity of a lifetime, and he wouldn’t let it go to waste.

“So, because Nico got hurt and can’t play, we’ve invited a friend to come play with us. He’s awesome at playing the guitar, and you’ll like him just as much as we do. Give it up for our friend Will, and enjoy the show, guys!” Percy beamed at the crowd before sitting down on the extra barstool they had added to the set-up.

Because of the semicircular setup, Will wasn’t facing the crowd head on, for which he was grateful. He wasn’t about to tempt fate, so having a valid excuse for looking away from the crowd was a good thing.

Another benefit was that Nico was sitting directly in his line of sight. Okay, yes, maybe that was tempting fate a little bit, but if he had to choose between facing a crowd or facing Nico, he’d go for the latter choice any day of the week.

He could also see Jason, which was useful, as they needed to make sure to start the song at the same time, and this way he could take visual clues from Jason.

He felt Percy pat him on the back one last time before he pulled the guitar’s strap over his head and settled the instrument in his lap. He stole a quick glance at Nico, and the man looking at him with a soft smile on his face. He could see the question in Nico’s eyes. Are you okay?

They hadn’t really spoken to each other since earlier in the evening, when Will had bandaged his wrist. It was a good thing; Will didn’t want to let his nerves get the better of him, and he didn’t want to put the calm in his head at risk.

He nodded at Nico, mirroring the man’s small smile before shifting his gaze to Jason, who signaled him and tapped his thumb against the wood of his guitar, setting the rhythm for the first song they were going to play. After the fourth tap he started bobbing his head along, and on the count of three, Will started playing.

He was relieved to hear that he was playing in sync with Jason, and as they played the intro to the song he closed his eyes and let the music take over.

He didn’t open his eyes until he heard Nico’s beautiful voice cut through the music. He nearly screwed up the next chords, but quickly pulled himself together. If Jason’s expression was anything to go by, he’d managed to do so before anyone could hear.

Heading westwards towards the sun
Where we’re going everything comes undone
We were lost from the start
We won’t be here when the rest falls apart

There had always been quite some distance between Nico and himself during shows, but now that he was so close that he could basically reach out and touch Nico if he wanted to, Nico’s voice sounded more amazing than he’d ever heard.

There were no microphones, no electronic barrier between Nico’s voice and Will’s ears. It was pure, raw, and undeniably beautiful. He could almost hear the emotion that Nico poured into the lyrics.

But oh, I can tell
Your words, so well
And all I can say
Is that I
I’m sorry, sorry

Seeing Nico without a guitar was rather weird. Even the man himself looked like he didn’t know what to do with his hands. Without a microphone to hold on to, he just clutched his injured wrist like it was a lifeline. Will wanted to take his hand and tell the man to stop squeezing at an injured joint, but he was a little preoccupied.

As the first song came to an end, someone ruffled his hair. Of course it was Percy, who leaned in not even half a second later to whisper “Good job” in his ear.

When he leaned back he could see Nico looking at him with a soft smile on his face, but as soon as he smiled back, Nico turned his head away. Was he blushing? Will didn’t know. It was pretty warm in the foyer, and he knew that Nico found performing quite stressful.

Jason cleared his throat and Will was yanked from his thoughts. Right, they were playing a show. He had to focus on that.


He’d stopped caring about what anyone might think about his playing about half a minute into the second song. He was here, this was happening, and he was going to have fun and not let his nerves ruin everything. Sure, he’d probably find something to regret afterwards, but for now, all that mattered was that he was sitting close to Nico, playing on the man’s guitar, playing an actual show with Thrice Greek.

It was amazing to Will, that after playing the same songs night in, night out, Nico still managed to sing them with emotion. He didn’t quite know how it all worked, but Will had always thought that doing the same thing over and over again would make it boring, or at the very least a routine. It was yet another thing that set Nico apart from the rest.

By now they had played the first five songs on their list, and Jason was currently thanking the crowd for coming, and apologizing for the show starting later. He briefly heard his own name but he was too busy smiling like an idiot at Nico to notice what the man was saying.

It was just an acoustic show, and the songs were played slower than they would at a regular gig, but Will was still chock-full of adrenaline. He didn’t know why he’d been so nervous before, this was nothing short of great. Terrifying, but wonderful, like being on a rollercoaster.

They had one more song to play, and then it would be over. He had the pleasure of playing the intro for the next song all on his own, before Jason would join him four bars in.

He looked to Jason for a countdown, completely forgetting that it was up to him to set the pace this time. Jason chuckled quietly, but started tapping his thumb against his guitar again.


“Will!”

After the four of them had stepped off the stage, Will suddenly found himself with Cecil, who had thrown his arms around Will’s shoulders.

“I can’t believe you just did that! Oh my gods, I can’t believe it, Will. How was it? You were awesome.”

Will tried to pry Cecil off him, but his friend wouldn’t budge. He just kept his arms around Will, all the while hopping excitedly.

“I have never seen anything more awesome! Oh! Oh! You have to see this!”

Cecil finally get go of Will, and started digging around in his pockets. He pulled out his phone and began tapping and swiping away at the screen. After a few seconds, he let out a triumphant ‘A-ha!’ and held the phone up so Will could see… himself?

The runtime of the video was 33:51, so it seemed like Cecil had taped the whole thing.

“I got all of it,” Cecil confirmed. “I’m SO going to send this to everyone we know. Oh, do you think I should send it to your parents?”

“Cecil,” Will started. “Calm down. Let’s just put the phone away for a second and think about how I just played a show with Thrice Greek.” He lost all color in his face. “I actually just did that. Pinch me.”

Cecil grinned devilishly, and before Will knew it, Cecil had actually pinched his side, which caused him to yelp loudly.

“Ow, damn it! Dude! It was an expression!” Will exclaimed, frowning and rubbing at his arm.

He was saved by a tap on the shoulder. When he turned around, he came face to face with a blonde woman he’d never seen before.

“Hey.”

Will smiled, and returned the greeting.

“I just wanted to say that you played really well.”

Will’s cheeks immediately flushed. “Wow. Really? I-I mean, thank you!” His face was already starting to hurt from smiling so much.

Before he could say anything else, the girl had turned around with a wave of her hand, and was walking over to the table where the band members had gathered. Will saw Percy perk up and step away from the group before enveloping the girl in a hug.


Nico was happy that the meet and greet was over. It had been a long night.

It was supposed to be a short show, starting at nine, but with everything that had been going on, the show hadn’t started until a quarter past eleven.

It was just after one am now, and he was dead on his feet. It wasn’t that the show had taken a lot out of him, but the events before they went on stage had almost drained him.

The conversation with Percy had forced him to think about Will. Not that he’d been able to think about anything else from the moment he’d laid eyes on him tonight, but Percy’s little talk had forced him to put things in perspective.

He had honestly tried to keep the whole Will situation under wraps. For Jason’s sake, Will’s sake, and his own. This was one thing he hated about being in a band. Being around his band mates 24/7 was great, but it left him with very little privacy. He usually didn’t care a whole lot about such things, but it would certainly help in this situation.

Whatever was going on, and whatever might or might not happen, he really wanted to work it out on his own, but that was going to be damn near impossible. He also had to take Jason’s feelings into account. If it was going somewhere, the least he could do was make sure that he wouldn’t rub it in Jason’s face.

He was sure that Percy hadn’t believed him when he’d said that he wasn’t sure about his feelings for Will. He didn’t know if there were any feelings to speak of, except for a strong physical attraction. He could see himself liking Will. He was a friendly, charming, and kind person with a passion for music. Not to mention that he was someone who could understand how Nico felt in regards to the loss of his sister.

He clutched his wrist and rubbed at the bandage. It had hurt like hell when he’d fallen down, but somehow Will had managed to take a great deal of the pain away. Nico had planned on going through with the show, but Jason had forbidden him from doing so, while Percy had already been typing on his phone; probably looking up how to splint a wrist.

He honestly didn’t know where to take it from here. After he’d kissed Will, he hadn’t seen the man at any of their shows, and he’d drawn his conclusions from that. Will hadn’t wanted the kiss and was avoiding the band. The end.

But then he had shown up tonight, and as luck would have it, a strange turn of events had led to the two of them being on the same stage.

Will’s playing had been amazing. With a little practice, he was sure that Will could have gone on a tour of his own.

He’d tried to hide the fact that during the show, he’d kept on sneaking glances at the man beside him, but he was sure that Will had caught him peeking more than once. Their eyes met, and both would look away, blushing like a couple of teengers.

The glances, the blushing, the kiss, Percy’s hunch, Jason’s jealousy, the lingering touches. On the surface it was all circumstantial evidence, and he didn’t know what to make of any of them. Each had positive and negative interpretations.

But if he looked at everything together, he realized that it all did point to the fact that maybe Will liked him in return. Perhaps it was just an attraction on Will’s side, but he had something to go on. Something to build confidence on.

It was pointless to worry about the future at this point. All he had was here and now, and right now he was nearly certain that the attraction was mutual.

As he looked around, he saw Will break away from Percy, Jason, and Will’s friend, and make his way towards the hallway.

When Will had disappeared through the door, Nico threw a quick glance at his band mates. They weren’t paying him any attention, and he quickly started down the hallway, only barely stopping himself from sprinting.

Right outside the door to their dressing room, he caught up to Will and grabbed his hand to get him to stop. Will did, and whirled around with wide eyes that got even wider when he saw that it was Nico that had stopped him.

A few seconds passed with just the two of them staring at each other before Nico realized that he was still holding Will’s hand, and more importantly, it dawned on him that Will hadn’t let go and didn’t look uncomfortable.

He’d shelve his thoughts for later; any regrets would have to wait.

Squeezing Will’s hand, he put a smile on his face and forced himself to keep looking into those bright blue eyes that still looked so vivid, even in the dim light of the hallway.

Will’s hand was trembling, but he didn’t look away or let go, so Nico did the only thing that he could think of; he leaned in and pressed his lips to Will’s.

It was just the barest touch of their lips, but this time Nico didn’t plan on walking away right after. He was going to face whatever he had coming. He wanted to be there to see the reaction on Will’s face, even if it wasn’t the one he was looking for. He had to know how Will felt.

His heart raced, and he could feel the blood coursing through his body at the speed of sound. He was hopeful as he pulled away from Will’s lips.

Will’s eyes fluttered open and with a jolt, Nico realized that Will was letting go of his hand.

His heart sank into his stomach, and the bitter feeling of disappointment crawled up his spine until Will’s warm hands grasped his t-shirt and pulled him impossibly close.

Will’s lips crashed onto his, and it was all he could do to keep himself steady. He had a fleeting thought about finally having some clarity before it was gone, along with the rest of the world.

It was just the two of them, kissing in the hallway, pressed up against one another.

He blindly fumbled for the doorknob, and gave it a firm twist. As soon as the door opened, Nico broke the kiss and pushed Will inside, only to kick the door closed behind them.

The sounds of their heavy breaths filled the room, and they stared at each other for a moment before Nico practically jumped at Will, taking hold of his shoulder and steering him in the direction of a beat up old couch in the corner of the room, not far from where they were standing.

One, two, three paces, and the backs of Will’s knees hit the couch. Nico caught a flash of hesitation on Will’s face, but with a little shove Will fell backwards onto the couch cushions.

Before Will could say or ask anything, Nico had crawled onto his lap and cupped Will’s face for a hard kiss that made their teeth clink together. Nico’s head was spinning from sheer want as he ran the tip of his tongue across Will’s lower lip.

He ran a hand through Will’s hair when he parted his lips and their tongues met in a feverish tangle. They kissed until they were breathless and had to pull away for a moment.

Nico realized that Will’s trembling fingers were digging into the fabric of the couch. He let go of Will’s hair and cupped his cheeks, waiting for Will to meet his eyes.

“Okay?” he rasped out.

Will nodded and turned his head enough so that he could plant a soft kiss on Nico’s bandaged hand.

Nico was hit with a wave of affection and he leaned back in for another kiss, a slow and gentle one, that quickly grew heated once more.

As he ran his tongue along the roof of Will’s mouth, he felt Will’s hips buck up against his own, and the delicious friction it created was enough for Nico to take it further. He wanted and needed Will so badly right now, and he began to roll his hips against Will’s, delighting in the gasp that it drew from the man beneath him.

His hand returned to Will’s hair, and he ran the other down the length of Will’s arm, which still hung limply beside him.

Grabbing Will’s wrist as gently as he could in the heat of the moment - trying not to put too much pressure on his injured wrist - he pulled the man’s hand up to his hip. Will got the message, and in the next moment his hands were clamping down on Nico’s sides, and he could feel their warmth on his skin through the thin fabric of his shirt.

Slowly, Will started to buck up against Nico’s hips with his own, and broke away from the kiss to let out a soft appreciative grunt and gasp for air.

Nico kissed down Will’s jaw, leaving wet marks all over his skin. He slowly moved his hand from Will’s wrist, up his arm and to his shoulder, where he slipped his fingers under the collar of Will’s shirt.

His trail of kisses had taken him from Will’s cheek, to a spot just under his earlobe, and down to where his neck met his shoulder. He yanked the collar of Will’s shirt aside and latched on to the spot, grinning against the skin when Will let out a shaky moan.

He was starting to lose control of his hips. He’d meant to tease, but he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure that the friction brought, and from the sounds of it, neither could Will.

The thought about coming in his pants like a loser was gone before he’d had the chance to fully form it, and he continued grinding against Will like his life depended on it. He was getting close, his breath coming out in ragged pants.

He tightened his grip on Will’s hair and leaned in to kiss him again, a series of short pecks and mingling breaths.

Will’s heavy breathing slowly turned into a string of gasps and quiet moans against Nico’s lips. Moments later, Will shuddered and bucked his hips up against Nico’s, and that was all it took to send him over the edge.

The next few minutes were a blur. Nico had slumped against Will’s chest and could feel the man’s hammering heartbeat against his skin in a rhythm matching his own.

Nico quietly got off the couch, and only then did he notice the blooming bruise just above Will’s collarbone. He winced at the uncomfortable feeling of his sticky briefs, but for now he’d just have to deal.

“That-” Will’s voice was hoarse.

He was interrupted by the door opening. Percy walked into the room with a bright smile on his face, but his smile quickly turned into a wicked smirk when he saw Nico.

“Shit! Sorry!” Percy turned around and walked out of the room again. Just before the door fell closed, Nico heard him say, “We’re leaving in five minutes, bring our stuff.”


The ride home had been uneventful. Nico had fallen asleep in the passenger seat even before the car had started moving, and due to the late hour it didn’t take long for Jason to pass out as well.

He’d been awoken by Percy, who’d unloaded all their gear already, and had informed him that Nico had gone up to their suite to take a shower and sleep.

He wondered why Percy had let him sleep in the car, until the saw the pile of bags and guitar cases that needed to be carried up to the penthouse.

It had taken them a few minutes to stash their gear in the storage room adjacent to their suite, and Jason was happy when they could finally relax and go to bed.

“Okay, bro, spit it out.”

Jason dropped his bag on the table and sighed. He knew that this talk would be coming since the moment Percy had made him look after Will. He’d just hoped that Percy would hold off on it until tomorrow.

He was tired, and in no mood to be fighting Percy and he didn’t see any harm in letting everything out. The last time they’d talked about Will, it had ended with a bruised jaw for Percy, and he was determined not to let that happen again.

“I don’t know, dude. What do you want to know?”

Percy flopped onto the couch, and made himself comfortable. After Jason did the same, he saw Percy wearing an incredulous expression.

“Fine. He was well on his way to having a panic attack and I calmed him down.” He rubbed at his eyes and let out a long, deep sigh. “I…”

He could see Percy looking at him with expectant eyes, like his friend was just waiting for him to bring something up.

“I felt so sorry for the poor guy... “ He ran his hand through his hair and ruffled it for good measure. “He told me he has a crush on Nico.”

It was almost painful to say it out loud. Like saying the words made it real. This was truly happening.

It was weird, in a way. He had heard the words coming out of Will’s mouth, but hearing them didn’t hurt as much as saying them himself.

However, it made him feel lighter. This was happening, period. The sooner that he’d be able to deal with that fact, the sooner he’d be able to move on with his life.

“And?”

Jason frowned. As much as Percy tried to hide it, Jason could see right through the fact that his friend was almost giddy. Percy had to know something that Jason didn’t.

“Come on, Grace, tell me what happened. What did he say?”

“Fine,” Jason growled out. “He told me that Nico kissed him, you happy now?”

Percy flinched, but as soon as he gathered himself he got up off the couch and plopped down beside Jason. “Yes,” he admitted in a small voice, “but that’s beside the point. What I want to know is how you feel about it.”

Jason shrugged. “As usual, it sucks, but what am I going to do about it? If Nico kissed him, then I need to be happy for him. And I am. It’s like…” he took a deep breath. “One third happiness and two thirds, I don’t know- jealousy, I guess.”

“Jason…”

“I know, I know. I’m working on it, okay?” He managed a small smile for Percy’s sake. He really didn’t want this to be a long conversation about his feelings. Percy knew damned well how he felt about the whole thing. “I guess it helps that Will is an okay guy, you know? It’s just that it’s happening right under my nose, and I don’t know what’s worse.”

Percy cocked his head to the side. “What’s worse?”

Jason nodded. “I mean, Nico’s my… best friend now, I guess. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s never kept things from me. I mean, I get it, he doesn’t want me to know because it would hurt my feelings. And it does, but not as much as knowing that he’s keeping things from me.”

He looked up at Percy, hoping that he could keep the tears that were stinging his eyes from falling.

“I can’t deal if he pulls away from me in that way too, Perce.” He pulled his feet onto the couch and hugged his knees to his chest.

Percy swung an arm around him and pulled Jason close to his side. “You two need to have a talk. Just talk to him, bro. I’m sure he’ll understand. Just-” he patted Jason on the shoulder. “Just tell me to fuck off for a few hours when you want to, okay?”

Jason let out a sound that was somewhere between a chuckle and a sob. “Yeah. Thanks, bro.”

Percy nodded, and shoved Jason off him with a playful smirk. “Now, tell me about what happened.”

Jason sniffled and recounted his conversation with Will, not leaving anything out. It felt good to get it all off his chest.

“You hugged him? Whoa, if I hadn’t seen Will right after, I’d be asking where you hid the body.”

Jason chuckled. “Only because he needed it. Hell, I’d probably hug that backstabbing asshole from college if he needed me to. I just like helping people, dude.”

Percy’s eyes widened. “Really? You’ve officially gone off the deep end, Jason.” He let out a laugh. “Okay, now that you’re smiling again, are you alright?”

Jason nodded. “I think I am. You’re right, I should talk to Nico.” He got up off the couch and stretched. “I’m gonna hit the hay. See you tomorrow, bro.”

Percy jumped off the couch and held out his fist for Jason to bump. “See you tomorrow, dude. No rehearsals planned, right?”

Bumping Percy’s fist, Jason shook his head. “Nope. Think we have a day off, which is good, because I have a lot of lectures and a stack of homework to catch up on.”

“Awesome! Well, not the homework… You know what I mean. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot babe waiting for me, so I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Percy fixed a gaudy orange baseball cap on his head, grabbed his coat and started for the door.

Jason smirked. Leave it to Percy to live the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll cliché. He waved at his friend and walked to his bedroom, collapsing face first onto his bed.

Chapter Text

Will stared at himself in the mirror. His eyes were fixed on the hickey on his neck, standing out like a sore thumb. He was never going to be able to hide this. Even though it was nearly winter, Will had never been a turtleneck type of person, so everyone would know that something was off. Maybe scarves were a trendy thing this season? He’d have to look into that.

He still couldn’t believe that tonight had actually happened. On the ride home, he’d once again asked Cecil to pinch him, but he didn’t wake up.

It was hard to believe that Nico had kissed him again. It was hard to believe that he’d ended up on a couch with Nico, rutting up against one another until they had both come in their pants like a pair of horny teenagers.

And yet, it all happened. The evidence was staring him right in the face.

He started the shower and took his clothes off, wincing when he peeled his soiled boxers down. When the water was warm enough, he stepped under the warm spray and let out a contented sigh.

“We’re leaving in five minutes, bring our stuff!”

The door slammed behind Percy, and just like that they were alone once more. Will caught the horrified look on Nico’s face and he couldn’t help it; he started chuckling.

Nico looked down at him with a smile on his face, shaking his head. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but no words were coming out.

Will leaned against the cool tiles of his shower wall, letting the water run down his body. It felt great to finally have some time alone, after everything that had happened.

“So…” Will managed to croak out as he stood up, pulling a nasty face when he felt just how uncomfortable his pants situation was.

Nico scratched at the back of his head. “Yeah.”

Yeah. This was awkward. What the hell was he supposed to say? Will hadn’t exactly been in this situation before, nor had he had any time to, well, prepare himself for it.

“I guess- I guess I’ll go home now.” He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Should he confess his crush? Should he try to make conversation? Should he pretend that it didn’t happen? Was this a regular thing in the life of a rockstar? Should he be thanking Nico? He was so lost, and Nico’s silence wasn’t really helping.

He brushed past Nico and grabbed his coat and bag off the back of a chair.

He ran his hand through his wet hair, smiling as he thought back to how Nico had gently tugged at it, just a little while ago.

“Wait!”

Nico turned around, and closed the distance between them. “I mean, we should both go home, but… We should talk. If you’re up for it, I mean. Like-” he sighed. “I don’t want you to think I’m like that, you know? I-I’m not. I just…”

He pulled at a lock of hair in frustration, which made Will grasp at his wrist.

“Hey,” Will’s voice was quiet. “Stop. Okay? That… was amazing. And-and… I’m not like that either. I mean, I like you for you. No, that came out wrong- I don’t know you all that well but I think you’re attractive and-” he groaned. “I didn’t kiss you just because you’re a rockstar. I’m not a groupie. Not that groupies are bad but that’s just not me, and-”

Rinsing the shampoo from his hair, he frowned at how awkward that conversation had been. But at least it had been awkward on both sides. He believed Nico when he said that he wasn’t like that, and he just hoped that Nico would believe that he wasn’t a groupie.

Their talk ground to a screeching halt as Nico crashed his lips to Will’s again. He was wearing a goofy smile when he pulled away.

“What do you say we just go home and talk some other time?” Nico’s cheeks turned beet red. “O-over coffee... or dinner maybe? If you want, of course. It’s fine if you don’t want to- I mean...”

A date. Nico di Angelo asked him out on a date. Would it be an actual date, or just two guys getting coffee? Whatever, he didn’t care. Nico had asked him out on a date. He grinned from ear to ear, turning of the water and grabbing a towel off the rack.

“Uh, yeah. That sounds nice.”

He yelped when Nico stuck his hand down his pocket and pulled out his phone.

Nico giggled in response. Wait. What? He must have misheard. His brain was just about leaking out of his ears by now.

After a few taps, Will heard a phone chiming on the other side of the room, signaling a text. Nico handed his phone back to him, and when he looked at the screen he saw that Nico had added his number to his contacts.

Will’s heart did a double take. Nico’s phone number, in his phone. He dried himself off and smiled at himself in the mirror, rubbing at his hair with the towel.

“Thanks.” He smiled at Nico, who gave him a bright smile in return. He’d seen that smile before, and it made his knees feel weak.

Nico stepped away and wrapped himself in a leather jacket with a warm, fuzzy collar.

It was definitely getting time to leave. As much as he enjoyed this, he didn’t want anyone to come looking for them and find him with a hickey on his neck.

He shrugged his coat on, making sure that the collar was sticking up, and went to help Nico grab everyone’s bags.

After a quick scan of the room, they pulled the door closed behind them and started down the hallway.

After brushing his teeth, Will tossed his dirty clothes in the hamper and made a mental note to do laundry as soon as humanly possible.

Just before they reached the door that would take them back to the foyer, Nico stopped, laying his injured hand on Will’s shoulder.

“Hey. Thanks for helping us out with the show, and for fixing me up.”

Will smiled, and in a sudden rush of boldness, blurted out “Do I get another kiss for that?”

He hadn’t imagined it before. Nico actually giggled. It was endearing.

Nico smirked and planted a kiss on Will’s cheek. “That’s for the show.” Another kiss, a slow and gentle one on the lips. “And that’s for fixing my wrist.”

Will blushed, and smiled goofily. “It was a joke, you know.”

Nico shrugged. “Ready to go now or do you want me to ask Jason and Percy to kiss you as well?”

He shook his head so fast that he was worried about whiplash for a moment. “I’m good. Let’s go, I’m itching to get out of these pants.”

“I bet you are,” Nico muttered under his breath. And with a final giggle, he opened the door.

Will slipped into his pyjamas and crawled into his bed. He was exhausted. It had been a long day. After they had come out of the hallway, they had spent another twenty or so minutes talking with the others, much to his discomfort.

Eventually, he had made it into a taxi, after practically having to drag Cecil away from Percy. Cecil had bombarded him with questions, which had made him curse the fact that it would be another half hour before he got home.

He managed to make a deal with Cecil. If his friend would let him sleep on the way home, then he would answer every question that Cecil had tomorrow. It was high time that he told Cecil about everything, but he would have to make sure that his friend kept his confession to himself.

So here he was, grateful to finally be in his bed. He couldn’t stop replaying the events of the night. The gig, his stupid little meltdown, kissing Nico, and then… yeah. Just thinking about it made him half hard again.

He was too tired to do anything about it, though. He turned the lights off and closed his eyes, pulling his covers up to his nose. His eyes were already drooping when his phone vibrated loudly on his nightstand.

He groaned and rolled over, grabbing his phone to put it on silent, but his eyes went wide when he saw the name of the person who had texted him.

Message from Nico
Hey.
You still awake?


 

“-ico?”

Urgh, what was that?

“Nico, wake up, dude. Come on.”

Nico groaned, he was tired, and he just wanted to sleep. He blinked his eyes into focus and made a mental note to remember to take his contacts out before he crawled into bed.

“There we go. Come on, sleepyhead. We’re at the hotel.”

Nico yawned sleepily and smacked his lips. “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. Where’s my bag?”

Percy shrugged and gestured at Jason, who was softly snoring in the back seat. “We’ll take care of that.” His lips curled up in a devilish grin. “Something tells me you want to get into a shower as soon as possible.”

Nico rubbed at his eyes. Was it really too much to ask for a quiet end to his night? “Shut up, Perce.”

Percy’s smile didn’t falter as he swung an arm around Nico and steered him in the direction of the elevator. “Sooo, did you have fun? I knew you guys would hit it off. Is he coming to more gigs? You did remember not to do it on my coat this time, right?”

Nico rolled his eyes and tried to shrug Percy’s arm off, but he was unsuccessful. He wondered if Percy had made their driver park this far away from the elevator just so he could bug Nico about Will. Maybe he had upset some cosmic balance by acting rashly, and now the universe was paying him in kind.

Whatever the case, he kept his mouth shut and tried to block out the questions and lewd comments that Percy was firing at him. He was not in the mood for this, and he was just hoping that Percy got the message, even though Percy was probably just being obnoxious just because he could.

He sighed in relief when they got to the elevator and Percy finally let go of him. Percy’s smirk made way for a much gentler smile.

“Enjoy the shower, kiddo.”

Nico opened his mouth, remembering that he-

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Jason.” Percy patted him on the shoulder. “You can’t hide it from him forever, though.”

Nico shook his head. “I won’t. I’ll talk to him soon. Night, Perce.”

The last thing he saw before the elevator doors closed was Percy waving at him.


 

Jason was just pouring milk onto his cereal when the door to their suite slammed open and Reyna stormed in.

She did not look happy. It had been a while since he had seen her look this furious.

Her eyes fell on Jason, who cringed at her stare.

“Where are the others?” Reyna’s voice held an icy tone that made a shiver run down Jason’s spine. Whatever was coming, it wasn’t pleasant.

“Nico’s still asleep, and Percy’s out.”

Before he had finished his sentence, Reyna was already banging on the door to Nico’s bedroom.

“I’ll give you five minutes, di Angelo! Five minutes and then I want you awake, alert, and on the couch!”

Jason wanted to crawl back into bed and wait until Hurricane Reyna blew over. Percy’s solution of having Will play with the band last night had been a pretty good one, and he had hoped that Reyna would be pleased that they had found a way to play the show. He should have known better.

He was certain that Reyna would lecture them about show curfews and starting on time, and they would maybe have to find a way to spin this in the media, but all in all, he had thought that the backlash wouldn’t be this severe.

More coffee, that was what he needed. He took an extra large mug out of the cupboard and placed it under the coffee maker, and in the background he could hear Reyna on the phone with Percy.

“Get your ass over to the hotel as fast as you can. I mean it, Percy. And for the love of all that is holy, did you at least manage to stay away from people with cameras?”

He turned around to scoop some cereal into his mouth, and when he looked next the mug had been taken away by a very grumpy looking Nico, who looked seven shades of endearing in Jason’s old hoodie. Jason grumbled and put another mug down.

“What’s her problem?” Nico whispered, blowing away the steam rising from the mug.

“I heard that!”

Nico flinched and rubbed at his eyes, apparently forgetting that he was wearing glasses. “Damn it!”

Jason plucked the glasses off Nico’s nose and cleaned them with the hem of his t-shirt, before putting them back where they belonged with a smile.

He took his coffee away from under the machine, and followed Nico into the living room.

When they were both seated, Reyna glared at them.

“Were you ever going to tell me about last night or do you just leave your crap lying around for me to fix?”

Reyna had a way of completely shutting them down, and in moments like these Jason honestly didn’t know why they had ever signed with her label. She was one of the best in the business, but a total hard-ass.

Nico did not look like he was going to be talking any time soon, so Jason did what he always did. He sat up, braced himself and started talking.

“Reyna, I know last night was a bit of a weird one, but I promise we tried our best to fix it. I mean, we played the show. That has to count for something, right?”

That was the wrong answer, apparently. “Oh, you played the show. Yeah, you did. Two hours late. Two hours! Why did I have to read about this in the paper, Jason? Did all the phones stop working?”

“But-”

“And on top of all that, you invite some random guy on stage with you? The media’s having a field day.”

Surely it wasn’t that bad? Shit, he clearly hadn’t thought things through last night. He should have realized that the media would be all over a show like that.

Jason swallowed thickly. “He’s a fan, so we-we didn’t think it would be that bad.”

“He played well. Really well. It was either that, or cancel.” Nico said. He held up his wrist, which he’d evidently re-bandaged himself, judging from how sloppy it looked. “Needs a few days rest.”

Reyna pinched the bridge of her nose. “I don’t care that you invited a fan to play with you. Don’t make it a habit, but it’s good PR.”

Now Jason was really confused. He was losing track of why Reyna was angry.

“But don’t you dare lie to me. Just a fan? If he was just a fan, you would’ve kept it in your pants!”

Nico choked on his coffee and started coughing violently. No. There was no way that Nico… Jason didn’t want to think about it.

When Nico stopped coughing and insisted that he was okay, Reyna opened her briefcase and pulled out a newspaper, dropping it on the table in front of them.

He could feel Nico go tense next to him, and when he saw what Reyna was so angry about his mouth went dry.

Two large, full-color pictures, taking up half a page.

Thrice Greek - Falling for Grace?

Is love once again on the horizon for Thrice Greek’s bass player Jason Grace? Take a look at the photos taken last night and decide for yourself.

Thrice Greek is currently in the middle of a small promo tour sponsored by 96.6FM, and are playing acoustic shows for handfuls of lucky contest winners all around the city. Last night, the audience was treated to a very special performance.

Due to an injury to Thrice Greek’s frontman Nico di Angelo, he was unable to play. His spot was filled by an unnamed mystery man, who appears to have close ties to the band.

One of our readers caught Jason Grace and his new beau in the alleyway behind the Apollo Theater, caught in an intimate embrace and sharing a bottle of water.

It is no secret that band members Nico di Angelo and Jason Grace were a couple, but it seems like that relationship is well and truly over.

Thrice Greek’s management was unavailable for comment.

Oh no. This was a disaster.

He looked at the photos printed above the article and buried his hands in his hair. The left picture showed him holding the bottle of water up to Will’s lips, the right one showed their hug.

It had been dark in the alley, so there wasn’t a whole lot of detail in the photos, but enough to make him recognizable.

From the angle of the shot, it looked like he had his face buried in Will’s hair, and was holding him tightly against his body. He could see why it would make people think that it was a romantic gesture.

Now he had three big problems to deal with. Reyna was the least of his worries right now. She knew him, and he was sure that if he explained the situation to her, everything would be okay on that front.

Then there was Will. Jason knew full well that the press wasn’t always friendly, and he didn’t want Will to face this part of their lives. He didn’t deserve it.

Problem number three was staring him right in the face as he looked next to him: Nico. His band mate was glaring at him so fiercely that it made a chill run down his spine.

Nico was a force to be reckoned with when he was angry, as Jason knew all too well, and right now, he looked like he was about to throw Jason off the nearest balcony.

Jason searched for the right words but before he could open his mouth Nico was already off the couch. He stepped into his room without a word and slammed the door shut behind him.

“What’s his problem?”

Jason shook his head. “I’ll fix it. I will. For now, all you need to know is that Will, that’s the guy’s name, is- Well… I don’t know what he is but he’s certainly not my new beau. You can trust me on that.”

Reyna’s sigh reverberated around the room. “You’re going to want to keep this Will character out of it, I take it?”

Jason nodded. “Please. He’s just a normal guy. He doesn’t deserve the press camping out on his doorstep. I hugged him because he was panicking, and while it looks bad in the picture, that’s all it was. Just-” He rubbed at his neck. “You’ll make this go away, right?”

“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll do my best. You’d better hope that Percy gets caught doing something stupid again. It might take some of the heat off your backs.”

Jason tried his hardest to keep from smiling. He stood up. “Thank you. Is there anything else? Because I should really talk to Nico.”

Reyna shook her head. “I think that’s all for now. I’ll be in touch.”

When the door closed Jason fell back onto the couch and sighed. Great. Nico probably thought that he was messing around with Will now.


 

“Hey, Cec-”

Cecil pressed a newspaper to his chest and stormed past him before sitting down on the couch.

“Good afternoon, Cecil. What crawled up your ass?”

Will dropped the newspaper on the table and sat down across from him, frowning.

“What crawled- Will, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! I’m supposed to be your best friend and all of New York gets to know about it before I do?”

He was so confused. All of New York? What? “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I said I’d tell you everything today, so what’s the damn problem?”

“You and Jason are my damn problem! All this time you’ve been talking about Nico this, and Nico that, and-” He gasped and pointed at Will’s neck. “Jason gave you a hickey?!”

“Me and Jason? What?” He rubbed at the mark on his neck.

Cecil looked unimpressed and pointed at the newspaper on the table. Will’s eyes went wide and he snatched it up to read the article below the embarrassing pictures.

When he looked back up, Cecil scoffed. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this, Will.”

He couldn’t believe it. This was awful. “I-I- No! I didn’t-” Burying his head in his hands, he wished that this was some sort of cruel joke, or a nightmare. Jason?

“Jason and I- We didn’t-” He groaned. “I lost it before I was supposed to go on stage, and Jason took me outside for some air, and…”

He shook his head. “Will you let me start from the beginning?”

Cecil shrugged. “Fine.”


 

Jason took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

“Nico?”

Nothing.

He opened the door just far enough so he could stick his head into the room and look around. Nico’s bed was unmade, but he wasn’t in it. He didn’t hear the shower, but the pungent smell of cigarette smoke hung in the air.

Stepping into the room, he could see Nico on the balcony, angrily stubbing out a cigarette, only to light another immediately after.

He knocked on the window of the open balcony door so he wouldn’t startle Nico.

“Nico? Hey.”

Nico didn’t turn, or give Jason any indication that he’d heard him. He just kept staring out over the city, taking long drags of his cigarette.

When Jason laid a hand on Nico’s shoulder, it was quickly shrugged off, and still Nico said nothing.

“Okay,” Jason said. “If you’re not going to talk, then just listen.”

He pulled up one of the chairs and brushed a fine layer of snow off the surface. It was cold up here, but he hoped that he would get Nico to come inside soon.

“There’s absolutely nothing going on between me and Will. I swear those pictures were taken at a bad angle.”

Nico only scoffed.

“He was freaking out and he needed someone to be there for him. You of all people should know how that feels.” Jason couldn’t help the icy tone in his voice. It was the truth, and he didn’t feel like playing games with Nico.

All he wanted was for Nico to be honest with him, and how could he ask that of his friend when he was dancing around the truth himself?

Nico finally reacted. He turned in Jason’s direction and if looks could kill, Jason was sure that he would be dead right now. Nico’s brown eyes - dark, but full of warmth if you took the time to really look at them - looked almost black.

“Fuck you, Jason.”

Jason drew a deep breath. “I didn’t want to bring that up any more than you wanted to hear it. Now come inside, Nico. You’ll catch something out here.”


 Will had told Cecil everything. Well, nearly everything. Cecil didn’t need to know about anything beyond kissing.

Cecil had tried to intervene a few times, but Will had ploughed on through, wanting to keep his friend from asking questions until he had finished telling his story, or he’d never be able to get to the end of it.

“So, those pictures, that’s just what? Photoshop?”

Will shook his head. “No, taken at a stupid angle, I think. Maybe even on purpose, who knows? This is awful, Cecil.”

“Okay, I’ll accept that. So there’s nothing going on between you and Jason? Absolutely nothing?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Will confirmed.

“So, let’s rewind back to the fact where you made out with Nico di Angelo! Holy shit, Will!”

During Will’s story, Cecil’s anger had completely vanished and made way for one of those typical Cecil-style shit eating grins, which his friend was currently still sporting.

“I can’t believe it either.” Will managed a small smile. It was true. Some part of him still couldn’t believe it. Did people have dreams this elaborate? Because he was afraid of waking up in the morning and finding out that everything that had happened between him and Nico had been a dream.

“So, what now? Are you guys like, together?”

“No.” He was sure that it was way too early to talk about actually being together. There were so many things to think about, and they still hardly knew each other.

“You’re just making out when you see each other, then? Will, you dog! I didn’t think you had it in you!”

Will rolled his eyes. “Shut up, you idiot. I… I have his number now, and I think we’re going to have coffee sometime.” He couldn’t stop himself from blushing. This whole crush thing was getting out of hand.

“A date? Oh, man. No way!” Cecil grinned and pulled his phone from his pocket.

Will shot off the couch and snatched Cecil’s phone from his hands. “Nobody can know.” He felt his heart beat in his throat.

Cecil scowled at him and made a grab for his phone. “What? Give it back, Will!”

“No,” Will said, and he glared at Cecil, hoping to convey the message that he was serious. “Not until you promise me that you won’t tell a living soul anything about what I just told you.”

Cecil smirked. “So I can tell dead souls?”

“Nobody! I mean it, Cecil! I promised Nico that I wouldn’t tell anyone!”

“Fine, fine.”

Will held Cecil’s phone close to his chest. “Swear on it.”

“Swear on it? Are you five, Will?”

Will shrugged. “I don’t care, Cecil. Either swear on it or they’ll never find your body. This newspaper thing is bad enough, I don’t want to be in another article and I won’t be responsible for Nico’s personal life hitting the tabloids.”

Holding up his hands in innocence, Cecil swore that he wouldn’t tell anyone. Will breathed a sigh of relief and handed him the phone back, before getting up and taking his laptop from his desk. “Okay. I promise not to keep anything from you if you just keep it to yourself. Deal?”

Cecil nodded and smiled. “Deal.”

Will smiled back. “Awesome. Now send me that clip of the gig last night so I can finally see how I did.”


 Nico closed the door to the balcony behind him and sat down on the edge of his bed.

When he’d first seen the newspaper article, his stomach had twisted itself in a painful knot and he’d had to swallow to keep the bile from rising in his throat. It had made him so angry that he’d retreated to his bedroom and started chain-smoking on the balcony. He was pissed off, and feeling betrayed.

It had taken him until now to realize that what he’d felt was jealousy. He was jealous of Jason.

Now that he thought about it, what Jason had said did make sense. Will had freaked out last night.

Jason was leaning against the door, waiting patiently for Nico to say something.

“I’m sorry.” And he was. He overreacted. He hadn’t known what he was feeling and he had taken it out on his best friend.

“It’s okay,” Jason said, walking over and sitting down next to him. “You really got it bad for this guy, huh?”

Nico shrugged. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”

He watched as Jason picked at some imaginary lint on his jeans. He knew Jason well enough to know that his friend only fidgeted when he wasn’t sure about himself.

“What’s on your mind, Jay?”

Jason was a big guy. He had at least ten inches and a good forty pounds of muscle on Nico, which is why his heart broke when he looked at him. Jason sat curled in on himself, looking so much smaller.

Nico sighed. “Are you okay?”

Jason lifted his head. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

He waited as Jason took a few deep breaths. “Are we still friends? Because this thing with Will has been going on for a while, and you haven’t told me about it.”

When Nico opened his mouth to retort, Jason held up his hand. “I mean, I get it. With me being your- your ex and all.” He looked like he had swallowed a hair ball. “But I don’t want things to get awkward between us. I’m a grown man, I can handle being uncomfortable if you want to talk about things. I don’t want you to bottle things up because you think I can’t handle it.”

“Percy doesn’t know either. I guess I just need some time to figure things out, by myself. I didn’t mean to make you feel like that, Jay. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” He meant every word. He was still trying to make sense of everything himself, and he wasn’t going to tell his friends if he wasn’t sure about his feelings. “How’d you know?”

Jason chuckled. “He told me.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry. He also told me that he hadn’t told anyone, because he apparently promised you that he wouldn’t. He just broke, I guess. That’s why I ended up hugging him.”

That made a lot of sense. He had to think about it for a few seconds, but he remembered the day he went to Will’s apartment, and had asked him to keep his private life out of the press, and a smile tugged at his lips. “I see.”

Jason nudged him with his elbow. “He also told me that you kissed him.”

He looked at Nico with a smirk, but Nico could see the truth in Jason’s eyes. He was trying to be strong.

“Shut up, Jay,” Nico chuckled. “I was just testing the waters. And drunk. Don’t forget drunk.”

Jason stood up and laughed. “Okay, Casanova.”

Nico shoved Jason with a playful smile. “Don’t push your luck.”

Jason walked over to the door and pulled it open. “I’m making hot chocolate and then I’m going to watch movies on the couch. Percy should be home soon. Care to join us?”

Nico smiled and nodded. “I’ll be right out.”

After Jason disappeared into the living room he laid back on his bed. He really needed to figure things out.

It wouldn’t be fair to string Will along. But it was becoming increasingly clearer that there were some feelings involved. He doubted that seeing Jason and Will in the newspaper like that would have provoked those feelings of jealousy if there wasn’t something there.

He really need to talk to Will. He needed to know where Will stood, because it was no use to allow himself to fall for someone if that person didn’t give a crap. He doubted that Will didn’t care at all, but he had to be certain.

The whole thing was exciting and terrifying at the same time, and so much different from the first time he’d started to develop feelings for someone. He’d known Jason for a long time when he’d fallen for him, and Will was a virtual stranger. It made the whole thing so much harder.

One thing was for sure: He wasn’t going to think about the fact that they only had about two more months left in New York. Not yet, anyway.

Chapter Text

Nico flexed his wrist. It had been four days and it still hurt. Granted, he hadn’t been as careful as he should have been, and after his abysmal attempt at rebandaging his wrist a few days ago he’d taken it off altogether.

Because his wrist still hadn’t healed, they’d ended up having to cancel a show at the last possible minute.

Percy had mentioned asking Will to fill in for them again, but everyone seemed to agree that it would be best to cancel the show. Aside from them not needing the media attention, there was a difference between an intimate acoustic show in front of a handful of people and a sold out venue where they would play a full, electric show.

The only time he’d gotten out of the apartment was when he’d stepped out for lunch with Jason the day after the article got published, but they hadn’t made it very far. The second they had stepped out of the lobby they had been mobbed by photographers and journalists, taking their pictures and asking them a million questions about Jason’s supposed new fling.

While he knew that there wasn’t any truth to the article, it still hurt. It had only gotten worse from that point on.

All they had wanted to do was step out for a bite to eat, and it had ended with Nico back in their suite, cradled in Jason’s arms, trying to calm down from a panic attack.

Jason hadn’t had it easy either. Between having to calm Nico down, he also had to stop Percy from going downstairs to “Fight those fucking monsters".

He didn’t want to go outside until the storm had blown over. So now he was stuck in their suite with very little things to do. He couldn’t write, couldn’t play video games, couldn’t play the guitar. He couldn’t even work his phone all that well, since he never used it with his left hand.

They had been on the road for almost eighteen months straight, and the sudden influx of downtime didn’t agree with Nico at all.

They hadn’t seen much of Percy. Nico guessed that he was trying to break some sort of record by having sex with every woman in New York. At least he was making good use of his free time.

Jason had spent most of his time catching up on his coursework. Nico was happy that Jason had picked his studies back up, but it left him alone, trying to find things to do before he went out of his mind with boredom.

The nights had been fun, though. He’d watch tv with Jason, or watch as his friend played video games. It was nice, just hanging out with him after everything that had happened in the past weeks. Any residual tension between the two of them had vanished.

Truth be told, it was like a weight had fallen off his shoulders.

He was pulled out of his thoughts when his phone beeped, signaling a text. He cursed when he tried to unlock the screen with his right hand and it sent a jolt of pain up his wrist.

“Don’t move it if it still hurts. Keep icing it. Take some aspirin if it really hurts. Do you still have the bandage on?”

The text made him smile and scroll back to their first exchange of texts. Last saturday, after pacing around in his room for half an hour, he’d finally struck up the courage to send Will a message.

He hadn’t known what to say at the time. Mentioning their little… well, that, would seem too forward, but he couldn’t just pretend like nothing had happened. So, after long and careful consideration, he had asked Will how to bandage his wrist back up.

From that point on, they had texted every day. They had kept it light and casual, with neither of them mentioning the newspaper article.

He knew that they would have to talk about it at some point, but if Nico had any say in it, that conversation would be had face to face. He hated being unable to see someone’s face whenever he was having a conversation.

He sat back and typed out a reply, hoping his wrist would heal soon, so he wouldn’t have to type with just his left hand any more.

“cant seem to get it on right. but ill ice it. thanks.”

He put his phone down and sighed.


 

Shit.

Everyone was going to kill him. Actually kill him. He was done for.

He was going to have to buy Reyna the biggest bouquet of flowers that money could buy. Scratch that, after this, he’d probably have to shell out for an entire flower shop.

He was currently on an uncomfortable little bench outside her office. He couldn’t believe it, Reyna had actually given him a time out.

“Just sit there and think about what you’ve done while I take care of this.”

He grimaced. How could he have been so stupid? He should never have let that guy bait him into a response.

All the secrets he was keeping were taking a toll on him, and the latest one had just been the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was getting to be too much.

Still, that was no excuse, and he knew it. Lashing out had been one of the stupidest things he had ever done in his life, and he’d honestly thought that he’d gotten all the stupid shit out of his system once he’d hit his twenties.

He couldn’t wait to get home, so he could crawl onto the couch with his friends and watch stupid comedies all night. Anything to take his mind off things.


 

“cant seem to get it on right. but ill ice it. thanks.”

Will rolled his eyes. He’d explained how to bandage a wrist to Nico, and had even told him that if he couldn’t get it done himself, he should ask Jason or Percy to do it for him. He hadn’t quite built up the nerve to tell Nico to meet up with him so he could do it himself. But it seemed that Nico was stubborn, and there was nothing he could do about that.

He smiled and put the phone on the charger. He really had nothing to add, and he didn’t want to text Nico just for the sake of it.

Texting with Nico had been the highlight of his shitty week so far. After he’d found out about the newspaper article, he’d been terrified of someone finding out that it was him in the photo. Thankfully, nobody had; the pictures were a little blurry, and it was dark enough so that nobody could really make out their faces.

He hadn’t really talked about it with Nico. Not that he minded - he was eager to forget about the whole thing. He supposed that Jason would’ve told him the truth about what had happened in the alleyway, and Nico was getting harassed about it enough as it was.

Every time he opened his laptop and tried to read the news there was another stupid article speculating about his identity, and little videos of members of the press trying to get answers out of the band members.

It really made him feel bad. There was zero truth to the article, but he doubted that anyone would believe him if he spoke up about it.

In reality, there wasn’t much he could do. If he came forward to deny anything, he would give away that it had been him in the photo, and he really didn’t want anything like that to happen.

There hadn’t been any response from the band whatsoever either, so he supposed that they would just wait until the whole thing blew over.

Much to his surprise, there had only been one person who had called him about the article: Lou Ellen. He guessed that she was the only one who had put two and two together. Right now he was thankful that there weren’t a whole lot of people that knew that he was close with the band.

He let himself fall onto his bed and took his phone off the charger when it vibrated.

“im so bored that I might go insane. you have any plans for tonight?”

He stared at the text, re-reading it again and again, trying to decipher its meaning. This is what he hated about texting. He couldn’t see the other person’s face, couldn’t hear their voice. There were so many nuances to speech that everything could be interpreted a million different ways when it was just text.

What did Nico mean by this? Was he just asking him because he was bored and wanted Will to entertain him by telling him about his plans? Was Nico asking him to check if he was free tonight?

Stop, stop, stop.

He would drive himself crazy trying to interpret everything that Nico said. Up until now their conversations had been friendly and casual, so he’d keep it that way.

He typed out a reply, but deleted it before he could send it out and sighed. After repeating the process a few times, he sighed and dropped his phone on the bed, burying his head into his pillow.

He screamed as loud as he could before he picked the phone back up.

“No plans, quiet night in I suppose. Maybe watch a movie. You?”

Forcing himself off the bed, he shoved his phone in his pocket and set about making dinner. He wasn’t going to be stupid and desperate by waiting for Nico to text him back.

Not that it stopped him from checking his phone every minute, just to make sure that it still worked and that he had reception.

When he finally sat down with a bowl of steaming hot vegetables, his phone finally beeped and he promptly spilled sauce all over himself.

He groaned and jumped up to wipe it off, returning from the kitchen with a dish-towel in hand. He put the bowl on the table and checked his phone.

“wanna get drinks or something?”

Oh.

Casual buddy drinks or date drinks? To save Nico from boredom or because he really wanted to?

Stop, you’re doing it again.

Okay. He definitely wanted to go out for drinks with Nico. He didn’t even care what kind of drinks they were going to be. He would totally be up for casual drinks to save Nico from boredom.

“Sure. Name the place, I’ll be there. :)”

Before he’d had the chance to put his phone down, Nico replied.

“soho grand hotel bar at 9?”

Holy shit. Just a glass of tap water from that place would probably cost more than he had in his wallet right now. He’d love to go out, but not if a few drinks would cost him half the month’s rent.

“That might be a little above my price range, to be honest.”

He frowned. It’s not like he was poor, and his parents always helped him out with the rent, but he wasn’t going to be irresponsible with his money, no matter how much he wanted to right now.

“no worries. my treat.”

He immediately went to war with himself. One side of him screamed “You can’t! That’s too forward!” and the other side screamed even louder. “Drinks with Nico di Angelo!”

It didn’t take him long to make up his mind. He was offered a chance and he was going to take it, just like he had taken it last saturday.

“Okay. I feel a little bad about that but if you insist. Soho Grand at 9, it’s a date.”

Thankfully, he caught it before he’d hit ‘Send’. He quickly deleted the last words.

“... Soho Grand at 9, I’ll see you there.”

Perfect.

He looked down at the sauce stains on his clothes and grimaced. Standing up, he threw his phone onto the bed and trudged into the bathroom to take a shower.


 

Nico stepped out of his bedroom, running a hand through his damp hair. He’d have to remember to comb it later.

“Nico? You need to see this!” Jason’s voice rang clear through the suite.

Nico hurried on over to the living room, where Jason sat on the couch closest to the television set, eyes glued to the screen.

He was about to ask what the emergency was when he saw it. He dropped wordlessly beside Jason and watched.

When the segment came to an end, Jason turned the tv off and they sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Reyna is going to kill him,” Nico muttered.

“He’s probably dead already,” Jason added.

As if on cue, the door to their suite opened and Percy walked in, looking like he’d been through hell and back.

“Hey, guys.”

“He lives!” Jason exclaimed.

Percy groaned and fell face first onto the couch opposite Nico and Jason.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Nico asked, unable to hide the exasperation in his voice.

Percy mumbled something into the pillows before sitting up.

“I don’t know.” Percy sighed. “I was just walking down the street and this asshole comes up to me and starts asking a bajillion questions. I ignored him, but then he started taking pictures and I asked him to go, but he wouldn’t stop.”

He shook his head. “And he just kept asking and pressing me and when that didn’t work, he started taunting me, getting in my face and pulling at my arm to get me to stop and talk to him.” He looked up, and Nico was taken aback by the angry glint in Percy’s eyes. “He wanted a reaction, and- well, he got one.”

“That’s for sure,” Jason noted.

“I just ripped the camera out of his hands and smashed it on the ground.” He made an embarrassed noise and buried his head in his hands for a moment, rubbing at his face. “I’m so stupid. I don’t know where it came from. I got so angry and I just fucking lost it.”

“We saw.” And so they had. The news anchors had not shut up about it. Someone had filmed the whole thing on their phone, and almost every channel was showing the clip on loop.

Percy balled his hands into fists. “Of course someone filmed it. Just my luck.”

“So what happens now?” Jason asked. He got up and sat next to Percy.

“Reyna’s got a team of lawyers on it. She said that our case is strong because he put his hands on me, but I honestly don’t care if I have to throw money at him to make this go away.” He flinched. “She was so angry, guys.”

Nico had no trouble imagining that, and he felt sorry for Percy. He hoped that the fallout wouldn’t be too bad, since Percy had been punished enough by having to face a livid Reyna.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Me too,” Jason added. “It’s all my fault, if I had been more careful last week, they wouldn’t be on our case this much.”

Percy scoffed. “It’s not your fault. I should’ve just kept on walking and I didn’t. Anyway, I gotta go call my mom and hope that she hasn’t seen the news yet. You guys feel like hitting the gym later? I need to get this out of my system.”

Jason looked at Nico apologetically, but Nico waved it off. “It’s fine. You guys go.”

When Percy disappeared into his bedroom, Jason sat beside Nico again. “You sure?”

“I, uh, kind of made plans?” This was awkward. He supposed that this was a test of sorts. If Jason wanted him to be honest, then Jason was going to get what he wanted. He just hoped that it wouldn’t hurt him. “I’m having drinks with Will.”

He could feel Jason tense up beside him, but Jason turned to face him with a bright smile regardless. Nico knew Jason well enough to know that the smile was fake, but he wanted to hug Jason for trying.

So he did. He wrapped his arms around him and rested his chin on Jason’s shoulder. “You don’t have to act tough, you know. It’s okay if it hurts.”

Jason hugged him back so tightly that he felt the breath being squeezed out of him for a second. When Jason pulled back, he was still smiling. “It’ll take some time, but I’ll get over it.”

Nico smiled back. “Don’t force it.”

Jason shrugged. “I’ll be fine.” His eyebrows furrowed. “You sure you’re okay going out by yourself?”

“Actually, I’m not even leaving the hotel. I’m not going to risk it, so we’re just having drinks at the bar downstairs.”

“Smart.” Jason took a deep breath. “Have fun, okay?”

Nico would probably never be able to understand how hard all of this had to be on Jason, but at the same time, he couldn’t be more proud of him. Not to mention thankful. The whole ex-lovers thing could have gone a million ways, but here they were, still being supportive of each other, and to him, that was the most important thing. In spite of everything they had gone through, they stood together.

He nodded. “I will. Thanks, Jay. Keep an eye on Percy for me.”


 

Will stepped out of the bathroom and slipped into a pair of boxers. When he looked at the clock, he saw that it was nearing seven already, which meant that he had about an hour and a half before he had to leave.

It would only be a few minutes by taxi, but he figured that a walk before meeting up with Nico would do him some good.

He opened his dresser and immediately frowned. What was he going to wear? A hotel bar was a fancy place, right? So he probably wouldn’t be let in if he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

Okay, he needed something fancier, but nothing too fancy. He did have a suit somewhere, but that would be overdoing it. Or would it? No, it was just casual drinks with Nico, he so he should dress, well, casually.

He didn’t want to dress too nice, or look like a slob. No, it had to be perfect.

He sighed and rummaged through his dresser, pulling out random articles of clothing and throwing them onto his bed for consideration.

A good ten minutes later, he finally turned around and groaned. He’d managed to pull everything from his dresser that wasn’t sweatpants, pajamas, shorts and old t-shirts.

Okay, pants first. Jeans seemed like a good option. Jeans just screamed casual. Thankfully, he didn’t own all that many pairs, so it was just a matter of deciding to wear light or dark ones.

He pulled the dark ones on and smiled down at himself. These would do. They were tight, but not skinny-jeans tight. The goldilocks of tightness. Perfect.

Now for the hard part. He picked through the pile of clothing, separating everything until it was sorted into three piles. Sweaters, button-downs, t-shirts.

He quickly piled the t-shirts back into his dresser, making a mental note to fold everything tomorrow.

Another glance at the clock reminded him that he only had an hour left. Looking at the stack of clothing, he decided that he’d have to make quick decisions. There was no time to try everything on.

Okay, nothing too colorful. He threw everything with prints and loud colors off to the side, which left him with three sweaters and about half a dozen button-downs.


 

“You okay, bro?”

Jason leaned against the elevator wall, raising an eyebrow at Percy.

It wasn’t like him to go around smashing people’s cameras. Of the three of them, Percy was probably the one who cared the least about appearing in the media.

Percy was always happy to chat with people, even journalists. Anyone could approach him on the street for an autograph or a quick photo, and he had never known Percy to get the least bit annoyed.

In a way, Percy was the polar opposite to Nico, who hated dealing with the media, and got anxious whenever groups of people approached him.

Earlier in the week, Jason had wanted to take Nico out for lunch after seeing him mope around the apartment because his wrist prevented him from doing what he wanted.

It had been a madhouse when they had stepped out of the hotel. Initially, it had seemed safe enough to go out, but they hadn’t made it three steps before hordes of reporters had come running at them from both sides.

Nico had gripped his sleeve like he was clinging to life itself and thankfully, Jason had managed to get them back into the lobby before anyone had noticed what was happening.

The hyperventilating had started in the elevator, and he had ended up carrying Nico to their suite and spent the next hour calming Nico down.

Nico’s response to being mobbed by members of the press was a very different one to Percy’s, which is why Jason was now trying to figure out why Percy had let himself get baited into smashing someone’s camera.

Percy seemed immune to the stresses that the media could put on someone’s life. He would always smile when his picture was taken, would answer every question that they fired at him, even if he didn’t want to. He made answers up on the spot or skirted around the subject with so much ease that it made Jason think that Percy was born to be in the spotlight.

Everyone had their breaking point, but there had been no warning signs that Percy was crumbling.

Percy shrugged and straightened the towel that hung over his shoulder. “I’m fine. It’s just been a rough day.”

To the outside world, it seemed like Percy just skated through life, doing whatever the hell he wanted to. But Jason knew better. Percy was human and something had made him snap today.

Percy didn’t seem to be in a talking mood today, which was fine with Jason. He’d have to remember to try and get Percy to talk about the day’s events later, maybe over a glass of wine on the couch after their workout.

Jason didn’t like to break Reyna’s rules - least of all the ‘no drinking on days off’ one - but some rules were meant to be broken. They had missed out on some post-gig beers by having to cancel their show, and it would be the perfect way to unwind after a long day.

Percy definitely looked like he needed it, no matter how wide his smile was.

When the elevators opened, Percy dashed into the gym. He started piling weights onto a barbell. “You wanna spot for me, bro?”

Jason smiled and trudged after him. “Sure thing.”


 

Will sighed and looked down at himself before pulling the sweater over his head and tossing it into a corner, where it joined the rest of the clothes he had tried on.

He looked fine in everything, but he wasn’t going for fine.

He didn’t know why he couldn’t just pick something, anything.

Shaking his head, he looked between the remaining three options laid out on his bed, and then at the clock.

Twenty minutes, and he still had to brush his teeth and comb his hair.

He held the last sweater up in front of him and immediately threw it into the corner. This was a nightmare. He wished he had known how difficult it was to find just the right clothes.

What if he was overdressed? What if he was underdressed?

Okay, two items left. He would simply choose one and be done with it. Two button-downs: One white, one a light blue.

They didn’t look all that different, so why was it so hard to choose?

Screw it.

He walked into his bathroom and picked up his toothbrush. He could go shirtless for all he cared. At this rate, he’d be late and no matter what impression his clothing would make, it would be worse if he stood Nico up.

Another ten minutes later and he returned from the bathroom, freshly shaved, smelling like a summer’s day, and with perfectly styled hair.

He didn’t usually care about his appearance all that much - running a hand through his curls in the morning totally counted as brushing his hair - but for Nico he would try to look his best.

Five more minutes, and he stood in front of his mirror, buttoning all but the top button on his blue shirt. He entertained the thought of wearing a tie, but decided against it; this wasn’t a job interview.

He tucked the shirt into his jeans and stepped into his nicest sneakers.

When he looked into the mirror, he smiled at himself. He looked nice, if he dared say so himself.

In about half an hour he’d be having drinks with Nico. Just thinking about it made his nerves stand on end and his cheeks flush. He was excited, but in a good way.

This was going to be different. It wasn’t a meetup after a show, no chance encounter. There were no bags to return.

It was just going to be him and Nico, and while they’d certainly spend time together; tonight promised to be a whole different experience.

With that in mind, he checked himself in the mirror one last time before wrapping himself in his coat and heading out the door.

Chapter Text

It was cold in New York. Nothing strange considering that it was mid-December, but it made Will wish that he’d have worn something a little bit warmer.

He’d forgotten to grab a scarf when he rushed out the door, and the cold wind bit at his cheeks as he made his way to the hotel.

He was nervous and excited. He still didn’t know what to call their meeting, but he decided that he didn’t care. He didn’t want to get his hopes up and end up disappointed.

The simple fact of getting to know Nico was amazing in itself, and he really couldn’t ask for more than he’d already gotten.

In just six weeks his life had taken an amazing turn and Nico di Angelo was at the center of it all.

Back in October, all his dreams had come true when Cecil had given him the ticket to the Thrice Greek show. All he’d ever wanted was to see his favorite band live, and as it turned out, that had only been the beginning.

He still got mixed feelings when he looked at the guitar on his wall. On the one hand, it reminded him of Nico and all the times that they’d spent together, but on the other it was a bitter reminder that he would never see Michael’s guitar again. He doubted that those feelings would ever go away.

After that night, he’d thought he’d never see the band again, but thanks to Percy he had been given another opportunity.

When he thought about all the crazy events that had brought him here, on his way to meet Nico for drinks, he couldn’t suppress a snicker. He had really beaten the odds.

If his guitar hadn’t been stolen, if Nico hadn’t had a panic attack, if they hadn’t played at Lou’s shop, if Cecil hadn’t dragged him out of his apartment, if Nico hadn’t fallen and hurt his wrist, none of this would have happened. It was a crazy chain of events.

Sometimes he wondered if it was all a dream.

Would he change any of it? He truly didn’t know. He’d still give anything to get Michael’s guitar back, but at the very least, something good had come of it.

Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined actually being - what, actually? Friends? Acquaintances? - with Nico.

He didn’t know where all of this would lead, but he was immensely happy with what he had right now. Despite not knowing him all that well, Nico was an amazing person. Things were still a little awkward between them, but how could they not be?

They would really have to talk tonight, and hopefully, they would get the chance. The last time they’d truly talked felt like ages ago, even though it was only a few weeks.


 “Dude, take it easy!”

“Shut up, Jason.”

Jason frowned, watching Percy strain to keep the weights up. He had his hands on the barbell, ready to intervene if Percy were to lose his grip, even though he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to hold it up.

He’d spent the last fifteen minutes hovering over the barbell, and he was getting more and more worried with every passing second, with every weight that Percy added to it.

Percy was nearing twice the weight that he usually pressed, and Jason was about ready to drag him away from the gym. Something was up, or Percy wouldn’t behave this way.

“You’re going to tear a muscle at this rate, you idiot.”

Percy only grunted in response, drawing quick and sharp breaths. His arms were trembling as he kept the weights up and his face was red and sweaty from the strain.

“I said… I’m… fine…”

That was it. Jason grabbed the barbell and guided it back onto the hooks. Percy looked none too pleased and he jumped off the bench as soon as he could.

“What the fuck, Grace?”

Jason stumbled backwards when Percy shoved him. What was wrong with him? It wasn’t like Percy to behave like this at all.

“Perc-”

Another shove and Jason’s back met the wall.

“Percy.” There was a warning in Jason’s voice, the same sort of warning he’d issued to Percy not too long ago. Stop it.

When Percy came at him again, he grabbed him by the t-shirt and reversed their positions, slamming Percy into the wall. He pressed up against his friend to prevent him from moving and shot him the fiercest glare he could muster.

“We’re in public, you idiot,” Jason hissed in Percy’s ear. “You don’t think Reyna’s pissed off enough, huh?”

He pulled away from Percy, still glaring at him. He would drag him out of here if need be. If Percy needed to let off some steam, fine. But not in public. He’d done enough of that already.

Percy just stared at the floor with his arms crossed over his chest.

Jason looked around and saw a number of people looking their way. He nodded his head in the direction of the showers and waited for Percy to start walking.


Will stared at the building across the street.

It didn’t look like much from the outside, but if this was the place where Thrice Greek stayed, he imagined that it would be a hell of a lot fancier on the inside.

As he crossed the street, he noticed a small group of photographers standing a few feet away from the entrance.

This could be a problem. If the photographers were here because of the band, the last thing he wanted was to be recognized entering the hotel where Jason was staying. He’d been exceptionally lucky that the press hadn’t learned his identity, and he wasn't going to tempt fate.

He pulled his coat’s collar up as high as it would go, knowing that he wouldn't be able to hide behind it, but feeling a bit more secure nonetheless.

He checked his watch. He’d officially be late in three minutes, and the thought of standing Nico up made a lump form in his throat.

No. This was his night and no photographer - or anyone else for that matter - was going to ruin it for him. He straightened himself out, kept his head down, and marched towards the entrance. If he looked like he belonged there, nobody would bat an eye.

Before he knew it, he found himself in the lobby and was amazed by what he saw. He probably looked like an idiot, just standing there, marveling at how beautiful everything looked. Every inch of the hotel just screamed classy and expensive, from the polished marble floors to the antique-looking chandeliers.

So much for looking like he belonged here.

For a second, he forgot what he had actually come here for, too caught up in taking in the sights, but when his eyes settled on a sign that said ‘Grand Bar’ he remembered.

All the confidence that he’d had when walking into the building melted away as he made his way to the bar. At least he could blame the redness of his cheeks on the biting cold outside.

He followed the signs, walking past a few groups of people before a soft laugh made him stop in his tracks.

“Hey.”

When he turned around, he came face to face with Nico, only a thousand times better looking than he’d seen him so far. And he already thought Nico was gorgeous the way he dressed normally.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t-”

The t-shirts and loose tank tops had made way for a cream colored henley that hugged Nico’s torso. He could see the black outlines of his tattoos curling up Nico’s arm and onto his chest.

He hadn’t even known that Nico had so many tattoos, and how could he? It’s not like Nico ever performed shirtless, and he would have known about it if he’d ever appeared shirtless in a photo. It was probably for the best. He wanted to trace every line with his fingers and lips and he should not be thinking about this right now.

Nico’s hair, that usually hung over his eyes, was brushed back and tucked behind his ears, revealing a couple of small silver rings in the shell of his ear that Will hadn’t known he had.

On the bridge of his nose sat a pair of glasses, and even they weren’t the same pair that he’d seen Nico wear a few weeks ago. Gone were the thick rimmed hipster glasses. The ones he had on now were still black, but the frame was smaller. They fit his face so well that Will thought they had to be custom made.

The way his hair was brushed out of his face made his eyes stand out, and for the first time Will could really see them.

Nico was beautiful. Not that he hadn’t looked beautiful before, but right now he brought gorgeous to a whole new level.

He couldn’t help but wonder if Nico had gotten all dressed up just because they were getting drinks together. The thought alone made him feel so much better about fussing over his own clothes.

Shit. How long had he been staring at Nico?

“-see you there. Hi,” Will said sheepishly.

There was an amused glint in Nico’s eyes that told Will he’d been staring for far too long.

“Glad you made it. I figured I’d come get you. This place is a bit of a maze.” Nico gestured down the hallway and started walking.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Will said, catching up to Nico. He couldn’t help but steal a glance at Nico’s butt as he walked, only hoping that Nico wouldn’t catch him.

“It is. It certainly beats my old apartment.”

Will chuckled. Somehow, it was rather strange to picture Nico living in a small apartment like his own. “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”

When they entered the bar, Nico led them to a small table in a corner. Will took his coat off and hung it over the back of a chair before sitting down.

Nico smiled at him, but Will didn’t miss the way that Nico’s eyes flickered down his body.

“It was terrible,” Nico said as he sat down.

Will had expected Nico to take the chair on the opposite side of the table, but instead, Nico had sat down beside him, and it made his heart flutter.

“I had this phase where I desperately wanted to be independent, so I moved out of my dad’s house and into the only apartment I could afford. You should’ve seen the place, it was a total dump.” Nico grinned and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear.

“I’d have loved to see that. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine you slumming it like the rest of us.” It was. He knew Nico was just another guy under the rock star layer, but he hadn’t known Nico before he was famous. He just couldn’t see Nico living in a shitty little apartment.

“Really?” Nico laughed. “Slumming it? Your apartment is great. I bet you have hot water and everything.”

Will shrugged. “It’s nothing much.”

“But it’s home, right?”

He nodded. “Definitely.”

Nico sat up after a few moments of silence. “So, drinks? What are you having?”

That question shouldn’t have been this difficult. Was this an alcohol kind of evening? Shit, did he even bring his driver’s license? What if he got carded? He was over the legal drinking age and older than Nico, so it shouldn’t be embarrassing if he did, but-

“Will?”

“Uh, sorry. I- What are you having?”

Nico chuckled. “I’m in the mood for something fancy, so I was thinking we could maybe share a bottle of wine? If you’re a wine drinker that is.”

Will wasn’t going to turn down a nice glass of wine. It had been too long since he’d had the chance to really enjoy wine. Every now and then he’d reward himself for good grades and make himself a nice dinner, only to kick back on the couch with a bottle of wine afterwards. He had kept himself plenty busy with homework and classes, so it had been quite some time since he’d allowed himself to have a night in like that.

A night out was an excellent replacement, though. Especially since he was out with Nico.

“That sounds great. You a red or a white kind of guy?”

Nico signaled a waiter and it was like he spoke a different language when he ordered; a long and complicated string of words.

Will wasn’t a complete stranger to wine, but his knowledge ended at the difference between red and white. On the nights when he made dinner he’d ask the store owner for help and usually ended up walking out with a cheap but enjoyable bottle that would go well with his dinner.

“Showoff,” he muttered under his breath after the waiter had left.

Nico smirked, looking utterly satisfied with himself. “I heard that.” He once again brushed some strands of hair away from his face.

Will grinned back, but it quickly turned into a frown. How had he not noticed before? “Hey, where’s your bandage?”

“Uh,” Nico muttered, rubbing at his wrist. “I told you I can’t get it on right.”

Will shook his head. Unbelievable. “You should be more careful and let it heal properly.”

Nico smiled. “It’s healing fine. It’s feeling a lot better, actually, compared to last week. It’s just not quite painless to move it.”

Will desperately wanted to retort. If Nico wasn’t careful, it would take a whole lot longer for his wrist to heal and he wouldn’t be able to play.

Nico knew all of that, though, and trying to hammer the point home would probably do more bad than good. He didn’t want to be overbearing, or be the person who goes into a long lecture about rest and healing.

No, Nico was an adult and Will had told him plenty of times to let it heal, to ice it when it hurts and to keep the bandage on, so he kept his mouth shut. If Nico wanted to be an idiot about this, so be it.

“Actually, I brought it with me, I hoped you might-”

“Oh! Yeah, sure!” Okay, he took the bit about Nico being an idiot back and chastised himself for having the thought in the first place.

Nico pulled the wrapped up bandage from his pocket, along with the little clips to keep it in place and handed them to Will.

With a soft smile, he held out his hand and like the last time, Will gently grasped it and started wrapping the bandage around Nico’s wrist.


After following Percy into the locker room, Jason checked all the shower stalls.

When he was sure they were alone, he turned to Percy, who had hoisted himself onto a counter. Percy was scowling, swinging his legs in a bored manner and letting his shoes bounce off the cabinets with loud thuds.

“Will you fucking stop that?” Jason snapped.

Percy shrugged, but when he looked up at Jason he let his legs rest and the thudding stopped.

Jason opened his mouth to speak, but when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind Percy he could only shake his head. He was angry and wound up, and it wouldn’t be fair to start a screaming match with Percy.

The past weeks had been rough for him and all that time Percy been there for him. It was time to return the favor.

He wasn’t exactly angry at Percy, but he was entirely too frustrated that Percy wouldn’t tell him what was going on. He wouldn’t accept ‘nothing’ for an answer; something was clearly bugging the guy.

A few weeks ago, when he was upset about Nico and Will he’d socked Percy in the jaw for trying to get him to talk about what was bothering him. He wasn’t going to do the same thing. Percy didn’t need the guilt that Jason had felt after punching him on top of whatever else may be going on. Whatever it was, it was bad enough to make Percy lash out; something he rarely did.

He didn’t want to force it out of Percy. All Jason could really do was let him know that he wasn’t alone, and that he would be there for him. His little plan of a quiet night in with a bottle of wine might have to change.

“Are you okay?” He tried to keep his voice level, hoping that he wouldn’t antagonize Percy further.

Percy shrugged again, keeping his gaze focused on the floor. “I’m fine. Just not my day, I guess.”

Jason took a deep breath. If Percy wasn’t going to tell him, he had to respect that. It was the third time he’d asked today, and while he knew that Percy wasn’t telling the truth, there was no pushing the matter.

“Want to get out of here? Video games and booze on the couch?”

Percy immediately perked up and smiled, hopping off the counter. “Sounds like a plan.”

Jason could see the gratitude in his eyes. Dropping the subject had been the right decision. Percy would come to him when the time was right, and until then he’d try to keep Percy out of trouble and help him take his mind off things.

He’d just have to see to it that Percy didn’t pull any more stupid stunts in public.

Percy could do all the stupid shit that he wanted, as long as he kept it behind closed doors. The last thing they needed was another headline in the papers, and Jason would try his hardest to prevent that from happening.

He made a mental note to talk to the rest of the band about it tomorrow, once everyone had sobered up.

“Alright, come on. Let’s go back upstairs so we can take a shower. I should have a bottle of bourbon in one of my suitcases, so Reyna will never have to know."


 

Shortly after Will had finished bandaging Nico’s wrist, all the while talking him through how to do it, the waiter had brought them an expensive-looking bottle of wine and two glasses.

It had turned into quite the fancy night out. Expensive wine, actual wine glasses. He’d definitely have to remember to do something nice for Nico, otherwise he’d feel too guilty about letting Nico pay for everything.

Granted, if the internet was to be believed, Thrice Greek’s members already made so much money that paying for a night out would be a blip on the radar for Nico, but he still felt awkward about accepting it; in a way, Nico was already paying for Will’s concert tickets too. He didn’t want Nico to think that he was taking advantage.

He watched as Nico brought his glass to his lips. When picked up his own glass and took a sip he couldn’t help but close his eyes for a moment, enjoying the taste. He had to admit, the expensive stuff was a lot better than the cheap wine he usually bought, which was probably just one step up over boxed wine.

When he opened his eyes he saw Nico with a smug smile plastered over his face.

“I knew you’d like it.”

Will laughed. “Oh, you knew, did you? I have to admit, it’s delicious.”

Nico nodded and took another sip. “It’s fruity but it has a hint of- Okay, I’m not actually that pretentious.” He laughed. “I had no idea if you’d like it, but I have to admit I was hopeful.”

Will smiled, but it was forced. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the wine, but Nico had just driven a point home. ‘I had no idea’ perfectly summed up their… their- whatever it was.

That was the whole problem. He really didn’t know what to call them. He didn’t care for labels, but some clarity would be much appreciated. They were past a rockstar and fan dynamic, taking cautious steps towards a friendship, maybe even something more.

He really didn’t even want to think about the R-word - even if it wasn’t too early for that kind of thing.

“We really don’t know each other that well, huh?” he muttered. And it was true. They’d shared a few experiences that Will would hold dear for a long time, but aside from that, did they really know each other?

“You’re right.” Nico’s voice was quiet, barely audible in the hustle and bustle of the bar.

Will hung his head. Great, he’d managed to kill the conversation in one blow. Good job.

When Nico spoke next, it was even quieter than before. Will had to strain to hear him.

“Do you want to?”

He furrowed his eyebrows and looked up. Did he miss half of that sentence? “Want to what?”

He could see Nico’s entire body tense up, see his chest rising with a deep breath.

“Know me?”

The words sounded so fragile that it seemed like Nico actually thought there was a possibility that Will would say no.

Will searched for Nico’s eyes. He needed Nico to see that he was sincere. “Yes. Definitely. I’d like that.”

Nico’s face lit up with one of those genuine smiles that made his eyes crinkle. From the few things he did know about Nico, that smile was one of his favorites.

“Me too.” He raised his glass. “To getting to know each other.”

Will tapped his glass against Nico’s. “I’ll drink to that.”


When he got out of the shower, Jason found Percy waiting for him on the couch.

Percy had already set up the Playstation, and on the table was a bottle of whiskey and two glasses.

“I hope you’re ready, bro. I’m going to kick your ass!”

Jason shook his head. Of course Percy would be acting like everything was fine. Jason threw himself onto the couch and picked up a controller. “You’re on.”

Before long, the sounds of guns going off along with various insults being thrown around filled the room.

About an hour later, the bottle was half empty and Jason had tapped out.

“Just put some music on or something, I’m way too buzzed to keep playing.”

Percy threw his controller down and switched the tv over to a channel that showed music videos. He turned down the volume and squirmed around on the couch until he was comfortable.

He reminded Jason of a puppy trying to find the best position to sleep in and he couldn’t stop the laugh that he barked out.

“What?” Percy cocked his head in confusion, which made Jason laugh even harder.

“Nothing.” Jason smiled. When he was drunk, he could spend hours laughing at all the things his brain could come up with.

Percy shrugged and poured himself another drink. He looked around the suite. “Hey, where’s Nico?”

Jason emptied his glass in one go, shuddering as the alcohol burned his throat going down. It was one of those things he’d never been able to get used to. He had, however, gotten used to the laughter that it drew from Percy, who could down even the strongest drinks without so much as blinking.

“On a date.”

Percy sat up. “What? No, seriously, Grace. I asked where Nico was, not where he most definitely isn’t.”

Jason snorted. “I’m serious, he’s having drinks with Will.”

For just a second, Jason wanted to wipe the happy grin off Percy’s face, but he shook the thought away. It was his turn to be there for Percy, and he wasn’t going to bore his friend with more talk about how he was feeling. It still sucked, especially now that Nico was on a date with Will, but he was doing better every day.

The whole date thing put a dampener on his day, though. It was one thing to be aware of the fact that Nico was heading down a different path, but with every step he took, the situation became more real for Jason.

As much as he tried, he simply couldn’t stop hoping against all hope that Nico would wake up one day and realize that Jason was the person who he wanted to be with. At the same time, he wanted to punch himself in the face for-

“Good for him,” Percy said, before knocking his drink back. “I’m surprised he went out alone.”

“Actually,” Jason said, nudging Percy with his elbow. “They’re downstairs. Hotel bar.”

“No, Jay.”

“What?” Jason slurred out. “I didn’t do anything!”

Percy sighed and picked up the bottle, frowning when he saw how little there was left inside. “You’re not crashing their date.”

“You’re no fun,” Jason muttered. He knew damn well that it was a terrible idea, but some part of him desperately wanted to go take a look. Just a peek, to see if everything was going well. He knew that Nico wouldn’t appreciate it, but if he stayed out of sight, Nico would never have to know.

Percy punched him in the arm. “Get that look off your face. I will tie you to this couch if I have to. You’re not going down there.”

Jason winced, rubbing at his arm. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough punching for today?”

“You know what? Fuck you, Grace. Fuck you.”

Percy stood up and wobbled, grabbing at the armrest of the couch to keep himself steady. Jason thought he was going to tip over any second.

“Oh come on, Perce, it was a joke. Lighten up.”

Percy flipped him the bird and staggered towards his bedroom.

“Percy…”

Jason sat up. Shit. He messed up. It was an honest-to-goodness joke, and- Shit.

“Dude!”

The only thing he got in response was the sound of Percy’s bedroom door slamming.

Chapter Text

Getting to know someone was not as easy as simply intending to, as Will found out.

After they had toasted to getting to know each other, the conversation had slowed to a crawl, and he wished he had kept his mouth shut about the whole thing.

He felt awesome when he had told Nico that he definitely wanted to get to know him, and even better when Nico had told him the same thing.

Maybe he was stupid for needing the validation, but he was so immensely happy to actually know what Nico wanted. He wished that everything in life could be spelled out for him in big fat letters, so he wouldn’t drive himself crazy trying to figure out if there was a deeper meaning behind people’s words and actions.

No, Nico flat out telling him that he wanted to get to know him was a good thing, no matter how big a dent it had put in the casual atmosphere. He would just have to find something to break the ice all over again.

It shouldn’t be this hard. It’s not like he had a hard time talking to people normally. Something about Nico was different, though. Everything about Nico was different.

At first he had been nervous about getting to meet the person who had helped him through hard times without even knowing: Nico the rockstar. But the more he interacted with him, the more he got to see through the smokescreen that Nico kept up to see the person behind it.

From the moment he had first heard ‘Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home’ he had looked up to Nico. A hot rockstar, adored by millions, capable of writing lyrics and music that wrenched Will’s heart from his chest in a way that had him saying ‘please and thank you’.

Nico seemed to have it all: Fame, money, a devoted fanbase, a loving and attractive boyfriend in the form of Jason. He got to travel around the world doing what he loved the most.

He had inadvertently stumbled onto Nico’s big secret, and from that point on he had found out that not everything was what it seemed.

Nico didn’t have a boyfriend anymore. He was terribly shy and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, which made the adoring fanbase think that he was arrogant. He had lost both his mother and his sister.

Everything he thought he knew about Nico had turned out to be untrue. He couldn’t blame him for not wanting to share his story with the world, and for hiding behind the rockstar facade.

He was incredibly honored to be allowed to take a peek behind the curtain. With everything he learned, Nico seemed less and less perfect, but Will didn’t consider that a bad thing. Sure, he looked less like the idealized figure that Will had put together in his head, but little by little, Nico became more human to Will.

Somehow, it was a relief to know that Nico had his own insecurities, doubts, and problems. Not that Will wished those upon anyone, but it had finally taught him that Nico was just another guy.

It made talking to him a lot easier. He was finally able to move past the rockstar barrier that made him feel unworthy, which took half of his shyness away. Any shyness from here on out could be chalked up to being an awkward guy.

Right now, there wasn’t a trace of Nico the rockstar, and Will was glad for it. He was just having drinks with someone on his level. Right now, they were two guys on equal footing.

That was the thought he needed to gulp down the last of his wine and look Nico straight in the eye as he set the empty glass on the table.

“So,” he began, “what had you so bored?”

Nico looked up from his glass, which he was idly spinning. “Bored?”

Will nodded. “Your text. You said you were so bored you were about to go insane, or something.”

“Well,” Nico said, shrugging. “Even rockstars get bored, you know. Everyone always thinks our lives are all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” He smirked. “Which is probably true for Percy, but not for me.”

Will laughed. “I can actually imagine Percy rocking that cliché. He’s just got that vibe about him.”

“Doesn’t he?” Nico chuckled. “Anyway, I’m not much of a partygoer.”

“So what do you do when you’re not playing?” He was genuinely curious. Somehow he assumed that Nico had a packed schedule, and he was surprised to learn that like Nico had said: Even rockstars get bored.

It was hard to look past the stereotypes. On the one hand, Nico was a famous musician, and famous people lived fast and partied hard. On the other hand, Nico really wasn’t the type to snort cocaine off a stripper’s ass in some dark, hip nightclub where the music was on way too loud. Nope, that would definitely be Percy.

Nico took his last sip of wine and leaned back. “I mostly sit around the suite and write songs. Play the guitar a bit. We watch a lot of movies, play video games. The standard stuff. I go out and explore the city we’re in when I can, but…” Nico grimaced. “It’s damn near impossible, sometimes.”

Will nodded. “Yeah, I can see how.”

“It’s not too bad, mostly,” Nico said. “I know when to go out and when to stay in. Usually, there are plenty of things for me to do, but I haven’t left this place all week. I just…” Nico took a deep breath. “Well, I had to get out of our suite.”

Okay, that stung a little. Did Nico only invite him here because he couldn’t stand being cooped up in the hotel? Was he just here to provide a distraction?

He shouldn’t be so negative, but it was still difficult for him to comprehend that Nico could actually be interested in him, in any which way. He couldn’t help but overthink everything that Nico said or did.

It wasn’t like he was taking the lead, here. He hadn’t flat out told Nico that he really liked him either, so he couldn’t expect Nico to do the same. But, still, he hoped that Nico-

“And I… kind of… wanted to see you again,” Nico mumbled.

Even though the lighting was rather dim, Will could see the blush on Nico’s cheeks. It made him smile.

“Me too,” Will whispered.

For a moment, they simply stared at one another, wearing matching smiles. When Nico ran his teeth along his bottom lip, Will’s eyes flickered down to follow the movement, and he thought back to how those lips had felt against his own.

He still couldn’t believe that Nico had kissed him. Sometimes, he would get lost in a daydream, endlessly replaying their tryst the other day, and the time that Nico had kissed him at Lou-Ellen’s shop.

Nico broke the moment. “More wine?”


After Percy had slammed the door, Jason was left sitting in on the couch. He was stumped.

It had just been a simple joke. Okay, it wasn’t even a funny joke, but it was no reason for Percy to stomp out like that.

He sighed and stood up, standing still until the room stopped spinning. Picking up the glasses from the table, he made his way over to the kitchen where he put them in the sink.

Sighing, he pulled two bottles of water from the fridge. He opened one of them up and drank the whole thing in one go. The buzz of the alcohol had been nice, but now it just left him feeling a tad nauseous.

He just kept fucking up. He hadn’t been able to keep Nico’s interest, and now Percy wanted nothing to do with him.

However, the last thing he wanted to do was sit around and feel sorry for himself.

Percy walking out on him was his own damn fault. It had been a dick move to suggest getting drunk, hoping that Percy would slip up and tell Jason what was bothering him.

He just wanted to help, wanted to be the shoulder that Percy could lean on. It was the least he could do after all those times that Percy had done the same for him.

Opening the other bottle of water, he took a sip and thought about his next move. He could do either of two things: He could go downstairs and check up on Nico or he could apologize to Percy, so neither of them had to go to bed feeling like shit. He didn’t even think about the third option: going to bed and letting things lie until morning.

The drunk part of his brain desperately wanted to see how Nico and Will were doing. He just had to see with his own two eyes if Nico and Will were really hitting it off.

The rational part of his brain told him to go to Percy. Even if Percy wasn’t going to tell him what was wrong, he could still be there for him. Maybe they could still watch a movie or something, or just hang out.

Although, he could do both. He could go downstairs, see how Nico and Will were doing, and be back upstairs just a few minutes later, no hassle.

He nodded to himself. That’s exactly what he would do. He could use the time that it took to go downstairs to sober up a little, so he had his head in the game when he went to talk to Percy.

He downed the rest of the bottle of water and threw it in the trash before heading over to the door. Digging his wallet out of his coat, he looked back into the suite to see Percy’s bedroom door still closed.

With a sigh, he stuffed his wallet in his back pocket and threw the door open.

When he got into the elevator, he ran a hand through his hair and checked his appearance in the mirrored doors. Maybe he should have changed into nicer clothes before going down to the bar. The staff would probably frown upon his sweats and ratty t-shirt.

Oh well, he thought. It’s not like it mattered. He wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time at the bar. He would just see how Nico was doing and then he’d leave. Maybe he would stay for a drink, but he wasn’t planning on it.

The elevator doors opened and he stepped out, looking for the sign that would point him in the right direction.

When he found what he was looking for, he navigated the hallways until he came upon a set of imposing glass doors.

He peeked through the glass to see if he could spot Nico or Will. It was pretty crowded in there, and when he didn’t see them, Jason leaned against the wall and took a deep breath.

He laid a hand on the doorknob, fully intending to push the door open, but something stopped him.

Was he really going to do this?

He looked around, and before he knew it, his feet carried him into a nearby restroom.

He stopped at the nearest sink, looking in the mirror.

Was this who he was now? Spying on his ex-boyfriend’s date and trying to make himself feel better about it by saying that it was only to check up on Nico?

He didn’t even recognize the person staring back at him from the mirror. He wasn’t supposed to be this bitter. Yeah, sure, it was hard, but stuff like this happened every day and people managed to continue with their lives.

Suck it up, Jason.

Percy had been right to, well, threaten him earlier. He shouldn’t have come here. Under no condition would it be okay for him to crash Nico’s date.

Nico didn’t need a chaperone. He was a grown man who could make his own choices. Even if Will didn’t turn out to be the right person for him, he would have to come to his own conclusions. Nico would never forgive him if he interfered, and he knew that he shouldn’t, but it was so hard.

He had spent a good chunk of his life being Nico’s pillar, but what he hadn’t realized was that Nico had been his own.

The realization hit him so hard that he had to hold onto the sink to keep himself steady.

All these years he’d lived his life based on the assumption that he was perfectly okay, that he didn’t need anyone to lean on. He was fine with his friends and his boyfriend who loved him, he got to go on tour and travel the world, live out his dream.

He never once stopped to think that through the years, he’d ended up depending on Nico as much as Nico had depended on him. It had been a gradual change, too minute to notice it happening in front of his own eyes.

For too long he’d seen himself as half of a whole, and he didn’t quite know how to handle it now that his other half was gone.

Suddenly it was all so clear: Everything that had gone wrong, all the jealousy twisting in his gut like a deadly viper whenever he saw Will, it all came from the same thing.

It was time to be a whole person again, and while Nico would always have a little piece of his heart and soul, he would feel better for it. He didn’t need to be defined by the relationship he was in.

One thing he had failed to recognize through all of this was that Nico would still be his friend. He cursed himself for having placed so little faith in Nico, to the point of openly doubting Nico’s loyalty.

They might not be half of what they once were, but Nico wouldn’t be gone. Much like a piece of him would forever be with Nico, Jason would always have a piece of him, and that would be enough.

He looked up in the mirror again and saw the corners of his lips curl up and some life return to his dull eyes.

It had just been a simple thing that he’d overlooked, lost in his emotions, but it felt like the weight of the world had fallen off his shoulders and he was able to hold his head up high again.

He spun around and marched out of the bathroom, not even looking back at the entrance to the bar as he made his way to the elevator.


 

“I didn’t really want to bring this up,” Nico said, shortly after their glasses had been refilled. “But I really hope you didn’t get too much shit after those pictures last weekend.”

Oh, right, those. If he had to be honest, he’d put them out of his mind the second he had realized that people didn’t recognize him in them.

“Nah,” he shook his head. “Nobody figured out that it was me in them, aside from Cecil and Lou-Ellen. Could’ve been a lot worse.”

Nico smiled, but it was fleeting. Shit. He should’ve said something before.

“It wasn’t anything, really,” he rushed out. “I mean, I was feeling crappy, and Jason was there, you know.” He almost knocked his wineglass clean off the table, gesturing wildly with his hands. “I know what it looks like, but I- we didn’t-”

“Will,” Nico interrupted him.

“I really need to you to know that, because I don’t want it to get between us. Not that there is an us to speak of, but Jason and I are definitely not-”

“Will,” Nico’s voice was a bit firmer this time, and he grabbed Will by the wrist when it came flying by. “It’s okay. Jason told me.”

Nico’s hand felt cool on his skin, and he could feel his pulse race under Nico’s fingertips. Crap, he’d said too much, hadn’t he? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Us? Really?

“Sorry,” he muttered, staring down at the table.

He looked up again when Nico changed his grip and started running his thumb over the inside of his wrist as if trying to soothe his racing heart.

Nico was smiling at him, eyebrows raised in an ‘are you done freaking out?’ way.

As embarrassed as he was, he smiled back. He was pretty sure he could melt ice with the way his cheeks were glowing hot, but Nico didn’t seem to mind.

“I think I was lucky,” he said. “There was a small army of photographers outside when I came in. They’re here for- for Jason, right?”

Nico nodded. “Yeah, they think that if they stand there long enough, Jason will come out to announce his new love to the world.” There was a flash of hurt in his eyes, but it quickly made way for an amusing glint. Nico’s bright grin revealed his teeth, stained red from the wine.

It made Will chuckle, and he almost grinned himself, but when realized that his teeth would look the same so he stuck to a smile.

“Good thing they didn’t see me come in, then. I’m sorry, it’s totally my fault that they’re after you guys.”

Nico shook his head. “They’d have found a reason sooner or later. It’s not your fault.”

Will frowned. “I’m guessing they’re the reason you’re cooped up in here?”

“Yeah,” Nico confirmed. “Another thing that’s not your fault, so don’t even go there. The only thing that’s on you is me having fun right now.”

With a squeeze of Will’s wrist for emphasis, Nico let go and sat back, taking his glass in hand.

Nico was having fun hanging out with him? His stomach twisted in knots and his heart did a backflip. “This is fun, I’ll have to admit. Thanks for inviting me out.”

“My pleasure, really.”

“Although,” Will said, eyebrows furrowing. “I’m a bit uncomfortable sitting here, drinking expensive wine, knowing you’re all paying for it.”

Nico cracked a smile, and Will wished that he would never stop.

“Would it make you feel better if I told you that this goes on the record company’s tab?”

Will’s frown got deeper. Sure, technically Nico wasn’t paying for all of it, but that didn’t change the fact that he felt like a moocher.

“Actually-”

“Consider it a gift, then. For fixing my wrist.” Nico pointed at the bandage.

Will rolled his eyes. “But that was hardly any effort at all. Look,” he sighed. “I’d feel better if I could actually do something in return. Next time is definitely on me.”

Nico sat up, smirking, with one eyebrow raised. “Next time?”

Oh, crap. He should learn to keep his big mouth shut instead of repeatedly shoving his foot in it. He shouldn’t make assumptions.

“It’s a deal.”

Wait, what? When he looked at Nico, he could see that he was trying hard to keep from bursting into laughter. The corners of his mouth twitched and his eyes spoke volumes. Nico was toying with him.

“Jerk,” he said, without any venom. “You just enjoy seeing me squirm, don’t you?”

Nico barked out a laugh, and it took Will a few seconds to catch up to what he’d said. As soon as he put two and two together, he buried his head in his hands and groaned. His face felt like it was burning.

He had never been this grateful for low lighting. While Nico was sure to be able to tell that he was blushing, he sincerely hoped that the relative dark would be able to hide just how badly he did.

Two could play that game, though.

“You know what? I take it back, you can totally pay for everything from here on out.” He stuck out his tongue and took a big gulp of wine, emptying the glass. “Which is a pity, because I know where to get my hands on some primo boxed wine and I dine at only the finest fast food restaurants.” He lifted his chin, hoping he looked as fancy as he intended.

Nico snorted, shaking his head, letting a calm silence fall over them.


After a third and fourth glass of wine, the two of them were informed that the bar would be closing soon.

Will checked his watch as he set his empty glass down. Almost two in the morning. Shit, he had classes and everything tomorrow.

He’d simply have to live with the lack of sleep. Tonight had been more than worth it, and he wished that it didn’t have to end.

When Nico put his glass down on the table, Will stood up and grabbed his jacket. “So, I guess this is goodnight.”

Nico stood up as well, nodding. “Yeah. C’mon, I’ll walk you to the lobby.”

They exited the bar in silence. Will was more than happy to do so. A quiet end to their evening would be nice, for once. Tonight had been nothing short of amazing. Nico was truly something else.

“You coming to the show on Saturday?”

Will shrugged. “I think I am. If I can get there on time. I think Cecil’s taking me out to dinner.”

“You’re just getting wined and dined all over the place, aren’t you?” Nico snickered.

“Well,” Will said, blushing. “It’s my birthday on Saturday, so…”

“Oh,” Nico muttered. “Good thing you told me. Well, you still have the laminate, right?”

“Yeah,” Will confirmed. “But I can’t make any promises. But I’ll definitely try to catch the show. Wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.” He wouldn’t. Even though he could technically go to any Thrice Greek show he wanted, he considered them to be special. And what better way to celebrate his birthday than to attend his favorite band’s gig?

Nico stopped walking just before they entered the lobby. “Just let me know, then. You have my number.” He glanced at Will with a bright smile on his face.

Will took one last good look at Nico, wanting to remember how handsome he had looked tonight. Over the course of the evening, some of his hair had fallen back into his face, and his cheeks bore an adorable flush from the wine, and Will resisted the urge to kiss the life out of him - he did not want to end up in the newspapers again.

“So,” Will began, buttoning up his coat. “Good night. I hope the photographers go away soon.”

“Me too,” Nico replied. “They probably will. Some starlet will get forget to wear underwear and that’ll be the end of it.”

“Well then, good night.”

Nico nodded. “Night, Will.”

Will turned around to leave, but he was immediately grabbed by the arm and spun around. Clammy hands cupped his face and Nico lifted himself onto his toes to press a soft kiss to his lips.

“I had fun,” Nico whispered, so close that he could taste the sweetness of the wine on his breath.

“Me too,” Will whispered back, smiling.

Nico bumped Will’s nose with his own and kissed him again, more heatedly this time. His hands slid down Will’s chest and settled on his hips.

Will swung his arms around Nico’s neck and kept him close. All he wanted was for this to last forever. Who needed trivial things like studies and real life when you could be kissing Nico di Angelo?

Will’s eyes shot open when Nico gently bit on his lower lip and tugged it outward just a tad.

Nico smirked and pulled back, squeezing Will’s sides for good measure.

“Sleep well, Will.”

And with a last smile, Nico turned around and disappeared around the corner.


 

Percy was sitting against the headboard of his bed, absently scrolling through the messages on his phone.

A couple people had invited him out and were texting him to ask if he was coming. The offers were tempting, and he briefly considered going, but today was apparently really not his day, and he didn’t want to tempt fate by going out. The press would undoubtedly follow him around, and he’d smashed enough cameras for one lifetime.

If he put one foot out of line from here on out, Reyna would probably end him.

He’d like to say that he was a laid-back dude, and he was, normally. Today was just… bad.
Okay, not bad. It hadn’t started out that way, but the photographer had definitely put a dampener on it.

The whole thing had left him tense and agitated, and it hadn’t gotten better when he’d finally gotten home.

He’d just wanted to train his frustrations out in the gym, but Jason hadn’t let him. Granted, Jason was just looking out for him, and maybe he had overdone it a bit with the weights, but training was better than letting his frustrations out any other way.

Jason was like a brother to him, and he loved the guy to bits, but he really wished that Jason would stop pressing him for answers. He didn’t have any at this point.

Sure, he could tell both Jason and Nico what was going on, but he needed to sort through it himself first. It was no use telling anyone while he was still worked up. Maybe it would help to talk about it, but he didn’t want anyone’s opinion. Not yet. Not while his own was still being formed. Whatever happened, it would have to come from himself, and he couldn’t let himself be influenced by anyone.

When Jason inevitably came to his room, Percy would have to remember to apologize for being snippy. It had been a lame joke and nothing else, and not a reason to blow up over.

Speaking of Jason: There was shuffling outside his bedroom door. Unless Nico had a terrible time on his date - and he hoped that was definitely not the case - it was Jason, probably trying to work up the courage to knock on his door.

“I’m awake, Jason. Stop being a little bitch and come in.” He had to raise his voice a little to make sure that Jason could hear him.

Within seconds, the door cracked open and Jason peeked his head in. “You uh, you okay, bro?”

Percy sat up and dropped his phone on the nightstand. “I’m fine. Please tell me you didn’t crash Nico’s date.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed deeply when Jason didn’t answer immediately and fidgeted with the doorknob.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Fuck that apology, Jason deserved to feel like shit now. He hoped that Nico had chewed him out, and if Jason didn’t explain himself in the next two seconds, he’d definitely repay him for that punch he’d thrown a while ago.

“I didn’t,” Jason said quietly, looking anywhere but at Percy. “I mean, I was going to, I was downstairs and everything, but I realized what a dick move that would’ve been, so I came back upstairs.”

At least there was that. It seemed like Jason still had some brain cells left after all. He would never forgive him if he ruined whatever was going on between Nico and Will.

It seemed like Jason wanted to say more, but Percy saw him biting his lip and decided to lead by example and not press Jason for details. They could both use a break.

He made a mental note to ask Nico about his date tomorrow and patted the bed next to him. “Okay, you’re just a little bit of an asshole, then.” He grinned.

Jason trudged into the room, closing the door behind him before kicking his shoes off and crawling onto Percy’s bed.

“I’m sorry for earlier.”

Percy shrugged. “Nah, I’m the one that’s sorry. I just…” he trailed off. He took a deep breath, thinking about how to word it.

Jason interrupted him by looking up at him from the pillow, stifling a yawn. “Don’t. Talk to me when you’re ready. Just promise me that you won’t let this shit eat away at you.”

There were no words for how grateful he felt right now. Finally, Jason understood. It’s not like he didn’t want to talk to him, but he just didn’t know how to. Not yet, anyway.

He nodded. “Thanks. I won’t. I mean, I will.” He groaned. “You know what I mean.”

Jason chuckled sleepily. “Yeah, I do. You won’t talk to me, and you’ll definitely let this eat away at you.”

Percy opened his mouth to respond but was cut off.

“Kidding, kidding!”

Percy grumbled, but he didn’t exactly know what he was grumbling about. Jason’s second lame joke of the night, or the fact that Jason was probably right. He’d probably let everything eat at him for a while, and not talk to anyone about it.

“I just hope you’re doing okay,” Jason murmured.

When Percy looked down at his friend, he saw that he had his eyes closed. Jason looked to be on the brink of falling asleep.

“I’m fine. Promise.”

Jason only nodded, and it didn’t take long for his breathing to even out.

Percy just stared at the wall, finding the slow and gentle sounds of Jason’s breathing oddly comforting.

He was planning to wake Jason up and tell him to drag his ass over to his own bedroom, but the steady inhales and exhales coming from beside him did wonders to calm his nerves.

“Jason,” he whispered, looking down at him.

When he got no response he got up off the bed and pulled an extra blanket from the closet, which he draped over his friend.

He crawled under his comforter, not daring to tug it out from under Jason, and laid down.

“Jason,” he repeated, and again, he got no response.

He took a deep breath. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. He could do this. Jason wouldn’t hear him, and maybe it would help if he said it out loud. He poked Jason in the side, just to make sure that he was really asleep. Jason didn’t give any indication that he’d felt it, so Percy settled in.

“Well,” he whispered, “it all started years ago…”

Chapter Text

Will sat back and patted his stomach.

“That was the best cheeseburger I’ve had in years.”

He wiped his mouth with a napkin and watched as Cecil ate the last of the lettuce that had fallen out of his burger.

“Thanks for the food, man.”

Cecil grinned at him, dumping his napkin on his plate. “I’m glad you liked it, this place is awesome. A bit expensive, but it’s your birthday so whatever!”

Will checked his phone for the time. “Shit, I have to run soon.” He shot an apologetic look at his friend and picked up his glass to quickly down the rest of his coke.

Cecil waved him off. “No worries, dude. You go have fun on your date. I kind of promised to help my sister with inventory tonight, anyway.”

“It’s not a date,” Will huffed, pulling his coat off an empty chair.

Cecil gave him his best unimpressed look. “Oh, you mean like it wasn’t a date a few days ago?”

Will shrugged. “Wasn’t a date either. Shut up, Cecil.”

“Let me tell you something,” Cecil crossed his arms. “I know you’re new to this whole dating thing, but if you go out with the person you’re interested in - the person who you’ve played tonsil hockey with before, might I add - and drink two bottles of wine, only to make out when you say goodbye, it’s called a date. I’m pretty sure the dictionary says exactly that.”

Will buttoned up his coat and did his best to look as unimpressed as Cecil did. “It wasn’t a date. Tonight isn’t a date. I’m just going to see the show.”

“Pull your head out of your ass, Will,” Cecil mumbled. “Anyway, wouldn’t want you to be late to your not-date, so get going, you. I’ll be rooting for Nico to give you birthday smoochies.”

Will grinned and jerked away when Cecil made kissy faces. “Thanks again for the food, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Say hi to Lou for me!”

As he walked out, he could hear Cecil shout “Use protection, Will!” after him, which made him hurriedly pull the door shut behind him.

When he started walking towards the subway station, he had to admit that Cecil may have had a point.

The last three times he had met with Nico had ended with a kiss or even more than that. The first time, at Lou’s, it had definitely not been a date. Neither had the second time. That had just… happened.

But their meetup a few days ago? Maybe it had been. He didn’t want to slap a label onto every meeting, and he certainly wouldn’t classify it as a date unless Nico made it clear that it was. He didn’t want to get his hopes up.

No, until further notice, last Wednesday had been a friendly get together that just so happened to end in the two of them making out after saying their goodbyes, even if everything about that night ticked all the boxes on what counts as a date.

He couldn’t help but smile, and hope that maybe one day, he’d get to go on an official date with Nico.

 


 

After soundcheck, Nico had returned to the dressing room. He was sitting on the couch, tuning his guitar while Percy and Jason were still on stage after getting caught up in an impromptu jamming session.

Yesterday, he’d finally gotten rid of the bandage, and after playing in his room for a good thirty minutes he’d called Reyna to tell her that the next shows could go ahead as planned, much to Reyna’s relief.

His wrist was still a bit sore and tender, but he chalked that up to a solid week of not being able to use it. He just had to get back into the swing of things and he’d be right as rain again.

It had been a strange week, and he was happy to be able to play again tonight. Sitting at the hotel all week had left him anxious to go out again.

The last two days had been lonely. Jason had locked himself in his room to study, and Percy hadn’t been around. He’d left early Thursday morning and hadn’t come back until earlier today, just before they had left for the venue.

He was convinced that he would have gone crazy, had it not been for Will.

Inviting Will out for drinks turned out to have been the perfect move. It had provided him with a little cloud of bliss to linger in, instead of moping around the suite because of his hurt wrist.

He couldn’t remember the last time that someone had wanted to spend time with him for who he was, rather than what he was. Everyone wanted to get close to his rockstar persona, and nobody gave a crap about the person behind that.

Will was different, though. Will seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say, and who he really was, and it was like finally being allowed to take a breath of fresh air, after having spent years cooped up in the same damn place.

He hoped that Will would show up today, and liked the small birthday present that he had left for him. It had been quite tempting to get Will an actual present, but he’d scrapped the thought, not wanting to be forward.

Will had also told him that he was uncomfortable with him paying for everything. That and the fact that he was still getting to know Will and didn’t have a single clue what he would like for a present had made the decision easy. Sure, it would have been easy to give him something Thrice Greek related, but that just seemed lame and easy.

“Hey dude, what are you up to?”

He’d been too caught up in his own thoughts to notice Percy coming in. When he looked up he saw his friend holding a bottle of water out to him.

After Nico took the bottle from him, Percy started digging through his bag.

“I’m just relaxing before the show,” Nico said, gesturing up and down Percy’s body. “Unlike you, apparently. What’s with the sweat, Perce?”

Percy shrugged before pulling a roll of sports tape out of his bag with a short “A-ha!”

“Jason and I got a little carried away, seeing who could play the loudest.” Percy grinned triumphantly. “I won.”

“Good on you.” Nico shook his head, opening the bottle of water before sitting back to face Percy properly. “What’s going on with you?”

Percy’s grin quickly disappeared as he sat down and picked at the tape, not responding aside from a single shrug.

Nico sighed. “Look,” he began. “I know that something’s up. I’m not going to force it out of you, but…” When Percy didn’t so much as look at him, Nico took a deep breath and plucked the tape from Percy’s hands. “Whatever’s going on, take care of yourself, okay? You’ve always been there for me and if you need someone to vent to…”

Percy nodded and turned to Nico with a fond smile. “I know. I’m fine, dude. Promise.”

“Good,” Nico smiled and handed Percy the tape back, not wanting to waste more words on the whole thing. He’d said what he needed to say, and he knew how much he appreciated it himself when people didn’t drone on endlessly, trying to get him to talk about whatever was bothering him. He only hoped that Percy would take it to heart and come to him if or when he needed to.

“Blisters?” He pointed at the tape, which Percy was now wrapping around his fingers.

Percy nodded. “Yeah. I might have overdone it just now, going to tape these babies up before I end up with mad blisters after the show.” He made a fist before flexing his fingers, leveling Nico with an inquisitive stare.

“So, how’s Will?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “You should be asking him, not me,” he said, grinning.

Percy put the tape down, raising his eyebrow at Nico. “Oh, so that’s how it is? Okay, smartass, how’d your date go?”

He could feel his cheeks warming up. “Wasn’t a date. But it was fun.” Shit, he just couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

Who was he kidding? It had totally been a date, and if he couldn’t even convince himself of the fact that it hadn’t been one, he stood no chance at convincing Percy.

Sure, his initial reason for asking Will to meet him for drinks had been boredom, and if anyone asked, that was definitely what he was going to tell them.

A date, though… It just felt like such a commitment. Hanging out was casual, no strings attached. Dating felt a bit more official, and he didn’t know if he wanted to go there, not just yet.

He did like Will, gods, he really did. He was handsome, but he seemed totally unaware of it, which only added to his attraction. Nico didn’t know if he had a type, but after the last couple of weeks, he knew that if he did have a type, Will would probably be it.

He still didn’t know Will all that well, though, and if it were up to him, that would change. He hoped that they could spend more time together, even if it was at gigs like these. Maybe he could invite him out again.

One thing was for sure, Will made him feel at ease, and the sense of comfort and familiarity that Will gave him only grew with time.

The only thing he could really hope for was for Will to be his friend. Maybe that made him a hypocrite. After all, Will wasn’t the one jumping on him every chance that he got.

It wasn’t like he’d meant to, it was just that Will was so… kissable. He didn’t really know how to explain it, but Will just had a way about him that made Nico want to kiss him silly. He just didn’t want to stop doing it, unless Will gave him any indication that he wasn’t enjoying it.

Last Wednesday he’d had to hold himself back from throwing himself at Will, which got harder and harder over the course of the evening. Will had looked so dashing, and just thinking about how Will had pretty much dressed up made his heart skip a beat.

He wouldn’t dare hope for anything beyond being able to call Will amongst his closest friends, and even if they were headed down a different road, there were a lot of things they would have to talk about before it could happen. He’d have to keep his head in the game and not jump into things before he could think them through, as hard as it was.

He snapped out of his thoughts when something moved in the corner of his eye. When he blinked his eyes into focus, he saw Jason waving his arms to grab his attention. Percy stood next to him, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“Oh, there he is! C’mon, daydreamer. We’re going for dinner.”

 


 

“Excuse me, are you Will Solace?”

Will frowned. How would this woman know his name? “Uh, yes? Is something wrong?”

Being stopped at the entrance shortly after having shown his laminate made his nerves flare up. Was he being refused entrance? Was it because of Nico? Shit, shit, shit.

“Can you give me your laminate, please, sir?”

He handed the laminate over, trying to keep a smile on his face, but on the inside he felt nauseous, like he’d been punched in the stomach. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He was incredibly disappointed, and right now, all he wanted was to go home and crawl into bed.

Worst birthday ever.

Behind the counter, the woman rummaged around before coming up with an envelope. “I was told to give you this, sir. Have a good evening.”

He nodded in thanks and walked away from the box office, the envelope a heavy weight in his hand.

Giving himself a few minutes to process having to give up his laminate, he went over to a nearby bench and sat down on it.

He checked the envelope over. There was nothing special about it, just a white envelope, without a name on it. Without giving it another thought, he opened it with trembling hands and pulled out a white card.

Happy birthday!
It’s just a small gift, but I hope you like it.
See you after the show, maybe?

- Nico

When he looked in the envelope again, he pulled out another laminate, similar to the one he had before, but there was one difference. Where the word ‘GUEST’ had been printed in bold letters on the other one, this one had just three letters: ‘AAA’

Access All Areas. Holy crap.

All this fuss over nothing. Damn, he really needed to stop assuming the worst every time something happened.

He turned the laminate over in his hands and read the card again. It was incredibly sweet that Nico remembered that today was his birthday. He’d only mentioned it in passing, and he hadn’t even let Nico know whether or not he’d be coming today until about two hours ago.

So his night was back on track. Not only was he going to see the show, he now got to go backstage. He shook his head in disbelief and wondered when he would wake up and find that it was all a dream.

He tucked the card back into the envelope and put it in his bag. He’d have to make sure to keep it safe with the rest of his Thrice Greek memorabilia.

Unable to keep the smile off his face, he got up and walked over to the entrance, where the same woman let him in without a problem, even offering to take his coat.

When he checked the time, he found that the show was about to start. He couldn’t thank Cecil enough for agreeing to have dinner a little bit earlier, so he would be able to be here tonight.

Once he had made his way over to the bar, the lights in the hall went out. He quickly ordered a drink and found a spot where he had a good view of the stage.

 


 

Nico ran onto the stage to the deafening roars from the crowd that had started once the lights had dimmed. The darkness on stage made it difficult to see where he was going, so he navigated by the blinking little LED-lights of their amps and foot pedals, as well as the camera flashes coming from the crowd.

Much like every time he performed, he was beyond nervous. He hated the thirty seconds or so between when he got on stage and when he started playing the most. Once he got going, it was like a switch got flipped; he had a job to do and nothing or nobody was going to stop him.

In those thirty seconds, he felt vulnerable, hearing the crowd scream out his name. Once he started, he let the cheers and the shouting fuel him. The way that the crowd sang along made it like they were a fourth band member, a massive choir adding another layer to their performances.

He strummed a few chords on his guitar and looked at his band members, who nodded at him.

Behind him, Percy tapped his drumsticks together three times and on the count of four, Jason and Percy started playing.

 


 

Will watched the show in awe, quietly singing along to all the songs. He didn’t quite know how to describe these gigs, but he likened it to a religious experience of sorts.

It was like time slowed to a crawl and the whole world fell away. Nothing existed except for right here and right now. The music tore him down and built him back up again, over and over.

The music energized him, but at the same time he felt a profound sense of calm. It felt right, felt like coming home. It was so many things at the same time, bringing him into a euphoric high that could last him for days.

All the shows he’d seen up until now had been different. He guessed that the band liked switching up the setlist a lot. Sure, their most famous songs were mainstays, played dutifully at each and every show, but other than those, different songs were played every time. Not knowing which song was going to be played next excited Will to no end.

His heart skipped a beat when Nico played the first chords of a song he hadn’t heard the band play live yet.

You got to go
Go stop it or you will be left here
It’s coming and it won’t be asking
Got nothing when there’s nobody left in your home again

You'll get it all
All coming when you least expect it
If I'd lead the type of life you lead here
I'd lose my heart, my head, my home

He looked at Nico on the stage, guitar in hand. As the drums got louder, the guitar playing more intense, Nico looked almost glued to the microphone stand, with one leg behind him as if he was bracing himself.

So, we’re running our own way home
We’re running our way

The song exploded during the chorus, and Will screamed along with the lyrics. He kept his eyes trained on Nico, with that trademark vice grip on his guitar as if it were a weapon and he was about to fight something. Nico almost looked like he was in pain, his eyebrows furrowed, eyes squeezed shut and his mouth open in a scream as he sang for all he was worth.

A chill ran across Will’s back when the crowd joined in Nico’s singing. The venue was relatively small, but it felt like he was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people.

So, we're running our own, we are
We're running our own way home
We're running our own, we are
We're running our own way home

And all of their waves won't bring me down
Not letting my days fade out

The crowd roared after the bridge of the song, which made it hard to hear Nico sing the last part of the song, which was quieter and absent of drums before the song built back up to the ending, washing over him in beautiful violent melody. The way the song went from almost cheerful to angry, quiet, sad and angry again was truly one of Will’s favorite things about it. It was a wild, three-minute rollercoaster ride full of conflicting emotions.

We'll run on our own
Their laws won't take us now
We'll run on our own
Their walls, we'll break them

After the last chorus, Nico vaulted away from the microphone and almost danced across the stage. It was sensational to see him make his way from one side of the stage to another with quick, nimble movements, sharing a smile with Jason whenever he came close enough for the other to notice.

Will howled along with the crowd when the song ended, clapping his hands. He knew that Nico would never be able to see him from where he was standing, but he hoped that Nico knew he was there, in the crowd, having the time of his life.

 


 

After the show, Will stood by the merchandise table, hoping that Nico would come out to greet the fans, so he’d get to say hi.

Technically, with the new laminate, he could go anywhere he wanted. He could go find Nico in the dressing room, but it would probably be weird if he barged in there uninvited. It wasn’t any of his business.

The gig only ended a few minutes ago, so he’d have time. If the band was going to come out, they would come here, so he couldn’t miss them if they did.

If they didn’t… Well, he’d worry about that later.

When he checked his phone a few minutes later, to see if Nico had maybe texted him, a hand came down on his shoulder.

When he turned around, he came face to face with a smiling Jason. “Hey, Jason. That was an awesome show!”

Jason didn’t get a chance to respond. Within seconds, they were surrounded by a bunch of fans asking for autographs and pictures. He briefly nodded his thanks to Will, who quickly stepped away from the group that was growing larger by the second.

He leaned against the wall and huffed out a breath. Just like that, he completely understood why stuff like that set Nico’s nerves on edge. He didn’t even want to think about being swarmed like that.

Jason handled it like a pro, though, and it was kind of cool to watch. He patiently posed for pictures, signed whatever the fans wanted him to sign and his smile never went away. He even stopped to talk to a few of them.

He hadn’t realized that he was leaning against a door until it opened, and he pretty much fell into Percy, who was coming into the hall.

“Whoah there,” Percy laughed as he caught Will. “Hey! Will! What are you doing leaning against a door?”

Will quickly regained his footing and apologized to Percy, all the while blushing profusely. “Uh, I hadn’t realized that it was a door. I’m sorry.”

Percy shrugged and brushed himself off. “No worries, nobody died. You waiting on Nico?”

Will nodded. “Yeah, I mean, I was here to see all of you play, of course, but…”

“Second door on the left,” Percy said, pointing down the hallway. “He should be out of the shower by now.”

Will shook his head. “Oh, no, I couldn’t. I-I-”

Percy dug around in his pockets, coming up with a laminate attached to a lanyard. “You’re gonna need this if anyone stops you. I don’t think I’ll have a lot of trouble getting back here without it. Just leave it in the dressing room later, if I don’t catch you again.”

The grin on Percy’s face was almost blinding. Will looked at the laminate, eyes widening when he realized that it was exactly like his own one. Three letters: ‘AAA’.

He handed it back to Percy before pulling his own laminate from his pocket, holding it up for Percy to see. “I, uh, guess I don’t need that.” He chuckled sheepishly. “Birthday present from Nico, I guess.”

“Oh, sure! I was wondering who that extra laminate was for. Anyway, I should get out there, can’t keep the fans waiting.” He clapped Will on the shoulder. “Happy birthday, man. Now go collect your birthday spankings.”

Before Will had the chance to look properly stunned, Percy was out the door and he was left standing in the hallway.

Okay, while he was here, he might as well make the best of it. He started down the hallway and stopped in front of the door that Percy had pointed to.

He quickly ran a hand through his hair and straightened his clothing before opening the door.

“I told you, Piper, I’m not going to go out there today. Let me ease back into- Oh, hey.”

Will froze, standing there with his mouth open, staring at a half-naked Nico who was still busy toweling his hair.

For just a second, he couldn’t help but stare. The tattoos that he’d seen under Nico’s shirt last Wednesday were clearly visible now, black ink contrasting with pale skin. Even in the harsh fluorescent lighting, Nico still looked, well… hot.

“Sorry! Shit! I should’ve knocked first.” He quickly averted his eyes, staring at one of the walls like it was the most interesting thing in the world. He could feel his blush spreading down his neck and chest. Even the tips of his ears were glowing.

He could hear Nico come closer, and before he knew it, a damp towel was flung over his shoulders and he was yanked forward into a harsh kiss.

He didn’t even stop to think about it before returning the kiss, hands coming up to Nico’s sides, which felt cold to the touch but quickly warmed the longer he held him.

Nico shuddered against him, running the tip of his tongue over Will’s lower lip, making Will groan into the kiss and part his lips.

Within seconds, he found himself pressed against the door while Nico’s tongue curled around his. Nico let go of the towel and Will felt Nico’s hands travel slowly down his chest.

The longer they kissed, the lower Nico’s hands went, and when one of Nico’s hands ghosted over the zipper of his jeans he broke the kiss.

“Nico, stop.”

Nico let go of him immediately and took a step back. He looked confused for a moment before his expression morphed into one of guilt. “Fuck, Will, I’m sorry.”

No, this isn’t what he’d meant, damn it. He opened his mouth, but Nico wouldn’t let him intervene. “I went too far, sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I-”

Will stepped forward and laid his hands on Nico’s shoulders. “Nico…”

Nico stilled. “Yeah?”

Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This is definitely not what he’d expected to happen once he’d opened that door. “I, uh, don’t…”

“Like me that way,” Nico finished. “It’s okay, I’m sorry for jumping on you like that.”

“No, you idiot,” Will groaned. He was getting frustrated. He needed a damn moment to think. “I just really don’t want to go home with sticky boxers again, okay?

It came out way harsher than he’d intended it to. Urgh, why did he have to ruin everything?

Nico looked at him, eyes wide in surprise. Will was sure that he would explode if his blush didn’t go away soon.

It was Will’s turn to be surprised when Nico let out a roar of laughter, so loud that it made him jump back a little in shock. Nico shook from laughter, and Will couldn’t help but chuckle along.

After a long minute, Nico’s laughter died down, and he wiped the tears away from the corners of his eyes. “Okay, that was… something.”

Will ruffled the hair at the back of his head and let out a chuckle. He was still blushing, but his embarrassment had pretty much died down. There was no way this was getting any worse, and the only way forward was up. “Yeah…”

His embarrassment might have gone away, but that didn’t mean that he suddenly knew what to say. Thankfully, Nico saved them from an awkward silence.

“Let’s start over, okay?”

Will nodded happily. “Good idea. Hi, Nico, thank you for the present.”

Nico smiled, extending his hand. “You’re welcome. Happy birthday, Will.”

Will shook Nico’s hand, and he couldn’t help but let his eyes follow the trails of ink starting at Nico’s wrist up his arm. His tattoos looked so stunning up close. He followed the ink all the way to Nico’s shoulder when he was reminded of the fact that Nico was still shirtless in front of him, causing him to avert his eyes. He didn’t want to end up staring at Nico like some sort of creep, regardless of their kissing just a few minutes ago.

“Thank you. I had a great one, thanks to you. The show was spectacular!”

Nico smiled his brightest smile and let go of Will’s hand, walking across the room and digging a clean shirt out of his bag. “That’s good to hear.”

“This is awkward,” Will commented, pulling the towel away from his neck. All he’d wanted was to go home with clean underwear, and now there was this distance between them that grew larger by the second. He took a deep breath and waited for Nico to put his shirt on.

He was just about to open his mouth when he heard someone walk down the hallway.

With everything going on, he’d forgotten that he was in Thrice Greek’s dressing room and that Jason or Percy, or even Piper could walk in any minute - after all, Nico had been expecting her earlier. He took a deep breath and started folding the towel to keep his hands busy. “Listen,” he said before taking a deep breath. “Do you have time for a cup of coffee maybe, later?”

“Coffee?”

Will nodded. He’d taken the first step, and it was up to him to see this through. “Yeah, or something else, it doesn’t matter. I-I really need to talk to you.” He put the folded towel down on a nearby table before leaning against it.

There was a long silence, and before Nico had answered him, the door opened and Jason walked in, followed by Percy.

“Piper says we’re out of here in ten minutes. You got your bag packed, Nico?”

Will shook his head, defeated. Out of all the times, why now? “Guess it’s time for me to go, then.” See you next time, maybe. Bye guys.” He forced a smile on his face and walked out the door, letting it close behind him before any of the band members could say something.

Immediately after, the door opened again and Nico stepped into the hallway. “Coffee sounds great. Give me ten minutes and meet me in the parking lot, okay?”

Chapter Text

Nico walked around the dressing room, shoving his dirty clothes into his bag before sitting down to put his shoes on.

If he was honest with himself, he had to admit that Will had scared him a little bit. It was one thing to put a stop to their makeout session, but another thing entirely to get all cryptic.

When Will had told him that he needed to talk to him, he had frozen in his tracks. At first, he’d thought it was some sort of joke, asking him out for coffee this close to midnight, but one look at Will and he’d known that Will was being serious.

A thousand thoughts had shot through his head at once, and before he could make head or tails of them, Percy and Jason had come back.

He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he was determined to see it through. If Will wanted to stop this… whatever they were doing, he might as well hear it from Will himself.

There were so many possible outcomes that there was no way he would figure it out in the short time he had. Regardless, he wanted to go out there with a clear head. Heck, maybe Will just wanted to continue their activities in a more private setting and then he would have sent himself in a panic over nothing.

It was no use dwelling on what might or might not happen, in a few minutes he’d be out the door and he’d let the night take him where it wanted to go.

“You ready to go?” Percy asked from the doorway, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

“We’ll be out soon,” Jason replied, checking the room over a last time to make sure that they didn’t leave anything.

Percy left, and Jason took his place in the doorway, waiting for Nico.

“Actually,” Nico started, “You guys head back to the hotel. I’m going to have coffee with Will and then I’ll take a cab home.”

“What?” Jason exclaimed. “Nico, are you sure?” He put his bag down and crossed his arms, frowning.

Nico tied his laces, nodding at Jason. “Yeah.”

“But-”

“Jason, It’s just coffee. It’s his birthday for crying out loud. What, I can’t buy a man coffee on his birthday?”

Jason rolled his eyes. “I just want to make sure that you’ll be okay going out alone.” He gestured for Nico to stay quiet when he opened his mouth to interrupt. “I know you’re a grown man and I’m not saying you need someone to hold your hand, and even so, I guess Will would be totally okay with doing that.” He frowned, averting his eyes. “But that’s not the point. It’s just,” he sighed, “The venue hasn’t closed yet, so there’ll be a lot of fans around.”

Jason didn’t need to say what he meant for Nico to get it. I don’t want you to have a panic attack. He was concerned that Nico would be cornered by fans. He was right to be worried, and aside from Jason’s little jab at Will, he didn’t make it sound like he disapproved of Nico going out.

Nico smiled. “I’ll be okay. I’ll make sure we go somewhere far away from here.” He dug around in his bag before he came up with his contacts case. He quickly popped them out of his eyes and put them away before zipping the front of his bag open so he could get his glasses.

As he slid the glasses onto the bridge of his nose, he stood up. “Don’t worry. I won’t be all alone.”

“Okay,” Jason nodded. “Want me to stay up? I should get some more reading done anyway.”

Nico shook his head, wrapping a long grey scarf around his neck. “Nah, I don’t know when I’ll be home, so don’t bother. If it makes you feel better, I can text you when I’m on my way back.”

Jason smiled and picked his bag back up and held out his hand to take Nico’s bag, which Nico handed to him. “That’d be great, thanks.”

Nico stepped close to Jason and wrapped his arms around him, pulling Jason into a tight hug. “Thanks, Jay. Thanks for being so cool about Will.”

Jason dropped the bags and hugged back, squeezing Nico in his grip. “I just want you to be happy.” When he let go, he planted a quick, soft kiss in Nico’s hair. “Go on, then. I’ll walk you out.”

Nico smiled and grabbed his coat off the hook. He dug a black beanie out of his pocket and shoved it over his head, so that only the tips of his hair stuck out from under it.

He put his coat on and started down the hallway, looking behind him to see if Jason was following.

“I’ll get your bag back to the hotel. Be careful.”

Nico faux-punched Jason in the shoulder. “Yes, mom.”

Hey!

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Jay.”

When they opened the door, they saw Percy standing next to the SUV, animatedly chatting with Will. When Percy saw Jason and Nico coming out of the venue, he clapped Will on the back and disappeared into the car, waving Jason over.

“Say hi to Will for me, and have fun.” Jason jumped into the waiting car and shut the door right away, to the sound of Percy complaining about the cold. It didn’t take long for the car to drive off, leaving Nico and Will standing in the empty parking lot.

“Hey again,” Will smiled.

“Hi.” Nico couldn’t help but smile back. Bundled up in his coat, with his blonde curls sticking out from under a striped beanie with a pom pom on top, Will looked ridiculous. Ridiculous in an endearing way. Once again, Nico felt the overwhelming urge to kiss him until he couldn’t breathe.

“I don’t want to sound like a dick,” Nico started, “But we should get out of here before we’re spotted.”

“Oh, no, you’re right. Let’s get going,” Will replied. “I actually have no idea where to go for coffee in this part of town, but there’s bound to be a coffee shop still open at this hour.”

Nico smiled as they started walking. “There should be, yeah.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, wishing he’d have brought gloves. “Can we avoid the big chains, though? Shit, I don’t want to be difficult or anything but-”

“Yeah, no worries. I don’t want you to get spotted any more than you do.” He looked at Nico with a small smile playing on his lips. “You’re not being difficult. Truth be told, the last thing I want right now is getting caught with another member of Thrice Greek,” he chuckled.

“Yeah,” Nico whispered, more to himself than anything. It wasn’t about Will and Jason, but more in the way that Will had said it. He didn’t want to get caught with another member of Thrice Greek.

Did that mean he was just being hypothetical, or did Will really want nothing to do with him? No, he had to stop thinking like this. If Will didn’t want anything to do with him he wouldn’t be here right now.

Stop it.

They walked the rest of the way in silence. It wasn’t as awkward as the one that had fallen over them back in the dressing room, but it didn’t feel exactly comfortable either.

Eventually, after wandering the streets of New York for a while, Will pointed at a nondescript diner across the street. “That fancy enough for you?”

Nico glanced at the diner, which looked awful. Half of the neon lettering was blinking, and so were the multi-colored christmas lights haphazardly strung across the windows. The place looked empty, save for a few people who at first glance didn’t look like they’d be the type of people to listen to Thrice Greek. “Perfect.”

“I bet the coffee is terrible,” Will grinned.

“No, it’s perfect. You have no idea how much I’ve been craving for some coffee that comes from a pot and that doesn’t have some fancy name. I haven’t been to a place like that since I was in college. I miss terrible coffee.”

Will led them across the street and they entered the diner, scooting into a ratty-looking booth. Within seconds, they had a bored waitress at their table, who rolled her eyes when they both ordered coffee.

“So, what’d you study in college?” Will asked, pulling the beanie off his head and ruffling his hair.

Nico shrugged his coat off before taking the glasses off his nose, setting them on the table. “Stupid things, always getting fogged up,” he grumbled. He cleared his throat and leaned back.

“Anyway, I studied music history at UCLA. Boring, I know.”

“I think it’s interesting,” Will said. “So you’ve always wanted to do something with music?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Nico confirmed. “I grew up with music and musicians. My father owns a record label, so I’ve been exposed to the industry since I was old enough to crawl around his office.”

The waitress returned with two cups of coffee and Nico quickly cradled the cup in his hands to warm them up.

Will frowned. “I didn’t know your dad had a record label. It’s not the one you signed with, right?”

Nico shook his head and slid the glasses back onto his nose, blinking his eyes into focus. “Nope. It’s a long and complicated story, and I’m not going to bother you with it, but part of it is that I didn’t want people to think that what we’ve accomplished was because of him.”

He took a sip of his coffee, which was truly awful. He pulled a face that made Will stifle a chuckle. “It’s hard enough to get taken seriously in this industry, and I don’t want people to think we got to where we are today because my dad pulled some strings. We’ve worked too hard for that.”

“I get that. I mean, I’m a pre-med now - in my last year, actually - and I love medicine and honestly I can’t wait to be a doctor, but having a famous surgeon for a dad comes with a lot of pressure and expectations and I just want to get there on my own, you know? When I go to Med School next year, It’ll be because I got the grades to get in, and not because my dad is who he is.” He shook his head. “What am I saying, of course you know.”

Nico laughed. “Yeah. I think you’ll make a great doctor someday. My wrist is all healed up, so I’d say you did a great job there.”

Will beamed. “It was nothing, really. Hardly any medicine involved.”

Nico wiggled his fingers and rolled his wrist. “Still, thank you.”

“Why didn’t you want to go to the hospital?”

Nico shrugged. “I guess I didn’t think it was all that bad. Truth be told, I probably would’ve played through the pain if you hadn’t told me it was sprained.” He laughed when he saw Will pull a face that would put a concerned mother to shame. “Don’t give me that look!”

“Since you’re a guitarist, you should be taking extra care not to hurt your wrists or fingers. But I guess you’ve heard that all before, so I’ll spare you the lecture.”

“Thank you, Dr. Solace. I’ll make sure to take the utmost care of my ligaments from here on out.”

Will snorted. “Jerk.”

Nico smirked, very pleased with himself. This was nice. Just two normal guys, sitting around and talking over truly terrible coffee. He wasn’t even sure if it could legally be called coffee, but he guessed it suited the appearance of the diner and added to its particular charm - or lack of it.

He snuck a glance at Will over the rim of his coffee cup when he took a sip, and his smile slipped when he was reminded of something.

“So, why are we here? I’m having fun, but you said you wanted to talk to me.”

His nerves were playing up, and he almost regretted asking. Maybe it would have been better to have stuck to the chit chat.

Will paled after hearing Nico’s question, putting his cup back on the table with trembling hands. “Yeah, uh.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting the air out slowly.

“This is hard,” he muttered, sitting up straight. “Okay, here goes.”

Nico wiped his clammy hands off on his jeans, stomach tightening as he waited for what Will was going to say.

“I like you,” Will started, looking Nico straight in the eye. Before Nico could give any sort of reaction, Will averted his eyes and stared at his coffee cup. “I’ve always liked you from afar but now that I’m really starting to get to know you - the real you - I like you even more. And I can’t stop it. I wish I could because you’re a rock star and I’m just a nerd but I’m falling for you.” He took another deep breath. “I’m falling so hard and I can’t fucking stop. And I need it to stop because I’m so confused and I can’t do this anymore.”

He groaned and buried his head in his hands, resting his elbows on the table. “It’s okay if you want to leave now. It’s okay if you want nothing to do with me anymore, but I just had to get that out.”

Nico was shocked. Out of all the things he was expecting, this was pretty low on the list.

After about twenty seconds of stunned silence, he decided that if Will was going to wear his heart on his sleeve, the least he could do was do the same.

He reached over the table and carefully pried Will’s hands away from his face, bringing them to the table. He ran his thumbs along the inside of his palms, hoping it would convey even a fraction of his emotions right now.

When he looked at Will’s face, his stomach dropped. Will looked defeated, like just getting those words out had drained him of all energy.

“Will,” he whispered. “Hey, look at me. I’m not going anywhere.”

Will looked up and Nico felt a pang of sadness when he saw how fragile Will looked. His normally bright blue eyes looked dull and watery, like he was trying to hold back tears. Nico made a promise to himself that he would see them sparkle again.

“You’re right. You’re a big nerd,” Nico said with a small smile. “But right now you’re not talking to a rock star. You’re talking to another nerd who’s got social anxiety coming out the wazoo. I’m just another guy, Will. Just another guy who happens to like you too.”

He squeezed Will’s hands and ducked his head so he could meet Will’s eyes. “I like you, stupid. Did you think I kissed you for the hell of it?”

“Yes.” It came out as a quiet whisper, and Nico had to strain to hear it.

Will looked off to the side, slowly shaking his head. “I don’t know. It all happened so fast, and-”

Nico didn’t know how to respond to that. It hurt that Will thought that he was just using him, and it had never been his intention.

Was he stringing Will along? When he really thought about it he had to admit that the answer was yes. Just a few hours ago he was daydreaming about their date and he’d realized that have to keep himself from going overboard before they’d had a chance to talk. Now he realized that he’d already done that.

“Shit, Will. I’m sorry. I-I- Shit.” He closed his eyes and let his anger die down, letting go of Will’s hands in favor of tearing the beanie off his head and running his hands through his hair in frustration. Getting angry at himself wouldn’t serve anyone right now.

Will looked up, crestfallen. “No, I’m sorry. I got caught up in it all and I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never really done this before, so…” he trailed off.

“Would you believe it if I said that I’ve never done anything like this either?”

Will huffed a quick laugh. “You don’t have to make me feel better, you know.”

Nico chuckled. “No, really. I’m pretty new to this whole flirting thing. I mean, things with Jason were kind of weird. Sorry, you probably don’t want to hear that. But, yeah, this whole thing is new to me too. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression.”

He reached out for Will and laid his hand on the table. “I do like you. I mean, I’m only just getting to know you and I’m talking to you. Like, actually talking. That’s a big deal for me, Will. You’re funny and kind and cute, and I should have said something before.” He smiled. “And I’m glad you like me too.”

Will laid his hand across Nico’s, smiling weakly. “This was way harder than I thought it would be.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Nico said, standing up. “I could use some fresh air.”

Will nodded, pulling his coat on before getting up as well. “Me too.” He pulled his wallet from his pocket and left some money on the table.

When they had both finished buttoning and zipping up their coats, they stepped outside again. Nico smiled when he saw that snow had started to fall.

“So,” Will said. “Where are we going?”

Nico shrugged, grinning when a snowflake landed right on Will’s nose and Will tried to stare at it, causing him to go cross-eyed. “Let’s just walk and see.”

They walked along the quiet streets for a little while, before Will spoke up again.

“Nico?” he asked quietly. “Is this going to go somewhere?”

Nico looked at him, rubbing his hands together before burying them deep in his pockets. “I don’t know, is there anywhere you want to go?”

Will stopped walking and shook his head. “No,” he said, gesturing between the two of them. “This, I mean. Us.”

“Wh-”

“I just need to know.” He looked at the snow on the ground, kicking some away. “I can’t do this thing where we kiss and then I go home second guessing everything. I need to know if this is going to go somewhere before I get in too deep. It’s been messing with my head for a while, and after last Wednesday I just…” He balled his fists. “It’s fine if you don’t want to, or if you don’t see this going anywhere but… Please tell me.”

“Will…”

Will leaned against a wall, letting out a long sigh. “Look, I don’t expect you to give me an answer right away.”

Nico didn’t know what to say. In the back of his mind he’d known that he should have thought about where this thing with Will would - or could - lead.

He joined Will, leaning against the wall on one shoulder so he could face him. He blindly grabbed for Will’s hand and laced their fingers together.

“I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know. I like you, Will. I really do, and if we were just two average guys I wouldn’t hesitate to say “Hell yes, let’s give it a shot.”

“But?” Will asked.

“But,” Nico sighed. “There are so many things to think about.” He looked at the ground. All of the things that had stopped him from thinking about any sort of future with Will were bubbling up to the surface. “I’m leaving in two months. I’m on the road all the time. I don’t even have an apartment because I’m never home. I don’t even know when I’ll be in New York next.”

He shook his head. “And you’re going off to med school, so your life is probably going to be insanely busy too.”

From the corner of his eye, he could see Will nodding. Will’s hand was trembling in his own.

“And it wouldn’t be easy, even if we were okay with the distance. That whole thing with Jason in the newspapers? That’d happen a lot. That, and worse things. I’m basically public property, anything I say or do gets scrutinized and if you’re a part of that, they’ll do the same to you. They’ll snap your pictures and dig into your life. You’d probably get fans hating your guts because for whatever reason some girls believe they can un-gay me or something.” He scoffed.

He gave Will’s hand a comforting squeeze. “I don’t want to scare you off but that’s what it is. I don’t want to drag you into this life if you’re not one thousand percent sure that you’re okay with it. All of it.”

He gnawed on his lip for a moment. “If I’m being honest, I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with being apart eleven months out of the year.”

He fell silent, and for a few minutes Nico watched the snow fall under the glow of the streetlights. It was calming, and he really needed the calm right now. He’d bared his heart to Will, and he had no idea what to expect from Will after this.

It was likely that Will would be scared off, and if so, that was okay. He’d meant what he’d said. If Will couldn’t or didn’t want to get involved in his public life, that was okay. He’d respect that decision and move on as best as he could.

Maybe a clean break would be best. He still hoped that he and Will could at least continue their friendship, but he’d understand if that was too hard for Will. He wasn’t sure if he’d even be able to go through with it himself.

They were at a crossroads, and they both needed to come to a decision. It wasn’t something they could compromise on. No, this was something they needed to think about. Decisions like that weren’t made on a whim, and he would give himself - and Will - all the time he needed.

“Thank you,” Will whispered. He turned to face Nico, stroking the back of Nico’s hand with his thumb. “Thanks for being honest.”

“Yeah.”

Another silence. Nico didn’t know how long this one lasted. It could have been a minute, it could have been half an hour.

It was nice, though, watching the snow fall together and holding hands. It had been too long since he’d been able to roam the streets at night, and he’d forgotten how different and beautiful everything looked when covered under a blanket of snow.

He frowned when he realized that this could be the last time they’d share a moment like this and tried to ignore the bile that rose in his throat. He didn’t want to ruin it with stupid thoughts like that. No, if this was going to be the last time they were together like this, then he was damn well going to enjoy it.

“I’m getting cold,” Will murmured.

Nico had to agree. He was cold himself but had ignored it, in favour of stretching the moment for as long as it would last.

“We should go home,” he said, though he didn’t so much as move. Yeah, it was time to go home, but a few more seconds of hanging out with Will would be worth the cold and the lack of sleep.

When Will let go of his hand and rubbed his hands together to get some warmth back into them, Nico asked if they would share a cab.

“Nah, that’s okay,” Will replied. “I’m not too far away from home, so I’ll just walk. Besides, you’re going the other way.”

Nico smiled. “I’ll walk you home, then. I’ll grab a cab once I’ve dropped you off.”

Will smiled a gentle smile, and they started walking.

Nico enjoyed the crunching of the snow under his beat up sneakers. They hadn’t seen anyone else during all the time they’d been outside, so when he looked back over his shoulder he saw a fresh blanket of snow, marred only by the two sets of footprints they’d left behind.

It was something small, but it simultaneously filled him with happiness and sadness. Right now, it felt like they were the only two people in the world, and he would give anything to spend the rest of his life leaving tracks in the snow with Will, wrapped up in a comfortable silence.

As they slowly made their way out of the back streets of New York, Nico thought about how the buildings they were passing looked somewhat familiar, when Will stopped.

“Alright,” he pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. “This is me.”

The silence that had felt so comfortable and so right just a little while ago suddenly felt heavy and wrong.

“Yeah,” Nico said. “I’ll just hail a cab. Good night, Will.” As an afterthought, he added “I hope I didn’t ruin your birthday.”

Will frowned and laid his hands on Nico’s shoulders, ducking his head down to look Nico straight in the eyes. “Hey, no. You didn’t. I asked for it and I got my answer. I just… I have some thinking to do. Aside from that, I had the best birthday.”

Nico clasped his hands around Will’s wrists. “Yeah. You’ll still come to shows, though, right?”

Will smiled brightly. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Nico let go of Will’s wrists and stepped closer to Will with open arms, pulling him into a tight hug. He let his head fall on Will’s shoulder when Will wrapped him up in his arms. “I’m glad.”

When he let go and stepped back out of Will’s embrace, he looked up at Will with a fond smile. “So,” he said.

“So,” Will repeated, letting out a long sigh before he perked up. “Do you want to come up, maybe? I’d offer you coffee but it’s-” Will pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. “-Three in the morning. Tea, maybe? I could whip you up a hot chocolate if you’d like.”

He shouldn’t, but his mouth worked faster than his brain could. “I’d love to.”

Will nodded his head in direction of the door and opened it.

When Nico stepped inside and the warmth of the small lobby came rushing to meet him, he realized just how cold it had been outside and a shiver ran through his body. He could hear Will chuckling from over by the elevator.

“C’mon, I have a blanket on the couch,” he laughed, as the elevator doors slid open.

The ride in the elevator was quick and full of exchanged glances, though no words were spoken, and by the time they got up to the seventh floor, Nico wanted to push Will into the wall and kiss the adorable flush off Will’s cheeks. He didn’t know if it was because Will was nervous or if it was from the cold, or a combination of the two, but he did know that it lit a fire in his belly.

He had to control himself, though. After what Will had told him, about getting confused by kissing, he had to respect those boundaries. Technically, Will now knew that he liked him, and wasn’t just toying with him, but it wouldn’t be fair to keep kissing him, for either of them. He - they - were in too deep as it was. If he kept it up, he might pass the point of no return and get his heart broken in the process.

However, that didn’t mean that the urge to do sinful things to Will went away, no matter how much he wanted it to.

Will let them into his apartment and hung his coat on the rack before dashing over to his kitchen. “Just make yourself comfortable. Tea? Hot chocolate? Anything else?”

Nico took his coat off and toed his wet sneakers off before stepping into the apartment, going straight for the couch. “Tea, please,” he replied, as he pulled the soft-looking fleece blanket from the armrest it was draped over and crawled under it, making sure to leave plenty of room for Will.

After listening to the sounds of Will rummaging around in the kitchen and softly humming a song for a few minutes, the warmth of the apartment combined with how comfortable he was underneath the blanket made him sleepy.

His eyelids were heavy and he was fighting to keep them open when Will handed him a mug and finally settled in close to him, pulling his feet up onto the couch before wrapping his end of the blanket around himself.

Nico blew the steam rising from his mug away and took a careful sip.

When he looked at Will the corners of his mouth quirked up. Will had just taken a sip of hot chocolate and he had a brown milk-mustache clinging to his upper lip.

Nico tentatively reached out and carefully swiped the hot chocolate off Will’s lip. It was like he’d been struck by lightning when Will softly kissed the pad of his thumb and then closed his lips around it, tongue curling around the tip.

He wasn’t sure where to look, at his thumb, the way Will definitely blushed or at Will’s eyes. The decision was made when his gaze flickered up, and he saw that those blue eyes were sparkling again, which made fondness bloom deep in his chest.

Carefully setting his mug down on the table, he could only stare at Will with a dumbfounded expression on his face. It was taking all of his restraint not to throw himself at Will.

Will mumbled a “Sorry,” and pulled his knees up to his chest. He leaned into Nico and rested his head on his shoulder, letting out a nervous sigh.

“I’m…” Will mumbled, so quietly that Nico couldn’t hear the rest.

“Hrm?”

Will took a long, shuddering breath. “I’m a- I’m a virgin,” he blurted out.

Nico could feel his shoulder getting warmer, probably from the sheer heat that Will was emanating through his blushing cheeks. He pulled back and let out a giggle that he’d meant to keep inside. “You are?”

He cursed the words for coming out as high-pitched as they did. Last he checked, he’d already gone through puberty and then some. He was a singer, for crying out loud. Having control of his vocal pitch was his job.

He cleared his throat, and sat back to look at Will. “I, uh, I’ve only been with one guy, I guess, so…” He shook his head. “That’s okay, though. I mean- I don’t want to pressure you into anything…”

That… actually explained a lot. Will being nervous about being kissed, hesitant to take things a step further, it all made sense now.

“We don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with,” he added. “But let’s take this one step at a time, okay?”

When Will nodded slowly, Nico leaned back into him and brought his hand up to gently rake through Will’s hair, smiling when he arched into the touch, lazily rolling his head on Nico’s shoulder.

“This is nice,” Will whispered, as if making too much of a sound would shatter the moment into a thousand pieces.

“Yeah,” Nico agreed, though he couldn’t help the wave of sadness that crashed over him when he realized that even if they’d decide to give it a go, they wouldn’t get to have a lot of time to spend like this. There wouldn’t be weekends where they could curl up on the couch together and simply enjoy each other’s presence.

His emotions were all over the place tonight. He’d gone from being anxious to sad, aroused, happy and back again, several times. He’d try to make sense of them, but not now. Not while he was idly playing with some strands of Will’s hair and enjoying the small puffs of breath that tickled at his neck.

He’d just buried his nose in Will’s hair when Will yawned. He gently pushed Will into an upright position and smiled at him. “I should go.”

Will looked at him with sleepy eyes and pouted. Actually pouted. “Can’t we stay like this forever?” he asked quietly.

Nico ruffled through Will’s hair and stretched himself out before standing up. “I have rehearsals in the morning. I’ll let you get some sleep.”

Will yawned once more and stretched, groaning contentedly as he did, and got off the couch as well, staggering over to the door before opening it. He handed Nico his coat and waited until Nico finished buttoning up with a lazy smile on his face.

“Good night, Will. I’ll text you tomorrow.”

When Will nodded in response, he stepped through the door, but was stopped by Will saying “Nico, wait.”

When he turned around, he found Will standing right in front of him.

“Before you go, can- can I kiss you?”

His previous arguments about why they shouldn’t still stood, but were quickly thrown out the window when he saw the way Will worried his teeth along his bottom lip in nervousness, the way his cheeks bore that endearing flush, the hopeful glint in his eyes.

He nodded once, twice, and then Will’s warm hands cupped his face, smoothing his thumbs over his cheeks as he slowly leaned in until their lips connected.

It was soft, gentle, and not nearly long enough, but perfect at the same time. Will softly nudged Nico’s nose with his own before pulling back.

Nico immediately missed the warmth of those hands and the softness of those lips pressing against his own, but he straightened himself and pulled his beanie over his head.

“I’ll see you soon,” Will said. “Good night, Nico.”

“Good night, Will.”

Chapter Text

Will was roused from his sleep by a knock on the door.

After another series of knocks, he dragged himself out of bed with a yawn and ruffled his hair to get rid of the cowlicks before he slowly walked to the door, stretching his limbs as he went.

When he pulled the door open, he came face to face with an impatient-looking Nico di Angelo, who quickly dashed past him into his apartment.

“Nico?”

Nico held his finger to his own lips before shutting the door and reaching behind Will to lock it for good measure, sliding the deadbolt into place. He grabbed Will by the hand and pulled him over to the couch, pushing him onto it with firm hands against Will’s chest.

Will had barely landed on the couch before Nico crawled onto his lap, knees digging into the cushions on either side of Will’s hips, reminding Will of the previous time they had been in this position.

He was sure he was blushing from the tips of his ears all the way to his toes, but before he could say anything, Nico dove in for a hard kiss, coaxing Will’s lips apart with his tongue.

It didn’t take long for Will to meet Nico’s kiss with equal enthusiasm. He wrapped his arms around Nico and grasped handfuls of his shirt to keep himself anchored, to keep Nico as close as he possibly could.

When Nico pulled back, he rested his forehead against Will’s, panting out harsh breaths.

“I don’t care,” Nico whispered against his lips. “I don’t care about the distance.” He drew back a little and started nosing along the stubble on Will’s jaw.

“Nico…” Will breathed, although any other words were out of reach. He let his hands roam Nico’s back, earning himself an appreciative shudder when he traced a finger down the column of Nico’s spine.

“We’ll make it work,” Nico muttered against Will's skin before sucking Will’s earlobe between his teeth, flicking his tongue against it.

Will closed his eyes and huffed out a breath, fingers playing with the hem of Nico’s shirt before he finally worked up the courage to hike it up a little, splaying his fingers over Nico’s warm skin.

When Nico started trailing wet kisses down the side of Will's neck, licking at the skin every other kiss, Will slowly moved his hands up in light caresses, groaning as Nico sucked a bruise just above his collarbone, the sensation shooting down his spine like a jolt of electricity, settling and building up in his groin.

Nico sat back, glancing between the hickey he’d left and Will’s eyes, shifting his hips when he stretched to pull his shirt off and toss it behind him.

Will stared into Nico’s deep brown eyes, and a warm feeling washed over him. The way Nico looked at him, warm brown eyes half-lidded and glazed over with lust, he had never felt so wanted, so needed.

The smirk on Nico’s face was both a beautiful and dangerous thing, and Will got lost in Nico’s eyes, only to get startled when Nico grabbed both of his wrists and slowly brought Will’s hands up to his chest.

Nico leaned away from Will and arched his back, hands finding purchase on Will’s knees to keep himself supported.

Nico was the most beautiful man he’d ever laid eyes on, and he couldn’t believe that he was allowed to touch him like that. With his back arched and his eyes closed, his bottom lip drawn between his teeth, Nico looked like he was offering himself up to Will, and Will only had to reach out and take what he wanted.

Nico had put himself on display for Will, and it was both arousing and beautiful. Nico’s muscles under his skin, the way his hipbones jutted out and the smooth expanse of skin in between them. He could see the way Nico’s chest rose and fell with every breath he took.

He ran his hands reverently along Nico’s pale skin, tracing the lines of Nico’s tattoos with careful touches, as if he was afraid to smudge them. One day he was going to take his time and trace every line on Nico’s body.

He could see Nico’s muscles tighten under his skin when he hesitantly brushed a thumb over Nico’s right nipple, and he could hear the way that Nico gasped in a quick breath, but before he had the chance to coax another gasp out of him, Nico nudged his arms out of the way and leaned forward again, hips shifting closer to Will’s, making him shudder.

Nico brought his hands up and raked the tips of his fingers down Will’s chest, too slow and too fast at the same time. Will felt his shirt being lifted and he leaned forward, raising his arms so Nico could pull it off over his head, dropping it on the couch beside them.

He raked his eyes down Will’s torso and hummed appreciatively, slowly grinding his hips against Will’s once, twice, before scooting down to Will’s knees.

“You’re gorgeous, Will,” Nico mused, running a finger through the smattering of short golden hairs on Will’s chest. He leaned in for a slow kiss, breaking it only to mumble “Absolutely gorgeous” against Will's lips.

Nico rained more kisses down the other side of Will’s neck, but didn’t stop at his collarbone this time. He left kiss after kiss on Will’s chest, fingers dancing along Will’s sides with feather-light touches that drove Will crazy.

After a little while, he looked up, big sparkling eyes locking with Will’s, asking for silent permission while his fingers played with the strings of Will’s pyjama pants.

Will ran a hand through Nico’s hair, brushing it away from his eyes and he could do nothing more than nod shakily, trying to swallow the lump that had settled in his throat.

He breathed out a quiet moan when Nico simultaneously kissed one of his nipples and untied the knot that held his pants up, fingers unconsciously tightening in Nico’s hair, which earned him a shudder.

Nico hooked a finger in the waistband of his pyjama pants, pulling it away from his body, and ran another slowly through the sparse trail of coarse hair that led down from Will’s navel.

All his thoughts dissipated when Nico’s fingers slowly drifted lower and lower, until he finally, finally felt them wrap around his cock.

Beep...

He let out a shaky breath as Nico gave him a long, slow stroke, murmuring praises into the crook of Will’s neck, alternating with soft kisses.

Beep… Beep… Beep…

He didn’t know what the beeping was, and he didn’t care. All he cared about was this moment. But all too soon, Nico started to fade, and the beeping got louder. He squeezed his eyes closed to try and stay in the moment, but it didn’t work.

When he opened his eyes, Nico was gone and he was alone in bed, his alarm blaring on the nightstand. With a groan, he shut the alarm off and rolled onto his back, huffing out his annoyance at being ripped from his dream in such a rude way.

He was tempted to go back to sleep, to try and chase the dream, but he knew that it was hopeless. Once he was awake, he didn’t fall back asleep easily, no matter how much he wanted to.

His dream had felt so real that it left him disoriented, but most of all, it left him hard and wanting. He fumbled with the strings of his pants and pushed them down to his hips, throwing the covers off himself before he took his length in his hand, frowning at the familiarity of his own fingers.

He closed his eyes, trying to conjure up images from his dream before it left him and started stroking himself.

He didn’t take his time. As images of Nico flashed before his eyes, he moved his hand faster and faster, getting closer to release with every flick of his wrist.

The images were hard to hold onto, fading before his eyes. He bit his lip to muffle the cries that were bubbling up from the back of his throat.

It didn’t take him long before he found release to a fleeting image of Nico, half-naked and on his lap. He felt a pleasant glow deep in his being, but guilt soon washed it away.

Was this who he was now, jerking off to fantasies of Nico? He knew that there was nothing wrong with it, but instead of enjoying it, he felt hollow and upset.

He didn’t want the fantasy. He didn’t want a fake version of Nico that he could only see in his dreams. He wanted the real deal, or nothing at all.

When his ragged breathing had returned to normal, he got out of the bed, took his clothes off and threw them in his hamper before stepping into the bathroom and turning on the shower.

Was his dream some sort of sign that he wanted to be with Nico? Was it his subconscious reaching out to him to make the decision easier or some other new-age crap like that?

There was so much to think about, and as he stood under the spray he wished that things were easier.

The relief that he’d felt last night after Nico had told him that he liked him back had been pushed to the background and the hope that had kindled in his chest was reduced to a small flame, burning still, but barely there.

He just had to fall for someone like Nico. He couldn’t have fallen for a classmate or a neighbour, or any other New Yorker. No, it had to be someone who was on the road all the damn time, someone who wouldn’t be around a lot if they tried for a relationship.

He had so many questions, and nobody could come up with any answers but himself.

Maybe this would have been easier if they would be given the luxury of time. In two months it’d all be over, so he would have to come to a decision before then, and when he did, he could only hope that Nico would make the same decision.

It had been less than twelve hours since they had agreed to think about it, and he was already pushing himself for answers.

The clock was ticking, and the longer he took to decide what he was going to do, the less time he would have - if things worked out - to be together and enjoy it before Nico went away.

He didn’t even know if he wanted to have a relationship with Nico. He liked him, Gods, he liked him, but he still didn’t know him all that well. They hadn’t even gone on an official date, and here he was, trying to figure out his plans for the future.

As he turned off the water and reached for a towel, he realized that he was rushing things. There was no need to come up with an answer straight away. There was one thing he was certain of; he wanted to spend more time with Nico.

They still had two months, and he was damned if he wasn’t going to make the most of it, and right now, the only decision he needed to make was to figure out if Nico was worth putting his heart on the line.

Would he - and could he - risk getting his heart broken if one of them decided that they’d be better off apart? Did he really want to risk it for what would be a long-distance relationship at best?

If he decided to end things before they even began, he might be able to walk away with most of his heart still intact, except for maybe a tiny sliver or two that would always be with Nico; his first real crush.

As he wrapped the towel around his waist and walked into the living room, he saw that the screen of his phone was lit up. When he picked it up and unlocked it, he saw that Nico had texted him.

“Last night was fun. I hope you slept well and I’m glad we talked.”

It was just a message, nothing more than pixels on a screen, but the words still set Will’s tiny flame of hope ablaze in a roaring fire. It was at that moment that he realized that, yes, it would be worth it.

 


 

Nico yawned loudly as he pulled his guitar from its case, swinging the strap across his shoulder. He plucked at the strings for a moment before Percy interrupted him.

“Long night?” Percy asked with a sly grin on his face.

Nico shrugged and ran a hand through his hair, leaning against a large flight case. “I think I got home at around four in the morning. Didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.”

“Uhuh,” Percy chuckled. “I’ll believe that.”

Nico raised an eyebrow and glared at Percy as best as his sleepy eyes would allow him. By the looks of it, Percy wasn’t too impressed. “It’s not like that,” he said, shaking his head.

“Nah, you just went out with Will for tea and biscuits. I completely understand.” Percy huffed a quick breath through his nose. “Kids these days,” he grumbled.

“I’m not a kid,” Nico growled. “Anyway, it’s none of your business. I’m not even sure it’s any of mine, to be honest.”

“What do you mean?”

“I…” he paused, trying to come up with the words. “I don’t know. I only had a couple hours sleep and there’s a lot to think about, so…”

Percy nodded in understanding and walked to where his drum kit was set up in a corner of the room. Before he got there, he turned around and came right back. “Hey, you’re going to talk to Jason about it, right? I mean, when you figure it out.”

Right. Jason.

“Yeah. Definitely. How so? Has he said anything?”

Nico was a little bit worried. Even though Jason was being supportive when it came to Will, Nico knew better.

Jason had been his best friend for as long as he could remember, and if they hadn’t been more than that until recently, he would be the first person Nico would go to with all his doubts, fears and thoughts regarding Will.

He wanted to get so many things off his chest, but he was hesitant to spill his guts to Jason. Things were already a little weird between them and he didn’t want to make it worse. Jason had asked him not to keep his feelings bottled up, even if it would be an awkward conversation, but he didn’t know if he could go through with it. He didn’t know if he’d be able to talk about the possibility and difficulties of a new relationship with the person he’d pretty much dumped not too long ago.

He doubted that he’d be able to figure this out by himself, though. Ultimately, the decision laid with him, but it couldn’t hurt to get an outside opinion. He needed someone who could put things in perspective for him, offer him a different view on things.

Percy would be happy to hear him out, and he was sure that he’d talk to Percy before he would be able to make up his mind, but he doubted that it would help him much. All Percy ever did was screw around, and Nico failed to see how Percy could help him figure things out, but he also knew that sometimes the best advice came from an unexpected source.

“Nah, we just hung out last night. I went to bed early and this morning I found him on the couch, drooling in one of his text books. Guess he fell asleep there.” Percy frowned. “My point is, he probably tried to stay up until you got home, so…”

“Damn it, I told him not to,” Nico huffed.

“No matter what he says, he’s still having a bit of a hard time with the whole Will thing, so… talk to him, I guess. He won’t listen to me, but I think he’s just feeling left out.” He patted Nico on the shoulder and walked off.

“Hey Perce,” Nico called after him. “I think I’m going to talk to him right now. You mind if we push back rehearsals?”

Percy waved him off. “Sure thing. I think he’s in the back, putting new strings on his bass. I’ll go on a coffee run or something.”

Nico took his guitar off his shoulder and lowered it back into its case. He smiled when he saw his beloved instrument, hugged by the deep blue velvet lining of the case, and thought back to how his guitar had started the whole thing.

“Coffee sounds great,” he said, closing the guitar case before walking off to find Jason.

Like Percy had said, Jason was in the back room, restringing his bass. He was bent over the instrument, carefully wiping the fretboard free of gunk.

Nico knocked on the open door before he stepped inside. “Hey.”

Jason looked up and dropped the cloth before spinning his chair around with a smile. “Hey.”

“Percy told me you were drooling into one of your textbooks on the couch this morning.” Nico leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, trying not to show his disappointment.

Jason grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, uh, I guess I fell asleep there. You know how boring those study books can be.”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Don’t bullshit me, Jason. You were waiting up for me, weren’t you?”

“Maybe,” Jason mumbled. When Nico glared, he held up his hands in defeat. “Okay, yes. I was waiting up for you.”

“Do you trust me?” Nico asked, using as gentle a voice as he could muster.

Jason frowned deeply. “I… Yes, I do. You know I do.”

“Then why won’t you trust me to make my own decisions?” He took a deep breath and took a step closer to Jason. “I’m not a fucking kid, and I wish everyone would stop treating me like one. Just let me fuck up if that’s what you think I’m doing.”

He didn’t know what had gotten over him, but his temper flared. Deep down he knew that Jason meant no harm whatsoever, but the whole thing still made him angry. He shouldn’t make a big deal out of something so simple as Jason waiting up for him when he’d promised not to, but something in him snapped.

It was like Jason insisted on being worried about him, and Jason needed to know that he didn’t have to. He didn’t need someone to protect him from the big bad world. It was conflicting. On the one hand he was incredibly grateful that Jason cared enough to worry about him, but on the other, it made him angry.

“Hey, just because I wanted to wait up for you doesn’t mean that I don’t trust you.” Jason looked up at Nico with a fierce glint in his eyes, before standing up. He towered over Nico and pressed a finger to his chest. “Did you ever stop to think that I might have been excited for you and wanted to hear how your date went?”

“It wasn’t-” Nico started.

“Oh, grow up,” Jason exclaimed. “I don’t care what you call it.” He rubbed at his eyes before letting himself fall back onto his chair with a thud. “I’ve told you before that this- you and Will… It’s hard for me. And I’m doing my very best to be supportive and understanding, and here you go trying to throw it all back in my face.”

Even though Jason was once again sitting down, Nico still felt infinitely smaller than him. Jason was right, and just like that his anger turned to an overwhelming sense of guilt.

“Jay…”

Jason scoffed. “I don’t want to hear it, Nico. Come talk to me when you actually believe that I only want you to be happy.” He turned around again and went back to cleaning his bass.

Nico simply stood there for a moment, looking at the ground. Shit.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, frowning when Jason didn’t even give an indication that he’d heard him.

Maybe he should let Jason be for now, but he didn’t want to let stupid shit like this hang over them. It would only fester and grow and just the thought of Jason being upset with him made him anxious.

He looked around the room and pulled up a chair. He could only see Jason’s back from where he was sitting. but he took a deep breath and started talking.

“Look, Jay, I’m sorry. I haven’t had enough sleep and that’s entirely my fault and also not an excuse to be a dick. I just…” He groaned quietly. He’d already made it weird and awkward, so he might as well get everything out in the open. “I know the whole thing with me and Will is difficult for you, and I know you’ve said that I shouldn’t hesitate to talk to you but even thinking of talking to you about that is making me feel weird. It’s like I’m rubbing your nose in it, and I don’t not want to talk to you about it, but… I feel like I’m walking a tightrope and I have to keep perfect balance and if I don’t I’ll fuck up our friendship and I don’t want that.”

His heart beat loudly in his throat when Jason dropped the rag again. For a moment, Jason sat completely still, and Nico could hear him exhale a long breath.

Nico’s anxiety levels shot through the roof when Jason unwound a long metal string and hooked one end of it in the bridge of his bass, patiently stringing it across the instrument’s body.

His hands started shaking, and he balled them into fists to keep them steady at his side. “You mean everything to me, Jay, and I can’t-” He suppressed a tiny sob that tried to weasel its way out of his throat. “I wish things weren’t this complicated. I don’t want to be stuck between my ex and whatever the fuck Will is or might be. It’s not fucking worth it.”

He was having trouble keeping his voice level when Jason continued ignoring him. “Damn it. You’ve made your point. Talk to me.”

Jason shoulders slumped and he laid the string down with a deep sigh. “You can’t accuse me of not trusting you when it’s you who doesn’t trust me, Nico.”

As much as he wanted to protest and deny it, he knew Jason was right. Again.

“It’s not right,” Jason said, before turning around to face Nico, looking more sad than angry.

“I’m sorry,” Nico whispered. “You’re right. About everything. I’m a dick.”

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “But I already figured that out about three weeks after we met, so how about you tell me something new, hrm?”

Nico felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I’m really sorry. I guess it’s been hard on me too. I don’t want to fuck this friendship up, Jay, and I feel like an asshole every time I even mention Will in front of you.” He shook his head. “A little while ago you told me that you- that you still loved me and I still feel guilty about not being able to love you back- not in that way, at least. Not anymore. I feel guilty because I’m getting all these fuzzy feelings for Will instead and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose you over a guy.”

Jason scooted his chair a little closer and looked Nico straight in the eyes. “You’re my best friend and no matter what you do, I’ll support you as best as I can. Yeah, it sucks, and it hurts like hell, but if I can’t make you happy I need to step aside and make way for somebody who will.” He grinned sheepishly. “Pun intended, I guess.”

Nico groaned. “See? That’s exactly what makes me feel so damned guilty. You can’t make me happy? That’s bullshit, Jason. You’re one of the few people on this planet who can. Just…” he sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. “Just not in that way, I guess. Shit, I mean- It’s not like you never-” He tugged at a lock of his hair in frustration. “I was happy with you, and I still am, as friends, you know?”

Jason patted Nico on the knee. “I know what you mean, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Feelings change.” He shrugged. “But my point still stands. If I’m not the person for you, then that’s the way it is, and I’ve accepted that. I’ll always have your back, no matter what happens with Will.”

“I wish it were that easy.”

“You’ll figure it out, I’m sure.”

Nico didn’t know what it was, the gentle smile on Jason’s face or his unwavering voice, but he believed Jason.

“Anyway, I did some soul searching the past few weeks,” Jason said. “And I don’t want to get in the way of anything. I know we’ve had this conversation before, and I’m not going all broken record on you, but I’m okay with it - you and Will, I mean - I really am. If you want to talk about things - even Will - I’ll be there for you. And I need you to trust me on that. I don’t know what’s left if you can’t at least do that.”

“I just thought you-”

Jason cut him off. “Don’t just assume things, Neeks. We could’ve avoided this whole fucking mess if you’d have come to me. I guess I’m to blame as well. I’ve been assuming things too, and I only recently realized that I needed to stop doing that. It’s a process.”

“I’m an asshole, but I’m learning,” Nico sang quietly, making Jason grin.

There was a knock on the door and when they turned their heads, they could see Percy standing in the doorway.

“You two done beating each other up? Don’t make me turn the car around,” he chastised with a smile. “I got coffee, it’s in the studio. Are we actually getting any rehearsing done today, because you two are making me regret crawling out of bed early.”

Nico grinned. Trust Percy to brighten up any situation. He’d walked in at just the right time. “Yeah, we’ll be there soon. I’ll just help this idiot string his bass before he’s forced to play air guitar today.”

Jason shrugged. “I’ll do that at home, it could use a good cleaning anyway.”

Nico almost missed the subtle way Jason was nodding his head at him while he asked Percy if he would grab Jason’s backup bass guitar from the car. He grinned. It’s not like they were trying to hide from Percy, but this was between the two of them, and he was glad they’d get to finish their conversation in private.

“I’m sorry, Jay. Clean slate?” He asked, extending his hand.

Jason rolled his eyes. “Of course, you idiot.” He stood up and took Nico’s hand, pulling him out of the chair and into a bear hug. “We’ll talk more later, okay?”

Nico nodded as best he could while being in Jason’s arms. “Yeah.”

When they broke apart, Jason lightly punched him in the shoulder. “Come on, let’s get rehearsing.”

Nico rubbed his shoulder, pouting in faux-offense, and stepped into the hallway, closely followed by Jason.

“Hey Nico?”

He looked over his shoulder, seeing Jason with a shark-like grin on his face. “Yeah?”

“You still haven’t told me how your date went.”

Nico barked out a laugh and stepped into the rehearsal space where Percy was waiting for them, tapping his foot impatiently.

“Shut up, Grace.”

Chapter Text

Three days.

Three whole days without so much as a text from Nico. After the last one, in which Nico had said that they had fun, Will replied with a simple ‘Me too’ and then they had fallen silent, aside from a daily ‘Hey, how was your day?’ . He’d get or send a ‘Pretty good. You?’ in return and that was that.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk to Nico - Gods, he did - but where would he begin after the rather heavy subject matter they’d discussed?

He’d kept putting it off and putting it off, hoping that Nico would be the one to start another conversation that went beyond a greeting.

It would be a few days until he could go to the next show. There were others he could go to, but he’d have to travel too far and he still had to study for his exams. The next gig this Saturday would be a nice break in between study sessions.

He’d spent the past few days hoping that he’d get to spend some more time with Nico. He’d get the chance after the next show, but after last Saturday, he was aching for some more alone time - just to hang out.

What he really wanted to do was ask Nico out on a date - a proper one. He’d been thinking of things that Nico might enjoy doing, or a place they could go to, but he was blanking. Was there even anything he could come up with that would impress Nico?

He was just a simple New Yorker, a far cry from the world traveler that Nico was. A fancy night out for him included going for a burger that was served on an actual plate and going to the movies after, and stuff like that would probably be boring to Nico.

Maybe Cecil would have some ideas. While Cecil wasn’t exactly a ladies man, he’d gone on more dates than Will could count, and he’d welcome any ideas at this point.

He fished his phone from his pocket and shot Cecil a quick text, asking him to lunch tomorrow.

While he still had his phone in hand, he pulled up his browser and googled ‘Perfect ideas for a date’. He scrolled through a couple of articles and as time went on he got increasingly more frustrated, until he threw his phone on his bed with a loud groan.

None of it was helping. Dinner was boring, so was going to see a movie. He didn’t want Nico to be uncomfortable so they couldn’t really go into town or anything like that. They’d already had drinks together at the hotel, and while that had been wonderful and fun and so many other nice things, he didn’t just want a repeat of that - not that he could even assume that it would be equally great the second time around.

His options were limited, but he still wanted to think of something that they could both remember fondly, even if a relationship wasn’t in the cards for them.

As soon as the word ‘relationship’ popped in his head, he wanted to smack himself. Like so many times before, he was getting way ahead of himself.

Here he was, trying to come up with all these wild ideas when he didn’t even know if Nico would agree to a date. For all he knew, Nico had made his mind up already, and saw no future for them.

He didn’t want to think about that option, but he had to acknowledge that it was a possibility. Until he got word from Nico, he couldn’t rule anything out.

There was only one way to find out, though. He had to man up and ask Nico out. He could think of something if and when Nico said yes.

He walked over to his bed and sat down on it, grabbing his phone.

“Hey, Nico. Would you maybe want to go on a real date with me?”

He stared at the message for a long time before he even dared to hit ‘send’, and ten minutes later he’d deleted and retyped the message so many times he’d lost count.

All it would take was one little tap of his finger, so why couldn’t he just send it?

He rubbed at his temples and deleted the message. Who the hell asked people on dates via text? Maybe he should wait and ask Nico on Saturday, when they would be face to face.

Shaking his head, he looked at his phone again, frowning at the blinking cursor that was impatiently waiting for him to make up his mind and type a message already.

No, he shouldn’t wait until Saturday. There was no guarantee that he’d get to be alone with Nico, and the last thing he wanted to do was ask Nico on a date when Percy or - even worse - Jason was around.

He closed his texting app and took a deep breath before scrolling through the contacts on his phone, thumb hovering over Nico’s name for a moment before he tapped it.

Closing his eyes, he pressed his phone to his ear and tried to keep his breathing steady as the call connected.

 


 

Jason closed his laptop after a loud buzzing noise broke his concentration. He was glad for the distraction; when he checked the clock, he found that he’d spent three straight hours studying.

It took him a moment to gather his senses, but after a few seconds he realized that the buzzing noise was Nico’s phone, vibrating loudly against the surface of the coffee table.

He looked around the room, but he couldn’t see Nico anywhere, so he took the phone and answered it before the call dropped.

“Hello?”

He could hear the person on the other side take a deep breath before a quiet “Hey” reached his ear.

Quickly pulling the phone away to check who exactly it was that was calling Nico, his eyes widened when he saw Will’s name on the screen.

“Hey, Will, it’s Jason. I think Nico’s in his room. Hang on, I’ll go check.”

As he lowered the phone, he could hear Will saying “Okay”. He got off the couch and stepped towards Nico’s bedroom and knocked on the door. “Neeks? Are you in there?”

He waited a few seconds and listened for the sounds of movement behind the door, but when all he got was silence he slowly opened the door and poked his head in.

Nico’s bedroom was empty, and a quick look towards the balcony told Jason that he wasn’t out smoking either.

He jolted when he heard the sounds of the shower being turned on in Nico’s bathroom, and he frowned. “Hey,” he said, pressing the phone against his ear again.

He walked out of Nico’s bedroom and closed the door behind him. “Nico’s in the shower. Do you want me to pass a message along or something?”

Will’s breathing hitched, and Jason could hear him swallow through the phone. “No, that’s okay. I’ll call back later, I guess.”

Jason nodded before realizing that he was on the phone. “Oh, okay, sure.”

“Thanks. Bye, Jason.”

“Wait,” Jason blurted out, hoping Will heard it before he hung up. “It was your birthday last Saturday, right? I’m a bit late, but happy birthday, man!”

He could practically hear Will smiling when Will thanked him.

“Actually, now that I have you on the phone,” Jason started. He’d just made a split second decision and he was going to run with the idea. “I think it’s about time we got to know each other better so how about I buy you a cup of coffee or something? Call it a birthday gift.”

For a few seconds, all he could hear was the crackle of static.

“Uh, sure, I guess?” Will’s voice sounded shaky.

Jason smiled. “I was planning to go into town today to pick up a new strap for my bass. Do you have time later?”

“Yeah… Sure.”

He frowned. Will didn’t sound too sure of himself. Maybe he shouldn’t have put Will on the spot like that. “It’s cool if you don’t want to. No hard feelings.”

“No, no. I just…” A deep sigh. “Oh, why the hell not. Sounds fun.”

Jason chuckled. “I hope so. So, do you know any quiet coffee shops or something? I’d like to-”

“Avoid the big chains? I’ve heard that one before,” Will laughed. “Yeah, I know a place or two.”

Of course. Will had taken Nico out for coffee just a few days ago. If there was ever anyone who would want to avoid crowded coffee shops, it was Nico. Jason didn’t mind the crowds, but he was hoping for an uninterrupted chat with Will, and the less people were around, the less chance he would have at getting recognized.

“Awesome,” Jason grinned. “Let’s just do that, then. Is is okay if I pull your number from Nico’s phone? I’ll text you when I’m in town and you can send me the address. I’ll just take a cab there or something.”

“Sure,” Will said. “I guess I’ll see you later. Bye Jason.”

“See you later, Will.”

He pulled the phone from his ear and dug his own phone from his pocket. He added Will’s number to his contacts and put Nico’s phone down on the table.

A few minutes later, Nico came out of his bedroom, freshly showered.

“Hey Neeks, Will called while you were in the shower. Said he’d call back later.”

Nico brushed some wet strands of hair away from his eyes before quickly pocketing his phone and plopping down on the couch. “Okay. Thanks for letting me know.”

Jason was torn. He should be honest and tell Nico that he was going to meet up with Will later, but he was scared that Nico wouldn’t let him. Well, Nico would probably let him, but what if Nico didn’t trust him enough? It was a legitimate possibility, and one he would rather not be faced with.

But he couldn’t just leave and meet Will behind Nico’s back. If he found out about that later, there would be hell to pay, and it would only give Nico a reason not to trust him.

No, if he wanted Nico to fully trust him, he’d have to be open and honest.

“I’m actually going to meet up with him later.”

Nico’s head whipped up so fast that Jason thought he’d hurt his neck. “What?”

Crap. This was not good, but there was no other option than to keep talking and hoping that Nico wouldn’t tear his head clean off. “I’m going to have coffee with Will. Just coffee. I want to get to know him a little better.”

Nico raised an eyebrow. “Is that all?”

“Well, you know, with you two getting closer and closer, I think it’s a good idea. He’s been coming to the shows a lot and I’ve been a bit of a dick to him in the past and I guess I want to make up for that. Can you blame me for wanting to know the person who’s dating my best friend?”

Nico sighed. “No, I guess not. We’re not dating, though. Yet. Maybe- I don’t know.” He waved it off. “Anyway, I think it’s rather sweet of you.”

Jason grinned brightly. Yes, that was the answer he’d been hoping to hear.

“But-”

The smile slipped off his face.

Nico took a deep breath and looked Jason in the eyes. “Listen, I’m going to need to you to understand this. I trust you, okay? But I swear, if you’re going to meet up with him to scare him off I’ll have your balls on a pike, Jason.”

Jason shook his head, frowning. He resisted the urge to cover his crotch in case Nico made good on that threat. “No, I promise I won’t. I just want to hang out with him for a bit.”

Nico sat back, turning the tv on with the remote. “Okay then. Sure, why not? Have fun and everything. Tell him I said hi.”

That was easy. Jason wondered if it might have been a little too easy. “Are you sure?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Yeah. I’m trusting you, and I don’t have a monopoly on Will. You don’t need to ask permission, for crying out loud.”

Jason could see the corners of Nico’s mouth quirk up.

“But… I appreciate you telling me. Thanks, Jason.”

 


 

After Jason had left, Nico sat on the couch, staring at his phone. He absently scrolled through all the messages that he and Will had exchanged over the past few weeks, mostly greetings and courtesies, or the occasional conversation about dumb topics when they were bored.

He only found out he’d been smiling like an idiot when his cheeks started to hurt. In the grand scheme of things, a few messages and pictures of cute puppies were nothing, and yet they still made him feel… happy.

Just seeing Will’s name on his phone’s screen was enough to send pleasant tingles throughout his body and bring a fond smile to his lips.

When he scrolled to the bottom, the smile slipped off his face and he felt a pang of sadness. A few days had passed since he’d heard anything from Will, other than the standard niceties they sent each other every day.

He’d made a promise to himself. He would give Will all the time and space that he needed to come to a decision, and in turn, he’d get the peace and quiet to think things through.

It was hard, and he had to admit that he hadn’t been thinking about it as much as he should have.

Last Sunday, after rehearsals, he’d locked himself in his room and tried to arrange his thoughts, but it had only sent him halfway into a panic attack.

It wasn’t that he was afraid of giving Will a chance - giving them a chance - but what if he ended up baring his heart, his feelings, his deepest fears and ended up getting hurt? What if Will thought it through and didn’t want to take the risk, didn't want to lead a semi-public life, didn't care enough for Nico to take the jump with him?

Right now, he also felt like an asshole for pretty much demanding that Will would be okay with everything before even thinking about taking the next step. Relationships shouldn’t come with limits, shouldn’t come with an obstacle course before they could even begin.

On the other hand, he was glad that he’d done so. He didn’t want to lead Will on, pretend that everything would be okay, and let Will discover the hard truths about Nico’s life on his own.

He wanted to sit by and wait for Will to make a decision before he’d make his, so he’d be spared the disappointment and hurt if and when Will decided to walk away, but deep down, he knew that he couldn’t. It wasn’t fair to put that weight on Will’s shoulders, even Will wasn’t aware of it.

For every positive he could think of two negatives to cancel it out, and he knew that most of the negative thoughts had root in his anxiety, his tendency to think that he’d be judged too harshly and his belief that everything he did or said would ruin it all.

He knew all of that, but it was near impossible to keep his head above water when his anxiety took over, and so he found himself sitting on the couch with trembling hands.

He needed a distraction but Jason was gone. He got up off the couch and walked over to Percy’s bedroom. Maybe Percy would want to play some video games or something. Anything to take his mind off things.

He found the door to Percy’s room open, and Percy was nowhere to be seen. Maybe Percy had left while he was in the shower.

Heaving a deep sigh, he turned around and planned to go back to the couch so he could finally finish that song he’d been writing, like he’d planned to since he’d gotten out of the shower.

The sound of Percy’s muffled voice made him stop in his tracks, and when he opened the door he could see Percy standing on the balcony with his back to him.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it a lot, it’s just…”

Nico could see Percy shake his head. “No, it’s not that.”

“I don’t know.” … “It’s still a lot to take in.” … “I can’t just drop a bomb like that.” … “Yeah. I’m sorry. No, I don’t mean to snap at you.” … “It’s hard.”

Percy ran a hand through his hair and tugged at the strands in frustration. “I don’t want them to hate me.”

“I know they won’t, but I’m already in trouble with Reyna.” … “I’m just going to take it easy for the rest of the day, before my head explodes.”

Nico’s mind went a million miles an hour. This was a conversation he had no right to listen to, as curious as he was, and while Percy was listening intently to the person on the phone, Nico walked closer and knocked on the door leading to the balcony.

Startled, Percy turned around and quickly muttered “I have to go… Yeah. Me too. See you soon,” into the phone before ending the call and stuffing his phone in his pocket.

“Sorry, did I interrupt anything?” Nico asked. “Was that your mom on the phone?”

Percy shrugged. “It wasn’t anything important. What’s up?”

Nico didn’t believe him, but if Percy didn’t want to tell him, he had to respect that. He pulled at a loose string on the hem of his shirt. “I… I got a little jumpy so I could use a distraction. Wanna play video games or something?”

“Sure,” Percy said as he walked past Nico and into his bedroom, kicking away some clothes that were lying on the floor. “You set up and I’ll get the drinks?”

Nico grinned. “Perfect.”

A few minutes later they were lounging on the couch, controllers in hand. Nico was terrible at video games, but he still enjoyed playing them. He was happy that they were playing co-op instead of playing against each other. There was no fun in getting his ass kicked by Percy over and over again.

“So,” Percy said, pausing the game to take a sip of his drink. “What got you so jumpy? Did Jason do something again? Speaking of, where is he, anyway?”

“Jason,” Nico began, “is with Will.”

“Huh? Why would he-”

“He wants to get to know Will better, or something.” Nico shrugged.

Percy turned to face Nico. “And that’s got you all wound up?”

Nico shook his head. He didn’t really want to talk about it, and he was sure that Percy wouldn’t make him.

“Okay, good. I think it’s nice that Jason’s making an effort, you know? Of course he goes about it in his own way - you know how he is - but it could be a lot worse, I guess. He means well.”

“Yeah,” Nico agreed. Percy was right. It could be a whole lot worse, and he supposed that he should be thankful that Jason was making a conscious effort to get to know Will a little better. He was a little nervous about it, but in the end, what Percy said was true. Jason meant well. “You’re right.”

“What’s the problem, then?”

Nico took a deep breath, exhaling slowly through his nose. “I… Can we just play the game? I don’t want to think about it.” He grimaced. “Sorry.”

Percy nodded and took another sip of his drink before unpausing the game. “Let’s focus on making it through this boss fight, then.”

 


 

After getting a new bass strap at Lou’s Guitar Shop, Jason found himself walking down the street.

He was happy to be out of there. Lou-Ellen was a lovely girl, but the low-key flirting made him a little bit uncomfortable, especially after she questioned him about the pictures in the newspaper and he made it clear that there was nothing going on between him and Will.

Women tended to flirt with him a lot, and even though he’d outright said that he was gay in the media, it rarely stopped women from trying their luck. It was flattering, there was no doubt about that, and he never minded when it happened after a show or out in public, or when he could tell that it was meant as more of a joke, but when he was all alone with someone and they started flirting with him, he quickly got uneasy.

Anyway, he was glad to be out of there, and now he could focus on grabbing a coffee with Will. He was happy when Will had texted him the address, partly because it gave him an excellent excuse to get out of Lou’s shop.

He hailed a cab and told the driver where he was going. The driver didn’t know - or didn’t care - who he was, and it made him infinitely more relaxed. After Lou-Ellen had reminded him of the pictures in the newspaper, he’d gotten a bit antsy about being in public with Will.

He didn’t care what people wrote about him in the media - although it was a different matter altogether when they wrote things about Nico or Percy - but Will was just a bystander, a friend, who didn’t deserve to get caught up in those things. And, unlike a lot of people, Will didn’t want to get caught up in it. There were plenty of people who tried to be seen with members from bands to get their fifteen seconds of fame in the tabloids, but Will wasn’t one of them.

It was comforting to know that Will wasn’t like those people. He didn’t think he’d have warmed up to Will if that had been the case. There was no way he was going to let anyone near Nico who just planned to use him to get a chance at the limelight.

At least Will had been okay with meeting up at a quiet location. The less chance he’d stand at being recognized, the better. A beanie to cover his hair only helped so much.

Maybe I should take a page out of Nico’s book and start wearing sunglasses outside.

He grinned when he pictured him and Percy walking down the street, Nico following closely behind, with all three of them wearing beanies and sunglasses. It would probably only attract more attention than when they’d just wear normal clothing.

The taxi came to a halt and Jason got out after paying the driver.

When he turned around, he found himself in front of a quaint looking coffee shop, sandwiched between apartment buildings. A quick look through the window told him that there were only a handful of people inside, but he couldn’t see Will.

He checked his phone for a text and saw that he was twenty minutes early. Oh well, he could kill that time by reading some of his e-mails.

Stepping inside, the smell of roasted coffee beans hit him like a ton of bricks. Oh, he liked this place already.

Beyond the scent of coffee in the air, the whole shop had a cozy feel to it. There were red and white checkered tablecloths on the tables, along with a vase filled with plastic flowers. It was a little tacky, but it was a nice change of scenery from all the hyper-modern coffee shops.

He ordered a coffee for himself and briefly wondered whether he should order a coffee for Will too. After checking his phone again and realizing that it would be another seventeen minutes until Will arrived, he decided against it.

After the girl behind the counter gave him a long, curious look, she blushed heavily before turning around to start on his drink.

After a minute or so, Jason had made himself comfortable in a plush chair and the girl from before walked up to him with his coffee in hand. He thanked her, but she longered around his chair for a few seconds longer before clearing her throat.

“I’m so sorry but… Are you Jason Grace?” He face had the color of an overripe tomato by now, and when he nodded and smiled at her, she gasped in surprise.

“I’m so going to get fired but I’m a huge fan and I wonder if you could maybe sign something for me?”

The poor thing looked so nervous. Jason had never understood why people were flustered by him. He didn’t consider himself intimidating or worthy of being looked up to. It was only when he’d come face to face with his idol just last year at a music festival they were playing, when he’d suddenly turned into a bumbling idiot because he was completely awestruck that he recognized what the girl in front of him must be feeling.

Still, he didn’t think that his mere presence should send panties flying. As far as he was concerned, he was just a regular dude who just so happened to play in a band.

He smiled and patted his pockets for a pen. “Sure, do you have something to write with?”

The girl smiled and pulled a black sharpie from a little pocket on her sleeve before handing Jason her phone. “Could you maybe sign it on the back?”

Jason nodded and held the phone in his hand, looking up. “What’s your name?”

“Gwendolyn,” the girl said, blushing. “But Gwen is fine.”

Jason immediately signed her phone, writing in swirling letters, as big as he could fit them.

“Rock on, Gwen!
JG”

He smiled and handed her the phone back. “Here you go. And thanks for the coffee, Gwen.”

She quickly dashed back behind the counter, and when Jason looked over after taking his first sip, he could see her fanning herself furiously.

He hadn’t even put his cup down, or there was another girl hovering around his table. Shit, he was not in the mood for this. He checked his phone. Ten more minutes. He hoped that he’d be left alone before Will got to the coffee shop.

Lady luck wasn’t smiling down on him today. After signing autographs for a few more minutes, he spotted a photographer outside the window, along with a few groups of girls who were trying to look through the glass to see if they could spot him, running into the coffee shop as soon as they did.

Before long, the coffee shop was packed, and Jason was cornered. He’d had to leave his table to avoid getting surrounded. While he was taller than any of these girls and could push himself out of the mob without even breaking a sweat, he couldn’t get caught pushing people away, especially not with photographers around.

“Easy, easy,” he said, trying to keep the group calm, having to raise his voice to be heard. “If you’re going to start pushing each other I’m going to go.”

Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say. The girls pushed and pulled at each other, all trying to get to him before he would leave.

He was signing autographs left and right when he spotted a mop of blonde hair outside the window. Shit. He’d gotten so caught up in trying to get the mob to quiet down that he’d forgotten about Will.

He manoeuvred himself behind a table so he could pull out his phone and send Will a quick text.

“Don’t come in.”

Okay, he had to get out of here. The fans were becoming unruly and there was no way he was going to be able to sign something for everyone. He’d be at it for hours and the mob would only continue to grow and grow. In his mind he could already see himself being eighty years old, still standing in the same corner, signing autographs for old ladies while an elderly Gwen occasionally brought him a coffee.

Gwen!

He looked over the crowd and found her standing behind the counter, glaring at all the fans in front of her. He whistled and she looked his way, shaking her head and mouthing “I don’t know.” at him.

On the outside, he was all smiles, but on the inside, he wanted to bang his head against the wall, or maybe jump through it all together so he could get out of this place.

Inching his way closer to the counter, he eventually got close enough to ask her if the shop had a back entrance or something he could use to leave.

If there hadn’t been any photographers - or any human beings, for that matter - around, he would have done a stupid little dance to show how happy he was when Gwen let him behind the counter and nodded her head in the direction of a door behind a giant coffee maker.

“I’m sorry, guys, but I have to go. I hope to see you at one of our shows sometime!”

He turned to Gwen. “Thanks. Really. Can I borrow your pen again for a minute?”

When she handed him the sharpie he pulled a napkin out of a dispenser and scribbled an e-mail address down. “If you send an email to this address tonight, I’ll make sure that our manager puts you on the guestlist for tomorrow’s show, okay? Thanks, Gwen.”

He folded the napkin in half and handed it to her. Maybe he should have stayed to check up on her a little longer. Shit, he was only trying to be nice, but she looked like she was in danger of passing out any second.

He pulled the door open and found himself in what looked like the storage room. He leaned against the wall and sighed, thankful for the silence. He could still hear the crowd on the other side of the wall, but he assumed that everyone would be gone in a few minutes.

He felt his phone buzz in his pocket, and when he unlocked the screen he saw that he’d missed a few messages from Will.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m around the corner now. Let me know when it’s safe to come in.”

“Looks like everyone’s leaving.”

He frowned. Poor Will. Jason hadn’t meant for any of this to happen, and he supposed that they were lucky that he’d gotten mobbed before Will was at the shop.

Thinking he’d best go find Will as soon as he could, he opened the back door to the shop, only to find himself face to face with a small army of photographers shouting his name. Momentarily blinded by the camera flashes, he slammed the door shut again.

He rubbed at his eyes and groaned. He was never getting out of here. He shot Will a quick text. “Photographers everywhere. Not sure how to get out without being seen/followed.”

He thought long and hard, but he didn’t see any other option beside waiting it out. Eventually everyone would lose interest, right?

After a few minutes, his phone vibrated again. Will calling. He picked up. “Hey, dude, I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t know this was going to happen and I-”

“Hey, all the photographers are gone, so if you’re quick, you can hail a cab or something.”

That was a nice surprise. “Cool, see you in a bit.” He quickly hung up and crammed the phone in his pocket before opening the door to the coffee shop again and sticking his head in. The place was completely empty, save for Gwen who was sweeping the floor and whistling along with the music coming out of the speakers.

“Damn, the least they could’ve done was buy a cup of coffee,” he grumbled. “But I’m glad they’re gone. I’m sorry for the mess.”

Gwen smiled. “Managed to sell a few bagels. It’s more than I usually sell at this hour, so it’s okay. Thank you for the tickets and the autograph.”

“You’re welcome. I hope you enjoy the show.” He looked around and spotted Will outside the window. “I’m really sorry, but I have to run now, before they notice I’m still here. Bye, Gwen!” He waved at her over his shoulder and walked outside.

“There you are,” Will said, shaking his head.

“Hey, Will. I’m sorry, man. I had no idea that was going to happen.” Jason frowned. He felt guilty for making Will come all the way out here and now they couldn’t even have coffee together.

“It’s okay. At least they’re gone now. I may have told them that I saw Percy and some girl having lunch down the street.” Will smiled and Jason grinned when he saw the glint in Will’s eyes. Somehow, he hadn’t thought that ‘Evil Mastermind’ was a role Will could play, but it was highly amusing to be proven wrong.

“You’re evil. I like that.” Jason laughed. “Anyway, cab? I guess we could share one.”

Will nodded. “Sure. I don’t live too far away but my feet are getting cold from standing in the snow for so long, so that would be great.”

Jason waved his arm when a taxi drove up, but it didn’t stop. The driver didn’t even pay him any mind and just kept driving. It wasn’t until Will stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled so loudly that Jason was sure his ears would still be ringing tonight that a cab pulled up to the curb.

“What? I’ve been living in New York all my life,” Will grinned when Jason looked at him in horror.

 


 

The ride to Will’s apartment was short and quiet, mostly filled with Jason rubbing at his ears and glaring daggers at Will, and Will quietly snickering at Jason in return.

When the car stopped, Will turned to Jason. “I kind of feel bad about earlier. My place is right here, if you still want that coffee.”

Jason smiled. A brief image of Nico throwing him off the penthouse balcony after learning that Jason had gone up to Will’s apartment flashed through his head, but he quickly shook the thought away. “Yeah. I’d like that.”

Much to Will’s protest, Jason paid the driver before they stepped into the apartment building.

“Huh, this building is pretty nice,” Jason noted. He hadn’t set foot in a lot of New York apartments, but he’d seen plenty on television. Will’s apartment building didn’t have any peeling paint, bars on the windows or blinking fluorescent lights. Sure, it was all a little outdated and it could use a touch up here and there, but overall it was well-maintained.

That thought made him feel a whole lot better when the elevator doors opened and Will motioned for him to get in. Judging by the state of the lobby, the chance that the elevator would malfunction was slim.

It only took a little while for the elevator to come to a stop again. Will led Jason down the hallway and stopped at a door with 7C painted on it before unlocking it.

“Come on in,” Will said, holding the door open.

When Jason stepped inside, he was pleasantly surprised. The mismatched - but obviously well-loved - furniture, the sky-blue walls that made the place feel brighter but were still easy on the eyes, the movie posters, everything made him feel at home right away.

“It’s not much,” Will murmured nervously, “but it’s home.”

“I love it. It’s very cozy and it has that homely feel to it. I know what I’m talking about, you should have seen the absolute dump that Nico used to live in.”

Will chuckled. “Yeah, he told me about that.”

Jason looked around some more, until his eyes fell on the guitar that was hanging on the wall. Knowing that Will took great care of Nico’s beloved guitar was making him smile. “It looks good on your wall.”

Will turned around and saw what Jason was talking about. “Thank you. I’m very proud of it.” He gestured to the couch. “Make yourself at home. How do you take your coffee?”

“Black, please,” Jason said, sitting down on the couch. It was so comfortable he never wanted to leave. He was going to have his butt glued to this couch and he would take it with him everywhere he went.

“That was something, huh? At the café, I mean,” Will asked, handing Jason a mug with a picture of a cartoon snake on it before sitting down himself.

Jason shook his head. “They just came out of nowhere. It was insane. I have a hard time saying no to fans, and I don’t mind crowds, but damn, I was happy to be out of there.” He groaned, rubbing at his eyes. “I thought I’d be smart and go out the back door but there was like an army of photographers there.”

Will winced. “I saw them, yeah. I guess they all came back down to the front when you wouldn’t come out the back. I’m just glad that-”

“Nico wasn’t there, yeah. Me too. You have no idea.” Jason took a deep breath and went to set his mug on the table but saw that it was covered in open textbooks.

“Oh. sorry, let me get those out of the way.” Will handed his mug to Jason and started piling the books on top of each other until, slowly, the surface of the coffee table became visible.

“Study books, hrm?” Jason asked. “You’re in Med School, right?”

Will shook his head. “No, not yet. I’m just a Pre-Med for now. I’m hoping to get accepted into Columbia so I don’t have to move across the country, but we’ll see. I’ll have to focus on finishing my last year, first.”

Jason whistled appreciatively. “Columbia, huh? Nice. I hope you get in.”

He eyed the stack of books that was growing ever bigger, and as Will picked up one of the books he could see a yellow notepad with the words ‘Date ideas’ written on it with a lot of scratched out words underneath. It made him suppress a smile, and for a brief moment he could see Will fussing about coming up with ideas, which made for an endearing sight before he threw the thought out of his head.

“So, it must be a busy time for you, with the Christmas break coming up and all.”

Will nodded as he finished putting the books on top of each other. “Yeah. Two exams next week and then I’ll have a whole month off. I can’t wait.”

Jason grinned. “I hear you. I’d forgotten how gruelling college can be.” He put both mugs on the table and leaned back. “I have three exams coming up, but I have a lot of work to catch up on during the break.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “I thought you guys all dropped out when you hit it big.”

“We did,” Jason said, shaking his head. “But I- I guess I really wanted to get my degree. Band life is fleeting, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to do this forever.” He shrugged. “And even if we make enough money so we’ll never have to work again I want my life to mean something, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I’m having fun and I know that music can have an enormous impact on someone’s life but… If it ends, I don’t want my- I guess legacy is the word- to end there.”

Will scratched at his head. “Yeah. I wouldn’t want to sit on my ass for the rest of my life, either.” He smirked. “It’s tempting, but I guess it’d get boring pretty quickly. So, what are you studying, then?”

“Psychology,” Jason said. “I just want to help people. I think it’s in my blood, or something.”

“So that’s why you were the one to take me outside before that show instead of Percy or Nico?”

“Well,” Jason said, frowning. “Percy told me to take you, I guess he figured that having Nico near you wouldn’t really help.” He sighed. “I didn't… really like you, back then, if I’m being honest. I was jealous.”

Will looked down. “I see.”

“No, no,” Jason said, reaching out to pat Will on the shoulder, giving it a squeeze before sitting back. “That night… I got to know you a little, and I had to change my mind. You’re a nice guy.” He sat up and made sure to look Will in the eye. “I guess that’s why I wanted to grab a coffee. If you’re hanging out with Nico so much, I want us to get along.” He took a big gulp of coffee. “He likes you, you know?”

“Yeah…” Will fell silent, looking up and opening his mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out. A few moments passed in silence before Will spoke up again. “I like him too.”

Jason’s eyebrows furrowed. “You don’t sound too happy about that.”

“I am,” Will blurted out. “I really am. I just…” he trailed off.

“We don’t have to talk about this,” Jason said, trying to sound as reassuring as possible. Nico hadn’t really talked to him about Will, and while he was eager to find out what exactly was going on between those two, he didn’t want to pressure anyone.

“No, it’s okay,” Will smiled and picked up his mug, cradling it in his hands. “I just don’t know what to say, really. I don’t know where this is going to go.”

“Have you talked to him about it?” Jason asked. Knowing how Nico loathed to talk about his feelings out of fear of rejection, it would make perfect sense he’d left Will in the dark.

“We talked, yeah. He-” Will chewed on his lip. “He told me he liked me but… It’s just hard, with you guys leaving in two months, you know?”

Jason nodded. “Yeah. Lots of things to think about, I’d imagine.” He finished his coffee and checked his phone. “I should get going. I think we’re having pizza night and Percy will have eaten all of it if I’m not back at the hotel in time.”

Will nodded and stood up, following Jason to the door. He pulled it open and smiled at Jason. “Thanks, Jason.”

Jason smiled back. “No worries. You’ll figure it out, Will, and if you need someone to talk to or something, well, you have my number now. Good luck with the exams and I guess I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah,” Will said, leaning against the doorframe. “I’ll be at the gig on saturday, so I’ll see you then.”

“See ya,” Jason said with a small wave of his hand, stepping into the hallway. While he waited for the elevator, he turned around to see Will still standing in the doorway. “Hey Will,” he yelled as the elevator doors slid open.

Will poked his head into the hallway.

“Nico likes home-cooked food.”

 


 

After pacing around his apartment for a long time, Will finally sat down again.

Home-cooked meals, huh? Sure. He could do that. He wasn’t the best of cooks but he was sure that he could whip up something delicious if he put his mind to it.

He didn’t have a lot of time in between classes and studying, but every now and again he liked to go all out. He’d look up a particularly tasty-sounding recipe online and spend hours in the kitchen just so he could cook himself a fancy meal.

Cooking dinner for Nico would be a different thing altogether, though. What kind of food did Nico like? Did he have any allergies? Was he a vegetarian? Oh gods, what if he cooked up a delicious rack of lamb or something and it turned out that Nico was a vegetarian or a vegan and then he’d hate Will forever.

The image of Nico storming out after finding a steak on his plate horrified him so much that it prompted him to start pacing around the room again, in an attempt to clear his mind.

Okay, okay, calm down.

All he had to do to was ask. He could ask Nico about what he would like to eat and if there was anything he’d have to keep in mind before selecting a recipe.

That was one problem solved. The next problem surfaced when he looked around the room. There was no way in hell he would invite Nico over for dinner only to serve it on the coffee table so they could eat on the couch with a plate in their laps.

He could maybe clear his desk and move his furniture around, but that would still leave him one chair short. Urgh, clearly he hadn’t thought about the possibility of dinner dates when he’d moved in. Up until now, Chez Will had been a restaurant serving a party of one exclusively.

It never mattered when he had friends over. He could squeeze three people on the couch and the rest would just have to sit on the floor. But a bona fide date? No, a date required a seating arrangement with actual seats.

In the back of his mind he knew that problems like that were easily solved. If he asked nicely, maybe one of his neighbours would loan him a chair for the night, and there was no use in freaking out about it now, not when he hadn’t even-

Yeah, okay. He should maybe do what he’d been holding off on all this time. It didn’t matter if Nico was a vegetarian, or if he didn’t have enough chairs if Nico said no, but it was easier to freak out about the details than to call Nico.

He groaned and sat down again, pulling his knees up to his chest. He was scared to call. What if Jason had set him up? Just a few hours ago, he’d flat out told Will that he hadn’t liked him at first. What if Jason knew that Nico would hate the idea?

No, he couldn’t think like that. Jason hadn’t wronged him, and he deserved Will’s trust. In fact, if Jason hadn’t given him the guest laminate back all those weeks ago, after Nico had that panic attack, he wouldn’t even be in the position to ask Nico out.

He needed to get over himself and call, and that’s exactly what he was going to do. He grabbed his phone off the coffee table, scrolled through his contacts and hovered over Nico’s name, much like he’d done earlier today.

He took a deep breath and tapped Nico’s name before pressing the phone to his ear.

It hadn’t even been two seconds when there was a ruffling sound on the other end and a quiet “Hello?” came through his speaker. It was definitely Nico’s voice this time.

Will’s stomach did a series of backflips. “Hey, Nico, it’s Will.”

“Hey, Will. What’s up?”

Will froze. Just how was he going to do this? Could he just ask? Would that be weird? “Nothing much. How was your day?”

He could hear Nico chuckle on the other end. “It was fine. I heard about your adventure with Jason.”

“Oh. I- uh, yeah. It was quite an adventure, I suppose.” Shit, he was never going to get the words out.

“So, why are you calling? Not that I mind, it’s good to hear-” Nico didn’t finish the sentence, clearing his throat loudly instead.

“I- I have a- a question.” Will stammered out. He pulled his shirt collar away from his neck to let some cool air down his shirt.

“Yeah?” Nico asked. “Shoot.”

Will heaved a sigh. “Wouldyoumaybewanttogoonadatewithme?” He rushed the words out as fast as he could, curling up into a ball right after. This was it, the moment of truth.

“What? Will, I didn’t get any of that.” Nico laughed. “Slow down a little.”

Will covered his phone with his hand, whimpered, and hoped that Nico didn’t hear it. He sat up straight, gave himself a half-second mental peptalk and put the phone to his ear again. “I said, would you, uh, maybe want to go… On a date?” He nodded to himself. “With me, I mean. A date with me,” he hurriedly added.

There was silence on the other end, and if Nico didn’t answer him in the next three seconds, he was going to drown himself in the shower, however difficult that might be. He quickly glanced at his phone’s screen to see if the call was still connected before Nico spoke.

“I’d like that.”

“Really?” Will asked.

Nico laughed one his his musical laughs that made Will’s heart skip a beat. “Yes, you idiot. Really.”

“Okay, great! I thought maybe I could cook you dinner or something, if that’s okay? Anything you want to do, really. We could go out or maybe go to the movies. I don’t really know what people do on dates aside from what I’ve seen on television but I thought it’d be nice if I cooked for you but if you don’t like that we could totally do something else and-”

“Will,” Nico cut him off, “I’d love that. I’ll bring the wine, okay?”

Shit, he’d been rambling. “Yeah, okay. Wine is good. So are dates. I’m looking forward to it already.” It was like his brain had gone offline. How did words work again?

“Me too. I can’t wait.” There was a muffled voice in the background. “Listen, I have to go, but we’ll set a date soon, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure! We’ll text or something. Anyway, I’ll see you on saturday at the show. Have a good night, Nico.”

“See you then. Good night, Will.”

When the call dropped, Will let himself fall backwards on the couch and let out a high-pitched noise that made him happy that nobody was around to hear it.

He had a date. A date with Nico di Angelo.

Chapter Text

Holy crap, this is awesome, Will thought to himself as he looked out over the crowd.

He had arrived shortly before the show started and had immediately made his way over to the dressing room, having promised Nico that he’d say hi once he got there. Percy had told him that this was one of the bigger venues they would play in on this tour and that he should watch the show from the stage instead of trying to squeeze into the crowd.

And so he did. He was a little hesitant at first, but after studying all day, having the space to calmly watch the show instead of standing in a sweaty throng of people sounded much more appealing.

He was just on the side of the stage, hidden behind thick black curtains that he’d pulled open just a little to get a glimpse of the venue. As he stared out over the sea of people, he was beginning to understand what Nico had meant when he’d said that being on stage is scary.

Seeing the crowd and being in it were two very different things, indeed. Will had been to some pretty big venues before, but he’d never realized how many people actually fit in them until he saw it from a whole different angle.

It wasn’t just the crowd that looked different from the side of the stage. It was kind of weird to see the band playing from the side.

He didn’t get to see a whole lot of Jason, because he was hidden from view behind Nico, but it was… interesting to see Percy playing.

It was the first time he could see more of Percy during a show. Usually - from his point of view in the crowd - Percy was nothing more than a head and a pair of swinging arms. From the side of the stage, without a drum kit to hide him from view, the scenery got a lot better.

He’d been keeping his eyes on Nico for most of the show, but once he’d caught a glimpse of Percy, it was hard to tear his eyes off him.

It was mesmerizing to watch Percy set the rhythm to the songs. Every part of his body moved in rhythmic perfection, emphasized by every beat of the drums and crash of the cymbals.

Of course it had to be hot as hell in the venue, so to top it all off, Percy was shirtless. Will could not keep his eyes off Percy, no matter how hard he tried. He was hypnotized by the way Percy’s muscles flexed and relaxed under his tanned and tattooed skin.

Every few seconds, one of the stage lights would bathe Percy in a deep golden light, accentuating his features. Being as close as he was, Will could see individual droplets of sweat trail over Percy’s body, dripping from the tips of his hair and crawling down his chest at an agonizingly slow pace before the light dimmed again.

Just because he had a massive crush on Nico, didn’t mean that he couldn’t admit that he thought Percy was, well, hot. Anyone with a pair of eyes could see that much. He was sure that over half the world’s population would agree with him, and considering Percy’s reputation, they did.

He didn’t know Percy as well as he knew Nico, and while Percy easily outclassed Nico in the conventionally attractive category, Percy was not Will’s type. At all. Percy was confident, maybe even a little cocky - though with looks like that, he probably had a right to be - but it was not his thing. As nice a guy as Percy was, it was Nico that totally did it for Will.

He liked Nico’s shy side and his incredibly-handsome-in-a-nonconventional-way looks. To the rest of the world, Nico was the scrawny, creepy guy that looked like a malnourished goth kid next to the muscular, chiseled Gods that Jason and Percy were, but to Will… Nico was the most attractive. Nico had a way of drawing Will in, a way of making him scratch at the surface for more. With every layer that he allowed Will to carefully peel away, Will fell deeper and deeper in love.

When the song ended and Will was pulled out of his thoughts by the crowd’s cheers, he realized that he’d been staring at Percy the whole time. He shook his head and when he looked back up, he saw Percy smirking at him and shooting him a quick, mischievous wink before he started the next song.

A loud thud on the drums, and the song started. It took Will approximately half a second to realize that this was a song he’d never heard before, a fact that was confirmed when Nico murmured This is a new one into his microphone.

And just like that, Will’s eyes were glued on Nico once again. The whole stage was dark, except for a single white light that shone down on Nico as he played the intro, standing stock still with his head bowed. Will could only see his hand moving as he rapidly strummed at his strings.

Get it now
Tell me how to get it now
To hold it in or let it out
Tell me to go, or stay

Did Nico just- Did he actually look at Will, even if only for a split second? No, he must have imagined it.

While he’d seen Nico shortly before the band had to go onstage, Nico had paid him no attention during the show so far. It was kind of amazing to see how focused Nico was while he was playing, especially after getting to know him a little bit.

Headed now
Show me where we're headed now
If only I had read the signs
I wouldn't be here going to waste

Because he wasn’t in the crowd, Will could really concentrate on watching the show, something that was nearly impossible to do whilst standing in the crowd. It was too easy to get swept up with the rest of the people, dancing and singing along.

He could tell that Nico was nervous, and Will could be mistaken, but he thought that Nico seemed a little more nervous during this song than he had been before.

Nico’s eyes were closed as he leaned in close to the mic, as if it pained him to get the lyrics out.

I really don't know
Oh, lost it a little
Don't go, must be a riddle
Don't you know
Oh, lost in the riddles
Lost in your riddles

Will could feel the tension rising on the stage as he watched Nico take a deep breath before launching into the chorus, which burst across the stage in an explosion of music, lights and the cheers of the crowd.

Where we will go, are we lost in the middle
Where we will go, are we lost in the riddles

Will’s favourite songs were the ones that built up to a peak like that. He could feel the tension building in his gut, and it felt incredibly freeing when the song allowed the tension to release.

When the song returned to a quieter pace, Will closed his eyes and smiled lazily, coming down off his musical high. When he opened his eyes he had to blink twice to be sure, but… Oh, yeah. Nico was definitely looking at him through narrowed eyes.

Better now
Tell me is it better now
Keep you right here by my side
Or have you like smoke, to fade

As he sang, Nico turned back to face the crowd again, but there was no mistaking the fact that he was smiling.

Will wondered why Nico would smile, all of a sudden. Surely it wasn’t because of him?

He didn’t know exactly what had happened in the few seconds that he’d closed his eyes, but looking at Nico, it was like a weight had fallen off his shoulders. Nico was moving his hips to the music in jerky, angular motions, like he was trying to dance but didn’t know how to.

Settle down
If only I could settle down
I know that had I read the lines
I wouldn't be here going to waste

And that’s where Will’s brain ground to a screeching halt. Settle down? He couldn’t recall all the lyrics, but there was more about that subject, right? There was something about wanting to be shown where he was headed, and being told to go or stay.

Was this song about him? It was a new one, so it… No. Nico wouldn’t just write a song about him. It had to be about something, or someone else.

But I really don't know
Oh, lost it a little
Don't go, must be a riddle
Don't you know
Oh, lost in the riddles
Lost in your riddles
But I really want to know
Oh, lost it a little
Don't go, must be a riddle
Don't you know
Oh, lost in the riddles
Lost in your riddles

Will had to agree. He was completely lost. He shouldn’t be thinking about who this song was written for anyway. There was a time and place for that, and it wasn’t in the middle of a show. Maybe Nico would tell him, but he knew that Nico was notorious for dodging questions about the subjects of his songs.

One thing was for sure. As the band launched into the chorus again, Nico looked happier than Will had ever seen him on stage.

After the chorus, Nico spun away from the microphone and darted across the stage. The blissful expression on his face made a warmth bloom in Will’s chest.

A few seconds into the solo, the lights slowly dimmed and Will nearly missed how Nico practically danced back to his microphone stand before the stage was completely dark, only to have the entire venue lit brightly to the beat of Percy’s drums while Nico sang the chorus again.

In between the flashes of light, Will could see Nico lifting his hands. He’d never seen Nico try to pump up the crowd before, but it seemed to work. When Nico took his guitar back in hand, the crowd roared.

When the song ended, Will could’ve done a little dance of happiness, and he just might have, if he wasn’t visible to all the crew standing around and if… Okay, maybe he did need to excuse himself for a moment so he could do that happy dance after all. He needed it, after that grin Nico just shot him.


“So, are you sure about Nico?,” Percy grinned as he sat down on the couch next to Will. “Because I totally caught someone staring at me during the show.”

Will was going to leave the backstage area immediately after the show, but Percy had swung his arm around him and taken him to the dressing room, saying he needed someone to keep him company while Nico hit the shower. Jason had lagged behind on stage, but joined them a few minutes later.

Jason shook his head and joined the two on the couch, sandwiching Will between him and Percy. “Don’t answer that. We’ve all been there, and his ego really doesn’t need to get any bigger than it already is.”

Will was embarrassed at having been caught by Percy, but decided to take Jason’s advice and kept quiet, chuckling nervously instead. Where was Nico?

“Aw, come on, Jay!” Percy pouted. “I just want to hear him say it.”

Jason rolled his eyes and nudged Will with his elbow. “Go on, tell the man he’s hot, or he’ll never shut up about it.”

Will groaned and turned to Percy, who had a smug grin plastered on his face. “Fine. I have eyes. You’re hot.” He let out a sigh and looked behind him, only to see Nico standing behind him with a towel draped over his head.

His heart immediately sank. There was no way that Nico hadn’t heard that. Shit, he just admitted that he thought Percy was hot in front of the person he was… dating? Were they dating now? Technically, they hadn’t gone on a date yet, and if the sour look on Nico’s face was anything to go by, he could kiss the potential date goodbye.

He was hoping that the ground would rise and swallow him up when Nico burst into laughter. “Oh god, is he at it again?”

Will wondered what was going on. Nico wasn’t making any sense, Percy was too busy gloating, so he turned to the only other person in the room, silently pleading with Jason to make sense of it.

Jason laughed heartily. “It’s a bit of a running gag for us. We’ve never actually come across a person who didn’t think that Percy was hot, so now his ego is so big that it has its own tour bus.”

Nico sat down across from them and smirked at Will. “And when we say never, that’s present company included. He never lets us forget it. So don’t worry, Will. Nobody’s holding it against you.”

When Percy smiled proudly, Nico threw one of his socks at him. “Get in the shower, you dick.”

“Alright, alright,” Percy laughed as he got off the couch and actually strutted over to the bathroom, swaying his hips as he walked. “I’ll go get my beautiful butt in the shower.”

When the door closed behind Percy, Will exhaled a sigh of relief and sank deeper into the couch.

Jason patted him on the shoulder and got up. “You just know he’s going to take his sweet time in there, so I’ll be in the hall for a while. I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone,” he grinned and left the dressing room to the sound of Nico sighing out his annoyance.

“So,” Nico started and got up as well, only to sit back down next to Will. “How’d you like the new song?”

Will thought back to the way Nico had done a full one-eighty during the song, how he went from anxious to happy in the blink of an eye. It lit a fire in his belly, and when he looked up, Nico was looking straight at him with bright, sparkling eyes.

“Like it? I loved it. The way it just built up and then…” He made some vague hand gestures, unable to explain how the song made him feel. “It was great!”

What he really wanted to do was ask Nico about the lyrics in an attempt to confirm his suspicion, but he held himself back. He wasn’t about to make Nico uncomfortable, especially not when Nico looked like he was floating on cloud nine.

It seemed like Nico was about to say something, but he just smiled and laid his head on Will’s shoulder. “I’m glad. Thank you.”

The damp tips of Nico’s hair tickled at Will’s neck, but he did his best not to squirm. He had no idea what was going on with Nico today, but he had to admit that he liked it. It was phenomenal to see Nico let go on stage, and of course he couldn’t hate the fact that Nico was leaning against him right now.

“You looked like you were enjoying yourself during that song.”

Nico let out a breathy sigh and huddled even closer to Will. “Yeah. I was. It… made me happy.” He turned his head to look up at Will, lazy smile on his face. He drew his legs up and laid them across Will’s lap.

Will smiled back and swung an arm around Nico. If this was going to be the rest of their evening, he would go home a happy man.

“Hey,” Nico almost whispered, “you still up for that date?”

Will thought his face was going to break if he kept smiling wider. “Yeah, of course. Are you?”

“Yes,” Nico nodded. “I’m looking forward to it.” He buried his face in the crook of Will’s neck and closed his eyes. “I’m tired.”

“Aww!” Percy cooed from the doorway, making Will look over his shoulder. “Look at you two being cute.”

“Shut up, Perce,” Nico muttered, not even lifting his head off Will’s shoulder.

Will was about to lose himself in thoughts about how this was the first time that Nico was this affectionate with him while there were other people around, but he completely forgot what he was thinking about when Percy walked past the couch.

He’d been so proud of himself for containing his blush while talking to Nico for once, but he could feel his cheeks warming when Percy made a show of stretching his arms above his head, showing off his toned stomach.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Nico grumbled. “Cut it out. Go do that in front of the fans or something.”

Percy just laughed and quickly dug a shirt out of his bag, pulling it on as he walked over to the door. “Fine. I’ll go find Jason, so you can go back to planning your date.”

Nico had settled back against Will’s side when Percy turned around. “Hey, Will, question. Do you have any plans for Christmas?”

“Uh,” Will mumbled, looking down at Nico to see him equally dumbfounded about the question. “I might go hang out with friends or something.”

Percy nodded. “Okay. Well, if you change your mind, we’re celebrating Christmas at my mom’s.” He added “Consider yourself invited,” before disappearing down the hallway.

Nico let out a small yawn. “He’s just messing with you. He loves getting people flustered,” he said before sitting up. “The whole ‘Look at me, I’m so hot’ thing, I mean. Pretty sure he meant the Christmas thing.”

“We’ll see,” Will said. Truthfully, he was taken aback by Percy’s invitation, and he didn’t want to accept just yet, even though he had celebrated the last few Christmases alone. It would be great to spend the holidays with the band, but if his date with Nico didn’t go well…

He took a deep breath. “Wednesday.”

“Huh?” Nico tilted his head.

“I have exams until Tuesday, so how about I cook for you on Wednesday?” He looked down at Nico, unable to hide his smile.

Nico returned the smile. “Wednesday sounds great.”


Nico sat on the couch, huddled under a blanket. He’d just sent Will a quick text to say goodnight when Percy came out of the kitchen with two cups of hot cocoa.

Jason had already excused himself to his bedroom shortly after they’d gotten home, saying he needed to get up early tomorrow to study.

“Thanks,” Nico said when Percy handed him a steaming mug.

“So, you finally planned that date, huh?”

Nico tried to play it cool, but he was unable to keep a smile from forming on his lips.

The same thing had happened during the show. While he was playing, he could feel Will’s burning stare, and while he’d done a good job of not getting distracted by Will, he couldn’t help but sneak a glance every now and then.

He’d worked hard on Riddles, channeling all of his anxiety into writing the song. It was a bit more straight forward than his other songs, and if Will were to really listen to the song, he’d figure out that it was about him in a heartbeat.

He wasn’t worried about Will finding out - in fact, he kind of hoped that he did. He would never tell Will that he was struggling to come to a decision, but he was glad to have it out of his system.

Ironically, while he was singing about his inner turmoil, he’d looked at Will and it all clicked into place. He was going to have a date with Will, and for now, that was all that mattered. He was looking forward to it, and he wouldn’t think about tough decisions that needed to be made. He needed to stop thinking about it as a question with a yes or no answer, needed to stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong. He’d try to enjoy the date and let the answer come to him.

Seeing Will enjoying the song, and knowing that he was the one who put that smile on Will’s face made him feel so delighted that he completely let go on stage. It had felt so good. He didn’t care about the crowd, didn’t care that he was in front of thousands of people. All that mattered was that Will looked happy.

“Yeah, we did. Wednesday,” Nico grinned. “He’s going to cook for me.”

Percy beamed proudly. “It’s good to see you like this.” He took a careful sip of his drink. “Hey, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve invited him for Christmas. I figured that you’d want to spend Christmas with your boyfriend.”

Nico snorted. “Yeah. It’s cool. He, uh… He’s not my boyfriend, though.”

Yet,” Percy added quickly.

Nico shook his head. “I don’t know. We’re… trying to figure it out.” He cradled his mug in his hands and blew the steam away from the mug.

Percy leaned forward. “What do you mean? You like him and he totally likes you too, what’s the problem?”

There went Nico’s good mood. So much for not thinking about tough decisions and letting the answer come to him. He sighed. “The problem is,” he started, sitting up. “We’re leaving in two months. And we live in the public eye and I don’t know if he wants to get dragged into all of that. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m okay with doing the long distance thing, should it come to that.” He shook his head. “This is all new to me, Percy. Dating? I ended up screwing Jason twenty minutes after he came out. I’ve never dated.”

Percy held his hands up. “Alright, I get that. I really do. But you know there’s a third option, right?”

Nico’s head snapped up quickly. “Are you seriously asking me if I’m going to leave the band?”

Percy only shrugged.

No,” Nico said with a tone of finality. “Don’t get me wrong, I like Will. I really do. But we’ve known each other for like two months, and I’m not quitting on everything I’ve - we’ve - worked so hard for. Not now. Maybe years down the line, but… For now, this is my life, it’s the only thing I know how to do, and… if he can’t respect that…”

“I see,” Percy hung his head. “Well, it was just a hypothetical question. Maybe the whole long distance thing will work out for you, you know?”

“I don’t know,” Nico said, looking down. “I’m kind of scared, to be honest. What if I just bare it all and then he decides that this life isn’t for him? What if we end up going for it and I can’t handle a long distance relationship? What if I end up having to choose between him and the band? I can’t do that, Percy. I can’t.”

He felt tears starting to burn behind his eyes, and before he knew it the mug he was holding with shaky hands was taken away and placed on the table by Percy, who sat beside him and guided him into his arms.

“Shhh,” Percy cooed, rubbing a hand over Nico’s back. “You’ll figure it out. Don’t get yourself all worked up.”

Nico’s body shook as he let himself go for the second time that night, sobbing into Percy’s shirt, which he’d grabbed onto. Percy let him cry, and Nico didn’t stop to think about how unusual it was that Percy didn’t run to get Jason.

Percy only shushed him quietly and gently rocked him in his arms until Nico fell silent and he only trembled. He pulled back and tucked Nico’s hair behind his ears with a sympathetic smile. “You okay, buddy?”

Nico nodded and wiped at his eyes with the backs of his hands. “Yeah,” he said hoarsely, “I’m fine now. Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Percy said, pulling Nico against his side. “It’s tough, I get that. But you’ll figure it out. Nobody’s making you choose between him and the band, and you’ll cross that bridge if and when you come to it. It’s no use getting worked up over a lot of things that may or may not happen.” He squeezed Nico’s shoulder. “Anyone with a set of eyes can see that he really likes you, and I don’t think anything’s going to scare him away.” He sighed. “We can all see that you’re happy when he’s around, and you shouldn’t throw that away because you’re scared.”

Nico made a soft noise out of agreement and settled against Percy’s side. He was right. He did feel happy when Will was around and his current situation emphasized that fact. Even though, years ago, he would have given his left arm for a chance to cuddle up against Percy like this, it couldn’t hold a candle to how comfortable and content he’d felt when he was cuddled up with Will.

“So, if he’s the one that makes you happy, you should go for it. Screw what the world might think, and you’ll totally make it work if you both want to. You owe yourself a chance at happiness, and you're going to regret it if you don’t take-” Percy stopped for a few seconds, frowning. “Yeah. If you don’t take the chance, you’re going to regret it. But it’s your choice, and I’ll back you up no matter what you decide to do. Jason too, I’m sure of it.”

There were so many things that Nico wanted to say, but he couldn’t find the words. Instead, he settled for a “Thank you” and a watery smile.

“Anytime, kid,” Percy said before letting go of Nico and standing up. “You gonna be okay?”

Nico nodded slowly. “Yeah.”

Percy smiled. “Alright. Sleep well, then. Take it easy, okay?”

Another nod, and Percy walked to his room, taking his phone out of his pocket and pressing it to his ear. Nico could hear Percy say “Hey, it’s me” before his bedroom door closed.

Nico let out a deep sigh and walked over to the door to fetch his jacket. Shrugging it on, he walked out onto the balcony and pulled a cigarette and a lighter from the pack in his coat pocket.

He leaned on the balcony railing and looked out over the city, taking a long drag of his cigarette and letting the smoke burn in the back of his throat. New York was gorgeous at night, and he’d really miss this place when he left.

The cold wind bit at the salty tear tracks that were left on his cheeks and he longed for the warmth and comfort that he’d felt while he was snuggled up to Will earlier in the evening.

Just thinking of it made him feel warmer on the inside, but it was nothing compared to the real thing. When he thought about it, his feelings for Will ran deeper than he’d originally thought. Yeah, he liked him and he was crushing on him badly, but it wasn’t just that. Not anymore. He was falling in love and he hadn’t even realized it. He’d assumed that he’d be able to back away from Will if things didn’t go in the right direction, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. There was no going back without getting hurt. He was already in too deep.

Percy’s words still echoed in his ears. “If you don’t take the chance, you’re going to regret it.”
As strange as it was to hear those words coming from Percy’s mouth, it didn’t make them any less true.

He was right, of course. Deep down, Nico knew that if he didn’t take the leap, he’d regret it. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but he was sure that it would catch up to him sometime.

His anxiety stood in the way of so many things, always making him think up an infinite number of ways how things could go wrong, and it was so hard to allow himself to think that things would be okay. He knew that things were not as bad as he made them seem, but that nagging little voice in the back of his head always told him that he was wrong, that he was worthless and unworthy of all the good things in the world.

He trusted Will. He felt comfortable and safe around him, so that really wasn’t the thing that was holding him back.

No, he knew that because of his anxiety he’d become accustomed to taking the safe route, to hide himself away in an attempt to keep himself from being hurt. If he didn’t put himself out there and only surrounded himself with people he knew he could trust and count on, he’d be okay, right? He needed to stop doing that. Some things were worth getting hurt for, and the more he thought about it, really thought about it and pushed his anxiety to the back of his mind, the more he recognized that Will was definitely one of those things.

If he took the chance, something beautiful could come of it, and if not, he’d have some valuable life lessons and experiences. A broken heart, too, but…

“You’ll cross that bridge if and when you get to it.”

Yeah. Thanks, Percy.

Dating would be a new and scary experience, but millions of people did it every day, so surely it couldn’t be that bad. He could, no, would do it. If he could write songs and could perform in front of thousands of people, he could handle dinner with the person he’d fallen for.

As he ground out his cigarette, he smiled, feeling better about the situation. He was done hiding himself away, at least where Will was concerned for now. He was going to put himself out there and take whatever the universe decided to throw at him. If Will wasn’t in the cards for him, he’d find out some way or another.

Just a few more days and it would be Wednesday and for once, the nervous feelings in his stomach didn’t feel like poison. It was a happy nervousness, like he was a kid waiting for his presents at Christmas.

Walking back inside, he checked his phone. The picture of Will that he’d taken when Will wasn’t looking appeared on his screen, next to a message.

“I’ll see you Wednesday. I can’t wait. Sleep well.
<3”

It was all Nico needed to fall onto his bed with a smile that threatened to split his face. Yeah, he couldn’t wait either.

Chapter Text

Will slowly opened his eyes, blinking the sleep out of them. He was disoriented for a moment, unable to remember the last time he woke up without a blaring alarm.

He stretched himself out, groaning contently and stretching his muscles before rolling over and pulling the covers up to his nose. Just five more minutes and then he’d get up.

An hour later, he woke up again and practically jumped out of bed straight away. Today was Wednesday!

He grabbed his phone off his nightstand and checked the time. Noon? He’d slept until noon?

Maybe setting an alarm wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. After he’d gotten home last night, happy that his exams were finally over and done with, he’d pretty much dropped his things where he stood and had fallen into bed.

As he looked around the room, he instantly regretted not putting his stuff away. Both his desk and coffee table looked like a paper hurricane had blown through his room, with stacks of books and empty coffee cups all over them.

It was already noon and he still had to clean, find a recipe, and rearrange the furniture so a date could actually take place in his apartment. Oh, and cook. He also had to cook.

Shit. He hadn’t thought that he’d sleep in so late, though he should have seen it coming after the past few stressful days. It was nice that he felt rested, but now he had to rush before Nico showed up at…

Eight. Nico was going to be there at eight. Okay. He could work with that. Probably.

As he grabbed his sweatpants and a t-shirt off the floor, he started thinking about what he was going to cook for Nico. It had to be perfect in every way.

He wasn’t dumb enough to try to cook something he hadn’t cooked before, or try to cook something so fancy that he’d never be able to get it to taste right, but surely there was a perfect recipe somewhere?

All dressed, he dropped on the couch and opened his laptop, scrolling through the website where he got most of his recipes from.

Chicken, maybe? No, chicken is boring. Beef?

Crap. Did Nico even eat meat? He’d meant to ask earlier in the week but he’d been so caught up in his studies that he’d forgotten. Stupid, stupid.

He pulled out his phone and sent off a quick text. “Are you a vegetarian? Sorry, I should’ve asked before.”

Deciding not to wait for Nico’s reply, he got up and started collecting the clothes that he’d tossed in random directions throughout the week. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw the shirt he’d worn at the show last Saturday. It still smelled like Nico on one side. Okay, it smelled like shampoo, but it was definitely Nico’s shampoo, fresh and incredibly… Nico.

He threw everything in his hamper, deciding to hold off on doing laundry until tomorrow, not needing an additional task today.

When he returned to the couch, his phone screen was lit.

“No, I’m not. I eat pretty much anything. I’m easy like that.”

He smiled when he got a reply before even putting his phone down.

“Easy, huh? ;) Okay, any allergies? Anything I should know about?”

“Easy. ;) No allergies either.”

“Okay, cool! Wouldn’t want you to leave in an ambulance, after all.”

“;)”

Well, that definitely made things easier.

 


 

Nico rummaged through one of his suitcases, grumbling to himself.

Why hadn’t he unpacked, like a normal person? He’d been in the city for almost three months and he was still living out of his suitcases.

He made a promise to himself to put all of his clothes in the dresser, but for now, it wouldn’t do him much good.

What was he even going to wear tonight? Yes, it was a date, but it was at Will’s apartment. It was just going to be the two of them, so he shouldn’t dress up too much, right? But he also couldn’t show up in, well, what he always wore. The only formal thing he owned was a fancy suit for when they had to attend award shows and the likes, but he wasn’t about to wear a damned suit for a date at Will’s place.

He sighed and picked the suitcase up, turning it over so all the clothes fell to the ground. At least this way, he could see everything better.

A voice came from behind him. “Are you looking for the black-black shirt or the off-black shirt?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Ha, ha, very funny, asshole.” He sighed and plopped down on the floor, looking over his shoulder at Percy, who lingered in the doorway with a smirk on his face.

“You dressing up tonight?” Percy asked, taking a few steps into the room. “I’m sure you have something nice in there.”

Nico shook his head. “All I have is black t-shirts and I’ve already worn the one thing that looks decent enough for tonight.”

“You’re worried about wearing clothes twice?” Percy laughed. “That’s just cute.”

Nico frowned and opened his mouth, but Percy cut him off.

“Don’t give me that look. It is cute.” Percy nodded smugly to himself and crouched down, sifting through the pile of clothing on the floor. He held up a shirt and looked at it for a moment before shaking his head.

After watching Percy repeat the process a few times, Nico sighed. “What are you even doing?”

“What do you think I’m doing? I’m helping you.” Percy said dryly. “A-ha!” Percy held up Nico’s cream-coloured henley with a triumphant smirk before throwing it at him. “Wear that.”

“That’s the one I already wore when we went out for drinks. I’m not being fussy, but I don’t want to look like some idiot who only has one good shirt,” He shook his head. “Even though I totally am an idiot who only has one good shirt.”

“I’d give you one of mine but you’d probably drown in it.” Percy paused for a moment. “Get up,” he said, while standing up himself.

Nico only raised an eyebrow at him.

“Get up, put some pants on, and grab your coat. We’re going shopping.”

 


 

Will stepped out of the shower and finally let his excitement bubble up to the surface after spending the entire afternoon fussing over absolutely everything.

But he’d gotten it done, and he even had time to spare. After getting dressed, he’d finally be able to start preparing for dinner.

He didn’t know if Nico wanted to eat as soon as he got there, so he wouldn’t quite start cooking yet, but he could get everything ready in advance so he wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and leave Nico on the couch.

After drying himself off, he pulled his clothes on, thankful that he’d laid them out before so he wouldn’t have to go through the process of digging through his dresser. He figured it would be a casual evening, so he’d settled for a simple pair of jeans and a warm, woolen sweater.

He brushed his teeth, ruffled his hair until it was perfectly tousled and nodded confidently to himself in the mirror.

When he stepped out of the bathroom, he checked his phone, where a text saying that Nico was on his way awaited him. The message sent butterflies flying around in his stomach, but it was a happy kind of nervousness.

He went to the kitchen to lay out everything that he’d need for dinner, then turned around and looked at his apartment.

It had taken quite a bit of rearranging, but everything looked nice. Well, as nice as he was going to get his apartment to look. He’d moved the couch to the wall and slid his cleared-out desk close to his bed. He’d meant to ask if one of his neighbours could lend him a chair for the night, but he’d run out of time.

The only chair he had was for Nico, and Will himself would just… sit on the bed. They could easily have dinner on the couch but he wanted tonight to be somewhat special, although the peculiar furniture arrangement meant that it was a little more special than he’d originally planned.

He hoped that Nico would appreciate the sentiment, though.

Earlier in the day, he’d pretty much begged Cecil to bring some candles over, as he didn’t have any and he didn’t have time to make another trip to the store. Cecil had obliged, but only after Will had promised to talk to Nico and try to get Cecil a ticket for one of the upcoming shows.

So now he had a whole bag of tea lights, but while he only needed two, he was going to save the rest of them, quietly hoping that tonight wouldn’t be the last time that he’d get to use them.

While he was setting the table, he realized that he didn’t have any wine glasses. He never really bothered to get them, even when he sometimes opened a bottle on a quiet Saturday night. Wine is wine, no matter what you drink it from, right?

Again, he hoped that Nico wouldn’t mind. He could just think of it as an indoor picnic instead of a fancy restaurant-style date.

Actually, indoor picnic perfectly described the whole setting, down to the red and white checkered tablecloth that Will had found in one of his cabinets.

He put a few of the tea lights together and went to plug in the electric Christmas lights that he’d strung along the walls earlier today when there was a knock at the door.

This was it. He quickly plugged the lights in and walked over to the door, turning the rest of the lights off as he went. He took a deep breath and threw one last look over his shoulder before smoothing his clothing down and opening the door.

The sight that greeted him nearly knocked him off his feet. Nico stood in front of him with a small smile playing on his lips.

It was only after Nico started fidgeting with the jacket he was holding that Will snapped out of his stare. “H-hey.”

“Hey, yourself,” Nico replied. “Can I come in?”

“Huh? Oh! Yes, of course,” Will sputtered out before stepping aside. “Come on in. You, uh, you look great.”

Was that even an acceptable thing to say? Will decided right then and there that he didn’t care if it wasn’t. Nico looked amazing, like he had just walked off a runway somewhere. The button-up that Nico was wearing looked like it was tailored especially for him, and his jeans practically looked painted on. Will briefly wondered if he was going to read about a missing runway model tomorrow in the newspaper. Damn, charcoal grey was a good color on him, even more so when he was dressed in it from head to toe.

Even under the low lighting, Nico’s blush was clearly visible as he mumbled a thank you and returned the compliment.

“So, uh,” Will strode over to the desk chair and pulled it out for Nico. “Please, sit.”

“You’re quite the gentleman, Will,” Nico chuckled. “I’ll sit in a moment.” Nico draped his jacket over the couch and handed Will the bottle of wine he was holding. “I didn’t know what we’d eat so I got something that goes with everything. I don’t know if it’s good, though.”

Will took the bottle from Nico and studied it for a moment before setting it down on the table. “It looks expensive. Nico, you shouldn’t have…”

Nico smiled and rolled up his sleeves up to the elbow, revealing his tattoos. “I wanted to. It’s the least I could do for getting a free meal, right?”

“Sit down, you jerk,” Will laughed. He went into the kitchen to retrieve a corkscrew and sat on his bed, across from Nico. Much to Nico’s amusement, it took Will quite a bit of maneuvering to get in between the table’s legs. “Don’t mock me, it was the best I could do.”

“Will,” Nico chided, wrapping his fingers around Will’s, stopping Will from opening the bottle. “It looks great. If I wanted to go to a five-star restaurant, I would have. Don’t put yourself down. I think it’s sweet that you went through all this trouble for me.” He let go and dug his lighter out of his pocket before lighting the tea lights. “There. Now it’s perfect.”

Will uncorked the bottle and poured them both a cup. “Well,” Will said, holding his own cup between them, “here’s to our first date.”

When Nico tapped Will’s cup with his own, Will let out a deep breath. “It sounds so weird. A date.”

“It kind of does,” Nico agreed. “But I think I could get used to it.”

Will smiled brightly, silently agreeing with Nico, and took a sip of his wine. Shit, it even tasted expensive. He’d bought a bottle when he’d gone out for groceries, going slightly over budget because he didn’t feel like he could offer Nico the 2015 Château Migraine he usually drank. He didn’t think a killer hangover headache would be the best feeling to wake up with after a date.

“I’m making stir-fry, is that okay?” Maybe he should’ve asked before getting groceries this afternoon, but he had wanted to surprise Nico. Not that it was going to be a fancy meal, because he’d be in the kitchen for hours and it wouldn’t make for a good date if he’d left Nico on the couch to keep himself entertained while he cooked, right?

He’d had half a thought about texting or calling Jason to ask him what Nico’s favourite food was, but he’d axed the idea. He wasn’t going to be the guy that went around asking for advice from-

“Will? Hey, there you are. You kind of zoned out there for a minute,” Nico laughed. “I said, stir-fry sounds great.” As if on cue, Nico’s stomach rumbled, causing him to cross his arms over his stomach. “Sorry.”

“Oh! I’ll get to cooking straight away!” Will scrambled out of his makeshift seat and headed over to the kitchen. “It shouldn’t take long. Just ten minutes or so.”

 


 

While Will was cooking, Nico told him stories about life on the road. About the one time that Percy had gotten so drunk he’d fallen off his stool mid-performance; about the time when Jason had tripped over some wires and had fallen off the stage; about the time when he himself had suddenly sneezed into the microphone as he was about to launch into the chorus.

It was nice, and the slightly tense atmosphere from earlier dissipated as they talked.

Nico had gotten out of his chair and had busied himself with nosing around Will’s room, looking at the guitar that he’d given Will with a fond smile.

He was looking for a stereo, or anything that would play music, when he found Will’s laptop in the corner of the room, on top of a stack of books. He asked Will if he could use it to put some music on in the background.

A few minutes later, after he’d put together a quick playlist on YouTube, Will turned around holding two plates.

They made their way to the table, and Nico nearly let out an embarrassing ‘Aww’ when he saw the hopeful look on Will’s face. “It looks - and smells - delicious, Will.”

Will’s smile lit up the entire room, and at that moment, Nico wasn’t sure what he wanted to devour more: the food on his plate or the handsome man in front of him.

Biting back a smile, he opted for the food, knowing that Will wasn’t quite… There yet.

Fifteen minutes later, Nico sat back in his chair and patted his stomach, letting out a satisfied groan. “That,” he said, grinning, “was delicious. Thank you, Will.”

Will smiled despite still having his mouth full. Nico thought he looked like a particularly happy hamster like that, and he couldn’t help stifle a laugh, despite the genuine happiness that lit a fire deep in his bones. Shit, he was so far gone, but at the moment, he couldn’t care less.

“You’re welcome,” Will said. “I’m glad you liked it. I might have overdone it with the garlic a little.”

Nico leaned forward. “Let me tell you something, Will. There is no such thing as too much garlic. It doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.” He grinned and reached out across the table to grab Will’s hand. “It was perfect.”

Will only smiled, and a comfortable silence fell over them as they just sat there for a few minutes, with Nico slowly running his thumb across Will’s knuckles and the music being the only thing that broke the silence.

It was Will who spoke up first. “I uh, I thought we could maybe watch a movie or something. U-unless you have to go soon.”

Nico shook his head with a smile. “I don’t have to go anywhere.” He squeezed Will’s hand before withdrawing and standing up. “A movie sounds great.”

He picked up his plate and moved to pick up the other one but Will stopped him. “Oh, no, no. Leave those. I’ll take care of it later.”

“It’s no big deal, Will. I’m not going to leave your place a giant mess,” Nico chuckled. “C’mon, we’ll do the dishes together.”

Just a few minutes later, the table was all cleared out and moved to the side, and Nico was in the middle of drying a plate when he smiled to himself.

He wasn’t about to tell Will, but this… The domesticity of doing the dishes together, made him feel happy. Deep down, he wished that things could be like this forever; having dinner and watching movies together.

They talked about little things while they cleaned up. Will told him about his studies and the exams, and while the topic was interesting, a lot of it went over Nico’s head. He made a mental note to himself to ask Will to tell him more about it when his head wasn’t getting fuzzy with wine.

When they finished, and after Will had pulled the couch back into its original position, they made themselves comfortable. Will threw a blanket over the two of them, much like the last time Nico had found himself on this couch.

Nico’s playlist had ended a little while ago, and Will seemed perfectly happy just to sit there, enjoying the warmth and the comfortable silence that had settled between them, when he spoke up.

“Nico?” Will said, fidgeting with the corner of the blanket. “Can I ask you something?”

Nico turned to look at Will, and frowned when he saw the nervous look on Will’s face. “Of course,” he said, silently hoping that whatever Will had to say wasn’t going to be what he thought.

Will sat up a little. “That song last Saturday… It, uh, it was about-”

“About you, yes.” Nico finished the sentence for him, letting out a relieved breath. “I… You know that the songs are all about my life, right? Whenever I have to work through something, or when something bothers me, or anything really. When I’m happy or sad, I translate that feeling into lyrics. And that one, yeah… Obviously you figured it out. I hope you don’t mind.”

Will shook his head. “No, no, of course not. I was just wondering.”

“Well, if you know that it’s about you, then you also know that it’s about me trying to figure out what to do about… About us.” Nico sighed. “I can’t give you an answer right now, Will. Not yet. I’m sorry.”

He was surprised when Will swung an arm around him and pulled him close against Will’s side. “That’s okay. Don’t be sorry. It takes time.” Will leaned down and pressed a light kiss to Nico’s cheek. “I don’t have an answer yet, either.”

Nico relaxed in Will’s arms and smiled. “Yeah.”

“So how about that movie?” Will asked, pointing at the stack of DVDs next to the TV-cabinet. “You can pick one.”

“I don’t want to move,” Nico said in as small a voice as he could muster. He really didn’t want to get up. He was so comfortable. Will was warm and he smelled nice, and Nico was perfectly okay with spending the rest of the night in silence if it meant not having to leave Will’s embrace, in which he fit so perfectly.

He gripped onto Will’s shirt tightly and made a quiet noise of disapproval when Will tried to get up. “Nope, you can’t move either.”

Will laughed, and Nico could feel the laughter moving through him. “Okay, no moving. Should we just see what’s on tv, then?”

 


 

Nico woke to a loud noise and he groaned quietly, wanting it to stop.

It took him a few moments to realize that the tv was still on. He frowned to himself; he never watched tv before bed.

It wasn’t until he turned over and nearly fell off the couch that he realized where he was. he hadn’t done home at all; he was still at Will’s apartment. They must have fallen asleep watching TV.

He stretched and sat up before looking over his shoulder, watching as the light from the tv illuminated Will’s face. He was still fast asleep, looking like he didn’t have a care in the world.

Maybe it was a little weird, watching Will while he slept, but Nico wished he could see more of Will like this. Not asleep, but… Happy. Not that Will wasn’t happy, but he was always worrying about something or the other. Nico recognized it, because he did the same thing. In the two short months that they’d known each other, he’d learned to recognize the differences and similarities they shared on the surface and just below.

When Will’s nose twitched, Nico had to stifle a laugh as to not wake him.

He could have sat there all night, but it would probably be creepy if Will woke up to find Nico staring at him.

So what should he do now? Lie back down and wait for morning to come, hoping that he’d fall asleep again, or should he leave? He was quite sure that Will hadn’t planned on having him stay over. Would it be weird if he just went back to sleep?

Nah, he should probably go home and be sure to thank Will for a date that had been so perfect in its quaintness. He really had enjoyed himself, even if they hadn’t actually done all that much. Just being around Will made it wonderful.

After locating the remote control, he turned the TV off and looked down at Will again. The Christmas lights on the wall cast a warm glow around the room - not bright enough for the whole room to be lit, but enough to see how peaceful Will looked in his sleep.

He knew he should be leaving, but what was the harm in staying a few more moments?

The gentle rise and fall of Will’s chest, the way his nose scrunched up every now and then, the steady breaths that he took… Nico hadn’t felt this calm in a long time. His head was finally clear and he couldn’t bring himself to get up and leave. He didn’t want to go back to the doubting and the insecurities.

He reached out, hesitating for a moment, and gently brushed a lock of hair out of Will’s face, unable to stop himself from smiling. Will was handsome, even when he slept.

Yeah, it was about time to leave. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t stay here forever, and the longer he lingered, the more difficult it would be to go.

He leaned down and pressed a featherlight kiss to Will’s forehead, whispering a quiet “Thank you,” as he pulled back.

“Huh?” Will stirred, his eyes fluttering open.

Shit! He hadn’t meant to wake Will. He leaned back in, smoothing a hand through Will’s hair. “Shhh. Go back to sleep,” he whispered.

Will nodded and his eyes closed again before shooting back open. “Nico?”

“Yeah,” Nico whispered. “It’s me. You can go back to sleep, Will.”

“What are you doing?” Will asked, sitting up. “Did we fall asleep? What time is it?”

Nico chuckled quietly. “Yeah, we did. I don’t know what time it is, but I should be getting home.” He stood up and looked around for his sneakers.

“It’s half past four,” Will said, sitting up and placing his phone on the table. “You can stay.”

Nico froze as he bent down to pick up one of his shoes. He shook himself. “I’ll just get a cab or something.”

“Nico,” Will sighed. “Come on, it’s no big deal. It’ll be hell to get a cab at this hour.” He got off the couch and stood up, stretching.

Nico turned around. “I don’t want to impose. You don’t have to…”

“But I want to,” Will said, stepping closer. “Come on, it’s late. Or early, whatever. Let’s just get to bed and you can go home after we get some proper sleep.” He held his hand out and looked at Nico expectantly. “Please stay.”

Nico sighed, hesitating for a moment before taking Will’s hand. “Yeah, okay.”

 


 

Will opened his eyes, shivering and disoriented, and when he tried to pull the covers up he realized that the comforter was gone.

He blinked a few times to clear his vision and chuckled when he saw why. On the other side of the bed, Nico had wrapped himself up in the comforter. If not for a few strands of black hair poking out of the top, he might have thought that he’d kicked the covers away like he always did on warm summer nights.

This was anything but a warm summer morning, though. It was winter, and Will was freezing. He didn’t want to disturb Nico, but he needed some warmth.

He shuffled a little closer and carefully pulled at the edge of the blanket, but it wouldn’t budge. He tried looking closer to see if he could find a corner or something, but he couldn’t find anything. There was no way he’d be able to- What was that sound?

He narrowed his eyes and concentrated. There it was again, barely audible, but…

“Are you giggling at me? I’m freezing!”

Another giggle, and the blanket moved until finally, Nico’s head became visible. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, squirming around.

Will raised an eyebrow at him and was about to speak up when Nico held the covers open with a smirk on his face.

“You are such a jerk,” Will teased, as he slid under the blanket.

Nico let out another giggle and shuffled until he was pressed up against Will’s side. “There, is that better?”

It was. It was so much better, and at that moment, Will couldn’t find the words just to tell Nico how much. Nico was like a furnace and his skin burned against Will’s. Despite the warmth, Will felt goosebumps rise all over his body.

“Yeah, much better,” he said, lying on his side so he could face Nico, smiling fondly when he saw how wild Nico’s bed-head was.

Nico smiled back and leaned in, pressing a soft kiss to Will’s lips. “Thank you for letting me stay over,” he whispered.

Will grinned and bit his lip. “You’re very welcome,” he said, shifting even closer to Nico, returning the kiss.

The light kisses turned into deeper ones and before either of them knew it, Nico was coaxing Will’s lips apart with the tip of his tongue.

They exchanged a series of long, slow kisses, until they both drew back, almost gasping for air. These were the type of lazy kisses that - as Will found out - were perfect in the mornings. He’d have to remember to try it again - and again, and again - to see if they were as perfect in the evenings as they were right now.

Aside from the kisses and some light touches that set Will’s skin on fire, Nico kept his distance, and Will was happy for it. He wasn’t quite ready, but he was getting more and more used to the idea of… Being with Nico in that way.

It really wasn’t fair. They both needed to make up their minds first, before they dove into- Well okay, the figurative meaning of diving into bed together still applied. And Will was getting there. Slowly, but surely.

At first, when Nico had told him about the ‘downsides’ of dating a rock star, Will had been scared off a little. Could he really live a life where people - fellow fans of the band he loved so much - hated him for being with Nico? Would he ever get used to seeing his picture in the newspaper?

It had been scary to think about back then, but the more time he spent with Nico, the more he realized that he didn’t care. He couldn’t bring himself to care about any of those things, as long as Nico was the one by his side.

The only thing that he was struggling with now; the only thing that kept him from flat out telling Nico that, yes, he wanted to take that leap together, was the distance.

He’d never been in a relationship, so he had nothing to compare it to, but months at a time without being able to see Nico? Without being able to hold him and kiss him? He didn’t know if he could do that. But, maybe, for Nico, he was willing to try.

He’d figure it out soon, but for now, all he could ever want was the taste of Nico’s tongue on his lips and the hint of a promise for more.

Chapter Text

Jason sat on the couch, idly stirring his coffee.

He’d taken the last of his exams and now, after weeks of studying, performing, rehearsing and whatnot, he was finally taking the day off to do absolutely nothing. Which meant that he was bored out of his mind already, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

He knew that waking Nico before he woke up himself would result in getting shot down with the patented di Angelo death glare, and Percy had gone out last night and he hadn’t come home yet, so for now, Jason was on his own.

He took a sip of his coffee and turned the TV on, flipping through the channels until he landed on a documentary about space. It wasn’t very interesting, but it was enough to hold his attention.

When he heard the lock click and the door to their suite swinging open, he’d gotten so into watching the documentary that he didn’t even bother turning around. “Hey, Percy! Did you know that one lightyear is really, really fucking far?”

“No, I didn’t. But that’s interesting.”

Jason immediately whipped around. That wasn’t Percy’s voice. “Nico? What the hell are you doing here?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “I live here, Jason. Well, sort of. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, but…” Jason frowned. “I thought you were asleep. Did you go out this morning?”

“No…” Nico said, hanging his jacket up by the door before walking into the kitchen. “I was at Will’s,” he said as he sat down next to Jason with a bottle of water in his hand.

“But-”

“I stayed over. Nothing happened. We just fell asleep watching a movie. Okay, mom? You want to give me the talk now?” Nico shook his head and sighed, staring at his feet for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Jason said. “Did it not go well?”

Jason wanted to take himself outside and kick himself off the balcony for the hope that flickered through him for a millisecond. He deserved it. Nico wasn’t his anymore, and it was time that his feelings got that memo.

“No, it was… It was great,” Nico smiled.

“Then why are you so cranky?”

“Because I’m scared,” Nico said. “I’m fucking terrified.”

Jason sighed and turned the TV off, shifting on the couch so he was facing Nico. “What are you afraid of?”

Nico shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve got all these fucking feelings and it scares the hell out of me.”

That didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Well, it did, but… “This isn’t the first time you’ve had feelings for someone,” Jason said, unable to keep the hurt out of his voice. He didn’t know what he would do if Nico told him that his feelings for Jason hadn’t been real at the time.

The corners of Nico’s mouth turned upwards. “No,” he said. “It’s not. But it’s different.” He looked pained. “Are you sure that you want to have this conversation?”

If Jason was honest with himself, he’d have said no. As much as he tried to suppress it, as much as the rational part of his brain knew that it was never going to happen, he wanted to hold on to the fantasy that Nico would realize that he was making a mistake and come back to him. It wasn’t fair. He hadn’t done anything wrong, and the knowledge that Nico’s feelings had simply faded - despite the fact that Nico used to spend most of his time with him - hurt the most.

But he knew that he couldn’t refuse. He’d never been able to refuse Nico anything. He couldn’t hide away and live in a fantasy. It wouldn’t be fair to Nico, and - more importantly - to himself. He owed it to himself to move on, to see Nico happy and to be able to smile because of it.

“Jason… You don’t have to.” Nico’s voice was soft, all the harshness from earlier had dissipated.

Jason took a deep breath and shook his head. “I’m okay, Nico. I promise.” He managed a smile. “Now, tell me what’s different.”

When he looked up, he could see the hesitation on Nico’s face, clear as day. Nico had never been able to hide anything from Jason. When you really knew him, he was an open book.

He sighed. “Please?”

“Yeah,” Nico sighed. “With you-” Nico’s eyes flickered up, watching Jason carefully. “- I just… I already knew you, you know? I already knew that you’re kind and funny, and that you’d take on the world for me… I already knew that you’d be with me forever.”

Jason forced a chuckle. “Forever didn’t quite turn out that long.”

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” Nico’s lips curled into a wry smile. “What I meant was…” he took a deep breath. “You’re my best friend, you know? You always have been and you always will be; I knew that. I still know that. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

Jason was completely lost, but he didn’t want to interrupt Nico.

“And that night, when you asked me to be your boyfriend… I knew that no matter what happened, we’d stay friends. I wouldn’t have said yes if I hadn’t been sure of that.”

“Nico…” Jason whispered sadly.

Nico waved him off. “And with Will, it’s so different. I’ve known him for less than two months and I’m so far gone. I’m head over heels for him and I just want to kiss his stupid face all day long and it’s… It feels so fucking good, like I’m walking on clouds.” His lips tilted into a fond smile as he talked, almost as if he didn’t even realize it himself. “And I really want to see if it can work, you know? Even if we’re going to be on different sides of the world.”

Jason couldn’t help but smile in return. “So what’s stopping you? Have you told him yet?”

Nico shook his head. “Just because I want to doesn’t mean that I should,” he said bitterly.

Jason hadn’t expected that. Why would Nico deny himself something that he clearly wanted? “You’ve lost me,” Jason replied. “Why shouldn’t you?”

“I knew you were never going to leave, Jason. I don’t- I’ve only known him for two months…” Nico looked frustrated, like he couldn’t find the words for what he was trying to say.

Jason’s heart broke when Nico spoke next. “I don’t… I can’t have people that I love disappear from my life anymore, Jason. I can’t. I’ve had to go through that twice and I never want to go through it again.” Nico squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and from where Jason was sitting, he could tell that Nico was doing his best not to cry.

“Hey, hey,” Jason soothed, scooting down the couch until he could pull Nico into his lap and wrap his arms around him. “You shouldn’t think like that, Nico.”

Nico didn’t respond, he just buried his face in Jason’s shoulder.

Jason planted a soft kiss in Nico’s hair. “Hey, look at me.”

He smiled when Nico sat up straight and looked him in the eye. “There are no guarantees. Ever. Do you really want to pass up on the chance at something beautiful because you’re scared that he’ll leave?”

Nico looked down, and Jason lifted a finger under his chin to tilt his head back up. He raised his eyebrows. “Have you seen the way he looks at you? He’s crazy about you, Nico. A blind man could see it.” Jason chuckled. “And don’t even get me started on the way you look at him. I know you like him, you have since the very first night.”

Jason laughed when Nico jutted out his lower lip. “You,” he said, tapping at Nico’s lip, “are way more as transparent than you think you are.”

He shook his head. “But that’s beside the point. He makes you happy. I can see it, Percy can see it… You haven’t been this happy since-” He smiled wryly. “-since you looked at me the same way that you now look at Will. Since the night we signed our record deal. Don’t throw that away, Nico.”

“But what if he leaves?” Nico asked, and the fragility of his voice was heartbreaking to Jason. “What if he decides that he doesn’t want to be with me? I’m already in too deep, Jay.”

“If he doesn’t want to be with you, he’s an idiot,” Jason said. “I know, I know, it’s not that easy.
But, you know you’re going to get heartbroken either way, right? So, knowing that, why not take the plunge and see what happens? You might be surprised.”

Nico shook his head and bit on the inside of his cheek before speaking. “I told him that I need him to be okay with my life. The travel, the tabloids, the fans… As much as I hate it, those things are a part of my life and-”

“And he knows that,” Jason interjected. “He knows all of that and he still asked you to go on a date. Do you think he would have done that if he wasn’t at least willing to try things with you?” He sat up a little. “Listen, I can’t look inside Will’s head and tell you what he’s feeling, but the way I see it…” He smiled. “If Will didn’t want to be in a relationship with you, he would have told you already. It would hurt for him too if you decided that you don’t want to date him. He’s putting himself out there, Nico. He’s not doing that just because he feels like it.”

“I guess you’re right,” Nico mumbled. “I hate it when you make sense.”

“No, you don’t,” Jason snorted. “But anyway, this isn’t about what Will does or wants or decides. This is about you. You can’t just hide away until he comes up with an answer for you. You…” He took a deep breath and tapped a finger against chest. “What do you want, Nico?”

He waited patiently for an answer, but all he got was silence as Nico stared at the floor.

When Nico finally spoke up, his voice was so quiet that Jason had to strain to hear it, and even then he wasn’t sure that he’d really heard it correctly.

“Will.”

“What was that?”

Nico glared so fiercely that Jason felt goosebumps travel up his skin. “Will. I want Will.”

Jason chuckled. “Now, was that so hard?” The smile quickly fell off his face when Nico glared at him again. “Okay, yes.” He laid a hand on Nico’s shoulder. “But you have your answer…”

“I guess I do.”

Jason could feel the tension slip from the room when Nico looked up.

“Yeah. I do.” Nico smiled and nodded to himself. “Thanks.” Nico’s smile fell and his eyes narrowed in the next moment. “Jason? I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to be honest with me. I swear, if I find out that you’re lying to me I’m throwing you off the balcony.”

Jason frowned. Nico was smaller than him and he weighed less, but he had no doubts that Nico would be able to make good on his threat. He could tell when Nico was serious and right now, he definitely was. “Uh, okay. Ask away.”

“Can you look me in the eye,” Nico started, searching for Jason’s eyes, “and tell me that you’re okay with me choosing Will?”

What kind of question was that? Had Nico picked up on the last shards of jealousy that still stabbed at his heart every time Nico so much as mentioned Will?

Was he okay with it?

He leaned in close, like he’d done so many times in the past, until he could feel Nico’s breath ghosting over his lips. Instead of kissing him, he stopped and looked into Nico’s eyes. “Yes,” he hissed. “Look at me, Nico. Am I lying?”

It had come out harsher than he’d intended, and it had surprised even himself, but he knew that it was true. He was okay with it. When Nico had told him that Will was what he wanted, he’d felt a rush of happiness. Not for himself, but for Nico. He was glad that he’d been able to give Nico the final push that he needed to realize that he had to take this chance with both hands.

“No,” Nico said, shaking his head and pushing Jason back. “Thank you.”

Jason frowned. “Why?”

“Because you’re my best friend. I’m not letting our friendship be torn apart over Will, no matter how much you say that you don’t care. I could see it in your eyes, Jason.” Nico sighed. “Every time you told me that you’re cool with it. Hell, every time I talked about him. You’d get this dull look in your eyes…” Nico smirked. “I’m not the only one who’s a terrible liar.”

Jason scoffed, but he could feel the blush creeping up his neck.

“But,” Nico said, “what you just said was true. Thank you, Jason. For everything.”

 


 

“Will, you cannot be serious! What do you mean ‘You don’t know’?”

Will sighed. “Are you really going to make me repeat myself? I don’t know, Cecil.”

He was getting frustrated. It was late, and after sleeping on the couch for half the night, he really hadn’t slept that well. Not that waking up hadn’t been worth it.

“You’ve been drooling over this guy for years. ‘Oh, Cecil, Nico is so handsome.’ Nico this, Nico that. For years, Will. And now he actually wants to date you and you don’t know what to do?”

Will could hear Cecil sighing deeply on the other end, and he could picture Cecil glaring at him all the way from Brooklyn.

“I don’t know if he wants to date me, Cecil. What if-”

What if?! Will, stop for a minute and listen to yourself. You just told me that the guy you’ve been crushing on for years spent the night in your bed. For fuck’s sake, you’re even invited to spend Christmas with him! And you’re worried that he doesn’t want to date you? What the hell is wrong with you?”

Will shook his head and frowned. “I just… I- What should I do?”

“Oh no, no, no. You are not asking me to make that decision for you. And even if you are, I’m not doing it. It’s your life, Will. You figure it out. But I think you already have.”

“No,” Will said, rubbing at his forehead in frustration. “I haven’t. Why else would I be calling you?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Cecil said. “Because you’re my friend or something? But anyway, stop trying to change the subject. If you want my blessing, fine, you have it. But you’re not looking for my blessing, are you? You want me to tell you it’s okay to back out. And guess what, Will? It is. So stop your bullshitting and just tell Nico that you don’t want to be with him.”

“Wh-what?”

“Please, Will. I’ve known you for years. You can’t fool me.” Cecil sighed. “Listen to me. You don’t want a long-distance relationship? That’s totally fine. You don’t want to deal with the whole celebrity thing? That’s fine too. You don’t like Nico as much as you thought? Still fine. What’s not fine is asking me to make that decision for you. Maybe you’re still having doubts, and that’s okay too, but stop trying to find someone to blame if it doesn’t go the way you want it to. It’s not fair, and you know it.”

Will’s frustration was growing with every single word that came out of Cecil’s mouth. “Cecil,” he growled, “you don’t need to make decisions for me. I just want to you help me.”

“Same thing, really,” Cecil said. “Look, I’ve never been his biggest fan, so why don’t you tell that creep-”

“That’s it!” Will shouted into the phone. “He’s not a creep, Cecil! Where did you even get all that crap? I don’t give a shit about the celebrity status and the distance, and I like him so much that it almost fucking hurts. I don’t care if you approve or not, but I want to grow old with that creep.” He spat the word creep out with venom and ended the call.

He threw the phone to the other end of the couch and took a sip of water, telling himself to calm down. He hardly ever got really angry - in fact, he prided himself on staying level-headed in most situations - but Cecil had just managed to bring out the worst in him. What was Cecil even thinking? Who was he to call Nico a creep? He didn’t have the right, damn it.

 


 

Jason hadn’t moved from the couch all day. After his talk with Nico, they’d talked about their upcoming shows for a little while, before Nico had retired to his room to work on a song he was writing. Jason hadn’t known what else to do, so he’d continued watching documentaries until it was time for dinner.

He was just debating whether or not he should ask Nico if he wanted to order in when Percy came through the door, carrying a giant pizza box.

“Please tell me you guys haven’t eaten yet. It would be a sin to let this baby go to waste,” Percy said, plopping the box down on the coffee table.

“Nah, I was just about to ask Nico if he wanted to order something, but it looks like you read my mind. He’s working on a song now, so let’s just leave him be for now. He’ll come out when he’s hungry,” Jason remarked as he opened the box. “Holy shit, you went all out.”

Percy grabbed a slice, sat down and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table. “Oh yeah. I had a craving. What’ve you been up to all day, college man?”

“I did absolutely nothing, and it was great,” Jason said, walking into the kitchen to get a plate. “Nico came back this morning and we hung out, but other than that, I watched tv all day. I almost forgot what it was like to have a full day off, you know?”

When he came back out of the kitchen, he saw Percy looking at him like he’d grown a second head. “What? Is there something on my face?”

Percy leaned back into the couch and chuckled. “For a minute, I thought you said that Nico only got back this morning.”

Jason grabbed a slice of pizza and put it on his plate. “That’s exactly what I said.”

Percy stopped chewing, looking at Jason like he was trying to figure out if he was lying. “No way! Huh!” He grinned smugly and patted himself on the shoulder, congratulating himself for a job well done. “About fucking time those two got their heads out of their asses.” He smirked. “They do it yet? If so, you owe me ten bucks, my friend.”

“As I’ve told you over and over, I’m not taking that bet. How the fuck should I know, anyway? ” Jason barked out.

Percy only gave him a bored look and continued to chew.

“I don’t think so. Now shut up about it.” Jason rolled his eyes and took a bite of his pizza, almost moaning at the taste. He’d missed the last pizza night because he’d been hanging out with Will, and on top of that, he was hungry, not having bothered to make himself breakfast or lunch that went beyond a cup of coffee.

“Dude, you’re moaning because of a pizza? It’s good pizza but it’s not that good,” Percy said, pointing his pizza slice at Jason and raising his eyebrow. “When’s the last time you got laid?”

Jason rolled his eyes, deciding that he wasn’t going to dignify that question with an answer, chewing defiantly on his pizza instead.

“Jason, dude!” Percy shook his head. “That long?” He shot off the couch, stuffing the pizza crust he was holding into his mouth. He gestured for Jason to get up and headed towards the door, only to come back later with both their coats. “Dude,” he said, throwing Jason’s coat at him. “Get up.”

“Percy, what the hell?” Jason pulled his coat away from his face and carefully set his plate down on the table.

“You and me,” Percy said, gesturing between them, “are going out. Right now. I know just the place.” He pulled his jacket on and closed the pizza box, motioning for Jason to hurry up. “Come on, bro. You need to get laid and I could definitely use a night of fun myself. You, me, and some fancy-ass drinks. What more could we ask for, right?”

Jason sighed and put his coat on, knowing better than to argue with Percy when he was like this. It would be quicker and easier to just agree with whatever the hell Percy was planning than to struggle and end up giving in anyway.

Percy grinned victoriously and grabbed Jason by the sleeve of his coat, only to drag him in the direction of the door.

“Wh-what about Nico?” Jason asked, trying to keep up with Percy.

“Eh, we’ll text him or something. He’s probably daydreaming about Will anyway.” Percy opened the door and shoved Jason through it. “Let’s go have some fun, shall we? I’m buying.”

 


 

Even after watching TV for half an hour, Will was still angry. He was furiously clenching and unclenching his fists when his phone rang. When he picked it up, he saw that it was Cecil calling. He had half a mind to just shut his phone off and go to bed before he got some sort of rage-induced ulcer, but he picked up anyway, not wanting to go to sleep angry. “I hope you’re calling to say sorry, you ass.”

He could hear Cecil laughing on the other end, making the anger return in full force. “What’s so funny?”

“Will,” Cecil laughed, “do you have any idea what you said?”

“What I said?” Will growled. “How about we talk what you said, huh?”

On the other end of the line, Cecil cleared his throat. “I want to grow old with that creep,” he said in a poor imitation of Will’s voice. “I like him so much it hurts.”

While Cecil burst out into a fit of laughter, Will’s anger melted away instantly. Had he really said that?

“You don’t think when you’re angry, Will. You kind of lose your brain to mouth filter and blurt out whatever you’re feeling.” Cecil chuckled. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

“I-I-” Will stammered.

“I’m sorry. I just couldn’t sit through yet another hour of you overthinking things and trying to figure out what you already know.”

Will remained silent, and so did Cecil. All Will heard was the static of the phone.

He’d just blurted it out, but he knew that what he said was true. If he had his way, he’d grow old with Nico. He’d been thinking about it so much that he hadn’t recognized what he’d been feeling all along.

The distance, Nico’s celebrity status… None of it really mattered. It was something that they’d have to deal with, and maybe it would take some getting used to, but none of it mattered, as long as he could be with Nico.

“Yeah,” Will mumbled. “I guess you’re right. Thanks, dude. Urgh, I’m such an idiot sometimes.”

“That, you are,” Cecil laughed. “But it’s okay. You’ve got your answer, and now all that’s left is to tell him.”

Will shook his head, even though he knew that Cecil couldn’t see him. “But what if he doesn’t want to be with me? What if he says no?”

Cecil sighed. “Then at least you’ll know. You have to take the risk, man. Nobody ever got laid by sitting on their ass. And if I’m reading the situation correctly, there’s no way that he’s going to say no. He stayed over and you spent all morning making out, right? Somehow I doubt he did that out of the goodness of his heart, Will.”

Will smiled, thinking back to the morning. They must have spent an hour kissing each other, until Nico had pulled away with a smile and told him that his jaw was starting to hurt. And even then it had been hard to stop kissing him.

“Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, Cecil. I owe you one.”

Another laugh from Cecil. “Will, you owe me like twelve by now. It’s all good. Now, go get ‘em, and keep me updated. Okay?”

“Will do,” Will said. “Thanks again, man. I’ll talk to you soon.”

As he ended the call and put his phone down, Will smiled to himself. Maybe, just maybe, things would turn out okay.

Now all he had to do was figure out a way to tell Nico.

Chapter Text

Will watched as the snow slowly fell. He’d been leaning on his windowsill for some time now, though he couldn’t remember exactly how long; it might have been a few minutes, or maybe even hours.

Even though he wasn’t very fond of winter as a season - he hated the cold and the endless darkness that the nights brought - he had to admit that snow was beautiful, even more so after his birthday, when he’d roamed the streets with Nico for hours as the snow quietly covered the city.

It was the twenty-fourth of December, and tonight was Christmas Eve. On the one hand, he was looking forward to it, but on the other, Christmas did nothing for Will. Not anymore.

There had been times when he’d loved Christmas. Times where he couldn’t wait until it was Christmas morning, so he could open his presents. He remembered lying awake for hours after dinner on Christmas Eve and sneaking into Michael’s bedroom so they could quietly wonder what Santa would bring them.

They were fond memories and he’d cherish them forever, but just thinking about them made him sad. He’d never get to experience that again. Not only because of the fact that he was twenty-two now and his childhood was over, but his brother was gone, never to come back.

On moments like these he really missed him. He still felt the loss every moment of every day, but Christmas was especially painful. While the rest of the world was spending Christmas surrounded by family and their loved ones, Will had spent the last few holidays alone, bitter and hurt because his family had fallen apart.

They’d tried. After Michael’s passing, when he still lived at home, his parents had tried to make the best of it, but it wasn’t the same and it would never be again. Instead of a warm dinner on Christmas Eve, the night had devolved into fits of sadness and anger. His mother had broken down, and while his father had tried his best to keep what remained of their family together, it was no use. The grief had been too fresh. The whole thing had been a mistake.

Shortly after, he’d moved out. He knew it had hurt both his parents but he couldn’t keep living in an environment that had become toxic with hurt. He needed time and space to heal, as much as his parents did.

He’d gone home since, but never for more than an afternoon. The house always felt cold and empty, devoid of any warmth. His mother could barely muster up the strength to speak to him, and he suspected it was because she couldn’t see him as the son that remained - only as a painful reminder of the son she’d lost.

His father had thrown himself into his work. He’d taken a leave of absence in the hospital, too out of it to continue performing surgery, and was working on some research project that took up most, if not all, of his time.

It hurt, but Will understood. Everyone had to deal with grief in their own way, and maybe one day everyone would be healed enough to try to be a family again.

He’d thought long and hard about Percy’s invitation to spend Christmas with the band. It should have been an easy decision, but even after he’d figured out that he really wanted to try being with Nico, he was hesitant to accept. He didn’t want to be a burden on them, didn’t want to stain the fun they’d have with his sadness.

It wasn’t until - once again - Cecil had verbally slapped some sense into him that he’d called Nico and told him that he’d like to spend Christmas with them, if the offer still stood.

Nico had reassured him that he was definitely welcome, and that he was glad that Will had accepted, and Will found himself looking forward to it more and more since then.

His nerves had started acting up again when Nico had told him to pack a bag, since they’d be staying on Long Island somewhere and it was over an hour’s drive out of the city.

Nico had also invited Will to join them for an acoustic session they had to play at a radio station this afternoon, so they could travel to Long Island together, but Will had politely declined. He needed to get the sadness out first, so he could go into the evening with a clear head. A part of him also didn’t want to be seen in public with Nico, at least not until he’d told Nico how he felt, and had maybe gotten an answer in return.

He tore his eyes away from the snowy skies and looked at his door, where a change of clothes and his toothbrush were waiting for him, neatly folded into a backpack.

After their date a few days ago, he was a lot less nervous about the prospect of spending the night with Nico, and even though he didn’t know if they’d even share a room the thought still sent his stomach into knots.

He still hadn’t figured out a way to tell Nico that he’d made his decision, but instead of worrying about it, he guessed that the moment would come naturally. He’d be spending plenty of time with Nico over the coming days, after all.

 


 

Nico opened his guitar case with a sigh. He hated media appearances, even though nobody would be able to see him this time.

Reyna respected his wishes and kept TV appearances to a bare minimum, but for publicity’s sake, there was no escaping radio performances.

He supposed the tradeoff wasn’t that bad. At least when they did stuff for radio, he wouldn’t have to spend an hour in a chair while some chatty girl covered him in makeup from head to toe.

At least he’d be able to hide away for a couple of days after the performance. The whole world knew which hotel they were staying at - things didn’t stay secret for a long time, especially not since the rise of social media - but nobody would ever look for them on Long Island’s North Shore, where Sally lived, safely tucked away in a gated community. He was looking forward to being able to step outside without getting a camera shoved in his face, without fans awaiting him.

He hadn’t seen Sally in a while, and he was excited that he’d been able to spend Christmas with her and Paul. Over the years, Sally had become a second mother to both him and Jason, and he knew that she regarded them as her sons as much as she did Percy.

And then there was Will. He hadn’t actually thought that Will would accept, or that Will even remembered that he’d been invited. He’d brought it up shortly before leaving Will’s apartment that morning, but all he’d gotten was an “I’ll think about it”.

He just had to get through this performance, and then he’d get to pretend that he was a normal guy for a few days. Just one song and a small interview.

After lifting his guitar out of the case, he went to join Percy and Jason who were already set up. He stifled a laugh when he saw how grumpy Percy looked, having exchanged his tambourine for a set of sleigh bells.

One of the producers came up to tell them that they should be ready to play in about two minutes, so Nico sat down on a stool and went through some last-minute preparations with Jason.

He should never have let himself get talked into playing a Christmas song. They were in New York to promote their upcoming album, not to make fools out of themselves.

But Reyna had been relentless, repeating that the publicity would be worth it. There had been no getting out of this one. He supposed it was a small price to pay for adding Riddles to the album at the absolute last minute, but it didn’t mean that he was happy about it.

After struggling his way through Let It Snow, Nico was glad that it was over. He could never find a connection to songs he hadn’t written himself and he couldn’t give it his all. If he had his way, he would never play someone else's songs.

A few minutes later, after putting their equipment away and drinking some water, Nico found himself squished between Jason and Percy as the host, an exceptionally cheery woman named Drew, excitedly fired question after question at them. So much for a short interview. Thanks, Reyna.

“You guys must be pretty excited about the upcoming months, with release of your highly anticipated second album, and a festival tour in Europe ahead,” Drew said, and Nico was glad that Jason answered her immediately with the standard speech that Reyna had hammered into their heads. So exciting. Can’t wait. We’re honoured, blah blah.

It was all true. It was exciting, they couldn’t wait, and they were incredibly honoured and thankful that they were able to do all of those things, and while it was something that couldn’t be said enough, having to repeat it at every interview was getting boring. At least Jason always sounded sincere when he said it.

Nico just wanted to get it over with, and by the looks of it, he wasn’t the only one. Next to him, Percy still had that grumpy expression on his face, and he hadn’t said more than two words during the entire interview, even though Drew seemed to be taking a special interest in him. No stupid jokes, no snarky remarks, nothing. Usually, Percy couldn't get his ego stroked enough, but today, he wasn't having any of it.

Maybe Percy was just in need of a few days of peace and quiet, despite the fact that they hadn’t played a show in a few days. He certainly looked like he could use it; he had bags under his eyes, and he was looking a little pale. Not surprising, considering that he’d gone out every night of the week, and hadn’t come back until after both Nico and Jason were already up.

Nico had tried to talk to Percy about it, but Percy had shrugged him off, so he’d let things be. He trusted that Percy knew that he could come to him with anything, should he feel the need to. It didn’t sit well with Nico, but he, like no other, knew that patience was key. He’d get nowhere if he tried to push Percy for answers.

“So, Christmas. You’re not playing any shows, so do you have any plans for the coming few days? Will you be staying in New York or are you flying back home for the holidays?”

Jason answered again, telling Drew that they’d be staying in the New York area to spend Christmas with their loved ones. At the mention of ‘loved ones’, Percy snorted loudly, and both Nico’s and Jason’s heads snapped up.

“It seems like Percy disagrees, people,” Drew said, grinning like a shark that smelled blood in the water. “Do you have a different opinion on the matter, Percy?” Her voice sounded so sickly sweet that it made chills run down Nico’s spine.

Nico wanted to strangle Drew where she stood. Her eyes sparkled with glee, like she’d been hoping for something like this to happen.

“It’s none of your goddamned business what I think,” Percy snarled.

Nico kicked his leg against Jason’s under the table to get his attention and nodded at Percy, and then again at Drew, shooting her a withering glare while he was at it.

Immediately, Jason signaled that the interview was over, and Nico jumped off the bench to grab his bag, dragging Percy along with him while Jason stayed behind to make up an excuse for Percy’s behavior on the spot. Nico didn’t have the strength to stop Percy if he really wanted to make a scene, but thankfully, Percy followed after him meekly.

“Percy, what the hell was that?” Nico growled out as soon as they hit the hallway outside of the studio, waiting for Jason to come out so they could head to the car before reporters could gather outside the building.

“I’m fine,” Percy told him calmly, not making eye contact. “I’m just tired. Didn’t sleep well. She got on my nerves with her excited babbling. It’s none of her fucking business what I do in my free time.”

“Whatever,” Nico sighed out, rolling his eyes. Percy was obviously lying, but it was no use to keep pressing the issue. “One of these days you’re going to be in a shitload of trouble, and Jason and I won’t be there to bail your ass out if we don’t know what’s going on.”

Percy gritted his teeth and opened his mouth to speak, but ended up shaking his head. “Don’t, Nico. You of all people should understand.” His voice was weak, and his eyes were full of defeat.

Nico nodded. “I do. You know I do. But you can’t do shit like that, Perce,” he said while pointing back at the studio. “Reyna’s going to have your head for this. It’s probably on all the gossip sites already.” He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, I know we’re not supposed to give a crap what they say and write about us, but that, whatever the hell it was, it’s probably gone viral already. You know how much people love seeing hot young stars fall off their pedestal.”

“You still think I’m hot, huh?” Percy’s lips curled into a smirk.

That’s what you took away from what I just said?” Nico rolled his eyes but he couldn’t help return a lopsided smile. “Get over yourself, asshole. Now, come on. I’ve been starving myself all day so I could eat all of your mom’s food.”

 


 

Will shivered and pulled up his collar to protect himself from the biting wind.

He was standing on the beach, looking out over the sea, enjoying the comfortable silence that had fallen between him and Nico, all the while trying to find the words for what he so desperately wanted to say.

The snow had stopped falling shortly before he’d arrived at Sally Jackson’s house, and right now, he was grateful for it. The sea stretched out before him, the waves calmly lapping at the shore, and the clouds had disappeared, making way for thousands upon thousands of stars in the sky. It calmed him down to his very bones, and he needed it, after working himself into a nervous frenzy on the way over.

He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen this many stars. Back home, it would have to be an exceptionally clear night, and maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to make out a star or two.

Coming out here to spend the holidays with Nico turned out to be an excellent idea. He’d really missed spending Christmas with a family, even if the family was not his own.

He’d arrived a little over half an hour ago, and Sally had welcomed him into her home with so much warmth that he’d had to close his eyes and swallow down the sadness that had crept up his throat right then.

Jason and Percy had been helping her out in the kitchen, while Sally’s husband Paul was busy setting the table. Will had offered to help out, but everyone had told him to relax and make himself comfortable, since he was a guest in the house.

Before he’d even gotten a chance to ask where Nico was, Jason had steered him to the back door and told him that he would find Nico on the beach, and sure enough, there he’d found him.

He’d quietly padded closer as to not disturb Nico, who stood close to the surf, bathed in moonlight, looking utterly at peace with his head tilted back, as if he was trying to get the moonlight to warm him. Around him, tendrils of smoke were carried off by the wind.

Will had watched him, until Nico had thrown his cigarette to the ground and crushed it under his boot before turning around, pushing his glasses up his nose and squinting to make out who stood before him. Nico’s face had broken into a bright smile once he’d finally realized that it was Will, and he’d quickly closed the distance between them, pulling Will into a tight hug, which he’d returned immediately.

They’d spent the last half hour talking about everything and nothing, sticking to small talk about life on the road and Will’s studies while Will tried to gather his courage to tell Nico that he’d made his decision. It seemed like it would be a perfect moment. It was just the two of them, under the stars.

Something held him back, though. He couldn’t quite place his finger on it, but he couldn’t make the words come out, and when Jason yelled for the two of them to get inside for dinner, it was both a blessing and a curse. Maybe they could go back to the beach after dinner, when they had no responsibilities for the rest of the night and could truly be alone.

 

When they got inside, there was enough food on the table to feed a small village. Sally and Paul had gone all out, and would probably end up with enough leftovers to last them for a month.

Will was still deciding what he’d wanted to eat first when saw Nico piling food onto his plate until it practically fell off the sides. He stifled a laugh and thought back to when Jason told him that Nico liked home-cooked meals. He hadn’t been kidding. There was simply no way that Nico would be able to fit all that food inside him, but it sure looked as if he was going to try his hardest.

He was still staring in amazement when Nico looked over with an incredulous expression on his face.

“What? It’s good food! I’ve been looking forward to this for two years! Don’t mock me!” Nico sat down and shoved a large piece of ham into his mouth.

Everyone laughed when Nico’s eyes rolled back into his head, except for Percy, who looked as if he could see a storm brewing on the horizon, and that didn’t change when they started eating.

While Jason talked to Paul about his studies, Will and Nico got roped into a conversation with Sally, who had asked them how they’d gotten to know each other.

Nico let Will take the lead, and Will was grateful for it. He’d been trying to keep his thoughts away from Michael all night, and he knew he’d choke up if he talked about him. Not to mention that he wasn’t too keen on telling his life’s story to a woman he’d only just met, no matter how kind she was.

It was a pleasant conversation, and Sally seemed genuinely interested in everything they had to say. Will did most of the talking, while Nico sometimes interjected to tell his side of the story. Neither of them mentioned their feelings for the other, and Will was okay with that. Even though he had made his decision, Nico didn’t know about it yet, and telling Sally that he was head over heels before he had an answer from Nico would feel like he’d be putting Nico on the spot. He’d do anything to avoid that.

About half an hour into dinner, Sally checked her watch and turned to face Percy. “Percy, dear, when did you say Annabeth was coming?”

Percy looked up from moving his food around on his plate - by the looks of it, he hadn’t taken a single bite - and shrugged before staring down at the table again.

Will assumed that this Annabeth was a friend of the family, and was about to ask Nico about her, but when he looked over, he saw nothing but utter confusion on Nico’s face. He followed Nico’s line of sight and saw that Jason was wearing a similar stunned expression.

“She’s not coming, is she?”

Percy shrugged again. “She didn’t want to come. She’s pissed off.”

“Perseus Jackson,” Sally said coolly, but before she could say any more, Percy had thrown his fork down onto his plate with a loud clang and had scooted his chair backwards, almost knocking it over in the process.

“Lay off, mom!”

Will was shocked, even more so when Sally opened her mouth again and Percy got up and stomped off before she even spoke, leaving the room in silence until the slam of a door made Will jump out of his seat a little.

“It’s alright,” Sally said, smiling sadly after taking a deep breath. “Just let him cool off for a while.”

Jason stood up and dropped his napkin on his plate. “I’ll go talk to him.” He shot an apologetic glance at both Paul and Sally before walking off.

Will jumped out of his seat again when he felt Nico’s hand land on his shoulder. In all the commotion, he’d almost forgotten that Nico was still right beside him.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll be right back, okay?” Nico smiled sheepishly. “I have to make sure those two don’t kill each other.”

Will nodded before Nico walked away as well, leaving the room silent once more.

 


 

“What the hell is wrong with you?!”

When Nico walked outside he saw Percy falling on his ass in the snow after Jason had shoved him. He ran over as fast as he could and grabbed Jason by the wrist before he could step any closer to Percy, who made no move to get up.

“Go get him a jacket, Jason.” Nico said, as calmly as he could. “Now!” He bit out when Jason didn’t move a muscle.

When Jason huffed and stormed back towards the house, he turned to Percy, who mumbled out a quiet ‘Thanks’, barely audible over the sound of the waves.

“Don’t thank me just yet,” Nico said coldly. “I don’t care what the fuck is going on with you, but you don’t snap at your mother like that. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to have her?”

He sighed and held out his hand to help Percy up and out of the snow. “When Jason gets back, the three of us are going to have a talk, and you’re going to tell us what that shit was back there. And don’t even think I’ve forgotten about what happened this afternoon.”

Chapter Text

Even before the door had shut behind Nico, Will was feeling uncomfortable.

Sally and Paul were nice people, but Will didn’t really know them, and after what had just happened, the atmosphere was tense and awkward.

The silence wasn’t helping.

“They’ll be back soon,” Paul said with a smile, before leaving to the kitchen, taking a few plates with him.

Will stood up and picked up his own plate. The least he could do right now was help out a little bit.

“Oh, Will, sweetie, leave it,” Sally said. “We’ll take care of that. You just sit and try to enjoy yourself. I believe you were telling me about how you met the guys?”

Will sank back down onto his chair and started picking the food off his plate. He wasn’t particularly hungry anymore, but the food was too good to go to waste. He understood now why Nico had overfilled his plate, Sally was a great cook.

When he finished his story, Paul had cleared most of the table and was happily humming along to Christmas songs while doing the dishes in the kitchen, while Sally was looking at him with a thoughtful expression.

“So,” Sally chuckled, raising an eyebrow, “When were you going to tell me that the two of you are dating?”

Will went beet-red. “We, uh, we’re not. Nico’s… Just a friend?” Crap, who was he trying to kid? Yeah, officially, Nico was just a friend. Not for much longer, if Will had any say in it, but still, just friends felt like an understatement.

Sally laughed again. “Could’ve fooled me.”

Will shrugged, not knowing what else to do. Denial clearly wasn’t working. Sally could see right through him. He took a deep breath and decided to be honest. “I like him. A lot.” It was weird to have this conversation with someone he didn’t know, but it felt liberating. He wanted to keep it a secret from the world, but at the same time, he wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

“I could tell,” Sally said, leaving Will to wonder just how obvious they had been during dinner.

She smiled at him. “And he likes you too. But I think you know that.”

Will nodded. “Yeah. We talked about it a little while ago.” Sally made him feel at ease, and seemed truly interested in what he said, and so the words tumbled out of his mouth before he had the chance to stop them.

“We’re trying to work it out. I mean, it’s not like a business transaction, but it’s…” He sighed. “Complicated, with the band and all that. I’m going to be in med school next year, so that’s another hurdle. We decided to take some time to think about whether it’d be worth it, you know?”

“Let me tell you something, Will,” Sally said. “When I was about your age, I fell in love with this guy. And he loved me back. We were kind of in the same situation. He wasn’t in a band or anything, but his job took him all over the world, so we only saw each other for a few days every couple months. Whenever he could visit, he’d be here.” Her eyes glazed over, as if she was remembering it all, but there was a small smile playing on her lips. “We didn’t last long. It was short but sweet, and incredibly tumultuous, but you know what?” She nudged Will in the ribs with her elbow. “Even though I haven’t seen or heard from him in over twenty-five years, I wouldn’t take any of it back.”

“Twenty-five years?” Will asked. “So-”

“Yes,” Sally nodded. “I’m talking about Percy’s father. I can’t be bitter about anything, not when Percy is the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten. So what I’m trying to say is, even if it doesn’t last… Don’t deny yourself the chance to be happy. Don’t rush into it either, but… Life is short, and the memories you can make together will last a lifetime.”

 


 

Nico had dragged Percy over to the patio, where he’d cleared the snow from the table and a few of the chairs that were surrounding it. A part of him wondered why they couldn’t just go inside and be warm while they talked, but Percy seemed pretty adamant about not wanting to go back inside, even though he was shaking like a leaf from the cold.

Percy hadn’t said a word to him, not since Nico had told him that it was time they talked about things. He’d followed Nico to the patio like he was being led to his execution and was currently sitting in a chair, staring down at his lap.

They sat together in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes until Jason came back outside and threw a jacket at Percy before sitting down himself.

The silence stretched on, with Nico and Jason waiting for Percy to start talking. When Nico realized he wasn’t going to, he sighed. “Look, Percy. Whatever’s going on, you know we’ve got your back, right? We always have, and we always will.”

Percy nodded, but didn’t look up.

“Percy,” Jason started, but Percy interrupted him.

“I fucked up,” He said in a quiet, fragile voice.

The way he said it made Nico worry. Percy fucked up all the time. He’d gotten in trouble so many times that both him and Jason had lost count. In all the years that they’d known each other, he’d never seen Percy as broken as he looked now.

Jason and Nico shared a look, and it was all they needed. They’d always been able to communicate without words - something that came in handy while they were on stage - and both knew instantly what the other meant. Go easy on him.

“You’re going to have to give us a little more than that, Perce,” Nico said, getting as comfortable as he could in his chair. It looked like they were going to be here for a while.
He felt a pang of guilt at leaving Will alone, but he trusted that Sally would make him feel welcome. He’d have to find a way to apologize later, but right now, he couldn’t walk away from this, not when his friend needed him. He hoped Will would understand.

Percy nodded. “Yeah. I know. I’m just… I really fucked up, guys.”

“I take it this has to do with the Annabeth your mother mentioned?” Jason asked, rubbing his hands together to keep them warm.

Again, Percy nodded. “You know the blonde that’s at a lot of our shows? Tall, grey eyes, cute as all hell? That’s Annabeth.”

Jason groaned. “Oh, god, what did you do? Please tell me you didn’t knock a groupie up, Percy. Please.”

Nico had the same thought. Everyone knew Percy liked to sleep around, and there was no shortage of women who wanted to sleep with Percy. In essence, it was a disaster waiting to happen. He didn’t want any part of the media circus that would inevitably follow if that’s what had happened.

He was surprised when Percy’s head snapped up and he glared at Jason as fiercely as he could. If looks could kill, Jason would be a smoldering pile of ashes right now.

“Do you think I’m fucking stupid?” Percy bit out harshly, his voice cutting through the cold air like a knife. “Do you?

Jason glared back. “Well what the hell am I supposed to think? You fucked up and it’s to do with the blonde woman who hangs on your arm every chance she gets? We know how you are with women. It’s none of our business, but-”

“Shut the fuck up, Jason!” Percy growled. “Just shut up and let me talk, okay? This is hard enough as it is and I do not need your condescending bullshit right now.”

“Condescending bullshit?” Jason scoffed, looking at Nico as if to say ‘Can you believe this asshole?’

“Yeah! You act all high and mighty and meanwhile, you’re the one who’s still in love with Nico even though he moved on years ago. Don’t fucking pretend you’re perfect, Jason. You’re not. You’re just as fucked up as the rest of us.”

Guys,” Nico said calmly when both Jason and Percy stood up, ready to pounce on each other.

Percy’s comment had made him choke on a breath. He knew that Jason still had feelings for him, and that Jason had probably talked to Percy about it, but he didn’t know that Percy would use it as ammunition in a petty shitfight. As angry as Percy was, Jason didn’t deserve that.

Nico stood up himself when neither Percy nor Jason paid him any attention. “Hey, you two! Sit your asses back down!” He looked at Jason. “Calm the hell down and don’t let him bait you.” He turned his head. “Percy, stop trying to change the subject.”

He sat back down, inwardly smiling that by the looks of it, he’d managed to intimidate both his bandmates into backing off. “Now, let’s talk about this like adults, okay?”

“As I was saying,” Percy sneered, side-eyeing Jason, “Annabeth…” He shook his head. “Let’s just start at the beginning, okay?”

 


 

“Thanks. You’re right.” Will smiled. “I was actually going to tell him that I want to be with him tonight.”

Sally threw her head back and laughed, and when Will realized what he’d said he couldn’t help but laugh along with her.

“Of course, I meant that tonight, I was going to tell him that I want to be with him.” His cheeks turned a deep red again. “But, who knows if I’ll get the chance. They’ve been out there for a while now.”

Sally checked her watch and nodded. “They’ll work it out. There isn’t a thing that the three of them haven’t been able to overcome together.”

“Yeah, they seem close,” Will said, smiling. “I guess you kind of have to be, living like they do.”

“Make no mistake,” Sally laughed, “they fight like dogs every now and then. But they always make up. They’re the best of friends. Jason and Nico are the brothers I could never give Percy.”

“Are you also from California? I know Jason and Nico are from there,” Will asked.

Sally shook her head. “New York, born and raised.” Her smile turned sad and she shifted in her seat. “I told you that Percy’s father isn’t in the picture, and when Percy was about fifteen, he started having trouble with that. His best friend moved away when her parents divorced, and he became withdrawn. I did all I could, but,” she laughed, “I was getting a little tired of him banging away on that drum kit of his all day long. We lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, so I shipped him off to summer camp. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but in the end it turned out to be the right decision.”

Will nodded. “So that’s where he met Nico and Jason?”

“He did,” Sally confirmed. “Well, the third year he went to camp he did. He managed to get himself kicked out of a lot of camps, little troublemaker that he was. After I met Paul, we took a vacation in California so Percy could go to camp there. He’d already been banned from most of the camps on the east coast and that way, it worked out for everyone. We stayed in the area, so we’d be able to collect him if he got kicked out again. Imagine my surprise when he didn’t.”

Will listened intently. He’d known that Percy, Nico and Jason had been friends before they’d formed Thrice Greek, and that they’d attended the same college, but he didn’t know how they’d met.

“He ended up staying an extra week, just so he could be with his new friends: Nico, Jason, and some other kids. Other friendships faded, but those three were thick as thieves from the day they met. Nico and Jason flew out here every other vacation, and Percy spent the rest of his school breaks in California.”

“I didn’t know that,” Will said. “It’s a nice story.”

“It’s like having three sons. I love Nico and Jason as if they were my own.” She chuckled. “Granted, it got a little weird when those two started dating, but you get the point.” She checked her watch. “I’m sure Nico will be back soon, so you won’t have to listen to all these stories anymore.”

Will wished he knew what was going on, but he wasn’t going to pry. Whatever was going on with Percy was none of his business.

“Please,” Will said, “I don’t mind. I actually like hearing about all this. It’s no bother at all.”

“While we wait, though,” Sally said, getting up, “I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen just to have dessert go to waste.”

 


 

Nico sat back in his chair, eyes flickering between Jason and Percy. Whatever Percy was going to say, getting angry wouldn’t get them anywhere. He needed to make sure Jason was going to keep his cool, and then maybe later the two of them could kill Percy together if he deserved it. They had to let Percy finish before laying down a verdict.

A few minutes passed while Percy gnawed on the inside of his cheek and fiddled with a loose thread on the sleeve of his jacket. Nico had lit a cigarette and tried to ignore Jason’s pointed looks of disgust. I know, Jason.

“Annabeth, she… She was my best friend,” Percy said out of nowhere. “She used to live next door to me when we were still living in Brooklyn. We went to the same school, took music lessons together,” Percy laughed mirthlessly, “even though she sucked. Not a talented musician, that one, but I think she took the lessons just so we could do stuff together. Anyway, we did everything together. She was my first kiss, even though I thought kissing was disgusting back then.”

Another silence. Nico wished he had his phone on him so he could let Will know that they would be here a while.

“Her parents got divorced when we were about fourteen, and shortly after she moved away with her dad. We promised to stay in touch and all that, but we didn’t, not really. This was before we had a computer, and every time I’d call her she’d be out with her new friends.” He frowned. “That’s why my mom sent me to all those camps. I became this shitty little brat that wouldn’t listen to her. I wouldn’t have met you guys if it hadn’t been for that.”

Nico took a long drag off his cigarette and watched as the smoke between him and Percy dissipated in the wind, making Percy come back into focus. He wanted to reach across the table and pull Percy into a hug - he looked like he desperately needed one - but Nico was scared that Percy would fall apart if he interrupted him right now.

“We lost touch. We never really spoke after that.” Percy sighed deeply. “Until about two months ago, after a show. She came up to me, and I immediately recognized her.” He managed a watery smile. “She’s beautiful now. I guess she always was, but I was a stupid kid and girls were gross so I never paid her that kind of attention. She was my bro, you know? We ended up getting coffee and catching up a day later.” He shook his head. “She contacted Reyna, but you know how it is. Everyone and their grandma is claiming to be a childhood friends of ours, so Reyna threw the e-mail out. Annabeth bought tickets to see the show on the off chance that she’d get to say hi afterwards.”

Nico smiled. It sounded like Annabeth was important to Percy. He cast a glance at Jason, and it looked like all the anger had drained from him. Good.

“I slept with her, dumb dipshit that I am,” Percy said, anger evident in his face. “I like her. I really, really do. And I treated her like all the girls before her. Like she was nothing. Like she should be thankful to get a night with me.” A wry smile formed on his lips. “Granted, almost all of them are, but Annabeth deserved better.” He nodded to himself.

“Wait,” Jason cut in. “You throw all these tantrums because you slept with your friend? And you actually like her? That’s it? I don’t understand you, man.”

“No, Jason,” Percy snapped. “Again, do you think I’m actually stupid?” He shook his head again. “No, it’s much worse than that.”

“Jason,” Nico said, holding up his hand to calm him, “Let him finish.” He turned to Percy. “Nobody thinks you’re stupid. Go on.”

Percy glared at Jason again for good measure, then defiantly turned his chair to face Nico before he started talking again.

“As I was saying, she deserved better. And I don’t know how it happened but… We started hanging out a lot before and after shows, so I guess we somewhat started dating. It’s weird to say it out loud.” Percy laughed, but it sounded bitter and hollow. “I guess at that point it meant a lot more to her than it did to me. You guys know me. I’m not a relationship type of guy. I mean, I’ve never actually dated anyone before. I’ve never really wanted to.” He groaned and rubbed his palm along his forehead. “We went out a few times, even took her to see my mom because she missed Annabeth too, and every time we hung out it pretty much always ended with the two of us making out or something more, but I thought it was just us being friends, you know?”

Nico winced inwardly. He was starting to see how this Annabeth girl was angry at Percy. Instead of hugging Percy, Nico now wanted to slap some sense into him. How Percy could be so clueless about stuff like that was beyond him. Nico was far from being an expert on relationships, but at least he wasn’t that oblivious.

Okay, maybe he was when it came to his own love life, but that wasn’t the point. Not now. He’d find a way to tell Will that he wanted to be with him, even if the night hadn’t gone as planned so far. He didn’t know how long they’d be out here - hopefully not for much longer, the chill was starting to seep through his jacket - but he’d find the right time, he was sure of that.

“There wasn’t like a clear defining moment where the being friends thing ended and the dating began,” Percy said, shaking Nico out of his thoughts. “So for me… I didn’t realize. I’ll own up to being an asshole, but I didn’t realize…” Percy looked down at the table, shaking his head.

“You… slept with other people, didn’t you?” Nico said, lacing as much concern in his voice as he could muster, bracing himself for Percy’s response, which was bound to be another sneer. It didn’t come.

Percy closed his eyes and nodded his head so minutely that Nico thought he might have imagined it.

“Just one. I’m such an asshole,” Percy croaked out, hanging his head. The disgust in his face was clear as day, making for a stark contrast with the Percy that Nico knew. The Percy that was so in love with himself that it was two parts hilarious and one part pitiful.

Nico knew Percy wasn’t perfect, and he knew that Percy knew it as well, but it had mostly lain unspoken between them. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It worked for them, but now, as the cracks were showing in Percy’s façade, Nico was saddened. He wished Percy would have come to him or Jason sooner, or anyone else for that matter. Sally didn’t seem to know about any of this either.

It was obviously tearing Percy apart, and while Nico oftentimes rejected any and all help, thinking he was better off alone and only letting Jason in when things got particularly bad, he knew that it was better if you had someone right there with you, someone with a clear head who could show you the light out of the dark labyrinth that made up your thoughts, simply by listening.

“I would never dream of cheating on her,” Percy said, frowning. “Not consciously. If I’d known… I swear I wouldn’t have even looked at other girls, let alone-” He swallowed thickly. “You guys have to believe me!” He looked up, eyes pleading Nico and Jason to understand.

As bad as it was, when Nico tried to put himself in Percy’s shoes, he could understand what he’d done. Percy’s utter cluelessness routinely bit him in the ass, and this time, it had bitten down hard. He didn’t know Annabeth, but it wasn’t hard to put himself in her shoes either. He didn’t know what he’d have done if Jason had cheated on him while they had been dating.

He didn’t even want to think about what he’d do if Will… No, he wasn’t going to think about things like that.

“I do, Percy,” Nico said, trying for a smile. “But… I’ll have to admit, it… It’s not good, dude.”

“I know it’s not,” Percy sighed. “It’s awful. I’m awful. I didn’t realize what I had until after I’d destroyed it.” He ran a hand through his hair and yanked harshly.

Nico scooted his chair closer to Percy and gently pulled his hand out of his hair. “Take it easy, Perce. Shit like that won’t get you anywhere. So, she’s still angry with you, right?”

Percy nodded sadly, looking on the verge of tears.

“I can’t say I blame her,” Jason said, prompting Nico to deploy his deadliest glare. “But,” Jason said, narrowing his eyes at Nico, “I know you, dude. You’re a stupid asshole sometimes but you’re not that big of an ass.”

Nico patted Percy on the shoulder. “You apologized, right?” He closed his eyes and hoped that there was a limit to Percy’s obliviousness.

“Yeah,” Percy said, raising an eyebrow when he heard Nico release a sigh of relief. “I did. She threw me out of her apartment.”

Nico couldn’t pretend that he didn’t understand Annabeth’s reaction. If he’d been in that situation, he probably would have thrown Percy out too, only via the balcony instead of just showing him the door.

“I went back again and again, trying to explain the situation. It wasn’t even about a relationship, not really. I mean, yeah, the whole thing made me realize that I love her and I want to be with her so much it almost hurts but more than anything I want us to be friends again.” He rubbed at his eyes and groaned. “I tried everything. I sent her enough flowers to fill her apartment, I invited her out, I even begged her to forgive me, spending entire nights camped outside of her door, but she wouldn’t have any of it. I invited her to spend Christmas here because mom was expecting her.” He huffed out a breath. “I guess even mom knew we were dating and I didn’t fucking see it. Anyway, I figured Christmas would be the perfect opportunity for us to talk it out, you know? It was a stupid idea, and she hung up on me.” He shook his head sadly, tears brimming in his eyes. “I don’t know what to do, guys. I don’t want to lose her again.”

That struck a nerve with Nico, and he pulled Percy into a hug, both because Percy needed it, and because the thought of losing people drove a dagger right into Nico’s heart. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into Percy’s hair

Moments later, Jason wrapped his arms around around Percy from the other side, and that’s when Percy broke. His body shook with the force of his sobs, and Nico couldn’t do anything other than quietly coo in Percy’s ear, keeping a tight hold on him until Percy only trembled.

“I’m okay,” Percy mumbled after a little while. “I deserve it.” He wiped at his cheeks and cleared his throat. “The day I punched that photographer was the day she told me she never wanted to see me again. I was angry, and I took it out on him. I had to sit in Reyna’s office and tell her that I got dumped.” He shook his head. “She was so angry at me and ranted and raved at me for hours. I didn’t even talk back to her. I deserve everything the world throws at me because of what I did. God, I’m such a fuckup.”

Nico shook his head and tightened his hold on Percy. “Everyone makes mistakes, dude. We’ve pulled each other through a lot, and we’re totally here to help you pick up the pieces.”

Jason nodded his agreement. “Yeah. That’s what friends are for. I wish you’d have told us sooner, though.” He smiled. “But it’s all water under the bridge. You’ll figure it out, and we’ll help you if you need us to, okay?”

Percy fell silent and leaned his head on Nico’s shoulder still looking pained, and it broke Nico’s heart. Percy had made a mistake - more than one, if you counted his pushy behaviour in trying to make it up to Annabeth - and while it was ultimately up to her to decide what would happen from here on out, he didn’t want Percy to feel like this. A part of him knew that Percy deserved to feel like shit, but he still hoped that Percy would be able to work it out with her.

For now, all they could do was to to be there for Percy, much like Percy had been there for him whenever he needed to talk about Will. Maybe it would be best to let things rest for a while, so everything could sink in and hopefully it would give Percy time to clear his head and figure out what he was going to do, if there was even anything to be done.

He was glad that he’d found out what had been going on with Percy, after his strange behaviour the past couple weeks. Percy’s guilt and shame must have been weighing on him like a ton of bricks, but Nico hoped that coming clean to his friends had lightened the load just a little.

One thing was for sure, though. Percy had to find a way to fix this.

When Nico looked over at Jason, he could see concern on his face, clear as day, but Jason sat with his arm around Percy anyway, rubbing his hand along Percy’s back. For years, it had been the three of them, and there was nothing they couldn’t tackle together, Nico was sure of it.

He wouldn’t trade his best friends for the world - even if they sometimes messed up, but if they got to enjoy the highs together, they had to share the burden of the lows. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Will had followed Sally into the kitchen, where Paul was still cleaning a mountain of dirty dishes, pots, and pans and had asked if there really wasn’t anything he could do.

He felt a little guilty for sitting on his ass, after seeing just how much there was to clean up.

Paul had told him not to worry about it, but when Sally excused herself for a moment, Will took his chance, grabbing a dish towel and joining Paul at the sink.

He finally felt useful, and he was glad that Paul was letting him help - albeit reluctantly, judging by the look on Paul’s face when he’d picked up the towel.

Minutes passed as they quietly chatted away while they worked. He learned that Paul was a professor at Columbia.

He was in the middle of telling Paul that he was hoping to get into Columbia so he could study medicine when Sally came back into the kitchen, clearing her throat loudly.

Will didn’t miss the way she glared at Paul, though he could tell that it was more playful than angry.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do Will any good. As Sally raised an eyebrow at him, Paul sighed, took the dish towel from his hands and mumbled ‘sorry, kid’.

“I told you, you don’t need to worry about the dishes, Will. Now, let’s see about dessert, shall we?”

Will chuckled and shook his head, walking back to the living room. He quickly checked his phone to see if Nico had maybe left a message. Nothing. He sighed. Nico, Percy, and Jason must have been out there for well over an hour now.

He looked around for a moment, finally getting the opportunity to let his eyes roam. There were a ton of pictures hanging on the wall, taken over time by the looks of it. There were pictures of Percy as a baby, as a toddler, all the way up to present day, along with newspaper clippings, arranged neatly in frames of various shapes and sizes.

He turned back around when he heard footsteps and saw Sally walking back into the living room. He perked up when the smell of cinnamon hit his nose and walked back to the table, smiling when he saw Sally had put down two plates with generous slices of apple pie on it.

“That smells absolutely delicious,” he said, unconsciously licking his lips.

“Then dig in!” Sally smiled at him and walked to the other end of the room, moving the curtain aside and looking out before checking her watch. She lingered there for a moment, only to return with a giant book clutched to her chest.

Instead of sitting back in her seat opposite Will, she took Nico’s seat beside him and laid the book between them on the table with a heavy thud. “I saw you looking at the pictures on the wall and I thought you might like to see some more.”

The smile was still on her face, but it was different; a bit more strained and not quite reaching her eyes as it had all evening.

It wasn’t hard for Will to see what was going on. Sally was worried, but she didn’t want to show it. Will couldn’t blame her. Her son had just had a meltdown at Christmas dinner, and for whatever reason it was taking Nico and Jason quite a while to reason with him.

If he could play his part in distracting Sally by flipping through a photo album until the boys came back inside, he’d happily do so. Her stories hadn’t been boring in the least, so there was no reason to think he wouldn’t enjoy looking at the photos, even though he hoped Nico would come back soon.

 


 

Nico shivered, turning to see how Percy was doing. He still looked utterly defeated, like a wounded animal that was trying to play dead so the world wouldn’t eat him whole, but there was nothing that he or Jason could do to make him feel better right now.

He met Jason’s eyes, and held his gaze for a moment. They frowned at each other before nodding. It was time to get Percy inside. They hoisted Percy out of his seat and started walking him back to the house, keeping an arm wrapped around him from either side.

“If you need some time alone with your mom, we’ll give you some space,” Jason said.

“Yeah,” Nico agreed. “Or if you don’t want to tell her yet, we’ll take you upstairs and tell her you need to rest or something. But you can’t leave her in the dark, dude. You should at least apologize for stomping off like that.”

Percy shook his head, eyes wild and full of fear. He was shaking like a leaf and when Nico looked down, he saw that Percy’s knuckles were white from how tightly he was clenching his fists.

“Take it easy,” Jason said with a gentle voice that Nico had rarely heard him use with Percy, one that he was very familiar with himself. “It’s going to be okay.”

“No,” Percy whispered before yanking himself out of both Nico’s and Jason’s grip and taking a few steps backwards, putting some distance between them.

Nico didn’t know what to make of it. Percy’s behavior didn’t add up. If he wanted to be alone, he should just say so, and Nico couldn’t think of anything that he or Jason had done to make Percy react this way. “Let’s just go back inside, Percy. You won’t have to deal with anyone if you don’t want to, okay?”

Percy gritted his teeth, both hands shooting up to yank at his hair in frustration. “You don’t understand!” He shouted before repeating it again, this time in a whisper. “You don’t.”

“Then help us understand,” Jason said, taking a careful step closer, only for Percy to take one back, seemingly intent to keep the distance between them.

Nico narrowed his eyes. “There’s more to it, isn’t there?”

Percy was holding out on them, he just knew it. The way Percy was trying to keep his hands still told him everything he needed to know.

Percy shook his head and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I can’t…”

Nico pinched the bridge of his nose and glanced over to Jason, who had his eyes trained on Percy. He knew that look all too well. It was Jason’s ‘I know something is up and I’m going to frown at you until you tell me’ look. It usually worked on him, and judging by the way Percy seemed to crumble before their eyes, it was working on Percy too.

“She…”

Nico tried not to grimace at how strained Percy’s voice sounded; it must have physically hurt to get just that word out. He waited patiently while Percy shook his head, trying to speak, and failing.

It was Jason who broke first. Just as Jason opened his mouth to say something, Percy tipped his head back and took a deep breath, closing his eyes.

Nico grabbed Jason’s hand and gave it a soft squeeze. Don’t interrupt him. Nico had been there too many times himself, wanting to say something so badly but having every muscle working against you. It wouldn’t do any of them good to rush Percy; clearly, it wasn’t the want that was missing; it was the can.

Percy opened his eyes again, looking Nico in the eye, then turned to Jason. Nico could see the resolve in Percy’s eyes, clear as day. He smiled to himself.

“She’s pregnant.” Percy said, eerily calm.

Jason squeezed Nico’s fingers so hard it hurt, and if it had been the moment for it, Nico would have shoved his elbow in Jason’s ribs. As it was, though, he was frozen to the ground in shock, though he did dig his nails into Jason’s palm; out of pain or shock, he couldn’t tell.

 


 

Sally had already shown Will a whole photo album full of pictures from when Percy was a baby, and there was still no sign of the guys.

Will sighed. Whatever was going on with Percy, it had to be something big.

He was getting a little worried, so when Sally left the table to fetch another photo album, he quickly shot Nico a text, sighing when he heard a phone chiming elsewhere in the room - probably Nico’s.

He put on a smile when Sally returned, and as they flipped through the pages, Will could tell that she was getting more and more nervous by the second. Sally kept brushing her fingers over the photos and the smile on her face got sadder as time went on.

By the time they’d started on the third photo album - one full of newspaper clippings from the early days of Thrice Greek, Sally had reined in the sadness, and she was telling Will all about how proud she’d been when ‘her boys’ had made it with a pleased smile.

The next album turned out to be Will’s favorite. The first few pages were filled with photos of Percy alone, but soon after he saw page after page of photos featuring Nico and Jason. They must have been teenagers, and Nico couldn’t have been older than twelve or thirteen years old. He was cute even back then, with freckles dusting his nose and a giant gap between his front teeth as he smiled at the camera.

In later pictures, the toothy grin had made way for braces, and Will couldn’t help but smile fondly. If he hadn’t been standing right next to Jason and Percy in the pictures, Will probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was Nico. He looked so different now. More mature. He was a far cry from the happy, smiling child in the photos as far as Will could tell, but there was no denying that he liked him just the way he was.

Still, it was nice to see things like this. Maybe Sally was right. Memories lasted a lifetime, and he hoped that he’d get the chance to make plenty of them with Nico.

 


 

Minutes, hours, days passed.

Percy felt like he’d aged ten years when Nico and Jason finally broke out of their stupor.

He’d said it. He’d finally said it out loud and the world hadn’t ended. Not yet, anyway.

It wasn’t over by a long shot, but he felt like he’d already lived through the hard part. There was no guarantee that things were going to be okay - in fact, things could go any which way from here on out, but he felt stronger after finally confessing.

He was terrified of how Nico and Jason would react. What if they left? What if they walked away and he’d be left with nothing? No girlfriend, no band, no friends. He’d do anything to prevent that from happening.

After a few attempts at talking, Annabeth had left him with a choice that he really didn’t want to make out of fear of losing his friends - and with that, everything he had - but a few minutes ago, through the haze of panic, he’d realized that if he kept his mouth shut he’d risk losing everything. Right then he’d decided: he was going to tell them.

The realization had kept him from breaking down, and for the first time in a long time, he could see things clearly, and he’d felt a calm that he hadn’t felt since before Annabeth had come back into his life. Still, as calm as he’d been right then, it was tough to keep it together now. Especially when it was taking Nico and Jason agonizingly long moments to respond.

It was a lot to take in - he didn’t think the news had quite sunk in yet for himself - but a response would be welcome right now. Any response - he didn’t care if he got punched in the face, lord knows he deserved it. It would be better than having Nico and Jason gape at him like that.

It was hard not to rush his friends, even though he desperately wanted to. He started chewing on the inside of his cheek until he could taste blood in his mouth, and only then did he speak.

“Will you please say something?

He sounded pathetic, but it was time to stop caring about it. The only way to get through this was to bare it all, and then he could retreat into a bubble of self pity and beat himself up until he wanted to jump out of a window.

“I-” Nico shook his head. “I don’t know what to say, Perce.”

Alongside Nico, Jason shook his head as well.

“Yeah,” Percy said quietly. “I get it. It’s…” He desperately reached for the calm in his mind. He needed to get it out, to make them understand. “It’s a lot to take in.” He sighed deeply and stared at the floor.

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” Jason said.

“Because,” Percy started, “I only found out this morning.” He shook his head sadly. “Because I was scared of how you’d react.”

He was afraid to look up, to find disgust on Nico and Jason’s faces. They’d hate him for throwing a wrench into their lives, for ruining Christmas, for not trusting them when it mattered. There were so many reasons why they should cut all ties with him and leave him miserable and alone, and he couldn’t think of a single one that would make them stand by him. He felt like that miserable fifteen-year old boy he’d been, back when his best friend had moved away. He’d felt abandoned and alone for the longest time.

He’d been so happy when he’d made new friends that actually stuck around through thick and thin, and here he was, about to ruin it, and he had no one to blame but himself.

“I don’t know how it happened. Neither does she. Everything is a mess and I don’t know how to fix it! She won’t even listen to me! And you guys… The band…” He was losing it. His lip was trembling and he could feel the prickle of oncoming tears burning up the back of his throat until he couldn’t hold them back anymore and the tears spilled down his cheeks.

He couldn’t take it anymore. He’d fucked up so bad and he didn’t see a way out. Annabeth had dismissed him every single time he’d try to make things right and it was only a matter of time until Jason and Nico would leave him to fend for himself. Not even his mother was going to have any sympathy for him now.

He sank to his knees and curled in on himself. Maybe the tide would come in and sweep him away from all the trouble he’d caused.

Before he even realized that there were footsteps coming his way, Jason grabbed the front of his jacket and he was hauled to his feet.

No,” Jason ground out strongly, pulling Percy closer. “You do not get to feel sorry for yourself right now. The band, Percy? You knocked up a groupie and you’re worried about the band? For fuck’s sake!”

Percy looked over Jason’s shoulder to Nico, who smiled sheepishly and shrugged. It didn’t look like he could expect any help from Nico.

He tried to push Jason off, but he wouldn’t budge. “A groupie? Fuck you, Jason!”

Jason looked amused, and the look in his eyes was almost cruel. “You heard me.”

“She’s not a fucking groupie! I love her!” Percy struggled to get Jason to let go of him, but nothing he did worked.

“Then fucking prove it!” Jason shouted, shaking Percy in his grip. “All you’ve done so far is act out and wallow in self pity.” He rolled his eyes and let go of Percy. “Are you going to man the fuck up and face this, or are you going to throw another tantrum?”

“I-” Percy was speechless. He’d expected a lot of things, but he hadn’t expected Jason to get this angry. He didn’t know how to respond, but as Jason’s word reverberated in his ears, it dawned on him. Jason was right. He’d gotten too caught up in wondering what this would mean for him, how it would affect his life, and he hadn’t yet stopped to wonder what it would mean for Annabeth.

“Well?” Jason asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I- Yeah.” Percy nodded. “You’re right. I should be with her right now.”

“Damn right you should,” Jason glared, but the way the corner of his mouth twitched betrayed him.

Percy took a deep breath, wiped the tear tracks away from his cheeks, and straightened his jacket. “You’re an asshole.” The way Jason smiled said it all. The bastard had been baiting him and it had worked.

Jason laughed. “Not as big as you are. Now, go fix it. Cut that crap out with the flowers and the camping outside her door and talk to her. I know you, I doubt you’ve actually taken the time to listen to what it is she wants.”

“Jason’s right,” Nico said, stepping closer. “We can talk about what it means for the band later. It’s not important right now. Go straighten your shit out first, okay?”

Percy nodded. “Okay. I’ll go over there right now and see if she’ll talk to me. I might be back later or I’ll crash at the hotel, I don’t know yet. I guess I could just take mom’s car or some- Shit. Mom.”

Nico groaned. “Percy. Stop worrying about the details. Just go.” He waved Percy off.

“We’ll take care of your mom,” Jason added. “Just be sure to tell her what’s going on soon, okay? And don’t you dare do it over the phone.”

“You guys…” He smiled. He had the best friends anyone could wish for. He’d have taken the time to tell them that, but he had more important things to do right now, so he settled for a grateful look. “Thanks.

He ran off towards the garage, throwing a wave over his shoulder.

 


 

“I can’t fucking believe that guy,” Jason said, shaking his head. “When did he ever get to be so dense? Did he hit his head or something?”

Nico sighed. “Jason, can we just figure out a way to keep this from Sally and go back inside? I’m freezing my ass off and I feel terrible about leaving Will alone for so long.”

He wanted to run back inside, drag Will upstairs and wrap the both of them in a cocoon of warm blankets, but first they had to figure out a way to explain Percy’s absence to Sally without actually telling her what had happened. He guessed Sally would take the news a lot better if Jason told her instead of Percy, but he wasn’t about to let Jason clean up Percy’s mess, nor was he going to do it himself.

“You know we’re going to have to talk about this, right?” Jason said, frowning deeply.

Nico nodded. “I know. Can we not do it now, though? I’m not running away from this, or hiding, but…” He gestured wildly with his hands. There were so many emotions running rampant through him that he couldn’t and didn’t want to make sense of them right now. He was angry at Percy, scared of what might happen, sad and hurt because Percy hadn’t told them sooner. He felt like an asshole for leaving Will alone with people he barely knew for what must’ve been hours.

Jason was right, though. They would have to talk about this at some point.

He shook his head and dug his cigarettes out of his pocket, cursing when he couldn’t flick his lighter with his fingers, stiff and aching from the cold.

When he finally succeeded, he took a long drag and inhaled deeply, feeling the nicotine burning at the back of his throat.

He exhaled slowly and turned to Jason. “Yeah. I do. I’m not hiding or running away, I promise. What is there to talk about at this point, though? I’m sure we both agree that Percy is a stupid fucking idiot, and anything beyond that is just guesswork.”

Jason shook his head. “But-”

“No, Jason,” Nico interrupted him. “I know you’re worried - I am too - but I can’t deal with it right now. I don’t want to spend all of Christmas in a panic attack because of something that may or may not happen.” He nodded towards the house. “I’ve got Will in there, and I want these fucking holidays to mean something. It’s awful enough already. Just…” He sighed. “Let’s wait for Percy to come back first, okay? We can talk when we know more.”

“Okay,” Jason said. “You’re right. We can’t let it ruin the holidays. Everything will probably turn out okay and we’ll have worried for nothing.”

Nico saw right through Jason; he didn’t mean a single word of what he’d just said, but Nico would happily pretend to believe it. Right now, he needed to believe it.

“What do we say to Sally, though?” Jason asked.

Nico shook his head and crushed his cigarette under his boot. “We’ll just have to come up with something, I guess. Now, come on. We’ve been out here long enough.”

 


 

Over the last hour, Will had seen Nico grow up before his eyes. Sally had more pictures of the guys than he’d ever know what to do with.

Sally’s stories and the photos were wonderful, but after the sixth photo album he’d caught himself throwing wistful glances at the door more than once.

Paul had joined them at the table a little while ago, and Will was listening to Sally talk about Thrice Greek’s upcoming summer tour, and how she and Paul were planning to fly over for one of their shows - preferably one in a warm and sunny country - when he finally heard the door open.

He immediately turned around in his seat and smiled at Nico, who waved him over to the kitchen while Jason stepped into the room.

“Where’s Percy?” Sally asked, her voice shaky and fragile.

Jason sat down calmly at the same time as Will got up and walked to the kitchen, where Nico pulled him through the door and into a tight hug.

“I’m so freaking cold,” Nico said, shivering.

When Will wrapped his arms around Nico, he shuddered. Nico wasn’t kidding about being cold, Will felt like he was hugging a popsicle. “Is everything okay?” Will whispered.

Nico shook his head. “No. Something’s up with Percy, but…” He pulled away from the hug. “I can’t say any more, Will. I’m sorry.”

Will nodded. “No, I get it. It’s between the three of you. Don’t worry about it. Are you alright?”

Nico smiled. “I’m fine. I feel like a dick for leaving you in here for-” He glanced at the clock. “Two hours?! Shit, Will, I’m so sorry!”

Will put his hands on Nico’s shoulders and chuckled. “It’s fine, stop apologizing. Sally kept me entertained.” He smirked. “You,” he said, lifting one of his hands off Nico’s shoulder to poke a finger against Nico’s chest, “were a cute kid.”

Nico groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Oh god, she did the photo album thing, didn’t she? Again, I’m sorry.”

They were interrupted by Paul coming into the kitchen to pick up a box of tissues. He turned to Nico. “I don’t suppose you can tell me any more than Jason can?”

Nico shook his head apologetically. “No. I’m sorry. It’s not my place to tell you guys. Percy will be back soon and he’ll explain everything.” He frowned. “Is Sally okay?”

“She’s doing about as well as you’d expect,” Paul said. “I’m going to take her upstairs in a little bit so she can get some rest.”

Will smiled sheepishly, and he wished that there was something he could do. He was curious as to what was going on, but he knew better than to poke his nose into things that were none of his business. He couldn’t blame Nico for not telling him when even Sally and Paul were being kept in the dark.

“Yeah. I think we’ll head off to bed soon, too.” Nico said. “It’s been a long day.”

Paul smiled, eyes twinkling. “You’ll be sharing your room, I take it?”

Will couldn’t stop a chuckle from escaping when Nico’s eyes grew so wide that they almost fell out of his head.

“Oh, come on.” Paul laughed. “You didn’t actually think we wouldn’t notice, did you? What were you going to do, sneak around like a bunch of teenagers?” He shook his head, still smiling before disappearing back into the living room.

“That obvious, huh?” Nico said, still blushing.

Will laughed. “Apparently. Sally said the same thing to me earlier.”

“Of course she did,” Nico muttered before grabbing Will’s hand and pulling him towards the door. “Let’s go, then.”

When they got to the living room, they saw Paul leading a crying Sally up the stairs. Will felt so sorry for her. Whatever was going on, he hoped that Percy would be back soon to explain the situation.

They joined a frowning Jason at the table. “You okay, dude?” Nico asked.

“Yeah,” Jason said. “I wish I could tell her, but…” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m kind of worried about Percy, and I was thinking… Someone should be at the hotel in case things go south and he decides to do something stupid.” He sighed. “He’s in enough trouble with Reyna already and the last thing we need is a smashed up hotel room. He’s enough of a rockstar cliché already.”

Nico frowned. “That someone would be me, I take it?”

“Unless you want to stay here. I could go. One of us needs to be here for Sally, though.”

“No.” Nico sighed deeply. “I’ll go. Christmas is ruined anyway, right? Might as well go back there. You’re better at that stuff so you stay here with Sally and I’ll… I don’t know, take a cab back into the city or something.”

Will shook his head sadly. Of course Christmas had to take a turn for the worst. Why should this year have been any different from the ones before? He was a fool for thinking that it might be better this year.

Nico was right. Christmas was ruined.

“I’ll go grab my bag,” Nico said, getting up from the table. He turned to Will. “I know it’s not a proper Christmas, but…” He blushed a little. “You’re coming with me, right?”

 

 

Chapter Text

They’d been waiting for a while for the taxi to arrive at Sally’s house; not surprising, since it was Christmas Eve - Christmas Day, if Will was going to be nitpicky.

After grabbing their bags and putting them by the door, they’d killed some time, reminiscing about past Christmases while Nico and Jason had picked at some microwaved leftovers until Paul had come downstairs to open the liquor cabinet, saying they could all use a drink.

Will wasn’t a heavy drinker, save for the occasional glass of wine, but he had to agree. Christmas had gone to hell anyway, and even if the prospect of staying with Nico was a little light at the end of the Yuletide tunnel, he doubted he’d be forced to change his opinion about the holiday.

He honestly didn’t know what type of liquor Paul had poured them just now - it could have been anything, for all he knew - but he was glad to see both Nico and Jason taking careful little nips instead of knocking their glasses back.

He could see Nico smiling at him from the corner of his eye as he picked up his glass and sniffed at it warily. It smelled sweet, spicy, and of something else that he couldn’t quite place.

Before he took a sip, Nico stopped him with a hand to his wrist. “You have absolutely no idea what you’re drinking, do you?”

Will didn’t have to answer. The look on his face probably told Nico everything he needed to know.

“It’s cognac,” Nico said. “The good stuff, too.” He chuckled. “Here, hold your glass like this. You have to warm it up before you drink it.”

Will watched, smiling, as Nico placed the glass in the palm of his hand and folded his fingers around it. “This is way too fancy for me.”

Nico smiled and shrugged, taking his hand away. “Fancy is good sometimes. Now, take a sip. Slowly.”

The taste didn’t do it for Will. It wasn’t terrible, but he didn’t particularly enjoy it either. Instead of drinking, he’d have much rather have sat there for a while with Nico’s hand curled around his.

He’d taken a few sips and all he felt so far was a warmth creeping up the back of his throat and all the way down to his stomach. It was a pleasant feeling, but he didn’t need the alcohol to feel that way. He only needed to look to his left, where Nico was now quietly nursing his drink to feel warm all over.

Slowly, but surely, Paul shifted the topic of their conversation to Percy, and Will could feel the atmosphere growing more tense by the second, so when the doorbell rang, signaling that their taxi had arrived, he couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

They said their goodbyes, with Nico promising to call Jason if Percy stopped by the hotel, and with Will thanking Paul for the amazing dinner and expressing his regrets for the way the night had ended.

As they hopped into the backseat of the cab, Will glanced at the house a last time. Maybe he’d never come here again, but he couldn’t help but quietly hope that maybe there’d be a do-over next year - a thought that he quickly blocked out. It was much too early to start thinking about where he would be - or they would be - next year.

 

The ride back to the city was quiet and uneventful. The driver was humming along to Christmas songs a little too loudly, making any conversation impossible.

Will looked out the window, watching the street lights pass by. It was hypnotic, and made it difficult to keep his eyes open.

The last thing he felt before falling asleep was Nico lacing their fingers together.

 

“Will?”

His eyes fluttered open and he groaned quietly. From his left came a chuckle.

“Hey, sleepyhead. Wake up. We’re almost there.”

Will shook himself awake. When he looked out the window, he could see the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan and the bright neon lights that the New York nights were famous for.

He turned to Nico, who was watching him with sparkling eyes and a warm smile on his face.

“Hey.” He yawned and stretched out as best he could in the cramped back seat. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go home?”

“No,” came Nico’s reply. “I owe you a decent Christmas.” He shrugged. “And, you know…”

He didn’t finish his sentence, and when Nico’s face was lit up by the next street light, Will could see a blush on his cheeks.

Will nodded and smiled. Perhaps now that they’d be alone, he’d finally get to tell Nico what he’d been dying to say for days.

 

“I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted,” Nico said as he opened the door to the suite.

Will hummed his agreement. Despite his nap in the taxi, he was bone tired, but when the lights came on his eyes snapped wide open. “Holy crap. This is where you guys stay?”

Nico shook his head. “Nah. I wanted to impress you so I booked this for the night.”

Will couldn’t tell if Nico was lying at first, but when Nico’s grin grew huge and Will could see the twinkle in his eyes, he knew enough. “Liar,” he snorted.

He took a moment to slowly walk through the suite, taking everything in.

“I’ll give you the tour tomorrow,” Nico said. “I honestly just want to go to sleep right now.”

Will nodded and followed Nico into his bedroom. They dropped their bags, stripped down to their boxers and crawled into bed without ceremony.

“I’m never leaving this bed,” Will muttered after getting comfortable, rolling onto his side so he could face Nico. “It’s too comfy.”

Nico scooted closer, until he was all but pressed up against Will. “Good. I don’t want you to.” He yawned and placed a small kiss on Will’s shoulder before closing his eyes and pulling the blanket up to his nose. "Stay like this forever."

Will chuckled and fell asleep with a smile on his face.

 


 

Why wouldn’t this damn thing go any faster?

He was regretting ever having bought his mom a Prius. He’d have to remember to buy her a car that could actually go fast, so the next time he’d have to speed on over to his maybe-girlfriend’s place, he wouldn’t have to do it at a snail’s pace.

Rushing wouldn’t do him any good, he knew that, but it was difficult - no, nearly impossible - to muster up any form of patience right now.

He did his very best to block out the nagging voice that continued to ask what if?

What if she won’t even open the door for him? What if she doesn’t want to hear anything he has to say? What if he’d already screwed things up beyond repair? What if she isn’t even at home? What if?

He was determined to make things right, but after today, his priorities had shifted.

He didn’t want to make up for the sake of making up; so he wouldn’t have to live with the fact that he’d ruined something good, not anymore. He’d finally realized that he’d been going about things the wrong way. He needed to make things right because he loved Annabeth; for her and not for his own selfish reasons.

There were bigger things at stake now. Growing up without a father had been tough on him, and there was no way he was going to stay out of this - his - kid’s life - not if he had any say in it. Whatever it took, it didn’t matter. He had the means to make sure Annabeth and the kid could live a comfortable life, without having to worry about a thing. Whether he’d get to be a part of that life remained to be seen and depended entirely on him.

It was time to stop blaming Annabeth for not listening to him, for not answering his calls anymore, for not opening the door anymore. He needed to lay the blame with whom it belonged; himself.

He’d made mistake upon mistake upon mistake. The cheating; the reluctance to make his relationship known to Nico and Jason; the misplaced anger when Annabeth hadn’t accepted his half-assed apologies; his misguided attempts at making her accept it anyway. And instead of owning up to those mistakes, he’d lashed out, feeling sorry for himself, feeling like the world had turned against him and not knowing why.

Annebeth’s pregnancy changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change the fact that he wanted to make things right with her. Gods, he loved her, and he’d give anything to fix what he’d broken.

He parked the car close to her apartment and started running down the quiet streets and up the steps. He ran down the hall, his footsteps loud and heavy on the creaking wooden floor, up the first floor, the second, the third, the fourth until he finally came to a stop in front of her door.

He moved to knock but yanked his hand back at the last second, as if burned. Was he really going to do this? Could he? Wouldn’t it be better if he went back to the hotel and came back at a normal hour instead of banging on her door at - he checked his phone - three in the morning?

If only Jason and Nico were here. They’d know what to do. He thought for a moment. Nico would probably have knocked on the door and Jason would have held him in place to prevent him from running before Annabeth could open it.

No more chickening out. Here goes nothing.

He knocked and pressed his ear to the door, listening for any signs of movement. He jolted away when he heard someone shuffling closer and straightened his clothes, running a hand through his hair for good measure. Trying for his most sincere smile, he kept his eyes on the peephole in the door.

“Go away, Percy.”

“Annabeth,” He croaked out. Shit, his voice was giving out already? “Please hear me out. Please.”

Silence. Maybe that was good. It wasn’t an immediate rejection.

“I fucked up,” he started. “I should have listened to what you had to say instead of trying to force things to be okay again.” He sighed and swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I’ve been a dick and you didn’t deserve any of that.”

Still nothing. He turned around and leaned against the door, needing something to steady him.

“I told Nico and Jason. I told them everything.” He closed his eyes. “And you have every right to be angry with me, I know that now. And I don’t deserve another chance but I hope you’ll at least talk to me.” He felt the tears prickling behind his eyelids.

“I love you, Annabeth, and I’m sorry.” It came out as more of a sob than anything else. “I’m so, so sorry.”

The lock clicked, and he managed to get away from the door before it opened, revealing Annabeth, who looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. Her face was set in an angry scowl, but the tear tracks on her cheeks betrayed her.

Hey eyes were puffy and red, and Percy felt the guilt for being the cause of it weigh him down.

She didn’t say anything, and neither did Percy. They just started at each other for long moments, until Percy couldn’t take it anymore and looked down.

“I’m sorry.” It was quiet, barely above a whisper, and he knew it wasn’t good enough but it was all he had.

Annabeth wordlessly stepped aside and held the door open, heaving a sigh.

He looked up, meeting her eyes, silently asking for her permission to enter her apartment. He’d learned his lesson; he was done assuming things. From here on out, he was going to be honest, keep an open mind, and try his hardest to win Annabeth’s trust back.

She nodded, and he trudged inside.

He wasn’t going to let her down. No more. Not this time.

 


 

Will shot upright in bed. For the first few groggy seconds after he’d woken up, he hadn’t known where he was.

As he rubbed at his forehead and blinked the sleep from his eyes, it came back to him. He was at the Soho Grand penthouse suite, in Nico’s amazingly comfortable bed.

“Morning,” he sleepily croaked out after letting out a yawn.

No reply. He looked to his side and saw the crumpled up comforter, evidence that he’d indeed fallen asleep next to Nico, but Nico himself was nowhere to be seen.

He scratched at his chest and threw the covers back before crawling out of bed, finding his bag at the foot of the bed, exactly where he’d dropped it the night before.

He pulled out the pyjama pants he hadn’t bothered to wear before going to bed and slipped them on before grabbing a t-shirt.

When he walked out of the bedroom, his eyes nearly fell out of his head.

At the far side of the room, Nico was leaning against a window and looking out over the city. He was only wearing a pair of black pyjama pants that were hanging low on his hips and his hair was tied back in a messy little ponytail. The sunlight streaming in through the window, catching on his body, made him look ethereal.

“Good morning,” Will said as he stepped closer to Nico.

Nico jolted up and turned around, a lazy smile appearing on his face. “Hey, you’re awake. Sleep well?”

Will nodded. “I don’t think I’ve ever slept that well. I swear, there are actual clouds in that mattress.”

Nico laughed. “I’m glad.” He stepped closer and took Will’s hands in his. “Close your eyes.”

Will raised an eyebrow.

“Come on,” Nico grinned. “I have a surprise for you. Humor me, will you?”

“A surprise? Well all right,” Will answered and closed his eyes. He felt a tug on his hands and carefully shuffled forward, further into the room and around the corner, if he had to guess. Nico led him through a door and closed it behind him before kissing him on the cheek softly, and told him to open his eyes again.

“Wow,” Will whispered. Nico had really gone all out. The dining table was full of all sorts of food: various kinds of bread in a wicker basket, bowls of fresh fruit, at least five different types of cheese, pastries, waffles, pancakes and much more. “Did you make all of this? For me?”

“Oh, no,” Nico said, amused. “I can’t cook to save my life. I can burn water if I try hard enough.” He laughed. “No, I ordered it, which is kind of lame, but, you know…” He shrugged and smiled sheepishly. “I figured, since it’s Christmas and last night didn’t go as planned…”

Will pulled Nico into a kiss. “It’s wonderful. Thank you.”

Nico blushed, and Will was amused to see that the blush went all the way down his chest.

“Well, come on, sit!” Nico gestured and pulled the chair out for Will, who sat down with a huge smile on his face. He walked to the other end of the table and pulled a bottle of champagne from an elegant silver cooler and popped the cork. “Champagne?”

 

They’d eaten in relative silence and had just moved to the living room couch. They’d taken the bottle of champagne with them, drinking their second glass as they watched a Christmas special on the hotel’s ridiculously large TV.

Will was thankful for the large and delicious breakfast, otherwise he’d have found himself drunk before the clock had even struck two.

It was nice, just sitting there with Nico tucked against him, with Nico humming under his breath as he nosed along Will’s jaw, his lips occasionally brushing against the side of Will’s neck.

“Nico?”

“Hmm?”

“Can we… Talk? For a moment?”

Nico sat up, frowning. “I’m sorry, did I-”

Will shook his head. “No, no.” He blushed. “It was good. Great, even! Really. I just…” He took a deep breath. “I uh, I’ve made my decision.”

He could see the apprehension in Nico’s eyes as Nico scooted away, and he barely caught the “Me too” that Nico mumbled out.

“I like you, you know that,” Will began, which turned out to be a bad a choice of words because Nico curled inwards on himself. Way to phrase it like a break up, Will. “Nico, look at me, please. I like you a lot and I like this a lot.” He gestured between the two of them. “Every time I’m near you I turn into some kind of lovestruck fool but you know what?”

Nico spared him a wary glance from the corner of his eye.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you want to, I’d like to give it a try. Us, I mean.” He smiled when Nico turned his head, the apprehension replaced with disbelief.

“R-really?” Nico asked with a small voice.

Will nodded, smiling. “Yeah.”

“But, the distance, and the press, and-”

“I don’t care,” Will said. “There’s a way to make it work, I just know it. I don’t know what it is yet but we can figure it out. Together.” His smile fell away. “If you want to, that is. I’m going to respect your decision, whatever it is.” He nodded confidently to himself, even though his heart was beating a thousand beats per minute as he awaited Nico’s reaction.

Nico blinked at him a few times, as if he was still processing what Will had just told him.

Will was already preparing himself for rejection when Nico launched himself off the couch, only to drop into Will’s lap, throwing his arms around Will’s neck.

“So that’s a-”

He was cut off when Nico kissed him so hard their teeth clacked together.

“Yeah,” Nico breathed out after pulling away, cheeks flushed to what Will thought was an adorable shade of pink. “Yes. Definitely a yes.” He smiled brightly, all teeth and puffed up lips.

Will felt like his heart was about to burst out of his chest. Nico said yes. He was almost dizzy with excitement, lost in happiness until Nico started playing with the curls at the back of his head, bringing him back to reality. He was grinning like an idiot - so was Nico - but he didn’t care.

He licked his lips, more out of nervousness than anything else, but when Nico’s eyes followed the motion, only to flick back up, Will’s heart skipped a beat. He’d been holding off on taking things further with Nico until they both had their answer, and well, now they had it.

He lifted a hand, tentatively and brought it up to Nico’s chest, splaying his fingers out over his heart. Underneath his palm, he could feel the rapid badump-badump of Nico’s heart beating so fast it mirrored his own.

Nico’s skin was soft and warm to the touch, and Will couldn’t help but smile all too shyly as he brought his other hand up to Nico’s chest as well, revelling in the hitch of Nico’s breath when his thumb brushed over a nipple.

He tore his gaze away from his hands long enough to look up at Nico, who was smiling down at him, lower lip caught between his teeth. Will blushed, deeply, and he could feel the warmth rolling off him in waves. He was trying - and failing - to keep his nervousness from showing. The only thing that kept him from running out of the room in embarrassment was the fact that Nico looked the same; his normally pale skin was a deep red, from the tips of his ears, down his neck, to his chest.

He wanted to do this, knowing full well where it could lead, though he was trying not to think about that, letting the moment guide him instead. No overthinking, not this time. He just wanted to get lost in sensations and emotions.

It gave him the courage he needed to slowly move his hands across Nico’s chest, tracing his skin and the muscles that lay underneath, mapping out the angles and curves reverently, almost like he couldn’t believe what he was doing - what Nico allowed him to do.

One of his fingers traced a line up Nico’s arm, following a path of black ink, deeply embedded in his skin. Nico shivered, and Will could feel the goosebumps rising on Nico’s skin. When he looked up, Nico’s eyes were dark and hooded, fixed on the tattoo Will was tracing.

He leaned in and pressed his lips to Nico’s collarbone, soft and gentle, hands slowly making their way down Nico’s sides, around to his back, following the path of Nico’s muscles, the dimples in his lower back, up the curve of Nico’s spine. He could feel every movement beneath his hands, the shift of Nico’s shoulders when Nico gripped the back of his shirt tightly.

It was beautiful, in a way. He’d seen Nico move, the grace with which he moved across the stage when he was playing, the lazy, cat-like way in which Nico stretched when he was tired, the tension in his body when he was nervous, but it was another thing to feel it, to experience it in a more intimate way. It was something new, something private, something only he got to experience, and the realization made a fire burn deep inside of him.

A shift of Nico’s hips made the fire burn even hotter. Separated by only a few layers of flimsy cotton, it wasn’t difficult for Will to gauge Nico’s state of mind. If Will was capable of blushing more than he was already, he would have, but there was something in the way that Nico let him touch, let him explore at his own pace that set his mind at ease.

He trailed kisses from Nico’s collarbone to his shoulder and up to his neck, unable to keep from grinning like an idiot, his lips twitching against the tender skin beneath Nico's ear. Nico tensed, squirming, his hips bucking as he sucked in his breath with a quiet hiss. Will’s shirt rode up his back as Nico gripped it even tighter, bunching the fabric in his fists.

The tension in the air grew heavier as the seconds ticked by, and when Will let his hands slide down the hills and valleys of Nico’s back, exhaling a shaky breath against the side of Nico’s neck and dipping only the very tips of his fingers under the waistband of Nico’s pyjamas, Nico let go of Will’s shirt, hands moving to the hem, giving it a little tug.

Will got the message, pressing one more kiss to Nico’s jaw before pulling away and raising his arms until Nico had pulled his shirt off, discarding it beside them.

He resisted the urge to cross his arms over his chest, feeling exposed and a little bit uncomfortable, but the way that Nico looked at him, the awe in his sparkling eyes, like he was looking at something precious, made Will feel calmer.

Nico met his eyes, a silent question hanging between them. Can I?

Will responded with a small nod and a nervous smile. He wanted this; gods, he wanted Nico to touch him, to feel him, and when Nico’s calloused fingertips, rough from years of playing the guitar, brushed over his chest, it set him ablaze.

Nico mimicked Will’s careful touches at first, but Will quickly found out he was less shy about the whole thing than he’d been. Nico’s hands were tender and inquisitive, his touch purposeful, seeking out all the spots that made Will gasp in quiet breaths and tremble.

Nico had been patient in letting Will explore, but Will found himself to be far less so. With every touch, every kiss, he found himself wanting more to the point where he started to tremble, every nerve a live wire under his skin.

He was nervous, yes, but Nico’s every move pushed it further and further to the back of his mind, until it was a faint hum in the background, drowned out by increasingly harsher breaths and the blood rushing in his ears.

When Nico leaned in and peppered his chest with kisses, Will smoothed a hand through Nico’s hair, wanting to ground himself and keep Nico close. He needed to feel Nico to believe it was really happening. Gods, it all felt so right.

Nico closed his lips around one of his nipples, flicking his tongue against it and something in Will snapped, the feeling going straight to his core. He gasped in a breath, his back arching of its own accord and he hadn’t meant to tug on Nico’s hair but he did, and he tensed up, frozen.

He didn’t relax until he felt Nico’s lips curl into a smirk against his skin, warm breath flowing over his chest as Nico giggled against it. A kiss on his chest, his throat, his jaw, and then Nico’s lips were on his own, hot and wet and so good, the faint taste of champagne and chocolate strawberries still lingering between them.

He was so lost in the kiss that he melted against Nico’s body, not knowing whether it was his or Nico’s doing - and he didn’t care - but someone had started grinding their hips together and it felt amazing.

He pulled back from the kiss, gasping again when Nico nipped at his bottom lip before drawing away, and looked into Nico’s eyes, more pupil than iris, though it was hard to tell with eyes that dark. He knew what Nico wanted, and he wanted it too, so when he cupped Nico’s face in his hands, right before he kissed him again, he voiced the only coherent thought that was flowing through his mind, whispering it against Nico’s lips in between shallow breaths.

“Bedroom?”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Will,” Nico said, gently pushing Will into the couch. “Are you sure?”

Will responded with a slight nod and a coy smile before he leaned in to steal another kiss.

It would be so easy to ravage Will right where he sat, to touch him in all the right places, work him into a fever pitch, until the only word on Will’s lips would be Nico’s name. Gods, he wanted to, he needed to.

He hadn’t forgotten what Will had told him a little while ago, though. Will hadn’t had sex before, and the last thing Nico wanted to do was pressure him into it.

Nico didn’t believe in the notion that first times had to be special, carefully planned out and perfect. He didn’t buy into the rose petals and candle lights thing. Yes, it was something that you’d remember for the rest of your life, but other than that, it wasn’t as special as everyone made it out to be. Maybe he was different than everyone else; he didn’t know.

His own first time had been, well, quite the opposite of what it was supposed to be, if you listened to the songs, read the books and watched the movies. It had been messy and awkward and neither of them had known what they were doing, but he was glad that it hadn’t been perfect, even though it had been amazing at the time. Perfection gave him nothing to strive for, nothing to improve, and half the fun of it was learning how to move right, how to move together in the best possible way.

To Nico, sex was like a symphony. Beautiful in many ways; whether it was quiet, languid, and joyous, or vicious, hard, and loud, and anything in between. It was the harmony that mattered, the dynamics. Moving in sync, settling into a rhythm and working up to a crescendo that could blow you away.

However, that was his take on the situation, and he intended to let Will call the shots this time. He could wait. It would take a few cold showers and maybe a few solo rounds, but he’d have no problems with holding out until Will was absolutely sure that he was ready.

It didn’t mean he wasn’t making it clear to Will that he wanted to take things further, but he planned to back off at the slightest hint of hesitation.

The confident manner in which Will had asked him to take things to the bedroom had sent a jolt right down his spine, but he needed to make sure it was really something that Will wanted, no matter how much it ruined the moment. If the time was right, it would take them no time at all to get back into it, anyway.

He giggled quietly when Will nosed along the scruff of his cheek, but pressed his palms to Will’s chest, once again pushing him back. He smiled and leaned in, not close enough for Will to kiss him - though he did try - but close enough for Will to feel his breath on his face. “I want you, Will,” he whispered, barely loud enough for Will to hear.

Will trembled beneath his palms and tried to kiss him again, but Nico pulled away with a playful bite to Will’s lower lip. “But…”

“But?” Will asked, voice raspy.

Nico placed a soft kiss on Will’s cheek and pressed his forehead to Will’s. “But I want you to be sure about this.” He smiled, and tried to look as earnest as he could underneath the lust that must have been showing on his face. “It’s okay if you’re not ready or if you don’t want to. Just tell me,” he said, stroking his thumbs along Will’s chest.

He shivered when Will brought his hands up, slowly trailing his fingertips up Nico’s sides and shoulders before tracing the inked lines back down his arms.

“I want to,” Will said, gently taking hold of Nico’s wrists, pulling them away from his chest and intertwining his fingers with Nico’s. “I want you.”

He grinned at Will, trying to keep excitement from taking over when he noticed Will’s hands were trembling.

“You don’t have to be nervous,” Nico said quietly, squeezing Will’s hands and burying his face in the crook of Will’s neck, placing a soft kiss there.

“I know,” Will said, so softly that Nico had to strain to hear it. “It’s just…” He let out a sigh. “It’s my first time and… What if I’m not any good?”

“Look at me, Will,” Nico said, pausing until Will looked him in the eye. “It’s not a matter of who’s good. Sex is…” He smiled. “It’s wonderful, fun, and so much more. But it’s not a competition, you hear me? The important thing is that we get to do it together, be intimate with each other and make each other feel good.” He smirked and took Will’s hand, pressing it to his own chest, right over his heart. “You feel that?”

Will nodded.

“That’s because of you,” Nico whispered. He kept a careful eye on Will, watching for any reaction as he guided Will’s hand down, lower and lower.

He could feel the hesitation, the tremble in Will’s hand, the way Will tensed beneath him, but when he let go, Will didn’t pull his hand away.

There was no suppressing the groan that left him when Will’s fingers carefully brushed over his erection, straining against his boxers and pyjama pants. “That’s also because of you, Will,” he breathed out. “You’re beautiful and I want you. Can you feel how much I want you?”

Will swallowed thickly and croaked out a ‘Yes’, fingers tracing the outline of Nico’s length. “Yes,” he repeated quietly, eyes flickering up until they met Nico’s. He smiled, somehow managing to look both nervous and confident at the same time when he nodded. “I’m ready.”

Nico grinned and leaned in, nipping at Will’s earlobe before whispering, “Good.” He ran the tip of his tongue along the shell of Will’s ear, revelling in the shiver it earned him. “I’m going to make you feel so good.”

 


 

“Are you guys still at my mom’s place?”

“I am. Nico and Will went back to the hotel to catch you there in case you showed up.”

“...”

“Okay, I’m definitely not going there, then. ;)”

“Smooth. Thanks. Just what I wanted to think about today.”

“So where are you? Are you at Annabeth’s?”

“Yeah. She’s in the shower so I figured I’d check in.”

“And?”

“She let me in last night. We talked. Then talked some more. And some more. Then she made me sleep on the couch. My everything hurts.”

“Suck it up, you big baby. Did you guys figure anything out?”

“Not really.”

“I mean. There’s still a lot to talk about. But she’s listening, and that’s good.”

“Obviously. Just keep your head on straight and don’t do anything stupid. Think before you speak.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, man.”

“You deserved that.”

“Okay. Fine. I guess I did.”

“You did. You’ll be fine, dude. I know you’re not as big an idiot as you like to pretend you are.”

“Ha ha. Very funny. God, I’m gonna be hearing about this for the rest of my life, aren’t I?”

“Mm, yeah. Pretty much. Or maybe just until the next stupid stunt you pull.”

“Again? Harsh, bro!”

“Death. Taxes. Percy Jackson doing stupid shit.”

“;)”

“Asshole.”

“Have you told mom and Paul about…”

“No. And I won’t. That’s your story to tell. They’re getting pretty antsy, though.”

“She hasn’t gotten it out of you yet? I’m actually impressed. I thought she’d have you guys singing before I’d even left the driveway.”

“I got breakfast in bed and she’s trying to stuff me full of Christmas cookies as we speak. Paul tried to get me drunk last night. You really need to get back here soon. I can only eat so many cookies before I explode.”

“Sounds like them, alright. :D I’ll do my best, dude. I’m sorry for ruining Christmas and I’ll make it up to you guys, I promise.”

“It’s fine. You punished yourself enough, I’d say. Just fix things with your mom and Paul, and make sure you get on the same page with Annabeth and we’re cool.”

“Yeah.”

“I hear Annabeth getting out of the shower. I’ll text you when I’m on my way home. Tell mom that I’m fine and that I’ll be back as soon as I can, okay?”

“Sure thing. Good luck.”

“Thanks. And Jason? Thanks for last night.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“<3 Love you, dude. See you soon.”

 


 

Will forgot to breathe for a moment as Nico backed him up against the wall, hands clamping down on his sides, and pressed himself tightly against him, planting kisses along his neck and shoulder. Until today, he’d only had glimpses into how amazing a simple kiss could be. It was nothing more than a press of lips against skin, a hint of tongue, saliva cooling on his skin when Nico moved on, but this moment, to Will, was pure, unadulterated bliss.

He was tense, unable to keep his hands from trembling, and he was sure that it showed; if Nico hadn’t noticed how his hands were shaking, he was sure to have noticed the rigid way he leaned against the wall, hands scrabbling for anything to hold him steady. Will desperately wanted to relax, but his thoughts wouldn’t leave him alone.

Was this really happening? He wanted to, gods, there were no words to describe how much he wanted to, how excited he was to share his first time with Nico. He trusted Nico to make it good for him, but the problem was that he wasn’t sure whether he could make it good for Nico, and the thought sent his nerves into overdrive. He cursed his inexperience and his stupid trembling hands. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how any of it worked - he did, but knowing how something works and actually doing it were two different things entirely.

He knew he had to surrender himself to the moment, to the emotions, to Nico; to trust that Nico would keep guiding him like he’d been doing so far. Neither of them were going to enjoy it if he kept tensing up.

Nico seemed to have picked up on his nerves, finding Will’s hands and lacing their fingers together and whispering sweet nothings into the crook of Will’s neck. Will knew Nico was trying to put him at ease; everything Nico had done and said so far was make sure that Will was comfortable.

Nico wanted this. He wanted this. All he had to go was let go of his qualms and seize the moment.

He wrapped his arms around Nico and let out a shaky breath, his head spinning a little from holding it in too long, when he felt Nico’s lips curl into a smile against his skin.

Nico kissed his way up Will’s neck, over his jaw and cheek, running both hands into Will’s hair before pulling him into a fiery kiss that seemed to last forever. Will never wanted the kiss to end, the way Nico smoothed his hands through his hair one moment, lightly tugging on it the next, the way Nico’s hips brought delicious friction as they ground against his groin drove Will insane with lust, and he found himself more needy with every second that ticked by. Nervousness slowly made way for want and need, to touch, to see, to taste, to feel. He wanted everything that Nico would give him, and frankly, he couldn’t wait until they reached the bedroom so he could rip those pyjama pants off Nico.

Growing bolder by the minute, fuelled by Nico’s delicious reactions in the form of grunts and groans into his mouth, he let his hands drift down until he was cupping Nico’s ass, earning him a playful bite to the side of his neck and a soft, musical giggle when Nico broke the kiss.

He pulled Nico against him even tighter, ducking to capture Nico’s lips in a fierce kiss, taking advantage of their position to flip them over and press Nico against the wall, grinning at the surprised look he received.

“What?” Will chuckled, though he didn’t manage to keep his voice from cracking. He leaned down and, mirroring Nico, peppered Nico’s neck with soft kisses, until Nico wriggled out from under him with a smirk and hooked two fingers into the waistband of his pyjama bottoms and tugged.

Will raised an eyebrow, unsure what Nico was getting at, but when Nico started shuffling backwards, dragging him along by his pants, grinning up at him crookedly, he got the message and shuffled along, wearing a smile of his own.

They reached the bedroom and Nico let go of his pyjama pants, the elastic snapping back onto his stomach, and drew him in for a kiss, nudging the door with his foot until it closed.

When Nico pulled away, he was smirking mischievously, and Will had just enough time to catch the twinkle in his eyes before his knees hit the edge of the mattress and Nico pushed him onto it with a playful giggle.

He’d barely opened his eyes before the bed dipped and Nico swung his leg over him, climbing up onto Will’s thighs, caging him in with his knees. There was something predatory about Nico, a possessive sharpness in his eyes that made Will’s skin prickle with excitement.

Nico trailed his fingertips down Will’s chest in a featherlight caress, teasing and subtle and not enough, raising goosebumps on his skin.

He sucked in a breath when Nico once again hooked his fingers in the waistband of his pyjamas, looking up at him, the question ‘Can I?’ written on his face, clear as day.

Will nodded once, twice, frowning when Nico looked at him as if he was waiting for something.

Nico chuckled. “Now, I could actually rip these off you, and that would probably be incredibly hot, so don’t tempt me-” He grinned. “-or you could help me a little,” he said, patting Will’s hip.

Will furrowed his brows in confusion. “Oh!” He said when it finally dawned on him what Nico wanted, and he lifted his hips, cheeks burning in embarrassment.

Nico laughed and tugged on his pyjamas, scooting backwards off the bed to pull them all the way off. He stood up and nudged Will’s legs, still dangling off the side of the bed, apart with his knee, and stood in between them, smiling down at Will.

Will licked his lips nervously and propped himself up on his elbows as Nico crawled back onto the bed, pressing kiss after kiss to Will’s stomach, chest, and throat before sitting back on his knees, taking Will’s hands and pulling him up.

Nico towered over him in this position, knees between Will’s thighs, and Will could feel the heat rolling off Nico in waves. He could see Nico’s heart beating, thudding against his ribcage.

He looked up when Nico guided Will’s hands to his hips, squeezing them lightly before letting go and draping his arms over Will’s shoulders.

Will gripped Nico’s pants, pulling on them, his breath hitching as he realized what he was about to do. He wanted to yank them down, but his fingers felt stiff. When Nico smiled encouragingly, playing with the curls at the back of his head, he pressed his lips to the center of Nico’s chest, too nervous to watch as he brought Nico’s pants down to his thighs.

Will kissed along the lines of Nico’s chest, the warm skin under his lips and the quiet hitches of Nico’s breath spurring him on, even after Nico’s pants lay pooled around his knees. He cupped the backs of Nico’s thighs, soft to the touch, and slowly slid his hands up, lips curling into a smile against Nico’s skin when he felt him shiver.

There was something incredibly soothing about how Nico shivered, huffed, and responded because of him, because of what he was doing. The effect he had on Nico pushed the nervousness further to the background; it lifted his courage, and excited him to no end.

He kissed one of Nico’s nipples and flicked his tongue against it, letting out a chuckle when Nico thrust his hips forward against Will’s chest with a quiet hiss, his arousal burning hot against Will’s skin. When Will glanced up, Nico had thrown his head back, and a wave of heat pooled in his groin.

Sliding his hands further up Nico’s thighs, he snaked his fingertips up the legs of Nico’s boxer briefs, brushing against the curve of Nico’s butt when Nico ran a hand through his hair and looked down at him, smirking.

Nico pushed him flat on his back again, whispering hotly into Will’s ear. “My turn.” He wriggled his pants the rest of the way off and kicked them off the bed before hooking his fingers in Will’s boxers, smiling all too sweetly, a sharp contrast with the hunger in his eyes.

Will took a deep breath and swallowed thickly, his throat feeling like sandpaper. He was had long since moved beyond blushing, but the tips of his ears were burning when he lifted his hips off the bed and nodded.

Another quiet giggle, hands slowly sliding down his legs, dragging his boxers with them, a kiss to his stomach, and Will lay naked before Nico, fighting the urge to cover himself.

“Will,” Nico’s voice was quiet when he laid his hands on Will’s hips, thumbs brushing up against his hipbones. He leaned in, nudging Will’s nose with his own and whispered against Will’s lips. “You’re perfect.”

He kissed Will, hard and hungry, and Will got drunk on the feeling, his head spinning with lust, so much that he didn’t notice that Nico had moved his hand until he felt his long fingers curl around his length.

The barest of touches, and yet it felt like the world disappeared around him. Nico’s body pressed against his own, Nico’s hand around him, moving slowly, Nico’s tongue on his lips. Nothing mattered other than Nico, right here, right now.

 

They’d kissed and touched for what felt like hours, until the last of the tension had left Will’s body, leaving him relaxed and loose under Nico, making contented noises in the back of his throat.

The tension had come creeping back when Nico had crawled off the bed and disappeared into the bathroom, coming back out with a bottle of lube and a condom seconds later. He’d smirked and swayed his hips, humming a quiet tune as he’d tugged his boxers down until they’d fallen to the floor.

Nico’s little striptease was silly, but he was gorgeous, and Will wanted nothing than to get his hands on him and never let go.

The next moments passed in a blur. Nico lying on his side next to him, skilled hands working every spot that made Will tick. There was a look in Nico’s eyes that Will couldn’t place, effortless focus, satisfaction, excitement, and a sense of calm. He’d seen it before but he couldn’t remember when, and every chance he might have had at finding out disappeared when Nico’s finger, cold and slick, pressed against him.

“Relax,” Nico whispered against the side of Will’s neck, smoothing a hand across Will’s chest.

Deep breaths, a single finger, a wince, a kiss, a soothing murmur, and it felt weird.

Quiet praise whispered against his collarbone, more kisses, another finger, a hand smoothing through his hair, and it still wasn’t great.

A stretch, a burn, a hiss, Nico’s tongue flicking against his nipple, a steady hand on his dick, a curve of Nico’s fingers and- “Ah!

“Nico,” Will groaned, unable to keep his hips still, wanting, needing more of Nico.

A low whine escaped his throat as Nico’s fingers left him, earning him a smirk and a chuckle from Nico. Slippery hands settled on his hips, Nico’s teeth flashing white as he tore the condom wrapper open.

His hands trembled as he pried the condom from between Nico’s fingers, unsteady breaths getting stuck in his throat as he carefully rolled it down Nico’s dick, who let out a sound midway between a grunt and a moan, the sound music to Will’s ears.

He was the reason for that sound, he was the reason that Nico’s dick jumped in his hand, hard and ready, glistening with lube. A sense of pride crept up his spine, blossoming warmly in his chest.

He cupped Nico’s face in his hands - ignoring the wrinkle of Nico’s nose and the giggle that escaped him when he realized he was brushing lube all over his cheekbones - and kissed Nico’s silly lopsided smile that he’d already grown too fond of.

“You okay?” Nico asked once they were lying down, Nico in between Will’s thighs, his fingers tracing slow circles on Will’s sides.

“Yeah,” Will said, nodding, following the line of Nico’s ribs with his fingers to his back and holding on. Nico’s presence anchored him to the moment, made it real and tangible.

Nico pressed a series of fleeting kisses all over his face, whispering hushed endearments against Will’s cheek before capturing his mouth in a kiss, drinking in Will’s gasp when he entered him.

Will hissed through his teeth as he tried to adjust to the feeling. It was weird and slightly painful, and for a moment he didn’t get what the big fuss was all about when Nico stilled, looking down into his eyes, eyebrows knit together in concern.

Will licked his lips and nodded for Nico to keep going. The fingers had taken some getting used to, so why should this be any different?

He was right, as Nico kept pushing in, doting on and fussing over Will all the while, kissing every patch of skin he could reach, it started to feel better.

There was heat building within him and heat building between them, and when Nico stilled again, his hips snugly against the curve of Will’s ass, Will was rewarded with a lazy kiss.

They settled into a rhythm, slow and languid, Nico’s every move smooth and easy, his touch burning holes in Will’s skin.

Nico drew gasps and moans from him with every fluent roll of his hips, and through the haze of lust and fuzzy feelings, Will realized what that look on Nico’s face had been, what that look was. He’d seen it before, every single time he’d seen Nico perform, though, right now, it was a thousand times more intense.

Nico was playing him, plucking his strings, making him respond to his touch, his direction. A musician and his guitar, neither of them something without the other. This moment, it was music incarnate, a gentle adagio, an intimate performance, beautiful music.

The rhythm built, the fluent rolls of Nico’s hips turning into staccato thrusts, forcing Will’s breath out of him in increasingly louder moans. He dug his nails into Nico’s shoulders, needing something to hold on to as the pleasure built.

One of Nico’s hands snaked between their torsos and wrapped around Will’s dick, stroking him in time with his thrusts until Will came with a harsh cry, spilling over Nico’s hand, repeating Nico’s name like a prayer, in his mind or aloud, he didn’t know, or care.

When he floated down from cloud nine and opened his eyes, Nico was laying on his side next to him, pressing feather-light kisses to his shoulder. Their eyes met, and Will leaned in to capture Nico’s lips with his own, rolling over to face him.

Nico’s dick pressed up against his stomach, Will’s eyebrows knitting together when he realized that Nico was still hard. As Nico’s tongue flicked against his teeth, Will slid his hand down Nico’s chest, his stomach, and wrapped his fingers against Nico’s length.

One, two, three strokes, a brush of his thumb across the head, and Nico tore himself away from the kiss, throwing his head back with a loud moan and adding to the sticky mess on Will’s stomach.

He laid back and stared at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of Nico’s harsh panting coming from beside him. “That,” he said, swallowing thickly when his voice cracked, “that was…”

“Yeah,” Nico agreed, his voice raspy. “Amazing.”

Will turned his head when the sheets ruffled next to him, letting out a chuckle when he saw Nico’s lopsided smile and half-lidded eyes. Nico looked content, a flush still high on his cheekbones and the way his hair was half-matted to his forehead and half-sticking up out of the ponytail made the sight endearing. A swell of affection washed over him, making a warmth settle deep in his chest.

“Mm, amazing sums it up.”

Nico kissed the tip of his nose with a warm smile. “How do you feel?”

“A bit sore,” Will admitted. “But overall, warm and fuzzy. Happy.”

He grinned brightly and reached out, smoothing Nico’s hair back when the smile fell from Nico’s face. That’s when he realized.

“Will?” Nico’s voice cut through the apprehension. “Did you just rub my come in my hair?”

Will bolted upright, grimacing. “Shit! Nico, I’m so sorry!” He looked at his hand and frowned. Great, he’d managed to ruin every-

His thought was cut short when Nico broke out into hysterical laughter, tears forming in the corners of his eyes, making them sparkle. There was a fondness in his look that made Will realize that Nico was laughing at the stupidity of the situation, and not him. Within seconds, Will was laughing along.

“Will,” Nico giggled after a while, when the laughter had died down, “come here, you big idiot.” He wrapped an arm around Will’s shoulder and pulled him flat onto his back, pressing himself to Will’s side. “Don’t worry about it.” He wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tongue. “We’ll work on that.”

Will’s eyes went wide. “You mean-”

“What?” Nico asked, pressing a soft kiss to Will’s lips. “You didn’t think I was done with you, did you?” He smirked mischievously and pressed his lips to the shell of Will’s ear. “I can’t wait to do that again.” A nip to Will’s earlobe. “And again.” A kiss to the side of Will’s neck. “And again.” Another kiss to Will’s jaw. “Maybe next time,” he whispered, trailing his fingertips down Will’s chest, “we can do it the other way around.”

Will shivered at the thought. Leave it to Nico to rile him up all over again.

He turned his head and caught Nico’s lips in a kiss, hungry for more. But apparently, Nico had other plans, pulling away from the kiss as soon as it had started.

“Easy there, tiger.” Nico chuckled, sitting up and patting him on the chest. “I appreciate the enthusiasm but we really have to take a shower.” The smirk was back on his face. “And who knows… The night is still young.”

 

Ten minutes, a bottle of water, and half a plate of leftovers from breakfast later, Will lowered himself into the bathtub. The water was just on the right side of hot, and he didn’t know what Nico had dumped in the tub when he’d drawn the bath but the smell was delicious.

A minute later, Nico stepped out of the shower, having washed his hair properly, and joined Will in the tub, his back against Will’s chest, his head resting on Will’s shoulder.

As contented as Will had felt right after having sex, this made it better. No sweat - or other things - uncomfortably cooling on his skin, his muscles and aches soothed by the hot water, Nico cozily lounging against him, his eyelashes lightly brushing against the side of his neck.

Christmas had gotten off to a rough start, but right here, right now, as the last of the sunlight filtered in through the windows and Nico intertwined his fingers with his own, he couldn’t have asked for a better day.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Nico woke up, his face smooshed uncomfortably in his pillow. He lifted his head and let out a yawn before he turned around, intending to go back to sleep. However late it was, it was still too early.

He couldn’t suppress a chuckle when he saw Will’s sleeping face. His mouth hung half-open and his hair was a mess, sticking up in every direction in weird, frizzy curls.

Will let out a soft grunt and smacked his lips loudly, his mouth closing before falling back open seconds later.

Nico reached out and, as gently as he could, brushed Will’s hair back so it looked less wild. He hadn’t meant to wake Will up, frowning when Will’s eyes fluttered open, unfocused and sleepy.

“Go back to sleep,” Nico murmured, softly brushing his fingers across Will’s cheek.

Will groggily reached out and pawed at Nico’s side until he got the hint.

Nico smiled and scooted closer, burying his face in Will’s chest. He draped an arm loosely around him and closed his eyes, pressing a soft kiss to Will’s skin. He felt Will nosing in his hair for a little while, before his breathing evened out.

It didn’t take long for Nico to fall asleep himself. Tucked against Will’s body in a warm embrace, he never wanted to leave.

 

When he woke again, it was because Will was carefully trying to pry him off. He frowned and let out a quiet, discontented groan, flat out refusing to let go of Will.

A quiet laugh, and he finally opened his eyes, pulling away from Will just a little, but still not letting go.

“Nico,” Will whispered quietly, “you have to let me go.” He pulled a face. “I really need to pee.”

Nico begrudgingly let go, jutting his lip out in an exaggerated pout when Will stood up, much to Will’s apparent amusement.

“I’ll be right back,” Will promised before turning around, treating Nico to a spectacular view of his naked butt as he walked to the bathroom.

Nico grinned to himself, and as much as he tried to hide it, he was still grinning when Will returned and crawled back under the covers.

“What are you smiling about?” Will asked, mirth in his voice when Nico snuggled right back up to him.

“You,” Nico said, voice still gravelly with sleep. “Your butt.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “My butt is something to laugh about?”

Nico chuckled, his hand cupping one of Will’s ass cheeks, giving it a playful squeeze. “It’s cute.”

“I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Nico di Angelo called something cute. It doesn’t fit your image of a big, bad rockstar, what with the pierced ears and the tattoos and all.” Will chuckled, tracing the part of Nico’s tattoo on his shoulder that was visible above the blanket.

“You of all people should know that I’m very different than how the world sees me,” Nico muttered, not sure whether to be offended or not. He rolled his eyes and softly bit at Will’s chest.

“Ow!” Will squirmed and softly batted at Nico’s head. “Relax, it was a joke.” He kissed the top of Nico’s head. “I like you. All of you. For who you are, not because you’re famous.”

“Liar,” Nico huffed, lips curled into a smile. “You just want me for my money and my ravishing good looks.”

“Shit,” Will grinned, snapping his fingers. “You got me. I’m just using you to launch my singing surgeon career.”

Nico chuckled. “I would probably pay to see that.” He looked up into Will’s eyes and smiled fondly. Will was such an incredible dork. He didn’t believe in fate, nor did he believe in any higher powers, but whatever was responsible for bringing them together, he was thankful for it.

He laid back and closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth and the comfort of his bed and Will’s body.

A few minutes later, he was back on the verge of sleep when the bed shifted and the blanket was pulled down, exposing his bare chest. He opened one eye sleepily and saw Will, lying on his side, head propped up on his elbow, looking down at him like he was studying him.

“What are you doing?”

Will had a lazy smile on his face and he reached out, brushing his fingers reverently over one of Nico’s tattoos. “Just looking at your tattoos. You have so many.”

“I kind of lost count,” Nico admitted. “But it’s well into the double digits by now.”

“Which was the first one?”

Nico raised his arm slowly, so the tattoo on his lower rib cage became visible; a small, cursive ‘B’. “That one. Got it when I was seventeen.” His expression became solemn. “It stands for Bianca. My sister.”

Will looked away, and Nico dropped his arm again, smiling wryly. “It kind of spiralled from there. For a little while, feeling the pain of getting tattooed was the only way I felt anything.” He shrugged. “So maybe I went a little overboard.”

Will smoothed his palm down Nico’s arm, lacing his fingers with Nico’s when he got to his hand. “That why you got the full sleeve?”

Nico nodded, staring up at the ceiling. “I didn’t get any of them just because they look cool. Every single one has a story behind them.” He smiled. “I like the duality of them. To most people, they’re pretty pictures. But they’re so much more. They’re a reminder of many things, and there’s something liberating about walking around with my life’s story on my body, you know? I rarely talk about it - in fact, I refuse to talk about it with people I don’t or barely know, but it’s all there. I’m literally an open book when you look at it that way.”

He didn’t have to look to know that Will was smiling. He could feel it in the atmosphere of the room, warm and kind.

Another silence, and Will’s soft lips brushed over the clock tattooed on his arm. 03:00, the time the call had come.

“Nico, I have some bad news,” his father’s stern voice had said through the phone. “It’s about your sister…”

He shook himself out of the memory. This wasn’t the time or place. Instead, he turned to face Will and kissed him softly. “Maybe I’ll tell you about them someday,” he said. He would; he wanted to, even though urge to do so was foreign to him. He’d never felt the need to talk about them, and even Jason and Percy had learned to stop asking questions, though they’d been around for most of the events that his tattoos represented.

Maybe it was too soon to tell Will, maybe it wasn’t, but he knew for sure that he didn’t want to ruin the moment, their first weekend together, with his sob stories.

Will nodded, and Nico could see the understanding in his eyes, a softness to the vivid blue.

“You have one too, right?” He asked. He’d been curious about it ever since he’d first set foot in Will’s apartment, when Will had changed out of the hoodie Jason had lent him.

Will nodded and turned around, showing Nico the words on his upper back.

“My sun sets to rise again.” Nico spoke the words out loud as he read them; small and black, standing out even in the galaxy of freckles that dotted Will’s back and shoulders. “I like it.”

Will turned back around, a sad smile playing on his lips. “My own reminder.”

“Your brother,” Nico whispered.

“No,” Will said, shaking his head. “It’s to remind me that I crawled out of that dark hole after Michael…” He sighed. “I hit rock bottom, and even though you didn’t know it, you played a big part in helping me see the light again.” He smiled, a watery kind of smile that was both sad and happy at the same time. “Things get better. I needed to believe it back then and I’ve been holding on to it like a lifeline ever since. It helps.”

Will seemed a lot more comfortable with opening up, but as much as Nico wanted to, he couldn’t make the words come out. Instead, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Will’s, hoping to convey everything he felt in a single kiss.

“You think it’s weird?” Will asked after a while, rolling over on his back and staring at the ceiling.

“Lots of things are weird, Will. Which one are you talking about?”

“You know… You and me, being together.” Will glanced at him from the corner of his eye. “Never mind, it’s a stupid question.”

“No,” Nico stated firmly. “I don’t. You like our music. You come to our shows. You just so happen to like me too.” He shrugged. “I don’t care how it started. This, you and me? We’re equals, Will. Off stage, I’m just Nico, and you’re just Will.” He grinned. “And I guess on stage I’m the guy who plays the guitar and sings. The guy with the incredible boyfriend who likes his music. And that’s the way I want it to be.”

“You know,” Will started, a blush dusting his cheeks, “I had the biggest crush on you before we even met.”

Nico raised an eyebrow. “Get out of here, you liar. Have you even seen who my bandmates are?”

“It’s true!” Will laughed, turning his head to look Nico in the eye. “Sure, Jason and Percy are attractive, but they’re not for me, you know? There was always something mysterious about you, something dark and almost dangerous that just pulled me in.” He smiled. “But I didn’t fall in- fall for you until I started getting to know you a little, when I realized you are so much more than what you appear to be. You’re still a bit dark, and you still have that dangerous air about you, but you’re...” He gestured, trying to find the right words. “Sweet, and friendly. Down-to-earth and attractive and I could go on and on.”

“You’re a dork, Will,” Nico said, grinning, trying his damnedest to will the blush that made his face feel like it was on fire away. “But you’re my dork now.” He searched for Will’s hand under the covers and laced their fingers together.

Fall in love. That’s what Will was going to say, right? Even though he’d swallowed them, Nico was shocked. Was there really a difference between falling for someone and falling in love? He didn’t know, but he did know that the word love sounded so much heavier than he was ready for.

He was a closed off person, keeping his emotions to himself, guarded, where nobody but a very select few could see, and even then they didn’t get the whole story most of the time.

Love. He hadn’t thought about it himself, he hadn’t stopped to figure out just how deep his feelings for Will ran. He knew they ran deep, but did they run deeper than like already? Had they crossed over into love territory?

He’d figure it out. He had the time. They’d only officially been together for what? Two days?

Which leaves us about seven weeks.

“We should get up,” Nico said after long minutes of silence, unable to lie still any longer. He needed to do something, anything to distract himself from thinking about leaving. He sat up and threw the blankets away from himself, crawling over Will and stealing a kiss before getting up. “I’ll order some breakfast after I take a shower.”

Will nodded and sat up himself, the sadness in his eyes that had been there moments ago replaced with a fondness that sparked a warmth within Nico.

Nico walked over to the bathroom, smirking over his shoulder at Will when he opened the door. “Well? You coming, or what?”

 


 

Jason yawned loudly as he entered the suite, finding it empty.

The drive over here had taken longer than it had any business being, and all he wanted was to get some sleep, so he was grateful that Nico seemed to be out. Talking would have to wait until tomorrow.

Sally and Paul were nice people, but these past few days with them had drained him, physically and emotionally. He’d promised Percy to keep his mouth shut, and he’d kept his word.

Still, it had been taxing. Between the disappointment in Sally’s eyes, and the long days spent fencing off her attempts at getting him to talk, he was exhausted.

He took his clothes off when he got to his bedroom, slipped into his pyjamas and dropped face down onto his bed. Whatever the world would throw at him next, it could wait.

For now, he was going to sleep and deal with everything later.

He’d just about closed his eyes when he heard a muffled sound that sounded all too familiar.

Son of a bitch.

 


 

Percy opened the door to the suite, finding it empty, much to his relief. Jason and Nico must have gone to bed already.

He briefly debated waking either of them up so he could bring them up to speed, but decided against it. The past few nights had been long and full of talking, and before he went to see his mother, he needed a good night’s sleep, and frankly, he was sick and tired of talking about his issues.

After hanging up his coat, he dashed straight for his bedroom and let himself fall onto the bed, jumping up immediately when his butt came into contact with something that was definitely not his mattress.

“What the hell!” Percy shouted, reaching for the light switch and flicking it. “Jason?!”

Jason groaned and rubbed his eyes, squinting against the light. “Perce?” He yawned. “What are you doing here?”

“Jason, this is my bedroom. I think I should be the one to ask that question. What the hell are you doing in my bed?”

“Sleeping,” Jason answered, voice thick with sleep. “Nico’s making noise.”

Percy raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms. He was so not in the mood for this. “So? Ask him to cut it out and get out of here.”

Jason sat up, stretching his arms. “Will’s with him.”

“Oh. That kind of noise. Yikes. I’m sorry, bro.” Percy grimaced, kicking his shoes off.

“Yeah,” Jason nodded, looking down at his hands. “I’ll get over it, just… It was driving me insane. I could hear him giggling and, you know…”

Percy sat down on the edge of the bed. “You got jealous.” He sighed. “Right. I suppose I should have told you I was coming home.”

Jason shrugged. “Nah. It’s okay. I should stop being a baby, I guess. It just hurts, but I’ll get used to it.”

“Running away and hiding in a different bedroom isn’t ‘getting used to it’, Jay.”

“No offense, but I don’t think you’re in any position to give people advice,” Jason bit out.

Percy turned his head, glaring sharply. “Oh, you want to go there? Really? Shut the fuck up before I kick your ass all the way back to your own bedroom.” He huffed. “Yeah, I fucked up, but what do you think I’ve been doing the past few days, huh? I’ll tell you what,” he said, jabbing a finger at Jason’s chest, “owning up to my mistakes, that’s what. Trying to fix them, talk it out. Be a better person. You want to talk to me about giving advice when you’re hiding under the covers in my bed because Nico’s fucking someone else? Grow up, Jason.”

Jason’s eyes lit up with anger, but it quickly died down and made way for defeat. “You’re right,” Jason said, hanging his head, “I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “Here I am, whining about Nico again, when there’s something way more important to talk about.” He scooted to the other side of the bed and held up the corner of the blanket. “How did things go with Annabeth?”

Percy sighed and stood up, walking to the other side of the room, changing into his pyjamas as he talked. “Jason, you can always whine about Nico to me. As long as you promise you’ll try to let it go, and talk to Nico about it. He knows you’re still in love with him, and yeah, sure, things have been awkward between the two of you for a bit there, but it’s not like he’s avoiding you or anything. You can talk to him, you know.”

“I know,” Jason admitted in a small voice, when Percy crawled into bed beside him, sitting up against the headboard. “But ‘hey, can you and your new boyfriend keep it down because hearing you moan is too painful for me right now’ is not a conversation I want to have. With anyone. Ever.”

Percy nodded, his lips curling into a grin without his permission when he tried to imagine how that conversation would go. “You have a point. But dude, let them have their time together.” The smile slipped off his face. “Knowing Nico, he’s in denial about having to leave soon, so don’t ruin things for them.”

Jason shook his head. “He knows full well we’re going back on the road soon. So does Will.”

“Okay, pretend you’re Nico. You’ve got a cute new boyfriend, you’ve probably just made things official, and now you’re spending all your time in bed banging his brains out. The last thing you’d want to think about is leaving soon. Even less so when it means you’d have to leave the cute new boyfriend behind.”

Jason looked down, staying silent.

“My point is, he’s going to need you when that time comes.” Percy said, rolling his eyes. “It’s going to hit him hard and we both know what’s going to happen. You’re his rock, Jason. You always have been. And if you fuck things up now, you’re doing it for the both of you.” His eyes narrowed. “And so help me if you make him feel like he has to choose between you and Will.”

A terse nod is all he got from Jason.

“Anyway, dude. I still say you need to get laid. Find yourself a rebound or something because this has got to stop. Not just because it’s a little bit pathetic, but also because you’re punishing yourself and you don’t deserve that.” He grinned. “Go out, get laid, forget about it in the morning. You’ll feel better.”

The room fell silent for long minutes before Jason spoke up again. “Now tell me how things went with Annabeth.”

Percy shrugged. “Okay, I guess.”

“That’s it?” Jason asked. “You look homeless, like you’ve been put through the wringer and then some, and ‘okay, I guess’ is all you have to say?”

“It’s complicated.” Percy sighed. “She’s still angry with me, as she should be… I wasn’t expecting things to fix themselves over two days. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. She’s hurt. I hurt her, and it just kills me to see that, you know? You think I look awful? You should have seen her.” He shook his head. “I promised her that I’d fix things, but she didn’t want to hear it. Said I shouldn’t be making promises I can’t keep.”

“So,” Jason asked, careful not to set Percy off, “you didn’t get anywhere?”

Percy picked some lint off his pyjama pants, studying it between his fingers. “I wouldn’t say that. We talked, and I think I got her to see things from my point of view, which is good. She’ll understand me better when she knows just how big an idiot I actually am.” He blew the lint away, watching it slowly float to the ground. Any excuse to keep from looking Jason in the eye. “And yeah, it went the other way around, too. When she told me how she felt… Behind the anger, you know? How hurt and disappointed… I just wanted to throw myself out of a window. I don’t deserve her. Never have, probably never will.”

Jason shook his head, laying a hand on Percy’s shoulder. “Don’t think like that, man.” He took a deep breath. “You fucked up. You really fucked up. But you’re willing to see your mistakes and do what it takes to fix them.” He smiled weakly. “And that has to count for something. Maybe it won’t be enough, but cross that bridge when you get to it, yeah? Stay positive, and do your best.”

Percy hung his head low. “Yeah, I guess. Thanks, Jason. You mind if I get some sleep now? I have to be up early to meet with Reyna.”

Jason grimaced. “That’s going to be fun.”

“Definitely,” Percy agreed glumly. “I have to explain my behavior during the radio show, so she’s going to take my head off. And then she’ll probably rip my arm off and beat me with it when I ask her for an advance on the album sales. I’m really looking forward to it.” He heaved a sigh. “And if I’m still alive after that, I’m going to explain things to my mom.”

“You really should, dude. Her bribery aside, she was really disappointed when I wouldn’t tell her what’s going on. Break it to her gently, will you? I think me being there but refusing to talk did more harm than good, to be honest.”

Percy tipped his head back and took a deep breath. “Yeah. I will. Let’s see if I can break this cycle of being a huge disappointment to the women in my life.”

“Percy…” Jason chided.

“What, Jason?!” He raised his voice but quickly reigned in his anger. “You know it’s true. My mom, Annabeth, Reyna…”

“Oh, come on. They all love you.” The corner of Jason’s lip quirked up, stretching the little scar. “Okay, granted, I’m not sure Reyna’s capable of anything other than tough love, and I can’t really speak for Annabeth, but your mom loves you, man.”

Percy clapped a hand over his forehead. “You are so not helping.”

“Yeah, that came out wrong.” Jason grimaced. “So uh, you need an advance on the album sales?” Jason asked. “Why? I know you’ve been going out a lot recently but I doubt you’re broke.”

Percy shook his head. “I’m not.” He took a deep breath, looking up at Jason. “I’m gonna buy a house. Or an apartment. I’m not sure yet. But I want to have the money ready.”

Jason opened his mouth to speak, but Percy cut him off. “For Annabeth and the kid, you know? Her apartment is nice enough, but it’s small. Too small. Whatever we end up being down the road, I just want her taken care of.” His lips curled into a wry smile. “I haven’t really told her that yet. We’ve got more important things to work through right now and it really doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, but I want to be prepared, no matter what.”

Jason sat up straight, his face contorting as he thought. “So, uh…” He scratched at the back of his head. “Have you guys decided what to do with the whole…” He grimaced. “...Pregnancy thing?”

Percy winced. “No. Not yet. We barely talked about it, actually. I mean, it’s her decision, ultimately, and I’ve told her that. And for me… I don’t know. I’ll stand behind her decision, no matter what, but if she decides to keep it…” He ran a hand through his hair. “I could be a dad, Jason. Someone’s dad. I don’t know how to be a dad! I don’t even have one myself!” His breathing picked up, and he glared to the side when he heard Jason chuckling. “What?!”

“Calm down, Percy,” Jason said, amusement in his voice. “You’ll do fine, I just know it.” He elbowed Percy in the side, smiling that obnoxious ‘You can do it’ smile of his. “One step at a time, okay? And if you need any help, you know where to find me. You don’t have to go any of this alone.”

Percy grumbled and slid under the blankets, turning his back to Jason. He needed to get to sleep before Jason launched into one of his trademarked lengthy pep talks that had been all too common since Jason had picked up his studies again. “Yeah. Thanks. Good night, Jason.”

“Good night, Perce. Try not to wake me up in the morning.”

Percy kicked Jason under the blankets. “Go sleep in your own bed if you’re so unhappy about that.” When there was no answer, he snorted. “Thought so.”

There was a lot to think about, still. His future with Annabeth, his future with the band. But before he talked about those with anyone, he needed to figure things out for himself. Think first, act later would be his motto from here on out - at least for important matters.

He made a mental list of things he needed to do, and quickly put the thought out of his head before it overwhelmed him. There was so much he’d broken, and he’d have to give it his all if he was going to have any chance of putting the pieces back together, and even then, he’d have to hope that they wouldn’t crack again.

He’d try. He’d try his hardest and then some to keep his life from derailing completely. He was weathering the storm just fine for now, but he was fairly certain that the worst wasn’t over yet. There was a hurricane on the horizon and her name was Reyna. But like Jason said, he’d deal with things one at a time.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

It was quiet. Too quiet. The only sounds he heard were the ticking of the clock and the rhythmic tapping of Reyna’s fingernails on her desk.

He’d expected her to blow up, yell at him until he was blue in the face, slap him so hard his nose would go crooked and many, many other horrible things he didn’t want to think of.

A calm and silent Reyna was something he hadn’t expected, and it turned out it was scarier than anything he’d been able to come up with himself.

He swallowed thickly, staring down at his hands and studying the calluses that had formed over the years like they were the most interesting things in the world.

Telling Reyna had been easier than he’d thought at first; the words had come easily, and she hadn’t gotten angry even once. She’d even smiled at him.

But now, having finished telling her everything he needed to about ten minutes ago, he was getting more worried by the second.

He wanted to leave, slam the door behind him, and avoid Reyna at all costs. He’d go back to the hotel and beg Nico and Jason to fire her and get out of their record deal, so he could retire and go live on a farm in the country so she’d never find him.

She just kept staring at him with narrowed eyes and that slight tilt of her lips that could either be a smile or a sneer, and he wondered what she was thinking right now; probably how to get rid of a body in the middle of a New York winter.

The worst of all was that he couldn’t tell what she was going to do next. Every option was open at this point; she could burst into laughter, call him an idiot, all the while clapping him on the back a little too roughly, or she could crush him under her stiletto heels and keep his balls in the drawer of her desk as a souvenir, to show every artist she worked for what would happen if they did stupid things.

Whatever it was, he hoped it would happen soon. He couldn’t take this waiting, the ticking of the clock reverberating in his head like a doomsday counter, where every second could be his last.

He cleared his throat as quietly as he could and shifted in his chair, his sweaty hands slipping on the smooth leather before he wiped them on his jeans and finally dared to look up again.

Her facial expression still hadn’t changed, and he might have actually whimpered out loud if the twitch of Reyna’s lips was anything to go by.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Reyna stopped tapping her nails on the desk and steepled her fingers, letting out a sigh. “First of all, you are the biggest idiot I’ve ever had the misfortune of working with.”

He nodded his head. It would be better for his health if he didn’t go against anything she said. She was calm at the moment, and he wasn’t going to set her off if he could help it.

“Second, you really don’t pay me enough.”

Again, he had to agree.

“But,” she said, again with that wicked little smile, “I am the best at what I do. I didn’t get to where I am today by half-assing things. And that is why you pay me.”

Percy let out a sigh of relief, and he could feel the tension slipping from his shoulders. “So, you can fix this, right?”

Reyna threw him a glare that could rival Nico’s glare when he was having an awful day. Okay, maybe his relief had come a little too soon.

“Listen to me, Percy. And I do mean listen. The only reason you’re still sitting here is because for now, there’s nothing to fix. Your little stunt on Christmas eve? You didn’t think I’d wait until after Christmas before I bullshitted my way around that, did you?”

Her smile was so sweet that Percy almost believed it was sincere, even though it clashed violently with the steely edge of her voice that made the hairs in the back of his neck stand on edge.

“That’s all fixed. But there are only so many times I can send out a statement saying you’re dealing with ‘personal issues’ before the rumors start to fly around. People are already speculating, so you’re going to need to be careful about everything you do from now on if you want to keep this from leaking.” She picked up a pen and a notepad. “So let’s start. Who knows?”

“Uh,” Percy said, scratching at the back of his neck. “Annabeth, obviously.” He smiled sheepishly when Reyna glared at him. “Nico and Jason. That’s it.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“Well, I don’t know about Annabeth’s friends and family, though it’s still early so she might not have told anybody yet. We only found out last friday. But I’ll find out.” He sat up a little straighter. “Add my mom and Paul to the list too. They don’t know yet but I’m heading over there later to tell them. And maybe Will, but that depends. I’ll have to ask.”

“Will?” Reyna asked, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

“Yeah, Will. He’s Nico’s new-” He shut his mouth and quickly shook his head. “He’ll kill me if I tell you.”

Reyna rolled her eyes. “Nico’s new boyfriend, huh? Okay! Great!” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “This is absolutely perfect. Another damned media circus around you three. That’s just what I needed.”

“Can we just… Not add that to my pile of problems, please?” Percy asked quietly.

“Fine.” Reyna bit out before looking down at her notepad. “So, we have one, two, three… six people that know about this, including myself, but it could be a few more. That’s good. Less chances of it leaking. Talk to everyone, make sure they stay quiet. The second word gets out, you’re toast. You’ll have your own, personal paparazzi squad following you around 24/7.”

“The only one that could maybe talk is Annabeth, or someone she might have told. Jason and Nico wouldn’t leak it, neither would my mom or Paul. And obviously I’m not saying anything.” Percy smiled and nodded, feeling a little better about the situation now that he had someone level-headed lay it out for him. Good old Reyna.

“What about this Will character?” She asked, narrowing her eyes and leaning back in her chair. “Can we trust him?”

“I don’t know him all too well,” Percy admitted. “But he’s a good guy. We can trust him.”

“You seem awfully sure of that.”

Percy smiled. “I am. Look, it’s a long story and I’m not going to tell you more than I absolutely have to, but Will was there when Nico had a panic attack, and there hasn’t been a peep about that in the media. Nico trusts him, and so do I.”

Reyna nodded, her lips pursed. “Alright. That leaves Annabeth. See to it that she keeps it quiet for now.” She took a deep breath and looked Percy straight in the eye. “I’m going to need to talk to her.”

Percy’s eyes widened. “What? Why?!”

“I only have one job, Percy: protecting your image. That’s what I get paid for and that’s what I’ll do.”

Percy shook his head and did something he rarely dared, especially when her back wasn’t turned: He glared at Reyna. “I’m aware of that, but this is between me and her. With all due respect, it’s none of your business. Don’t think for a second that I’ll let you slide a non-disclosure agreement under her nose. It’s her life, she’s having a kid, and nothing you can say can make me care about the business side of it.” Reyna narrowed her eyes but Percy didn’t let her speak. “I mean it, Reyna. I came here to come clean, and to ask for your help keeping it out of the media, but that’s as far as it goes. Her pregnancy, our- our relationship… It’s not a fucking business transaction. She’s a smart girl, and she knows telling the media would be a bad thing. If it leaks, it won’t come from her. I’ll stake my entire career on that. I’m the one who fucked up, and she doesn’t have to pay for that.”

Reyna actually smiled, and the action sent shivers down Percy’s spine.

“Look who put his big boy pants on this morning. Good for you.” She rolled her eyes and the smile fell off her face. “Suit yourself. I’ll do my best to keep things contained for now.”

Percy nodded and relaxed back into his chair. “Thank you.”

“I’m going to need a few things from you, though.”

Percy tilted his head. “Such as?”

“For starters,” She said, her voice cool. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re on house arrest. No going out. Don’t you dare set a foot outside of your hotel unless you absolutely need to. Talk to your mom, talk to Annabeth, but if I catch so much as a whiff of you partying it up in the city, there’ll be hell to pay, you got that?”

Percy smiled nervously. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“You’re going to keep me updated. Daily phone calls, and I mean it. You’re going to try to fix things with that girl, and once you’ve done that…” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You’re going to think about what you’re going to do. I can tell you now that dragging a pregnant woman through Europe in a tour bus is not going to work out. And after that, there will be another tour, and another, and another. You have some time before you leave for Europe, and I suggest you use it to think.”

Percy frowned. Reyna was getting dangerously close to a question he didn’t want to ask himself. “One step at a time, okay? I’ll keep you updated, I promise.”

Reyna nodded. “You’d better.” She stood up. “Now, if there’s nothing else…”

“Actually,” Percy muttered. “There’s one more thing…”

 


 

 

“I don’t want you to go,” Nico admitted in a small voice. “Can’t you stay another night?”

Will shook his head and bent down to kiss Nico on the forehead through his damp hair, inhaling the sweet smell of Nico’s pomegranate shampoo that he’d personally massaged into it earlier. “I’m sorry. I have to prepare for my next semester, and I promised Cecil I’d hang out with him before New Year’s.”

“I know.” Nico smiled ruefully. “I’ll see you then, right?”

Will chuckled, the sound music to Nico’s ears. “Yeah, definitely. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He buttoned his coat and picked up his bag. “I’ll text you later, okay?”

Nico nodded. “Yeah, okay.” He grabbed the lapels of Will’s coat and pulled him down, pressing a kiss to Will’s lips. “See you soon.”

Despite everything they’d been up to in the last few days, Will still blushed like an enamored teenager, which in turn caused Nico to blush as well.

Another quick kiss from Will, and he was gone, smiling over his shoulder as he walked to the elevator, grinning and waving before the doors closed.

Nico closed the door and took a deep breath, looking at the empty suite. He missed Will already. It was stupid, he knew that. He’d see Will again soon enough, and he had to learn to deal with being apart, or the summer months that he’d been looking forward to before he’d fallen for Will would make him absolutely miserable.

He shook his head and grabbed his coat; maybe a smoke would help him clear his mind.

Minutes later, he was outside, watching the lazy midwinter sunlight filter through the cigarette smoke.

Deciding to take things further with Will, to call it for what it was - a relationship - opened up a whole new world for him. His limited experience with relationships, which boiled down to whatever the hell he’d had going on with Jason, didn’t matter here.

It was so different, and for the first time since they’d made things official, he allowed himself to think about it. He couldn’t help but feel guilty when he thought of how things had been with Jason when he was with Will. They weren’t the same person, or a similar entity in his life, the situations were completely different, and the last thing he wanted to do was compare the two. It wouldn’t be fair to either Jason or Will.

This new relationship, it would take some getting used to. He was still getting to know Will, while with Jason they’d already had that part solidly covered. Falling for a friend was a far cry from falling for someone he’d only met weeks ago, and it completely changed the dynamics.

Even before they’d entered a relationship, Jason knew his bad sides and habits, knew what he’d been through, knew him. Jason knew that sometimes he needed to lock himself away from the world to process it, to write songs in the dark, to sit alone with his guitar for hours on end. Jason had always accepted that. Jason knew when to leave him alone and when to drag him out of a bad mood in exactly the right way.

He had a hard time admitting it to himself, but sometimes he really missed being with Jason. A while ago, he’d have given anything for his feelings to have never faded. They’d been good together, a well-oiled machine. And now he was left on his own, a new personality to explore in the form of Will, a whole new terrain of unbalanced dynamics.

It was exciting, but at the same time absolutely terrifying, and they were running on a deadline; in a few weeks, he’d have to leave Will behind. He wanted to make the most of it until that day came, but there was a part of him that wanted to keep Will at a distance, to keep himself from forming attachments that were too strong to keep the inevitable hurt from taking hold of him.

He knew it was nonsense, a twisted sense of self-preservation that he had to overcome in order to be happy. It was already too late to cut ties or keep himself from forming attachments. No, he was way past that station already. All he could do now was try to prepare himself s best he could, and try not to think about it until then.

He sighed and headed inside, determined to do anything but get lost in thought, when the door to Percy’s bedroom opened and out came-

“Jason? What were you doing in there? I swear, if you had sex with Percy and didn’t invite me, we’re going to have words.”

Jason laughed, interrupting himself with a loud yawn. “I just slept there.” He trudged over to the kitchen. “We got any breakfast?”

“Hrm? Yeah, there’s a lot left.” Nico gestured to the fridge. “Help yourself.”

Jason kept quiet as he nosed through the fridge, eventually joining Nico on the couch with a tray full of food.

“So, you wanna tell me why you were in Percy’s bedroom?”

Jason grumbled and bit a good chunk out of a croissant, shrugging. He didn’t speak before he’d finished eating everything on the tray, staring blankly out the window. “Can we not do this?”

“Fine,” Nico held up his hands to placate Jason. “Whatever, grumpy.”

“Sorry.” Jason sighed. “It’s not your fault.”

“And also none of my business,” Nico added.

Jason shook his head, looking down at his tray, idly stirring his coffee. “I-” He sighed again. “I heard you last night. You and Will.”

Nico felt his face heat up, wondering if he’d suddenly caught fire. “Uh, I… We, uh,” he awkwardly stammered out, grimacing. “Sorry?” Shit, why did his voice come out so high-pitched?

“It’s fine,” Jason said, shaking his head. “It’s not your problem, it’s mine.”

“Yeah, but now I feel kind of bad. I didn’t mean to keep you up.” Nico wanted the earth to swallow him up, which was kind of hard to do from the penthouse suite, but maybe if he wished hard enough it would happen. He’d barely started a sex life with Will and now he was forced to talk about it with Jason, who’d previously been a part of his sex life as well?

Jason looked over, smiling. “Don’t feel bad. It wasn’t… loud or anything.” He grimaced, and spoke quietly. “But I didn’t know how to handle myself, so I went to crash in Percy’s room. He says hi, by the way.”

Nico frowned. He’d hoped Jason would have gotten over it already. Not for his sake, but for Jason’s. “So you- you still…”

“Love you?” Jason smiled sadly, but there was a familiar warmth in his smile. “Yes.”

“Jason…”

And there came the guilt, weighing on him like a whole other person, whispering in his ear about how stupid he had been. Here he was, Jason- sweet, perfect Jason, loving him with all his heart, and he had to go and fall for Will. Wouldn’t it have been easier to have stayed with Jason, to try and rekindle the flames between them? No getting to know each other, no having to sneak around in order not to get caught, no - he frowned to himself - no goodbyes.

Stop that.” Jason’s voice cut through his thoughts, sharp as a sword. “I know what you’re doing, and you need to stop.”

Nico raised an eyebrow, but Jason kept talking. “You like Will. You see how I’m not asking you that? I’m telling you, because it’s true. I know you do. You’re in l-” He sighed deeply. “You’re in love with him.”

“Yes,” Nico confirmed in a whisper, looking down at his hands.

“So don’t second guess yourself, okay? C’mere.” Jason wrapped an arm around him and pulled him into his side. “Don’t feel guilty about it. Seriously, don’t. Your feelings went away, mine didn’t. That’s the way it is, and I have to live with that. Do I like hearing your sex giggle through the wall? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live your life the way you want to.”

Nico nodded and snuggled into Jason, still fitting perfectly under his arm.

“Seriously. Don’t mind me. Be happy with Will, because that’s what you want, and all I want is to see you happy. That’s enough for me. I’ll adjust.”

Nico swallowed thickly. “Thanks, Jay.”

“Don’t mention it.” Jason softly kissed Nico on the head before grabbing the remote and turning the TV on. “Now, cartoons?”

Nico smiled and nodded. Jason was right. He needed to stop talking himself into feeling guilty. He’d chosen to be with Will for a reason; he wanted to. He liked Will, gods, he did. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d smiled as much as he had over the last few days.

He had to stop taking the easy way out and trust that it would be worth it. Hiding himself away had always worked for him, but it had gotten him nowhere.

No, Will was in his life to stay, and things weren’t going to be easy, but he was damned sure he’d make the best of it.

 


 

 

Percy sat in a taxi, rubbing his temples in an attempt to get rid of a headache that had been steadily worsening as the day had passed.

At least he’d managed to live through it, if only barely. His secret was out, and everyone that had to know, now knew.

It didn’t mean the hard work was over; no, he was far from having fixed things.

His mother had given him the lecture to end all lectures, and if he’d still been living at home, he’d have been grounded for life, probably rightfully so.

He knew his mother cared for Annabeth, and had for a long time. Annabeth was like the daughter Sally never had, much like Nico and Jason were the brothers she’d never been able to give Percy.

She’d been there when Annabeth had moved away, had been left to pick up the pieces when Percy’s life had all but fallen apart.

She loved him, and would support him to hell and back, even when he didn’t deserve it. After all those times he’d been driven home in the back of a police car after incidents at school, fights on his way home, when he was marched over to the apartment door, bloodied and ashamed, his mom had still been there for him with open arms and a loving smile, though as he’d gotten older he’d been able to decipher the glint of disappointment in her eyes.

That’s what he’d been most afraid of - seeing the disappointment she would never voice out loud. It had been years since he’d seen it, though he could remember it vividly. He never wanted to see it again.

Of course, he knew he’d fucked up so bad that it was only a matter of time before he’d see it again, and he did. As he’d told his story to the leg of the coffee table he couldn’t stop himself from staring at, he’d risked a glance at Sally, recoiling and curling in on himself when he saw the look in her eyes. He disappointed her for the first time in his adult life, something he vowed would never happen again, but here he was, ashamed and full of guilt.

God, he was such a screwup, and as he’d neared the end of his story, neared the point where he had to look his mother in the eye and face what he’d done, he’d clenched his fists, digging his nails painfully into the palms of his hands. He’d hurt Annabeth, he’d hurt his mother, he deserved the pain. But he didn’t know what had hurt her the most; the fact that Annabeth was hurt or that he’d been the one to do it. Probably the latter; a double whammy of awfulness.

“I’m sorry,” He’d said in a raspy voice. “I’m so, so sorry. I know you raised me better than this. I know I’ve disappointed you.”

He’d been seconds away from throwing another pity party when he heard the shuffling on the carpet and a weight settled next to him on the couch, the warm smell of freshly baked cookies settling over him like a heavy blanket.

“Percy,” Sally had said, her voice tinged with sadness, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

He’d sighed when she stopped him from digging his nails even further into his palms, taking his hands in hers. “I was scared of what you would think. I didn’t want you to be angry with me.” He’d hung his head low. “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.”

The next thing he knew, his mom had been crushing him in a hug with surprising strength. He remembered apologizing profusely, trying to curl into her side like he used to, when he still fit under her arm, safe and protected from the world. He’d wanted to cry and let his mom dote on him, to tell him that things would be okay, but he knew he couldn’t.

This was his mess to fix, and he had to be strong, for everyone’s sake. He didn’t have the right to pity himself or to hide away from his problems, no matter how tempting it was.

So he’d sat up, and addressed the coffee table for the second time. “I’m going to be better. I’m going to fix this.” He’d nodded to himself. “I’m going to be there for her, for the baby. Whatever she needs, she’ll have it. I’ll make things right between us, mom. I promise. I was a dick, and-” He winced when his mother pinched his knee. “Sorry. I was a jerk and I don’t ever want to hurt anyone like that. I’ll be a better person.”

When he’d finally scraped together the courage to look up and to the side, all tension had drained from his body. Sally had been smiling, an altogether different glint to her blue eyes, this time, one that made his lips turn up at the corners, a genuine smile appearing on his face for the first time in days.

She’d told him she was proud of him for wanting to fix things between him and Annabeth, for wanting to be there for her and the baby, for realizing that he’d messed up and owning up to his mistakes, and slowly, the weight that he’d been carrying around had slipped off his shoulders.

As Sally had continued putting him at ease, telling him that she knew he could do this, that he’d be a great father and that she’d help in any way she could, his smile had grown wider, only to slip off his face a moment later.

“But,” his mother had said, her eyes narrowing, “if you ever hurt her like that again…” She hadn’t finished her sentence. She didn’t have to. He got the message, loud and clear. “You know how hard it was, growing up the way you did. I never regretted having you, not for a single second, but I know it took its toll on you. Don’t do that to Annabeth. Be better, for you, for her, and for your child.”

He’d promised her he would. He’d already made that promise to himself, and he’d tried to make the same promise to Annabeth, only to have it rejected. Promises wouldn’t work, they didn’t count for anything if he didn’t show that he wanted to change.

That’s why he’d told his mom about wanting to buy Annabeth a house, to show that he planned to make good on his promise, but he hadn’t quite expected her reaction to come in the form of a frown; he’d expected a clap on the back.

He’d had to shake his head when Sally had asked him if he’d talked to Annabeth about it, and it had only made her frown deepen.

“You remember our old place?” She’d asked, and he’d nodded.

Their old apartment, the one that had been condemned after Sally had moved out. The one in which his bedroom had been a curtained off section of the living room because they simply hadn’t had the space for anything else. It was cold and drafty, but it perpetually smelled like cookies and other sugary treats. The apartment he’d called home for a long time.

“We were happy there,” Sally had reminded him with a warm smile. “It was old and decrepit, but it was our home. Knowing Annabeth, she won’t care about a big, expensive house. She’ll want to make a home, and you can’t buy your way out of that, no matter how good your intentions are.”

She’d been right, of course she’d been right. He’d been days away from making another huge mistake, one Reyna had already tried to prevent him from making by denying him an advance on their album sales and throwing him out of her office, screaming so loud that his ears still rang.

He’d confessed to her that he was scared of losing Annabeth, scared of the future. Choosing Annabeth would probably mean losing the band, and choosing the band would likely mean he’d lose Annabeth, and he wasn’t ready to face that decision. He hoped there was some middle ground they could all compromise on, but first he had to be sure that choosing Annabeth was even an option.

Sally had tried to put him at ease with warm, motherly words of reassurance, until she’d told him to go freshen up for dinner.

So here he was, a stomach full of Christmas leftovers, freshly shaved, and about ten minutes away from being able to collapse into his bed, finally getting some much needed rest.

It had been one of the most stressful days in his life, though he was sure more would follow.

There was one thing he’d learned, though. This time, he had a say in whether Annabeth would disappear from his life, and this time, he had people by his side that would support him whenever he needed. His mom, Nico, Jason, and even Reyna. They had his back, and he didn’t have to go through any of it alone, and the thought gave him enough strength to fish his phone out of his pocket, not bothering to read any of his messages before he called Annabeth.

“Hey, it’s me. Can I come over?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“This is an old one,” Nico murmured into his microphone as the lights dimmed around him and the screams from the crowd quieted down to a murmur.

He looked over at Jason, slowly nodding his head, and the two of them started the song with slow chords before a loud cheer erupted from the crowd in recognition of the song.

“Going out on a weekday,”

The cheers died down immediately when Nico’s voice cut through the speakers, accompanied by only a few guitar chords, sending shivers up Will’s spine.

“Hoping on the collide with a soul that,
knows a heart from a lie when you show it,
See the heart from in the lie that you show,”

Will closed his eyes, mouthing along with the words through a smile that was probably too big for his face, much to Cecil’s amusement. He couldn’t help it, Nico’s voice, raw around the edges, rough, smoky, and commanding, yet honeyed at the same time, was a pleasure to listen to.

“I’ll deny all the weak play,
Not a style that I take any pride in,
But the greed of my mind isn’t going,
No, the greed of my mind isn’t going away,”

Will didn’t think he’d ever get used to it, and it was a little awkward to think about. Thrice Greek, on stage, playing songs he’d loved for years; songs that pulled emotions straight from his gut. Thrice Greek, fronted by Nico di Angelo, the man with the singing voice that made his stomach turn into knots, made his skin break out in goosebumps, made tears fall from his eyes. The very same Nico that spoke in hushed tones off stage, was a completely different person from the commanding presence he was watching right now.

“Have some,
But I’ll be taking it all again,
Yeah, I’ll be taking it all,
And on my way,
And on my way,”

He supposed it helped, knowing that there were two sides of Nico. Yeah, he counted himself as a huge Thrice Greek fan, and he’d wondered how he’d be able to reconcile that part of him with the fact that he was now Nico’s boyfriend. It felt weird to him, although he was sure that Nico wasn’t bothered by it; he knew Nico saw them as equals. He supposed it was something he’d have to learn to get used to.

“I wanted it all,”

He was glad for the sudden pounding of the drums, shaking him out of his thoughts. Thinking could happen later; for now, he’d just focus on the music and let it carry him to greater heights.

“Hey, I can see a little light here,
Know that I’m ready to fight,
Oh, but I’ll run and I’ll hide again,”

He wasn’t very close to Nico, but even from his spot near the side of the stage, tucked away in a corner, he could see the hurt flash across Nico’s face, eyes squinted shut and his brows pinched, but with every strum of his guitar, he lifted his hand and held it in front of him, into the light shining down from above, bright orange guitar pick clenched between his fingers, like he was reaching out for something he desperately wanted.

“Hey, I can see a little light there,
Know I should get up and try,
Oh, but I’m better at hiding it,”

He’d always wondered about the lyrics to Nico’s songs, especially since he’d seen Thrice Greek perform live a few times now, having witnessed the flashes of emotions that crossed Nico’s face when he sang; sometimes he looked hurt, sometimes he looked angry and snarled out the lyrics, lips curled up in a sneer, and sometimes he’d look happy, like how he’d shown the briefest of smiles earlier when they’d played Riddles - the song Nico had written about their budding relationship a little while ago.

Another verse, another chorus, and the smile on his face was there to stay. The show was nearing its end, and he knew this song would be the last, and while it wasn’t his favourite song - Riddles had quickly taken that spot for now - he liked the way the song ended, and the way it ended the performance.

Nico sang the last words of the chorus, and the hall went silent. No music, no cheers. It only lasted a second, but it was thrilling to Will. Nico stood still, squinting into the harsh light, his chest heaving, and Will could see his t-shirt clinging wetly to his frame, sweat dripping from the tips of his hair. It was a beautiful moment, just a small moment in the show, but it marked a turning point in which Nico let go of everything.

As the cheers erupted again, Nico closed his eyes and leaned in towards his microphone, gently strumming his guitar.

“When I’ll wait for the dueling to get a little cold again,
And no one but I will know me,
When all of my light ends,”

Nico repeated the bridge, sounding stronger and stronger as the drums and the bass built up with him, drawing out the last line until he was screaming, before pulling away from the microphone and playing his guitar like his life depended on it; bent over, sinking down to his knees, stepping up onto the little podium where Percy was and vaulting off it again.

Will smiled as he could see the tension draining from Nico’s shoulders as the song erupted in melodic euphoria and like Nico, he let go as well, howling along with the chorus when Nico sang it for a final time, hands thrown in the air.

“When I’ll wait, I can see a little light there,
Know I that I’m ready to fight,
Oh, but I’ll run and I’ll hide again,”

He screamed along, not caring if he’d be hoarse later. He was enjoying himself, whooping loudly when the song lost all coherency and he was listening to a wall of white noise, mixing with the crowd’s cheering. It kept going even after Nico laid his guitar against his amp and nodded curtly at the sea of people in front of him, threw his guitar pick into the crowd and quickly dashed off stage, closely followed by Jason and Percy.

After the house lights had come back on, Cecil patted Will on the shoulder. “That was awesome!”

Will was slightly annoyed with Cecil for breaking his post-gig glow so suddenly, but he supposed he couldn’t complain. Cecil was right, after all. “Yeah, definitely.”

“I suppose you’re off to see your boyfriend now? Or are you going to have another beer with me since you’re ditching me tonight, too?”

Will frowned. “You said you didn’t mind. I could stay here or cancel on tonight if you want me to.”

Cecil rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. You finally have the boyfriend of your dreams, but I’m totally going to make you come over to my sister’s for lukewarm beers instead of the expensive champagne you’ll be drinking in a fancy hotel. I’m kidding, you idiot.” He waved his arms in the direction of the backstage entrance. “Go on, give loverboy a kiss from me. Y’know, for the guestlist spot and all.”

“You’re the best, Cecil.” Will grinned. “Just wait here, okay? I’ll be back soon. You have dinner plans?”

“Not really, but I could go for a burger.” Cecil paused for a moment, a smirk growing on his face. “Or some blue M&M’s.”

Will sighed. “For the seventeen billionth time, they don’t have blue M&M’s backstage!”

“Alright, alright! Go, I’ll see you in a bit. And you’re paying for the food.”

 


 

The cool air in the hallway to the dressing room was more than welcome after standing underneath the stage lights for a solid ninety minutes.

Nico plucked a towel off a nearby pile and dabbed at his face as he leaned against the wall, letting the cold seep into his skin.

“Hey Nico!” Percy grinned as he joined him in the hallway, with Jason coming up right behind him, rolling his eyes. “Look at this!” Percy said with one of the most annoying smiles he’d ever seen, holding up- “Someone threw a thong at me!”

“Ew! Get that away from me!” Nico shook his head and stifled a laugh, despite his annoyance. Only Percy would go around, showing it off to everyone. He toweled off his hair, hearing Jason mumble something, before he pulled the towel off his head, smiling when he saw Will coming up from the other end of the hallway.

“Just because I won’t sleep with them anymore doesn’t mean I can’t be flattered when people throw underwear at me, Jason.” Percy bit out, and Nico decided to make himself scarce. He did not want to get roped into that conversation, and with Will here, he had more important things to focus on.

He quickly raked a hand through his hair to at least try to flatten it after his rough toweling when Will laughed and gestured at his own hair, mimicking an explosion.

“Hey,” Will said when he came closer, bringing his arms up to pull Nico into a hug.

“Hey yourself.” Nico smiled but pressed his fingertips to Will’s chest, keeping him at a distance. “Don’t, I’m all gross and sweaty and if you hug me now you’ll stink all night.” And even though we’re shielded from the fans, anyone could walk in. He pressed a quick kiss to Will’s cheek. “Just let me grab a shower first.” He looked around, over Will’s shoulder to see Percy and Jason still squabbling with each other. The coast was clear. He leaned in a little, a cocky smirk on his face when he whispered “Unless you… Maybe want to join me?”

He let out a quiet giggle when Will sputtered and his face turned a bright shade of red. “I-I-I uh…” His voice was impossibly higher when he squeaked out “Here?!

“The doors do lock, you know,” Nico said, unable to keep the chuckle out of his voice. “Relax, Will. I was kidding.” He grinned and nodded his head to their dressing room door. “Mostly.”

Will cleared his throat, fidgeting with the strap of his bag. “I uh…” He pointed over his shoulder. “Cecil’s out there and…”

Nico glanced over to Will as he started walking. “I told you, nothing you’re not comfortable with. We have-” The smile fell off his face briefly as he opened the door. “We have all the time in the world.” He grabbed for Will’s hand and squeezed it, pulling him into the dressing room and into a brief kiss. “Besides, you’re staying over tonight, yeah?” He bit down on his lip. “I could go for one of those awesome massages you gave me last week.”

Before Will had even had a chance to answer, an all too familiar voice rang out through the room. “I did not need to hear that.”

Both he and Will whipped their heads around with wide eyes. He blushed deeply when he saw who’d said it, quickly taking a step away from Will and straightening his shirt. “R-Reyna. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know…” she said, a sweet smile on her face, but her eyes told a different story. “Interrupting things, apparently. It would seem congratulations are in order, Nico.”

“I, uh…” He nodded. “Yeah.” He took a deep breath, mentally psyching himself up before he lifted his chin defiantly and gestured to Will. “This is Will. My- My boyfriend.”

Reyna’s sharklike smile grew bigger, and with it, Nico’s willpower crumbled. He wanted to bolt out of the room and hide behind Jason. “So I’ve heard.”

Wait. What? Reyna knew? Oh, god. They’d been together for a week and already they’d screwed up. It was going to be all over the newspapers tomorrow and his life would be a living hell. More importantly, so would Will’s. Shit. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not while they were only barely together, not before they’d had a chance to really build their relationship. He wasn’t kidding himself; he knew it was only a matter of time before they’d be forced to go public, but now?

He felt the cold, clammy feeling of panic weasel its way out of the pit of his stomach, and it must have shown, because the next thing he knew, Will had grabbed his hand and was brushing his thumb over his knuckles and Reyna was furrowing her brows in- was that concern?

“Percy told me, Nico,” Reyna said, taking a few steps closer, her heels clicking on the concrete floor. “Take it easy. I’m not here on business.” She extended a hand towards Will, who let go of Nico’s hand to shake it. “It’s nice to meet you, Will.”

“Likewise,” Nico heard Will say as he felt the panic slowly recede. He was going to strangle Percy, but he suspected he was going to have to take a number and get in line. He wet his lips, filing his plans for revenge in the back of his mind for later, and smiled at Will. “Reyna’s our manager and publicist. I think I told you about her.”

Reyna raised an eyebrow. “Good things, I hope.”

Nico was quick to nod, forcing a smile. “You know I wouldn’t badmouth you. I leave that to Percy.”

“Speaking of,” Reyna said, looking up. “Where is our resident idiot, anyway? I have to talk to him before I leave.”

Nico shrugged. “He’s either in the hallway or he’s gone out to meet the fans. I don’t know.” He wrinkled his nose. “You mind if I take a shower now? I can smell myself.”

Reyna nodded, already on her way out of the dressing room. “You do that. I’ll see you next week. It was good meeting you, Will.” She smiled, and it sent cold shivers down Nico’s spine. “I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of each other. Happy new year.”

Will smiled awkwardly and said goodbye, then turned to Nico. “I’d love to take you up on that shower offer but uh…” He looked over his shoulder and whispered. “I’m kind of intimidated right now.” He half-smiled, half-grimaced. “And I promised to have another drink with Cecil. I’ll see you later, yeah? Just text me when you’re back at the hotel.”

Nico leaned in and pressed his lips to Will’s, smiling warmly when he pulled back. “Yeah. I can’t wait.”

 


 

“Hey, Annabeth,” Percy said, frowning when he got Annabeth’s voicemail. She must have already left, or maybe she just didn’t want to talk to him right now. “I hope you’re okay,” he said, smiling wryly. “I’m sorry I can’t be there tonight. I know I wanted to be, but you were right. You have your own life, your own friends, and that’s a good thing.” He chuckled bitterly. “And Reyna came by the venue earlier to remind me again that I’m supposed to stay at the hotel tonight. But have fun with your friends, okay?”

He picked at his sheets and sighed. “I just called to tell you that I love you, and that I’m going to be a better person next year. I know you don’t like promises, so I’m not going to promise. I’m going to show you, just you wait.” For some reason the words came easier when he didn’t have to look her in the eyes and see the hurt inside her. “You remember the last new year’s we spent together, back when we were kids? I was thinking about it earlier, how much fun we had, with the fake champagne and your dad taking us to see the ball being dropped at Times Square.” He smiled, melancholy making his stomach twist into knots.

“I miss that,” he admitted quietly, after a few seconds of silence. “I miss when we were good and you would smile all day.” He huffed out a small laugh. “The most gorgeous thing I’d seen, even back then. I felt like such a loser next to you, with the crooked teeth and the pimples.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “I thought you were the most annoying girl in the world, and you thought I was the dumbest kid, but you remember how we eventually warmed up to each other, right? When that Clarisse girl told me to meet me after school so she could beat me up, you kissed me on the cheek for good luck, and I never forgot that.” He took a deep breath, letting the air out slowly. “I just hope I find a way to fix this. I can’t lose you again.”

He stood up and checked his hair in the mirror. “Anyway, I just called to wish you a happy new year, and I’ll see you soon, okay? I love you.”

He hung up and fixed a smile on his face. It was getting close to midnight, and he should at least try to have some fun with the guys.

 


 

“How much time left?”

Will checked his phone. “About fifteen minutes. Are you sure you don’t want to go back inside? It’s freezing.”

Nico smiled, looking out over the city. “I’m fine. I want to catch the fireworks.” He glanced over to Will. “And kiss the daylights out of you at midnight.”

Will would have blushed if the wind wasn’t biting at his cheeks. He wrapped his coat tighter around himself and burrowed deeper into his scarf. “What a way to start the new year.”

“Hrm?”

He shrugged, sticking his hands, stiff from the cold, deep into his pockets. “I never thought I’d be here, you know?” He wrapped an arm around Nico and pulled him close. “On the rooftop of a fancy hotel, which costs more for a single night than the monthly rent of my entire apartment, eating fancy food…” He grinned when Nico looked up, raising an eyebrow. “Looking at the fireworks with my amazing boyfriend who I never thought I’d end up being with. It’s kind of surreal.”

Nico wrapped an arm around his waist and rested his head on Will’s shoulder. “Yeah. Me neither. But I’m glad it happened.”

“Aww, aren’t you two cute?”

Will looked over his shoulder and saw Percy carrying four champagne flutes, which he set down on the table. “I hope you two aren’t planning to stay out here all night.” He pointed over his shoulder. “Jason’s setting up the game as we speak.”

“The game?” Will asked.

“Monopoly.” Nico grinned, and when Will raised an eyebrow, he shrugged. “Okay, so we’re nerds who like to play board games. It gets… Well, you’ll see. If you want to play, that is.”

“Oh, you’re on.” Will laughed. “It’s been a while since I’ve played, but I hope you’re all ready to get your asses kicked.”

“We’ll see about that,” Jason said, walking outside with a giant bottle of champagne under his arm. He held it up and grinned. “Present from Reyna.”

“Awesome!” Percy pumped his fist in the air. “C’mon, man, open it up!”

“Are they always like this?” Will whispered to Nico who was watching Jason and Percy struggle over who got to open the bottle. “They were arguing earlier, too.”

Nico nodded. “Pretty much. They both think they’re better at everything than the other.” He grinned and walked over to the table where Jason had just put the bottle down in favor of trying to tackle Percy into the snow. “Two dogs fighting over a bone and all that.” He grinned and quickly opened the bottle with effortless ease, nodding to the flutes still standing on the table.

Together, they made quick work of pouring the champagne and handing the glasses to Jason and Percy after they’d joined them again, red-faced and panting.

“Anyone got any new year’s resolutions?” Jason asked, holding Percy’s arm down when he tried to take a drink.

“Getting my shit in order, I guess,” Percy said. “I’m done disappointing people. I’m going to be a whole new person.”

“I don’t really do resolutions,” Will said. “But I’ll make an exception.” He smiled and tightened his hold on Nico. “I’m going to get into Columbia, and-” he glanced at Nico, “- and I’m going to be happy.”

Nico sighed. “I say this every year, but I’m going to try to quit smoking.” He smiled. “And try not to let things get to me as much.” He smiled up at Will, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. “Being happy is a big one too, of course.”

“For me,” Jason started. “I’m going to graduate and be the best person, the best friend I can be.” He raised his glass with a smile. “To us!”

They tapped their glasses together and turned to the balcony railing. “Less than a minute left,” Percy said, pocketing his phone. “You guys wanna do a countdown?”

“Don’t be cheesy,” Nico said. “We’ll know.”

Sure enough, half a minute later, cheers erupted throughout the city, and fireworks lit up the sky. Will didn’t even get the chance to sip his champagne before Nico cupped his face, laughing when Will let out a squeak from the cold of Nico’s hands seeping into his skin, and pulled him down into a kiss.

“Happy New Year, Will,” Nico whispered when he took a step back and downed his champagne in one go before being jumped by Percy, who hugged him so tightly he lifted Nico off his feet.

A hand came down on Will’s shoulder, and he turned around to face Jason. “Best wishes, man.” He hadn’t expected it, but Jason wrapped his arms around him and patted his back. “Take care of him, yeah?” Jason’s voice was soft; it clearly wasn’t meant for Nico to hear.

He smiled and nodded, finally returning the hug. “I will. Happy new year, Jason.”

Jason had only barely let go before Percy all but jumped in his arms, laughing loudly. “Welcome to the family, man. Here’s to hoping it’ll be a good year for all of us.”

Will couldn’t help but agree with that.

 


 

When Will blinked his eyes open the next morning, he immediately closed them again. The lazy sunlight streaming in through the windows immediately made his head throb, and he pulled the blanket over his head, letting out a discontented groan.

From his side came a quiet whimper. “Too loud,” Nico whispered. “Turn off the lights.”

Will smacked his lips, wrinkling his nose at the aftertaste of alcohol and cigarette smoke in his mouth, only to be immediately shushed by Nico, who buried his face deeper into his pillow with a quiet grunt.

Last night had been fun. As Percy had put it, they’d ‘partied like rockstars’, but the first thing that came to Will’s mind was that he’d never ever want to be one if the rockstar life included hangovers such as these.

He couldn’t help but smile sleepily when he remembered just how competitive the game of Monopoly had gotten, with Jason and Percy sabotaging each other at every turn, trying to get the other drunk enough to forget who owned what, and even Nico, who’d kept distracting him with kisses and teasing touches under the table that set his skin on fire and had made him forget that they were even playing a game, much less whose turn it was. All he’d wanted was to kiss the cocky smirk off Nico’s face. Talk about playing dirty.

He remembered going outside when Nico had gone for a cigarette, making faces at him in veiled disgust, and forgetting all about that when Nico had tackled him into the snow, only to straddle him and kiss him silly, purring low in his throat when he’d whispered filthy promises into Will’s ear that would have made the snow melt around them from how hot they’d made him feel. He remembered laughing together about the weird-looking snow angel they’d made whilst making out, until Jason and Percy had called them inside to finish the game.

They’d howled along with the music in the background, drank beer after beer after beer, and ate about a month’s worth of fancy snacks that Will couldn’t name even if he tried, but they were delicious nonetheless. He remembered linking arms with Nico when they’d taken shots, chasing the alcohol down each other’s mouths with their tongues until Percy had pulled the two apart, telling them to ‘get a room, preferably on another floor’.

All the wicked promises that had been on Nico’s tongue all night had been forgotten by the time they’d finally gone to bed in the early hours of the morning. They’d shared filthy kisses as they’d undressed each other, only to immediately fall asleep as soon as they’d hit the mattress.

There was one thing Will knew for sure, though, he was never drinking again.

He slowly scooted closer to Nico and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him closer against his chest despite Nico’s weak whimpers of protest. He really needed to brush his teeth and take a shower before drowning himself in coffee and painkillers, but he’d settle for sleeping for a few hours more - especially if it meant having Nico in his arms for a little while longer, no matter how grumpy he was.

 

 

Chapter Text

Will grumbled into his cup of coffee. Two more lectures, and he’d be done for the day.

He missed the holiday breaks, the days spent on the couch at Thrice Greek’s hotel, days spent doing nothing but lounge around with Nico, hugging him, touching him, kissing him.

Even though the time he’d officially been together with Nico was short, it was hard to adjust to daily life again. College, lectures, cooking for himself instead of getting food delivered from the hotel’s restaurant. His small apartment, rides on the subway, his empty bed at night.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go to college; he did, very much so. Being with Nico hadn’t changed his desire to become a doctor in the least, but it was slightly disconcerting to go back to his ‘normal’ life.

It wasn’t a big deal, he knew that, but the past few weeks had been amazing, and he knew he’d only have about two months left before Nico left for their summer tour, and he’d much rather spend the time they had left together, enjoying each other, instead of listening to his professor drone on and on about things he already knew.

He felt as though he was walking a tightrope. On the one side, he wanted to be with Nico every second he wasn’t busy with college, to sleep in the same bed every night, not caring about how fast things were going, to cook for him, to snuggle up in front of the tv, to fuck him into the mattress every chance he got, to finally get that blowjob Nico had been teasing him about since they’d gotten together, but he knew he shouldn’t.

He had to keep his distance, not because he didn’t want to get too attached to Nico - he’d already passed that station weeks ago - but because it would be that much harder to settle back into his normal life when Nico left if he didn’t. If he forgot about everything in his life that wasn’t about Nico, he’d have nothing to fall back on when he’d have to say goodbye. Besides, he didn’t even know how Nico felt, having him around all day, every day.

No, they each had their own lives, and it needed to stay that way. They’d work out a way to balance it, he was sure about that.

Neither of them had brought up the topic of Thrice Greek’s summer tour, and even though Will knew they’d have to talk about it sooner rather than later, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to mention it. They’d been together for about two weeks, it would be weird to suddenly start talking about something that was two months away, right? He didn’t want to be forward, didn’t want to assume that they’d still be together two months from now, didn’t want the bubble he was living in to pop.

They were just a bunch of excuses - he knew that. The truth was that he didn’t want to talk about it. Right now, he didn’t even know the exact date that Nico would be leaving, though he did know it would be some time in the last two weeks of February. In the best case scenario, they’d have another seven weeks together - in the worst case, five. Crap. Five?!

Okay, this dancing around the subject thing they’d been doin