“So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how fucked up do you think you are?”
“What?” Nico stared at Will, slightly shocked at his blunt and straight to the point tone.
“Answer honestly.” Will crossed his arms, his glare pinning Nico to the bed Will had coerced him onto.
“Maybe a 4?”
“Wrong. At least an 8.”
Frankly, Nico was confused. He wasn’t dying or in extreme pain – surely it wasn’t that high. “No, that can’t be right-”
Will levelled him with a look. “You almost faded into the shadows. Also, your arms are all… like that and you’ve probably strained yourself.”
“Well, when you put it like that,” Nico grumbled.
“Can I touch you?”
Nico leaned back, uncomfortable with Will’s sudden request. “Why?”
Will seemed to catch on to his unease. “It’s just so I can heal you and assess what else I need to do. I promise, I’ll be as quick as possible.” Nico gestured his consent, trying not to flinch away when Will laid a hand on his shoulder. The residual pain from his werewolf scratches combined with his… bad experiences with touch in Tartarus did not make for enjoying being touched by near strangers. Luckily, it was only about a minute before Will removed his hand and sat on the bed next to Nico.
“Good news – you are not actively dying.” I already kind of knew that, Nico thought to himself sarcastically. “Bad news – you are very unwell.” Wait, what? “You’re still half a shadow from overusing your Underworld powers, the scratches on your shoulders are not properly healed, and you’re severely exhausted and malnourished. And that’s just the major stuff.”
Nico paused, taking the information in. He knew his scratches weren’t properly healed up, but he’d figured they’d just heal on their own. But the rest of it? “Um… what?”
Will waved a hand, elaborating. “So, you overused your powers – you’ll need to take a break from those for the foreseeable future. So no shadow-travelling. And your scratches are really messed up – what – actually, what happened to them? How the hell did you get them?”
“The werewolf guy?”
Will ran a hand down his face, staring at the ceiling as if he was calming himself. “Okay… well, they’re infected. You’re going to need some serious healing. And you have to start eating and sleeping more, good Lord. You’ll run yourself into the ground if you carry on like you have.”
Nico was starting to get annoyed. “I didn’t have much of a choice, being thrown in Tartarus and on the Argo II and bringing the Athena Parthenos to Camp.”
Will softened. “Sorry, I know. None of this was your fault, but I’m just saying that you need to work at getting healthier. Life’s going to be hard while you recover, but things will get better.”
“Thanks, I guess.” It was hard for Nico to see the bright side of things; he was apparently severely injured and still mostly friendless, but he appreciated Will’s words.
“Okay, so first I need to fix the werewolf scratches…” Will muttered to himself, walking out of the room and quickly returning with an armful of medical supplies. He dumped it all on the bed, sorting through bandages and ointments and gods knew what else. He finally found what he was looking for, holding a small pair of scissors up. “Aha! Okay, take off your shirt.”
“Do I have to?”
“Sorry,” Will really did sound apologetic. “I need access to your biceps and it’s easier to take your shirt off than work around it.” Nic begrudgingly removed his shirt, his posture awkward at his uncomfortably bare state. The sunshine streaming through the small window warmed his back, sending a shiver down his spine.
“Alright, just gonna take these… stitches… out…” Will mumbled, gently taking Nico’s arm in his hand and getting to work taking out the stiches. The thread tugged on his skin as Will cut it and pulled it through. Will grimaced at Reyna’s rough stitches, used to better work than the hasty, sloppy job she’d done.
Nico looked away, staring detachedly at the small pot plant in the corner of the room. Will had given him his own room, saying that it would be better suited for Nico’s healing process. Though at first Nico had thought Will had just said that to get him out of the way, the room really was nice; it had a small window through which sunlight poured in, and it was warm and clean. It was far nicer than anywhere he’d stayed in the past year, his own cabin included – it desperately needed a renovation.
Will moved onto the other arm, and Nico peered at the wound on his de-stitched bicep – it was swollen and red, and frankly, it looked horrible. Nico decided to stop looking.
“Okay, we’re done!” Will said. “I don’t think they need to be stitched up again, because they’re mostly closed up, but they definitely need healing… I think some nectar and rest should fix them, though.”
“So no training for a while?” Nico asked, disappointed.
“No training for a while.” Will gestured for him to lie back on the bed, spreading his arms out and dripping a generous amount of nectar on his left bicep. Nico felt a weird tingling, and Will let out a quiet “Yes!” of success. He applied the nectar to the other arm, looking pleased as it healed. “So, the nectar worked, but- one sec-” He prodded at Nico’s arms, feeling the muscles. “You need to rest it for a while. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of time to rest while you’re staying here. Now, do you have any other injuries you need healing?”
“Probably?” If he was honest, Nico wasn’t sure. He hadn’t really paid attention to any injuries he’d gotten, deeming them unimportant. Will hummed, putting a hand on his lower arm. This time, Nico didn’t flinch away.
“You’ve got a few lacerations, pulled a couple muscles, and your wrist is sprained. Here, give it to me.” Nico handed his wrist over, watching in awe as Will’s hand warmed, healing his wrist and banishing the lingering soreness he’d felt. Will quickly let go when he was done, but Nico couldn’t help but wish he’d held on just a little longer – the warmth on his wrist had felt nice.
“So…” Will looked at him critically. “Your orders – go shower, put on your pyjamas, eat some food, take some ambrosia, and sleep. You’re here for three days, and I intend to get you as healthy as possible in that short time frame.”
“I don’t have any pyjamas.”
“We’ll get you some. Don’t expect them to fit your black on black style, though.”
“It’s not-” Nico spluttered, his face flushing. “I’m a son of Hades-”
“Yes, and I’m sure you’re very impressive, but you need to heal up now.” Will grinned, enjoying seeing Nico get all flustered. “I’ll see you later, okay? Someone will get you your dinner.”
Nico turned to look out the window, surprised; the sun was already setting. When he turned back, Will was already halfway out the door. Oh, well, I’ll thank him later, Nico thought.
He went to the infirmary bathroom, shedding his clothes and taking the towel and pyjamas someone had left out for him. He stepped into a shower stall; the water was deliciously warm, and they even had shampoo and conditioner. Nico had forgotten how nice it was to have clean hair.
When he was done, Nico shut off the water, regretting it as soon as the cold air hit his body. He dressed quickly, pulling on the black and white plaid pyjama pants and bright yellow smiley face shirt Will had left him. He looked at himself in the mirror in distaste – he knew Will had chosen the brightest shirt available just to annoy him, but he couldn’t do anything about it. His hair was still dripping wet, droplets of water falling onto his shoulder and face. Nico quickly towelled it dry and ran his fingers through it to make sure it wasn’t too wet. It was still damp, but he figured it was good enough.
Nico walked back to his room, avoiding any people, not wanting anyone to see him in the horrible shirt. He entered his room and quickly closed the door behind him, laying down on the bed as a sudden wave of exhaustion hit. It was only a minute later when someone knocked on the door.
“What is it?” He groaned.
“Hey, I brought you food, be nicer,” Kayla said. She stopped dead at Nico’s shirt. “Is that-”
“No!” Nico tugged the blanket off the foot of the bed and wrapped it around himself, obscuring the shirt from view. “Nothing to see here. Leave the food and go away.”
Kayla cackled. “Gods, this is amazing.” Nico scowled, but Kayla just ignored him and set the plate down on the bedside table, still giggling. Nico flipped her the middle finger as she closed the door, which she returned.
Nico sighed, letting the blanket fall. So his reputation was ruined; it’s not like anyone liked him anyway. He picked up the plate, inhaling the scent of delicious roast potatoes. The herbs were perfect, and it was nearly steaming hot. Nico ate them so fast he burned his mouth, but he didn’t even care – it had been a while since he’d had a meal like this one.
When he was done (which was alarmingly fast), he set the plate on the bedside table and decided he should follow Will’s advice and go to bed. As much as he wanted to annoy Will by not following his directions, he was tired, and the sunlight from outside had been replaced with moonlight floating in through his window. Nico ate the ambrosia Kayla had also left by his bed and got under the covers, staring sleepily up at the silvery light on the wall. That was the last thing he remembered before he fell asleep.
Flashes of memories played on a loop inside his head – one moment to the next, a greatest hits compilation of Nico’s most horrific memories before the Argo II. Being manipulated by Minos in the Labyrinth… Bianca’s death… begging for food while homeless… constantly being attacked by monsters… being told he would never be good enough. He’d never be good enough.
Nico gasped in his sleep, twisting in the blankets.
His memories switched to Tartarus. Journeying through the dips and hills of Tartarus’s live, breathing body… Nico let out a loud cry, tossing and turning. Akhlys praising him for his grief-stricken ‘perfection’… becoming overwhelmed with monsters… grabbing for him, pulling at him, tearing at his skin and hair and clothes…
The monster’s grin widened, its claws digging into the soft, vulnerable skin on his neck. Nico struggled, gasping as the monster traced his chin, its black eyes staring into his. Nico broke his gaze, trying to roll out from where the monster had him pinned to the ground. “No, please,” he begged, letting out a scream as the monster slapped him across the face. It ripped at his clothes, its sharp claws leaving deep scratches all over his body. He cried, pleading as it tore at him, corrupted him, violated him…
He was surrounded by monsters, vying for a feel of his skin, pushing and shoving into him…
“Nico, wake up!”
They laid their filthy, dirty hands over him, the touch overwhelming and nauseating.
“Nico, you’re safe!”
Nico was dragged from the depths of his dreams by a hand on his shoulder. Nico screamed, scrambling back until he hit the headboard, his skin on fire. There was a hand on his arm and his face, and Nico screamed again, battling them off as best he could. They retreated, but Nico was prepared for more. There would always be more.
Visions of monsters flashed before his eyes, their cruel, rough laughs echoing in his ears. He cowered against the bed, his chest heaving as he closed his eyes. If he was going to be made to suffer, he’d rather he didn’t watch his own torture.
Soft, murmuring voices filtered in, a quiet conversation between two people.
“What is it?”
“Flashbacks, I think.”
“Should I get someone?”
“I don’t think anyone can- Nico?”
Nico cracked his eyes open, then opened them completely at the two Apollo children in front of them. Will and Kayla had been whispering to each other, watching him from the end of the bed. Nico began to take notice of the world around him – his loud, ragged breaths, the moon lighting the room with a pale glow, Will shooing Kayla away and slowly approaching. Nico tensed up, his eyes fixed on Will.
“I promise, everything’s okay, Nico,” Will said soothingly, sitting down on the end of the bed and crossing his legs. His posture was relaxed and comfortable, exuding warmth and calmness. “Nothing’s going to hurt you. Can you take some deep breaths for me?”
Nico tried, taking in big, deep gulps of air. He choked slightly, but gradually, his breathing slowed. He cautiously slumped onto the bed, still wary of his surroundings. He was fairly sure this was real, but Tartarus could mess with your brain.
Will carefully reached out a hand, retracting it when Nico shot back up against the bed. “Sorry, no touching. I promise I won’t. It’s okay…” Will waited for Nico to relax again, quietly observing. “Was it a nightmare?”
Nico nodded, coming back to himself now. “It was everything… and then T-Tartarus.”
“I’m so sorry you went through that, Nico.” Will’s voice conveyed genuine regret and empathy that no monster could ever replicate. Nico was safe.
They were silent for a minute, Nico calming his still racing heartbeat and Will sitting quietly until he broke the silence. “You ready to go back to sleep? I have something I can give you.”
“I think so.”
Will smiled, pulling a bottle out of his pocket and shaking a pill into his hand. “This should help make your dreams less… y’know. It’s tried and true, though I don’t think we’ve had anyone with dreams quite as bad as yours use them.”
Nico shrugged, grabbing the glass of water on his bedside table and letting Will drop the pill into his palm. Nico swallowed it with a gulp of water, taking a few more sips before lying back. The fatigue hit him hard, though he wasn’t quite sure whether that was from waking up in the middle of the night or from the effects of the pill.
Will got up, whispering a quiet, “Goodnight, Nico,” before closing the door behind him. This time when Nico fell asleep, it was dreamless.
He woke to a blonde head of hair hovering over his face, big blue eyes staring directly at him. Nico flinched, startled. “What are you-”
“Oh!” Will (who else would it be?) jumped back as well. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were awake. But you need to be. That’s why I came. To wake you up.” He went red, looking away. “And you are! So I’ll be leaving now, bye!” He quickly walked out of the room, leaving Nico confused.
He shrugged it off and sat up, throwing the blankets off and drinking the rest of the water in the cup on his nightstand. Will came back in, flustered. “You’re back?” Nico asked.
“I forgot. I have to actually check up on you too.” Will took a deep breath, shaking off his nerves and putting on his doctor face. “So, did you sleep well after last night?”
“Yeah, it was peaceful.” Nico said. He felt awkward after last night’s interaction; he rarely let anyone see him that vulnerable, especially someone as put together as Will.
“Good. I can’t give it to you every night because of shitty side effects, but I’m glad it helped last night. Well, this morning I guess.” Nico cocked his head to the side in confusion. “It’s about midday. You woke up at 4 so I just let you sleep; it looked like you needed it.” Nico was momentarily shocked. Those sleeping pills really worked.
“Can I check your werewolf scratches?” Nico nodded and Will pulled up Nico’s shirt sleeves to see the wounds better, smirking. “How’d you like your shirt?”
Nico scowled. “It was amazing, thank you ever so much, Solace.”
“Glad you liked it. You can keep it, seeing as you don’t have any others.” Nico felt a strong desire to slap Will, but restrained himself because Will still had his hands on his biceps.
“They’re looking fine, a bit of swollenness still, but it’s healing well. Literally all you have to do now is rest.” Will beamed, pleased with the results. Nico couldn’t help but smile back. Will’s personality was so… sunshiny – though it could be harsh and tough at times, he was warm and joyful, always there with a smile on his face. Nico wondered if Will really was like that all the time or if he was just pretending.
“Today, you can help around the infirmary a bit, but rest! I don’t want to see your Underworld powers anytime soon; you’ll fade into the shadows if you use them again. Got it?” Nico nodded mutely. “Great. I’ll find you some clothes.”
“Um, is that necessary?” Nico asked, the bright yellow of his sleep shirt coming to mind.
“Don’t worry, Death Boy, I’ll find something to fit your aesthetic.”
“I told you to stop calling me that, Sunshine,” Nico tried to tease Will back, but it failed miserably as Will’s smile only grew.
“Sunshine? That’s the best you can do?”
“Oh- get out!”
Will laughed, raising his arms in protest and walking out the door. Nico huffed, getting up and neatly making his bed. Will walked back in, a bundle of clothes and other items in his arms. He paused when he saw Nico. “What are you doing?”
“I’m just making the bed?”
“Oh.” Will seemed dumbstruck. “Not many people do that.”
Nico flushed, finishing up and crossing his arms. “Don’t think anything of it!”
Will snorted, letting the stuff in his arms fall onto the bed. “Sure, I won’t tell anyone that the son of Hades is secretly a huge softie and an incredibly nice person.”
Nico’s face was comparable to a tomato at this point. “You really think of me like that?”
“Yeah.” Will turned to look him in the eye. “You’re an amazing person, Nico, no matter who your father is.”
They stood staring at each other for a minute before they broke off.
“Well, I should go get changed-”
“I have to get back to the infirmary-”
They laughed awkwardly, Nico’s blush fading.
“Swing by in a bit and I’ll give you some jobs to do, alright?”
“Sure.” Nico smiled slightly, taking pleasure in the redness in Will’s cheeks. Will waved goodbye, knocking into the wall clumsily as he made his way out of the room. Nico let out a snicker, heading to the bathroom to change and brush his teeth.
Will had left behind a small bag of toiletries for him, which was nice of him as up til this point Nico had been borrowing a spare toothbrush of Percy’s. He finished up quickly, relieved that this time Will had chosen a relatively normal pair of jeans and black t-shirt for him. He’d have to go steal from somewhere in the city again. I’m not allowed to shadow-travel, though, Nico’s inner voice reminded him. Then again, Dad gave me a money card. Maybe I’ll actually pay for it this time. Nico made a mental note to ask Will to explain money cards to him.
He went back to his room to put his clothes and toiletries away. Someone had left him a sandwich for lunch and a pill with a note. Take the Vitamin D, you’re deficit, it read, with a little sunshine and a ‘W’ next to it. Nico smiled at Will’s endearing note, swallowing the pill and then starting on the sandwich. It was a pretty average cheese and tomato sandwich, but to Nico’s neglected tastebuds, it tasted delicious.
“So, what did you want me to do?”
Will didn’t even flinch, rooting around with his entire top half in a cupboard. “One- minute-” There was a couple of bangs, and a scraping sound, and Will thrust a box at Nico. “Hold this.” Nico grabbed it, waiting while Will pushed a few more things around before emerging from the depths of the infirmary cupboard. “Hi! I was just about to come find you.”
“Well, here I am.” Nico looked at Will amusedly. “There’s dust in your hair.”
Will grumbled, ruffling his hair up to try and shake off the dust. Nico didn’t know why the action made his face hot. “Uh- here’s your box,” He said. Will took it, bringing it out into the wider infirmary before dumping it on a bed.
“So. You’re going to cut bandages.” Nico nodded; it wasn’t too strenuous, but it would keep him busy, and he knew the Apollo cabin was overrun with injured people right now. He listened while Will explained the sizes he wanted cut, then set Nico loose.
It was boring work; Will had to go do head healer stuff, and there was no one in the beds near him. Nico was halfway through the box, bored out of his skull, when someone tapped his shoulder.
“I’m almost done, Sunshine-” The person cleared their throat, and Nico realized it wasn’t Will. He turned to see Piper, squinting her eyes at him.
“Sunshine?” She asked.
“It’s- it’s nothing,” Nico said, unsure why exactly he was getting so defensive. “Just a stupid nickname for a stupid person. What are you doing here?”
Piper decided to drop her questions, sitting next to Nico on the bed. “Visiting you. I figured you were lonely, and I kind of am too, and I know we aren’t great friends but I thought maybe that could change…” She trailed off at Nico’s stony expression.
“Uh huh. I’m your last option because everyone else was busy.” Nico went back to cutting bandages, trying not to let his upset show. He should be used to this; he was always second choice, the last one someone would ever choose.
“No! I want to get to know you better, Nico,” Piper amended. “We didn’t talk a ton on the Argo II, but we’re both demigods of the Prophecy.” Nico looked at her, confused. The whole point was that he wasn’t one of the demigods of the prophecy. “I mean- you’re not one of the Seven, but we wouldn’t have come halfway to winning without you. You should have been a demigod of the Prophecy; you’re much more powerful than me. All I can do is convince people to do things, and sometimes it doesn’t even work.”
“You’re powerful too, Piper. You’re worthy of being one of the Seven. Don’t put yourself down,” Nico said firmly. Being someone else’s therapist was not something that usually happened to him, but he wasn’t necessarily displeased by it. It was kind of nice, reassuring a- friend? Acquaintance? Saved the world partner, Nico decided. “But thanks.”
Piper smiled, relieved. “You too.”
An awkward silence followed.
“So… Will Solace, huh?”
Piper laughed, Nico resolutely fixing his gaze on the bandages in his hands.
“It’s not like- he doesn’t even know- it’s not like he’d like someone like me-”
“Hey,” Piper said, still giggling. “Don’t put yourself down, either. There are plenty of reasons someone like Will Solace would like you.”
“But I don’t like him.”
“Of course, of course.”
Nico paused, glaring at Piper. “Leave me alone!” He exclaimed, humour in his voice.
“Fine, fine,” She got up, grinning. “But you can always come to me if you need romance advice-” Nico threw a rolled-up bandage at her, nailing her in the face. “Or not.” She threw it back at him, ignoring his squawk of indignation and running out of the infirmary to escape his threatening aim.
“What are you doing?” Nico jumped at the unimpressed voice behind him, turning to see Will himself.
“You’re supposed to be resting your wrist, not throwing things at innocent visitors!”
“Piper is not innocent.” Nico said darkly, thinking back to her nefarious motives.
“What did she do?”
“She-” Nico stopped dead, realizing he couldn’t tell Will because he was- well, Will. “She was bothering me.”
“Uh huh,” Will replied, doing an excellent imitation of Piper’s voice earlier. “Well, I’m free now, and it’s dinner time. Do you want to wash up and eat dinner with me?”
“Yes. I’m so sick of cutting bandages.” Nico abandoned his work almost before Will finished his sentence. He took Will’s suggestion of showering and left him to sort the bandages and put the uncut ones away. Nico washed quickly, using shampoo and conditioner again to make his hair extra soft and fluffy. His hair was still damp, a couple drops of water falling onto his bright yellow sleep shirt as he walked into his room. He had to admit, the shirt was growing on him.
“Oh gods.” Nico stopped in the doorway, glaring at Will, who was laughing his ass off at Nico’s wet hair and pyjamas. “Solace-”
“No, no, it looks cute!” Will said, looking up only to burst into giggles again. Nico whipped Will with the towel, dropping onto the bed next to him and drying his hair. Will’s laughter eventually faded, replaced by quiet humming as he waited for Nico to finish drying his hair. When Nico emerged, Will snorted, covering his mouth to hold back more laughter.
“Shut up,” Nico growled, throwing the towel at Will’s face. Will caught it and folded it on the end of the bed, staring at Nico’s hair. “What?” He said, suddenly self-conscious.
“It’s just… so cute,” Will said, Nico making a face at his words. “And fluffy! It’s so fluffy.” He hesitated. “Can I touch it?”
“I guess.” Nico trusted Will more now; he felt like they’d bonded slightly when he had his nightmare. He still tensed when Will slowly reached out his hand, but was able to relax his muscles after a couple seconds. Will carefully rubbed a few soft strands between his fingers, then ran his hand through Nico’s hair properly.
“Holy cow, it’s so soft,” Will said, entranced.
Nico pulled back. “You said something about dinner?”
Will didn’t comment on Nico’s sudden discomfort, taking his hand back and getting up from the bed. “Yeah, let me just go get it.” Will left, and Nico leant back against the pillows. He still wasn’t 100% comfortable with physical contact, but it was progress, he supposed. Will came back with two bowls on a tray.
“Is that soup?” Nico perked up.
Will nodded. “Tomato.” He smiled at Nico’s excitement, handing over his bowl. “Wait, don’t-” But Nico had already taken a sip, swallowing it with a wince. “Nico, it’s still hot.”
“That’s the best part,” Nico rasped, grabbing his cup of water to soothe his burned throat. Will shook his head, scooping up a spoonful of his own soup but remembering to blow on it first.
They made idle conversation as they ate. Will asked about his visitor, and Nico asked about the other patients in the infirmary. It was a small moment of calm in the eye of the storm that was the aftermath of the Second Titan War.
“Okay. Doctor time,” Will said, setting his empty bowl aside as Nico did the same. “Still exhausted? How’re the arms?”
“Yeah. Still slightly sore but fine.” Will put his hand on Nico’s biceps to check on them, assessing the rest of his health at the same time.
“I think you might have some chronic illnesses.” Nico wasn’t even surprised. It was just typical of him to manage to fuck himself up so badly that the problem was chronic. “We’ll monitor it as time goes on. Stop thinking that, it’s not your fault at all.” Nico rolled his eyes, though it was nice to hear the reassurance. “You can have another sleeping pill tonight, but tomorrow you’ll have to do without.” Nico accepted Will’s offering of another pill, swallowing it down with water. Will nodded approvingly.
“Okay, now go the hell to sleep. Goodnight, Death Boy.”
Nico smiled, giving Will the middle finger. “Night, Sunshine.” Will smiled and blew him a sarcastic kiss, closing the door behind him. Nico crawled under the covers, pulling the blankets over his face. Why did that casual gesture make him feel so… weird? It wasn’t like Will meant anything by it. Nico huffed and threw the covers off, not wanting to suffocate under them. Stop thinking and go to sleep, he told himself. So he rolled over and did just that.
The next day was much the same, except Nico actually woke up at a normal time. Will was still working himself to the bone, and giving Nico little jobs. Hazel and Frank came to visit, saying goodbye before they left for Camp Jupiter.
“Keep in touch!” Hazel commanded. “Don’t be a stranger.” Nico agreed, hugging her tight before letting go. He gave Frank a nod and a sarcastic salute, which Frank returned with a fond smile.
Nico would miss them. He’d barely spent any time that wasn’t saving-the-world-related with Hazel in the last few months, and now she was already going back to Camp Jupiter. He still had Percy, Annabeth, Jason, and Piper at camp, but they’d all be leaving soon. Then what would he do?
“Hey,” Will knocked on the doorframe. Nico sat up, having already gotten ready for bed. “Just wanted to check on you since we haven’t seen much of each other today. How’s things?”
“I’m a prisoner here,” Nico yawned, his eyelids drooping. “Otherwise, I’m doing great.”
Will smiled, coming further into the room. “Good. I’m taking the night shift again, so if you have another dream I’ll be here.”
Nico stared at Will, squinting at the bags under his eyes. “Have you been getting enough rest? You look tired.”
“Aww, Death Boy, you do care.”
“Answer the question, Solace.”
“It’s fine,” Will evaded the question. “It’s only a bit of sleeplessness.”
“Take your own advice and sleep, Will,” Nico ordered.
Will smiled. “That’s the first time you’ve said my actual name.”
“GO TO SLEEP.”
Will laughed, saying goodnight and finally leaving Nico in peace. Nico did as he had told Will to and went to sleep.
Nico woke screaming. Again. These Tartarus dreams were really getting to him.
They seemed to be worse in the infirmary. The unfamiliar room moved around him, furniture leaping out at him as the walls shifted from side to side. Unlike last time, Nico was aware of his surroundings, and could stop before he screamed himself hoarse. He was breathing heavily, tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t remember the dream; while he had vivid flashback-like nightmares, he also had ones that he couldn’t recall anything about except for vague flashes of images and a permeating sense of terror. This was one of those nights. Nico hunched over, stifling his cries with a hand over his mouth. He didn’t want to wake anyone up; he was already caused enough problems.
There went that idea. Nico shot up, terrified eyes locking onto Will’s gentle ones. “W-Will?”
“Another nightmare?” Nico nodded, trying to look less pathetic. With Will watching him, it made him feel as though he couldn’t do anything right; here was this amazing, kind healer, helping with with his pitiful nightmares, something a child of Hades should have been able to conquer.
“It’s gonna be okay. None of this is your fault.” Nico wiped the tears off his face, though his breathing was still faster than usual. “Can I come closer?” Nico nodded. Will approached as nonthreateningly as possible, sitting down sideways on the bed in front of Nico. “Are you… fully aware of things?”
“Yeah,” Nico’s voice cracked horribly, and he winced. “It wasn’t as bad as it usually is.”
“I wish this hadn’t happened to you. It’ll get better with time, I promise.” Nico looked up at Will through his eyelashes, studying his open body posture and empathetic eyes. Nico pitched forward, wrapping his arms around Will’s neck and burying his face in Will’s chest. Will, though startled, hugged Nico back and breathed in the smell of the infirmary-provided conditioner he’d used. “You’re safe,” Will whispered, petting Nico’s hair as Nico’s breathing evened out.
Nico pulled back, wiping the remaining tears from his face to look Will in the eyes. “For so long, I was the only child of Hades, and people treated me like I was evil. There’s so much responsibility on my shoulders. And then I went and fell into Tartarus, and…” Nico cut himself off shakily. “Now this happens.”
Will pursed his lips. “I get what it’s like to have to be so responsible at a young age. Lee died in the Labyrinth battle, and then Michael died in the battle of Manhattan. I was counsellor at 13, and so many people died because I couldn’t-” His voice broke, but he cleared his throat and carried on. “I couldn’t save everyone. I know we’re not… the same, but I want to help you. And none of that was your fault. You should’ve gotten the chance to be a kid.”
“I’m sorry.” Nico awkwardly reached out to Will, pulling him into a hug again. “It wasn’t your fault.” Nico said, echoing Will’s words back to him. Will let his composure break for a minute, focusing on breathing steadily instead of memories of the past. Nico let his guard down; he didn’t know what it was about Will, but he made him feel safe.
It wasn’t too much longer when Nico let go. “We should get to bed,” Will murmured.
“We’re already in bed.”
“You know what I mean.” Will got up, his face not necessarily sad, but not happy either. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Neeks.”
Nico waved, letting his hand drop as Will closed the door. He just hoped he wouldn’t have any more dreams that night.
“Ready to leave?”
Nico rolled over at Will’s voice, waving him off. “Let me sleep.”
“No, healthy sleep schedules! Get up!”
Will successfully got Nico out of bed, though not without a lot of complaining. Nico shooed Will away so he could get dressed and make his bed, completing the tasks quickly and packing his things away. He then went out to find Will, who was busily moving things around in the supply closet.
“Argh!” Will jumped, banging his head on one of the shelves. “Nico, why.”
“Sorry, I didn’t think you’d flinch!”
Will dismissed Nico’s concern. “It’s fine, it’s fine. I need to do one last check-up before you leave.” Nico presented his arm, waiting while Will scanned him. “Just take it easy, take care of yourself, and don’t use your Underworld powers yet. You’re still weak in that area, but we’ll build up to it eventually.”
Nico nodded, swinging his arms by his side. “Make sure you sleep as well.”
Will smiled at his sweetness. “I will.” They lingered, neither really wanting to leave. “Would you maybe want to hang out sometime? Outside of the infirmary?”
“Yeah.” Nico smirked. “I’ll see you around, Sunshine.”
Will’s cheeks darkened, though he tried to fight the blush off. “Yeah, see you…”
Nico waved goodbye and walked out of the infirmary, relishing the gentle breeze and sunlight on his skin.