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Can You Hear Me Screaming "Please Don't Leave Me"?

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Nico’s POV

 

“Death is something even you cannot control, son of Hades,” a hushed voice cuts through the pitch black expanse in front of Nico, sending unwanted chills shooting up his spine. Nico's eyes narrow as he reaches for the sword that’s usually sheathed by his waist. His pale fingers brush right through the hilt and he freezes, breath catching in barely-concealed alarm. That isn’t right.

“What do you mean by that?” Nico demands as he turns on his heel, eyes scanning the void for any sign of his mysterious attacker. The sight in front of him is almost enough to send Nico stumbling off of the jagged cliff edge.

A hellish landscape of fire and screams lays before Nico, stolen from his repressed memories. The demigod’s mind threatens to shut down in panic as the heartbeat of Tartarus starts pounding in the distance. No. No this isn’t real, Nico reminds himself weakly as bile rises in the back of his throat.

A loud shriek comes from somewhere far left and the son of Hades takes a step back. Nico’s foot slides too close to the edge, but an ominous mist stops him from falling. The mist rises, twisting around Nico’s ankle to keep him trapped in place. He nearly falls back again as he tugs mercilessly at his immobilized leg.

“Answer me!” Nico calls out, voice coming out more choked than before as he strains his neck around to see the inky void. The mist curls further up his body in warning and Nico forces back a sob. This isn’t from his memories. This never happened. Why was this happening?!

“Hello!?!” Still no response. The abyss of shadows starts to inch closer to Nico’s position and the ravenette struggles against his ghostly bindings in rising panic. The pulsing heartbeat of hell starts growing louder in Nico’s ears as the toxic nature of the air starts taking an effect on his lungs.

“Goodbye son of Hades,” hisses the same voice from behind him. An eerie laugh surrounds Nico, seeming far too close for comfort. Suddenly, the darkness lashes out with skeletal hands emerging to pull him back into the eternal abyss before Nico has the chance to scream.

 

***

 

Nico wakes up with a violent gasp, jerking upright as he tries to remember how to breathe. The feeling of hands burn into his skin as he looks around frantically, searching for something - anything - to pull him back. Nico’s eyes finally land on a small night light shining faintly on a stand next to Hazel’s vacant bed.

The yellow glow doesn’t do anything to ward off the shadows always present in the Hades Cabin, but the small comfort the light brings is enough for Nico to prove he’s actually awake this time. Nico buries his head in his hands with a shaky exhale, struggling to ignore the remaining whispers of the dream plaguing his mind.

Using whatever concentration he has left, the son of Hades tries to slow his heartbeat with the breathing exercises Will semi-politely forced him to learn a couple months ago. One breath in. One breath out. One breath in. One breath out. Over and over until it no longer feels like the air is on fire in Nico’s lungs.

It takes Nico the better part of ten minutes, but he eventually slumps back against his bed frame, no longer shaking as violently after the newest edition to his endless nightmare catalogue.

The air is colder than usual as if the son of Hades’ panic forcefully lowered the temperatures of the room. That wouldn't be too surprising if not for the sweat causing Nico’s black nightshirt to stick to his back.

“What was that?” Nico finally asks the darkness, voice coming out hoarse in the quiet of night. His nightmares usually focused on events of the past, and yeah, there were a lot to choose from. This voice’s warning wasn’t something he’d heard before, though it sounds eerily similar to his father’s statement as he drifted closer and closer to fading.

Something even you cannot control, the fragments whisper in Nico’s mind. Shut up, Nico demands as exhaustion starts weighing heavily on his eyelids. He presses a fist to his temples as if it can block out the noise.

“Just shut up,” he repeats aloud.

Son of Hades.

“Shut. Up!” his voice cracks.

Not with Bianca.

“Stop!” Nico half-yells as the voices in his mind start waking up faster than he can.

Not with Leo.

“I hate you,” he whispers forcefully.

You hate yourself.

“Not anymore,” the statement comes as a broken promise. Nico refuses to open his eyes as he focuses on breathing again. Each breath takes a physical effort as the numbness inside tries to take control.

Your agony is already perfect, Nico di Angelo. I have nothing left to add to your suffering...

“Oizys,” the Italian realizes, breath sucked out of his lungs as he suddenly feels very, very alone in his Cabin. The Goddess of Misery. Tartarus. Damnation. It all comes rushing back with the pounding heartbeat in his ears.

Death is something even you cannot control, son of Hades.

“What does that mean?” Nico confronts the darkness in vain. Instead of answering, the voices finally lapse in a manner that is anything but comforting. The son of Hades sits in silence, listening to the uneven sound of his breathing as the sick feeling in his stomach refuses to leave.

The last time a premonition like this came to him, Percy came back from that fatal quest without Bianca. It’s a life-less feeling; a feeling that threatens to consume Nico entirely as the world of tainted dreams once again drags his consciousness back to his personal hell of nightmares.

 

***

 

“You look terrible,” Sammy comments the next morning when Nico walks up to the Apollo table. He shoots them a glare in reply but doesn’t bother denying it since what happened last night could hardly count as rest.

“Sam,” Will chides his younger sibling absently as he moves to make room for Nico on the bench. “They’re right though,” his boyfriend adds after a quick glance, leaving Nico tempted to punch his arm.

“You don’t look so great yourself,” Nico mutters but Will just laughs off the insult. It’s not true by any means, seeing the son of Apollo looks as radiant as ever with his crooked smile. (Pun unintended.)

“Eat this, okay?” Nope. Moment ruined. Nico glares at the healer but accepts the muffin placed in front of him anyways. He meets Will’s questioning gaze and can immediately see the concern in his blue eyes.

Later, Nico mouths silently and Will nods in understanding. Nico turns to his poor excuse for breakfast in distaste, picking at the muffin wrapper as Austin and Lila start arguing over music.

“Mamma Mia deserves top marks! Have you not heard the holy soundtracks of ABBA?!” Lila protests loudly and Nico almost rolls his eyes. Just from the title, the musical sounds like it’d cause another infamous Cabin 7 karaoke night.

“I thought you saw Idina Menzel in Wicked! How can you NOT love her?!” Austin shoots back, raising his hands in exasperation. Austin turns to Will, brown eyes pleading. “Come on, you have to back me up here!”

“Don’t you dare,” Lila glares at her half-brother and a quick look over Nico’s shoulder reveals Will trying not to smile at the two.

“Guys, relax. Obviously, Mean Girls trumps everything else. Taylor Louderman is a muse in her own right,” Will makes the stupid decision to voice an opinion for once and Austin throws a handful of grapes at him in retaliation. One hits Nico on the forehead and he shoots another death glare at Will’s younger brother.

“Watch it,” Nico mutters and Austin gives him a brilliant grin that provides no sense of remorse.

“Will only says that because he’s got a crush on Grey Henson,” Kayla snorts, finally lifting her head off the table from her spot diagonal of Nico. Kayla's green hair is messed up in all directions, splaying across her forehead in a way that almost makes the son of Hades want to point it out.

“Excuse you! How can you NOT appreciate Grey Henson,” Will genuinely sounds offended and Nico glances to see his adorably baffled expression. Nico nudges Will with his elbow and his boyfriend looks over apologetically. “Sorry Neeks, but it’s blasphemy.”

“Idina Menzel is better,” Kayla announces and Austin cheers in victory before his sister tries to fall back asleep on the table.

“You’re supposed to back me up you know,” Will raises an eyebrow at Nico. He shrugs in response.

“It’s cute when you're flustered,” Nico quips back and the red flush that immediately compliments Will’s freckles is almost enough to dull the sick feeling in Nico’s gut. Almost. Will must have caught his darkened expression because his hand finds Nico’s under the table.

“You okay?” Will asks quietly. Nobody else notices the two boy’s interaction as the discussion comes back full force about which musical’s been the best this year. Will tries to check Nico’s forehead, always the doctor, and Nico smacks the son of Apollo’s hand away with a scowl.

“I’m fine,” Nico says a little too sharply. Will withdrawals his hand quickly, expression growing more serious. Nico’s chest aches for a new reason and he turns back to picking at the muffin so he doesn’t have to see Will’s face as he continues. “It was just… another dream.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Will asks carefully. Nico knows if he says no, the blond would leave the subject eventually, but something about the severity of his latest nightmare causes him to hesitate.

“Maybe,” Nico says quietly.

“SOLACE GET YOUR CABIN UNDER CONTROL OR I WILL!!” comes a sudden shout from their right, and Nico turns to see Sherman Yang standing up at the deserted Ares table, looking very unimpressed with three grapes now plastered to his forehead. (Probably Sammy’s handiwork seeing as Kayla’s still trying to sleep.)

“You have a little something,” Will waves a hand across his face while locking eyes with Sherman, “-up here.”

“Fuck off!” The Ares Head Counselor makes a rude gesture before sitting down, face bright red in anger.

“I’d say that went well,” Will stage whispers so only Nico can hear before turning to the rest of the table with his stern, older-brother expression. “Austin put the banana down!”

Nico ends up secretly discarding his muffin under the table, appetite nowhere to be found. Will’s too distracted to chide him about it, now engaged in breaking up a Mamma Mia sing-off challenge the son of Hades knew was coming.

I’ll tell him later, Nico decides as he watches the Apollo Cabin dissolve into the chaos known as musical theater. He spends the rest of breakfast trying to ignore the burning feeling in his stomach that something awful is just waiting to happen.

 

***

 

“Are you sure you can handle them?” Nico repeats, looking the son of Hermes up and down in disbelief. Cecil acts offended at the question as he pats the wooden, training sword at his side.

“Yup! The kids’ll be perfectly safe,” the brunette assures Nico. The cocky, half-mischievous grin on Cecil’s face does little to comfort Nico’s apprehension. He glances over to where the young Athena campers were already arguing about something and a wave of exhaustion washes over him at the thought of breaking it up. With a resigned sigh, Nico turns back to the son of Hermes.

“Thanks,” Nico says quietly, “If anything happens-”

“You’ll have my head, I know,” Cecil waves him off and Nico rolls his eyes.

“I was going to say ‘come and find me,’ but that works too,” Nico glances at the son of Hermes who looks a bit taken off guard. Will’s friend or not, Cecil had yet to earn Nico’s trust. Maybe this favor could change that.

“Right,” Cecil recovers fast and waves him off. “See you later, di Angelo!”

Nico nods and shoots one last look towards where the Athena kids had started an organized fight. Cecil stays true to his word and rushes over, using some witty remark to break up the overeager wrestlers. Nico takes this as his sign to make an escape and walks out of the sword arena.

The son of Hades wanders around aimlessly for a few minutes, still trying to shake off the premonition that refused to disperse. It was like there was something foreboding settled at the base of his stomach, causing needles of apprehension to jab into his gut. The chill from his dream faded in the sunlight, so Nico found himself trying to stay away from the shadows. He ignored the part of his mind that wanted to grab his sword and demand answers from the Underworld. That wasn’t him anymore. Besides, he’d promised Will they would talk.

Will. Right. Nico’s eyes unconsciously flick towards the Big House infirmary where his boyfriend’s most likely working. He hesitates, debating whether or not the sudden sickness was something he might actually need checked on. Then again, Will seemed likely to overreact, and Nico still didn’t want to worry him on a Saturday unless absolutely necessary…

Nico turns away from the Big House and starts walking towards the deserted shoreline of the lake. It was still pretty early into Spring, so the water wasn't warm enough to merit weekend swimming trips yet. That meant the canoes were tucked away out of Connor Stoll’s reach and nobody was there to disturb the peace; just what Nico was looking for.

The son of Hades heads past the docks and makes his way over to a large rock jutting out of the sand. Nico sits down without too much thought, crossing his legs as he assumes his regular position. The sunlight is warm enough to keep away the chill of the breeze, providing a relaxing space for thought.

Nico lets his guard down ever so slightly and takes his hand off the hilt of his sword to lean back more comfortably. Nico’s eyelashes fall closed as his breathing evens out in another memory.

 

***

 

“Come on Neeks,” Piper places her hands on her hips, raising a perfect eyebrow at him. “You have to jump in. It’s tradition!”

“You’ve only been here for a year,” Nico points out cooly and the daughter of Aphrodite rolls her eyes in exasperation.

“I give up. JACE!!!” Piper gestures in the air for her boyfriend to come and help her pester Nico into swimming in the lake. Nico rolls his eyes as the son of Jupiter jogs clumsily out of the water to where the two demigods are facing off.

“Yeah Pipes?” Jason glances between them and Nico shakes his head in a silent warning. A wide grin settles across the other boy’s features as Jason realizes what his girlfriend’s intent must be.

“Death Boy babysitting trade off,” Piper remarks cheekily, jabbing a finger toward the glaring son of Hades. Nico flips the brunette off as she laughs before running down the shoreline to join the current girls’ gang-up on Percy. (Which Annabeth had organized when they all took a gatorade break.) Nico watches Piper for a moment, noting her infectious happiness, before Jason coughs to return his attention.

“Don’t even start,” Nico warns and the son of Jupiter raises his hands in surrender.

“I know. Do you mind if I join you though?” Jason motions to the shaded rock Nico’s sitting beside and he nods begrudgingly. Jason takes a seat after grabbing a towel from a stack next to Nico to dry off his soaking hair.

“You can go back to them you know,” Nico says sullenly, pointing to the water, but Jason just shakes his head. His ice blue eyes sparkle in laughter as they meet Nico’s.

“I’d rather hang out with a friend,” Jason remarks casually, as if calling Nico a friend wasn’t so out of place. With Percy, Piper, Leo, and Hazel, why would Jason need anyone else? The blond must have caught the wary expression because he nudged Nico’s shoulder.

“Woah!” Nico snaps slightly at the physical touch, batting Jason away.

“Right, only Will can do that, my bad,” Jason’s smile becomes a bit more knowing and Nico can feel his face heat up.

“W-what’s that supposed to mean?” Nico asks defensively. Jason’s eyes flick out to the water, and though he tries not to, Nico can’t help but glance over to spot Will, the annoying son of Apollo Nico tolerates at most, having some sort of argument with Kayla, a sister of his Nico recognizes from his time at the infirmary. The sunlight has turned Will’s normally blond hair into streaks of gold, almost blinding Nico to the point his throat goes dry. Will laughs in the distance and the son of Hades can almost hear the musical sound without having to listen.

“He seems nice,” Jason offers carefully and Nico forces himself to look away from the shirtless idiot who loves to resurrect skeletal butterflies in his stomach. Going from liking one straight idiot to the next? Great going, di Angelo.

“He is,” Nico finally offers, biting his cheek to keep from saying anything else he’d regret about this annoying infatuation. Jason notices his apparent discomfort and switches subjects, a social skill the other boy is amazing at. Nico almost resents Jason for how easy he makes their ‘friendship’ seem.

“I can’t believe we only have a week of summer left. It feels like everything flew by,” Jason chuckles at his own joke and Nico sighs. He only has a week before the one person he could consider a friend disappears out of his life again. Great.

“Are you still sure about leaving?” Nico can’t help but ask, glancing over his shoulder at Jason. The blond’s gaze grows fonder as his eyes lock onto something in the distance, and Nico immediately knows which girl has entered his view.

“Yep. Piper wants to try out a new school in Oklahoma, so I’m going with her. It’ll give me more time to work on the shrine documentation too,” Jason’s dedication to what he does is a trait Nico can actually understand. It’s one of the things that drew him closer to his half-cousin in the first place.

“Right…” Nico trails off, not wanting to admit feeling something along the lines of disappointment.

“Hey, I’ll be back for breaks!” Jason reassures him, once again catching onto the unspoken.

“I know,” Nico defends, looking away. “It just… this won’t be the same,” he finishes tensely.

“Well, that’s another reason to seize the day now. Take everything one moment at a time and then? Tomorrow is a whole new day,” Jason reasons, eye crinkling.

“I guess,” Nico shrugs. “It’s just…” he trails off.

“You know I’m always going to be one drachma away, right? Just shoot me an Iris Message I promise I’ll be right there for you,” Jason reminds Nico, leaning back on his forearms.

“Okay,” Nico’s heart catches painfully at the word 'promise' but he shoves down the bad memories he has associated with the memory. Jason’s nothing like Percy.

 

***

 

“Nico?” a startlingly clear voice breaks through the blurred layers of memory. Nico’s eyes fly open on instinct as he reaches for his sword. A warm hand settles on his wrist, forcing him to focus on blue eyes looking down at him. “It’s me.” comes Will’s calm reassurance.

Nico’s grip on his sword hilt releases underneath Will’s touch. “You shouldn’t wake me up like that,” Nico says quietly as he tries once more to steady his racing heartbeat. The spike of adrenaline from the surprise is enough to give his mind more clarity than before.

“I know, I forgot,” Will’s expression is so apologetic, any bitterness Nico may have felt fades instantly. He wished he could say the same for the too-familiar sour feeling now attacking his gut full force. “It won’t happen again.”

Will pulls away, sitting down on his knees a few feet away to give Nico some needed space. Nico nods in silent appreciation as he pushes himself off of the rock he was leaning on to look around. He’s still sitting on the lake shore, but a layer of clouds has covered the sun since he last opened his eyes.

“It’s past lunch,” his boyfriend offers. Nico turns back to Will in a stunned surprise. “You didn’t show up and I asked around. Cecil said you’d felt off before sword-practice and gone to get some air. I figured you li-”

“I get it,” Nico interrupts bluntly. “Thank you,” he adds quickly, realizing how rude that could have sounded to a well-meaning speaker.

“Of course,” that stupid half-smile Will shoots him makes Nico’s breath catch. And he nearly hates it. “I was worried about you earlier but then there was this incident on the climbing wall and I got distracted,” Will keeps rambling, running a hand through his messy hair.

“It’s fine,” Nico tells him again, though they both can sense the lie. Will falls silent, intelligent eyes scanning his face.

“I told Kayla I needed to find you, so she’s taking the rest of my shift,” the son of Apollo stands up decidedly and offers Nico a hand. Nico raises an eyebrow as he pushes himself up without the help.

“The entire day off just to find me?” Nico repeats, not quite buying it.

“I may or may not have added other medical reasons,” Will waves a hand dismissively in a way that just helps Nico’s respect for the blond. “Besides, you’re far more important than paperwork.”

“Yet you still let me suffer alone on game nights,” Nico jabs. Will starts walking down the shore line, shaking his head in silent laughter.

“Stop trying to distract me from the issue here, di Angelo,” his boyfriend scolds lightly when he stops smiling.

Nico hesitates but follows after the son of Apollo, stuffing his hands into his dark jeans. They walk in silence for a while. Nico follows Will’s lead down a path they plotted together during one of their first ‘dates’ in late winter. The lake was frozen then, but the effect of ducking in between trees still provides a layer of privacy.

“So… you said it was a dream?” Will starts once they’ve fallen into step besides one another, trying to guide the conversation.

“Yeah,” Nico says quietly “But… this time it wasn’t a flashback,” he explains. Even mentioning the night before sends waves of nausea rushing through his stomach, making Nico curse at how weak he feels.

“So this was something you’d never seen before?” Will tries to clarify, ducking under an over-head branch.

“Not exactly,” Nico shakes his head and almost trips over a root. He scowls at the tree and doesn’t miss the amused grin that flashes across the blond’s face.

“Do you want to explain?” Will questions. “I don’t want you to d-”

“- anything I’m not comfortable with, yada yada yada,” Nico rolls his eyes and DOES trip over a root this time. Will grabs his arm before he can stumble forwards, sending sparks shooting up Nico’s forearm wherever his fingers brush.

“Careful,” Will teases and Nico feels his traitorous cheeks heating up as he pushes him away.

“We’ll see,” Nico starts walking again, trying to ignore the urge to grab Will’s hand again for it’s soothing warmth. They walk for about a quarter mile down the lake shore before Nico breaks the silence again. “I… I could describe it?”

Will’s hand finds his own as if he knew Nico needed a source of support anyways. “Okay.”

Nico takes a breath before trying to explain. “It was in a place I’d been before. Oizys. I met her when I was down… down there. She’s the Goddess of Misery.”

“A daughter of Nyx,” Will echoes. Nico nods, struggling to find the next words.

“Instead of telling me she had nothing left to add to my suffering, like she normally does,” Will’s hand squeezes his, sending a rush of light through the darkness. Nico leans into his side for a second. “Instead, she told me death was something not even I could stop,” the son of Hades finishes with a voice crack. “And ever since, it’s like I’m waiting for something to happen.”

“DId it feel prophetic?” Will asks slowly. Nico’s voice dies in his throat. The premonition, the lingering sense of urgency, the dream feeling so real he couldn’t stop it… all of that was similar to the way he dream-travelled before, right?

Nico nods in confirmation.

“Should we go talk to Chiron?”

“It might be nothing,” Nico protests, but Will is already turning back to camp.

“But it might not be,” the determined look the blond sends him makes the son of Hades stumble again. Having someone trust him without doubt is new. Really new.

“Okay,” Nico finds himself agreeing as he picks up his pace. “Do you think I’m right?” he can’t resist asking.

“I believe in dreams, even if I don’t have any of my own,” Will replies evenly.

“You don’t have any?” Nico repeats back but doesn’t receive an answer. Will has secrets too, a fact Nico’s understood for months. When his boyfriend’s ready, he’d share.

The two make their way past a grove of willows, skirting around the lake edge. The feeling suddenly rushes back in another wave of nausea and this time, Nico isn’t the only one reacting.

Will breathes in sharply. “Gods- wait I felt that too,” his blue eyes travel to their linked hands. “Like a wave of shadows over the sun. Just for a second,” he lifts their hands up to examine Nico’s.

“Walk faster, Solace,” Nico mutters as another wave hits sooner than last time. The voices in his head start whispering again, mocking laughter cutting into his soul. Being so close to Will normally helps, the natural sunlight inside his boyfriend often able to keep the worst of the darkness back, but it’s not enough right now.

Nothing’s enough.

 

***

 

The Big House was within Nico’s eyesight the second before the world ended. One moment, Will was saying something about a rock-wall modification that the Hephaestus Cabin tried, and the next Nico was collapsing on his knees, an all-consuming pain shooting through his shoulder blade. Camp Half-Blood fades in front of his eyes, a new scene emerging from inside the dimming light of vision.

A familiar scream ripped through the cold air as the tip of a spear protruded from his chest. He locked eyes with Lester one last time, the person he’d sworn to help protect. He could change. The dizzying sight of his own death sent him falling through the air, past Tempest’s frantic neighs. Before he collides into death, the world goes black. A final heartbeat rings through his ears. A final, ragged breath.

Then comes the impossible silence.

“No,” a single tear slips down Nico’s cheek as the vision disappears. The pain in his shoulder becomes the ghost of a memory that’s not his own as he feels the underworld gain a new soul. Jason’s soul.

Suffocating silence.

Nico can’t hear anything but silence, vision blurring over in an agonizing rage.

Death is something even you cannot control, son of Hades.

But what you just did? That was maybe the bravest.

Nico and I? We’ve got nothing but each other.

The darkness is my birthright.

You promised you would protect her!!!

Just shoot me an Iris Message and I promise I’ll be there for you.

I’m so sorry Nico. She’s gone.

The flood of voices drags Nico’s mind down the Styx, a current of emotion drowning him in grief. Bianca’s laughter turns into screams. Jason’s hug turns bone-crushing. The darkness the son of Hades used to seek refuge in becomes the week-long fall to Tartarus.

Nico presses his hands over his ears, losing control of his power and reality. The underworld must have responded to his pain, opening cracks in the ground where his heart could never heal. The voices repeat over and over.

The silence is unbearable, but the noise is even worse.

Shadows lash out around their master as unnoticed tears stream down Nico’s face. Everything he loved. He lost everything he loved again. A silent scream gets stuck between his chapped lips and a wave of darkness shoots through the air around him.

The emptiness inside him only grows, and Nico’s almost completely broken down by the time a ray of light cuts through his mind.

It’s only then Nico sees something that sends fear colder than anything else rushing through him. He loses the ability to think, heart constricting in on itself as he stares in total silence.

Will?

After an eternity, a shriek splits through the air and suddenly Kayla’s sprinting past him, crouching down besides her unconscious older brother with a yell for help.

Nico lets the shadows carry him away before he manages to destroy anything else.

 

***

 

“The saxophonist said you’d be here,” a gruff voice, wrecked from years of yelling, interrupts the silence of the forest surrounding Zeus’ fist. Nico doesn’t look up from his hunched position, watery eyes staying trained on the ground in front of him. “Surprising nobody’s found you really,” Dionysus snorts as if this was some kind of joke. To him? It probably is.

“Why would they try?” Nico asks under his breath, fingernails digging deeper into his arm.

“Because believe it or not, a lot of them have bigger hearts than they should,” Dionysus’s leopard print jacket flashes in the corner of Nico’s eye as the god takes a seat beside him.

“I don’t want your pity,” Nico says through clenched teeth, another wave of grief dragging him under. The sky’s grey now, as if Zeus could care enough to mourn the son that he didn’t deserve.

Lester’s eyes, wide in terror, locking with Jason’s as he fell.

Nico grabbed his hair, choking on air as his lungs contracted. A hand claps on his back once, the pressure of it forcing him to gasp in shock. Dionysus doesn’t say anything for a moment, letting Nico recover from the spasm.

“Kid, if there’s one thing I don’t do it’s pity,” Mr. D drawls out. Nico hugs his knee tightly, not able to say anything. The world feels too big again. Everything feels too big.

“He’s gone,” Nico whispers, voice too small to make a difference. He feels like he’s 10… lost and alone, hating himself enough to fall victim to Minos’s trap. “He’s gone and I - I didn’t say goodbye - he said he was coming back and he died,” a hot tear slips down his face but Nico doesn’t have the energy to wipe it off. “Jason…”

Something pops loudly besides him and Nico’s body jolts forwards, almost making him fall off the rock. The ravenette whirls around in horror to see Dionysus holding a diet pepsi. The god looks at him, purple eyes revealing nothing.

“All mortals die,” Dionysus takes a long sip of the drink, wiping his beard on the sleeve of his jacket once he’s done. “That’s why they aren’t gods.”

“He was 16,” Nico snaps back before he can help himself, shaking hands clenching into white-knuckled fists. “He was 16 and had a LIFE! He was going to change New Rome- change the way gods saw each other- and he DIED like he was NOTHING!!!” his voice raises bad enough to crack again, words echoing down Zeus’s fist.

“Do you remember him?” Dionysus remains aggravatingly calm.

“Of course,” Nico snaps, not understanding where the god could go with this. The god who would only ever be part of the problem.

“Then he isn’t nothing.”

“What?”

“As long as a mortal is remembered, he isn’t nothing,” Dionysus takes another sip.

“What would you know about death?” Nico demands. The current of emotions he’s stuck in is only dragging him down, and he knows Dionysus can take it. Nico wishes the god wouldn’t take it and give him something else to hate.

“More than you do,” Dionysus replies. “I’ve been at this camp alone for decades. When you were born, I was centuries old. Which is why,” his purple eyes glow dangerously “- I know Jason Grace is going to be remembered as long as people like you survive.”

Nico looks at his shaking hands again, hatred turning into something heavier. “How would you know about loss? Jason’s dead because of godly games.”

Dionysus makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat and Nico’s suddenly angry enough to want to punch a god. Which he doesn’t thanks to the little bit of self preservation he’s maintained thanks to-

No. Don’t think about Will now.

“I need to leave,” Nico mutters.

“On the contrary, I think you should stay,” Dionysus speaks again. The coke can crinkles down into a ball which the middle aged man tosses from hand to hand.

“What?” Nico stares at him like he’d lost his mind, which for the God of Madness, wasn’t uncommon.

“I’ve watched a lot of demigods come and go,” Dionysus glares at the ball of aluminum, metal twisting into a sphere of jagged edges. “- enough to realize when someone needs things they aren’t going to get with the life they’re living.”

“What are you trying to tell me?” Nico’s had enough mind games to last him three lifetimes of rebirth.

“Why don’t you go talk to that boy and figure it out before I take you there myself?”

 

***

 

“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” Will’s (quieter) comment comes from behind the white sheets that Kayla had put up around his bed. The daughter of Apollo hadn’t been happy to see Nico after ‘the incident’ but she wasn’t cruel enough to deny him from seeing his injured boyfriend either. A few glares later and Nico was stepping through the sheets to see Will lying down on one of the white cots he was usually so adamant about attending.

The healer looked paler than ever. Will’s tanned complexion had faded to reveal to the dark shadows under his eyes he always insisted caffeine got rid of. Besides that, his blond hair was messier than usual (which said a lot) and the outline of bandages travelling up his arm did nothing to appease Nico’s guilt at their situation.

“I’m here.” Nico can barely get the words out. Everything inside him is screaming to leave through the next shadow. But one, his powers are drained as hell, and two... Will already looks awful. He doesn’t deserve his part in the horror show Nico’s putting him through.

After the stretch of silence, Will speaks again. It’s far gentler than Nico deserved. “Are you okay?”

“My wrist isn’t the one that’s broken,” Nico replies bluntly, nodding at the cast currently hiding Will’s pale arm from sight. He did that. He hurt the person who tried to help find him a home.

“Fractured,” Will has the nerve to correct “- and bones heal stronger than before, so all in all, you might have done me a favor.”

“That doesn’t make it okay,” Nico’s voice shakes and he takes a breath. “None of this is okay, Solace. Don’t pretend it is.”

Will examines Nico’s face, his own expression impossible to read. Nico hates how hard it was to tell what his boyfriend was thinking at any given time. (Assuming Will still wanted to date him after that shit show.)

“Alright. It hurts, but you already know that,” Will says evenly after a moment of silence. “I know Jason meant a lot to you.”

Past tense. Another punch in the gut.

“It didn’t… excuse what I did,” Nico says hoarsely. Unable to stand much longer, the son of Hades takes a seat in the visiting chair on Will’s good side.

“I knew the risks,” Will reaches out his uninjured hand and Nico takes it without thinking. “It was worth it. You’re worth it.”

“I hurt you,” Nico looks up to find questioning blue eyes. “It’s still my fault.”

“Your emotions aren’t your fault. That’s bullshit.”

“I lost control. You were just- helping,” Nico grits his teeth, trying to let go of Will’s surprisingly strong grip. “I started seeing things. And I- I just reacted- and then the dead reacted to that.”

“So it wasn’t your fault,” Will repeats.

“What if it happens again?” is Nico’s actual concern.

This time, Will doesn’t have the instant, calm response that Nico had come to rely on. And judging by the sudden pain on his face, Will was forced to come to terms with that future situation as well.

“I have to go,” Nico doesn’t specify where for a reason.

“No,” Will’s grip on his hand tightens. “That’s not the answer this time.”

“Then what is?! Wait for me to destroy the camp the next time someone-”

“No!” Will cuts him off, finally looking angry. Good. Nico could deal with anger. He was used to it. “No,” and then Will’s grip on Nico’s arm - instead of tightening - relaxes. And Nico has a moment where he truly believes he’s about to lose the son of Apollo forever. “You shouldn’t wait it out this time.”

“What?” Nico’s voice sounds hollow to his own ears.

“I can’t help you,” Will continues, looking away. It’s like a thousand skeletal hands are trying to reach into Nico’s chest to jerk the heart he somehow still has out. I didn’t mean it. “I know that…” Will glances at the cast on his wrist “- but that doesn’t mean you have to leave.”

Nico leans back, burying his face in his free hand. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Did you talk to Dionysus?” Will changes the topic instead of pitying him. It was one of the things Nico lo- liked about the other boy.

“How did you know that?” the son of Hades looks up in numb surprise.

“Your aura calmed down,” Will answers like that’s not a weird response. He holds Nico’s hand up. “You’re not fading.”

“Oh?” Nico hadn’t noticed that part.

“He’s the God of Madness,” Will suddenly tries to sit up. “Wait- the voices- you don’t think that would qualify as insanity do you??”

“What?!” Nico’s eyes widened in alarm. “I’m not insane, Solace.”

“Of course not,” the blond soothes “But-”

“Don’t add a but to that-”

“- BUT I think he could help you. With the voices,” Will continues anyways, looking too relieved for Nico to deny it again. “Maybe if you talked to him instead you could figure out the trauma response?”

“Do you actually think that would work?” Nico phrases the question so it’s clear he doesn’t think it would. Dionysus had gotten him to visit Will, yes, but his tactics of doing so weren’t exactly therapeutic.

For what it’s worth, Nico can tell Will takes time to think about his response. “It’s the only thing I can think of, Neeks.”

“And what if it doesn’t work?” A personalized tombstone finds its way to the pit of Nico’s stomach.

“Then we’ll figure that out too,” Will lets go of his hand. “Do you want to try?”

Nico, to his own credit, thinks it through as well. He didn’t want to. Staying here with Will the past 9 months had challenged him in ways he hadn’t experienced.. ever. For the first time, Nico had someone listening to him. Which made thinking about how his actions affected others so much more difficult. But now Nico’s actions had hurt his boyfriend and Jason… wasn’t coming back.

Nico didn’t want to talk to the God of Madness. But he needed to.

“Yeah. I’ll try.”

And the hopeful smile Will gives him is almost enough to convince Nico he made the right choice.

 

***

 

Nico didn’t get any sleep that night. After being kicked out of the infirmary when ‘visiting hours ended’ by Kayla, he’d gone to the vacant training arena. Sparring with himself only reminded Nico of Jason and he’d stopped when it got too much. Then he cried. Then he’d repeated the cycle until he was too exhausted to do anything but walk back to his cabin and shower, wishing the obsidian walls could just take him to the Underworld.

They technically could. But Nico had made a promise to himself. And Nico was the only person he knew who never broke a promise.

When sunrise finally comes, Nico pushes himself off of his bed and steps out onto the grass. He doesn’t look at the newly-covered crack in the ground as he walks to the Dining Pavilion. Nico makes the mistake of scanning the Pavillion when he enters, instantly confronted with three separate mistakes he’d made. The empty spot at the Head of the Apollo Cabin. The empty seat at the Zeus Cabin. The empty benches of the Hades Cabin. They were all his fault.

Nico turns away and walks down the center of the tables, not bothering to pick up anything to eat for breakfast as he takes a seat next to Dionysus without asking.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Dionysus asks, sounding as miserable as Nico felt.

“I need your advice.”