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Special Treatment

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      The harpies only make two exceptions for campers being awake too late or too early. And those two exceptions happen to be named Nico and Will.

      Every night, at 1:00, Nico di Angelo goes out of his cabin, and shadow-travels — he’s perfectly healed now — to the grass near the ocean, pulls up his hoodie, and lies down.

      Sometimes he just lays there, counting the constellations and just thinking. Sometimes he brings his iPod and listens to music — they aren’t allowed, but Nico decided long ago that if he accidentally summons monsters while listening to music, he will happily beat them up himself. And, quite often, Nico sings to said music. Softly, but beautifully, the harpies have decided.

      Sometimes, though, Nico does something he can’t during the day. He cries. He lets himself let out his true emotions. And the harpies hide every night at 1:00, watching and pitying and feeling sad for the poor son of Hades. He leaves around 3:00, and gets as much sleep as he can.

      Every morning, at about 5:00, Will Solace gets out of his cabin and heads — more like skips — to the infirmary.They let him, because, really, where’s the harm in checking up on people in the infirmary?

      The harpies have seen the two boys together sometimes during camp, and are grateful that Nico has a friend. But the silly boys seem to only view it as that: friendship.

      This night, Nico cries.

      He cries for millions of reasons. He sings, too, and the harpies feel his sorrow like a freight train. Nico falls asleep, with watery cheeks, curled up in the fetal position. He doesn’t go back inside at 3:00, because he’s fast asleep.

      The harpies wish they could do something, but, luckily, they know there’s a certain someone who gets up in a few hours.

      At 5:00, Will Solace is up and skips out of his cabin, on his way to the infirmary. The harpies pray that he’ll see poor Nico, and their wish is granted when the son of Apollo stops dead in his tracks. His eyes widen at the collapsed form of Nico di Angelo, and Will doesn’t think he’s ever seen Nico so… vulnerable. It shocks him at first, and he stands there for a minute, before his friend-and-doctor instincts kick in and he finds himself rushing to Nico’s side.

      The tears are still there, and Will feels like he was just crushed by a brick building. It hurts to see Nico like this.

      “Nico,” he whispers. “Nico, wake up.”

      The boy stirs, groaning, and opens his eyes to see Will standing there. “W…Will? What are you doing here?”

      “I could ask you the same question,” the son of Apollo retorts, but still in a soft, caring tone. People don’t usually talk to Nico that way, excluding Will and maybe Jason or Hazel... it’s something Nico is still trying to get used to. 

      “Uh… I… uh… well, it’s kind of stupid,” Nico stammers, and Will plops down in the grass next to him.

      “You can tell me, Death Boy,” he reassures.

     “Every night, at 1:00, I come out here. It’s nice, and silent, and the view is pretty amazing. I come here and I think, or I listen to music. I usually leave around 3, but I guess I fell asleep.” Nico shrugs, and if Will notices that it’s definitely not the full story, he doesn’t remark on it.

      Will wants Nico to tell him when he’s ready, not because Will forced him.

      That night, at 1:00, Will Solace and Nico di Angelo both go out of their cabins and head to the grass near the water. They lie there, both with one earphone, and talk.

      Nico talks about his sister, Bianca, and where he used to live. Will talks about home, too. And they’re happy and content with the other’s company.

      This continues every night, and during one night, none of the harpies are surprised at all when Nico gives Will a kiss on the cheek. Will’s face heats up, and he turns to Nico with wild eyes. Nico starts to look self-conscious, and the harpies wonder how he could be so dense! When Will turns Nico’s face to his and kisses him, they aren’t surprised, either.

      Neither of the boys notice for a while, that the harpies give them special treatment. Not until Lou Ellen tells them a story about going out an hour after curfew, and almost getting eaten. Both boys stare at each other, wide eyed.

      Neither boy tells anyone about their special treatment, nor do they confront the harpies. They just remain thankful for being allowed to break the rules.

      And the harpies take pride in the knowledge that they are one of the main reasons that the boys are together.

      (Wouldn’t you?)