The last day of Camp had come. The celebrations started early due to the recent war and the newfound bond with the Romans (which was even stronger now, since, that very morning, a nicely filled package from the children of Bacchus had arrived; including everything a decent party needed). Everyone was eager for the mayhem to start.
Well, everyone except for his boyfriend, who hated being called that. Nico had been a nervous wreck since their return. He had kept on hiding himself in Cabin 13 for hours, really, without anyone knowing what he was doing all the time. The only one who was obviously happy about his state, was Maria. This morning, with the sweetest smile, she had asked Lysander to recite an absolute masterpiece of Shakespeare (which he'd done) and had been able to sit calmly throughout the whole thing (which had surprised everyone except Mitchell from the Aphrodite Cabin and Lysander himself). Nico muttered something about her having found a way to learn behavior around the boy.
“Desensitization.”, he explained towards Will. “They practiced for hours and hours. He read her poems and plays and stories while she tried everything to focus her mind on something else. Whenever she couldn't, he splashed her face with cold water or something. That's why she trusts him now.”, Nico grumbled and went for his Cabin again.
In the evening, the beads were given to the campers and the celebrations began. Will decided that this year was his favorite by far. Never before had he felt this alive or this happy to be alive. Campfire had never before been so beautiful. S'mores never before tasted so great. The food had never before been so rich. Before the sing-along started, Maria rose from her sitting position to make an announcement.
“My dear friends. It is an honor to me, as your newest camper, to announce something unique. Due to a recently lost bet and my not-so-innocent influence on the matter, today, we will be entertained not solely by the children of the God of Music but by a rather darker legacy.” She winked. “He will give us a listening sample of his very own talent with instruments. Ladies and gentlemen – Mr. Nico di Angelo!”
People around looked absolutely stunned when said artist shot Maria the deadliest glare possible and reached behind himself to reveal a beautiful violin. He started playing. Gasps were carried through the audience. The kid plays Paganini! The famous Caprice 24! Will thinks. He plays the most complicated Italian composer! and Damn, he is good! and That's what he's been doing in his solitude.
After the first sixty seconds, though, Nico's play changed. He made a sort of improvised passage and then he was playing Creep by Radiohead in such an engaging way...The tune was flawless, its underlying meaning as clear as glass. All the emotions, the loneliness and pain lay bare between the notes. Will heard some of his siblings cry along and had the urgent desire to sob uncontrolled himself. This is so beautiful and fitting and at the same time so sad because it exactly describes how he felt before. I am not crying, am I?
When Nico finished, there was first silence and then a sudden erupt of cheers, cries and applause. He seemed woken from a trance but shyly smiled while putting his instrument away.
“Di Angelo – that was quite a thing.”, Clarisse admitted. “Who would've guessed a dark and brooding freak from the nastiest hole of darkness would come up with something like that?” Her words were not meant badly, Will knew, but Nico reacted insulted.
“Have you ever seen the place you call ugly? D'you think it's a dark and muddy pit my father lives in?”
She shrugged. “No idea. Just heard some descriptions and saw some pics. Don't really care until I die, I guess. But hey, I didn't expect you to have any sense for beauty at all...well, at least it's only music and not words.” Nico's annoyance was almost palpable but he got over this quite fast, Will mused, because he knew the decisive line that suddenly formed around his mouth. Whatever his thoughts were, they were hidden beneath those orbs of blackness.
“Only because you cannot imagine it, the Underworld has beauty in it.”, he snarled. “Sometimes there’s more than the first impression let’s on about. Maybe you are just too blind to see or too lazy to care.”
“Nel fitto della notte”, Nico began talking in a very low voice. His Italian was stunningly soft and flowing like a river. His voice usually lost its entire grumble and accuse when he spoke in his mother tongue, like he had only adopted it for his English. As he spoke, blue flames started glowing above their head, showing the scenery of Venice in the 1930s. A gondola sailed through the canals and under the bridges, while people were strolling at the sides, stopping here and there to talk, shop or watch. The longer Nico talked, the more the surroundings dissolved until only the image of the small ship in the canals remained. Maria waited some moments before she suddenly started translating the Italian words:
“It is in the deepest night that we have to face our true selves. All of our fears, all of our abysses and the worst of what we are lies openly to the world. We stumble, we cry, we promise our soul to the very essence of darkness just to realize that there is nothing and no one to rescue us. All we can do is trying to cope, to push through and to not forget who we are. Finding my way through the night has been to most excruciating, dangerous and terrifying experience ever and I’ve lost myself so many times that I’ve stopped counting. I never expected to find a way out whole or undamaged. I did not expect to ever finding a place I could call home again. Sometimes I did not even expect to ever make it out of the darkness. But standing here now, in the light, I realize that - however dark and horrific – even the longest night will finally end in the dawn of day. Coming home just in the daybreak there is only one thing left to tell you:…”
“Grazie per esserci.”, Nico finished, exhaling lightly. The gondolier surprisingly bowed to Will, offering him a small squarish box. The moment Will took it out of his hands, a mesmerized look on his face, the figure vanished alongside with the Venetian images and just the hint of a bluish glow remained in the air.
It was Chiron who recognized the golden armlet first. “The kiss of the Μοῦσαι! It is their blessing. Mr. Solace, this is one of the rarest and most valuable gifts goddesses can bless one with. You are, indeed, consecrated.” The centaur's eyes were on Nico, though, who just shrugged. “I was offered to have it and I asked if I could give it someone else. They agreed, so...”
His words were efficiently silence by Will's lips (to which the poor Italian flinched). Before the rest of the Camp could react to their interaction – except for the one kiss at the very beginning of their relationship, they never had seen them even holding hands in public – Will felt himself dragged into the shadows and unceremoniously pressed against the wall of the Hades Cabin. He promised himself to not let go of the black-haired boy until he would lie in his sweating arms; over-sensitized and exhausted.
The next morning, the healer was nearly unable to concentrate on breakfast. His stunning new armlet felt warm and inspiring and he couldn't wait to research all its powers. How on earth Nico got such a valuable thing and why he would give it to him of all people, Will could not quite fathom. The first thing that did catch his attention was Chiron announcing that due to the end of summer and the beginning of regular school time, everyone was expected to sit at their rightful table from now on. All protests, he stated against the rising shouts and plaints, would be in vain.
Nico, who sat on the Hades table along with Percy and Jason, smirked on the other hand. After breakfast, he whispered into the blonde's ear: “Don’t worry, Will. I think I might have an idea for the seating arrangement. D’you think you are able to write prescriptions?”
“Of course, espero. I’m a doctor, after all!”, he laughed and winked. His plan sounded both extremely stupid and extremely smart as well a slightly creepy. Sitting on their favorite spot next to the strawberry fields, they are joined by their friends shortly after.
“Gods”, Cecil starts “I'm glad I survived this summer. I wonder what we're supposed to do now. Everything's gonna be so boring in comparison!” A short laughter and then mournful quietness followed his statement. The war had cost them so much innocence.
Percy was the first to break their silence. “At the moment, things are good. Let's see how long we have before things get troubled again. Sooner or later, a monster comes knocking or a God asks you a favor or something. And then, there's school and life...It won't be long until we'll thing back at this and miss everything about this summer.”, Percy said with the same amount of mock and sadness in his voice. Jason nodded. “I can admit that I miss you guys already. But I get to be with Pipes and her dad. And, funnily, with Coach Hedge and Mellie and little Chuck.”
Everyone looked perplexed but Piper explained that Mellie wanted to restart working for her father as soon as possible and the Coach wanted to be able to train his son properly, apart from 'stressful idiotic half-breeds'.
“I get to be with mamacita”, Leo grinned and was immediately punched by Calypso. “I get to be alive.”, she smiled happily.
“I get to be with my books and Sally and Paul and...did I miss something?”, Annabeth said before giving a very pouting Percy a kiss.
Maria sighed. “I get to be with arts and words.” - “And me!” - “Yes, Lysander, now shush.”
“I'm not looking forwards to school that much.”, Lou Ellen admitted.
“I am. I get to steal a nice amount of things and make others look like the thieves.”, Cecil grinned and shoved Lou Ellen with his shoulder. “I can come to visit, if you like.”
“I am more than thousand miles away from you, Cecil.”
Nico shook his head and leaned against Will. His eyes kept searching the horizon, trying to find the exact place where they joined but failing to. A silly game from his childhood, Will knew that much, but he didn't mind at all.
“I don't care what I get to do or to be.”, Nico stated flatly, rolling his eyes and then whispers for Will's ears only: “I'm here. I'm not alone. I might even be able to cope a bit or try to do as my father said.”
“And what would that be?”, Will gently asked.