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Everything Solangelo

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will Solace and I were walking across the lawn that spanned between the cabins. During the last year or so, the space had gotten more cramped with so many more cabins being built, but I liked it this way. I’ve always said that ignoring people is dangerous. It’s nice to see that camp half blood has acknowledged that.

“Earth to Nico,” Will called as he waved a tanned hand in front of my face.

“I have ears, Solace, I don’t need the visual aid as well,” I grumbled.

“Really? Because you’ve ignored me for the past minute,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me.

“Only a minute? Next time I’ll have to ignore you for longer.”

“Ha ha,” he said sarcastically, although I could see genuine amusement in his smile. Gods he always smiled. Always. And I was starting to think that I would never get used to the way my insides fluttered around when that smile was aimed at me.

At first I ignored the feeling. When he sentenced me to three days in the infirmary, I may have left a day early to help Jason search for Leo, despite Will getting me to promise to stay. Will didn’t seem too bothered about it though. How could he? He had always found a way to spend time with me after that, with or without the infirmary.

Now, almost two months later, we’ve become friends. Albeit it, the kind of friends that joke around and mock each other mercilessly, but friends nonetheless. I would never say it out loud, but after the initial shock of Will constantly being around me, and the weirdness of actually spending a lot of time with one person, I actually kind of liked it. We were in a comfortable place now, and I found myself always wanting to know where he was or what he was doing.

So yeah, I ignored the fluttery feeling for over a month because subconsciously I knew that there was no chance. But after Piper had had that conversation with me a few weeks ago, telling me that everyone knew how we felt about each other but us, I started to acknowledge the way I felt towards Will more and more. And after Piper had planted the seed, it just grew. I started to realise that maybe Will was flirting with me. With the teasing jokes and little touches. And once I noticed (and hoped) I couldn’t ignore it. Now, it felt ridiculous that we were both still keeping up this charade. It was almost funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.

Will was still looking at me expectantly as if waiting for a reply.

“Sorry,” I said, not sounding sorry. “I missed that.”

He rolled his eyes and carried on walking across the lawn towards the forest. I could’ve just walked away. I don’t like when people ignore me, especially when I haven’t had the chance to ignore them first. But I genuinely wanted to know what he had said. Ugh when did I start caring so much? I skipped a couple of steps to catch up with Will and when I reached him he gave me a smug smile as if he knew I’d follow him and was proud about it.

Well, I couldn’t have that. “You can wipe that smile off your face, Solace. I’m only following because it’ll save me some time later when you’ll inevitably come and whine about me ignoring you.” That, at least, was true. Will wasn’t the type to keep things bottled up (mostly), unlike me, so I would definitely hear about it later if he was upset with me for ignoring something important.

He turned to face me just as we reached the edge of the woods. “Hmmm, so it has nothing to do with the fact that you’d rather spend time with me than hang around alone in your cabin?”

“Excuse me,” I said trying to fake offence. “I have other friends.”

He placed his hands on his hips so he looked like a strict school teacher. “So it has nothing to do with the fact that you’d rather spend time with me than hang around your other friends?” He corrected.

Well it was true but I wasn’t going to tell him that. Despite still being in a bad place after the war, I was becoming more and more sociable. I still had days when my nightmares would keep me from sleeping, and I couldn’t get out of bed, but a lot of the time, I was adjusting to my new home.

Mainly I hung around with Jason and Piper, since Hazel and Frank had gone back to new Rome with Reyna, and Percy and Annabeth had gone back home to finish high school. I liked it better this way anyway because having big groups of people around was too overwhelming and I liked that I had formed a small routine with my friends who were here.

I settled for an unimpressed look, hoping that it didn’t convey my true feelings. “I don’t know what to tell you, Will. But seeing as I’ve taken the time out of my busy social life to be with you now, the least you could do is repeat what you were saying to me.”

Will gave me another cocky smile and slumped down in front of a tree. He patted the space next to him for me to sit.

“If you think I’m sitting on the cold ground, you’re mistaken,” I replied, staring down at him. It was the beginning of October and even though the camp had protective barriers to help keep the weather warm, it still wasn’t perfect. Despite the cold though, the sun was still shining and rays of it bounced off of Will’s blonde hair making him seem even more pretty, which I thought was a bit unfair really.

Will groaned. “You’re such a drama king. Here,” he pulled his sweater off and lay it on the ground for me.

A sweet gesture sure, but my pride got in the way of accepting it. “I’ll stand, thanks. Now get on with it.”

He frowned at me. “Wow you really know how to make a guy open up,” he told me. His expression was still playful but I could tell I had gone a bit too far. A couple of months ago, my go to response to that would’ve been to accept it and walk away. If I hurt someone, that was just more convenient for me because at least then, they’d stay away. But now with Jason and Piper and especially with Will Solace, I felt an uncomfortable urge to be nice. I was finally being vulnerable again for the first time since I was ten, and I didn’t want it to go to shit.

I sighed and crouched next to him, careful not to let my butt touch the ground. “There. Compromise,” I offered.

Will smiled. “Alright, I’ll tell you.”

“Go on then.”

“Are you sure you’re listening this time?”

“Spit it out, Solace.”

“Alright alright.” He took a deep breath. And then... “I want to be Luke Skywalker for Halloween.”

I snorted and rolled my eyes, trying hard to keep my smile from showing. “That was your important news? Your Halloween costume? Holy Hades, Will.”

He nudged my arm playfully. “Hey, I never said it was important. It’s your fault you assumed that. And it’s also hurtful for you to assume that it isn’t important. So give me your professional opinion.”

I tried to keep a straight face but I could tell my lips were curling upward. It didn’t help that my thigh muscles were cramping from crouching down too long. “First of all, I don’t have a professional opinion because I’ve never dressed up for Halloween. And second of all, who the fuck is Luke Skywalker? Some sort of person who can walk in the sky? Sounds a lot like flying to me. Maybe Jason is a better fit for that costume.”

Will looked like he’d been slapped in the face and I wondered what I could’ve possibly said to offend him. “Oh gods, Nico! You haven’t watched Star Wars! Oh no no no. I refuse to allow this abomination to continue. This needs to be remedied immediately. How dare you think that this is okay!”

He spent another few seconds talking about how my lack of knowledge on this subject had offended him personally, which was funny up until a point. I placed a hand on his now bare arm to shut him up and his eyes shot to mine. Their crystal blue colour looked more beautiful than any ocean I had ever seen, and for a second I forgot how to breathe. Then I blinked, told myself to get a grip and removed my hand, which was a small victory considering he felt deliciously warm against the cool weather. “So are you going to tell me what the Hades you’re talking about?” I asked him.

It took a second for him to answer because he was still looking intensely at me. “It’s a movie. Six movies really. Six very good movies. And you’re going to watch them with me. We can watch the first one tonight.”

I narrowed my eyes and stared back at him. My heart starting beating faster as if it knew what I was about to say. The adrenaline made me a bit dizzy but I knew that I had to stop being a coward and just get on with it. If not now, then when? The smirk on his face gave me the courage to challenge him so I locked my eyes on his and blurted, “And what makes you think I’m going to agree to your date proposal?”

His reaction was priceless, his face going through several different emotions at once. I guessed the first was shock, which moved to disbelief, and then to flustered as I could practically hear the gears working in his head to come up with something intelligent to say: “I didn’t... That wasn’t... what?”

I sighed, now a bit of doubt creeping in. What if Piper was wrong? I could play it off as a joke... but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. Damn my stupid confidence building. Damn my new way of not shutting people out. And damn Will fucking Solace with his shiny hair and perfect face. I decided to play it off as if I thought he was stupid (which was easy because 1. I did that all the time, and 2. It was definitely the truth). “Are you really that dumb, Will? I thought I was supposed to be the oblivious one. For gods’ sake, you’ve been driving me crazy.”

He still looked shocked but now he also looked confused. Just great. “Oblivious?” He asked. “I’m oblivious? What am I oblivious to exactly?”

I studied him, wondering how much I should reveal. Before I could decide he spoke again, “Oh shit! Did Kayla say something to you?” He looked genuinely worried.

“Umm, no...? Why?” I asked.

Relief flooded into his expression and he tried for a smile, but it was a bit strained. “Nothing. Never mind. So... no to Star Wars?”

“That’s not what I said,” I replied, more than a bit disappointed he didn’t bring it up as a date.

“So yes to Star Wars?” He asked, a real smile now spreading across his face. I wished I knew what he was thinking for his emotions to jump like that so quickly.

“If you insist,” I sighed dramatically, and stood up from my crouching position.

He practically leaped up next to me and opened his arms for a hug. That’s a thing we did. He never hugged me after I told him about my problem with physical contact. He would hold out his arms slightly and let me come to him if I wanted. He still did it even when I told him a couple of weeks ago that it was fine if he wanted to hug me. And if I’m being completely honest, it was more than fine. But there was a bit of tension in the air because of my comment about it being a date and I was kind of unsure. So I just gave him a quick, “see you after dinner then, Will,” and scurried away, trying to ignore the hurt look in his eyes when I rejected his hug.

Chapter Text

Will POV

I burst into the Apollo cabin and shouted, “Guess who’s going on a date with Nico?”

Kayla looked up from her book with a bored expression and replied, “Wow surprise surprise! Who’s surprised? Oh wait. No one.”

“Ha ha.”

“Did you finally pluck up the courage to ask him out?” Austin asked. He was polishing his saxophone on his bunk, even though I could already see his reflection clearly in every part of the instrument.

“Yes!” I replied, then actually thought about it. “Well kind of... Maybe not exactly. At least not in the traditional sense. So I guess, no. Not really.”

Austin and Kayla both looked up at me with the same ‘are you stupid?’ look. I sighed and recited what had happened at the edge of the forest with Nico. It was kind of hard because even I didn’t really know what exactly had happened. When I finished, Austin was looking thoughtful as if wondering how he could tell me I was an idiot without actually saying that I was an idiot, while Kayla took the more direct approach by just asking, “Are you an idiot?”

“Why? What did I do? Why did Nico think I asked him on a date? You didn’t say anything to him, did you?” I asked.

Kayla pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation. “Oh my gods, Will. Please tell me you’re joking?”

“Um, no.”

“He was clearly giving you an opportunity to ask him out!” She explained.

“Wait. What?”

“She’s right,” Austin confirmed. “Di Angelo is good. Sounds exactly like something he would do as well. Asking you to ask him out.” He chuckled to himself and went back to polishing his saxophone.

“It’s also not exactly ground breaking,” Kayla continued. “Literally everyone around camp right now are metaphorically banging their heads against a wall every time you and Nico have a conversation without admitting your feelings.”

“You know exactly why I haven’t done that,” I pointed out.

“And I told you you were being stupid. Now can you see that he likes you back?”

“Ummm.”

“And wow, you basically swerved past the ‘date’ comment and he probably thinks you did it because you don’t want to go out with him!” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh gods! I did it so I wouldn’t make him uncomfortable!” I whined.

“Dude,” Austin said, calmly. “Stop stressing and go talk to him.”

“Yes!” Kayla exclaimed dramatically. “Run to him in the rain, not caring as your clothes get soaked with water. Lift him off his feet and twirl him in the air to a cheap 80s ballad before you declare your undying love for him!” She flopped down on her bed and gave me a smug smile as Austin rolled around the floor laughing.

“You guys suck. I’m going to find him.”

“Wait!” Austin said, still trying to catch his breath. “You made plans after dinner, right? Just talk to him then. It’s almost time.”

“But I can’t wait that long! What if he’s upset?” I asked.

“Come on, Will. It’s only half an hour. Plus you can prepare what you’re gonna say to him,” Kayla reasoned.

“What should I say to him?”

“Do I really need to spell it out?”

“Please.”

Kayla groaned. “Fine. You meet him after dinner. You tell him why you avoided his ‘date’ comment. You tell him you’re actually head over heals in love with him and you’d like nothing more in the world than to date him. Then you go to his cabin and watch the movie with him. Try to keep control of yourself whilst pressed up against him because di Angelo doesn’t seem the type to put out on the first date. And most importantly, you remember every detail so you can come and tell us about it later.”

I thought that over. Except the part about her assuming I was an out of control teenager, it didn’t seem too bad. “Alright. Thanks.”

“Any time,” she replied and went back to her book. “Now stop whining. I wanna finish my chapter before dinner.”

Dinner at the dining pavilion was uneventful, unless you count Travis giving a goodbye speech before he went off to college. I caught Nico’s eye at a particular cheesy part and he made a convincing gagging gesture. I almost spit out my food and I could tell he was pleased with that. I was also glad he didn’t avoid my eye contact. It meant that he wasn’t too bothered about our conversation earlier. That made one of us.

Camp was relatively quiet, it being the start of October. Only the year rounders, plus a couple of extra demigods such as Piper and Jason (who were staying for information about Leo) were around. I didn’t mind it like this; I was used to camp either way.

After dinner, I walked over to the Hades table which was made from a darker wood than everyone else’s, and had only one occupant. “You know,” I said as I plopped myself down opposite Nico, “it’s unfair you have to sit all alone when I’d be perfectly happy to keep you company.”

“There you go again, assuming I want your company,” he replied, with that playful twinkle in his eyes. Though I could tell from his body language he was still a bit tense from earlier.

I wondered how I could bring that up without making it awkward. I figured that it would be awkward whatever angle I took so I decided to just be direct. “Look, Nico. Can we talk?”

Panic started to surface in his expression. It was subtle; he had gotten good at hiding his emotions over the years. But over the past couple of months, I could sometimes get a read on him. “It’s nothing bad,” I assured, but he still didn’t relax. Instead, he stared at me with those intense eyes that made me weak in the knees. “Um... well about earlier...“

“Heyy, Solace! Di Angelo! You coming to the Hermes cabin for the ultimate Travis send off?” Connor and Travis skipped over to the Hades table obviously unaware of the conversation Nico and I were having. “Don’t tell Chiron, but we were able to smuggle some beers in.”

“How did you...?” I started. Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

“So, you coming?” Travis asked.

I looked towards Nico but his expression was guarded. “We’ll probably give it a miss, thanks though,” I replied.

“Ohhh Nico is letting Solace speak for the couple now, huh?” Connor asked and Travis snickered.

Before I could reply, Nico cut in, “Thanks for your concern, but I think Will is just familiar with my views on Hermes cabin parties. I don’t feel like vomiting up your stale beer tonight but you guys have fun.” He gave them a polite smile that made me wonder why the Stoll brothers hadn’t ran away screaming.

Connor just muttered, “Whatever.” Then they both took off for the Hermes cabin.

I turned to Nico ready to apologise for speaking for him but he cut me off. “You were saying?”

“Um... yeah. So about earlier, I just wanted to say that... um...” I faltered. Why was this so damn difficult?

“Yes?” He prompted.

Shit. I internally shook myself. I told myself to just come out and say it. But Kayla had made it sound so easy and I just couldn’t. “I was just going to say that we should watch the first Star Wars first.”

Nico’s shoulders slumped slightly as if he knew that that wasn’t what I wanted to say. Then he just looked confused and asked, “Why wouldn’t we watch the first one first?”

I smiled, glad to be back on familiar territory. “Well because the fourth one came out first. But my mom...” I stopped myself just in time. “Um... I watched the first one first and I’m going to make you do the same.”

If Nico noticed my slip up about my mom, he didn’t show it. Instead he just sighed and stood up. “Well? You coming?” He led the way to the Hades cabin.

Inside was darker than cabin seven, with a lot more blacks and reds and skull designs. But it was a lot better than it was after the war. Nico had done a good job replacing his coffin for a normal bed and he had stuck up a light grey sheet over his bunk so that his area looked less gloomy. Despite the dark and ominous vibe, there were benefits to hanging out in cabin thirteen. For one, we had privacy, which was hard to come by at camp. Sometimes it was nice to spend time with Nico without having everyone staring like we were zoo animals.

Another thing I liked about the cabin was that it had its own mini kitchen area. Not big enough to cook actual meals, but a small microwave, cabinets, table and fridge. There was also a small living area with a sofa and old TV set that pretty much played anything Nico wanted. According to Nico, these little touches were courtesy of Hades dropping by after the war to congratulate him by adding these perks to the cabin when he found out that Nico was staying here.

I’d been here many times before so I followed Nico in and plopped myself on the sofa whilst he fiddled with the TV controls. He finally got it working and came to sit next to me as the movie menu popped up.

“Popcorn?” I asked.

“Huh?”

“You know. It’s a sweet or salty snack that people sometimes have whilst watching a movie.”

He slapped my arm. “I know what popcorn is! But I don’t have any.”

“That’s just disappointing,” I muttered.

“You can leave if you like,” he offered with a fake smile.

I stretched my arms out so my left one rested behind him on the sofa. He didn’t even bat it away. “And leave you to watch this great movie by yourself? Nope. You’re not getting away with it that easily. Come on, press play.”

He did. And for the next two and a bit hours we watched Star Wars. Occasionally he would ask questions: “Who is this guy?” “Why is he talking like that?” “Why do you like this crud?” And I was happy to answer.

Every now and then Nico would shuffle closer to me, or it might’ve just been my imagination (or wishful thinking). But by the end, his arm was practically pressed up against my side. As the credits were rolling, I tried my best not to move from his warmth as I asked softly, “So? What did you think?”

He took a few seconds to answer and I was afraid he had fallen asleep. But after a while, he replied, “Well, it wasn’t completely terrible.”

I waited for more. When he didn’t say anything I prompted, “That’s it?”

He moved from sitting next to me to give me a pointed look and I had to refrain myself from pulling him back. “Well,” he said, “I liked the part with the race. And the underwater monster. That was funny.”

“Funny? Your humour is a bit skewed, di Angelo,” I told him.

He gave me a genuine smile that effectively warmed me up again. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

Why was he smiling like that? “You’re thinking of something weird that amuses you,” I pointed out. “Want to share with the rest of the class?”

He smirked. “No, actually, I don’t think I do.”

I pushed down the urge to practically beg him to tell me why he was smiling. I knew that would only fuel his desire not to. “Alright. Then I won’t tell you what Kayla told me to do today.” I knew I was swimming in dangerous water, and if he actually caved, I’d have to tell him what Kayla had told me, but it was well past midnight now, and I felt like dropping a few secrets, just because I could. The fact that I was using them as leverage against Nico just made it more appealing.

Nico seemed to mull that over like we were playing a particularly challenging chess game and his next move could cost him the match. “I don’t care,” he decided, which just made me want to tell him more. I figured that was his plan.

I tried the same thing. “Then I don’t care why you’re smiling.”

He smirked again and stated, “Yes, you do.”

Damn it. I tried again. “I think you’ll want to know what Kayla said.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Why don’t you tell me what she said and I’ll be the judge of that.”

I knew he wanted the information, but I wasn’t giving up that easily. “Nope. You’re telling first. I asked first.”

“You had to ask first because I didn’t even ask,” he pointed out.

“Fine, but still the rule stands,” I said.

“A rule that you made up?” He was just teasing me now and while I wanted to say I didn’t like it, I really really did.

“Go on,” I ordered, crossing my arms to make me seem more confident.

He hesitated for a second and then gave in. “I was laughing at you because I agree that my humour is skewed.”

“Uh huh. And what example were you thinking of?”

He took a deep breath as if building up the courage to commit to his answer. The silence stretched on for so long, I wasn’t sure if he’d actually reply. I listened to the instrumental music in the background as the credits finished rolling. Finally, he spoke in an exasperated tone. “That everyone around camp knows about... us. And we’re both still pretending.” He didn’t give me a chance to process that. “What did Kayla say?”

I didn’t even consider lying. Probably because I was half trying to figure out what he had just said. “She told me to tell you that I... um,” damn it. Why was this so hard? I’ve wanted to tell Nico this for at least a year. I had had a little bit of a crush on him since he had first come to camp. That only intensified during the battle of Manhattan, and it definitely developed into more of a crush when we started spending almost every day together. During the past month, I had felt like I could actually come out and admit it without shocking him or scaring him away.

So why can’t I just come out with it? I gritted my teeth and dug my nails into my palms before continuing. “That I... um maybe... I have feelings for you.” I cringed at my words and looked down at my hands trying to trace the freckles on them to keep my heart from exploding.

The silence again felt like it stretched on for so long and it was almost unbearable, but I still couldn’t look up at Nico.

When he did answer, it wasn’t what I expected. “When you say ‘maybe’...?” He asked.

I looked up to see him staring at me, his dark eyes giving nothing away. His expression was just as emotionless, which a hint of curiosity. I sighed until all the air had left my lungs completely and took another deep breath. “In this case, ‘maybe’ could mean ‘definitely’” I informed, leaving absolutely no way back from this.

When he pressed his lips together to hide a smile that was fooling no one, I felt relieved enough to continue, “And I freaked out earlier when you mentioned it was a date because I was scared my siblings had let something slip and you were messing with me.”

Nico’s expression was so hard to read, but at least he didn’t look hurt anymore. In fact, the usual sparkle had returned to his eyes. “Okay,” he announced and stood up from the sofa.

“What?!” I almost shouted and followed him up. He couldn’t just leave me hanging like that. “I lay my heart on the line and you say ‘okay’?” I asked, incredulous.

He had the nerve to laugh at me. When I frowned at him he just said, “I knew the ‘date’ comment would work. Thank the gods.” Then he started laughing at me again.

“Oh yes,” I said, bitterly. “Please carry on laughing in my face whilst I pretend like I don’t want to go and cry in my bunk.”

He tried to steady his breaths and stopped laughing, but a grin was still spread across his face. “Now who’s being a drama king?” He teased.

“I’m leaving,” I told him and headed for the door.

Before I could reach it though, I heard him speak. “I like you too,” Nico said, quietly. I turned around and his expression was deadly serious. I couldn’t compute what that meant for a second, until the fireworks starting going off inside of me and I felt a bit dizzy. Did that actually just happen? Did he really just say that?

“You do?” I asked, my voice less confident than I would’ve liked.

He nodded slowly, now looking like he wasn’t sure how to to proceed. I guess that was my cue. “Um,” I scratched the back of my head. “Do you... want to... um I don’t know, go on a date tomorrow?” Even I cringed at my incredible awkwardness.

“Smooth, Solace,” Nico replied, and before I could point out that he didn’t answer my question, he said, “I hope you’re taking me some place nice. Because I refuse to accept that watching Star Wars was our first date.”

That cracked me up. “Hey, it was you who suggested that this was a date, not me, so don’t pretend I’m the only awkward one here.” A light blush started to spread across his cheeks, which I considered a victory. “And, I’m sure I can think of something to sweep you off your feet.”

With that, I turned and hurried back to my cabin, hoping that I had been able to cause the son of Hades to blush even harder with that last comment.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I woke up around eleven which was usual for me. I hadn’t had any nightmares which was unusual for me. And I still had the fluttery feeling of happiness inside me which really was unusual for me.

Will had actually done it. He’d asked me out on a date. I tried to process how I felt about that.

Obviously, my initial reaction was complete joy. I really really liked him, even though he was a massive dork. He helped me get over myself after the war, and gave me a friendship I could trust and turn to when I had particularly bad flashbacks, or when my anxiety peaked. Sure, I wasn’t healed completely (or at all) but I guess my friendship with him really put things into perspective. Not only did he help me, but he’s probably the kindest person I’d ever met. I never knew someone could be that kind and still be confident and teasing at the same time.

Then there was the sexual attraction. Gods help me, I’m only human (well half human I guess). His tan skin, always so incredibly warm, and almost glowing in the sunlight. He had just the right amount of freckles to look cute and dopey, and they ran across his cheeks and all the way down to his arms and legs. His bright blonde hair literally shone, and recently I had been feeling the urge to run my hands through it just so I could feel how soft it was. And that smile. Gods his smile. Okay, yes, maybe I was a little more than happy that he had asked me out.

But if I was being completely honest, all my feelings weren’t completely positive. I felt panic. What if he doesn’t feel the same? What if he thinks he does but he doesn’t? What if I mess up our friendship? I don’t know if I’d be able to deal with that. It had taken so long for me to start to accept that it might be alright to get close to someone, and I couldn’t ruin it.

So there was also my insecurity. What if he doesn’t like me as much as I liked him? After all, I wasn’t much to look at. I wasn’t happy all the time, and I definitely didn’t try to hide it. I had my own trauma to deal with. Things that nobody would understand. I didn’t want to bring him down. And I didn’t want other people thinking that our relationship is one sided.

Ughh. I pulled myself out of my warm black sheets. If I went down that road, I’d never come up. I needed to focus on the positive things. That’s what Will had told me when I had had my first panic attack in front of him.

So I forced myself to think of our date later, and let myself wonder what he could possibly have in mind to ‘sweep me off my feet’. I’ll admit that I thought about his departing remark an embarrassingly long time after he left. Not only because his teasing had crossed the line from friendly to flirting, but also because Will wasn’t one to disappoint.

I decided I couldn’t disappoint him either, and so, after getting ready and having a quick chocolate crepe for breakfast (why not) I went to find Piper. As much as she’ll annoy me, she’ll also know what to do to impress Will. Besides, I’d gotten closer to her during our meetings about Leo, and also from just hanging out with her and Jason around camp when Will was busy. Also, she wasn’t the most flamboyant child of Aphrodite, and since my friend list was limited anyway, she seemed like the best bet.

I grabbed my jacket and headed for the Aphrodite cabin. The day was warmer than yesterday, but still cool enough that I was glad to have worn the extra layer. With it being October, camp was quite scarce so I was surprised when someone other than Piper opened the door when I knocked.

“Nico?” The guy asked. He looked dorky in a school kid kind of way, but I could immediately tell he was a child of Aphrodite because of his classically symmetrical features.

“...um hi...” I didn’t know his name and the fact that he already knew mine was a bit awkward.

“Mitchell,” he supplied with a friendly smile.

“Hi Mitchell, is Piper around?”

I heard the clunking of something within the cabin and a voice that was unmistakably Piper cursing. “For gods’ sake, Mitchell, do you have to keep all your shoes on display when everyone goes home? You know I’m still living here too.”

Mitchell smiled apologetically at me and assured, “She’s just cranky because she didn’t get much sleep last night. Something about a dream about Leo...” he trailed off and stepped aside. “Come in.”

I walked in and was immediately suffocated by the smells of various perfumes. Vanilla, honeysuckle, jasmine, things I couldn’t even name, but everything sickly sweet. The decor suited Aphrodite perfectly with the roses and pink walls and pretty ornaments. Posters of famous good looking people hung on the walls, and the bunks had over the top, cosy looking blankets and pillows of various bright colours.

At least it was only Piper and Mitchell now because I could imagine how crazy the place could get when all its occupants were here.

Piper turned from where she was rubbing her leg next to a toppled tower of shoe boxes. “Hey Neeks. Give me a minute. I’m just recovering from my leg injury thanks to Mitchell’s shoes.”

Before I could reply, Mitchell snorted, “Excuse me, but we’ve got the whole cabin to ourselves. All the stuff you’ve done with the prophecy and all that, and you can’t even avoid a couple of shoe boxes?” He shook his head disapprovingly.

Piper groaned. “Just because I’m nicer than Drew, it doesn’t mean you can insult your head counsellor. You were so much nicer when we met.” She stared at him as if remembering simpler times when Mitchell didn’t have so many shoes.

Mitchell decided to ignore that comment and gestured to me, “di Angelo wants you. I’ll just be clearing up the mess you made, don’t mind me.” He walked towards Piper and started arranging his boxes into a neat pile.

Piper gave Mitchell one more disapproving look and then turned to me. “What’s up Nico?”

I stuffed my hands into my jacket to try to look casual. “Nothing much. Mitchell said you had a dream about Leo?” I asked, because I was genuinely curious. Ever since I had helped Octavian fire himself into oblivion, I had been feeling an overwhelming feeling of guilt for Leo Valdez’s death. Sure, I felt him die, but it did feel different, and Jason, Piper and I had been researching ever since I left the infirmary.

“Just the same again,” she replied. “Leo flying on Festus with a girl holding onto his waist. I think they got attacked by wind spirits but I couldn’t tell for sure because it was only a short dream.” Piper and Jason had both been having dreams about Leo, which made his death even more suspicious.

I shrugged. “If Leo is alive, he’s a strong demigod. I’m sure he’ll be able to find his way back, especially with the dragon...” My words didn’t seem particularly convincing, but there really wasn’t much else we could do. Our research had lead up to multiple dead ends, and despite my guilt, I was tired of going round in circles. I just had to hope that Leo would find his way back.

Piper sighed and said, “I hope you’re right. I wish we had an idea of where he was though. Jason and I could go looking for him at least.”

I gave her a sympathetic look that I hoped would convey my emotions. I wasn’t that great with words. When Reyna had opened up about her father, I had in turn told her about my French zombie driver. Oops.

Piper gave me a small smile and plopped down on her bed. “I just wish I had something to distract me. With Jason teaching that new sword fighting class, I feel like I need to do something more productive than sit around and lecture Mitchell about shoes.”

Mitchell peered up from his organising and retorted, “Pipes, that’s a pain for both of us, you know.”

“I have something that might distract you,” I volunteered before the children of Aphrodite could get into another round of arguing. “Will is taking me out on a date tonight.” I tried to stop the smug smile on my face, but it was a lost cause.

It didn’t help that Piper practically beamed and jumped off of the bed to give me a quick hug. “I knew it!” She exclaimed, pulling away. “Oh gods, tell me everything!”

I recited the story, and I could feel a blush creeping along my cheeks as I did. Piper nodded in approval in all the right places and by the end, she was smiling so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if her cheeks hurt.

“Oh, Nico! I’m so happy for you! Gods, it’s about time as well. I was starting to think Jason and I were going to have to have an intervention,” she told me. At first, Piper and Jason’s involvement with my feelings was quite annoying. Especially because I hadn’t fully admitted it to myself yet. But now, it was kind of nice to know my close friends approved of the guy I liked.

“Agreed,” Mitchell supplied, still stacking his shoes. “It felt like everyone but you and Will knew about your feelings. It literally radiated off of you, for gods’ sake.”

That embarrassed me a bit, but really, I already knew that. “Uh, yeah,” I agreed.

“So you came to me because...?” Piper asked, probably changing the subject because she sensed my awkwardness. She went back to sitting on her bunk.

I was starting to feel a bit weird talking about this, especially with Mitchell in the room, but I decided I might need all the help I could get. “Well... um... I need advice. You know, on how to act, what to say, my wardrobe, whatever,” I admitted.

Piper gave me a mischievous smile that made me rethink asking for her help at all. “You really like the Solace guy, huh?” she asked.

I nodded slowly. Mitchell gave an “Awwww,” and came to sit on the bed next to Piper. “I can help too. You’re going to look gorgeous!”

“Yup!” Piper confirmed. “Come back a few hours before your date, and we’ll make sure you’re ready.”

Oh great. I tried to hide my fear and skepticism. I really hope I didn’t regret this.

*

At lunch, Will came and plopped down opposite me on the Hades table. “How’s the Lord of Darkness doing today?” he asked.

I rolled my eyes. “We’ve been through this, Will.”

He gave me a pout which would’ve been more convincing if he wasn’t smiling at the same time. “Aw come on. You don’t like any of the pet names I give you.”

“Maybe that’s because I am not a pet,” I huffed.

That still didn’t seem to deter him. “I’ll come up with a nickname you’ll like. Just give me a bit more time.”

I smiled sarcastically. “Great. I can’t wait for that.”

He started to say something then seemed to think better of it. He fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment and then seemed to come to a decision. “So, about tonight?”

That caught my attention. My heart started beating too fast as I whipped my head up to look at him, which didn’t do anything to calm me down. He was in his scrubs. A dark blue v-necked top that went a bit too low to be considered modest. I forced myself to look into his eyes, which also wasn’t the best choice. “Yeah?” I asked, hoping he couldn’t hear how pathetic my tone sounded.

If he did notice how much he was affecting me, he didn’t show it. “Well, I have a long shift at the infirmary starting in a minute, but I’ll be done by dinner time. I can come by your cabin at about six to pick you up?”

The normality of that statement helped to settle my nerves. Will had said things like that to me for at least a month, minus the ‘picking up’. I tried for a casual shrug which I was only eighty percent sure I pulled off and told him, “Alright.”

He smiled at me as if he knew how hard I was trying to keep myself from coming apart, and got up to head to the infirmary.

I let out a long sigh I didn’t know I was holding and internally scolded myself for allowing another stupid boy to make me act so pathetic. At least this stupid boy actually seemed to like me back though...

*

After that, I ended up spending most of the day with Jason. Piper had told him about Will, and he spent almost two hours going on about how to take care of myself. I knew he meant well, but really, I had probably gone through ten times more worth of hardships in my life compared to him. Despite that it was nice to know he cared, and it was also calming to talk about it with him.

Around four I told him I had to go to the Aphrodite cabin to get ready and he smirked before wishing me “good luck with that”. That didn’t bode well. Nevertheless, a few minutes later, I found myself back with Piper and Mitchell, who were both arguing about what I should wear, and somehow leaving me out of the conversation.

“Bright colours stand out though!”

“He can’t go too bright, he’d look ridiculous.”

“You’re being ridiculous. If he wears black on black, he’ll look like a zombie. At least give him a splash of colour.”

“Right. Like what?”

“I don’t know. A scarf? A ribbon? A mini flower corsage?”

“A corsage? He’s not going to prom!”

“You don’t know where he’s going. It could be fancy.”

“Fancy is not a dead flower bouquet on your wrist.”

“I think they’re all fake flowers actually. They do quite elegant ones to put in your lapel or something.”

“Really? Wow I need to keep that in mind for my next date then.”

Oh gods. Why did I agree to this? I couldn’t listen to this any longer. “Um guys? Can we get back to me? It’s already been half an hour.” Piper and Mitchell looked at me as if just remembering I was still there. They had me on a swivel chair in the middle of the cabin and I was starting to feel less like a person and more like a project.

“Right, yes,” Piper muttered as she hurried back over with Mitchell on her heels. “I’m thinking you go casual on the bottom, dressy on the top.”

I groaned. “Piper, what does that even mean?” I was really starting to get stressed out now.

Mitchell pointed at my black skinny jeans. “It means you keep your jeans on. Or maybe switch them up for a pair that’s less ripped. And then you wear a nice shirt under your jacket. Maybe add a cute tie or scarf or something. And then style your hair a bit,” he supplied.

I let out a sigh of relief. That didn’t sound so bad. “Okay. Which shirt? Which hair style? I’m not putting any grease in my hair, by the way. And I’m also not wearing a colourful scarf or bow tie. I’m not a clown.”

Piper and Mitchell both smiled at me in a way that made me feel like a cute puppy.

“I’ll start on his hair,” Piper declared. “Mitchell, you can look for a shirt. I’m sure we have more than enough in this cabin.”

Mitchell moved towards the huge mahogany wardrobe and pulled it open. “Alright,” he muttered, then called to me, “Any colour preference?”

I thought about that. I definitely did not want anything colourful. It just wasn’t me. But I did wear black all the time and this seemed like a special occasion. “Maybe grey?” I replied, sounding unsure.

Mitchell whistled approvingly. “Wow, that’s a bit outside of your comfort zone isn’t it? I wish someone liked me as much as you like Solace.”

I couldn’t tell if he was teasing me or being sincere or both so I decided to stay silent.

Piper started combing my hair back and I flinched at the sudden contact. “Sorry,” she said, still sliding the comb through. “All I’m doing it just messing it up a bit, but in a cute way. It’s a very Nico style I think.”

“It is?”

“Of course. The ‘I just rolled out of bed and I look this perfect’ look. You’re gonna look amazing, trust me.”

“When did you become an expert on hair styles?” I asked. Piper always struck me as more of a Hermes child than Aphrodite.

She combed a portion of my hair to the side. “I don’t know really. I guess when you live in this cabin, it just comes naturally. Even if you don’t care about it much.” She paused to run her fingers through again. “And, if I’m being honest, I do like testing out different styles and stuff. I’m just not as obsessed with shoes as certain people.”

“I heard that,” Mitchell shouted. He was still rummaging through the wardrobe when he suddenly seemed to find what he was looking for and pulled it out. “Perfect!”

He showed us the shirt. “Now tell me this won’t make Will openly drool when he sees it.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

“So why didn’t you call him your boyfriend, again?” Kayla asked. She was sat at the desk of the infirmary reception with her feet up and her hand twirling a pencil around a green strand of hair.

I looked up from my paperwork and sighed for the hundredth time in this conversation. “I told you, I don’t want to scare him off. Just because he agreed to a date, it doesn’t mean he’d be okay with me calling him my boyfriend. Maybe I’ll wait for him to say it to me first.”

Kayla removed the pencil from her hair and dropped it on the table. “But he asked you for a pet name didn’t he?”

I groaned. “Ugh no. I told him I’d come up with a pet name for him and he just gave me a sarcastic comment.”

Kayla chuckled. “Isn’t most of what he says pure sarcasm?”

I thought about that for a second, but there wasn’t really much need. “I guess so.”

She smirked at me but said nothing. I hoped she wasn’t mocking my taste in guys. Sure Nico could be sarcastic, but I like to think that with me, it’s a playful sarcastic. Or maybe I just thought that because he made me smile. Either way, he seemed to like to spend time with me too, even though most of the first weeks of our friendship was me trying to encourage him to hang out.

The infirmary was slow today, and I didn’t see why both Kayla and I needed to be here to watch over the empty beds. Nevertheless, I was the Apollo head counsellor so I had to set an example, and I didn’t like leaving anybody else in charge for a long amount of time anyway, so here I was.

It was nearing half five, which was when my shift ended, so I was getting ready to leave so I could get dressed for my date with Nico. Every second that went by, I started to get more nervous about it.

What if it goes horribly wrong? I’ve liked Nico di Angelo for years now and there’s so much pressure to make our first date memorable. Not to mention, I still didn’t know what he saw in me. I was half convinced he only spent this much time with me because there wasn’t really anybody else at camp during this time of year.

Sure, I acted confident about it, but that thought was still there in the back of my mind. I wasn’t a hero. I had never been on a big quest to save the world, or had a prophecy about me. Compared to Percy Jackson (Nico’s last crush, which he told me about a month ago) I wasn’t really anything special.

But then why did he bring up the date? It was his idea. I breathed in and out to steady my heart rate and Kayla must’ve noticed. She narrowed her eyes at me and asked, “Looking forward for tonight?”

I attempted a smile and replied, “Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”

She gave me a knowing look but only shrugged. “Just be yourself, Will. For some reason, Nico seems to like you. So just chill out and keep that in mind.”

It was pretty good advice, but the irrational part of my brain refused to listen. Either way though, it was time to leave and I didn’t have time to explain. “Thanks. Gotta go. I’ll see you later.”

“Have fun,” she called on my way out. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

I trudged back to cabin seven to get ready. I had picked out my outfit beforehand because I knew I’d be cramped for time. I pulled on my yellow button down shirt and normal jeans. I decided to wear my denim jacket over the top and I quickly ran my hair over with a brush. I never really brushed my hair, and I realised that that was because it didn’t really make much of a difference to my shaggy curls.

I stuffed some normal money into my medical bag (I didn’t have another bag). When my mom had sent me off to camp, she had given me a small amount of money to help me get by for ‘emergencies’. I didn’t usually spend anything because I hadn’t needed to, being at camp almost all the time, but impressing Nico seemed like a good enough emergency to me.

I pulled on my yellow Vans and looked myself over in the mirror. I didn’t linger because I knew I’d just end up finding something to fix, but at least I looked like myself. I wished I had another bag besides my stupid medical one, but that was a problem for another day.

It had just turned six so I quickly made my way to the Hades cabin and knocked on the door.

It whipped open to reveal Nico standing on the other side and my jaw practically hit the floor. He wore his usual converse and black skinny jeans but they looked more polished somehow without any rips. A dark grey shirt that seemed to shimmer so subtlety when he moved that I thought it must’ve been some kind of magic. The buttons on the shirt were the darkest obsidian and he had left the top one undone. His hair looked more ruffled up than usual but in a controlled kind of way, and he had black eyeliner on his top lids, which accented his eye colour so nicely I had to admit I didn’t think it was fair to me.

“You done staring, Solace? I’m kind of hungry,” he stated with that twinkle in his eyes he had when he made fun of me. His expression was carefully neutral as he was talking, but I could sense some tension in his body as if he were holding his breath.

I snapped myself out of it as quickly as I could, and replied simply, “You look incredible.”

I was happy to see a deep blush spread across his cheeks and he looked down at his feet. I made a mental note to compliment him more if he got this embarrassed about it. Of all people, Nico should be used to people saying positive things about him and the fact that he wasn’t made me a bit angry.

However, he recovered quickly. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” he said in a quiet voice. Then be nodded to my bag, “Nice bag.” He fiddled with his skull ring for a second. “So? Please tell me we’re going somewhere with food.”

“Ugh you’re so needy. It’s a good thing I’m a patient guy,” he opened his mouth to retort but I plowed on, “And to answer your question, yes I’m taking you somewhere with food. Come on,” I said as I took a step outside and Nico followed.

“How are we getting... wherever we’re going?” he asked.

“It’s a quick walk,” I assured. “Lee used to take me and some other Apollo campers to this place when I first arrived at camp.” I tried to ignore the crack in my voice when I mentioned my deceased half brother. “It became a tradition of some sort to take new Apollo campers out to this place. I always had a great time...”

We were already walking close together, but Nico closed the distance between us to take my hand and give it a quick squeeze of reassurance. “It sounds nice,” he offered, and I was glad he didn’t say something meaningless like ‘I’m sorry’.

I took a deep breath. “Yeah, it was. The food is adequate, but you can sit outside and the view is... well you’ll see.” I didn’t want to spoil anything.

We were silent for a bit, but it was a comfortable silence. It was even more comfortable because Nico hadn’t let go of my hand. The breeze was cooler now and I was grateful I took my jacket because outside of camp, October wasn’t the warmest month. Orange and red leaves flew by between the trees, and the thrum of the city got nearer as we walked.

Just before we got to the place, Nico asked, “Why did you want to bring me here? I’m not an Apollo camper.”

I wasn’t expecting him to ask that, but I answered honestly. “Well, I’m not an expert of Manhattan, so to be honest, I only know a handful of places. Plus, it’s a nice place and I miss coming here.” We had reached the place so I turned to face Nico as I said, “And, you’re not a child of Apollo, but... you’re just as close to me.”

He gave me a small smile and squeezed my hand again. “You comparing me to your siblings isn’t a good start to our relationship.”

I laughed. “Shut up, di Angelo. You know what I mean.”

He had a mischievous glint in his eyes as he spoke. “I don’t think I do. Could you spell it out for me?”

I smiled wider. “Hmm, I’ll think about it. Maybe later.” Then I dropped my hand from his to open the door for him. “After you.”

Nico rolled his eyes at the gesture but walked through into the restaurant. I followed him in and was hit with the smell of cheap bar food and drinks. There were a few people inside laughing and talking, but I led Nico up the stairs to the balcony which was pretty much deserted. We walked outside and Nico walked straight across to the railing to take in our surroundings.

“Wow,” he muttered. I joined him at the edge of the balcony. A huge lake expanded as far as we could see, with the buildings on the other side just barely visible. Multicoloured lights shone all around the scene from various buildings around the lake, lighting up the darkness of the night. The skyscrapers of Manhattan rose in the distance reflecting off the water and making it glow with light.

Nico just stood there for a couple of minutes taking it in, and I was happy to accompany him. “I know it’s a bit cold,” I said. “We can eat inside if you like and then come out here after.”

Nico looked at me as if I was crazy. “Will, do I look that delicate? The cold doesn’t really bother me. I was homeless for a while, remember?”

Of course I remembered. The thought of Nico being cast out of camp the way he was and being forced to live without a home for as long as he did... Not to mention all the danger he had to face, what with malevolent ghosts manipulating him and everything. Not that we had talked about it in length though. He never really brought it up, and I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable by asking. “Sure, we can eat outside. I told you the view was great.”

He nodded in agreement. “You also said that the food was adequate and based on your taste, I don’t have high hopes.”

“Taste? What are you talking about?” I really had no idea what he was referring to.

He smirked at me. “Your taste is questionable,” he shrugged. “For starters, you choose blueberry muffins over chocolate chip. That’s some sort of crime right there.”

I snorted. “Well, if I’m going to indulge, it might as well be with something even remotely healthy. Blueberries are better for you than chocolate.”

His expression remained indifferent as he replied smoothly, “That’s debatable.”

“Are you seriously suggesting that chocolate can be thought of as healthier than blueberries?” I asked in an incredulous tone.

“Come on, Will. They’re not real blueberries. They’re covered in sugar and all shrivelled up from the oven,” he retorted.

Was I actually losing a health argument with Nico di Angelo? What has my life come to?

I crossed my arms and stated stubbornly, “They taste better.”

He chuckled at me knowingly and raised his eyebrows, clearly aware that he’d won that round. I decided to push past that and offer to order food. Nico pulled out a platinum credit card, courtesy of Hades, but I declined and went down to get our orders after a lot of insisting.

When I came back up, Nico was again leaning against the railing, staring at the lake. His raven hair flew around the back of his head in the light wind.

“Dinner is served,” I called, placing the plates on the small table. We had decided to just order some fries and a burger each so that we could go and get ice cream along the lakeside afterward.

Nico sat down and popped a fry into his mouth. “A bit too salty, but they’re a good texture. They’re fatter than I’m used to, and,” he held one up for me to see, “Why is the skin still on?” He looked at me expectantly as if I knew the reasons for the chef’s culinary decisions.

“Wow, you’re so hard to please. Remind me to peel the skin off of the fries before I give them to you next time,” I said, stuffing a few fries into my mouth.

He smiled, “Thank you. I would appreciate that.”

We listened to the sounds of the city for a while, just eating our fries peacefully. It was crazy how comfortable I felt with Nico. We had only gotten close recently, but I knew that my feelings for him were painfully strong. I really hoped that Nico felt as comfortable as I did. I knew he had gone through a ridiculous amount of hardships in his life, and not for the first time, I found myself promising that I would do anything to make him happy.

Nico finished his fries first. “For someone who complained for about five whole minutes, you polished them off pretty fast,” I teased.

He just shrugged and replied, “Well they weren’t McDonald’s, but fries will always have a special place in my heart.”

I raised my eyebrows at that. “Oh?”

Nico took a sudden interest in the paper where his fries had been. His expression was hard to read, but I could tell it wasn’t a light and fluffy memory that I thought it would’ve been. “Forget I asked,” I said quickly. “What I really want to know, is what flavour ice cream you’re going to get after this.”

He gave me a look, telling me that he saw right through the change of subject. He hesitated for a second, seeming to decide whether to take the out or the challenge. Eventually, he sighed and said, “You know what I like about you, Will?”

That wasn’t what I expected, but I did really want to know the answer. “Yeah?” I asked quickly.

He studied me, his eyes boring into mine so harshly, I thought I could physically feel his gaze. “You don’t look at me like I’m broken,” he replied.

That didn’t sound like a good enough reason for him to like me, but I went with it. “Maybe because you’re not.” And I truly believed that.

“Nonetheless, it doesn’t feel like it sometimes,” he sighed and then shook his head when I tried to speak. “The point is, you don’t need to protect me. I can look out for myself. I can decide when I want to talk about my history with McDonald’s with you.”

That made sense, and I suddenly felt stupid for trying to change the subject, even if I was trying to help him out. I said, “I agree. With the McDonald’s thing. Not the protecting thing. We all need someone to lean on now and then. No one can be strong all the time, whatever they may believe.”

Nico huffed, clearly not impressed. I wasn’t expecting him to go into his past now. He was just warning me for later reference that I shouldn’t try to steer the conversation away for his benefit. I could do that. At least, when we were alone.

I finished my fries and looked back up at him. He was still staring at me intensely with his dark eyes, and I had no idea what he was thinking.

“Pralines and cream,” Nico stated simply, breaking the silence.

“Huh?” I asked, stupidly.

“My ice cream flavour,” he clarified. “Pralines and cream. If they have it.”

“Ahh,” I smiled. “Now that’s a flavour I can get on board with.”

We cleaned up our table and headed back outside towards the lakeside. There was a cute ice cream store on the street that we had seen when we walked here so we went in and got a cone each of pralines and cream.

Then, we set off walking along the lake and ended up sitting on a bench on the path. I licked my ice cream, understanding why it was Nico’s favourite flavour, and watched the light wind rippling off of the water in front of us. It was quite late now, but the city didn’t seem any less quiet with the sound of vehicles still strong, and the view of the lights still shining.

Nico turned towards me on the bench and asked, “So have you thought about it?”

“Huh?” I asked again, stupidly. His train of thought was truly chaotic.

He rolled his eyes and nudged my elbow. “How you’re going to get through medical school, I don’t know, because your memory is terrible,” he told me. “Earlier? You said you’d ‘think’ about elaborating?”

“Ohhh,” I laughed. “The thing about you being like one of my siblings?” I asked.

Nico groaned and shook his head. “Please, do not compare me to your siblings.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” I assured. “You could be an honorary Apollo camper. You could sit at my table for meals and stuff as well. You wouldn’t be so lonely.”

He seemed to think that over and concluded, “That does sound acceptable. But Chiron wouldn’t allow it.”

The gears started turning in my head as I thought about how to convince the old centaur. “We could come up with something. Let’s be honest, you’re a flight risk at camp. It wouldn’t take much to convince him that this is a special circumstance.”

He raised his eyebrows and his lips curled up at the edges as he tried to hide his smile. “Flight risk? Special circumstance?”

I chuckled and flung my hand loosely over his shoulders. “Tell me I’m wrong, Nico.”

“Hmph,” he replied, but he leaned in and let me pull him closer. His warmth seeped into me and I could feel my heart beating way too quickly. How was it possible that such small contact could cause such a giant reaction? His scent of rain on stone washed over me, with a hint of vanilla...

I could’ve stayed like that forever, but the truth was, it was a bit late and my hands were getting numb.

“About the honorary Apollo camper thing,” I said softly, “I meant that I really really like you. And trust me, it’s in a very very non-platonic way.”

I couldn’t see his face, but I liked to think I felt him smiling. He shuffled a bit closer so that he was pressed right up against me, and lay his head on my shoulder.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

The following couple of weeks around camp were nice. The quality of my dreams were at an all time high, with zero nightmares. That just unnerved me since I knew my PTSD (as Will called it) would come back to bite me hard when I stopped feeling the euphoria of my first date with Will. And I was not looking forward to that.

Campers were getting ready for Halloween, which I still didn’t understand the reason it was such a big deal. Wasn’t it a children’s holiday? I had never celebrated it in Italy as a child, and obviously I hadn’t since I had got out of the Lotus Casino.

However, Will was adamant on us dressing up for it and had even rejected his costume idea of Luke Skywalker so that we could have costumes that match. Ugh. I would have vetoed the idea immediately if he hadn’t been practically bouncing up and down on his feet when he suggested it. Thinking about wiping that smile off of his face made a small part of me die inside.

I was currently sitting outside the training arena with Jason and Piper, explaining my costume dilemma. When I finished, they burst out laughing at me for some unknown reason.

“What?” I protested.

They both looked at each other and started laughing again. When Jason noticed my glare, he tried to stop laughing (unsuccessfully) and admitted, “Nothing really. It’s just funny that you have boy problems.”

I groaned. “I do not have ‘boy problems’. I don’t mind the costume thing really. It might be fun...” I stopped talking because they were both looking like they were going to burst out laughing again. “What did you want to talk to me about anyway?” Piper had knocked on my door in the morning and asked me to come with her to talk to Jason.

Their laughter died and the air became thick with tension. They glanced at each other having a silent argument, which annoyed me for some reason.

“Look Nico,” Jason started. “We got something from Leo last night.” He produced a scroll of parchment and played a recording of Leo. Whilst watching, I felt relief, then confusion, then frustration, then full on anger. I had been beating myself up about Leo’s death for months! And he had the nerve to send this joking message? It was fortunate for him that he wasn’t here in person because I might’ve punched him.

“We’re going to go and look for him,” Piper told me. “Now that we know he’s alive, and we think he’s somewhere along the coast...”

“I’m going with you,” I immediately said. I felt like I owed Valdez that much, even if I wanted to throttle the guy.

Jason looked at me like he knew I was going to say that. “Chiron told us to only spend a couple weeks out there. It makes sense I guess. We’ve already missed a lot of the school year researching about him, and now that we know he’s alive, it’ll be easier to focus on school knowing that he’s making his way back to camp.”

Piper sighed, “But we convinced Chiron to give us two weeks, just in case we can find him and he needs help.”

“We’re starting our search in Manhattan,” Jason continued. “And ending in California so that we can go back to school when the two weeks are up. So, it wouldn’t make sense for you to come.” He shrugged. “Besides, you’ll be a friendly face if he comes back to camp before we can find him.” He handed me the magic scroll and gave me a small smile. He looked a lot more distinguished with his glasses, and it hard to say ‘no’ to him with his argument was so logical.

It made sense. Piper’s dad lived in California, so them leaving camp to go there for the school year wasn’t unexpected. Still, it was hard to push down the feeling of abandonment, but I tried my best, the rational part of my brain telling me that this had nothing to do with me.

I also felt bad letting them go on this wild goose chase. They had to know that the chances of them finding him were slim. But I also knew that they needed this last bit of closure before going back to school so they could know that they did everything they could. And, to be completely honest, I didn’t feel like it would be healthy for me to go on another quest this soon.

“Alright,” I relented. “Keep in touch.”

Then I hugged them both.

*

Despite what Jason and Piper thought about costumes, it was two days until Halloween, and Will and I still hadn’t come to an agreement on a costume idea. So I had agreed to keep him company during his infirmary shift to talk about it and hopefully finally come to a decision.

I trudged in and made a beeline for the front desk where Will was sitting. The infirmary was empty as usual for this time of year. It only got busy during camp activities and even then, they were only small injuries that didn’t take much time. Will heard me come in and looked up to greet me with a brilliant smile. “Hey beautiful,” he winked at me.

“Gods, just no, Solace,” I protested. His search for the perfect pet name was not going well. In fact, it was going spectacularly downhill.

He pouted. “Was it the name or the wink?”

I rolled my eyes and came to sit on the desk next to his paperwork. “Both. Do not do either, ever again,” I warned sternly.

He laughed as if my glare meant nothing to him. “Please. If I want to call you beautiful, there’s no way you’re going to stop me,” he declared.

I narrowed my eyes at him wondering what I could say to wipe that cocky smile off his face. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I just liked it a bit too much, and that wasn’t really convenient when I was trying to lay down rules. “There are many ways I can think of to stop you actually,” I replied.

He raised his eyebrows in challenge. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

I gave it some thought, whilst still staring at his stupid perfect smile. “If you think you’d stand a chance if I decided to take you out, you’re very mistaken,” I stated.

He had the nerve to laugh at me. Then, seeing as I wasn’t amused, he fixed his gaze onto me again and whispered, “And what makes you think I wouldn’t enjoy that?”

I could feel my cheeks burn and my heart started beating faster. And the idiot knew how flustered I was because he gave me another cocky grin and just went back to his paperwork.

There was no way I was letting him get away with that comment. I grabbed his writing arm to stop him and said, “Believe me, I’ll make sure it’s not enjoyable.” His eyes widened but he was still smiling. Probably because I was failing dramatically at trying to put on a stern voice. “If it’s not me, remember I literally have an army of zombies I can summon to do my bidding.” I winked at him when his smile began to falter.

“You wouldn’t,” he said in mock outrage.

I released his arm and pulled my legs up so I was sitting crossed legged on the desk. “Try me,” I challenged, staring him in the eyes.

We stayed like that for a couple of seconds before he gave in by throwing his arms up and chuckling. “Fine! I’ll try my best.”

I smiled to myself. I loved winning arguments with him. Then I dropped a paper bag onto his desk before he could start writing again. “Muffin. Blueberry,” I said. “The healthier version of chocolate chip apparently. Enjoy.”

He looked at the bag like it was a gift from the gods. Then he gave me a small smile. “Thanks.”

I shuffled on the desk. “No need to get emotional. It’s only a muffin. It doesn’t even have any chocolate in it.”

Will gave me another brilliant smile, his gratefulness radiating off of him from his expression. Then he pulled the muffin out and picked a small piece off to nibble. “So,” he started, “costume ideas?”

I groaned. “Tell me why we have to celebrate this stupid holiday again?” I asked.

Will picked off another piece of muffin. “Nico, I’d expect you of all people to like this holiday. Doesn’t it reflect your whole... aesthetic perfectly?”

He had a point there. Maybe it was because I had never done anything for Halloween that I didn’t think I’d like it. I’d just have to give it a chance and make my mind up about it later. Besides, if I was spending it with Will, how bad could it be? “What exactly is the plan for Halloween?” I wondered.

Will finished chewing and answered, “Well us year rounders usually put on a haunted house kind of thing. The Hermes cabin are mostly involved in it, but basically they set up this maze and the goal is to get to the middle without getting too scared.”

“What’s in the maze to scare us?”

Will shuddered and shook his head. “All sorts of things. I tried it out one year and gods, never again. You can try it if you want though. It’ll be interesting to see if you’ll hold up,” he smiled at me.

I shook my head at him. “If I’m going in you’re coming with me, and that’s not up for discussion. Also, if you weren’t going to do the maze thing, what were you planning to do?” This whole thing was just getting more and more confusing.

“Well, Chiron sets up some stalls with carnival games as well. It’s like a whole fair really. Even campers who aren’t year rounders come back to camp for Halloween. It’s a great time to be here,” Will exclaimed.

I gave that some thought. “I think I liked carnivals,” I muttered quietly, trying to pull at a memory with some street games and fried donuts from my childhood. Will placed his non-muffin-eating hand on my calf and rubbed gently. “Alright,” I declared. I accept your attempt to shove this Halloween nonsense down my throat. We may dress up and take part in this... game... party... thing,” I offered.

“Great,” Will said. “And afterwards, in true Halloween spirit, we can watch a horror movie in the Hades cabin.”

I hadn’t actually ever watched a horror movie, but I didn’t really see the point in them. “No, thank you. I get enough horrors in real life,” I said truthfully.

Will smirked at me and relented, “Alright. We can just watch a Disney movie of your choice then.”

Will knew my love of Disney movies. Ever since Hades had dropped off the television after the war, I had been binging every single one. Sometimes Will would join me. “If you come with me into the maze, you’ve got yourself a deal, Solace,” I stated, holding out my hand for him to shake.

“You drive a hard bargain, di Angelo. But alright,” he said as he shook my hand. “Now, costumes?”

I sighed again. “As long as it’s nothing from Star Wars, I’ll be fine.”

Will rolled his eyes. “You say that, but then you reject literally every idea I come up with!”

I scoffed at him. “Name one idea I rejected.”

He sat back in his chair and gave me an incredulous look. “What about Mario and Luigi? A quiver and arrow? Sherlock and Watson? The wicked witches?”

He was smiling triumphantly as if his stupid answer had won him the argument. I set him straight. “Those ideas are either idiotic (I am not dressing up as an Italian plumber) or I don’t even know what they are (what kind of name is sherlock),” I complained.

“Why don’t you come up with some ideas then?” Will asked. “I’d pretty much agree to anything at this point.”

Yeah right. Every idea I’d had, he had shot down. I huffed in frustration. This discussion was going nowhere. “Why do we even have to have matching costumes?” I asked.

I tried to ignore the hurt in his eyes as he looked down onto the desk and tried to focus on his paperwork again. “Sure,” he said casually. I could tell he was trying hard to hide it, but I was good at reading him, and his response wasn’t surprising considering how excited he was about this. “If that’s what you want. I don’t mind.”

Now that he was upset about it, it definitely was not what I wanted. I felt the urge to comfort him by tracing patterns on his skin, like he does for me, but I hadn’t gotten used to the whole initiating physical contact thing except maybe for holding hands. I knew I did want to touch him though, and I also knew that he would appreciate it. I didn’t really know what was holding me back, but I guessed there was still a part of me that didn’t want to be vulnerable to anyone.

I internally scolded myself and reminded myself that Will needed to be comforted. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it. So I reached out and brushed the tips of his hair with my fingers. He tensed when I first touched him, but when I ran my fingers through again, he closed his eyes and leaned into me. “Fine,” I said softly. “I’ll think of something.”

His hair felt so incredibly soft, just how I knew it would be. I only stroked him gently a few times before pulling away, but I was pretty sure I heard Will’s breath hitch when I hit a spot above his ear. That made me weirdly proud.

I looked around the infirmary and then back at Will, still in his scrubs and trying to get back to his paperwork. I was staring at his low v-neck for a bit too long when an idea struck me.

“Hey,” I said to get Will’s attention. “We could go as a doctor and a patient,” I suggested.

He looked happy that I was still thinking of ideas, but he shook his head. “It wouldn’t be much of a costume for me,” he said. “Or you, taking into account the amount of times you’ve been in here for an injury.”

I gave him a smile and replied, “Who said you were going to be the doctor?”

Chapter Text

Will POV

It was Halloween and everyone was getting ready for the carnival this evening. I had just finished my shift at the infirmary and had come to get costume ready in the Hades cabin.

“That’s not going to fit me,” Nico complained.

I held up the shirt I was holding that I’d taken from the infirmary. It was Nico’s idea that he dress up like a doctor, but he’d been weirdly difficult about it anyway. “What? It looks like your size,” I argued.

Nico snorted. “I am not that small, Solace. I’m practically the same size as you.”

I bit back my laugh, because I knew he wouldn’t appreciate it. Sure Nico wasn’t tiny but he definitely wasn’t as tall as me. He was leaner and his shoulders weren’t as broad. “Would you just try it on?” I asked.

“No.”

Damn his stubbornness. I swear to the gods- “Why not?!”

“It won’t fit,” he stated plainly. “I’m not walking around all night with a tight shirt on.”

I didn’t point out that nearly everything in his wardrobe was tight fitting. “Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll go get you the next size up.”

I went to the door, but he spoke again. “Just give me yours.”

I turned around to face him. “Huh?”

He shrugged. “It would save time. Plus it looks like it would fit me. Your shirt is tighter today.”

It was true; I had accidentally put on a size too small and by the time I realised, I couldn’t be bothered to change. I was more than a bit glad that Nico had noticed.

I shrugged. “Sure.” Then, without thinking, I pulled the shirt over my head and tossed it to him. He caught it and then averted his eyes as a blush started to spread across his face. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, but I felt a strange triumph that my shirtlessness had left him a bit flustered.

He muttered a quick, “Thanks,” then pointed towards the bed where he had laid out my costume: a white shirt and plain jeans both splattered with blood (which I hoped was fake, but knowing Nico, I didn’t rule anything out). We had debated whether or not to go all out and give me more fake injuries, but with my shift at the infirmary, it was already pretty late and the carnival was probably going to start any minute.

Nico went into the bathroom to change and I quickly pulled on the blood spattered clothes while he was gone. He came back out after a minute and asked, “So? What do you think?”

To be fair to him, the shirt was only a tiny bit big, the v-neck going down only a bit too low, but other than that, he looked like he could pass as an infirmary worker. “You look great,” I said truthfully. I had to force myself to look somewhere other than his slightly exposed chest area.

“And you look injured,” Nico offered.

I pulled at my bloody clothing. “Why, thank you,” I replied. “Shall we go?”

He nodded and we headed out. The carnival spanned across the lawn so that the cabins were surrounding it. The maze was located in the middle, its dark walls raising up just high enough so I couldn’t see anything inside. A lot of campers had come back to celebrate Halloween, so it looked like a full on party with people playing games and lining up to enter the haunted maze.

There was party music blasting from the speakers around the stalls, and greenish and purplish lights surrounded the vast amounts of decorations hung around the trees and the cabins.

“Wow,” Nico said. “They really do go all out.”

I nodded in agreement. “Come on. I bet you can’t beat the Apollo kid at archery,” I challenged, heading over to the stall.

Nico smirked. “You are shit at archery, Solace, so I’ll take that bet.”

That was only partially true. I was better than most because of my natural Apollo abilities, but I wasn’t nearly as good as some of my siblings, like Kayla. However, a bow and arrows wasn’t Nico’s preferred style of fighting, so I figured it was a pretty even bet. “What are we betting?” I asked as we reached the counter. “Loser has to go in the maze alone?” I asked hopefully.

Nico chuckled. “We’re both going into that maze whether you like it or not,” he replied. “How about, the loser owes the winner a favour?”

That was pretty open, and I couldn’t help but think that I would be willing to do anything Nico asked of me. But, I couldn’t think of anything better, and it would be nice to be owed a favour so I agreed.

“Best score with three shots?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “One shot.” Then, before I could react, he picked up a bow from the stack, drew an arrow from the quiver on the floor, and shot at the target.

Of course he hit a bullseye. I gasped in shock. “What the Hades?” I asked. “When did you learn to shoot?”

He smirked at me and lowered his bow. “I’m familiar with most weapons. I don’t like not being good at things. So I summon various ghosts as my teachers when I want to learn a new skill.” He shrugged, as if having shooting lessons with dead people was a normal occurrence (which I guessed for him, it was).

Great. I’m definitely losing this. “And you didn’t think to tell me that before we made the bet?” I pouted.

He smiled wickedly at me. “Why would I? You suggested this in the first place.” He handed me the bow. “Take your shot then.”

I reluctantly took the bow and pulled on an arrow. I relaxed my shoulders and took a deep breath. I took aim and shot. Nico whistled appreciatively. “Nice,” he commented, when he realised that I too had hit a bullseye. “Mine looks more centre though.”

I laughed nervously because I had been sure I was going to totally fail that shot. “No no. We were playing for a score. Ten points each. It’s even.”

Nico studied me with his dark eyes. “What’s the tie breaker then?” he challenged.

Part of me just wanted to call it square. But a bigger part of me was wondering why he so badly wanted that favour, and the urge to win was overwhelming me. “I suggested the shooting. You may choose the next activity. But,” I warned. “It must be something we’re both equally good at.”

He gave that some thought as he looked around the various different stalls, and turned back to me. “We’re too different. There’s nothing we’ll be equally good at.”

I supposed that was true. Nico was a fighter. I was a healer. We had our separate skill sets.

“How about,” Nico started, “I bet that you’ll be the first to scream in the maze.”

I laughed at him. “Ohh I am not taking that bet. For one, you’re probably right. And for two, you never scream anyway.”

He gave me another wicked smile. “Alright. Then I bet that you can’t go the whole time without screaming.”

I mulled that over. All I had to do was not scream. I can be scared without screaming... right? It can’t be that bad. The last time I went into that maze I was about three years younger, so I must’ve developed some kind of resistance to the stuff they put in there. “Alright,” I concluded. “You’re on.”

*

As we were queuing for the maze, Lou Ellen and one of her siblings came to stand behind us. They complimented us on our costumes saying that we looked, “Too cute.” Then they started bragging that this year Chiron finally allowed them to use the mist to create some illusions in the maze. That didn’t bode well if I wanted to win this stupid bet.

“Will?” Lou Ellen asked. “Aren’t you excited? There’s all sorts of simulated horrors in there.” She beamed proudly at herself.

I pushed down the urge to ask her to dial down the magic just for us. I was going to win this bet fairly without having to resort to that. Nico smirked in my direction, probably knowing exactly what I was thinking. “Yeah,” I managed. “Simulated horrors are my favourite.”

That seemed to satisfy Lou and she went back to chatting with her sister. We reached the end of the queue and Connor gave us each an evil smile before saying, “Have fun you two. Try not to get killed.” Then he stepped out of the way to reveal an almost pitch black walkway with mist curling along the walls and up above, so that I could hardly see the night sky.

The walls seemed to grow narrower as they went on, but it could’ve just been an illusion. Every cell in my body was screaming at me to just turn around and walk away. The magic must’ve also had some fear provoking stuff mixed in (or I hoped I wasn’t just this naturally terrified of a misty walkway).

When Nico realised I wasn’t moving, he grabbed my hand and pulled me through. When we were clear of Connor and the rest of the queue as the mist engulfed us, he squeezed my hand and whispered, “Scared, Solace?”

I pushed down my want to drag him back out or run around screaming. It was with heroic effort that I managed to reply. “Of course not. Didn’t you hear me? Simulated horrors are my favourite.”

Nico chuckled and squeezed my hand again. “If you say so,” he said in such a quiet voice it just added to the eeriness.

We had walked for about a minute when the wailing started. A high pitched moan of agony that started quiet but got louder as we went on. Wisps of white mist curled around us as it took shapes of disfigured people and monsters with huge black mouths.

They kind of looked like injured corpses, which I have to admit, hit a bit too close to home. Oh gods, what had I gotten myself in to?

I couldn’t help myself from whimpering when I felt a cold wind on the back of my neck, and a million creepy voices whispering in my ear about punishment and death. Really, why did people do this for fun?

Nico had the nerve to smirk at me. “They’re not even real ghosts,” he stated, as if his statement would be of any reassurance to the adrenaline pumping around my bloodstream.

“The response is a reflex. I have little control over it,” I said, scolding myself for making my voice come out so weak.

Nico just rolled his eyes. “If I wanted a physiology lecture, I would’ve come to work in the infirmary. Come on, we have to get to the centre.”

He pulled me forward and I had no choice but to move. The voices followed us, as did the misty creatures, calling out for attention and spreading my nerves way too thin.

We rounded a corner, and a lifelike skeleton almost ran into me. His teeth had blood dripping down, and his eyes were glowing a malevolent purple. I let out an indignant squeak as I dodged to the side to avoid it.

When I looked up, the skeleton was gone and Nico was smiling like he knew he had already won the bet. “Well, that wasn’t a scream,” he commented. “But the noice was interesting nevertheless.”

I groaned, annoyed with myself for getting so worked up by an illusion of a skeleton. I pulled myself together and confidently strode forward into the maze. I heard Nico follow and mutter under his breath, “Yeah because leading is less scary.”

I ignored him and made my way through. The thing with the maze, was that it wasn’t really a maze. It’s just a series of twists and turns that will eventually lead you to the middle. The Hermes cabin couldn’t have people running around in here all night with the possibility of never getting to the fun surprise at the centre!

I just had to get through to the middle and then they’d let us out and I’ll win the bet. I surged ahead, leading us through the mist and trying my best to ignore the pained groans from the illusions, and my own beating heart.

Finally, I reached the centre. I couldn’t see into the mist that around me so I turned back to look triumphantly at Nico instead. But my smile faded when I realised he wasn’t there. Shit. I should’ve kept ahold of his hand. I peaked through the way I had come and called out softly, “Nico?”

No answer.

“Nico?” I said a bit louder.

No answer.

For gods’ sake. I traced my steps back through the mist and the groaning voices. A creaking sound coming from the next wall stopped me. The sound of grinding stone got louder and louder until I realised it was the walls of the maze closing in. I ran back down the path, heading for the centre of the maze again as the walls crashed behind me.

The fake ghosts were wailing again, following my progress as I ran. “Nico!” I yelled, knowing that he was probably watching me run around like a lunatic from illusions. What a perfect way to impress him. Why did I ever suggest this?

I turned the corner into the centre and came face to face with the scariest creature I had ever seen. A giant zombie animal drooling from its mouth, ready to pounce. It had midnight black fur and razor sharp teeth and claws. It fixed onto me with its red eyes and snarled. It tensed its back legs, now growling at me as I stared at it in shock.

Then it was flying through the air, ready to trample me into a Solace pancake... And, just as it was about to reach me, two hands gripped me firmly from behind and Nico said, “Boo.”

I shrieked the loudest I have ever heard anyone shriek ever in the history of shrieking.

The creature dissolved into mist as well as everything else and I held my chest from keeping my heart from exploding out of me. I turned around panting to see Nico doubled over and laughing in my face as the wall opened up that led back to the carnival.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

“You can stop laughing now,” Will complained. We had gotten out of the maze and were heading back to the Hades cabin, but I still couldn’t help myself from chuckling about Will’s scream. I knew I could’ve gotten him to do it, but I didn’t expect it to be that loud.

I think he was just more susceptible to the mist than me since he has had less experience with it. And I had no problem taking advantage of that.

I looked at him, trying to hold in my laughter. His face was scrunched up in embarrassment and he still looked a bit shaken up. That made me feel a bit bad, so I swallowed my giggles and looped my arm with his. “You were very brave, Will.” He gave me a look that told me he wasn’t convinced. “Up until the last part, at least,” I amended.

Will rolled his eyes, and continued to pout, his mouth turned down in an adorable way. “Come on,” I told him as I led the way to cabin thirteen, then smiled. “I’ll protect you.”

His cheeks went slightly pink and he raised an eyebrow up at me, but said nothing. I let us in and told Will to sit on the couch. He threw himself down and let out a dramatic sigh. I went into my kitchen area and dug around for the bag I had asked for at lunch earlier today.

Then I went to sit next to Will and threw him the bag. “Popcorn,” I announced.

A small smile spread across his face and my insides fluttered in response. “Thank you,” he said, opening it and offering me some. I took a kernel and popped it into my mouth, letting the sweet buttery taste melt on my tongue. “Mmmm,” Will said. “This is so good!” Then he wagged a finger at me. “But don’t think I’m forgiving you that easy.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “For winning a bet fair and square?” I asked innocently.

Will huffed. “You know perfectly well what you did,” he stated. “I’ll probably have nightmares about idiotic creatures whining in my face.”

“Now you know how I feel with your whining,” I teased, and he threw a popcorn at me. I caught it and stuffed it in my mouth, watching Will pout as I chewed.

I sighed. His stupid face was too cute. “You could sleep in the Hades cabin tonight,” I offered. Then I realised what that sounded like. “I mean, if you want. We won’t... I just mean. You know, I could keep you company. From nightmares... and stuff.” Gods, why was I rambling? Why didn’t he stop me?

Will gave me a radiant smile. “Like a sleepover?”

That probably wasn’t the word I would’ve used, but his smile was making me dizzy. “Sure.”

He thought about it for a second and I was genuinely afraid that he might reject the idea. “I accept your invitation for a sleepover,” he declared.

I let out a silent sigh of relief. “Great. Now give me some more popcorn before I change my mind,” I said, grabbing the bag from him.

We ended up watching Frozen, which was one of my favourites. I found myself humming along to the songs that I now knew very well.

Halfway through, Will shifted position. “Nico? It’s a bit late.”

I paused the movie. “So?”

“So I forgot to go and get pyjamas from my cabin. And I’m kind of uncomfortable in my bloody rags,” he complained, accentuating his comment by pointing at a particularly large fake wound.

I scolded myself for not realising sooner. It was just because I was so comfortable with Will’s scrubs on. They were a bit rough, but still softened out and, best of all, they smelt like Will.

I went to get him a t-shirt and sweats and handed them over. “Thanks,” he said, then looked at me expectantly. “Aren’t you going to get changed too?”

I hesitated. I didn’t particularly want to change, because I was happy in Will’s shirt, but if I said that out loud, he’d either think I was weird, or tease me about it. So I just shrugged, grabbed my own pyjamas and went into the bathroom to change.

After I pulled the shirt off, I held it up to my face so I could take one last sniff, then left it on the cupboard in the bathroom so that I didn’t have to give it back to Will. He wouldn’t miss it; I’d seen the amounts of scrubs in the infirmary.

I went back to the sofa where Will was sitting. The black aesthetic on him was really working for me. It wasn’t his usual style, but the dark colour just highlighted his blonde curls and blue eyes. I sat down, closer to Will than I was before and pressed play.

The movie started again, and I realised I wanted to sit even closer to Will. I was too embarrassed to do it outright, so I shuffled a bit every now and then in order to move up the sofa. By the end of the movie, I was pressed right up against him, and I was glad he didn’t seem to mind. The end credits starting rolling and Will yawned dramatically. “If you wanted to cuddle with me,” he said softly, “you could’ve just asked.”

My cheeks burned. Obviously I wasn’t as subtle as I’d hoped. I shot back down the other end of the sofa. “I was just cold,” I retorted.

Will made a show of picking up the blanket I had discarded on the floor when I had realised I was so close to him, I didn’t need it anymore. Damn it.

I tried for a glare, but I was sure I didn’t quite manage it. “I said I’d protect you,” I said. “You know, from the imaginary mist monsters.”

He raised his eyebrows and let out a chuckle. “Don’t think I’m not aware of you changing the subject... But I appreciate you protecting me from the imaginary monsters.”

I gave that some thought. When we were in the maze, Will had seemed scared sure, but when the bloody corpse creatures had materialised, he had looked more shocked or even guilty. At the time, I thought it was just to do with the general aura, but now, hearing his tone, it made me think it was something more personal that had scared him.

“The injured corpses,” I tried. “They were more than just scary, right?”

He wouldn’t meet my gaze, and I regretted saying anything. His fingers stroked the blanket and his expression had gone cold as if remembering things far away. I waited for him to talk, aware that he was probably weighing up his options on what to say in his head.

Eventually he spoke. “You can’t save everyone when you’re a healer... That doesn’t stop me from trying though.”

What he said made sense, but I knew he wanted to say more. I waited for him to continue.

“The injuries...” he muttered. “Ones I can’t heal.” He took a deep breath. “It kind of breaks me.” He let out a laugh as if anything he was saying was even remotely funny.

I shuffled towards him on the sofa again. I reached out and pulled him towards me. “You’re right,” I whispered. “You can’t heal everyone. But you’ve healed an awful lot.” He sagged against me for a second, accepting the hug, then seemed to snap out of it and sat back up.

He sniffled and smiled at me. “Sorry.” he said.

That confused me. “For what?”

He shrugged, which wasn’t really an answer.

“Someone once told me,” I said, “that however strong you think you are, you can’t handle everything on your own.”

He gave that sad little laugh again which physically hurt to watch. “You’ve got it wrong, Nico.”

I wished I knew what the hell he was thinking. “What have I got wrong?”

He locked his eyes on me for a second. I could see the thoughts swimming around in his head, and I was tempted to take him by the shoulders and shake him until it all came tumbling out. Then he looked away and mumbled, “Never mind.”

I didn’t want to push him. And a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even considered pushing him. But now, I cared about him too much to walk away. I wasn’t going to ask again though because it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it. I figured that if I let him know that I was there, he’d open up when he was ready.

“How about another movie?” I suggested. “You can choose.”

His expression changed instantly and a small smile spread across his face. I was so relieved to see it, I didn’t even try to hide my own smile. “Alright,” he replied. “Hand the remote over.”

He chose Megamind, which was only mildly disappointing. And I didn’t feel embarrassed when I pressed myself against him and he lifted his arm around my shoulders.

About halfway through, I was feeling deliciously cosy and sleepy. “I kind of like Halloween,” I informed him.

He replied by kissing me softly on the cheek.

*

Oh gods I was trapped again. I took in my surroundings and panic flared in my chest. I was here again. No no no no. I almost whined. Screamed even. Cried. I couldn’t go through this again.

Darkness engulfed me and there was no way out. The oxygen was running low and I couldn’t breathe. The giants were laughing at me. Taunting me. I was dying. I knew I was dying. No one cared enough to save me. I couldn’t break my way out. I was going to die. Because my lungs weren’t working. I couldn’t fucking breathe.

“Nico!” A voice jolted me awake and I sat up breathing heavily, clawing at the sofa and at Will who was sitting next to me. The panic in my chest grew stronger when I didn’t realise where I was, so I jumped up and promptly fell onto the floor. My heart was beating painfully fast and I couldn’t breathe. Just like in the jar. And the giants. The darkness.

And then Will was kneeling on the floor next to me, clutching my shoulders and ordering me to mimic his breaths. I tried, trying to ignore the memories because I realised where I was now. The Hades cabin. The sofa. With Will. At first it didn’t help, but then I started to calm down and I could hear him more clearly as the roaring in my head subsided.

“Thank the gods,” Will muttered as he sunk onto the floor next to me and let out a long breath.

As my mind began to clear, I realised what had just happened. I had had another nightmare. I had hoped I would never have one with Will around to see me. It was bad enough he was there that time I had a panic attack. I felt so disappointed in myself.

I looked at Will who was also breathing heavily against the sofa. I didn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ didn’t seem to cut it, and the longer the silence stretched on for, the more awkward it got.

Eventually Will spoke, so quietly I had to strain to hear him. “When was the last one?”

I let out a long breath. I hadn’t been having any nightmares for a while, but I did feel a bit guilty that I hadn’t planned on telling him when I did have one. “Ages ago,” I answered truthfully.

That seemed to reassure him. We sat in silence for another couple of minutes. Eventually, I couldn’t take it it anymore. “I’m sorry I woke you up,” I offered.

Will scowled at me as if I’d said something offensive. “Sorry? For gods’ sake Nico, you just went through that,” he pointed vaguely towards my head, “and you’re apologising to me?” he asked incredulously.

I was starting to get angry that he didn’t understand, which I knew was unfair, but I couldn’t help it. I stood up and paced the room, carefully avoiding eye contact. “It doesn’t matter,” I sighed. “Just go back to sleep. Everything’s fine now.”

He laughed without humour. “Yes. I’m definitely going to go back to sleep right now.”

His sarcasm wasn’t helping my frustration. “I’m sorry I woke you up,” I repeated, my voice raising a little. “I’m sorry you feel like it wasn’t my fault.” I stopped pacing and looked at him. His expression was grim and maybe a little hurt. “And I’m sorry that you even had to see that.”

All the energy suddenly drained out of me and I sat back down on the sofa. “Will, you can’t help with this. This is one of the things you can’t heal. So can we just... forget this happened. Please?”

He came to sit next to me and took my hand. “No,” he replied gently.

My frustration peaked again and I whipped my hand away. “Why not?” I said, fully aware that I sounded like an impatient child.

He sighed, but he had the same steely determination in his eyes from when he first ordered me to stop shadow travelling during the war. “Because you’re wrong,” he told me. “I can help.”

He took my hand again and I let him since I was focusing solely on trying not to cry. “How?” I croaked, hating myself for how weak I sounded.

He took a bit of time to answer. I wasn’t surprised because if there was a quick fix, then this wouldn’t have been such a depressing issue. “By doing it with you,” he finally replied. “Promise you’ll let me?”

His voice was stern and I thought about what he was asking from me. To open up about my nightmares and problems. I very nearly told him ‘no’ but I forced myself to think about it. The last thing I wanted to do was to bring him down with me. I would never forgive myself. But I wanted this relationship to work too.

After all, he was asking for this. On our first date, I had told him that he didn’t get to make my decisions for me in order to protect me. Maybe this was the same thing. I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad to let him in. It might even help. “Okay,” I eventually told him. But internally, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let him be dragged down to my dark place. I’d do everything in my power to stop that.

The final bit of strength left my body, and I let Will pull me towards him as my eyes closed.

Chapter Text

Will POV

The morning after Halloween, I woke in the Hades cabin. Nico was still sleeping next to me on the sofa, looking so peaceful, it was hard to believe he was the same person who was raging around the room a few hours ago.

Whenever I thought about it, I got angry, then helpless, then frustrated, then depressed. I didn’t know if I could help Nico, but I knew I wanted to try my best. He wasn’t broken, despite what he thought. He was his normal sarcastic little self most of the time. And if he needed support every now again, I’d be more than happy to be there for him. I’d prefer to be there for him.

As carefully as I could, I shifted slightly to get up and went to the bathroom to wash up. When I entered, I noticed my scrub shirt sitting on the cabinet. I wondered why Nico wouldn’t just give it to me. Maybe he wanted to wash it beforehand? He could be so extra sometimes.

When I came back to the main area, Nico was sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “Morning,” I said cheerfully. No need to make this more tense than it needed to be. I sat down next to him and kissed him on the cheek. From the way he blushed, I could tell he liked it. “It’s almost lunch time. Do you wanna go to the dining pavilion?”

He nodded and went to get up. I waited until he had washed and dressed.

He came out of the bathroom and asked, “You’re wearing that to the dining pavilion?” gesturing to my black ensemble I was still wearing.

I shrugged. “Why not? I don’t have any other clothes right now because you haven’t given me back my scrubs.”

He took a sudden interest in the floor, which I didn’t quite understand, but recovered quickly. “Well I was going to say black isn’t really your style. But... it doesn’t look so bad.”

I smiled at him. Not looking bad was a win in my book. “Come on then.”

We left the cabin and went to the dining pavilion. It was more crowded than usual from campers who had stayed over night from the Halloween carnival. When Nico started to make his way to the Hades table, I promised, “We’ll figure something out soon and you’ll be able to eat at my table.”

He just gave me a small smile that hopefully meant that he was feeling better today, and we both went to sit at our separate tables.

Kayla wolf whistled when she saw me. “Black on black, William! You didn’t come back to cabin seven last night. Do tell.” She and Austin looked at me expectantly.

I huffed. “We watched some movies. And he let me borrow some sweats. It’s not that interesting really.” They looked at me with disappointed looks.

The truth was, despite the drama with Nico asking about my fear of injuries, and then Nico having a nightmare, I did feel closer to him. Not only that, but he had asked me to sleep over, and initiated most of the cuddles whilst we watched the movies. It didn’t sound like much, but the memory made me feel all fuzzy inside.

We got our lunch and made our necessary sacrifices to the gods. Then Chiron came at the front of the pavilion for the afternoon announcements.

“Regular activities will commence tomorrow,” he informed. “Harley,” he gestured to the eight year old Hephaestus camper, “has started putting together a new activity we can all play.” Chiron looked like he had a bad taste in his mouth as he spoke. “The first three legged death race will be happening tomorrow afternoon, and everyone is required to take part!”

There was lots of muttering and interested looks in Chiron’s direction. I wasn’t surprised. Most campers have death wishes. I should know; I have the job of healing them when they make their reckless decisions. I guessed most campers who weren’t year rounders would stay until tomorrow then.

I had a bad feeling about this, though. It probably had something to do with Chiron’s unease or the crazy look that Harley had. Children of Hephaestus were creative, but I wouldn’t put it past them to think that deadly and violent machines were ‘cool’. So whatever Harley had in mind, I was sure I wasn’t going to like it.

After lunch, Nico joined Kayla, Austin and I at the Apollo table while everyone else went off to do activities.

“This new death race might be fun,” Kayla said enthusiastically.

“Yeah,” I grumbled sarcastically. “Because whenever something has the word ‘death’ in the name, it can’t be anything but fun.”

Nico snorted which I counted as a victory.

“Cheer up, Will,” Austin told me. “At least there won’t be any head on fighting injuries to heal.”

“Hmph,” I replied, because knowing camp half blood, whatever activities that are thought up always have a vast array of opportunities for injury. Not that I didn’t enjoy healing. I just got annoyed when people were pointlessly hurt.

“Thinking about it though,” Kayla said in a thoughtful voice. “Maybe we should brush up on our sword skills before tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll need it.” Then she turned to Nico. “Hey, di Angelo. Fancy giving us a lesson?”

I couldn’t read Nico’s expression, and I was afraid he would be uncomfortable and was trying to figure out a way to reject Kayla nicely. But I guess I was just paranoid because he shrugged and said, “Alright. Got nothing better to do.”

So that’s how Nico, Kayla, Austin and I ended up in the training arena.

I watched as Nico tried to teach Austin how to do a simple defensive move. Austin wasn’t really wired for combat, even if he had the build for it. Nico kept jabbing at him and having to hold back his strikes because Austin could not for the life of him parry them.

One time, Austin was particularly unlucky and Nico performed a tricky movement that required more grace than I could ever muster. Austin’s sword landed on the floor ten metres away, and Austin landed on his butt.

After that experience, he gave up. “That’s it! I can’t do it! I’ll stick to my combat saxophone, thank you!” He trudged towards where Kayla and I were sitting and I could see his shirt was soaked with sweat in at least five different places.

“My turn!” Kayla practically squealed and jumped up onto the floor. I gave Nico an apologetic look, but he didn’t seem to mind. I guess sword fighting is his specialty, even if he did have to hold back.

Kayla was only marginally better than Austin, as she managed to block about half of Nico’s advances and Nico was able to teach her a neat trick where she could feint left and then twirl gracefully to the right to attack instead. Nico pulled it off perfectly when he did it, and I should know, since I was watching his every movement very intensely (and not to pick up sword fighting techniques).

When Kayla tried, she just about managed, but only narrowly avoided toppling over. While she stumbled, Nico disarmed her easily, and that was that.

Kayla let out a frustrated groan. “You’re too good, Nico! I need a break,” she announced and she made her way back to the bench. “Will, you’re up.”

“Um,” I said. I tried to picture myself sparring with Nico. If the way I had been mesmerised by his movements for the past hour was any indication, that probably suggested that I’d be too distracted to even listen to what he was saying, let alone move my arms in any coordinated way. The way Nico might come up to me to throw a strike, closely. So closely... it almost seemed intimate. I decided I couldn’t let myself get embarrassed like that. “I might give this one a miss. Austin you can go again.”

All three of them protested.

“Don’t be a wimp!” Kayla cried.

“I can go easy on you,” Nico offered.

“But my butt still hurts,” Austin complained.

I tried to figure out a way to get out of this. “I’m just not great with a sword,” I argued pathetically.

“Dude,” Austin said. “Did you see what happened to me out there?”

“Exactly,” Kayla agreed. You can’t screw up more than Austin.”

Austin gave her a dirty look but said nothing.

Nico gave me a wicked smile. “Afraid you won’t be able to take me, Solace?”

I huffed. “No. I know I won’t be able to take you, actually,” I retorted.

All three of them laughed.

“Come on,” Nico encouraged. “I said I’d go easy on you. At least try,” he raised his eyebrows in challenge.

Crap. I was losing this battle. “If you can’t get these two to practice sword play properly, trust me, you don’t have a chance with me. I’m barely decent with a bow and arrow...” I trailed off when I saw Nico pouting. “Why don’t you just show me the moves and I’ll watch and absorb the information?” I offered.

He looked at me like I was stupid (and to be fair to him, I was acting pretty stupid). “Sword fighting is usually an activity you do with another person,” he said flatly. “If you want me to show you, without actually doing anything, I guess I could summon a couple skeletons...”

“No!” I shouted immediately. I could feel the panic stirring in my chest when I thought about how it had felt when I had touched Nico during the war, and afterwards in the infirmary. As if he was about to melt into the shadows. The darkness consuming him so thoroughly that I could do little to nothing to stop it.

Nico raised his eyebrows at me, clearly not impressed with my outburst. “What?” he asked in an annoyed voice.

“I said, ‘no’. You can’t. It’s too dangerous,” I told him.

Kayla and Austin looked between us like they were watching an interesting tennis match.

Nico crossed him arms. “Will, I’m much stronger now. I think I know my own strength more than you do. And even if I didn’t, you don’t have any right to tell me what to do.”

I sighed. This was not going how I would’ve liked. But I wasn’t caving. “Know your own strength like when you were literally melting into shadows to transport a statue? Nearly killing yourself? That’s what you call knowing your own strength?” I asked, my voice slightly raised, but I tried my best to keep it controlled.

“Yeah...” Kayla trailed off. “So we’re going to leave.” With that, she dragged Austin off of the bench and they both left the training arena.

With the look Nico was giving me, I was surprised that I hadn’t melted into a puddle of darkness yet, but I still kept my eyes on his without flinching. “If you start telling me what I can or can’t do, this isn’t going to work,” he said simply. He may as well have slapped me in the face.

I tried to keep the panic out of my voice as I said, “I’m not trying to tell you what to do, Nico... I just can’t...” I gestured weakly around me, “go through that again.”

His expression seemed to soften a little at that. “I’m not half dead anymore, Solace. I can handle summoning one skeleton. It’s not exactly back breaking work.”

As if I would know if that was true or not. But Nico’s tone of voice was reassuring and I couldn’t exactly keep him wrapped in bubble wrap for his whole life. I reminded myself that he was capable of making his own decisions, and the fact that he had waited to convince me before actually using his powers made me think that he at least respected what I thought.

I sighed. “Go on then.”

He didn’t give much of a reaction. He just waved his hand over the ground and a skeleton cracked right through and clawed its way into the world of the living. It looked like a normal skeleton with a sword in one hand and a few bits of grass and soil dusting its bones. The crack from whence is came snapped shut leaving only a thin mark in the floor.

Nico didn’t even look fazed from using his powers, which I took as a good sign. He looked at the skeleton and raised his sword. He nodded slightly at it as if he were giving it telepathic instructions.

Then, before I could react, they started sparring. The skeleton lunged at Nico so fast, I hadn’t even finished yelping before Nico parried. They continued to swipe their blades at each other in a sort of dance and I was transfixed.

The way Nico moved around the room, never doing the same move twice. Jabbing and slashing and twirling. He seemed to switch between offence and defence and I didn’t even have a chance to blink before he and the skeleton were on the other side of the room, still going at each other.

Nico sure didn’t seem like much when you first met him, but after seeing him fight, anybody sane would run away screaming. I suppose that made me insane... But then again, I couldn’t blame myself. How Nico was handling the fight could be described in no other word other than hot. At certain points, I forgot how to breathe.

After what seemed like forever, Nico was able to perform his twisty trick he had tried to teach Kayla. He did it perfectly. That gave him an in to swipe at the skeleton’s neck and his skull came crashing down onto the floor. A second later, it dissolved into dust.

Nico turned around and gave me a triumphant smile.

“That was fucking incredible,” I said without even thinking about it.

Nico gave a small chuckle and walked back towards me. “Practice, I guess,” he shrugged.

I laughed at him because he probably had no idea how truly amazing he was. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re the most talented fighter in the whole of camp half blood and camp Jupiter put together.” And it was the truth.

Nico just stared at me for a second, taking in the compliment. “So,” he said after his pause. “Are you going to let me teach you now?”

Well, I guess I had no excuses left. Plus, it did sound kind of appealing now that Austin and Kayla had left. “Who am I to argue with a professional sword fighter?” I picked up Austin’s abandoned practice sword and walked towards him trying to at least look confident.

Nico showed me how to hold the sword properly. He moved in close to adjust my fingers, and I could smell his delicious scent. He stepped back too soon and I wondered how he would take it if I pulled him back, maybe to hug him or give him a kiss. Probably not well, so I tried to focus on what he was saying.

“When I step like this,” he demonstrated. “You should step the other way like this.” I tried to copy. I wasn’t that uncoordinated, but it was clear who was the more graceful one of the two of us. It didn’t help that I was still flustered from watching him fight the skeleton.

He taught me a few more basic moves (some of which I already knew from training at camp, but he pointed out that I was doing them wrong and showed me how to improve). Then, once he deemed me competent, he said, “Right, let’s just try a spar. To see what we’re working with.”

That didn’t sound like any kind of compliment, but I agreed.

We both held out our swords ready, and my gaze kept flicking between Nico’s sword (which was hugely intimidating) and his eyes (which sparkled with confidence so also intimidating). His expression was kind of playful and I found it a miracle I could hold my sword upright.

He was waiting for me to make the first move, so I decided to just get on with it. I jabbed like he had showed me, and he deflected it easily. I tried again, switching up the moves and attempting to catch him off guard, but of course I couldn’t.

We were still sparring after quite a while, though I assumed Nico was humouring me. I tried to go in for a low jab, but I lost my balance and Nico was able to disarm me and send me tumbling down to the floor.

I grunted with the impact and looked at Nico who was standing over me trying hard (and failing) not to smile.

“Having a spot of bother?” he asked innocently.

I looked behind me to where my sword was lying on the floor. If I could just get it back...

But Nico saw the motion and said, “Oh no you don’t.” He lunged down onto the floor just as I tried to get my sword. He landed right on top of me before I could reach the weapon.

I tried to use his momentum to spin us around so I would be the one on top, but as soon as I succeeded, Nico did the same thing and we ended up in exactly the same position. I tried to lift him off, but he grabbed my wrists and held them over my head, pinned to the floor.

I struggled against him but he was much stronger than he looked and he held fast. “Nico!” I protested.

“Yes?” he asked in that innocent voice. He was smirking down at me probably enjoying watching me struggle.

Suddenly I was painfully aware of his body pressed up against mine, his weight feeling so solid and... perfect. His expression was impossible to read and I wished more than anything that I knew what he was thinking. Our eyes were locked together and I felt like I could stay in this position forever, even if he had my hands pinned uselessly above my head.

His eyes were sparkling again in a mischievous way and I could see a million thoughts swirling around in them. I wanted to ask what was going through his mind, but my voice didn’t work.

As it turned out, I didn’t need my voice, because just after the silence seemed to stretch on for too long, he leaned down and pressed his lips to mine.

It was a soft kiss and only lasted a couple of seconds, but I could safely say it was one of the best things that had ever happened to me. All I could feel were Nico’s lips on mine, and his hands still pinned on my wrists, and his body pressed against mine in so many places... Gods help me.

He sat up way too quickly for my liking but I was in no position to complain; I probably lacked the physical capacity right now. He released my hands but he was still sitting, as he looked down at me with slightly rosy cheeks and a question in his eyes.

I seriously didn’t have the brain power to think up anything super smart. So I just about managed to say, “We should do sword fighting lessons more often.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I had gotten up early at Will’s insistence. Last night, we had formulated a plan to convince Chiron that it would be in everybody’s best interests if I sat at the Apollo table for meal times. I was still slightly annoyed that I had to get up for breakfast time, but Will insisted that with the three legged death race happening in the afternoon, Chiron and the other campers might be too preoccupied during lunch and dinner.

I got ready and made my way to the dining pavilion and over to the Hades table. Camp was still slightly fuller than it would usually have been at this time of year, so there was the buzz of chatter as I approached. I was happy to note that no one actively stopped talking or leaned away as I got nearer. With all the new cabins and new campers, people seemed more accepting of demigods with unusual godly parents.

The Apollo table was empty at the moment so I shifted my gaze towards some of the other campers. Over on the Demeter table, Sherman Yang was showing Miranda Gardiner his celestial bronze battle axe. Miranda spread her fingers and small daises started blooming around the handle and across Yang’s fingers which he seemed to find endearing.

The girls from the Hermes cabin were whispering to each other in hushed tones and I decided to stay away from them during the three legged death race.

Harley from the Hephaestus cabin was whining to his older sister Nyssa about why he couldn’t include his exploding chainsaw frisbees. “Maybe next time,” Nyssa promised.

After a couple of minutes, I spotted a flash of blonde hair approaching the Apollo table and my heart starting fluttering. Seriously? Why did my body have to respond so aggressively if he was still across the entire pavilion? But I knew the answer. I was still thinking about how I kissed him yesterday during sword practice.

I cringe when I think about how I literally attacked him, sat on him and then kissed him. What was I thinking? But even so, I had no regrets. Especially when I remembered his dazed expression when I had sat up, as if I had successfully sucked all the air out of his lungs.

An involuntary smile started to spread across my face at the memory, and I started thinking about if and when I could kiss him again. Or maybe he’ll kiss me... Or...

“Hello my treacherous darling,” Will greeted. “Ready for the ‘performance’?” He sat down opposite me, since breakfast hadn’t officially started yet. When he saw my face, he gave me a wicked smile. “What are you day dreaming about?”

Damn my traitorous smile reflex. Get a grip! “Maybe I’m day dreaming about how I’ll kill you slowly if you continue to call me by these gods awful nicknames,” I replied.

“I bet,” he said, “that you secretly love the names I give you.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “Really Solace? Ready to lose two bets in the same week?”

He pouted. The fact that I had won the first bet by making him scream in the Halloween maze was still a sore spot. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to use my favour for, but I was still actively keeping an eye out for when the opportunity arose to use it.

I stared triumphantly back at him and he rolled his eyes and changed the subject. “Just make sure you eat enough before you start summoning,” he ordered. “I don’t feel like resuscitating more people I need to with this stupid race going ahead later.”

“Yes, doctor,” I promised. After the skeleton fight yesterday, Will had become more flexible in what he deemed appropriate power-using circumstances. That could’ve been either due to my explanations, warnings and reassurance, or due to the fact that I had softened him up with the kissing and he didn’t want to spend meal times without me anymore. Both options sounded fine to me.

Satisfied, he got up to leave just as Chiron was making his way to the front table, which marked the beginning of breakfast. A dryad dropped a big stack of pancakes on my table and I drizzled them with syrup before digging in. I demolished the entire stack with no problem, and asked for another. My appetite was definitely improving.

After I was sufficiently full, I shifted my gaze to where my feet were dangling above the floor. I knew I was healthy enough to try this. It wasn’t as taxing as shadow travel, and I had regained most of my strength even if I still needed to put on a bit more weight.

I focused on the ground. I willed myself to find the bones of all the skeletons under the pavilion. My internal radar went crazy, telling me that there was more than enough underneath us. When I felt the familiar pull in my gut, I grabbed onto it and pulled with my mind as hard as I could.

The ground erupted. A dozen skeletons crawled out of the earth and started roaming around aimlessly. When I had suggested the idea, Will had convinced me to save the ‘attack other campers’ phase for round two if this didn’t work, so the creatures weren’t at all scary in my opinion.

Apparently, my opinion was wrong. As soon as the first skeleton appeared, everyone started screaming. Campers jumped up from their tables, abandoning their food and their siblings as they ran for the exit. Sherman Yang pointed at me and yelled, “di Angelo’s gonna kill us!” I had never liked him, but I had to admit, his screeching tone was satisfying.

Chiron was looking in my direction and I tried to form my best ‘I have no idea how this happened’ look. I couldn’t tell if he was convinced or not because he got up and tried to comfort Damien White at the Nemesis table because a friendly skeleton was trying to smell his hair.

Some of the campers who hadn’t ran out screaming were drawing their weapons and studying the creatures, wondering how to attack.

Will got up from his table and started making his way towards me. He narrowly avoided Connor Stoll as the son of Hermes threw an exploding bomb at a nearby skeleton. “Take that, you undead sucker!” Connor yelled as the skeleton turned to dust.

“No exploding stuff at the dining pavilion!” Chiron shouted at him sternly. Connor shrugged and went to throw another bomb.

Will reached my table and I could tell he was trying his best not to laugh. He crouched down in front of me. “Okay, look distressed,” he ordered.

I pulled my mouth down into a frown and Will burst out laughing. “You look like you’ve eaten something disgusting,” he exclaimed.

I scowled at him. “Well I’m happy my disgust amuses you.”

“There!” he cried. “That face is perfect!”

Will pulled out a piece of paper and started scribbling. “Diagnosis: severe mood disorder,” he mumbled. “Symptoms: summoning unwanted dead friends. Treatments: a better social life.” He finished writing and showed me the note. “There,” he said happily. “Let’s show this to Chiron.”

Whilst Will was diagnosing me, the remaining campers had managed to get rid of most of the skeletons. The pavilion was mostly empty now and Chiron walked up to us with a stern expression. “Can you explain to me what just happened?”

A let out a dramatic sigh. “I don’t know, Chiron,” I said in my innocent voice (though by the way Will coughed and covered his mouth to hide his smile, I assumed I didn’t pull it off very well). “One minute I was thinking about my unbearable loneliness, and the next, skeletons burst out of the ground.” On some level, it seemed dishonest to use my mental scars to get what I wanted, but on the other hand, after all I’d been through, I deserved to sit where I chose.

Chiron narrowed his eyes at me and Will jumped in, waving his doctor’s note. “I ran a preliminary diagnosis,” he informed. “All the signs suggest he has drastic social anxiety.” Will leaned in closer and whispered to Chiron, “I’m really very surprised he hasn’t started showing stronger symptoms by now, like chronic river dancing... although I wouldn’t quite rule it out considering how much time he spends alone in his cabin...”

I pinched him in the side to get him to shut up. He just replied by giving me a massive dorky grin.

Chiron sighed. “Well I guess we can’t have that,” he concluded. “What do you suggest, William?”

Will looked triumphant. “Well, we can start with Nico sitting at the Apollo table indefinitely. If there are any other changes that need to be made other than that, I’ll let you know.”

Chiron nodded. “Very well,” he relented. The fact that he gave in so quickly made me wonder if he knew what we were doing (and from how Will was acting, I wouldn’t be surprised). “See you boys later for the three legged death race.” And with that, he galloped off.

When he was out of sight, I nudged Will in the ribs. “Chronic river dancing?” I hissed.

He shrugged. “I guessed that it’d work in our favour. Because, trust me, seeing you river dance would be scarier than the skeletons.”

I might’ve slapped him for embarrassing me in front of Chiron. Instead, the summoning suddenly took its toll, and I promptly collapsed against the table.

*

I woke up in my bed in the Hades cabin. The sun was still shining outside the windows which meant I’d probably still have to take part in that damn death race. I turned to my beside table where I kept my water bottle and took a sip. Next to it, there was a note:

In the infirmary. I’ll check on you at lunch. Will x

I couldn’t help the smile that formed when I noticed the ‘x’ at the end, even though the rational part of my brain knew it was cheesy and stupid. I got out of bed and was surprised to find that I felt perfectly fine even though I had probably only rested for less than a couple of hours. I took that as a good sign.

I found Will with Austin and Kayla unpacking boxes in the storage closet of the infirmary.

“Thank the gods,” Kayla cried when she saw me. “I was beginning to think I’d have to staple my ears shut if I had to listen to another hour of Will’s complaining!”

Will’s ears turned pink. “I wasn’t that bad,” he protested.

“Dude,” Austin said. “You were that bad.”

I smiled at Will and said, “It sounds like you were that bad.”

He huffed. “Whatever. How are you feeling?”

“Great,” I said truthfully, and I stood still as he marched over to me and examined my pulse and pupils. I welcomed the warmth of his hands on my wrist and was kind of disappointed when he pulled away after finding that there was in fact nothing wrong with me.

I helped them unpack some of the boxes. The reason they were doing it being ‘we’ll need extra supplies for this afternoon’. It was kind of nice hanging out with all three of them. Between Kayla’s sarcasm, Austin’s friendliness and Will... it felt almost natural. I had to push down the ‘nobody wants you here’ feeling a couple of times, but it helped that they each included me in the conversation and actually got me to laugh. Especially when Kayla teased Will about his possessiveness.

In truth, I didn’t mind Will being protective. It was his nature, and also his way of showing me that he cared. He could get overbearing sometimes which was frustrating, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t handle that. I’d put him in his place if need be. And, I wasn’t going to complain when I heard that he had basically worried about me the whole time since he carried me to my cabin and left me to rest.

“You carried me?” I asked, surprised.

Will gave me a confused look. “How else would I have gotten you to your cabin?”

I tried to imagine Will carrying me. I had no idea what that would’ve looked like. Where would his hands have been? Were our faces in close proximity? I decided not to picture it in case I embarrassed myself.

Apparently Will took my silence as skepticism. “I’m not that weak, you know.”

My thoughts went immediately to when I had pinned him underneath me in the training arena. I was tempted to bring it up, but it was too private to talk about with Kayla and Austin in the room so I just shrugged.

When it was time, we made our way to the training field which was east of the climbing wall. On the way there, Austin and Kayla were talking strategy and Will and I lagged behind. Will kept fiddling with his fingers and glancing at me as if he wanted to say something.

I sighed. “Will, stop worrying. You do know that even though you’re not stronger than me, it doesn’t mean you’re not strong. I know I’m a tough act to follow.” It was a joke (a true one) and I was glad that I found myself able to boast about my abilities.

Will groaned. “That’s not what I was going to ask, but that’s very gracious of you.” He rolled his eyes.

“Alright,” I said. “What were you going to ask me?”

He hesitated for a second, apparently deciding whether or not his question was stupid or not. “Will you be my partner?” he blurted out after his pause.

I laughed at him. But when I saw his face, I stopped. “What?” I asked. “You thought I’d partner with anyone else?” I had assumed that us being partners was a given to be honest, but it was sweet how Will had asked anyway.

That seemed to relieve him. His expression softened and he replied, “Just making sure. Like I’ve said, you’re a bit of a flight risk, di Angelo.”

I let out a huff. “I’m surprised you want to partner with the flight risk,” I commented.

He smiled at me and took my hand. “What can I say? Flight risks make your life much more interesting.”

*

Harley had us stand around in a circle, tied to our partners’ with a magical cord going around our ankles.

Most of the other campers looked eager to get this started. I, on the other hand, just wanted to get this over with and maybe have an early night. Preferably with Will staying over... I’ll have to suggest it later. Or better: get him to suggest it.

Because I was thinking about that, I missed the rules and the warnings, but from Will’s grim expression, I guessed there was a high probability of pain and death.

“Please try and avoid ending up in Pakistan if you can help it,” Chiron was saying. Great, I thought. Because I definitely needed to spend more time in that gods forsaken labyrinth.

“I’m so excited,” Harley beamed. “If you avoid decapitation, it should be fun!”

Chiron sighed. Then he blew his horn and we fell through the ground into the underground maze.

Chapter Text

Will POV

The three legged death race did not go well.

That, at least, wasn’t surprising. What was surprising, was just how insane and violently absurd the eight year old son of Hephaestus really was.

Nico and I trudged along the dark corridors, Nico muttering things like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this again.” And “I’d kill that little boy if he wasn’t so damn cute.”

I’d had to explain the rules to him since he wasn’t listening earlier. We basically needed to find a golden apple, preferably before we were killed in some kind of creative way. We had already narrowly avoided a strange bluish fog and managed to walk away from the whispering voices that were encouraging us to partake in an Irish dance lesson.

We hadn’t seen any sign of other campers yet, except for the screams we heard a few minutes ago. That didn’t bode well, and I was starting to wonder why Chiron had allowed this to happen in the first place.

“What do you reckon?” Nico asked as he peered left and right at the fork in our path. The left was pitch black and the right seemed to have flaming geysers spraying out in different directions.

I thought about our options. “Death by incineration isn’t the way I want to go,” I admitted.

“I agree,” he said. “I’d much rather die in the darkness with no way of knowing how it happened.” It was hard to figure out whether he was joking or not, but since he started to move to the left, pulling me with him, I decided he was at least partly serious.

Before long, we were completely enveloped in the dark. I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face. I grabbed around blindly as we moved slowly forward, trying to determine if we were about to walk into a wall... or something worse.

“Oww,” Nico complained when I touched something squishier than a wall. “That was my nose.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I can’t see a damn thing. Did I hurt you?”

“No,” he replied. “Even your aggressive movements are gentle.”

I couldn’t decide whether that was a compliment or if he was making fun of me. “I could be aggressive if I wanted to be,” I protested.

Nico snorted. “Did you or did you not think that the best insult to call Octavian was an ‘anemic loser’?” he asked and I could hear the playfulness in his tone.

I laughed. Partly out of embarrassment and partly out of surprise that Nico remembered that, even if it was only a few months ago. We carried on walking, and I hoped we reached a light soon.

“So my trash talk isn’t amazing,” I relented. “Yours isn’t great either. And there are other ways to be aggressive.”

Nico paused as if making a decision. He retorted, “Aggressive like squirming around on the floor when you’re being pinned by your wrists?”

Suddenly I was glad for the darkness because my cheeks burned and my mouth opened and closed like a gaping fish. I heard Nico smirk, obviously pleased by my reaction. I tried to think of something clever to say, but my brain was short circuiting just thinking about Nico kissing me. “That wasn’t fair,” I managed.

Nico felt for my hand and took it in his. “Why’s that?” he asked in his innocent voice.

He had started to rub his thumb over the back of my hand and the small motions were making it hard to think. I let out a shuttered breath. “Because it was you,” I told him.

He mulled that over for a moment as we shuffled forward. “Mmm. I don’t accept that excuse, Solace. You were fine to tell me what to do when you ordered me to quit shadow travelling. That proves I’m just like any other patient.”

I wanted to tell him how wrong that statement was, but I didn’t get the chance. In the distance, I could finally start to see a light. A concentrated glow of golden light. “Golden apple,” I muttered.

Nico let go of my hand to squint through his fingers. “Bingo,” he agreed.

That was the good news. The bad news was that between us and the apple, there were dozens of mini spiky wrecking balls swinging at random heights and speeds from the ceiling.

“No no no no,” I refused. “We’ll find another apple.”

Nico groaned. “Will, it’s taken us this long to find this one. Let’s just go for it. I’m sure it’s easier than it looks.”

I gave him an unconvinced look which he probably couldn’t see very well in the dark. “It would be an absolute miracle if we’re not hit,” I told him.

“Do you really think Harley would give us challenges that were impossible?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied. “That kid may be cute, but he is crazy. I swear, if no one dies, he’d be disappointed about it.”

Nico smiled, probably agreeing with my conclusion. But then his smiled turned into something more wicked. “You know, if I pull you along, you won’t have a choice but to follow.” And he tugged our joint legs to demonstrate. “But we’d have a slightly lower chance of dying if you cooperate.”

I turned to face him. “Are you seriously threatening me with both of our deaths?” The situation was actually kind of funny, and I couldn’t help but laugh at my question.

Nico sighed. “Come on. We’ve both got good reflexes, and we’ll look out for each other. We’ll be fine,” he assured.

I pushed down my initial response which was a definite ‘no’ because Nico’s tone had become a bit more serious. I don’t know what made me agree in the end. Probably the incentive of getting out of this damn maze. Or maybe it was Nico rubbing circles on my hand again. “Fine,” I grumbled. “But if we die, I’m going to kill you.”

Nico rolled his eyes and gripped my hand more firmly.

“On three?” I asked.

Nico nodded, then looked at the swinging death balls, probably trying to work out a pattern. We both stared at them, Nico studying their movements, and me transfixed and terrified as I tried to imagine a scenario where we’d both avoid getting hit by a swinging death ball.

Then, out of nowhere, Nico shouted, “Three!” and ran forward, pulling me with him.

“Wait!” I yelled uselessly because there was no way we’d be able to stop now. I stumbled along, praying to the gods that Nico had actually thought this through. He pulled me by the hand (and by the ankle) to the left just as a spike ball swung over our heads to the right. Then, pulled my hand down to make me fall to the floor before a ball could whack me head on.

We made our way across, Nico pushing and pulling me out of the way, and me, mostly just being pushed and pulled out of the way. His reflexes seemed to be a lot better than mine, and I was glad that he was my partner in this whole thing.

We were nearly across when I saw a ball flying out of nowhere in Nico’s blind spot. I grabbed his shoulders and pushed us both to the floor very unceremoniously. I used my momentum to roll us across the last of the danger zone before another ball that was scraping against the floor could hit us. We ended up right below the golden apple, me half on top of Nico.

“See?” Nico said. “Told you we’d be fine. Now get off.”

“You’re welcome,” I grumbled sarcastically, but made no effort to move because I was still looking at his face. The glow of the apple was causing the ends of Nico’s shaggy hair to shine at the edges, and his face looked so angelic is was almost surreal.

My heart started beating faster than when we were being attacked by spiky metal weapons. Nico fixed me with a confused look, probably wondering why I wasn’t making any move to get off of him. His raised eyebrows and ragged breathing just added to my want.

Before I could change my mind, I leaned down and kissed him. He tensed for a second before kissing me back, bringing his hands to lay on my upper arms just below my shoulders.

The kiss only lasted a short amount of time because my elbows were digging into the hard concrete and I had to shift my position. I pulled away to see his eyes sparkling and a small smile playing on his lips. His expression was very satisfying. As I helped him up, I said, “Now we’re even.”

Nico said nothing and I was kind of proud that I’d left him a bit speechless.

Then I grabbed the apple and the ceiling opened up into a ramp made of soil, leading back into the sunlight... and the screaming.

*

“Burn salve on bed fourteen!” I shouted to Austin who was manning the storage cupboard. “We need gauze and oxygen for bed five!” I ran down the row of beds. “Oh gods, Austin, you need to tend to Malcolm’s ear or he might lose his hearing permanently!” I screamed as I passed bed eight. “Chiara needs bandages for her arm on bed nine! And bed twelve needs more ice chips.”

I was sweating like crazy, and my heart had been beating dangerously hard ever since we had climbed out of the labyrinth.

“Kayla!” I turned to my sister. “Can you prep Paolo to go under? He needs urgent surgery! I’ll be in there in a sec.” Kayla nodded and went to get the anaesthesia for Paolo whose arms had literally been chopped off and he was whining in agony on bed ten.

I ran to the sink to wash my hands and tried to control my breathing. This was an absolute nightmare. When we had come out of the labyrinth, Chiron had galloped up to me and urgently told me that I was needed in the infirmary. “It’s not that bad!” Harley had said. “No one even died. Maybe I’ll make it three apples next time.” Forcing myself not to argue, I had ran here as fast I could with Nico on my heels.

I passed Nico in the corridor after I had washed my hands and was heading for the gloves. He asked, “What can I do to help?”

I blinked at him, my mind a million miles away. “Um...” I tried to think, but the panic was rising up my stomach, threatening to choke me. There had never been so many serious injuries at camp when I had so little Apollo campers to help.

Nico must’ve seen the helplessness in my eyes because he gripped my shoulders gently. “You know what you’re doing, Will. This is your expertise.” Then he handed me a pair of gloves and helped me slip them on. “Just breathe. And give me something to do,” he ordered.

I scanned the beds of injured campers as quickly as I could. “You could help wrap Chiara’s arm,” I asked. “And rub burn ointment on Ellis’s cheek.”

Nico nodded as Kayla shouted, “Paolo’s under! Will!”

“Shit,” I muttered. I always got nervous before a big surgery. It was okay when I got in there, but right now, my hands were shaking.

Nico gripped my shoulders again and his dark eyes bored into mine. “You’ve got this. Go on.”

I nodded frantically and headed towards the theatre. “Oh,” I turned back around to look at Nico. “There’s nothing I can do about the Irish dancing, so can you please get Sherman and Connor out of here?”

Nico nodded and rushed off, and I went to reattach some arms.

*

About ten hours later, dozens of burns, tens of lacerations, three pulled muscles, two transected arms and a burst ear drum, I was ready to drop dead. I had used the last of my remaining strength to sing a healing hymn for Malcolm after Austin had tried everything he could to fix his ear.

I didn’t want him to lose his hearing, so I had had no choice. I had ordered the others to keep on eye on everyone else as I worked and I assumed they were now cleaning up the mess.

The infirmary was much quieter now, with only the bleeps of the monitors and Mitchell writing at reception who had volunteered to help with paperwork.

I left Malcolm’s bedside and walked into the hallway to see Nico, Kayla and Austin finishing up the tidying of the corridor. I did a quick scan of all the patients, and none of them looked like they needed anything urgent anymore.

I looked to Nico and my siblings. I wanted to say ‘thanks’ to them, but instead, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor.

“Will!” Nico cried, and he rushed forward just in time to stop my head hitting the floor. Then I passed out.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I was not being creepy.

I was sitting in the infirmary next to bed twenty, one of the only private rooms. I insisted Will at least deserved his privacy after healing half of the camp. It was well after midnight, and I didn’t know what I was still doing here. Austin had told me that with the amount of healing Will had used his powers for, it was unlikely that he’d wake up before noon tomorrow. But still, when I had tried to sleep in my cabin, I couldn’t, so I figured I’d come here to watch over Will.

I could feel that his aura was closer to death than it was when we were in the labyrinth together, and that bothered me. It wasn’t enough to be panic inducing, but it was still like a an itch I couldn’t scratch until I knew that Will was well again.

So here I was, sitting in the infirmary, just staring at his stupid beautiful face, and waiting for him to wake up.

Okay, maybe I was a little creepy. But I couldn’t find it in myself to care at this point.

I sagged in my armchair, taking a deep breath. I thought about the race, when Will had said that I was an exception to his so called aggression. I was pretty confident that he was just making excuses, because even if he had wanted to get out from under me in the training arena, I wouldn’t have given him the choice.

Still, I couldn’t argue that he was soft all the time. Just look at what he’s done during the wars, treating people with no regard for his own safety. Or today, handling the entire infirmary which was already understaffed, bringing himself to the edge to help every last person. On some level, he was as reckless as me.

Gods that pissed me off. I knew Will had the tendency to put everyone else first, but the fact that he had ignored his own well being so completely, made me want to slap him. Then hug him. And then maybe kiss him...

And then there was when he kissed me... I was wondering when he would do that. I was sure I’d have to wait at least a couple of weeks, but the way he took control and just leaned down... gods what was happening to me? Thinking about how my body had reacted so positively when our lips, and our bodies touched, it was hard to think that only a few months ago, I would’ve shoved my sword at anyone who dared to try physical contact with me.

Now... I found myself... not craving for it, but looking forward to it.

I needed Will to wake up so I could tell him what a good job he did. I had been worried about him ever since we had got back, and I couldn’t comfort the idiot if he was passed out cold.

Then again, I was kind of tired. Maybe if I just closed my eyes...

*

I was woken up by a series of loud bleeping. I jumped up and reached for my sword instinctively. When it wasn’t there, my panic started to grow, but then I took in my surroundings and realised where I was.

Will was still asleep, and the bleeping was coming from outside. I went to investigate.

Kayla and Mitchell were standing at Paolo’s bedside, muttering about something. Paolo himself was still knocked out from the pain medication they had given him last night. When I reached them, I openly stared at the scars that ran around each bicep like armbands. How Will had reattached them so neatly, I had no idea, but it made me feel proud at what he could do.

“He’s stable,” Kayla yawned. “But I think we should double the pain meds just in case he wakes up from it. He needs more rest.” She herself looked groggy at best, and her tone of voice was slurred slightly.

“Coming up,” Mitchell replied. “Hey Nico,” he said when he saw me. “Could you please tell Kayla to get some sleep? She’s going to pass out as hard as Will any second.”

“I’m fine,” Kayla protested, then yawned again, swaying slightly on her feet.

“Have you been up all night?” I asked.

She took a second to answer, as if her brain wasn’t working properly. “Of course not, don’t be silly. Austin took the first shift, I took the second, and then Mitchell offered to take over this morning, but I wanted to watch for a bit longer. Paolo’s machine just started bleeping.”

I did a quick mental calculation and decided that she did indeed need more sleep. “Go rest,” I told her. “I can keep watch for a bit.”

Mitchell raised his hand. “And I’ll help too. Go on, Kayla.” He ushered her out of the door despite her protests. He must’ve walked her to the Apollo cabin because it took a few minutes for him to come back.

He went back to the desk at reception when he returned, and picked up his pen. “You would not believe the amount of paper work that goes with all these injuries,” he complained to me.

It was weird to be alone with the son of Aphrodite, since I’d never really spoken to him before, except that time he picked out a shirt for my first date with Will. “It’s nice of you to volunteer to help out,” I offered.

He smiled at me. “Well it was the least I could do since I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“Oh?” I asked. Usually campers that stayed through September were year rounders.

“Yeah, I go to a ‘special’ school so the terms are a lot shorter. Plus, my dad convinced them to let me do this first half of the year remotely because I wanted to help out with the aftermath of the war.”

I let that sink in. I hadn’t been to a school for as long as I could remember. I kind of missed it. But, on the other hand, I didn’t. I preferred being independent and teaching myself (or summoning ghosts to teach me) things I needed to know. It had been rendered moot anyway because the university at New Rome had ‘recognised’ my situation probably thanks to Reyna, and had given me the opportunity to go to college there when I wanted to. Considering I didn’t want to study a highly academic subject.

“So?” Mitchell asked breaking the silence. “How was your date?”

Before I could stop myself, I had blurted, “It was pretty great actually.”

He smiled at me knowingly and asked me about it. We spoke for about an hour. Me telling Mitchell about the date, him asking questions and seeming genuinely interested. It felt more comfortable than I would’ve thought, and I actually enjoyed the opportunity to talk about how great Will had been. Obviously I left out the more personal details, like the kisses, and how Will sometimes helped me through my panic attacks.

Mitchell was a good listener and he also had good stories to share about his father who didn’t have a clue who Mitchell’s mother was, and was under the impression that Mitchell was attending a computer camp every summer. I found myself thinking that it’s crazy what mortals end up believing with the mist.

At lunch time, Chiron came to check on us.

“How are we doing in here?” he asked, looking around at the sleeping patients.

Mitchell and I told him as much as we could and he looked sympathetic throughout. “Well give my thanks to William,” he requested.

“Will do,” I said. “I’m assuming there won’t be any more death races?” Because I was still thinking about Harley’s comment when Will and I had come back out of the labyrinth.

Chiron gave me a look that said ‘I wish that were true, but we’ve got a demonic eight year old to please’.

“Chiron!” Mitchell whined. “That was painful for everyone involved!”

The centaur studied us. “Camp activities are supposed to be dangerous,” he finally said. “They prepare us for the real world.”

I sighed. I didn’t particularly want to see Will go through that again. It was heartbreaking to watch at times. But I guess what Chiron said made sense. Maybe I could ask Will about how I could be more helpful next time.

Chiron went to leave. “Can I ask the nymphs to get you boys anything to eat?” he asked.

Mitchell ordered a large cheeseburger. I ordered one too, and one for Will, plus a blueberry muffin for when he woke up.

Mitchell and I ate while he finished off the paperwork. No one else’s monitor beeped, and by the time I had finished my burger, Will had woken up and had come stumbling into the reception area.

“What happened?” he yawned. “Is everyone alive?”

His hair was messed up from where he’d been sleeping on it, his cheeks were slightly rosy, and his eyes still looked drowsy. All in all, he looked completely adorable. Ugh, really, what was happening to me?

“Everyone lives,” Mitchell replied after realising that I wasn’t answering Will’s question.

I tore my eyes away from Will and told him, “Thanks to you.”

Will just answered with another yawn. “Just doing my job,” he said.

“Eat,” I ordered, practically shoving the burger and muffin at him. I needn’t have worried though because he scoffed them both pretty fast.

After that, Austin walked in looking much more refreshed than any of us. “Morning,” he chirped. “How is everyone?”

He got a round of grumbles from the three of us that could’ve been ‘fine’ or ‘horrible’.

Austin walked over to the desk. “Thanks for doing the paperwork, Mitchell. It’s a real help. I can take over now. All three of you can go.”

We all started to protest but Austin cut us off. “Seriously guys, everything is completely under control now. I think I can handle it. Mitchell, don’t you need to pack?”

Mitchell sighed, clearly weighing up his want to help and his want to pack so he could get away from camp before the next death race. “Yeah, I should probably pack,” he finally agreed. “It’ll take a while. Plus, I pretty much finished all the paperwork if you want to check it.” He handed Austin the pen and got up to leave.

Austin turned to me. “And you’ve been here all night. Go do something else for a while.”

Will gave me a look. “All night?” he asked incredulously. I shrugged like it was no big deal, because it wasn’t really.

Then Austin looked at Will. “And dude, you look disgusting, you need to wash up.”

Will grimaced at his brother. “Yeah,” he relented. “I need a shower.”

“Yes you do,” Austin agreed. Then he smacked his forehead. “Oh I forgot! Kayla is using the Apollo cabin shower. You know how long she takes.”

“You can use the one in my cabin,” I offered before thinking about it.

Austin gave us both a smile that definitely did not have innocent intentions. Will’s cheeks turned even rosier and I just tried to ignore Austin altogether.

I grabbed Will’s hand and started pulling him out of the infirmary. As we were leaving, I turned back to Austin and asked innocently, “And whose shower will you be sharing?”

Will laughed and Austin gave me a defeated smile and shook his head.

“Come on,” Will said. “I do kinda smell.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

Nico fetched me his fluffiest towel, some fresh clothes and even let me choose a new shampoo from his huge collection. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Nico’s shampoo, but smelling it on me would somehow make it less special.

Then he stepped out of the bathroom and told me he’d watch some TV while he waited for me.

He was being so sweet trying to take care of me, I had to actively make myself stop smiling because even my facial muscles were starting to hurt.

I stripped down to my underwear and looked at the shower. It was a lot nicer than the Apollo cabin one. The walls were black marble, as per the whole Hades aesthetic, and the square shaped space was about two metres wide. The floor of the shower was a spotless white and it curved up in the back left corner to form a comfortable looking seat. Wow, I wish my father paid more attention to me like Hades does for Nico.

I studied the three shower heads on the ceiling which were all pointed at different directions, and then the control panel at the front which only had about a hundred buttons and dials.

“Nico?” I called. “You forgot to tell me how your high tech shower works.”

I heard footsteps and then before I could protest, Nico opened the bathroom door. He immediately averted his eyes and his cheeks tinted a bright pink. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I should’ve knocked.”

I didn’t try to cover up. I wasn’t really that bothered. “It’s alright. I don’t mind. I just,” I gestured towards the huge shower, “have no idea how to work this thing. I swear I feel like I’m in a crazy eight star hotel or something.” I looked back at Nico who was still purposely not looking in my direction. “Not that I would know. I’ve never been to an eight star hotel... or any hotels for that matter.”

“None?”

“Well, my mom took me on a skiing holiday when I was about five or six. That was pretty awesome. And we stayed in a nice hotel that once. I remember being really excited.” I trailed off because the memory was a bit too painful.

Nico seemed to think for a second before asking, “How is skiing?” And I was glad that he had asked that instead of something about my mom.

“Oh it’s great!” I said enthusiastically because I only remembered good memories about the actual slopes. “We should definitely go sometime.”

“Yeah...” Nico replied, and I got a bit scared that I might’ve gone too far suggesting a holiday. But his expression looked happy enough, even if it was also thoughtful.

He came all the way in and showed me which button to press and which dial to turn. After he finished, he huffed. “I know it’s a lot. I tried to prevent Hades from going this far, but he insisted.”

I smiled at him. “He wants to be a good dad. It’s nice of him.”

“I guess,” he replied, looking up at me. Then his eyes wandered down my chest and lower and he quickly averted his eyes again as his cheeks turned a brighter shade of pink. But I knew he was checking me out, and I was kind of happy I made him a bit nervous. “Well,” he declared. “I’ll just...”

He turned to leave, but I stopped him by asking, “Why did you stay in the infirmary all night?”

I was going to ask earlier, but Austin had interrupted by informing me that I looked disgusting. I don’t know why I brought it up again now. Probably because I was enjoying the blush on Nico’s cheeks, and I didn’t want him to leave.

Nico eyed me curiously as if he knew exactly what I was doing. He didn’t challenge me though. Instead, he turned back around and fixed his eyes on mine. “It wasn’t a big deal,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d help watch over some of the patients.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Some of the patients?” I smiled at him. “Who did you ‘watch over’?” I asked, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer (or hoped).

Nico’s blush had started to creep down his neck now. “Well...” He hesitated, which confirmed my suspicions. “There was Paolo,” he answered eventually.

I took a couple of steps closer to him. “Paolo. Anyone else?” I asked innocently.

He fixed me with a death glare that should’ve made me want to run away screaming, but really, he just looked super cute with his furrowed brow and pouty lips. I moved closer to him so that we were about half a metre away from each other.

Nico sighed. “Yes. Okay fine. I was watching over you,” he admitted. His eyes kept flicking towards my chest and back up. “Happy?”

I smiled wider. “Happy that you were worried about me?” I teased.

Nico groaned, but it wasn’t quite convincing because of how flustered he sounded. “Yeah, I was worried you wouldn’t wake up and I wouldn’t have the chance to scold you for using your powers so recklessly.” He fixed me with a stern look. “Don’t think you’re out of the doghouse just because I’m being nice to you now,” he warned.

I laughed. “If this is nice, I don’t want to see...“

Nico cut me off as he closed the distance between us. He wrapped his hands around my neck, pulled me towards him and kissed me. His lips moved with more hunger and confidence than our first two kisses. The words I was about to say died in my throat as I kissed him back, meeting his intensity with my own.

His fingers lightly scratched the back of my neck as he pressed his body into mine. The strength that he was pressing into me with surprised me, and I stumbled backwards until I felt my hips touch the sink. I placed my hands on his hips just where the hem of his t-shirt lay and fiddled with the edge of the fabric, my knuckles just lightly brushing against the warm skin of his stomach as I continued to kiss him.

As I leaned against the sink, Nico pressed into me again, and I was suddenly aware that I was only in my underwear. I couldn’t get too carried away, in case I embarrassed myself, and I could already feel myself getting too excited...

Reluctantly, I pulled away. Nico lingered in my space for a second, his eyes sparkling as he looked at me. But he seemed to get it because he lowered his hands and smiled wickedly at me. “Have a nice shower, Solace.” He walked out, closing the bathroom door behind him.

I let out a shaky breath. Gods help me from this evil, beautiful, amazing guy.

I turned on the water (cold, obviously) and stepped in.

*

When the water first hit me, it was a welcome shock to my system. I let it cover me completely and at first it was refreshing.

Then, my mind turned towards the events of last night. The infirmary. The injuries. The screaming. I don’t think I’d ever had to reattach whole limbs before. I really hoped I’d been able to keep Paolo’s motor control stable, because I was afraid he would probably lose some of his sensory nerves.

I sighed, trying to block out the memories of how helpless I had felt. Of how many injuries there were to treat, and not enough healing campers. I had been ready to completely lose it, but of course I couldn’t.

Ever since I was thirteen, I’d been a head counsellor. People looked up to me, and I couldn’t show any weakness. I had to bottle up my feelings for the sake of everyone else’s sanity.

Before I could stop it, I was crying. Which was stupid, considering that I had just been making out with Nico not ten minutes ago. But I couldn’t help it. The memories and emotions just washed over me like the cold water of the shower.

And I let them.

*

I took longer than usual in the shower, but that was mainly because I didn’t want Nico to see me crying. Also, I had to hunt around for about five minutes and in between dozens of products just to find a damn moisturiser.

I dressed in the clothes Nico had given me, pausing slightly to admire how his black underwear looked on me. Then I ran the towel over my hair to dry it the best I could and finally stepped out of the bathroom.

Nico was sitting on the sofa wrapped in a fluffy grey blanket. He smirked when he heard me approach. “I won’t comment on how long you took in the shower if you don’t,” he teased. Then he looked up and his expression went from playful to concerned. “What? What’s wrong?”

Damn it. Maybe I hadn’t hidden my crying episode as well as I’d hoped.

Nico stood up and walked over to me. He brought his hands to rest under my chin and forced me to look at him. “You were crying,” he noted.

I kept my gaze anywhere but his eyes, worried that I might lose it again if I looked at them. “It’s nothing,” I said, internally scolding myself for sounding so croaky. I should’ve practiced my voice in the bathroom.

Nico didn’t look convinced (I’d be worried if he was) and he kept studying me, waiting for me to admit what was wrong.

“Look,” I said. “I might just go lie down in my bed.” I didn’t add the ‘you don’t need this right now’ because he would’ve felt obligated to protest. “Thanks for letting me use your shower.”

I shuffled slightly and Nico’s hands dropped from my chin. His expression was mixed thoughtful, frustrated and hurt, but I couldn’t do anything that right now. I’d explain tomorrow. I made to leave and just as I reached the door, he spoke. “You can’t go,” he told me.

I turned to face him. He was still standing where I’d left him in front of the sofa, but his eyes bore into me with a fierce intensity.

“Why not?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “Because then I wouldn’t be able to take care of you,” he stated plainly.

I offered him a small smile. “You don’t need to take care of me, Nico. I’m perfectly fine.”

Nico stared at me as if I was stupid. “I’m not letting you leave,” he said stubbornly. “Now, are you going to come back by yourself or am I going to have to pick you up and drag you?”

I stared at him in shock. This wasn’t the dynamic of our relationship. I was supposed to comfort him. But when I thought about that, I realised how ridiculously stupid it sounded. I also realised that if Nico had been the one crying in the shower, I wouldn’t have let him leave. I sighed. I didn’t feel like talking about it right now, but Nico genuinely seemed to want me to stay.

I would’ve argued more, but to be honest, I kind of felt like being taken care of. Plus, Nico and his blankets and TV were starting to look really inviting. I made my way back over to him and tried for another smile. “I would’ve liked to see you trying to carry me.”

He got that look in his eyes as if he were accepting a challenge. “Maybe another day,” he suggested. He sat back down on the sofa and pulled his fluffy blanket over his crossed legs. He looked up at me expectantly.

“Oh,” I said dumbly and followed suit as he turned on one of those cheesy sitcoms.

About ten minutes in, he sighed. “Will, your bitterness is literally radiating off of you right now.”

I kept my eyes focused on the TV. “Sorry,” I mumbled.

Nico shook his head in exasperation. “How you can be so smart in the infirmary and so dumb with me, I’ll never understand,” he complained. Then, before I could react, he grabbed my shirt and pulled me down so that my head was lying in his lap. I let out a small yelp, but it was quickly silenced when we started to run his fingers through my hair.

I let out a sigh of content as he continued to stroke all the way down to my scalp. It felt so damn good. His fingers were like magic, strangely cool and nimble. I may have let out a shuttered breath when he reached a spot above my ear, and he may have noticed because he kept revisiting that area.

I was glad he hadn’t insisted I talk to him. I’d tell him someday, but right now, I just needed this. The warmth of Nico’s lap. The cheesy comedy. The fluffy blankets. His fingers through my hair.

How did I get this lucky?

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will spent that night at the Hades cabin. I insisted he use my bed and although he protested, he was still a bit weakened from his overuse of his powers and his breakdown, so it was easy to convince him.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t tired at all. Probably because I had slept for ages the night before in the infirmary. But my chaotic thoughts were also partly to blame.

I went to sit back on the couch when I’d made Will comfortable in my bed. It didn’t seem weird that he was sleeping there. It felt the opposite actually, and I felt all fuzzy inside knowing that he had trusted me enough to stay with me when he was vulnerable. I tried to think about the last time someone had truly trusted me like that. It was probably Reyna on our quest in the summer, but before that, it was hard to come up with anything.

Even my sister, Bianca hadn’t wanted to stick around with me before she left for the hunters... but I didn’t want to go down that road right now.

I sighed as I scrolled through the options on the TV. I was getting strangely addicted to this show called Riverdale, so I put on an episode and tried to concentrate.

But I couldn’t really. My mind kept turning back to Will. And I know, that makes me sound like I’m obsessed, but in this case, I think I had the right to wonder about what had happened earlier.

First, he had successfully set me up to admitting that I had watched over him in the infirmary, whilst keeping me in the bathroom with him when he was almost naked. Second, he’d closed the distance between us, practically radiating his want all around the room. Third, we’d had a pretty intense make out session. And then fourth... he’d had a breakdown in the shower.

I tried my best not to take that personally. I really did. I knew that trauma can sneak up on you when you least expect it, often in very inconvenient times. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit deflated given the timeline of events.

I pushed down that emotion, feeling guilty for being selfish. Will had needed comfort and he had turned to me. Nico di Angelo, son of Hades. I couldn’t help but smile at that thought. It wasn’t Will’s fault that something was bothering him. I just wished I knew what exactly it was so that I could make him feel better about it. I was sure it had something to do with him overworking in the infirmary, but I suspected there was more to it than that.

My thoughts then turned to Jason and Piper on their wild goose chase for that idiot, Leo Valdez. I hoped they were doing okay. I knew they could handle themselves, but still, if something happened to them... Nope. I wasn’t going to let myself go down that road either.

I instead thought about what would happen when Leo would turn up in camp on his big golden dragon, and the girl, Calypso, with him. I thought about punching him in the arm as soon as he set down, and that made me smile at least.

I wondered how Hazel, Reyna and Frank were doing at camp Jupiter. Reyna had mentioned something about exchange programmes between the camps after the war, but I hadn’t heard from her in a while. I decided to fix that.

I got up and plucked a drachma from the table, then went into the bathroom to form a rainbow. It took a few attempts, but I finally managed. I threw the coin into it, about to say the prayer to Iris, but instead of dissolving, the drachma tossed right through and fell back down into the bathtub with a clunk. That was weird. I tried again and the same thing happened.

I sighed. Iris was probably on holiday or something. I went back to watching my show, and I must’ve fallen asleep at some point.

*

I woke up around the same time as Will. He had a sheepish expression on his face when he emerged from the bathroom. “Sorry about stealing your bed,” he said sincerely. “Did you sleep on the couch or...?”

I rolled my eyes. “You didn’t steal my bed. I let you sleep in my bed,” I corrected him. “Trust me, you wouldn’t have been successful if you had tried to steal my bed.”

He laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He looked at me for a second before saying, “Thank you.”

I suddenly felt a bit embarrassed for no reason at all. “It’s not like I harvested the wood myself to build you the bed,” I argued. “It’s not a big deal.”

He smiled at me and shook his head. “Typical Nico di Angelo,” he muttered, which I did not appreciate.

I crossed my arms. “What in the hell is that supposed to mean?”

He held his hands up in mock surrender. “Nothing, nothing.” When he saw my death glare he smiled wider and said, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

We made our way to lunch, us both heading towards the Apollo table. Since it was the start of November, there was a light breeze and despite the magical borders, some of the leaves had started to crumble from their branches.

“Hey guys,” Kayla said cheerfully when we arrived. “Nico, how does it feel to sit at the coolest table at camp?”

It felt nice to have her greet me in such an endearing way, especially because I was afraid of what she and Austin might think of me intruding. I realised that I didn’t exactly ask them if they’d be okay with it, and I hoped that Will had at least done something of that sort.

I tried for a smile, even though I didn’t feel much like socialising today. “Oh I don’t know... with the black wood and isolation, the Hades table is pretty tough to beat.”

They all gave me a polite chuckle even though what I said was only twenty percent funny and a hundred percent true. Austin shot me with finger guns. “I like having you around,” he declared. “As long as you aren’t expecting any skeletal friends dropping by, you’ll fit right in.”

That meant more than he probably realised, and I found myself smiling in gratitude like a dopey idiot. These guys actually seemed sincere about liking me. Ugh! How dare they be so nice to me! I really wasn’t used to it.

Will patted a spot on the bench next to him and I sat. I got my usual order of pancakes and drizzled them with syrup: the perfect brunch. Will pushed a plate of fruits in front of me. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m glad you’ve got your appetite back. But maybe try eating a bit more fruit as well?”

I gave him an unimpressed stare. “What?” he laughed. “You can’t just run on sugar.”

I raised my eyebrows at him and picked up my fork. “Watch me,” I told him, and then dug into my pancakes, not even caring what he thought about it.

I demolished the stack and looked back up at him triumphantly. He had an amused smile on his face, but I could tell he wasn’t done with me.

“Eat some fruit, Nico,” Will ordered.

I smiled at him. “Or,” I said innocently. “I could just get another pancake stack.”

Will narrowed his eyes at me, and I was genuinely curious to see what he would do to convince me. The thing was, I didn’t actually mind eating fruit (except pomegranates). I did eat healthily enough, but the last few days had been very taxing and I felt like I needed to compensate with sugar. Plus, it if wasn’t for Will ordering me to do it, I might’ve already taken an apple or some grapes. But winding him up was particularly enjoyable.

I called a dryad over and asked for more pancakes, smiling at Will as innocently as I could when my new plate arrived.

“How about,” he suggested, while taking a bite of his own apple. “You have some raspberries or blueberries with this stack?”

I took a bite of pancake and swallowed. “Nah,” I told him, aware that I sounded like a stubborn six year old. It was worth it to see Will’s face.

His expression was still amused and a bit frustrated, which I found satisfying. Austin and Kayla had stopped watching us now, and were talking about the best way to clean a wind instrument.

I turned back to face Will, and his face now had a playful hint to it as well. He smiled at me. “Alright,” he sighed dramatically (thought I suspected he wasn’t actually conceding). “Either eat some fruit,” he warned as he locked his eyes on mine, “or I won’t stop doing this.”

I looked at him, confused. “Doing wha...”

I was cut off as he moved closer to me (it wasn’t that hard, we were practically shoulder to shoulder already). He leaned his head into the space just under my chin where my neck was exposed, and kissed me there. I sucked in my breath involuntarily as he made contact. His lips lingered on my skin for a moment, letting me adjust, then kissed again.

I let out a shaky breath as he continued to kiss me. I never knew my neck was so damn sensitive, but it felt amazingly good. What did Will think he was doing? This wasn’t even a punishment. I could have him kiss me there all day if I wanted. And I kind of did want that.

The warmth of his proximity flowed onto my skin, making me more sensitive as every nerve ending stood on end. He was giving me the smallest kisses and I realised that I was frustrated he wasn’t going faster. I was completely gone, and the dork knew it judging from the smile I felt his lips form.

But then I remembered where we were. Gods we were in public, with people watching us. I had a reputation to uphold, and some dignity I didn’t want to lose. “Will...” I protested weakly. The feeling of his lips on my skin made it hard to form words, let alone move away from him. Why didn’t I have any self control? For gods’ sake I was a son of Hades after all.

Fortunately (or not so fortunately, depending the way you looked at it) Will pulled away with the dorkiest grin I’d ever seen. “Had enough? Would you like some raspberries now?” he asked in a fake innocent voice.

I was tempted to decline once more, but I didn’t want him to undo me again (more like I wanted him to, but hated how it made me so damn weak). And I couldn’t exactly leave because we had made such a scene to convince Chiron to let me sit here. I could probably put my foot down with Will if I wanted to, but I felt like he had won this round and I had to at least give him credit for it. “Fine,” I grumbled.

Will smiled triumphantly at me and spooned some assorted berries on my pancakes.

There was probably no way that Kayla and Austin missed Will’s little performance, but they were purposely not looking in our direction, which I was grateful for.

Will placed the spoon down and picked a blueberry off of my plate and popped it in his mouth.

“I’m starting to think that sitting with you isn’t going to be as great as I thought,” I mumbled, picking my fork back up.

Will looked at me knowingly. “I’d have to disagree with you there,” he stated happily. “This is going to be really enjoyable.”

I groaned. “I’m sitting opposite you tomorrow,” I told him. “And wearing a scarf,” I added for good measure.

Will laughed, clearly pleased that I felt like I needed to take precautions against his techniques in getting me to eat healthier. But to be fair to him, the pancakes tasted a lot better with the added fruit.

Just then, Chiron stood up from his table at the front of the pavilion. “Good afternoon,” he announced. “There are a few things I need to discuss with everyone.” The way his tail flicked involuntarily, I guessed that it wasn’t anything good.

“I am aware,” he declared. “That our communications have been down for the past few days.” I remembered my failed Iris message last night and I realised that it wasn’t just a coincidence that it hadn’t worked.

“I have been looking into this problem,” Chiron told us. “And at the moment, I am convinced that it’s nothing to worry about.” Although his tone was screaming ‘worry about it!’

“Until we have more information,” he continued, “you may carry on with camp activities as usual, and I will keep everyone updated.” That didn’t sound very reassuring, but I guessed I couldn’t really do anything about it until we knew more.

“Have a good day,” Chiron finished, and he hurried off. As did everyone else.

*

I spent the rest of the early afternoon sparring in the training arena with Sherman Yang. He seemed to have a lot of bottled up aggression and I was almost sure that at least some of it was personal.

I disarmed him for the sixth time in a row. “Maybe try more controlled movements,” I suggested. “You’re a bit all over the place.”

Sherman scowled at me. “Thanks for the tip, di Angelo, but I’ve been here for longer than you have.”

I wanted to point out that while that was technically true, it also technically wasn’t, but I held my tongue because going into my history right now didn’t sound appealing. “Whatever you say,” I relented. “Another round?”

The son of Ares was breathing much more heavily than I was, and didn’t look like he could take another round, but he agreed nonetheless. It took exactly ten seconds for me to disarm him again, and he practically growled in frustration, sounding like an oversized baby bear.

“I might get going,” I said. “I’m a bit tired.” Which was kind of true, but really, I was just a bit bored.

Sherman scowled at me again. “I’ll beat you one of these days,” he promised. I gave him a thumbs up to show that I was looking forward to seeing that, then left him to shower (and maybe throw up).

I found Will in the infirmary, finishing up on changing Malcolm’s head bandage. When he was done, he walked straight up to me. “We’re going on a date, my deadly little muffin,” he stated.

I was so pleasantly surprised, I forgot to smack him for the stupid nickname.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Strawberry picking?” Nico asked with a disgusted look on his face.

I sighed and handed him a basket. “Not just strawberry picking,” I assured. “I brought some cakes for a picnic as well.” I held up my basket as proof.

Nico gave me a look that suggested that he still didn’t really like this idea. Nevertheless, I thought it’d be fun. I needed some fresh air from my shift in the infirmary, and we both needed some quality alone time together since I had basically ruined Nico’s night yesterday. I was determined to make it up to him.

We were en route to the strawberry fields despite Nico’s complaints, so I took that as a positive sign. I nudged him playfully, “You seemed to like the strawberries earlier.”

Nico kept his gaze straight ahead but I could see him blushing. I was, of course, referring to when I had blackmailed him with kisses to get him to eat his fruit. In my defence, I didn’t see another way to get him to eat healthily!

Okay, maybe there were other ways, but not ones that were as fun, and had no downside. I wondered what would’ve happened if I had just kept kissing him... I really wanted to find out.

Nico huffed. “Don’t you dare do that again,” he told me sternly.

I laughed at his warning. “Do what?” I asked innocently, because getting Nico to say something like ‘kiss my neck in public so that I eat my five a day’ was almost as entertaining as actually doing it.

He gave me another warning look. “From the way you’re acting, you’ll be picking strawberries by yourself.”

I pouted. “But,” I held up the basket for him to see, “cakes!”

He seemed to think that over, deciding whether having to put up with my teasing was worth the confectionary. “I’ll stay for the cakes,” he concluded. “Definitely not for you.”

I smiled at him. “Of course not,” I assured him. “I agree, cakes are a much better incentive.”

We reached the fields and climbed the hill a bit so we had a nice view of the camp and the lake. It really was beautiful, especially with the sun out, the glowing rays just about low enough for it to be before sunset. I pulled out the picnic blanket I had brought and laid it across a patch of grass, under a tree. Then I grabbed the empty basket and practically dragged a whining Nico to the nearest strawberry bush.

Despite his arguing, he seemed to be better at strawberry picking than me. I swear, was there anything I could beat him at? By the time I had plucked my fifth one, he’d already accumulated about seventeen.

I gave up and let him take over. Instead, I found the smallest ripe looking strawberry I could and called to Nico. “Think you can catch this with your mouth?” I challenged.

Nico scoffed. “If I can’t, it’ll be because your aim is off.”

I laughed because he had a point. “I promise I won’t aim for your hair. Go on. Open wide,” I requested.

He just stood there and stared at me.

“I mean, or you could just stand there and then it’ll definitely get in your hair,” I taunted.

Nico rolled his eyes. “I’m not standing in a strawberry field with my mouth gaped open like a baby bird,” he stated. “It sounds like more of a Will thing to do really.”

I gasped in fake outrage and launched the strawberry at him, definitely aiming for his hair. But Nico caught it easily and popped it in his mouth. “Does that count?” he asked casually.

I shrugged. “Why are you asking me?” I said, smiling. “I’m just a gaping baby bird.”

Nico’s expression was unreadable for a second. Then he dropped his basket, and picked out a smallish strawberry. “Well, you’re not doing a great job,” he noted as he lifted the fruit up and squinted his eyes as he aimed. “Gape better,” he ordered.

I laughed and did as he said, even though I knew I looked pathetic. Who cares? No one except Nico was around to see me. Nico squinted his eyes again in concentration before throwing the berry. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it flying through the air towards my face, getting closer and closer... then SPLAT. It whacked me straight on the nose.

I yelped, though it didn’t hurt. It was mostly out of surprise that a biggish wet fruit had just been squashed against my face. It fell to the floor at my feet, but not before leaving a line of fresh juicy pulp down my nose and chin.

I looked over at Nico with the best unimpressed look I could muster, but I needn’t have bothered because the son of Hades was doubled over laughing harder than I’d ever seen him laugh. “Oh my gods!” he cried. “That was the best thing I have ever seen!” He was laughing so hard he could barely get his words out without spluttering. It was hard not to smile at the sight of him so happy, though the fact that he was laughing at me made it easier.

I casually picked a fresh strawberry. “You are so going to pay for that!” I promised.

I advanced on him so I could get a better aim, but he ran further away, still clutching his stomach from laughing too hard. Damn it. Why was he still so fast when he was literally stumbling around a strawberry field? I decided to just throw, since my chances at getting him were getting slimmer. The strawberry sailed through the air and just slightly grazed across his arm.

“Missed!” Nico cackled. “Admit it, Solace, I just have better aim than you!” he teased as he stopped running for a second to catch his breath. I took that as an opportunity to take aim with my next strawberry. “And seriously,” he continued, “you also run like an old maAAAAAN!” His voice got louder at the end of his taunt because I had launched another attack and he had to dodge out of the way (successfully, unfortunately).

I ended up chasing him for at least fifteen minutes, round the strawberry bushes. Nico was fast even when he was weak from laughter, and apparently I kept giving him reasons to laugh: my bad aim, my slow running, my miserable attempts at trying to dodge the strawberry plants as I tried to chase him. Nico just jumped between the obstacles like a gazelle, getting further and further away.

Finally, I stopped and sighed. There was no way I was going to get him back like this. I decided it was easier just to admit defeat on this one. “Fine!” I called. “I give up.”

From where he was standing, Nico gave me a suspicious look, so I dropped the strawberry I was holding. “There! I promise I won’t throw any more. We’ll probably get into enough trouble as it is.” I shuddered thinking about having to explain this to Chiron.

Nico made his way back to me, a mischievous smile still playing on his lips. When he reached me, he reached up to ruffle my hair. “Good attempt, Will,” he said in a voice that might have been mistaken for good sportsmanship. “But, it turns out, you suck at throwing. I guess you should stick to your role as the baby bird.”

He gave me a cute but evil smile and I rolled my eyes. “That clearly wasn’t fair,” I argued as we made our way to the picnic blanket.

“Why?” he asked in mock sympathy. “Because it was me? I’m sorry, but anyone with legs would’ve been able to avoid your fruity missiles.”

I snorted. “I was thinking more because you had the advantage of aiming at a stationary target. Whereas I had to take aim at a small Italian guy running around like a lunatic.”

Nico scowled and I gave him my own little grin. “Yeah? Well, I’d rather be short than have strawberry juice running down my chin,” he retorted.

We reached the blanket and sat down. I tried my best to wipe the juice off of my face with a tissue, but judging from Nico’s giggles, I wasn’t one hundred percent rid of it, and he refused to help.

I picked out a cake from the selection I’d brought and handed it over to Nico. It was a fresh cream pastry with swirly designs and some raspberry jam in the middle. I had asked Austin to get me a batch from the local bakery since I had had to work all day. Nico accepted it with a smile, and I got another one out for myself.

Nico took a bite. “This is amazing!” he exclaimed, in a voice that almost resembled what he had sounded like five years ago. I didn’t remember a lot about him from that long ago, but we had definitely crossed paths once or twice before Percy Jackson had come back from his quest with news of Nico’s dead sister. “Thanks,” Nico said in a quiet voice, “for this.” He gestured around him vaguely then licked a bit of cream off of his pastry.

I took a bite of my own. “No problem,” I said. “Besides, it’s not like I’m doing you a favour. I like spending time with you too, you know.”

Nico gave me a small smile and then looked back down quickly. We ate in silence for a bit, just enjoying each other’s company and gazing down across the camp. It looked like people were heading for dinner, but who needs dinner when you have cakes and a picnic with Nico di Angelo?

Beside me, Nico reached for another pastry. “This one has too much cream,” he complained.

I rolled my eyes at him. Trust Nico to find something bad to say about a pastry. Before I could stop myself, I reached over, grabbed a dollop of cream onto my fingers from his pastry and smeared it across his nose.

He was so surprised, he didn’t respond, or even flinch. His mouth was open in shock. I shrugged at him and asked, “Does that solve your problem?”

He finally unfroze. “Will!” he groaned, shooting me a death glare. But with the fluffy cream on his nose, he looked nowhere near as scary as he probably would’ve liked.

I laughed openly at him now. “I’m sorry,” I wheezed, “but I’m really not sorry!”

Nico stared at my face for another second before lunging at me. I was expecting him to do it, and I made no move to prevent it (sue me). He pushed me flat so that I was lying down on the blanket, and then he straddled my hips like I hoped he would. Except, instead of doing something that I had fantasied about, he brought his cake up to my face and started dabbing at my cheeks wherever my hands weren’t protecting.

“Wait!” I yelled. Getting attacked by cream cakes was not on my to do list. Nico didn’t pay me any attention as he kept swiping the cream to my face while I futilely moved my hands around in different directions trying to block him. But he was too fast, and soon, I was pretty sure that I was entirely covered.

Nico seemed to deem that satisfactory because he climbed off of me and sat back down on the blanket. Then he turned to face me. “Now that solves my problem,” he stated happily, and actually started to nibble at the mutilated pastry, leaving me to sit up and try to wipe my face free of cream by myself.

I rolled my eyes at him and couldn’t help but smile. Why did I like this guy so much?

I finished wiping and turned to Nico. “Do you want me to get that for you?” I asked, gesturing to his still cream splattered nose. He leaned his head forward inviting me to wipe it off. I shuffled closer and got as much as I could with the tissue.

When I was done, Nico placed his cake back in the basket, apparently full. “Fine,” he relented. “Strawberry picking wasn’t so bad.”

I smiled at him. “You should trust me more often.”

Nico stayed quiet for a count of twenty, and I started to worry that I had said something wrong. I looked at him questionably. Then he looked me dead in the eyes and said quietly, “I do trust you.”

I seemed to get lost in his black irises, as if I were staring into an abyss, but instead of scared, I felt exhilarated. I leaned in closer, because this seemed to be the only viable response to Nico’s statement (the only one I could think of with him staring at me like that).

As always, his expression was unreadable, and I couldn’t tell how he was feeling about me leaning in. In my moment of self doubt, I told him, “I’m going to kiss you now.”

Nico raised his eyebrows and smirked at me. “Then shut up and do it,” he ordered, as if he were daring me to refuse.

But I didn’t need to be told twice. I slowly leaned towards him and reached out with my hands to grip his face as gently as I could. I brought my lips to his and kissed him just as slowly, trying to savour the initial spark that danced between us when we made contact. Nico kissed me back at the same pace. He brought his hands to my waist and gripped my shirt firmly.

I kind of lost all sense of time and space as all I could feel was Nico. His lips kissing me, parting slightly, and his hands on me. With one hand, his finger tips had slid under my shirt and were tracing circles on my bare skin, every movement igniting its own fire that blazed within me. His other hand was firmly wrapping the edge of my shirt around in his fist, causing the fabric to ride up higher, and leaving more of my midriff exposed for him to touch.

I kept my hands near his face, stroking gently at the soft skin where his chin met his neck. He let out a sigh when I reached a spot below his ear, but it was so quiet that if we weren’t literally connected at the mouth, I would’ve missed it. When I heard that sound, I swear to the Gods, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever had the good fortune to hear.

Nico stopped gripping my shirt, since it was pretty high up now, and instead started stroking the skin around the waistband of my jeans. At one point, he slipped a finger inside the rough fabric ever so slightly and my brain short circuited at the contact.

After some amount of indeterminate time, Nico pulled away. I might have let out a little whine of protest, but who can be sure? He smirked at me again, either from the noise I made, or the fact that I had let him pull my shirt so high. But he didn’t quite look as teasing as he usually did because his cheeks were tinted pink and his breathing was ragged.

He lay down on the blanket as I readjusted my clothes: my shirt and jeans, which had gotten a got tight. I gave him a questioning look and he sighed. “I need to calm down,” he admitted in a whisper. “Just give me a minute.”

I smiled at him and nodded, because I could definitely relate. At least Nico had had the self control to pull away. But some part of me wondered what would’ve happened if he didn’t. And if I didn’t either. But I felt guilty about imagining that, so decided to just lay down next to him.

This whole thing with Nico was going pretty fast. We had only been dating technically for just over a month. But, to be fair, we had gotten close over the course of about four months, so maybe it wasn’t that fast. Still, I didn’t want to do too much too quickly, especially because we both had our own trauma to deal with.

I decided that I’d let Nico lead that part of our relationship, because I wanted to go at a pace he was comfortable with.

I turned over onto my stomach and propped myself up on my elbows to look at him. “You okay?” I asked. “Was that good?” Gods I hated how insecure I sounded, but I wanted to make sure he was alright, especially because it had been one of the best moments in my life.

Nico snorted. “What part of ‘I need to calm down’ didn’t you understand, Solace?”

A huge smile spread across my face as I lay back down and let out a content sigh.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

The next few weeks at camp, I fell into a routine. I spent my afternoons practising my sword fighting skills in the training arena, testing my powers a bit more everyday to summon more skeletons or ghost teachers. Despite some people finding that disturbing (mostly Sherman Yang) some of the other campers, particularly Kayla and Ellis Wakefield, son of Ares, were even grateful to me for the dead teachers. I marvelled at how far people’s opinions of me had come.

When I got bored, I’d either go down to the infirmary to help out, go to my cabin to watch my new obsession: Friends, or go and sit out in the forest for a while to clear my thoughts when I felt particularly suffocated or panicky.

Will would teach me some basic first aid skills when I’d visit him and I found that I was actually alright at it, despite the fact that I had convinced myself that healing would definitely be on my list of failures. Then again, Will was a good and patient teacher, and I also had the incentive to learn the most I could so that I could help him through whatever crisis came next.

Throughout November, my PTSD really had dialled down a lot, with about a handful of attacks. Will was only present for one, and I did feel a bit a guilty about avoiding telling him about the others. But, considering how happy I got when we were together, it was hard to feel guilty, because I didn’t want to ruin that aspect of my life.

On a happier note, I had been planning something big now ever since my conversation with Will in my bathroom a few weeks ago. I decided that Christmas time would be the perfect time to schedule it in for. I had called in a couple of favours from Hades (what are your demonic underworld fathers for?) to make it happen, and I was looking forward to it.

Especially because I wanted to show Will how much I cared. I wasn’t as great as he was with the confessions and stuff, and I’d also felt like I’d taken a backseat while he had planned most of the dates and romantic gestures. I wanted to pull my weight.

The only thing I was worried about, was telling Will about what I had planned. I knew he didn’t have any other plans with his parents because his mum had left him to live on his own at camp half blood when he was only seven or eight, and he didn’t have contact with any other relatives. That fact usually made me angry that Will didn’t have anyone, but this time, I was glad I got him all to myself for what I had in mind...

Anyway, I spent the evenings mostly with Will, playing video games or watching movies, all the while trying to figure out a way to bring up the big surprise. Whenever I decided we should watch a movie, Will was always quick to suggest another Star Wars one, which I’ve now had to reject about six hundred times.

“Just watch the original trilogy if you didn’t like the first one,” he’d complain.

Then I’d shut him by throwing something at his face or kissing him (depending on how I was feeling).

Things with Will in general were good. Okay, they were more than good. I was definitely getting better at the physical contact thing. Well, in private at least. I still didn’t really like public displays of affection just because I got embarrassed. And on a higher level, I suspected I still felt like the other campers would judge me, even if most of them knew that Will and I were dating. I just didn’t want to give them any fuel. It was a fear, yes, but not an irrational one, based on my experiences.

Will was respectful of that and my other boundaries. He mostly always allowed me to make the first move. I suspected that at this point, he’d go along with whatever I wanted to do in that department, which I kind of liked because it made me feel powerful and in control. However, it was getting harder to hold back when I was with him and I knew it was only a matter of time until I’d initiate something more than just kissing.

Gods, just thinking about it filled me with a kind of bubbling excitement. This was so unlike me. All of it. Nearly every aspect of my life right now was the most un-Nico-ish I had felt for a while. Usually I was the brooding, self destructive type...

Then again, maybe I was the most like myself I’d been since I was ten... it was hard to know which Nico was the real one. Perhaps a bit of both? Either way, I liked where my life was heading. For the first time in a long time, I was actually kind of happy.

Tonight was the first of December, the day I’d promised myself that I’d tell Will about the surprise, and we were sitting on my couch playing Mario Kart.

“FUCK NO!” Will yelled as he got blown up just before the finish line. “YOU SAW THAT, RIGHT?” he asked me.

I laughed at him. “Yup. I’m the one who threw the bomb, Solace.”

He gave me the dirtiest glare that I’d ever seen him muster. “YOU LITTLE—“

I cut him off by throwing a pillow in his face, laughing harder when he caught it and continued to stare daggers at me. “That was so unfair!” he complained.

I patted his arm in mock sympathy. “That is how the game works, you know,” I told him. “You drive well. You sabotage the opponents. That’s basically it,” I shrugged.

He dropped his remote down onto the sofa. “How have you won every single time then?” he demanded.

I smiled at him. “Because I drive well and I sabotage my opponents.”

He groaned. “Can’t you let me win for once?” he asked hopefully. “You know, still drive well, but would you please stop blowing me up?!”

I shook my head. “What fun would that be?”

“It would be fun for me,” he grumbled.

“Well too bad. You have to earn your fun.”

He just stared at me, his expression still frustrated, exasperated and completely defeated. I would’ve felt bad if the cause of his feelings were anything but Mario Kart. I gave him another smile. “One more round?”

He gave me a disgusted look. “After that betrayal? No. But thank you for offering to humiliate me again.”

I rolled my eyes. “Gods stop being a baby, Will. I’ve just had more practice, so the more you play, the more chance you’ll get the hang of it and actually give me a challenge. Now, pick up your damn remote and choose the track you want to lose on.”

For some reason, that didn’t seem to convince him. He crossed his arms stubbornly and pouted. I sighed and turned the game off. “Fine,” I said. “I have to talk to you about something anyway.”

That caught his attention. He uncrossed his arms and his expression went a bit slack. I could practically feel the dozens of questions swimming around in his head. He shuffled on the sofa so that he was facing me and raised his eyebrows. “Okay...?” he said unsurely.

There was no going back now. Why was I nervous anyway? This was a good surprise. I placed my Wii remote down and ran my hand through my hair. “It’s about the holidays,” I told him. Well, I could still drag it out as much as possible, right?

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t seem any less confused. “Christmas?” he asked.

I nodded.

To be fair to him, he didn’t seem impatient when I didn’t elaborate. Or maybe he was, but he just knew that he couldn’t rush me into revealing information.

Will leaned sideways on the sofa. “What about Christmas?”

I wondered how long I could keep this going without actually giving anything away. “Our plans for Christmas,” I clarified.

Will’s confusion seemed to subside a little. “Oh okay, you’re asking about our plans for the holidays? To be honest, Nico, Christmas hasn’t been that big for me since I was younger... but I guess the atmosphere around camp is always...”

I cut him off. “No,” I told him. “I’m not asking about our plans. I’m telling you about our plans.”

His confusion returned. His eyebrows were knit together in the cutest way. I stayed silent for a moment to let him process that, and sure enough, after a few seconds, realisation dawned on his face. “You made plans for the holidays?” he asked, in a tone that was half incredulous, half joyful. “You made plans for our holidays?”

I nodded again.

Will smirked at me. “Look at you, my lethal lover, being all romantic. Go on. Do tell.”

I shook my head. “Do not call me your ‘lover’ with any sort of adjective, please.”

He just laughed at me. “Okay! Sorry. You were saying something about your amazingly romantic plans for Christmas?”

I guessed there was nothing else to do now, other than tell him. “We’re going somewhere,” I said quietly, studying his face for his reaction.

But there was nothing but surprise in his expression. “We’re not staying at camp?”

I shook my head.

“Okay,” he said, “where are we going?”

Maybe I could delay a little longer... “Somewhere outside of camp.”

He gave me a smile of amusement and confusion. “Where exactly outside of camp?” He was doing a good job at keeping calm. I probably would’ve smacked him by now if he’d done this to me.

Go on, I told my myself. Tell him tell him tell him. “Guess,” I ordered instead.

He gave me an exasperated look, but it only lasted for a second, because then he actually looked thoughtful and started guessing. “Times Square?”

“Unoriginal.”

“Bryant park?”

“Not enough to do.”

“Empire state building?”

“Too crowded... and way too close to Olympus.”

“A holiday market?”

“You’re not my house wife; I’m not taking you shopping.”

He groaned, and I could tell his patience wouldn’t last much longer. “Nico,” he whined. “Do you want this to take all night?”

I sighed. “Fine.” I fiddled with my skull ring and looked back up at him. His face was warm and comforting, with his bright blue eyes sparkling in the low light of the cabin. I wanted him to know how much I cared about him. “We’re going to Vermont,” I finally said. “Skiing,” I added. “And we’re staying in a hotel.”

Will’s face broke out into a massive smile that made him look so dorky. His eyes were crinkled around the edges. He let out a small joyful gasp. I felt more than happy that I had caused that reaction. “Oh my gods!” he exclaimed. “Nico! Skiing!” He was stuttering, not even able to form a sentence.

He grabbed me into a hug and squeezed. “Ahh!” I screamed. “Ribs. Hurting.”

He let me go. “Sorry. But oh my gods! Skiing?! This is going to be amazing!”

I gave him a small smile. “That is the plan.”

“Yes! You...” his smile faltered slightly. “Wait. How exactly...? I can’t afford that,” he told me, and his voice had dropped any excitement and just sounded plain gloomy. I was so taken aback, it took me a minute to register what he’d asked. How had his reaction changed so suddenly? In that moment, I would’ve given anything to make him go back to smiley Will.

“You don’t have to...” I started. “I mean, I paid. Well not me. My dad.”

I had expected Will to sigh in relief or at least look a bit happy about that. Instead, his face went from gloomy to downright crushed. I honestly didn’t understand it. I had no idea why he was suddenly feeling like that. The adrenaline I had from his original outburst was still pumping around my body, but now of panic, and maybe a bit of anger too.

All I had wanted was to make him happy, but apparently it had backfired very badly. I didn’t trust myself to speak just yet. After all, it was Will who needed to explain.

He sighed and scratched the back of his neck, carefully avoiding my eyes. I shuffled back as far as I could get away from him while still staying on the sofa, and leaned back on the cushions, still waiting.

“Look,” he said, in a very controlled tone. Too controlled to be real. “That isn’t fair. I don’t like... I don’t want to... I can’t let you... I can’t accept something this big,” he finally let out.

I was honestly so confused. “So you can do stuff for me, but I can’t do stuff for you?” I blurted without thinking, and my tone was more than a little accusatory.

He sighed again, and I could see the muscles in his neck tensing with the strain of trying to keep his cool. “The things I do... they’re different.”

I gave a snort of derision. “How?”

He gestured around him vaguely. “I don’t know. Because they’re not a big deal.”

“This trip isn’t a big deal,” I retorted.

He let out a laugh that was far from happy, and it definitely did not suit him. “Well I guess it would be nice to think of a skiing holiday to Vermont as ‘not a big deal’.”

I didn’t know what to say. To me, this wasn’t nearly as thoughtful as some of the things Will had done. It was nothing compared to the little dates he thought up, or the nights he spent with me when my anxiety was bad, or even the simple things he did for me, like giving me a place to sit at lunch so I wouldn’t be isolated as much. To me, those were big deals. “Define ‘big deal’,” I asked him.

He narrowed his eyes at me as if wondering if I were being serious. I did not appreciate that. It implied he thought I was being stupid and frustration burned all around me. I had to clench my fists so subside it.

“A big deal,” he said. “Is something that requires a big amount of resources.”

That still didn’t clear it up. What kind of resources? He couldn’t just be talking about the financial cost. There was so much more that went into Will’s gestures anyway.

Will sighed again at my confused look. He asked, “Do you seriously not see the difference between strawberry picking and a trip across the country?” His voice was still infuriatingly calm, his face still carefully neutral as if he were thinking this through as logically as he could.

But it wasn’t logical. He was making no sense. What was he implying? Why couldn’t I figure it out? I really wanted to understand him, but I couldn’t see his perspective.

I stood up and started pacing, just to help get rid of some of the restless energy pumping around inside of me. Will stayed where he was, a kind of desolate look on his face.

I stopped when I reached the TV so I was standing facing him. “Are you saying,” I started before I could stop myself, “that everything that’s happened so far, between us, hasn’t been a big deal?” I almost shouted the last bit, because the thought made me so angry.

But not just angry. Hurt. Panicked. Insecure. All of the bad emotions that I’d started to leave behind after the war. Apparently, I couldn’t escape them. Being vulnerable to Will Solace hadn’t helped after all. It had made them worse. Because now, I had more to lose.

Will also seemed to look panicked now, his neutral facade cracking as he rushed to explain. “Of course not! Oh shit, I didn’t mean...”

But I cut him off. “Stop,” I ordered. I couldn’t stand him trying to pull this back now because I was clearly upset. I didn’t need his pity. I was unbelievably stupid to think that this could be different. I could physically feel my dark emotions radiating off of me, and I knew I couldn’t stay for Will to experience my pain. He didn’t deserve that... for him or from me.

He opened his mouth to speak again, but I didn’t hear it. I stepped into the shadow of the TV, and dissolved into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Nico!” I screamed, even though I knew it was futile. He had already dissolved, leaving me by myself in cabin thirteen. He could be anywhere by now. It was eerily quiet without all the arguing, and the room seemed a little less bright.

I tried to push down my anger about the shadow travel. I knew I didn’t have the right to tell him what to do unless his health was going to be severely affected. But, I couldn’t help the feeling that he had somehow betrayed me when he did it. I knew it was stupid, but I wished he had at least left through the door, because he knew how using his powers affects him (and therefore me). It was just a slap in the face.

I let out a growl of frustration. How could I have let this happen? For fuck sake. How did I mess up so utterly badly that Nico felt like he couldn’t stand to even look at me?

I tried to ignore what this meant, but that was a pretty difficult task when the words were literally screaming to be heard in my mind. I could feel them pounding on my forehead from the inside, blocking out everything else.

It’s over. He’s not coming back. I single handedly pushed him out of camp again. He won’t forgive me. I’ve ruined it. It’s done.

The thoughts swirled around in my head, making me dizzy. My panic was making my stomach clench and I was scared I was going to choke on it. Holy Hades, what had I done? I tried my best to follow my own advice and take deep breaths. It only helped a little, but I was able to start up another train of thought alongside the depressing one.

Nico had made the biggest gesture he possibly could have. He obviously wanted to do something nice for me. For us. He’d remembered what I’d said about wanting to go skiing with him, and the thing about the hotel. And I had threw it back in his face when he was being vulnerable. Gods, I felt disgusted with myself. Did I actually just do that to him? I was surprised he hadn’t punched me or something. What the fuck had I been thinking?

I guess it all boiled down to my pride. I didn’t want him to have to pay for everything. I didn’t want to accept that big of a cost. I didn’t want to feel as if he was giving me something that I couldn’t give back. I pulled at my hair in frustration. Of all things we could fight about, why did it have to be about something I couldn’t fix?

Because the truth was, I couldn’t fix it. Not really. I wanted to be a doctor. But before that, my financial situation was as pathetic as it was when I was seven years old. I didn’t want to owe Nico that much, if it was going to be for as long as it took for me to finish medical school when I hadn’t even started yet.

I realised that I was assuming that our relationship would last that long, when I was pretty sure that it was over now. So I guess it didn’t matter.

But it did matter. Of course it mattered.

Tears stung my eyes and I collapsed onto the floor, crying silently. If this was how I felt, Nico must be feeling a hundred times worse. I felt the urge to comfort him despite me being the cause of his pain.

I got up and went to the door. I yanked it open, only to see a harpy flying at me with razor sharp teeth and a hungry stare. I slammed the door shut again. Great. I was trapped in the stupid Hades cabin until the morning. On some level, that annoyed me, because I needed to find Nico. On the other hand, I realised that he probably didn’t want to see me. He left for a reason, and he would come back when he was ready.

What if he doesn’t come back?

The helplessness consumed me. I needed to believe that he would come back, but my gut was telling me that he wouldn’t. And if he wanted to stay gone, there was nothing I could do about it. He had experience living on the run, he had the ability to shadow travel, and he had the entire world and underworld to hide.

Hell, this was not looking good. I went to sit back on the sofa and wrapped his blanket around me. His familiar scent comforted me for a second, before I realised that our relationship was over.

I wasn’t going to sleep. I felt too sick anyway. I was going to wait right here until he came back.

I don’t know how much time passed, but I was starting to feel dizzy again with exhaustion. Both physically and emotionally. I curled up in the blanket, and I must’ve drifted off, with my destructive thoughts still drowning my mind.

*

I woke up to the door of cabin thirteen opening and closing. I bolted straight up from the sofa, my heart already beating painfully fast.

Nico stood in the doorway, staring at me. He looked no different to when he had left, and I was sure I couldn’t say the same for me. I probably looked a right mess with my hair flattened and sleep still in my eyes.

But at that moment, I couldn’t care less. I had been prepared to wait weeks for Nico to return, if he did at all. And here he was, the morning after. Maybe there was some hope after all.

“You’re back,” I blurted stupidly. My voice was a bit croaky.

Nico just stood there. “I live here,” he replied deadpan. “What are you doing here.” His expression or tone of voice didn’t give anything away.

And he didn’t wait for a reply. He walked over to his closet and pulled some fresh clothes out. He completely ignored me, as if I wasn’t worth his time. Then he marched over to the bathroom and slammed the door. A few seconds later, the shower turned on.

I knew that was my cue to leave. But I couldn’t make myself do it. He had come back. That meant that there was still wiggle room to work this out. I just had to say the right things this time. I promised myself that I would make this right or die trying... and considering Nico was a son of Hades, that seemed about right.

After about twenty minutes, the water turned off. In that time, I had concocted the perfect speech to give Nico. It involved a lot of apologies, some explanations, and more than a bit of grovelling.

But, when he reappeared into the room, he didn’t give me a chance to speak. First of all, he was only dressed in a dark grey towel that was wrapped around his waist. I hadn’t ever seen his entire torso exposed, but it was mesmerising. And I don’t mean that in a weird way. It was hard to look away from the amount of scars he had. He looked so... real and I couldn’t help but think that I hadn’t seen anything else quite so perfect. The sight left me a bit speechless.

With great difficulty, I tore my eyes away from his chest because I knew that if he caught me staring, he might feel uncomfortable or self conscious. His expression was cold and emotionless, as if he were actively trying to hide every single thought that crossed his mind.

Anyway, he didn’t give me a chance to talk because he spoke instead. “You’re going to Vermont,” he said in a voice of indifference, as if he were talking about the weather.

What the fuck? My mouth must’ve been hanging open like a fish.

Nico’s expression didn’t change and I wondered if I had heard him correctly because what he had said definitely did not make sense.

“We’re both going to Vermont,” he stated plainly. “Just like I planned.” He studied my face for a reaction, but I really couldn’t give one. “You can’t do anything about it, because this is what I want for my favour.”

I still remained silent.

“I’m cashing in my favour,” he repeated, still staring at me with his cold expression. Then he seemed to give it some thought and added, “But don’t think this changes a thing.”

Before I could react, he stormed back into the bathroom and slammed the door for the second time.

I tried to figure out what the Hades had just happened. I couldn’t make sense of anything he had said. I couldn’t even form a coherent thought.

Why would he still want to go skiing with me? Why would he use his favour for something he was giving to me? Why had he come out in only a towel if I was sure that he was going to break up with me?

I swear to the gods, Nico di Angelo was going to be the death of me.

Before I could come up with any sort of intelligent response to the situation, Nico reemerged, now fully clothed and walked to the front door. He seemed to pause ever so slightly to look at me as if I was just an afterthought. “I’m going to the training arena,” he informed.

“Wait!” I pleaded, finally unfreezing. I couldn’t stand the tension between us any longer, and I knew that if he left for a second time, I’d go crazy. “Can we please talk?”

He stared at me as if wondering about what would be the funniest way to murder me. “I’m going to the training arena,” he repeated. He opened the door, but paused on the threshold. He seemed to being having an internal conflict. Then he sighed and his shoulders slumped. “If you really want, you can come with.” He left.

He said it in a voice that made me think that he was just daring me to follow him. Me, being the smart guy I was, followed him.

I skipped a couple steps to catch up with him (not that he even acknowledged me). “Nico...” I started.

“If you want to remain unharmed throughout this day, don’t say anything you’ll regret,” he warned.

I thought about what I was about to say and realised that my apologies would have been completely pathetic. I was almost grateful that he stopped me.

We walked in silence to the training arena. The journey probably only lasted less than a minute, but the whole time, I was constructing and deconstructing things that I could say to him. When we got there, there were a couple of campers chatting, but when they sensed Nico’s radiating anger, they quickly departed.

On one hand, I was happy that we were given privacy again. On the other hand, I was a bit nervous that now there was no one else for Nico to spar with except me. Obviously, he could summon some skeletons, but I suspected he wouldn’t. Not just because his energy must’ve be low from shadow travelling last night, but because he probably wanted to take his anger out on me.

Nico walked up to the practice blades and selected one. Then he marched over to the space in the middle of the arena. He rolled his eyes at me. “Solace, if you’re planning to practice sword fighting without a sword, don’t blame me if you lose a limb.”

He obviously wasn’t serious, was he? Nevertheless, I stumbled over to the sword rack to pick one, then walked (as slowly as I could) to face Nico.

His expression was still guarded, and anger was rippling off of him in waves, crashing over me. That didn’t bode well if I wanted to survive the next five minutes.

Unlike last time, he didn’t wait for me to make the first move. With blinding speed, he stepped into my space and slashed his sword across my chest. It was all I could do to block it. My battle instincts kicked in and I raised my own weapon to parry him. The metal of the swords clashed together in a sound that made me flinch, but Nico didn’t hesitate. He swung again, lower this time, barely missing my thigh.

I stepped backwards out of the way as he swung his sword at me for a third time. I tried to get an in to stab back, but obviously he didn’t let me. I found myself stepping over my own feet, frantically waving my sword like an idiot, just about managing to avoid his blows as he advanced on me. I moved further and further from the centre of the room and Nico followed, still trying to break my defences.

We must’ve looked ridiculous, really. Him being him and me being... me. At an inconvenient time, I also remembered that he had just showered, and I had just rolled up from a night on a sofa and was still wearing the same clothes as the day before.

He couldn’t actually want to hurt me, right? Although Nico’s movements were ridiculously aggressive, I could just about tell that he was still holding back. But that was only mildly reassuring, since his lunges and sharp sword were difficult to ignore.

He swung high, at about the same height as my neck and I ducked out of the way. However, his blade managed to nip the side of my ear as I moved downward. “For fuck sake, Solace,” he complained. “Your dodging skills are worse than your ability to talk without pissing me off.”

Even though it was only a small cut that would definitely be gone by tomorrow, it still stung. The fact that he had said that to me only fuelled my frustration. I stood back up, my sword ready to block his next strike (I definitely wasn’t going to attack him). “At least I’m not running away after getting pissed off,” I told him.

Nico swung at my torso again, forcing me to jump back to the benches to avoid him. Oh gods, his expression was beyond angry now. “Don’t you dare try to make me feel bad for needing some space,” he snapped. “After what you did...”

I tripped over a fast food drinking cup that someone must’ve left there and frantically tried to keep my balance. “Yes, I made a mistake,” I admitted. “I’m sorry, Nico. I really am. But leaving isn’t always the best answer! We could’ve talked it out.”

Nico took advantage of my stumble and disarmed me. My sword went clattering to the ground. “Because talking is going so well right now,” he said.

Damn it. I needed my sword, but Nico was blocking my path. Reluctantly, I tried to reason with him instead. “Maybe if you just tried listening to me!”

Nico stared at me. “Why should I listen to you?” he asked, and the fact that he did made me realise that he wanted to listen. I just had to make it worth his while.

I really didn’t want to throw this in his face, but it was all I had. “Maybe because you apparently still want to spend Christmas in Vermont with me?”

“Ugh,” Nico hissed. His sword was now against my throat and he was backing me up against a wall. “I take that back,” he muttered. “It was a moment of weakness. I thought for a second that I wanted to do everything I could to fix this. But I changed my mind! I don’t need your pity.”

My back hit the wall and all the anger drained out of me. “Forgive me, Nico,” I said in a soft voice, “but you are absolutely and completely stupid, if you actually believed for one second that everything that’s happened between us hasn’t been a big deal for me.”

He just stared at me for a second, his brain trying to compute my words. Then, slowly, he lowered his sword, dropped it on the floor, and sat on the bench behind him. He looked up at me and I could see that he was completely vulnerable again. “Why did you say it then, you idiot?”

I sat down on the bench beside him, carefully avoiding any physical contact just in case it wasn’t welcome. “I didn’t say it,” I assured. “You assumed I did because I was being stupid about another completely different topic.”

Nico’s mouth twitched like he was trying to hold in a smile. “Alright,” he finally conceded. “Tell me.”

I sighed. I knew I’d have to talk about this if I ever wanted to make things right, but it didn’t make it any easier. “I don’t want to owe you too much,” I finally admitted. “Especially if it’s something I can’t give back.”

Nico’s dark eyes studied me with an emotion I couldn’t quite place. Then he shook his head in exasperation. “You owe me too much? Is that some sort of joke?”

I looked at him. “I’m completely serious,” I promised. That seemed to amuse him. He stared out into the training arena and we both sat in silence for a couple of minutes, just thinking.

“I think I get it,” he said suddenly.

“Really?”

“Yep,” he confirmed. “And you’re right: you really were being stupid.”

I sighed. “May I ask how you reached that conclusion?”

Nico thought for a minute, probably wondering how to phrase his response without starting another argument. “Right, how do I put this?” he muttered. Then he turned to face me. “Will, can you see why money isn’t the main thing I’m looking for in a guy?”

I hadn’t looked at it that way, and it did make sense, to be fair. “I can see that,” I agreed.

“And,” he continued. “Can you agree that this situation isn’t even like I’m trading my hard work for this stupid holiday? The king of the underworld gave me the damn money.”

I thought about that. I didn’t particularly want to be in Hades’ debt, but seeing as it was Nico whom he’d given the money to, it seemed acceptable. “I can agree.”

“And finally,” he said, with a hint of mischief. “Can you admit that this argument was at least ninety percent your fault?”

I narrowed my eyes at him and smiled. “Sixty.”

“Eighty nine.”

“Seventy.”

“Eighty eight.”

“Eighty.”

“Eighty eight and a half.”

I sighed. He wasn’t budging, but I was too giddy to really care. “Fine. I’ll admit that eighty eight and a half percent of this problem was caused by me.”

That seemed to satisfy him. Something changed in his expression, as if he were realising something that amused him. A small smile started to spread across his face and honestly, I had never been more relieved of anything in my whole life. I wondered what he was thinking...

Then he reached out and firmly tugged my head a little so that he could examine the side of my head. I grunted because I wasn’t expecting it. “I’m sorry about your ear,” he whispered.

I smiled at him. “You fight rough, di Angelo.”

He looked slightly embarrassed about that. I assured him, “It’s only a scratch. It doesn’t even hurt. It’ll be gone by tomorrow.”

He didn’t look convinced. In fact, he looked even guiltier. “You should go to the infirmary,” he suggested. “Just to see...”

“A doctor? I am the doctor.”

He smirked. “Fine. At least let me clean it for you in my cabin. I think I have some plasters...”

I pouted. “Really?” I pointed to the tiny mark on my ear. “I kind of want to leave it exposed.”

He frowned. “Why?”

I gave him a mischievous smile. “Because I’m sure battle wounds make people much more attractive.”

He just rolled his eyes and I smiled wider. At least he didn’t deny it.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I dragged Will back to my cabin. I felt incredibly guilty that I’d hurt him, even it was just a scratch. Maybe that sounded stupid given that I’d lashed out at him with my sword dozens of times during our sparring session, but really, I only threw jabs that I knew he could handle (even though he just about managed it). Despite me holding back though, I did manage to relieve some of my anger.

“Sit on the bed,” I ordered when we stepped in.

“Yes, doctor,” he replied and plopped himself down on my comforter.

I rummaged around in the bathroom closet and found some rubbing alcohol to clean his wound (who knows what was on that practice sword) and some plasters. I walked back into the bedroom.

Will was smiling goofily up at me. “You can wipe that smile off of your face, Solace. I’m still very mad at you.”

“Mmm hmm,” he replied, not even fazed by my glare.

I dribbled some alcohol onto a cotton pad. “This will sting, though not nearly bad enough,” I muttered.

He chuckled. “Thanks for the warning. It’s not like I’ve been working in an infirmary or anything for eight years.”

I stepped in closer to him and dabbed his ear, because, more than anything, I couldn’t think of a comeback. Will hissed when I make contact and I immediately felt bad again. “Sorry,” I said sincerely. “Um... it still needs a bit more though.”

He nodded but I hesitated. Why did I have the irrational urge to comfort this big dork? Well, probably because I was the cause of his pain, for one. But I guessed another reason was the fact that my feelings for him were getting kind of strong.

That’s probably partly why my emotional cap blew yesterday. I got scared that Will might not like me as much as I did him. When I had first travelled back to the underworld last night, I swore that I would break this thing off with Will, because it was just too scary... but that thought didn’t make me feel better. I had suspected that the only thing that would, would be to make up with him, and I guess I was right.

“Hey,” I said softly, “if you want... you can,” I held out my free hand for him to hold. “You know... if you want...”

He raised him eyebrows at me, obviously surprised at my quick change of mood. Yes, I was surprised too. Ugh what was he doing to me? But his surprise didn’t last long. He lightly entwined his fingers into mine, and just that contact made me feel a bit warmer inside.

I dabbed at his ear again, trying not to wince when he squeezed my hand just a bit too hard. But at least he didn’t hiss like last time. I finished up and pulled out a plaster.

“Hey,” he protested. “Back off from my attractive battle wound.”

I groaned. The last thing I needed was for his wound to get infected because of me. “Will, I promise you, you will still be attractive with the small cut on your ear covered with this plaster.” I held up the plaster for him to see, but he wasn’t interested in it.

His face had broken into a huge smile and he was staring at me with his mouth open, like I’d just given him the biggest gift of his life.

“What?” I crossed my arms.

His smile didn’t falter but he shook is head. “You seriously don’t know what you just said?”

“That you’re stupid in thinking that a scratch will make you more desirable?” I asked.

He laughed. “Nooo,” he dragged out the word in a very annoying way. “You just called me attractive,” he stated happily. Then his eyes narrowed in a teasing way. “You said that you find me attractive.”

I groaned again in an attempt to hide my blush. “Gods save me from your idiotic ways,” I exclaimed. Seriously? Did he think that I’d agree to go out with him if I wasn’t attracted to him?

“Don’t try and change the subject,” he replied. “You’re attracted to me.” He said it like he was so proud of this revelation.

I pulled my hand from his and used it to cover my face in embarrassment. “Nope nope nope,” I told him. “I’m not admitting to that. I didn’t say it directly so you have nothing on me. Now hold still while I put this plaster on you.”

I went to put the plaster on but he moved his head and gripped my hand. “How about,” he said, “you admit it and I’ll hold still.”

I laughed. “Yeah that sounds right. I get to dress your wound for you, only if I say something to stroke your ego. Seems fair.”

He pouted, but it wasn’t quite convincing because he was still smiling. “Why are trying to hide from the truth, Nico?”

I whipped my hand away from his grasp and tried to put the plaster on again, but apparently he was a lot better at dodging a plaster than a sword. “Let me think,” I said mockingly. “Maybe because you’ll be insufferable after the fact.”

He gave me another smile that did not bode well. “I can be insufferable right now if you prefer,” he asked casually. I gave him an unimpressed look and apparently he took that as a challenge. “Remember,” he started, “when you tackled me in the training arena just so you could get a chance at kissing me?”

“Shut up,” I snapped.

“Or,” he continued, “when you ordered me to kiss you on the strawberry field?”

“Solace, I swear-“

“Oh!” he cried. “What about the time when you purposely kept my shirt after Halloween because you like the way I smell, and you didn’t think I’d notice?”

I gasped. “That’s it!” I yelled. I tackled him on the bed so that I was straddling him and clutching his hair with one hand to keep him from moving. “Hold still,” I warned sternly, “or you’ll regret it.”

Will still had a huge grin on his face as if I’d done exactly what he’d wanted. Damn it. “Hit a nerve, did I?” he asked casually.

I yanked his hair a bit tighter in response and he remained still for me to place the plaster on his ear.

When I was done, I became more aware of our position. Our faces were way too close, and I could hear his slightly ragged breathing. I brought both my hands behind him and upwards to run them through his hair. He closed his eyes from the feeling which I took as a good sign.

I knew he expected me to kiss him. He orchestrated this whole thing so that we’d end up like this. He was smart... but not smart enough. I wasn’t going to let him win. Who knows what kind of travesties he could cause if he knew that he could play me whenever he wanted?

I ran my hands through his hair again as slowly as I could, letting my nails slightly scrape against his scalp. He let out a slight humming sound. Then I shifted my hips, just a little but enough to tease him. His breathing hitched in a very satisfying way.

I smirked at him, then whispered, “Is this turning you on, Will?”

Before he could respond, I got up. I missed the feel of him pressed against me, but the whine of protest he made as I left made it worth it. I looked back at him. He looked a bit dazed and his cheeks were tinted bright red.

He gave me a confused look and I smiled at him. “Don’t aggravate me again,” I told him. “Because you’ll lose.”

Realisation dawned on his face and he let out a long sigh. “You, Nico di Angelo, are pure evil.”

I took a bow. “As advertised.”

He shook his head, but he was smiling. Then he groaned and laid back on the bed. “You’re going to be the death of me, you know,” he muttered.

I laughed and joined him so that we were both lying on the comforter, staring up at the ceiling. We lay in silence for a bit, and I listened to his breathing get more even as the time went on.

“So,” he said at last, “tell me about Vermont.”

I started to fiddle with my ring, and then scolded myself for getting nervous. “Well, there’s not much to tell,” I said. “You said you wanted to go skiing so I got a message to Hades and he got one of his ‘people’ to book our rooms and passes. I don’t know... I guess I knew you usually spent Christmas here, and I wanted to make this year special because,” I shrugged, “I know I’m not the best at... you know... showing affection.”

I threw my hands down on the bed beside me and Will moved his own hand so that it was covering mine slightly. Then he hooked our pinkies together. “I like your displays of affection.”

I didn’t turn to look at him, I just continued to stare straight ahead at the ceiling. “Really?” Oh gods, I hated myself for sounding so damn insecure.

He gave a quick laugh. “Why would you even ask that?”

Of course he wouldn’t understand. “Oh I don’t know. Maybe because I can’t act like normal people. My experiences have taken a toll on me, Will. I can’t be happy all the time like you. I’m trying to make up for being brok-“

“Don’t say it,” he ordered. “Don’t you dare. Because it’s not true.”

I just stayed silent. He could believe what he wanted. I appreciated him for thinking it, but I could never make myself believe it. Not after what I’d been through. I wondered if Will would still look at me as if I weren’t broken if I told him about Tartarus, or even my experience in the jar. Part of me was scared to find out.

“And I’m not happy all the time,” he continued. “I was pretty beat up when you left yesterday.”

I snorted. “And whose fault was that?” I asked, though in a joking way so we wouldn’t start arguing again.

He sighed. “Can you please not do that again?”

I scrunched up my eyebrows. “What?”

“Leaving in the middle of a fight. I know you went to cool down, but I was really worried and I couldn’t...” he faltered. “All I’m asking is that we try and resolve our problems before you resort to running away. Please?”

I gave that some thought. At the time, shadow travelling away had felt like the best option. It allowed me to leave a situation I couldn’t deal with, and I was scared to think about what might’ve happened if Will and I had continued to yell at each other. On the other hand, all throughout the night, I was in pain because of it. I really did not want to go through that again. “Fine,” I relented. “I’ll try.”

He seemed to relax a little. “Thank you.” And then we went through another couple minutes of silence.

“We all have baggage you know,” Will said after some time. “No one is ‘normal’ in that respect. Especially demigods.” He turned onto his side to face me, and I continued to stare at the ceiling. “Your baggage doesn’t put me off you,” he assured. “It just makes you strong. In fact, it makes you you. And it makes you deserve happiness.”

I still couldn’t look at him because I had a feeling I might start crying.

“I like you, Nico. A lot actually. And it’s not despite your bad parts. It’s because of them. You honestly can’t see how amazing you are.” He kissed me on the cheek. “But I’ll spend everything that I have, trying to convince you.”

Oh for gods’ sake, why did Will freaking Solace always know what to say? I was so close to crying, it took everything I had to hold it back.

“And besides,” he continued, “who needs ‘regular’ affection when your Nico way is to bring me to Vermont for Christmas?”

I cracked a smile at that. “It’s going to be fun,” I muttered.

“Of course it will be. Because I’ll be there!”

I punched his arm lightly. “It will be fun, despite you being there,” I joked.

He smiled at me knowingly. “So where is my shirt, Nico?”

I groaned. “How did you even find out?”

He shrugged. “Well I wondered why you never returned it, and I never really questioned it because I assumed you just forgot. But then, last night I was um... cuddling your blanket and it helped me to fall asleep.” He looked a bit sheepish at that last bit, but I was secretly glad that I wasn’t the only one. “Anyway, I took a wild guess... and your reaction confirmed it.”

I internally scolded myself. I would’ve never given a reaction a few months ago. I had spent ages mastering the art of hiding my emotions. Ugh. I guess there was nothing I could do about that now.

“It’s under my pillow,” I admitted. “And now that you know, I’m requesting a fresh one, because the old one is losing its smell.”

He laughed. “Of course. Anything for you, your mortifying majesty.”

I brought my arms to lay behind my back. “You know, ignoring the ‘mortifying’ bit, I wouldn’t mind if you called me royalty.”

I clicked his tongue. “Aha! I knew I could find something, your hellish highness.”

I brought my arms back so I could cover my face with my hands. “Oh no. What have I started?” I grumbled.

“Whatever do you mean, your malevolent magnificence?” he asked innocently.

“Stop! Stop!” I pleaded. “I take it back! None of your names are good!”

He smiled at me, clearly pleased with my reaction. “Why are you laughing then?”

I snorted. “Because you’re an idiot!”

Will seemed to like that answer. He leaned in closer, still smiling widely, and my breath caught in anticipation.

Just then, a loud knock came from the front door of the cabin.

“Damn it,” Will cursed, then he called, “Who is it?”

The knocking stopped and Kayla’s voice echoed through the door. She sounded angry. “William Andrew Solace, I am not covering another shift so you can shut yourself up in the Hades cabin to make out with Nico!”

Will groaned. I laughed at him. “Andrew?” I asked.

“Do not repeat that,” he warned.

I raised my eyebrows at the challenge. Then before I could think about the consequences, I said, “William Andrew Solace, I do find you attractive. You’re probably the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” And it was the truth.

Will’s eyes widened and he looked at me with such affection, I thought I might combust into flames.

Then Kayla banged on the door again. “William! I swear to the gods!”

“Coming!” Will replied. He hurried away, and I could clearly see his smile and blush still plastered on his face.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“He’s taking you where?” Kayla gasped when I told her.

“It’s not a big deal,” I told her with a perfect imitation of Nico. I was either trying to dial her down, or I was caught up in the fact that Nico had just called me ‘beautiful’.

“Ha ha. Oh yes silly me. Here I was thinking that a romantic getaway was one step down from a full on marriage proposal, but I’m sure you and Nico have a lot more crazy stuff in mind before that happens?”

I tried to control the blush spreading across my cheeks. I didn’t want to give her any more leverage to tease me with. We were walking across the lawn, Kayla heading back towards the Apollo cabin to sleep, and me off to do my shift at the infirmary. “Look,” I tried again, “can you cover the infirmary until I get back or not?”

She completely ignored me. “Wait until I tell Austin!” she squealed gleefully. That was great. Just what I needed.

“Please don’t tell anyone else,” I pleaded. No one really knew about this, and I’m sure that Nico wouldn’t appreciate everybody finding out. I figured that no one would notice Nico and I slipping out of camp a few days before Christmas. Most demigods went back home to their families at that time after all. Still, I didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves.

“Fine. I’ll swear Austin to secrecy,” Kayla promised. Well at least she knew some boundaries. “And to answer your question, I’m sure Austin and I will be fine with the infirmary. We’ll be two of the only people at camp anyway,” she shrugged.

I knew that was true, but I still felt guilty about leaving them. I had missed one shift last night already when I was preoccupied with an angry Nico (I felt like that was a pretty good excuse) but leaving for four whole days made me nervous. I knew that was irrational because my siblings were amazing healers, but the thing was ever since the battle of Manhattan, I’d taken running the infirmary as my only and most important responsibility.

“So,” Kayla said breaking the silence again. “What did you get Nico?”

“Huh?” I said stupidly.

Kayla groaned. “What did you get Nico? For Christmas,” she clarified.

“Oh.”

She shook her head. “Please don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten to get him a present?”

Well apparently I had.

“Because,” she continued, “you guys seem to be in the type of relationship where you get each other gifts. Oh! That reminds me, when you’re shopping for me, I’m out of that magic wood polisher I use for my bow. That should help you out.”

“Umm.” I tried to think about what I should get for Nico. This was going to be hard. I didn’t want to get him anything crappy. I wanted to see his face light up when he opened... whatever I would get him. “Oh gods!” I cried. “I can’t believe I actually forgot.”

Well, to be fair to me, getting presents for Christmas hadn’t really been a priority for a lot of the years I was at camp. Between the multiple tragedies with various threats, and the fact that I had so little people in my life to actually gift anything to, giving presents wasn’t something I had a lot of practice doing.

“Don’t worry,” Kayla assured, though it looked like she was trying not to laugh, “you’ve still got time. I’ll help if you want.”

“Thank you...” I said uncertainly because I had no idea how Kayla would be able to give me tips.

“Hey. Don’t underestimate me. I’ll tell you what, after my nap, I’ll grab Austin and we’ll come to the infirmary to discuss present ideas.”

That idea didn’t seem so bad. Nico had implied that he hadn’t really slept a lot last night, so hopefully he would spend most of the day sleeping. “Great,” I replied. “See you then.”

*

My siblings came walking into the infirmary a couple of hours later. I had just finished healing a Hermes camper of her broken arm, which she acquired whilst helping her sister load a catapult near the big house (though I hadn’t managed to find out any more information on the topic).

“I’ve brought back up,” Kayla announced, pointing at Austin.

I rolled my eyes and wondered if I’d regret asking them for help. I turned to the daughter of Hermes. “You can go, Alice. Your arm is still in delicate condition, so please, no more loading heavy missiles.”

Alice nodded in a way that made me think that that was exactly what she was about to go and do, and before I could stop her, she had dashed out of the infirmary.

Austin had sat himself behind the reception area, and Kayla had made herself comfortable on top of the desk. So I plopped myself down on the sick bed that was nearest to them.

Austin smiled at me. “So, you can’t think of what to get for your boyfriend, huh?”

“Not particularly,” I told him. “It’s just that I completely forgot and so I haven’t exactly thought about it.” Because that made me seem much better.

Kayla shifted on the desk so that she sitting more comfortably. Then she pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. “This is my totally amazing foolproof list of gift ideas,” she announced. “My dad gave it to me. He’s really quite good at the gift giving thing. It’s saved me multiple times.”

I didn’t see how a list of gifts that Kayla’s dad had come up with would help me find the perfect gift for Nico, but what did I have to lose? “Go on then, let’s here some.”

Kayla studied the list. “Well the first few are the generic ones that everybody already knows about. You’ve got your chocolates, your candies, your socks, your gift cards et cetera,” she read out loud while checking them off with her finger.

Austin snorted. “Considering what Nico’s gift to Will was, he’s going to have to do better than some old socks.” I rolled my eyes but said nothing because it was true.

“What else have you got, Kayla?” I asked, even though I was quickly losing hope.

“Well, the next things on the list aren’t specifically actual real things...” she started.

“Oh great,” I said sarcastically. “Because I’m sure Nico would love to open a gift wrapped thing that isn’t actually specifically real.”

Austin snorted but Kayla gave me a look that effectively shut me up. “Do you want my help or not?”

I held up my hands. “Sorry sorry. Proceed.”

She went back to her list. “Right. So these are the questions you have to ask yourself.”

Austin and I stared at her waiting for some kind of miracle gift idea to sprout out of her head.

“Number one,” Kayla said. “Is there anything that the person has discreetly asked for?”

I gave that some thought. Nico wasn’t the type to ask for anything, even if he really really needed it. Maybe he had subtly mentioned something once or twice without actually asking for it, but I had no way of remembering. “I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Nico would never say something outright, like you,” I pointed at Kayla remembering I needed to get her some magic polish. She just smiled. “Plus, I want to come up with the idea. I don’t want him to have to tell me.”

“Okay okay,” Kayla relented. “Next question: is there anything that you want to gift him that would indirectly benefit you?”

That confused me. “Um... like what?”

Austin smiled sheepishly. “Well, you know. Last year I got my grandmother some mouthwash because I was sick of smelling her rotten breath every time she kissed my forehead. It worked like a charm!”

Kayla giggled and then narrowed her eyes at me mischievously. “Or,” she added, “when you get your significant other something that would definitely benefit you in... that department.”

She wiggled her eyebrows at me and my cheeks burned. “You know, like nice underwear... or I’ve seen these great kinky-“

“Stop!” I yelled, because discussing this stuff with my siblings was just way too embarrassing. Especially because there was really nothing in that department to talk about regarding Nico and I. “I am not getting Nico something that would ‘fix’ him because I like him how he is,” I said in Austin’s direction. “And,” I emphasised to Kayla, “I am definitely not going to get him something that hints that I’m an uncontrollable horny teenager.”

Kayla laughed and asked, “Did you just admit that you’re a horny teenager?”

I ignored her. “What else is on that list? Do I even want to ask?”

Kayla gave me a knowing smile, but returned to her paper. “Okay. Another question then: is there anything you’ve gotten him before that he’s liked, and you can get something similar?”

I pulled at my hair in frustration. “You know I haven’t. We’ve only been dating for like a month and a half.”

“Yeah, but you can think about unofficial gifts,” Austin pointed out. “For example, I’m pretty sure you told us that you’d literally melted into a Will shaped puddle when Nico gave you a blueberry muffin.”

I groaned. Why did I even tell them about that? I tried to ignore my embarrassment and thought about the question for a minute. “Well,” I said finally. “I guess he enjoys our dates that I plan... but that isn’t really something I can gift him.”

Austin and Kayla both gave me unimpressed looks, as if scolding me for not trying hard enough. I groaned again and promised, “From this point on, I will ask myself these questions every day that I spend with Nico so that when the next occasion comes up, I’m ready for it.”

“Good idea,” Kayla said cheerfully. “But that doesn’t help you now.”

That wasn’t helpful, but I kept my mouth shut just in case something on her list helped me out. “Any more advice from your magic list?”

She went back to her paper and ran her finger down, checking off the points that we’d covered. “Last prompt then,” she announced, “try brainstorming the things that you know he likes or enjoys, and then think about how to embody that into a gift.”

I sighed. The whole point of this exercise was to think of something that Nico would like, so if I already knew that, I wouldn’t have asked for help.

On the other hand, Kayla had asked the question in a logical way, and some ideas were already starting to swim around in my brain.

“Well,” I said. “He likes watching movies and playing video games... and he used to like playing other games like mythomagic... and he really liked the cream cakes I got for him from the bakery, and pancakes because he hadn’t ever tried them when he was little and living in Italy... and he enjoys reading, but we don’t usually talk much about that because the only books he has are from decades ago... oh and he got so excited when he realised that they made such fluffy blankets at Bed Bath and Beyond... and, what are you guys smiling at?”

Kayla and Austin were stifling their smiles by covering their faces, but they weren’t fooling anyone.

“Nothing,” Austin replied, unconvincing.

“You,” Kayla replied, convincingly.

I pouted. “What did I say?”

Kayla stopped trying to hide her smile and giggled. “What didn’t you say? You went on a full on monologue about Nico with a goofy smile on your face. Gods of Olympus, you’re head over heels in love with the guy!”

“I am not!” I protested automatically, although I wasn’t sure who I was trying to convince. I couldn’t deny I had very strong feelings for Nico... but I wasn’t about to admit that I was in love with him yet. Although, I wasn’t sure how long it would be until I was ready. That idea made me excited and nervous at the same time.

My siblings gave me very unconvinced looks which I couldn’t blame them for. “Anyway,” Austin said, thankfully changing the subject, “did your little speech spark any ground breaking ideas?”

I thought about that. Despite my dazed expression as I was talking about Nico, some ideas had started to form in my head. “I don’t know about ground breaking, but I think I know where to start... Austin, if I give you a list of stuff, do you think you could pick them up the next time you go into town?”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

It was the twenty second of December, and Will and I were getting ready to leave for Vermont.

In the past few weeks, I had fallen back into my little routine, once again glad that I had decided to stay at camp. However, communications were still down which made me uneasy, especially because I wasn’t able to hear from Jason, Piper or my friends at camp Jupiter.

Nonetheless, spending time with Will and his siblings had helped to take my mind off of the problem, and now, most of my thoughts were very Vermont related.

I didn’t have to pack much. Just a few changes of clothes and my main toiletries. The good thing about having unlimited money from your underworld father, the god of riches, was that it didn’t matter if I forgot something, because I could always buy whatever I needed. Therefore, I had left my packing until the last minute.

Will was lounging on my bed where my small travelling bad was placed. “Organisation isn’t your strong suit, is it?” he asked.

I dropped a couple of t-shirts into the bag. “I might be doing this a bit late, but I’m more organised than you, trust me.”

I emphasised my point by stuffing some jeans into my bag with no interest as to whether they were scrunched up or laying on top of the shampoo bottles I had dropped in earlier.

“Very organised,” Will confirmed.

I rummaged through my chest of drawers to find some underwear. “If you’re not going to help, then why are you here?” I asked him.

He whistled. “That’s not nice,” he said in a mock stern voice. “I’m keeping you company.”

I just ignored him. The truth was, I was starting to get a little nervous about this whole thing. Sure, Will was great and, sure, I wanted to do this for him and, sure, I knew that we’d have fun, but it still didn’t stop me from panicking that something might go wrong.

There were the usual things that I had to worry about: monsters. Although there would only be two of us, and monster activity had seemed to decline since Gaia had been defeated, it was still a possibility. In response to that thought, I grabbed my Stygian iron sword from where it was propped up against the wall and stuffed it into my case. It just about fit on top of all my other stuff.

Will noticed the action. “I hope you’re not planning on using that on me,” he joked.

I looked at him. “Stay on my good side, and I won’t have to.”

Will smiled slightly. On some level, that annoyed me, since no one else for a long time had not taken one of my threats seriously. It was inconvenient if I actually wanted to get something I wanted from him. But mostly, I was glad that Will saw through my charade. Obviously I wasn’t some psychopath who just enjoyed killing things. I was the son of Hades not Satan. And the fact that Will didn’t bend to my will out of fear, made me enjoy the challenge and satisfaction when I actually won an argument.

Another thing I was worrying about was what this trip meant for our relationship. I was still trying to come to terms with my identity. Sometimes when we were together, I’d forget about everything else, and just live in the moment. Other times, when my anxiety got bad, I’d silently question what was actually happening. Why did Will like me? Why did I like him back? It was really confusing.

Anyway, some part of me still wanted to run away from all of this. Shut everyone out like before and deal with my pain alone so that no one could see. But the main part of me knew that that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I wanted Will. And I wanted to make him happy. I had planned this trip on a day that that goal had overwhelmed me and thus it had put me in a really vulnerable position. I silently prayed that it would pay off. I couldn’t lose someone else...

“So,” Will said, breaking me out of my thoughts, “I asked Billie from the Demeter cabin if I could borrow her cassette player. She actually has some great taste in music.”

Not for the first time, I marvelled at how Will could just go up to people, make friends with them, and then walk away with something like a borrowed cassette player. But if I started to compare his social skills to mine, I would come out of it looking like some kind of caveman. “Okay?” I asked.

He looked at me as if wondering why I were confused. “So we can listen to music,” he said. “You know, during the six hour trip to Vermont.”

I furrowed my eyebrows. “Six hours?”

“That’s roughly how long it takes,” Will said, a note of uncertainty creeping in. “I assumed we weren’t flying because, you know, Zeus. How else would we get there?”

Now it was my turn to look at him like he was stupid. “You think I’m going to waste six hours travelling somewhere? We’re going by shadow travel, of course.”

His expression became stern, with a hint of panic and frustration. “Nico, it’s too far of a jump for you to take. You’re still healing.” His voice was calm and controlled as if he were trying to talk a gunman into giving up his weapon. “Can we please get there another way?”

I rolled my eyes. “Will, you’ve seen me working on building up my powers. I’m a lot healthier. And I am very aware of what I should and should not attempt.” He looked like he wanted to interject but I continued. “And I already know that this jump would take too much of a toll on me, so we are going by car. I’m going to call Jules-Albert and he’ll shadow travel us while we’re safely in the backseat of his cab. I’ll even wear my seatbelt if it makes you shut up about my self destructive habits.”

Will looked relieved, then guilty. “That’s a great idea,” he said in a soft voice. “Sorry I assumed-“

“That I would take any opportunity to push my limits and scare you to death?“ He gave me a guiltier look and I felt bad. “I know,” I told him, “I shouldn’t blame you for underestimating my will to live. But really, why would I bother to pack this nice shirt,” I held up a maroon button down that Piper had given me as an ‘option’ before my first date with Will, “if I planned on passing out for more than half of the trip?”

Will smiled. “Well, I won’t make that mistake again. And also, it really isn’t fair for you to tease me with the vision of you wearing that shirt.”

I folded the shirt neatly and placed it carefully into my bag. “That wasn’t my intention, but I guess it is a bonus,” I replied. “Right, I think I’m done. Are you ready to go?”

“Yep,” Will said happily as he bounded off of the bed. “I’ll grab my stuff and meet you...?”

“I think we should go past the border of the forest to call Jules-Albert. Just so we don’t draw any unwanted attention from other campers.” Even though it was four in the afternoon and it was already dark out, I still didn’t want anyone freaking out.

Will scurried off to the Apollo cabin and half an hour later, we were through the forest. Will grunted as he dropped his big box and duffel bag onto the ground. “Gods, please tell me you can call your driver from here? This box is heavy.”

I studied the box. “What in the Hades did you bring?”

Will followed my gaze. “Oh, this? Well the duffel bag has my clothes and whatnot, and inside this box is your Christmas present.”

I stared at the box again. It was fucking huge. What in the hell could he have possibly gotten me? “Um,” I said, a bit dazed, “I didn’t get you anything.”

Will laughed at me. “You’re kidding, right?”

I looked at him, unease starting to fill my body. “No, I’m serious, I really didn’t get you anything.” Oh gods, how could I forget something like that? It was Christmas after all. Stupid Nico. I knew I would find a way to mess this up.

Will walked towards me, now genuine concern on his face. “Nico... you do know that this entire trip is the best gesture anyone has ever given me? I thought this was my gift?”

I hadn’t actually thought about it in that way, but I guessed it was true. I sighed in relief. “Okay. Cool,” I managed.

Then I bent down and hovered my hand slightly above the ground. I called out for my zombie driver and, a second later, the ground split open into a massive fissure, and his car appeared out of the crack. Will stumbled back a bit in surprise and I caught his arm. “It’s alright,” I told him. “You can get in. Jules-Albert will get your stuff.”

We both clambered into the backseat while my zombie loaded the trunk. Then I told him the address and the entire car dipped into shadow. Will gripped onto my arm and I appreciated that it was a weird experience. Outside the windows was pure black, a void so dark that if we spent any longer than a couple of seconds in it, we might have gone mad.

That was one of the reasons I had developed a fear of the dark. If I somehow managed to let myself fade into the shadows forever, I’d go insane just by opening my eyes and seeing the total blackness in front of me.

We resurfaced quickly enough though, and the colour outside the windows went from black to white. I got out of the car.

Jules-Albert had parked right in front of the lodgings, which were a series of bright yellow buildings curved around in a semicircle. The windows in the walls shone with light and there was a thick dusting of snow covering the entire scene making it look like a Christmas card.

Then I turned around and almost gasped. A huge mountain loomed behind a slightly forested area. I could see the ski lifts moving upwards, and some people still sliding down the slope despite the darkness. Lights illuminated the tracks, but not as powerfully as the moon which also shone down and I could see from all the way down here that the snow was glittering.

Will had stepped out of the car and wandered over to me. His gaping expression mirrored exactly how I felt. “It’s breathtaking,” he commented.

“Mmm hmm,” I agreed. We stood staring at the view for another moment, and then I turned to him. “Are you alright? You don’t feel nauseous or anything...?”

He shook his head uncertainly. “During the ride I felt a bit dizzy, and maybe a tiny bit terrified... but I feel perfectly fine. I was really thinking it was going to be worse.”

I decided not to tell him that most people threw up when they first tried shadow travel and that it was amazing that he didn’t feel any sort of effect from it. I filed that information away for later.

“I’ll have Jules-Albert check us in and bring our stuff up to our room,” I informed. “Because I’m starving.”

*

We ended up having an early dinner in the hotel restaurant. The food was great and Will entertained me by telling me stories about what camp was like when I had left. A lot of what he said involved Hermes cabin pranks that resulted in more than a few near death experiences. A particular story about the Stolls setting a bear trap on Mr D’s toilet seat nearly made me choke on my salmon.

Will’s experiences made me sad that I had missed out on them. Not for the first time, I wondered how different I would’ve turned out if Bianca hadn’t died and I hadn’t met Percy Jackson. It was never a good train of thought to follow, and I pinched myself under the table to make myself stop.

We also talked about skiing. Will told me what he remembered from when he was a child, which wasn’t much, so I hoped that he wasn’t that much better than me at it. We would find out tomorrow.

Then we wondered around the hotel for a bit, just exploring everything and marvelling at our new surroundings. It was a really nice place, with all the exposed wood beams and modernly decorated rooms and matching furniture.

We ended up in the hotel store on the second floor after a while, since we both needed to buy ski gear for tomorrow.

We examined the selection. All the jackets and pants seemed to be the same, just in different colours, and every piece had the words OKEMO MOUNTAIN stitched onto the pockets.

Will shrugged on a bright blue jacket. “It matches your eyes,” I commented, which was only half of what I wanted to say. Blue was definitely Will’s colour, and every time he wore that shade, I couldn’t tear my eyes off of him.

“It is very warm,” he said appreciatively. “And comfortable.” He looked at the price tag. “And expensive! Holy Hera! What are they thinking?”

I picked out a black jacket of my size and tried it on. “Stop being dramatic, Will. I told you not to worry about that.”

His face told me that he was still worrying about that. I sighed. “You know,” I tried, “if you tried to ski in your current t-shirt and hoodie in the temperatures out there, then you’ll have to admit that you have a bigger death wish than me. And it’s not just the jacket,” I continued, “we have to stock up on the other stuff like proper gloves apparently.”

That seemed to make him consider, but he still didn’t look convinced. What else could I say that would make him agree to let me buy him a stupid jacket? “Also,” I said quietly, “blue is a really pretty colour on you.”

I was glad to see a blush spread across his cheeks. But he recovered quickly and looked around at the jackets. Then he smiled wickedly. “Okay fine,” he relented, “you may buy me the jacket, if,” and he paused for dramatic effect (which definitely did not work) “you choose a jacket whose colour is not black.”

I scowled at him. Trust Will Solace to suggest a deal that doesn’t benefit me at all. I studied the racks of ski jackets. I could just choose a navy one, or dark red, or even grey. They were all acceptable colours. But that’s what he was expecting. And I pride myself in being unpredictable. I wasn’t going to let Will ever think that he could read me completely.

I marched up to the rack and yanked a neon pink jacket off of its hanger. The colour was so bright, it blinded me when I looked at it, and I was almost sure that my hand tingled in protest as I made contact with the fabric. “There,” I turned back to Will. “Happy?”

His expression was a mix of bewilderment, shock and complete joy. “Extremely,” he replied.

I paid for our stuff.

*

After that, we made our way to our room. It was on the eleventh floor so we had to take an elevator to get up there. Jules-Albert had given me the key before I had dismissed him, and when we found our room number: one hundred and eleven, I slid it in and pushed open the heavy oak door.

It was probably the nicest room I had ever visited (not that I had a lot of experience with nice rooms). The entrance opened up into the living room area which had a plush looking sofa facing the flat screen, a medium sized wooden table with matching chairs, and huge ceiling to floor windows overlooking the mountain. The walls and carpet were a crisp cream colour and a forest green rug lay in the centre.

“Oh my gods,” Will exclaimed. “It’s so... wow. And this isn’t even the whole thing.”

We turned to the left where a small corridor led to the bathroom, which was spotless and had the theme of white curvy porcelain (a nice change from the black in the Hades cabin). Opposite the bathroom was the bedroom. It also had a ceiling to floor window on the far wall, and the bed looked like one giant fluffy cloud.

The whole space had that luxury feel to it. Even if it was impersonal, I loved it instantly, if not for anything else, then for the vastness of the space and the feel of comfort.

I opened my bag that was placed near the closet and looked for my pyjamas. “Shadow travel always makes me tired,” I admitted. “I might sleep early... Will?”

He was staring at the bed with an expression I couldn’t really place. Then it struck me. Oh gods. The bed. The one bed. We hadn’t shared a bed yet. I mean, we’d fallen asleep accidentally on a couch before, but this was different. I had completely forgotten to see this coming.

Will snapped out of it and saw me too staring at the bed. He scratched the back of his neck. “I can sleep on the couch, if you want,” he offered.

I studied his face trying to gauge his emotions. “Do you... want to sleep on the couch?”

He stared at me back, and his blue eyes were making me feel dizzy. “Do you want me to not want to sleep on the couch?”

Even though it seemed like a big step, imagining curling up next to Will in the bed, and sleeping with his warmth surrounding me, I realised that I did want him to share the bed with me. Really badly. My mouth twitched upwards. “I think I want you to not want to sleep on the couch, but only if you’re comfortable with wanting that.”

He took a moment to mull over my words. Then he smiled. “Whatever you say, di Angelo.”

We changed, washed and brushed our teeth before climbing into bed. Although the room was a nice temperature, initially, the sheets were still a bit too cold to be comfortable and I flinched involuntarily when I pulled the duvet over me.

Will seemed to notice. “Children of the sun god are always hot, you know.”

I cringed at the double meaning of his words and also scolded myself for wanting to agree. I had already practically told him I wanted us to share the bed, and I was not giving him anything else tonight.

“I’ll concede to that if you can prove it,” I told him.

Will gave me a massive smile and shuffled closer to me so that our bodies were pressed together pretty tightly. He extended his arm around the top of my shoulders so that his hand was resting on my bicep. “Better?”

I gripped his shirt and pulled myself even closer towards his warm chest. “Marginally,” I mumbled already half asleep. “But I’ll get used to it.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

I woke up slowly, at first barely registering where I was. Then it came back to me. Vermont. Skiing. Hotel. Bed. Nico. Nico in bed with me. His fresh smell wafted over me and I realised that he’d snuggled in closer from the night before. I didn’t even think that was physically possible.

His hand was laying on my chest and I was scared that I’d wake him up from just the sudden and violent increase in my heart rate. His face was tucked into my neck, with his soft hair feeling like silk on my skin. His warmth seeped into me and when I thought about leaving the bed, every cell in my body protested.

So I stayed like that, for a minute or so (or maybe longer) just watching Nico breathing in and out. He looked so inviting when his face was relaxed. I wanted to stroke his cheek or play with his hair. I kind of wanted to wake him up so that I could kiss him.

Before I could do anything other than admire him though, a muffled sleepy voice said, “It’s creepy to watch people sleep.”

Nico hadn’t opened his eyes, but his grip on my shirt had become tighter as if he was just daring me to get up and leave him alone in the bed.

“Is it still creepy when that person looks gloriously handsome?” I asked. I was trying to wind him up and I was desperately hoping for a reaction (preferably one which ended up with us making out).

“Yes,” he mumbled.

Hmm. I might have to prod a bit harder... “Is it still creepy when that person is your boyfriend?”

Nico didn’t answer. We had never actually used that word before. I would use it to describe him when talking to Kayla or Austin, but I hadn’t said it in front of him before. The fact that he didn’t say anything in reply wasn’t a good sign.

I knew he had some problems with coming to terms with his sexuality and he maybe wasn’t ready for it. And although it seemed ridiculous because we were literally entwined in each other’s arms in bed right now, I knew that putting a label on it might be a bit much. I filed that information away and made a mental note to try again in a month or so...

“Okay,” I relented, “I agree it’s creepy. So we should get up if it makes you uncomfortable.”

Nico made a faint whining noise that made me smile. He sounded like an impatient toddler. He also strengthened his grip on my shirt and moved a bit closer so that he was practically half on top of me. If that didn’t scream ‘don’t you dare go anywhere’ I didn’t know what did.

“Possessive much?” I teased.

“Don’t aggravate me in the morning, Solace. It won’t end well for you,” he grumbled.

I wanted to stay in bed for ages too, but I also wanted to go skiing. I didn’t want to spend our holiday doing something that we could do anywhere (even if that something was something I really badly wanted to do). “If I moved right now,” I started, “what’s the percentage chance that you’d knock me over the head just to keep me here?”

A small smile played on his lips. “One hundred and ten percent.”

I sighed. “Nico! Skiing! Wasting time! Get up!”

Nico groaned, “Five more minutes, Will. I need my sleep.”

“We’ve slept for ages. Come on.”

“Six minutes.”

“You just said five!”

“The more you disturb me, the more it’s going to increase.”

I rolled my eyes. Then I waited the six minutes, still staring fondly at Nico’s resting face. But it was clear he was starting to wake up now.

When the time was over, I said, “Time’s over. Get up.”

“No.”

Damn his stubbornness. “Nico,” I warned.

His smile reappeared. “What are you going to do about it, Solace?”

Even the tone of his voice make my heart beat a bit faster. I thought about my response for far too long, which was probably what Nico had wanted since he was happily snoozing away again. “I’ll attack you,” I said at last. When Nico snorted, I assured, “I know I’ll lose. But I’ll successfully get you out of bed before I do.”

Nico opened one eye and I could tell he wasn’t happy about the prospect of being attacked out of bed. Then he just shrugged. “I guess you can try,” he taunted.

I took a moment to think about the best way to do this. In the end, I decided to just leap into action and see what happened. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how much Nico had actually woken up.

When I went to shrug him off of my arm, and therefore push him out of bed, he was on top of me before I could even sit up. One positive though, was that I learnt my mistake from last time, and I didn’t let him capture my wrists again. Instead I flailed my hands around like a lunatic when he tried to pin me.

“You are especially attractive when it looks like your arms are spasming,” Nico teased as he tried and failed to grab my arms again.

“Don’t make fun of me,” I told him, “when my technique is working.”

He rolled his eyes. Then he pinched my nose and as I reached up to defend the area, he successfully gripped my left wrist.

“You’re already awake!” I exclaimed, trying to get free. “I’ve won either way.”

He grinned at me. “I thought your goal was to get me out of bed?”

I grunted as he tried again to capture my right hand, and I had to place it underneath my own body to keep it from him. He laughed at me. “Will, you’ve pinned your own hand, you idiot.”

While he was laughing though, I subtly lifted my hips slightly so that his body was forced to bounce up and forward. He had to release my left wrist in order to place both of his hands down onto the bed on either side of my head to keep his balance.

“Stop that,” he warned. His tone was slightly breathless as if he were trying his best to keep his emotions hidden, but not quite succeeding.

“What?” I asked innocently. “This?” I did it again.

This time, he let out the tiniest little whimper and his arms started to lose strength as he involuntarily lowered himself down towards me. A faint blush started to creep along his cheeks. Oh wow, I was actually turning him on.

I did it again, with a bit more force...

“Fine!” Nico snapped. “I’m getting up.” He hastily jumped off of me and got out of bed to head straight to the bathroom with his bag. I smiled to myself, even though I was pretty sure I’d just made myself more frustrated as well as him. Oh well. It was worth it for the victory.

When he came out of the bathroom a couple of minutes later, washed and changed, he just said, “I’m so getting you back for that.”

I couldn’t wait.

*

“I love that colour on you, Nico. You look like a flamingo.” I didn’t know why I was teasing him, because I actually really did like his neon pink jacket.

Nico scowled at me.

I smiled back at him. “Now, you look like a murderous flamingo.”

“Shut up, Solace. This colour is all your fault.”

“Hey! I said I liked it. And flamingos are cute.” I raised my eyebrows up at him, but he was still frowning at me.

We were on our way to the slopes. Getting all the skiing gear on had taken a while and a lot of complaining (all Nico, naturally). But we were finally out in the snow and ready to ski.

The place didn’t look as impressive as it did at night, with all the lights and the moon shining down, but it came pretty close. A fresh layer of snow lay on the ground, and the atmosphere of happy skiers rubbed off onto me until I was smiling for no apparent reason.

“We can start on the baby slope,” I suggested after we had claimed our skis. Nico had rejected the idea of hiring a tutor because ‘how hard can sliding down a hill be?’

Nico followed my gaze to the hill at the bottom of the main slope. It was about twenty feet tall, so small that they hadn’t bothered putting a ski lift next to it (you just had to sidestep your way up). “That thing? It’s for babies. Where’s the queue for the real slope?”

I shook my head. “Nico, we’re both basically beginners. Trust me, at least try going down once on the baby one. It’ll only take a minute.”

It ended up taking much longer than a minute.

As soon as we’d reached the hill, I threw down my skis and showed Nico how to lock the boots into the slots. I just about managed, but Nico had a little trouble. He got into the first one fine, but as he stomped onto the second ski, he lost his balance instantly, and toppled over on his side into the snow, with one ski still attached to his foot.

I tried my best not to laugh. I didn’t want to discourage him. But his pouty face and snow dusted hair just looked so cute. I gave him a hand up. “I’ll pretend I didn’t see that if it makes you feel better.”

“Hmph.”

I lined up his second ski for him again. “Here.” Then I stood back up beside him. “Lean on me to keep your balance,” I offered.

He gripped my arm and stamped his foot. I just about managed to stop us both from falling into the snow this time. “See? Easy,” I told him.

He looked at me incredulously. I ignored him. “Up the hill we go!”

I started skid walking in that direction, but stopped when I realised Nico was moving a lot slower. “I don’t have practice walking in extra long feet!” he complained, then added, “I’m not you.”

I tutted at him. “Now I know you didn’t mean to just insult my feet,” I said sarcastically, “because they’re one of my favourite parts.”

Nico gave me a death glare. I smiled back at him, then I backed up so that I could show him how to walk more efficiently. With a lot of effort, grumbling and a few tumbles, we finally made it up the mini hill. Nico peered down. “It looks a lot higher now that we’re up here and I know I can’t control my feet,” he admitted.

“You think we should’ve hired a teacher?”

“No! We can do this,” he insisted.

I shrugged. “Whatever you say. Now, watch me...”

I trailed off because Nico had pushed off with his poles and had started sliding down the slope. What an idiot.

At first, he was actually okay. He kept his feet pointing straight ahead, and used his poles to keep him upright. But, as he started to pick up speed, he stumbled a bit and let out a small yelp as he completely lost it and waved his poles in the air like he was trying to wave down a plane. “Whaaaaaa,” was all I heard before he dropped down into the snow for the sixth time that day.

I frantically made to follow. I was surprised I remembered at least the basics, for example, the break manoeuvre, which Nico had been stupid enough not to ask for before he plummeted down a hill.

I reached him within seconds and quickly went to examine him. “Are you fucking crazy? Are you okay? Anything broken? Do you feel sick? Why did you do that, you complete madman.”

Nico rolled his eyes. “I’m perfectly fine,” he assured. “Nothing is broken. I’m definitely not crazy, just ambitious. And I don’t like skiing.”

I helped him up. “You can’t judge something before you’ve given it a proper chance,” I reasoned. “You seemed to hate me when we first met.”

Nico huffed. “I did not hate you.”

I smiled at him mischievously. “So you liked me all that whole time? Wow, I never would’ve guessed.”

Nico shoved my arm, but since I had much better balance than him, he only managed to disrupt his own centre of gravity. I just about managed to grab his arm and help him to stabilise his position before he could make it a grand total of seven falls that morning.

“I know it’s different,” I said. “But you’re literally amazing at everything you put your mind to. Just try for a bit longer.”

He pouted for a moment, but I knew he would agree. “Fine. I’ll give it one more try.”

The second time went slightly better since I was able to teach Nico how to point his feet inwards in order to slow down. After that, he actually seemed to get the hang of it, like I knew he would. We went up and down the baby slope for about ten times before Nico announced, “I’m definitely ready for the big slope now.”

We made our way to the ski lift and waited in line.

“That thing looks scary,” Nico said, frowning at it.

I couldn’t help but smile. “You face monsters on a daily basis, you’ve saved the world multiple times, you terrify anyone who even looks in your direction, and you’re scared of a ski lift?”

Nico looked at me like I was stupid. “I can’t exactly fight or threaten an inanimate machine if it decides to throw me off when we’re fifty feet in the air. I mean,” he gestured to the lift, “why in Hades would they not put a bar on that thing?”

I smiled wider. “Nico, it’s not going to throw you off, and I’m sure you can manage to stay on the seat.” He didn’t look impressed. “And if all else fails, I’ll be there. I won’t let you fall.”

He seemed to relax a bit at that, which didn’t make any sense, because he was much more trustworthy in a crisis than I was.

Soon it was our turn and I led Nico to the lift off area.

“Wait,” he said in a panicked tone when we were in position. “We just stand... it’s going to sweep... oh gods! Will! Ahhhh.” The seat scooped us up and lifted us into the air. Nico’s eyes were wide and my lungs were hurting from laughing too much.

Nico huffed and straightened himself out. “If you ever say a word about that to anyone, I swear, Solace.”

I gave him a smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

I stared across the slope and along the forested area to the mountains beyond. “These views are giving me vertigo,” I managed. “They’re too surreal.”

Nico followed my gaze and got a look in his eyes that told me that he was agreeing silently.

We reached the top and slid off of the lift (with slightly less but still more than usual squealing from Nico). I followed him across the top of the hill and we stood for a second just looking down.

“You go first,” Nico ordered.

I looked at him. “What if you get stuck in the middle and I can’t get back up to help you?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “I’m as good as you now,” he argued, which was debatable in my opinion. “Plus, I want to watch you go.”

I would’ve argued more, but he seemed insistent that he would be fine. Babying Nico was never a wise move if you wanted to keep your health. “See you at the bottom,” I told him, then pushed off with my poles.

As I picked up speed, and the various people started to blur around me, I remembered why I loved skiing when I was little. Everything about this experience was exhilarating. The speed, the views, even the shock of the cold winter wind hitting my face woke me up and made me feel more alert. The snow glistened in the corner of my eyes and my subconscious thought, ahhh it looks so magical. I was going faster and faster and oh gods this was incredible. I felt so... free.

I finally reached the bottom and slowed to a stop, my heart still racing so fast I could hear it through my seventeen or so layers. I turned around to see Nico following. His bright pink jacket stood out from everyone else’s so it was easy to spot him. From what I could see, his expression told me that he was enjoying it as much as me. Although, it was always hard to tell with him. The wind flew by him causing his silky hair to fly around his face, but he didn’t seem to mind.

He noticed me as he got closer and aimed perfectly for my direction, stopping about two feet in front of my face. He looked as good as the view with his rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes and messed up hair.

“That was fun,” he stated. “Let’s do it again.”

*

We spent the whole day skiing. We were both fast learners thanks to our godly blood, and so by the end of the day, we had managed to ski all of the blue slopes and most of the red ones.

Because we had stayed out so late (well after it had gotten dark, because the views just got better the later we had stayed) we decided to order room service for dinner and have an early night. We snuggled up in the bed together like last night after eating, and between the amount of physical exertion I had done, and the coziness of lying there with Nico, I fell asleep instantly.

*

The next day (Christmas Eve) went pretty much the same way. We woke up early (Nico didn’t even have to be told twice), had a quick breakfast of waffles from the restaurant, and went straight back out to the slopes.

I was a bit sore from the day before, but after a couple of warm up runs, I was filled with the same buzzing excitement and we were both raring to go.

We managed to complete all of the red slopes and even tried a black one today. Though that didn’t go too well. We ended up skiing down a few feet, falling over and then repeating that process until we got to the bottom. We decided to stick to the reds and blues after that.

This was turning out to be the most fun I’d had in years... maybe even ever. With Nico here with me, it made the whole experience a thousand times better as well. I found myself even dreading leaving this place even though we only had a couple of days left. Something told me that this holiday would be our last for a while. I guessed we’d just have to make the most of it while we could.

As the sun was dipping behind the clouds, Nico stopped me as I was about to head to another lift. “We should get back.”

I scrunched up my eyebrows at him. “Um, why? Night time is the best part.”

“It is,” he agreed. “But we can’t get too tired because of tonight.”

I gave him another confused look. “What’s happening tonight?”

He rolled his eyes. “It’s a surprise. Now come on. We still have tomorrow to do night skiing. I’m going to take a quick nap... and if you know what’s good for you, you should join me.”

Well that was more than enough incentive for me. We gave our skis back, grabbed a quick dinner of fries and burgers even though it was only four, and then Nico dragged me back to the room.

He wasn’t kidding when he said he was going to take a nap. As soon as we got to the bedroom, he changed and then jumped into the bed and starting snoozing almost immediately. Just looking at him, I realised that my eyes were drooping slightly.

I curled up behind him because he was facing the other way, and lay my head against his back. I quickly drifted off.

*

“Get up, Solace,” Nico ordered.

“Wha...?” I yawned as I blinked the sleep out of my eyes.

“It’s almost Christmas and we’ve got somewhere to be.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I made Will get up and get dressed into his coat and the many many layers he always insists on. He is easier to wake up than me, but I still had to threaten to pour cold water over his head.

“More surprises?” he asked sleepily. “I’m starting to think you kinda like me, you know.”

I rolled my eyes because ‘kinda like’ didn’t really cut it. But I kept my mouth shut because I wasn’t about to start on a romantic speech right now.

He followed me out of the room and into the elevator where he yawned again. I reached out and grabbed his gloved hand in hopes that he’d wake up a little bit. It seemed to work (marginally) because he was a bit lighter on his feet as we made our way to the exit.

The weather was a lot colder since it was nearly midnight, and I was glad Will had insisted I wear more than my t-shirt and jacket. I looked around trying to remember the directions the receptionist had told me yesterday when I had hastily asked him whilst Will was getting dinner.

I spotted the break in the trees of the forested area between the mountains and made a beeline for it, with Will scurrying on behind me.

As we reached the trees, Will laughed to himself. He seemed thoroughly awake now, thanks to the cold. “This seems like the perfect place to murder someone and hide the body in a mound of snow and leaves.”

“Don’t give me any ideas to tempt me with,” I grumbled.

I led the way through the path (that wasn’t really a path, just a line through the trees). About five minutes in, the path started to climb pretty steep. I knew that we’d have to get higher for the destination I had in mind, but it still didn’t make it any easier on my legs.

“Nico,” Will huffed behind me, “your ideas of romance are very unique.” He was trudging along behind me, his bright blue jacket illuminated brighter than the snow. The trees were still heavy on the incline, so I tried to walk along the least forested areas, even though it was still a challenge to walk up such a steep bit of path.

“Stop complaining,” I called. “I thought you had good stamina.”

Will chuckled, then mumbled just loud enough for me hear, “I’d rather demonstrate my stamina doing something other than scaling a mountainside at midnight.”

I wasn’t sure whether he meant that in the way that I was thinking of, but my cheeks burned despite the freezing temperatures nonetheless. “It’s only a short walk,” I assured, although I still couldn’t see the top, and my lungs were protesting from the hike.

After about fifteen minutes, Will cried, “I need a break!” and plopped himself down into the snow.

“For gods’ sake, Solace, I can see the top now I think. Stop being lazy. It’s almost midnight and-“

I stopped because suddenly a wet cold something was sliding off the back off my neck. The sensation was so shocking, it took me a second to register what had happened. I turned around to Will who had a second handful of snow ready to throw in my direction, and a massive evil smile on his face. “Sorry,” he laughed, not sounding sorry at all, “you seemed a bit uptight so I figured that would help to cool you down.”

He threw his next snowball and I dodged out of the way, though the snow still got me on my jacket (which was thankfully waterproof). “Will!” I yelled.

He ignored me, throwing another snowball and forcing me to drop to the ground to avoid it. I groaned when I realised that Will was constructing more snowy weapons. Well, if he wanted to play...

I grabbed a handful of fresh snow from the ground and quickly moulded it into a respectful shape. Before Will could throw another, I launched mine and got him square in the chest. “Hey!” he protested. “I’m not the one who needs cooling down!”

I laughed at him. “I thought ‘children of the sun god are always hot,’” I mimicked, but whilst I was talking, he managed to aim another snow ball that hit so far up my chest, I got freezing cold specks of snow and ice sprinkling the sensitive skin on my neck and chin. It was so cold, I hissed at the contact.

Right, that was it.

I grabbed another handful of the cold powdery snow and leaped into action, running towards Will and easily dodging his attempts to throw more snowballs at me. He raised his eyebrows at me in challenge as I made my way towards him, and he still had a huge smile on his face.

When I reached him, I completely sidestepped him so that I ran right past him. It was easy since Will was still sitting down, and he was so surprised that I’d gone past him, that he was instantaneously frozen in place. Then, before he could recover, I grabbed his jacket from behind, kissed him on the cheek (because why not) and stuffed my handful of snow right down the back of his shirt.

Will squealed so loud I was afraid he would scare away an entire flock of nearby birds. “NICO! AAGGHHH!” He leaped up and frantically tried to lift his shirt from underneath to relieve his back from the cold sludge, but his thermals were tucked into his pants, so it was useless. He let out a large groan of frustration and dropped to the ground again on his back, panting.

I walked up to him and looked down at his face. “Did you enjoy your break?”

He scowled at me. “You are evil.”

I shrugged. “Perhaps. But I’ve still got the surprise to make up for it.” I held out my hand. He hesitated for a moment but then grabbed it and let me haul him up to a standing position.

“I’m expecting great things, di Angelo,” he muttered as we started walking up the snowy hillside again. Even though he meant it as a joke, it still made me nervous. I was only taking my father’s word when he told me that this was definitely worth seeing, and I still wasn’t one hundred percent ready to trust Hades.

Finally, we reached the top. The path led out to the edge of a cliff side where the trees had thinned and the snow was still fresh. When I registered what I was seeing, I sent a prayer to thank my father because, oh gods, the view wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before.

Will also let out a quiet, “Whoaaa,” as we took in the scenery together.

The climb was definitely worth it. The cliff we were standing on was so high that it seemed to overlook a huge portion of Vermont. The mountains loomed up in the distance, making me feel insignificant. Below us, fjords spread out, their ice coverings glimmering with the moonlight. The small towns that settled after them lit up the whole scene with their warm yellow light that also flooded into the snow that dusted them like icing sugar.

And the scenery wasn’t even the best part. I looked up into the sky and was shocked to realise that stars could actually look that pretty. They were brighter and more defined than in Manhattan, as if a layer of smoke had been lifted up to reveal them. I couldn’t help but think they looked like diamonds, shimmering in the black sky, and making me feel at peace.

“It’s...” Will started, still taking in everything, “it’s beautiful.”

That was an understatement, but I appreciated his vertigo. I lowered myself onto the snow and Will followed, his eyes still straight ahead. “Merry Christmas,” I said softly.

He looked at me with a slightly dazed look in his eyes, and his mouth formed a calm sort of smile. His expression seemed to show a million different emotions, but he just said, “Merry Christmas, Nico.”

I shuffled closer and leaned my head against his shoulder. He ruffled my hair slightly before wrapping his arm around me. We stayed like that for a little while, just watching and... feeling. I was overwhelmed with the happiness that was bubbling up in my chest. The peace I felt in my heart. I could almost imagine the sharp edges that had been cracked inside me for so long smoothing out into something more mellow and relaxed as I sat here with Will.

“I feel calm,” I admitted. “It’s weird.”

Will tightened his grip on me. “This is pretty incredible,” he agreed.

I don’t know how long we sat there for, but the adrenaline was starting to wear off and the tips of my fingers were getting cold. Just when I was going to suggest that we go back to the hotel, Will said absently, “Gods Nico, how am I ever going to make this up to you?”

I rolled my eyes and sat up. “Will, can you stop,” I ordered. “This is nothing compared to what you’ve already done.”

He looked a bit confused there and I wanted to shake him until he realised how his kindness, and his company, and the teasing, and everything else, have meant so much more to me than anything I could ever offer to him. I had a feeling though, that he wouldn’t believe me. I silently promised myself that I’d try harder to let him know, every single time he did anything that made me even remotely happy.

Right now though, I wanted to have the fun Will back. “If you really want to,” I mused, “I can think of a way you could make it up to me.”

He furrowed his brows. “Yes?”

I could feel my cheeks burning at the thought of asking him for this, but my inhibitions were very subdued at the moment. “When you... did that thing... at the dining pavilion... that one time.”

For some reason, he didn’t seem to get it. “Huh?”

I sighed. Gods why was this so hard? “With the fruits,” I clarified.

Confusion turned to playfulness and his smile made my cheeks burn and my head spin. “Ohh that,” he said teasingly. “I thought you said, and I quote, ‘don’t you dare do that again, Solace,’”

I gave him an unimpressed look, partly because his imitation was quite spot on. He knew exactly what I had meant by that: he shouldn’t use it to get me to do offensive things like eat healthily. I didn’t say that though. “I meant,” I told him sternly, “you can’t do that in public.”

He smiled wider. “We are technically in public right now,” he countered.

“Solace...”

But he cut me off by leaning in and placing his lips against the soft skin of my neck. He moved his mouth at an excruciatingly slow pace, kissing at one spot, then, just I got used to the sensation, he’d move around to a different one. I let out a ragged breath. I suddenly didn’t feel so cold anymore. The fire that he’d ignited had spread all the way through my body to my extremities.

Then he did something unexpected. He started sucking. I gasped slightly at the increased pressure, but I quickly got over it and enjoyed the weirdly wonderful sensations as Will carried on.

I brought my hands to rest on his arms just so that I could keep myself upright. My head was spinning in the most amazing way, and I just needed more...

As if my hands were moving of their own free will, they moved up to grip Will’s jaw. I realised I was moving his face up so that his lips were closer to mine. His expression was slightly surprised and slightly hungry.

Before I could kiss him though, he said, “Wait.”

I resisted the urge to slap him for interrupting me, because I thought that might kill the mood. “What is it?” I asked in a voice that sounded a bit too needy and a bit too breathless.

He smiled at me as if he knew exactly what I was thinking, which, granted, wasn’t that hard to guess at this particular moment. “I need to give you your present.”

I thought about that. On the one hand, my brain was thinking along one track right now, and present giving wasn’t it. On the other hand, I had been curious about what Will’s gift to me was ever since he had lugged it through the forest in camp half blood. Also, I thought, if we went back to the room, there’d be less layers of thermals and jackets between us.

But, it didn’t seem efficient to trudge back down the entire mountain and back through the hotel. I smiled at him. “Hold on tight,” I warned.

Will’s eyes widened as he realised what I was about to do. But he had no chance to protest because I strengthened my grip on him and dropped into the shadows of the trees. The cold and darkness swirled around us, but I kept my hands tight around Will, and a second later, the shadows deposited us onto the bed in our hotel room.

It was just one small jump so I didn’t feel any strong urge to take a nap. Instead I studied Will’s face. “Do you feel okay?”

He looked a bit worse for wear, but that could’ve just been due to the sudden change in temperature. He nodded. “Just a bit dizzy but nothing too bad.”

I helped him out of his jacket and by the time we had changed into our pyjamas, he was cheerfully bounding across the room to pick up the big box.

He set it in front of me and ordered, “Open.”

I sighed. “Is that what you do with a present? I had no idea.”

He rolled his eyes and looked at me impatiently. I gave him a small smile and reached out to press the clasp that kept the lid of the box secured to the base. It released with a click and I tugged the lid upwards and out of the way.

I tried to think about how I would react. I wasn’t great at expressing emotions. Even if I didn’t like what was in the box, I still didn’t want to hurt Will’s feelings. I told myself to smile and nod and act excited. As it turned out though, I didn’t even remember that train of thought as I peered at the contents of the gift.

At first, I couldn’t really tell what was inside. I had to sit up on the bed to look down at it properly. I scrunched up my eyebrows in confusion as I took it in.

It was chaotic. There were dozens of smaller boxes (which I was thankful I hadn’t had to unwrap) with colourful pictures and playful writing. A handful of books were stacked up in one corner of the box. There were packets of some sort of food and other things I couldn’t even name. I even made out the titles of DVDs in their shiny plastic casings. Surrounding everything were bits of colourful streamers and handfuls of glitter that added to the chaos.

I looked up at Will who was watching me nervously. I realised that my reaction hadn’t been very impressive, but to be fair, I didn’t know what half the stuff in the box was. “Um...?” I said stupidly.

Will jumped up, came to sit next to me on the bed, and rushed to explain. “Well, I wanted to get you a care package,” he said. “I know you’re familiar with stuff right now, but I also know that you missed out on a lot of other very important things because of your time jump.” I still stared at him blankly.

He starting pointing out some of the colourful boxes. “This is twister,” he explained. “It’s a very entertaining game. We should definitely play it. I’ll teach you. And this,” he pointed to a pot of some sort, “is silly putty. It’s kind of stupid, but it’s sometimes fun to squish, especially if you’re bored or stressed.”

I was starting to understand and my expression probably acted as confirmation for Will to continue. He gestured to the books. “I got you some books that were published more recently. They’re some of my favourites... I know you like to read, and it’d be nice if we could talk about some books that weren’t published about a hundred years ago.” A small smile started to spread across my face.

He picked out some of the packets. He sighed dramatically. “And I know I say that you shouldn’t eat sugar, but really you have not lived if you haven’t tried a kinder bueno or a Lindt bar. And there’s some others... I think I got you a good selection.”

He stared at me because I still hadn’t said anything. “And, well...” he scratched the back of his head, “it’s not that I’m trying to change your preferences or whatever, but I just thought it’d be nice if you got more an experience with these small modern things, and you know, we can play the games together, and eat the sweets together, and we can talk about the books and watch the movies. And... well I had to ask Austin to get most of the stuff second hand, but it’s still in alright condition... and yeah. I guess that’s it.”

He was still looking at me nervously and I realised my face was still in that small bemused smile. I tried to form words, but this was so overwhelming I couldn’t speak right away.

“This...” I faltered. How was I supposed to describe how I felt with words? I was so freaking bad at this. “Thank you, Will,” I said in the most sincere voice I could muster, and the words dripped with raw emotion. “I can’t... this is honestly amazing.”

And it really was. I couldn’t believe how much thought he’d put into this. It was such a great idea. I had always felt a bit out of place because, among other things, I wasn’t from this century. The fact that I got to discover all of these amazing things with Will was such an incredible idea, I couldn’t even express it.

He gave me a small smile. “You really like it?”

I nodded, hoping my speechlessness and expression told him exactly how I felt. “No one has ever...” I started, “I mean you’re just so... gods I can’t believe... honestly... holy Hades...”

His smile grew wider. “I’ll take that as a yes?”

In reply, I kissed him.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

His smile grew wider. “I’ll take that as a yes?”

In reply, I kissed him.

I turned my body towards him and pulled his face closer to mine. He let out a small noise of surprise, but quickly recovered and kissed me back. It started slow, but I quickly realised that I wanted nothing more than Will right now, and I couldn’t hold myself back. I pushed him back onto the bed so that his head was just below the pillow line, and I climbed on top of him.

Will was smiling in a way that said ‘I was not expecting this, but I am definitely not complaining’. “Eager?” he asked casually.

I placed my hands on his chest, trying to slow my rapidly beating heart. “Keep talking and I won’t be,” I replied.

Will laughed, but only for a second because then I was kissing him again. His lips were so soft and the way he kissed me back had my entire body on fire. I kept my hands firmly clutching his collar in a useless attempt to pull him even closer. As Will got over his initial shock, he moved his hands behind me and slipped under my t-shirt. His fingertips danced across my bare back, leaving tingling trails on my skin.

After a while, I was very aware of our other areas that were in close proximity, and I could definitely tell that Will was just as excited as me, even though his hands were staying purely above my waistband, and he was still kissing me relatively slowly.

In that moment I made a decision. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I broke away from our kiss and sat up, pulling Will up with me. His expression was completely dazed but content, with his pupils wider than usual. He looked at me with a question in his eyes.

I just stared back at him, taking in every detail of his face. His bright eyes, his tan skin, his freckles, his soft blonde hair. Gods he was beautiful. Damn his gorgeousness rendering me unable to control myself.

I moved my hands down to the hem of his shirt and starting lifting. I kept my eyes on his with my eyebrows raised to make sure he was okay with it. He didn’t object.

I discarded his shirt on the floor and took in his chest. Freckles dotted paths all the way down to below his trousers. He was well sculpted, but not so defined that he looked unreal. His stomach had flat planes of muscle that were heaving slightly with his ragged breathing. The lines that ran down to form a v-shape were so mesmerising, and I had to stop myself from imagining too vividly about where they ended up.

Will brought a hand to my cheek and whispered, “You’re staring... and blushing.”

I tore my eyes away and smirked at him. “Gee, I wonder why.” My voice came out more breathless than I would’ve liked, so to save face, I pushed him back down and kissed him again. Only once on the lips, then I made my way down to his jaw and his throat.

Will’s breath hitched and he muttered a distant, “Oh gods,” as I reached a spot below his ear. I kept working my lips on his skin, egged on by Will’s heavy breathing. I hoped he felt as good as I felt. To make sure, I carrying on showing care to his neck switching it up and going onto the other side for a bit. I felt his excitement growing with every movement, and I felt deeply triumphant about that.

Will’s hands were still solid and warm on my back and I felt him trying to lift my shirt slightly up, almost in a questioning way. But I didn’t want to think about myself right now.

I sat up again, and was pleased to notice that Will was moving his hips slightly in order to seek friction. I moved off from straddling him, to sit beside him and started to lower his pyjama pants. Before I got too low, I looked back at Will to see if this was alright.

He was staring back at me and I’m pretty sure I saw him try to roll his eyes, but he didn’t quite manage it. “Gods, please,” he whined instead.

I smirked at him and obliged. He lifted his hips slightly to allow me to remove his pants and I discarded them with his shirt. Then I turned to look at him. He was painfully hard and I could tell he was already close, because he was already dripping slightly. The sight was so arousing, I could tell my blush was burning harder on my cheeks.

Tentatively, I lightly gripped the base of his manhood. When I made contact, Will threw his head back onto the bed and scrunched up his eyes. From his reaction, I got the confidence to grip more firmly and I started moving my hand slowly up and down.

As I moved, Will made little whimpering noises which made me want to go faster. I shifted my position so that I was lying down beside him. Then I started kissing his neck gently as my hand was still occupied with rubbing him up and down.

“Mmmm,” he moaned. I went faster, still attacking his neck. I could feel him throbbing slightly and knew he’d only last a couple more minutes.

“Fuck,” he gasped as I ran my thumb over the slit at the top. So I did it again with a firmer grip. As I continued that motion, he arched his back slightly and let out a slightly louder moan. His member throbbed and he started to come on my hand, but I didn’t stop until his moans had turned to frantic breathing, and his back had stopped arching so that he had totally relaxed on the bed.

I reached over to the nightstand and grabbed a couple of tissues. I started wiping up the mess and Will sat up with an expression that was part content, part sheepish, and part sleepy. “Sorry,” he muttered as he took a tissue and helped me clean up.

I laughed at him. “I don’t really think that that was your fault.”

We finished wiping it up and Will gave me a look.

“What?” I asked, panic starting to build inside of me. “Was it not...? Did you not like...?”

He grabbed my hands as his expression turned happy again. “Gods Nico no, that was pretty damn brilliant.”

I studied him. “Then what...?”

He looked me up and down. “I was just wondering why you’re still... I don’t know... dressed?” He asked the question nervously as if he were worried to hear the answer.

I looked down at myself and realised that obviously he was right. I didn’t think it was weird at the time, but I guess maybe subconsciously, I hadn’t wanted to undress.

Then I scolded myself. Of course I had wanted to undress. I still wanted to, for that matter. My excitement had dipped as Will had finished, but now, thinking about it again, I felt myself twitch in anticipation.

So what was holding me back? I looked back up at Will who had used the duvet to cover his bottom half up. He was studying my expression, clearly wondering why I wasn’t speaking.

“Um,” I started, my voice quiet, “I just didn’t want anything in return.”

He looked at me for a long time, wondering what to make from my obvious lie. Finally he sighed. “Nico, I don’t want to pressure you or anything, but I was basically pressed up against you for about half an hour. You can’t tell me that you... didn’t want...”

I sighed. “Yes, Will, my self control kind of dipped. Unfortunately, you have that effect on me.”

He looked pleased about that. “So then what’s the problem?” he asked genuinely.

I knew what the problem was, but I also knew that Will wouldn’t understand. Between his perfect body and his pretty face, how could he ever know what I was feeling? It wasn’t just that he was about ten times more attractive than me. It was also the years and years of scars that had accumulated on my torso and limbs. How could he ever look at me without being disturbed?

He’d probably see the scars up close and instantly decide I wasn’t worth his care.

Will must have sensed my inner conflict. “You can tell me, you know. And trust me not to judge you. I mean, after what you just did for me, I really want to return the favour.” He smiled at me but I couldn’t quite look him in the eyes. “But also, you don’t have to tell me. We can watch a movie or something and forget about this completely if you’d prefer.” He paused. “It’s your call.”

I pondered that. Above all, I was grateful he was leaving the decision for me, instead of instantly pretending that this didn’t happen to make me feel more comfortable. I tried to decide how I was feeling.

Even if I was a bit melancholy now, the burning inside of me hadn’t quite yet subsided, which was probably due to the fact that Will was still naked in bed with me... and I knew that he wanted to... touch me. And that part of me was scolding myself for not letting Will return the favour. I was craving his body pressed against mine, and his lips, and his tracing fingers... I was just so scared that he’d reject me. I just wasn’t anything special to look at.

After some time, I decided to tell him. It wasn’t like I could hold back forever unless I broke up with him (and that wasn’t happening) so I figured I’d have to get it over with sooner or later. And the bigger reason was that I could think of nothing I wanted more than Will’s hands on me.

When I spoke, Will jumped slightly, probably because the silence had stretched on for so long. “It’s just that I’m not as...” I struggled to find the right word to describe Will, “...perfect as you are.”

He looked like he was genuinely confused. He scrunched up his eyebrows and stared at me for a moment. “... not as perfect...?” he mumbled.

I sighed in frustration. “You know. Compared to you, I’m not anything special. I’m pale and sickly looking, and I have... wounds that haven’t faded. I look broken.”

Will looked personally offended, almost angry. He looked around as if wondering what he could possibly say to change my mind. He started speaking a few times, but stopped mid word every time. Then eventually, he fixed his eyes onto me and said softly, “Take your shirt off, Nico.”

I gave him an incredulous look. “Excuse me?”

He looked at me with his gentle eyes and reached out to take my hand reassuringly, giving it a small squeeze. “Please? And I promise I’ll make it worth your while.”

Part of me wanted to object. I was worried that I wouldn’t be worth his while, not the other way around. But Will had that stubborn look in his eyes that told me he wouldn’t back down. Plus, I was kind of curious as to see what exactly he meant by ‘worth your while’.

I pulled my shirt over my head and held my breath for him to say something. Will changed his position so that he was facing me properly. He kissed my hand which he was still holding, then studied my torso.

I couldn’t read this expression at all, but he looked immensely serious. During our conversation, I had moved my legs closer to my chest protectively, and now, he gently pushed them apart so that he could get closer to me. He moved towards me and pushed me down carefully so that I was lying down flat on the bed, with him on top of me and between my legs.

The position, coupled with Will’s nakedness was so arousing, for a second, I forgot to be embarrassed and just focused on trying not to let it overwhelm me.

Will studied my upper chest. He traced a finger along my highest scar, which was located just below my collar bone. His fingers left me feeling all tingly again as he ran up and down the pearly white flesh. “Where’s this one from?” he asked.

I had tried hard to forget where I had gotten all of my scars over the years. It should’ve been easy considering the sheer volume. But I had never quite managed it. “A myrmeke,” I whispered. “One attacked me while I was running from camp for the first time.”

Will hummed and kissed me there. His lips moved slowly but firmly, and his motions were causing my breathing to pick up again. Then I felt his tongue move softly against the same spot and I couldn’t help gasping at the warm wetness of it. And after, he went back to kissing.

When he was satisfied, he looked up and moved to trace his fingers along to the next scar. “What about this one?”

It took a minute to process the question because Will was still pressed tightly against me and it was difficult to think about anything except that he had to be aware of my growing excitement by now. “Eros,” I managed. “Not the arrow. But from when he pushed me down some ruins and a sharp rock caught me.”

He repeated his kissing, licking then kissing ritual on that scar just like the first one. Then we moved to the next. He continued to move along the entirety of my torso, asking about each individual scar and then kissing it better. Each time, I got more and more relaxed and I felt less and less embarrassed. With the care he was spending on each spot, Will was making it really hard to hate myself. He made it feel as if every part of me was deserving of his special attention.

I continued to tell him about every injury as he asked me, fully aware that my breathing was getting harder to control, and my voice was coming out way too hoarse. When he had moved his fingers down to a spot just below my belly button and asked about it, I accidentally moaned instead of answering, which Will took as an invitation to just go ahead and start kissing me there.

I lost track of how long past midnight it was, but from the way Will was taking his time with me, I wouldn’t have been surprised if an hour or two had passed.

I realised that for the past five minutes, I had been absently rolling my hips against him because I was desperate for any kind of contact in that area.

Will seemed to notice and stopped what he was doing. He looked up at me and this time I kept his gaze. “Remember,” he said softly, although he had a glint in his eyes, “when you told me that I was being stupid for thinking that covering up the cut on my ear would make me less attractive?”

I nodded because the lust in my veins prevented me from making coherent sentences.

“Well, I only thought that because I still had the image of you bare chested in my mind.”

I cringed at the thought of me stumbling out of the shower and hastily wrapping a towel around my waist so that I could talk to Will as quickly as possible, before I could forget what I wanted to say.

“When I saw you,” he continued, “I remember thinking... that you were the most beautiful person I’d ever seen.”

“Will...”

“No, seriously,” he said sternly. “All of your scars tell your story. They literally show me how resilient you are and what you’ve sacrificed. What you’ve been through. I wish you weren’t ashamed of them, because I love them. They make you unique because no one else would’ve been brave enough to do what you’ve done. They’re special because they’re yours. You’re imperfect in the most perfect way, Nico.”

“I... thank you,” I whispered, because what else could I say? Damn Will fucking Solace and his ability to completely undo me. He seemed to like my response, because he gave me one last smile and then turned his attention to the area in between my legs.

Will moved his hands so that his fingers were sliding just underneath my waistband. I shuddered with the thought of him going lower. Gods, I was ready to beg him. I’ve been on edge for far too long. “May I?” he asked.

I bucked my hips involuntarily in annoyance. “Please hurry the fuck up.”

He laughed at me. Gods he was such an insufferable idiot. “Whatever you say.”

His slid my pants down and I immediately felt cold from the air hitting my private parts. Not for long though, because Will’s hand was there gripping me tightly. When he starting moving, fires erupted everywhere along my body, and I had to scrunch my eyes shut because seeing and feeling was just too much to take.

Will smirked at me. “How long do you think you can last?” he challenged.

I tried to scowl at him, but, at that moment, he brought his other hand up to my tip and swirled his finger lightly over the extra sensitive skin there. I gave a short gasp that I could not keep in, no matter how hard I was trying. I continued to breathe heavily as he kept stroking me.

“If I knew this was the way to shut you up,” he taunted, “I would’ve made it happen a lot sooner.”

I couldn’t even find it in me to respond. I felt like Will was working me up into a frenzy. Just by touching me, he was lifting me higher and higher and, gods, so damn high I couldn’t breathe properly. I felt like if I’d open my eyes, I’d see mountains below me, and the stars above me, shining perfectly.

Because wow, his hands were magic. With his left, he was gripping tightly around the base of my member, pumping faster and faster... and with his right, he was teasing my too sensitive tip by doing amazing things with each fingertip that made contact. I was sure I was making some noises that were definitely unflattering, but I couldn’t help it. It felt far too good and I had waited far too long.

And then I couldn’t hold on any holder. I let go and I felt myself tipping over the edge. I was falling from my height, the sensation completely overwhelming me and taking over my whole body as every nerve ending screamed in a cold and intense pleasure.

The orgasm lasted longer than I expected, and I could feel Will still gripping me tightly as I rode it out. Every nerve in my body was tingling, and I didn’t think that I’d ever felt that good.

When I finally opened my eyes, I was momentarily blinded from the light. My muscles were all relaxed even though my heart was still beating like crazy. I realised my fingers hurt from gripping the pillow above me.

And there was Will with a cocky smile plastered on his face, looking so damn happy with himself. “That looked intense,” he commented.

I covered my face with embarrassment and Will chuckled. He got up to reach the tissues on the nightstand and clean up. I let him, since my breathing was still way too heavy and my head was still spinning slightly.

When he was done, he came to lie next to me and pulled the duvet over us both. “So?” he asked. “Was it worth your while?”

I huffed but it was hard to be angry in my post orgasm bliss. “Just shut up, you big dork.”

Then I curled up into his warm chest and let myself fall asleep, the stars still dancing behind my eyelids.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“I am not doing that,” Nico warned sternly.

“Why not?” I pouted.

“It’s scary and I might hurt myself.”

“Would I ever let you get hurt?” I smiled.

“Hmph, that’s reassuring,” he muttered sarcastically. “You’re the one who’s causing the damage.”

“Causing the damage?! For gods’ sake, Nico, all I want, is to go tubing down the damn ski slope with you!”

It was almost noon thanks to our late night yesterday, and we were standing in the lobby of the hotel, arguing about what to do with our final full day here. We had stopped at the notice board to see what activities were available.

Nico raised his eyebrows at me like ‘is it really worth your time to spend another twenty minutes trying to convince me?’ Usually I would have, but last night had taken a toll on me (a good toll if that’s possible) and every time I looked at my boyfriend, I got flashbacks and a tingly sensation in my stomach, which weren’t at all convenient.

I sighed in defeat, but decided to give it one more try. “Look, they’re offering the tubing to all guests as a Christmas bonus. It would be daft not to take advantage.”

Nico pointed to the picture on the notice board of the happy woman sitting on her ring shaped float, sliding down a snowy slope. “Do I look like I’m the type of person to go sledging on a doughnut?” he demanded. “The only doughnuts I like are the ones I can eat.” His eyes lit up slightly. “That reminds me: get me some doughnuts, Solace. I’m hungry.”

I smirked at him. “We just had brunch,” I pointed out. “Is there a particular reason why you’re so starving?”

His cheeks went slightly red, which didn’t suit the scowl he was giving me. He stared at me right in the eyes and stated, “I’ll need the energy to hunt you down and murder you if you keep referencing last night.”

I full on laughed at him. Nico was extremely scary when he threatened other people, but with me, I always took it as a joke. “Hey!” I tried, still laughing. “I didn’t reference anything of the sort actually. You just did though.”

He did not look pleased by my reaction. But I couldn’t help myself. It probably helped that, underneath Nico’s vicious exterior, this morning, before he’d woken up, he was tightly gripping my arm and he was half on top of me as he slept. I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt closer after what had happened.

My turn was mind blowing by itself. Like really? Did Nico have to good at everything? But when Nico had opened up to me, I had tried my best to try to let him know what I thought about him. I didn’t know if I was one hundred percent successful, but from the way he responded to my touches, I was still quite smug nonetheless.

“I did not reference anything,” Nico snapped. “Now please get me my doughnuts. It would be a wise move for your health.”

I didn’t doubt it. I went to get some doughnuts. I chose out a selection of the glazed pastries, picking a variety of chocolate, caramel, strawberry, and plain. Nico looked far too pleased when I returned to him. I offered him the box and he just said, “Well at least you’re good for something,” before digging in.

I tried not to get offended by that. I knew Nico had a defence mechanism that got him to shut people out when they got too close. If anything, the way he was acting showed me that he too was overwhelmed with how he was feeling. The star gazing, then my gift to him, and then allowing me to explore him... I guessed that he wasn’t used to things like that, and the way he snapped at me made me think he was trying hard to prevent himself from being vulnerable.

He finished the first doughnut and looked up at me, seeming to realise I had been silent as he ate. “Um,” he mumbled, “thanks. They’re really nice. Do you want one?”

“I’m alright, thank you.”

“Just take one,” he insisted.

“Really, I’m fine.”

“Have a damn doughnut, Solace.”

“If I have one, will you go tubing with me?” I asked hopefully.

He rolled his eyes. “Me forcing you to have a doughnut is me doing you a favour,” he argued.

I groaned. “Fine. Pass one over.” He gave me a chocolate one which, in Nico’s language, that was probably a sign of affection in itself. And it did taste amazing. I realised that I too was still a bit hungry even after brunch. I finished it and found myself looking at the notice board for other ideas.

I don’t know what changed Nico’s mind. Maybe the doughnuts made him less cranky, or he saw my defeated expression as I scanned the leaflets, or maybe he realised that maybe tubing wouldn’t be so bad after all. But, after another minute of silence, he sighed. “I’ll agree to one run of your pathetic tubing idea,” he relented.

“Really?” I asked happily.

“Just one,” he reiterated.

I smiled. One was definitely enough.

*

We made our way outside to the main slope. An instructor gave us some basic instructions and handed us both a ring shaped float. She told us to go up the flat escalator that rode up the opposite side to the ski lift and ended at about three quarters of the way up.

Nico and I grabbed our floats and made our way to the escalator, with Nico grumbling under his breath until we reached it. He was just a bit too short to be able to carry the float comfortably on his shoulder without it dragging along the ground and accumulating a ridge of snow in front of it. He had resorted to carrying it on his head like a massively oversized sombrero.

“I can carry yours as well, if you like,” I offered. “It’s not really the right weather for a sun hat.”

Nico scowled at me. “I’m perfectly fine, Will. Besides, I’m sure this makes such an elegant fashion statement.”

I snorted, but let him haul his float onto the escalator, Nico style. He dropped it onto the moving floor and clambered on after it. I did the same, and we sped up the mountainside.

“I wish we had had a ride like this last night,” I said wistfully, remembering our long hike.

“You complain too much,” Nico complained. “And I gave you breaks. I don’t know what the big deal was.”

I stared at him. “You gave me one break. That I had to force upon you. And instead of letting me rest, I got ice cold sludge down my back.”

Nico shrugged and smiled at me. “Did I or did I not make up for it?”

I didn’t trust myself to answer. Nico could be referring to a number of things last night, and all of them made me feel overwhelmingly happy. Despite not replying, I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face and I knew my cheeks were burning slightly. Nico looked away satisfied. “That’s what I thought,” he stated.

We reached the top and pulled our floats to the edge of the slope where a more or less horizontal plane had been set up to launch. Nico turned to me with his ring float sombrero. “Do you want to go first?”

I placed my float down, carefully holding onto it so that it didn’t slip out of my grasp. “We could go at the same time,” I suggested. “That way, when you get scared on the bumps, I’ll be there to comfort you.”

Nico huffed. “I’m a son of Hades, Will. I think I can handle riding a doughnut down a ski slope.”

He twisted his float to take it off of his head and place it down on the slope. Apparently he miscalculated its weight slightly because as he was throwing it down, he lost his grip and the colourful ring went plummeting down the mountain before he could retrieve it.

Nico looked murderous. He glared at the float as it slid all the way down, with such intensity, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the ring had exploded into darkness before it reached the bottom.

Then he turned his death glare in my direction because I had collapsed onto the snow laughing so hard, I thought my lungs would burst. It was all I could do to hold onto my own float. “You... HAHAHAHA... gods... HAHAHAHA... your face!!”

Nico apparently did not appreciate my amusement. “I told you this was a bad idea,” he exclaimed with a tone that was half annoyance, half sadness. “I’m going to have to walk down the stupid mountain to get another doughnut.”

Before he could leave, I stopped him. “Just come on with me,” I told him. “You can sit on my lap.”

He considered that for a moment. “Why can’t you sit on my lap?” he asked in an accusatory tone.

Obviously Nico would ask that. Even though I was slightly bigger than him, he still never liked admitting it. I could tell that he didn’t think of himself as someone who would sit on another person’s lap. But that was the most obvious option, and plus I kind of wanted him to sit on my lap...

I quickly leaped onto the float as carefully as I could and dug my hands into the snow on either side to anchor myself. “Because I’m already in the float,” I argued casually.

Nico gave me another unimpressed look. “You can get out and let me get in first,” he almost ordered.

But I wasn’t caving. “My float, my rules,” I shrugged.

He thought about that. I could practically see him weighing up which was worse: sitting in my lap, or walking down a five hundred foot mountain slope. Gods, I was going to be embarrassed if he chose the second option.

“Fine,” he sighed.

He came up to me and crouched down by the float, lowering himself to a sitting position extremely slowly. “Take your time,” I grunted sarcastically, since my hands were starting to slip.

“Shut up, Solace,” Nico said. Then he took a handful of snow and plopped it onto my head.

“Nico!” I protested. I couldn’t even wipe it off let alone retaliate, if I wanted to keep the float where it was. And be obviously knew that because he was smirking triumphantly.

Then he lowered himself completely onto my lap and wrapped his arms around my neck to keep him there.

“If you wanted a hug, you could’ve just asked,” I teased.

He tightened his grip. “Oh this? This is so I can strangle you more easily if you decide to make any more goofy comments.”

Why did I like Nico di Angelo? He was absolutely insufferable.

Then he gave me a teasing smile that made my heart start beating painfully fast, and I knew I couldn’t question my attraction. He was sitting right in my lap, with his face inches from mine, and I could feel every little movement he was making... Gods, save me.

“You’re really romantic, you know,” I managed to tell him.

He smiled wider. “Then I guess you hit the jackpot. Lucky you.”

Before I could reply, he nudged my arm with his elbow to loosen my grip on the snow. I let go completely and we slid down the mountain.

It was like we were skiing, but without having to control where we were going. That didn’t stop me from tensing up all of my muscles and attempting to will the float to move in the safe directions. I hated not being in control, especially when the possibility of hitting an obstacle was quite high, because there were still a fair amount of skiers on the slope.

It was exhilarating still, but in a terrifying way. I clung one arm around Nico’s side, and the other arm onto the float handle so tightly, I was scared I’d rip it off. The scenery rushed by, as did the various people enjoying their leisurely skiing experience. I, on the other hand, was panting and trying to avoid hitting everything in our path. The fact that there were no breaks on this thing did not help my anxiety.

“WHOA!” I gasped as we avoided hitting a man with an orange snowboard by an inch. He had swerved out of the way just in time, and from the way he was smiling, he had just got in our way to wind us up. Well he had succeeded. With me, at least. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nico smiling at me.

We carried on plummeting, getting faster and faster with the wind whipping right through my jacket and onto my skin. My eyes widening when I saw that we were about to slide over a sizeable bump on the slope. “THAT’S A BUMP!” I shouted. Nico snickered at me and clung on tighter.

As we skidded over it, I felt the float leave the ground. It felt like forever, but I knew it was only a split second. “Aaagghhh,” I yelled when we became airborne. And I let out a grunt as we hit the ground again.

“You’re such a drama king,” Nico said in a slightly raised voice so that I could hear him through the winds. I didn’t reply though, because the adrenaline was making me dizzy.

“This is not as fun as I thought it would be!” I told him.

“Really? Because I was wrong! This is great!” He laughed at me as he threw his head back, which caused our float to veer to the left slightly. I gasped loudly and pulled him back to the centre.

His smile grew wider in the most evil way. “Does it scare you when I do this?” He leaned back again and our float veered so off course, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were headed straight towards the forest.

“STOP THAT!” I pleaded but Nico just laughed again.

I closed my eyes and hoped we’d make it safely to the bottom as fast as possible. Then, I felt Nico pulling my face towards his, and my eyes shot open as he kissed me softly on the cheek. “You’re cute,” he announced, and in that moment, I forgot to worry about everything else, because the lingering tingle on my cheek and Nico’s affectionate look were all that mattered.

I’m sure everything else around us carried on moving, but my vision was as blurred as my thoughts. I could only see Nico.

Finally though, I realised that we weren’t moving anymore. Nico leaped up from my lap and helped me out of the float. That wasn’t an easy task since my butt had sunk all the way down, and I was a bit shaky on my feet.

“I’ll revise my offer,” he told me happily. “Let’s do that again.”

I wanted to protest, but I did kind of want to do it again, even though it scared me to death. The feel of Nico sitting so close to me, coupled with the rush of falling down the mountain... hmmm it was definitely tempting.

However, at that moment, the instructor came marching towards us looking frustrated. “What was rule number one?!” she demanded.

“Um...” I said stupidly whilst Nico just smirked.

“Each person requires their own float!” she exclaimed angrily.

“Um, sorry,” I muttered.

She looked between my guilty face, and Nico’s smirk, which was definitely not helping us. “You two are banned! Go and find something else to do.”

She stomped away leaving us alone at the bottom of the slope. Nico turned towards me with the amusement still clear on his face. “Well I hope you’re happy,” he said in a mock stern voice. “Because this is clearly all your fault.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will looked incredulously at me which really only added to his level of cuteness. His face as we were plummeting down the hill... priceless. “How exactly is this my fault?” he demanded.

I gave him a look that said ‘you don’t know already?’ just to wind him up. He didn’t look impressed and I stifled another laugh. “Well, first of all, this was all your idea in the first place,” I told him. “Second of all, it was also your idea to practically force me to sit on your lap, which you clearly knew was against the rules.”

He laughed at me. “Yeah, sorry for giving you an out from hiking down the mountain, after you cleverly dropped your sombrero ring.” He looked at me with wide eyes. “For all I know, you did that on purpose.”

I threw up my hands in confusion and amusement. “Why in Hades would I drop my doughnut on purpose?”

He gave me a suggestive smile and I rolled my eyes. “Ugh. Keep dreaming, Solace. I know my arms aren’t wrapped around your neck anymore, but I wouldn’t rule out the strangling.”

He wasn’t fazed at all by my threat. In fact, he seemed to enjoy being threatened by me. What a weirdo. “The fact that you’re smiling right now,” I said, “is worrying.”

He raised his eyebrows at me. “Well, I know that you only resort to death threats when you know you’re losing an argument,” he shrugged.

I gave him a frown. Gods, he was probably right. I needed to up my game. For now though, I decided to ignore his last observation. “So,” I said casually, “what do you want to do now?”

He smirked. “What shall we do in a ski resort?” he asked, imitating thinking about the answer.

“You’re insufferable,” I declared and walked off towards the shack where we usually get our skis.

I had only gone a couple of steps before Will skipped to catch up with me, wrapping his arms underneath my legs and hoisting me up into the air. I yelped and flailed my limbs around as I realised that he was carrying me bridal style. “Put me down!” I ordered.

He stared at me unimpressed. “You really shouldn’t walk away mid conversation,” he stated.

I huffed. How he was even carrying me was beyond me. He was a lot stronger than he looked. And this was a very undignified position. “Put me down!” I repeated.

Will shrugged and placed me back down as gently as he could. He was still smiling slightly, but he looked a bit put out from my yelling. Well I couldn’t have that.

I grabbed his hand and started pulling him towards the ski shack. “Come on. Ski now. Mope later.”

*

After a full day of skiing, we arrived back into our room feeling exhausted. We were planning to have a nice dinner in the restaurant (and I was going to wear the shirt that Piper had given me) but it turned out that we were too tired.

Will collapsed onto the sofa, lying down with his ski jacket still on and I followed suit, landing half on top of him. He grunted when I landed, but quickly recovered and wrapped his arms around me.

I let my face relax on his chest, but with our jackets still on, it wasn’t very comfortable. “Your snowy coat is making my face wet,” I mumbled.

He snorted. “Well I would remove it, but I’ve got a cute and sleepy son of Hades blocking my zipper.”

I lay still for a few seconds, letting my mind clear. When I found the energy, I sat up and undid his zipper for him. Then I undid mine and tugged both jackets onto the floor.

I collapsed back into Will, now nice and warm and dry and with less puffiness. He sighed contently. “Much better,” he muttered.

I agreed. After the bitter cold weather and the hours of physical exertion, just laying here with Will’s arms around me was perfect.

After last night, ever since I’d woken up, I had felt this uncontrollable urge to be super clingy to Will. It wasn’t just that I felt physically closer to him, but also the overwhelming feeling of him accepting me, and paying me extra special attention... It had meant so much to me, and I now felt even more fluttery inside when I looked at him.

Initially in the morning, I had tried to block that feeling out. It was so... unbearably fluffy. But as we went tubing, and then skiing, I realised that I very much prefer the fluffiness, for the satisfaction it gives me, and the way Will’s face lights up when I show any sort of affection towards him.

So today, I had been a bit clingy... grabbing onto his arm when we were walking anywhere, or kissing his cheek whenever the opportunity arose, or even just smiling more when he spoke to me. Gods, what was wrong with me?

I could feel my eyes getting drowsy, and I could hear Will’s breathing become more slow and even.

Well, I guess I could let myself drift off for a minute...

*

I woke up screaming. My throat was raw, my lungs were burning, my eyes were wet, and everything fucking hurt.

I felt a hard surface underneath me and I realised that I’d fallen onto the floor. I pulled my knees closer to my torso protectively and ripped at my hair until the roots were screaming in protest.

Gods, I had just been in Tartarus again. I had been right there. Under the earth, below my father’s kingdom, and down down down where no one could be there for me. I was alone. And everything was poisonous, trying to kill me. And it was fucking succeeding.

My vision was blurry from the tears and I tried to stop screaming, but the voices wouldn’t stop, and it was the only way to block them out.

I felt strong hands grasp my forearms and I panicked. They’ve found me. They’re killing me. I could practically see the darkness pulling me in, engulfing me...

But no. I opened my eyes wider, and it was only Will. I swallowed my last scream, realising that the voices were gone, and I wasn’t in Tartarus. And Will was here. He’s always here. He was telling me to breathe and trying to relax my muscles by gently stroking my forearms and calfs.

When the initial panic subsided, and the screaming had stopped, I dropped my legs and slumped against the base of the sofa.

I couldn’t look at Will. I was too ashamed. I had gone almost a month without losing it in front of him. But I knew he was looking at me. I kept my eyes firmly on the ceiling as I laid my head on the sofa seat behind me.

After what seemed like forever, Will said softly, “Nico...”

But I cut him off. I didn’t want to hear what he was going to tell me. “Just don’t, Will.”
Then I added a quiet, “Sorry.”

He sighed in frustration. “Nico, I told you-“

“I said stop!” I almost yelled, feeling the darkness rippling off of me. I could sense that he was about to say something else anyway, and I couldn’t bear the thought of him telling me that this was okay. I didn’t deserve it. “Please just stop,” I begged, my voice cracking.

I was afraid that my tears were about to spill over, and I really couldn’t let him see how broken I was for a second time in a row. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat in an attempt to pull myself together momentarily. “Can you just, come here?” I asked. My voice was higher than usual, but at least I didn’t sound like I was about to cry again.

I didn’t even need to ask though, because as soon my voice had cracked the first time, Will had started shuffling towards me. Now, he reached out and pulled me against him. All the energy flowed out of me and I slumped down, leaning my head against his chest.

I don’t know how long we stayed there for, but I let myself relax into his strength, waiting for my head to stop pounding and my breathing to even out again. I was sure that Will could feel the lingering darkness surrounding me, but he didn’t complain. He just kept rubbing my back and running his hands through my hair and whispering things like, “I’m here, you’re safe.”

After about half an hour, when my head had cleared slightly, and I was able to fully register what had happened, I snapped myself out of it. Gods, I didn’t deserve this amazingly beautiful guy. I pulled away and got up to go into the bathroom.

I avoided my reflection because I knew I wouldn’t like what I saw. I just splashed my face with some cold water and took some deep breaths.

When I was sure I wasn’t going to burst into tears again, I made my way back into the living room area. Will had moved back onto the sofa and was staring at his hands. When he heard me come into the room, he looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Why?” he asked.

I stared at him. “Why what?”

He sighed. “Why do you keep getting attacks when we’re together? Is it... is it me?” And he didn’t quite look at me when he asked.

I almost laughed at his idiocy. How could he possibly think that he was causing my nightmares? And then it hit me. Of course he would think that. I had promised him I’d let him know when I had an episode so that he could help me get through it. And I hadn’t. For obvious reasons. But he wouldn’t understand them.

But now, he thought that my nightmares only happen when he’s there because he actually witnesses them. I don’t get a chance to lie to him. I couldn’t let him think that. Even though I was tempted to lie, to avoid his disappointment in me, I knew it wasn’t fair. And what if he did something drastic, like break up with me?

“You’ve got it wrong,” I told him. He looked slightly relieved at that, but still looked skeptical.

“How could I get this wrong?” he asked in a calm voice. How could he control his emotions so damn easily?

I sighed and came to sit on the sofa next to him. This wasn’t going to be good. I took a deep breath, then said quietly, “The attacks get better when you’re with me. Not worse.”

He looked at me with an emotion I couldn’t really place. I could tell that he was feeling incredulous, frustrated, hurt, and other things alongside it though. “Please,” he said in a quiet voice, “don’t tell me that means what I think it means?”

I looked down at my hands. I felt stupid, because I had faced so much worse than Will Solace being angry at me. But this was different. I knew I’d done something wrong this time. Even if it wasn’t completely wrong, I had still lied to him... and broken a promise. “Sorry,” I mumbled even though I knew it was meaningless.

I expected him to yell at me. For him to tell me that he couldn’t believe that I’d betrayed him. For him to get up and leave. To finally agree that I wasn’t worth this much trouble. I expected one hundred percent anger.

But I hadn’t anticipated a caring Will, which, now that I think about it, should not have surprised me at all. He closed the distance between us and hugged me again. I was sure I would have started crying again if my tear ducts weren’t completely empty already. He kissed me on the forehead and whispered, “Gods, Nico. I had no idea. I’m so sorry...”

Why was he apologising? I was the one who had messed up. Will pulled me out of my thoughts though as he kissed my forehead again, and then my cheek, and then my nose and about a hundred other places.

“Agh, Will, stop,” I protested weakly, because really, I wanted nothing more than for him to carry on, but I still felt bad about what I’d dragged him in to.

“Nope,” he told me. He continued to place soft kisses all around my face, and I just closed my eyes and let him.

He didn’t ask me to remake my promise. He didn’t express any ill feelings about the fact that I had hidden my panic attacks from him for the past months. He didn’t even show how scared he must’ve been during my screaming episode. He was the most selfless person I had ever met. Gods I loved him.

Wait-

Did I just... think what I just thought?

“What?” Will asked, stopping his kisses to examine my expression. I think I must’ve had a shocked sort of smile on my face.

“Nothing,” I replied way too quickly. Will scrunched up his eyebrows so I continued. “Just, you know, you’re being so nice to me... and... it just means so much... thank you...”

Will seemed satisfied with my response, which to be fair, was all true. He positively beamed at me. Then he let me go and shuffled forwards to the coffee table. “Room service for dinner?”

I smiled. “Yes please. And ask for more doughnuts.”

*

We ate on the sofa whilst watching the Big Bang Theory, one of the box sets that Will had gifted to me for Christmas. It was actually quite enjoyable.

“Ah,” I said after the fourth episode, “I can see why you like this. It’s all about nerds and geeks, just like you.”

Will held up his hands. “Hey. I’m not going to apologise for being a nerd. If you think it’s bad, then you’re just missing out...”

Well I couldn’t argue with that. If Will was a nerd, I decided that nerds were the best kind of people. Instead of saying that though, I ruffled his hair as he turned the next episode on.

After the tenth episode, I was yawning despite my nap earlier. Complete emotional combustion could do that to you, I guessed.

When I finished brushing my teeth, I came into the bedroom to find Will lying on his stomach, much too far from the centre of the bed for my liking. I shuffled onto the bed from his side and plopped down face first right on top of him. Because I hadn’t been clingy enough today.

I was worried Will would protest but he just chuckled and linked our fingers loosely together. I pulled the duvet over us with my other hand and relaxed into Will. His back was more comfortable than I had expected, and soon, I was drifting off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“So,” Austin said as he helped me load my clothes from my bag and into the washing machine, “I take it skiing was fun?”

Since I had been smiling ever since we’d gotten back to camp, that was a more than fair assumption. This morning, I had woken up to Nico sleeping on top of me, his cute breathing in my ears. We’d cuddled for most of the morning and laughed about our favourite parts of the trip.

We had then had a late lunch in the restaurant before we’d left in Nico’s zombie chauffeur’s car. As soon as we’d gotten back, Nico wanted to unpack and maybe have a quick nap, so I’d come back to the Apollo cabin to unpack too.

“You could say that,” I replied to Austin casually.

Kayla sat up from where she was reading on her bunk. “Tell us everything!” She was practically squealing.

I told them about the holiday. Minus a few obvious personal details. When I finished, I trailed off and started smiling again at nothing in particular.

Kayla snorted at me. “Oh, my boyfriend is ever so romantic and dreamy,” she purred in a fake girly voice as she batted her eyelashes ridiculously at me.

I threw a pillow at her. She caught it and propped it underneath her elbows.

“What about you guys?” I asked. “Did anything exciting happen over Christmas?”

“Nah not really,” Austin replied.

“Yup. Nothing at all,” Kayla agreed. “Unless you count Sherman Yang accidentally getting four second degree burns during his attempt to ask Miranda Gardiner out.”

“Second degree burns? What did he do?”

Kayla sighed dramatically. “Let’s just say that fire missiles and romantic dates with children of Demeter don’t mix.”

We all laughed at that. Austin pointed out, “They make a weirder couple than you and Nico.”

I scowled at him. “We are not a weird couple,” I defended. “We’re more similar than we are different.”

Kayla and Austin both gave me an expression of disbelief.

I couldn’t blame them. To anyone looking in to Nico and I’s relationship, it would definitely seem weird. But we were very similar if you looked past the obvious aesthetics and surface personalities.

I was a healer, someone who had seen horrific things during the wars, and had had the responsibility and pressure of keeping the entire camp alive. Doing what I do, death was inevitable. I don’t ever fully accept that, but it’s always there. Nico is a child of the god of the dead. We understand each other in that respect.

And I like to think that we make each other better. A sort of lightness and darkness coming together. The fact that our powers were polar opposites of each other just meant that they were very similar. Like love and hate.

I might not understand completely what Nico had been through as a son of Hades, and all of his other hardships, but I knew enough to really get him on at least some level. And I definitely knew that he understood me.

Because his heart was probably the most loving and selfless that I’d ever had the fortune to experience. He didn’t always show it because his past has made him scared to be vulnerable. But his heart is what makes him so dangerous and reckless. He cares so much. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nico burnt down the entirety of Olympus for the person he loved the most. And he’d do it with a smile on his pretty little face.

“Hello!” Kayla called to me. “Earth to William?”

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

They both stared at me. “Drachma for your thoughts?” Austin asked.

I shrugged. “Nothing important.” I wasn’t about to go into why I was so smitten with Nico di Angelo with Kayla and Austin. For one, they might not understand and point holes in my arguments (which would just make me mad) and for two, it was way too personal and I hadn’t even told Nico yet.

I wondered how long normal people waited until they confessed strong feelings to their partner, like love. Because I had no doubt that that was what it was. Maybe not deep love yet, but definitely love nonetheless. I just wanted Nico. All the time. And in every possible way.

Five months may seem quick, but when you’re a demigod, your lives seem to move faster. With all the strong possibilities of death and whatnot. You have to live in the moment and live everyday like your last, because it very may well be. And I knew that no time with Nico would ever be enough, so I wanted to make the most of what we had.

I blurted, “I might tell Nico that I love him.”

My siblings’ reactions were very overly dramatic and not at all what I was hoping for.

Kayla screamed, “No!”

Austin shouted, “Awww! But still hell no!”

They both sat up straighter on their bunks as if this conversation required their special attention and concentration.

I pouted. “Why not?”

Kayla sighed as if she couldn’t believe she had to explain something so obvious to me. I did not appreciate it. “Will,” she started, “you’re dating the dark brooding emo kid of the Hades cabin.”

As if that explained a thing. “So?” I said defensively, because whenever Nico got described using exclusively those words, I got angry. Sure, they were sometimes true, but he was so much more than that.

Austin pitched in before Kayla could dig herself a bigger grave. “What she means is, di Angelo has been through a lot.”

I rolled my eyes. “Thank you for that completely obvious statement, mighty King of obviousness.”

“And that means,” Austin continued, ignoring me, “that he’s probably attracted to stability. Constants. Nothing changing.”

I thought about that. “I guess that’s true. But what has that got to do with me?”

Kayla sighed again. “Nico obviously likes this relationship thing... whatever you want to call it... with you. You don’t know how he’ll react to a big change like your admission that you’re in love with him. It might scare him away.”

That also made sense, kind of.

“And,” Kayla continued, “trust me, I’m doing this for you almost as much as I’m doing this for me. Because if he dumps you, and I have to hear you whining about it every second of every day for the foreseeable future...”

“Yes yes,” I snapped. “Because my broken heart wouldn’t matter at all to you.”

Austin chimed in again. “What she’s trying to say, is that we don’t want you guys to break up. We know how happy you are. And we know how... well we think we know how happy Nico is. It’s really hard to tell with him. But just don’t do anything rash.”

Well, I didn’t want to scare him off. Five months wasn’t that long, and only two months of that had been us dating. And I could still show affection to Nico without telling him that I love him. I did that all the time after all.

And it wasn’t really like anything had changed with me anyway. I knew I had strong feelings for Nico, but this was just putting a word to it. I still felt the same.

“Alright,” I relented. “When do you suggest I tell him then?”

“Maybe a year?” Austin suggested.

“Never,” Kayla stated.

I stared at her.

She laughed. “I’m joking! Maybe a good rule would be to let him say it first. Let him set the milestones of your relationship. Because we all know that you’re not going anywhere.”

I started to protest but she plowed on. “If Nico asked you to marry him tomorrow, would you feel any urge, at all, to run away and break off your relationship?”

My answer was obviously ‘no’. I wouldn’t run away. I might not agree to his proposal, but that wouldn’t be because of what I wanted. It would be because I would be worried Nico hadn’t thought it through for himself. I wouldn’t want him to ever regret anything he did with me. He’d had enough of regret to last him a lifetime.

Kayla looked at me triumphantly, as if me being in love with my boyfriend was something for her to be proud of herself for. “Exactly,” she stated.

I sighed. I walked back over to my half unpacked bag and carried on placing my clothes into the washing machine.

Austin whistled when he saw my ski jacket. “Nice! I love this colour for you.”

Kayla came to inspect it too. “I definitely agree. You needed a new coat as well.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, I love it. Nico bought it for me.”

Kayla smirked. “That’s so romantic.” Then she squealed. “Oh my gods, does he have a matching one?!”

I suppressed the urge to tell her the truth. That Nico had a bright pink version of the jacket. It was with heroic effort on my part. But I figured that laughing about his colour choice with my siblings would have been mean. “Nah.”

And before Kayla could press me further, I blurted, “Well, I better go check on Nico. It’s almost curfew.”

And with that, I hurried along to the Hades cabin.

*

Nico was still having his nap, lying on top of his blankets on his bunk. When I got closer, I realised that he was shivering slightly and I could see that his eyes were moving frantically under his lids. His body was tucked into a ball, but he wasn’t screaming or anything, so that was a good sign.

I still didn’t want him to be stuck in a bad dream though, so I walked over and tried to wake up.

At first, I just tucked his hair behind his ears and tried to softly nudge him awake. When that didn’t work, I tried to turn him over, but he just rolled back into his protective ball. “Nico,” I called softly.

His eyes were still moving way too fast under his lids, and he had started to whimper slightly. Damn it. “Nico!” I called, much louder and full on shaking him.

He woke with a start. He had a wild look in his eyes as he searched around him for something. He was panting and sweating, but at least he’d stopped making his pained noises.

His eyes landed on me and he seemed to relax a bit. “Will?” His voice was slightly croaky and still sleepy.

I reached out and stroked his hair. “Yeah, it’s me. I just wanted to check on you.”

I tucked another strand behind his ear and my fingers brushed up against a patch of wet skin. Oh. He had been crying.

He nudged my hand off of his face when he realised what I’d noticed. Then he looked away. “Thanks. But I’m fine. You should get back to your cabin before you’re stuck here for the night.”

Why did he keep pushing me away? I wanted to shake him until he realised that he didn’t have to do this by himself. “Yeah. Alright.” I said, but stayed seated on his bed.

“Well?” he demanded in a slightly annoyed tone, but he still wasn’t looking at me.

I sighed. “Nico-“

He leaped up from the bed and glared at me. “I don’t need your help, Will! I don’t need your pity. I don’t even want you to see this side of me!”

I was so shocked, I leant back slightly. What was he saying?

“For gods’ sake,” he said in his irritated tone, “I don’t want to poison something else good. So please just leave.”

He walked over to the couch and collapsed. I was so hurt, I didn’t even follow him. I thought we had talked about this. I thought he would let me be there for him.

“Do you really want me to go?” I asked, annoyed that my voice came out sounding so damn weak.

He sniffed and hesitated. But he let out a small, “Yeah,” that I could hardly hear because he still wasn’t looking at me.

I sighed. Well, I couldn’t force him to open up to me. If he wanted to be alone... I walked over to the door. My hand rested on the door handle... but I couldn’t make myself turn it. I couldn’t let him do this by himself. I was in way too deep for that.

“No,” I replied.

He turned to face me suddenly. “What?” he snapped.

“I’m not going,” I told him sternly.

His eyes were swimming with different emotions. Some I couldn’t even place. Anger was definitely there. But also surprise. And maybe gratitude?

“I’m staying here tonight,” I announced, “whether you like it or not.”

He was still staring at me.

“I’ll sleep on the couch,” I continued. “But I’m staying in this cabin. I’m not leaving you.”

Still staring.

“I’m sorry,” I told him, “but you’re not getting rid of me.”

He quickly turned back around so that he wasn’t facing me any more, and sniffled slightly.

And I couldn’t keep the distance between us any longer. I marched over and wrapped my arms around him. He resisted at first, but when I made it clear I wasn’t letting go, he gave in. I held him close as he cried silently. I felt like my heart was physically breaking to hear him like this, but I knew this wasn’t about me.

“Will?” he asked after some time. His voice was so quiet, I had to strain to hear him even though we were sitting next to each other.

“Yeah?”

“If you’re staying... can you please sleep in the bed with me?”

I let out a sigh of relief. He wasn’t shutting me out completely. I just needed to work on him. He wanted to be comforted. I just had to keep showing him that I wanted to be there for him. And I’d do whatever it took. Whatever I needed to do to make him happy.

“Of course,” I whispered.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will and I were walking back from the training arena on New Year’s Eve, hours after the sun had set. The sky was slightly purplish along the horizon, and I could hear the distant sounds of pre party fireworks from the city of Manhattan.

Will was definitely getting better at sword fighting, thanks to my training sessions. He could’ve been a lot better by this point if we didn’t end up kissing for half the time. But I wasn’t complaining. Something about the adrenaline pumping around my body, and watching Will scrunch up his face in concentration as he tries to listen to my instructions, and the fact that we usually train after dark so that no one else is there... sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Since after the night we got back to camp, I’ve been feeling very... at peace. That was the only way to describe it. Everything was running smoothly at the moment. Except for the lack of communication of course. But I wasn’t worried... yet. I knew there must be something sinister behind it, but for once, I was happy to sit back and let someone else take the long hard journey. I deserved this break at camp, with Will and my other friends.

I didn’t have to worry about saving the world or saving Percy Jackson... in fact, I hadn’t thought about the son of Poseidon since he’d left to finish high school.

“What are you thinking about?” Will asked as we reached the field where the cabins were.

“Guess.” Because should I ever give him a straight answer?

He studied my face. “Well you look happy, but that doesn’t really mean anything. For all I know, you could be thinking about your plan of world domination and how you’re going to overthrow Zeus and take his place as the King of the universe... or, you could be thinking of a cute puppy.”

I snorted. “Or,” I said, “I could be thinking about both at the same time.”

Will sighed in defeat. “I guess that’s possible. But it’s neither, right?”

I turned my gaze to the purple horizon, wondering how this had become my life. It was honestly crazy to think that only a few months ago, I had willingly jumped in to Tartarus not because I believed I’d make it back. But because I believed that out of everybody, I’d have the least to lose if I didn’t.

“I was thinking about Percy Jackson,” I stated.

I knew that alarms must have been going off in Will’s head, but he remained perfectly calm as always. “Oh?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied with a note of indifference in my tone.

He smiled at me as if he knew I was winding him up on purpose. “Alright, I’ll bite. What about Percy Jackson?”

I shrugged. “Nothing much.”

“Ha ha ha. Very funny. Now tell me.”

I raised an eyebrow up at him. “Do you really want to know?”

He thought about that for a second. “Why?” he asked with the smallest note of panic in his voice. “Is it something I don’t want to know about?”

I turned to face my cabin as we reached the doorstep. “I didn’t say that. But now that I think about it, yes, you definitely do want to know.”

His gave me an unimpressed look. “But you’re not going to tell me?”

I smiled at him and turned to open the door to the cabin. I reached out to grab the handle, but a sudden idea hit me. “Hey,” I said as I turned back to face Will who still had a grumpy expression on his face, “do you want to see something cool?”

He still looked grumpy. “Cool?”

“Yeah. It’ll take your mind off of what’s making you look so grumpy.”

He shook his head. “You know exactly what’s making me grumpy, you little-“

“Alright! Off we go!” I grabbed his hand before he could finish his sentence and dragged him into the forest.

*

“Where are we?” Will asked as we reached a clearing that was spacious enough for what I had in mind.

I reached out with my powers, searching for bones beneath the earth. My internal radar went crazy. Perfect. “We’re nowhere in particular,” I told him.

He watched me closely as I spread my hands around, looking for the best option. “It’s quite late,” Will pointed out. “The harpies will get us on our way back.”

I shrugged. “I’ll shadow travel us back to the Hades cabin when we’re done. And you can stay there tonight.”

That seemed to satisfy Will. Since the day we’d come back from Vermont, he hadn’t stayed the night with me again. That was alright because my nightmares had taken a break, but I still missed snuggling with him.

“I still don’t know why they don’t give the harpies a break for New Year’s Eve,” I muttered. “It seems a bit harsh.”

Will shrugged. “Not many campers are here over this time. And the ones that are here have their own parties in their cabins.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Tell me about these New Year’s Eve parties,” I asked. For some reason, the thought of Will being at a party that wasn’t overlooked by an adult chaperone bothered me. Who knew what would happen with no supervision? Was there close contact dancing? Drinking? Inappropriate party games?

Will didn’t seem to notice my agitation. “What do you want to know?”

I tried to keep my focus on the ground below me, but my concentration broke. “I don’t know,” I replied as casually as I could. “Just describe it.”

Will narrowed his eyes at me. “Why don’t you describe what you’re imagining they’re like?”

I huffed. “I’m not imagining anything. I’m just asking politely.”

He didn’t seem to buy that. Maybe I wasn’t being as casual as I’d thought. Or maybe Will had just gotten way too good at reading me. “Well,” he said teasingly, “I guess if you’re just being ‘polite’ you don’t actually want to know. We can get on with whatever you brought me here for.”

I resisted the urge to scream at him and ask him about the parties. That definitely would not give him any incentive to talk. For now, I put a pin in my spiralling thoughts and instead focused again on the ground.

I felt the familiar tug in my gut and pulled. A small crack appeared, but I could hardly see it due to the thick grass. A handful of flimsy looking bones, the size of my fingers, spilled out. They quickly rearranged themselves into the form of a dead bunny rabbit, with ears, a thin looking frame, and small legs folded beneath it as it sat.

The rabbit looked around as if wondering why I had brought it back to life. Will took one look at the little creature and nearly burst my ear drums with the high pitched squeal he made. “Awwwwww!! It’s so damn cute!!”

I reached out with my powers and telepathically told the bunny to hop over to Will. It obliged and Will’s smile was extremely wide as it shuffled towards him.

I rolled my eyes. “I said it was cool, Will. Not cute.”

He scowled sarcastically at me. “Don’t let the bunny hear you!” Then he turned to the animal and whispered in that chummy voice that people sometimes do with pets or babies, “Don’t worry, my love. Don’t listen to the mean guy, you’re an absolute cutie pie.”

The way he was talking to it and the way he was running his finger lightly over the rib bones of the little thing, made me stupidly jealous.

I scolded myself for thinking that. It was just that my train of thought was still spiralling about those silly parties.

To distract myself, I waved my hand across the floor for a second time, and watched as a small squirrel skeleton clawed out of the ground. It was missing an ear, and it looked weird without its big bushy tail, but that didn’t stop Will reacting louder than the first time.

“Ahhh!” he exclaimed. “A baby squirrel!”

He said the word ‘squirrel’ as ‘squwirel’ which made me cringe. “Gods Solace, you really are a sucker for cute things, huh?”

He grinned at me. “So you admit that these lickle babies are cute?”

I huffed. “Nope. I just know that you find them cute. Why do you think I brought you here?”

Will just smiled at me.

I raised my hands and waved again. I waited for the feeling in my gut to get as strong as I could handle without passing out. I tugged slowly, aware that my energy was starting to deplete, and knowing I couldn’t push it too far. I was getting better at knowing my limits.

All around us, the skeletons of small woodland animals raised from the ground. There was a badger, a couple of small deer, more bunny rabbits, birds of an unknown species, and even a family of foxes. They bounced around the space in the forest, sniffing at my legs and asking permission to do things like hop into my arms or climb a tree.

I loved these dead animals. They were always so much nicer to me than living ones. And they were nicer to me than most people. I used to summon them to keep me company during the years I had left camp. They took little energy to call, so they made convenient friends.

I suggested that they go and explore around Will. He had sat down onto the grass so that he could pet the original rabbit and squirrel more easily. Now he was looking around at the crowd of skeletal animals with awe on his face. I sometimes forgot that Will was one of the only people to not be utterly disgusted with my powers. But, seeing his smile, I realised how much I appreciated him for it.

“This is incredible,” he muttered as a sparrow like bird hopped onto his arm. A small fox had started to sniff around his crossed legs.

“They’re really friendly,” I told him. “And they seem to like you.”

The baby fox then proved me right by leaning closer towards Will’s face, deeming him safe, and plopping down onto his lap, with his body curled up. Will smiled at me in surprise. “I like this fox,” he stated happily.

After that, all of the other animals gained more confidence. They surrounded Will completely, grabbing at his arms gently asking for attention, or sniffing his hair (which to be fair to them, always smelt amazing).

“Forget normal dogs and cats,” Will said, “when we get a pet in the future, we’re getting a dead fox.”

It sounded so natural for Will to say something like that, I almost didn’t register what he was implying. A future. With us. Together. It made me smile thinking about it. Not just because of Will (although he was a big part) but because for the first time in a long time, I started to believe that I could have a future and actually be happy in it.

I decided not to point out what he’d said, because I knew he’d try to take it back in fear of scaring me or something dumb like that. I just said, “That sounds good to me.”

“It’s perfect as well,” he continued. “They never die, well not in the time we know them, and they don’t need the regular maintenance like baths and stuff.”

I nodded. “Plus, if you’re being particularly annoying, I can always order the fox to attack you.”

He smiled at me. “You can’t order around our baby, however annoying I become.”

I shrugged. “That’s fine. I’ll come up with other ways to punish you then.”

He rolled his eyes and continued to stroke the bones of various animals. The fox on his lap yawned and started snoozing. A weasel came and dropped a stick in front of me and I threw it for him.

We stayed in comfortable silence, just playing with the animals. After a while, Will sighed a big sigh. “As long as you never summoned a pack of friendly dead animals in a forest at night for Percy Jackson, I don’t care what you were thinking earlier.”

I laughed at him. “I was actually about to tell you as well...”

“Oh,” he replied, “well don’t let me stop you.”

I smirked. “Tell me about the parties.”

Will raised his eyebrows. “Really? Why do you want to know?”

“Maybe because you’re not telling me.”

Will still looked confused. “I’m not not telling you. I’m just curious as to why you want me to tell you.”

I sighed. “Okay fine. If you don’t want to tell me about your crazy parties where there may or may have not been people drinking or being flirty-“

“Ohhhh,” Will cut me off. “You don’t want to know about the parties. You want to know about my past.” He looked triumphant as if me wanting to know how many other people he had kissed before me was a big revelation. Isn’t it human (half human) nature to want to know?

He seemed to realise that I was scowling. He looked down at the mouse he was stroking and said, “I don’t have a past, Nico.”

I scoffed. “Oh please. Look at you with your stupid smiley personality and your pathetically perfect face and... you know, other stuff that people like.”

Will smirked at me. “Are you counted as ‘people’? Because that’s all I care about.”

I sighed and ran my finger down a badger’s spine. “I am sometimes ‘people’.”

He laughed again. “Glad to know.” He paused to shift his position and the fox looked slightly annoyed that they’d been woken up. “The parties were always ridiculous,” Will told me. “They’d usually be held in the Hermes cabin and there would be some crappy music and crappy food. I never even had that much fun until Austin and Kayla came to camp. Even then though, we didn’t go to them every year. Staying up in the Apollo cabin by ourselves was much better. But New Year’s Eve has never been that big at camp...” he trailed off then smiled slightly. “Now, the Fourth of July fireworks. That’s something to be here for.”

I smiled at Will’s memory. But just to make sure... “So there was no one...?”

Will gave me a look as if I were dumb. “It’s always been you, Nico.”

Oh gods, damn my stupid heart for beating so fast, damn my stupid cheeks for burning, and damn Will fucking Solace, the absolute idiot.

I tried my best to play it cool. I just gave a small smile and looked back down to my skeletal badger. Judging from Will’s smirk though, I didn’t quite pull it off.

Well, I guess two can play at that game. “I was thinking about how Percy Jackson is nothing compared to you,” I blurted.

Will’s cheeks turned pink and I felt a sense of triumph. “Huh?”

“I said,” I repeated, “that he’s nothing compared to you.”

Will smiled and looked down. He gently nudged away a deer that was trying to chew his hair. Then he looked back up at me and gave a small smile. “Really? In what ways?”

I gave that some thought. I resisted the urge to say ‘in every way’ because I thought that might stroke Will’s ego a bit too much.

“Well, for one, he never trusted me just because of my father.” Will raised his eyebrows indicating he wanted me to continue. “I was only a kid, and he expected me to stand my ground against against the king of the underworld when Hades manipulated me into betraying Percy. I made it right though... He never noticed me however hard I tried to help him. He never thanked me properly for what I sacrificed. I mean, sure he said the words once or twice... but that doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, does it?”

Will shook his head. “Actions speak louder than words.”

I nodded. “And I know that you and I fit together better,” I continued. “You understand what I’ve been through better than him, even though he’s been through most of those things with me. For gods’ sake, how blind do you have to be to not realise? Or was it just that I didn’t matter to him?”

Will’s expression was serious, and a little angry. “You, Will,” I said, “give special attention to everyone who walks into your infirmary, no matter who they are or what they’ve done in the past. You’re just so... undeniably good.”

Will gave me a small smile.

I ploughed on, because now I was ranting and I couldn’t stop. “And the ways he’s different to you? Gods where do I start? Okay sure, he’s probably more powerful or whatever, but you’re definitely funnier. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson made me laugh when I was younger, but really, I’ve realised he’s very juvenile... And you’re more stable and generally more caring and sweet. I never knew how to act around him because he could switch his opinion about me so easily. Oh gods, and don’t get me started on the general attraction... but let’s just say that I guess I have a thing for blondes...”

I trailed off because I realised that I might’ve said a bit too much. Will’s expression was definitely proving that theory. He looked like I’d given him the best gift anyone had ever given him. He took a minute to compose himself (Did I just make him speechless?) and he ran a hand through his hair.

“Well,” he said, “I guess I’ll have to throw away that black hair dye I bought the other day.”

I threw a handful of grass at him.

He just laughed. Then his expression turned serious. “Happy new year, Nico.”

“Happy new year, Will.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

I was working in the infirmary, a week after New Year’s Eve when Cecil Markowitz stopped by.

“Hey man,” he said cheerfully as he came in.

I looked up from healing Ellis’s broken wrist. “Cecil?” I asked. “I thought you weren’t coming back until the summer?”

The son of Hermes shrugged. “It’s nice to see you too, Will.” He turned to Ellis. “Alright war boy?”

Ellis clenched his fists, which made him wince because I hadn’t finished healing his wrist yet. “Do not call me that, Markowitz, unless you want a high velocity fist to come at your nose.”

I sighed. Ellis was usually calm for a child of Ares. Cecil just tended to rub people up the wrong way. Maybe because he constantly played pranks on anyone and everyone during the summer. But who could tell.

“Cecil,” I sighed, “please don’t anger my patients. It’s harder to heal them when they’re beating you up instead.”

Cecil just laughed. “What makes you think I’m the one who’ll be beaten up?”

Ellis tried to stand, but I gently pushed him back down. “Is that a threat?” he hissed.

Cecil shrugged. “I’m just saying, don’t underestimate me.”

That, at least, I could agree with. Cecil had single handedly disrupted the flight paths of Octavian’s onager weapons and basically saved the camp from complete annihilation. Well, while Nico, Lou Ellen and I had helped distract the guards for him.

I had become friends with Cecil last summer when I realised that he mostly played pranks on people I would describe as the bully type. I had even helped him out a couple of times. Unfortunately, he’d acquired a prejudice against the children of Ares after Clarisse got him back for the time he dumped fishy smelling gloop on her head.

“Why don’t we talk about something else,” I suggested.

Cecil gave me an evil smile. “Why don’t you tell me about your new boyfriend?”

I sighed as I went back to setting Ellis’ wrist. “Who told you?”

“Lou Ellen obviously. I saw her after Halloween. She said that your couple costume was beyond cute.”

I didn’t reply. The memory of Halloween was bitter sweet. Dressing up, playing games and watching movies had been fun. Nico scaring me in the maze had not been.

Ellis snorted at me. “Even if Markowitz hadn’t been told, it’s not like you and Nico are exactly subtle. Literally anyone can tell that you guys are together.”

“Great,” I muttered, trying to gauge Ellis’ tone of voice. Was he judging? Frustrated? Surprised?

“And it’s not only the Halloween costumes,” he continued, “you guys are cutesy almost everyday.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, but that was mostly because I was focusing on his wrist. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Ellis looked at me like I was stupid. He reminded me of Nico a bit. When I said nothing, he shook his head in exasperation. “All I’m saying is that I much prefer di Angelo when he’s summoning skeletons for me to spar with in the training ring, and much less when you guys are arguing like an old married couple at the dining pavilion, whilst you’re pressed up against each other so closely, sometimes I mistake you for one large obnoxious person.”

Cecil roared with laughter so hard, he doubled over. “Oh my gods!” he said to Ellis. “I totally feel your pain, man. I was there when they were bickering in the war!”

I didn’t give a response. Honestly, I was partly pleased that Ellis sounded so grateful to Nico for the new addition to their sparring activities.

Ellis smiled at Cecil, clearly pleased that he’d made a son of Hermes laugh. Perfect, I thought. Two enemies have made a temporary truce to make fun of me.

“Okay okay,” I tried. “Everyone shut up whilst I sing my hymn please.”

They quietened down, but I could still hear Cecil snickering in the background as I worked. I started humming a few notes, searching for the right tune. Nearly everyone’s songs are different. After a few seconds, the familiar glow appeared between my fingertips and rushed into Ellis’ skin. The son of Ares sighed with relief. “Thanks, Solace.”

“Any time.”

Ellis shrugged his jacket back on and left, completely ignoring Cecil, which was probably for the best.

I started cleaning up my supplies. Cecil cleared his throat. “Anyway,” he said. “I’m not at camp for long. Maybe a couple of nights? But I just wanted to stop by.”

A bad tingly feeling ran down my neck. Whenever demigods wanted to ‘stop by’ it usually wasn’t for a good reason. “How come?” I asked as casually as I could.

Cecil’s face had gone a bit pale. “Well, I’ve been having dreams.” He didn’t need to elaborate as to why that was disturbing. All demigods had dreams, and they were rarely light and fluffy.

“What about?”

He hesitated for a second before answering, “Just these voices. I don’t know where they were coming from. But I think they originated from somewhere in camp. I just wanted to check it out. Maybe ask Chiron if it’s normal.”

Hearing voices probably wasn’t a good thing, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were ‘abnormal’.

“What did Chiron think?”

He shrugged. “Just the usual. I can’t even make out what the voices are saying properly so there’s not much to go on. But I thought if I spend a night here, the voices would get stronger if I’m nearer to their source.”

My eyes widened. “That’s brave.” Voluntarily seeking out nightmares was something I probably wouldn’t want to do.

“It’s not that deep. I’m just curious as to what they want me to hear. Plus, it’s been happening for a couple of weeks now, and I kind of want them to stop.”

I nodded. “I guess that makes sense.”

Cecil hopped off of the desk he was sitting on. “Anyway, it’s almost time for the campfire.”

“Yeah,” I agreed as I packed away the last of my things.

“Is your boyfriend going to be there?”

I shrugged. “He could be.” Because explaining that I have to practically drag Nico, kicking and screaming, to each campfire seemed like it was a bit too much information. The fact that I’d had a late shift meant that I didn’t have time to persuade him. I had no idea if he’d come tonight, but I doubted it.

“I hope he’s there,” Cecil announced. “I need to interrogate him.”

I groaned. “Please don’t.”

He just gave me a sly grin. I couldn’t be bothered to make him promise to leave Nico alone, since I figured he wouldn’t even be there. So I just rolled my eyes and then we headed for the amphitheater.

*

As it turned out, I should’ve made Cecil make the promise, because Nico was there. As Cecil and I approached the campfire, and my eyes adjusted to the dark, there was Nico in his usual black on black, sitting beside Kayla, as Austin tuned his guitar ready for the singalong.

I made my way through the amphitheater and sat down beside Nico. “Hello,” I said cheerfully, “if you come to these without interference, why did I spend so long last time arguing with you?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Maybe if you didn’t have to spend so long in the infirmary today, I wouldn’t have to put myself through this torture just so that I could see you.” His tone was accusatory, but the fact that he had moved closer and was practically leaning against me undermined his anger.

I kissed the top of his head. “I asked if you wanted to come,” I defended.

Nico shrugged. “If you paid attention, you’ll remember that I said that I didn’t want to distract you.”

I huffed. “And if you paid attention, you’ll remember that I said that you helping me out and keeping me company isn’t distracting. It’s more calming actually.”

Before Nico could reply, Cecil gave a loud snicker. “Oh my gods! Ellis’ evaluation was spot on.”

Nico looked at Cecil with a question in his eyes.

“Nico, you remember Cecil?” I offered.

Nico nodded. “Of course. He disabled the onagers with us. Well, with me and Lou Ellen. You were kind of useless, Will.”

I gasped in mock outrage, but before I could defend myself, Cecil piped in again by shaking his head and muttering, “Classic. Classic.”

Nico still looked confused. “Cecil seems to think we’re like old married couple,” I explained.

Nico nodded and said to Cecil, “Trust me, if we were married, we wouldn’t argue so much.”

Cecil and I both raised our eyebrows up at him. “Why not?” I asked.

Nico smiled. “Because I’d be able to tell you what to do all the time. There’d be nothing to argue about.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know you’re joking. But it’s not even funny or realistic.” I tried for an annoyed tone, but the fact that Nico was talking about when we were married was enough to make me smile.

Nico looked at me with a challenge in his eyes. “Please,” he said teasingly, “I’d have you wrapped around my finger.”

I started to protest, but at that moment, Kayla decided to end her conversation with Austin and declare to Nico, “You don’t have to worry about that. You’ve already got him wrapped around your finger.”

I looked at her with a betrayed look as Cecil and Nico laughed. “Hey,” she said as she held up her hands, “I only say it how it is, so don’t look at me like that, Will. Also, everyone shut up because Austin’s about to start.”

We all turned to face Austin as he began to strum out a happy little song with a catchy riff. His fingers moved expertly along the strings. His preferred instrument is the saxophone, but he was skilled at playing almost any instrument you put in front of him.

Austin began to sing, and everyone else who had been talking, stopped to listen and sing along to the tune. I loved these moments where the whole of camp come together to focus on the same thing for at least a few minutes. It really connects us.

I put my arm around Nico and smiled at him when I realised he wasn’t singing. He scowled at me and whispered, “I don’t sing, Solace.”

I made the best pouty face that I could, but Nico just scoffed and turned his attention back to Austin.

The first song ended and everyone gave a round of applause. Austin bowed and waved dramatically and then started shuffling through his sheet music for the next song. Kayla went to help him out.

“So Nico,” Cecil started, “what’s your dating history like?”

Nico looked confused. “Excuse me?”

I groaned and pleaded, “Cecil please shut up.”

Nico looked to me, “Why is he asking that?”

I shook my head. “No reason other than he’s being a pain in my-“

“Will,” Nico warned, spotting my lie instantly, and Cecil chuckled.

I sighed. “I think he’s interrogating you.”

That didn’t seem to help Nico’s confusion until Cecil piped in helpfully, “It’s nothing personal. I’m just making sure you’re suitable.”

Nico didn’t look impressed. “Suitable?”

I groaned again. “Cecil can you please not?”

Cecil just grinned and turned back to Nico. “So? Dating history?”

Nico looked murderous. I couldn’t blame him. He definitely did not like people poking around and asking questions about his personal life. And I’m sure he didn’t like the word ‘suitable’ for obvious reasons. But then his expression turned into defeat, which I definitely didn’t like. “I don’t have any history,” he told Cecil.

Cecil nodded as if he was pleased by that answer. “Okay,” he said, “next question: what exactly do you like about Will?”

Nico scoffed. “What kind of stupid question is that?”

Cecil looked offended but Nico didn’t elaborate. Nico was a very private person, and he hardly ever opened up about this kind of thing, even with me. It looked like Cecil was going to ask again, but I wasn’t going to let Nico get uncomfortable. “That’s enough,” I said sternly. “Cecil, you’re just going to have to take my word for it that Nico is good enough for me.”

Apparently Kayla had heard that last comment because she chimed in. “Oh, Will darling, Nico isn’t just good enough. Sometimes I think he’s too good.”

I smiled at her because, to be fair, I agreed with her, and she winked at me.

Cecil sighed in defeat. “Well,” he announced, “if Nico’s good enough for Kayla then he’s good enough for me.”

Gods why was I friends with him? Kayla smiled again and Nico did a small salute in Cecil’s direction. Before I could say anything though, Austin started singing again.

This song was more slow, but it still had cheerful undertones. Everybody clapped in time with the beat, and mimicked Austin’s lyrics. And the following songs caused just as much enthusiasm.

By the end of the singalong, everyone was pretty tired, but that didn’t stop them from giving Austin a last manic round of applause. Then the demigods all got up and started heading to their respective cabins.

Cecil yawned. “Well, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” He headed off for the Hermes cabin.

Kayla was helping Austin pack away his guitar and sheet music.

I turned to Nico. “Come on. I’ll walk you back to your cabin.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I woke up just in time for breakfast and made my way to the dining pavilion. Will, Kayla and Austin were already there, chatting about the campfire last night.

“Hey Nico,” Austin said happily as I took my seat next to Will. “Can you please tell these guys to back me up at the next campfire?”

“Back you up?” I asked.

Will sighed. “Austin wants Kayla and I to play with him. For Kayla, I agree, but really, no one should be subject to listen to me.”

Kayla snorted. “You’re a son of Apollo, William. You’re just as good as the rest of us.”

Will crossed his arms. “Let’s agree to disagree.”

Austin groaned. “See? Will’s being too stubborn. And Kayla won’t join me unless Will will do it too.”

I nudged Will’s arm gently. “Why don’t you try? Your voice can’t be that bad.”

Will’s expression didn’t change. “Trust me, it’s really bad.”

Then I got an idea. “Hey,” I said. “You can practice in front of me. And I can give you pointers.” The idea of Will playing the guitar and singing for me made me feel all fluttery.

Will also smiled at the thought, but still shook his head. “Knowing you, the only pointers I’ll get, will be things like ‘shut up, Solace, my ears are hurting.’”

We all laughed at that and I didn’t deny it. But I promised myself that I’d get him to play something for me later. Maybe in the privacy of my cabin...

Suddenly, Chiron came to stand at the front of pavilion, which was weird, since he usually waits until after everyone has eaten to make announcements. His expression was solemn and he seemed to have acquired a few more grey hairs since the last time I’d saw him. That didn’t bode well.

“Attention please,” he called in his deep voice which effectively shut everyone up. “I have some bad news.”

I felt Will shuffle beside me nervously and I took his hand out of instinct to calm his nerves.

“I’m going to be implementing some new rules around camp,” Chiron announced and everyone groaned. “First of all, no one should be going anywhere alone. I ask that you please use the buddy system.”

I squeezed Will’s hand in response to that.

“Second of all,” Chiron continued. “I don’t know what’s happening, but I fear that it’s connected to our lack of communications, so I would appreciate it if everyone continued to attempt their iris messages and whatnot... just in case we can get through to some of our friends.”

The campers were murmuring uneasily now, and I too was starting to feel a sense of dread.

“And lastly,” the centaur said, “everyone please keep an eye out for our missing camper.”

“Missing camper?” Kayla asked.

“Haven’t you heard?” Connor Stoll asked. “Cecil’s disappeared.”

*

“Will it’s not your fault,” I tried to tell him for the one hundredth time that morning. He had told me about his conversation with Cecil, and now he felt guilty that he didn’t do anything to prevent his disappearance. “Maybe he’s not even missing. He could’ve just gone back home without telling anyone.” But even I knew I was clinging on to false hope.

Will looked up at me. We were the only ones left sitting at the dining pavilion after Kayla had left to teach her archery class and Austin had left to man the infirmary. “He is definitely missing. He told me he’s been hearing voices calling to him from camp. And the first night he spends here he disappears? That’s not a coincidence.”

I sighed. “I know.” Because trying to make something big seem small never did anyone any good. “Did he mention what the voices were saying?”

Will thought for a second. “No. He said he came back to camp in hope that the voices would be clearer.”

“Well, he probably succeeded then,” I suggested. “Maybe someone in the Hermes cabin heard him say something about where he was headed when they last saw him?”

Will shook his head. “They would’ve told Chiron.”

I considered that. From my experience, a lot of people underestimated the value of information. “Not if they thought it wasn’t important,” I told him.

Then, more to help take Will’s mind off of it than anything else, I dragged him along to the Hermes cabin.

*

“You want to know if I have any information I’ve been holding back about my brother’s disappearance?” Julia Feingold asked in an unimpressed tone.

“We don’t think you’re holding anything back,” Will assured. “We just want to know if Cecil maybe said anything last night when you saw him. Anything at all?”

His voice was so warm and friendly, I wanted to give up the information even though I didn’t have anything to give. Julia’s face also softened a bit. I guess that Will just had that effect on people. I found myself wondering why he hadn’t been a part of any of the ‘saving the world’ quests. He would’ve been an invaluable member.

“I don’t know,” Julia said, “Cecil talks a lot of crap all the time. I’ve learnt to block him out really.”

I cracked a smile. “Do you remember anything he said about voices?” I asked.

She thought for a long time, scrunching up her eyes and lips in concentration. “Now that you mention it,” she replied, “I do remember something.”

“What is it?” Will asked hopefully.

She got an evil glint in her eyes. “If I tell you, can you do something for me?”

I rolled my eyes. Of course. No one ever did anything out of the goodness of their hearts. “What?” I growled, my temper rising.

Julia laughed at me which didn’t help. Will reached out and grabbed my hand. His warmth seeped into me and seemed to settle my nerves a bit. “What do you want, Julia?” he asked.

“Nothing much,” she replied in a tone that made me think she was about to ask for an absolutely massive favour. “It’s just that Chiron banned my sister and I from buying stuff from the camp store for a month.” She rolled her eyes. “Something about a punishment for giving his laundry to the Pegasi as chew toys.”

She gave us a look like ‘can you actually believe that?’

I nodded sarcastically. “Yes, I can imagine what an inconvenience that must be for you.”

Julia ignored me and carried on. “I just need you two to get me a couple of things from the store. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the drachma for them.” She rummaged around her cabin for a second and produced a pen and paper. She scribbled down a list of items that was definitely more than ‘a couple’ of things and handed the list to Will.

“Here. Don’t be long. I have a short attention span so my memory might not be as good in a couple of hours.”

*

As we were walking back from the camp store, our hands full of shopping bags with items I didn’t even want to ask about, I turned to Will. “I bet she doesn’t even know anything helpful.”

Will shrugged. “Who cares? This didn’t take a huge amount of time, and whatever she does know could help us figure out where Cecil went.”

I guessed he was right. Although, was it really worth the embarrassment at the cashier as the dryad scanned the pantyhose and red stilettos we’d bought? At least I knew the supplies weren’t going to be used for anything harmful.

We made it back to the Hermes cabin and Julia rushed to the door to meet us. “Oh wow! You actually did it! Thank you!” She snatched the bags and went to unload them on her bunk with her sister, Alice.

Alice pointed at us and said loudly, “Julia, I think they’re waiting for a tip.”

I clenched my fists, but before I could say anything, Will beat me to it. “Actually, we’re waiting for you to tell us what Cecil mentioned last night.”

Julia rolled her eyes. “Ugh boys! So damn needy all the time.” She turned to face us. “Alright fine. I think before Markowitz went to sleep, he mentioned something about looking forward to asking about the voices.”

“Asking?” I repeated.

“Yeahhh,” she said in a voice you might use on a misbehaving toddler. “I guess he wanted to ask them something in his dreams.”

I looked at Will uneasily. Engaging with people you don’t know when dreaming could be dangerous.

“Anyway,” Alice said. “That’s all she knows. Now run along. We’ve got some fake legs to stuff.”

*

I groaned as I tossed another book onto the pile. “Will, your so called ‘library’ isn’t very helpful.”

We had decided to read through the Apollo cabin’s collection of books for ideas about what could’ve happened to Cecil. We were both sprawled on Will’s bunk, scanning pages. But we weren’t having much luck.

I shifted my position slightly so that I was sitting next to Will with our backs against the wall. I crossed my legs, then I scanned the mountain pile of discarded books that now lay on the floor.

“Maybe that’s because we don’t know what we’re looking for,” Will countered.

That was true. All we had to go on was ‘hearing voices’ and it was tragic to realise that almost all bad things start with that. “If Julia’s right, and Cecil was actively asking about the voices, I think it’s safe to say that the voices obliged.”

Will sighed. “That still doesn’t narrow it down.” He looked at all of the books that we’d abandoned on the floor. “I’m starting to think we’re going to need more information... and more books.”

I smiled at him. “We’ve been through about forty five books about hearing things in dreams, and you want more?” I shook my head. “You don’t do anything half assed in your life, do you, William Solace?”

Will blushed. Then he smiled. “I like to finish the things that I start. Especially when they involve the people I care about.”

Of course I already knew that. But hearing him say it out loud made me appreciate just how hardcore Will was. He probably would stop at nothing to save the people he loved. I guess we were very similar in that respect.

“You have a big heart,” I said quietly.

He smirked at me. “Did you just give me a compliment?” he asked in fake surprise.

I groaned. “Don’t let it get to your head, Solace. I can give you an insult to even it out if you’d like.”

Will smiled wider. “Go on then.”

Oh. I wasn’t expecting him to actually ask for one. I tried to think, but his grin was distracting me. I couldn’t think of anything I would change about Will. Why did he have to be so godsdamn perfect?

The longer I hesitated without saying anything, Will’s smile got bigger. Gods he was annoying when he was smug. And his stupid mischievous smile was making me dizzy...

“I hate your smile,” I said eventually, which was obviously a complete lie and Will knew it.

“Really?” he laughed as he moved closer towards me.

I could smell his delicious scent of sweetness, mixed with hints of the infirmary. It was a weird combination, but the fact that I associated it with Will was enough to get my heart racing.

“Yes,” I just about managed to reply. “It’s too smug and too... perfect.”

Will was inches from my face now, and he brought his hand to rest against the wall beside my face, effectively trapping me in place. “I think you like my smile,” Will teased.

I didn’t trust myself to speak. With Will in such close proximity to me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to form a coherent reply, and I’d just end up embarrassing myself.

He smirked at my silence, and I could feel my cheeks turning red. How dare he laugh at me. I’ll show him-

I closed the distance between us (which granted, wasn’t much) and pressed my lips to his. Apparently Will was expecting it because he didn’t even flinch or hesitate before he was kissing me back. He pressed me against the wall, and the warmth of his lips, and his body seeped into me, making my thoughts blurry and chaotic.

I grabbed onto the top of his shirt to pull him closer. Then I ran my fingers all the way around the inside of his collar to the back of his neck. I dipped my fingers further inside his shirt, enjoying when he shuddered from my touch.

Will’s kissing was very intense, and it reminded me of the night we spent in the hotel together. Just the thought of it made me twitch in excitement.

As Will started to lower his kisses to focus more on my jaw, I brought my hands back and down to trail the flat muscles on his stomach, just above his waistband. I uncrossed my legs and turned my body completely in Will’s direction. My right leg ended up extending across his lap.

When Will started kissing my neck, I let out a small whimper I couldn’t hold in, which seemed to egg him on to go faster. That familiar fire was threatening to consume me, as sparks ignited everywhere around my body. Almost involuntarily, my fingers starting dipping into his waistband. I had only gone about an inch, when he stopped kissing my neck to whisper, “Gods, Nico.”

Then he went back to kissing my lips. In the movement, my fingers retracted from his pants and I instead gripped his t-shirt in an attempt to anchor myself to something. Because, gods of Olympus, this felt so good. I just wanted more... Gods I needed more... and...

“What’s going on in here?” Kayla asked as the door of the cabin opened.

Will tore his hands away and sprung about a metre away from me, crossing his legs on the other side of the bed. I did the same.

“Nothing,” Will replied, although the breathlessness in his voice was telling a different story. He didn’t seem to realise that as he ploughed on. “Actually. Yes. Something. We’re researching. As you can see.” He gestured to the pile of books on the floor as a pathetic attempt at proving his point.

Kayla smirked at him. “Yes. I certainly can see.”

My cheeks burned brighter (if that was even possible). “Sorry Kayla,” I offered.

She gave me a smile. “It’s alright. But next time, maybe ‘research’ in the Hades cabin. Other people live here.”

Oh gods.

“And Will, it’s your shift in the infirmary.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

I promised Nico I’d come over to the Hades cabin after my shift was done, so I was counting down the minutes. I was still a bit embarrassed about Kayla catching us, but really, she probably already knew that Nico and I were at the kissing stage, and at least she hadn’t caught us doing anything else (not that we’d done ‘anything else’ since coming back to camp but still).

Just as my shift was about to end, a handful of people came storming into the infirmary. Just my luck. The whole evening had been quiet and just as I was about to leave... oh well.

Sherman Yang and Connor Stoll were the last to come in, Yang with a cracked bone sticking out of his arm, and Connor with a black eye.

“Um,” I stammered. “Do I want to ask?”

Sherman grunted, probably trying to keep in a scream from the look of the sweat pouring down his forehead. “Fix. Arm. Solace,” he gritted out.

I cleared a bed for him and got to work. Connor slumped against the wall and watched me prepping Sherman’s arm.

“We were trying to navigate through the labyrinth,” Connor explained. “We didn’t want to lose the next race... But we came across a troll. Sherman, being the idiot that he is, attacked it head on.” Connor shuddered. “We barely got out alive.” Then he shook his head at his friend. “I am not pairing with you again. You’ve got a death wish, Yang.”

I shook my head. Reckless campers were not new to me. I turned to Sherman who had gone slightly green (that wasn’t a good sign). “I need to sing you a hymn, but I can’t do it whilst your bone is sticking out,” I told him deadpan. “I’m going to have to push it back in place.” Sherman didn’t answer, so I decided to just get to the point. “It’s going to hurt. A lot.”

Connor produced a celestial bronze dagger from his pocket and offered it to Sherman. “Here,” he offered. “Bite down on this.”

I cringed. “That might not be good for his teeth,” I warned. But Sherman didn’t seem to mind. He grabbed the dagger and placed it in his mouth.

“Um,” I blinked, “okay. On three then.”

*

Hours of screaming, a dozen death threats for me to keep quiet about it, and one fixed broken bone later, I was feeling exhausted. Not to mention guilty that I was going to turn up late to the Hades cabin.

“Right,” I said, in the best annoyed voice I could muster (it wasn’t hard), “don’t use your arm for at least a week. Eat and drink loads. And have an ambrosia cube everyday for a week just to make sure you’re healing properly.”

Sherman grunted in response and Connor helped him to his feet. He had insisted that his black eye didn’t need to be fixed, so I hadn’t bothered.

I turned to take a lollipop from the jar on the reception counter. “Gods, you deserve a lollipop,” I muttered.

Sherman reached out to grab it.

I pulled it away. “Not you. I was talking to myself. I’m exhausted. And you need to be more fucking careful in the future.”

With the satisfying shocked look on Sherman’s face, I made my way to the Hades cabin.

*

“You’re late,” Nico stated when I entered. He was half lying half sitting on the couch and watching the Big Bang Theory on the TV.

I pointed to the screen. “And you’re watching the show without me.”

“Don’t try to change the subject,” he snapped. “For your information, this is an episode we’ve already watched. And you’re still late.”

I sighed. “I had patients, Nico. I couldn’t exactly leave Yang’s bone sticking out of his arm. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you-“

Nico sat up straighter. “Don’t apologise. This isn’t about me.”

I held back the urge to say ‘well clearly it is’. Why was he so angry? It was only a couple of hours. It wasn’t like this was supposed to be a proper date or anything. Obviously I didn’t say any of that. I asked, “What is this about then? You know my shifts sometimes run over-“

“Running over for six hours!” Nico cried. “That’s a bit much, Will. You also missed dinner and I bet you haven’t eaten all day because of the Cecil news at breakfast.”

I stared at him, realising that he was right. I hadn’t really noticed. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. But when I’m working, I can’t exactly stop for a three course meal.”

Nico rolled his eyes. “You talk to me all the time about healthy eating and taking care of myself, but you are just as bad.”

I shook my head. “No I’m not. This was a one off.”

Nico then went on to list all of the times I’d done this before.

“Alright alright, I get it,” I relented. “Look, I’ll go and maybe try to find something to eat and I’ll see you tomorrow...”

I turned to leave but Nico snapped, “Sit down, Solace.”

This conversation was just becoming more and more confusing. “Huh?”

Nico sighed dramatically. Then he got up and walked to his mini kitchen area. He pulled out some bread and other various things. I followed him, half in a trance. “Are you,” I started unsurely, “making me a sandwich?”

He scowled at me as if to say ‘don’t aggravate me or I’ll poison your food’.

“Go and sit down,” he ordered.

I sighed. “Nico, I can make my own sandwich. You go and sit down.”

His scowl became sharper. “Don’t tell me what to do. You can’t be trusted to take care of yourself, so I guess I’ll have to do it.”

I smiled. “You want to take care of me?” The thought made me a bit giddy.

Nico picked a knife out of a drawer and started buttering bread in the most aggressive way I’d ever seen. “Oh get over yourself. I just don’t want your blood on my hands when you drop down dead from hunger or exhaustion.”

Oh my gods. Nico di Angelo was worried about me. He was being more angry towards me than he ever had been, and it was because he actually cared about my well being. Despite the subtle amounts of darkness rippling off of him, I couldn’t help but smile.

I wanted to tell him that I was fine and to take over making the sandwich, but I had a feeling that that wouldn’t do anything to help his mood. I decided to watch him silently instead.

He finished putting the fillings in and used his knife to cut it into four small triangles. Then he shoved the plate in my face. “Eat,” he ordered.

I would’ve thanked him, but I was too busy wondering how the Hades I was going to make this up to him. I followed him back to the couch and sat down on the opposite side. “We can watch a new episode,” I offered.

Nico glared at me. “I thought I told you not to tell me what to do.” He grabbed the remote and changed the episode to a new one. We were on season four. “I’m changing the episode because I want to,” he clarified for my benefit, “not because you told me to.”

“Of course,” I answered as I bit into my sandwich. It was a bit dry, but I assumed Nico had done that on purpose. Nevertheless, I savoured every bit of it. Because Nico had made it for me and it tasted amazing.

We watched in silence as I ate, although I spotted Nico’s mouth twitch up at some of the jokes. One time he turned to me, probably to point something out about the show, but then he realised he was supposed to be mad and turned his attention back to the TV.

The episode finished and I turned to Nico. “Thank you for the sandwich,” I said sincerely. “It was delicious.”

Nico grunted. “It’s fine. Give me your plate,” he ordered.

“I can wash-“

“Solace,” he warned.

I handed over my plate.

I waited for the sounds of running water to stop and for Nico to come back into the room.

“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “I honestly just lost track of time.”

Nico shifted on the couch so he was facing me. “Gods you’re idiotic,” he muttered. “You’re a healer who doesn’t take care of himself.”

“I’ll try...” I started, but then trailed off because I had no idea what I was going to say. I couldn’t have done tonight any differently. My responsibility at camp was to heal people. I couldn’t just stop doing that.

Nico scoffed at my lost face. “Okay,” he said sarcastically.

I still didn’t know how I was going to make this better. I looked around the cabin, more because I didn’t want to look at Nico’s pout, than anything else. I spotted something that hadn’t been here the last time I had visited. “When did you get a guitar?”

Nico hesitated, and I could’ve sworn his cheeks went slightly pink. “Today actually,” he replied uncertainly. “Because of what I said at breakfast... but yeah I agree, it was a stupid idea.”

I walked over to the instrument and picked it up. Nico called, “I changed my mind, by the way. I do not want to hear you play. Especially not tonight.”

I smiled innocently at him and he scowled back. “Don’t you dare play that thing, Solace.”

I wrapped the cord around my neck and positioned myself. Then I raised my arm and got ready to play the only song I had bothered to learn. I could play if I really tried. But I usually didn’t bother because my siblings were much better, and I had other talents.

I gave one more small smile to Nico who still did not look happy. “Don’t,” he warned.

I strummed a chord. The sounds of D major filled the cabin, surprising even me by how natural it sounded. I played the A major more confidently, keeping a firm grip on the upper strings as I strummed. Then came a B minor, which was always the hardest, but I just about managed. And then a G major to finish the sequence. As I played, I kept glancing at Nico who was watching me intently.

I continued to strum, lightly and basic at first, but as it went on, I picked up the more fiddly bits, and even though I had to use one hundred percent of my focus, it actually sounded alright. I was even tempted to sing the lyrics, but I knew my voice wouldn’t do me any favours to impress Nico.

As I played, I looked back over to him. His cheeks were definitely flushed and his scowl had become slightly less aggressive. That was progress.

I thought I even saw him tapping his foot along to the rhythm, but when I looked closer, he stopped. I got to the end of the song, and let the music envelop me as I strummed harder for the final crescendo, and then dialled it back down slowly for the fade out.

I looked back at Nico who was staring at me. I waited for him to tell me off for playing, or at least to let me know that I was crap. I couldn’t read the expression on his face, but it definitely wasn’t forgiveness. It definitely wasn’t anger either though.

“You didn’t sing,” he pointed out, sounding a bit disappointed.

I shrugged. “I told you my singing isn’t great.”

I placed the guitar back where I found it. “I was singing the words in my head,” he admitted. “I was waiting for you to sing.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You knew the song?”

He rolled his eyes. “Obviously. ‘With or without you’ right?”

I nodded. Then an idea hit me. “Hey,” I said cautiously, “you could sing while I play.”

He didn’t even consider it before he gave a short humourless laugh as a response. “Don’t be stupid. And also don’t forget, I’m still mad at you.”

I smiled at him. “Have I not won your heart by playing my song? Usually that’s what happens in movies.”

Nico’s mouth twitched and I could tell he was trying not to smile. “I’m not a dumb movie character.”

I sat down next to him on the couch, much closer than I was before. “I think you should sing,” I told him. “Just in front of me. You’ll complete my song.”

Nico huffed. “I don’t sing,” he replied in a soft voice.

“Have you ever tried?”

He shrugged which wasn’t really an answer. His eyes glanced down at my lips for a second, and his face was as unreadable as ever.

Then suddenly, he stood up. “I’m going to bed,” he announced. “And you probably should too.”

He marched over to the bathroom and slammed the door. Well so much for making it up to him. I went over to the bed to get changed, then realised I didn’t have any pyjamas. I wasn’t going to take some of Nico’s without him offering them to me, and I didn’t particularly want to ask...

I sighed. When Nico was done in the bathroom, he collapsed onto the bed and snuggled in his duvet. I went to brush my teeth. When I remerged, Nico was on the far side of the bed, almost falling off, and facing away from the centre.

“I can sleep on the couch,” I offered.

Nico shot me a dark look. “Can’t you see that I’ve made space for you?”

I rolled my eyes. Since he was at the very edge, he’d practically left me the whole double bed to myself. I shrugged off my scrubs and scrambled into the bed.

After a couple of seconds, I made up my mind. I shuffled all the way to Nico’s side of the bed, where he was facing in the opposite direction, and pressed up against him. I wrapped my arm around his stomach and buried my face in his neck.

“Will...” he protested, but his voice had less anger in it than before.

“You said you wanted to take care of me? Cuddling is a form of care.”

Nico pondered that... or maybe he was just starting to fall asleep. After a few moments, he asked, “Are you... not wearing a shirt?”

I smiled. “Does that bother you?”

“Hmph,” he replied, which I took as ‘No, but I’m not going to admit it because I’m still supposed to be mad’.

We lay in silence for a couple of minutes, but I could tell that Nico was still awake. I wished I knew what he was thinking. It probably wasn’t the same as what I was thinking: that we should’ve slept in this position before because it was really freaking comfortable.

“I’ll try harder,” I whispered, “to take care of myself.”

Nico let out a breath. “You better,” he replied. Then after a pause, he added, “Thank you.”

I turned my head slightly to kiss the back of his neck. He shivered and gave out a soft sigh. So I did it again. “Will,” he said in his breathless voice, “I’m trying to sleep and you’re not helping.”

I smiled. “Sorry.”

Then I pulled Nico closer and rested my head against his warm back. I fell asleep feeling the steady rise and fall of his breaths.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

The following weeks went by really fast. The longer that Cecil didn’t show up, the more anxious people got. Especially Will, who I could tell was particularly affected by the son of Hermes’ disappearance. He would talk less at meal times, and spend more time in the infirmary.

I did what I could to help. I visited him during his shifts and gave him sandwiches and blueberry muffins. I also suggested that we spend some of our free time going through the books in the big house library, but after a few days, Will insisted that we give up. We didn’t have enough information to research further.

The mood at camp got a bit more ominous, and I started skipping my training classes so that I could spend more time in the infirmary, to keep Will company. He taught me some more basic medical skills.

When Ellis disappeared a week after Cecil, we all knew that it wasn’t a coincidence. Sure, he could’ve went off on some kind of spontaneous quest, but nobody really believed that. Chiron seemed to avoid any questions about the matter, but still insisted we all be careful and stick together until we found the missing campers.

Will spent most of his nights in my cabin because apparently, I couldn’t be trusted to sleep alone. I was secretly happy about that though because we always had fun watching our shows or playing the video games that Will had bought me. And, I had someone to cuddle with at night. Will was like my own personal hot water bottle.

Then, on the morning of the twenty sixth of January, we were all sitting at breakfast when Chiron told us the news of Miranda’s disappearance. That was the final straw, because we all knew of Miranda’s power and authority. Whatever was happening, it was a big problem if it had taken her.

Chiron didn’t even reiterate the camp rules before he cantered off with a worried expression on his face after delivering the news.

Will slumped in his seat. “Three disappearances in three weeks,” he summed up as he placed his spoon back into his untouched cereal bowl.

“If it carries on like this,” Kayla chimed in, “we could be out of campers by March.”

I shuddered. I hoped that wasn’t the case, but I knew that if we didn’t do something about this soon, Kayla’s prediction was probably accurate.

“We just need to stick together,” Austin said. “Whatever’s driving the campers away, it won’t be able to take us if we’re in a group.”

I nodded slightly but didn’t answer. All of the disappearances seemed to happen overnight, the time when we couldn’t really be in big groups...

We all fell into an uncomfortable silence.

“Well,” Will announced, “I better get to the infirmary.”

“I’ll go with you,” Kayla offered. “Campers are too scared to take my archery class right now so...”

“You guys have fun,” Austin said, “I’m going to go and practice a new song I’m working on.”

I squeezed Will’s hand as we got up to leave. “I’m going to go and take a shower,” I told him. “I’ll come and visit when I’m done.”

Will nodded and smiled. Although, he was still a bit put out from the news, so his expression was kind of sad. I didn’t expect mine to be much better. “I’ll see you then.”

*

I stepped into the shower and let the scalding hot water flow over me. The burning sensation spread from my shoulders and all the way down to my toes. I loved the feeling. The pins and needles that sparked in my fingers and toes as the warmth rushed into my skin. I stretched out my neck and my arms, flexing my muscles, to try and relieve some of the tension.

I hated feeling helpless. Out of control. In the dark. The knot of worry in my stomach got tighter as my mind wandered to the place that I’d been carefully avoiding for the past few weeks.

What if Will went missing? Or even Kayla or Austin? If things carried on as they were, I felt like it was inevitable. And I couldn’t lose them. The thought of being at camp without Will... not to sound dramatic, but he was kind of like my anchor here. A constant that I could count on. He made camp feel like home. If I lost that... I didn’t know what I’d do.

I thought about how I scolded Will when he overworked himself. The truth was, I was honestly terrified of losing him, and the last thing I wanted was for him to get hurt...

My train of thought shifted to the night that he’d arrived at my cabin six hours later than he’d promised. The idiot didn’t even realise that he was exhausted. But I could feel it. I can always sense when others are close to death. Not that Will was close to death, but he was definitely closer to it than he was when we had been kissing earlier that day. Sensing that on him had sent me into a panic.

I groaned at the memory of him playing that stupid song for me in a pathetic attempt to make amends. I guess that made me pathetic too since it had worked. I smiled at the thought of his fingers dancing along the strings, as if they knew exactly where to go and what to press to make such a beautiful sound.

Before I knew it, I was humming the tune to ‘With or without you’ while I washed my hair. I stepped back under the shower to rinse just as I got to the chorus, and the heat from the water gave me the confidence to start singing softly.

“With or without you..... I can’t live..... with or without you....”

My voice got stronger as I ruffled my hair up, and started scrubbing my body. By the time I’d finished and shut off the water, I was feeling like I’d sang in a full on concert. I was never really one to sing in the shower; just the thought made me cringe slightly. But the memory of Will’s guitar had inspired me.

I dried off quickly, now wanting to get to the infirmary as quickly as I could. I moisturised and then wrapped the towel around my waist before I left the bathroom to pick out some clothes.

When I opened the bathroom door, I ran right into Will, who was sitting on my bed with a big smile on his face. “You can sing!” he exclaimed happily.

“Styx!” I yelped involuntarily. I could feel my whole body flushing. Not just from the knowledge that he’d heard me, but also because I only had a towel on as he looked me up and down. My mouth was wide open in shock, and I’m sure my eyebrows were scrunched up in annoyance.

“You... what... Will!”

He seemed to notice my embarrassment and my useless attempt to cover my torso with my arms. “Oh shit,” he muttered, but he still had a slight smile on his face. “Sorry. I thought you’d change in the bathroom.”

He averted his eyes and I rushed to get dressed. I threw on a normal pair of black jeans and a t-shirt that Will had included in his Christmas care package for me. I think he mentioned that the design was from a band he liked.

When I was decent, I turned back towards him. He was lying down on my bed with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, and he was humming the damn song. “You spied on me!” I accused.

He quickly sat up and looked apologetically at me. “It wasn’t like that,” he assured. I raised my eyebrows up at him and he continued. “When we got to the infirmary, I realised that I’d left you alone. Kayla told me she could hold down the fort for a bit whilst I checked on you, so here I am.”

My glare intensified. I couldn’t believe Will had listened to me sing. That was private! I felt so... exposed.

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” he defended.

I let out a laugh. “Yeah. You were only sitting right outside the shower. How could you not eavesdrop?”

He sighed. “I’m sorry. But when I came in, I just heard this distant melody and I had to check it out. I didn’t realise it was you!”

I still wasn’t impressed. “Because the Hades cabin has so many other occupants?”

He shrugged. “Well I hadn’t heard the noise before so I got scared...”

I laughed again. “Don’t play that card, Solace. Do you think you can get away with this with your pretty face and your claims that you just wanted to make sure that I was okay?”

He smiled at me. “You think I’m pretty?” he asked teasingly.

I groaned then muttered, “Yeah. Pretty fucking annoying.”

He gave me an adorable pout and I couldn’t help but smile triumphantly at him. I went to put my towel away in the wash basket before he could give me a retort.

When I came back he said, “You’re really good by the way.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your singing,” he clarified. “Your voice is amazing. I could’ve mistaken you as a child of Apollo if I didn’t know better.”

I knew he was just saying that to be nice. And maybe so that I’d agree to sing for him when he asked again. But that didn’t stop me smiling at the compliment.

“You should sing at the next campfire,” he told me.

I gestured to the guitar that was propped up against the wall across the room. “You should play the guitar.” I suggested it not only to point out the hypocrisy, but also because I had seen how happy he was when he played for me. I couldn’t help but think that he’d enjoy the experience, unlike me.

He didn’t reply straight away. His eyes flicked between me and the guitar nervously. “I’ll play if you sing then,” he finally said.

I snorted. “I’m not singing in public.”

“Okay. You can sing in private when it’s just the two of us.”

I frowned at him. “It wouldn’t be in private because you count as the public.”

He smiled at me. “Really? We’ve done some pretty private things...” He trailed off to let me pick out the meaning of his words. He could’ve been hinting at a lot of things.

I blushed, which probably undermined my scowl. I pulled myself together when I remembered that he’d just eavesdropped on me a few minutes ago. I cleared my throat. “I am not singing to give you a reward for spying on me,” I repeated. “And you can leave if you’re going to keep pestering me.”

He laughed and held up his hands. “Alright alright. I’ve got it. No need to kick me out.”

He got up from the bed and deposited himself on the couch like he owned the place. “So,” he said casually, “what are we watching?”

I gritted my teeth. Why did I like this absolute moron? “‘We’ are not watching anything. You’ve got your infirmary shift, and since you’ve annoyed me, I won’t be visiting,” I said sternly. Then under my breath, but loud enough so that he could hear, I muttered, “Gods, I can’t stand another second of looking at your smug face.”

Will shrugged and picked up the remote. “Well, if you really insist, I guess I can stay for a couple of hours.”

I groaned. “I don’t want you to stay.” It wasn’t really true, but I wanted him to at least acknowledge that I was mad.

He looked at me. “What was that? You want to watch another Star Wars movie? Great choice! I’ll get it ready.”

“Will! Give me the damn remote!” Star Wars was the last straw. I was not watching that crap.

He stared at me for a second. “Nope.” Then he continued scrolling through the movies on the screen.

Ugh his stubbornness. I swear to the gods-

I lunged across the sofa at him, ready to grab the remote. He was expecting it though, and he raised his arm in the air as I reached him. I climbed over him very unceremoniously and tried to grab the thing out of his hand, but he kept waving his arm just out of my reach.

“What’s the matter, di Angelo?” he taunted. “Too short?”

Well that gave me the motivation I needed. How dare he make fun of my height when I’m only a couple of inches shorter than him. I climbed further on top of him and grabbed the collar of his shirt to pull him down onto the sofa. He grunted as I used my strength to lower him, so that he was lying flat on his back with me on top of him.

He was still waving his arm around trying to keep me from getting the remote. I had to lean forward, so that the top of my chest was level with his face, in order to reach his hand.

Just as I was about to grasp the remote, he kissed me. Well, he kissed me where he could reach, which was the bit of skin exposed just above my t-shirt, in between my collar bones. It still felt good enough to give me pause though, so he did it again, more confidently this time.

“Stop that,” I managed. I made another reach for the remote, but Will’s hands seemed further away. Or maybe I’d slid down slightly. Will didn’t stop. And I let him kiss me there, and then my neck and then my jaw, because gods, I was only human (half human). When this stupid guy kissed me, I can’t do anything but melt into it, as sparks dance all across my skin where his lips make contact.

And then he was kissing my lips. And I didn’t even know how that happened. But I was kissing him back, our lips moving in perfect sync as I relaxed into him. A distant part of my brain noted that Will had also relaxed and he’d brought his hands down to rest along my sides.

We kissed for a few more seconds. All the tension rushed out of me and I could only feel Will. All of him. And my mind was getting fuzzier and fuzzier, engulfed in the pleasant peacefulness of just us together. Because I lived for these moments. They were perfect... and it always felt so freaking good...

I tore myself away from Will, and while he was trying to comprehend what had happened, I grabbed the remote from his hand. “Wha...” he stuttered. “Nico!”

I climbed off of him and sat down on the other end of the sofa. “We’re watching what I want to watch,” I declared.

Chapter Text

Will POV

Nico moved to the other side of the sofa and declared, “We’re watching what I want to watch.”

I sighed in defeat and let him choose his show. I had really only held the remote back to tease him. I didn’t know how else to make it better, after I’d heard him sing. I’d tried apologising, and tried complimenting him (which was all true and sincere obviously). And when that didn’t work, I knew I’d have to appeal to his competitive side to butter him up.

I wouldn’t say that it was a complete success, but he hadn’t kicked me out yet which was a plus. He’d also kissed me back for a few minutes which was another definite positive. I still felt all tingly and fuzzy inside, and it took me a few moments to calm down and actually sit up to see the TV.

Nico had put on this weird anime show that I’d never watched.

“What is this?” I asked.

He gave me a dry smile. “None of your business.”

I sighed. “Nico, I said I was sorry.” He ignored me. “Alright,” I relented. “I’ll admit that spying on you was wrong! I didn’t mean to! I should’ve stepped away from your angelic voice as soon as I heard it.”

He raised his eyebrows up at me and turned the TV volume down. That was good. I realised that I just needed to be more dramatic and less pathetically whiny.

I continued my speech. “And I truly recognise that I was the villain in this little story,” I said, raising my voice slightly and looking at a point on the ceiling. “May my memory of your beautiful voice be ripped out of my head by the gods! May my crimes be laid bare before me whilst you decide a fitting punishment!”

I opened my eyes to gauge Nico’s reaction of my performance, since I hadn’t realised I’d closed them for the dramatic effect.

His mouth was twitching at the edges and his eyes were crinkled up as he tried his best not to laugh. “You’re such an idiot, William Solace.”

I smiled at him. I was pretty sure that was code for ‘I forgive you’.

I sighed and looked down at myself to find out why I was suddenly feeling cold. “And your wet hair has soaked my shirt,” I complained.

Nico really did laugh then. “That can be your punishment then.”

I sighed in relief. Until Nico continued. “Although, that little stunt was all your fault, so really I should come up with something else.”

I watched as Nico scrunched up his face in concentration as he tried to think of something. I became aware that his hair really was still wet. It was dripping onto his t-shirt. “Did you even try to dry your hair?” I asked.

He gave me an unimpressed look. “I guess I was more concerned about covering my naked body than ridding my hair of water.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to get the image of Nico wrapped in a towel out of my mind, since it was making me dizzy. I got up and grabbed a dry towel from the bathroom. Then I sat down next to Nico and started drying his hair for him.

He resisted at first as he said, “I’m not a baby!”

That didn’t stop me. “You’re my little baby ghost king,” I teased.

He groaned. “I thought you were done with those cheesy godsawful nicknames.”

I patted at his hair again. “I’m only limited to my imagination.”

After I had dried his hair as much I could with the towel, I discarded it and starting running my fingers through his hair instead. Nico didn’t protest. He actually leaned into me as I did it, and let out small sighs.

I ran my fingertips across his scalp and fiddled with his silky strands of hair. It was so damn soft. I swear, everything about Nico was soft. You just had to spend enough time with him to figure it out. Not for the first time, I was exceptionally glad that I had.

I kept on running my hands through his hair, enjoying the sensation, and enjoying when Nico made little contented noises. He leaned further into me, relaxing into my touches. I only realised I was knitting his hair into a deliberate pattern when I stopped to look back. I had arranged a small tuft of hair into a loosely braided plait.

Apparently the weaving workshops at camp had caused my fingers to remember how to braid. I always thought those lessons were pointless, but I took them anyway because sometimes, just offence practice, like shooting or sword fighting, gets boring. I guess it did come in handy... although definitely not in the way Chiron had probably thought.

“Don’t stop,” Nico said sleepily. He was now lying down completely with his head in my lap. Well, I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. Plus, it was calming just being here with Nico. The show in the background was still playing softly, and Nico’s warmth was making me drowsy. I realised how much I liked it when he laid on me. It made me feel needed.

I quickly continued, gently sectioning off another tuft and braiding it. I worked all around his head, using all the longest parts in my weaving patterns. I only did it loosely, but they seemed to stay put without any elastic, at least for now.

By the time the lame anime show had ended, Nico had small neat braids running all around the back of his head. When he got up to switch the TV off, his droopy eyes, coupled with his new hairstyle made him look cuter than he’d ever been before.

“What are you staring at?” he demanded.

I smiled at him mischievously. “Nothing,” I replied. “You just look super cute with the new plaits I braided for you.”

His eyes widened and he jumped off of the couch to go and check himself in the bathroom mirror. A few seconds later, I heard him yell, “I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS, SOLACE.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I need to go to the infirmary for my shift,” I replied. “But I’ll see you at the campfire later!”

Before he could stop me, I dashed off to the infirmary.

*

The temperature was really cold after my shift, so I headed back to the Apollo cabin before the campfire to pick up a hoodie or a jacket.

When I got to my bunk, I opened the drawer below my bed where I kept my jumpers. It was empty. That was weird. I looked in all the drawers to see if I’d misplaced them somehow, but I knew I hadn’t. I was very organised with my stuff.

Maybe they were all in the wash? That didn’t seem right either though. I always plan to do my laundry so that I didn’t run out of clothes during the week.

I decided to forget about the hoodies and search for them later, since I was already pretty late. I opened my closet where I usually kept my jacket. But that wasn’t there either.

In its place though, was another jacket. Almost identical, except for this was the neon pink version. Nico’s jacket. That little-

He’d taken all my hoodies and replaced my jacket with his! Wow. I smiled to myself despite the fact that he’d pranked me. I considered just going to the campfire without a jacket, but it was freaking freezing out there.

I shrugged the jacket on and studied myself in the mirror. I didn’t really the mind the colour, but it did clash with my blonde hair. Not to mention that it was one size too small so it left me looking like an oversized kindergartener. I pushed that thought out of my mind and told myself that I was being paranoid. One thing was for certain though: Nico looked a lot better in this colour than me.

I sighed and made my way to the campfire.

When Nico saw me approach (probably from about a mile away) he raised his eyebrows and snickered at me. “I like your jacket,” he commented. He was, of course, wearing my blue one, even though he had his own leather jacket back in his cabin.

“Ha ha ha,” I said deadpan and sat myself beside him. “You managed to get your braids out, I see,” I teased.

He scowled at me. “It took way too long,” he complained. “I nearly didn’t have enough time to steal all of your hoodies and swap the jackets.” He sighed as if I’d caused him a huge inconvenience.

I shook my head at him. “Where are my hoodies?”

He made out like he was thinking about that. “Well, I’m wearing one,” he undid his zip to show me. “And the rest are in my cabin.”

“Great,” I muttered.

“Oh,” he said, pretending to just remember something, “and that’s not even the best part.”

He looked at me expectantly. I sighed. “What is the best part, my dear?”

He made a face at the term of endearment, but carried on without mentioning it. “I’ve decided on your punishment for spying on me.”

Oh gods. This couldn’t be good. “What is it?” I asked.

He paused for an excruciatingly long amount of time, pretending to admire the pink coat. “Nothing that I wouldn’t have persuaded you to do anyway,” he told me. “And something you’ll actually enjoy if you gave it a chance.”

I suppressed a groan. “Go on,” I told him, because the tension was killing me.

He gave me a casual smile. “I told Kayla and Austin that you’d do a solo for the singalong,” he beamed at me.

I gasped. “You did WHAT?” Oh gods oh gods oh gods. Nervous jittery energy started pooling in my gut.

“Will! You’re nearly up,” Kayla called from the centre of the amphitheater, then she did a double take and giggled slightly. “Nice jacket. It’s a tad small though.”

I groaned and turned back to my grinning boyfriend. “Nico! Give me back my jacket if you want me to do this song. Everyone’s going to stare at me.”

He pouted. “Aw. But I kind of like my blue one. The sleeves are slightly too big for me so I can do this.” He reached out and slapped my face with the empty fabric of his too long sleeves.

I scowled at him and he gave me an innocent look. “Have fun with your playing!” he said. Then, as an afterthought, he added, “You really are very good.”

Before I could respond to the compliment, he got up and announced, “I’m going to make myself a s’more so I can enjoy it while I watch you play.” He walked off in the direction of the campfire, and I had no choice but to walk over to Kayla who was handing me a guitar.

“Come on, Will,” she said. “The campers are getting restless. Hurry up and get on with it.”

I took the instrument from her and prepared to play. I could’ve easily refused, but I wanted Nico to forgive me. Besides, I couldn’t have him know that he’d given me a ‘punishment’ I couldn’t handle.

I tried to ignore the stares as I walked to the centre where Austin usually played. At least no one made fun of me. That made me confident that I looked at least a bit less ridiculous than I imagined myself.

I sat down on the seat, shuffling slightly as I got into a comfortable position. I took a deep breath and positioned my hands on the guitar, preparing for the first chord. I tried to run my mind through the various chord changes I needed to remember, but as soon as I did, my mind went blank, and I panicked.

Before I could retreat though, I looked over at Nico who seemed to be watching me intently, completely forgetting about his marshmallow that had caught fire on the end of his stick. He gave me a reassuring smile and his compliment from a couple of minutes ago rung in my head. Alright. I could do this. I just needed to stop overthinking.

When I started playing, it seemed that everyone forgot about my appearance, or maybe they didn’t really care in the first place. They started singing along happily to the lyrics. Music flooded the amphitheater as my fingers moved by their own accord, just like they had in the Hades cabin with Nico. I found that I didn’t actually mind playing in front of people. Especially when everyone was singing along loudly to my music.

I caught Nico’s eye as I got to the third chorus and he was smiling widely at me, swaying slightly on the spot and clapping his hands to the beat. He even gave me a thumbs up, that I was pretty sure wasn’t sarcastic.

When the song ended and I played the fade out, I let out a deep breath I didn’t know I was holding in.

But, instead of applause, everybody scrambled to their feet, looking at something behind me with shocked expressions on their faces.

I was confused at first, wondering if this was some kind of new silent clapping ritual. Then I turned around to see what they were all gawking at.

I made out two figures emerging from the forest. The taller of the two looked absolutely terrible with a black eye and a mashed up nose. He had blood splattered across his hair, neck and face. He grinned nonetheless. “Oh, hi! I’m Apollo!”

I dropped my guitar in shock as the guy passed out and fell on his face.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

“Significant annoyance?” Will asked incredulously when we got back to the Hades cabin.

He had spent almost all night trying to heal the beaten up guy who claimed to be Apollo, so he must’ve been tired, but he still looked like he was ready to attack me (in a playful way).

I’d helped Will get medical supplies whilst Apollo’s young companion had started to explain what had happened. When the guy was stable, I’d left to have a quick nap whilst Will, Kayla and Austin hauled the patient into the Apollo cabin. I’d met up with Will later on and confirmed that the mortal guy was, indeed, the god Apollo.

Then Will and I had gone around the cabins, telling everyone to continue to use the buddy system, and that Chiron would explain everything soon. I hoped that we’d actually get some answers.

Will had looked like his head was about to explode from the shock of his godly parent appearing at camp as a mortal, but now he looked almost calm. I wondered if he was actually okay with this. Demigods do eat weirdness for breakfast.

“What?” I laughed at him. “I didn’t know if Apollo would... I don’t know... think it’s weird,” I defended weakly.

Will shook his head in exasperation. “You do know that Kayla’s mortal parent is a guy? Apollo would definitely not have a problem with... this.” Then he looked slightly nervous before asking, “Do you have a problem with this?”

I thought about that for a second. Will hadn’t really called me his boyfriend a lot, so maybe I wasn’t used to it. But considering what he meant to me, I decided that I didn’t mind. I guess I just got defensive when he admitted to a total stranger that I was gay. I didn’t know how Apollo would have reacted.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” I told him honestly. “I just... it’s a new word. And it might take some time to get used to admitting it to other people.”

And I would get used to it. The more time I spent with Will, and even my other friends and the other campers, the more I realised that this was okay. People didn’t really judge me based on who I was attracted to. They judged me based on more important things. Like whether or not I was likely to kill them if they annoyed me. I knew not everyone were as accepting as the people at camp, but I told myself that I’d deal with that when the time came.

Plus, I didn’t want to upset Will. I knew he was really comfortable with who he was, so he wouldn’t have a problem with something like this. I didn’t want him to think that my reluctance to use the word had anything to do with him.

As I studied his reaction though, Will looked relieved at my response. He gave me a small smile. “So I can call you my boyfriend in private?” he asked.

I nodded. “I would deem that acceptable for now.”

“Okay,” Will smiled and then said in a very posh voice, “What would you, as my boyfriend, like to do before Chiron wants us to meet back at the dining pavilion?”

I rolled my eyes and mimicked his voice as I said, “You may choose the activity as long as you, as my significant annoyance, stop using that stupid voice.”

Will pouted and tried to lunge for me but I moved out of the way. “It’s bad enough you called me that in front of my dad,” he said as he tried to get me again. “Please don’t start calling me that in front of everyone else. Come here!”

He made another attempt to get to me, but I had run across to the other side of the cabin. I didn’t know why he wanted to catch me, but I decided it couldn’t be in my best interests to let him. Also, watching his frustrated groans as he chased me was fun.

“Don’t wear yourself out, Solace,” I told him as I dodged him again. “We both know I have better stamina than you.”

He ran to the front of the sofa, where I was standing, but I ran back around. “Shut up,” he panted, still attempting to chase me. “I need to get you back for calling me that horrible name.”

I laughed at him. “Now you know how I feel with the nicknames that you give me.”

He jumped over the sofa and I just about managed to make it back in front, next to the TV before he could get me. “At least the names I give you are cute,” he said.

I gasped in mock outrage, which turned into a bit of a squeal (yes, I was not proud of it) when his fingers nearly clasped over my t-shirt. “Significant annoyance is cute!” I defended, in an attempt to annoy him enough to slow him down.

“Stop calling me that!” he said as he lunged at me again, clearly just more motivated by my taunts.

But I was starting to get tired from running around the cabin, and I needed an edge. “What? Significant annoyance?” I asked innocently, and he scowled as I ran to my bunk, on the opposite side from where he was. “My significant annoyance can’t catch me,” I taunted. “He’s too slow. His stamina is so crap. He’s too dumb to outsmart me. And-“

I let out a yelp because Will had jumped over my bed quicker than I could’ve blinked, and pushed me down so that I was lying flat on the duvet. I tried to get up, annoyed at myself because I’d let him get me, but he climbed on top of me and pinned me down.

“Will!” I cried. “Get off!”

He looked down at me evilly. “Why would I do that? Besides I’m too slow and dumb apparently.”

Oh no. This couldn’t be good. I attempted to use my hands to try and lift him off, but he was pretty anchored to the bed. I’d taught him how to pin his opponents properly on the floor during our lessons and now I regretted it.

He tried to grab my hands, but I moved them out of his reach every time he got close. If he managed to pin my arms, I was definitely done for.

“Nico,” he teased, “stop resisting. I’ve already won.”

I shook my head. “Nope. You haven’t won. You’re way too significantly annoyin-” I gasped at the end of my taunt because Will had softly pinched my side.

He smirked at me triumphantly. Then, knowing that it got my attention, he poked me there again. I yelped, because gods, I was sensitive there. “Stop that!”

He raised his eyebrows. “What? This?” He pinched me again near my ribs, and it was all I could do hold back giving a reaction.

“No! Wait!” I cried, when I saw that he was getting ready to do it again.

Will laughed at me gleefully. “Oh my gods! Nico di Angelo is ticklish!”

I struggled against him, already knowing where this was going, but he was too heavy, and I didn’t have any leverage. “No, I’m not!” I protested, as I squirmed. “Will, I swear, if you don’t get off-“

But he effectively shut me up by wiggling his fingers against my sides again. Ticklish sensations sparked across my entire nervous system and I realised that I was laughing. I tried to defend myself, but my arms were moving sluggishly and I didn’t have the energy.

“You say you have good stamina, huh?” he laughed. “Shall we test that?”

“STOP!” I pleaded between my giggles. “WILL!”

He ignored my pleas, but he smiled at me and asked, “Oh so it’s ‘Will’ now huh?”

I couldn’t even answer because he kept tickling me, and I only managed weak attempts to beg him to stop.

When I thought he’d finally stopped, he leaned down and started attacking my neck with kisses. Usually that was a good thing, but gods, it did not help my current state. His kissing only increased the sensation and soon I was clawing uselessly at his back and shoulders in a vain attempt to push him away.

“Does this tickle?” he teased.

“NO!” I screamed. “STOP!”

“If you want me to stop, then you must be ticklish.”

He continued scribbling his fingers along my sides and up to my ribs. He probably knew all the best spots because of his fucking extensive anatomy knowledge. I was absolutely defenceless to stop him, but that didn’t stop me wiggling around and gasping, “Will! Please!”

He reached a spot near my hip bones and I completely lost it. Gods, it was just too sensitive. I couldn’t cope. His fingers were dancing expertly along my skin, and every nerve ending was screaming in protest. “PLEASE! NOT THERE!” I pleaded.

“What? Here?” Will asked casually, as he continued to tickle me there. I tried to hold in my laughter because I knew it was only egging him on, but I physically couldn’t. I slapped at his hands weakly, but he wasn’t even fazed, and he just carried on with his tickling.

Eventually he stopped. It must’ve been only a few minutes, but it felt like forever. He let me catch my breath, but remained sitting on top of me smiling smugly. I wanted to punch the idiot, but my arms wouldn’t work.

“Have you had enough?” he asked innocently.

I reached out to slap him, but my arms were still weak and he just dodged out of the way. “Get off!” I repeated. Gods this was humiliating. I swear-

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Alright,” he relented and I sighed in relief.

Unfortunately though, he continued. “Only if you promise not to call me your ‘significant annoyance’ anymore,” he demanded.

“No!” I cried as I tried to slap him again. “I’m proud of that name!”

He shook his head and smiled wickedly. “Are you sure that’s your final answer? I know your weakness now,” he teased threateningly.

I groaned, trying to pull myself together. “I don’t have weaknesses,” I said stubbornly. He smiled knowingly at me and I really did not like the challenge in his eyes. “Will,” I pleaded again. “Get off.”

He shrugged and ignored me. “Then you leave me no choice.”

He scooted down slightly and started to lift my t-shirt. “Wait! What are you doing?” I asked. But he didn’t answer. I struggled again because I couldn’t take anymore tickling, but he was still partly on top of me and my muscles still felt like jelly.

“Last chance,” he warned. “Promise me.”

“What are you going t-“ but he cut me off as he lowered his head and blew a massive raspberry on my bare stomach. I don’t think I’d ever laughed so loudly. I couldn’t even form words, it tickled so much.

He lifted his head. “Another one?”

“No! Please, Will!” I gasped as I tried to control my laughing.

He did it again and I screamed with laughter. When he lifted his head again, he teased, “I don’t think you can take much more. Just give in.”

I honestly wanted to give in. He was right; I couldn’t take it anymore. But before I could answer, he blew a third raspberry, and I shrieked again.

When he looked up after this time though, he actually let me catch my breath. “Fine!” I yelped, when I could manage it. “I promise! Gods, please let me go.”

Will sat up looking satisfied, the big jerk. I stayed lying down, just panting and letting the residual ticklish sparks leave my body. I couldn’t believe I’d let that happen. Damn it.

Will handed me a bottle of water. I snatched it from him and said, “I really hate you right now.”

He just smiled and stroked my hair as I drank. I let him because I didn’t have the energy to bat him away.

I turned to him. “If you ever do that again, I swear to the gods...”

He shrugged. “What are you going to do about it, di Angelo?”

I thought about that for a second. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “But I know that you’ll regret it.”

He smiled wider. “Oh, I’m looking forward to that.”

I nudged him weakly in the shoulder. “Shut up. You’re on thin fucking ice with me.”

He smiled and shrugged. Then he removed his hand from my hair.

“Who told you to stop?” I snapped.

He gave me a knowing laugh. When he saw that I wasn’t amused, he kissed me on the cheek and continued to stroke his fingers through my hair.

I closed my eyes and relaxed. But in my head, I was promising myself that I would definitely get him back for that.

Chapter Text

Will POV

I was once again tied to Nico by our ankles, wandering around the labyrinth for Harley’s three legged death race. We’d already found two of the three apples that we needed to finish the race, but we’d been down here for much longer than the last time, and I was getting tired.

“That was a close one,” Nico muttered as we loped away from the three headed crocodiles. We had stumbled upon a sewer, and apparently Harley had expanded his killing creativities to living creatures as well as machines. We had barely made it out, which was a miracle in itself due to the copious amounts of liquid on the floors, which was definitely not water.

“At least we’re not covered in sewer fluids,” I tried to be optimistic.

Nico didn’t answer and I couldn’t blame him. I also had a bad feeling about this. I knew no one was supposed to go near the woods, but still, that hadn’t stopped the other campers from going missing.

We trudged along in silence, keeping an eye out for the glow of another apple. In the grand scheme of things, it felt kind of nice to be doing normal camp activities. It took my mind off of the splitting headache I got whenever I thought about Apollo.

Ever since he’d stumbled out of the woods, I’d felt strangely connected to him. After all, he was who I prayed to whenever I needed strength, and he was who I had to thank for my healing powers. I felt like it was my responsibility to help him. It was just so damn weird to think that my deity father was now the same age as me, and was able to get hurt or killed.

However, I had to believe that he’d help us. It wasn’t a coincidence that he’d turned up, and I hoped that he’d be able to figure this out and stop the disappearances.

“I see a light,” Nico said uncertainly, pulling me out of my thoughts.

I squinted through the darkness of the tunnel and saw that he was right. “It looks more green than gold though,” I pointed out.

He shrugged. “Let’s go check it out.”

“Yeah,” I said sarcastically, “because that’s the natural next step when you see an ominous green light glowing in the distance.”

Nico scoffed. “Don’t be scared, Solace. You don’t need to be with me as your partner.”

Before I could protest, Nico forged ahead, dragging me with him by the leg. “I really hate these races,” I grumbled as we headed towards the light. “Not because of the death or the violence or even the crocodile infested sewers. But because I have to be tied to my stubborn boyfriend.”

Nico kept walking. “Don’t pretend you’re not enjoying being tied to me,” he teased.

I rolled my eyes. “Maybe at first,” I admitted. “But not when you’re dragging me along like a puppy.”

“If you don’t want to be dragged like a puppy, stop complaining and start walking.”

I sighed and did what he asked. The green glow got brighter and brighter until it was almost neon in colour. “It looks radioactive,” I whined. “If I grow another limb or something because of this, you might stop finding me attractive.”

Nico creeped along, closer and closer to the source. “Will,” he said, “your whining isn’t very attractive.”

I ignored him. “And even though I’ll be the only three armed demigod in history, and it’ll probably look gross, you wouldn’t be able to break up with me, because it’ll be your fault!”

We reached the end of the corridor and Nico was about to peak around the corner to see the source of the light.

“Actually,” I said loudly which made him pause for a second, “having three hands might come in handy. With my healing, and you know, some other things.”

I felt a sense of triumph as a light blush started to spread across his cheeks. I hadn’t actually meant it that way, but it was nice to know that he associated... that with my hands. “Will, can you shut up?” he requested when he had composed himself. “I swear I’ll push you head first into the light if you say one more irritating thing.”

I smiled at him and I couldn’t stop myself from retorting. “Well, now I know you just want an excuse to get me to grow an extra hand. You know, you could’ve just asked if you were that desperate for-“

Nico cut me off by pushing me across the corridor where the light was coming from. Apparently though, in his frustration, he’d forgotten that he was tied to me, and he came tumbling after me.

“WHOAAA!” we both screamed.

In the middle of our path, a translucent barrier rose from the floor to the ceiling. A neon green jelly like substance was behind it. I managed to skid to a halt right before I reached the barrier, but Nico crashed into me with his momentum and pushed us forward. I shrieked and we bashed against the barrier.

When we made contact, it completely dissolved, and all the jelly like gloop rained down on top of us. We were completely covered with the stuff. It smelt like rotten eggs, and it felt like a hundred slimy fish were falling down on us.

I looked back at Nico to thank him for getting us into this mess, but when I turned, I saw that he was staring at me and laughing. Residual neon green gloop was covering his jacket and his hair and face, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was laughing at me so hard, he doubled over and had to grab my arm from falling over. “You look,” he gasped out as he was laughing, “absolutely ridiculous. I mean, more so than usual. But wow, oh my gods!”

He laughed harder when I made an unimpressed face at him. I guessed I didn’t look so serious with brightly coloured jelly all around me.

I crossed my arms. “So do you!” I defended as I tried to wipe the goop out of my hair. It obviously didn’t work though because the stuff was all over my hands as well, so I probably just ended up making it worse.

I let him laugh at me for a while. The sight of his joy, mixed with the traces of gloop on him did make me smile a bit, and the knot of worry I’d been carrying around for a while dissolved slightly.

Until I heard a loud bang, like hundreds of bits of metal grinding on metal. And it was getting closer to us. “Nico,” I grabbed his arm, “we have to go.”

I sprinted off away from the sound, with Nico stumbling after me, with a small smile still on his face. I was starting to panic though, because even though it felt like we were moving away from the noise, it seemed to be getting louder and louder.

“What is that!” Nico yelled. He still looked a bit funny with his green highlights, but his expression had turned completely serious, probably sensing the trouble as well.

I continued running down corridors going in random directions and hoping for the best. “I don’t know!” I replied. “But it sounds like it’s getting closer!”

Nico pulled on my arm and slowed down. “We should run towards it,” he suggested.

“Are you crazy?” I snapped.

He shrugged. “Have you got a better idea? Whatever it is is going to catch up with us any minute. And it’d be better if we had the element of surprise.”

I thought about that. Running towards the danger did seem like the type of crazy thing that Harley would get us to do. Plus, Nico was the expert in these types of things. “Fine. But stay alert.”

He rolled his eyes at me like ‘Really? Thanks for that useless advice’. Then we ran towards the grinding sound.

Nico’s plan didn’t work. Well it did in the sense that we found the source of the noise. But it didn’t, because as it turned out, you can’t really have the element of surprise with inanimate objects.

We turned the next corner and the corridor opened up into a large circular space. Two people were already here: Holly and Laurel from the Nike cabin. They each had an apple in their hands and they were arguing about something. All around them, giant metal chainsaws in the shape of frisbees were zooming towards them, trying to prevent them from getting the golden apple that lay in the centre of the room.

Whenever one of the sisters got close to the apple, a chainsaw frisbee would explode above it, forcing them to retract their hands.

The floor that we were standing on had a wide gap separating it from the walls. I realised that all around us was a moat type thing, but the water below was at least fifty feet down.

“I’ll get the apple!” Holly shouted at her sister.

“No! You’ll lose a hand. I’ll get it!” Laurel replied.

“I want to win!” Holly argued as she tried to reach for the fruit.

“I’m going to win!” Laurel screamed as she pulled her sister’s hand back just before a chainsaw cut her pinky off. I couldn’t decide whether she was protecting her or just trying to sabotage her from grabbing the apple.

The disc shaped chainsaws circled around them, ready to explode when the Nike sisters made their next attempt to get to the apple.

“Styx,” Nico exclaimed, “they’re going to cause a massive explosion when one of them snatches the apple.”

The grinding of the chainsaws and the loud arguing of the sisters meant that they didn’t even notice we had arrived.

Dread dripped down my spine. “Yeah, let’s get out of here,” I suggested. “One of them is going to succeed/explode everything any second now.”

I tried to move, but Nico stayed put. He was staring at the apple. I gave him a questioning look. “We can get the apple whilst they’re distracted,” he whispered.

I grunted in frustration. “Yes they’ll be distracted when they get a face full of our blown up body parts,” I hissed.

Nico didn’t look impressed. Why did my boyfriend have a death wish?

“We can do it,” he insisted. “I was right before remember?”

I remembered the swinging spiky death balls from the first race. That had also seemed impossible, but at least there was a pattern to it. There was no way of getting out of a huge explosion. “This is different,” I told him.

He didn’t seem to hear me at all. Nico locked his eyes on the apple and I saw that he was determined to prove me wrong. Damn it. He was waiting for the perfect moment. I was trying to think about what I could possibly say to change his mind, when he cried, “Now!”

Before he could move though, the sisters both made a grab at the apple, probably hearing Nico’s shout and wanting to get to it first. I knew what was going to happen next, and my instincts took over. I grabbed Nico’s arm and pulled him to the edge of the room. He didn’t protest, probably because he also sensed the danger.

I saw the chainsaws dive at the Nike sisters, and they staggered up the lowering ramp that had formed from the ceiling when they’d grabbed the apple. I hoped they could run fast enough...

We couldn’t take that exit though. We were still missing an apple. I didn’t even think of the consequences as I used my strength to throw both Nico and I down the gap in the floor. The explosion roared above us and Nico gasped as we tumbled over the edge.

I saw the shrapnel from the explosion flying through the air as we fell. But only for a second before we smashed into the water below.

The cold temperature was a relief after the heat of the explosion. We sank about two metres down, and we both frantically kicked up with our arms and legs to break the surface.

I remerged from the water flailing my arms and sputtering, still tied to Nico who sounded like he was trying to cough up his lungs. We moved to the wall where there was a small ledge and I sat him down at the edge of the water. I pulled out a small bit of ambrosia for each of us.

We stayed still for a minute, just breathing heavily and chewing. At least the radioactive gloop had been washed off of us. I hoped it didn’t have any lasting magical effects. Now we just had to worry about water borne diseases and hypothermia. Hooray!

When he could talk again, Nico said, “The girls...?”

I shook my head. “Don’t worry. If they grabbed the apple, I’m sure they got out before the full force of the explosion hit them.” At least I hoped that was what had happened.

Nico nodded. After a pause he said quietly, “Yeah, maybe I miscalculated that one.”

I laughed. “You think?”

He pushed me away. “Hey we all make mistakes. Speaking of which, what were you saying earlier about not being covered in sewer fluids?”

I smiled, completely ignoring his question because I’d spotted something behind him. “Don’t worry about it. I think I’ve found our last apple.”

Nico whipped his head around and sighed in relief. “Thank the gods. Let’s get out of here. I could use a nice long break.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I felt absolutely terrible. I felt angry and helpless over Austin and Kayla’s disappearance, I felt exhausted from our time in the labyrinth, and I felt emotionally drained after watching Will have to carry such a massive burden of healing so many people whilst worrying about his siblings.

I didn’t know what I could do except stay with him and assist him with his patients. All throughout the time since we’d exited the labyrinth, he’d had this steely determination and strong willed attitude. I knew he must’ve been breaking apart inside, and it hurt me to see him carry such a massive responsibility.

With Apollo scouting out the forest, cabin seven would’ve been empty except for Will. I persuaded him to stay over in cabin thirteen when Chiron told us all to get some rest. We had to put our faith in the mortal god now, and from my experience with deities, that wouldn’t end well.

But right now, I couldn’t do anything about that. It was late. We were all tired. And Will was hurting. It would be better to recuperate tonight and start searching tomorrow.

I sat on the floor outside the bathroom because I didn’t want to get my bed sheets dirty. I tried to focus on listening to the splash of water. I’d insisted that Will shower before me. He was so tired, he didn’t even put up much of a fight.

After a while, the water shut off and Will came stumbling out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He collapsed onto my bed and stared at the ceiling.

“Will?” I asked, walking towards him.

He looked at me and I could see his eyes were a bit murky. “Go and shower, Nico. You must be really uncomfortable.”

I sighed. I felt the urge to comfort him, but I knew he wouldn’t appreciate me rubbing bits of sewer water, sweat and green gunk on him when he’d just cleaned off. So I headed for the bathroom, already stripping before I closed the door.

I must’ve taken the quickest shower I’d ever had, despite the disgustingness that was clinging to my skin. I welcomed the burn of the water, and scrubbed so hard, I might’ve rubbed some parts of myself raw. When I was done, I dried off as quickly as I could and pulled on some clean pyjamas. Then I rushed back out.

Will was still exactly where I’d left him, in his towel and staring at the ceiling. I approached him slowly, watching for a reaction, but he gave no indication that he’d even noticed me.

I handed him a bottle of water. “Drink,” I ordered.

He moved groggily and he hesitated before sitting up and accepting the bottle. I tried to look anywhere other than his bare chest and legs, because I knew my cheeks were already starting to burn.

When he’d drained half the bottle I said, “You should probably get dressed.”

He gave me a short chuckle. “Is it a bad sign that my boyfriend wants me to put my clothes on?”

I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean.” Because he should know. I felt guilty that I was gawking at him considering his state of mind and knowing what had just happened.

Will didn’t say anything. He just stared at me. I noticed that his eyes were flicking towards my lips and back up, and I knew he was about to kiss me.

“Will Solace,” I said sternly. “Put some clothes on,” I ordered in a perfect imitation of coach hedge. “Or I’ll be sleeping on the couch.”

I said it because I knew that if he made a move, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. And if something did happen, the motivation wouldn’t have come from the right place. I knew that I did want to be intimate with Will again after our skiing holiday, and I promised myself I’d make this up to him.

Will looked disappointed for a second but he quickly recovered. “Yeah,” he sighed. “You’re right.” He got up and went to the bathroom to change.

I laid back on my pillow. When he came back out, he walked around to my side of the bed and plopped down on top of me, so that his head was lying on my stomach.

“You’re making my shirt wet with your hair,” I complained.

He made to move off of me, but I held him in place. “But you can stay if you must,” I sighed, because I wanted him to continue lying on me. I ran my hands through his hair and down his neck, relieved when I felt him relax slightly.

“Nico?” he whispered so quietly, I more felt the vibrations of his voice on my sternum than actually hearing him.

“Mmm?”

“Thanks for being there.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. When was the last time anyone had thanked me for my presence? Now that I was thinking about it, it was probably never. Everyone always shied away from me or thanked me out of politeness. But I could hear in Will’s voice that he meant it. He was actually grateful to me. I couldn’t describe how much that meant, and Will probably didn’t even realise.

Instead of gushing all of that, I just said, “You were amazing. You way you controlled yourself and the situation...”

Will huffed. “It was all an act,” he admitted.

I brushed the back of his neck with my fingertips. “I know. That’s what makes it more impressive.”

Will didn’t really give a reaction to that and we fell into a comfortable silence. After a little while he sighed. “Gods, did that actually just happen?”

I didn’t know what to say. ‘Yes’ seemed unnecessary. I ended up saying, “We’ll find them,” because I really had to believe that. I couldn’t let Will’s (and my) family be taken. I’d do everything I could to get them back.

“You can’t know that,” he said quietly. Oh gods. Will being pessimistic isn’t something I’m very used to.

And I didn’t want to give him false hope. Who knew if we would get them back? Or if they were even still alive... no I wouldn’t go down that route. I just sighed. “I know how you feel. And you can’t give up hope. Because... without hope, there’s nothing left.”

He gave a quiet, “Hmm,” to show that he acknowledged my pep talk.

Okay, he didn’t want to talk. He needed a distraction, just so that he could get some rest. “You know during my trip from Greece back to camp?” I started.

He shifted in confusion. “Yeah?”

“Well my dad came to visit me and offered me a place in his palace if I ended up dying.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Yeah. Except that he suggested I decorate my walls with the bones of dead monks.”

Will snorted. “Well, you do give off a ‘I have dead bodies for my wallpaper’ kind of vibe.”

I nudged his shoulder. For some reason, when he made those kind of jokes, they seemed endearing. Maybe because, unlike everyone else, I knew he didn’t actually believe it. “Shut up. I think he was being sarcastic. I suggested that he decorate his walls like that in the first place, so he just stole my joke really.”

He raised his eyebrows and smiled knowingly. “Joke?”

I sighed. “Fine. I was being serious. It would’ve suited his aesthetic.”

Will smiled wider. “Like father like son then.”

I nudged him again. “I do not have a death aesthetic,” I complained. “This cabin’s decorations were not my idea.”

I gestured around at the dark walls and spooky looking light fixtures. I’d done what I could to make my living space at least inhabitable, like hanging a white sheet up and getting a bed that wasn’t a coffin. Unfortunately, it still looked like a tomb in here sometimes.

“Whatever the case,” Will said, “I’m not letting you decorate any place that we get together.”

I decided not to comment on the fact that he’d just said something about us living together. I definitely didn’t dwell on how it made me feel.

I scoffed. “Oh please. Like you’d be any better.”

“I think you’ll find that I have a great sense of style.”

I gave a short laugh. “How come you haven’t ever offered to redecorate this cabin then?”

Will looked at me like I was stupid. “Redecorate the Hades cabin? No, thank you. And also, I work better when I can start fresh. This place is already filled to the brim with freaky looking antiques and decor.”

I thought about that. “Alright,” I relented. “I’ll make you an offer.”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Go on.”

I thought about whether this was going a bit too far into the future, but the fact that I’d successfully distracted Will made me plough ahead. “When I bring you to the underworld-“

“When?” Will exclaimed unhappily.

I smiled and nodded. “When I bring you there, I’ll let you decorate the room Hades offered to me.”

“Um... okay. But what?” he asked.

“And,” I continued, “if I like how it turns out, I’ll let you be in charge of decorating whatever hypothetical space we end up living in in the future.”

Will seemed to be reluctant, but I knew that was to do with the fact that he was thinking about visiting the underworld.

I groaned. “And you visiting the underworld isn’t negotiable, so you might as well agree to my deal.”

Will shook his head in exasperation. “Fine I agree to your deal. But why do we have to go to the underworld?”

I smiled at him. “Because it’ll be funny to see how you hold up when you meet my dad.”

He scowled at me. “You do know that there’s a high possibility of him killing me?”

It was cute to see how nervous he was. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t.” That didn’t seem to reassure Will, so I added, “And if he doesn’t listen, you can always share my room in his palace.”

He rolled his eyes. “Great. Thank you.”

“Anytime.”

We fell into another silence, and after some time, Will’s breathing became more even and deep as he drifted off, still lying on my stomach.

And I also relaxed, knowing that I’d at least made him feel marginally better.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Tell me why we’re not going out to the forest again?” Nico asked for the fourth time that day.

I scrunched up a piece of paper from my desk and threw it at him. He dodged it but he still scowled at me. “I told you,” I said, “Chiron doesn’t want to lose any more campers. Especially not our best fighter,” I winked at him.

He rolled his eyes and shifted his position from where he was sitting opposite me. “If I’m the ‘best fighter’ I should be going out and trying to do... something.”

I shook my head. “No. We don’t even know if the thing that took Austin and Kayla can be fought.”

Nico looked annoyed with me but I didn’t know why. “Everything can be fought against. You just need to know how to do it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I agree. But you still don’t know how to do it.”

“Well that’s the point. If I just went and saw what we are dealing with-“

“No,” I told him, and he scowled at me. “I need you here.”

Nico gritted his teeth. “You’re the healer. You don’t need me. I’m useless here.”

“Really? Because you were important yesterday even if you can’t see it.” He didn’t reply, but it was true. He’d kept me centred and focused and he’d assisted me when no one else could. He’d also been there for me after the conflict. Honestly, I was so grateful to him, I couldn’t put it into words.

I continued. “Plus, I can’t leave the infirmary either and you’re not going alone.”

He seemed to consider that. As if weighing up his anger at me for telling him what to do, his confusion that I’d told him he was helpful, and his feelings towards me not wanting him to go alone.

“We have to trust that Apollo knows what he’s doing,” I told him when he remained silent.

Nico scoffed. He looked around at the various patients, trying to see if any of them had woken up. They hadn’t but he lowered his voice anyway. “Don’t be naive, Will. The poor guy is more clueless than us.”

For some reason, that annoyed me. “You don’t know what he knows,” I tried to reason. “He’s got four millennia of wisdom to use.”

Nico made a face, as if deciding whether he should say his next thought out loud. Eventually he sighed. “How many times have you known a god to actually care about their children?”

I pretended to think about that. “Oh I don’t know. Maybe Hades with you?”

Nico didn’t miss a beat before retorting, “No. that’s a one off. And he doesn’t actually care if I die. He’d maybe be mildly disappointed for a couple of minutes, but that’s the best case scenario. Apollo has never seemed like the type to actually prevent any of his children’s deaths. Have you seen how he acts?”

“Give him a break, Nico. Maybe he can change now that he’s mortal.”

Nico shook his head. “Why are you putting so much faith in him?”

“You’re the one who told me to have hope!” I said and I realised that my voice was slightly raised.

He shrugged and his expression was emotionless. “Well yeah. But putting all your hopes in one unreliable unstable-“

“Stop doubting him!” I snapped.

Nico rolled his eyes. “Why are you being so defensive about him?” he demanded, raising his voice as well now.

“Because he’s all I’ve got!” I cried. I didn’t even realise that it was true until I’d blurted it out.

Nico’s eyes widened and I realised what he might take from that statement. “No I didn’t mean it like that,” I assured, making my voice calm again. He still looked confused. I sighed. “I meant as a parental figure. He’s all I’ve got... to look up to.”

The frustration seemed to drain out of him and he looked at me knowingly. “I get it,” he said quietly.

He stared at me with wide eyes letting me know that he was listening if I wanted to talk. I took a deep breath. Maybe I should get this off of my chest. “Well,” I started, speaking softly, “like I said, when my mom realised what I was, she decided she couldn’t handle it.” I gave a short humourless laugh. “Not that she ever handled being a parent in the first place.”

Nico raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

I sighed. “I don’t know the full story, because I was only a child when she told me. But I think the gist was that she fell in love with Apollo, and she didn’t expect to have a child from their relationship.”

Nico nodded. “Usually that’s how it goes.”

“Mmm,” I agreed. “I always felt like she resented me for being there. Getting in the way of her gigs and whatever else. When she found out that I was a demigod and what that meant... with the constant danger and attacks, that was the final straw.”

My voice had been weak throughout the story, but now it broke. Nico reached across the desk and took my hand in his. He squeezed gently.

“Somehow a satyr found me and brought me to camp. I forgave my mom for just letting me go so easily... And I never knew for sure, but I always thought Apollo sent the satyr. That he was looking out for me or something... I know it’s stupid.”

Nico shook his head. “No I actually understand. Your mom... disappointed you. And you had to believe that your other parent hadn’t abandoned you as well.”

I nodded.

“And,” he continued, “that’s why you believe in him so much. Because... he’s all you’ve ever had for a parent.”

I huffed again. I realised that Nico also had a similar situation. But at least he knew that both his parents had wanted him. “I know. It’s lame...”

Nico smiled at me. “It’s actually really sweet.”

I gave him an unconvinced look. “It is?”

“Obviously. You always see the best in people. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to forgive your mom for what she did.”

I sighed. “I wouldn’t blame you. I don’t think she even batted an eyelid over losing me.”

Nico gave me a dry smile. “She probably didn’t realise how great her son would turn out to be.”

I rolled my eyes. “Thanks. But that doesn’t make it better.”

He squeezed my hand again and he gave me an intense look. “No, it does though,” he insisted. “Think about it. You never had anyone to look up to. I mean, properly. But despite that, look at what you’ve made of yourself. You’re just an all around good person, William Solace. No one told you that that was the right way to be. You did it all on your own, pulling from your intrinsic strength. You’ve got no one to thank for your goodness but yourself.”

Oh gods, what was he doing to me? I frantically blinked my eyes to stop my tears from spilling over. When did he become so good with words? I dabbed at my eyes and smiled at him, hoping that that would convey my gratitude.

Once I’d pulled myself together, I said to him, “Wow, you really must like me, huh?”

Nico withdrew his hand and rolled his eyes. “You know, another way to look at it, is that you have no one else to blame when you make idiotic comments like that.”

I laughed at him. “Thanks.” And I meant it.

Nico smiled. “I’ll put my faith in Apollo if you trust him,” he told me. “At least for a few days.”

I nodded. “If he doesn’t return in a few days, we’ll go into the forest with guns blazing,” I agreed.

Nico smirked at me. “You know how to use a gun?”

“I’m from Texas what do you think?”

He gave me an unimpressed look. “I thought you just said you left when you were a child.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Yeah, so?” When he just stared at me, probably trying to figure out if I was kidding or not, I said, “And just to clarify, I don’t actually have a gun. I was referring to you.” I winked at him.

He laughed at that. “I’m your weapon of choice?”

“Of course,” I replied. “You can’t deny that you’re pretty freaking deadly.”

He made a show of giving a small bow and I gave him a silent round of applause.

Just then, Damien White came bursting into the infirmary. “Solace! Come quick! Apollo’s back. And he’s not in good shape.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

After Apollo had made his big revelation and told us that we were dealing with the Emperor Nero, Chiron called all the senior campers to a meeting in the infirmary (since a lot of the campers were still residing in there).

Since there were so few of us, nearly everyone at camp seemed to be a senior counsellor, or at least filling in for one. When Nico and I arrived back, everyone seemed to be there already.

Sherman Yang sat next to Billie Ng who was trying to comfort him as the son of Ares ran his dagger over his finger. Malcolm from Athena and Nyssa from Hephaestus were chatting quietly with the Victor twins. Chiara Benvenuti and Valentina Diaz were sitting next to Paolo and telling him about how brave he was when his leg had gotten chopped off. Damien White and Connor Stoll sat nearby not looking happy about that.

Chiron was in wheelchair form conversing with Rachel Elizabeth Dare as she threw her hands up and down in anger and confusion. I couldn’t blame her. Evil emperors were hard enough to get my head around on a normal day. Now I also had to deal with the fact that they were about to attack the camp, and also hope that Apollo managed to save his friend Meg, my siblings and the other missing campers.

“Right,” Chiron’s voice boomed across the entire building, effectively getting everyone’s attention and also managing to shock Damien White out of his stool, “I’ve called an emergency meeting to discuss the camp’s defences. Let’s go through this strategically. Malcolm,” he turned to the son of Athena, “what have you got for us?”

Malcolm didn’t look happy about being in the centre of attention. “Um,” he stuttered, “well a battle strategy is usually easier when we know what we’ll be battling.”

“What is it we’re protecting the camp against?” asked Valentina, who looked at me for some reason rather than Chiron.

“Um,” I said stupidly.

“We don’t know,” Nico supplied, shooting me an annoyed look which I didn’t understand.

“That’s alright,” Laurel Victor cried. “We’ll be able to win any fight they can throw at us!”

“And if we can’t,” Holly added, “we’ll die heroically in battle!”

“I’m going to die more heroically!” Laurel shouted.

“Oh please,” her sister snapped, “you can’t even die properly from a chainsaw frisbee explosion.”

“Neither did you!”

“Enough!” Chiron bellowed. Everyone was looking back and forth at the Nike twins, wondering if they were the only ones who planned on dying heroically.

“When will they attack?” Billie asked to get us back on track.

“We don’t know,” Chiron replied.

“But we know it’s sometime soon,” I said helpfully, and Nico gave me another annoyed look, along with some of the other campers. As if I were responsible for the vagueness. Chiron opened his mouth to speak again, but the campers kept asking questions.

Sherman sheaved his knife and asked, “More importantly, are we actually putting the lives of the missing campers in the hands of Lester?” he said the name like he was mocking it, and I clenched my fists. “He’s not exactly the best choice to face a powerful Roman emperor. He can’t even shoot his bow properly.”

Before I could respond, Nico cleared his throat. “Apollo knows what he’s facing,” he said calmly. “Our duty right now is at camp.”

Sherman scowled. “Wouldn’t it be better to send a small attack group into the woods. I volunteer to lead-“

“When Apollo succeeds,” Chiron cut in, “he will no doubt join the battle with the missing campers and his friend, Meg.”

Sherman didn’t look any happier with the mention of Meg. He no doubt was also frustrated that Chiron wouldn’t let him help retrieve his brother and girlfriend. However, Chiron’s use of the word ‘when’ seemed to relax him. “Fine. If they’re coming back soon, I’m game to talk about a battle strategy.”

Connor Stoll looked around the room. “So the Hermes cabin can set up some traps around the area we know they’re attacking from,” he offered, but his heart didn’t seem to be in it. Maybe the fun of planting bombs had deteriorated when his brother had gone off to college.

“Where are they set to attack?” Chiara asked.

“That’s a stupid question,” Damien told her and Chiara gritted her teeth at him. “We obviously don’t know anything about this assault.”

“Then what is even the point of this meeting?” Connor Stoll complained.

Paolo sat up and said in a determined voice, “Para fazer um plano que não envolva cortar membros!”

Everyone blinked at him.

“That’s the spirit!” Rachel cried, breaking the silence, and I respected her optimism. Then she addressed the room. “I’m not much of a fighter, but I can help with restocking supplies where we need them. I’ve kind of memorised the camp stores.”

Chiron looked immensely grateful. “Thank you, Rachel.” Then he looked across the room expectantly.

Of all people, Sherman spoke up. “I’ll get my war chariot ready,” he announced. “I’ll need to go to the stables to choose out some Pegasi.”

“Excellent,” Chiron said enthusiastically.

“And,” Sherman continued, “Ellis and I were working on producing these electric spears, if anyone’s interested...”

“Hermes cabin will take them,” Connor piped in. “If we can’t plant our bombs, Julia and Alice won’t be happy if we can’t have some sort of creative dangerous weapon to keep up our reputation.”

“Harley’s also been working on some new inventions,” Nyssa admitted. “Any takers?”

Everyone seemed to shy away from that offer. The second three legged death race did not leave any room to doubt that Harley’s inventions were both crazy and very dangerous.

Conor Stoll looked around. “Really? No one? Am I weird for wanting to volunteer?”

“Yes,” I replied and he scowled at me.

“Whatever, Solace. Just think about what you faced in the death race. Now think about using those weapons to your advantage! That’s all I’m going to say.”

“I don’t think the three headed crocodiles would want to be used to anyone’s advantage,” I retorted.

“Unless you were one of them,” Nico pointed out. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if Connor was part crocodile. He has the nose for it...”

“I’ll get you for that, di Angelo!” Connor yelled, clutching his nose. “I don’t care that it’s your birthday-“

“What?” I turned to Nico, who ignored my question and shrugged.

“That’s enough,” Chiron said. “Connor, you’ll go with Harley-“

“We volunteer as well!” Holly cried.

“Yeah,” her sister agreed. “Anything the Hermes cabin can do, we can do.”

“That’s debatable,” Connor replied, and I silently agreed. All the time I’d been at camp, any Hermes camper always knew how to play the best pranks and get the fiercest reactions out of people.

Before the Nike twins could start arguing again, Malcolm cut in. “I’ll run some numbers... when we receive the numbers, and help organise everyone’s assaults.”

“I’ll help,” Nyssa offered. “I’m familiar with Harley’s inventions. I’ll know where to place everybody who’re using them for optimum efficiency.”

“Good idea,” Chiron agreed. “The rest of you can man the ballistae. And I’ll do what I can with my bow...”

Then the centaur looked around the group trying to see if we’d missed anything. His eyes landed on us. “William, Nico, have you got anything to add that we should know about?”

Nico looked like he was going to speak, but I quickly beat him to it. “Yeah we were going to scout the perimeter,” I said in my best professional voice. “Check for any signs of the assault and... whatever.”

I could see Nico glaring at me, obviously not happy to out of the loop. A few of the other campers were snickering. I heard someone whisper sarcastically, “Yeah, they’re going to scout the perimeter.”

Chiron didn’t seem to notice though. “As you wish. Just have constant vigilance! We’ll need you back as soon as possible when the attack comes. And keep me posted if you find anything.” I nodded and he turned to face everyone else. “Come on then! Everybody knows what they’re doing. Let’s put this plan in motion!”

*

“Explain,” Nico ordered when we all dispersed from the infirmary. I was leading him past the cabins and towards Long Island Sound for some privacy.

“Maybe you should explain,” I replied back.

Nico groaned. “Will, I don’t have time for your games-“

“Why didn’t you tell me that today was your birthday?” I asked.

Nico’s eyes darted away from me and towards the direction we were walking. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, but I was genuinely confused as to why he’d hide this from me.

I let him think in silence, since he was still following me. I instead looked around and noted that the other campers were getting ready for the upcoming battle.

Nyssa had apparently told Harley how his inventions were in high demand with the Hermes and Nike cabins, and it looked like he’d accidentally thrown a flamethrower at Malcolm in excitement. The son of Athena looked unharmed, except that his jeans had been incinerated, and he was now angrily walking around just in his red briefs.

I felt a bit guilty about lying to Chiron, but I figured that Nico didn’t need any sort of briefing for the attack on camp, and I was still the only healer. We pretty much knew our roles.

“It was actually yesterday,” Nico mumbled.

“What?” I asked incredulously.

“I can’t believe that Stoll remembered,” he carried on as we walked. “But when I first came to camp, I stayed in the Hermes cabin... and they were throwing a birthday party one day while I was waiting for Bianca and Percy to come back on their quest.”

His voice trailed off as it usually did when he spoke about his dead sister. I tried to imagine what that would’ve been like. I also stayed in the Hermes cabin for a couple of days before I was claimed, and the place was pretty chaotic.

“Anyway,” Nico continued, “they asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I guess the date came up in the conversation.”

I decided not to mention that it wasn’t unusual for Connor to remember his birthday. When you play pranks as much as he does, remembering the small details can make all the difference.

“Okay,” I said uncertainly, “but why keep it from me?”

We had reached the canoe lake and I started lowering one of the boats in the water. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Lowering a canoe into the water,” I told him.

He rolled his eyes and muttered, “I swear, one of these days...” then he asked in a louder voice, “I meant why are you doing that?”

I shrugged and smiled at him. “It’s a date idea I’ve been sitting on for a while. I figured we could use some quality time before we get attacked by the emperors. As a belated birthday gift as well now, I guess.”

He gave me a small smile. “William Solace, did you lie to Chiron so that we could escape the preparations for battle, to have a date on the canoe lake?”

My cheeks burned. “Do you not want...?”

He laughed at me. “I didn’t say that.” Then he climbed into the large canoe and looked at me expectantly. I pushed off of the shore and followed him in.

The air was a bit cold and the water was choppy, but I didn’t mind. When we reached the centre of the lake, Nico sighed. “I didn’t purposely keep it from you.”

“Really?” I asked, not convinced.

“Well it never really came up in conversation before this, and once Apollo arrived, I didn’t want to stress you out more.”

I scrunched up my eyebrows. “Why would it stress me out?”

Nico looked at me like I was stupid. “Because I know you. You’d probably want to plan something massive and make sure that the day was absolutely perfect.”

Well, he wasn’t wrong. But he was wrong about it being stressful. I would’ve enjoyed planning something for his birthday. Although, I could see where he was coming from. The timing wasn’t great with everything else that was going on.

“We can celebrate when Apollo comes back with the missing campers,” I suggested.

Nico lowered his hand into the water for a moment and then brought it back up, splashing me in the face with lake water. “Nico!” I spluttered.

He laughed at me. “We’re not celebrating. You’ve missed my birthday now. You’ll have to wait until next year.”

“But-“

He shook his head. “Nope. I don’t want it. You can keep arguing with me, but only if you want another face full of lake water,” he offered.

I wisely shut up. “Fine,” I relented. “No celebration this year. But why?”

Nico hesitated which made me more eager to understand his reasons. Eventually he said, “Because you’ve already given me too much. For Christmas...”

I groaned. “Nico that was my pleasure, and compared to what you-“

He cut me off by splashing me in the face again. “I said no arguing,” he said sternly while I wiped my face off.

I reached down into the water to retaliate, but Nico lunged over to my side of the canoe and stopped my arm. I tried to free myself, but why was he so damn strong? We ended up struggling back and forth, and I realised that we were rocking the boat on the already choppy water.

“Oh gods,” I stammered as the boat nearly threw us out.

Nico’s eyes went wide as he spotted something behind me and he cried, “Oh shit!”

I turned to see what he was looking at, and my brain nearly short circuited. “Oh shit!” I agreed. Because a massive golden statue was walking down Euros Creek, headed straight for the centre of the canoe lake, causing waves of water to come crashing down along the shore.

“Will!” Nico cried. “Paddle!”

I grabbed an oar, but by the time I had managed to drop it into the water, the automaton had reached our location. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to notice us. Unfortunately, its massive golden foot skimmed our boat and sent us flying.

“Whoaaa!” I screamed as we flew through the air, away from our canoe and landed in the murky water of the lake.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

After the Colossus’s defeat, I got a horrible case of hay fever. While the battle raged on and before the other injured campers came to the infirmary, Will had hauled me here and got me to a bed.

“Why is the hay fever affecting you so badly?” he muttered as he checked my heart and lungs with his stethoscope.

I had just woken up after my shadow travelling and I was feeling groggy and disoriented. “What’s fay heaver?” I mumbled as Will continued to prod and poke me gently with various medical equipment.

My nose was all congested and I could hardly breathe because my lungs were closing up on themselves. I coughed and sniffled as Will examined me with an increasingly frustrated look on his face.

Oh gods, my chest was burning. I couldn’t draw air in quick enough. “Breathe,” I spluttered in my nasally voice. “Beweaving to breathe da.” Wait. Did that make sense? It had made sense in my head... Based on Will’s panicked look, apparently it didn’t.

He abandoned his instruments and began feeling around my chest with his fingertips instead. A distant part of me realised that he had pulled my shirt up for better access, and I wanted to tease him for it. Unfortunately I couldn’t, because my oxygen was running out and my thoughts were getting fuzzy.

After a couple more minutes of me struggling to breathe, Will reached out with his powers, and I could sense that he was examining me internally. When he found what he was looking for, he withdrew and growled in anger. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he muttered, still in his panicky voice. “Nico. What the fuck? Have you had tuberculosis?”

I sneezed in response. That didn’t really seem like a good enough answer so I managed to get out, “Toes in burkas?”

“Oh for fuck sake,” Will groaned. “You haven’t been vaccinated!” I didn’t know what that meant, but it was getting really hard to think, and I felt like I needed to sleep. Or throw up. Or both. Will’s eyes widened “Oh gods oh gods oh gods.”

He then went running around the room collecting medical supplies. He returned a moment later and started mixing them together, almost dropping about half of the vials on the floor because he was working so quickly. He kept calm though, and his hands were steady, like always.

When he was done, he produced a glass filled with purple tonic to me. “This’ll stop the hay fever symptoms,” he told me as he practically shoved it down my throat. To be fair, I couldn’t exactly hold the bottle up myself, and I stopped resisting when I realised that I could breathe again properly.

As I was catching my breath, Will shook his head. “I swear, if you weren’t half dead right now, you wouldn’t hear the end of this.”

I coughed and heaved, bringing in as much air as I could. “What are you whining about now?” I croaked as I tried to sit up.

He placed his hand firmly on my arm and lowered me back onto the bed. “Don’t talk. Don’t move,” he ordered. Then he sighed. “You haven’t been vaccinated. I can’t believe this.”

“Huh?” Oh gods my throat hurt.

“I said don’t talk!” he cried. “You’ve been walking around all this time with a target on your back for all these seriously deadly diseases. Which are all preventable!”

He shook his head as if it were my fault and started running around the room again, collecting supplies and tidying up. “I’m giving you all the vaccines right now.”

I made a face at him because I had no idea what he was rambling on about. But just then, an enormous crowd of people came bursting into the infirmary. Will’s expression got that steely determination I was so used to.

He said, “Vaccines later. Rest now. And don’t you dare get up.” Then be rushed off to help.

I was so thankful that I was drawing air into my lungs normally again, I didn’t even resist. I relaxed into the bed, listening to the various groans of pain and sneezing from some nearby people, and I closed my eyes.

*

I woke to the sound of the door opening and closing. I bolted upright in my bed, breathing heavily. My eyes were itching slightly, and my chest still hurt, but other than that I was feeling fine. Someone (I was guessing Will) had changed my shirt and trousers and the bed actually felt kind of comfy now that I wasn’t dying or covered in lake water.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to wake you,” a familiar voice said.

I squinted my eyes to make sure I was seeing him properly. “Percy?” I asked, annoyed that my voice was still a bit croaky. I rubbed my eyes which did not help the itchiness. “What time is it? Where’s Will?”

The son of Poseidon sat down on the chair beside my bed. “It’s the morning after the battle. Solace is probably still asleep in his cabin.” I tried not to feel agitated that Will had left me here. I hated being clingy, and Will obviously deserved his rest based on the amount of patients that had come stumbling into the infirmary before I’d passed out for the second time. “I just wanted to see you before I got going,” Percy said quietly.

I huffed, again aware of my croaky voice and my probably dishevelled appearance. “Couldn’t have picked a nicer day for it.”

He gave me a dry smile. “Always with the sarcasm,” he sighed. “I just wanted to check up on you. How’s things at camp? You’ve gotten close to Will Solace, huh?”

I pushed my hair back and sat up straighter. Percy Jackson checking on me made me sound like a kid. Well I was a kid when we’d met, but still.

Despite everything that had happened between us, I still found it impossible to hate the guy. He was a relatively good person even if our history wasn’t great. I wanted to be over that part of my life. Holding onto my anger and hatred for so long hadn’t turned out well for me.

“Everything’s good,” I replied cautiously. “It feels... normal. Well as normal as you can get in our reality. And... Will Solace is none of your business.”

Percy laughed and threw his hands up. “Dude, I was only asking. Between you and me though, you’ve got yourself a good one there.” He winked at me and that made me angry for some reason. It felt uncomfortable to talk about this with him.

“I said,” I gritted out, “it’s none of your-“

“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” he cut me off. “Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.”

That gave me pause. “For what?”

He sighed. “I don’t know. My ignorance I guess? I mean I tried my best to understand you, Nico. I really did. But you were a tough one to crack.”

I wanted to point out that he’d never actually managed to crack me, nor had he tried that much, but I stayed silent.

“And, I just want you to know that I am grateful for what you’ve done. I know how hard, you know, everything has been for you.”

I wished he didn’t say that. Because he doesn’t know. He can’t possibly know what I’ve been through. I knew he was trying to be nice, but it just seemed fake. I wasn’t angry though. Not at Percy anymore. I just felt... nothing really.

“And,” he continued, “I know how Tartarus must’ve been. I mean, I know what it was like. So if you want someone to talk to about it... Annabeth and I are here.”

As if I needed a reminder that I’d gone there alone. I knew I wouldn’t take him up on his offer, but it was sweet for him to ask. “Thanks.”

He let out a big sigh and clapped his hand on the armrest. “Anyway,” he said, “I’m going to have a quick word with Apollo and then I should be getting back. My homework isn’t going to do itself. Nice seeing you, Nico.”

I didn’t know if he was being sincere, but I decided that I was actually grateful for his visit. It made me realise that I was actually over him. Sure, seeing him was still hard, but the pain had become sort of subdued. Like an old wound that didn’t bother me anymore, and I sometimes forgot about. Maybe in another life we could’ve been friends. I probably knew that we’d cross paths again, but for now, I was kind of glad that he wasn’t staying.

And seeing him also showed me how much I’d grown up over the past year. I was almost proud of myself for letting go of my anger. And it kind of made me want to open up about Tartarus. But not with Percy.

“Yeah. You too.”

*

“Nope,” I said stubbornly.

“It’s not up for discussion,” Will told me.

I crossed my arms. “You’re going to be sticking something inside of me. I think I have a right to at least discuss it.”

Will groaned, clearly trying not to lose it. He’d gathered up all his so-called vaccinations and placed them on my bedside table in the infirmary. He’d arrived just as Percy had left, and I was actually happy and relieved to see him. Until he’d pulled out all the needles.

“Nico,” he said sternly. “Somehow in the past, you contracted tuberculosis. That’s a very serious bacterial infection and it’s a miracle your immune system fought it off. But it still left your lungs in a vulnerable state and that’s why the hay fever affected you so badly.”

I rolled my eyes. “Thank you for the lecture. I appreciate hearing about how decrepit my internal organs are.”

Will didn’t look impressed with my sarcasm. “I’m not letting something like that happen again. My boyfriend is not getting a preventable disease on my watch. Now roll up your sleeve.”

I stared back at him stubbornly.

Will walked over to me and started rolling up my sleeve. “Seriously, Nico. You nearly died yesterday from something that’s so minor.”

I huffed, remembering the way I couldn’t breathe properly. “You don’t need to remind me. I was there.”

He wiped an antibacterial tissue across a spot on my bicep and pulled out the first syringe. “This’ll sting a bit, but it’ll be over in a second. Just don’t tense your muscles.”

I looked at him. “When did I agree to this again?”

Will gave me a reassuring smile. “When you realised that your boyfriend is and always will be right.”

I scoffed. “Yeah that does sound like me, doesn’t it?”

He prepared the syringe. “Okay seriously though, I need your consent.”

I sighed. Yesterday was pretty painful. And if Will thinks this is for the best... he’s the expert. I really had no choice but to trust him. “Fine. Go ahead.”

He kissed me on the cheek then counted down before injecting me with his disease preventing needle. I felt a stabbing pain deep in my muscle and I dug my nails into my palm to stop from tensing.

“There,” Will announced as he pulled it back out a second later. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I tried to ignore the lingering feeling of the needle as I shook my head. “Other than the betrayal of my boyfriend stabbing me in the arm, and the shooting pain that accompanied it? Yes. It was absolutely fine.”

Will didn’t answer. I looked up at him and he was looking at me with wide eyes and a weird expression on his face. “What?” I asked. “Did you stick your needle in the wrong place or something?”

He shook his head slightly to compose himself. “Did you just... call me your boyfriend?”

Oh. That’s what that face was. Shock. Mixed with affection. I hadn’t even realised I’d said it. It had just slipped out. Because it felt so natural. “Don’t make a big deal out of this,” I warned, “if you want me to do it again anytime soon.”

Will tried to stifle his massive grin, but he was only about forty five percent successful. “Moving on,” he said quickly. “We’ve still got about fifteen of these to do.”

I made a face at him. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t worry,” he patted my forearm. “That one had the biggest needle. And for the rest, you can squeeze my hand.”

I groaned and took Will’s hand. “Just out of interest,” I asked innocently, “it won’t matter if I break any of your bones because you heal fast, right?”

“Ha ha. Now sit still.”

He proceeded to inject me with all the syringes he’d prepared. It didn’t take as long as I’d thought, and holding Will’s hand helped with the pain, even though it got slightly worse each time.

But I was used to pain. Physical or otherwise. And this was nothing compared to what I had faced before.

“Please tell me that was the last one,” I begged.

“Yup,” Will said, now a lot more cheerful because he’d successfully injected me with all his medical tonics. “Except for when you have to have a follow up.”

“Oh gods, you’ve got to be kidding me!”

Before Will could respond, a giant shadow passed over the infirmary, temporarily blocking the windows of any light for a couple of seconds. A loud roaring came after that. And then some screams.

Will and I dashed out of the infirmary to see what was going on. A giant bronze dragon was landing near the central hearth with two companions sitting on his back.

Leo Valdez, the little tinker, had actually made it back.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Sure, it was all fun and games when Leo first arrived. The punching Leo joke (not joke) made me and the other campers feel temporarily better. But after a couple of days, I realised that his arrival had affected me more than I’d let on.

I needed to talk to him, or my guilt would keep eating up at me. On my way to the training arena one day, I finally bumped into him when he was alone.

“Di Angelo!” He cried. “Whassup?”

I shrugged. “Eh, can’t complain. Oh wait, I can. How much time do you have?”

He didn’t know how to take that so he just laughed. “Actually, I’m pretty busy... I’ve got to finish repairing Festus before we head off soooo...”

Before he could leave though, I blurted, “Can we talk?”

He didn’t look particularly happy about that, but it was hard to feel guilty. “Um sure. Like in private?” He asked nervously, as if he were worried that I might say ‘yes’ and then take him somewhere to murder him slowly.

“Yeah. Do you know a place?” Because people are more likely to feel comfortable if you let them pick the location. I think Will had told me that once.

He smiled at me. “I know just the place!”

*

It took at least half an hour to trek to bunker nine. It wasn’t just the distance. It was also the out of control trees growing everywhere in our path. Leo walked along happily, whistling to the tune of ‘Only girl’ by Rihanna (yes, I know that song, don’t judge me).

About halfway through our journey, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Would you mind shutting up?” I asked nicely.

“What?” Leo pouted. “Rihanna is my jam! And you didn’t seem to mind my whistling on the Argo II.” He gave me a quick wink, but stopped whistling anyway.

I sighed because he was right. During our voyage, I had made many nighttime visits to the engine room. I had just gotten back from Tartarus and my run in (read: kidnapping and slow suffocation) with giants. The trauma had hit me hard, and I’d spent most of my time up on the mast where the other crew members couldn’t see me crying.

Every once in a while though, I needed something to distract me other than the waves splashing against the hull, or the infinite sky with its icy clouds. The engine room was a perfect place to hang out since no one went down there except for Leo.

We kind of made it an unspoken agreement to just be there and not ask questions. I watched him while he worked well into the night, and he’d keep it just between us. We never spoke about anything meaningful, but just being there, and knowing that he’d understood me at least on some level, had been part of the reason I’d stayed sane.

His whistling just reminded me of that. Although it was nice to think about how far I’d come since then, it still brought back some of the feelings I was experiencing at the time. So I was glad that he stopped.

Eventually, we reached the bunker. I didn’t pay much attention to what was inside, since it was so chaotic, it was hard to process. Leo pushed me a grease covered stool and took one out for himself.

I made a point of making a face at the stool and then at him before saying, “I’ll stand. Thanks.”

“Your loss,” he shrugged. “That’s grade A grease.”

“Whatever.”

“So, Nico. How’s camp been without me?”

I scoffed. “I was never at camp with you,” I pointed out.

Leo rolled his eyes dramatically. “Holy Hephaestus, I forgot you were this difficult. Alright, how has life been without me?”

I sighed, wondering how much I should tell him. “It’s been... okay.”

Leo rolled his eyes. “You do know that you were the one who asked to speak to me? If you’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got a date with a gorgeous little so and so. Oh and Calypso might join Festus and I.” He laughed at his own joke. I did not, since I wasn’t convinced that it really was a joke; Leo did love his machines.

“Anyway,” he said as he stopped laughing, “go on.”

“Okay,” I said. I forced myself to just come out and say it. “Well, first of all, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.”

He furrowed his brows. “Ya what now?”

I groaned. “I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I might’ve been the cause of your death. Indirectly. Since I sort of didn’t prevent Octavian from firing a canon that caused his unintentional suicide.”

Leo thought about that for a moment. Then his confused face turned into a big goofy grin. “Ahhh! I knew I liked you! We’re friends, right?”

I stared at him. “Did you misunderstand what I just said?”

“Obviously not. I’m probably one of the only people at camp smart enough to actually understand what you said.”

“You definitely misunderstood,” I confirmed.

Leo shook his head. “No, really I get it. You feel guilty because you put your want to rid the world of Octavian above my hope for survival.”

That surprised me, because I couldn’t have put it so eloquently myself. “Um yeah. I guess so.”

“And,” he continued, “at first you figured that I’d be able to survive the heat, because I’m- pretty hot myself.” He laughed at his own joke again and I tried to crack a smile just to be polite. “But as time went on, you realised that you could’ve been the decider as to whether or not I actually withstood the explosion.”

My head was buzzing. “Can you stop regurgitating my feelings back to me please? And actually start addressing them.”

Leo gave a short chuckle. “I’m not going to lie, Nico, dying really hurt.”

When he said that, I felt my guilt triple inside of me.

“But,” he continued, “I’m pretty sure that was to do with the explosion. I would’ve died either way. And besides, what does it matter? I survived in the end.”

Some of the guilt lessoned. “But what about what you’ve been through all this time? If you hadn’t had died, these last few months might’ve been easier for you.”

“Nah,” Leo shrugged. “I knew I was going to rescue Calypso and I was prepared for what that meant. We both were. And it’s not like we were totally deflated by the journey. Or we wouldn’t have decided to leave with Apollo in a couple of days.”

I thought about that. What he said did seem reasonable. Maybe I had been beating myself up over nothing. “So... you forgive me?”

“Dude!” Leo exclaimed. “Like I said, we’re buddies, right? I knew you did what you had to do. It all worked out in the end. So yes, I forgive you for your homocidal urge to let Octavian die. Plus, I always knew you were on team Leo.”

I sighed in relief.

“And let’s be honest,” Leo continued. “That Octavian had a loose screw or something. He had it coming. Man, I hated that guy!”

I smiled a bit at that. “Thanks, Leo.”

“Anytime, mi amigo.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes. I was just processing our conversation, and how it felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

I think I knew the answer, but I asked, “Have you heard from Jason and Piper?”

Leo’s expression darkened. “No. Why? Have you?”

I shook my head. “They went looking for you a couple of months ago, but... communications have been down because of something the emperors have done. I hope they’re alright.”

Leo smiled. “Hey man, they’re two of the strongest people I know. They can’t have gotten into that much trouble without me. Besides, I’m looking forward to seeing them. They can’t die or anything without seeing my beautiful face returned from the dead.”

“They saw your face in that scroll you sent,” I pointed out.

“Bah!” Leo cried. “It’s not as good as the real thing.”

“Of course not,” I agreed. It wasn’t sarcastic because obviously having Leo here in person was a lot more dramatic than seeing a message in a scroll. But also, I wanted Jason and Piper to reunite with Leo. After all they’d been through to search for him, they deserved it.

“Say hello from me when you find them,” I requested. Because even though I didn’t want to admit it, I missed those two. I hoped they would come back to camp soon, so I didn’t have to worry so much.

It made it worse with the lack of communications, because we couldn’t even check in. I missed talking to them. Especially Jason. He was one of the first people I opened up to. Forcefully, but still. His response helped me a lot to get where I am now.

Leo saluted. “You got it, señor.”

*

The night before Apollo, Leo and Calypso were scheduled to leave, I was sitting with Will at our usual table, enjoying the sense of normalcy with Austin and Kayla back.

Our lives had pretty much fallen back into our regular routine, and I was glad that the worst of the emperor’s attack had passed. For now, at least. I wasn’t naive enough to think that this is where it ended, but I was willing to give myself another break from quests and monsters and giant murderous Apollo statues.

Between now and when the colossus had been defeated, the hay fever pandemic had subsided, and everyone seemed to be feeling better. Especially Will, which I was immensely happy about.

“So what do you say, Nico?” Will asked. “A send off party in the Apollo cabin?”

I shrugged. “Why are you asking me?”

Will rolled his eyes. “Because you’re my boyfriend and I care about your opinion.” He kissed me on the cheek. “Also,” he added, “you’d probably kill me if you found out I threw a party without you.”

I nudged him away. “I would not kill you. I wouldn’t care less, actually.”

Will smiled, clearly not convinced. “Okay. So you’d be okay if we all gave Apollo a nice send off and you were by yourself all night, stuck in the Hades cabin because you weren’t invited?”

Well when he put it like that, obviously I wouldn’t have been okay with that. But I wasn’t about to admit it. “Why don’t you do that, and see what happens?” I challenged.

“Don’t do it, Will,” Austin warned.

“Yup,” Kayla agreed. “Obvious trap.”

Will rolled his eyes. “I’m not that stupid, guys. And I think that was Nico code for ‘I want to come to the party, but I’ll hide my desire with cheap threats and challenges.’”

I slapped his arm, but only because he was right. Before I could think of a retort, I noticed Apollo heading to his cabin, probably to pack. I’d been meaning to talk to him about something, and now might be my chance.

“Hold that thought,” I told Will. “I’ll see you tonight.”

*

“Lester!” I shouted as I caught up with him. “Apollo! Papadopolous!”

He turned, scowling at the name calling. “Son of Hades,” he greeted. “If you’re here to tell me about my high possibility of death and madness, I can set your mind at ease.”

“What?” I asked. “You figured out the prophecy? It doesn’t actually mean what you think it means?”

“Oh no. I was going to say that it definitely means what we think it means. Now that I think about it, I’m sure that wouldn’t put your mind at ease. You’ll probably be tossing and turning every night you can’t know that I’m alive and safe.”

“Um. Sure.”

“Well, I apologise for your restless nights, Nico. But I must say, that’s very selfish. I’m the one who’s going to be force fed the death.”

“Of course. But I just wanted to ask-“

“You know, it would be nicer if you stopped agreeing with my traumatic predictions for myself. Maybe you have some good news for me?”

I sighed. Speaking with gods (even ex-gods) was never easy. “Actually, yes. We’re throwing you a going away party tonight.”

Apollo clapped his hands excitedly. “Oh goody! I haven’t been to a party since Dear old Gary threw that lovely little number in the ol’ Bix Manor. Oh what good times.”

What was this moron rambling on about?“That sounds um... lovely. But before you go, can I ask you something?”

“Ask away, son of Hades.”

Oh gods. How should I put this without sounding like a needy, whiny, pathetic child? “You’re not planning on taking anyone else on your quest, are you?” I blurted before I could stop myself.

Apollo narrowed his eyes at me. “I didn’t think so. Why?”

I sighed in relief. I really was worried about nothing again. I was going to have to work on my paranoia. “No reason,” I assured. “Just curious.”

He smiled at me knowingly. “And even if I were to ask a small group to accompany me, I could never place that burden on my own children. Especially because of what happened last week.”

That really surprised me. Did he actually care about his children now? Will was right. I should’ve given him the benefit of the doubt. “I didn’t mean... um,” I stuttered, not knowing how to respond to this unforeseen turn of events.

“I know,” he said kindly. “Don’t worry. You’ll have lots of time with dear William. I’ll make sure of it. You make such a cute couple! I can see why you’d wish him to stay at camp with you.”

Oh gods. Why me? Did he actually just say that? “Thanks,” I managed. I was feeling a bit dizzy. Not only did Apollo call Will and I a ‘cute couple’ but he had clearly seen through my question. He was right; I really didn’t want Will to go.

“Toodle doo then,” he told me. “Stuff to pack, goodbyes to say, parties to prepare for.”

I waved weakly as he disappeared into cabin seven.

Chapter Text

Will POV

We’d decorated the Apollo cabin as best as we could. Streamers hung from the ceiling, balloons were blown up, loud music was playing on Chiron’s ancient player, sending a lively beat thumping around the cabin.

We’d invited Leo and Calypso after dinner, and they had been game. Apollo also seemed excited after Nico had told him. I still wondered about what they were talking about in the first place though...

“Gods, do you think we went a bit overboard with the colours?” Nico asked. He was looking very out of place in his usual black on black outfit amid the multicoloured party decorations.

“Not at all,” Kayla said brightly. “This all just screams Apollo!”

“And Leo,” Austin supplied.

“They’re right,” I agreed. “We don’t know when we’ll see them again. We might as well make the most of it.”

The truth was, I thought (or hoped) that this would encourage my father to remember us more when he went off on his other adventures, or when he became immortal again. I wanted to make an impression. And I wanted to help him forget about that gods awful prophecy before he set off on his perilous journey. It had to be perfect.

“Aw,” Kayla exclaimed. “We forgot to put out some party food.”

“We can make a quick trip to the camp store,” Austin offered. “Will, Nico, can you hold down the fort until we’re back?”

“Sure,” I said. “We’ve got this.”

A couple of minutes after they left, a knock sounded at the door. I rushed to open it. We’d told Apollo to wait in the Hephaestus cabin with Leo and Calypso whilst we got cabin seven decorated for the party.

“Um,” Nico said peering out of the window, “how many people did we invite?”

My hand paused on the door handle. “Just those three. Why?”

He gave me a small grimace. “You’ll see. Just open the door.”

I did, and was almost trampled by the rush of guests who came stampeding into my cabin. I was pretty sure the entire camp had turned up. Sure, that wasn’t a lot compared to what it would be in the summer, but all crowded in one cabin? There was hardly enough room to manoeuvre.

“Nice one, guys!” Leo whistled as he came in and saw the decorations. “I hope you don’t mind. I brought a couple of plus ones.”

“By a couple,” Nico grumbled, “do you mean a couple dozen?”

“I’m glad you understand,” Leo called as he got pulled in the general direction of the crowd as more people came flooding in.

“Solace!” Connor Stoll called as he and Paolo came waltzing in. “I didn’t think you were one for parties. But I guess all boring people get bored at some point.”

I saw Nico clench his fists, but I grabbed his hand. “Don’t bother. This is going to be too chaotic already without more drama.”

I saw that he was about to protest, but just then, Alice and Julia came running in after their brother, carrying crates of colourful glass bottles. “We got the drinks!” they exclaimed gleefully. They carried the crates into the cabin and opened them up for anyone to take.

“Oh gods,” I muttered. “Chiron is going to kill me.”

“He won’t find out,” Nico assured. “Besides, we even have an adult chaperone.” He said it with some distaste in his voice as he pointed to Apollo who had just arrived, as if describing my father as an adult left a bad taste in his mouth.

From the way Apollo was waving at people as he strutted around the cabin in his flared slacks and dark sun glasses, I couldn’t blame my boyfriend’s assessment.

I looked around, trying to predict what the damage would be. At least people seemed to be having a good time.

Nyssa had grabbed a beer and was half talking to Malcolm and half trying to keep Harley away from the Hermes crate. Chiara and Damien were arguing over something, which wasn’t surprising, but I couldn’t help but notice that they were standing a bit closer together than usual. Paolo and Sherman were having an arm wrestling contest on my desk whilst Miranda looked at them worriedly, and Connor chugged his drink and cheered.

Leo had turned up the music, and somehow managed to put on some songs that were more recent that Chiron’s dusty collection. I definitely wasn’t complaining about that. I was a bit put off by Leo’s street dancing to Justin Beiber, and Calypso’s attempt to ignore him, but I figured I couldn’t be blamed for that.

Nico tugged my arm slightly. “Are you going to drink anything?” I couldn’t tell whether he was nervous, genuinely curious, or testing me.

I shrugged. “Probably not.”

He nodded with an emotionless expression.

The party raged on. Drinks were passed around. Everyone was dancing, singing along to Leo’s song choices. I guess the campers were all letting loose after the big attack on camp.

After a while, Apollo, probably (hopefully) drunk now, jumped onto one of the bunks and started playing an air guitar to Katy Perry. He was also singing along and trying to dance at the same time. It was evident that his godly powers definitely had not returned at this particular moment. Everyone surrounding him started cheering and egging him on.

“On second thought,” I said to Nico, with my eyes still transfixed on my father, “I could do with a drink.”

Nico nodded sympathetically and led me towards the crate. He pulled out two drinks with a multicoloured wrapper. “Colourful probably tastes better than the pee coloured ones,” he reasoned as he handed me one.

“Cheers then,” I said and we clinked our bottles together and drank. It tasted like burning bubblegum. It reminded me of my childhood sweet shop trips, mixed with the feeling of eating scolding food too fast.

I didn’t have much experience with drinking, since I’d never really had a chance. So I took small sips, aware that I wanted to keep my wits. Nico did the same, albeit it, he took slightly longer gulps than me, but still, compared to everyone else, we were both being cautious.

At that time, Austin and Kayla decided to show up again. They came into the cabin, with their mouths gaping and their eyes wide with shock or anger. They spotted Nico and I and made a beeline for us, dumping the party food at the door.

“Will!” Kayla shouted. “What the actual fuck?”

I took a sip of my drink. “It wasn’t my fault!”

“If you want to blame someone,” Nico put in, “blame mister fireball over there.” He pointed in the general direction of the crowd cheering for Apollo, who was still air guitaring on his bunk. Leo was dancing along in front of him, and his head and hands were covered in flames.

“Um,” Austin said, trying to draw his eyes away from our father to focus on Leo. “This is a wooden cabin...”

Nico gulped down his entire drink, reached for another, popped the top and stated, “I’ll fix it.” Then he dashed off into the crowd before I could stop him or tell him to slow down on the drinking.

Kayla watched Nico go and then turned to me and narrowed her eyes. “Are you drinking?”

I gestured weakly around me to try and get across my reasons. “What do you think?”

She sighed. “Good point.” She reached down and grabbed a drink for herself. Then she tossed one to Austin.

“You guys have fun,” I told my siblings. I decided that I should at least follow my boyfriend. I couldn’t see him in the crowd, but Leo wasn’t hard to miss, so I headed towards him instead.

The song changed to ‘Party Rock’ and I could barely hear myself think between the loudness of the music and of people screaming at Apollo. My father now had decided to try break dancing. Of course, he couldn’t do it properly, so he ended up just crawling around on the floor and giving finger guns to people.

When I reached them, Nico was pulling on Leo’s sleeve, carefully avoiding the flames that started from his wrists. Leo didn’t seem to notice or care, but to be fair, Nico wasn’t being very determined. In fact, he was watching the crowd and my father dancing, and he had actually started to tap his foot.

“Leo!” I called. “Turn the brightness down please!”

He turned to me, and gods, his smile when his head was on fire was freaking creepy. “But this is how I let off steam,” he cried. “Plus, ghost boy seems to like it.”

He gestured to Nico whose face was flushed (probably because his second drink had already been finished). “I do not like it,” he grumbled. “It’s just warm. Like you, Will.”

I rolled my eyes. “Leo, I swear, you’re going to burn down my cabin so-“

Before I could finish, Nico stumbled into me and I had to catch him. “Styx,” he muttered. “Why is my head spinning?”

I groaned. “It’s the alcohol.” I propped him back up, but kept my arm around his waist just in case. He smiled at me. “You’re so warm, Solace.” Then he looked into the distance wistfully. “I need some more of this stuff.”

I tried to grab his arm, but he slipped out of my grip and disappeared into the crowd. I was about to follow, but Apollo chose that moment to try and crowd surf. He threw himself at his audience, and everybody seemed to shuffle out of the way. Chiara pushed Damien out of her way as she rushed to the wall, Malcolm pulled Nyssa out of the way, and Calypso just stood at the edge of the crowd shaking her head and scowling at my father.

Because of the suddenly dispersed space where Apollo was landing, Leo was the only one still standing there, still half on fire and distracted by Nico and I. Apollo rammed into him and they both shrieked. Leo, because a heavy guy had just crashed him to the floor, and Apollo, because Leo had tried to shield himself with his burning hands.

In surprise, Leo completely combusted, the flames spreading from his wrists to his entire body. Before I could protest, or do anything, Harley came running up with a massive bucket of water, and dumped it on his brother.

“Leo’s always catching fire,” Harley explained. “Gotta be prepared.”

Leo spluttered as his fire died. I would’ve complained about the massive puddle of water now in the middle of my cabin, but it was definitely better than it going up in flames. His trousers had incinerated, so when he got back up, and started dancing again, he was doing so in his bare legs. “Yeah man! Best party ever! Will! Why didn’t you tell me you had a pool in the Apollo cabin?”

Then he continued to chant, “Pool party! Pool party!” like an absolute idiot, as the next song turned on and everyone started dancing again.

As for my dad, he was frantically trying to splash the quickly dispersing puddle onto his stomach, where Leo’s burning hands had apparently made contact.

I sighed and hauled him up. “Come on, dad. You need to run that under cold water.”

He let me drag him into the bathroom and help to treat his burn. He was giggling a bit, but I put that down to the alcohol and slight concussion. I did what I could, but in the back of my mind, I knew I needed to find Nico again. I didn’t want to think about what he was doing right now if he’d been drinking more...

“Does that feel better?” I asked Apollo.

He nodded and smiled at me. “I’m perfect! You really are a hero. Thank you!”

And with that, he went stumbling out of the bathroom shouting, “That’s my fruit cocktail, Paolo! Get your own!”

I took a second of silence in the bathroom to pull myself together. Was I the only one not having fun? Maybe I should let myself go a bit. If Nico could do it, then maybe so could I. I rushed out of the bathroom and went to find him, and another drink.

I found him bopping slightly to the music with Kayla and Austin, who had set out some crisps and biscuits on their desks.

“Will!” Nico cried when he spotted me. “This stuff is so good!” He gestured to his empty bottle. “I need another one. And you do too! Then we can dance together! Can you dance? I can try, but really, there’s only so much I can do if you end up being crap at it.”

“Um,” I said stupidly because tipsy Nico was so surreal. Before I could respond, he grabbed my arm and pulled me to the Hermes crate that was now at least seventy percent empty. He handed me a bottle and took a swig from his own.

“Maybe you should slow down,” I suggested weakly, because if Nico was going to do something, there was little I could do to stop him. Sure enough he just rolled his eyes at me and pulled me back to the space where he was bopping a few minutes ago.

I decided to give the alcohol a miss tonight, just because I didn’t want to lose my wits in case of an emergency. Plus, I had to look after Nico, who showed no signs of wanting to stop.

He pulled me closer and then began to dance. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the sight of Nico dancing. His movements were so subtle and graceful compared to everyone else’s sharp turns and jumping up and down. It seemed like he actually felt the music, as he swayed in time and used his free hands to grab my arms and pull me along.

“You’re not dancing,” he pouted. “Don’t tell me this is another thing I’m better than you at.” He raised his eyebrows at me.

“Of course not,” I retorted. “Just you wait.”

I started dancing. At first, I just bopped around like Nico had done, but as I got more into it, I started using my arms and legs to try to pull off different moves I’d seen other people doing. Nico whooped and carried on with his graceful dancing, while I really let loose and jumped around, probably looking like a galloping pony.

Around us, everyone else paid us no attention, because their dancing was even more dramatic. The music seemed to get louder and louder, and the enthusiasm just increased with it.

I realised that I was actually having a good time. Dancing with Nico and watching other people embarrass themselves. It was fun. I almost forgot about the evil Roman emperors, and the fact that my godly father had come to earth as a mortal. I focused on the music, and the laughter, and Nico’s smile.

Nico seemed to get closer and closer as the night went on. It must’ve been around midnight when he practically jumped on me, wrapping his arms around my neck. “You’re cute when you’re dancing,” he whispered. Even though the alcohol was obviously impairing his judgement, I still blushed at the compliment.

“Thank you,” I told him, aware that he wasn’t moving away from me. This definitely wasn’t the time or the place or the situation that I wanted to be kissing him.

I tried to step away, but he clung on. Gods, he was strong. “Will,” he said in a suggestive tone, “you can sleep in my cabin tonight.”

Oh gods. Drunk Nico was definitely not something I was used to. He was actually making a move on me. I frantically tried to figure out a way to say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings. He’d understand in the morning...

“Attention!” Someone called, and the music stopped. Nico stepped away from me and we both turned to see Miranda tapping her glass. “Let’s do speeches! Apollo! You’re up!”

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Apollo! You’re up!” Miranda called.

Oh no. This would not end well. Speeches from my drunk father was not something I wanted to witness. On the bright side though, at least Nico was focused on this weird turn of events instead of trying to get me to go back to his cabin.

“Wheeeeeee,” Apollo cried gleefully as he skipped up to my desk and pushed himself up on it so that everyone in the cabin could see him. I tried not to think about how he had kicked off a couple of my books and at least a dozen pencils.

No one would’ve heard me if I tried to protest, because the entire crowd had started to chant, “Speech! Speech! Speech!”

Apollo smiled widely at the attention and he raised his hand to quieten everyone down. “Thank you thank you! I am so grateful to all of my fans. All of you will be rewarded when I am a god again!” As he said ‘god’ he stumbled over an eraser which really enhanced his point nicely. His words were also slurred, so he sounded more mortal than ever.

He quickly recovered and tried again. “I am starting to appreciate the joys of being mortal. I mean, other than my acne covered meat sack body, and the constant danger and pain, at least the parties are good!”

Everybody cheered and raised their bottles.

“Parties on Olympus weren’t nearly as good! Sure we had famous people and live musicians and fancier clothes- seriously what is the deal with the orange? It doesn’t go with anything!- but this fruit cocktail is making me feel a lot fuzzier than any nectar gin and tonic ever did!”

“Yeah!”

“Orange!”

“Gin and tonic!”

I rolled my eyes. Nico stumbled beside me and I propped him up by placing my arm around his waist again.

“Even though I’m about to embark on a journey that I probably may never come back from, I want you all to know, that I am very grateful to you.”

The campers all smiled warmly at him.

“And,” he continued, “if you wish to pray to Zeus and beg him to switch my place with yours, I will heroically allow you to do that!”

Some uneasy mutters spread across the crowd and I didn’t need to be the god of prophecy fo know that no one would be doing that.

“And of course, I need to take a moment to appreciate my lovely children!” Apollo cried, and I buried my face in my hands. “Kayla, and her wonderful archery skills!” My sister looked half appreciative and half ready to punch our father in the face. “Austin, my brilliant saxophone player!” Austin waved weakly and took a sip of his drink. “And Will, a better healer than I could ever be!”

I felt my cheeks burning. Even though he was intoxicated, the sentiment was still sweet.

“Oh!” cried Apollo. “I forgot the honorary member of cabin seven. Nico!”

“Oh gods,” Nico exclaimed beside me.

“What a sweet boy,” Apollo yelled happily. “Do you know what he asked of me yesterday?”

He was addressing the crowd as if he were the star in a low budget comedy club. That didn’t stop Nico from going still, and I could’ve sworn for a second that his expression was stone cold sober. “Oh no,” he muttered.

I turned to him. “What did you ask of my dad?”

He ignored me and covered his face with his hands as the rest of the crowd cheered to know the rest of the story.

“Will, don’t listen,” he pleaded, his words still slightly slurred.

“Why not?”

Before he could answer, Apollo’s voice boomed across the cabin once more, “He’s such a caring boyfriend to my son!”

“Will, stop him!” Nico cried.

“What did you ask him to do?!” Because there was no way I could’ve stopped my dad now.

“I couldn’t believe it when he pulled me aside and asked me this,” Apollo continued.

“What?” Someone cried.

“Tell us!”

“No,” Nico groaned quietly.

“Why?” I asked again, unhelpfully.

Apollo smiled down on us, clearly enjoying his own showmanship. I was tempted to get him to stop, but I really did want to know what him and Nico had discussed.

Finally, he held up his hand for quiet. Then he yelled, “The son of Hades asked me to spare Will when I picked out my companions for my perilous quest!”

Everyone turned to face us and we got a few, “Awwwww”s from random people in the audience.

Apollo beamed at the reaction and then he turned to me. “Hang onto that one, Will! He’s a keeper.”

My cheeks turned a brighter red, but thankfully, my dad didn’t linger. “And now,” he declared, “let’s carry on with the festivities!!!”

The music started blaring again and everyone continued dancing, completely ignoring Nico and I. My mind was spinning worse than ever, thinking about what my dad had just revealed.

Nico turned to me sheepishly. “I feel a bit sick,” he admitted.

I sighed. “Do you want me to take you to your cabin?”

He smiled at me. “Yes, please.”

“To sleep,” I warned.

“Of course, Will.”

His expression did not reassure me. But I couldn’t just leave him to get back by himself. “Let’s go then. Hang onto me.”

*

We got back to the Hades cabin with Nico’s one arm around my neck, and his other hand gripping tightly to my shirt.

I deposited him on the bed, and before I could pull away, he used his grip on me to move me closer. He kissed me on the cheek and went in for another. But as he loosened the hand that was gripping my shirt, I quickly stepped back a couple of paces.

It took a second for him to realise what had just happened, and when he did, he scowled. “Will, come back,” he ordered. “I’m not done with you.”

His authoritative tone and intense gaze caused my heart to beat faster. Under normal circumstances, that would’ve been enough to make me completely give up any sort of self control. But as it was, I forced myself to look away.

I grabbed some fresh pyjamas from his drawer and passed them to him. “Here. Get changed.” He took them from me and started to lift his shirt. “In the bathroom,” I told him. I didn’t want him to feel embarrassed in the morning about anything he did now.

He didn’t look pleased with me, but he did as I asked. I quickly changed into some sweats myself while he was gone, and laid down on the bed. Gods, what a night.

That had probably been the craziest thing I’d ever been a part of. Sure, I’d been a combat medic during two wars and countless assaults, but in those circumstances all the participants acted predictable. The monsters would try to kill us. We would fight back. But during that party, the whole time, I had had no idea what to expect from anyone.

After a couple of minutes, Nico came stumbling out of the bathroom. Before I could even register that he was only in his boxers, he’d climbed on top of me as I was still lying flat on the bed.

“Nico!” I protested.

He smiled down evilly at me. “What’s the matter?”

His cheeks were slightly flushed, and even though I could see some confusion swimming around in his eyes, they still looked undeniably like Nico. Playfulness, dominance, and a bit of hunger too. His bare chest was as beautiful as ever, and the sight was not helping my situation. He was also straddling me, causing a small amount of friction every time he moved... Gods, help me.

He smiled knowingly at me and leaned down. He started peppering my neck, jaw and face with kisses. He kissed me confidently, in all the right spots, as if he knew exactly what to do to turn me on. The way my skin erupted into flames every time he made contact, coupled with just the closeness of him, was really not convenient. When he reached the soft skin below my ear, I almost lost it.

“Nico,” I managed, “you have to stop.”

He smiled at me and shifted his lower half slightly. “Why? I can feel it working.”

Oh gods, he was right. He just felt so damn good.

But I knew he’d regret this in the morning. And this wasn’t how I wanted this to go. I couldn’t let him carry on. “Please,” I said softly, “get off. We can do anything else.”

He pouted at me, and I felt a knot of guilt in my stomach at the hurt look he was giving me. Then he seemed to pull himself together as he realised something. “Oh,” he muttered sadly. “I know why.”

He was still sitting on top of me, which was making my thoughts a bit cloudy. “Why what?”

“Why you don’t want to.” His voice was still a bit slurred and the look in his eyes were somewhere faraway.

I wanted to say ‘Obviously I want to, you idiot,’ but I thought that might egg him on to start kissing me again. “What are you talking about?” I asked instead, because I really had no idea.

He looked at me sadly and my guilt expanded. What had I done to make him so upset? Eventually, he said, “I went behind your back.”

That did not clear things up. Maybe his intoxication was affecting what he thought was real? I decided to ask anyway. “What?”

He sighed again and brought his hands to rest on my chest. He was looking at me like he was devastated by something. “With Apollo,” he said quietly. “I didn’t want you to leave me. I know, it was selfish. And now you’re mad.”

Oh. I didn’t know what my feelings were about that incident, but I knew that I was at least partly flattered that Nico had actually cared enough about me to do something like that. “Why on earth would I be mad about that?” I asked incredulously.

I reached out and started stroking his forearms because he looked unbelievably sad and I couldn’t take it.

He also looked cold in just his boxers, and I felt the urge to cover him up with the duvet. But if I asked him to move again, I was worried about how he would take it.

He slumped his shoulders and looked at me like I was stupid for not being mad. “Because I didn’t ask you what you wanted. What if you wanted to go... with Apollo... without me.”

The truth was, I would be terrified if Apollo had asked me to go. I would’ve felt inclined to accept, but I would’ve felt horrible about leaving Nico. “I get why you did it,” I told him gently. “I probably would’ve done the same thing.”

He pulled away from my gentle touches and sat up straighter, frustration flaring in his eyes. “No!” he cried, and I wished we were having this conversation while he was sober. “Because you’re perfect, Will. You would’ve asked me first. You wouldn’t have decided for me.”

That was probably true. But only because I knew how sensitive he got about me protecting him. I still wanted to make my own decisions, but I honestly didn’t mind that he had asked my dad to leave me out of this one. I doubted it had even made a difference to Apollo’s plans anyway. “Nico, I don’t think Apollo even wanted me on that quest.”

Nico threw up his hands and huffed. “That doesn’t matter! I’m so sorry, Will.”

He looked like he was about to cry, the poor thing. I swear, his favourite thing to do is to beat himself up over things that didn’t matter at all. Well, it did matter to me, but not in the way he thought. “I’m telling you, it’s alright,” I told him sternly. “Honestly, don’t worry about it.”

He didn’t seem to hear me though, and he now had this expression that I couldn’t quite read. “I’m sorry,” he said again, a bit quieter now. “but I only did it because I love you.”

I blinked at him, completely frozen in shock. Did he just...? I stared up at him, but he obviously didn’t realise what he’d just said. He was staring at the wall behind me, and he’d probably already forgotten what we were even talking about.

“I... um...” I stammered, unsure of what to say. Do I say it back? The fates know it’s true. But something was telling me that even if that was sincere, Nico would forget all about this tomorrow.

He ignored me anyway. He let out a deep breath and finally rolled off of me. “You’re right,” he said sleepily, “maybe drinking wasn’t such a good idea. I might just...”

He collapsed next to me on the bed and immediately started snoozing. I sighed in exasperation and got up to wrap him snugly in his duvet.

Then I went to quickly wash up in the bathroom. I placed a bottle of fresh water on Nico’s night stand (he’d definitely need it in the morning). Then I climbed into the bed on the opposite side that Nico was occupying, and pulled the duvet over me (because I was definitely not going back to my cabin tonight).

I closed my eyes but it was hard to drift off with Nico’s confession still ringing in my head. I smiled to myself and decided that this was definitely something I didn’t mind losing some sleep over.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I woke up with a splitting headache. Honestly, who makes drinks that cause this amount of pain and disorientation? I blinked once or twice to get the sleep out of my eyes and tried to sit up.

That was a big mistake. A stabbing pain flared right through my head, all the way down to my skull, and the world spun before my eyes.

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Will’s voice came from somewhere nearby. “Lie back down. You look terrible.”

“Thanks,” I grumbled sarcastically, but did as he said. When my vision became clearer, and the pain became a dull ache, I asked, “What the fuck?” The question was about nothing in particular, but really, that summed up my thoughts quite nicely.

“Yeah,” Will said sympathetically from where he was sitting on the couch. “You were pretty gone last night...”

Panic started to build in my chest from his tone of voice. It seemed to say ‘you did something stupid, but I don’t want to traumatise you if you don’t remember it’.

“Why? Is there something specific I should know about?”

“No,” he said way too quickly.

I sighed. I knew I could get it out of him eventually, but my head was throbbing and I didn’t have the energy to attempt it now.

“Let me heal your headache,” he offered. “Then we can talk.”

“You’re not healing anything,” I said stubbornly. “No need to expend your energy on something so trivial. I’m not a child. I can deal with my own headache.”

I could sense that he was about to object, so I continued. “I do want to talk though. Everything’s a bit too fuzzy for my liking.” I rubbed my eyes with my fingers. I didn’t like being in the dark. Especially when the darkness was about me.

“I’ll just help with the pain,” he insisted. “It won’t take that much energy.”

“I said ‘no’, Solace.”

“Nico-“

“No.”

“But-“

“No.”

“Can you let me speak, gods damn it?” he said frustratedly.

I sighed. “Fine. But keep in mind that you’re not making my headache any better with your complaining.”

I could practically feel him gritting his teeth in my direction. Well, what could I say? I always felt Will get a little closer to death when he used his powers. It obviously wasn’t much and it happened to most demigods when they used their gifts, but I wasn’t about to let him waste his energy on useless things like a hangover.

“I was just going to say, I can literally sense your pain. I have this bothersome urge to heal you. You’ll be doing me a favour.”

I scoffed. It was such a typical Will thing to say. As if him helping me would somehow be a favour to him. “That’s such a pathetic excuse.”

“No, really,” he assured. “For one, I’ll stop being bothered by your aura of pain.” I gave him an unimpressed look. “And for two, I won’t have to listen to your bitching, and we can actually have a mature conversation. That second part is a real plus.”

I sighed. I really didn’t want to let him, but I knew he wouldn’t let it go. Plus, I warned him not to freak out about my power usage, so I guess I couldn’t be a hypocrite. “Fine. Get on with it.”

He bounded up from the sofa and sat down on the bed, close to me. He gently moved some of my hair out of the way before placing his warm hands over my forehead. He hummed quietly for a moment and I felt his hands getting hotter. After a few seconds, the pain subsided and I sighed in relief. “Thank you,” I told him.

He smiled and nodded, then shuffled away a bit so that we weren’t sitting so close. “So,” he said, his voice much more calm now, “you wanted to talk about yesterday?” His expression looked a lot happier than it should’ve been thinking about the events of last night. It made me uneasy.

“What exactly are you thinking about?” I demanded.

He tried to stifle his smile. He wasn’t successful. “Nothing. Now why don’t you tell me what you remember, and I’ll fill in the rest.”

I scowled at him, but I figured that we might as well start somewhere. “Um... so I remember the party, and Leo on fire, and your dad breakdancing...”

Will shuddered. “Gods, that was embarrassing. They left by the way. A couple of hours ago. It’s almost lunch time now.”

“Oh.” I had meant to see them off before they left.

“Don’t worry. They didn’t make a big deal about their departure. It was only really Chiron and the Hephaestus and Apollo campers.”

A memory started to resurface. “Your dad said something about me being an honorary Apollo camper...”

Will looked uncomfortable. “I guess. I mean... yeah, he did. Right before he told everybody what you had discussed with him yesterday.”

I hid my face in my hands. “Oh gods! That’s what you were avoiding telling me, right? Styx, that’s embarrassing.”

I looked up to see his reaction. I couldn’t really read it. Then I realised what his reaction might be about me going behind his back to talk to his father. “Oh, Will. About that. I’m really sorry. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you first. I just...”

I trailed off because Will’s eyes had become wider, as if he expected me to say something. “You just... what?” he asked.

“Um... I don’t know how I was going to finish that sentence... But I really am sorry. I should’ve asked you. And- Wait are you alright?”

His shoulders had slumped and he looked disappointed about something. “Of course,” he said in a fake brightness. “And we already had this conversation. Don’t feel guilty. I’m glad you did it.”

I knew I was missing something, but I decided to just go along with this for now. “Really?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “I mean, I wouldn’t have been able to say ‘no’ to him and I’d rather stay at camp with the infirmary and my siblings and... you.”

I smiled. “Well as long as I’m part of the reason.”

We fell into a silence, and before I could stop myself, I asked the question that had been bothering me since I’d woken up and realised that Will was here. “So... I’m not wearing any clothes... did we...?”

Will laughed and shook his head. “Nope. But trust me, it was not from lack of trying on your part.”

“Oh gods!” I buried my face in my hands again out of embarrassment.

“It was kind of flattering,” Will continued. “And it was also nice to see you... trying to seduce me.”

He gave me a suggestive wink and I threw a pillow at him. “Stop! That was not what happened!”

He caught the pillow and laughed at me. “Maybe. Maybe not. But can you say for sure?”

Honestly, I couldn’t. I had no idea how I would’ve acted under the influence of alcohol. And I knew that I’d been thinking about that sort of thing quite a lot lately...

I decided to own it. I gave him a sly smirk. “Well, if I did try my best, I’m guessing you’re pretty frustrated now, huh?”

A soft blush spread across his cheeks. He recovered quickly though and rolled his eyes. “I’m always frustrated with you, di Angelo.”

I smiled at him. “In a good way?”

“Sure,” he said sarcastically, “when is frustrated not in a good way?”

I nudged his shoulder. “You can pretend all you want, Solace. But I know you secretly love it.” Then before he could retort, I got up and slipped into the bathroom to wash up.

After I showered, I brushed my teeth for at least five minutes to get the taste of alcohol out of my mouth.

I don’t know what came over me last night. I’d never shown any interest in taking drugs. My life has always been crazy enough without them. I guess I was just curious.

And I didn’t regret it. Well, I didn’t regret the parts I remembered. I just hoped I hadn’t done anything else to embarrass myself. If there was going to be a next time, maybe I’d let Will cut me off just before the memory impairment thing happened.

I remembered having a good time dancing with Will, but after that, it got fuzzy. I can’t believe I had danced in public. It surprised me even more that I kind of wanted to do it again.

I pulled on the pair of clean pyjamas that were already in here. I had a vague memory of dumping them on the cabinet, so that I could try to seduce Will without my clothes. Oh gods, I did not want those memories back. I’d rather not picture it.

After I changed, I went to sit next to Will on the couch. “Shouldn’t we go and help clean up the mess from last night?” I asked.

Will shook his head. “After we saw Apollo off, Kayla, Austin and I went around all of the cabins and told them that if they didn’t clean up their messes, we’d curse them all to speak in rhyming couplets.”

I cracked a smile. “Can you actually do that?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Would you like me to try it on you and you can find out?”

I was pretty sure he was bluffing, but why risk it? “I’ll choose to believe you on this one. Tell me more about what happened during and after Apollo’s speech,” I requested.

He turned to face me and I pulled my legs up so that I was sitting cross legged in front of him. He scrunched up his face in concentration. “Well not much happened, really. He told us that you’d asked him to spare me from his ‘perilous’ quest.”

He paused for a second, studying my face for some reason. “What?” I demanded. “Why are you looking at me like that? Can you please stop acting weird and just tell the damn story?”

He shook himself. “Yeah. Anyway, I brought you back here and you... you know. Then you basically passed out and that was that.”

I really felt like he was skipping over something important. It was just a nagging feeling, and my instincts were usually right. “What did we talk about?” I asked.

Will gave me a nervous look, and that irritated me even more. “For fuck sake, I’m not a child! You can tell me. I can handle it.”

From the way he was tip toeing, my brain started coming up with various scenarios that definitely didn’t paint me in a good light. I started to panic again. “I didn’t do anything... that made you mad, did I?”

Will’s eyes went wide. “Oh no. Nothing like that. We were just discussing why you went to talk to Apollo behind my back.”

He paused again, as if I was supposed to fill in some sort of blank. But I still had no clue. “Will, I said I was sorry...”

“No! I didn’t mean... I told you not to worry about that.”

“So then... what?”

He got a guarded look. For a moment, he looked like he was going to say something, but at the last second, he backed out. “Honestly Nico, it was nothing. Well, nothing that you don’t already know, I guess.”

Why wasn’t he telling me? It was me who had said or done the damn thing after all. Anger flared low in my stomach. “If you’re going to talk in riddles, then I can’t be bothered to have this conversation.”

Will gave out a defeated sigh. “Can you just trust me that this isn’t something you want to know? It’s not going to end well if you force me to repeat it.”

I let out a humourless laugh. He must know that that was the worst way to put it. If he really didn’t want to tell me, the best thing to do would be to pretend to tell me something important and then forget all about the other thing. It was like he wanted me to push him. “So it’s something I said? What was it? Did I say I didn’t like your dance moves or something just as offensive?”

He rolled his eyes. “Obviously not.”

“Then tell me,” I ordered.

“Holy Hera, you’re so stubborn, Nico. Just let it go.”

“You know I won’t,” I threatened, my anger peaking again. What was his problem? Why couldn’t he just spit it out?

“Well you’ll be asking for a long time then,” he muttered.

“Just tell me.”

“No.” His voice was also raised now, and I could tell this was edging into ‘fight’ territory from the way his lips were pressed together and his brows were furrowed.

I was not backing down though. “William Andrew Solace. Tell me what I said right now, or I will kick you out of my cabin.”

He scoffed. “You wouldn’t.”

“And why’s that?” I demanded, amused, exasperated and angry.

He got up, and for a second, I thought he’d simply walk off without answering me. But he just moved to the opposite side of the room, as if he knew his next comment might cause me to lose it. He looked at me dead in the eyes, and said, “Because you love me.”

Oh gods.

I remember.

Chapter Text

Will POV

Nico’s expression showed several things at once. He looked like he wanted to smack me. His mouth was open in shock. His eyes were crinkled up, but not in confusion, in realisation, as if he’d just remembered what had happened last night. I couldn’t tell if he was happy or sad about what he’d realised.

When I had woken up, I had told myself that I wouldn’t tell him. I’d let him say it himself when he was ready... and sober. But as the conversation had progressed, I had realised that maybe I’d wanted to tell him all along. I did feel a bit guilty about it, but I reminded myself that it was Nico’s right to know. Plus, I really wanted to say it back to him.

I waited for him to respond. It looked as if half his brain had short circuited, and the other half was still angry about me withholding the information for so long.

I realised that maybe he wanted some alone time just to gather his thoughts. I’d thrown a pretty big bomb at him, and I didn’t want to pressure him to say anything.

I cleared my throat. “I can go. If you want.”

He gave me a confused look. “Why? Do you want to go?” His tone was still a bit sharp, but it had smoothed slightly around the edges.

“I don’t want to go,” I assured. “But if you want me to-“

“I don’t want you to go.”

“Okay...” I said unsurely.

Nico shook his head in exasperation. “Can you get your butt back on the sofa, Solace? I’m not going to murder you, however tempting you make it.”

I made my way back to the sofa and sat myself down at a respectable distance from Nico. He was looking at his hands, and I could practically hear the gears turning in his head, wondering what to say. So I waited for him to speak.

I waited.

And waited.

Okay, maybe he didn’t want to speak. I sighed. “Nico, if you want to take it back, it won’t change-“

“I don’t want to take it back,” he said quietly, his eyes shooting up towards mine again. “Because I meant it.”

My eyes widened, and I could feel a smile spreading along my face. I really wasn’t expecting that. I got a warm fluttery feeling in my stomach, and it was all I could do to stop myself leaping up and down and yelling, ‘Yesssss!’

I moved a bit closer and leaned towards him. He smelt deliciously fresh, and the heat from his blush was radiating off of him.

“You really meant it?” I asked teasingly.

I think his breath caught when I spoke, and his breathing was definitely getting more ragged. He nodded slightly, his eyes still locked on mine, his pitch black irises making me feel dizzy.

“But,” he said in a slightly weaker voice, “if you make a big deal about this, I swear...”

I moved closer so that now there was hardly an inch between us. “What are you going to do about it?” I whispered. I moved my head in and placed a soft lingering kiss on his neck.

He let out a soft sigh and tilted his head slightly to give me better access. I obliged, placing small kisses along his throat at the slowest pace I could manage. “Don’t forget,” he muttered in that breathy voice, “that I could kick your ass, Solace.”

He looked at me with a frustrated look when I withdrew from his neck. I gave him a wicked smile. “It’s kind of hard to find you threatening when I’m successfully turning you on.”

He scowled at me, but before he could speak, I went in again, this time on the other side, and continued with my kisses. To kick it up a gear, I started sucking gently on his skin, using my tongue to lick him softly. He made a small moaning sound that gave me a deep animalistic sense of triumph. “I am not turned on,” he muttered stubbornly.

I laughed against him. “Really? So you’d be totally okay if I stopped right now?”

He took a moment to answer. Probably because I’d moved onto another soft spot with my kisses. “Yes,” he said in a slightly reluctant voice.

I sighed. Then, between kisses, I told him, “You know sometimes you’re too stubborn for your own good.”

He huffed. Or at least he tried to. It came out more of a breathy sigh. “Whatever. I still wouldn’t care if you stopped.”

I stopped leaving my trail of kisses to look up at him. “Nico?”

He looked annoyed about my sudden retraction from his neck, which I found amusing considering the conversation we were just having. He pouted, which made him look super cute with his bright pink blush, and intense dark eyes. My heart started beating like crazy.

“What?” he asked, half angry, half flustered.

I smiled at him, knowing exactly what I was about to do. “I love you too.”

His eyes widened and his gaze softened. But I only had a second to process it because then he pushed himself towards me and pressed his lips to mine. And then he was kissing me like he’d never done before. His movements were so intense, so hungry, so passionate, it was all I could do to match his ferocity.

He pressed himself right into me (as far as he could get with his legs still crossed) and grabbed onto my shirt just below my rib cage. I also leaned into him, and my hands came to rest on his thighs so that I could keep myself upright.

We carried on kissing, as if we were the only two people in the universe. I kissed him with all I had, using all my energy to move my mouth in time with his. As if his lips were my only anchor to reality. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. And I definitely did not want to.

Nico broke the kiss after a few minutes, and moved onto kissing my jaw. I took that as an opportunity to catch my breath, though with the stimulation on the sensitive skin on my neck, it was really a lost cause. He increased his grip on my shirt, and as he pulled me even closer, my hands moved up his thighs (voluntarily or involuntarily, take your pick).

“So I guess you didn’t want me to stop?” I teased, though my heart was beating so fast that I was almost panting when I spoke.

Nico stopped his kissing to look up at me, and I scolded myself for provoking him whilst he was making me feel so freaking good. He gave me a small scowl, but his blush and heavy breathing just made him look so unbelievably beautiful instead of threatening.

“Do you ever shut up?” he asked in an exaggerated exasperated tone.

Before I could reply, he tightened his grip on my shirt and pulled it over my head. And then we were kissing again. He wrapped his arms around my neck, and he let his hands rest across the muscles on my back. I let my hands slide dangerously close to his groin area, and every time I got close, he would dig his nails slightly into my skin.

The movement made me shiver, and the contact between his arms and my bare torso was causing me to burn with arousal. It felt as if liquid heat were running in my veins, and a surplus of it was travelling lower and lower, and I was sure if we carried on, I wouldn’t be able to last.

I wanted to take Nico’s shirt off also, but I didn’t want to overstep. I decided I’d let him take it off if he wanted to. Instead, as we continued to kiss, I focused my hands on where they were resting on his thighs. I increased my pressure and moved slowly higher... higher...

When I reached his sweet spot, his nails dug into my back so hard, it was kind of painful (but I honestly didn’t mind). Even though the contact was through his sweats, he gasped into my mouth. His grip around my neck forced me to move closer to him, and the momentum pushed us down so that he was lying flat on the sofa, and I was in between his legs.

I let out a soft laugh. “So that felt good?”

“Shut up, Solace,” Nico gritted out. “And do it again.”

I didn’t immediately oblige. I leaned down and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. Then on his neck, and near his collar bones. I moved lower and lower down his torso until my face was level with his bottom half. He hadn’t taken off his shirt, so I slipped my fingers underneath the hem to raise it slightly, and kissed the small slither of skin that it exposed.

I knew he was sensitive here because he’d shrieked when I’d tickled him in this spot. But now his reaction was just more heavy breathing and he bucked his hips aggressively.

I moved my fingers to hook at his waistband and looked up to him. “Can I?”

He took a moment to answer because he needed to open his eyes again. He looked down at me with an exasperated expression. “What do you think?” he breathed.

I smiled and kissed him again just above his waistband, as I started pulling his sweats lower.

“Wait,” he said reluctantly. I stopped and looked up at him. “What are you going to do?”

That seemed like a stupid question to me, but I guess I knew why he was asking. I gave him a wide smile and said, “You’ll have to trust me to find out.”

He let out a shaky breath and nodded. “Okay.”

I continued to lower his pants all the way down until I could take them off completely. I looked back at his face once I had discarded them on the floor. His expression was part aroused, and part nervous.

I got back into position and rubbed his thigh reassuringly. I then used my tongue to slowly trail a path along his v-line, and was happy to note that he relaxed his head back down on the couch when I made contact.

“So good...” he mumbled nearly incoherently.

Well, I guess that was my cue. I obviously had never done this before, but I figured that you had to start somewhere. I cautiously wrapped my hand around his base. “Oh gods,” he sighed. Then I lowered my head down and took his tip into my mouth. He let out a series of cute whimpering sounds between long heavy breaths.

I swirled my tongue just around the tip for now, trying to get used to the feeling and gauging Nico’s reaction as I tried different things. It was hard to know what felt the best for him because his exaggerated breathing and small noises kept coming throughout.

I took that as a good sign and increased the pressure and speed. I tried to take in as much as I could, but it was difficult to do and I didn’t want to choke. I also found it easier to swirl my tongue and suck with more pressure if I just stuck around the top.

So that’s what I did. I used my hand to move at the base, whilst my mouth slid around his tip. His small moans were hardly audible, and I got the feeling he was trying to hold them back, out of embarrassment. I took that as a challenge, so whenever any small sound slipped out, I counted that as an individual victory.

I continued with my movements, just doing whatever I felt like. Nico wasn’t complaining though; his small whimpering noises increased as time went on. I lost track of what I was doing, and I all I could think was that I was so intensely happy right now, it was overwhelming.

We’d both confessed our love, which was enough to make me giddy. Then there was the small matter of me using my mouth to pleasure my absolutely stunning boyfriend. Honestly, he was perfect in every way.

I kept sucking, and licking, and sometimes kissing. When I let my tongue run across the slit at the top, he let out a loud gasp. “Oh gods, Will... I can’t...”

I felt his entire member throbbing, so I increased my pressure and carried on as fast as I could. When Nico came, he clasped his lips together so all I could hear was a muffled sort of noise. It was loud nonetheless. I continued my movements as he released into my mouth, and I felt his thigh and stomach muscles contract as he rode out his orgasm.

And then he relaxed, collapsing on the sofa, and trying to catch his breath.

I swallowed, mildly interested about the tangy taste it left in my mouth. But I was more concerned about seeing how Nico was feeling. I slid up beside him and studied his face.

He noticed my concern and he laughed dryly at me. “Please don’t tell me you’re worried about me?”

I held up my hands. “I’m just checking in.”

He rolled his eyes, but without any actual emotion. “My current state is making it difficult to scold you, but trust me, it’s not from your lack of idiocy.”

It took me a moment to understand what he’d just said. I decided the basic gist was: you’re being an idiot, but I just had an orgasm so I can’t be bothered to show my annoyance. I took that to mean that he was alright.

“I should do that more often if it means you’re less snarky with me,” I teased.

He sighed, clearly having an inner conflict as to whether he should retort to my taunt.

Eventually he decided to ignore me. “Pass me my sweats,” he ordered. “Then lie down and be quiet because I need to do something about your excitement. It’s literally pressing right into me.”

I laughed and felt a trickle of anticipation as I gave him back his pants. “Yes, sir. I’ll gladly shut up.”

Nico smiled at me evilly. “Oh, you just try to keep your mouth shut.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

Nico smiled at me evilly. “Oh, you just try to keep your mouth shut.”

He said it in a challenging and kind of threatening way. Did that make me weird because it really turned me on? I took his order seriously, and pressed my lips together as I stared at his red tinted cheeks and sparkling eyes.

He finished putting his trousers back on. I had to refrain from asking him to keep them off for my benefit, because gods, that sight was arousing. But he obviously was feeling a bit self conscious afterwards, and I knew that any and all aspects that Nico chose to show me of himself made me feel all hot inside.

Then he mounted me, just like he had last night when he’d been drunk. He placed his hands on my bare chest and started tracing soft circles on my skin. I didn’t know if he was doing it on purpose, but he was also shifting ever so slightly with his hips, and the friction alone was enough to make my brain stop functioning.

“Will?” he asked softly.

“Mmm?” Because 1. He’d told me to be quiet and 2. I was finding it difficult to form words with the anticipation and the soft stimulation.

“How did you know how to do... that... so well?”

I snorted, which turned into a sharp intake of breath as one of Nico’s fingers lightly grazed my nipple. Sparks exploded around the sensitive little nub and travelled right down to my groin, making my pants uncomfortably tight. I grabbed his wrists to get him to stop so that I could actually answer his question.

He didn’t resist, but he gave me a knowing smirk. “If you’re asking if I’d done it before, then the answer is obviously ‘no,’” I told him weakly.

He furrowed his brows. “But it was so... you know.”

I smiled at him. “Good to know.”

He started rolling his hips slowly. So slowly. It was kind of driving me crazy, but I couldn’t tell him that.

“If I tried that,” he started cautiously, “can you... tell me... when I do something right?”

I could tell my cheeks (and probably my whole damn torso) were flushed. My heart rate was really picking up now, and Nico’s hip movements weren’t helping. I let go of his wrists because I didn’t have the strength to hold them anymore, and he continued tracing his fingers around my nipples. “I think,” I managed through my breaths, “you’ll be able to tell.”

He smiled down at me. “Okay,” he said in a more confident tone. “Now go back to shutting your mouth.”

I did as I was told.

Nico leaned down and brushed his lips against the soft skin where my neck met my jaw. He was being so infuriatingly gentle. He laid kisses all across the side of my throat, only moving his lips in the most minimalist way.

Then he shuffled down, and the friction that that caused in my groin area forced me to intake a sharp breath. I closed my eyes and focused on the warm pleasant feeling that was pooling in my gut. I tried to control my breathing so that I could bring myself back from the edge. I heard Nico smirk at my reaction. Gods, it would’ve been embarrassing if I’d finished by such a small motion.

He continued with his soft kisses, now along my collar bone, and my chest. When he reached one of my nipples, he grazed over it with his tongue, and I sighed at the contact.

“Sensitive?” Nico asked, with a hint of amusement.

I could only manage a noise that sounded embarrassingly like a whimper in response and he full on laughed at me. Only for a moment though, because he went back to his licking.

He took his sweet time on my upper half. Using his tongue and placing kisses as he got lower and lower. It felt like everywhere he touched caused another spark of arousal that travelled straight down to my manhood. Gods, I was surprised I didn’t explode. Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more turned on, my pants would get tighter and tighter. It was almost painful.

He got to my belly button and lightly grazed the surrounding skin with his tongue. I involuntarily arched my back and let out a loud moan. I’d always been curious about my belly button, because touching it caused such a weird but strong sensation. In my current state, the feeling was way too intense to handle.

“Wait,” I managed to whisper weakly.

Nico stopped and looked up. “What? Does it hurt?”

“No... it’s just... a lot.”

Nico’s expression was unreadable, but I had a feeling that he was filing that information away for later use. He didn’t linger though; he worked his way down my happy trail and clasped his fingers into my waistband before pulling them down.

I vaguely understood that I had to lift up for him to remove them properly, and I just about managed. He discarded my clothes on the floor, leaving me now completely naked.

I saw Nico smiling at me. “That’s a big amount of excitement,” he commented.

I couldn’t tell whether he was referring to the general size (which would’ve caused me to blush if I weren’t already so hot) or if he was talking about how incredibly hard I was (which I would’ve given him an exasperated expression if I could’ve found the energy). I instead settled for a weak mumble of words that even I could hardly make out. “Why don’t you fix it then?”

He smirked at me again. “Don’t tell me what to do, Solace. It won’t end well for you.” Gods I believed him.

I knew he was challenging me, but I didn’t particularly want to give a retort when his face was so close to my lower half. I decided I wouldn’t let him get the satisfaction of getting me to speak. I would not say a word.

That internal promise was nearly broken at the first hurdle. He leaned down right in my groin area, so fucking slowly, and placed a kiss on my inner thigh. To avoid crying out, I tensed my muscles and bucked my hips.

Nico did it again, a bit higher, and it was just as much of a challenge to keep quiet. And he knew it based on his smirks. Honestly, I tried to control my breathing, and my small muffled moans, but I was only about ten percent successful. He carried on, paying special attention to everywhere except the place I needed it the most.

Every new place he touched caused an avalanche of want to cascade through me. Everything he was doing just felt so amazingly good. It was nothing I’d ever experienced. And it was worse because he was in such close proximity to my manhood, and he was completely ignoring me.

And it wasn’t from lack of trying on my part. I kept bucking my hips and arching my back. But to no avail. I even let my own hands drift towards that area because I was so desperate for release, but Nico stopped me by gripping my wrists and saying softly, “No touching.”

After an indeterminate amount of time (it felt like fucking forever) of him teasing me, I finally realised what he was doing. He had just lightly brushed the base of my member as he was kissing my thigh, and I had realised that I was about to beg him to touch me. Because, gods, this was unbearably frustrating.

But that’s what he wanted. He’d challenged me to stay quiet and here he was doing what he could to force me to beg for it. And I was so close to giving in. It wasn’t fair! Damn it.

“Will,” Nico taunted, “you can ask me, you know.”

Of course I knew. But I wasn’t giving in... yet.

“Just so you know,” he continued, “this is your punishment.”

What in the Hades was he talking about? My brain was so damn fuzzy, but I was still sure that I had no clue. I opened my eyes and gave him a questioning look. His expression was half playful and half completely evil.

“From when you blackmailed me whilst you tickled me,” he clarified. “You didn’t think you’d get away with that, did you?”

Because he’d stopped kissing me, I was able to pull myself together (slightly). “Hey,” I said weakly, “you were laughing at the time.”

He scowled. “You’re the doctor. You tell me why that happens.” He didn’t wait for me to respond though. “And by that logic... you seem to be enjoying this judging by the noises you’re making.”

Oh my gods, how did I get myself into this? I should’ve known he wouldn’t forget about the tickling. In my defence though, it was definitely fun at the time. I didn’t think he’d want to get revenge. But, now that I think about it, that had been very naive of me.

I sighed and laid back down again in defiance. If I moved away or used my hands, or begged him, it was as if I was admitting defeat. I just had to let him play out his cruel game. I could not believe that Nico was using sex as a weapon. A playful weapon, but still.

And I knew I was in a bad position. I’d been frustrated since last night, and he’d been teasing me constantly for over an hour now. I made myself a mental note: never mess with Nico di Angelo. Although... I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this at least a little bit.

He smiled triumphantly at me. “You know you’re not going to last. Just give in and beg for it.”

I kept my mouth shut.

Though that didn’t last long because at that moment, he leaned down and took me in his mouth. I swear, I’d never experienced anything so fucking wonderful. Stars danced across my vision. The flame of desire inside of me concentrated right on the spot that he’d made contact with, and burned so brightly, I thought I might combust. I let out the loudest moan yet, and I started clawing at the sofa just so that I could deal with the intense burst of pleasure that he’d caused.

But it was over as soon as it began. Nico lifted his head up and gave me the cockiest grin I’d ever seen him wear. “More?” he asked casually.

Gods I was torn. On one hand, I literally wanted nothing more than for him to do that again. Preferably without withdrawing so quickly, so that I could finally finish. On the other hand, I knew he wouldn’t allow that. If he did that again, he’d keep me on the edge until I broke down and he’d win. My indecision coupled with my heavy breathing and chaotic thoughts meant that I couldn’t give him an answer even if I’d wanted to.

As it turned out though, he didn’t wait for a reply. He went right back down and ran his tongue along the underside of my member at an infuriatingly slow pace. The words ‘please’ and ‘more’ were right on the tip of my tongue, but I forced myself to keep quiet. He’d only touched me twice. I had to last longer than this.

Despite the slowness of his movements, it still felt indescribably good. My stomach muscles had tensed, preparing for my orgasm. My mind was racing, thinking about nothing but how much I needed this. My fingers hurt from grasping at the sofa too hard. And everything inside me burnt.

When he looked up again, I couldn’t imagine I looked very attractive. I was probably all sweaty and flushed, and I was panting so heavily, to myself I sounded like a sick puppy. He laughed dryly at me as he rubbed small circles on my thighs.

“Are you ready to give in yet?” he taunted.

I took in a deep shuddering breath before replying which didn’t do anything to wipe that smug smile off of Nico’s face. “Give in? I could do this all day.”

He smiled at me knowingly because gods, my voice sounded weak and nervous and he obviously knew I was bluffing. I didn’t even know why I was pretending anymore.

This time, he wrapped his hand around me firmly, but at the same time, not firmly enough. He moved up and down slowly and confidently as if he knew just how much he was completely unravelling every fibre of my self control. He kept it up, and I knew I was going to lose his game. Because this was unbearable. But, I tried to hold on to my pleads for a little while longer...

He dipped his head down and I held my breath in anticipation. I needed more. I needed to feel his mouth around me again. He gave me a small evil smile as if to make sure I was watching. Then he looked back down and carried on moving towards me... As he got closer, he opened his mouth... And as he reached my tip, his lips made contact for the shortest second in history, but that didn’t stop the sparks flying around inside of me.

When he withdrew, I realised that he hadn’t even taken me in again; he’d only given me the smallest little kiss. And with that, he even stopped the movements of his hands.

I think I let out a growl of frustration, but who can be sure?

“Yeah,” he said in fake sympathy, “if you want my personal opinion, I’d say you can’t take much more of this.”

I gritted my teeth. “Like how you couldn’t take any more of me tickling you the other day?”

He scowled at me. “Do you really want to provoke me right now?”

I smiled at him (though I had no idea where I found the strength). “It was very fun watching you wiggle around, begging me to stop, because you’re so ticklish.”

“Stop,” he warned, with slightly rosy cheeks.

“And I definitely knew all of your worse spots... because it was when you shrieked the loudest...”

He narrowed his eyes at me and I knew he’d make me pay for saying that, but I had to have at least a small victory.

Instead of retorting though, he just gave me a smile that made my blood run cold. Then he bent down again, and I had to suppress a groan. Or it might’ve been a moan. I couldn’t decide. And it was very confusing.

His mouth closed around my tip and started sucking, more firmly than before, as his tongue swirled around all the sensitive areas and stimulating every single nerve ending.

And he didn’t stop after a few seconds this time. He kept going, moving around and around and up and down. And I felt as if I were floating, rising higher and the liquid fire was increasing in my gut and around my stomach and fucking everywhere else. And all that was between me and the pleasure I was craving was my stubborn boyfriend who kept me anchored to reality, as I tried my hardest to let go.

And this was honestly the best thing ever, but also the worst at the same time. And I felt myself getting closer and closer as I rose higher and higher and so fucking high, I couldn’t breathe. Because all I wanted was to let go. I needed to let go. I was right there, at the edge, and I was tipping, tipping, about to fall...

And he stopped, and the amazing feeling stopped along with him. I arched my back and bucked my hips, desperate for anything that would push me over. But I was already dropping down again, away from the edge. And it was so unbelievably frustrating, that I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Please!” I whined weakly. “I’m begging you.”

He smiled victoriously. “Really?”

I groaned. “Yes,” I whimpered. “Gods, just please!”

“Say it again.”

Gods, he was absolutely infuriating. But I was such a damn mess at the moment. Completely undone. And I couldn’t care less. “I’m begging you, Nico. Please...”

“One more time.”

I groaned. I gave him a look like ‘seriously?’ He gave me a smug smile and shrugged. “Or I could just...” He started tracing the softest lines up and down my member.

My toes curled and I really couldn’t go any longer with the teasing. “PLEASE!! Gods damn it. I can’t take it! You win! Fucking hell, please!”

I probably sounded so whiny and pathetic, but it seemed to satisfy Nico. He stopped. “Well, if you’re that desperate...”

He gave me one last smile just to emphasise that he’d won. Then he went back to work. He took me in his mouth and started moving up and down, letting his tongue swirl around the sensitive area on my slit. And I couldn’t believe that anything would be better than what he’d just done, but apparently he’d still been holding back, because this was too much.

I couldn’t think and I couldn’t feel anything but Nico. The way his mouth was moving up and down and across the top... And then I was rising again. And I scrunched my eyes shut so that I could focus on the intense pleasure without worrying about anything so insignificant like sight. Because gods, this was it. He was lifting me higher and higher again, and he didn’t stop. And I knew my back was arching and every single muscle was tensed in anticipation.

And I could see the edge, it was so close, and I almost thought he’d stop again just to tease me. But he kept on moving, igniting my blood as it spread all the way through my body, making my extremities tingle.

I had absolutely zero strength left to hold on. He could probably sense that I was ready, and he increased his pressure just slightly, but it was more than enough to send me over.

I opened my mouth and let out some unflattering noises as the feeling overwhelmed me. Every nerve ending screamed in ecstasy, as I came. My muscles contracted and it was all I could do not to completely lose it. The fire inside of me, now white hot, burned so bright, it felt pleasantly cool as it rushed through me, and left sparks flying before my closed eyelids.

Gods, help me.

After I was done, Nico let me go and I tried to focus on calming down. I was still panting and my heart beat felt like mini explosions inside of me, but at least my body had relaxed and I was feeling completely content. I only half registered Nico gently laying a blanket over me. He came to sit next to me and took my hand, rubbing small circles on the back.

“Sorry about that,” he smiled at me.

I looked up at him incredulously. “No you’re fucking not,” I said weakly, still attempting to catch my breath.

He laughed. “Well okay yeah. You definitely deserved it. And it was fun. But on the plus side, we’re even now.”

“For now,” I muttered.

He raised his eyebrows. “I would’ve thought you learned your lesson. You can’t win with me.”

I shrugged. “I haven’t been trying yet. Just you wait.”

He laughed at me again. “Oh I’m so scared.”

He was obviously being sarcastic, but that just meant he was underestimating me. I’d get him back.

Nico scratched the back of his neck. “So um... other than that... How was it...?”

I smiled at him. “Pretty incredible actually.”

That seemed to satisfy him. “Interesting. I’ll keep that in mind.” He reached down and passed me my clothes. “We should go and eat something. We’ve expended a lot of energy.”

Well, that was one way to put it.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will and I made our way to the dining pavilion. It was a bit early for dinner, but it was still pretty close. I realised that we’d spent almost all the day doing... stuff. I’d been passed out until lunch time, but still.

It had been worth it though. Putting the obvious triumph aside (me getting Will back for ticking me), I still couldn’t help smiling at the memory of what we’d done.

And I felt that strong urge to be clingy again. It was probably because I felt physically closer to Will. Or maybe there was some psychological thing to do with it. Either way, it was kind of embarrassing that I got all fluttery and warm inside when Will reached for my hand and held it in his, as we walked across the lawn.

“So,” he said cautiously, “forgetting about the sex-“

“Holy Hades, Will. Could you not-“

He laughed at me. “What would you prefer? Coital activities? Intimacy? Extremely heavy petting?”

I rolled my eyes, and I could feel my cheeks burning. “How can you be so flippant about this?”

He gave me a look that said ‘really?’ When I continued to look unimpressed, he said, “Considering that we’ve done the actual thing, the word seems less... huge.”

I thought about that. It did seem logical. Will continued, “And as a doctor, I know it’s healthy to talk about these things... but obviously if you’re... uncomfortable... I’ll stop.”

I knew that. I don’t know why this was making me feel embarrassed. It had nothing to do with Will. But a small nagging part of me was insisting that what we were doing was wrong. It was easy to ignore in the heat of the moment, because my mind was pretty one tracked. But afterwards... “I guess you’re right,” I told him. “I just need to adjust maybe.”

And I would. I knew I was more comfortable with myself than I’d ever been. I wanted to be able to talk about our relationship with Will. And I definitely wanted to be intimate again. My embarrassment was only a small nag, so it was usually easy to push aside anyway.

He squeezed my hand. “Just so you know, I’d only ever be flippant when talking to you. And you can tell me when you want to talk about it.”

I appreciated that. We’d reached the dining pavilion and we went to take our usual seats. We were alone still, so I forced myself to ask him what I’d been too embarrassed to ask a few minutes ago. “Well, regarding... that... would you be open to doing it again soon?”

Will smiled at me and nudged my shoulder softly. “My boyfriend is such a smooth talker.”

I buried my face in my hands to hide my blush and Will put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer. He said quietly, “Seriously though, is that really a question? Obviously yes, Nico.”

I smiled at him, the fluttery feeling expanding in my chest. “What were you going to say before I cut you off?” I asked.

He took a second to remember. “Oh right. I was going to say: forgetting about... um...”

I sighed. “Just say it.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Yeah. I want to get used to it.”

He looked slightly reluctant, but after a moment’s pause, he started again. “Okay. Forgetting about the sex, which was pretty great, let’s be honest.” He paused for a moment to gauge my reaction. I could feel my cheeks burning and I smiled slightly in agreement.

Will continued. “Are we just going to completely ignore the small matter of our love confessions that happened before?”

Okay, I was probably as red as a tomato now. When I thought about Will admitting he loved me, I felt a warm glow of happiness spreading all the way down to my extremities, and I literally got goosebumps on my arms. Ugh, how dare he make me feel anything so damn strongly.

“We’re not going to make a big deal out of it,” I warned, “or I’ll send you right down to the underworld the hard way.”

He gave me a wide smile. “You’re so cute when you’re threatening me.”

I scowled. “I am not cute. I am scary. Dangerous. The son of Hades. I could kill you with a wave of my hand-“

Will ruffled my hair. “So freaking adorable.”

I tried to scowl again, but I could tell that his compliment was causing my mouth to twitch upwards.

He gasped in mock surprise. “Is that a smile I see? Gods you must really love me, di Angelo.”

I groaned. “Ugh Will, please shut up. You’re suffocating me.”

He smiled again and went to take his hand away from around my shoulders. I gave him a glare and tugged his arm back around me. “No one told you to stop,” I snapped.

His expression was a mix of amusement and exasperation. “You just said-“

“I told you to shut up because your idiocy knows no bounds. You’re metaphorically suffocating my own intelligence and ability to stay calm, with your stupid ass comments.”

And with that I leaned into him and laid my head on his shoulder. That’ll show him.

After that, the other campers came wandering in. Kayla came and dumped herself opposite us. “Look at you two being all cutesy,” she commented. “Will, are you going to be able to detangle yourself from your boyfriend for your night shift?”

Will smirked. “If you’re teasing me for being in a loving relationship, then really, the joke’s on you.”

I patted his cheek. “Yeah, you tell her, Will.” Then I turned to Kayla. “And how do you know I won’t be keeping him company?”

Before Kayla could reply, Will did. “Because you need your sleep, and the night shift is... well, all night.”

I rolled my eyes. Could he not see the hypocrisy? I swear, my boyfriend had absolutely no concern for his own well-being and it really pisses me off. “You also need your sleep, Solace. You’re not a robot.”

He shrugged. “I’m used to it.”

I sighed in exasperation. I wasn’t going to convince him to sleep now since he had his shift after dinner, but at least I could rebel his stupid ideals by joining him. “Well, since you’re telling me not to come, you’ll definitely be seeing me there,” I stated.

Will gave me a glare, and Kayla laughed. “Oh, in that case, count me in!” she exclaimed.

We both turned to face her with incredulous and questioning looks. Just then though, Austin arrived. “Count you in for what?” he asked Kayla.

“Spending the night shift in the infirmary listening to Will and Nico bicker about how much they each want to take care of the other.”

Austin laughed and gave us a look like ‘that’s so Will and Nico!’ And I did not appreciate it. “Yup. I’ll come too,” he told us.

Will groaned. “This is going to be a long night. Someone please get me a large cheeseburger with extra fries.”

*

So that was how Will, Austin, Kayla and I ended up playing Monopoly in the infirmary in the middle of the night. Before we’d made our way over, Will had suggested that we bring a game from the selection he’d bought me for Christmas, since the infirmary was pretty much empty. I didn’t know any of them, so I had just picked out the biggest box.

“Fuck me,” Kayla groaned as she reluctantly moved her miniature metal car along the board and landed on my property.

“Yesss!” I said gleefully. I picked up the card to see how much she owed me. I showed it to Will. “Does that mean it’s one thousand with three houses?”

He nodded. “I feel for you, Kayla.”

She rifled through her fastly deteriorating stack of fake money. “Don’t you give me that crap, William. You’ll be next.”

“She’s right,” Austin told him. “Just because Nico’s your boyfriend, that won’t stop him from sucking you completely dry.”

Oh gods, why did he have to say it like that? It was true; I was patiently waiting for Will to land on me so that I could have the pleasure of taking all of his money. But the phrase just made me blush. Judging from Will’s silence, his mind had also jumped to that vivid image.

Thankfully, Austin didn’t seem to notice. He picked up the dice and rolled.

“Oh no,” he said in a fake disappointed voice. “I didn’t get doubles and now I have to stay safely in jail.” He gestured to his little metal wheelbarrow. (Seriously? Who came up with these random game pieces? As if a wheelbarrow would need to stay in a hotel, let alone pay rent for it.)

I picked up the dice and studied the board. We each had at least one full set, but it was clear who were in a better position to win. Kayla only had the light blues, which even though the colour was pretty, apparently they didn’t pay her very well. Austin had browns and pinks, which were just allowing him to scrape by. Will had reds and yellows. And so far, I had oranges and greens.

Little green plastic houses dotted around the board. I couldn’t help but think that Will and I were probably currently tied for first. I needed an edge. Luckily, I already had one of the purples.

I looked at my mini metal top hat. “So I need to roll a seven to get Park Lane, right?”

They all groaned. “The last thing we need is for you to get the purples,” Austin whined.

I smiled. Then I threw the dice.

It was a seven. “YES!” I exclaimed.

“NO!” Kayla yelled.

“FUCK!” Austin cried.

“GODS HELP US!” Will said dramatically.

I laughed at them all and picked out the money to pay for my new property. “I’d like to make a few upgrades,” I muttered as I did a quick calculation and picked out some more plastic houses. Who could’ve known that building a fake empire based on capitalism would give me so much pleasure?

We carried on playing. In the next round, Kayla landed on Will’s hotel and went bankrupt. She flung all she had at him. “There! Take it. Monopoly is a stupid game anyway.”

Will counted his new money and Austin laughed at his sister. “Sore loser much?”

She gritted her teeth. “You only held out so long because you’re in the damn jail. When you get out, we’ll see how long you last.”

As it turned out, she was right. On his way around the board after he’d gotten out of jail, Austin landed on Will’s yellow hotel and my green hotel. “You know what?” he grumbled as he gave me the last of his money. “Kayla was right. It’s a stupid game.”

“Look on the bright side,” I told him. “Now you get to bet on who will win out of Will and I.”

Kayla snorted. “That’s easy. Obviously you’re going to win.”

“Hey,” Will protested.

“I don’t know,” said Austin, “Will’s got some nice hotels. And it looks like he’s got more money.”

“If he lands on two hotels in a row, that money isn’t going to cover him,” Kayla predicted.

“Okay,” Will said. “One bet for me. One bet for Nico.” He turned to me. “It’s pretty even, so how about we make this interesting?”

I smiled at him. “What did you have in mind?”

He thought about it for a minute. “We can bet another favour?”

I was about to agree but Kayla huffed. “Come on! That’s so dull. Pick it up a notch. I’m losing my sleep for this.”

“How about loser has to do the winner’s laundry for a month?” Austin suggested.

I shook my head. “If I wanted Will to do my laundry, all I’d have to do is ask.”

Will scowled at me and I smiled innocently at him.

Then his face lit up. “Oh I have an idea!”

“Yes?” I asked.

He shifted nervously. “Well, I’ve been meaning to get something done. Because I guess I like the idea of it... but I haven’t worked out all the details-“

Kayla groaned loudly. “Spit it out, William!”

Will frowned at her and turned to me. “I want to get a tattoo.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Really?”

“Yeah! They look so cool. But I haven’t figured out what design I want yet-“

“Wait,” Austin said. “What’s this got to do with the bet?”

Will frowned again. “I’m getting to it! My proposal is that if Nico wins, he’ll get to choose my tattoo for me.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You’d trust me to pick something that’s going to be permanently inked into your skin?”

Will shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal. “Um okay,” I said. “And if you win?”

He smiled at me. “Then I get to choose one for you.”

I frowned. “How is that fair? You’re the one who wants a tattoo!”

“Oh!” Kayla gasped in excitement. “What if you got matching tattoos?”

We all stared at her in confusion. She rolled her eyes and continued. “The person who wins gets to decide what said tattoo would be.”

I thought about that for a minute. The thought of getting a tattoo didn’t appeal to me that much, but having something matching with Will did make me feel warm inside. Under normal circumstances, I probably would’ve said ‘no’ but I was sleep deprived and feeling rebellious, competitive, and impulsive.

“I’ll agree to that,” I said. “As long as I can choose the size and location of where my tattoo will go.”

Will looked at me in surprise. And maybe with a bit of admiration and affection too. “Are you sure?”

I nodded.

He held out his hand for me to shake. “Alright, di Angelo. You’ve got yourself a deal.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

After we’d shook on the deal, we carried on with the game.

I was actually quite excited that Nico had agreed to get a matching tattoo with me. I mean, as far as gestures go, considering that this was a pretty permanent one, I took it as a good sign.

We kept rolling and moving around the board. Every time my mini metal puppy landed on his hotels, it hit me hard, but almost immediately, he’d land on one of my properties and it’d even out again.

We each bought properties as we played, since Kayla and Austin had left some free after they’d been bankrupt. But, neither of us collected any more full sets, and I just ended up mortgaging them all for extra cash.

“Nico,” Kayla said, “because you landed on your own station, you can use it to travel to your other one at Liverpool Street Station and pass by all of Will’s hotels.”

“Hey,” I complained, “why are you giving him strategies?”

Nico laughed at me. “How many times have you played this game before? This is my first time, remember? If you lose, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself, Solace.”

He moved his top hat to the opposite station and looked at me expectantly. I tried to suppress a groan. Even if I landed on one of my stations, I wouldn’t be able to bypass all of Nico’s properties because his were more spread out than mine.

I rolled the dice.

“Damn it!” I cried. I moved my puppy along to Vine street’s hotel.

Nico smiled. “Eight hundred pounds please.”

Kayla looked over her shoulder. “It’s actually one thousand,” she corrected.

“Kayla!” I complained.

“What?” she asked. “You wouldn’t want to cheat, would you?”

Nico nodded in agreement and held out his hand. “Cough it up, Will.”

I sighed and handed the last of my cash over. I now had zero pounds, and Nico was still nowhere near my properties. This wasn’t looking good.

Nico rolled and managed to get all the way to Pall Mall with a ‘chance’ card. He already owned it, but I refused to give him my Whitehall so he hadn’t built anything on it.

Then I rolled. I got a ten, and I sighed in relief as I moved my game piece to my own property on Piccadilly.

“Don’t be relieved just yet,” Austin warned. “You rolled doubles.”

I groaned. “I thought you were supposed to be on my side?”

He shrugged. “I’m just telling you how it is.”

Nico gave me a smug smile. “The probability that you land on me now is over half.”

I gave him a confused look. “When did you learn about probabilities?” As far as I knew, Nico hadn’t been to school for years.

“I know basic stuff,” he told me. “Also, probabilities are useful in battle. Usually if the chance of survival is below twelve percent, I don’t take the risk.”

I looked at him incredulously. “‘Usually’? And twelve percent is a bit low isn’t it?”

He smiled at me. “Just roll the dice. We can talk about the math later.”

I didn’t want to talk about math. I wanted to talk about Nico’s tendency to be self destructive. But, I couldn’t do that in front of my siblings, who were also both waiting for me to roll.

I rolled.

“NO!” I screamed.

“YES!” Nico screamed.

“WHOA!” Kayla gasped.

“OUCH!” Austin said sympathetically.

I had rolled a three which put my poor little puppy on Oxford Street.

“I don’t want to go shopping!” I complained.

“You won’t be able to go shopping once you pay me my rent,” Nico said gleefully.

Kayla checked the card. “One two seven five, if I’m not mistaken,” she said.

Austin gave me a pitiful look. “I think I bet on the wrong side,” he told me.

I groaned. “Shut up and tell me what I should mortgage to pay this off.”

He sighed. “Fine.” We both studied the board as I tried to ignore Nico giving me his best triumphant look. “Don’t get rid of the reds,” Austin advised. “Because Nico might land on them in the next roll. You’ll have to knock down some of your yellow hotels unfortunately.”

I sighed and got to work. I had to dismantle quite a lot of buildings in order to pay off my debt. By the time I was done, my share of properties weren’t looking so impressive.

“Here,” I gave Nico the money and he took it with a smile on his face. “It’s cursed money,” I warned.

He flicked through it and dumped it on his pile of fake cash unceremoniously. “I’ll take my chances. Give me the dice.”

I handed them over. “Please try to roll a ten or twelve,” I requested.

Nico rolled his eyes and then rolled the dice. He got a nine.

“Damn!” Austin exclaimed.

“Give him the money!” Kayla shouted.

“This is so unfair!” I complained.

“What’s free parking?” Nico asked.

Kayla picked up the sizeable amount of paper notes that had been accumulating throughout the game. “It means you get all of the taxes and stuff.” She dumped it on Nico’s pile. As if he needed any more money.

“Cool,” Nico said casually.

I frowned at him. “You know what’s not cool? The way you organise your money. It’s just a colourful heap.”

Nico smiled at me. “I’d ask you to show me how it’s done, but you don’t have any money left to do so.”

Kayla and Austin both let out a loud, “Ohhhhh!”

I huffed. “Just give me the damn dice. This can’t possibly get any worse.”

It got a lot worse.

I managed to roll a seven.

“Is that-?” Austin asked nervously.

“Yup.” Kayla replied happily.

“Oh no,” I muttered.

“You landed on Mayfair!” Nico exclaimed. “That’ll be two thousand, please.”

I gave him a miserable look and he gave me the cockiest grin back. “This game sucks,” I grumbled.

“Stop complaining,” Nico ordered. “And give me my money before I have to kick you off of my property.”

I did some calculations. Even if I got rid of all of my hotels and mortgaged all of my properties, I still wouldn’t have enough money to pay the rent. I threw down my cards in frustration. “Oh, Nico! Please don’t do this! Have mercy on my poor broke puppy.”

I gave him the best puppy dog eyes I could manage, though based on his smirk, it didn’t work at all. He raised his eyebrows and he got a playful sparkle in his eyes. “Are you begging me?” he asked teasingly.

My cheeks burned and I got a vivid flashback of him playing with me earlier. Oh gods, I was getting hot just thinking about it. I quickly pulled myself together. I couldn’t let my siblings see me all flustered. And I couldn’t let Nico continue to tease me. He’d had enough wins today.

“I am not begging. I am merely admitting defeat in a mature and civilised way.”

Nico had the nerve to look disappointed, that little-

“Hang on,” he said. “Maybe we can make a deal.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You’re enjoying watching me lose so much, you don’t want the game to end?”

He shrugged unapologetically. “Pretty much.”

I sighed. I guess there wasn’t any harm if I got even a small chance that I’d win the bet. “Fine. What’s your deal?”

He pointed to my cards. “I’ll let you keep your reds and yellows,” he told me. “And I’ll write off your debt. But in exchange, I want all of your other properties.”

I scrunched up my eyebrows in annoyance. “What kind of crap deal is that? You’ll expand your empire across the entire board!”

He shrugged. “Take it or leave it.”

Well, what choice did I have? “Fine.” I handed him my properties. I think I blinked and when I opened my eyes, Nico had hotels on every colour he now owned. He had also managed to land on Piccadilly which was currently mortgaged, thanks to Austin’s advice.

“Thanks a lot,” I grumbled to Austin.

He gave me a guilty look. “It seemed like the best idea at the time.”

I actually managed to stay in the game longer than I’d expected based on the fact that I’d thrown a few lucky rolls. But Nico would have to get around the entire board again to just have the chance of landing on my pathetic reds, which were my only source of income.

I finally landed on another hotel: Bow street.

“It’s nine fifty,” Nico told me casually. “But I’m feeling nice so I’ll round it down to nine hundred.”

“How very generous of you, emperor,” I muttered sarcastically.

Nico actually looked pleased with that nickname. Of course he did. He’d basically just raised an entire empire at the stake of mine and my siblings’ economic stability.

“I’m bankrupt,” I declared, scattering my cards across the board in defeat.

“Yay! I win,” Nico said happily, and I couldn’t help but smile at his reaction, even though I’d lost the game and the bet.

Then he kissed me on the cheek. “Maybe I’ll keep your puppy as my pet. He was kind of cute.”

I smiled at him. “You mean he was cute, but not enough to give you pause when you extorted him of everything he had?”

His eyes sparkled teasingly as he said, “I had to show him who was the boss. I have no regrets.”

Kayla sighed dramatically and Nico and I broke our eye contact (which was just as well because I was starting to get a bit flustered). “Well that was fun. But Nico, let’s focus on the big picture now. What are you going to choose for yours and Will’s matching tattoos?”

Oh crap. I’d forgotten about that. Nervous jitters started running through my body, but I told myself that Nico wouldn’t choose something that bad, would he?

“I’ve got a few ideas,” Nico replied thoughtfully. “When we go to the parlour I can ask for some sketches or something and decide then...”

“When are you going to go?” Kayla asked.

Nico looked at me and I shrugged. “Whenever you want, your highness.”

I could tell he was trying to hide his smile. “What about tomorrow?”

“Sure. After I get some rest.” I yawned, suddenly aware that I was extremely tired. When did I last get some sleep? It must’ve been ages, but I hadn’t really thought about it until now...

Austin yawned after me. “I think on that note, I’m going to head off to sleep so I’m ready for the morning shift.”

“Me too,” Kayla agreed. They helped tidy away the game and then got up.

“Good night,” I said sleepily as they left.

When they were gone, Nico turned towards me and studied my face. “Will, you look really tired. Maybe you should take a nap.”

I yawned again. “I’m fine. I have to keep watch.”

“You look exhausted,” he commented. It was true. Now that the adrenaline of playing Monopoly had worn off, I was starting to feel a lot sleepier. “Did you even sleep last night?”

“I got a few hours,” I said casually.

“Will,” he warned.

I sighed. “Well I couldn’t sleep when you passed out after the party, so I went to check on the infirmary for a bit.”

Nico looked furious as he did the math in his head. “What the fuck, William? That’s like thirty something hours. How have you not dropped dead yet?”

I rolled my eyes. “Stop being dramatic. I’ve had longer shifts than that before. Plus, like I said, I got a couple of hours in before you woke up.”

That didn’t help to relieve Nico’s scowl. “Go to sleep,” he ordered. When I didn’t move, he raised his voice. “Now, Solace!”

I sighed. “I appreciate your concern, but I have to stay awake during my shift. It’s harder to treat people when I’m unconscious.”

Nico didn’t look impressed with my sarcasm.“What am I, invisible?” he asked still in his annoyed voice. “I’ll wake you up if anyone comes in and needs help.”

He got up and started making up a bed for me muttering things under his breath like ‘idiot’ and ‘crazy’. Then he marched over to me and grabbed my arm.

“Whoa,” I said as he dragged me along and almost pushed me down onto the bed. He even pulled the covers over me aggressively. I gave him an amused smile as I made a point of looking at the covers he’d just yanked on top of me.

“Alright alright, I’m sleeping,” I muttered when he physically pushed my head down onto the pillow instead of answering my amused look. I swatted his hand away, but then thought better of it and grabbed it back, pulling it under the covers with me.

“I might need my hand,” Nico said a bit quieter now.

“Shhhhh,” I said in response as I increased my grip on his hand. “I’m sleeping.”

I heard him let out a sigh but he didn’t try to take his hand back. He just sat down on the chair next to my bed and waited for me to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Stupid Will and his stupid tendency to forget about taking caring of himself. And his stupid beautiful face when he thinks he’s in the right. And his stupid warm hand clutching onto mine. And his stupid soft snores that relaxed every part of my being...

Someone came bursting into the infirmary making me jump. I carefully extracted my hand from Will’s and left him sleeping while I checked it out.

It was the Aphrodite girl who’d come to camp after Mitchell left. I think her name was Valentina. I only remembered her because I could’ve sworn she was staring at Will during the camp meeting before the colossus attack. And obviously Will had been completely oblivious. But I wasn’t jealous or anything.

“Hi,” I said, then realised I should probably say a bit more. “Um... can I help you?”

She shifted slightly and studied me. She didn’t give any hints as to what she was thinking, but I got a feeling it wasn’t anything good. “Hi,” she said in her silky french accent. “Is there a healer around?”

Considering that Will hadn’t slept for over thirty hours and he’d only been resting for about five, I didn’t want to wake him. Plus, I did have some basic first aid knowledge and it didn’t look like Valentina had any serious injuries.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

She hesitated slightly, but I guess in the end she decided to answer me. She held out her arm and rolled up her sleeve to reveal an angry red patch of skin. “My new bleach left burn marks on my arm,” she complained.

I suppressed the urge to ask ‘why were you putting toilet cleaner on your bare arm?’ because I thought that might’ve been a bit insensitive. Also, as if I knew anything about beauty related products.

I studied her injury, feeling a strange bit of happiness that I might actually be able to take care of this on my own. “You can sit here,” I offered as I led her to a bed.

She followed me and sat down, every movement she made being ridiculously graceful. I went to get supplies. I think I remembered everything that Will had taught me about minor burns. I hoped I didn’t mess her up further, but I was pretty confident.

I returned and scratched my neck awkwardly. “I think it’s best if you take your top off,” I told her. “The fabric of your sleeves is going to irritate it.”

She shrugged and pulled her shirt over her head. It was such a quick movement, that I couldn’t help but marvel at how confident you’d have to be in your own skin to just strip in front of a stranger. I didn’t even have time to avert my eyes. Fortunately, she had a tank top underneath.

“Um,” I said stupidly. “Yeah. Now you have to run it under cold water for a while.”

She looked skeptical, probably because my tone of voice was pathetically nervous. I realised that I wouldn’t have trusted me either.

I cleared my throat and added, “It’ll help get the last bits of the bleach off, and it’ll also cool the burn down.”

She still didn’t look entirely convinced, but she moved across the room and held her arm under the tap I was offering her. While she held still, I got the other supplies ready, so I would look like less of an idiot when the time came.

“Where is William?” Valentina asked in a casual tone from across the room.

I dropped what I was holding and turned to face her. “He’s sleeping,” I told her, trying my best to keep my voice steady.

She shrugged. “He’s a good healer.”

I stared at her. “I know.” Then before I could stop myself, I blurted, “because he’s my boyfriend.”

I had never used the term before in front of anyone except Will, and then it had only been once or twice. But I felt an uncontrollable urge to mark my territory with this girl. I didn’t even know if it was completely rational because I had little evidence to suggest that she actually liked Will, and I knew that Will loved me. I didn’t know if Will was attracted to girls... I hadn’t ever asked him.

So it was probably irrational. And I had no idea why I said it. I kept telling myself that it was because I wanted her to know that Will was my boyfriend out of pride, but even though that was part of it, I didn’t think it was the main reason...

Ugh fine. The reason was jealously. I was jealous. Damn it. I hated myself for even admitting it.

Valentina gave me a confused look and a small smile. “I know that,” she confirmed. “No one at camp could possibly not know that.”

I studied her, trying to gauge what her tone of voice suggested. “Oh,” I said.

“You two are really cute together,” she continued, almost wistfully. “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get together?”

She was still running her hand under the tap and I gestured for her to come back to the bed, whilst I figured out how to answer her question. Because first, I wanted to understand why she was asking.

I dabbed a bit of the burn ointment I got from the storage cupboard and spread it across the red area on her arm.

“I guess,” I started. “We just grew closer over time. And then...” I tried to remember what had happened, but it felt like ages ago, “... and I guess Will asked me out on a date one night.” That wasn’t the full story, but it’d have to do for now.

Valentina was quiet for the entire time I was wrapping the cellophane around her arm. I focused on getting it at the correct tightness. Will had said that if it was too tight, there wouldn’t be any airflow for the natural healing processes. But if it was too loose, bacteria could get in and cause infections.

Eventually she said quietly. “I wish I had the courage that Will had.”

I looked at her questioningly. What was she saying? The courage to admit feelings? Or the courage he had as a healer? I could see why anyone would be jealous of both of those qualities really.

She looked at my face and clarified, “And you actually. I admire you both.”

“Me?” I asked, completely forgetting that her injury was treated and that I could tell her to go now.

She stayed silent for a count of fifteen. I was sure she’d get up and leave. Why would she want to talk to a son of Hades anyway? But finally, she sighed and said, “To be yourself.”

And then it hit me. She wasn’t looking at Will because she wanted him. She was jealous of both of us because we both seemed comfortable with who we were. “You’re...?”

“Gay,” she stated plainly.

I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. I just said, “Oh.” And I knew that was very unhelpful, but I literally couldn’t think of anything. I tried to recall how Jason had acted when he had found out about me.

I guess he just acted supportive, no matter how difficult I was being. He was there for me. And he assured me that he’d accept me, and more people would too. I didn’t act like it at the time, but that had really helped me start to accept the things I had hated about myself for years. I wished that Jason was here now. He’d know what to do.

“Yeah,” she sighed, seeming to pull herself together. “Well thank you for healing me. I wasn’t expecting it.”

I knew what she meant. I was probably the first child of Hades in history to treat a bleach burn.

She got up to leave, but I didn’t want her to. I felt like I hadn’t done enough after her confession. “Wait,” I said. “Um...” I reached for the small bag on the table. “Ambrosia cubes. Take one a day until your burn’s healed. It should be gone in a couple of days.”

I handed them to her, and she smiled at me. She turned to go again but I still wasn’t ready for her to leave. I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe because I knew what it was like to struggle with your identity. Or maybe because I felt inclined to help her after I’d acted as her healer. Or maybe it was just my brain telling me to do the right thing.

“If you want someone to talk to,” I said, “I’m always around. I might...” I ran my hands through my hair uncertainly, “understand.”

For a second I thought she’d laugh in my face. But after only a moment’s hesitation, she gave me a massive warm smile. “Thank you, Nico. I’ll keep that in mind.”

*

During the day, no more injured campers came into the infirmary. I was feeling a bit sleepy, but it was alright. I’d slept till noon the day before, and I’d done nothing extremely physically exerting since the party (unless you count the sex, but I didn’t).

Will woke up just before lunch time. He came into the reception area and said sleepily, “I was looking for your hand when I woke up.”

I smiled at how cute he looked, with his droopy eyes and slightly rosy cheeks. “Yeah I needed my hand to treat my patient.”

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and frowned. “Your patient?”

I told him about Valentina. Well, not the part about her being gay because that wasn’t for me to tell.

“... and then I told her she could speak to me whenever she wanted to,” I finished.

Will was sitting on a nearby chair. He raised his eyebrows. “Just because she seemed sad?”

I scoffed. “Don’t act to surprised, Will. I can be a nice person.”

He snorted. “Not in my experience.”

He laughed when he saw my scowl. “I’m just joking. You’re very sweet. Very especially aggressively sweet, when it comes to me.”

I rolled my eyes. He was probably referring to when I dragged him across the infirmary and ordered him to sleep last night. But then I remembered all the times when he’d done stuff like that. “And you’re not?” I retorted.

He gasped in mock outrage. “I’m non-threatening! All warm and fuzzy! Your little ray of sunshine!”

Then he leapt up and started to attack my face with kisses. On my cheeks and nose and chin and forehead.

“Okay, okay!” I said as I tried to swat his affection away. It was a weak attempt though, because I didn’t really want him to stop. “I concede. Now get off of me, Sunshine.”

He gave me one last quick kiss on the lips then went back to sitting on his chair. As I tried to control my blush, I said, “I can be warm and fuzzy and sunshiny too.”

He crossed his legs in his chair. “I’m surprised you want to admit that.”

I shrugged. “I’m trying to prove my earlier point that I am capable of being nice.”

He smiled at me. “Nico, you don’t need to convince me that your tough exterior is an act. I figured that out as soon as I met you.”

I scoffed. “Really?”

“Sure. I’m good at reading people.”

I tried to remember our first proper encounter during the time when we disabled the onagers together. “I’m pretty sure I was acting pretty difficult that day,” I recalled. “I gave you no reason to think I was a good person.”

Will raised his eyebrows. “The contrary actually.”

I wondered if I was missing something. Were we talking about the same thing? I distinctly remember snapping at him at least thirteen times. “How in Hades could you think the contrary?”

“Please,” he said in an exasperated tone. “You mean besides the fact that you’d almost killed yourself to get that statue back to camp? How you knew the consequences, but continued to push yourself to do the right thing? How, even though you were half dead, you still accepted the completely impossible mission of single handedly disabling the Roman siege weapons? How you risked your life and your sanity to travel through Tartarus because you knew you’d be the only one to survive it? How you sacrificed everything you had to give, in order to get your sister back?”

He paused for a second, but I couldn’t talk even if I wanted to.

“You mean besides all of that?” he asked in his serious voice. “How about the fact that you’re still going? You still look out for people when you know they’re hurting. You force your boyfriend into a bed when he’s sleep deprived. You offer a lonely girl with a burnt arm someone to talk to.”

I was pretty sure my mouth was gaping open. I couldn’t even form a coherent thought, let alone a sentence.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and gave me a humourless laugh. “Fucking hell, Nico, you do your best to help other people, even when it kills you. And I hate that about you, because it’s so scary sometimes...” he trailed off, shaking his head. “But I also love you for it. Because you deserve to be loved for it. No one can have a heart that kind, and not deserve to be loved for it.”

My vision was getting blurry as my eyes filled with tears, and my knees were shaking slightly. How dare he say these wonderful things about me? How could William Solace, the best and bravest healer I knew, possibly see me as a hero? I managed a watery laugh. “My heart?” I asked in an unconvinced tone.

He fixed me with an intense look, and I had forgotten how amazingly beautiful his eyes were. For a second, I got lost in them. Will was mesmerising when he was passionate about something. “I truly believe that out of all the people I’ve ever met in my lifetime, that you, Nico di Angelo, have the biggest heart.”

I could only stare at him.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Can you please just tell me?” I asked Nico as we headed along the bustling streets of Manhattan.

“How many times do I have to say ‘no’?”

“It’s going to be permanently inked into me,” I argued.

“That’s your own fault for losing the bet.”

I groaned. We were on our way to the tattoo parlour that I’d passed a couple of times when I’ve been in town before. I was really nervous about it. Not only was I getting a tattoo of an indeterminate design, but I also had to go through the process of actually getting it done. I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of needles, but I wasn’t a fan of being stabbed.

We reached the place and entered. It looked like a rock and roll concert but with brighter lights and price lists on the walls.

“Yo!” A woman with black and green snake tattoos down her neck and arms greeted us as we entered. “I’m Laura. What can I do for you two today?”

Nico looked at me nervously. It was kind of cute, the way he could kill off a whole army of monsters, but he was still getting used to normal everyday social cues.

“Hi,” I said cheerfully. “We’re here to get tattoos.”

She gave me a smile and nodded. “Of course. Do you have IDs?”

I looked at Nico nervously. I hadn’t actually thought about that. Sometimes I forgot that we were still technically minors. When you consider what we’d both been through, our mental ages were probably somewhere around seventy nine instead of sixteen.

Nico held up his hand slightly and said in a confident voice, “We are both obviously over eighteen years old.”

The tattoo lady looked confused for a moment, but then she smiled brightly at us again. “Please take a seat. I’ll get you the example design books. We’re not that busy today so I can do both of you when you’re ready.”

She showed us to a low sofa in the back room that was in front of a coffee table. Books of tattoo designs were laid out all laminated and orderly. “I actually have a design in mind,” Nico told her. “Could you maybe try a sketch if I describe it to you?”

“Of course,” she said happily. “Let me get my pad.”

While she was gone, I whispered to Nico, “You have power over the mist? Is there anything you can’t do?”

He gave me a small smile. “She’s only a mortal. It wasn’t that hard.”

I rolled my eyes. That was such a Nico response.

Nico turned to me and gave me an expectant look. “Will, you have to leave while I describe the tattoo to her.”

I pouted. “But we’re here now! Just show me.”

He shook his head. “You’ll see it once it’s done.”

“But what if I don’t like it?”

He looked at me with an intense stare. “You’ll have to trust me.”

Well of course I trusted him. He’d put it in a way that I couldn’t refuse. I decided that I wanted to let him do this. It felt like a leap of faith. And with Nico, I wasn’t afraid. “Fine.”

Laura returned with a a notebook and pencil, and I went to admire some of the posters in the other room. A few minutes later, they both walked out looking pleased with themselves. It was funny how fast Nico could make friends if he tried.

“You’re up, blondie,” she said to me. “You’re going to love it.”

Nico snickered.

“Can you give me a rough sizing and tell me where you want the tattoo to go?” She asked, before bending down and plugging in some kind of machine.

I looked to Nico. “Where do I want it?”

He shrugged. “Wherever you want. You can choose somewhere low-key just in case you hate it.”

“Where are you having it?”

He pointed to a place above his hipbone without hesitation. “Right here.”

I got a sudden flashback of kissing him there yesterday, and the delicious noise he’d made. I smirked at him. “That spot’s a little sensitive, isn’t it?”

He scowled at me, though it looked less intimidating because he was starting to blush. He looked at Laura who was preparing her tools and completely ignoring us. “Shut up,” he hissed. “You’re so insufferable.” When I just smiled at him, he said, “You know, if it were up to me, I’d make you get your tattoo right on your chest, and so big that no one would ever miss it.”

I laughed at him. Then something impulsive inside of me made me say, “Alright. That’s exactly what I’ll get.”

He stared at me in shock. “That was a joke,” he assured. “You can’t actually do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because if you hate it, you won’t be able to get away from it.”

I smiled at him. “Well that’ll be your fault, not mine.”

He didn’t seem to like that idea. “Seriously Will, ask for a small size.”

But I had already made my decision. I had decided to trust Nico to design my tattoo. I might as well take it all the way and go all out. If I went for something small and out of the way, it didn’t really prove that I trusted him. I wanted to leave no doubt that I was one hundred percent on board with this. And the fact that Nico was getting frustrated by my stubbornness was just a bonus.

I turned to Laura. “Can I get it right here,” I pointed to my left pectoral. “And could you do it just about the same the size of my hand please?”

She smiled and nodded. “You really trust your boyfriend, huh?”

I turned to smile at Nico who was part flustered, part still angry at me, and part something else I couldn’t place.

Laura looked between us. “Oh. Sorry if I got that wrong. I thought that-“

“No, you were right,” Nico assured, “he’s my boyfriend.” I was so pleasantly surprised that he’d admitted it to a total stranger, and I was sure a massive smile was spreading across my face.

“And yes,” I said, “I do trust him.”

Nico averted his eyes and Laura gestured for me to sit on the reclining chair. She held up a circular shaped stencil just for a reference. “Is that size okay?” She asked.

I nodded enthusiastically.

“Will,” Nico whined. “What if you hate it?”

I rolled my eyes. “Why would you choose something I’d hate? Plus you’re getting the same thing.”

“I’m getting it smaller than that.”

“Just chill out,” I told him. “And come over here so I can hold your hand while she stabs me.”

Nico reluctantly trudged towards me and took my hand. “I hate you when you’re stubborn,” he grumbled.

“That’s a shame. Because I love how much it annoys you.”

He glared at me, but before he could respond, Laura requested that I take my shirt off and then she started telling me how this was going to go.

“So,” she said brightly, with the tattoo gun raised in her hand, “because this is a surprise tattoo, you can look that way throughout.” She pointed to where Nico was standing beside me. “And make sure to tell me if anything feels severely uncomfortable.” Then she turned on her gun. “Ready?”

I nodded and she got to work.

*

About halfway through, I’d got used to the pain. My head was turned in Nico’s direction, so it was easy to talk to him.

“If I guess,” I started, “will you tell me if I get it right?”

He crossed his arms. “No.”

I huffed. “You know I could just look at it if you don’t agree.”

He pressed his lips together and raised his eyebrows. “Go on then.”

Well, he’d called my bluff. I didn’t actually want to go against what he wanted. And I did want it to be a surprise. Nico gave me a smug look. I retracted my hand from his and gave him an annoyed look. “I hate it when you’re stubborn.”

He smiled at me. “That’s a shame. Because I love how much it annoys you.”

My mouth twitched upwards as I rolled my eyes. “You can’t think of your own comebacks, di Angelo?”

He scoffed. “Don’t test me. Of course I can. But it’s easier to win an argument when you throw the person’s own words back in their face.”

I smiled. “You really are very romantic,” I told him.

“I agree,” he said, completely ignoring my sarcasm. Then he sighed. “And because I’m so nice, I’ll let you have three guesses.”

That perked me up. I’d been imagining what the design could be all day, and I had a surplus of ideas. I thought for a second.

“Is it a skull, like the one you have on your favourite shirt?” I asked.

He shook his head and gave me an amused look. “Nope. That wouldn’t suit you at all. With you being the gentle, giver of life type.”

I sighed. I wouldn’t have minded a skull. It might’ve been a bit much, but still, if definitely would’ve reminded me of Nico.

I tried again. “Is it our names written in something like a heart?”

Nico gave me a disgusted look. “Do I look like the type to get a heart inked onto my hip?”

I shrugged.

“Well thank the gods that you didn’t win the bet. Who knows what kind of cheesy garbage I would’ve gotten inked into me...”

I smiled at him. “After this, would you be open to a rematch? I’d like to be in charge of choosing a tattoo for you.”

He gave me a look to show me that he definitely hated that idea. “Absolutely not. Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

I raised my eyebrows. “You’d agree to it if I offered you something just as great to bet with.”

He thought about that for a minute, but he still shook his head. “Nope. Nothing is worth giving you the power over my next tattoo.” I pouted, but he ignored me. “You still have one guess.”

I sighed. I made a mental note to revisit the proposition of another bet later. “It’s not a full body portrait of you, is it?” I asked as a joke, because obviously I wasn’t going to guess correctly.

Nico fake gasped. “How did you know!” Then he looked over at where my tattoo was being inked and gave me an exaggerated grimacing face. “It’s good you’re not allowed to look, because she’s drawing me naked first and adding clothes after. I don’t think you’d be able to handle it.”

Laura smirked at me when I gasped. I tried to stifle the urge to look because an image was forming in my mind. “Nico! You little...“

He gave me a knowing look. “You’re picturing it, aren’t you?”

Of course he was right. The image of Nico was very vividly printed on the forefront of my mind at that moment. The thought alone was enough to make my pants feel a bit tighter... oh gods not here. I closed my eyes and forced myself to think of something else... anything else...

Nico was still looking at me smugly when I opened my eyes again. Gods this was so embarrassing. I didn’t want to know what the tattooist was thinking of us. I was surprised Nico was taking it this far in public. On one hand, I was happy that he seemed more comfortable talking about this kind of thing. On the other hand, it was at my dignity’s expense.

“You don’t play fair,” I told him.

He gave me a teasing smile. “What fun would that be?”

Before I could answer, the tattoo gun turned off and Laura turned to face me. “You’re done,” she announced. “There’s a mirror around there if you want to see.”

I started to get a bit nervous again. What if I really didn’t like it? Would I be angry with Nico? Would I try to pretend to like it for him? Oh dear, I should’ve really thought this through. Before I could protest, Nico grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the mirror and set me in front of it.

It took me a second to focus on what I was seeing. But when I did, my eyes widened and my mouth gaped open. “Holy Hera,” I muttered.

It was a sun. But not just any old sun. It was so intricate, yet so simple, with small triangles linked together around the edge of the main circle, and swirly points for the rays. It was beautiful. And so perfectly me. How did Nico get this so right?

I turned to him and realised that he was studying my face waiting for a reaction. “Did you draw this?” I asked.

He nodded. “Well, she made it more artsy and perfect... but yeah, I came up with the design.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Do you like it?”

I gave him an exasperated look. “I love it! Oh my gods, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

He gave me a bashful look and I gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then something hit me.

“Wait,” I said with a slightly amused voice. “You’re getting an identical one?”

He looked at me like I was stupid. “Yes, Will. That was the deal. Pay attention.”

I laughed at him. “You, Nico di Angelo, son of Hades, are getting a sun tattoo?”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Well it’s not supposed to represent me.”

A warm ball of light seemed to ignite within me. “You’re getting it to represent... me?”

He nodded.

Oh my gods, this guy. Why were my eyes filling with tears? And why was I even surprised? Of course he would do something like this.

I enveloped him in a hug, hoping that it’d convey what I wanted to tell him better than words. He grunted slightly at the contact, but then he relaxed into me and brought his hands around my back.

“Okay okay,” he muttered after a minute. “Stop being so emotional and let me get my tattoo.”

I kept holding on for at least another couple of minutes, and he didn’t protest.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

After I’d gotten my tattoo, Will and I had come straight back to camp and to the Hades cabin.

“Let me heal you!” Will complained, reaching for my tattoo from across the sofa.

I swatted his arm away. “Don’t touch me, Solace.”

He smiled suggestively at me. “You didn’t mind me touching you there yesterday...”

I could feel my cheeks burning. I threw a pillow at him, which he dodged. “And if you ever want to do that again, you’ll shut up about the healing.”

“But-“

I cut him off. “If your tattoo isn’t getting healed, then neither is mine,” I said stubbornly.

He huffed. “I naturally heal faster than you.”

“Yeah well, you gave me that ambrosia. I think that’s enough for now,” I told him.

We fell into a silence and I carried on watching the TV, which was playing a new episode of the Big Bang Theory. After a few minutes though, Will asked, “Why are you so against me healing you?”

I ignored him and kept my eyes on the TV. I could feel his eyes still boring into me though. I hoped he would just let it go.

“Is it...” he started again nervously and I sighed. Of course he wouldn’t have let it go. “I mean do you... not want the pain to stop?”

I rolled my eyes and turned to face him. “Why would you even ask that?”

He kept his serious expression and shrugged. “What other explanation is there? And I know about people with trauma who... hurt themselves...“

“Gods, Will. Just stop. It’s not like that. I would never...”

He looked relieved at my answer, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit angry at his response. What if it was like that? He’d have been the opposite of relieved. He’d have looked at me like I was broken. As if that would have been the final straw in the chaos that was my life.

“What is that face supposed to mean?” I demanded before I could stop myself. It was times like these when I rethought telling him about Tartarus. He could never understand...

He looked confused at my outburst which just made me feel worse. “What face?”

“Your relieved face. As if you’re happy that there isn’t another thing wrong with me.”

His eyes widened. “What the-? I didn’t say-? Where is this even coming from?”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t know why I was getting so angry with him. Only a few hours ago, I’d felt so positive after getting our matching tattoos. I felt closer to him. I felt a sort of calmness and satisfaction that I’d been the cause of his happiness.

It was as if my mind automatically went into overprotective mode as soon as I was done doing something particularly vulnerable. As if my barriers got pushed up as soon as I got too happy. Gods, I was messed up.

Will reached for my hand and I let him take it. “Maybe I’m relieved because I don’t want to see my boyfriend in pain,” he said softly. “But if it were the case, I promise I would’ve understood. And we would’ve gotten through it together, either way.”

I still didn’t look at him. He was being so sweet to me when I had just snapped at him. “I don’t deserve this,” I muttered.

“Deserve what?”

I scoffed at his ignorance. “You. I don’t deserve you.”

I didn’t look at his face for long before I averted my eyes, but in the few seconds that I did, I saw that he looked completely angry. Great.

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” He told me sternly.

“Will-“

“No,” he snapped. “Don’t ‘Will’ me. And don’t you dare decide what I deserve. Don’t take away my right to choose.”

“I was just-“

“Just what?” He demanded.

“I just... I know myself,” I said pathetically. Because it was true. I knew how much baggage I had. “And I know you. And I know that you’re too good-“

“No,” he said again. “You don’t get to tell me that you don’t deserve me. Because then you’re taking away my chance to make the decision for myself.”

“But I know-“

“Gods damn it, Nico. No! You don’t know. You have no idea. You have no clue actually. And it pisses me off.” His voice was only raised slightly, but I could feel his anger in the way he spoke.

“It doesn’t even make logical sense to me. How can you possibly think that you’re no good? After what you’ve done. After what you’ve done for me.” He paused for a second to let me think about that. His eyes were burning with such ferocity, I was almost forced to agree with him.

“Gods above, Nico, do you think that I’m loving you out of pity?” He looked at me even though his question was clearly rhetorical. And I couldn’t form words even if I tried.

Sure enough, he answered it himself. “I’m loving you because... damn it, how could I not? You’re honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. So don’t you dare insult me by trying to tell me that my love for you is misguided. Don’t you fucking dare.”

And then I burst into tears.

Will pulled me closer, and I couldn’t resist even if I wanted to. I leaned into his warmth and let him wrap his arms around me.

“I’m sorry,” I managed to get out between sobs.

He ran his hand up and down my spine reassuringly. “Please don’t apologise,” he told me.

He carried on holding me as my cries got softer and my body slumped further into him. After some time, he shifted his position so that he was leaning against the side of the sofa, and I was lying on his chest. He ran his hands through my hair, and rubbed circles on the back of my hand.

We must’ve stayed like that for hours, because I realised that my eyes were getting heavy and my breathing was getting deeper.

“Nico?” He asked softly.

“Mmm?”

He hesitated, seeming to decide if he should voice his next thought. Finally, he said, “You still haven’t told me.”

I kept my eyes closed. “Told you what?” I mumbled.

“Why you don’t want me to heal you.”

I sighed. I had no energy to argue with him again. “I don’t want you to waste your energy on me,” I admitted. “I know the toll that powers can have on you...”

He didn’t answer straight away. In fact, he took so long to reply, I thought he might’ve fallen asleep. When he did speak, it kind of made me jump a little. “Alright. Well let’s make a deal.”

I took a deep breath. “Go on.”

“Unless one of us are on the brink of death, or you know, completely wasting away, we don’t try and control when they choose to use their powers. And it goes for both of us.”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I like telling you what to do...”

“Nico.”

I sat up so that I was facing him properly. “Seriously, I don’t know if I can agree to that.”

He furrowed his brows. “Why not?”

I gave him an exasperated look. “Come on, Will. Could you even agree to that? Plus, we both know that either of us would only be on the brink of death if it was absolutely necessary, like during a war. My point is that I don’t like sensing... you getting closer to death when it’s for something so trivial.”

He was staring at me with an unreadable expression. “Do you sense that every time I heal someone?” He asked.

“Well no,” I admitted. “Only when you overexert yourself, like after the death race.”

He nodded. “Okay. Then I’ll propose a new deal.”

I raised my eyebrows. Will Solace and his deals.

“If your life isn’t in serious danger, then I promise I’ll stop healing you when you tell me that you start feeling my... you know,” he waved his hand around, “death aura. But before that, you can’t try to resist my healing unless it’s for an actual proper reason.”

I sighed. That was probably as close as what I was going to get to a compromise. “Fine,” I relented. “Deal.”

He smiled at me, and his pure happiness and relief just made that whole uncomfortable conversation worth it. “Lift your shirt then,” he ordered as he sat up, leaving me room to lie down flat on the sofa.

I obliged, lying down next to him and exposing my midriff where my new tattoo was. It was about a three inch replica of Will’s one, and I loved it. He placed his fingertips lightly on my skin, and I shivered at the contact.

I closed my eyes as Will’s familiar warmth seeped into my skin, and the slight stinging resided. I breathed out at the relief and opened my eyes again.

Will was staring at my tattoo, with a weird look on his face.

“What?” I asked. “Are you disappointed it’s not a naked portrait?”

His lips twitched up and he rolled his eyes. “Please,” he scoffed. “It wouldn’t have compared to the real thing.”

I ran my hand through my hair in a attempt to control my blush. “Then what?”

He shrugged. “I was just thinking... the sun isn’t just me.”

I looked at him like he was an idiot. “Yes it is. You’re the son of Apollo.”

“Well yeah, I guess. But you said earlier today, and I quote ‘I can be sunshiny too’.”

I cringed at my words. It was actually when I’d come up with the idea for the tattoos.

“So?”

He laid back down and pulled me against him. “So,” he said, “I agree with you. You haven’t got a very bright exterior, but you’re awfully sunshiny within... when you want to be.”

I nudged his shoulder. “Please don’t insult me.”

He laughed at me. “What I’m trying to say, is that I’m going to call my tattoo ‘Sunny Nico’.” He announced it proudly as if that was supposed to sound cool or something. Personally, I thought it was the worse name in the world.

I groaned. “Gods that is an awful name.”

He ruffled my hair. “Cheer up, Sunshine.”

“Please shut up, Will.”

“Even if I do, it won’t change your new nickname, or the name of my tattoo,” he taunted.

I scowled at him. “I hate your nicknames. And I hate you.”

He smiled smugly at me. “Except you don’t, do you?”

In response, I laid back onto his warm chest and we carried on watching the stupid show on TV.

Chapter Text

Will POV

The next week at camp was good. Nico seemed to relax after our conversation in his cabin. All of what I’d told him was true. But I knew his tendency to underestimate his self worth couldn’t be fixed overnight. It would take time, but I wasn’t going to give up on him.

I slept in his cabin at his insistence. Not that I was complaining. Even though he wanted me there to keep his nightmares at bay, the way he curled into me and gripped onto my shirt or my arm as he fell asleep, made me feel so indescribably warm inside.

Today had turned out to be another chilled out day, with only a few minor injuries in the infirmary. That was just as good, since we were running short of supplies, and with all of our communications down, we hadn’t been able to get in touch with our usual supplier.

Nico had been in the training arena all day, getting back on track with his regimen and learning new tricks. Not that he needed it, but getting better at sparring seemed to calm his nerves. He was currently telling me and my siblings about his new techniques at the dining pavilion for dinner.

I groaned. “Why do you always wait for me to be stuck in the infirmary when you try out new cool tricks?”

He smirked. “Are you asking as a student, or as someone who would just spend the whole time gawking at me?”

My cheeks burned. “I could multitask,” I pointed out.

Kayla snorted. “As if,” she said. “The last time you came, you were openly drooling at him. It was kind of pathetic.”

Nico looked at me triumphantly.

“Thanks a lot, Kayla,” I muttered.

Nico kissed me on the cheek. “Don’t worry. You being pathetic isn’t something we don’t already know.”

I scowled at him. “If you already knew that, it says something about you, since you choose to be my boyfriend.”

He sighed and leaned into me. “I know. I question my taste everyday.”

Austin and Kayla were looking back and forth between us with thinly veiled amusement. “So,” Austin said, after a few minutes, “what are you two lovebirds doing for Valentine’s Day?”

I just stared at him for a moment, processing what he’d asked. “Oh,” I said. “I completely forgot about that. I’ve never actually celebrated it.”

“Me neither,” Nico mumbled from where his head was laying on my shoulder.

“Well,” I said, “you can let me plan this one, since you planned Christmas.” Even though I had no idea at all what I was going to do.

Nico lifted his head off of my shoulder to give me a look. “No, thank you. Knowing you, you’ll do something over the top and way too extravagant.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Extravagant like a skiing holiday?”

“Shut up,” he grumbled. “That was a one time thing. I hate you when you throw that in my face.” Then he went back to leaning his head on my shoulder.

I ruffled his hair. “Fine. Do you want to plan it?”

He sighed. “Why do we have to ‘plan’ anything? Let’s just stay in my cabin and watch movies.”

“So,” I concluded, “your plan is to do what we do every night.”

“Yep,” he said happily. “Although, that’s kind of a lame plan, so I’m expecting you to be all romantic to make it better.”

I laughed. “You’re calling your own plan lame, you know.”

“Irrelevant,” he stated.

“And then,” I continued, “you’re expecting me to make it better, by doing something romantic that isn’t too over the top, but also not as lame as your own movie idea.”

“I’m expecting big things, Solace.”

I huffed and turned to my siblings. “Isn’t he impossible?”

“Not really,” Austin said.

“He seems reasonable to me,” Kayla agreed.

“It’s you who’s complaining,” Nico muttered.

I gave them all a betrayed look just as Chiron came up to our table. “Hello, campers,” he greeted.

“Hi, Chiron,” Austin said cheerfully.

The centaur looked worried, as usual, as he looked between the four of us. “I’m just checking in regarding the infirmary supplies.”

I sighed. “Yeah,” I told him. “We’re trying our best to limit ourselves with each patient, but we won’t hold out forever.”

“How long?” Chiron asked.

I did a quick mental calculation, but there was really no need; I had been counting down the days until we were projected to run out of supplies. “Maybe about a week,” I said.

He furrowed his brows. “Well that is a problem.”

We all stared at him as he gave the problem some thought. His silence was making me ten times more stressed. Until Nico took my hand under the table and squeezed it reassuringly.

“Well,” Chiron announced, “it seems like we have no other choice.”

“No other choice except what?” Kayla asked, anxiety creeping into her voice.

“I know someone in Queens,” Chiron went on. “She deals in magical items. Charges ridiculous prices, and she’s quite rude if you get on her bad side... but I digress! Until we can contact our regular supplier, a couple of you will need to go and pay her a visit.”

That didn’t seem particularly reassuring. It seemed like we’d be asking for trouble if we paid Chiron’s ‘friend’ a visit. There must’ve been a reason why we didn’t use her as our usual supplier. On the other hand, healing people was going to get really difficult with no supplies.

I imagined I’d have to overexert myself with every patient. I’d have to completely close every wound with my powers, if we had no bandages.

“Where is the place?” I asked.

“Is it dangerous?” Austin asked.

“What do you mean by ‘rude’?” Nico asked suspiciously.

“I hate Queens,” grumbled Kayla.

Chiron looked at us all in turn. “She’s usually hard to locate, because of her... um... sketchy behaviour. But I think you’ll be able to spot her in the upcoming Valentine’s Day parade.”

“Um why?” I asked.

Chiron gave me an exasperated look, as if I should know why dodgy magical suppliers hang out in romantic parades in their spare time. “It’s a great time for business! With all that’s going on, it’s easy to go unnoticed.”

“Of course,” I muttered. “And how do we spot this said bandit?”

“Don’t be stupid, Will,” Nico cut in. “You can’t call her that. A bandit steals things. She’s selling them.”

“How do you know she doesn’t steal the things she’s selling?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he admitted. “But why don’t we call the person by a name that describes the profession that we’re interested in. You’re confusing everyone.”

“I sincerely apologise,” I said sarcastically.

He shook his head at me. “That doesn’t sound very sincere. You know-“

“Guys!” Kayla shouted and we both looked at her.

We looked between her and Chiron’s slightly amused expression.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

At the same time, Nico said, “Will is sorry.”

I shot him another dirty look, as Chiron cleared his throat. “To answer your question, William, she usually dresses very distinctly. I’m sure you’ll be able to find her if you attend the parade.”

“Great!” Kayla said enthusiastically. “Not that going on a wild goose chase for a non-bandit in a Valentine’s Day parade in Queens doesn’t sound fun... But I might sit this one out. I’ll keep an eye on the infirmary.”

Chiron looked at the rest of us. “You only really need two of you,” he said.

I sighed. “I’ll go,” I volunteered. “Only I know what supplies we need.”

“I’ll go with you,” Nico offered.

Austin sighed in relief. “I guess that means I can’t go. Aww. I guess I’ll just stay here and help Kayla then.”

I ignored him and looked to Nico. “Are you sure? It might be a bit tedious... and/or dangerous.”

Nico scoffed. “What am I? A child? Let’s face it, Solace, you wouldn’t last a minute without me.”

“He’s right,” Austin said as Kayla nodded in agreement.

I pouted. When did I become the subject of constant teasing from my siblings and boyfriend?

“Fine,” I told Nico. “You can come.”

He gave a short humourless laugh. “As if I need your permission.”

“I am the leader of this quest. Hence I can decide who comes with me,” I retorted.

Nico crossed his arms. “Technically, this isn’t an official quest, so you’re not the leader of anything.”

“Also,” Kayla pointed out. “We haven’t actually elected a leader yet.”

“Hey!” I said. “I’m the head of the infirmary. I’m the obvious choice for leader.”

Chiron looked unimpressed with our little debate and decided to slowly walk (canter) away.

Austin, Kayla and Nico all raised their eyebrows up at me like ‘Really? You? The obvious leader?’

I sighed in defeat. “Fine. Whatever. Nico can be the leader.”

Nico smiled at me. “I’ll let you be the leader. As long as you do everything I say. And you agree to never try and tell me that I need your permission for anything again.”

“That’s very generous of you,” I mumbled as he ruffled my hair.

“Don’t look so glum,” he told me. “I’ll let you choose the movie tonight.”

Before I could respond, the Aphrodite girl who Nico had treated a week ago came up to our table. “Hi, Nico,” she said in her silky french accent. “Will. Kayla. Austin.” She nodded to the rest of us.

We all greeted her, then she turned back to Nico. “I was wondering if um... we could talk?”

Nico looked absolutely shocked at this request. As if people wanting to purposely spend time with him was still such a new concept to him. “Um... sure,” he managed. “Now?”

She shrugged. “If you’re done with your food? And not busy?”

Nico looked to me, as if asking permission (which was ironic given our recent conversation).

“I’ll see you later tonight then?” I asked. “You better let me pick the movie.”

He smiled at me and got up. I watched him head off to the Aphrodite cabin with Valentina.

Kayla threw a pea at me. “Gods, he’s only walking! You’ve got no reason to drool over that!”

I scowled at her. “I was not drooling. I was looking off into the distance in thought.”

She gave me a look like ‘yeah right’.

“Look on the bright side,” Austin said. “At least you have some interesting Valentine’s Day plans now.”

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Valentina and I headed off for the Aphrodite cabin. I was pretty sure she was the only camper staying there so I guess we’d have some privacy. I had no idea what she wanted to talk about, and I definitely was not expecting her to take me up on my offer to talk, but here we were.

A small part of me was irritated that I was doing this instead of spending time with Will, since I hadn’t seen him all day... but that thought made me seem needy and selfish so I pushed it down. A larger part of me was feeling quite honoured that someone would actually ask to talk to me. Maybe people’s prejudices really were changing.

“How are you?” She asked me as she pushed the cabin door open.

I knew that that was such a common question, but I was hardly ever asked it. Usually people tended to avoid talking to me until something really tragic happened, and then the answer to that question would’ve been ‘horrible’ or ‘absolutely miserable’. Obviously I got asked it by Will and maybe Kayla or Austin every once in a while. But really, I’d usually just give a sarcastic comment.

I decided that I was maybe overthinking this. “I feel quite peaceful nowadays,” I told her truthfully. “How are you?”

Valentina offered me her bunk, which was like a typical Aphrodite bed. Pink sheets and silky cushions. When I sat down, I felt like I sunk about two metres down into the mattress because it was so spongy. She rolled her plastic white desk chair over so that she was facing me. Then she propped her legs up onto the pink frilly seat cushion so that she was sitting cross legged.

“I’ve been good,” she replied finally. “How are things with Will?”

There was so much to talk about when it came to my boyfriend. Where was I supposed to start? I wondered what kind of answer she was expecting, or what information I could give her that would possibly be interesting to her. I really wasn’t used to this normal conversation thing.

She must’ve read the hesitation on my face, because she rushed to say, “Not that it’s any of my business-“

“No no! It’s alright,” I told her. “I was just trying to figure out how to answer that question. Things with Will are good. We actually just made some interesting Valentine’s Day plans.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”

I smiled nervously. “Yeah. Well potentially dangerous quests in a love parade isn’t exactly traditional but...” I shrugged.

She was giving me an amused smile. “I think I’m missing something,” she said.

I explained about our conversation with Chiron and how Will and I had volunteered to meet with the supplier to stock up the infirmary. As I told her about it, I started to relax and it felt more like a real conversation. She actually laughed when she understood what we’d be doing for Valentine’s Day.

“And of course I couldn’t let Will go by himself, so I guess now we’re both going,” I finished.

She smiled at me. “Will seems capable. You’re talking as if he’s a child who needs to be protected at all costs.”

“I am not!” I defended, although, from the way I told the story, I wasn’t surprised as to why she thought that.

She held up her hands. “I get it. You know he can take care of himself, but you don’t want to take any chances.”

I looked at her expression. It was part amused and part serious. “Yeah,” I agreed. “But it’s not like I’m overprotective or anything. I just... don’t want to worry.”

She gave me a knowing smile. “He’s lucky to have you.”

I just stared at her. How had she come to that conclusion? Based on the fact that I’d volunteered to go on a quest with him. It wasn’t exactly the gesture of the century.

“I also thought it might be fun,” I said, which was partly true.

She nodded. “Valentine’s Day parades are fun. If you like colourful costumes, loud music, and confetti.”

I groaned. “I meant fun because I’d be with Will. I wasn’t holding any hope out for the parade actually being good.”

“Mmm,” she agreed. “It’s about the people you’re with.”

“Yeah...”

She smiled at me again. “You’re very easy to talk to, Nico.”

That shocked me. “I am?”

“Oui,” she nodded. After a moment’s hesitation, she said, “You’re the only person who knows, by the way. About... me.”

That shocked me even more than the last thing. How in Hades had I managed to win her trust so easily? Why had she chosen to share such personal information with me? I was the person that people usually stayed away from. It didn’t make any sense.

“Why?” I blurted, which I realised too late might be a bit insensitive.

She narrowed her eyes at me, as if she were figuring out if I were actually clueless. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

We stayed in an awkward silence for a few minutes while I waited for her to explain. I looked around the cabin, so that I wouldn’t have to stare at her face. I remembered when Piper and Mitchell had helped me get ready for my first date with Will. That seemed like such a long time ago now.

Valentina’s personal bunk was more neat and tidy than Piper’s, but at the same time, more over the top than Mitchell’s. She had rows and rows of beauty products on her desk, along with a full on oak closet. Her bed alone was the most extravagant thing in the whole cabin. I wondered why someone with such a confident aesthetic would come and talk to the camp loner about her insecurities.

“I guess,” she said finally, “because you seem to have it all under control.”

I gave her a look. “Really?”

She laughed at me. A silky, high pitched giggle. “You don’t have to look so disgusted with my assessment!”

I tried to clear my expression, but really, could she blame me? “My life is the complete opposite of ‘under control,’” I told her.

She shrugged. “Maybe at one point, sure. But I get the feeling that you’re more in control than you think.”

I still didn’t understand what she was getting at. “What do you mean?”

“Well, for one, earlier, you said you feel ‘peaceful’.”

“So?”

“So,” she continued, “no one who is continually stressing about their out of control life would be feeling peaceful.”

I gave her a short laugh. “They would be if they’ve accepted their uncontrollable life. And they just sit back as their world descends into chaos, because they know there is nothing they can do about it.”

She gave me an amused and exasperated look, as if I were a cute puppy. “Well either way, they’re still in control,” she said. “Because they’ve accepted what can’t be changed, and they choose to live around the chaotic parts.”

I blinked at her. “I guess you’re right,” I relented. “That’s one way to look at it.”

She smiled triumphantly at me, and I immediately felt guilty. “But,” I said nervously, “if you chose to trust me because you thought I could give you advice about... you know... you’re wrong. Nothing about that part of my life was planned. And it definitely wasn’t a happy or a stable time for me when people started finding out.”

She shook her head. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “I’m not naive enough to expect a magic fix. I just thought that, out of all of the people at camp, you’d be the most likely to understand.” When I didn’t answer, she continued. “And you don’t owe me anything.”

I nodded. That seemed fair.

“And you’re also interesting,” she said suddenly.

I scoffed. “Interesting is definitely the right word to describe me.”

“I’m serious.” When I gave her an unconvinced look, she rolled up the sleeve of her shirt. “You treated my burn perfectly,” she said proudly.

I blushed slightly. “It was nothing.”

“Really? Because I haven’t seen anyone other than Apollo campers heal in this camp. That must be for a reason. It’s like the rules don’t apply to you or something.”

A smile was tugging at my lips at the compliment. “Really, it was nothing,” I insisted. “I only knew so much because I spend a lot of time in the infirmary with Will, and I just picked it up. Oh and also, that day, Will was sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake him because he needed to rest... Why are you smiling like that?”

She had a massive grin on her face. “Nothing,” she said unconvincingly. “It’s just, it’s cute how much you care for him.”

I brought my hands up in a futile attempt to conceal my blush. Was I really being that obvious? Maybe it was just because she was a child of Aphrodite. “I just...” I stammered. “He’s just... such a good person. And I know I’m not good enough for him. But I want to be. So I try my best...”

Maybe I’d said too much, since Valentina was looking at me with a serious expression on her face. “I think you underestimate your character too much,” she told me.

I just shrugged.

“Anyway,” she said in a slightly more uplifting tone. “What are you going to wear to the Valentine’s Day parade?”

I gave her an amused look. “Just whatever’s at the top of my drawer. It’s technically a quest, not an official date.”

She shook her head. “As my home girl from High School Musical says, ‘All dates are official.’”

I burst out laughing. Partly because she’d just made a High School Musical reference. Partly because I was shocked that I actually knew the reference. “I love that movie!” I said enthusiastically.

Her face lit up. “Really? They’re so great, aren’t they? With the songs and outfits and everything!”

“Yes,” I agreed. “The songs are definitely the best.” I scratched the back of my neck. “Um... when I left camp a couple of years ago, I stayed at a young person’s shelter for a couple of weeks, and they had those movies playing on repeat for the entire time. I kind of became obsessed.”

“Wow!” She exclaimed. “Of all the things we could’ve had in common...”

I nodded. “Oh, and no one else must know about this,” I warned. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

She held up her hands. “Of course of course. Your secret is safe with me.” She gave me a mischievous smile. “And now that we’ve established that this is a date, you’re going to have to let me get you ready for it.”

I scoffed. “Please. I’ve had enough experience with Aphrodite makeovers.”

She pouted. “Are they that bad?”

I hesitated. “Well no, not really,” I admitted.

“Exactly! Let me do this! Please!”

I rolled my eyes. How come Aphrodite campers were obsessed with how I looked? They also seemed to be obsessed with my relationship with Will. Of course, I only had a small frame of reference, but still. I would never admit it, but I did kind of enjoy dressing up for Will. And being in here also reminded me of Piper, whom I was missing a lot...

“Fine,” I relented.

“Yay!” She practically squealed. Then she got another serious expression. “And maybe,” she started nervously, “you can help me choose an outfit for when I see Billie next?”

I stared at her. “The Demeter girl?”

She nodded, waiting for me to catch on.

“Ohhhh,” I said stupidly. “Sure. I mean... sure. Well... I won’t be very useful. But... you know. I’ll try.”

She gave me a massive smile.

Chapter Text

Will POV

On Valentine’s Day morning, I woke up in the Hades cabin as usual. I looked over at the clock and saw that it was about 8:30am. Soft light was peaking through the curtains, but it was still gloomy outside.

Nico’s head was lying in the space between my shoulder and neck, and I could feel his calm breaths on my skin. His legs were entwined with mine, and he was all curled up against me. We were both wearing pyjamas, but Nico’s hand had slid underneath my shirt during the night, and even that small contact was making me feel a bit hot.

We hadn’t done anything... like that... since Nico had ‘punished’ me, and I was starting to crave it, even though it had never really bothered me before. I had made it a rule that Nico would be the one to initiate anything in that department, because I knew he had more things running through his mind than me. I was happy to just be there for him, for whatever he needed.

And for the most part, what he needed also benefitted me (such as having a snuggle buddy during the night, or just spending more time together).

I gently stroked his cheek and moved a bit of hair behind his ear. He didn’t even flinch. I sighed, and shifted my position, ready to get up. But when I moved, Nico’s grip around my torso tightened and he made a soft whining noise.

I laughed at him. “Nico, we have to get up,” I told him. “We should leave enough time to scout around the area before the parade starts.”

Nico didn’t give a reaction. So I tried to get up again. I got further up than I had last time, but that just meant I had more space to fall down when he tugged me back again.

“Oof,” I complained as my head hit the pillow again. Even when he was half asleep, he was stronger than me. “Nico,” I hissed. “We need to get up.”

He let his hand travel further up my stomach, still underneath my shirt. “How about no?” He mumbled.

I would’ve retorted, but one of his fingertips lightly grazed my nipple and my breath hitched. Sparks of arousal started zooming around my nervous system, directing my blood flow to an area that definitely was not my brain. “Mmm,” I protested (though out loud, it didn’t sound much like a protestation).

He smirked at me as he continued to move his fingers around my skin in the most tantalising way. “You’re so easy to manipulate, William.”

It wasn’t easy, but I grabbed his arm to stop him. That didn’t faze him though. As quickly as I could blink, he climbed on top of me. The friction wasn’t helping my situation, and Nico obviously knew, considering he was pressed up against it.

He rolled his hips slightly. Oh gods, it felt so good. But we had a mission (albeit it one that I was forgetting the importance of). “Stop,” I managed.

He raised his eyebrows at me innocently. “Why?”

I rolled my eyes. “Because I have to get up.”

He shifted his weight slightly. “Go on then.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You also have to get up.”

He placed his hands on my chest and stared at me. “No.”

Damn his stubbornness. “Get up, Nico.”

“No.”

Gods he was infuriating. “Get up!”

“Make me,” he challenged.

I grunted in frustration, wondering how the Hades I would ‘make’ him get out of bed. “Oh I’ll make you,” I promised. “But you’re not going to like it.”

He scoffed. “You really don’t scare me, Solace.”

I smiled at him. Then before he could react, I reached up with my hands, slipped them underneath his shirt, and wiggled my fingers against the soft skin above his hips.

He gasped, and involuntarily shifted his body to one side to get away, but he couldn’t without getting off of me. I only managed to tickle him for a second though, because he grabbed my hands and held them above my head. “Don’t you dare,” he hissed.

“Why?” I said innocently. “That’s your worse spot, right?”

He blushed as he scowled at me. “Shut up.”

“I will if you get up.”

He stared at me, and I knew he wasn’t going to give in yet. I sighed, and put on my serious(ish) voice. “Okay I really have to get up. I have to make a list of our inventory before we leave.” He pouted. “But you can stay in bed for another hour or so if you really want.”

He sighed and slid off of me, landing back on the bed. “I’m awake now. I only wanted to stay in bed with you,” he complained.

I smiled at him. “You can stay in bed with me later,” I offered.

He blushed slightly. “Fine. Whatever. Go on.”

“I’ll meet you outside of the big house at 11am,” I told him.

“Alright.”

“And don’t be late,” I said sternly. “If I come and find you still sleeping, I won’t be happy.”

Nico scoffed, and I could see he was about to make a sarcastic comment. Instead though, he just said, “I’ll be there.”

I smiled and went to get ready.

*

“Holy Hera, you look amazing,” I blurted when Nico arrived at the big house.

He was wearing his usual jeans, but he’d woven some sort of dark metallic chain into the belt loops. He’d paired it with a simple white t-shirt under a new black leather jacket. The jacket fitted with his style perfectly, as it sported dark zippers and shiny trims. On his feet, he wore white trainers. And his hair. Gods, it looked incredible. It was messy in a perfect way. As if he’d made it extra wavy, just to ruffle it up again.

“Thank you,” he said quietly as he stared at me with bright eyes. I noted that he didn’t look down at the floor when he was complimented. That was definitely progress. “I wasn’t sure if it was too much...”

“Definitely not,” I said a bit too happily, as I tried to resist the urge to run my hand through his hair. “Gods, you look beautiful.” Then I looked closer. “Did you... curl your hair?”

“No,” he replied way too quickly. Oh my gods, he’d curled his hair. You couldn’t really tell unless you looked closer, but it was definitely more wavy than usual.

“And,” I continued, “you’re wearing white.”

He rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to look so surprised. White is as plain as black, you know.”

I wanted to point out that white was the exact opposite of black, but I guess it didn’t matter, and I definitely didn’t want to complain.

Nico smirked at me. “You can stop staring now.”

I shook myself. “Sorry.” Then I looked down guiltily at my casual jeans and flannel shirt. “I didn’t know we were dressing up...”

Nico smiled. “Me neither actually. But Valentina made a High School Musical reference that I couldn’t refuse.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll tell you in the van. Come on.” He grabbed my hand and led me to Argus’ van. He was the complimentary driver to start all demigods off on their dangerous and sometimes fatal missions. At least he had seat warmers though.

When we’d buckled up and started for Queens, I turned to Nico. “You were saying something about High School Musical?”

He hesitated slightly before explaining. “Basically, Valentina reminded me that one of the characters in High School Musical says that all dates are official dates... so she helped me dress up for it.”

I felt excitement bubbling in my chest. “Oh my gods!” I exclaimed gleefully. “You’re a High School Musical fan!”

A soft blush started to spread across his cheeks. He looked like he wanted to deny it, but my smile was so wide right now, it would’ve been difficult to wipe off. “So what?” He asked.

I tried to contain my excitement. “Nothing,” I said quickly. “But it definitely means we’re watching it sometime.”

He groaned. “I think I grew out of it when I was a kid.”

That confused me. When had Nico watched the movie? It wasn’t like he had had a normal childhood. “When you were a kid...?” I asked slowly, hoping to get my question across without actually asking it.

He shrugged and looked out of the window. “From when I was alone,” he said quietly. “I stayed in a shelter and they played it on repeat...”

I squeezed his hand. “Alright,” I said after a moment. “We don’t have to watch-“

“Will,” he warned. “What did I say about protecting me?”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m your boyfriend, Nico. Sometimes I’m allowed to protect you.”

“Not if I have anything to do with it,” he grumbled.

I resisted the urge to carry on arguing. Even though it went against my entire nature, protecting Nico from his past just wasn’t something I could do. He’d face it by himself and on his own terms, and I’d be there for him if he wanted to ask for help. Plus, he was right, of course. I knew he didn’t like me tip toeing around him, even if my intentions were good. And I expected the same from him.

Instead of dwelling, I decided to just go with what he wanted. “That’s fine,” I said cheerfully. “We’ll watch it. And you won’t get stuck in the past. You’ll just see how great your life is now.”

He gave me a small grateful smile. To try and brighten the mood again, I asked, “You still remember the songs, right?”

He hesitated before nodding.

“Great! We can sing along,” I stated.

He gave me an amused smile. “You wouldn’t catch me dead singing along with you.”

I pouted. “But singing is fun! And I know you can do it.”

He pressed his lips together, probably remembering when I’d spied (but not really) on him singing in the shower. Ever since then, I’d taken it as my personal challenge to get him to sing in front of me again.

“You just try and not sing along,” I challenged. I promised myself I’d get him to do it. Watching High School Musical was the perfect opportunity.

He just rolled his eyes.

When we arrived at the destination, we bid our thanks to Argus and got out of the van. He sped away at record speeds which I found unfair. He’d dropped us just east of the Unisphere, so we still had to walk a bit to get to the place that Chiron had told us to go.

“People keep staring at us,” I complained. “They’re wondering why you, someone so sharp looking, are with me, someone who’s wearing a day old flannel shirt.”

“Don’t worry,” Nico said as he kissed me on the cheek. “We both already knew that I was the best dressed one in this relationship.”

Well I couldn’t argue with him. But still. “Hey,” I protested. “I happen to like my style. And I know you like it too.”

“Ah William,” he sighed. “I like you despite your style.”

I nudged him and he nudged me back slightly harder.

We emerged onto a large street where the first parade was scheduled to appear after lunch. It was a normal road with shopfronts on either side, as well as some small pine trees and potted plants. Now that the sun was fully up, the scene looked quite picturesque, despite the cold temperature.

At the end of the street, there were crowds of people all dressed up in extravagant costumes sporting an assortment of hearts, stars and pouty lips. There were a couple of tank sized vehicles covered in tarp, that were parked with the performers. Based on the weird shapes jutting up from underneath the tarp, I assumed they were the floats.

“This parade is going to be brilliant,” I said happily.

Nico huffed. “If I get one piece of confetti on me, I’m shadow travelling back to my cabin straight away.”

I laughed at him. “What? And leave me here to enjoy the parade with all these loved up citizens? I thought you were the jealous type.”

He scowled at me. “If anyone here is the jealous type, it’s you, Solace. And no one would go near you with that flannel shirt, so it should be fine.”

I looked down at my shirt and then back up at Nico who was giving me an innocent smile.

I decided to ignore his insult. “So,” I said, “any signs of the non-bandit?”

Nico looked around the street. People were starting to gather, probably to get front line places for the parade. It still wasn’t very busy though, and we could safely say that no one was currently standing out.

“Let’s get lunch,” I suggested. “We’ll be done by the time the parade starts.”

Nico nodded and looked around. Then his face lit up. “Oh! Will! Let’s get McDonald’s!!” Gods, he sounded like a little kid.

I gave him a reluctant look. “Eh. I don’t know. We eat a lot of burgers at camp. Maybe we should try something healthy.”

Nico pouted. “But I’m not going to get a burger! I’m going to get chicken nuggets. They’re so damn good.”

I shrugged. “Fine. You can get McDonald’s. I’ll get something else.”

That didn’t seem to cheer him up. “No,” he said. “You have to get McDonald’s with me.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re on a date, and we have to do stuff together.”

I laughed at him. “Nico, go and get your chicken nuggets. I’ll wait here.”

“No.”

“Just go.”

“Come with me,” he whined.

“No.”

He gave me the cutest pout ever. “Please? For me?”

Wow, it was hard to say no to that face. But, if I gave in now, he’d know he’d be able to get me to do whatever he wanted. I crossed my arms. “Nope. You think if you give me those cute puppy dog eyes and act all sweet and innocent and say, ‘Please? For me?’, that I’ll do whatever you want? Definitely not.”

He dialled up the expression as he furrowed his brows and stuck out his lips. “But, please? For me?”

I sighed as all of my self control melted away. “Fine.”

We went to get McDonald’s.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I smiled smugly at Will as I munched on my McNugget. We were sitting on a bench on the outskirts of a park. The street where the parade was set to take place was still in view, but we also got the partial tranquility of the wide open space behind us.

“Stop looking so smug,” Will grumbled as he popped a few fries into his mouth. “This,” he gestured to the bag of McDonald’s in front of us, “is more a token of my kindness than your ability to manipulate me.”

I smiled at him and swallowed my nugget. “Or it suggests that your kindness is manipulatable.”

He took a slurp of his Fanta. “I should stop being so kind then.”

“Don’t you dare,” I warned.

He laughed. “What? So you can boss me around?”

I suddenly felt bad for making him get McDonald’s. I didn’t mean to, really, and he seemed to be enjoying his food. But I still felt guilty when I saw the look on his face. No one should ever feel bad about being nice. I promised myself I’d make it up to him.

I gave him an intense look. “No,” I said seriously as I gazed into his perfect blue eyes. “Because kind Will Solace is the person I... fell in love with.”

I averted my eyes out of embarrassment, but not before I saw the look of complete and utter affection that Will gave me. More to stop my blush than anything else, I said, “I mean being in charge is a definite plus... but let’s be honest, you tell me what to do on more occasions than the other way around.”

Which was true. Will may be a complete sweetheart, but he won’t take crap from anyone.

Will smiled and took another slurp of Fanta. “We can call it even,” he offered.

I bumped my drink cup against his. “Deal.”

We stayed in a comfortable silence as we finished our food. The streets got busier, and the noise from the crowd got louder. Food carts starting appearing along the road, sending the smells of hotdogs and fried doughnuts our way. Other mini stalls also lined the street, offering small gift type things and fresh flowers.

Everything was Valentine’s Day themed. There was a surplus of pinks and reds and whites. People were dressed up. The storefronts were decorated with steamers and confetti.

“What did Chiron say this person looks like?” I asked Will as we made our way through the crowd to get a good view of the parade. It was about to start, and I was starting to think that finding this person was going to be impossible with all the weird costumes.

Will shrugged. “He said that she wasn’t mortal, and that she’d be easy to spot. I guess we just keep looking.”

I nodded grumpily. Most demigod quests started off along these lines: Go somewhere where there are thousands of people. Find one specific person whose location and appearance are unknown. Ugh. It was so frustrating.

On the bright side, the loud music blasting from the speakers all around us was kind of getting me into the spirit. They were upbeat songs, obviously with all cheesy lyrics, but they still made me want to bop slightly as we walked.

We reached a stall selling flowers and I stopped Will by tugging on his arm. “What?” He asked.

I grabbed a baby pink rose from the cart and dropped a donation into the tin. “For you, il mio amore,” I told him as I presented the flower to him.

He smiled in a mixture of joy, surprise and amusement. “Thank you,” he said softly as he took it. “It’s beautiful.” He took a long sniff of the rose and pulled me closer to kiss me on the cheek. “Was that Italian?”

I nodded. “What does it mean?” He asked.

I rolled my eyes. “It was very obvious. Figure it out, Solace.”

He thought about it for a moment. Before he could guess though, I held out my hand. “Let me put it in your hair for you.”

He laughed. “Huh?”

“Pass me the rose so I can put it in your hair,” I repeated. “Pink really is your colour.”

He rolled his eyes but handed me the flower. I broke off most of the stem and tucked the remaining bit behind his ear. I softly lifted a few strands of his silky hair to cover it slightly and make it more stable.

When I was done, Will batted his eyelashes. “Do I look pretty?”

For a moment, I just stared at him. The subtle pink mixed with his blonde hair was amazingly beautiful. This small addition seemed to make his eyes sparkle. The blue of his eyes, the gold of his hair, and the pink... it was like looking at an artist’s paint palette. The sight was so perfect...

I pulled myself together. “The flower definitely improves your general aesthetic,” I told him.

He laughed. “That’s as close as I’m going to get to a compliment, isn’t it?”

“I’m surprised you have to ask,” I replied.

Will pointed to a dark red rose on the stall. “Let me get you one,” he offered.

I scoffed. “No, thank you.”

He pouted. “Why not? It’ll look cute.”

I crossed my arms. “Definitely not. Do I look like the Fairy Princess type?”

Will was looking me up and down, clearly thinking the opposite to the correct answer to that question. Before he could accessorise me with a flower, I grabbed his hand and pulled him along, trying to go further into the crowd.

Unfortunately, I turned a bit too quickly (I blame my fear of being flowered) and tripped on an empty food container.

“Whoaaa,” I yelped as I stumbled.

Before I could smash into another person, or the floor, or something more embarrassing, Will was there, wrapping his arms around me to catch me. In the moment that he’d put me upright, but he still had his hands on my waist, he looked me in the eye and said, “I think you just fell for me again.”

I groaned a massive groan. “That line was absolutely pathetic,” I whined as I swatted at his arms. I could tell I was blushing slightly, which also made me a bit pathetic. Ugh, this guy. “Let me go right now.”

He smiled a massive goofy grin and released me. Then I grabbed his hand (aggressively so he could tell I was still unimpressed with his joke) and tried again to pull him through the crowd.

We managed to get right to the front just as the parade started, thanks to the (subtle) waves of darkness I released into the hearts of the people in our way.

The parade music started blasting through the speakers so loud, I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. It was an upbeat tune with no lyrics. It reminded me of something you might hear in a Disney movie, with the large emphasis on violins, and the bell type sounds ringing in time to the beat. I loved this type of song. It made me feel all fuzzy inside, as if I were a child again.

“I like this music!” Will shouted so that I could hear him. When I nodded in agreement, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer.

The first dancers to appear came waltzing down the street in puffy hot pink gowns. How they could dance in those costumes was beyond me, but there were at least a dozen of them swirling and jumping and waving.

Next came the first float. It was a rectangle sized moving platform with massive yellow flowers around the edges. There were two people dressed in huge heart shaped costumes that had faces designed on the fabric; one woman with long eyelashes curling from her stitched on eyes, and one man with a top hat that was placed on the inverted top of his heart costume.

Around the float, dozens of men with black suits and red waist coats were river dancing, whilst the people on the float waved their hands and swished their hips.

“I wonder how much time those costumes took to make,” Will marvelled. I couldn’t help but wonder too. This must’ve taken ages to put together and choreograph. And this was only the second act.

As the parade went on, Will started swaying from side to side in time to the music, which in turn made me sway too, since I was pressed up against him. This was actually turning out to be a lot of fun. The singing and dancing and colourful decorations made me feel so warm inside. I even started to clap along with everyone else after some time.

More groups of people in costumes emerged from the end of the street, all in different colours and styles. Despite the variety, all participants kept to the same theme of hearts and love. I could tell one group were professional dancers, and I stared, mesmerised as I watched their sharp arm movements and clever twists and turns. They half walked, half rolled on the floor, in perfect synchronisation as they made their way across the street.

One float had a flimsy looking white wedding cake built onto it. A bride and groom were standing on the top tier. They took turns shooting fake pink arrows into the crowd below, and when they got tired of that, they just started kissing passionately, and waving to the crowd when people applauded.

I turned to Will. “It’s a shame they don’t have any lgbt+ representation.”

Will nodded sadly. Then he got an intense look in his eyes. I barely had time to react before he leaned down slightly and kissed me right on the lips. I would’ve protested because we were in public, and around so many other people, but it just felt right considering where we were. Besides, it was only a peck. When he pulled away, he said, “I guess we’ll have to be the representation.”

I rolled my eyes as my cheeks burned and my lips tingled. “You know,” Will continued, “we’ll have to go to the next pride parade together! It’ll be so much fun!”

I smiled at that. I had never been to a pride parade, but if this was any indication, it did sound entertaining. And most importantly, it would be somewhere I belonged. Seeing so much representation in one place would be so surreal to me, and just imagining that atmosphere got me excited.

We turned back to the parade as a group of people with fiery batons came marching in. I was impressed with how they handled the batons in order to pull off such an aesthetic performance. I could appreciate how difficult it was to wield long type weapons. My sword has always been on the short side because of that reason.

“Do you see anyone suspicious?” Will asked.

I shook my head. “Maybe we’re in the wrong place?”

“No,” Will said. “Chiron told us to come here. And we have the best view of the entire parade from where we are.”

I pondered that. “Maybe we missed her?”

But Will didn’t answer. His eyes were fixed on the next float that was coming down the street. It was the largest one yet, and I got a feeling that it was the finale. The entire thing had a huge blue bricked castle built onto it, with navy turrets, and streamers flying out of the windows like fireworks.

Dozens of men and women dressed in soldiers uniforms were manning the castle grounds. Each of them carried heart shaped weaponry and had multiple flowers entwined in their hair. They looked like they were doing a dance like the Macarena, but with bits integrated in where they would grovel and point to the centre of the float.

In the centre, standing in the spotlight, right on top of the biggest tower was the most flamboyantly dressed dryad I had ever seen. I could tell she wasn’t human by the way her ears were tipped, and her skin glowed slightly green. She wore a gown so big and brightly pink, I could only focus on one part of it at a time, but I knew it was a dress to rival any Disney Princess.

The dryad grinned mischievously from her tower, waving at the locals and taking in the cheer. I had no idea why she’d be up there, but it looked like we’d found our infirmary supplier.

“I think that’s her,” I said weakly.

“Yup,” Will agreed, his eyes still transfixed on the float. “I guess we’ll have to wait until the parade is finished.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

The rest of the parade didn’t last long, since the float that the dryad was on was the finale. At the end of the song, more streamers blew out of the fake castle windows, and the drums picked up a crescendo for the final few seconds. It was amazing to watch, with the colours and the choreography, but my eyes were fixed on Princess dryad up in her tower.

I could’ve sworn she caught my eye just as the music stopped, but I couldn’t be sure. As the performers took their bows, and continued down the street with the floats, Nico took my hand and started leading me towards them before they could disappear around the corner.

“Come on,” he told me. “We don’t want to lose her.”

As it turned out, we needn’t have hurried. As soon as we turned into a side street to follow the performers, the dryad stepped right in front of us. “Howdy!” She greeted. “It’s always nice to have potential buyers.”

Her dress was even more magnificent up front, and I realised that she had pink glitter on her cheeks and around her eyes. Nico stared at her with curiosity. “You were expecting us?” He asked.

The dryad laughed as if my boyfriend were a cute child who’d done something naughty. “Of course not,” she beamed. Then, instead of explaining, she turned on her heels and said, “Follow me.”

How she moved so fast with that mountain of a dress, I couldn’t tell you. But Nico and I exchanged a quick glance and silently agreed we’d better do as we were told. We hurried after her.

She led us into a normal looking council building that looked like the backstage of a theatre. Apparently that was where all of the performers had gotten ready. She ushered us into her dressing room and then shut the door behind her.

“Um so...” I started, but was cut off when she literally grabbed the skirt of her dress and ripped it off. I didn’t have time to cover my eyes before she had completely removed it, leaving her in a leotard type thing and tights.

She dumped her skirt on a clothes rack and sighed in relief. “Ahhh. That’s better.” And I couldn’t doubt that taking off an item of clothing as big as a car would be relieving. The dryad then collapsed onto a cheap looking sofa and studied us. “Hello, friends,” she chirped. “I’m Gloriosa. But you handsome fellows can call me Glory.”

I waved my hand stupidly at her as Nico shot me an annoyed look that I didn’t understand. He said, “Hi, Glory.”

“Gods!” She cried dramatically. “I’m so glad I have customers! Can you believe the decline of demand recently? It’s as if no one is even receiving my advertisements! I’ve had to resort to these stupid public events just to make sure no one forgets who I am!”

Nico and I just stared at her. Luckily, Nico was much more quick on his feet than I was. “Yes,” he said sympathetically. “Everyone’s communications are down at the moment. That’ll be the reason for your lack of customers. But we’re hoping that... someone... will fix it soon.”

I could tell that he’d stopped himself from saying ‘Apollo’ and instead had said ‘someone’. That was a good call. We couldn’t know how Glory would take the news about my father becoming a mortal. I felt a brief stab of worry about my dad... I hoped he was okay.

Glory groaned. “So bad for business,” she muttered angrily. “And this stupid parade didn’t drum up nearly enough customers than I would’ve liked.”

“Um,” I said again, “the crowds looked pretty huge to me.”

She shot me a dirty look, as if wondering how I could be so stupid. “You are completely idiotic,” she spat. “Did you see a single demigod out there other than you two?”

Nico clenched his fists, but his voice was calm when he said, “There’s no need to call him names. We just want to make a few purchases.”

Glory studied us. “Hmph,” she said. “I guess I could use the business... but your payment wouldn’t be nearly enough...”

“What do you mean?” I asked, dread pooling in my stomach.

She fixed her eyes on me and asked, “Okay, I’ll help you. What do you need?”

I didn’t like the sound of her muttering to herself about our payment not being enough, but I handed her the list I’d orchestrated this morning anyway. Her stare wandered down the page, with a studious expression on her face. After she’d read it, she handed it back to me and started walking around the room.

“What are you...?” But the question died in my throat as I realised that she was gathering supplies. She started pulling things out of drawers and cupboards that I hadn’t even realised were there before. I guessed that she’d used a glamour to conceal her belongings.

Whilst she was rummaging around, I caught quick glimpses of certain magical objects that I definitely couldn’t explain. There were colourful potions, various ointments, lumps of clay and bits of ivory.

“She supplies to the Egyptian pantheon too,” Nico muttered beside me.

“Huh?”

He shook his head. “Never mind.”

Once Glory had accumulated all of the supplies that were on my list, she packaged them up in a small bag that reduced the mountain pile to the size of a pineapple. “Wow thanks,” I exclaimed. That would definitely be useful to get this stuff back to camp, since Argus had practically left us stranded here.

“Don’t thank me yet,” she smiled, and her expression made my blood run cold. “Now let’s discuss payment.”

I produced the bag of drachma that Chiron had given us. “How much?”

She laughed at me. “I’ll give you a price. But I also want something else in return for these products.”

Nico gritted his teeth. “What do you want?” He demanded.

Glory tutted at him. “This one has a temper. He’d make a good soldier.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, because I was pretty sure she had just called my boyfriend a soldier.

She smiled at me with that condescending expression. I thought she was deliberately pausing for dramatic effect. That couldn’t be good. “I want you two to be part of my next parade,” she stated.

I blinked at her. I knew the parade was scheduled to happen twice today, but I hadn’t thought we’d stay for both, let alone be a part of one.

“Um,” I stammered, “we really should be getting back-“

“Yeah,” Nico agreed sternly. “We’re not taking part in your parade.”

Glory didn’t seem deterred by Nico’s death stare. “Look,” she said with a tone of finality, “I’ve named my price. Times are tough. I need more than money. I need to drum up more business, and you two will surely attract all kinds of attention! Of course, you can refuse... but then no supplies, I’m afraid.”

Nico looked ready to protest again, but I pulled him to the other side of the room and whispered, “Let’s just do it.”

He gave me a disgusted look. “What?”

I shrugged. “Why not? All we have to do is put on a bit of a show. It’s not exactly dangerous.”

Nico raised his eyebrows. “Why don’t you try and put me in a heart themed costume and then you can tell me whether you think that was dangerous.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s a costume. And it’s for our supplies. You’re an honorary Apollo camper. You have a duty to do what’s best for the infirmary.”

He pouted at me, but I knew he was going to agree. Though that didn’t mean I wouldn’t have to put up with his insistent whining throughout this entire experience. “Fine,” he hissed. Then he turned back to glory. “What do you want us to dress up as?”

She gave us a devious smile and walked over to her costume rack. She pulled out a soldier’s uniform, fit with the heart shaped weapons and roses that we’d seen earlier. “For you,” she purred at Nico.

Nico looked like he wanted to murder her. He marched up to her and snatched up the costume without a word.

Then Glory flicked through her costumes again. “And for your beautiful friend,” she smiled at me, “this one.”

It was a typical Prince costume, with a white suit and blue and golden trims. A fake sword hung at the side. “You’ll be my charming prince,” she whispered to me.

Oh gods, did she actually just say that? “Isn’t there someone else to be the prince?” I asked, because she had nearly a dozen soldiers who I was sure could play the part better than me.

She shook her head sadly. “None of them are good enough. They’re all mortal.” She pulled a face as if mortals were the worst thing she could thing of.

I walked over slowly and accepted the costume from her.

I ignored Nico’s scowl and asked, “Where can we change?”

*

“You’re really fucking annoying, Will,” Nico complained when Glory shut the door to the changing room she’d led us to.

“What?” I asked. “This is what she wants for payment. Compared to what she could’ve asked of us, it doesn’t seem that bad to me.”

Nico scoffed and muttered, “Of course it doesn’t. You’re her prince.” He said the word ‘prince’ as if it left a bad taste in his mouth, and gave me a dirty look before aggressively yanking his jacket off.

I smiled at him and teased, “I guess you really are the jealous type.”

“Shut up, Solace. You’re already on thin ice with me.” Then he continued to undress, pulling his shirt off. I tried my best not to stare, but my heart was already beating uncomfortably fast at the sight.

I sighed. “I would’ve thought you’d be relieved,” I said, “that you don’t have to be the prince. At least you can hide in a corner if you really wanted. I’m going to be right in the spotlight.”

He thought about that for a moment. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “Right in the spotlight with her.” He also said the word ‘her’ as if he couldn’t think of a greater insult.

I moved closer to him. “Don’t get me wrong,” I said, “it’s cute to see this emotion on you, but you must know that you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

He scoffed. “Just get changed, Will. The sooner that this is over, the better.”

I started undoing my buttons and and pulled my shirt over my head. I looked at Nico nervously. “Nico-?”

“Why didn’t you correct her?” He demanded.

“Um... what?”

He glared at me. “She called you my ‘friend’ and you didn’t correct her!”

Wow. Possessive Nico really wasn’t something I was used to. Usually he was so cool and collected. I must’ve really messed up.

“Hey,” I said softly, “you got annoyed last time I did that. We agreed to only use the word in private or with friends.”

He was still glaring at me.

“You could’ve corrected her,” I pointed out.

He pouted. “What? And seem all pathetic and jealous?”

I laughed at him. “But you are jealous.”

Before I could blink, he had backed me up against the wall and trapped me there by placing his hands on either side of me. “I am not jealous,” he hissed.

His face was so close to mine, I couldn’t breathe for a second, which wasn’t at all convenient because my heart was beating way too fast. We were both still shirtless, so I could feel the warmth of his chest, and I had to resist the urge to reach up and touch him, or run my hands through his hair, or kiss him...

Nico’s cheeks were tinted pink, but from arousal or anger, I couldn’t tell. His eyes were swimming with different emotions, and I couldn’t get a read on any of them.

I managed a smile. “If it makes you feel better, I’ll pretend to ignore your jealousy.”

It probably wasn’t a good idea to tease him further, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t back down from his challenge. He gave me one more dirty look and then, surprisingly, he backed away to the other side of the room. He grabbed the soldier’s costume and dumped it over his head.

“Okay, seriously, Nico,” I tried again in my soft voice. “You really don’t have anything to be jealous about. It’s a performance. And you’re a hundred times prettier than her.”

His lips tugged upwards slightly, but only for a second before he frowned again and looked at the floor. “I am not pretty,” he mumbled.

I laughed at him out of genuine amusement. I really couldn’t take Nico underestimating his worth. Why couldn’t he see how great he was?

I gave him a smile. “Try telling that to my heart. It’s literally beating out of my chest right now from your dramatic little stunt, and you didn’t even touch me.”

He smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s out of fear.”

I looked at him seriously. “Have I ever been scared of you?”

His silence was confirmation that he knew I was right. He pulled on his pants while I dressed in my own costume. When we were done, Nico picked up his fake weapons and flowers and walked over to me. “I guess you do make an alright prince,” he confided.

I smiled at him. Then I held out my hand. “Let me put the flowers in your hair.”

He reluctantly handed them over and let me entwine the small pink and red roses in his silky hair. “Look at that,” I mused when I was done, “I got to see you wearing the flowers after all. You look gorgeous, darling.”

Nico turned around to face me and he grimaced at the term of endearment. “Don’t call me ‘gorgeous’ or ‘darling’.”

He looked so unbelievably beautiful with the subtle pinks braided in his hair, I couldn’t even form words to argue.

He sighed. “Let’s go and meet up with your princess. I bet you’ll have a lot of fun with that.”

I kissed his cheek. “I assure you I won’t, but I’ll be happy as long as I know that I’m going home with you tonight.”

He gave me a mischievous smile. “You better be.” Then he reached down and lightly brushed my groin area. The sensation was so subtle through my pants and costume, but the contact still filled me with a roaring desire. I bit my lip and curled my toes in my shoes to hold back a whimper. I didn’t open my mouth again until I’d felt the residual sparks dissipate into my bloodstream.

Nico smirked at me and left the changing room.

I hesitated a second before following, just to make sure that my pants weren’t too tight. I decided I kind of liked possessive Nico.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

We didn’t have time to do a rehearsal. As soon as Will and I made it back to Glory’s room, she was hurrying out, already reattached to her vehicle sized skirt, and yelling different commands to various performers.

“More confetti in the canons!”

“Check that the lights are working!”

“Make sure there’s space for my prince!”

“No, you don’t have time for another snack, so get off your ass and hurry up!”

I nudged Will and whispered to him. “Have you ever seen a dryad so temperamental?”

He shook his head, shooting nervous glances at our supplier. I laughed as I said to him, “You have to marry her.”

I was feeling a bit better about that now, once Will had reassured me, and I’d marked my territory. Okay, that makes me sound possessive, but it really isn’t that big of a deal. I was now more annoyed that we’d agreed to be part of this stupid parade. It was not going to be enjoyable.

Before Will could respond, Glory motioned for us to get on board the float, which was parked outside of the building. “You,” she pointed at me, “you’re soldier seventeen. You stand over there.” She pointed to a space next to the castle. “And my prince,” she said gleefully, “you’ve got a special job.”

I gritted my teeth at the suggestive way she was saying that. The only thing that stopped me attacking her was the fact that Will was also looking disgusted and anxious.

“What exactly...?” He asked.

She laughed at him in her high pitched cackle, before jumping into her explanation. “First, you stand at the base of the tower,” she said in a condescending tone. “Second, you climb the tower in the most heroic way possible. Third, you greet me in a romantic way. Fourth, you sprinkle confetti across the audience with me.”

“Um,” Will stuttered, “you want me to climb your tower?”

“Heroically!” She repeated.

I scowled. “How is a guy breaking into a princess’s tower heroic?” I demanded. “It’s kind of perverted actually. Why can’t you let him in through the door?”

“Yeah,” Will agreed. “That’s a lot more civilised.”

Glory tutted. “You guys have no respect for showmanship! It must be entertaining! It must be glorious! It must attract more customers to my business!”

I still didn’t understand why she thought us being there would serve as advertisement to her dodgy magical supplies scheme, but hey, at this point, I just wanted to get back home.

Will still didn’t look happy about scaling a fake tower, but I didn’t see how Glory was going to change her mind about that. “And,” I asked instead, “what do you mean by greeting romantically?”

She laughed at me as if I’d said something funny. I wished she would stop doing that. I kept wondering if I had something stupid in my hair or something (which, of course, I did).

“Well,” she mused, “obviously that means a kiss of true love.” I cringed and clenched my fists at the thought of her kissing my boyfriend.

“Actually,” Will said quickly, “a kiss of true love would result in me falling in love with you. Do you really want that? It could be very inconvenient for an independent business woman...”

Glory pondered that. “That is true...”

“Yes!” I agreed. “Having Will trailing pathetically after you, twenty four seven would be very annoying, trust me.”

Will scowled at me, but didn’t argue. Glory also seemed to agree. “Yes,” she muttered. “I don’t have time to deal with more infatuated demigods.”

“No kissing then,” Will said with relief.

“Fine,” Glory said. “You can just grovel at my feet instead.”

I smiled. “Yes. I think he’d be good at that.”

Will threw me another dirty look, but couldn’t retort because Glory started handing him about a dozen bags of confetti. “Don’t forget these. Use copious amounts when you’re up there. Stick to the plan. And be energetic!”

I rolled my eyes.

Glory shouted, “We’re on! Let’s do this!”

*

Our fake castle float emerged onto the street as the grand finale began. As we rounded the corner, colourful streamers flew from the windows. It was slightly darker than during the first parade, so I could see flashing lights blinking above me around the turrets. The Disney type music blared from the speakers, making me feel disoriented, but still upbeat.

I tried not to linger on the fact that I was wearing a Valentine’s Day themed costume with flowers braided in my hair. I told myself that no one I knew (except Will) would see me, and really, Will definitely had it worse.

As I bopped my knees up and down in a useless attempt to look entertaining, my boyfriend was waving to the crowd from the base of the princess’s tower. He caught my eye for a second, and I saw his exasperated expression. I tried to give him a reassuring thumbs up, but with my idiotic costume, I probably looked sarcastic.

On Glory’s cue, Will started to climb the tower. It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be, since there were reasonably sized footholds up the wall, but I could tell it was definitely harder than it looked, with the moving float, the flying confetti, and loud music.

I really hoped he didn’t fall. That would’ve been extremely inconvenient. I started waving my hands in the air and wiggling my fingers in what I hoped was an entertaining way, so that I could watch Will climb without worry that Glory would scold me for looking boring.

Will made it up the first three steps alright. I tried not to stare every time his arm muscles flexed as he grabbed onto the next step, but it was very challenging. Apparently the audience had also noticed, because I heard some whoops in Will’s direction. I gritted my teeth and tried to focus on the loud music instead.

Glory was in her element, a wide smile plastered on her face, and flinging paper confetti as people cheered compliments about her massive dress. Will couldn’t avoid the confetti since he was directly below her, but I managed to find a dry spot and stayed in that place. I was not going to get confetti on me. That would be the cherry on top of the perfect day.

Unfortunately, when Will attempted to grab onto the fourth step, a confetti landed on his nose. He instinctively tried to bat it away, stupidly forgetting that he needed both of his arms to keep him stable.

I watched in horror as he lost his grip and started to fall. I didn’t even register that my hands were moving as I waved them above the ground and thrust them in front of me in Will’s direction. I realised that my instincts had taken over and I’d used my powers to summon a variety of small but rigid bones from the ground.

They had arranged by delicately knitting themselves into a big enough net to catch Will, before he could land on the hard surface of the float. It wasn’t even a high enough fall to warrant concern, but I guess my subconscious had other ideas. The residual panic that had flared in my chest dissipated as I realised that Will was safe.

The crowd roared in approval, which confused me. But then I realised that the mist was probably working overtime to help disguise the sudden knitted bone net that had appeared under the prince. I wondered what they were seeing. A white stallion? Will sporting a jet pack? Both good choices.

Glory looked like she wanted to complain, but she was too busy smiling at the sudden increase of cheering.

Will’s expression was bemused, until he looked at me with a smile. “Thank you,” he mouthed, and I saluted him. He untangled himself from my makeshift net and heroically started climbing again. The bones that I’d summoned fell back to the ground and buried themselves in the dirt.

This time, Will managed to make it all the way to the top of the tower, and Glory welcomed him with open arms. The crowd whooped at the reunion of the prince and princess, even though the whole act still seemed a bit pointless and cheesy to me. Then again, I was wielding a fake sword with a heart shaped hilt, so I couldn’t exactly make fun.

The rest of the parade continued without much to note. I dutifully stood my ground in my confetti free zone, as both Will and Glory scattered whatever confetti they had remaining. The lights sparkled and the streamers flew from the windows.

At the end, we turned the corner of the last street and made our way back to our starting point. The cheers and music gradually got quieter as we got further away. When we arrived, Glory kindly let Will down by the stairs instead of making him climb down the wall of the tower heroically.

“Good job, guys,” she chirped gleefully. “That parade went splendid!”

Will and I gave her a look that could’ve been amusement, exasperation or hatred.

“Anyway,” she continued, “you can change back into your normal clothes. And here.” she handed Will the bag with our supplies. He checked it before handing her our agreed payment.

“Nice doing business with you, boys! I’m sure our performance has attracted more than enough customers for me to survive until my advertisements can be seen.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “What do you even need money for? Aren’t you a nature spirit?”

“Oh sonny,” she said and I scowled; Will’s nicknames for me were bad enough. “A girl’s gotta live, you know.”

I didn’t argue. She did seem like the most over the top dryad I’d ever met. With that last remark, she wandered back into her house and disappeared.

Will turned to me. He looked sweaty from climbing and his hair was all messed up from when he’d fallen, with the rose I’d got him sticking out at a funny angle. He had bits of confetti all over himself, and his prince costume was slightly muddy from where the bones had caught him. All in all, he looked quite dashing.

“Let’s please get back to camp,” he whined. “I’m sick of Valentine’s Day.”

*

As we were walking back to camp, Will said, “Thank you for saving me.”

I kept looking straight ahead just in case I blushed. “Well, it would’ve been hard to carry you back to camp. You’re pretty heavy.”

He laughed. “I’m sure you acted out of self interest, and not your fear of your amazing boyfriend getting hurt.”

I scoffed. “I just didn’t want Glory to refuse to give us our supplies because you didn’t act heroically enough.”

“From the cheering of the crowds,” he said, “I think I did a pretty good job.”

I rolled my eyes. “They were cheering because they thought you were the perfect handsome prince. That doesn’t mean you can’t still be an idiot at the same time.”

He smiled at me. “And did you think I was the perfect handsome prince?”

His voice was teasing and my cheeks were definitely burning. I decided to comment on the one word I’d actually be able to argue with. “Your father isn’t a king. Therefore you cannot be a prince.”

He held up his hands, but he wasn’t deterred. “Fine. So you’re agreeing to the other two things?”

In my mind, I was screaming, ‘Yes! Obviously! More than perfect’. “Maybe,” I said instead.

Will sighed, “Well, considering your almost compliment and the rest of the parade, the day did turn out to be pretty fun.”

I gave him a skeptical look. “Even though we got roped into a pathetic parade and made to wear stupid costumes?”

He smiled again. “Especially because of that.”

I tutted. “You are a weird one, Will Solace.”

“Hey,” he said, “that’s Prince Weird One to you.”

I shook my head in exasperation as a smile started to play on my lips. “We’ve already established that you’re not a prince.”

“Silence,” he ordered in a fake deep voice, “I don’t take criticism from peasants.”

I nudged his arm playfully. “You’re infuriating, you know.”

He bowed at the insult. Then in his normal voice he said, “Come on. It was fun, right?”

I hummed as I plucked the last rose from my hair and dropped it on the floor. “I’ll entertain the possibility that you might be right.”

He laughed at my obvious agreement.

Just as we’d started on the lawn to the cabins, I turned to Will. “And can you believe that I didn’t get a single piece of confetti on me-“

I was cut off when Will produced a small bag from his pocket and, quicker than I could blink, flung its entire contents all over me. I barely registered the multicoloured bits of paper floating through the sky as they rained down on me, covering me completely.

I stared at Will in shock. He was trying to hide his amusement, but not very successfully.

“Sorry,” he said without an ounce of guilt, “I thought you were complaining.”

Then, very wisely in my opinion, he turned and fled towards the Hades cabin.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will had gotten most of the way to my cabin before I unfroze and started running after him.

“I’ll get you, Solace!” I yelled as I followed him across the lawn. I was running incredibly fast. Partly because I wanted to get revenge on my stupid boyfriend. Partly because I would’ve rather died than have someone at camp see me covered head to toe in colourful confetti. Fortunately, because it was late afternoon, no one seemed to be around. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t fast enough to catch Will who had now already reached my cabin and bolted through the door.

I got to the threshold and saw Will in my cabin standing near the sofa with a massive mischievous smile on his face. “You look good with a splash of colour,” he noted innocently.

“A splash!” I growled. “This is a fucking explosion!”

I made to step into my cabin, but Will held up his hands and said desperately, “Wait wait wait!”

“What?” I snapped, his tone of voice giving me slight pause.

“Do you really want to leave a trail of confetti in your nice dark cabin?”

I gave him a death glare, and weighed up my options. I obviously didn’t want to be finding colourful paper all around my cabin for the foreseeable future. But, what was I going to do? Wait out here until I had gotten rid of it all?

“When I get my hands on you...” I warned. Then before he could react, I threw caution to the wind and ran towards him. Will made a small squeak like sound that was very satisfying, and bolted away from me.

“Wait!” Will yelped as we ran around my cabin. “We can talk about this!”

The fact that he was laughing so hard did not make me want to talk about this at all. His laughing was also slowing him down, and I tried to use that to my advantage. I continued to chase him, but after a couple of minutes, Will stopped by my bed and doubled over.

He was half laughing, half panting, with one hand on his chest and the other held out in an attempt to stop me. “Catch... my... breath,” he said in between gulps of air and chuckles.

I had no intention of letting him do that. I carried on towards him and with one manoeuvre, I easily managed to flip him onto the bed. “Oof,” he said as he landed on my duvet, but even that action didn’t faze his amusement.

“You’re still laughing at me!” I complained. He tried to hold it in, but then he made the mistake of looking at my confetti infected face and he burst out laughing again. I did not appreciate that. I moved onto the bed and climbed on top of him.

Before I could capture his arms though, he surprised me by actually managing to roll from under me. I didn’t have time to stabilise my legs, and I realised that he’d completely turned us around, so that he was looming over me, and I was flat on my back.

“This is not how this is supposed to go!” I protested as I squirmed around, trying to find some leverage.

Will gave me a massive goofy grin. “It’s really hard to find you scary with spots of pink and yellow plastered on your face and in your hair.”

Well that taunt gave me the motivation I needed. I threw a jab to his torso, and when he was weakened, I used my momentum to push him the other way. He toppled onto his back and I went to get back on top.

But in my haste, I managed to misjudge where I needed the bulk of my weight to keep him down, so I ended up a bit too high. Will kicked off with his legs and bounced me off of him. While I was airborne, he tried to grab my arms, but I kept them out of his reach.

He gave up on that when he realised he couldn’t reach my arms, and instead clamped his hands on my waist. I didn’t even realise what was happening until he’d literally picked me up and deposited me onto the bed next to him.

I gaped at him as he rolled over on top of me and pinned me again, this time with my hands secured against the bed. He smiled triumphantly at me. “I guess your training paid off, huh?”

I scowled. “You should never try and beat the teacher,” I warned.

He raised his eyebrows. “And why’s that?”

I smiled at him. “Because there’s always tricks we don’t teach you.”

Before I could implement one though, Will leaned down and kissed me on the nose. “Stop that right now,” I ordered, but my heart wasn’t really in it. He obviously heard my reluctance and kissed me again on the cheek.

He carried on kissing me, leaving a trail across my face and on my jaw. My breathing was getting heavier than it was from when we were wrestling. I could feel my eyes closing as the pleasant familiar fire starting igniting in every place he kissed me.

I distantly knew that he was heading down to my neck. And if he got there, I knew I’d completely melt. I couldn’t let him win just yet... With my last bit of strength, I rolled him off of me. It was easy since he’d loosened his grip and relaxed slightly as he was kissing me.

Because we were already near the edge of the bed, when I rolled him off, his head ended up hung off of the side. “Nico!” He protested as I prevented him from getting back up by sitting on his lower half.

I could feel his partially hardened manhood as I sat down, and I was sure he could feel mine. For gods’ sake! I was supposed to be teaching him a lesson, and now I was just craving different things. Why had our struggling made me so flustered?

Will was trying to shuffle further onto the bed, because his head was still hanging off. I stopped his movements by lifting his shirt and placing my hands on his torso. He stopped struggling when I started tracing lines on the planes of his stomach.

“Ohh...” he sighed.

I started to move my body down his and the friction caused his breath to hitch. He’d stopped trying to move up the bed, and instead seemed to be just enjoying my caresses. It looked like he’d accepted he was half hanging off because he’d relaxed his neck, letting his head just hang there.

I rolled my eyes. Now would’ve been a good time to stop and leave him hanging (figuratively and literally) to punish him, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I was enjoying how big of a reaction he was giving in response to my touches, and how he’d become completely relaxed.

I shuffled down a bit more and then leaned towards him to kiss his stomach. His muscles contracted slightly beneath me and he let out a soft moan.

“I told you not to try and beat the teacher,” I taunted. I was sure he wasn’t going to reply, but just in case, I kissed him again a bit lower. I could hear his heavy breathing from here now, and when I placed another light kiss, he aggressively grabbed onto the sheets where his hands were lying.

I smiled to myself and kept going. When I reached his belly button, he sucked in deeply, as if his whole body was trying to shrink away. He made a slight whining noise and I couldn’t gauge if it was good or bad.

So I kissed him there again. “Wait...” he said weakly.

I smirked at him. “It tickles, doesn’t it?”

He hesitated before saying unconvincingly, “No...”

I leaned down and licked him there. His reaction was half a moan, and half a whine. His stomach muscles contracted again and he sucked in a long deep breath. “Nico... please...”

“Please what?”

I bent down and licked him again. His reaction was more or less the same, but more heightened. Although, I also realised that now he was fully hard, and pressing into me. I smirked at him again, knowing that I’d turned him on even though he was protesting. Maybe he was just too sensitive there.

“That was for the confetti,” I told him. He let out another whimper.

I could’ve tortured him more, but really, I didn’t want to. I just wanted him to feel good now. I felt like I’d given him a hard enough day as it was. I shuffled off of him. “Give me your hand,” I ordered because I was sure that he must’ve been getting light headed. He held out his hand and I lifted him just enough to get him sitting upright beside me.

His cheeks were completely flushed, and his eyes were dilated so much, there was only a slither of blue left. It looked like he was trying to catch his breath, but instead of letting him, I leaned over and kissed him.

He tensed slightly when I first made contact, probably because he wasn’t expecting affection from me, but he relaxed soon enough. Our kisses became more hungry and erratic, and I could feel myself craving more... Gods, what was he doing to me?

I lifted his shirt and broke our kiss for a second so that I could lift it over his head and deposit it on the floor.

“I knew you liked my flannel,” he said.

I gave him a disgusted look. “I just threw it on the floor, Will.”

He smiled. “You were still kissing me whilst I was wearing it.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, because I couldn’t really argue with him anymore. The truth was, he did look cute with his dorky flannel. Will looked like he wanted to go back in for another kiss, but I was running out of patience. “Lie down,” I ordered.

He gave me a look of amusement and surprise. “Yes, your highness,” he said in a teasing voice, as he obliged.

I rolled my eyes. Then I reached out to grab his waistband and started to lower his pants. He lifted his hips to let me, and I discarded them on the floor with his shirt. Surprising even myself, I didn’t waste any time as I went straight for his member and took it in my mouth.

He let out a dramatic content sigh, probably because he wasn’t expecting it, and dropped his head on the bed. I used my tongue to trace along his tip, using his reactions as a confidence booster. His breathing got heavier and heavier as I went, and I found that he let out small whimpering noises when I teased around certain areas. So I focused on them.

I started going faster and faster, aware that the last time I’d done this, I’d made him wait for ages...

His stomach muscles clenched and he let out a string of words that I couldn’t make out. I kept going, increasing my pressure. He said a soft, “Oh gods,” when I used my hand to start rubbing lightly on the back of his member. I knew he was close, because I could feel him throbbing slightly... Just a bit more...

“Wait,” he gasped in between his pants.

I stopped and looked up at him. “Did I do something wrong?” I asked, hating how insecure my voice sounded. I was sure he had been enjoying that.

He shook his head. “Gods no. That was... I can’t even...”

He was stammering and my nerves started to grow. I looked at him questioningly. He sighed as if he were trying his best to form a coherent sentence. “I just don’t want to... finish yet,” he managed.

“Oh,” I sighed in relief. He did like it. I felt weirdly proud that I’d brought him to the edge so fast. “That was quick,” I commented, smiling at him.

He sighed in exasperation. “After what you did last time, can you blame me?”

I smiled wider and shrugged. I guess he had a point.

Will sat up and slowly moved closer to me. I felt my cheeks burning, and I held my breath as he moved into my space. He leaned in and placed a lingering kiss on my neck. I let out my breath and tilted my head back hoping he’d take that as an invitation to do it again.

He did, and I scrunched my eyes shut so that I could deal with the overwhelming sensation. It felt so incredibly good. Oh gods. His kisses were causing me to burn. I felt way too hot everywhere. Each fire travelled down me, igniting my entire bloodstream and making a beeline for my already swollen manhood.

Will’s fingers clasped around my shirt and stopped kissing my neck to look at me with a questioning expression. I rolled my eyes and lifted my shirt off for him. It was sweet he was still being cautious with me. Right now though, my clothes were kind of getting in the way of him touching me properly.

“I’m not going to break, you know,” I told him, even though I knew his intentions were good.

“I know,” he said honestly.

Then he got to work on my belt (which I also had to help a bit with) and lowered my pants and jeans. I still felt a moment of anxiety when I was completely naked, but that feeling melted away when Will started touching me. A sort of pleasant helplessness washed over me and I couldn’t do anything to stop myself completely falling apart.

He started off my kissing me where my new tattoo was. The thought that he had the same one on his chest, made this feel so... right. And apparently the ink had made the spot super sensitive, and I bucked my hips at the contact. “Mmmm,” I said desperately, because I’d had enough of the foreplay.

Will smirked at me, but it was only a moment before he obliged. After a few initial strokes with his hand, he took me in his mouth, and, oh gods, I forgot how amazingly wonderful this felt. I couldn’t comprehend what exactly he was doing with his tongue, but the effect was mind blowing. I realised that I was panting and gripping my fingers onto whatever I could find: the sheets, the pillow, Will’s hair.

I scrunched my eyes closed tighter as I tried to control my breathing, but I knew it was a lost cause. The thoughts running through my head were so horribly chaotic and unbearably pleasant at the same time. Oh gods, everything about this was so freaking good.

And then Will’s hand was travelling further down, slowly stroking all around that area... And then suddenly an unfamiliar excruciating pleasure spiked through my nervous system like adrenaline. I had to remind myself to breathe, as stars danced across my vision. I would’ve finished if Will hadn’t removed his hands and mouth at my reaction. I clenched my fists and arched my back, trying to chase the sensation. Gods, that was frustrating.

When I could manage it, I gasped, “Are you trying to kill me or something?”

He laughed at me and kissed my inner thigh innocently.

I rubbed my hands over my eyes. “What even was that?” Because I was sure he’d done something new.

“Was it good?” He asked.

I sighed. “What was ‘it’?”

Will laughed again and I propped my elbows up to stare at him. Still smiling, he said, “I just pressed down here.” He demonstrated again and that same intense pleasure churned inside of me. I swore everything in my mind was forgotten, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything except that one point that he was touching. I promptly collapsed back on the bed, biting my lip hard to hold in an unflattering noise.

“It’s called the perineum,” Will said in a smug voice. But I really couldn’t care less about the stupid name.

I huffed, attempting to pull myself together. “I thought you were an army doctor,” I said weakly.

“Please,” he replied. “I know my anatomy. I guess it has its perks, huh?”

I groaned. “Just do it again,” I told him. Then, because I realised my voice sounded kind of harsh, I added, “please.”

He laughed at me again, then said, “You’re really close.”

I propped myself on my elbows again to look at him. “I fucking know that.”

Instead of replying, he started to move away from me. I repressed the urge to beg him to come back. Was he getting revenge for last time? But he didn’t move away. He just travelled back up my body so that we were face to face again.

“I... um...” he said nervously, “wanted to try being together.”

It took me a moment to understand what he meant, because gods, my heart was jack hammering in my chest from his proximity. I could feel his heat mixing with mine literally everywhere along my body. And I was sure I was staring at his face for a bit too long, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks and tussled hair (which was now dotted with the damn confetti).

Will used one hand and his knees to keep himself on top of me, and with his free arm he reached down and gently took us both in his hand. I gasped at the contact, and gripped tightly onto his biceps to anchor myself. When he started moving up and down, I held my breath, because I was sure I wasn’t going to last more than a couple of seconds.

I couldn’t decide whether to keep my eyes open or shut them as tightly as I could. The sight of Will looming over me like this was probably the most arousing thing I’d ever seen.

The friction of his hand and his member was overloading me with sensation. That familiar tension started to pool in my gut, the liquid fire that was engulfing every cell of my body, and tugging my mind in random directions. I couldn’t hold on anymore... I could feel my legs shaking in anticipation.

But Will’s arm was also shaking, and I realised he was struggling to hold up his weight without both of his arms. “Move your hand,” I ordered in my breathless voice. “I’ll take over.”

He obeyed and placed his hand on the bed next to my head. And I continued, trying to mimic what Will had done. “Yes...” he sighed against my neck as I started going faster and faster. And gods, I was so close... maybe a few more seconds...

And just as I was at the edge, Will lowered one of his hands down my body and pressed down right where he had before. That extra jolt of pleasure was more than enough to tip me over, and it felt like I was shattering into a million pieces beneath him. “Oh wow,” I sighed. Every muscle in my body contracted, and I realised that I’d also squeezed my hand harder than I meant to.

Will didn’t seem to mind though. On the contrary actually. He let out a loud moan and gasped. I felt his bicep muscle harden under my fingertips as he came, but I could hardly register anything else because I was still riding out my own orgasm. Liquid pleasure was running through my veins at record speeds, driving every other thought, except the feeling, from my mind. It was so intense, I think I stopped breathing for longer than what must’ve been healthy.

I kept moving my hand, albeit it slower now, as the last of the sensations ceased. When we had both completely finished, Will let out a sigh that sounded more like a shuttering breath, and collapsed on top of me.

I focused on calming my breathing, and enjoying the feeling of peacefulness and content. The residual sparks were still dancing around my body, especially because Will was pressed against me, and we both still had no clothes on.

I ran my hand up and down his spine as gently as I could. I could feel Will’s breaths getting gradually more calm as the time passed.

“Will,” I said eventually.

“Mmm?”

“We should get up,” I told him. “There’s... um... fluids and bits of confetti between us.”

He lifted his head up to look at me and we both burst out laughing.

Chapter Text

Will POV

We laughed for a long time. I think we both completely lost it. It wasn’t even that funny. It was pretty gross actually. But once we’d started, it was really hard to stop, especially because Nico’s laughs were just egging me on to laugh harder, and vise versa. It was probably the serotonin; I was still tingling everywhere from my orgasm.

Eventually I managed to pull myself together. I rolled off of Nico and said, “You can shower first if you want.”

Nico scoffed and muttered, “How very chivalrous of you.”

I propped myself on my elbow. “Do you not want to shower first?”

He studied me with an unreadable expression on his face. His dark eyes were sparkling, and I got vertigo just by staring into them for too long. Finally, he said, “We could shower... together?”

If I wasn’t already flushed as red as a tomato, I would’ve turned redder. “You want to... shower with me?” I couldn’t help the smile that was spreading across my face.

Nico rolled his eyes. “It’s not a big deal,” he assured. “It’s just quicker...”

He averted his eyes down my body, then seemed to realise that I was still naked and looked back up again.

“I’d love to shower with you,” I told him.

His lips tugged upwards. “Really?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t ask silly questions. I’ll start the water.” I shuffled out of bed and headed to the bathroom, hoping my blush hadn’t spread all the way down to my backside for Nico to see. Oh well, who cares at this point?

As I used the controls to get the water running, I smiled to myself thinking about how Nico wanted to do this with me. I mean sure, we’d just... done that. But this was probably going to be more intimate and less sexual, since I doubt either of us could rise to the occasion after that.

I was surprised Nico wanted to share this part of him with me. I definitely wasn’t complaining. And it made me glad that he trusted me so much.

Just as I started to get worried that he’d changed his mind, he walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Then without a word, he headed for the shower and stepped in. I followed.

“Remind me never to let you get the shower ready,” he complained. “It’s way too cold.”

I smiled at him and stepped closer, keeping my eyes on his. He walked slowly backwards until I had him against the wall. “Better?” I asked.

He hesitated slightly, probably making sure he could say his snarky comeback without sounding flustered. He huffed and placed his hands on my shoulders. “No, it is not,” he said sternly. “Now turn the water temperature up.”

I smiled at him and did as I was told. When I turned back around, Nico had a bottle of shower gel in his hand. He aimed it at my chest and squirted a massive amount onto me. “Ahh!” I complained. “It’s cold!”

He tried to conceal his smile, but wasn’t very successful. Then he reached out and started spreading it across my chest and stomach. His fingers were so gentle, it was like he was caressing every part he touched. Usually when I shower by myself, I just scrub roughly until I’m clean. But the way Nico was doing it, he was making the experience feel so much better. I wondered how I had managed to have showers without him for so long.

“You can wipe that smile off of your face, Solace,” he said as continued to rub softly at my skin. “And get the damn confetti out of my hair, since this is obviously all your fault.”

I laughed at him. “I’ll agree the confetti was my fault,” I conceded as I picked up a shampoo bottle. “But everything that happened after was all you.”

Nico scoffed. “I cannot be accountable for my actions when you’re around,” he whined. “Therefore, it’s still your fault.” When he said that last bit, he lightly pinched my nipple, making me gasp.

“Fine,” I said weakly when the residual sensation had subsided. “That is definitely something I will gladly take credit for.” And I could’ve meant the fact that he’d just admitted he couldn’t control himself around me, or the fact that we’d both just had amazing orgasms.

Nico replied by picking up one of the lower shower heads, and spraying my face with water. “Hey!” I protested, holding my hands up to defend myself, but he’d already lowered it.

“Sorry,” he shrugged, not sounding very sorry. “Be quiet and I won’t have to do that again.”

I pouted, but didn’t say anything as he used the shower head to rinse my torso. Meanwhile, I squirted a big dollop of shampoo onto my hands and rubbed them together. Then I started lightly running my soapy hands through his hair, trying to pick out all of the bits of colourful paper.

Nico finished rinsing and squirted some more shower gel onto me, this time, a bit lower. He worked his soft hands down around my hips and between my thighs. I was having trouble breathing properly just with those motions, but then he went and wrapped his hand around me right there...

I think my brain short circuited for the fourteenth time that afternoon. I was so unbelievably sensitive from earlier, and Nico’s touches were almost unbearable.

“Nico,” I managed. “You’re not being fair.”

He smiled at me innocently. “What? Your hands are occupied washing my hair. I’m only doing you a favour.”

He continued twisting lightly and I let out a small whimper. “I think I’m clean,” I gasped when I realised he wasn’t stopping.

Nico shrugged but at least he let go. I released a breath that I didn’t know I was holding in. Then I continued foaming up his hair as he rinsed my lower half. He tutted at me. “Look at you all squeaky clean, and you haven’t even finished my hair yet. You’re really inefficient, Will.”

I huffed and mumbled, “I wonder why.”

Nico just smiled teasingly at me as I continued washing his hair. When I was satisfied, I said, “Turn around so I can rinse.”

He obliged and I had to tear my eyes away from his cute little tush. It took me a long moment, but I just about managed. Then I used the shower head to wash away all of the shampoo and remaining bits of confetti. They all swirled around the white porcelain, looking like a colourful whirlpool, and disappeared down the drain.

I held my free hand against the top of his forehead to make sure that no soapy water got into his eyes. When I was done, his shaggy hair was sopping wet, and it reached all the way down his neck. Wow it’d really grown out, and I loved it.

“Done,” I announced. “Where’s your conditioner?”

“My what?” He asked as he turned back around.

I looked at him with disbelief. “How is your hair so silky without using conditioner?”

He just shrugged. I rolled my eyes and filtered through his various products. Finding what I was looking for didn’t take long, since he had about a hundred different conditioners, courtesy of Hades. I slathered some on my hands and slid it through his wet hair, as gently as I could, before washing it out again. I let my fingers linger on his head for a moment, because it felt so incredibly silky soft.

He closed his eyes as I massaged his scalp and continued to run my hands through. When I managed to tear my hands away, I got the shower gel and started cleaning his body. Slowly, I ran my hands over his chest, his shoulders, his stomach. He backed up to the wall of the shower again and leaned against it as he let out some soft sighs.

To do his lower half, it was easier to bend down, so I crouched in front of him. I ran my hands along the sides of his hips, then around his thighs, and then higher... higher...

“Oh gods,” Nico whispered. “I see what you mean...”

I laughed at him. “Yup...” I cleaned him as gently as I could, then stood back up and rinsed him off.

“You have to sit down,” Nico said once I was done.

“Um why?”

He scowled at me. “I won’t be able to reach the top of your head properly.”

I smiled teasingly. “You mean you’re too short?”

He crossed his arms and increased the intensity of his glare. “You can wash your own hair,” he stated.

“Wait,” I said as I held up my hands in mock surrender. “I sincerely apologise. I’ll sit.”

I sat on the raised bit of the floor and looked at him innocently. He looked at me for a second longer, and I wasn’t sure whether he’d go for it or not. But then he shuffled over to me and got to work.

His nimble fingers worked through my hair, lightly scraping my scalp and pulling at different strands. I closed my eyes as he went, and I leaned my head back. His fingers brushed against the back of my neck as he got to the longest parts, and I was pretty sure that my breath hitched.

He rinsed the shampoo out with the shower head, taking special care to make sure the water didn’t go past my hairline.

“I suppose you want your fancy conditioner?” He asked.

“If you’d be so kind...” I teased.

I could practically feel him rolling his eyes, but he obliged nonetheless. When he’d finished washing it out he sighed as he ran his hands through. “It’s soft, right?” I asked.

He huffed and removed his hands. I heard him turn the water off. “It’s averagely soft,” he said as he stepped out of the shower. I smiled to myself and followed him.

I was kind of sad that he didn’t want to stay in the shower a bit longer, but I guessed we’d have more opportunities for that in the future...

We dried off and Nico lent me some comfy clothes to wear.

“Can we skip dinner?” He asked. “I’m really tired.”

I laughed. “Well, we did use a lot of energy today,” I agreed. “But no. We can’t skip dinner. We need to eat. It’ll make you feel better.”

He pouted at me and I went to take his hand. “Come on,” I told him, because I wasn’t going to let him argue about not eating. When I reached him, I realised that his hair had left a wet patch on his shirt. “Gods Nico, did you even dry your hair? It’s sopping.”

He smiled mischievously and before I could react, he started quickly and aggressively shaking his head around in all directions like a dog would. I didn’t have time to move back before I got soaked with water. “Ugh,” I grimaced at him.

“I think I’m ready now,” he said happily as he dragged me to the door and we headed for the dining pavilion.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

After Valentine’s Day, the next week or so weren’t really eventful. I took that on my stride since that day alone had been so action packed, I think we deserved a bit of a break. I spent my time in the infirmary as usual. Even though Will’s company was always fun, there had been a lot of injuries lately and I felt like I was getting in the way a lot.

So I also stayed in my cabin for a lot of the time. I hadn’t really been feeling like practising my sword fighting skills because I just didn’t feel like being aggressive, even if it was just training. Camp activities were at an all time low, considering that there were even less campers than there were in January (after the colossus battle, maybe people wanted to go home for a bit, though I couldn’t imagine why). And the activities that they did put on didn’t really interest me.

Anyway, I was happy to sit in my cabin and have some alone time. I had started reading some of the books Will had gotten me for Christmas. I was half way through The Hunger Games, and I had to admit, it was pretty great.

Unfortunately, somehow, Chiron had found out about Will sleeping in my cabin on a daily basis, and had put a stop to it. I got the feeling he had said it because he had to say it, and that he would turn a blind eye if we continued. But for now we decided to play by the rules. I was reluctant, but I hadn’t had a nightmare for over a month, so I agreed. I missed snuggling with him at night, but he did spend as long as he could with me before bed time still.

I wished Will was given more of a break like me, but you couldn’t really take a day off from people getting hurt. It amazes me to think that he’d had this responsibility on his shoulders for years now. He honestly was one of the most dutiful and resilient people I knew.

Because of Will’s absence, I found myself spending more and more time with Valentina, because she was actually quite funny when she wanted to be, and she seemed to understand me even though we hadn’t talked that much about the deep stuff. Other than Will, she was the only other person I could confide in, which proved useful when I wanted to gush about Will.

So today, I was with Valentina in my cabin. We were playing Connect 4 because Will had recently taught me, and I was obsessed with figuring out a fool proof strategy for winning at this stupid game.

“Curse you,” Valentina exclaimed when I blocked her for the umpteenth time that game.

I laughed at her. “What did you expect? You stacked them on top of each other. It was a lazy attempt.”

She pouted at me and I smiled innocently. Then I went back to studying the board. I noticed that if I placed one of my red tokens above hers, it would create two rows of three. She wouldn’t be able to block both, and I’d win in my next turn.

I placed my token and Valentina went to contemplate her next turn. “This is a stupid game,” she grumbled when she realised what I’d done.

I laughed at her. “Don’t worry. I’m just glad I found a technique for winning. I’ll have to play against Will...”

She started helping me pack away the game and asked, “How is Will? I haven’t seen him a lot lately...”

That was true. I had hardly seen Will in the past couple of days. “He’s stuck in the infirmary again,” I grumbled, realising only after how bitter my voice sounded.

She nodded. “It’s been a rough couple of days, huh?”

“Yup,” I said trying to keep my voice light. “I kind of miss him.”

“Why don’t you go and visit?” She asked, which was a reasonable question in theory, and I couldn’t go into my whole chaotic thought process with her.

“It’s nothing,” I lied. “I’m just giving him his space... And he doesn’t seem to mind.” Oh gods. Don’t start crying. This was so stupid. I knew that Will was busy. I knew that he couldn’t see me every second of every day. That didn’t make me miss him less though.

“Don’t be too hard on him,” Valentina said. “He’s probably just overworked and tired. Give him time. He’ll reassure you that everything’s fine.”

Obviously she was right. It was just my insecurities playing with my feelings. I suddenly felt bad for complaining about my boyfriend. I hated myself for talking behind his back about this. Will always encouraged me to talk things through with him. “It’s not his fault,” I told her. “There’s been a lot of injuries lately.”

She gave me a sympathetic look. “That’s a shame... He’s got a big responsibility.”

I nodded. “I mean, he usually has more help, but it’s just the three of them at the moment... We haven’t had any new campers because of the communication problems, so until it’s fixed...”

“Yeah,” Valentina nodded. “I hope Apollo’s doing alright. I’m sure he’ll fix the problem soon.” She seemed to think that that statement was a bit optimistic so she added, “even though he did seem a bit... inexperienced... but he’s got help at least.”

I just nodded, because I didn’t want to point out that his ‘help’ was an ex-sorceress and... Leo Valdez.

“Anyway,” she sighed as she got up. “I should be getting back to my cabin. It’s nearly dark.”

I gave her a small wave. “Okay. Good night.”

She turned to leave but stopped at the threshold. “Oh and,” she started nervously, “Billie and I are hanging out tomorrow, overseeing the reconstruction of the Demeter cabin. So... wish me luck.”

I smiled at her. “You don’t need luck. Just be yourself. You’re a child of Aphrodite for Hades’ sake.”

She didn’t look convinced, so I added quietly, “She’d be stupid not to like you back. You’re awesome.”

She gave me an appreciative smile. “Thank you, Nico.” Then she gave me one more wave and disappeared through the door.

I sighed. I didn’t really know anything about the daughter of Demeter, but Valentina seemed to like her for a reason. I really hoped her feelings were reciprocated.

That thought brought me back to Will. It was pretty late and he hadn’t been at dinner or lunch. Kayla had assured me that she’d brought him food. And Austin had told me that there was a big accident on the climbing wall, so Will had been busy.

I looked down at the hoodie I was wearing. It was one of Will’s. Just a simple yellow one with black trims. I still had it from the time I stole them all from his cabin. After that ordeal, Will had turned to me and asked, “Are you planning on returning my belongings?”

I’d replied, “No,” before kissing his cheek.

I realised I missed him. Even though it’d been less than a day.

I hadn’t wanted to seem needy or in the way, so I hadn’t gone to check on him today. But now, I had to. I only stepped in when I knew he had missed two consecutive meals, or he’d been working non stop for over ten hours. Those were my limits. I couldn’t let him do that to himself. And he’d broken those limits more than once.

I got up and headed for the infirmary.

*

When I got there, I was surprised to see that the place was completely empty of patients. Why was Will staying so late if no one even needed his help?

Obviously, my first thought went straight to my insecurity. Did he want a break from me? Was he hiding here purposely?

I tried to reason with myself. I knew that he had been busy today. Austin had told me so. So maybe he was just cleaning up or doing paperwork or something like that. Will wasn’t at reception though, and he wasn’t in the storage cupboard.

In fact, the boxes of supplies that we’d gotten on Valentine’s Day hadn’t even been unpacked yet. That seemed like something Will would’ve done...

I kicked myself for not coming to check on him sooner. What was my excuse? I didn’t want to seem needy. I didn’t want him to think I was constantly there, hovering and acting like his parent, telling him off for how hard he was working. After all, if his health wasn’t on the line, I didn’t have any right to tell him what to do.

But now I got the sinking feeling that I’d been missing something because I’d temporarily pulled away.

I made my way through the infirmary. Finally, as I got towards the back, I heard muffled sounds. Oh, maybe there was a patient that Will was tending to in a private room. As I got closer, the sounds got louder, and it didn’t sound like the casual chit chat of a doctor patient consultation.

Deep down, I knew what the sound was. I was very familiar with it. I practically ran to the door and yanked it open.

“Will?” I asked softly.

What I saw broke my heart. My boyfriend was sitting against the headboard of the bed, with his knees pulled up tight against his chest. Gods, the tears running down his face didn’t suit him at all. His cheeks were all blotchy and his hands were clamped over his head.

When he heard me, he turned to face me and his eyes widened. “Nico,” he said in a sharp, but watery voice. “You can’t be here.”

Ignoring him, I walked over. He was shaking, and I could tell that he was pulling on his hair a bit too aggressively.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to make my voice as even as possible. But inside, I wanted to cry. Seeing Will like this... I couldn’t think of anything worse. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins, and I knew I was starting to panic. It looked so... wrong.

And the sound of his cries... I could tell that he was trying his best to dial it down now that I was here, but the small shaky sobs he was making still cut through me like a knife. The sound alone felt like a high pitched tone reverberating my bones, and trying to crack me like glass.

When Will didn’t answer me, I made my way towards him and sat down on the bed. I wanted to hug him, but his legs were in the way. Gods, I wished I was better at comforting people. But this was Will’s department, and I definitely wasn’t him.

I sat there next to him for a while. It was probably just a couple of minutes, but it felt like forever. It felt like a clamp was slowly closing over my heart, and I didn’t know what to do. I could tell Will was trying his best to stop crying, but his breathing was still sharply chaotic, and I could see tears still sliding down his face.

Gods, I couldn’t take this. “Will?” I asked a bit more forcefully, but still in the softest voice I could manage.

He took a deep shaky breath. “Honestly, Nico. Please just go. I can’t... I don’t want you to see this.” He said the words as if they were painful to get out, and I couldn’t help but cringe at how hurt he sounded.

I didn’t know what to say to that. I couldn’t find the words. How could I make this better? I had no idea.

So I tried to use my actions instead of words. I reached out and placed my palm on his back, intending to rub circles there or something, or maybe play with his hair...

But when I made contact, he flinched away from me.

Oh gods. He had just flinched when I touched him. The clamp that was slowly closing around my heart suddenly slammed shut and all I could feel was the pain from his rejection. I quickly withdrew. “You really want me to go?” I asked, trying to hide my emotions, but not quite sure I succeeded.

Will didn’t look at me. He sniffled a bit and nodded. “Please go.”

I tried to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat. My panic and insecurity were spreading throughout my entire body, making everything hurt. Will had just rejected my company. He wanted me to go. He didn’t want me here with him. And why would he? I was terrible at this. Well, if that’s what he wanted...

I stood up and walked over to the door. Before I reached it though, I heard Will give another sniffle. I closed my eyes, and tried to get the image of him flinching out of my mind.

I was so fucking angry that he’d done that. That he’d hurt me. That he’d confirmed my suspicions and fears. How could he have done that to me?

But then I realised: Will would never intentionally hurt me. Not unless he wasn’t thinking clearly. Unless something was hurting him so bad, he’d rather tell me to go than let me bear the pain with him.

I forced down my own negative feelings and stopped at the door. I turned back to face him. “Don’t tell me to go,” I pleaded. Wow, I don’t think I’d ever begged someone to not shut me out. Well, there’s a first for everything I guess.

He was so surprised, his head shot up to look at me. “Huh?” He asked weakly.

I sighed. “Don’t tell me to go. Because I’m not going.”

His bloodshot eyes stared at me as I made my way back to him and sat down. “I won’t... touch you if you don’t want. And I won’t force you to tell me what’s wrong. I don’t care if we just sit in silence all night. But I’m still not going anywhere. I’m staying right here, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

He stared at me with a variety of emotions. Shock, frustration, exasperation, panic, maybe a bit of affection. Then his eyes filled with tears again and he collapsed against me.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

Will stayed pressed against me for a long time, with his head resting against my shoulder. As he took deep ragged gulps of air, his whole body shook mine with each breath. I could feel his tears soaking the part of my neck that was exposed, hot and wet. I was sure that he’d left a sizeable patch on the hoodie. But I wouldn’t have cared, even if it wasn’t his.

I nervously wrapped my arm around him, aware that he might not want it. I was fully expecting him to shrug me off again, and I kept telling myself not to take it personally when he did. But he didn’t. He just relaxed further into me.

And then I let him cry. He’d talk when he was ready. It wasn’t an awkward silence. Though it was still painful to listen to him like this. I couldn’t believe I’d let this happen. Why hadn’t I checked on him sooner? I promised myself I would check in with him every single hour of every day after this. It physically hurt me to know how much pain he was in.

After some time, I said, “Will?” Then I cleared my throat because it had been that long, my voice was a bit croaky. “Let’s go back to my cabin. It’s a bit... uncomfortable in here.”

He took another shuddery breath. “But... Chiron...” he said weakly.

I snorted. “If he has a problem with it, he can answer to me.”

No offence to the centaur. I did really respect him. But if he tried to tell me I couldn’t comfort my boyfriend when he was this upset... I just wouldn’t allow it.

Now if Will didn’t want to stay with me tonight, I didn’t know what I would do. Forcing him to come with me seemed a bit disrespectful. But I couldn’t just let him stay here by himself.

“... Okay,” Will relented.

I sighed in relief.

I started to shuffle off of the infirmary bed and Will followed. He took my hand and I squeezed it reassuringly. As we started walking, he gave me a small smile (though the sight was still a bit sad, with his blotchy cheeks and watery eyes). “Thank you.”

I almost laughed at him, but stopped myself. The fact that he thought he needed to thank me for comforting him was amusing. Plus, I still felt guilty that I had even contemplated leaving him here when he’d told me to go. I just rolled my eyes and smiled at him.

When we got back to the Hades cabin, I led him to the sofa. “Sit,” I ordered. He hesitated before collapsing onto the sofa. I studied him. “Have you eaten?”

He averted his eyes and said quietly, “I’m not hungry.”

I sighed. “Will, you have to eat.”

He looked back at me. “Seriously, I don’t want anything.”

Why was he so damn stubborn? Not eating all day couldn’t be good for him. Gods, I’d changed. Only last year, I was starving myself, refusing food. I couldn’t stomach anything because I felt queasy all the time. Maybe Will’s anxiety was similar to that.

I walked over and opened the box Will had given me for Christmas. I shuffled through until I found what I was looking for: a Kinder Bueno. I went back over and handed it to him. “Here,” I said softly. “It’s my last one.”

He looked at the chocolate like it was something from the gods. “That’s really sweet,” he said. “But it was your gift.”

I kept holding my hand out for him. “Which means it’s mine, and I can do what I want with it.” When he just looked at me, I said more forcefully, “Take the damn chocolate bar, Solace.”

He took it and started nibbling on the end. At least he was eating something. I went to get him a change of clothes. When I gave them to him, he started stripping right on the couch. I averted my eyes, but not before I caught a glimpse of his perfect torso, with his perfect freckles and perfect inked stylised sun. I was sure I was blushing just thinking about our shared tattoo.

“If you really want,” I said, “I’ll allow you to wear one of your hoodies. But only if you ask nicely.”

He let out a small huff which was the beginning of a laugh, and I felt some of the ice in my chest melting slightly. “I’ll stick to the blanket,” he said. “Besides, my hoodies look better on you anyway.”

“Obviously.”

The corners of his mouth turned up.

As he finished his chocolate, I went back to the Christmas box and pulled out one of my favourite things. I went back and handed it to Will, who raised his eyebrows with an amused expression. “Silly putty?”

I shrugged. “You were right,” I told him. “It really helps to squish it when you’re stressed.”

He popped open the lid and took a handful.

“But,” I warned, “please try to hold onto it properly. I spilled some the other day and I couldn’t get it out. And that’s my favourite blanket you’re using.”

“I’ll be careful,” he promised. He started squishing it in his hand and the sounds were all I could hear in the silence of the cabin.

I sat back on the couch, wondering what else I could do, since chocolate and silly putty weren’t really anything special. Will seemed a bit better at least. But I knew whatever was bothering him hadn’t just disappeared.

After a while of squishing noises, I sighed. “Remember when you told me that we’d get through whatever was troubling me together?” I asked.

His shoulders slumped. “I know, Nico. But this is diff-“

“No,” I snapped. “It isn’t different. My needs don’t outweigh yours. I told you not to protect me. Let me make my own decisions. And I’m deciding that if you don’t want to share this with me for my sake, then you definitely think that I’m too broken to handle it.”

I knew it was bad that I was threatening him. But I didn’t want him to keep things bottled up because he thought they might affect me. He was too important to me for me to let him do that.

Just for good measure though, in a softer tone I added, “Obviously if there’s another reason you don’t want to talk about it... you’re entitled to your privacy. I didn’t mean...” I trailed off because I think that got the message across.

Will sighed and kept squishing. Oh dear. I hope I didn’t make him feel worse. I really did have no idea what I was doing. But I didn’t say anything else. I had made my point. Now the ball was in his court.

When he did speak, it made me jump. Not only because it had been quiet for quite some time, but also because his voice was now rock hard, unlike earlier when he sounded watery and weak.

“When I was seven,” he started, “my mom didn’t just dump me at camp for no good reason. Really, I couldn’t blame her for it.”

I gave him a confused look, to show that I had no idea where this was going. “Will, your mother had no right to abandon you. You can’t possibly think that you deserved that.”

He shook his head and said sadly, “I did.”

I waited for him to continue. When he didn’t, I asked, “Why?”

He sighed. “This one time I got really angry with her. She wanted to leave me alone for the fifth night in a row to play at one of her gigs. I hated staying home alone. We lived in a... rough area, and I got terrified during the night.”

I nodded. “That’s understandable. You were only seven.”

“Yeah well,” he said bitterly, “that’s when I first figured out about my... powers.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You were mad at your mom so you... healed her?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t find out about my healing powers. I’m talking about my... other powers.”

I stared at him in shock. “You have other powers? I didn’t know.”

He nodded. “No one knows. I don’t like talking about it. Because of what I did to my mom.”

Oh gods. I didn’t like where this was going. “What happened to her?”

Will looked down at his hands, and I could see that his eyes were filling with tears. “I gave her rabies.”

My eyes widened in shock. “Rabies?” I repeated weakly.

He nodded. “I mean, I managed to cure her when I figured out I could but... she missed her gig anyway, and she still had some lasting symptoms because I didn’t heal her in time.”

“Oh gods,” I muttered. Will had the power to give people deadly diseases? My sweet, caring, sunshiny boyfriend could kill people as easily as I could... if he wanted to. But I was still confused. “That must’ve been terrible, Will,” I said as I stroked his cheek to try and wipe some of his tears. “But didn’t that happen years ago?”

He nodded. “I’m not upset about that. I’ve accepted that I’ve lost my mum.” Then he looked me in the eyes and said softly, “I was upset because of you.”

“Me?” I blurted, as my brain started running at a million miles an hour, thinking of all the possible things I could’ve done to make Will this miserable.

“No no,” he assured. “Nothing you did.”

I sighed in relief. “Then what?”

He shrugged. “I’ve just been feeling guilty.”

I just stared at him. This whole conversation was confusing me way too much. Was he purposely being frustrating?

Obviously not, I scolded myself. He was just nervous, and I wasn’t used to that emotion on Will.

“Because,” Will continued when he noticed I was just staring at him blankly, “I hate what I can do. I can’t deal with the fact that I nearly killed my mom. I don’t like that I’m able to do bad things with my powers as well as good.” He looked at me anxiously. “I’m scared that I’ll do something I can’t forgive myself for... From the start, I’ve told you never to hide from who you are, or your powers. But I’ve been doing the same thing. I’m a hypocrite... and I lied to you.”

He looked down at his hands as if he were preparing himself for me to say something that he wouldn’t be able to take. I didn’t feel angry though. Just hurt that he’d hid this from me. But could I blame him? Being scared of yourself was definitely something I knew a lot about.

I started off by saying, “You didn’t lie to me. You just withheld personal information. You’re allowed to do that.”

My voice was calm and Will looked at me incredulously, as if he were surprised I wasn’t yelling. “You’re not mad?” He asked quietly.

I shook my head. “This has nothing to do with me. And you’re definitely not a hypocrite.”

“Nico, I am-“

“Let me finish,” I said sternly. He shut up and I took a deep breath. “You’re not a hypocrite for telling me to be myself. Because ‘self’ is versatile. The Will that I know is always himself. And having these extra super killing powers,” he rolled his eyes, “won’t change that. But if you think they will, then it’s your choice not to embrace them.”

He stared at me. “I’ve been hiding them for so long. Like you saw... earlier, I get these panic attacks just thinking about it. And not just because I don’t want to embrace them. It’s also because I’m scared about what I could do if I don’t learn to control them. It’s like I can’t win with either choice.”

I took his hand. “Will, you’re the best healer I know. I might be biased, but I don’t give compliments lightly. You did that one thing when you were a child. And how many people have you healed after that? You probably can’t even count the amount of lives you’ve saved.”

He gave me a small grateful smile.

“And,” I continued, “you don’t have to worry about making a choice. You’re a good person either way. If you choose to use them, you might almost be as badass as me,” he gave me another smile at that, “but if you choose not to, that’s okay too. Nothing bad is going to happen because of it. You’ll still be... you.”

“I’ll still be hiding some aspect of me though,” he pointed out.

“How?” I demanded. “Being yourself doesn’t mean you show every single aspect. It means showing the parts you want to show. Something I’ve learnt, is that choosing the kind of person you want to be... Choosing which personality traits you want to act on... It doesn’t make you fake. It makes you powerful.”

He smiled at me. “I could never be as powerful as you.”

My cheeks burned at the compliment, and I tried my best not to sound flustered when I said, “No, you’re nothing like me. I never had a problem with my powers. I mean... of course I did. But that was because of everyone else. Their prejudices against children of Hades. Your problem is more intrinsic I guess. It’s about whether you want to have the ability to hurt someone...” I shook my head in exasperation. “You’re just the kindest person ever, huh?”

He nudged my shoulder. “Shut up.” But he was smiling now, and I felt such a strong feeling of relief and joy just by looking at his expression.

“If you ever want to try and master that power of yours, I’ll help you out. I’ve got lots of experience with testing limits.”

He scoffed. “Your immune system wouldn’t be able to take it.”

I nodded. “Yeah I was suggesting I’d be the coach. We’d get some other unfortunate souls to leash you upon.”

He covered his face with his hands. “Oh gods, don’t say it like that!”

I laughed at him. “Sorry.” Then I added, “Though badass Will is definitely something I’d like to see.”

Just the thought was making me feel a bit hot. Because I knew he would never be like any other fighter. His inherent nature was to do good. So he’d still be that. Just ten times more confident and powerful than he already was...

“You’re blushing,” he pointed out, with a dorky grin.

I covered my cheeks with my hands. “I am not.”

He shrugged. “Whatever you say, di Angelo.” And I got the feeling he was talking about the whole conversation. Huh. Maybe I was decent at comforting. Although, I only told him what I knew were truths.

I studied his face. Most of the tension had been relieved, but... “Was that all that was bothering you?”

He nodded then gave a half hearted shrug. “I guess I was just feeling worried about my dad as well. With the injuries today, and everything else, it’s just been rough.”

I nodded. “Your dad will come back. I know he will. And we’ll be ready when he does...”

Will nodded at me gratefully. But really, it wasn’t hard to believe in Apollo when Will did.

“As for the infirmary, I’ll help out more. I can help unpack the supplies we bought... and I can just read my book if you get busy.”

Really, that was what I’d wanted to do all along. I was annoyed with myself for holding back. As it turned out, maybe Will needed my company as much as I needed his.

And he seemed to understand. “Thank you, Nico.”

I nodded then gave him a playful smile. “Thank me when you find out what we’re going to do to take your mind off this.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

Nico turned on High School Musical.

I snuggled up to him, placing my head on his shoulder, and I lifted my feet up onto the couch to get more comfy. Nico wrapped his arm around me and brought his hand up to run it lightly through my hair. The contact gave me chills.

I was so grateful to him for what he’d said to me. It actually made me feel a lot better, and I was annoyed with myself that I’d put off telling him for so long. He didn’t tell me what to do, and I still didn’t know what I would do, but he’d assured me that either choice wouldn’t affect who I was. And more importantly, that he’d stick by me whatever I decided to do.

I snuggled closer to him as the movie started. His familiar scent washed over me making me feel calm and content.

“Do you remember all the words to the songs?” I asked.

He scoffed. “What do you take me for? Of course I remember.”

I smiled at him. “Just checking.”

When the movie started and it first showed Troy, the main character, I asked, “What do you think about him?”

He shrugged. “He’s cute.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well thanks for making me want to punch Zac Efron in the face, but I meant what do you think about his character?”

Nico laughed at me. “He’s really sweet. He just... cares too much about what other people think of him.”

“Hmm. And her?” I gestured to Gabriella, the other lead.

“She’s smart, nerdy, amazing voice... what’s not to like?”

I smiled at him. “I’m glad you find nerdy a likeable trait.”

He rolled his eyes. “I also like her fashion sense. Do you know why? Because she never wears flannel.”

I just smiled at him. I knew he liked my flannel. He would never admit it though.

When the first song came on (Living in my own world, Didn’t understand...), I was filled with nostalgia. I had watched it once or twice when I was a kid, and also from Apollo movie nights with Lee Fletcher years ago.

Nico seemed to think the same, because he started humming along to the tune (... I know that something has changed, Never felt this way...). He had a small smile on his face, and I was glad he was focusing on the music and the story rather than remembering when he’d last watched this.

He sighed. “Her voice is truly amazing.”

I nodded in agreement. When it got to the chorus, I started singing softly: “This could be the start of something new, It feels so right to be here with you...”

“Ohh,” Nico sang so quietly I almost missed it. I was so surprised I looked up at him. A soft blush started spreading across his cheeks. “What?” He demanded. “I told you I remembered the songs.”

I just smiled widely at him and continued. “... I feel in my heartttttttt, The start of something new...”

I kept my eyes on the TV for the rest of the song, but I was sure Nico shot me a few happy glances as I was singing, even though my voice was still quite quiet. Nico didn’t sing again, and I scolded myself for giving him a look when he did it the first time. I hoped he would do it again.

The scene cut to the New Years fireworks. “We should see a fireworks display next year,” Nico said quietly.

“Hey,” I said, “I loved your animal summoning on New Years. They were so cute.”

“Yeah... but still.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “maybe we can arrange it with Chiron.”

Nico nodded.

I pointed to the screen when the movie cut to the part at the high school. “I love her.” I was referring to Sharpay, the under appreciated drama queen.

Nico shot me a disgusted look. “But she’s so mean.”

I shrugged. “Nah, she’s just misunderstood. She’s ambitious and cares a lot about her acting club. Plus, her hard exterior is obviously an act. Everything she does is to protect what matters to her.”

Nico thought about that. “It seems a bit too overprotective to me.”

I smiled at him. “Overprotective like when you offered to take on Chiron so that I could sleep in your cabin tonight?” My tone was playful, but really, I was beyond happy that he had said that.

Nico huffed. “I did not offer to ‘take on Chiron.’ And I’m not overprotective.”

Well there was no point in arguing with him, especially because I was sure he was just denying what he knew was true. So I just shrugged.

“And,” he continued, “you’re still stupid to think that Sharpay is alright. I hate her.”

“Well, I like her.”

Nico scoffed. “Then I hate you too.”

I rolled my eyes and snuggled closer into him.

During the next song (... Get'cha get'cha head in the game...) Nico nudged my shoulder. “Is he distracted by the fact that he wants to sing in the school play or by the pretty girl?”

I listened a bit more to the lyrics (... My head's in the game, But my heart's in the song, She makes this feel so right...). “I think it’s both,” I concluded. “He’s one confused dude.”

“He reminds me of you,” Nico said.

“What?” I said incredulously.

“Yeah,” he said casually. “Super sweet guy, kind of clueless, pining after the person he likes...”

I huffed. “I did not ‘pine’ after you.”

Nico raised his eyebrows. “I never said anything about me.”

I nudged him. “Shut up. You were just as clueless before we started dating.”

“I was not!”

“Yes you were,” I insisted. “You ignored all of my hints. It was your fault if I was ‘pining.’”

He looked pleased about that, the smug little-

“What hints?” He asked with a smile that indicated he might already know.

Well I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. Especially because of most of the things I did were quite embarrassing. I turned back to the TV. “If you didn’t appreciate them then, I’m not going to amuse you by telling you about them now.”

Nico smiled. “We both know you’re going to tell me. Why don’t we just cut to that part?”

I kept my eyes on the TV. “Sorry, I can’t hear you. Troy and Gabriella are auditioning for the play.”

In my periphery, I saw him rolling his eyes, but he relented. Though, I had a feeling, that wasn’t the last time he’d bring it up...

At the chorus, I sat up and turned to Nico. I looked him in the eyes as I sang along, “So lonely before I finally found... What I’ve been looking for...”

I could see he was trying his best not to smile, but it was a lost cause. A huge grin spread across his face and his cheeks tinted pink. “Gods, that was so cheesy,” he mumbled. “You’re such a dork.”

In reply, I continued to sing. “Doo doo doo doo, Doo doo doo, Whoa oh oh oh...” On the last bit I grabbed both of his hands in mine and swung our arms side to side to match the words.

He didn’t resist as much as I’d thought he would. In fact, he smiled wider and held my hands tightly as I swung them.

The song ended and I leaned in to kiss him on the nose. He gave me an unimpressed look, but it was less intense because he was still half smiling. “This is great,” I told him seriously. “Thank you for cheering me up.”

He gave me a bashful smile and just nodded.

I gave him a playful look. “You know, I've never had someone,” I sang. “As good for me as youuuu, No one like you...”

Nico rolled his eyes and flicked me gently in the head. “Shut up, Solace. You’re ruining the movie.”

I gave him one last affectionate look, to try and get across that I meant every word. Then I rested back against him.

After some time, Nico scoffed. “I always hated this part.”

He was referring to when Troy’s basketball friends didn’t accept him for wanting to sing.

I sighed. “I know. They’re either being selfish, or just completely rejecting the notion that a guy who plays sports could ever like something so offensive like singing.”

“Mmm,” Nico agreed. “It struck a bit too close to home for me. I was a weird kid who hung out with ghosts. It made me want to... change... for Percy...”

I kissed him on the cheek. “Please don’t change. I love you the way you are. Grumpiness and all.”

He rolled his eyes as he smiled. “I am not grumpy.”

“Yes you are. And you’re extra grumpy in the mornings.”

He raised his eyebrows in challenge. “Maybe you just need to be more persuasive when you’re waking me up.”

I smiled playfully at him. “I’ll work on it,” I promised.

He seemed to like that response as he turned back to the TV. “The concept is in bad taste, but the song is good though...”

I nodded enthusiastically and grabbed his hand. I waved my arms in the air to the time of the beat, and Nico was forced to do the same despite his (fake) reluctance.

I sang along. “No no no! Stick to the stuff you knowwww! If you want to be cool, Follow one simple rule, Don’t mess with the flow no nooooo!”

I looked at Nico expectantly throughout and he eventually joined in quietly at the end, “Stick to the status quo.”

We continued to half dance with our arms and sing along to the music. It was really fun. I forgot all about my panic attack earlier.

During Gabriella’s sad song, we huddled up tighter. “I can’t believe Troy did that to her!” I exclaimed.

Nico scoffed. “Come on. She must’ve known it was a ruse.”

“So you’d be okay if something like that happened between us?”

Nico shook his head. “That’s a moot question. You’d never hurt me like that, so whether or not I’d be okay with it is irrelevant.”

I gave him a small smile. It was sweet he put so much faith and trust into my character. I didn’t deserve it really. It was a lot of pressure too, but it didn’t scare me. It just made me determined to never prove him wrong.

“How come you’ve never done that for me?” Nico asked as we were watching the part where Troy went and knocked on Gabriella’s window to reconcile with her.

“First of all, it’s a bit creepy,” I said. “And second of all, if I wanted to see you, why would I use the window when there’s a perfectly good door?”

Nico narrowed his eyes at me. “So if I ban you from using my door, will you be more romantic?”

I gave him a grimace. “Please don’t.”

He laughed at me. “You better up your game then.”

I knew he was saying it as a joke, but maybe he was right. I’d think up some new date ideas later...

“Ugh see?” Nico complained a few minutes later when Sharpay manipulates the teacher to move the time of the callbacks. “She is so mean.”

“I told you she’s just overprotective,” I argued. “She’s testing their commitment to her beloved drama club. To see if they’ll deem it as important as she does.”

“Whatever. She’s still selfish.”

“Yeah... she did go about it the wrong way, but her performance is still good.”

We watched as she and her twin brother performed their audition to ‘Bop to the Top’.

“It looks kind of fun,” Nico said. “The dressing up and the dancing.”

I nodded and filed that information away for later.

Eventually, the finale came about. Troy and Gabriella rushed from their different respective activities, and joined together just in time to do their audition.

Suddenly, Nico stood up and grabbed one of his remotes. He handed me the other. “Here. Get up.”

I did what he asked with a bemused expression plastered on my face. “Um why do I need this?” I gestured to the remote.

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “It’s called a microphone substitute,” he told me.

Realisation dawned on me, but before I could respond, the song started on the TV, and Nico started singing. He was much louder than before, and I could hear his beautiful voice clearly over the actors. “We're soaring, flying, There's not a star in heaven, That we can't reach...”

He looked at me expectantly but I didn’t need any prompt. “If we're tryin', So we're breaking free.”

He smiled at me and took my hand as we both sang the next part. “You know the world can see us, In a way that’s different to who we are, Creating space between us, ‘Til we’re separate hearts...”

“But your faith it gives me strength, Strength to believe...”

We looked at each other in the slight pause, and we both broke out in massive smiles before we raised our voices to sing, “We’re breaking free!!”

“We’re soaring! Flying! There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach!” During the fast parts, we let go of each other’s hands and started dancing energetically around the room. I tried my best to keep my voice at a decent tone, but I had a feeling that my dancing was making me sound like a dead cat.

Nico didn’t seem to mind though. He carried on. Jumping and waving his arms and singing into his pretend microphone. The smile on his face while he did it made my heart beat so much faster.

At the next verse, I stopped to let him sing Troy’s part again, as I sashayed around him, trying to make my movements as wavy as possible (“... Like a wave the ocean just can’t control...”). He looked at me with an amused expression, but he didn’t stop singing. In fact, he seemed to be getting more and more into it.

I joined in again for, “Rising 'til it lifts us up, so every one can see...” We looked at each other again... then, “We’re breaking free!!”

And then we started dancing dramatically for the chorus again. I knew I probably looked pathetic, but Nico’s dancing was so elegant, just like I’d seen before, and I didn’t care at all what I looked like.

Nico grabbed my hand and attempted to twirl me at, “... Running...! Climbing...!” I tried my best, spinning away from him, extending my arm, and then letting him pull me back in. When I got back next to him, he attempted to lower me down, with his arms holding me up as I leaned backwards. He brought me back up and we continued dancing.

During the last part, I was holding his hand with one of my hands, and I still had my remote/microphone in the other. We were jumping up and down and waving our arms and singing at the top of our lungs. Nico even reached the high note for the last, “There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach!”

After, “To get to that place to be all that we can be!” Nico wrapped his arms around my neck and jumped on me. I dropped my remote in order to hold his thighs in place around me. I wasn’t expecting it, but my adrenaline and absolute happiness right now allowed me to hold him steady, and I didn’t even question his actions.

Nico held his remote between us as we sang the last lines looking at each other, breathing heavily and pressed together, “You know the world can see us, In a way that's different than who we areeeee...”

The last note faded from my lips but I continued to stare at this completely amazing person I had in my arms.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

I kept staring at Will a few seconds after the song ended. He didn’t move to put me down. And I didn’t want him to. The adrenaline moved like spikes in my bloodstream. But not in a bad way. It felt like every part of me was tingling.

I don’t think I’d ever had so much fun. Dancing around and singing at the top of my lungs, not caring at all what I looked like. Because I trusted Will. In every way possible. And I felt an overload of affection towards him, as if I hadn’t ever loved anyone more than this big dork, holding me up by my legs. The feeling was overwhelming me.

“I love you,” I whispered, because I just couldn’t keep it to myself.

I hadn’t ever said it so bluntly (while sober), and Will looked surprised, albeit it also happy. But it only lasted for a second, because then he kissed me.

I tightened my arms around his neck to pull him closer, and kissed him back. He took a couple of steps backward and sat down on the sofa, with me in his lap. He was kissing me slowly, like we had all the time in the world. His warm hands travelled from my thighs and slipped under my shirt. He rubbed large circles on my bare back, and the softness of his touches made me sigh.

We only kissed for a couple of minutes, before I pulled away. I was aware that Will still might not be in his right state of mind. Even though he seemed (a lot) better, he had still had a panic attack a couple of hours ago.

He looked a bit disappointed so I said, “We’re missing the final song.”

He nodded and I shuffled off of him to sit back on the sofa. He wrapped his arm around me and I started clapping to the lyrics (... Together, Together, Together everyone!...”

My heart was beating a bit too fast, and our kissing hadn’t done anything to smooth over my adrenaline spikes. They were zipping across my entire body, especially where Will had been touching, and screaming for me to kiss him again.

But he didn’t need that right now. And I didn’t want to feel like I was taking advantage of him or anything like that.

So instead I joined him in singing the last bits of the song: “... We’re all in this together...”

We swayed in time together as the last of the music faded away, and I leaned further into him when it was done. We stayed like that until the credits had finished rolling.

“That was fun,” Will said quietly.

“Mmm hmm,” I agreed.

He turned to me. “Just so you know, the chocolate, silly putty, High School Musical, and kissing was an odd combination, but it really worked to increase my serotonin levels.”

I shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a chaotic sort of comforter. Everything I do is a series of unplanned events that each have a low chance of success.”

He laughed at me. “The Nico way. It’s personally my favourite if I’m being honest.”

I rolled my eyes. “You say that now. But that’s only because the outcomes have been relatively lucky.”

“That is true,” he conceded. “It’s a miracle you’ve lived this long really.”

I nodded. Then I burst out laughing because, gods, it was true. But it was also tragic. And that somehow made it funnier.

“It’s not funny,” Will complained, though he was also chuckling slightly. “My boyfriend has like a forty percent chance of death with whatever he does.”

That made me laugh harder and that time Will joined in. After a couple of minutes, I had to force myself to stop, because my stomach muscles were hurting. I wasn’t used to laughing that much. My smile turned into a yawn.

“Tired?” Will asked. “We should go to sleep.”

I rolled my eyes. “Just because I yawned, it doesn’t mean I need sleep. I’m not a child.”

He gave me an amused look. “Forgetting the part where you’re implying that only children sleep, which is obvious nonsense, you most definitely act like a child. Albeit it a dangerous one with a black sword and a slight attitude problem.”

I gasped at him. “How dare you! We’re practically the same age don’t forget.”

He gave me a look that implied he knew something that I didn’t, and I wasn’t going to be happy when I learnt the information. “Sure we’re the same physical age, though even that’s debatable because of your time jump-“

“Then that should mean I’m older than you!”

Will shook his head. “I said it’s debatable. And I’m talking more about mental age. You’re maybe a twenty two at most. Whereas me? I’m probably a fifty eight.”

I rolled my eyes again. “You’re just saying random numbers.”

He shrugged. “I’m right until you can prove me wrong.”

I gave him an unimpressed look. “That’s not how it works.”

“Can you prove that?”

I groaned. “I’m going to bed.”

“Yes, my child.”

“Don’t call me that,” I warned. “It’s weird.”

“Gods, Nico,” he huffed. “You’re not only a child, you’re a problem child.”

I scowled at him. “I think you also need some sleep. You’re just talking crap now.”

He sighed. “Fine, if that prevents one of your temper tantrums.”

I scowled and got up. “We’re going to sleep now. And you’re not cuddling with me in bed.”

He pouted. “But children love to cuddle!”

I gave him a rude gesture that made him gasp, and went to brush my teeth. When I was done, I slid into bed and waited for him to finish in the bathroom.

He came out and got into bed. But not on his side. In fact, he lifted up the duvet that was covering me and laid down right on top of me, so that his head was resting on my chest.

Before I could protest, he said sleepily, “I love you too.”

Then, instead of kicking him off of me and punching him for not listening to me, like I should’ve done, I relaxed into him, just happy about the fluffy feeling his words had left inside me.

I wrapped my arms around him, let out a small content sigh, and let myself fall asleep.

*

When I woke up, we were in the exact same position. Will was already awake, and was tracing his finger up and down my forearm in a tantalising way. Oh gods, he was pressed so tightly against me...

“You can get off me now,” I said in a voice that I hoped sounded more sleepy than flustered.

Will smiled. “Why would I want to do that? You’re so comfy and warm...”

“You’re heavy,” I whined, hoping that he hadn’t felt my growing excitement yet. The fact that he could turn me on with so little action was just embarrassing.

Will narrowed his eyes at me. “You didn’t seem to have a problem with that for the eight hours before this.”

“That’s because I was asleep,” I grumbled.

Will smirked at me. “Are you sure that’s the reason?”

“Get off of me, Will,” I warned.

He gave me a knowing look, but he rolled off. I was partly disappointed about that. Despite my embarrassment, I missed the physical contact. But I hated not being in control. Plus, it was breakfast time.

“You haven’t eaten for like a day and a half,” I scolded him. “Get ready so we can go and eat something.”

“Yes, your highness.”

*

“I was worried when you didn’t come back to cabin seven last night,” Kayla said as Will and I shuffled up to the Apollo table. Will had told me that Austin was working in the infirmary, so it was just us three. “I should’ve known.”

Will rolled his eyes, but before he could retort, he let out a big yawn.

Kayla raised her eyebrows in a suggestive way. “I’m guessing you didn’t get much sleep then?”

Will flushed a shade of crimson and I tried to shield my cheeks with my hands to hide my own blush.

“It’s really not what you think,” I told her. Because singing and dancing along to High School Musical definitely was not what she had in mind. But I wasn’t going to tell her any of the specifics. Those were for Will and I only.

Kayla didn’t look convinced. Then she seemed to think about it and turned to me. “Ohh! I get it. Did Will turn you off by making you watch a Star Wars movie?”

“Hey!” Will protested. “He agreed to go out with me after I made him watch the first one.”

“Yes,” I grumbled. “You were lucky I agreed to that after you practically killed two and a half hours of my life.” Before he could respond, I turned back to Kayla. “And no. I wouldn’t let him watch the abomination that is Star Wars in my cabin.”

Kayla thought about that. “Is it because Will was wearing flip flops? I keep telling him that flip flops and scrubs is such a fashion disaster.”

I snorted while Will scowled. But I immediately felt bad because I always give him a hard time for what he wears, even when he looks quite nice. I ruffled his hair. “He’s still pretty, whatever he chooses to wear.”

Will’s expression softened just as the dryads came and gave us our breakfast. Then he turned to Kayla. “Now can you please stop trying to guess the potentials of why Nico would’ve found me unattractive last night?”

Kayla shrugged. “Well I know it wasn’t the other way round.”

I inwardly smiled to myself, because I knew Will wouldn’t appreciate me showing amusement. But it wasn’t at his expense. It was nice to know that Kayla thought Will would never find me unattractive. And it was funny to think about because appearance wise (and anything else for that matter) Will wasn’t even in the same league as me.

Will was still pouting. “Is it completely ridiculous to think that two people who are attracted to each other can spend time together without doing anything... intimate?”

Kayla looked like she wanted to answer ‘yes’ to that question, which I did not appreciate. We weren’t animals. Even though I’d had to stop myself last night because of Will’s vulnerable state... and again this morning so that Will wouldn’t miss breakfast... Oh gods, maybe Kayla was onto something.

Fortunately, before we could carry on this uncomfortable conversation, Chiron stood up for morning announcements. “Good morning, campers! I hope you all slept well. I’d like to start off by saying that I have some news from Leo.”

I shuffled a bit closer to Will because I could practically hear him holding his breath. “It wasn’t much,” Chiron continued. “All of our communications are down. But he managed to get a short message to us via magic scroll. He’s told me that they have arrived in Cleveland, and they’re doing well, despite the monster attacks.”

I wondered what ‘doing well’ meant, but I got a feeling that Chiron wouldn’t know either. The main thing was that they were alive. “Well,” the centaur continued, “that’s it for news. Today we’ve got the normal drills. Those of you who want to learn how to skewer your enemies with electric spears, you may go to Sherman Yang’s class after lunch. I’ll keep you updated on other classes that become available, but we do have a shortage of campers at the moment, so hold tight.”

When he’d sat back down, Kayla groaned. “I wish we’d get some new campers soon. No one’s interested in my archery lessons, and no one else except Yang are giving classes.” We all looked over to the Ares table where Sherman was munching on his high protein salad as aggressively as possible. “And I’m going to pass taking part with him in charge.”

Will nudged my shoulder. “Hey Nico, why don’t you start a class?”

I gave him a disgusted look. “Excuse me?”

“It makes sense,” he said in his logical voice. “You’re a great teacher. Look at what you’ve taught me.”

I nodded. “Considering your lack of skill, I guess that was quite impressive on my part.”

Kayla chuckled and Will pouted. “I was responsible for some of it!”

To be fair, he was. He was pretty skilled when he’d gotten used to what I showed him. But I was trying to change the subject, because I did not want to go into all the reasons as to why I should not be teaching a class. “Maybe I need a refresher,” I said in a slightly challenging voice, hoping Will would take the bait. “To see how good you’ve gotten.”

Will smiled. “I could get on board with that.”

Kayla made a gagging gesture. “Count me out,” she declared. “Just be back for your afternoon shift, William. Those boxes aren’t going to unpack themselves.”

Chapter Text

Will POV

“You’re not going to change?” I asked, looking at Nico’s very skinny jeans as we reached the training arena.

Nico looked down at himself. “Have you ever known my outfit to limit my movements?”

“Hmm,” I replied, “I guess not.”

I wasn’t really worried about his movements being limited. In fact, I needed all of the advantages I could get if we did some practice sparring. I was more thinking about myself. Nico in such tight pants was not going to help my concentration. Just what he could do with a sword was bad enough, him being so powerful yet graceful...

“Get a sword,” Nico ordered, jolting me out of my thoughts.

I picked one up and faced him. He had that determined look he got when he was in battle. His concentration was always unbreakable.

I shook my sword arm a bit to loosen up and Nico took a few steps side to side.

“Okay,” he said, “let’s see what we’re working with. Come at me.”

I lunged as soon as he’d told me to, hoping he would be surprised that I’d complied so quickly. He obviously wasn’t. He blocked my jab easily. I went in again, crouching lower, but I misjudged the height I wanted to swipe at, and lost my balance. Nico deflected that attempt too.

“Don’t go low,” he told me. “You’re taller than me. So use your height to your advantage.”

I smirked at him. “Did you just admit that you’re shorter than me?”

Instead of replying, he swiped low at my feet, forcing me to jump out of the way. While I was unstable, he whacked the butt of his sword into my chest and send me sprawling onto the floor. As I groaned from my topple, Nico said, “And don’t aggravate your opponent if you’re not capable of taking them on.”

Damn it. It was so annoying that he always had one up on me during our lessons. Although... take charge Nico was kind of hot...

Before my mind could conjure up more distracting thoughts, I forced myself to stand up. I psyched myself up for another probable topple, and then went at him again.

This time, I went high like he’d said, aiming for his neck area. He parried my first few thrusts, then disarmed me and pointed his sword at my throat.

“You’re holding back,” he observed.

I let out a humourless laugh. “Or maybe I’m just that bad.”

He shook his head. “You’re better than that.”

I sighed. “You can’t tell me to go for your neck and expect me not to hold back.”

He rolled his eyes. “These are training swords. You can’t hurt me that bad. And even if you do, you’re a healer.”

“I’d rather not use my healing powers to heal a life threatening wound on my boyfriend that I’d caused,” I grumbled as I went to collect my sword.

“Will,” he sighed in a serious voice. “Something big is coming. You know that right? We have to be ready.”

I nodded. I knew what he meant. I had been feeling like camp was holding its breath ever since my dad left. “I’ll go to some of Yang’s classes if that makes you feel better,” I offered.

Nico made a face as if that was the most disturbing idea he’d ever heard. “I’m not trusting that idiot to teach you. Just try harder with me.”

I sighed. “Fine.”

I tried going in again. This time, I went in high, but not high enough to be fatal. Not that I should’ve worried anyway; Nico arched his back to dodge. Then he managed to slice at my hand slightly and I ended up with a paper cut type wound and a disarmed sword at my feet. The cut didn’t hurt, and it was already starting to close up, but I saw what Nico meant. Maybe I was actively avoiding his weak spots.

When I faced Nico again after retrieving my sword, he was studying me with an unreadable expression on his face. Then he lifted his sword up and gave me a playful smirk. Oh no. This couldn’t be good.

“Okay,” he said in a teasing voice, “fight me properly, or I won’t stop talking.”

I gave him a confused look. “Why in Hades would I want you to stop talking?”

He gave me a look that told me that I would find out soon enough.

“Remember yesterday? You told me I didn’t notice any of your hints? Well I did. And I’ll recite every last one for you if you don’t shut me up.”

Oh gods. I was not going to let him taunt me with all of my embarrassing attempts at making a move on him.

“I can just leave,” I said. “You can’t keep me in here.”

He smiled in genuine amusement. “Oh I definitely could. But I won’t need to. You’re not one to turn down a challenge.”

Well that was true. Especially when it came to Nico. I felt oddly competitive with him. It was just our dynamic. As if we were constantly trying to get one up on the other. It was fun. Even exhilarating sometimes. And it definitely turned me on.

I raised my sword.

Nico smiled triumphantly and parted his legs slightly, which was the only indication that he was ready to fight again.

“Remember,” he started in a conversational tone, “when you used Chuck’s birth as an excuse to hold my hand?”

I threw my first jab at him. “You were a flight risk!” I defended. “I had to take any opportunity I could.”

Nico dodged my jab and swiped low at my knees, making me stumble. “I don’t think you can talk and fight, Solace. You need your concentration.”

I scowled and went for his hand, trying to break his grip on his sword, like he’d done to me. Unfortunately, he had much quicker reflexes than me, and I ended up swiping at empty air.

He gave me a smile of amusement. “Remember when you practically announced to the whole of an enemy Roman army that you didn’t want me to leave camp?”

I increased my force and tried again. “Yes, I couldn’t hold in my annoyance. Can you blame me?”

In response, Nico gave me a rapid fire of jabs and thrusts, that I just about managed to dodge without impaling myself.

“And,” he continued, not even fazed by his vicious attack, “when you ordered me to three days in the infirmary, even though I was perfectly fine healing in my cabin?”

“You were not fine!” I defended, though that stopped me from defending my sword arm and Nico disarmed me. My sword went clattering to the ground. I lunged to grab it, and Nico let me, obviously not finished with me yet.

“During those three days,” he continued, “you spent nearly half of your waking hours with me even though there were probably hundreds of other campers who needed your attention.”

I remembered that. I had tried to be as subtle as possible, but I guess he’d noticed. I hadn’t been able to stop myself though; I had just wanted to spend more time with him. It wasn’t like I was neglecting my other patients. Everyone was pretty stable at that point. But it was embarrassing to know that Nico had realised I was spending more time than strictly necessary with him. I tried to direct my energy into my thrusts, but I felt like I was just getting sloppier.

“Oh my gods,” he laughed (because deflecting my advancements weren’t taking enough of his energy), “remember when you asked to partner with me for the monster slaying exercise even though I was already literally tied to Jason’s wrist.”

My cheeks burned. One of Chiron’s exercises had us tied to our partner’s wrist so you’d have to trust them to help you take down the monster. I hadn’t realised Nico was already tied with Jason. I can’t believe he remembered that.

I really needed him to shut up. My embarrassment was not helping my concentration. “Okay you can be quiet now,” I told him in between my dodges.

He gave me a taunting smile and carried on talking. “How about during that campfire, and we stayed later than everyone else. You offered to play me a song, but then got too nervous and blamed it on your fingers being too cold, even though it was August!”

I groaned as I ducked another attack from him. “That was an obvious joke!” But I really shouldn’t have replied to him, because I lost precious time that I could’ve used to inhale more oxygen, and my lungs were burning in protest.

“Oh and don’t forget you stalked me,” he stated, ignoring my confused look. “The second I’d finished in the training arena, there you were to take me on a walk.”

Ugh. So I’d memorised his schedule. So what? I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t close himself up in his cabin by himself everyday. I couldn’t say that though, because Nico went for my neck, and I had to duck low on the floor to avoid him. When I sprang back up, I went at him again, and I realised that maybe I was fighting harder than I was before.

“When I’d spend too long in the arena,” Nico said in a slightly strained voice as he parried all of my advances. The fact that he hesitated in his taunt told me that I was actually doing better. “You’d come and offer to join me in training, even though I could feel your hatred for my dangerous sparring techniques.”

Yes, his techniques scared the crap out of me. I knew he could easily lop my head off and I wouldn’t even have time to think ‘oh.’

We were sparring really hard now, the blades of our swords clanging against each other every split second. I hadn’t realised how much Nico had taught me until now, but somehow, I knew that he wasn’t holding back anymore. I was actually giving him a challenge.

He didn’t speak for a couple of minutes, as we went back and forth, back and forth. I almost thought I might be winning.

“Ah,” Nico sighed, and I realised that he wasn’t even breaking a sweat. Great. I was definitely not winning. “Remember when you got me special ambrosia gummy bears after I told you I didn’t like tasting the raw stuff because of how it reminds me of Italy?”

He seemed to smile at me with a wistful sort of expression. I used his unfocused state to go in high at his neck. He just about managed to intercept me, but I brought my hand back down quickly and knocked the sword out of his hand.

It clattered loudly as it landed on the floor. I held my sword to his neck, so he couldn’t move.

Nico stared at me with a huge smile on his face. Part surprise, part pride, part amusement.

“You disarmed me,” he commented.

I was still breathing heavily as I dropped my arm. “I guess I did.”

“So the bringing up embarrassing things from your flirting attempts was helpful?”

I groaned and went to sit down. “Please shut up about my failed attempts.”

Nico shrugged and came to sit next to me.

I sighed. “I guess I was egged on because I remembered how annoying it was to go through all of that embarrassing stuff when you didn’t even notice me.”

“Well I did notice you,” he said quietly. “And I appreciated every single gesture you made.”

I scoffed.

“No it’s true,” he insisted. “You may think they were embarrassing, but the things you did... made me feel seen. And you’re wrong, because they weren’t failed attempts.”

A smile tugged at my lips. Well, at least he thought I wasn’t a complete failure at romance.

“And more importantly,” Nico said happily, “that was the best you’ve ever fought. Well done. I’m a proud teacher.”

He ruffled my hair and I smiled at him.

Chapter Text

Nico POV

“So why don’t you want to teach a class?” Will asked as he placed a box of bandages on the third shelf.

We were in the infirmary storage closet putting away supplies that we’d paid for with our own sweat, jazz hands and embarrassment on Valentine’s Day.

I shrugged noncommittally. “Dunno.”

Will paused in his sorting through supplies to study me. I bent down and picked up a handful of ointments to separate into piles.

“Well,” he said eventually, “you said you were a ‘proud teacher’. You could have that feeling with more people if you offered to teach a class.”

I didn’t reply.

“I mean,” Will continued, obviously not deterred by my silence, “I’m probably averagely skilled compared to the other people you could teach. You wouldn’t have to resort to things like taunting them with their embarrassing past.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re better than you give yourself credit for.” Because I hated when Will implied he was ‘average’. He most definitely was not.

“You’re responding to the wrong part of my argument,” Will pointed out.

I huffed. “So I don’t want to be a teacher. Big deal. You can let it go now.”

Will gave me an annoyed look. “I’ll let it go,” he promised. “I’m just curious as to why.”

I scoffed. “So you can tell me that I’m being stupid?”

He crossed his arms. “Why don’t you stop assuming how I’ll react. Do you really think I’m that predictable?”

“You’re not predictable,” I assured. “But I can read you like a book.”

He smiled in part amusement, part irritation. “Maybe a highly complex book with footnotes, references and a glossary?”

I shook my head. “More like a picture book written for very dumb children.”

He pouted and I smiled at him. The truth was, I could maybe tell what Will was feeling most of the time. But figuring out what he was thinking? I usually had no clue.

We went back to unpacking boxes. The storage closet door was closed so we had some privacy if I did want to talk to Will. Plus, he was right. I shouldn’t assume what he was going to say...

“No one would listen to me,” I said quietly.

Will kept his eyes on what he was doing, but I could tell that he was relieved that I was talking. “Why not?”

I scoffed. “That’s a stupid question.”

He cracked a smile. “Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t be a teacher... But seriously, I was asking a legitimate question.”

I sighed as I finished sorting the different coloured burn creams. “No one respects me, Will. I’m the guy that people actively avoid. Sure, they tolerate me now. Thanks to you probably. But that doesn’t mean they want to spend extended amounts of time with me. Especially when I’ll be teaching them dangerous manoeuvres.”

Will dropped the handful of bandages he was holding and turned to face me. “You know, there’s a reason why people are more accepting of you now. And gods help me, Nico, it’s definitely not me. There’s only one person that can convince others that you’re worth their time. And that’s you.”

I didn’t reply.

“Stop assuming. Give people a chance. They might surprise you.”

“People are disappointing,” I grumbled, which is what I truly believed. Based on my experience, with a couple of exceptions, I could generally count on people to let me down.

“You see what you want to see,” Will argued.

I didn’t reply. I wasn’t in the mood to listen to these motivational pep talks.

“Plus,” he said, “you actually would be a good teacher. You’re incredibly skilled and you’ve got this vibe about you that says ‘I’ve got this all under control’.”

I smiled slightly at that.

Will continued. “You’re worried that people don’t respect you? Show them why they should. You’re convinced they’ll run off in fear from your ‘dangerous manoeuvres’? Give them a chance to learn them first at least. You’re paranoid that people don’t like you? See if you still think that once you’ve taken the time to impart your wisdom. They’ll be grateful. You might even save someone’s life.”

How dare he set out such a logical argument? He made it absolutely impossible to retort, unless I resorted to plain whining.

“And,” Will said, “on the complete off chance that no one else turns up, which is highly improbable, then I’ll still be there. Ready to learn. I’ll be your star pupil. Every single lesson.”

He gave me a massive dorky grin and I couldn’t help but smile back. I got a warm feeling in my chest as I felt a rush of affection towards my boyfriend. “Thanks, Will,” I managed. “I’ll think about it.”

We continued with the stocking and sorting and unpacking. We’d been at this for more than an hour and we’d completed less than a quarter. Why we got so much stuff, I didn’t know. But I guessed it’d help increase the amount of time before we had to go back to Glory and ask for another favour. Not that I would ever volunteer for that again.

We stayed in comfortable silence for a while, and our conversation rushed through my head. I definitely would think about teaching. Will was right, obviously. But I knew that my fears weren’t completely irrational. Maybe I’d wait until Apollo fixed the communication issues and we got some new campers here. If the people I taught didn’t know about my past and they had little prejudices against my father, it might help to mellow my insecurities.

And who knows? Maybe I did seem to have things under control. Both Will and Valentina had said it now.

“You know,” I said, “Valentina said the same thing to me.”

“Said what?” Will asked

“About me being in control...”

He smiled. “Maybe because it’s true.”

I shrugged.

“How is Valentina?” He asked after a moment’s silence.

“Um,” I said, “she’s good. We were playing connect four yesterday. Which reminds me, we need to play.” I was looking forward to beating him now that I had an unbeatable tactic.

“Sure,” he said happily. “And I’m glad you’re making friends. It basically proves my point from earlier.”

I rolled my eyes but didn’t respond because he was right. “Well, we do have a lot to talk about because of you,” I teased.

He raised his eyebrows. “Me?”

I nodded. “You’re a big topic of conversation.”

He rolled his eyes. “Great,” he said sarcastically.

I laughed at him. “Nothing bad,” I assured. “In fact she complains that I gush too much about you.”

He gave me a fake surprised face. “You? Nico di Angelo? Gushing? About me? Shut up.”

I nudged him arm. “I would say ask her if you don’t believe me, but our conversations are strictly confidential so...” I shrugged.

“Hmm,” he hummed. “Confidential...”

I studied his face. He looked lost in thought. I assumed he was running through all of the possible things I could’ve said to Valentina about him. He needn’t have worried though. I hadn’t said anything personal to her. Just passing comments. And especially not anything bad... Except...

“What are you thinking about?” He asked, and I realised my face was pulled into a grimace.

I hesitated. Should I tell him what Valentina and I had discussed yesterday about him? Now that I was thinking about it, I was sure Will wouldn’t appreciate it. Especially now that I knew the full story, I felt bad for even bringing it up with my friend.

And Will was all about communication. Talking things out. I didn’t particularly want to admit that I’d talked about him to Valentina, even if it was brief and unintentional. But I couldn’t lie to him. He’d seen my expression now. And plus, I didn’t want him to think I’d said anything else behind his back.

“I... um,” I stuttered, “it wasn’t bad. It was just a stupid comment really.”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “What are you talking about?”

I took a deep breath. Ugh. Why was admitting something to Will so damn hard? I never got this nervous, even when I fought entire legions of enemies. “Valentina and I were talking yesterday. And she asked me about you.”

Will’s expression remained perfectly neutral. “Okay...?”

I looked down at the bandage in my hand and realised that I had squished the roll flat. I quickly placed it back in the box before Will could notice. “I just told her about how you’d been spending a lot of time in the infirmary lately...” I trailed off because really, that was the gist, and Will could interpret what we wanted from that.

“Hmm,” he said as he went back to unpacking.

Oh no. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I didn’t want to fight with him. It was probably the worst thing that I could think of. Especially because I knew he had a right to hate me now.

Yesterday, he’d been in so much pain, insecure about who he was because of something he’d hidden from everyone since he was seven. He’d overworked himself despite his panic attacks, and tried to push me out so I wouldn’t have to deal with his trauma. And after all of that, he’d trusted his biggest secret with me.

And how did I repay him? By putting off visiting him because my insecurities got in the way. And instead of talking to Will about it, I’d gossiped (ugh) to Valentina.

Gods, I had messed up.

Why hadn’t Will said anything yet? Was he thinking up a break up speech? Wondering if he was really mad or not? Thinking about what he was going to have for dinner?

Damn it. I couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Will?”

He dropped the box he was holding and let out a shaky breath. “You didn’t have to tell me that,” he said in a tight voice. “You have a right to talk about me to your friends.”

From the way he said it, it sounded like he didn’t agree with what he was telling me. And I could tell that he definitely was not okay with this, because his jaw was tight and his muscles were slightly tense.

“Will...” I said quietly, “you’re angry.”

I kept my eyes on him as he gave me a pained look. It was like he hated that I was right, and he was trying his very best not to be frustrated with me. “Nico, if you want to complain about me to your friends, I have no right to stop you. It’s my problem, not yours.”

Oh gods, my heart was beating horribly fast. The dread was mixing with my adrenaline, making my stomach hurt. Will’s hurt expression was doing nothing for my guilt. I wished I could take back what I’d said to Valentina.

I didn’t know what to say to make this better.

But as it turned out, Will didn’t give me a chance. “I’m going to take a break,” he announced before striding to the door and slipping through without waiting for a response from me.

Chapter Text

Will POV

“Wait,” Kayla said, “say that again.”

I had gone straight to my cabin after I’d stormed out of the infirmary. My anger was still burning slightly, and I felt as if hot spikes were flowing through my bloodstream. I had tried my hardest to keep my cool. I don’t think I’d ever been annoyed at Nico for something that he’d done. But today, something had just snapped.

“I’m not saying it again,” I told her. “Because I don’t want to talk about it.”

I saw Austin frantically trying to tell Kayla to listen to me. Unfortunately, she didn’t listen. She came to sit down next to me on my bunk, and I deliberately faced away from her.

“Will,” she said in a softer voice that I’d expected. “You can’t expect us to just shut up after you tell us something as crazy as you’re mad at Nico.”

“It’s not crazy,” I grumbled.

“Yes it is,” Austin said helpfully from across the room. “You’re smitten with the guy. I thought in your eyes, he could do no wrong.”

“Whatever,” I said. “I still don’t want to talk about it.”

That would be too painful. I tried not to think about it, because every time I did, it felt like the spikes were making a beeline to my heart, shutting off my circulatory system.

I didn’t even know exactly why I was upset. I just knew that I definitely was. And if I was going to talk it through with someone, I knew it had to be with Nico.

It had been about an hour since I’d left the infirmary. Kayla and Austin had just gotten back, reporting that Nico was still in the storage closet, sorting things out. I was tempted to go and tell him that he really didn’t need to do that, but Kayla said she had already tried telling him to take a break.

It was almost dinner time, and I was considering skipping it because it just would’ve been awkward. I needed time to collect my thoughts.

“Nico didn’t let on that anything was even wrong when I spoke to him,” Kayla muttered.

Great, I thought. He wasn’t even affected by me storming off. But I knew that was unfair. Nico never showed his emotions. He was probably just annoyed at me for leaving in the middle of an argument.

Well, I couldn’t blame him for that. I was the one who’d made him promise not to do that. I guess I underestimated the need to take a break and cool down when you’re angry.

Still, every couple of minutes that Nico didn’t show up, I got more and more anxious. I knew I’d left him in the infirmary implying I needed time, but I was secretly hoping he would ignore that and come to see me. Well that was stupid, wasn’t it? He wasn’t a mind reader.

“Will?” Austin said cautiously.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not a bomb about to go off,” I told him. “What?”

Austin hesitated before saying, “Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you two, but it seems like the more time you spend moping, you’re just hurting yourself.”

“And Nico,” Kayla pointed out.

I sighed. “Yes, I know.”

“So go and talk to him, for gods’ sake,” Kayla ordered.

I shook my head. “It’s dinner time now. I don’t want to have our conversation in front of you two. I’ll wait until he’s eaten.”

Kayla and Austin exchanged annoyed looks.

“And,” I continued, “I’ll wait until he comes to find me.” As much as I loved Nico, I didn’t want to make it that easy. I was feeling really hurt, and I didn’t want to undermine that.

“Don’t you want to talk to him?” Austin asked.

I hesitated. “Well, yeah,” I said honestly.

Kayla rolled her eyes. “Boys,” she muttered, which I did not appreciate.

My siblings took one last look at me and left for dinner.

I tried blocking out my thoughts, but they kept hammering me over the head, forcing me to pay attention. I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ who tries to control their significant other. Why was I even making a big deal about this? I was supposed to be the calm guy. What if Nico didn’t forgive me for reacting this way? He’d said he liked a constant. Me getting angry at him was definitely not a constant.

But I couldn’t just ignore my own feelings. I should be allowed to be affected by this. I wasn’t a robot.

I don’t know how long I tossed and turned on my bunk, trying to bat away my thoughts. But after a while, I started to feel really disappointed in myself that I’d stormed off.

I stared up at the ceiling, trying to will gravity to force my tears back into my eyes. It didn’t work. But I didn’t care. I let them fall, down my cheeks and onto my pillow. Gods, I didn’t want to fight with Nico. I hated this feeling. Why was I even doing this to myself? Kayla was right. I shouldn’t care too much about my pride. Maybe if I asked nicely, Nico would skip dinner and we could talk...

Before I could get up though, the cabin door opened and Nico walked in slowly. “Will?” He asked in a quiet and slightly hoarse voice. “Can we talk?”

To anyone else looking at him, they probably wouldn’t have realised, but I knew he was upset. I bolted straight up on my bunk. “Shouldn’t you be at the dining pavilion?”

He gave me a look. “Shouldn’t you be too?”

I shrugged. Nico sighed. “I was there but when I asked Kayla where you were, she told me to come here.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “So you didn’t actually want to come here?”

He rolled his eyes. “Of course I did,” he snapped. “Don’t be an idiot. The only reason I didn’t try to find you earlier was because you told me you needed a... break.”

I sighed. Nico moved towards me and sat down on the opposite side of my bed. “And then Austin told me that you did actually want to talk... so here I am.”

Damn my siblings for meddling. But I was half thankful. At least Nico was here. I already felt a lot better, even though we hadn’t even addressed the problem yet.

After a long silence, Nico spoke. “You weren’t supposed to run away, Will.”

I huffed. “That was a stupid rule.”

Nico hesitated slightly before asking, “So you felt better when you left me?”

“Well, no,” I admitted.

“Then maybe it wasn’t so stupid after all.”

“I guess not,” I relented.

We fell into another silence. I didn’t know what to say. And I didn’t particularly want to break the silence.

Nico scratched the back of his neck, then he fixed me with an intense look. His dark eyes looked pitch black from where I was sitting.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know I messed up. I thought about it and I would be really mad if I found out you’d been complaining about me. Well, not mad. I’d be hurt. And then mad at myself for trusting you.” He looked like he was about to cry. Before I could respond though, he carried on. “Will, please don’t be mad at yourself for trusting me. It’s such a... privilege when you let me in... And I know I don’t have an excuse, but I’ll be better, I promise...”

I stared at him. I don’t think I’d ever heard Nico make such a sincere apology. I knew he wouldn’t have just ignored my feelings, but I wasn’t expecting him to say something like that. It seemed so unlike him.

“That doesn’t sound like you at all,” I commented stupidly.

Nico gave me an exasperated look. “Yeah it really says something about my character if my boyfriend isn’t used to me saying nice things to him.”

I sighed. “I’m not starved of affection,” I assured. “And how you act doesn’t say anything negative about your character. It’s just who you are.”

“I think we’re discussing the wrong thing,” Nico pointed out.

I nodded. It just really annoyed me when Nico started with the self hate. “Obviously I forgive you, Nico,” I said after a pause. “You don’t have to ‘be better’. It was just one small thing.”

He gave a small sad laugh. “I’m always trying to be better... with you.”

I threw up my hands in frustration. “Well you shouldn’t,” I told him sternly. “I don’t even have a right to be angry with you right now. You’re entitled to talk to your friends... It’s just... annoying that I got upset. Because it’s not even your problem.”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me that your anger is misplaced. I know I hurt you. Just... tell me what you’re feeling.”

I blinked at him. “What I’m feeling?”

“So we can make it better.” He made a ‘go on’ gesture with his hands.

I was about to tell him that I still didn’t know the proper reasons I was upset, but I knew I’d be lying. I had been trying to block them out because I knew I was overreacting, and I didn’t want to add fuel to my anger. But I knew why it hurt so much. Well, if he wanted to know...

“You weren’t planning on telling me,” I blurted. “If we weren’t having the conversation, and I hadn’t asked what you were thinking, you never would’ve told me that you were upset with me, right?”

He looked slightly uncomfortable. “Will, I didn’t want to start anything...“

“Okay,” I said softly, trying my best to keep my voice calm. “So you’ve been angry with me for however long it’s been. And you’ve been suffering in silence.”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it suffering,” he muttered.

“Well, whatever it was, you were mad at me for overworking in the infirmary,” I summed up.

Nico shrugged. “I guess...”

“And,” I said with a slightly raised voice, “do you know how guilty it makes me feel to know that you were angry with me whilst you were... comforting me last night.”

“You don’t have to feel guilty,” Nico said. “Your problem was obviously bigger than mine.”

I shook my head. “We don’t get to compare problems. You were feeling upset and I didn’t realise it. We carried on as if nothing was wrong. It wasn’t fair to you. I wished you would’ve told me. Because last night meant a lot to me, and now I find out that you... you were mad at me the whole time...”

My voice broke and I angrily wiped away the tears that were falling down my cheeks. Nico shuffled forward so that he was sitting next to me. He reached out and gently stroked my bicep.

“Please don’t cry, Will,” he said softly. “It meant a lot to me as well. I promise, I wasn’t angry with you then. I realised what was bothering you, and I felt so honoured that you’d shared it with me. And I realised that... I’d fallen more deeply in love with you.”

I sniffled. “Really?”

He nodded. “Mmm hmm. Believe it or not, I love you very much, Will Solace.”

Wow. I didn’t know I could feel so many butterflies at once. I gave him a smile, hoping that would convey what I was feeling. “I love you very much too, Nico di Angelo.”

He kissed me on the cheek and I sighed. “Look,” I said softly, “I know you get upset about me overworking, but I can’t help that. They need me there.”

Nico looked at me. “For gods’ sake, Will. I know that. But you can’t expect me to be okay with you neglecting yourself by working so hard. Neglecting yourself and... spending less time with me...” He said the last part so quietly, I almost didn’t hear him.

I sighed. “You could’ve come to visit, Nico. I missed you too, you know. A lot.”

“I didn’t want to get in the way,” he mumbled.

“In the way?” I asked incredulously. “You would’ve been a great help. You’re a really good healer. And you help to calm me down too when I’m working. If you didn’t want to come, that’s something different...”

He shook his head. “I wanted to come. But you didn’t ask-“

“I didn’t think I needed to! You’re my boyfriend. I always want to see you. I thought you knew that. I’ve never gotten tired of you in the eight months that we’ve spent together. Throughout those last few days, I kept looking at the door, hoping you would visit. But I knew I couldn’t ask you to spend your free time working with me. You deserved a break. So the ball really was in your court.”

Nico gave me a pained look. “Gods,” he said quietly. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” I told him, giving his hand a slight squeeze. I couldn’t believe that Nico still underestimated my feelings for him. I gave him a serious look and said, “Just promise me that next time, you won’t forget how much you mean to me.”

He nodded and I smiled at him. Well thank gods we got to the bottom of that. I felt the spikes inside of me already smoothing out, in a pleasant peacefulness.

Nico hesitated slightly before asking, “And you don’t... regret trusting me with your secret?”

I laughed at him. “If there’s one thing I’m completely and utterly sure about, it’s that I’ll never regret trusting you.”

He smiled and I could tell he felt relieved. “Really?”

I leaned over and kissed him. His lips felt like a breath of fresh air after a long hard day. As if I’d been drowning this entire time, and kissing Nico was my lifeboat, my anchor, the reason I was still living. Everything inside of me relaxed, and in that moment, I was convinced I’d never felt so happy.

I pulled away and whispered, “Yes. Of course I trust you.”

I went in to kiss him again, but he put a hand onto my chest to stop me. “Are you sure about that?” He asked in a playful tone.

I nodded. Then Nico wrapped his arms around my neck and we both dissolved into the shadow.

Chapter Text

Will POV

We landed on Nico’s bunk in the Hades cabin. I didn’t feel dizzy at all, and apparently neither did Nico, because as soon as we’d materialised, he pushed me down and kissed me.

I kissed him back, still feeling that overwhelming sense of relief that we’d made up. I felt like all of the tension was flowing right out of my body, leaving me all relaxed and mellow.

Nico brought his hands down to the hem of my shirt and traced the line of skin above my waistband with his fingertips. I shivered at his touch, and I think my breath caught (which he definitely noticed since we were joined at the mouth). He slipped a couple of his fingers slightly down into my jeans and I sighed at the contact.

He retracted his fingers, which I found substantially disappointing. But when he gripped my t-shirt, I swallowed my complaints. He broke our kiss to lift it over my head.

Nico stared at me with his dark eyes. His breathing was incredibly fast, and I felt deeply triumphant that this had gotten his heart racing, when earlier during sword practice, he hadn’t even broken a sweat.

He placed his palm flat on my chest, and even that caused me to sigh. His hand was so warm. I felt like it was causing my entire chest wall to burst into flames. He slowly pushed me down so that I was lying flat on the bed, and then he climbed on top of me. Oh wow, the feeling of him pressed against me. Gods, help me.

“Will?” He asked.

“Mmm?” I replied, because I was sure if I opened my mouth, I’d let out a moan. My legs were shaking from the restraint it took for me to not roll my hips against him.

“I’m going to blindfold you.”

I blinked at him. “What?”

He picked up my t-shirt and wrapped it tightly so that it resembled a thin strip of fabric. Then he held it up for me to see. “You said you trusted me...”

To be honest, my brain was short circuiting. I could hardly remember what we were even arguing about a couple of minutes ago. “Of course I trust you,” I managed.

Nico raised the shirt/blindfold. “Sometimes I use one to enhance my other senses when I’m training,” he explained as he started moving his hips slightly. “So I thought it might enhance this too.”

Was he actually going to blindfold me? I’d be forced to trust him. I’d be completely at his mercy. The thought made me strangely turned on. “Go on then,” I said in a slightly breathless voice.

Nico stopped moving his hips and lifted off of me for a second. I supposed it was to help me clear my head, but all I could think about was how I wanted him to sit down again. “You’re sure?” He asked.

I nodded and held up my neck as he tied my rolled up t-shirt around my eyes. When he was done, I couldn’t see a thing. The darkness engulfed my vision. I opted to close my eyes, since I was seeing the same thing either way.

I felt Nico’s palm come to lie back on my chest and I couldn’t help myself flinching slightly because I wasn’t expecting it. “You okay?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I gasped. “It’s just... weird. Not seeing.”

“I know,” he said as he brought his other hand to my chest and started rubbing large circles around my pectorals. With each reassuring motion, I felt more and more relaxed.

I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t want them to get in the way of what Nico was doing, so I lifted them up and tried to find his hips. I managed after a few tries, and I dipped my fingers under his t-shirt, lightly gripping his waist.

Nico lifted his hands from my chest to take his shirt off, and when he was done, I wrapped my arms all the way around his back. That was the only thing that gave me any warning when he leaned down and kissed me on my left pectoral. On my tattoo I realised. “Mmm,” I sighed as he continued to kiss me there and then lower, lower towards my nipple.

When his lips closed around it, my fingers gripped into his back as I tried to ground myself. Gods, the feeling was so damn intense. I almost couldn’t deal with it. Somehow, the sensation was definitely heightened because of my blindfold. It felt like everything was a hundred times more sensitive.

The powerful pleasurable jolts raced across my nervous system, causing my excitement to grow extremely hard.

“I think the blindfold thing works,” Nico smirked as he rolled his hips slightly to show me that he was very aware that I had grown fully hard.

“Shut up,” I moaned as I bucked my own hips to chase the friction when he’d pulled away.

He laughed at me. “I will if you can.”

Oh dear gods.

He climbed off of me and I might have (definitely) whined at the loss of contact. But a second later, I felt his hands gripping my jeans and I sucked in a breath as he stripped them off along with my pants. I was pretty sure I heard him do the same to himself, before he came to sit back on top of me.

“Oh gods...” I sighed. The feeling was phenomenal. I moved against him, relishing the feeling of his member rubbing against mine. Sparks danced across my eyelids. Waves of pleasure rolled over me, taking my breath away. I moaned as he matched my rhythm, back and forth and back and forth, and oh wow, the feeling was so amplified, that every cell in my body was bursting with that cool tingling feeling, screaming for release.

Each of my muscles were trembling. The tremors ran all the way to my fingers and toes, and gods, we’d only been moving for a couple of seconds, but I was already so close...

Nico pulled away before I could finish. “Wait,” he told me sternly.

“Why?” I asked, probably sounding like a bratty school child. But in my defence, I was more than a bit frustrated.

He chuckled. “I’m not finished with you,” he replied. “Now don’t move your hips.”

“Easier said that done,” I gritted out, trying to refrain my urge to thrust up against him.

Even the feeling of him still sitting on top of me without any clothes on was enough to drive me to the edge. I forced myself to stop imagining his perfect body, because it would be embarrassing if I came without any action.

Unfortunately (fortunately), the only other thing I could think about was how amazingly good Nico’s touches felt as he started rubbing my chest again. He leaned down and started kissing the side of my throat, being as soft and long as possible.

Nico slowly trailed kisses down my neck and to my chest, circling his tongue over my nipple again. I let a shuttering breath and arched my back to push myself closer into him.

I tried to calm my breathing because I imagined it was incredibly hard to kiss me properly when I was heaving for air. But I couldn’t manage it. Nico was working me into a frenzy. I was such a hot mess.

The thought that I’d surrendered to him made me feel so turned on, I almost couldn’t breathe. I had had to place all my trust into him, and it was worth it.

And it definitely did not help my situation when he rocked back slightly and my member twitched with excitement. Pleasure spiked through me and it took all of my willpower not to finish.

“If I’m not allowed to move my hips,” I said breathlessly, “then you’re not either.”

Nico smirked at me. “I can do whatever I want, Solace,” he told me.

Before I could retort, to prove his point, he firmly wrapped his hand around my member. White hot lust burned through my veins, igniting my skin and everything else. I threw my head onto the pillow and arched my back so aggressively, I was surprised that Nico managed to stay on top of me.

“I thought,” I panted, “this was supposed to be us making up.”

I felt Nico lifting off of me and I immediately felt cold. He moved his way down my body, but I couldn’t tell where his head ended up. I had resorted to clutching the headboard above me, and my sight was still completely black. I pushed my back into the duvet to stop from bucking my hips up.

“It is,” Nico replied. I would probably have been able to tell where his voice was coming from if I focused. But my thoughts were fuzzy and my roaring heartbeat was messing with my hearing.

“Stop teasing me then,” I whined.

He laughed at me. “Tell me you’re not enjoying this.”

In my hesitation, he leaned down and kissed my stomach, just below my belly button. I sucked in instinctively because I wasn’t expecting it, but Nico just went in and kissed me again, a bit lower this time.

Oh gods, this was too much. Every time he kissed me, mini fireworks exploded in my mind, blowing every other thought away. Nico’s hands drifted along the top of my thighs as his mouth kept kissing down my midline, lower and lower...

When he got to my manhood, he stopped and pulled away for a moment. My legs were quivering and I was holding my breath in anticipation. I couldn’t take this. “Nico, please,” I whimpered.

He didn’t even wait to make fun of me. One second, he wasn’t there, then the next, his mouth closed shut around me. “Ohhh,” I moaned, as the warm wetness of his tongue surrounded my member. I was pretty sure I was hyperventilating, but it was the only way I could deal with the sensation. It was so incredibly intense, I couldn’t draw in breath fast enough.

My fingers closed around the headboard so hard, I was surprised I didn’t hear it crack. My toes curled as Nico started moving up and down, up and down. Slow at first, but he picked up the pace after a few moments.

The darkness was still engulfing my vision, and I couldn’t see a thing. Patterns swirled behind my eyelids instead. Bright colours, stark against the black, pulsing, churning, winding... Each flash of light mirroring Nico’s movements, hard, slow, sharp, swirling...

And then he stopped, and I couldn’t help myself from thrusting my hips upwards.

“Whoa there,” Nico smirked. “Just a minute.”

“What are you trying to do to me?” I complained weakly, as I sank back into the duvet beneath me. The colours were fading from my vision, leaving only black nothingness.

“The point of the blindfold is that you’re not supposed to be knowing what I’m doing until I’m doing it,” he replied.

Then he came and sat back on top of me again, a bit lower than last time. He hesitated, and I wondered if he was getting ready to touch me again. But instead, he spoke. “Um, Will?”

“Yes?” I breathed, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice.

Nico placed his palms lightly on my stomach. “How did you do that thing? When you touched me... lower... It felt really good.”

I smiled. “External prostate stimulation-“

“I don’t want to know the biology.” And I could practically hear him rolling his eyes. “Just tell me how to do it.”

I smiled again and told him what he wanted to know.

“Okay,” he said happily when I’d explained. Then in a more playful tone, he said, “You might want to hang on to the headboard.”

Even if he hadn’t told me to, I would’ve done it anyway. Because just then, he took both of our members in his hand and started to move.

Oh gods yes. This was it. My excitement was overwhelming me, pushing everything else out. I couldn’t hold on anymore.

Nico rubbed his hand all the way up and down both of us at an excruciatingly slow pace. I couldn’t linger my thoughts on the pleasure because gods, it was too much. I’d never felt this kind of intensity before. I had to focus on something else, anything else to anchor me.

I squeezed my eyes shut as tight as they would go, and I realised that the colours had started dancing across my vision again. Red and pink and blue and yellow. And oh gods, as Nico moved, they brightened and burnt into my eye sockets making me feel way too hot and way too cold at the same time.

And the stars kept dancing behind my eyelids, changing directions and shining so damn bright. The patterns twisted and turned and flickered as Nico kept working us both with his hand.

And when Nico brought his free hand lower, and he pressed down just at the right spot... Gods, I was done for. The bursts of pleasure that jolted through me were too damn much. More than enough to push me over the edge.

I think I cried out as each wave of ecstasy pulsed through my veins, and the colours in my vision all converged to make a huge white light that temporarily blinded me with its glowing pulsations, mimicking the pleasure flowing through me.

Distantly, I heard Nico let out a low moan too, and a sticky wetness was landing on my stomach. But I didn’t even think about that. The intense light was still burning bright in my vision, as my orgasm peaked. Then slowly Nico brought me back down, but I still felt the occasional residual spark igniting in my groin area as he continued to move his hands gradually softer and gentler until I’d completely finished.

A few moments after, I heard the plucking of a couple of tissues and then I felt Nico dabbing at my stomach. While he did that, I reached for my blindfold and pulled it off. Regaining my sight was so surreal. I blinked a couple of times, because even the darkness of the Hades cabin was a bit too bright for me. I found myself missing the intensified feelings that the darkness had caused.

I flexed all of my muscles and stretched out into a starfish on the bed. “Gods, that was good,” I muttered.

“Just ‘good’?” Nico asked as he finished cleaning up.

I laughed at him. “My brain isn’t working properly... I can’t find the words.”

That seemed to satisfy him. He came and laid next to me, pulling the duvet over us. I pulled him closer and he curled up against me.

“Nico, you have to try the blindfold,” I told him sleepily.

“Mmm,” he replied. “Maybe...”

I knew that might be a big step for him. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. I’d let him decide when he was ready.

I stroked his hair and he let out a long content sigh.

“So you forgive me?” He asked in a muffled voice.

I rolled my eyes. “I forgave you before the sex, Nico.”

He moved in closer to me. His body heat was making me feel even more comfortable and drowsy. “Yeah, but the... sex... made you sweeter on me, right?”

I kissed his forehead. “I’m always sweet on you, di Angelo.”

He seemed to like that answer because he didn’t speak again, and eventually we both drifted off to sleep.