Percy watched Nico walk away, more spring in the boy’s step than he’d ever seen before. Will Solace was at the edge of the common, and when Nico reached him the older boy said something to him, laying a friendly hand on his shoulder for a moment. Percy’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head and next to him, Annabeth started laughing.
“Wait,” he said, turning to his girlfriend. He could feel his mouth hanging open; he probably looked like he was trying to catch flies. “So Nico—”
“You just repeated yourself three times,” she informed him.
“But… then he meant—”
“Yes, Percy, Nico meant exactly what you think he meant.”
“But wait… so he—”
“—is gay, but that doesn’t change a thing about him.”
“Yeah, I know, just…” He made an inarticulate gesture in the direction Nico had gone. “He and Will…?”
“Nico deserves some happiness.”
“Yeah… but wait… so then he—”
Annabeth decided that kissing her boyfriend would be the only way to shut him up.
Jason wasn’t sure, but he thought there might be something going on with Nico and Will Solace.
First, Percy had pulled him aside and whispered that Nico had just told him something surprising but don’t tell anyone, dude, because I don’t know if he wants anyone else to know, but I was just wondering if you had any idea—Jason had shut him up on that topic pretty quickly.
Then he’d seen the Apollo kid sitting at the Hades table during lunch, staring sternly at Nico until the younger boy finished all the food on his plate with a resigned glower, and Jason suddenly remembered the moment during the battle when Will had run over to Nico and whispered in his ear, and then the time Nico had excused himself to go talk to Will.
But when he and Piper took a walk down towards the strawberry fields and saw the two boys on the side of the road, Nico showing Will a few kid-of-the-Underworld tricks with the earth around them, Jason knew.
“They’re cute,” Piper said long after they had skirted the two on the path. She squeezed Jason’s arm. “They’ll be happy together.”
“You can tell? Is it an Aphrodite thing?”
“Nah,” she said. “Anyone can tell.”
Nico di Angelo wasn’t exactly what Lou Ellen had thought he would be, but that just made him a lot cooler than she expected.
She’d heard the stories about how he’d convinced his dad to join their side, to fight in the Titan War and help defeat Kronos, and she’d heard about his prowess on the battlefield, the way he and his Stygian iron sword weaved in and out of the shadows, slicing and stabbing and taking down monsters as easily as others breathed. She’d also heard about how scary he could be, how creepy it was when he summoned zombies from the ground or how dark and angry his gaze often was, like he was ripping your soul apart with his eyes.
But after meeting him, she thought all the stories were a bit exaggerated—sure, Nico had a bit of a temper and a heck of a glare, but he was just another demigod hero, and there were plenty of those around Camp Half-Blood.
She thought he was cool though, and she had to admit she had a little bit of a crush on him. He was a lot nicer than she’d expected and he smiled a lot more than he used to, according to people who knew him before.
Watching him and talking to him, she figured that might have something to do with Will. Nico often looked irritated when he was alone, skulking in whatever corners available, but Will would drag him out and make him stand in the sunlight or sit with other people during mealtimes, and often when she went searching for one boy, she would find the other.
It wasn’t until one day, when she went to the infirmary to ask Will for a potion for one of her siblings and found Nico also there, sprawled across a chair next to one of the beds and watching Will work, that she saw the certain shine in his eyes and suddenly understood that no matter how cool she found Nico, it was nothing compared to what he must think of Will.
She retrieved the potion she came for and darted out of the infirmary, closing the door behind her with a quiet click and a smile.
The first thing Leo noticed when he returned was how different Nico di Angelo had become.
Well, no—the first thing he noticed was the fist in his jaw, courtesy of Piper, and after that all the arms wrapping themselves around him and all the raised voices and the beaming, teary faces.
Then he’d noticed all the new shrines and temples that had been built while he’d been gone, courtesy of Jason, and then he’d noticed how hungry he was, and—
Okay. So Nico di Angelo wasn’t at the top of the list, but he was definitely still on the list.
The angry kid had disappeared, replaced by a rather quiet, serious teenager. Nico no longer looked pissed off whenever Leo saw him, just contemplative or brooding, but the first time Leo saw him smile he nearly had a heart attack because it wasn’t the freaky smile he remembered from their battles together aboard the Argo II.
“The son of Hades isn’t how you described him,” Calypso said to him one night as she stood in the middle of Bunker Nine, waiting for him as he searched for spare parts for Festus.
“I dunno,” Leo said. “He’s like… happy. Which is really weird for him.”
“I would have considered my presence here beyond imaginable only a year ago,” she pointed out, and it took the gears in his brain a moment to process the words.
“You’re not saying…” He tried to remember who Nico had hung around with lately and only came up with one face. “No way.”
His hands paused in their shuffling, but then he glanced back at Calypso, at her bright amber hair and eyes gleaming under the lights of Bunker Nine, and he grinned.
“Well, why not? If Leo Valdez scored a hot goddess why can’t Nico di Angelo score a not-nearly-as-hot Apollo boy?”
When Reyna walked into the dining hall pavilion she immediately glanced over at the Hades table; she’d been happy for Nico when she heard about his decision to stay at Camp Half-Blood and when the Romans had arrived earlier, he’d been one of the Greeks welcoming them, but they hadn’t gotten a chance to talk yet and she thought maybe they could catch some time together.
Halfway through the meal she realized with disappointment that he probably wasn’t coming, but then a flash of black in the corner of her vision made her turn to look in another direction. Nico sat wedged between two Apollo kids at their dad’s table, both of whom were chattering excitedly over his head; he was clearly uncomfortable being in the center of their conversation.
Reyna had barely had time to wonder what he was doing there when the Apollo cabin’s head counselor—Will Solar or Solace or Solo or something—leaned across the table and pushed a full plate of food at the younger boy. Nico glared in response, but then Will said something and what Reyna could swear was a smile flitted across the younger boy’s face. Nico dug a fork into the plate and stuffed some food in his mouth, looking away, but the pink tinging his cheeks was clear all the way from Reyna’s vantage point.
Oh, she thought, and looked away too, but not before hiding a smile of her own.
Camp Jupiter would always be home, but Camp Half-Blood was special to Hazel.
It was where they’d defeated Gaea, where some of her best friends were, where her brother lived—and she loved the remodeling he’d done on the Hades cabin; she no longer felt like a vampire lying down in her coffin when she went to sleep at night.
Maybe it was because she hadn’t seen him in a while—he’d been trying to avoid shadow travel as much as possible for some time—but she didn’t feel like it was necessary to partition the room this time. Besides, they were siblings, so on her first night back in Camp Half-Blood she lay in bed and talked to him about what she’d done in Camp Jupiter.
She was surprised at how much he said in return; Nico had always talked to her, but not quite this much. He spoke of training, and some things Will Solace had taught him about healing, and Capture the Flag, and this one time he and Will had single-handledly defeated the Ares cabin in a stealth attack, and all he was discovering about burial rites in different cultures, not just the Greeks’, and Will had mentioned how in his mother’s culture, they—
Hazel couldn’t help noticing how admiring her brother seemed of the older boy, how frequently he was brought up, and she thought, surely he doesn’t—
But then Nico said something else about Will Solace, and Hazel suddenly recalled one time she’d overheard Frank talking about her to a member of the legion. He’d kind of sounded the same way.
She listened to Nico ramble on, and stifling a smile, she thought that whatever made him happy made her happy too.
Hades wasn’t too sure how he felt about his son seeing a child of Apollo.
They didn’t seem to be aware of the other’s feelings, but it was bound to happen someday, Hades could tell. He wondered what Apollo thought of it; likely the other god didn’t care. Apollo had plenty of offspring who got themselves entangled with all sorts of other demigods. Hades only had one living demigod son, and though he would never say it in so many words, not again, he wanted his son to be happy.
This boy of Apollo’s wasn’t much like his father, thankfully; besides his looks, he only seemed to have inherited the god’s healing abilities. He seemed more emotionally stable than his father as well; Apollo was one of the most fickle gods Hades knew. Some days he was still angry at Hades for cursing his last Oracle; other days he seemed to think the god of the underworld was his best friend.
“I hope he brings that boy with him to dinner sometime,” Persephone said by his side with a sniff. “It might be a nice change around here. And if not… two flowers are better than one.”
“He looks like a boy who would appreciate cereal,” Demeter said.
Hades scowled at them and thought that with them constantly around, it was no wonder he was contemplating his son’s love life.
“Did you know everyone thinks we’re dating?”
Nico’s head whipped up so quickly at that, he felt like the bones in his neck were cracking. “What?” he said, hoping he sounded normal, but he was pretty sure his voice came out an octave higher than usual.
Something like amusement shone in Will’s blue eyes. He stood from his spot on the floor of Nico’s room and made his way to where the son of Hades sat at his desk, writing out how the ancient Egyptians had mummified their dead.
“You don’t think we are?”
Nico stared up at the older boy. A hint of a smile twitched at Will’s lips. “Well,” Nico said slowly, hoping his voice was casual enough, “no. If people date, they usually do things like… dunno, hold hands and…”
His words died in his throat when Will reached over and took his hand. Physical contact always made Nico uncomfortable, but Will’s fingers fit his perfectly, skin smooth and entirely not unpleasant, and he swallowed.
“Uh. Okay,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Uh. I guess… um. That’s cool.”
That’s cool. He wanted to smack himself or melt into the shadows or both, but Will’s fingers tightened against his.
“So we’re dating now?”
“Uh…” Nico licked his lips. “Sure. If you want.”
Will smiled, an easygoing grin that made Nico’s heart stutter in his chest. “Sounds good to me.”