Nico wakes up to the sun.
No, really. He had forgotten to close the blinds. So at what must have been no later than the ass-crack of dawn, Nico is awoken to the sun in his face and a boy in his room.
“Er,” says the boy. Boy is probably the wrong word. He is half dressed, shirtless, wearing a faded pair of jeans and an embarrassed expression as he falls against the wall, pulling on a sock. If Nico were more poetic, he would probably describe him as the sun, too, all blond hair and blue eyes and a nice tan and (which Nico can remember rather than see) a faint spattering of freckles across his nose.
The freckles he can remember. The name he cannot.
“Sorry,” the guy continues. “I was hoping to get out of here without waking you.”
In terms of one night stands, Nico had had what he deemed an acceptable amount for an Authentic College Experience™ and what Hazel had deemed way too many, Jesus Christ Nico who knows where those people have been. The problem, he had told her (reluctantly, since it wasn’t exactly a topic he was interested in pursuing with his sister) is that while he was definitely not a relationship person, he was definitely a sex person.
“Is it because you’re still hung up over Percy?” She had asked, kindly and softly, a point he had vehemently and rather unconvincingly denied.
It wasn’t, though, not really. Sure, Nico did still have what could be deemed romantic feelings for Percy Jackson, but that wasn’t really what lead Nico to the arms (and beds) of unknown men. If he was being honest, it was loneliness, truthfully, but he didn’t tell Hazel that because he didn’t want to deal with the look she got whenever he let stuff like that slip.
With a jolt he realizes Sun guy had said something.
“Uh. That’s all right. Can you just close the blinds before you go?”
He walks over to the window and closes the blinds, blissfully blocking out the sun. Nico rolls over to go back to sleep before realizing that the other guy was still there.
“Did you lose something?” He asks, much more harshly than he had intended. Sun guy rubs the back of his neck and rocks on the balls of his feet.
When he doesn’t elaborate on this Nico sits up with a grunt of annoyance. “Then why are you still here?”
“I just…” he is very jumpy, far too much of a ball of energy at this time of the morning and with a probable hangover, no less. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t really know what to do.”
“Oh.” Nico doesn’t volunteer the information that he had done this before, and numerous times. “Generally you leave.” He probably should have been nicer, but it was early and he was painfully hungover and he didn’t have time to deal with some stranger’s life crisis over the concept of a one night stand.
“Just like that? No… exchanging of numbers? No goodbyes or… I don’t know, thank yous?”
The corners of Nico’s mouth turn up in a smirk.
“Well, if you’re that insistent, thank you for the stellar blow job last night.”
The other guy blushes a brilliant red that Nico can’t help but think looks super lame and yet weirdly endearing at the same time.
“So that’s really it?”
“Well, you can send me Christmas cards if you’d like, but I can’t promise you’ll get one in return.”
“Oh. All right. Bye, I guess.”
In reply, Nico flops back down onto the bed and falls back asleep.
“What did I say about bringing strange guys back to the apartment?”
Jason is sitting on the couch when Nico wakes up, eating a bowl of cereal and watching, for some reason, The Golden Girls.
“You said ‘oh Nico, I love it so much when you bring strange men back home, please do it more often.’” Jason glares at him as Nico flops down beside him on the couch. “Anyway, he wasn’t a stranger.” Nico grabs Jason’s coffee cup and finishes it, hoping the caffeine would help jolt him out of the hangover haze plaguing him, but all that happens is the amount of sugar makes him want to vomit. “I don’t think you’re legally allowed to call this coffee, you know.”
“Then make your own. What was his name?”
“I, uh. I don’t remember. But!” He adds quickly when he sees the look on Jason’s face, “I knew it at one point, and that’s the most important part. So he wasn’t a stranger.”
Jason just shakes his head. “One day we’re both going to be murdered in our beds and it will be your fault.”
“Relax. You act like I do this every weekend. Besides, realistically, who is more likely to be arrested for murder, me, or Mr. Golden Sun?”
“Sure, but looks can be deceiving. You may look scary, but you’re about as dangerous as a toothless puppy.”
Nico scowls. “Am not. How did you even see him? He left at dawn.”
“I was going for a run.”
Nico rolls his eyes. “Fucking athletes.”
Jason stands. “All right, I have to meet Piper. Want to tag along?”
Piper was Jason’s girlfriend. They had been dating since high school – they had been the power couple, beautiful and smart and popular. Nico always felt like some sort of gremlin whenever he hung out with them, but Piper was as nice as she was pretty, and she had made him feel included, until eventually he stopped being Jason’s weird best friend to Jason and Piper’s weird best friend.
“Well, as much as I enjoy third wheel status, I think I’ll have to pass on this one. Are you finally going to ask her to marry you or do you expect me to hide that goddamn ring in my sock drawer for the rest of my life?”
Jason blushes. “It just… hasn’t been the right time. It needs to be special.”
“You’re a walking cliché, Grace. If you don’t do it soon, I will.”
Jason snorts. “That’ll be the day. See ya. Try to do something other than sleep all day, okay?”
Jason flips him off. “If I come home to find you’ve been murdered by some unnamed stranger I won’t feel any pity for you!”
“He had a name!”
Nico glares at young Betty White on the television and picks up his phone to text Hazel.
“Dad called, by the way.”
Hazel glares at him. “Would you stop? I thought you two were good.”
“We are, I guess. Old habits die hard.”
Hazel rolls her eyes, the only real habit they shared. Hazel was only his half-sister; she was nicer and brighter and everyone loved being around her.
“What did he want?”
“Just checking in. He says you haven’t called.”
“I’ve been busy! I emailed Persephone to let her know I hadn’t died and that I was eating properly –”
“I can’t believe you would outright lie to our step-mother –”
“And I told her to tell dad I said hi. That’s more than he usually gets, he should be happy.”
“Dad’s never happy. At least I know where you get it from.”
Nico scowls. “Do we have to talk about dad?”
Hazel sighs. “All right. Sorry. How was your weekend?”
Hazel was only in first year, but she seemed to be taking to college better than Nico had, or indeed still was. Hazel was like that. She figured out in two tries something that took most people ten. Nico loved her probably more than anyone in his life, not that he would ever admit that. Nico wasn’t good with feelings, but he was pretty sure Hazel knew anyway.
“Fine.” He doesn’t mention the party, nor does he mention the guy he woke up with. There are some things your little sister doesn’t need to know. “Jason still hasn’t proposed.”
Hazel laughs. “Seriously?”
“He says it needs to be perfect.” The last word he says in a dead on impression of Jason that has Hazel laughing. “I told him he’s a walking cliché.”
“I hope…” she shakes her head. Nico raises an eyebrow at her.
“You were about to say you hope Frank doesn’t act like this, weren’t you?”
“No! I was not!”
“You were, don’t lie to me.”
Hazel blushes and refuses to meet Nico’s eye. “Just… hypothetically.”
“You’re too young to get married,” he says seriously.
Nico glares. Hazel just smirks at him. “Promise not to call me that again and I’ll stay off your case.”
They sit in silence for a few minutes. They are sitting on a bench in town; Hazel had needed a few things and Nico was on grocery duty, anyway. Hazel has an ice cream cone and keeps smiling at every dog and baby that passes; Nico is drinking a milkshake and glaring at anyone who looks at him.
They are like night and day, he thinks.
“Hey, it’s Frank’s birthday on Thursday. D’you want to come out for dinner with us?”
“Frank isn’t going to want me crashing his birthday dinner with his girlfriend.”
“Don’t be silly! He wants to get to know you better.”
Nico looks at her. She sighs. “Okay, I want you two to know each other better. I think he’s still afraid of you.”
“As he should be.”
Hazel looks like she is very strongly debating dumping her ice cream over his head. “Please, Nico? It would mean a lot to me.”
Nico hates when people pull that, because as much as likes to act like he’s all cool and uncaring he can never turn someone down when they say that, because he spent a decently long time having nobody and now that he has lots of somebody’s he is terrified of being alone again. So that line always gets him; he thinks Hazel might be aware of this, because she tends to use it the most.
“Fine, I will go to your boyfriend’s birthday party. But I won’t enjoy it.”
Hazel laughs. “It’ll be fun. I promise.”
Nico isn’t entirely sure he agrees, but it’s not like he has another choice. He never does, with Hazel.
He gets back to the apartment with his arms laden with groceries and a headache that feels like it’s going to split him down the middle. Him and Jason lived off campus – after first year they decided a two bedroom was better, not least because Jason had a girlfriend and Nico had… well.
He knocks on the door with his foot, arms too sore to use his key, and it swings open to reveal Piper, smiling widely. “Nico!” She surges forward to kiss him on the cheek, probably because she knew he couldn’t exactly evade her, he was so bogged down with groceries.
“Hi, Piper. Tell your stupid boyfriend to help me.”
“I can hear you, you know.” Jason easily takes an arm’s worth of groceries and lifts them onto the table. He takes a look through the bags.
“Did you buy anything green?”
“There’s mint ice cream in there.”
Jason gives him a look that says, quite clearly, that he does not appreciate Nico’s jokes.
“Relax, Martha Stewart, I bought healthy shit.”
“One of these days you’re going to keel over and die from lack of nutritional value.”
“Don’t make me go grocery shopping, then.”
“Have you always been this difficult?”
Nico smiles slightly, the lopsided smile that is the only thing anyone ever really gets out of him. “Yep.”
Piper smiles at him and Nico thinks of the ring buried in his sock drawer. He shoots a meaningful look at Jason, who glares at him.
“C’mon, Nico. It’s Family Feud night.”
“How can I resist that,” he deadpans. Jason laughs.
“Ice cream?” He asks the two of them.
So that’s how Nico spends his Sunday night, eating mint ice cream in the skull pyjamas Jason had bought him as a joke but which were actually pretty comfortable, smushed up on their tiny couch beside Piper and watching stupid game shows.
Who the fuck ever thought he would end up here.