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With the Lights On

Chapter Text

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.

“Um. No.”

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?”

“Yes mother.”

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.”

“Wonderful.”

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.”

“Whoops.”

“Nico!”

“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.

“Thanks, dad.”

Nico glares. Hazel just smirks at him. “Promise not to call me that again and I’ll stay off your case.”

“Deal.”

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.

“Nico –”

“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.

Chapter Text

The STD clinic on campus is not a place Nico likes being, but he’s pretty certain he’d like herpes even less. Not that he isn’t safe, of course, but if he’s going to have his slutty college years he might as well be responsible about it.

He’s waiting to be called, reading one of the books he’s supposed to read for class, when he hears someone clear their throat. He looks up, annoyed, only to see the exact reason he’s at the STD clinic.

“Hi.”

Nico sighs. “Hi.”

Clearly Mr. Golden Sun (that name had started out as a joke, but he still can’t remember his goddamn name) hadn’t thought past this point in the conversation, because all that happens is he keeps awkwardly looking around, bouncing on the balls of his feet once again, until eventually he smiles (Nico can’t help but notice how nice of a smile it is) and says, “well, uh. I’m clean.”

Nico stares at him, unsure what he’s supposed to say to this. “Okay,” he says, rather slowly. “Thank you. I’m still going to check with the doctor.”

To Nico’s utter dismay he sits across from him. “Are you? Like -”

“I don’t have any STD’s,” he says drily, but he is furiously texting Jason as he says it.

To: Jason

(11:17) help me Mr Golden Sun is at the STD clinic

Jason’s reply, a few minutes later, is incredibly unhelpful.

From: Jason

(11:20) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

To: Jason

(11:21) FUCK OFF what do I do he is trying to make small talk

From: Jason

(11:23) are you talking about how clean your dicks are

(11:23) wait is he clean??

To: Jason

(11:24) fuck off Grace. He says he is but I’m not going to trust the word of a dude I don’t even know

From: Jason

(11:25) so you’ll fuck ppl you don’t know but you won’t trust them? I think you've got it backwards

To: Jason

(11:26) god I hate you

Nico hadn’t realized he had made an angry noise at his phone until the guy says, “Are you all right?” He looks up in irritation.

“Yeah. Fourteen years of my goddamn life I went without having friends and the first one I decide to get turns out to be the most annoying asshole on the planet. Figures.”

He is so busy texting angry threats to Jason that he doesn’t even realize what he had said until the guy says, “You didn’t have friends until you were fourteen?”

Nico closes his eyes and curses himself, but when he looks up Mr. Golden Sun isn’t laughing at him, or anything, and the pity he normally sees whenever he tells Hazel this shit is absent too. Nico doesn’t know what the fuck would make him spill this shit to a stranger (even if it happened to be a stranger who gave exceptional oral sex) but it’s out there now and all he can do is glare.

“Yes. No. It’s – it’s complicated.” And it’s none of your business.

“Okay. I guess it’s not really my business, is it?”

“Not in the least.”

He leans back, and Nico feels momentarily guilty for how rude he’s being, but he really hadn’t planned on meeting his one-night stand at the STD clinic and now that he has he definitely isn’t happy about it.

“Di Angelo,” he hears a nurse call. He stands up and starts to walk away before he realizes he should probably say goodbye.

The nicer you are to people the more they’ll want to be friends with you, Bianca had said once, to which he had replied I don’t want people to be friends with me. I have you.

“Bye, I guess.”

“Angel.”

“What?”

He is smiling widely. He has great teeth. Nico can vaguely recall that he had tasted good, even with all the alcohol on his breath.

“That’s what your name means. Angel.”

Nico, looking at him incredulously, nods his head. “I know. I speak Italian.”

Then he walks away before he gets even more involved.

This guy really didn’t understand the fundamental concept behind one-night stands.


Nico sits through two lectures and drinks about three cups of coffee. Gazing at the empty cup in his hand, he can’t help but agree with Jason – one of these days he really is going to keel over and die.

“He knew what your name meant?”

“So he had a basic understanding of Italian, big fucking whoop.”

“I think the fates are trying to pull you together.”

He glares at Piper. “The fates can fuck right off.”

“It’s so fun to be around you,” Jason says with a smirk, roughing up Nico’s hair, who manages to glare even more fiercely.

“It’s not like it’s a big campus. It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone I had a thing with, but it’s the first time one of them talked to me. It was just… inconvenient.”

“I think you’re crushing on him.”

“This isn’t seventh grade, McLean.”

“Look on the bright side, Nico,” Jason says, flinging his arm around Nico’s shoulder. “At least the fates are trying to set you up with someone who’s STD free!”

“I’M GOING TO BED,” he shouts, shrugging out from underneath Jason’s arm. He can hear Piper and Jason giggling behind him and he strongly resists the urge to flip them off.

They mean well, Bianca would have said.

Not that that helps him now.


Early next morning he wakes up to his phone ringing. When he sees who's calling he groans.

What.”

“I think she’s about to speak!”

Nico rolls over and wipes sleep from his eyes. “She is three months old, Percy, she is not about to speak.”

“She is, she’s going to speak, my child is a goddamn prodigy.”

“She’s not going to speak.”

“Listen to her.”

“Percy –”

He hears a vague spitting noise which he can only assume is Percy’s daughter. He sighs.

“Percy –”

“Did you hear that?”

“I did, she said ‘Uncle Nico, go back to bed.’”

“You spoil everything, go wake up Jason.”

“I am not going to wake up Jason.”

“Why not?”

“Because it is –” he removes the phone from his ear to check the time – “6:30 in the goddamn morning and your daughter is not talking.”

“What do you think her first words will be?”

“Probably ‘my father is a moron.’”

He can practically hear Percy grinning. “I’m pretty sure she’s the most beautiful child in the whole world.”

Nico rolls his eyes. “Yes, because you’re not at all biased.”

“Seriously, from a completely objective perspective, she’s definitely the cutest, most beautiful baby that has ever existed.”

“I thought I told you to stop calling me this early in the morning to gush about your child.”

“But she is so freaking cute –”

“Percy,” he says, with way more patience then Percy Jackson probably deserves. “I’m glad you’re taking to fatherhood so well, but some of us have class early in the morning.”

“Fine, fine, but will you tell Jason when you see him? And Piper! And Leo –”

“I will take out an ad in the school newspaper, Percy, now please let me go back to bed.”

“Wait! Say goodnight to Allison!”

“Percy!” There’s that spitting noise again. He sighs. “I know you can’t understand me but I promise when you are a teenager and hating your father that you can hide out in my house and I will buy you alcohol –”

“Nico!” Nico smirks. “You are not buying my daughter booze.”

“Well not right now, all the stores are closed –”

“Point taken, I will not call you again! Goodbye.”

Nico hangs up the phone and stares at it for a while, wondering if there would ever be a time in his life when he would be able to ignore Percy Jackson.

Chapter Text

Thursday rolls around. Nico finishes class and is just about to head out to meet Hazel and Frank when he stops in horror and hurriedly texts his sister.

To: Hazel

(5:23) oh my god Hazel was I supposed to buy him a present

(5:24) what the fuck am I supposed to buy your boyfriend

(5:24) he doesn’t even like me

From: Hazel

(5:25) you don’t have to get him anything

(5:26) be nice to him maybe he’ll stop being so afraid of you

(5:27) that’s the best present you could give anyone

To: Hazel

(5:29) har har

(5:30) I’ll meet you at the restaurant but I WON’T BE HAPPY

From: Hazel

(5:32) I am rolling my eyes at you

When Nico gets to the restaurant he scans the room until he sees his sister and her boyfriend. Taking a deep breath he forces what could be called a smile, if you were generous, onto his face, and sits down across from the two of them. Frank is important to Hazel, he thinks; the least he could do is try to be friendly.

“Hi,” he says. Hazel grins at him and Frank awkwardly waves.

“Have you ordered?”

“We waited for you.”

“Oh.” He grimaces. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Frank says. Nico forces himself to keep a semi-pleasant expression on his face.

“Oh, uh – happy birthday.” Frank rubs the back of his neck and looks down at the table.

“Thanks.”

Jesus, this is so awkward. The waiter shows up and Nico is grateful for the distraction until he looks up.

“Uh.”

Mr. Golden Sun is looking at him with an extremely odd expression on his face. Then he holds out a menu.

“Hi.”

Jesus Christ, was he stalking him? Why was this dude everywhere?

Nico coughs. “Yeah.” Hazel looks between the two of them.

“Do you know one another?”

The waiter opens his mouth to speak but Nico says, before any incriminating evidence is brought before his sister, “Not really. I guess we just recognize each other from around campus.” Also we made out for ages and he gave me the best blow job I’ve ever had in my life and then I met him at the STD clinic, is what he does not say.

The waiter is looking at him funny.  It isn’t the normal way he looked at him, not the weird mixture of humour and happiness and curiosity; now it looks almost hostile.

“Yeah. Right. Anyway. Drinks?”

They order drinks, and then they order food, and each time Mr. Golden Sun comes back he gives Nico that same, borderline hostile look, to the point where Nico almost doesn’t want to tip him. Almost.

Before their food comes Nico gets up to wash his hands. On his way to the bathroom he is cornered.

“Were you cheating?”

He is confused. “I have to wash my hands.”

“I mean with me. Were you cheating? Is that why you didn’t want to say? Was that your girlfriend?”

Nico is so taken aback by this he laughs. “Are you serious? That was my sister. I didn’t want to say how I knew you because who the fuck just volunteers, “oh yeah, I totally fucked this dude the other night, also I’ll have a Caesar salad”? Besides, my sister doesn’t like my… nighttime activities.” Wow, that was a lame way to put it. Nico crosses his arms and stares. “Do you normally introduce people as ‘this one guy I had sex with one night’?”

The waiter has the decency to look ashamed. “I’m sorry. I told you I had never done this before. I just… I can’t stand cheating.”

There is a story there that Nico does not need to know. “It’s a good thing I wasn’t cheating then, isn’t it.”

The waiter blushes, and once again Nico is taken aback by how endearing it looks, and how much he wants to make him blush again. He tries to subtly look down at the name tag he had been, up until this point, too embarrassed to try and read.

Will. Right. He is suddenly struck with an abundance of memories of that name in his mouth and those lips pressed to his abdomen.

 “Yeah. I’m sorry –”

Nico holds up his – still unwashed – hands. “It’s fine.” You’re just the most high-maintenance lay I’ve ever had to deal with. “Can I wash my hands now?”

Will nods and then smiles. Nico is taken aback how good it looks on him. Smiles and Nico tended not to get along, but Will smiled as if he had been doing it his whole life.

He probably had, he thinks. Most people do.

Before he opens the bathroom door he turns back around. “You didn’t spit in my food, did you?”

Will laughs. “Please. I’m a professional, di Angelo.”

He likes the way his name sounds, coming from Will.

Cool it, Nico, he tells himself.

When he gets back to the table Hazel is giving him a dirty look.

“What?”

“You were gone a long time.”

“Um.”

“How did you know that guy?”

He shoots a glance over at Frank, who is leaning back and shaking his head in a gesture Nico interprets as don’t push her, she’s mad.

He decides he definitely likes Frank, after all.

“I told you. I've seen him around –”

Nico.”

“All right! I’m sorry! But can you blame me?”

Hazel shrugs. “I guess he was pretty cute –”

“I meant,” he says through gritted teeth, desperately not wanting to have this conversation with his sister and her boyfriend. “Can you blame me for lying to you?”

“I thought you told me you were going to stop doing this?”

“I have! Honestly! Ask Jason.” He rubs a hand across his face. “Jesus Christ, Hazel. Just because you settled down doesn’t mean everyone else has to.”

“I’m not asking you to settle down, I’m asking you to stop having sex with strangers.”

Nico sighs. “Listen, can we – can we not have this conversation right now? It’s Frank’s birthday. You don’t want to ruin Frank’s birthday.”

“It’s okay, really –” He shoots Frank a glare.

Nico is saved from furthering the conversation by the arrival of their food. Will puts the plate down in front of him and smiles. Nico nods awkwardly.

Hazel is paying much closer attention to him than she had earlier. Will seems to notice this because he asks, “Is there anything else I can get you?” Nico glares at her so fiercely he’s afraid he might set her on fire.

“No,” she says, smiling. “Sorry.”

They eat mostly in silence. Frank tries to make conversation, and Nico tries to answer, partly because he does truly want to get closer to him and partly as a way to get back on Hazel’s good side. Nico can’t help but feel a little guilty for ruining his birthday, but in his defence, he had tried his hardest to stop it from happening.

Right before desert, the singing starts.

Frank is severely blushing, and so, for that matter, is Nico, when he catches sight of Will, who is leading the group of singing waiters. He’s quite good, Nico can’t help but think. They put a piece of cake down in front of Frank, who mutters, “I told you not to do this,” but he can’t hide the little smile on his face. He catches Hazel’s eye.

Truce? He mouths. She nods.

When the bill comes around Hazel grabs it before anyone can. Frank tries to disagree but Hazel refuses. “Besides,” she says, with a slight smirk. “This is Dad’s card.”

Sometimes it’s not so hard to see that they’re related.

When it comes to the part to input the tip amount, Hazel looks at him with a glint in her eye. “Nico probably tipped him enough already, if you think about it.”

The tips of Nico’s ears turn bright red and he slumps in his seat. “Hazel!”

She cackles in a way Nico can only describe as evilly.


When he gets home Jason, Piper and Leo are all sitting on the (far too small) couch. Leo was another high school friend; he called himself Third Wheel the First.

“How was dinner?” Jason asks.

“Good,” he says, not really in the mood to mention what had happened. He tries to tell himself he’s just being naturally secretive, but for some reason he doesn’t want to talk about Will with everyone else. Partly because he doesn’t want to listen to their theories of fate and the universe and partly because he wants to keep him a secret, which is ridiculous, since they already knew.

“Percy called,” Leo says. “Did you know his kid is a –”

“Prodigy, so I heard at six fucking thirty this morning.”

“He called you at 6:30?”

Nico grabs a bottle of juice from the fridge. “He wanted me to wake you up, be thankful that I didn’t.”

Jason was the only other person who knew about the whole Percy fiasco, and so Nico firmly avoids his eye. He turns around to look at three crowded on the couch and sighs. “We really need a new couch,” he says.

Leo pats his lap. “We can double up, di Angelo. The two third wheels becoming one, uber powerful wheel.”

Nico rolls his eyes. “You’re not my type, Valdez, but I appreciate the offer.” Instead he takes a seat on the ground, leaning back against the couch, Jason’s legs beside him.

“Did you hear the Stoll’s are throwing another party tomorrow? They’re fucking crazy. I’m still hungover.”

Jason nudges him with his leg and smirks down at him. “Gonna go, Nico?”

Nico resists the urge to punch him. “I told Percy and Annabeth I’d head over and help out.”

“Annabeth getting overwhelmed over first time motherhood?”

“I think Annabeth is fine, it’s Percy I’m worried about.”

Piper and Jason laugh, while Leo asks, “How did you get roped into baby duty?”

“I,” didn’t, is the answer. Percy asked and he said yes because that was how he worked and he hated himself because of it. “I don’t know. Just kind of happened that way.”

“Your loss,” Leo says. Nico shrugs. A part of him much larger than he likes to acknowledge can’t help but think that it isn’t, really.

He is 21 years old and it is his third year of college and he should be enjoying it, revelling in it, taking advantage of the Stoll brothers’ wild side, not staying up all night to help the (married, straight) guy he’s had a thing for for ten years raise his three month old.

But here he is.

Jason kicks him lightly; Nico knows he’s asking if he’s okay. Truthfully Nico isn’t sure. His life now was infinitely better than it had been, even before Bianca died, but he still feels like there’s a part of him missing. He thinks he probably left it behind in the hospital, when he saw his sister for the last time; some integral part of him that is buried with his sister, his childhood and his happiness and his father’s smile all lost in the ground beside her.

The problem is that Nico might be okay, truthfully, but he doesn’t know what that even entails. The problem is that he very well might not be, but he doesn’t know what that means, either. He doesn’t know if he’s the way he is because that’s how he’s always been or if he’s the way he is because there’s something fundamentally wrong with his brain.

He taps Jason lightly on the foot.

I’m as okay as I ever am.

Chapter Text

The Jackson-Chase household was a fucking mess.

Motherhood looked very good on Annabeth. Her hair was pulled up into a messy bun and she was wearing a pair of sweatpants and what looked like Percy’s shirt. Allison was on her hip, and Annabeth was walking around the room, bouncing up and down. Nico thinks she might be singing.

The same cannot be said of Percy.

Nico has zero doubts that Percy will be a good dad. The problem is that Percy did not share that belief.

When Annabeth told him she was pregnant he had showed up at Nico’s door with such a terrified expression on his face Nico had honestly believed he had killed somebody and wanted Nico to help him hide the body.

“Annabeth’s pregnant,” he had said, before throwing up on Nico’s feet.

A year later and Percy hasn’t quite lost that look of absolute terror. When he opens the door he grins at Nico.

“Welcome to hell,” he says. Nico squeezes in past him.

“Don’t let Annabeth hear you saying that.”

“She bit me the other day,” he says, sounding much happier than anyone really should when saying those words.

“Annabeth or Allison?”

Percy laughs and shoves Nico forwards. “Allison, idiot.”

Nico barely gets in the door before Percy's huge rottweiler jumps on him, almost knocking him over. "Down, Mrs. O'Leary, you crazy mutt." Her tail wags happily as Mrs. O'Leary slobbers on him. "Is she fine around Allison?"

"Are you kidding me? She sleeps by her crib every night. I went into change her one morning and Mrs. O'Leary almost attacked me. My three month old as a huge, slobbery body guard."

“Hi, Annabeth,” he says, walking into what used to be their family room but is now an entire Toys ‘R’ Us. Annabeth smiles. Nico walks over to her and lightly taps Allison on the nose. “You need to tell your father to stop calling me at all hours of the night to talk about how wonderful you are.”

Percy takes his daughter out of Annabeth’s arms and holds her face to face with Nico. “But Uncle Nico, I am wonderful.”

Nico looks around the tiny human unceremoniously shoved in his face and raises his eyebrows at Annabeth. “I can’t believe you decided that this man was the one you wanted to father your children.”

Annabeth laughs while Percy turns Allison around and pouts at her.

“Do you hear how mean they are to me?”

Allison throws up. Nico doesn’t know whether to laugh or gag.

Percy groans, gives Allison to Nico, and runs into the bathroom, Annabeth following after with a smirk on her face.

Nico looks at the child in his arms. “You and me are going to get along well, I think.”

Nico is, oddly enough, really good with children. Nico intimidated most grown men but children all loved him, and he loved Allison. Secretly he agreed with everything Percy ever said – she was the most beautiful child who had ever lived. He sits on the couch and balances her on his lap, making funny faces and silly noises. When he looks up Percy is leaning against the wall, smiling at him. Nico’s heart flips.

“How’s school?” He asks, flopping down on the couch next to him.

“I have three essays due and a midterm next week.”

“I have a newborn.”

“Point taken.”

They sit in silence again; Nico keeps making funny faces at Allison when he’s certain Percy isn’t looking.

“Everyone misses you, you know,” he finally says. Percy sighs.

“I know. I keep saying to Annabeth, let’s take a night off and go see everybody but things just get so hectic and we just… forget.”

“Still. I know your mom would love to babysit. Annabeth’s probably would, too.”

Percy grimaces. “Please. She would probably kidnap Allison and refuse to give her back until Annabeth divorces me.”

Nico laughs. Annabeth’s mother still doesn’t like Percy, but Nico had known Sally Jackson for years – she loved Annabeth, and Nico, and pretty much everyone, and was one of the nicest people Nico had ever met.

“Think about it, though. You deserve a break.”

Percy grins at him. “No kidding. I don’t think I’ve slept in two years.”

“Your child is three months old. How is it that you complain more than your wife?”

“Annabeth’s always been tougher than me.”

“Annabeth’s always been tougher than all of us.”

Nico ends up on the floor playing with Allison while Annabeth and Percy collapse on each other and do absolutely nothing for about an hour. Neither of them were quite at the point where they were comfortable leaving her with a babysitter, but they had reached the point where it was all right for someone else to deal with her while they passed out in the same room.

And Nico thought college was hard work.

When an awful smell starts emanating from Allison’s bottom Nico stares at her in disgust and then looks at Percy and Annabeth fast asleep on the couch. Sighing heavily, he picks Allison up and goes looking for diapers.

“I’ve never changed a kid before, you’re gonna have to help me out,” he mutters to the child in his arms as he rummages through the baby’s room. He looks for a long time before admitting defeat and going to wake up Annabeth.

“Annabeth. Your kid stinks and I don’t know where the diapers are.”

She tries to get up but he pushes her back down. “Just tell me where the diapers are, I can figure the rest out.”

The smile she gives him is so grateful it makes him feel guilty that he’s been in love with her husband for so long.

“Pink bag. Near her crib.”

“I checked there. There was nothing.”

She nudges Percy in the ribs. “Percy. Where did you put her diapers?”

“What diapers?”

“The ones I asked you to pick up yesterday.”

Percy opens his eyes. “Oh! Those ones. They’re at the store. On the shelf. Still.”

“Percy! I asked you to do one thing.”

“I’m sorry!”

And that is how Nico finds himself at the drug store at seven o clock on a Friday night, standing in the aisle and wondering why the fuck there are so many different kinds of diapers.

A noise at the end of the aisle causes him to turn and – you’ve got to be kidding me.

If Nico believed in fate, he would be cursing it right now. As it was, he was debating looking into restraining orders.

Just leave the aisle and come back when he leaves, is what his brain says to do, but for some reason what ends up happening is he opens his mouth and says, “You’re stalking me, aren’t you?”

Will turns around, spots him, and smiles. “I work at these places, di Angelo. That means you’re stalking me.”

“You have two jobs?”

Will shrugs. “College is expensive. And I still have med school.”

Med school. “How ambitious.”

He notices where exactly Nico is standing. “Diapers?”

For some reason, Nico is embarrassed. “My friends ran out.”

“Did they run out for their child or did they run out for themselves?”

Nico makes a face. “Their child. Gross.”

“I’m pre-med, di Angelo. I don’t judge. Everyone shits themselves at some point.”

“Charming.” Then he looks back at the shelves of diapers. “I didn’t know there were so many. They forgot tell me which kind.” Nico sighs. “Hang on.”

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and calls Percy. “What diapers am I supposed to get?”

“The kind you can shit in.”

“I cannot believe you were allowed to reproduce put Annabeth on the phone now.”

He hears Percy laughing. While he’s waiting for Annabeth he turns to Will, who is still stocking shelves. “He said the kind you can shit in,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“Well he’s not wrong.”

Nico glares.

“Hi, Nico. Are you in the diapers aisle?”

“Yes.”

“Facing them straight on?”

He turns slightly. “Um. Yes.”

“Third row down, near the end of the aisle. Blue and yellow packaging. There’s a picture of a baby with a vaguely vacant expression on its face.”

“Vaguely vacant expression,” he repeats, smirking a little as he follows her instructions, which conveniently lead him closer to Will. He’s really lucky he doesn’t believe in fate, he thinks, because if he did he might have to start figuring out what this all meant.

“They’re Pampers.”

“Yeah, okay, I got it. Pampers, blue and yellow, vaguely confused looking child on the front. How many do you want me to pick up?”

“How many are there?”

Nico laughs under his breath. “Okay. Sure.”

“Thanks, Nico. If the money I gave you doesn’t cover it then I’ll pay you the rest when you get back.”

“No problem.”

Nico puts his phone back in his pocket and surveys the shelves in front of him. Then he turns back to Will.

“Approximately how many packages of diapers do you think you can carry, pre-med?”

Will laughs. It is loud in the quiet of the aisle. “We have baskets, you know.”

“Probably a better idea.” Nico walks past him to the front of the store, trying to ignore how nice he smells. He comes back and starts throwing diapers in. Fuck, they’re expensive. Babies are expensive.

“How old?” Will asks.

“Um. 21?”

He snorts. “I meant their kid.”

“Oh.” The tips of Nico’s ears are on fire. “Three months.”

Will smiles. Nico thinks he might be laughing at him, but for some reason he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Are you, like… uncle?”

Nico opens his mouth to respond when his phone rings again. “Hello?”

“Percy wants to know if you can pick him up a bag of Cheetos.”

Nico shakes his head. “Yes, I can get your stupid husband Cheetos.”

“He’s blowing kisses at the phone,” Annabeth says, humour in her voice. Nico’s heart constricts and his cheeks burn.

“Yeah, yeah,” is all he says.

“Aisle six,” Will says when he hangs up. “Cheetos.”

Nico rubs his eye. “Thank you.”

Will holds out his hand. Nico stares at it in confusion. “Give me your basket. I’ll check you out.”

Nico smirks as he hands him the basket. “I think we’re past that stage.”

Will makes a few incoherent sounds that might be attempted sentences and then hurries away.

Nico stands and debates for a little over a minute whether Percy liked the puffy or the crunchy Cheetos before deciding to just get both.

When he gets to the cash Will is waiting for him. “Get lost, di Angelo?”

Nico is just about to say some snitty reply when he stops, looks at Will, and grins at him. Will looks very taken aback, which Nico doesn’t blame him for – not many people get to see him grin, and he can’t say it looks very natural.

“You don’t remember my name, do you?”

“Of course I do. Di Angelo.”

Nico is shaking his head. “No, you found that out at the clinic. You don’t remember my name. That’s why you keep calling me by my last name. That’s the only one you know.”

Will flounders for a few moments before straightening up and looking him in the eye. “Do you remember my name?”

“Will,” he answers immediately.

“I have name tags. You didn’t remember my name either, admit it.”

Nico does something he hadn’t really let himself do up until now and looks the other boy straight in the face. Will meets his eyes but looks away soon after, the red hue that had been on his cheeks for almost the entirety of the conversation spreading down to his neck. Nico remembers sucking on that neck; he remembers those eyes, looking down on him, pushing him up against the wall of the Stoll brothers’ apartment.

He remembers the breathless name gasped out in the middle of a messy kiss.

“Solace. Will Solace.”

Will scowls and takes the Cheetos from Nico’s hand. “Fine, fine. I admit defeat. What’s your name?”

Nico shakes his head. “That’s not nearly as fun,” he says, smirking at the debit machine. When he looks up Will is staring at him, the corner of his mouth turned up in a smile.

“Fair enough,” he says. Nico is just about to take the receipt when his phone rings.

“I’m getting a new number,” he mutters as he accepts the call. “Yes?”

“Did you remember the Cheetos?”

“Yes, Percy, I remembered the Cheetos.”

“Which kind did you get?”

“I didn’t know what kind you liked, I bought both.”

“You are a goddamn saint, Nico.”

He really, really wished his heart would stop acting like a fucking high schooler every time Percy said shit like that.

“Don’t I know it. Stop fucking calling me, I’ll be there soon.”

When he hangs up Will is holding the bags out to him. “Receipt’s in the bag.”

“Thank you.” He takes it and is about to leave without another thought when he stops and says, “I’ll probably see you again, since you’re stalking me.”

There’s that laugh again. “Count on it.”

Then he turns around and heads back to Percy Jackson.


When Annabeth opens the door her eyes widen.

“That is… a lot of diapers.”

“Right kind, I hope?”

She nods. “You’re a life saver. I should have married you.”

“You’re not exactly my type,” he says. Annabeth laughs.

Percy emerges hopefully and Nico throws the Cheetos at him.

“God bless you, Nico di Angelo.”

Nico rolls his eyes, his constant defense against Percy Jackson.

“How much do we owe you?” Annabeth asks.

“Receipt’s in the bag.” He is suddenly conscious of the sheer amount of diapers he had bought. “You don’t have to pay me for all of them. I bought a lot. It can be like, an early birthday present.”

“You were going to get our daughter diapers for her birthday?” Percy asks, orange Cheetos dust on his fingers and his mouth. Nico resists the urge to reach out and wipe it off.

“I was going to get you diapers for your birthday, actually.”

Percy throws a Cheeto at him. Annabeth laughs. Mrs. O'Leary appears suddenly as if she had been hiding in the shadows and eats it before anyone gets a chance to pick it up.

“Don’t worry, Nico. This is the perfect amount. Besides, Percy usually ruins at least one during each changing.”

“Well gee, sorry if I’m a first time father.”

Annabeth fishes the receipt out, looks at it, and then looks back up at Nico with her eyebrows raised.

“Hey Nico? Why is there a phone number on this receipt?”

“What?”

Annabeth, smiling smugly, holds the receipt out for him to see. Sure enough, in messy scrawl (doctor’s writing, he thinks bitterly) is a phone number.

“Idiot,” he mutters.

Percy grabs the receipt out of Annabeth’s hand.

“My daughter was sitting in shitty diapers and you were flirting with the cashier?” Then he grins. “Nice work, di Angelo.”

“I wasn’t flirting with the cashier, we had already –” he stops, paling. Percy is looking at him bizarrely. Annabeth just looks amused.

“You fucked some dude and you didn’t even get his number after?”

“Why does nobody understand the basic concept of a one-night stand?”

“Why did you not tell me?”

“Because –” I still wish they were you – “You’re all married and shit. You’re not going to want to hear about my slutty college years.”

“Of course I want to hear about your slutty college years! I didn’t get slutty college years!”

Nico raises his eyebrows at Percy, who sees to know immediately what he had said wrong. “Not that I wanted them!” He shouts. Annabeth just lets out an mmm-hmm and takes a bag of diapers into the baby’s room.

“Nice one, Jackson.”

“I’m serious. You don’t have to like… hide shit from me because you think I’m all married and sophisticated now.”

“Trust me, I do not think that you are sophisticated.”

Percy flips him off. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure. Whatever.”

“Don’t whatever me, dude. I’m serious.”

Nico scowls. “Yes Percy, I promise next time I have sex with some stranger that I will call you up immediately and tell you all the gritty details.”

“I fully expect you to.”

“You are impossible.”

“Says the king of being impossible.”

Nico glares. Percy crosses his arms and glares right back.

“Fine,” Nico eventually mutters. “I will tell you more shit.”

Percy smiles, big and bright and blinding. “Great! Cheetos?”

Nico bites his cheek to stop from smiling.


He gets home later than he had intended. Jason is not there when he arrives; Nico wonders if he had ended up going to that party after all. He goes to his bedroom and takes his phone out of his pocket, staring at it for a few minutes, before fishing the crumpled up receipt out of his other pocket and inputting the number.

What the hell, he thinks.

To: Will Solace

(11:43) Smooth, Solace. Did you learn that from a John Hughes movie?

Then he sits back and definitely does not wait for a reply. He tries to convince himself he’s not upset when half an hour passes and he doesn’t get one.

Not everyone sits on their phone like you do, di Angelo, he thinks bitterly. He plugs in, turns off the lights, and sleeps restlessly, the bluest eyes he’s ever seen fighting against the greenest eyes he’s ever seen.

Chapter Text

When he wakes up there’s a text waiting for him.

From: Will Solace

(6:24) Sorry. I was on store closing duty. Then I was on sleeping duty.

(6:24) I thought it was pretty smooth, though

The only thing Nico can think to reply is

To: Will Solace

(11:38) Why the fuck are you awake at 630 on a Saturday

The reply comes shortly after.

From: Will Solace

(11:40) I like mornings. I find it hard to sleep when the sun is up

To: Will Solace

(11:42) sorry, I’m morally against morning people. Enjoy life, pre-med

He nods at Jason on the couch and pours himself a bowl of cereal, sitting down at the table, facing the television. “What is it with you and The Golden Girls?”

“It’s a good show. How was your night?”

Nico shrugs. “Allison threw up on Percy. I had to go on an emergency diaper run. Normal shit.”

Jason nods. “How are you today?” He asks casually, still looking at the television.

Nico rolls his eyes. “Be more transparent, Grace, I dare you.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I’m fine. Fine.”

“Okay, okay! Just checking.”

From: Will Solace

(11:45) is that why you always look like a vampire

Nico stares at his phone in utter dismay.

To: Will Solace

(11:45) I do NOT

From: Will Solace

(11:46) I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear colour

(11:46) and if you’re one of those people who say that black is a colour I will kill you

To: Will Solace

(11:47) isn’t that against the doctor’s moral code

(11:47) also the law

From: Will Solace

(11:48) I’m not a doctor yet

“Who are you texting?” Jason asks, staring back at Nico. “I am missing a very important moment in this episode because your phone won’t shut up.”

“Spoiler alert: they all die.”

“Betty White isn’t dead yet.”

“Technicalities.”

“You’re avoiding all of my questions today.”

“That’s because all of your questions are annoying.”

Nico pours out the rest of the milk and leaves the bowl in the sink, partly because he’s too lazy to clean it and partly because it always annoys Jason. When he turns back Jason is still staring at him.

“You’re still avoiding my question.”

Nico sighs and sits down next to him on the couch. “Fine. I may have run into Mr. Golden Sun last night when I was buying diapers.”

Jason sits up straight. “May have?”

“Okay, I did. And then he wrote his number on the receipt. And now he won’t stop texting me.”

“Don’t act all cool and aloof, Nico, I see you texting back at the exact same speed you are getting messages. Did you find out his name?”

“I already knew his name.”

Jason gives him the patented cut the shit di Angelo look. “Did you remember his name, then?”

“Yes.”

Jason waits. When Nico doesn’t elaborate he breathes angrily through his nose. “Do you enjoy being difficult?”

“Kind of. His name’s Will Solace.”

From: Will Solace

(11:51) It’s official: you have been named vampire boy in my phone

To: Will Solace

(11:52) I am not a vampire

From: Will Solace

(11:52) then tell me your name

“You are SMILING AT YOUR PHONE.”

“Fuck off, Jason, I am not.”

“You are, I am taking a picture of this, I am documenting this.”

“I will punch you in the – Jason!”

A flash goes off right in Nico’s face. Jason laughs. “I’m going to put this in a scrapbook and title it ‘Nico di Angelo is secretly a mushy romantic’.”

“Next to a picture of your decapitated head titled ‘this is what happens when you piss off Nico di Angelo’.”

“Nice try, but how can I be afraid of such a sweetheart like yourself?”

Nico whips a pillow at his head.

To: Will Solace

(11:54) nice try. That wasn’t quite as smooth as your receipt trick

From: Will Solace

(11:55) every time you text me I get a little notification saying ‘vampire boy’

To: Will Solace

(11:56) I’m taking an educated guess that you don’t like being called William and from now on will only call you that until you stop calling me vampire boy

From: Will Solace

(11:57) DO NOT CALL ME WILLIAM

(11:57) THAT’S NOT FAIR I DON’T KNOW YOUR NAME

To: William

(11:59) It’s official you are now William

“Would you stop looking at me?”

“You’re blushing.”

“No I’m not.”

You ARE can I call Piper? Please?”

Nico fixes Jason with his best glare. “If you breathe a word of this I will take that ring out of my sock drawer and give it to her myself.”

“Fine, I call truce!” Jason stands up and pats Nico on the top of the head. “When do I get to meet him again?”

“Are you leaving soon? Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

Jason grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge. “I will be back and I will be asking questions.”

“I can’t promise I’ll be here.”

Jason laughs and waves. “Oh, I asked Leo to take a look at the remote, so he might be over at some point.”

Nico groans. “Can’t you just get up to change the channel?”

“What’s the harm in letting him look at it?”

Nico stares at him. “I have no issue letting Leo fix our remote so that it will change the channel. What I’m concerned about is that he’s going to try to make it turn the oven on, too.”

Jason nods. “Fair point. Just… watch him. Unless you’ll be too busy looking at your phone?”

“GOODBYE, Jason.”

From: William

(12:03) I’m gonna look you up

(12:03) would that be cheating

To: William

(12:04) yes and also you only know my last name

From: William

(12:06) how many di angelo’s can there really be

To: William

(12:07) clearly you’ve never been to Italy

From: William

(12:08) have you???

From: Jason

(12:09) hi

To: Jason

(12:10) yeah, a few times. My dad’s from there

From: Jason

(12:11) YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT WAS ME. THAT WAS A TEST. THAT WAS A TEST AND YOU WERE SO ENGROSSED THAT YOU DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE

To: Jason

(12:12) I AM MOVING OUT

Nico glares at his phone and then double checks to make sure he’s actually texting Will. He resends what he had said to Jason.

From: William

(12:14) so do you actually speak Italian?

To: William

(12:15) yes

Yawning, Nico drags himself back to his bedroom and opens his laptop. He stares at the assignment in question for a couple minutes before even opening up Microsoft Word.

From: William

(12:18) oh

(12:18) that’s uh

(12:19) oh

(12:19) ok. yeah

Nico stares at his phone screen for so long that it turns off on him.

To: William

(12:21) I guess I’ll save that talent for the next rainy day

From: William

(12:25) I think it’s supposed to rain tomorrow

Nico laughs aloud.

He is able to spit out a few introductory sentences before his phone goes off again.

From: William

(12:38) sorry

(12:38) I shouldn’t have said that

Nico checks his phone and swears.

To: William

(12:39) fuck no I’m sorry

(12:39) I’m trying to write an essay

(12:40) I got distracted by my utter lack of motivation

From: William

(12:41) ok good. I was worried I had like. Idk. Scared you away

To: William

(12:43) no offence or anything but I’ve already seen you naked. It’s going to take more than a few dirty jokes to scare me away

From: William

(12:45) is that a challenge?

Raising his eyebrows at his phone, Nico replies.

To: William

(12:46) are you saying you’re trying to scare me away?

From: William

(12:48) NO god I am so bad at this I told you that already

(12:48) I meant like. Idk. Something about dirty jokes??

(12:49) I SAID I WAS BAD AT THIS

(12:50) I’m not good at flirting ok

To: William

(12:52) dude we’ve already fucked

(12:53) relax

From: William

(12:55) yes Will think about the hot Italian guy you fooled around with one night when you were drunk that should totally calm you down

(12:56) I have work soon though. When I’m done I’m gonna figure out your name

Nico stares at his phone for a few moments, debating whether he should really say what he wants to, until he decides that, what the hell. He can imagine the blush spreading across Will’s face when he reads it and that gives him the push to press send.

To: William

(12:59) you said it a lot last weekend. Quite loudly. I’m sure you’ll remember

From: William

(1:03) I AM GOING TO IGNORE THAT  

Nico gets about a page and a half written when he hears a knock.

He opens the door. “I thought Jason gave you a key.”

Leo salutes him and walks inside. “He did. It’s somewhere.”

Nico rolls his eyes. Leo picks up the television remote and starts looking at it.

“Look, okay – all we need is a working television remote. We don’t need it to turn on the oven. We don’t need it to talk. It just needs to change the channel.

Leo smiles. “Please, di Angelo. Would I ever give you something you didn’t need?”

Nico doesn’t answer, just glares at him. Then he says, “I’m working on an essay. Please, Leo, just… just change the channel.”

Leo winks at him. Feeling not at all reassured, Nico returns to his bedroom.

A few minutes later and his phone goes off again. Nico exhales angrily. He’s never going to get this fucking essay done.

From: Percy

(1:49) did you text him?

To: Percy

(1:50) why is everyone so interested in my love life?

From: Percy

(1:52) so it’s love then??

To: Percy

(1:53) jesus christ, SEX LIFE, whatever

From: Percy

(1:54) so did you text him or not?

Nico strongly resists the urge to bang his head on the desk.

To: Percy

(1:56) yes. I texted him. Leave me alone.

From: Percy

(1:59) ahahahahahahahahahahaha you’re in love

Nico ignores the irony of that and tries to focus on his essay.                           

From: Percy

(2:01) tell Jason I call dibs on best man

(2:02) nvm I’ll tell him myself

To: Percy

(2:03) I SWEAR TO GOD JACKSON

From: Percy

(2:04) <3

Nico tries to think of what, exactly, he can say to that before admitting defeat and just ignoring it. He throws his phone behind him on his bed to avoid more distractions and nosy friends. He works a bit more until he finally hears Leo call his name.

“Okay, I know you told me not to do anything funky –”

Leo –”

“Relax, relax! It’s nothing major. Watch.” Leo points the remote at the television and changes the channel. Nico steels himself for whatever the hell else Leo decided to tamper with.

“Okay, now watch this.” Then he points the remote in the direction of the light switch (which, Nico notices, is new and far more advanced looking than it had been when he started his essay). Leo presses a button and grins excitedly at Nico as the lights dim.

“Admit it,” Leo says. “That’s pretty damn cool.”

Nico sighs. “I guess it could come in handy.”

Leo lets out a whoop. “That, in Nico language, means thanks Leo, you’re my hero.”

“As someone fluent in Nico language, I have to disagree.”

Leo winks.

Nico gets about half of one essay done and the intro and conclusion to a second one started before he decides to take a break. Checking his phone for the first time in a couple hours, he sees a bunch of texts from Jason.

From: Jason

(2:30) dude there’s no way Percy gets to be best man

(2:31) I don’t want to have to play this card but I did protect your ass all through high school

(2:32) pretty sure I am owed best man

(2:38) dude I was just kidding

(2:40) Nico?

Why is everyone I know such high fucking maintenance, he thinks as he responds.

To: Jason

(4:13) I was writing an essay

(4:14) sorry

(4:14) also we can now turn our lights on with our television remote

From: Jason

(4:22) NICE

(4:23) I’m bringing home Chinese

To: Jason

(4:24) even nicer

Jason gets home about twenty minutes later with two huge bags of Chinese food. Nico stares at him.

“How the hell are we supposed to eat all of this?”

“You’re not,” Annabeth appears behind Jason, Percy just behind her.

“Hi,” he says, surprised.  

“We decided you were right,” Percy says, helping Jason unpack the paper bags. “My mother is watching Ally for a few hours. Annabeth is a wreck, mind you. She’s phoned my mother four times in the past hour.”

“So,” Jason says a few minutes later, voice sounding far too innocent. “Have you decided who gets to be best man?”

Nico concentrates firmly on the food in front of him. “I am not getting married.”

“Not yet, at least.”

Nico smacks him on the back of the head. Percy grins. “I cite seniority,” he says.

Nico puts his head down on the table and groans.

Annabeth sits down next to him and laughs. Nico lifts his head and looks at her. “You can be my best man,” he says. Annabeth grins.

“I’ll hold you to that.”

From: William

(6:13) okay, I think I remember

(6:14) it’s almost like a girl’s name

Before Nico even knows what’s happening, Jason’s hand snaps out and grabs Nico’s phone.

“I should ask him which one of us will be best man.”

“You should burn in hell for all eternity.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say to your best man.”

“Give me my phone, Grace, or I will throw that ring in the lake, don’t think I won’t do it.”

Annabeth raises an eyebrow at Jason. “You still haven’t asked her to marry you?”

“It hasn’t been the right time!” Jason says, Nico mouthing the words behind his back at Percy, who smirks. “That’s not important, we were talking about Nico.”

“No we were not.”

Percy shovels rice into his mouth, before resting his chin on his hand. “So. What’s he look like?”

Nico ignores him, but Jason does not. “He’s cute. Blond. Really nice eyes.”

Nico gapes at him.

“How do you know?” Annabeth asks, with a little smile.

“I got the pleasure of seeing him walk out of Nico’s room at six in the morning.”

Percy wolf-whistles and Nico turns a very unflattering shade of red.

“I hate all of you.”

Jason slides his phone across the table to him and grins when Nico immediately texts back.

To: William

(6:20) it’s not a girl’s name

(6:20) I thought you were at work

From: William

(6:22) which is why I said ALMOST

(6:22) and for your information, Mr. Nosy, I am at work

“What’s he saying?”

Nico glares at Percy. “I’m asking him to get together bail money for when I’m accused of murdering my two closest friends.”

From: William

(6:23) I’m going to keep calling you vampire boy unless you tell me

“You would miss us too much,” Jason says with a grin.

“I beg to differ.”

To: William

(6:25) stuff it, William. And stop texting at work

“So when do we get to meet him?”

“Never.”

Percy throws a plastic fork at his head.

From: William

(6:27) If I guess

(6:27) can I see you again?

Nico stares at his phone screen.

“What’d he say?”

“Nothing.”

To: William

(6:30) you don’t have to guess my name to see me again

“You’re blushing.”

“Fuck off.”

There is real anger in his voice. Percy takes a step back and exchanges a glance with Jason.

“Sorry, I just… sorry.”

Nico feels immediately guilty. He sighs and shoves his phone in his pocket.

“Never mind. Let’s just drop it.”

And with that, the conversation is over.

Chapter Text

The next day Jason knocks on his door.

“Can I talk to you?”

Nico looks up from the book he was reading to see Jason standing in his doorway, looking nervous.

“Yeah.”

Jason sits on the chair at Nico’s desk and swivels it around to face him.

“Promise me you won’t get mad and distance yourself from us.” The again at the end of that sentence is unspoken, but still present.

“Okay.”

Jason takes a deep breath. “I’m worried that the… the way you feel about Percy is – is interfering.”

Nico swallows. “With what?”

“Look, I don’t know if this dude would actually be good for you, but he at the very least seems interested in you, but you just seem really… blocked off. Like you used to be with everyone. And I’m worried you’re doing that because you’re still… holding onto the Percy thing.”

Nico doesn’t say anything, just stares.

“All I’m saying is, I want you to be… happy. And you can’t be if you keep holding onto this.”

“Jason –”

“You promised you wouldn’t get mad.”

Nico sighs.

“I’m your best friend, Nico. I think you forget that sometimes.”

He wants to tell Jason to fuck off. Or he wants to agree and then keep everything inside of himself, never trust anyone again. He wants to revert back to how he was.

Bianca would have liked Jason, he thinks.

“I know.”

Jason smiles, and for some reason he is brought back, years and years and years, a scared teenager looking at an outstretched hand in front of him.

“Let’s go out somewhere. You and me.”

His first instinct is to say no, but he quells it, forces it down. “Okay. Sure. Where?”

Jason shrugs. “Dunno. Apollo’s is good. Great Greek food.”

Nico glares. Apollo’s is where Will works. “Did Hazel talk to you?”

Jason looks confused. “No. Why?”

Shit. “No reason.”

But Jason is staring at him with the beginnings of a smile stretching across his face. “Why?”

Shit. “No reason, I just… don’t like Greek food.”

“That’s a damn lie and you know it, di Angelo. Why don’t you want to –” He stops, then, and the smile spreads into an outright grin. “He works there doesn’t he?”

“No.”

“He does, he works there.”

“He does not.” Nico is biting the inside of his cheek, because he’s fighting the urge to laugh. Traitor fucking laugh reflex. Always disobeying him around Jason Grace.

“Okay, that’s decided, let’s go.”

“He’s not – he’s not working today.”

“You are so bad at lying to me.”

Nico is starting to consider maybe believing in fate, but he decides that if it does exist, it definitely hates him.

“I’m not hungry. I’m still full from the Chinese food yesterday.”

Jason, rather unfairly using his strength against Nico, all but lifts him off the bed.

“Come on, Nico. Put on your nicest shirt and let’s go.”

“You’re just doing this to annoy me.”

“Partly, but I wasn’t kidding about the food. It’s fantastic.”

Grumbling, Nico tugs his shoes on. Jason locks the door and they set off. Apollo’s is within walking distance from their apartment, which is why they went there so often. It’s kind of surprising, really, that he hadn’t noticed Will before. That’s how life worked; you see someone once and then you realize you’ve crossed their path a hundred times before. Nico shoves his hands in his pockets and glares at the sidewalk.

“Stop pretending to be miserable, Nico.”

“Who says I’m pretending?”

“Because I know you.”

Nico shakes his head, but he smiles.

“You know – never mind.”

Nico looks over at him. “What?”

Jason sighs. “You know you’re allowed to be happy, right? You don’t have to fight to be miserable all the time.”

“I don’t –”

“It’s just you kind of have this habit of… holding onto things. Long past when you should have let them go. You have to let things go.”

Face burning, Nico says, snapping, “If you expect me to –”

But Jason holds up his hand. “I know what you’re going to say, Nico, but I don’t mean that. But there are healthy ways to mourn. I’m not saying let go of her, but it’s like… it’s like the whole Percy thing. You know that nothing is going to come of it, but you hold on to it and you… you have sex with all these strangers but you won’t actually date any of them because you’re holding onto that. And your sister… sometimes I get the feeling that being happy makes you feel guilty. It’s like you feel like you shouldn’t be because of – because of Bianca. I know she was the most important person in your life but being happy won’t mean you love her any less.”

Nico stares at the ground. “We’re here,” he says eventually. Jason wraps an arm around his shoulder and squeezes.

“You have people who love you, okay? And I know it’s cliché but you know she would have wanted you to be happy. From the little amount you told me about her I know she cared about you more than anything.”

Talking about Bianca always made him want to cry, so he takes a steadying breath and tries to smile. “I know.”

“We good?”

“Yeah.”

“Does that mean I get a hug?”

“What is with you and hugging?”

“We had a moment! We haven’t had a moment in so long! That deserves a hug!”

Nico lets out a sigh far more beleaguered than the situation really deserves. “Fine.”

Jason pulls him into a bone crushing hug before entering the restaurant. Nico rolls his eyes, following after.

When the hostess asks if they would prefer a booth or a table Jason says booth, before saying, much to Nico’s dismay, “Would it be possible to sit in Will Solace’s section?”

“Jason.”

With a smile, the woman nods. Not for the first time, Nico wishes he had the ability to open up the ground and have it swallow him whole.

“I hate you, I’m leaving –”

“He says, walking further into the restaurant.”

“Jason!”

“You said you were going to stop letting things interfere.”

“I 100% did not say that, if I recall I didn’t say anything.”

“Nico.” He looks at him seriously from across the booth. “You’re allowed to be happy. Remember?”

“I am not happy right now, I am the exact opposite of happy –”

“You’re really not trying to disprove the stalking theory, are you?”

Nico kicks Jason under the table. Jason kicks him right back, before giving Will his biggest smile.

“Hi. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m –”

“Dead,” Nico says, at the same time that Will says, “Roommate. I know.”

Nico drops his face into his hands and groans. “Why do all of my friends hate me,” he mutters. Jason snorts.

“You’re so dramatic,” he says. Nico lifts his head and glares at him.

“Um. I do have to take your drink order.”

They order and Will leaves. Jason flips through the menu, looking up occasionally to flash Nico a large smile.

“You’re not nearly as angry as you’re acting.”

“Oh, really?”

Jason nods. “If you were really angry, you would have left. Secretly you’re happy I dragged you here because you have an excuse to see him again.”

God, does he hate Jason Grace. The only person who understood him any better was Hazel.

“I hate you.”

“You’ve mentioned.”

“I am going to kill –”

Will returns with their drinks. “Ready?” He asks.

Jason orders for himself, before turning to Nico, sweeping his arm out as if he was revealing what was behind Curtain #1. “And the gentlemen will have…”

“Your head on a platter,” he mutters.

“We don’t serve that here,” Will says. Jason laughs. Nico orders, glaring at Will, who keeps a look of vague amusement on his face the entire time.

When he leaves again Jason says to Nico, much more seriously, “At least try with him. Worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work out.”

That’s not the worst case scenario. Nico knows because he’s been living the worst case scenario for ten years. The worst case scenario is he falls in love and spends years day dreaming about the day he loves him back, even when he stands up at his wedding and talks about what a good pair he and his wife are. (Nico had tried to hate Annabeth Chase, and he succeeded at the beginning, but he couldn’t even stick with that. Then the feelings just got worse, the prayers that Percy would leave her for him and the guilt he would feel at taking him from Annabeth. When Allison was born he stopped those thoughts – he may have been a lot of things, but he was not a home wrecker, not even in his daydreams, especially not for that wonderful little girl.)

“Hey.” He looks up. Jason is looking at him in concern. “He likes you. I mean, I’m assuming, since you, you know, did it –”

“Are you twelve?”

“Excuse me if I don’t want to shout to the restaurant that you fucked the waiter.”

Nico drops his head on the table with a loud thunk that hurt way more than he had thought it would.

“And don’t try to tell me you don’t like him back, because every time he’s around you do that thing where you bite the inside of your cheek to stop from smiling.”

“Have I ever told you that I hate you?”

“Once or twice,” he says, smiling.

Nico kicks him again.


From: William

(7:22) NICO

(7:22) NICO

(7:22) NICO DI ANGELO

To: William

(7:24) congrats. I will refrain from calling you William from now on

From: Will

(7:25) I was right about it being almost like a girl’s name

(7:26) it’s half of Nicole

To: Will

(7:27) don’t I know it

From: Will

(7:28) what does that mean?

Nico debates just replying ‘never mind.’ He hadn’t even meant to say what he had just said; the only one who knew about it was Jason, because he had been there. He hadn’t even told Hazel.

But he thinks about what Jason had said, and then he thinks about Percy kissing Annabeth on his wedding day, and he thinks of his sister, and what she would say. So he responds.

To: Will

(7:30) when I came out a bunch of kids at my school kept calling me ‘Nicole di Angelo.’ You know, because gayness and femininity. Quality comedy, really.

From: Will

(7:32) shit. I’m sorry. Did they ever stop? 

To: Will

(7:33) Jason – my roommate – threatened to beat them up if they didn’t stop. Then he actually punched one of them in the face. Broke his nose. They pretty much stopped after that. At least to my face.

He remembers that day, Jason Grace, this wonderful boy who kept talking to him day after day until eventually Nico realized he was being serious about being his friend, that he wasn’t a bully like the others. Jason Grace standing by his side and threatening the boys who used to bully him; most of them were already scared of him and listened, but one of them, the leader, he had just sneered, looking Nico in the eye. You really going to put your life on the line for a faggot, Grace? He had asked, and then Jason had punched him, right in the face, and Nico could still remember the sound of his nose breaking. After that day everyone knew Nico di Angelo was protected, and no one ever said anything to his face again.

From: Will

(7:34) wow. Remind me to thank him

(7:35) okay. Confession time

(7:36) I didn’t remember your name. Your roommate – I’m assuming, since I don’t think you would ever do this – wrote ‘much love, Nico xo’ on the receipt

To: Will

(7:37) what roommate, I don’t have a roommate, just a dead body stuffed in my closet

From: Will

(7:38) so a literal skeleton in your closet

Nico storms out of his room. “You wrote that on the receipt?”

Jason laughs. “Don’t be mad! I was just trying to move things along!” He ducks out of the way as Nico throws a pillow at his face. “You’ll be thanking me!”

“I can’t thank you if you’re dead,” Nico says, but his voice is light and he grabs another pillow off the couch to throw at Jason’s head.

“We are way too old to be having a pillow fight, di Angelo,” Jason says, evading that one too.

“This isn’t a pillow fight, this is me throwing soft objects at your face because you’re wearing glasses and I don’t want to break them and blind you for the rest of your life.”

“You’d have to hit me first,” Jason says with a smirk. Jason grabs a pillow off the floor and chucks it at Nico, who ducks to avoid it. It hits the television, which had been precariously balancing on old textbooks, and topples over.

“Jesus Christ, quarterback, maybe cool it with the throwing.”

“That was entirely your fault.”

“You threw it!”

“You started it!”

They both stare accusingly at each other until Jason starts to laugh, which gets Nico going too. He sits down on the couch and stares at the toppled over television.

“This is probably a sign we should invest in an actual television stand.”

“That television stand cost us about $500,” Jason says, which is, sadly enough, true. “I’ll call Leo,” he says with a sigh.

“Tell him it’s your fault.”

“I will not!”

Nico smirks as Jason walks into his room. At one point he’s pretty sure he hears, “It was Nico!”

Then he looks at his phone. He likes you, Jason had said. Just try.

To: Will

(7:50) my television is broken. Wanna meet up somewhere?

From: Will

(7:52) sure

Chapter Text

“I’m not just a replacement for your television, am I?” Will asks when Nico sits down at the table in Starbucks.

“Course not. There was nothing good on tonight anyway.”

Will smiles. “What happened to it?”

“Jason and I were having a pillow fight.”

Will surveys him wearily. “You make literally no sense, do you know that?”

Nico just shrugs.

“So. Nico. Nico. Nicoooo.”

“I get it. You know my name. Not that you get any credit for that whatsoever.”

“I was drunk, okay? I’m normally really good with names. I’ve just… never been that drunk before.”

“I remembered your name.”

“I had name tags.”

Nico is about to respond when his phone rings. He rolls his eyes and checks it.

“Sorry. It’s Jason. What,” he says into the phone.

“Leo’s there.”

“Okay? I am not.”

“I know. Leo is outside because he doesn’t have a key.”

“Oh. Fuck.”

“Yeah. You’re closer.”

“Where are you?”

“Out with Piper. She picked me up. You’re within walking distance.”

“I am going to sew a key into his fucking chest.”

“I don’t think that would help him open the door.”

“Shut up, Grace.”

“You’re my hero, Nico.”

“Bite my ass.”

Will’s eyebrows are raised when Nico hangs up. “Who gets to bite your ass?”

Nico sighs. “Our friend who was going to fix our television is currently stuck outside my apartment because he lost his key. I, uh, gotta go. Sorry.”

Will tries to hide his disappointment. “Okay. No problem.”

Nico stands up and then stops. “Uh. Do you want to tag along? I feel bad for leaving so early.”

Will smiles. “Sure. I have a car. We’ll get there quicker.”

When they reach the parking lot, Nico stops. “You call this is a car?”

“It is a car!”

“In the loosest sense of the word.”

Will opens the door. “Oh, come on. It’s not going to kill you.”

“Are you sure?”

Nico stands and surveys the car wearily. It looks ready to fall apart any second.

“You know walking is good for your health,” he says, but Will honks at him.

“Please tell me you at least have seatbelts.”

“You are dramatic.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Get in and find out then, di Angelo.”

With a silent prayer to, well, anyone, really, Nico climbs into the car. It takes a few turns to start, but eventually it gets going. Nico can’t say he’s exactly happy about this.

“Okay. Direct me.”

“I’m offended you don’t remember. Did I make so little an impression?”

“I was drunk.

Smirking, Nico shouts out directions. They aren’t far from his place, which Nico is thankful for, since he doesn’t have to spend more than two minutes in the Deathmobile. Nico leads him to the visitor parking lot.

“I am never getting in that car again.”

“Oh, stop.”

“I mean it.”

Will laughs as they walk up the stairs. When Nico reaches his landing he sees Leo standing outside his door, doing something with the doorbell.

“Leo!”

“Hey,” he says, not looking up. “I got bored. I’m trying to see if I can make your doorbell ring to the tune of the Imperial March.”

“Can you do that?” Will asks, impressed.

“No,” Nico says, as Leo says, “Of course.”

Leo catches Nico’s eye and raises his eyebrows. “I’m Leo Valdez,” he says, putting his screwdriver in his mouth so he could shake Will’s hand.

“Will Solace.”

Nico unlocks the door and the three of them enter. “The Will Solace?” Leo asks quietly.

“Does New York State have the death penalty? If they found the bodies of three men stuffed in my closet, would I be sentenced to death or would I just have to deal with life in prison?”

“Ha ha ha.”

Then he sees the television. “You know, I go to all that work to get you guys free HBO and this is how you treat me?”

“It was Jason’s fault.”

“You get free HBO?”

Leo nods. “I can probably hook you up, too, if you’d like. A friend of Nico’s is a friend of mine.”

“I have no friends,” Nico mutters. Leo sticks his tongue out at him, while Will just looks thrilled.

“Seriously?” Leo just nods. “That would be amazing. Could you make my doorbell ring the Imperial March too?”

Leo looks up from the television and grins. “I like him. Keep him.”

“You know, I was planning on throwing him down the garbage disposal, but if you insist.”

Leo grins at Will. “Isn’t he charming?”

“I like him,” Will says. Nico blushes and opens the fridge, hiding his face in it. He grabs a can of soda and watches Will crouch beside Leo, who is explaining what he’s doing as he’s doing it. Will looks utterly fascinated, and as usual when Leo is talking about his stuff, his face is lit up. Nico sits on the couch and watches the two of them.

To: Jason

(9:02) Leo is here

(9:03) he tried to make our doorbell ring the imperial march

From: Jason

(9:05) did you let him???

To: Jason

(9:06) there are a lot of things we need, a doorbell that rings the imperial march is not one of them

From: Jason

(9:07) you are such a buzzkill

(9:07) buzzkill Nico

To: Jason

(9:08) good band name

Will sits next to him on the couch. “That’s amazing. He’s incredible.”

“He’s all right.”

“I will make you pay for HBO, di Angelo, don’t think that I won’t.”

“Jason would kill you.”

“I could take Jason.”

Nico snorts. “With those skinny little arms? Not likely.”

“I could take you though.”

Will looks between the two of them. “I think he’s right.”

“Whose side are you on, Solace?”

“The side that’s getting me free HBO.”

Nico shakes his head, smiling.

When Leo finishes he stands up, cracks his neck, then scribbles his number down on a post it note. “Here,” he says, handing it to Will. “I’m serious about the HBO thing.” Will stares at him with absolute glee.

“See ya, Third Wheel the Second.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Leo blows him a kiss.

“Third Wheel the Second?” Will asks when he’s gone. Nico stares at the ceiling.

“Leo’s known Jason since elementary school. When he started dating his girlfriend, Leo dubbed himself Third Wheel the First, since he’s known Jason longer. I am Third Wheel the Second. Apparently.”

Will looks at him funny. “You are way weirder than I ever would have thought.”

“Am not.”

“No, seriously. You have cute little nicknames, you go on diaper runs for your friends, you have pillow fights in your apartment –”

“Fuck off,” Nico says, laughing.

“No, it’s cute. I don’t have pillow fights with my roommates.”

“It was only a pillow fight because Jason’s a fucking moron.”

Will grins. “I like him. Does he still punch people in the nose? Can I rent him out?”

Nico smirks. “I don’t think so. Sorry.”

“Damn.” Will stands up, catching sight of a picture that Jason wouldn’t let Nico take down, of him, Piper, and Nico all smushed together on graduation day. Nico, who hadn’t hit his last growth spurt, was squished between Jason and Piper, Jason’s arm around his shoulder and Piper’s arm around his waist. Leo had taken that picture; there’s one next to it with Jason, Leo and Nico, Piper behind the camera. Jason had insisted on Nico being in every picture. “You said you met in high school?”

“Yeah. He was basically my body guard for four years. No one wants to beat up the gay kid when the gay kid’s best friend is so formidable. High school was a great time.” The last part is heavy with sarcasm.

Will whistles. “I’m sorry. I don’t even have, like, a ‘I had a shit time too you’re not alone’ type story. I didn’t even realize I was bi until college.”

Nico smiles. “How’d that come up?”

“I woke up in some hot Italian’s bed.”

Nico sits up and stares at Will, any humour gone from his face. “Tell me you’re joking.”

Will shifts from side to side, rocking on the balls of his feet again, and looks away. “Well, I mean… I knew I’d had feelings for guys before –”

“Will.”

“What’s the big deal?”

“I am not your fucking college experiment, Solace.”

“I never said you were!”

“What happened, you get so fucking drunk and you decide, ‘hey, you know what I should try tonight? I should try blowing some stranger!’”

“That is not what happened! Look, I knew I liked guys I had just never – I only got that drunk because my girlfriend had broken up with me –”

That did not help the situation.

“So I am your rebound college experiment.”

“No! Nico! Look, I really like you, okay?”

“How would you know?”

“I know the way I feel, Nico.”

Nico stands up, anger coursing through him. “I have been jerked around too many fucking times to put up with it anymore, Solace.”

“I am not jerking you around. Look, obviously that night wasn’t an experiment or I wouldn’t have given you my number. And as for the girlfriend thing… look, it hadn’t been working for a while, I didn’t even really have feelings for her anymore, and I knew it was coming, but no one likes being dumped! You are –” He blushes, deeply, as if he doesn’t really want to say what he’s about to say but he knows he has to. “You’re the first person I’ve ever really felt like this with. It’s like – I don’t know, it’s like I constantly want to talk to you and be around you and I want to know you better –”

“That’s just your sexual confusion talking,” he says, coldly.

“Nico, please don’t –”

His phone rings.

Hazel. Perfect. Because that’s what he needs right now.

“Hello.” He tries to sound normal, so as not to set her off, but he really shouldn’t have underestimated her.

“What’s wrong.”

“There’s nothing wrong.”

“Nico.”

He sighs. “Look, it’s nothing – I can’t talk about it right now.”

“Do you need me to come over?”

“No, Hazel, honestly. I’ll come over soon, okay? But just – leave it, for now. Please. Why did you call?”

“I just wanted to tell you Dad wants us to go down to visit this weekend.”

“I’m busy.”

“He’s already booked us flights. Just do this for me? Please?”

Hazel was really pushing it, using that line twice in such a small period of time. “Fine. Text me the details. I have to go.”

“Nico –”

He hangs up and looks at Will, who is sitting down on the couch, his head in his hands.

“You should go.”

“Please –”

“I have work to do.”

Will sighs and stands up, casting one last look at Nico before leaving. Nico locks the door and goes straight to bed.

Chapter Text

From: Will

(7:18) I’m really sorry. Honestly. That’s not how I meant that

(7:19) I didn’t just use you as my first Big Gay Experience

This, Nico thinks when he checks his phone the next morning, is really not how one night stands were supposed to work.

When he gets up to eat breakfast Jason is at the table already, eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes. He looks up when Nico walks out.

“Hey.”

Nico nods.

“Okay. Clearly something bad happened, because when I talked to Leo he told me everything was fine and that he was going to set up HBO for Will.”

“Nothing happened.”

“Sure, that sounds totally convincing.”

“Jason. Nothing happened.”

Jason looks at him and then sighs loudly. “Fine. I won’t push. But I’m here if you need me.”

Nico pours his cereal and goes back to his bedroom. He eats quickly, gets dressed, and then leaves for class, grunting at Jason when he reminds him that Nico can talk to him about it.

That week passes slowly. Nico’s classes drag by and every time he gets back home Jason gives him a long searching look. Will doesn’t text him again. Nico would almost be looking forward to the weekend if he didn’t have to go down to LA to see his father.

“It’s not going to be that bad,” Hazel says as they board the plane.

“Easy for you to say. He still likes you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. He loves you.”

“He’s morally obligated to love me. But he doesn’t like me.”

“Nico.” Hazel sighs. “Are you going to tell me what happened?”

“Nothing happened.”

“You’ve been completely miserable all week.”

“It’s fine.”

They are silent for a bit, inching forward in the line to board the plane. “You haven’t texted him at all.”

“Who?”

“You know.”

“Hazel.” He shakes his head. “Just… drop it.”

Hazel grabs his hand and holds it until they find their seats.


When they get off the plane they see Persephone waving at them. Hazel gives her a hug; Nico nods half-heartedly. Persephone wasn’t bad, as far as step-mothers go, but he had never been particularly close to her. Her and Hazel got along well, though.  

His father stands behind her, looking professional as always. His nice suit and professional looking hair cut are in direct contrast to Nico’s shaggy, unbrushed hair and sweat pants.

“Nice of you to dress up,” are the first words his father says to him. Nico scowls. 

“Nice to see you too, Father.”

Nico’s father’s real name was Haley, but everyone had started calling him Hades when he married Persephone. Persephone’s side of the family were all named after mythology – her mother’s name was Demeter, just like the original mother-daughter pair in Greek mythology. Nico doesn’t know why his father would be all right with his nickname, since Nico’s pretty sure the original Hades had pretty much kidnapped his wife, but considering the fact that Persephone’s mother hated them it worked out pretty well. Not to mention it fit well with his father’s business. Sometimes Nico thinks that his father is actually the real Hades come to life. It wouldn’t surprise him one bit.

Hazel and Persephone are both glaring at the two of them. Despite the fact that neither of the two women share genes, they both look startlingly similar. Nico sighs and exchanges a glance with his father.

“I’m glad to see you, Nico.”

“Are you just saying that because Persephone bitched you out the whole way here?”

Hades leans back. “No.”

“I’m glad to see you, Father. But I’m just saying that because Hazel bitched me out the whole way here.”

His father smiles the tiniest bit.

When they get outside Nico stops and groans. “Did you have to bring the limo?

His father’s driver takes Nico’s bags from him. “I won’t take that personally,” Charon says with a grunt.

“So,” Persephone says once they’re all in the car. “How have you both been?”

“Fine,” Nico says. Persephone sighs.

“I suppose that’s probably the best I’m going to get from you. Hazel?”

Hazel starts talking to their step-mother, telling her about her classes and filling her in on how Frank’s been. Nico sits back and brings out his phone.

To: Jason

(2:14) we’ve landed. I haven’t thrown myself off a bridge yet, so things are going better than expected

From: Jason

(2:16) say hi to your dad and step-mom for me

“Are you texting your friends?” His father asks. Nico sighs and tucks his phone back into his pocket.

“Yeah.” Simple, one word answers. One word answers can’t cause fights.

“Do you still talk to Percy Jackson? I heard he had a daughter.”

Great. This is exactly the topic he wants to pursue with his father.

“Yeah. Allison. She’s really cute.”

“I never thought you were fond of children.”

Nico is trying to figure out if that is supposed to be an insult. “I like Allison,” is the honest answer.

“I still talk to his father, occasionally,” his father says. “I can’t say I’m too fond of the man.”

He’s probably not crazy about you, either, Nico thinks.

“Nico,” Persephone says. “How is Jason?”

“Good.”

“And Piper?”

“Also good.”

“Percy and Annabeth?”

“All of them are good.”

“Would you even tell me if they weren’t?”

“Probably.”

Persephone gives him an exasperated look before turning back to talk to his sister.

“She gives me that look all the time, if it makes you feel better,” Hades says. Nico forces a smile that probably looks more like a grimace.

When they get home Nico tries to go immediately upstairs.

“Nico,” Persephone says. “I would like one weekend when you don’t hide out in your room the entire time.”

“I’m tired.”

“It’s three in the afternoon.”

“Jet lag.”

“It’s a three hour difference, Nico.”

Hazel looks at him pleadingly and he sighs. “Fine. Just let me put my bags away.”

From: Percy

(3:13) tell your dad my dad says hi

To: Percy

(3:14) do you think they’re ever going to get over that goddamn poker game

From: Percy

(3:15) “that damn Hades always accuses me of cheating but he’s just jealous that I won fair and square”

To: Percy

(3:17) “That wretched fisherman always lords it over me but I know he was hiding cards in that damn fishing hat of his”

(3:18) he asked about Allison

(3:18) said he didn’t think I even liked children

From: Percy

(3:19) please tell him my father bought her a child sized fishing rod and tell me how angry he gets

(3:19) please

To: Percy

(3:20) deal

When Nico gets back downstairs the three others are sitting in the living room. The conversation is light; when Nico sits down Hazel smiles warmly at him.

“So, Nico. How are your classes going?”

“Fine.”

Persephone sighs. “Please, Nico. Work with me.”

Remembering Percy’s text Nico says, “They’re fine. I was actually over at Percy’s last week. His father had bought Allison a little mini child sized fishing rod. She even has a hat.”

His father makes an exasperated noise.

To: Percy

(3:42) “leave it to that fishmonger to push his interests on a three month old”

(3:42) “I bet he’s teaching her how to cheat at poker too”

From: Percy

(3:43) omg

To: Percy

(3:45) he’s still talking about it

(3:46) Persephone is glaring at me I think she knows I did this just to set him off

From: Percy

(3:47) you’re my goddamn hero

Nico’s heart flips and he stuffs his phone back in his pocket in a hurry. Hazel eyes him suspiciously.

After awkward family catch up time that pretty much consisted of Hazel talking about her first year and Nico awkwardly sitting in the corner, his father announces he has to go, and will probably be back for dinner. Nico is not even remotely surprised.

“That didn’t take long,” he mutters. “I’m going upstairs. Call me when dinner is ready.”

Persephone sighs.

When Nico gets upstairs he doesn’t go immediately to his room. Instead he stands outside the door next to his for a few minutes, trying to work up the nerve to open it.

Eventually he does.

Bianca’s room was cleaned up a few months after her death. He could remember the fight he’d had with his father, accusing him of never really loving his children. His father had stared at him in anger before hissing, angrily, I loved her more than anyone.

Years later, when he told her, Hazel told him he probably hadn’t meant it like that, but Nico’s always known Bianca was his favourite child.

At least, he thinks wryly, it wasn’t changed into an exercise room. In fact nothing had been done to Bianca’s room. Her things had been cleared out but nothing else had been put in. Nico had kept some of them, hidden in a box in his closet. He hadn’t looked at them in years, because every time he did he broke down.

“Hey,” he whispers to the room. He slides down the wall and stares at the room, trying to remember the way it had used to look. It’s getting harder each passing year. Nico can’t remember where her bed had been, or what colour her blankets were.

He stays there until dinner.


His father walks in as dinner is ending. He apologizes and sits down just as Nico stands up.

“I’m done. Thanks for dinner.”

His father opens his mouth as if he wants to say something but he just stops and shrugs. Nico goes up to his own bedroom and lies down.

He hates this house. Bianca was here, in this house, but she’s not anymore and by now it’s lost any essence of her. She exists only in his memories, and sometimes he thinks that if he lets her go she’ll disappear completely. They don’t talk about her anymore; Hazel and Persephone hadn’t come until later. The only ones who knew Bianca are him and his father, and sometimes he thinks his father wants to pretend it never happened. Like Bianca had never existed.

He feels like if he doesn’t hold onto her she will fade away completely. It’s up to him to make sure that doesn’t happen.


The next morning he wakes up to the sound of laughter. When he leaves his room to peer over the bannister he sees his father and Hazel, sitting in the living room. He can’t see Persephone; she’s probably in the garden.

He goes back to his room to check his phone.

From: Jason

(8:02) hey. Don’t be mad, okay? But Will came to see me. He told me what happened. I just… wanted to make sure you were okay.

Nico stares at his phone for a moment, anger pumping through his body.

To: Will

(9:13) you had no right to do that

(9:14) you had no right to talk to Jason

The reply comes far too quickly, as if Will had been sitting on his phone.

From: Will

(9:16) I didn’t go there to talk to Jason, I went to try to talk to you, but you weren’t there

To: Will

(9:18) just leave it, okay? This was supposed to be a one night stand, let’s just… stop trying to make it more than it should be

Will doesn’t reply.

“Nico?” He hears Hazel call up the stairs. “Did I hear you?”

Taking a breath, he heads downstairs.

“Persephone wants to speak to you,” his father says. Once again, no greeting. “She’s in the garden.”

Persephone’s garden was magnificent. Nico didn’t even like flowers, but her garden always took his breath away.

“You wanted to see me?”

Persephone looks up at him. “Yes. There’s something wrong with you.”

“Hey, thanks.”

She huffs. “That’s not what I mean. You just seem even more miserable than you usually are.”

“You’re on a roll.”

“Look, Hazel and I have been talking. She says you told her you had sorted out your problems with your father, but clearly you haven’t.”

Nico doesn’t answer.

“I know you have a lot of shit happening to you, and I know you never listen to anyone, but Hazel is very worried about you. So is your father.”

Nico laughs. Persephone cocks her head and studies him for so long he starts feeling very uncomfortable.

“You are very similar people, you and your father. It’s probably why you don’t get along.”

Being told how alike he is to his father is not exactly something he wants to be told. “Are we done?” He asks, not unkindly. He likes Persephone.

Persephone sighs. “I suppose.”

He doesn’t know what to do, now. He doesn’t want to stay cooped up in the house, so he decides to take a walk, get away. Only problem is when he goes inside to get his jacket, Hazel corners him.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk.”

She narrows her eyes at him. “I’m coming, too.”

“Hazel –”

But she isn’t listening.

They walk in silence for a little while before Hazel finally speaks.

“Are you ever going to talk to me?”

“About what?”

“Something’s been going on, Nico. You need to talk about it. Is it about that guy?”

“No.” He had known Will for all of three weeks – how could it be?

Hazel sighs. “I’m not sure I quite believe that. What happened?”

“It’s a long story.”

Hazel slips her hand into his again. She’s far too patient with him; he doesn’t even remotely deserve it.

“Well, whatever happened… you were starting to really like him, weren’t you?”

“Doesn’t matter. Even if I was. It doesn’t matter.”

“Why doesn’t it matter?”

“Because, Hazel. People meet, and they get close, and they start learning things about each other and trusting each other and sometimes they even fall in love, and somewhere in that whole mess of things there’s usually sex. That’s how it works. You can’t do it backwards and get the same result. I do it backwards to – to avoid that. If you start at the sex you don’t have to deal with all that other shit.”

“You’re afraid of rejection.”

“What?”

“You’ve been defined, pretty much, by three major events in your life. Bianca, Percy, and when you were outed in front of the whole school. You feel rejected all the time. Percy rejected you, even if he didn’t know he was doing it; that guy – what was his name, Aaron? Something like that – rejected you and then made most of the school reject you. And then Bianca… she left you behind. You feel rejected by that and you feel rejected by Dad because of that. You have sex with strangers because if you’re already having sex they can’t reject you, and you don’t get involved afterwards because there’s no chance that they can discover they don’t like you with the lights on.”

Nico is silent for a while until he finally is able to formulate thoughts. “You’re not a psychiatrist, Hazel.”

“No. But I understand you. Better than anyone. You can’t keep holding onto things. You hold onto Percy and you hold onto Bianca and you hold onto your issues with Dad and you never try to sort any of them out.”

Nico swallows.

Hazel squeezes his hand. “I love you. I just want you to be happy.”

He doesn’t say what he’s thinking, that he doesn’t even know what that is, because it sounds way too dramatic. But it’s true. That’s the problem.


A few hours before they’re set to leave, Nico goes to sit in Bianca’s room again. He sits on the floor, back against the wall, closes his eyes and tries to remember all the small little details about her that he'd forgotten.

When the door opens he assumes it’s Hazel, telling him they have to leave, so he is surprised (and not very happy) when he hears his father’s voice.

“I figured I might find you here.”

He doesn’t want his father here. His father who hasn’t really smiled since Bianca’s death. His father who broke down in the hospital room and wouldn’t touch Nico for weeks. His father who had whispered, now both of them are gone, Bianca and Nico’s mother, a constant reminder that Nico wasn’t enough.

“Is it time to go?”

“No.” Hades, much to Nico’s chagrin, takes a seat on the ground beside his son. “I’ve counted the number of words you’ve said to me this weekend. We were at 82 before this conversation. That’s a new low for us.”

“Don’t you have anything more important to do than count words?”

“Nothing is more important than my children.”

This is so comical that Nico laughs. Hades sighs.

“I sleep here every year. On the anniversary of her death. Do you know that?”

“Missing her one day a year doesn’t make you a good father.”

“Do you really think I only miss her one day a year? I miss her every day, Nico. I miss you, too.”

“New York isn’t that far.”

“That’s not what I mean. Bianca took a piece of both of us when she died. You’ve never really recovered.”

Nico swallows. “Bianca was the only one to accept me for me.” He remembers the first time he ever noticed that he felt about boys the way all the other boys in his class felt about girls; he had run to her, crying, they made me wrong, and she had kissed his forehead and told him there was nothing wrong with him. They made you perfect, she had told him.

“That’s not true.”

“We both know you cared about her more than me, father. You were proud of everything she did. I was a blot on your perfect record.”

“I don’t consider you a blot.”

“Then what do you consider me?”

“My son. You have not had an easy life, Nico. Truth be told I don’t even know how to talk to you anymore. Most of the times you don’t even let me.”

Nico looks at the walls, tries to remember what her room had looked like. “I don’t remember her voice, anymore,” he says, very quietly. “Every time I try to remember what she sounded like the only thing I can ever hear is her crying out in pain.”

Hades sighs. “You are too similar to me. We both hold onto things but refuse to talk about them. I don’t expect you to forgive me for how distant I became after she died. But I want you to know that I miss her every day, and I never loved her more than you.” And then he leaves. Nico sits there for a few more minutes, turning the conversation over in his mind.

“Bye,” he eventually whispers to the room. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

When Nico gets home he says hello to Jason, promises to fill him in on everything, and then collapses into bed and sleeps until morning. Planes tired him out, travelling tired him out, and talking with his father definitely tired him out.

The week passes slowly. He has a midterm on Wednesday that he probably did fine on. He has an essay due Thursday that he stays up all night Wednesday to finish. By the time Friday rolls around Nico feels about ready to drop.

“You have a bed,” Jason says when he gets home from class to see Nico passed out on the couch. Nico makes a loud, unhappy noise.

“This week almost killed me.”

 “You’ve had worse.”

Nico opens his eyes. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Jason just shrugs. “Dunno. At least you can sleep all weekend.”

“I could sleep for the next fifteen years and I wouldn’t be able to get back the hours college stole from me.”

Jason snorts. “Well, enjoy that. I’m going out with Piper to some fancy restaurant she’s been dying to try. AND BEFORE YOU ASK no, I’m not asking tonight.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“It’s… raining.”

“Now you’re just being ridiculous.”

“I’ll get to it, okay?”

Nico rolls his eyes before sitting up, deciding that sleeping in a bed would be drastically superior to sleeping on the couch.

“Whatever. Enjoy yourself.”

“Enjoy sleeping for 72 hours straight.”

“Oh I plan on it.”


Nico does not get to sleep for 72 hours straight.

At around six thirty he gets a call from Jason.

“I’m supposed to be sleeping.”

“Help me.”

Jason sounds so distressed that Nico sits up, worried. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

Nico hears a long groan. “Piper asked me to marry her.”

Nico bursts out laughing.

“It’s not fucking funny!”

“It is hilarious.”

“Nico! I’m serious!”

Nico takes a deep breath. “Okay, okay. What did you do?”

“I, uh. I sat there in shock and then I told her I had to go to the bathroom. Like, immediately.”

Nico laughs even harder.

“Nico!”

“‘Will you marry me honey?’ ‘Hang on sweetheart I really have to shit.’”

“Nico! I’m serious! You need to bring me that ring!”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Nico takes another deep breath. “Why?”

“Because I want to give it to her! I want to show her I’ve wanted this for a really long time, especially now because she probably thinks I don’t want to! I bought that fucking ring three months ago there’s no way she gets to steal the spotlight on me!”

“When this is done I want you to write me a 2000 word essay on why I am always right.”

“Please, Nico, just bring me the ring? I’m at the Lotus.”

“That’s all the way downtown! How the hell am I supposed to get there? The only one I know who has a car is Piper and I think she’s busy.”

“I don’t know, call a cab, do something, but please bring me that ring. I will owe you for the rest of our lives but please God in heaven bring me the ring.”

Jason hangs up and Nico stares at the phone. Getting a cab on a Friday night would be murder.

The only one I know who has a car is Piper.

That, he thinks bitterly, is not exactly true.

He sits on his bed and debates for about a minute and a half before sucking it up and picking up his phone.

Will answers on the fourth ring.

“Hello?” His voice is hesitant. Nico takes a deep breath.

“Okay. I know you’re probably mad. And also that you probably don’t want to even deal with me anymore. But I – I need a favour. And I know that’s really fucking rich coming from me and that you owe me jack shit but Jason is in a really tight spot right now and he needs my help and I – the only one I know who could help me was you so even if you don’t want to help me at least help Jason.” Nico takes another deep breath and waits for Will to reply.

“What do you need?”

“Your car.”

Will is silent for a moment. Finally Nico hears him take a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Nico rummages around in his sock drawer, grabs the ring and stuffs it in his pocket, then runs out the door.

The things I do for my friends, he thinks as Will Solace pulls up. Nico opens the door and climbs in, hair wet from the rain. Will takes a long look at him before asking, “Where are we going?”

“Um.” Nico had forgotten how beautiful he was. “Lotus? It’s downtown somewhere, uh –”

“I know where it is.”

Silence for a minute, until Nico works up the nerve to say, “Thank you. Seriously. I know you didn’t – I know I was kind of –”

“Don’t worry. What’s the big emergency anyway?”

Nico can’t help but smile. “Jason’s been meaning to ask Piper to marry him for months now, he just kept saying it wasn’t the right time. Today she asked him to marry her, so he called me in a panic asking me to bring the ring. He’s hiding out in the bathroom.”

Will smiles and Nico can’t stop staring. “That might be the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

They drive in silence for a couple of minutes. Every time they hit a bump or a pothole Nico sucks in his breath until eventually Will laughs.

“Would you relax? My car isn’t going to fall apart.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” he mutters.

“So much for never getting in my car again, huh?”

Nico smiles the tiniest amount, but then another awkward silence settles among them and neither of them speak until they get to the restaurant and Nico calls Jason.

“What took you so long?”

“How about thanks, Nico, I seriously owe you.”

“You have to bring the ring to me, if I leave Piper will see me.”

“And what is she going to say when she sees me walking into the restaurant?”

“I – well what else are we supposed to do?”

Nico sighs and glances at Will, who is looking at him. He nods slightly.

“Will’s here. He’ll bring you the ring. Piper’s never seen him.”

“Oka – wait, Will? I thought you two –”

“Would you have some perspective, Grace?”

“Okay, okay. Sorry. Thanks, Nico. I owe you big time.”

“No fucking kidding.”

He hangs up and passes the ring to Will. “Thank you.”

“Don’t worry. He deserves it.”

Nico recoils, but he can’t say he didn’t deserve that.

He watches Will climb out of the car and run to the restaurant. He has a sudden urge to snoop through the car but quells it.

He sits back, keeping his eyes on the door. A few minutes later Will emerges.

“All set,” he says, climbing into the car. “Jason looked like a wreck. I thought he was going to kiss me when I gave him the ring.”

Nico feels, oddly enough, jealous.

You are so fucking stupid, Nico.

“Thank you, again. You really didn’t have to do this.”

Will shrugs. “It’s okay. I don’t mind. I wasn’t really doing anything, anyway.”

Nico looks down. “Well. Thanks.”

They are silent on the entire way back to Nico’s apartment. Will pulls into a parking spot, which surprises Nico, but he doesn’t speak.

Nico takes a breath to speak but Will interrupts. “If you say thank you one more time I’m going to kill you.”

“Sorry.”

Silence, again, and Nico realizes he’s probably overstayed his welcome.

“Well, uh. Bye.”

“Nico, wait.”

Nico ignores how happy he is to hear Will say this. He sits back and looks the other boy in the eyes.

“I don’t want us to stop talking. I’m – I’m sorry for what I did and for what I said but it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be.”

Nothing usually is.

“I know. I guess I kind of…” he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what had happened, only that standing there in front of Will he felt fourteen again, the eyes of the school on him and the sneer on a mouth that he remembers tasted like caramel. He kept waiting for the punchline. He’s always waiting for the punchline. Waiting for the punchline from Will – never mind, I was confused. The punchline from Jason – I never really wanted to be friends with you. The punchline from his father – I wish it had been you instead of her.

He realizes Will is waiting for him to finish the thought. He takes a breath. “I’m always waiting for people to leave me.”

You’re afraid of rejection.

There’s no chance they’ll discover they don’t like you with the lights on.

“I don’t want to leave. I never did.” Nico can hear the last part of that sentence, even though it remains unsaid – you made me.

He just nods, unsure of what else he can say.

“I do like you. All those things I said were true.”

He hears Jason’s voice in his head – do you enjoy being so difficult?

He hears Leo’s – isn’t he charming?

Bianca took a piece of both of us when she died.

“Nico?”

You can’t keep holding onto things. You hold onto Percy and you hold onto Bianca and you hold onto your issues with Dad and you never try to sort any of them out.

You are too similar to me. We both hold onto things but refuse to talk about them.

You know you’re allowed to be happy, right? You don’t have to fight to be miserable all the time.

You have people who love you, okay?

“Nico?”

“Do you want to come upstairs?” He asks, suddenly. Will turns off the car so quickly Nico thinks he might have been waiting for him to ask.

When they reach the apartment Nico sits down on the couch, pulling his knees up to his chest. Will sits on the other end (which, granted, isn’t very far due to the size of the couch), legs crossed under his body, fiddling with his car keys.

“I want – I want to tell you why what you said set me off so much. Why it had that effect on me. I think I probably owe it to you.

“When I told you I came out in high school – that’s not entirely the truth.” Will is silent, waiting for Nico to continue. “There was this guy… his parents were a friend of the family, and we used to go over there a lot. One day in ninth grade we were there and the guy kissed me. He was the first person I had ever kissed. I was… pretty ecstatic. I thought I had, I dunno. Found someone.

“Next day at school, during lunch he climbed up on one of the tables and announced to the whole school what had happened, that I had tried to kiss him. He called me a whole bunch of names, everyone laughed. So I ran. I tried to go home, but when I got to the parking lot a bunch of guys cornered me. Called me the usual insults, you know. Nothing creative, or anything. One of them shoved me down. I don’t know what they were going to do, probably just beat the shit out of me. But then Jason showed up. He had followed me. Told them all to fuck off. There were more of them but Jason was stronger and everyone knew him. Then he held out a hand and helped me up, told me I’d get busted for skipping if I left. I tried to shake him off, being the ungrateful teenager that I was. Told him I didn’t need his help. But Jason’s stubborn. Eventually I gave in. He brought me back inside and I sat with him and Leo, and I sat there every day for the rest of high school.”

Will takes a shaky breath. “Christ.”

“When you told me what you did, I felt fourteen again. Like you didn’t actually like me at all. Like this was just one other guy who was going to stand on the cafeteria table and hurt me.”

Will is staring at him so intently Nico is having a hard time meeting his eye. Then he says, “I'm afraid of heights. I couldn't even stand on a table without freaking out.”

Nico blinks, surprised. Then he laughs. “That’s not the reaction I was expecting from you.”

“Sorry.”

Nico shakes his head. “No. it’s okay. I prefer it to… I dunno. Pity, I guess.”

“I don’t pity you. But if you tell me his name and information, if I ever come across him on the operating table I may be able to accidentally replace his heart with a soda can.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Nico unfolds his legs and lets out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding. Will smiles warmly at him.

“I’m sorry I can be so difficult,” Nico mumbles. Will moves, sitting closer to him.

“You’re not. Honestly. I’ve dealt with people way more difficult than you. You’re pretty much a walk in the park.”

“Let’s not exaggerate.”

“No, really. You act all brooding and complicated but you’re really not. You’re not nearly as tough as you think you are. I’ve faced kittens tougher than you –”

Will is cut off by a pillow thrown in his face. “Don’t worry,” he says, laughing, as Nico tries to hit him again. “I won’t tell anyone your secret.”

“Get out of my apartment, Solace.”

“If you insist.” Will stands up and tries to walk past Nico to the door, but Nico grabs his wrist.

“Fine, call my bluff. Dick.”

This is how it happens:

Will tries to sit back down, and Nico tugs him closer, or maybe it’s Will that pushes; one of them pushes and one of them pulls and it doesn’t matter who.

When they kiss Nico starts to remember things, like how chapped Will’s lips were, the way he tasted like oranges and cinnamon, which really shouldn’t have worked together but somehow it did. His fingers clutch at Nico’s shirt, kissing him furiously, messily. Nico can remember that night; Will’s kisses jolt the memories back, of the Stoll brothers’ apartment, Will looming over him, breath in his face, so, so drunk and Nico, back against the wall, so, so drunk. Will Solace, he had whispered into Nico’s mouth, and Nico had liked how that name tasted on his lips so he said it back to him, again and again, Will Solace, Will Solace. Later when Will was pressing kisses to the inside of his thighs he said, you never told me your name, and when Nico told him his name Will had repeated it, too, over and over, whispered into his thighs.

Will shifts, trying to get closer, to climb on top of him, but as he tries to straddle on top of Nico his knee slips off their tiny couch and he drops, dropping heavily onto Nico.

“Crap,” he mutters, as Nico laughs. “That was significantly less romantic than I had intended it to be.” Will crawls off of him and rubs his knee.

“Stop laughing at me,” he mutters.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been telling Jason we’ve needed a new couch for ages.”

Will sits back on the couch, breathing heavily with a smile on his face. “Guess that mood’s kind of been ruined.”

And as weird as it is, Nico doesn’t mind. He doesn’t want to fuck Will again, not yet. He remembers what Hazel said, about people liking him with the lights on.

“That’s okay.”

Chapter Text

“Favourite movie?”

Mulan.”

“Are you joking?”

Nico glares at him. “Mulan is a masterpiece.”

Will sits back against the wall and raises his eyebrows. “I mean, it’s good, sure…”

“What’s your favourite movie, then, jackass?”

Will looks away and mumbles something.

“What?”

A Walk to Remember.”

Nico stares. “Are you kidding me? You’re giving me flak over Mulan but your favourite movie is a goddamn Walk to Remember?”

They are sitting on Nico’s bed; about ten minutes ago Nico had gotten a text from Jason saying he’d be home soon and that it would be in Nico’s best interests to stay in his room. Will had wanted them to ask questions like this, to get to know each other better, but Nico had said that was, “Far too John Hughes-ish.”

“What is it with you and John Hughes? This is twice you’ve mentioned him.”

“Shut up.”

So they had come to a compromise – Will would ask questions and Nico would answer, if he didn’t deem it too personal.

Will is about to answer when they hear the door open and then shut, rather forcefully, as if someone (Piper, Nico assumes) was pushed up against it. Him and Will stare at each other as they listen to Jason and Piper fumble around outside; Nico thinks he hears a picture fall over, and Piper definitely hisses in pain at one point. A loud bang on Nico’s door makes both of them jump. “I can’t believe they’re making out on my fucking door,” Nico mutters. Eventually he hears them move, presumably into Jason’s room.

“Saddest movie ever?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“I think what you consider to be the saddest movie of all time says a lot about you. Is it young kids with cancer? Dogs going to heaven? What is it?”

Nico stares him dead in the face. “Pokemon: the First Movie.”

Will blinks. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“No.”

“I don’t understand anything about you.”

Nico smirks. “It’s a sad fucking movie. When they all start hitting each other? I lose it.”

Will narrows his eyes. “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.”

“That’s how I keep you on your toes.”

“Okay, whatever. Family?”

Nico’s heart skips. “Yes.”

Will rolls his eyes. “I meant tell me about them.”

Ignoring the frantic pounding in his chest, Nico replies. “Father. Step-mother. Half-sister. I used to have a dog, which my father charmingly named ‘Cerberus,’ as if going back home hadn’t felt enough like going to hell already.”

Will laughs. They hear a muffled bang from the other room.

“Does this happen a lot?”

“Not as much as you’d think, really. I –” He breaks off, blushing. Will smiles.

“You do it more than them, is that what you were going to say?”

“Well – yeah. Kind of.”

“You don’t have to hide the fact that I’m not the first guy you’ve brought back to your apartment.”

“It’s still not something that needs to be brought up.”

Will shrugs and lies down. “I don’t mind. Really.”

Nico smirks. “Oh, good, then you won’t mind if I meet up with someone next weekend –”

Will laughs and pulls on the back of Nico’s shirt, so he falls back beside him on the bed. “Are you trying to make me jealous?”

Nico raises an eyebrow. “Is it working?”

Will rolls onto his side. He is taller than Nico, well-built and muscular, but graceful, too. The hands that skim across Nico’s skin are steady and sure of themselves, roaming over Nico’s body, and whenever Will looks at him he gets the feeling he’s memorizing Nico’s features. He wonders if Will sees things normally or in some kind of weird, doctor way; if he sees Nico’s body as just that or if he thinks of the names of the bones and the muscles he’s running his hands over.

“Maybe,” he whispers, leaning in close. He doesn’t kiss him, just hovers over Nico’s lips, breath in his face. Nico presses forward to kiss him, just as they hear a loud bang from Jason’s room and what initially sounds like a scream from Piper, but what is actually, they find out shortly, hysterical laughter.

“Piper? Are you okay? Can I come in?”

Piper opens the door, still giggling slightly. Jason is sitting on the floor, rubbing the back of his head. He is shirtless, and Piper is wearing his shirt; clearly she had put it on once Nico had knocked.

“What happened?”

“Jason fell off the bed.”

Nico raises an eyebrow. “What kind of weird sex were you having that Jason fell off the bed?”

Jason glares. Piper laughs again and then drags Nico forwards into a hug.

“Jason told me you’ve been hiding the ring for months.”

“I was a few days away from doing it myself,” he says, sticking his tongue out at Jason behind Piper’s back when the other boy gives him the finger.

“You’re Will!” Piper says, letting go of Nico and hugging Will next, who looks surprised and the tiniest bit uncomfortable. “I’m Piper. Thank you for what you did.”

“No problem,” Will says. Jason stands up.

“Congratulations, Piper,” Nico says.

“What about me?”

“You don’t deserve congratulations, the only reason this happened is because Piper isn’t such a fucking wuss.”

Jason scowls.

“We’re going to call everyone together and go out. We’re thinking maybe Tartarus?”

Nico makes a face. “That’s a skeezy ass bar, Pipes.”

“I know, but they’re really lax about carding, and I still have a month before I turn 21. Plus Frank is underage.”

“So is Hazel.”

“Yeah, but Hazel has a fake.”

“Hazel has a what?”

Piper rolls her eyes, a grin on her face. “Right, because you never drank underage. Besides, she rarely uses it.”

Nico stares at Piper. “When did Hazel get a fake I.D?”

Instead of answering, Piper just winks. “Are you going to come, too, Will?”

Will looks surprised at the invite. “Um. I guess. If I’m invited.”

“Of course you are! Get dressed, Nico, we’re leaving soon.”

Nico looks down at himself. “I am dressed.”

Piper gives him a look. “You know how dark it is in Tartarus. If you dress like that no one will be able to find you.”

Will snorts and Nico glares, mumbling under his breath as he goes to put on something brighter. 

Chapter Text

Nico can’t say he likes Tartarus, but then again, no one really likes Tartarus. There are some really shady people that frequent the bar, but Piper is right about the fact that no one really cares about your age. As long as you don’t look twelve, you usually get in. When they get there Percy and Annabeth are waiting outside, talking to Frank and Hazel. When they catch sight of the four of them Annabeth pulls Piper into a huge hug. “Congratulations!” She says. Hazel hugs her next, grinning widely. Percy and Jason, obnoxious as always, yell in pleasure and grab each other, rocking back and forth. Nico rolls his eyes.

“Fucking idiots,” he mutters to Frank. Frank jolts, looks at him with wide eyes, and then grins.

“Come on, let’s go inside,” Jason says.

“Do we have to?” Percy asks. “This place gives me the creeps.”

“Don’t worry Percy, I’ll protect you.”

“Aw, thanks bro!” Percy and Jason grin at each other and then walk into the bar. Nico shoots a glance over at both Piper and Annabeth.

“Both of you have decided to spend the rest of your lives with those two.”

Annabeth grimaces. “Don’t remind me.”

When they get inside all of the tables are taken, but Annabeth and Piper go up to a group of people sitting at one of the larger tables. Nico thinks he can overhear her say something along the lines of, “I just gave birth and she just got engaged.” After a few more words that Nico can’t hear the three people get up and leave. Will whistles.

“She’s pretty scary.”

“No kidding. If you ever get into a bar fight, get Annabeth on your side.”

They all squeeze around the table. As they’re settling in Leo runs up to the table.

“You’re the last one here, Valdez, you’re on drink duty.”

“Oh come on.”

“That’s the rule.”

“Fine, but you’re all getting the cheapest, shittiest beer there is.”

“So,” Percy says, turning to Piper. “He finally proposed?”

Nico bursts out laughing. Beside him, Will smiles. Annabeth raises an eyebrow.

“What am I missing?”

“Jason didn’t ask her to marry him,” Nico says with a smirk. “She asked him, and then he hid in the bathroom for twenty minutes while I had to sneak the ring to him.”

“Atta girl, Piper,” Hazel says. Jason drops his head into his hands.

“So I’m sitting there wondering what the hell was wrong because I had been so sure he would have been thrilled and I feel like I’m about to cry and he still hasn’t come out of the bathroom and then finally he comes out and he sits down and he apologizes and then he showed me the ring and he said, ‘I’ve been planning on doing this for three months.’”

“Really dropped the ball on that one, didn’t you Grace?”

“Yeah, yeah, I fucked up, I know!”

“So do you have a date?” Frank asks.

“Not for a while. Definitely not while we’re still in school.”

“What about you, Frank? You thinking about popping the question anytime soon?”

Hazel looks down in embarrassment while Frank sputters. Nico glares at Percy.

“They’re too young,” he says. Percy gives him a look and Nico immediately regrets speaking.

“You haven’t introduced us to your friend, yet, Nico.”

“This is Will,” he says, giving Percy a meaningful look that Percy ignores. Percy grins.

“Hi, Will. I have heard nothing about you, unfortunately, because Nico is too goddamn secretive.”

Nico tries to kick Percy and ends up connecting with Annabeth’s shin instead.

“Sorry,” he mutters.

“So,” Percy continues. “Will. I liked your receipt trick.”

Nico drops his head on the table, but for his part Will just laughs.

“Thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if you hadn’t called to ask for Cheetos.”

Percy’s face lights up. “That’s going in my wedding speech.”

“Oh my god,” Nico mutters. Jason laughs.

Nico is saved by the return of Leo, who has brought over nine beers on a tray. He drops the drinks on the table and says, rather dramatically, “I am in love.”

“Didn’t we tell you that you can’t fuck your toolbox?” Leo smacks Nico on the back of the head.

“I mean it. I’m in love.”

“With who?”

“The bartender. She’s the most beautiful girl in the world. I have to bring the tray back. Hopefully I’m not back for a while,” he says with a wink. Hazel looks at him.

“Why? Are you expecting her to abandon her job to make out with you behind the counter?”

Leo turns red. “Someone get Hazel drunk so she stops being the voice of reason.”

Hazel smirks as Leo walks back. Annabeth rolls her eyes. “How long do you think until he gets slapped across the face?”

“Ten minutes,” Jason puts in.

“Give him some credit,” Piper says. “Fifteen.”

They talk for a bit more. Hazel asks if Piper’s told her mother yet and Piper pales, explaining to Will that her mother is “crazy about love shit. She even earned the nickname Aphrodite, that’s how goddamn scary she is. She’ll take over the whole wedding, I guarantee you.” After ten minutes or so Leo comes back, looking dejected.

“Did you get slapped?”

“Emotionally? Yes. Physically? No.”

“Does that count?” Jason says. Leo glares.

“Oh!” Percy says, remembering something. “Will. Decide something for us.”

Nico has a very bad feeling about this. “Do not –”

“Which one of us, me or Jason, should be best man?”

Nico turns redder than any human has probably ever been. “And you people wonder why I never tell you anything.”

“Now, I’ve known him longer, but Jason went to school with him.”

“I don’t recall you ever breaking anybody’s nose for him.”

“I’ll break your nose now, Grace, if it helps.”

When he risks a glance at Will, he sees that – although there’s a slight blush creeping down his neck – he’s smiling.

“Why are we talking about me? Who’s best man at Jason’s wedding, huh?”

Jason pales as Nico, Percy, and Leo all turn to look at him. Annabeth and Piper are laughing.

“I’ve known him longest,” Leo says.

“I live with him.”

“Percy’s in love with him.”

“Hey!”

“Hey Frank, want to be best man at my wedding?”

Frank turns red. Hazel is grinning.

“Have you told Thalia yet?” Annabeth asks. Jason shakes his head.

“You know how hard it is to get a hold of her. I sent a message to Artemis, asking her to tell Thalia I need to talk to her, but who knows when that’ll happen.”

“Who’s Thalia?” Will whispers in Nico’s ear.

“Jason’s sister. She and her girlfriend travel all over, and she doesn’t have a cell phone so it can be hard to get a hold of her.”

They all drink some more; every time someone needs a new drink Leo offers to get it. “You’re whipped by a girl who doesn’t even like you,” Piper says. Eventually Annabeth and Percy stand up.

“Okay, we should probably get back.”

“Minerva might have stolen Allison by now.”

Annabeth glares. “My mother would not steal our child.”

Percy turns towards Nico and Jason and nods, as if to say, she definitely would. Nico laughs.

“Yeah, I think it’s probably time for all of us to call it a night.”

“Hang on!” Leo says. “Somebody has to pay for all this!”

“You haven’t paid?”

“Do you think I have the money to pay for all of this? I told her to put it on a tab and we’d pay it at the end of the night.”

Leo goes to get the bill. When he comes back he puts the bill down in the middle of the table. They all stare at each for a minute before Leo pushes it towards Nico.

“Why are you giving it to me?”

“Because you’re rich.”

Nico scowls. He can see Will looking at him. “I am not.”

Leo rolls his eyes. “Whatever, your father is rich, same thing. You don’t have to pay for HBO, you can afford to pay for the bill.”

Nico looks at Jason. “Is Game of Thrones worth him constantly holding this over our heads?”

“Not lately, to be honest.”

“We’ll split it up and pay you back later, just take it for now.”

Nico sighs and looks at Hazel. “You take it, Dad’s less likely to get mad at you.”

“Yeah, his eighteen year old daughter paying the bill at a bar, he’ll be thrilled.”

They all stare at Nico expectantly. Eventually he sighs in defeat. “Fine. But if he yells at me I’m blaming Percy.”

Percy laughs. “Tell him I’ll play him at poker to decide who should pay.”

Hazel snorts.

Outside Hazel, Frank, and Leo all wave goodbye, hugging Piper one more time in congratulations before leaving to catch the bus that’ll lead them back to campus. Percy and Annabeth do the same. Percy pulls him into a hug that has Nico blushing like crazy. “I like him,” he whispers into Nico’s ear. “I hate you,” Nico replies. Percy just laughs.

Tired and drunk, the remaining four walk to the bus stop in silence, Piper and Jason holding hands, Will and Nico lagging behind a few steps. The bus isn’t busy, so they all collapse into seats. Piper puts her head on Jason’s shoulder and falls asleep.

“I apologize for tonight,” Nico says, staring at the seat in front of him. Will laughs quietly.

“Don’t be. I like your friends. They scared the hell out of me, but I liked them.”

“And I’m, uh. Sorry about the…”

“Marriage jokes?”

Nico puts his head down on the seat in front of him. “Yeah. Those ones.”

“Don’t worry. I thought it was funny.”

“That makes one of us.”

Will nudges Nico’s knee with his own. “I had fun. Really. Where did you all meet?”

Nico sits back up. “You know how I met Jason and Leo. I met Piper through Jason. Hazel is my half-sister. When she was about eight my dad got a call from a hospital in New Orleans saying that a woman named Marie Levesque had died and she had left instructions that Hazel be placed with her father. Apparently my father had met her during one of his business trips. He didn’t even know Hazel existed, but he brought her home. She met Frank at her high school graduation. Well. Frank asked her out at graduation. They’d known each other a bit before then. Percy’s father is… well, he knows my father. I wouldn’t call them friends, but they’ve known each other for years. I’ve known Percy since I was 10. He met Annabeth in high school.”

“Percy said something about a poker game?”

Nico smirks. “My father and his have known each other for… years. They had a poker game literally decades ago. Percy’s dad won, but my dad swears he cheated. They’ve literally been bitching about this poker game for 25 years.” Will laughs.

They both sit in silence for a while. Finally Will says, “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah.”

“When we… when we met again, at the clinic. You mentioned that you – that you hadn’t had friends for a long time.”

Nico sucks in a breath.

“I just… what happened? Why were you… alone?”

He’s had a good night. A really good night, despite the fact that he almost killed Percy and Jason a few hundred times. He doesn’t want to have this conversation. He doesn’t want to talk about Bianca, not right now. He doesn’t want to tell Will that Nico never really knew his mother, so he clung to Bianca while he was growing up. He hadn’t wanted friends, then. A lot of the kids made fun of him, anyway; he was scrawny and kept accidentally switching between English and Italian for a decent amount of time and all he ever did was play Mythomagic. Bianca had been all he needed at that point, and then when she died he didn’t even try, anymore, just holed himself up and didn’t let anybody in. He would have spent his life like that if it weren’t for Jason Grace.

But he doesn’t want to tell Will that. Not right now. Not when his body is still remembering the way it felt to be pressed against Percy even though every time Will touched him he felt little electric shocks all over his body. He is tired and drunk and confused and he doesn’t want to talk about his sister.

“I just… didn’t get along well with other people.” Sometimes I still feel like I don’t. Sometimes I think all of these people around me are just here as a joke.

The answer is vague and Nico’s voice is hard and Will clearly understands that he doesn’t want to talk about it, so he stops. Nico feels the slightest bit guilty, but Will quickly switches topics.

“So. You’re rich?”

Nico scowls. “Have you heard of Asphodel Funeral Homes?”

“I think I might have seen some commercials.”

“Yeah, well, my dad owns them. All of them. Because, as he says, the one business you can count on to stay strong is death.”

Will bursts out laughing. Nico stares at him – he hadn’t been expecting that response.

“What?”

“It’s just – are you trying to tell me that Nico di Angelo, emo vampire boy who doesn’t understand the concept of colour –” Nico glares – “comes from a family that owns funeral homes? There’s no way you’re a real human being. You’re some kind of caricature of the Grim Reaper, or something.”

“Fuck off!”

Will starts poking him. “You’re definitely not real. There’s no way.”

Will tries to poke him in the face. Nico slaps his hand away. “Would you stop?”

“I’m just trying to make sure you’re real. You can never be too careful.” Will’s voice drops to a whisper as he leans closer, fingers skimming up under Nico’s shirt. He leans in close and kisses Nico lightly, lips gentle and teasing.

“I can hear you, you know,” Jason says from in front of them. Will laughs and Nico, happy and drunk, kisses his hand and then presses it to the back of Jason’s head.

“Is that why you can afford such a nice apartment?”

“Hazel’s getting a summer in Rome when she graduates. I just wanted a place to live.”

They’re silent the rest of the ride. Nico must have fallen asleep, because when they get to their stop Will is shaking him gently. He yawns, thanks the bus driver, and then follows Jason (who is half carrying Piper at this point) to their building. When they reach the parking lot Will stops.

“Um. I can’t really drive, right now.”

“Oh.” Nico hadn’t even thought about that. “Okay. You can crash here.” He avoids eye contact as he says it, which is ridiculous, because this is not the first time Will has spent the night when they were both drunk.

By the time they get to the building Jason and Piper have disappeared, making it up to the apartment faster than Nico. He leans against the wall of the elevator, eyes closed, listening to the breathing beside him.

Jason had left the door unlocked. Nico closes it and locks it behind him, shuffling off to his room. He gets to the door before he realizes Will isn’t there. When he turns around he sees him standing in the middle of the room, looking at the couch in what might be despair – he must be six feet, at least, and the couch is, well… definitely not. Nico sighs in exasperation.

“Come on, idiot. That couch barely fits me.”

Will smiles, embarrassed. Nico just rolls his eyes.

“Close the door behind you,” he mutters, climbing into bed.

“D’you want me to close the blinds, too?” When he looks at Will, he’s grinning.

“Please,” Nico says with a smirk.

Will crawls into bed next to him. Nico is telling himself firmly that he has no good reason to be embarrassed by this, with Will pressed beside him in Nico’s small bed. Nico coughs awkwardly and Will rolls onto his side and smiles.

“This probably shouldn’t be this awkward,” he whispers. Nico can’t really see him in the darkness of the room, but he can feel him, hand on Nico’s hip and his breath on his face. It smells like cheap beer; Nico realizes with horror that his breath must smell just as bad.

Will leans forwards and kisses him, pushing against him, and Nico entwines his hand in Will’s hair. Will’s hand slips under his shirt, hands warm on Nico’s cold skin.

“Goodnight,” he says, pulling away from Nico’s lips.

Nico only has the brainpower to say, “Yeah.” Will laughs and then turns over, and Nico stares up at the ceiling, running over the night in his head.


“Nico. Nico.” He wakes up to see Will in front of him, shaking him gently. He is sitting on his haunches, smiling.

“What time is it?” Nico asks sleepily.

“Eight.”

“You slept in,” Nico says mildly.

“I know.”

“Oh my God, Solace, I was kidding.”

Will laughs. “I have to go. My roommate is probably going to kill me. I forgot to text him.”

Nico makes a noise and rolls over onto his side. “Okay. Bye.”

Will laughs quietly. “You’re really not a morning person, are you di Angelo?”

Nico grunts. Will leans forwards and kisses him gently. “Can you do me a favour?” He whispers.

“Does it involve moving?”

“No.”

“Then sure.”

“Don’t get distant again. If I ever say anything that sets you off let me know, okay? Don’t just freeze me out.”

Nico stares into his eyes. They are worried, but Nico can see something else in them, a fire that he hadn't noticed before. Will is a fighter, he can see that now. He nods.

“Yeah. Sure.”

Will smiles beautifully. “I’ll see you, okay?”

Nico nods.

Chapter Text

Nico has no idea what they are, after that.

They see each other regularly, or at least as often as they can, since Will has two jobs and they both have classes. There’s a lot of kissing, but nothing ever really goes farther than that. Nico thinks it might be because Will is new to this. Alcohol gives people courage they don’t have normally, and sober Will doesn’t seem to have drunk Will’s courage. He doesn’t push it – he doesn’t want to make Will uncomfortable. He doesn’t think they’re dating. Nico’s never dated anyone, but when he meets Will’s friend, a girl named Lou Ellen, Will introduces him as just ‘Nico.’ What the fuck does that mean? If it had been ‘my boyfriend Nico’ he would have known where they stood; even if it had been ‘my friend Nico’ he would have had some idea, some kind of fuck buddies scenario minus the fucking. But just ‘Nico’ tells him nothing. The fact that Lou Ellen had raised her eyebrows and said ‘oh’ before looking Nico up and down only served to confuse him more.

“Are you going home for Thanksgiving?”

Nico makes an angry noise. “Apparently.”

They are sitting at one of the outdoor tables at Apollo’s. Because Nico lives so close Will usually ropes him into meeting him there for his lunch. The back patio is closed off for the winter but Will can sit out there when he’s working.

“You don’t get along with your father.”

“Is it that obvious?”

Will laughs.

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Do you get along with your father?”

“Wouldn’t know.”

Nico looks up sharply. Will is staring at his food with forced indifference.

“Oh. I’m, uh. I’m sorry.”

Will shrugs and looks back up, but the smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “S’okay. I never knew him, so it’s not like there’s anything to miss.” Nico can tell Will doesn’t believe that, but he doesn’t know what to say. He could mention his mother, but that’s not quite the same; Will’s tone tells him clearly that his father had walked out as opposed to dying, and Nico doesn’t think he could ever understand that. My mother died when I was barely a year old doesn’t seem like it would be all that comforting.

Besides, if he mentions his mother he’s afraid it will lead to Bianca.

He hasn’t told Will about Bianca yet. He knows he probably should, but the right time never really seems to come up. Part of him doesn’t want to. He knows it’s probably selfish, and he can’t explain why he doesn’t want Will to know, but he keeps his mouth shut.

Will shakes his head slightly. “I’m not going home. I’m working all weekend.”

“You’re working on Thanksgiving weekend?”

“Get paid more,” Will says with a shrug.

Every time they get onto this topic Nico feels a kernel of embarrassment in his stomach. He remembers the way Will had looked at him when Leo had said Nico was rich. He can’t help but feel guilty, thinking about Will staying home at Thanksgiving to work overtime to pay for school while Nico’s father is paying both his and Hazel’s tuition out of pocket.

“Well. I’ll eat extra turkey for you.”

Will grins widely at him.


“Have I ever mentioned that I hate planes?” He whispers to Hazel, gripping her hand tightly as they hit a spot of turbulence. Hazel grimaces in pain.

“Yes, but please, Nico, you’re about to break my hand.”

Nico takes a deep breath. “We’re going to die. I’m going to die going to visit Dad.”

“You’re so dramatic.”

So many people have told him that recently that he’s starting to think it might be true.

“At least you’re in a better mood this time. I wonder why that is.” Hazel is smirking at him. If Nico weren’t so scared to death he would have let go of her hand. All he does now is glare.

“No one asked you.”

“How is Will?”

“Fine.”

“Just fine?”

“Hazel,” he says through clenched teeth. “Can we discuss this on solid ground?”

“You’re not normally this jumpy on planes.”

“The planes aren’t normally this jumpy.”

“Fair enough. Think of Will. That’ll calm you down.”

Hazel.”

Hazel laughs and pries his hand off of hers. “I can’t feel my fingers anymore, Nico.”

“I need drugs,” he moans. “I need to be asleep.” Hazel snorts.

When they land Nico strongly resists the urge to kiss the ground. When they catch sight of their father and Persephone, Hazel waves happily.

“Hello, you two,” Persephone says. Nico hugs his step-mother and then nods at his father.

“Hi, Father,” he says. Hades looks him up and down.

“You dressed up this time,” he says, nodding at Nico’s jeans.

Nico smiles the slightest bit.


“So. How’s school?”

Nico shrugs. “Fine.”

Persephone sighs. “Hazel?”

As Hazel starts telling their step-mother about how she’s been doing since the last time they’ve seen each other, Nico reaches across the table to grab a piece of bread.

“You seem different,” his father says quietly. Nico doesn’t look at him, just dips his bread in the gravy.

“Do I?”

Hades nods. “I hesitate to call it happy, but you seem… lighter.”

“I don’t eat much when I’m at school,” he says. Hades stares at him for a minute before laughing. Nico can’t remember the last time he’d joked with his father.

Persephone notices it too. The next day when he comes downstairs she makes a remark about how she’s surprised to see him. Nico just shrugs.

“Well. I’m glad you’re here.”

Hazel winks at him. He glares.

From: Will

(4:56) tonight at dinner can you say you’re thankful for me?

To: Will

(4:57) no

From: Will

(4:59) why not?

To: Will

(5:00) “today I am thankful for the guy I picked up at a party when I was super drunk”

From: Will

(5:01) I think that would go over well

“Who are you texting?” Persephone asks.

“Percy,” he says, immediately. Persephone raises her eyebrows.

“You’re hiding something.”

“No I’m not.”

Persephone huffs.


“We should say what we’re thankful for.”

They all turn and look at Demeter. “Why?”

“Because it’s a day when we are supposed to give thanks. It will lose the essence of the holiday if all we do is eat more.”

“We’re not the goddamn Cleavers,” Nico mutters under his breath. Hazel kicks him under the table.

“Okay, Demeter. That sounds nice. Would you like to start?” Leave it to Hazel.

“Yes. I am thankful that I am able to live my life with the confidence of a single woman who does not need to settle for an unfulfilling life with an unfulfilling husband.”

Nico bursts out laughing, soda coming out of his nose. Hades takes a deep breath and checks his watch.

“Twenty two minutes since she’s got here,” he mutters. “New record.”

“Mother,” Persephone says. “Do you mind?”

Nico is still shaking with laughter, head in his hands. Hazel kicks him again.

“Demeter, please,” his father says. “It’s Thanksgiving.”

“So I am supposed to be thankful that you kidnapped my daughter?”

Hades rubs his temples. “I did not kidnap your daughter.”

Demeter sniffs. “You took her away from me. I’m an old woman and you left me alone.”

Persephone rolls her eyes. “Oh Mother. Stop being dramatic.”

Nico takes a deep breath, trying to stop his laughter. Even Hazel is hiding a smile behind her hand.

“I told you we shouldn’t invite her to Thanksgiving,” his father says, stabbing a potato with unnecessary force.

“So you steal my daughter and then you try and squeeze me out of her life?”

“God help me,” Hades says.

“Mother, enough.”

Nico is still laughing, so hard that even Hazel has started, giggling behind her hand.

“Child, would you stop cackling like a hyena!” Demeter shouts, but if she had expected that this would make him stop she was wrong; it did quite the opposite.

And then, surprisingly, oddly, Nico’s father starts to laugh.

Persephone and her mother stare in wonder at the three of them, Nico and Hazel and their father, doubled over.

“What on earth –”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Demeter,” Hades says, taking another slice of turkey and shaking his head. Demeter just glares.


“Well. We had an interesting weekend.”

“You could call it that.”

Hades looks over at his son. “You’ve said more words to me this weekend.”

“My bad,” Nico says, but his mouth curves up into what could be called a smile.

“Nico! We have to go.” Hazel gives their father a brief hug, giving Persephone the same, before grabbing her luggage and running off. Nico sighs and goes to follow.

“We’ll see you at Christmas,” Persephone says.

“Only if we can invite your mother.”

Hades snorts. Nico waves and then runs to catch his sister.

Chapter Text

The last week of classes before exams passes heinously slowly. Nico falls asleep in class three times; he drinks two cups of coffee a day and consumes probably 100 chicken nuggets.

Will looks at him in disdain.

“You know this is killing me, right?”

Nico pops another chicken nugget in his mouth and raises his eyebrows at Will. “You’re not going to be one of those obnoxious medical people who makes me give up fast food and eat vitamins every day, are you?”

“No, but I think McDonald’s four times a week would be extravagant for anybody.”

“Finals are coming up. I’m stress eating.”

“Pretty soon you will be stress dying.”

“Shut up and have a nugget.”

Will sighs but eats one anyway.

“Can you at least try to eat something that can be loosely defined as healthy?”

“Are you teaming up with Jason?”

“Nico.”

Nico shrugs. “Fine. McDonald’s has salads.”

“You’re just doing this to annoy me.”

“Maybe,” he smirks. Will shakes his head, smiling.

Nico smiles back.


“What are you going to get Will for Christmas?”

Nico starts choking on his food. Frank bangs on his back with more intensity than is necessary. Nico is probably going to bruise.

“I’m okay, Frank. I’m okay.” Nico coughs one last time. Then he turns back to Hazel. “What?”

“Christmas. Will. Present. You.”

“I have to buy him a present?”

Hazel stares at him. “Who raised you?”

“Dad.”

Frank laughs.

Hazel and Frank are at his apartment. Hazel had decided he had eaten enough junk food for the week so she had come over with Frank, cooking dinner for the three of them. She is staring at him from across the table with her eyebrows raised.

“Yes, you have to get him a present.”

Nico turns to look at Frank. “I have to get him a present?”

Frank just shrugs. “According to Hazel. And I always listen to Hazel.”

“Smart man,” Nico mutters.

“You’ve been… whatever you’re doing, for what, a little over two months? You have to get him a present.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to get him?”

“How am I supposed to know? He’s your… person.”

“Person.”

Hazel huffs. “Well, what does he like?”

Nico eats a carrot. “I don’t know. Medical things.”

“You are hopeless.

“I don’t do this, Hazel! I don’t even get Jason Christmas presents.”

“You’re not sleeping with Jason.”

“I’m not sleeping with Will, either!”

Hazel cocks her head to the side. Shit. He hadn’t meant to say that.

“You’re not?”

Nico leans back and looks at the ceiling. “Do we have to talk about this?”

Hazel is looking at him intently. “What do you mean you’re not sleeping with him?”

Nico looks at his plate. “Would you like me to draw you a diagram of all the things we’re not doing?”

Frank laughs, but Hazel doesn’t seem to think he’s funny.

“But that’s how you met. What do you do?”

Nico glares. “Are you saying I’m incapable of doing anything else with a guy other than sex? And besides, we didn’t really have, like… sex sex.” He says that last part very quietly, hoping Hazel wouldn’t hear.

“Really? Why not?”

“Oh my God, Hazel, I really don’t want to be having this conversation with you right now.”

“No no, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with you and this guy. So you didn’t have penetrative sex?”

Both Nico and Frank, who had taken a bite of their food, start choking rather loudly. When Nico is able to catch his breath he gasps out, “Please do not ever say the word penetrative again.”

Hazel rolls her eyes. “This isn’t ninth grade sex education, you two. We are all adults.”

“We are not sleeping together, Hazel, and we never did in the strictest sense of the word, can we please drop the subject?”

“So then –” Hazel’s face brightens. “So then you’re willingly seeing someone! Without sex! You’re seeing someone –”

“Please shout louder, I don’t think Dad heard you back in Los fucking Angeles.”

“Nico!”

“Would you stop?”

Hazel is grinning. She looks so happy that Nico doesn’t want to tell her any differently. But he does.

“Besides, we’re not… seeing each other.”

“Do you see him a lot?”

“Yes.”

“Do you make out?

Nico sputters. “I – I am not discussing this with my sister!”

“Frank,” Hazel says patiently. “Ask my brother if he makes out with his person.”

Nico’s face is burning. Frank looks between the two of them. “Do I have to?”

“No, you don’t, and stop calling him my person.”

“Well answer the question.”

“What’s the question?”

Hazel sighs. “Do you or do you not see him regularly and engage in vaguely sexual activities together?”

“What the fuck is a vaguely sexual activity?”

“I’m taking that as a yes,” she says smugly. “That is literally the definition of seeing someone, Nico.” Nico, who isn’t entirely sure of what the hell just happened, stares at her in disbelief, and then turns to Frank.

“How did that just happen?”

For his part, Frank just shrugs. “That’s Hazel for you, man.”

“If you’re seeing him then you have to get him something for Christmas. You should be getting everyone something for Christmas, while we’re on the subject.”

“Bah Humbug.”

Frank laughs, then immediately stops when Hazel glares at him. Him and Nico exchange looks, both of them smiling slightly.

“That’s it, we’re going Christmas shopping.”

“Okay, have fun. Thanks for dinner.”

Frank smiles. Nico is really starting to like him.

“You’re funny,” Hazel says in a voice that tells him quite clearly that she doesn’t think he’s funny at all. “You and me are going Christmas shopping and we are buying presents for everyone and then we are going to have a Christmas party before break and you are going to bring Will.”

“No I am not.”

“Nico.”

“Hazel.”

The two siblings stare at each other across the table. Hazel is sitting back, her legs crossed, hands in front of her on the table. Nico is hunched, resting on his arms, which are crossed on the table. Frank looks between the two of them as though he were watching a very quiet, very boring tennis match.

Finally Nico breaks. “FINE! But you are inviting him.”

Hazel smirks triumphantly. “Give me his number then, and I will.”

Glaring the entire time, Nico grabs her phone from her. It isn’t until he looks back up that he sees both Hazel and Frank looking at him, Hazel with glee all over her face.

“What?”

You have his number memorized.”

Nico tries to dispute this before realizing that there’s really no way around it. He just slides the phone back to Hazel and buries his head in his arms on the table.

“I’m done with this conversation.”

Suddenly he feels arms around him. “I’m very happy for you,” Hazel whispers in his ear. He lifts his head to scowl at her but she just kisses his cheek.

He can hold onto things for years and years and years but he just can’t stay mad at Hazel.


“I got a text from your sister.”

Nico scowls at the table. “Her idea, not mine.”

“You didn’t want to invite me to your Christmas party?”

“I didn’t want to have a Christmas party.”

“Are you going to sit there and tell me you don’t like Christmas?”

“What’s to like?”

Seriously?”

“I don’t like Christmas.”

“How can you not –”

“I don’t like Christmas,” he repeats, but this time his voice is hard, his hands are clenched, and his eyes are cold. Will sits back.

“Okay. Sorry.”

Nico breaths deeply. They are sitting in an independent coffee shop across from the drug mart Will works at; he had just finished working for the day.

Bianca had died a few days before Christmas. Christmas that year had been a gray and somber affair, and the colour had never returned. When Hazel came to live with them she tried to make it happier, and when Persephone got there his father had opened up, but Nico woke up every Christmas morning thinking about the fact that this was just one more Christmas Bianca didn’t get to celebrate.

“So what did Hazel say?”

Will smirks and brings out his phone. “‘Dear Will’ – I like that she starts her text messages so formally – ‘Dear Will, this is Hazel. I wanted to invite you to a Christmas party that we will be having before break. I wanted to personally invite you because God knows Nico wouldn’t. He’s glaring at me right now as we speak. I will let you know the details as soon as possible.’ Have I ever mentioned that I really like your sister?”

Nico rolls his eyes. “She’s dragging me Christmas shopping this weekend.”

“Do I have to bring presents?” Will looks genuinely worried. Nico shakes his head.

“You’re off the hook because you don’t know anybody. I don’t have that privilege.”

Will leans back and puts his feet up on the empty chair beside Nico. “I’ll get you a gift though. What do you want? Black jeans? A Bring Me the Horizon CD? A pure, virgin neck to sink your teeth into?”

Nico just looks at him mildly. “I don’t listen to Bring Me the Horizon.”

“Slipknot? Marilyn Manson?”

“You know an awful lot of scary bands for someone with such a sunny disposition.”

Will nudges him with his foot. “Is my disposition that sunny?”

“Sunnier than mine. I thought we were over the vampire thing. Plus I don’t think vampires need virgins.”

“That sounds like something a vampire would say.”

Nico just raises his eyebrows at him and takes a sip of his coffee. “Well what do you want then?”

Will shrugs. Before he can answer his phone goes off. He checks it. “Hazel wants you to call her.”

Nico checks his phone. Three messages. Whoops.

“Hello?”

“Sorry. What’s up?”

“Come to your place. We’re discussing Christmas plans.”

“I don’t have Christmas plans.”

Hazel sighs. “Nico –”

She is cut off by Jason’s voice, loud over the phone. “Get your scrawny ass over here, di Angelo, and bring your person.”

“Can we stop –” he glances at Will – “stop calling it that!”

“Get over here, Nico!” Then he hangs up. Nico lets out a breath.

“We’re wanted at my apartment.”


“Okay,” Jason says once they get home. “Clearly this is not an option for the party.”

Their apartment is decently large, but not large enough for the amount of people currently inside, and Percy and Annabeth aren’t even here.

Jason, Piper, Hazel and Frank are sitting at the kitchen table. Leo is on the couch; Nico sits next to him and Will sits less beside him and more half on top of him. Definitely not enough room for a party.

“You needed me to come home to figure out there’s not enough room in here for nine people?”

“No, we needed you here because we’re doing Secret Santa.”

Nico looks at all of them. “We went years without celebrating Christmas, why are we deciding that now is the time to start a tradition?”

“Because Piper and Jason just got engaged, Percy and Annabeth just had a baby, even you have a person –”

Will looks at him with his eyebrows raised and a smirk on his face. Nico closes his eyes and leans his head back on the couch. “They won’t stop calling you that.”

Piper picks up where Hazel left off. “Frank and Hazel are in love, Leo has his right hand –”

“The bartender! Her name was Calypso! We’re in love!”

Piper ignores this. “And we’re becoming grown-ups! Doing grown-up things!”

“Grown-ups don’t believe in Santa.”

“Stop being such a spoil sport, Nico,” Jason says. Nico scowls and slumps down. God, does he hate Christmas.

Will slips his hand in his.

“Is there a limit?” Frank asks.

“Three hundred bucks for Nico and Hazel, twenty-five for the rest of us.” Nico elbows Leo in the ribs.

“No limit, but don’t be too extravagant. You’re in this too, Will. Nico will help you.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Nico rolls his eyes.

Hazel starts walking around with a bowl filled with pieces of paper. “There will be two left, those will be for Percy and Annabeth.” Nico glares at his sister when she passes him. Hazel gives him a little smile.

Nico opens the paper and thinks, oh. Of course. Why not.

Written on the piece of paper, in Hazel’s neat cursive, is the name Percy.

Chapter Text

From: Frank

(11:23) what am I supposed to get Will?

To: Frank

(11:27) I don’t even know what to get Will

This, he thinks, is why he doesn’t do this. This is why he doesn’t follow through with things. This is why he fucks and leaves.

“You’re freaking out about something.”

“No I’m not.”

Jason sighs. “Are you that upset about the Secret Santa thing?”

Nico rubs at the back of his neck and takes a deep breath. “No. I’m not.”

Jason walks over and sits next to him on the couch. “I know this is a bad time for you –”

“Stop.”

“Nico –”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Jason looks at him sadly. Nico avoids his eyes.

He has one more exam left, and then he has the stupid fucking party, and then he has nothing but an empty room and another Christmas spent without her.

“Want to go shopping with me and Piper?”

“No.”

“What if I don’t give you a choice?”

“I have to study.”

“All right. But I’m here if you need me.”

He tries his best to smile at him. “I know.  Who’d you get, by the way?”

Jason grins. “That would ruin all the fun, wouldn’t it?”

Nico laughs through his nose. “Apparently.”

Once Jason leaves Nico sets up in his room and tries to study. He stares at the words on the page, willing them to make sense, but when he gets a message he is happy to look away from the textbook.

From: Will

(2:13) I’ve been trying to study for three hours but Cecil won’t shut up. Can I come over and study there? I figure you’d be quieter than him

To: Will

(2:14) sure

He tries to study more but when he hears the doorbell he admits defeat. Will is holding a textbook so thick it would make a fine television stand on its own.

“Shit.”

“No kidding.”

“You can set up at my desk, if you want. I was trying to study but I’ve decided that life is pointless so I’m going to nap instead.”

Will smiles at him.

“What?”

“You’re cute.”

Nico blushes and hurries into his room. He dumps his study materials on the floor and then crawls into bed, turning towards the wall so the light isn’t as bright.

“Don’t be loud.”

Will laughs. “Whatever you say.”

Nico drifts off. He doesn’t know how long he slept for when he is awoken by Will shaking him.

“Nico. I need help.”

Nico blinks, wiping sleep out of his eyes and looking up in confusion – and mild annoyance – at the face above him.

“I’m not a doctor.”

Will rolls his eyes. “Neither am I, di Angelo. That’s why I need your help.”

Nico tries to sit up and is surprised when Will puts his hands on his shoulders and pushes him back down on the bed.

“I thought you needed my help?”

The look Will gives him simultaneously scares the shit out of him and turns him on. “I do.”

“I’m confused and the tiniest bit afraid.”

Will leans forwards and kisses him, shifting so he is straddling over Nico. His hands travel up under his shirt, fingers warm on Nico’s stomach, and then he lifts the shirt over Nico’s head.

“How is this helping you study?”

Looking at Will’s smirk, Nico thinks that in a past life he was probably a mad scientist. “It is helping me,” he says, kissing down Nico’s neck, “because I have to learn anatomy. And you are going to help me.”

Nico laughs. “That is a very thinly veiled excuse to get me naked.”

“Are you complaining?”

“No,” Nico says, breathless as Will starts tugging down his pants.

“I’m serious, di Angelo,” he says, voice very low. “I’m studying. So I’m going to need you to be quiet and still because this is a very important exam.”

Nico takes a shaky breath. “You made up that story about your roommate didn’t you?”

“Cecil’s not even home.”

“Did you actually study at all?”

“Yes. There was a whole chapter before the anatomy lesson. I’m touched that you’re so concerned about my study ethic but it’s going to be difficult to do this if you keep talking.”

And then Will tries to kill him.

Not really, but it sure as hell feels that way to Nico.

He starts at Nico’s ear, tugging at it lightly with his teeth, before moving, running his lips lightly over Nico’s forehead, eyelids, cheekbones, down his neck, biting gently at the skin. The entire time he is doing this he is whispering names, bones and muscles and words Nico couldn’t understand under the best of circumstances. He goes agonizingly slowly, and Nico can hear laughter in his voice as he presses kisses down Nico’s body. As he gets lower and lower Nico just squirms more, making noises in the back of his throat that are a mixture of arousal and annoyance at the pace of Will’s ‘studying.’

“If you don’t stop moving so much I am going to lose track of what I’m doing and I will have to start all over again.” The last three words he says very slowly, moving his hips against Nico’s.

“You’re going to kill me,” Nico is able to gasp out as Will leaves marks down his chest.

“I don’t recall you being this noisy the last time we did this.”

“Alcohol dulls your – your senses.”

Will laughs. “If you’re still this coherent then clearly I’m not working hard enough.”

Nico becomes completely incoherent, after that.


Nico might have blacked out. He really isn’t sure.

“You said I was the first guy you’ve ever been with?”

Will is lying beside him. He nods.

“Seriously?”

Will laughs and rolls over up onto his elbows, nodding down at Nico.

Nico stares up at the ceiling in utter disbelief. “Okay. Sure.”

Will lies back down, slipping his hand into Nico’s. Nico takes a deep breath and then turns to look at him.

“Can I tell you something?”

Will nods.

“I don’t know what to get you for Christmas.”

Will just laughs and laughs and laughs until Nico rolls over and shuts him up.


From: Will

(5:38) okay, I don’t want to brag, but I definitely just got the best gift, especially considering it’s for a guy I met a month ago

(5:40) I am going to be Leo’s favourite person for the next ten years

“What are the chances though?” Hazel says as they’re walking downtown. Nico shrugs, his hands in his pockets.

“One in eight, I think.”

Hazel sighs. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Hazel. Look, I just want to get this over with, okay? I just want to do this stupid party and then go home and sleep for two weeks and then Christmas will be over and I won’t have to deal with it for another year.”

Hazel loops her arm through his. “I’m sorry, Nico. I guess I just… I just wanted to try to make some better Christmas memories.”

Nico sighs and forces a smile on his face. “Don’t worry, Hazel. But hey, I don’t think it’s very fair that you got Frank.”

“I picked last! It’s not like I planned it.”

The problem with him pulling Percy’s name out of the hat is that Nico has spent about ten years thinking about the perfect thing that he could do to make Percy fall in love with him, and even though he knows that there’s nothing he could do that would get that outcome (not that he even wants it now, anyway) it’s hard to get out of that mindset. And Nico is still confused, because when you’ve been in love with the same man for ten years it’s going to take a lot more than a cute waiter who gives stellar head to make you forget about that. So now he has his old feelings for Percy fighting against these new feelings for Will that he doesn’t even understand, plus now he feels bad about feeling like this about Percy when he’s doing this… thing with Will, whatever the fuck it is, which is ridiculous because he hasn’t promised Will anything. He hasn’t committed to anything. And he can’t stop thinking about Percy’s face when he opens Nico’s gift, whatever the fuck it would be, and he can perfectly picture the slow grin that would spread across his face and the way his eyes would light up, and he doesn’t even know what the fuck he would even get Will. Will had just laughed and said they would hold off on Christmas and not to worry and then he had kissed him again but that didn’t help Nico at all, it just left him feeling more confused.

“What are you thinking about?”

He shakes his head. “Nothing. C’mon.”

Him and Hazel have a good day out together. They get a bunch of gardening stuff for Persephone – Nico hopes Hazel knows what they do, because he sure as hell doesn’t. Nico wants to buy Demeter one of those kitschy pillows that says I love my grandchildren! But Hazel won’t let him.

“Oh come on!”

“Demeter doesn't even like us.”

Exactly.”

Hazel gets their father a fancy new Bluetooth set. Nico wants to get him a sparkly pink cell phone case but Hazel won’t let him do that, either.

“You are no fun, do you know that?”

He ends up getting him the first season of The Walking Dead.

“Does Dad even watch this?”

“Probably not, but you know how much he likes zombies. Probably because the only people who can stand to be around him are dead.”

“Nico.”

He laughs. “I’m joking, Hazel. Mostly.”

They wander around some more, but Nico doesn’t find anything to get Percy. He’s about to call it a day when Hazel grabs his arm.

“Nico. You’re overthinking this.”

“Overthinking what?”

Hazel sighs. “You’re trying to find the perfect thing to get him and it’s not going to happen. You have to let it go. You’re buying a present for Percy, your best friend, not Percy, the guy you’re in love with.”

Nico nods. “Yeah. Okay. But let’s call it a day for now, okay?”

Hazel stares at him, eyes narrowed. Nico forces a smile on his face. “C’mon, Hazel. I have to go out again, anyway. I haven’t gotten you anything yet.”

Hazel smiles at him. On the bus ride home she ends up falling asleep on his shoulder, and Nico spends the entire ride trying to think about what the fuck he was supposed to get for Percy Jackson.

Chapter Text

Percy opens the door wearing a heinously ugly Christmas sweater, holding his daughter, who has been forced into an equally ugly Christmas sweater and a tiny little Santa hat.

“Aww,” Will says. Nico makes a tsk noise and whisks Allison out of her father’s arms.

“What did your father do to you?”

Percy laughs and closes the door behind him. “You don’t get to keep her the whole time, you know. Everyone’s already been fussing over her.”

“Sure, but I’m her favourite, aren’t I Allison?” He catches Will’s eye, who is looking at him with his head cocked and a smile on his face.

“What?”

“I never really pegged you as someone who would be good with children.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?”

Will shrugs. “I don’t know, you just… you seem like the type of person who doesn’t really like other people.”

“Babies aren’t people.”

“Do I have to have the birds and the bees talk with you?”

Nico laughs and adjusts Allison. “That’s not what I meant, idiot.”

Jason, Piper, Hazel, and Frank are all there when Nico and Will enter the family room. Mrs. O’Leary is lying on a big bed in the corner; someone had managed to put reindeer horns on her. Nico sits down beside Jason, Allison in his lap, and Will sits beside him.

“I don’t know why you’re so concerned about my mother,” Annabeth says when she enters the room, handing a bag of chips to Piper. “If anyone’s going to kidnap Allison it’ll be Nico.”

Percy sits down. “Yeah, but I can beat up Nico. I don’t think I could take your mother in a fight.”

Nico snorts. “You couldn’t take me either, Jackson, nice try though.”

“It’s not hard to act tough with a baby in your lap, is it?”

Nico leans back and gives Percy the finger behind Allison’s head.

“You’re a bad influence.”

Annabeth rolls her eyes and sits next to her husband. “Is everyone here?”

“Leo’s not.”

Jason rolls his eyes. “What else is new?”

There’s a knock on the door. Annabeth leans back and shouts, “It’s open!” Leo rushes in.

“Sorry, sorry!”

Nico is bouncing Allison on his knees gently and making funny faces at her. Will keeps staring at him the entire time.

“You’re the last one here, Valdez, so you have to go first.”

“I don’t remember ever making these rules,” Leo says, throwing his gift to Annabeth. It turns out to be an unnecessarily large book about the architecture of Ancient Greece. Nico thinks Annabeth might cry.

“Leo!” She exclaims, getting up and hugging him tightly.

“Yeah, bet you’re all wishing you hadn’t made me go first, now, eh? There’s no way anyone did better that this.”

To Nico’s surprise, Will says, “I think I probably did.”

Leo looks at him. “Try me, then, Solace. Who’d you get?”

“You.” Will smirks and holds out an envelope to Leo, who takes it. When he opens it, the only thing inside is a tiny piece of paper with what looks like a bunch of numbers on it.

“What is this?”

“The bartender from Tartarus’ phone number.”

Leo’s jaw drops.

“Now, I gave her my word that if you turn out to be a creep she can blame it on me, so maybe try to be semi-cool –” Will is cut off by Leo sitting on his lap and pressing a kiss to Will’s temple. Percy and Jason are laughing; Annabeth is still looking through her book, completely unaware of everything around her.

“Where have you been all my life, Solace,” Leo says, staring at the number in absolute glee. Nico rolls his eyes and shoves Leo off of Will’s lap.

Will laughs and leans close to Nico. “Are you jealous?”

Nico elbows him, smiling slightly.

“All right, someone else bite the bullet and go.”

Jason sighs and passes Nico a bag. Nico looks at him.

“You asked me to go shopping with you!”

“Exactly. I knew you wouldn’t go, but then you wouldn’t suspect me.”

“Jesus Christ, Jason, it’s Secret Santa, not the Secret Service.”

Nico hands Allison to Jason and then reaches into the bag, only to pull out a bright green Christmas sweater, decorated hideously with skeletons wearing Santa hats. Nico stares at it in horror.

“What the hell.”

Everyone in the room is laughing; Will is practically doubled over.

“Where did you find this?”

“It’s amazing what you can find in New York,” Jason says. “Put it on.”

No –”

But Jason, passing Allison to Piper, violently grabs the sweater out of his hands and then forces it over his head. Will helps, taking one of Nico’s arms and forcing it through the armhole of the sweater, so that Nico is left with messy hair and an angry look on his face. “You look cute,” Will says, laughing. Jason wraps an arm around his shoulder and yanks Nico close to him.

“Merry Christmas, Nico,” he says. Nico wrenches away and rolls his eyes, but not even he can stop smiling. He thinks about what Hazel had said, about making new memories, and looks down at himself. This is certainly a new Christmas memory.

The rest of them exchange presents. Piper had bought Hazel a couple horseback riding lessons, much to Hazel’s, who had always wanted to ride a horse, delight. Frank had just bought Will a movie pass for two, complete with popcorn and drink, with an apology that it was kind of a lame gift, but Will seemed pleased. “I’m dragging you to the sappiest movie that’s out right now,” he told Nico. Percy had gotten Jason an IOU for a Yankees game and dinner – “That’s literally a date. You’re taking him on a date.” For his part, Jason had been thrilled.

When it’s Nico’s turn, he passes Percy his gift. Allison has made the rounds and is now resting on her father’s lap. Percy hands her to Annabeth and grins at Nico.

“I didn’t know if you were at the point in your life where all you want is gifts for your kid so I bought Allison something too.”

Percy pulls out a tiny little fisherman’s hat and laughs.

“A gift from me and my father,” Nico says with a smirk. Percy, laughing the entire time, puts the little hat on Allison’s head. The entire room erupts into a chorus of aww’s.

Percy’s actual gift is a Ziploc bag filled with only blue jellybeans. Percy grins and eats a handful. “I’ll explain the blue food later,” he whispers to Will. On top of that are two early-bird tickets to a new Aquarium that had opened a little further upstate, boasting to be the biggest one in all of North America. Percy stares at them with his eyes narrowed.

“Nico. My work couldn’t even get tickets to this. How much were these?”

“Not much.”

“Nico –”

“My dad was given them by one of his partners. He gave them to me. They didn’t cost me a cent. Honest.”

Percy grins widely and gets up, dragging Nico out of his seat to hug him tightly. “This is fucking incredible, dude, thank you. D’you want to come with me?”

Blushing, Nico shakes his head. “No. Take Annabeth. I have no interest in looking at whales and shit.”

Percy grins and hugs him again. Nico sits back down and hopes no one notices how hard he’s blushing. He avoids Hazel's eyes, but Jason and Will pushing in on him on both sides is making him hot, and his face is still burning. He excuses himself, hiding out in the bathroom and splashing cold water on his face until he calms down.

Cool it, di Angelo, he thinks to himself. Stop acting like a sad little high schooler.

“Nico?” Fuck. “Are you okay?”

He dries his face and then opens the door, smiling at Will. “Sorry. I think I’m overheating in this sweater. I should definitely take it off.”

Will laughs, looking down at the sweater. “No way. You’re keeping that on.”

“You’re sure you wouldn’t rather me take it off?”

Will pushes against him, smirking. “You’re not going to be able to seduce me into letting you get rid of that sweater,” he says, leaning down to kiss Nico.

“Are you sure?” Nico bites down gently on Will’s lip. “I like a challenge.”

“I can come over after, if you want,” Will’s voice is soft, his hand on Nico’s neck, hips pressed up hard against Nico’s. “We can figure out which one of us is right.” This is what Nico understands – no matter how confusing anything else is, this, body against body and lips on his and Will’s warm fingers on his skin, this he understands.

Someone clears their throat.

Will springs away from Nico to see Hazel standing in the doorway, arms crossed. “May I speak to my brother?”

Will nods and leaves the room, leaving Nico and Hazel alone. Hazel does not look happy.

“What’s up?”

“Dad didn’t give you those tickets.”

Nico sighs.

“Nico. How much were those.”

“It wasn’t that much.”

“Nico.”

“What?”

Hazel looks at him sadly. Then she hugs him. “Merry Christmas, Nico,” she says.

When Nico and Hazel re-enter the room Piper is perched on the armrest of Annabeth’s chair, looking through Annabeth’s new book with her. Leo and Frank are talking; Frank currently has Allison. Percy, Jason, and Will are playing Super Smash Bros. Will must be winning, because Percy keeps trying to push him over. Hazel touches his arm and smiles at him before going over to Frank and Leo. Nico takes a seat beside Will.

“You’re winning?”

Will ducks away from Percy’s arm. “How can you tell?”

“Percy always tries to do that when he’s losing.”

Percy grins.

The rest of the night passes. Nico joins the next Smash Bros game and wipes the floor with the asses of the other three. Percy starts trying to push him over, but Nico avoids him. After a couple games pass Annabeth and Piper come over, replacing Will and Jason, and Piper destroys every last one of them.

The night comes to an end. They all say their goodbyes. Leo hugs Will so hard Will is physically lifted off the ground. Nico is hugged far too many times for his liking.

When they get back to the building Will comes back with him. They kiss in the elevator; Nico lives on the sixth floor and by the time the elevator doors open Will’s hair is a mess and Nico’s belt is undone.

Nico doesn’t know if Jason or Piper are here, because the lights are off and all is quiet when him and Will crash through the door, lips pressed together. Nico’s jacket falls to the ground as Will pushes him against the door, kissing him messily, hungrily, ferociously. Nico has déjà vu from the first time this happened, except neither of them are drunk this time.

Nico pushes him, moving him backwards. Will’s back collides with the doorknob of Nico’s bedroom door and he hisses in pain, reaching behind himself to open it. Nico pushes him through, closing the door behind him; the sound is much louder than he had intended it to be and Will laughs against his mouth. Nico had lost his shirt somewhere in the kitchen, and when they collapse onto his bed Will is somehow pantsless. Nico doesn’t remember when that had happened, or if it had been him or Will who had done it, but he doesn’t really mind all that much.

This time he is on top of Will, kissing down his body. They are messy; Will almost elbows him in the face trying to get his shirt off and Nico accidentally knees him in the stomach.

“Shit! I’m sorry!”

“You’d think someone who did this on a regular basis would be better at it,” Will teases, arching up into Nico.

“Fuck off, Solace,” Nico says with a smile, tugging at his ear lobe with his teeth. Will lets out a moan and Nico kisses him, capturing the noise in his mouth and tasting it, scraping his nails down Will’s thigh, removing layer after layer, whose idea was it to wear so many clothes? Nico would like to have a word with them.

Nico can’t remember the last time he did this when he wasn’t even the slightest bit drunk. He doesn’t think he’s ever done this twice with the same person, let alone someone he had become good friends with, someone who kissed him often and in public. Nico doesn’t know what’s happening between him and Will; all he knows is that he tastes good and Nico doesn’t want to stop.

“Will,” he says. “What is this?”

“Well,” he replies. “This is something that many consenting grown-ups engage in with each other on a regular basis –” He is cut off by Nico biting down hard on his shoulder.

“Is now the time to be sarcastic?”

“Says the goddamn king of sarcasm.” Nico kisses him again, reaching between their bodies and running his fingers lightly along Will’s inner thighs, teasing him lightly, grinning as Will hisses and tries to arch into his hand.

“You know what I mean.”

“I don’t know, Nico,” he says, flipping them over. “But I don’t think now is the time to discuss it.”

“I just –”

“I like you, idiot,” he mutters. “But you kind of seem like you scare easy.”

“Oh.” Then he says, tentatively, “I like you, too.”

“I would fucking hope so,” Will says with a smirk.

“You swear a lot when you’re naked.”

“You swear a lot every other hour of the day.”

“I –”

“Nico.” Will sits up, hands resting on Nico’s chest. “You’re babbling. What’s wrong?”

Nico looks up at the ceiling. “What are we doing?”

“I kind of assumed we were about to have sex but you’re the expert.” Will sounds confident, sitting on top of him, but Nico can see the nervousness in his eyes, and he can feel it in the way his hands are balled into fists on Nico’s chest.

“Oh. Oh.”

Will rolls his eyes.

“Are you sure?”

Will nods slowly. “Yeah. Positive.”

"You're sure you want this to be with me?"

Will nods. "Well, okay, if I had to pick anyone I'd prefer Chris Evans, but you're the closest thing to Chris Evans that I have."

"That's something that has never before and will never again be said about me."

Will laughs and kisses him. "I'm sure."

Nico breathes deeply and nods. “Okay,” he says, pulling him down and kissing him, slow and soft and gentle. “Okay.”

Will giggles nervously into Nico’s mouth. “You sound like the Fault in Our Stars.”

“Never seen it.”

Will sits back up, affronted. “Excuse me?”

Nico rolls his eyes. “Don’t start with me, Solace.”

“I should make you do that instead.”

Nico drags him back down and rolls over, pushing him into the mattress. “Don’t you dare,” he mutters, kissing him deeply. Will’s hands drag across his skin, nails leaving marks.

“Fine,” he says. “But I know what we’re doing after.”

“Like hell.”

Will laughs. Nico pulls away one last time.

“Are you sure you’re sure?”

Will nods, smiling against Nico.

Neither of them really talks much for the rest of the night.


Nico wakes in the morning with an arm slung across his chest.

He’s never actually seen Will sleep; the only times he’s ever stayed the night he woke before Nico. He studies him, now; he looks younger when he sleeps. His hair is stuck to his head, and they are both still naked. His breathing is slow and even, cheek pressed against Nico’s shoulder.

“Hey,” he whispers, nudging him slightly.

Will wakes up slowly, yawning and looking around blearily until he sees Nico, and then he smiles, slow and beautiful in the early morning light.

“What time is it?”

“Dunno. I’m going to guess way past the time you normally wake up at, though.”

“You’re a bad influence.” Will is incredibly happy this morning; so, for that matter, is Nico.

“I’m sorry,” he says, smiling. Will looks at him for a moment and then kisses him lightly, brushing his lips across Nico’s.

“Are you okay?” Nico whispers. Will rolls his eyes.

“I wish you’d stop asking me that.”

“I’m sorry! It’s just –” he trails off. Will looks at him, eyebrows drawing together.

“What?”

Nico sighs and looks away. “I didn’t have the best experience the first time, okay? I just wanted to make sure… whatever.”

“I’m sorry,” Will says seriously. “I didn’t know.” He reaches out and turns Nico’s face to his, fingers gentle on Nico’s chin. His kiss is gentle, just like the rest of him; Nico doesn’t understand how Will could possibly put up with him and all his edges.

“I should get going,” he says reluctantly. “I have to leave to drive home soon.”

“I’m not sure how I feel about you driving home in that car.”

“Oh stop,” he says. “It’s not like it’s far. Close enough that I can commute to work.”

He gets out of bed and gets dressed, blushing when he notices Nico watching him. Nico grins when Will throws an old shirt at his face.

“I guess I’ll see you when we get back from break?” He says, sitting back down at the edge of Nico’s bed. Nico nods, grabbing him and pulling him back to kiss him again.

“Merry Christmas, Nico,” he says with a smile, kissing him on the forehead and getting up. He doesn’t see the way Nico freezes as full realization floods into him. He had been distracted by the party, and then by what had happened afterwards. He had been distracted by another body in his bed and kisses that lit him on fire and his name gasped in his ear and he had been happy, really happy, but he should have known better. Because it’s impossible to be happy in December. And now that Will is gone he can’t fight off the memory of her screaming. He was supposed to be remembering, supposed to be keeping her alive. He’s not allowed to be happy in December, because she couldn’t be happy at all anymore, and he’s the only one who cares about that.

All the giddiness of the night before flees from him and he is left alone and cold and empty as he packs his bags. He has a plane to catch and a sister to mourn.

Chapter Text

From: Will

(3:54) I have a hickey. My mother is glaring at me. This is your fault

(3:55) she won’t stop asking me what’s wrong with my neck

(3:55) I hate you


From: Will

(5:38) did you get in okay?


From: Will

(2:03) okay. Are you mad at me?

(2:10) I really didn’t peg you as the type of person to ignore someone once they fucked you


From: Will

(12:43) whatever

Nico throws his phone across the room and buries his head in his pillows. It makes a muted bang when it falls against his carpet, and a few seconds later there’s a knock on his door.

“Nico?”

He doesn’t answer. Hazel comes in anyway. She surveys the room and then bends down to pick up his phone, pursing her lips when she sees the messages from Will.

“You’re ignoring him.”

Nico doesn’t answer. Hazel sighs deeply and sits on the edge of his bed. “Nico. Come downstairs and eat something. Please?”

“M’not hungry.”

“You still need to eat. Do you think starving yourself into oblivion is going to help anybody?”

“Hazel. Please.”

“Come down to dinner.”

“I’m tired.”

“You’ve been sleeping for three days.”

“I’m very tired.”

Hazel takes a breath but decides against whatever it was she had wanted to say. She squeezes Nico’s hand.

“I’ll be back,” she says, vaguely threatening.

This is all too much for him. Christmas on its own is bad enough, but now he has all of these feelings pressing down on him, conflicting emotions battling each other constantly in his brain and in his heart and in his chest, and he remembers Percy’s face when he opened his gift and he remembers Will’s face the morning after they had sex, and sometimes when they kiss he still thinks about Percy and sometimes when he’s alone all he really wants is Will, and throughout all of this there’s the familiar constricting feeling that always comes this time of the year, that feeling of missing her, that empty feeling in his chest where Bianca used to be and a screaming in his ears that won’t go away. He can remember the license plate of the car that hit her, he can remember the blood pooling in her black hair, he can remember how they found her hat, that stupid green hat she used to wear, and it was so, so far from the crash, impossibly far, how did it get that far? He remembers how he kept trying to get to her, he remembers the feeling of Percy’s arms locked around his chest, he remembers how he could hear the sound of her in pain.

There had still been presents for her underneath the tree, no one ever unwrapped them. There was still a present addressed to him hidden in the back of his closet, buried under a mound of junk that he never had the will to open, because it was the last thing he had of her. To Nico, love Bianca was written on it and he’s afraid if he opens it up he’ll rip that message.

He doesn’t sleep well. His dreams are strange and confusing. He dreams of Bianca and Percy and Will, he dreams that he rushes to the car and it’s not Bianca there, it’s him, and then it’s Percy, and then it’s Jason, and then it’s Hazel. He dreams that he is kissing Will but when he pulls away it’s Percy. He dreams of rushing home to his father, and he’s ten again and crying, and he’s telling him she’s dead, she’s dead, Bianca’s dead, but his father just looks at him and asks who Bianca is, there’s no Bianca, why are you crying? He wakes up drenched in sweat and then he goes and takes a shower and sits there until the water turns cold.

When he gets out of the shower he doesn’t want to go back to his bedroom, but he doesn’t want to see anyone, either. Hazel and Persephone keep looking at him with pity in their eyes and his father… well, his father hasn’t looked him in the eyes since he got here. Nico knew from past experience that he looked too much like Bianca.

He hears voices downstairs, Hazel and Persephone. He creeps to Hazel’s room and opens the door as silently as possible. Hazel’s window looks out right over the roof, so he opens it, removing the screen and crawling out. He had found an old aviator jacket in his closet that he forgotten he’d owned, and he was wearing his clunkiest boots, so he wasn’t concerned about weather. He carefully replaces the screen behind him and crab walks down the roof. This had been much easier when he was smaller; he’s not entirely confident in 21 year old Nico’s shuffling down a pipe skills.

He almost ends up spraining his ankle but other than that he gets down all right. He doesn’t really know where he wants to go; just that he needs to simultaneously get out of the house while secluding himself away from people.

Subconsciously, he starts out towards the cemetery.

It isn’t exactly close – it takes him a little over an hour to walk there. He doesn’t even realize that’s where he’s heading until he’s about half way there, and at that point he figures he might as well commit.

He stands at the entrance to the cemetery for a few minutes before working up the courage to actually go in. He feels bad that he doesn’t have anything, flowers or something, but there’s nothing he can do about it now.

The cemetery is mostly abandoned. He makes his way through the graves, barely noticing them. He’s walked this path so many times; he has the names of the people buried around her memorized, knows their birthdates and death dates by heart. Next to her is the grave of a girl named Zoe Nightshade, not much older than Bianca had been; on the other side is an older man whose name had been Thorn.

He stands in front of the gravestone. There are fresh flowers – his father must have been here recently. He reaches out and traces over the words engraved on the stone, running his fingers over the letters. Bianca di Angelo. Nico takes a shaky breath. Then he starts to talk.

“Hey,” he mutters. “It’s me again.”

He starts talking, about school, about Hazel and Percy and his daughter, of every mundane thing in his life. Then he says, “I met someone. Kind of. I think I fucked it up, though. I shouldn’t be surprised. He was really nice, though. You would have liked him.”

“You’ve met someone?”

Nico jumps about a foot in the air and then swears. He turns around to see his father. “What are you doing here?”

Hades nods at the grave, then at the flowers in his hand. Nico scowls and waits for his father to say something, but he remains silent. Finally Nico loses his patience.

“Well?”

Hades looks incredibly tired. “Well what?”

“Are you going to say something?”

“About?”

“I said him. I said Bianca would have liked him.”

Hades looks at him with his eyebrows raised. “Nico. I have known you were gay since you were about twelve. It was kind of obvious, to be honest. You talked about literally nothing but Percy Jackson for about five years.”

Nico blinks, surprised. “Oh,” he says.

His father lets out a long sigh and then places the flowers on Bianca’s grave. “You always told her more than me,” he says. “Even now.”

Nico stares at the grave between them. His father does the same, and they stay like that until the sun starts going down.

“Come,” his father eventually says. “Dinner will be ready soon.”

Nico walks back to his father’s car. After a few minutes his father says, “You said you think you fucked it up.”

Nico lets out a bitter laugh that has no real trace of humour in it. “Father, I am not discussing boys with you.”

“I just… I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to keep things bottled up.”

“You’re not going to make me go to another therapist, are you?”

Hades purses his lips. “Sometimes I really think I should.”

Nico scowls. “I don’t need a therapist.”

“I think that we all need a therapist, Nico.”

Nico’s last therapist hadn’t exactly been very good. Minos had been a crochety old man, miserable at the best of times, and he had only succeeded in fucking Nico up even more.

They don’t speak the rest of the way home. When Nico walks in the house Hazel is glaring at him. “My bedroom is not your personal escape route, Nico,” she says. Nico has the decency to look ashamed of himself.

“I’m sorry,” he says. Hazel just sighs and drags him forwards into a hug. He only resists for a few seconds before hugging her back.

Dinner is quiet. Afterwards he and Hazel retreat to the basement, where Hazel insists they watch Elf. Nico keeps checking his phone, and after about the fourth time Hazel finally says, “You should text him.”

“And say what? Sorry I’ve been ignoring you, my sister died eleven years ago?”

Hazel rests her head on his shoulder. “I don’t know, Nico.”

After another few minutes of silence Nico speaks again. “I accidentally came out to Dad today.”

“Dad already knew you were gay.”

“Apparently. I didn’t get to come out to anyone.”

“You came out to me.”

“Lucky you.”

Nico can remember that conversation. Adorable little ten year old Hazel, who came up to him one day and asked him why he was so sad. He had looked at her, eyes so full of concern for the brother she barely knew, and he said, “I like boys instead of girls.” Hazel had cocked her head and said, “Okay.” Then she had hugged him. That was about the time Nico stopped thinking of her as his half-sister and started referring to her as just his sister.

“I guess that just makes me special.”

“You’ve always been special, Hazel.”

Hazel smiles sweetly at him, before resting her head on his shoulder again. Nico stares at Will Ferrell on the television for a few minutes.

Sometimes he is scared at how much he loves his sister. Sometimes he thinks he has to choose between them. When Hazel had first come to live with them Nico had yelled at his father, I don’t want another sister, send her back! Hazel had cried and Nico had refused to look at her for months, convinced she was a replacement sister his father had brought to try and erase the pain of losing Bianca. He never got a chance to love Bianca the same way he loves Hazel. Sometimes he thinks they’re in constant competition in his heart, and he has to decide which one he loves more. The thought terrifies him. On very bad nights sometimes he thinks about what would happen if someone came up to him and told him he could get Bianca back, but he had to give up Hazel. He is terrified of the thought. He could never give up Hazel, he knows that, and that makes him think that maybe he didn’t love Bianca the way he claimed to. He had told Jason this, once. Jason had sighed and bumped his shoulder lightly and told him he was being silly, that he didn’t have a finite amount of love that he had to dole out to people. Love is infinite, Jason had said. Loving Hazel doesn’t mean you have less love for Bianca. Nico had stared at the ground before saying, you should write Hallmark cards. Jason had laughed – he knew Nico well enough to know that he was saying thank you.

Him and Hazel stay up late watching Christmas movies, until eventually she falls asleep. Nico drapes a blanket over her and then creeps upstairs, climbing into bed and drifting off to sleep almost immediately.


On the eleventh anniversary of Bianca’s death, Nico wakes up and stares at the ceiling for an hour and a half. On the eleventh anniversary of Bianca’s death, Nico doesn’t eat; Hazel brings him toast but it is dry in his mouth and Nico is afraid that if he eats anything else it will just come right back up again.

On the eleventh anniversary of Bianca’s death, Nico remembers what his father had said and creeps into her bedroom. Hades is there, a blanket wrapped around his legs. When Nico closes the door his father looks up at him, but he doesn’t say anything.

Nico sits on the other side of the room and lies down, using his arm as a pillow. Eventually his father speaks.

“Are you all right?”

Nico sniffs. “Are you?”

His father doesn’t answer. Nico can hear him breathing from across the room.

“I haven’t forgotten her, Nico,” his father says. “You don’t have to take it upon yourself to keep her spirit alive.”

Nico doesn’t answer. Hades lets out a long breath. “Sometimes it feels like I lost you both, that day.”

Nico buries his face in his arm, tears welling up in his eyes.

“I am trying, Nico. I hope you know that.”

Nico is silent for a minute. Finally he says, “I know, Father.”

Hades comes over and sits next to him, and Nico understands what Persephone was saying. They are alike, far too alike, but Nico does know that he’s trying. They don’t touch each other but they stay there for hours, silent, staring at an empty room and remembering.


Christmas is as good as it ever is. Nico’s father actually smiles when he opens Nico’s gift. “I’ve wanted to watch this,” he says. Nico strongly resists the urge to make a comment about zombies and funeral homes. Persephone is very happy with her gardening things, whatever they may be. Nico zones out during Christmas, the way he usually does. He gets Christmas texts from Jason, Percy, Leo, Annabeth, Piper, and even Frank. None of them expect him to text them back, and he appreciates them for it.

Will doesn’t text him.

Just like every Christmas, he goes up immediately to his room and opens the closet. He stares at the unopened present in his closet. Each Christmas he gets closer and closer to opening it.

“You should open it,” he hears a voice. He looks around to see his father standing in the open door.

“How did you know it was here?”

“I know more than you give me credit for.”

Nico takes a shaky breath. “I want to open it.”

“Then open it.”

“Will you…” Nico has never really felt the need to be close to his father. He had Bianca, and then when she died Nico grew up quick. He had managed to convince himself he didn’t need his father.

“Will you open it with me?”

Maybe this is healing. He thinks back to what Hazel and Jason had said, about how he held onto things. The way he held onto Bianca as if he was the only one who had cared about her. Nico’s father takes a seat beside him on the ground.

“Of course.”

Nico digs the unopened present out of his closet. A stack of papers and old clothes falls off of it but Nico ignores them. He places the present on the ground in front of him and his father.

To Nico. Love Bianca.

Maybe this is healing. He’s starting to understand that opening up this present doesn’t mean saying goodbye; Bianca will never stop existing. And just because his father doesn’t miss her the same way, he realizes, doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss her.

Maybe this is healing. He can’t keep Bianca alive all by himself. Letting go is different than forgetting. Moving on is necessary.

Nico carefully starts to rip apart the paper, making sure to avoid the tag that has Bianca’s writing on it. His father is silent beside him.

“Fucking hell,” Nico says, when he finally finishes unwrapping the present.

It’s one of the rarest Mythomagic collector editions there was. Tears spring to Nico’s eyes.

“How did she afford this?”

“I remember this,” his father says quietly. “She asked me to pull some strings and get it when it came out, to make sure we got one before they sold out. She told me she’d pay me back over time, every allowance, every cent of her birthday money.”

Nico opens the packaging and grabs a little figurine. He smiles and turns to his father.

“Here, Dad.”

He places the little figurine in his father’s hand. When his father opens his palm to look at what Nico had given him he grins.

It’s a little Hades figurine.

“She wasn’t around long enough to know me as that.”

“Merry Christmas, Father.”

“Merry Christmas, Nico.”


To: Jason; Piper; Leo; Percy; Annabeth; Frank

(7:23) Merry Christmas, guys

Chapter Text

“Happy New Year, dude!”

Nico lets Jason hug him; he even gives him a one armed hug in return.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“God, I’ve missed your happy face,” Jason says.

Nico smiles. “How was your Christmas?”

Jason makes a face. “Eh. My father and step-mother got into a huge fight. I think my father has a new girlfriend.”

“What number is this?”

“Who knows. Four? I swear, they all disappear mysteriously. Every time there’s a knock on the door I half expect it to be the police coming to arrest June.”

Nico shakes his head.

Jason follows him into his bedroom to help him unpack. “So. How are you?”

Nico tries to throw a dirty shirt in his laundry basket and misses. Jason picks it up with a smirk.

“I opened up her present. The one she got for me before she died.” His voice is very quiet. When he looks up Jason is smiling at him warmly.

“I’m really proud of you, man.”

“I also reconnected with my father and accidentally came out to him.”

Jason’s eyebrows rise. “Holy shit, Nico.”

Nico shrugs. “I guess I’m growing up.”

Jason looks at him approvingly. Nico throws a few shirts into his drawer messily and then stuffs his suitcase in the closet.

“Piper’s coming over soon. Are you going to stick around? We’re ordering pizza.”

Nico thinks about it. He sticks his hands in his pockets and grabs a hold of his phone.

“Nah. I have to do something.”


The walk to the dorm rooms is cold and lonely. Nico’s heart is beating wildly in his chest and more than once he has to fight the urge to turn around and give up, and let Will Solace melt into the long line of nameless one night stands.

When he knocks on Will’s door his roommate opens. Or at least he assumes it’s Will’s roommate; Nico hadn’t met Cecil yet.

“Um, hi. Is… is Will here?”

Cecil looks him up and down. “Depends. Are you Nico?”

“Yeah.”

“Then no, he’s not.”

Nico sighs. “Will,” he calls into the room. “Please come talk to me.”

Cecil stares him down. “He’s not here.”

“It’s okay, Cecil.”

The first thing he thinks when Will comes to the door is how the fuck are you still tanned? The second thing is that he’s never seen Will give anybody the look he’s giving him.

“Merry Christmas,” he says drily. Nico’s confidence plummets through the floor.

“Can I talk to you?”

Will looks at him coldly. “I guess. Cecil?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll go find Lou Ellen. She owes me money, anyway.”

“No, you owe her money.”

“Oh. Maybe I won’t find her then.”

Cecil shoulders his way past Nico. Will gives him another look before heading back into his room. Nico follows, hands still stuffed in his pockets and trying to make himself as small as possible.

“Sit,” Will says, nodding at one of the beds. Nico assumes it’s Will’s, since all of the heavy looking textbooks are on the floor next to it. Will sits down on the other bed, facing him.

Nico picks at the skin around his fingernails and tries to work up the courage to say anything.

“I’m sorry,” he eventually says. “I’m sorry I ignored you.”

Will doesn’t say anything, just keeps staring at him as if Nico were gum on the bottom of his shoe.

“And I… it had nothing to do with the fact that we had sex beforehand. I swear. That was just really bad timing. Not like that!” He amends when Will’s eyebrows shoot up. “I don’t mean it was bad timing like that, it was really good timing, it was… well, it was great, really –”

“Nico.”

“Sorry.” Nico takes a deep breath. “I didn’t mean to ignore you. Really, I didn’t. I just… Christmas is a really shit time for me, and I… I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with people over Christmas, and my friends all know that, but you didn’t, and I’m sorry.”

“Okay.”

Any hope Nico might have had has left him, fluttered away, like the opposite of Pandora’s Box. All the bad shit is still inside; only hope has escaped from him.

“Do you… do you want to know why?”

“Are you going to tell me?”

Nico nods. “I want to. It had nothing to do with you, Will. I promise. It’s… this was all me.”

Will nods, and Nico takes this as a sign to continue.

“When I was ten years old, my sister died.” Nico’s voice breaks on the word died. He thinks he might see Will’s expression soften, but he might be imagining it. Wishful thinking. “Her name was Bianca. My mother had died when I was barely a year old and my father was gone a lot, so Bianca pretty much raised me. She was the one who taught me both English and Italian. She taught me how to read. She was the one who would run into my room and chase my nightmares away. She was my everything. She was my sister, my parent and my best friend all rolled into one.

“When I was ten, over winter break, we were walking back from the store. We had been Christmas shopping. As we were crossing the street, I… I had run ahead. I was ten and full of energy and I couldn’t sit still. When I got to the other side of the street I turned around just in time to see the car run a red light.”

Nico had started crying, at some point. He wipes away his tears impatiently.

“I saw it… she went – she went flying. He had been drunk and speeding and he hit her and by the time I got over to her the blood was pooling all around her head and she was… she was making these noises, she was in pain and I could tell and I remember touching her, trying to see where she was hurt and calling her name and then Percy was there, he lived nearby and he had heard it, and he dragged me away from her and I was screaming at him. I rode in the ambulance with her and I held her hand and I could feel her grip loosening. By the time my father got to the hospital it was too late.

“My father and I didn’t even bother to celebrate that Christmas, and we probably would have ignored it for the rest of our lives if Hazel hadn’t shown up. My father… for a long time I thought he had loved Bianca more than me. I had felt like a failure. And then once Hazel and Persephone, my step-mother, came, my father started opening up. And I felt like he had forgotten about Bianca. And that it was up to me to remember her the way she deserved to be remembered. And during Christmas holidays, when I’m stuck in that house without her and I remember the way the doctor had apologized to my father and I just shut down and I’m sorry. I should have told you about Bianca. I shouldn’t have shut you out.”

Will is very, very quiet for a very long time. So long that Nico thinks nothing that he said mattered, that it’s been fucked straight to hell and he’s ruined it, but then Will starts to speak.

“Do you know why I want to be a doctor?”

Nico shakes his head. Will takes a shaky breath.

“My brother died. Step-brother, I guess, but that doesn’t matter when you’re twelve and you idolize the ground he walks on. His name was Michael. He had to go in for surgery and something happened on the operating table and they couldn’t save him. I wasn’t even at the hospital, that’s how routine the operation was. My mother came home without him and I remember sitting there thinking, what the fuck is the point of spending all that time and money on medical school if you can’t save a sixteen year old boy? And I decided, at that point, that that’s what I was going to do, I was going to spend all that time and money on med school so that that never happened to anyone else’s brother. And every single day I read through my textbooks and I sit in classes and I try and figure out what they could have done to save him. And I know I’ll never know, no matter how hard I study, but every single person out there could be my brother. I couldn’t save him but I can save everyone else.”

“That’s dangerous,” Nico says before he can think better of it. Will’s eyes flash angrily at him.

“What’s dangerous?”

“There are going to be people you can’t save. If you think about it like that each one of them will destroy you. Every person who you can’t save will eat away at you little by little until there’s nothing left. They couldn’t save Bianca. There was no chance. That’s what the doctor said, and he was right because I rode in the ambulance with her and I could… it’s like I could feel her dying. I could feel her fading away. By the time she got to the hospital it was too late. No doctor could have saved her.”

Will glares at him. “You don’t have a monopoly on sadness. You don’t have a monopoly on loss. You don’t have a monopoly of waking up every day without your sibling. The day I turned seventeen I cried for three and a half hours straight because Michael would never be seventeen. Every single birthday I cry because I’m reaching ages he never got the chance to reach. You don’t see me blocking people out, you don’t see me pushing people who like me away because I have to hold on to this suffocating sadness.”

“I thought that if I didn’t remember Bianca no one else would.”

“I never eat blue M&M’s, because he never did. Every single time I’m at a restaurant I order chocolate milk because that’s all he ever drank. Every year on his birthday I watch Casablanca, because that was his favourite movie. I remember him every single day but I still live. I have all these little habits that I got from him and I remember him and I love him and I miss him but I don’t let it stop me. There’s a difference between forgetting and moving on. You can move on without forgetting.”

“She was all I had.”

“Maybe, but you have a lot more now.”

Nico looks at his hands. “I’ve never seen you angry before.”

When he looks up Will has the hint of a smile on his face. “I try really hard to be a positive person, Nico. But don’t mistake that for happiness. There are a lot of times when I am not happy. But there are a lot of times when I am, too. I’m happy around you. You’re a complicated little shit but you make me happy. And I want to be with you, properly. But I’ve been so afraid to tell you because it constantly feels like you have one foot out the door.”

“I’m like that with almost everybody. In high school I got it into my head that Jason and everyone didn’t actually like me, that it was some of noble, protect the gay kid from the bullies type deal but he hadn’t bet on the fact that I would keep hanging around. So I avoided them for two weeks. Jason worked harder than he should have had to in order to convince me that they were really my friends. I still don’t know why he went to all that work.”

“Because you’re worth it.”

Nico shrugs, uncomfortable. “All I’m saying is… this isn’t you. This has always been my problem. That’s why I only ever had one night stands.”

Will smiles, and relief spreads through Nico’s entire body at the sight. “So what does that make me?”

“Persistent.”

Will laughs. “You told me you wouldn’t do this anymore, you know.”

“No, I said I’d tell you if you did anything wrong. You didn’t.”

“You’re very difficult.”

“So I’ve been told.”

They both look at each other for a minute or two, until Will gets up and sits on the bed across from Nico. “I’m going to kiss you now.”

Nico opens his mouth to say something – probably some smart ass remark, since those are his specialty – but Will cuts him off, grabbing the back of his neck and dragging him forwards. Nico melts into him, happier than he had expected; this must mean more to him than he had thought.

“Okay, now Lou Ellen owes me money.”

Will stops kissing Nico and glares at the now open door. “Didn’t I tell you two to stop making bets about my life?”

“Yes, but we never agreed to,” Cecil says mildly. Will makes an angry noise in the back of his throat.

“It’s okay,” Nico says. “I should go back, anyway.”

“All right,” Will mutters, but he doesn’t exactly sound happy about it. Nico gets up and Will follows him to the door, shooting a glance at Cecil.

“You’re not allowed to kick me out of the room every time you want to make out with your boyfriend, Solace.”

Will shoots Nico a glance, and he knows he’s searching his face for the reaction to that word. Boyfriend. Is that what he is, now? He’s never done this before. How strange, to be stressing out about starting a relationship with someone you’ve already slept with.

Boyfriend. Nico looks at Will. He wants to say that word aloud, see how it sounds in his mouth, but he’s too embarrassed.

Nico smiles, and Will smiles, and then Will kisses him, and Nico kisses him back, until Cecil starts making fake gagging noises and they have to pull away.


When Nico gets back to his apartment Jason and Piper are curled up on the couch together. Jason looks up when Nico gets in.

“Hey. Did you work things out with your person?”

“How did you know that’s what I was doing?”

“You ran away almost as soon as you got home. I knew you weren’t going to see Hazel, or Percy, so I assumed there was something wrong with you and Will. I was right. So did you?”

“Did I work things out with my person?”

“Yeah.”

“No,” Nico says, smiling. Jason looks at him, confused and upset and slightly overprotective, but Nico keeps talking. “I didn’t work things out with my person. I worked things out with my boyfriend, though.”

Jason grins and Piper gets up to give him a hug.

He lets her.

Chapter Text

Okay, so life is infinitely better when you have someone to spend it with. Don’t tell Hazel.

“Do you want to go see a movie? I still have those tickets Frank gave me for Christmas.”

Nico grimaces. “I have a shit ton of work, Will.”

“Exactly.” He feels arms encircle him and Will’s chin rests on the top of his head. “You need a break. Come on. Do you know the last time I went to see a movie? I never have time. Popcorn is included.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Nico hears an angry noise from the boy above him. “Don’t even start with me.”

Nico sighs. “Fine. I’ll go to the goddamn movies with you. What do you even want to see?”

“I don’t know. What about that new Sparta one? You like Greek myths, right?”

Nico laughs. “We can’t go see King of Sparta.”

“Why not?”

“Tristan McLean is Piper’s dad. It’s very awkward watching a man you’ve known since you were fourteen run around half naked wielding a sword.”

“Wait, seriously?”

Nico nods. “She doesn’t like to mention it. He did a nude photoshoot a few years ago and she didn’t talk to him for two weeks.”

“I remember that. He’s pretty hot.”

Do not mention that to Piper.”

“Okay. So not that. Any ideas?”

Nico shrugs. “I don’t know. Let’s just go and see whatever’s playing at the time.”

“Living on the edge. I like it.”

Nico rolls his eyes. “You’re a goddamn nerd.”

Will smiles crookedly at him. “Maybe. What does that say about you?”

“That I have awful taste,” Nico mutters, grabbing his jacket off the chair. Will kisses him lightly.

“I have to go pick up my paycheck first. Shouldn’t be too long.”

Will pulls into the employee parking at Apollo’s and climbs out of the car. “C’mon. I want you to meet Kayla.”

Nico follows, begrudgingly. He shoves his hands in his pockets but Will takes one out to hold it, ignoring the glare Nico shoots him.

“What did we say about PDA?”

“We’re holding hands, di Angelo. You hold hands with Hazel.”

“Hazel is my sister.”

“Suck it up, buttercup.”

Nico scowls.

Will waves at the hostess when they get in, who winks at him. Nico doesn’t understand why until Will leads him to a large table at the back, where everyone is currently seated.

No.”

Nico tries to turn around but Will still has a firm hold of his hand and yanks him back. “Nice try, Nico.”

“You traitorous asshole –”

“You’re being dramatic again.”

Nico glares at every single person as Will forces him to sit down. Jason is smiling; Percy is blowing kisses.

“I hate all of you.”

“Stop whining. It’s your birthday.”

“No it’s not.”

“Three days, Nico. You never let us do anything for your birthday.”

“There’s a reason for that.”

“Don’t worry,” Jason says. “No one is going to be singing at you. We all agreed you would probably never talk to us again if we did that.”

Nico sighs, giving Will one last glare for good measure. “I can’t believe you would do this to me.”

Will just rolls his eyes.

Dinner is fun, although he’d never admit it. Will’s knee is pushed up against his the entire time and he barely even notices when Percy leans over to kiss Annabeth. He picks fries off of Jason’s plate, who doesn’t complain because, as he says, “At least you’re eating.” He finds out that Frank played Mythomagic and they start talking about it; he mentions the gift he had opened over break and Frank’s face lights up, and they make plans to get together and play, and Nico doesn’t even mind when Leo shouts that the two of them are ‘huge loser nerds.’

“Huge loser nerds in relationships, Leo,” Piper says smugly. “What does that say about you?”

“Actually,” Leo says. “I have a date.”

“Were you finally able to make a lifelike robot?”

“If your boyfriend didn’t work here I’d throw my food at you, di Angelo. No, I have a date with the most beautiful women in the world.”

“Annabeth! How could you go out with Leo?”

Annabeth blushes and elbows Percy.

“Why do I put up with you assholes? The bartender, asswipes. Calypso. We have a date. I am going on a date.”

“You should probably learn how to talk to girls, first.”

Leo flips off the entire table.

Percy orders a huge piece of cake for him that Nico doesn’t even come close to finishing, but Percy gladly does. Will is on one side of him, thighs pressed together; Hazel is on the other side of him, leaning into him and smiling.

Maybe, he thinks, opening up isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Will comes home with him; Jason says he is going to the library to study, which would have maybe been believable if he hadn’t kept winking at Nico. Will keeps laughing and pretending that he isn’t. As soon as Jason leaves Will pushes him up against the wall and kisses him.

Oomph. That hurt.”

“Sorry.”

“You really don’t sorry at all.”

“Happy birthday,” Will mutters.

“It’s not my birthday.” At least that’s what he had meant to say. What ends up coming out is a noise that sounds vaguely like unga-mm. Will laughs and pushes him into the bedroom.


Somehow, someway, Will manages to put up with Nico for another three months. Exams approach, and often Will comes over to study – actually study, this time. Nico normally sleeps, or watches television, or occasionally plays a game called ‘let’s see how much I can do to Will before he is forced to stop studying and fuck me.’

“You know if I fail my exams it will be entirely your fault.”

“I’m preparing you. Being a doctor is very stressful and there are a lot of distractions. You have to learn to work while being distracted. You should be thanking me.”

“Okay, but I don’t think I will ever have to deal with someone hiding under the operating table and sucking me off.”

“You can’t be sure.”

Will laughs and then rolls over into Nico’s chest. “I think you should study and I should see if I can distract you.”

“Please. I am very serious about my studies. There’s no way you could distract me.”

Suffice it to say, Will is able to distract him.


Another weird thing about an actual, real life relationship – him and Will fight. Like, a decent amount. Now that Will has stopped tiptoeing around him he discovers that Will, although calm and laid back most of the time, refuses to put up with his shit. Often they fight over Nico’s less than stellar eating habits. Sometimes they fight because Will starts treating Nico more like a patient than anything else, and Nico sure as hell is not having that. Sometimes, because old habits die hard, Nico will try to disappear for a few days and Will angrily tells him to stop walking around with his head stuck in some gloomy cloud, “like goddamn Eeyore.” It’s weird starting over with someone. Nico hasn’t made a new friend since high school, and the ones he has now understands him – sometimes he will go ages without talking to Percy but then one day he’ll text him out of the blue and it will be like they never stopped talking, and that’s true of all his friends, with the exceptions of Hazel, who he sees constantly, and Jason, who he lives with. It’s hard to avoid your roommate. But Will doesn’t let him hide away, not really. One time Nico snapped and told him just because he was a social fucking butterfly doesn’t mean everyone else is, and Jesus Christ Will sometimes I have to be alone, can’t you understand that? So they instilled a rule – if Nico needs time he has to actually  tell  Will, who will gladly leave him alone for a few days. “I respect that you need space but you have to at least respect the fact that I would like to be told about it.”

But the fights don’t last. That’s the thing. They make up (and make out) and Nico starts to understand that all those guys he’d slept with hadn’t cured his loneliness at all; they just made it worse.


“Are you going home for the summer?”

“Not really. Hazel is, though, so I have to visit. Sometimes I think the only reason she goes home is so I have a reason to.”

Will smiles. “I’ll be here often. Summer’s when I get all the good hours.”

“If you want to crash here to avoid the commute feel free.”

“Thanks,” he says, smiling.

Will leaves, Hazel leaves, Frank leaves, Piper leaves. Jason sits next to him on the couch and wraps an arm around his shoulder, ignoring the glare that Nico shoots him. “Just you and me, Nico.”

“Wonderful.”

Jason grins. “Mario Kart?”

“Why is it that as soon as Piper leaves you revert to the mentality of a twelve year old?”

“If you’re afraid of me you can just say so.”

“Are you seriously trying to goad me into playing you?”

“Is it working?”

“That’s not the point.”

Jason grins.

Nico beats him in every single race.


“Look at my new car.”

“I see.”

Jason is trying very, very hard not to laugh. Nico keeps elbowing him in the ribs. Percy is gazing at it fondly.

“Uh, Percy? Does it, you know… work?”

Jason bursts out laughing and then stuffs his fist in his mouth to try and stifle it. Percy glares.

“Wow, I’m sorry my car doesn’t impress you, Mr and Mr ‘Our dads still pay our rent’.” Nico laughs. “I have a goddamn house and a kid in case you had forgotten.”

“I’m sorry, Perce,” Jason says. “It’s a really shitty car but I’m glad you finally got one.”

Percy grins. “Thank you. So who wants to go for a ride first?”

“Jason,” Nico says, at the same time as Jason says “Nico.” Percy glares while the two of them lean against each other and laugh.

“I can’t believe I’m still friends with you two.” Jason is wiping tears from his eyes.

“Percy,” Nico says seriously. “I would rather go on a cross country road trip in Will’s car with the check engine light on then drive up the street in that thing.”

“Let’s not over exaggerate, now.”

“Now, did it come with a floor, or is this like a retro, Flintstone’s model?”

Percy flips them both off as Nico collapses into Jason’s arms, laughing hysterically.

“I don’t think I’m comfortable with you putting my goddaughter in this,” Nico says. Percy throws his wallet at Nico’s head.

“I was going to take the two of you to Mr. D’s place for beers but you assholes aren’t getting jack shit from me now.”

“I thought you were banned from his bar?”

“Chiron, the co-manager, told him that he wasn’t allowed to ban me because my face annoyed him, he had to have an actual reason.”

“Okay, okay, we’re sorry. Let’s go. You’re designated driver now, though.”

“I wasn’t planning on getting ripped at four in the afternoon, anyway.” He grins and throws his arms around the two of them. “So who’s in the front?”

Nico and Jason exchange looks. “This thing has airbags, right?”

Percy rolls his eyes, which isn’t really an answer.

“Tell Piper I love her,” Jason whispers to Nico.


That summer is probably one of Nico’s best. Him and Percy and Jason are closer than ever; they go on a beach trip with Allison and Percy and Jason make bets on who worries more about her, Annabeth or Nico. And a couple of times a week, Will comes back.

He was working a lot, which was pretty lame, but when he had work two days in a row he would spend the night, which was pretty much the opposite of lame.

One morning he wakes up to Will’s alarm and groans loudly. He tightens his arm around Will’s waist when the other boy tries to get up.

“Nico.”

“Don’t go to work today.”

“I have to.”

“No you don’t. Stay in bed with me all day.”

“And what about work?”

“You’re sick.” Then he coughs.

“So then why are you coughing?” He asks, humour in his voice.

“You’ve infected me. How irresponsible of you.”

Will turns over so they’re facing each other. Will leans into him and kisses him. “I have to go to work.”

“But you’re so sick,” he says, nibbling gently at Will’s neck. He grins when Will lets out a low moan.

“I guess I could call in sick,” he says slowly. Nico pushes closer, triumphant, because he knows he’s won.

“You’re burning up.”

“Are you going to make a hot joke?”

Nico laughs. “No. We are going to go back to sleep for like, four hours. You are going to be wildly irresponsible for once.”

“Fine,” Will says, sighing in defeat. “But when we wake up we are having sex.”

Nico sighs heavily. “I guess. If we have to.”

Will laughs. “Hang on. I have to call in.”

“Make you sure you sound like you’re dying.”

Will kisses him deeply, and Nico smiles, looking forward to a whole morning in bed with this boy in front of him, his smile wide and his eyes bright.


Things are so, so good.

But Nico should have known by now that good things never last. Not for him.

Chapter Text

August is when things start to go wrong.

Will picks up as many shifts as he can in order to make as much money as possible before school starts. Senior year is looming ahead of them. Will works almost every day – during past summers he crashed with one of his coworkers, Kayla, but Kayla has a couch while Nico has a bed, so Will stays with him and Jason. Normally this might be nice, except Will is so busy with work that he has barely any time for Nico. Nico goes home a few times, and he gets along well with his father, much to Hazel’s delight. But as school looms closer, and he's working harder, Will’s stress gets higher and higher. He snaps at Nico far more often, and Nico tries not to hold it against him, although very often he fails.

It’s two weeks before school starts that it happens. Will and Nico had planned a dinner together, a nice evening out where Will could relax and, most importantly, get super drunk. Will comes home after work and showers quickly, but as they are about to leave Nico gets a text.

From: Percy

(5:57) Nico help me please

(5:57) Annabeth and Piper went out and I said I could take care of Ally by myself but I can’t please I need your help I am so out of my league right now

(5:58) please dude I’ll owe you forever

Nico stares at his phone. Will looks over.

“Who is it?”

“Uh. Percy. He needs – he’s having some problems watching Allison. He wanted to know if I could help.”

Will nods. “Can he wait? You could head over after dinner.”

Nico chews his lip. “I guess.” He can sense Will’s eyes on him, but he can’t seem to be able to look at him.

“We’re still doing dinner, right?” Will’s voice is very low.

“I just – I feel like I should go over and help. For Allison.”

“For Allison,” Will repeats, in a tone that says he doesn’t quite believe him. “This is my one night off, Nico. I’ve been working nonstop for a month. I’ve barely had time to breathe.”

“I know,” Nico says. “ You're right. Let’s go. We’ll miss our reservations.” But his phone keeps vibrating, Percy sounding more and more frantic.

 When he looks up Will’s eyes are narrowed. He stares at Nico for a long time without saying anything. When he does speak, his words are a knife in Nico’s heart.

“You bought those tickets, didn’t you.” It’s not a question.

“What tickets?”

“At Christmas. For Percy. Those aquarium tickets. You said your dad gave them to you. That wasn’t true, was it?”

Nico knows there’s no sense in lying. “No,” he says quietly.

Will takes a very deep breath. “You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”

“Will –”

“That’s not an answer.”

Nico is starting to panic. “It’s not what you think.”

“Then what is it?”

This is it, he knows. This is where he fucks everything up for good.

“How long have you been in love with him?”

“Ten years,” he whispers.

Will laughs, but there is no humour in it, no warmth, just anger and bitterness. “So I never stood a chance, then.”

“That’s not true.”

“That’s why you only ever had one night stands.”

“No – it’s not like that anymore, Will.”

Will stands up, and Nico follows desperately. “Please don’t go.”

“You’ve never wanted me. You’ve always wanted him.”

“I want you, too.”

Will shakes his head. “I will not stick around and wonder for the rest of our relationship if every time we’re together you’re thinking about Percy Jackson.”

“Please don’t leave,” he says again.

“You know –” He is getting angry now. “I have tried. Really, I have. Trying to be with you is exhausting. It’s like no matter what anyone does for you, you refuse to let go of these ideas and notions and feelings that you’ve had for years. You push and you push and eventually you’re going to succeed in pushing everyone away from you and you will have no one left.”

Nico stares, unable to do anything.

“You know,” Will says harshly, “I get it, now. Why you always leave. It’s power, isn’t it? You always have the upper hand. You can’t get hurt. So even if some idiot falls in love with you, you’re safe.”

Nico’s eyes widen. “You…”

“Yeah,” he says bitterly. “How great is that.”

Will opens the door.

“Don’t go, Will.”

“Tell me. Tell me you love me. Or at the very least that you choose me. Tell me I’m not your second choice. Your back up plan. Tell me…” He shakes his head. “No. Never mind. It won’t matter. I’ll see you around, Nico. Maybe.”

Nico’s feet are frozen to the ground.

“It kind of feels good,” Will says as he leaves. “Walking away. That must be why you do it so much.”

And then he leaves, and Nico is left staring at a closed door. His phone keeps vibrating – texts from Percy, pleading for his help.

Nico turns his phone off.


“Look, dude. Classes start tomorrow. You’re going to have to get up eventually.”

Hazel is rubbing soothing circles on his back as he is lying face down on his bed, trying to ignore her and Jason. It’s not working.

“You have to get up, Nico. And you have to eat something.”

“Yes, mother.”

Jason makes an angry noise.

“Look –”

He is cut off by what, Nico assumes, was probably a glare from Hazel.

“Jason’s right, Nico. You can’t just roll over and die.”

“I’m not planning on it. Look, I’m allowed to mope, all right?”

“Can I ask you something?”

He rolls over so he can look at Jason. “What?”

“Did you love him?”

Nico sighs. “I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter now though, does it?”

“I think…” Hazel trails off. Nico sits up and stares at her. “No, finish your thought. What do you think?”

She exchanges a glance with Jason. Nico gets the feeling they’ve discussed this before. He isn’t sure if he’s angry about this or not.

“I think you need to tell Percy how you feel about him.”

Nico’s jaw drops. “Is that a joke?”

“Look, you – it’s been so long, Nico, and you’ve held this inside yourself for so long and it’s getting in the way of your happiness. And I think if you tell him, if you get it off your chest… maybe you’ll be able to move on. Maybe the next guy that comes along… maybe it will work out.”

He notices that Hazel is already talking about the next relationship. Even his optimistic sister has said goodbye to his relationship with Will.

“I can’t tell Percy, Hazel. You should know that. I can’t – we’ve been friends for over ten years and I’m not going to throw that away.”

“So what? You’ll maintain your friendship with Percy but that’s it? You’ll be forty years old picking guys up at bars and never calling them again?”

“Hazel –”

Jason places a hand on Hazel’s arm. She takes a deep breath.

“All I’m saying is this can’t stay the same. Something needs to be done. If you can’t tell Percy… maybe you can tell Annabeth.”

Nico takes a breath. He looks at Jason, hoping to exchange a look of can you believe her, but to his horror Jason is nodding along.

“That’s a good idea, actually.”

“In what universe?”

“If things don’t change you’re going to be miserable forever. Think of all the steps you’ve taken this year. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to whoever the next guy is. And Annabeth might be able to help. If anyone could help, it’ll be Annabeth. Annabeth can do anything.”

Nico looks between the two of them. “You two are going to gang up on me about this, aren’t you?”

“Something has to be done. And maybe if you tell him, you’ll be able to start getting over it.”

He glares at the two of them, but it’s hard enough fighting against Jason and Hazel separately; Jason and Hazel together are nearly impossible. He’s not getting out of here without some kind of compromise.

“I’ll talk to Annabeth. But I won’t – I won’t talk to Percy. I can’t.”

They exchange another look. Nico isn’t very happy with this new alliance.

“Fine,” they both say in unison. Nico just rolls his eyes.


He drops by when he knows Percy is at work.

“Nico! Hi. Percy’s at work, though.”

He nods. “I know. I actually wanted to, uh…” God, he is so angry at Jason and Hazel. “I wanted to talk to you.”

She looks surprised, and he can’t blame her. He’s not sure if him and Annabeth have ever really spoken one on one without at least one other person there. Out of all of them, he was probably least close to her - not for any petty, jealous reasons, just because there's never really been an opportunity for them to be alone together, and get to know each other outside of their group.

“Sure. Come on in. Just – Allison is napping. If you wake her you have to deal with her.”

Nico can’t help but smile. “Deal.”

He helps himself to a juicebox and then joins her at the table. He always used to mock Percy for having juiceboxes, but he can’t deny that they’re convenient.

“So. What’s up.”

He hadn’t thought about what he would do here. He kind of assumed he would just wing it. Now he’s wishing he had have planned with Hazel. Should he lead into it? Or just blurt it?

He has a feeling that if he tries to lead into it, he’ll wuss out.

Fast and blunt it is.

“I have to tell you something,” he says quickly. He takes a long sip from his juicebox and then says, straw still between his teeth, “I’m in love with Percy.”

He wasn’t sure what he had expected her to do. Not talk to him, maybe. Get angry. Tell him she didn’t want him around her husband or her child. He had expected the worst case scenario.

What he hadn’t expected was for her to nod.

“I know.”

He is stunned into silence for a moment before saying, “You… you know?”

Annabeth nods.

“How?”

“I pay attention.” Nico must have looked horrified, because she quickly adds, “Don’t worry. No one else knows. To be honest… at first I thought you had a thing for me. But then you – well, for lack of a better word, came out, and I realized it must have been Percy.”

“Are you… upset?”

Annabeth smiles funnily at him. “Why would I be upset?”

“He’s your husband.”

Annabeth shrugs. “And? You’re not trying to steal him from me, Nico. You’re my friend. And you’re better with Allison than almost anyone. I would never hold this against you. You can’t help who you have feelings for.”

Nico had never felt particularly close to Annabeth. Because of their difference in age he hadn’t really had a chance to get to know her outside of Percy. Him and Piper had had classes together, had spent time without Jason, but he hadn’t had that opportunity with Annabeth. But despite that he feels a surge of affection towards the woman beside him. The way he feels about Percy is his darkest secret; only the people closest to him, Hazel and Jason, know. The fact that Annabeth knows, now, too, makes him feel closer to her. Like if she knew that, then he could tell her anything.

“Will found out,” he says very quietly. Annabeth sighs.

“I’m guessing that didn’t go so well.”

“I think he broke up with me.” Annabeth grabs his hand. “I… I ruined it. For good this time. He could forgive the other shit I did but he won’t forgive this. I lied to him. I let him think… he told me he was in love with me. And I was just standing there gaping, unable to comprehend what that even meant, and he left. And I – it sounds really fucking stupid but I missed him as soon as he left.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Hazel said I have to tell him. Percy, I mean. Clear the air. Figure things out. She said maybe if I told him I could start trying to get over it. But I – I didn’t know if I could do that. So she suggested telling you first. That you could help.”

Annabeth takes a deep breath. “I think Hazel is right.”

“I was really hoping you weren’t going to say that.”

She smiles. “Closure would be good for you.”

“What if I ruin things between us? What if he doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore?”

Annabeth raises an eyebrow. “Nico. Do you really think Percy would do that? You’re his best friend. I can’t promise he won’t be slightly taken aback at first but Percy would never do anything like that.”

And Nico knows that. The problem is that he so doesn’t want to tell Percy. He’s too scared.

“Maybe talking to him will help clear your head. Maybe you’ll be able to sort things out with Will, even.”

“I think I fucked that up beyond repair,” he says sadly.

“Well then… maybe it will help you in your next relationship.”

Nico nods miserably. “I guess.”

“He’ll be home soon. I’m going to feed Ally. I won’t come out unless you call for me, okay? And Nico – it will be okay. Trust me.”

“Percy does say that you’re always right.”

Annabeth winks.

A few minutes later, Nico hears the key in the lock. Percy is home.

Chapter Text

When Percy walks through the door Nico strongly resists the urge to run away screaming from the house. Then he resists the urge to throw up.

“Hey! What are you doing here?”

Do it, Nico. You’ll never be able to get over it unless you do it.

“I have to talk to you about something. Uh. Something important.”

Percy can see from the look on his face that something is wrong, and he sits down beside him, worry etched into the lines on his face. “Are you all right?”

“I need to tell you something I’ve been hiding for a really long time, and I need you to promise to hear me out before you do anything, and I need… I need you to promise that you won’t hate me.”

This only makes Percy even more worried. “What could you possibly have done that would make you think I would hate you?”

When he was younger he had fallen and skinned his knee, and Bianca had put a Band-Aid on it. A few days later he tried to take the Band-Aid off, slowly, and it had hurt so much that he had cried. He had run to his sister, and Bianca had kissed his forehead and then laughed. That’s not how you take off a Band-Aid, silly. You have to rip it off, quickly, all at once. On three, okay? And then she had done it on two. Nico had stared at her like it was the worst betrayal in the world, and Bianca had laughed. I’m sorry, mio tesoro. Mama used to do that to me all the time. But see? It doesn’t hurt so much.

He tears off the Band-Aid.

“I’m in love with you,” he says, breathing it out quickly, all at once, half hoping Percy wouldn’t hear him. Percy leans back, evidently incredibly surprised.

“You – you’re… what do you mean you’re –”

But something weird happens – as soon as he says those words, a wave of relief crashes over him. He puts up a hand to silence Percy, because he realizes something. Something very, very important about what he had just said.

It wasn’t true.

“You –”

“Annabeth!” He shouts out. Annabeth comes out of the baby’s room, Allison on her hip.

“It’s not true,” he says. He feels lighter, almost as if he could fly. “It’s not – I didn’t even realize until I said it aloud but it’s not…”

Annabeth smiles and nods as if she had expected this outcome the entire time. Hey, maybe she did. You never know with Annabeth.

“Okay, hang on – can somebody explain to me what the fuck is going on?”

Nico turns to Percy. “For a really long time I thought I was in love with you. And I probably was, at one point. But I’m – I’m not, really. It was just… routine. And knowing that I’m not… it’s a relief. It’s…” He grins. Then he turns back to Annabeth.

“Do you think I could fix it?”

“I think you at the very least have to try.”

Nico stands up, running his hands through his hair. It seems like a weight is being lifted, like he had been carrying the world around on his shoulders and Atlas had come to take it back. He didn’t even realize how much loving Percy had stressed him out until the burden had lifted.

“Okay, can we all back up a minute –”

Nico is torn between staying and explaining what’s going on to his oldest friend and running off and finding Will and begging for forgiveness. He finds Annabeth’s gaze and she smiles at him.

“I’ll deal with this. You go.”

“Hang on –”

“Sorry, Percy, really I am, Annabeth will – yeah.”

“Nico!”

Nico bolts out the door.


Will isn’t at his apartment, so he checks Apollo’s. He tries to remember what his schedule usually is during school, and ends up waiting in the parking lot for forty five minutes, which he isn’t entirely proud of, but now is not the time to be proud – now is the time to grovel. Nico has never grovelled in his life, but there’s a first for everything. He’s given so many firsts to Will; he might as well get this too.

Will walks out of the restaurant bundled up, which is frankly ridiculous because it’s only September, but Will was always a baby when it came to cold weather. His car keys are in his hand, his other one browsing his phone. Nico’s heart leaps into his throat.

“Will?”

Will looks up. When he catches sight of Nico he stops and glares, before taking a deep breath, stuffing his phone in his pocket. “What are you doing here?”

“I told Percy I was in love with him.”

Will’s eyes narrow. “Did you come all the way here to tell me that?”

“No. Let me finish. I told Percy I was in love with him, and I realized that I wasn’t.”

“What does that mean?”

“When I said it to him, when I told him… it felt wrong. The whole thing felt wrong. The words in my mouth were wrong. I had a crush on Percy when I was a kid but that’s all it ever was. Hero worship that faded when we actually became friends. For the longest time I wanted to be with Percy, but I knew that would never happen, so I figured I was… content to just love him and never expect anything. That’s why I always had one night stands. I could love Percy from afar. But I got so comfortable in this routine that I didn’t even realize that it wasn’t – it wasn’t real. And it faded. And I realized that when I told him I was in love with him because… it felt like lying. I was lying to him. I’m not in love with Percy, Will.”

“Okay. Why are you telling me?”

“Because I – I miss you.” God, he wants to touch him. He wants to reach out and pull him to him and kiss him, wants to push him against the wall, wants to apologize with his mouth and his hands and this overwhelming feeling inside of him. He thought he had been in love with Percy, but that had been nothing like this, nothing like the way he feels when he looks at Will, and the knowledge that Percy would never love him back hadn’t been anywhere as painful as the chance that Will would never forgive hm. “And I’m sorry. But I was wrong and I… fuck, Will, I am trying. I’ve never done this before. But I don’t love Percy, I – it’s you. I love you.”

Will runs his tongue along his teeth and then frowns at Nico.

“I’m sorry. Really. I have tried to ignore you, I tried to push you away and ignore you and it didn’t work, and I don’t know if that was coincidence or if maybe it really was goddamn fate but I spent a long time trying to ignore this pull I feel towards you and I can’t. And I don’t want to anymore.

“You asked me to tell you that I chose you and I… I do. I have. People always tell me that I hold onto things for too long and I guess that’s true but you’re one of those things now. I chose you from the minute I spoke to you again, at the STD clinic. I’ve never done that before. Even before I told Percy I chose you. I’m just an idiot and I didn’t realize. I’m sorry that I’ve been so difficult. You don’t deserve any of this but I – I’m all in. And I know you have no reason to believe any of this but I want you to know I’m serious.”

Will surveys him. “You’ve fucked up twice and I’ve forgiven you both times. Why should I do it again?”

“You shouldn’t. Half of me doesn’t expect you to, but I still have to ask. I still have to try.”

Will sighs and throws his keys from hand to hand. Nico is bracing himself for the worst. “What did he say?”

“What did who say?”

“Percy. What did Percy say when you told him you were in love with him?”

“Oh. He, um. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have a chance.”

Will raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because as soon as I realized it wasn’t true I left to go find you.”

This appears to surprise Will. “You’re being serious.”

Nico nods.

Will shoves his hands in his jacket pocket and rocks back and forth on his heels. He is silent for a few moments. Then he says, “Tell me again.”

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me that you love me. Make me believe you.”

Nico is not good at saying the words I love you. He was only ever able to say it to Bianca and Hazel – he doesn’t even think he’s ever said it to his father. His friends all know how he feels, and he tries to show them rather than tell them. But sometimes you have to adapt to other people. So many people in his life have adapted around him, around his moods and his fears and his weird hatred of cheese, and it’s his turn to start showing the people around him that he would stop the world for them if they asked, even if he pretended the entire time that he wasn’t really doing it.

“I love you.” He doesn’t try and oversell it – he just tells the truth, and he has to hope that the truth is enough.

Will smiles at him, bright and blinding like the sun, like that day almost a year ago, with the sun in his face and a boy in his room.

“I believe you,” he says. Nico almost crumples with relief. “But you’re officially on probation.”

“What does that entail?”

“I haven’t exactly decided yet.” Nico knows he’s in no position to do much of anything except stand still and keep begging for forgiveness, but goddamn, if Will doesn’t kiss him soon, he might actually keel over and die. “But I’ll keep you updated.”

Nico smiles. “Okay.”

“Do you want a ride home?”

Will still doesn’t kiss him in the car, but Nico is too nervous to be the one to make the first move. Nico lives less than two minutes away by car, but those two minutes seem to stretch into infinity, and Nico doesn’t even notice the regular wheezing noises of Will’s car.

“Do you want to…” Jesus Christ, Nico, this isn’t exactly new. “Do you want to come to come upstairs?”

The elevator ride up to his apartment is excruciating. Will leans against the wall, hands behind his back, smiling up at the ceiling, hair falling in his face. Nico thinks he’s probably doing this on purpose.

“Is Jason home?”

Not if there’s a God, Nico thinks, but he just shrugs.

Jason is not home, and Nico makes a mental note to buy one of those crosses to hang on his wall. Thanks for getting rid of my roommate so I can hopefully have gay sex with my ex-boyfriend, Jesus. Will shrugs off his coat and hangs it on the back of the chair, turning to look at Nico.

“So do you want to talk?” Nico asks nervously. Will grins at him.

“Not really.”

When Will kisses him, it feels like the sun explodes behind his eyes. Everything is bright, and warm, and Will wastes almost no time in pushing him backwards towards Nico’s bedroom. They fall onto Nico’s bed, Will on top of him, pushing him into the mattress, and Nico thinks he probably doesn’t want to do anything else ever.

And then there’s a knock on the door.

“Don’t get it.”

“I have to get it.”

“No you don’t.”

“I’ll be quick, maybe Jason lost his keys or something.”

Ignoring Will’s angry glare, Nico climbs out from underneath him.

When he opens the door, Percy is there.

“Oh.”

“Who is it?” Will asks, poking his head out. When he sees Percy he pales. “Oh.”

“I need to talk to you,” Percy says angrily. Nico nods, extremely worried, and Percy steps inside.

He prepares himself for the worst. For Percy to be angry. Upset. For him to tell Nico that they can’t be friends like they used to. That it’s too weird.

What he gets is Percy, eyes blazing in anger, saying, “Annabeth told me you were afraid I wouldn’t want to be friends with you after you told me.”

That catches Nico off guard. “I – what?”

“After you ran off Annabeth had to explain what was happening, and she told me you were afraid I would be mad at you. How could you think I would be upset? Did you honestly believe that you telling me you used to have a thing for me would make me turn my back on eleven fucking years of friendship?”

“Wait, wait… are you mad at me because I thought you’d be upset?”

“Yes, I am! You say you’ve been in love with me for so long but you don’t even know me well enough to know I would never fucking hate you? Do you not know how much you mean to me?”

A few years ago – okay, if he’s being honest, a few weeks ago – that was all he ever wanted Percy to say to him. To tell him that. To recognize him and love him. But Percy does love him. That much, now, is obvious. It hadn’t been the love Nico had wanted, but it was the kind he needed. The unconditional love of your best friend.

“I’m sorry,” Nico says. “I was just… scared.”

“Nothing you ever say will ever make me hate you, Nico. I need you to understand that.”

Nico nods. “I know. I see that now.”

Percy stares at him, eyes narrowed, as if he doesn’t quite believe him. “Promise?”

“I promise.”

Another long stare, and then Percy smiles. And for once, it doesn’t make Nico’s heart flips. Percy drags him into a hug, and Nico hugs him back, and his breathing is fine, and his heart in his chest is fine.

“We’re good?” He asks when they break the hug. Nico nods.

“More than good.”

Percy nods, looking relieved. “Okay. One last thing. Solace!”

Will opens the door of Nico’s bedroom, looking nervous. “Hi.”

“When I was in high school I learned how to sword fight.” Nico rolls his eyes.

“Oh my God.”

“Um. Okay?” Will looks confused.

“I’m just… warning you.”

“Jesus Christ, Percy.”

Percy grins. “I’m just kidding. Or am I?”

“GOODBYE, PERCY.”

Percy laughs, waves at the two of them, then leaves. Nico slumps against the wall.

“That was stressful.”

“You weren’t just threatened.”

Nico smiles. “Percy’s harmless.”

Will snorts. “I’m sleeping with one eye open tonight.”

Nico walks back into his room, dragging Will with him. Will kisses him, hands holding Nico tightly. Nico sighs, resting his head on Will’s shoulder. “C’mon.”

He climbs into bed, Will following after. He tucks himself into Will’s chest, breathing deeply. He feels lips on the top of his head and he smiles.

This isn’t exactly a new beginning, he thinks. The beginning had been complicated, and Nico doesn’t want to go back to that. This is more like the middle – when it was him and Will and they were official and things made sense and he loved the idiot beside him, even if he hadn’t realized it yet. They were back to the way they were when they were at their best, and Nico sure as hell wasn’t going to ruin it again.

Chapter Text

“Ten bucks says Jason cries.”

“You’re on.”

Across from them, Annabeth glares. Nico and Percy laugh obnoxiously under their breaths.

“Ten bucks it’s as soon as he sees Piper.”

Nico claps Frank on the back. “Glad to get you in the betting pool, Frank.”

Now it’s Hazel’s turn to glare at the three of them.

“You’re all in trouble,” Leo singsongs quietly. “Besides, he won’t cry until he starts his vows.”

Calypso shoots Leo a look. Jason makes an angry noise. “Can you stop talking about me like I’m not here?”

“When do you think you’ll cry?”

“I regret inviting you.”

“You don’t have any other friends, who else would you have as groomsmen?”

Jason groans. “Is the paparazzi still here?”

“Last time I checked,” Nico says apologetically. “I don’t know why you’re surprised. You’re marrying Tristan McLean’s daughter.”

“Don’t worry, dude,” Percy says. “We’ll distract them.”

“What does that mean?”

“The four of us have a special plan in case you need to get away from them,” Leo says. “It involves fireworks, a very loud buzzing, and Percy making out with Frank.”

“Hopefully we don’t have to use it,” Percy says. “No offence, Frank.”

“None taken.”

“I’m gonna throw up.”

Nico leans away. “Aim away from me, please, this is a rented tux.”

“You don’t even own a suit?” Frank sounds incredulous.

“Do I look like the type of person who would own a suit?” Nico asks.

“Surely your father requires you to have nice clothes.”

“Well sure, but I burned it in a fit of rebellious rage.”

Frank is giving him a look that says he clearly doesn’t know if he’s joking or not. Percy just laughs.

“Shh! Piper is coming. Behave,” Annabeth hisses. Leo leans forward to ensure he has a good view of Jason’s face, but Frank pulls him back.

When tears start streaming silently down Jason’s face once he starts his vows, Leo whoops loudly and the entire room turns to stare. Jason is glaring so furiously Nico thinks he might strain something, but Piper is laughing.

Annabeth, Hazel, and Calypso are all crying – so, for that matter, is Percy.

“Are you crying because it’s beautiful or are you crying because Jason is off the market?” Nico asks. Percy elbows him hard while Leo snorts.

“You’re going to be back on the market if you don’t shut up,” Annabeth hisses.

You can't break up with me! We’re not dating!”

Piper stops her vows and looks at them with an eyebrow raised.

“Do you mind if I get married now?” She asks. They all turn red. Leo mimes zipping his mouth shut while Piper smiles smugly.

She looks beautiful. Piper always looks beautiful, but today she is especially so. All of the women look beautiful, actually. Annabeth’s hair is curled, half up and half down; Hazel’s curly hair, which is normally tied back, is let loose, and Calpyso’s is straight, reaching half way down her back. Thalia, although also beautiful, looks incredibly uncomfortable and constantly pulls at her dress until Annabeth slaps her hands away.

Nico turns around and searches the people in the crowd until his eyes land on a familiar mop of blond hair. Will winks at him.

 When Jason and Piper kiss each other as newlyweds the room bursts into cheers, but there is a flash from the back. They all turn to see a man duck and run.

“Who let him in?” Piper’s father shouts angrily.

Nico, Percy, Frank and Leo all start after him, but it is Drew, a loosely defined friend of Piper sitting near the back, running in five inch heels somehow, who manages to catch up to the paparazzo. She yanks him by the hair and then smashes his camera on the ground.

“Weddings are sacred, you piece of shit. Even Piper deserves a perfect day.”

“Gee, thanks, Drew,” Piper says, half sarcastically and half sincerely. Drew blows her hair out of her face and smoothes it back, good as new. She glances at Piper.

“Your mascara is running. That’s what you get for using drug store brand. And your hair is a mess.”

Piper rolls her eyes, but she still lets Drew fix her hair. Drew turns to Jason, but then winks. “You’re fine,” she says. Piper shoves her forwards lightly.


Once the reception is in full swing, Will wanders over.

“That was exciting,” he says with a smirk.

“Remind me never to become famous.”

“Were you planning on it?”

Nico rolls his eyes and takes another drink.

“Can I ask you a question?” He says quietly. Nico nods. “How long do you have that suit for?”

Nico looks down at himself. “I’m supposed to return it after the wedding. Why?”

“Because I really want to tear it off of you.”

Nico blushes. “Late fees probably aren’t that bad,” he mutters. Will leans over the table and kisses him.

“Come dance with me,” he says. Nico shakes his head.

“I don’t dance,” he says firmly. Will pouts.

“Oh come on.”

“No.”

“Nico!”

Nico stares him down. Will crosses his arms and leans back, staring back just as firmly, and with a lot more conviction. Nico can feel his resolve breaking.

“Fine. One dance.”

Will grins and whisks him onto the dance floor, pulling him close. Percy and Annabeth twirl past them, and he can hear Annabeth say, “If you step on my feet one more time, Percy, I swear to God –”. Jason and Piper are entwined, and Leo is, for some strange reason, doing the Macarena. He can see Hazel and Frank dancing, bodies pressed together, and dances Will over towards them.

“Leave room for Jesus,” he says, staring at Frank pointedly. He blushes, but Hazel just glares.

“Move along, Nico,” she says. Will laughs and drags him away.

“Have you ever thought about marriage?”

He raises an eyebrow at Will. “Are you proposing?”

Will turns red. “No. I was just wondering. What your plans for the future are.”

Nico shrugs. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

Will is studying him. “Not at all?”

“What are you trying to get me to say, Will?”

“I just… I want to know if whatever future you imagine for yourself involves – well, me.”

Nico laughs. Will looks at him with a hurt expression on his face. “You are so stupid, Solace.” Then he closes the distance between them and kisses him. Will is frozen momentarily, because Nico never willingly kisses him in public. “It’s been three goddamn years, you idiot.”

“I was just making sure.”

Nico shakes his head. “You’re so dumb. I can’t believe someone as dumb as you is in med school.”

Will nips at his ear.

As the next song comes on Piper swoops in. “Mind if I steal Nico?” She asks Will, who bows out. Piper wraps her arms around Nico’s neck and kisses his cheek.

“You look beautiful, Piper.”

She smiles. “I can’t believe I’m married. It feels weird.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Piper McLean,” Nico says with a smirk. Piper laughs.

“It’s weird. I’ve never really bought into the whole take your husband’s name thing, but after today, with that guy… sometimes I think it’d be nice not to be a McLean. Does that make me a horrid person?”

“Probably.”

She punches him on the shoulder. “With Annabeth… Annabeth Chase did a lot of great things. I would be proud if my name was Annabeth Chase. I would wear it proudly. But Piper McLean… what have I done?”

“Piper McLean stole a goddamn BMW when she was fifteen years old.”

“Oh yeah, because that’s the kind of legacy I want. I fought for years against being a McLean. I acted out to try and get my father’s attention, and it was our name that kept him away from me. Jason’s always been there for me. And I know that’s not my dad’s fault, but… maybe Piper Grace would have a better time.”

Nico shrugs. “Are you willing to leave Piper McLean behind? Because I know Piper McLean. Piper McLean’s a pretty cool girl. I really like Piper McLean. And that’s who Jason fell in love with.”

Piper chews her lip.

“Think about it, is all I’m saying. Don’t leave Piper McLean behind just because you think she hasn’t done anything. She’s done a lot. She’s pretty kickass.”

Piper nods, and then Jason comes over. Nico smiles.

“Would you like your wife?” Nico asks. Jason gently pulls Piper away.

“No, I’d like you.”

“I am not dancing with you.”

“C’mon, di Angelo. Let’s go.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Jason takes Nico’s hand in his and puts an arm around his waist. Nico rolls his eyes.

“Fine. But I’m leading.”

“Not a fucking chance.”

Nico glares at Will, who is dancing with Hazel. He had dragged him to the dance floor and now it was going to be impossible to leave.

“So,” Nico says. “Marriage.”

Jason smiles and shakes his head, like he can’t quite believe it.

“So are you moving out then?” Nico asks. They’ve been avoiding the subject for a very long time – they’ve spent so long together neither of them is eager to talk about the end of it. After they had graduated they had to start paying their own rents, and Piper had moved in shortly after, which helped, but Nico knows they won't stay. A married couple and their weird emo, gay best friend. A sitcom in the making. 

“Piper’s father bought us a fucking house as a wedding gift.”

Nico whistles. “I should start dating movie stars.”

“Your boyfriend might have something to say about that.”

“I’ll keep him on the side.”

Jason laughs. “I’ll miss living with you.”

“Keep the waterworks at bay, Grace, I’ve seen you cry more than enough for today.”

“God, you’re annoying.”

“That’s more like it.”

“I’ll keep a spare bedroom for you. Black walls, skull sheets, the whole nine yards.”

“I appreciate it.”

Jason smiles at him, and Nico smiles back. “M’happy for you, Jason.”

“Well shit, Nico, there’s no reason you need to get so sappy.”

Nico scowls and tries to step away, but Jason grins and yanks him even closer. “Jason, please, not in front of your wife!”

Piper rolls her eyes and Jason tries to dip Nico, who squirms so much he drops to the ground.

“That was entirely your fault,” Jason says from above him. Nico tries to glare, but all that ends up happening is he laughs.

He dances with Annabeth twice, Hazel a few times, and Calypso for about half a song before Leo steals her again. He even dances with Percy once, although he thinks that particular dance might have resulted in a broken toe. Eventually, feet hurting and very, very annoyed by the sheer amount of dancing, he makes his way back to Will.

“I have not sat down in an hour and it’s entirely your fault.”

Will cups his cheek and smiles. “Don’t pretend you’re not enjoying yourself.”

Nico rolls his eyes and rests his head on Will’s shoulder. “This is my last dance. I’m tired.”

He feels lips on the top of his head. “Okay.”

He thinks back to his conversation with Jason, and then he thinks back to his conversation with Will. Before he can lose his courage, he lifts his head and looks Will in the eyes.

“Do you wanna move in with me?”

Will’s hand tightens on Nico’s. “What?”

“Well, Jason is moving out, and now that I’ve graduated I have to actually pay rent, and there’s no way in hell I can afford that apartment by myself. So I figured… if you wanted to, maybe. I don’t want to live alone.”

Will’s smile is the brightest thing in the world, and when he drags Nico back onto the dance floor, Nico lets him.

-fin