Thump. Thump. Thump.
The first thing Will noticed as he walked into the back room of Half Blood Bar was the thump of Nico’s knives as they hit the wall. He took a seat at the mahogany table set in the middle of the room. The only sign that Nico noticed his presence was the three second pause in his propelling.
“I thought Chiron told you to stop putting holes in his walls?” Will mused, setting his feet on top of the table, leaning back slightly.
Nico shrugged nonchalantly, “He also told you to stop putting your feet on the table.” He had a small smirk as he sent a defiant glance towards Will.
“And yet neither of you listen to me.” A deep voice sounded from the door. Chiron strolled into the room that had previously only been occupied by the two teens, his shoes making small taps on the wooden floor. Despite his words, they could tell by his tone that he didn’t really mind.
Nico shot him a sharp smile before waltzing to retrieve his knives, having run out of ammunition. They left shallow cuts in the red walls.
“We have a potential business partner arriving in about ten minutes. I’d like you both to join me.”
Nico’s face lifted, and he nodded once in reply. Chiron usually didn’t let Nico come to business meetings as guard, although he was one of the best in Half Blood Bar. It wasn’t just about skill, it was about intimidation. People often underestimated Nico, and while they did always learn eventually, it’s easier just to take Frank or Annabeth instead. It also reduces the amount of blood on their hands.
“Uncooperative individual?” Will wondered. He attended most meetings, as the one most familiar with the bar’s stock and business relations. Nico only attended when Chiron was expecting trouble.
“He is a colossal waste of oxygen, but word is he provides the best quality alcohol. Hopefully we can get through this meeting with a compromise and minimal threatening.”
Alexander Xzayvian was a frail man with an attitude that wilted almost immediately as the meeting started. He answered all questions asked in as short amount of words possible and hardly stuck firm to his deals and prices.
Nico sat behind Chiron to his right, twirling his favorite knife in his hands, a clear message. He didn’t speak throughout the meeting, but he didn’t need to.
Will sat opposite of Nico, to Chirons left, and only offered input when specifics were needed.
Xzayvian looked slightly queasy as he stared at their attire. “Why do you like the color red so much?” he asked Chiron, though referring to whole the trio. It was the first question he had inputted the entire meeting.
Nico leaned forward in anticipation, his threatening smile growing wider.
Chiron paused momentarily. “What do you think, Mr. Xzayvian, is the biggest sign of weakness for someone who is trained to not show any weakness?”
Xzayvian shifted in his seat uneasily, glancing at Nico before his gaze once again found Chiron. “I don’t know. I suppose a physical injury is a weakness that you wouldn’t be able to hide.”
Chiron’s eyes took a glint to them. “Exactly. We wear red and enemies cannot see any physical weakness we may have. They don’t see us bleed.”
“Oh.” He said simply, eyes darting nervously from side to side; his hands coming up to fidget with his collar, “Well that is very clever.”
“Yes.” Chiron agreed, tilting his head back as his eyes analyzed the man in front of him. “Now, regarding this deal.”
When they walked back into the back room, there were three others inside. Leo sat on top of the table, his eyes glowing as he practiced new tricks with his pocket lighter. Piper and Hazel sat in chairs at the table, Piper casually recalling the events at her show that night. She was the best singer in the entire South side of town, and she had an astonishing talent of conning clientele out of large tips.
Leo’s eyes lit up when he noticed Will and Nico walk in, Chiron having stayed in the main room to supervise business that night. “Hey guys! Watch this new trick I learned.” He proceeded to grab the glass of vodka he’d set on the table next to him and chug almost half of it. He blew out towards his fire as it expanded, similar to a dragon breathing fire. While the trick itself was quite impressive, he didn’t take the girls into consideration as they had to scramble to avoid being in the flames path.
“Valdez!” Piper seethed, pulling herself up off the the floor. She ascended towards him in a threatening manner.
“Sorry!” He squeaked in fear as he attempted to avoid her wrath. Hazel retook her seat at the table, laughing gently at the other two.
“How’d the meeting go?” Hazel asked, turning her attention towards Nico and Will who still stood at the head of the table. Nico strolled over and jutted his hip out as he leaned his body weight on it.
“He had absolutely zero backbone. It was over before it even began.”
“Good.” Hazel replied, her eyes holding satisfaction. She handled the majority of the finances for Half Blood Bar, so it was only natural for her to want this deal to work out. This business partner was offering a cheaper alternative to the quality alcohol that they serve.
“You’d better get back to the main room.” Will reminded Nico, gesturing towards the door, “Annabeth is almost on break.”
Nico nodded his assent and sent a finger salute towards Will and Hazel as he headed into the main section of the bar. Annabeth, Frank, and him were the main ones in charge of security in Half Blood Bar, and Chiron preferred to have at least two of them out at all times.
On his way towards the outer section of the room, where Nico liked to stand to observe the entire room to the best of his ability, he passed the large bar.
Jason stood behind the counter on the right side, expertly mixing a drink for a woman with fiery red hair. Percy, the other bar tender, leaned against the left side with a charming smile as he talked to Annabeth, who gave Nico a nod as he passed.
Nico arrived at his post, readying himself for any threats that may come.
The only problem that Nico faced that night was a drunk guy who decided to cause a minimal disturbance. He was quick to handle, and Nico found that the rest of the night was oddly peaceful.
The Half Blood Bar was his home. He slept upstairs in the apartment complex located directly above the bar, as did most of his coworkers turned friends. Chiron had given Nico a job right after his sister passed away; he was desperate and had nowhere to go. Reyna, his closest and only friend at the time, sent him Chiron’s way. He hired Nico immediately and gave him a place to stay. The story of most of his coworkers was very similar.
It was rumored to be a business tactic. Hire people from broken homes with nowhere else to go, and you’ve got yourself a group of loyal workers who will do anything for you.
However, Nico knew Chiron well enough to know that wasn’t the case. Yes, it did have certain business advantages, but Chiron had a soft spot for teens who have lost all hope, who don’t have a purpose. He takes them in, and he gives them not only a place to stay but a reason to.
As Chiron closed the bar for the night and his friends headed upstairs to their rooms, Nico felt contentment set in his bones.
Will met Nico on the fire escape just outside of his window, his legs dangling over the side.
“Hey Deathboy.” Will said fondly, taking a seat next to him.
“Hey Sunshine.” Nico returned with a soft smile that he reserved only for Will. Their fingers intertwined as they took in the unforgiving sounds of downtown.
“Hey guys!” A shout sounded from below them, disrupting their peace. Looking through the bars, they found their friends standing in the alleyway below their fire escape.
“What are you guys doing?” Nico shouted down to them, even though he was fairly sure he knew the answer. This was a common enough occurrence for them.
“We’re gonna head into town, have fun. Wanna come?” Jason yelled this time, his arm resting over Piper’s shoulders.
“It’s four in the morning.” Nico reminded them, his voice resigned. They all knew how this would turn out.
“You weren’t gonna sleep anyways!” Leo retorted, already taking a swig from the beer bottle he held in his hand. He stumbled jokingly into Frank, who steadied him with a small fond smile.
Nico pretended to think for a moment. “True,” he replied with a shrug, lifting himself up with the railing. He turned to Will who was staring up at him with a soft expression, his eyes affectionate.
Nico rolled his eyes and held out his hand, “Come on you sap.” He hauled Will up, and they both made their way down the ladder attached to the fire escape. Once both their feet were planted firmly on the street, Nico brushed shoulders with Will, smiling as he joined his family.