Nico looked down at his homework, scowling at how much he had to do. He could hear Lukas with his boyfriend, hear them talking downstairs with the scent of McDonald's coming up. It was tempting, almost too tempting, to go down and join them. But he stuck to his homework, a choice he would someday regret.
Senior year was harder than the other years of high school, or it was for Nico. He actually cared enough to work, which in turn caused him to be strapped to his desk most of the time. If he wasn't at school and he wasn't doing homework, then he was at work. Sleep was hard to come by most days.
"Idiots." Nico watched out the window as a kid tried to throw a basketball into a dumpster. The window was right above his desk, leaving him with a perfect opportunity to get distracted easily. The sun came in, provided him with light. The air made him want to escape his dusty room.
The smell of weed drifted into the room through the open window. Nico tensed up, felt his brain running with different ideas. Drugs, drugs, drugs.
Drugs. They still controlled his every thought.
A heavy thud downstairs, the sound of something breaking. It caught Nico off-guard, caused his head to snap up and for the drugs to stray away from his thoughts. "Lukas?!"
"Everything's fine!" Lukas called out. "Go back to studying!"
Nico frowned. "What broke?!"
"Just go back to studying!" Lukas insisted. "Everything's fine!"
Nico rolled his eyes before leaving his room. Leave it to Lukas to break something. "Lukas, I swear if you broke my mother's..." He stopped when he reached the top of the steps, watching as Lukas tried to pick up a pile of ash that was under pieces of broken glass. "You broke my mother's urn?!"
Lukas looked up at Nico, his face red. "I...I...I'm sorry..."
"What were you even doing?" Nico ran down the steps. "Making out with your boyfriend? I've told you, Lukas. I've told you to watch out."
"I'm sorry..." Lukas looked down at his ash-covered hands. "I didn't mean to."
"Go get me the broom," Nico instructed, his voice laced with anger. "Where's Knox?"
"He left." Lukas ran to retrieve the broom and dustpan before coming back. "He was late for his job."
"He has a job?" Nico began to sweep up the ashes. "Go get me something to put these in."
Lukas ran out of the room, taking longer than before. Finally, he came back with an old vase. "This alright?"
"For now. Bring it over." Nico shook his head. "I can't believe you."
"I'm sorry." Lukas set the vase by Nico, one of his contacts having fallen out. He looked at him with one black eye and one blue, his gaze sad. "I really didn't mean it. She was my mom, too, Nico. I really didn't mean it."
"Just go to your room." Nico gestured for him to leave. "That way you can't break anything else."
"This is the fifth thing you've broken this week!" Nico glared at him. "Just get away, Lukas. You're too careless when you're with that boy."
Lukas hung his head. "Right...sorry." He walked up the steps, his footsteps heavy. "I'm sorry..."
Some days, he felt like more of a nuisance than like a brother.
"Because he doesn't pay attention!" Nico ranted, pacing his room as he talked to Will on his phone. "He'll kiss Knox wherever he wants and end up breaking something!"
"Nico..." Will sighed. "What did he break this time? You're angrier than usual."
"He broke my mother's urn!" Nico kicked his wall in anger. "I had to clean up her ashes! You know how disgusting that is?!"
"Calm down, Neeks." Will's voice grew tense. "How about I come over and we can talk? I don't trust you there alone..."
"The asshole is here somewhere." Nico sat on his bed, letting out a sigh of defeat. "Will...Lukas and I used to get along okay. Then his boyfriend came in and messed everything up."
"So he's in love. That's good." Will replied. "He's probably just too focused on his boyfriend to focus on anything else. That's not too bad."
Nico laid back on his bed, staring at the worn ceiling. "It's getting late...isn't it?"
"Yeah, around midnight." Will admitted. "We should get some sleep. School tomorrow."
Nico closed his eyes. "How are you still awake, Mr. Sunshine?"
"Cause you were yelling in my ear." Will grumbled.
"Right, sorry..." Nico smiled. "Okay, goodnight."
"Goodnight." Will hung up, leaving Nico alone in his room. As he curled up to fall asleep, he was unaware that Lukas sat outside his room, tears streaming down his face as he had listened to every word Nico had said.
"I'm sorry..." Lukas whispered to himself. "I'm sorry."
Monday morning. Alarm clocks went off, showers started. Nico got ready without a word to Lukas, without a word to his twin brother. When had everything turned so horrible?
Lukas stood in his own shower, let the hot water hit his tired muscles. He had picked the glass out of his skin but it left small marks that stung whenever they were touched to anything. That he could handle. But his shoulder, purple and swollen, hurt too much to ignore. He made sure to wash it before getting out of the shower, wrapping it up with ace bandages. It was probably just sprained, he told himself. Probably just sprained.
Nico pounded on the bathroom door, his voice cold. "We need to leave."
"I'm coming!" Lukas got dressed, having to fight to get a hoodie on. Once he was sure that his shoulder looked normal, he stuck his contacts in before jogging out of the bathroom. Nico was already downstairs, an apple in hand as he walked out of the house.
The car ride was silent save for the faint music coming from the radio. They picked up Annabeth and Percy, but the tense atmosphere didn't go unnoticed by their friends. They sat in relative silence, watching the two twins as if they could sense the fight they had.
As soon as Nico parked the car, he was out his door and walking to the school. As soon as he saw Will, he ran to greet his boyfriend with a hug. "Hey."
"Neeks." Will hugged him for a minute before letting him go. "Are you still mad at Lukas?"
Nico scowled. "He can't do anything right."
"Maybe you should be easier on him..." Will advised. "I mean, at least talk to him. Try to sort it out."
"I've tried." Nico defended. "Nothing will get through his thick skull." He stopped at Will's locker, watching as the blond boy put in the combination. "He just can't think straight when he's with his boyfriend. Was he like that when he was dating you?"
Will blushed at the memories that surfaced in his mind. "Um, no. We actually only kissed once when we were dating, so he wasn't really being distracted by all that..."
Nico rolled his eyes. "He can kiss you only once but he can't stop kissing Knox."
"Was that supposed to be a compliment or...?"
"It was a fact." Nico grabbed a water bottle out of Will's locker. "Maybe I should talk to Knox. What kind of name even is that?"
"He said his parents named him after Fort Knox." Will supplied. "That's where he was made or something."
Nico choked on the water. "Ew. I did not need to know that."
Will chuckled softly. "It's biology, Nico."
"It's sex, William."
"Which is biology." Will grabbed his books before closing his locker. "Come on, we're going to be late."
Nico hooked his arm with Will's. "I hate first period."
"Don't we all?" Will smirked. "At least it's not biology."
Nico groaned loudly. "It's called sex!"
Percy Jackson whistled from his locker. "What are you two talking about?"
Nico jabbed Will in the ribs. "Will can't talk about anything like a mature person."
"I was being scientific!" Will defended. He went to Percy. "Sex is biology, right?"
"Why are you asking Seaweed Brain that question?" Nico wondered. "You think you're going to get a right answer from him?"
Percy moved a hand to his heart. "Rude."
"Lukas is the rude one," Nico muttered.
"Oh, no, are you guys fighting again?" Annabeth asked, her books in hand as she moved to Percy's side. "I thought you guys were getting along."
"He's a pain in the ass." Nico scowled. "Breaks everything around him."
"Nico..." Will whined. "Try to fix it before talking about him behind his back."
"I'm going to talk to Knox," Nico admitted. "I need to find him after school."
"Do it at lunch." Annabeth offered. "I can talk to Lukas, get Knox to wait somewhere for you."
Nico nodded. "Yeah, alright. Thanks. Third-floor bathroom?"
She nodded. "Sounds like a plan." She kissed Percy's cheek. "Well, I better be off." She walked away, leaving the three boys alone in the hallway.
"We should go, too." Will grabbed Nico's hand. "We're going to be late. Bye, Perce."
"Bye." Percy closed his locker. "See you fifth period."
Will waved before leading Nico to their class. Once they were seated, Nico put his feet up on the chair in front of him and closed his eyes. "Goodnight."
"Nico." Will jabbed his arm. "Wake up. You need to take notes."
Nico swatted at him. "No, I'm tired. I can copy your notes later."
"You aren't going to understand what's going on." Will reasoned.
"This is physics," Nico said slowly as if that explained everything. "Even if I pay attention like this class would stop the world from ending, I won't know what the fuck is going on. I feel like I'm on drugs when I try to understand."
Will sighed into his hands. "Really? A drug analogy?"
"I'm better," Nico promised. "If I can make jokes about it then I'm over it, right?"
Will only sighed again. As the teacher walked in, he didn't bother forcing Nico to get his notebook out. Even if the paper was in front of him and a pen was in his hand, all Nico would do would be scribbling to his small heart's desire.
'Pizza for lunch?' Nico wrote on Will's notebook.
'After you talk to Knox.' Will wrote back. 'Now shush, I'm paying attention.'
'You mean stop writing, not shush?'
Will took Nico's pen, making sure to keep it out of his reach. Then, he wrote again. 'There, you're silenced.'
Nico stepped into the third-floor bathroom, his arms crossed. Lukas' boyfriend sat on the sinks, his ankles crossed. Red hair, long bangs, green eyes. He sipped from his water bottle, the bottle's red covering hiding whatever it was that he drank.
"Knox." Nico closed the door behind him. "We need to talk."
Knox set his water bottle beside him. "Lukas said he was meeting me here, not you."
"I need to talk to you," Nico repeated. "About Lukas."
Knox moved some hair out of his face. "What is it?"
Nico looked down at his shoes. "I...um...I..."
"You need heroin again?" Knox asked. "I don't have any on me but Octavian probably does-"
"No, no!" Nico shook his head quickly. "No, I don't need heroin. No drugs for me."
Knox narrowed his eyes. "Then what do you want, Nico?"
"I want you to stop coming over." Nico blurted out, his heart sinking at the words. "I know, I know it sounds harsh. But Lukas can't concentrate when you're over."
Knox crossed his arms. "How is that my fault?"
"How isn't it?" Nico shot back. "Just stay away from my house, okay? You two broke my mother's urn."
"I didn't, he did." Knox jumped down from the sinks and grabbed his water bottle. "I'm going to lunch. This is ridiculous. Just because he felt into it doesn't mean it's my fault."
"Fell into it...?" Nico grabbed his arm. "I thought you were kissing and you bumped into it."
"Uh, no." Knox pulled away from his grasp. "That didn't happen. He fell into it."
"What happened to make him fall into it?" Nico asked.
Knox rolled his eyes. "This is pointless. It was a mistake. Now, move out of my way."
Nico kept his feet planted in front of the door. "Did you push him?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Knox moved Nico roughly out of the doorway. "Goodbye, now."
Nico stumbled before catching himself on the sinks. He caught his breath as he stared at the drain, as he watched a few droplets of water disappear into the darkness. He hadn't been expecting it that morning, but he knew he had just barely escaped a fistfight with his brother's boyfriend.
Groaning to himself, Nico exited the bathroom and headed up to the roof. When he got up there, Knox was already sitting beside Lukas.
"Hey, Nico." Will held up a pizza box. "Look what I got."
"Thank god." Nico sat beside Will but didn't smile as much. "Thanks."
"No problem..." Will opened it before sipping his pop. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'll tell you later." Nico gestured to Lukas and Knox. "Idiots over there make me mad."
Will held his hand. "I'll come over later and we'll talk about it."
"Yeah, okay." Nico ate silently. As he did, he tuned in to the conversations around them. Percy and Annabeth talked about swimming, Leo talked about graduation and the mechanic shop he was going to make. Nobody seemed to notice the silent feud.
Nico laid on his bed, his head in Will's lap. He ranted about Lukas, ranted about everything that drove him insane. Ranted about Knox.
"Wait, hang on." Will cut him off. "He fell into it? That's...a really weird choice of words."
"I know, I thought so, too." Nico sighed. "Maybe we're thinking too much about this."
"I..." Will frowned. "I'm going to go talk to Lukas, okay?"
Nico glanced up at him. "Why?"
"Just...cause." Will gave him a small smile. "I just have a feeling."
"Fine, fine." Nico rolled off of him. "Don't be too long."
"I won't." Will got up and stretched. "Stay awake?"
"Yeah, I have homework." Nico got his notebook off the floor. "So much homework."
Will handed him a pencil. "Then get going there, genius. I'll be back."
Nico took the pencil gratefully. "I was dreading getting up."
Will laughed. "I know, lazybones." He gave Nico a small wave before exiting the room, closing the door behind him. The hallway was long and spacious, with cracked and peeling walls. As he walked, the floor protested his weight with creaks and groans.
Lukas' room wasn't far from Nico's. As Will opened the door, his heart dropped and his eyes widened when he saw the sight in front of him.
Lukas sat on the floor, shirtless. He was getting ace bandages ready to use, his left shoulder out in the open. Swollen, purple, a small trail of blood over the length of it. "Lukas...what...?"
Lukas' head snapped up, his own eyes widening. His contacts weren't in, and despite Will having seen him without them before, it unnerved him. "What are you doing in here?!"
"Get out!" he quickly covered his shoulder. "Get out, Will!"
Will took a step back. "Lukas, I...I was only trying to talk to you..."
"Will! Get out!" Lukas stumbled to his feet, keeping a blanket over his shoulder. "I mean it! Get out!"
Will stepped back, over the threshold. "Lukas-"
The door was slammed in his face, leaving him in the silence of the hallway to try and figure out what the hell had just happened.
Will sat beside Nico, his face pale. Where could Lukas have possibly gotten so hurt? "Neeks...we need to talk."
Nico's pencil didn't stop moving at hyperspeed. "What?"
Will grabbed his pencil. "Nico. This is really important."
Nico glanced over at him in annoyance but knew something was wrong as soon as he saw Will's face. "What is it? What happened?"
Will dropped the pencil. "I...I walked in on Lukas changing. He...his shoulder is really messed up... It looks broken, Nico. Really broken."
Nico moved his homework aside. "Why would he be hiding if he had a broken bone? He should have gotten treated."
"How did he get it in the first place?" Will asked. "Have you noticed anything?"
Nico shrugged. "The urn... Knox said that Lukas fell into it... I don't like that kid, Will. He seems...pushy, physical."
"You think Knox broke his shoulder." Will summed up.
Nico bowed his head. "Yeah..."
Will wrapped an arm around Nico's shoulders. "Are you going to talk to Lukas?"
"He isn't going to tell me anything," Nico replied. "You know that."
"You should at least try." Will urged. "Please? For me? You're his brother, Nico. You're all he's got."
Nico sighed. "Fine, fine." He got up and stretched. "But don't say I didn't warn you when you hear him start screeching at me. The kid can be insane sometimes."
"The kid? He's your age." Will smiled. "Now go get it over with, Nico. Maybe this can help you two make up."
Nico groaned but walked out of the room, soon getting to Lukas' door. He knocked, his pale knuckles turning red from the contact. "Lukas, can we talk?"
Lukas didn't answer. When Nico edged the door open, he could hear Lukas' shower going. The soft patter of water hitting the bottom of the tub, the rush of it pouring down the drain. Nico tiptoed through the room before opening the door to the bathroom, his heart dropping into his stomach when he saw the state his brother was in.
Lukas stood in the shower with his back to Nico, his blue hair wet. Nico could see his shoulder, see how bad it really was. But as he soon found out, his shoulder wasn't the only thing hurt. A large bruise covered the side of his back, another covered his side. They were sickly colors, black and blue and red. On his elbow, a bruise looked so bad that Nico almost threw up.
"Lukas...what the hell...?" Nico closed the door behind him. "What the hell?!"
"Nico!" Lukas pulled the shower curtain. "I'm naked!"
"Where did you get those bruises?" Nico questioned. "I'm not leaving until you tell me."
"You said it yourself..." Lukas grumbled. "I'm a clumsy idiot that doesn't watch out where I'm going."
"Cut the bullshit, Lukas." Nico crossed his arms. "Tell me the truth."
"That was the truth."
"Nico!" Lukas peeked his head around the shower curtain to glare at his brother. "Go out!"
"Did he beat you?" Nico questioned. "Did Knox do all of that?"
Lukas' face turned red. "You don't know what you're talking about. Go out."
"NICO!" Lukas' voice broke along with the dam behind his eyes. Tears poured down his cheeks, sent him into a sobbing mess as he tried to gasp for air. "You...get out...please...please...get out..."
"Lukas..." Nico watched sadly. "He...he did...he hurt you. Knox hurt you."
Lukas fell to his knees, weakly flipping Nico off. Instead of taking the gesture to heart, Nico turned the shower off and wrapped a towel around Lukas' shoulders. "Lukas...it's going to be okay. I'm here. It's going to be okay."
"No...no..." Lukas whimpered. "Nobody was supposed to know..."
Nico half hugged him. "Just calm down. Calm down, Lukas. We'll get you fixed up."
"No!" Lukas started sobbing again. "No! He'll know you know! Don't touch me!"
"Lukas." Nico looked into his eyes. "He's going to find out I know because he's going to be wondering why I go over there to beat his sorry ass."
"No! No, no!" Lukas grabbed onto Nico's arm. "Please don't. Please, Nico. I'll talk to him. This won't happen again. I promise you."
Nico sighed. "Lukas..."
"He knows you used to do drugs." Lukas blurted out. "He's friends with Octavian. That was your drug dealer, right? If he thinks he's going to prison anyway for hurting me, he'll tell on you. He'll get you arrested, Nico. Please just let it go."
Nico paled. "Lukas...this is shit."
"I'll make him better," Lukas swore. "Okay? I promise."
Nico looked down. "Fine... Fine. I can't do anything else, I guess."
"Thank you." Lukas let out a breath of relief, pain written all over his face. "Do you...do you have any medicine?"
"I'll get you some." Nico got up. "Get dried off and dressed. I'll be back soon."
"Wait." Lukas grabbed his hand to stop him from leaving. "Does that mean we made up?"
"Yeah." Nico ruffled Lukas' hair. "You need to dye it again. You have dark roots."
"I was too sore to do it," Lukas admitted. "I bought the stuff."
"I'll help you tomorrow." Nico decided. "I'll go get your medicine and then you can try to get some sleep." He left the room, stopping by his own room to talk to Will. "I was right. He's covered in bruises."
Will's face twisted into anger. "What are you going to do?"
"Give him medicine." Nico shrugged.
"I mean about Knox." Will searched through his bag for medicine. "You need to stop it."
"About that..." Nico laughed nervously. "The kid has blackmail against me."
Will frowned. "Nico..."
"About heroin." Nico finished. "He knows my drug dealer."
Will shook his head in exasperation. "So what can we do?"
"Lukas said he'll get him to stop." Nico took the medicine from Will. "Let me go give him this and I'll be right back."
Will nodded, handing him a water bottle. "Make sure he gets some rest. His body is going to need it."
Nico took the medicine to Lukas who had crawled into a pair of blue pajamas. He laid on his bed, looking broken in the dim light. His eyes stared at the ceiling, his hair was flat and lifeless. He didn't move when Nico walked in, didn't dare move when he had gotten in a comfortable position for all his injuries.
"Hey, here's the medicine." Nico sat by him on the bed. "Open your mouth."
Lukas narrowed his eyes. "I'm not helpless, Nico."
"I'm making it so you don't have to move." Nico popped the pills into Lukas' mouth before pouring some water into his mouth. Lukas swallowed thickly, a tear slowly dripping out of his eye.
"Thanks..." Lukas closed his eyes. "I'm sorry I'm such a burden."
"You're not a burden." Nico got up and put the water bottle on the bedside table. "Just yell if you need anything, okay?"
Lukas nodded. "Yeah...okay... Thanks, Nico. Thanks for all this."
"No problem." Nico covered him up before leaving the room. As he did, he closed the bedroom door to give Lukas his privacy before heading back to his own room. Will was where he left him, laying on the bed with his hands beneath his head.
"Hey." Nico laid by him. "Are you spending the night?"
"Yeah, I already texted my mom." Will glanced over at him. "How is he?"
"Found a comfortable position to sleep in." Nico pulled the blankets over them. "Took the medicine. He should be fine for tonight."
Will nodded thoughtfully. "Nico...I'm worried about him."
"Me, too." Nico laid on his side with his head on Will's chest. "We'll keep checking up on him. If it's still going on in a week then we do something."
"I don't know yet," Nico admitted. "I'm thinking about it." He closed his eyes, felt relaxed with Will. What had he done to ever get so lucky? "Goodnight."
"Night." Will rested his hand on Nico's back, closing his own eyes. Sometimes he felt guilty for being so lucky.
Will woke up to his phone ringing, the bright screen shining into his eyes when he picked it up. It was still dark outside, the moon shining through the open window. As he looked at his mother's face on his phone, his heart did a small flip. What had happened to be calling at this hour?
"Mom?" Will answered, letting out a small yawn. "What's wrong?"
"Will, thank god you answered." she seemed wide awake. "I just got a call from my sister...your grandma passed away. That cancer finally got to her."
Will frowned sadly. "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine." she took in a shaky breath. "Will you come home, though? I feel bad asking but-"
"Of course I'll come." Will got to his feet and began to look for his shoes. "I'll tell Nico where I'm going and I'm sure he'll give me a ride."
"Thanks, Will." she took another deep breath. "Okay... Drive safe. Love you."
"Yep, love you." Will hung up the phone before nudging Nico in the ribs. "Neeks, you need to wake up."
Nico groaned. "Whaaaaat?"
"You need to drive me home." Will got his shoes and jacket on. "My grandma died and I don't want my mom to be alone."
Nico rubbed his eyes. "Your grandma?"
Will nodded. "She lives back in California."
Nico rolled off of the bed and began to get his shoes on. "Does that mean you're going back there for the funeral?"
"Probably." Will tossed Nico his jacket. "Not for too long, though."
Nico got his jacket on before rising to his feet, letting out a small yawn. "God, I'm tired."
"You can come back home and sleep." Will looked around. "Where are your keys?"
"Downstairs." Nico trudged out of the room, Will following. "Is your mom okay?"
"She'll be okay." Will replied. "I mean...it was her mother. That must hurt."
"Yeah..." Nico got his keys before leading Will to the car. "Call me and let me know when you're leaving for the funeral?"
Will got into the car. "Course. And I probably won't be at school tomorrow."
Nico nodded. "Take care of your mom."
He drove Will home under the light of the moon. His radio read four in the morning, the red numbers the only source of light in the car. He drove down deserted roads, soon got to Will's house. It looked different in the dark, more ominous. In the dark, it showed all that it had been witness to.
"Thanks." Will kissed Nico's cheek before getting out. Nico made sure he got into the house before driving back home, his eyes fixated on the road in front of him. He knew those streets, knew them well. Knew how to get to work and to school and to Octavian's-
"Don't think about it," Nico whispered to himself. "Don't think about it."
The moon stared at him, showed his car the way. Instead of the way home, however, it showed him the way to Octavian's house. Nico sat in his car, stared at his steering wheel. He knew he wouldn't go begging for drugs, knew he didn't even have the money to buy them. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't find it in himself to drive away.
All night, until dawn broke, Nico sat in his car and tried to convince himself to leave. Finally, in the light of day, he drove off. But it wasn't without a fight.
"He got on a plane last night." Nico explained to their friend group a couple days later, them all gathered for lunch. "His grandma died back in California."
Lukas looked over from where he sat with Knox, his hair a brilliant shade of blue after Nico had helped him redye it. "Is he okay?"
"He'll be fine." Nico gave Knox a small glare before turning to the others. "He'll be back in school Monday."
"I hope he's okay..." Percy picked a pepperoni off of his pizza and stuck it in his mouth. "My grandma's dead, too."
"You never knew yours though, Percy." Annabeth took a pepperoni for herself off of his pizza. "Your's died before you were born."
Percy shrugged. "I didn't know what else to say."
Annabeth looked to Nico. "Send him our best."
Nico nodded. He stared at his own food but didn't eat it, feeling sick to his stomach whenever he saw Knox. All he could picture was him hitting Lukas, hurting him, throwing him around. With no one around to help...
It made him think about how alone he was in his own childhood. Was Lukas feeling just as lost?
Five-year-old Nico waddled up to the large school building. Parents walked their kids in, kept them close. "You'll make friends," they promised. "You'll love it!" Nobody was there to tell Nico any of this.
Nico pulled at his pants in discomfort. He wanted to cry, wanted to run back home. He had forgotten to change his diaper.
"Five...five..." he continued to waddle into the building. He was tiny for his age, malnourishment having taken its toll. He looked for classroom five, his father having told him where to go. Five...that was the number he saw on his clothing size...right?
"Five, five, five..." Nico looked up at the tall doors, tears threatening him again. Why was everything so big? Why did he have to go to this place? It was scary, scarier than home. He just wanted to go home.
Nobody saw the tears, nobody saw the struggling boy. He was alone, lost. His heart pounded in his chest and his arms shook from the effort of carrying his small bag. The zipper was broken, his pencil almost fell out. That was his only pencil. He couldn't lose it, his father would be so mad.
So he did the only thing he could think of. He sat down and cried.
Nico laid on his worn mattress, his eyes focused on his ceiling. The dark weighed down on him, leaked into his soul. He could feel the monsters creeping up, feel his craving becoming overwhelming. His fingers itched to get that money, to go to Octavian's. It wouldn't take long, it would help him. It could stop the memories that had started to build up within him.
Why'd Hades have to come back into his aching soul? Why was Lukas triggering so much of his childhood?
"Will will be here in a couple days..." Nico told himself. "He'll be home in a couple days...just hang in there."
He tried to picture Will's bright smile, tried to picture his blue eyes. All he could think about was drugs.
It was midnight when Nico got into his stash of money. It was thirty minutes later when he arrived at Octavian's house with tears pouring from his eyes. It was one in the morning when he sat on the hood of his car and smoked heroin for the first time in months.
It was at one in the morning when he disappointed himself for the hundredth time. When he disappeared all of the ones that loved him.
When he disappointed Will.
Miss Dare looked down at the sheet of students that were supposed to be in her class. Only one was missing, the one that she was told to watch carefully. Nico di Angelo. With a quick word to her helper, she left the other woman to watch the kids before stepping out into the hall. As soon as she did, she could hear sobbing coming from nearby.
"Nico?" she walked down the hall, looking anywhere a small boy could hide. "Nico? My name is Miss Dare. I'm your teacher."
Small hiccuping, a whimper. As she stopped outside the bathrooms, a small boy came out of the large door with a red face and puffy eyes. He tugged at his worn pants in discomfort, his hair falling into his face and sticking to his tears. "Five?'
"Room five." she kneeled in front of him. "You're Nico?"
Nico nodded. "I sorry. Please, no hit me. I'm sorry."
"I'm not going to hit you." she looked him over. "What are you crying about? Are you hurt?"
Nico pulled at his pants again. "No diapers here. Need diaper." He set his book bag down and pulled a pencil from it. "I remember this. No lost it."
Miss Dare looked her young student over, dread building in her heart. Diapers...there was no way he was still in diapers...right?
Nico started to sob again when she didn't answer him. "I'm sorry!"
"No, no, it's okay." she reached out to wipe his eyes. "It's okay. I'm just trying to think of how to help you. I want to help you, Nico."
"You'll get me a diaper?" he asked, hope filling his eyes. "You get me diaper? Mine ruined."
She moved some hair out of his face. "I'll have someone get you a diaper. Until they do, how about you come join class? I'm sure they'd love to meet you. You could make some friends."
Nico nodded, keeping his pencil close to him. "You be there?"
"I'll be there," she promised. She stood up and took his hand, starting to lead him back to her classroom. "Let's go introduce you. I'll be by your side the entire time."
Nico closed his eyes, felt tears slid down his face as the high abandoned him. She said she had cared. Said she wanted to help him.
Then why did everything continue on for years?
Lukas laid in his own bed that night, not having heard Nico leave. All he could think about was Knox, about how their relationship had turned so toxic. He loved Knox, loved him more than he had loved Will, but all his instincts told him that Knox didn't love him back.
Still, he spent the night praying and hoping that maybe he would change, that he would get better. That everything would be okay.
He loved Knox. Loved his abuser.
His shoulder throbbed along with his heart as he fought to get some sleep. Lukas would see Knox everytime he closed his eyes, would feel him hurting him in his dreams. He could feel his fist, feel how he kept getting stronger.
Nightmares haunted him that night just as heroin haunted Nico.
Will got home late Sunday night with a pounding headache and a severe case of jet lag. As soon as he laid on his bed he was asleep, not even bothering to take his shoes off. It was only when his alarm went off in the morning did he even think again, let alone worry about what he looked like or where he was or why he had an alarm set.
A Monday morning, dreaded by any sane teenager. His shower was a little too warm, his hair wouldn't stay down. When he was finally out the door, he was already late for the incoming school day.
Running into that building, feet pounding against the pavement. Will got a late slip before heading to first period, his heart pounding in his ears. He didn't want to make Nico worry, didn't want to cause that boy any more pain in his life. Everything was supposed to be okay. Everything was supposed to be easy, now.
Why wasn't anything easy?
"Sorry." Will apologized as he gave the teacher his slip. "Traffic." He made his way to his desk, sitting beside his boyfriend. "Hi, Nico. Sorry for not coming over last night. I was too tired."
"It's okay..." Nico was half asleep, his chin rested on his hand. "Hi..."
Will smiled. "Hi. Wake up and take notes, Neeks."
Nico groaned. "Don't wanna."
Will got Nico's notebook out for him. "Remember? You're in advanced classes this year."
Nico rubbed his eyes. "Too tired for advanced classes."
Will flicked him in the forehead. "Why are you so tired, Nico?"
Nico jumped slightly, his eyes fluttering open. "Nothing, nothing." He rubbed his eyes again before slapping himself in the face. "Late night at the cafe. Really late night."
Will frowned. "Why were you working so late?"
"They needed me. The other guy called off." Nico flipped his notebook open. "I only got a couple hours of sleep, I think."
Will watched him closely. "You aren't lying to me...right?"
"Why would I do that?"
"If you were trying to hide something." Will glanced towards the powerpoint and jotted down a couple notes. "Neeks...are you lying to me?"
Before he could respond, the teacher snapped at them to stop talking. Nico kept his head down, kept his eyes from meeting Will's. In a short, simple conversation, Will knew that Nico was hiding something from him. Something big.
But all he could do was take notes.
"Neeks, don't head up yet." Will grabbed Nico's hand before he could head up to lunch. "Can we talk for a second?"
"I'm hungry." Nico held up a lunch he had brought. "I'm actually hungry for once. Isn't that a good thing?"
Will sighed in defeat. "Fine. But we're talking next period."
Nico nodded but didn't live up to his word. In their next class, Nico kept his earbuds in as he worked on the project. It was important, he insisted. He wanted to get it done. Will had no choice but to accept that fact that Nico di Angelo was ignoring him.
Will made sure to check Nico's work schedule before going to his house after school. Nico was just walking in with Lukas, both not seeming to even notice each other. Will parked before running to meet Nico, making sure to catch up with him before Nico could close the front door. "Neeks!"
"Will, I can't talk." Nico quickly stated. "I have to wor-"
"No you don't, you liar." Will closed the front door. "Tell me what you're hiding. Now."
Lukas looked over from the bottom of the steps, stopping his climb to his room to listen in on their conversation.
"Will..." Nico's face was dark red, embarrassment and anger written all over it. "You don't know what you're getting into here."
"I care about you, Nico." Will grabbed his hands. "I want to help. Just tell me what's wrong. We'll work through it."
"No, we won't!" Nico couldn't help but choke on the sobs that threatened to come up. How could he have done this? He let himself down. He let Will down. He ruined everything he had worked towards. "You'll hate me. You'll hate me, Will, if I tell you. You'll hate me and you'll leave me."
"I could never hate you." Will lowered his voice, felt as if bombs were raining down around them. "You...you relapsed, didn't you?" As soon as that word was out, it felt like they were in the middle of a bomb field, as if they were in the dust of a fallen tower, as if they were watching their house catch fire. As if a tragedy had landed upon them.
Nico couldn't find it in himself to argue. Instead, he hung his head in shame. "I'm sorry... I tried so hard not to. I just...I wasn't strong enough."
"You weren't strong enough?" Will's blue eyes grew dark and serious. "Nico. You're strong enough to beat it. You have before. What made you possibly think that you needed it-"
"You were gone!" Nico pulled at his hair as if the pain could make all his mistakes melt away. "I was alone! My memories were fucking me up and I had no one to turn to! All I could think about was Miss Dare and Hades and my mom and..." He fell to his knees, felt his heart sink in his stomach. "Everything was so fucked up... My brain was fucked up..."
Will kneeled in front of him. "Who is Miss Dare?"
Nico shook his head, knowing that he didn't feel like nor wanted to explain. Instead, he curled up and tried not to think about going upstairs to get his heroin.
"Nico." Will took Nico's hands to stop him from pulling his hair out. "You need to calm down. Tell me who Miss Dare was. Tell me and calm down."
Nico's hands shook in Will's grasp, shook from the effort it took not to sprint towards that staircase. "My preschool teacher. She said she cared...she said she was going to help. She never did."
"Why not? If she knew, why didn't she help?" Will questioned. "Neeks...you need to let this stuff out. It isn't going to help you to keep it all bottled inside. I'm here, I'll listen. I'm here to listen to you, okay? So just tell me."
Nico slowly raised his head, let his eyes meet Will's. In a simple sentence, he fucked up what Will thought could be relatively simple. "She tried to but my dad...he stopped her from doing anything ever again."
"What do you mean by that?" Will moved a hand to Nico's cheek to wipe his tears away. "You act like...like he killed her."
"He didn't kill her." Nico denied. "But he...did a really bad thing to her. Got blackmail... He made sure that she'd never tell anyone about my situation. She...she was ruined. Did what he asked and that's it."
Will scowled. "What an asshole. Is she okay?"
"Now? Yeah, she's fine." Nico laughed without humor. "She is, but I'm not."
Will hugged Nico, hugged him tighter than he had before. "Tell me the rest of the story."
"Why?" Nico argued. "What good would that possibly do?"
"It will help you fight heroin." Will insisted. "You have to beat this before moving on to beat that. So tell me the rest of the story."
"It's a long story..."
"It's four in the afternoon. We have all night." Will looked towards Lukas. "Will you get him a glass of water?"
Lukas disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Will alone with Nico. "It's going to be okay. I promise. You just have to tell me."
"I...I..." Nico breathed in Will's scent, trying to let it relax him. "It's such a horrible story...it should never have happened..."
"I know." Will ran his fingers through Nico's hair. "I know, trust me. I know. But we can't change it. So you have to tell me exactly how it happened."
Lukas came back with the water and handed it to Will. "Can I stay?"
Nico took the glass and sipped from it, his tears mixing in with the water. He let Will nod but knew not to look at Lukas, not wanting to get any more worked up. Once the glass was halfway gone, he set it on the floor and buried his head in Will's chest again. "Okay...okay..."
"You're ready?" Will asked.
Nico nodded. "As ready as I'll ever be..."
"Then start." Will kept him close. "I'll be here the whole time."
Nico closed his eyes, his cheek pressed against Will's shirt. He could feel his heartbeat, could smell his body wash, could actually relax enough to breathe. "After my mom died, my dad got worse. A lot worse. By the time I was in preschool, I still wasn't potty trained. I was wearing diapers still that I changed myself. My teacher, Miss Dare, saw the first day but I told you what happened."
He opened his eyes, made sure he was still with Will, closed his eyes again. "She didn't tell anyone but she helped me learn everything I needed to for Kindergarten. My dad told her to because he didn't want to help me. And then...I kept moving up in grades. Some kids shared their lunch with me but not a lot. Teachers slowly stopped caring."
Will ran his fingers through Nico's hair. "How'd it all change?"
Nico's eyes snapped open at the memory. "I turned sixteen. Hades left and never came back. Never."
Will glanced around. "He's still alive?"
Nico nodded, not releasing his grip on Will for an instant. "Yeah, he's still alive... Anyway, he left. I taught myself what I needed to know. Went to the library, researched, got a job. The guys at the cafe helped me learn how to cook and clean. They showed me how to wash clothes and everything. From then on things turned...turned normal."
Will kissed his forehead. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Neeks. I know that doesn't make a difference. But I am sorry."
Nico wiped his eyes. "I'm okay now. Everything's okay. He's gone, I have a family. You and Lukas are my family."
Will couldn't help but smile at the joyful expression that crossed Lukas' face. "Yeah, we are. We're family. And we aren't going to let you get hurt anymore. That means no more drugs."
Nico closed his eyes as tight as he could. "I...I can't do this...I can't fight them again. I can't start over, Will. Please don't make. Please."
"Neeks...they're bad for you." Will explained. "You ended up in the hospital so many times. Remember? You almost died."
"I'm stronger," Nico argued. "I'm stronger. I can stop myself from overdosing. I pro-"
"Don't make promises you can't keep." Will cut in. "And I know you won't be able to keep that one."
Nico looked away. "I...I swear on-"
"You won't keep that, either." Will gently turned Nico's head back to face him. "Come on, Nico. I...I want to help. There's only one way to help."
"No!" Nico pulled away from Will and began to pace. "I'm not going back! No! I hated that place! I hated that!"
"Then you shouldn't have relapsed!" Will argued. "You're going back, Nico!"
"Make you?!" Will stood up and grabbed Nico. "How would I make you?"
Nico shrugged him off. "I'm not going."
"I'm not having you kill yourself." Will's eyes narrowed. "If you don't...I...I'll break up with you, Nico."
Nico rolled his eyes. "No, you won't."
"Yes, I will." Will pulled away. "No touching or kissing or talking until you go."
Nico clenched his fists. "William..."
Will looked to Lukas. "I'm heading home. Let me know what he decides."
Lukas nodded. "Okay. I'll try to talk some sense into him."
"William!" Nico grabbed Will. "You can't just give me the silent treatment!"
Will pulled away from Nico. "I don't talk to ex-boyfriends and I told you I'd break up with you if you didn't go get help."
Nico scowled. "William Solace."
Will opened the front door. "Bye, Blue."
Nico grabbed him again. "Fine! Fine, you asshole! But during Christmas break, so I don't miss school."
Will turned to give him a small smile. "See? That's all you had to do. You got me sounding like an asshole."
Nico hugged him. "That's cause you always get what you want."
"When it comes to your health." Will agreed. "Now go lay down and get some sleep. You and Lukas. You're both a mess."
Lukas flipped Will off before going upstairs, leaving the two boyfriends alone for the time being. As soon as his blue hair was out of sight, Will kissed Nico with a soft touch that he'd never used on the shorter boy before. When he finally pulled away, Nico was completely relaxed against him. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight..." Nico moved some hair out of his face. "I...I... Can you stay the night?"
Will closed the front door. "Thought you'd never ask."
If only things stayed simple until Christmas break, if only they could finally relax and say that everything was okay. But fate never handed them the easy ride.
November. Winter was in the air, the first snowfall was expected any day. As the skies darkened and the leaves died, the city rose with holiday festivities. Yet despite the happiness, nothing lifted Lukas' spirits.
It was the night before Thanksgiving when he finally thought to himself that maybe he couldn't do this, maybe he couldn't handle Knox. It was that night that he truly felt afraid of a boy that he thought he had loved. But fear had replaced that love, erasing it from Lukas' mind. Now, all he could think about was getting away.
Another punch, the smell of blood. Damn had he made him angry. What had he done? Lukas could hardly remember as he took another punch. Maybe he had said something wrong? Before he could try to think back on what he had said, he felt his head hit the brick wall behind him.
A swarm of darkness, a dizzy feeling. As he struggled to stay on his feet, his hands reached out to try and stop the numerous blows. It hurt, it hurt more than anything. Pain filled his senses and clouded his vision, caused his mind to blank.
As he lost consciousness, he was aware of the insults Knox through his way. Asshole, bastard, son of a bitch. But only a question stung, only six words made him want to die right then and there: How could I ever love you?
That was the last thing he heard before everything turned into nothing.
Percy hauled the bags over his shoulders, his breaths coming in short gasps as he made his way down the street. "Why are we going shopping now of all times?"
Annabeth moved quickly though she carried more bags than Percy. "The best deals are the night before. Haven't you ever heard that?"
Percy shrugged. "Guess not... Who's coming over, anyway?"
"For dinner tomorrow? I have the full list on my phone." Annabeth cut down an alley. "You, Nico, Will, Blue, Frank, Leo, Calypso, Piper, Jason, Reyna, Blue's boyfriend..."
Annabeth trailed off. "I think that's it."
"No wonder we got so much food," Percy grumbled. "They'll eat enough for an army."
In the alleyway, the sun didn't shine in as strong and the air was more thick, full of odd smells that you never wanted to see the source of. Shadows, sounds, creepers. As they walked, they stuck close to each other. Saftey in numbers, the old saying relayed. Saftey in numbers, even if the number was two.
"Percy." Annabeth stopped walking, causing him to halt immediately. "Stay still."
"What is it?" Percy struggled to stop himself from setting the bags down. "What's the matter?"
Annabeth got her phone out before shinning the flashlight on the ground, her eyes narrowing when she saw the pool of dark blood. "I knew I stepped in something..."
Percy's eyes widened. "Annie...maybe we should get out of here. It doesn't look like anyone is around that's hurt. So it's probably just the bad guy around."
"What if someone is hurt nearby?" Annabeth set her bags down. "Are you just going to let them die?"
Percy shook his head, setting his bags beside Annabeth's. "But where would he be?"
Annabeth scanned the alley as she put her hair into a ponytail. "Have you ever watched a tv show, Percy?" She pointed to the dumpster. "Probably behind there."
Percy took a step closer to the dumpster. "That's so cliche."
"I'll bet you ten bucks." Annabeth supplied.
"Deal." Percy got his own phone out for a flashlight before moving closer to the dumpster. As he looked behind it, his heart dropped when he saw the motionless lump wedged between it and the wall. "Annabeth!"
Annabeth took her coat off. "Bring the poor person here! We need to patch them up before getting them to a hospital. We need to stabilize them."
"Ever heard of the police?" Percy asked, trying to reach the small boy. He looked to be a short teenager with blood matted clothes and blood-soaked hair.
"They'll take too long." Annabeth insisted. "Just get him out."
It took some squeezing and some muscles before Percy pulled the unconscious boy out, dragging him over to Annabeth without looking to see who he was or what he looked like. "Do you think he's still alive?"
Annabeth gently took the boy's head and rested it on her jacket, which she had laid on the ground. When she moved the blue hair out of his face, she took in a sharp intake of breath at what she saw. "Percy!"
"What?" he kneeled next to her before seeing the boy's face. "Oh my god..."
"We need to get him to your apartment." Annabeth picked the boy up bridal style. "Get the bags."
"Annie...Lukas..." Percy got the bags, paler than a ghost. "What are we going to tell Nico?"
"Let's get him fixed up before you worry about that." Annabeth speed-walked away. "Hurry up!"
Pain. So much pain, all the time. Pain bad enough to keep him motionless in hopes that it'd go away. Pain bad enough to keep his eyes closed, scared of where he'd find himself. Pain bad enough to crush down a spirit that never should have been tied to one city, a spirit that should have been long gone by the time the pain came.
A spirit that was meant to travel, a spirit that was meant to take on the world. Now, a spirit that was crushed and beaten down.
Pain...maybe if he just opened an eye...maybe it'd help...
The dim light of a bedroom met his half-lidded gaze. He knew he couldn't open his eye further but knew that it was only about halfway open. He felt bruised, he felt broken, he felt like his body was going to give up on him.
What had led to this? Lukas couldn't remember. All he could see was Knox's face, all he could feel was love and fear as the same emotion. So much fear...
He closed his eye again, tried to block out the pain. Maybe if he fell back asleep, it'd go away. Maybe...
Percy paced with the phone to his ear, his hands shaking as he tried to think of what Nico would say. Would he blame him? Probably. Would he freak out? Most definitely.
"What?" Nico answered, sounding as if he wasn't fully concentrating. "Percy, I'm kinda busy."
"You need to get here," Percy demanded. "Please. Get here as quick as you can."
"Why?" Nico asked, sounding annoyed. "And where's here?"
"My place." Percy peeked into the room where Annabeth was cleaning the blood off of Lukas. "It's about Lukas."
Silence, a thud. "What about him? He isn't here."
"Yeah, I know that." Percy frowned. "Nico, are you high? I thought...I thought you had quit..."
"Shut up." Nico snapped. "What about Lukas?"
Percy sighed. "Is Will there so I can talk to him?"
"Uh...no," Nico replied. "I don't know where he is. Just talk to me."
Percy pinched the bridge of his nose. "Get over here, Nico. Lukas needs you. He...he's really hurt."
Nico grumbled under his breath. "He's always hurt."
"He's really bad, this time," Percy admitted. "Really bad. If Annabeth and I hadn't found him...he'd probably be dead. Please get here, Nico. He's going to want you when he wakes up. But don't drive high."
"Then how do you expect me to come?"
"I..." Percy trailed off. "Um... Walk?"
"I'm not walking across the whole damn city, Percy."
"Fine, I'll call Will." Percy ran a hand through his hair. "He'll come pick you up. Deal?"
"Fine...Deal." Nico muttered.
"Are you at your house?" Percy asked. "I need to know where I'm sending him."
"Where else would I be?" Nico scoffed. "Work? High?"
"He's coming to pick you up." Percy hung up the phone with a sigh of defeat. Nico... Percy had known all along but never wanted to voice it out loud. Drugs were the one demon that Nico would never break free from.
"Hey, you're awake." Annabeth laid the wet rag on Lukas' forehead. "How are you feeling?"
Lukas' dark eyes had seemed to have lost the contacts they always had. "Anna...Annabeth..."
"Yep, I'm right here." Annabeth held his hand. "Nico and Will are coming. You're going to be okay."
Lukas whimpered softly, his eyes falling closed. "Hurts..."
"I know. You got beat pretty badly." Annabeth looked up as Percy's mom entered the room. "Sally, he's awake."
"Good, good." the woman quickly came to Lukas' beside and looked the boy over. She was pretty for her age, with brown hair streaked with gray. "Lukas, we got you fixed up. Do you want some medicine?'
Lukas managed to voice his acceptance before closing his mouth again, his lips feeling as if they were busted. He could taste blood, could smell it, could still see it flying with each punch...
"Here." Sally propped him up, slipped a pill in his mouth, and put the top of a water bottle to his mouth. "Swallow."
Lukas swallowed the pill before relaxing against the pillows. His face was scrunched up in pain, the black and blue bruises moving with his skin. When he breathed, a sharp pain stabbed at his ribs. When he didn't breathe it hurt even worse.
"Nico and Will will be here soon." Annabeth began to try and get the dried blood off him again. "Just relax until they do. Everything will be okay."
Lukas gripped onto her hand when she came close enough, his eyes cracking open to stare at her. "You...you...called the police?"
Annabeth shook her head. "No, I didn't."
Lukas breathed out in relief. "Good..." He closed his eyes again, felt sleep weighing down on him. No police, no getting Knox arrested.
Yet with the relief, he also felt disappointment.
Will helped Nico through the doorway, his hands shaking along with his faith. Lukas...he was going to lose him again...
He couldn't. Not again.
"What happened?" Will quickly went to Percy. "What happened to him?!"
Percy held his hands up in surrender. "He's going to be okay. He's sleeping so try not to wake him."
"That doesn't answer my question." Will snarled.
"Will." Nico put a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder. "You're getting all scary again. Tone it down a bit."
Will glanced at him. "He won't tell me, Nico. He won't tell me what happened to Lukas."
"Because I honestly don't know what happened." Percy defended. "We found him beat up in an alley. My mom and Annabeth fixed him up pretty good."
"I'm the one that's going to go to medical school. I should have fixed him up." Will looked around. "Where is he?"
"In my bedroom." Percy gestured to the hallway. "Just don't wake him up, please. Annabeth will go ballistic."
"I won't." Will looked to Nico. "Get some water and sit down. You need to get off your high so you can go beat up Knox with me."
Nico nodded in agreement before going to get a glass of water.
"Knox?" Percy asked in confusion. "What does Knox have to do with this? Do you think I should have called him?"
Will shook his head. "Did you call the police?"
"Um...no. Should I have?"
"No. Just...don't call anyone. Nobody else should know." Will started for Percy's bedroom. "Keep your eye on Nico, please."
"Yeah, course..." Percy replied. "But why are you mad at Knox?"
"Forget about it, Percy." Will moved to the cracked bedroom door and slowly opened it. Inside, Annabeth was sitting beside the bed that Lukas laid on. His blue hair was spread out around his head, his arms were limp at his sides. All over him, purple and black bruises swelled.
"Will..." Annabeth kept her voice to a low whisper. "I wrapped his ribs and his shoulder. Those seemed to be the worst places. But the collarbone injury looked much older..."
"I know." Will sat next to Lukas on the bed. "Did you give him medicine of any kind?"
Annabeth nodded. "He finally fell back asleep."
"I'll watch him for awhile." Will decided. "Come get me when Nico is off his high."
Annabeth frowned. "He fell back into drugs?"
Will gently rubbed Lukas' hand. "Yeah... I'm working on it."
"Okay." Annabeth got up and ruffled Will's hair. "Let me know if you need anything. Is Nico here?"
Will nodded. "Percy's supposed to be watching him."
"I'll go make sure that's actually happening," Annabeth assured before going out. Without their conversation, the room was silent except for Lukas' labored breaths. Even while asleep pain crept over him.
"Lukas..." Will watched over the boy, feeling the familiar ache of love in his heart. "I told you this would happen... I told you to break up with him..."
Nothing stirred, nothing changed. In the silence, the anger built up along with the love for Lukas he had been pushing down.
Will held Nico's hand as they walked, his anger having disappeared with each punch he had thrown at Knox. Now the boy was unconscious, laying in his home with no one to call the police.
It had been a quiet event, a gruesome event. Blood was splattered, blood was shed, blood was spilled. In a matter of ten minutes, they got revenge on Knox for all he had ever done to Lukas. They got revenge for all he had done to his past boyfriends, to his past girlfriends. They got revenge for anyone he had ever hurt.
Though their anger was gone, revenge didn't feel all that good.
"I can't believe I just did that..." Will clung onto Nico. "I'm supposed to be a healer. I'm going to be a healer, not someone that causes injuries... I can't believe I did that."
Nico laid his head on Will's shoulder. "You were angry. I was, too. We got revenge."
"But I hurt him." Will argued. "I punched him. A lot. I...I hurt him... Oh god, oh god, I can't believe I actually hurt someone. I've never even killed an insect before, let alone cause pain to another human."
"Will." Nico stopped walking to put his hands on his boyfriend's shoulders. "Think about what he did to Lukas. Think about had bad he's hurt. Think about what would have happened if Percy and Annabeth hadn't found him. Still guilty about beating the shit out of Knox?"
Will shook his head. "No."
"Good." Nico started walking again. "I'm not, either."
Lukas opened his eyes to Will staring down at him, those blue eyes raging with emotion. "Lukas... I'm glad you're awake."
"Will..." Lukas sat up, pain scratching at his mind. "What are you doing here? Where even am I?"
"At Percy's place." Will explained. "Annabeth and him found you like this in an alley."
"Oh..." Lukas looked away. "Can you take me home?"
"Later." Will held Lukas' hand. "We're eating dinner here."
Lukas looked at their hands, frowning when he saw the state Will's were in. "What did you do?"
"Hm?" Will glanced down to where Lukas was looking. "Oh...yeah, about that... Nico and I went to Knox's place."
Lukas' eyes flashed dangerously. "You did what?"
Will held his hands up in surrender. "Lukas...we were angry...look what he did to you."
"It's none of your business!" Lukas argued. "Now he's going to be even angrier at me!"
"You aren't going to be alone with him ever again so it doesn't matter if he's mad at you or not." Will moved a piece of hair out of Lukas' face. "You're not being with him again."
"You don't have that choice," Lukas growled. "He's my boyfriend and I love him-"
"I thought you loved me." Will cut in. "I thought you loved me, not that piece of shit."
"Don't call him that." Lukas glared at him. "I did love you, back when you were Will. My Will. But now you're acting like Nico."
"Because I'm angry." Will glanced away. "And I'm still Will. But... Knox makes me so angry, Lukas. He makes me so damn angry."
"And why is that?" Lukas moved his face to Will's. "Why does he make you so damn angry? Huh? Are you going to tell me or are you going to just keep hating him?"
Will looked back to him, paling when he realized how close they were. "You want to know why he makes me so damn angry that I'm not even myself? You really want to know?"
Lukas nodded. "What? Are you jealous? Are you jealous of him?"
Will's eyes met Lukas'. "What if I am?"
"Then you're a cheating bastard." Lukas put his nose against Will's. "A cheating bastard that...that needs to leave this room before something happens."
Will didn't move away. He couldn't. "You almost died on me again, Lukas. I won't let that happen."
"I wasn't trying to." Lukas' top lip rubbed against Will's, the soft touch sending currents of electricity down his spine. "I was just trying to talk to Knox...just trying to talk to my love."
"But you shouldn't love him." Will muttered. "You shouldn't. You should love... You've always loved..."
"You..." Lukas melted against Will, melted into him until they started to kiss. Slowly, passionately, full of warmth and a burning sense of forbidden love. The type of love that sent your heart beating and your mind blank of thought. The type of love that could only ever be seen behind closed doors, shunned from society.
The type of love that ruined lives.
Days went by, then weeks. Nobody spoke about the kissing, nobody found out. Yet again and again, when nobody was around, Will found himself glued to Lukas. Guilt washed over him, he felt as if he was doing the worst thing possible, but he couldn't stop. Just couldn't.
It kept Lukas away from Knox and that was all that mattered.
Christmas break finally rolled around, and with it Nico's leave in hopes to get clean. Will dropped him off, made sure he got in safe, made sure all the paperwork was done, then went right back to Nico's house. He rang the doorbell in hopes Lukas was home, felt his heart do a small flip when Lukas answered the door.
"He's in." Will told him as he entered the house. "If he takes it seriously he'll get clean. I know he will."
Lukas nodded as he closed and locked the door. "Good."
Still, they didn't talk about what they had done. They never mentioned it to one another. Yet when the normal conversation died down, they found each other at their lips again, they found each other on the couch, in Lukas' bed. They found each other because they simply didn't want to think about anything else. Lukas didn't want to think about Knox, Will didn't want to think about Nico's drugs. They just simply didn't want to think.
So they immersed themselves in the love they still had for one another, immersed themselves in one another to escape the harsh reality they were stuck in.
Immersed themselves in one another without a thought of what harm it could do.
Percy knew something was wrong, knew something wasn't right. As he got ready to go to Nico's house for Christmas, he couldn't help but notice how happy Will was. Shouldn't he be upset his boyfriend wasn't there to spend the holidays with? If anything, Will acted like his boyfriend was constantly beside him.
To say Percy was pissed off would be an understatement.
"Perce, let's go." Annabeth had her keys in hand as she waited for him to get his coat on. "I want to get there before the snow is too heavy."
Percy moved to the door, his shoulders slumped. "It seems wrong...going to Nico's house and celebrating Christmas without him."
"Him getting clean is in his best interest," Annabeth replied, leading him to her car. "You know it is."
"I know, I know." Percy got in the passenger's seat before slamming the door behind him. "I just miss him."
As they drove, snow covered the roads and sidewalks of the city. A white Christmas, everyone always hoped for. A beautiful Christmas. Yet as it kept falling, it became more dangerous.
"If it gets too bad we'll have to stay the night there." Annabeth drove slowly through the mushy roads. "That's why we wanted it at Nico's. No parents to tell us otherwise. I can say I'm at Piper's, you can say you're at Jason's."
Percy nodded. "But we'll be at Nico's...without Nico."
"You act like he's dead," Annabeth commented. "Just hang in there, Percy. He'll be back. Just give him time. It's harder the second time you go through it. Have you not heard the stories?"
Percy thought back to everything he had read over, everything he had looked up to try and help Nico. Nothing explained the ache he had in his chest now. "It just doesn't feel right...something doesn't feel right."
Annabeth sighed. "I guess not. You're never this worried."
Percy looked out the window. "Nico doesn't see how much we care about him, does he?"
Annabeth shook her head. "He never did. Blame his childhood."
Percy's eyes narrowed. "If I ever meet that father of his..."
"We'll beat him in a back alley and make sure he's scared enough never to touch or speak to Nico again." Annabeth agreed. "That might actually be fun."
Percy nodded. "That it would be."
"Hey, Percy." Lukas greeted as he opened the front door. "Come in."
Percy looked him over as Annabeth hugged the blue-haired teenager. "You're feeling better?"
"Yeah, I am." Lukas gestured them inside. "Food's cooking. Jason and Piper are here but everyone else is late."
Annabeth pulled Percy inside. "All the secret Santa gifts are here?"
Lukas nodded as he closed the door, blocking out the cold wind. "Yeah. Everyone dropped there's off sometime during the week."
"Where's Will?" Percy asked. "Cooking?"
Lukas took a moment before responding, his hands moving deep in his pockets. "Yeah...yeah, he's cooking. He's in the kitchen cooking."
"I'm going to go say hi." Percy looked to Annabeth. "Do you want a drink while I'm in there?"
"Yeah, get some coffee brewing." she pointed to Lukas. "You're going to come have a chat with me. I want to make sure Will did what he was told and made sure you healed up."
Lukas followed Annabeth without voicing his displeasure but kept it written all over his face. As they walked off, Percy couldn't help but stare at Lukas until he was out of sight. Lukas...Lukas... He was guilty. But what exactly had he done?
Percy took off for the kitchen and found Will sitting on the island, his blond hair a mess. His Christmas hoodie was darker than his usual attire, making Percy think that it had been a gift from Nico. The skeletons danced over the black background, red Christmas hats hanging off their skulls. The sleeves covered his tan arms and the turtleneck covered his neck, but a faint blush could still be made out.
"Will." Percy tilted his head as he looked him over. "I'm not as stupid as some people say I am. Annabeth rubs off on me."
Will's head snapped up, his eyes meeting Percy's for a second before diverting away. "Okay...?"
"What's going on?" Percy asked. "Something's up with you and Lukas."
"Nothing." Will lied, his thin lips slightly swollen. "Nothing's been going on."
Percy ran a hand through his hair. "Remember when you first met Nico? How he would tell me everything?"
"What's that have to do with-"
"I thought I told you back then, but I'll tell you again. I know everything about Nico's life." Percy stated. "It's just the kind of friends we are. I look out for him when no one else will. So tell me. What's been going on?"
Will licked his lips. They tasted like Lukas whether that was possible or not. "I...look, if I tell you you'll tell him."
"Damn right I will."
"Then I can't tell you." Will looked away. "It would ruin him. You don't want him to go back to drugs, do you?"
"He's already back to drugs!" Percy argued. "He's trying to get clean right now, thinking he can trust his brother and his boyfriend! But I guess he can't, huh? Because you look like you've been making out with someone all day and your boyfriend isn't here!"
Will flushed. "Stop shouting!"
"Why? Is it true?" Percy prompted. "Do you not want anyone to know that you're a cheating asshole?"
Will jumped off the island, his face as red as the Christmas decorations. "Percy. You have no idea what you're talking about. You have no idea how-"
"Bad that news will hurt Nico? I do, actually. I know because he's my best friend and I actually care about him, unlike you." Percy gestured to himself. "Look at me, Will. I'm never this mean to people. But what you've done... What you've done to Nico..."
"I never meant to hurt him." Will argued. "I never did. Please believe me."
"Then why did you cheat on him?" Percy questioned. "What would that ever do besides hurt him?"
"I..." Will leaned against the island with a hand in his hair, tears forming in his eyes. "Lukas...he...he was there and I was sad...I was stressed...I thought I had lost him again and then suddenly we were alone and he...he was there..."
"You were alone because Nico thought he could trust you." Percy inputted, his voice back to its normal volume. "He really thought he could trust you, Will. He loves you."
"And I love him, I just-"
"Love Lukas." Percy finished. "You still love Lukas."
Will opened his mouth but couldn't make out the words. What could he say? The truth was right in front of him, ready to be faced, but all he could think about what hiding back in Lukas' lips, hiding back in his arms. Hiding from the cruel reality he had buried himself in.
"You love him." Percy continued. "You love Lukas. I'm not saying you don't love Nico, but I know you love Lukas. And that isn't good." He was quiet for a moment before speaking again, his voice as quiet as the small hum of electricity in every home, the small hum of electricity that you never noticed until you had nothing else to focus on. "Do you even love Nico, Will?"
"Of course I love Nico." Will closed his eyes, pictured the face of his boyfriend, pictured the face of his first friend here in Ohio. "I love Nico so much."
"Then you need to stop doing this with Lukas," Percy commanded. "If you love Nico, you don't want to hurt him."
Will choked on his words. "I...I..." Silence, the pounding of his heartbeat, the feeling like the ceiling was going to come down on him. "I love Lukas... I love him, Percy. I love him... I love Lukas..."
Percy jabbed Will in the chest. "You need to decide who you love more. And you need to decide quickly. Because if you don't stop with Lukas... I'm going to tell Nico. I promise you that. You have a week to decide, Will. And if you can't choose Nico right away...then there's a problem."
Percy pulled away after clearing his throat. "Now, then... I'll start coffee."
"What do you think they're talking about?" Jason asked, keeping his voice low in hopes that they'd be able to eavesdrop. "What would Percy have to talk to Will about?"
Lukas shrugged, keeping his inner turmoil in check. "Maybe something happened with Nico."
"It didn't," Annabeth confirmed. "I don't know what's wrong with Percy. He's brewing things up."
"Brewing coffee?" Leo hoped, having come soon after Percy started to talk to Will. "Because I need caffeine."
Piper rolled her eyes. "Can you not-"
"Guys." Jason held his hands up. "Chill. It's Christmas. We're supposed to be having a good time, not worrying about what Jackson is talking to Solace about."
"Maybe it's about the secret Santa." Piper continued despite Jason's words. "If one of them had Nico and didn't know how to deliver the present..."
"So are you saying you didn't have Nico?" Leo asked. "Hmmm...I wonder who you had..."
"Like you're going to find out, Valdez."
"Was it me?"
"In your wildest dreams, fire boy."
"Piper, Leo." Jason stepped between the two. "Again, chill. You two act more like a couple then Percy and Annabeth."
"And that's saying something." Annabeth agreed. "So knock it off."
Leo held his hands up in surrender. "Sorry that Percy has to have oh so secret conversations with the Californiac."
"Hey, I'm from California." Lukas cut in.
"See? You're offending people, Leo." Annabeth gestured to the TV. "Why don't you put a movie in?"
"I'm back," Percy exclaimed as he entered the living room just as Leo moved to the TV. "What did I miss?"
"The usual bickering." Annabeth kissed his cheek. "You okay?"
Percy nodded, trying to keep his emotions from showing. "Yeah, course. I just had to talk to Will about something."
"About Nico?" Leo asked.
"Yeah, but-...hey!" Percy protested. "Stop trying to figure out everything."
"About...Nico?" Lukas looked to Percy, his contacts as fake as the emotions he tried to show. "What about Nico?"
"I think you know." Percy looked deep into those unnerving eyes. "Will has a lot to think about, I guess."
Lukas stood up violently, his legs shaking beneath him. "I've got to...I've got to talk to Will!" He ran from the room, leaving Percy staring after him with a set frown on his face.
"What was that about?" Leo asked before getting elbowed by Jason. "Ow, sorry."
Lukas closed all the doors leading out of the kitchen before looking to Will, his face red and his jaw clenched. "How did Percy find out?"
"I don't know..." Will was leaning against the island, his hand the only thing holding his head up. "I don't know... But he gave me a deadline to choose between you and Nico... He gave me a week before he tells Nico."
Lukas shuffled from one foot to the other. "Well...do you know what you're going to do?"
Will shook his head. "This is too much... I shouldn't have started this to begin with."
"But you did," Lukas muttered. "You kissed me-"
"You kissed me," Lukas repeated, this time louder. "You kissed me, Will. You kissed me. You kissed me. You kissed-"
Will moved to Lukas and grabbed the boy's chin, moving their lips together but stopping a kiss before it could start. "Lukas..." His breath hit Lukas' lips, sending his eyes closing. "I...I can't do this... I can't cause either of you pain..."
"It's too late for that..." Lukas seemed to melt against him. "It's him or me, Will. Think about your life...think about who you want to marry one day. Who would you rather spend the rest of your life with?"
"Lukas..." Will put a hand on Lukas' shoulder. "I need you...I'll always need you."
Lukas grinned. "So you pick-"
"Nico." Will cut in, his voice breaking. "I'm sorry...I love Nico. But I need you as a friend. Promise me you won't disappear. I need you, Lukas. Please."
Lukas pulled away from Will, felt himself lose the touch of Will's lips for the last time. "Will... I can't believe you..."
"I love him, Lukas." Will wiped at the tears that ran down his cheeks. "I love him-"
"Then why did you kiss me?!" Lukas barked out, his own words mixed with tears. "If you loved him then why did you kiss me?!"
"I don't know!" Will admitted. "I don't know! I was an idiot, okay? I was an idiot." He looked away from Lukas, unable to meet those fake eyes. "I love him, Lukas. I love you but not as much. I'm sorry... I never should have kissed you. I never should have cheated on Nico. I was scared and stressed. I thought I had lost you again... I can't lose you, Lukas. Not again. Not after all the times that I've lost you before."
"You crossed a line, Will." Lukas wiped his mouth off. "You...you lost me, Will." He turned around, walked to the door not knowing whether to hurry up or slow down. Will...he loved Will...
"Lukas!" Will grabbed his arm. "Where are you going? What do you mean?"
Lukas pulled away from him. "I can't...I can't be friends with you, Will. Not after this. Not after everything that's happened between us."
"Please..." Will begged. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please. It's Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to the asshole, then." Lukas glared at him. "Now don't stop me again. Next time you touch me I'll make sure Percy's in here to see what you did."
"Goodbye, William." Lukas turned around again and left the kitchen, taking a back door to avoid the living room and the guests there.
"Lukas!" Will ran after him, stopping in the doorway. "Lukas...where are you going? Where are you going, Lukas?!"
As Lukas ascended the staircase he received no answer. He sat there in his own misery, sat there hating himself and everything he had done. Mistakes, so many mistakes...
He couldn't help but sob, having fallen to his knees as he watched Lukas come back, duffle bag in hand. Without a word, he was out of the front door with a heavy slam.
That Christmas he got a call saying that Nico would be home soon. That Christmas he got his boyfriend back from drugs.
That Christmas he lost Lukas for good.
Nico's first clue that something was wrong was when he saw that Percy had come to pick him up, not Will. The boy's grinning face showed from the car window, Percy's hand outstretched in a wave.
His second clue was when he got into Percy's car. The older boy looked like he was hiding something, years of friendship giving Nico the ability to see it. His smile didn't reach his green eyes, his hands shook against the steering wheel, he drove towards his own house rather than taking Nico home.
His third clue was Percy himself, a few simple words escaping his lips. "We need to talk when we get there."
"What happened?" Nico asked. "Who's dead?"
"Nobody's dead." Percy attempted to laugh. "No, nobody's dead. I would have found a way to tell you earlier if that was the case."
Nico felt himself relax. "If everyone's okay then what's there to talk about?"
Percy's grin faltered. "I never said everyone's okay. Mentally, at least."
"Percy..." Nico's fingers twitched. He was already craving those horribly satisfying killers. "I'll give you one more chance to explain what the hell happened."
"I will at home," Percy promised. "I'm driving and I don't want to crash."
Nico grumbled in annoyance but knew Percy was in the right. As he watched the roads pass on by, he tried to think of all that could have happened. Lukas wouldn't have gotten into drugs...right?
When they got to Percy's apartment and he was told the truth, he missed the innocent thought that the only problem was that Lukas had discovered pot.
"You're going to have to repeat yourself," Nico admitted after the story was finished. He sat on Percy's bed, staring out the window at the snowfall. "I...I can't register..."
"We've looked everywhere." Percy looked down at his shoes. He hadn't worn blue since Lukas left. "He's probably out of the city by now."
"Have you called anyone?" Nico questioned. "His adoptive mother or the police? Anyone?"
"Like I know his adoptive mother's phone," Percy replied sarcastically. "You think I just had her on speed dial?"
"Will should." Nico hissed out his boyfriend's name. "I can't believe he didn't call her."
Percy gulped. "Please don't get angry."
"Oh, I'm angry." Nico got his phone out. "I'm pissed."
"Will. Not you." Nico scrolled through his contacts before texting the number he had gotten from Lukas. "What about the police? Have you called them?"
"To report that a said dead person is missing?"
Nico huffed in annoyance. "I forgot about that."
"We've all been doing what we can." Percy insisted. "Trust me on that."
Nico shook his head. "There's got to be something else. Anything else. He can't...he can't make it out there on his own."
"He has before." Percy put his hands on Nico's shoulders. "He'll turn up. Just give him time. Okay?"
"Okay," Nico grumbled, though he wasn't giving up just yet.
Will laid on his bed, flat on his stomach as he stared at his buzzing phone. Nico's messages were coming in, full of 'WHAT DID YOU DO' and 'TELL ME IF YOU FIND HIM'. Neither one could Will find it in himself to answer.
What had he done? Nico was right to blame him. Right over anything else.
Yet he chose correctly, he found himself regretting his decision. He would never have dreamed that Lukas would run off. Never would have dreamed that their friendship would be over.
Never would have dreamed that he'd end up all alone.
"Will?" his mother peeked into the room, her blue eyes worn from years of stress. "Are you okay?"
"I'm okay..." Will turned his phone screen off. "Nico and I had a fight."
"Oh...do you want to talk about it?" she stepped into the room, her hands clasped together. "Because...because we can talk, if you want."
"I'm the bad guy in the story, mom." Will muttered into his pillow. "I don't think you want to hear that your son did these things."
"I want to help." she laid by him and pulled him close. "So tell me. I won't get mad, I promise."
Will laid his head on her shoulder, letting a tear drip from his eye. "Mom...I messed up. I really messed up. If I could go back and redo it..."
"But you know you can't." Sage Solace was anything but judging. After almost getting beaten to death by her husband the year before, she did whatever she could to make their lives better. With Will's dad now in prison, the two spent most of their time together. She knew Nico well, having invited the boy over multiple times for dinner. "So tell me what happened and I'll try to help."
"I cheated on him with Lukas." Will admitted, the words sounding through the air, becoming real, creating a situation that was suddenly out in the open. "I cheated on him with Lukas. When Lukas got hurt I...I freaked out. I was scared I would lose him again. I kissed him and...and it kept happening in secret. It kept happening..."
Sage pursed her lips. "William...he found out, didn't he?"
Will shook his head. "His best friend did. Percy. He said that if I didn't choose in a week, he'd tell Nico. So...so I chose."
"And you chose...?"
"Nico." Will confirmed. "I chose Nico. But when Lukas found out...he flipped. He left. Nobody's seen him since. So Percy had to tell Nico. Now...now everyone's mad at me and Lukas is gone and I don't know what to do."
"Lukas is gone?" she sat up. "What do you mean?"
"He's gone." Will felt himself crying, the one tear not having been the end. "He's gone, mom. He's gone again. Lukas..."
Sage got off the bed and got her phone from his pocket. "I'll call our relatives in California to keep an eye out. Then you have an uncle in New York... I'll go call. You go online and search there. Spread the word."
"You really think that'll work?" Will asked.
"It'll have to," she replied. "If not...then we'll start looking in rivers, at the bottom of cliffs, in creeks."
"Where his body would be..."
New Year's Eve came and went with no signs of Lukas. Nico nor Will came to gatherings, both wanting to avoid the other. Were they still dating? Will wasn't so sure anymore.
When school started again, Will felt lost. Whenever he went to talk to one of his friends, Nico was already there. That dark hair and eyes, that pale skin, that angry aura. He hadn't seen Will yet and Will planned to keep it that way. He wasn't sure if he could speak to Nico in the state he was in.
He missed Nico, missed Lukas, missed those that he loved.
It was lunchtime when he finally spoke to his boyfriend, spoke to him for the first time in a month. As he entered that bathroom to eat his lunch, he found that Nico had the same idea.
"Oh..." Will stopped short when he saw Nico sitting on the sinks. "I thought...I thought you'd be on the roof."
Nico screwed the lid onto his bottle of pop. "I thought the same about you."
"Oh...so you really are ignoring me..."
"You thought I wasn't?" Nico asked harshly. "After everything you did, you think I would want to talk to you?"
"I didn't expect this all to happen." Will defended. "I didn't think he'd leave-"
"But he did!" Nico squeezed the bottle until its brown contents rose to the top. "He did! He left and we have no fucking idea where he's at! My brother's gone, Will!...my brother's gone..." He looked down as he unclenched the bottle, his voice muffled. "My twin brother...he's gone."
Will reached a hand out to comfort Nico but let it fall, knowing that the boy in front of him wouldn't forgive him any time soon. Not how things were. "I...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry, Nico."
"You apology doesn't change a thing so I don't want it." Nico hopped off the sink. "You have lunch in here. I'm leaving."
"Goodbye, William." the door slammed behind Nico, leaving Will alone in the bathroom, the bathroom he had eaten lunch in the first day he had transferred to this school. For the second time, he sat by the sinks and ate silently, hoping that no one would come in.
Hoping that life would get better because it couldn't get any worse.
Weeks went by. The two boyfriends didn't speak, didn't see each other. They avoided each other at all costs until Percy finally had enough. He called Nico over to his place, knowing that he had to do something if things were ever going to go back to normal.
He wanted things back to normal more than anything else.
"Come sit." Percy invited as he opened the door for Nico. "I have something to talk to you about."
Nico rolled his eyes but sat on the couch, crossing his arms. "Where are your parents?"
"Lunch." Percy sat on the coffee table, his hands tugging at his sleeves. "Look...I hate seeing you and Will like-"
"You seriously brought me here to talk about that asshole?" Nico asked. "Percy, I should probably go..."
"No. You're staying where you are and you're listening to me," Percy demanded. "We've been friends for years and you should know by now that I care about your shitty life. So you're going to let me try to fix it."
Nico rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Fine. Say what you were going to say."
"Really? Oh...okay." Percy cleared his throat. "I think you should talk to Will, try to make up with him."
Nico scowled. "Why on earth would I do that?"
"Because he's your boyfriend and I know you miss him." Percy accused. "I know you do, Nico. I can read you."
Nico closed his eyes. "He cheated on me..."
"With my brother."
"He drove my brother away..."
"I know." Percy watched him closely. "But still...you love him."
"I know I do," Nico grumbled.
"Then make up with him. He's sorry." Percy reasoned. "You know he is. He feels horrible about it. He's been wanting to make it up to you since it happened."
"I know, I know..." Nico got up and stretched. "I'm still so pissed, though."
"Just try to talk it through with him," Percy begged. "Please? I can be there the whole time."
Nico fell back onto the couch with a sigh of defeat. "Fine... Call him. Bring him over here."
Percy beamed. "Really?"
"Hurry or I'm leaving."
"Right, right." Percy fumbled around for his phone. "Stay right where you are, di Angelo."
Nico grabbed the TV remote and began to flip through the channels. "Fine."
Percy opened the door to meet a crying Will, his blond hair flat and greasy. His eyes, swollen from past tears, were wet with new droplets of pain. As he stared at Percy, all he could speak was one question. "Nico's here?"
"Yeah, come in." Percy closed the door behind Will, his eyes on Nico would have gone stiff. The dark-haired boy didn't look away from the TV, however, no doubt trying to stall the oncoming conversation for as long as possible. "Go ahead and sit down. Though I wouldn't sit by Nico yet, he might attack you."
"He will attack you." Nico corrected.
Will sat on the other couch, his legs having had looked as if they were going to give out on him. "Nico..."
Nico looked to Percy. "What do you want me to say to him? We've both said enough."
"You've both 'said enough' about your negative feelings." Percy sat by Nico. "Now it's time to say your positive feelings."
"What positive feelings?" Nico muttered.
Percy elbowed him. "Nico...remember what we talked about?"
"Percy, if he doesn't want to talk to me it's okay." Will stood up. "I don't want to make him-"
"Sit down, Solace," Percy demanded. "You two are talking."
Will plopped down on the couch. "O...Okay."
"Good." Percy looked to Nico. "Now...say what we talked about."
"What are you, some therapist?" Nico hissed.
Percy shrugged. "At this point, probably."
"Guys... Nico, just tell me what he's trying to get you to say." Will prompted. "Please."
"You don't have any right asking me for a favor," Nico growled. "No right at all."
"It isn't a favor." Will defended.
Percy rolled his eyes. "You two are hopeless. Nico, say it or I'll say it for you."
Nico groaned, his head moving to his hands. "Fine, fine! Just fine! William, I still love you! Okay? Are you happy now? I still love you but you pissed me the hell off!"
Will's pale face broke out into a smile full of relief. "You still love me? You really do?"
Nico curled up. "Yeah..."
"I love you, too." Will went to move to Nico but stopped when he saw Percy's warning. "Nico...I...I still love you, too... We can work this out. I know we can."
"Every time I look at you all I picture is you kissing Lukas," Nico muttered. "How can we work out if I can't even look at you?"
Will's smile dropped as guilt filled his face. "Neeks... I'm so sorry. I made a mistake, okay? I made one hell of a mistake and it won't ever happen again. I promise."
"Did you ever have sex with him?" Nico asked. "After me and you were dating. Did you have sex with him?"
Will's hands moved to his knees. "Um..."
"You did?!" Nico looked up at Will, his dark eyes full of tears. "You had sex with him!"
Will held his hands up in surrender. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...It won't ever happen again. I love you, Nico. I love you more than anything."
"Then why did you have sex with him?" Nico asked. "Why in hell would you have sex with him if you love me?"
"Because I love him too!" Will yelled. "Okay?! I love him, too! I always have and you've known that!"
"I told you you had to choose!" Nico got up despite Percy's protests. He jabbed Will in the chest, his boney finger pale against Will's dark hoodie. "I told you when he first came back! You said I could trust you two!"
"I thought you could! I really thought you could! I said that because I didn't want to lose you!" Will grabbed Nico's wrist. "I tried so hard. More than anything in my life. And it was okay for awhile. But then...then he got hurt..."
"I can't be with you if you're going to kiss Lukas every time he gets hurt." Nico didn't take his hand back. "I can't, Will. That's not how relationships work."
"Then what do you expect me to do other than break up with you?" Nico asked. "What else would I possibly do?"
"Be with me anyway because Lukas is gone and I love you," Will answered. "That'd be a good choice."
"I deserve a boyfriend I can trust."
"I know you do."
"Then why do I feel like as soon as Lukas gets back you'll be kissing him?" Nico asked. "It would happen, wouldn't it?"
Will shook his head. "You saw what happened when I chose you. He ran off and I lost you. So...no, I won't cheat again. I admit that I'll be really tempted to, but I won't cheat. Not after what happened. I can promise you that. So you can trust me."
Nico was silent for a minute before he laid his head on Will's chest, his hands moving to grip Will's hoodie. "I've really missed you, you asshole."
Will could have collapsed with relief at those words. As he hugged Nico, he felt tears prickle up. "I love you so much, Nico."
"I love you, too," Nico muttered. "Don't go being an idiot again, okay? This is your last chance."
"Okay." Will kissed the top of his head. "Okay."
Percy let the two hug it out, getting his phone out to text Annabeth. He made sure to include in the text he had fixed everything before asking if she had heard anything about Lukas, which turned out to be just as pointless as her answer. Some days he felt like Lukas was never going to come back, that their friend was gone for good.
A feeling as hopeless as that poisoned all of their lives from that moment on. As they finished their senior year, they couldn't help but wonder if their friend was still alive. As they graduated, they couldn't help but wonder why their friend wasn't there beside them.
Ten Years Later
Nico looked up from the piles of papers as he heard the doorbell ring, his black hair tied back into a ponytail. On his lap, his daughter sat with a popsicle in her mouth. It had been a year since they adopted her, a year since he had gotten the best gift of his life. Even though he and Will still fought sometimes, little Bianca kept them together. She helped remind them that they loved each other, that they were meant to be. Even during the nights when the depression came back, when the lonesome thoughts crept up over them.
Even when they missed Lukas.
"Will, can you get that?" Nico asked, ink bleeding through one of his papers. "I need to clean this up."
"Yeah, yeah." Will set the TV remote down before getting up. "Bi, want to come see who's at the door?" He picked the toddler up before blowing on her stomach, sending her into a fit of giggles. "Let's go see who's here. Maybe it's uncle Percy."
Nico rolled his eyes. "It better not be uncle Percy. He's been here for the past five days straight."
"What do you know about anything straight?" Will asked, causing Nico's face to turn red. "That's what I thought."
"Just answer the door, you idiot." Nico turned back to his papers. "I thought you were over those jokes."
"You thought wrong." Will ruffled his hair before going to the front door, opening it. "Hello-...hell..."
In front of him with a bookbag on and a ponytail in, a man who looked just like Nico stood leaning against the doorframe. Except for his blue hair, his features matched Will's husband. That upturned nose, those thin lips. Everything about him was so familiar, yet not everything was how he remembered.
That pale skin had turned dark with sunburn, those skinny arms were now muscular. In his eyes, a spark of happiness lingered amid the fake contacts. On his face, his smile seemed to have gone through more pain.
"Will..." his voice was deeper with a hint of multiple accents in one. "So you really do still live here."
"Lu...Lukas..." Will almost dropped Bianca in surprise. "Oh my god... Oh my god..."
"Glad to see you remember me." Lukas looked at Bianca. "Who's this? Your daughter?"
"I...I...yeah..." Will kept Bianca close. "Nico...Nico named her Bianca... I... Oh my god..."
Lukas cleared his throat. "Can I come in?"
"Can you...can you come in..." Will looked inside the house. "Nico! I need you!"
Lukas stepped into the house and closed the door behind him. "So your neighbors don't think you're insane."
"Yeah...yeah..." Will looked at the archway leading to the living room. "Nico! Problem! We have a problem that needs your ass over here!"
"Will! How many times have I told you not to cuss in front of..." Nico stopped below the archway, his hands dropping to his sides when he saw who was standing beside Will. "Holy shit."
Will laid Bianca's head against his chest. "Sorry for the language, Bi."
"Nico." Lukas took a step forward, his boots leaving dirt in his wake. "I...I've missed you..."
"Missed me?" Nico asked, his voice cold. "Then why have you waited ten years to come back? How didn't you see that we were worried about you? The only reason I'm not cussing you out right now is that my daughter is in the room."
"I agree with Nico." Will inputted. "I'll go lay Bianca down for a nap."
Nico nodded to Will before looking over at his long lost twin. "Are you going to explain or just stand there like an idiot?"
"I'll explain, I'll explain," Lukas promised. "Should we sit down?"
"Yeah, come on." Nico led him to the living room as Will brought Bianca upstairs. "Try to be quiet so she doesn't wake up. If he gets her to sleep it's a miracle."
"Is she a badly behaved baby?" Lukas wondered, sitting on one of the couches.
"She could be better." Nico sat on the couch opposite him. "So...what did you come here to say?"
Lukas played with his fingers, cracking each knuckle separately. "I...I left...because Will chose you. You know the whole story, right?"
Nico nodded. "Yeah, you two were together. Percy found out. Will broke up with you for me." He looked away. "Yeah, I know that story. I hate it."
Lukas took his bookbag off and set it at his feet. "I was crushed. Heartbroken. You can understand that, right? I couldn't be around him anymore. I couldn't."
"I understand that. But to leave for ten years without a word?" Nico shook his head. "I don't know how you can ever justify that."
"I was hurt, Nico. I was hurting. So I went exploring." Lukas closed his eyes. "So many places...I just took my stuff and walked, explored everywhere I came to. I'm sorry for not contacting you. I should have at least made sure you knew I was safe."
"No kidding," Nico muttered.
"So...that's where I've been." Lukas finished. "I've been exploring like I always wanted to do."
"Why did you come back?" Nico questioned. "If you were so happy with exploring, why did you come back?"
Lukas' frown turned into a small smile. "Because... I got engaged, Nico. I got engaged." He laughed, his eyes shining. "I can't believe it still."
Nico couldn't help but smile. "To who?"
"Well." Lukas got a phone out of his pocket. "Turns out I'm bi. I never thought I was until I met this girl... You won't believe how beautiful she is, Nico." He held the phone out, showing a picture of a woman around their age. Nico would never have found her cute, but he simply nodded to be polite. "I proposed last week. Now we're looking for a place to stay."
"So...she's been traveling with you?" Nico asked, pulling away from the phone.
Lukas nodded. "For the past five years or so."
"...cool." Nico sighed. "I...I guess I'm happy for you."
"Are you still mad?"
Nico shook his head. "I guess not."
Lukas grinned. "Awesome. I've really missed you, Neeks."
"I've missed you, too, I guess."
Will looked down at his sleeping daughter, his elbow rested on the crib. He could hear the vibrations of the two voices downstairs, could hear them remain calm despite the topic. If he joined them...he wasn't sure if he'd also be able to remain calm.
Lukas...he had lost him twice. He couldn't lose him again. Never again.
But how could he keep him if he could barely look at him? So many emotions were tied to that boy, both positive and negative. There was just too much that had happened between them to ever go back to normal.
But he had to try, he knew he did. If he didn't he'd never be able to live with himself. He knew that for a fact.
So he covered Bianca with a blanket, grabbed the baby monitor, and made his way downstairs. Nico and Lukas had moved to the kitchen, Nico starting a pot of coffee with shaking hands. He didn't look upset, however, but more peaceful.
"Neeks." Will made himself known as he entered the kitchen. "How...how did the talk go? Are you two...okay?"
"Yeah, we're okay." Nico glanced back at his husband. "He explained everything... You should sit down and let him explain."
Will glanced between the two men before sitting at the table, his hand clasping the baby monitor. "Okay, explain."
As Lukas spoke to Will, Nico busied himself with making the three of them coffee. His days at the cafe hadn't been in vain, him now knowing how to make most foods and drinks. Even if they got the cheap coffee, he could make it taste expensive. He knew his ways around the kitchen, knew how to keep everything flavorful with their tight budget.
"Here." Nico set a cup in front of each of them, smiling at their good moods. "Everything going okay?"
"I think he's deciding whether to be mad or not," Lukas admitted, sipping from his cup. "Look at his face."
"Yeah, I know that face." Nico grabbed Will's chin to look at his husband's blush of embarrassment. "He got that face when he needed to change Bianca's diaper for the first time and had to skype me for a tutorial."
Lukas chuckled softly. "I thought he'd be the one more used to the family setting."
"So did I." Nico let Will go. "Drink your coffee and calm down, Will. We aren't going to let him get away again."
Will looked down at his cup, his hand slowly moving to grasp the handle. "I'm just...in shock."
"We both are." Nico sat by Will.
"But are you mad?" Lukas asked. "I...I want to know if you're mad at me, Will."
Will shook his head. "I...I'm not. I can't be. You're happy. That's good."
"It is." Nico agreed. "We can all stick to who we're meant to be with."
Lukas smiled. "So...you'll still be my friends?"
Will nodded. "You'll always be our friend, Lukas. You just have to stick around, okay? And tell us if you leave."
Nico nodded in agreement. "Yes, please."
Lukas set his cup down. "Course. You're going to meet my fiancee, right?"
"Yeah, yeah." Nico downed his cup of coffee. "And you have to formally meet our daughter. And Percy and Annabeth have a kid now."
Lukas smiled. "I can't wait to see all of them again."
"We'll have to set up a date to get them all together." Nico took his cup to the sink. "Do you have a place to stay yet?"
Lukas nodded. "We got an apartment next to Percy's old place."
"Cool." Nico began to wash his cup. "If you ever need somewhere to stay, just say the word. You're still my brother, Lukas."
Lukas grinned. "Yeah, I am."