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The Blatant Obliviousness of Nico di Angelo

Chapter Text

He should’ve looked impatient. That’s what I always noticed about Will’s mannerisms; he was always anxious, always waiting for the next move, always thinking about the future. That was my Will.

Will, never ceasing to wow me, looks troublesome. His eyes tell me that he wished for time to stop, I hadn’t seen that since the Battle of Camp Half-Blood. He’d wanted the injuries to stop. But, it was different this time. Of course it was different. He’s leaving me.

He grabs a handful of books off his desk and shuffles them into alphabetical order by author’s last name. I watch, my emotions bittersweet. I’m sprawled on his mattress, the sheeting already packed away. He probably would put the generics back on before he left, so that the harpies wouldn’t have too much of a workload, because he was kind like that. A reason I’m going to miss him was definitely him making me look more positive to situations. I admit I’m a bit extreme, my outlook going from okay to oh my gods, we’re all gonna die.

“I don’t wanna go,” he reassures for the millionth time, although he was so excited when he first learnt that his mother was moving to California, where he’ll spend his summers at New Rome. I ruined that. Why, you may ask? By deflating immediately when he told me. His eyes were giddy, and I wanted to match his excitement, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would be like with him gone.

“Dude, you’ve gotta go. I heard New Rome has tons of cute guys, so you’ll be able to hook me up, right?”

“You’re literally the ambassador of Pluto. You’ve seen every cute guy there. In fact, when you go, you send me stalkerish pics of them.” I raise an eyebrow at him. I pause for a moment, taking in our surroundings. Apollo’s cabin was constantly dirty, mostly from Austin trying to find something he lost. Will’s bunk was the neatest, most likely because he just cleaned it out and stored his belongings into boxes.

“That doesn’t mean I talk to them. You love talking to cute guys for me, right! That’s clearly your favorite past time, trying to talk up a depressing son of Hades. He can summon the dead and pay for your meal! A catch!” I mimic his voice, and a pillow is thrown into my face.

“You’re not as horrible as you make yourself seem,” he says, giving me a classic ‘I’m clearly related to the god of young men’ grin. He hates being compared to Apollo, I know that, but I can see the similarities sometimes.

“Then why am I single?”

He mocks me, then closes up the last box he was working on. My heart clenches at his bare bunk. I’ll have no reason to venture into here to see my best friend again. I usually go to New Rome during the winter, and Will banned me from shadow travelling. I’m only going to see him once a year. Every day to once a year. Don’t become an entirely new person, for the love of the gods. 

“We’re not gonna stop being friends because I’m becoming a surfer in California,” He has the immaculate talent to read my mind.

“Please don’t,” I groaned.

He shoves locks of his blond hair from his forehead and gives me a confused look. “Don’t what? Remind you or become a hot frat boy that surfs in November?”

“Both. I’m gonna visit you when I see Hazel in December. I promise. But, fuck, dude. It’s so far away. Do you have to leave now?”

“My ma booked plane tickets in May. Not my fault.”

I smile a bit as his Tennessee accent slips in when he mentions his mother. The funniest moments was when he accidentally referred to Jason, Percy, and I as ‘y’all’ or said ‘unsweetened’ as ‘ onsweetened .’ It was a Will thing.

“Tell your ma she’s ripping you from the most important person alive, me, and you can’t be my wingman in the summer anymore. I need you to talk for me, I hate talking,” I explain. I jut out my bottom lip, and give him a blank stare. His eyes soften for a split second, but he turns away.

“Yeah, Nico, you are the most important person alive.” A wide grin spreads across my face as my cheeks grow hot. That’s what happens when Will compliments me, but I chalk it up to being attention-starved.

“Not only that, but the nicest, most kind, lovable, humbl-”

“What happened to the sweet, quiet boy in the infirmary who was too scared to ask for a band-aid? Because that’s not him, you’re just a narcissist now. Austin is rubbing off on you,” He huffs, training his gaze onto me. 

I liked Will’s eyes. They were probably my favorite feature on him. If Percy had eyes as green as the sea, then Will had eyes as blue as the sky. He usually could get people to melt by looking at them. Not that I would know, but I’ve seen it happen. My face gets hotter.

“How am I supposed to get a boyfriend if you describe me as a fucking nerd?”

“For one, you are a nerd. Remember Mythomagic? Two, you curse worse than Mr. D, who is teaching you all of these new phrases, Nic?”

“Shut up.”

I push myself off of his bed and grab two boxes out of seven. Will can handle the rest. He follows behind me as we exit cabin seven. The weather-controlled camp was warm and sunny, the greenery always seemed brighter at camp. You’d think it was the masses of Demeter offspring that came in last year (Demeter was busy ), but it was actually because of Dionysus. He preaches that if his grapes aren’t surrounded by bountiful, healthy agriculture then they don’t taste as good. Not that anyone’s complaining.

As we walk towards the small car Will drove, we passed Keith, son of Aphrodite. He winks at me, and nods towards Will. He has caramel colored hair, and it makes me weak at the knees. Keith looks me up and down, and disregards Will.

“Hey, Keith,” I say, mouth drawn to a fine line. If I can hide my lobster-red face and turn it into distaste, he’ll leave me alone.

“‘Sup, Nico?” He gives me an easy smile, then faces the son of Apollo beside me. “Will.”

“Keith.”

The two eye each other for a moment, then give each other some sort of straight guy I’ll tolerate you for now nod.

“What’s his problem?” Will mutters under his breath.

I beam at him. “What do you mean? He winked at me. He obviously doesn’t have a problem with me.”

“Aphrodite’s kids always play with people. Don’t get involved with him. Heard he’s seeking the rite of passage.” Will looked annoyed, and slipping back into his anxious self.

I pinch his cheek, and give an exaggerated sigh. “I’ll give him the rite to my passa-”

“I swear to all the gods, Nic, I will pick you up and throw you into the lake.”

“That’s too harsh. Besides, I thought Piper didn’t allow that anymore, because of Silena…” I trail off.

“Well, some of them still try for it,” He says promptly, and the conversation ends there.

We reach his Toyota, and stuff it to the brim with his boxes. Will wanted to pack all of his medical things, for after college, and that took up at least fifty percent of his belongings. It takes twenty minutes to make everything fit.

Will said his goodbyes to the camp and to his siblings an hour prior, and told me that he was saving the best for last. If it made me tear up a little, no one had to know.

“I guess this is goodbye,” I murmur, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Hey,” he says gently, and brushes my shoulder. “Text me. Lou Ellen didn’t give us those enchanted cell phones for nothing, right?”

“Right.”

We stare at each other for a few moments, and my eyes feel heavy with dread and tears. The air changed from warm to cool in a matter of seconds. My heart started beating faster with anxiety, anticipation. How did Will deal with this, the ball of energy, when I barely can? I hated this. I hated to see him leave.

“Please,” I beg, “Don’t replace me with some ditzy girl and fall in love with her. I accept that you’re straight and all, but, I’m too cute to have my heart broken.” I’m joking, but I swear I see a muscle tense in Will’s jaw. He has a guilty conscience, always has. His tell was his eyebrows. They’re scrunched in frustration.

“I wouldn’t, Nic.”

I smile.

He suddenly wraps me in a bone-crushing hug, lacing his fingers into my too-long hair. His other hand grips around my back, and it feels like an eternity before he lets go. When he does, he opens his mouth like he wants to tell me something, but he doesn’t. Instead, he drops his eyes to the ground.

“I’ll miss you, Dr. Solace,” I say.

“I’ll miss you more, Nic. Text me, okay? “ I nod.

He awkwardly puts up a peace sign, because that’s how he deals with tough situations. Will gets into his old, beat-up car and then drives off.

I take a deep breath in. He’s physically gone from me.

Chapter Text

Two weeks race by without a breath.

To: str8 william: im literally dying w/o u here luv

To: str8 william: it’s been two (2) weeks and i only talk to jason

To: str8 william: how come he gets a crush on someone before me? and on my OLD crush… despicable.

It’s eleven A.M. and I just woke up. The coolness and emptiness of the Hades cabin greets me, the darkness wrapping their cold arms around me as I push out of bed. Darkness to Hades’ kids always feels alive somehow. The shadows always begging to be useful, and I used to use them, until Will banned me from shadow travel. You almost turn into nothing one time and suddenly the head counselor for Apollo obsesses over you for the next two years.

Quickly putting on the only style of clothing I wear, a black long-sleeve and black jeans, I look to see what was planned for the day. I guess that’s what I retained from the 40s. My mother always kept a calendar on the counter, she obsessively managed her events to the point where every hour was important. Bianca did it when we got out of the Lotus Hotel, too, so it rubbed off on me. Knowing my day’s plans reminded me of my family in a strange way, even though they weren’t present.

Call Reyna at 2. She’s probably going to yell at me for not telling her that Will was coming to New Rome. Reyna took the role of my father-figure, Jason being my mother, and she wanted to meet my closest friend for the longest time. She didn’t like coming to Camp Half-Blood, the reminders of her fallen Roman friends was too much for her, but we always update each other on our lives. I guess I forgot to tell her about this.

Have lunch with Percy and Jason. Ah, yes. Jason, once realizing his desire to compete with Percy was just him trying to impress the son of Poseidon, forces me to come along to every event they hang out together. In his words, he wants me to help him to not say anything embarrassing or would make Percy not like him. Which wasn’t reasonable, since Percy clearly agrees with everything Jason says and follows him like a dog on a leash. 

Call Will and tell him everything. A given. I have that written down for everyday, so it was redundant at this point, but it makes me happy that I have something to look forward to at the end of the day.

Three rapid knocks sound at my door. They were distinct, Jason’s, because he feels that if you don’t show urgency for something then it isn’t important. Must be a Roman trait.

“Neeks, it’s almost twelve and you promised you’d come with Percy and me. Are you even up?” Jason has no faith in me.

“Of course I’m up,” I say, sounding awfully tired. “I don’t forget things.”

“Yeah, yeah, your fatal flaw is holding grudges so you never forget a bitch or whatever, let me in.”

I sigh dramatically, lumbering over to the door. I swing it open and lean on the door frame. Jason is dressed in the purple Camp Jupiter t-shirt and washed out jeans. I give him a quizzical look, and he responds with the same, except more annoyed.

“Not to be a fashion gay or anything, but you wear that everyday,” I point out, moving aside to let him in.

“You wear black everyday!” He exclaims, offense lacing the tone of his voice.

“Yeah, but it’s my thing, and sometimes my shirts have different designs on them.”

Jason sits at my desk chair and purses his lips. He lifts up his legs to rest on my desk, crossing them, with full knowledge that I despise feet on my desk. I glare at him.

“Why can’t you just hit on Percy without me third-wheeling?” I ask, moving to a mirror to fix my bedhead. I don’t do much, just brush it with my fingers and water.

“Because,” he states matter-of-factly, “if you’re there, it’s less awkward and doesn’t feel like a date. Also, you provide a healthy dose of satirical commentary when I fuck up,” Jason looks pleased with his answer, refusing to admit he’s a disaster gay who can’t stand being with his crush alone.

I roll my eyes, and in the midst of doing so my phone chimes. I race towards it, seeing a notification from Will. 

“Who is it?”

“Will. Duh. He wants to know why you can’t deal with real life situations,” A small smile plays on my lips as I read Will’s response.

Jason isn’t surprised I told Will about his crush. When Jason first told me he thought he had feelings for Percy, my immediate response was ‘Will is going to die.’ It’s an acknowledged thing that if I know something, so does Will. And if Will knows something, so do I. We’re two peas in a pod.

From: str8 william: He’s a mess. Why can’t he just… act like a person?

To: str8 william: he told me to tell u to leave him alone, he’s sensitive.

From: str8 william: Tough.

“I did not say I was sensitive! I am a strong, independent boy. I have no emotions, only the thoughts of battle ,” he rambles on, but I tune him out to brush my teeth. He continues on, only talking about how macho and apathetic he is. However, I know the truth, he’s petrified of moths. Someone who’s truly that manly would never scream and sprint from a butterfly.

“What time did Perce want us to meet him?” I cut Jason off, and he checks his watch.

“Twelve thirty.”

“Then let’s go!” I announce, exasperated, “I’m sick of listening to you,” I joke, and he scoffs but leads us out of the cabin.

We sit at the Poseidon table at the dining area. It was arguably the prettiest picnic table, a light blue with seashells on the trim. The tabletop glimmered, and it looked like the ocean. It smelled a bit like sea salt. Percy hadn’t arrived yet, so Jason, of course, was thinking about the worst possible outcome of how Percy was late.

“I knew it! He realized I was disgusting and annoying and ditched us, or maybe he’s in danger. What if he’s in danger, Nico, and we’re here waiting for lemonade? Hold on, let me pray to Asclepius real quick,” Jason closes his eyes and begins muttering under his breath. I stifle a laugh at the mess in front of me. I think I hear the words alive and the sentence I won’t even make a move on him I just want him safe.

“What’s Jason doing?” Percy asks as he struts towards the table. He sits besides Jason who opens his eyes in surprise.

“Nothing! I’m not doing anything, just tired,” Jason quickly replies, grinning at Percy. I can tell what Jason has running through his head. He told me the first thing he checks out when he looks at Percy is his hair, just in case he has the opportunity to mess with it. Since Jason is as whipped as cool whip, he doesn’t mess with it when Percy bothers to put gel in. However, if he doesn’t, Jason tries to lace his fingers through it as naturally as possible. Again, he’s a mess.

They just stare at each other for the longest time, and I’m sitting feeling awkward as all hell. “Well!” I say, making them look at me, “I’m hungry. Can someone call over a harpy and order fries for me?” This isn’t a surprise to them, I barely talk to anyone who isn’t close to me. Instead of judging me for my lack of social skills, they make it a game.

“I did it last time,” Percy quickly says, putting a finger on his nose. “Nose goes, loser.”

“What the fuck! I didn’t even know we were doing nose goes this time, last time we just crossed our fingers,” Jason shoots back, widening his eyes in disbelief. Jason’s eyes were a pale blue, reminding me of sea glass. With Percy’s startling sea green, they look made for each other.

“Okay, and? Keep up with the times!” Percy scrunches his nose, and I can practically feel Jason getting weak in the knees. So, Jason orders the fries for me as said.

“What’s new with you, Jackson?” I ask through my scarfing down of potato. “I’ve been isolated since I’ve moped around.”

“Well, Annabeth forced me to go girl watching with her. Which, I don’t mind, but it’s a bit weird with your ex-girlfriend,” he says, smiling. Annabeth and Percy decided to break up around three months ago, they were still close as ever, but they wanted to branch out. When Percy said something along the lines of getting back together once they felt ready, Jason always got a sad gleam in his eyes.

“Why doesn’t she just ask Piper?” Jason practically spits out, jealousy seeping into his voice.

“Because Piper is too busy talking to Reyna half the time. And whenever Annabeth points out a girl, Piper makes it a point to say that her girlfriend is hotter. I just agree.”

Jason’s cheeks grow a hot pink. I envy his blush, because his face is dusted with pink. I turn red. I can tell Jason is trying not to scream I’m hotter than them! at Percy, but one look at my smug face makes him calm down.

“Hm,” Jason replies, suddenly very interested in his lemonade straw. Percy gives the blond a worried glance for a split second, but faces me.

“What’s it like without Will? Empty? Sad? Vacant?” Before I get a chance to respond, Jason interrupts.

“All he does is wait for Will to text! I was asking him a question for my history final and it took him five minutes to give me an answer!” 

“Okay? Will is more interesting than you, history is boring,” Percy and Jason exchange a knowing look. “But, anyways, it’s been fine ! I’m living, I’m breathing.” My phone dings and I hastily reach for it.

From: str8 william: EVERYONE IN CALIFORNIA IS SO PERFECT WITH PERFECT SKIN. I don’t fit in. I’m going back to New York, or at the very least Tennessee.

I audibly scoff at his message. I may not be very experienced in the love department, but Will is the poster child for teen romance. Not that he’s my type, he’s not, he’s my best friend, but Will’s the ideal cute guy.

“What? Did Will find a cute girl who’s not actually that cute?” Percy snickers, and Jason punches his arm in my defense.

“Why would I care if Will found someone? As long as he’s not replacing me,” I feel my cheeks growing hot. Lobster time. “I have to go call Reyna, if you’ll excuse me.”

To: str8 william: please shut up youll have a gf in like 2 days u buffoon

Jason stares at me in terror as I get up to leave the table. I didn’t actually have to call Reyna for another twenty minutes, but it was payback. Percy does something dumb, Jason is punished for it. It all makes sense in my head.

Percy swings an arm around Jason’s shoulder as he gives me a thumbs up. Jason fakes annoyance, and reaches up to mess up Percy’s jet black hair. Jason has a soft smile on his face when he looks at his masterpiece. Jesus, he’s like a twelve year old girl.

I turn around and walk to the grape gardens. That, for some weird reason, has the best reception in the entire camp. I find a comfortable spot on a stone in the middle of two bushes and dial Reyna’s number. As it’s ringing, I let my mind wander to what Percy said.

Why would I care if Will got a date? He’s always supported me when I flirt with guys, so it’s no big deal if he does the same with girls. I feel a sense of heaviness in my stomach when I think about it, but that’s how I am with everyone. I mean, you don’t survive Tartarus, two battles, losing most of your family and coming out as gay when raised in the 1930s without some abandonment issues. I mean, fuck, I went through Tartarus and my dad gave little to no help down there. And he’s Hades ! Of course I’d have problems with people ditching me. I’m just mentally preparing for Will to.

“Reyna speaking,” she says, and I immediately feel better when I hear her voice.

“Nico listening,” I reply.

“Good! So when were you going to tell me William was joining us at Camp Jupiter? Did I have to find out from Jason or were you planning on telling me?” She says with bitterness, and I wince. I knew she would talk about this.

“I was planning on it, Rey! I was too focused about spending his last days at Camp Half-Blood with him. I promise,” I know she doesn’t buy it.

“You could’ve texted. Or left a voicemail. You’re not with him twenty-four seven, and I know that because I told Chiron to give you at least two hours of school work a day. You needed education,” she responds with certainty. “You’re free for two hours everyday.”

“Will helps me with school!” I’m really not making this easy on myself.

“So you’re attached at the hip? That’s not very healthy.” Sometimes I hate how astute Reyna is. Gods forbid her and Piper get into an argument, Piper may have charmspeak but Reyna has facts and logistics.

“No! It’s not that it’s just…” I don’t have an excuse. “Okay, yeah, I forgot.”

“Finally, some truth around here! Anyways, when is he coming and how well is he in combat? He’ll need to join a cohort,” Reyna says. She seems less agitated, winning an argument is her favorite pastime.

“He is a healer, as I’ve said. Do you even listen? And he should be in New Rome sometime mid June.”

“Healers can be very well trained! Have you seen what Tristan, that son of Vejovis, did with a scalpel during capture the flag once? Terrifying.” Reyna audibly shudders.

“I don’t participate in capture the flag. He doesn’t like fighting, anyways.” Fighting reminds him of the Battle of Camp Half-Blood, the first battle he physically fought in. He swore on the River Styx to never fight in wars again, only to heal. I told him that was rash, and he swore on a regular river that he was never rash.

“I see. Well, I’ll know it when I see it.” Reyna says with finality, and that’s how I know she’s done with the call. She hates phone calls, but hates texting even more.

“Same time next week?”

“You know it. Talk later, Nico.” My favorite thing about Reyna is that she never said goodbye. She believes it holds too much bad energy, and that goodbyes are for people who don’t return from missions. I think back to Will’s goodbye.

“Love you, Rey.”

The call ends, and I sit up from the hard seat. As I walk back to my cabin (to nap, I have nothing else to do) I text Will.

To: str8 william: reyna is v excited to meet u

From: str8 william: She’s going to hate me. I know it. She’s gonna look at my poor, frail, innocent eyes and tell me I’m the worst person she’s ever met.

To: str8 william: no shes NOT… she loves me too much to hate u

From: str8 william: Thanks for being my solace, Nic.

From: str8 william: Haha, get it?

From: str8 william: Solace?

To: str8 william: sadly

I’m actually smiling despite my apathetic response. He says I’m a nerd? At least I’m not making last name puns. I miss him making puns out of random words I say. I’m convinced he has a book with a ton, since he rapidly fires back with them.

As I’m staring down at my phone screen, I bump into a tall figure. I snap up to apologize, and see that it’s Keith. His brown eyes pierce into mine, and I suddenly forget how to speak. Why does Aphrodite make such good children?

I gaped for a moment before he said, “You good?” 

“Oh, um, yeah, uh, sorry about that,” I say in a higher octave than usual.

“It’s okay,” he gives me a grin that puts Eros to shame, “I don’t mind cute short boys falling into my arms.”

My face is inevitably bright red as I take in his compliment.

“Oh! Yeah, thanks… thanks for that.” I am the dumbest person to exist. I swear to the gods. I want to shadow travel into oblivion.

He has a hold on my arms, and I swear, his grip burns. Not because Keith’s holding it too tight, because I’m an absolute disaster and he’s hot.

“What are you doing right now, dark and mysterious?” He asks coyly. Oh, shit, I can’t hang out with him. I’m already spluttering from a compliment, if he’s near me for more than five minutes I might combust.

“S-School. Schooling. Getting my education,” I say, doing awkward finger guns at him. 

If the ground doesn’t swallow me whole right this moment…

“Ah. That sucks, I really wanted to hang out. Gotta respect Chiron, though,” he winks at me. I can’t help but notice his long lashes curling all the way up to his eyebrows and- Focus, Nico.

“Yeah! He’s, uh, he’s the man! Anyways, I have to go now, bye,” I all but rush out, scurrying off to my cabin. He doesn’t get a single word in.

When I reach my cabin, I slam the door behind me and flop face-first onto my bed in absolute despair. I am the worst. Gods, I wish Will were here, he’d try to make me feel better about having no game. He’s the only one who doesn’t make fun of me for it, that I know of.

To: str8 william: pls call me

To: str8 william: i need a distraction

Immediately, a Facetime request pops up on my screen.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay? What do you need distracting from?” Will asks as soon as I hit accept. He’s set up his phone on his desk, sitting on a chair in his empty room. I suppose he hadn’t finish unpacking yet. His eyes were filled with concern.

“Nothing serious, Will. I’m just the most awful person alive and I beg you to smite me,” I say casually, pushing a pillow underneath my face. My hair falls in my eyes, and I don’t bother fixing it.

“I’m not gonna do that, Nic,” he chuckles, the tension in his shoulders relaxing. “I’m scared Reyna might actually smite me if I did that.”

“Good, you know too much about me anyways,” I joke. I note that he cut his hair, shorter than he’s ever done it on the sides. “I like the cut.”

He beams at me. “Thank you! I… I was hoping you’d notice! Have to have your approval,” Will puts his arm on the desk and holds his head up with his hand. “Are you going to tell me what you need distracting from?”

“You know Keith, right? The guy we passed the other day who is totally into me?”

His eyebrows furrow. “Yes.”

“I literally ran into him. Like, full on, fell.” He sits up, arms crossing.

“Did he say anything to you? Was he rude?”

I shake my head. “He flirted with me. And then asked to hang out, and guess what I said?”

Will licks his lips and hesitates. “What?”

“I had to do work! Which, I do, but not until four! I had the opportunity to be with the cutest guy at camp and I blew it!” I bury my face into the pillow and groan loudly. 

“He is not the cutest guy at camp.”

“Is that all you have to say on the matter?” I pick my head back up and switch to laying on my side. I pull the covers of my bed up to my chin, hoping that it’ll mask my embarrassment.

“That sucks?” I can’t tell his expression, which was odd. Will seemed annoyed, but it was different.

“It does! I’m never going to get a date. I’m gonna be single forever, and only have Mrs. O’Leary by my side.”

“I’ll be there. We’ll get a farm. You can distract yourself from loneliness as you tend to chickens,” he suggests, face still unreadable.

“Yeehaw, William.”

He smiles a little. “Don’t call me William.”

“Did you know you’re in as straight William on my phone?” I grin, my anxiety alleviating the more we talk.

“That’s the worst contact name. I’m changing yours from Nic to short gay.” 

“I’m not short! I’m five seven, and that’s almost average!” 

“I’m six two, shortie.”

We laugh, and I wish this moment could last forever. I wish he were here with me.

Chapter Text

“You may as well be banging pots and pans screaming ‘I can’t function without Will Solace’ at this point,” Piper says, taking a bite of her salad. I relayed her the Keith situation and she started laughing.

I pull the sleeves of my Led Zeppelin hoodie over my hands and bury my face in them. It’s been three days since that incident and I haven’t seen the son of Aphrodite since. When Piper invited me out to lunch, I used it as an opportunity to ask questions.

“It’s not like I intended to fuck up. But… has he asked about me? He’s your brother, you would know,” I say, looking up from my mask of hands.

“Neeks, honey,” she begins, eyes softening with concern, “he’s a player. He dated two people from Hephaestus and one from Ares. Keith’s only looking for the rite of passage, against my judgment. Good thing none of those kids fell in love with him.”

“Great. The first guy who likes me and it’s for Aphrodite’s approval,” I whine, kicking my legs out from under the bench.

“Maybe it’s different with you?” She’s trying to make me feel better. And I’ll admit, it slightly does.

“Maybe. But he hasn’t talked to me since,” I play with my fork and move around the food on my plate. We’re sitting at the Hades’ table. I designed it myself, black with small silver loops across the edges. When I gave the plan to Annabeth, she thought it was plain. But it doesn’t matter to me.

“Because you’ve been hidden away! If you’re not in your cabin, you’re training. If you’re not training, you’re in school. If you’re not in school, you’re in your cabin, so on and so forth.” Piper does have a point. She’s looking at me with a smug expression, telling me you know I’m right but you don’t want to say it with her kaleidoscope eyes. They’re hazel today.

“I’m a busy guy!”

“Clearly not too busy to be worrying about my brother,” she says, eyebrows raising with her dripping sarcasm. 

“Shut up, Piper.”

She giggles, then picks up her phone, presumably to text Reyna about my incompetence. I scan the dining area, eyes landing on the Aphrodite table. Pale pink tabletop, dark pink seats, and doves in each corner. Keith is sitting there, and he’s already staring at me. I give a shy wave, hoping he’s not looking in confusion or disgust. Instead, he cracks a sly grin and salutes me.

“You’re so red. Oh my gods, you’ve known this guy for, like, a week!” She exclaims, her braid bouncing with every word.

“I blush easily!” I say in defense.

“Keith and Nico sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-,” I lunge over the table and grab her shoulders. I narrow my eyes.

“Be quiet.” She gives me a smirk back.

I look over again, and he’s immersed in conversation with Drew. I feel a bit down by that, but what’s worse? Having a guy creepily stare at you at a constant or catch him once? I’d like the latter.

“Will is much better at relationship advice than you are,” I state, crossing my arms. She tosses her braid back behind her shoulder and gives me a look of disbelief.

“Then why are you single? Oh! It’s because Apollo is a whore and that’s his father. You can’t count on Apollo kids for relationship advice!”

I feel a sense of protection for Will as I defend his honor. “He isn’t like that! Austin is, but Will’s not! You’re one to talk, daughter of the love goddess.”

She feigns offense and beams like she knows something I don’t. I hate that. Why was everyone giving me that look recently? I want to be in on the secret about me that everyone suddenly knows except me.

“It’s not a big deal anyways. Because now I’m here and I can help you get Keith,” she says, her eyes glinting with mischievousness. 

“What if it was platonic?”

“Nico, I swear to god, you are worse than Jason.” Now that was an insult. I may be oblivious, but at least I didn’t think that Keith hated me if he was two minutes late. That was taking it to the extreme. 

“Let’s not get crazy, all I do is admire from afar,” I say. Piper stifles a laugh as if I told her she had three heads.

“Yeah, okay. I gotta go do training, see you later Neeks.” She stands up from the table, the neon orange of her Camp Half-Blood shirt nearly blinding me, and sets off. After a moment of me glaring at my empty fry container, a body slides in next to me.

“I’m hoping you don’t have work to do,” Keith begins, his white teeth blazing in contrast to his tan skin, “because I need a canoe buddy.”

I join him at the lake where Keith already has two vests set up along a sleek oak boat. I’ve changed into trunks and a t-shirt, just in case I fall in. If I fall in, once I try to drown to get away from the embarrassment but inevitably decide to live, I will appreciate me changing out of the warm clothing.

Keith slips the vest over my clothing and buckles it for me. I haven’t spoken a word besides the meek yes I gave him. I can feel redness creeping up my neck as he does so, I warily admit that this is the most intimate thing I’ve done with a guy, ever. Except for cuddling Will, but he doesn’t count because he’s straight.

He holds onto my arm as I step in, allowing me to be in the front. I reach for an oar, but Keith pushes my hand away. I turn to him to begin to ask why he would do such a thing, but he already has a reply waiting for me.

“You just look. It’s cute when you find something interesting. I’ll row.”

Well, I can live with that.

The water is crystal clear, and the sun is beginning to set. I was glad he told me to come around six, because the view was amazing. The trees sweeping across the horizon as soft oranges, pinks, and yellows reflect on the lake. I let out a small gasp as I watch the small ripples in the water.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Keith says softly behind me. I turn around and nod, barely getting out the words.

“I’ve never seen it like this. It’s… beautiful. I can’t even describe it,” My voice is barely a whisper. I push back my hair from my eyes to be able to witness more of it. The lilies sporadically growing alongside the water, cabins faintly in the distance. I can live in this view for the rest of my life.

“Sunsets are different at camp. They feel… warm. They feel like a loved one, somehow.” I agree. I totally agree.

When we get back to the shore, Keith again helps me out of both the boat and the life jacket. I’m dazed from the sight of the water still, and my heart swells at how Keith knew I would love it. How did he know? I don’t believe he’s as bad as everyone was saying, because bad people don’t do that. I’ve had my fair share of bad encounters, and this was not one of them.

“Thank you,” I say earnestly, eyes still glazed over with amazement. I fiddle with my fingers, suddenly self-conscious about how I got immersed so quickly in the view.

“No, thank you,” Keith finishes packing up and holds out his arm. As expected, I blush, but link my arm around his. “You looked really bedazzled by it all. I’m glad I took you.”

I bite my lip, unsure of what to say. It’s dark out now, probably around eight or nine. We talked out in the water for a long time. I feel like I’ve said too much, but by the fact Keith hasn’t run away from me voicing my opinions all night I think I’m fine. However, there’s underlying pressure for me not to say anything awkward. Or too pessimistic. Or scare him away with my general son of Hades-ness.

We reach the doors of my cabin. Sometimes I miss Hazel at camp, and others (like now) I’m really glad no one else is inside, so that when I go inside to scream to Will about everything no one can make fun of me. I know for sure Will won’t, but Hazel? Everytime I stutter, she’ll repeat it twenty times until I walk away.

“It was… a nice night,” I say at last, smiling up at him. I stare up into his warm brown eyes, who are looking back at me with intensity. “I wouldn't have done it if I hadn’t had anyone to do it with.”

“I’m glad I did it with you, then.” I fix my gaze to the ground, rubbing my arms. I wish I hadn’t changed out of my long-sleeve. It was cold outside, colder than usual. Mr. D must be testing another growth hypothesis. 

“I have to go inside now,” I state dumbly, “I’m cold.”

Keith snickers a little, and takes off his orange hoodie to slip it on me. If I wasn’t blushing before, I sure as hell am now. It’s about two sizes bigger than me. I feel like it’s swallowing me, because I may be a little short, but I like that. I like having Keith’s hoodie.

“Still cold?” He asks.

“Not so much anymore.”

“Good,” He all but whispers. We’re staring at each other for what feels like an eternity, until my body moves for me and plants a kiss on his lips. He raises his eyebrows, startled, and I pull back after about three milliseconds. 

“See you tomorrow,” I add, and open the door to my cabin.

As I close the door, I lean on it to try to keep myself from toppling over the floor immediately. That, arguably, was the most ballsy thing I’ve done since… ever. My heart is beating out of my chest and I’m breathing like a snail moves to try to calm myself. I put the sleeve of the hoodie to my nose and breathe in. He smells expensive, like something I would never be able to afford. But I can. And that’s the best part.

I stand up, my world still a bit tilted from all of the socializing and bravery. To describe it, it feels like when I shadow-traveled from Greece to Spain. Tired, but instead of physical exhaustion, it’s from emotional exhaustion. I’m spent. 

I check the small window next to the door to make sure Keith walked away, and that’s when I shriek like my middle school crush just offered to share his juice box with me.

“Oh my gods, oh my gods !” I’m grinning to myself as I practically skip to my bed. I fall on my back and I feel as though I could float. Finally, someone who wants to be with me. I’ve been waiting since the day I came out.

I’m daydreaming, but then I suddenly sit up in excitement. “I have to tell Will.”

To: str8 william: I LITELRALY MNEED YOU TO CLAL ME WITRIGHT NOW

To: str8 william: IM LITELRALLLYY!!!!!!!!! GAY, . HELLO,,,.....

From: str8 william: Are you good? 

From: str8 william: Your gay panic concerns me.

To: str8 william: PLEALSEEE CALLL MEEEEEE

From: str8 william: I will, but not Facetime. I look ugly.

My immediate reaction is that Will could never look ugly, but then his caller ID lights up my screen. The smile plastered on my face is somehow wider.

“Will! I love boys so much, you don’t even know, oh gods,” I exclaim as soon as I hit accept. I take another whiff of Keith’s hoodie.

“Oh, hello Will!” He mocks me, “How are you? Good! I hope California is great to you.”

“Who cares about that! I just had my first kiss! With a boy !” My hand is on my forehead, the coolness of my fingers calming my hot skin. “And I initiated it! I’m not a disaster. I’m smooth as fuck.”

Will’s silent on the other line. At first I thought it was the line breaking up, but it was too long for that. My smile falls as I wait for his response, but it never comes.

“Hey… Will? Are you still there?’

“Yeah,” His voice is wavering, which most people wouldn’t notice, but I do. “Sorry. My mom came into the room.” Will still doesn’t give a reply.

“Oh… did you hear what I said?” I’m suddenly feeling very insecure, my legs pulled up and tucked. I bite my fingernails, and I try not to keep my eyebrows from pushing together. The darkness of my cabin tickles at my back.

“I did. I’m proud of you, Nic,” Will says warily, “I’m sorry for not being upbeat… I’m... yeah. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about that! Just listen!” I’m concerned for Will, he usually stays up reading at medical reports if he’s under stress, but if he says he’s fine, he’s fine.

“Okay,” he murmurs.

I tell him all about my night. I begin at my lunch with Piper, and how Keith had grinned at me from the Aphrodite table.

“You love looking at the picnic tables,” he says, ignoring Keith entirely, “No one describes them like you do.”

“Let me talk!”

I continued onto the canoe ride, telling him of the iridescent water and the blazing sunset. I think back to what Keith said, that it felt like a loved one. Talking to Will, he reminded me of the sunset. I tell him of the long conversation we had about practically nothing but it felt like everything. 

I think I hear Will take a sharp breath, but say nothing. 

I finish my story with Keith giving me his hoodie and my valiant decision to kiss him. It may have not been my best choice, it being my first kiss and all, but I was content with myself. Kissing a hot guy after he took me out on the most romantic night of my life? Everything is going right for me. 

“Are you happy?” He says with hesitation. What was with Will tonight? It was only seven over there. It must’ve been a tough adjustment day, because usually he matches my energy when I decide to flirt with a guy. This is just the first time it’s worked out for me.

“Yeah, Will, I am,” I reply softly, the smile inching back on my face.

“That’s good, darlin’.” Yeah, Will’s tired. He gets more and more southern the more worn out he is. I like the way he says it, flowing off his tongue like it was special, just for me. Will’s voice reminds me of the stars moving from place to place from night to night.

“Are you okay?” I ask, worry flooding my voice.

“Yeah, Nic. Hard day, but nothing I can’t handle,” I stand up, putting the phone on speaker. I check the calendar, and realize that it’s been three years since the Battle of Manhattan.

“I just checked the date,” I whisper, guilt eating up at me. “Are you sure you don’t want to lift the shadow-travel ban so I can come to you?”

“No, Nico. Your health is more important than me.”

“No it’s not,” I argue. “It’s always hard for you this time of year. You know I love you, right?”

“Yes, Nico,” he whispers, “I love you, too.” 

“Good. Because if you didn’t, I think I would cry,” I joke. “Why did you have to leave me?”

“I left Camp Half-Blood,” he sighs out, “I didn’t leave you.”

We’re in a comfortable silence, just listening to each other breathe. My whole being aches as I think about what he’s going through, alone. The anniversary last year made him not talk for the entire day, and he was surrounded by family. This must be the worst one yet.

“Hon,” he murmurs sleepily, “you’d tell me if Keith ever did anything to hurt you, yes? You’re going to tell me?”

“Of course.” His last sentence makes it seem like Keith will.

“Good.” The mumbly melody of his voice is enough to get the guilt to dissipate, just for a bit.

I scan my cabin and look at the alarm clock. 12:04. Way past Will’s bedtime. Right around mine. My eyelids grow heavy with sleep as I hear Will softly snore. My chest fills up with the love of our friendship and I hang up.

Chapter Text

“Will!” I yell, jumping into his arms. I wrap my legs around his waist and cradle my face in his neck. He feels warm, and I assume it’s a trait from his father. I don’t want to let go. I lift my head up to look at him.

Will’s face is pulled into a small smile. Admiration clouds his features. His pale brown freckles covering his face like a perfect portrait. His cheeks are The Starry Night and I love them. His eyes are an incantation, almost begging me to stay here with him. His eyes are my favorite color. I look into them once more and see the same message. I am. I’ll stay.

We’re in a small field, of what seems to be overflowing with hyacinths. Those weren’t in camp, because Apollo usually forbid them. But they were so pretty, and I was in a pretty boy’s arms. Their sweet scent filled my nose, smelling of sugar and love. Love.

“Hey, doll,” he says, gaze flickering from my eyes to my lips. I take a chance and do the same.

Visually, his lips look soft. Like a pillow. His cupid’s bow is smoothed and his bottom lip is full. I take a deep breath in and try not to think about how kissable they are. But… Will’s straight. He’s straight and he’s so, so pretty and he’s looking at me like I’m the only person in his world. Will’s looking at me like I’m his van Gogh to his The Starry Night. I painted his constellation of freckles.

  “You’re so perfect,” he mumbles under his breath, and I feel lightheaded. Helium is injected straight into my veins. I feel one of his hands go from my waist to my chin. Will tilts my face up and suddenly we’re getting closer and our lips brush, we take another look at each other and then, finally, we-

RAP RAP RAP.

Sweaty, heavily breathing, and mortified, I snap my eyes open. I look at my hands that were once placed on Will’s cheek in a dream, now red with shame. In fact, I think my entire body is bright red.

I don’t have time to think about the detriment of the dream, because Annabeth Chase’s voice rings out, “Nico! Let me in!”

“I’m just waking up, Gray,” I rub my eyes, “Calm the fuck down.”

“It’s one P.M.! You’re so lazy,” she notes. I know her exact pose, arms crossed and foot tapping on the ground.

I don’t bother changing out of my pajamas as I heave myself toward the door. Yes, it was  Annabeth Chase in all her glory. If I liked girls, she’d definitely be a contender. Her honey blond hair curls cascades down her back, and her steel gray eyes hold a seriousness in them all the time, even when playful. 

“I saw you with that Aphrodite kid last night,” Annabeth begins, barging into my room. 

“Your Half-Blood shirt is too bright,” I complain.

“Wake up earlier.”

“Did you see us on the lake or at my cabin?” She’s taken charge of the room the moment she walked in, adjusting books to be neater and picking up garbage. It’s a tornado zone, and I always score low when the camp does cabin checks.

“Cabin. You kissed him,” She has no doubt in her voice, meaning she saw everything. I can’t tell if she’s happy or upset or concerned, because like Reyna, she argues with fact. 

“First kiss, baby,” I smile, putting my fingers on my lips. I hastily drop my hand when I remember my dream. 

Annabeth pauses, holding dirty laundry in her arms. “Your first? You barely know him. I know that because you’ve never mentioned him, and you tell me everything. Can you wear the camp shirt today? You look nice in color.”

“Too bright,” I exclaim, but grab it anyways. Annabeth always knows what’s best for you. There hasn’t been one instance where she isn’t correct. “Kisses don’t mean anything. It’s only the… you know… what counts.”

“Nico,” she says, exasperation underlying her words, “you’re a hopeless romantic. Of course it counts.”

I smile, giddiness filling my body. “He took me on a sunset ride on the canoes!” I say, throwing my hands up in the air. “It was the most romantic night of my life, Gray.”

She snickers, having that same if you knew what I knew about you, you’d change your mind look Piper had. At first, I didn’t have a clue about why anyone would give me that look. And I’ll admit, for a split second, I questioned Annabeth’s as well. Then I came back to reality, and remember the dream I had about Will.

“Annabeth,” I ask, the words following coming out like molasses, “I have a friend who needs advice, and I don’t know how to help him.” The worst possible lie to exist, but it’s fine. 

She quirks an eyebrow up from Lysol wiping my table. “Spill.”

“He told me that he had a friend… a girl, and was friends with her for a while,” Gods, I wish that I didn’t have to have this conversation. Why can’t my dreams be about what non-demigod kids dream about? 

“Yes?” I know Annabeth can see right through me, but I persist on my imaginary friend’s mishap.

“He had a demigod dream that he ended up with her, but he never thought about her that way. What does it mean?” I sigh, dropping my head. “Why did he have to think about him that way?”

“Him?”

“Her! Her, sorry, slip of the tongue!” I awkwardly chuckle, contemplating on whether or not becoming a shadow was actually a bad thing.

“I would tell your friend to talk to his girl,” Annabeth replies easily, her grin resembling the Cheshire Cat’s. “Maybe his girl feels the same way.”

“The girl doesn’t like him in the slightest! Not because he’s awful, but he’s clearly not her type, I feel bad for him, honestly,” Words tumble out of my mouth like vomit, and I can’t stop myself, “Because I have a good thing going with Keith and I don’t need this right now!” I feel wet tears pricking my eyes, and I curse myself for being dramatic. 

“Nico,” she says, eyes softening, “After the Battle of Camp Half-Blood, I now have normal dreams. Maybe this was just a weird, weird normal people dream.” She sits next to me on my bed and puts her arm around my shoulder.

“Yeah, it was just a normal people dream,” I sniffle, hoping that I didn’t seem too hopeless to Annabeth. To be as stable and confident as her, I couldn’t even imagine. I have no idea what to sacrifice to Eutychia for Annabeth’s happiness, but I would do anything. “It means nothing. I wouldn’t think of… Will like that anyways. He’s straight.”

She doesn’t respond, instead just rubs my arms in support. I appreciate her silence. Somehow she knows me enough to understand when to talk and when to let me just vent. If I didn’t have her, gods, I would probably still have my head in Tartarus. When all of the battles were over, she forced Chiron to implement a mental health help system specifically for me. Annabeth told me that she only survived down there because of Percy, and I went alone, so I needed emergency attention, ASAP.

“You’re young,” Annabeth says, staring off into space. She looks like she’s calculating a complicated calculus problem. “I wish I had your choices at sixteen. Now I’m nineteen and never got to explore myself. I don’t know who I am besides being an architect and a victim of war.”

I frown, soul sinking. A few months after the Gaea battle, Annabeth constantly repeated that she did not lose anything in the war. You know who lost, she spoke in a mantra, her eyes and voice far away. The people who lost their lives. Demi-gods with nothing to return to. The ones who gave their being to the field and never got it back. Not me. You’d think Percy or me would have terrors, but the one who had it the worst was Annabeth. Her entire life was on edge, and she constantly said peace scared her. Peace is what happens before the worst of it all.

Her admitting that she suffered came this past March. Annabeth broke down in my arms and told me she had a nightmare. The first in years. It felt so real, she thought Luke was alive and blamed her for his death. Real Percy and her newly broken up, dream Percy telling her he wished she was still in Tartarus. The shattered glass of her voice haunts me to this day, the way she said It’s never going to end, even if the physical part is over, is it? keeps me up at night sometimes.

“Gray,” I said, forcing her to look at me, “You are smart and stubborn. Those two qualities alone will give you the ability to find yourself.”

“Thanks, Neptune.” The old nickname tugs at my heart strings and my lips. I see her thoughts fall back to her head and she smiles as well.

“You know, you think you’re clever by making a pun out of my father’s Roman name since my name begins with an N, but it’s not!”

“Your nickname for me is the color of my eyes. Don’t talk to me about clever. I’ll tell my mom,” she says teasingly, and the lead-filled air lifts. Her eyes crinkle at the sides when she smiles, and I feel safe. “I need to train, be my partner?”

“Sure thing, Chase.”

To: str8 william: u wanna kno a real dumb thing i am doing and continuing to do.

From: str8 william: I’m sure it’s not that bad. Shoot.

To: str8 william: i literally have had zero (0) to eat and liek a refreshing gulp of water and i’m training w the stygian bitch.

From: str8 william: I take that back. Go eat. Go drink water. Then put yourself in a hamster ball to protect yourself from the cruel and unforgiving world

To: str8 william: wa wa wa i slice the air with SWORD. more important.

“Focus!” Annabeth says, knocking my sword out of my left hand, making me drop my phone in my right.

“Focusing is for losers,” I whine, picking up my belongings and sliding my cellular device in my pocket. “I can’t focus with the camp shirt.”

“You’re even holding the damn thing wrong. Flip it to the true edge.”

“I like it like this.”

“The other side’s sharper!” I stick my tongue out at her. She twirls her knife in her hands, the metal gleaming with intimidation.

I gesture towards her, “Advance.”

I adjust the grip on my hilt, and Annabeth takes a step forward. Gracefully, per usual, she takes a swipe at my legs. I jump, dodging her attack. I then cut her, but she grabs the blade before it reaches her shoulder.

“That’s what you get for using the false edge, dummy.” Annabeth promptly disarms me. Taking my arm with her hand, and she puts it behind my back. I’m familiar with this move, she’s preparing to flip me over herself. Annabeth takes the flat of her blade and holds it against my chest. “Remember, first one on the ground loses.”

“And it’s not going to be me.” I turn to my left, freeing my arm. I sprint over to where my Stygian iron sword lay, grabbing the hilt all while keeping an eye on the 5’9 girl after me. Examining her movements, arm out ready to block, I charge.

My lines of attack is her right arm and her back. Since Annabeth has the wonderful talent of common sense, she’ll never turn around on an opponent. I run straight to her and scrape her forearm. We have a rule; no deep cuts. She hisses in pain and retreats, never losing sight of me.

“Unfair! I shouldn’t have let you pick up your sword.” Annabeth shakes at her arm and cracks her neck, looking like the action alone alleviated any pain. 

Which, it didn’t, but she’s a tough girl.

“But you did!” I reply in a sing-song voice, stepping closer to her. I charge yet again, but she expects it. Putting out her foot, I trip over her. I quickly throw my sword out, as to not impale when I hit the ground. I really would not like to die from something as measly as sword practice.

Annabeth stands over me, her long hair inches away from going into my eyes. She’s holding the arm I slashed, eyebrows raised in satisfaction as if she predicted I would make that mistake. I remark on how much she looks like her mother, always observing, determining, and deciphering. Athena was also smug, the millennia of being the wisest being to ever exist getting to her head sometimes. Annabeth mimicked the deity.

“I always tell you that making the same move twice isn’t the best idea,” she says, unable to contain her victorious grin. “That’s ninety-nine percent of the reason I win.”

“Maybe I thought this time it’d be different?” I don’t even believe myself. 

“Nah. Can we go to the infirmary? I’m bleeding.”

The infirmary is fuller than usual, since that’s what happens when the new campers arrive for summer. Austin and Kayla were placed in charge when Will left, since you need more than one person to replace the impact of Will Solace. The two siblings dash around the small space, yelling things like “We need more Ace bandages!” and “Austin, no, aloe is not for the flu.” Kayla typically said the latter.

Kayla wearily walks over to us, her daughter of Apollo sun-streaked glow dampened by the amount of work. She pulls out a yellow notepad from under the makeshift reception area and writes Annabeth’s name down. 

“Reason for visit,” she robotically says, not looking up.

“Ah… sword injury. On my arm,” Annabeth winces as she lets go of the bleeding area.

“Type of metal sword is made out of?”

“Stygian iron,” I answer for Annabeth.

Kayla snaps her head up, expression reading that she hadn’t realized I was there before. Her aura and demeanor brightened as her smirk crawls up her face. “Nico!” She exclaims, “Will hasn’t shut up about you since he left. You not talking to him or something?”

“No, I am,” I reply, wondering why she was asking such invasive questions. I’m not that close to anyone in the Apollo cabin besides Will, they’re mere acquaintances. “I… call him every night.”

“Oh, poor thing,” Kayla walks us to a small cot and gestures for Annabeth to sit down. “He’s so used to your company all the time, you are starving him. Just one phone call a day...” She goes to a silver cabinet labeled Sword Injuries Because Y’all Are Clowns , most likely named by Austin, and pulls out hydrogen peroxide, nectar, Neosporin, and a bandage. 

“Don’t let Nico fool you, he’s just as lost as Will is,” Annabeth interrupts, an impish quirk of her eyebrow matches Kayla’s smirk.

“Oblivious.”

“Care to fill me in?” I chime, reminding the two girls that I, in fact, was still in the room. Annabeth’s confidence falters as the peroxide hits her cut. I feel slightly guilty at the fact I feel good about that, she inferred that I was oblivious. I’m not, I’m very self-aware and have no idea what they’re talking about.

The two exchange a look. “No,” Kayla finally says. I huff, restraining the urge to tip the bottle of nectar as Annabeth is drinking from it. I despise not being in the in with people. It mostly was because when I first came to the twenty-first century, I didn’t understand slang, the mannerisms were laid back and foreign, and people were just… different. I recognize, now that I’ve been a functioning person for six years, that I adopted the culture and relearnt the world.

“I really want you to choke on that,” I say instead, and Annabeth flips me off.

“Choke on these nu-” Austin begins, walking into the small space, but Kayla hits him on the chest before he finishes. I should be used to those jokes now (again, cultural difference), but I feel embarrassed and look away from Austin.

I hear Kayla mumble something to Austin, but I ignore it. Being selectively conservative was awkward, but making someone apologize for it? Mortifying. I nudge Annabeth, silently pleading her to leave. She understands me, waving goodbye to the two children of Apollo. Annabeth leads me out, tugging on my hand a little. I’m eternally grateful for her patience and understanding.

“Gray,” I say when we exit. “I better be getting back to my cabin.” A slight understatement. I’m getting a tension headache from anxiety, my breathing is becoming uneven and I want to shrink back into my skin. I need to get back to my cabin. 

“Okay,” is all she says. “Love you, stay safe.” Her eyes swell with concern and empathy, and I try to avoid them.

“Love you more.”

As I text Will that night, I hate the way his words calm me down. I hate the way he knows me better than I do, better than Annabeth does. I hate the way I can’t get that dream out of my head, even though I understand that it was just a small thing my mind conjured up. I can’t help but overthink, as it is my nature.

Gods, I think, I need to make out with someone.

To: loml william: i have a srs question. well 2 q’s

I changed his contact name. I just felt like it needed to change. Nothing else.

From: loml william: What is it, Nic?

I like his nickname for me. It’s plain, but I like it.

To: loml william: i changed ur name from str8 to loml william is that ok. also not a big deal but am i dramatic for habving a panic attack over how i was literally raised in the 40s.

I value his opinion over anyone else’s, and it’s because he’s my best friend.

From: loml william: Yes it’s okay. Just changed yours to Light of my Life Nic. I don’t do acronyms, but we match. Also, no. You can’t apologize for being who you are, and you cannot control it. And guess what, Nic? I like you just the way you are, being raised in the twentieth century and all. If people can’t get past that, they don’t deserve you. Your reaction to the new world is incredibly well-handled, and you should admire yourself for that. I promise you, I do. I admire you.

He’s just my best friend.

Chapter Text

Keith and I have had precisely five dates. We’re on our fifth, and I’m working up the nerve to make it official. That’s what teenagers do, right? We date. I can do this. I’m totally dateable, look at me, reclusive and stubborn, never talking to anyone outside of my comfort zone…

I’m not dateable in the slightest.

We’re in the middle of the strawberry fields, walking hand-in-hand and talking about nothing. He occasionally squeezes my hand to tell me where a “really good one,” referring to the strawberries, is. I like the gesture, it fills up my insides with a sickly sweet honey. I’m silent, wondering when I should do the big asking, as Keith abruptly stops and grabs my shoulders to make me face him.

“Pick either one or two,” is what he says, his pretty-boy lopsided grin covering his face. I’m just staring at him, like an idiot, when he raises his eyebrows, “Pick!” A childish, giddy voice. Gods, he’s so cute.

“One and a half,” my smart-ass shines through. Keith rolls his eyes, not standing down, not even a little bit.

“Babe,” he has a habit of calling me that, “One or two, whole numbers only.”

I’m blushing, as I always do. “Two.”

“I knew you’d pick the mushy shit,” Keith actually looks a bit self-conscious, and he never does. Anxiety gets a grip on my system as I await his surprise.

“I don’t understand,” I glance up at him, hoping for some answers. I don’t get any. Her ruffles a hand through his hair (but somehow it falls perfectly back into place), and peers down at me.

“Nico. I’ve wanted to hang out with you, since, like, I got here,” Keith fidgets with his hands. “The other guy you used to be with all the time always intimidated me too much to go up to you,” he lets out a breathy laugh.

“Will?” I ask gently.

“Yeah, that guy. I think he has it out for me,” I must look confused, because he then says, “But anyways, when he left, I finally had the chance to talk to you. Over this month… I don’t know. I’ve liked getting to know you more.”

It finally clicks in my brain. “You had two different speeches for me?”

“Let me finish,” he whines, crossing his arms.

“Alright, sap.”

The comment gives him confidence, because Keith’s body language changes entirely. His back straightens and he’s not playing with his hands anymore. My words of assurement actually reassured him. Gods, I like this boy so much.

“Where was I…” he mumbles to himself, and a lightbulb goes over his head. “Oh, right! I know what people at camp say about me. I… did want to go for the rite of passage at first. It was dumb. But, when I’m with you, all of this mythological bullshit vanishes, you know? I suddenly don’t care about something about to attack me, I don’t care who’s kids we are.” My eyes well up and I’m staring straight at the sky to not make them fall down my face. Keith grabs ahold of my chin, forcing me to look at him. He wipes a tear from my cheek, takes a deep breath, then continues.

“Can we please be like, boyfriends or something? Gods, I just…” He trails off, never taking his eyes off of me. I feel small, having all of his attention on me. I close my eyes, praying my crocodile tears are over. When I open them, Keith seems a lot closer than I remember from five seconds ago. I place my hand on his cheek.

“Yeah,” I say, beaming, “I’ll be your boyfriend or something.”

“Oh, thank fuck,” he says, wrapping his arms around me. I sigh into the hug, allowing myself to relax and feel safe. For the first time since coming out to Jason, I let my walls come down entirely. I know I do, because I can feel the strawberries slightly wilting next to us. Anxiety peels off of my body in waves, and I just hug tighter.

I try not to let my mind drift to how Will hugs. There was always something different to Will’s contact, unrivaled, Keith’s not even comparing. I don’t think about how Will puts his hand in my hair instead of just on my waist like Keith does. No, because why would I? He’ll never be interested in me, and I now have my first boyfriend. It’s like when I liked Percy. It wasn’t realistic, even though Percy is bi. But, I’m not saying I like Will. No, Percy was just an example. I’m just saying that it isn’t fathomable to think of Will that way even though I don’t like him, I like Keith, who I’m dating now, and especially because Will doesn’t like me.

I don’t know what I’m saying.

Keith lets go of my waist. “Something on your mind?”

“Why do you ask?” 

“The general aura of death washed away,” he says. I don’t tell him how much those comments bother me. Keith likes to make them, and if they make them happy, it’s fine. It doesn’t help the aching in my chest whenever I’m solely noted as my father’s son.

“I’m just happy. Death isn’t prevalent when I’m happy,” I explain, my insecurities edging on. I step back, and give Keith a shy smile. 

“Come here, pretty boy,” He takes ahold of my chin and tilts my face up. We’ve only kissed once after I decided to be brave, and it feels no different than the two times before. His kiss feels like the way ambrosia tastes.

I pull back, warm and content. He looks at me, smiling like I’m the only person he sees, the only person he’ll ever see. And then, Keith says, “For a death boy, you sure as hell kiss like you’re alive.”

It’s okay though, because he likes me. Keith wouldn’t say anything if it made me upset on purpose.

To: loml william: AHHHGHGHKKKKKK WI:LLL WILL WILL LOML ANSNWER i have so much to tell you

To: loml william: Not to be a homosexual but… Bpoys.

From: loml william: Can I tell you something?

My breath hitches. Immediately, I think of the worst. He’s injured. He hates me. Or, this is Naomi Solace and Will’s dead. I sit straight up in my cabin bunk, gone on alert. 

To: loml william: is this ms. solace.

From: loml william: What? No, it’s Will. Don’t worry, Nic, I’m fine and you’re my best friend.

No one knows me like he does.

To: loml william: ok lol wass6p

From: loml william: Can I Facetime you? It sucks enough I can’t… say this in person.

To: loml william: oh sure go ahead.

I smooth my hair down, ignoring the racing in my chest. What if he says I’m not enough for him anymore? That sounds awfully boyfriend-ish, William, and we’re best friends. Oh gods, I’m talking to him inside my head.

The ringing of my phone takes me out of my mind and I press accept on the first note. Will looks… terrible. And that’s hard for him to do. His hair is a mess, bags covering the entire length of his eyes. It looks like he’s wearing a black shirt, a color he doesn’t wear. Did he discover My Chemical Romance ? I’m gonna have to break it to him that they’ve disbanded. His room is dark, darker than how Will likes it. He has an irrational fear of the dark. There’s something more than just going through an emo phase about. 

“You’re going to kill me, but before I say anything, do not shadow travel to strangle me,” is what the emo clone of Will begins with, not looking at his phone. I’m startled at how hollow his voice sounds. That’s the way he gets when he just finished a panic attack, sounding empty and apathetic. It does not help my nerves.

“Not unless you’ve killed someone,” I say, biting down on my nails. “Did you kill anyone?” He’s silent.

“Only my heterosexuality.”

“What?” The joke flies over my head. I can practically taste Percy screaming R slash woosh! at me.

“Nico,” he sighs, “I’m gay.”

My face falls, which is the last thing you should do when someone comes out to you. I’m hit with betrayal at how he hid it from me, but then a different emotion fills my body. Hope. For what? I don’t want to answer.

“Y-You’re… Will… You’re…” I stammer like a six month old.

“Please don’t hate me,” he whispers, and I can see a tear flow down his freckled cheek. “I know we tell each other everything and I’m sorry, just please, please don’t hate me.” I hear him stifle a sob, and Will lifts up his t-shirt to hide inside of it. My ceramic heart cracks at the sight of my best friend. 

“Will, I could never hate you,” It sounds half-assed, and I wish he would lift the shadow ban just this once. Just so I could hug him and hold him. I want to tell him face to face. He just looks so… so… scared. He looks scared for my approval. In fact, he looks downright terrified that I would hate him. What a weird concept, me hating Will. That thought has never crossed my mind. “Do you… want to rant a little? When Jason found out… all I could do was talk.”

He gets out from underneath his shirt. Will’s iridescent eyes were now puffy and dull. Everything about his appearance was nothing like I’ve ever seen. It took everything in me not to pack a bag and go to California this instant. 

“I’ve known for a while,” Will says, his voice still shattered. “I just… I know you wouldn’t care. I know that. Fuck, I mean, you’re gay.” I try not to gape when I hear him curse.

“You’re right. I accept you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know, Nic. What if there was a chance you didn’t? You know? What if… something about us changed? I haven’t even told Austin or even my own mother yet.”

I remember a day out with Will, where he didn’t work in the infirmary. He took off his practical job to hang out with me, because I had just come back from New Rome. He told me he felt cold, so I took his hand and held it. He turned bright red, but I assumed it was because he was straight. Will didn’t let go.

“You have to tell Ms. Solace soon,” I say, trying not to think about the memories flooding my sight. Do not think about a chance with him. You have Keith.

“I’m thinking she already suspects it,” Will chuckles, compassion filling back in. I love his empathy. I love how what brings him back to the ground is his mother. I love- “You’re not mad?”

And sometimes I’d help at the infirmary, too. Only when Will was there. He let me play nurse, only doing small things like placing bandages or feeding ambrosia squares. If someone didn’t like how I was a son of Hades, or felt uncomfortable, Will told them to find another infirmary or bleed. Even when I told him it was fine, have someone else do it, he stubbornly stood up for me. That’s just how Will is.

“I can’t be mad at you. It’s like trying to mix oil and water, it doesn’t work.” My reply is just honesty, but Will beams at me like I just told him he won the lottery. His smile could cure diseases. If a patient of his walked in with the black death, a small grin from the Will Solace puts them back to life. 

“I’m so relieved. Do you understand how much nerve I have, telling you this after I moved? I thought you would lecture me, like that time when I said it’s not necessary to call adults by their last name? How many times has my mother said to call her Naomi? Probably thirty by now,” Will’s rambling, which is good. He’s calming down, despite his small sniffles through words. 

“Will, do you know how disrespectful that is? I know Chiron doesn’t technically have a last name, but at least tack on a mister,” I say, shocked and appalled at how casually Will talks to this millennia old being.

“Nic, it’s no big deal, he’s cool with it,” he protests, smiling gently at me. I want to continue being dismayed, so I look away.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” I tease, and rest my head on his shoulder. Will clears his throat, I can’t tell if it’s out of disgust or discomfort, but he lets me do it. I’m grateful.

“I am cute, you’re right.” He cranes his neck to look at me, and I try not to blush. Having Will’s attention is something I won’t ever get used to.

“Can I tell you my news now, gay William?” 

“Are you going to call me that now?” His eyes look soft, like Will. Nothing like what he was before. It’s like he was a werewolf of pessimism, only happening during a full moon.

“Yeah,” I reply nonchalant, not letting him know how much I was scrutinizing every move he made, “But I’m keeping you as love of my life William on my phone.”

“I thought it was light of your life?”

“No, baby,” I blow a kiss to my phone, “You’re the love of my life.” Something feels different, I’ve done this before, but my mind races with anticipation for his response. 

“And you’re the light of mine. What’s up, anyways?” I hesitate, almost not telling him. But, why wouldn’t I? Will’s gonna be so excited, he’s always supported me through my relationship endeavors. 

“Keith asked me out! Will, I have a boyfriend!” I’m too happy, looking around to make sure no one’s listening in to see me fangirl, nearly missing the way Will grows rigid. His spine stiffens, and his arms cross. Will’s gone full don’t fuck with me mode. His protectiveness over me is nice, but I know when he gets to know Keith he’ll like him more.

“Oh?” Will says, curt and pursing his lips.

“It was so cute, gods. He talked about how we were practically made for each other and how I made all of his worries go away, no one’s ever talked about me that way before!” My hands push up my cheeks, and I can tell in the dim light of my camera that my nose is Rudolph red. 

“That’s cool,” Will slips out of view, “I’m changing my shirt.”

“Show some enthusiasm, William,” I raise my eyebrows in protest. “After all this time, a boy finally likes me back. And I didn’t even have to stalk him!”
“Sorry. That’s cool!” Sarcasm drips like honey. Gods, I know Will can go full helicopter parent on me sometimes, but it’s annoying me. Time and place, Will.

“Can’t you be happy for me?” I pout. Will comes into frame, now wearing a pastel blue hoodie. His hair is ruffled now, and I think for a second he’s back to regular Will. But his gaze hardens and he rolls his eyes (which, by the way, match his hoodie. That’s so cute).

“Did you have to choose the worst person, Nico?” I suddenly think his matching eyes are less cute, and I’m beginning to believe he’s being a dick.

“He is not the worst person! Why do you care? You’re all the way in California, anyways. How do you know what he’s like?” I spit, the words falling out of my mouth in rage. I regret them as soon as I say them, but I can’t take it back now. “You really can’t be happy for me. I’m happy!”

“He’s just seeking his mother’s rite of passage!”

“No, he’s not!” A warm tear falls down my face. Curse my dramatic, sensitive ass. “No. Why would you think that? He’s the only guy who likes me like that, so why would you think he’s using me? I’m… I’m not that easy.” 

“You kind of are.”

“Fuck you.” All of the lights go out in my cabin. Fuck. I hate getting emotional.

“Have Keith do that for you, right before he dumps you!” I hang up. 

Before I can control it, sobs escape against my better judgement. I get up from my desk, eyesight blurry from the amount of tears, and go underneath my covers. I hear scratching at my walls, probably bones from the amount of skeletons I’m most likely raising. I hear campers going outside and talking amongst themselves. I’ve wiped the power to the entire camp. I don’t care. I’m focused on scream crying.

It wasn’t like Will and I haven’t fought before. No, we’re hormonal teenage boys, we love to argue. This just hit differently. I was so proud of myself. The first thing I thought was Will would be, too. When Will told me he was gay… I thought he’d be even more understanding, because it’s incredibly difficult to get the one you like if you’re a boy who likes boys. 

Why had he reacted that way?

Why did I push him to that point?

I’m still crying as the doors to my cabin open. I whip up to see who entered. It’s Annabeth, walking tentatively toward me. She’s weary from sleep, but her concern overrides her tiredness.

“Nico, what’s wrong?” Her voice is a whisper in the wind. It almost doesn’t make it to my ears, my delusion clouding my thoughts.

“Annabeth,” I cry for her, weakly raising my arms, reaching for her. “Annabeth.” It’s all I can say.

“I need you to breathe, eight in, hold for four, twelve out. Can you do that for me? Concentrate on breathing.” I oblige. My nose is runny and I make sure my body doesn’t wrack with more sobs. Annabeth pulls her hair up in a ponytail as I do so.

She looks out my door window, and I, too, can see the lights flickering back on. Annabeth gives a thumbs up to who knows what and turns to sit next to me. A tug pulls at my throat to cry more, let it all out, but I choke it down. As she sits, Annabeth immediately wraps her arms around me. I welcome her comfort, closing my eyes as she rubs my back. My chin trembles as Annabeth begins talking.

“Do you want to talk about it?” If Will is a helicopter parent, Annabeth is the relaxed one who you tell everything. Rare.

“Will… Keith… He’s… He’s mad at me,” I speak incoherently, not having enough brain power to say much more. I’m getting worked up again as Annabeth, comfortingly, shushes me.

“Do you want to be the little spoon?” I’m thankful for her. I don’t know how to express my current gratitude, so all I do is nod. “Lay down.”

I do. And as Annabeth is wrapping her arms around me and I’m entranced by the lull of sleep, I nearly think about how Keith will be affected by this. But, before that panic attack can set in, I’m asleep.

Chapter Text

“You’re telling me you got upset over Will Solace?” His voice is exasperated. It’s been three weeks since what Annabeth dubbed the incident , and I haven’t had the courage to tell Keith until now. Mostly because of this reaction. But, it was reasonable. Imagine your boyfriend of nearly a month causing a major power outage to a magical camp that had endless energy over another guy. Not the best feeling, I’d presume. “He’s a fuckin’ loser, Nico.”

“It wasn’t like that, Keith. And he isn’t,” That was the truth. It wasn’t the way he’s thinking of, it was more because of him we fought, not cheating or anything. I would never do that. In fact, I haven’t talked to Will at all. 

“Yeah? Then tell me what it’s like. Enlighten me,” He says, the brown eyes I’ve grown to love glazing over in rage. We’re sitting alone in my cabin, him on my bed and me on the floor next to him. One could practically taste the air getting colder as I try to blink back tears. Gods, I hate crying. Tears remind me of Bianca.

“It was because… he got mad at me. That’s all. He got mad at me.” I bring my knees to my chin, focusing on my grey comforter instead of meeting Keith’s gaze. “We’re not even talking right now.”

He’s silent, so I take it as an opportunity to look up at him. Keith has his elbows on his knees, and his lips pressed in a fine line. He’s staring at me, conflicted. I must look like a kid right now, my knees pulled up and a frown plastered across my face. My hair is still messy from raking through it while telling him, I know it. Keith scrunches up his nose and holds out a hand.

“Yeah, whatever.”

“I promise,” I whisper.

“Sure, Nico. Come here,” he says, doing a vague come here gesture. I stand up, every joint cracking like Pop Rocks, and take a tiny step closer. Keith smiles tightly and grabs my hand in the most pissed off but still trying to be affectionate way possible, and exhales loudly through his nose. “I don’t want to be annoyed with you.”

“Why are you annoyed with me?” Hurt laces my voice. I didn’t do anything, it was Will being mad at me. I didn’t even tell Keith that Will was gay.

“You know why. You’re not dense.” He’s curt but honest. I need someone to be honest with me. At least Keith isn’t afraid of telling the truth instead of tiptoeing around me like I’m made of glass.

“It wasn’t my fault.” I sway our hands, squeezing to assure him. Gods, I hope this assures him.

“Don’t lie.”

“I’m not,” My eyebrows furrow. Why was Keith acting so insanely jealous? Will and I are a package duo. Everyone knows that. If you want to be with me, you’re almost dating Will. We’re close. Or… we were.

“Okay.” No I forgive you’s . No I’m sorry’s . Just okay, and him pulling me closer so I fall on top of him on my bed. I’m laying on him, and I lift my head up so I’m not buried in his chest. His tight smile softens and he rests his hands on my lower waist. “Kiss?”

“Okay,” I say, repeating him, my voice barely above silence. I lower my head and press my lips against his. The feeling of relief washes over me, like every time I kiss him. It feels like a sigh when you’ve had a stressful day. I begin to smile as well. This must be his apology for lashing out, because if he still was irritated by me, Keith wouldn’t kiss me back. That’s how people work. They don’t do intimate things like this if they’re in a bad mood with someone, right?

I disconnect our lips and sprawl a hand on his chest. My smile widens as I watch him watch me. My face feels hot, blood rushing to my cheeks.

“Can we go to the hall? I wanna see people today,” I say, pouting a bit. We don’t talk further about the argument. Why would we? It’s over.

“Mm, okay, pretty boy. Get dressed.” I’m already dressed. I look at my black long sleeve and jeans. I’ll change anyways.

“What’s with the cargo, di Angelo?” Is the first thing Percy Jackson says to me as Keith and I walk towards him and Jason.

I feel a bit self-conscious. Sure, I wore black a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have different colors! I wore orange with Annabeth. And I’m still wearing a black tank top, just with khaki, chafing, cargo shorts. Normal. This is how normal people dress, they differentiate colors. But, they don’t regularly use words like ‘differentiate’, so I don’t really know where I stand.

“Keith got them for me,” I explain, squeezing on our interlaced hands. His hands seem to swallow mine, like an unfit puzzle piece, but maybe I’m just not used to holding hands. “I thought they looked nice.”

“I’m just used to Dark Goth Extreme-”

“They do,” Jason says before Percy gets the rest of the sentence out, running a hand through his own blond hair. They’re sitting on the rocks where the campfire is, separate from the picnic tables. Any other person would wonder why, since it was broad daylight and nothing was lit. However, I knew Percy Jackson, and he liked sitting where Hestia would reside in camp. The way he put it, talking to Hestia was the only reassurance he got before the Battle of Manhattan.

When Apollo asked who his favorite immortal was when exhibiting his classic narcissism, Percy immediately said Hestia.

“Thanks,” I say, avoiding eye contact. I don’t handle compliments well.

Jason stands from the rock, and I note that his cheeks were dusted with pink. His eyes glinted with excitement, the giddiness that came from being around Percy. I wonder what I look like when I’m around Keith. We all stood, except Percy, kind of awkwardly and having nothing to say. I guess they hadn’t expected me to come outside, either.

“Why do you guys all look like you’re gonna start making out? Just staring at each other. Because, to be honest, it’s kinda hot, but Nico and Keith are like six.” 

We all whip our heads towards the voice of the only human being who’s shorter than me, Leo Valdez. He stood in all of his son of Hephaestus glory, wearing baggy jeans and a red shirt smeared in oil. His tool belt sat snug on his waist, used as a belt.

“No answer for the best person alive? Ah, don’t worry, I’m used to people in awe.” Leo pats Jason’s head on tiptoe and sits with his legs tucked next to Percy. Leo Valdez, the chaotic bisexual.

“No,” Percy replies, wrapping an arm around Leo’s shoulders, “We’re just appalled someone would say something like that. Then we saw it was you.”

“Keep your mouth shut, Fish Man.”

Percy feigned offense as he placed a hand on his chest. I chuckle, enjoying Leo’s company. He and I were complete opposites of each other, in the fact that he was extroverted and liked to make people laugh and I caused a power outage because I was a little upset.

“So, did you have anything planned or is Team Leo gonna hang out with the president of the fan club?” He winks at us, and I feel Keith’s grip on my hand go tighter. 

“Well-” Keith begins.

“I think it’s Leo time.” 

“Well, Nico and I-”

“It’s Leo time!” Leo exclaims, pumping his fist in the air. He gestures to us, the motion meaning follow.

As we walk to what most likely is Bunker 9, Keith walks slow so we pull behind the group. The trek to the bunker is always my least favorite whenever I hang out with Leo, however, it is his favorite place to be. I’ve practically memorized the terrain by now, mostly because of nightmares from taking Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood. Do you know how awful it is to have nightmares of Leo Valdez building Argo II? How does a demigod mind make that horrifying, I’ll never know. Will was always there when I had the statue nightmares.

Will…

“I don’t like him,” Keith says, bringing me out of the beginning of a horrid discussion I needed to have with my best friend. In fact, it whips me out so fast that I have to laugh.

“Leo? You don’t like Leo ? That short gremlin is ninety percent of my serotonin,” I offhandedly comment, not really realizing that holy shit Keith has a problem with nearly all of my friends.

“He… is abrasive.”

“No, I’m abrasive. He’s Leo.” 

“Sure.” His curt response spikes my anxiety, but I try to let it go. Is he still mad at me? I thought we made up. Maybe I did another thing to upset him. I wouldn’t be surprised, I’m kind of a bad person. I mean, my dad is Hades for fu-

“Bunker 9, ladies!” Leo stands proudly in front of the bunker. He likes taking us here because he has the bragging rights of being the only person who can open it.

“Oh hell yeah, I love this place,” Percy barely goes here because of all the memories attached, but when he does go, he’s the happiest I’ve seen him since the break up.

“Alright, Percocet, here are all the changes since you’ve been here last,” Leo begins, striding inside as if he’s the tallest man in the world. He really lives up to his motto of ‘I’m 5’6 but my personality is 7’3.’

“Could anything really change within a month?”

“You’re talking to the king of Hephaestus kids. It changes every other day, Salt Supreme.” 

Percy groans and takes a seat on a workbench. “When do the nicknames end?”

“Never!”
I just chuckle and untangle my hand from Keith’s. Not to sound depressing or anything, but I love Bunker 9. When no one’s inside, it feels like a creepy abandoned warehouse. I love creepy abandoned warehouses. Hephaestus kids have a tendency to not clean up after themselves, so it has the look and feel of a Chernobyl building. Deserted. The air is stale, which is probably the worst thing about this paradise for a child of Hades. Can’t I have an eerie, scary bunker with ventilation and AC? Is that so much to ask for?

“Neeks,” Jason says, plopping down on a couch. Damn, the interior design of this place is severely mismatched. “I have updates.”

“Updates?” I sit across from him, pretending the dusty air didn’t bother me. I fidget with my hands, cracking my knuckles and biting at my fingernails.

“On the… you know… Jason’s a homosexual who likes his cousin on the god side mission.” Boy, do I hate when he puts it like that.

“Like real updates or did he just touch your shoulder for too long?” Keith sits next to me, and I adjust myself so my head is in his lap. I told Keith about Jason’s situation, with Jason’s permission, of course. We hear Leo loudly exclaim about his new portable bicycle idea, and Jason tenses up, darts his eyes behind us where Leo is giving a tour, and settles his gaze back on us. 

“Real updates.” His voice is significantly lower, voice monotone, but the crinkle around his eyes tells me he’s dead serious. “Apparently, him and Annabeth talked, and Annabeth doesn’t want to get back together! Sorry for saying that so joyfully, because really, he’s a wreck about it.” I knew this, Annabeth told me.

“Oh, yes, my friend is a wreck because his ex-girlfriend has no more interest in him! Let’s go!”

“It didn’t sound like that! And, he’s more than a friend.”
“He’s not just my boyfriend… alright, he’s my best friend,” Keith quotes, making me crack up before I can do the fake gagging part. I feel his chest shake as I laugh harder.

“Don’t bully me!” Jason whines, crossing his arms like a three year old. “Percy! Get over here, I’m being bullied.” Ah, yes. Jason is great at flirting.

“Never fear, Percy is here!” The son of Poseidon pummels towards us, jumping on top of the poor son of Zeus and bringing him to a bear hug. Jason breaks his upset façade with a lopsided grin, red blossoming on his cheeks. What a nerd. He’s like a lovesick puppy.

“Thank you, hero.” Jason gets redder with his small pet name. 

“Fifth wheel. Sweet, that’s alright. It’s not like I’m single or anything. Sure, rub it in. Guys, look, it’s Leo, he’s short and can’t score.” He sits next to me and Keith, forcing me to move to make room.

“Hey, w-we-we’re not, Leo, hey,” Jason splutters out, looking at me for help. I scrunch up my nose in return. 

“Jason and I are bachelor city, baby!” Percy yells instead, saving Jason from embarrassing himself more. “But sometimes I can’t resist Superman here.” Percy winks at Jason, and I hold my cackles in. Jason’s eyes are wide with shock. I know what that blond devil is thinking, would it be weird to kiss Percy Jackson for no reason right now

“Oh! Is that so?” Leo snickers, catching onto Jason’s flustered manner. “I don’t know, y’all seemed a bit cozy to me, Persephone.”

“Don’t make her mad at me!”

“Okay, Percussion.”

The three sparked a conversation on how Percy is mercilessly bullied and I zoned out. I felt Keith’s hands rake through my hair, vibrations from his humming pressing against my cheek. I let my mind drift to Will for the millionth time these past few weeks, dread filling my stomach.

Why had he gotten so mad at me? He hasn’t got mad at me like that before. Will’s disapproved of my flirting with specific people before, but has never gotten enraged like that. I don’t like not talking to Will. He’s always been my safe place, never seriously judging me and giving me advice instead of criticizing me. 

I miss him. I miss talking to him, and I miss his dumb proper grammar. I loved FaceTiming him every night, but I miss seeing him in person. If we were in person, he’d understand. Maybe that’s it, he hates not being here and not being in the loop. I tried reaching out to Reyna about him, since he’s arrived at Camp Jupiter, but all she said was he stays to himself and is quiet. Which is not like Will Solace at all. She said he doesn’t talk to his siblings, and that he hasn’t tried for any medical roles yet.

Did I do that?

“I think Nico’s getting tired,” Keith voices for me. I’m not. My friends look at me, confusion clouding their eyes. It’s 9 P.M. I fall asleep at three.

“You okay, Neeks?” Jason’s tone is laced with concern. What a mother.

I furrow my brows, glancing up at Keith. “Yeah. We’re gonna head out.”

I wave my goodbye, in true me fashion, and exit Bunker 9 with Keith. He grips at my hand, forcing them to interlock. It’s dark out, so I’m tripping over more rocks and branches than usual. We stop right before camp begins, and Keith clears his throat.

“Can you please stop thinking about him?”

“About who?” Play it dumb, Nico. 

“Solace. He’s distracting you from me. And I’m your boyfriend, not him.” His spine is rigid and his face gives me no emotion.

“He’s… he’s straight, Key.” I feel my lip quiver. Of course, I’m gonna cry. Great.

“He sure doesn’t act like it.”

“So you’re still mad at me?” Are all relationships like this? I must’ve romanticized my first boyfriend. Why did I think it would be perfect.

“Not mad. Disappointed.” A parent line. 

“Don’t act like you’re in control of me,” I say, getting louder. “We’ve been together for two weeks, Keith. Who do you think you are?” 

“Your boyfriend! Are you not serious about me?” Guilt pours over my body like a waterfall.

“Of course I am. You’re my first boyfriend. I’m committed.” A crocodile tear drips off of my chin.

“You gotta show me.” He sighs in what sounds like exasperation and gives me a brief hug. I tilt my head up, and Keith gives me a small kiss.

“I wanna go to my cabin now.” I whisper from the crook of his neck.

“Want me to sleep over?”

“No.”

As I shut the door to my cabin when Keith drops me off, I check my phone. No notifications. I fall back-first onto my dark bed, the huge comforter swallowing me whole. 

Why are both of them mad at me? I can’t deal with both Will and Keith being upset at me. Why would I do that to them? In all honesty, they’re probably better off if I just left them alone. But no, I’ve grown attached and need their support. More to Will than Keith, but still.

I check my phone again. With no new developments, I turn to my dresser and pull out a packet of Oreos. Stress-eating will always solve any problem for a limited amount of time. On my third cookie, I pull up the notes app and pour my heart out like a twelve year old apologizing for a problematic tweet.

It takes five more Oreos to work up the nerve to pull up Will’s contact. But I do, because I need him. I’m stubborn, sure, but I can admit when I need someone. Will is literally… my solace.

I haven’t sent it yet. I stand from my bed and pace around my cabin. I break into all of my snacks, Pringles, Haribo bears, and Coke. Thank the gods for satyrs who are easily persuaded by tin cans, and thank the gods for a sister who can make tin appear out of thin air to give you a year’s supply.

After thirty minutes of doing nothing good, I sit back on my bed. My phone flashes a ten percent warning, and I exhale slowly. Will is going to forgive me. He can’t throw away our friendship for a small thing like this, right? He cares about me, yeah? 

I take a deep breath in, hit send, then shut my phone off and practically throw it across the room. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. But, for now, I need sleep. Maybe Keith was right when he said I was tired.

To: loml william: hey. i hope you’re not too mad at me anymore. i’m sorry. i should’ve told you more information about keith and i, and thats prolly what ur mad about. u shouldnt be left in the dark after bein my wing man for all these years. i love u, ok? i’m sorry. and i’m especially sorry bc it was right after u came out and i kinda stole ur moment. love u. if u respond right away im sorrie but i will feverishly avoid my phone i hope u kno that. ok. you’re the best and i miss u and i love u. talk later.

Chapter Text

From: loml william: Hey, Nic. I’m sorry, too. I completely overreacted and you were excited to tell me. You didn’t deserve that, and I feel terrible about it. To be honest, I didn’t contact you after because I thought you were mad at me. Knowing you thought I was mad makes me want to fight a million suns. I love you more. Can we FaceTime today? I miss you.

To: loml william: YES OH MFY GOS i miussed talking to you so much on GOD we gon get me to see ur face again SORRY FOR THE LATE REPLY I kind of threw my phone and lost it . i am a mess. Love …. U

From: loml william: Of course you did. Tell me when you want me to call. :)

I found my phone around 3 P.M., since I chucked it into the darkness and was too scared to look at it in the morning. Reading that message gave me a breath of relief. How could Will think I was mad at him? I couldn’t ever be mad at him. He’s a big ball of absolute happiness, and I need him for that.

Keith’s voice pounds in my mind as I get dressed (yes, at 3 P.M.. What are you, a cop?) to FaceTime Will. A newfound anxiety aches in my chest as I become scared, for the first time since I met him, about what I look like. What if he hates me wearing black all the time? Keith does. Keith’s my boyfriend, too, so he has my best interest in mind like a boyfriend should. Will would be too nice to say anything to me, but maybe he does. He most likely does. 

Would he like grey, which is more like me, or a red? Keith likes red. He says it matches my face when I blush, which is often. Although that doesn’t help my self-confidence about the blushing problem, it’s cute that someone sees a color and thinks of me.

Gods, why am I overthinking so much? It’s just Will.

Red. Red tank top. I have to look decent when seeing him for the first time in two weeks. I pull it over my head, slowly, because I’m scared that my hair would get messed up. But then I think, Will has literally seen me bleach my hair and it turn orange last year. I strongly doubt he would care if my hair was frizzy.

It’s just Will.

However, I wet my hair down anyways, making sure that the pile of curls on my head are in tact. I debate using the concealer Annabeth gave me, but decide against it. That would be a bit much, right? It’s just Will plays like a mantra inside my head as I get ready. I scrub my teeth with vigor, hoping that they don’t look yellow. My teeth aren’t yellow, right? And the phone camera quality wouldn’t pick up on it, too, and…

 It’s. Just. Will. Nothing to lose my mind over.

Once I’m all prepped and ready to go, I notice that forty-five minutes had passed since Will had texted back. Huh. I pick up my phone and type a message to him.

To: loml william: hey r u ready. Sir,?

I take a deep breath in, the anxiousness in my body riding it’s wave. The comforting cold of my cabin feels harsh, like a million eyes watching me. A shiver runs up my spine. Why do I feel so nervous? It must be because this was the longest fight we’ve had. That’s got to be why. 

Will I embarrass myself when we talk? I hope it’s not forced and unnatural conversation. I couldn’t bear being awkward around Will, I haven’t since the first few days of our friendship. But, I can’t imagine feeling uncomfortable around him. He knows me too much, and if it’s weird, he’ll break the ice. That’s just how Will is.

The FaceTime ringtone snaps me back to reality, and I hastily place my phone on my desk and hit accept. I sit on my desk chair, practically bouncing in my seat as the FaceTime connects. The moments before connection are always the worst. When his face pops up, my face feels stretched from smiling so much. I probably look like I belong in a Tim Burton movie, but that means I look fucking cool. So, I’m alright with it. 

“Nico di Angelo!” His melodic voice chimes. Gods, that was poetic, wasn’t it.

“William Solace!” The main thought running in my mind was I miss him so much. I would probably rob the top one percent for him. Does he want me to go to Jeff Bezo’s house? Any thought of awkwardness phases away in my mind.

“Have I missed you,” he says, scrunching up his nose. It looks like he’s at Camp Jupiter’s dining pavilion with the legions. I know for a fact that he’s in the Twelfth Legion, because that’s where Hazel and Frank are.

“Not as much as I’ve missed you. I can only take so much Percy before having to complain to you.” I self-consciously cross my arms, digging my nails into them. The anxiety refuses to dissipate.

“Hey,” Will says, crawling into my head, “Don’t do that. I like your shirt. What made you decide to wear red?” He balances his phone on something, using both hands to eat a sandwich. I could only assume that he was finally working in the medical center, he always takes the latest breaks he can get. Just in case I don’t miss any big morning injuries is what he always told me.

“Uh… Keith got me some things with color. Liven up my wardrobe, I guess.”

“Oh?” He quirks a blond brow. “I like the red. It brings out your eyes, Nic.” Now, that was a much better comparison than my lobster face.

“Thank you!” My face feels hot, remembering how much Will likes to compliment me. I was used to it… but somehow I’m not anymore.

“You know, I have to tell you somethi-” Will gets cut off.

“Is that Nico? Oh gods, is that Nico?” A feminine voice says next to Will. He nods, giving me a shy smile. Will scoots over to make room for the most perfect person to exist, my half-sister Hazel. “Nico! Guess what!”

“I guess it’s better for her to tell you anyways,” Will says, nudging the short girl with his shoulder.

“Hey, Hazel. Love you more. What’s going on?” I tuck my legs, sitting exactly how you’re not supposed to in a desk chair. I don’t fit, and that’s the gay experience. I don’t think any of my gay friends sit in chairs normally.

“Will and I are coming to visit you, baby! With Reyna, because she’s surprising Piper!” She tucks a caramel lock behind her ear, grinning. 

“Real shit?” I lean forward, my Burton smile stretching further. The three loves of my life.

“Language!” The two say at the same time. 

“Okay, Captain America. Really? When?”

“Next week! It’s the lovebird’s anniversary, so obviously we have to go and intrude. I miss you guys! Frank would go, but he’s busy.” Hazel wraps an arm around Will, a sign indicating that the two have become friends. I’m glad. 

“I have to clean the cabin then,” I huff, looking around. I usually don’t make a lot of mess, but if it’s not spotless, Hazel will not let it go that I ‘live in a pigsty.’

“Yes, and make my bed. I know you sleep in it sometimes, so I need you to wash your stench out of my comforter that I brought specifically for myself! You dirty thief!” Will gives an affectionate chuckle at that. Best friends do that, right? Give affection to one another? No, Nico. No overthinking.

“I don’t sleep in your bed!” I protest.

“Oh, but he totally does,” Will replies, patting Hazel’s arm.

“You know what. Fine. Tarnish my reputation like that. I’ll clean for Hazel and Hazel only. Will, you excited to see the best person alive again? I would be pretty frazzled myself.” I wink at him, and I swear there’s a faint blush that begins on his nose. Cute.

“Of course. I’m gonna give you the biggest bear hug ever, then take you back to Camp Jupiter with me. You’re allowed to leave Camp Half-Blood, who’s gonna clock me? Chiron? I would love to see him try.” How are his teeth so white and perfect? Mine are definitely yellow. I should’ve used mouthwash, he’s probably grossed out at my appearance.

“I come during winter. You’ll manage, I manage not seeing Hazel. How long are you staying for?” I have the uncontrollable urge to dig my nails into my arms again, but resist.

“Two weeks, darlin’,” Will replies, placing his plate onto the table. I love his southern accent, have I mentioned that? Because I do.

“Two whole weeks? You’ve only been gone for like, what, two months?” I laugh, choosing the nervous habit to pull on my hair instead.

“Reyna and Piper are like… glue. Absolute cement. Once they’re together they’re inseparable. I swear, they’ve been in the honeymoon stage for the past six months,” Hazel says, resting a hand on her cheek. I wish I had gotten her beauty, clearly a trait from her mother and not our father Hades. She could be a model, and I tell her that all the time. In response to that, she’ll always humbly note that she’s too short to be a model, which is bullshit. Height is a social construct.

“You’re right. Whenever I talk to Piper, she’s always texting Reyna. They’re going to call me dumb together instead of through Piper. How exciting.” I pull slightly on a curl, stretching it so that it doesn’t fall back into place. So much for fixing my hair for the call.

“Nico, I swear to the gods, if you don’t stop touching your hair, I won’t come,” Will warns. Times like these I regret being so close to him, he knows all of my bad habits. I can’t be ADD around him in the slightest. Why did I befriend a doctor? Oh, right, because he cared for me when I was nearly dead. I guess it’s obligation.

“I’m sorry!” Whenever I’m around Will, my tone just becomes happier and lighter.

“I could never forgive you for touching your own hair. I’m gonna end the call,” Will teases. Hazel punches him on his shoulder. He’s wearing a SPQR shirt, the purple being a lot more flattering than the neon orange of Camp Half-Blood.

“No, please, I love you so much!” We’re both laughing, but I abruptly stop. 

And in saying those seven words, it dawned on me. Horrifyingly, it dawned on me.

Fuck. I think I’m in love with Will Solace.

I zone out for a few moments, gaping at the horrifying truth that stood before me. I hear the two talking, but it doesn’t come through to my brain. I think I’m in love with Will Solace. No, I know that I’m in love with Will Solace. I’m dating someone else, and I’m in love with Will Solace.

“Hey, guys, I have to go,” I interrupt their conversation, refusing to look at the camera. The two stare quizzically at me.

“Oh, alright? Talk to you later?” Will’s voice is hopeful. I think I’m in love with his voice.

“Yeah. Bye, Will. Love you, Hazel.” I hang up. I have to go to the Athena cabin, quick.

I burst open the sixth cabin’s door, surprisingly not sobbing. Annabeth is sitting at her desk, surfing Daedalus’ laptop. There’s only two first-timers inside with her, so I shoot them a get the fuck out glare. They do.

“I have a crisis. I really do this time, and it’s serious, I promise,” I heave out, plopping stomach-first on her grey sheets. The color-coordination of the cabins are really impeccable, but I don’t have time to think about the matching of the beds.

“Mm…” Annabeth says, immersed in her plans. “Which pretty guy looked at you today, Nico?”

“No, Gray, I’m serious. Like, I’m going to have a breakdown if I don’t get this out in the next thirty seconds, I swear to all the divinities above.” I poke at her shoulder until she huffs in the mildest of annoyances.

Annabeth pushes away from the computer, spinning around to face me. Her face is deep with bags, a sign that she stood up too late making blueprints for Olympus. She does that a lot. Somehow, her blonde ringlets are perfectly done and pulled up into a ponytail. Annabeth’s arms cross, propping her feet onto the bed next to me. No energy to be disgusted at that right now. But, in all honesty, who puts their feet next to someone’s face? Should be a felony.

“I… well it’s a funny story, where do I start? So… I’m in love with Will and I don’t know what to do about it,” I rush out, not pausing for a moment between my words. Annabeth has to take a moment to decipher what I just said, but her face pulls into a wide grin.

“Finally! Gods, I was about to give you shaking baby syndrome whenever you talked about him,” she replies, pumping her fist in the air. I’m hit with Pokémon level confusion as she says this.

“Finally?” The disbelief is evident in my voice. I just figured this out myself today, so how would Annabeth know about it?

“You guys are like whipped puppies for each other. I love you both, but I’m not joking when it was constantly Will this, Nico that. I wasn’t gonna say anything… but…” Annabeth makes a vague gesture with her hands, the smile still plastered on her face. Her energy radiates giddiness and a classic daughter of Athena all-knowing omnipotence.

“Huh?” I can feel that my face has gone bright red. “How… how many people think… think that… you know, that…”  Mortifying. Absolutely mortifying. I thought Jason was obvious about being head over heels for Percy, but I can’t even begin to imagine me. 

“Nico, honey, anyone who’s seen you two together. I think Percy thought you were dating for a good two months,” she chuckles. Annabeth gets up from her chair to sit next to me and runs a supportive hand through my hair. I put my head onto the mattress and groan as loud as I can.

“Amazing,” I say as I pick my head back up, “and now I’m the asshole because I’m dating someone and Will’s coming with Reyna and Hazel next week.”

“You’re not an asshole, you’re sixteen. Sixteen is, like, the worst age.” Infinite wisdom from Athena’s daughter today. “When I was sixteen, albeit I’m only eighteen now, I made tons of mistakes. I mean, I was trying to take down a Titan that had control of one of my closest family members. I’m okay. I sorted that out. You will be, too.” I lean into her touch.

“What if Keith will hate me? Or if he doesn’t understand… and I don’t expect him to. He’s gonna hate me.” I whisper. 

“He’s one person out of seven billion, Neeks. He’ll get over it.” Gods, I love Annabeth.

“And Will?”

“Feels the same way.” Her self-assuredness oozes out of her tone. To have her confidence.

“How can you be so sure?” I shift my position so I’m laying on her lap, staring up at her. I hear a door open, but Annabeth quickly waves them out. I believe I hear Malcolm, his nasally signature awww! ringing out as he exits.

“Nico… what you guys have, and what you guys have built over the years, is ten times stronger than what Percy and I had romantically. I think half the campers were surprised when you started dating Keith, because I always hear rumors about I saw Will and Nico kiss on the cheek! and They told each other they loved each other! You’ve practically danced in the honeymoon phase for the past two years.” Her words are earnest, as though she’s talked about the subject a lot. Annabeth takes her hand from my hair and places it on my cheek.

“So what do I do?”

“You gotta break up with Keith, Neeks.” My eyes widen. Break up with him? Obviously. But what if he gets mad? What if he hates me for it? For the small chance that Will feels the same, I get one of the more popular people in camp to despise me? And how would I go at it, how do I tell someone who clearly cares for me that I’ve decided that I don’t feel the same way?

“Oh, gods,” is what I mutter out in response to all the questions racing through my head.

“Before Will comes, too,” she says, hesitating as if she knows the amount of stress the sentence put me under. 

“That would be the right thing, wouldn’t it? Just.. break up and get it over with, sure, that’s what I’ll do.” My rambling, shockingly, does not ease my anxiety. Surprising, right? 

“So… Will came out?” Annabeth asks wanna-be casually, fake-checking her nails. Her sly suggestion takes me out of the love triangle hell I was immersed in.

“Oh, shit!” I sit up quickly, my spine rigid. “Don’t tell anyone, Annabeth. I already fucked up by existing.”

“Don’t worry, beloved, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Not even Perce, I promise.” Annabeth, as the dork she is, does a Scout’s Honor sign.

I smile, laying back down on her thighs. We’re in a comfortable silence, her peering down at me and me staring up at the ceiling of the cabin. I suppose it’s the calm before the storm, since this is the most relaxed I’ve been all day. I wish I could live in this moment forever, frozen in time before I fuck up everything once more.

“Alright,” I begin, not taking my eyes off of the roof. “I need a child of Athena worthy plan. My favorite child of Athena to ever walk this good earth, will you help me?”

“Hell yeah, Nico.”