“Do you think it’s poisoned?”
“What?” Jason asks. “It’s a candy cane.”
“I know. Do you think it’s poisoned?” Nico huffs when Jason continues to look at him instead of the candy cane. It looks like any other candy cane, except that this one was left on his doorstep.
“Or maybe someone dropped it?” Jason says after a moment.
Nico shakes his head. “It was taped to our door. With a note.” He shoves the sticky note towards Jason. Finally, Jason moves his head, eyes glancing over the piece of paper.
“Whoever wrote this has terrible handwriting. Seriously, I feel bad for all of their teachers.”
“Not the point, Jason.”
“I doubt it’s poisoned, Nico. You know how this time of year is. Maybe everyone on the hall got one. I mean, you didn’t even wake up until noon. And there’s two. One for each of us.”
“I had a fifteen-page paper due.” He’d turned it in just twelve minutes before it was due and promptly fell asleep. “So you think I’ll be okay if I eat it?”
“Would it make you feel better if I ate one first?” Jason asks.
Nico sighs. “Not really. Because if it were poisoned, I’d have to live with the fact that I was right. And you were wrong. So you died.”
“Or you could take me to the hospital like a good friend,” Jason says, rolling his eyes. “I really think it’s okay. Look, the plastic wrapping is still on. Not even a tear. You know how hard these things are to get off. Remember when Percy actually tried to eat the plastic?”
Nico snorts. He remembers that day very clearly. That’s the last time he lets Percy get that drunk unattended. Slowly, he picks up the candy cane, peeling the plastic back slowly. He’s hungry, and this candy cane would be perfect in his hot cocoa. He usually adds some cinnamon, but he also really loves mint.
“Well, if I die, everything goes to you and Hazel,” Nico says. He moves towards the stove to heat up some milk, cautiously licking the end of the candy cane. It tastes fine.
“I feel very honored. Also, Piper signed you up to bake cookies for that volunteer thing she’s doing.”
“How does that even make sense?”
Jason shrugs. “Everyone knows your cookies are amazing. It’s a fundraiser.”
Nico hums. He’s flattered that everyone loves his cookies, some of his friends even fighting over them when he brings them to celebrations. But that doesn’t mean he wants to make at least five dozen for a holiday bake sale that he’s not even a part of. Still, he probably owed Piper a few favors.
“Fine. Just tell her to give me the dates.”
Adding that to his mental list of things to do, Nico moves his milk off the stove, carefully pouring it into a mug. Stirring everything together with his candy cane, he sits at the table.
“I want you to witness this,” he says.
Jason rolls his eyes, but he nods, looking through yesterday’s mail as Nico drinks his hot cocoa. So far nothing felt off. Nico scrolls through his phone, deleting all of the holiday spam. He likes Christmas well enough, but he definitely doesn’t like all of the advertisements. They were annoying, shops way too desperate to let the word out on their sales.
“We need to go Christmas shopping soon,” Jason says.
Nico sighs. The only downside to having a somewhat large, close-knit group of friends was that he couldn’t just pick and choose who to give gifts to. It was all or none. And while Nico was a functional adult with a pretty good bank account, it wasn’t like he really had all that much money to be spending. Especially all at once.
“You’re lucky, you know. Being able to do couple gifts,” Nico says. Two years before, he and Piper had started the tradition of giving gifts as a couple. While there were only two couples in their friend group, Nico still felt a little jealous of them.
“Find a boyfriend,” Jason says, shrugging. “I mean, you haven’t talked to our cute neighbor in a while.”
“Don’t call him that. And shh. He might hear you.”
“The walls aren’t that thin, Nico.”
Nico raises his eyebrows. He begs to differ. He’s heard all sorts of things through these walls. He’s most definitely heard Will (the cute neighbor) singing a variety of songs through both of their closed doors. So he’s pretty sure it’s possible that Will might be able to listen in on their conversation right now.
“Even so, it might be a good conversation starter,” Jason adds.
Nico shakes his head. He’s talked to Will a few times, mostly just quick chats as they pass each other in the hall. Nothing of substance, really, though he’s gleaned a few facts. Will was currently working at the local animal hospital, he had a cat of his own (named Olive), and he looked adorable in scrubs. The few longer conversations they’ve had, Nico has mostly forgotten merely because he was too awkward to remember much detail.
“I need to go to work soon. Wish me luck. Hope I don’t die.”
Jason rolls his eyes. Honestly, Nico thinks he might be okay with dying at his job. Working at a small diner over the holiday season was definitely not the most enjoyable way to spend his time, but it paid until he could find a better job.
“Can I have your mattress if you die?”
“If I’m dead, I don’t care,” Nico calls down the hall.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Nico smiles. Maybe today could be a good day.