“It doesn’t look so fun now that this is our life, does it?” Frank said and Nico exhaled in relief, kicking back in his chair.
“Thank the gods It’s not only me.” He gestured at the display of cards and figurines on their table, more specifically at their current draws. “Honestly, if I want to see a harpy and a dryad fight all I have to do is go into my backyard. 3D, special effects and all. At four in the morning. It’s annoying as fuck.”
Frank laughed, a honest, hearty guffaw and Nico flicked the cupid figurine directly into the lit hath, watching the cheap plastic thing melt with morbid satisfaction.
When he’d found out that Frank had played Mythomagic as a kid, Nico had been excited. They made a passing promise to each other to play someday and now, almost three years and a lot of therapy sessions later, finally managed to make time for it. Piper had called it a “playdate”. Hazel (with a smile so blinding she could have eclipsed the sun), had called it “the two most important people in my life getting to know each other better!” However, turns out the game lost its charm entirely when you had half the subjects on the cards constantly trying to kill you and gathered all kinds of beef against the other half independently from their hit points.
Oh, Nico still had a special place in his heart for it! It was, after all, a memory of a simpler period in his life. However, now he could see how annoying his obsession must have been for people that didn’t have the luxury of seeing it as a game.
“Honestly” He confessed. “If a kid ran up to me right now asking me how many defense points my dad had, or if I could kill somebody with my cool sword for him to watch, I would seek a zombie on him, to sober up the dense idiot. I can’t believe I haven’t been whacked over the head during my first stay at camp.” Nico scrunched up his nose, trying to remember. “Or maybe I had been. I have a very clear memory of Connor’s foot in my face all of a sudden.”
Frank was still snickering. He was cute, in a way, Nico thought. Definitely not how he preferred them (lean, blond and flirty) but the boy suited Hazel. He held up a figurine of Ares, waving it at Frank and making a gruff voice. “Say, sonny? Are you bashing enough skulls before breakfast? A good massacre is important for a healthy boy’s routine! Be naughty. Ho! Ho! Ho!”
“My dad is not Santa!” There were tears in the corners of Frank’s eyes and a blush on his cheeks. “I see now where Hazel gets her derpy sense of humor.”
“Derpy?” Nico raised an eyebrow.
Frank immediately got on edge. “Uh, I don’t mean it in a bad way, it’s… uh, cute… I like it, it suits her, imitating people and telling weird jokes but… um. I haven’t really realized you had that in common. I guess we have not seen each other that much and the most I remember you… um. Yeah, let’s not talk about that.”
Nico shook his head, smile dropping. It was true he and Frank saw each other mostly in passing. Nico often came by Camp Jupiter on official business or to visit Hazel, but then all focus was on her. He’d probably made quite an impression three years ago on the Argo II, tho. A shudder ran down his spine. He didn’t really want anyone to remember him like that. He still had frequent nightmares from those days; the jar, tartarus, Minos (even if he’d finally managed to get rid of that sleaze bag for good)... but a recurrent one was finding himself in his old body and mind, being consumed by darkness both physically and emotionally, eaten alive until there was nothing left. He could deal with leftover claustrophobia, hesitancy to push his powers, or even the scars on his body that he'd recently started covering with tattoos. But he could not deal with being stuck in that time. Not even in the eyes of others.
He had complained once to Will, about suddenly becoming the kind of person that cared too much about these things. The other boy had turned towards him, propping himself on his elbow to look better at Nico, the splash of freckles over his shoulders and chest dancing in the light of the magic torches that Nico had never gotten to change for proper light bulbs when redecorating his cabin.
“You were always the kind of person that cared too much” He’d said, tugging at Nico's loose ponytail. “The difference is that now you care about yourself as well.”
Will had very wise moments for someone being currently chased by lares around the entire legion to the tune of Hazel’s cackling. Nico watched him sprint by the window and considered rescuing him, but decided against it. The lares were not hostile and even if, Will was a fast runner could hold his own. He was probably just trying to humor Hazel on this impromptu “bonding with the in-laws” weekend.
He flicked another card off the table. Aphrodite. Good, there goes the psychopathic maniac, no offense to Piper.
“How are you two holding up, being praetors and all? I know it must be a lot of work.” Hazel looked so tired sometimes.
“It’s quieter now. At the beginning, on the wake of the war with the Emperors it was hard. Reyna’s advice helped, so did Jason’s - thanks for that, by the way - but we got used to it, worked out a system.” He doesn’t mention that the pressure almost destroyed their relationship. Hazel had called frequently back then, just to vent and get a word of comfort from her brother. But they’d prevailed, of course they’d prevailed.
“And how is the forest coming around?” He asked, meaning the forest of cypress and shrines to all the minor home spirits and deities that had either expired or been forgotten till now.
“Good.” Frank beamed. “The trees are growing up fast, thanks to the nature magic of our combined camps. Why? Is Jason asking about it much?”
Nico groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose “About every time we see each other. And he does so in verse . The damn jock started hanging out with William Shakespeare regularly and now believes himself Bragi.”
Frank chuckled. “Serves you right for making him a Judge of the Underworld. I still can’t believe that happened.”
Nico shrugged. “I had the authority to do it, so I did it. Minos needed to be deposed anyway, he was too gone down the crazy road. The panel had an opening and I offered Jason the job. He took it. He’s more fit for that position than most of the others anyway. After all, the ancient agreement said the judges had to be sons of Zeus that held a position of power in life. What the fuck is Shakespeare doing there? Not even my father knows at this point, I think Persephone must have been a big fan or something, like a billion years ago.”
“Well give him our best regards, as always.” Frank smiled softly. “Tell him we miss him.”
“I will, but he may try to serenade me in Elizabethan English in return.”
“Thank you for suffering on our behalf.”
“Aye, aye.” Nico agreed, raising his coffee cup in a toast. “I really have to figure out how to get rid of Shakespeare and get my best friend back.”
“Does Will know you go around badmouthing his namesake and most prominent sibling?”
Nico shrugged. “Will considers it cheating that he received the blessing of another group of gods, so he isn't much of a fan either. Besides, as long as I don’t badmouth Tolkien, who’s Will’s favorite prominent sibling, we are cool and I get my goodnight blowjobs as scheduled.”
Nico smirked as Frank’s ears turned red and he spluttered “Uh… you guys fans of Tolkien?”
“Will is the real fan, I was forced to become a fan by proxy. Apparently it’s a thing engaged people do. They adapt likes by proxy. But yeah, I love it! The movies too. Don't tell Will, but I'm taking him to New Zealand for our next anniversary.”
Frank mimicked zipping up his lips and throwing the key away, but instantly broke into a grin. He rose from his seat. “Hey, since we are no longer playing Mythomagic, wanna see my War of the Ring Collector’s edition game?” He was already shuffling the box out of the shelves.
Nico shook his head, chuckling. “Oh my gods I’m surrounded by nerds. Bring it on, Son of War!” He swiped the Mythomagic cards and figurines away with one arm and leaned forward, genuine glee sparking in his eyes.