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"Woke up and wished that I was dead, with an aching in my head, I lay motionless in bed. I thought of you and where you'd gone and let the world spin madly on"
“You’re not my type,” the words rang over and over again in Percy’s head. He stared dumbstruck at the back of Nico’s mop of black hair as he walked away, back to Will Solace. Annabeth was smiling proudly beside Percy. Reaching over to intertwine her fingers with Percy’s she said, “About time he grew a pair.”
“You knew?” Percy gasped, turning his stunned stare on his girlfriend.
“Everybody knew except you. Literally everybody.” Annabeth’s eyes crinkled in concern for just a moment. It had never really occurred to her to ask, but--
“You’re not--I mean you don’t--” she stuttered, trying to figure out how to ask Percy if he had a problem with Nico being gay.
“How could I not be his type?” Percy asked indignantly, “I’m everybody’s type!”
Annabeth chuckled; she had no reason to worry.
“C’mon,” she said, “My family should be flying in soon, let’s go meet up with your mom and pick them up. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Percy nodded, still looking preoccupied. She tugged at his arm, guiding him towards the strawberry fields and the outside world.
Nico walked towards Will, finding it hard to meet the son of Apollo’s liquid blue eyes after his confession. Nico could feel his face burning, his hands shaking, the way the skeleton butterflies in his stomach made him queasy.
He hadn’t really been thinking when he walked up to Percy. Ever since his trip with Reyna and Coach Hedge, he had found himself doing things he would never normally do. Incredibly stupid things, mind you. Like confessing to a crush he had on a guy for several years now. What had he been thinking?
Nico made it to Will, swaying slightly where he stood. Immediately Will’s eyes clouded over with concern as he reached out to steady Nico. Nico missed the crystalline blue, He wanted that back.
Smiling wanly to reassure the healer, Nico quipped, “Three days of bed rest, right? Are you gonna be my nurse?”
“An idiot like you who can’t even stand up straight needs more than just a nurse,” Will replied, his eyes returning to their clear, bright blue gleam at the sound of Nico’s bad attempt at a joke.
Will led him inside, guiding him to a bed slightly isolated from the rest of the hustle and bustle of the busy infirmary. Nico crawled on top of it, leaning against the headboard so he could pull his knees up to his chest and face Will.
“Lemme see your arm,” Will demanded, already reaching out to take it carefully in his hands.
Reyna's hastily sewn stitches were pulling uncomfortably at Nico’s skin, and the edges of the wound were a sickly green color. He had pushed the pain to the back of his head, bigger things to worry about and all that, but now that Will’s hands were carefully examining it, brushing lightly over it, the pain came back to him, hitting him full force.
Nico gasped, wincing away from Will’s touch. Will tsked, looking disapprovingly up at Nico.
“You should not have let this fester for so long,” he scolded, reaching over to a table beside the cot they were sitting on. Will grabbed a small first aid kit and began cleaning out the wound. He washed it out and bandaged it up, giving the wound a final, light pat, proud of his work.
Nico didn’t really know what to say. Or do as a matter of fact. The skeletal butterflies in his stomach were back with a vengeance, but instead of the queasiness that had washed over him as he was talking to Percy, a strange, nervous tingling had overcome him.
Will smiled at him, all dimples and tanned skin and blond hair.
“For the love of Hades, would you please stop doing that!” Nico griped, glaring at Will.
“Doing what?” Will asked, his smiling turning mischievous. “What’s bugging you, so I can do it more? I like you when you’re annoyed.”
Nico harrumphed, folding his arms over his chest, mindful of his newly bandaged wound.
“Oh, don’t be like that Death Boy,” Will said, leaning in closer, “Just think, three days with only me for company! It’ll be great! Maybe if you’re good, I can rope Jason, Lou Ellen, and Piper into playing Cards Against Humanity with us.”
The offer was enticing. Leo had mentioned the game on the Argo II, saying how if they had time, they should really play a nice, friendly round of offensive Apples to Apples before the world was taken over by potty sludge.
Leo. Dammit. Nico had felt his death, his sacrifice. More so than everybody else, but it had felt strange, different. Leo had died, that was for sure, but...but Nico, despite knowing the rules of death, did entertain a small hope. Life after death was possible; Hazel was living proof of that. Literally.
Calypso’s arms were wrapped tightly around his waist, and Festus was reborn, flying them strong and fast to anywhere they desired, so why did Leo feel so shitty? He could feel Calypso pressed warm against his back and hear her laughter riding on the wind. He should be happy. This was the girl of his dreams, finally, he was no longer the seventh wheel. He was alive, Calypso was free of her curse. Everything was great. Almost as great as his tofu tacos, right?
All he could think about was Jason and Piper; their stricken faces as they flew away from Leo, leaving him to his fate. He could see Frank and Hazel, their worried glances burrowing deep into his mind’s eye.
He thought about Camp Half-Blood. About Percy, Annabeth, Nico, Coach Hedge. Gods, what was he doing?
“Festus,” he yelled over the wind, “Fly us home boy, right now!”
“Where are we going?” Calypso yelled in his ear, confused.
“Where I should have gone first, I’m sorry.”
He could feel Calypso’s confusion. Her slight irritation. But then, he felt her understanding, in the slight squeeze of her arms around him, in the gentle, chaste kiss she placed on his cheek.
Maybe she didn’t understand fully. Leo was confused. He had acted on impulse, on the fear of never having what his friends’ already had. On never being loved. But, he had also acted on truth, on instinct. Calypso deserved to get off that island. And, maybe, once Leo had seen his friends again, he and Calypso could travel the world. Get to know each other. Fall in love. It was possible. Anything was possible. He had come back to life, hadn’t he?
Reyna dimly remembered honoring the dead after the battle. And the hours of peace talks with the Greeks the next day. Paperwork, necessities. Her duties. She had to get them over with. Do it right.
But, now she had a moment to herself. A moment to think, alone.
Annabeth had taught her how to send an Iris message the day before, and now she pulled out the drachma Annabeth had given her and tossed it through the steady stream of mist in front of her. Entreating Iris to accept her offering and show her Hylla, she waited anxiously.
For a moment, she thought no one would appear in the rainbow, but then Hylla’s face appeared, slightly distorted by the mist, but whole and healthy looking.
“Sister,” Hylla greeted with a warm smile, “I see you have succeeded.”
“Hell yeah!” Came a cheer from the background and then Thalia’s face focused into view, her right eye swollen and black.
“Heard you defeated that dick, Orion!” she exclaimed, holding her fist up for a fist bump through the mist.
Reyna humored her and returned it.
“I’m happy to see you two are okay,” Reyna said, holding back the dam of emotions that wanted to break free. “How fare the others?”
Thalia’s face turned stormy. Hylla sighed.
“We lost many good fighters. Many amazing women. But, it could have been worse. We held our own as I knew we would.”
Reyna smiled sadly at that news, but it was nothing she hadn’t expected.
“We have arranged terms of peace between the Greeks and the Romans. We intend to openly communicate between the two camps. We have even arranged a summer game of sorts. A friendly competition between Romans and Greeks. I was hoping perhaps that your hunters,” she nodded at Thalia, “and your Amazons would consider joining in on our peace agreements. Maybe even visit the camps a few times, teach these boys some lessons.”
Thalia grinned at that. “My hunters could use some target practice,” she mused.
Hylla considered it for a moment.
“I see no harm in kicking your legions’ ass.” She grinned viciously and Reyna almost laughed, glad to see some of her old sister peaking through again.
Hylla had been right, sometimes running from ghosts was the wrong decision. Nico had taught her that too. You can accept your past, but you don’t have to let it define you.
“You may visit New Rome anytime either of you wish,” Reyna said instead.
“I may take up that offer soon,” Hylla said.
She and Hylla had both found their places, and their family legacy had nothing to do with it.
Frank was starting to doubt his abilities as Praetor. This was a lot of paperwork. Like, more paper and tiny words than he had ever seen in his entire life. And Hazel had just patted his back and left him to it, going off to talk with Reyna about Nico and the Hawaiian shirt he had shown up to the battle in.
Dakota had walked in at one point to ask if Frank needed any help, only to find octopus Frank handling the stacks of paper just fine.
Dakota had left without a word, staring strangely at his cup of Kool-Aid, as if it had caused him to hallucinate the strange scene.
Jason had mixed feelings about his glasses. Mostly because the Hermes kids kept calling him a ‘megane’, whatever the hell that was. They would always run away laughing before he could grab them by the collar and demand that they explain.
Sally Jackson wanted to kill her son. Murder him, bring him back to life, hug him, and then kill him again. Instead she forbade him from going anywhere near anything that even remotely resembled a quest ever again and then proceeded to try to hug him to death.
Afterwards, over the large dinner of blue pancakes, both Sally and Percy denied that they had been crying, but Annabeth knew better.
In the whirlwind that was saving the world from destruction from the earth itself, Annabeth had never gotten a chance to sit down with Percy and talk about Tartarus. Really talk about it.
What he had done down there. What he was capable of.
When she finally brought it up, Percy had looked at her like he might shatter into a million pieces.
He reached out to take her hands in his, but hesitated at the last moment. Annabeth closed the distance herself, grasping his hands firmly in hers. She squeezed reassuringly.
“Tartarus is literally the pit of evil. The things that come out of it are malicious, vile. Anyone stuck down there is bound to do things they regret. The--the poison, you said it yourself, the karma came back and bit you in the ass,” Annabeth laughed slightly, “That experience is something that will always haunt us, but we can get through this just like we got through Tartarus.”
Percy just stared at Annabeth in disbelief for a minute; he was so goddamn lucky to have her. He had to remind himself that every day.
Bob was sitting inside Damasen’s small house in Tartarus. Picking up the cup made from drakon bone, he took a sip of the boiling tea.
“There’s no need to worry,” Damsen said to Bob as he dried and salted some drakon meat. “Percy and Annabeth are just fine. I’m sure they are very busy right now getting everything back to normal up there. No doubt they’re trying hard to free those of us not involved in that infernal war.”
“Nico?” Bob questioned, taking another sip of his tea.
“I’m sure Nico is fine as well.”
Damasen glanced up into the endless black void that hovered just out of reach for those in Tartarus.
“We’ll get out of here. One day.”
Nico had heard that first dates were magical things, that they were something you would always remember. Well, he mused to himself, I’m sure going to remember this for a very long time.
Will had just army crawled into his cabin, clad in black with a knit cap pulled down over his blond curls. He stood up and thrust a slightly worse for wear black rose towards Nico.
“What do you think you’re doing, Solace?”
Will grinned at him, his dimples as distracting as always. “We’re going on a picnic.”
Nico quirked an eyebrow at him, “It’s eleven at night, Sunshine, where are we going to go where the Harpies won’t eat us?”
Will just winked at Nico and grabbed him by the hand, pulling him outside into the night.
“I pulled a few strings,” Will said mysteriously.
Suddenly, two strong arms encircled Nico’s waist, lifting him up into the air.
“Jason,” Nico said testily, “What in Hades name do you think you’re doing?”
“Being a good wingman,” Jason replied and then laughed at his own joke. He set Nico down on top of the Big House and then turned back to go retrieve Will.
Jason returned, setting Will down on top of the house along with a picnic basket.
“Piper and Annabeth packed it,” he said and then with a big thumbs up, he left the two boys alone.
Nico’s face was burning, and he could barely meet Will’s expectant gaze.
“Is--is it too much?” Will asked, suddenly worried. His hands fluttered helplessly around Nico, afraid he had pushed the son of Hades too far.
Nico looked up at Will with a small smile on his face.
“No, it’s great, really. It’s just...people don’t really do this kind of thing for me.”
Will harrumphed. “Well obviously people do, because you’re sitting here right now, aren’t you, Death Boy?”
Will had a point. Nico sighed, but decided that since he was stuck on the roof, he might as well enjoy the picnic.
Will began pulling out sodas, sandwiches, and chips from the basket. It wasn’t McDonald’s, but Nico figured he’d had eaten enough fast food to last him a lifetime.
It was exactly 12:37 am when Will kissed Nico. He hadn’t planned that, hadn’t intended to kiss him, but one thing led to another and suddenly there he was, hands tangled in Nico’s long, dark hair and his lips pressed perfectly against Nico’s.
They were warm and soft and tasted of the strawberry jam from their sandwiches. Will wasn’t complaining. When he had first leaned in to take the plunge, he could have sworn he had heard a quiet whoop and then a hasty shushing from behind him, but all thoughts of anything but Nico flew from his mind as soon as their lips met.
It was almost two am when they finally crawled back down from the roof. Careful to steer clear of the harpies, Will kissed Nico goodbye in front of the Hades cabin and then practically skipped back to the Apollo cabin where all of his siblings were anxiously waiting to hear how the date had gone.
A lot can rush through a person’s mind as they’re hurtling several hundred miles per hour towards a flaming dragon and earth goddess.
Several of those thoughts consisted of things like, “Oh shit” and “Fucking hell” and “My teddy bears did not show me this.”
But mostly Octavian just felt regret. Regret for the things that he had done. For the things that he hadn’t done. It’s amazing how being attached to a hurtling ball of flaming imperial gold can put life into perspective.
And then he had died. It had hurt, a lot. But, he figured he deserved it. Besides, if he wasn’t sentenced to the fields of punishment, perhaps he could try for a second chance at life, try to fix some of his wrongdoings.
That is, of course, if those two infernal Pluto children didn’t intervene in his underworld trial.
Flying into Camp Half-Blood on a giant golden dragon with a beautiful girl had always been a dream of Leo’s, but the way Piper burst immediately into tears and Jason looked like he had seen a ghost more heart wrenching than his own mom made Leo’s heart shatter into a million pieces.
He was an asshole. He always knew that, to some extent. But he liked to think that he had been the loveable token asshole that every group of friends needed. Now he just felt like a dick.
Festus landed next to the pavilion and Calypso whispered in his ear that she would give him a moment. Dimly, he saw her make an angry beeline towards Percy, who looked panic-stricken.
But then Piper and Jason were in front of him and all he wanted to do was run.
“Is--is it really you?” Piper sniffled, reaching out hesitantly towards him.
“Of course,” Leo replied, taking her hand, “You didn’t think even death could stop me from annoying you guys, did you?”
Piper laughed through her tears, squeezing his hand tight, scared he would disappear any second.
Jason did not even say anything, he just gathered Leo up in a crushing hug, conveying everything he couldn’t say into that one action.
It was Piper who finally broke up the hug. Leo swore he wasn’t crying, he just had something in his eye.
“Is that Calypso?” Piper asked, motioning at the newly freed titan, who was currently standing with her hands on her hips scolding Percy. Annabeth was standing next to the pair, an amused smirk playing across her lips.
“Yeah,” Leo laughed, rubbing that back of his neck, “She’s kind of a spitfire.”
“Good,” Piper said, “You need someone who can keep you in line.”
Jason looked at Leo quizzically. “So, are you guys like, dating?”
“I don’t really know,” Leo replied, “We’re taking it slow. She wants to see the world, ‘cause she’s been trapped for so long. So, we’re going to start with that.”
Dionysus was standing next to Chiron, glaring grumply at the golden dragon parked in the middle of his pavilion. He took a sip of his Diet Coke.
“I’m serious about enforcing the no couples in cabins policy,” he grumbled, “That goes for all couples.” He looked over at Nico, who was ignoring normal etiquette and sitting next to Will Solace at the Apollo table, giving anybody who looked at them weird a death glare worthy of Hades himself.
Things had finally returned to normal. And Dionysus hated it.