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Gods and Their Problems

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Nico didn’t know if it was possible to die from embarrassment, but if it was he was definitely going to be having a family reunion soon. His face had already taken a trip down to Tartarus; it felt like every pore had been infused with the fire river. Judging by how hot it felt, he had no doubt his Italian skin had turned an embarrassing shade of red.

Zeus, Artemis, Poseidon, Hades he cursed. Dionysus, Ares, Hephaestus too. And worst of all Aphrodite.

Why me, he thought to himself desperately. Why does it always have to be me? Part of him couldn’t even believe she had gone through with it, but that part was mostly stuck in denial that the conversation had ever happened. That part had been hoping it had all just been a horrible, horrible nightmare.

“What’s going on?” Someone asked next to him. Nico looked over at the blond Apollo kid who’s mere presence made his heart beat faster. Because he was half sure he had swallowed his tongue, he didn’t offer Will a response.

“Someone left some flowers or something by the cabin,” Will’s brother turned around to answer him, a gleam in his eye. Inwardly, Nico groaned. Why.

“How exciting,” Will smiled. How horrible, Nico thought. He looked back at the giant bouquet of flowers waiting expectantly at the base of the door to the Apollo cabin and prayed that this was just a dream. Other kids were also observing the scene, mostly from the Apollo cabin, but not all. She’d planned it well; lunch had just ended and everyone was walking towards their afternoon activities, right past the scene of the crime. Nico wanted to sprint away, wanted to shadow bend all the way to Antarctica, but his feet felt rooted to the ground in fear. Finally, someone picked up the present and studied it, turning it round and round in their hands. They found a tag, read it and looked up.

“It’s for you Will!” They called. Nico was sure he was going to lose his lunch.

“Really?” Will said, surprise in his voice as he walked over. “Who’s it from?”

Oh gods oh gods oh gods oh gods, Nico thought.

“Uhh, it doesn’t say,” the guy answered.

What?

“Ooh Will’s got a secret admirer!” A girl taunted. Everyone laughed as Will accepted the flowers from the guy. He hefted them up and looked over at Nico with his eyebrows raised, a slight grin playing on his lips. Nico, relieved but incredulous, shrugged back.

What was happening to his life?

He lay in his bed later that night, clothes smelling of smoke from the campfire and screaming thoughts running around in circles inside his head. He wanted to sleep but his brain would. Not Shut. Up. It made him want to punch himself in the face. But he couldn’t let go of what happened today, couldn’t stop worrying that this wouldn’t be the last of her and her malicious scheming. Groaning, he turned over onto his stomach as the event forced itself into his brain, uninvited as always. Everything had been going so great. Almost perfect. Nico spent the three mandatory days of rest by Will’s side, helping out when not being manhandled back in his bed and sternly told get some sleep for Hades’ sake. Three days spent talking to Will about everything and anything, lazy conversations tripping over themselves as he handed medical supplies off and munched on bags of chips. Three days half filled with easy comfort and languid laughs and half filled with skeleton butterflies and a rapid heartbeat. Then, afterwards, he figured he might as well head over there whenever he caught a spare moment. With all of the battle injuries, the medic kids needed all of the help they could get and it wasn’t like Nico didn’t have the time. Nico had a lot of time, alright? So what if Will was there every time he showed up? He was just being nice! Shut up!

After a while though, he became a part of the infirmary as much as the white walls and colorful scrubs, usually with some kind of snack and lounging in a rolly chair. Sometimes he’d cut bandages or prep other medical supplies, sometimes he would just distract Will and make sure the boy didn’t go crazy. Then there were meals with Jason, who had appointed himself as Nico’s new best friend, and Percy, who had appointed himself second in the field. They sat together ever since Nico’s first breakfast out of the infirmary; Jason had just walked over and plopped down across from him as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Percy joined them a few seconds later, blue pancakes crowding his plate. Nico had glared at them fiercely, but they just ignored him and continued discussing their strategy for the next capture-the-flag game. Lately, he’d noticed, his glaring game had been off. Jason, Percy, Piper, Annabeth, Hazel, all of them seemed unaffected by his once top notch glowers. Ever since Will had stared right back that night before the battle when he’d found him executing the sneak attack mission, he didn’t seem to have the energy to form a really good evil eye anymore. Though as he thought about it, he might have even put his scowling days behind him while traveling with Reyna and Coach Hedge, delivering the statue of Athena half way around the globe and learning that not everything was bleak and gray. After the Romans left Camp Half Blood, Nico still remained in contact with both Hazel and Reyna. He wasn’t allowed to shadow travel for a while-Doctor’s orders-but Iris messages worked in a pinch. Reyna had jokingly informed him while they were saying their goodbyes that he wasn’t going to get rid of her easily and if he didn’t keep in touch she would come all the way back and kick his ass. Hazel, overhearing this, heartily chined in. So, not wanting to get kicked in the face, he did as told. Sometimes he even caught Frank in their weekly chats. Even Coach Hedge dropped by sometimes to check up, give him a friendly slap up the head, show off his new baby.

For the first time in a long time Nico almost felt…happy. Like he had finally found his home.

So he really shouldn’t have been surprised when Aphrodite showed up a couple months later and ruined everything. His crush on Will had not exactly been slow in development; after spending basically every day with someone a person tends to get pretty attached. But he felt awkward and bumbling, not sure how to deal with this guy who propelled past every boundary he’d put up over the years like they were made of paper. He called him Death Boy for the gods sake. Nico wasn’t sure how to hold himself against this force of nature who’s speech on how Nico had to take better care of himself rivaled that of a general reprimanding his disobeying troops. Plus those eyes could hold their own against anything. Face smooshed in the pillow, a happy smile spread across his face, though he quickly frowned once he noticed what he was doing. Look at him! Look at what this boy was doing to him! He thought he’d kept his crush well hidden, but apparently the goddess of love sees all or something and on the night Will made him eat two s’mores while avidly explaining how one made ambrosia, Aphrodite made a quick debut in one of his dreams. He was standing next to the legendary pine tree, looking down at Camp Half Blood from the top of the hill, a warm bubbly feeling enveloping him.

“Peaceful, isn’t it?” A person said. “But who has time for rest and relaxation?” He looked over at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, chocolate hair made up in an elegant do and a form fitting toga wrapped around her body. Though he felt nothing but detached admiration, like recognizing that the old woman in the neighborhood who always smelled like mothballs and warned people against alien attacks really was crazy. he raised her eyebrows as if she could read his thoughts.

“Ah yes. I know I’m not exactly ‘what you go for’” her fingers made air quotes around the words. “But what can I say? I can’t turn off my charm.”

“What?” he said intelligently. She rolled her eyes, but in a friendly, gentle way.

“Oh Nico, darling. Do I have plans for you!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing really. Only that I’ve taken a special interest in your love life. You wouldn’t believe how boring it’s getting now that Gaia is gone and Zeus sorted out that thing with Apollo. Plus, you and that boy are so interesting!” She clapped her hands together like a small child.

“Who even are you?”

“Well, Aphrodite of course. But don’t-“

“Wait what?” Nico interrupted. “Like the goddess?”

“Well…”

“What?” He couldn’t get his head around it. Nico+Aphrodite=???. “What do you want with me then?”

“I want to match you up obviously! Help you find true love! With that kid of Apollo especially.” She raised her eyebrows conspiratorially as a smile spread across her perfect features. “You guys are sooo cute.”

“What?” But his slow mind was beginning to catch on and it was filling him up with dread. He was fine the way his and Will’s relationship was going; the thought of Will knowing how Nico felt about him made him want to run away screaming. Hades, Nico had just gotten used to his feelings himself. After the whole Percy fiasco, he was terrified if he even hinted at anything, it would end up with pity feelings and the demolition of their friendship. Sure he felt all tingly when Will called him annoying nicknames. Sure whenever they accidentally touched it sent shivers up his spine. Sure, he’d fantasized about being a little more than friends with the boy, but even the thought of trying to take their relationship further filled Nico to the brim with fear of rejection and paralyzing dread. As panic suffused his senses, Aphrodite stared at him sympathetically like she had a line directly into his head. 

“Don’t worry, dear. I’ll take care of everything. You don’t have to fret about a thing. I’ve got a whole plan and-.“  

“Excuse me?” Nico said, almost surprised at how angry the words came out.

“I-what?”

“Who do you think you are? You can’t just…walk into my life like its your personal fun time and do whatever you want with it!”

“I beg your pardon?” she asked, sounding shocked.

“Gods!” Nico half screeched. “What are your guys’ problem? First Cupid now you…” he let out a frustrated puff of air, mind straying back to that horrible encounter with bow and arrow god from freaking Tartarus. “Listen, I have had it up to here with gods and I’ve had it even further with gods of stupid love making. So piss off please.” And with that, he stalked away from her. He knew he was edging dangerously close to smiting territory but really, how much could a person take?

“Well that wasn’t very nice,” Aphrodite pouted, appearing in front of him. Nico just pushed past her, but she walked alongside him.

“Really anyone else would be elated with my assistance.” Nico didn’t answer, hoping if he didn’t respond she’d leave. “I’m really good at this type of thing you know. Well of course I am, but I do know my stuff I promise you.”

“That’s nice. Please go away now.”

“But it’ll be perfect! I have so many plans! It’s going to be so great!” The goddess whined. “Listen, all I want to do is help you guys out a bit, you know, get the ball rolling. That’s really all. I’m just thinking some flowers, some alone time, maybe a few special moments,” her eyes gleamed. “I won’t control you’re feelings or his feelings or anything. I won’t go overboard or go beyond, unless requested of course, just this one thing. As soon as you guys get it on, I’ll drop this immediately. I just want to see you two together! I have such high hopes for you guys! So what do you say? Let Aunt Aphrodite set you two up?” Nico turned towards her, slightly awed at her inability to recognize when she wasn’t wanted.

“N-“ he started.

“Great! I’ll start immediately. This’ll be so fun! And, I think,” she patted his cheek. “exactly what you need, dear.”

“But!” He tried vainly, but she promptly disappeared.

“Goodbye Nico,” something whispered in his ear.

Then he woke up. 

That was a month ago. At first, he’d walked around camp with a haunted look on his face, terrified of what was going to possibly happen in the next second or minute. But as the weeks flew by, he began to become more and more hopeful the dream had just been a cruel joke his imagination had played on him. Though that was before she went and pulled this flower shit.

Oh he was definitely going to punch her in the face the next time he saw her.

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Nico’s cheek was planted firmly on the worn wood of the Hades’ breakfast table. He’d already consumed two cups of coffee, hoping they would wash away his sleepless night, but the exhaustion was still firmly rooted in his bones. Jason sat across from him because who the hell cares about rules? 

“What’s up dude?” Jason asked around his pancakes.

“Mmph,” Nico answered. Even though Jason had walked over and sat next to him that first day like it was nothing, he’d still been a little cautious around Nico, as if he wasn’t sure how he was going to react. Nico had to admit, it was weird going from having nobody to suddenly having all of these people want to be in his life. For a while, it felt like he had buried himself underneath the ground and set up a nice dark cave for him to fester in alone. But now people were searching down in the tunnels with floodlights and sirens. Traveling with Reyna and Coach Hedge had definitely opened the door to a happier future, but two weeks of realization were not enough to correct years of self-isolation. He still had days were he wasn’t sure he deserved all he had, days were he felt it would be better if he left and spent the rest of his life hiding by himself. But now he knew how much better it was to have people to rely and count on. People he could call his friends. It’d taken some time, but now it seemed Nico had a whole network of people by his side. Jason, Will, Piper, Hazel, Frank, Annabeth, Reyna, even Percy. At first, after telling Percy the secret he’d kept for so long, Nico was worried he wouldn’t react well. But in fact, Percy acted the exact opposite. Nico had cleared the bad air between them and Percy went barging right in. He hadn’t wasted any time making it clear he wanted to be friends with Nico and had so far spent a lot of their friendship in the doomed pursuit of finding Nico a boyfriend. Currently, he was lingering at the entrance to the dining pavilion, talking to Annabeth with a silly smile on his face. They were obviously stalling until they had to go sit down; neither of them would sit at each other’s tables. In fact, no one else but Jason and Percy ever sat at a different table than their assigned one. Nico wasn’t sure how Jason and Percy got away with it. Probably something about being the big three and how their dad’s would come down with a giant thunderbolt or tidal wave. Or maybe Chiron just recognized that sitting at a table all by yourself was fucking lonely. Whatever the case, Nico was glad to have the company, even if he’d never admit it out loud. 

“So what’s the plan for today?” Jason said. Nico took his head of of the table and considered him with bleary eyes. Over the battle with Gaia and the peaceful months afterwards, Jason had let his hair grow out from the military cut from before and now it stuck up in chunks; he never seemed to find the time to look in a mirror before breakfast, further proof by the awkward perch of his glasses on his nose. Impulsively, Nico reached out and righted them before replying, 

“Don’t know. Probably teach swordplay. Maybe rock climb. Build a marble statue,” Try to avoid any Aphrodite love bombs, he added silently as he stretched backwards and picked up his spoon. “What’s on your schedule?” Jason shrugged. 

“Well I haven’t finished the design for the Asclepius shrine so I guess I’ll do that.” Nico made a face. 

“Ugh,” he said after swallowing a mouthful of cereal. 

“Someone’s gotta do it,” he answered with a lopsided smile, but the grin was quickly replaced with raised eyebrows and a look of surprise as he looked at something over Nico’s shoulder. “What the Hades?” he choked. Nico, dreading what he would see, turned around in time to watch a bored, put-upon looking dryad hand off a giant cardboard shaped heart to someone standing in the entrance to the dining pavilion. Nico’s stomach dropped as he saw the array of blond hair. The Apollo’s cabin. 

“Oh, fuck,” he murmured. “You have got to be kidding me.” But the joke was on him as a befuddled Will accepted the gift. He asked the dryad a question, which she answered with a roll of her eyes and promptly disappeared. Heads were turning towards the scene, quiet oohs going round the tables. Will and his siblings walked through the mild fray towards their spot; Nico hunched his shoulder up and ducked his head down towards his cereal, praying Will wouldn’t notice him. 

Dad, I promise I won’t ever forget to give a food offering and I’ll come visit sometime and…

“Hey Will!” Jason called. Godsdammit, Grace Nico glared at him, but he either ignored it or didn’t see. The heart under one arm, Will walked over with a smile on his face.
“Hey Jason. Nico.”

“Hey,” Nico murmured, trying to unsuccessfully hide his burning face in his cheerios.

“Nice gift, Solace,” Jason said conversationally.
“Right?” Will held it up. “I think it’s chocolate. Very cool though. Just wish I knew who it was.” He wiggled his eyebrows. 

“Secret admirer, then?” Jason said with a crooked smile. 

“Nah. Probably just someone playing a prank on me.” Will grinned back. 

Well, sort of actually, Nico’s mind supplied helpfully. HIs face turned redder. Thankfully, Will sighed. “Nice talking to you, but I better get back to my table before a food fight breaks out or something. Catch you guys later though? I have an afternoon shift if ya wanna come keep me company, Death Boy. And I have chocolate…maybe,” Will poked Nico’s shoulders.
“Why?” Nico said for more than one reason, looking up at the sky for possible answers. Will just laughed and walked away. When he was out of earshot, Jason looked back at Nico, a mischievous glint in his eye. 

“You are so red,” he told him.
“I will end you Grace,” Nico warned. Just then, Percy, trotted in and sat down next to Jason. His easy smile widened as he got a look at Nico.
“Wow,” he said to him. “Who replaced your face with a tomato?”
“Shut up!” Nico growled. 

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. You could fry eggs on that thing.”

Chapter Text

Slicing and slashing the straw people, sweat drenching his back and pouring into his eyes, Nico considered what to do now. Should he give up and give in, tell Will how he feels and hope he reciprocates? The thought sent cold shivers up his sweltering, hot body and made his insides tighten in fear. But the thought of Aphrodite continuing on this mad quest made him feel the same way. Frustrated and trapped, Nico ran his sword into the hearts of three straw men in one powerful stroke. It’d been three days since the chocolates at the breakfast table, and since then Will had received another flower arrangement, this one two dozen roses laying across his bed according to the grape vine, as well as a haiku on top of a bed at the infirmary like a chocolate at a hotel.

Blue pierces through me

Blond hair stolen from the sun

Your face is awesome

Nico had read it and thought, frankly, that it was disgusting. Blond hair stolen from the sun? He could’ve done so much better than that.

Oh gods, he wondered. Did I actually just think that?

What a person had to be like for someone who had never given a single thought to poetry to suddenly be an expert. Well, I can take it, he thought grimly as he cleanly cut a brown canvas bag in two. She won’t fine me so easy to wear down.

“Why is he so hard to wear down?” Aphrodite moaned. “I thought this was going to be so easy. Why isn’t this easy? Why did you tell me this would be easy?” She turned towards the god of the Dead.

“Well, I thought it would be,” Hades said wryly. “Looks like we both underestimated the will power of my son. Though,” his expression turned thoughtful, “He did hold on to that Poseidon barnacle for a while.” Aphrodite just groaned and put her face in her hands.

“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“You’re the goddess of freaking love,” Apollo cut in irritably. “What are you doing wrong?” Aphrodite glared at him.

“Nothing! I’m doing nothing wrong! That’s the whole part of the problem we have! I half hoped just telling that Nico kid I was going to get involved would scare him enough to go after the boy, but that obviously didn’t work out very well. So then I had to at least open up…Will was it? I had to let him know someone was in to him so he’d at least be a little receptive to Nico. Even that was supposed to scare Nico enough, or have Will confront him. But no! Nothing! Absolutely nothing!” She threw her hands up in the air. “How could two people really be this stupid?”

“Hey,” Hades cut in sharply. “That’s my son you’re talking about.” Aphrodite just looked at him.

“Well your son is an idiot.”

“Stop, stop!” Apollo put his hands up in a placating gesture to quiet the brewing fight. “We all agree that the two should get together right? So let’s make it happen! C’mon people!”

“Well, I’m not sure Will’s really up to Nico’s standards,” Hades’ grumbled, but catching the sun god’s growing glower, he hastened to add, “But he’s very close.”

“Right. Soo,” Apollo said. “Any ideas, goddess?”

“Hmm, it’s a little tricky,” Aphrodite bit her thumbnail prettily. “I’m not sure what to do really since the flowers and the chocolates and poems didn’t work. I mean, it’s been almost two weeks of that nonsense and nothing has happened.”

“I liked the poems,” Apollo protested. “I put special effort into them.” Aphrodite ignored him.

“Maybe if they spent more time together,” she trailed off. The three of them sat in silence, thinking about it.

“Well, if it’s alone time you need,” Hades said finally, a gleam in his eye. “I might have an idea.”

It started with a tickle at the base of his throat, like a stray butterfly from his stomach had gotten caught there. He ignored it; he had worse problems to deal with. Like the fact it had been four days since Aphrodite had last meddled in his life and he was starting to get worried. No notes, no flowers, no poems, no chocolates. Nothing. Maybe she had given up? Maybe instead of obsessing about it, he should just count his blessings, move on with his life, focus on remodeling the cabin and overseeing death rituals. Not that there were many deaths going on, thank the gods. One person even came back from the dead; Leo Valdez had arrived last week with Calypso in tow, much to the surprise of the camps. He’d given everybody quite the scare when he walked into the light of the campfire while everyone was talking about the battle. Everyone had screamed, then cried, then laughed, then cried some more. Leo was now sporting a good looking shiner courtesy of Piper’s fist. Then, they’d called up their Roman friends to tell them the good news and there had been more crying and joyful giggles. Nico smiled to himself, lost in his thoughts as he walked across the sparse grass and dirt, hands jammed deep into his aviators jacket. Currently, everyone was probably hanging out together, trying to catch up on the lost months. Nico could join them if he wanted, would certainly be accepted with open arms. Or he could, once again, go hang out with Will at the infirmary.

Smoothly, he redirected his steps towards the sick house. 

 

At breakfast, he swallowed his mouthful of chocolate milk, wincing as the daggers hiding in the folds of his skin attacked his throat. He made a face, but forced himself not to think about it.

Two days later, the tip of his nose was strikingly red from the constant contact of tissues. His limbs felt heavy and tired, weighing down the rest of his body. Sometimes he would feel unbearably cold, other times he thought the hole in the ozone layer was pointing directly on him.

On the fourth day, he lay in his bed all morning, not able to muster up the strength to get up. He switched between shivering uncontrollably and panting in the heat. Miserably, he considered sending an iris message to someone, but that would involve moving from underneath his sheets damp with sweat.

It’s just a cold, he told himself. I’ll be fine tomorrow, no big deal. After a while, he lost track of the time; had it been minutes, hours, days? It felt like slow, confusing centuries. Then someone knocked on his door.

“Nico? Are you in there?” Someone called. It sounded kind of like Will Solace. Nico wanted to answer, but his tongue felt massive in his mouth. “Nico? Everything alright? You missed breakfast and lunch.” Finally, Nico just groaned, the first sound he had made all day.

“Is that you? Are you okay?”

“Aggg,” Nico tried again. He cleared his throat. “Yeb.”

“Alright, I’m coming in.” The door creaked open and a blond head popped into view.

“Hi,” Nico wanted to say, but instead the syllable came out disjointed in his sore throat.

“Oh my gods, Nico! What’s happened to you?” Will said, rushing over to him.

“I’b got a gold,” he managed to get out miserably. Will put a cool hand against his forehead.

“Holy shit you’re hot,” Will murmured, eyes going wide. From his pocket, he drew a small flashlight out. “Open your mouth,” he commanded. Nico obliged, too delirious to argue. Shining the light into his mouth, Will whistled lowly. “Man, you’re throat is swollen.” He turned the flashlight off, put his hands on his hips. “Yep. You’re definitely sick.” Nico coughed in response and looked up pitifully. “Let’s get you to the infirmary. Looks like we’ll be spending the next several days together,” Will continued, smiling slightly down at him. Nico’s mind moved like molasses, but the truth dawned on him slowly.

“Togeber?” He said wonderingly through his congested nose.

“Yep! You’ll get to spend even more time with my beautiful face!” Will raised his eyebrows, a his smile growing into a sunny grin.

Time…together…alone…his frazzled brain added the equation together.  

Oh no way. That little…

“I gan’t beliebe her!” Nico shouted hoarsely. Through his deranged mind, Nico thought he could almost hear someone gleefully laughing. Will looked confused.

“What?”

“She…she is such a…” he searched for the word. “Horrible berson! What a horrible berson”

“Umm okay. I’m gonna stock this up to fever induced hallucinations, but in the meantime we should get you to the infirmary. Do you think you can walk there by yourself?”

“Bis is loooow,” Nico continued. “Eben for her, Bis is low.”

“That’s nice, but getting to the infirmary?” Nico’s eyes focused on Will.

“What? No! I’b not moving!”

“What? Why not?”

“I won’t let her get away with these…shenanigans!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Will said exasperated. “But you need to go to the sick house.” Nico crossed his arms, squinted up at him in what he hoped was a menacing way.

“Ibs just a cold, I’ll be fine,” He lay back down, pulled his covers back on top of him. “Just let be sleep. You can go away now.” He waved a hand limply towards the door.

“Excuse me?” Now Will sounded angry. “I am not going anywhere Death Boy,” he continued, ripping the covers off of him. “You can sleep in the infirmary. Right after I give you some medicine for being sick. Now, c’mon, get up.”

“No!” Nico moaned, curling into a ball. Will narrowed his eyes.

“Get off of me!” Nico shouted, trying to muster up the strength to fling himself off of Will’s shoulder, where he was draped ungracefully across like a cat. But instead he bounced along with the other boys steps, head and arms dangling toward the ground.

“You asked for it!” Will called behind him. “You’re just lucky you’re such a lightweight and I didn’t need to go get Jason or Percy to come help me.” He hiked Nico further up his shoulder.

“Oh gods,” Nico moaned, closing his eyes. This was pretty much the most embarrassing thing that could have ever happened to him and his pounding head was not helping. Through his interesting position, he could just catch the stares of some campers as they stopped and looked, stifling laughter. Aphrodite was probably laughing her ass off. “Why are you doing bis to me?” He asked Will.

“Because you’re sick!” Will answered. “You need to get to the freaking infirmary!” Nico groaned.

“Fine, fine, I’ll go! Just let me walk by myself!” He yelled. “Please!” At that Will, stopped and slid Nico off of his back.

“You promise?” He said, looking hard into Nico’s eyes.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nico grumbled. Will stuck out a hand and pulled him up. He teetered oh his feet for a second, blinking away the dark spots from behind his eyes. Then he turned back the way they came, took one step towards freedom, then promptly fell right on his face.

“You bon’t know what you’re boing!” Nico warned as Will pulled the sheets from the infirmary bed around his body. “She’s evil! Evil!”

“Whatever Di Angelo,” Will said, rolling his eyes and walking to a table sagging with medical supplies.

“No, I’m serious!” Nico tried again, closing his eyes. The bed was awfully comfortable. He sighed. “She’s so horrible.”

“Oh, I’m not that bad,” Aphrodite said, peering down at the scene. Hades and Apollo exchanged pointed looks over her shoulders.

“Here, drink these,” Will said, coming back to Nico and pushing a small glass with something green and foul smelling in his hand. Nico opened his eyes and gulped it down in one drink. He made a face.

“Ugh.”

“I know. Now this one.” Will put another glass in Nico’s hand, this time full of something gold and shimmering. It tasted like the delicious, buttery croissants from the bakery in Italy that Nico, Bianca, and their mother used to visit all of the time. Peace tinged by nostalgia settled over him.

“And just to be sure,” Will continued, handing Nico two small pills and some water. With hooded eyes, tiredness nestling inside his bones, Nico did as told, then settled against the pillows.

“She’s going to ruin everything,” he said regretfully, close to sleep.

“Who?” Will asked. Like gazelles from a tiger, his sleepy feeling fled, replaced by the fear of being eaten.

“Umm,” he started, cursing his crazed brain for being so stupid. How could he have revealed so much in such a small amount of time? And what the Hades was he going to say? “Umm. Uh.” Here was his chance, his opportunity to spill everything, to tell Will what had been going on. Here was the moment…

“Yes?” Aphrodite murmured, leaning forward. “Yes? Yes?” They were all on the edges of their seat, waiting for all that they’ve worked for to come to an end. Here was their moment.

“It’s…nothing,” he said finally, the words catching in his throat. He knew his face was probably flaming red, but he acted like he didn’t notice. Instead, he yawned theatrically. “Well, I’m tired. Gonna get some sleep.”

“NOOO!” Aphrodite yelled.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Apollo said at the same time, throwing up his hands.

 

Will looked down at him, confused, but smiling.

“Alright. Don’t disappear on me,” he warned.

“Of course not,” Nico said, closing his eyes and turning on his side, wishing all of his problems would just float away with his dreams.

 

“Why? Why? Why?” Aphrodite moaned, pacing the floor, hands entwined in her hair and eyes cast upwards. “Why is he such. An. Idiot! We were so close! So close!”

“Just give him time,” Hades defended his son irritably. “He slow.”

“In the head!” Aphrodite retorted, glaring at him.

“Gotta agree with love goddess over here,” Apollo agreed, sitting languidly on a chair, idly tuning a guitar.

“Oh please. Will is no better. He’s had so many opportunities to say something and he hasn’t.”

Apollo just sighed.

“Getting these lovebirds together was harder that I thought,” he said. Aphrodite’s glare could have cut a chair in half.

“No shit.”

 

Chapter Text

Nico was sick for three days. Three fucking days of stuffy nose and roiling stomach and shivering so hard he feared he’d fall out of his bed. Three days of total bed rest and horrid medical concoctions, burning fevers and Will always by his side.

He thought he was dying.

“Oh please,” Will said. “You were hardly dying.”

“I was dying,” Nico repeated dramatically. Will just rolled his eyes, but a smile played on his lips.

“A little bit of the flu never killed anyone,” he looked down at Nico. Nico just sighed and closed his eyes, tiredness leaking into his bones.

“Whatever,” he sniffled with the last dregs of his cold, wishing he had the nerve to say what he really wanted. Ever since that missed opportunity to reveal his feelings to Will, the secret boiled beneath his skin, adding on a whole other set of problems. He ached for something he couldn’t name, longed for contact with every particle of his being, constantly torn between blurting out the truth and fear holding back the reins. The whole situation made him jumpy and irritated. Simultaneously, he wanted to run far, far away from this boy who shook him to the very core of his being, and stay as close as possible. It was like Will was a drug that had rewired his brain; Nico didn’t want to give into the addiction, but he couldn’t stop.

In the end, all he really wanted to do was slam his head against a wall until he passed out.

“Here you go,” Will said, finishing the concoction he was creating and handing it off to Nico. As their hands brushed, electric currents spasmed up Nico’s spine, ending in pleasant tingles. All of his body pined for more.

 

“This,” Aphrodite said, rubbing her temples. “Is insane.”

“Now, now,” Hades said. “We’re making progress.”

“Good. At this rate, they’ll be together when they’re eighty.”

“C’mon,” Apollo said. “We can’t give up hope quite yet. All we need is a new plan B. Or C. Or…” he squinted, trying to remember. “Whatever. What’s next on the agenda?”

“Dying,” Aphrodite said dramatically.

 

Finally, Nico was released from the infirmary.

“Come back tomorrow though,” Will said, walking him to the front door.

“Why?” Nico asked. Will smiled at him.

“To keep me company of course.” Nico rolled his eyes, the skeletal butterflies fluttering in his stomach. At this point, he might have to invest in some live ones for all the ones he was using up.

But of course he would come back tomorrow. And the next day and the next and the next though that might have happened a little due to the fact he got pneumonia two days later.

“Seriously?” Nico moaned as he panted with the heat radiating off of his body. His new sickness, a mutant virus from Hades, was having quite the party with his immune system.  “Why does this keep happening to me?”

“I don’t know man,” Will shrugged, before grinning. “I didn’t know you liked me this much,” Nico’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

“You’re obviously sick all of the time cause you get to spend so much time with me?” Will explained, smile widening.

“Oh my gods get me out of here,” Nico tipped his head back, casting his eyes heavenward.

“Whatever Death Boy. You’re health record suggests otherwise.”

“What? I cant control being sick!” Nico exclaimed.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night. Now open wide.”

 

Nico didn’t know what Aphrodite’s sick (heh) game was, but he’d had enough of it. At this point, it was getting ridiculous. He didn’t think he’d been sick this much in his lifetime and he was almost 100 years old. It was constant pattern of a slow trek back to health, only to end up right back in his infirmary bed. Yes, he had a designated infirmary bed. He figured she was just trying to make him miserable enough to give up, flush him out with stuffy noses, whooping coughs, and high fevers until he broke down out of sheer necessity to be a normal temperature. But he would not crack. He wouldn’t.

Although it would be nice to breath through his nose again.

And it would be nice not to have a freaking broken arm. “Oooh, This game is soo safe, nothing bad will ever happen.” Nico thought angrily inside his head. Yeah. My ass.

It had started out so innocently too, just another camp activity. Just a

“Change of pace from Capture the Flag,” Chiron said in front of the assembled mass of demigods. Nico stood next to the remaining crew of the Argo ship, enjoying one of the free periods between stuffy noses and fevers. “In teams of twos, you all will enter the forest where I have released four large scorpions. On each of their backs is a yellow piece paper. If you return with this piece of paper, then you and your partner are off chore duty for a week.”

“Isn’t this that same game we played with Dedalous?” Someone shouted.

“Well, yes. But I thought it would be a nice break from constant Capture the Flag,” Chiron answered, sounding uncharacteristically defensive and fidgety. Nico wondered what was going on with him. “Now everybody be quiet while I read off the teams. First, Will Solace and Nico Di Angelo.”

What? Nico’s mouth dropped and Chiron looked over at him. He had an almost…smug expression on his face, a small smile just for him. The old centaur raised his eyebrows and Oh my gods, Nico thought, dropping his head into his hands. This isn’t happening.

He really shouldn’t have been surprised when he tripped over the scorpion hidden in the leaves while arguing with Will whether swords or bows were better weapons. It was only a matter of the scorpion angrily jumping on his arm for him to spend another two days in the infirmary.

He really shouldn’t have been surprised when the Apollo and the Hades cabin were paired up for basically every group chore as Dionysus read off the list with a bored expression and a glint in his eye. Meaning that when Nico’s sail was viciously torn off in the heavy wind while sailboating in the ocean, Will was right there next to him, making sarcastic comments and telling him about his childhood as they waited for the camp to come find them.

It took two hours.

He really really shouldn’t have been surprised when the metal dog robot the Hephaestus cabin was working on in the forgery suddenly came to life and started chasing Nico comically around the camp. He could frequently be seen hastily running away from the copper contraption shouting “Bad dog!” behind his shoulder while his “friends” fell over laughing at him. Soon, he figured out that proximity to Will meant distance from the dog monster. It took a week for someone to catch and disable it. He felt like he was going to stab someone.

He will always be surprised that, when he walked back to his cabin after dinner and turned on his lights, he found Hermes casually munching on some vitamins as he sat at his table.

“Just executing my part of the plan,” Hermes said, as if this was completely normal. “Which, of course, means making a delivery. Here.” He handed Nico a piece of paper. He read it, blush creeping up his neck.

“What-“ he choked, the word strangled in his throat.

“They’re pick up lines,” Hermes said calmly.

“Pick up lines?” He stammered.

“The third one’s mine,” A voice hissed smugly from Hermes’ pocket.

“Shut up George,” another voice said, this one female.

“Just in case they come in handy anytime,” Hermes ignored the snakes, raising his eyebrows with a slight mischievous smile. “I suggest the second.”

“You are drop dead gorgeous,” Nico read.

“Get it? Cause you’re the son of Hades,” The snake hissed again. Hermes rolled his eyes.

“He get’s it George.” He looked back towards Nico. “Here,” he took out a piece of paper and scribbled his number on it. “Is my number in case you want more.” He stood up. “Hope those help. I’ll see you around Di Angelo.” And he disappeared, leaving Nico with a face that could’ve been the next sun.

This was getting way out of hand.

Chapter Text

Nico had a plan. Granted, it was a bad plan. But it was better than what he was doing now, which mainly seemed to consist of blushing furiously whenever Will was around and mentally cursing Aphrodite to die a painful death in Tartarus. But not anymore. Oh no, now he was bringing out the big guns. For he couldn’t handle it anymore, couldn’t take the constant craziness, the feeling like he wanted to climb out of his own skin to get away from these confusing feelings. For this, he needed help. 

So that morning, he hurriedly walked up to the Apollo table in the mess hall and asked in rushed Italian if he was Google because he had everything he was searching for. Leaving a very confused Will in his wake, he quickly gulped down a glass of orange juice and a piece of toast, knowing if he didn’t eat something, he’d probably get at least seven angry pep talks from his friends for missing the most important meal of the day before sprinting out of the dining hall. 

There, he thought. That ought to appease the demon god for at least a couple of hours.

Phase one complete. Now on to phase two, which would probably be a little harder. Nico didn't have the most stellar record for asking people to help. In fact, for years he had considered help a weakness. But desperate times call for desperate measures and recently, he’d learned how helpful help could be, especially if you had several key friends to ask. 

The problem here was just which one.

He first though of asking Jason or Percy, but then he quickly remembered they were Jason and Percy. Leo would only make snide comments or laugh in his face and he didn’t feel like he knew Calypso well enough to ask her life questions. Then he thought about asking Annabeth; she was smart, capable of making good decisions, and had already supplied her help in landing him “something” with raised eyebrows and quirked up lips. But then there was Reyna. She gave him advice about pretty much every other aspect of his life, it made sense if he asked her about this too. But so had Hazel….and Frank was cool. He groaned, almost frustrated with how many people he had willing to help him now. But then it struck him. Of course. How had he been so stupid? The perfect person was staring him right in the face. 

Or she should have been, but someone else stood in the doorway. 

“Uhh,” he said, shoving his hands deeper inside his aviator’s jacket. “Is Piper here?” The girl blew a pink bubble and it popped with a clack, a bored expression on her face. 

“Piper!” She called inside, falling away from the door.

“Yeah?” Piper shouted back.

“You got a visitor.” Piper’s head came into view.

“Oh hey Nico!” She smiled. “What’s up?”

“I was, um, wondering if I could talk to you…about something.” She came closer, nodding her head with a grin on her face. “Alone,” he finished lamely.

“Oh! Yeah sure,” she stepped outside, closing the door behind her. “What’s going on?” 

“I, um…I just…well…” he rubbed a hand on the back of his neck. Man this was harder than he thought it was going to be. Over the weeks he’d taken his secret, wrapped it in chains and locked it in a steel metal box. Now the only problem was finding the key. Piper kept on smiling. 

“Yes?” She prompted

“I need your help,” Nico admitted. “Badly.” 

“With what?”
“Well, you see…I have a bit of an issue where, well…” He let out a frustrated breath. “Sorry. This is just difficult.”

“Don’t worry It’s fine,” she said gently. “Is it…a boy thing?” Nico could feel a good blush coming on.

“Sort of. Actually yes. Yes it is. But it’s more complicated than that. A lot more complicated.”

“How so?”

“Well, your mother got involved for one thing?” Piper’s drew back, surprised.

“Aphrodite?” She said, sounding shocked.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s just all messed up now and oh gods I just-“ he groaned, putting his head in his hands. “She’s driving me crazy. Crazy. She showed up one day in my dreams and was all ‘Ooh I’m here to make your life so much better and all I want is you guys together so basically I’m going to screw with everything!’ So she’s been doing all these crazy schemes like make me sick and sending W-him anonymous love tokens like poems and weird chocolate stuff and she’s even sent me a list of pick-up lines Piper. Pick up lines.” The words rushed out of him, finally released after building up behind the dam in his mind. “The whole thing is insane and she says she’ll stop but only if I tell W-the guy I like him, which I can’t do. I just can’t. But I also can’t deal with her craziness anymore so I was wondering if you could help…me. Deal with her. Because she’s driving me up the wall.” Through all of this, Piper’s eyes got wider and wider until Nico was afraid they would pop out of her skull. He waited a second, complete silence stifling everything. But just as he began to regret ever opening his mouth, she began to laugh, began to laugh so hard she bent over, clutching her side. 

“Oh my gods,” she breathed, trying to catch her breath. “Holy Hades that is so hilarious. That is the funniest thing anyone has said to me in a while.” Her laughter redoubled, tears now forming in the corners of her eyes. “Pick up lines,” she repeated, now casting her head back. “For someone. She gave you,” she wheezed. “Pick-up lines. To give to a guy. Oh my gods.” Throughout her mental breakdown, Nico stood there, confused and feeling slightly defensive, until she mentioned the pick up lines. Laughter bubbled inside his stomach and slid out of his mouth. He smiled, remembering. “Yeah it was pretty funny. Hermes actually gave them to me.” Piper stared at him, mouth forming an o shape. 

“Hermes gave them to you? She roped Hermes into this scheme?” Nico giggled, thinking about it.

“Yeah I guess. Wow, I guess she actually did.” His glee grew, feeding on the exasperation that he’d stored over the time like it was starving. “You should read them. They are the greatest.” He laughed harder. 

“What did they say? What did they say?” Piper looked like Christmas had come early.


“Umm,” Nico thought. “‘I want to hide my minotaur deep inside your labyrinth was one of them I  think.” Piper looked at him in shock. 

“Are you serious?” She gasped. “That is the best thing I ever heard!”

“Not as good as ‘are you Apollo? Cause you light up my day!” Nico was laughing so hard, no sound came out of his mouth.

“Oh my gods!” Piper moaned. 

“Wait wait wait. Are you ready? Because you must be a gorgon since just looking at you makes me hard.” His side ached like an old sword wound. 

“Stop! Stop!” Piper threw up her hands. “I can’t handle it!” Just then, as the two were seconds away from falling over, Jason walked up to them, 

“Hey guys!” he said before realizing they were both dying. He looked confused. “What’s going on?”

“Wait, wait,” Piper said, putting a hand on his shoulder. She tried to compose her face, but it cracked immediately. “Jason Grace,” she said between giggles. She nudged Nico.

“Are you Zeus?” He stage whispered.

“Are you Zeus?” Piper repeated louder.

“Because you’re leaving me,” He gasped for air. “Thunderstruck.”

“Because you’re-“ Piper only made it that far before she broke down. Jason looked at them incredulously. 

“Are you two drunk?” He said.

“It’s a distinct possibility,” Nico answered. 

 

Later, after they had calmed down a little more, Piper gently asked Nico if he wanted to go for a walk, so the two sent off across the grassy slopes of the camp, still trying to recover from their insanity fit.

“Oh my gods,” Piper moaned, clutching her stomach. “I think I’ve been stabbed.” Nico groaned in agreement.

“I don’t think I’ll ever laugh that hard again.” She rolled her eyes playfully, then looked back at him. 

“But seriously. That is the craziest thing I have ever heard.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Nico sighed.

“I am so sorry my mother is insane,” she apologized.

“It’s not your fault. I was just wondering if you could possibly…help me. Figure out what to do.”

“I’d be happy too.”

“Okay good because I am totally lost.”

“Well,” She pursed her lips together, thinking. “Is there any way you could just tell Will how you feel?” Nico looked at her in surprise.

“How did you know it was Will?” He asked. 

“C’mon, Nico,” she smiled at him. “Child of Aphrodite here. You can’t really hide from me in that category. Though really, anybody with eyes could see the chemistry between you guys. It’s pretty obvious.”

“Oh my gods,” Nico moaned into his hands. “Does everyone know?” 

“No no no!” Piper put her hands up. “I didn’t mean that in a bad way! Everyone thinks you guys are adorable, I promise! Nothing bad here is going on.” Nico peeked at her through his fingertips as she continued. “Really, the only thing that’s wrong is I’m scared the sexual tension between you guys will kill us all.” 

“Do you think he knows?” Nico whispered. Piper snorted.

“Will? Please. He is so oblivious it’s almost sad.”

“Do you…” Nico hesitated. “Do you think he likes me?” Piper nodded her head so vigorously Nico was afraid it would fly off. 

“Oh gods yes. I am completely positive on that aspect.” Nico couldn’t quite keep all of the hope and excitement out of his voice.

“Really?” Piper looked at him knowingly. 

“Really.” A light feeling filled Nico’s limbs and he unintentionally smiled. Piper grinned back and punched him lightly in the arm.

“So why don’t you just ask him out?” The feeling disappeared.

“I can’t,” he fretted.

“Why not?”

“I just…I’m just so,” scared he supplied in his head. But he couldn’t say it out loud. Nico Di Angelo, completely fine with battling the mother of the earth or the whole titan army, but when presented with a crush, immediately freezes up. It was embarrassing. “It’s just,” he tried again. “What if he says no?”

“What if he says yes?” Piper smiled. Nico scowled at her half heartedly as she continued,

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing. My mother probably won’t stop until she sees you two together.” Nico moaned. “I mean, how long has this thing been going on?”

“About a month,” Nico answered miserably. Piper’s eyes turned into frisbees. 

“A month?” She shrieked. “What the-Nico Di Angelo,” she stuck her finger in his face. “You go ask that boy out right now or so help me Zeus, I will do it for you.” And then she stormed away. 

Chapter Text

Nico took a deep breath, nerves jingling in his body, every sense on high alert and jumping around under his skin like a loud parade. And it was only 6 o’clock in the morning. Not that Nico had gotten much sleep; he’d been up the majority of the night worrying and planning and worrying and planning, thoughts going round and round his head until they created a whirlpool that sucked unsuspecting victims in. It felt like there was a raging fire flaming beneath his skin with a middle school dance going on inside his stomach.

He kinda wanted to die.

 

But instead, he let out the air inside his lungs in a shuttering sigh and walked out his door. A newborn light had settled over the camp, dousing the world with a dusting of sunniness. He clenched and unclenched his fists, still talking himself into these actions even as he did them.

Do it do it do it, a voice chanted inside his head. He was definitely going to throw up.

Do it do it do it, his feet pounded the rhythm, the golden cabin getting closer and closer with every step.

Do it, do it, the chant increased in sound until it was a loud scream inside his head, drums pulsing along with the beat as he walked up to the door.

Do it, do it do it,

Shut up! He yelled back, quickly knocking on the wooden surface before he lost his nerve. Nothing. He tried again and thought he could hear groaning from within. It opened with a creak.

Nico’s heart caught in his throat…

Two blue eyes blearily stared at him surrounded by tan skin and rumpled blond hair that went curling down to their shoulder blades.

Godsdammit, Nico cursed. Why was this always happening to him?

“Uh, hi,” his voice came out tense and nervous. “Can I talk to Will please?” Will’s half sister narrowed her eyes at him and opened her mouth. Then she sighed as if it wasn’t worth the trouble.

“Will,” she called into the cabin, turning away from Nico.

“Shut up!” Someone growled back. The girl sighed again, then walked deeper into the room before stopping at a bunk bed.

“Will freaking Solace!” Nico heard her hiss as she bent down to nudge Will awake. “Wake up, ya dumbass.” Somebody groaned.

“What?” Will said. He sat up groggily. “What’s going on?”

“Someone needs to talk to you,” the girl shoved her thumb Nico’s way. Nico gave a small wave as Will peered over at him. He let out a groan, then stumbled out of bed towards the door. By this time, Nico was steadily losing his resolve as other curious faces looked his way.

“What’s up Di Angelo?” Will asked, leaning against the doorway. Nico cleared his throat.

“Um, I was just wondering if I could talk to you. For a second.”

“Shoot,” Will said. Nico shuffled his feet and tried to suppress the blush rising in his cheeks.

“In…private.”

“Oh okay,” Will blinked, stepping outside the doorway and closing the door behind him. The fire increased, licking patterns against his skin. Oh gods what was he doing? What was happening to him? He needed to get away, to go anywhere else other than here as fast as possible.

“Wanna go for a walk?” Nico suggested instead, trying his best to quell the wailing voices inside his brain.

“Sure,” Will shrugged as they strolled away from the cabin. Nico shoved his hands into his aviator’s jacket to keep himself from running away. He could do this. He would do this.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Will asked, bare feet stepping across the stones and grass of the camp. He must have been too groggy to put on shoes.

“Umm, just…you know,” Nico said skittishly. “Just…yep….so…”

“What?” Wills scrunched up his face, looking like he was about to start laughing. Spit it out man! He yelled inside his head. And so he said the first thing he could think of.

“Do you have a map?” Nico blurted, the words spilling out of his mouth.

“Um.”

“Cause I’m getting lost in your eyes.” Oh what the fuck was that? That was not how he planned to go. Granted, he actually didn’t have a plan but still. Pick up lines? Will’s face smoothed out in surprise.

“What?” He breathed.

“I was just wondering if you were lost because Elysium is a long way from here.”

Well, he’d already dug his grave, might as well lie down in it and die.

Will just sputtered for a moment, looking shocked. Nico could feel every pounding of his heart, knocking out the seconds that passed as he waited for Will’s response.

“I…I don’t understand,” he finally said. “Was that? Are you…hitting on me?” Blush overwhelmed his cheeks.

“Well you know,” Nico shrugged awkwardly. “Yeah. Yeah pretty much.”

“Is this…a joke? Are you trying to prank me?” Hurt flashed through Will’s eyes, quickly disappearing behind a wall of hardened anger.

“What?” Nico started. “No! Not at all!” He sighed. “I’m just trying to say...that I like you. A lot. Like more than a friend. So…” this was turning out to be a lot more blundering than he originally thought. Well, welcome to his life.

Will’s lips formed an “o” and his eyes widened.

“You like me?” he repeated wondering. Nico shifted his feet.

“Yeah.” Stiffening silence bloomed after the word as Will took it in. Nico was so full of fear he thought he would burst. “I’m sorry,” he said a while later, his voice slightly broken. “I shouldn’t have-“

And that’s when Will kissed him, pulling him foreword by his shirt so quickly Nico barely registered what was happening until he felt the lips on his own.

Oh.

Will tasted like cliches, bursting fireworks and sunshine, sweetness that filled him to the brim until it overflowed in happy feelings. Will’s hold tightened on his t-shirt until he was clutching it like a life line. Nico’s arms hung limply at his side, his brain still running to catch up with the events. When it finally showed up, panting with its hands on its knees, Will pulled back slightly. Big, blue eyes stared into his own, bigger and brighter than anything Nico had ever seen. A small smile relaxed on his lips.

“You idiot,” he said gently. Nico could feel a smile forming on his own.

“So you like me too then?” He asked. Will rolled his eyes.

“I can’t believe you,” he responded.

“You and me both,” a new voice cut in wryly. Both boys turned towards the sound, startled. Aphrodite stood a few feet away, arms crossed and a smug look on her face. A horde of gods stood behind her, most of them grinning widely.

“What the…” Will murmured.

“Finally!” Apollo threw up his hands. “That took freaking forever.”

“Tell me about it,” Hades cut in. Nico’s face was, once again, flaming.

“Yes! The pick-up lines worked!” Hermes fist pumped. “In your face Hera! My plan was awesome! Now, pay up suckers!” There was a chorus of grumbling as the gods searched their pockets for loose change.

“And who won the time bracket again?” Zeus asked, looking around.

“That would be me!” Ares answered happily. “Haha, give me all your money!”

“Dammit!” Hera grumbled. “I am going to kill those fates. They assured me it would happen tomorrow! I had all my bets on that day.”

“Smile!” Hephaestus said cheerfully, a large camera in his scarred hands. Will gave a tentative smile.

“What’s happening?” he whispered into Nico’s ear.

“You’re on TV,” Hephaestus explained, overhearing Will. “The happy conclusion to the first season of Matchmaking. Ratings have exploded these past few days. You guys are going viral,” he confided. Aphrodite rolled her eyes, then clapped her hands together.

“Yes, well, we’ll sort all that stuff out later. In the meantime, nice going Nico. Loved the pick-up lines, good touch. And we all wish you happy relationshiping.” She smiled at them. Nico glowered back.

“I will murder you,” he growled at her. She just raised her eyebrows conspiratorially, waved her hands, and the whole procession folded in on itself like origami until they were the size of a credit card. Then a blink and they all vanished. Silence followed them. Nico was scared to look at Will’s face.

“So,” he said and Nico could hear the grin. “Care to explain what that was all about?”

 

********

 

“Hey,” Will said sleepily. Nico turned his head towards him. Will’s lips were opened in a grin, face turned towards the sun like a flower and eyes closed against the glare. The grass beneath Nico’s back was cool and nice, if a little pokey as they lay on the ground like cats. “Guess what?”

“What?” Nico asked a smile on his own lips.

“I could make you scream loud enough to wake Gaia”. Confusion flooded him then blush rose to Nico’s cheeks. For a second his mind was too caught up in his words to realize what it was.  

“Aww really?” Nico groaned as Will began to laugh. “Pick up lines? Really?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s hilarious,” Will lilted. 

“Are you ever going to let it go?” Nico sighed. Will pretended to think.
“Mmm. No.” Nico moaned again, turning away from him. “Aww c’mon,” Will giggled. “That’s the best story! That is the best story I have ever heard and I’ve fought both the Titans and Gaia. I’m only nineteen but I bet you I will never hear a story better than the ‘how you and I got together story.’ I mean, ours had gods! Gods! And Pick-up lines! Gods with pick-up lines! You cannot beat that.”

“I’m well aware of what the story had,” Nico grumbled. “Being the person who had to suffer through it after all.” Wills giggles grew. “And it’s not funny,” Nico protested irritably. “It was embarrassing. And stupid.” Will laughed harder, sitting up. “Do you know what I had to deal with?” Nico continued sitting up as well. “I had gods messing with my life. They sent you flowers. And poetry. That’s horrible.” Will’s face was turning red as he clutched his side.“It’s not funny!” Nico said again, shoving Will’s shoulder to enunciate his point, though he too had started to smile.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Will cried. “It’s just,” he took a deep breath. “I can’t stop imagining Aphrodite working with the rest of the gods to make us a couple. It’s so...” he cracked up, no longer able to carry on speaking. “And you!” He pointed at Nico. “Oh my gods, you blushed so much. Your face was red, like, all of the time. It was so…” once again the word was cut off in peals of giggles. Nico crossed his arms and pouted slightly, feeling offended. It was minutes before Will calmed down a bit and grabbed Nico’s arm.

“Hey gorgeous.”

“What?” Nico barked, pretending to ignore him. 

“I love you.”

“Hrrrmph,” he responded. Will poked his side.

“Hey sunshine.”

“What?” Nico said, exasperated.

“I looove you.”  Nico rolled his eyes but his smile betrayed him. Will’s finger was incessant, increasing its poking magnitude.

“Hey Death Boy.”

“What do you waaaant?” Nico drew out the word, leaning away from Will’s touch playfully.  

“I loooove you,” Will repeated, a big, teasing, lovesick grin on his face. “I love, love, love you.” With each word he added a new poke, now using both hands to tear down Nico’s remaining dignity. “What do you say to that?” He said as Nico began to shriek, laughter spilling out of his mouth. “Huh, babe? Huh? What do you think of that?” Nico howled in response, trying halfheartedly to grab Will’s fingers.

“Stop!” He yelled, now shoving Will’s entire body away from him. “Stop, stop stop!”

“Never!” Will called, practically climbing on top of Nico to get to his stomach. Battling Will back, Nico started to slowly lay back down as Will steadily gained more ground. Now, Will was fully sitting on him, one hand holding Nico’s arms above his head and the other mercilessly attacking his side. Nico struggled to catch his breath before breaking loose of Will’s clutches and grabbing his wrists.
“Stop!” He moaned breathlessly. “I’m dying.”
“Liar,” Will beamed down at him. They grinned at each other for a few seconds, caught up in one another before Will said, “Hey.”
“What,” Nico said expectantly.
“I love you.” Nico sighed, put-upon.

“I guess I love you to.”

“Oh well. You guess you love me?” Will shook his head. “Man. I am honored.” He put a hand on his chest as Nico nudged him. “Seriously, this is the greatest reward that has ever been bestowed upon me.”

“Shut up,” Nico laughed jokingly.

“No really! Completely serious here! I am unworthy of your ‘maybe’ love.” Nico shoved him again.

“Dumbass,” he said blissfully. But before Will could respond, another voice broke through.
“Hey lovebirds!” Percy hollered. Will and Nico whipped their heads towards the sound. Percy, Jason, Annabeth, and Piper stood a ways away from them, though that didn’t mean Nico could sense the grins on their faces. “Get your butts over here! The Romans are about to arrive!”

“Yeah, yeah Jackson. We’re coming,” Will yelled back before looking back at Nico. “You ready?”
“If you get off me,” Nico grumbled. Will laughed quietly, then stood, pulling Nico up with him.
“Okay,” Will smiled at him, brushing off his clothes. “Okay, let’s do this.” Nico smirked at him.

“Are you nervous Solace?” He teased.
“No!” Will looked offended, but they had been dating long enough for Nico to realize when he was agitated.
“Don’t be,” he said kindly. “You’ve met the crew before.”
“Yeah, I know.” A crease formed between his eyebrows. “But it’s slightly scary when they’re all together. They’re very...protective of you.” Nico scoffed, wanting to defend the point, even though he knew it was embarrassingly true. Will continued, “Every time I see Reyna she threatens me with her dogs and I can’t tell if she’s joking or not.” Nico chortled, making a mental note to chew Reyna out for that later.

“You’ll be fine,” he assured him.

“Thanks,” he flashed his teeth. “I just want your friends to like me.”
“Will, we’ve been dating for five years. You’re already friends with, like, all of them.”
“I am well aware of that thank you.” Will rolled his eyes. Nico looked at him pointedly, crossing his arms.
“Honey, it’s going to be fine,” he repeated sternly.

“Alright. You’re right, you’re right. It’s gonna be great,” Will gave in.
“Damn right I’m right. Now c’mon,” Nico grabbed Will’s hand, linking their fingers together. “Let’s go meet the family.”