Will first mentions them when they are seven.
The two of them were lying under the shadows of an oak tree in Nico's backyard, resting after the long afternoon of playing around with a soccer ball. The dark haired boy was, naturally, tossing it up and down with a lazy smile on his face.
Will stares at the boy in fascination with an identical smile on his lips. Nico had always fascinated Will for some reason. He was not sure why, and might never find out, but he felt the need to be around his black haired friend as much as possible. Will had met Nico at the park about a year ago, when he had gotten so distracted watching the boy that he had lost his parents. The blond had panicked making Nico approach him asking if he was okay.
They have been inseparable ever since.
Nico knocks Will's forehead as if making sure it isn't hollow, "Earth to Will?"
Will blinks, "Huh? What?"
Nico grins, "You were mumbling."
Will looks up at the tree branches, "Sorry."
Nico shrugs and looks back up at the branches too. They stay like that for a few more minutes, until Nico speaks again.
"What were you thinking about?"
The question took Will off guard and he didn't know what to say. He really didn't want to mention, now or ever, that he had been thinking about how fascinated he is about Nico for the last ten minutes. So instead, he says the next thing he could think of in the spot, besides he's only seven.
"Heartbeat rings," he says, and Will thanks the universe for his luck, "Do you think they really work?"
Nico sits up and looks confused, "Heartbeat rings? Do they really exist?"
Will shrugs, "Dad told me about them once. I don't know, maybe?"
Nico also shrugs, "Maybe," he pauses for a few seconds, "What do they do?"
Will pulls himself up as well and smiles, "Dad told me they're special rings for someone you love. You can feel their heartbeat on your finger. And they can feel yours too!".
"Really?" Nico asks and his blond friend nods.
"When I get married, I want a one."
Nico nods and looks down at his feet, "I'm hungry. Can we get some cookies?"
Will beams at the mention of food and both of them scurry back inside, their conversation already forgotten.
Nico is nine when he sees them for the first time.
His mother's birthday is coming up and his father has been searching for a gift all week. Naturally, he brings Nico along for father/son bonding time. Nico is not thrilled at all, but he puts up with it. Nico also wants to get something for his mother after all.
Finally, Hades stops in front of a jewelry shop. Nico's mother doesn't really like jewelry that much yet his father walks in anyway. He follows, being careful as he maneuvers around the crystal stands with fancy jewelry that must cost a fortune. He steers clear from the expensive rocks and silver bands, because honestly he doesn't like them much either.
His father starts checking some necklace and Nico tries to pay attention as Hades talks and asks for his opinion, but his attention is set elsewhere. Specifically the twin black and rose gold bands resting on a stand by themselves. Nico is intrigued and he walks over, breaking his own little rule of staying away from the jewelry, to point them out to his father.
Hades walks over, stopping mid-sentence about how the obsidian stone in the necklace would go well with his mother's eyes, and stares at the rings as they glint in the sunlight pouring from the shop's glass window.
"Nico..." His father says breathlessly, smiling, "These are perfect. Heartbeat Rings, of course."
Nico perks up, "Heartbeat Rings? Are these Heartbeat Rings?"
Hades nods, "They are."
Nico looks back at the bands and smiles. Will had mentioned them once. His friend had told him that Heartbeat Rings let you feel your loved one's heartbeat from anywhere in the world. He tugs on his father's sleeve and pleads for his father to buy them because that's the sort of jewelry his mother would definitely use.
Hades smiles. The rings are expensive as hell but really hard to find, so he does not hesitate in asking the clerk to wrap them up. The smile on Nico's face is worth it.
Maria Di Angelo's birthday comes around and the smile on her's and Bianca's lips are also worth it. They admire the delicate designs on the bands and as soon as Maria puts it on Hades instructs her to tap it. She can feel her husband's heartbeat a few seconds later and she is so happy about the gesture that tears started falling down on her cheeks. Nico has never seen his mama cry, but he could tell that she's just elated so he hugs her. And for just a moment, they are happy.
The ring on his father's finger stops beating a week later.
Will finally points it out when they turn twelve.
He and Nico are sitting in the school courtyard on the floor next to the old broken fountain that their school has decided on not to fixing, munching on their lunch in silence like they always do. Well, Nico is silent while Will does all the talking.
The dark haired boy has not been the same ever since his mother and sister died in a car crash almost three years ago. He wears mostly black, barely eats, does not smile anymore, his olive complex has turned paler over the years. Will is worried but there is nothing he can do, but he tries his best and stays. He stays by Nico's side even when he doesn't want to see him at all, because Will is as stubborn as a mule and he won't let his friend go down that way alone.
Nico finishes his lunch and pushes the tray away before laying down, placing his head on Will's lap. The blond swallows and tries to hide his blush because holy mother of everything that is good, he likes his best friend. And he likes him a lot.
Though he misses Nico's bright smile and the way his eyes twinkled. He misses the boy that wouldn't shut up about Mythomagic and would make Will laugh so hard he almost chocked. The version of that boy who wouldn't even shut up while sleeping. He misses the old Nico that wore bright colors and was a lot more happier than the current version of him.
Will misses his Nico.
The blond forgets about his lunch and makes it his duty to run both hands through his friend's dark curls while Nico closes his eyes. Even if his friend is no longer the same, Will still loves him. Nico starts messing with the ring on his finger and Will can't help staring at the black and gold band like he always does because it is a Heartbeat Ring. Nico has been wearing it since his mother's death and Will has tried asking if it belonged to her, but the words just won't come out of his mouth.
"Was it your mother's? That Heartbeat Ring?" The words finally tumble out of his mouth before he even realizes it. Will freezes, but he doesn't have the time to regret the question because Nico has already opened his eyes and is looking up at him.
Surprisingly, Nico's rosy lips twitch upward, "I was wondering how much longer it would take for you to ask."
Will looks away. The grass has definitely become really interesting and he tries to convince himself that this is not an attempt to hide his very evident blush because oh lord Nico is smiling and he likes him too damn much. He is not sure how to react. It has been so long since he last saw a genuine smile from Nico.
"It was," Nico replies and it takes Will a moment to realize he's answering the question, "It's off, so its not beating. Besides, it's partner used to be in my father's finger, but he stored it away."
Will looks down at Nico and his smile is gone, he just seems defeated as he stares at the band.
"Hell, I don't even now if it works anymore," he says, dropping his hand on his stomach, "But I just can't get rid of it. The ring... it is too special."
Will smiles softly at him, hands still running through his dark hair, "I'm sure she would be happy to know that you've kept it all this time."
The dark haired boy nods and closes his eyes once more. The same silence comes back and Will does not try to fill it up with nonsensical small talk. He concentrates on his friend's hair and the way he relaxes under his touch. The bell rings, they don't attempt to move. The courtyard is rather empty and they both have Biology now but Will is too distracted and Nico is too comfortable to care.
Nico smiles again, Will doesn't look away this time.
He smiles back.
Nico is fifteen when he finds it.
The tv is playing the theme song to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Jason looks at it with determination. He's been trying to get through it for at least a week by now and has been failing miserably. Nico finds the whole thing amusing.
"I still don't get how you're so bad at this," Reyna says from her seat on the other couch.
"Not all us can be as good as you, Queen Reyna," Jason snaps, glaring at the screen as a Shadow Beast kills him. Again.
The three of them are at Nico's house because he refuses to be on his own for the day. His father is out on a business trip and his two friends volunteered to keep him company until Will is done with his after school activities. Nico smiles at the thought of his blond best friend. His smile, soft hair, laughter, sparkling calm blue eyes, smooth skin and the freckles that adorn it. He could count them all day.
Yeah, Nico definitely likes Will.
And man is he a goner.
"-any other controllers?" He manages to catch Jason asking, looking at him expectantly.
He blinks, "Uh.. What?"
Reyna looks amused, "Another controller, Nico. Jason thinks yours is broken."
The dark haired boy snorts now, "I think there's one in the basement, but I'm pretty sure you just suck, Jason."
"Ahh, as feisty as always."
Nico flips him off, jumps off the couch, and walks away to the basement door. It's made of wood and so old Nico is surprised termites have not eaten it away, yet. He had not been in the basement in years, probably since his mother's death. Even though there's a lot of things stored down here, like Christmas decorations and games he no longer plays, all put away by his father. He sighs and twists the door knob before he can decide against it.
It's dark, humid, dusty and full of cobwebs. Nico coughs and switches on the single lightbulb in the room. It flickers a few times before it settles into a low dim light around the room. He can barely see but he's not completely blind now while he descends the wooden stairs. As he starts searching through a few boxes, he wonders how his father can handle coming down here so often. He moves things away, some fall to the ground but none of them break.
He finally finds the controller in the second box he's searching. He shakes off the dust and tests the buttons. One is busted, but Jason is so bad that he probably won't even notice. Nico snickers and tucks the controller under his arm so he can close up the box. He's ready to leave after that, if not for the small velvet box that gets his attention.
He almost steps on it on his way out and now he's glad he looked down before walking. He picks it up, opens it, and he feels like that little kid at jewelry store, staring at the black and golden rings behind the glass barriers that kept them safe. It's not as shiny as he remembers and it probably does not work anymore but it still costs him some effort to hold back a sob.
He tries it on, but his father's Heartbeat Ring is much larger than his mother's and his hands are very much like her's so of course it would not fit him. the
"Nico! Did you find it yet?" Jason bellows from somewhere upstairs and Nico is so startled that he almost drops the ring.
Nico stares at the closed box, hesitating between leaving it behind or taking it with him. He slips it into his pocket and runs back upstairs before he can think too much about it.
"I'm coming, loser!"
Will is seventeen when he grows tired of waiting.
Nico is staring at him with wide eyes, his expression a mix of surprise and confusion. But Will does not blame him, he's feeling the same way.
The boy on the ground groans and pushes himself back up, all while glaring at Will with his now black eye.
"What's your fucking problem, dude?" The guy, he remembers his name is Greyson and he is in his French class, asks as he starts walking towards the blond.
Will wishes he could answer that questions, but Nico is still staring at him and he fears for his sanity. In his defense, he barely recalls the last few minutes. Will had been walking out of Calculus with Lou Ellen and Cecil, when he caught sight of Nico and Greyson talking nearby by the lockers. Nico was blushing and smiling while the guy flirted with him.
Will had seen red.
Lou Ellen steps in front of him before Greyson can get any nearer, "Woah there, buddy. I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding and Will did not mean to punch you."
That's not true, because Will wanted to punch him. He wanted the guy to be far away from Nico as possible. He grimaces at the realization. Will is not violent, he hates hurting people. Heck, he wants to become a doctor! But seeing Greyson flirting with Nico had just struck something very deep and very dangerous within himself because he is pretty much in love with his best friend.
He's so screwed.
"Like hell he didn't!" Greyson growls in her face and Will freezes.
All his bravado is gone now and even though he's not even slightly afraid of the guy, he fears for his friends. He's not sure what this guy is capable of, and he doesn't really want to find out.
No one messes with his friends and gets away with it.
Will softly takes Lou's arm and pulls her behind him. She looks confused as Cecil replaces Will and holds her back from stepping towards them. He faces back towards Greyson, who sneers at him, and Will knows his hands have turned into fists again and he's doing his best to hold back from hurting this guy again. He glares and steps forward, but Nico is the one who speaks up.
"Leave," he says, his voice colder than ice.
Both boys turn to him. Nico's glaring and for a short moment, Will thinks he's talking to him. Then Greyson takes a step back. He looks confused, disappointed and hurt all at the same time.
"Now. Don't make me repeat myself," Nico interrupts his tone leaving no room for any discussion.
Greyson glares at Will one last time before he storms away.
Nico turns to him now and Will tenses up as his steps towards him. He stops right in front, his hands in his pockets, the glare being directed at him now. Nico raises his hand and slaps Will.
He sees both Lou Ellen and Cecil flinch simultaneously, while taking a step back and away from their Italian friend. Will is so shocked, he can only blink and turn back to Nico.
"What the hell was that about Solace?" Nico asks and Will's throat goes dry because how is he supposed to answer that?
Nico is still glaring at him but he cannot bring himself to care about it right now. Nico's face is still flushed red (from the flirting or embarrassment? He's not sure.) and he looks angry. Will does not blame him. The fact that he is in love with this Italian emo boy that drives him completely nuts is not exactly Nico's fault. It's not his fault that Will fell so hard for him. His rosy lips that he wants to kiss so badly, his dark and captivating coffee brown eyes, his soft black hair that he loves running his hands through, his so rare but beautiful smile, his snarky and sarcastic remarks to almost anything, the happy sparkle in his eyes whenever they're together, his warm laughter, the scars. It isn't Nico's fault.
Except, that it is.
Will did not realize Nico had been talking all this time while he went off day dreaming about his best friend.
"What do you have to say about all this?" Nico asks, crossing his arms over his chest.
Will probably shouldn't have done what he did, but he is so tired of waiting. He is tired of watching guys and girls alike endlessly flirt with Nico right in front of him. He is so tired of Nico being completely oblivious of Will's feelings toward him.
So Will grabs Nico's face and pulls him up into a kiss.
It was a bad idea because Nico's lips are not moving and Will mentally sighs. He drops his hands and starts to pull away when hands grab his neck and pull him back down. Nico's lips start moving against his own and the kiss is everything Will imagined and more.
It's soft and sweet and tastes like the strawberries they shared for lunch. It's so intoxicating and addictive that Will hopes that it never ends. But it does end eventually, and he's grinning like a maniac while Nico just looks flustered.
Cecil and Lou Ellen are still standing there, both grinning.
"Would you look at that! We're late for class!" Cecil snickers, taking his girlfriend's hand, and leaves them alone in the hallway.
"So... I take it that you like me?" Will asks, pulling Nico closer after their two friends are gone.
"Shut up and kiss me, Solace."
Will is happy to oblige.
Nico is twenty-one when he gives it to him.
He's sitting on his bed with the small velvet box in his hands he had found in the basement. He has kept the ring all these years despite his father's protests and has taken care of it like he did mother's.
The Heartbeat Ring rests inside and Nico can't help staring at the rose gold and and black band that is identical to the one on his finger. He picks it up, looking it over. It's still polished and shinning from the last time he took it to get maintenance and Nico smiles. He's nervous about giving it to Will, about finally feeling his ring beating against his finger. He knows the rings works now, he's tested them so many times in the past few days, but he's still afraid that they might fail him.
There's a knock on his door before Hazel is popping her head into the room and all the chattering and music pour inside after her. She's smiling brightly as always and Nico closes the small box and looks up at her with a tiny smile. He met Hazel when he was fifteen and she thirteen. Turns out, Hades had cheated on his mother during one of his business trips, when they had recently been in a really huge fight. Hades kept apologizing everyday for the following month after she found out.
Granted, Nico had been wary of Hazel at first, but he grew to like her the more time they spent together. Hazel had just lost her mother and Nico missed his own, so they sought for comfort in each other. Hazel knows she will never replace Maria and Bianca Di Angelo and Nico knows he will never replace Marie Levesque, but they are a family and they love each other unconditionally.
"Hey.. everyone out here is wondering where you went," She says, walking inside and shutting the door after herself. The sounds from outside die almost instantly, "Will is having the time of his life out there, but he's worried. I managed to keep him there by promising to come check in on you."
Nico nods and runs his thumb over the fabric of the small box, "Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" He mumbles, frowning as he looks back down at his hands.
Nico had planned this whole evening. Will's twenty-second birthday party is still going on outside and even after almost five years of dating Nico's skeletal dragons still fly around his stomach every time he is around. He loves Will and he has wanted to propose for months now. After the party is over, Nico plans to take Will to the roof he has decorated. The whole thing looks like their favorite Italian place down the street with fairy lights and all. It's cheesy and out of a movie and Nico is pretty sure Will will love it.
That does nothing to calm his nerves, though.
But what really bothers Nico is using his parents' Heartbeat Rings. Rings that belonged on his parents' fingers and will now rest on his and on Will's. Maybe he should have used a simple golden band...
Hazel walks over and sits next to her brother, "Stop worrying, Nico. The rings are meant to be used, not to be left to rot away. You're doing the right thing, and I'm sure your mother would think so too."
Nico smiles at Hazel, "You always know what to say, don't you?"
Hazel smiles back, "Of course I do. Now, let me see the ring."
Nico passes her the ring box and Hazel doesn't hesitate in opening it. She gasps and he can already see the tears in her eyes that are yet to come spilling down. She runs a finger over the band and looks up at him with a brighter smile before she pulls him into a hug. Nico is not that keen on touching people, but Hazel is his sister and he doesn't mind it if she does. He hugs her back right away.
"It's beautiful, Nico... William will be so happy," she whispers a few minutes later and Nico has to agree with her.
"About what? Why are you crying Hazel?"
Both of them are so surprised by the new presence that they jump away from each other with a startled yelp.
Will stands by the door, looking at them with that sun shiny smile of his. His blue eyes dance with happiness as he steps into the room, not bothering to close the door after himself. Nico looks over at his boyfriend, who has a few beads of sweat on his forehead that are most likely due to the dancing going on outside in the living room of their apartment, and has the urge to jump on him and kiss him. He manages to control himself as he and Hazel straighten up.
"Are you two okay?" He asks, raising an eyebrow.
Nico manages to smile, "Oh um... yeah, we're okay," he replies, but Will is not looking at him but at something on the ground.
Nico blinks, watching as Will bents down and picks up a small dark box from the ground. It's only then that Nico realizes that it is the box that contains the Heartbeat Ring, the same box that had been in Hazel's hands just a minute ago, the box with the ring Nico is going to propose with.
Will holds it up and looks between the siblings. Hazel jumps up from the bed and brushes away invisible dust from her sundress.
"I have to go, I promised Frank I wouldn't be gone for long," she says, disappearing back into the living room before Nico can say anything else, and closes the door after herself.
"Nico?" Will asks, "What's this?"
He signals to the box and Nico starts panicking. Oh no he found out what am I going to do, everything is ruined, what about the surprise, how did he manage to get in here with us noticing. goddammit Hazel left me what am I supposed to do now? Why does this always happen is all that's going through his head as he gets up and shakily takes the box from Will.
Will is staring at him, his lips twitching and his eyes dancing in amusement because of course he's enjoying this. Nico is blushing so hard and he grips the tiny box in his hand.
Will urges him to go on with his hands, "Well?"
Nico grits his teeth, "You're like a stick up my ass."
Will doesn't hold back his smile, "I mean, I like to be."
Nico tries not to blush any further and glares instead.
"Can you stop for just a second?" Nico grumbles.
Will's grin widens but he doesn't say anything else.
Nico sighs, "Look, I had the whole thing prepared. I was-"
"-going to take you upstairs to the roof. Piper, Annabeth, Hazel, and Leo helped me with that because I wouldn't trust Jason or Percy around all those fairy lights. I barely trust Leo, but Hazel insisted that he could help set them up nicely, and he did so I'm not supposed to complain. Then you came in here and... yeah," Nico explains before clumsily opening the ring box.
The Heartbeat Ring is still resting there in the dark colored sponge and Nico's heart starts beating faster than ever.
He thanks every god that possibly exists that Will is not wearing the ring yet.
Nico clears his throat, "So um.. Since that happened, I'll have to do it now rather than later."
Will shakes his head, "Hey, I can wait , forget about it, and do this properly-"
"You're already here, so I might as well do it," Nico says, going to kneel down on the floor.
But since his life is a fucking mess and so is he, he falls.
To the floor.
In the middle of proposing.
Nico's face flashes red, this time in embarrassment, as Will laughs. He's now sitting on his butt on the floor because he's so nervous about this that he can't control his clumsiness. He glares at Will until he stops laughing, but instead of offering his hand, the blond joins Nico on the ground.
Will crosses his legs and takes the ring from the box in Nico's hand. He grabs the box and throws it away before placing the ring in Nico's open palm. Nico is staring at Will as he does this, his mouth taped shut and blinking rapidly.
Will shifts back and smiles, "Go on."
Nico straightens up and nods, "Yeah, okay. Well, I um... I-I wrote this whole speech-"
"Just ask me, Death Boy."
Nico is so nervous that he doesn't even object about the nickname, "I-okay, yeah. Will Solace, will you do me the honor of um... of being my sunshine for the rest of our lives and marry me?"
Will grin turns so wide that Nico feels the whole room being illuminated by it. Nico has said the words and he feels like he can relax now. Will's smile is what he needs as Will reaches over and gives Nico a short but sweet kiss. He holds his left hand out for Nico to slide the Heartbeat Ring on.
"I thought you would never ask."
Later that night after everyone is gone and the roof dinner has already been eaten, Nico and Will lay in their bed. The apartment is significantly more silent than it was before and they're extremely grateful for the tranquility.
It is one of those rare nights in which Will is the one with his head on Nico's chest instead of the other way around. He's staring at the ring on his finger, which is now beating softly against his finger along with Nico's heart. The dark haired boy smiles and kisses his boyfrie- no, his fiancé's head. It gets his attention, because Will shifts so he's looking at Nico now.
"It's just how I imagined that it would feel," he whispers, referring to the ring on his finger, "No, it's even better. How did you know?"
Nico smiles, "Do you remember when we were seven? You mentioned that you wanted to have one when you married the love of your life."
As Will and Nico continue with their conversation, whispering I love yous and other sweet nothings to each other, Nico can only hope that they both live long enough to feel their rings beating for a really long time.