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Strong (Yet Still As Thin As Ice)

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He always sat the back of the classroom.

Which was odd, because he was definitely smart enough to sit up at the front and get along with all the ‘child geniuses’. Except he didn’t consider himself to be a genius, and neither did any of the other students, anyway.

So he sat at the back of the classroom, and he liked it that way.

He didn’t know why he preferred it back there. Maybe it was because it was darker; just out of reach from the lights that hovered above the other desks. The darkness seemed to call to him.

Nico di Angelo was a very dark person. He only ever used black pens to write with, and his eyes peered out from beneath his hair, warning others around him that he was ready to strike at any moment.

And then there was Nico's long time crush; Percy Jackson.

Yes, he was gay. Got a problem?

But Percy was dating Annabeth, and everyone shipped them together and they were the 'it' couple of the school and even Nico would admit that they were cute but that was beside the point. Nico had no friends and hadn't for nearly four years.

Why? We'll get to that later, but for now, let's just leave it at that.

Nico shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie, searching for one of the pens he usually kept spare in there. Frowning, he tipped them inside out. Some scrap paper, receipts and gum wrappers - but no pen. He would have to pray that they didn't do written work.

Unfortunately for Nico, Mr Blofis handed around a worksheet on the film they had been studying.

“Today we will be doing a little bit of written work.” He said. Mr Blofis was nice enough - didn’t give them a lot of homework, hardly ever gave out any detentions, and he didn’t mind the fact that Nico rarely talked and sometimes Percy would come to class a couple minutes late and he would simply remind him to be on time next time.

Nico sighed, staring at the sheet of paper sitting in front of him. He would have to ask someone else for a pen. But of course, everyone was now in their little groups chatting away while pretending to work on the task at hand, and Nico was far too awkward to go up to one of them and ask to borrow a pen. So instead, he stood up and made his way over to Mr Blofis’s desk.

“Hey there, Nico! What can I help you with?” Mr Blofis asked, glancing up from his computer with a smile.

“I - uh, can I please borrow a pen?” Nico was painfully aware of several eyes trained on his back. He shoved his fringe into his eyes a little bit more.

“Of course!” Mr Blofis started rummaging around the huge stacks of stationery items on his desk. “Ah, I’m sorry Nico.” He said, frowning. “I don’t have a spare one on me.”

“Do you need a spare pen?” Nico turned around to glimpse the boy sitting at the desk behind where he was standing. His dark hair was swept back off his face, dazzling sea green eyes causing Nico’s breath to hitch.

“Um, yeah.” Nico buried his fists in his pockets, gripping one of the holes in his hoodie with his finger.

“Will always has a pen spare!”

A boy sitting a few seats away from Percy turned to look at the conversation at hand. “What about me?”

“Nico needs a pen,” Percy said.

“I have a few spare!” Will pulled out his pencil case. Nico couldn’t help but focus on what a bright shade of blue it was. “Here!” He thrust a blue pen towards Nico.

“Um, thanks,” Nico said, taking the pen.

“Anytime!” Will’s warm smile followed Nico back to his desk.

At the end of the lesson, Nico handed Will the pen back.

“Oh, uh, don’t worry about it.” Will scratched the back of his neck. “I have heaps. Keep it.”

“But it’s your pen,” Nico argued.

“But I’m giving it to you.” Will shot back. He pushed Nico’s outstretched hand back to his chest. Nico looked at where their skin was touching, eyes wide. Someone hadn’t willingly touched him like this in a long time.

“Now, be off with you!” Will grinned, winked and then hurried off to catch up with Percy.

Nico stood staring after the blond-haired boy.

Chapter Text

He didn’t speak to Will or Percy for a few days. When lunchtime came around on the following fateful Friday, Nico headed into the crowded cafeteria, eyes cast at his beat-up shoes. He didn’t care that those type of shoes weren’t in fashion or a popular brand - they were comfy.

Nico began making his way to the back of the cafeteria, head still bent at his shoes.

"Hey, Nico!"

Nico kept walking.

“Nico!”

He stopped.

“Nico!”

"Yes...?" He said, turning his head up to look at the table he had just passed. Percy’s grinning face invaded his eyes.

“You should come sit with us - there's plenty of room by Will."

Nico glanced at Jason, then realising his mistake, looked at Will. Sometimes their bright blond hair and blue eyes confused him. But Will’s hair is a slightly more yellowish colour. He thought. And Jason doesn’t have nearly as many freckles.

“Um, okay,” Nico said. He moved around to where Will was seated, attempting to keep his face mostly in view.

"Hi! I'm Will." Will exclaimed, holding out his hand for Nico to shake. Nico stared at the outstretched hand in confusion for a moment, then looked up at Will.

“I know who you are.”

Will’s smile flickered, but he kept it up. “It’s the polite thing to do.” His eyes edged Nico on.

Nico took Will’s hand unwillingly. "Nico." He replied, leaving his tone flat and plain.

"How are you today, Nico?" Will asked, picking up his cookie and taking a huge bite. His munches and the intent look on his face made an odd shiver run down Nico’s spine.

"I'm... okay," Nico said, cheeks flushing as he took in Will's genuine smile - after he had swallowed, of course. Wait, why am I blushing?

"Just okay?" Will chuckled. "Explain it to me. Explain it like you're describing the weather. How would you describe your mood as the weather?"

"Um..." Nico paused. Will’s smile made him oddly nervous. "Kind of cloudy with a little bit of drizzle. Some sun peeking through the clouds and a little bit of wind."

"Not very well, then?"

"No, no! Well, better than I felt earlier."

"How did you feel earlier?"

"Pretty…  grey. Lots of clouds."

"Did talking to me somehow cheer you up?" Will attempted to raise one eyebrow but ended up with one eye closed in a wink. He tried to look up at his eyebrows, but instead ended up just raising both of them.

"I guess..."

"Then I guess you’ll have to talk to me more often."

"Oh, uh, no, no, you don't have to do that! We're not even friends… Sheesh." Nico choked out.

"We are now. Pass me your phone." Nico tried to protest as Will reached in and grabbed Nico's phone from his jacket pocket. Since Nico barely used it, it didn't have a password (and was on half battery). Will unlocked it and typed something in. "There. You now have my phone number." He pulled out his own phone from his pocket just as it pinged. "And I have yours.

Chapter Text

The next day, Will sat next to Nico in all of the classes they had together, which, surprisingly, was quite a few.

"What's the weather like for you today?" Will asked.

"Cloudy. A bit of sun peeking through."

Will just grinned.

The following day, Will asked the same thing. And gradually, Nico’s weather changed. Sometimes it was just plain cloudy, others a warm ray of sunshine was peeking through. But it never was a completely sunny day. It was now their thing; every time they saw the other, they’d ask each other how their weather was.

Surprisingly, Nico still used Will’s pen. He feared that it would run out soon, but he kept on using it headstrong, doodling on the edge of his paper skulls and writing down notes all over hs books. Nico and Will became good friends. They moved off from Percy's group a bit by themselves sometimes, but a lot of the time they still hung out with the crowd, and it was nice. Nico had been hesitant at first to join them, but after getting to know the group, he became more relaxed around them.

He actually knew a couple people in the crowd. There was his half-sister Hazel Leveque (who he barely saw as she was always with her mother), Annabeth Chase (Percy's girlfriend and possibly the smartest girl in school), Percy (of course), Jason Grace and his girlfriend Piper McLean and a few others who he knew from around the school. There were also others like Leo Valdez, Frank Zhang and Calypso, but Clarisse and Chris also came now and again.

Nico began to ease up when he was around them. His walls came down and he found himself cracking a smile every so often. Was this what friendship truly was? The group treated Nico like one of their own, and eventually, a few months after his sudden friendship with Will, he hung out with them outside of school time.

It was to be at one of their monthly sleepovers. Everyone in school knew that they held great big sleepovers at Piper's house once a month to chill out for the night.

"Me?" He asked incredulously, eyes widening. "You want me to come?"

"Yeah, of course," Percy said, leaning against Annabeth, who scowled and flicked his ear. "You're our friend, right? Why wouldn't we want you to come?"

"Oh, um, I just thought that..."

"Don't think anything," Percy said. "Just accept the invite and -" he spread his arms, hitting Annabeth in the arm who pushed him forwards off her, "- join the revolution."

"Okay then..."

"Excellent!" Percy clapped his hands. "Guys, we have an extra coming tonight!" Will broke away from the others, his smile shining brighter than the sun to Nico. He stood in front of the dark haired boy for a moment before wrapping  his arms around Nico in a hug.

Nico stiffened from the sudden contact, mouth dropping open in surprise. But then the tension left his body and he leant into it, wrapping his arms around Will. Never had a hug held so much warmth and acceptance.


 

Later that evening, Will parked up in front of Nico’s house. How he had gotten his address still remained a mystery to Nico, but Will rocking up in a car alone made his head spin.

"Aren't you too young to drive?" Nico said, squinting at Will through the window as he came out, dressed head-to-toe in his usual black attire, a small bag slung over his shoulder.

"Shh." Will winked. "Now get in." Sighing - but also smiling - Nico climbed into the passenger seat.

Will turned the key and the car roared to life, making Nico jump and clutch the seat in a panic. The other boy chuckled.

“What, you scared of cars, death boy?’

“I - uh, no,” Nico said, trying to relax. "And don't call me that."

Will grinned. "Alright, death boy."

Nico chose not to reply. His heart kept beating faster and faster and his eyes darted around the car with alarm.

“You sure you're okay?” Will pulled away from Nico’s house and Nico looked back at it longingly, wishing that he hadn’t accepted Will’s invitation to pick him up.

“I’m sure,” Nico replied.

They sat in silence for a moment, before Will turned on the radio and the news reporter’s voice floated around the car.

“- crash along the north side of Flowers Road. If you’re heading that way, take an alternate route -

Nico’s breath hitched.

Will swerved and pulled the car over to a stop on the side of the road. Nico wrapped his arms around himself and stared at his feet. He could feel Will’s concerned gaze piercing the side of his head but refused to look at him.

“Nico, what is it?” Will’s voice was so soft and quiet that Nico flinched at the sound. Instead, he shook his head.

“Is it something to do with cars?”

Nico nodded.

“Have you ever been in a car crash?”

Nico shook his head.

“Then… what is it?”

Nico stayed silent.

“Please, I won’t tell anyone else. You can trust me.”

There was silence for a few seconds. Then...

“It was my mother.”

“Your mom?” Will said gently. “What happened?”

“She died. Thirteen years ago, in a car accident.” Nico swallowed. “She wasn’t Hazel’s mother so she never knew her. My father… he loved her. But when Hazel was born and my mother found out that he had cheated on her, they started falling apart. Just before her death he… he told her that he loved her, but she still left. A few days later, we got the news.” Nico kept staring at his shoes. “She was dead.”

“I - Nico, I -”

“It’s okay,” Nico said, looking up at Will through his fringe. “It’s not your fault. It just makes me think of her sometimes.”

Will patted Nico’s arm. Nico released his arms from around his body and instead placed them on his knees. His breath steadied and he stared ahead out the window.

“You okay now?” Will asked.

“I’m - yeah, I’m okay.”

Will started the car up again and continued driving.