Will knocks on Nico’s door, careful not to be too loud. Nico groans. He’s not fully awake yet. It was around ten in the morning, but he was taking full advantage of his comfortable state. He makes another noise so that Will knows he can come in. Will opens the door just enough to let himself in, closing it softly. He smiles at Nico, moving over to the side of the bed.
“May I sit?” he asks. Nico nods, patting the space beside him. He sits up, drawing the blankets around him. It was springtime, but the mornings were still a bit cool. Will takes off his shoes and jacket before sitting down. He smelled like mint, which Nico knew was his shampoo. Smiling, Nico scoots closer to Will, settling his head against Will’s shoulder. Will doesn’t move to hold Nico or anything, and Nico likes that.
“I didn’t see you at breakfast,” Will says softly, “so I came to make sure you were doing okay.” Nico hums. It’s still early, and he doesn’t feel like talking yet. He doesn’t feel too social today, but being with Will is okay. He shifts so he can look at Will’s face. Will had had a late night at the infirmary yesterday, so he looks tired. There are small little circles underneath his eyes, and he’s holding back a yawn. “I’m off today, so we can hang out, if you want,” Will adds.
Nico hums again. He didn’t have any classes today either. He grabs some paper off of the nightstand, writing this down. Will smiles at him. They sit there for a few minutes, Nico slowly waking up. Will hums softly, and Nico listens, trying to figure out which song it is. Will’s singing voice was low and smooth, and Nico likes it a lot better than other people’s singing voices.After a few more minutes, Nico starts moving out of bed. He pulls on his socks first, not wanting his feet to touch the cold floor. Will smiles at him as he goes over to pick out his clothes for the day. Will waits while he changes clothes in the bathroom, trying to fix his hair. It’s sticking up from his shower last night, so he tries to wet it a little, hoping it won’t stick up as much.
“Can we eat now?” Nico asks when he’s ready.
Will nods, smiling. “Yeah. Can I hold your hand?” Nico thinks for a moment before nodding. He reaches out, taking Will’s hand in his. Will’s hand is warm and soft, just a little rough. At first, Will’s callouses had kind of felt weird, but now Nico was used to them.
They head to the dining pavilion, and Nico’s glad to see that there aren’t that many people there. He tries to avoid eating during the usual rush. The noises of everyone talking and eating is usually too much for him, so he either eats earlier or later, or sometimes Will brings food to him. They sit down at the Hades table. Nico pours milk into his cereal, making sure not to get too much.
“Did you sleep okay?” Will asks. Nico nods. They installed a nightlight in the cabin just a few days ago to make the Hades cabin not as dark at night. They’d had to find the right nightlight, one that wouldn’t be too bright but would help chase the nightmares away.
“I think the blanket helps, too,” Nico says. For an anniversary gift, Will had given Nico a weighted blanket that he loves sleeping with. It helps Nico when he doesn’t want anyone to touch him but still needs that grounding pressure. “It’s really soft and warm.”
Will smiles, and Nico doesn’t like bright things. But Will’s smile is an exception.
“I’m glad you like it.” Will finishes off his bowl of oatmeal and fruit. “Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Is it going to rain today?” Will glances at the sky.
“It’s not supposed to. It’s just overcast today.” Nico nods. He holds out his hand, and Will takes it. They scrape some offerings into the fire for the gods before heading towards the lake. As Will says, it’s overcast. There’s some humidity in the air, but it’s not enough to make hair frizzy or clothes sticky.
“How is the infirmary?” Nico asks.
“It’s tiring, but it’s good. I’m just glad that the only thing we have to worry about right now is allergies. There aren’t usually any serious sicknesses in spring. Although, with more people outside, we have been getting more broken bones.” Nico nods. Will tells the story of some son of Ares who had come into the infirmary with a sprained ankle and had almost started a fight.
“Do you think the lake will flood?” Nico asks. It’s a little windy, and it’s making small waves in the water. It almost looks cool if Nico was sure it wouldn’t try to splash onto land. Will takes a moment to switch trains of thought.
“It shouldn’t flood. And if it does, Percy will keep it under control.” Nico nods. He squeezes Will’s hand. “You’re safe, Nico,” Will adds. He runs his thumb over the back of Nico’s hand, and Nico feels the anxious feeling in him recede.
They walk around the lake, ending up by the strawberry fields. There are some satyrs and dryads tending to the plants, doing some weeding and spreading some magic. Nico stops walking to watch them, becoming fixated on the meticulous way that one of them is picking weeds. He can almost smell the sweetness of the strawberries. Only a few more months until they’ll be ready for eating. He doesn’t notice that he’s staring until the satyr stands up, stretching his legs. Nico blinks, turning and remembering that Will’s there.
“Ready for some summer strawberries?” Will asks. Nico shrugs. They start walking again, ending up back at the dining pavilion.
“Do you want to do something else, or do you want some alone time?”
Nico shifts, twisting his ring around his hand. “Can we play Mythomagic?” Will smiles, nodding.
“Of course. I need to practice after all. I still haven’t won a game.” Nico laughs. He is teaching Will how to play Mythomagic, and Will’s slowly getting better. But Nico’s still better than him. He thinks it’s maybe because Will just doesn’t get the smaller details. Will doesn’t take as much time to think about each play. Nico doesn’t mind, though. He likes playing Mythomagic with Will, even if Will doesn’t like it as much as he does.
Will gives Nico a moment to arrange the blankets and pillows and get the cards before he sits down. They both sit cross-legged on the bed, the cards between them. Nico deals them out, explaining the rules again. Will nods as he does so, smiling when he looks at his cards. Nico smiles back. He’s got a good hand, and he’s sure he can win again.
“Don’t go easy on me, Nico,” Will says, laughing. Nico just shrugs, playing his first card. The game goes back and forth, Nico sometimes remembering a fun fact that he’s learned, Will sometimes asking questions about a certain card.
In the end, Nico wins. He’s been playing this game for the last five years, so he’s pretty good at it. Nico stacks his cards, fitting them neatly into the box. He puts the box into his nightstand, smiling.
The two of them head to lunch, grabbing their food and sitting at the Hades table. Jason and Percy come to join them, slamming their plates on the table.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” Percy asks. He holds out his hand for a high-five. Nico gives him a high-five.
“My day has been good. Will and I went for a walk.” He carefully picks out the tomato from his sandwich before taking a bite. Jason and Will get into a conversation about the new cabins being added to accommodate the large number of campers that have been flooding into camp. Nico doesn’t pay attention to the conversation, choosing instead to just watch them. Percy flips a grape into his mouth, grinning when he catches it. Nico claps.
“Hey, is the Hades cabin teaming up with the Athena cabin this time? For capture the flag?” Jason asks, turning the conversation to Nico.
“Uh, I think so. We haven’t planned anything, yet, though.” Jason nods. “Who are you teaming up with?”
“Unfortunately, the Zeus cabin will be going against the Athena cabin this go round. I lost a bet with some Ares kid.”
Nico grins. “Well, I’m not telling you any of our secrets.” He crosses his arms. Jason just raises his eyebrows. “No secrets at all, Grace.” Planning is Nico’s favorite part of capture the flag. That’s why he always pairs up with the Athena cabin. They build a battle strategy that makes sense, unlike the Demeter cabin or even sometimes the Ares cabin.
Nico yawns, leaning against Will’s shoulder. Will was warm and soft, and Nico likes the vibrations from Will’s laughter. His eyelids are drooping when he feels Will touch his shoulder.
“Hey, baby, you awake?” Nico hums. “Can you walk back to your cabin, or do you need me to carry you back?” Nico hums again. He doesn’t feel like moving right now, and he trusts Will. He wraps his arms around Will’s waist. He feels Will laugh again. “Okay, baby.”
Will shifts, picking Nico up. He holds Nico close as he carries him back to the Hades cabin. Once inside, he sets Nico down on the bed, pulling off his shoes. Nico opens his eyes to make sure Will lines his shoes up correctly. Then Will is tucking him in.
“Blanket or no?” Nico tugs on the blanket, pulling it over him. “Can I kiss you goodnight?”
“On the cheek,” Nico says. Will leans down, placing a soft kiss on Nico’s cheek. Nico smiles.
“Sweet dreams, Nico.”
It’s a Thursday, which means that Nico has training in the morning and a class to teach in the afternoon. The teaching had been added to his schedule after he’d told Chiron that he was bored and wanted to be more involved in camp activities. After all, training was fun by yourself, but sometimes it was good to train with moving targets.
Nico eats breakfast alone before going to the arena. There’s a beginning class going on in one end, so Nico takes the other end. He stretches first, going slow. He has a few hours, so he doesn’t need to rush. After warming up, he practices some new moves he’s read about recently. There haven’t been any wars lately, but one could never be too ready. Besides, Nico likes the feeling of moving around, of being active. He likes the repetitive motions of attacking and countering.
He’s vaguely aware of some of the beginner students watching him. He doesn’t mind too much. After all, he’s pretty proud of his ability to sword fight. He’s okay if people watch from afar. He starts attacking a dummy, envisioning weaknesses and targets before striking.
“Hey, Nico!” Nico turns around to see Annabeth smiling at him. “Want to spar?”
Nico nods. “Yeah, do you need time to warm up?”
“Sure, give me a few minutes.” Nico grabs some water and stretches again as he waits for Annabeth to warm up. She has her own routine that is slightly different from Nico’s, but she also has different techniques. Nico likes training with Annabeth. Since she fought with a dagger mostly, she always had to make sure she was closer to her target. Nico’s sword was longer, so he didn’t have to get as close.
Annabeth stands up, adjusting the grip on her dagger. “Ready? We can do best out of three.” Nico nods. Best out of three was fair. “Are we going to wager anything today?”
“Whoever wins gets the loser’s dessert,” Nico says. He’s thinking that just in case he loses, he can maybe have some of Will’s dessert. Annabeth grins, reciting the basic rules. Nico nods. He’s heard them before many times, but it’s nice that they’re clarifying. While actual battles don’t always have rules, sparring did to ensure fairness.
Nico completely forgets about the rest of the world as he analyzes Annabeth’s strategy and works to think up a way to throw her off. She’s cool and calculating in battle, always thinking on her feet. Nico likes that. He attacks first, going on the offensive as Annabeth blocks. She tries to throw him off balance by knocking into him, but he manages to catch himself, swinging his arm up and pushing her back.
It goes on like this for a few minutes. Nico’s sweating now. He’s starting to feel that nice burn in his legs and arms. He likes working out and training. It’s one of his favorite things to do at camp. Annabeth gets a point. The beginner class finishes up, which is good because Nico finds himself on the other side of the arena. He’s on defense now, counterattacking.
He gets a point. “Nice, di Angelo,” Annabeth says. She makes a time-out call, going to get some water. They’re tied up now. Whoever wins this round gets double dessert.
By the time that Nico gets the last point, there’s a small crowd in the stands. There are a few Aphrodite girls, some Ares campers, and Will. Nico grabs his water, running over to Will. He’s jumping up and down, waving his arms around a little. He’s slightly self-conscious as there are other people there.
“I won!” he calls. “I get extra dessert today!” Will smiles at him, giving him a high-five. Annabeth gives him another high-five.
“Nice going today, Nico.” Nico beams, still jumping up and down.
“Want to head to lunch? I hear they’re having spaghetti and meatballs today.” Nico grabs his sword as he follows Will to the dining pavilion. He grabs a plate, piling food onto it. He doesn’t get the sauce, but he lines up three meatballs in a bowl, taking them back to the Hades table. Will sits down next to him.
“Parmesan cheese?” he asks. Nico nods, shaking the cheese over his pasta. It was still hot, so the cheese started to melt. Nico smiles. Today was such a good day.
“There’s a campfire tonight,” Will says. “Were you thinking of going?”
Nico shrugs. “Depends. I have to teach a class this afternoon. I might be tired.”
Will nods. “Well, if you sleep through it, I’ll save you some s’mores stuff.” Nico smiles. S’mores were his favorite part of campfires. He knows how to make the best roasted marshmallow so that it melts the chocolate and gets all gooey.
“Do you have to work this afternoon?” Nico likes to know Will’s schedule. He really likes it when their schedules match up so that they can do things together.
Will shakes his head. “I was thinking of practicing some archery later. I haven’t in a while, so I thought it might be good to work on it.” He laughs. “I mean, I’m still not quite as good as Kayla or even Austin, but I’m hitting the targets now.”
Nico nods, cutting into his meatballs. He twirls the pasta around his fork, capping it with a piece of meatball. Will gets up to get his dessert.
“Hey, Nico, here’s to winning,” Annabeth says. She sets her cookies down beside Nico’s plate. “Next time, though.” She grins. Nico shrugs.
“We’ll see.” There’s a chorus of laughter, and Nico looks up to see Will standing in the dessert line. There are two girls beside him, twirling their hair and blinking their eyes. Nico thinks that they shouldn’t be doing that so close to the food. Also, is there something in their eyes?
“Some people just don’t know when to not,” Annabeth mutters. Nico frowns, watching as the girls touch Will’s shoulders, laughing. They say stuff about his hair, about his healing abilities, his singing. Will’s cheeks turn pink. Nico feels something uncomfortable in his stomach. Will’s cheeks turn pink when Nico says funny and cute things, not when random girls say things.
Nico’s not sure how to describe this feeling, but he feels a bit angry. And sad. And anxious. Whatever it is, he doesn’t like it. He watches as Will says something to the girls, waving to them. They laugh. Will isn’t smiling, but Nico can’t tell why. Will walks back to the Hades table, four cookies on his plate.
“I got your dessert, too,” Will says. Nico nods. He’s watching those girls whisper back and forth. For some reason, it bothers him a lot. He doesn’t like them doing that. Will doesn’t seem to notice them anymore. He wants to stop watching them, but he has to make sure that they don’t try and bother Will anymore. “Hey, Nico,” Will says gently. Nico blinks, looking at Will. “Is something wrong?”
Nico nods. Will waits for him to speak. Nico opens his mouth to say that he doesn’t like those girls around Will, but does that sound too mean? Or too clingy? Will’s his boyfriend, but he’s allowed to have other friends? But he doesn’t think all of that giggling and blinking was being friendly. Will didn’t seem to like it. Nico shakes his head, unsure of how to put into words what he’s feeling. It’s uncomfortable and heavy, and he just kind of wants to squeeze something.
Instead, he closes his eyes, twisting his ring around his finger. Will’s still waiting for him when he opens his eyes.
“Do you want to go back to your cabin?” Nico nods. “Do you want me to go back with you?” Nico nods again. He waits while Will wraps their cookies in a few napkins before getting up. They walk back to the Hades cabin in silence.
Nico sits on the bed, silently smoothing out his blankets. Will sits on a bed next to him.
“I don’t like those girls,” Nico says. “I don’t like them around you.” Will nods.
“Do you know why?” he prompts.
“Maybe you like them more than me,” he says. That’s not quite right, but he hopes that Will will understand. “Like, you don’t have to worry about them.”
Will nods slowly. “But I like you, Nico.” He smiles. “That’s why you’re my boyfriend. Because I like being with you. Not because I worry about you.” Nico’s not sure he understands. “Besides, I’m pretty gay, so that automatically means I don’t want to date girls.”
Nico looks at Will. “But they like you. And they want to go on dates with you. Actual dates that other people go on.” He and Will didn’t go to the movies or out to eat in restaurants like Percy and Annabeth did sometimes. They usually just went on walks or had picnics or trained together. Sometimes, though, they’d visit the animal shelter downtown or go to a cafe.
Will shrugs. “I like our dates. I think they’re fun. And what really matters is that we’re spending time together. I don’t really care what we’re doing as long as we’re together, Nico. I don’t like those girls who were flirting with me today. Not like that. Not like I like you.” Will smiles.
Nico nods. “I think I was jealous,” he says, the word coming to him. Feelings were difficult. Sometimes he felt angry, but angry wasn’t the right word for it. And so he didn’t want to use the wrong word, so he just didn’t use any words.
“That’s okay. Sometimes I get jealous, too.” Nico frowns. “Like, how good you are at sparring. I’m definitely not that good.” Nico similes, patting Will’s hand.
“But you’re good at so many other things.” Will nods. “I really like you, too, Will.” Will smiles. “Can I eat my cookies now?” Will unwraps them, handing them to Nico. Nico moves to the floor to avoid getting crumbs in his bed. He offers a cookie to Will. Will takes it, thanking him.
Nico smiles, leaning into Will’s side. After finishing off his first cookie, he turns to Will, kissing his cheek. “I really like you, and I’m glad we go on dates together,” he says.
“Me, too,” Will says. “May I hug you?”
Nico nods. He really just wants to show Will how much he loves him, even if he can’t quite say the words yet. So, instead, he just wraps his arms around Will’s shoulders and squeezes. Will does the same, his head resting lightly on Nico’s shoulder. Nico smiles before pulling away.
“Thank you,” he says. Will kisses his hand. Nico blushes, his other hand tapping his knee lightly.
“So, maybe a walk or a game before you have to teach a class?” Will asks. Nico grabs his cards.