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'How classic of you.'
Nico cringed. What was this? Was Will bringing up how old he was—? And, then here he had to go again, saying his name. How he wished this guy didn’t evoke so many emotions. Just why was that though? Every time Nico tried to think about it, he’d either stop himself in not wanting to know, or the damn skeleton butterflies in his stomach would stop him.
"Er … do you want coffee instead?" once again he had to fight looking over his shoulder, which probably showed by the way his eyes were jumping around more. Could he blame it on his ADHD? "I mean, either way, lets just go." he repeated, urging, "Maybe a coffee shop in The Village …" because wow, it was either that or go to daddy’s palace, and Nico surely did not want to bring Will home just yet, 'or at all-, what are you thinking!?'.
Nico had really wished he said something smarter; a better suggestion so that they could actually be away from people.
"Nico," Will said, a laugh still apparent in his voice, "Nico. Relax, I wasn’t trying to make fun of you." He frowned as he saw Nico’s eyes flicker nervously and glanced behind them to where Percy and Annabeth were still chatting animatedly. He felt himself bristle at that, although he wasn’t sure why.
Well, he had an idea why, a sharp bitterness at Nico’s reaction to Percy creeping up his spine, but he ignored it. That was a feeling he wasn’t keen on examining, not right now, not when there were better things to focus on. He stepped closer to Nico, at the same time casually blocking Nico’s view of Annabeth and Percy.
"Tea’s great, Nico. I love tea, actually," He beamed, "Way healthier than coffee, anyway. Antioxidants, vitamins, boosts your endurance, high ORAC, improves your skin…" He counted off on his fingers, forgetting for a moment about Nico while he got lost in listing medicinal benefits of tea. "Well," He focused on Nico again and winked, "Your skin looks fine, a little pale though. But we’ll talk about you low vitamin D levels later. Anyway, tea sounds great. Anywhere you like."
It was difficult not to turn his head back to Will at just hearing his name from his lips. Still, Nico was stubborn and his eyebrow just gave another cringe. How condescending those words were too! Did Will honestly think that he was fawning after him or something!? 'Oh shit, am I that obvious,' Nico worried at that thought.
He was just about to spiral into more paranoia when that punch had brought him out of his brain. Or no, it wasn’t the jab, but the stalling short stroke that had brought the boy’s amber hues back to Will. His eyes were slightly wide at first, but then completely broad as those words of 'love to go out with you' made him crimson over the cheeks. Nico knew he was smart enough to know otherwise as to what Will meant, but the correction still made him exhale a small sigh, “Right. Of course.” he cleared his throat and said the first, stupid, thing that came to his mind, “Tea then?”
Will hummed in satisfaction as Nico turned back to look at him, his grin widening at the baffled expression in Nico’s eyes. This kid really was adorable, his eyes wide, a blush staining his cheeks, staring at Will in a way that made Will’s heart flutter.
Oh wow. He shook his head, brushing blonde hair out of his eyes as he raised an eyebrow. “Tea? How classic of you, Nico.” He let out a soft chuckle and ignored the urge to take Nico under his arm, deducing that displays of physical affection were probably not the best way to endear himself the loner son of Hades. ”Well, tea is nice.”
Why did that question feel more like a statement? Nico wondered if it was in his mind or in Will’s voice that made him reinforce the idea that he had to stay at the camp to help rebuild it. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to aide the others, but the issue came in when emotions got in the way of functioning. ” … Right.” Nico mumbled the word as he peered over to that hand ghosting over the shoulder that was just bumped upon. Once again the thought invaded his head about taking hold of it, and once again Nico had to fight it off.
"It’s just that …" his eyes quickly shot up to Will’s face and then down to his skull ring as he had been twisting it around his finger. "I mean can we go somewhere for the moment … for a little bit, like …” like out on a date?
It was still hard just be just standing there, just knowing that Percy and Annabeth were probably still back there—talking about him, making fun of him, Nico thought. He even had to start to stomp small misty shadows away from his feet as if he were trying to clear dust away, “I just need a change of scenery for a bit, after everything that went on here, and I’m asking you if you want to come with me.” again he tried to look at him, but sometimes looking at Will was literally like looking at the sun—you just couldn’t stare into it for too long lest you want to be victim to it.
"Of course, you … you don’t have to, but then you don’t get to complain about the next time I choose not to spend time with you.” Nico turned his head away and crossed his arms over his chest in a manner that attempted to hide his embarrassment of what he had just said.
Will felt something like relief and something more like a spark of pride at Nico’s words.
"Nico," He said, his face returning to the polished look of pleasantness he had worn before, "Are you saying that there’d be a time you didn’t want to spend time with me?" He punched Nico’s shoulder playfully as he teased, taking an extra moment to let his fingers linger and trace Nico’s cold skin. Casual, light, subtle, an action that could have meant nothing, but that Will hoped conveyed his intent to comfort, to heal.
"I doubt it, I’m a delight to be around." His smile transformed into a cocky grin and he bent down trying to get Nico to look at him again. "And a change of scenery, well, we can do that. I’d love to go out with you." He hesitated, realizing what he had just said, "I mean. Go with you, somewhere." He grinned again, in a way he hoped was consoling, "But if you try to run away, I’ll bring you back."
The hardest thing right now was not turning around and glaring. Nico didn’t know what aspect about this made him feel as if his stomach was leaking acid from the inside out. How could Annabeth just grin like that and high-five him as if it had been some sort of game!? And of course he had to oblige for the image of this person standing in front of him, for the image of himself, and everyone else around him.
The corner of his eyebrow gave a small twitch as Nico quickly glanced from Will’s hand to his face, wondering if it was meant to be taken or if he was supposed to sway into him or something. And of course, the problem was that he actually wanted to, but didn’t at the same time. Nico hated how damn physically attracted Will Solace was; and he hated how he could easily make him become flushed and threaten to put him on cloud number 9.
"Fine. Everything’s fine—er I mean …" Nico rubbed at the side of his face nervously, "Can we just get out of here. I don’t … I don’t feel like being outside right now. Or at camp." this wasn’t running away if he brought someone [living] with him was, it? No, just a break.
Will stuck his hand in his pocket, not missing a beat, and instead opted for casually bumping Nico’s shoulder. At Nico’s proclamation, Will’s sunny smile faltered and he made an annoyed sound in the back of his throat.
"I thought we already had this conversation, Nico. About leaving camp." He let his hand hover over Nico’s shoulder, "And how you’re not going anywhere."
Nico was cute, Will had always thought so. He remembered Nico as a kid, tripping on Percy’s heel and bouncing excitedly at the prospect of gods and monsters and adventures. He remembered the angry, dark kid who had split the earth, and he remembered Manhattan, when Nico had showed up a giant hell hound and directed an army of the dead against Kronos. But it was only recently that Will had started paying attention to him, working with the Son of Hades to defeat the giants, pushing him towards the light and trying to get Nico to break out of the toxic cocoon of doubt and hate he’d made for himself.
It wasn’t easy, and Will’s own optimism was being tested. But, for Nico’s sake, he’d keep testing it. Because Will liked Nico, he really did, and keeping him around was worth it. He could feel Nico’s resistance, his hesitation.
"You’re not leaving," Will repeated, using his height to his advantage as he looked down at Nico, "Right?"
The sun felt a little too bright today. It usually stung Nico’s eyes, but it hurt his retinas just a bit more right now. Perhaps it was just his tiredness being a extra demanding for a sleep that would never come. In fact, Nico didn’t want to think about what it was, because he already knew the answer to it.
This war had been excruciating, and everyone had mourn their losses and celebrated their victory yesterday, but For Nico, he had just finished his final battle, and it was his hardest one: Telling Percy of his crush on him … well, ex-crush. He had made it a point to be as casual as possible about it, to pretend like it wasn’t a big deal, and to convince himself that Percy Jackson was just a regular guy. That was the best method, if lies really could become the truth if you make yourself believe them hard enough.
That was something that Will Solace had pointed out to him over these past weeks. All his life Nico had been lying to himself in thinking that the world was against him, that everyone pushed him away, when really it was the opposite way around. Right? Of course it was right.
Nico tried shaking all those thoughts away for now as he met up with Will, Percy and Annabeth still in the distance, “Alright, lets go.” he tried his best to force a smile, wanting to get out of those two line of sight as quick as possible.
Will pursed his lips and he watched Nico from afar, squinting to make out the details of his face. He looked casual, relaxed, like he was just saying hello. Percy seemed confused, Annabeth amused, and for all the world the scene playing out in the distance seemed like a friendly finale.
Will knew that Nico was putting on a mask, something that, Will guessed, was second nature at this point. The son of Hades was good at lying, and hiding, at running away.
Frankly, that sort of habit was just annoying. Understandable, of course, Will amended to himself, but still annoying, and a habit that Will was personally determined to break the boy of.
He pulled his face into a bright smile as Nico approached him, extending his hand in both greeting and an offer for comfort, if Nico needed it.
"Well?" Will nodded toward Percy and Annabeth, "Good news?"