Will must have slept in. Nico tried not to be annoyed about this; after all, he was the one who had forced him to go and hadn’t sent someone to wake him. Will definitely needed the rest. Even so, as he sat in the quiet infirmary, Nico couldn’t help but wonder when he’d be back. It was boring here, he thought. Yes, that’s definitely why you want him to come back.
Shut up, Nico responded to himself. He couldn’t let himself fall for Will. What if he didn’t feel the same way? He couldn’t face another unreciprocated infatuation like he had with Percy. Nico didn’t think he could take that again.
Looking around, Nico realized that most of the Apollo healers had gone off to rest. They’d worked for most of the night, but everyone had been attended to. The only people who remained were those who had to recover. No one needed immediate attention, and so it was easy to drop down to a skeleton crew in terms of the doctors. Nico glanced at the door. No one would notice if he slipped out. Some part of him wanted to stay, to wait for Will to come back, but the other more logical part told him to go. All he was doing here was taking up a bed, and he had just decided that getting any closer to Will wasn’t a good idea. The possibility of rejection was too great; it would be better to just avoid it all together. Maybe he’d wait until he got to Camp Jupiter.
Nico hopped off of his bed and headed for the door. He glanced down at his shirt, figuring he should stop by his cabin for a change of clothes anyway. Still looking down, Nico walked through the door towards the bright rays of the sun outside. He had to squint as his eyes adjusted, and jumped when a voice said from beside him, “Where do you think you’re going?”
Nico stopped, turning slowly. “Uh…”
Will was leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his orange Camp Half-blood t-shirt. The sun filtered through his golden hair, and he looked refreshed, vibrant and handso- “I thought I told you three days?”
“Uh…” Nico was temporarily incapable of speech. Will simply raised his eyebrows and jerked a thumb back towards the infirmary.
“Get back in there.”
“Solace,” Nico protested, intentionally sounding detached and formal, “I’m fin-“
Will was oddly good at being commanding. With a gulp and an eye roll, Nico trudged back inside, sitting reluctantly on his bed. “Seriously, I’m fine.”
“That last shadow jump nearly killed you. You’re not fine,” Will said critically.
“Okay, I won’t shadow jump for a few days. Happy?” Nico grumbled.
Will shook his head. “I’d like to trust you, son of Hades, but you have a tendency for recklessness.” He crossed his arms again and took a seat in the visitor’s chair. “At least if you’re here I can keep an eye on you.”
Nico tried to ignore the knot in his stomach as Will said this. He looked over and waited a beat, saying as casually as he could, “So what, you’re just going to sit there and watch me?”
With a shrug, Will replied, “Not the whole time, but I figured I could hide out in here a bit - you caught me outside - before the others realize I’m awake.” He shot Nico a grin. “Then they’ll put me to work.” He paused. “You can keep a secret, right?”
“Yes,” Nico answered immediately.
Will surveyed him out of the corner of his eye. “Yeah, I got the feeling you could. In general, I mean.”
Unsure whether he was imagining the oddness of that statement or not, Nico looked away uncomfortably. “So, uh… How are things going? Around camp and such?”
“Well, they’re fixing up the damage pretty well. Everyone who’s still able bodied is helping out, and it’s going pretty fast. That’s the advantage of having more campers than that battle against Kronos’s army years ago. More hands to fix stuff.” He shrugged. “Me, I’m just concerned with fixing the people so that they can fix stuff. We lost at fifteen campers.”
“It could’ve been worse.”
Will shrugged again. “I know.” He rubbed his palms on his jeans. “I just feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure we don’t lose any more, you know? If I have anything to say about it, everyone’s going to survive.”
Nico cocked his head. “Was there ever any doubt?”
Giving that teasing half grin at which he was so good, Will replied, “Stop, Nico. You’re going to make me blush.”
Suddenly panicked, Nico said quickly, “No, I just meant-“
Will laughed. “I know what you meant- I was just teasing. No, there weren’t many serious injuries; only Marcus from the Hecate cabin. He… Well, he needs our prayers. Or a little magic wouldn’t hurt. I think everyone else should be just fine in a few weeks, though, so that’s a plus.”
Nico nodded. A silence fell, filled with tension and awkwardness. Nico stared at the floor. Will tapped his fingers on his knee.
“Maybe you should, uh-“ Nico began, just as Will spoke.
“I should probably-“
They both stopped and looked at each other, laughing awkwardly. Will stood. “See you later, Nico.”
“Bye…Will,” Nico whispered, but only after he’d gone.
It seemed like an eternity before Will came back, a time passage of which Nico was all too aware. He lay on his bed, hands behind his head, thinking about other things he could be doing. To be fair, half of them did include shadow travel, so perhaps Will had a point. Even so, there were plenty of other, better, uses of his time than sitting in bed all day. Somehow, though, Nico couldn’t quite bring himself to be angry at Will for keeping him there. A related thought flickered through his mind only to be immediately dismissed.
No, Nico growled at himself. He clenched his jaw and tried to think of other things. His mind drifted towards Leo, and was surprised about how heavy the thought of his death seemed at the moment. Nico hadn’t been close with Leo or even liked him very much. If anything, he was simply the annoying little guy who fixed the ship. Nevertheless, Nico found himself hoping that he was still alive. Maybe he was. Maybe he’d survived the blast by some miracle and had fallen to the earth, now laying somewhere battered and broken, but fixable… And suddenly Nico’s thoughts were back with Will. He sighed.
As if summoned by thought alone, Will came walking through the door at that moment. For a second, Nico was stunned by how tired he looked; the change in just a few hours was incredible. It was stressful being a Healer, apparently, not to mention one of the best.
“Just wanted to let you know that there’s some food down the hall,” Will said. “Since you can walk, you don’t get room service,” he added with a smile.
Before he could stop himself, Nico blurted, “Have you eaten?”
Will hesitated. “I will…eventually.” He shrugged as if it wasn’t important. “I have to get back to work. Go get something, okay?”
“Not until you do,” Nico replied stubbornly, crossing his arms.
Will shot him a look. “But I have equipment to clean and tests to run…”
Nico leaned back. “I can wait.”
“You’re way too pale and thin as it is. You need your food. Go on,” Will urged.
“Are you coming?” Will hesitated, so Nico shook his head. “Then no.”
Will sighed. “Arguing with you is like arguing with a rock.”
Nico grinned. “Son of Hades,” he said, pointing to himself. “Come on, someone else can handle things for a half hour.”
“Fine,” Will agreed at last. “Let’s go.” He led the way out of the room. Nico hopped off his bed, flashing a genuine smile at Will’s back which surprised even himself. A creeping pit in his stomach let him know that if he wasn’t careful, he’d have another situation like the one with Percy. All of a sudden, though, Nico didn’t care.