~~Before he blacked out, Nico di Angelo found himself staring at Thalia's tree. The only problem was that he was staring down at Thalia's tree from about, oh, thirty feet? Unlike what happened back in Albania with the statue, Coach Hedge, and Reyna, Nico didn't have a long time to react to this fall.
In the approximately 1.36 seconds that he fell, the son of Hades was able to realize two things. One: that there was a heavy cloud above him and the tree, casting down the unexpected shadows he had emerged from. Two: that he should definitely shadow-travel again right now. However, by the time the second realization fully kicked in, he hit the tree's branches.
The next thing he remembered was the vague noise of people talking all around him. There was a part of him that strained to recognize the voices: Will's? Lou Ellen's? Jason's? But there was also a lot of strange voices. The very last sound that he remembered before he passed out again was the creaking of gurney wheels.
The second time he came to, it was mostly quiet around him. There was only a few voices talking softly nearby. Nico peeled his eyes open and squinted at his surroundings.
He was... in the infirmary? It was hard to tell, as everything looked a strange sort of fuzzy. It made Nico feel dizzy, so he shut his eyes again. He was confused for a long moment as to why he was in the infirmary. Then Thalia's tree flashed through Nico's mind, and he felt the phantom pain from when he busted into the branches. Damn, Nico thought sluggishly, I screwed up.
Wiggling his fingers, Nico tried to tell if he had lost some of himself to the darkness, like last time. It didn’t feel like he had faded, but he wasn’t quite sure. In fact, he couldn't really tell how badly he had injured himself. He felt... delirious? Maybe they'd put him on some sort of painkiller. That would explain why he felt so dizzy and sleepy.
Nico managed to tune into the voices and caught half of what a guy's voice was saying: “- noticed that you skipped breakfast, so we brought you a bowl of your favorite cereal.”
“Thanks guys.” A second guy's voice; he sounded weary.
“Of course.” A girl's voice spoke this time. “Also, we wanted to apologize.”
“Yea,” The first guy's voice again, “we were totally dicks.”
“Well -” The second guy started to speak again, but he was cut off by the girl.
“We are really sorry!”
“Really, really sorry.” The first guy's voice added beseechingly.
The weary voice began to laugh. The laugh was awfully familiar... Nico felt like he should be able to recognize it easily, but right now he was having a hard enough time focusing on what was said. “It's alright guys, calm down! You didn't know that he'd shadow-travel himself into a tree.”
Shadow-traveled into a tree? Hmm, that must be me, Nico thought after a moment of consideration. Technically though, he hadn't shadow-traveled into the tree. Rather, he shadow traveled to above the tree and then fell into it. As much as Nico wanted to complain about the technicalities between the two, fatigue was pulling at the edges of his conscience.
Nico drifted into a dreamless sleep.
The third time that Nico came to, he felt much better. While he felt undeniably tired, he didn’t feel anywhere near as delirious like he had before. This time, he could understand the voices around him easily.
“Poor thing.” That was Piper’s voice, to his right. The pillow behind Nico’s head began to move, as if someone was trying to straighten it for him. He scowled a little at the sudden jostling.
“I think he’s awake.” Jason? Nico peeked just slightly through slitted eyes. The son of Zeus was standing on the left side of Nico's hospital bed.
“I doubt it. Will said he gave him enough painkillers to put down a grizzly bear.” Said Piper.
A finger pressed into Nico’s face. Before Piper could finish saying, “Jason, don’t poke him!” Nico slapped Jason’s hand away. Almost immediately, pain shot through Nico's arm. Groaning, he hugged his right arm to his chest. That’s when he realized it was wrapped with gauze and stints.
Is my arm broken? Nico wondered with surprise.
Nico finally opened his eyes fully and found the two demigods staring down at him.
“Told you.” Jason told Piper.
She frowned at Jason, before turning a smiling face to Nico. “Good morning, sleepy.” Piper sounded motherly, “How do you feel?”
“Um...” Nico's entire body ached and he felt as tired as he had when he'd been shadow-traveling a statue across half the world. “Bad.” His voice was scratchy when he spoke. Nico wondered how long he'd been out. A quick glance down at his arms shocked him; he was practically a mummy with the amount of gauze that was wrapped around both of his arms.
“Well, you did fall a couple of stories into a tree.” Jason spoke casually, as if demigods getting injured in weird ways was completely normal (which it was). “By the way, my sister is kinda pissed about her tree.”
“Your sister can bite me.” Nico rasped in annoyance. He was in no mood for stupid complaints. It's not like he had wanted plummet into the tree.
“The important thing is that you're okay, Nico. “ Piper interrupted before Jason could say more, shooting her boyfriend a disapproving glance.
“Okay?” Nico echoed dubiously, glancing down again at his injuries. That's when a pink object on his hand caught his attention. Is this... a Hello Kitty band-aid!? The son of Hades scrunched up his face in disgust, before ripping the band-aid off with his teeth. There wasn't even a scratch under the band-aid. “What exactly... happened?” He inquired, after spitting out the Hello Kitty band-aid.
“Aw, I liked that band-aid.” Jason whined with a grin. Nico wasn't sure why Jason was so... cheerful. It made Nico anxious.
It was Piper that answered. “Well... you shadow-traveled to above Thalia's tree... and then fell into it.” Nico nodded; he remembered that part. “And uh, lemme think. You didn't turn into darkness like last time, but you did break both arms, your right leg, some ribs, and busted up some organs... did I miss anything, Jason?”
“Concussion?” Jason suggested.
“Oh yea. You've got that too.”
“Lovely.” Nico sighed raggedly, before grabbing the thick white hospital blanket that was tucked securely around his lower half and yanking it up to his chin. Thankfully, healing was no big deal to demigods, what with the magical properties of ambrosia.
“So...” Piper inquired innocently, “Did something happen?”
Nico quickly lied, “No. I just made a miscalculation when I shadow-traveled.”
“Oh, okay.” She said. She sounded like she believed him.
Internally, Nico sighed with relief.
“Oh, hey, by the waaay...” Jason playfully drawled his words out as he spoke. He then leaned backwards and glanced around the curtain that separated Nico's bed from the rest of the infirmary. When he leaned back towards Nico, he whispered giddily, “I think a certain blond Apollo guy likes you.” His arched eyebrows bobbed up and down a few times suggestively.
“What! T-that's ridiculous, I don't know who you're talking about!” Nico immediately snapped back, as he blushed fiercely. Of course, he knew which son of Apollo that Jason was referring to.
How was the fact that Will was gay obvious to everyone but him?
Jason stared suspiciously at Nico for a moment with a ghost of a smile on his face, before making an accusation, “... you know exactly which one I'm talking about, don't you?” On the other side of the bed, Piper hid sly smile behind her hand.
Nico was embarrassed, which made him feel furious. “Don't forget I can open the underworld right under your feet and drag you down into it!” The son of Hades snarled at Jason, his eyes flashing dangerously.
“Okay, let's all calm down.” Piper spoke quickly, her words soothing. As she spoke, Nico felt his anger bleed away involuntarily. In it's place, he found an overwhelming sense of calmness. His frown still didn't vanish though, even with Piper's powerful Charmspeak.
Normally, Piper's Charmspeak didn't affect Nico very much, considering it typically had the strongest influence on those who had an attraction to the speaker. However, with the painkillers still in his system, the effect was compounded.
Jason, on the other hand, was now grinning. “Oh man, wait until I tell Percy!”
Piper's calming Charmspeak couldn't prevent Nico from sitting up and screaming, “I WILL DESTROY YOU, JASON GRACE!” The ground started to rumble underneath the infirmary. Bottles clinked within cabinets, and other injured demigods in the infirmary, hidden behind their own curtains, let out yelps.
Jason wasn't fazed at all; in fact, he was still grinning like a fox as he turned and darted out of the infirmary.
“Wow there, tiger, let's calm down!” Piper was putting everything into her Charmspeak. It felt thick and warm, embracing Nico in a blanket of tranquility. His rage was still bubbling, but it was quickly dying like a suffocated fire. The ground stopped rumbling. “Relax, breathe. You really should sleep. Sleeeep.”
Sleep did sound awfully good. Nico was forgetting what he was upset about. Something about Jason? Maybe he'd worry about it later.
Right as Nico was laying back down, an extremely flustered healer appeared at the opening of the curtain.
“WHAT'S GOING ON!?” Will shouted, his eyes wide. Seeing Will Solace, in his usual jeans and green surgeon's shirt, started to override Nico's new calm. Panic blossomed within Nico. As ridiculous as it was, he found himself considering shadow-travel again. Second time's the charm, right?
But before he could find a way to recklessly throw himself into the shadow world, Piper was speaking again, her voice still thick with Charmspeak. “Nico was a bit upset, but he's okay now. He's about to go to bed. You're sleepy, right Nico?” Nico felt like a silly child, being coddled to sleep by Piper's vocal tricks, but he simply couldn't fight it.
“Yea.” He murmured, his worries washing out of his mind once again.
“I'm really surprised he's awake.” Will said, scratching his head. The healer's cheeks were a bit pink.
“Yea, that's... our fault.” Piper said in a normal voice. Nico didn't need any more Charmspeak, though. He was already half gone, his mind fuzzy.
The bed creaked as Will sat on the side where Jason had been standing earlier. Nico felt Will's warm hands on his arm. “152 over 90, 116 BPM.” The healer mumbled to himself, “That's high.”
“Well, he did almost drag Jason down into the underworld.” Piper added.
“Oh, don't worry about it. My boyfriend brought it on himself.”
Half-asleep Nico was barely paying attention to what they were saying. Rather, he was focusing on Will's striking face. He raised a bandaged hand and placed it on Will's warm cheek. Will, surprised, looked down curiously at Nico.
“You're too cute.” Nico murmured woozily, before he gave in to sleep.
“Hey Nico... Nico... Nico!... Wake up Nico!” The fourth time Nico woke up in the infirmary, he found a pair of amused, sea green eyes a few inches away from his own.
Nico panicked and rolled off the gurney bed, taking the blanket with him.
“Oh! Shit, sorry.” Percy said as he jogged over to the other side of the gurney and crouched down next to Nico. He reached out and touched Nico's arm, offering help. “I didn't mean to scare you.”
As much as Nico was over Percy, he still wasn't comfortable having his old crush touch him. Nico batted Percy's hands away with a fierce scowl. “I'm fine.” He snapped, feeling thoroughly flustered.
Without help from Percy, Nico pushed himself back to his feet; a wave of dizziness hit him, but he managed to ignore it long enough for him to plop his butt back onto the bed. His entire right shoulder was now chock full of pain from the fall. I'll have to get some more ambrosia, Nico thought with a sigh. He wasn't about to tell Percy that, though. Nico preferred to be self sufficient.
Percy was hovering a few feet away, looking strangely delighted. His excitement reminded Nico of Jason's excitement the day before (or a few hours before? Nico really hadn't a clue how long he'd slept for). I have a bad feeling about this, thought Nico.
“So... I heard you cannon balled into a tree.” Percy said, sounding more giddy then concerned.
“Shouldn't you be getting ready for college or something?” Nico growled back. It was strange to see Percy, as both him and Annabeth had left Camp Half Blood almost two months ago to go spend the rest of summer with their parents and to prepare for college in New Rome.
“We came back when we heard you were hurt.”
“Oh.” Nico said, taken back. As much as he hated to admit it, Nico was touched that they would travel all the way back to check on him. Typically, the solitary son of Hades strove to independent... yet, it was nice now and then to know that his friends cared. Nico wasn't very good at expressing gratitude, but he tried. “That's... nice. You didn't have to.”
Percy smiled big, “Of course we did. You're like a little brother to me, Nico.” Nico rolled his eyes, but a small small smile tugged up at the corners of his lips. Once upon a time ago, that statement would have really frustrated him, but now he found it... nice. Percy wouldn't be a half bad brother to have.
“Whatever.” He replied casually, choosing to keep his sappiness to himself. “Where's Annabeth then?” Percy's better half was missing.
“Oh, talking with some of the other Athena kids. I took it as a chance to come over here and talk to you about, uh... man things.”
Oh no. Nico groaned as apprehension hit him. Gods damn it, Jason... you bastard!
“So... what's this I hear about you and Will Solace?”
Nico couldn't find the energy to get angry. He felt like he had lost a battle. For months, he had expended extra care into being as subtle as possible about his growing infatuation with Will... and now the cat was out of the bag. Not only that, but the damned cat was in the hands of the two of the most unsubtle idiots he knew.
Groaning, he rolled back onto the bed and threw the blanket over himself. Maybe if Nico laid still for a long time, Percy would just go away?
Rather than take it as a sign to go away, Percy took it as a sign to start cheerfully talking, “Well, I'm not really a good judge, but he is pretty handsome.” Nico continued to ignore him. “Is it his blond hair? Is that your type?” Now Percy was teasing him. Nico began to feel angry again. “Or is it the tan?”
“Why do you care!?” The question erupted out of Nico; he threw back the blanket enough to glare at the son of Poseidon.
“Because I want to help.” Percy's answered, his tone switching from playful to solemn. “You've been through a lot. You deserve someone to have. I think he might be able to make you happy – er, happier – and if he doesn't, me and Jason will beat him up!”
Somehow, despite only having sisters his entire life, Nico found himself with two overbearing brothers.
“I can handle this on my own, Percy.” Nico huffed, but his anger was abated.
“Ooh, you're handling it?” Percy perched his elbows on the edge of the bed and tucked his chin onto his knuckles. “How so? Are you going to ask him out?”
“Argh!” Nico whined, before yanking the blankets back up over his head. “Go away, Percy! I'm tired, I need to sleep!” There was no way that Nico was going to discuss his personal relationship details with Percy; especially not when Percy had a huge, shit-eating grin on his face.
Percy laughed, but then didn't say anything else for a couple of long seconds. Nico thought that the other demigod might be considering leaving, but, alas, it wasn't so.
“Nico...” Percy said curiously, his voice unusually serious, “Has anyone ever given you the birds and bees talk?”
The infirmary started to rumble again, and cracks formed in the laminate flooring around Nico's bed.
“JACKSON, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY PATIENT?” Will came flying past the curtains, his stethoscope wielded like a weapon.
Percy let out a yelp. “Nothing! I didn't do anything! Uhh... I'm-going-to-go-now-okay-bye!” Without further ado, Percy quickly side stepped Will and raced out of the infirmary.
With Percy gone, Nico relaxed and the rumbling stopped. The Ghost King would rather die and spend an eternity in the the fields of Asphodel with the rest of the hopeless ghosts than have Percy talk to him about the birds and the bees.
The blanket was yanked down gently from Nico's head. A pair of blue eyes peered down at him.
Nico stubbornly met Will's gaze. “Is there a reason you keep trying to summon the underworld into my infirmary?” Will asked, sounding more amused then he should have. After all, Nico did sort of ruin the floor – he didn't even need to look at it. He could feel the cracks that he had made.
“It was an accident.” Nico managed to say.
“Accident? How do you accidentally shake an entire building?”
A good response didn't come to Nico. Instead, he just gave his shoulders a small shrug.
Will laughed. “You constantly surprise me, Nico. Okay, well, at least now I can do a check-up with you. You've slept through the better part of two days. Sit up for me, please?”
It was as Nico was sitting up that he realized how unattractive his hospital gown was. Until this moment, he hadn't really cared that he was wearing a plain blue, baggy hospital shirt with matching baggy, draw-string pants... but now with Will staring down at him, Nico found himself much more self-conscious. Caught up in his worries, Nico forgot about the injury to his shoulder until he tried to lean back on his arms.
Pain shoot through his shoulder, causing Nico to hiss and curl forward. Almost immediately, Will's hands were on his shoulder. “What the – Nico, your shoulder was almost healed earlier today! How'd you fracture it again!?” Without waiting for an answer, Will dug into his pocket and pulled out a sandwich baggy with squares of ambrosia.
Nico let Will feed him one of the squares. “Thanks.” He muttered shyly, after he swallowed the delicious, magical medicine. The taste of excellent Italian pizza lingered in his mouth.
“Yea, well, be more careful.” Will said with a sigh, before running a hand through his messy blond hair in way that was almost sexual (Hot damn, Nico thought as he watched). Then, Will leaned over and lightly grasped Nico's arm. Electricity raced down Nico's spine.
Physical contact usually made Nico very uncomfortable... but Will was in his own special category. His hands were pleasantly warm on Nico's olive skin.
“145 over 86, 116 BMP. High, again.” Will murmured quietly, his blue eyes focused on where he was holding Nico's arm.
Nico's curiosity got the better of him. “Shouldn't you use, like, a blood cuff?”
Will grinned. “Don't need to. It's one of my son-of-Apollo skills. I can easily feel both blood pressure and heart rate.” He explained pleasantly.
Then suddenly, Will's expression changed: his brows furrowed in thought as he turned his gaze to Nico's face. Blinking, Nico was about to ask what was wrong when one of Will's hands let go of his arm and migrated to Nico's chin.
Heart pounding in his chest, Nico found his head being tilted upwards, towards Will's. Will was leaning forward, his face close enough for Nico to see the lighter and darker flecks of blue in his eyes. There was a red tint to Will's cheeks.
All thought left Nico.
“138 BMP.” A cocky smile appeared on Will's, before he dropped his hands to his side and straightened up. “I think that's enough of a check-up for now... I've got some other patients that I need to check in on.”
Nico felt shell-shocked. He had never felt a yearning like that before. It had felt like every fiber of himself wanted Will to close the distance between their lips. Will hadn't, though. “But...” Nico whimpered softly as he watched Will turn and saunter out.
Before Nico could really process what happened, loud whispers reached his ears.
“What the hell, Will!” The whisper's voice was recognizable: Cecil's whisper was only slightly dampened by the curtains sanctioning Nico off from the rest of the infirmary.
“Holy Hades!” Will shouted, before his voice dropped to a similar loud whisper. “Why do you guys keep spying on me!?”
“More importantly, what's wrong with you!?” Cecil replied.
“I don't know what you guys are-” A muffled smacking sound interrupted Will's reply. “Ow!” Will hissed, “Geez, Lou Ellen, what'd you punch me for?”
“Don't you lie to us! That was a golden opportunity! What are you thinking!?” Lou Ellen's voice whispered fiercely.
“Not that it's any of your business, but how about you guys just trust me? I know what I'm doing." Will snapped back.
There was a pause in the whispers. Nico took this moment to sink back into the bed and use the blanket to cover his burning cheeks.
Cecil replied something, but this time he spoke much calmer and Nico didn't catch it.
“Obviously.” Will's whisper was calmer too, and Nico only heard it because he was (admittedly) straining to hear. “Let's talk about this outside, okay?”
It was only after the door to the infirmary clicked shut did Nico let out a long breath. His stomach was doing nervous flips. Nico wasn't sure what to think about what he'd heard. Honestly, it was easier to try not to think about it. Gulping nervously, Nico buried deeper into the hospital blanket and shut his eyes.
Eventually, Nico drifted to sleep.
He dreamed of Will Solace.