A shot rings out from across the field, enclosing the space in a resounding bang that echoes throughout the clearing and sets Nico's heart going a million beats a second.
His mind flashes back to over 70 years ago, a similar place with very different circumstances. His mother has made a picnic especially for Bianca and him, all the food they could afford on the rations that day, with a lot of trading and bartering that had won them two small pastries.
Italy had not long joined the war, and already the effects were reaching the small family of di Angelo's, not that Maria would ever allow her children to harsh life of poverty - insisting they share her own rations when running low, fixing their warm clothes with anything she could find and providing all sorts of entertainment in the long hours between radio war updates. Of course she wasn't alone. Hades had offered, begged even, to help her move to a safer place; to provide for her, to protect his children, and yet she refused.
Life had taught her things couldn't always be accepted simply because they were offered on a silver platter.
The family had traveled a short while to the forest, Bianca and Nico had never been before, and the new sensations were exciting to them. The canopy of tree's that would block the sunlight if the went far enough, the strange animals that were too afraid to venture to the city: Foxes, rabbits, deer even. If ever they had seen these sorts of animals before it was behind the barrier of a butchers window, noses pressed against the cool glass as they tried to identify the array of what they considered exotic animals, all things their mother couldn't afford.
The sun had shone, the birds seemed to sing just for them and Nico was as happy as he could ever remember being. It was quite possibly the last time this small family of three had truly seen happiness before Maria would meet her fate at the hands of Zeus.
'Ti amo, Bianca. Ti amo, Nicólas.' She had told them, pressing a kiss to each sibling's forehead.
'Ti amo, mama.' The two children chorused.
His eyes instantly travel to Will, more concerned with the blondes health than his own. Will stands there, not moving, looking completely shell shocked. It's not often monsters will use mortal weapons when they could simply enjoy slashing their victims to pieces through other means such as their bare claws, but this empousa somehow seems to favour a mortal gun of some kind.
The day was uncharacteristically cold for an Italian summer and the di Angelo siblings were making the most of the reprieve to play outside. Their mother was talking to papa in their hotel room and they had been instructed to amuse themselves for a while.
Nico had stolen Bianca's hat and ran off with it while the older child laughed and and chased him, they ran throughout the hotel grounds, giggling to themselves, clutching at the stitches in their sides and playfully squabbling. It wasn't until they saw him on the steps of the entrance that they even acknowledged anything could be wrong outside their playful little world.
Hades' face was ashen grey, his smile was forced as he watched the two children play, his hands fiddled nervously with the hem of his shirt. It wasn't until he noticed, much too late, an almost electric charge to the air that the realization dawned on him. Zeus knew. Maria was a target. The only thing he could do right now was protect the siblings.
The sky darkened almost instantaneously. A resounding boom filled the air. Nico heard his sister scream and the smile fell from his face.
Nico's mind flashes back to just an hour before. He and Will had been quite happily walking back to their hotel room hand in hand having spent the day together in town, away from Camp Half-Blood, enjoying each others company as regular mortal teenagers, travelling from shop to shop. But demigod scent always attracts one beast or another, they should have remembered that.
Nico really didn't see any way his life could get much better. Not only had his favourite card game, Mythomagic, come to life, but here he was actually living the kind of life portrayed by the large stack of cards.
Bianca leaving for the quest had been a blow, making friends wasn't exactly his forté without her sturdy presence to keep his confidence up. As it turns out, the Hermes cabin where most unclaimed demigods bunked, was pretty much one big mischievous family where everyone mostly looked out for each other (in between a few light hearted pranks, of course.)
it was on such a day when they had put their skills to use that Nico had managed to land himself in the infirmary - It turns out trying to scale the lava wall in attempts to run away from the currently blue camper they had pranked earlier in the day wasn't such a good idea when you had absolutely no idea how to avoid the obstacles, and Nico had ended up falling face first into the dirt, his right wrist turning a spectacular shade of purple within a few moments.
It was with a sense of pride he could say this trip to the infirmary is what made him his first friend outside of cabin 11, a friend made all by himself rather than relying on others to introduce him to new people.
The blonde boy had been cutting bandages when he arrived, tongue stuck out in concentration, looking almost startled to see more people enter the building. It was a fairly quiet day in the middle of school term after all, there weren't many campers still in camp even, let alone many that required medical attention.
'Can I help at all?' The boy asked, face breaking into a grin as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Nico decided there and then he'd quite like to be friends with this guy.
'I fell off the climbing wall.' He explained, holding up the arm, almost beaming with a sense of achievement at the impressive bruise that had already formed there. Barely a few days into camp and he had already gained what he deemed to be a heroic battle wound.
'That's an impressive contusion you got there. What's your name?'
'Nico. Who are you? Who's your Godly parent? Have you ever met them? Please tell me you have super healing powers or something, I-'
'Can I take your hand a moment?' The older boy interrupts, his own hand reached out expectantly. Nico eagerly does as he's told. 'My name's Will and my dad's Apollo. I haven't- We've never met but, do you want to see something cool?'
Nico's head nodded frantically as though of is own accord. 'In my game, Mythomagic, he has a pretty average attack - but if you get the power up card, it lets you take out at least two of the other players cards, depending on their stats. We rode his sun bus here! It wasn't what I expected, but-'
Once again he's cut off from his rambling, this time in amazement. Will still holds his hand loosely, but it's slowly warming up, sending little flickers of light from his palm to wrap around Nico's wrist, gracefully twisting and turning, gently soothing the skin until there's nothing left but a faint yellow hue.
'How did you do that?' He asks, lifting his hand into the air, studying the barely there mark in awe.
'It's kind of... A gift from my dad.' Will explains, blushing slightly.
'I thought you hadn't met before?'
The boy almost looks worried that Nico will freak out or something, but the younger boy just laughs and flings his arms around the other. 'I think it's amazing. Thank you, Will!'
The empousa had stolen Nico's sword from right behind him and scurried away before either of the boys could react. They had chased her through the city, dodging people and traffic alike, before she finally turned to face them in the clearing of trees, out of sight of the busy streets. Pulling the gun from her pocket with a mischievous smile, she aimed it at the two boys, winking before pressing the trigger. The creature ran for it before either boy really had a chance to register what exactly was going on.
All night his stomach had been somersaulting with butterflies. All night his slightly clammy hands had been hidden in his pockets, clenching and unclenching their excess of nervous energy. All night Will - not so innocent - Solace, had been finding excuses to come into contact with the child of Hades. Their legs occasionally touching as they sat together at dinner, shoulders casually brushing on their walk to the campfire, and there he had the nerve to put his arm around Nico on the pretense it was too cold to be out without a jacket.
Not that Nico was complaining exactly. In fact, he rather liked the contact. Ever since the victory against Gaea, the two boys had been growing much closer as both friends and in a way Nico hoped was slightly more than friends. Will knew his preference for males. After his confession to Percy a huge weight had lifted and soon enough it simply became common camp knowledge. Nico also knew Will's preference for males. The only thing he had to consider now was if this preference extended to small Italian males with a knack of messing things up.
It wasn't until the campfire finished and the boy began to return to the cabins did he finally make his move. 'Can you, would you like to come to my cabin tonight? That is - for a sleepover, or something. Maybe, we could, watch movies? Umlikeadatemaybe.' He's not even looking at the blonde and yet his cheeks have already started burning with an angry blush. Immediately he wants to take the words back, snatch them out of the air as though they were never said, though a small part of him is triumphant. It isn't an official thing, he didn't ask Will to be his boyfriend or anything, it's just two friends in a cabin watching a film. That could totally be played off as platonic.
'I'd love to, death boy.' He looks up to find the son of Apollo grinning almost as bright as the sun itself. His eyes reflect the dim light of the moon and Nico suppresses the urge to trace that light splattering of freckles along the bridge of his nose.
'Don't get any ideas, Solace. You're sleeping on the coach.'
Of course, both boys end up sleeping on the sofa, wrapped in each others embrace, too tired to travel to bed, too comfortable to untangle their limbs. Nico would deny it in the morning, but he even found himself wishing for more physical contact between Will Solace nad himself in future.
He almost wants to laugh in relief that they're both ok, but everything moves in slow motion as Will turns to face him, eyes wide with horror. A sharp, searing pain in his stomach tells him why. The bullet found it's target after all. The child of Hades has less than a minute to thank the God's it wasn't Will, before pain makes his knees collapse, and he falls to the ground with a dull thud in a tangle of limbs.
It was conventional. It was completely unoriginal.
It was perfect.
Will had laid a picnic out especially for the two of them on the bank of the lake. There were candles and little sandwiches and a tiny radio playing some sort of classical music. Nico wanted to say he hated it. He loved every bit of it.
Throughout the dinner they laughed and talked and relayed any stories they could think of , enjoying each others company. Though not everyone exactly knew it yet, the two had been dating for around two months now, and while it's not as long as Percy and Annabeth or even Jason and Piper, Nico couldn't be any happier with his new found relationship.
The two lay there, watching the stars in comfortable silence, hand in hand as though made to hold each other.
'I've always loved the stars.' Nico comments, absent-mindedly. 'They need a little darkness to show how beautiful they are.'
'Sometimes the smallest stars shine the brightest.'
He turns to face the blonde and almost isn't surprised to find Will already looking at him. A small blush begins gracing his features and he has to bite his lip to stop his face breaking into a grin. His eyes flicker to Will's lips, wondering how it would be to feel them against his own. As if reading his mind the son of Apollo smiles nervously, lip curling up into a barely there grin.
'Nico. Can I - Can I kiss you?'
The ghost king presses their lips together in answer. A chaste, barely there kiss that spreads a warmth to the pit of his stomach, lips tingling slightly from the slight touch. It wasn't much of a kiss, and already he wants more. They boys lean back into each other, slowly moving their lips in lazy little kisses, giggling every now and then at the simple pleasure of the moment. It isn't a flurry of movement, it isn't necessarily all that passionate. It's soft, it's gentle, and it tastes simply of Will. Nico's heart bursts with joy and he really hopes he can get used to this feeling, because he wants to feel it a lot.
Sound travels slowly to his ears as though underwater and he barely registers the blondes desperate attempts at revival. The edges of his vision are blurred, eyelids heavy, breathing ragged.
'Will.' He rasps, energy focused on forming words through shaking lips. 'W-Will.'
The words almost go unheard as the medic frantically attends the wound, removing his jumper and pressing it firmly to Nico in hopes of stopping the bleeding. If he wasn't so focused on making sure the smaller boy was still breathing he may have missed his speech completely.
'Nico, I can't - my healing, you know it's, it's not compatible. The shadows don't let me-'
'Stop.' The ghost king raises his hand to delicately cup the blondes face. Blood seems to be everywhere and he vaguely wonders if all of that could've come from him. 'You know I'm not going to, I'm not surviving this.'
'Don't say that. We'll get you back to camp, to Chiron-' His voice is thick, choking around the lump in his throat.
'Just... I love you.' As a child of the underworld he can feel his life force slowly draining away, drifting from his body to make the journey to Hades.
'I love you too.' The blonde envelops Nico's hand in his own, holding on almost too tight, as though providing some sort of lifeline Nico could use to stay alive. 'I'll meet you down there, ok? We will see each other again. Wait for me, ok?'
Nico's lips curve into the slightest smile, too tired to talk anymore. He can feel everything fading around him. His chest takes one final rattling breathe, and finally he can follow Thanatos to the underworld, ready to greet his mother and sister in the paradise of Elysium. Leaving Will completely alone in the filed where he died.
A/N - So this is the first story I've published on Movellas so far, hope you like it. Please let me know what you think, even if you think it's bad, I'd love to improve with your help :)
Thanks for reading <3