Tw: minor character deaths (referenced), mentions of homophobia, ambiguous rejection (purposely left unanswered so the reader can choose which they want it to be)
Nico woke up. Nico didn’t like that. He tried to sleep again but no, sleep was impossible, because today was a bad day and his brain hated him. He wanted compensation from life for waking him up today, on Valentine’s day of all days.
He huffed, dreading the day more and more as the heavy weightlessness of sleep left his bones to be replaced with a dull ache. He didn’t have the strength to get out of bed yet, and to be quite honest, he didn’t really want to.
So he opted to angrily stare at the ceiling like it personally offended him. The one time he wakes up before breakfast, and it’s on the one day he wishes some kid would whack him round the head and put him in a coma for the day. He bet Will was already out on his morning run. He’d wake at the ass crack of dawn like a heathen and exercise like a heathen and glow like it didn’t fucking give everyone a headache like a heathen.
But he was cute, so Nico forgave him.
Cute didn’t really describe it. Will was a beautiful. Nico wondered what it would be like to wake up in the morning to the sight of Will sleeping beside him. He could imagine it- Will laying on his stomach with his head on his arms, golden blond hair fanning out onto the pillow, his skin glowing softly in the morning light. Nico wondered if Will had freckles on his back too, and if Will would let him paint them, like angel wings and constellations.
Stupid cute boy making him have emotions this early in the goddamn morning on the worst day of his life. Should be illegal. Nico forced himself out of bed and prepared for the day before opening the door- and the offending boy was stood nervously on his doorstep, freckles glowing a light yellow whilst his skin glowed soft amber. He had such a pretty smile and pretty eyes and Nico absolutely despised him for being so cute and making him blush in public by being so goddamn cute.
“What do you want Solace? You see the sky? You see that giant orb of radiation and death? Yeah? Well that means it’s way too fucking early to be awake.”
“Nice to see our resident vampire is already in full brooding mode! That must mean you’re awake enough for a hug!” Will beamed, and gods Nico couldn’t breathe because… holy shit. His smile was so beautiful and he was glowing sunrise yellow and he had dimples okay and his nose was scrunched and Nico forgot how to breathe. He was so pretty.
“Don’t you dare, Solace!”
“But hugs,” Will pouted, his glow slowly turning sunset yellow as Nico tried to resist. Nico couldn’t resist because his boyfriend looked like a kicked puppy and he gave good hugs.
“Okay, fine, hugs,” Nico relented with a sigh. Will’s glow was back in full force, sunrise yellow with a warm amber undertone, and he was practically throwing himself at Nico, wrapping him up in a warm hug. Fuck, Nico was gonna die like this and go to Elysium, he couldn’t function because the cute bastard was hugging him and he was warm and he smelled gorgeous, like lemons and antiseptic and cinnamon and sandalwood and sunshine and sweat and boy. Then Nico realised he hadn’t been hugging back- he could tell by the way the heat from Will’s glow changed slightly, nervous heat, that he was shifting back into a sunset hue, and that kickstarted Nico’s brain to hug back, and Will’s warmth grew comforting again.
Nico didn’t want Will to ever let go.
If he was honest, he was kinda touch starved. He may have been touch averse, but that didn’t mean he didn’t need affection from time to time, and Will’s hugs made him feel safe and sentimental and fuzzy. And Will was taller than him so his face was met with a wall of muscle and fuck Nico could die because that was his man and he was a fucking snack. Between feeling sentimental and flustered, Nico felt overwhelmed- the touch starved side of him wanted to cry and the teenage side of him practically wanted to consume Will and the conflicting emotions were too much for him to process at once.
He reluctantly let go, noticing Will’s hesitation in the way his arms twitched as he let go, like his body didn’t want to let go and Will had to fight it. Nico wanted to hug him again, but he knew if he hugged Will again he’d grow deeply uncomfortable and want to rip his flesh off. Sometimes physical contact was like that feeling when a bug flies into your face and you can still feel it twenty minutes after it’s flew away. But ten times more intense and distressing to the point it made Nico want to scream and cry and rip his face off, but apparently, that isn’t what physical contact felt like and Nico was being over dramatic so naturally everybody would pull him into hugs or headlocks and Nico would freeze or bolt. Except for Will. Will may have been very huggy, but he never tried to force Nico into physical contact. He didn’t question it if Nico pushed him away sometimes and he didn’t take it personally.
“So uh…” Will began, his freckles a nervous pale amber, which Nico knew meant he was anxious. He didn’t finish his sentence, picking at the bandage around his hand instead.
“It’s Valentine’s day,” Nico said quietly, and Will nodded awkwardly.
“I already told you, I won’t celebrate it.”
“I know,” Will said quickly, and the amber of his freckles was almost a dark chocolate gold, “I wanted to talk. Can we- can we go somewhere?” He looked just about ready to cry, and Nico’s concern was able to quickly override his aversion to being seen.
“You look terrified,” Nico noted, and Will nodded, not moving. Nico started to walk, and Will followed him. Nico could feel the heat radiating off him, so Nico walked him to a far spot through the forest- walking helped anxiety by tricking your brain into thinking you were running away- fight or flight. And for a short while, Will seemed less anxious, but the closer they got to their favourite talking spot, the darker Will’s glow got until he was a dark sunset orange. Sunrise colours were good- sunset ones were worrying. “Will?”
“I really wanna tell you something but I never talk about it and I’m scared to talk about it because I like running away from my feelings and I need to talk about it and I trust you the most to understand how I feel so can we talk about it?”
“Of course,” Nico said gently, guiding Will to sit down. He looked on the verge of tears.
“I hate Valentine’s day,” Will said quietly, “I hate it so much.”
“Glad we’re on the same page,” Nico said quietly, and he knew that Will would catch his meaning: I’ll understand, you can tell me anything.
“You already know I’m from Austin, right? Well I come from a super nice area, y'know? My school had a gsa and the local church I went to as a kid was super accepting and had rainbow flags and funded a shelter for lgbt youths. My grandma was a lesbian and her wife made me my very first punk jacket when I was six. So uh… I grew up in a super nice place. So I knew quite young that I weren’t straight, you know? I hadn’t really had crushes yet but I remember we all used to play kiss chase at recess and I always wanted to kiss the girls and the boys. So I knew I wasn’t straight. And I came out to my mom on Valentine’s day because young me was making Valentine’s day cards for all the boys in my class. Except for John. He was a cunt. I didn’t like John. But anyways um- I ran downstairs and I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘mama I’m gay!’ And she looked really awkward and just replied 'that’s nice, honey,’ and I thought maybe she thought I was joking so I was like- 'no mama, I wanna kiss all the boys and all the girls,’- I didn’t know what bi was, by the way- and she just gave me this really awkward look and said we’d talk about it later, and then she went to hang the washing. I didn’t know if she was awkward because she didn’t accept me or just the way I came out, and I still don’t know and-…”
“Will?” He was crying by now, a sunset red undertone to his sunset amber glow, pushing the ball of his palms into his eyes to try and stop the tears.
“I never got to ask if she was okay with me being gay because a few minutes later I heard scary noises so I hid under the kitchen table and the scary noises sounded like a really big lion and I heard mama scream so I went out and I screamed because she was dead and bleeding and eaten and then it tried to eat me too but a goat man grabbed me and ran and took me to camp, and that’s why I’m an all year round camper…”
“Will…” Nico began gently, before reaching out and holding him in a strong hug. “I wish I could tell you if your mom accepted you or not… and I wish I could make all your pain go away…”
“I always thought mama got killed because of me. Because if I didn’t say I was gay she wouldn’t have gone outside. So I didn’t wanna tell anyone I liked boys ever in case they died, and I spent all these years so sure that she rejected me that day because she looked uncomfortable and sad and I felt like nobody loved me if my mama didn’t love me and Valentine’s day reminds me of all that and… it hurts… rejection hurts…”
“How long have you been holding all that in for,” Nico asked softly, rubbing comforting circles on his back and gently carding his fingers through his hair. Will’s hair was dry and floofy but it never seemed to knot.
“Since forever,” Will sniffled, “and I felt bad because I could never celebrate Valentine’s day without being real sad and thinking about rejection.”
“Please don’t feel bad,” Nico said softly, “it’s okay. We never have to celebrate it, it reminds you of your trauma.”
“I didn’t think anyone would understand…”
“My mom died too,” Nico said quietly, pulling away from Will so he wouldn’t overwhelm himself too much. “I watched her die too. But it wasn’t a monster, it was Zeus.”
“I- I didn’t know, I’m so sorry,” Will whispered, and Nico shook his head.
“I lost a sister about two days before Christmas. Bianca. Which is why I got upset when you wanted me to wear the Christmas jumper. But- my point is I understand how it can ruin a holiday, and I want you to know that I understand, and you’re not alone because I relate.”
“I’m sorry,” Will said quietly, “I’m really sorry.” Will moved to hug Nico, but Nico gently pushed him away. As usual, Will didn’t protest or try again.
“I hate Valentine’s day because I was outed,” Nico began after a deep breath. Will’s glow was sunset orange and yellow with concern. “I was outed by Eros to Jason. I had a crush on Percy in the past, and Eros made me tell him. Jason, I mean. He shot me with an arrow and everything. I wasn’t ready to come out- I hadn’t accepted myself yet. I wasn’t comfortable. When I was a kid being gay would have got me killed. And after Eros made me come out it felt like suddenly everyone knew. And I even accidentally outed myself to an entire Roman Legion thingy. Then when you made me come to the infirmary I felt obliged to tell Percy. All my life I’d seen myself as creepy, and everyone else thought I was creepy, so I felt like I had to tell him. Like he had a right to know. I still wasn’t okay with myself and I didn’t want anybody to know, and I still struggle sometimes with internalised homophobia. Or at least a fear of being outed or being seen or being attacked. I can’t handle hearing slurs or judging looks or bigoted preachers without breaking down in tears because I didn’t ask for this and it feels like I’m constantly being punished when I didn’t even do anything wrong. I’ll just be minding my own business and some asshole tries to ruin it, because somehow, people just know.”
“I understand that,” Will said softly, but Nico felt scared- Will had an angry sunset red undertone to a near white yellow sunset glow. He thought Will was mad at him for being a coward. “I’m gonna smash every last Cupid statue and heart card I see dotted around camp. You shouldn’t have to have your triggers and your trauma shoved in your face any day.”
“Will don’t,” Nico said softly, reaching for Will’s hand, and a sunrise orange began to seep through the darker undertones, like he was trying to reassure Nico that it was alright. “They don’t know, and I don’t want to ruin their day. I was gonna stay in my cabin, but… I’m glad I’m out here with you. I feel safe here with you.”
“I feel safe with you too,” Will said softly, and his glow radiated a warm sunrise amber with yellow undertones- fondness, golden.
“Maybe we should reclaim Valentine’s day,” Nico said quietly. “Make it ours. As a fuck you to all our trauma, y'know? Avoid all the traditions and just snog the fuck out of each other until we both turn blue then do whatever the fuck we want. We have each other now.”
“So… celebrate Valentine’s day to spite Valentine’s day by making it our own? Not romantic, just spite?” Will seemed amused, a thin smile on his lips making one of his dimples prominent where the corner of his mouth turned upwards to form a lopsided smile.
“I’m powered by spite and I’m tiny so yeah,” Nico replied, bumping shoulders with Will. “Hey… maybe one day when you’re ready for answers, I can summon your mom,” he suggested gently.
“Maybe,” Will replied softly, “I love you.”
So they kissed, and they kissed until Will’s glow was golden and bright and encompassing Nico in warm rays, and the shadows were dancing around Nico and holding Will close. They kissed until they felt fuzzy and hot, and they kissed until things would have got real awkward if they would have continued. When they pulled apart, Will’s cheeks were a ruddy pink to the tips of his ears and blotchy, and Nico was sure he was puce. Fuck Cupid and fuck manticores too. Nothing could take this love away from them.