Chapter no 38

The Sun and the Star

‘Gone?’ echoed Will. ‘What do you mean?’‌

Nico slumped against the doorway. It just seemed so unfair. ‘No one has been in here for a long time. He must not have

regenerated yet.’ Nico couldn’t keep the defeat out of his voice. ‘All these monsters we’ve seen, and somehow Damasen has taken over a year to regenerate?’

‘Well, we have shelter, at least,’ said Will, and he swung his knapsack around. He dug inside and pulled out a box of matches.

Nico watched as Will moved slowly about the room, looking for

something to light until he ended up igniting a pile of bones and strips of dried drakon skin in the centre of the hut. The flames rose without smoke –which Nico didn’t know was even possible – and cast an orange-and-yellow glow on Damasen’s hut.

It was clear that someone had once lived here. There were rugs spread all over the floor and, near the back, a bunch of sheepskins were heaped up in what must have been a bed for … well, a giant. If Nico had curled up at the head, he wouldn’t have even been able to see the foot. Damasen had also bolted racks to the walls. Whether they were for hanging weapons or drying food, Nico wasn’t sure, because they were empty now.

And the giant wasn’t here to answer any questions.

Nico drifted towards Will, who stood next to the fire. Will was transfixed by the flames, his eyes unmoving and focused.

‘You okay?’ Nico asked.

‘I just forgot what this felt like,’ said Will. ‘It’s not the sun, but … it’s nice.’

As Will appeared to be recharging, Nico felt himself plummeting in the opposite direction.

‘I’m tired,’ he muttered.

‘I know,’ said Will. ‘Maybe it’s finally my turn to take care of you.’ ‘Back to our old roles, eh?’ Nico smiled. ‘My little Night Light.’ Will groaned. ‘We’re not starting that now.’

‘My little Care Bear.’ ‘Please stop.’

Nico gave Will a tight hug. ‘My little sun-therapy globe.’ ‘All right, all right,’ said Will. ‘Go get some rest. Now.’ ‘Yes, Field Medic Will Solace,’ said Nico.

He left Will by the fire and made his way over to the back of the hut. His body became heavier and heavier as he walked, and he practically collapsed on the sheepskins. They smelled faintly earthy, but mostly just stale.

Another sign that it had been a long, long time since anyone had been here.

He did not drift off to sleep immediately, though, even if his body wanted to. Will’s back was to Nico, and his shadowy outline remained still. From this angle, it almost looked as if his boyfriend were aflame.

Nico felt a wave of affection towards him, maybe because the two of them were getting closer to locating Bob. But he also wondered, as sleep finally began to claim him, if it was because Will was trying. He wanted to understand Nico, even the parts that seemed difficult or sad. All Nico needed was to be seen and heard by someone he cared for, and Will was making the effort.

Will glowed next to the fire like one of the torches on Erebos.

And it was hard even for Tartarus to stamp out that kind of hope.





Nico dreamed of his mother.

She did not turn into a horrible monster. She did not reveal a mouth full of extremely sharp teeth. (Why did that always happen in nightmares?) She did not give him a cryptic message disguised in dream logic.

It was night-time, and Nico stood next to his mother on a balcony overlooking the canals. She’d convinced a friend to let her and Nico sneak into a lush, unoccupied apartment so they could watch the festa notturna on the water below. An enormous floating stage approached, decked out in

ribbons and silks, a full orchestra upon it. Flanking it were two smaller barges with singers belting out complex melodies and harmonies.

It was one of his favourite memories of Maria di Angelo.

He couldn’t quite see because the stone guardrail came up to Nico’s eye level. But then he felt his mother’s hands under his armpits, and she lifted him up. ‘Stai attento,’ she said as she placed him on top of the railing.

‘Bianca!’ he cried out. ‘Guarda!’ Then he pointed to the floats. Nico turned, but his sister was not with them.

‘Mamma?’ he said, twisting to the other side. She was not there, either.

He was alone on the balcony.


The river called out to him.

This is where you belong, it said. You do not deserve their love.

And then he felt the hands on his back. Heard the words in his mother’s voice. ‘You will never make it back.’

She shoved, and Nico fell.


He woke suddenly.

The fire in the centre of Damasen’s hut was still flickering. It sent

shadows dancing along the ceiling, and Nico watched them as he regained his breath.

He sensed warmth nearby and turned his head. He was met with a shock of blond hair and Will’s soft snoring.

Nico’s heart was racing. A part of him wanted to wake Will and tell him about his dream. It wasn’t an impulse Nico was familiar with – he was more accustomed to keeping things to himself. And he also knew that Will

absolutely needed to sleep. They both did.

So he resolved to talk to Will later, once they’d both got some rest.

Would it make Nico feel better? He wasn’t sure. But if he wanted Will to understand him better, he also had to open up more. It was a two-way street.

He fell asleep again, his hand lightly caressing Will’s arm.


He plummeted from the balcony over and over again.

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