Chapter no 47

The Sun and the Star

Will wasn’t surprised when Nico fell asleep in his arms.‌

The Acheron – or Cocytus, Will supposed, as he wasn’t quite sure which river this was any more – carried them along

smoothly, and the gentle current was lulling. But sleep was proving to be a little more elusive for Will.

It didn’t help that there were, like, fifteen blobs of darkness staring at him with glowing eyes.

Nico’s Cocoa Puffs (Wow, another great band name, he thought)

examined Will. Were they trying to determine if he was safe to be around? It sure felt like that. As the boat travelled through the empty expanse of

Tartarus, they watched him vigilantly while occasionally cooing or purring.

This was going to be quite an adjustment.

But so was being around a Titan. Will had never met Bob before, and now he was sharing a boat with him.

Oh, and Bob was weeping.

Like, full-on weeping. Tears poured down his face. ‘Bob, are you okay?’ Will asked.

‘I am more than okay,’ the Titan choked out. ‘I am free. I’m also thinking of something I once said to some other demigods.’

‘What was that?’

‘I told Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase that Titans are not meant to change, that we are the same forever. But this … this is not true. I am

evidence of that. All things can change, if given the opportunity.’ He smiled. ‘It is a lot to consider, Will Solace.’

Will smiled back. ‘Do you need anything?’

‘No, my demigod friend. You just rest.’

Will glanced ahead, and the river continued into the darkness. ‘Do you think we’re actually going to make it to the top of the Underworld?’

‘I’ll get you back home, Will Solace,’ Bob said. ‘You saved me. Now it is time for me to save you.’

Nico stirred against his chest. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Let others do the saving, Will.’

Will hugged Nico tight. ‘Shhh, my little ball of darkness,’ he said. ‘We don’t need your sarcasm right now.’

Nico grunted a laugh. ‘You live for my sarcasm.’

‘So … is this it? Do we just wait until this river leads us back to the entrance?’

‘Will, it really is okay if you just rest,’ Nico said. ‘You don’t always have to be saving the world.’

‘I know, I know. It’s just that it seems like after everything we’ve been through on this quest … this part is too easy.’

‘Well, now you’re starting to sound like me.’ Nico sat up and turned to face Will. ‘And I get it. I really do. I’m always expecting the worst because

… well, the worst always seems to come for me. I even assumed that for this quest. I was so worried even before we entered the Door of Orpheus.’

‘I know,’ said Will, and shame burned his face. ‘And I don’t think I made it any easier for you.’

Nico raised an eyebrow. ‘What do you mean?’

‘This whole quest got me thinking. About you and me, and how often I thought your darkness was something to be conquered or healed.’

Nico’s head drooped. ‘Yeah. I did feel that sometimes.’

‘But now I know that it’s not about conquering, or vanquishing, or any of that kind of hero talk. Sometimes it’s better to learn to live with the darkness.’

Will looked to the Cocoa Puffs, who were still watching him nervously. ‘I guess I’m going to have to literally do that, too.’

Nico looked deep in thought for a moment, and then he leaned forward quickly and kissed Will. It was short, but when he pulled away, his face was alight with joy.

‘I appreciate you telling me that,’ said Nico. ‘But also … I like that you

want to take care of me, Will. I haven’t had someone like that in my life since Bianca and Maria, and I’d started to forget what it felt like. Until I

met you. I love that you care so much for the people in your life. I don’t want you to think I dislike that.’

‘I don’t,’ Will said. ‘But maybe I need to do a better job of figuring out

how to take care of you, rather than assuming you’re just like everyone

else.’ He took Nico’s hands, which were cool to the touch. ‘Because you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met.’

He pulled Nico close, and this time they kissed longer. Fuller. They only stopped because Bob’s sobbing was now impossible to ignore.

‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ asked Will, looking back at the Titan.

‘I am perfectly fine,’ Bob said, wiping at his face. ‘I am crying tears of happiness for my sun and my star.’

‘Do you know what that means?’ Will whispered to Nico as he settled back against the rear seat.

Nico cuddled up against him. ‘Not a clue.’

Moments later, the ghost king was fast asleep in Will’s arms once more. Bob sniffled softly behind them, and the current carried them all down the river. There were shadows in the distant fields this deep in Tartarus, but if they hid secrets, those secrets never revealed themselves.

Will just drifted along with it all, strange as it was – the reformed Titan on one end of the boat and the shadowy, inky Cocoa Puffs at the other. And the whole being-in-Tartarus thing. And escaping Nyx’s control. And …

Okay, there was a lot. But this one part here – Nico using Will for warmth and as a pillow – nothing felt strange about that.

It was the most fitting part about this whole quest.

They both had plenty to talk about when they returned to the mortal world, and Will felt a sudden jolt of nerves flash through him when he thought about bringing the Cocoa Puffs into Camp Half-Blood. He was

certain Chiron would erupt into flames on the spot. Will would have to keep his field-medic kit handy.

For now, Will allowed himself to close his eyes. Bob and Small Bob were watching over them. They were safe. Or at least as safe as two demigods

could be in the lowest part of the Underworld, where monsters and demons regenerated.

Before sleep came for him, Will felt an odd softness on top of his right hand. He opened his eyes to see that one of the Cocoa Puffs – the one with a single eye like a Cyclops – had cuddled up against him. It stared at him, and

he worried it would dart off like the others. But it merely observed him sleepily until its eye closed, and then it began to snore.

Will had heard love described in so many dramatic, bizarre ways over the years, but no one had described it like this:

It’s like drifting down a river of pain and knowing you are safe. It’s like holding a person in your arms and realizing they are an interlocking piece of a puzzle you hadn’t known how to assemble.

It’s like staring into a dark and treacherous expanse, unsure of what awaits you but finding comfort in the fact that you won’t have to face it alone.

It was a son of Apollo falling for a son of Hades. It was this.

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