Chapter no 51

The Sun and the Star

Nico awoke suddenly and in a panic.‌

Oh, no, he thought. Will! I told him I would meet him!

He wasn’t sure what time it was when he bolted from his cabin, but it was still very bright outside, and there wasn’t quite as much of a

crispness to the air. He rubbed his eyes as he crossed the clearing to the Apollo cabin, rushing past the hearth in the centre. When he shoved the

front door open, he realized he should have knocked first, especially since he was met with the shocked faces of Kayla and Austin over Iris-message.

‘Nico!’ Austin called out. ‘Oh, we’re so glad to see you!’

‘Where are the Cocoa Puffs?’ asked Kayla, eyes wide. ‘I really want to see them.’

Nico glanced over at Will, who shrugged. ‘Last I saw, they were still fast asleep in the dining pavilion.’

‘Later, then,’ Nico told the two demigods. ‘You guys mind if I talk with Will?’

‘Oooooh,’ said Kayla in a sultry voice. ‘How romantic.’

‘Shut up, Kayla,’ said Will, grinning. ‘I’ll talk to you both soon, okay?’ Nico waved to them as the Iris-message dissipated, then joined Will on his bed. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I meant to come immediately after talking to

Piper, but I passed out as soon as I was done.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ Will said. ‘I knew you’d come back.’ He grabbed Nico’s hand. ‘So, Piper … Everything okay?’

‘Yes,’ said Nico, smiling widely. ‘Very much okay.’ ‘And we’re okay, too, aren’t we?’

‘Yup,’ he said, leaning into Will’s shoulder. ‘I feel like you and I have talked more today than we have in the last year, so we don’t need to have another long talk right now.’

‘Agreed,’ said Will.

They rested there for a few minutes, and then Will cleared his throat. ‘But one more thing,’ he said.

Nico laughed and shoved Will away from him. ‘You love talking!’ ‘I can’t help that I’m an extrovert!’

Nico plopped back onto the bed. ‘Okay, so what’s the last thing, then?’

Will lay back so that he was parallel to Nico. ‘I just wanna make sure you know that I’m not trying to change you or anything. I think the whole Nyx thing dredged up a lot of stuff in our relationship.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ he said. ‘In both directions.’

‘Well, we’re talking about me right now, so stay on topic, Nico.’ ‘I’m sending you back to Tartarus tomorrow.’

‘And now I know how to get back, so nice try!’ He paused. ‘Well, I don’t actually know how Bob managed that last part, but that’s beside the point.

What I was trying to say was that I don’t want a version of you that I’ve made up in my head, and I don’t want to treat you like you are a literal ball of darkness or anything, either. And I think sometimes I have.’

‘But I also fed into that,’ said Nico. ‘My problem is that I never let

anyone believe that I was anything but a ball of darkness. Even though deep down I wanted to have friends and be cared for. But I couldn’t let go of all the hurt and pain I was in.’

‘Maybe having the Cocoa Puffs is going to help. I don’t know, the idea that your personal demons now live outside your body is kinda cool.’

‘Oh, it’s very cool,’ said Nico, and he propped himself up on one hand so he could face Will. ‘I’m already planning on not telling anyone else about them so I can use them to scare the living daylights out of people on a regular basis.’

‘Wow, Nico,’ said Will. ‘Why are you like this?’ ‘Childhood trauma,’ Nico said, nodding.

Even Will couldn’t resist how funny that joke was. It pleased Nico to see him able to laugh at something that dark, and he took it as a sign – Will really was trying.

Well, so would he. Nyx had unintentionally taught Nico that he could no longer live shackled to his past. He didn’t have to let his pain define him.

There was another option, one he’d not been able to see before Will Solace, the son of Apollo, came into his life and shone his brightness on him.

Nico was not afraid of the light any more.

He and his boyfriend lay on the bed in silence, his leg looped over Will’s and his fingers tracing the lines on Will’s palm. No one had ever loved him like Will did, and that was no longer terrifying. How could it be? How

could acceptance and respect and desire be anything but the best things for Nico?

His life had been ruled and nearly ruined by gods and demons, by wars and prophecies, by doubt and fear. But as he watched Will drifting off to sleep, none of those things mattered any more.

There was a creak at the door, but Nico did not look. He heard the patter of tiny footsteps on the wooden floor, then felt each of the Cocoa Puffs hop up onto the bed. They found a place to cuddle up with Nico, Will or one

another. It was strange – a year ago, this was not something that Nico could ever have imagined.

He had no idea what the future held or what crisis would rear its head next and threaten the safety and well-being of the world. They were demigods – all that came with the territory.

But this was the first time in Nico’s entire life that a certain sensation filled his whole body, stitched itself to his bones, buried itself in his heart.

Nico smiled.

The future held hope. And he clung to it.

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