Guess who reread The Titan’s Curse for the first time in about five years? Yup.
This is based on/inspired by two things:
1) @bailci ‘s headcanon that Will and Nico became friends during the quest in this book (aka before s*** hit the fan). [I’m sorry I didn’t ask to use it beforehand, but I was 99.9% sure you wouldn’t mind! Please tell me if you do!]
2) My own headcanon that Nico felt Bianca dying. You know, all that good stuff.
Enjoy the ride, amigos!
P.S.: This is unedited. I just wrote this as fast as I could and now I need to sleep.
P.P.S.: Title is from ‘I Had a Dream About You’, poem by Richard Siken
The day after his sister left with Grover, Zoe and Thalia — and Percy, but hopefully she hadn’t noticed that yet —, was the day another camper arrived, along with a satyr.
The Stoll brothers had explained to him that they were in emergency mode, bringing in as much campers as they could, so Nico wasn’t really startled when he saw the demigod crossing the magical barrier of the Camp. The satyr seemed to be carrying most of the boy’s weight, and they slowed down once they realized they were inside camp borders — safe. Then they collapsed on the snow.
“Connor!” Nico called, pointing at the newcomers. Connor and Travis both looked up, let go of their cards and stood up. Nico left his own cards behind on the table — the brothers had been trying to teach poker to him, and it was cool, but it didn’t beat Mythomagic — and followed them.
He could see the boy better once they all got closer to them. His blond hair was wet and caked with dirt, as was his face, and his cheeks were flushed with color from running.
He was panting, his eyes closed, and didn’t look like he was going to get up soon. One sleeve of the red jacket he was wearing had been torn off, and Nico wondered if the boy had something else to wear that was warm.
“Hey there. Welcome to Camp Half-Blood!” Travis greeted. “C’mon, Con, let’s take them to the infirmary.”
The satyr groaned, but sat and helped the boy up.
It was no use — he had passed out (or fell asleep) from exhaustion —, so Connor carried him up and took him to the Big House.
Nico followed them.
Turned out the boy hadn’t fallen asleep; he really had just fainted.
But now he was waking up, his blue eyes alert as he eyed the place. His gaze fell on the satyr — Bobby was his name, Nico had learned —, then on Nico.
“Hi?” He told Nico, his voice rusty and insecure, then he looked back at Bobby. “We’re here?”
Nico noticed the boy had an accent he had never heard before.
“We’re here.” Bobby confirmed, smiling.
The boy smiled as well and relaxed on the medical bed.
“Can we— I mean, is there a way to let my mom know? She must be worried sick.”
“Sure.” Bobby stood up from his chair and smiled. “I’ll get a drachma. Be right back.”
The boy smiled too, then turned to Nico.
“Hey. I’m Will Solace. A, hm, demigod.”
Nico beamed right back at him and offered his hand for shaking. Will took it.
“I’m Nico di Angelo. I’m a demigod too!”
“Nice to meet ya. Have you been here for long?”
Nico shook his head.
“Just for a few days. But, wow, it’s so cool! I played capture-the-flag the other day, and it was awesome! Percy made, like, half the lake go up, and I thought Thalia would honestly make a lightning bolt fall on his head, but Chiron stopped them before—”
“Oh, my God, are they okay?” Will asked, his eyes wide. Nico smiled at him.
“Of course! They went on this super important mission yesterday, along with my sister, Grover and another Hunter.” He noticed his tone becoming quieter at the end, and shook his head to make the sad feeling go away. “But anyway, they’re heroes! I’m sure they’ll back soon. Oh! There’s also a mummy that speaks weird stuff about the future!”
Will didn’t seem as impressed as Nico obviously was with this information.
“Fun, right?! It’s okay if you’re a bit lost at first, because there’s an orientation video and— Oh! Chiron is a centaur! And a god rules camp! Mr. Dionysus, the god of wine! Isn’t that cool? He doesn’t have a very strong attack, but he’s awesome!”
“I see you’ve already made a friend.” They looked up at the sudden voice, only to find Bobby walking up to Will, grinning. “Told you.”
“Yeah.” Will smiled a bit at Nico, a little hesitant, but Nico only beamed at him.
“Yeah! Ah! I can show you around if you want! I mean, I probably would get lost if one of the Stoll brothers didn’t go with me, so maybe we shouldn’t go alone, but the camp is huge! And there is a climbing wall with lava! Percy said it gives it a little extra challenge.”
“…Sure.” Will smiled a little at his new friend, even though his eyes seemed a bit panicked.
“You’ll probably stay in the Hermes cabin too, but don’t worry, I’ll be there! And we can play Mythomagic! Do you play Mythomagic?”
“Ah! I can teach you if you want! So we can play together!”
“That’d be nice. Thanks, Nico.”
“It’s no problem.” The boy waved it off, then was about to begin talking about this other game the Stoll brothers wanted him to learn, but Bobby put a hand on his shoulder.
“Nico, maybe we should give him some space. So he can talk to his mom.” He explained, and Nico’s mouth formed an “o” in understanding.
“Sure. See you later, Will.”
Then Nico turned and left the infirmary.
The next time he saw Will was when he next entered the Hermes cabin. The boy was now wearing other clothes — a bright orange sweater, a white sweater vest, a jean jacket and clean jeans. He also had gloves and a scarf on, and was drying his hair as best as he could with a towel. He was clearly sensitive to the cold.
Then Nico noticed Will had put all his stuff in the bunk bed below Nico’s — Nico slept at the top.
“Ah, do you mind? Travis told me you slept there.” He pointed at the bed in question, and Nico had the impression his ears were turning red.
“Not at all!” He beamed. “I was going to invite you anyway.”
“Ah, thank you.”
“No problem.” He sat beside Will on the bed, but none of them spoke for a moment. “You don’t talk much, do you?”
Nico was right — Will’s ears were reddening.
“I’m sorry.” He mumbled, and Nico immediately felt bad.
“No, no, it’s not a problem! I can do the talking, if you don’t mind. I mean…” He hesitated. “Some kids at my school said I talk too much.” He figured it wasn’t important to say that it wasn’t some. It was almost everyone he tried to befriend. Okay, it was true that most of them didn’t say anything, and if they did they tried to be polite about it, but rarely did they seek contact and conversation with him. That sent the message well enough.
Will’s eyes were wide.
“No, I don’t mind at all! I think it’s nice that you’re so happy about Camp, really. Living away from my mom seemed like a nightmare but—” He fidgeted with his hands. “I hadn’t thought that Camp would be actually nice. Although it does sound dangerous.”
“I’m sure they’ll keep us safe. And we can train real hard so we can defend ourselves too! It will be great, you’ll see.”
Will smiled a little at him.
“Yeah, I hope so.”
“I know so.”
On the way to dinner, Nico pointed at the various places he could now recognize. They sat side-by-side, and Nico was so excited to show him how the magic cup could fill itself with any beverage you wanted that he almost dropped the liquid everywhere.
Nico was slightly worried that Connor and Travis would think badly of him because he was paying full attention to his new friend instead of them, but they seemed okay with it — even encouraged him.
“See if he wants to play poker too.” Travis told him.
Will didn’t. He was more interested in Mythomagic, to Nico’s absolute delight.
“It seems more useful. I could learn about the gods faster this way, don’t you think?” Will shrugged, smiling hesitantly at Nico.
“Sure! It’s okay if you don’t have any cards or figurines yet, I can share mine!”
Nico tilted his head.
“You know, you look a lot like my Apollo figurine.”
“Apollo is the god of music, right?”
“Yeah! And the sun, and poetry. But he—he’s not very good at poetry.” He leaned in and said quietly near Will’s ear, afraid anyone would else would listen.
“Ah. How can that be?”
Nico shrugged, uncertain.
“Maybe he just has to practice more. Like, I was really bad at Mythomagic when I started, but now I know the strategies and stuff, so I’m better at it.”
(He was great and he knew it. He was just trying to be modest and not to discourage Will.)
“Yeah. Practice makes perfect.” There was a pause in their conversation as they ate some of their burger. “What about you? Who do you think is your godly parent?”
The last two words sounded strange coming from Will’s mouth, probably because it was all very new for him and he still wasn’t used to it, but Nico didn’t comment on it.
“I was thinking that maybe it’s Hermes? Because he is the god of communication and all, and I talk a lot. And we both have black hair.”
“That’s not a bad thing. Talking a lot.”
“Thanks. I’m sure we’ll find out soon. Travis said some dem—he said that the gods claim us, like, with a symbol above our heads or something.”
“I can’t wait.”
That night, Will had a nightmare.
Nico could tell because he was awoken, having trouble to sleep again, and he could hear when Will started moving around below him, whimpering sometimes.
He tried to lean in at the edge of the bunk bed, but that felt dangerous soon enough (he got distracted scolding himself — “Nico, you’re a demigod now; you can’t be afraid of simple things like falling from the bed, it’s not even that high”). So he used the stairs and soon enough was on the ground, observing Will’s anguished face in the dark.
“Will.” He called whispering. He decided to shake the other boy’s arm a little, and it took a while, but Will woke up with a start. “Are you okay? Were you having a nightmare?”
Will had to take a moment to gather his surroundings. When he did, he sat up and Nico sat down beside, putting a hand on his shoulder for comfort.
“Y-Yeah.“ He mumbled, wiping the tears off his eyes. “It’s just that the monsters really scared me on my way here. I was thinking— I dreamed of what could’ve happened if the monsters found my mom.”
“Ah. But she’s okay. We can call her tomorrow and check if she’s safe.”
Will nodded, but he was still shaking and not meeting Nico’s eyes.
“It was just a dream, Will. It wasn’t real.”
This time, his friend looked at him, and Nico smiled a little to reassure him. After a while, Will nodded and took in a deep breath.
“Did you find a lot of monsters on your way here?”
“Hm, not really. I mean, there was one on my school — a manticore —, but we had… we had help.” He mumbled.
Will seemed to sense he didn’t really want to talk about it, because he didn’t say anything.
“Well, are you okay? Feeling better?”
“Yeah. Much better. Thanks, Nico.”
“You don’t have to thank me, you know.”
“Yes, I do.”
Nico could have argued about that, but he didn’t want to risk waking the Stoll brothers up or to agitate Will. His friend deserved a good night of sleep.
“Good night, Will.”
The next few days were nice.
Nico had someone his age to talk to, and he was happy to notice Will was speaking up more. He talked about his mom, his house in Texas, his favorite video game, his friends.
“I hope I’ll see them again someday.” He’d said once, and Nico couldn’t think of anything to respond, so he just mumbled a “Yeah”.
He missed Bianca. It was strange not to have her around. His sister had been with him for as long as he could remember. He thought about Iris-messaging her, as the Stoll brothers had told him about, but then he remembered how Bianca had chosen that: life with the Hunters — away from him. She probably didn’t want to see him anyway, so he didn’t call.
His days were filled with training, exercise, delicious food, conversation, Camp exploring, Mythomagic, laughter, and plenty of sun.
His nights were filled with counting sheep and memorizing how the ceiling looked.
Then he had the nightmare.
The nightmare wasn’t any particularly scary monster or anything. On the contrary, it was a dread. A cold feeling that seemed to soak him to the bone. He felt trapped in his own body, like he couldn’t move, and then there was nothing. He couldn’t feel anything, sense anything, remember anything.
When he opened his eyes, it took him minutes to realize his was in the Hermes cabin, at Camp Half-Blood. It took him longer to hear Will’s soft snoring below him and to be able to move his limbs. He was cold, and absolutely certain that something terrible, terrible had happened.
He felt alone.
After staring up at the ceiling for who knows how long, he decided he wasn’t going to sleep anyway, so he went down the stairs of the bunk bed and woke up Will.
“Nico? Did something happen?” His voice was groggy, the words slurred from sleep.
Nico didn’t say anything.
He felt a bit stupid looking at Will — it was obvious everything was as perfectly fine as was possible.
“Wait. Did you have a nightmare?”
It hadn’t felt like a nightmare, but Nico nodded anyway.
Nico hesitated, then shook his head no. It wasn’t fair to lie to Will.
Will frowned, his hands fidgeting again. After a minute of silence, Will seemed to remember something and shook his head, then smiled at Nico.
“Don’t worry. Whatever it was, it was a nightmare, right? Remember? It isn’t real.”
He suddenly wished he hadn’t said that to Will back when he’d had a bad dream. This… feeling hadn’t been like anything Nico had ever felt in his life, and he’d had plenty of really bad nightmares. This was something else, and Will couldn’t understand that. Nico himself didn’t know what it could be.
So he let it drop.
“Yeah. You’re right. I’m sorry to bother.”
“You didn’t.” But Nico was sure he had. He just shook his head weakly.
“Good night, Will.”
After that, he started having nightmares. Real nightmares, scarier and more sinister than any he’d ever had. They weren’t about monsters — at least that’s what Nico thought.
It was a voice, telling him how Percy would fail, how he could not be trusted. How in the end, he would only save those who really mattered to him. The hero is a lie. Nico was on the losing side.
And as afraid as Nico was at night, he was even more scared when the voice followed him during the day, refusing to leave his mind.
No! You can trust Percy. He made a promise. He would tell himself and calm down. He wanted to Iris-message Bianca so bad, to ask how things were going, if she was coming back soon… But he remembered how hurt he’d been, and refuse to let that grudge go. Bianca should apologize first.
He didn’t tell Will about those nightmares, nor did he wake him up. Nico already knew it would be of no use, and he didn’t want to think about the voice.
It isn’t real, Will had said that night, after the first nightmare. Nico wished he could believe him, then wondered why he couldn’t.
He didn’t really like to think about that either.
A few days later, Percy Jackson returned. He had Annabeth and Grover beside him, but no sign of any Huntress, or Thalia. Maybe they had stopped somewhere to have a snack. Maybe they were at that Council of the Gods thing.
He watched as his three friends entered the Big House, not noticing him, and decided to wait. Surely his sister wouldn’t leave for good without saying goodbye.
Nico waited, but deep down, he knew she wasn’t going to come back.
He felt uneasy, his stomach turning, as if he was about to be judged for something. As if his fate was to be decided, were the right words.
“Hey, are you okay?” Will asked after swallowing down some chocolate. The Stoll brothers had gone to a convenience store near camp in a ‘top secret mission that you shouldn’t tell any responsible adult — or Mr. D — about’. They brought back chocolate bars for Will and Nico, as a reward for their silence and as a sample of what the Stoll brothers could do, given the right amount of money.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not eating.” Will pointed out.
Nico looked down at his practically untouched chocolate bar and compared it to Will’s, which was only three-quarters of its original size.
“Yeah, I’m just not very hungry.” He said, smiling a little. “I was actually thinking of going to see Percy. I want to talk to him.”
“Oh.” That was obviously not what Will had been expecting. “Want me to go with you?”
Nico shook his head.
“It’s fine, it will be just a second.” He stood up. “Keep an eye on my chocolate for me?”
“And don’t eat it!”
“Wouldn’t dream of it!” Will retorted, pretending to be shocked at the insinuation. Nico laughed.
“I’ll be right back.” He promised, then opened the Hermes’ cabin door and left.
The more Percy talked, the more Percy explained, the less Nico could feel.
It was as if all the words escaped him. Because nothing matters anymore, he thought. There is no point—
That feeling. That awful feeling of nothing. Bianca. That had been her. Percy said she’d—been gone a few nights ago, and Nico just knew it couldn’t have been anything else. It was as if already knew that, and now was just remembering it as if he’d forgotten.
Before he knew it, he was yelling. The feeling of nothingness replaced by such a hot fury that Nico could barely think. Out, he had to get out of here.
It wasn’t until much, much later that he thought about how those skeletons had obeyed him, Nico di Angelo.
How the earth had opened and swallowed them down exactly as he’d needed it to, as he’d sensed it would.
But for now, he just broke down and cried as he’d never done before.
He was alone in the world.
He didn’t think about Will Solace for a long, long time.