The only Chapter
It took a lot to throw Will Solace off of his game. He had faced monsters, and titans, and giants without blinking. He had survived two wars in as many years. He spent every day healing a variety of injuries because someone had decided that hyperactive, short-tempered demigods needed easy access to pointy things. He was not an easily flustered guy, ask anyone.
Okay, so maybe that was a lie, because right now he was staring at a basket of snowflake shaped cookies left on his desk in the infirmary with a look of absolute bewilderment etched on his features. He rummaged through the basket looking for a note or some sort of identification that would tell him who had sent the gift, but found nothing. He picked one up, inspected it closely and carefully took a bite. He had been on the receiving end of too many of the Stoll brother's pranks not to be wary. His eyes shut of his own accord and he let out a muffled groan, it was just the right combination of crunchy and chewy, and carried the light flavor of cinnamon.
Why someone felt the need to give him anonymous, freshly baked goodness was beyond him, but it had been a long day and he wasn't going to complain. He finished the rest of the cookie and grabbed a couple more before heading out. He had been planning to meet up with Nico anyway.
Will rolled his eyes "It's a cookie Di Angelo, you know, warm delicious baked good?"
Nico bumped his shoulder, though not in an unfriendly way "I know what a cookie is, Solace, I was wondering why you were giving me one." His voice sounded a little odd, but Will couldn't quite place it. He shrugged.
"You need to eat more, you're practically a skeleton yourself."
Nico scowled, but obliged. The two of them sat by the lake side by side in comfortable silence. Will wondered how they would look to outsiders, him with his sandy hair, blue eyes, and bright orange camp t-shirt next to Nico with his dark curls, haunted expression, and ever present leather jacket. They were as different as night and day. Nico finished his cookie.
"It's pretty good, right?"
"Yeah." He was looking at him strangely, a smidge bewildered, a bit expectant, a little vulnerable. Will wanted to... well he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but he wanted to make that expression disappear.
"Who do you think would win in a fight, Frank or Clarisse?"
Nico choked out a laugh, giving him a surprised look, before smirking and saying "Frank, for sure."
The cookies kept arriving on his desk for the next few days. He'd often share them, either with his patients or his siblings or some of the younger campers. Mostly he'd share them with Nico, and he'd get that same strange look in return. It flustered him.
"So..." Will plopped down next to Nico and handed him a cookie. He took it without a word. "You're not usually around during the winter."
Nico snorted "I'm not usually around at all." It was true, Nico had spent so much time away from camp, that his current position as semi-permanent, "I'll stay here as long as I'm not needed in New Rome or the Underworld" camper took many people by surprise.
'I just thought you might have other places to be." said Will with a shrug "What with you being an ambassador to New Rome and all."
"That's Jason, not me." said Nico carefully, and then smirked "And anyway, have you ever been to the Underworld in the winter? Demeter likes to visit and make passive-aggressive comments at dad and redecorate the palace. It's horrible." He gave and exaggerated shiver, making Will laugh. "Besides," he said offering Will a small smile "I'd rather be here, with you."
Will's brain short circuited at that, and his mouth made a sound without consulting his brain first. Nico seemed to realize what he'd said and blushed furiously.
"I mean you guys. I like being here with you guys. You know, you, Jason, Piper, and Hazel's been here for the past few days... speaking of, I think I can hear her calling!" He practically ran in the direction of Hades cabin, leaving Will staring open mouthed after him, trying to identify the warm feeling in his chest.
There were no cookies on his desk for another week. He felt strangely bereft. Nico had been avoiding him too. On one hand he missed their conversations by the lake, but on then again, it gave him time to analyze his feelings towards the other boy. Lou Ellen claimed that he was walking around like a kicked puppy, and promptly went to talk to Hazel, because of course, the two had become fast friends. The next day there was a basket on his desk, and Nico had pulled him aside, asking if they could talk.
"Can we pretend like I never said anything that day and just go back to being friends" Nico blurted out the moment Will sat next to him.
Will raised an eyebrow, and Nico seemed to shrink. No matter what Nico said, Will was not going to be able to forget those words, or the way Nico's face had softened as he said them. He wanted to tell him that, to say that he didn't want to pretend it never happened, that they were always friends, and maybe he's like to be a little more if that's okay.
Instead he smiled, and offered Nico a cookie. He took it with that same mixed expression as always, only this time Will was one hundred percent sure that he wanted to kiss it away.
On Tuesday morning Will lost three campers to Hydra inflicted wounds. There were double the amount of cookies waiting for him in the afternoon. The baskets were black.
"I heard. I'm sorry."
"Should I leave?"
"....No please stay."
Nico sat next to Will, and they both stared at the horizon. This wasn't the first time Will had lost patients, and he hadn't even known these campers personally, but he still felt each of their deaths sharply, still wished there was something more he could have done. There were days that Will cursed the fact that they were demigods.
Nico hesitantly put his arm around Will's shoulders, as though he expected the other boy to pull away. Instead, Will leaned into him and closed his eyes, willing away his exhaustion and misplaced guilt. He thought he felt fingers lightly brush the top of his head, but he couldn't be sure.
It's not as though Will wasn't trying to find the identity of the mysterious cookie gifter, he just didn't have a clue where to start. His siblings swore that none of them knew a thing, so he asked Cecil to keep an eye out. Cecil looked at him like he was an idiot, but agreed to help nevertheless. He tried to recruit Lou Ellen as well, but the girl had just giggled at him, said 'Use your brain Will, I know you've got something under those pretty locks of yours", and had just been generally unhelpful. Asking Katie, Annabeth, Jason, or anyone from Aphrodite cabin garnered similar results.
"Brought you a cookie."
"You always do." Nico had that look on his face again, and Will wanted to rip his hair out.
Will had gotten it into his head that Hazel was the woman behind his little presents. It made sense. They had started arriving around the same time as she came to visit camp. Plus she was nice enough to want to make people happy with little acts of kindness, and she seemed like the cookie type. However when he asked her, she looked just as bewildered as he did. With this promising lead destroyed and no new information from Cecil, he was about ready to start banging his head on his desk.
"Nico, do you have any idea who's been sending me these things?" Will asked, mildly irritated. Most of the camp now knew about the case of the mysterious cookie giver, and were keeping suspiciously mum about it, only deigning to smile secretively at him when he asked them.
Nico, who had been just about to swallow a mouthful of cookie choked. The subsequent coughing fit turned his face firetruck red, and Will thumped his back until it subsided. "Sorry," he said wiping his mouth "I know only as much as everyone else." He didn't quite meet Will's eyes.
After weeks of searching for the Cookie Gifter, it was an innocuous comment on Will's part that gave the game away.
Nico had come to visit the infirmary, at Will's request. There were no serious cases, nothing a few mouthfuls of nectar and ambrosia or a well-placed Band-Aid couldn't fix. It was quiet now, only the two of them in the room. Will was doing inventory on the medical kits.
"I still don't know why you keep insisting that I'm needed here." said Nico, mock grumbling, as he sat on one of the empty beds, kicking his heels.
Will grinned "Well, for one thing, you really brighten up the place."
Nico chuckled, and Will was proud to realize that it was a genuine laugh whereas a few months ago it would have been bitter.
"Besides," he said, "Good to have extra hands around."
Nico gestured at the empty room "Ah yes, look at how busy you are." He ducked a roll of surgical tape that Will chucked at his head. It bounced of the wall and landed at his feet. He stuck out his tongue. "You're going to have to pick that up now."
Will sighed and walked over to Nico, medical kit still in his hands, and scooped up the roll of tape. Nudging Nico over so that he could sit next to him, he spread the contents of the medi-kit out on the bed, taking a quick inventory. The corners of Nico's mouth quirked upwards.
"Terrible aim aside, you're a pretty good healer, I still don't see why you need my help."
"A compliment? From you? I'm honored!"
Nico smirked 'Don't let it go to your head, the flattery is just a desperate attempt to get you to join the dark side."
"The dark side?" asked Will with a grin, attention still on the medi-kit "Do you have cookies?"
There was a sudden silence, even the steady squeak that accompanied Nico's kicks stopped as he froze. Will looked up.
'Nico?" The boy's face was red, from the roots of his hair all the way down to where his neck disappeared into his shirt.
"Oh my gods!" said Will as understanding dawned "It was you, the whole time it was you!" Nico nodded, carefully, as though his head would fall off if he made any sudden movements.
"All this time! And you told me you didn't know!"
"Actually," said Nico, voice hoarse "I said I knew as much as everyone else, and everyone else sort of already knew it was me?"
"But why?" asked Will, bewildered.
"You looked like you needed it." said Nico quietly, and looked down at his shoes, a smidge bashful, a bit uncomfortable, and a little terrified, and suddenly it dawned on him. Lou Ellen was right, he needed to use his brains more.
"Is it okay if I kiss you now?"
Nico's head shot up "What?"
Will took a deep breath. "I said, is it okay if I kiss you now?"
"I, uh, y-yeah."
Will leaned in, bracing himself on the mattress, his heart pounding in his ears. Nico licked his lips, and Will could hear his breath hitch as he moved closer. Their lips met, moving clumsily against one another. Will's free hand moved to stoke Nico's dark hair, making him sigh into the kiss. Will pulled away, breathing deeply and smiling. Nico looked dazed, like he'd just been woken from a deep sleep.
"Can we do that again sometime?"
"Oh hell yes."
It took a lot to throw Will Solace, but Nico's smile at that very moment tilted his world on its axis.