Will took in a deep breath, face pointed up to the sky. The beach was his Nirvana. With the sun beating down on him, the sand between his toes, he was in his element. Perhaps not as much as Percy, who had run across the beach, shedding shoes and clothes as he went, and immediately dove into the water with as much grace as a dolphin. They hadn't even put their bags down yet.
"He's always like that," Annabeth told them. "He'll come out when he's hungry."
Will helped set up their little spot, sticking the umbrella into the sand like he was claiming land for Spain and sighed when Nico immediately plopped down in the shade, a book in hand and a hat over his head.
"Are you going to get any sun at all?" he asked his boyfriend, who just raised his eyebrows at him over his sunglasses.
"The sun and I don't agree on a lot of things," Nico replied, flipping his book to a seemingly random page and adjusting the towel he was sitting on. "I'm fine here. You go on."
Will pouted but Nico didn't see. Shrugging, he went to join Percy, Jason, and Piper in the water. They'd already borrowed boogie-boards from an unknown source and were trying in vain to ride the small waves back to shore. "Hey, man," Percy greeted. "You boogie?"
"More of a surfing bird." Will stepped into the water. "Holy shit! That's cold!"
"You're just like Jason," Piper teased. "It took him fifteen minutes to just get up to his thighs."
He turned to look at Jason, who was standing with the water up to his waist with his arms raised away from the water. Jason glared at his girlfriend. "It's freezing," he defended and backed away when Piper smiled deviously and swam towards him. "No. No! Piper, don't! I still have my glasses on!" He shouted out when Piper splashed him relentless, retreating back onto the sand while she flopped onto her back and laughed.
By the time Jason had deemed it safe to venture back in, he joined Will, who was up to his knees, and glared at Piper and Percy warningly. "Everything cool with you and Nico?" he asked lowly.
Instinctively, Will glanced over his shoulder to where Nico was firmly planted under the large umbrella, not even giving up a fight as Annabeth started putting little braids in his choppy hair. Frank and Hazel were building a sandcastle. In front of them, Leo was digging a hole with a manic smile. Will didn't want to know.
"Yeah," was his first answer but he wilted under Jason's skeptical gaze. "I mean… I don't know. He has really talked to me since last night."
"Did you have a fight?"
"No. Kinda? Not really. It was… It was weird. I don't really know what is was. He thought I wanted to break up with him when I go back to the US."
"What are you guys doing after you go home?" Jason asked. "I mean, you're going to med school and he still has another year."
"I have no idea," Will admitted. "I didn't like to think about leaving so I didn't give it any thought. But now it's like I can't stop thinking about it." He paused. "I thought about applying to a med school here."
Jason blinked at him. "That's a big move."
"Yeah. But I don't know if I could ask him to come to the USA with me." He sighed and inched further into the water. He saw a figure under the water and yelled, "Don't even think about it, McLean!" The figure retreated, a mess of bubbles rising up as if to say, "Killjoy."
"Anyways," Will continued, "he loves it here and I'd feel like one of those asshole boyfriends if I asked him to make the big change in his life just to be with me, yanno?"
"What if he wanted to go?"
"What is he doesn't?"
"So you'll just pack up your life and move here?"
"If he asked me I probably wouldn't say no."
Jason blew out a sigh. "This sucks, man. I wish there was a way for all of us to be neighbors or something."
"Yeah." Will was up to his chest. He shivered as the icy water hit his shoulders. "Sh-shit! This is worse than New England water!"
Jason remained at waist level. "I think you guys need to talk about it," he said, folding his arms over his chest protectively as he took a single step further. "It's all about compromise and all that."
Suddenly, from behind, Piper jumped out of the water and dunked Jason under the water with a victorious shout. Jason shot out like a startled cat and gasped. "PIPER!" he yelled. "I'm gonna kill you!"
"Gotta catch me first!" she laughed and swam away as Jason tried to do just that. She pointed at Will. "You're next if you don't get your sun child butt in!"
"I'm working on it!" he protested.
As Jason and Piper splashed each other aggressively and Percy cheered Piper on with whoops of, "Yeah! In the face! Get him in the face!" Will thought about Jason's advice. He really did need to talk to Nico about what they were going to do. How did he even start that conversation without it turning into another one of those odd fights? Last night had left a worried pit in his stomach. He only knew he couldn't bear to think about leaving Nico behind in a few weeks.
He stared up at the sky with a small frown. What was he going to do?
Around three o'clock, after they'd gotten their fill of failing to boogie-board and Hazel yelled that there were sandwiches, Will trudged back onto land, feeling a bit unstable after getting pushed around by waves and Piper for the better half of the day.
He ignored the now sizable hole Leo was burying himself in and strode up to his boyfriend, who know had about four little braids in his hair. He reached down and tugged lightly on one. "Should I call you Nicole now?"
"Shut up," Nico said without looking at him. "It kept her quiet."
"Uh-huh." He was unconvinced. "They're cute."
Nico scoffed and shrugged away from Will's touch. "You're dripping water on my book. Go away."
"I'll leave you alone for one hug."
"You're soaking wet!"
There was a moment of silence – Nico ignoring, Will plotting – then in a swift movement Will had swiped Nico's book away and ran down the beach. Nico let out an indignant squawk and tore off after him, hat flying off his head. "Will!" he shouted. "Give that back!"
"One hug!" He glanced over his shoulder and cursed. Nico was gaining up on him much faster than he'd thought. He picked up the pace but it was only a matter of time. He used his next defense. Height. He held the book over his head. Even if Nico caught him, he wouldn't be able to reach it.
However, Will underestimated his boyfriend's strength. Nico caught up to him, grabbed his free arm and with a harsh twist Will was on his knees, crying, "Ow, ow, ow! Uncle! Uncle!"
Nico huffed, snatched his book back, and started back towards his umbrella. Will chased after and scooped him up from behind into a tight hug. "AGH!" Nico arched his back away from the touch, feet kicking angrily. "You're so cold! WILL!"
Will laughed and rubbed his wet hair on Nico's jaw, doubling his boyfriend's efforts to escape. "You spend too much time sitting around!" he said. "Come in the water with me or something."
He could hear the gears working in Nico's head. He stopped fighting and looked as if he was dealing with a business transaction. "After we eat," he promised suddenly and Will agreed at once.
He put Nico down and caught his arm before he could stomp off. He waited until brown eyes were on his before saying, "You know I really do love you, right?" Nico's eyes widened but he didn't say anything so Will kept going. "I know you're freaking out about what's going to happen when I leave. Hell, I'm freaking out about it, too. But I'm not leaving leaving. You know that right? We're going to figure this out."
Nico's face was unreadable but, when they walked back to the others, Nico raveled their fingers together and squeezed. Will smiled and swung their held hands between them.
After they'd eaten, Leo's hole was level with his waist. Jason was the one to question it. "What are you doing?"
"Going to China," was the answer.
Ten minutes later, Frank called over to him, "Seriously, Leo. What are you doing?"
"Buried treasure," was the reply.
No one questioned him again.
Frank and Hazel decided to go down to the water and Percy managed to coax Annabeth along with him while Jason and Piper wordlessly pulled Leo out of his hole. "Let us bury you," Piper pleaded and Leo was surprisingly quick to agree.
"Only if you give me a mer-tail," he compromised. "And then you have to help me dig."
Nico turned to Will with an almost shy look. "What do you want to do?" his eyes asked.
Will gestured down the beach. "Walk?"
He agreed and they stood up, brushing the sand off their hands onto their shorts, and held hands again as Will announced they were going seashell hunting. Leo signaled them a thumbs up as Piper and Jason dumped sand on his legs. "He wants a fish tail not an airplane wing," Piper scolded Jason, who pouted at her.
"You mock my sand-sculpting skills?"
"Be safe!" Hazel called from the water.
Nico waved at her.
Percy wolf-whistled at them.
Nico flipped him off.
And then they were off.
It turned out that there weren't many seashells or rocks along the beach. The sand was smooth and the water was still a clear blue despite the late hour. "So," Nico started.
"Should we… talk?"
"Is there a better time?"
"Touché. Let's start with the facts." Will paused for effect. "I don't want to break up," he asserted.
"Absolutely not," Nico agreed.
"I'm going to med school in the fall. And you still have a year here."
Nico watched the water roll over their feet. "What if… once I graduate…"
"What's that?" Will bent down to hear him better.
"Once I graduate…"
"Once you graduate…?"
"What if I came to the States?"
An uncharacteristically large wave rolled into them, knocking Nico into Will's side. Will's arm automatically wrapped around him and it stayed there even after Nico had righted himself again. "You want to come to America?"
"I mean, like visiting!" Nico added quickly. "Like, while you finish med school I could get a visa and live in the US for a bit. Like how you did here."
Will's heart was beating fast in his chest. Was Nico really all right with that? Coming to the USA was a big deal. But, then again, it was only a temporary fix. He bit the inside of his cheek. "W-well… what if you moved there?"
Nico scrunched his eyebrows at him. "What do you mean? Move to America? With you?"
"Yeah." Will's mouth felt a bit dry. "You can keep applying for visas. I have a sponsorship so I get free rent and everything. You could stay with me." He said 'stay' in a final sort of way. As in, 'Let's stay together. No more waiting around.' The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. "We could do it, you now. We could live together."
Nico's expression scared him. It looked uncertain, withdrawn. "And leave Italy? My family is here, my friends – Bianca and Hazel and—"
"I'm not saying you'd have to give them up," Will said. "I wouldn't want you to cut them out of your life. Especially for me. We could visit. Spend the Holidays here or something. Look, I know it's a lot to ask. But imagine it for a second? Could you see us living together?"
Nico was quiet for a long time. "I don't know," he whispered. "I don't know. I need to think about it."
Will nodded. It was something, at least. Nico hadn't completely shot him out of the sky. It was only fair. "You could finish school here," Will added. "I'd wait. And, uh, no matter what you decide, you know I'll wait. We'd figure something else out. I just thought…" He let his statement go unfinished.
They walked in silence for a long time. Will could sense Nico sorting things out in his head. He hummed to himself in thought, shook his head when one of his thoughts didn't work for him, and raised his eyebrows when one did. He was weighing the pros and cons, judging the difficulty of a move, and Will was a ball of nerves beside him.
At one point, Nico withdrew his hand from Will's and his stomach fell. But Nico just bent down to pick something up. He dropped a little seashell in Will's hand. "There you go," he said and then went back to his thinking.
Will ran his thumb along the tiny shell, watching the colors reflect off the wet surface. It was really pretty, as far as seashells go, and Will carefully put it in his pocket. He wasn't going to lose it. As he watched the waves crash behind Nico – his boyfriend's face solemn in deep thought – Will decided he wasn't going to lose him either.
They'd make it work. They had to.
"Oh my God," Nico said when they got back to their spot.
"Sup?" Leo grinned at them. Only his head was visible. The rest of his body – a curvaceous feminine figure – was made of sand. Two small white cones were pressed onto the sand-chest.
"What are those?" Nico asked.
"They're supposed to be boobs," Piper replied tiredly from her towel. "We couldn't make the sand stay up and it was the best we could find."
Leo caught Will staring and winked at him. Will quickly looked away.
"No, I mean, you guys got snow cones?" Nico pointed at the cones again. "What the hell?"
"Yeah, where are ours?" Will huffed.
"Snooze you lose," Leo said.
"Shut it, Ariel," Nico snapped and turned to Hazel. "My own sister. Didn't even save me a snow cone?"
"Sorry, Nico," she said.
Nico turned to Will. "I hate our friends."
Will laughed. "I'll buy you a snow cone. C'mon."
They found Percy and Annabeth at the snack bar, laughing about some joke Will didn't understand, but they were talking a lot of selfies in front of the sign and looked pleased with themselves. "Did you get jipped out of snow cones, too?" Percy asked them. "Apparently they used ours to give Leo a boob job."
"Idiot," Nico said.
The four of them scored a picnic table nearby and ate their snow cones, talking. Nico seemed to lighten up. At least, he didn't look as solemn as he had during their walk. When Nico caught his gaze and smiled briefly, Will knew he still had a lot of waiting to do. But that was fine. It would all be fine.
When they got back, the rest of their friends were lying around, too tired to function. The exception was Leo, who'd broken free of his sandy prison, and was shouting triumphantly as the tide came in and filled up his hole. "Free hot tub," he announced and climbed in quickly. "Oh, shit, never mind. It's still cold as hell."
"You were trying to make a pool this whole time?" Frank asked him wearily.
"And it only took me seven hours."
Frank groaned. "I'm tired just watching you."
They left shortly after that. Packing up was a chore and it took a lot of negotiating to get Leo out of his hole again, but once they had rinsed off as much sand as they could and loaded up the cars it was smooth sailing. Will drove one of the cars on the way back with Nico in the front with him and Jason, Piper, and Leo in the backseat. Jason was in the middle with Piper and Leo both leaning on him. All three were fast asleep.
"Thank God," Nico sniggered. "I can hear myself think again."
Will laughed quietly, turning down the radio a little. His eyes flashed up to the other car. He could see Hazel behind the wheel with Frank, asleep, in the passenger seat. Percy and Annabeth were most likely out cold, too.
Will and Nico talked a little, mostly laughing at the stupid things their friends had done during the day, but neither of them spoke a word of their earlier conversation. Will was burning with the desire to know what Nico was going to choose, but Nico had to be the one to bring it up again. Will wouldn't pressure him. Not on something as big as this.
"Hey, Nico, can you hand me my water?" he asked but didn't receive an answer. He glanced at his boyfriend and smiled. Nico had fallen asleep with his face smushed into the seatbelt. Carefully, Will reached over and pulled the map from his open hands, resting it on his own lap instead. Then, he turned off the radio completely and enjoyed the quiet drive back.
Everything was going to work out. One way or another.
A/N: Hi :)