No, I have not gotten a private copy of HoH and written the continuation. I only wish.
This is just a cute fluffy something that's been running around my mind for a while, and I couldn't help but use it. Ah, what brilliant things plot bunnies can grow into. So this is just a little oneshot –– "little" being the underestimation of the year seeing as this chapter is longer than all of the others except Chapter 3 –– to keep you satisfied until the real thing comes. So here's my little treat… ooh, like an appetizer… or a dinner mint! I love dinner mints! Agh! Sorry.
Also: I changed the number of the Thanatos cabin from nineteen to twenty-nine. I just thought there would be more than eighteen cabins at the time Saige arrived in camp, because in TLO it was described that new cabins were being added to the blueprints almost every day.
And I drew a different cover art because the other one sucked.
So, without further ado, here it is! The very first (and potentially last) Saigico Fluff Fest!
I Force-Feed a Necromancer
It was three days after our… ergh… kiss, and Nico was still too timid to look me in the eye.
Or maybe it was me. I don't know.
Point is, we were staying away from each other. And I don't think we knew why. I mean, after the kiss *wince* weren't we supposed to be all lovey-dovey, holding hands-y, giving me roses and chocolate-y? At least, that's what I saw in the movies. On the few occasions that I felt like sneaking into the theater.
As I was saying –– ADHD, work with me here –– we were way too uncomfortable around each other now. What had I done? By doing… that to him, any casual friend relationship we had had with each other was yanked away, torn to shreds, and flushed down the toilet. I mean, it wasn't like we had done a full-out, lips-on-lips kiss. Just a little one, and it was all my fault. But it seemed as if I had crossed the line with Nico, and the look in his eyes afterwards had crossed the line with me. Everything was different now and we didn't know why. I couldn't even pass cabin thirteen without getting a weird, fluttery feeling in my stomach.
Lacy, a camper who wasn't much older than I, must've seen the strange, awkward grimace on my face that undoubtfully gave away whatever I wanted to keep secret about my stomach butterflies, because she came up to me and asked, "Nico, huh?"
I scowled at her, or at least tried. The mere mention of the four-letter Italian name brought a faint smile to my face that wasn't voluntary. She grinned, showing her braces.
"You are perfect for him, you know? The two emo kids of Camp Half-blood… it's just so cute!" she squealed. My glare trumped the smile, and she seemed to get the message. "Oops! Sorry. Is it too public out here?"
Palm, meet face. Face, meet palm. Facepalm. "Please stay out of my love life," I said, gritting my teeth and walking away. Hey, I couldn't help it! She was borderline creepy, and I was really tired even though it was one in the afternoon. I was something of a night owl. Usually my schedule went something like this: wake up at 7 AM for breakfast. Train until lunch. Take nap after lunch. Wake up at 6 PM before dinner. Stay up until 3 AM in the morning. Go to bed, then wake up at 7 AM for breakfast. And right now, I was supposed to be taking my five-hour nap.
"My mom is the love goddess," she said, jogging up to my side. "I could help, if you want me to."
"Okay, let me get this straight," I said, stopping and holding up a hand. "One, you are way too peppy. Two, there is no love going on between me and that kid. Three, who said I wanted help?"
Lacy gave a sly smile, glanced around, and leaned in as if sharing a secret. "No one," she whispered. "But I know what's going on. I saw Nico sneak into your cabin three nights ago, and I saw him leave five minutes later. I think I can guess what happened while you were in there…"
I clamped my hand over her mouth. "I swear by the Styx, daughter of Aphrodite, that if you tell anyone about whatever is up there in that head of yours I will duct tape the Shoes of Shame to your feet after dunking them in Super Glue."
Her eyes were wide, and I could tell that she was wondering how I knew about the Shoes of Shame. Well, it's a long story, and I will say only that it involved the Stoll twins and nothing more.
"Am I clear?" I said icily. I was very clear. She nodded, and I let her go. "So how do you think you can help me?"
Lacy leaned in and lowered her voice again. "I'll give you some advice," she said.
"Oh, goody," I said sarcastically. "Advice. Yay. Continue."
She frowned at me in what I think might have been her approximation of a glare. "I'm serious," she said. "Now do you want my help or not?"
I sighed, unfazed by the glare. "Whatever. What is your excellent advice?"
"He wants you to make the first move."
I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
She nodded frantically, glad that she was getting her point across to me. "You talk to him first," she said. "Ask him what's wrong, and if he pulls away, pull him closer."
"Remember, this is Nico di Angelo we're talking about," I hissed. "If he gets scared off –– "
"He gets scared off because he's not used to affection," replied Lacy, a strange light flickering in her blue eyes. "You have to show that you care about him."
"But I don't want to show him that I care about him… like that," I said. "I want us to just be friends again. I regret kissing him. It's like I severed the friendly bond that we had."
"So you admit that you kissed him."
"Yes! But that's not the point! The point is –– "
"That's exactly the point, though. That kiss changed everything, didn't it?"
"Well, if you put it that way, then… yeah, I guess."
"And if you pretend that it never happened, he'll notice that since nothing's different to you, nothing should be different to him. And sooner or later, you'll both forget about it. Well, scratch that. You won't forget about it, but at least it won't completely destroy your relationship. Sure, maybe you'll be a bit more awkward around him, but at least you two can regain that bond you had."
I considered this. "Well…"
"Be bold," she prompted, her eyes glimmering again. "Just go up to him and talk like nothing ever happened. Ask him to have a duel with you in the sword-fighting arena. Challenge him to a footrace. Bet him that you can eat more hot dogs in one sitting. Something casual."
I took a deep breath. Maybe Lacy wasn't such a dunderhead after all. This was really good advice. The problem wasn't just the kiss, though. It was why I had kissed him –– he had spared my life. I couldn't just pretend that nothing had happened.
"But what if it wasn't just the kiss?" I asked. I knew the risky steps I was taking with this, but it was the only way to find out. "What if he had done something for me?"
"It depends on what scale of 'something' that would be," she remarked. "Did he give you a present? Like a necklace or a bracelet?"
"He did," I replied, "but that was after he stole them from me."
"Oh," she sighed. "Is that what he did for you?"
"I never said he actually did that something," I said. "I was asking what if he had done something for me, something really big?"
"Like, how huge?"
"Would kidnapping me and then sparing my life be a good example?"
Her jaw dropped, and I swear I could see her eyes literally glowing. "Did he really…?"
"I will say nothing more except that if you tell anybody, they will never find your body. Now give me that advice, lover girl."
She took a deep breath in to compose herself, then said, "Did you thank him?"
"The kiss was kind of the thank you."
"Then just go."
"To him. My earlier advice is good enough. Just talk to him casually. Even if it was a really big deal, pretend it never happened."
"I can't just do that," I protested. "He saved my life."
"Then be grateful," she answered, "but don't pressure him. If he's pressured into thinking that you are too grateful for it, he'll think he owes you, hence the awkwardness."
"But I'm starting to think that I owe him."
"Then show him that you don't. Make the first move. Be casual. If you can't pretend it never happened, act as if what did happened was a good thing, but that it's not going to change anything between you two."
I took a deep breath. I was getting a serious headache from this conversation. "All right," I said. "I never thought I'd say this to a daughter of the love goddess, but… thank you. You've been a great help."
Lacy's eyes lit up, but this time with a different, almost freakish light. "Really?"
I rubbed my eyes. Her very white teeth were almost blinding in the sun, especially with the sparkly braces on them. "Yes. Now please, let me take a nap, and I'll think it over."
The blond-haired girl literally jumped up and down. "Yay! I helped someone! Okay, tell me if there are any results! You know where to call!" And before I could say another word, she skipped off to put on makeup or arrange outfits or do whatever it is children of Aphrodite do.
I didn't see him at dinner that night, or anytime after my nap in general, but the next morning, at breakfast, I did. Chef's special was crêpes that day, and everyone was digging in. Except Nico, who was sitting alone at table thirteen with nothing in front of him, not even a plate. I looked down at the oversized crêpe on my plate. It was what I called a Nutella crêpe, with sliced bananas and… well, Nutella. The entire thing was practically doused with the melted chocolate/hazelnut mixture, and it had to be the best thing I had ever tasted. And it was huge, so by the time I was halfway through I was absolutely stuffed. And there Nico was, with nothing.
So I did the first thing that came to mind –– I made the first move. I got up, took my plate, and walked over to him. As I came closer, I noticed that his eyes were partly closed, and he was fingering a small something… was it a necklace? He seemed half asleep, and I wouldn't have been surprised to find that he had forgotten to take a plate. But when I sat down directly across from him, I found that this was sadly not the case.
His head jerked up, and he dropped whatever it was he was playing with. Yup, it was a necklace. That same one that I'd seen him wearing for… well, ever since I'd known him. I'd only gotten a glance at what it was –– it was a tiny lead statue, no longer than my pinky finger. He had threaded a wire through a small hole in the statue's helmet, and wore it as a necklace. I always wondered where it came from, and what its significance was, but I'd never dared to ask.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, his voice not devoid of suspicion and maybe a bit of... fear?
I grinned and set my plate onto the table. "I'm here to make you eat."
"We're not allowed to switch tables –– "
"Since when have I cared about what was allowed?" I asked cynically. "What's more important than the rules is why you're not eating."
He shrugged half-heartedly and averted his eyes. "I'm not hungry."
"Really?" I inquired, arching my brow.
He only nodded and shrugged again, with the same lethargy as before.
"Why do you never eat?"
"Not today you haven't."
Another half-hearted shrug from the son of Hades. "Yeah. But I'm not hungry."
I didn't reply. I only slid my plate across the table to him, leaned forward, and smiled. "Eat the crêpe."
He stared at me. "But –– "
"I'm not hungry."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are. I can see it."
"No, I'm not!"
"Two things: one, anorexia is so unflattering, and two, you're not pulling anything. Eat the crêpe."
"I don't want to eat the crêpe."
"I don't care. Eat the crêpe."
"Mm mm." He pressed his lips together, refusing to open them even to talk.
I stabbed my fork into the crêpe, cut a piece, and held it up. "Eat."
"Mm mm." Now he was just being childish and mischievous. Perfect. He'd finally remembered how to have fun with me.
"Eat it," I enunciated slowly, sticking it into his face. "Eeeeeeeat iiiiiiiiiiit."
He shook his head, and I saw his mouth curling into a smile. I tried to push away my own smile and take out my threatening demeanor, even though I know he'd see right through it.
"You know you want it," I said, leaning forward farther.
"Mm mm," he said, stifling a laugh.
"You have to eat, Nico," I argued. "If you don't eat, you'll die. And if you die, I'll cry. And if I cry, then Lacy will cry. And if Lacy cries, Piper will cry. And if Piper cries, Jason will cry. And if Jason cries, Annabeth will cry. And when Annabeth cries, Butch will cry. And when Butch cries… well, forget it. Then we all just lose it."
He was trying not to laugh but failing miserably. I have to admit, the visual image of me, Lacy, Piper, Jason, Annabeth, and Butch all sobbing uncontrollably over a dead Nico was rather funny, minus the dead Nico part. I didn't really want him to die –– duh –– I was just making a point.
"Come on," I said, grabbing his hand and sticking the fork in his hand. "Eat the crêpe. It's not much. Just a bite."
Nico held the fork, and for a second it seemed like he was going to eat it. He reached across and pulled my plate, with the crepes still on it, over to him, dipped the piece of crêpe into the Nutella, brought it up to his mouth, and then set the fork down. No, I did not miss anything. It went from the air in front of his mouth to the plate. He didn't even take a bite.
"Hey!" I cried indignantly. "I told you to eat it!"
"I'm not hungry," he said again, still trying to stifle the laughter.
"I don't care! Eat it!"
Nico shook his head again.
And finally, he relented. "Okay, okay! I'll eat!"
"Then pick up that fork, di Angelo."
He did so. Then he stuck the bit of Nutella-coated crêpe into his mouth.
But I wasn't about to announce victory yet. "Chew and swallow…"
He did so.
"Now for bite number two…"
"There's a number two?" He was acting all whiny, but I knew he loved it.
"Why not? You liked that crêpe, Nico di Angelo. I can see it. I know it. Why not?"
"I'm not hungry!"
"You're hungry enough to look hungry and to enjoy that crêpe. Now keep enjoying it or I'll douse you in barbecue sauce and dump you in Mrs. O'Leary's food bowl. And don't say I won't do it!"
Now neither of us could really control our laughter, and the other campers were staring at us strangely. Neither of us really cared. I, and undoubtfully many other people, watched eagerly as Nico picked up the fork again, stabbed the crêpe, brought a large piece to his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. Leo Valdez started a round of applause.
And because I was laughing, Nico started to laugh too. And, with me nagging his every bite, he started to eat. Actually eat. He ate about half before he started to look seriously stuffed, and was literally crying a bit because we were both laughing so hard. It took us a few minutes to calm down, and by then most people had left the dining pavilion.
We walked out to the forest together –– we would have gone to the sword fighting arena, except that the Roman/Greek fiasco (starring Jason Grace) hadn't been cleared up yet –– and to my favorite spot. It would be the first time I had ever taken anyone with me, and I was actually kind of nervous. I didn't know what he would think of it. It was an outcropping of rock jutting out over the river, shaded by trees but with a nice view of the river, the forest, and the sky above.
I took off my shoes and socks and sat on the edge of the outcropping, letting one bare foot dangle down and drawing the other one up to my chest as I rested my arm on my knee and my staff on my shoulder. I could stay in such a position for hours if I let my thoughts just roam, and if I didn't have allergies that sent me back inside after more than ten minutes. Nico stood behind me, just looking out at the view. There was just enough space on the rock's surface for another person to sit, and at a silent beckon from me Nico uncomfortably slid down beside me. So awkwardness returns when we're completely alone. Go figure.
After a long moment of silence I said, "It's really pretty at night."
He nodded. "Yeah."
Silence was drifting over us again. Usually I liked silence, but with him it just felt weird. I had been going somewhere with this returning-to-friendship thing when forcing him to eat, but now I was back to square one. "Hey, you can take off your shoes too. And your jacket. Oh, and you might want to put away your weapons, too."
"Why? We're not going swimming, are we?"
I grinned. "Maybe. If you want."
"Not today, I'm afraid." He did take off his shoes and socks, though. Then he looked at me and said, "Do you want to swim?"
I shrugged. "I kind of do. It's warm out today. But if you don't want to, I don't have to."
"Um… what would you, er, wear when you're swimming?"
I rolled my eyes. Just like any other boy, that was the first thing he thought of. "I'd probably just go in this," I replied. "No, as much as you would like it, you will not get a chance to see me in a bikini."
"Ahem, no comment…"
"Oh, yeah. Like you're that much different from other boys."
"How am I different?"
I just raised an eyebrow and scrutinized him head to toe. "Do you really want me to start?"
He just laughed breathily and looked away. That silence came back, but this time it was companionable as we sat, listening to the sounds around us. I closed my eyes and let the surprisingly warm breeze of early spring flow over my cheeks as I let my mind wander. About a minute passed before I heard the subtle sounds of Nico beside me, as he subtly slid across the rock surface –– closer to me. I opened my eyes and locked gazes with him. Mischievously, he slid a bit closer –– but his smile was all I saw before he put his bare foot against a loose rock, the rock gave way, and he slid right off the rock and into the water below.
"Nico!" I yelled, whipping off my jacket and preparing to dive in after him. He was splashing like a drowning maniac, but his head was above water and most of his frantic arm motions seemed to be overreacting. "Oh my gods, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he coughed, "if not a bit damp."
I cocked my head to the side. "Do you want me to come in with you?"
"Sure!" he called. "The water's grea –– oh, gods." His face contorted into a terrified grimace, and he started to splash more desperately. "Cramp –– thirty –– minutes –– after eating –– not –– myth –– "
That was all I heard from him before his head went under.
"NICO!" I screamed as I jumped in. I didn't know how to swim, and I definitely did not know how to save a drowning person, but that did not occur to me at the moment. Once in the water –– which was a good six feet deep –– I tried to keep myself afloat while blindly groping for Nico. I located his hand, and then the rest of his body.
It took all of my strength and then some to swim up to the river bed while holding a half-drowned son of Hades. His aviator's jacket and baggy jeans were hindrances in this case, as they had soaked up more water than sponges and kept that water in, adding about twenty pounds to his total weight. But I managed, and soon we were safe on dry land. Almost.
Nico's face was paler than ever, and his eyes were closed. He had been coughing and spluttering as we came in, but now he was completely still –– deathly still. I lay him on his back and knelt over him, muttering prayers to Apollo and Hades and Poseidon and pretty much every deity I knew that might help us in this case. "Oh gods, Nico," I whispered. "Oh gods, oh gods… oh gods, Nico, talk to me!" By now I was almost screaming, and even shaking his shoulders.
But then he coughed, opened his eyes, smiled, and said in a perfectly normal voice, "I can't believe you fell for it."
The implications of this sank in, and I fell backwards onto my heels. "What?"
"First attempt at a dramatic drowning act," he smirked, sitting up and shaking out his wet hair like a dog. "Must've been good if you fell for it. As for the 'wait thirty minutes after eating before going in the water' myth…" insert triumphant pause, "I thought you would know better, that it is just a myth."
I was speechless. So I just punched him in the arm and strode off to go get my shoes, jacket, and staff.
We walked back to camp together, still soaking wet. When we came to the point between cabin thirteen and cabin twenty-nine at which we would have to part ways, I said, "I'll walk with you back."
"Why?" he asked.
"In case a certain high-voltage blondie shows up and my staff is needed again," I replied, and without another word Nico complied.
But when he got to his cabin, he said, "Now I'll walk you back."
And when we got to mine, I said, "Now I'll walk you."
We managed to walk each other seven times before that high-voltage blondie in question appeared, and I had to drag Nico inside cabin twenty-nine before Jason could see him. Nico left my cabin by way of shadow travel.
And not once did we ever mention the kiss, repeat it, or even try.
As far as friendship repairing goes, it was probably my best attempt ever.
The Nutella crêpe incident is based off a true story, except that the players in the original incident are different and more in number –– there were five of us trying to get the girl to eat her lunch. And the crêpe really had nothing to do with that; I just put it in because I couldn't remember what exactly it was that my friend was not eating and because Nutella banana crêpes are awesome. Seriously, you gotta try them. AH-MAAAZE-ING! ^_^
Please review this fluff fest!