Uh let's pretend that Coach Hedge didn't come with them because I kind of forgot him oops I'm sorryyyy.
Okay, in the last chapter (and then especially in this chapter) I feel like I'm writing this really romancey. I have no intention of shipping Nico and Reyna, but just let me iron out the wrinkles with this to make it sound more friend-y and less love-y.
She was incredibly grateful that he'd had the sense to spare them from the whole "French Bistro" shtick. They were sitting at a table with no centerpiece, watching a little girl and her younger brother toss crumbs at nearby pigeons.
She tried to swallow the pit in her stomach that kept growing, the uneasiness that always came with the calm before a storm.
Nico watched with dull eyes as the young boy beamed up at his sister.
The waitress, a freckled young woman whose ponytail had obviously become less perky over the course of her shift, brought out their courses. Thankfully, Nico had given Reyna a laconic rundown of the menu, so at least she didn't order something horrible (it was France where they ate snails, right? She'd never had the chance to find out).
Nico, she discovered, was an expert at getting stringy pasta to roll up perfectly onto the fork (she realizes stupidly that he grew up in Italy after all). He ate like he hadn't done so for weeks (all that shadow-traveling couldn't have been easy). She picked at her wilted salad, not really hungry as much as she was tired. The waitress brought out a check, and Reyna realized the only money she had on her was denarii. Not even American dollars. She was about to say something when Nico pushed a few Euro bills onto the table, shrugging in response to her look.
The sun is setting as they walk back to resume watch over the statue when they almost walk into yet another godsdamn couple making out on the corner and she's pretty sure that even if she ever got herself a boyfriend she will never do that with him in public. At least Nico looks just as as repulsed by the lovers as she feels.
She catches him staring at her out of the corner of her eyes once, twice, three times during the walk. She debates in her head whether she should confront him.
They're almost at the hill when he's looking at her oddly again and she turns her head sharply to meet his guilty expression.
"Is there something on my face or what?"
"No, it's nothing, really." His face is red again, the embarrassment coming off of him in waves. "You just..." the rest is muttered to lowly for her to hear.
"I just what?" Reyna demands, having stopped walking, her hands on her hips. Nico's face is pretty much a tomato now.
"You look like my sister, alright?" Reyna blinks. She definitely wasn't expecting that one.
"Your... sister? Hazel?"
"No." His eyes are darker than anything she's ever seen before. "My older sister, Bianca. She's..." He doesn't have to finish the sentence.
"Oh," is all she can think to say, the word out of her mouth before she really even realizes it.
"Yeah." He shoves his hands in his pockets and sulks off up to the statue.
She decides not to break the protective spell in favor of letting the both of them get some much-needed sleep. They're lying on top of the grass (she mutters silent prayers that it won't begin to pour or thunder or the like). Reyna's too tired to sleep, almost, so instead she finds herself looking up at the stars. An old habit from Camp, she supposes.
The thought brings a pang to her chest. She misses Camp Jupiter; the way the sun's golden rays shone on the Oakland Hills as it rose; the Lares who, if you had an hour or four to spare, were actually phenomenal storytellers; her friends. Gwen, Bobby, Hank- they were about as close to friends as she'd ever had. And, of course, her heart spoke up, there was Jason... Reyna heaved a sigh, turning onto her side in an attempt to switch her train of thought.
"Too tired to sleep?" Nico's voice was soft, as if he wanted someone to talk to but at the same time wanted nothing to do with her ever again.
"Yeah," she sighed in reply. "It feels like my brain just won't shut off." Normally, there's no way she would talk so informally, but quite frankly, she was too exhausted to care at this point. Nico makes a sort of snorting noise that she assumes is a sign of humor.
"Sounds like you and Annabeth have more in common than you think." She sat up slowly, pondering the comment.
"I suppose. We are both daughters of war, after all. I don't know her very well, though," she admitted honestly. "Have you known her long? You seem to know a lot about her." Nico laughs humorlessly- a scary thing the likes of which she would be better off never hearing again.
"Yeah, kind of. She and a few others were the ones sent to bring me and my sister to Camp, but she was captured. My sister was on the quest to rescue her when she..." Oh.
Nico is silent, as if reliving the memories again in his own mind. After an awkwardly long pause, he speaks again. "But I'm not angry about that anymore." If his voice is any indication, he's telling the truth. She turns her head to face him and finds him upright in a sitting position, shoulders slumped and picking at the grass that's started to die as he sits there. (It's a good thing she's had one too many bad experiences to even deem that as creepy). He sighs again and rises, walking away and calling over his shoulder.
"I'm gonna go for a walk. Do you mind taking watch? You can sleep if the spell thing'll hold. Won't be gone long." She makes a motion to stand up and follow him but before she can even voice a reply he's gone, melted into the shadows.
If she really wanted to, she could catch up to him- he wouldn't use his actual shadow-travel powers, he needs to save every ounce of energy he can- and, on second thought, the grass is slowly starting to seem more and more unfriendly, the stars blinking almost dangerously. She's not lonely- she crossed the Mare Nostrum by herself, she can be alone if she wants to- but she has to look out for that stupid son of Hades, Reyna tells herself, because Jason told her to do so before they left.
Gods, Paris is freaking smoggy, and it doesn't help that the boy she's trying to track down wears all black and blends almost seamlessly into the background, nor does the fact that she knows not a lick of French. Now that she thinks about it, it must be the weekend, because it seems that the entirety of the population under the age of 30 has chosen tonight to go out on the town, so to speak. And there's a reason Paris is called the city of love- some of the things she's walking past should probably be considered potentially illegal (and unquestionably mind-scarring).
If this experience doesn't feel enough like a terrible romantic comedy yet, she finds Nico standing sullenly at an intersection by a park. His face is red- the most color she's ever seen on him- as if he's been standing in the cold for too long, but it's warm outside...
Her eyes follow his line of vision and he sees why. Two kids about Reyna's age who seem to be very much in love are making out. In the middle of the street. Lips are locked; his hands are clenching her blonde curly hair as she runs her fingers through his tan-colored locks.
They pull away and Reyna does almost a double-take. If she wasn't three hundred percent sure that Annabeth Chase was on the Argo II at this very moment (and also that she had a serious boyfriend)... Reyna glances back to Nico, who is standing there looking scandalized.
She thinks back to their conversation earlier. "But I'm not angry about that anymore." Could the son of Hades actually...? He doesn't seem the type to harbor a secret crush, but then again, neither does she- nonono, it's not a crush, she's told herself time and time again that it's nothing, really, she's happy for her comrade and that airhead of a Venus he calls a girlfriend...
The Annabeth-look-alike and her boyfriend move on, strolling down the street in each other's arms. Reyna steps closer to finally speak to Nico, but she realizes the couple wasn't what his eye was focused on.
Two men- one tan, with absolutely outlandish clothes and spiky dark hair; the other with a simple grey sweater and long black hair that vaguely reminds her of someone- are kissing (much more modestly, at least). To be honest, the sort of thing has never bothered her (and besides, this is Europe, after all), but Nico looks embarrassed beyond belief. His dark eyes are wide, drawn to the shaggy black-haired boy.
(She's never been able to read lips very well but she would bet her life that 'Percy' is what's forming on Nico's.)
And it all falls into place.
Hehehe feeling devious about my cameos from other fandoms...
Changing tenses in the middle of a chapter who me?
Okay on a scale of one to ten about "how shaky am I with the direction this chapter has taken" I'm like a 12. If you guys hate it as much as I'm dreading, pleasepleaseplease tell me and I will change it! As always, thank you for reading :)