“This is the last one,” Will said as he put the box that he was carrying down on the floor. He stood up, straightened his back and looked around. A few feet away from him, Nico was sitting on the floor, taking some stuff out from one of the boxes.
Nico snorted. “You said that as if I had hundreds of boxes.”
“I can’t believe that you could pack your whole life in just a few boxes,” Will sighed. He made his way to the couch and threw himself there. It wasn’t exactly new. The brown couch was a hand-down from Piper, but it was comfortable enough. Will shifted, half-laying on the couch with his back against the armrest.
“Come here and give me a hug, babe,” Will called out to Nico. Nico turned his head to look at Will. He rolled his eyes but as Will widely opened his arms, there was a small fond smile on his lips. Nico stood up and made a beeline to come to Will. He lay down on the couch and snuggled up against Will. Will started playing with the soft dark strands of Nico’s hair.
“How are you feeling, love? Excited?”
Nico hummed his answer. “I can’t believe I finally have my own place.”
“Well, you practically had Cabin 13 to yourself…”
Nico huffed. “Yeah. But it’s different, you know?”
Will smiled and kissed the top of Nico’s head. He hummed and let Nico continue.
“This is the first time I’m, like…deciding everything by myself. Like, really owning something for myself.”
“And how do you feel about it?”
Nico huffed. It took a moment before he answered, like he was considering his answers. “Excited. Scared. Nervous. Happy,” he shrugged his shoulders. “All at the same time. I feel like I am still too young to do this, but at the same time I also feel like, hey, I am a real adult now.”
“Oh, wow. I can’t believe that the Ghost King could have so many emotions at once,” Will teased.
Nico groaned and punched Will on the shoulder. Will laughed and caught Nico’s wrist. He brought Nico’s hand to his lips, and kissed the knuckles.
“You’ll be fine, darling,” Will said. “It’s not going to be easy. Living in your apartment, doing your classes, but you’ll be fine.”
Last year Nico managed to earn his GED certificate, and then he decided to do a degree in Social Work. For now, he was still doing it part-time, as he was still doing some errands for Hades. And when it was possible, he opted for classes that he could take online. Will knew that Nico still needed some time to adapt to the way formal education worked. Will himself was already in his third year of his undergrad when Nico started doing the degree. Will was doing Biochemistry and going for a pre-med track. Classes were hard, but Will enjoyed doing it, as he had always wanted to be a doctor. And he was glad to see that Nico seemed to be really interested in the field that he was studying now.
Nico hummed. “Anyway, what time is it now?” Nico asked as he moved, trying to find a more comfortable position against Will’s chest.
Will shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Late, I guess?”
Nico stayed quiet for a moment. But then he asked another question.
“Do you…have to go back to your dorm now?”
With Nico’s warm cheek against his chest, Will couldn’t see Nico’s expression. But the years that they had spent together made it easy for him to recognize the hesitation that laced Nico’s voice.
Will rubbed Nico’s arm. “I don’t have any classes anyway tomorrow.”
Will hummed. “And it’s already too cold for me to go outside now.”
Nico shifted so now he faced Will. “It’s not that cold, Will,” he said. But there was a look of relief in his eyes. Will chuckled, and flicked Nico’s nose.
“It is,” he said. “And to be honest, I don’t think I want to leave you alone right now. It looks like you need some warmth to help you getting through your first night in this apartment.”
Nico opened his mouth, like he was about to say something. But Will put his finger over his lips, stopping him from saying anything.
“I’ll stay for the night. I'm sure that if I go back to my dorm, I'll end up calling you on the phone anyway, making sure that everything’s okay with you.”
There was a small smile on Nico’s lips. “Thanks, Will,” he whispered. Will smiled back, and leaned down to kiss Nico’s forehead.
One day, Will thought. One day, the only place where I have to go back to, will be to where Nico is.
Will smiled unconsciously when he heard Nico’s voice, followed by the sound of footsteps coming. Then the door swung open, revealing Nico, reading glasses perched over his nose. Will’s smile turned into a grin.
Nico looked a bit surprised as he took off his glasses, and put it on the top of his head. “Hey! I didn’t know you were coming!”
“I got something for you.”
Nico’s eyes widened. “What?”
Instead of answering, Will pulled down the zipper of his jacket, revealing a gray kitten who was comfortably snuggling against him with its eyes closed.
“Here. Take it,” Will said as he half-shoved the cat to Nico. Nico looked dazed, a bit clueless, but he took the small cat anyway and cradled it gently in his arms. The cat opened its eyes and stared at Nico sleepily. The cat purred and appeared to decide that Nico’s hands were as warm as Will’s jacket, as it closed its eyes again. Will watched the expression on Nico’s face change from confusion, to caution, until it turned into amazement along with fondness as the kitten snuggled against his chest.
“I think the cat likes you,” Will said, smiling warmly.
Nico hummed. He lifted the cat up a little and nuzzled its head gently. He earned a soft purr from the cat that made him chuckle.
“Does he have a name?” Nico asked, looking at Will questioningly.
“Shakespeare,” Will answered as he let himself in. He closed the door behind him.
Nico snorted. “That’s a terrible name for a cat,” Nico said as he walked to the living room area. Will was trailing behind him.
“Better than Valdezinator, though.” Will said. Nico let out a small laugh at that.
“Yeah, I can’t argue with that,” he said. He sat down on the couch. He petted the cat gently, smiling as the cat stretched and yawned on his lap. Will took a seat next to Nico on the couch. He looked around at the papers and notebooks that were scattered over the coffee table. Nico’s laptop was open, showing a Word document on its screen.
“What were you doing?” Will asked
“A paper. Assignment for my Cultural Diversity and Justice class.”
Will whistled. “Sounds interesting, babe. But the most important question is, have you eaten anything yet?”
Nico gently put the kitten on the carpet, right next to the couch. He brought his glasses back down to his nose and took his laptop from the coffee table.
Nico shrugged his shoulders. “I had some yogurt.”
“And when was that?”
It took a while before Nico answered. “Like…at noon?”
Will groaned. It was almost seven in the evening. “You’ve promised me you’re going to eat more.”
“The due date for this paper is this Friday, Will.”
“Which is still, like… three days from now!”
Nico huffed. “I want to finish it now.”
Will sighed, but then he stood up. He ruffled Nico’s hair, then bowed down a little to kiss the crown of Nico’s head.
“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll whip something up for you so you don’t starve.”
Between the two of them, Nico was surely the better cook. In fact, Nico often said that cooking was one of the things he considered a part of his Italian heritage. But in times like this, when Nico was too absorbed in something that he was doing, it was Will who would make sure that Nico ate something, even if it meant that Will had to do the cooking. Not that Will was bad at cooking, though. His cooking was decent enough to be edible, thank you very much.
Nico mumbled something about not being hungry, but Will still made his way to the kitchen anyway. He was just about three steps away from the couch when Nico called him.
“Hmm?” Will turned to look at Nico.
Nico brushed some strands of his hair away from his forehead when he lifted his head up to look at Will. “You left your guitar here. I put it in the bedroom.”
“Oh! Yeah, right! It’s okay, you can keep it here,” Will said.
Nico rolled his eyes. He looked down again at his laptop. “The next time you leave your things here, at least put them where they won’t block the way. I tripped on that stupid guitar last night.”
Will grinned. “You know you love the guitar, darl.”
(And Will loved it when Nico played the guitar. Which wasn’t new or surprising. Will loved everything that Nico did anyway.)
An hour later, they had some honey garlic chicken for dinner, where Nico exclaimed that he wasn’t sure that Shakespeare could sleep well in a new place with a total stranger. So, of course, Will decided that yeah, he could stay for the night.
Later that night, Will managed to drag Nico to bed before midnight. But before they went to bed, they spent 10 minutes creating a makeshift bed for Shakespeare from a box and some old blankets. Now Shakespeare was sleeping peacefully in it, while Nico and Will lay down side by side on Nico’s bed.
“I still can’t believe you got me a kitten.”
Will shrugged, and started playing with Nico’s hair. He loved feeling the silky strands on his fingers. “I think it will be nice to have a cat here. To make this place feel more like home for you.”
Nico stayed quiet for a while. He drew some small circles on Will’s chest with his index finger. In the dim light of the night lamp, Will could see the contemplative look on Nico’s expression.
“What are you thinking, darling?”
Nico stretched his lips into a thin line for a second.
“What about you, Will? Do you feel like this place, this apartment… Do you feel like it’s home for you?”
Will smiled softly, and leaned to place a gentle kiss on Nico’s forehead.
“Wherever you are, is where it feels like home for me.”
Nico di Angelo was gorgeous.
Not that Will wasn’t aware of that fact before. But it was the first thing that crossed Will’s mind when Nico swung the door open for him that evening.
“Will! Happy birthday!” Nico exclaimed, and tiptoed just a bit so he could peck Will’s lips.
“Thanks,” Will said, still a bit dazed to see Nico. Will stood still for a second, staring at Nico. “Wow,” he said. “You look really nice.”
Nico’s usual attire was dark-colored shirts, sometimes with printed graphics on it. If the weather was cold, he went for hoodies.
(And if half of the ones that Nico usually wore were actually Will’s…well, Will had no problem with it, at all.)
But this evening, Nico was wearing a navy blue button-up shirt. He’d rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. And instead of hanging loosely on his body, this shirt actually fit him, showing his lean muscle.
Nico rolled his eyes, feigning annoyance. But the soft blush on his cheeks betrayed it. Will stepped in, and Nico closed the door behind him.
“Are we going somewhere?” Will asked, suddenly feeling self-conscious about the shirt that he was wearing. Sure, it was a clean and quite decent shirt. But compared to how his boyfriend looked now…
“What? No. I’ve told you, I’ll cook dinner for you.”
“Yeah, but…you’re dressed up. Like you’re going somewhere nice. Like there’s something special.”
Nico rolled his eyes again, but then he smiled shyly at Will. “Of course it’s special. It’s your birthday.” He kissed Will’s cheek. “You are special, tesoro.”
Will’s heart suddenly felt too big for his chest.
“Oh,” he said, wanting to say something to that but couldn’t really find the words. “Okay,” he said, and let Nico take his hand.
“Come on,” Nico said, pulling Will along with him to the kitchen area. Then Will saw the dining table.
The small table was set up for two people. The table was covered with a dark red tablecloth. A small but elegant bouquet of red roses and white carnations was on the table. And there were candles!
(Okay so Will was a sucker for aromatic candles so what?)
Nico turned around, and looked up at Will. There was a mixed look of hope and hesitation in his eyes. “So, do you like it?”
Will stared at Nico’s dark eyes. “You…did this for me?”
Nico hummed softly as he nodded. “It’s your birthday.”
Something inside Will melted like warm honey. He wrapped his arms around Nico and pulled him into a tight embrace. He kissed the top of Nico’s head.
“Thank you, darling,” he whispered. “I love it.”
Nico pulled away just a little. When he looked up at Will, his eyes sparkling like the stars were trapped behind them. “Anything for you, tesoro.”
“Now,” Nico said, and took Will’s hand again to lead him to the table. “I have spent the whole afternoon preparing a three-course dinner that deserves a Michelin star. So have a seat and don’t make my cooking go to waste.”
Will chuckled as he sat down. “You know, you can still change your major to culinary or something…”
Nico hummed as he walked to the kitchen counter. He walked back to the table, holding two plates.
“Yeah, that’s something that I can consider as my alternative career, I guess…” he said as he put down one of the plates in front of Will. “But for now, you have the honor to be the one who tastes my marvelous cooking.”
Will let out a small laugh. “As you said, I am honored,” he said. He took his fork and knife, and started eating.
Nico was serious about the three-course meal. They started with some delightfully tasty anchovy crostini for the appetizer. The main course was risotto with shrimp and peas, wonderfully seasoned with saffron. To end the dinner, they had some tiramisu, that for Will was something to die for.
Will already knew that Nico was good at cooking. But to know how Nico really took some time to prepare everything for his birthday…It was just something that made Will’s heart fill with warmth. Sometimes he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have Nico. Sometimes he just couldn’t believe that Nico, the boy that he loved, loved him back.
“So,” Will said, leaning back on his chair with a full stomach. “What’s next?”
Nico hummed as he took the empty plates. He put them on the sink, then sat back across from Will. He lifted his glass and sipped his wine before he asked Will back. “What do you think?”
Will shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. But watching Queer Eye while cuddling sounds like a really good idea.”
“It is. But don’t you want to get your birthday gift?”
Will’s eyes widened. “What? But I thought this dinner was already your gift for me.”
Nico’s eyes were soft as he smiled at Will. “You can say so, but I still have a gift for you.”
Nico stood up, and Will watched him as he walked to the cabinets. Nico opened one of the cabinets, the one that he dedicated to storing different kinds of pasta (he once spent a good half an hour teaching Will the differences between each type). He took something out from it and walked back to Will.
“I hope you like it,” Nico said as he gave a small black box to Will. A thin gold-colored ribbon was tied into a bow on the top of the box, holding the lid of the box in place.
Will took the box. It’s small, but too big for a ring box.
(Not that he was thinking of engagement rings, of course, or thinking about being proposed to. Nope. Not at all.)
(Yeah, he already had this jar where he saved some money that he had planned to spend on a decent pair of rings but, no, of course he wasn’t thinking of it at all.)
He lifted his head up, looking at Nico that was already sitting back in front of him. Nico looked a bit nervous.
“Can I open it?” Will asked.
Nico nodded. “Go ahead.”
Will untied the ribbon and opened the lid. He gasped a little when he saw what was in the box.
A key was in the box, along with a round black key chain. Will carefully picked the key up and studied the key chain. On one side, an intricate sun was engraved on it, while a lyre was beautifully engraved on the other side.
“It’s Stygian iron. The key chain,” Nico said.
Will lifted his head up. “Is it…the key…?”
Nico gave him a single nod. “It’s the key to this apartment.”
“And you’re giving it to me. As a birthday gift.”
Will looked at the key in his hand again. Feeling strangely breathless.
“Well,” Nico said, and paused to clear his throat. “I mean… I like it. When you spend the time here. Or when you stay for the night. And... Yeah. This is just…a small apartment. But when you’re here, it feels like home.”
Will held the key tightly, something warm and sweet running through his veins.
“Thank you,” he said to Nico, voice cracking a bit with emotion.
“And. Uhm.” Nico paused to clear his throat again. “Well. I was just…thinking. You…we have like…four weeks more before the Spring semester ends? So. You’ll start your last year in college this year. I was thinking…”
Nico stopped, and he took a deep breath. Will watched him. His heartbeat doubled while he was waiting for Nico to continue.
“So. Will. I was thinking. What do you think of moving in? To this apartment?” Nico asked, holding his eyes at Will.
Will’s face broke into a wide smile as happiness glowed inside his chest. “Oh, Death Boy…”
Nico closed his eyes as he groaned. He opened his eyes and shook his head. “Nope. Never mind. Forget that I ever asked.”
Will grinned as he lifted the key up, showing it to Nico. “Sorry. It’s too late. I already have the key.”
Nico huffed. But then he smiled shyly. “So, I take it as a yes?”
Will leaned forward, and took Nico’s hand to hold it. “Of course it’s a yes, Nico. I’ll move in with you. We’ll make this apartment a home for us together.”