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Literal Burnout

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Nico walked through the infirmary doors to find Will taking stock of what meager supplies remained in the infirmary. He was sitting on the pristine tile floor, scribbling something in a notebook with one hand and rubbing his temple with the other. Will’s usually vibrant blonde hair seemed duller than normal, and his spine was slumped instead of stick-straight. He didn’t even seem aware that Nico had walked through the doors, despite the delicate chime that had announced his arrival.

A few weeks had passed since the war’s final battle, and most of the infirmary’s patients had been discharged with a lollipop in one hand and several painkillers in the other. Mortal painkillers, because the vast number of wounded campers had decimated the infirmary’s ambrosia supply. Will had insisted Chiron message Olympus for a new shipment two weeks ago, but something was up with the communications, and it was preventing any of Hermes’ express shipping.

Nico made his way towards the supply closet. He dropped a cling-wrapped sandwich on Will’s desk and cleared his throat, doing his best not to startle the overworked medic. “Brought you lunch. What’s the damage?”

Will smiled up at Nico, but his face was painted with exasperation instead of the usual joyful sunshiney-ness. He sighed and pushed himself up to a standing position, reading off the notebook in his hand. “Three and half squares of ambrosia, half a liter of nectar, one roll of Hephaestus-grade hemostatic dressing, and a Roman camper’s forgotten water bottle half-full of unicorn draught.” Nico concentrated on not staring as Will ran his free hand a bit aggressively through his blonde curls. “One good game of capture the flag and we’re no better than a mortal clinic,” he conjectured, tossing the notebook on the desk in favor of the ham-and-cheese sandwich.

Nico racked his brain for the right thing to say. Will was right, things didn’t look particularly great for the camp’s medbay. Percy and Jason could burn through the entire supply by themselves with one good sparring match. He tried to sound positive, though, like Will did for him when he was upset. “Lucky for you,” he shrugged, “you’re fresh out of patients. Just have Chiron put a hold on more dangerous trainings until your new shipment comes in.”

Will took a bite of his sandwich and nudged the son of Hades with his elbow. “Wow, you bring me lunch and now you’re talking me off the ledge? Who are you and what have you done with Nico di Angelo?” he teased. His trademark smile spread across his face, but Nico noticed it didn’t seem to reach his eyes. They were duller than usual, and the bags under them were darker than Nico’s wardrobe.

Nico raised an eyebrow. “Solace, when was the last time you -”

The scream from the front of the infirmary had Nico on his feet in seconds. Harley, Hephaestus’s youngest and most rambunctious camper, was yelling bloody murder about an accident, interrupting himself with tearful apologies. His chubby face was caked in soot, and a nasty gash ran down his leg. More concerning was the severed arm he was cradling like a doll.

“Slow down, slow down!” Will begged, running to meet the shell-shocked kid. Nico grabbed a bucket of ice from the back for the sake of whoever that arm belonged to. “Hey, Harley, tell me what happened. Are you hurt? Who’s hurt?” Will reached for the severed limb, but Harley just held on tighter.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t know! It wasn’t supposed to blow up!”

“Where’d this happen?” Will demanded.

Harley choked on a sob. “The forges,” he managed, before resuming his apologetic wailing.

“Solace, go get the rest of your cabin. Bring as many stretchers as you can. I’ll meet you there,” Nico ordered, grabbing the infirmary’s last magical items and as many rolls of bandages as he could carry. “Harley, you better put that arm in the ice bucket if you ever want someone to use it again.” The little kid flinched, like he’d forgotten he was even holding it. He did as he was told, then followed Will out the doors. Nico melted into the shadows.

He reemerged outside the Hephaestus forges, which usually rang with the sounds of metalworking tools and laughter. Right now it was eerily silent, save for one camper’s weak scream for help.

Inside, it looked like the forges had lost a fight with a fire tornado. Tools and half-baked inventions were strewn everywhere. Blueprints were flaming, and the floor was covered with a layer of soot. Some of the lights were sparking out, like they had been hit with shrapnel. The source of the shrapnel - or what was left of it, anyway - was sitting on a central workbench with flames still licking at the warped metal.

Nico marveled at the mess for less than a second before he was waved over by Demarcus, the boy who’d been screaming. He was propped up beside a concerningly bloody body.
“Nico, over here, she’s hurt real bad!” he called, not moving his hands from where they were holding pressure. Nico jogged over. His stomach dropped as he recognized the battered face of Nyssa, Hephaestus’s acting counselor. Her shirt was almost completely burned away, and deep bruises were already forming across her collarbone. She also appeared to be the owner of Harley’s severed arm.

Nico dropped his armful of medical supplies and checked the girl’s pulse like Will had taught him. It was weaker than normal, but definitely present. Nyssa was quietly groaning, so she somehow wasn’t totally unconscious. Nico took these to be good signs.

Rolling up the sleeves of his hoodie, Nico scanned the floor, eyes landing on a strip of rubber. He grabbed it, mentally apologized to Will for how decidedly not sterile it was, and positioned it around what was left of Nyssa’s arm. In a matter of seconds, the strip was yanked tight enough to stop the garden hose of blood that had been happening.

“She needs the magic stuff,” Demarcus muttered, his dark eyes transfixed on his sister’s severed limb. He was a new camper, happened to show up just a few days post-war. Nico prayed to his father that the boy wouldn’t have to watch any siblings die so soon.

“She’s not conscious enough to eat or drink anything without choking. Will’s going to have to IV her when he gets here,” Nico shook his head. “Are you hurt, Demarcus?”

“I think my leg’s broken, something fell on it, I’m not sure,” he sputtered, his gaze not leaving his sister. “Can you check on the others, please, I can’t stand, and I don’t want to leave Nyssa.”

Others. Shit. Nico tuned back in to the world around him right as the Apollo cabin bust through the doors.

“Triage, let’s go!” called Will, voice tense but in control. Immediately, the Apollo siblings dispersed to the remaining Hephaestus campers, checking vitals and stopping bleeds. One boy Nico didn’t know the name of had to be freed from under a collapsed beam. A girl’s small, unconscious body was loaded onto a stretcher. Another camper had her eyes wide open, but her stare was unfocused, and she seemed to not notice Kayla asking her questions. Nico noticed blood leaking from her ears. Nico refocused his attention on Nyssa, who had started to moan louder.

“Nice tourniquet work, Nico. Help me load her?” Will insisted, positioned to lift Nyssa’s shoulders. The two got her on a stretcher, and an Athena camper who must have heard the commotion appeared at her side. Will scooped up the magical items Nico had brought and dumped them in the grey-eyed boy’s arms. “Save two of these for her post-op, she’s gonna need it if we ever want her arm to reattach successfully. I want you to grab Austin and have him start a nectar IV for her before you head for the infirmary. The rest of the ambrosia is for Heloise, assuming she still isn’t awake when you get back to the infirmary. All the unicorn drought goes to Nina - it’s not very powerful on Greeks, but hopefully it's enough for a fractured skull. Got it?” The boy nodded and wheeled the stretcher towards the doors.

Will turned his attention to Demarcus, assessing his crushed leg. “Hang tight a bit, we’re gonna need the stretchers for the less stable patients first, okay? I’m sure it hurts, but we’re gonna need that nectar for emergencies. I’ll do my vitakinesis thing for you once we get everyone to the infirmary, alright?” Will explained.

The boy nodded, jaw clenched in pain as he looked anywhere but his mangled limb.

“Hey, Will?” Nico said. The head medic ignored him as he frantically scanned the room, grabbing the remaining bandages. “Will,” Nico tried again, catching his eyes as he surveyed the carnage.

“What?” His voice sounded far away.

“Hey. No one’s dying, alright? No one’s close to death. I can feel it,” Nico insisted. He needed Will to know it wouldn’t be like it was a few weeks ago, after the battle.

Will looked like he hadn’t even heard him. “Kayla looks like she’s having some trouble, I’ll be right back,” he said, rushing to the back corner of the ruined forge.

Nico sighed. It was going to be a long day.