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Literal Burnout

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Three days after the incident at the forges, Nico arrived at the infirmary for his unofficial shift. Even before the recent influx of patients, he’d been working almost as many shifts as any of the Apollo campers (and if he only ever worked when Will was there, who’s to say that wasn’t a coincidence?). He mostly did things like organize inventory and keep the place clean, but Will had been teaching him lots of healing techniques along the way. Nico now knew how to take vitals, apply pressure to bleeds, tie a tourniquet, open an airway, and splint an ankle, among other things. Will was a good teacher. He was patient, and explained things in a way that was clear but not belittling. If he sometimes touched Nico’s hands while showing him more effective ways to bandage a wound, then that was just an added bonus.

Today, however, Nico didn’t have his hopes up for a medical lesson. All the initial mortal-style healing had been done on the first day, aside from Nyssa’s surgery, which took nearly the entirety of the second day. Now, all that was left was near-constant healing hymns and Will’s vitakinesis. Without ambrosia, the seven injured demigods were healing at mortal speeds. In other words, aggravatingly slowly.

Nico made his way over to the healer, a wrapped slice of pizza in his hand. Will currently had his hands wrapped around the seam of Nyssa’s reattached arm, singing something in ancient Greek to prompt her nerves to rebuild themselves while she slept.

“Got time for a lunch break?” Nico offered, holding out the slice. “They only had Hawaiian pizza left, which is like, an affront to nature, but I figured it was better than you starving.”

Will paused his hymn, turning to look at Nico. “Slander. Hawaiian pizza is the most valid pizza there is,” he pronounced, earning an eye roll from Nico. “But seriously, thank you. I guess I could take a ten minute break, the hymns work better if I spread them out a bit. C’mon, we can sit in the office,” he said. They sat down in the office’s plush chairs, away from the (mostly sleeping) patients.

“What’s wrong with your voice?” Nico asked, a hint of concern hanging on the edge of the question. On a normal day, some people (certainly not Nico) would describe Will’s voice as sunshine dipped in honey. Today it sounded like someone had rubbed his throat with sandpaper and poured actual sand in his lungs to top it off.

“It’s just a side effect of all the hymns, nothing to worry about. I can still sing well enough to get the job done,” he winked, taking a small bite of his pizza. His eyes squinted with poorly-masked pain when he swallowed.

“I was more worried about you,” Nico admitted, the thought leaving his head before he could stop it. The corners of Will’s mouth quirked up at that. “I mean, you sound like shit,” Nico covered, feeling his cheeks flush. He really did sound terrible. In fact, Will’s voice had the same raspy quality that Nico’s had when he had drank from the fiery Phlegethon river in -

“Wait,” Nico stopped, fixing Will’s sky blue eyes with a glare. “When you do hymns, you’re using your powers, just like your vitakinesis, that’s why your hymns are more powerful than your other siblings’.”

Will’s gaze shifted to the floor. He scuffed the tile with the toe of his sneaker. “Yeah, so?”

“So your powers notoriously come with heat,” the son of Hades deadpanned. Anyone who had been healed by Will could tell you about the pleasant warmth his hands emitted while they healed a bone or bleed.

Will shrugged, refusing to meet Nico’s glare.

“Open your mouth, Solace,” Nico insisted, grabbing a pen light off the nearest table.

“No,” he retorted, turning his head like a child.

“I will shadow travel to Spain and back.”

“Please. You’re already weak from jumping to the forges. Which was stupid of you, by the way.”

“You’re right. It would probably be a one-way trip to Spain. Hope they have Gatorade!” Nico taunted, scooting his chair back towards a shadow.

“You’re an asshole,” Will muttered, voice like gravel. Nico moved in front of the healer, arms crossed. Will rolled his eyes and reluctantly opened his mouth.

“And you’re a godsdamn hypocrite!” Nico lectured, a bit louder than he’d meant to. The pen light in his fist illuminated Will’s throat, which was peppered in first and second degree burns. Nico’s stomach flipped over at the sight. “Will, you need to take a break from healing. Your throat is fucking blistering,” he snapped, clicking the pen light off.

“Without the ambrosia, I have to -”

“No, no you don’t have to,” Nico interrupted. “None of these people are dying, they can handle some mortal-speed recovery. Plus they have your siblings, who can still do normal, non-vitakinesis hymns.” Nico shook his head and scoffed. “You have some nerve telling me I lack self-preservation.”

“A sore throat and some burned hands are completely different from dissolving into literal shadows, but whatever you s-”

“Burned hands?!”

“Oops.”

Nico flipped one of Will’s hands over, exposing his palm. The whole thing was a red, blistered mess, and Nico could actually feel the heat radiating off of it.

“Zeus all-fucking-mighty, you’re touching people with these things?”

Will glared. “Half of ‘em are passed out anyway. Would you rather stay away from gross blisters or have a working arm?”

“I’m telling Kayla.” Nico spun on his heel and went back to the main patient care room, where Kayla was on duty changing Nina’s bandages.

“di Angelo!” Will rasped, storming behind him.

“Kayla, your brother is a hypocrite with more blisters than a herpes patient. Tell him to take a day off.”

Kayla paused her bandaging. “I’m sorry, what?”

Will caught up to the shorter boy, who promptly grabbed the healer’s wrist and turned the blistered palm towards his sister. “He’s literally burning himself out,” Nico deadpanned.

Will laughed in a way that sounded like he definitely hadn’t had enough sleep lately, before seemingly remembering he was supposed to be mad at Nico. “That was funny, but you’re still being overdramatic,” he pouted. Nico scoffed.

The daughter of Apollo tilted her head. “Ew, Will, again? I told you to stop working yourself so hard,” she said, in the know-it-all tone only a younger sister could pull off. Kayla marched up to her brother and took his chin in her hand, turning his face side to side. “When was the last time you slept? Your eye bags look awful, and you’re almost as pale as di Angelo,” she scrutinized. She lay the back of her hand against Will’s forehead. “And a 102.5 degree fever to top it off,” she sighed, shaking her head at her over-heated brother.

“And I know you’re not eating enough either, with your throat like that,” Nico added. Will had the decency to look guilty.

“I’m prescribing you burn cream for your hands, cool water for your throat, lots of sleep, and absolutely no use of your powers until those blisters and that fever clear up. Doctor’s orders,” Kayla demanded, glaring up at the taller medic.

“But what if someone needs -” Will tried.

“If someone is dying, I will come find you. Other than that, they can deal. Austin and Selene can cover your shifts, and we’ll keep you up to date on everyone’s progress. Everything will be fine,” she insisted, shoving a tube of burn cream and some Tylenol in Nico’s hand. “Nico, would you mind if he took a nap in your cabin? Just for a few hours? Austin and Dalya have the cabin for music practice right now, and not even the most sleep deprived person can sleep through that.”

Nico willed himself not to blush. “Yeah, of course. Let’s go, Solace. See how it feels following a doctor’s orders for once.”

“Feels like a really loving dictatorship,” he muttered, voice grating. He waved to Kayla and followed Nico out the door.

A smile twitched at Nico’s lips. “I guess that’s a fair description.”

Chapter Text

“You can take the bunk over there, Hazel just washed the sheets the last time she was here,” Nico offered, gesturing to the neatly-made black and grey bedding. Will was standing beside him, more out of breath than was normal for a short walk across camp.

“Mmkay.” He wiped a trail of sweat from his forehead. “Do you have any water?” he mumbled. Nico was thoroughly impressed at how well Will had kept up his healthy pretense in the infirmary, given how quickly it had fallen away.

“There’s a bottle on the nightstand. Seriously, how were you working like this? You sound like you smoked fifty cigarettes after wandering in the desert for a week,” Nico wondered.

“Rude,” Will retorted, his voice doing nothing to help his case. “I just wasn’t thinking about it, I guess. I just wanted to help,” he explained in earnest. He took a small sip of water, cringing as it passed over his burns. “I mean, Harley would feel so guilty if I couldn’t fix Nyssa’s arm, and I had to stop Nina’s brain bleed before it became irreversible, and Demarcus’s leg was a nightmare and a half without ambrosia, not to mention the internal injuries on-”

“Quit talking, my throat is hurting just listening to you,” Nico interjected, holding out two Tylenol for Will to take. “Can you swallow these?”

“Yeah.” He chased them down with a swig of water. “Ow. I almost prefer the fever.”

Nico’s eyes softened. “I’m sorry. That it hurts. That, uh, that really sucks,” he tried, mentally cursing himself. Will always knew what to say when Nico was having a bad day. Nico, on the other hand, had trouble coming up with words in the best of situations.

“Thanks. That bed-side manner is really improving,” Will joked, nudging him with his elbow. “And thanks for getting me to take a break. Really. I hate to admit it, but you may have had a point about my being a hypocrite.”

“May have?!”

“May have. Maybe.” Will smiled. “Sometimes it just seems selfish, you know? For me to take a day off when there’s people in pain that I could be helping,” he explained, idly picking at a blister on his palm. “They’re just kids, you know? Heloise is barely ten and she’s already had her first coma. Nyssa just went through an 11-hour surgery. Harley’s been so racked with guilt he hasn’t even complained about the 54 stitches in his leg. It’s not -” Will swiped at a tear forming in the corner of his eye. “It’s not fair to them.”

Nico dug his fingernails into his palm to keep himself from reaching out to touch Will’s face. He looked so upset, so defeated. Nico searched for something to say, anything that could wipe that heartbroken face off the boy made of sunshine.

“It’s not fair to them. It isn’t fair to any of us.” Nico paused, trying to navigate his way through his usual pessimism. “But it also isn’t your fault, and it isn’t fair for you to have to bear the burden of every camper that enters your infirmary.” Nico cleared his throat, trying to calm the blush rising in his cheeks. When he looked up, Will was blinking away tears, a half smile forming on his face.

They were both still standing in the middle of the dimly lit Hades cabin. On an impulse, Nico squeezed some of the burn cream onto his fingertips and lightly took hold of Will’s wrist. He delicately spread the medicine on the boy’s palm, careful not to pop any of the blisters. He willed his heart rate to return to it’s normal pace, worried that Will would notice. “It isn’t fair for you to do this to yourself just to lessen everyone else’s pain a little bit,” Nico concluded, moving on to Will’s other hand.

“Wow. So you really have been working on your bedside manner,” Will teased, but his choked up voice gave him away. “You, Nico di Angelo, son of Hades, Ghost King himself, may be the sweetest person I’ve ever known,” he stated. Before Nico could deny his claim, he felt a pair of feverish lips ghost his forehead. Barely there, so faint that if Nico just kept focusing on applying the burn cream, he could pretend he hadn’t felt it at all. That is, if the firetruck blush in his cheeks hadn’t given him away.

“M’sorry,” Will muttered, drawing his hand away from Nico’s grasp. “I haven’t slept in like, two days, I’m kind of delirious.”

Nico shook his head, a little too aggressively. “Whatever. Um, maybe you should go to sleep. I’ll wake you up for dinner. We can find you like, yogurt, or something.” He walked over to his own bunk. “I’ll just, uh, catch up on some reading,” he muttered. He lay down with a copy of some battle strategy book he’d borrowed from the Athena cabin, purposely hiding his face from Will.

Nico heard his guest kick off his shoes and get under the covers of Hazel’s bed. After a few moments of silence, Will coughed. “Just to, erm, set the record straight. I’m sorry if I crossed a line, or made you uncomfortable, I wasn’t apologizing because I like, didn’t like it, or anything, I just-”

“Go to sleep, Solace,” Nico ordered, burying his face further in the book.

“Right, okay, I’ll just- yeah. I’ll stop talking,” Will sputtered. He rolled over to face the wall.

Nico waited until Will’s breathing evened out. Then he passed his fingers over the shadow of a kiss that lingered on his forehead.

He stared at a page about phalanx formations while his thoughts spiraled out of control.