The first time it happened, Jason was sitting on the roof of Cabin One, swinging his legs and gazing up at the stars. It had been about two months since the demigods defeated Gaia, but nightmares still wracked his sleep, and he found gazing up at the night sky to be a good distraction.
Suddenly, he heard a scuffle on the ground. He looked down and saw Nico di Angelo, fully dressed, arms wrapped around himself, sitting on the steps of the Hades cabin. He looked lonely, and exhausted, so Jason took pity.
“Nico?” he called, as quietly as possible. “Are you okay?”
Nico gasped and stood up quickly, looking around for threats, before his gaze landed on Jason and his expression cleared.
“Jason? Why are you still awake?”
“Same reason as you, I guess. Nightmares?”
Nico nodded, then furrowed his brow.
“How did you get up there?”
“Oh! There’s a ladder, back here. I don’t think even Thalia knew about it, actually, but I can show you if you want?”
Nico smiled weakly, but shook his head.
“No thanks, I should be getting in bed.”
Jason mock-gasped. “Nico di Angelo, actually going to sleep! I never thought I’d see the day.”
Nico chuckled, shaking his head. “Goodnight, Jason.”
It happened again about a week later. Jason was sitting on the roof in the middle of the night, and Nico happened to be awake too. But this time, Nico snuck into the cabin while Jason was outside, found the ladder, and climbed up.
Jason twisted around, but relaxed and smiled at the intruder when he saw who it was. “Hey, Nico. You okay?”
Nico blushed and looked down. “Yeah, I’m fine. I was just wondering…”
“You want to sit up here?” Jason asked, realising the younger’s request. Nico nodded thankfully.
“Sorry to disturb you,” he said.
“Don’t worry, I was up anyway. And I don’t mind the company.”
“Thanks,” Nico said gratefully, sitting down about a foot away from Jason, where he stayed until the sun rose and it was time to go to breakfast.
“Is this going to be a regular thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Nico, this is the fifth time you’ve just randomly shown up and – not that I’m complaining – but I would like to mot have a heart attack every time you show up here with no warning. If the harpies hear me yelling at you-”
“Like an immature four-year-old-”
“- Shut up - then they’re gonna eat my glasses. I like my glasses, Nico. I look good in them-”
“That’s up for debate-”
“Shut up! – I look good in them, and I need them to see. How would you feel if I walked around completely blind?”
“I would laugh at you.”
“You didn’t even hesitate. Wow.”
“…but seriously Nico, is this going to be a ‘thing’?”
“Okay. Fine with me.”
Jason looked up at the sky anxiously, biting his lip as he watched the warm blues transition into cooler blacks as the sun set. Nico was supposed to be back at camp only an hour after he shadow-travelled away earlier, but dinner had come and gone and there was still no sign of him. Chiron had decided that there would be a patrol going out the next day, but Jason was about three seconds away from jumping up and going out himself - harpies or no harpies.
Suddenly he heard a gasp from behind him on the roof, and he spun around to see the final shadows dissipate around Nico.
Jason let out a sigh of relief, running towards his friend, before inhaling sharply as he noticed the various cuts and bruises scattered around Nico’s face.
“Gods, Nico; what happened?!”
“I went to go get McDonald’s-” Nico started, being cut off by Jason’s (slightly hysterical) laugh.
“Only you, Nico, would get this badly injured by getting McDonald’s! Was it a monster?”
“No...” Nico groaned. “Some gang members or something. Three of them, all mortal, but also all twice my size. I guess I looked like I had something worth stealing, and I left my sword in my cabin because I didn’t think I’d need it, it was only a short trip.”
“Schist! Did they take anything?”
“No; I didn’t have anything they’d want, so they decided to just shove me against a wall... and, and call it a day.”
“Right,” said Jason firmly, “Wait here.”
“Where are you... oh, okay, bye then?”
Moments later, Jason returned with a box full of plasters. “Here, put these on your cuts.”
Nico laughed; he’d clearly gained some of his strength back while Jason had been gone. His cheeks were rosier and less sunken-in, and his eyes were a lot brighter. “You’re such a mum, Jason!”
“And you’d better be grateful; without me, you’d still be in an alleyway somewhere.”
“Without you, I’d be in the infirmary with actual trained medics who know what they’re doing.”
“With Will?” Jason smirked, knowing full well that Nico was still way too afraid to even be within 2 meters of his crush.
Sure enough, that shut him up. “Whatever, Grace,” he grumbled, trying and failing to hide a smile.
A few minutes later, the final plaster was applied and Nico looked much better. There was a nasty welt on his eye that would probably blacken, but with that exception, he’d probably be fine in a few days.
“Don’t mention it!” Jason grinned.
“Anyway...” Nico reached over and grabbed a bright red box that Jason hadn’t seen in all the excitement. Upon closer inspection, he saw it was a McDonald’s happy meal, of all things.
“Want a chicken nugget?”
Nico yawned, stretching. “Well, I should probably head back to my cabin before everyone else wakes up. Gods, Bianca would kill me if she saw me up this late.”
Jason froze, knowing that they’d entered into dangerous waters. In all the time they’d known each other, Nico had never once spoken about his older sister. This was new, and he’d have to try not to mess it up.
He chuckled, slightly but imperceptibly nervously. “I know right? Thalia would have a fit – and then lock me back up in my cabin – if she knew I was here.”
“I’d be locked in a basement for a week with only bread and water!”
“I’d be made to guard the perimeter for a month!”
“I’d have to go to bed at six p.m. until I go to university!”
“I’d have to play defence in Capture the Flag!”
“Hey!” Nico glared. “Defence is by far the best position! Being the celebrated solider marching towards victory is fine, but being the last thing in between the enemy and the flag is way more fun.”
“But offence is much more vital! You can’t play Capture the Flag without actually capturing the flag.”
“But if you can’t actually grab it, it buys more time for the other team to win. Entire games have been decided on purely the skill of defence players!”
“But offence has more strategic options. You have more players, so you can have different tactics to pulverize defence!”
“Well, someone’s clearly biased,” Nico rolled his eyes. “Jason, have you ever even played defence?”
“Well- um- no, not exactly,” stammered Jason, faltering. “But-” he perked up again- “I don’t need to, I’ve seen what defence can do and honestly, it’s nowhere near the standard of offence!”
“Oh, that’s just ridiculous! The only reason offence has more experienced players is because some idiot decided it was ‘better’ and so everyone wants to go on it!”
While they were arguing, the sun rose and the other campers woke up to a slightly strange sight: two of the children of the Big Three standing on the roof of Cabin One with awful bedhead and pyjamas askew, furiously arguing about whether offence or defence was best in Capture the Flag.
Jason sprinted to his cabin, and threw himself up the ladder, ignoring the stares from the other campers (who were wondering what the son of Jupiter could possibly be doing that was so urgent). Jason practically flew up the last few rungs, and sat down, exhausted, in the middle of the roof.
Nico turned around with a smile. “Where did you run from? Gods, Jason, you look like you completed a marathon.”
“The lake – I came as soon as I heard,” Jason panted.
Nico grinned. “News travels surprisingly fast. Honestly, I didn’t expect you to hear for another hour or so.”
“Piper told me.”
“Oh!” Nico grinned. “The Aphrodite kids will probably have a field day with this one.”
“It’s the evening.”
“Yeah, whatever, Nico - you kissed Will Solace! Finally!”
Nico blushed. “I guess I did. Wait- why ‘finally’?”
“Why?! Because this is great! Now Percy owes me 50 denarii!”
“You were betting on me?!”
Jason had the grace (Grace, ha-ha) to look sheepish. “Yeah, man… sorry.”
“No, don’t worry. I guess I should have seen this coming.”
“Oh, gods, don’t even get me started. It’s been all ‘Will this’ and ‘Will that’ for weeks now!”
“It hasn’t been that much…” Nico retorted, blushing.
Jason rolled his eyes. “‘Jason, Will waved at me this morning!’” he started, in an awful impression of Nico’s voice. “‘Jason, do you think Will’s gonna need help in the infirmary?’ ‘Hey Jason, Will’s eyes are a great shade of blue…’ And that one time – well, loads of times, actually - when you refused to go to the infirmary because you were nervous about seeing him! Talk about contradictions, first you find any excuse to go see him and then you avoid him like the plague! It's been exhausting!”
Nico laughed, playfully whacking Jason on the shoulder. “Fine, whatever. I’ve maybe had a small crush on Will for a while…”
Jason grinned. "Anyways, tell me. What happened?”
The two boys sat on the roof, talking and laughing, and watched the sun set.