NICO III

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"Where do you think Piper and Annabeth are? Knowing Percy he would've asked them to guard their flag while he and Leo go after our flag."

Will shook his head, his blond hair easily seen in the light of the setting sun. "I think our best bet is to look by the bend in the river. The rise there makes it hard for people like us to catch them by surprise. They'd see us before we could get to them and Piper will use her charm speak to put us to sleep or something. I suggest you stay a bit behind me when we get there, so if I get seen at least you can tell the Hermes and Hephaestus kids where the flag is and overwhelm them."

Nico wanted to argue, but quickly discarded the idea. There was no use telling Will that he would be harder to spot and should take the lead. Will was the most stubborn son of Apollo he'd ever met. The only son of Apollo he was really friends with too.

Friends. A year ago Nico would've never believed he would have as many friends as he did now. He didn't think he'd have a sister, let go of Percy, and actually feel like he belonged somewhere. Sure things had been looking up after the battle of Manhattan. The entire camp had seen him summon an army of skeletons for Hades' sake. He noticed how many of the campers seemed kinder to him after the ordeal; if he hadn't ignored their efforts he might have started feeling accepted earlier.

After the war with the giants, campers heard about Nico's role in the defeat of Gaea at the campfire and from other people. He would have to be blind not to notice how people looked at him now. Their stares weren't filled with pity or fear anymore, but something akin to admiration and respect. Nico found that he didn't mind the looks anymore.

Suddenly he was interrupted from his musings when he collided with Will. The son of Apollo nearly fell, catching himself on the tree in front of him while Nico stumbled back a step. Before Nico could say a word Will brought a finger to his lips.

A moment later, after poking his head around the tree for a split second and crouching, Will motioned Nico to come closer.

"I saw Annabeth standing near the flag. I'm pretty sure Piper is hiding in the bushes somewhere down there where we can't see her. We should go tell Cecil quickly before the entire Hermes cabin gets here and turn into chickens from Piper's charm speak. If they cover their ears, we'll win for sure."

Nico winced as he stared at the goofy smile on his friend's face. It was practically blinding him!

"You know, if you plug your ears and go down there you can be the distraction while I grab the flag. It won't take more than two minutes."

Will shook his head. "I don't want you fighting just yet! For all we know they might have backup nearby. Don't you even think about disobeying my orders. Di Angelo!" He whispered harshly when he caught the look in the Italian's eyes.

Nico simply smirked before jumping over the brush they were hiding in, ignoring the fact that he was going to be fried for his actions as he ran down the hill. It was the truth that he was feeling better than he had in a long time and was itching to use the sword hanging at his side.

Annabeth saw him immediately. She leveled her newest weapon, a sword made from a white, sharp bone of a dragon, in challenge. That was also when Piper chose to speak.

"Nico, you're feeling very sleepy!" Her voiced came from somewhere in the tree line.

He smirked, not perturbed by her words at all. No one would know that he told his own shadow to plug his ears, ruining the effect of her charm speak.

"Sorry, Piper, but I've been sleeping for the past four days. I'm not tired in the slightest."

With that he hurled himself at Annabeth, hoping Will would take the hint and go for the flag.

Their two swords clashed hard, and Nico was surprised at how strong Annabeth was. Despite having seen her fight he had never sparred with her before on his own. She was skilled, he gave her that, but he didn't fail to notice that the technique was a little off.

She was more accustomed to her dagger, he thought as she blocked him mid-swing.

He used this to his advantage a second later, catching the end of her blade and performing a move that sent her sword flying from her grip. The end of his own sword was at her throat in a second.

"Good job, Nico." She admitted with some surprise.

"Stop!" Piper suddenly shouted from her hiding spot. Nico's eyes darted to where he saw Will frozen one step away from the flag.

Before Piper could dart out from the bushes to protect the flag, Nico ran for it.

"You want to stop!" She shouted feebly as she rounded a tree twenty yards away and ran towards the flag with her dagger raised. "You want to do the chicken dance!"

"I wouldn't be caught dead or alive doing that, Piper." He called before lunging for the flag just as Piper caught up to him. A smile broke his face when he came away with the flag in his hand and raised it triumphantly. He'd never captured the flag before. This meant the symbol would be Hades until the next game, something Nico was sure hadn't happened in at least a century.

Piper and Annabeth congratulated him as Chiron blew the whistle from afar. How he kept track of both flags was beyond the son of Hades.

"Oh yeah. Will, you can move now." Piper told him.

Relief flooded his face when he realized that he could move. Then he turned to Nico, giving him a glare that almost rivaled his own. Almost.

"I told you specifically that I didn't want you fighting! But nooooo," he complained as a few campers appear from the trees. "You didn't listen to me even though you're still supposed to be resting. If you weren't skilled with that sword of yours you could have been hurt, which would only set back the healing process. You are in big trouble, Death Boy."

Nico couldn't help but get angry. He only fought Annabeth, so what was the big deal? He felt fine!

"Don't call me that, Solace! I don't understand why you're so angry with me when all I did was fight one person. We got the flag, our team won, and I'm fine. It's not like I used that much energy!" The shadows around him reacted to his anger, Nico unaware to what was happening until the flag fell from his hand with a clang.

To his shock, his fingers on either hand were now wisps of smoke, completely intangible.

"Nico!" Annabeth worriedly grabbed his arm to make sure that was still solid, which it was, but her worry didn't vanish. "You aren't fully healed. You can't be getting angry because your powers react to you feelings."

Closing his eyes, he willed himself to take a deep breath and relax. His anger ebbed, causing the shadows around him to revert back to natural shadows. When he looked back at his hands they were now mostly solid. Only the fingertips were still smoky.

When he met Will's eyes he sighed, knowing he was wrong. "Sorry for not listening, Will. I won't go against your orders again. I promise on the River Styx."

The healer's face softened before grabbing Nico's hands in his own. Nico, self-conscious because of how many people were watching, was about to pull them away when Will's hands started glowing. The light seemed to dispel the darkness resting in his body, causing his fingers to solidify completely.

"Thank you..." Nico muttered before pulling his hands away and crossing his arms.

Will smiled again, causing Nico's heart to beat faster. It wasn't like he had liked his hands being held by the moron. He was just an overbearing, stubborn, caring, hot son of Apollo.

Wait. Hot? Where did that come from?

Suddenly Will picked up the flag, which was now black with a skull and scythe on it, and held it out to the son of Hades.

"That's what friends are for, Death Boy."

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