CupcakesA/N: In case you all didn't know, Nico's birthday is January 28th, which is tomorrow at the time of posting. Happy Birthday, Nico!
“No,” said Nico, his tone as mundane and monotonous as usual as he glared at his older half-sister.
“Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“I said no.”
Amy sighed and shoved her hands into her pockets, a small pout curving her lips downward. Why, oh why did Nico have to be so stubborn? “But it’s for your birthday. And it’s something really cool.”
“I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere with you. Last time we went out, alone, I had to call your boyfriend to drag you out of the Catacombs.”
“Ha, but at least you acknowledged his potential helpfulness.” The woman grinned, memories of the event running through her mind. She’d always had a penchant for exploring tombs and the like - probably because her father was basically the king of hell. And heaven. And other places people’s souls hung out after death.
It was Nico’s turn to sigh. Really, she didn’t need to be so casual about everything like that. She looked so much like him - pale complexion, dark hair, an aura of creepiness - that they could’ve shared a mother, too (though maybe that was because both of them happened to have Italian mothers). They even had that subtle idiosyncrasy, that nuance in their features that denoted a history of sadness and death. And yet, she didn’t seem to care one bit about being an outcast like all children of Hades were. She’d even managed to find love as a teenager (she was twenty-two now) with some guy she’d known as a kid and really ticked Nico off.
(Nico had a boyfriend, too, but that was beside the point.)
“Yeah, well, the fact that I thought he could help doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. He’s snarky.”
“So are you,” she reminded him gently. “Please, let’s try again? We aren’t going tomb-diving this time. Promise.”
She was giving him that look again. The one where her eyes didn’t look so dead and bleak.
Nico couldn’t deny that look. “Fine,” he grumbled. “But if I have to contact the chocoholic again, I swear-”
“Great, let’s get on with it!” Amy grabbed his hand and dragged him out of his cabin, toward a dark and dangerous forest where he quite liked to have alone time, all with an overweening grin on her face. Smug brat.
It was chilly day, but that didn’t bother Nico. He was wearing his aviator jacket as usual and besides, he never really got cold. Amy didn’t seem to either. Maybe it was a death kid thing. They slowed down and stopped in some part of the woods Nico had never been before. It was dark and cooler, with weird fungi growing on the trees and hard rock underfoot. With a start, he realized it reminded him of the Underworld. Dad’s domain - the first place he’d ever felt somewhat at home, and the place he’d met Amy for the first time.
“You’re smiling, fratellino. That’s a funny sight.”
She was right. Like she and many, many others had said, Nico was kind of an emo. He blushed and socked her in the shoulder. “Shut up, you sugar maniac.”
Amy threw her head back to laugh quietly, then sat down and patted the moss next to her. “Come on. It’s kind of comfy down here.”
He complied and settled back against a tree, quietly glaring at the ground. Why was he starting to feel more at ease? Because this place reminded him of home? No, it was more because he was with the sister that had figured out his ignominy a few days after she’d met him and not made any big deal about it.
The conversation had been short, but sweet:
“Stop worrying about that.”
“Huh? ...I’ve concluded that you’re probably into guys. Or, you’ve been into at least one.”
“Listen, just don’t worry about it anymore. You’ve got more important issues.”
“But...but what I am...people hate it. They’d hate me even more, if they found out.”
“Your logic there. It’s stupid.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“It is. People don’t care so much about that stuff anymore. If anything, they’re more likely to be mad at you because of Dad. So...don’t worry about who you end up liking.”)
And that had been that. Nico was envious of Amy when it was over. She was able to accept it and move on just like that. No big deal. Maybe, just maybe, that was why he felt happier around his sister. She had a ubiquitous chill streak. The only things that made her mad were being denied dessert and being told what to do.
“...I get it, you know,” came her quiet voice. “Hating everything because of loss. My older brother, our caretaker, some of my best friends died in the years before we met. You saw how mad I got at Dad.”
“You tried to shoot him. That was terrifying.”
“Yeah, well, I blamed him for it. He wanted me to do something, and along the way I lost almost everything I loved. But you...you had it worse with Bianca.”
Nico should’ve gotten angry at Amy for mentioning his first sister, who he’d shared both parents with, but somehow he couldn’t. “Did I?” It wasn’t really a question.
“You were a kid...you were, like, ten, and I was twice your age. She was your whole world.” Amy’s shoulders sagged.
“...I’m not sure it was...completely a bad thing. I mean, I lost her, but...but I’m strong now.”
“The King of Ghosts. Yeah...among the dead, you’re a reputed hero.”
Nico laughed then. “You love gossiping with them, huh?”
“Oh, shut up.” She blushed. “But...yeah, they’re a goldmine of good stuff.”
“Like you.” And he meant it.
“Thanks, man. I try. By the way, I made cupcakes.”
The pair shifted so that they were facing each other and Amy spread out a napkin between them. They feasted quietly for maybe an hour, only commenting on how Amy happened to have sumptuous cooking skills, and then it seemed the sun was going down.
“I guess we should head back…” Nico looked at his shoes.
His sister nodded, but nudged his shoulder gently. “You had fun, right? That was the whole point.”
“Well…” He thought it over and realized that he had, indeed, enjoyed himself. He nodded.
“Good. Happy Birthday, fratello.”
“Grazie, grande sorella.”