I sigh as I settle back against the wall of the sand dune, staring at the ocean, turned a glossy green by the midday sun high in the sky. Why the Hades did I have to fall for the children of the only two gods that I can't seem to get away from?
Pain stabs through my heart at the thought, and I squeeze my eyes shut, both to forestall the tears I can feel threatening to burn at my eyes, and to shut out the view of the sun and the sea. "Get over it, Di Angelo," I mutter, digging my nails into my palms. "Just get over it!"
But I can't. Will's face keeps popping into my mind, his blue eyes bittersweet as he pulls back from our last, sorrowful kiss. "I'm sorry, Nico," he says, quietly, in a serious voice so different from the joking one I'm used to. "But I can't do this-I can't love someone who's so obviously in love with someone else." I know he's right-once I got over the sheer pleasure of touching someone else after years of nothing but imagining myself with Percy, there wasn't that much there for us. But still…it hurts, knowing I have no chance with him, no chance with anyone, until I get over Percy, something that's never going to happen.
Tears sting in the corners of my eyes, pooling in my lashes and trickling, shockingly cold, down my cheeks. I grit my teeth, trying to choke them back. I haven't cried since Bianca died-why start now? But I can't hold it back, and soon visions of Tartarus are swimming through my mind, coupled with Annabeth and Percy locked in each other's arms, Bianca's terrified face amid burning metal, Midas jeering at me, calling me weak, threatening to take my sister away again…
"Nico?" Hazel's soft voice breaks through the wash of nightmares, and her hand lands on my shoulder. I keep my eyes locked on the sand, refusing to meet her gaze. Sand scuffs across both of us as she kneels down beside me, and gently reaches out to cup my chin and turn my head towards her.
"Hey," she whispers. "Nico. It's alright." I try to look away, but her gold eyes are glittering so intensely it's impossible. "I know it doesn't feel like it is, alright? It feels like nothing's ever going to be right again, like you've lost the only thing you can possibly care about, because of something that you can't control." Sadness washes over her face for an instant, and I remember that she's had plenty of heartbreak of her own. But then her features harden, and she goes on. "But you know what? You are strong." I must look as skeptical as I feel, because she rushes to continue. "Don't you even try to argue! Didn't you just finish shadow-traveling a statue across the world?! You survived Tartarus on your own! Don't you dare say you're not strong." I have to smile at her fierce enthusiasm.
"And someone that strong," she continues, "is strong enough to move on. So what Percy Jackson can't see how freaking amazing you are? That just means he's too stupid to deserve you anyway." I nod, expecting her to be done, but she keeps going. "And you always have us. Always. There are people here who care about you more than you could possibly imagine. I personally will be happy to go over there and collapse Percy's cabin on him for being such a knucklehead!" I raise an eyebrow. "What?" she shrugs. "I'm pretty sure coral counts as a precious metal."
I have to laugh, and Hazel grins in return. She stands up, and reaches out a hand to pull me to my feet. I let her, ignoring the sun and the sea as I walk back towards camp with her-possibly to go make even more repairs on the Poseidon cabin necessary-wiping away my tears.
Who needs a boyfriend when you've got the best sister in the universe?
Author's Note: Well look at that! The first pair I draw is the one pair I was kind of hoping I would never have to write, because incest is weird. So, I have now ruled that if I draw Nico and Hazel, they will be written as nothing but siblings. I wanted to write this anyway, because I love that Rick gave Nico Hazel, after everything that happened to him. Yay, go Hazel!