Step 1. Don’t look back.
Now this is the most important step. You ever hear the story of Lot’s wife and the wreckage of Gomorrah, Orpheus and Eurydice? History tends to repeat itself, and the moral of the story is this: looking back always ends badly. If you look back, you run the risk of doubting your cause, if you look back you see Hazel with her arms around Frank, practically lifting him in the air, and Percy with his lips on Annabeth’s as if she was oxygen, and the Hera Rescue Team in one big group hug, laughing and crying and maybe losing themselves a little in the overwhelming relief. You look back, and it hurts and allures you in equal measure, leaving your hands shaking, your breath uneven, leaves you wishing there was someone out there who could be oxygen for you.
It’s harder to leave when you look back, but there are a couple tricks to save yourself if you do: close your eyes, as hard as they’ll close, and clear your head of everything but your destination. Forget the way Hazel lights up whenever you tell her Dad’s proud of her, forget how Frank falls all over himself trying to make sure she’s alright 24/7, purge from your mind the way Jason did the same thing for you, when it came to your secret. Forget that he never meant it in exactly the way Frank did, forget that you could never mean that much to someone.
Just… forget. It’s easier.
Step 2. Leave.
The method varies from person to person, but the best way to run from your troubles is through the use of shadow travel. It takes a little bit out of you, especially if you’re leaving right after a war with the metaphysical representation of earth, so you can’t immediately go back on your decision to disappear completely. Waking up in your room in the Underworld isn’t necessarily the norm, but some Lords of the Dead are considerate enough to not leave you in the middle of the Fields of Punishment. Your head may hurt, but not nearly as much as your chest. If you feel like laying in bed for a week, just be sure that you at least pretend to eat the meals the skeleton servants bring you.
Step 3. Stay gone.
As you approach the two month mark, you might feel like going back on your promise to disappear completely and never be found. Here are a few exercises to help with the withdrawal phase:
Remind yourself of every time you’ve ever let anyone down ever
Reason that if you go back, you’ll only repeat your past mistakes again and again until it won’t matter if you disappeared or not, because they’ll want nothing to do with you, and you’ll be on your own again
Take a multivitamin
Spit that multivitamin out because it tastes like death and why does Hades even keep those in the pantry, gods it probably expired eons ago
Keep running errands for said Lord of the Dead
Try to block out the barrage of Bianca Could’ve Done Better’s
Confide in the ghosts of eighteenth century historical figures
But not Shakespeare
Do not talk to Shakespeare
Don’t even look at Shakespeare
Stay boarded up in the palace just to be safe
If none of that works, then you might want to proceed to step 4, which is
Step 4. Take a dip in the River Lethe.
If nothing else works, this should be your quick fix for wanting to return to your previous, terrible life. It’s a healthy alternative to actually returning and ruining everything for everyone you care about. Although caution is advised when entering the Lethe, it is only four feet deep, and diving could cause serious brain damage.
A couple other necessities for having a safe and successful trip into the Lethe:
Check security first
Specifically, check security for any tall, blonde sons of Jupiter who happen to be in the Underworld looking for you
Jump in before they have time to stop you
In the case of an unsuccessful jump, try summoning a hellhound (Mrs. O’Leary will do) to cause a diversion so you can lose all your memories without further hindrance
If none of that works, resort to kicking and loudly protesting as he carries you out of the Underworld
After failing step 4 miserably, proceed to step 5.
Step 5. Dodge your kidnapper’s questions.
If your kidnapper happens to be sickeningly concerned over your deteriorating health, you may have to deal with what medical professionals refer to as a speed round of Really Nosy Questions that Aren’t Any of His Business Anyway.
A short guide with possible Nosy Questions and how to answer them:
Q: You’ve been missing for months, do you have any idea how worried Hazel and I have been?
A: Not worried enough to come three months ago, obviously.
(No matter what, try to keep him in the hot seat, and yourself out of it.)
Q: Do you even care about your sister?
A: Why do you think I’ve stayed away?
(The trick is not to get mad at the accusation.)
Q: You honestly think that hiding out in the Underworld is helping either of you?
A: Yes! It’s better, Jason… It’s just better that I stay down here. I don’t want to interfere anymore.
Q: Interfere? What about you, Nico? You do realize that there’s something wrong with spending your life in the Underworld, right?
A: I’m perfectly fine down here.
Q: Right. When was the last time you ate?
(There is no right answer to this.)
Q: You’re coming back to the surface with me and that’s final, okay?
A: I don’t get a say in this, do I?
Step 6. Begrudgingly let your kidnapper nurse you back to health.
Hospitality willingly given is a rare thing, so it’s best if you stop fighting for a bit and just accept the care. Dip into his college fund while you’re at it. Bleed him dry.
Okay, so maybe a dollar pack of gauze and two cans of soup you couldn’t even keep down anyway won’t be enough to deplete his funds. When he offers to pay for a doctor’s visit, agree without argument and find the most expensive doctor known to New Rome.
Actually, maybe you shouldn’t do that. Doctor’s visits mean weighing yourself, and weighing yourself means more worried looks and cans of soup shoved in your face. Despite that foreign, warm feeling you get whenever he fusses over you, the one you’ll never admit to in a million years, you don’t actually want him to worry. In fact, you’d rather him go back to his stunning girlfriend and forget all about you, it’d save you the trouble of getting too attached.
But now it’s too late and you might already be too attached.
Step 7. Get over your Stockholm syndrome.
There are several different approaches you could take to the issue.
Run away again, not a day after he caught you the first time
Give it a few more days, and then try again
Jesus you need to get better at this
Escaping a two room apartment should not be this difficult
Not even your trusty shadow travel works anymore, what the hell
Try running just one more time, just for good measure
Okay so maybe you need a better approach to dealing with this. But can you really blame yourself? This is how you’ve been dealing with everything your entire life. Dead sister/surrogate parent? Run away. Feel like your godly parent is disappointed in you? Run away. Hated by everyone you’ve ever met? Run away. Hopelessly in love with the world’s most sought-after demigod who doesn’t trust or like you and in all honesty wouldn’t even bat an eye if you died? Run away. Don’t want to ruin your relationship with your only (technically) living sister? Yeah, you should probably just run away from her and live out the rest of your days in hell.
There’s a difference with Jason, though, he doesn’t let you run away. It’s infuriating, it’s maddening, it’s… oddly sweet. It gives you hope that maybe… No. No, it’s dumb. And you’re not going to get your hopes up ever again.
Step 8. Get your hopes up.
It’s hard to keep your hopes down, the way Jason treats you like an actual human being, but basic decency does not a relationship make. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. You’re practically begging for the gods to knock you down a peg. What makes you think he’d ever be interested? You’re hellspawn, and he’s god sent. You have a better chance with Hera than you do him.
But it’s hard. It’s so, so hard, because he’s so painfully nice. He couldn’t turn you away even if he wanted to. (And he probably really, really wants to.)
You want to end this game, you want to tell him to quit it, but you can’t because
He cooks breakfast for you every morning, despite waking up way later than you (Q: when was the last time anyone has done that much for you? A: so long ago it might as well have been a dream)
He talks to you about everything, no matter how embarrassing or personal, and he lights up whenever you manage to reciprocate
He defends you to everyone, even when he doesn’t think you’re listening (he’s just being nice, though, you’re just a charity case)
He took you to the fair one weekend and called you cute at the top of the Ferris wheel
(he was just being considerate)
(he didn’t mean it the way you wanted him to)
He lets you sleep with him when you have nightmares, and he’s gotten good at calming you down after a panic attack
He hasn’t left your side for the past month
But you’re just reading into all of this. No one could ever love you, let alone Jason Grace.
Step 9. Confess.
Literally every other step was a complete train wreck, so why should step 9 be any different? You told yourself you were going to do it tomorrow. You’ve been telling yourself tomorrow for the past two weeks. And Jason, of all people, manages to beat you to it.
It’s something casual and lackadaisical, Jason asking you out as if he was commenting on the weather. It’s a joke, and you know that it is, so you laugh, but it comes out all wrong. You sound choked when you’re supposed to be just as casual and lackadaisical as the arm circling your waist, and something in his face shifts. He says something like ‘a simple no would’ve been fine.’
You kind of lose it after that.
He’s not allowed to do this. He’s not allowed to yank your chain like this, your feelings are not a game and he’s not allowed to play you like they are. He’s not allowed to offer something that huge as a joke it’s not fair.
He tells you they’re not a joke, and you don’t believe him, no one could love you, no one could ever love you, and he doesn’t take it too well when you tell him that.
He kind of loses it, actually.
He’s all cut-off sentences and frustrated groans before he can form a cohesive thought. And the grunts morph into yelling, and you’re pretty sure that the neighbors are going to file a complaint, but straight-laced, golden boy Jason Grace does not care about the rules at the moment. He’s far too busy spouting nonsense about how blind you are, how he’s always been right here, how you are so loved and you don’t even see it.
There’s silence after he says it, and it gives you the time you need to process what it means.
Q: Me? A-Are you serious?
A: As a heart attack.
Q: Why? Why on earth would you ever pick me?
A: You’re loyal to a fault and brave when no one expects you to be and you love so much, so unconditionally, it’s a little overwhelming sometimes. You’re so passionate and caring and you see the best in people who see the worst in you, and, gods, Nico, you’re a miracle.
You wrap your arms around him and bury your forehead in his chest.
And just like that, you have someone who's oxygen for you.
Step 10. Live happily ever after with your dumb kidnapper boyfriend.
Now this. This is a step you can do.