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Smoke, Lies, and Haze; The Tales of Nico di Angelo

Chapter Text

Three things you need to know about me if you want the whole truth of my life. If you want to understand everything I did and the reasons behind.

 

1. Gods and myths are real. Perhaps, you’ll scoff when you read this, chime in that this is the rants of a crazed criminal. But everything in this story is true. Every word, paragraph, and phrase. I have defeated mythical monsters and snarling creatures, I have been on quests set by an oracle, I have almost died by beasts I didn’t even know still existed. I am the son of Hades. And there is a place for demigods called Camp Half-Blood.

2. so·ci·o·path: noun: a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. Aka myself; Nico di Angelo. Yes, I have been clinically diagnosed as a sociopath, although where this story begins, I wasn’t dubbed insane and slammed into a mental institute, then put on death row. At the time, I was an awkward teenager. Mostly normal besides a “few” quirks of being the son of the ruler of the Underworld. I was also dating. I was gay, but nobody cared at the camp for half-bloods. Everybody had their oddities at camp; Ares’ kids too violent and accidentally breaking bones, Athena demigods too bookish, pranks gone overboard by the Hermes clan, etcetera, etc.

3. I fell in love once. And that’s where this story begins.

Chapter Text

The rain. It was heavy, unyielding in the storm. A constant heavy patter on the roof as distant thunder wailed, reminding me of worst days. I scowled.

I stood up from my bed in the Hades cabin, the wooden ebony floor and dark walls and my single bed among many made me feel very small. It made me yearn for Will. I sighed, a desperate fool-in-love kind of sigh.

I stooped down to the trunk full of my clothes and pulled out my black bomber jacket. It was made out of faux leather and had no hood, ordinary looking except… A hint of a fond smile escaped me. A patch of a rising sun tucked behind a bright arrow was sewed on the right chest of the jacket, courtesy of Will pestering the Aphrodite campers enough to make me the jacket. And it was a gift from him that I cherished.

I pulled it on and turned to the mirror on a nearly sparse wall. Staring at my complexion, I grimaced. My skin was paler from my sleepless night, and my unruly dark hair was growing too long. I sighed, a what-the-hell-am-I-doing sigh. Will didn’t mind how I looked, and that was good enough for me.

I hesitated, staring at the sword that leaned against a bed post. I decided against slipping my Stygian iron sword into its sheath at my hip, and left the silent cabin.
Surprisingly, the camp was busy with satyrs and cleaning harpies, even during the storm, flapping and hustling around. I frowned, but decidedly ignored the creatures. My steps were deliberate, calm as I strode through the rain and it didn’t take long to reach the Apollo cabin, painted bright creamy colors with a sun intricately carved outward above the door, but wearing the light coat with no hood made my hair wet and stick to the side of my head. I almost regretted wearing the jacket Will had tailored for me. Almost.

I pushed my hair to the side, smoothed out my damp jacket, and knocked.

The door flew open, a girl was smiling coyly as she turned to fiddle with something, “Why! Connor, I didn’t expect you to be so early-” she finally turned towards me, meeting my eyes, and narrowed her eyes, “Nico? You’re not Connor.”

I frowned, “No,” I said testily, “I’m not.”

She threw her head over her shoulder, “Will, your boy toy is here!”

A collective group of snickers ran through the cabin. I scowled, turning away from her.

The girl eyed me as we waited for Will to make his way to the door, “You know,” she said idly, “Will is my half-brother.” She leaned closely to me, her breath touching my cheek as she muttered sneeringly, “And he deserves better than a depressed son of Hades.”

I froze.

She pulled back just as Will reached the door.

“Have fun!” she called, fake nicety laced in her voice like a viper’s venom. She quickly ushered Will out the door and closed it tightly. I clenched my fists, I could practically hear the snickers from inside the Apollo cabin, their mocking laughter and insults and-

Will smiled at me. Even as it rained, he radiated warmth. His body modeled after a surfers; tall, tanned, blue eyes, and blonde curls. His eyes had a charm and childish glint to it, blues of every shade swam in his eyes. Those eyes were nearly intoxicating.

“What’s wrong?” his voice was light, easy.

A few of the campers still resented me for whatever reason. The fact that I was dating such a popular guy had a lot of girls riled still after two years, and some campers found it foul, and they usually used underhand tactics to bully me. A flippant comment here and there, an “accident” or prank, the list goes on and on. Although, to be fair, most supported myself and Will, and chided anyway who even dared to push me around. Half-Blood campers stick together, they would say.

“Nothing,” I replied gruffly, “Where are we going?"

“That’s what I was going to ask you,” he joked, “How about the dining pavilion? We’d be alone and it has a roof overhead.”

“My cabin,” I suggested softly, “It’s warmer and dry.”

Will turned to me, surprised at my strong, rule-breaking proposal, “Of course.”

“The rain,” Will noticed idly, “Wonder what caused it. It’s not everyday that a protected demigod encampment with a force field that is purposely put there to keep out rain, has a storm.”

“I’ll be damned twice over if it isn’t Jason’s doing.”

“Jason?"

“Yeah, Piper’s leaving for the summer in two weeks and Jason can’t go with her, being the son of the Big Three would attract too many monsters to properly enjoy their vacation. He’s upset that he can’t see her for two months."

“Ah,” Will turned to me, “Speaking of, wanna hang out tomorrow?”

I frowned, “I’ve got scheduled training, tutoring from the Athena cabin and-”

“Don’t worry,” Will assured me, “I’ve spoken to Chiron, he said to gather up two other experienced campers to help out on this day project. You’re excused from all of your camp sessions tomorrow.”

“O-kay. May I ask what were doing?”

Will spun to me, a smirk proudly displayed on his lips, “You’ll see. It’ll be lots of fun.”

I frowned deciding if his smirk and words were sarcasm or not, but my thoughts were intercepted by reaching the Hades cabin.

I flung the door open. It was dark, and mostly sparse except for my few items. I finally snapped out of my daze and noticed the few mishaps of the Hades cabin I hadn’t sorted out before inviting Will. Some of my clothes were thrown over a chair or sprawled out along the floor, my bunk wasn’t made, and my chest that stored my belongings was slung open. I wasn’t particularly clean. I scowled at my feet, Will must’ve been appalled by my pigsty. I should’ve at least threw the clothes on the floor in my laundry basket or roughly made my bed-

“Homey as ever,” Will commented, jumping onto my unmade bed. He flashed a wistful smile at me, “I wish I had a whole cabin to myself. It’d be nice.” He laid across my bed, his legs dangling over the side as he lazily stretched his arms across my thick blanket.

I stared at him. Damp hair splayed across his forehead and blue eyes bright like crystals. A feeling of uncertainty and shame ran through me. With Will right before me, a handful of doubtful thoughts crossed my mind. Maybe I really was hurting Will by dating him. Maybe he did deserve someone better. Maybe-

I clenched my fists, and finding the only way to ignore all the bad thoughts, I laid besides Will. He turned towards me, and in a sudden moment my lips found his familiar warm ones.

He returned the kiss. I ended up straddling him and his arms scathed across my back achingly. It was a heavy makeout session for five minutes before my hand trailed down to his waist, then hips, and thigh. Then circled towards his inner thigh.

His eyes widened in slight surprise and he pushed my hand back, breaking our kiss.

“Nico,” he breathed.

“What?”I growled, frustrated.

He frowned, “You always try to do this when you get upset.” He leaned up, and nipped my ear, “But I want our first time to be special. Real.”

My cheeks heated at his words, and I shoved him lightly, pulling off. “Whatever,” I mumbled.

A familiar dominant smile played on his lips, “Don’t worry, our first time will be real passionate and-”

I threw my pillow at him, “Shut up!” My blush crept towards my ears and neck.

“-and really, really, REALLY-”

I stomped towards him and pushed my hands against his mouth, “Shut it, Solace.”

His eyes sparkled and he swept me into his arms far too easily.

I swatted and cursed at him, “Can you not embarrass me for one moment? I mean, seriously-”

He shook his head, “You’re losing weight again,” he declared softly, “Have you been eating and sleeping properly?”

I glanced away, lying, “Y-yeah.”

He frowned, “Nico…”

“I’m seventeen,” I snapped, “I can take care of myself.”

“No,” he insisted, “You’re seventeen and you still can’t take proper care of yourself.”

I sighed, a you-win-this-one sigh.

He smiled, “We can have a special dinner in France on Saturday, you know. I hear the Athena and Hephaestus cabins have finally perfected their device that guides you through the Labyrinth without getting lost.”

“Can’t,” I said, “You know the rules. As a son of one of the Big Three, I can’t go outside of camp without Chiron’s consent. You know that. And as something as fruitless as eating out in France for a date, he’d say no.”

“I can convince him-”

“We can eat here,” I murmured, motioning to my cabin, “That would be enough for me.”

Will sighed, “Of course it would be for you, Nico. You’re too cheap, you know that?” He checked his watch, then groaned, “I have to go meet up with Chiron to discuss details for tomorrow. Meet me in front of The Big House after lunch?”

I nodded and Will smiled.

“See ya for our project tomorrow, Nico.” And with that, he left, striding out the door and hurrying away.

I smiled. A Friday off, and time to hang out with my boyfriend. Tomorrow was going to be nice. And the weather would probably clear once Jason finally stopped being so upset.

A warm, sunny Friday with Will sounded promising.

Chapter Text

I glared at Will purposefully as he finished describing the details of our “day project” to Piper and me.

“...and so that’s it. Just introduce the new demigods around when they arrive. Show them the cabins, and dining hall, and amphitheatre, and archery hall, excetera, excetera. And if you want, you can give them a history lesson too. Oh yeah, there’s probably going to be a lot more campers this summer too, ya know? So, play nicely with the thirteen-year-olds, Nico.”

“Oh, I will,” I said flatly, “Because it’s not like my boyfriend lied to me and said we’d be hanging out or anything. And on this beautiful Friday, that we’re NOT hanging out on, but leading separate guide groups to unclaimed, preteen demigods who don’t even know their the children of gods.”

Will chuckled sheepishly, “Hehe, yeah. Sorry, Nico.”

Piper patted me on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, dude, you only have two hours of showing the newbies around. Then you can snuggle with him all you want and have a picnic or something.”

I yawned, “Too damp, Piper. Because someone’s boyfriend caused a storm yesterday.”

Piper glanced away, giving a sheepish laugh like Will’s, “Sorry, Nico. Jason’s been apologizing to everyone profusely since dawn.”

I sighed, bored from standing in front of The Big House for nearly thirty minutes.

Almost as if reading my thoughts, Chiron appeared over the horizon, galloping towards us. He smiled, hurrying forward and reaching us in no time, “The satyrs met at the gates of the camp over an hour ago. They just finished ushering a group of confused teenagers through the gates so they should be here in less than five minutes.” With that, he gathered his wheelchair and fit himself into it snugly.

I heard the distinct sound of hooves digging into the dirt as he looked over a list on a clipboard.

He eyed me, “Sorry, Nico,” he clasped my shoulder, “Seems like you’ve got the biggest group.”

“Oh my,” I drilled, staring at Will intensely, “Seems like everyone’s apologizing to me today.”

Will only stuck out his tongue at me and turned to the horizon, “Oh, look!”

I glanced over, a group of nearly two dozen teens were being chaperoned and hustled over by tired looking satyrs. As they reached us, the satyrs were eager to be dismissed by Chiron.

I counted the heads of the kids. Twenty. I groaned, loud enough that the newcomers all glanced at me, half looked curious and the other half looked so nervous they were nearly sweating. Piper and Will shared a glare towards me that practically screamed “You’re-getting-lectured-by-us-on-social-cues-after-this-Nico-di-Angelo.”

I mimicked Will’s actions earlier, sticking my tongue out at the two camp counselors.

I heard more than a few snickers from the newbies at my childish behavior, and I glared at the crowd, silencing them all.

Chiron took that as his cue to speak, “Hello, new campers, I am Chiron and I know that more than a few of you are wondering where you’re at and our doubting about what the guardians who brought you here said. Rest assured that this is a summer camp. You should thank your guardians when you have the time, for your safe arrival and-”

“Safe arrival!?” a boy in the back chimed, “I was nearly mauled by some kind of bear monster!”

A few others echoed the boy, muttering their complaints.

Chiron held up a hand, waiting until the group finally fell silent, “-for your safe arrival,” Chiron continued, “and that you didn’t die like so many others who tried to reach here.”

Silence fell between the newbies and myself, Will, Piper, and Chiron.

“Is this some kind of test?” a girl finally complained, “If so this isn’t funny!”

“This is not some kind of test, in fact, none of you’re near-death experiences with Greek monsters were. I am this camp’s activities director, and will be explaining why you’re here until our director, Mr. D, arrives. See-”

A crackling noise thickened the air. A short, overweight, greying man appearing out of thin air yawned, his bloodshot eyes scanned over the crowd of twenty thirteen-year-olds. Dionysus leaned towards me.

“These the newbies, Burrito Tangelo?” he whispered loudly in a dead serious voice. Loud enough that all the newbies stared at the god who had literally appeared out of thin air.

“Uh, sir, it’s Nico di Angelo.” I whispered back.

He looked appalled, “Whatever, Rico Donatello. These the kids?”

“Yes,” Chiron interjected, “Would our great director like to give his terrific speech?”

Dionysus grinned widely, puffing out his chest proudly, “Why, of course! I am Dionysus, the great and cherishable Greek god of wine and amazingness! I am-”

More than a few laughs were given.

Dionysus frowned, “What?”

A boy spoke out in front, sneering, “A god of wine? You’re like some fat, overweight dude who never got past his high school fame as, like, a football jockie! Much less the fact that you said Greek gods exist!”

I coughed to hide my snickering. Kids these days were far too blunt, and didn’t have a lick of common decency, and if he really knew that the “fat, overweight dude” had the ability to turn him into wine he’d have bowed down and begged an apology.

Dionysus froze, then narrowed his eyes a bit too sharply. His voice became angry and dark, “This is a camp for demigods, boy, and you best watch your back. I’ll turn you into a dolphin just like I did to the boy from the Hermes cabin!” With that he crackled away.

“Oh dear,” Chiron sighed, “Seems you kids angered Mr. D away, much quicker than Percy Jackson ever did too, that’s a surprise. I’d better convince him to return now or we won’t be seeing him for a couple of weeks.” Chiron turned to Will, “Take over for me, would you?”

Will nodded.

Chiron smiled grimly, the grizzled centaur popped out of his wheelchair and galloped off to wherever the god of wine stalked off by himself whenever he felt offended.

A majority of the kids squealed, gaped, shouted out and jumped back in confusion from the crippled who turned into a centaur so suddenly before their eyes.

“Best not to speak to your camp director like that,” Will declared, “Mr. D is quite easy to offend.”

“Don’t want to be turned into a dolphin or grapevine either,” Piper added.

“ And if not that, you’ll have Dionysus personally throw you into the deepest depths of the Underworld,” I finished, forcing away the memories of worst times in Tartarus.

“Now,” Will began, “I’m Will Solace. And this is…” Will droned on in deep explanation of the camp; why they were here, about the gods with their flitting romances that produced demigod offspring, and how they would soon all be claimed at camp before they turned fourteen.

As he finished, only two kids had fainted from his explanation and Will had some experienced campers rush them off to the medica.

“Finally,” Will declared, “we will be sectioning you off into three tour groups. I need six people by me, six by my lovely friend over here,” he waved towards Piper.

Then he turned to me, “and six over by this handsome friend of mine.”

I rolled my eyes.

He leaned closer and whispered in my ear, “Looks like you lucked out with two rookies fainting. Now it's evenly split tour groups.”

“Still too many newbies,” I declared softly.

He shrugged, and began leading his group to the archery fields, “Like I said, I’m Will Solace, I am Head Counselor of the Apollo cabin. If you didn’t know, Apollo is the god of archery and music…”

“Music?” a girl giggled coyly, “So are you, like, a musician?”

Will nodded politely. I strictly noticed that Will’s group was made up of ALL thirteen-year-old preppy-looking girls. I snickered as I watched them drift away. They’re attempts of flirting with an eighteen-year-old only made me feel better that the hottie leading them away was my boyfriend.
Piper smiled broadly, “Piper McLean. Head Camp Counselor for Cabin Ten. The Aphrodite demigod cabin, she’s the goddess of beauty and love…” Her group consisted of three girls and three boys, most seemed jock-and-cheerleader types. She meandered towards the volleyball and sports courts, where a few older campers without any courses scheduled, hung out.

I stood there dumbly as she faded away. A seventeen-year-old socially-inept guy left with six partially-confused thirteen-year-old demigods.

I sighed, a how-did-he-even-get-me-to-do-this sigh.

Chapter Text

I turned and eyed my group, and was surprised that it consisted of a variety of people. Four boys; a skinny, tall kid dressed in rich, sports clothing who reeked of wealth, a plump boy who watched me nervously, a boy who looked half-asleep and probably didn’t have clue of what was going on but had decided to just go with the flow, and one who was practically jumping up and down excitedly. I frowned at him particularly, but he only grinned hopefully at me. Of the two girls, one was dressed in black leather, black jeans, and a 2000’s band t-shirt who stared at me peculiarly and fondly, and another who wore a sundress who smiled at me warmly and gave a wave. The girl dressed in black scoffed at Ms. Sundress.

They looked like the oddballs of the near two dozen who had been brought.

I heaved another sigh and waved them forward, “Well, come on.”

They followed at my gesture. I decided to lead them to the camper cabins first.

We passed by the forge and armory. The Hephaestus cabin were one of the friendliest and waved my tour group over. Hesitantly, I complied and like a group of ducklings, the thirteen-year-olds followed too.

Leo grinned, nearly two years of working at the camp forge and in the summer heat, his scrawny form had turned lean and tanned, growing a few inches since the Second Giant War. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and waved, placing his forge hammer down.

“Got stuck with showing the new pups around, eh?” his dark eyes grinned.

I sighed, rubbing the back of the neck, “Yeah…”

The six kids now looked extremely confused.

“Um,” I tried my best to explain and failed, “This is the armory and forge, uh, you get your armor and weapons here.”

Leo snickered, “Great going, Nico.”

I glared at him, “You try explaining this to thirteen-year-olds who have newly been introduced to the concept of being a demigod.”

“I will,” he smirked arrogantly, “ ‘kay, kids, your machinery expert Leo Valdez here. I am the great Head Counselor for Cabin Nine, Hephaestus’ cabin who is the god of constructing stuff, forges, smith, etc. Anyway, this here,” he gestured to the two buildings behind him, “is the camp’s forge and armory. Can’t have little campers not prepared for battle when the need to save the world arises in our hands or you kids need to go on a quest, eh? We have all needed things in the armory dome! Weaponry of bows, spears, swords, and armor, shields! You name it!”

“Woah,” the energetic thirteen-year-old of my group gasped, “This is so cool! A forge and armory? This is like some medieval fantasy comic book!”

I scowled openly but he didn’t even bat an eye at me.

Leo eyed him, then grinned, “Hey, kid, what’s your name?”

“Bowen,“ he blurted.

“Well, Bowen, you’d do well in the forgery I’d think. You have nimble fingers like mine, and with your upbeat curiosity and gratitude for the forge, I think you’d be an excellent addition to the Hephaestus cabin!” Leo patted Bowen’s head appreciatively, “You’re welcomed by Cabin Nine.”

Bowen grinned, “Thank you, sir!”

Leo’s eyes sparkled, “Leo is just fine.”

“Thank you, Leo!” he nodded vigorously, “I’ll do my best to be a son of Hephaestus!”

Leo chuckled, “You’re the son of whoever claims you, let’s hope they do it soon too.”

“Claims?” the sundress girl questioned, joining the conversation.

“It’s something Percy Jackson finally convinced the gods to do, whoever your god parent is, they have to claim you by the age of thirteen. Claiming happens when a god’s symbol of power is holographed above your head, that’s how you know which one is your parent. Of course, whatever abilities or powers you have that are ‘different’ could also help define your powers,” I answered.

“Percy Jackson?” the rich kid asked softly. His voice was soft and kind, definitely opposing the wealthy-arrogant-boy look he had.

I waved offhandedly, “He’s quite the popular demigod around here, saved the world and camp countless times over. He’s in college now though. You’ll here his name spoken like a god’s ‘round here, along with Annabeth Chase, Jason Grace, Hazel Levesque, Frank Zhang, Piper McLean, and Leo here.”

“Wow, you’re a legend too, Leo?!” Bowen gaped.

Leo spun a small wrench around his fingers, “ ‘course. This kid got famous from building the Argo ll, fixing Festus, having pyrokinesis, and such.”

“I have no idea what half of those things are but cool-”

Bowen was cut off by the girl in dark leather. She cut in bluntly, “When do we get our weapons and armor?”

“Ah, a little eager, eh?” Leo wagged his finger, “Not until you’re claimed by your daddy or mommy.”

“Can I get a sword like that once I’m claimed?” she pointed at my dark short sword in its sheath.

I froze, Stygian iron was only wielded by Hades or Pluto himself and his offspring and the few deities powerful enough to wield one too.

Leo eyed me, “That’s a special case,” he said slowly, then continued with a mischievous spark, “See, I hear our little Nico here got his sword from the Underworld. Right and stole it from his dad. He’s quite popular among Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter.”

“That’s not true,” I countered, eyes narrowed.

“T-the Underworld?” the nervous kid in the back asked hesitantly, “Isn’t that G-Greek Hell?”

“Nico, I bet your educated in this subject.” Leo batted his eyes with fake innocence, “Please do explain the Underworld to these eager students.”

I was growing increasingly irritated, “The Underworld is where all of the souls of the dead go when they die. You either live in immortal bliss down there, choose to be reborn if you die a hero’s death, or live in neverending pain, depending on your lives deeds.”

“His dad?” Bowen asked, “What does he have to with the Underworld?”

“Did you kids never have a subject on Greek mythology or Latin in school?” I muttered underneath my breath.

“My dad is Hades, the god of the Underworld and death and whatever,” I pulled my sword out of its sheath. A dark violet aura glowed around the fully black metal sword even on the cloudless and bright day, “This is made out of Stygian iron, forged in the underworld and cooled in the River Styx, making it precisely only for children of Hades to wield it.”

There was an uncertain silence as they watched me. Five out of the six newcomers stepped a bit closer to Leo’s welcoming presence. The only kid still by me was Bowen.

He grinned so much that I was surprised his cheeks didn’t hurt so much, “That’s so cool! And Leo said you’re a legend too! And you got it when you were in the Underworld? How old were you!?”

“Uh,” I pushed back the strange urge to smile at the kid grinning up at me, “Ten? Maybe eleven?”

“Oh,” for the first time since I’d met him Bowen’s smile faltered, a strange sense of disappointment unto myself descended from the depths of my chest. I wanted to make Bowen smile and to turn a joke of the situation, but nothing was funny when I had obtained my sword and was being manipulated by a vengeful King Minos. I barely heard the words murmured under Bowen’s breath: “...too young to experience the Underworld.”

I turned towards the cabins in the distance, “We have to tour the rest of the camp, and we don’t have all day, do we?” With that I began striding towards the cabins, trying to push away those hungry, terrifying times of the past. That was all behind me, and right now I didn’t care if the six newbs were following or not.

Chapter Text

It ended up that they had followed me to the cabins, “This is the cabins,” I pointed to each one and listed off their number and the god that went with it, each cabin was designed a little differently too, giving its intended effect and aura for their paternal godly parent.
I explained how Hera was the goddess of marriage and therefore didn’t have any children since she was married to Zeus, and since Artemis and her Hunters were sworn from having fanciful relationships and she was a virgin goddess, her Hunters used the cabin when visiting.
A few older campers walked by and nodded, gave me thumbs up, and whispered in my ear “stay strong, bro.” See, no one particularly liked the idea of showing fainting, confused, screaming, squealing newbies around a camp of demigods. But someone had to do it.
In the end, as I explained everything and Bowen kept up with his relentless banter and questions. A little more than a few grizzled campers had stopped by to see the fresh meat.
Bowen now had the approval of the Athena cabin, the Demeter cabin, the Hermes cabin, and surprisingly, even the Ares cabin thought of him fondly.
I even spotted Calypso tending to Hestia’s Hearth with an orange Camp Half-Blood and denim shorts and a white cap with a single dolphin imprinted on it. She waved, and I returned her wave.
“Who’s that hottie?” the fat nervous kid suddenly asked, grinning. His nervousness seemed to have dissipated over a short time.
“Leo’s girlfriend,” I said seriously, “No matter his joking manner. He’ll light you up like a turkey on Thanksgiving if you even try to flirt with her.” Completely over exaggerated and not true at all, Leo only grinned and laughed when someone tried to flirt with Calypso and she only snickered insults at the flirter. Because Leo was completely and foolishly in love and Calypso returned that love too.
“Oh,” he simply murmured.
Unconsciously, I realized I’d led them in front of my cabin, it was dressed in dark swirling shades of obsidian. “CABIN THIRTEEN” was etched in deep maroon letters and a skull hung above the letters. Two flickering green torches were hung by the sides of the double doors.
“Is this your cabin?” Bowen murmured excitedly.
“Uh, yeah.”
“Can we come in?!” he asked.
“W-well, I suppose a peek wouldn’t hurt,” I frowned, typically others weren’t allowed in but they still were undetermined…
I flung one of the doors open as each of the six peaked inside.
“Cool,” the girl in leather declared.
“Why is only one of the beds unmade?” Bowen noted.
I rested my hand on my neck, “Uh, I’m the only son of Hades currently claimed.”
“Cool,” the girl repeated.
I closed the door and for the following two hours I showed them the full of Camp Half-Blood. The training grounds with the archery fields and combat arena where most of the campers were training. The pegasus stables, where the girl in the sundress grinned and walked in between each stable, patting the horses repeatedly before allowing us to move onto the dining pavilion where I explained they’d eat at for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We walked past Canoe Lake, the climbing wall with lava which even made the half-asleep guy jump back, and the arts and crafts center with half of the Athena cabin hooting at me (mind the pun) and asking why I wasn’t at their lessons. I only gestured to my six fledglings and they all nodded understandingly.
I showed them Thalia’s Pine and the Golden Fleece and the Cave of the Oracle, and gave a brief summary of all three things. And then gestured to the grand overbearingly tall marble statue with gold and silver gilded around it; the statue of Athena. I explained that it was the original Athena Parthenos, and how it was used during the Second Giant War, which took much longer than I anticipated to explain, having to answer all of Bowen’s eager questions and leather girl’s blunt ones and such.
Finally, I showed them the amphitheatre and the campfire that was now doused. I explained how it turned wild colors depending on the moods and emotions of the campers and how it was used for sacrificing food to the gods. And I explained how after dinner we’d sing campfire songs and tell stories that were usually led by the Apollo cabin.
I smiled wistfully at the amphitheatre, a memory surfacing.
On the fourth of July little less than a year ago, Nike, the goddess of victory, had appeared and dropped off a large bulging garbage bag of fireworks. Over half I’m pretty sure were illegal. That night, Will had led the campfire songs. Shivers had swam down my spine. I remember how that night his voice was so soft and whimsical, a voice of thick honey and afternoon sunshine. And a hint of summer and warmth hidden in that enticing voice. By midnight, we had snuck to the very back of the amphitheatre, no one had noticed us because over half of the campers had ended up a little more than tipsy due to a Hermes camper or -in my opinion, Dionysus- had ended up spiking the punch bowl. With the crazy night of fireworks and sparklers, and summer heat and fireflies, we had ended up kissing: our first kiss to be precise. A memory that I cherished.
I ended up leading the six back to The Big House by late afternoon around 4 PM. I was exhausted from leading a group of thirteen-year-olds around the camp, my legs were weak, and my mind was muddled. This was mentally exhausting.
Surprisingly, a large group of campers were waiting there. They stood eagerly, chattering and laughing with Will and Piper and their undetermined group, who were already back in front of The Big House.
Will spotted me from the crowd and hurried over, “Seven have been claimed so far. Three from my group and four from Piper’s. What about you?”
“Oh, uh… none?” I replied sheepishly.
Will turned to the large group, “May the seven claimed newcomers step forward?”
Seven uncertain kids stepped forward uneasily.
“Seven! We have two new Aphrodite cabin additions! Two Apollos! One Athena! One Iris!”
Fists were raised and cheers screamed.
“Congratulations…!”
“We’ve got two new beauties…”
“...That’s little blonde is ours? We haven’t had a new addition in a while, huh…?”
“Nico’s group didn’t have any claimed in theirs. How sad, but expected…”
That last comment was only loud enough to travel to me. It was the Apollo girl from yesterday. She had said it purposefully and was staring at me, eyes narrowed with an arrogant smile.
I turned sharply towards her, snapping angrily, “What?”
“Hm?” she said, flipping her hair offhandedly, “Did I say something?”
“Yeah,” I hissed, “you did.”
“Geez, no need to get your panties in a bunch, Nico. She didn’t mean it.” Drew, an Aphrodite camper said, jumping in. She turned towards the Apollo camper, pulling her away, “Will you stop getting in fights with Nico?? Seriously, you’re going to get jumped by a skeleton one day, I swear…” They wandered off far enough from me that I lost her words.
“Is that your girlfriend?” an eager Bowen raised an eyebrow up at me, standing right beside me, “Which one was it? The pretty one or the other pretty one?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” I said.
“What? But you’re a legend. Leo even said so!”
“Leo’s a liar, kid. Don’t trust a lick of what he says half the time.”
“You don’t have one…?”
I glanced at Bowen, staring up at me expectantly, “Why? Are you interested in me? Do you want to go on a date?”
Bowen flushed six different shades of red before stammering, “Uh… no! I don’t… I swear, I don’t!”
I barked a laugh, “Okay, okay! Got it, kid.”
“What’s this? Is my Nico actually laughing?” Will teased from behind, slinging his arms across my shoulders lazily and resting his head on my shoulder too.
“Who said I was yours, Solace?” Turning my head so our faces were a mere inches apart.
He grinned, eyes glimmering a deep sky blue, “I did, sunshine.”
“Ewww!” One of the girls from Will’s group said. She rolled her eyes, “Are you guys dating or something?” She stared at us haughtily, probably expecting Will to unsling his arms from over my shoulder and laugh sheepishly and deny it or to simply roll his eyes. But he didn’t. They didn’t know that Will could be a defiant asshole when he wanted to be.
Instead, he raised an eyebrow. Then turned to face me.
I knew what he was going to do, “Will, don’t-”
His mouth was against mine so quick I didn’t have time to take a breath. I savored and enjoyed the taste of his mouth against mine. It was fervent and passionate, his lips pressed against mine greedily. The moment was ruined slightly when I realized that everyone around us had fallen silent. My face turned hotter than Bowen’s when I had implied that he was asking me out.
Will pulled back, our faces close enough that our breaths were shared. He grinned, whispering quietly so only I could hear, “How was that, angel?”
I glowered at him, turning away to face the crowd of silently cheering supporters, gaping thirteen-year-olds, and the smaller portion of disgusted faces and hushed insults. Piper was smiling with a thumbs up, a large portion of Athena campers were winking at me quite obviously, and Leo was making more than few quick crude gestures that I’m sure I, and maybe Will caught.
A catcall whistle came from Leo’s direction, or maybe a Hermes camper. Then an uproar of snickers and laughter caught on. It ran through the campers like wildfire as they watched Will sneak his arm around my waist and give me another quick kiss, like I was some housewife.
I sighed as I tucked Will close to me and stepped into the deepest shadow I could find. I looked up at Will, a strange smirk finding my face.
He glanced down at me, and then realized what I was doing. He looked horrified, “Nico, please don’t-”
I shadow traveled.
We appeared in the shadows of a lone tree on the edge of Canoe Lake. Will fell weakly to his knees immediately. He clutched his stomach as he glared at me.
I smirked, pushing back the weak wave of nausea. I’d gotten used to shadow traveling small distances without getting sick, “Regretting anything yet, healer boy?”
He lunged at me but I dodged his feeble attempts. I laughed for the second time that day, a rare, deep laughter pulled from the pit of my stomach.
Will smiled as he gathered himself, standing wobbly, “Watch your back, di Angelo.”
“Or what?” I darted over to him, my feet light, a rush of adrenaline pulsing past my ears, and a flutter touched my heart. I felt thrilled.
He leaned towards me, “Or you might be the one weak in the legs next time. Catch my drift?”
My cheeks flushed, red and hot. I swatted at him, “Stop it with talk like that!”
He caught my wrist and smiled, “Let’s get back to camp for dinner, shall we?”
He moved his hand to mine, and he urged me towards the dining pavilion. I sighed and we began the short walk east. It felt good, the feeling of his warm hand against my clammy one felt nice. The soft breeze skittering past us restlessly, leaves twitched and the skies were clear from yesterday's storm. I leaned my head against Will’s shoulder.
Life was good.

Chapter Text

Our meal during dinner was interrupted countless times as the gods fought over which kid should be claimed first. In the end, only three kids still sat unclaimed at the Hermes table.
Three head been claimed from my group. The girl in leather by Ares, who’s name I had learned was Opaline, had simply said, “I get to live in that paint-splattered cabin with barbwire? Cool.” The other one who was the half-asleep kid in my group got claimed by Hypnos. And the rich, quiet kid had been claimed by Nike.
It was just the end of dinner, and everyone was beginning to file out when a large green flash struck out. The sundress girl, Rozene, froze as a golden holographic image floated above her head, a sickle with a few sheaths of wheat; the symbol of Demeter.
A bundle of poppies tied in a bouquet dropped into her arms and she stared wildly around.
We all began kneeling for over the dozenth time. Chiron choked back a yawn as he announced Rozene’s godly parent loudly across the pavilion, “She is determined! Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, Bringer of Grain, Gatherer of Crops; Hail, Rozene Growther, daughter of Demeter.”
A round of cheers and handshakes and clasps on the back from her new fellow Demeter campers quickly followed after her claiming. The campers clucked cheers and Rozene smiled and laughed, relieved from the tension.
We found our way around the campfire eagerly, the Apollo cabin impatient to sing their songs before bed and Hermes campers greedy to tell their dramatic stage stories. The thirteen-year-old newbies were finally beginning to get comfortable, more than a few girls were shooting envious looks towards Will’s arm slung around my shoulder, but had all together seemingly resigned on flirting with him. Will had decided to join the crowd by me in the back, rather than lead any songs. We sat in a cluster by ourselves, hand in hand.
Another rookie was claimed by Tyche before we began our songs. Another round of clapping and whoops of joy, and then the Apollo campers began their songs. I decided to just lean against Will as he sung the songs softly too.
I barely caught the conversation of two new Aphrodite campers, there conversation a bit too loud…
“Everybody’s been claimed, right?” the blonde asked.
“Nah, there’s one kid left.” A brunette with slight curls answered.
“Wah! Wait, who?”
“That weird energetic kid who was in the group with the older emo guy.”
I grinded my teeth at her words.
“He was kinda hot in a creepy way though,” the blonde responded, “Ah, but it sucks he’s gay, am I right?”
“Plus the cool musician guy too. He was my type too! Totally sucks!” the brunette whined, “Anyway- I think his name was like Bowen or something, you know?”
“Oh yeah, that kid. Psh, what god would want to claim him anyway? I bet they’re too embarrassed.” They fell into small sets of giggles.
Without even thinking, I was up and a few seats over and tapping their shoulders, hissing into their ears, “You’re interrupting the campfire songs so shut up.”
They turned and shared a glare at me, I stared firmly until they finally turned and muttered uneasy apologies. I sat back beside Will.
He smiled a knowing smile.
“What?” I snapped, irritated.
“You care about that kid, hm?”
“No way,” I grumbled, “They were just ruining the campfire songs.”
“Oh, bother! As if you even care about the campfire songs! You even shadow traveled away one time because they were ‘childish and boring.’ Remember?”
I pointed at him, “Shut your traphole, Solace.”
We sat in silence between us, listening to the loud chorus of a famous pop song that the Apollo cabin had began singing. I watched the crackle of the golden flames, high and leaping.
“Do you think Bowen is a child of Hades?” Will asked softly.
I froze, then turned towards him angrily, “What do you mean?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it, shaking his head. “It’s nothing,” he assured me weakly, “It was a stupid proposition. I just… nevermind.”
I eyed him, then nodded, unconsciously leaning into his shoulders as I watched the carefree flames flicker a welcoming gold and listened to the songs from the campers.

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, in the depths of mid-June, and Bowen still bunked in the Hermes cabin: undetermined.
It was surprising too. Nowadays, after all of the crazy demigod wars, gods and goddesses were proud and claimed their children left and right nonstop. So much, that Chiron had to recruit extra satyrs this year. The gods, well, they were like those angry soccer moms yelling from the sidelines, cheering only their own kids, rather than the whole team. It was expected for them to selfishly endorse their own offspring though, right?
That was why an unclaimed thirteen-year-old was a surprise to Camp Half-Blood.
And all of the campers were riled up and anxious about it; oddities in the Greek world were scarce and only increased anxiety. So much, that many of them were beginning to ignore the energetic guy. He was short, dark haired, and jumpy in a happy way. But he was the only unclaimed newcomer. Bowen was becoming isolated.
The few who didn’t leave him hanging were the majority of the Athena and Hephaestus cabin, also including Will, Jason, and Piper.
Bowen acted like he didn’t see it, he ignored the stares and whispers behind hands, but I could see he was growing anxious too. His eyes grew nervous and he jumped from shadows, his smiles were forced and his laughter more so. Bowen was becoming a wreck and I wasn’t sure why.
Of course, it was uncomfortable to see people purposefully ignoring you, but why was that scaring him?
It was a hot Friday night, game nights had finally been properly scheduled and planned, and tonight was the classic capture the flag.
We stood on the edge of the forest, Chiron holding up the two flags as he explained to the rules to the campers, “We draw groups for the sake of the newcomers. Each head counselor will draw from this hat,” he pointed to a hat that a satyr held up nervously, “Depending what their paper says, their cabin will either be placed on team one or team two.”
“Cabin 1, Jason Grace,” Chiron called.
Jason left Piper’s side and plucked a piece of paper easily from the hat.
“Cabin 4, Katie Gardner,” Chiron announced.
“What?” One of the newbies asked, “He skipped over two cabins!”
“Cabin 2 is honorary for Hera. Everyone knows she can’t have demigod kids because she’s the goddess of marriage,” his senior stated, “And Cabin 3 is Poseidon's, the only son known is Percy and he’s off to college.”
Chiron continued calling, passing me and flitting through each cabin until finally ending with Hecate’s cabin as 20th.
“Now,” he declared, “See which team you’re on.”
I opened up my piece of paper which read “TEAM 2” in crude writing. I glanced to Will’s which he showed his cabin. I grimaced. “TEAM 1” was written in a more legible handwriting on his scrap of paper.
He glanced at mine and shrugged, sighing, “Sorry, Nico. Good luck.”
With that, we gathered in our groups. We were split evenly, a group of nine different cabins for team two gathered up. It was made up of myself, Aphrodite, Demeter, Nemesis, Nike, Hermes, Ares, Dionysus, and Hebe. The teams numbers each varied, but they all had their different strengths so everyone considered it fair enough.
I fought back to the urge to groan. On a ridiculous amount of bad luck, I was on a team where I wasn’t acquainted with any of my teammates even relatively.
Ten minutes later, and my team was set deep into the forest. Our flag, that was colored a simple grey as it was the first game of the season, was strung up on a tree, courtesy of the Demeter cabin. A few remaining minutes later, and a flare scorched across the sky like a scattering firework; the game was on.
“Hey, Nico!” A faintly familiar Ares camper called, “Help us out.”
I frowned, “Uh, sure.”
“Shadow travel half of us to their flag!” he demanded, “Now!”
I shook my head, “I can’t do that, it’s nearly impossible. It’d make me sick for weeks. Besides, Will would lecture my ears off so much-”
In a fluid movement, his hands were shoving me against a tree. “I wasn’t asking, shrimp, I was commanding. This is the first game of the summer, and I’ll be damned if that short Latino takes the win again, or those damned Owls.”
“Hey!” I heard Bowen protest, but he was soon silenced by the insistent tug of a Hermes camper and the dark glare the Ares camper gave Bowen.
I lowered my head, and said softly, “Even if I wanted to, I don’t know their location-”
“Connor,” the Ares cabin mate called, “Consult a map so he has a rough idea of where they are.”
Connor Stoll hurried brought out a piece of paper, whispered a few bindings, and eyed it, a messenger map scroll of the forest now forming on the paper. A small Hermes demigod trick. “Bunker Nine,” he finally said, “They’re camped out on the hill of Bunker Nine.”
The Ares camper nodded curtly and turned to me expectantly, “Well?”
I sighed, “Okay, but we have to all hold hands.”
He looked at me in disgust but proceeded to take my hand, he leaned toward me and hissed, “Don’t even think about it, faggot.”
I suppress my anger and forced myself to be numb. Fighting wouldn’t help any, I was outnumbered anyway, and I most definitely didn’t want to get kicked out of camp. So with that, I pulled the group of asshole teammates into the tree shade and shadow traveled on the backside of Bunker Nine in such a way that we would be ambushing them. Transporting around a dozen different people made me sick to my stomach even with the short distance. My stomach dipped, and I flushed away the thoughts of vomiting. I fell onto my back quickly shadow traveled back to our flag. I was on the verge of throwing up.
Someone rushed toward me. “Are you okay, Nico?!” Bowen exclaimed as he saw me, I was pale and sweat tickled across my back, neck, and chest.
I shook my head, “Shadow traveling that many people at once and so suddenly… It hurt.”
“Why didn’t you say no, then?!” Bowen said like a concerned mother.
I groaned as another wave of nausea swam through me.
“Let’s get you to the infirmary. Will told me that shadow traveling isn’t safe for you anyway. He also said that you have a distinct allergy towards girls… -Ah! But that’s not important, let’s get you moving. Can you stand?” He clucked over me like some grandmotherly figure.
“Yes, mother,” I said, snickering.
He rolled his eyes, looking oddly mature, “Let’s…”
Suddenly, a flare flew up into the air, dancing with a bright plumage of green sparks. The sign of victory for Team two. I smiled, relieved.
Bowen was pulling me to my feet as I heard screams in the distance, distinct camper screams from the Bunker Nine area. Another flare immediately followed, emergency yellow that meant to exit the forest immediately.
“What the hell?” I muttered, staring into the forest from the direction of the flare.
Screams followed again, shouts, and a heavy fog of smoke.
Then I heard the outcry from more than a few voices: “Will!”
I froze, without a second thought I shadow traveled immediately to Bunker Nine, forgetting about a Bowen still attached to me.
I fought back the wave of pain and uneasiness and stared at the sight before me.
A gigantic red-eyed boar had charged Will and he was unconscious on the ground with a ring of campers surrounding him and some of his siblings tending to him. A pissed-looking Ares camper had pulled back and now looked horrified as he realized he had summoned a monster within camp boundaries.
The boar, nearly the size of a hellhound, snarled and turned away at the smallest group of people it could attack. Bowen and myself. It pawed aggressively, throwing grass and dirt into the air, and snarled again.
I scrambled to get up, Bowen trying to move me into a thick patch of forest too far away. “Go,” I hissed, “go!”
He shook his head, trembling, “I-I can’t leave you. It’s not right, it’s not-”
The boar charged and Bowen pulled himself in front of me, arms stretched outward as if to ward off the boar.
“Bowen!” I snapped desperately. He shouldn’t waste his life on me, he shouldn’t-
A flare of color burst from him. A mixture of green, blue, and silver like a peacock’s tail. The bright aura surrounded him as two large lionesses appeared, one black and the other a pale ivory. They were both maneless females and attacked in unison. In a couple of seconds, the colors had dissipated and the lions were prowling back towards Bowen, a pile of golden dust churned where the boar had been.
Suffice to say, silence followed.
Chiron charge in the forest, holding a sword with armed harpies following, “By the gods, what happened?”
Jason answered back hesitantly, “Sherman accidentally summoned a monster boar when he was arguing with Will. It hurt Will, but then a flash of colors surrounded Bowen and he summoned those…” he gestured towards the two female lions who were now lying around lazily at a gaping Bowen’s feet, “and then they killed the boar so… quickly.”
“A summoning?” Piper asked, stepping forward and frowning.
Chiron shook his head, ”I’m not sure. Austin, Kayla, bring Will to the medica. Hurry. The rest of you, back to your cabin, no campfire tonight. I also want-”
A holographic image appeared above Bowen, unwavering.
I didn’t recognize the symbol, and I doubt any of the other campers did at first too, but Chiron took a few steps back, barely muffling his gasp as silence followed. Who had claimed Bowen to even shock Chiron the centaur?
The symbol was a peacock with fanned feather, flowing and graceful.
His voice was solemn, grating almost, as he spoke. As if chanting a curse and death sentence onto Bowen.
“Bowen Marquis has been claimed. Son of the goddess of women, childbirth, and marriage. Mother of Gods, Queen of Olympus. Hail, Bowen Marquis, child of Hera.”
We kneeled automatically, it was common courtesy and well-practiced. I dare say that if we hadn’t kneeled for the claiming of demigods so many times before, half of us would be gaping like fish and the other half would’ve snuck away in fear.
The practice also had us murmur the chant back:
“Hail, Bowen Marquis, son of Hera.”
The tension was clear in the demigod voices though.

Chapter Text

I wasn’t there when Percy Jackson was claimed as a son of one of the Big Three.
But I do understand how it feels being a son of one of the Big Three too. The feeling of misunderstanding and constraint. Your strong scent always being tracked by monsters and vengeful gods. I understood that fellow demigods were hesitant to befriend due to your powerful daddy up on Olympus or down in the Underworld. I understood.
But I didn’t understand what Bowen was going through.
I couldn’t understand or comprehend.
I mean, he was the son of a goddess who wasn’t supposed to have demigod offspring. She was the goddess of marriage, she was supposed to be faithful to her spouse. Except… apparently she wasn’t. Not with Bowen as her bastard son.
A week ago, Bowen had been claimed during capture-the-flag.
Two years of peace after the war among Camp Jupiter and the giants, and now everyone was avoiding Bowen because of his claiming threatening Camp Half-Blood’s peace. Rumors were spreading like wildfire, and no one was keeping the rumors hushed from Bowen. Though they never spoke of them when he was close, for fear of Bowen’s two present lionesses attacking.

“...Percy Jackson was claimed just like that too! During capture-the-flag! And you know what that resulted in? A traitor, Zeus’ stolen Bolt, and a war!...”

“A son of Hera!? It just isn’t plausible… you know I heard the Ares cabin and Athena cabin tension is rising again! And the gods only know what this could mean…”

“Zeus is going to shut down Camp Half-Blood! He’s going to take back the promises he made on claiming and stuff too! And he’s coming to kill off Hera’s only known mortal child! I swear!”

I sighed, a what-the-fuck sigh.
Bowen was just another Percy Jackson situation.
And you know what that meant?
...Yep.
Quests.
Particularly, I was done with quests. I wanted to kick out my days as a lazy and easy-going camp counselor, have a nice boyfriend, and chill the fuck out to my dying days. But the gods weren’t ready for their teenage kids to relax, even after so many wars during the past few years.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the quest was spoken during breakfast.
It was a surprise though, the fact that the prophecy was being spoken out of thin air and by, what it seemed like, a man’s voice. A voice I’d rarely heard. The voice of Zeus. And it seemed… upset, to say it kindly.
Darkened clouds rolled over Camp Half-Blood, and thunder growled through the skies.
“Bowen Marquis!” Zeus’ voice rumbled from the heavens and crawled through the air. Loud and commanding, royalty-of-a-god-kinda voice, “I choose you as my stupid, pathetic, useless champion!”
I winced.
All eyes turned to Bowen and he looked around bewilderingly as Zeus’ deep voice set through the air, sending crackles of electricity along the pavilion.
“A quest has been set, a prophecy shall be spoken; to prove your deservance as child of my wife, Hera! So shall it be! Set by words, and stone, etched into the skies and if you shall fail-”
The air crackled again and it sounded like someone had been pushed from an intercom. A new voice reverberated from the air. A mature female one. Hera.
“My apologies,” she stated, sighing, “But it seems my twat of a husband threatened Apollo and the Fates into prophesying a quest around the boy, Bowen Marquis.”
More bursting electricity through the air, shoving sounds and the faint voice of Zeus complaining “I’m not a twat!”
Hera sighed, and suddenly she popped into the dining pavilion. She didn’t hover in the regal form she was so commonly seen in, her hair wasn’t tied back neatly and her face wasn’t firmly set with angry eyes.
She looked… like a college student.
Young, mid twenties, chocolate hair swept into a messy bun, and a simple worn flannel and jeans. She smiled, grey eyes unusually amused. The only thing that hadn’t changed was her commanding voice. Determined and unwavering.
“As I was saying, demigods,” Hera continued, “This is Bowen’s quest. And this is his prophecy too:

“Four demigods shall follow the quest,
And find each item at request,
Before summer’s end,
Or the wrath of Zeus will send,
The Prince of Olympus to his downfall
Hurry little demigods,
Hurry.”

Silence followed.
Hera broke it once again, “The quest requires four demigods. One must be Bowen, the other, his chosen three.” She pulled out a piece of paper, folded and crinkled roughly, “Here’s a list of the three items Zeus wants you to retrieve. You have until September. Over three months may sound like a long time, but rest assure, these items are lost and hidden, even the gods have lost track of them. Good luck, and steadfast.”
The goddess turned to leave, then paused, “Oh yeah, those two lionesses of mine? The black one is Baroness, and the white one is Duchess.”
With that, Hera disappeared into smoke.
The camp erupted into noise. Each camper talking over one another. Shouts, screams, questions, it was a variety of chaos.
I made my way to Bowen. Hera had raised far more questions than answered them. She head barely acknowledged Bowen first of all, hadn’t explained how’d he come into existence as a demigod, and had only given us the quest. She wasn’t exactly in my top ten favorite god list at the moment.
Bowen spoke softly, turning to me, “That’s my mom?”
I nodded hesitantly, “Although,” I admitted, “She usually doesn’t look like a college kid or give out quests.”
Bowen laughed, a bit manically, “I bet. She seemed commanding even in that laid-back form.”
“Do you know who you’re going to choose to join you on the quest?” I asked.
Bowen frowned, staring at the piece of paper that listed the relics Zeus was having Bowen retrieve. It was written in heavy black ink in all capitals.
It read:

ATHENA’S FLUTE
NECKLACE OF HARMONIA
RING OF GYGES

I sighed, a tired and world-weary sigh. Half of those things were probably oceans away, hidden in the depths of the earth. None of them were particular familiar to my mind either. I had heard the legend of Athena’s Flute once, vaguely remembering it. Something that she had made but then thrown away because every time she played it, her cheeks puffed out, making her look “ugly.”
It was lost somewhere around this globe, and Bowen had to find it.
“Well,” I said, yawning and turning to leave the pavilion, “Good luck, kid. Go choose your three and be off researching or whatever. Hope you don’t die-,”
“I’ll help,” a new voice announced.
I winced, and inwardly cursed that heavy-honey voice. Will’s voice.
“Will,” I hissed politely, “You probably don’t remember, but REMEMBER that promise we made? No quests unless it directly affects us this summer-”
“Nico and I will help, Bowen.” Will affirmed, shaking the thirteen-year-old’s hands enthusiastically, “Or die trying.”
I narrowed my eyes, “You’ll die before we even-”
“I volunteer too!” a girl announced, bright and high-pitched.
I didn’t even know her, I don’t even think I’d seen her around before, but she seemed to be one of the campers around my age. Seventeen, strawberry blonde hair pulled into a tight ponytail, green sparkling anime eyes. If I had to guess, she ranged from Demeter to Aphrodite to Hermes. One of those were probably her god parent.
I tried not to sneer at her.
She held out a hand to Will, smiling warmly, “I’m a Hermes camper-”
Made sense, there were a lot of Hermes campers crammed in that cabin, it was understandable that she was unfamiliar to Nico. Plus the fact that she seemed newer, she probably only came to the camp occasionally. Probably every few summers just to touch up on her demigod skills.
“-I’m sixteen-”
Just as Nico had predicted.
“-and my name is Bianca Dashe, but you can call me Bia.” She smiled, warm, radiating.
I froze, half the camp froze along with me. It was unspoken, but all of the senior campers knew, because they were there during the Battle of the Labyrinth, they had heard of my sister’s death, my wrath, my role in the Labyrinth. They knew.
Nico’s sister Bianca di Angelo had died and he still wasn't completely over it.
Will whipped to me so quickly that if I had been a fraction of a second slower, his hand would’ve caught my wrist and stopped me. But I was already moving to a shadow and teleporting away.
I appeared in my cabin, I was trembling, shaking. Hearing her name spoken so lightly, so softly, and carefree. I hated it.
I hid in my cabin alone for the rest of the day until Will finally forcefully dragged me to the campfire for singalongs and s’mores.
What happened around the campfire was what had pushed me to flee Camp Half-Blood.

Chapter Text

“Do you think he is a son of Hades? Or some other god?” Will finally touched back on the topic he had dismissed weeks ago as we sat around the campfire, near the back of the Amphitheatre.

I froze, turning to him, “He was literally claimed by Hera a week ago.”

Will frowned though, “But it was fishy, wasn’t it? Hera didn’t acknowledge him at all and-”

“He’s a son of Hera. That’s that,” I gritted my teeth, turning to stare at the flames of the campfire. It was a mixture of classic campfire colors, flickering to a light shade of lavender every often. A show of the faint anxiousness gathering from the campers.

He eyed me, choosing his words carefully, “Bowen is quite enthusiastic. He goes on rants about his ‘favorite fantasy novels’ and authors quite often.”

“So?” I glanced away, “What does that have to do with Hades?”

“Nico,” he said gently, his voice too understanding.

“What!?” I growled, “It doesn’t matter! I don’t like him and his guts!”

“He reminds you of yourself, doesn’t he?” Will murmured finally, “Before the labyrinth incident?”

I stared at him in disbelief, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” A thousand memories floated through my head. Pain, hurt, regret, remorse, hatred; all burning deep in my gut, “It was all my fault anyway.”

My time in the Underworld… hadn’t been the most pleasant memory during the labyrinth.

“It’s okay, Nico,” he said soothingly, “Bianca’s death-”

Anger seared through me, my eyes darkened and I stood up, pulling away from Will, “Shut up.”

“-it wasn’t your-”

I pushed my arms out toward Will, as if to ward him off. They were shaking. I squeezed my eyes close, “Shut. Up.”

“-Nico, I promise, it wasn’t your fault-”

My frustration and hate burned. I growled, nearly inhumane sounding. Shadows curled and deepened from the campfire’s hearth.

A memory floated to my head. One of the first tricks the manipulative ghost king Minos had ever taught when I had ran away from Camp Half-Blood. I raised my hand
and then slowly made a fist. More than few black shades crept up from the shadows. They floated eerily and idly, screams filtered from the campers as they reached for weapons and clustered into groups.

Everything was dark and spinning.

The campfire’s color flickered from dark green, to a cryptic purple, then to an ebony black. It changed colors so quickly, as if confused by the rush of emotions pulsing from the campers.

“You reach out and call. Call the souls of the damned, let that enlightening feeling of darkness touch you. Then crush your palm, and pull. Pull the damned to your will.” It was sickening, hearing that awful voice again. That sour familiar wheedling voice of King Minos. A cold hand touched my shoulder.

I spun, screaming as horrifying memories I had tucked far away finally resurfaced. I stumbled backwards, falling on my back as I scrambled to unsheathe my sword. I swung it wildly.

Bianca’s death fresh, heartache from a sister I had lost. Alone in a world decades older than I remembered. Scared as a skittish rabbit, I had even tucked tail and ran when confronted.

A cracked memory of a whip and King Minos hissing insults as he whipped me relentlessly, only to heal me when I was finally near passing out. Endless torture.

The faint remembrance of the touch of repulsive icy creatures of Tartarus, their sticky hands grasping at me, pulling hair, limbs, and leaving mottling bruises of black, blue, and yellow.

A mix of regret and jealousy and self-hatred as Percy and Annabeth held hands. The fear of being hated and hating myself for what I felt.

In my episode, I had dropped my sword. I was clutching my head, and was on my knees. I could barely feel Will’s arms wrap around me as he told me to let go. Weakly, on the edge of whatever sanity I still held, I willed the shades away and clutched Will tightly, squeezing my eyes shut.

I whimpered a variety of uneasy phrases, lost in my madness. It was like I was drunk, I didn’t quite fully understand anything. I was a child who couldn’t properly comprehend any words I said. I was broken in that moment.

 

“...I’m sorry. I promise I’ll get it right this time, King Minos. Please, don’t…”

“...Bianca, it’s all my fault…”

“...I hate myself too. It’s okay, I hate myself…”

“...Kill me, I hate this suffering…”

 

I felt something wet hit my shoulder, jolting me to sober up a little and glanced blearily towards Will who grasped me tightly as he strode somewhere. He was crying.
Lazily, in a daze, I wiped his tears. I smiled weakly, “I’m sorry. I hate myself too.”

“Don’t say that!” His voice broke, “I don’t hate you, di Angelo. So, please, stop it.”

I frowned at him quizzically, “Of course you hate me!” My voice turned quiet, although I wasn’t sure why, “Everyone does.”

Will was singing, his voice lulling me off as he opened a cabin door and laid me on a soft bed. I yawned as I was prodded into a deep slumber.

Chapter Text

I awoke hours later. I was laid on my bed, under blankets tucked up to my neck. I clutched my head, my vision swaying before focusing on a snoring Will sleeping in an uncomfortable position in a chair next to my bed. I moved my hand to wake him up before the memories around the Campfire flooded back.

I dropped my hand, horrified by what had happened. By what I had done.

I stumbled out of the bed and fell to my knees in a thud.

The thud of me sprawled out on the wooden floor jerked Will awake. He looked at the bed, panicked, then turned and found me sitting on the floor. A sigh of relief escaped his lips.

“Nico?” his voice was tired, pained. Had I made Will so weary? Had I hurt him in my episode around the campfire? I shuddered at the thought. Me hurting Will, it was horrifying to think I could do something like that in my crazed daze..

“Did I hurt you?” I whispered.

Will crouched down to my side, one hand looping around to comfort me in a side hug, the silence settled in between us. Even if we were touching, he seemed so distant. So far away.

“No.” he replied after a while.

“Did I hurt anyone else?”

A longer pause as he bit his lip, “Minor wounds. A few scrapes and bruises, nothing more, Nico.”

I glanced down at my hands. Even if they were minor wounds, people had been hurt by my hand. By my doing. I began scratching the back of my neck.

Will’s hand immediately shot up to catch my wrist, he pulled my hand away from my neck. “Nico,” he whispered, “Don’t.”

I turned my head away and stared at the floor. Scratching my neck had been a bad habit I had developed after my time in Tartarus. Some days, I would scratch so often that when i dug into the skin of my neck it would begin bleeding. It was something I did when I got extremely anxious, nervous, or upset. And it was something I hadn’t done since the beginning of my and Will’s relationship. Months ago.

“This is my fault,” I muttered, “Everything I do… Everything I do turns out bad. I can’t do anything right and-”

“It’s alright. This isn’t your fault. It’s expected of you to have PTSD after everything you’ve went through, Nico. This is not your fault.”

I glared at the floor. Will. Ever optimistic Will. How could he be so hopeful, so damned hopeful? His boyfriend had hurt people. Dammit, I was still hurting people. Why did he still like me after everything he’s seen of me? Why?

I clenched my fists and turned to face him, pulling away from his warm grasp. Our face inches apart. Tension sparked through the air as I shouted at him, “Why! Gods be damned! Why?!”

His eyes widened, “W-what?”

“We’re like vice and virtue.” I snapped. My eyes must’ve been wild because Will twitched. It was barely anything, nearly unnoticeable, but I caught movement of him pulling back. The barest hint, but my keen eyes caught it.

I laughed, soft and insane, “You’re scared too, aren’t you? Scared of the Ghost King? I suppose it’s logical enough, I mean, who would want to date a depressed, evil son of Hades anyway!?” I didn’t realize I was shouting until I inhaled deeply, chest puffed out, and finger pointed accusingly at him. I was also standing now, towering over Will.

He stood, rather than backing down. Rather than shouting back angrily or turning away. He stood. And his face crashed into mine. The kiss wasn’t his usual light and soft one he gave out. The one he would use to force me into taking the lead and deepening our kiss. No.

This kiss was heavy. Needy. And it lasted worlds long.

He pushed me onto the bed, hovering over me, breaking our kiss only to whisper into my ear, “I am scared. But not of you. I’m scared for you, Nico.”

Our mouths clashed once again, both of us hungry and pained. Both of us yearning for something more. It was familiar as our lips tangled together, my hands pulled him towards me. Our bodies so close that our chests nearly touched. My hands skimmed through his locks of hair to his neck and shoulders.

Will broke off our kiss again, but only to take off his shirt in the heat of the moment. I watched, mesmerized.

“A-are we… we are… finally...?”

Will smiled, crawling onto the bed and straddling me, “If you’re ready, Nico.”

I froze, “I-uh… well, yeah, but…”

He cocked his head, frowning, “Do you not want to…?”

“No!” I yelped immediately, “I want to, but… didn’t you want our first to be special?”

He nuzzled his head into the crook of my neck, “It doesn’t matter,” he whispered, “Because I’m with you, and that’s special enough for me.”

I smiled and nodded. And he pushed off my jacket and moved to take off my t-shirt, but he froze.

“What?-” He was staring at my arms.

Instinctively, I pulled them toward my chest. Fuck. I had forgotten in the heat of the moment. I had forgotten.

Another bad habit laid evident on my forearms. Cutting. It was something that I had taken up to after the Labyrinth incident, and had done sparingly after. Most of the scars were faded pink, and none were new or recent. But they were still barely discernible.

The thing was, Will didn’t know about this old habit. I had stopped cutting before we had even dated, so I didn’t think he needed to know, but if he saw… I know he would freak. That’s why I still hid it from him.

But now he knew.

He stood, pulling off the bed, his eyes focused on my arms. Then something clicked as his face held an indescribable emotion.

His voice was softer than mine, mumbling under his breath, “Long sleeves and jackets in the summer… why didn’t I notice?” His eyes locked to mine, “Nico…”

Pity. It was the most prominent feature on Will’s face. Sympathy, pity, a dash of justifiable anger.

My voice was gruff, “It was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter and I don’t do it anymore… can we just please continue?”

Will shook his head, “Nico, I think we should talk-”

Shut up.” My voice… was odd. Heavy and tired, but anger turmoiled in it too. It was a mess. I was a mess.

I looked at Will. Really looked. He had backed up more than a few steps from where he had originally been, and his eyes were angry. Dark blue fervent with anger and… fear. Fear was hidden in those angry eyes too, I could sense it.

I exhaled, my soft laugh was now rueful and quiet, “You really are afraid,” I pulled back. A thousand emotions flickered through me. Uncertainty, doubt, confusion. And most prominent: hate.

I hated myself. For not leaving Camp Half-Blood after the war with Gaea, for refusing to apologize, for pushing away everyone.

I hated myself. For being so angry, for scaring Will, for pushing him away.

I hated myself. Because I hated how much of a coward I was.

I really fucked things up this time.

I turned, and like the coward I was, tucked tail and ran into a shadow. And shadow traveled away to somewhere unknown. Without thought.

Away from my problem.

It was a familiar scene that I hadn’t acted out since I was ten.

 

After that incident, everything just seemed to worsen.

Chapter Text

An unknown alleyway in New York. Yup. That’s where I had ended up.

I stumbled to the nearest brick wall and leaned over, my palm fitting alongside the rough brick as I retched out my dinner.

I panted, falling to my knees and leaning against the alleyway brick wall, head pulled back to stare upwards. That’s when I spotted her. She was peering down, legs swung in between a rusty balcony railing and two stories above me.

“Shit,” I murmured.

She had probably seen me shadow warp my way here. Welp, time to hurl myself away again, probably leaving me in even worst conditions. I turned and prepared myself.

Only to hear the lady call out, “A child of Hades? Don’t see them very often…”

I spun sharply. A monster? A spy from one of the gods? Who was this woman?

She grinned lazily, “Relax, kid.”

With that, she stood up and jumped off of the balcony, soaring down.

I froze.

What the fuck?

I expected the woman to die, or at least break two thirds of her bones. What I didn’t expect was her to land into a full dumpster and pop out, arms flung out like she had just performed a magic trick, and
expected her audience to clap. I eyed her suspiciously and slowly, yet deliberately, slipped my hands to my hip where my sword rested-

“Fuck!” I scowled.

She frowned, confused. Cocking her head slightly.

I glanced at my hip, my sword wasn’t there. That means I had left it back at camp, and I was not going back there. If this woman was dangerous, I had absolutely no way to defend myself.

Well, guess I’ll die.

I crossed my arms, “Who are you?”

She smiled slightly, “Name’s Rumour. Wanna grab a drink?”

“I think not.”

She smirked, “Let me treat you to Helen’s Miscellaneous.” She said it as if I should’ve been impressed, maybe I would’ve been, if I knew what the place was.

“Okay, cool and all, but I don’t really know you, so I’m just gonna jet…”

She frowned, “What about Posh?”

I stared at her blankly.

“The Friendly Ferret? Spanky’s Dangerous and Explosive Kinky Gadgets? Dapple’s Brewery?”

I shook my head.

Her eyes widened, “No way! Don’t tell me… you’re one of the kids from the summer camps?”

“W-what?”

“Ya know, where you were actually chosen to enter those summer camps. What were they called? Camp Jupiter and Camp…”

“Camp Half-Blood,” I supplied softly.

Rumour snapped her fingers, “Yeah! I’ve heard about you lot. I hear you’re supposed to be trained to use your powers at those camps, ‘cept what would I know?”

I frowned, confused. “What are you?”

She cocked her head to the side, “Demigod. Same as you.”

My frown deepened, nearly scowling in thought. What the hell? I’d never seen this demigod before. Nor met her, and she must’ve been in her early twenties. How could she survive so long outside of the camps?

She barked a laugh at seeing my confusion. “You’re confused right?”

I merely shrugged, frown still ever present.

“Let me give it to ‘ya straight. You’ve probably been taught that monsters can smell out demigods and the camps are the only true safe place for us, right?”

I nodded.

“Aha! That’s where you’ve got it wrong!” she nodded vigorously too, “Ya see, the truth of the matter is, the camps are for the more powerful demigods. The ones who the gods favor, the ones who seem the most
promising when the need to save the world arises. And the rest of us?” she swiped her arms through the air dramatically, “And the rest of us get stuck in Hadestown; the underground town within the depths of New York City.”

“Hadestown?” I frowned.

“Ever heard of the musical? It’s got a nice soundtrack, ah, but that’s beside the point. Hadestown is the Diagon Alley of New York. It’s a town for us otherworldly beings with a variety of shops, homes, and
entertainment.”

“If that’s really a place, why don’t the camps know of this? Wouldn’t monsters be constantly attacking from the sheer population of demigods located in Hadestown?”

Rumour grinned, “It’s not a demigod safe place that wards off monsters. In fact, monsters are invited. Hadestown is for all otherworldly beings. Whether monster, demigod, god, or even a being from the Egyptian,
Norse, and any other mythology. Anyone’s welcome in Hadestown. ”

She stepped forward a few steps, close enough that I finally caught sight of what she looked like. Ruddy hair chopped hastily along her shoulders, dark eyes that gleamed viciously, and a lean wiry figure.

“Come on, I’ll show you where its at.”

I hesitated.

If I wanted to, I could shadow travel back to camp. I could beg Will to forgive me, to help me out, to take me back. If I wanted to, I could go home.

I took a step forward, and followed Rumour out of the alleyway.

No.

I couldn’t go back home. Nothing awaited me there.

I followed her to the corner of a slum-looking street, nearly abandoned and littered with trash. She tapped a stop sign, long faded and hints of old spray paint adorned it.

The world crashed and faded, spinning as colors burst into my vision. I paled. Was this what people who were completely unused to shadow traveling felt when they first traveled?

Abruptly, the world stopped crashing and fading. It took a few moments for my vision to reel back to normal, but when it did, I gasped at the place that was now visible.

The tall multi-story red-brick apartment buildings still sat on either side of the road, however, a marketplace squatted in the middle of street. Vendors shouted out wares. There were a variety of merchants,
and even more of a variety of items. Merchants wore ancient egyptian garbs to fancy gowns to simple modern clothes. It was like a cosplay convention, a renaissance fair, and rock concert had all scheduled their
convention at the same place and time.

There were even more people swarming the vendors, looking for whatever goods in the marketplace they needed. It was strange too. I tensed as I spotted a tall, looming creature pass me. A minotaur. I braced
myself, ready to fight it. When nothing came, I frowned, only to see it engage in an intense haggling competition with a petite girl selling what looked to be homemade jam.

Rumour grinned, turning back to me. She threw her hands out grandly, showing off the place and stated rather loudly.

“Welcome to Hadestown, bastard son of Hades.”