Nico di Angelo’s life was a mess and he’d be the first person to tell you that.
After his mother was killed by Zeus, his memory wiped away by the River Lethe, was placed in a hotel that displaced him in time, discovered he was a demigod, his sister died, was misguided by an evil ghost, was involved in a war by the time he was twelve, got dragged into Tartarus, was imprisoned in a jar without oxygen for a week, and was pretty much ostracized by the whole demigod populace--well, let’s just say that by this point in time, he’d accumulated a few issues that ultimately made him incapable of hoping for a better life.
Now he’s inadvertently involved in another war and this time, their victory wasn’t looking so assured.
They’re at the final battle and Nico was exhausted. Hauling a two ton statue across the globe with a Roman Praetor and a crazy satyr with a violent streak did that to people.
Aside from that, he overexerted his shadow traveling powers, almost to the point of becoming a shadow himself. He thanked to any gods that would listen that Reyna and Coach Hedge were there in order to help him recover. Sure, he might’ve disliked the fact that he showcased his whole life to them when he was busy getting rid of Bryce Lawrence, (and that was just another can of worms he did not want to open) but he can at least admit that the recompense for that much surpassed his initial feelings.
He gained a new sister and Coach Hedge had become an odd familial figure. Sort of like the crazy uncle no one talked about, except this one had goat legs and was married to a cloud nymph.
Will Solace, son of Apollo and the source of Nico’s skeletal butterflies, was also to thank. He had decided that he’ll stay at Camp Half-Blood, maybe venture into that tentative friendship that was forming between him and Jason, perhaps finally confess his unrequited feelings to that stupid Son of Poseidon, and maybe--just maybe--finally get over Percy Jackson and put more thought on those skeletal butterflies.
Nico dodged a stray arrow, parrying his sword against a spear that an ogre was wielding. He ducked under the ogre’s arm and stabbed him with his Stygian Iron blade, the cold metal sucking away at the ogre’s essence.
‘Of course, I have to still be alive for all of this to happen.’
And right about now, all of his hopes seemed really unlikely to become true. Despite the renewed vigor that both camps had gained after the Seven had arrived in a blazing Argo II, their spirits were slowly getting crushed. Demigods were dropping like flies, casualties equally devastating on both camps. He saw Pollux go down five minutes ago, surrounded by a vicious pack of dracaena while the Stolls tried to desperately distract them with Greek fire.
Nico’s ears had a constant ringing to them now, the souls of the recently departed being made aware to him in the form of a high pitch ringing. It was disorienting, making him almost stumble into the jaws of an awaiting hellhound. He suddenly wondered where Mrs. O’Leary was and if she was okay. She was one of the few animals that wasn’t terrified of him and didn’t shy away from his scent that reeked of death.
He had no time to worry about it, however, because suddenly the anguished scream of a demigod in obvious distress caught his attention. He turned, trying to spot the source through hundreds of bodies, human or not, when a disheveled Son of Poseidon approached him. His lips were set in a firm line, brow furrowed and fists clenched, his normally bright sea green eyes clouded with anger and despair. Nico was suddenly filled with a sense of dread and horrible déjà vu.
“Nico! You…you need to come. It’s…Hazel.”
Hazel. Nico couldn’t believe he wasn’t keeping track of his sister. By the time Percy had finished speaking, Nico was already at the other side of the war zone, shadow traveling despite the present danger of turning into a shadow himself.
Once he stepped out of the shadows, startling a few monsters and demigods alike, Nico swiveled his head back and forward, trying to pinpoint the location of Hazel’s life force through all of the madness. When he couldn’t immediately locate her, panic started settling in. The only reason as to why he couldn’t locate her would be is she’s…
He screamed the word out loud, desperately trying to convince himself that Hazel couldn’t be…she couldn’t be dead! Before he began hyperventilating, he spotted a giant mammoth stomping on monsters, always staying in one place and never straying far from it. Nico felt a bit of hope surge through him. If anyone else besides Nico would know where Hazel was at, then it surely would be Frank. He hacked and slashed his way through, gold dust covering him from head to toe once he reached Frank’s side.
Nico tried to call out to him but Frank didn’t seem to hear him. He was ferociously stomping, slashing, biting--not stopping and letting out deafening roars whenever possible. Nico was just about to summon a few skeletons in order to get Frank’s attention when his ADHD senses made him notice he had stepped on a squelchy red liquid. He dragged his eyes up to the source, already dreading and knowing what he was going to see.
It was Hazel. Her cinnamon colored locks were matted with drying blood and mud. Her small frame was crumpled, her barely perceptible breathing inciting relief within Nico. He dashed towards her and collapsed on his knees once he reached her. He paid no mind to the squelch his jeans made once they were in contact with the red liquid.
He noticed that his hands were shaking once he had placed them on Hazel’s shoulders and clenched them harshly, trying to stop the motion. The rough treatment dragged a pained groan from between Hazel’s blood crusted lips. Nico unclenched his fists rapidly but didn’t let go. He shook her gently, trying to get her to wake up without injuring her further.
Hazel blinked her golden eyes open, the haze disappearing from them once she registered that it was her brother that was holding her. She smiled weakly.
“N-Nico, what’re y-you doing here?” Her voice was raspy, as if she hadn’t spoken in years.
Now that Nico was right next to her, he could sense her life force. It was alarmingly small, her once healthy aura diminished to a barely flickering flame. Nico trembled again, knowing with the certainty that comes from being the Son of Death that Hazel wouldn’t make it. Nico didn’t have any ambrosia on him and he couldn’t get a medic out in the field in time. He couldn’t shadow travel her either, knowing that the unsteady trip will only worsen her wounds.
Looking into Hazel’s warm eyes, he could see that she knew all of this too. She was the Daughter of Death as well, after all. With that final assurance that her death was unavoidable, Nico shed tears. He wailed, the anguish of losing a sister for the second time being too much for him to take. He clutched onto Hazel, sobbing into her shoulder. Hazel’s arms weakly wound around him, clutching him as tightly as she was able to. She murmured ‘I love you’s’ into his ear, saying how glad she was the she was able to meet him and how proud she was of being his sister. She told him to say good-bye to the others for her and to please not let her death regress him into bitterness.
Nico heard all this and nodded, taking heaving breaths and trying to stop the flow of tears. He gathered enough of his wits to mutter one last, “I love you Hazel” before the light that always resided within Hazel’s eyes snuffed out, her soul being freed from her body and heading towards the E-Z Deadline. He knew his father would make sure Hazel reached Elysium and that was enough for Nico to stop crying.
Yes, he’d be able to see her still. He could visit her and know that Hazel wouldn’t have to worry about being safe ever again.
That didn’t stop him from feeling the all-consuming rage that coursed through his entire being. He raised his body, willing the shadows to place Hazel inside the Hades cabin, knowing that the damage caused by the travel wouldn’t matter anymore.
He thought about Hazel’s smile, Hazel’s warm golden eyes. He thought about every instance they spent time together. He thought about leading her out through the Doors of Death, finding a home for her in Camp Jupiter, thought about all those times they were up on Pluto’s shrine.
He thought about Hazel’s last words.
“I love you Nico. Be safe.”
And the ground trembled beneath him.
Everyone paused for a moment, fearing that all was lost and Gaea had already awakened. When they didn’t see the primordial goddess rise out of the earth, they looked around in confusion until they spotted the source. For some, the sight was more terrifying than Mother Earth herself.
The sky darkened, the temperature dropped below zero, making everyone’s breath visible and caused frost and ice to form on every surface. The ground continued to tremble, shifting and making everyone curse and loose their footing. The first skeletons arose out of he ground, skin shriveled and falling. The corpses were wearing Greek and Roman armor and about a thousand more different outfits, ranging from the Edo period to British red coats.
And in the center of it all, Nico di Angelo stood.
Jason, having been alerted that Nico was the cause of all of this, soared above the crowd in order to get a high vantage point and locate his friend. He looked around and before he could even spot Nico, his breath hitched. The amount of fear aura radiating off of Nico almost made Jason fall right out of the sky and right into a pack of telekhines. Not that it would have mattered, since the telekhines themselves fled at the first whiff they got off of Nico’s terrifying aura.
By steeling his nerves with all the Roman training he has been exposed to, Jason managed to remain afloat, if only barely. He was sure that if he were on the ground right now his knees would be shaking so hard that he’d knock himself to the floor.
It took all of Jason’s focus and concentration to try and look into his friend’s direction one more time.
And he promptly fell out of the sky and collided hard with the blood soaked ground.
Nico was raised at least two feet above the rest of the crowd on a makeshift pedestal made out of the earth itself. Tendrils of shadows slithered off of his form and crawled towards him simultaneously.
Deep cracks on the earth were all around him, hell fire roaring out of the openings. Spectral light illuminated Nico’s face, accentuating his eye bags and transforming his features into a terrifying image. Simply looking in Nico’s direction intensified the fear aura into unbearable amounts, to the point of causing monsters to flee in a wild panic.
Jason fought against fears’ hold over him, managing to stand. A foolish monster with a death wish charged at Nico. The Son of Hades did not even glance at its direction. When the monster was a mere swing away from Nico, the monster disintegrated into particles.
The Son of Jupiter’s throat constricted and it seemed that everyone present gave a gulp in unison. He wasn’t sure how Nico managed to simply disintegrate a monster, but not for the first time was Jason glad that Nico was on their side. Time stood still and no one dared to breathe. Nico looked down and stared into a bloody puddle, seemingly content to stare at it for the rest of his life.
A hand was placed on his shoulder, making Jason jump and almost slice off an arm. What stopped him was the orange Camp Half-Blood t-shirt. It was Percy, looking ragged and grim. His whole body was shaking, his face turned away determinately from Nico. Jason could sympathize. He didn’t think he could look at Nico one more time without passing out in fear.
“Do you have any idea why he’s like this?” If Jason’s voice cracked and trembled, Percy didn’t mention. Percy let out one shaky word laced with terror and anguish.
And suddenly it was enough for Jason to understand.
He didn’t bother preventing the tears from falling down his eyes. He wasn’t going to stop Nico--not now that he knew Hazel was dead. He took a deep breath and faced the Son of Hades.
The name boomed across the battlefield, managing to barely catch Nico’s attention. The boy--no, man. The man looked up and met Jason’s eyes.
Jason gave him a look of sadness, understanding, anguish, and fear. He nodded.
That’s all it took for the Son of Hades to let loose.
The ground exploded, the skeletal warrior attacked, shadows sucked in monsters into the abyss, Underworld creatures were summoned, and the ground opened and buried monsters by the hundreds. And Nico di Angelo hacked and slashed, disintegrating every monster in his path, literally.
Percy and Jason soon joined him. They all shared a similar pain and needed to let out their anger at the world.
Mother Earth eventually did rise, threatening the whole planet with destruction. The sons of the Big Three united in a final stand against the Earth Mother.
Demigods kept on dying and so did the monsters. It was a useless slaughter.
Nico kept on fighting, despite the fact that he felt Frank die, felt Leo die, and felt Reyna fall with her faithful hounds. Despite the fact that Annabeth was overwhelmed and Percy screamed to the skies in anguish. Nico fought on until no one else could.
It was just him left. Him and Gaea.
The primordial goddess had risen some time ago, before Piper went down and after Will Solace died.
The Earth Mother laughed, knowing that her victory was assured. Nico knew this to be true. He was on the verge of collapsing, but he couldn’t let Hazel down. He couldn’t let Jason down either, not after watching him die after recklessly plunging into a group of laestrygonian giants when he witnessed Piper’s death.
Nico prayed to any and all gods that were listening.
‘Dad, Lord Poseidon, Lord Zeus, Lady Hestia, Lord Dionysus, Lord Apollo, Lady Artemis, Lady Aphrodite, Lord Hephaestus, Lord Ares, Lady Athena, Lady Hera. Please, give me the strength to change all of this. To prevent any of this from ever happening. I am the last standing demigod and it is my duty to stop Gaea.’
When nothing happened, Nico grimly readied himself, prepared to go out fighting until the very end. He raised his Stygian Iron sword, moved the shadows, controlled the earth, commanded the dead--and then time stopped.
Now, Nico might have felt that this final battle was epic enough to deserve dramatic pauses, but he didn’t think the world would literally stop.
Nico jumped at the sound of his father’s voice. He turned and almost screamed on the spot. All of the twelve Olympians, including other gods he had encountered (Eros, the sleazy bastard) were there. All of them--and Nico was overwhelmed.
“Dad? What’s going on?”
It probably wasn’t a good idea to not address any other of the gods first before asking questions, but Nico figured that it didn’t matter if he was going to end up dead via mud-bath anyway.
Hades stepped forward and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. Although he might not be the optimal parent, right now Hades tried his outmost best to show through his features how proud he was of his son.
“Nico, we have heard your prayers and we are here in order to grant your wish.”
The Son of Hades looked astonished. The gods were actually going to do their job and listen to mortals?
His thoughts must have been written all over his face based on the thunderous (ha) expression on Zeus’s godly face. Before Zeus could strike Nico down with a righteous lightning bolt, Apollo cut in, “You see sweet-heart, some of us godly beings finally realized that we can’t live on without anyone left to worship us.” The Sun god shot Nico a blinding smile, forcing him to fight down the blush that threatened to rise on his face.
‘He looks a lot like Will Solace…’
The thought of the Son of Apollo sobered Nico soon enough. He stared at all the gods gathered here and looked back at his father.
“Are you going to fight against Gaea?”
Hades opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by Aphrodite. “Oh no honey! How could we? My new manicure will get ruined!”
Nico couldn’t stop the wave of anger that overtook him. If they weren’t going to fight alongside him, then what good were they?!
Before voicing out his thoughts and possibly getting incinerated on the spot, Lady Hestia spoke, “Young demigod, what we’re about to grant you has never been attempted since the creation of the gods.”
Nico shut his mouth, still angry but curious enough to let it simmer. Besides, he respected Lady Hestia and he wasn’t about to snap at her.
“Although you wouldn’t have been my first choice,” Hera sneered at him, “there is no denying that you, Son of Hades, are the optimal demigod for this mission.” Hera looked disgruntled, like the words she spoke were unwillingly dragged out of her mouth.
Artemis nodded in agreement. “I do not make it a habit to favor men, but you may just be the exception. You are certainly as brave as any of my hunters.” Artemis’s face hardened, most likely thinking of all her fallen hunters back in San Juan and those who managed to make it to the battle, including her fallen lieutenant, Thalia Grace.
Nico might’ve felt flattered, but he still had no idea as to what they were all referring to.
“Thank you for thinking of me in that way Lady Artemis, but could you please explain to me what all of you are talking about?”
It was Zeus who spoke this time, “Nico di Angelo, Son of Hades, Ambassador of Pluto, Ghost King, and Savior of Olympus.”
‘Savior of Olympus? Since when was I considered a savior?’
Nico’s alarm bells were ringing, warning him that despite all the apparent flattery Zeus was giving him, the price for such a thing would not be pretty.
“We will grant you your wish in the only way we can. Right now we are weakened. The death of our demigod children has robbed us of most of our power.”
Now that Zeus mentioned it, Nico could sense it. Their power, while still impressive, was nothing compared to Gaea’s might. Things were really direr than Nico had thought.
“That is why, young demigod, we will attempt something that has never been done before.” That was Hephaestus. His serious countenance relayed how much of a big thing this was.
That still didn’t stop him from wondering though. And worrying. Mostly worrying. He looked at his father uncertainly, not sure if he was up for this challenge. Hades’ stony face said nothing, but his reassuring nod sure as hell did. Bracing himself, he turned to Zeus and nodded.
“I accept this task.”
The gods all looked relieved, like they were about to get killed but Nico had just agreed to sacrifice himself in their stead. For all he knew, he might actually end up sacrificing himself for their continued existence.
“But I still need to know what you all are planning.”
Instead of the gods answering this time, three old, ancient looking, wrinkled bags of skin stepped forward. He noticed how some of the gods shuffled out of their way, shifting nervously in their places. When they were standing in front of him, he realized with startling clarity that these grandmas were the Fates.
Nico was genuinely afraid now. If the Fates were involved, then he had no chance of coming out of this alive.
“Nico di Angelo. You will be transported back to the past. Back when your demigod life began.”
Their voices were grimace inducing, like sharp nails getting dragged across a chalkboard. Getting past the sound of their combined voices though, Nico finally registered what was said to him. His eyes widened in disbelief and he stumbled backwards, barely managing to not fall flat on his ass.
“B-Back in time?!” Nico was not proud of how his voice cracked at the last word, but he figured that it didn’t matter anyway. He was entitled to feel as shocked and disbelieving as he was feeling right now.
The Fates ignored his flustered blundering.
“We shall send you to the past and it is your goal to prevent any of this bloodshed from ever occurring. Beware Son of Hades, that if you fail, there will be no third chance.”
The Fates retreated after that cheerful good-bye. Seriously, even Nico wasn’t that depressing.
Still too shocked and terrified to even speak, Nico looked frantically from god to god. All of them looked serious and not joking in the least. Even Apollo, cheery and usually laid back, was grimly staring at him.
Nico gulped ad suppressed his trembling. He couldn’t appear as terrified as he felt. It surely wouldn’t reassure the gods the he was capable of doing this.
And honestly? Nico felt the he was severely lacking in experience or training to go on this type of monumental task. Although he doubted that anything could have prepared him for this quest.
Now that he thought about it, this was his very first quest.
Sure, he’d gone and helped save Olympus a few times, but that was during other people’s quests. Like Percy’s or Jason’s or the rest of the Seven. Nico was just kind of the tag along that occasionally saved everyone’s lived through tasks no one else could have done.
This was his official quest--given to him personally by the gods and the Fates themselves--and he was not going to fail.
With renewed determination, Nico looked at each and every one of them in the eye and nodded resolutely.
As if that was all they had been waiting for, all of the gods formed a circle around Nico, their hands outstretched and pointed at him. They began chanting in Ancient Greek, using dialects so old that Nico couldn’t make out half of what they were saying. Godly light emanated from their whole beings, slowly slithering its way to the center of the circle.
Nico could feel the pull of their combined powers, slowly shredding his existence and almost driving him crazy. He looked at his father one last time, not knowing if he was going to see him again or ever have the amiable relationship they had now. Hades met his eyes and gave Nico one rare, proud smile that almost brought Nico to tears.
Finally, the chanting stopped and the light increased to blinding proportions. Before the light completely overwhelmed Nico, he caught an inconspicuous wink from Eros.
‘Oh fuck no.’
The sudden feeling of forboding that had nothing to do with traveling back in time was all he had time to feel before Nico di Angelo’s reality shattered