a/n: so i have no idea what this is i just felt like writing a solangelo.

also, shameless self-promo — check out querencia (forum/Querencia/207692/), my PJO challenge forum! there are competitions, challenges, random prompts, and more. and i'm planning on keeping it active.

this story contains solangelo if i was not obvious enough — it will be slow burn, so don't think solangelo is going to "feel the instant connection and the spark" in the first chapter because i really can't stand that kind of thing and i don't believe in love at first sight — there's attraction at first sight, but not love like "i would do anything for you" and "i would spend my life with you" at first sight. that just seems stupid.

also, this takes place in modern times, as in 2017, because i'm too lazy to follow through on actual PJO timelines.

self-promo and ranting aside, hope you enjoy! (all the goodies so much solangelo)

(also i kind of capitalized the summary, be proud of me)

so, i know exactly where this story is going, everything is outlined and i just need to write it — that being said, updates will hopefully be every friday, but i have school and am a little bit busy at the moment with beta reading and running querencia (again please check it out i would love it if you did) so bear with me

. . .

Something is going on with the undead.

Nico di Angelo has always been able to sense these kinds of things; it's just the way he was born. It's not a thing he can turn off — that sense of something, always pertaining to the dead, is just there.

He isn't quite sure if he likes that or not. His powers have always felt more curse than blessing to him.

This is how Nico knows that someone who is not him nor his father has been raising the dead — which should not be possible. Nico inherited his powers from his father. The line of the powers with shadows and darkness ends with him.

He points out as much to Chiron, the Director, who replies, "Ah, Nico...thank you for confirming my suspicions."

"Suspicions?" Nico wonders.

"Oh, yes. The New York Times reports that various 'zombie corpses' have been found in Brooklyn. No connection between any of the victims. It seems random. Victims die almost weeks, months previously, and then their fresh corpses are found later. This is definitely the work of someone with powers."

"And it is," confirms Nico. "They're just random dead people. Probably unburied, because too many people go in or around cemeteries not to notice that something's up. But why would someone just randomly kill people and reanimate them so that they can kill them again?"

"That is precisely what we are trying to find out — the Agency will have to send you in, you know that."

Nico is quite aware of the fact. When his father had somehow managed to get himself and Nico from 1940s Italy to 2010s United States, he had joined the covert Olympus Agency to keep himself safe from the bounty hunters on the trail of the di Angelo family. They'd taken Mother. And Bianca — it had been his fault, that time — he and Bianca had been walking down one of the rare few roads in Venice, and they'd been there. Dressed in all black, with identical scummy-looking faces.

"Hand yourselves over," one of them had rasped in a gravelly voice, speaking English their parents had forced them to learn, "and we'll make it quick, promise."

Bianca had kept her head high. "No," she told them in Italian. "I will go down fighting."

Nico had cowered behind her. He'd been so scared, afraid that this was the way he was going to die — in a Venice alley, unknown. Who would honor his memory? Who would remember Nico di Angelo in a few years?

"What are you saying?" the other asked.

"You don't understand?" mocked Bianca. "Too bad, honey. Shut up and we can make this quick."

She had sassed them, but they had taken her. Nico could have used his powers. They hadn't been paying him any attention. But he hadn't. He'd ran. Nico had run and run and run home until he reached Hades di Angelo, and he was crying and telling him, "They took Bianca."

Hades had cried too, and then he had told Nico that they were going to come for them soon. "It's just us now," he'd said. "So we need to get going, Nico."

He'd acquired a timepiece from someone shady — Lotus had been engraved on it.

So Nico and Hades had found themselves here, and to keep themselves safe, had joined the Olympus Agency.

Nico frequently goes undercover for them. Just last year he'd helped take down the army that a man with powers over time — Kronos, he'd called himself — assembled to try and take over the powered population.

Mostly, it had been Special Agent Perseus Jackson who'd done the work. But Nico and Hades had helped, summoning dead armies that couldn't be killed to match the hordes of other powered people fighting with Kronos.

Nico had gone with a man named Minos — he pretended to be lost and not in control of his powers, and Minos had taken the bait. Slowly, he'd drained Minos, an unnoticeable thing, and eventually he'd gotten a clear from someone on the other end of the comms — then he'd gotten rid of Minos. Nico's work was done, and he'd had somewhat of a name in the Agency ever since — the cruel one, the cold one, the one who could get the job done and find weaknesses and kill.

The thing about Nico is that he's very versatile — he's from the past, from another country, and that means they can send him anywhere and nobody will ever know who he truly is. And people tend to underestimate kids.

The Creator, the Leader of the Agency, Zeus, had told Nico when he joined up that these traits made him "very useful," but that if he "found a way to become useless, certain death" would be in store for him.

Nico is not very fond of Zeus.

Then again, he's not quite fond of most people — and this job is not something he's fond of either.

"What's the job?"

"You're not going to like this," says Chiron bluntly. "Not at all."

"Tell me, Director," Nico prompts.

"You'll be going in as a high school freshman at Riverside High."

"High school freshman?" sputters Nico. "That's such a — that idea is so terrible."

"Bear with me," Chiron tells him with a grimace.

"The anomaly is near that place anyway," Nico concedes slowly, "but still. Must I go to school?"

"It'd do you well not to complain. Kids tend to be the front of operations like these, and we don't know what organization is behind this."

"Ah, so I will be going to school," mutters Nico sourly. "Great."

. . .

Nico finds himself in an apartment — not too posh, not too dingy — its number is 6A, and he's really hoping he doesn't have those neighbors that knock on new arrivals' homes, all screeching, "Housewarming gift!" whilst holding roses and chocolates in a basket, assaulting the new arrival with the smell.

It is quite common on the television, which Nico sort of knows how to work. He's better with computers. The Agency has everyone take technology classes — Nico isn't a whiz like the other candidates, but he gets by.

Nico's ADHD is getting the better of him. He's not partial to his dyslexia either, but he has reading glasses for that, courtesy of the Agency's supernatural power people.

He closes the door behind him to find — gray. Not quite black, not quite white. Everything about the apartment is just gray. Nico finds he doesn't really mind it — perpetual black furniture and walls and everything would just get a little too depressing, even for him.

Nico's stuff is already here, of course. The Agency had moved it for him when they'd given him the assignment.

He makes his way to the predictably gray bedroom, with predictably gray furniture, and oh — there's a little bit of white in a notch there.

The closet is full of his clothes. The Agency uniform is a standard black top and sweatpants, and Nico doesn't really know what other colors to wear, or which ones go together, so he just sticks to black with black and an occasional splash of white or gray. So his wardrobe is very dark and colorless.

He contemplates just flopping on the bed and sleeping until dawn, but shuts the idea down. His first day at Riverside High is tomorrow, and really it's quite a generic name, especially since the high school isn't even close to the Hudson.

There's a school bag on his desk — Supplies, a note on it reads — all packed, again from the Agency.

So that leaves out Nico's preparations. He has literally been all set. Nothing's left for him to do.

For today, he allows himself to rest.

. . .

Riverside High School is as generic as Nico expects it to be. It's nothing special — a high building, two storeys at most, with a blue and white color theme. It seems watery and such, which is appropriate since the school is named for water.

He mills about, trying to find the office from his map that has an extremely small font size — even with his remedied dyslexia it's hard to read. Finally he notes that an enclosed hallway, almost entirely blue, near the front of the school, holds the office at its end.

"Hi," says Nico to the clerk, a woman who seems dispassionate. He hopes he sounds okay. Nico is not good at socializing. "I'm Nico di Angelo, new student…would you happen to have my schedule?"

"Nico di Angelo?" the clerk repeats, filing through her papers, and withdrawing one with "Nico di Angelo" printed on a Post-It. "You'll probably have someone from the Everyone program to help you adjust to the school. Have a nice day."

Nico is clearly dismissed. Looking toward his schedule, and ripping off the Post-It, he walks

back toward the hallway and tries to find his Spanish class — Room 51 with Gonzalez, D — but it's a difficult task due to the stupid, stupid small font. Apparently there's supposed to be someone from this 'Everyone program,' whatever that is, to show him the ropes, but evidently there is no one here to do so. Riverside High seems exactly as Nico's first impression of it — the kind of school that promises but does not deliver.

He shakes himself out of his thoughts, and looks back at his schedule, then his map. He's locker 1109, and he's supposedly pretty close to 51 —

Then there's something crashing into him. It seems like a mass of yellow.

"Eugh," Nico groans.

"OhmygodsI'msosorryohmygoshareyouhurtohI'msosorry!" someone speaks rapid-fire, as if they're genuinely sorry but in a rush.

"Ahh — what did you just say?" Nico asks the ball of yellow, now revealed to be a very blond, sunshine-esque boy.

"Was I talking too fast?" asks the boy. "I'm so sorry, I'm in the Everyone program and I have to show someone around today, and I'm super late because I stayed up late finishing homework and I overslept and — ah, I really have to stop rambling. Sorry." He sticks out a hand. Nico is flabbergasted, because this boy has a very long-winded explanation that takes him a moment to process, and he's actually sticking his hand out to him? Like a gesture of friendship? Nico tentatively takes the hand, waiting to see if he's being pranked. Because this boy is too good to be true, an envisage of sunshine and rainbows and nice things, and Nico's that antisocial kid who'd be classed as emo. This boy is perfect, too much so, and there has to be something flawed about him — clearly it should be his personality.

Is Nico reading too much into things?

"I'm Will Solace," the now named sunshine boy continues.
"Nico di Angelo," Nico mutters. What is it about this boy that's so — so bright? So wonderful? It's baffling, and Nico doesn't know if he likes it.

"Oh!" Will's face brightens. "You're the one I have to show around — oh my gosh, I totally just left you hanging, didn't I?"

"It's fine," Nico assures him quickly. "I got around just fine — actually the print on the map is small as hell, but I can manage if you have other things —"

"— Hell no! I signed up for this and I didn't deliver and you seem so nice so it's only fair that I deliver," interrupts Will.

"Uh, sure," Nico agrees.

Will seems perky, bubbly, happy, so unlike Nico. He decides it's a nice change, to have friends who actually aren't from the agency, who don't have powers, and who aren't trained in deadly combat.

Take Jason Grace, for example. He's Jupiter's son — Jupiter being Zeus's twin. The Twenty-Four Olympians, the runners of the agency, all have twins, for some reason. It's probably because of their powers. Jason has a sister, Thalia, who's Zeus's daughter — it's a terrible thing, because Zeus and Jupiter had kids with the same woman, Beryl Grace. Their family dynamic is slightly strained and highly awkward.

"So, what's your first class?" asks Will, jolting Nico out of his thoughts.

"Spanish, 51, Gonzalez, D," Nico replies promptly.

"Well, that was specific. Also, good luck — I had Gonzalez last year, and boy, it was a pain. I'm also a sophomore, if it wasn't evident by how I know this school — like, I like helping people, I do, but the Everyone program just kind of looks great on college apps, so — and I don't even think you know what the Everyone program even is, do you? We basically just help freshmen and new students adjust to the school, we help out the Student Council — run-of-the-mill stuff like that," rambles Will.

"Um, thanks…?" says Nico, unsure of himself, but grateful to have a friend nonetheless.

He tries his best to ignore that bright, beaming smile Will sends him as he ducks into Spanish class and begins the school day.

(He tries, he really does, but he fails.)

. . .

Nico is not really looking forward to his other classes. Spanish is alright because Nico's fluent in Italian which is quite similar to Spanish, but with ADHD, everything to do with school is much more nightmarish than it should be.

Math class is probably Nico's best subject; he can work just fine with numbers, which consequently makes him quite good at Biology as well, because Math and Science go hand in hand (also, Nico kind of spends a lot of time with skeletons…), but P.E. is just not Nico's style. Neither is English class — it's not up his alley and not his first language either. He can read it and write it just fine, but everything he does is just so bland and emotionless. History is okay because Nico practically is history.

Nico definitely isn't a 4.0 student, but he's not a 2.0 student either, so it's just fine. It's not as if his worries actually consist of getting into Harvard or anything.

At lunch, Will somehow finds him right outside of the Bio classroom (109) — probably since he's got a copy of Nico's schedule — and leads him to his friends.

"You can sit with us at lunch, I'll introduce you to everyone…" he tells Nico.

They make their way to a small table in the corner of the cafeteria after getting their lunches. Nico contemplates throwing the very modest looking burger away, but doesn't in the end because he needs food, after all.

There are quite a few people at the table. It's then that it hits Nico — this job will require him to socialize, display slightly extroverted tendencies — the bias does exist, and people who prefer alone time are apparently more susceptible to bullying. Nico's going to have to bring on full game for this job and hopefully get to the bottom of the undead mystery soon so that he can get the hell out of high school.

There are six people already at the table: a girl with dark hair and green eyes, a blond boy with elfish turned-up features, a dark-skinned short girl with frizzy hair and golden-amber eyes, a burly-looking Asian boy, a ginger, blue eyed girl with a strip of her locks dyed green, and an African-American boy with dark DNA double-helix cornrows.

"Uh — hi," Nico introduces himself lamely. "I'm Nico di Angelo, new student, and, uhm...hi."

Nico rolls his eyes at himself, inwardly. Great at this socializing thing, aren't you? he asks himself deprecatingly.

Will laughs, and a few of the table's occupants release chuckles.

"I'm awkward, if you can't tell," continues Nico in an effort to save face.

"Don't worry," says the green-eyed girl. "I'm Lou Ellen, nice to meet you."

"I'm Cecil," the blond elf tells him. "Um...I'm awkward, too? And I'm also an extreme mess, so — yeah."

Nico laughs at that. "I think we'll get along just dandy, Cecil."

They start introducing themselves in a circle, then.

The girl with the golden eyes is Hazel Levesque. There's something odd about her — maybe it's the eyes, maybe it's the unsettling stiffness of her gait, Nico doesn't know. He can't tell if her oddness is a good or a bad thing.

The Asian boy is Frank Zhang.

"Don't worry, he's a total softie," Will tells him conspiratorially.

The ginger is Kayla Knowles, apparently Will's half sister.

"We have the same eyes. That's about it," explains Kayla.

And the boy with the cornrows is Austin Lake, also a half-sibling of Will and Kayla.

"Don't ask," they say simultaneously. "Our dad got around a lot when he was younger."

"Clearly," Nico comments, but says nothing more.

"Yeah, family reunions are real messy…" Will mutters, "but enough of that. Um — I guess we should, um, break the ice…?"

"That sounds like a great idea!" says Nico with too much false enthusiasm.

"I'll start," Frank offers. "Uhm — er, favorite color?"

"Yellow!" Will chimes immediately.

"Black," says Nico, unsure of what else to say. Black is pretty much all he wears, anyway.

"Predictably emo," snorts Lou Ellen, rolling her eyes. "I like...purple."

"I 'dunno, red, maybe?" asks Cecil.

"Green," Kayla points out.

"Obviously," Will says. "Not that the hair's an indicator, of course." Kayla shoots him a withering look. Will maturely sticks out his tongue.

"Blue," Frank offers.

Hazel looks contemplative, but then says, "White. Like, off-white, you know?"

"Mmmhmm," hums Will appreciatively. "Classy."

"Classy is overrated — no offense," Lou Ellen adds.

"How about...least favorite class?" asks Nico.

"Oh, this one!" screeches Kayla. "Band. Band. I love band, but Mr. Wilkins...I can't. I just can't." She raises her hands in defeat.

"Ew, I know," Will grimaces. "Mr. Wilkins is a pig."

"Gross," scowls Austin, shuddering to add emphasis to his point.

"What do I hate?" Frank asks them. "Well — Latin. Why the heck did I even take that class? Why? I need to go to my freshman self and screech at him to stop being an idiot and take something easy instead…"

Hazel snorts, adding, "Physics. How do you expect me to do math outside of math class? Sorry, I didn't sign up for two math classes."

"I hate sculpture. I'd drop it if not for the required art credits," Lou Ellen gripes.

"Oh gosh, culinary arts. The class isn't all that bad," Cecil explains, "I just keep on burning the food."

"I hate P.E." Nico looks around at the group, surprised at their incredulous looks. "What?"
"You look like the kind of person who loves P.E.," says Lou finally. "I mean, like, you find it fun."

"I don't, probably because I'm really not fit. And I'm probably that kid you pick last for your team..."

It feels nice, Nico decides, to have something resembling friends.

. . .

It goes south soon enough, but these kinds of things usually do.

There's a boy, rather average looking, brown hair, green eyes glinting maliciously — he saunters up to Nico's locker and says, "So you're the new kid?"

"Yes, I am," Nico replies, turning to face him. "And what's it to you?"

The boy sneers. "Nothing. You just look like a little 'freshie runt. And you've got a mouth on you, too...we'll just have to see about that, won't we?" He cracks his knuckles in what is evidently supposed to be a menacing manner — Nico is unimpressed. He's the Special Agent that killed Minos; yeah, it haunts him still, but it does give him strength to face little craps like these.

"Is that supposed to scare me?" deadpans Nico.

The boy cocks his head to the side, looking at Nico in a most peculiar manner. "Who even are you, new kid?" Nico notes he's avoiding the question.

"Nico di Angelo. Who're you?"

"Bryce, Bryce Lawrence." Bryce emphasizes the Lawrence as if to say, My family's important.

"You act like I'm supposed to care that your last name is Lawrence," Nico tells him bluntly. Bryce Lawrence seems very mediocre, the kind of guy who peaks in high school and doesn't get over it.

Lawrence turns a splotchy shade of red, and Nico decides to give it a go, riskily taunting, "What, embarrassed I'm not bowing at your feet?"

It's the wrong move to make, but Nico just can't help himself; this little idiot is such a show-off that he just can't resist pegging him down a little.

It comes at a price — Lawrence goes even more red, and shoves Nico against his locker.

He whispers, "Think you're all that, di Angelo? You're little freshman scum...and you have that mouth of yours that just doesn't know when to shut up." Nico glares up at the taller boy from his more vulnerable position, but he makes no move — it wouldn't be a wise course of action to beat him to a pulp the way he wants to. It'd only attract more attention — attention that Nico already has. "I guess," Lawrence continues after a pause, "I'll be the one to teach it manners."

"Manners you've got, apparently," Nico fires back.

Lawrence presses Nico's wrists harder on the locker, not enough force to push him, but enough to send the message across. "See my point? I say lessons start tomorrow...so watch your back, little freshman."

He walks off. Nico rubs his wrists, and looks contemplatively at the back of Bryce Lawrence, wondering.

The way he'd handled Nico was not typical high school jock. No, it was much more precise, and even in the face of anger…

Who is this Lawrence character, really? Nico asks himself. He doesn't have the answer.

But he will — he will.

. . .

School lets out soon enough and Nico decides he needs to get closer to the oddity; first, he returns to the apartment, walking rather than shadow-traveling in order to conserve energy, to deposit his backpack and school supplies.

Then he makes his way to the closet, and withdraws a long, black box from its depths — he'd known he could count on the Agency to leave it here for him.

Tentatively, he opens it, and reveals an ivory-colored staff with a dark marble sphere nestled by three regal-appearing golden eagles, and a solid black globe on the top. The Scepter.

It's nostalgia. Nico hopes he won't need it, and it's not exactly inconspicuous to keep carrying around. Luckily, he has a free storage space.

He opens a portal from the shadows and stores the Scepter in it.

Now it's time to track the oddity.

. . .

His search takes him to a graveyard.

Nico weaves through the graves. Death is rampant in the area, which is, of course, quite fitting.

There's nothing, nothing, and then a flicker of something as he passes by a particularly ostentatious grave. The something grows stronger the closer Nico gets to it.

It's a big, white stone, weathered slightly but still quite readable — there are small specks of gold embedded in the large semicircle and there is a crown shape on top of the name, QUEEN MARIE, engraved on it. 1909 — 1942, the lifespan reads.

Death does not stop the committed is the tagline. It's odd.

And yet, who is — was — Queen Marie? Nico highly doubts the woman was actually named Queen Marie in her lifetime, but perhaps this is a vagueness.

Briefly he feels a little pang in his chest. Nico's mother's name had been Maria. He doesn't miss her so much as the idea of her, the idea that someone was out there looking out for him simply because he existed.

But there is no point in reminiscing on what-could-have-beens. The point is that what could have been was not, and so it's necessary to move on, to pull through and stick with what is.

Blinking away his thoughts, Nico squints at the grave.

Why is there something special about this one? It's flamboyant, yes, but all the graves of the wealthy are.

He moves closer to the stone. Nico looks at it. The gold isn't the only metal in the stone, but it's the most visible one. There are specks of silvery-looking elements as well as something dark black, in moderation but clearly visible from where he stands.

What is it about this stone? The gold, the metals…

Nico traces the letters one by one. Q-U-E-E-N-M-A-R-I-E.

There is something odd about the grave, he decides. He just can't figure out what it is. Nico takes a look at the dates. 1909 — 1942.

The 1940s. That's what it is…

...Is it?

He draws his eyes to the tagline, the thing that makes the grave unique. Death does not stop the committed. It makes him uneasy.

Death does not stop the committed. What had Queen Marie been committed to? What was her cause — did it still exist? If it did...then what makes that cause memorable? What about that cause is so important that Queen Marie remains committed to it even in Death...in a state of undeath?

There is something about this grave, now. And Nico absolutely intends to find out what.