Disclaimer: Even though I am extremely jealous and wishing DAILY that these characters were mine...they aren't. But the..*ahem*..situation is.

Warnings: implied slash, teenagers being teenagers (which, in itself, is dangerous), slight language.

Nico, son of Hades, likes to keep to himself.

It comes with the territory, the boy guesses. He kind of exudes that leave me the freak alone vibe, or maybe it's the fact that he smells like death. Whatever. He stays alone, and there are only a couple of exceptions he makes to that rule—namely, the four people in the world he actually can put up with that aren't dead.

Those happen to be Percy, Luke, Annabeth, and Rachel. Oh, and Grover. Sometimes. A lot of the time, the whole half-goat thing just skeeves Nico out.

So, yeah, Nico keeps to himself excepting these four. Percy was kind of a nuisance in the beginning, seeing as he thought it was Percy's fault for his sister's death, but that son of Poseidon really grows on you, like deadly sea moss or something.

Luke was a special case, really. Y'know, you're fighting in front of the Empire State Building one summer, playing on the same team in Capture the Flag the next.

Annabeth used to be like a less-bitchy Hermoine Granger, but that mellowed out too. It might have had something to do with holding the sky, or having to be Percy's girlfriend for longer than five and a half seconds, but whatever it was, the girl was a smart cookie. Nico would just rather be on her good side.

And then there was Rachel. Rachel…well, we'll get to that.

Anyway. Nico stayed alone a lot, even at camp. It wasn't like the boy, freshly turned sixteen, would be clinging desperately to those four all the time. He wasn't a kid anymore. Given, every sixteen-year-old boy thinks that, but Nico isn't every sixteen-year-old boy. He's got a sword specially made to kill monsters. Do you?

It so happens that our story starts and ends on one such day with Nico by himself, walking back to his cabin after a particularly jarring round of combat practice with some of the Apollo cabin. They were pretty good at archery, but most of them couldn't handle a blade worth crap. He wished more and more that he was fighting Percy or Luke, after breaking one of the older Apollo kid's noses.

So here Nico is, stomping across the row of cabins and shedding armor on the way. The Aphrodite cabin practically flooded with saliva when he yanked the dark breastplate off himself, wolf whistles following him all the way down the column.

The boy wasn't quite used to getting so pissy over something so small, but come on. He just spent an hour and a half of his life getting dirty looks from the Apollo cabin and wasting precious, life-giving energy on opponents that never really stood a chance. By the time he reached his cabin, a combination of hormones and anger had stirred him to find Percy and just kick his ass for the heck of it.

Nico marched right up to Cabin Three's door and pounded. "Jackson! We missed you at practice just now." The silence that replied made the kid's irritation grow. "I swear that I wouldn't have missed you, had you even SHOWN UP IN THE FIRST PLACE!"


He slammed his hand against the door. "Percy!" Suddenly, the fury was starting to be replaced by confusion, and worse, embarrassment. What if he wasn't even in there? Nico already had a reputation (which, of course, he totally didn't care about) at camp for being a little weird, and going around kicking doors in probably wouldn't help that.

But right before he gave in to the last emotion, the door opened with a flushed someone behind it, a chattering in the background.

Nico looked at him. "Luke?"

The older blond guy smiled easily, and somewhere between seeing that and how messy his hair was, Nico noticed that his shirt was on backwards. And inside out.

The son of Hades backed away from him a little bit, comprehension dawning on his face, and when Percy appeared from behind Luke, still talking about something but with his orange Camp Half Blood shirt slung over his shoulder instead of covering his scratched-up chest, that face glowed deep red.

"…Who's at the…oh." Percy stopped, frozen by a little shock at seeing his younger friend walk in on something so—well, unexpected. "H-hey, Nico."

Nico didn't bother to open his lips as Percy scrambled back into his shirt, waiting for Gods know what, but not quite sure what to say otherwise. The longest strange moment in known history passed, and Luke scratched the back of his neck, as awkward as it gets, before looking between the friends. "I, uh, I better go."

He gave a glance to the son of Poseidon, smiling just so. As in, he smiled in such a way that Nico would not have hesitated to barf in any other, less uncomfortable situation. "See you later?"

"Yeah, sure." Luke set out of the door, clapping a hand on Nico's shoulder as he passed as if the last few minutes had never even happened. Probably because he was relieved to have gotten out of there.

Percy watched him go, another nearly sickeningly soft half-smile on his face. But when he looked at Nico, his eyes went sharper. "This isn't what it looks like."

Nico scoffed. "Then what is it, exactly?" But, for once, and to his total chagrin, he said it with a little laugh at the end for comfort.

"I…okay, maybe it is exactly what it looks like."

Nico laughed again. People.

With that thought in mind, Nico paid a visit to the attic of the Big House.