Yeah… So, it's me again. Hopefully you're not all sick of me by now. I re-read all of TLO last night and ideas kept swarming at me. Set during TLO (obviously), this is a kind of deleted scenes fic featuring Nico. There will be three chapters: this one is after Hades sends Nico to his room. The next will be set during the scene Percy sees in his dream, with Nico digging in the flowerbed to try and summon his mother. The third and last will be set around the time Nico is trying to persuade his father, Persephone and Demeter to join in the fight against Kronos, up to the point Mrs O'Leary bounds in with the message Percy wanted her to send. So… Nico-centric. Enjoy please. At least, I would much prefer it if you enjoyed — it would make me feel incredibly warm and fuzzy inside, and I rather like that feeling. However, you are also free not to enjoy should you so see fit, in which case I shall just have to try and curb the tears ^_~. Arrivederci!
Now, Nico had always known that he was never going to have the typical father/son relationship with his father. Not just because his father was a god and everything because, well, where's the manual for that (it's been three thousand years; Olympus could have at least produced a pamphlet or something on the subject) but also because of the whole Lord of the Dead thing. He was not the the only demigod but (as far as he knew) he was the only son of the King of the Underworld, and there was pretty much nothing that screamed sugar and spice and all things nice about that job title, was there? Or, perhaps more importantly, there was nothing that screamed affection in that description, which Nico felt a sincere lack of when he was dumped on the cold, hard black granite floor on 'his' bedroom in a manner more befitting for a sack of potatoes than, you know, your twelve-year-old son.
It took a few seconds for him to adjust to where he was. Shadow-travelling he could deal with (mostly) because he was in control but wow did he hate it when his father did that hand-waving thing and just banished him to wherever he pleased, usually somewhere far out of sight and/or mind. He was in what Hades insisted in calling Nico's room, yet Nico had never known somewhere to feel less like home, and he had slept under more than one park bench in the world above, and was quite comfortable curling up next to a stack of bleached bones in some pitch-black, endless tunnel down here. He may be Hades' son, but this just didn't feel right.
There was a massive four-poster bed that looked like it could take up the entirety of a small bedroom in a property that wasn't a palace hung with black velvet curtains with silver detailing around the edges.
Okay, so Nico may only be twelve, a guy and seventy-odd years behind when it came to a little thing called interior design but… black velvet? Really? The rest of the room was pretty much your standard issue state room in Hades' palace; dark, dark purple silk wall hangings embroidered with silver thread, plenty of black furniture (which really brought out the black drapes over the full-length window and the black silk bed linen) with lots of chrome and smoky plate glass bits attached. All of the shiny, reflective surfaces spat the light from flaming torches on the walls and the huge bone chandelier burning an acidic green around the room.
Perhaps his dad was trying to prove a point by deliberately missing the car-sized mattress and choosing the floor to deposit his son on instead. The jarring to Nico's spine had certainly shut him up for a few minutes, he would give his dad that because, well, ouch, but it still returned to the sack of potatoes analogy, which Nico was not best pleased about.
He made an attempt to push his hair out of his face and got to his feet, wincing slightly, then feeling guilty for taking the luxury of wincing when he had gotten Percy into so much trouble. His own father had tricked him into luring Percy to the Underworld, all so he could have his own way, have his own child (him) be the subject of the prophecy. His father hadn't even bothered to ask if Nico wanted in on this prophecy crap because the answer would have been hell (that was never not going to be a pun anymore, was it?) no.
Did it look like he wanted the weight of the world on his shoulders? He had seen what that had done to Percy and it looked about as much fun as having a stepmother that officially entitled him to tell Cinderella to suck it up and stop whining. So what, you expect sympathy because your stepmother asks you to throw a mop and a broom around the place once in a while and won't let you to out to go to a party? Persephone's free time was spent either transfiguring her stepson into some kind of common weed or hunting Nico down so she could hex him into a common weed. Sorry, Cinders, but Nico's got you beat.
Nope, Percy could have the stupid prophecy for all Nico cared. Apparently Hades hadn't realised that, though, because now Nico was apparently bumped up from understudy for passerby no. 3 to star of the freaking production, and he hadn't even seen a script yet. Nor, in fact, did he want to see the script. He was perfectly fine with letting Percy handle it, thank you very much.
It wasn't even as if Nico had brought Percy down to the Underworld under false pretences; he was going to help him bathe in the River Styx, but the deal he thought he had struck with his father meant that Percy was going to have to have a little chat with Hades first, in exchange for information about Nico's mortal family. That seemed like a fair exchange, right? Apparently not, because that had ended up with Percy in the dungeons and Nico here, which was a dungeon despite the drapes and the rug and the view; he had been banished here enough times to know that it was still a prison despite the trappings trying to conceal it.
He growled in frustration and picked up the lamp on the nightstand and hurled it at the double doors, which he already knew would be locked. The entire room was sealed against shadow-travelling as well. His dad really didn't leave anything out. The lamp shattered in an incredibly satisfying manner, spitting glass shards over a wide radius. How could his dad do that to him? Did he not understand that Nico needed to know about his mom, about where she had come from, more than anything else? Then to further double cross his own son and throw Percy in the dungeons… His fists tightened into balls and he swiped at a glass vase containing a single emerald flower, sweeping it from the dresser across the room to smash in the corner. The enormous gemstone skittered over the granite floor, the noise echoing throughout the chamber.
Percy was going to hate him, and it wasn't even his fault. He had meant to make good on his promise but no, apparently his dad had other ideas. Clenching his teeth, his eyes darted around the room and landed on the emerald. It was ridiculously heavy as he weighed it in his palm before hurling it at the mirror on the dresser, which splintered and fell from the frame in a number of large shards, tinkling loudly on the plate glass top of the dresser and even louder as they bounced on the marble floor.
Percy was never going to trust him again, was he? Which, okay, maybe that was a little bit justified because, hey, he had sort of sold him out to his father. And all for what had actually amounted to a titbit of information he could have scraped out of any official government place that dealt with immigration papers and deaths from like eighty years ago. He hadn't been asking for his mother's name, her country of origin, who her parents were. He was asking for her, her as a person. Her quirks, her likes, her dislikes, her voice, whether she looked more like him or Bianca… He was hungry for every tiny particle of her life that he could get his hands on because he needed it. She was his mom and he just… needed to know. How was he supposed to know what his father had been planning? He had only sold Percy out a tiny little bit, which had then spiralled into selling him out quite a lot, actually, but not on purpose.
Nico was not stupid. He had street-smarts far beyond his age, honed from dragging himself up from the age of ten, learning to shadow-travel and rend huge fissures in marble floors, how to vanquish skeleton warriors and chat with the dead without anyone there to guide him. There was nothing dumbor clueless about him; in fact there probably had been a little niggling suspicion that his dad wouldn't stay true to his word because, well, his father was Hades, but he had been blinded by the dangling carrot of his mother. Just as his father knew he would be, he reminded himself bitterly.
Percy had a mother, one that wore a blue apron covered in her own floury handprints and not only pretended never to see Percy eating the batter for her cakes but actually made extra so he could. Sally Jackson smelled like flowers, usually, and more often than not some type of candy or dish soap. She hummed benevolently to herself when she was alone working in the kitchen, her hair piled at the back of her neck with a clip, and always had time for everyone, even when she was at the kitchen table scribbling desperately on a legal pad, a pen behind each ear and ink on her fingers because an idea had struck her for her novel.
Little did she know that for a certain number of golden drachmas, Percy could and did arrange for a Muse or two to appear in her apartment from time to time and give her a gentle nudge. Nico had seen her face light up whenever she saw Percy, saw that nothing she was holding was too important to be tossed down at a moment's notice to hug her son. How could a guy that had all of that waiting for him at home possibly understand the gaping mother-shaped hole Nico had not just in his memories, but in his heart?
He was rapidly running out of things to break, he noticed, his eyes darting wildly around the room for something else that would break into a million pieces. Anything to maybe help vent a tiny little bit of his frustration — frustration aimed at his father, his predicament and most definitely Percy, from whom he had got a luck of pure hatred and disgust without him ever having questioned or attempting to understand Nico's motives for what he had done. He was in the middle of tearing a wall hanging down when two skeleton-soldiers came bursting through the doors, marching side-by-side. Nico whipped around to face them, placing a hand on his sword, but they were too quick and grabbed an upper arm each, lifting him clean off his feet.
"Hey!" Nico yelled, kicking and struggling as they sunk their bony fingers into his flesh. "What do you think you're doing? Get off me!" He paused, reluctant to drop the trump card he was thinking of playing, then opening his mouth to do it anyway. "Do you know who I am?" And wow, that sounded fifty times more stupid than it had inside his head, and it had sounded pretty freaking ridiculous when it was bouncing around up there. Painfully so, in fact. May the gods bear witness to the fact that Nico di Angelo would never be saying that again.
Both of the soldiers ignored him, something he wasn't used to when it came to his dad's skeletal minions, who normally jumped to attention whenever he walked by. One even took Nico's sword from its sheath.
"Give that back!" Nico demanded in his best I-control-you-so-listen-to-me-or-I'll-grind-your-b ones-into-fertilizer voice. The soldiers weren't impressed and dumped him on the bed (even undead flunkies could aim for the freaking bed, Nico noticed savagely) and turned to leave, taking his sword with them. Nico scrambled to his feet and ran after them, skidding in front of them. "STOP!" he commanded as a last resort, holding out his hands. This didn't drop them either, and he knew his father had deliberately made them immune to his powers. Say what you want about Hades, at least he had foresight. The skeleton with his sword shoved him aside and he fell sideways into the dresser.
Fine. His father wanted to ground him to his room, take away his sword? Then bring it on. Nico just hoped that his father wasn't expecting the room to be intact when he returned for his son. The young demigod grabbed the shattered mirror from the dresser, spun and threw it as hard as he could, demolishing the skeleton with his sword. The mirror went sailing out into the hall to it splinter against the wall. Nico darted forward eagerly to pick up his sword, but was stopped short when the hand of the skeleton he had just nailed grabbed him by the ankle with surprising force considering it was just a disembodied hand, slamming him to the granite. He stretched out desperately, his fingers mere millimetres from the hilt of his sword, but then the other skeleton grabbed him and picked him up without any dignity, slinging him over his shoulder in a fire-fighter's lift.
No amount of kicking and cursing (in both Greek and English, all words that Bianca would so not be happy he had picked up) prevented him being slung down in a chair in the corner. He tried to get up but silver cords came whipping out of nowhere and lashed his wrists to the arms of the chair and his ankles to the legs. "Seriously?!" Nico howled as the skeleton turned to leave again, handing his almost-reformed buddy an ulna he was missing as he went. "Come on, Dad! What is your problem?! Are you just going to leave me tied up for four years until the stupid prophecy applies to me?" he yelled out into the corridor. "Bad plan! Also, this is not a stellar example of parenting!" he growled a little desperately as the skeletons closed the doors on him.
Well. This was just plain fantastic. Fan-freaking-tastic. He jiggled his arms hopelessly, trying to work the bindings free. This had to be a new low when it came to immortal parenting, right? Then, of course, Nico remembered Ethan Nakamura's eye patch and actually, his dad seemed pretty lenient. Even if he had had his own son tied to a chair.
He jiggled again, rocking the chair on its legs, but had no luck. Come on, dammit, he had a cousin to break out of the dungeons and a mini-vacation to the shores of the River Styx to arrange for him. He didn't have time to be tied to a chair. He was shaking his head to clear the ADHD-induced tangent that was asking him when he would have time to be tied to a chair when his eyes alighted on a long shard of mirror right next to him.
Knowing what he had to do and resigning himself to the fact that it would probably hurt, he sighed and started building up momentum by rocking the chair side to side until it toppled over, drawing a hiss of pain from him. He shoved his arm as far forward as he could and managed to get his middle finger on the shard and inch it towards him until he could turn it on its side and slide it between the underside of his wrist and the arm of the chair, praying he didn't slice open anything important as he did so. By curling his fingers inwards, he was able to wiggle the glass splinter with enough range that he was attacking the cords. Okay, no one said this was going to be a fast escape plan, okay? But if he had enough time then maybe, just maybe…
Luck was not on his side, though, and soon the doors opened again and the skeletons re-entered, probably to find out what the loud, demigod-crashing-painfully-to-a-granite-floor-whil st-tied-to-a-chair noise was. Upon seeing his predicament, they righted his chair for him then immediately turned to leave again.
"Okay, please, look, I'll be good," Nico said suddenly. He didn't know if skeletons fell for puppy dog eyes but by the gods he was giving them all 1,000 watts of that sad, pathetic stare he knew he could ace anyway, just in case. They had turned to face him, albeit a little grudgingly, because he was still the son of their boss no matter what their orders were, and Nico's heart fluttered with the tiniest germ of hope. "Please. I promise I won't break anything else. Just untie me. My dad doesn't want this, not really." He cranked the dial on the pitiful-meter up to eleven, usually a look he reserved only for extracting large denomination bills from kindly-looking women when he was wandering the streets back on earth.
The skeletons seemed to consider, looking at each other, and Nico held his breath, praying silently. How smart could his dad's lackeys be, anyway, given the complete lack of brain in their skull cavities? Finally, the silver ropes disappeared and Nico jumped up, streaking across the room towards the open door. Too slow. Like, way too slow. One of them grabbed him by his jacket and jerked him back yet again, whirling him round so that he was dangling in midair. Nico battered at the arm holding him uselessly then lashed out, putting a hand on the skeleton's face and shoving him away, hard.
Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with a burst of power that felt like it was jerking his naval right out of his body. He gasped; it felt like he was emitting an invisible pulse in a circle radiating out from his body. Black dots began to pepper his vision as the two guards crumpled to the floor, one dropping Nico's sword with a loud clang. He didn't really know what had happened. All he knew was that he felt dizzy, he had his sword back and he had somehow incapacitated the guards by accessing some kind of power he didn't know that he had had before. His eyes flicked to the door. Oh yeah. And he was free.
Snatching up his sword he made a run for the door and took off down the corridor, turning an immediate left and barrelling into a skeleton, shattering him so completely that he didn't even need to try his new skeleton KO power. He flicked a pinky finger off his shoulder and kept running, stabbing the next skeleton he saw with his sword, not pausing to watch him disintegrate into the ground. He flew through his father's palace, thrusting his outstretched palm at any skeleton he saw and immediately rendering them unconscious.
Given that his father knew full well that he could hack and slash his way through an entire army of skeletons with his sword if he wanted to, Nico decided to just keep blasting them with whatever weird ass sleep ray he was apparently now emitting, since his father obviously didn't know he could do that (he hadn't known he could do that until two minutes ago). Hopefully this would put his father off the scent for a little while so that it would take longer for him to figure out what was wrong in his palace. Hopefully.
He was panting as he hurled himself through a door that led to a narrow spiral servants' staircase at the heart of the building which ran for the entire height of the palace, from the depths of the dungeons and stopping off at every floor on the way up to the tallest turret, so as to provide easy access for the zombie help. It wasn't just from the exercise, though; he could feel himself draining with each skeleton he put to sleep.
The black spots were breeding in front of his eyes, doubling and quadrupling over and over, and his head had started to thrum with exertion as he threw himself down the stone steps. He shoved hard at the sternum of a skeleton chambermaid coming up holding a dustpan and broom, probably headed for his room he thought, feeling a little guilty, then even more so as the skeleton tumbled head over heels backwards, breaking into more and more pieces on hit each stone step on the way down.
What remained crashed around the corner to the landing below him and shattered into even more bits with a series of hollow clatters. Two more floors passed and he was getting dizzy from the circular descent, anyway, when two of the undead handmaidens Persephone had waiting on her when she lived down here spotted him from above. He turned and waved an arm and they crumpled into a heap, somehow managing to get their ribcages tangled as they fell. He nearly pitched forward down the stairs as the black spots gobbled up his entire field of vision for a few seconds and the thrumming in his head turned up a notch or fourteen to become the screech of a band-saw trying to cut titanium. Apparently he couldn't keep this up forever.
Well. Best break Percy out sooner rather than later, no?