It's the last taste of defeat that sours his tongue as he fades slowly away into the blackness. The heavy pain aching in his chest, the wet blood that seeps out like a river from his wound, and the tingling ringing of death in his ears takes him away before even the wails of his comrades can be heard.

Stop. Rewind. Redo.

It's dark. It's kind of nice, he thinks, lost in the final dregs of sleep. The door bursts open and daylight filters into the cabin. "Nico, wake up!" He groans, turns over, and draws the blankets over his head.

The blankets are pulled off his body and a heavy weight settles on him. "Nico, aren't you going to greet your favorite sister?" the voice again demands, happiness lacing its tone. He mumbles back, "Hazel's my favorite sister", and is abruptly awoken with a push off the bed.

"Geez Bianca, what was that for?" Nico mutters good-naturedly as he staggers to a standing position so he can give her a hug. It's weird, he thinks, to see his older sister again. It's been four years since she joined the Hunters and came back from the quest she went on with Percy Jackson. Percy, he hopes, is still alive somewhere on the Argo going off to save the world again.

"The Hunters are at Camp Half-blood and you aren't happy to see your older sister?" she says innocently, and his only response is to push her in the shoulder and blearily rub his eyes.

"I see you every now and then. One hour of extra sleep wouldn't mean I was missing much."

Bianca smiles at him. She leans up to ruffle his hair and murmurs, "You've gotten so tall." He embraces her because he really did miss her and he wants to let this moment last since he doesn't know when he will get another one.

"When are the Hunters leaving?" He doesn't want to know the answer, but he hopes for the best.

"I'm here for the whole summer, Nico! With the seven on their journey, Lady Artemis needs some time off, so she let us go anywhere we want. Some of the girls are staying with the group to continue hunting, but others are going back to visit. I chose Camp Half-blood."

"You're kidding, right?" Nico says disbelievingly. She shakes her head. Nico's mouth starts to form a wide smile, his eyes lighting up, his olive color skin almost seeming to glow in the midday sun.

"Well then. Nico, get dressed immediately," Bianca commands, her voice authoritative, just like how he remembered she was those years ago. "Obey your older sister," she adds childishly and Nico remembers that she's immortal and hasn't aged since that time.

"Well, technically, I'm the older sibling physical-" and he stops when she bops him in the head and rolls her eyes. He grins and runs off to get a shower before the bathhouses fill with Ares kids after their afternoon spar. Okay… so he admits that he should wake up earlier since sleeping till noon wasn't exactly healthy. He's surprised that the Hermes cabin hasn't pulled any pranks on him yet. He's still one of the few campers that has not been claimed and although he thinks it's unfair, he didn't have much role to play in the Titan War and no other hint at his heritage besides the mysterious Stygian Iron sword that was given to him by a strange looking business man.

Bianca approaches him, her bow slung across her back dressed in the traditional silver parka, standard of the Hunters. With a nod, both take off into the forest, racing to see who can reach "their" spot the fastest. He bursts through the foliage, a little worst for wear, bright orange shirt a little bit dirtier than when he had picked it off the floor. Bianca is already sitting there, not even ruffled and he mentally curses Hunter agility and training. He joins her, plopping down ungracefully, sprawling growing limbs on the ground.

"How's Hazel doing?" Bianca questions, curious about the newest addition to their family. All Nico has told her about the mysterious Hazel was that an Iris message had opened up randomly while he was in the bathroom and a young looking African-American girl had popped up in the image looking confused and with a note saying to contact Nico di Angelo at Camp Half-blood. It took a few more messages before they realized they were siblings on their gods' side.

"She's doing fine from when I last heard. She messaged me some months ago from Camp Jupiter, wherever that is, and says she even got a boyfriend! Can you believe that? My thirteen year old little sister has a boyfriend before even I do!" Nico's hands wave as talk, emoting his words with motions that Bianca only understands because she uses them herself.

Bianca chuckles and ruffles his hair. "Maybe if you got a haircut you'd get more boys to like you." Nico pushes her hand away and gives her a hard glare, eyes burning with rage, before it melts into a soft smile. "And how is it without boys Miss Forever Young?"

She hugs him and says quietly, "I missed you more than I would miss any boy." And Nico understands. He isn't bitter anymore about Bianca abandoning him to join the hunt. She's alive now and she's with him and that's always more than what he can ask for from the gods.

"How's Percy?" she finally ventures to ask, hesitant about the question that she knows Nico still tenses over. Nico sighs, reluctant to answer, always looking for ways out to deny his feelings. She knows it's hard. The 1940's were not a time period to have feelings for another man. But the current world is much more accepting and Bianca would kill anyone who dared hurt Nico for his sexuality. She can hardly remember her childhood and so she holds on to Nico as her lifeline to the mortal world.

"Fine," he curtly replies, miserable looking and Bianca thinks it looks wrong on her happy-go-lucky little brother. Nico is young and he doesn't deserve a lot that has happened to him and she can't say how proud she is that he's still smiling. She doesn't regret joining the Hunters, but she does regret leaving Nico behind to face the world alone. And she shudders to think what will happen when Nico grows up, gets old, and dies. Who would have thought that her little brother would enter the Underworld before her?

They talk until the sun sets. "Bianca, do you wonder who our father is?" She doesn't but she humors him anyways. "Sometimes Nico. Why?" He looks her straight in the eyes and for a moment, she thinks she sees a glint of madness, or manic genius, she can't decide, glittering in his eyes. For a moment, she fears him. But it's her little brother and she wouldn't do anything in the world to hate or hurt him.

"I'm 14, Bianca. He has to claim me. Why hasn't he claimed me yet?" He looks at her, hurt behind wide eyes but more confused than wounded. "I want to do something more than just practice swords and shoot arrows that don't hit the target" (she snorts slightly at the image especially since her arrows always hit the target, but that's Artemis's gift so she probably shouldn't laugh). He sighs but his eyes are bright and relaxed. Everything is alright again.

When Nico falls back asleep, he can hear faint phantom whispers, some calling his name and he wants to say don't cry but in his dreams, he's too weak and there's something salty in his mouth that dribbles down the side of his mouth that garbles his speech.

Please don't cry.

It takes almost till the end of the summer before Nico is granted the chance to go on a quest. Bianca volunteers to go with him, scared that Nico hasn't gained mastery of powers that lay dormant underneath him. Their quest is to meet up with the daughter of Bellona, the praetor of the Roman camp that Hazel lives at. From there, they must find the Diocletian staff. Nico doesn't understand why he was chosen for this quest as he doesn't have power over the dead, something which makes him think Chiron knows more than he lets on, although sometimes he thinks he can hear the souls of the dead being judged but dismisses the sounds as hallucinations.

It takes a lot of brainpower, three lost Mythomagic cards, and some dubious methods of gaining transportation before they figure out where to find Diocletian's staff which seems to have moved from its original position in Split, Croatia, to some obscene location in Florida where there are parties every street corner they turn. Getting the staff, they find out, is not as easy as they thought it would be.

On one hand, the bodyguard that blocks the entrance to the club where the staff is rumored to be appears to really dislike both Bianca and Reyna for some unknown reason, although he takes a peculiar interest to Nico. He feels uncomfortable as he alone is ushered into the club without the safety net of his sister and a daughter of war. Faintly, he hears his sister and the praetor arguing with the man, and he thinks he hears a blow of metal on metal. He grips his sword tighter and takes a deep breath as he is brought to a man.

The man turns and he immediately feels threatened, as if the man was reading all his secrets. However, when he is asked to admit his crush (was that really all he wanted?), he doesn't panic, doesn't try to run. He holds his ground and grinds out the answer. The man seems satisfied but also disappointed, as if he had expected a fight. Nico doesn't care because the only person that knows is Bianca and he knows she will love him anyways. Nico wins the staff from Eros.

Yet, once his hand grips the staff, he feels it try to draw his soul into it and he gasps as his knees give out, his vision starts to blur, and he only has a moment of confusion before Bianca catches him and he blacks out, his fingers still wrapped around the staff.

When he wakes up, Bianca is peering worriedly at him. "Nico, I think I know who our father is." He only has a few moments to process that before he's out again, the staff in his hand unable to be pried from his hands.

"Hades, god of the Underworld" he breathes out when he finally gains enough strength to remain conscious and to let go of the staff. Bianca nods, eyes reverent but guarded as well to hide her shock. "The only Mythomagic figure I don't have."

The staff lies harmlessly next to him, the others wary of touching something that could cause a Son of Hades to pass out. Nico tentatively grips the staff and is surprised. He can't feel his soul being drawn into the staff and he realizes that the staff needs him to know who he is for it to work.

Bianca kisses him goodnight before he falls asleep. In his dreams, he is holding the Diocletian staff and his Stygian Iron sword. They clatter to the ground and then pain. Mind-numbing pain. He screams. And screams. Nico drops to his knees in the dream and he knows he's a goner. They crying sounds are back again, and this time he feels the tears splatter on his face. He struggles, trying to awaken from the nightmare.

In the morning, Bianca finds him still asleep, dark circles under his eyes. "Hey, Nico. I have to go now. I'm going to miss you. Be good okay?" And then she's gone, missing from his life again. He sighs.

He waves Diocletian's staff a bit and sees the jewel at the top turn a strange color and a ghostly apparition of himself appears. Nico jumps back in shock an unsheathes his sword. "Nico," his ghost says, "it's time to go back to the real world."

"This is the real world," Nico replies, confused. The apparition smiles back at him pityingly and all of a sudden, Nico isn't in the Hermes cabin anymore but is standing with the ghost looking at the Hunters camp. "What are you trying to show me?"

The ghost only says "Bianca is dead." Nico snaps. "She is not dead! She was with me the entire summer! I saw her right before you appeared." But he looks around and Bianca is not there. He feels panicked. "Where is she?"

"I'm sorry, Nico" the ghost says and now it looks more like Bianca than Nico and Nico just wants things to go back to normal. "It's time to go back."

Everything is dark again. He sees glimpses of people crying and he wonders if he knows them. He looks again and he understands. Jason, Hazel, Frank, Leo, Piper, Annabeth, and Percy are crying over him. But why?

Then his eyes flicker open and all he feels is pain. He groans and spits out blood. The others begin to smile. Nico they cry out. "What happened?" he rasps, throat still sore, unable to really move.

They tell him he saved them. They thought he was dead. Why did he come back? Why did he risk his life? (They know it is because he is kinder than he makes himself out to be.) And before he falls back into blissful darkness, he whispers "I miss Bianca," and they understand.

Back from hiatus only to enter another one soon after. I feel bad that I'm not able to update frequently. This story kind of sucks just because I didn't have a clear storyline for this. Basically, in this one-shot, Nico returns to the battlefield to help the Seven and gets badly hurt. While he is unconscious, he enters an alternate universe where Bianca is still alive. In a world where Bianca is still alive, Nico wouldn't have resurrected Hazel nor would he have gone with the crew of the Argo to the Doors of Death. It's sort of based off of Viria's drawings, which I thought were a good representation of Nico's and Bianca's relationship.

Similarly, yes, Nico still has a crush on Percy. He had a crush before Bianca died, so it's only reasonable he still has a crush. Some people don't think it's right that Nico is gay but I don't see the problem with that. Love is something that can't be controlled and when it is mutual, it is one of the most beautiful things ever. So, please, if you have problems with homosexuality or bisexuality or pansexuality or anything, please, don't continue reading. I'm glad Rick Riordan included that in the House of Hades and it was a subject I really wanted to write about.

Thanks for being patient. For those who have been with me since the beginning, it's been a blessing. Again, I do not own Percy Jackson. All rights and rewards go to Mr. Rick Riordan.