A/N This, along with "Siblings, and Other Stuff" are originally oneshots from my story "On the Olympians and Persephone," which has now been deleted. Really, it wasn't going anywhere.
I kept this because Hestia is sadly underwritten, as is young Nico, despite four fics about the former. It takes place during chapter five of The Titan's Curse. 'Twas inspired by Nico and Hestia in The Last Olympian. So enjoy.
I stared at the flames inside the brazier. The heat felt comfortable against my skin, pleasant against the freezing snow in Camp Half-blood. They were dancing for anyone who would watch, and I had been watching for years. I had kept the hearth warm, waiting for anyone who wanted to come home. They would be welcome. I would not turn them away.
But really, who was I fooling? No one remembered home anymore. The term for them meant a place where you ate and slept, and no one respected family. It was a sad fate that the flames and myself had to endure. I was lonely. The flames were lonely. But no paid any attention to Hestia. No one paid her anything at all.
I'd been here every summer and every winter, waiting for someone to talk to me. Some did. Annabeth did. I remember Annabeth... she was a sweet girl, at eight years old. She'd felt sorry for me. But no one else did. No one else cared.
I picked up the iron tool and stoked the fire, giving the flames more fuel. They soared up into the sky, bringing warmth against the cold.
I saw two young half-bloods walking together near me. A boy and a girl. One of them was Percy and the other was Thalia. I knew their names. They would have welcomed a hospitable fire, I knew that too. But I did not call out. They could come to me of their own accord. They were welcome. But I would not make the first move.
They separated and walked away in opposite directions. The camp was silent again, sleeping and waiting for the summer, when all of the half-bloods would come back. And I would be here, waiting, watching, always hoping, always helping. But never receiving. That is what a mother does. She speaks with sweet words and assists her children, asking nothing in return.
As I stared at the flames again, I heard footsteps behind me. I did not need to turn around to know that it was the satyr Grover Underwood. I did not need to turn to know that he was with Nico di Angelo. And I most certainly did not need to turn to know that Grover was becoming very agitated with Nico's conversation.
"Zeus is pretty sweet, but the best card there is is Poseidon. I mean, he's awesome! Power over water and all that."
"Um, yeah -"
"I don't really like Demeter, though. All she does is make stuff grow, and since when has that been helpful in a battle?"
"Well, actually -"
I could tell that Grover was thinking of all the times growth had been very helpful, most of it caused by himself, of course. Nico was a smart boy not to like Demeter; she would have to become very close to him over the course of the next few years.
"I guess you could choke your enemy, but that's no fun."
Nico looked up at Grover as if this were the first time he had spoken. I smiled vaguely. "Yeah Grover?"
The satyr sighed, trying not to yell. "Uh, Nico, I've gotta go... do... something..."
"Okay! Where are we going?" Ah, Nico. The only things keeping the child alive right now were his looks and Grover's aversion to killing things.
"We aren't going anywhere. You are..." Grover gazed around the cabins, wondering where he could send Nico. "You're going over there," he said finally, pushing the boy in the direction of the Hermes cabin. "I'll see you later," he mumbled, and ran off.
Before Nico could turn around, Grover had disappeared into the trees, leaving myself with the boy. He turned in a circle, looking about for the satyr, still holding his toys. I averted my gaze to the flames and stoked them again, pulling my cloak closer about myself. I closed my eyes, allowing the warmth to wash over me... staring at the flames made my eyes tired, and closing them here felt very pleasant and comforting.
I jumped, and then opened one eye. Nico was standing across the flames from me, staring at me curiously as all boys his age would do. "Yes?" I said slowly, wondering what he was doing here. No one stopped at the hearth anymore. No one cared. Why did he?
"Whatcha doin'?" he asked with genuine curiousity. I looked up into his eyes, a dark chocolate color that was very warm. As I did so, I could suddenly see what was in store for him. It wasn't fortune-telling, or divination, it was simply his identity and the pattern of things as they were.
"I am tending the flames," I said. He nodded, but didn't leave. I didn't realize I was staring at him until he asked, "Why are you looking at me like that?"
I blinked and quickly looked back at the flames. I smiled, and asked, "would you like to sit down?"
"I dunno. Bianca won't ever let me sit down in the snow. She says I'll get frostbite."
I waved my gloved hand through the air – a small motion that took no effort – and a stool appeared next to me. A small tug sounded in my chest as I did so, allowing me the knowledge of the magic I had used.
"Sweet! How'd you do that?" he demanded, looking very excited.
"Sit down," I commanded, and he walked around the brazier to the stool. As he neared me, I could feel a sense of emptiness emanating from him, as if he absorbed life.
"So how'd you do that? Are you a goddess? You don't look like one," he prattled on, putting the toys he was holding in his lap and holding his hands out to the fire.
"I am Hestia, the goddess of the hearth. I chose this form, as all gods and goddesses can."
"Oh," he said sheepishly. But he wasn't in that state for long. "So what do you do? I don't have your card or figurine..."
I smiled. "I'm not one for fighting. That is likely why they did not include me in your game, Master Nico."
"You know my name!"
"You are a child. I am goddess of the home. Of course I know your name," I replied to his outburst.
He whistled. "That's really cool, how you just know my name like that. But why didja want to be a little kid?"
I would have normally been skeptical of the half-blood who called me "a little kid." But something about Nico's ignorance was refreshing. He was still a child, but would not be for long. The concept saddened me, though I knew I could do nothing about it. "I enjoy this form. I have not been a child for a long time, Nico, and I missed out on many things." It was for this reason that I sympathized with the demigods. They had to grow up so fast; I grew up in my father's stomach.
He looked at me as if fixing my image in his head. I stoked the flames again, and things were silent for a few moments. I enjoyed simply sitting in the company of another, something I hadn't done in years.
"You have red eyes, with fire in them," he said pointedly, causing me to jump. "But you don't look evil."
"I thank you for your kind observations," I replied.
"Master Nico, wise though I may be, I do not know the answer to every question you have."
I smiled gently. "No need for apologies. I may know the answers to other questions, however."
He was surprisingly quiet for a few minutes. Then, "Why did my sister join the Hunters?"
Now it was my turn to remain silent. "I do not know. Perhaps she thought that Chiron and Dionysus could take care of you."
"She just wanted to get rid of me."
"Don't say that," I chided, putting my arm around him. He was a little taller than me, but I didn't change my height. "It's for the best," I said to him, not at all sure if it was true.
He turned to face me, his eyes so open, so trusting. "Are you sure?"
I smiled, but told him the truth. "I'm not at all sure, Nico. Not at all."
He looked back into the flames. "Thanks for trying."
"You're quite welcome."