It wasn't that she hated the boy.

Far from it, in fact. She loved the boy dearly, smiled at his little quirks and habits. It was rare to find a gentleman these days, especially with demigods. It was rare that she found one whom she truly liked, and could see nothing wrong with, nothing that hadn't been put there by life itself. Sure, she was nice to Orpheus- that was a cute little love story that she was sad to see go wrong- and the child of Poseidon, Perseus, was one of those few people that didn't get cocky from the fame, and remained pure of heart. But even then, there was something she didn't like. With Orpheus, his curiosity got the better of him, and if he truly loved his bride, he would not care what she looked like. With Perseus Jackson, it was that temper of his, and refusal to think logically.

Her step-son had none of these faults. While he did have a temper, he put it to good use, and even though at times he acted without thinking, he always had a backup plan, ensuring that he and his friends would not be brought to harm. He also learned from past mistakes, unlike Percy, who could be baited out the same way every time with his friends.

Nico was wise, intelligent, sweet, kind, brave, and any other adjective that a mother would use while describing her son proudly.

Except she wasn't his mother.

And that was why she acted that way.

She adored the boy's personality. But when she came to the face, her fury toppled.

It was a handsome face, no doubt about that. He shared the same classical nose as his father, his angular cheekbones stood out beautifully, making him look like some dark prince from ages past. His high forehead held a sense of pride, like he could take on the world without you knowing until it was too late to do anything about it. The boy's dark lips were twisted in a smile that could be both cruel and warm, depending on whom you were and Nico's mood. His dark, silky hair was not quite like his father's, and held a brown and red tint to it, much like her own hair. She herself coincidentally had sharp cheekbones, just a little more feminine, and held herself with a pride similar to his. She could be bitter or sweet, depending on who she was talking to. With all of this, it would be easy to fool others that he was her son. Hers and her husband's.

But his eyes spoke the harsh truth.

Her own eyes were multi-colored, washed out during the fall and winter, and brown during the summer and spring. Hades' eyes were a pitch black that made you want to curl up in a ball and die, as to free yourself from the terrifying gaze.

Her step-son had his mother's eyes. They were a deep sapphire blue that held sadness to them, like life had kicked him one too many times, and while it had made him stronger, he had never quite gotten over his losses. She knew that her mistreatment of him didn't help, especially when at the time of his mourning she had turned him into a dandelion for showing up at the palace.

But sometimes, that sadness would be replaced with laughter, when someone cracked a joke, or when he was watching her and her husband fight every year, his eyes would glow with amusement. And she couldn't stop herself from looking over, and wanting to smile at the laugh in his eyes, for she thought that if a ghost king could laugh, then why not her. Then she reminds herself of the significance of his eyes, and she shuts her emotions down tightly. Because staring back at her are a dead woman's eyes.

Yes, she knows that it does no good to envy the dead, but she can't help but do it anyway. Hades had lived a double life with the woman for over ten years. He had borne two children by her, and if not for the war, she probably would have borne a third. He would make himself appear to age with her, watch their children with her, and not tell a soul on Olympus about the whole damn thing.

But in the end, Zeus killed her.

Being loved by a god did nothing for her, could not protect her. In the end, that's all she was, a mere mortal, and the matter would have rested.

But no, it couldn't. Seventy years after she died, after she had finally put it behind her, believed that the rumors of her step-children were false, a child lands on her doorstep, tired, sad, lonely, and her first reaction is to pull him into a hug and comfort him.

But then he says his name, and she sees those eyes, and it all goes down the drain.

"di Angelo" she hears. That woman was dead long ago. But no, her husband had to put his children in the Lotus Casino, and then take them out once more. And in doing so, she came back through her son. The boy was a constant reminder of her husband's long, painful still, betrayal. Those eyes seemed to mock her, saying, "You never were good enough. If he loved you he would have stayed faithful. But he loves me instead. Me and my children." And she knows that it is true, that her husband loves his son, and loved that woman, that Maria, and that she can do nothing about it. And she wants to get over the pain so badly and be a family and have a son to call just Nicodemus, and not Nico di Angelo, because she wishes he had never met that woman, and that the boy was hers. She wishes that he was her son, and she love him like her own, and she sees that he would make a fair and just Prince of the Underworld. But he can't do that, because he is a hero. He is not a god, no matter how hard she wishes he could be, no matter how hard she pretends, he will never be good enough for the gods to accept.

When he shows up, in the middle of the night, the servants clambering to help him as he bleeds from an injury to his chest, and he's being carried to his bed by his father, she doesn't bother to keep up the mask of not caring, because she cares. But before she knows it, he is out of danger, because he was in danger of being here forever, in this wasteland. Her husband goes to get some rest and she's sitting there, wiping his forehead with a cool, wet cloth, praying to Apollo that he will be alright. He wakes up briefly, and his eyes settle on her face, and he mutters "Mama?" he is delirious, so she indulges both him and herself, at least for a little while. He won't remember this when he wakes, so she doesn't hold back. She tells him that she loves him, and is proud of him, and wants him to smile more. Before he falls asleep, he mutters, "Thanks, Mom." and when he closes his eyes she looks upon his face, and realizes that there is a difference, for him at least, hopefully, between his mother and herself. But that is the ramblings of a hoping woman.

But while his eyes are closed, she can run her hands through his silky brown hair, so much like her own, and brushes her fingertips against his face, memorizing the coutures of it all. And for a while, she pretends that he is her own, and not that woman's. But she knows that it is not true, and the harsh reality will present itself when he awakes.

But for now, she doesn't care. For now, he is her son. Hers and her husband's. And will remain so until his eyes open and she can't pretend.