Disclaimer: I own nothing from Percy Jackson and the Olympian series.
Theme melody of the chapter: The Forgotten Tale. (You don't have to listen to it, but it's optional.)
Here's a little one-shot short I wrote. You remember the story where Percy meets Poseidon. This is where Nico meets Hades. Enjoy!
Yes, having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.
~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood
"Up, Daddy! Up!"
Hades sighed as he readjusted the cuffs on his black suit. He was sitting in the living room of the di Angelos' manor, having a quiet cup of tea—or as quiet as it could be. Tiny Bianca, only a few years old, had climbed onto the dark sofa next to him, and looked up at him with her bright brown eyes. Her black hair fell in waves around her adorable face. She held up her small hands to him, saying, "Up!"
Taking a deep breath, Hades rose from his seat and picked up his little daughter in his arms. His complexion was paler than white against her light olive skin. Bianca reached up and tugged at a lock of his black hair, beaming at him. He couldn't help but smile down at her as well. She was so sweet and lovely, just like her mother. Thinking about Maria set his thoughts on something he had been avoiding for a while. His newborn son.
"Bianca, prendete vostro padre qui!" Maria called into the living room from the upper level of the house. For a relatively calm-spoken woman, Hades had to note that when she spoke loudly, she could be as stern as Demeter.
"I'm coming, Maria," he called back. He gazed down at his daughter. "Do you like your brother?"
She nodded. "Sì, Daddy."
Hades tried to smile, but it may have turned out more as a grimace. As he ascended the dark wood staircase, he wondered how he would react to Nico. Normally, Hades would ever hold his newborn children just the once before he had to leave, just for that momentary vision, but this was different. Maria made him different. She got him to stay and know Bianca, to talk to her, to play with her, to love her. It softened him towards the di Angelos in particular. He wasn't sure about having a son now. Persephone was already infuriated that he and Maria had conceived another child. Having two children with one woman was rare for him. It was always a horrible omen that one of them would die young.
Bianca clung on to her father's shoulder, quite content in his strong arms. The little skeleton puppy he got her for her birthday clambered around in circles outside Nico's bedroom, yapping with the charmed voice Hades had given it. Bianca giggled and held her arms down to her undead pet. Hades gladly set her on her feet and watched as she knelt by the skeletal puppy and stroked a bone from its ribcage.
"Good doggie," she said happily. A ghost of a smile traced over Hades's face. Bianca loved her little pet. She didn't like the live ones. She hadn't even given it a name yet, after all this time. Hades usually called it 'Thing.'
The sound of a sweet lullaby reached his ears: Maria's singing. He left Bianca with her dog and quietly entered Nico's room. Most nurseries would never have black walls and silver-colored furniture. Then again, most nurseries didn't home a son of the Underworld. Sitting in a comfy armchair by a solid gold crib Hades had commissioned, was his beautiful Maria. Her long dark hair fell over her left shoulder. There was a bundle of white blankets resting in her arms, against her red satin dress. The sound of a baby's coo came from the blankets.
"Maria," Hades said softly.
Maria di Angelo looked up. She stopped singing and smiled. "Ciao, love," she said. "Are you ready to hold him now?"
Hades was still unsure. He couldn't hide that from Maria. She saw right through him. Carefully, she rose from the armchair, with a ballerina's grace, and approached Hades, holding up their baby for him to see properly.
A baby boy cooed up at Hades from the white blankets. He was an adorable little creature. He had his mother's olive skin, dark brown eyes, and ebony-brown hair. His thumb rested contentedly in his mouth, and his wide eyes stared at Hades without blinking, like he was studying him. His chubby cheeks were flushed with a natural shade of pink, just like Bianca's when she was a newborn.
"He looks like you," Maria commented.
"More like you, perhaps," Hades corrected. Most of his sons resembled their mothers at birth, but as they got older, their appearances crafted themselves in Hades's image. The daughters were lucky to never experience that often.
"Nico laughs a lot," Bianca said from the doorway. Hades looked around to see her undead dog run around her feet in circles. It accidentally banged into the wall and its head fell off. "Oops!" Bianca squeaked, bending down and picking up the dog's skull. "Bad doggie," she scolded, reattaching its head to the body. "No fall apart!"
"Yap!" the undead dog yipped happily.
A tiny laugh brought Hades's attention back to Maria. Little Nico was gazing intently on the undead dog, squealing with glee at the strange creature. It looked up at Hades again, stared at him for a moment, then started laughing again, holding out the hand that wasn't covered with his baby slim. Maria smiled and wiped the other hand clean with the blanket.
"Hades, you must hold him eventually," she said, looking into Hades's maniacal onyx eyes. "No more delays."
Hades sighed as he gazed down at little Nico. She was right. For an entire two weeks she had tried to coax him into holding his son only once, but he had refused. Hearing Nico's little laugh made him smile faintly. Even after all this time, he still wasn't used to something so pure and affectionate as loving a child. Somewhat reluctantly, he held out his arms for the baby.
Maria smiled at him and looked down at her son. "Nico," she said. "Meet your papa."
Very cautiously, she rested Nico into Hades's strong arms. Nico squirmed around until he was able to look up at his father better. Hades braced himself for a vision, something he was lucky not to experience with Bianca. It happened very often with his children, and it was rare when it never did: a simple image of his child's future. It was vague but vivid, and it let him know one thing: when his child was going to die.
For a moment, nothing happened. Hades's maniacal onyx eyes pierced into Nico's innocent dark brown ones. Then his vision was caught away in something else: his son's future. Nico was a tall, handsome young man, clad in black and silver, standing in the shadows of the Underworld, on the right side of Hades's throne. What puzzled Hades was that his son wasn't dead. He was standing there, like a servant to a master. His hair was raven black, and his eyes were onyx. His childhood olive skin was ivory, and his expression was cold and remote, so unlike the laughing baby in Hades's arms. Then the adult Nico looked right at him, like he could sense that unlikely presence. He smiled, pressed his index finger to his lips, and winked mysteriously. Then the vision was gone, leaving him unsure what to make of it. It hadn't shown his son dying, that was one thing. So what did it mean?
Hades was once again in Nico's nursery bedroom with Maria, Bianca, and the skeletal dog. Baby Nico let out peals of laughter that jolted Hades back to his senses. Nico grabbed a fistful of his white blanket at waved it around in the air. He beamed at his father and laughed even harder. What was so amusing? Hades couldn't figure it out. As far as he knew, there was nothing amusing about him.
"Ah gah," Nico garbled between laughs. "Ugg."
Hades couldn't help but smile at the nonsense noises his son made. Maria sighed fondly and gently caressed the silky hair on his tiny head. Hades noted that for a newborn baby, he already had a head full of hair that would have taken weeks to grow. Hades went over to the armchair and sat down, careful not to make Nico uncomfortable. Oh, if his brothers could see the powerful and dangerous Hades now, sitting in a nursery, gingerly holding a baby in his arms with a calm, amused expression on his face. They would have thought he'd gone mental, Zeus more than Poseidon, duly because Poseidon would have understood how a child could affect a parent.
It was slowly starting to sink in, this new love for his baby boy. Nico's future perplexed him, but the present was something that could never be seen again. He could think about the future some other day. Children of Hades were never so cheerful. Why, even Bianca hadn't been this cheerful at all as a newborn. She had been quite solemn until she started to learn how to walk and talk. Nico was so different. His little smiles warmed Hades's heart and his laugh made him grin. Hades wondered how long that would last.
"I wanna see! I wanna see!" Bianca ran up to the armchair and tried to climb up on Hades's lap. Maria chuckled and helped her up so that she was nestled up opposite Nico. Bianca clutched onto Hades's black suit for support as she looked at her cute baby brother. She made a funny face at him and he started laughing again. That made her smile gleefully. It was easy to see why she loved him so much.
"Nico loves me," Bianca stated. "I loves Nico. You loves him, Daddy?"
Hades smiled at Bianca's use of grammar. "Yes, Bianca, I love Nico," he said. The good part was that he meant it.
"Loves," she corrected. Maria shook with silent mirth. It wasn't long before Hades joined her. Bianca didn't understand why, so she continued to play with her brother.
The day passed on to the night. Hades knew his time was nearly up. He'd have to leave soon, and he wasn't sure when he would be able to return. Unlike the other gods, he visited Maria often, spending more time with Bianca than his other children. He hadn't meant for that to happen, but Maria held a place in his heart that wouldn't fade away. It was the reason that Nico was here today.
As Maria put Bianca to bed, Hades roamed through the halls until he was once again outside Nico's room. Bianca's skeletal pet scurried past him, headed in the direction of Bianca's room. Hades shook his head exasperated at the thing and entered Nico's room. The curtains were drawn back so that Artemis's silver full moon could be seen high in the inky black sky. The shadows in the room thickened, yearning to be close to the god of the dead. Even from here, Hades could sense the distant lives lost from miles around, the souls that Thanatos collected and guided to his realm. Hades sighed. He'd have to return there, to a place without his Maria or his children, a place where Persephone now resided, furious with him.
He shook his head and silently walked up to Nico's cradle. To his surprise, the tiny infant was awake. He wasn't looking at Hades at all. Instead, Nico was gazing into the tiny shadows around the edge of his cradle that he could see, studying them. Hades could feel a faint draw of power from his son. To his surprise, the shadows started to form tiny shapes for Nico, who started to giggle in satisfaction.
"Clever boy," Hades murmured, astounded that his son could do that already.
Hades sensed Maria's presence in the room. Though she was a silent as him, he could sense her lively soul approaching him from the doorway. She stood with him by the cradle and smiled at Nico.
"He's been doing that for two days," she said quietly. "Bianca couldn't do that until she was three months old."
Hades's chest swelled with pride. "He's a powerful boy," he said. He thought about Nico's future self, and how shadows had clung to him without him trying to control them. "Very powerful indeed."
"Indeed, with you as his father," she said in soft Italian. "I'm sure he will grow up to be as powerful and kind as you."
Hades chuckled darkly. "My family wouldn't consider me kind," he said. "No one would, besides you and very few others."
Maria took Hades's hand into her own and took his face into her other. Hades's eyes moved from the baby to Maria, softening when he saw her gleaming eyes. He leaned down and brushed a light kiss on her lips. He was very serene with her and Bianca. He felt at peace, and for once in many centuries, purely loved; not for his godliness or his riches, but simply for a love not many of the gods had.
"I must go," he said. "I can't be away from the Underworld for long."
Maria nodded in understanding. "Goodnight, love," she said, still speaking Italian.
He replied in the same tongue, "Goodnight, my Maria. Tell Bianca to name that dog. I'm tired of calling it 'Thing'."
Maria suppressed a smiled. "If you're not careful, that's exactly what she'll name him." Hades groaned.
Infant Nico heard him and cooed in his direction. Hades reached down and took Nico up in his arms once again. The little baby smiled up at him, showing off his delicate pink glums. Hades smirk and gently ran a cold finger over Nico's dark locks of hair. He wasn't one to kiss his children goodbye, so he carefully placed Nico in Maria's arms. She kissed Nico for him. Hades's wasn't all too great at farewells, but Maria understood what he wanted to say, even when he didn't say it. She reached up and kissed him again.
"Goodbye, Hades," she said.
He smiled at her, his dark maniacal eyes shining in a way that always frightened her father when they came face to face. He closed his eyes and used his sight from the shadows to see Bianca. She was safe and sound in her bed, her little pet "sleeping" by her feet. Hades opened his eyes and glanced down at Nico. His son was fast asleep.
"Goodnight, Nico," he whispered. Hades walked towards the shadows. Maria watched as he melted into the darkness. Then he was gone.
Done that for now. I'm sure Hades wouldn't be overly affectionate. I always thought of it as somewhat awkward, but seeing as he had two children with Maria, he would be gentler around her and the children.