Homecoming

A PJO oneshot

by mew-tsubaki

Note: The Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus characters belong to Rick Riordan, not to me. Oh, and this pairing was discovered by me, so it'd be nice to have a little mention if you write them! Thanks! Read, review, and enjoy! *Note: SPOILERS for The Mark of Athena. You've been warned.*

- ^-^3

Insanity. It was pure insanity. He'd just been rescued from a place no better than Tartarus. He'd just lost two of his closest and oldest friends to Tartarus. He should've demanded that Leo fly the Argo II right to the mouth of the opening to the Underworld in Epirus.

And yet, all Nico wanted to do was to go home.

Maybe he had gone insane while in Tartarus. He shook his head dismissively to himself, ignoring the curious look Hazel was giving him. He kept quiet, and eventually his sister wandered off to join the others by the prow of the ship. Nico remained where he was by the side, overlooking the land below.

Sadly, he felt as though he saw too much of Gaea everywhere he looked. However, he knew they couldn't stay in the sky forever. They'd have to land. They'd have to recuperate. They'd have to get back on their feet and figure out a plan to rescue Percy and Annabeth, and they'd have to figure out a way to save Camp Half-Blood from the forthcoming Roman invasion.

The more Nico thought about it, the deeper his frown grew. He knew he wanted to go home, but which place was home? Camp Half-Blood had been his first real home in a while, but Camp Jupiter… He wasn't stupid; he knew neither place was a big fan of Hades' son. But… But

There was one familiar face at Camp Jupiter that he wanted to see right now. No, he had to see her face.

"Leo—land this thing, will you?" he called without even turning around. He could picture the others' surprised looks, and he couldn't blame them. He'd barely said anything after the pit had closed up over their friends. And Leo had taken charge otherwise, but Nico got the feeling that the others were looking to him for a bit of guidance; to an extent, he'd been doing this a lot longer than they had, or could even recall, in Jason's case.

The ship settled, and Nico heard Leo tell the others that they were in Canada, near the American borderline. Good. That way, they weren't in the ancient lands, but they were still rather outside of the Romans' reach.

Nico hopped up onto the edge of the ship, and Hazel gaped at him in horror.

"What are you doing?!" she asked.

He frowned. It probably wasn't the best thing to make his sister watch him go right after she'd just gotten him back, wasn't it? Still, he couldn't hold back. "Look, I'll be right back."

She pouted. "But we just rescued you." He knew that when she slightly puffed up her cheeks as she was now doing, she was refusing to say the obvious. The obvious was, in this matter, the fact that he could go get captured by someone else now if he took the risk of leaving the ship.

"I know. But I have to go do something." He locked eyes with her, hoping she would think it had to do something with his recent explorations of the Underworld. The fewer questions asked, the better.

Her cheeks deflated as she released a long breath. "…all right. I guess there's no point in trying to ground a brother who can use Shadow Travel." She gave him a look, as if to say, But I'm not necessarily agreeing to this. Still, she didn't protest as Nico hopped off. Above him, he could hear Leo and Piper gasp and inquire loudly about his intentions.

Nico didn't have a lot of energy, but his strength was returning to him. The ambrosia and nectar Hazel had given him were already working, and Nico almost felt as though he'd never been imprisoned. He glanced at the wide shadow of the Argo II.

Well, he almost felt as though he'd never been imprisoned.

Thinking back on his time in Tartarus and his time in the giants' captivity, Nico shivered. Oh gods. He hadn't become scared of shadows and darkness now, had he? That would be the darkest laugh in history—a son of Hades, afraid of the dark.

He looked at the ship's shadow again and swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. Here goes, he thought.

Nico closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt himself sinking into the ground, which made him panic. But a nagging voice told him that he wasn't sinking into the ground; no, he was sinking into the shadow. Once the shadow swallowed him whole, he navigated it like a subway tunnel and popped his head out at the first light he saw.

His shadow traveling hadn't taken him very far at first. He stood on a hill and looked behind him, where he could see the faint shape of the Argo II looming atop a hill. "It's all right," he whispered to himself. It had to be. He wasn't winded from the short jump, and he felt as though he could keep doing this for a while. Good thing, too—his plan was to head for the West Coast.

As he'd gotten older, Nico had decided quickly how dire it was for him to learn of all his powers and work with them. He'd only been shadow traveling for a few years, but it came so naturally to him that he felt as though he'd been doing it all his life. He could still remember the huge naps he used to take after shadow traveling just a bit. Nowadays, it took a whole lot more to wind him.

Nico reached his desired destination in rather short order, though he was unsure how long it'd taken him, and it wasn't as though he wore a watch to tell him. But none of that mattered. He'd come here for one thing, and then he'd return to the ship before he was gone long enough to be missed. Besides, the sooner they headed for Camp Half-Blood, the better.

The son of Hades stood on the outer edge of the wheat field that helped feed Camp Jupiter. Eying the camp, Nico wondered if he'd accidentally prodded it with his Stygian Iron sword, for it seemed as though all the life had been sucked out of the place. Sure, not that far off, Nico could see the demigods who'd retired from the legion were still here. But the Twelfth Legion? It had all but disappeared after Percy and the others had fled Camp Jupiter.

Nico grumbled about the chaos of things, but he slipped into the shadows once more, heading for New Rome. New Rome was nice for all its buildings and bright lights—that made it easier for him to travel without fear of being caught, for there were more shadows here.

Behind the Coliseum, heading towards the residential area of New Rome, was the college. Nico hadn't yet had a daydream of going there someday; school was not for someone like him. But he knew that school was something with which legion veterans occupied their time, and he knew of one particular veteran who had chosen to do exactly that.

Those few who were demigod children straight from a godly parent tended to stay in the small dorm adjacent to the college, while other students whose blood was more diluted had homes to go home to at the end of the day. Nico knew she was in the dorm; she was a daughter of Ceres and had enjoyed being in the Fifth Cohort, which was like a dorm. It was almost like having a family, she'd once told him. He smiled at the memory.

The light in her room was on, which was a little surprising. It was late, and she was the type to devote herself to one thing. Her current thing was her studies, so she should've been asleep and resting her brain.

Nico looked around him. No one was around. He stooped and picked a few small pebbles off the ground. He tossed them in his closed hands, judging the distance to her fifth floor window. Narrowing his eyes, he chose a light pebble and brought his arm back, throwing the rock as though he was throwing away his Mythomagic cards once again. Of course, this was a much better option.

One pebble didn't do it. Even from where he was, Nico hadn't heard the tiniest plink as the pebble poked her window. He threw a second, heavier pebble—and he ducked in guilt when it made a large thud, much bigger than he'd intended.

It at least got her attention, and only her attention. The next thing he knew, a red head popped out of the window. "Hey!" she hissed. "Some normal people like to—" Her slight scowl fell away the moment she recognized him.

"Hello, Gwendolyn."

Her face crumpled. He knew what was going through her brain: You've been gone for so long and all you have to say is "Hello, Gwendolyn"? Without warning, she leaned further out the window, and Nico saw her put her foot on the ledge.

His face fell. "What are you doing?" he hissed.

Too late, she'd already pushed herself out of the room. She dropped stories and Nico dove to catch her. Gods! Wouldn't that be a sight? He was only a few inches taller than her, and only a little bit stronger than her…and yet, catching her was easy enough. He growled as she giggled. They both sat on the grass, catching their breaths.

"Don't do that again," he snarled.

Gwen rolled her eyes. "Nico, look at how much grass there is. You know it's unlikely for me to fall to my death with so many floras around. The grass has to catch me—thank Mom for that." She touched his cheek. "Gods…is it really you? Are you really back?"

Nico nodded, his aggravation over her stunt gone.

"Nico…where did you go?"

He pursed his lips. No matter how much he cared for his…friend, Gwen, he didn't want to wish the images he'd seen into anyone's mind. He shook his head.

Gwen stunned him when she threw her arms around his neck and squeezed him so tightly that he almost forgot to breathe. "Thank gods you're all right!"

With Gwen looking away, Nico chanced a smile. Count on Gwen not to harp on about what he'd been through…though he was pretty sure that Gwen had seen in his eyes what he knew Percy had—that broken bit of him.

She pulled away and locked eyes with him. "Nico, it's been a disaster. The Twelfth Legion—Dakota told me that they were going to march on the Greek camp. And Percy, Hazel, and Frank left with the others who attacked Camp Jupiter with that huge trireme…" Her brown eyes, a darker wheat hue, turned glassy. "I thought I heard Reyna mumbling about another prophecy when I last saw her, and the next thing I knew she had the legion heading for New York…" She shook her head, her red hair bouncing at her jawline. "Thank gods you're all right."

Nico sighed and rested his forehead against Gwen's. "I can't stay long. There is a lot to be done and—"

"There was another prophecy, wasn't there?" Gwen frowned. Nico hated that he'd made her frown. He hated seeing that look on her face, and knowing that he'd put it there. She clicked her tongue bitterly. "Great. I picked such a great time to go to school, didn't I? I should be fighting alongside you—"

"No," he rushed. He shook his head vigorously. "No, you can't fight."

Defiance flared to life in her eyes.

"You know what I mean." He pursed his lips as the defiance in her visage turned to thinly veiled amusement.

"You mean you don't want me to fight, right?" Oddly enough, she looked touched by his sentiment, for it was about as much as Nico could muster. She wrapped her arms around him again, burying her face between his neck and the collar of his aviator jacket. "Well, I don't want you to leave again, either. A little warning would've been nice, you know. To go from one day talking about searching for the Doors of Death to realizing the next day that you left for that journey all on your own…" She tensed as he wrapped his arms awkwardly but gently around her. She grew quiet, and Nico thought his neck felt warm and damp. "Is this how it's going to be?" Gwen rasped quietly. "I only get to see you intermittently, when you feel like passing through?"

Nico shushed her and cupped her face in his hands. Seeing her brown eyes so mottled—he wondered if this was how his friends felt sometimes, when their girls looked at them so sadly. He fought a chuckle for two reasons: first, he was beginning to think he really had friends and, second, he was beginning to think Gwen really was "his girl." "There's only one thing that could ever make me feel like passing through here, Gwendolyn."

The relieved tears spilled from her eyes.

"I'm home."

Gwen told him, "Welcome home," but her words were lost amidst her tears and the boldness of her first kiss with him.

- ^-^3

:') I…had to. I think someone needed to properly welcome Nico home after all that happened in MoA, and who better to than Gwen? -w- I totally need to write them more, and good thing, too, because I have sooo many Gwico ideas! XD Nico's a curious case, because he's technically the oldest demigod we've seen, since he's from the WWII-era, but he's still a bit of a kid, as seen when he thought he'd broken Gwen's window, haha. Speaking of which, that part of the story was inspired by the song "Rocks" by Imagine Dragons. Such a cute song for Gwico! And I really love it…but I digress. ;] And yes, it's my head!canon that Gwen's a daughter of Ceres with red hair and brown eyes.

Thank you for reading, and please don't favorite without reviewing.

-mew-tsubaki :}