Area of Expertise

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: SOME spoilers for The Mark of Athena. You've been warned.*

- ^-^3

"What are you reading?"

Gwen jumped a little, clutching her book to her chest. She looked around for the source of the voice, but she saw nothing. "Hello?" she called out.

There was a sound like that of slipping silk. "Sorry—sometimes I forget where I am." A boy stepped out of the shadows of one of the Fifth Cohort's barracks and winced in the sunlight. Gwen somewhat recognized him.

"Oh… Uh, Nico, right? You're the ambassador from Pluto, and Hazel's brother." Gwen closed her book and gestured behind her. "I'd get her for you, but I last saw her heading to battle practice with Frank."

He looked towards the Field of Mars. "The War Games are going on right now?"

Gwen smiled apologetically. "No. Sorry, I wasn't clear—I meant that she and Frank were just going to practice with their weapons. The War Games aren't held this early in the day."

"Ah." Nico stared in the direction of the Field of Mars anyway, and Gwen got the chance to size him up as he grew quiet.

He'd only recently come to Camp Jupiter about a month ago. One early day, he'd returned with Hazel at his side. But though he'd been here before Hazel, he didn't feel like a Roman camper. Gwen wondered if she might've thought differently had Nico joined the Fifth Cohort and stayed there with the other legionnaires. But he didn't stay; he came and went as he pleased. Being Pluto's "ambassador" (whatever that really meant) seemed to suit his wanderer personality to a T.

"Hey," she said, hoping to start a conversation that might help her learn more about him. "How did you sneak up on me anyway?"

There was a hint of a smirk in his profile. "You guys have battle skills. I have the element of surprise."

If she were being honest…Gwen would confess that Nico saying such a thing actually wasn't creepy. Had Octavian said that, Gwen would've gotten a chill up her spine and would've been determined to keep an eye out for herself. But, though most others were rubbed the wrong way by Nico di Angelo, Gwen didn't see anything to fear about him. On the contrary, he was fascinating for how much he kept to himself and for how much he refused to share.

"So how come you're here and not training?" he gently inquired. "Or do the centurions not need as much practice?"

"No, it's not that." Gwen tore her eyes away from him and stared in the same direction. "I just… Sometimes it's nicer to use only my brain instead of having to think on my feet and act in a fight."

Nico "hmm'd" and sat down on the ground beside her, almost as if they were two close friends shooting the breeze—an idea Gwen didn't mind. "Well, it does pay to plan." He glanced up at her, squinting in the bright light. "I know someone a little like you. She reads a lot to make her plans better."

Gwen dismissed the comparison with a wave of her hand. "Oh, ha, I'm not like that. At least, not exactly." She paused before deciding to show him her book. "This isn't quite strategy, Nico."

He read the title aloud: "'Principles of Macroeconomics'?"

She chuckled, feeling silly. "See what I mean? It's just a textbook that I'm reading, for fun."

"For fun? Why?" He pulled a face. "That doesn't make any sense."

The redhead shrugged. "Well, it does to me."

"But you could spend your time doing something else."

She looked at him with a sad smile. "Perhaps. But I don't envision being, ah, 'enlisted' forever. Combat skills don't prepare you for the real world. In the real world, you've got to deal with people—ask the questions first. …then fight, if that's what it must come to."

Nico snorted. "So you want to avoid all combat and conquest when you someday retire from your cohort?"

"Yeah, so?"

He smirked, clearly amused. "Then you're studying the wrong subject," he stated.

She blinked, confused. "How?"

The son of Pluto snorted again, but this Gwen realized was a kind of laugh. "Economics is practically the Romans' area of expertise. Think of all the bargaining and debating. You're just learning of another way to conquer others." His dark eyes shone with a hint of admiration, as if she had just confessed to being as sneaky as he was.

"Yeah, well…" She bit her lip while her cheeks grew warm. Gwen really had no retort.

Nico eyed her. He seemed to be seeing her for the first time. "So you'll study this in the future? Since New Rome has its own college," he elaborated when she didn't reply.

"Huh…" Gwen stroked her chin. "I always thought I'd go to school, but I never thought about studying economics…" She sighed. "I guess my mind is still a little foggy, since my friend Jason disappeared… Though, I suppose, maybe I could learn something useful off the battlefield."

He nodded. "Anything to help a forgotten friend."

As he said it, Gwen wondered if they were now talking about more than Jason. She didn't feel as though she could ask Nico about it, however; there was something in his voice that was forlorn on more than one level. But she definitely knew that she wanted to see him smirk again—that smirk could brighten up a room. "New friends can help with that kind of thing, too," the daughter of Ceres said.

Nico glanced at her. "…I guess."

She grinned.

Nico then stood and brushed himself off—how he could stand to wear that jacket nearly all the time, Gwen had no idea—and he half slipped into the shadows again. Gwen instinctively knew that he was leaving…and perhaps a little sooner than she wished.

"Shall I tell Hazel that you were looking for her?" Maybe the return to their earlier exchange would delay him a little longer.

The boy shook his head. "No, because I wasn't. I know where to find her."

She twisted her lips around, her reading completely forgotten. "Then why stop by?"

There it was again, that brilliant smirk. "Maybe I was just looking for a new friend. Later, Gwendolyn." Before she could say another word, he disappeared into the shadows. She stood and searched the darkness, but nothing was there. He'd quite literally vanished into thin air.

"Y'know, I doubt my studies will tell me how you do that, Nico di Angelo," Gwen grumbled to herself, but she returned to her book…unable to concentrate because she thought every shadow was smirking at her afterwards.

- ^-^3

Months later, the shadows seemed to stop watching her, and Gwen worried. She liked her new friends and she liked that they'd gotten Jason back, but she hated to think it: none of that mattered unless she felt that Nico would step out of the shadows to surprise her again.

A little while later, he did.

- ^-^3

Haha, that was a bit of an epilogue at the end there, and also kind of a reference to my previous Gwico fic, "Homecoming." :') Argh, why must Gwico be so perfect? XDDD And the economics insert was a joke, since I'm taking Macroeconomics right now in uni. It's actually quite interesting and fun. Man… I have so many Gwico ideas, I'm ready to burst! . And pardon my headcanon of Gwen being a redheaded, brown-eyed daughter of Ceres. -w-

Thanks for reading, and please review!

-mew-tsubaki :]