Pep Talk

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!

- ^-^3

She awoke with a start. It wouldn't have been so bad if there had been nothing but shadows in her dreams. She could handle the dark. In fact, she would've greeted the darkness with open arms.

But she hadn't dreamed of darkness. No, she had dreamed of light. And it scared her, terribly.

Gwen sat up in bed and tugged her blanket around her. She wiped the cold sweat off the back of her neck. Gods, that had been frightening. Then she looked up and yelped in surprise.

"What?" Nico asked, looking around him warily. "I don't see anything."

"Don't see— Nico, this is my dorm room!"

He shrugged. "I know that. That's why I'm here."

She shot him an embarrassed glare and pulled her blanket more tightly around her. "Let me correct myself: This is a lady's room."

He smirked playfully. "Gwendolyn, I've seen you in your pajamas before. And you've never claimed to be a lady before."

Gwen rolled her eyes, but her face was still warm. "What are you doing at my desk?"

"Ah." He held up a book. "I was just wondering what you read when your nose isn't in your schoolwork. I kind of like this one—ghost hunter falls in love with the ghost he's after. Cute."

"Hey! I didn't know that. Stop spoiling things."

Nico snickered. "C'mon. You had to see that romance happening from a mile away."

Gwen sighed. "Just as I should've seen ours happening?"

The son of Hades watched her. "Is something wrong? You're not your cheerful self. You're…" He frowned. "You look as gloomy as I can be sometimes."

She didn't reply, but she instead patted the edge of the mattress. He took the hint and switched his seat. With him close by, Gwen leaned her head on his shoulder. "I had a bad dream," she confessed. His shoulders tensed, and Gwen rushed to add, "It was just your typical nightmare."

"Gwendolyn, there's no such thing as a 'typical nightmare,' for me or for any other demigod such as yourself." He paused. "Tell me about it."

"I was alone. It was quiet. I had on my jeans but not my Camp Jupiter shirt, just another shirt. And…it was so bright."

"What was?"

"Everything around me. Well, that's not quite right…because there wasn't any thing around me. I was surrounded by nothing but white. It was like a void of some sort." Gwen played with the hem of her blanket, which was near Nico's fingers. "I looked down and saw I had no shadow. Then, the white began to swallow me whole. And I wasn't being trapped in darkness—it was like being erased. Nothing of me was left behind. There was only white, so much white that I thought it was a light." She frowned and switched to playing with his fingertips, as if he were a cat and she wanted to touch the pads of his paws.

A long time ago, when Nico had just come to New Rome and was forming a friendship with Gwen, he would've stayed quiet while forming a response to her words. But he'd changed a little, and for the good. Now he knew that she didn't appreciate long silences unless they were necessary. Now, he said, "Wow…," trailed off, and whistled. "That's some nightmare."

"Tell me about it," Gwen groused. She ran a hand through her reddish hair. It had grown a few inches so that it could no longer be called a bob. Absentmindedly, the daughter of Ceres wondered if Nico missed her shorter hair.

As if he knew what was on her mind, he reached up and tugged on the hunk of hair behind her right ear, and he smiled. Maybe he liked it okay. "What do you think it means?"

She blinked and had to look away from his dark brown eyes in order to focus and remember that they had been talking about dreams and not about haircuts. Gwen puffed out her cheeks. "I don't know…" She glanced to the left.

"That's a telltale sign you're lying," he gently chided her, and he reclined by her feet. He put his arms behind his head as a pillow while he stared up at the ceiling.

"But the truth scares me."

"The truth's not so scary when you share it with someone. That way, you face it together." Funny, such advice coming from Nico the somewhat-loner.

"I think I'm drowning in this life. It's…slowly eating me up."

The room went awfully quiet. Gwen peered over Nico and saw that, no, he wasn't asleep.

"I don't mean our relationship," she added.

"Oh." Relief washed over his face, and his face regained a bit of healthy color (well, the most it could for the son of Death). But his reaction was the typical guy's reaction—which relieved Gwen some, too. "So then, what do you mean?"

Gwen flopped on her side beside him. "All this. College. Life post-legion. Life post-Gaea. …mainly college."

"What about it? Don't you like your classes?"

"I do… I like what I'm studying… I'm enjoying the subjects. But, the work? I don't think Reyna ever worked the campers this hard. Sometimes I don't understand material until the last second, like right before a quiz or an exam. Other times, I'm swamped with homework, papers, and projects so badly that I want to cry and not do the work. School's a good thing, so that's why I think the white ate me. Not only am I drowning in school, but I feel as though I'm letting it erase me." The last part came out as a wet whisper, like a terrified, weak cry.

"But…you've come this far," Nico mumbled.

She turned and sat up partially, hovering over him. "Nico, I'm in my third year, and I feel as though I'm going mad." Gwen's face crumpled. "I don't even know if I should finish. I mean, what's the point? I'll always live in New Rome. I love it, but I'd love to have a normal life, too. No fighting, no monsters, no training, no gods—that's the real world. But will this prepare me for the real world or for the microcosm that is New Rome?" Finally, the jumbled thoughts she had were now out in the open and expressed in a way for another to understand. Not that Nico needed a translation; he spoke Gwennish very well.

"It's not a waste," he answered, tugging her down to lay her head on his chest. "You should finish."

"But it does feel like a waste, so why bother?"

"Just finish, Gwendolyn."

"But—"

"Please, just finish."

They lay there awhile, quiet and content with one another's contact. Gwen drew little flowers on his t-shirt with her finger, and she began to close her eyes. When she did and their breathing paces matched, she quietly intoned, "…why?" She couldn't help it. It was the Ceres in her that made her stubborn.

"Because."

"'Because' is not an answer, Nico."

"Because I said so?"

"That doesn't count either."

He grimaced and loosely wrapped his arms around Gwen. She loved it when he did that, but this was one of those times when he'd moved simply to reach for his skull ring. He never would quit his habit of fiddling with it when nervous.

"You made me tell the truth," Gwen nudged.

"You…should finish," he repeated, "but you should do it because you have the chance. Not everyone gets this chance. In the war with the Titans… There was a guy from Hephaestus cabin in Camp Half-Blood; everyone knew him as Beckendorf. He had a lot going for him. I don't know if I'd call him a friend—the closest thing I had to a friend was Percy, and maybe Annabeth, back then—but everyone thought his life was planned, was set. He was even going to start college then." Nico released the ring. "He was the first casualty of the war."

The room grew silent yet again, Nico lost in his memories and Gwen lost in her thoughts. There was no need to say, "Then I'll definitely finish." There actually was no need for any kind of response. College, life in New Rome—it was all a walk through the park compared to what they'd experienced as teens.

At that thought, Gwen recalled having wanted to remind Nico that he was of college age now, too…but she stored the thought for another time. She loved him when he was just Nico, coming and going as he pleased…loving and cheering her on as he pleased.

- ^-^3

Aww… :') I get sad thinking about Beckendorf… I loved him.. Dx Still, I have to wonder what Nico really thinks about CHB and the people he knew, even a little bit, there. Who's to say that that death and the many others didn't affect him? After all, he did join the fray on the camp's side. As for Gwen—is there really the chance to leave New Rome? :L Anywho, this was also kind of a pep talk for any college-age reader—college is tough, but you can do it! You, too, Gwen—Nico wants you to finish! X0 And it's my headcanon that Gwen is a redheaded, brown-eyed daughter of Ceres. Lastly, if you like my oneshot, my other PJO fics, or the Gwico pairing, check out my pal, BlueMango's, stories. She loves Gwico a lot, too, and she's slowly working on her own ideas for them. You can find a link to her both in my profile and in my fav authors list. *end advert* ;] And cookies if you knew what book Nico was reading! XD (I know you will, Mango!)

Thanks for reading, and please review!

-mew-tsubaki :')