A/N: Sorry this took so long, guys. Been busy with college. Hope you like it, I'm a little bit nervous about how this will be received…

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

/

Chapter Nine
Innocence

Poseidon ran a weary hand down his face and slumped in his throne, dreading the second round of subjects who would soon be allowed entrance to the room to grovel and squabble about generally tedious things and in doing so give him a headache.

Some days, he truly loathed being a king.

The amount of work involved bordered a thin line between sheer annoyance and insanity.

"My lord?"

Jerking abruptly from his thoughts, Poseidon turned his head to find Amphitrite watching him with a raised eyebrow.

Unbeknownst to him, he had been zoning out while his wife and son were talking to him. The two were giving him concerned looks, Triton with his eyebrow raised as if he had been trying to hail his attention for a generous length of time.

"You were not with us, my lord," Amphitrite sniffed, shifting in her throne and smoothing her dress over her thighs.

"I was not," he agreed, rubbing his eyes. "I grow tired of this useless babble." Yawning hugely, he stretched his arms over his head and glanced around. "Where is Percy?"

"I put him to bed about an hour ago," Triton supplied from his other side, where he was sprawled with one leg thrown over the arm of his throne. "He fell asleep on my lap again. Honestly, mother, why do you insist he sit through these things? He loses interest in moments and proceeds to squirm like a sea cucumber before he falls asleep and snores like a whale shark."

"It never fails to put him straight to sleep," Amphitrite defended herself.

Poseidon had to grin at the truth in that statement, but before he could respond the throne room doors swung open again and their subjects filed back in for round two of this nonsense.

Roughly an hour later, someone was droning on about undersea politics and he completely zoned out, looking right at the man but finding instead that his memories took him back to when Percy was still a toddler…

.

"Percy?" he called as he entered his and Amphitrite's bedroom. "Where are you, you little sneak, you have yet to finish your breakfast."

There was no reply, but from the weapons room he thought he heard a noise. Curious now, he headed across the hall and pushed the already ajar door all the way open.

Percy was standing in the middle of the room facing him, balanced on his little legs, and with Riptide grasped in his small little hands. His expression was one of awe, staring reverently at the deadly weapon in his hands.

"Percy," he sighed as he entered the room, making his almost-four-year-old son jump and nearly drop the weapon. He smoothly took it from his son's grasp and crouched in front of him, studying his now-bashful expression. "Do you like this sword?" he asked, holding it between them.

With a furrowed brow, Percy darted a glance between the blade and his face before slowly nodding, reaching out to carefully brush his fingers over the hilt.

"If you like it, then you may have it," Poseidon promised, "when you are ready to wield it, it is yours."

"Sword taning?" Percy guessed, smiling up at him cheekily.

Chuckling, Poseidon re-capped Riptide and slipped it into his pocket, scooping his son up with one arm. "I suppose you are ready to start learning, if you were able to hold that heavy sword up all by yourself," he agreed with a great deal of amusement.

"Not heavy, papa!" Percy exclaimed, thrusting his hands upwards. "I strong!"

"I know you are strong, little one, but strength with no guidance is dangerous," he explained as he set a course back to the dining room. "I will send for Carthos, and you will begin your training in the morning. How does that sound, my little Achilles?" He rubbed noses with his son affectionately, who giggled and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Good," Percy said with a nod to emphasize his feelings. "I train wif Triton, too?"

"I am sure Triton would be more than happy to help you, if only to keep you out of trouble," Poseidon snorted.

The rest of their walk was spent in contemplative silence, as Poseidon wondered how to best summon the merman and Percy played with a thread in his Hawaiian-themed button-up shirt.

"Lub you, papa," Percy said solemnly just before they entered the room.

"Love you too, little one," he returned, sweeping his hair from his forehead with his free hand and planting his own kiss on his son's brow.

The next morning, Carthos arrived as he had promised to find an energetic little boy waiting on the training grounds under the watchful eye of Poseidon himself. Deciding not to let it intimidate him, he greeted the king properly before introducing himself to the young prince.

"I hear you wish to begin your training, little one," Carthos said by way of greeting, shrugging his pack off of his shoulders and watching Percy's firm nod. Good, the boy was not shy; he could work with that.

"Swords?" asked Percy hopefully, peering at the elegant weapons resting in a barrel on the training grounds. Mermen were already sparring, despite the early hour, though in a more distracted fashion than usual. It was not every day that Poseidon decided to stop by, and many a curious gaze rested on the small boy beside him who hardly came above his knee and could be a younger copy of himself.

Carthos smiled at the boy and hefted a small wooden practice sword, improperly weighted. He handed it to Percy, who grasped it instinctively and immediately frowned, giving it an experimental swing that was surprisingly smooth, given he had never used one before.

Percy shook his head and swung it again, his brow furrowing as he stared down at the blade in his hand as if it were a sea snake trying to bite him.

"Something wrong?" Carthos pressed, raising an eyebrow.

"Wrong," the young boy said, giving it another swing and shaking his head before he even finished.

"It feels wrong?"

Nodding, Percy held the wooden sword out to him, and Carthos took it. He was surprised. Most young boys at Camp Fish-Blood struggled to get comfortable with the proper weight of a sword; it had taken this young demigod mere seconds. Perhaps there was more to this child than he had thought.

Rubbing his chin, Carthos turned and pulled free the wooden practice sword that was made for a child of Percy's height and strength, and weighted for training. He held it out to Percy, who grasped it again and took a step back, studying it in his hand for a moment with a peaceful look on his face. He swung it, and it sliced through the water like butter.

"How about that one?" Carthos questioned him, watching the smoothness of the boy's movement.

"Right," Percy said with a nod, swinging it again. "It feels right."

"I am impressed," he admitted, ruffling the boy's hair. "You are doing well already. Come, we will work on your form. Lord Poseidon, do you wish to stay?"

Startled from his observations, Poseidon shook his head, dropped a kiss to the top of his son's head, and strode back to the palace knowing Percy was in capable hands.

.

"My lord?"

Poseidon blinked and looked at his subject, who was watching him expectantly along with the rest of the court. He was opening his mouth to request that he repeat himself, when Amphitrite took mercy on him and said, "That sounds very admirable, Master Pashek. We will see that you get what materials you need in order to train youngsters before they are required to attend Camp Fish-Blood."

With a smile, the merman bowed and moved aside for the next subject.

It continued on like that for hours, until it was time to prepare for the solstice. Poseidon was standing from his throne, stretching his long-time-unmoving muscles, when Percy darted into the room in his plain blue T-shirt and Aquaman pajama pants, hair tousled from sleep.

"Good morning, Percy," Poseidon greeted him with a warm smile. "You are up far earlier than usual today." Percy made his way over and stuck his arms in the air, and, unable to resist, he picked his boy up and hugged him.

"Wanted to say bye," Percy mumbled sleepily, rubbing his eyes with one hand and wrapping his other arm around Poseidon's neck. "You gotta go to Olympus?"

"For the day, yes," he responded, smiling at people he passed. "I will be back as soon as I am able."

"Papa, you just had a sowsice," Percy whined, blinking up at him with pleading eyes.

"Solstice, Percy. And yes, I did, six months ago. They come every six months. Funny how that works, is it not?" He poked Percy in the stomach. "I know you have learned as much from Carthos."

Sticking his lip out in a pout, Percy wiggled a little and tried not to laugh. "Why two? Why not one?"

"We need two, according to Zeus," Poseidon teased with an upward quirk of his lips. "This is the winter solstice, son. The last was the summer solstice, shortly before your fifth birthday."

Percy made a face but did not respond, opting instead to observe the people and animals swimming by all around them.

"Can Uncle Hades go to this one?" he wondered after a moment of silence.

"Hades is permitted entry to the winter solstice, yes," he responded with a smile. "You have been paying attention to Carthos."

With a smile, Percy ducked his head. "He gets funny when he is mad," he snickered. "I only pretend not to listen to him sometimes, Papa."

Poseidon snorted and shook his head, tweaking Percy's nose. "You are my son," he allowed. "I used to do the same. Do try not to upset him too much though, little one."

"Carth likes me," Percy giggled. "He wouldna leave."

"He might, if you push him too far," Poseidon jokingly warned, making them both burst into laughter. Carthos, abandon the palace and Miri's cooking? Not in a million years.

He took a sharp left into the throne room, wondering if Hades would be true to his word today. Poseidon had offered for him to visit his realm, seeing as he had so rudely burst into his brother's five years ago. Hades never had been one to turn down a challenge, and Poseidon had all but dared him to come visit and leave the musky Underworld for a few moments. Zeus would not notice on a solstice day, he would be too busy keeping Apollo from setting everything on fire.

"You really should not pester him, son," he admonished.

Percy looked scandalized and spluttered, "B—But Papa. . . it's fun!"

"Clearly, this one belongs to you," a familiar mocking voice said from his left.

Poseidon turned just as Percy whipped his head around, eyes widening as he studied the pale-skinned, dark-eyed man. He was just as tall as his Papa, with chin-length black hair, a sneer. He was dressed in plain black jeans, black shoes, and a black T-shirt.

Poseidon was glad he had opted to not wear the soul-threaded robes around his five-year-old son.

"So, you did decide to show up," he said dryly, shifting Percy up into the crook of his arm a little higher. The boy's arm was nearly choking him, silently studying the man in front of them.

"Do not play games with me, brother," Hades said, rolling his eyes. "You knew I was here the moment I appeared in the ocean, otherwise I would be drowning right now. This place is wet and cold, by the way. How do you stand it down here?" He looked around as he finished speaking, studying the moving mosaic on the floor. In truth, he was fascinated; Poseidon had never actually invited him down here before and while it was hardly his cup of tea, he was amazed that the layer around his skin remained dry and that he could breathe just as easily as he could in the Underworld.

Raising a mocking eyebrow, Poseidon gave Hades his best "no, really" expression.

Hades snorted as his lips curved into a half-smile-but-mostly-grimace he tried in vain to smother. His sharp eyes fixed on Percy. "So, this is the little brat who caused the surface so much grief?" he wondered, ignoring Poseidon's sharp glare over his choice of words.

Percy looked between Poseidon and Hades, meeting the God of the Underworld's gaze unflinchingly as he wondered, "Are you my Uncle Hades?"

Suddenly taken aback, Hades peered at the pint-sized version of Poseidon. "Uncle Ha—what?" he spluttered, unsure how to react.

"Uncle Hades," he repeated patiently, as if talking to a child. Hades could only stare at the boy in shock; no child had ever spoken to him in such a way. "You look like the paintings of him, 'cept most people say you are evil. Papa says that you just act like that cuz you hang out wif dead people all the time."

With a blink, Hades straightened his shoulders and tilted his head to the side to study his nephew. He flicked his gaze to Poseidon, who was whistling and studying the mosaic in the corner with an innocent expression. Returning his gaze to the boy, he found him looking at him unflinchingly and with a great deal of curiosity.

"You are not afraid of me, are you?" he guessed dryly, raising an eyebrow.

Percy blinked in return as Poseidon settled him on the ground and watched the scene unfolding with great amusement.

"No," he said in a confused tone.

Hades stifled laughter at that and met Poseidon's eyes. "I cannot wait for him to meet Zeus," he said. "Ozone Brain's expression will be priceless."

Poseidon grinned at that but continued to whistle, studiously ignoring the two.

"Are you?" Percy pressed, tugging on Hades' jeans.

"Am I what?" Hades snapped irritably, attempting to glare the boy down. Either he was blind, or he had inherited Poseidon's personality and face expressions, because the child hardly seemed worried at all.

"My uncle," Percy said impatiently, punctuating with another tug.

"We share no blood."

"But you are Hades?"

"What makes you think I am Hades, squirt?"

"You are wearing all black," Percy pointed out, still looking up at him. "So? Are you?"

Hades admitted defeat. He could kill the kid when he was older, but when he was that small and innocent looking the mere thought made him uneasy. At his current size and age, and with his dark hair, he looked startlingly similar to his own son, Nico. So much so, in fact, that he felt an unwanted tug at his normally-icy heart.

"I am Hades, yes," he sighed.

"Truly?" Percy gasped in wonder, mouth falling open as he stared up at him. A sudden grin came over his face as he threw his arms around Hades' legs, burying his face in his knees.

Jerking at the contact, Hades glared at Poseidon, but his brother had taken up a fascination with the ceiling now, apparently. Wonderful.

Children were not supposed to like him, it was absurd!

"I have never met any of the other gods before," Percy said excitedly, squeezing his uncle's thighs with surprising strength for one so small. "I always wanted to meet you."

Once again taken aback, Hades glanced down at the Mini-Barnacle Beard clinging to his legs. The child had his chin resting on his thigh and was peering up at him with excitement clear on his expression, his sea-green eyes sparkling. The blue of his T-shirt brought out the blue in his eyes, and for some reason the sight of his bare little feet poking out of bright blue cotton pants with cartoon sea animals on them and a man dressed in a rediculous orange-and-green outfit with a golden trident was extremely amusing. The boy's lips pulled up in a bright grin that showed a small gap between his front teeth

An answering smile tugged his lips upwards in reaction. Hades flinched inwardly when he realized that and quickly switched his expression back to a scowl, relieved when the boy finally took a step backwards and away from him.

To Hades' utter shock, the boy bowed respectfully and said, "It is an ho—hon—honor to meet you, Uncle Hades," he said, struggling slightly over the word as his eyebrows puckered downward. "Mama says I should always bow, but Papa says that if I don' wanna bow to Zeus, I don' hafta."

It took all of Hades' willpower not to smile again. By Olympus, this child was going to be a breath of fresh air. He could already picture him, grown and powerful, calling Zeus on all of his nonsense and challenging the Gods at every turn.

Finally, a demigod with a backbone.

"What's your name, shrimp?" Hades asked curiously before he could stop himself and internally wincing once the words were out. Well, heck. He didn't do feelings, drat it all. Why had he even come? He should have suspected Poseidon would spring something like this on him.

"Percy Jackson," Percy responded immediately and with a cheeky grin. "Son of Poseidon, Prince of Atlantis."

Hades nodded and formally shook the little boy's hand — tiny and warm in his cool grasp — before studiously ignoring him and turning to Poseidon. "The solstice," he reminded his brother.

"Ah, yes," Poseidon agreed, summoning his trident and grasping it in a fist as he gazed upwards. "It is nearly time to leave. Percy, you behave for your mother while we are gone."

"Yes, Papa," said Percy solemnly, peering up at the two gods through his fringe of dark bangs.

Poseidon held his arms out for a hug that the boy raced into happily, planting an enthusiastic kiss on his cheek before he let go and dropped back to the ground.

Hades opened his mouth to say farewell, but before he could, the boy had launched himself at him as well. He caught him reflexively and stood there, shocked, as Percy hugged around his neck and kissed his cheek as well before dropping back to the ground.

"Bye, Uncle Hades," he said cheerfully and with a bright wave as the gods exchanged looks.

Poseidon stifled his laughter as he and a stunned Hades materialized from Atlantis and solidified on Olympus a few feet away from each other, outside the doors to the throne room where the rest of the gods were chatting while they waited for the solstice to begin.

"Bianca and Nico," said Hades suddenly, but softly enough that only Poseidon heard him.

Confused now, Poseidon turned to him with a questioning eyebrow.

"My children," he elaborated quietly. "Those are their names: Bianca and Nico."

Nodding, the sea god rotated his trident absently in his hand and watched as Apollo and Hermes snickered over some joke that had angered Athena.

"Your child is different, Poseidon," said Hades.

"I know," Poseidon answered before striding into the room and taking his seat with a flourish and his now-customary blast of the Arctic Ocean to Zeus's face that made Apollo cackle like a hyena.

Hades waited a moment before he entered as well. When the solstice began, he tuned out everything that was being said and instead remembered an innocent little boy and his open affection, something so few beings had ever shown him, cursing Poseidon to Tartarus for making him feel affection towards a small being yet again.

Through the entire solstice, none but Poseidon seemed to notice that he was quieter than usual, if only for the reason that he suddenly very much missed Bianca's sunny personality and Nico's shy smile.

Hades silently cursed Poseidon all the way back to the Underworld.

/

E/N: I had quite a few people request Hades, so, there he was. I hadn't originally planned on having him back for a few chapters yet, but then this popped into my head and refused to leave.

I always felt that Hades really cared for his children, the same as Poseidon does. He protected them from Zeus and then hid them in a place Lightning Arse would never find them, to keep them from his wrath. It also mentions in the books that Hades actually lets Nico live with him in the Underworld, which is something none of the rest of the Gods seem to do…

Hades is painted as evil a lot of the time, but I don't really think he is. Misunderstood, dark, morbid, yes; but not evil. A trickster, sure, but not evil. Not really. I honestly can't picture him hurting a child as young as Percy, for any reason. He waits until Thalia is a lot older before sending monsters after her, and obviously he wasn't trying too hard, because she survived. Mostly. And really, it's all Zeus' fault anyway…

Anywhoo, that's just my take on Hades. Hope you guys liked it!

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