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

Tic: O

It is after Nico first appears at Camp Jupiter. He keeps to himself, skulking about in shadows. There's not a single person who doesn't wonder what he's up to.

Only after he returns one day with Hazel in tow do he and Gwen officially meet. Reyna decides that Hazel will go to the Fifth Cohort, and she urges the Pluto siblings to follow her.

"This is Gwendolyn, centurion," Reyna says. She eyes Dakota warily because he's as drunk on Kool-Aid as ever. "And this is…Dakota."

"Call me 'Gwen,'" the daughter of Ceres says.

Nico nods to her, but he looks as though he won't call her that. Heck, he looks as though he won't call her anything. It's not that he hates her from the start. He simply just isn't interested in anything. He's just at that age where people don't yet fascinate him, and maybe he hasn't even discovered girls yet.

Whatever, Gwen thinks. He'll learn my name eventually.

Tac: O

He has been in New Rome for months. Well, that's not entirely accurate. He's Pluto's ambassador, so Nico chooses when he's needed at camp.

Gwen wonders if he should be allowed to go to the Senate, since he's still an outsider. She hasn't formed an opinion of him yet. All she knows is that she finds him good-looking, and she doesn't know if that's bad or not because he seems younger than her…and other times he doesn't.

Dakota nudges her arm as they head to supper. "Don't look now," he says, and it's one of the few times in which Dakota appears to be "sober."

Still, just as any normal person would do, Gwen looks and sees Frank chatting with Hazel. The two of them are coming over to join them, and trailing behind Hazel is Nico. Gwen thinks she feels butterflies in her stomach, and she wishes they'd go away.

"Fifth Cohort only," Dakota says to him. The son of Bacchus lets Frank and Hazel pass, but he bars Nico's way.

Gwen shoots her old friend a look. "Dakota, the mess hall welcomes all, cohort or not. Let's not make war at dinner, okay?"

He grunts at her, but his beef with her dissolves as a wind nymph passes him his favorite drink.

Gwen turns to Nico and moves down to sit beside him. "Sorry about him," she apologizes. "He can get a bit cranky sometimes."

Nico shrugs. Just when the girl thinks he won't talk to her, he mumbles, "Thanks, Gwendolyn."

Her heart beats a little faster at that. So it's not "Gwen," but at least it's something.

Toe: X

Nothing surprises him anymore. Not much, at least. Okay, so seeing Percy turn up at Camp Jupiter made him raise his eyebrows, and the fact that Percy vaguely remembered him was a little disconcerting. But Nico's seen a lot in the world and in the Underworld.

So when the legionnaires hold their War Games, Nico halfheartedly participates. It's not uncommon for most to be injured, and on the rare occasion someone dies.

But it seems off when the Fifth Cohort manages a victory. Alas, the victory has a price and Gwen is killed. The augur, Octavian, looks as though he's cut open himself and not one of his stuffed animals, he's so terrified of what he's done.

It turns out to be all right, though. Gwen comes back to life. Sure, Ares—er, Mars—appears and issues a quest to Percy, Hazel, and Frank, but all Nico can think about is how Gwen should've been dead.

He knows there's a problem, and he stays up the entire night, thinking of what to do.

The next morning, Nico is still forming a plan, but he must pause to attend an emergency Senate meeting the praetor called. On the way there, Nico spots Percy—but then he spots Gwen, and he wonders if she left out anything she told the gathered crowd yesterday about her finding a way out of Hades. He makes his way to her…but what to say?

"Hey," he says, settling for the familiar comfort of the word.

She keeps walking. Maybe she didn't hear him or thought he was talking to someone else.

"Ah, Gwendolyn," he calls, not too loud but loud enough that she should certainly hear him.

She keeps walking. Nico might not be the expert on manners, but even he knows it's rude to walk away like that.

He grits his teeth, annoyed. "Gwen!" he beckons more urgently.

Finally she slows and turns—with a bright, cheery (if not triumphant) grin on her face. "Oh! Hi, Nico."

It's the first time he really blushes because of a girl. She doesn't call him "Pluto's ambassador," "outsider," or any other number of names. It's a nice feeling.

Tic: X

Right before Percy, Hazel, and Frank set out, Nico develops a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He chocks it up to not wanting Hazel to go on the quest. It's bad enough that he lost his older sister, but now he feels responsible for Hazel because he brought her back and now he's the older sibling.

He moves to fall into the shadows when someone sees him. Nico curses quietly to himself and steps out into the lights of New Rome's streets. A part of him hopes it's Gwen if not one of the others. Gwen, he feels he can handle.

But it's not her.

Instead, it's Dakota, her longtime friend. He grimaces upon spotting Nico, but he leaves Nico with nowhere to go. He's huge, a more fit form of Mr. D.

Nico pauses to remind himself, No, not Mr. Dionysus. But Bacchus. That's a lot scarier.

"Where are you goin', Pluto boy?" Great. The Kool-Aid's slurring his words again.

"Nowhere," Nico fibs. He's not looking for a fight, but this guy hasn't liked him from the start, and it's been a while now. Nico muses that perhaps this is what Percy deals with sometimes…or, at least, he used to before his memories got wiped.

Dakota shakes his head. "Why do you stick around? Hazel manages fine without you."

The son of Death opens his mouth to answer.

"She manages fine without you."

Nico gets the feeling they're talking about another girl now. Gwen's face flashes in his mind, but he can't fathom why. Mastering his fluster, he asks, "Which 'she'?"

Dakota snorts. "I hafta point it out to you…? Gwen, of course!"

"Gwendolyn?" he asks dumbly. There's no other Gwen, though.

"'Gwendolyn?' 'Gwendolyn?'" Dakota mocks. "Gods, you're such a kid! Just how old are you, anyway? Every time you walk by, Gwen's attention is zapped by your 'mysteriousness.'" He adds air quotes to the last word with his fingers. Then he snarls—boy, he's a nasty drunk.

Still, Nico's ears are ringing. He was beginning to feel just slightly close to Gwen, so maybe that wasn't a bad thing. Maybe she wanted to be his friend, too.

"Friend"? his conscience chides him. Uh, you have realized that she's an attractive warrior, haven't you?

Nico's skin grows warm, and he pushes mental images of Gwen from his mind. Her hair the color of freshly fallen leaves, her eyes the color of the softly-churned earth, her smile the first encouragement anyone would need to complete a task—he puts it all aside because Gwen is not there. She is not there right now but elsewhere preparing to leave the cohort and to move into a dorm because she wants to attend New Rome's college. She is not there, but Dakota is.

"Look," the other guy says, taking Nico's silence as true confusion, "just leave her alone, okay? And don't call her 'Gwendolyn.' No one calls her that." There's a threat in his eyes, but Nico quietly snorts. Even if Dakota were the vampire he so resembled…Nico's seen far worse. He can handle Dakota.

"Right. Leave Gwen alone. Got it." He waits for Dakota to nod and leave, and then he slips into the shadows, thinking, Like hell I'll listen to you.

Maybe his ears play a trick on him, but he swears he hears Gwen giggle approvingly of his defiance. He smirks.

Tac: O

He's been absent more often as of late. It makes Gwen frown to think of that. It makes it hard to focus in school. Worst of all, it makes her worry.

What does he do? Where does he go? Whom does he see?

Her heart gives a little twinge at that last thought.

After another day of summer classes, Gwen retires to her room. She likes her dorm-mates and it's nice to have a room to herself, but she feels a little jealous of those who don't live in the dorm. Those are the kids who are legacies. They've got both parents and sometimes grandparents, and siblings. Gwen doesn't have her dad anymore, and Ceres has been silent for a long while now. Gwen loves her friends, but it's just not the same.

She's meandering around the Via Praetoria while she thinks this, and up ahead someone stops before her.

"Gwendolyn," Nico breathes. He's surprised, as though he wasn't expecting to see her so soon.

Hearing her name like that, Gwen feels warm. …see? She loves her friends, but it's just not the same. With Nico around, she feels a hole in her that she hadn't known of before, that only he can fill.

He smirks, but his heart is half in it. "I was just wondering what you were up to."

Her heart leaps at that. "Why?" she asks, and she hopes her excitement is contained.

"Well…" His partial smirk fades into a frown. "Hazel's away, and I thought it wise to tell someone that I'll be away, too."

Just like that, Gwen's heart sinks. "What? Why? Where?"

His long legs—oh, she never noticed that he's a few inches taller than her—close the distance between them. "I have something to look into, related possibly to the others' quest. I'm telling you because…you are close to me." His eyes seem to tack on, "You actually give a damn about me." "But I can't tell you where. It's too dangerous," he finishes.

The knowledge is overwhelming. Gwen can do nothing but gape at him. She reaches out and touches the oversized collar of his worn aviator jacket, checking to make sure that he's still there and hasn't disappeared yet. Her fingertips register that, yeah, he's present, but she walks forward as if ready to walk through him (which is morbidly funny, because she knows the "Ghost King" is a moniker of his). He opens his arms not to stop her and push her away…but instead to wrap around her. The gesture initially is awkward, and a part of Gwen wonders in the back of her mind if he was even ever comfortable hugging Bianca when she was still alive. But then he relaxes with her so close to him.

"Gwendolyn," he breathes again, into her hair. It's like a kiss, and Gwen feels warm again because his calling her by her full name has become a kind of private thing for them, and when did they get this close, and how could she not have noticed that before, and—

And the moment grows cold, for he falls through her fingers, dissolving into the large shadow beneath them. Gwen cries out.

How cruel! How awful of him! He obviously doesn't care enough for her to avoid putting himself in danger!

And, yet, the colder Gwen grows in his absence, the more his voice echoes in her brain and the more the love in her heart grows.

Toe: O

That went brilliantly, didn't it?

He hasn't the strength to chastise himself properly. Nico is trying very hard to stay alive, and remembering to eat one of Persephone's pomegranate seeds while lost in his death trance already has become a chore, even though he's only on his second seed. Gods, had he not been unsure if his stepmother had been about to discover him in her garden, he would've grabbed more! Then again, he hadn't really been thinking.

No, because if he had given it some more thought, then he would've realized how idiotic it had been to go after these twin giants by himself.

He frowns. Even if he had told someone his plan, he knows he stubbornly would've refused their help. His fatal flaw would've prevented their help, because he knows there's one grudge he holds against the entire world: He wants to prove his usefulness so that no one, human and god alike, can think ever again that he's just some useless little kid that needs protection. He's not dead weight.

Nico internally laughs, and a part of him warms as he thinks that Gwen would find his unintentional pun funny, too. …then he thinks how dangerous it is to stay warm right now. Staying warm will use up his energy faster, and he doesn't have enough seeds to last much longer.

Still, when Nico eats his third seed, he can't help thinking of all he'll never see again, like Percy, Annabeth, and Camp Half-Blood… He even has a kind thought for Camp Jupiter, as well as for Hazel, Frank, Reyna…

But before he resumes his trance, the only name on his lips is "Gwendolyn."

Tic: X

He's been rescued.

He's lost two of his closest friends to Tartarus.

He stands a fighting chance now.

He must lead the others to possible death in Greece.

He'll be able to see Gwen again.

But he can't see her right now.

Nico squeezes his eyes shut, tightly, as he tries to wrap his head around all that has just happened. Yes, Leo might be the one controlling the trireme, but they're all looking to Nico for guidance. Even Jason, one of Camp Jupiter's greatest, is looking to Nico like a lost puppy following a stranger home.

"Are we really heading right for Epirus right now?" Hazel asks quietly. They've left Leo at the helm, deciding to gather in the little dining area below deck.

"Yes. No…" Nico sighs. "No, we probably should stay on course."

"But what about Camp Half-Blood?" Piper asks, worried. "Part, if not all, of the Twelfth Legion is heading there to attack. They're probably there by now." Her tan skin looks pale and she's not sitting very close to Jason. She looks ready to scamper upstairs to join Leo, and Nico can't blame her. The others are still Roman, no matter how split Jason, like Percy, seems. By comparison, Nico feels relieved for once that neither camp made him feel very welcome.

No, wait, that's not true. Camp Half-Blood was the first place he'd felt normal. On the other hand, Camp Jupiter was Hazel's and Gwen's home.

But that wasn't entirely true either, because Gwen is still in New Rome, but she isn't one of those attacking Camp Half-Blood. No, that'd be Octavian, and Dakota, and even Reyna, though Hazel told him that she's seemed reluctant to head east.

"Camp Half-Blood can hold its own, trust me," Nico assures her. "Besides, Octavian's not that strong, and Reyna doesn't have her heart in it. Dakota and maybe some of the others are cause for worry. Then again, who know which fighters are really joining the fray? Gwen—"—it's so strange to call her that as everyone else does—"—left to attend school. Maybe some of the others who are older left, too."

"Good point," Frank chimes in. "Besides, Gwen is pretty strong herself. And she was always good at rallying the Fifth Cohort together…" His reminiscing earns him some comfort from Hazel.

Even Jason seems to remember that about her. "Good thing they're not sending a troop of Gwens our way, then."

Nico has to turn his head to hide his chuckle. He'll definitely have to share that with her after this side quest. …if, of course, they survive. And, once again, Nico closes his eyes, reminding himself to handle the present, because—without it—there will be no future to enjoy.

Tac: X

She can't pretend that the world has stopped outside her lecture hall.

New Rome has been abuzz for days. Those of the legion who left to attack Camp Half-Blood still are not back, and the sky and earth look worse than they did before, when the Second Titan War was in full swing.

Gwen curses herself. What a time to retire from the legion! There needs to be a bigger number of legionnaires left behind to protect New Rome. But, also…

There needs to be someone to reason with the Romans and point out that the Greek demigods aren't enemies. They need to join forces, because there are much nastier things out there.

She also worries about Nico. With no word from him and knowing a bit about his relationship with the Greek camp, she feels that he must be there, protecting his friends' home.

That settles it.

She gets it into her head that he is there. Though she knows it will look like a betrayal to New Rome, she knows she must fight alongside Nico and help him make everyone understand that they cannot remain divided.

Early one evening, Gwen packs a few essentials and grabs a sword from the armory. No one notices when one demigod leaves the valley, so Gwen has an easy time making it to the outside world.

Though she can still ask the grass to cushion her whenever she falls, she finds it's harder now to get most plants to listen to her. Too many of them have sided with Gaea, though at least they're not looking to harm a daughter of Ceres unless absolutely necessary, and for that the redhead is grateful. She asks any field for the quickest route to New York, and she even finds some help. Some of the tamer grasses offer to push her along. So Gwen runs on the fields and avoids pavement, sand, and open patches of dirt lest Gaea linger there.

Despite being slowed by the crops in the Midwest, Gwen arrives after a few days' travel. Lo and behold, the Romans are still fighting the Greeks. She's momentarily elated to see Dakota, Reyna, and a few other friends still alive.

But urgency wins. "Stop it!" she yells, drawing her sword. "Stop this unnecessary fighting!"

No one notices her. She runs forward, her energy depleted but still extant in dregs despite her journey. Gwen scans the sea of purple and orange for the flash of gold armor and dark hair. Maybe, maybe if someone can get Reyna to see reason, then this can stop. And who better to get Reyna to see the light than Gwen, a friend who joined the legion at the same time as she did?

"Stop fighting each other!" Gwen bellows. To her left, she blocks a pilum. To her right, she stills a Celestial Bronze sword. Everywhere, demigods are growing confused as the lone girl not only demands an end to this conflict but has the chutzpah actually to stop it.

In actuality, Gwen is not the only distraction. Above head, a familiar-looking Greek trireme appears, and as it comes closer Gwen can see not seven but eight familiar faces. Wherever the chosen seven and Nico have been doesn't matter, because they're back.

The fight continues, though, in spite of the distractions. Only now Percy, Annabeth, Jason, and Hazel are adding their voices to Gwen's and pleading with everyone to stop.

The Argo II has almost landed as Gwen runs to it, to Nico. All the energy she'd lost is returning as the features on his face become more and more distinct. Her worries fade as she notices how much more mature, more determined, stronger he looks. Sure, he looks a little worn, too, but don't they all right now?

"Nico!" she calls, her excitement getting the better of her.

His dark eyes are fixed on her in a flash of surprise and relief—but then panic takes him and something feels off. "GWEN!" he hollers.

She doesn't care that there are others around. She would've loved to hear him call her "Gwendolyn" one more time.

It's the last wish on her mind as the fighting finally comes to a halt because—in a morbid, ironic turn of events—she falls with another pilum through her chest.

This time, she stays dead.

Toe: O

Following the war, there are a lot of souls to sort in the Underworld. In fact, there are so many demigods alone that Nico ends up helping both his father and Charon.

It's tough, handling the demigods. Nico doesn't know any of them, but…those he does know…

A sleepyhead of a boy waits in line. He yawns, and Nico knows it's Clovis, once the leader of Hypnos Cabin. Beside him is a young girl who clings to him, afraid of their surroundings. Though they're not solid, the girl's pigtails had been blonde, Nico notices. So, this is Lacy, one of Aphrodite's daughters.

"I'm scared," Lacy whispers to Clovis as the line moves up one.

"Don't be. You fought bravely, really," Clovis assures her. "Lacy… When you took that hit for me, I…" He frowns. "I'd never been so awake in my life."

Lacy frowns, too, and she suddenly doesn't look so young—the downside of being a demigod: being forced to grow up too quickly. "At least we won," she murmurs bitterly, but her hard edge disappears as Clovis hugs her tightly. The line moves up by another soul, and he kisses the top of her head to calm her.

Nico opens his mouth, but his mind's blank; he doesn't know what he even remotely could say to them. So he turns and walks away. At least he can sympathize with them, though he can't empathize with their loss because at least they have each other.

The son of Death takes a break from his duties to roam his father's domain. It's been a few months since they rescued Percy and Annabeth, got the Romans and Greeks to stop fighting, and defeated Gaea. Still, in all this time, Nico has not seen Gwen's soul once. Charon hasn't seen a girl fitting her description at all, and Hades has told his son day in and day out that Gwen has not been judged and therefore sent anywhere.

It's a kind of cruel thing. It's not as though Gwen managed to come back from the dead again. If she had, then Nico wouldn't be wracking his brains trying to figure out where she'd gone. But he can sense it. Just as he knew that Percy and Annabeth hadn't died in falling to Tartarus, he knows that Gwen is dead.

Nico sighs. If only she could've found an escape route from Hades again…

At that thought, he decides to check all Doors of Death. It's become a habit, making sure they're closed, because he really doesn't want anything bad escaping here ever again.

That's when he hears something at one door, and he panics. Nico draws his Stygian Iron sword, only half ready for whatever he may face.

But he's not ready to see through the soul of a girl with short red hair and a purple T-shirt.

That thing in his chest—right, right, his heart…—sinks and rises at the same time. "Gwendolyn…?" he whispers, his voice cracking.

She turns. It is Gwen, his Gwen, sitting atop a medium-sized boulder, staring at the locked door. Her eyes are on him now, and she looks so sad. "Nico."

He has the urge to rush forward, but he stops himself because it'd be useless. He'd go right through her.

She faces the door again. "I'm coward."

"What? No. Why do you think that?"

"Because I've been hiding from you, waiting for the moment when this thing opens…" Gwen shakes her head. "I don't want to be dead, but that seems to be the only option." Her smile is brittle as she glances at him. "I wanted to return to you."

Nico goes to her and cups her cheek, and it's almost as though she's really there. That hurts his heart. He almost tells her, "You can no longer return," but he says nothing, because it's pointless to state the obvious.

"What happened, after?" she asks.

"We convinced everyone to work together, and then Percy and Jason yelled at the gods to get it together and help." Nico pauses. "Gaea's not dead; she won't ever be. But she's dormant, and should be for a very long time."

"Good." She nods as if she has to agree. "So…who killed me?"

He fidgets on his feet. He loves her so much, he doesn't want to expose her to any more pain. "Gwendolyn, don't—"

"Who, Nico? Not Octavian again, I hope."

He closes his eyes. It hurts him to watch her shock as he confesses, "Dakota."

"Really?" Her eyes are so clear that they're see-through. He can barely meet them.

"He didn't mean to. For a moment, the Bacchus in him took over, and in his madness he thought he was taking care of a traitor. But he's been in pieces ever since—or so I've heard from Hazel. Reyna is the only one who gets him to see reason sometimes." It feels strange, defending a guy that never liked him, but Nico understands that feeling of betrayal and how hard it is to handle. In addition, Nico feels he owes Dakota a bit, for looking out for Gwen when she didn't know, because even if Dakota had loved her once, he at least cared enough about her to try scaring Nico away.

Gwen quiets, and the silence is like heavy air wrapping around them. "Oh," she finally says before she grows quiet again, and then: "I always wondered if maybe he was jealous of you."

Nico looks at her. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." Gwen shrugs. "No one's ever held my attention so much before."

He's flattered, but he grimaces. "Now what?"

She stands and…floats toward him. "Now you tell me you love me and take me to meet your dad. I can't stare at that door any longer, Nico."

This trip to see Hades is the longest one, it seems. With every step forward, Nico's legs feel more and more leaden, and the absurd thought crosses his mind to drink from Lethe after Gwen's judgment. Maybe then Nico finally can have some peace, because he's sure he won't have any knowing that he and Gwen can never be together.

Persephone points out the two demigods to Hades as they enter his chambers. Gwen's interest perks. Ah, right. She's sort of Persephone's sister, isn't she, being a daughter of Ceres?

Hades sees them and his wife whispers something in his ear. He nods and motions for them to stop near his throne. "Nico…" He's pained as he continues, "Please leave the room."

It's a shock. Nico's been around for most other judgments. To be excluded from Gwen's…well, it's just unfair. "But—" he protests.

"No buts," Hades says, and he dares to order one of the Furies to escort Nico out. Nico fights her and tries to shadow travel, but she's there every time he reappears, so he's carried away at last.

Near the mouth of the Underworld, near Styx, Nico stares at the unknown souls with a hollow chest. He can't bring himself to care anymore, about anything.

That was it.

It was Nico's end.

To have his hope in the form of Gwen ripped away from him like that… Nico may as well be one of the souls ferried by Charon.

No, that'd be cruel to Hazel. Then again… Hazel has others, plenty of others who love her, Frank at the top of that list. Bianca had left him, so Hazel would, too, and now Gwen was leaving, as well, for good. It'd do him no good to visit her in the Underworld, because it'd be a constant reminder that she didn't belong there.

Nico curses the gods, the Greeks, and the Romans. Why? Why did Gwen have to die to finally bring the two camps together and to gain the gods' help?

A small part of him has hope, though, and that small part can't be killed. Look at all the luck Percy and Annabeth have had—surely Nico will be allowed even a sliver of that luck? So he waits. And waits. And waits.

He waits some more.

He contemplates the possibility of drowning in either Styx or Lethe.

He decides to see the outside world once more before he cuts all ties with it, because it is full of people who only ever betray him—

"Oh, Nico." Gwen's face lights up as she throws her arms around his neck beside the Hollywood sign. "You're never going to believe this! Pluto said something about having done this before, for a guy named Odysseus and his wife, Eurydice, and my sister convinced him and—"

"Shut up, Gwendolyn," Nico says, and he is careful not to kiss the life out of his twice-dead love.

- ^-^3

WELL. I'm glad I finished this finally! I had a lot of fun writing it… Dakota the not-really bad guy… Mentions of fav pairings, like Clovis/Lacy (Clacy—credit to BlueMango if you write them, thanks), Dakota/Reyna, Franzel, Percabeth (of course)… I also liked the circle ending, where Nico initially couldn't have cared less—but then all he cares about is Gwen. The Tic-Tac-Toe theme shows that Nico wins the Tic-Tac-Toe game, because his Os win (try it! Write it out, *lol*). And lastly, the thing about legacies and maybe Gwen joined at the same time as Reyna—I really want Rick to tell us more about legacies and if New Rome mainly consists of legacies, and it's just a nice thought to give Reyna a friend, 'cause I kind of like her and do feel for her… :') 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. I love Clacy because of her first fic for them, "Blanket of Destiny," which is super cute! *end advert* ;]

Thanks for reading, and please review!

-mew-tsubaki :'}