Aboard the Argo II, it was usually peacefully quiet until around 11 in the morning. Everyone was either sleeping still or lounging around before they started the day. With the exception of Coach Hedge—who rarely slept at all since he was massively high strung—and the occasional monster attack, it was rare for there to be anything major going on before noon.
So it was rather surprising, to say the least, when a loud shout of surprise echoed through the ship followed by what sounded suspiciously like someone falling out of bed.
"Why is there screaming at 7 in the morning?" Jason asked grumpily, stepping out of his room and rubbing his eyes sleepily. Piper and Hazel both poked their heads out of their rooms and looked down the hall towards the source of the noise.
"That sounded like Leo," Frank said, coming out of his room—which was across the hall from Piper's.
Hazel let out a loud sigh. "I'm actually scared to go in there. Who knows what state the two of them will be in."
Piper raised an eyebrow at the younger girl. "Hazel, when the two of them are doing anything obscene, it is generally your brother doing the screaming, not Leo."
Hazel's cheeks darkened considerably. "Right... Probably best we check on them then."
They all turned to investigate the random scream which had come from Leo and Nico's shared room when the door burst open and Leo fell backwards onto the hardwood floor of the hall. Before anyone could react, the sound of crying flowed through the hall, emitting from the bedroom Leo had just fallen out of.
"Is that a baby?!" Piper practically screeched, rushing towards the door—stepping over Leo's prone body and crashing into the room. Her loud entrance only made the crying louder.
It was, in fact, a child. A small toddler about 16 months of age with light brown skin, jet black hair and eyes to match sat in the middle of the single bed, wearing a very oversized black button down which he was practically swimming in.
By now everyone had gathered in the small room, Leo having picked himself off the floor once he'd gotten over his shock.
"I woke up and he was like this," Leo said, sounding slightly unnerved.
"He's so cute," Hazel breathed, her hands clutched to her chest as she gazed at the baby with wide eyes.
Frank raised an eyebrow and gazed down at his girlfriend. "He won you over quickly," he said with a slight scoff, trying and failing to hide the fact that baby Nico had thoroughly melted his heart as well.
"He's still crying," Jason said, sounding very irritated. He pushed through the crowd of people gathered and scooped Nico off the bed. He cradled him effortlessly, shushing and rocking him. Nico quieted some, only sniffing and hiccupping now and then. Jason held him against his chest, letting Nico bury his face in the cotton of his pyjama shirt—small meaty fists clutching at the material.
"There you go, little guy. You were just cranky because you got woken up, huh? I know the feeling."
Jason turned, still bouncing Nico gently, to find his friends staring at him with open mouths.
"Why do you know how to handle a baby? Do I even want to know?"
Jason rolled his eyes at his girlfriend's ruffled feathers. "Chill out, Pipes. Camp Jupiter isn't like Camp Half-Blood. We have more than our fair share of babies there. A lot of the demigods that show up are as young as 5 years old. I have a couple friends who babysit for the moms in New Rome. I've been around babies since... well, since I was a baby."
Piper still looked a little irked, huffing softly and crossing her arms, but she was sidetracked from her irritation by the fact that Jason looked wonderful with a baby in his arms.
"He likes you," Frank pointed out, nodding his head at the fact that Nico had very quickly fallen asleep in Jason's arms, sucking on three of his fingers contently.
Jason looked down at Nico and smiled fondly. "He's a cute kid." He looked back up at the group of people and sighed. "Alright team, lets head into the mess hall and try and figure out how this happened. As adorable as he is, I think that Nico would appreciate it if we found a way to return him to his actual age, don't you?"
The rest of them nodded and they let Jason through so he can lead them to the mess hall at the end of the hall.
"Keep it down, I'm trying to watch the game in here!" Coach's shout let the five of them know that he wasn't going to be making an appearance any time soon.
"So," Jason said, sitting down at the head of the table with the small child held carefully against his chest. "What could have happened last night that caused this?"
Everyone looked pointedly at Leo. He held his hands up in surrender, shaking his head.
"Don't look at me. He was fine last night. We just went to bed, it wasn't like we did anything. We were tired from the fight yesterday. He was asleep the instant his head hit the pillow."
Jason frowned. "The fight," he mussed softly to himself, his fingers trailing idly through Nico's hair as his other arm supported him under his bum.
They'd had a pretty awkward encounter with Jason's father the day before. Jupiter was by far calmer than his counterpart, Zeus, but he still hadn't been to happy to see them.
Jason looked up when Piper suddenly gasped. "Oh Gods!" she groaned, slapping her forehead and letting her head fall onto the table. "Nico called Jupiter childish. Childish. Do you remember what Jupiter said? 'We'll see who's childish, boy'. He turned Nico into a baby because he called him a child!"
Jason sighed loudly and rubbed his forehead.
"Does he know that doing this is, in itself, pretty childish?" Frank said with a raised eyebrow.
"Frank," Jason said, getting his attention, "do you want to be turned into a baby?" Frank shook his head quickly. "Then I suggest you refrain from calling my father childish."
Leo fought to hide his smile before saying, "Okay. So we know how he ended up like this. Now all we need to do is figure out how to turn him back."
Jason frowned. "Yes, that does seem to be the problem... this came at a really bad time. We don't have much time to waste. We need to keep on our mission. But we can't very well leave him like this."
"I could talk to my father, see if he might have a way to turn Nico back," Hazel spoke up.
Jason nodded. It was their best option. He doubted that Jupiter would be willing to turn Nico back after being insulted by him.
"Good. Hazel, you try and get Pluto or Hades, whichever one is willing to help, to find us a way to turn Nico back to his original age. Piper, go see if you can find something in the kitchen for him to drink. Warmed up milk would be ideal. Not too hot though. Leo, go make sure we're still headed in the right direction and keep a lookout. Frank, come help me find something for Nico to wear that will fit him better than this shirt."
The group nodded and set off to do the tasks Jason had assigned them. Since Percy was gone, Jason had definitely taken charge.
"Why am I coming with you?" Frank asked once he and Jason had moved on to look for baby sized clothes. "This seems like a one person job to me."
Jason nodded. "I know," he said, shifting Nico's weight to the other arm, carefully so he didn't wake him. "But I need someone to watch him while I find him clothes."
Frank paled. "I can't watch a baby, Jason. I've never even touched one before, let alone taken care of one."
Jason stopped walking and looked at Frank with a raised eyebrow. "You've never touched a baby?"
Frank blushed darkly and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Yeah. So? I've never really had the need to, okay?"
Jason rolled his eyes and turned to face Frank, holding Nico out towards him so that Frank had no choice but to take hold of him.
He looked extremely uncomfortable and he was holding Nico like he was a bomb which could explode at any second. That was fair, seeing as babies had a tendency to be unpredictable.
"Support him, like this," Jason said as he fixed Frank's hold on Nico. "See? Not so difficult, is it?"
Frank looked sceptical. "You're a lot better at this than I am," he muttered, shifting Nico awkwardly in his arms. Nico made a small noise and rubbed his eyes, waking from being moved so much. He looked up at Frank with large round eyes. They stared at each other for a couple seconds, Frank looking like Nico was a dangerous animal and Nico looking like he was trying to figure out if Frank was worthy or not.
Obviously, Frank didn't pass the test, because Nico's lip quivered and he started to cry again. Jason instantly plucked him from Frank's arms and swooped him into the air, effectively startling the tears away. Nico blinked at Jason before Jason swung Nico back up into the air and brought him back down, eliciting a fit of giggles from the small boy. Jason played with him for another moment or two until Nico's cheeks were rosy from the game and the room was full of happy baby noises.
Nico started to squirm, obviously wanting to explore, and Jason set him on the ground.
"Watch him," Jason said pointedly to Frank. "Make sure he doesn't touch anything or wander off."
"What if he starts to cry again?" Frank said, stopping Jason before he could walk away.
Jason looked down at Nico—who was currently trying to climb his way up Frank's pant leg. He looked back up at Frank and shrugged. "Turn into something cute to distract him."
With that, Jason turned on his heels and walked into the storage room to locate something to use as baby clothes.
Frank looked down at Nico apprehensively and knelt down.
"You're not going to cry again, are you?"
Nico looked up at him and cooed softly, sucking on his fingers. Frank sighed loudly.
"You are pretty cute, you know," he said, patting Nico's head gently. Nico giggled softly and captured Frank's fingers. Frank started a little at suddenly being grabbed by the baby which in turn startled Nico.
Frank began to panic when he saw the crying fit beginning to bubble forth.
Turn into something cute, Jason's words echoed in his head.
"Something cute," he whispered to himself before swiftly turning into a tiny orange kitten.
Nico's face morphed instantly into one of joy and he clapped excitedly, giggles echoing around the room. He reached out and pulled kitten Frank into his arms, hugging him tightly. Frank felt extremely uncomfortable being squished by a baby, but he didn't struggle—not wanting to make Nico cry again.
"See, watching him wasn't that..." Jason's words trailed off when he walked back into the room and saw Nico clutching the kitten and smiling widely. Jason's face broke into a grin and he fought hard to hold in his laughter. "Well, that is definitely something cute. Though I have a feeling you may have to stay like that for a little while until we get things sorted out. He looks pretty happy."
Frank's kitten glare wasn't nearly as effective as he wanted it to be.
Jason bent down and scooped both Nico and Frank up into his arms, carrying them back into the mess hall. He placed Nico down on the table and carefully extracted Frank from his arms. He placed Frank on the table beside Nico and captured Nico's hands before he could reach out towards Frank again.
"Nope, time to get you changed first, little dude. Then you can play with the kitty."
Nico pouted dramatically.
Jason laid the cloth he had found out onto the table and sat Nico down on it. "This is going to have to serve as a diaper for now," he said, pulling the black shirt off of Nico so he could tie the cloth up around his thighs to hold it in place.
Nico protested furiously, obviously disliking being naked very much. Frank moved closer and tentatively licked Nico's cheek to stop him from crying—and successfully avoiding looking any lower than his neck. Nico giggled a little and grabbed Frank's paw.
Once Jason had Nico's diaper in place, he pulled out the t-shirt. "This is one of Coach's, so I'm sorry if it smells slightly of farm animals." He pulled the shirt over Nico's head and slid his arms through the holes. It came down to around his knees but at least it wasn't horrendously big on him like the other shirt had been.
"You look really good like this."
Jason looked up when he heard Piper's voice. She smiled at him and walked over—carrying a baby bottle full of warm milk.
"Like what?" Jason asked, picking Nico up and holding him against his chest. "And where did you manage to find that?"
Piper sat down beside him and handed him the bottle, which Jason instantly held towards Nico who started to drink deeply.
"Like this. With a baby in your arms. It suits you." She reached out and brushed Nico's dark hair out of his face as he fed. "And the ship made it for me. It's wonderfully helpful, you know. I was muttering about looking for something to feed a baby with and this just popped out of the cupboard."
Jason chuckled softly. Leo's ship was probably the coolest thing on the planet. It had a mind of it's own.
"Do you want your own kids?"
Jason looked up when Piper spoke again. He smiled and moved his gaze back down to Nico. "Yeah," he whispered, watching Nico's eyes grow heavy as the warm milk filled his stomach. "I do. I love babies. I've always been envious of my friends who have children."
Piper blushed lightly and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "You'd be a really good father," she said softly, looking up at him through her eyelashes. Jason smiled and leaned in, kissing the corner of her mouth gently. Piper sucked in a deep breath. "We just kissed with a baby between us," she said in slight awe.
"Ew, I'm out."
Jason looked up and laughed as Frank—now human again—slid off the table and bolted towards the door.
"Talk about a mood killer," Piper whispered breathily, smiling to herself through her blush. Jason shrugged and plucked the now empty bottle from Nico's mouth. He shifted him to his shoulder and patted his back.
"Do you want kids?" Jason asked, eyeing Piper with a small smile that made Piper's legs slightly weak. She was rather glad she was sitting down.
"I do," she said with a blush. "Even though I have no idea how to raise a kid, and I'm not too sure how good at it I'd be, I've always wanted to be a mom."
Jason's smile grew. "Do you want to hold him?"
Piper beamed and nodded, holding her arms out. She took Nico from Jason gently and cradled him close.
"He's adorable," she breathed, gazing down at the sleeping boy. Jason nodded and watched Piper closely.
"Am I interrupting something?"
They looked up to find Leo standing awkwardly in the doorway.
Jason smiled. "Nope. He just had some food, so he's passed out now."
Leo made a face and nodded, looking at the floor.
Jason rolled his eyes. "Would you like to hold him?"
Leo shook his head quickly. "No, I'd feel weird holding him. Seeing as I... have had sex with him." He made a face. "Ugh. Nope, didn't need that mental image."
Jason and Piper's faces echoed Leo's disgust.
"You're not allowed to hold him," Jason said sternly, scowling at the table and shuddering slightly. Leo nodded slowly.
"Yup, weird," Leo said, looking behind him when Hazel seemed to pop into existence.
"Solved it!" she shouted, pushing gently past Leo so she could get into the mess hall. "Father gave me this, he said it would turn him back." She held out a vial of green liquid. "I don't know if he was more amused about what had happened or pissed because it was his brother who had done it."
Jason stood and took the vial from her, looking at the liquid inside. "You sure this isn't poison?"
Hazel frowned. "He wouldn't poison his own son, Jason."
Jason shrugged. "You never know. He is Hades."
Before Hazel could say anything to defend her father, Frank came rushing back into the mess hall, panting for breath.
"Uh, guys, I think we have a small problem."
"What part of this is a small problem?"
Jason stared up at the massive bird which looked to be deciding which one of them it wanted to eat first.
"I may have under exaggerated a little," Frank said in a small voice.
Jason scowled and rolled up his sleeves. "It's way too early in the morning for this," he muttered angrily.
Hazel held her brother close to her chest, sitting in the mess hall with Piper beside her. The boys were up on the bridge fighting whatever monster had decided to attack them today.
"How long before we can give it to him?" she asked, looking at Piper as she worried her lip.
Piper sighed and rubbed the back of her head. "We just fed him. We might be able to get him to drink it when he wakes up though. We'll have to put him back into his other clothes before we feed it to him though. I don't think he'll like turning back into himself in what he's wearing."
Hazel nodded and stared at the ceiling. "I really hopes he doesn't remember any of this," she whispered softly. Piper looked at her and blinked before covering her mouth.
"Oh gods, I didn't even think about that," she whispered. "He would die."
Hazel looked over at Piper and laughed softly. "Yeah, I don't think he would be able to handle the embarrassment."
Piper met Hazel's eyes and they both started laughing loudly, waking poor Nico from his nap.
Jason walked out of the bedroom, holding Nico who was now wearing the black shirt he'd woken up in and an extremely oversized pair of underwear that would fit him in a moment.
"As we'll ever be," Jason replied, placing Nico on the table and taking the bottle from Hazel's outstretched hand. They'd mixed the green liquid with a little more warm milk. Jason put the bottle to Nico's lips and, thankfully, he started to drink, fat fingers holding either side of the bottle. He drained the contents quickly. Jason pulled the bottle from his mouth with a pop and set it on the table.
The seconds ticked by and soon a minute had passed. Nothing happened. Jason frowned and looked at Hazel.
"You sure this is going to work?" he asked, eyebrow raised.
Before Hazel could say anything, Piper grabbed Jason's arm.
"It's working," she hissed. Jason's head whipped back around to face Nico. Piper was right. Nico was slowly growing in size, his features ageing before their eyes. It was fascinating, if not a little gross.
Soon, a fully restored Nico di Angelo was sitting on the table with his legs hanging off the edge. He blinked dumbly for a moment or two before his eyes went wide and his cheeks darkened considerably. He slapped his hands over his mouth and let out a small meep of a sound. His blush dipped down under his collar and disappeared into his hair.
"Oh my gods," he squeaked, squeezing his legs tightly together since he wasn't wearing any pants. "Oh my gods."
Jason looked behind him at the others, who were all blushing a little, before turning back to Nico.
"Uh... You remember then?"
Nico looked straight at Jason and meeped again. "You saw me naked," he gasped, hands still over his mouth.
Jason blinked a couple times before laughing loudly. Nico scrambled off the table and ran out the door towards his bedroom.
"I can return the favour if you want," Jason called loudly after the mortified boy.
"Go die, Jason Grace!" Nico screamed back, effectively drowning out the sound of Jason's laughter.