**DISCLAIMER: I don't own Nico. He's his own person! Actually, just kidding. Sorry Nico, but you're Rick's. But the writing is mine. That is why I am publishing it. Also as a sidenote, keep in mind this story takes place during the time span of about two minutes. It seems a lot longer, but that's just because Nico thinks too much for his own good. It would be unrealistic if he was awake for like, more than ten minutes at a time, because he'd run out of air. So yeah. Enjoy! Or cry. Or cry and enjoy.**
Nico wakes up once more, and this time, this time, he's sure he's died.
As it turns out, he is not dead; though, as a son of Hades, he knows that he's pretty damn close. An image of his lifeline—or as Percy called it once, knitting yarn of death—is so near and tangible to him that if he thinks hard enough, he can imagine it snapping. By now, it's a thin and worn black thread to which the Fates hold their scissors dangerously near.
A single snip and all his fourteen years of life are gone. Bianca's time spent taking care of him the best that she could, not more than a girl herself. Hazel's time spent worrying about a big brother who she could never be sure was safe.
All the time he spent contemplating who he was. Every live who he had touched, and in turn had touched him, along the way: Bianca, Percy, Annabeth, Thalia, Grover, Frank, Hazel, Reyna. Each time he cried, each time he laughed, each time he felt alive…
Fourteen long, hard, years—some of which he couldn't even remember, would be gone. It was funny to think that… very literally, his life was now hanging by a thread.
All these thoughts surge through his mind at once, because he has less than a second before he must continue being dead. Another seed, another day. For some reason, Nico can't put a name on the taste of the seeds. Sour doesn't feel like the right word, neither does bitter, and sweet is most definitely wrong. Soon, he finds himself just giving up on naming that taste. After all, what should death taste like?
Before he swallows the pomegranate seed, he allows himself a single luxury. A breath.
It is first one in a whole twenty-four hours. These single, short breaths he allows himself to take in once a day are what keep him sane. They keep him feeling alive. Because breath is life, isn't it? And life itself is enough of a reason to keep fighting.
As he drifts off, he grips onto the Hades statue in his coat pocket. His grip isn't very tight, but that's alright, because no one is going to be bothering him in there anyway.
He's made a habit of remembering things, recounting his life each time he swallows a seed. He wonders if this is what people mean by 'their lives flashing before their eyes,' but he hates to think of it that way—no, he wasn't dying. This was temporary. Regardless, he lets the whirlpool of memories take him under.
Alecto escorting me and Bianca to the Lotus Hotel. Alecto escorting us out. Going to Westover Hall. Mythomagic cards, and tons of figurines. School is boring. Can't focus in class, can't read the textbooks. Bianca says to focus. Instead, you play Mythomagic.
A winter dance. Percy, Annabeth, Thalia, Grover. Camp Half-Blood.
Bianca's a Hunter. No, Bianca's dead, and Percy broke his promise. You're a son of Hades. 5000 attack power, if your opponent attacks first.
King Minos is the King of Ghosts. Daedalus will bring Bianca back. No, actually, you're the King of Ghosts and you don't need Daedalus anymore. Don't be mad at Percy. Don't hold a grudge.
Bianca won't tell me about Mom. Dad won't tell me about Mom. I'll find out on my own. I see, now. Mom didn't want to leave us. Dad wanted us to be safe for a while. Zeus killed mom. Dad gets his wish, but I don't think he wanted it this way.
Blue birthday cake. Happy birthday, Percy.
Percy's got to bathe in the River Styx. Dad wants to see Percy. Dad doesn't want to see him, he wants to imprison him. Honest mistake. Percy wants to strangle you. He hates you. He'll never trust you.
But he does trust you, now. You and dad save the day. You and dad sit on Olympus. You have a cabin at Camp.
There's another camp—you have another sister. Hazel Levesque. Hazel Levesque. She was dead. You undid that. Percy is at Camp Jupiter. Wrong, that's wrong. Percy shouldn't be here. Pretend you don't know him. He has to find out on his own.
The Doors of Death need to be closed. The Underworld is your domain, you should search—Tartarus. You fell into Tartarus. Worse than death. Much worse than death. How could you have fallen into Tartarus? You'll never get out. Monsters. So many monsters. Ghosts. Visions. Monsters.
Nico di Angelo, you are going to die in Tartarus.
Bronze prison. No sword. No air. Nico di Angelo, you did not die in Tartarus.
Persephone's seeds. Last resort. Dying for a week is better than forever. Friends—you have friends. Maybe they'll be here soon. You only have a few days.
They won't fail you. They can't fail you.
But maybe they won't even try.
Or maybe they're already dead.
Maybe you're already dead.
Nico falls into the strange, quiet coma of death, with these as his last thoughts. He spent no more than a minute, two minutes alive each day, and during these two minutes, he did more thinking than he should have had to do in a lifetime.
Some part of him wonders if this is what he will think of on the day he truly dies. Another part of him is convinced that today is the day he truly dies. Another part seems to think it has already died. A large part of him has been left in Tartarus. Despite all that, a single, determined part of him insists on living. And this is the part that swallows the seed.