Because did anyone else notice how much Nico seemed to know about monsters and their weaknesses in HoH?
"So Annabeth's a daughter of Athena?" Nico's eyes were wide, the tip of his nose red from the cold.
"Yeah." Percy tried to force a smile, but even if he was only nine years old, Nico could tell it hurt him to talk about her.
"Is she smart?"
"Yup- she knows about every Greek monster out there, and how to beat it. She's saved my butt loads of times." In Nico's opinion, knowing a bunch of facts about monsters wasn't really so special. Nico had all of his Mythomagic cards memorized! He could be just as smart as this Annabeth girl.
"If she's so smart then didn't she know better than to jump off the cliff?" The question popped out before he could really stop himself. Percy shot him a dark look, and Nico shrunk back, instantly regretting his words. "Sorry." Percy shook his head slightly, as if he couldn't find the words he wanted to use.
"She's just... really important to me."
"Is she your girlfriend?" Percy choked on the hot chocolate he'd just taken a sip of, coughing and spluttering, as one of the Hunters shot a disdainful look their way.
"No, nothing like that- we're just, uh, best friends."
For some reason, deep in his heart, Nico really wanted to believe that.
The library was quiet for a Tuesday afternoon- usually, students were in here studying, or young children who had come with their mothers to gaze at picture books. So far, the only ones in here were herself, a young woman using the computer, and a middle-age man reading in one of the chairs by the fiction section.
Not that she was particularly upset about it, of course. Her age was catching up to her, and any day where she didn't have to tell the toddlers for the umpteenth time to not shriek indoors was a good day in her book.
She was sitting at her desk, paging through A Casual Vacancy, when the heavy wooden doors creaked open. In stepped a boy, maybe about eleven or twelve years old, the likes of which she'd never seen pass through that doorway before.
He looked as if he needed a good meal, for starters- she was pretty sure that she shouldn't be able to see those bones as clearly as she could. His hair was long, toeing the line between silky and shaggy, and a deep inky black. The same color was pretty much the basis of his entire ensemble- black skinny jeans, a black T-shirt, and black sneakers, though there was a beat-up-looking aviator's jacket hanging off of his shoulders. He seemed nervous, his eyes darting as if he were scanning for trouble.
Ms. Chadwell cleared her throat. "Can I help you, hon?" He turned toward her, and she had to restrain herself from flinching under that black hellfire gaze. "We just got some newmanga, if you're interested." She figured that would be his sort of thing, right?
"Man- what? No, uh, I was looking for Greek books. Mythology." His voice was hoarse as if from disuse, and he spoke without the homely southern accent everyone had in this part of the country. Ms. Chadwell was a bit taken aback, she'd admit (maybe it was a school project- that seemed the most likely explanation), but nonetheless she rose from her chair, placed a bookmark into her novel, and led the way to the nonfiction/research section.
"Okay, we have a fairly good selection of Greek mythology. This one- 15 Greek Gods- has good information if you're doing a school project." She handed him the book, and he looked at it with disdain.
"I'm not doing anything for school. I need something on mythological monsters." This boy was getting stranger by the second.
"Hmm," she muttered, more to herself than to him. "I think we do have one or two things on monsters, but they're large, complex volumes-"
"Where are they?" If she wasn't mildly terrified of this boy, she would have surely reprimanded him for his rudeness. Ms. Chadwell briefly looked through the titles, eventually finding the one, and pulled it off of the shelf, handing it to the boy.
It was huge- larger than most dictionaries- and to be frank, she was just a bit worried that he'd collapse under the weight of it. But he was stronger than he looked, apparently, because he took the book without a note of thanks and turned towards one of the tables nearby.
She glanced his way, almost three hours later, and was baffled to see him still there, diligently reading, his eyes scrunching in concentration. He probably wasn't aware of it, but he mouthed the words as he read, occasionally stumbling and having to re-read the same passage twice or even three times. Was he dyslexic? It certainly appeared so.
"Hon, we're closing in ten minutes. Do you want to check that out?" He looked up, annoyed at having been interrupted.
"Uh, check it out?" Had he never been to a library before?
"You can take it home with you for a week, if you'd like."
"Oh. Uh, yeah, I'll check it out." He picked up the book, tucking it under his arm, and started to make his way to the exit.
"Wait! Hey, we need to put it under your name first. Do you have a library card?"
"Library card? Er, no."
"Okay, hon, come over to my desk and I'll make you one." He followed her, the uneasy look back in his eyes as she pulled up the form on her computer.
"Your last name, too."
"Nico di Angelo." It sounded Italian- now that she had a better look at him, he did have that olive complexion, though it seemed gaunt and pale.
"Age?" He muttered something under his breath. She tried her best to pretend like he wasn't playing on her nerves just a bit. "What was that?"
"I... uh, twelve."
"Address and home phone number?" This one he made no attempt to answer. "Do you want me to look it up in the Yellow Pages for you, hon?"
"You won't find it," he said quietly, bitterly, and suddenly it made sense. Ms. Chadwell cleared her throat, sent a quick prayer justifying her actions, and put in a BS address and phone number. The card printed quickly, and she scanned it before holding out her hand for the book. He seemed reluctant to give it up.
"I'll give it right back, just let me scan it." He acquiesced, tucking it swiftly under his arm as soon as she gave it back, turning on his heel, and leaving without a word of gratitude or farewell.
"Nico!" The aforementioned son of Hades was unconscious, lying on the ground, a painful grimace on his face. Percy's stomach turned. First Bianca- not Nico, too. He needed to get the kid out of here- Kronos would be here soon, and Percy was going to have enough on his plate already.
He dug through his own pockets, searching for a drachma to send an IM, but coming up with nothing. Maybe Nico had one on him? Trying to avoid the awkwardness of seemingly looting his unconscious cousin (it was for his own good!), Percy opened the pockets of the tattered aviator jacket.
Every pocket seemed to be empty- no drachma, unfortunately. When Percy's fingers finally felt something that wasn't cloth, he breathed a sigh of relief, only to pull out... a library card?
What the hell?
He shoved it back into the pocket and continued to look for a drachma, resolving to ask the Ghost King about it later.
"What the Hades is that thing?" Teumessian Fox, page 341. Child of Echidna, it is a giant fox destined to never be caught. Amphitryon sent Laelaps (a dog destined to catch everything it chased, page 216) after it, and unable to handle their paradoxical natures, Zeus turned the pair of animals to stone.
Well, not anymore, apparently. The huge russet-colored animal was in chains, but according to Rachel, they'd only hold for another week or so.
"Its the-" Nico starts, but he could already see that Percy's head was turned towards Annabeth.
"It's the Teumessian Fox... we can't defeat it, we need to have the dog- oh, what was its name..." Laelaps.
"Percy, you have to find Laelaps, the dog destined to catch-" Percy wasn't even listening to him.
"Laelaps, that's it!" Annabeth shouts triumphantly, obviously not hearing the son of Hades. "It catches everything it's sent after."
"Then we need to get back to camp and warn Chiron, before this thing breaks loose."
"Probably the smartest thing you've said all day, Seaweed Brain." And they share a look and a laugh.
"Gods, what would I do without you, Wise Girl. You know everything."
They're kissing openly, now, and he's pretty sure he's going to vomit if he doesn't melt into the shadows this very instant.
Ms. Chadwell unlocks the library doors and finds a battered copy of 4001 Greek Monsters You Don't Want to Meet sitting atop her desk.
Nico doesn't realize he's turned his heart in along with the book.