A/N: This is not the end end, but I've been struggling with this chapter for MONTHS. Every time I try to write it just keeps getting longer and longer and longer.
Soooo... this story is done for now.
SORRY! DON'T SHOOT!
I may very well write more in the future, but I just can't keep trying to force it.
I hope you enjoy!
Cordelia was at a loss. They had hit the warehouse on a run-of-the-mill vampire hunt and come out with completely unexpected baggage. Nico was so… strange. He was quiet and brooding, kept using unusual phrases, was super hostile, and had enough sarcasm to drown a city. Cordelia didn't know what to think about him.
He was the epitome of 'goth', the 'King of Ghosts', and the son of the ruler of the Underworld. He was badass and freaking deadly with that sword of his, but he was also so… young. And vulnerable.
After only a few hours with the kid, Cordelia knew better than to even think of telling Nico, but she just wanted to wrap him in a warm blanket and pop him in front of the TV with a bowl of soup until he stopped frigging fading into nothing.
Just… seriously? He was disappearing—like, poof, gone… not invisibility or a gaping wound… just gone. And he was so… unconcerned. He just kept glaring at the members of Angel Investigations whenever they tried to help, and drank out of that precious little flask.
What was even in that thing?
He hadn't put it down once. Not in the car on the way into town, not in the hotel as he surveyed his surroundings critically, and certainly not during the near-constant arguments the worried adults kept provoking with him.
Wesley was the one currently attempting to talk some sense into the boy, but he didn't appear to be listening to the worried tirade. Nico was simply settled into his little spot on the circular couch in the entryway, digging around in his pack.
"—perhaps a spell?" Wesley was suggesting, "We have plenty of books; we could look for something to bring your hand b—"
Nico suddenly straightened with a satisfied exclamation, a golden coin held aloft in victory in his only solid hand. Wesley cut himself off mid-sentence and stared at the demigod in confusion. Nico turned to the room at large, the first real smile Cordelia had ever seen on him plastered across his face, "Do you have any rainbows?"
A long moment of silence followed. Wesley and Lorne (who had arrived a few minutes ago and failed to provoke any reaction at all from Nico) both looked utterly gob-smacked, while Fred looked up from the book of Greek Myths she had been firmly absorbed in, face full of abject confusion, and Angel turned slowly towards the boy with a deep frown on his face. From the office, there was a faint crash and a colorful curse followed by Gunn poking his head out to stare at the demigod, "What did you say?" Cordelia was in full agreement with the sentiment. Rainbows? What?
Nico gave them a thoroughly annoyed look. "Rainbows," he repeated in mild exasperation, "You know, a split spectrum of light made by prisms, or fountains, or mist…"
Cordelia was still completely baffled, and by the looks of it, so where the others.
"Why do you what to make a rainbow?" Fred asked curiously.
"I need to let people know I'm not dead," the son of Hades huffed impatiently.
"With a rainbow?" Wesley voiced Cordelia's own confusion.
Surprisingly, Fred cut Nico off before he could do more than glare and open his mouth, "Iris, right? The Goddess of Rainbows," she continued for the benefit of her teammates, "She's a Messenger of the Gods."
Nico gave the physicist a brilliant smile, evidently quite pleased that they weren't all idiots.
Cordelia was still confused though, and frowned at the teenager, "And you can't use a phone…. why?"
Nico's trademark scowled reappeared and was directed at her. "Demigods don't use phones," he explained with an air of resignation, "they're like homing beacons for everything that wants to eat us."
Cordelia blinked. Right. Greek monsters think demigods are a delicacy. She must have selectively forgotten that piece of Nico's explanation from the car ride over.
"So?" he prompted impatiently, "Rainbow?"
Angel looked at Gunn, who was the closest to the office still, "Do we still have that scrying crystal?"
Gunn nodded, apparently speechless, and disappeared into the office. A moment later he emerged and delivered the small crystal to the waiting demigod. Nico, in turn, evaluated it critically before nodding in satisfaction and pulling a flashlight out of his bag. Cordelia was starting to wonder if it had originally belonged to Mary Poppins.
Angel Investigations watched in interest as the demigod juggled the prism and light one-handed, until he managed to balance the prism and flashlight on the seat so a clear rainbow was cast across the floor. Once satisfied neither component would roll way, Nico moved so he was standing above the rainbow and pulled out the coin he had been brandishing earlier. He flipped in in his hand once, murmured, "O, Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow, accept my offering," and dropped it.
Cordelia watched in shock as the coin disappeared into the rainbow like it was a puddle.
"Show me Will Solace in Camp Half-Blood," Nico declared.
Obediently, the rainbow rippled and shifted, forming an image. It was a blond boy sitting at a desk, chewing on a pencil. He looked up in surprise before his expression darkened dramatically. "Nico di Angelo, you insufferable idiot!" he hissed up at the other demigod, "I swear by your father that I will track you down, drag you back to the infirmary, and chain you to a bed surrounded by sun lamps so you can't slip away!"
"Hey, Will," Nico greeted softly. He looked positively cowed, which was rather concerning; Cordelia had only known the kid for a few hours but even she knew that was unusual.
The boy's angry expression faltered and faded, "Where are you? Everyone's been so worried about you…"
"I just needed to get out," the son of Hades murmured.
"So you shadow traveled?! Nico—"
"I know, I know," he cut Will off and held up his handless arm, "And you were right. I wasn't ready."
A panicked note crept into his voice, "Do you have nectar? Unicorn draught?"
Cordelia was completely lost. She understood the words, but it might as well have been Ancient Greek—she didn't comprehend their significance at all. Nectar was fruit juice, right? And showdown traveling must be some demigod thing, and unicorns surely—wait. Unicorns?
Ignorant, or perhaps just uncaring, of the confusion on the adults' faces, Nico gave the image on the floor an annoyed look that clearly said 'I am not that stupid'. "I ate some ambrosia and I've drunk two flasks of draught. I haven't faded any more, but it hasn't gotten better either."
The boy in the image did not look reassured, "Nico, you need to get back here now. Where are you?
"California," the son of Hades sighed reluctantly, "Los Angeles, apparently."
"You were trying to visit Hazel, weren't you?" he rubbed his forehead.
"Yeah, but…" Nico sighed again, "It went a little wrong and I ended up in a warehouse full of vampires."
"Empousai?" Will asked in mild surprise, "What were they doing—"
"No. Vampires. I swear on the Styx— they were actual vampires."
"Gods, Nico," he shook his head, "The things you get into…"
"There were vampire hunters too," Nico continued, looking up to glare at the group who were still watching with unabashed interest. "They're refusing to help me get to San Francisco."
"What?" Will looked a little pissed, "Why?"
Wesley, who was closest, took a step forward and leaned over the image on the floor, "Because he's disappearing. That's why."
"No, no… Listen," the boy shook his head rapidly, "He needs help. Help you can't give. Nico's condition is unique to him and only him. He needs a rigorous regimen of nectar, ambrosia, unicorn draught, rest, bright light, and soil compresses." He frowned sternly at the man who was probably twice his age, "Which, not only do I doubt you have, I do not trust you to administer correctly."
"Will is my doctor," Nico explained before looking down at Will, "Soil compresses? Really? Who told you about that? Reyna or Coach Hedge?"
The boy wrinkled his nose, "It saved your life, Nico. You nearly faded completely after that show of magic… Hedge was lucky to find something that worked."
"I'm not letting you or anyone smear mud all over me."
"Oh, alright…" Will smirked, "I'll tell Reyna you said that."
Nico's eyes widened comically for a brief moment, before he got control of himself and gave an unimpressed huff, "Will…"
"Wait," Angel spoke up, "Your doctor is a kid?"
In the rainbow puddle, the blonde's eyes flashed dangerously, "Who said that?"
Angel moved hesitantly forward to stand beside Wesley and stare down into the puddle. He opened his mouth, probably to introduce himself, but Nico beat him to it.
"This is Angel," the demigod told his friend, a hint of annoyance in his tone, "He's an ensouled vampire who hunts vampires."
Will's face scrunched up in confusion for a split second, but he quickly shrugged it off and glared at Angel, "Well, regardless of who or what you are, I'll have you know that I am a fully qualified healer and the head of the Apollo cabin." It looked like he was going to continue, but once again Nico jumped in.
"Basically what that means is Will is in charge of the medical care of an entire camp full of demigods—demigods who train with pointy weapons, participate in weekly mock-battles amongst themselves, and must learn to defend themselves against the monsters waiting beyond the camp." He shrugged, "Injuries are common, especially with the lava climbing wall."
"The what?" Wesley hissed. Cordelia, after she had finished processing that, totally agreed.
"You forgot to mention Quests," Will pointed out, "Or the Wars."
"Wars?" Cordelia practically yelped, "What?!"
"Oh yeah," Nico nodded seriously. Cordelia got the distinct impression that he was making fun of her somehow. "We just finished one a few months back. The Titan War. Though really that's an understatement as Gaea—Mother Earth herself—was waking up and trying to kill everyone."
"Before that, we had the Battle of Manhattan," Will supplied helpfully, looking almost cheery, "With Kronos trying to take Olympus."
Nico gave Cordelia (who was pretty sure she had her mouth hanging open) a hard look, "We are more than capable of taking care of ourselves." He shifted his glare to Angel, "And Will is my doctor."
"And as Nico's doctor," Will continued cheerily, "I must insist you take him to Camp Jupiter in San Francisco."
There was a beat of silence and the adults stared at the kids and each other. Angel raised his eyebrows at Cordelia, so she shrugged. She wasn't sure what to think about it all, but Will seemed genuine and everything he said lined up with the little Nico had explained.
"Hey, Will!" a voice called from out of view in the rainbow puddle. A moment later a second voice asked, sounding much closer, "Who you talking to?"
Nico let out a groan and covered his face with his corporeal hand. Will was giving Nico a mischievous smile that looked almost dangerous. A second later, a boy popped into view at Will's shoulder, his very green eyes opened comically wide.
"Why's the perspective all weird?" he asked cocking his head to the side. He had black hair and was wearing the same orange shirt as Will.
"Move over, Percy," grumbled the first voice, preceding the appearance of another boy—this one was blonde and had glasses. He peered up at them out of the rainbow for a moment before gasping, "Nico?"
Percy glanced at the other boy before looking back at the image, seemingly recognizing the dark boy covering his face for the first time, "Neeks! Dude, what happened to your hand?"
Nico merely let out a muffled groan.
Will turned to the others, an angry gleam reminiscent of his initial reaction in his eyes, "Nico tried to shadow travel to New Rome, missed, landed in a warehouse full of vampires, and started to disappear."
"Nico!" the boy with the glasses admonished like a very angry and concerned parent.
"Jason," Nico muttered miserably, removing his hand from his face so he could look down, "Can we please not do this right now?"
Percy was frowning, "Vampires? You mean empousai?"
"No, I mean vampires," Nico huffed in annoyance as he gestured at Angel, who was alternating between frowning at the son of Hades and scrutinizing the other three kids in the image, "like him only bad."
Percy peered up at Angel in interest, "You're a vampire? Do you drink blood?"
Jason jabbed Percy in the side, prompting a sheepish look, but Angel shifted uncomfortably and nodded anyway. Percy's eyes went wide, causing Nico to let out a despairing moan and bury his head in his hand again, and Will to start cackling.
"Percy! Will!" Jason turned his admonishing parent look on the boys at his side, "Focus."
Will stopped laughing and cleared his throat awkwardly, "Right, sorry." He turned back to the group standing above the image, "So, will you just take him to San Francisco already?"
Observing the four strange boys, who she assumed were all demigods, interact, Cordelia found it very hard to argue with the reasoning they had been presented. They may just be kids (who definitely acted like kids) but they clearly knew what was happening to Nico and had stopped it before. Since they had no idea the logical thing would be to hand him back to the people who could help. Even if they were teenagers. Which, Cordelia reflected, she couldn't really protest against, considering the things she had gotten up to in high school.
The others seemed to be reaching similar conclusion (though Lorne seemed to be in a state of confused shock still). Out of all of them, Gunn seemed the most concerned and was scowling at the image on the floor with his arms crossed, while Fred seemed the least phased, having wandered off to collect one of the mythology books from where she had been set up researching the stuff Nico had shared. Angel peered across at Wesley, and an understanding passed between them.
"If you're certain he'll be alright…" Wesley ventured hesitantly, looking back down at the three demigods on the floor.
Nico glared across the image at the researcher. "You do realize I'm right here," he asked in a flat way that was more of a statement than anything else.
"Definitely," Jason answered Wesley's question, seemingly to everyone's surprise. "Nico's sister is there; there's no way she'll allow him to be anything but alright."
Percy nodded in emphatic agreement, but Will narrowed his eyes at Nico, "You have told Hazel, right?"
"Uh," Nico shifted uncomfortably, "No? I only had one drachma and I needed someone to convince these people," he gestured towards the group still watching him with interest a few feet away, "to take me to Camp Jupiter."
Will's expression softened, but Percy looked at Nico like he was crazy, "You chose Will over Hazel to convince them?" He glanced at Will, "No offense, dude."
Will simply rolled his eyes, and Nico snorted.
"I could go get Piper," Jason offered, seemingly out of the blue.
Nico quickly waved him off, "That's not necessary. I think they'll shut up about spells and rituals and actually help now."
Angel and Wesley, who were the only two visible to the kids still, nodded hesitantly in agreement.
"Good," Will said, "I'll let Hazel and Reyna know so if you don't show up in a few hours they can send the Legion out to find you."
Nico didn't look thrilled at the prospect.
Percy gave him an unsympathetic smile, "Man… they're going to whoop your ass to Tartarus and back."
"Thanks, Percy," the son of Hades grumbled, "I totally needed a reminder."
Jason scowled, "I'm going to whoop your ass too, when you get back here. We've all been worried sick."
The other boys blinked at him. Will shook his head, "Jason, never say 'whoop your ass' again. Percy can pull it off—"
"Because he's an idiot," Nico filled in.
Percy straightened up with an indignant look on his face, "Hey!"
"But you can't," Will finished.
Jason blinked at him in mild confusion. "Because… I'm not an idiot?" he ventured hesitantly.
Percy let out an affronted squawk, "Grace! How could you?"
Jason frowned at his steaming friend, "Huh?"
"You, me, arena, now," he declared, grabbing the still confused boy and dragging him out of view.
"Jackson! What the hell?"
"I'm going to whoop your ass, Sparky!"
Cordelia found herself watching in fascination, amusement, and a great deal of confusion as Will started cackling helplessly again, clearly watching his friends disappear. Nico was turning an impressive shade of pink, too. It was rather shocking, and encouraging, seeing the strange teen display so much emotion.
Said demigod was backing up towards the crystal and light, embarrassment clear on his face. "Talk to you later, bye!" he yelled and swooped up the flashlight, effectively ending the connection."
"Kid," Lorne said into the stunned silence, "You have some strange friends."
Nico sighed and ran his hand through his hair, "Yeah, I guess I do." He looked down at his missing hand, a pleased smile spreading across his face, as though the very thought was foreign to him. "I guess I do."
"And I guess we've got a road trip to get started on," Cordelia announced. "Shall we?"
As the group gathered up some things—weapons for Angel and gun, the medical bad for Wesley, a stack of books for Fred, and the flask and bag for Nico—and drifted back outside to the cars, Cordelia took the chance to center herself and start processing the additionally information she had received. It was all rather daunting still, even after meeting more kids like Nico. Or was that especially?
Cordelia had been right though. This was one hell of a day.
A/N: I know. Not very satisfying. I apologize with utter sincerity. I hope to get back to this eventually, but I'm so busy right now that I don't see it happening for months and months, so I'm calling quits.
But please follow! I'll get back to it eventually!
As a consolation prize I will share the head-cannon that both helped me get through this chapter and shot me in the foot: Cordelia is a daughter of Apollo. THIS beautiful and horrible thought kept stretching the writing process out and making my head hurt. But, I hope, when I return to this and Angel Investigations visits New Rome, Cordy will learn the shocking truth.
So please please please stay tuned?