If Today Was Your Last Day

Written for Day 7 of Solangelo Week 2020, the prompt being Capture the Flag, because the worst of my exams are over and I suddenly had a huge burst of writing energy yesterday that prompted me to do this last-minute.

This fanfiction takes place as a (more) light-hearted intermission which mainly takes place between Arriverderci and No Way Out (of This Dark Place), and alongside The Titan's Curse. Underlined text is directly taken from The Lightning Thief, which I have never owned and will never own.

CW: Mentioned bullying, low self-esteem, loneliness, etc. This fanfic may also evoke the meme I'm in this photo and I don't like it — reader discretion is advised. Also, rated because you might aww so much at babey Nico that you forget to breathe and die, and Solangelo friendship is pure. Slight canon divergence is also observed.

It had been about a week since Nico's life had been turned on its head. Last Friday, he was just a cadet-in-training at Westover Hall, a dark, dreary military boarding school that he was technically too young to attend, at the school dance with his sister (only high-school age cadets were allowed dates). Back then, he thought the beings and creatures of his Mythomagic cards and figurines were just Mythomagic cards and figurines (no matter how much he wished otherwise), and brave heroes fighting monsters were just storybook tales, just his escape from a world of taunts and mocking laughter and slurs hissed across the room when the teachers' backs were turned.

Then everything changed when Dr. Thorn, the Vice Principal, attacked. , he actually attacked, and no, it was not a metaphor for anything — he turned out to be an actual manticore and… blatantly kidnapped him and Bianca from the gym. (Where is he going to take me? What does he want with me? What's so valuable about me — and Bianca — worth kidnapping? And how has no one noticed? There are like… at least a few hundred people here!) Then a boy with a bronze sword and eyes the colour of the sea beneath the school on a sunny day appeared to save them, like those heroes in the storybooks hidden at the back of the school library — his name was Perseus, like the slayer of Medusa from the Ancient Heroes expansion pack.

It was like his dream had come true overnight.

More came along — Bianca's classmate who she talked about every once in a while and two girls, a blonde and a brunette, then a whole squadron of other girls, one of whom was Artemis herself. The Greek gods were real, monsters were real, but the heroes who fought against them were also real and he was so going to grow up to be one—!

Then Apollo showed up (look away from the arms, do not look at the arms…) and had Thalia (the girl with the dark hair who vaguely looked like him in the mirror) drive them away from Maine. A town below caught fire, but hey, he was riding in the sun chariot (or a version of it) of one of the Greek gods—! And then they crashed smack in the middle of the lake.

Camp Half-Blood was epic. It was run by Chiron the centaur himself, and Dionysus (who was one of the most underrated figures in the game, and nothing could convince him otherwise). There was a climbing wall (with lava?!) and you could actually make your own swords and fight with bows and shields and spears.

The biggest downside was that Bianca joined the Hunters — Artemis' all-girls' club that swore to leave all men behind in exchange for living forever… including him, her brother, apparently. Immortality was kind of tempting, to be honest, but at the cost of being left to face the world alone without Bianca? No. (He didn't know who his immortal parent was, nor had they tried to contact them, and he had no idea what happened to his mortal parent. He and his sister only had each other, and now she went off and left him with people he barely knew? What was he supposed to do?) A second downside was the "PG-13" orientation film that he would rather have erased from his mind.

He tried to forget that happened. He played poker against a pair of brothers at the Hermes table and somehow (miraculously, according to the regulars of the table) managed to win against them, to their (the Stolls') amazement. The pegasi whinnied whenever he got close, but he hoped it was a good thing. He even befriended a couple of campers (a first for him! Everyone thought he was the "weirdo obsessed with a card game" back at Westover Hall), one of them being a boy called Will from the Apollo Cabin, and another being a lady in the Campfire — Hestia (she didn't have a figurine to her name but he felt that she deserved one).

Still, he tried to talk to his sister, but she made excuse after excuse, continuously talking with those new sisters of hers, who argued with the campers over trivial matters and showed off as though being girls blessed by Artemis made them superior to everyone else.

Then Bianca was chosen to go on the quest to save Artemis. He asked Percy to go and protect her, but it was the most that he could have done, and all he could do after that was to wait.

Instead of moping around, he threw himself into the camp activities. The Stolls taught him how to pickpocket and thieve. Will's brother Lee taught him how to shoot a bow (though he wasn't very good at it), and one of the Ares campers, Sherman, taught him to throw javelins. He also talked to Will during free time, and he even showed him his quiet place for when he wanted calm from the chaos of camp, at the edge of the forest. He rambled about Mythomagic to anyone who would listen, but Will was the only one who would, maybe because everyone else had been living in the mythological world for so long that they could recite the stories in their sleep and so shooed him away every time he came near, like Bianca, while Beckendorf and the Stolls were too busy manufacturing weapons or planning prank wars on the Camp to sit down and listen.

But by night, terrible dreams haunted his sleep, visions of death and ruin and whispers from the dark that kept him up half the night, but upon asking, he was always dismissed because demigods having bad dreams was "normal" (though this often? No response). He wasn't sure if being a demigod was so fun anymore.

Friday came, and Capture the Flag was imminent. The Hunters had left for the gods' Winter Solstice meeting on Olympus, so all left at Camp were about twenty campers. The Hermes Cabin had joined forces with Demeter and Aphrodite (blue banner with a caduceus), while Ares led the other team, which also consisted of Athena (surprisingly, since Ares and Athena were usually on opposing teams), Apollo and Hephaestus (blood-red banner with a boar head and a spear). Which pitched him and Will on opposite teams.

"Heroes! You know the rules. The creek is the boundary line. The entire forest is fair game. All magic items are allowed. The banner must be prominently displayed, and have no more than two guards. Prisoners may be disarmed, but may not be bound or gagged. No killing or maiming is allowed. I will serve as referee and battlefield medic. Arm yourselves!" Chiron made his announcement, and he was handed a sword, a blue-plumed helmet, a chestplate and a huge shield. He dropped everything but the sword and the helmet promptly — they were too heavy for him to carry.

"Holly, Laurel, runners as usual," Travis directed.

"Nico?" Connor called as he turned to them. "Stealth. Remember what we taught you — take them down from behind. For once, we're outnumbered—" Probably because you stuck paper spider silhouettes to their lamps and covered all the Ares soap bars in clear nail polish, which drove the war gods' kids together to band together to kick your butts to Olympus. Oh, Connor had paused for a moment, perhaps forgetting what he was saying mid-sentence. "For once, we're outnumbered and we want someone — you — to diminish their numbers before they can even get to the flag. We have traps set up, but we don't think they're enough to help us win. So go and knock 'em dead, capiche?"

"Capiso," he instinctively responded, though a moment later, he knew he might not be able to do much good. He had already dumped his shield behind, so how was he going to say, knock someone out, if he was so… small? [I understand (Venetian)]

The conch horn sounded in the distance. He dived behind a tree, as the crunching of sneakers on grass rang out nearby. The sun had long set below the horizon, but for some reason, unlike most of the campers, he felt somewhat energized by the darkness, rather than fatigued. Wherever the moonlight didn't hit, he slipped among the roots of the great trees, but never stayed behind one long enough to be spotted.

Later on in the night, though he was not sure if it was five or fifteen or fifty-five minutes that had passed (he wasn't the best with time), a Hephaestus camper flickered and appeared out of the corner of his eye, yet apparently, they noticed him too.


They and another camper in a red-plumed helmet bolted towards him. One held an axe in hand, while the other waved around a giant warhammer. He waved his arms around and ducked behind a tree, wondering if there was any way to stop the pursuers in their tracks, because he had the feeling that they would chase him down until he tired out. A maneuver that might actually work on him — the coach handling physical activities back at Westover Hall kept scolding him for "lacking in stamina", but even he wasn't sure why he tired out so much faster than even kids his age.

All of a sudden, twin screams erupted from behind him. He turned around — perhaps a bit too quickly, so he also tripped over his own feet and crashed into the ground — the Hephaestus and Ares (upon closer inspection) campers had fallen down a pit three metres deep that he swore wasn't there before. Maybe the Stolls conveniently rigged a trap around here? But this spot wasn't marked on their battle plan map of the woods… hmm… Or he was just… seeing things? (Another thing on his list of things to never tell anyone.)

He crept closer to the boundary between the teams' respective home turfs. It was there where he saw a certain son of Apollo his age guarding the border, his shield leaning on a nearby tree. He was clumsily nocking an arrow to a bow even taller than him. (He covered a smile behind his hand — so Will was telling the truth about sucking at archery despite having been at Camp for years.)

The shadow of the tree directly across from the creek was once again whispering incomprehensible words to him. He shook his head, and—


Will turned around, his back now facing him, and dropped his weaponry, his hand now at the first-aid pouch around his waist. And that was when Nico charged across the green and pounced like a feral kitten, causing both to crumple down frontwards. Will's red-plumed helmet had somehow managed to fall off during the struggle, so Nico tore his off and jammed it over Will's head, declaring, "Got you!"

"Hey!" Will was definitely trying to shove him off from his back, but in the night, his movements were a bit more sluggish than under normal circumstances.

"Rules are rules, let me take you to Blue Team Jail, you're one of us now," Nico replied cheekily, as he dragged his opponent to his feet and in the direction of the Blue Team turf, leaving behind the shield, bow and quiver of arrows on the ground beneath the tree.

Despite the embarrassing capture and a game still going on around them, the boys decided that it was preferable to sit in the Blue Team Jail and keep talking about stuff. At one point, Nico went from talking about Percy's promise to playing a guessing game regarding who his divine parent might be.

"You snuck up on me and I couldn't even hear you approaching. Hermes, maybe?"

"Forse… but it would be cool any way!" [Maybe (Venetian/Italian)]

Eventually, Will was discharged from the Jail when the Stolls ran back, screaming, as Holly and Laurel returned with a blue banner decorated with a laurel wreath insignia instead of a spear and a boar, proclaiming the twin girls as daughters of some minor deity which reminded him of… what was I thinking about again?

After that, the campers were all ushered off to bed, since somehow, it was too late for even Campfire to take place; and literally tackling someone to the ground really did take a lot of energy out of him, because he kind of yawned in the middle of the announcement. (How embarrassing…)

"Bona note, Will…" [Good night (Venetian)]

Will patted him on the shoulder. "See you in the morning, Nico."

It would be the last time he would ever have some semblance of a peaceful night, and the last time he would see his friend for the next six months or so. By then, everything would have been turned on its head… again.

Author's Notes

I was practically internally sobbing while writing the intro because I went the long way to look up what life was like in a military school. Also, the American school system is too inconsistent in the grade levels — middle school can start anywhere between 5th and 7th grade? In Hong Kong, we're more consistent — Primary 1-6 is primary school (~1st to 6th grade), Form 1-6 is secondary school (~7th to 12th grade). This fic is written under the headcanon that Westover Hall accepts from upper middle school (7th grade) and up, because frick canon, I never lived away from home without parental supervision before Primary 6 (age 11).

I added slight canon divergence because I'm confused how the number of Campers were "similar" to the number of Hunters (13), when the listed characters alone (3 Hephaestus, 3 of the Big Three, a few from Ares, a few from Aphrodite, the Stolls, and at least a couple from Apollo) number more than 13 already — I'd reckon it's because Percy (read: Rick) cannot into Mathematics, as I've complained dozens of times before. Later text mentions that other than Percy, Beckendorf, Silena and the Stolls were the only Counsellors present (other than Ares, who were all in the Infirmary) repping CHB, which honestly makes my head hurt, so I decided screw canon, I'll add characters who weren't there in canon like Lee Fletcher (who was dealing with Infirmary stuff and therefore too busy to attend the meeting) and a couple from Demeter who were also in the Infirmary.

Ha, this is actually the first time I've ever written Solangelo, believe it or not, and I honestly don't know how to write romance or friendship, since I've never been in a romantic relationship before, and I don't really do well with friendships (yes, I have friends, but no, I'm not the best with people).

At the end of the day, I cry for what would befall the fate of this child in 12 hours from the point this fic ends.

That's it for now, and I honestly worked all day on this fic. I hope you've enjoyed it! Peace out and adìo!