He doesn't know how he made it just in the nick of time, but he does, and it's probably the first time in years that he thanked that he is a son of Hades.

He's hacking at the monsters pouring out of the Doors of Death, vaguely aware of the black ichor probably splattered along every inch of his being. He's been here before, in a war, and unlike the last one their defences have increased. Romans and Greeks and Hunters and Gods alike are all here, in the battleground in Greece, and in the back of his mind he wonders how the place can accommodate so much power.

The seven are just in front of him, each of their godly parent pairing off with their respective child and doing their best to fight a giant. He sees Jason and Jupiter, Piper and Aphrodite, Leo and Hephaestus, Frank and Mars, Hazel and their father, Annabeth and Athena; he sees Percy and Poseidon, and Nico thinks that this is a war they would come out alive of.

"You okay?" Jason has reached his side, looking at him while severing the head of a passing monster at the same time.

"Just peachy." Nico rolled his eyes. "There's a possibility that the world's about to end, but nah, worry about cute, defenseless little Nico and his inability to take care of himself." He punctuates this remark by skewering an unsuspecting cyclops in the stomach.

A few yards away, Thalia shot an arrow at a harpy Nico must have missed. "Save the witty banter for later, corpse breathe, and pay attention!"

Nico would have smirked if he wasn't too busy bashing an empousa on the head with the butt of his sword. "You're no fun, pinecone face!"

Even after everything, Nico is still so attuned to Percy that in the midst of battle, with everyone yelling and the clang of metal reverberating on his very bones, he hears him laugh.

"I heard that, seaweed brain!" Thalia snapped.

Jupiter's form briefly flickered into that of Zeus, and his eyes exasperatedly met Hades' and Poseidon's. "To think our children would be reduced to such petty name-calling."

Everyone who heard voiced their amusement, and it seemed to agitate their enemies further. Polybotes, who has been battling both Poseidon and Percy, let out a battle cry that sent every other monster into frenzy.

Nico gasped when a wayward claw almost pierced his kidney, and that's when he sees it. Alcyoneus, with his staff aimed at Percy's unprotected back, too busy helping his father with Polybotes to notice.

Somehow he knows what is going to happen next, knows before anyone does, before the giant even executes the throw. He's the only one looking at Percy.

"No." he says under his breath, and gathering the shadows around him, leaps forward and thinks about Percy as Alcyoneus flicks his wrist back and tosses the weapon, not thinking about what it would do to him if he shadow travels in his more than exhausted state.

He just barely manages to reach Percy, just barely manages to shield him in time. Nico staggers when he finally appears in front of a surprised Percy, on the verge of unconsciousness, but the air leaves his lungs when he feels the pain suddenly lancing through his stomach.

He bites back a scream, feeling his body fall on Percy's outstretched arms, his body trying to process the overwhelming pain.

It hurts. Goddamit, it hurts.

"Nico." It's Percy's voice. It sounds far away, as if he was underwater, and he realizes that he has moved himself out from under him.

He struggles to look up at him, trying to seem calm, to be brave, like Bianca would have done. Percy has him in his arms now. "Why would you do that? Why would you – gods, Nico."

Nico has never seen him this afraid before. He feels his stomach lurch, feels the strength slowly being sapped from his body, and knows that it must be bad, worse than it feels, if Percy is staring at him like this. His iconic sea-green eyes are wide and welling, his forehead twisted in agony.

He tries to glance behind, feebly noticing his father suddenly coming towards his giant counterpart with sudden ferocity, Hazel hot on his heels. He slides his eyes shut, just for a moment.

"No. Nico, don't do that. Look at me. Look at me."

He blinks and tries to force his eyes back open. It is surprisingly difficult. Percy's hand is on his cheek, his calloused thumb grazing his skin. "Stay with me," Percy says. "Come on. Help is coming. Stay with me, you'll be okay – I promise, I promise, just keep your eyes on me."

Percy is a terrible liar. Nico is the son of Hades, and he knows how death would come, has seen it so many times. He just didn't think that he would be in the receiving end of it so early in his lifetime. Already there is darkness in the periphery, closing in, and it is easy to slide into, easy to embrace.


"Hey –"His ribcage won't quite expand, won't push air in, wonders if Alcyoneus' staff damaged his phrenic nerve. The staff impaled him cleanly on his stomach before disappearing, and now he has a gaping hole on his middle, gushing blood in an alarming rate. He could feel Percy's other hand stemming the flow of blood. "I have to tell you something."

"No." Percy says. His voice is thick. The pressure of his thumb against his cheek starts to numb, until he can't feel it at all, and the older boy seems to sense this. He leans down, pressing his lips to his forehead, lingering there. Nico feels a peace flood him, feels the meaning of the gesture, the words he is not willing to say.

"No." he says again. "Not like this, Nico. You'll tell me later, okay? We'll get you out of here, and then – and then –"

Percy snaps his head up. "Apollo! APOLLO!"

"Percy." He says. It is barely a murmur. Nico has never been good at listening to him, and he isn't going to start now. He closes his eyes. He tries to say it, but what comes out is another. "I don't hate you. I never… hated you."

He hears a devastated breath escape him, feels the tremor in his touch. "Nico," Percy whispers, his voice raw and pleading, "Don't."

Everything is inexplicably warm. He tries to reach for his hand, reach for some part of him that is solid under his touch, but he can't even move. Percy hugs his forehead to his chest. If he is going to die, then he doesn't want anything more than this. He is all he could ever have asked for. He's here.

"And I'm sorry, for betraying you before. For pretending as if I didn't know you. I just – I needed – I needed you to know."

Percy doesn't say anything for a few heavy, wrenching moments. Nico stares up at him, and sees that his eyes are streaming, that he is cracked and raw and desperate. It is all the confirmation that he needs: this is it for him. It's too late.

"Back then," he says, his voice so quiet. "Back then when Gaea trapped you in the jar."

Nico stares up at him and waits. Percy opened his mouth and a splintering, broken noise echoed out of his throat before he continued. "You're my friend, Nico. I don't care if you betrayed me in the past, or pretended not to know me, because in the end you proved that you're on my side. And I was so terrified when Otis and Ephialtes kicked you out of that jar – gods, you looked so broken."

He remembers that day. He had abandoned all hope the moment Gaea had him trapped in Tartarus, had seen all kinds of things that would have made him insane, hanging on to life only because he knew Percy was a part of the seven, and he had to help him in any way he could. He remembered when he was finally out of that forsaken jar, seeing Percy battle the twin giants Otis and Ephialtes along with Jason and Piper. He remembers breathing in fresh air after days of going without it, and it was like being reborn, like starting all over again.

"Nico – Nico, you don't have to say sorry. It wasn't your fault. It was never your fault." Percy shakes his head, struggling to explain. "Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I didn't let Bianca die. I still remember what you looked like – when I told you about her. You were so devastated, so shattered, and yet you were there when I needed you the most. You were there with me through it all, Nico, and you have no idea. You have no idea how much that means to me. You never have."

Percy's face is blurry now, and Nico's thoughts are trying to take him far away. He fights to stay alert, fights to keep himself awake in Percy's arms, listening to his words. They are all he is clinging on to; they are all that is keeping him here.

"You're the bravest person I know." Percy sucks in another painful breath. "You are, Nico. You've suffered so much and you don't deserve it, you never did - and yet you never complained and you're still here. You survived Tartarus all on your own, had tried to help us even if it wasn't your responsibility. We wouldn't be here without you, so please, please. Stay with me."

His breaths are too quick and too shallow. But he is happy here. He is safe. There is no way to express what this means to him, after years of wishing and pining and torturing himself, trying to take up even an inch of his universe, a millisecond of his attention. Percy may not love him like he does, but he cares, and for Nico, it's enough. It's enough. He just wants to close his eyes, just for a moment, just for a little while. Not for long.

"Please, Nico." Percy is so far away now. "Please. Stay with me."

The last thought in his mind is of the day Percy and Annabeth and Grover had found him and his sister, when they were all still young, when everything wasn't as scary and dangerous as it was now. It was a cold night, and Percy was walking towards the middle of the camp the Hunters of Artemis had set up while he sprinted to keep up. He had wanted to get his attention, to try and thank him for saving him and his sister, but Nico couldn't reach him. He was too fast. Too determined.

He feels like he has spent every moment since in that night, chasing Percy Jackson, watching him get further and further away.

"No. No!"

Nico lets his eyes slide shut, and in his mind, he finally reaches him; Percy turns to him and smiles broadly, smiles like he loves him, smiles like they don't have a trouble in the world, and in that moment, he is the happiest he has ever been.

Because Viria and Minuiko has been killing me with their artwork - and then I realized, I wonder what would Percy look like if it was Nico dying and he couldn't do anything about it. And so this baby is born. You decide if Nico lives or dies, yes?

This is my first slash fic, but I don't know if this classifies as one because it's one sided (does Percy not knowing what Nico feels one sided?) but still. I've always loved Nico di Angelo, and then Rick goes all BOOM and gives us House of Hades - woot, all the freaking feels overflowing for one goddamn fictional character.

And yes, I ship Percy and Nico. Bow chika wow wow whatcha gonna say.

I'd probably write a fic about the two of them being together in some other time, or if plot bunnies assault me. I hope you enjoyed! Read and review.