Just a little more development.
Days passed on slowly and the two boys were begining to get used to one another. Percy was getting used to Nicos random outbursts of anger and his constant vulgarity, while Nico was getting used to Percys random outbursts of childishness and his constant questions; although, there were less with each day that passed. Percy was seemingly returning to the state of mind he possessed before he left the Argo and that was really making things easier for Nico. All in all, things were going pretty well.
The two had been staying in the same hotel since the day they got the weapons and Percy was glad that they hadn't been doing any driving. More than that, though, he was glad the hotel had a pool. He spent time every day swimming and sitting at the bottom while Nico would sit back and keep an eye on him, even though he would have much rather been doing anything else.
Being able to swim put Percys mind at rest and, for at least a few hours of the day, he didn't ask a lot of questions. As his confusion began to fade, however, Percy started feeling a change occurring in himself. He hadn't realized how strange he had been feeling until everything started to return to the way it was before. His mind was relaxing, he didn't feel so tense, his confusion was subsiding, and he himself was feeling more... mature. It was almost like he was going through mental puberty all at once, in just a few days. It was odd, and not easy, but the pool helped him keep his mind off things.
It was lovely for Nico, too, because Percy looked amazing in the water... But, of course, that wasn't the reason Nico told himself he kept letting Percy go to the pool. It was because the water was pretty much making Percy more like Percy. At first, the son of Poseidon had behaved like a lost puppy or a child who knew nothing about anything. But, thanks to the long hours at the pool, he was 'growing up' and becoming Percy Jackson yet again, although very slowly. Returning to a normal life after the Lotus was no easy task, even to a son of one of the big three. Nico was enjoying, in a very odd way, watching the son of Poseidon change his demeanor and even his personality, to an extent, from a childlike teen, to the man he should have been at nineteen. Or, at least, to the nineteen year old he had been three years ago. Nico found something about the clear transformation very appealing.
Despite the clear fact that Percy was maturing, and Nico was really liking seeing it, he could still behave so childish at times. He still asked plenty of questions and would pout when he hadn't gotten his way. As the days went on, Nico grew used to seeing the pout and hated the fact he found it cute. He had always hated children so why someone behaving like one would have been 'cute', he didn't know. But, he put up with it. All of it. The pool, the cuteness, the childishness, and the questions.
Although Nico wasn't too fond of playing the question game all day every day, he was somewhat happy at times to have Percy asking so many. The two boys hadn't seen each other in three years and all the questions allowed Nico to get to know Percy all over again, but from a little different perspective. He was realising that despite Percy's mature and tough looks, he was much like a scared little kid. And despite that, he was also a strong minded thinker: a demigod.
Some of the questions Percy had been asking were totally nonsensical, like a child's would be, and Nico would either laugh or shake his head at them. He did, however, answer every single one with as much patience as he could muster for the boy that had missed out on three years. But, on the other hand, Percy did ask some questions that really needed answers.
One day, while they ate dinner, Percy asked a question that he should have asked before. He felt kind of stupid for not asking it and, when he spoke, he did so shyly.
"What month is it?" He felt even more stupid once the words left his lips, because he hadn't asked sooner, but he figured it was better late than never. And, besides, he had been too worried about feeling so odd that he really hadn't cared before what month, or even what year, it was.
Nico gave him a funny look that meant he was amused that Percy didn't know but the question was a completely logical one so he didn't mind answering. "It's February."
Percy repeated the word quietly to himself and thought about everything that happened in February. It was still winter so it would be snowy in many places. He remembered that Nico told him the year was 2015 and he tried to figure if it was a leap year or not. He thought back to when he had left, in 2012, and remembered that was a leap year, so it couldn't be now. Then he remembered something else about February other than its extra day every four years: the 14th. Valentines day.
Percy spoke quietly. "What day?"
"What?" Nico was a little confused by Percys question.
"Exactly what day is it?" Percy sounded kind of frantic now.
Percy sighed. He had missed a Valentines day with Annabeth. He felt kind of bad about it for a second. But... maybe he didn't have to feel SO bad about it.
Percys head was hung low. "When did you get me out of the Lotus?" There was something in Percys voice that sounded kind of hurt and Nico wished, for some reason, he would have lied to the older boy. Percy looked up at him and shouted, making Nico cringe a little. "When?"
Percy sighed and closed his eyes. Nico wasn't sure where the sudden displeasure in Percy had come from, but he knew he didn't like it. Out of all the emotions he had showed: confusion, immaturity, fear; Nico disliked seeing displeasure on his face the most. Was Percy not happy to be out of the Lotus? It perturbed Nico to think that and his agitation showed itself when he spoke his next sentence.
"Why? Is there a problem with that?"
Percy shook his head but didn't answer. Nico had grown very short on patience over the last three years and Percys questions over the past few days had made it worse. He gritted his teeth. Above everything, Nico hated not having his questions answered.
"I asked you a question and when I ask someone a question I damn sure expect it to be answered!"
Percy tried to keep calm and keep fear from overwhelming him from Nicos tone but there was a lot going through his mind. All he wanted to do was go somewhere where he could be totally alone and not think about anything other than the most important details of what he had missed.
Percy had stayed quiet for too long, infuriating Nico even further. "Ehi, I'm talking to you!"
Percys head shot up so he could look into Nicos eyes. He remembered that Nico had always been an angry kid, but what he saw in the son of Hades' dark blue orbs was far more than just anger. He just couldn't put a title to it.
"What do you want?" Percy hadn't expected his voice to come out as a yell, but once he had, there was no taking it back.
When he responded, Nicos voice was much like Percys. "A fucking answer! I have been answering all of your questions for days and when I finally have one for you, you can't return the favor?"
Percy had shrunk away at Nicos tone but quickly shot back, like a child defiling his parents orders. "Why does it even matter to you if I answer your question? Why do you even care?"
Anger was welling up even more inside of Nico. "Oh, I don't know, maybe because I saved your fucking life and I expect a little appreciation for it, which I am clearly not getting!"
Percy had been yelling before but he raised his voice even louder. "Well, I didn't ask you to!" Percy was feeling a slight rebellious streak pop up in him and Nico saw it, too. It was yet another side of Percy that Nico couldn't quite grasp and didn't really like.
With his words, Percy stood from the bed and marched his way to the only place he could be away from the angry Nico: the bathroom. He slammed the door closed behind him and locked it before he took a few steps back and stared blankly at the only thing separating him from the angry boy in the other room.
The last thing Percy had wanted was to get into a screaming match with Nico; it had just made things even harder for him by increasing his confusion. He turned around in a slow circle until he came to be looking at his reflection in the mirror. He hated it. He felt so stupid. All of this could have been avoided if he would have just grown up and dealt with being treated awkwardly three years ago. But no, he had to run away and hide, making things worse for himself now. A single tear rolled down his cheek from his anger, confusion, and hatred for himself as he took a few steps back until his calves hit the bathtub behind him. He turned to look at it and remembered how safe he had felt that day that he hid in one in the other hotel. He stepped into the tub and closed the curtain to hide himself from the rest of the bathroom before he leaned against the wall and sunk down to the bottom of the tub. He felt so weak, so young, and so defeated...
That one tear that had fallen to his cheek was the only one that escaped from his eye and he wiped it away furiously, not really knowing why it had fallen. Sure, he was angry, confused, and even scared but were those really good enough reasons to cry?
Back in the main part of the room, Nico sat on the bed and shook his head. His life had been pretty messy since he left the Argo II in search of Percy three years ago. But now, it was worse. He had never thought Percy would end up to be a burden when he was searching for him but, now that he had found him, that's exactly what he turned out to be. He asked more questions than a toddler and seemed much more sensitive to... everything than he ever had before. Before, nothing had phased him. If someone shouted at him or threw a dis in his direction, he would soak it up like a sponge and spit back a comment that was usually ten times worse. And, here he was now, running away after he and Nico had gotten into an argument.
Nico did feel bad, sort of, about the shouting match but there was no changing it now that it was over. He couldn't just press the rewind button and go back and change it, not like he wanted to, though. Percy had brought it upon himself so the small part of Nico that did feel bad about it found a reason not to. If Percy hadn't started behaving like such a... baby, everything would have been fine.
Nico flopped himself down on the bed and clicked the t.v. on and started shuffling through the channels with little concern for what Percy might have been feeling at the time. Little, but not none. The t.v. was the best way he could find to distract himself from thinking about the son of Poseidon. He had never so badly needed a distraction from someone before. Nico was seeing a change in himself, one he didn't like, and was bound and determined to do whatever he needed in order to do to prevent it.
Hours passed by and darkness fell outside. Nico had been flipping through channels since he had finished eating and he could find nothing to watch, so he turned the t.v. back off and dropped the remote onto the bed next to him. He had forced the son of Poseidon from his thoughts; he didn't have the energy to worry about him or anything to do with him, for that matter. There was really nothing for him to do after that... He had been waiting for a phone call that Paul, or Apollo, had promised to make. Apollo was going to get a hold of one of his contacts, that Nico wasn't even allowed to know about, and try to find out a little more about the current locations of the Manticore and Typhon. But Nico was still waiting for the call. Shortly after he turned the t.v. off, Nico managed to truly clear his mind enough, of everything including Apollo, Typhon, the Manticore, and Percy, to fall asleep. He did feel slightly guilty for trying, because Percy was still locked away in the bathroom, but he had to do what he had to do. He wasn't very deep in sleep, which was a good thing because, if he was, he would have been going crazy with nightmares. He was used to nightmares but, given the current situation, they were bound to be worse.
It was about ten thirty when the phone on Nicos chest vibrated wildly with a phone call, pulling him from his sleep. It frightened him a bit and his heart skipped a beat before speeding up to an unnatural pace. It took him a second to gather his thoughts, relax, and answer the phone with a groggy "Hello".
Right away, the person on the other end of the line started shouting excitedly and Nico had to hold the phone away from his ear because the man was so loud. It was clearly Apollo and he was saying something about having a current location.
"Shh stop shouting in my ear."
'Sor- Are you drunk or something?'
Nico cared very little that that was Apollos first question and told him the truth gently. "No, you woke me up."
'Oh. I'm sorry.'
"It's fine. What have you got for me?"
'Well,' Apollo still seemed excited, 'I had to make a lot of phone calls and check alot of cctvs and all sorts of shit like that, but I found out that the Manticore was spotted in South Beach checking into a hotel.'
Nico hesitated. "So, I don't have to worry about him for now I take it?"
'I wish that were the case. But, since that was almost a week ago, I can't be sure.'
"Then why are you telling me this?" Nico ran his hand along his face in a mixture of agitation and exhaustion.
'Because, three days before you were spotted at the mall with your new "friend" he was caught on security cameras making a phone call and then shooting the woman at the desk of the hotel he was staying at. Shortly after that, he went totally off the radar.'
"Until he popped up in Las Vegas and gave a letter to the desk clerk of the hotel I was staying at." Nico said matter-of-factly.
'Exactly. And that's where things get interesting.'
"I sure hope so, cause what you've told me so far has been pretty irrelevant."
Apollo scoffed but spoke again. 'The day after that, he checked into another hotel. In the room right next to one that had been reserved by a Ty Phinagin.'
Nico knew who this 'Ty Phinagin' was right away and that was definitely not his real name. "How many aliases do these sons of bitches need?"
'Probably more than they have if I was able to track them down.'Apollo seemed pleased with himself and his abilities. 'Anyway, the two checked out yesterday within an hour of each other and both of their vehicles were spotted by traffic cameras heading west.'
"West." Nico said shortly.
"Shit. When was that?"
'About four in the afternoon.'
"So, if they were heading to Los Angeles, they're here already." It was a mix between a question and a statement because Nico already knew.
The son of Hades sighed heavily. That was really the last thing he had wanted to hear. Both males were silent for a minute or so. Nico was soaking up what he had just been told, and Apollo kept his mouth shut so he was able to.
'No. That's all I got, sorry.'
"That's fine. So, we know that at least one of them knows about my friend" he wasn't about to use Percy's name "and that they are most likely working together and probably here, looking for me."
'Sounds about right.'
To Nico, it sounded like Apollo was holding something back. "There's more, isn't there?"
Apollo sighed. 'Kind of. But I can't be sure it's true yet so I'm not gonna tell you.'
"Paul," using his real name made both sure Nico was angry, "I swear to all the gods if you don't-"
'Would you calm down?' Apollo interrupted him mid sentence with his own words. 'In my opinion, it's something that could potentially get you all worked up and I would like to avoid that at all costs.'
Nico shook his head. He was already feeling all worked up from a mixture of Percy and the fact that Apollo had even brought up 'something else'. "Whatever," He spoke bitterly. "But if it ends up getting me killed, you will regret not telling me."
Nico was being totally serious but Apollo didn't see it that way. He laughed a little. 'If you say so.'
"Do you have anything else, other than what you're not telling me?"
'This time, no. And I swear I'm being honest.'
Nico believed him and spoke somewhat venomously. "Alright."
'Good night, Hades.' Apollo was chuckling again.
"Good night, Apollo."
Nico hung up the phone and dropped it onto the bed next to him. He breathed a heavy sigh and his thoughts started going crazy with what Apollo could have been keeping him in the dark about. He wondered, for a slight second, if he should even keep going to Apollo for information. He wondered if the guy planned on making a habit out of not telling him things. He decided against such a foolish act since Apollo was the best at what he did and Nico was glad to have the guy on his side.
He sat up and dangled his feet off the edge of the bed. He noticed that the other bed in the room was still empty so Percy was still in the bathroom. He scoffed at the thought of the boy still throwing a temper tantrum. Maybe he hadn't 'grown up' any over the past few days.
The fact that Percy was still in the bathroom didn't seem to matter to Nico as much as the fact that he had to pee did. He made his way toward the bathroom door and tried to open it, not expecting it to be locked. He sighed heavily when he found that it was. He pulled a pin from his pocket and picked the lock with ease before he opened it, expecting to see Percy sitting awake on the sink or something. But, the boy couldn't be seen. Nico furrowed his eye brows together and looked and the closed shower curtain. He pulled it aside slowly and saw that Percy had curled into a ball and was asleep. He scoffed again at the sight of the older boy sleeping in the bathtub but left him there and went to the bathroom quickly before going back to bed.
Early the next morning, Nico woke to another phone call. He hoped it was Apollo again, giving him a little more information on the two men out to kill him, but the number that popped up did not belong to his 'source'. Nico recognized it, sure, but that didn't mean he was used to seeing it or that he wanted to see it. In all honesty, he was a little freaked that this person had even contacted him.
Warily, Nico pushed his thumb to the screen of his phone and the ringing stopped. The only reason he did it, though, was because he didn't want to make the caller angry. He was already on the top of a shit list and he didn't fancy having his name written on another one. He put the phone slowly to his ear and spoke a soft "Hello Aren" into the speaker.
'Nico, I've asked you to call me Ares. Aren is so... boring.' The man's voice was soft and easy going. It would have been a somewhat pleasant one if Nico didn't already know who the man was. Ares clicked his tongue. 'Anyway, my old friend, it's been a long time. How've ya been?'
Nico was silent.
'What, you have nothing to say? That's fine.' Ares sighed. 'I have a request to make. I've been pretty busy lately and haven't been able to make it around too much, but I hear you're in town and I think I could use your assistance. Do you wanna hear my offer?'
Nico already knew what the man would be asking. A part of him screamed to say no, but things wouldn't end well if he did. "Shoot."
Ares smiled, Nico could tell by the way he sounded when he spoke again. 'There's a fellow, goes by the name of Herc, that I need you to have a little 'chat' with.'
'I haven't even gotten to the best part yet.' Ares chuckled.
Nico spoke again, keeping his voice totally calm, but gritted his teeth. "I don't know who the hell you think you are to ask something like that of me, but it's not gonna happen."
'Oh, but I think it is.'
Nico was losing it. Ares was pushing his buttons and he wanted nothing more than to throw the phone into a wall so he didn't have to hear the man's voice anymore. But, Nico humored him and kept the conversation going. "What makes you think that?"
'Well, I've got a .44 with your name on it sitting in a brand new box.' It was clear Ares felt like he was getting somewhere.
It was tempting. Nico really did like the .44 magnum. It was the kind of gun that was easy to conceal, scared the hell out of people, and did quite a bit of damage all rolled into one. But Herc was not someone Nico wanted to face. He got his alias from Hercules and it fit like a glove. He was big, mean, scary, and capable of beating down almost anyone that got in his way. Plenty of hits had been put out on him but it was always the hitters that ended up dead. The only reason Nico was considering it was because of the gun he would be 'payed' with. Still, he was hesitant and wondered why Ares would even consider asking.
"Why don't you just do it yourself?" Nico was actually kind of hoping to make the man angry. "I mean, on the street your Ares and Ares was the god of war, so you shouldn't have to ask someone to fight your battles for you."
Nico figured he had made a valid point but Ares threw something back at him that Nico had expected right from the get go. 'True. But I am much more valuable to the world. You, on the other hand, the world could live without. And... I know you want the .44.'
The son of Hades gathered his thoughts before speaking. "Are you bribing me?" He didn't take offense to the first part of the statement.
'Is it working?'
Nico sighed. "Where is he?"
'From what I hear, he's set up in a flat in San Fran. Not TOO far from where you're at, right?'
Nico furrowed his brow. "That depends, where do you think I'm at?"
'A hotel in LA.'
Nico tensed a little. How the hell did Ares know that? He kept his calm facade up, though. "You're good." He paused. "How'd ya find out?"
Ares clearly shrugged on the other end of the line. 'I'm staying in the same hotel.'
Nico scoffed. That was cheating in his opinion.
'So, what'll it be, kid?'
He took a deep breath. "I'll do it. Just not today. My hands are a little... preoccupied at the moment."
'Ahh. It's the guy you came in with isn't it?'
Nico shook his head. "Kind of."
'Fair enough. But I want you checked out and on your way to San Fran within the next five days, got it?'
'Don't play with me, kid.'
Nico really wasn't fond of being called a kid but he had to be careful with what he said. If he wasn't, there was a decent chance he, too, would end up dead. He spoke a quiet but firm "Deal" into the phone speaker.
'Good.' Ares was smiling again.
He hung up the phone and Nico followed suit. He felt like he had seriously just created more of a mess for himself. Hercules could literally rip someone apart and, even though Nico wasn't afraid to die, he would have preferred to go out a different way.