Jason hadn’t thought it was possible to be this shocked- that is, he hadn't thought it was possible until he spoke to Nico D’Angelo.
Nico was a pretty creepy kid all on his own. Add to that the fact that he'd journeyed through Tartarus all on his own and still somehow come out alive, and that he was now explaining how Percy and Annabeth had also fallen into Tartarus. To be honest, it was getting to the point where Jason really wanted to head in the other direction.
He couldn’t believe it. Percy and Annabeth were probably the most experienced demigods alive, and now he didn’t even know if they were alive. Nico said they 'd promised to meet the rest of the Seven on the other side of the Doors of Death, but Jason was afraid that after the fall into the depths of Hades, Percy and Annabeth would be in no shape to do anything of the sort.
He still couldn’t even believe they had fallen at all. Annabeth was way too smart, Percy way too powerful, way too good.
Frank and Hazel were down in the stables, staring through the glass floor; they had seemed so shellshocked . . . Jason had always thought of Hazel as slightly lost, but very strong, yet Hazel had hardly stopped crying long enough to tell her brother she was happy he was alright. Frank just seemed lost.
Leo kept muttering under his breath, and talking to Festus, like maybe that would help. Maybe Festus knew something; he could fix everything, right?
Piper had locked herself in her room immediately, and hadn't come out since. Jason tried to talk to her, but nothing worked. She wouldn’t even answer him when he knocked on her door.
Coach Hedge was basically fine. Saying that Annabeth and Percy were 'some of the toughest cupcakes he’d ever seen', and that 'they were going to probably blow everyone out of the sky one day', the old satyr had disappeared into his room looking unruffled and ready for the next monster attack.
Jason had never been able to understand Coach. Only fifteen minutes before, the Satyr had said it was all his fault for not charging in and saving them.
Then there was Nico. Jason remembered seeing Nico around at Camp Jupiter; Jason had always thought he was a little scary- Powerful and mysterious sure, and sad -but definitely scary. So, after trying to talk to every other person (or goat) on the Argo II, Jason gave up and went to the medical area to talk to Nico.
The son of Hades was sitting staring out one of the portholes. He looked even sadder than he had before.
“Hey, Jason,” he said quietly before Jason got too close. The son of Zues quickly gave Nico the once over. The younger boy looked exhausted, and he kept randomly grabbing small bits of food from the plate on the table next to his bed.
His ribs were prominent, and there were dark circles under his eyes, despite the fact that he had been in a self induced coma for the past few days.
“Hey Nico. You alright?” he asked. The other boy didn't answer, and Jason realized suddenly that that was probably a stupid question. He noticed that Nico was holding tightly to something in his hand. “What's that?”
Nico turned towards Jason, his dark eyes unreadable. “I found Annabeth’s dagger,” he said softly. “She must have dropped it; you know, before they fell.”
Jason flinched. He knew that the little dagger had meant a lot to Annabeth, although he didn't know the story behind it. For her to have dropped it . . .
He shook his head quickly. “How did you meet Percy and Annabeth?” he said quickly, trying for a change in conversation.
Nico winced. “The Satyr protector that was assigned to my sister and I was Grover Underwood; he was their protector as well before they first came to camp, so when he realized that there was a powerful monster at the school my sister and I were at, he contacted them and Thalia, and asked if they'd come help,” he said shortly.
Jason felt shocked. Thalia? Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia had been the ones to bring Nico to Camp?
Nico kept talking. “Everything went wrong: my sister, Bianca, and I, were captured by the monster, which was a Manticor. Percy tried to rescue us, but got injured, and since we didn’t know about the gods yet, we thought we were crazy, or at least that he was crazy.
“Annabeth was knocked over the side of the cliff, along with the Manticor, and the Hunters showed up. Bianca joined them, and we went to Camp. No one knew who my Dad was back then,” Nico told Jason.
Jason tried to follow what Nico was saying, but he was just becoming more and more surprised. “Wait, this sounds like the beginning of the quest Thalia told me about, when she and Percy went to rescue Artemis and Annabeth,” he exclaimed.
Nico nodded. “That’s the one. Zoe Nightshade, Bianca, Thalia, Grover, and another Hunter were going to go rescue her, but the Stolls played a pretty cruel prank on that last Hunter. The rest of the questers thought it would be fine if they just left her, but Percy followed them because he rightly thought that when they found Artemis they’d find Annabeth. He'd wanted to go originally, but was vetoed because Zoe hated him, and Chiron thought it was too personal.”
“He found them, didn't he?" Jason interrupted. “But Zoe died, and so did Bianca.”
Nico looked at Jason sadly. “For the longest time I blamed Percy for the death of my sister, despite the fact that he was probably one of the only Half-bloods that would even remotely except me. When I accepted that he wasn’t my enemy, we became friends. I helped him achieve the curse of Achilles.”
That was something Jason had heard about over and over. Percy Jackson having the curse of Achilles, and fighting Titans, and going on quest after quest.
Before arriving back at Camp Jupiter, he was sure he was going to hate the guy, but once he got there, he realized that Percy was actually one of the nicest people he had ever met.
Of course, having been raised in Rome . . . Percy was definitely nicer than every single Roman ever born. Except maybe Hazel. Oh, and Frank. Those two were pretty exceptional.
Annabeth, despite her distrust in him, was always at least polite, if not very helpful. She was fierce, and a fighter. She definitely cared for her friends, and to be honest, she'd definitely been the leader of the quest. Jason wasn't exactly sure what they were supposed to do without her.
And Percy was so loyal to his friends it was crazy, and anyone could see that he was deeply in love with Annabeth. Instead of just letting her fall into Tartarus, he’d fallen with her. It occurred to Jason that Nico probably knew Percy and Annabeth way better than anyone else on the Argo II.
“Nico, do you think they’ll actually be able to meet us at the doors of death?” Jason asked his cousin quietly.
The son of Hades looked at Jason. “Like I told you before, Percy is the most powerful Demigod I have ever met. If anyone can survive Tartarus, those two will.”
Jason felt a wave of reassurance. He also felt a little surprised that Nico thought Percy was so powerful. Sure Jason hadn’t really seen too much of what Percy could do, but it seemed to him that he would be the more powerful Demigod because of their parentage. Then again, maybe that stuff didn’t matter.
He thought about Piper. The Aphrodite children were all pretty weak, other than her. And Frank was not your stereotypical son of Mars, either.
So maybe, somehow, Percy was a lot stronger than Jason. He would just have to hope so, because Jason didn’t think he would have been able to survive Tartarus.
Normally Jason was fine with being the leader, but when two of his friends had just sacrificed themselves, falling into Tartarus, he didn’t feel as eager. After his conversation with Nico, he went right to his room, and tried to sleep. He doubted he would be able to, but finally he did.
Of course, because a demigod having a good night’s sleep would be a crime, he immediately began to dream.
Most people like to dream, right? Well for pretty much every demigod that ever lived, dreams are either extremely helpful or horrible nightmares.
Jason’s dream was a mix of both.
For maybe a minute he was relieved at the sight of both his cousin, and his cousin’s girlfriend, then he realized where they were, and what was happening.
Percy and Annabeth were falling, still falling. Annabeth appeared to be unconscious, but Percy was awake. He was breathing hard, and looked exhausted. He was clinging to his girlfriend as though his life depended on it.
“When does it end?” he asked faintly, and for a moment, Jason thought that Percy was talking to him.
Then a voice came from nowhere. “I’m sorry, my little Hero, this wasn’t meant to happen. You were supposed to stay with the other five. But since you have chosen this path, I suppose I must compensate you.”
Suddenly Percy and Annabeth slowed down, and were set gently down onto a rough rocky area. Around them, fires glowed, and Jason could hear the sound of monsters coming from all sides.
Percy groaned, letting go of Annabeth and trying to sit up. “Hera, what do you mean I wasn’t supposed to come down here? Do you actually think I would let Annabeth fall into Tartarus on her own?” he asked, anger in his words.
Jason flinched, sure that his Patron would blast Percy to shreds. But Hera just sighed in annoyance. “No wonder my husband finds you so annoying. Perseus Jackson, for sacrificing yourself, I have been told to assist you. But since your girlfriend will not allow that, instead I will give you something.”
Jason’s dream shifted, and suddenly Gaia was speaking in her horrible sleepy voice.
“There, little Hero, have I put your mind at rest? Too late for your friends, I will sacrifice them yet, and the world will again be mine.”
Jason woke to light streaming in through the porthole next to his bed. For a minute he wondered why it was quiet.
Usually, Leo would have woken him up by yelling through his speakers that breakfast was ready, and they should get themselves up there before Percy ate it all . . .
Jason winced at the thought. He’d forgotten, if only for a few minutes, what had happened the previous day, as well as his dreams.
He sighed and got up. He needed to keep going; they needed to contact camp, and tell Chiron what had happened on the Quest, and about Percy and Annabeth. Not to mention the fact that a few hundred Romans were headed his way, ready to attack.
Jason ventured slowly into the hall. Every single door was closed.
He wondered if anyone was even awake; Leo probably was, and Coach Hedge might be as well.
He went to the deck of the Argo II, and was surprised to see Piper standing near the railing, watching the landscape as they flew past.
Her hair was flying all over the place, and for a few minutes Jason just stared at her. Gods she was beautiful.
He moved over to her, leaning on the railing next to her. “If I fall, you’re catching me,” Piper whispered.
Jason flinched. He remembered she had said that when they were in Aeolus’ palace. Then he had blushed, now it made him feel as though the fact that Percy and Annabeth were gone was his fault.
He could have saved them.
“Jason, it wasn’t your fault,” Piper’s voice flowed over him, and he knew she wasn’t even using Charmspeak. She believed that it wasn’t his fault.
“Piper, are you ok?” he asked her quietly. She looked miserable, completely miserable. As he watched, a tear slid down her cheeks, and then Piper was crying and Jason was holding her.
He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. They just stood there for a few minutes before someone coughed awkwardly.
Jason turned quickly to see Frank standing on deck looking at them awkwardly.
“Jason, you and Piper need to come to the dining room; everyone else is there. Hazel received an Iris Message.”
Jason stiffened. “Hazel received an Iris Message? But aren’t those generally only used by Greek Demigods?” he asked, "and weren't they a little out of whack?"
Frank nodded, and his eyes looked troubled. “We have special connections with the goddess of the Rainbow. Just wait until you hear who messaged her,” he told them, as the three moved towards the dining room.
Jason and Piper exchanged worried glances. “Who?” they asked at the same time.
Frank’s eyes met Jason’s. “Reyna.”