Annabeth was terrified.
Of course, there was no reason not to be considering that she and her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, had just tumbled off a cliff into the vast pit of eternal despair: Tartarus.
Considering all the rumors she had heard about Tartarus, the place wasn't really all that bad. Sure, it wasn't paradise, but it also wasn't the kind of place you'd expect the gods themselves to fear. But she knew that there was worse to come- she still couldn't shake that weak, beaten-up image of Nico di Angelo from her head. His skin had been as pale as moonlight, and no one was able to get him to speak for a while. He shook as he told them all that the things he had endured were terrible, and Annabeth had hoped that she would never have to undergo the same things. Nico was the son of Hades, who was the god of the Underworld. If Annabeth expected anyone to rise from Tartarus in healthy condition, it was Nico, but even he hadn't come out completely sane.
It seemed to Annabeth that she had been falling forever. She and Percy had lost grasp of each other almost as soon as his fingers peeled from the rock up above. Annabeth thought she could see him down below, a vague silhouette still falling, but something about the way his arms were flapping around seemed unnatural; almost as if he had burned out and been knocked unconscious.
Please be okay, please be okay, she thought, over and over again.
As her seemingly never-ending fall into Tartarus continued, Annabeth began to pick at the spider web caught on her ankle. After all, Percy had fallen in with Annabeth as he had attempted to cut it off, but instead had been sucked into this mess alongside her.
As long as we're together, he had said, trying to make her feel better. Even that hadn't worked out.
She continued to tug on the web as she realized that everything around her was creepily the same; the "walls" that surrounded her were perfectly smooth and the color of wet cement, she heard no noise except for that of the swoosh! of her own body falling, the air seemed to have a faint green tint, and the whole place smelled just about as bad as Percy always smelled when he returned from a game of capture the flag back at Camp Half Blood. She would always give him a nudge in the shoulder or a kick on the shin or whatever felt appropriate for the occasion and say, "Go hit the shower, Seaweed Brain. You smell like a dead walrus."
He would smile in that really cute way that Annabeth loved, give her a peck on the cheek, and run off somewhere, whether or not to take a shower she would never know.
Annabeth loved him so much, and she wished that they both could just stay at Camp Half Blood and not have to deal with the Prophecy of Seven or anything like that. She wished that they could play capture the flag every day, that no one would go missing for eight months straight or get amnesia or be taken over by spirits. She wished that Camp Jupiter would never have gotten in the way of things, and most of all she wished she could give Percy a really big hug instead of tumbling to her death.
But those were the good old days, and those were over.
She regretted getting lost in her thoughts as soon as she saw what lay ahead of her where she had not yet fallen. For the first time, the barrier around her was not perfectly straight or smooth. In fact, she saw a large, sturdy-looking cliff-like rock protruding from it, and her supposedly passed-out boyfriend was headed straight toward it.
Before Annabeth could even think about panicking, SLAM!
Of course, Annabeth couldn't see all that well with the greenish glow all around her, but she was 99% sure that Percy had crashed into the rock, causing everything around her to shake. She screamed a terrified scream, but heard nothing from Percy. She heard her heart pounding inside her ears. Her breaths became quick and loud, and she felt that the one thing she need to do was get over to the cliff and see if he was okay.
She knew in her heart, however, that she might have been guilty of wishful thinking. Annabeth was approaching the cliff quickly, and she realized with horror that she would slam into the rock just as hard as Percy did if she didn't do anything to stop herself- and fast.
She was desperate for something; anything that would slow her fall. She was willing to try the first idea that came to mind- and that idea happened to be to throw her shirt off and use it to substitute a parachute.
Annabeth followed through with her plan in haste (luckily she was wearing and undershirt), and she proved successful. She slowly sank through the air for a moment, and then prepared herself for landing. Her feet landed softly against the wide rock, right next to Percy. Tossing her shirt back on and biting her lip, she crouched down by him and set her hand over his chest, checking for breathing. His skin was grimy and sticky, but that didn't make her hesitate for even a second. At first, her heart sank, for she felt no signs of life, but then she sensed a small up ,down, up, down, and her eyes welled with tears. He was alive! Percy was really, truly alive!
She swept his sweaty black hair out of his eyes and stared at his motionless, sleeping face for a while. He was such a good-looking guy, even when he was close to death. In fact, it was even more stunning at those times when life was on the line. His eyebrows looked really cute when he got worried. But of course now his face was expressionless; his mouth a straight line, his eyelids not squeezed shut, but closed all the same. She sat up, propped his head up on her shoulder, and gave him that hug she had been wishing for earlier.
"I love you, Percy," she whispered, her voice raspy, being the first time she'd spoken for awhile. "I wish we didn't have to do this. I wish I would have cut the spider web off earlier." she took a shaky breath and squeezed Percy tighter, giving herself a sense of safety. "I wish this stupid place didn't exist."
She stopped talking for a moment to listen to the nothingness she was sitting in. Tartarus didn't have any winds, or even a breeze, so the place truly was silent. Annabeth cocked her head upwards to see if she could make out the entrance from which she had fallen, but the green tint seemed to distort everything from a distance away. She sighed, not knowing what to do next. Tears collected in her eyes once more, but didn't run down her face.
All of a sudden, she heard a noise. It was a small noise, but in Tartarus, it seemed thunderous.
"Hi," the noise said.
Annabeth couldn't tell where it was coming from, and she sprang up to her feet, letting Percy slide out of her arms, glancing around at everything. She saw nothing that could have been the source for such a human-like sound, and she reached for her pocket, where she kept her knife, only to remember that she had lost it earlier that day. She moaned in despair.
"Hey, Wise Girl," the voice said again. "Be more careful next time. Don't let go of my hand the next time something like this happens again, okay?"
Annabeth's eyes went wide in shock, but she continued to stare at the blank wall in front of her.
No, she thought. Not now. Not a voice-imitating Cyclops. Not while I have a passed-out boyfriend to carry around.
She suddenly felt a hand tap on her leg. Annabeth let out a small scream as the hairs on her neck stood up, but then stopped herself. She slowly rotated her head to her feet, already knowing that some sort of monster would be awaiting her.
But she was wrong.
She looked down to see Percy lying on the floor, his eyes open and looking at her, and amused even. He was smiling a devious smile; that really cute grin he put on whenever he thought he had outsmarted Annabeth.
"Got you, didn't I?" Percy said, still lying on his stomach and propping himself up on his elbows. He stuck two fists under his chin, opened his eyes really wide, and started batting his eyebrows at a rapid speed, imitating an innocent-looking snob, or at least that's what Annabeth assumed. Percy could be such a crazy guy sometimes she didn't always understand his motives.
Annabeth was so overwhelmed that tears began to stream down her face, and she fell down to Percy and gave him another huge hug, except for this time he hugged back. She rested her face on his shoulder, sniffling and crying; but smiling all the same.
"You. Are. Such. A. Seaweed. Brain," she said jokingly as she sniffled some more. "Were you awake this whole time?"
"Yup," he replied, holding her tighter and patting her back. "Just felt like having a little fun."
"Yeah, 'cuz it's real fun to slam yourself into a rock."
Percy's tone sounded confused.
Annabeth laughed some more.
"You weren't awake this whole time."
"Um... no, I guess not."
"I love you, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth sighed, her head still perched on his shoulder.
"I know. I have that effect on people."
"Stop it, would you!" Annabeth laughed, playfully slapping his shoulder as she sat up to look him in the eye.
"How long d'you think we've been down here?" Annabeth asked, setting her hands in her lap. Percy stretched out again on his stomach and used his elbows to prop himself up.
"I dunno. I fell asleep, remember?"
"I bet it's been at least a couple hours."
"We were falling for that long?"
"What do you think the others are doing right now? Do you think they've set off yet?"
"Probably," Percy said. "I'm kind of worried about them, though."
"Or worried that we won't make it to the Doors in time."
Percy looked at her square in the eye, not jokingly, but very serious in fact.
"Don't say that," he told her. "We will get across, okay?"
Annabeth bit her lip, unsure. She looked up at Percy, who was now sitting up. She crawled over to him and let him hug her for the third time that day. But who would blame them, anyway? Annabeth needed to have that feel of comfort, to know that she was there with him.
"As long as we're together," she said. Percy nodded.
"As long as we're together."
At that moment, Annabeth forgot every single one of her troubles. She and Percy were together, and that was all that really mattered. She smiled to herself, Percy still holding onto her tightly, and she wished that the moment would never end.
But it did end.
"Sorry to break this up between you two," A raspy female voice from near them on the cliff said. "But we don't sit around all day embracing youthful love here in Tartarus."
Annabeth and Percy turned around, expecting something terrible, but seeing something even more so.
The figure in front of them was familiar: green, twisty snakes in place of hair, a pathetically ugly face, and eyes that both of them new better than to look into.
When Medusa saw their faces, she automatically recognized them. She clasped her hands together in delight.
"Well, lookie here! Perseus Jackson and Annabeth Chase have come to Tartarus! What brings you here?"
Percy glared at her and reached for his pocket, where his sword/pen, Riptide, was always kept. He slipped it out, uncapped it, and watched as it grew into a two-foot-long sword. He held it in front of him, probably trying to threaten Medusa, but she only laughed.
"Oh, you might as well throw that thing out," Medusa pointed to the sword. "You can't kill any of us monsters here. We're regenerating. Nothing can hurt us, but we can hurt you."
Annabeth glanced at Percy's face. He was trying to keep a courageous expression, but Annabeth could tell in his eyes that he knew that Medusa was right.
She snapped her fingers, commanding the cliff they were standing on to disappear, causing Percy and Annabeth to fall again. They braced themselves, but then realized that their fall was only a few feet. The green air had really messed with their eyesight. They looked around and saw a city- if you could call it that. Monsters and such were buzzing around everywhere, Fights broke out here and there. Vague forms of poorly-built homes were scattered about, and the entire place was simply chaos. The green air didn't clear up, and Annabeth was sure there was something that she wasn't seeing because of it. She saw Percy's jaw drop ever so slightly.
Medusa cackled. "Welcome to Death, Perseus Jackson! Enjoy your stay!"
And with that, she disappeared in a poof of smoke.
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