Chapter 4! Thanks for reading! Please review!

Disclaimer: All rights belong to Rick Riordan


Piper stared at her knees, thinking of what had happened. They could have saved them. They could have been paying attention, all of them. They could have forgotten the statue for just a moment to save Percy and Annabeth. They could have, they could have, they could have… Piper had been the least preoccupied of them all. She should have heard Nico and Hazel's cries for help. She should have, she should have, she should have…

No one blamed her, of course. Everyone blamed themselves. They had gone down to the mess hall area and were sitting around the table in silence. Every now and then they'd hear a boom or cursing from above. That was Leo trying to install the Archimedes sphere. Piper thought that he was trying to get his mind off of Percy and Annabeth. She wished she had something to preoccupy herself with.

Nico had assured them that Annabeth and Percy weren't dead, but they could die any minute, couldn't they? Or they could be seriously injured. Piper didn't completely understand the whole bottomless pit thing… If it was a bottomless pit, how could you "find your way through Tartarus"? Were the Doors of Death just somewhere on the way down and you had to make sure not to miss them? She wanted to ask Nico but at the same time she didn't want to bring up bad memories for him. He might not even be entirely sure.

But Piper couldn't believe it. Percy and Annabeth were just… gone. Fallen. Would die soon, probably, if they weren't already dead. Piper had become pretty good friends with Annabeth these past six months, and now Annabeth was gone. Just like that. Disappeared. One moment she and Percy were there and the next they weren't. Piper had thought that once they found Annabeth, this part of their journey was done. That there would be no more dangers until Greece. That they might actually get a break. They would sail to Greece, and that was where they would meet the giants and close the Doors of Death, since they had turned out to be in Greece, not Rome. But then Percy and Annabeth had fallen all because of her inattentiveness.

Piper glanced up at Nico. He was leaning back in his chair, the front two legs off the ground, with his knees propped against the table. He was fiddling with a little statue, staring at it but staring past it. He was remembering his time in Tartarus, Piper knew. His eyes looked broken, sad, like he had given up all hope. She prayed that Annabeth and Percy wouldn't look like that if they escaped Tartarus. No, when they escaped Tartarus.

(POV switch to Nico) Nico di Angelo was playing with the little Hades statue Bianca had taken for him. The statue that had cost her her life… Before, Nico had been mad at Percy and at Hades, but now he knew that though the gods could be selfish and rather nasty at times (actually all the time), they weren't the real enemy. What Gaea had shown him was much worse than anything the gods would ever dream of doing.

He wondered where Percy and Annabeth were now. If they were all right. If they were fending off monsters, or if they had been captured by Gaea already. It was probably the latter. Gaea's forces were so strong down in Tartarus… they were impossible to avoid, it seemed.

At least he could sense Percy and Annabeth were alive. He thought at first that he wouldn't be able to because of all the evil spirits and magic in Tartarus, but he was relieved he could. This way he could, in a way, keep track of them. At the same time he wished he couldn't sense anything, because if one or both of them died, he would feel it and would have to tell the others. No, he thought forcefully. They're Percy and Annabeth. They'll be fine. But he doubted himself. He had to believe they would survive, but the more time passed, the less sure he became.

Maybe it was because now he had gotten over the initial shock and had time to sit and think about his own time in Tartarus. Gaea had captured him almost immediately. First he was thrown into some pitch-black cell, then she ordered him taken back to Rome. The thing that bothered Nico the most was that he hadn't been able to avoid capture, and even if he had, he wouldn't have gotten back out into the mortal world without Gaea taking him out. So though Percy and Annabeth were strong and powerful, he didn't see how they would succeed either.

Suddenly Nico heard footsteps coming down and everyone looked up at the door. Leo walked in, his hair smoking, his hands filthy, and he looked sweaty. He plopped down next to Jason and everyone stared at him.

"Stupid ball," Leo muttered, mostly to himself.

"What's wrong with it?" Piper asked.

Leo glanced up at her. "What wrong with it? Oh, nothing's wrong with it. Oh no. It's incredible. It's just the machinery is so complicated, and that's not even the worst part, everything just has to be sooo tiny I can barely see what I'm doing. I think I nearly blew the ship up at one point."

"Try not to do that again," Jason said, and Leo humphed.

"You wanna try installing it?" Leo asked him. Jason quickly shook his head, and Nico smiled slightly, but his smile quickly faded, because his thoughts kept returning to Percy and Annabeth.

Piper glanced at him sadly but didn't say anything. Hazel was also looking at him with an expression of pity and sadness. Nico looked away. He didn't want sympathy right now. He should have done more to save them. He could have… he could have summoned skeletons out of the ground or something! He knew he was too weak and it wouldn't have worked, but he could have at least tried, right? He regretted telling Percy and the others about the Doors of Death being in Tartarus. Maybe if he hadn't said that, Percy would have held on a little longer, and they both could have been saved. But the Doors of Death would need to be closed on the Tartarus side too. It seemed almost too convenient that someone had fallen to Tartarus, because now closing the Doors of Death was Percy and Annabeth's job.

Nico realized that the table had gotten quiet. He glanced up at his crewmates, most of whom had been staring at him, but then quickly looked away when they saw him looking. Nico sighed and let his chair fall forward onto all four legs.

"What do you guys want to know?" he asked, leaning forward on the table.

No one spoke for a moment. They didn't seem to want to make him think about Tartarus any longer, but that was unavoidable now anyway. He might as well answer any questions they might have. He hadn't really elaborated about Epirus, and he hadn't said anything about the danger lurking there.

"Did Gaea tell you anything important?" Nico looked up, surprised. The question came from Frank, who suddenly looked nervous.

Nico shrugged, trying to think back. Mostly stuff about how she was going to destroy the gods and rule the world and no one would be able to stop her…

"She mentioned something about sacrifices." Nico said. Piper drew in a sharp breath. "How she wanted to sacrifice a male and a female demigod on the ancient stones. I'm not sure what ancient stones she meant, but it didn't sound pleasant."

Piper nodded. "We know about that. But you said that Gaea's forces were really strong in Tartarus. If she gets a hold of Percy and Annabeth…"

She didn't have to finish the thought. Nico tried to say something positive. "Well then at least they'll be in the mortal world again. It'll be much easier to for them escape then."

No one said what they were all thinking. If that happened, the Doors of Death would still be opened from the inside, and Nico doubted anyone would want to go back in there and close them, only to get locked in Tartarus for all eternity.

"Come on, guys." Piper said. She put on a confident face. "Don't give up on them. They're Percy and Annabeth. At camp I heard stories of all the amazing things they've done together. This will be just one more memory for them."

"She's right," Jason said. "There's no point in worrying about it now. Let's just focus on one thing at a time. Let's try to get to Epirus first, and worry about Tartarus later. And if Leo can install the Archimedes sphere, we shouldn't have too many monster problems." Jason looked pointedly at Leo.

"Go on, Repair Boy," Piper said, smiling. "You can put it in, right?"

Leo scowled and stood up. "Fine. I'll figure it out myself then. I wonder if anyone could keep me company." He glared around at them all, but everyone knew that by "keep me company," Leo really meant "help me," and no one wanted to get completely filthy and possibly blow the ship up.

"Fine." Leo frowned. "I'll go put it in myself then. But be warned, you will owe it to me when I save your butts from a fire breathing dragon or something!" With that, he stomped out of the room.

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