The next morning, the group woke up in their cuddle pile and it took them a moment to register why they were sleeping like this. And then the memories of the day before came rushing back. None of them wanted to start reading, and yet at the same time they were all desperate to know if Percy and Annabeth got out of the Pit alive. Breakfast was provided to them in the throne room, but nobody felt very hungry. They pushed food around their plates, only taking a few bites before deciding they didn’t want anymore.
As soon as Percy had finished eating, Apollo dragged him out of the room to have a talk. They went into the first empty room they found and collapsed onto the couch.
“This is all her fault. If she hadn’t been so stupid…” Apollo growled.
“No!” Percy glared at him. “This was not Annabeth’s fault. She was down there for hours with her worst nightmare. She’s allowed to be a little shaken and not think straight. We all missed the webs around her legs.”
“That’s not what I mean. She had won. And because of her pride she taunted the monster who then hit her with the webs which none of you noticed. Only, her fatal flaw isn’t only fatal to herself, she’s going to get you killed too!”
“I fell because I chose to. Loyalty is supposedly my flaw, so we both fell because of them. That was my choice. I could have let her go but I wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t let her go alone. I wouldn’t let anyone go there alone,” Percy replied.
“Except, you would. Or your future-self would have done. It might have been your flaw of loyalty that made you fall, but it only extended to Annabeth. If that had been Hazel falling into the Tartarus, you really think your future-self would have left Annabeth topside to go with Hazel?” Apollo asked angrily. Percy grimaced. He would like to be able to say yes without any hesitation. Right now, he knew he would go, alone if it was at all possible. But his future-self had been pretty clingy to Annabeth. Which Percy totally understood considering what his future-self had gone through, but he didn’t feel the same now.
“My future-self might not have done,” He said slowly. “But that version of me doesn’t exist anymore.”
“You chose to fall into Tartarus, with no idea if you would even survive the fall, let alone Tartarus itself.” Percy could detect the hint of jealousy, but there was also something else in Apollo’s tone that he couldn’t identify.
“Apollo,” He looked at the god sitting beside him. “You know I would do the same for you. I’d go to Tartarus if it would save your life.” Rather than making Apollo look relieved, he looked even more horrified by this.
“What?” Percy was confused.
“I don’t want you to die for me! Or go through literal Hell to prove you love me. I want you to live. Heck I want you to want to live!" Apollo yelled. Then he sighed and visibly tried to calm himself. “Am I jealous that without this interference you would have loved her enough to do that…yes. But I hate that part of myself. And mostly, I just hate that you feel the need to do something like that to prove yourself. You tell me you love me a thousand times every day just by being here, putting up with my ridiculous jealousy, by cooking pizza for me and planning a date out. Those are ways to show how you feel that don’t include almost killing yourself. Dying for someone is easy. Living for them when life gets hard…that’s the difficult part.”
“Apollo,” Percy started and then he trailed off. He had no idea what to say to that. “You know I’ll have to go to Tartarus eventually. If we don’t close the Doors of Death, then we won’t be able to stop the giants, or Gaea. And then she’ll destroy everything, both of us included.”
“We’ll see,” Apollo stated grimly. “We have time. And once we finish these books we’ll have, hopefully, enough information. Things will change and who knows how that will affect later events. Maybe the Fates’ intervention will render the prophecies null and void, so more will be given out. Or maybe they won’t and the old one will stand. We have no way of knowing; this hasn’t happened before. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Percy figured that was the best he was going to get for now.
“We should get back.”
“Yeah,” Apollo agreed reluctantly. He made no effort to actually move though, despite his agreement. Instead, he pulled Percy closer to him for a hug. They clung to each other until the door opened and Poseidon came in, with Triton and Amphitrite right behind. Each of them hugged the couple tightly.
“Perseus, you really are trying to give a god a heart attack,” Poseidon glared at his son. “Which is impossible!” Percy hugged his dad again.
“I promise it’s not deliberate,” He grinned.
“Not all of it, anyway,” Triton corrected. Percy shrugged. “Tartarus, little bro? Stupid. But I get why you did it.”
“You are going nowhere near the place,” Poseidon snapped. “Triton, don’t encourage him.”
“I’m not encouraging him; I’m saying I understand. He didn’t just fall without thinking. He got Nico to promise to lead the others to the topside site of the Doors of Death. If Percy and Annabeth pull this off, then it swings the war hugely in our favour. Her minions won’t be able to come back so freely. Monsters will actually take time to reform.” Triton glared back at his father.
“Both of you stop fighting. None of this will help Percy,” Amphitrite looked at her husband and her son sternly. “This hasn’t happened yet. And the only thing we can do is continue reading so we have all the information possible. Then we can discuss any possible plans.” She didn’t look any happier about it than they did, but she knew someone had to keep their heads.
“I don’t like it,” Poseidon grumbled.
“None of us do,” Apollo pointed out unhappily. “But Percy and Amphitrite are right. There is nothing we can do about it now.” They all nodded their agreement.
“Let us return. The sooner we start reading, the sooner we can find out what we need to know,” Triton said.
“This is going to suck,” Percy complained. They all agreed with that too but headed out of the room anyway.
Back in the throne room all of the demigods were gathered around Annabeth. Connor and Thalia were on either side of her while Grover was sitting right behind.
Hazel, Leo, Piper, Jason and Frank were all off slightly to one side. All of them felt beyond guilty that their future-selves had not been able to stop Percy and Annabeth falling into Tartarus. None of them knew what to say. Percy and Annabeth had both made it clear they didn’t blame any of them, and yet they all still felt like they should have done more. They had gotten the statue but lost two of their friends.
Leo felt more guilty than the rest because he still felt it was at least partly due to the fortune cookie he had broken. He felt like he was at war with himself. Opening that cookie had saved himself, Frank and Hazel. That was something he couldn’t regret. And yet, if sending Percy and Annabeth to Tartarus was the cost…he felt like he had no right to make that choice.
“Demigods,” Zeus spoke up. “I know all of you are worried for your friends. I see that you all want to help them, but we shall read the rest of these books before we decide if going to Tartarus is even necessary, let alone who should go.”
“It’s going to be necessary,” Thalia told her father. “Gaea has been planning this for years.”
“But the Doors of Death were not fixed in place until around the time Hera switched Percy and Jason. That was when the monsters starting reforming immediately,” Chiron reminded her. “And we have no idea how this reading will change things in the future. Therefore, we may be able to prevent Thanatos’ capture and help stop Gaea from controlling the Doors of Death.” They all nodded. Most of them felt like that would be too good to be true, and so was unlikely to happen, but they could hope. Hope of changing things was the only way they were going to get through the readings.
Percy, Apollo and the sea crew finally came back into the room. Everyone eyed the next book warily.
“Hey, Percy, weren’t you supposed to be dueling Mr. D?” Clarisse asked, trying to delay the reading.
“Yes. I was,” Percy recalled, narrowing his eyes at their Camp Director.
“Perhaps we should save that for this evening,” Apollo said. He didn’t want any more delays. He wanted to know that Percy survived the initial drop into Tartarus.
“I shall read first,” Zeus stated. Reyna quickly went to fetch Octavian. None of them particularly wanted him there, but Reyna didn't trust him to wander around Olympus by himself. WHen she got back, dragging him along, Zeus took the book and opened it.
“What?” Everyone yelped.
“No. NO! We need to know what happened to Annabeth and Percy,” Grover bleated in alarm.
“Yeah, no offense to the rest of you, but that’s far more important right now,” Connor agreed.
“Hey, we agree with you,” Hazel told him.
“Well, I’m sure we will find out shortly,” Percy assured them, even though he wasn’t any happier about having to wait for an unknown number of chapters. Zeus began reading.