Nico POV

I watched in shocked silence as my role model crumbled before my eyes. I watched as he finished speaking only to wrap his arms around himself so tightly it was as if he feared they were the only things keeping him together.

Percy Jackson, Saviour of Olympus, looked fragile as he swiftly walked down the same steps I had fled down when I learnt of Bianca's death. As he disappeared into the snowy forest that mirrored the one I had disappeared on a quest for vengeance.

He had always seemed so happy. He joked and smiled and laughed. He never seemed to be snappy or upset when interacting with others. I only knew that wasn't entirely true because the mask had just crumbled before my very eyes.

My question had temporarily broken through his defences. I had glimpsed a version of Percy I'm not sure anyone has seen. Annabeth may have journeyed to Tartarus with him, but she had left a week's surface time later than him. And in Tartarus? I didn't want to think about how much longer that was for him. About what could have happened while he was alone.

I knew now that Percy would not have told Annabeth if something terrible had happened. He kept his pain inside until it boiled over. Annabeth had been terrified of him ever since they left that awful place. It was as if he had done something to frighten her. And if something equally horrible, or worse, occurred when he was alone? Nico didn't think Percy would tell anyone. And lately, it seemed Percy kept secrets from Annabeth more than anyone.