There were no last words for Percy Jackson.
It had happened so fast Jason almost missed it. One minute he was there, the next, he was simply gone. As if he had never existed in the first place.
It was a routine skirmish. A couple of dracanae just outside the camp limits had to be dealt with. Nothing they hadn't done what felt like a billion times before. Better still, the monsters were on the beach, giving Percy a definite advantage. They left armed and armoured, planning to return by lunch.
At first it was exactly that-a routine skirmish. Jason wasn't sure what exactly went wrong. It was as if the dracanae just really, really didn't want to die. Which was probably true-but they were fighting so hard Jason had to put all his concentration into the fight. He didn't have time to stop and summon lightning. His armour was hot and unwieldy, pieces of it being ripped off by the monsters. At his back, Percy was having the same problems, but he was still fighting like a demon, swearing in Ancient Greek. Jason wasn't sure exactly what the demigod was saying, but he was pretty sure it wasn't pleasant. Still, you had to admire the guy's persistence.
Jason ran his sword through the dracanae with a battle cry and one last massive effort. Mercifully, the monster at last into dust. To Jason's horror, it seemed as if it were trying to reform. He was momentarily stunned by the flashback to Gaea's brief and brutal reign of terror, and kicked desperately at the ash, scattering it. He stood, breathing hard, when he head the beginnings of the shout.
He whirled, sword raised, just in time for to see the dracanae stab Percy through his rib cage.
Percy had jumped in front of a knife heading for Jason's back. In the split second it took him to realize this he'd let out a roar of rage as Percy slumped to the ground. The sky split open and lightning flashed down from the heavens in an awe-inspiring clap of thunder. The dracanae was incinerated on the spot, and you could hear the booming echoes of the blast all the way across Long Island Sound. Jason dropped to his knees beside Percy, his heart slamming against his rib cage, terror filling him.
"Percy!" He shouted, "Percy!"
Percy was still, his eyes closed. The wound in his chest seeped blood. Jason yanked the dagger out before considering whether or not that was a good idea. It didn't matter. Percy didn't even flinch. His breastplate and armour lay in pieces on the sand, either cast away or ripped off. In the back of Jason's mind, it occurred to him what an excellent strategy that had been-to strip away all their protection, to keep them too busy to use their powers. And now Percy's blood was soaking the sand.
Jason was terrified. Percy wasn't moving. Jason wasn't even sure if he was breathing. He pulled Percy to his feet and pulled the guy's arm around his own shoulders, shouting at him to snap out of it. Jason was shaking with fear, anger, grief, helplessness…
"Don't you dare die for me, Jackson!" He screamed. "Don't you dare die for me!"
The ashes scattered in the wind. The sky remained stormy grey from the lightning strike, the wind picking up, carrying with it the salty scent of the sea…
The sea. If anything could heal Percy, Jason thought desperately, it was the sea. He pulled Percy towards the ocean. Blood trickled down the hero's orange Camp shirt. His head was bent down, and Jason could see the leather tie of his bead necklace.
Everyone at camp-what would they do if Percy-
Jason couldn't even finish the thought. Hot bitter tears ran down his face as he reached the sea. He pulled Percy a few feet out . Percy floated motionless on the water, blood swirling around him. A strange, eerie calm seemed to wash over his face. A ripple, like a final burst of magic, seemed to flash out, briefly and quietly, in all directions.
That was when Jason really and truly knew that the Hero of Olympus was gone.
"Oh, gods," he choked, his knees giving way so he was sitting on the sand with water up to his chest, "Oh, gods."
This could not be happening.
"Poseidon!" Jason screamed desperately looking up at the sky. The water turned cold around him and he shivered. "Do something!" he shouted, choking on the words. "Anything! Dad? Pluto? Somebody help me, please!"
The sky crackled with lightning. The heavens opened and fierce, cold rain started to fall. Jason gasped in shock. He almost burst out in angry shouts, when he realized this was not merely the gods ignoring him. This was their farewell, their sadness, for all the world to see. One last salute to the boy who could've been immortal-and chose his friends instead.
Jason's tears mingled with rainwater. He stared numbly at Percy's body. It felt like the gods had given up on him. Jason thought of everyone back at camp who really and truly expected Percy to come home. Annabeth-oh, gods, Annabeth-Sally Jackson, Tyson, Hazel, Frank, Thalia, Piper, Leo, Rachel…
Jason could've collapsed right there and sobbed for ages. Percy couldn't just leave. Too many people loved him. He was a boyfriend, a brother, a son, a friend. If love could keep a person alive Percy would've lived for eons. He was supposed to be safe now. He was supposed to be starting his sophomore year in New Rome this fall…he was supposed to be back at camp eating that crazy blue food he liked and joking with Leo… he was supposed to be kissing Annabeth…
Carrying Percy's body back to all those people who thought he was still alive would be the hardest thing Jason Grace had ever done.
There was still a part of him that could not believe Percy Jackson was really gone, that he wouldn't pop back up shouting "That was one heck of a knife!" or something equally seaweed-brained. Percy was heavy, and Jason had to carry him around his shoulders. If Percy had been alive, he would've made some kind of a joke about it, but if Percy had been alive, Jason wouldn't be carrying him, he wouldn't have acid tears running down his cheeks, the rain wouldn't be falling…
Jason's tears stopped as he walked. He went numb. He felt like there was a piece of him missing, and there was an achey kind of pain where his heart was. He walked on, part of him wishing he were already there, part of him dreading his arrival.
At the base of Half-Blood Hill Jason stopped to catch his breath and swallow hard. He changed Percy's position in his arms, so that he was carrying the fallen hero like a groom carries a bride over a threshold…like Percy would never carry Annabeth…
He climbed the hill.
He was halfway up when Piper crested him. She screamed his name, a relieved sound, and started to run towards him, slowly so as not to tumble down the steep hill.
"Jason!" she cried, the relief potent in her voice. "We saw-the lightning-we thought-"
And then she stopped short.
Jason kept climbing. He brushed past her, determined to make it to the top of the hill, unable to look her in the eyes. She trailed after him, her hands over her mouth, starting to tremble. They reached the top of the hill at last. Gently, he lowered Percy to the ground. Percy's head tilted to the sky and he was still. Jason slumped back on his knees, numb.
"Oh, gods," Piper gasped, shaking. "Oh, gods, no…"
Hazel raced up the hill, Frank at her heels. They could make out the two figures at the top of the hill. Hazel was wild-eyed, she had felt one them die, she didn't know which, but maybe she was wrong, there were two figures up there-
Until she reached them and stared down at the body of the boy who had been a brother to her.
"No," she gasped, and it sounded like a moan, "not him…not him…"
She slipped to her knees. Piper threw her arms around Jason and buried her face in his shoulder, but he didn't move, he couldn't move. Frank held Hazel close, though tears streamed down his own face.
"Get Annabeth," Jason croaked, but nobody had to get anyone.
The camp, alerted by the crash of lightning and sudden rain in their climate-controlled camp, was anxiously awaiting the return of the heroes. Piper had been at the base of the hill, and Hazel and Frank had been watching from the field in front of the Big House. When they saw the figure crest the hill Frank shouted, "They're back!" as Hazel took off. Arms and legs pumping, she ran a race she could not win. The finish line didn't hold a victory. The finish line meant death.
Annabeth was the first to crest the hill, Thalia, Rachel, Leo, Tyson, Nico and a bunch of others right behind her.
Piper had never seen Annabeth like that. She was still for one terrible second, and then she fell to her knees and started shaking Percy like you should never shake an injured person, screaming his name.
"Percy!" She screamed, "Percy, come back!"
She whirled and faced the gathering crowd of campers. "Somebody do something," she begged.
Hazel had gotten to her feet. She buried her face in Frank's chest, shaking; behind her Rachel held her hands over her mouth as hot tears streamed down her face; Thalia had a look of shock on her face that was terrible to behold. Leo stood numbly, his hands, one of them still gripping a hammer, dangling limply by his sides. Nico's face was all shadows, tears glistening in the darkness. Tyson stood looking as if he did not quite understand what was happening. He stepped forward as Annabeth buried her face in Percy's chest and sobbed.
"Brother?" he rasped, and his voice broke. Rachel stifled a sob. Tyson stood over Percy's body, and tears started to glisten in his eyes. "Brother?" he asked again, his voice thick. "Why did you leave? Why did you leave without saying goodbye?"
Hazel couldn't watch any more.
"Brother?" Tyson's voice was softer now. He sat down next to Annabeth, and tears slipped down his face.
"It is all right, brother," he whispered, though the words seemed to hurt him. "I forgive you. I will take care of her now. Promise."
Annabeth looked up at the half-Cyclopes and burst into fresh tears. Shockingly, Tyson held her as he cried, keeping his promise to the brother who was long gone.
"It is all right," he said, softly. "He is in Elysium now. It is all right."
Annabeth sobbed harder. In the sky, lightning flashed, and the guards looked down at the clustering figures around the son of Poseidon's body, and could not help noticing how very very broken they all seemed.