Reyna Ramirez-Arellano died first.
It was...hard. Harder than Thalia had expected it to be; she barely knew the girl, after all-still a girl, because she died young, far younger than she should've. Nineteen years old, and she sacrificed her life to hold the borders of the camp for the two terrified new guards who panicked when the pack of hydras arrived, fending them off without a shield, in pajamas-by the time the mustered legion arrived, she was poisoned beyond saving. No matter how many medics tried.
She died a hero's death-the greatest praetor the legion had ever known. And a warrior until the end.
And maybe, as terrible as that sounds, that made it easier for Thalia. She mourned for weeks, and the girl was always in the back of her mind, right alongside Silena and Phoebe and Michael Yew and Bianca and Luke-oh gods, Luke-and all of the countless others that she'd seen die, and when she did cry the grief was sharp and jagged and overwhelming for that beautiful, ferocious girl who'd held her at knifepoint and threatened her to try and find her friends...but eventually, she had to stop crying. And she had to move on.
And she did. Because seeing someone die in combat-well, a Hunter was used to that. Forget a hunter, even-that was something that every demigod knew. And one of the things that you learned was how to go on.
And so she did.
Nico di Angelo went next-eighteen years old, just growing into his shy smile and his aviator jacket. There one day, and gone the next morning, and that was hard. Just as hard as she'd tried not to know that it would be...
The quiet boy, younger-and then abruptly older-than her, who'd come up to her with his hollow eyes after the war and asked her how well she'd known his sister, who sat down to try and understand why his sister left him behind, and ended up crying into Thalia's shoulder, asking her to be his sister.
Her little brother...the boy who'd told her his secrets and dared to blush about his boyfriend in front of her. The boy who'd started the "We're-Not-Goth" club with her. Who accidentally temporarily cursed her with the fury of hell when she convinced him to let her do his makeup and conspired with the Aphrodite cabin to make it semi-permanent. The boy who she'd been in the middle of a pun war with-and she'd just thought of the perfect corn pun, running through some wood in Colorado with her Hunters, when the scouts came running to tell her that there was a body...
When she was the one who had to kneel down next to the corpse with its lower half gone and face torn to ribbons and look at the skull ring on the hand clawing into the ground and the tattered aviator jacket and the curly black hair in the puddle of blood, and realize who it was.
And she threw up, and she had nightmares about it for months, even though he appeared as a silver shadow in the torrent of campfire smoke that night and told her that he was glad it was her who found him.
And her grief was almost overwhelming, and for one night she ran away and let the lightning crackle out of her and the sky pull every last bit of grief out of her until she was numb and fading away, and for a moment she thought she was dying, and was glad. But death was a part of a demigod's life-there was a monster that caught up with all of them eventually, and you had to accept that, and keep moving.
And so she did.
And then Leo Valdez died, and that, too was harder than she'd thought it would be-that stupidly intelligent, scatterbrained son of Hephaestus, who was just shy of thirty-six, the slightest feather of wrinkles around his eyes, who would tell stories whenever they were together about how he used to be madly in love with her until he found someone even more out of his league, (and wink at his wife), and who until the day he died rivaled Percy Jackson for immaturity and never did learn how to make coffee.
Leo Valdez, who was visiting a cousin in Miami when some fucking racist with a gun shot and killed him because he was Latino and yelled some Spanish curse word at the man when he almost hit him with a car.
And that was hard, far harder than it should've been, and Thalia had to be the one to pin Jason to a Ping-pong table because she was immune to the lightning crackling over his skin, even though she was crying at how stupid the human race was too, even though she wanted to go out and find the man and kill him just as badly as her brother, while Hazel Levesque stood there with Frank Zhang's arms wrapped around her and tears in her eyes and tried to calm him down, and she was desolate and furious and no good to anyone for months.
But eventually, she had to pull herself together, and she had to keep going.
And so she did.
And then the Titan-goddess, (who everyone but Leo seemed to know was just letting herself age alongside him), who Leo'd married just seven years before he died-after a decade of Percy Jackson pulling Thalia into arguments trying to persuade him to go get her back since they'd both had plenty of time apart to see the world-decided that she'd lived long enough and didn't want to live any longer without the only one who'd ever loved her. And so two months after Leo died, the goddess let herself fade, and Thalia had never really had a conversation with her, but it was still terrifying, and shocking, and the world felt like it was changing much too fast.
But she kept going.
And then Clarisse la Rue was forty years old and her heart stopped beating for some reason that no one bothered to explain to Thalia-and she didn't really ever know Clarisse too well, or like her very much-she was just a great warrior, and Thalia respected that-but it still ached somewhere inside her, because it was just...strange.
When she had been at Camp Half-Blood, and when she had visited later, once she was a Hunter, Clarisse was the survivor. The annoying, swaggering cousin who you still counted on to be around something like forever-because you could see her as one of those seventy-year-old women who went to gyms and scared little kids because that wasn't what a grandma was supposed to look like, and she was so tough you got the idea that she was going to outlive you even if you were a Hunter.
And then she was just gone, and the world felt a little more surreal, and that was when it really hit Thalia that she was still not-quite sixteen, and her world was aging away and changing without her.
But you had to keep going.
And she did.
And then Grover Underwood was however old a late-teenaged satyr is, and a hellhound got ahold of him at a park in North Carolina, and she didn't find out about it until she visited Annabeth two months later at her little apartment in New York and the woman with her hair starting to streak to the same color as her eyes told her about it with the sympathy of a teacher explaining to a class that someone in the school had died.
And that shook her more than she had known it would-because Grover was her guarantee. He was her lifeline, another immortal sibling along for the ride. The one she wasn't expecting to have to say goodbye to. And then she did, and it almost broke her, but she didn't let it.
She kept going.
And then Will Solace was forty-one, and he was at Camp Half-Blood teaching children of Apollo how to be medics, and Thalia was the first one there when the Big House collapsed-as everyone, watching it sway ominously for years by then, had said it would.
She was the one who found them, in the tiny cave nowhere near sheltered enough by the beams that had fallen into a stack that somehow had balanced without killing them, who he turned to and smiled, the color already bleached from his skin by the sunlight flooding from his hands and healing so many children on death's doorstep-whispered that he'd tell her little brother hello for her and then slumped over in a glorious blood-red sunset in miniature inside the ruin.
And it was painful how beautiful his death was, and Thalia cried herself to sleep at night for almost a week over this man who she'd barely known, but eventually she locked him away in that deepest part of her heart and had to move on again.
And she did.
And then Hazel Levesque was forty-seven years old when she fell from the back of a rearing horse on a ranch in Arizona and never opened her eyes again. Nico's real sister-who'd nonetheless called Thalia sister for years with a smile in the gold eyes that sent shivers down Thalia's back for years. (Years, while everyone who'd fought in those same wars as Thalia was still too young to be her parents.)
Hazel Levesque, who she'd been visiting on the thirtieth anniversary of their little brother's death two nights before she went out on that last ride, whose dark skin was still unwrinkled except for the faintest possible lines around her eyes when she smiled and whose gold eyes were still just as piercing.
And Thalia was there, uncomfortable by Percy Jackson's invitation, at the funeral when they cremated her, and the wood that lit the pyre was a tiny nub of driftwood that her tall, silver-haired Asian husband laid down on top of the stacked wood and somehow lit without anyone seeing how. And then he sat down as his wife curled up in smoke into the silver night sky and closed his eyes and she wasn't sure when she realized that he was gone too, but it was such a shock that she cried, again, even though she'd never really known him.
And it ached in the hollow just below her collarbone for weeks, and she was shocked and confused...
But she kept going.
And then the Oracle of Delphi, Rachel Elizabeth Dare-who Thalia would never admit to having somewhat fallen in love with when she was younger-was fifty-nine years old. And her red hair was faded to gray-streaked auburn, cropped to short curls around her ears and the fine web of wrinkles on her face in the smiling picture on the front page of the newspaper and all of the articles talking about the murder of the woman who had dissolved Dare Enterprises and donated half the benefits to art programs and the other half to the creation of natural parks.
And it was almost nauseating, to run the monster that had found her to ground-a snarling empousa who had taken two Hunters the same way as the woman before they sent her back to Tartarus-to think that she'd torn the woman apart, and none of them had known before the mortals did...
And the anger and the grief was almost overwhelming, almost enough to make her want to torture the monster instead of ending her quickly, and she was sick like she hadn't been since Nico di Angelo died, and she almost just wanted it to be over, but she knew enough to keep going by this point.
And so she did.
Her brother's wife, Piper McLean, was sixty-two years old when the disease set in.
And Thalia sat with Jason in a million hospital waiting rooms that were all the same one in the end, holding the hand of this silver-haired man who laid his head on her shoulder and cried, as people walking past looked on in sympathy and assumed she was his granddaughter.
She let him use her as his cane as he hollowed out and aged forty years in days, sitting with him in offices where doctors described how Piper was going to die and how there was nothing that they could do, in clinics as he looked for nurses to make her comfortable for the little time she had left, in kitchens as his children and his grandchildren came to say their goodbyes and to murmur their consolations to a father and a grandfather who she had held in her arms when he was four hours old.
She took her leave from the Lady to stay with him for the twenty months that it took for the love of her brother's life to die, withering away from a beautiful white-haired woman to nothing but the quiet brilliance of eyes that never settled to a single color, and on the cold January day when they finally buried her, she was the one who kept Jason from falling to the ground and never standing up again.
Five months, three weeks, and two days later, Thalia Grace buried her little brother.
Jason Grace was sixty-four years old when he died-four times older than his big sister would ever be.
Thalia found him, sitting on the couch looking out over the barren Nevada sunrise, the screen doors open to let the sunlight in, a mug of coffee lukewarm on the coffee table by his feet and his thick glasses. His eyes-electricity faded to the same silvery-white as his hair-were closed, his lips curved into the faintest smile imaginable so that the scar on his upper lip that had been hidden by wrinkles for years now was just barely visible in the growing light.
And Thalia fell to her knees, there in front of the empty body of her little brother, and she cried. She squeezed her eyes closed, but she couldn't stop the memories.
Her little brother...her baby, her mom had told her she used to call him-had walked into the hospital with her dad the day he was born asking to see "her baby."
Her baby. She'd held him through countless temper tantrums, fed him, laughed at him, fallen asleep at night with an arm through the bars of his crib...Had been too late to stop him from trying to eat a stapler. Had potty-trained him, changed his diapers, taken him on walks, held him in her lap while he clapped along to thunderstorms.
She'd lost him once already, screamed and cried and mourned, and then she'd had him back...had watched him grow up, grow old enough to be her grandfather...
And now she'd lost him one last time.
The thunder had gathered almost without her realizing it, a single lightning bolt that struck with enough fury outside the house to turn the sand to glass, set the grass blazing-but there was so much pain and so much grief that it kept striking, a million craters, a thousand rumbles of thunder, more power than she'd ever even dreamed of having, but she could barely feel it...she was hollow, numb, and so far away from the pain and the tears that she burned herself out barely realizing it until she woke up in the midst of the most powerful storm she'd ever seen, a flooding house and a field of glass outside.
And a week later when the storm she'd started finally stopped, she was the one to lay him down in the ground for the last time, and she ran away from it all and wished for death for so long that she lost track of the time...but eventually you had to keep going.
And so she did.
And then Percy Jackson was dead...sixty-seven years old and slipped away in his sleep somewhere in the six months that she'd disappeared from the world.
Percy Jackson with eyes that stayed fluorescent green until the day he died, and hair that was still a gray barely lighter than black-who still called her Pinecone Face and winked whenever he invited her along to third-wheel with him and Annabeth on dates, (even when he was old enough to be her grandfather). Percy Jackson who Thalia could still remember leaning over her when she opened her eyes still mostly a tree, who'd once drenched her with a tidal wave of a creek, who she'd hated for a while for stealing her little sister away from her, who she'd finally started counting on to always be at her back when she realized that no matter how hard she tried, he wasn't going away.
Percy Jackson, the greatest hero Thalia had ever known...dead not because of a monster but simply because he was human.
And it was hard, but she was still so numb and empty from Jason dying that she barely cried when she learned that he was gone too-
Just kept going.
And Annabeth Chase held on for six years after her Seaweed Brain died, smiling at his picture that she carried in her wallet and softening imperceptibly and then all too quickly with the sadness in her eyes, and then she was seventy-three years old and one of her children held her hand as her heart quietly stopped beating in a hospital bed.
And Thalia didn't go to the funeral-there was no one left alive to remember to invite her, to remember to care about the strangely immortal girl that had kept Annabeth alive when she was seven years old and living on the streets with nothing but a hammer and one of her father's flannel shirts.
Instead she sat in a pine tree and thought about all of the faces that had passed away...everyone besides the gods and the centaurs and the Hunters who would remember her, everyone that she had lost-and she was still the Lady's lieutenant, still one day shy of sixteen years old. Her brother gone, every friend she'd had...and so many Hunters, so many others, lost over that time too...
And, not-quite cold in the top branches of a pine tree, tears whipped away from her frozen face by the moonlit wind, too numb and exhausted and empty and sorrowful to cry, that was when Thalia Grace learned that slitting your own wrists doesn't count as combat, and a Hunter has no choice but to keep going.
And so she did.