A/N: I've always wondered what happened to Annabeth on the way back through the Labyrinth, after Mt. Saint Helens. And since no one else has done it, I decided to come up with my own version. Told in second person, present tense, which is kinda new for me. I'm experimenting. Also, this is not a oneshot, so stay tuned. Enjoy, and please leave your thoughts in a review!


I. Instinct

"But you'll be killed!" you whisper furiously, wishing that you could scream it at him, but you'll both be caught if you talk too loudly. You can't believe he's doing this. This idiot, this complete and utter Seaweed Brain is going to sacrifice himself to save you. You know he'll lie and say that he'll be fine, that he'll find a way out, when both of you know perfectly well that he won't be fine.

He's going to die.

You've both been in this situation before, many more times than you care to remember. But the odds have never been this bleak. There's no escape. At least, not for him. Your survival instinct is nearly overcoming you, telling you to flee, and you know that it's going to win.

Both of your faces are flushed from the heat of the volcano. A bead of sweat runs into your eye, and you blink it away.

"I'll be fine. Besides, we've got no choice." His voice is shaking, but you can tell he's trying to hide it. He's scared. You've seen the look enough times to know.

You memorize the way he looks, because you know you're not going to see him again after this, and your stomach drops. Under that messy, sweat-soaked hair, his green eyes are bright, too bright, and determined. You can tell from the stubborn set of his mouth that he's not going to let you stay and fight.

He wants you to live more than he values his own life.

And suddenly, another instinct overcomes you, and your lips collide with his. It's nothing more than a peck, but your heart aches anyway. You realize something: you don't want him to die. You knew this before, of course. Wasn't that the point of this whole argument? But now it really hits you. If he dies—and you know he will—you'll be devastated. Because you might kinda sorta like your best friend more than you should.

Before you start thinking too much (you're running out of time so, so quickly) you grab your invisibility cap from your back pocket.

"Be careful, Seaweed Brain." Your voice is quiet, strained, barely audible over the roaring of the volcano.

You sneak just one last, searing glance at him. His eyes are wide, and his mouth is partially open, as if he can't believe that you just kissed him. To be honest, you can't believe it either. The second the cap touches your head, you turn invisible. You turn and start running, your feet making clanking sounds on the metal platform. The ladder is only a few feet away.

"There!" You hear the gravelly sound of a telekhine's yell. For a second, you twist to see what's happening, but then you jerk yourself back. If you see, you'll probably end up going back to help him fight, and you can't do that.

The entrance to the Labyrinth is still in the same place, the little blue triangle glowing faithfully. Your thumb slams into it, and the bronze door creaks open slowly.

Over the sound of your own frantically beating heart, you hear screaming. Horrible, awful, agonized screaming. You know exactly who it is, but you keep running. Your eyes squeeze shut, because they're starting to sting, and you can't—won't—cry. You trip, cursing yourself for your stupidity—why were you trying to run with your eyes closed?—and regain your balance. The laughter starts, barking and gleeful, and you don't even want to think about what they're doing to him. The screaming continues, worse than before, and you keep running.

You feel like you're being torn in half. You want to go back, fight them off, stop them from doing whatever they're doing to hurt him. He's your best friend. He held up the sky for you. He's dying for you, right now. You need to go save him. But at the same time, you need to escape. The survival instinct is overruling everything now, telling you to go, to run and never look back until you reach safety.

You keep running. You notice the tunnels getting hotter, and the only part of your brain that isn't panicking thinks that it must be from the volcano. Your breath is coming in frantic, painful gasps, and you're not thinking about a destination. Not yet. You just need to run, run away. You need to escape thought, but that's impossible. You're a daughter of Athena. Your brain is always working. And right now, your brain is telling you that Percy Jackson is as good as dead.

The ground is still rumbling and the roaring is loud in your ears, and you're not sure if it's still because of the volcano or if the Labyrinth is just playing tricks on you. Suddenly, the floor jerks out from under you, vibrating violently, and you skid to a halt against your will. Earthquake, you think. And then: Oh, gods. No. Nononononono…! Because the volcano couldn't have just erupted. Percy was still inside. And that would mean…

And lose a love to worse than death.

You stumble, falling to your hands and knees, scraping your skin against the rough surface, and you don't get up. Oh, gods. That's what it meant. How could you have been so stupid? Of course it was Percy, of course it was now. You're not obtuse enough anymore to deny that you like him. (Liked him, you correct yourself.) And now, he's not only dead, but he's dead because you abandoned him. You ran away, even when you heard him dying. You saved yourself when he needed you most.

Your arms give out and you clutch your head in your hands. Your eyes are stinging more than ever, but you're not delusional enough to tell yourself that it's only the smoke. You know better, now.

This will always haunt you. You're sure of it. Even now, the sounds of his screams are playing on repeat in your mind. You hear the laughter of the telekhines over and over. You can't stop your brain from forming pictures of what might have happened. Lava. Blood, claws, blades. The horrible possibilities could go on forever. And you won't stop seeing them until forever comes.