I'm fighting back to back with Annabeth when it happens.
I see the flash of steel in the corner of my eye, I can tell it's not coming for me, but Annabeth's twisted around the other way fighting an evil cyclopes, so I lunge over with Riptide. I'm too slow.
It turns out that even with help from the gods, fighting a group of giants and their armies is no easy task. We may have twice as many gods as there are giants at this point, but there are only seven of us. Or I think there is, who knows at this point. There used to be eight, but Frank had disappeared with his stick almost six hours ago. I don't think he's coming back.
Annabeth cries out and stumbles.
Not now, not after everything, after Tartarus.
I don't hesitate. With strength I haven't had since the curse, I spin and vaporize four - five - six monsters with one swing of my sword. While the next rank of monsters is trying to figure out what just happened I drop into a crouch and pull Annabeth onto my back.
We made it through most of Tartarus this way. Her half heeled ankle had re-broken when we landed in the pit and my landing on top of her hadn't helped matters any, so I carried her. Even so, she had barely made it out alive. Broken ribs are a bitch.
I'm back on my feet in seconds and slash at the evil centaur just in time. On my back Annabeth fights with her dagger as best as she can, but she just doesn't have to reach to help much. No matter, I'd gotten used to that.
It doesn't take long for me to realize that the back of my shirt is getting wet and sticky, even through my armor. Annabeth's not even trying to help at this point, I don't know where her dagger is, hopefully in the sheath on her belt - I don't want to step on it. It's already hard enough to have to worry about my back as much as I do my front more - it's Annabeth. Still that sticky wet isn't good. Far from it.
"Wise girl?" I gasp as I parry a spear.
She's clinging to me as best as she can without getting in my way and she's gasping into my ear more than she is breathing. It doesn't sound good. And she's getting heavy, too heavy.
That's when I know.
"I'm sorry," she manages, burying her face against my neck. There's a different kind of wet and I realize she's crying. "I love you."
She's not gone yet, there's still time to get her away from the fighting. Still time to give her the ambrosia I have in my pocket.
I fight like I've never fought before, except maybe with the curse. Monsters seem to vaporize when I look at them, but there's more behind them, always more.
I don't know how long it takes, but eventually I realize Annabeth's stopped crying. She's too still, too heavy. Worst of all her gasping breaths have stopped.
Still I keep fighting.
Maybe she's just unconscious.
Eventually I stumble away from the worst of the fighting. It's not easy, getting Annabeth off my back without her help, but I manage and lay her out on the grass. The left side of her armor is practically slashed to pieces, I'm not sure how her breastplate is still on her. And there's so much blood, enough to seep through my armor.
I've seen plenty of bad wounds before but this…
I reach for my pocket, but for the first time I hesitate and just look at her.
Annabeth's eyes are closed, there's still a few tears clinging to her eyelashes, but the tracks on her cheeks are mostly dry. A curl of hair has fallen out of her ponytail and draped across her forehead, the same one that had turned grey when she carried the sky when we were fourteen.
I reach up to gently brush it away, but freeze the instant my fingers touch her skin. She's so pale. She's normally as tan as any California native, even in the winter. I've never been darker than her, not that I've ever actively tried... much. She hadn't even been this pale right after we got out of Tartarus. Slowly, I finish brushing that curl away, my favorite curl.
I cup her cheek for a second. I can still hear the battle happening behind me, it's hard to miss, but it's dropped to dull roar in the back of my mind. For a moment I wonder why I haven't been attacked yet, I'm just sitting here for gods' sake, but it gets shoved away too. She's already getting cold.
There are tears on my cheeks. I don't know when I started crying.
Slowly, my hand slides away from Annabeth's cheek, to her neck, the artery just under her jaw. It's like I'm watching somebody else check for a pulse.
I can't find it.
It takes me a minute to realize that those horrible, choking sobs are coming from me.
No, not Annabeth, never Annabeth, no.
Our entire relationship flashes before my eyes.
On the porch of the Big House at camp "You drool in your sleep."
Our first real conversation in the back of a zoo truck.
Saving her from the sirens. Calling her a genius so the gods wouldn't have to make me.
Those horrible few days when she was taken by Atlas. Then when I thought she was joining the hunt.
Our first kiss in a volcano
Annabeth pulling me from the Styx. "Don't I get a kiss for luck? It's kind of a tradition, right?" "Come back alive Seaweed Brain then we'll see." The poisoned knife. The best underwater kiss of all time.
Swearing to find her when I didn't even know who she was.
The judo flip in New Rome, "If you ever leave me again, I swear to the gods-"
The night in the stable on the Argo II.
Sliding off a crumbling floor underneath Old Rome, "We're staying together. You're not getting away from me. Never again."
The first time I pulled Annabeth onto my back in Tartarus, "We both get out or neither of us does."
An oath to keep with a final breath.
I lean forward and press my lips to her forehead. "I'm on my way, Wise Girl, wait for me."
I swallow thickly and climb back to my feet, pull Riptide from my pocket and flick the cap away. It's like it's somebody else.
I'm not me anymore.
I ignore the monsters and turn my gaze on the giants. I pick one at random, it doesn't matter which and dash into the battle.
I side step this monster. Run that one through with Riptide. The Minotaur's back again, but I ignore him. It's all a blur really, the monsters don't matter.
Then I'm running, jumping onto the giant's knee. Then his hand when he tries to swat me away. I run up his arm, straight to his shoulder and across until I'm standing right next to his thick neck.
Dad's trident appears in the giant's shoulder, just behind and below where I'm standing and I have to grab onto the giant's hair to keep my balance. His voice is in my head, "What do you think you're doing! This isn't part of the plan-"
"Annabeth," I don't bother saying it aloud, he's in my head. He can hear me.
The trident disappears, back to Dad's hand I assume, reappears in the same spot it had been.
"Killing this asshole won't bring her back. I'm sorry, my boy, but she's gone, it's too late."
The trident disappears again. It reappears in the giant's throat, you know, that soft part just above the ribcage.
I don't think about it, I jump from the giant's collar bone to the handle of the trident and barely manage to keep my balance.
"I'm not trying to bring her back." I swallow and plunge Riptide in only a few feet above the trident.
The giant turns into a cloud of dust, and I'm falling.
"Tell Mom I'm sorry."
And then nothing.
The first thing I remember about being dead is Annabeth slapping me.
"What were you thinking Seaweed Brain?"
I blink at her, reach up and touch her face. We're both just floating spirits, but that doesn't seem to hinder us. Sometimes being a demigod has its perks.
"I promised I'd never leave you alone," I say like it's obvious.
She gapes at me for a moment, then grabs me by the front of my armor and kisses me. It's probably the best kiss we've ever had.
Being dead isn't all bad.
From somewhere behind Annabeth comes Frank's voice. "Oh gods, it's worse than on the Argo."