A/N Hello again!
There's a bit in here that is word for word out of MoA, and I'm sure you'll recognize it. It's those few paragraphs at the end of the second-to-last chapter that made us realize: Rick can be evil. Just remember that they're Uncle Rick's words, not mine.
She lay on the sand, her eyes closed as the sun graced her skin. As she woke up, she catalogued things she could feel without opening her eyes. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, her right hand lay relaxed on her stomach, and the other lay next to her. Her left hand was warm, like it was being held.
She opened her eyes, and took in her surroundings. The canoe lake, at camp. She could hear the water moving, as well as the other residual sounds of Camp Half Blood. There were birds, and the soft sound of other campers training, talking, wandering. It was your average, perfect day.
She looked to her left, wondering why her hand was warm. There, she found the loveliest sight in the world. Her boyfriend lay in the sand next to her, asleep, with his right hand covering hers. They had fallen asleep on the shore together, holding hands. She smiled so wide her cheeks hurt.
She moved her right hand from her stomach and brushed a bit of his hair from his face. As it tickled him, he scrunched his eyes and nose. Her wide smile relaxed into a happy grin, and she rubbed her thumb across his cheekbone. He squinted one eye open, just enough for her to see that brilliant green under his black lashes. When he saw her face, he relaxed his eyes and nose and gave a small smile.
"Hello, beautiful," he said to her with his boyish grin. She cocked her head at him, smile still in place.
"Flattery will get you everywhere, won't it?" she asked him.
He shrugged one shoulder at her. "I don't know, does it? That's what I was trying to find out."
She rolled her eyes at him. "What did you decide?"
"Jury's still out."
She chuckled a little bit and rolled to her side to face him, her left hand still in his and her right in between the two of them. Her hair was in the sand. He stayed laying on his back, looking out at the lake.
He sighed. "I used to love days like this," he told her, with a hint of nostalgia in his voice.
She frowned slightly, but her grin hadn't disappeared yet. "What do you mean, used to?"
He turned his head to look at her, his eyes pained and knowing. A deep contrast from the happy, relaxed eyes he had looked at her with only moments ago.
"I miss you so much, Annabeth."
The smile melted from her face, and she frowned deeper. His thumb drew lazy circles on the back of her hand, like he was soothing her.
"What do you mean?" she asked, her panic and worry seeping into her voice. "You're right here."
He grimaced slightly, a look of plain pity. "You know that I'm not."
The air turned cold, and all of the sounds around her had stopped. Her breath hitched, picking up pace. "Yes you are. I can touch you, I can interact with you. You're right here, where else would you be?" she asked him, falling back to her old standby: logic.
His lips pursed. "Annabeth, you know that doesn't mean anything here," he told her.
She was shivering, not from cold though. "W-where is… here?"
He sighed. "Your mind, Annabeth. You know this can't really be happening, I'm dead. You watched it happen."
She began shaking her head. "No. No, that's not true."
Percy sighed once more. "I love you so much, Annabeth."
She blinked once, very fast, but when her eyes opened again the sight that met her was horrific, terrifying, and far too familiar.
They were in almost complete darkness, Riptide the only source of light. The beach was now a figment of her imagination, something she would fantasize about when the darkness was just too much. Percy lay, his throat gaping open with blood gushing out. The collar of his shirt was dyed red already, the crimson stains progressively traveling south. His shoulder was in an awkward position, disconnected. He was covered in gashes, up and down his body, with a nasty one on his forehead. The blood from his neck was all over his jaw, and more was creeping out of the side of his mouth. He looked at her with dim green eyes, dead eyes. There was no twinkle in them, no recognition. They were just… staring.
Tears streamed down her face as she scrambled to put her right hand to his now-cold wrist, searching for a pulse. Nothing. She moved her fingers to his temple, still no. She finally pressed her palm over his heart, searching for anything, anything, but it was still. He was dead. She was too late. She hadn't gotten to tell him she loved him too.
She sobbed, terrible, heart-wrenching sounds. She gripped his limp right hand with her left, the hand he had died holding. "No!" she whispered at him. "You can't do this to me!"
"He didn't do anything. You did this." said a voice from mere inches away.
She jumped, and tore her gaze from Percy's mangled body. On the other side of Percy was a woman, sitting cross-legged with her hands in her lap. She would be tall standing up, probably about 5'9 or so with an athletic build. She had long blonde hair, her curls falling over her shoulders. She wore an orange camp shirt with denim shorts, and a leather necklace around her neck, adorned with nine clay beads and one college ring. Her gray eyes cut into Annabeth, accusing and angry. It was herself.
The pale and injured Annabeth, the one clutching Percy's hand, took in a shaky breath. "Wh-what do y-you mean? I—"
"You know exactly what I mean," said the new Annabeth. "You killed him."
"No," said the real Annabeth, shakily getting to her feet. "A hellhound—"
"A hellhound that he came across in Tartarus," snapped New Annabeth as she got stealthily to her feet. While Real Annabeth put all of her weight into one foot and slouched to relieve pain from various injuries, New Annabeth stood at her full height, intimidating. "Why was he in Tartarus, again?"
"Percy, let me go," she croaked. "You can't pull me up."
His face was white with effort. She could see in his eyes that he knew it was hopeless.
"Never," he said. He looked up at Nico, fifteen feet above. "The other side, Nico! We'll see you there. Understand?"
Nico's eyes widened. "But—"
"Lead them there!" Percy shouted. "Promise me!"
Below them, the voice laughed in the darkness. Sacrifices. Beautiful sacrifices to wake the goddess.
Percy tightened his grip on Annabeth's wrist. His face was gaunt, scraped and bloody, his hair dusted with cobwebs, but when he locked eyes with her, she thought he had never looked more handsome.
"We're staying together," he promised. "You're not getting away from me. Never again."
Only then did she understand what would happen. A one way trip. A very hard fall.
"As long as we're together," she said.
She heard Nico and Hazel still screaming for help. She saw sunlight far, far above—maybe the last sunlight she would ever see.
Then Percy let go of his tiny ledge, and together, holding hands, he and Annabeth fell into the endless darkness.
Annabeth gasped as the truth hit her like a freight train. He had fallen in for her. He had given up his life to be with her. And she couldn't save him.
The Real Annabeth looked up at the new one to see her nodding her head. "Has your pretty head figured it out now? You let him fall in with you. You—"
"Wait, that's not fair," Real Annabeth countered with a shaky voice. "This is Percy, he's stubborn… He—he wouldn't have dropped me, his mind was made, he—"
New Annabeth cut her off in a patronizing tone. "Annabeth, Annabeth, don't kid yourself. The only two people in the world he would change his mind for are his mother, and you. You could've changed his mind. And you didn't." New Annabeth walked around Percy and toward her slowly, her sneering mouth spewing hateful truths at her. "You were grateful he was with you, because you didn't want to lose him again. You didn't want to be alone. And now look," she said as she gestured to Percy. "You've killed the love of your life. And mine. So…" New Annabeth drew her knife. "I figure I make it a short life."
She raised her weapon, and before Real Annabeth had time to defend herself, she brought the weapon down.
Annabeth gasped harshly, dragging air into her aching lungs as she woke. She sat up, pushing the figure above her away. She looked around the room frantically, looking for the figment of her imagination that wanted to kill her. Instead of a bloodthirsty blonde, her eyes found a pale man with black hair and worried green eyes, which were boring into hers from in front of her, where she had pushed him.
Upon seeing him, tears sprang to her eyes and her face crumpled as she put her arms around his neck and pulled him to her. He had been hovering above her much like the night before, and was now quick to wrap his arms around her to supply comfort. She cried into his neck while he rubbed her arms, trying to calm her.
"I'm s-so sorry, Percy!" she sobbed against his neck, for reasons that were beyond him. He pulled back and looked at her face, trying to get her to meet his eyes. "I-it's all my f-fault!"
"Hey, shh," he consoled her, waiting for her to calm down. She bit her lower lip in an effort to control her sobs, looking down. He put his index finger under her chin and pulled her face up to look at him through her watery and bloodshot eyes.
"Why are you apologizing?" he asked her in a soft tone.
Her breath caught again, but she kept herself together. "Because it's all my fault."
Her response was pretty vague, but he overlooked it and looked for more answers. "What do you think is your fault?"
"You… you almost died because of me. It's my fault you were in Tartarus."
Percy shook his head. "How in the world is it your fault?"
She took a deep breath, meant to be cleansing, but it didn't work well. "I shouldn't have let you fall in with me."
Percy raised his eyebrows. "Let me? Annabeth, I—"
"I didn't even try to talk you out of it. I was selfish, and—"
"Annabeth, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but nothing in the world would have stopped me. I was not going to let you fall by yourself."
Annabeth looked at him. Really looked at him. His eyes weren't quite as lifeless as they had been in the days before, they had determination in them. His eyebrows were scrunched, like they were when he worried or concentrated. He looked more like his old self than he had in weeks.
"What was your dream about, Annabeth?" he asked her quietly.
She tore her eyes from his and looked back at her lap, where her hands played with the hem of her shirt. "I… I don't want to talk about it, Percy."
He sighed, and rubbed his hand on her back some more. "Will you tell me why you were talking to yourself, then?"
She scowled at him. "You talk to yourself when you have nightmares too, Seaweed Brain."
He shook his head. "Not what I meant. You were saying your own name, like you were talking to yourself. Or someone with the same name. Why?"
Her scowl softened into a sad half-pout. She hadn't wanted to talk about it, and he had prompted the conversation anyway. But his face was soft and worried, indicating that he only wanted to help her. She sighed. "What did I say, exactly?" she asked him quietly.
"I just heard you mumbling something like 'no, Annabeth' at the beginning, and then the rest was just bits and pieces of sentences that I didn't get."
She nodded and looked back at her hands. "Ok."
Percy was quiet for a minute before he spoke again. "You don't have to tell me, but I'd like to know."
She looked at him once again. He looked helpless, wanting to help but unsure how.
She sighed. "You and I were on the beach of the canoe lake at camp. Everything was beautiful, and just the way I remembered it, and so realistic I didn't realize I was dreaming." She paused to think about the rest of her nightmare, knowing that she could stop now and Percy wouldn't think any less of her. She kept going.
She told him about the rest of her dream, with him dying in Tartarus and her other self killing her. The longer she spoke the faster she went, hoping to get all of the words out before her tears choked her out and she couldn't speak.
Percy listened to her without interrupting. He could tell she was trying to tell him everything without emotion, in an almost monotone, but he knew her well enough to hear those soft hiccups and wavers in her voice.
She leaned against his chest. "And then she was about to stab me when I woke up."
Percy took her quiet to mean she was done. "Ok. Do you feel better now?"
Annabeth took a deep breath in through the nose, then exhaled out of her mouth. She paused, then decided "No."
Percy cocked his head at her. "Not even a little?"
Annabeth assessed herself. "Alright, I feel a little better."
Percy nodded, satisfied. "Thought so."
She rolled her eyes. Percy was proud of himself for coming up with the idea to talk about their dreams to see if it made them feel better, and sometimes he showed it.
Annabeth looked for a clock in the room, and remembered that Percy was in her room. She looked at him in panic.
"It's almost seven! You're in my room! Everyone is probably awake, they're going to see you coming from my room! What—"
"Annabeth, calm down," Percy soothed, getting out of her bed.
"I can't! If Hedge finds out, he'll make sure neither of us is ever within touching distance!"
Percy was about to respond when there was a soft knock on the door. "Hello?" asked a soft female voice, obviously Piper. Annabeth looked at Percy, then grabbed his shirt and dragged him with her. She pushed him to the side so that Piper wouldn't see him when she opened the door. She turned the handle and faced the daughter of Aphrodite, looking beautiful as ever despite the early hour.
"Hey," said Piper as the door opened. She threw a glance around what she could see of the room and then looked back at Annabeth. "Did he already leave?" she asked in a whisper.
Annabeth opened her mouth but didn't say anything for a moment. Finally Percy moved from behind the door so Piper could see him, and she spoke. "How did you know he was in here?"
"Well I kind of made Jason tell me last night. Or, this morning. So did Nico."
"How did he know?"
Percy answered her. "He was with me when I came in here this morning."
Annabeth turned to Percy, leaving Piper to watch them and their odd behavior from the doorway.
"Why was he with you?"
"Because he had just woken me up from a nightmare too. See?" Percy held up his bandaged hands.
Annabeth frowned and touched the white cotton. "Why didn't I notice these?"
Percy shrugged. "They don't matter."
"Wait, what do these have to do with your nightmare?" she asked slowly. Percy suddenly didn't want to meet Annabeth's eyes. She raised her eyebrows. "Did you hurt yourself while dreaming?"
"You did! That means it was bad, and you didn't tell me!"
"I didn't have the opportunity, and it's fine, I talked it over with Jason."
"Right, Jason," Annabeth said as she remembered the task at hand. She turned back to Piper, who had been watching their conversation like a tennis match, with a slightly gaping mouth. They had been acting like their old selves for a minute there. Piper shook herself and paid attention again. "So you and Nico and Jason know? Who else? Are we in trouble?"
Piper shook her head. "Just the three of us know. Nico and I woke up because we heard… well, a commotion, and we ran down to see if we could help, but Percy had it under control. Then later he told us that we should let Percy stay, because he seemed to know what he was doing to help you. So I'm here now to tell you that the coast is clear for you to leave undetected, so that Coach doesn't find out."
Percy and Annabeth looked at her for a moment before Percy spoke. "That's… that's really nice. Thanks."
Piper shrugged. "No prob. Just make sure you leave soon. And it might not hurt to get to breakfast separately, you know?"
Annabeth nodded, and Piper turned to leave. "Th-thank you, Piper," Annabeth called after her. Piper turned around and smiled at them. She thought about asking them about their behavior, about what had changed to make them resemble their old selves again, but decided against it. Maybe not mentioning it would be for the best, and they could get better and better.
She turned around again and headed down the hall toward breakfast, smiling to herself. Maybe they were each twenty pounds underweight and covered in wounds, and maybe they were a little broken, but maybe they could fix each other. Piper had seen their eyes, both of them regaining a bit of their old life. Maybe they hadn't come back immediately, but maybe they were on their way now.
A/N So yeah. That's the last chapter.
First, may I just say that the reviews and PMs telling me they wish I wouldn't stop the story were really sweet? They made me feel all gooey, and a little guilty for stopping. But I remind myself that if I continued the story I would probably ruin it, and the guilt goes away and I figure this is probably for the best.
That being said, I'm thinking about doing an epilogue. I don't know how long until I post it, but it'll happen. So don't forget about this story just yet!
You guys rock. Please review?