He's not moving.

Why isn't he moving?

He's survived every single thing the gods have thrown at him; why in hell isn't he moving?

"You idiot!" you yell at him, like he's sleeping and just needs to wake up. "You idiot, open your eyes!" You grip his head; you've still got the sense not to shake it, but you're giving his hair a good yank. You realize your hands are shaking. "Open your eyes, damn it!"

And, like a miracle (because, of course, he is a miracle, you realize; this amazing boy whose very existence defies every single expectation you've ever had), he hears you. His eyes don't flutter open, like in the movies; rather, they seem to drag their lids off, and it takes all the effort in the world even to do that. But, slowly and heavily, they do open.

"Percy?" he rasps, and you almost collapse with relief because he's breathing.

"Yeah, it's me. Sorry," you say, trying to smile at him, but your humor is lost on him as he winces with pain.

"Hold still," you instruct, releasing your death-grip on his face and putting pressure on the gash in his stomach. "Somebody will be here soon, don't worry. We'll get you fixed up. Don't worry, you're gonna be fine." You keep the shaking out of your voice with effort.

"No use," he mutters with obvious pain.

"Shh," you tell him. He shouldn't talk. Talking will make it worse; if he keeps quiet he can be saved. He can.

"It's no use," he insists, and his voice grows the tiniest bit stronger. "I know a lot about death, Jackson, and trust me, this is it."

"Don't say that-"

"Don't you rob me of my last words!" he hisses, then dissolves in a coughing fit. He hacks up blood. You feel your heart clench.

"Idiot," he mutters when the coughing subsides. Still holding his stomach, you feel his breath weakening. Maybe he's wrong. Maybe someone will get here and save him. Maybe you should switch tactics, keep him talking. Keep him conscious until someone arrives.

"What did I do this time?" you ask, trying again for humor. He actually laughs, which you take as a good sign. He doesn't even cough this time.

"You really don't know…" he shakes his head. The faint smile on his face disappears. His eyes go hard. "Damn it, Percy."


"You, that's-" he pauses for breath, sucking in a ragged lungful of air. "That's what."

"What about me?" You're equal parts curious and trying to keep him awake.

"Do I have… To spell… it out for you?" he asks. His voice retains a note of irony, but is quickly losing control. Maybe keeping him talking wasn't the best idea.

But it's too late to stop him now. "You," he continues, pausing often for breath. "Everything about you, you idiot. Your stupid jokes, and your stupid self-sacrificing loyalty, and your stupid eyes and your stupid everything, you complete idiot-"

And suddenly it makes sense.

"Nico," you say, cutting him off. You give up on holding the wound, holding his pale hands in your blood-stained ones. "Nico, I"m so sorry-"

"Don't bother," he spits. His eyes are beyond hardened; all the energy he has left seems to be channeled into making them as sharp and angry as possible. "Don't bother, just- just don't."

Something in him seems to break. The diamond-hard things he's made his eyes into fracture; they render tears.

And all of a sudden it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether you'd do this under any other circumstance; it doesn't matter what Annabeth would think; it doesn't matter that you've never considered this before. What matters is he's dying and he needs you.

You squeeze his hands tight; those eyes grow to the size of tennis balls as you lean in and kiss him hard, his tears (or are they yours?) staining both of your cheeks. His lips are soft and cold, and weak, but you think you can feel him try to kiss you back. After a long moment, you pull away. You're both staring at each other, and neither of you knows what you're doing.

"Elysium or rebirth?" you ask finally, because you have to break the silence somehow.

He shakes his head, though his eyes are still fixed on yours. "Don't think I'll get in," he says, his voice weaker than ever. You have to lean in close again to hear him.

He's wrong, of course; he deserves it more than anyone. "Humor me," you say.

He sighs, coughs up some blood. "Rebirth," he manages. "I don't… I mean, well. My life was-" another coughing fit. "It was never great. I think I'd like to try a different one."

You nod slowly. His eyes are starting to glass over; you can tell you're losing him. "Don't worry," you whisper, leaning in so close you're almost kissing him again. "Don't worry, you'll be fine. You'll see."

He nods his head the tiniest bit and coughs, weakly. "Thanks, Percy," he says, and he smiles a little bit - a real smile, not like any of the ones you've seen before, but one that reaches all the way to his eyes and fills them with warmth.

And it's completely involuntary when you lean down and kiss that smile, and he's too weak even to try to kiss back, but you can feel him sigh, then go still.

When you pull away, his eyes are closed.

That's when the tears come, the incoherent yelling, the uncontrollable shaking in your hands and the feeling of wanting to bury yourself so deep in the Earth that nobody can ever find you. You lose track of time. You might be like this for a minute, or for an hour. But at last, you lay on the ground, curled up next to his body, completely exhausted. You make yourself breathe in, breathe out. You calm down. You remind yourself that he would want you to live, would want you to remember him and keep going. Breathe in, breathe out. You push yourself shakily into a sitting position, and slowly stand up.

In the distance, you can see Annabeth coming.