Chapter 14: Nightmares
She had literally looked everywhere, in every hiding place in every house, anywhere a twelve year old could possibly go. She checked the forest at least until a mile in, not costumed to searching through the woodland without her husband beside her. Now though she had many of her friends husbands with her as she searched for her daughter, stomaching her fear of never finding the girl she took a calming deep breath before calling out her daughter's name for what felt like the thousandth time that day. It was taking everything she had not to break down then and there, her throat was becoming sore from the constant yelling and being choked up with tears didn't help either.
The lanterns light flicked slightly as it swayed with her pace its glow casting shadows far and wide as day turned to night. She called out again and was once more replied with unnerving silence.
"Where are you Annabeth." Claire whispered, her eyes cast upon the ground she saw something that she guessed didn't look right on a tree. Having fallen to the back of the group she slowed to a stop before the tree, brushing away the snow the small scratch was revealed to be a large gash out of the wood. Broken wood stuck out at almost every angle, brushing her gloved fingers along the dead wood she noticed that the groove resembled a sled mark in the snow. Her eyes drifted from the tree to the bumps in the snow curiously she set the lantern down before beginning to dig away at the snow. Claire gasped upon learning that her suspicion was correct, stuck into the snow was several pieces of shrapnel of wood from the sled Annabeth had left home with earlier.
Claire barely registered her hearts acceleration as she began to dig furiously at the snow. Her breathing came out in heavy pants as she continued to dig praying from some miracle that her daughter was alive.
The others had stopped not to far away when they mistook Claire's frantic breathing for crying, they were about to comfort her but upon seeing that she was digging in the snow they joined in believing that she had found something.
"Please…" Claire begged mostly to herself, "Please…" She whispered. She had wanted to add 'be alive' but she couldn't get the words to form in her mouth.
Annabeth wasn't sure how long they had been walking, it could have been hours or it could have been minutes all she knew was that it was dark, it was cold and she was overdue for sleep. Her feet had begun hurting again and due to her slow pace Jack offered once again to carry her, she didn't object being too tired to protest.
Jack had urged her several times now to go to sleep and he'd wake her if anything came up, she was more than eager to fall asleep but something wasn't right and she dared to fall asleep in case her nightmares came back.
Twisting back slightly Annabeth only saw the dark shadowed path they had just walked down, Annabeth sighed, sleep threatening to pull her into the unconscious world of dreams. Shaking her head Annabeth continued to fight off the tiredness, with every passing minute Annabeth grew more and more paranoid. She felt like they were being watched, though by what Annabeth wanted to remain unknown.
Believing that she was just paranoid from being so sleepy Annabeth rested against Jack once again. Annoyed at her body constantly fighting to sleep Annabeth shifted slightly before tapping Jack signalling that she wanted down.
The winter teen silently obliged and set Annabeth on the ground before they continued to walk, just like Annabeth, Jack was fighting to stay awake though coping far better than the twelve year old. Using the staff to light the way Jack guided them in the direction of Annabeth's home, surely it wouldn't be so hard this time after all, all they had to do was follow the road.
More hours passed slowly, Jack found himself to be walking at what felt like a turtle's pace, Annabeth sadly was barely awake every step was slower than the last every movement was done with most of her concentration. Looking to the sky Jack noticed that dawn would soon be upon them. Jack sighed, "Lets rest." he said kneeling down slightly so Annabeth can climb off him.
Sitting off to the side of the road while leaning against one of the many trees it didn't take long until Annabeth fell asleep. Jack smiled thankful that his friend was finally resting he was becoming worried as she struggled to remain awake. Seeing as it would be a few hours before the sun was above the horizon Jack decided to rest his eyes while, it was still dark enough to fall asleep and being up all night was beginning to take it's toll on the immortal.
By the time the sun had rose brightening the sky and banishing the darkness both Annabeth and Jack had been consumed in the realm of sleep.
She was back at the edge of the lake and already Annabeth was scared, looking out to the middle of the lake she saw her brother kneeling on the middle of the ice, curious she went to him. Slipping slightly as she tried to find her balance to move across the ice without falling on her face.
Having finally reached her brother she noticed that he was dripping wet, from his hair falling flat against his head to his clothes sticking to his skin and beginning to freeze where they touched the ice.
"Jack?" Annabeth asked getting closer with each wobbly step. He didn't reply Annabeth briefly wondered if she had even been heard. "Jack?" She repeated slightly louder hoping to catch his attention, still nothing.
Now right behind him she moved to see his face it gleamed slightly as the afternoon Sun reflected off the icy water coating his skin, though hard to spot Annabeth picked up on the faint traits of teary eyes. Jack had been crying.
"Jack?" She asked her voice hinting at both her curiosity and her worry. Feeling the need to comfort him she reached out to hold his shoulder. She was more than surprised when her hand went through him. "Jack?" Annabeth asked now with more worry.
Jack remained oblivious to his sister as he continued to stare at the floor before him. Annabeth looked down to her feet where she was standing and for the first time realised that the ice was thin and already cracked, a small hole between them.
Annabeth also noticed the staff that he now carried was in his hands, his fists wrapped tightly around the wood like his life depended on it. A small piece of fabric was caught on the side where some of the wood had splintered.
Having been about to inspect the fabric on the staff Annabeth was taken by surprise as the ice gave way sending her into the icy waters below. She had barely gotten Jack's name out before she was submerged, slowly despite her thrashing and attempts to swim, Annabeth sank towards the bottom of the lake.
Her lungs began to hurt so she was unable to take in any air, looking up as she floated down she watched as her brother began to cry again, seconds later he was pulled from her view through the ice.
"Jack!" Annabeth called out forgetting that doing so would only cut off the rest of her breathing ability. Annabeth suddenly found herself drowning, with new determination to be with her brother Annabeth tried weakly to get back to the surface, unaware that she was trying to call for her brother. In seconds Annabeth found herself choking as she swayed in the water that wouldn't let her move.
Her last thoughts before she lost conscious was how her brother stared to where she was and yet without even trying he looked like he had already lost, like had had failed someone who had meant the world to him.
"Annabeth!" Jack called shaking the twelve year old before him. Jack had been woken by Annabeth's screams before she started to claw away weakly at the air around her. What worried him most however was when she made sounds like she was choking, he had tried her wake her up faster after that.
Slowly Annabeth was brought back to the waking world as she took in the air she had stopped trying to breath. Jack sighed as he pulled Annabeth into a hug for now the two concentrated on regaining their breaths.
While holding Annabeth close Jack gently tried to reassure Annabeth that everything was fine, he wanted to question Annabeth about the nightmare and why she kept saying his name but something told him that it was best to just comfort her for now.
Annabeth stood up and quickly wiped away a few stray tears looking at the road they were following she spoke, "Should we get going?" Jack nodded now standing, picking up the bag and his staff they continued their journey home.
It had only been five minutes but Jack was bored of the silence deciding to break it he asked. "You okay?" Looking at Annabeth who had her eyes cast upon the floor as they walked.
"Fine." Annabeth replied her pace quickening slightly. Jack sighed, it was going to be one of those days. Shaking his head he stepped up his pace slightly easily catching up to Annabeth.