Chapter 15: Fear
She was ignoring him that much was clear, ever since that nightmare Annabeth had barley talked to him. Many times Jack wanted to ask if she was alright he wanted to be able to comfort her but every time he tried she would either not notice him talking for being deep in thought or she would suddenly become angry and distance herself from him.
Now sitting at the side of the road eating some of the food they had taken earlier Jack began to try and think of a way to get Annabeth to talk to him, without the sudden mood swing. Annabeth sat eating the bread she'd been given at a slow pace her eyes showing her to be in deep thought once more as she stared at the ground.
Jack cleared his throat hoping to get her attention when it didn't he tried nudging her a little, Annabeth looked at him slightly startled before she went back to looking at the floor when Jack didn't speak.
Taking a breath he spoke hoping Annabeth was paying attention as he didn't feel like repeating himself, "Annabeth." He waited for her to acknowledge that he had spoken which she did by tilting her head slightly. "Whatever's the matter I'm sure we can sort it out." He smiled slightly before sighing when she continued to be silent, "But I need you to talk to me Annabeth." He added sadly, "I want to help, but I don't know how if you don't say anything." Annabeth remained silent as she thought about what Jack was saying, she wanted to tell him but then she would have to explain the situation with her brother and that could lead to two endings, one Jack would believe that she had a brother named Jack or two he would learn that he is her brother.
Claire and the group had dug up much of the snow only to find mud and all the pieces that made up a broken sledge, in a way she was happy to learn that her children had not met such a grim end, but at the same time she was worried for it meant that they were wondering around the woods and Claire didn't need to be reminded how hard it would be to survive long enough to find a village. Winter made it harder due to the fact that the temperatures drop dramatically during the night, the more Claire thought about her children's situation the more stressed she became if it weren't for the fact that the group were helping her search for them while knowing where they were themselves she would be running off to find them despite that she would have no idea of which direction to go in.
Fortunately she didn't have the choice of picking a direction for everything looked too much alike for Claire's taste, instead her best friend's husband Anthony had opted to try the closest village from there's which meant a day's trip for all of them.
It was around morning when they arrived and already Claire didn't like the village everyone looked restless and stared at them as the walked through the streets. Spotting a young couple Claire walked over to them, "Have you seen my daughter?" She asked, the couple shared a glance at her but didn't reply possibly waiting for a description of some kind. "She about this tall," Claire gestured with her hand, "Has brown hair, brown eyes, cloak and dress." She added, the couple shared another glance.
"I believe so." The woman said, "She was asking about how to get home. We told her that it's a day's walk in that direction." The woman pointed to the road behind them. "We didn't see her after that." Claire nodded a thank you to the couple before heading back to her group.
"Well?" One of the men asked.
"I think she's headed home." Claire replied looking at the road, as they made their way to the inn in hopes of getting some rest Claire noticed something odd as she passed a bakery. The full and organised shelves and displays were not full at all, many items appeared to be missing, not only that but the baker was throwing a fit yelling something about vandals and thieves. Claire would have thought nothing of it as no village is without its vandals or thieves, but something caught her eyes as it reflected in the morning light, steadily melting on the wooden shop floor was a thin layer of ice. Claire smiled slightly at least now she knew they had been here.
Jack had finally been able to ask Annabeth about her nightmare though he now regretted bringing the topic up as Annabeth had once again fallen quiet, trying to calm the atmosphere he had given Annabeth one of the few treats. He hadn't been expecting her reply to his question of her nightmare to be so painful, but then again nightmares always knew how to make a horrible situation worse and now because of his curiosity they were sat in silence trying not to think about the news of Annabeth's brother.
The sun was now above the horizon which meant that they would hopefully be back home by nightfall. Annabeth gave a soft yawn as she rubbed her eyes having only had an hour or so of sleep Jack wasn't surprised that she was tired he himself was fighting back the urge to fall asleep having been woken not long ago by Annabeth's screaming.
Despite wanting to get home Jack found himself leaning further against the tree before he allowed himself to drift off to sleep, he just hoped Annabeth would wake him before he slept the whole day away. Annabeth noticed that Jack was falling asleep decided to join him leaning against her brother she allowed herself to drift off as well she only prayed that she didn't have another nightmare.
Jack already didn't like this not because the atmosphere was foreboding or the fact that there was little light, but because Annabeth was no where near him. He was alone in the middle of the forest with no idea where he was or where Annabeth was. Gripping the staff tighter he decided to look for her, casting the eerie blue glow from before he used it to light the darkness ignoring that the shadows seemed to solidify around him.
A loud snap from behind cause Jack to spin around quickly his grip tightening on his staff should he need to use it as a weapon, having not been watching where he was going his heel tripped over a root sending him down a bank. Landing with a thud at the bottom Jack mentally scolded himself before taking in his surroundings, he was at a lake.
On the lake was a teenage boy almost identical to himself, the resemblance was slightly unnerving as Jack took in the teens appearance, brown hair, eyes and clothes. For a moment Jack wondered if the boy before him was Annabeth's brother the hair and eyes were exactly alike.
Walking across the ice Jack stopped by Annabeth's brother who was kneeling on the lake's cold frozen surface. Jack reached out a hand to comfort him but was shocked to see it go through the teen instead.
Jack was snapped back to reality as a soft tapping echoed around him, looking about he was confused when he couldn't find a source, that was until he looked down. On instinct Jack was against the ice trying to claw away at it below him he could see Annabeth's small form swaying in the water as she tapped away at the ice that separated them.
Startled awake Jack looked to see Annabeth sleeping besides him as she mumbled quietly to herself, with a calming breath Jack was thankful it had only been a dream. It didn't take long until Jack realised that he wasn't the only on to suffer from a nightmare as Annabeth began to call out for him. Doing what he had the first time he began to try and wake the sleeping twelve year old.
Annabeth stretched as she woke before becoming alert that she had slept the day away and was now in the forest in the dark, her heart began to beat slightly faster as she looked around. The moon shone above her and yet due clouds not much could be seen even the snow covered ground was dark the moons light seemingly not bright enough to reflect off the snow.
Turning slowly Annabeth noticed that something was wrong, Jack who had been next to her when she had fallen asleep was no gone, slightly panicked she began searching for him. Finding nothing she started walking in the direction of home hoping that Jack had also headed this way.
Despite her attempts she couldn't find Jack or her way home, it had felt she'd been wondering the forest for hours searching, a shuffle from the side had her wondering however if she had finally managed to find her friend.
Before she could even step towards the shadowy bush a wolf appeared from nearby, it yellow eyes watching her as she stood frozen in fear at the large animal before her. A gold light suddenly began shinning from behind causing the wolf to growl, it stepped back for a second as it readied itself to lunge. Something told Annabeth to move and she complied turning swiftly she headed for the golden light behind her.
As she ran towards it her fear of the creature behind slowly faded or at least that was until something grabbed her causing her to scream.
Annabeth continued to struggle as something held her tightly, opening her eyes Annabeth found Jack holding her in a hug as he tried to calm her. Hugging back just as tightly she allowed a few stray tears to escape, "Don't leave me." Annabeth whispered, Jack didn't reply as he continued to try and soothe her. "I don't want to loose you again." Annabeth continued, confusing Jack slightly, "Please," she begged, "I don't want to loose my brother again."
Jack silently wondering if she was actually talking to him or if she was still asleep somehow, but looking at her eyes he noticed that Annabeth wasn't asleep and that she truly believed that she was talking to her brother. "I'm not your brother." Jack stated though despite saying the truth he felt awful as Annabeth began to weep louder. Annabeth shook her head in protest unaware that she was actually awake and confessing the truth about her brother.
They hadn't said anything for over a minute Jack had tried to soothe Annabeth but she wasn't listening and only continued to cry, thankfully her tears were beginning to subside. Seeing as Jack was about to say something Annabeth quickly spoke hoping to clear up this confusion. "Tell me that you don't see the similarities between you and my brother." Annabeth said still believing that this was a dream and she had yet to wake up.
"I've never met your brother. So I wouldn't know how similar we are." Jack replied.
"He had brown hair and eyes, and wore what you're wearing." Annabeth said gesturing to his attire.
"I don't have brown hair or brown eyes." Jack replied getting tired of the subject, "As for the clothing many people wear brown everyone looks practically the same."
Annabeth sighed sadly, "What do you remember before a few weeks ago?" she asked changing the subject.
Jack shrugged. "Nothing. Why?"
"Because a few weeks ago I lost my brother to a horrible incident." She took a breath before continuing, "We were skating when the ice began to crack from under me… Jack had tried to make the situation bearable by turning it into a game of hopscotch, he had managed to pick up a stick…" Annabeth's eyes trailed to Jack's staff. "And used it to pull me away from the thin ice when I got close enough to him. The sudden action sent us both flying across the ice, I landed where Jack had been and he landed where I was on the thin ice. Before I knew it he was plunged into the water and all I did was call after him, I stayed by the hole watching and hoping that he would somehow be able to pull himself back up to the surface. He never showed." Jack had began to find the floor interesting half way through Annabeth's speech he didn't want to see the pain in her eyes if it felt anything like the one in his heart. Annabeth was also studying the grass beneath them, she was scared to see what Jack's expression would be after this. "I don't remember how long I sat on the ice for only that my father had pulled me away before I told him what happened. I'm surprised he understood me with all my crying I guess the fact that I wouldn't look away from the lake also helped him piece together what he could understand.
"I don't know how or why but I believe he was revived, though why you have white hair and blue eyes I don't know but…" Annabeth trailed off.
Jack's head snapped up, this was where she had been leading to. "Annabeth I know how you must be feeling but what you're suggesting isn't possible." Before he continue Annabeth did.
"But surely it has to make some sense!" Annabeth almost yelled, "He disappears a few weeks ago and you appeared a few weeks ago with, no memory of anything before that. Also might I add that I first met you in the woods by the lake."
"It's probably just a coincidence." He suggested.
"I wish you could remember Jack. I wish you remembered all the fun we used to have, how you always played pranks on people, how we could never be separated for long. It saddens me to be with you and have fun like we always do and yet you have no memory of it." Annabeth felt tears swell in her eyes again but did nothing to hide them as she continued, "I want my brother back! I want you to be able to remember me, I want to feel the warmth of your touch when we embrace, to hear you're voice that assures me everything's okay not as my friend but as my brother. I miss you Jack." Annabeth said as she hung her head in defeat.
"It overjoyed me to see you again, and despite that you don't remember or that you act like a friend and not a brother, I still love and cherish you, and there is nothing you can say that will make me change my mind. You are my best friend Jack, so memory or not I will continue to love you as though nothing has ever changed. I will believe in you for the rest of my life, because all you have done for me is protect, believe and love me." Annabeth looked up to see Jack looking at her a faint smile on his face, "I couldn't have asked for a better brother," she said moving to hug Jack once again.
Jack didn't know what to say everything inside him was screaming that this was true but it didn't make sense, deciding that it would be best not to try and make sense, he let himself believe what Annabeth was saying, the more he did the more it felt right and the more he was touched to hear what Annabeth thought about him. Better yet he was still
delighted to learn that he had a sister.
Apparently Annabeth wasn't done as she continued her voice quiet as she buried her face in his chest, "I'm sorry I'm the reason you died." Jack's heart nearly stopped as her words reached his ears. Annabeth blamed herself for his death, Jack was shocked to say the least.
"You have nothing to be sorry about." Jack said, though he was just as surprised as Annabeth when the words had been spoken without him even thinking. "You weren't the ice that broke when I saved you, you weren't the cold water that made me drown. You are my sister who had a near death experience and witnessed one happen to someone she cared so deeply about. There is nothing that can change the outcome of that situation but…" Jack said lifting Annabeth's chin to look at him, "And I know I don't remember anything, but I wouldn't change anything. I would gladly risk my life to save yours any day. So if you say I'm your brother…" Jack smiled hugging Annabeth tightly, "Then I'll believe you after all you've never been wrong before and you don't seem like the type of person to lie. That and it's great to know that I have a sister." He laughed at the end as he crushed Annabeth in a hug while tickling her, causing her to giggle.