Chapter 21: Siblings
Claire turned towards Albert her expression full of rage, "This is your fault." she spoke darkly. The ice groaned again signalling to the adults that it was now too weak to hold them. With a sigh Claire made her way to the shore, Albert joined her moments later, neither tore their eyes away from the hole in the middle of the lake.
"I'm sorry." Albert said, his voice just barely above a whisper. Claire turned to him her face melding into hurt. "I was just doing what I thought was right." He sighed running a hand through his hair, "I never thought this would happen." Claire could see that her husband was now suffering just as much as she was perhaps more as they both knew none of this would have happened if he had let Jack be.
Claire placed a hand on his shoulder, as much as she wanted to comfort her husband in his dire state she had to tell him. "It's not me that you need to apologise to." She spoke calmly, she turned to the lake again her eyes filling with tears. She had lost both of them to the lake now, she silently wondered if she could join them. Claire quickly shook the depressing thought from her head, her husband needed her.
"It's too late." Albert said as tears began falling from Claire's eyes. He pulled her close, "I'm sorry I've caused this pain. If I could undo it I would." Albert sighed his own tears forming, he hated himself and he doubted that his wife would ever look at him the same not that he blamed her. His grip tightened as Claire cried, silently so did he though his eyes never left the ice, he prayed that by some miracle he would see them both again, be it as winter spirits or not.
Laughter filled her ears but it wasn't the cruel kind, it was familiar and full of joy. Her eyes focused on the image before her, of her and her brother sitting in a tree during Spring, the bright green leaves swayed in the breeze. Annabeth noticed that they were younger, her hair was longer and her eyes were full of questions, Jack was still as she remembered him, mischievous yet loving, his eyes silently promising that he would always protect her.
The memory faded as reality began to catch up with her, Annabeth saw nothing but darkness, her body numb from the cold, she couldn't move, couldn't breathe and she was scared. The warmth the memory had brought was beginning to wash away in the lake as she sank towards the bottom.
Something cold wrapped itself around her and pulled her up away from the dark abyss below. This action had came at a price unable to stop it she released the breath she'd been holding as her world fell into a different darkness this one without the insecurity of the other.
Jack pulled Annabeth onto the ice where she lay unmoving and unresponsive, he had heard the startled gasps of his parents yet he paid them no heed as he focused on his sister. There had to be something he could do.
He felt for a pulse relieved when he felt one despite how faint it was, he worked on getting the water out of her ignoring the small frost pattern he left at his touch. It took a moment but he managed to get her to cough up the intruding liquid.
She smiled at him before falling unconscious once more. Jack sighed, he had done all that he could for now. Picking her up along with his staff before placing it in Annabeth's hands, she gripped it tightly as she shook from the cold.
Moving with ease across the frozen surface he handed Annabeth to Albert who smiled at him before he turned to head home. Claire pulled Jack into a hug ignoring the frozen water that clung to him. She pulled him with her as she moved for home, the surprise was welcome as Jack tagged along.
When they arrived Albert handed him his staff with an apology for his actions, the latter of which truly surprised him before he was pulled into a hug by the man. Jack smiled embracing the family moment.
For the rest of the night and the following day Jack had stayed in Annabeth's room, perched on the window he watched as his sister continued to sleep. It became harder to bear however as days began to pass with Annabeth still yet to wake. Jack sighed leaning his head against the window.
His parents would often come and talk to him, with Albert continuously apologising and he would do the same to Annabeth when he believed Jack to be asleep. In truth he didn't sleep, he couldn't, he wasn't sure if it was because he physically wasn't able to or the fact that he didn't want to in fear of missing Annabeth wake up.
Slowly the days moved into weeks, with the village doctor coming and going, unlike his parents and Annabeth the man couldn't see him instead he said that he could feel a freezing chill by the window. Often suggesting to put Annabeth in a warmer room, they didn't move her.
As weeks rolled by Winter began to end leaving Jack feeling out of place as the temperatures began to rise. Still Jack remained even as Spring was fully in bloom, he helped care for his sister, praying for her to wake as he needed to leave, he knew he couldn't stay during Summer it would be too hot for him then.
Annabeth remained asleep even as months passed with Summer rapidly approaching. Despite the higher temperatures and worried comments from his parents about the summer weather, he stayed. He wasn't leaving her side for anything, winter would be fine without him after all he only shared its abilities and it may follow him where he went which in this case was Annabeth's room, but it still didn't need him. It had existed before him it could exist without him following the cold season around the world.
Summer had came and like Jack and the others had predicated it made the winter teen uncomfortable, the heat caused his head to spin and he felt powerless as it continued. He couldn't create a snowflake and his staff had lost its ice, even his clothes were frost free.
Claire and Albert had went back to their daily routine months ago, both assured that Jack would look after Annabeth. Claire would check up on the pair and stay and talk with them before doing the extra chores left undone by her children, not that she blamed them. Plus it gave her time to take her mind off their situation, Annabeth had yet to wake and Jack was a spirit, a reflection of his former self.
Albert went back to work, hunting in the forest gathering wood, and making money for his family and for treatment for Annabeth. Like his wife he was worried, his daughter was asleep and his son was the embodiment of winter. He didn't like it, people weren't meant to sleep for this long and they weren't supposed to be winter. He entered the house to see his wife in the kitchen cooking, he moved past to Annabeth's room where he found Jack sleeping besides Annabeth, he smiled before leaving the room. Nothing had changed except for Jack moving closer to his sister.
Jack had opened his eyes as Albert left before closing them again. It was the first time he had slept in months. He smiled as he dreamed of his time with Annabeth in the winter past both before and after he fell through the ice.
Something shook him away making Jack moan in protest as he swatted at the person shaking him. "Jack." A voice laughed as it whined. "You've been asleep for hours." It complained, Jack shrugged, so what if he had been asleep Annabeth had been asleep far longer than he had.
His eyes snapped open, Annabeth, was she awake yet. He sat up his eyes catching the darkness of the room only illuminated by the dimly lit fireplace, the cracking wood drowned out by rain. It was pouring outside, and it seemed colder to moving to the window he noticed that the trees were bare of leaves with what seemed to be once traces of snow being washed away by the rain.
"Jack?" Jack's heart quickened, his mind questioned at how had he been asleep for so long, what did that mean for Annabeth? He turned to see the girl in question, she was still there on her bed, as she had been for almost a year.