Death was a strange experience for Charlie. He remembered pain, flying, and then hitting the surface of something wet very, very hard. He remembered sinking, and then blacking out.
When he woke up, he couldn't figure out where he was. A boy was standing above him, one he recognized, but didn't know well. Nico Di Angelo, the reclusive son of Hades.
Nico offered him a hand up, which he took gratefully. "Where am I?" Beckendorf asked, looking around.
Nico grimaced. "You haven't guessed yet?" he asked. "I thought you would have by now…"
Charles looked up at the son of Hades and it dawned on him. "I'm dead, aren't I?" he said. Nico nodded. He groaned, head in hands. "Oh, gods, Silena!"
Nico seemed sympathetic. "Yeah, well, Percy asked me to streamline everything for you. I got you through judging faster, without having to wake you up, and… Well, welcome to Elysium!" he said with fake cheer.
Charles nodded. "Thank you. Can you tell Percy not to be too hung up about it? Knowing him… Well, it wasn't his fault, at all."
"Will you try for rebirth?" Nico asked.
"No," Charles answered, "I think I'm going to wait here for someone." Silena, he thought, and finally, the complications of what had happened occurred to him. He was dead. Dead!
Nico seemed to sense this change of emotion, and realized that the other boy probably wanted some space. "Yeah, well, waiting is something you'll no doubt be doing a lot of." Nico coughed uncomfortably. "Well, I'll just… you know…"
Charles nodded in thanks, watching the younger boy walk away and suddenly disappear. He slid down the wall and cupped his head.
Oh gods, what happened to me…
Silena's death was unfortunately much more traumatic. She, too, experienced the blinding pain, the disorientation, and then the passing out. But when she came to, instead of being greeted by a familiar face, she found herself in a lobby of sorts, surrounded by a multitude of semi-transparent people, who shimmered out of her view if she didn't look them dead on. She walked up to the one non-shimmery person, a man in an expensive looking Italian suit. Her knowledge of Greek myths soon supplied her with a name- Charon. She stood with her head bowed respectfully, submitting herself to his appraisal.
"Do you have your fare?" he asked gruffly after looking her up and down for several second. Silena searched her pockets, hoping that someone would have thought to give her a coin, but she had no luck. Maybe, in all of the hustle of war, they had forgotten. Or maybe, a part of her whispered, they didn't want to help a traitor. She crushed this voice immediately, but still, the thought of her friends hating her made her sick to her stomach.
Silena looked up, and then undid the clasp to a golden pendant she had on, a gift from her mother. "Will this do?" she asked.
Charon took it in his hands. "Real Imperial Gold?" he asked. "On a Greek?" he shook his head, but made no further comment. "Very well, I suppose this will be sufficient."
Silena was herded onto an elevator with several other spirits, and was on the river Styx before she knew it.
This is so sad, she thought as they drifted along, everyone's hopes and dreams just being discarded here. She saw in front of her many spirits drop small objects into the river- here, a gold wedding band, there, a small locket. She wondered where they had gotten such things, and was surprised when she looked down and realized that she, too, had several things in her hands. She tried to keep a hold of them, but the compulsion to drop them was too strong. Out of her fingers slipped several trinkets- the college diploma she never got, an old box of chocolates from her father, the silver dagger that was a token from her mother.
The last object in her hands made her gasp. The copper wire bracelet that Charlie had presented her with right after the fireworks glinted in the strange green torch light. She struggled with all her might to hold on, to save this one last piece of him, all she had left. It dangled from one finger as she tried to keep her fingers steady, to pull it back into the small dingy, but she couldn't. She watched as if in slow motion as it fell, slowly, slowly into the water, dropping with a small plop and sinking quickly, the boat soon leaving it behind. She watched in anguish, as the last reminder of him was gone, and she felt some connection falter, something pull at her heart, snap, and then was gone. Shocked, she stood still as a statue, unable to breathe, to think, to live- and then, just as suddenly, she was pulled away, out of the boat, and into the realm of the dead.
Percy and Annabeth were the first to go, Nico following soon after. Charlie was glad for the company, but was sad that they had to let their lives go so soon. Percy and Annabeth were barely seventeen, and Nico was just thirteen! But they all seemed to be taking it well. Percy had grown tremendously, even in just the year that it had been since Charlie's death. And, apparently, he had been asleep for almost three quarters of it. But still, he had this new air of responsibility. Still the same carefree Percy as always, but somehow more… subdued.
Though it had only seemed like a blink of an eye to Charlie, a lot had gone on on the Earth above. He had heard stories of new prophecies and trips to Tartarus, and even of the rising of Gaea. Apparently, though, that was all sorted out, and it was what Percy, Annabeth, and Nico had all died trying to solve. There was even a new revelation of another demigod camp- Romans. Charlie had only met one, a son of Ar- that is to say, Mars, and while he had no particular animosity towards them, he didn't like the tight regime and control they seemed to thrive on. Or maybe it was just Frank.
Another new happening was the relationship between Percy and Annabeth. They were inseparable, and together, not too worried about death. It seemed they could be anywhere, together, and it wouldn't matter. They seemed to share an immense bond, one that Charlie had never seen in even married couples, but he supposed that came from being in multiple life and death situations together. He was just glad that they had gotten their heads out of their asses and realized their infatuation with each other.
In fact, they were almost annoying to be around, especially to Charles. He couldn't deny them their love for each other- it was obvious that they were meant for each other. But when they were making 'love-eyes' at one another, and the others would good naturedly complain ('Go get a room! You're making us sick!), Charlie could feel a strange pang in his heart, it reminded him so much of Silena.
Silena. Nobody would give him a straight answer when it came to her and what she was doing now. He wished that he could see her- not dead, of course, but see her none the less, and as he couldn't, any information about her would have to do. He wished he could hear that she was well- heck, that she had a boyfriend, though he knew that would crush him.
He just wanted to know that she was all right.
Silena found she couldn't remember much. Only large events- and nothing she had done in her living life. Only impressions remained- such as she knew she had a connection to chocolate. And she had some strange aversion to the name Drew, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember why. And the strangest of all, that emptiness in her heart, the one she knew was somehow connected to dropping that bangle in the river, one of the only other things she remembered doing.
Her other memory was simple- the trial of deeds that every soul had to go through to get their placement. She could remember standing in a chamber, every memory open for the judges in front of her to see, every secret she had kept, every lie and bad deed. She couldn't remember the memories the judges had looked at, but she did remember what they had said about them.
"A normal childhood, nothing special here."
"And when she got to camp, look here, her relationship with Luke-"
"Here's where he coerced her to work for him."
"Her betrayal- she was a spy. She deserves punishment."
"But look here- she was a hero in the end. Does that not merit anything?"
"But the people she killed! Her last act won't make up for any of their lives!"
"Yes, but will it make up for her own?"
This frustrated Silena a lot. Who was Luke? And she was a spy? She didn't remember any of that. Then again, she didn't remember much of anything. She remembered how she had just stood there, not responding at all to her surroundings, how she had not reacted when the judges had made their decision- Fields of Asphodel, they said, as her apparent 'last act' had not made up for the rest of her life. A compromise.
She wasn't that sad about being here in Asphodel. She seemed to remember someone (Who? Who?) telling her about how awful things in Asphodel had seemed, no one remembering anything or doing anything. Just bumbling around, trying to talk to one another but not being able to, seemingly looking for something, but unable to find it.
But Silena felt as though her memories had weighed her down when she was living, that she was guilty about something, and now she was free of it. But something was missing- no, someone, and she had no idea who they were or what they meant to her. Silena sat down on the secluded hill she had found, and for the first time in the immeasurable amount of time she had spent here, she cried.
Charles sat from his vantage point, watching the hill intently. He knew she would come- she always would, and it was the only place he could see her, given the fact that he couldn't go into Asphodel and see her face to face.
How his friends had tried to keep it from him, and how he had played along- he knew, in his heart, that she wouldn't come to join him, but no matter how hard they tried, it was only a matter of time.
It happened when Clarisse had joined them at the ripe old age of 85, one of the lucky few who had lived that long. She was welcomed into their little group with open arms, and so was her daughter, when she died at 79. He knew then, that even if Silena had lived to be 100 she would have died by now.
He demanded answers, and slowly, reluctantly, they began to tell him the story of her betrayal, her sacrifice, and how she had died a hero. A hero, they had said, but it was still not enough.
He had left, then. Went away for gods knows how long- time was different in the land of the dead, but probably close to a century. He spent the time crossing deserts and mountains- all though up for our own entertainment, or perhaps for the more claustrophobic souls, he thought, but it wasn't enough.
He stopped at a lake, one day, to think. It wasn't out of exhaustion- souls don't get tired, though he supposed he could be counted as emotionally drained- but more out of shock of the likeness of the place to the lake at Camp Half-Blood. He could remember days spent by that lake, with Silena, laughing and talking in the sun.
Why? He raged. Why did you betray us? Why did you betray me? Was I not enough for you?! Did he mean more to you?! Now were both dead, and stuck apart from each other for eternity!
And he realized it didn't matter. She had made her choices and he had made his, and they were where they were. And he realized that from any vantage point it was sad. Here he was, being rewarded for some foolishly brave thing that he had done over a hundred years before, and her punished for and equally stupid thing. And here they were, unable to change, unable to repent, or make up for the wrong that they had done. What good was it if you meant to do something great but were killed before you could accomplish it? If you strayed off the right path just before death, and had to atone for fifty years of mistakes- a miniscule amount of time compared to eternity- until the world ended.
And so he came back. Because even if he didn't have Silena, he had other friends who, just like him, lost everything they had in death. He would stand by Percy and Annabeth, who laughed and smiled with each other, but secretly mourned the loss of the children they never had. And he would stand by Nico, who never even got the chance to live, to grow up, but yet at the same time never had a childhood.
So there he stood, looking down at the crest of the hill where she had finally shown up and sat down. And when he cried, he could truly say that it wasn't just for her he was crying for.
Charles whispered his last words to Silena, so close and yet so far away. Strange, dead paying their respects to another dead person. And when she looked up at him, he could almost swear he saw recognition in her eyes, though it was gone in an instant. Fighting off tears, he walked away for the last time, swearing that he would be there for others, no matter how broken he was.
Because when you're broken, even heaven is dark.