Her rasping breath makes his heart shudder. He holds her shivering body closer, as if he can pass some of his own heat onto her, some of his own health and life. He would give his life right now to save her.
'Can I tell you a secret?' she whispers.
He wants to hush her, to ask her to save her strength, but he does not have the will to deny her anything. He holds her closer and nods.
'I never really thought I was good enough.'
'My family didn't want me, and when I got to Camp it was like I found a new family, but they were all already better than I was. And Thalia was gone, and then Luke.' She takes another breath and he shifts her in his arms, desperate to make her more comfortable. 'People would always leave,' she says, 'and I thought it was because of me.'
'No, it wasn't.'
'I know that now.' Her voice keeps getting weaker with every word. Percy wants to save them, he wants to catch them in a glass jar and keep them close to his heart. 'And then you came along, and for a while I thought you would leave too.'
'I'll never leave you.'
She closes her eyes and smiles, blood paints her lips. ‘I know. And Percy, that’s enough.’ Her eyes open and lock with his, her hand grips his with more strength than he thought possible. ‘It always has been.’
All at once, her voice hushes until it is silent, her breaths follow. And her firm grip on his hand softens until it is limp. Voices begin to echo towards them, coming to help, but Percy knows they are far too late.