The wind was knocked out of Nico’s lungs so fast it brought him to his knees. His eyes widened and his chest ached hard enough to make his bony fingers claw at his own shirt. He stared at the grass beneath him, completely transfixed.
“Nico?” He could hear a vague voice in the distance. “Nico!” Louder the second time, more frantic.
He heard footsteps around him, someone gripped his shoulders. He couldn’t think, couldn’t speak. His mouth was agape as his body heaved for air.
“What’s wrong?” the same frantic voice as before. Nico could barely register that Will was there, trying to decipher his medical condition.
Nico’s hand shot out and gripped onto the other boy’s arm in a vice-like hold. He felt Will’s hands brace his, trying to ground him. Still, he couldn’t find words, but the movement stirred something in him.
More footsteps. Heavier ones... someone clearly wearing armor.
“Nico!” came a girl’s voice. Nico has to concentrate on the sound to register its owner. “Will, what’s wrong with him?” she asked, her voice raising an octave. Nico remembered that this change in tone wasn’t normal for that voice. Reyna.
Nico’s other hand shot out and grabbed Reyna wherever he could reach her; he felt her leg beneath his palm and then a clammy hand grip his. “Nico, you have to help us... what’s happening?” Her voice was wavering. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the name Bryce tickled his thoughts.
Nico wheezed when he tried to force out the word that he knew needed to be said. They had to know... Reyna had to know.
All Nico could feel was the intensity of what happened... in his back, sudden, and air gone.
He thought of the Underworld and hoped to all gods that Elysium was waiting. The word Tartarus was on his tongue, but that was only his worst fears. It was not this reality. This reality rivaled that place.
At long last, a sob escaped Nico’s lips and tears escaped his horror-stricken expression. He was finally able to take another breath - a real one - and lifted his head. His eyes darted between Reyna and Will but settled on Reyna and remained. He opened his mouth... closed it again.
“N-Nico?” Reyna asked, his name nearly stuck in her throat.
With one hand in Will’s and the other in Reyna’s, he squeezed with what little strength he could muster.
Tears rolled down his face, heating his cheeks in the most painful way. “Jason....” his voice cracked.