Death was quick.
Not painless (oh no the opposite of painless as she was crushed under thousands of tons of metal and electricity ran through her veins until all she knew was that pain for a little more than a split second) but quick. She didn't have time to think or ponder or give any last wishes. She didn't have time for anything much at all. She’d been under the foot and suddenly she was still under but she wasn't at the same time and she could say she'd had no idea what was going on, but that would be a lie.
She knew what was happening when she arrived at a river with a man in sunglasses telling her she didn't need to pay and she knew what was happening when she stood in a row of spirits (because that's what they were; that's what she was now) waiting to board and she knew what was happening across the black water where hundreds of ghosts were lined up, ready to be judged and sent somewhere for eternity. She felt the explanation deep in her bones (or whatever she had now.)
But she didn't know what was going on when a door opened up, bright as the sun and warm as the feeling she got when she joined the hunters--her new family. The man in sunglasses scowled softly but didn't say anything and she was sure the others were going to scramble to escape, but no one noticed except for her. She could tell that the door wouldn't stay open forever, knew it would close in just a few more seconds. That was not enough time to decide her fate, but it was all she got.
With one last look at the river and the land of death beyond (it was so very familiar and why was it familiar?) she leapt into the door, slamming it shut in case someone decided to follow her through. Once inside she felt on fire. She was burning and flying and moving up up up so very fast, through layers and layers of earth and humanity and tears and sweat and time was meaningless, but she was still going so so fast.
And suddenly she stopped.
And she blinked.
And she felt her bones rattle and her muscles shake and her chest tighten and--
"I’m alive," Bianca realized, but the words were barely more than a hoarse whisper as the other members of her quest (very important, they needed to hurry; they only had a few days left) loomed over her broken form. "I’m alive." she said again, this time more final, permanent. She was alive, but something was off.
Something was wrong.
The wrongness hit her like a tidal wave while Zoë and Thalia (oh gods she was staring at Bianca and she probably looked like she'd risen from the dead because she had) and Percy and Grover all fought to explain what was going on and "how did you survive?" and "I’m so sorry I should've done better." Her soul wanted to crawl out of this damaged body and go back under the earth where she belonged; where dead things belonged.
Except she wasn't dead but she should be. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She didn't survive, she didn't complete her quest, and the ridiculous crush she developed in the span of four days didn't go anywhere.
but here she was, and there she was looking just as concerned as Zoë or Percy and she couldn't understand why because they'd barely talked (she was just so cool what was Bianca going to talk to her about?) but Thalia still looked at her as if she was someone important (they all did but Bianca had never seen this admiring and admonishing look on her particular face before and it made her feel like skeletal butterflies were dancing in her stomach)
When she tried to move, she realized why. Her right arm and left leg were crushed, inverting into her body. She could sense the bones broken into shattered pieces but she didn't know how. She couldn't feel anything. Bianca remembered reading a pamphlet at Westover when she had thought about becoming a doctor (maybe it could still happen) that had said pain was reassuring because it meant the nerves could be salvaged. She didn't feel any pain in her broken limbs, only in her head (and in her heart, the painful wrongness of the situation).
Zoë was staring at her sympathetically and rattling off a medical explanation that she barely caught a word of but the general gist was she wasn't walking out of this on two legs. And suddenly she felt relieved she was left-handed because that meant she could maybe still carry a bow. Maybe Artemis wouldn't kick her out for messing herself up in the worst way, for feeding this wrong circumstance. She was practically useless now, one leg and one arm. Who would hunt with someone like that when people like Zoë or Phoebe or even Thalia were around?
Percy was muttering to himself, but Bianca had no idea what he was saying. Grover was rearranging the acorns and playing some song on his pipes as if that could fix her. Thalia just stared openly and whatever chance she'd hoped to maybe have was gone now because here she was, deformed and Thalia looked perfect and strong with her spiky hair and her sharp jaw.
When Zoë used her knife, while Percy stuffed her face with something that tasted like the cookies Bianca would help her mother make as a little girl, she didn't feel a thing. No wait, she did feel something: that crushing othering sensation that told her something was incorrect because she was alive.
Apparently her right hand had still been clenched around the reason she was so far into the junk yard in the first place. When Thalia saw the tiny Hades figurine her eyes widened and she stared even more than Bianca and gosh why did she have to have such piercing blue eyes?
Zoë continued to patch her up, bandaging here and there with practiced precision. The process should've been slow and long and painful but it sped by before she could even realize her arm and leg were gone.
But they were.
Afterward Zoë had given her strict instructions to rest well and Percy had awkwardly carried her feverish body back to the tent, so the others could strategize without her dreams interrupting. Or nightmares. She waited in the dark, listening to the faint sound of voices as everyone argued where to go from here. What to do with her, she assumed. She couldn’t bring herself to tell them that they should’ve let her die, but maybe it would’ve helped them reach a conclusion. But Bianca didn’t want them to dump her somewhere; she wanted to keep being important and vital to the quest, a huntress of Artemis and independent and strong.
Except she wasn’t, not really. Not anymore.
She'd just begun to drift off when the door rustled open and in walked Thalia grace and suddenly Bianca was wide awake, painfully aware of her blood-matted hair and her smudged face and the empty sleeves. Thalia stood over her and she felt herself shrinking smaller into the sleeping bag.
"Good, you're awake," she said, smirking at Bianca.
She cursed herself for opening her eyes; "If you're here to...yell at me or something, I’ve already been electrocuted enough tonight." she wanted to slam her palm against her mouth the minute the words were out. Gosh why did she have to say anything? Why did she ever even open her mouth?
Thalia blinked, "Yell at you?For that stunt you pulled back there? I think the ‘why would you risk your life like that?’ sentiment is understood." she surveyed Bianca up and down, "I came to say that I know why you did it. That Hades statute is for your brother isn't it? It’s part of that card game?"
Bianca nodded cautiously, not sure where this was going.
"I get that," she looked down, "I had a brother. If he were still around I’d have done the same thing." She glared at her, "not that it wasn't an idiotic move," she softened, "but I get it. I’m just mad that it had to be you."
Electricity sparked off her hands and with a jolt (no pun intended) Bianca realized that Thalia would've been mostly okay; she was immune to electricity. Her crushed limbs would be salvaged. She would've been fixed.
"I had to," she choked out. "I activated Talos; I needed to deactivate him."
"That’s not your call!" Bianca flinched and Thalia took a breath, "Look the reason quests involve more than one person is because no one can do this stuff alone. As much as I hate to say it, we're all a team that should be working together." She scowled, "even me and Zoë."
"There wasn't really time for a team meeting. Everything was going so fast."
"Look just--next time? Try not to run into danger because of some lone-wolf bullshit." She laughed and Bianca melted a little, "I realize I’m not the best person to tell you this because I have my own lone-wolf bullshit, but that's because I’ve been doing this for years and you joined the hunters like two days ago." She ran her hand through her hair and was it possible for someone to look so good with hair standing up everywhere? It shouldn't be.
Maybe it was the slight fever Bianca had, but she was overcome with the urge to tell Thalia how good she looked. "You’re amazing."
That was not what she was planning to say.
Thalia smirked, "If I’d known confronting you about endangering your life was gonna get me complemented by a pretty girl I would've done it to Annabeth way more."
Her cheeks burned and she tried, and failed, to fight back a ridiculously goofy smile. She felt lucky, really really lucky. "I really like you." The words came out rushed. She sped through them in less than a breath, heart pounding but in a good way--the best way.
Thalia’s smirk grew wider and suddenly, quick as lightning, her mouth was on Bianca’s and she knew that they'd met each other less than a week ago and she knew that she's just watched her arm and leg be amputated and seen the underworld up close and lived and she probably wasn't in the right state of mind for kissing attractive girls in dark tents and she knew things were going too fast, everything happening in just a few paragraphs, but right now speed was something she needed because her life had gone too slow and maybe Thalia could help her change that.