Blood and tears
She is just an infant when it first catches her eye.
Her plump legs drag across the dew-strewn grass of the early morning, attempting in vain, to keep pace with her driven enthusiasm. Eyes sparkling with unholy fascination, she stares captivated, as a blur of vibrant colours glint against the radiant sunlight. Peals and shrieks of dizzy laughter reach her ears like a melody of ethereal music and the childish longing burns within her, fuelling a few hurried steps. Caught in a frenzy of yearning, she trips on her own unsteady feet and falls with a gentle bump against the moist earth. Yet, her purpose unwavering, she moves on, pushing the slush beneath her with her chubby fingers and hauling her weight laboriously against the dirt. Her thin gingham frock comes stained with dirt and her mismatched shoes fall off, forgotten.
Yet, she is too small and the destination, too far. The hot, disgraceful tears of defeat prick at her eyes and through filmy eyes, she gazes enviously at their excited forms, swinging in gay abandon. The desire swells within her and unable to suppress the overwhelming longing, she turns to a last resort; one she has, even at her tender age, learnt never to employ unless in dire need.
Her breath, hoarse from toil under the oppressive heat of the sun, forms the words with discernible hesitance.
Gray eyes shine with but the slightest hope as he turns, his own eyes narrowed as an expression of his stark disapproval, a frown etched across his broad, golden hair-swathed forehead. He briefly scans the vast grounds before he catches a glimpse of her weary form, lying defeated in the mud. His frown intensifies, soon replaced by an aggravated scowl as he observes from a distance, her now-soiled frock and her hair beaded with sweat.
He moves not.
The words resonate, sounding ever so desperate, so beseeching. Yet he walks away pitilessly and she lets herself fall in the mud, lets the tears fall freely down her cheeks; hot, fierce tears ablaze with yearning and disappointment. She senses the sun's wrath on her pale skin and eyes squeezed shut, she tries to put their delighted laughter and enthralled faces out of her mind. Below her, she feels the earth quiver and with an harsh, abrupt jerk, she is lifted off the ground and from depths of her reverie.
His hands are cold and uncaring against her soft skin and he holds her loosely, carelessly, as if anxious not to be seen with the child in his arms. But she cares not, for she is accustomed to his behavior and instead, looks with great anticipation before her, vision cleared once more. His strides are long and his gait, hurried but her gaze is trained on her prize … the glittering sand-pit … edging closer … closer …
He abandons her on the nearest swing, pulling his hands off her in ill-masked haste and paces away swiftly. She is left alone and the initial joy evaporates, leaving her confused and scared and longing for his strong figure. She grapples around urgently, tiny palms struggling to grab something firm to hold on to.
She finds it not; and her elfin body unbalanced on the unpolished plank, she comes, tumbling, falling, flailing … her arms scraping against an indiscernible sharp edge.
He never looks behind.
He never sees her tears and blood that taint the golden sands.
She is a child when she sees it again.
She curbs her merry trot to an unusually slow pace and her face blanches against the empty blackness of the stormy night. He stops and kneels down by her side, concern etched all over his archetypal impish features as he takes her face into his large hands and looks up at her with his bright blue eyes. He runs his hands through her wet, matted curls gently and comforts her, promises her that he'll always be there for her.
She doesn't hear him. She doesn't feel his hands brush against her cheeks, nor the incessant patter of the unrelenting rain against her arched shoulders. A thousand miles away, a thousand hours past, she sees in her mind's eye and she remembers. Remembers that golden day of bliss, the glory of the rainbow colors, the sun's pitiless ire and the sweat beading her forehead. She hears their elated laughter echoing in her ears; hauntingly sweet, bitterly musical and then, she is falling, crashing, glory crumbling, crying, bleeding …
Then, she is sobbing; sobbing on his shoulder, crying her heart out; crying in his arms because she knows that he's the only one who'll ever let her. He pulls her into his embrace and lets her weep, caressing her head tenderly all the while, patiently listening as she divulges the secret behind her sorrow. When she looks up at him again, the tears are still in her eyes, but she's smiling too, partly at the realization that he will probably be the only one who'll ever be able to make her smile through her tears.
With a doting chuckle, he swings her onto his broad shoulders unexpectedly and she lets out a surprised yelp; subsequently, proceeding to burst into giggles. She throws her arms around his neck fondly and even in so precarious a position, she feels safe, because she knows, no matter what that he will never let go of her, never let any harm come to her.
But, as he marches onward, cold terror grips at her heart. She pleads, cries, screams, but he pulls her into his arms and stifles her cries in his embrace, stroking her, consoling her, chiding her. He seems blind to her fear, ignorant of the sense of foreboding that fills her. She hates him, he's just like he was; treacherous, mendacious, uncaring, spiteful … she kicks and shrieks in a paroxysm of phobia, of hysterical fear as the adrenalin surges through her, the mania seizes her.
He doesn't let go.
He grabs her ever more tightly; thus, whilst she lies secure in his iron-grip, he seats himself on the drenched swing. The dementia rushes through her and she flails wildly, passionately. Even so, he clings on to her and he pushes his bare feet back in the wet sand, savoring for one cherished moment, the trickle of the minuscule grains between his toes.
And the swing rushes forward, through the howling wind, through the torrential rain and flies toward the pale moon and the star-studded sky. The air runs through her hair and wipes her tears and her fear slightly abated, she tentatively opens her eyes. And so she witnesses the moon in all it's might and splendor and beholds the vast gloom of the sky dappled by scintillating stars that seemed to flit within the reach of her tiny hands.
Small drops of wistful hope in an ocean of shadowy grief.
Then, she turns to look upon him, her infantile face aglow with innocent wonder, but she finds him pensive; his eyes closed, a secret smile playing on his rain-kissed lips as he bathes in the shimmering moonlight.
She looses herself in his arms and in his warm embrace, under the weeping sky, she falls asleep.
She is a young girl when he convinces her to accompany him on what she is certain is a pointless expedition.
She allows herself be led without much protest, contenting herself with a fierce glare at his turned back. Unaware, he trudges on and she pursues his brisk hike, pushing the shrubbery that lies in her path with a careless hand, her mind distracted.
He calls out to her, a tender edge to his voice and beckons towards something she sees not. She lackadaisically quickens her sluggish pace, still lost in introspection. From the corner of her eyes, she watches unseeingly as he shakes his messy crop of raven-black hair, mutters incoherently under his breath and rushes up to her dawdling self, taking her hands into his.
She grasps his hand even tighter.
She doesn't look at him. She doesn't want to look at him, because she is confused and lost, because she's afraid to acknowledge the expression of fond affection that she is certain will cross his face. She has lost faith; lost faith in herself, in him, in the world, in her struggle, in what she's fighting for and what she believes in. She doesn't know and she doesn't understand. She is acutely aware that it is the very state of being unable to understand the torrent of emotions flooding through her is what frightens her the most. It scares her not to know, not to understand.
Thus, she feels fear so real; it weighs her down, burning into her very essence. Part of her has already realised that he is never coming back, that she has lost him to darkness, lost him to nothingness just as she lost everyone before him. It scares her to accept that he no longer cares, that he no longer loves, that the boy who once dandled her on his skinny knees and wiped away her bitter tears when she cried would now spare not a second thought before killing her. Yet she knows just as well, that she will never get over him, never get over that dazzling smile, those warm hugs and innocent kisses, practical jokes and whispered secrets, the older girl's half-irate, half-amused face …
And something breaks inside her; the small, stretched thread of false hope and security, which she has been clinging to for so long, snaps; she drowns in an ocean of pain as something inside her dies.
Fear, confusion, loss, betrayal, grief … she wants, so much; to just run away from it all, to just fly away…
All of a sudden, she is aware of the breath of the wind on her face and his insistent tug on her hands and she is forced to open her eyes to actuality, her fantasized castles in the air dispersed in wisps of black smoke. There is no more illusion, only the merciless, unyielding glare of harsh reality.
The scene unfurling before her, she stares in stupefied elation and delighted shock as he wills the green to paint their own secluded corner in the world. The breeze is tinged with a whiff of tangy freshness and the sun sifts through a canopy of lush foliage, its rays shaded with a hue of emerald as it sweeps the long, rustling grass below.
In a corner of the surreal paradise, she glimpses it, creaking in a travesty of soothing refrain.
She wills herself to embrace her innocence once more.
Running through the blossoming meadow, she savours the feel of moist earth against her bare feet and the furtive whispers of the verdant grass. She lets her undone hair fly in a glory of gold and delights in the gentle rush of the wind and the temperate caress of the sun on her face.
But in that corner, she halts as if in reverence of the divine.
He is by her side once more, soundless in his patient wait; leaving the sobriety of the silence unbroken. She reaches out slowly and carefully strokes the untarnished surface; then, tentatively seating herself, her lips pursed in uncertainty. He takes her lead, jumping with a ridiculously immature hop onto the plank and jerking his body forward, pushing the swing into motion.
She glances at him apprehensively; then, rakes her feet through the damp soil hesitantly, and for a moment, contemplates the ruled pattern her toes have etched upon the grassy floor, before pulling her legs back and holding her breath in anticipation.
Once more, she is greeted by the playful burst of the breeze and a rush of exhilaration and she feels like she would on a rendezvous with a long-lost friend. For one precious instant, she sees a moon and stars which never were, his secret smile; and the sprinkle of star-dusted dreams on a stormy night encase her, as she soars into her reminiscences, into world of time long past.
And then she throws back her head and laughs – a clear, ringing laugh – laughter so untainted, it drives mortals insane; laughter so laced with pain and grief, with sorrow and indecision, it makes the gods weep. She laughs because she is past the triviality of tears, because she has been through so much hurt and anguish that she has no use for tears any more; she laughs because the only one who can wipe her tears is the very reason why, somewhere deep inside, her soul is crying.
She laughs at the irony.
Her laughter is delusional; thus, he watches her with the profound satisfaction that he has brought her comfort, that he has brought her a smile. Yet, some intuitive part of him knows, that he will always wonder why her laughter broke his heart.
As the swing gradually looses pace, she rests her head against her curled fingers and looks at him, at his wind-swept hair and endearing easy smile, at glistening sea-green eyes and at his slight discomfiture at being the object of her scrutiny.
She decides that his considerate nature is why he will always hold her part of her heart – because despite of being clumsy, diffident and so despicably, abysmally foolish, the integrity of his gestures are always so evident, that she finds it utterly impossible to detest him. God knows, she has tried. Tried to hate him, despise him, curse him, ridicule him, distance herself from him. Yet, no matter what, he always reappears by her side, that damned easy smile plastered on his stupid charming face, always knowing what she wants, what she needs; his cluelessness contrasted by his untainted desire to do good.
In that moment, she has her own epiphany and she realizes – something that she has known all along. She wants tell him, but she is well aware that a lifetime's wounds do not heal in a day. She wants to tell him, but the words are lost somewhere within, reluctant to see light again … maybe even afraid.
She wants to tell him, but as she looks again into those tranquil, green eyes, she knows, that he understands.
She is a woman now, older and perhaps, wiser than she'll ever be.
There is no breeze this time, not even the silent murmur of wind through the elm groves; only the sun's ultimate minutes of luminance as it descends into the far-flung horizon. The azure sky is partly spattered with an array of iridescent colour, like the blank stretch of a canvas splashed with sundry hues by the cautious artist.
She carefully averts her gaze from Phoebus Apollo's realm and glances around her, her fingers involuntarily tightening around the long chains as she lifts her feet from the ground and dangles them blithely with the sway. A short distance away, she watches with pang of twisted, bitter amusement, as an infant drags his feet precariously against the sands and struggles to remain upright, his little outstretched arms pointed at her, that evocatively familiar childish wonder etched on his plump face.
He is an infant, just like she once was; an infant striving to stand on his own feet; striving to inhale his first real breath of independence. Just like she once had, aeons ago, the babe staggers and trips and the earth, ever the mother, cushions his fall.
The baby, so akin to what she once was … yet, so different.
She observes impassively as a woman – tall and athletic - runs towards the fraught toddler, her long face aglow with fierce pride such as only motherhood can bring, her breath ragged with worry as she sweeps the dust-covered child into her arms and smothers him in a shower of tender kisses and proud tears.
And she looks away.
It is at moments like these, that she wonders, would her tale have been different, had her father stood by her side that fateful day, so many years ago? Would the hand that scribed her destiny onto the parchment of existence altered it's words had he spoilt her with a little more care, a little more love? Would Atropos' dreaded shear have snipped off her thread of life earlier … or later?
So many questions and yet, she is left with no answers.
She has long given up questioning what has past, save for these unforeseen occasions when her life seems to replay itself before her very eyes, prickling at her hardened heart, stirring the very vestiges of human emotion left within her. For time, the merciless teacher, has wrought it's one core lesson onto her, a lesson she has paid too high a price to learn – that what she needs to know about the past is that no mater what has happened, it has all worked together to bring her to this very moment.
And thus, she must choose between valuing the instant … or letting it slip through her very hands, wasted and unused, because she was too caught up in her own grievances and sorrows to cherish his sacrifice.
The swing slows down as she looses herself in silent reflection, her toes trace an asymmetrical design on the loose sands. Strands of golden hair frame her contemplative face, flitting forward and back with the sway, brushing her rose-hued cheeks. Her eyes fall on the thrilled mother who stands with her young child wrapped in her warm embrace.
At that moment, she does what she hasn't done for twenty years. She smiles.
The woman beams back at her, swinging in her arms, the vivacious toddler, who sticks out his tongue in a gesture of approval. She watches, a ghost of her smile still lingering on her features as the woman turns and walks into the twilight sky, silhouetted by the sun's dying glow.
Around her, the leaves of the towering elms plummet to the ground in a shower of incarnadine shades and the children scamper about with their airy laughs and carefree smiles, their tiny feet crushing the crisp brown leaves that swathe the earth, engaged in their frivolous pursuits and frolicsome charges.
And despite the fading gleam of the sun in the distance, there is an illusory warmth that swirls around her, a warmth born from the realization that even the darkest days are greeted by dawn's rays; that even in a world of sorrow, grief, pain and misery, there lies a small, intense ray of hope.
In the distance, she hears the faint hoot of the owls welcoming the night and her grateful gaze turns heavenwards, sighing at the darkened sky. And as twilight's twin stars peer through the firmament 's shadowy curtains and twinkle down at her, she closes her eyes and all at once, she feels her father's strong figure watching her with pride, feels Luke's dazzling smile playing upon her and senses Percy's comforting presence close by, his eyes ever glistening with adoration.
And she knows, that she is never really alone.
It's been three months … *creeps from under rock* hi again? Thanks you for all the reviews for Last Breath; reviews make me ever so happy! My appearances will probably be few and far between over the next year as well … thanks to it being the big-year-of-my-life-that-decides-my-fate and such _ so don't hope for updates on any multi-chapter fics. *ducks*
This fic is for my amazing pal, Penny XD who sent me a PM reminding me that I used to write and also for the fantastic forum members of Blue Trident for being the most awesome people ever!
On to the fic, it was inspired by my seemingly kiddish love for swings (but, seriously, how can you NOT like them … they are the best things ever!!!) Originally intended to be a Percabeth fluffy one-shot but it went off on a tangent somewhere after the first line. Then, I decided it would end in youth; but the concept and fic seemed incomplete, so you get the extra adult!
(I'm worried that this fic is horribly confusing, not well-finished (and so on) and should you agree, please let me know … infant (Mr. Chase); child (Luke); youth (Percy); adult (alone) is the order if anyone didn't get that yet.)
Percy is dead in the adult; the infant is just a random kid having a good time. In child, I presume Thalia is dead, but it can be otherwise.
Atropos is the last of the Fates (Moirae) She's the one that cuts the thread of life.
And my first one-shot crossing 3,000 words! Yays! Review, folks, if you enjoyed/were confused/hated/loved/cried/pulled your hair out/puked/slept off while reading this! Reviews make the world go round!
Till next time