infinite tomorrow

written by Kaleidoscope Flowers

AN: I've been working on this for a couple of weeks, hemming and hawing and generally putting it on the back burner, but here it is in all of its finished glory—finally. *grins* Thanks to my wonderful friend Aventine Hill for beta'ing this. This was written for Theia 47's Picture Challenge on Veritaville.

Songs used in section headings are, respectively: Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine; Teenage Dream by Katy Perry; Mine by Taylor Swift (cliché much, I know); and Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine. The last section heading is a quote from William Blake.

I. Happiness hit her like a train on a track; coming towards her, stuck, still no turning back

Thalia is ten years old when she runs away from home.

She only took a little money—two hundred-dollar bills swiped from her mother's wallet. She thought it would last her forever, but here she is, sitting all by herself on a park bench and flat broke—a week from the day she set off.

It's November—she doesn't know the exact date, but it's cold—and her ill-fitting wool coat isn't helping. The cutting, brisk wind chills her right down to the bone. Thalia hugs the scratchy material tighter to herself, wishing she had thought to bring along some gloves or a hat.

Passersby look at her curiously; she wonders who they think she is. Just a child waiting for her mother, or a lost little girl?

She rummages in her little backpack to see if there's anything that'll help. But Thalia only comes up with a plastic baggie of graham crackers, a water bottle, and her spare pair of socks.

She looks at the remaining supplies ruefully—they can't last long.

In the end, she puts the socks on her hands. It makes her feel foolish, but they're warm.

Thalia doesn't bother making a further plan, because there can't be one. Her food and water won't last long—there's no getting around that. She doesn't have anywhere to sleep for tonight; no doubt it's going to be cold.

Most likely, her only option will be turning herself over to Social Services; she'll be back at home by morning, and everything will be the same again.

There's nothing to be done, and she feels a little sad that her grand adventure has come to such a fizzling end.

But then one of the passersby stops and turns to look at her. He looks a little older than her—fourteen, perhaps? His hair is an almost white-blond, and his bright blue eyes sparkle in a way that makes Thalia like him immediately.

"I'm Luke," he says. "You okay? It's cold, and you look like you're missing something."

He smiles then, his lips turned up in a slightly mischievous grin.

And Thalia smiles back—she has a feeling it's only the beginning of her grand adventure.

II. The dog days are over; the dog days are done—the horses are coming, so you better run

She's been traveling with Luke for a while now—six months, actually, but who's counting?

They've picked up Annabeth, a precocious little seven-year-old, in Richmond—she's the most adorable girl Thalia's ever seen, and she idolizes Luke with wide-eyed admiration.

She's an extra mouth to steal for, but she makes it worth their while. They suspect she's a child of Athena; she knows more about algebra than Thalia does, after all, and sometimes neither of them knows what she's talking about.

Right now, it's a sweet, sunny day—the first they've had in a while. They've camped outside a little town in Connecticut. The breeze ruffles a tree nearby, sending a rush of leaves toward them.

Several of the leaves land in Annabeth's messy blonde hair, and all of them laugh. The little girl protests as Luke tousles her hair affectionately, sending the leaves flying everywhere. Thalia bites back a laugh as Annabeth starts tickling him in retaliation.

"Hey! Get Thalia!" Annabeth exclaims, suddenly noticing her giggling.

"Oof—no!" She scrambles up and runs away as Annabeth and Luke follow her, giving chase. The seven-year-old toddles on her plump legs, struggling to keep up. Luke is much faster, however, and he eventually catches up with her.

For a second, all Thalia can feel is his hot breath on her neck as his hands close around her stomach, his voice lightly teasing as he says, "Got you, Thals!" She blushes in spite of herself and runs away quicker than she should have.

But the moment passes, and soon it's just Annabeth and Luke and Thalia running all over the place, red-faced and gleeful.

They finally collapse beneath the oak tree, on their red checkered picnic blanket, and grin at each other—and maybe it's just her imagination, but she likes to think Luke's little smirk is meant exclusively for her.

It's the first time Thalia's ever felt like part of a family, and she decides she likes the feeling.

III. We can dance until we die, you and I; we'll be young forever

Sometimes, when Annabeth's already fallen asleep, it's just them and the sky.

They lie down on the old picnic blanket, staring at the constellations. There's Orion's belt, clearly twinkling in the clear night—the Big Dipper, too, and Pegasus. Thalia points out each of them eagerly to Luke.

"See, there's Perseus," she says, pointing her pale freckled arm toward a bright cluster of stars. "And Andromeda, see?"

Luke laughs and follows her gaze. Thalia likes the fact that they share the common interest; it's comforting to her. She can point out every star and moon and planet, always has been able to—maybe it's just one of those perks that comes with being the daughter of the Lord of Heaven, but however she gets the talent, she feels proud of it for the very first time on these nights with Luke.

There's no way to keep track of time, of course—they haven't seen a clock or even a watch in ages. But they both almost always stay up the whole night to number the stars, nestled together even as the first streaks of dawn pierce the lightening sky—not falling asleep until long after sunrise.

She likes to think of how they look together—her jet-black head against his blonde one, their two figures one silhouette against the endless fields of grass.

And every time they do fall asleep, Thalia falls asleep with her head on his shoulder.

IV. You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter

It's snowing the day she gets her first kiss.

The fluffy white stuff cakes every surface, and it's still falling—Annabeth thinks it's the best thing in the world, and a little bit of her childish joy is shared with Luke and Thalia too. They catch snowflakes on their tongues and lie down to make angels, not caring about their bright red noses and cold ears.

They attempt to have a race, which in retrospect probably wasn't the best idea. The goal is simple; whoever can get to the other end of the park fastest without falling wins. And so Annabeth, Thalia, and Luke all stand poised at the edge of the frost-covered grass, equally giddy.

When they all set off, Annabeth goes down immediately, and she falls face-first into the deep snowbank, howling in laughter.

Thalia is a different story—she picks up into a run, but stumbles over the snow inches from the finish. Unfortunately, Luke is right behind her, and soon they're a mess of arms and legs tumbling into the snow together.

Thalia comes up first, shaking the wet snow from her dark hair—and somehow, Luke's lips end up on hers.

She freezes instinctively, not sure what to do. His lips are cold but soft, and she's so drunk on the rush of excitement from the race and the snow that she doesn't resist.

His hand goes to the side of her head—his fingers entwined in her wet black hair, cupping her ear, shielding out the cold. They're both only vaguely aware of the snow falling all around them.

Both their faces are flushed when they withdraw, breathing hard. There's a short pause as all they see are each other's faces.

And then Thalia, with a smile on her face, leans in again and kisses Luke back.

She doesn't know what makes her do it, but it's the best sensation in the world.

V. Let's run away and don't ever look back, don't ever look back

It's spring now, and Thalia is only a few weeks from thirteen.

She can't seem to remember anything about even yesterday—each day seems to be like a whirlwind, punctuated by sunlight and stolen kisses. She feels slightly out of control for the first time, just drunk on life and love and the fact that they're young.

They move faster every day; they're almost to Long Island at this rate. Sometimes Annabeth tells Luke and Thalia she sees a set of hooves or some fur hiding behind a bush, but since they never seem to be able to catch it themselves, they decide it's probably just her imagination acting up.

There's no care in the world for them. Maybe monsters, but they know how to fight them now. And Thalia tells herself she isn't weak anymore, that she can do anything.

Maybe it's just the sunlight, but all of them seem to be in a perpetually good mood. They don't have a home or anyone else—no, it's just them—but it's the happiest days of their life.

None of them really know what they're running for, or if it'll be better than what they have now.

Though Thalia thinks it can't possibly be the latter.

VI. The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out; you left me in the dark

There are only a few things she is aware of—the rain. The blood. The others—the monsters.

She can see the vague outlines of armor-clad figures on the hill—come, come save us, she wants to shriek, but she can't seem to. There are too many monsters and only three of them. Thalia can hear Annabeth's wail, but she doesn't know where it's coming from—there's also Luke's frantic yells, and a scream that may or not be hers.

Rain mingles with tears on her cheeks as she desperately parries against a dracaena's bronze-tipped spear. She can feel herself stumbling back, her bare ankles touching the damp grass.

Thalia gives one last jab at the lizard-like monster, and it's lucky. The creature evaporates, only to be replaced by three more.

She lets out a strangled sob, not caring who else hears. There is nothing but her and the fact that she needs to live.

Thalia fumbles with the button on her wrist until Aegis comes out, knocking away a couple. She stabs in all directions—there are so many, the spear almost always buries itself in monster flesh.

She's almost to the crest of the hill—but there's not enough time. She can't leave Annabeth or Luke helpless down there, anyway. It's no use, and at least five monsters are converging on her.

Thalia's heart hammers in her chest. Please, don't let me die. Just don't let me die . . . she thinks, slowly closing her eyes. Anything—anything—but her life ending here and now.

And she gets her wish—soon she can feel her feet taking root in the soil, binding her to the spot, her long arms gradually transforming to willowy branches and a dull ache overtaking her legs.

She used to read the myth of Daphne and think of the relief of escape in the form of a father's goodness, but as the daughter of Zeus becomes a pine tree, all she can think is oh my gods let this hell end now.

Her vision is blurred slightly green, but Thalia thinks she can see Luke helping Annabeth as they both stumble up the hill to safety, and she exhales.

She can hear Annabeth's anguished outburst ("Where's Thalia?") as the leaves start taking the place of her hair.

It doesn't matter, she tells herself. They're safe. The thought is like an echoing refrain in her head.

Thalia shuts her eyes as the words reverberate in her mind.

And with that breath, the bark finally closes over her face.

VII. If a thing loves, it is infinite.

There is only a vague sensation of being, but there is one nevertheless.

She can't say when and how she feels it at first—she doesn't even know if she's a she anymore, whether she's still Thalia, daughter of Zeus. Maybe it's hearing that faint thumping of her heart or the realization as all the painful memories flood back.

With a horrifying jolt, she then realizes she can't place how much time has passed. Has it been weeks? Months? Years? She fully expects to look down at her hands and find them bony and wrinkled, but the only thing soothing that nightmarish fear is the fact that she can't see her hands.

Where are Luke and Annabeth now? Dead, or off being heroes?

It's a selfish thing on Fate's part, Thalia thinks bitterly, that the first boy she ever dared to love had to be torn from her in a matter of months. Gone are the sunlit days and snow-soaked kisses; the princess in this fairytale is now a pine tree, and who knows where the prince is?

But Thalia wants—no, she needs to keep thinking that Luke is still her Luke. There's no other truth to cling to in her floating world—and even if it's not a truth, she can't imagine the alternative, so she makes herself believe it.

I'm sorry, but I never got to say 'I love you,' she thinks regretfully.

Eventually time passes, and no prince ever does come to rescue her. But she always likes to think there was something else—either he died a gallant death or is off saving Olympus—anything but that he forgot her.

He'll always be her Luke, after all, the one she knew.

And if only but a picture frozen in time, he is a perfect picture, and he had been hers.


Review si'l vous plait! :) Criticism is appreciated.