This one-shot is for Veterans' Day. I'll get back to updating ATY in a little while but first I'd like to say a big thank-you to all the veterans out there risking their lives for our country. I do not have anyone serving in the military but I know how it feels to have lost someone close to me. Thank you for all that you've done and that you reach your own Elysium somewhere.
Enjoy and please R&R!
P.S. I didn't proofread so I'm sorry for any mistakes or grammatical error.
"Moma, when is daddy coming home?" Kat tugged on my arm, forcing me to glance down at her. Her big green eyes were wide opened and excitement and hope filled their unfathomable depths. Her eyes reminded me so much of Percy that every time I looked at her, it was like he never even left.
"Soon, baby." I answered, glancing out the windshield wistfully. We were on our way to the airport where all the veterans would be arriving home today. Percy's flight was scheduled to land at two-thirty and it was now one forty-five. My foot stepped down on the gas pedal and the car zoomed off.
I was so concentrated on driving that I didn't hear my phone rang. Kat picked up and spoke happily to the person on the other line. She suddenly out the phone to me and said, "Moma, it's Aunt Thalia."
"Put it on speaker, sweetie." I mumbled to her.
She did so and Thalia's voice spilled out into the car. "Are you going now?"
"Yeah, we're almost there."
Thalia grew quiet and in the background, I heard the mindless chatters of a crowd. "Do you think they'll be on that plane?"
My grip on the steering wheel tightened and I took in a breath. "They have to be."
Thalia's fiancé was also in the army, serving in the same platoon as Percy. Luke and Percy made their decision to join the army simultaneously. There was no reason behind their decision, just the fact that they want to protect their country. I could still remember the exact day, the exact time he broached the subject to me.
At the time, I hadn't thought he'd really do it.
Percy slid into bed beside me and snaked his arms around my waist, pulling me against his chest. Katherine was sleeping soundly in the next room and the house was quiet. I snuggled deeper against his chest and breathed in his delicious scent; he smelled of the beach and the sand.
"Annabeth," Percy said.
I tilted my head to look up at him. "Mhm?"
He gripped my hands tightly and immediately, I sensed something was amidst. "Luke and I...we're...we're going to join the army."
I jolted upward, heart thumping in my chest. "No. You're lying."
"I have to. They need every recruit they can get. The war in Afghanistan is raging and millions of innocence are dying. If there's any way I can stop that, I will." Percy said firmly though his eyes were a bit misty.
"What if you die?" I whispered hoarsely. My stomach churned and I closed my eyes, hoping this was all a dream. A terrible dream. One that I'll hopefully wake up from.
Percy glanced at me sadly. "Nothing can stop Death. Your time is either up or it isn't. I can't promise you I'll make it back alive but I'll certainly try to. I'll never leave you or Kat, in dead or in life."
I shook my head vehemently. "I don't want you to do this."
"It's the right thing to do." Percy whispered simply.
Tears sprung to my eyes and I pressed myself tighter against him. His arms automatically wound around me and he placed a soft kiss on my forehead. "I want to do this, Annabeth."
I threw my arms around his neck and buried my face in the nook of his shoulder, all the while shaking my head repeatedly. There's a chance he'll survive but there's also a chance of him not surviving. I can't take that risk. I can't lose him. I love him too much to let him go.
But in the end, I did so anyway.
I pulled the car into the airport's parking lot and after grasping Kat's hand tightly in mine, I led her to the elevator where we rode down to the arrival department. Kat was practically bouncing, her excitement was so overwhelming that I couldn't but smile. My heart fluttered in my chest as I imagined the moment I would be reunited with my husband.
We talked and sent letters over the years he was on duty but it was never the same. I could never see his face or hold him. And that pained me the most.
Once we arrived, I went in search of Thalia with Kat in tow. I found my best friend slumped in a seat, eyes bloodshot. Kat pulled free of my hold and ran to her aunt and godmother and flung her delicate arms around the woman's neck.
"Hey." She greeted me softly.
"Hi." I replied, taking a seat beside her. My eyes inexplicably darted to her swollen stomach. Thalia had been pregnant for about six months. I had tried to persuade her to stay home, since the drive and the anxiety would cause harm to the baby but she refused to listen. She wanted to be the first one Luke sees and I couldn't blame her.
After her and Luke got together, Thalia abandoned her punk-rock phase and opted for a more suitable one. Her usual spiky hair was now straightened and cascading down her back. She donned a light, breezy summer dress and a pair of white ballet flats. The change was enormous but we quickly got used to it.
"What time is it?" Thalia asked. She was twisting her seat, eyes bouncing around the room.
I glanced down at my watch. Two fifteen. "Fifteen more minutes." I said, my heart heavy. Time was ticking so incredibly slow and I was getting rather impatient. All around us, I could see families gathered in little groups. A few people were crying and one woman was full on sobbing. It seemed like everyone had gotten together to welcome their own heroes home.
"Where's Daddy?" Kat asked.
I kissed the top of her head and felt a pang. "He'll be here soon."
Two thirty came and went. It was now two forty and not one veteran were seen. Teardrops stained the airport's floor as the families realized that their sons or daughters or husbands or wives won't be coming home.
"They aren't coming." Thalia croaked, her tears dripping down her face steadily.
I refused to believe that. "Maybe their flight was just delayed." I suggested.
Every excuse I managed to come up with to explain their absences were shot down as three o'clock hurriedly approached. "They'll be here." I stated firmly but even my faith was starting to crumble.
"No, they're not!" Thalia shouted, standing up. She cradled her stomach in her hands and glared at the sky, as if Heaven itself were intervening with her reunion. "They're not coming, okay, Annabeth? They're gone."
"No!" I yelled indignantly. She might've given up hope but I haven't. Percy was alive. He would be here. He wouldn't leave me or his daughter. I suddenly remembered what he'd said to me the night be announced his decision.
Nothing can stop Death. Your time is either up or it isn't.
Tears fell down my cheeks and I wiped them away. "He'll come back. He won't abandon me and Kat."
"Don't be so naive, Annabeth." Thalia cried. "They're gone."
I fell to my knees, my sobs wracking my body. "He can't be." All around me, everyone was crying as they realized the truth. I clenched my hands and heard my cries of despair. He can't be gone. He can't be gone, I chanted the phrase in my mind like a mantra.
No, no, no, no!
"Annabeth, I'm sorry." Thalia said, her tears stained face came into view. "But I'm going home. And so should you."
"How could you give up on him so easily?" I screamed. "Why are you so quick to accept that he's gone? Don't you have hope?"
"The quicker I can accept it, the faster I can mourn him!" Thalia snapped. "Do you think I want to give up hope? I don't. But I don't have a choice. Luke's not here, like they'd said he be. Percy's not here either. I'm not going to stand around and wait while I'm carrying his baby, Annabeth. He might be gone but he hasn't left my heart. After all, he left me something." Thalia's hands went to her belly. "My own little miracle."
I shook my head. "I haven't given up hope. Not now. Not ever." I said.
"You should." Thalia responded brokenly. "You're only torturing yourself if you don't. Take Kat home and explain things to her. And get some rest, Annabeth."
I jumped up, whirling around, searching for my daughter. "Where's Kat?" I asked, my throat closing as my panic rose.
"I thought she was..."
I didn't get to hear the rest of her sentence because I was already running. I raced around the airport, calling her name. When she didn't respond, I began to hyperventalate. "Katherine!" I screamed. "Where are you?"
"Moma." I heard behind me. I spun around and there was my little girl. I pulled her to me and felt my tears start up again. The pain of Percy's absence was too much; I couldn't lose our daughter too. "Where have you been?" I demanded angrily but all the while, I was kissing her forehead repeatedly.
"I went to use the restroom but I got lost. This man found me and brought me back." She beamed and her eyes glittered as if she knew something I didn't. "Let me take you to him."
She grabbed my hand and I let her lead me, albeit reluctantly, to her savior. We maneuvered our way through the crowd and soon, we stopped in front of a group of men, dressed in camouflage uniforms. My breathing hitched as I realized who they were. The veterans! They were here. I scanned the area for any signs of Percy and my heart plummeted when he was nowhere to be found.
Kat pointed to a tall, burly man with his back turned to us and said, "That's him." She let go of my hand and launched herself at the stranger with so much enthusiasm that I found unnerving. I slowly approached the stranger and said, "Thank you for bringing her back."
He slowly turned around and my grey eyes met his sea green ones. I stumbled back as he smiled and said, "Not a problem. She looks beautiful, just like her mother."
It was him.
"Percy." I whispered reverently.
Kat beamed. "Look, Moma, it's Daddy!" She held on to his neck tightly and buried her face into the nook of his shoulder, her blond head perfectly still as she savored this moment with her father.
My heart sped up and my tears fell down my cheeks in rivulets. I registered the loud cries of everyone else as they were reunited with their family. A choked sob escaped my throat as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Percy was here. He was alive. And he was smiling at me like his eyes hadn't beheld a lovelier sight.
Just like Kat had done earlier, I launched myself at him and his arms fastened around my waist. I breathed in his familiar scent and felt my resolve slowly crumbled. I cried and cried and cried, my tears staining his uniform. But he didn't seem to care and neither did I. After a while, Percy cried with me.
He kept repeating, "Thank you, God."
It didn't matter that we were huddled together in the middle of a crowded airport. What really mattered was that we were together and he was alive and well. In the end, he managed to keep his promise. He came back to me, to our daughter. To our family.
When we pulled apart, with Kat trapped between our embrace, he cupped my face with his free hand and mouthed, I love you.
I smiled and felt my eyes teared up again. Kat stared at the two of us before wrapping her little arms around my neck and urged me forward her waiting father. I grinned at her and brought my lips down onto his, feeling a spark of warmth engulf my body.
I love you, too.
Later that night, with my head on his chest, I could hear his heart thumping in time with mine. Percy was fast asleep. Katherine had worn him out but he was happy. Content. I was too. I tilted my head back and looked at his angelic face. His shaggy black hair had been cropped short, military style, but the look suited him well. There was a scar on his chest and I reached out and traced it.
Percy shuddered in his sleep.
I kissed the scar and fell back in his arms. The scar hadn't marred his perfection. It only added character to his personality. He had fought for his country and won. He'd managed to make his way back to his family.
Contrary to what I'd thought, time hadn't separated us. It only brought us even closer together. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I realized that it couldn't have been truer. As I began to fell into a blissful sleep, I sent a silent thank-you to the Heavens for bringing me back the love of my life.
For making our family whole again.