Characters: James, Cindy, Alice, Nick, Nick & Alice’s firstborn
Summary: Nick comes home from war.
Notes: It could be canon, it could not be. I can’t say without completely spoiling all of gen 7’s plot line.
Word Count: 1213
“It’s late,” James muttered, looking at his watch again.
“I’m sure it’s because it was held up at the last station with homecoming festivities,” Cindy said, trying to soothe him.
James grumbled, and looked down the train track again, hoping to see some telltale sign of the train’s impending arrival.
Alice snuggled the toddler in her arms a little tighter, trying to steady her nerves. Nick was so close to her for the first time in so long, she could barely stand it. He’s arrived back in Simerica a few weeks ago, but his discharge hadn’t been completed until yesterday. Now, he was on a train headed for Portsimouth and her. He’d called to let her know of his plans, and she’d wept tears of joy when she heard his voice. Though he could have easily caught a train directly to Simsfield, Alice had insisted they meet him in the city as she couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from him for a second longer than was possible. So, early that foggy morning they’d piled into Cyrus’ car and driven to the city to welcome Nick home.
They weren’t the only ones; the platform was packed with people, each of them with anxious expressions like the ones that Alice, James, and Cindy wore. There were families, like theirs, some with small children and some without. There were couples, some around James and Cindy’s age and some younger. There were women around Dotty’s age, with hopeful eyes and trembling hands. Alice let her eyes drift over the crowd as they all focused on the northbound track, waiting for the train.
The toddler squirmed. “Where Dada, Mama?”
“I don’t know, precious. The train is late.”
Alice laughed. “Yes, it is a bad train. But I’m sure it will be here soon, and then…”
Her words were interrupted by the blast of a train whistle, and the crackle of the loudspeaker announcing the arrival of the train from Simadelphia.
Alice felt her stomach do a flip-flop. Cindy drew in a sharp breath, and James, who was standing between them, put an arm around each of them. “Our boy is home,” he said, his voice thick with pride.
It seemed to take forever for the train to pull into the station and come to a stop, and even longer for the doors to open. Soon, men in uniform began stepping through the doors, and excited exclamations began. There were tears, hugs, passionate kisses, and laughter.
“Can you see him yet?” Cindy asked, standing on the tips of her toes trying to see above the crowd.
James shook his head as he scanned the platform. “There’s so many people, and they all look alike in the uniform.”
Alice pressed her lips together in frustration. Her eyes settled upon a bench that was two steps away, and she quickly formulated a plan.
“Here,” she said, passing the toddler to Cindy. She pulled James by the arm until he was right next to the bench, and used his shoulder to steady herself as she stepped onto it.
She now had a clear view of the entire platform, and her eyes searched for Nick’s familiar face amongst the men who were exiting the train.
“Do you see him yet?” James asked.
Alice shook her head. “Not yet.”
She began to worry as she watched the steady stream of khaki slow down to a trickle and then to nothing. Her jaw trembled.
“Maybe he took a different train?” Cindy asked.
“No, he said he was taking this one,” Alice insisted. “He promised.”
James reached his hand out to help Alice down, but she continued to stare at the doors of the train, willing Nick to come out.
“Alice, he’s not on it, dear,” James said gently. “Come down, and I’ll go find out when the next train from Simadelphia is due, and we’ll go get a bite to eat in the meantime.”
“No! Nick told me he was coming home on this train, and he’s never broken his word to me.”
James looked to Cindy, silently pleading for her help. She shook her head ever so slightly; she knew that Alice was not leaving that train platform without Nick.
“He promised,” Alice whispered.
“I know,” Cindy said soothingly. “Nick’s a man of his word.”
“He is,” Alice said, her eyes returning to the train. At the far end, she caught sight of a soldier, carrying his own duffel bag and a worn floral print suitcase. An older woman was at his side, and when they were a few feet from the train, the soldier set the suitcase down. They exchanged a few words, and the woman introduced him to the younger man who joined them.
How sweet of that soldier to help her with her luggage, she thought. It’s something that Nick would do.
The soldier tipped his hat to her, and turned to walk down the platform in Alice’s direction. There was something in the way he moved that was oddly familiar to her.
She gasped. “Nick,” she whispered.
At that moment, the soldier looked up and Alice got a clear look at his face. Green eyes met blue, and both filled with tears.
“Nick!” she screamed, her voice trembling with joy.
Nick smiled, and began moving through the crowd as fast as he could.
Alice jumped down from the bench and began pushing her way through the crowd towards him, leaving James and Cindy and the baby behind. Time seemed to move in slow motion, until they were standing in front of each other.
“Alice,” he breathed.
She reached up slowly to cup his face in her hands. “It’s really you,” she breathed. “You’re home.”
“I’m home,” he said, dropping his bag. His arms wrapped around her waist as hers snaked up wrapped around his neck. Nick leaned forward and pressed his forehead to her. “God, I’ve missed you.”
He moved his head and kissed her. He only meant for it to be brief; they were in public after all, but he had thought about this moment for so long that he couldn’t help himself. He kissed her to make up for all the moments that he should have been there but wasn’t. He ignored the snickers and the wolf whistles he heard, and the familiar sound of James clearing his throat, discreetly trying to get his son’s attention. It wasn’t until he heard an unfamiliar voice utter a single word that he pulled away from his wife.
Reluctantly, he pulled back. Alice’s face was flushed, and he was certain his was too. He turned to face his father, mother, and the copper-haired toddler in his mother’s arms. He smiled at them.
“Welcome home, son,” James said, reaching out to clasp Nick on the shoulder.
“It’s good to be home,” he said.
* * * * *
Alice awoke with a start. It wasn’t the first time she’d dreamed about Nick’s homecoming, but this time had been so vivid. She rolled over in her bed, over to what was Nick’s side, and put her head on his pillow. It still smelled faintly of him. She wrapped her arms around it, breathing in deeply.
“Please let it be true,” she whispered as she fell back to sleep.