"One fish...two fish...red fish...blue fish..." A voice in the other room reads softly, a pair of small giggles following. Turning the corner, you see your wife, Amelia, sitting in her favorite recliner near the fireplace, your children sitting before her and watching in awe. "Black fish, blue fish, old fish...what comes next?"
"New fish!" The children reply in unison. Amy seems particularly proud while Nonny, your son, simply breaks into another giggle fit.
"Good! Very, very good! You've been paying attention," Amelia beams before she notices you. Her face explodes into a warm smile. She's just as beautiful as she was when you married her fifteen years ago, grays be damned. "Look, daddy's here!"
You smile, kneeling down as both of your children bolt up to you, clinging to your body. Your heart aches as you clutch them to you, embracing them as if your life depended on it. It hurts so badly. The last time you got to hug them was...
"You being good for mom?" You ask, holding back tears. The pair of them, oblivious to your emotional state, nod happily. "Good! Good...do you mind if I have some alone time with her? I need my batteries recharged."
Amy pouts but nods, dragging her younger brother with her as he complains about not finishing the story. Slowly, Amelia closes the book, and the two of you are left in silence save for the crackling of logs. Her smile softens somewhat as she looks up to you, tears softly streaming from her eyes. You move to join her, kneeling down next to her, resting your head on her shoulder as she reciprocates, holding you to her.
"I miss them, Amelia," You say as your voice cracks just the smallest amount. You wonder how they're getting along. Hopefully, Nonny's growing into a fine boy. "But I always look forward to seeing them so much, even if it feels like my heart is breaking in two."
"I know, honey," She replies, softly grasping one of your hands in hers. "They're bigger now...n-not by much, but..."
"But this is what I remember, right?" You respond, voice hitching in your throat. Amelia sadly nods in response. "I wish I could be there for them..."
"D-Don't worry, we're working on it! We've...we've made progress with it, but..." Amelia trails. As she starts to sniffle, you wrap an arm around her. You can just barely register the warmth of her body. It takes a lot to hold yourself together.
"Amelia, please. You can't keep doing this to yourself. It's--"
"Don't. Don't say whatever it is you're going to say. Unless it's something positive, I don't want to hear it."
"Honey," You begin, sitting up a bit. She looks over to you as she grits her teeth, staring at you in anguish as she continues to cry, holding back sobs. "I can't stand seeing you like this every time. It's not worth watching you deteriorate like this...Look at you. You look like you haven't slept since the last time you did this...You're not still trying to solve it with time travel, right?"
"What am I supposed to do, then?!" She yells, breaking down completely. She clings to you as she weeps, sobbing into your shoulder. "We're so close! I know we are! R-Rushia's doing everything she can! Gura's searching everywhere she can in Atlantis for leads, Ina's making deals, Kiara's blood and feathers are working wonders, Calliope--"
"But what about you?" You cut in, still struggling to stay composed. "You're falling apart. You can't handle the stress of this anymore, Amelia...it's going to kill you, too."
"I don't care! At least then we could be together properly, not like...like this..." She continues to sob. The room around you flickers for just a moment. Time is running out. "I just...I just miss you so much! We can do it, we can--"
"Amelia..." You trail, clinging to your wife. She feels so distant.
"I'm not letting you go! I won't stop until you're back!"
"Amelia!" You shout with more urgency. You're slipping. You can't hold on much longer. "Amelia, listen to me!"
"Just a bit more...j-just a bit more! You'll be back soon, I promise, then--"