|"Facing the Truth"
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Sequel to “Avoiding the Truth.” The aliens have left Earth. Now what? Isabel’s POV.
Authors Note: This is the 6th of 7 stories in the series. The first is “Believing the Lie” followed by “Trying to Lie,” “Needing the Lie,” “Shades of Truth” and “Avoiding the Truth.” All can be found at crashdown.com. The first and forth are M/L, second and fifth M/M, and the third story and this story A/I. The final story will be titled “Half-Truths and Little White Lies” and will be more or less all three couples. Please send me feedback. I live off of the stuff!
|She fell for him piece by piece.
Mind, Soul, Heart and Body.
That’s a good order, she thinks.
Too many people do it backwards and halfway.
He doesn’t believe it yet, that she’s completely fallen for him. The truth is, she thinks, that he just doesn’t understand it.
That’s okay. She’s totally willing to take the time to convince him.
She holds his hand, smiling, as he drives them up somewhere near the ravine.
They’re going on a picnic, her idea. She’d really surprised him with that one.
She likes surprising him.
He looks like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop and the bottom to fall out of his far-too-happy existence. She knows better, knows he’s just having trouble understanding how things can possibly be so good for him.
They’ve been together for so long, the better part of four terrific years. They got back together right after college.
She knows it might not always be this fantastic, but at least she realizes that, for now, everything is wonderful. Truly wonderful.
He pulls off the road near the stream that cascades over the edge of the ravine to the river below.
They get out, set up the picnic and settle comfortably for a relaxing afternoon together and she thinks this is as close to perfect as her life has ever been, as perfect as it will ever be. She’s probably right.
They chat, lightly, about mundane everyday things. The quirky things Maria said when Alex phoned her the night before. The truly awful coffee where he works. Her dog’s latest mess, destroying her designer sofa.
It’s comfortable and reassuring. It feels normal. It feels right.
She watches Alex carefully, lovingly, as he clears his throat and wipes his sweaty hands off on his jeans before pulling a small, velvet box out of the picnic basket.
He asks her to love him forever as he opens the box to reveal a fabulous platinum ring with a cluster of diamonds in the shape of her constellation.
She feels her voice catch in the back of her throat as she takes the ring, slips it on her finger and nods vigorously.
She’ll love him forever.
She knows she may have to leave him one day, leave for a world she’s never known, out there, across the galaxy.
She knows she won’t always have the luxury of taking the path she wants to take, even if it’s the only thing her heart will allow her to do.
But, that’s okay because all he asked her to do was love him forever and she knows she’ll never have a problem doing that.
Before she even says the words, tears rain down her face.
They’ve found something, she tells him, and they’re leaving in two hours.
She doesn’t know when they’ll be back, she says.
That’s a lie. A lie for his sake that she tells out of adoration for him and respect for how he’d like things to be.
But she knows the truth.
They’ll never be back. She’ll never be back.
She doesn’t tell him that. He already knows it anyhow, he just can’t handle it yet.
She watches his face crumble before her, her fault, and tears spill over the edges of his eyes.
That’s her fault, too, but she isn’t sorry for it.
He’s crying because he loves her, because they mean so much to each other and she isn’t something he wants to lose. She’s actually kind of proud of the fact that he’s crying. It’s a testament to just how much they mean to each other and a reminder of all of the wonderful times they’ve had.
She kisses him with wild abandon before assaulting the tears that run down her own face.
She tells him she loves him and always will as she hands him back her engagement ring, leaving her finger oddly naked for the first time since he gave her ring to her eight-months prior.
It hurts, but she doesn’t want to tie him down when she knows she’ll never be able to be who he wants her to be, his wife, someone to grow old with. Even if it still is true that she’ll love him forever, just like he asked her to do, she can’t fulfill her unspoken obligations.
He looks at her with pale, pained eyes and gently puts the ring back on her finger as he chokes out the word please.
She nods and accepts the ring back knowing she’ll keep her promise as best she can. She’ll never marry him. She knows that. He knows that.
But she will love him forever and he needs this. Needs the illusion.
And she’ll do just about anything to ease his pain, even if it means being an accomplice to a lie.
She terrified and thrilled.
It’s an odd sensation, both feelings at once, but it’s far from foreign to her.
She knows she should have realized it months ago, but she’d figured she’d just needed time to adjust to her new planet, her new life, before her system would adjust as well.
It could have been true.
At any rate, it was a decent explanation at the time, but this morning she figured it out.
She sensed them.
It wasn’t a gradual process, like you might expect, even though they’d been there, growing inside of her, for over three months.
No, it hit her like a ton of bricks, like a spacecraft plowing into the Earth. It dawned on her, the sudden realization that she was carrying two children, Alex’s children. She felt their presence.
She knows that, but she isn’t about to tell anyone. It is just too personal at this point.
She’s deliriously happy at the idea of being a mother and, better yet, the mother of Alex’s children. She’d always thought she’d never have kids.
But she also knows that she’s alone and that scares her more than she’ll ever admit to anyone other than herself.
Her babies will have no father. They don’t have Alex.
She’s not naive enough to think that Michael will be up to the task, except maybe officially, in public. He couldn’t handle it and she knows she can’t expect him to. It’s not fair to him.
Besides, there’s a war on and he and Max are far too busy to concern themselves with two infants. They have 8 billion people to care for. There’s no way they’d be able to ignore the rest of their responsibilities, she wouldn’t let them if they tried.
Isabel is frightened for her girls and for herself.
She doesn’t want them to have to grow up in this place, this war zone, without Alex.
He’ll never know them. She knows that and she wants to weep for him and for the daughters he will never know of, but she doesn’t. Her girls need her to be strong for them so that is what she will do. Besides, that’s just the way things are and she can’t change them no matter how many tears she cries.
She will tell Michael and Max and Tess as soon as they get back from the outlands tomorrow.
She’s had to run the planet for the past week in the absence of her brother, her husband and her sister-in-law as they rallied the troops and helped deliver much-needed supplies to the outlands. It hasn’t been an easy task. Few things in her life are, but she’s dealt with it because she’s had to.
And while she might have been excited and scared to take on the throne, even for a moment, she did it with grace and confidence because it was what was required of her.
Isabel is good at doing what is required of her and making the best of her situation. She does what she must and enjoys it as best she can.
Most things in her life are some mixture of excitement and terror. Her father-less girls somehow fit into the pattern of this life she leads more easily than she’d have thought.
She awoke in a makeshift medical hospital two weeks after the bombs hit the palace, though she’d had no idea at the time how much time had passed and she was a little surprised when Michael told her.
Her first conscious thoughts were of her girls. Her fear for them was almost blinding until Michael reassured her that they were fine. Scared and confused and tired, but fine.
He told her about the damage to the palace and filled her in on how the city had faired and what Max was doing about the whole situation. He told her that the girls were trying to salvage some of their things and that the palace was going to be rebuilt rather than relocated and that the defense grid was operational again.
He told her a lot of things, but none of them, she knew, were the important ones. Michael had a knack for making chitchat about the mundane things when the world was falling apart around him. She had a knack for seeing straight through him.
He didn’t tell her Tess was dead.
He didn’t tell her he’d healed her back at the palace.
He didn’t tell her the girls had found Maria’s picture in the rubble.
Really, he didn’t have to tell her any of that.
She’d felt Tess’ absence the moment she’d awakened. There was just an empty piece, something missing in her soul. It was like someone was playing an orchestra without the percussion. Sure, the percussion could be noisy and at times overwhelming, but the symphony just wasn’t complete without it.
She’s known that he healed her since the moment she saw the telltale handprint on her side. She’d known it wasn’t Max’s instantly. Max’s hands were smaller than Michael’s and they gave more comfort in their healing. Like the handprints left after a healing, there is a mark upon the consciousness of being knit back together, an imprint of a thought or a feeling. Max’s feeling would have been one of giving comfort, Michael’s she knew, was one of desperation and it echoed in her soul in shades of the way she knew it echoed around his daily. He’s always acted out of desperation.
She knew about the picture of Maria the moment she looked in his eyes. It was the same look he’d had when she gave him the picture in the first place. He’d never thought to bring photos. After all, in his mind they’d be going home any day. She’d known better right from the start and on the second anniversary of the day they’d left Earth, she gave him a picture of Maria. He’d just looked at her, trying to appear emotionless and failing miserably, and said thanks before thrusting it into his pocket. He has that same look now and he’s playing with his jacket pocket absently.
She thinks he doesn’t tell her these things because he doesn’t want to recognize them himself and she’s probably right. He has no wish to shelter her from the truth. He just doesn’t see it.
That’s all right though, because she does see it.
She thinks it’s a greater wrong for her to not tell him the truth because, unlike her, he’ll refuse to see it unless he’s told out-right.
The doctors have been trying to do tests on her since she’s awakened and, probably, before as well.
She won’t let them.
She knows there’s no point in it.
Her planet’s doctors can heal broken bones with a touch and repair wounds without stitches, but they have little to no medicine beyond that and somehow Isabel knows she needs more than just a glowing hand, now.
There’s something very wrong, something different. She can’t put her finger on it, but she knows it’s there.
She’s exhausted. There’s pain in her side when she sneezes or coughs. She’s waking up short of breath and shaking once or twice a night.
Michael either doesn’t notice or won’t allow himself to. He’s slept by her side since the bombing but he doesn’t seem to worry about her weakened state.
He did ask her if she was all right earlier when she winced at the pain while coughing.
She’d told him she was fine.
She’s always been willing to lie for her loved ones.
They’re going home, Michael told her, a full-fledged grin on his face.
She’d smiled back weakly, knowing it wasn’t true but indulging him none the less.
Home, after all, is twenty years and half a galaxy away and none of their ships can bring them back.
But Michael just kept on grinning and telling Alexia how much she’d love Earth. Isabel half expected him to suggest she get a job with Liz and Maria at the Crashdown but he didn’t.
She wants to cry for him, knowing the harsh realization he’ll face when the ship lands next month. It won’t be easy.
She thinks about Maria and wonders, oddly enough for the first time, what the girl who’s place she stole as Michael’s wife has done with her life. She wonders about the dark-haired girl her brother loved more than anything. She wonders if either has married or has children. She wonders if they work and where. She wonders if they’re alive. She won’t let herself wonder about Alex.
She looks at her husband of just over twenty years as he tells Whitney about the virtues of Tabasco sauce and ice cream and television and she wonders what he sees when he looks in the mirror. She knows he doesn’t see the gray that’s nearly conquered his hair or the wrinkles that have worked their way into his handsome face. She figures he sees himself all in terms of Maria. When he was with her he looked like he did at eighteen. Since he left her, he looks like he did at twenty-six that night he stumbled away from her swearing to himself he’d be back soon.
She wonders what it would be like to be that blind.
When she looks in the mirror she sees a woman with more gray hair than not and more than a few wrinkles across her face and a body that’s falling apart on her.
No one says anything about it, not even Max, but she suspects that all of them, except Michael, can feel the illness eat away at her.
It’s been six years since the bombing and she still wakes up short of breath and shaking violently in the middle of the night and Michael still doesn’t ask her about it. He doesn’t comment when she leans on him for support or when she winces from pain after just climbing up a flight of stairs. It’s always there, the signs of her painful struggles, he just doesn’t see it.
The rest of them look at her with a silent question in their eyes that they never quite have the strength to ask because they don’t really want to know the answer.
The question is “what’s wrong?” The answer is she’s dying.
She’s known it since the day she woke up after the bombing. She’s known it for six, long, tiring, painful years.
There was something that day of the bombing that infected the bodies of the injured. No one talks about it but she can see the truth in the eyes of her fellow survivors when they wince in pain while coughing.
She looks down at her constellation shaped ring that Alex gave her so long ago and shakes at the memories of the promises it once held for them, for their future.
The only one of those promises that rang true was her vow to love him forever. It was the only one that could.
She calls Whitney over and is amazed at how much of her strength it takes just to call out her daughter’s name.
Whitney looks scared and worried as she watches her mother cough violently into a tissue. Isabel just apologizes and tosses the tissue away as if that will solve everything.
Then, for the first time in over twenty years, Isabel slips her ring from her finger. She presses it tightly into her daughter’s hand and tells her that she’s going to lie down a rest for a moment and that she just wants her to hold on to the ring for a while.
Whitney swallows hard and nods, but doesn’t say anything, for which Isabel is grateful.
She doesn’t want to look at her husband’s face, but can’t really help it as she goes to lie down. There is a concern and understanding and fear in his eyes that she hadn’t expected. It’s rare that he surprises her, but it does happen. He’s been a wonderful father.
He rises from the sofa and takes her arm, helping her to her bed. As she lies down he places a gentle kiss on her head and murmurs that the ship will land soon and they’ll finally be home.
She smiles at his innocence as she drifts off to sleep. She’s always known she’d never make it back to Earth.
It’s been a long journey and truth be told she’s kind of glad it’s coming to an end.
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours