|"THE ETHICS LESSON"|
Disclaimer: Roswell, its characters and situations, are owned by the WB. No
Summary: On a shopping trip with Max and Liz's daughter Claudia and Michael and Maria's daughter Nicole, Isabel finds herself giving a lesson in the ethical use of their powers.
Authors Note: This story is the part of an evolving future storyline that currently includes (in order): "Decisions," "Looking In," "Christmas Envy," "From Another Place," "Husbands and Fathers," "Claudia and Nicole," "Stars," "Going Home," "The Ethics Lesson," "Redefining Terms," "Beginnings," "First Date," "A Quality Heart," "In Every Ending," "Birth," "Rose Petals," "The Littlest Czechoslovakian," "Joshua and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," "Guysí Night Out," and "Girlsí Night In." More stories may be forthcoming.
Isabel sighed as she watched Claudia and Nicole tear through yet another department store. How she had gotten stuck watching the two of them, she had no idea.
She tried to remember the convoluted chain of events that had led up to this moment. It had had something to do with Lizís needing quiet time to write, that much she was sure of. And it had also had something to do with the fact that both Michael and Alex were out of town, Michael meeting with some curator to discuss a new show of his paintings in Albuquerque, and Alex away at a computer security experts conference. And then it had had something to do with Mariaís offering to take Matthew and Anna with her when she took Molly and the twins for their yearly physicals at Maxís new office downtown.
To be honest, her being stuck watching Claudia and Nicole had probably been predestined by her brotherís decision to move back to Roswell six months ago. That would be just like her luck.
Six months ago, apparently out of the blue, Max had decided that he could practice medicine anywhere, and Liz had decided that although she loved research and teaching and she always would, she wanted a change. She wanted to write a book, and a change of pace away from the big city was exactly what she needed for inspiration. And Max and Liz together had decided that Claudia needed to grow up nearer her cousins. So they decided to move away from Boston and back to Roswell.
Isabel smiled as she thought about their reasons, stated and unstated. She knew that her brother still believed firmly in Ďbetter to be safe than sorry.í And that was why she guessed that a large unstated reason for why he and Liz had decided to move back to Roswell was to keep an eye on all the cousins: Michael and Mariaís four monsters, Nicole, Stephen and Leo, and little Mikyelah (who everyone called Molly to continue the Joycean theme); and her and Alexís angels, Matthew and Anna; as well as Claudia.
Max was still trying to protect all of them. He worried, Isabel knew, about what powers the cousins might or might not have, about what health problems their special-ness might or might not entail. She knew that the children were the reason Max had specialized in pediatrics in the first place. That, and the fact (although he would never admit it) that he could use a little bit of his own magic on his tiny patients and not worry about having to explain why exactly his hands glowed.
She sighed again as shouts of girlish laughter interrupted her musings and brought her back to reality.
So here she was, stuck watching the two eldest kids, Max and Lizís perfect little Claudia, who was anything but perfect when she was with Nicole, and Michael and Mariaís paint-stained pixie Nicole.
There were just two of them, so why did she feel like she had gotten the raw end of the deal? Maria had five children to watch, but two of those children were Isabelís own Matty and Anna, who were angels. And all five children were going to see their Uncle Max, which meant that all five of them would be on their best behavior.
And she was watching Claudia and Nicole because they had wanted to go shopping, and everyone agreed that Isabel was the best aunt to shop with. And she did enjoy shopping.
But Claudia and Nicole together were hellions, to borrow a phrase from Claudiaís grandfather. They talked a mile a minute. They couldnít keep still. They played pranks. They tore through sale racks. They terrorized salesladies.
Isabel sighed again, feeling like it was the only proactive thing she could do in the face of impending disaster. Shopping trips like this one made her wish that all of them had decided to remain childless. Or, at least that Max and Michael had decided to remain childless. Or, that Max had decided to stay in Boston.
Thousands of miles should separate her two nieces, she decided as she watched the two girls rifle through yet another rack of clothing. Separating the two terrors was an obvious solution, like one of those rules Max had always been insisting she and Michael follow when they were growing up.
"Hey, Aunt Izzy!" Nicole called, holding up a low-cut, spangled-pink top, and smirking exactly like her father Michael did. "What do you think of this sweater?"
Isabel was speechless for a second. ĎThank god Anna isnít this old yetí was the first thought that popped into her mind. Maybe by the time Anna got to be Nicoleís age, Isabel would know how to handle situations like this.
Realizing that Nicole was still waiting for her reaction, she cleared her throat. "Very nice, Nikki. But, uh, I thought we were looking for school clothes. Thatís a bit too evening wear, donít you think?"
Nicole and Claudia giggled at each other.
"Too evening wear!" Claudia exclaimed. "This is so in right now, Aunt Izzy. For daytime. All the girls at my school back home were wearing stuff like this."
"Youíre teasing me, right?" Isabel asked hopefully. She looked carefully at Claudia and recognized the playful glint in her nieceís eyes, those dark eyes that were so startlingly like Maxís.
Claudia gave her a saucy nod and tore off towards another part of the store. Nicole took off after her, dropping the sweater haphazardly on a display table as she went.
Sighing for the umpteenth time, Isabel picked up and re-folded the garish sweater. It was going to be a long day. She just knew it.
* * * *
They had a late lunch in the food court of the mall, surrounded by packages and bags. Claudia and Nicole were both pretty tired from running around the various stores. And Isabel was exhausted from trying to keep up with them.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a brown-haired boy ran up and pulled one of Nicoleís long, blonde curls.
"Jamie!" Nicole shrieked and raced after him.
Isabel watched in amazement as her tiny niece caught up with the much larger boy, then started kicking his shins and hitting him on the head, calling him a "cheesehead" and a "boogerface" in a voice loud enough to wake the dead.
The sense of dťjŗ vu was overwhelming. Isabel felt like she was back in fifth grade and watching Maria and Michael fight all the time. Dropping her forehead into her hands, she began to massage her temples.
Then Claudia gasped, and Isabel looked up ... just in time to catch Nicoleís small hand glowing against the boyís chest as she pushed him to the ground again.
Isabel was on her feet and running towards the two children before she realized what she was doing.
"Nicole Maria Guerin! I canít believe you just did that!"
"He was totally asking for it, Aunt Izzy. He deserved it," Nicole said defiantly.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Isabel helped the boy up from the ground. She could tell he was already starting to itch where Nicole had touched him. "Your nameís Jamie?" she asked.
He nodded. "Jamie Valenti, maíam."
Isabel swallowed. "Valenti," she repeated. It figured. Could her life get any worse?
Knowing she needed to act quickly, she smoothed Jamieís shirt into place and discreetly fixed the damage Nicole had done. Then she looked sternly at both children. "I think you both need to apologize to each other."
They apologized in matchingly reluctant, patently insincere voices. Exactly how insincere was obvious when Jamie ran off immediately to re-join his friends, and Nicole stuck out her tongue after him.
Isabel rolled her eyes. Nicole was so much like both her parents that it was scary sometimes. She sighed for what felt like the millionth time that afternoon.
Then it occurred to her that she was the adult in this situation, so she needed to enforce some rules, provide a lesson in the ethical use of alien powers, as it were.
She gave Nicole her most fearsome "Princess Isabel" look and said, "Letís go back to the table and your cousin. Weíre all going to have a little talk."
Nicole actually looked nervous at the prospect, and Isabel was pleased.
Claudia picked up Nicoleís nervousness quickly, and Isabel was even more pleased. She wanted her message to sink in.
"Look, girls. There need to be rules. You canít just use your powers. I know itís exciting to do things. I know itís convenient. I know sometimes people even deserve it. But you canít let people know what we are. And if you use your powers, you run that risk." She examined both their faces to make sure they were listening carefully. All of a sudden, a memory of a certain fifth-grade production of "Snow White" and her own selfish use of her powers popped into her head. That memory colored her next words. "If youíre going to use your powers at all, you need to use them for good purposes. To help humans. Otherwise, donít use them. Just donít. Period."
Nicole and Claudia looked at her with twin expressions of thoughtfulness. Then Nicole piped up: "Kind of like the Prime Directive on Star Trek, Aunt Izzy?"
Isabel was speechless with shock for the second time that afternoon. She frowned. "I canít believe your father lets you watch that show."
Nicole shrugged. "He has to. Itís payment for babysitting the twins while Mom takes care of Molly." She smirked. "And I tell him itís also punishment for not taking the twins back to the hospital after they were born like I asked. Itís our deal."
Isabel could just imagine Michael making such a deal too. He had about as much backbone where Nicole was concerned as Max did where Claudia was concerned. She shook her head and returned to the topic at hand.
"You both understand what Iím saying, right?"
Both girls nodded.
"Good. Now letís go home."
As they were walking towards the car in the mall parking lot, it occurred to Isabel that it was funny that she had been thinking about Maxís rules earlier that day, considering that her two nieces had later broken those very rules, even though they hadnít even known about them yet.
It also occurred to her that without Maxís breaking their cardinal rule and healing Liz, the two girls laughing and skipping in front of her would never have existed. Max would never in a million years have overcome his shyness enough to talk to Liz. No way would Michael and Maria have gotten together if they hadnít been thrown together. And she herself would probably never have known the joys of being a wife and mother. Maxís breaking the rules had been the most important -- the best -- thing that had ever happened to them.
Looking back, she realized that Max had always been breaking the rules. The rules he always insisted everyone else follow. She needed to talk to him about that. Maybe thank him.
But there was definitely not enough gratitude in the world to make up for today. This was absolutely and positively the last time she was ever going to allow herself to be roped into shopping with Claudia and Nicole.
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