FanFic - Other
"Once Upon A Time"
Part 1
by Mala
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the height of Desmond's spikes.
Summary: Maria and Brody both do a little thinking about what Maria brings to their relationship.
Category: Other
Rating: PG
The door shuts behind me and as I walk towards the Jetta, I *feel* the smile fading from my face. I *feel* reality tackling me and clouding my head and chilling me more than the dry winter air.

It's like being slowly suffocated.

I feel myself becoming the person I no longer recognize.

The other Maria.

Not the one who shares belly laughs with little kids and wacky British millionaires, but the one who barks orders at the CrashDown and tries not to stare at her on-again-off-again alien boyfriend.

It's amazing how easy it is to keep these lives separate.

To watch Brody Davis' eyes light up and to hug Sydney tight...and then to flip the switch and turn into the bitch on overdrive. To fill my voice with air and nonsense and talk too fast and move too fast...too fast to feel, too fast to wonder if Michael is still listening, or if he even cares, because at least he's there.

I know I'm trying to be more like Isabel. For him. I know that. I'm aware of it. To be a classy ice queen who commands his attention. To get back at him for all the pain. To pressure him into giving me what he refuses to give anyone and make me *mean* something more to him. And I know it's not working. I'm not that deluded.

And I know I'm Maria for Brody. I smile. I laugh. I tell him how my day went and I listen to him talk about pulses his sensors have picked up or about the latest of Syd's drawings he has tacked to the fridge. We talk about the weather...about far off places...about the cosmos...about the dangers of the Teletubbies. It's simpler with him. I don't have to compete for his attention. I don't have to compete with destiny. He just lets me be real and be there for him. And I know it *is* working.

I wish I could stop loving Michael. I wish I could stop remembering how he tastes and how he feels in my arms...and how beautiful he is when he's sweet and vulnerable and standing in the rain.

I wish I could love Brody. I wish I could erase the years between us, reach up and kiss him and promise to always be there for him, and never think about how his crazy blond hair is like Michael's old style.

I could marry him and be Sydney's mother. I know I could.

And I know we would be happy.

I don't care what Liz says...they need me. His little girl needs me and he needs me. And I want to be needed.

Is that so bad?

Is it so bad to remember what it's like to feel important? To feel like you make a difference in somebody's life? To know that they care if you leave or stay? To feel, for once, like *you're* the powerful, brave, and good princess and not just some measly little replacement who doesn't measure up?

Brody makes me feel cherished.

Sydney makes me feel loved.

They make me feel like being human is more than good it's special.

Like it's a gift.

And it's a gift the other Maria keeps throwing away.

I wish she would stop.

I wish she would die.

I wish I could just be me again.

I wish I could live happily ever after.

*** " she a princess?" Sydney whispers as the door shuts, as our house is once again bathed in empty stillness.

"I don't know, Pumpkin. What d' you think?" I murmur absently, clutching the bag from the CrashDown in my hands.

I'm still staring after her. Maria DeLuca. Making lunch deliveries here now because she knows I want to spend all the time I can with Syd before she goes back to her mum's. Bringing over sandwiches for both of us and sometimes a bottle of nail polish or a goofy hat. Filling the room with her laughter and her smile and her big green eyes. Brightening the winter sunlight a thousand times until I can't see anything or hear anything else.

"I think she is," my daughter pronounces, her lower lip sticking out to confirm the finality of her conclusion.

It's as if princesses have always worn silver and blue uniforms with silly antennae. Princesses have always had long blond hair worn in an upsweep and voices like angels.

I've had very few princesses in my life.

Sydney's my queen. I think she knows that. My best. My brightest. My little miracle. And I thank whatever entity that gave her back to me, that gave her sixty more years to live. But Sydney's mother wasn't a princess. She was a mistake. We were married too young and too fast...and divorced even faster. I've made far too many mistakes and my little girl is really the only thing I've ever done right. The time I get to spend with her has really been the only happiness in my life.

Until now.

Until Maria.

A little seventeen-year-old waitress who seems like she walked out of a fairy tale just to give me something to hold onto. To give me a friend. To give me hope. To make me *feel*.

I know fairy tales don't come true. I know she belongs to that no-account Michael she's always talking about. That's her world, that's where she belongs...with people her own age, people who don't disappear for days at a time. But I'm thankful she's here to sing silly songs to my girl and bring me Galaxy subs with extra pepperjack. I'm thankful she's here to give me her smile and to remind me what it was like to be young and normal. I'm thankful she's on loan to me for a little while.

She makes me want to believe in something beyond lost time and abductions and death.

She makes me want to believe in miracles.

"Daddy?" Sydney tugs at my hand, urging me towards the kitchen, and I let her. "What do *you* think?"

"Yeah, Baby. You're right. Maria's a princess. The bravest and the strongest and the best."

She makes me want to believe in happy endings.

--The End--

December 2000.

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