FanFic - Other
"When They Awoke"
Part 2
by Xenutia
Disclaimer: Congratulations to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims and the people at the WB who've come up with something so good I'm sick with envy.
Summary: Just what it looks like. This is an account of that night in 1989 when Max, Isabel and Michael woke from the pods, and the way they grew into the young adults we know and love. This is a story that has haunted me and emotionally imprinted itself upon me as the series told it, and Iıve done the rest. Hope you like it.
Category: Other
Rating: PG
Authors Note: I donıt know if Iıve got all the information right, and thereıs still bits weıve not been told at all - where was Michael for the three years between 1989 and 1991, exactly? When did Tess awake, and why was she so much later than the others? - but Iıve taken notes and done my best. This is a story I felt deserved to be told in its entirety, a story far too strong to be referred to only in conversations between the characters. So here we go.
The day that the papers come through spell a new era in Dianeıs life. Philipıs too, of course; but she feels a special connection to the events of the last few weeks because all of them have come from her one, urgent idea; that she would not give these children up. They have visited them when they could, and if she had considered their condition sad on that first wakeful night then she has since re-evaluated that notion. In the orphanage, amongst other children, children that chattered and played and yelled and ran, these two only appear that much more tragic. Alien, even. She had once seen a single black lamb huddled protectively against its mother in a field full of white sheep, whilst on holiday in England, and these two look just like that. As sad, as lost, as aware of their distance from these other children as that lamb was of its own distance from the others. On the first visit, she had been told at the door it would be better if she just went home; the children had been unresponsive and often sullen, refusing to leave the dormitories they had been placed in. The boy, she was told, did not even leave his bed for two days, although the little girl showed vague signs of participation after a while, and had been known on occasion to nod at somebody she recognised. But on this day, her first visit since the welfare people took them away, the two are huddled by the window in the upstairs hallway, engaged in their own terrifyingly silent communication, looks and nods and gestures which leave Diane helpless to their meaning. The girl, as she watches them, reaches out and touches the boyıs arm, gentle as children rarely are, and he turns his sad eyes on her, as if he finally understands what she has been trying to tell him. Still he does not return his sisterıs smile. Diane is no longer worried or cautious about thinking of them that way, as brother and sister; even if, by some miracle, they are not related by blood in any way, they will be related by name for the rest of their lives. They will be Evanses. She has never been more sure of anything in her life.

It is the girl that notices her first on that primary visit, and nudges the boy to look, too. The girlıs beaming smile is unmistakable. It is enough, all over again, to confirm to Diane that she is doing the right thing.

But that had been weeks ago, and now Diane is returning to the orphanage, not as a visitor, or a concerned citizen, but as their mother. She has repeated the word to herself as she changed to go to the orphanage, and is surprised to find she likes the sound of it. Philip has never been one to show emotion, not outwardly at least, and it has been her own privilege to claim almost sole possession of these kids, but philipıs diligence these past few weeks has made her love him even more, just the same. The spare bedrooms have been completely redecorated, all by his own hand, and toys and games have begun to appear stacked in the closets of both. Even though they will be too young for them for quite some time, two brand new bikes are leaning to in the garage, waiting for them to grow up, waiting for the teenagers these two will become. It is his way, she knows; his way of showing his support for her, for them, for his new responsibilities. She has had uncomfortable moments, mostly at night when he is asleep beside her and she lies awake excited and flushed, that maybe he would have preferred his own children, blood of his blood, she might say...but if that is the case, it has not deterred him.

She is unsure of what she should wear, what would create the proper impression to the people that run the orphanage, but not scare the children away from her. Then she remembers that first night, the girlıs bright interest in a simple plastic cup, and she remembers why - it had been brightly coloured, bold, plain. Just the sort of thing children were attracted to. She wears a yellow sweater which could blind anyone with sensitive eyes, a yellow not disimilar to the colour of that plastic cup, and feels she has made the right choice. Years later, her daughter will tell her that on that day, she looked like the sun. Because of her yellow sweater.

The weeks in the orphanage have worked some kind of magic on them, if only slight; they still do not run and play as the others do, but the little girl - Isabel, as she is now named - is seen laughing when a ball bounces past her and one of the other children runs to fetch it, or when the orphanage cat comes to her and rubs itself against her legs. Diane is shown into the garden where they are sitting side-by-side on the step, watching a hotch-potch baseball game between the other children, and she does not immediately announce her presence to them. She watches, seeing the changes in them, seeing something she never would have believed, a while ago, of them.

The ball bounces past her daughter once more - her daughter, the words still have no meaning - and Isabel laughs in delight once more. It is a laugh she will see often in years to come, bright and charming and extraordinarily beautiful. And this time, instead of joining the moment of fun and shifting aside as the child who missed the catch fetches the ball, her little girl gets up, runs after it, and retrieves it. She hands it to the shame-faced little boy playing left field with a winning, happy smile, and returns to her place beside her silent, watchful brother, as if what she had just done was no great thing. No milestone in her life. But Diane sees it, and knows, unequivocally, that that is exactly what it is.

The sudden blinding playfulness in her new daughter is pleasing to see, wonderful - her innocence has suffered none for her new happiness. She laughs, she smiles, she nods and shakes her head and tugs up a loose piece of leather from the Jeepıs back seat as merrily as if she were doing her parents a great service, and Diane laughs with her, and finds herself chattering to her as if she had known her forever. But her happiness in finally having them with her where they belong is dulled, horribly, by her sonıs almost desperate silence. He is grim on the ride home, his tiny brow creased with perplexity and worry, his sulky mouth set tight against whatever deep thoughts may be his, inside where no-one can see.

That night she is too excited, worried, elated, to sleep, and she wanders around the house long after she has tucked the children in and Philip is heard snoring softly through the crack under their bedroom door. She makes soup and sits in her dressing-gown, appreciating the silence, knowing that for many years to come silence will be rare, with Isabel tearing round the house. And in that peace, she can imagine the time to come; teaching them to talk and read, taking them for their first day at school, seeing them make friends and eventually dating - maybe having to see them leave for college, when the time comes, when they donıt need her so much anymore. But that is years away, and at night, in the quiet, years seems like forever. She canıt imagine ever being without them again.

She gets up as time flows past into morning, that dead zone when most have gone to sleep and few have woken, and walks idly past the doors of her childrenıs bedrooms. Pressing her ear against her daughterıs door, she hears the muted snuffling of a small pair of lungs steadily inhaling and exhaling, deep in sleep, content. Satisfied, Diane walks on to her sonıs door, and again presses her ear to the wood to listen for the sounds of sleep to assure her he is well. For a confused and weighty moment, the air pregnant with dread at his silence, she hears nothing; then, a sound. Faint, stifled, numb. Inside, very soft in the dark hours, there is the wretched sounds of a childıs sobs. She rests her hand on the door handle, hesitant to intrude, overcome with grief for those pathetic little sniffles, so very self-comforting and suppressed, wanting to go inside and cuddle him and stop those tears. She doesnıt know if she will be enough for this tragic child; but she remembers the first night, stroking his hair until he slept, how passive he was with her, and wavers again. She is almost turning the handle when the sounds stop, abruptly, as if he had bitten on his pillow to quell them, and she decides not to go in. Not to risk waking him, if he has finally fallen asleep. She leaves, uncertain if she should, and doesnıt hear the muffled little gasps start up again moments later.

It is days later when she sees the toy house in the gift shop at the mall, sitting in the display case in the window when only a week ago, she could have sworn, it hadnıt been there - like it had been put out to view, just for her, because it is so perfect. Toy houses are perhaps something associated with little girls, but this one is different - it is black, and rambles like a haunted house from a fairytale. It looks so very like a magic house, crooked and twisting and detailed. And that is what she will say to him, when she presents it to him later. That it is a magic house, and will protect him, and take him home. Or, if all goes as she hopes, make him accept this as his home. Accept her, and Philip, and the home they were trying so hard to make.

She waits until Isabel and Philip are asleep, and listens outside his door once more. Sure enough, she hears him crying, like she had known, far back, that she would. She wonders guiltily if he has cried this way every night since she first heard him, if he has been scared and alone this way night after night, and she wasnıt there. Foolishly she had accepted that abrupt end to be an end - that he had merely been overtired and nervous and unacclimatised that first night in his own bed, and would have settled by only the next day. In her hand she holds the precious toy house, carefully wrapped in silver paper, hesitant once more about disturbing his misery. But those helpless sobs are breaking her heart, just standing here, listening. This time, she goes in. He does not even notice her.

The bundle under the bedclothes is quivering, heaving as he breathes uncomfortably hard between his tears. Diane goes over without another thought and pulls him gently from the bed, and hugs him to her, feeling the gooseflesh along his arms and the way he trembles against her, like a rabbit caught in a snare. He sees the parcel in her hand before she thinks to give it to him, his bright childıs eye curious and questioning, his face a pale mask in the moonlight coming through his window, and she hands it over, pleased he is so interested. For a long time he appears more captivated with the wrapping than whatever may be inside, and this strikes her as almost comically typical, watching him fastidiously peel away the scotch tape in neat little lines instead of tearing it open like any other child might. He is special, there is no doubt in her mind about that.

At last the toy house is unwrapped and he sits inspecting it, turning it this way and that, his drying tears forgotten on his smudged face as he finds new interest in each little part of the model. Diane does as she intended, and tells him it is a magic house, but already, she knows it has done the trick, and that he will not cry anymore.

It troubles Diane that still they do not speak. Her daughter will nod, smile, gesture emphatically to make herself understood, and Diane does not worry too much about her - she is sure it will only be a matter of time. Her son is the worry. He is silent not only in words but in actions, too. He has never smiled, never laughed, never given any indication of a reaction to what is going on around him. It is unnatural for any six-year-old boy to be so serious and calm, and despite doctorıs assurances she has doubts as to his speech - her once idle fear that he may be mute has burrowed down into her everyday thoughts, into her growing love for him as he becomes a part of her life, and she wonders, at first distractedly and then with increasing urgency, what she will do if this turns out to be the case. She knows she would never love him any the less for it, even if he never learned to call her Mom or ask a stupid, childish question, but she fears for him if it comes to that; she knows how cruel other children and even adults can be about such things. She worries that he has no social skills, no desire to mix with people his own age but his sister, she worries there is something seriously wrong.

Perhaps that, on its own, would never have concerned her; but aside from his complete introversy, he has an uncanny thirst for knowledge. In only weeks he learns to read, and although he never repeats the words he learns to her or says them aloud, she knows he understands what the shapes on the paper mean, and she finds him reading every childıs book Philip had bought for them, absorbed in the stories, cutting through them at a remarkable and often frightening pace. She buys him more books, older books, and he reads those, too. Then, one morning shortly after his seventh birthday, she comes down to the kitchen to find him quietly reading his fatherıs morning paper. She knows children often pretend to read what their parents read, to be like them, to imitate them, and that in itself would be remarkable; but what happens next puts aside any such thought she might otherwise have had.

As she comes into the kitchen, yawning in spite of herself, he quite calmly looks up from the paper, blinks once like a baby owl, and says: ³Itıs going to rain today.²

In the year to follow two incidents alert Diane once more to just how special her children were, and leave her wondering, long after it should have been dead and buried, just where they came from, and what had happened to them to leave them out in the desert that night in 1989.

The trip to Florida comes first; it is a high summer that year, and the weeks stretch on with no visible end in sight. It seems logical, now that they have two small children to cater for, to holiday somewhere where beaches and child activities are a strong feature, and Florida seems to be one big beach in every travel brochure she picks up that spring. Were it not for one striking event, she would let that holiday sail away into the haze that was another summer gone by, another year, another day, another dollar.

It is their third day on the beach, and it is hotter than the second day, and the second day had been hotter than the first. She has brought a book to read while she tans and Philip is planning to join the volleyball game - something she hasnıt seen him do in years, since college. It is amazing the effect being a father has had on him. The children have bright new buckets and spades - Isabelıs are yellow, of course, as even her high school computer will be yellow when she is old enough - and they are busy digging a hole which will no doubt wind up burying one of them before they get to lunch. It is interesting to see how well Max plays with his sister, when all he does around other children is close himself off.

Diane is dozing, lulled by the heat and the glare on the white sand, when she notices the event. It is perhaps assuming of her to suspect there is any significance to it - another mother proudly searching for signs of specialness in her children - but whatever it is that strikes her as odd, something does. Something about their still silent communication, although both speak quite well now, is strange.

They have set aside their buckets and spades, and neither has been buried in the sand by the other - she has her suspicions that Isabel will never allow herself to be buried whilst Max will probably do anything to please his sister - and as she watches, startled even now by how beautiful they are, she is drawn by the pattern their fingers are drawing in the sand. It is unfamiliar, odd, slightly ethnic in its appearance - two swirls, surrounding a dot. Both could never have seen anything like this yet both know exactly what it should look like - both draw as if possessed of some invisible power. She debates whether or not to tell Philip what she has seen - but the children forget it as soon as it is done and she never sees anything like it from them again, and the matter is dropped. The holiday ends abruptly, with Isabel sick from sunstroke all of august and Max laid up with a sprained ankle, and her maternal concerns, as always, take over from her deeper thoughts.

The second incident cannot be explained so easily, and is never forgotten. This one happens, not just in philipıs presence as well as her own, but in front of a video camera, as well. They are in the park, on a warm fall day when the sun shines sideways on the world, heavy and full, bleeding long shadows across the leafy ground. The children, once more happiest in each otherıs company, are playing in the leaves, chasing pigeons along the grass to see them lurch awkwardly in their attempts to take off. Diane tolerates this activity, seeing that as bad as it may look they arenıt hurting the birds at all - they never hurt even an insect. She had seen Max, especially, step around ants in the road, with a conscious care on his face that she has never seen in a child before, the way she never saw a child unwrap a gift so thoughtfully before. Philip has handed her the live camera and wandered away to buy hotdogs from the stand by the swings, leaving her to watch their antics and laugh when the pigeons hop and flap away.

Isabel sees it first - one of the birds does not flutter the way the others do, only stays half-buried in a drift of leaves, its wings staggering blindly against its body. Its wing on her side is broken, Diane can see that. She is on the verge of calling Philip, to ask him if perhaps they could take the pigeon to the vet, when Max approaches the bird, treading carefully so as not to scare it anymore, and his hands close gently around its trembling, plump body. Diane has never seen her son do anything to hurt another living thing but at this moment she has her doubts - why else would a child pick up an injured bird when his mother was there to ask for help? But the bird is still in his protective hands, seemingly unafraid, and she marvels at the sight of it - that the bird senses it doesnıt have to be afraid with him.

Trapped behind the camera, her hands tied by it, Diane tells him to put it down, and he only looks at her, benign in a way a child should never look, patient but exasperated with her as she raises her tone a little, and tells him again. He only blinks in his owlish way, turns from her, and releases the bird into the air.

Dianeıs hands tremble uncontrollably as she watches the bird, wings strong as they beat the air, fly away, completely healed.

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