|posted on 6-Jan-2003 10:35:09 PM|
|Title: Fall On Your Knees|
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Roswell, nor the original concept. Thanks to Jason Katims and everyone else, as usual. Just borrowing them. This Serena is of my own creation, however, as is Sean.
Summary: Max and Liz’s daughter from Sins of the Father meets her destiny. Sins is posted in the Award Winners Forum. You don’t have to read that fic to get this, but it will help. This has a Christmas thread to it, but it’s not really a holiday story. It is just the unifying element here and also has something to do with the fact that the carol "Oh Holy Night" inspired most of it for some weird reason. You should also know that Sins was set post-Departure so Season 3 never happened in this world.
Dedication: To my soulmate in all things fanfic, my dear Cookie, whose help on this was invaluable.
December 24th - In the year 2025
No one has ever told me that I am destined to save the world. And, yet, somehow I have always known.
My dad would be really angry to hear me using the d-word. He absolutely hates it. He has always told me that "we make our own destiny." But I saw the fear and frustration in his eyes whenever he said it, like he knew that I wasn’t really going to get much of a choice in the shaping of my own. It was almost like he wanted me to rebel against what we all knew was going to be true. Even though he is probably the person I most want to please in the world, how my dad felt didn’t stop me from doing what I knew I was supposed to do though.
Of course, being as I somehow screwed this up so majorly, maybe my dad was right all along.
I never told anyone that I knew. I mean, who goes around spouting off that they are the only one standing between a planet and its complete annihilation? But I did know, and, even though my parents made sure I was never told directly, that I never felt any sort of pressure about it, it was still always there.
He has always been a part of me. Waiting. Watching. Willing me to meet my destiny.
And when I finally came for him, he was ready.
Which is why I am presently staring at the cold stone walls of my prison.
I really can’t believe how badly I messed this all up. But I really should have known it would go down this way. It is Christmas Eve after all. The unluckiest day of the year - at least for me. It always has been. When I realized that the final confrontation was actually going to take place on this of all days, I should have just surrendered in the first place.
My first memory is actually of a Christmas disaster. I just really should have known.
My family has always been pretty open about the otherworldly aspect of our heritage - at least at home. My two sets of grandparents and Aunt Amy were told when I was exactly three. Everyone laughs about how it came out now, but even as small as I was, I remember how it wasn’t very funny at the time. My dad still jokingly blames Michael - he was the one who showed me how to make the Christmas tree dance - but I think I chose to do it in front of Grandma Parker deliberately. After all, I had heard my mom and dad talking about it and somehow I guess I just knew that they wanted to find a reason to tell.
"We have to tell them soon Max. They need to be ready and we’re just lucky that the kids haven’t started using their powers yet." Of course, Mom wasn’t aware of the fact that I had indeed been using my "gifts," as my family mostly called them. No one knew, except Sean, which was why Michael was fooling around with me in the first place. I don’t think he had any clue I’d actually be able to do it, especially because it had taken him a lot of years to reach the level of control where he could manage it.
It was my dad who was scared to tell though. I don’t like to think about my father being scared of anything, but I know he was frightened of how their parents would react, particularly my mom’s. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. It was just one of those things that kids know. And his voice reflected it when he answered. "I just can’t Liz. Not yet."
My mom sounded upset when she sighed and said quietly, "Well, it’s your decision. I’ve always told you it was. But I still think we should tell them."
I didn’t like to hear my parents disagree about anything. I hated it even more because it happened so infrequently. And, so, as I sat on my grandma’s lap and listened to her read me The Gingerbread Man, I lifted my hand and sent the tree whirling. I literally felt her heart stop against my back where I was leaning against her.
Anyway, the truth came out and it turned out okay. My dad’s parents weren’t really that shocked and I think they may have warned my mom’s parents that something like this might happen one day, which I just wish my dad knew at the time. I have never seen my father’s face as white as it was when he came running in at my grandmother’s shriek and realized what I had done. I think his life literally passed before his eyes. I remember it to this day and it still sends shivers down my spine.
Sean yelled at me about it later. "Don’t you know we can’t do that in front of other people? It’s not something to show off about!" He was around eight at the time and, in my opinion, the wisest person I knew.
"Why? Mommy and Daddy wanted to tell. I heard Mommy say so. I was helping." I really didn’t understand what was so wrong about it, although I was still upset by the way my dad had reacted. Sure Mom and Dad had made it clear that if I ever developed powers, I was to never use them in front of strangers, but my grandma wasn’t a stranger. And I really was trying to help, not show off as Sean seemed to think.
"Because if the wrong people find out about us, we’re dead Reenie." His expression softened when I started to cry. Even then I couldn’t stand it when he reprimanded me. His warning that my life might be in jeopardy didn’t even register because, really, nothing could ever happen to me, at least to my childish way of thinking. I had Daddy and Mommy and Michael and Uncle Kyle and everyone. I had Sean. If there was one part of my childhood that is still most clear to me, it is how safe I felt. It was the best gift they all ever gave me.
No, it was definitely the fact that he was mad at me that resulted in my tears. "Just don’t do that again. Ever," he ordered.
Of course, Sean ended up in trouble, for making me cry, even though he was right. But I was in no state to explain what happened when Uncle Kyle found us. All he saw was me bawling and his son looking annoyed.
No wonder Sean hates me. And no wonder I hate Christmas. Sean laughed the one and only time I told him about my Christmas phobia. I was about ten at the time and he had reached out in his typically annoying way to tug on my braid.
"That’s just dumb squirt. Christmas is all about presents!" He grinned at me. "And it’s about the birth of a really great man." Trust Sean to throw in a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas while teasing me. And he’s a Buddhist like his dad for Pete’s sake! "What’s to hate in that?"
"Bad things happen at Christmas," I told him, scowling. I hated when he treated me like his little sister - particularly when he called me squirt - which he always did. Sure he’s five years older than me, but it hurt, especially when I was little, because of the fact that I was shorter than most of my classmates. Although I had a major growth spurt during my junior year, I still remember how much I hated being so small.
Mainly because being small reminded me that I was too young for my beloved Sean.
I know that it used to make him uncomfortable, how much I worshipped him. Even though he went out of his way to discourage me, it never worked. It just made me love him more, made me want to prove that I wasn’t a kid. I even heard his dad yelling at him about it once, after one of my more ridiculous stunts to get his attention. It was the time Uncle Kyle caught me trying to sneak into a bar where Sean had taken one of his more trollopy dates.
And when did this happen? Two days before Christmas of course. Sean was home from college on the occasion. I realize now that he probably should have stayed there. He was no match for me and my stubborn, selfish determination after all.
If he really wanted nothing to do with me, then he just should have stayed away. He did eventually, but it took him a few years to get it. The bar incident finally drove the point home though.
"How was I supposed to know there was going to be a brawl?" Sean had demanded, his frustration more than clear.
"You started it!" Uncle Kyle bellowed.
"Only because that scum-bag came on to her!" He turned his head, scowling in the direction of the man one of my uncle’s deputies was tossing into the back of squad car.
"Which wouldn’t have happened if Serena wasn’t here in the first place!"
"She followed me! I can’t help it if she won’t leave me alone!" Each word was like a dagger to my heart. He didn’t know I was listening, but just because the window in Uncle Kyle’s truck was closed, it didn’t mean I couldn’t hear him. "I should be able to go out on a date for God’s sake! I’m twenty years old!"
"You know how important she is Sean," Uncle Kyle yelled back, angrier than I had ever seen him. He was actually almost out of control. It was the only reason he even come close to saying the words about what I was supposed to do out loud. "You have to be careful. You have to protect her. You know this! And if that means that you don’t get to live a normal life until after, well, that’s just the way it has to be."
I felt Sean’s eyes abruptly on me as I sat in the front seat. They were burning with something I didn’t quite understand at the time, but I know now what it was.
It was resentment, mixed with a good helping of hatred. He hated me. Not all the time, but a lot of it. Because I was so important, although no on ever told me I was. My mother in particular made sure that I didn’t think it, but who I was made it so that Sean could never be normal.
Who I was screwed up a lot of lives. And, for some reason, it always seemed to come to a head at Christmas.
I was born on Christmas Eve after all. Maybe it’s just karma. Uncle Kyle would say so.
My dad likes to tell the story about how I was born, about how it was snowing in Vermont, more than he had ever seen in his entire life. They went up there for my birth, to a lonely cabin on a lonelier lake, because of the concern that something might not be quite normal. Aunt Izzy and Michael and Maria were all there and Maria always makes sure to bug Mom and Dad about the fact that they named me Serena. She winks at me when she says it, but I feel sort of guilty anyway.
Because, apparently, there was nothing serene about the way I chose to enter the world. Mom barely went through labour in fact. She laughs about it now, but it’s pretty obvious that it was not the most pleasant of experiences for her at the time, even though I’m never quite sure if I’m reading my mom right anyway. Maybe it was the best night of her life, like she says.
It’s not always easy for me to know what my mom’s really thinking. She’s always so strong and never wants to burden anyone, particularly me. Sometimes I feel like I barely know her.
Except when it comes to my dad of course. Then she’s like an open book. There has never been any doubt in my mind that my parents love each other. It makes the fact that I know I am never going to have the same even harder to bear on occasion.
Because, how can I possibly have it, when the person I love just doesn’t love me back?
It hurts even more that my mom understands. She knows how I feel and she doesn’t know what to do to make it better. I hate making her feel so helpless. If there’s one thing my mom hates, it’s being out of control and I make her feel that way. For many reasons, not the least of which is that I was destined, from the day of my birth, to save the world. And it scares her. Which is one reason that I feel alienated from her I think. She has always held herself slightly aloof, like she can’t bear to get too close, in case she loses me.
But I think the fact that I love Sean and he doesn’t love me back hurts her most of all. Because she knows what it feels like to think you can’t be with the person you want more than anyone. That she should actually understand was a revelation to me, because I have always heard about how my dad loved my mom from the first time he laid eyes on her, when they were both just kids.
And, yet, in spite of that, my mom does understand what it feels like to lose the one person you just know you are supposed to be with, someone you love. I think maybe she just can’t bear to go through it again.
It was Maria who told me about Sean’s mom and about how my mom and dad almost ended up apart. Maria’s great because she’ll tell me whatever I want to know. She was more than happy to tell me about Tess. I can’t remember how she even came up in conversation, but the look of utter hatred on Maria’s face was more than I could bear. I begged her to tell me and she did.
I didn’t understand how someone we all loved so much - Sean - could have come from someone everyone seemed to despise so completely. I needed to know how it had happened and I think Maria thought I needed to know too. My mom was mad at her when she found out that I had been told, mainly because I think she thought I was too young, but Maria just shook her head and said, "There are already too many secrets Lizzie."
But, anyway, back to what Maria told me.
"She tried to steal your dad from your mom."
This really shocked me. I knew better than anyone that there was absolutely no way my dad would even look at another woman. "Why?"
Maria waved her hand in the air like she always did when she was dismissing something. "Because she was a bitch."
I didn’t think this was the real reason - or the entire reason anyway - but I simply nodded. "Anyway, your dad was unstealable, so Tess mindwarped him into thinking he had slept with her and gotten her pregnant."
"Mindwarp? Like Sean can do?" I chose to ignore the image of my father sleeping with anyone. I mean, that was gross to me at fourteen (if I’m honest, it still is).
"Yeah." Maria scowled. "But Sean was raised to know when it’s right to use it and when it’s not. Tess wasn’t. And she used it all the time for her own gain. It was how she killed Alex."
I felt a lump enter my throat. My middle name is Alexandra for my mother’s best friend and he is why she knows what it feels like to really lose someone you love. He is spoken of often, but how exactly he died was never clear to me up to that point. I already knew then - I’m not quite sure how - that Sean’s mother had killed him, but I had never known the exact details. The whole thing was kind of a mess actually, because of the fact that Ava looks exactly like Tess too. But she’s nothing like Sean’s mother was. Everyone loves Ava.
The story was even more confusing to me because I think it was the first time that it really dawned on me that my gifts could be used for evil. It was so far beyond my realm of comprehension, so far beyond how I had been raised, that the fact that Sean’s mother had done so, was completely foreign to me.
"But she really was pregnant?"
Maria nodded. "Yeah. Your Uncle Kyle was in love with her. And Sean is a gift, even if his mother was a psycho. He’s the one good thing Tess Harding managed to do with her life."
"Does Sean know about all of this?" My heart thundered in my chest at the thought that I might need to keep a secret of this magnitude from him. I told him everything after all. Even stuff he didn’t want to know about - including the fact that I knew I was going to marry him someday. I did stop doing that when I was a teenager, mainly because by then I recognized the fact that he wasn’t very happy about it.
It was a supreme relief when Maria told me that he did. "He needed to know. His dad told him a few years ago."
I never spoke to him about it, even though he did know. Looking back now, I wish I had. Because then it wouldn’t have been such a shock to him when I finally did bring it up - when I threw it in his face to hurt him as much as he had hurt me. On Christmas Eve of course. Only last year.
I haven’t spoken to him since. Because I left that every day. To find my destiny. To end it all once and for all. To finally make it so that they can all just get on with their lives and stop worrying about me.
Because I knew that until I finally took care of him, they just couldn’t. Not really. Not as much as everyone tried to pretend that life was normal, that I didn’t have to do it.
My dad was wrong. We don’t make our own destiny. Sometimes we just have to learn to accept what is meant to be. It is a lesson I’ve always known, and so, because Sean doesn’t want to accept his, we’re basically both screwed.
Love decides our destiny. My love for my family decided mine from the day of my birth.
Continued in the next post...
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jan-2003 10:59:42 PM ]
|posted on 6-Jan-2003 10:37:16 PM|
|I raise my head as the door to my cell opens and shiver at the cold air that runs through the already freezing room.|
I recognize him right away. It’s the eyes that do it. They’re the same eyes that have haunted my dreams for my entire life.
He looks more human than I would have expected. I don’t know why I’ve always pictured him as some sort of hideous alien-type. I mean, I’m half alien and I don’t look like that.
And, yet, something in those eyes tells me that he is about as far from human as a living being can get.
Because he is a monster. He is the monster who killed my father and everyone he held dear in their last lives and he is the monster who will try to do so again.
And, because I have failed, he probably will.
It will likely not surprise you to know that I first heard his name on Christmas. It was because of Aunt Izzy, although she wasn’t the one who brought him up. She was in town with her husband Jesse. They didn’t live far - only in Albuquerque - but we didn’t see as much of her as my dad wanted. I often heard them fighting about in on the phone in fact.
"Isabel, you know that we all need to be together. The four square needs to be strong!" My dad’s argument was always the same but he never yelled at her. That isn’t Dad’s way. But the way his eyes can show how disappointed he is in you…it’s almost worse. I’ve only seen it one time directed at me and it ranks among the most difficult experiences of my life.
Sometimes I really wish he would yell.
Anyway, I’d actually once heard their argument in real life when Dad had taken me to Albuquerque to try and bring her home. Even though I was sitting on the front porch, I heard every word and, so, I knew what Aunt Izzy likely said in return during all those phone conversations. She’s the only person I know who can take Dad’s disappointed look and, in fact, make him feel bad for using it.
"We can’t spend our whole lives waiting for him Max! I need to live my life. You know I’ll come as soon as you need me!"
Since my mother agreed with Aunt Izzy, in the end, she got her way. My dad never can say no to my mom. And Aunt Izzy was true to her word. The first time she saw him in her dreams, when I was thirteen, she came back to Roswell.
She told us she was moving home at Christmas dinner. Uncle Jesse was seated beside her, looking upset, which I didn’t think was that weird. He never seems quite comfortable with us, even though I know he loves Aunt Izzy. Maria says it’s because Michael and my dad weren’t exactly welcoming when he and Aunt Izzy decided to get married, but I can’t imagine my dad being unkind to anyone. Disappointed, yes, unkind, no. Michael…well, that’s another story. He doesn’t realize how mean he can be sometimes. I’ve never been fooled by it, but lots of other people are.
Anyway, the only other people there were me, my dad, my mom and my dad’s parents. My Parker grandparents had gone to visit my mom’s aunt in Florida. I wasn’t sure at the time where everybody else was. I knew the Valentis were having Christmas at their place with Michael and Maria that year for some reason. It was the only Christmas I remember when we weren’t all together. I didn’t know why then, but I do now.
Sean brought home a girlfriend that year and no one wanted me to know about it. Because they all knew even then that I was crazy when it came to him. My behavior last Christmas indicates that they were right to make sure I didn’t know. It’s embarrassing and I’m ashamed, but I really have no control over myself when it comes to him.
Again, no wonder he hates me.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. My dad very deliberately placed his fork down beside his plate, glanced at me, which seemed weird at the time, but not now, and then back at Aunt Izzy. "What brought this on?"
Aunt Izzy met his gaze dead-on and said quietly, "Aren’t you happy?"
"Why Isabel?" I had never heard my father sound so angry. It was only later that I understood that he was freaked out, not mad. Because he knew exactly why.
My mother’s hand shot out at that and placed itself firmly on top of my father’s. "Max…" She said warningly.
"Khivar, that’s why Max. Is that what you want to hear? That Khivar has started haunting my wife’s dreams?"
This came from Uncle Jesse. He yelled it and so surprised everyone at the table, my dad actually jumped to his feet without thinking. Uncle Jesse looked at Aunt Izzy and then left the house in a rush, slamming the door behind him.
We all sat or stood there in stunned silence for so long, it scared me.
I turned my head and looked at my mom, whose face was completely blank. "Who’s Khivar?" I asked, looking back at Aunt Izzy. Her eyes were closed and I could see how sad she was.
My dad collapsed back into his chair. I watched he and my mother stare at each other for a long, charged moment and then he turned to me, after my mom nodded. "Khivar is our enemy. He is the one who killed us and he is sitting on my throne."
I frowned. I knew the story about how my father and Aunt Izzy and Michael and Ava had been sent here from another planet of course. I also knew that it was because someone wanted to kill them, but I had never really known who.
Now I had a name to put to the fear that had always lurked somewhere in my sub-conscious. Because I felt his eyes on me even then.
Sean came to see me later that night. Mom and Dad didn’t want to leave me alone and I wasn’t - everyone came over to talk about it - but I was sent to my room during the meeting. So I was a bit surprised when the tap came on my door.
"Can I come in squirt?"
I was lying on my bed in my pajamas, staring at the ceiling, trying to work up the nerve to go down and eavesdrop. Somehow I knew that I shouldn’t though. The last thing I wanted was to make my parents mad at me. They had enough to worry about. My dad promised that they would tell me everything when they were done. I think I realized even then that there was going to be a lot of yelling during that meeting, which I hated, even though I knew it was only because everyone was scared.
Of course, I didn’t know then that they were mostly scared because of me and what they all knew about my destiny. I wasn’t quite fully aware of my own importance then. It took me even a couple of years after that to understand what I was supposed to do. I also think that it frustrated my dad and Michael in particular that as much as they wanted to protect me from it by dealing with it themselves, they couldn’t control what was going to happen. And when my dad and Michael get frustrated, even if it is about the same thing, they have a tendency to yell at each other. Dad can’t use his disappointed eyes on Michael because Michael just gets mad and my dad ends up yelling anyway.
I sat up at the sound of his voice, my heart leaping with happiness at the sight of Sean, in spite of everything. "Sure!"
He did, looking a little uncomfortable. He scratched his blond head, turned around, taking in the changes to my room. I realized he hadn’t been in here since Aunt Izzy and Maria had helped me redecorate it on my twelfth birthday to better reflect "the young lady I was becoming" as Aunt Izzy put it.
"Why are you up here?" I asked finally. "You’re officially a grown-up now. They should let you listen."
Sean sat down on the chair next to my desk, grinned. "Ah, it’s boring. Michael and your dad are arguing and Isabel is mad at both of them. Same old, same old."
I smiled back. "And Maria is telling Michael to listen and screeching too, right?"
"And Ava is just sitting there quietly," Sean continued, rolling his eyes. Sean’s relationship with Ava was complicated to say the least. She looked exactly like his mother, but wasn’t, and seemed to go out of her way not to interfere in his upbringing. Aunt Amy was more his mom than anyone because Uncle Kyle and Sean lived with she and Uncle Jim.
"And your dad is making wise-cracks to annoy my dad, which is making my mom glare at him," I added. I never understood why Uncle Kyle seemed to so enjoy ribbing my father. My dad didn’t react very often, took it all gracefully, and seemed to find it mostly funny, if the half-smile accompanied by eye-rolls were any indication. Even I could see that my dad and Uncle Kyle had some sort of weird understanding between them. But my mom did react on his behalf, and this seemed to amuse Uncle Kyle even more. Maria told me once it was historical and that Kyle didn’t really mean anything by it. He just liked to tease.
A long silence developed as we both realized that while all the grown-ups might be acting typically, the situation was about as far from normal as could be. Because, even though we had always known that we weren’t entirely safe on this planet, it had never been so blatantly in our faces as it was on that night.
Our eyes finally met. "Sean, I’m scared," I said before I could stop myself. The last thing I wanted was to remind him of what a baby I still was. How was he ever going to see me as anything but a kid if I couldn’t act like anything else?
He stood up, came and sat on the bed beside me, pulling me gently against him. "It’s okay Reenie. As long as I live, nothing is ever going to happen to you."
Something in his tone made me pull back slightly. I looked up at him and, for the first time, I think I really believed that maybe - just maybe - all of my dreaming wasn’t in vain. For one precious moment, he let me really see him.
His eyes…they were ablaze with such intense longing and love, I’ve had the memory burned into my very soul ever since. And it’s why I’ve never been able to let go of him.
Of course, he shut-down again right away, pulled away like he had been scorched. At the time I didn’t understand, but I do now.
The last thing he wanted was to love me. To him, I was a little sister and he thought the way he felt about me was wrong. Particularly then, because I was still just a kid. He knew that my parents, that everyone, trusted him with me - the bloody saviour of the entire bloody planet - and his worst nightmare was the possibility of disappointing them.
How could anyone know that he already felt like a disappointment just because he existed? No one had ever intended to make him feel that way. We grew up with the story about how long everyone had looked for him after all. It was just a given that he would know that no one blamed him for who he was. It was a given that he would get that everyone loved him.
But who can understand how our minds work, why we try and hide feelings and suspicions and fears? If Sean had only been honest - that he felt trapped into being the good, responsible one because of who his mother had been - none of what happened last Christmas ever would have.
I never knew how guilty he felt about who his mother was until the worst day of my life. Was it really only a year ago? He hid it well, for all those years. He hid it until I threw it right in his face and he couldn’t hide it anymore.
Of course, I didn’t understand that when I was thirteen. All I saw was the fact that I had a chance. And I wasn’t going to waste it. He went back to school, taking the girlfriend I didn’t even know existed with him (she was gone from his life soon after, as was the way with normal eighteen year olds who didn’t find their soulmates on the first try) and I started plotting my campaign to make him admit that he loved me as much as I loved him. I was such a spoiled brat, I didn’t think it would take much at all. The incident at the bar when I was fifteen made me back off for a while…but not for long. Even though I had seen the hate in his eyes, I pursued him. Because I just could not imagine my life without him. It never even crossed my mind that he might feel trapped by his feelings for me. That maybe what I wanted wasn’t important.
I just didn’t get that he was trying to escape his destiny as ardently as I was eager to pursue mine. And being with me meant that he was going to be the good one, the responsible one, forever.
At least I didn’t get it until the day he brought home Laura.
Christmas Eve 2024. Without a doubt, the worst day of my life. And I’m even counting this day, when I sit in my cold cell facing down my family’s greatest enemy. Because this is not unexpected. I always knew I would come face to face with Khivar one day. I didn’t know I would end up captured so quickly, but it is not a complete shock.
I told you I’m a spoiled brat. Because the truth is, since I’ve lost Sean, the whole meaning in any of this is gone. I want to save my parents and my family and my world, but I don’t particularly care about myself anymore, which has made this all much more difficult than I ever envisioned it being. It has been since I deliberately, and without any right, hurt the person who matters most.
All of this is going through my mind as I stare at Khivar, who is eyeing me with something approaching amusement. "You look more like your mother than I expected," he finally says. "There was always something in the photographs I’ve seen of you that reminded me of Zan - the weakness perhaps. I find myself surprised that it is not so obvious in the flesh."
I raise my chin and stare at him through eyes I know are the exact same colour as my dad’s. "You are just as predictable as I expected," I shoot back fiercely. "You can hardly think I find it original that you are insulting my father. Your jealousy of him is legendary."
For all I know, it’s not, but then I don’t know much about what happened on Antar. My parents don’t either. But it seems likely, being as he stole my father’s throne, so I say it anyway. By the way his nostrils flare, I can see that I’ve hit a sore spot.
He quickly regains his control though. After all, I’m the prisoner, not he. "I hope you may not find me as predictable when I’m through with you."
My heart starts beating strangely when he says, "You do know it is Christmas day?"
I glare at him. "Merry Christmas," I snap, channeling Michael’s sarcasm. "You’ll be shocked to hear that I forgot to buy you a present."
Well, that’s not entirely true of course. I had wanted to give him the lump of coal represented in his own destruction, but clearly that’s not going to happen.
I am willing him to just get the killing over with and hope that annoying him will make it come more quickly. Because I know he’s going to kill me and I don’t think I can live with the thought of the suffering my family is going to endure because I have failed so completely.
His eyes do narrow, but he does not seem perturbed, merely amused again, as he snaps his fingers and the cell door opens for the second time. "I brought you a present little one."
I gasp, jump to my feet despite myself as Khivar’s guards throw the man hanging between them roughly to the ground. It is the worst possible present I can imagine.
And - yes, I am ashamed to admit it - the best.
Lying at my feet is the one person I never expected to see again. The one person I have dreamed of seeing, but certainly not in these horrible circumstances.
I am at his side in an instant, not understanding how he is here, why he is here. I gently pull his head onto my lap. The side of his face is bloody and I run my fingers down it, calling on the gift I inherited from my father to heal it.
It is only when Sean groans and opens his eyes, their piercing blue making my heart start to thunder in my chest as he focuses on me, not completely healed, that I realize that Khivar is still in the cell with us.
Because he starts to laugh. "Oh, this is better than I had hoped!"
I raise my head, stare at him. "What are you talking about?"
"You love him!" The monster is almost cackling with glee.
"Of course I love him," I reply, fear truly claiming me for the first time. Because, before, I didn’t care what he did to me. But now I have Sean to protect. He is sitting up now, still dazed, and still somehow hurt, even though I healed him. I really don’t understand why he is here, or how, but it is all I can do not to turn my head to stare at him in amazement. "We grew up together."
I make myself keep my eyes on Khivar.
Khivar smiles. "You do not need to tell me little one. I can see it written all over your face."
Damnit! You know, it’s at times like these that I really wish that I wasn’t quite so much like my mother. While I have never been very good at reading her, my dad always can and Maria tells me she can too, which is why she often tells me my mom doesn’t mean to be distant. And because I’m like my mom, they can read me too. That’s why they’ve all always known how I feel about Sean. I could never hide it. Even from him and it was what drove him away from me.
And, now, I can’t even hide it from my worst enemy.
"This is going to be even more amusing," Khivar continues.
"Just kill me and be done with it," I order. "Don’t you know that drawing it out means I’ll have more of a chance of winning?" I mean, really! Don’t villains ever watch the late-night movie? He really should just kill me after all.
Because he must know as well as I do that the longer he keeps me alive, the more likely it is that I will rally and make him meet his destiny after all, particularly now that I have Sean to save. Why is he delaying?
"I don’t plan to kill you little one."
I scowl at him. "Why not?"
"I don’t need to," Khivar replies. "With you in my possession, I have all I need to solidify my claim to the throne. You are your father’s heir. Our child will conquer the known universe."
"Are you nuts? I mean, really?" I flare. "I’m not going to marry you!"
Khivar rolls his eyes. "Who said anything about marriage?" He motions to the guards with his hand. They move forward and grab Sean again, hauling him away from me. It is all I can do not to leap after them. But I don’t do it. I can’t let him know for sure how right he is. How much he means to me.
Khivar kneels in front of me, clasping my chin in a painful grip, making me meet his fierce gaze. "You will bear my child or I will kill your lover. It is as simple as that."
I lower my eyes. "He’s not my lover," I mumble, the most inane thing I can possibly say in this moment, but, for some reason, I want it clarified.
"But he wants to be," Khivar replies, smirking again.
"No he doesn’t," I snap. "He’s married to someone else."
"He is, is he?"
My eyes raise to meet his again, in spite of myself. There is something in his tone… "Isn’t he?"
"Why would he come for you when you called if he was married to someone else?"
"I didn’t…" I trail off, horrified, as the truth dawns on me. "You made him think I needed him?"
He didn’t even need to answer. I knew instantly that it was true. And Sean had come. In spite of Laura, in spite of what I had said to him, in spite of everything.
In spite of the fact that all he’s ever wanted was to escape me and the responsibility my existence has always thrust onto his shoulders.
"Don’t you Serena? Don’t you need him?" Khivar asks, sounding almost father-like. The very idea that I could even for a moment compare him to my dad makes me so mad that I barely refrain from spitting in his face.
Instead, I realize that I have him right where I want him. I raise my hand, place it firmly where his heart would be - if he had one - and I start to burn. There is no other explanation for it. It is what Michael once told me I should do, should I happen to find myself in this situation. He was trying not to scare me at the time, but he was also trying to warn me. I think, of all of them, he found it the hardest not to tell me right out what they all expected me to do one day. Even Maria managed to keep this one to herself. But Michael - it bugged him. And so he gave me all these covert little hints.
Because, in the end, I really have no idea how far my gifts go. Who knew that these hands that I have been taught to use to heal could also be used in the other direction?
I stare into his eyes, connect and I start to pull him apart, molecule by molecule.
He grabs me hard, shaking me out of my vision.
Because I really haven’t moved. I have made no action to hurt him at all. The time is not yet right. Not with Sean in his hands. And, yet, he almost seems aware of what I was tempted to do.
His black eyes are glistening, as though it only makes him want me more.
"Come to me willingly in an hour and I may let him live."
With that, he turns on his black booted heels and stalks out.
Continued in next post...
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jan-2003 10:39:14 PM ]
|posted on 6-Jan-2003 10:44:45 PM|
|Why is he here? Why did Sean come? He has to know better than anyone that he is the last person I would call to come to me in this situation. That he is the last person I would want. Because didn’t I say that to his face just last year?|
I close my eyes, lean back against the cold wall, bringing my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them, resting my chin on top as the memory of the worst day of my life comes rushing back.
It didn’t start out that way. For once, I was actually looking forward to Christmas. Everyone was going to be together. In spite of the fact that Khivar continued to haunt Aunt Izzy, he had made no move against us. We did know that he was now on the planet. Aunt Izzy’s original dream had been the precursor to him leaving Antar to come for us and she somehow knew when he actually arrived.
And, yet, he made no move against us. We knew it would be soon and so what could be our last Christmas developed an almost surreal feeling of desperation to enjoy every happy moment while we still could.
I tried to ignore my parents eyes on me at every turn. They couldn’t seem to stop themselves from watching me, even though I think they realized that they were only making me nervous. I heard my mother sobbing in their bedroom one night and it made me angry and even more eager to finally meet Khivar. I knew she was scared for me - it was the first time I think I fully understood that, that maybe it was why she couldn’t quite connect with me on the same level I always had with my father - but I wasn’t frightened.
It was what was meant to be. It was what I wanted to be.
My family could not talk about it as much as they wanted, could try and pretend that it was my father and the four square who would really take him on. Everyone knew the truth, even if no one said it out loud. I don’t know how they all knew, but they did and, yet, still no one said anything to me.
They didn’t need to though. I knew my destiny and I embraced it. I would save the world and I would come back and marry Sean and all would be as it was meant to. Because I really did not think it was possible to love someone as much as I did him and not have it returned. Hadn’t I seen that look in his eyes that one time? I knew he loved me. Now I just needed to make him admit it.
It was all I could focus on - the fact that Sean was coming home for the first time in three years. I knew by then that he had stayed away mainly to avoid me, but I could hardly wait for him to see me. I was grown up. Finally he was going to have to acknowledge that we could be together.
I was sitting on the front porch when Uncle Kyle’s truck pulled into our driveway. I jumped to my feet, ready to throw myself at my beloved. I was surprised that it was Maria who was the first one out. She hurried towards me, looking upset. She was followed by Michael, Uncle Kyle and Ava.
"Where’s your mom, sweetie?" Maria asked as I stared over her head. Where was Sean? Shouldn’t he be here?
"Inside," I replied, looking at Uncle Kyle in confusion. He was deliberately not meeting my eyes.
Somehow I knew that the last thing they wanted me to do was ask where Sean was. Maria had already gone in and was coming back, my mother in tow. Michael, Uncle Kyle and Ava went inside to join my dad, who was entertaining my grandparents. But the instant Maria came out with my mom, I knew it was going to be bad.
"What’s wrong?" I demanded, staring from one to the other.
"Serena, we wanted to warn you," Maria said, tears in her blue eyes. My mother’s lips were compressed together, her expression pained. "It’s Sean. He’s coming with his grandpa and my mom. But, sweetie, listen. He’s not alone."
I stared at her, not understanding. "What do you mean? He brought a friend?" I was disappointed. I had so wanted him to myself. But I didn’t quite understand why they were both so upset. There would still be a chance to be alone with him. I would find a way. I had waited this long. I could wait a bit longer.
"Serena." I looked at my mother. "She’s more than a friend honey." She lifted her hand, pulled me towards her, hugged me as though I wasn’t at least four inches taller than she was - like she thought she could still be comfort enough.
I pulled away. "What? I don’t understand. More than a friend?"
"They’re engaged sweetie," Maria explained patiently. "Her name is Laura and they’re going to get married." She paused, then rushed on. "He says that he’s tired of waiting for his life to start. That if we only have a few months left, he’s going to live them." She sounded almost angry.
I realized that it was the first time that anyone had ever mentioned aloud, in my presence, that we might potentially be living the last months of our lives. And it truly drove home for the first time how scared they all were.
They didn’t think that I was going to be strong enough to save them. None of them did. And, in that instant, I knew that they were right. Because when I still had my hope that someday Sean and I would be together, I knew absolutely that I was invincible - that I would meet Khivar one day and laugh in the face of it. Because I needed the world to keep turning so that Sean and I could be together.
He didn’t believe in me enough to wait.
I stared at my mother in shocked disbelief and I think she knew exactly what went through mind in that instant because her face crumpled. "Serena, don’t…Don’t look like that." She reached for me again, but I pushed away, turned on my heel and ran.
He found me in the park close to an hour later. I knew he would come. I was glad of it. I nursed my anger and my pain and I readied myself to hurt him as much as he had hurt me.
I raised my eyes, stared at him coldly. "Where’s your fiancée?"
He flinched, but refused to look away. "Back at the house. Come and meet her. You’ll like her."
He sighed heavily, sat beside me on the bench I had chosen. "Serena, please don’t do this."
"Don’t do what?" I demanded. "I said I’m sure I’ll like her."
"Don’t act like a brat," he replied, raising his voice. "You’re being ridiculous. This isn’t about you. It’s about me and what I need to deal with all of this. Can’t you just be happy for me?"
"Why do you need me to be happy for you?" I asked. "Since when does anything I want matter to you?"
"Since always! You know that! And I want you to be happy for me because I love you. You’re like my sister!"
I glared at him. "I’m not your sister." Pause. "How can I be happy for you when I know you’re just doing this because you’re a coward?"
He sat back, stared at me for a long moment then said, "You can say whatever you want to Serena. I know you’re hurt, but you’ve got to accept this. I won’t have you upsetting her."
"I won’t upset her," I snapped. "I don’t intend to meet her. She’ll be dead soon enough anyway."
"What?" He grabbed me when I raised my chin and looked away. "Are you threatening me?"
I met his eyes squarely. "Of course not. How could you even think that of me! I’m not a killer." His expression softened. I think he maybe even intended to apologize, but I couldn’t seem to shut my mouth. "No, it’s not in my genes after all, is it?"
His blue eyes flared with an anguish so sudden and so deep, it made me gasp. I really had not expected it to hurt him so much.
Which is a lie of course. Even now I can’t admit to myself how much I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to feel even a fraction of the pain he was inflicting on me by denying what we were to each other.
I kept going too. I didn’t even stop there. "The world is going to end you know."
He was staring at me now, like he didn’t recognize me any longer. I don’t blame him. Looking back, I don’t recognize myself either. "That’s what I meant when I said that your fiancée will be dead. But you know that already, don’t you?"
"We both know that it’s true Sean. They’ve tried to hide it from us, but it’s going to happen. I don’t know how they know, but they do and there’s nothing either of us can do to stop it." I paused, then twisted the knife. "And it’s going to be your fault. Because I could have prevented it but I’m not going to now. Why should I? There’s no reason to anymore." I met his eyes again. "I never want to see you again. I hate you!"
I stood up and I left him sitting there. I didn’t go home, I didn’t look back.
I went to find Khivar.
Because I had, of course, lied to Sean. I was going to kill our enemy and then I was going to rub Sean’s face in the fact that he didn’t believe in me and now I was lost to him.
Needless to say, my parents came after me. They found me shortly after Aunt Izzy came to visit me in my dreams. I knew she would and I let her, if only so that they would know I was safe. Even then I couldn’t totally cut myself off from them all. And, so, I was supremely not surprised when I opened the door to the crummy motel room in which I had holed up to find Mom and Dad standing there.
My mother was furious, my father just disappointed. I told you before that he only ever looked at me that way once and this was it. It was not pleasant, but I managed to pretend I didn’t care at the time.
"Serena, you are coming home with us right now!" My mother told me as she whirled around the motel room, throwing my meagre belongings into a bag.
"Max, don’t just stand there. Tell her she’s coming with us," my mom yelled at my father, who sighed and rubbed a hand across his face wearily in a gesture that was extremely typical of him.
"Dad, I’m not coming home." I turned my head, refused to look at him as I said it. It was then that I realized that he wasn’t disappointed in me for the reason I thought. Because when he answered, he wasn’t talking to be, but to my mother.
"We knew this was going to happen. It’s okay sweetheart."
My mom paused in her flurry and stared at him.
"Liz, we have to play this out. It will happen as it’s meant to. Michael, Isabel, Ava and I will take care of Khivar. It’s what should have been all along anyway. I can’t allow my daughter to face this alone. I tried to pretend that I could, but I can’t. I don’t care what happened before. It’s wrong. This is a different world and I am going to take responsibility for my own problems."
He came and sat beside me on the bed. "I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt, but what you said to Sean was inexcusable." Trust my dad to decide that he’s going to save the world by himself and still find time to parent me. And this was why he was upset with me. Because I had hurt the one person he knew I loved more than anyone - on purpose.
I swallowed, closed my eyes. "I know. I’m sorry."
"You need to find a way to prove it honey," he said softly, before gently pulling me towards him for a hug.
"Max! We’re not just going to leave her here!" My mother sounded horrified. "We can’t leave her all alone!"
"Yes we can. She’s grown up Liz and we’ve babied her long enough. It was trying too hard to protect her that screwed everything up in the first place." His voice was firm as he stood and propelled my mother out of the motel room.
She was back a moment later of course, hugging me fiercely. "I wish I had been brave enough to tell you to find your own destiny baby," she whispered against my hair. "I’ve never been brave enough Serena."
Clearly my mother is crazy. She is the bravest woman I know. Because she left me in that motel room, knowing that my father was just as crazy to think that I was going to let him deal with what I knew was my responsibility. She faced her greatest fear and came out on the other side. And it was only then that I got it - that my mother’s greatest wish was that I not have to face this and it took all of her strength to allow me to go ahead and confront Khivar.
Which I did. Because it was me he wanted now, not my dad. And it was why, in the end, it was easy enough to find him.
He used my dreams to bring me close, but he never gave up the reins of power. He let me come right to his door-step and then he had his minions take me.
Any other maniac would have run away from the person destined to kill him. Not Khivar. Khivar has always been about defying what is meant to be. And he is winning.
I am letting him win by sitting here in despair.
What am I going to do? I have to remember why I’m here. This is my destiny. I’ve always known it and I can’t falter now.
There is only one thing to do. I am going to have to somehow get out of this cell, find Sean, save him and then kill Khivar. In that order.
Great. Since I was so successful the last time - and it didn’t include the "save Sean" part.
Why did he come? Why? Why? Why?
He was supposed to be safely at home, married to his little Laura, having the first of many babies.
Of course, the fact that he thought that I was going to let the world end to prevent his happily ever after might have had something to do with why he decided to come after me.
I should have known. Because I went against everything we were both raised to be by hurting him like I did - by being selfish, self-absorbed and self-involved. He feels an overwhelming need to reform me. He always has. He has tried to mold me the person he thinks I should be, has ordered me around, has protected me from myself, for my entire life.
Why on Earth would he stop now?
But he came because he thought you called him. The thought runs through my mind so abruptly, I blink. You have been gone for a year and it was only then that he came.
If he wanted to interfere, wouldn’t he have come sooner? It’s not like I’ve been in hiding. I haven’t been in touch, but I know that they’ve been keeping tabs on me, mainly with Aunt Izzy’s gift.
He waited until you asked him to come.
And, suddenly, everything is absolutely crystal clear in my mind. How I could not have understood before, I have no clue. Maybe I was too young for him after all.
There is no way I will let Khivar hurt Sean. My beloved has finally accepted his destiny as well by coming here and I can’t fail him. Because I know now that it is what all this means.
We are meant to do this together.
Sean was just waiting for me to ask. And I don’t think he even knows it yet. All he has ever wanted is to feel imperative in our lives and, while we all depended on him, while everyone trusted him to look after me, I realize he has never felt like any of us really needed him, had never felt that I needed him.
He thinks that maybe I’d be better off without him. And, so, he has struggled his entire life to let me go.
I was the one destined to save the world. He was the one expected to protect me and then let me run off to do it. Talk about mixed messages! His entire existence has revolved around looking after me, but, somewhere, deep inside, he hasn’t truly thought I ever needed him.
He knew I loved him, that I wanted him, but I didn’t need him.
The sheer irony in the whole thing was that of course I need him. He is the whole reason I am going to do any of this. Because I love him.
Which means that I know exactly what I have to do to save him. I have to make him understand this himself.
And, to do this, I have to give Khivar what he wants.
Continued in next post...
|posted on 6-Jan-2003 10:46:50 PM|
|I think I surprise Khivar when the guards bring me in. It took me a while to get their attention, so by the time they throw me down in front of him, my hour is almost up anyway.|
He is sitting in a throne-like chair. It’s almost enough to make me roll my eyes. It has not taken me long to analyze what this guy’s problem is. He has a serious inferiority complex. My father has known that he is a king for most of his life, but my mother did not decorate our house in late Louis XVI to show it off. My dad demonstrates he’s a leader through his kindness, his fairness and his love for others, something I have been raised to do as well.
But, why my dad turned out that way…of course, it all comes down to one person. That one person you want to be all of those things for. For my dad, it has always been my mom. And for me, it has always been Sean. And he thinks I don’t need him. How blind is he anyway?
Khivar has never had that and boy does it show.
"Made up your mind so soon?" Khivar asks now, raising an eyebrow at me.
"You said an hour," I remind him, doing my best to live up to my name, trying to maintain a serene expression. "It’s been almost that long. You really didn’t give me much of a choice, so what are we waiting for?"
"Well, I will admit that I am shocked." Khivar stands, moves toward me. I try not to flinch away as he reaches out and pushes my long dark hair back off my shoulders. "You really are lovely. This will be a pleasure."
"Hold it." I step back, raise my hands. "I have a couple of conditions first."
He narrows his eyes at me. "Conditions? You are in no position to…"
"Yes, yes." I shake my head in annoyance. "I realize I’m in no position to negotiate. But if this is how it has to be, why does it have to be on such bad terms?"
"What are you saying?"
"I want marriage." I meet his eyes. "I want to be your queen and I want you to take me back to Antar with you so I can watch our child grow up."
"You expect me to believe this?" He demands, sounding irritated that I think he is so stupid.
"You can believe what you want," I reply firmly. "I can prove it to you."
"Bring Sean here," I tell him. "Let him see that I’ve made this decision of my own free will and he’ll go back and tell my father and it will all be over. I’ll just go with you and you can leave everyone else alone."
"You want the man you love to see you give yourself to me?" He sounds amused now. "Why?"
I shrug. "He rejected me. I want him to suffer for it. I’ve had time to think about this whole thing. You’re not quite as bad as I’ve always been told." I know that I am playing recklessly on his arrogance, but I think my scheme might just be outrageous enough for him to buy.
I mean, really, the last thing he could have ever expected was for Zan’s daughter to offer to marry him.
"You are cold, aren’t you? You remind me of Vilandra in her golden days." Khivar’s eyes gleam, as though he suddenly sees who my Aunt Izzy used to be in front of him, instead of my father’s daughter.
"He broke my heart." I use the inflection in my voice to force him to look at me again, to deal with me.
Khivar settles on his throne, eyes me for a long moment in silence. "What if I told you that he has not married?"
I feel my heart skip a beat. "How do you know this?"
"I have agents everywhere," Khivar replies. "Do you think it was a coincidence that your Sean became engaged just when I needed him to?"
I start despite myself. "Laura?"
"Is one of my agents, yes."
I close my eyes, pain for Sean running through me. "Does he know this?"
"Will he care? I doubt it. I think even my Laura was shocked by how quickly he came for you when you called for him."
"I didn’t call him." It is my one great regret that I wasn’t the one who did. I wish I had. I wish I had understood.
"He thinks you did," Khivar replies mildly. "I think he loves you."
"He doesn’t," I say quietly, although my heart is beating a mile a minute, knowing now - finally - that it is really true. "He thinks of me as a sister." I look up at him, smile slightly. "He won’t be surprised that I’ve given in so easily. He thinks the worst of me anyway. I’m betting that’s why he came after me in the first place you know. He thinks I’m selfish and self-serving. He’s the good one."
And it is the whole truth. In spite of the fact that he was the one with the murderous mother, I was the one who had grown up arrogant and full of her own worth and destined glory. I was the one who made it clear to everyone that I didn’t need them. My mother felt it and it hurt her. My father knew it and he forgave it. Sean believed it and it has almost destroyed him. None of them get that I’ve always felt invincible because they made me that way. It is my love for them that drives everything I do. It is their love and belief in me, in what they knew I was destined to do, that has shaped me into the person I am today.
But, sometimes, people need to be told how much they mean to you. You can’t just expect them to recognize it and understand. They’ve always shown me, but I’ve never returned the compliment. I don’t deserve any of them.
I do not deserve him but I’ll prove once and for all that I love him. That the only reason I am even here at all is because of him.
I just hope that he will finally understand. Because if he doesn’t, this plan is dead in the water.
"Well, we’ll see, won’t we?" Khivar says.
The guards bring him in moments later. My heart breaks at the pain in his expression. They have obviously been having their fun with him while they awaited whatever end was to be his. For some reason, my healing from before has done no good either. The marks I tried to remove from his beloved face are still there.
"Serena," he gasps at the sight of me. I am standing beside Khivar, who is still seated on his throne. My hand is on his shoulder.
I stare at him, trying to make my tone as disdainful as I can. "Sean. Why are you here?"
He frowns slightly. "I just knew that you needed me."
There is no way I can deny it, even if I should to make Khivar believe me. I can’t do it to him again, especially because I’ve only just started to understand myself how true it is. I did want him here. I do. "You came to stop me," I say instead, biting my lip, hard, to stop the tears that want to flow at the sight of him.
Sean is confused, meets my eyes. "Stop you from doing what?"
"From claiming my true destiny," I snap. "You’ve always tried to stop me from having what I want Sean. But I know what’s rightfully mine now." I turn to Khivar, kiss him full on the lips.
It really is the most revolting thing I’ve ever done. But I’ve made my point. When I turn back, Sean looks about ready to vomit and Khivar is pleased. I can feel it without even looking at him.
"Why are you doing this?" Sean whispers, sinking to his knees, his despair almost palpable.
It hurts me that he is falling for it so easily. Doesn’t he know me at all? Maybe I have been wrong all along. Maybe we aren’t meant to be together.
"I told you before. It’s your fault. You had your chance with me. I’m just glad that you weren’t man enough to take it."
"Your family…your father…"
"My father is a weakling. If he wasn’t so pathetic, he would have taken back his throne a long time ago and I wouldn’t have to get it back this way."
Sean’s eyes snap up again and he stares at me, hard. It is in that instant that I see that he knows exactly what I am doing.
There is only one person on the face of this planet that I will never bad-mouth and that person is my father. While I love my mom, I haven’t always been as charitable behind her back, mainly because I just didn’t get her like I do my dad, who I have always, quite simply, adored. And Sean knows this better than anyone. In fact, he used to make fun of my dad’s ears when we were younger just because it amused him so much to get me riled. The time he told me that he thought I was growing them, I belted him so hard, he had a black eye for a week.
I could not have picked a better way to communicate my intentions to him.
He really does know me after all.
"I hate you," he says fiercely, his blue eyes gleaming. They snap shut, as though he is disgusted by the sight of me.
I almost smile. Because I can see that he means the exact opposite.
I turn to Khivar. "I told you he’d believe it."
Khivar seems impressed. "I stand corrected. You are not at all what I expected little one."
I move around the throne, force myself to sit on his lap. I lean forward, kiss him again, placing my hand firmly against his chest.
He is dead before he even knows what is happening.
Sean has taken care of the guards, having knocked them out, while mindwarping Khivar into thinking they are still there. I know that he will erase their memories of any of this ever happening. They will be at a loss, their leader dead before them, no idea how it transpired.
But I’ll know. It happened because Sean believed in me.
I am on my feet, staring down at the smoking remains of the monster who has threatened my family for two lifetimes. The monster who would have destroyed my home planet - my Earth - without a single thought for all the innocent souls that would have gone with it.
And I don’t feel a bit bad about it. Which is wrong, I know. And I’m sure Sean will remind me of it too.
I turn, throw myself against him. He is stroking me hair, my arms, my back. "Oh God. Are you okay? Reenie, how could I have actually believed you? What was I thinking? I’m so sorry!"
We have fallen to our knees, our arms still wrapped around each other. I pull back slightly, smile at him. "Because I’m a spoiled brat?"
He shudders, pushes my hair away from my face. "You are the bravest person I know."
I lower my eyes. "I’m brave because you made me that way," I whisper.
"Why did you come?" I ask instead of repeating myself. Because I know I have to tell him the truth. That as much as I regret it, I wasn’t the one who actually called him to come to me here. As much as I wish I had, I realized what he needed too late. And he needs to know it.
"You needed me," he replies quietly. I feel his eyes searching my face, trying to understand why I’m suddenly upset again.
"I didn’t," I admit, the back of my eyes burning. I can feel already that he’s tensing, that he’s getting ready to pull away. "It was Khivar. He lied to you. Your wife…she’s one of his people. It was she who told you I’d called, wasn’t it?" I assume this is true, as I have absolutely no other idea how he knew exactly where to find me.
There is a long pause. I finally manage to gather my courage, look up at him. He is staring down at me, baffled. "Serena, I don’t have a wife."
I blink. "You don’t?"
"No." He sighs. "I realized the night you left that it just wouldn’t be fair to her. I couldn’t marry her when watching you walk away made me feel like my entire heart had been ripped out of my body."
"What?" I am dumbfounded. "But he told me…"
Sean shakes his head. "He lied, obviously."
"But, if you knew a year ago, why? Why did you wait until now to come?" I am beginning to get mad. "I mean, I needed you!"
He narrows his eyes. "And I was supposed to know this how? You’ve never needed me before."
"That is so not true!" I flare back. I glare at him for a full minute before I realize how ridiculous I’m being. Of course he didn’t know. "I’m sorry," I say quickly.
"For what?" He asks, his expression softening again.
"I’ve never told you how much I need you. To me it was always just a given. I get now that maybe you didn’t see it that way."
He gently cups my face with his hand, smiling. "It is good to hear." He swallows visibly, looks away. "But I don’t think it’s true Reenie. You’ve never needed me. Not as much as I need you. I’ve tried to run away from you to avoid facing how true it is, but I just can’t do it any longer. My entire world revolves around you. It always has, it always will and I’m tired of trying to convince myself that I haven’t had any choice in the matter. Maybe I do need to feel like you need me, but I think the real truth here is that I just had to get over how humbling this whole thing is."
"What?" I don’t like to think about him being humbled. It still sounds like he’s trapped, like he has no choice in the matter.
"Being in love," he says quietly. "Because I do. I love you. And it is scary as hell. I don’t like feeling scared or like I might screw up. And with you, I feel like I’m in very real danger of screwing this up."
"You can’t possibly screw it up," I reassure him. "Just hearing you actually say it means that you can’t ever screw it up."
His eyes darken and, then, finally, magically, he kisses me.
It is a long while later before I finally manage to say breathlessly, "It’s scary for me too you know."
He snorts lightly. "You’re never scared of anything."
"Because I’ve never had to be you big dope," I reply. "It’s humbling for me too to know that I’ve been so completely oblivious to how lucky I’ve been. I never, not once, had to doubt that you loved me. I always just knew it. I always knew you believed in me. I’ve never had to be scared. I’ve never had to need you because you were always there. You are always with me." I bring his hand to my chest, where my heart has always pounded just for him. "You are always right here."
His eyes are intent, like he finally understands that he wasn’t wrong to have doubts. Because not having them is almost worse. If you don’t question, how can you know for sure that you’ve found something really true? I took him for granted. I will never do it again.
He pulls me against his chest. We stay like that, just connected, for a long moment.
Finally I say, "The one thing I still don’t get is, how did you know that I needed you? If Khivar didn’t tell you, how did you know?"
Sean starts, like he didn’t expect me to ask that. But, then, he begins to laugh. "Serena, c’mon. It was obvious!"
"Huh?" I am getting annoyed again, trying to understand why he finds this so funny.
"Isabel dreamwalked you. She was the one who really found you. Where you were I mean, and how close you were to confronting him."
"Oh." I feel disappointed. I expected something a little more profound than that. I’m also wondering why none of the others came with him. It seems kind of weird actually.
He seems to realize this because he lifts my chin with his finger, still grinning. "But I was the one who knew something was wrong. Once we did the calculations and figured out exactly when you were going to get here, I hit the road. I didn’t even tell anyone, which in retrospect was dumb, but what can I say?" He shrugs. "I just knew you were going to be in trouble. I didn’t know how exactly or what I could do to prevent it, but I just…I wanted to be here."
I stare at him, still completely uncomprehending. "What are you talking about?"
"What’s the date dummy?"
I frown, shake my head. "It’s Christmas." And it must be by now.
He raises an eyebrow at me. It hits me so abruptly, I blink. Of course. He does know me better than anyone.
The unluckiest day of the year. My Christmas phobia. He knew that something was wrong because it was Christmas.
I start to giggle, let my head fall against his chest. "I guess I’m going to have to stop dreading Christmas," I tell him. "Because this one sort of blows that whole theory out the window."
"How’s that?" He asks, still grinning. "You enjoy being in life-threatening situations?"
"Not life-threatening," I correct. "The minute you got here, it wasn’t the least bit dangerous anymore. This was a life affirming situation."
"Did you really think I could possibly let him win when I knew that I was finally about to start my real life? My destiny was staring me right in the face. I wasn’t going to let it slip away from me again."
"I don’t get it. How did that make it so that it wasn’t dangerous?" He seems slightly irritated, which is not unusual when he’s addressing me. It’s just the way he is. "Because it was Reenie. That game you were playing, it was a gamble."
"Silly. Having you in my life counteracts any curse. My only really bad Christmases have been when you’re either not around or mad at me. It was no gamble. Lady Luck was on my side."
He is serious when he says, "I was mad at you." And he was. I can see it on his face, that for one horrible moment he actually believed I might have turned.
"Not when it really mattered," I reassure him. "You know me too well. Which is another reason I love you."
Sean sighs in exasperation. "What am I going to do with you?" He demands, although I can tell he’s not really angry.
"You are going to live happily ever after with me," I tell him, pressing my lips to his. "We saved the world after all. We can’t waste it now."
"You are my world," he whispers again, between lengthy kisses. "You always have been."
My last coherent thought as he begins to run his lips down my neck is Amen.