Trust is a Funny Thing

“Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it is worked for. Forgiveness is a gift. Trust is worked for.” –Bramble, from The Most Unlikely of Times

Alex knew that he’d gone too far on this one, knew it from the very bottom of his soul, but at the same time he wasn’t sorry.

After all, finding out that the more than questionable venture that you’d begun funding several years prior to your ‘younger’ sister even discovering that there was a fertility problem and somehow causing her to become pregnant via complete override of her husband’s own genetic code (supposedly) and actually doing it on purpose were two completely different things.

The outcome was the same, though, and he would never be sorry whenever he looked into the dark blue eyes of his nephew.

Alex knew that Mary would find out. She always did whenever it came to this kind of thing.

And if by some miracle she didn’t find out, then Warren certainly would.

The two of them were really quite perfect for one another and Alex would forever be grateful that neither really had the head to manage a business or his little business empire would be in a great deal of trouble.

As it was, he was still in trouble, but it would only be against his own peace of mind as a part of a family rather than as a mogul of the economy.

Funny how he would rather it be the other at this point…

Losing the trust of his sister would likely put a strain on their relationship, and though they would try to not let it affect any relationship between him and his nephew, it would. Whether they wanted to or not, children always picked up on this kind of thing.

“Alex, stop looking like your life’s about to end just because it’s your turn to change Terry’s diaper.”

Monetary

Money felt lonely to me.

 

“Why did you adopt her?”

Alex turned and looked at the boy that was his nephew if only on paper.

“You could have had anything, anyone that you wanted. You didn’t have to make her your sister in order to have her in your family. No one would have questioned you for any of it.”

The old man smiled at the much younger man in front of him, “I wanted to make sure that, in the very likely case of my death, the money would go to someone who wouldn’t appreciate it.”

Matt blinked, “What?”

“Your mother wasn’t ever very big on monetary things. She absolutely hated the fact that we lived in a mansion whenever we went to visit anywhere outside of the city. She wouldn’t appreciate anything that cost money from me, but she wouldn’t waste it either, so it had to go to her. The best way to do that without having someone take her to mediation was to adopt her as my sister.” The bald man smirked mischievously, “I toyed with the idea of making her my daughter, but Mary threatened to disappear whenever I entered a room if I did that.”

“So you made her your heir in the event that you had no children.”

Alex’s smirk dropped, “I had a son once. He died. I could have no others after him.”

Matt was silent for a moment, remembering the young man whose paternity had always been in question for some reason even though he had the same looks as his father. It had only been covered in history class because of the status of the father in the making of their country.

“Mary didn’t want money, what she wanted was family and I could understand that. Money never brought me any family, but your mother. For that alone, I would have her be my heir and through her, you and your brother.”

Men Like Him

Men like him don’t die in places like this. –Basch, Final Fantasy XII

 

Alex has been to some of the truly horrible places in the world. Looking for opportunities, hunting down leads, even just seeing if there is anything he’d like to buy. He’s the kind of person that likes to collect things that are as authentic as possible and the only person he really trusts to make the final call on whether or not something is authentic is himself. He worked hard to get those qualifications to be able to do so when it comes to certain things (weapons, mostly) and he was going to use them if it killed him.

It wasn’t like he had anything else to live for and even though he might get hurt, he never loses more than blood and pain.

Alex has heard more than one man be grateful that they are part of whatever caravan he is a part of because that means that even if they don’t come back to their families alive then at least their bodies will be brought back. Alex always makes sure that such men’s families are taken care of if their husbands and fathers die in his service.

He may be no man’s friend, but those that he has counted as his are always well cared for.

One woman said that it wasn’t because he cared for those men because he saw them as people, but because Alex always took good care of his things. This was right before she’d left his ring on the kitchen table with a note saying that she needed more from a man than the care he would give things. She’d been the kindest of the women he’d almost married, but also the last.

He hadn’t bothered at the family thing anymore after her.

It was likely because it was just one more thing that a man like him would never really have.

Once and Again

Because hate is easier than hope, and anger is easier than faith… –blackkat, fanfic author

 

Alex had given up once.

Once.

And though that once had lasted several decades before he’d take up his life to actually live rather than survive didn’t mean that he didn’t remember the bitter taste of hatred guiding his actions and anger clouding every thought that he had.. So yes, he’d given up once and it had destroyed who he was and what he could have become.

But then hope appeared before him and faith invaded his life once more and he had learned to live again.

So he kept those memories of bitter despair and unforgiving defeat always in his mind to remind himself of what the other option in his life was. He wasn’t about to go back to that existence no matter what the payoff appeared to be at the time.

He had a lot to live for even if it was only one small person who was held safely in his arms.

“You’ll be a good uncle, Alex.” Mary looked exhausted though it had been several weeks since she had given birth and been released from the hospital, but a new baby, even with the help of her husband, is still a lot of work.

Especially for someone who had long since given up on the thought of ever getting to hold a newborn in her arms in the middle of the night, night after night and knowing that this tiny life was hers.

“How can you be sure of that, sister, you know what I am.” He whispers quietly.

It had taken him almost an hour to get his little nephew to go to sleep and he’d only offered and kept to it because Mary looked like she was going to break into hysterical tears as Terry continued to cry and Warren couldn’t take any more time off of work or he’d lose his job. (It wouldn’t be lost for long, but Warren and Mary were proud and didn’t want to accept a job from Alex that they felt hadn’t been earned and Warren’s supervisor was a jerk.)

Mary just sighed, sounding even more tired and Alex absolutely did not cringe. Outwardly.

“You are an idiot, brother mine.”

Her voice is so very tired that he finally does cringe.

“Alex, it’s all right for me to have faith in you. There’s nothing wrong with that and I’m going to continue to teach Terry that you are a good person no matter what you think about yourself. If I can’t change your mind, then I’m certain that my son can do it for me.”

Nothing else was said as she finally gave in to the call of her pillow and passed out, leaving Alex to hold his still sleeping nephew.

Well, nothing said other than the murmur of Alex’s voice as he speaks to his little nephew about this or that which happens to cross his mind. Words of science and mathematics a soothing lullaby for the sleeping child.

“Even if I can’t have faith in myself, little one, I can trust in the faith your mother has.” He whispers into the down hair, “She has seen me at my worst and still loved me enough to stay when others, friends and family, have left me in the dust. Too much of a monster for them to try and coax me back.”

Revolves Around You

“You are adorably ignorant of how much my world revolves around you.”

 

Sometimes Alex wondered what it would have been like to have fallen in love with Mary instead of seeing her as his sister. It wasn’t like he couldn’t have gone that route to protect her instead of the sibling route. They had no actual blood relation and they hadn’t even grown up together.

But he hadn’t jumped for that and not because it would have been even more difficult to keep her out of the limelight as his wife than as his sister either. Plenty of others who were as high profile (or higher) than Alex had been able to marry and keep their spouse from being mobbed by the public. It wasn’t that difficult of a thing to do and yet…

He hadn’t even considered it.

That didn’t mean that she wasn’t the most important person in his life, far from it, it just meant that he didn’t love her that way.

Though, to be honest, Alex wasn’t even certain that he was capable of loving someone in the way that a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man. He’d tried it in the past and it had never ended well. Even in the midst of a marriage, he had been on the outside looking in and he had hated it more than just about anything else.

So when Mary had been handed to him to protect, he’d gone for the sister route instead of the love at first sight route even though he had loved her at first sight.

Still did, even though she was happily married and, somehow, expecting a baby with her husband. Alex wasn’t even jealous of them, if anything he was just as excited as they were for the baby to be born.

He was also trying to find out just how the baby had come to be in existence in the first place as well because if someone was trying to use his sister and her family for something…

Well, let’s just say that he would use his not inconsiderable assets and resources to stop them.

Permanently.

There’s a Difference

I’m not an idiot. I’m a maniac. There’s a difference. –Kayasurin

 

Alex frowned, not scowled, frowned.

“This is just, is just, silly!”

He continued to frown as his sister poked around his lab, obviously sick but refusing to rest like he had told her.

“Why do you even have some of this stuff, Allie?”

Alex just sighed at the nickname that was never leaving no matter what he tried, “I’ve told you before, I need to know if some of this is scientifically possible.”

“Just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should, Allie.” Mary wobbled over to look at another ongoing project, but, wisely for once, did not try and touch it. For some reason, she only remembered that rule when she was sick, which, sadly, did not happen an awful lot. The not touching thing, not the illness thing, he didn’t want her to get sick more often, just not touch the things in his lab.

“Mary…”

“No, really, there are things in life that just shouldn’t exist.”

“I think you need to go and sleep, Mary,” Alex said, taking his sister’s arm firmly but gently and starting to lead her out of the lab and back to her room.

He didn’t want to get into another argument about why she was an abomination. This only happened when her fevers (rare though they were) spiked and if she didn’t rest up it was likely that such a thing was going to happen.

She’d been getting better, but every now and then…

Alex just sighed more heavily as his sister allowed him to tuck her gently into bed before brushing a kiss across her sweaty forehead and turned out the lights.

“There is a difference between stupidity and madness,” she had told him once when she’d been trying to find something only she could see at the end of her finger, “Sometimes the madness takes you and runs with you, but stupidity? Stupidity is a choice even if it doesn’t feel like it.”

Alex was never really sure which of the two it was Mary ended up in when she was feverish like this. It didn’t seem like a choice to him.

No Reason Not To Try

I didn’t really know what I was doing, but that didn’t seem like a good reason not to try. –Rapunzel, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

 

The first time she tried to follow the broken thread she ended up lost somewhere in the Salt Flats. Alex had not been impressed.

“What in heaven’s name were you doing?!”

She hadn’t said anything, just continued to stare off into the distance where the thread continued to flap in the wind.

“Mary.”

She didn’t even blink.

“Mary.”

The thread was still as golden as it had been when her sister had first noticed it. Star had always been the first to notice that kind of thing and then try and do something about it. When Mary was Comet, she had been more intrigued about the people then about the strings that had always floated from their fingers off into the distance.

“Mary!”

She continued to ignore Alex and stared at the one thread that had always been on her finger, the end clearly visible.

“Mary, what is wrong with you?!”

“Maybe,” she whispered to herself, “If I keep double checking old areas I’ll be able to find the other half.”

“Mary,” Alex sounded like he was barely holding on to his temper, “Would you please explain to me why you vanished three days ago and I found you in the middle of the Salt Flats?”

The anger and worry in his voice made it sharp and cruel sounding. (Alex had never been very good at vocalizing his worry for someone; it always came out like he was mocking them in some way.)

Mary didn’t even look at him as she finally answered, “I’m trying to find my purpose, Alex, that’s all.”

Alex opened his mouth to snarl something, but at the last moment paused and looked more closely at her eyes. They were glazed over and slightly feverish looking; her brow was damp as well. Alex lifted a hand and placed it on her forehead.

Mary didn’t even flinch at the sudden coolness, just closed her eyes and leaned into it.

Alex didn’t bother trying to find out just how high her temperature was; all he needed to know was that it was high enough to cause serious worry and that he needed to get her into an ice bath yesterday.

“I have to keep trying,” Mary murmured as Alex gathered her into his arms. She didn’t resist as he pushed her head down against his neck, frowning when he felt the intensity of her fever through his dress shirt. “Just because I can already see the cut ends of my thread doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t keep trying to find my purpose at the end of it.”

The Most Sincerity

Some people are worth melting for. –Olaf, Frozen

 

He had never been very close to anyone before. It’s not like there were a lot of genuine people out there in the world anymore in the first place (unless they were very small children, but he figured that once they learned how to walk and talk they were a lost cause for any kind of sincerity. He hadn’t met anyone who was genuine since he had learned to walk and talk after all.) He wondered if maybe his mother had been the last genuine person that he had ever met, but she had died shortly after he’d spoken his first word and if he hadn’t had such an amazingly eidetic mind then he wouldn’t have remembered her at all.

His dad certainly wasn’t genuine about anything. Not even what he wanted in the world (“Everything, Alexander, you can’t settle for second best on anything and not having everything is certainly second best.”) Or what he wanted from his son (“Such a disappointment, I don’t know why I let you live.”)

His teachers and other peers (not that he had really considered them his own equals) either wanted something from him (money, things, influence) or had hated him due to his skipping several grades or coming from a rich family.

That isn’t to say that he didn’t take care of the people who worked under him. He made sure that they had good health care coverage and were paid fairly for the work that they put into the company that he had built from the ground up without help from his father. (In fact, his father had actively sabotaged him, trying to destroy everything Alex had worked for. He had never really understood the reasons behind his father’s actions and hadn’t really cared to ask the man. It’s not like he would have been honest with Alex anyway.)

So he had spent the entirety of his life closing himself off from others, building an impenetrable wall of the thickest ice around his heart and keeping everyone and everything at arms-length. No friends, no family, no one close to him. Not even the people who made sure that he was safe from all of his enemies were close to him for all that they spent the most time with him while guarding him.

“I like being alone, other people never turn out to be what they say they are.”

“That’s a lonely way to live.”

“But it is a way.”

“Sounds less like living and more like surviving if you ask me.”

“Sometimes they are the same.”

He hadn’t known any differently and rather than being all sad and mopey and depressed about it, Alex had just accepted that this was the way his life was going to be. Acceptance made things easier or at least less emotionally debilitating.

Alex had tried romantic relationships a time or two or ten and they went about as well as any kind of attempt at a relationship with his father had gone when he’d been younger and more naïve.

That is to say, they had failed when he’d realized that most of the women just wanted something, whether it was material things, influence or just bragging rights hadn’t mattered.

None of those things had been him and that was all that had mattered at the end of the day.

So he’d given up.

Not after the first ten times, he wasn’t one to give up so easily after all, but everyone has their breaking point.

The less said about his, the better.

He still did things for pleasure, watched movies and went to restaurants and concerts. He knew that working all the time was not healthy. Knew that being alone was not healthy, but what other choice did he have?

Sincerity was just a pretty word that meant nothing, much like the words “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean it.”

If you didn’t mean it, then why did you do it in the first place? Some part of you meant to do that, meant to take that action, whether it would hurt me or not. You wanted it more than you wanted to not hurt me.

That was the philosophy that he had spent so many years reminded himself for such a long time in the earlier years of his resolution to not get close to anyone or anything. It was hard to remember at first, which was why he had continued to try relationships for far longer than most people would have with all of the experiences he’d had with them.

It had gotten easier as the years had gone by, though. Practice makes progress and all that.

So why was he listening to this strange voice that had all but invaded his dreams like it was a real life person that really needed his help?

He’d given up on this kind of thing long before he’d even entered school.

But.

But the voice cam every night that he slept. Sometimes it came when he wasn’t sleeping, but not quite awake either.

Where was the voice coming from?

And why was he even still listening to it?

He was a pro at blocking out things, people, events that he didn’t care about, didn’t want to pay any attention to.

So why wasn’t he doing it this time?

‘Please,’ the voice would whisper and howl and cry out and murmur softly all at once, ‘Please, will you not aid me/us/her?’

‘She is most precious.’

‘She is most lost.’

‘You are just as lost.’

‘Will you not be found together?’

He didn’t know why, the words weren’t anything special, anything he hadn’t heard before, but there was something, some kind of emotion that accompanied them that found its way slowly through the ice and hoar frost that covered his heart.

Like a small and yet insistent breeze of spring-turned-summer.

It wasn’t even like it was weakening his protective ice to let others in, just loosening it enough to let the breeze carrying the voice inside and then sealing up the small fissure as it made its way in.

Maybe Alex had been looking too much into difference things involving ice, but he had just sent an expedition out to the Antarctic to follow up on some of the readings that they’d been picking up recently.

Either way, he didn’t know why he was letting this voice get to him, why he has started looking forward to the feelings of belonging and home that crept into his heart along with every whispered/howled/cried/murmured word that drifted across his dreams and through his daydreams.

‘Won’t you let me/her/us in?’

‘I/She/We won’t leave you alone.’

‘You don’t have to be alone anymore.’

His heart just wouldn’t listen to his mind.

How could a voice that he didn’t even recognize (and he had tried to find it, but hadn’t been able to pinpoint the strange/familiar voice) sound more sincere than anything he had ever heard in his entire life?

(How could it sound anything but?)

Winter’s Day

Bits of snow dropped from the branches, the cold of the wind helping to drive the powdered substance to glide off the houses that they passed in their walk. The wind picked up and more and more bits of snow fell from the trees, the houses, the lampposts. From certain angles it looked like it was snowing though the sky was clear and nothing fell from any point higher than the tallest trees.

It was a cold day and if the looks of the wind it was bound to get colder. Even now she could see people huddle further into their coats and scarves, hands that were already in gloves or mittens stuffed further into pockets to try and preserve what little warmth the smaller limbs generated on their own.

Mary was bundled up in her own winter gear; no matter how little she needed it not wearing it would make her stick out like a sore thumb and she didn’t want any undue attention. Her clothing looks slightly worn, but only superficially. Alex wasn’t about to let her go out in anything that wouldn’t do the job it was meant for, but he also hadn’t wanted to dress her up in name brands or anything too flashy. Not only was that far outside of her own comfort zone, he hadn’t wanted anyone looking too closely at her financial situation either. As long as people didn’t know about their connection then she couldn’t be put into the position of being used against him. He was likely one of the most overbearing and yet understanding people that she had ever met and Mary often wondered just how he had come by those particular personality traits when they were normally so at odds with one another.

This was a lovely world her sister had sent her to even if it had its own problems and issues to deal with.

The smog mixing with the clouds overhead made her sneeze slightly. It was probably going to snow that strange mud-snow that it had been doing for the past several days. Maybe she should have taken Alex’s advice and gone to school in a college town rather than a city?

Winter’s Day

Bits of snow dropped from the branches, the cold of the wind helping to drive the powdered substance to glide off the houses that they passed in their walk. The wind picked up and more and more bits of snow fell from the trees, the houses, the lampposts. From certain angles it looked like it was snowing though the sky was clear and nothing fell from any point higher than the tallest trees.

It was a cold day and if the looks of the wind it was bound to get colder. Even now she could see people huddle further into their coats and scarves, hands that were already in gloves or mittens stuffed further into pockets to try and preserve what little warmth the smaller limbs generated on their own.

Mary was bundled up in her own winter gear; no matter how little she needed it not wearing it would make her stick out like a sore thumb and she didn’t want any undue attention. Her clothing looks slightly worn, but only superficially. Alex wasn’t about to let her go out in anything that wouldn’t do the job it was meant for, but he also hadn’t wanted to dress her up in name brands or anything too flashy. Not only was that far outside of her own comfort zone, he hadn’t wanted anyone looking too closely at her financial situation either. As long as people didn’t know about their connection then she couldn’t be put into the position of being used against him. He was likely one of the most overbearing and yet understanding people that she had ever met and Mary often wondered just how he had come by those particular personality traits when they were normally so at odds with one another.

This was a lovely world her sister had sent her to even if it had its own problems and issues to deal with.

The smog mixing with the clouds overhead made her sneeze slightly. It was probably going to snow that strange mud-snow that it had been doing for the past several days. Maybe she should have taken Alex’s advice and gone to school in a college town rather than a city?