The Little Ties

It was certainly one of her favorite holidays even if more people didn’t really consider it a holiday at all.

Mary smiled as she twirled around in her ‘costume.’

No one had to know that she’d made it to look exactly like what her sister had worn during the War.

Tyr’s Day

Mary never thought of Friday or Monday as days of victory. Many thought of Monday as victory for the working man over the lazy man by staring their week over again. Many thought of Friday as the victory, because it meant the weekend was starting.

To her, neither day was a victory, because the start or end of something wasn’t really a victory so much as another point in the endless cycle of humanity; something she’d long grown used to.

No, to her, true victory were the days in the middle where you conytinued to trudge through all of your work no matter how heavy the load.

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.”

No Better Way

“I’m sorry, too. Not for what I did, but that the situation came to it. That I couldn’t think of a better way.”

 

Mary stood over what little was left of the world she had come from. The clothing she’d been wearing was old and little more than scraps at this point. No matter how well it had been woven, nor how sturdy the material even something as strong as the steel fibers that had been created in her home universe could not hold up from the ravages of crossing dimensional barriers as well as the years afterwards. Precious few things were sturdy enough to cross the barrier in the first place, much less be able to continue on as it had been before such a crossing.

Mary was lucky enough that she had crossed over with such little tear upon herself.

If one could call losing half of what you were permanently as ‘little’ of anything.

“Are you all right?” Alex asked as he watched his chosen sister stare at the remnants of what had come with her into his life.

“…” she said nothing at first before slowly shaking her head, pausing and then nodding it.

With that confusing answer, she turned, rags held in her hands tightly, and left the room.

The fibers would finish disintegrating before the week was over, dissolving into fine dust to be blown away by the wind, but Mary would cherish their presence for as long as she had them. They were the last things her sister had ever touched before Mary had been exiled for her own health. She wasn’t bitter about what had happened.

Well, no.

That wasn’t true.

She was bitter.

But she didn’t blame her sister for it. Something had to be done and though she did not like (hated, loathed, mourned) what had been done she knew that there was precious little else that Star could have done that didn’t include Mary’s death in order to stop the madness that had been festering in her very soul.

Better she be alive and lost to her home than dead and buried within it.

Mary knew that was what Star had believed, no matter how it must have destroyed her to actually do such a thing.

That more than anything else saved Mary from blaming her sister for the predicament that she was now in.

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.”

Tired Befuddlement

She was tired. So very tired.

It was probably because she’d stayed up late once more to watch as the stars came out. That in and of itself wouldn’t have caused this level of exhaustion by itself, but that hadn’t been all she’d done.

For one, you couldn’t see the stars come out in the city, which is where they lived, so she’d driven herself way out into the country, or what was left of the country this far inland. She’d been assured that the stars would be visible if she went far enough away though she still wouldn’t be able to see all of them like she wanted.

“Why do we have this much light pollution?” she’d asked her husband.

“It’s not just the light pollution, Mary,” Warren’d responded, “With a city this large we have to worry about the smog pollution as well.”

“Why did we decide to live here again?”

Warren had laughed and kissed his wife before helping her pack up what she was taking with her for her stargazing trip. He hadn’t been able to come due to needing to be at work for an important project earlier than normal in the morning.

It didn’t help that she’d stayed out, staring at the stars, longer than she had initially planned for. She’d almost decided to take a nap in the car and drive home after the sun was coming up, but had decided against it at the last moment. She’d be fine for the drive and she knew that Warren would worry if he didn’t see her before leaving for work even if all he saw was the top of her head under the covers.

Driving home had been easy to do safely, but keeping so alert had drained her more than it should have. She’d been having that reaction to a lot of things that had never given her any problems before. Now if only she could figure out why…

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?