SPOILERS: through Blink

NOTES: Marco and his feelings for Diana are the primary reasons I write 4400 stories. The first two seasons had given me faith that this show would buck TV tradition and let the geek get the girl--indeed, that a heroine would choose the nice guy!--but no. Thanks to Blink, my muses are in mourning and quite unresponsive, but they offered me this miserable little thing. I think it's a sensible outcome, though sensibility has not been this season's strong point, imo. Written while fatigued and unbetaed. I'd say "enjoy," but it's not much fun.

DISCLAIMER: The 4400 and all things associated with it belong to other people.


He'd tried, but he couldn't do it. There was no pretending that he could lose himself in work when countless things there reminded him of Diana. Worse, when he saw her, he had difficulty breathing, the ache in his chest hurting as intensely as it had the moment she'd ended their relationship. At the time, he'd tried to rationalize with her, to convince her that listening to the advice of a hallucinatory ex-fiance was questionable, at best, and that he'd do whatever it took to convince her otherwise, but she'd said that was the problem. Her explanation hadn't made any sense to him. After reviewing it hundreds of times, it still didn't make any sense. But despite the misery of his personal life, he still had professional pride, which was why he'd tried. But he couldn't do it.

His elder sister had advised him to take a vacation to clear his head. It had sounded like a good idea. After all, he'd not only not taken any since NTAC was founded, he'd also worked countless hours and days of overtime. Well, not so countless; he'd accumulated nearly two months of vacation. So he'd gone to Hawaii for two weeks. Being in a tropical paradise had merely emphasized his lonliness--everywhere he'd looked there'd been happy couples, newlyweds and families. He'd been hit on twice, which had been nice, but the only real benefits had been that he'd gotten a tan and better sleep than he had since that day. Of course, the sleeping pills he'd been prescribed had helped on that account.

Even though his chemical aid was providing him enough rest to keep him from passing out on the job, the pain of seeing Diana was just as fresh upon his return from vacation as it had been before, and it was effecting his work. It took all his effort to concentrate for any length of time, and sometimes he had to retreat to the men's room to vomit up his lunch or simply cry in privacy. Within a month, he'd lost ten pounds and achieved a full-blown ulcer, in spite of his standard regimen of antacids.

It was his father who'd suggested he quit NTAC. If anyone else had proposed it, he'd never have listened, but his father'd convinced him it was the responsible thing to do--for his colleagues, for his work and for himself. Working at NTAC had been a dream job, allowing him to apply, in new and exciting ways, all he'd worked so hard in grad school to learn. Giving it up was no easy decision, but in the end, the issue had been settled by a fatigue-induced lack of insight on his part, which had resulted in a field agent being hospitalized. Nina had called him into her office to discuss it, reprimanding him with little of her hallmark officious indifference, as though handling him with kid gloves. He'd startled her with his intent to resign. She'd done all she could to persuade him to stay, even offering to switch him back to the DHS, but he'd told her he'd had offers in the private sector that were too tempting to refuse. "Bullshit" had been her emphatic response. With a shrug, he'd given her his two week's notice and requested that she not discuss the matter with anyone outside of the Theory Room. Then he'd reassured her she'd have his recommendations for his replacement before the end of the day and that he'd make the transition as smooth as possible.

The guys had tried to convince him to stay, but it was P.J. who'd gotten the others to back off. The big man had been through something similar and had found switching venues had helped. They'd wanted to throw him a farewell party, but he'd convinced them he was in no mood to celebrate anything, promising to make it up to them when he found a new job. Quietly, efficiently, without any fuss, he'd arranged the changes that would be needed, then he slipped from NTAC into the realms of unemployment.

A day after leaving NTAC, he was surprised to get an email from Tom expressing his hope for luck in Marco's future, how much the special agent would miss his help and how valuable Marco had been to NTAC, in general, and to Tom, specifically. Several days later, he'd received a text message from Diana. "You didn't have to leave. Why didn't you tell me?" He responded, "Yes, I did. What would I have said?"

The letter of recommendation from Nina was exceptional, though he didn't need it. There really were private companies happy to hire him, including the corporation Ryland was working for, but none of them felt right. After more than two years of working with the 4400, he felt the need to continue doing so, though preferably not in a way that exploited them. Unfortunately, there was no need for a research scientist among the more philanthropical groups involved with the 4400. Then, in a stray comment from Brady about some of The Center's recent research results, it occurred to him that would be a good place to work. They certainly had the 4400's best interests in mind, and he knew they paid well.

In his favorite green on green stripe combination, with his reliable caramel sports jacket, best slacks and a new pair of shoes from his uncle Al's Italian leather import shop, he walked down the steps to the main entry of The Center, avoiding the side path he'd taken when delivering the classified medical files to Dr. Burkhoff all those months ago. No point in recalling those memories too vividly. He'd never actually been inside the building, and its arcing expanse of glass and quiet, spacious interior helped calm the speed of his pulse. As he approached the information counter, a young woman in The Center's uniform dark suit and white shirt greeted him with a placid smile.

"How may I help you today?"

"I'm looking for a job." He held out his hand, which she shook automatically. "My name's Marco Pacella. I used to work for NTAC."