SPOILERS: through Graduation Day

NOTES: And, to conclude our romantic little tale, Marco's POV. Despite the complete lack of evidence that such a person exists on the show, it has never made sense to me that a building like Diana's wouldn't have a doorman. So, in other stories, I have established Alberto as one of the security people there. Of course, one man can't be there all day, every day, so I've made up a second guy, Ed. Fortunately, I wrote this before seeing Blink; I don't think I could write something this cheerful now. Thank you for the beta, PurpleYin! Enjoy!

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


MORE THAN A DOG

Part 3

Suddenly, the elevator jerks to a halt, and the lights go out.

"Uh..."

"What the hell," Diana mutters under her breath. I can hear her setting down her bags and running blind fingers along the panel by the elevator door.

"Hang on." Putting down my own bags, I fish out the microlight I keep in one of my pockets. "Here." Turning it on, I hand it to her.

"Thanks." Her gaze lingers on my eyes. She's been doing that a lot this week, and I can't help but wonder why.

Turning back to the door, she pops open the panel to the emergency phone and picks it up. After clicking the receiver switch several times, she puts the handset back in its cradle with a huff. "It's not working."

Digging out my cell, I find it's not getting any signal. "No luck, here. You?"

She hands me the flashlight and pulls out her own phone. With another huff, she stuffs it back in her pocket.

"It's probably just the storm," I suggest, even as the possibility of a Nova Group attack crosses my mind. If it is them, there's nothing we can do, anyway. We'd been shopping for a surprise birthday party for one of Maia's new school friends; it's not as though Diana would have brought her gun along. Besides, thanks to Maia's diaries, I know how I'm going to die, and being stuck in an elevator with Diana isn't a part of that scenario.

Fortunately, I'd insisted on buying two bags of ice. "Let's get all the cold stuff together. No point in letting the ice cream melt while we wait."

I balance the flashlight on a corner of the elevator's railing, so the light will reflect off the ceiling, then join in rearranging our purchases. We put all the perishables into two bags, with the ice on top. Knowing it's probably going to get warm fairly soon, what with the elevator's fan not working, I take off my jacket and vest, roll up my shirt sleeves and settle myself on the floor. Diana, however, chooses to pace. Is she worried it's not an accident?

"I'm sure Maia will be fine. Once she realizes we're late and she can't get a hold of us, she'll figure things out. And it's not as though the other kids will get there ahead of us."

Pausing, she gives me a look that's difficult to read in the poor light, though its pensiveness is plain. "Ed has the names of the people who are coming, and they could use the stairs."

True, but would the doorman let them do that during the middle of a power outage? "Either way, there's nothing we can do about it."

"We could try opening the doors." She stops to contemplate them. "We might be close enough to the second or third floor..."

"Is it worth the risk of climbing out of an elevator that's having problems just to have the party ready on time?" She has never mentioned being claustrophobic. Why is she so anxious?

"I suppose not."

Patting the floor to my right, I suggest, "Maybe you could think of it as a mini vacation with me." It's not as though we get much time alone together.

When she turns my way, I'm surprised to find she's wearing one of her rare, warm, thoughtful smiles. More than the occasional moments of passion we share, it's that smile that keeps me hopeful our relationship isn't just a convenient, indulgent distraction for her.

Sitting next to me, she leans against my arm, her discrete way of letting me know she'd like it around her shoulders. It's a fairly dominant, comfort-giving position for me, one she has allowed only a handful of times. Gladly, I accommodate her and enjoy the feeling of her pressing against my side. But even as I greedily rest my cheek against her head, I wonder why she needs comfort. She hasn't mentioned anything lately. Surely this party isn't stressing her out. Could something have happened to her father?

"Marco." It's both a statement and a question; the tone is speculative. "Have you ever thought about being a parent?"

Were I not sitting down, the question would probably have knocked me on my ass. She can't be pregnant; we've only-

"Marco?" As she places a hand on my chest, I become aware of my heart hammering against my ribs. Pulling back, she scans my face, her gaze growing worried.

"Yes." I don't think that look is an invitation. "Is this about Maia?" The sensible conclusion helps my heart slow down a bit. She must be having another parental crisis. Perhaps that's why she agreed to host this party.

"Yes." Straightening, she slips free of my arm to better face me. "No." Her head tilts and brow furrows a bit, a strained smile tugging at her lips. "Sort of."

Taking a deep breath, I reach for one of her hands, to reassure both myself as well as her. She doesn't object. "Want to tell me what's going on?"

Dropping her gaze to our hands, she puts her free one on top, absently stroking with her thumb. I try not to let the pleasing sensation of the intimate little gesture divert my attention from her words. "We had a talk the other day." Her eyes meets mine, again, and there's apprehension in them. My heart lurches a bit in its ignorance. "About us."

"Us?" She's not usually so unclear.

"You and me." With a shrug, she adds, "And me and Maia." Then with a self-effacing snort, she concludes, "And the three of us."

My thoughts in a whirl, I can feel my jaw drop but can't summon a coherent thought, let alone words to articulate it. The three of us, keeps echoing around my head.

Glancing back down, she turns my hand over and starts fidgeting with it. I've never seen her so unsure. "She seems to think she's the reason I..." One of her hands abandons its toy to wave between us. "The reason you and I don't..." The free hand drops again to squeeze mine. "That I'm using being a single mom as a way of avoiding a deeper relationship with you." It's said in a rush followed by a look of determination. "She said she wants me to be happy and wouldn't mind having a dad again."

There's no helping the big grin that spreads across my face. "Just a sec'." Pulling my hand free, I reach for my pocket only to remember I've taken off my jacket. "I know we haven't..." Scrambling for it, I pull out the little box that has been my companion since I nearly lost Diana. "But I'm more than confident that, well..." It's not the way I'd hoped to propose, but I just can't seem to find the words. "Here." I hold out my hand with its precious offering.

Eyes wide with surprise, she gapes at the box. Then, with a snap, her mouth shuts, and she squints suspiciously at me. "Did you and Maia set this up?"

"What?" I'd anticipated a wide variety of responses, but never that.

"It seems rather convenient that we get stuck in an elevator, and you just happen to have a ring."

"Diana," I can't stop the laugh that escapes me, "I've had the ring for months."

Her brow smoothes, her gaze softening as the implication sinks in. "Months?"

Nodding, I explain, "I've been waiting."

"Waiting?" Again, she furrows her brow in suspicion. "For what?"

"For a time when I thought you might say 'yes.'"

There has been only one other time I've seen Diana close to tears--when Maia went missing. That she'd been willing to let herself die in her fantasy world with her fake Maia, that she'd done it without any concern for how anyone else might feel about losing her along with her daughter--it had crushed me. My sisters have worked with people who've lost kids. They convinced me Diana's reaction didn't mean she didn't care about me. Even so, I'd had no idea her feelings for me could move her this deeply. With trembling hands, she reaches for my face and draws me close. Her lips are needy, and I happily lose myself in giving her all she asks for.

By the time the lights turn back on and the elevator jerks into motion, she's in my lap, having her way with my left earlobe. Her normal reserve apparently forgotten, I abandon the inner curve of her trapezius and pull away for the sake of propriety, receiving a disgruntled noise for my troubles.

"Diana, we're-"

With a ding, the elevator door opens to Maia and her friends, all with expectant looks on their faces. That gets Diana moving. She almost knees me in her haste to stand and straighten her blouse. Just as she opens her mouth to speak, one of Maia's friends beats her to the punch.

"Look!" Amy points with glee.

Everyone's gaze travels to the little box on the floor.

Maia gasps, stomps in and grabs her mother's left hand. Shoulders slumping, her disappointed gaze travels to me then back to Diana. "You said you'd say yes."

Huh? I finally notice some of the other kids, and the math becomes abruptly clear. Standing, I dust off my pants and lean against the railing. "Diana, you though we'd set you up, but...I think we've both been set up." Now everyone's looking at me, a couple with shame in their eyes. "You're Tyler, aren't you?"

The boy's cheeks turn red as he nods.

"You control electricity, don't you?"

Another nod.

"And you," I point to a girl a few years older than Maia. "You control computers and things like cell phones, right?" If both of our cells had been out of power along with the elevator, we might have suspected something, but by manipulating the displays to suggest there was no signal, she'd kept us thinking it was all due to the storm.

"I didn't mean-"

Holding up a hand, I cut her off to face Maia. "Was this your idea?"

Glumly, she bobs her blond head.

I gesture for her to come to me, and she does. Kneeling in front of her, I realize she has grown too tall for me to match her height this way. Taking her shoulders, I tilt my head so I can meet her downturned eyes. "You, of all people, should know you can't force things. These things happen in their own time."

"I'm sorry, Marco." Her lower lip trembles with the approach of tears.

"It's okay. Just promise me you won't try something like this again."

"I promise."

"Good." Reaching down, I pick up my little box. "Now, tell me honestly...would you like me to be your father?"

Her whole expression changes, and she nods with vigor, eyes alight.

I wave Diana closer and open the box. "Diana, would you marry me?"

"Yes." She says it simply, happily, and her eyes sparkle with unshed tears as I slip the ring on her finger.

With a squeal, Maia gives me a big hug, nearly choking me with her narrow shoulder against my throat. Then she turns to her mother for another hug. Getting up, I'm met with a hug from both of them as Maia's friends whisper excitedly to each other behind us. When we part, we're all grinning like idiots.

"Um..." Looking over, I notice Tyler's squatting by the bags of ice. "I think the ice cream's melting," he concludes, looking apprehensively over his shoulder.

"All right," declares Diana with authority, "the least you all can do is help us get everything to our place before the birthday girl arrives."

With a chorus of "yes, ma'am"s, the elevator is cleaned out. Snatching my jacket and vest, I return the empty box to its pocket and offer my free arm to my radiant fiancee. Together, we bring up the rear of the crowd making its way back to her condo.

Leaning close, I ask quietly, "You're sure about this?"

"I'm sure I'd rather have a husband than a dog," she deadpans.

"Is that what all this is about?" Pulling away, I stick my hands in my pockets with a resigned shrug. "You just want to keep fur off the furniture."

With a derisive snort, she cocks an eyebrow at me and barely manages to stifle her smile. "If I was worried about the furniture, I wouldn't consider either."

"Would you two cut it out?" We turn to face an indignant Maia. "Just kiss, already, then come in. We still have a party to prepare for."

Happily, we oblige.


FIN