SPOILERS: through season three
NOTES: I found it difficult to write from Diana's POV, given her treatment of Marco and April this season, but there was no other way to tell this story. Besides, my muses insisted. Some Diana and Maia fans may not like my portrayal of them in this, but I call it like I see it. This is not a happy story, so Diana/Marco fans be warned.
DISCLAIMER: The 4400 and all things associated with it belong to other people.
BETTER THAN GOOD
Spain had been like a dream. They had traveled the country and Europe at their leisure. Maia had seemed to be truly happy, and Diana had finally had a chance to spend as much quality time as she wanted with her child. Whenever Diana would get an email from Tom or NTAC, or begin to feel any guilt about leaving her job, Ben would kiss her worries away. He'd tried to persuade her to continue traveling with him, from job to job, to never return to Seattle, but no amount of affection could overcome her need to use her knowledge and experience, to contribute to the world and be productive in ways other than being Maia's sortof teacher.
By the time they returned, Heather Tobey had opened a school for 4400s. While it was hardly as top-of-the-line as The Center's facilities had been, between the original children who had been returned and the new 4400s who needed guidance, there was no lack of students and funding. Since it was what Maia wanted and more affordable than tutoring, Diana had agreed to let her daughter attend.
It had been a sadly distressing to learn Alana had disappeared, that Tom had been alone all the months they'd been away. Worse, it seemed Alana had been reabducted, the way Maia had, though there was no evidence of her having been returned to the past. Both Kyle and April had dropped off the radar, and Shawn, while having eventually recovered consciousness and his healing ability, had been brain damaged by his interrogation with Isabelle, requiring him to remain permanently in NTAC's care.
As if life weren't difficult enough, shortly after Maia enrolled, an anti-4400 group set fire to her school. Maia was brought to NTAC medical along with several other members of the original 4400 who attended the school and still received health coverage from the government. Some students with severe burns had been sent to a nearby hospital, but Maia seemed fine. Yet her recounting of the incident was chilling and forced Diana to consider someone she'd done her best to not think about for a long time, though they worked in the same building.
Despite Maia's assurances, it had sent a shiver of dread down Diana's spine when she'd learned Marco had been badly burned. He'd apparently been at a conference with other researchers in one of the school's meeting rooms when the fire had broken out. To save Maia and several of her classmates, Marco had entered their blazing classroom and carried them out, two at a time, before collapsing.
Having been given a clean bill of health, Maia discarded her medical gown and popped her head through her top with a coddling look in her eyes. "This isn't how he's going to die," she insisted, as though it was pointless to worry.
It reminded Diana of the time Marco had mentioned learning of his fate while researching her daughter's diaries after Maia's abduction. Some sliver of guilt worked its way through her at the realization that, even after the crisis had ended and Maia had been returned, she had never bothered to ask Marco about what must have been a traumatic discovery. Then again, she had almost never asked Marco about himself. His focus had always been on her needs, as well as Maia's, and she'd never questioned it or what his needs might be.
"Just because he isn't going to die doesn't mean he isn't hurting."
"It hurt Aunt April, but you and Ben still got together." Maia shrugged as she zipped up her jeans, unaware of the cold potency of her words. "If it turns out okay in the end, what does it matter?"
Was that how Maia saw things? Sure, being a precog probably made such thinking a balm for her, a way of dealing with the difficulties that would lead to better times. But was it healthy for her to not take the pain of transition into consideration? Then again, Diana had to admit her own behavior was hardly teaching Maia anything different.
"Even so, don't you think we should visit him to see how he's doing and thank him for what he did?"
Slipping on her shoes, Maia shook her head. "He knew he wouldn't die, so it's not like he was risking his life or something. Besides, he'll be asleep until Shawn heals him."
Knowing Shawn would have to heal Marco caused the dread to curl into Diana's gut and weigh there heavily; Shawn usually only healed people in dire straits.
"If he's that badly hurt, isn't that all the more reason we should see him?"
"Why do you care about Marco all of a sudden?" Maia seemed genuinely confused. "I thought you quit liking him a long time ago."
She could hardly blame her daughter for having such an attitude. After all, in a day Marco had gone from a regular fixture in their lives to someone Maia never saw, but surely she was grateful for what he'd done. "He saved your life, Maia."
"He did what he was supposed to do." She said it with a dismissive shrug, as though it was Marco's job to walk into burning buildings to rescue children.
There was no convincing Maia of the need to visit Marco, and it turned out doing so was more complicated than simply taking the elevator to another floor of NTAC's medical wing. Marco had been taken to a hospital. Maia didn't know which one, and it took a fair number of calls to find out. For some reason, Tom knew, and he assured her that, once Shawn had finished healing those at NTAC who'd been hurt by the fire, Marco would be the next in line.
Diana dropped Maia off at home with Ben, who had heard about the fire and guessed Diana would be working late as a result. She didn't bother to correct his assumption. Even though they'd been together for months, she'd never told him about Marco and didn't feel visiting her ex-boyfriend in the hospital after he'd saved her daughter's life was the best way to introduce the subject.
On the drive there, she contemplated getting a card or flowers or something, but if he was going to be unconscious until he was healed, what was the point? Once she arrived, she learned he was in the ICU. Her NTAC ID got her a room number and past the nurse's station. On the way down the hall, she spotted Brady, one of Marco's colleagues and friends. The man looked gloomy and somewhat ill, but upon recognizing her, his expression transformed into one of pure contempt. She found his reaction startling and a bit disconcerting, but, thankfully, he said nothing as she passed.
Marco had a room to himself, but his appearance halted her entry. He looked so small and pale and lifeless in the hospital bed. Wrapped in gauze, his arms were laid above the sheet, and an I.V. tube slithered under it, no doubt connected to a vein that wasn't beneath burned skin. There were a few singed blotches hidden in his stubble, and his slackly parted lips were cracked and blistered. Sweat dotted his forehead, though the room was at a comfortable temperature. But he seemed to be sleeping peacefully, and he was breathing on his own.
At his bedside was a woman with long, black, curling hair gathered at the back of her head, not unlike a method Diana used herself. She was running a hand fondly through Marco's thick bangs and murmuring to him in a soothing tone. Diana briefly wondered if this was some new romantic interest, if Marco had sought to replace her with someone who resembled her.
Unsure of the situation or how to introduce herself, Diana cleared her throat. "Hi..."
Glancing up, the woman's dark eyes widened briefly before narrowing into a scowl. Although that expression was quickly blinked away, Diana could feel a sudden aura of authority and intimidation emanating from the woman as she rose from her seat and moved around the bed, blocking Diana's access.
"I would appreciate it if you would leave, please." Her voice was deep and rich, like a smoother, more formal version of Marco's. While her words and tone were polite, the sudden tension in the room suggested this woman's feelings were anything but.
"I know who you are. Please leave."
The woman's interruption and flat dismissal raised Diana's ire, so she tapped some of her own reserves of authority. "Look, I don't know who you are, but-"
"I'm not surprised you don't know who I am. You never put much effort into getting to know him, did you?"
That threw Diana for a loop and left her gaping at the woman.
"First an ulcer, now this. I think you've caused him enough misery." She took a menacing step forward, and Diana stepped back without thinking, astonished by the discovery Marco had an ulcer. It was the kind of personal detail anyone who really cared about him would know. "He doesn't need a pity visit so you can assuage your guilt." Turning her gaze to a passing nurse, she projected, "Sandy, would you please call security."
From the corner of her eye, Diana saw the nurse nod in affirmation. Raising her hands in acquiescence, she took another step back. "That won't be necessary. I'll just go."
"You do that."
As she hesitantly walked away, a tall, dark man holding a little girl approached.
"Is everything all right, Olivia?"
Suddenly, Diana recalled a family portrait she'd noticed on one of her rare visits to Marco's place. Olivia was his older sister.
"It will be," was the weary reply. All evidence of her earlier fortitude was absent from her voice.
"Mommy," wondered the little girl, unaware of how her voice carried, "isn't that the lady Marco loves?"
Diana nearly stumbled in her shock. Marco had never said he loved her, not even while attempting to dissuade her from ending their relationship. To hear the words spoken so plainly, like it was common knowledge, caused her heart to constrict.
"Why doesn't she love him back?" It was said with all the innocence of youth, as though loving Marco was as obvious and simple as breathing.
"Some people can't appreciate a good thing, even when it's standing right next to them."
"But Marco's better than good," insisted the girl.
"Yes, he is, and he deserves better than good."
It was too much, and Diana found herself pausing to lean against the wall at the end of the hall. Ever since she'd met Ben, her life had become more and more insulated from the less pleasant aspects of reality. It was like she was in a bubble, and nothing painful or controversial could reach her. But this did. There was something innately disconcerting about it all, being held in such low regard by people she didn't even know. She had barely spoken three words to Marco since her return, but even so, she had never gotten a sense of bitterness or any other personal, unprofessional feeling from him. To discover that those who cared about him were capable of such dispassion toward her caused some inner sense of equilibrium to tip wildly off its comfortable balance.
As she was standing there, puzzling over why she was so bothered by it all, a man pushing a wheelchair came into view.
"Diana, you here to see Marco?" Tom's voice held more than a bit of astonishment.
Blinking at her partner, it took a moment for her to process the question. "Uh...yes and no." She laughed awkwardly. "Seems I'm not welcome."
To her bewilderment, Tom nodded, as though it was to be expected. "Well, Shawn and I are here to help." With that, her rolled his nephew down the hall and into Marco's room.
Even from the end of the hall, Diana could hear that Tom and Shawn were greeted with affection. Apparently, Tom and Marco had grown close during her absence. Soon, there was a babble of happy conversation, including Marco's warm, rough voice. Then Tom pushed Shawn out of the room and on to the next.
Diana watched with an inescapable feeling of distance, as though she were irrevocably disconnected from these people who had once meant so much to her. How had it happened? Why did it disturb her on some fundamental level?
Her cell phone rang, and she answered it automatically. "Hello?"
"Hey, honey, any idea when you're coming home?" Ben's affectionate tones were like a salve on her psyche, drawing out the sting of her present situation.
"I think I can go, now ."
"Good. See you soon."
And, just like that, nothing else mattered. She had Ben, and she had Maia. The rest of the world could take care of itself without her.