In Flux

The last time she went to bed, it was with only her secrets and guilt. Tonight, she still carries those feelings with her but they're no longer locked inside. They're out in the open, shared with the man who lies beside her, his hand resting just below her stomach, his fingertips idly brushing against the bare skin there, creating small spots of warmth with each touch.

She is not alone.

He promised her that. He promised he would stay with her as he hadn't on so many nights before. It's one of many promises he made to her. He's happy about the baby. He wants to marry her. He forgives her.

But even as she turns to nestle her head against his shoulder, she wonders if it's fair to hold him to those promises, if it's possible. She can't even say who he made them to. The Rose he holds now isn't the woman he loves, not really. He doesn't know her to love her. How can you promise a stranger anything?

And why would anyone want to? She hates herself even as she does it, but she skims back through the details written in the psychological profile she used to become his perfect, fake Rose, searching for an explanation.

There's nothing there for her, not on the surface. As she kept her secrets, he kept his, burying them so far down even he couldn't reach them.

And she wonders if that is her answer. The denial that permeated his past lingers in his present. His entire reality's been dissolved in a stream of lies, manipulation and betrayal. He needs to hold onto something real, something solid. What better to cling to than a woman who says she loves you, who's carrying your child? There's a bright future right there. Go through hell, kill your father, get a pep talk from your hero, walk blissfully into the sunrise with the woman of your dreams and live happily ever after, no questions asked.

Questions are inconvenient. Questions are messy. Questions don't let you pretend everything's all right.

She prays to god he isn't pretending because she's pretended for so damn long and it hurts like hell when everything you feel is real, yet everything you do is a lie.

But she wants that happy ending. She loves him more than anything in this life and she wants him to love her. She wants the unobtainable clichés – the big wedding with family and friends filling the church. She wants the beautiful baby clutched to her breast, its tiny fist encircling her thumb. She wants so much she gets lost between what is possible and what she can only dream.

She wants to stop doing this to herself but knows she needs to go on. She can be the kind of woman Jack loves, she can be a good wife and mother. But 'can be' is not the same as 'is'. 'Can be' is what brought her to where she is – lying sleeplessly in bed, longing for a future that isn't false but tempted to take it regardless.

She will not give in to temptation.

Rose is a resilient woman, strong and intelligent. That's why they recruited her. That's why she was so good at her job. That's why she finally walked away from it despite knowing how much it could cost her.

That's why she able to believe she will be, that she already is, all that she needs to be. What she feels is true and from that, she will be true.

She does not doubt this even when she realizes his breathing is not as even and deep as she thought. He's only feigning sleep. She doesn't doubt when, fifteen minutes after she assumed a similar pretext, he leaves the bed. She won't allow herself to doubt when, after a half hour has passed, he has not returned.

She stretches her arm across the empty space where he should be, where he promised to be, but where he just couldn't stay. For the first time tonight, her resolution wavers as she questions the one truth that she was hoping would see them through all other doubts.

Will she be able to love the man he truly is?


Author's Note: Suffering a bit of writer's block, I skimmed through a friend's list of thirty (more like forty to fifty in my case) minute writing exercises. I came across the prompt 'write a sympathetic portrayal of a character who you would not like if you met them in real life' and, for some reason, Rose popped right into my head. Hmm...

Actually, though I hated her after my initial play through of the game, in the year since I've warmed to her considerably. Enough to write this apparently.