A/N: Thanks to Fanwoman for the betareading. Written for the Diana/Marco month of love, and for constant gardener who provided the prompt.
Contrary to most of her gender's preference, Diana despised shopping. She liked buying things perfectly fine, when she knew what she wanted, but the pleasure of searching for something successfully was a practice that continued to elude her, and despite looking after Maia for nearly six months, she still wasn't quite sure what to buy a nine-year-old girl for her birthday.
Strictly speaking, Maia wasn't going to be nine on her birthday, since she'd had not just forty eight years skipped but also an extra five month chunk out of the year, if you wanted to be precise. The nitpicky part of Diana couldn't help but think of that, though she obviously wasn't going to comment on it since she was attempting to make the event as normal as possible for Maia. Still, she had no clue how Maia's parents had celebrated in the 1940's and she was more than a little worried about disappointing.
She was used to taking charge, problem solving, but this was something different. It was a whole new level of responsibility, and failing meant not just personal embarrassment but potential heartbreak for a little girl. Diana had been responsible for multi-million dollar projects in the past; she'd come up with life-saving strategies for how to handle viral outbreaks; she'd hired and fired with ease. But that had not prepared her for the possibility of ruining one of the most important days of the year for a child.
This was why Marco was with her, that and the fact it made the whole experience vastly more tolerable by having someone to talk to, though, really, she was just making snide comments to him about the various "age and gender appropriate" toys dotted around the shop they were in. Things had come a long way since she was a kid – the Career for Girls game had even been updated to with less sexist career choices - but everything seemed to be pink or pastel shades these days. Worse, she couldn't find anything constructive; glancing around, there wasn't a decent idea in her head as what to buy.
Unfortunately she was stuck in a bind. Most things fell into one of two categories, things that reminded Maia of the past – Diana wasn't yet sure what out of that would be welcomed, apart from the Frank Sinatra CD's the girl cherished – and things that were most definitely modern, which might as well have the same affect as the wrong items from the past in reminding Maia of what she'd been denied, of how out of place she was. What they needed was something grounding, something – Marco interrupted her thoughts with a random comment as he examined an obscenely pink doll
"What about dancing shoes?"
"You mean to go with dancing lessons?" she asked, catching the thread of his thought.
"Yeah. My cousin teaches over at the centre on Harrison Street. They do all sorts; ballet, tap, jazz. It's a classic. All little girls seem to want to be ballerinas or horse riders at some point... "
Diana raised an eyebrow, sceptical of the suggestion, and he bumbled on, trying to justify at least the last point he'd tried to make.
"That might not strictly be true, of course, but I'm going with the trend here. It's practically a timeless thing, and it beats the pants off the slew of inane plastic alternatives."
"What makes you think Maia wants to take up formalised dancing? Spinning around and mocking waltzing in the living round are a far cry from that, and besides, I don't like the idea of leaving Maia with strangers."
"Well...you could always go, too. In fact, we could go as a group, that way you don't need to worry about Maia all the time, I'd be there to keep an eye out as well."
"Maybe," she said, as she picked up the about the only decent item she'd seen in the whole store – an interactive encyclopaedia DVD-ROM that seemed as out of place here as she thought Maia probably felt. There probably wasn't a way around reminding Maia of the past, the best she could do was make sure Maia knew both what she had missed and what the world had become. It wasn't the most enjoyable present ever, and rather selfishly, she was thinking of how it killed two birds with one stone. It would hopefully accomplish more than she could teach Maia on her own and would be making good use of the computer Marco had helped her select as Maia's Christmas present.
"I think I might just go with this," she said, avoiding looking at him. It felt like a cop out, nothing spectacular, as far as presents go. Plus, she realized it was pretty much a waste of Marco's time if he'd come along to help but she was constantly ignoring his thoughtful suggestions out of hand.
He didn't seem to mind, however, and they bantered a bit as they walked to the counter with Diana picking up odd, small, meaningless items en route. A few pairs of new socks wound up in her basket - a logical choice, given how fast Maia's feet were growing - and a cuddly dinosaur Marco suggested as a more original variation on fluffy toys than cutesy puppies that barked when you pressed them. Afterwards, they had a quick bite in a café nearby before they went their separate ways. On her trip home, as she mentally compiled a list of party supplies and who to invite from the neighbourhood, she'd quickly forgot about the dancing.
Well after the reasonable birthday party, they were approaching the end of the school year and the dance season, which Maia missed out on with home-schooling. It was months later from the suggestion, when Diana opened the letterbox to find a letter addressed to Maia. The envelope had been plain, with handwriting she hadn't recognised. Carefully, she'd opened it away from her, cautious of it, in case someone less than content with the 4400's existence had found out where they lived. She'd breathed a sigh of relief upon finding there was nothing suspicious inside, simply gift vouchers for any dance lessons possible to get at the center Marco had mentioned all that time ago. But there were just the two vouchers, and she found herself wishing for a third.
Maia, not knowing this, greeted the news with joyous appreciation and quickly pulled up the schedule on the website, vying for swing dancing over anything else, surprisingly. There was a light in Maia's eyes as she'd begged for them to go this week - please please! - that Diana isn't sure she'd had at her birthday, despite all the people who came and how happy she had seemed with her presents at the time.
Though they won't all be going together, Diana appreciates the gesture, albeit feeling slightly unnerved she'd dismissed an idea which brought out so much obvious enthusiasm to her daughter. Perhaps it was just the timing, but she made a note to get Marco a coffee the next day - from the good place down the road that he pointed out – mainly so she has an excuse to "stop by" the basement and enquire about his latest theory on the ripple effect, which will undoubtedly keep her there for some time.