A/N: And here we are, the final chapter. Many thanks to those who reviewed; every one of your comments made me smile.
A/N 2: I kinda stole a season 2 line from Ryan for this part. It was a temptation that refused to be passed up.
Part VI: Uncontrollable Destiny
Numbness settled in like a welcome friend. Existence became all about breathing in and out. Slowly, the euphoria faded, and Lisa fell to her knees, unable to care about the pain that shot through her lower limbs.
"Mother?" she questioned, looking up. "What do you wish for me to do?"
"Leave. Go to your chambers and stay there until I send for you," she ordered.
"Joshua?" Lisa asked, curious instead of caring.
"I will take care of him." Anna assured her.
Lisa left her mother's chambers without a word.
Time returned to being inconsequential. Days bled together, one running into the next. Lisa resumed her normal duties and fell back into her normal habits without anyone being the wiser. The loss of Tyler no longer pained her; the absence of Joshua was no longer noticed.
It was fortunate for the Fifth Column that he was the only on-ship member Lisa could identify, for she willingly exposed Erica, Hobbes and Father Jack without hesitation or regret, regardless of the fact that her mother knew of their affiliation with the Fifth Column already. But if Anna wanted to do anything to them, it was too late. They'd already gone underground. They were off the grid and completely untraceable – probably thanks to Hobbes. Anna sent a blissfully brainwashed Ryan out after them at one point, but when he never returned she became furious. After that, Lisa wasn't informed about how the search progressed.
Every once and a while Lisa would catch a glimmer of emotion, a flicker of light in a dark tunnel. But it was always there and gone, all too easily washed away by the light of Bliss until there was nothing that remained but the obedient, docile daughter Anna desired so much.
Some time later, in one swift, coordinated strike, thousands upon thousands of V soldiers attacked earth. Hundreds of thousands of humans were captured and imprisoned; millions more died fighting. Fifth Column expanded exponentially, transitioning from a small band of rebels to an army of angry earthlings.
War had begun.
And still, Lisa felt nothing. Numbness strengthened its hold and refused to relinquish its grip. Sometimes Lisa wondered if she let it, if she truly had reached a point where feeling would simply open her up to too much raw pain for her to bear alone.
Somehow – and Lisa would likely never be certain as to the how – the New York mothership was attacked. Blown right out of the sky. The great black ship crashed in the center of Central Park, nothing but twisted metal and broken wires sparking blue energy. The wreckage was immediately invaded, and somehow through the smoke Lisa managed to find a weapon and join up with a small group of soldiers. The humans came at the small band of survivors viciously, using technology Lisa had never been aware they possessed. While the majority of the survivors were picked off one by one, Lisa was swept away by what few of her guards remained because she was the future queen and must be protected at all costs.
They dashed through the remains, dodging fallen ceilings and dislodged support beams. Smoke stung her eyes and clogged in her lungs, and she coughed and cried until somehow they made it past the debris and into the clear air. Lisa fell onto her back, exhausted. She stared up at the red sky, with the ever-present white stars flickering down on her, almost mocking.
Blackness was closing in, but she was still conscious enough to feel someone's hands hook beneath her and strong arms lift her up. Someone cradled her body against their warm, solid chest, and Lisa's last thought was wondering who her savior was.
When she woke up, she was in an unfamiliar room, tucked beneath a thin quilt. The bed creaked when she stood up, and the earth spun beneath her feet when she tried to walk. Looking down, she found that she was wearing an oversized human t-shirt and a pair of jeans that were likely a size too large. Her weapon sat on the small table beside the bed, and Lisa took it, grateful that whoever had taken her hadn't thought to take it away.
The floor was dirty and cold, the walls were concrete and bare.
"You're awake," a voice said, and Lisa spun around, swinging the blaster so it pointed directly at the stranger. A small amount of pressure exerted by her first finger would completely disintegrate any V instantly and fatally harm any human caught in the potent beam of blue energy.
"Don't shoot," Joshua held his hands up. "It's me."
Lisa blinked. He was dressed like a human – jeans and a green tee-shirt – and his hair was longer, but there was no question as to who stood before her.
"Give me one good reason why not?" she asked. Some small part of her wondered why she even had to ask. He was Fifth Column. She should have discharged her weapon the moment she realized who he was, regardless of the fact that he had evidently saved her.
To his credit, Joshua looked confused for a moment, before realization dawned. "What happened to you? Did Anna…"
"My mother…showed me my error." Lisa told him, still torn as to why she had yet to kill him and be done with it. "She did the same for you once, but you were stubborn."
"You don't want to kill me," Joshua told her, slowly beginning to circle her. She stepped back when he got too close.
"My mother gave specific orders," she replied.
"Your mother gave orders. What about you? Do you really want to do this?" he asked.
He was moving closer. Lisa gripped the weapon with both hands. "I'll shoot."
"You don't want to," his voice was slow and patient. "Lisa, listen to me."
"No!" she yelled. "You…just…don't speak."
"If you really wanted me dead you would have done it already," he attempted to point out.
"If you really wanted to live you would stop talking," she countered, confused. Her hands shook, and she found it difficult to hold the blaster steady.
He stepped towards her, one hand reaching for her arm. "You told me to find you, Lisa…do you remember telling me that?"
"I was deceived: blinded by human emotion. I was foolish." Her fingers tightened around the blaster even as his fingers circled her wrist and slowly lowered her arms.
"No," he shook his head. "You weren't."
Their eyes met. "I know you're in there somewhere, Lisa," he whispered.
The gun clattered to the floor.
Something animal and deadly slithered through her veins. She leapt at him, reptilian fangs extending and that long, thin tail swaying in the air behind her, the lizard beneath her skin fully intent on killing him and getting out of this room. Joshua swore. His arms wrapped around her waist to prevent her from getting past him. Her teeth scraped his shoulder and he cried out, backhanding her hard enough that she drew the fangs back into her mouth in shock.
The door opened and Lisa heard a gruff voice ask, "What in the hell?"
"Hobbes! I need you to get me a sedative," Joshua yelled, even as Lisa thrashed violently in his arms – no longer ready to kill him, but desperately desiring to get out of there now. Instead of rushing off to get a sedative, Hobbes fist flew forward to connect with Lisa's face. She fell backwards, slipping out of Joshua's grasp and landing on the hard floor below. When she regained her bearings, Hobbes was standing over her with her own weapon aimed at her.
"Relax," he grunted to an obviously distressed Joshua. "You and your magic wands will have the little princess here fixed up in no time, and nobody ever died from a black eye and a bloody nose."
Lisa tried to push herself up into a sitting position, but Hobbes gave her a death glare. "Don't you move. Alien royalty or not, I have no problem shooting you."
Lisa followed his instructions. It was done out of self-preservation, not fear.
"Let's get something straight here. You're not a guest; you're a prisoner. I've got a meat hook in the other room that I've just been dying to use, and it's been quite a while since I've had an evil lizard to skin. Unless you wanna be next, I suggest that you shut your mouth and behave yourself."
She was almost tempted to ask if he left all his prisoners in a room with a loaded weapon, but her head was already throbbing and she really didn't want him to shoot or skin her out of spite. Glancing behind Hobbes, she saw Joshua leaning against the wall, arms crossed in front of his chest, an uneasy expression on his face.
"Can ya tie her up now, doc?" Hobbes tossed Joshua a thin piece of plastic and the medic knelt to loop the strip around her wrist, tying it to a metal circlet hanging from the wall. It kept Lisa on the floor, but gave her some limited mobility. Plus, Hobbes actually managed to feel comfortable enough to lower his weapon.
"Did you have to threaten her so harshly?" Joshua asked. "She was already obviously disoriented."
"Yeah. Disoriented enough to try killing you. Sorry, Doc, but you'd better watch this one. I know you said she's a friend, but I don't trust her."
With that, the mercenary tossed the blaster to Joshua and left the room. For a long time, the medic simply stood and stared. Then, in slow, calculated movements, he dropped the blaster out of Lisa's reach, and knelt beside her again.
Slowly, Joshua brushed his fingers across her cheek.
"You saved me once," he whispered; his voice low and gentle. "Let me save you."
"You can't." The words slipped out through tightly clenched teeth. "No one can. There's nothing to save."
"There's something," he countered. "I know it. It's why you didn't shoot me when you had the chance. You should have pulled the trigger immediately, but you didn't. Why?"
Lisa couldn't answer. The truth was that she didn't know, and that in and of itself didn't make sense. She was so accustomed to certainty, to black and white. Grey was a foreign concept.
"I know what it feels like," Joshua told her. "I remember the unrestrained loyalty, the blind trust. Wondering how you could have ever doubted your Queen, how you could have ever refused her gift of bliss."
She couldn't speak. Those were the very things she had wondered about Joshua for the past few minutes. The light pressure of his fingertips against her skin flooded her with sensations that were both eerily familiar and completely terrifying.
Carefully, Lisa reached out, mimicking his gesture by pressing the pads of her own fingers to Joshua's cheek. "I don't know how anymore, Joshua."
"My Queen," the words were spoken reverently. "When you've been touched by human emotion it's always in you.
"I…" her voice broke, "I didn't want Anna to hurt you."
And just like that, like a breaking dam, all the emotions too long suppressed by Anna's bliss washed over her in a strong, overwhelming wave.
He grabbed her as she slumped over as if burdened under an invisible weight, pulling her close and holding her tightly. She clung to him, a buoy in her private storm, trying to remember what it felt like to simply feel. Pain gripped her, strong and blinding, but the negative emotion was soon overruled by the joy that filled her.
She cried into his shoulder as he assured her that it was all right now, that it was all going to be all right now. She felt him press a kiss to her temple and suddenly she was hyper-aware of, well, everything: the firmness of his shoulder blades beneath her hands, the slow rhythm of his left hand caressing her back while his right stroked her cheek, the kind, tender tone of his voice.
All the time they'd spent apart hit her full force. She instantly felt the pain of missing him that had been sharply absent since she'd felt Anna's bliss.
"I'm so sorry," she said softly, "I hurt you–"
He silenced her with a long, slow kiss; she shivered, drowning in sensations she couldn't believe she'd forgotten how to feel.
"I'll heal," he told her. "I'm just grateful that you're back."
Hobbes - naturally - didn't look particularly thrilled when he saw Lisa out of her room and sitting calmly beside Joshua at an impromptu meeting of the leaders of the Fifth Column, but Lisa figured that the day she saw euphoria on his face was the day…well, the sky had already turned red. Perhaps it wasn't that far fetched after all. Thankfully, Hobbes was wise enough to hold his tongue.
Then Erica Evans brought the spur-of-the-moment assembly back to order, quickly filling Lisa in on what she had missed during the past six hours.
Evidently Anna – who had been visiting the Washington D.C. ship when the New York vessel crashed to the ground – had appealed for a cease-fire. More than one of the Visitor's motherships had been blown out of the sky during the Fifth Column strike, and apparently the sudden advancement of human technology had left the Visitors reeling. Or…it looked as if it had the Visitors reeling. Lisa wouldn't put it past her mother to lure the humans into a false sense of security by claiming that she wanted peace now that the humans had proven themselves a worthy opponent.
The same thought had obviously occurred to Joshua, who was insisting that the continued development of a viable biological weapon was prudent, if not altogether advisable. If the Visitors left, then the disease could be destroyed, if not…they would still have a chance of winning this war.
Father Jack, the most trusting of the group, certainly desired to hope that Anna would pack up her minions and leave, deciding that their planet wasn't worth it.
Erica took the middle ground. Jack's plan – for the visitors to honor their peace talks and leave – was Plan A. Joshua's bio weapon was Plan B.
Lisa listened intently, all the while thinking that a plan C was definitely in order. The likelihood of Plan A succeeding was slim, while Plan B held the potential to kill too many Fifth Column members.
Jack vocalized Lisa's thoughts. "Plan B could hurt innocents."
"I agree," Lisa spoke up for the first time. "Plan B is unwise."
Erica's eyebrows rose. "Do you have a Plan C?"
"Me," Lisa suggested simply.
"No," Joshua countered instantly, shaking his head. "No."
Jack looked confused. "I don't understand."
"She's Anna's daughter," Erica reminded him. "What you're saying is if we could take out Anna…"
"No!" Joshua insisted again. "They think you're dead, Lisa. In order for what you're suggesting to work you would have to turn right around and prove that you were alive, you would have to go right back to pretending you were on Anna's side all the way up until you stabbed her in the back. It's too dangerous."
"It's an option!" Lisa shouted back, firmly. She wasn't angry, simply emphatic. She had a say in this conversation, and she was not going to stay still and silent while no one dared to offer up the best plan of all: allowing her to take her rightful place as the V's High Commander.
"At this point, it's an unacceptable one that is likely to get you killed!" Joshua argued, jumping to his feet.
Lisa leapt up as well. "And it is my choice."
Jack and Erica exchanged a weighty glance. Hobbes looked ready to shoot something – but that was his normal facial expression.
"I think maybe we should table this conversation and pick it up again after Lisa's had some rest," Jack suggested mildly.
A nod of Erica's head seemed to serve as a general dismissal for the majority of the group, though Lisa and Joshua stayed.
Once it was only the three of them, Erica didn't even hesitate before stepping forward and wrapping her arms around the girl. "I was worried about you," she murmured. "I'm so glad you're okay."
Thick emotion welled up in Lisa's throat and tears pricked her eyes. Was this what having a mother was supposed to feel like? Warm, safe and protected from any danger?
Erica pulled back and smiled tightly. "Joshua will see that you're settled. We'll talk about the rest of this tomorrow. In the meantime, I want you to think long and hard about this, Lisa. Make sure it's what you want."
Out of the corner of her eye, Lisa saw Joshua nod in agreement.
"What is this place?" Lisa asked as she followed Joshua through the building. All the windows were boarded up; the floors were made of scuffed and scratched linoleum.
"It's an abandoned Psychiatric hospital," Joshua answered. "This place has been our headquarters for a few months now. Hobbes hates it."
It didn't escape Lisa's notice that most of the humans, while more than willing to bestow polite smiles on Joshua, gave her looks of skepticism and doubt. "They don't know what to think of me, do they?" she whispered as Joshua took her arm and gently guided her into a room.
"They know your face," he explained. "You were a pretty public figure for a while. Everyone knows you're a V; almost everyone's figured out your connection to Anna."
"They know about Ryan and I as well, but we've had time to prove ourselves. Some of them think you're too close to Anna. Don't worry. They'll realize they're wrong soon enough." His hand lingered on her forearm. "This room is currently unoccupied. You can stay here for the time being. I'll see if I can scrounge about and find a cot for you."
Lisa opened her mouth to tell him that he really didn't have to, but he was gone before she could speak.
Fear crept over her, taunting and intimidating. She fell back against the wall. Could she be queen? Did she even want to be? What if she became just like her mother? Cold, calculating and ruthless?
Joshua returned shortly, folded cot cradled in one arm, a pillow in the other.
"Here you go." They worked together to set up the bed. When they finished, Joshua's face softened. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to yell earlier."
"I know," she almost smiled. "I'm sorry as well. I merely wished for you to understand…it is my decision, Joshua." Nervously, Lisa shifted from one foot to the other. "Are we friends, then?"
"Friends?" he questioned, clearly amused.
"Well," she shrugged, remembering how nice the light flirtation felt. "Are we…whatever we were?"
"Yes," he stepped towards her. "We are."
Lisa sat down on the cot and placed a hand on the space beside her. "Will you stay with me, please?"
He nodded, moving to close the door, and then lay down with her. The cot was small. They both fidgeted for a few minutes, until they finally settled into a conformable position, their bodies spooned together with her back to his chest.
"Joshua," she began hesitantly, anything but eager to begin their small disagreement a second time. "Would you have me abandon my people? Stay here? Leave them to death or worse, life under Anna's oppression?"
He was silent for a moment. "I would have you be safe. I would have you be alive. But I would never have you not be queen unless you wished it."
She rolled over so they faced one another; it wasn't easy on the cramped cot.
Once she settled her body against his, Joshua continued. "I will support you, whatever you choose. I will fight for you, whatever you choose. If you choose to overthrow your mother, I will be by your side the entire time. If you decide to run, I will run. That is…" he suddenly seemed uncertain. "…unless you don't want me to."
"No!" The word few from her mouth before she could stop it. "I…I don't want…that is…I like it when you're with me." She pressed her lips together. "I guess I don't know how to say what I feel all the time."
"Human emotions are, at times, complicated."
Lisa nodded her agreement, scooting in closer and pressing her forehead against his.
"What do you think will happen?" she asked. "The peace talks, the biological weapon…me? Everything feels up in the air."
"Uncontrollable destiny," Joshua mused, "The world spins out of control, moving towards an unknown destination. Anna fought to keep us from thinking of such things.
"Anna kept us from thinking of a lot of things," Lisa agreed, wrapping her arms around her legs. "It's strange…I don't feel like it is as frightening when I'm with you. Uncontrollable, yes. Indeterminable, of course. But not frightening."
"There are many routes the future could take from here. You could replace Anna. The V's could leave and never come back. The humans could wipe out our people; our people could wipe out the humans." He shrugged, "No one really knows for sure. That's why it's uncontrollable. All we can choose is what happens right now."
"And what is happening, right now?" Something in the atmosphere had changed, and Lisa found it rather difficult to breathe.
Joshua leaned towards her, cupping her chin with his hands. "This, maybe?"
He kissed her again, slowly. Thanks to Tyler, Lisa knew how this moment could escalate. Part of her even wanted it to happen, but exhaustion caused her to pull away. This connection between them would still be there in the morning.
She felt sleep claiming her, but even as she drifted away, she murmured, "You will be here when I wake?"
"I will be here," he answered, dropping a kiss on her forehead affectionately.
Lisa woke up the next morning to find him sleeping next to her, one arm wrapped around her waist. Slipping out from beneath his arm, she got up quietly and walked to the covered window, peeking through the gaps between the haphazardly placed boards to watch the sun rise – a yellow sphere set against against an otherwise bloody sky.
The sound of footsteps scuffing against the floor told Lisa that Joshua stood behind her. His hands hovered above her shoulders, but he seemed hesitant to touch her until she leaned back against him, closing her eyes.
His hands slid down her sides, settling on her stomach. His chin rested against her shoulder. "I meant what I said before," he whispered against her skin. "Whatever path you choose, I will support you," one finger tenderly turned her face towards him. "My queen, have you come to a decision?"
Her fingers brushed his cheek. "I want to be where you are."
"And I have already told you: I am with you wherever you go." His tone was patient, gentle.
"I do not want to be Queen," she whispered. "And as long as my…as long as Anna is alive I will never be queen. I believe if I returned now…" Lisa sighed. "What you said before was right. If I returned now, she would kill me."
"And if Anna were to perish?" he asked.
"I would not abandon my people," she answered.
He nodded in understanding.
Excitement fluttered in Lisa's midsection as his fingers tenderly brushed her hair away from her face, smoothing back the blonde tendrils. She desired…something more. That anticipation she'd felt with Tyler was humming through her body.
Joshua kissed her; Lisa's toes curled against the hardwood floor.
And that was when she felt it.
Pounding in her heart and skimming through her veins was this emotion, this strong, burning feeling that Lisa didn't know how to deal with. It was overwhelming to the point of suffocation, but it was also the greatest thing in the whole wide world – an addiction she never wanted to shake, a euphoria she never wanted to lose.
She understood the love she felt for Erica as a love shared between a mother and a daughter; she understood the love between Erica and Tyler as the love between a mother and a son. Friendship, Lisa knew, was the love Erica and Hobbes held for each other: a deep respect forged through fighting alongside each other, but always holding the possibility – the potential – for more. She understood the love between Father Jack and Erica as something akin to a brother and sister – though that wasn't all it was, despite the fact that it seemed Erica and Jack believed that was all it could be.
Joshua…well, Lisa didn't know how to categorize that love. (Was love even a thing to be shoved into a category or stuffed in a box?) It was just there burning and consuming and making her feel complete. Whole.
And undeniably human.
Over the next few months, Plans A, B, and C converged to form a strategy that actually sounded plausible to Lisa's ears.
While Anna was distracted with the peace talks, the uneasy ceasefire between the Visitors and the Humans kept the fighting to a minimum and provided the Fifth Column with the time they needed for Joshua and a young scientist by the name of Sid to finish working on their biological weapon. Had Anna realized that by initiating the armistice she was essentially digging her own grave, she probably would have simply annihilated the humans outright.
As it was, the Fifth Columns plan to end the war came down to three simple steps. Step one was to release the bio weapon on the V's. Together Joshua and Sid had figured out how to target only the soldiers. The virus could be carried by humans and Visitors alike, but due to complex differences in their DNA structures, it was only lethal to Anna's soldiers. Lisa probably shouldn't have found that fact as comforting as she did.
Step two was the careful elimination of Anna. Prior to this event's occurrence, Lisa was found unconscious by Anna's soldiers and brought back to the new NY mothership (which really wasn't new by the strictest definition of the term; it had simply been relocated) in anticipation of their coup d'état.
Only scant days later, the Visitor High Commander was killed by Fifth Column radicals. Lisa didn't learn until much later that it was Erica who had carried out the assassination, reaping vengeance for her child's murder by - as Hobbes so eloquently put it - "skinnin' the alien bitch".
Lisa's rightful coronation as Queen was the third and final step.
The sky was blue again.
Nervously fidgeting with the hemline of her dress, Lisa stared out at the vast expanse of atmosphere, at the swirls of clouds creating intricate patterns across the horizon. Her first act as Queen had been to restore the sky back to its natural color. Her second act had been to announce that the Visitors were leaving – and to promise that they would not return.
"My Queen?" Joshua's tone was soft, reverent. Lisa didn't turn to look at her friend.
"To think…" she whispered, "We came here from somewhere out there." She shook her head sadly. "That place doesn't even feel like home anymore."
"You are sad that we are leaving earth?" Joshua asked, coming to stand beside her. She waited for a moment, but when he didn't make a move to take her hand she took the initiative on her own, winding her fingers through his. On the ground he had been so much more open, more affectionate. Up here on the mothership, he was back to being reserved and cautious, though Lisa often saw the depths of emotion behind his eyes.
Ignoring his question, Lisa finally turned her head to look at him. The emotion that flowed between them was like a sharp current, a strong attraction that Lisa was beginning to believe she would never fully understand.
"I'm scared, Joshua."
"I know." His voice held that soothing, gentle tone, and - for no logical reason she could think of - she felt her knees growing week, like they would soon be unable to keep her on her feet. "I love you, Lisa."
Her mouth fell open, all previous trepidation completely forgotten. Instinctively, her lips pulled up into a bright was curious; she'd never had this pleasant of a reaction to surprise before.
"And I love you," she whispered, barely unable to contain her elation at the knowledge of loving and being loved in return. No wonder the humans valued that particular emotion so highly.
Simultaneously, they stepped towards one another, moving easily into a strong, comforting embrace.
As her eyes closed in contentment, Lisa sighed against his shoulder. What she felt for Joshua was something wonderfully wild: untamable and uncontrollable.
What kept drawing her towards him was the same way.
It was uncontrollable destiny.
They were uncontrollable destiny.
"My Queen?" Lisa and Joshua pulled apart as one of her advisers entered her chambers. "They're ready for you."
Lisa nodded and strode forward; Joshua followed closely behind.
The guards before her opened the double doors; she stepped over the threshold and cleared her throat, readying herself to address her assembled subjects.
Before she had an opportunity to speak, every one of the Visitors present - with the exception of Joshua and her advisers - dropped to their knees out of respect for their new High Commander.
Lisa swallowed, overwhelmed and - for a long moment - terrified.
The future was always in flux, in motion. Nothing was ever set in stone. Neither Lisa nor Joshua knew if their relationship - new and unorthodox as it was - would even be accepted by their society. In addition, Lisa's absolute refusal to create Bliss would eventually wreak havoc on their way of life.
Yet - in spite of all the uncertainly surrounding her - for the first time in a long time, Lisa actually believed things were going to be all right.
By her side, but respectfully silent now that they were in public, Joshua reached to take her hand.
They shared a weighted glance and a secret smile.
Lisa wasn't scared anymore.