It was a beautiful morning just like any other.
The air was crisp, the leaves beginning to change their color as the summer faded into fall; the slight just was just enough to keep the young woman awake even in her exhausted state. Her tired eyes were drawn to the warmth of the golden and pink hues as she watched the explosion of color in the sky, the dawn cresting over the horizon.
Maddy had always appreciated how the sun rose here.
It was such a beautiful sight that she could not help but just marvel every time she saw it… especially since it was something she had otherwise been deprived of in adolescence. She enjoyed curling up in the swing on her front porch in a warm blanket, and a cup of tea in her hands warming her cold fingers with the hot mug to simply greet the morning.
However today it was simply out of the question. She had long since abandoned her own front porch, and had moved before she had even consciously made the decision to; her feet guiding her because her mind was too lost in thought to comprehend any sort of destination. Her mug had likewise been left behind, though the blanket was still wrapped snugly around her shoulders.
People around her, only the soldiers and guards on shift at this hour, gave her a sympathetic smile as she neared the monumental gate. She barely even acknowledged them, instead moving to stand directly in between the two women who had already taken up vigil there. Her eyes remained beyond the closed gateway, and her heart pounding as she unnecessarily pulled the blanket around her even more… the cold she felt was not from the wind.
Elisabeth Shannon, her mother, was clearly distraught with everything as well. Her usually immaculate hair was mused with evidence of her constant worry, the strands in disarray from running her fingers through it. She took her mother's hand, simultaneously giving and taking comfort and reassurance from the contact with a shared look of unease. Her mother went through this often, though she seemed to be just as frazzled as Maddy was sure she herself looked.
Alicia Washington, the acting commander while Nathaniel Taylor was indisposed or otherwise just gone, was the other woman beside them. She seemed to be the most composed out of all three of them… with the exception of the thin line of her lips, and the agitated way she drummed her fingers against her sidearm. She began tapping her foot impatiently when she noticed Maddy's scrutiny, obviously attempting to hide her own concern.
Maddy had never empathized more with either woman than right now.
For a tense moment, none of them spoke, each too caught up in their own thoughts.
Finally Maddy could take it no more, filled with a need to break the silence; otherwise she feared she would go mad with her inner worries and doubts. "Is it always like this?" she asked in a hushed voice, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth as she waited her answer.
Honestly, Maddy was not sure she wanted to know the answer. She was in agony at this point, having to wait within the safety of the colony while the most important men in her life were out there in the dense and dangerous jungle, forced into the territory of murderous criminals and carnivorous creatures.
"… Unfortunately, yes," her mother murmured quietly, heaving a small sigh as she ran her fingers through her hair fretfully again. "It's always like this."
Alicia gave up all pretense of her strictly professional persona, and kicked a nearby rock. "Bastards," she grumbled lowly, her hands still on her hips as she tapped her fingers restlessly. "She was glaring into the distance, huffing to herself like an angry bull. "They are always pulling this shit. I think it makes them feel special, knowing that we worry about them while they're gallivanting off to play 'protect the colony,'"
Maddy felt her stomach churn at their words, and she swallowed slightly. She had never been this worried in the past. Admittedly, when it was just her father out there, she knew he could take care of himself, and intellectually, she knew that he could handle anything her father could, but her mind would just not let her heart have peace.
"Does it… ever get any easier?" she whispered, the anxiety tearing at her soul. She felt so tired right now, because overwrought with concern, sleep had proven to be elusive the night prior.
Even burrowed deeply in the warm sheets, breathing in the scent of familiar soaps and shampoos had not been enough to comfort her to sleep. She had exhausted herself not only physically with her inability to rest peacefully, but mentally as well. Her mind had conjured up so many scenarios of what could be taking place beyond the gate that it made her light headed and nauseous.
A hand grasped her shoulder, and Alicia smiled wryly at her; no humor present in her eyes. "Not even with a good, stiff drink," she admitted quietly.
Maddy smiled back weakly and then again at her mother when she squeezed her hand. She didn't think she could ever bear this another time. It was almost like some sort of cruel punishment, repentance for the happiness she had been feeling lately. Reality just had to remind her now how quickly everything could be stolen from her.
… Not just me, Maddy had to remind herself. Not anymore…
With hearts heavy like stones, all three women could do little more than wait; their eyes locked in the distance for any kind of sign that the men in their lives would return safely to them.
It was actually not that long a wait that the guards in the outpost tower above made the announcement that there was an inbound vehicle on the road, although the few minutes between her arrival and the announcement felt like an eternity. Sharing a look of hopeful relief with her companions, each of them held their breath in anticipation as the vehicle approached.
Maddy clutched around her middle and watched as the gate was raised. A muddied and sorely abused rover pulled inside, driving past them a ways before it pulled to a stop right outside the command building. She was anxious, unable to see anything inside until the door opened.
"Jim…" Her father looked worse for the wear. He had scratches along his neck, a bleeding lip, and something tired about the way he held himself, but he was otherwise okay. She allowed herself a brief respite at his safe return just as her mother breathed out his name and ran into his open arms.
Alicia accosted the commander the moment he exited the vehicle. She hovered protectively as she inspected the wounds he had; even as she kept a respectful distance and kept her features carefully blank.
It did not escape Maddy that Commander Taylor seemed to be suppressing a smile as the woman gently, and innocently, examined him, but right now she could care less about the secret love affair she was positively certain those two had… because at that moment, someone else crawled out of the rover.
It was a certain young man that Maddy had been fretting over for the past nineteen hours. His face revealed just how tired he was; his movements slow and practically screaming of fatigue. He had not slept at all the previous night either. His clothing was caked with mud, his hair even clumping together with dried grime. He didn't seem to be injured, save for a few scrapes and bruises on his bare forearms.
Mark Reynolds was still the most handsome man in the world to her, even in this sorry state.
Maddy felt frozen in place, even though all she wanted to do was reach out and take him into her arms and never let him go. She tried to regulate her accelerated heartbeat and her shaking nerves. She had been planning out exactly what to say to him and just how to say it—how she could possibly greet him now that he had finally returned to her—but all of it just faded away when she saw him, overwhelmed with joy and relief to find him unharmed.
The young woman curled her arms around her waist as his eyes found her within seconds. There was always some kind of magnetism between them, something that instinctively drew him to her and her to him. Her breath caught in her throat as a slow smile spread across his dirty face, and he began making his way over to her.
For a moment, neither of them spoke.
"Hello Mister Reynolds," Maddy greeted him evenly when she finally found her voice, looking up into his amused face as she tried not to project exactly how relieved she was to see him here; alive and unharmed. She gave him a stern look, lifting her eyebrows as she told him, "You, sir, are late."
Mark appeared to be trying not to laugh, though he failed to keep his lips from twitching. He bowed his head to appear contrite, reaching out to take her hand. He brought it to his lips, grazing her knuckles chastely in apology before he brought his intense tricolored gaze back to hers.
"My apologies," he whispered. "… Mrs. Reynolds."
Maddy could feel her heart flutter insanely at his words, and she smiled despite herself because every time he greeted her like that, she could scarcely contain just how happy it made her. She tried vainly to keep up her charade. He had worried her beyond belief when he had volunteered to ride along as an extra gun, and she wanted him to know it.
"You are not quite forgiven just yet," Maddy told him loftily, and he grinned at the familiar words. It was the same words they often exchanged when they worried one another somehow. "You really scared us…" she added quietly, a secret smile on her face as she stared up into his eyes.
Mark chuckled slightly, shaking his head. "I'll apologize to them later," he assured her, glancing to where her mother and Alicia stood. He then stepped closer, his arms sliding around her waist, and he rested his forehead against hers; lips grazing her own as he prepared to swoop in for a kiss. She would have normally melted into his embrace, gladly accepting his kiss and soaking up his presence.
However, he had misinterpreted her words.
Maddy denied him quickly, turning her head so his lips landed against her smooth cheek. "Mark, she said gently, smiling at his confusion as she reached around her to remove his hands from her back, bringing them into her own. "I wasn't talking about Alicia or my mother," She placed his warm hands on either side of her stomach with a meaningful look.
Maddy bit her lip apprehensively as several expressions crossed his features in an instant.
Confusion was the primary emotion as he lowered his gaze to their joined hands on her belly. Next was comprehension, as he began to work out the meaning behind her words, and then finally dumbfounded shock. He sucked in a shocked breath as it abruptly registered, and his head shot up quickly.
"You're…?" Mark breathed out, swallowing as she nodded timidly. He shook his head in disbelief, looking back down. He suddenly laughed, and caressed her stomach gently. The next time he looked up there was absolute joy and wonder in his eyes. In the next instance, Mark had surged forward, bent down lightly and captured her soft lips with his.
Maddy closed her own eyes instinctively as they connected. A gentle shock was always the first thing she felt when he kissed her, and it was a feeling that never went away, even as a deeper kind of bliss spread throughout her body that made her light headed. She was relieved he was so happy, her heart soaring with delight as he kissed her lovingly.
Before she knew it, Mark broke the kiss, though she had no time to protest because he wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him. "I love you," he said, his voice breathless, and once again he prevented her from responding by kissing her again; chastely as he repeated himself, and then again, and soon she felt just as breathless as he sounded in between kisses.
Maddy was forced to push him away so she could breathe, her eyes shining with happiness. "Mark," she laughed quietly as he pouted, giggling louder when he then decided to drop to his knees in front of her. He lifted her shirt slightly and inspected her flat stomach for the invisible bump that would not be making any real appearance for several weeks yet, staring at it wondrously.
"Hey there, little one," he whispered, his fingers trailing over her skin with awe. "You are going to be so beautiful, just like your mother," He leaned forward and kissed her belly with reverence, and she closed her eyes with a smile, running her fingers through his dirty hair.
Maddy allowed him to continue whispering sweet nothings to their unborn for only a moment longer before she urged him to stand, wrapping her arms around his neck and finally allowing herself to burrow in his comforting presence. He smelt of smoke and dirt, but beneath that she inhaled everything that was uniquely him.
"Mark," she whispered, her heart feeling overwhelmed with foreign emotions as she held her husband. She was finally at peace after the long night of her anxieties getting the better of her.
"Yes, my love?"
Maddy smiled against his neck, squeezing him to her tighter. "I love you too," She allowed him to pull her back enough to connect their lips once more, and she sighed into the kiss. She curled her fingers into the hair at the base of his neck, tilting her head and reveling in the feel of him.
Everything was absolutely perfect…
"MADDY IS WHAT!"
… Until her father found out.
Maddy reluctantly turned after they separated, wincing at the completely traumatized expression on her father's face. She narrowed her eyes at her mother, because Maddy would have been content to inform him of her delicate condition in, say, nine months or so, instead of while he was still in the process of warming up to his new son in law.
"Jim," her mother scolded reproachfully.
"Nice one, soldier," Alicia smirked at the man who was staring at the obviously irate James Shannon in fear; Mark took a subtle step back as her mother tried to retrain him. Alicia began snickering outright when Commander Taylor moved closer and gave the former a delighted pat on the back.
Done for a prompt on the Terra Nova LJ community for the October Prompt Fest.
lareinedecoeur: "This is an idea that has been playing around my head: Maddy/Mark married couple in Terra Nova. That's it. I will let the specifics to creative minds; I am just really keen in reading something like that even though we do not know much about them and terra nova."