Chapter 5 -- Acceptance
"Questions?" Declan asked as class began to wrap up. He was lecturing on Maori tattooing rituals.
"How'd they prevent infection?"
Declan looked up. It was a good question, and it had come from Gabe. He smiled at her, glad to see her back in class. "Um, the ash that they rubbed into the cuts had certain antiseptic properties… which we will discuss on Friday," he added, glancing at his watch. "See you then." His smile widened as she walked down the aisle to give Mole his customary pet. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I have a lot to come to terms with." She shrugged. "My parents would be freaked, I think. I made another appointment with Jenny for more testing, and she says that there's this Earthquake Prediction Center in Cali, but… Peggy says I have a lot of work to do first."
Declan nodded. "You haven't just been lying to the rest of the world. You've been doing a pretty good job of fooling yourself. It's going to take time to separate the truths from the lies. Buy you that cup of coffee now?"
"I'd like that." She smiled and nodded.
"Pentecostals, huh?" Declan asked as they settled down in a pair of overstuffed armchairs nestled away in an inconspicuous corner at the Firefly.
She nodded. "Want to see my snake-bites?" she offered with a wry grin.
"Faith was never my strong-suit." She shrugged, grinning. "I got bit a lot. I guess that's right around when it started."
"The snake-bites gave you this ability?"
She shook her head. "The ability led to the snake-bites. Snakes know fear, that's why the faithful don't get bitten. I thought there was something evil in me, so I got bit a lot." She shrugged. "Amazing I survived long enough to get out, I guess."
"How old were you when you started showing this ability?" Declan asked gently.
"Um… I couldn't have been but four or five. I knew that my baby sister was going to die before my parents even knew she was sick."
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
"She could have been saved, but they didn't believe in medical care, either." She shook her head. "I think on some level they must have blamed me. Like by saying it I made it happen. They were scared of me after that, and I learned to stop saying things out loud."
"But that didn't change what you had."
She shook her head. "The ability was still there. But… I listened to my parents, considered it aberrant, evil. So I did my best to stifle it."
"How do you stifle something like that?" Declan asked, interested.
"I did some research, found out that there are some medicines that dull those kinds of abilities, made up some symptoms next time I was at the doctor. The medicines made me scatter-brained, but… it seemed worth it."
Declan nodded. "I've heard of people who drink to get rid of premonitions."
She nodded. "Yeah, me too, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I was brought up to believe that alcohol is evil. Of course, so is medical care, but it's a lesser evil.
Declan nodded. "You still on these pills?"
She shook her head. "Peggy got me off of them. Um, it's… hard. More premonitions now, and I have kind of a hard time controlling them."
"Jenny can help you with that," Declan assured her.
"That's what she said." Gabe smiled and nodded. "And Peggy showed me some meditation techniques and stuff that really do seem to help."
"That's great." Declan nodded. "So, no more lying to yourself?"
She nodded firmly. "Yeah. All I ever wanted, Declan, was to be normal. I was afraid that if people knew, they would think I was a freak, or evil, or both. But you don't and Peggy doesn't and Jenny doesn't. And my friends don't so far." She smiled faintly at that. "Telling Bill was the hardest thing I've ever done, and he said it was a big duh. He knew when I looked at Angie and Grant and announced that they'd end up married. Telling the others is going to be harder."
"Nothing says you have to. The important thing isn't admitting it to them," Declan pointed out.
"No, guess not." She shrugged. "Jenny's got this whole battery of tests she wants to do on me. I… I don't know how I feel about that."
"Maybe some day?" Declan suggested gently. "You've got a lot to resolve before anything gets decided for sure."
"I was so afraid that Bill would hate me," she whispered. "Which is so stupid, because he's just not like that…"
Declan nodded. "You were, what do you call it? Projecting?"
She nodded. "My feelings on to him, yeah. I spent so much of my life hating myself, the real me, that I guess I just kind of expected that the rest of the world would, too, if they found out my deep dark secret."
"You still think of it that way?"
"I don't know." She shrugged. "I've got better than 20 years of indoctrination telling me that this thing I have is evil."
"Gabe, I research miracles. You know that?"
"Sure." She nodded. "Everyone knows that. Peggy and some physics student help you, right?"
Declan nodded. "Yeah, Peggy and Miranda. When you and I first met, you reminded me a lot of Miranda when I first met her. Shy, withdrawn, smart, but didn't think too highly of yourself. She's changed a lot in the last few years. I'd like to see that for you. I don't want you to spend the rest of your life disliking yourself."
"I know." She nodded. "It's not healthy. But how do you overcome a lifetime of being told that the thing which makes you different from everyone else is evil?"
Declan sighed. "Miracles, Gabe. I've seen enough to know that they come in many different forms. Now, whatever else may be true of your gift, it did save my life. How can that be evil?" he asked gently.
She sat silently, staring into her coffee. "Maybe it's just in what you do with it," she murmured finally.
"You could have something there, Gabe." Declan smiled at her. "Definitely something to think about."
Her watch-alarm went off. "I've got to get to class now, Declan. See you Friday?"
He smiled and nodded. "I'll be there."
"Cool." She smiled and rose. "And, um… thank you. For everything."
Declan smiled and watched her go. She was definitely going to be okay.
"So, she's agreed to let Jenny run the first battery of tests," Declan told Peggy. "And she's in touch with the Earthquake Prediction Center."
Peggy smiled and nodded. "And her self-esteem has seen a definite boost in just the past few days. She said the two of you have been talking a lot." She smiled at Declan. "I'm not sure what you said, but it definitely had an impact on her."
Declan smiled. "I'm glad. She's said some stuff that's had an impact on me, too."
"Really?" Peggy raised an eyebrow. "Such as?"
Declan smiled and shook his head. "I'll never tell," he chanted in a sing-song voice.
Peggy rolled her eyes. "Predictions?"
"Just one prediction," Declan told her, smiling.
"Dare I ask?"
"Ask all you want. I'm still not telling you." Declan laughed again. "Let's just say that it's in regards to the future Mrs. Dunn."
"Ah…" Peggy smiled and nodded. "So, tell me about 'the future Mrs. Dunn'?"
"She has a beautiful smile," Declan replied with a wink, turning and leaving the office. He had promised to be with Gabe for her first PET scan.
"Oh, there you are!" she exclaimed as he walked into the waiting room. "I was afraid you weren't going to come."
"I promised." Declan smiled at her and thought of a number between one and a hundred.
Gabe rolled her eyes. "Forty-two. Next time try to be more original."
Declan laughed and nodded, promising to be more original in the future.
"Did you tell her?" Gabe asked as they walked into the room where the PET scan was going to take place.
"Nah." Declan shook his head. "Figured I'd surprise her." He grinned at her.
"Have I mentioned that that level of adorableness should be illegal in adults?" she laughed.
"More than once. Where's Bill?" he asked, looking around. Like Declan, Gabe's boyfriend had promised to be present.
Her smile wavered. "Kuwait."
Declan's eyes widened. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "Don't be. He'll be fine."
"Yup." She nodded. "Also relatively sure that our firstborn is going to be named Declan."
So, what do you think? Should I bother writing more Mysterious Ways fic or is it just not my forte? Good, bad, or ugly, feedback is a writer's friend. Let me know. Thanks!