Spoilers: All of Season 2 generally.
Summary: Nothing is ever over, nothing is ever simple. Not for any 4400, and not for Diana and Marco either. Oneshot with OC 4400 in there as well as mainly character/ship.
A/N: Includes a nod to one of Keenir/Rodlox's fics, "One Final Choice". Betaread by Fanwoman.
He remembers Nina's comment to him once, when he asked for time-off, about how she needed to keep her geniuses sane, well and in-house. She's kind of failed on that one, but, in her defence, it's hard to anticipate what crazy 4400's can do.
He sees Arctic colors in his mind, but when he opens his eyes, he doesn't see anything – he's still trying to get used to that. It's going to be at least a decade before he has a chance at getting decent artificial eyes. Not that seeing would improve his life much right now. Being blind didn't make him like this; it’s just collateral damage from his encounter with returnee #0594. He still has symptoms of a concussion weeks later with no sign of them wearing off just yet. They might not because it wasn't a case of a nasty bump on the head that put him here. If only it was so simple. No, they stole from him – his sight entirely, his mind partially. At least the latter might return in full, they hope.
How is this? The best way to describe it is burnt out, like those mind-blowingly good mathematicians who have nervous breakdowns at age thirty and never put pen to paper again in their lives. He's still smart, but he's slightly unhinged, his train of thought erratic, switching tracks so easily. He can't keep his processes coherent, and the change in stimuli, the new hyper awareness of his other senses, confuses him more. He doesn't so much think as flit between feelings and senses, with spurts of ideas in between.
He likes to hear her talk, though - always has, of course. Diana comes to visit him, check up on how he's doing, even though she understands it's only going to get marginally better. Eventually, he'll be able to cope with the blindness and live on his own, without human help, though he'll probably have a guide dog. He'll certainly need to learn Braille if he wants to use a computer again; his touch typing isn't that good. Learning will be difficult as he is. But he'll manage, and she's offered to learn, too. She said she'd bring the books someday and go over it with him. He didn't expect it to be today.
He wishes he could see her. All he has to go on is her voice, and it's sad. He can hear the wavering emotion as she talks, trying to avoid any sensitive issues. She doesn't seem to realise he's not so concerned about missing out on everyday things, but she probably wouldn't like to examine the idea of her being what he'll miss most. She doesn't have nearly enough time to be with him; Maia is the most important person in her life. Diana doesn't know how to handle him, either; she has the patience but not the confidence. This is unfamiliar territory for her. Of course, it is for him, too.
They had a chance, and now it's lost, at least for the time being. He wants to rewind and change what happened, to not come into work on that fateful day. It would have just been someone else instead, and that makes him feel guilty, because he knows he can deal with this. She can, too, but it seems unfair. They've both had enough to cope with- tragedies and crises - and not nearly enough comfort to balance it out.
He's surprised when she doesn't just place the page under his hand but puts her hand across his and moves her fingers next to his. He might be blushing about now; he can't tell for sure.
He'd said he wasn't going anywhere, that he’d be by her side through everything, but she'd never made that promise. Yet here she is when she could walk away, go home to her daughter and have an easier life. It's a choice that she appears to have made, one to continue down the road with him, to guide him where he had been guiding her. He smiles at the thought, and though he can't see her when she asks what he's thinking of, he gets the feeling she's smiling herself just to see him happy for once. She never could resist returning his grins, and happiness is too rare to pass up. He'd kiss her if he didn't think he'd get it all wrong. He'll leave that for when he's gotten more used to working out where she is exactly. One day, though, he'll learn, no matter how long it takes him. By then, he wants to be in his right mind, with no question whether he means it.
She knocks on his door, a firm rap, sure to be heard. She tries to keep calm, taking deep breaths, but her nerves are showing. She can't help it; this is big. She glances to the woman next to her and smiles nervously.
Marco answers the door, and his golden retriever can be seen sitting patiently nearby. He'd told her about Lara in his phone calls and emails, but she'd never managed to visit him and meet his very sweet and helpful dog before now. She'd feel guilty, but there's good reason for her lack of visits. It feels decidedly odd to greet him without him looking at her, since his natural gaze is actually on her companion, but until she speaks, he can't focus accurately where she is.
What's stranger is seeing him without glasses, his eyes clearly seen now. She would appreciate the view, but it's also disturbing because she knows why he doesn't need them – it's a reminder of what he must endure; one that stares her in the face, feeling like an accusation. He doesn't blame her, but up until now, she's blamed herself – feeling obligated to fix this, though really it runs deeper than a mere sense of duty. From the second she'd heard about the incident, she'd wanted to turn back time, be there to help, to prevent. But she hadn't been, and no amount of wishing could change that. So instead, she'd put herself to solving the case, and to perhaps make things right in doing so. Finally, there is hope.
“Hi, Diana.” He smiles and bobs his head in that I-don’t-mean-to-pry way he’s always had. “Not to be impolite, but who's with you? Aren't you going to introduce us?”
He's certainly gotten better at coping with his disability if he can tell there's someone else standing just out of reach. Just as well he can't tell who it is, immediately; she has a feeling he'd shut both of them out without a word if he did know - a reaction that would be practically on instinct, not something she's come to expect from him. He's always been relatively calm, even in a crisis, but she knows he'd run if he could.
“Of course. Marco, this is Norma Ulrich...returnee #0594”
His eyes widen, and he steps back, frightened, hand grasping the doorknob possessively, ready to close it on them. She had hoped he wouldn't react like this. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Norma here – who was convinced she would be instantly thrown in jail for what had happened months ago. Norma might still have charges pressed against her, or have to concede to be studied by NTAC medical, but there was something more important than NTAC getting their fill.
When she'd found Norma she'd half expected her to run away, as scared by the incident as she imagined Marco had been. Yet Norma had stayed and heard her out, despite the fear she'd felt. The woman had cried openly when she was told what she had done, sworn to do anything she could to make things right. She'd placed her trust in Diana because she'd recognised this was personal, not about the usual wishes people had for retribution or revenge but something far more important for everyone involved.
Somehow, Diana had to make Marco understand. She can't have him run away from this. She moves forward, hands grasping his shoulders, both to show support and to keep him in place.
“It's okay. She's here to help.”
He doesn't take her reassurances, and she can't blame him. He's defensive, pointing fingers as he rejects the situation.
“I've had as much contact with her as she's getting. I don't want her near me. Why did you even bring her here?”
His tone, as well as his body language, is uncharacteristically hostile. This isn't going to be easy.
She goes over her words carefully and has a reply on the tip of her tongue, but Norma beats her to it, coming to the door as she appeals to him.
“I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to do it! What I did to you…I want to make it right, and your friend here said I should try. I really want to help...and I think, maybe, I can.”
Marco says nothing to Norma, standing exactly where he is and just as defensive as moments ago. At least he hadn't shut them both out. He looks angry but also pensive, weighing up his options. He attempts to glance at Diana, looking to her for answers, and she realises it's on her to convince him – it's not like he'd have any reason to trust Norma, unlike her. He seems mostly unaffected by what the other woman has said, but she gets the impression he's only tolerating Norma's presence because of her say so. But she has to get him to go farther than that, or her efforts will have meant nothing and also come to nothing. She can't let that happen; all three of them need this fixed.
It's her words that he must listen to, yet it's the connection they share that she needs him to focus on – the fact he trusts her. She talks quietly, calmly - in much the same way she recalls he does usually, hoping to inspire it in him once more - and reaffirms the contact between them with her grip on his shoulders.
“Marco, don't worry. Her power is latent. She has to want to do you harm, and that day she didn't. She was just sacred, the same as Jean Delynn Baker didn't mean to hurt Mortimer and Falcone, but fortunately Norma's ability isn't as deadly, or...”
She'd wanted to inject a bit of humor there, but it hasn’t gone as planned – yet it appears to have the right affect. Thankfully, his answer is in the affirmative, even if he isn't particularly positive about it.
“Fine. You can both come in, as long as you know I'm not happy about this plan. It's just I don't seem to have much to lose by trying it.”
They settle down on his couch, Diana placing herself between the two as a negotiator, wondering how this is going to play out. And she's not the only curious one.
“So, how is this going to work?” he asks sceptically.
Norma looks pained as she sits with her hands in her lap, but she speaks up.
“I don't know what happened, exactly, but I did something with my mind. I was frightened; everything was so confusing,” she glances at Diana looking for understanding before continuing, “I reached out and…grabbed. I think I took something from you, but I didn't mean to. I was hoping I could give it back, think it back, in the same way. But when it happened, you had your arm on me...”
“What Norma means to say is you'll probably need to be touching to try this.”
And so he places his hands in hers, trusting her, and she directs Norma to start. The woman looks about as nervous as Diana feels, and Norma cautiously links her fingers with his and closes her eyes.
She has no idea what's happening, if anything is. She's so tense; this has to work. The reason she has barely seen Marco is because she's been using all her spare time to search for this woman – the only one who has a chance at restoring him fully. Tom had done his bit, calling in a favor from his nephew, but Shawn hadn't been able to heal Marco because it wasn't damage, rather it was that something was missing.
So she'd gone over the reports again and again, hours pouring over all the clues, trying to find the pattern – and what she'd been doing went far past the official investigation. To NTAC, Norma isn't that important to waste time and resources on. The case was quickly assigned to another pair of agents, who'd been fairly happy to keep her informed, but it had by no means been a priority – just something that would be good to close the file on sometime. This doesn't mean much to anyone else, but she knows what it could mean to Marco and, by extension, to her.
She watches closely, and lets out a breath she hadn't known she was holding when Marco opens his eyes and looks straight at her - not just *to* her but staring at her as if he can't believe it – and she knows it has worked. Norma smiles, relief evident, and it's catching – soon enough they're all grinning like idiots. Diana isn't sure what to do now, and Marco seems speechless, perhaps overwhelmed, after months without sight, to have it suddenly returned, until he blurts out, “It worked!”
For a few seconds, she's disgruntled that he doubted her. Then he plants a kiss right on her lips, and she promptly forgets anything she was about to say in response. Norma chuckles and discreetly turns away, leaving them without an audience, though it doesn't seem Marco cares at all about that anyway. It's not a quick peck by far. He's passionate yet tender, taking his time - indicating he savours every moment of the experience. When he finally pulls away, she finds herself remorseful that there's anyone else with them; she really hadn't wanted it to end. It's been so long since that simple kiss she had given him, when she'd wanted to find out just what there was between them. She'd been pleasantly surprised then, but nothing more had ever come of it because of his injuries and her quest to right everything for him. Now she has, and she realises there aren't really any obstacles in their way anymore, apart from what happens to Norma now, how they choose to deal with her.
On the one hand, NTAC would be thrilled to get their mitts on the woman, but Diana’s not so sure Norma deserves that. It would be easy enough to pass Marco's recovery off as miraculous, the damage just as suddenly gone as it had appeared. It's all a question of what they want to do - with Norma, with their relationship, too. Only it seems sad to consider choosing to give Norma over to NTAC after everything is set right, balanced once more. Diana feels hopeful that won't be necessary as Marco looks at Norma and smiles in a friendly way, reaching out to shake her hand, no longer frightened or angry. Norma smiles, too, the worry lifted from her features. They have a choice again. It's given them a new lease on life and, furthermore, something they all deserve - freedom.