Hello! First post here, hope you enjoy.
Warnings: Post MGS4, so spoilers. And, uh, a positive portrayal of Rose?
Pairing: Raiden x Rose
Summary: Happy endings don’t come easily.
She’s dreamed of this. Every day, for years, she’s dreamed of this, letting stray thoughts carry her into a fantasy she feared would never come true. And now here she is, standing outside of a door, her son (their son) beside her, and all she has to do is open it and she won’t ever need to dream again. Yet her hand remains on the handle while John looks at her expectantly and starts to fidget and she still doesn’t move because a part of her feels she is waking into a nightmare.
She was a clever little girl, wasn’t she? Two lies, so easy to believe, far too easy to tell, and she kept her family safe. Mother and son doing so well. He grew up in wealth and comfort and safety and she became the diligent working mother, taking a job helping others so she could pretend the harm she caused never happened.
She knows she can’t pretend any more. Jack would let her, she thinks (he’s just as good at pretending as she is) but she can’t, she won’t. Because she didn’t really save her family at all.
Mother and son doing so well while the father was torn apart.
But she won’t get into that just yet. They’ll have the happy reunion first. John’s here, she can’t put too much on him after expecting him to live her lie his entire life and from what the doctor (Can she call him a doctor? He doesn’t seem so to her but calling him what he really is cuts too close to the brutal reality right now) said of Jack’s state of mind, she doesn’t want to put too much on him either.
Let’s keep it light and bright, people…for a little while at least.
So she checks John (so cute in his little sailor uniform that he hates because it itches and it isn’t what tough young boys wear) and the bouquet of flowers she bought not because Jack loves them but because she wanted the prop and she takes a deep breath.
Everything’s going to be all right.
It goes as she expected she would, which is to say there was a lot of crying and hugging and promises that the future will be so wonderful and perfect and nothing would ever keep them apart ever again.
She’s heard it before. She can even give the date: April 30, 2009. She believed it then because she wanted to believe it. She’s learned since then that wanting is not the same as having.
The bitterness with which he greeted her was too intense to be wiped away by one happy moment. Knowing the truth now doesn’t erase the years of knowing the lie and the pain it caused.
And she felt how tense he was.
She wonders though how much was her (He was happy about John, wasn’t he? About her?) and what he became while she was gone. Jack was never comfortable in his own skin. Being in whatever you would call what Dr. Madnar made (It felt like skin – almost too warm and so smooth, like John’s skin when he was first born, but still skin, right?) has to be worse.
She wonders if it’s not both her and the body all tangled into a horrible mess that he’ll just shove away into a dark corner because he’s already promised that wonderful and perfect future.
She wonders how much she feels the same.
Hi, honey! You’re home. Well, part of you…
She returns to Dr. Madnar’s facility the next day, letting John bring his videogames with him so she can catch a moment alone with Jack. Bad mother for good wife, it’s a trade off.
Madnar wanted to keep Jack another day, something about tests that she doesn’t really want to think about. She’s going to have to learn though. She’s played the game of denial and knows the ending only gets bleaker the longer you go.
Jack’s up, unpleasant tests already done apparently, when she reaches his room, dressed in his old standard of jeans and a T-shirt. Some things never change.
Some do. She studies him more carefully this time. His chest is broader. She swears he’s a bit taller. He’s still, by anyone’s definition, in good shape. Permanently so. But the ultra lean swimmer’s physique with the sculpted hips she could wrap herself around for hours is gone.
Is that so bad though? So different from the couples who pack on a pound or two over the years as they settle into their lives together?
The simplest truth is yes. They aren’t normal. An artificial body is in a league far beyond wrinkles and sags. She’s subjected herself to enough horrendously awkward conversations with Madnar to know that form and function will be so close, most won’t be able to tell at a passing glance. But she won’t be passing. She won’t be glancing. This is their life now and she’s going to have to find a deeper truth.
As if truth was ever her strong point.
She’s tried, is trying. And she knows as she senses Jack becoming uncomfortable under her gaze that she’ll going to have to keep trying for some time to come.
She wants to say something, anything to assure Jack she wasn’t staring but John (God, how did he ever become so sweet?) does her work for her by putting away his videogame to talk to his father. He has questions, so many innocent questions, with answers darker than he’s capable of imagining and all she can offer is the most basic of explanations because there are some things she just doesn’t want him to know.
Jack lets her handle it, keeping silent himself. He’s staring now and Rose is again left to wondering though this time she knows it is about her. Is it because she’s saying so much, translating Madnar’s mad science into cheerful bits of trivia that sound as if they come off a trading card for the cartoons John likes to watch? Or is it because she has to say this at all?
John doesn’t care. It’s all cool, his second favorite word, to him. He reserves his favorite word, awesome, for asking Jack about his sword. He’s left his plastic one back at the hotel (and Rose knows she never should have bought it for him in the first place but when the boy asked for something that was so reminiscent of his father, there was never any chance of saying no) and is left to making empty movements in the air. His enthusiasm shakes Jack out of his silence, brings a slight lift of his lips.
No, he doesn’t have it with him now. Madnar’s people have kept it for him though and he’ll get it when they leave.
Can they leave now? Can they? And John has it in his head that they will so they do, John’s small hand clutching at Jack’s as if he can drag his father there. She shouldn’t allow this (a five year old and a deadly weapon?) as much as she shouldn’t have allowed the plastic sword but again, no feels like the worst answer she could give.
Jack just follows along. That’s what he’s best at.
There won’t be any more videogames for the rest of the day, not when there’s an actual sword to be looked at. This means there also won’t be the private time she was hoping to get. It’s all right. She and Jack can talk later when John goes to bed.
She swears she’s not putting anything off. She’s letting her family be a family.
It’s strange being together like this - strange and difficult yet more wonderful than her silly daydreams of the past because it’s exactly the strangeness and the difficulty that lets her know that this is also very real.
John’s an angel, so curious about the father Rose has built up in his mind. He spends most of the afternoon retelling the stories she told him while Jack listens to this record of his life as if it’s nothing he’s ever heard before. The relentless optimism Rose wove through the tales isn’t really true, she’ll admit that, but surely he has to know why she loves him, why it never occurred to her to do anything but wait for him to return to her.
Except two days ago, he knew none of that. He who knew her best didn’t know her lies and therefore, didn’t know her. And it’s not a question of how he couldn’t trust her but more of how she could have expected him to. It’s one more thing she can’t hide from, no matter how much she’s tried.
It wasn’t only his past that drove him away; it was also his uncertain present and her inability to make it any surer.
She can fix this. She’s spent all those hours in training and psychology classes learning how to fix everything else for everybody else so she can fix this.
Everything’s going to be all right. Everything’s going to be…
They get back to the hotel suite Rose has rented late in the evening. John’s yawning and rubbing his eyes even though it’s hours before his bedtime. The poor boy’s been through so much from simple things like a long flight and time zone changes to the enormous weight of being the son in the happy family his mother has always wanted.
He lets Rose tuck him in. He’s been fighting her lately on it. He’s a big boy, a strong warrior like his newest favorite cartoon character, and he doesn’t need her fussing over him as if he’s still a four year old. It doesn’t stop him from padding over to her room and crawling under her covers with his old stuffed bear clutched to his chest every now and then.
She kisses John gently on his head and they both wait for Jack to do the same. He understands what’s expected of him and it’s both awkward and tender how he leans over his son, how he lingers there.
It’s a fragile moment of connection and she hates to see it break. John’s tired though and Jack can’t hold forever so she withdraws with him into the other room of the suite, slowly closing the door behind her.
And then, just like that, they are alone together for the first time in five years.
She hugs him from behind, resting her head against his back. She’s always loved to hold him like this. That her arms don’t quite wrap around him the same way, that he’s lacking the soft scent of that cologne she coaxed him into wearing doesn’t matter.
“It went well today,” she says and she means it.
“I guess,” his says back in the rasp that’s his voice now. Madnar explained this to her - most of his vocal cords, not his lungs.
She wants to reassure him. He’s doing all he can. “I know this can’t be easy. All those years of being alone and then I show up as if I can just erase it all away.”
He’s quiet and she waits. He’s been standing still, arms at his side letting her do all the embracing. He finally brings a hand up to rest over hers and she clasps them together and against his waist a little tighter.
“It doesn’t matter anymore.”
She wishes that were true. “It does matter, Jack. I put you through hell.”
“I was the one who left.”
“I didn’t understand you enough to help you stay.”
“You were trying to protect John.”
“I hurt you.”
He goes quiet again. There’s no arguing against that. She knows. She’s tried. In all the conversations she’s run in her head with an imaginary Jack and an imaginary Rose who’s so much better at this than real Rose with her prettily framed degree hanging on her office wall can ever hope to be, she’s said everything Jack said and more.
She’s gotten good at putting herself down. She still needs a way to lift them both up.
She lets go and grabs his arm to lead him over to the bed. He hesitates and she can’t help laughing as she realizes what he thinks she’s thinking. “We’ll do that later,” she promises.
“I don’t…” he stammers and a flush comes across his cheeks.
She would laugh at this too but after forcing herself to ask the elderly Madnar about that particular form and that particular function, she has nothing but sympathy. She feels a rise of heat in her face too as she confesses to that discussion.
And it’s there again, that almost smile. So small but it’s there and when they sit down on the bed together, all she wants to do is kiss that almost smile.
They haven’t yet – nearly a whole day together and they’ve been innocent as lambs with only a few hugs between them.
She reaches out to caress his cheek and then moves her fingers down, deliberately running the tips along the faint line that marks what was done to him. She wonders if he will flinch. He doesn’t. He watches her intently, questioningly, as if he expects her to flinch instead.
She slides over, half in his lap now, and murmurs his name. He surprises her by moving first. It’s just his lips grazing hers and pulling her closer until half becomes wholly. He strokes her back slowly and she starts to cry because even though this is everything she hoped for, it’s more than she thought she deserved.
“I don’t know how you can love me,” she whispers, “when all I ever do is break your heart.”
“Before you I didn’t even know my heart could break.”
She understands. God, how she understands. She can see herself in her other life. The woman who read Jack’s profile and dismissed him as another job. The woman who spent the first three months of that job so sure in her skill and professionalism. She was so good at being absolutely horrible but after she found a better self in Jack, she was absolutely horrible at being good.
She did have her reasons, Jack had that right, and they were all like her - selfish and deceitful.
She has better reasons now.
She sinks into him and then pushes him back against the bed, straddling his hips (these will do, these will do just fine) and watching him. She always liked holding him like this too.
“I never told you when I first realized I loved you,” she says. She knows how much he’s wanted to hear this. It was the question that always hung unasked during those precious weeks right after the Big Shell before it all started going to hell when he would all but beg with leading ‘I love you’s of his own and the dropping of names and dates that said he was a good boyfriend who would remember what day it was forever and always now.
Could she tell him what day it was? And she never could because it felt like she would be admitting there was a time and a Rose who didn’t love him at all. And if she admitted that…
But that was who she was. And if she is ever going to get him to understand who she is, he will need to know the path she took to change and how much he led her along it.
It’s a simple story, a silly story. A knight in shining armor coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress over the terrible tragedy of the plumbing not working in the apartment and making a wet mess of himself because he had no idea what he was doing but was still determined to do it because it was for her. She remembers watching him, feigning knowledge and confidence he didn’t have because he never wanted her to worry and despite the awful job he was doing of it, she didn’t. For that one moment, she didn’t worry about anything. This impossibly sweet, impossibly tragic man would love her, would take of her.
And then she knew she wanted him to. And then she knew she wanted to do the same for him.
“That story…” He’s heard her repeat that story a hundred times at parties, getting a laugh every time. He assumed that was why she told it. He asks if his assumption was wrong.
“With everything I was doing to you, I wanted to have that reminder. I should have told you right then and there, but I was afraid. And the longer it went on, the more afraid I was.”
She slides forward, wanting to be up close against him. It’s so quiet in the room, she can hear his breathing in a sort of rhythm with hers. “We were a pair, weren’t we? Both so afraid of the other finding out about our pasts. You weren’t the only one who had trouble sleeping. That’s why I wanted you there. Because when you were, I could almost forget.”
He shifts underneath her, scooting back towards the headboard. She feels a panicked pang of rejection but when she asks what’s wrong, he insists it’s nothing . He’s surprised, that’s all. Surprised and amazed and maybe even happy.
“I never knew,” he says.
“I didn’t tell you. Maybe if I had, you would have stayed.”
“That wasn’t you. That was my past. I couldn‘t face it.”
“I couldn’t face mine either.”
He smiles again and this time, there’s nothing almost about it. It’s wistful yet warm as he shakes his head and pronounces, “We’re kind of a mess.”
She thinks train wreck might be a more appropriate description if she were more objective but she’s not, so she smiles along while protesting, “We’re not that bad. Every couple has their problems.”
“Ours are just more…” He raises his hand and flexes it, studying the motion. And the brief respite of sanguinity fades. “Ours are just…so…”
She grabs for his hand. So much for wondering, not that knowing is any better. And even though it does bother her too (so many of her dreams were of another child, a sibling for John and a second chance for Jack to experience all that he missed), she will not let it bother them.
“I don’t care about this,” she says, squeezing his hand. “You’re back with me and John and I don’t care how. I just want you to be here.”
“You’re fine with being with someone who’s mostly a machine?”
“Jack, you were gone for five years. My sex life has been nothing but machines.”
She always was good at catching him off guard with an off-color comment. It’s a cheap trick but anything that defuses his tension and rewards her with a wide-eyed stare of those beautiful gray eyes is worth it to her.
But she’s true to her pledge; she doesn’t lie. “I’m not going to pretend that it’s nothing. When Dr. Emmerich first told me what had happened to you, I didn’t want to believe him. And then having to talk to Dr. Madnar… It was all so technical to him but I kept thinking ‘This is our life now’. But that’s what it comes down to. This is our life now.”
“And you’re fine with that?”
She nods. She’s resolute, determined. “And what about you?”
“It’s not like a have any choice.”
“You feel how you feel, Jack. But you do have the choice to try to move beyond it.”
She won’t be separated from him again, not even this paltry distance. She crawls across the bed and reassumes her position. “I’m here for you. Whatever you need from me, I’ll help you - body or soul.”
And before he can ask if she’s sure, she shows him. It starts with kisses and a hand sliding up under his shirt. Nothing they haven’t done before but completely new all the same.
“Feel good?” she whispers.
He lets her keep convincing him before whispering back yes in a word she feels more than hears.
So she continues on, exploring the body and the man she will spend the rest of her life with.
There are no thoughts of the past. There are no thoughts of what they have lost.
They’ve found each other again, are finding each other still.
And they’ll always keeps searching, for all that they are, because she believes in everything they can be.
Everything’s all right.