Arthur is never as quiet as he means to be when he crawls into bed. It’s been years and still, Maddy finds that she can hear his footfalls, can feel his warmth beside her even in the deepest of sleep. Call it a sixth sense, call it magic; she always, simply, knew.
She doesn’t open her eyes until his fingers run across her cheeks and the bed sinks beneath his weight. Her eyes focus on him slowly in the darkness, on his longer form, on the gold of his hair, illuminated by the moonlight filtering through the window, and the contented look on his face. No matter the hurt, no matter what her day was like -- this, this always took her breath away, always made her happy, to see him like this.
“Little sea,” he says, fingers tracing her cheek, her nose.
Maddy doesn’t give him the opportunity to say more -- she pulls him into a kiss, the one she’s wanted to give him ever since he’d left home. It was never all that easy to have Arthur leave, to tend to both the League or to his kingdom. Being a hero wasn’t her choice, wasn’t what she wanted -- but they’d worked it out over the years. They worked on how to have a family, how to love one another, to be with each other, and how to be without when need be.
As long as they talked, as long as they understood each other, as long as they loved each other?
There was no way they would or could fall apart.
As much as she and Arthur always enjoyed this, coming home to each other so intimately, a baby always threw things in a wrench. Maddy found herself awake, hours later, feeling an urgent need to pee.
And so she untangled herself from Arthur’s arms, and with speed to envy the Flash, made her way to the toilet in record time. A sigh of relief left her as she finished, glaring down at the swollen midsection she had.
“You owe me so much,” she grumbled, wiping herself off thoroughly. She flushed the toilet, washed her hands, and decided to simply do what she normally did on nights like these: check up on her children. Throwing a robe on, she shuffled out of the bathroom, through her and Arthur’s bedroom, and out to the hallway. The first room, was Christopher’s.
It had been years since she had needed to check up on him, for him to be in true danger. And yet, he was always first; her hand turning the knob carefully, sticking her head inside. His room is clean enough for a teenage boy -- his phone sits charging on the desk, the selfie he’d taken with Wade visible from where Madelyne could see. It doesn’t take a genius, really, to know he’d heard her.
He doesn’t answer; his fake snorting grows louder.
Madelyne sighs. “I love you, Christopher Nathan. Don’t forget that -- and that you have to drive in the morning. Get some rest.”
He turns over, his glass eye facing her, and he gives a half grin. “G’night, Mom.”
Madelyne smiles, and then after toeing one of his boots away from the door, closes it softly.
Next is Tom -- he and Christopher were twenty two months apart, the first child she’d had with Arthur. It still was a tickled, funny situation -- they’d known each other for only a few days when he’d been conceived. But after… it was easy.
She opens his door just as quietly, and he’s actually sleeping. He’s messy haired, a messy sleeper with legs sprawled out. Madelyne finds herself wedging inside to adjust his covers, to tuck him in better, and to plug his phone up. It’d become tangled up and unplugged during the night. God knew that if she hadn’t come in here, he’d have panicked the next morning.
Once it’s plugged in and where it needs to be, she ruffles Tom’s hair. “You really resemble your father too much sometimes.”
She shuffles outward, yawning as she shuts the door.
Maddy is halfway to Gryffin’s door when Scotty’s voice rings out, “Mommy?”
Her hand pulls back from his door knob to focus on Scotty, framed in his bedroom door, his eyes wide and serious in his face. Maddy frowns; he’s never been one to wake up in the middle of the night. “Scotty? What’s wrong, baby?”
“I’m-- I’m scared,” Scotty says, the bottom of his mouth trembling, “I-I had a nightmare.”
Maddy furrows her brows, and steps toward Scotty. Something-- something inside of her says not to. That she has to turn around, to go check on Gryffin first. That something might be wrong with Gryffin.
“No,” Scotty’s voice reverberates in her head--it shouldn’t. “Mommy, no. Don’t. I need you.” He offers his hand.
Madelyne takes it. She follows him to his room, and fails to hear Gryffin call to her. She fails to see him running to the door right as Scotty closes it.
What she sees is his room is lined up with crayon drawings. Awful drawings of her in a tube, of her dying in Jean’s arms. Of the words FAKE FAKE FAKE and WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP scrawled on the walls. Her fingers cup her mouth in terror and fear as she looks around her.
“Scotty-- Scotty, what-- what is this, what did you do?”
Scotty looks at her with a sad, forlorn expression. Something in Maddy realizes that Scotty seems almost lurid in appearance; her hair too blonde, his eyes too blue, his pajamas too stylized. “This isn’t real. None of this is real.” He swipes at his eyes, and even then -- Maddy realizes with a panicked thought that his tears seem too big, too fake. “This is a dream. None of this real, Mommy.”
“Yes,” her voice breaks, splinters in despair, in need to believe this. To believe in her family. “Yes, it is. It is--”
Scotty shakes his head, and Maddy starts to feel her magic surge, white hot in her veins. It’s so much hotter, so much more powerful than anything she’s ever felt in her life. “No! You know it’s not real -- Mommy, please! Please, wake up!”
Voices start to slip into her head. Someone yelling about a plant, the abject fear of a child. Maddy clutches her forehead, sweat breaking out as she fights against it.
Someone--Gryffin is pounding at the door. He’s swearing, screaming.
Madelyne falls to her knees, She tries, she tries to fight, tries to hold on. “Arthur! Arthur, please--”
"It's not real, Mommy," he says, his voice trembling, sounding older than a six year old should be. "Daddy's not coming."
"Stop it," Her hands shake and shake. "Scotty, please, this isn't-- this isn't funny anymore."
Scotty opens his mouth and it's Arthur's voice now who booms out, "Baby, Molly or Maddy, my little sea. You can fight this dream. It isn’t real." The foundations of the dream started to shake. She could smell something burning--bitter and acrid in the air.
Maddy tries. She tries as hard as she can to hold onto this perfect life.
In her last moments, however, she, could feel it. Feel the Phoenix Force that had animated her, had given her a soul to being with, and the Goblyn Force working in angry tandem, starting to tear at it, to destroy it all.
She screams, and cries. Madelyne and Molly both, as themselves, they wanted to stay. Wanted to stay in this universe where they never were considered a clone, was never trying to measure up. Wanted to stay in a world where they had always were and always had been, so much more than a clone.
But it wasn't to be. The real world was calling, and the last thing she sees, as the Black Mercy lets her go, is the face of Scotty, wavering and sad.
Then she wakes up, and Arthur, real, true Arthur is in her vision. The air smells of weed killer and burned flesh, and all she can do is sob.