Alternate Reality by Lyssa
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Princess woke to a heavy feeling. It took several minutes for her to work out why. One very male, and hairy leg had inserted itself between hers. A similar hued arm draped over her chest, lightly brushing her breast. Last night came back to her in a sudden and blinding moment. Staying completely still, Princess wondered how she could escape this situation. Her heart beating a rapid tattoo, it fought the images her mind evoked at the intimate position.

“Sam,” Mark asked in sleepy tone, his head appearing over her shoulder. He’d noticed her ridged posture and wondered what caused it. In fact, he began to wonder about the woman in his arms. Something felt just a little off since yesterday. At first he put it down to her head injury, but that explaination didn’t add up and it puzzled him well into the night.

“I’m not Sam,” Princess couldn’t lie. She’d never been able too. Finding tears welling in the corners of her eyes, she needed to be strong and reveal the facts. Untangling herself, she sat against the headboard and closed her eyes, making this confession that much easier. “My name is Princess, not because you saw me at the top of a set of stairs at the age of eight in a tiara and pretty dress. I am the last remaining child of Michael, Prince of Luxemburg in the reality I come from.”

“What are you talking about,” Mark stuttered, suddenly afraid for his wife’s mental state.

Then it hit him, the very subtle differences. Even now, green eyes examined him, his reaction as if she didn’t know his thoughts or how he’d react. Sam had been so afraid, no, reluctant to show any affection or respond to him from the moment the Siren landed. From her reactions, Anderson and the doctor knew the truth, but were attempting to disguise the facts.

It all came out. The vortex, the alternative reality. Princess’s hidden feeling for her commander and why she could never have the relationship this Mark shared with Sam. How similar their world were, but how different at the same time. Mark asked questions, his analytical mind trying to separate emotion from fact. Looking at the woman and allowing the words to wash over him, he could see the inconsistencies in the early morning light.

“So you see,” Princess finished sadly, “it can never be in my world and I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. After the war, when Luxemburg is restored, I’ll have to return and try to rebuild my country, as my father would have wanted.”

“You honestly think,” Mark attempted to follow her logic, “you’re Commander is just waiting for the right time? You’re telling me there won’t be a right time?”

“I,” stopping, Princess analysed every interaction between them for the last ten years, “I don’t know. Mark never reveals how he feels about anything. When he leads the team, he can be like ice, cold and calculating. He can’t afford to show any weakness if he continues to lead us into battle. Zoltar would pick up on any small change, and believe me, Mark couldn’t help blaming himself if something happened to one of his team. Spectra would exploit the vulnerability. So you see, our situation is very different to yours.”

“I don’t think it is,” Mark smiled. Sitting up, he leant over to the side cabinet. Taking a hologram from the draw, he turned it on. A parade of pictures flicked across the air between them. All of them held a happy couple at the centre. “Sam and I have to overcome some horrendous odds to be together. We went against every rule in the book and the customs of our society. Anderson, Sam’s mother, has only come around in the last few months. I had to wait until my wife turned eighteen to take her out on a date, even though we’d known each other ten years.” When a questioning look covered Princess’s face, Mark explained, “any girl has to reach her majority before taking a lover, in case she falls pregnant. It is expected that a woman will bear at least four children to sustain the population. If anyone from the World Council got word one of their special girls intended to marry, I would have been sent to the front and certain death. Sam proposed we elope instead of going out on our very first date. Anderson makes sure I have an Earth posting to keep her team preforming at its best. My Red Devil pilots are selected on their suitability as partners for June, Anne and Sue, not their ability, which is why we lose so many.”

“We come from such different worlds,” Princess muttered, thinking of the waste of life for such an inconsequential reason.

“Yet,” Mark reached out and placed a hand on her chin, “they are very similar. Well, Princess, it looks like we need to find a way to get you back to your own reality, because I really want my wife back. I’m going to kiss you and I promise it will be the last time.”

Princess found her heart beat increased with his nearness. As Mark’s lips touched hers, she felt the change in the caress. No longer filled with the passion of yesterday, it signalled a goodbye. In the instant, Princess knew she’d lost something vitally important to her wellbeing, something she could only recover in her own reality. If she ever managed to get back, she’d make sure any kiss her Mark offered never felt like this. In fact she promised she pack such emotion into the caress, he know exactly how she felt, even if they could never been together.

“I’m afraid,” Mark said, looking deeply into her eyes as he pulled away completely, “you and I are going to have to play our part. The war is at a pivotal point and the general public can’t know what’s happened. The general moral of Terra would take a nose dive.”

“I know,” Princess sighed. She couldn’t look Mark in the eye. All her lost hopes and dreams coalesced in that instant. She couldn’t conceive of any situation where The Commander would let his guard down enough to express his emotions. “What might have been,” she exhaled with regret, walling the regret behind a mountain of concrete in the very depths of her imagination.

“Perhaps,” Mark whispered, “you need to look around, experience what Sam has sacrificed and work out if it is what you want when you get home.”

Princess’s gaze came up to Mark’s. His blue eyes were the same shade, but there were ever so slight differences between the two men. They could have been identical twins with the DNA to match, but in personality, nature had effected many changes. Still she nodded, tearing her eyes away.

“What if,” she suddenly found the thought terrifying, “I never get back and Sam stays in my world?”

“Then somehow,” Mark stated in a reluctant sigh, “you and I are going to have to become much better acquainted. Anderson will never allow this marriage to fall apart. It represents too much to the general population.”

Over the next days, while Mark stayed close, even the other girls noticed the slight changes between them. Sparta remained at bay while the affected cities in Europe attempted to recover. The Red Devils went out every day, stopping to help with the clean-up operation, which limited Princess’s time with her alternative reality husband. Still, in the quiet hours they spent together, she began to understand the similarities and recognised their ability to become friends, maybe more, given the time and opportunity.

“Sam,” Anderson called the Swan into her office a week after she’d landed in this strange new world. “Take a seat. It looks like we have a way home. I only hope the people at your end have analysed the situation and come up with the same plan.”

Princess sat in the office and listened carefully. The thought of jumping into a hurricane force wind with the smallest chance of being in the same location as a possible anomaly, and Sam, terrified her. Yet, if it meant the chance of returning home, Princess knew she would take any risk. While she admired this Mark, she knew herself to be a long way from in love with the man.

“When,” she asked, determination in her gaze.

“Two days,” Anderson looked at the girl with narrow eyes. “I am not going to inform the others of the real reason behind this mission.”

“I understand,” Princess smiled sadly. “I hope your daughter arrives safely. I know her husband cannot wait for their reunion.”

Giving the girl a quizzical look, Anderson’s eyes followed her from the room. “You are not like my Sam at all, and yet the same. How can two young women, who look so much alike, indeed have the same training and skill set be so different? Perhaps I have misjudged you, or maybe it is my daughter I constantly misjudge.”
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