It was an hour later - and Kyle had been staring at the ceiling for at least fifty minutes of that. The discussion with Tess had gone well enough. It was clear that she was somewhat frightened. He was - she said - the only human she'd ever told her secret. He'd told her not to worry - that he'd always be her friend - and she'd given him a worried smile. And he would be her friend - he had no doubt about that. Her Chosen? That he was much less sure about. It wasn't even the part-alien stuff. It was that he was afraid alright - but not of that. Kyle still hurt from his childhood. He had never really gotten over having his mother walk out on him and his father. Would Tess do that? He didn't know, but until he was sure - he didn't know how they could be any more than friends. At least that's what Kyle finally decided - and that's what finally let him fall asleep.
Apparently Tess was having some troubles falling asleep herself. It was another half hour or so before she joined him in his dream-orb.
"Hi Kyle," she said, looking at him nervously.
"Tess," Kyle said, nodding his head, "... I hope you know that I'd never tell. I'd never tell anyone about you. I've seen what the tourists are like at the Crash festival. Nobody should have to put up with being pursued by people like that, and what the FBI did..."
"Kyle, you have to believe that I never wanted all those people to die... and they did die - fourteen of them - just so I could live. I've never felt right about that..."
"Well, as long as we are being truthful... my grandfather helped the Special Unit that day - the day your - your father - was killed. He thought he was doing the right thing - but he wasn't. But really, Tess, none of that matters. You didn't kill those people and you aren't responsible for those deaths - and I'm not responsible for the fact my grandfather helped the Special Unit."
"No," Tess agreed, "... I guess not. But it was so horrible. I can't blame my - my father - not really. He was fighting for his children. But in the end, I'm all that's left - and I'm not sure my existence justifies all the carnage of that day."
"It's not a matter of justification. My grandfather did what he thought was right. So did your father. That's all anyone can do. My grandfather just didn't understand the reality of the situation. All your father wanted was for his family to survive. I wish he had.... for your sake."
"Oh, I survived. Actually, all I know about him is what the orb remembers. The orb itself is so alike him it was almost like having a father."
Kyle saw the tears in her eyes. Suddenly he was reaching around her and holding her near. "Tess, I'm sorry. I wish it could have been better for you - growing up I mean. I thought I had it bad - I didn't - I have a father that would do anything for me."
Tess sniffed and wiped a tear away. "I think the orb feels the same way about me. I think it's more alive - more human - than even it knows. I just wish - I wish I had family. I've been watching the newspapers - TV - the internet - ever since I've been able to understand - hoping that somehow one of them made it out. I even had the orb do a DNA simulation logarithm of what they look like so if I ever saw a picture of them...I never have though. I don't think any of them made it - probably just died in that podchamber after their incubators birthed them."
"I wish they had too, Tess."
"Do you want to see them? I can show you a hologram of the DNA reconstructions the orb did."
"Sure, " said Kyle. Tess closed her eyes and three holographic images appeared, rotating slowly to provide a complete view to Kyle. Kyle chuckled - and Tess looked up at him.
"This one here," said Kyle. "He's never worn his hair like that - not that I've ever seen. His hairdo is a little more - radical - than that."
"You KNOW him???"
Kyle nodded. "His name is Michael Guerin and in two months he's going to marry the girl who's going to be my step-sister. Sure hope he told Maria about the alien business - she's a handful if she gets upset."
"I have a BROTHER who is going to marry your SISTER?" Tess's eyes were filled with tears of joy, and her smile seemed to fill his heart with warmth.
"That," said Kyle, "...is only part of the story. "Maria and Michael and my dad and Maria's mom are getting married in a double wedding ceremony. The one officiating the marriage will be Isabel Evans," Kyle said, pointing at the hologram of Isabel, "... apparently your sister."
"A SISTER? I have a sister????
Kyle smiled. He had never seen anyone so happy. And the fun wasn't over yet.
"Isabel's brother Max Evans - your brother - is already married. He and Liz just got back from - well from wherever they were. They've been gone about six months now. Liz was in an accident and - well, I guess that doesn't matter. They are back now and married and - well, Liz is three months pregnant."
"I'm going to be an AUNT??"
Kyle didn't think he'd ever seen anyone so happy. He looked at her smiling face, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks, and thought he'd never seen anyone so beautiful. Of course, it wasn't just her attractiveness. It was her inner beauty as well. This wasn't somebody that would ever desert her child and husband to run off to try to become an actress. This was the sort of girl - the sort of young lady - that any man would be proud to spend his life with.
"Yes, Tess, you are going to be an aunt."
"This is the happiest day of my life," she said. And Kyle knew - as he held her - that it was the happiest day of his life as well. Seeing her joy - sharing in the joy she experienced actually having a family - it was the happiest he'd ever been as well.
"Tess, I'm glad you have your family finally. I hope you have a wonderful life... and I hope ... if it's what you want - that I'll always be part of that life."
Tess's eyes went wide and she pushed away from him - staring at him disbelievingly for several seconds. Then - without saying a word - her image rippled and disappeared from the dream-orb. Kyle stared at the emptiness in disbelief and sadness, wondering what he'd done or said to drive her away. Perhaps a minute or two went by without him finding any answer to that question.
Then the dream-orb fractured as Kyle was abruptly awakened by the movement next to him - the movement of the mattress caused by a naked Tess
sliding between the sheets to press herself against him.
"I Choose you, Kyle, if you are willing - to share my life, my love, myself, and my children - to share my happiness and comfort my sadness for all the days of my life - and to await you - should I go first - in the Great Hereafter."
"Tess, you don't have to do this. I love you - but I can wait until we get married."
Her lips covered his and kissed them softly. Then she pulled back and looked in his eyes.
"I will honor your wishes, Kyle, if that is your choice. I would love to proclaim our oneness - formally and legally before my sister and our family - but the Choice is between us - and I have made mine."
Kyle looked at those beautiful eyes that seemed so full of love. The words seemed to say themselves...
"I Choose you, Tess, if you are willing - to share my life, my love, myself, and my children - to share my happiness and comfort my sadness for all the days of my life - and to await you - should I go first - in the Great Hereafter."
Exactly when during that his underwear dissolved, Kyle really never was sure.
In the basement, the orb radiated it's own happiness. OK, Tess had cheated a little bit on the Relfar
business - Tess really was supposed to wait until he had actually Chosen before climbing in bed with him - but the orb supposed that she would always be the most Antarean of the four children She wanted him greatly and if you weren't cheating a little on the rules, you weren't REALLY trying. At least she hadn't actually mindwarped the young man, and of course he really was an excellent match for her. They would - the orb was certain - be very happy together.
But now they needed their privacy and he needed to contact the Guardian and make sure the addled creature didn't misinterpret what was going on when it returned from the observatory as an attack on Tess by her co-Chosen.
Even damaged, the Guardian could be a formidable fighter, but it was unlikely it would survive an attempted attack on Tess's co-Chosen, not with Tess by his side, ....or even in their current position for that matter....