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God has a plan for us all.
Clarice had never doubted those words from the moment the truth of them had first washed over her. They comforted her. They quieted her mind in the way the drugs and the drinking never could and gave her the strength to quit both. They gave her peace.
Or, to be completely accurate, they used to.
The news of the train bombing was a harsh, but easily overcome, blow to her confidence. She’d told herself that it wouldn’t impact the plan. She’d give the order for the group to lay low and she’d continue her work in secret. She couldn’t even bring herself to be angry with the children for what they’d done. If she was honest, she was rather proud of them for taking action, even if it was desperate and premature. As for all those souls lost? Well they weren’t really lost, now were they? They were with God and he would judge them as he saw fit.
Yes, she’d rationalized away that sharp dart of fear that came with the first little hitch in her plan. She did the same with the next (Lacy just needed time to come around). As the hits kept coming, however, she felt her resolve weakening. The layer of serenity that had once surrounded her being when she thought about her purpose now felt like it was drawing in on her, taking away her ability to think or breathe.
It’s not that she expected it to be easy. God tests us all the more we fight him. She just assumed that once she’d figured out God’s plan for her everything would fall into place. When Zoe had told her excitedly of her hypothesis she found herself catching the girl’s excitement as if it was contagious. Her senses pricked as if God himself was speaking to her and telling her to take notice. Her body and mind hummed with the shared contentment that she’d found her purpose. She, Sister Clarice Willow, would be an aide to creating life itself and she would harness that divine spark to bring all the lost souls to God.
Now, after everything, she found herself questioning even that. She found herself questioning everything. Not God’s existence, mind you, or if God had a plan for her. Of those things she was certain. No, she questioned her own strength and ability to recognize when God was speaking to her and what he was trying to tell her. Are all the blocks she’d been running into God’s way of telling her that she’s not fulfilling his plan for her? Are they simply tests of her faith? Really, the only thing she has been sure of since the chaos started is Amanda.
Amanda. Now that was unexpected, to say the least. She didn’t expect to find herself drawn to Amanda and plotting to seduce her instead of Daniel. After all, men are easier to sway and it was Daniel who knew where the Avatar was. She didn’t expect Amanda to be passionate over anything, much less a shrine to the people her daughter had had a hand in killing. Zoe had always painted her mother as an immoral socialite who was bored with the gifts of life and healing God had given her. She didn’t expect the need to comfort Amanda to overtake her to the point that she revealed herself as a believer in the One True God. Not that that turned out to be a problem. Amanda was so high at the time that Clarice could have claimed to be Athena herself and the blond wouldn’t have remembered a thing in the morning.
No, the unexpected seemed to follow Amanda around and Clarice found that she oddly enjoyed it. The Sister had gotten to where she was in the Academy, in the STO, and in life by honing her ability to read people and predict their actions. Whenever she would imagine herself coming across someone she couldn’t use her talents on, a spinning sense of dread and being out of control would overtake her. Amanda instilled no such fear in her by being unpredictable. In fact, the past few weeks, Clarice had found herself reveling in the memory of the first time Amanda’s actions had surprised her.
It was during the memorial for the victims of the MAGLEV train bombings. Clarice had no doubt that Amanda would give a speech. It’s what is expected of women of Amanda’s status at times like these. What no one expected, least of all Clarice, was for Amanda to hold up the STO symbol and (almost proudly) declare her daughter a member of the terrorist organization that had killed the friends and family of the people surrounding her. Clarice had to admit to herself that even she wouldn’t have been brave enough to do what Amanda had done. She never could have stood up and revealed to the world even part of who she was, much less have expected them to accept her. Amanda did and Clarice never saw it coming.
If that had been the first time Clarice had been wrong about Amanda’s actions, she may have never pursued the contact between the two of them. She figured Amanda would hide herself away after being cut by a stray piece of glass from a flying bottle meant for her head. She never predicted that either of the Graystones would show their face on anything anytime soon after that, much less on Sarno. There they were, however, Amanda coming to her husband’s rescue with her head held high and taking the hits as they came. She never predicted the blond would allow herself to be so trusting, open, and vulnerable. Zoe had always been annoyingly closed off and Clarice assumed she’d learned that from her mother. She knew now though, thoughts of Amanda letting her watch over her as she slept fueling that knowledge, that Amanda was far too trusting for her own good.
Admittingly, not all of Amanda's unpredictability was something to respect. Clarice had never expected to find Amanda on the bridge that night, the lights behind her making her glow as if screaming out her divinity. She never expected her earlier conversation with the blond to begin pounding in her ears or the cold fear of loss to prompt her to leave the car and hurriedly make her way upwards. She never expected to it to actually be Amanda on the ledge of the bridge, eyes closed and one bare foot testing the air below her. She never expected the sudden strength she felt flowing through her as she encircled Amanda’s body with her arms and pulled her off the ledge so hard they both came crashing down onto the pavement. Most of all, she never expected her frakking car to blow up!
All this she contemplated as she stood looking out over the water that Amanda had nearly given her life to. The water that she’d saved Amanda from. Of course, she thought as she turned her focus from the water towards the people surrounding and questioning the other woman, Amanda had saved her too. If it weren’t for her leaving the car, she’d be as dead as Amanda would have been the moment she hit the water. God’s plan, it seems, was for them to find salvation in one another and Clarice couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just the beginning for the two of them.
She knew what to do.
God had lead them to one another and she wasn’t about to ignore that. Oh, Clarice knew she should be concentrating on bigger things. The Avatar was still out there, waiting to be found. Barnabas wanted her dead and she’d have to get permission to kill that little bastard before he managed to finish what he’d started tonight. The pressure should be worse now than it ever had been, she mused to herself. For the first time in a while, however, she wasn’t worried. Amanda would be admitted to a hospital, of course. You can’t try to commit suicide in public and get out of that ride. She’d announce herself as Amanda’s confessor and stay by her side. When the ports open again, she’ll convince Daniel that she knows of an amazing hospital on Gemenon that would benefit his darling wife.
Smiling to herself at the perfection of God’s work, she slides into the ambulance next to Amanda and takes a shaking hand into her own. Once the doors close and they jerk into motion, Clarice leans in close and gives Amanda a lingering kiss on the cheek.
“My purpose is to save all the lost souls, Amanda”, she whispers, “and I’m going to start with yours”.