|"This Ordinary Life"
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Bad luck and circumstance lead two people to a place they never expected to be.
Authors Note: Spoilers: Through rumors and spoilers for episodes up to Heat Wave. Thanks: I have a lot of people to thank. First, thanks to Brandi, whose suggestion finally got me on the right track to finish this story instead of starting over for the 4000th time! Also thanks to Melissa for reading it for me and giving me feedback on all my wacky ideas and for letting me spoil the story for her in the name of helping out. And thanks as always to the RAC members for all the fanfic, conversation, and encouragement that I couldn’t live without. Thanks! You guys are all the greatest!
She was sitting on the bed brushing the tangles from her long, wet hair when she heard the front door to the tiny apartment being opened. It was nothing to worry about; she knew it was him. She kept brushing out her hair as she heard him call, “Gina!”
“Back here, Danny,” she answered back, even though she was not Gina and he was not Danny. But, they’d played so long at this game that it seemed second nature now. Some days, it was almost even real.
“Hey,” he mumbled as he walked into the cramped bedroom that they shared.
“Work okay?” she asked conversationally.
“Yeah, same,” he responded. She nodded her reply. “Jimmy’s gonna let me work that overtime this weekend,” he put in.
“That’s good, we could definitely use the money,” she replied. He nodded and sat on the side of the bed opposite her and started taking off his work boots. She’d finished brushing out her hair and got up to go into the bathroom to start drying it. When she turned, though, she noticed him wincing and holding his head in his hands. “M-” she started, but stopped herself. “Danny? Are you alright?”
He looked up at the petite redhead before him, his wife, and nodded. “Yeah, just tired,” he assured her.
“You’re sure? Because I could stay home with you tonight. That bar will last without me for one night.”
“No, don’t do that. Go,” he said. “Besides, we need the money. Rent’s due in a week and we’re still a hundred bucks short. Not to mention the power bill, the water bill . . . you need to go in.”
She nodded. He was right. Things were tight financially and even one night of missed tips could mean the difference between whether or not they could buy groceries that next week, so she had to go.
Walking into the bathroom, which was small just like everything else in their one bedroom apartment, she went to the mirror and plugged in her hairdryer. Her shift started in half an hour and she couldn’t afford to be late. Though losing her dead end job sometimes felt like an appealing idea, the thought of how they’d survive even a week of lost wages was unacceptable. They were on their own, no one to depend on but each other . . . she had no other choice.
The bathroom grew hot as she ravaged her long, red hair with the heat from the hairdryer. When it was dry, she took her brush and ran it through the strands again. Looking in the mirror, she stared back at the reflection that met her eyes. It was the face of a stranger.
It hadn’t been too long ago that her life had seemed normal, mundane even. She’d been like every other teenager, getting up for school, sitting through algebra, eating lunch in the quad with her friends. But, as she looked at the foreign reflection in her bathroom mirror, that life seemed to be a million light years away.
She was married now, at least in theory. And her name was Gina. Gina . . . not the name she would have chosen, maybe, but it was the one on the identification he had managed to get them so it had had to do. And not only had her name changed. She looked completely different. Along with the long, red hair, she also had blue eyes now. She wore clothes that were much different than those she’d worn in her other life. Instead of typical teenaged school clothes, her attire now consisted of a wardrobe filled with selections from yard sales and the local Goodwill. Instead of being a waitress in a diner, she was now a waitress in a bar. They thought she was nineteen, of course, but in a way that was true. Gina Martin was nineteen, and she was Gina Martin now more than she was that half-forgotten girl from her own past.
It had started unexpectedly, this journey they had taken together. He’d never wanted to get her involved. Things had just happened. He’d been shot and he’d needed help. She’d been the closest one so he had come to her. Helping him had been the only thing that she could do. Then, after they were both caught up in this whole mess, it had been too late to turn back. So, here they were, two strangers eking out a dismal life together that they really knew nothing about. Each day was just like the last, every second bringing them further and further into the deception they had created for themselves.
She sighed as she looked in the mirror. It was time to stop rehashing all of this for the thousandth time and get herself to work. It would take a good twenty minutes for her to walk the two blocks to the Roadhouse bar where she worked. Without a car, she didn’t have much choice. She quickly dabbed on a little lipstick and smoothed out her hair one last time, then turned and left the bathroom.
He was lying on the bed when she came out. His eyes were closed and she thought his face looked a little pained. His head must be hurting again. These headaches of his worried her, especially when she had to leave him alone during one. The cause of them was most likely something to do with the bullet that had entered his head just behind his ear; the bullet that had started this whole tailspin that their lives were in. He’d been some place that he shouldn’t have been, as usual. She wondered if he was ever going to learn that he wasn’t indestructible. He was vulnerable just like the rest of the world.
Sitting down softly on the bed beside him, she laid a hand on his forehead and his eyes eased open. “No fever, that’s good,” she remarked.
“I’ll be fine,” he assured her.
“Take some aspirin and get some rest. Oh, and eat something. I made spaghetti. Yours is in the refrigerator.”
“Okay, thanks,” he said.
“Call me at the bar if you need me, okay? Promise?”
He nodded. “Promise.”
“I’ll call on my break at ten.”
“Okay, be careful.”
“Always,” she replied and then smiled at him slightly before removing her hand from his forehead and getting up from the bed. He watched her gather her keys from the beat up old dresser they shared and pull on an old denim jacket. She looked back one more time before saying, “Bye,” and walking out of the bedroom. He heard the apartment door close and knew that she was gone. His head still pounded, so he decided to get up in search of that aspirin.
After finding the pills and eating a little of the dinner she had left for him, he wandered back into the bedroom to lie down. His head was killing him and he knew that if he planned to get to work at 6am then he’d need some sleep. The factory he worked in was loud and stressful and going there with a clear head was bad enough. But, going in with one of his headaches was damned near impossible.
Not that he was complaining. He was lucky to find that job. The pay wasn’t great, but it was better than what he’d made pumping gas their first two months in town. With this job and the overtime he managed to get most weekends, they were actually starting to get out of the hole. It wasn’t much, but at least it was something.
This life, this day to day routine they had settled into of him getting up at sunrise for work and working until dark was not what he’d had in mind for them. He hated that she spent all day as a cashier at the local market, then spent all night waiting tables. He hated that they only saw one another in passing or sometimes not at all. But, most of all, he hated that he had brought her into this whole mess. She wasn’t supposed to be in this town, in this life . . . she was supposed to be somewhere else, somewhere better.
When he thought about how he’d turned her life upside down, it renewed the dull ache of guilt that filled him always. That night when it had happened he had known that he should go to his best friend. He knew that Max would know what to do, Max would find them a way out of this. Max always saved his sorry ass. Unfortunately, Max’s house had been too far.
Before long, he was sleeping fitfully. His dreams kept turning back to that day . . . that awful day. It had been the last time he saw Roswell, New Mexico. One life had ended that night . . . and two others had begun. He tossed and turned as the memories played out in his mind yet again.
* * * * * The knock on her window must have woken her because, when she pulled back the curtains to look out, she squinted in the dim light of her bedside lamp.
“Michael?” she’d said in confusion.
“Maria . . . I need your help,” he’d managed to say.
“What . . . what happened?” The look of panic on his face was obvious as it reflected in her warm, green eyes.
“It’s . . . something happened,” he stammered. He was holding his head on the right side as he spoke and she could see blood seeping out around his fingers.
“You’re hurt. Come to the door,” she ordered and turned to hurry out to him. She made it outside before he could make it to the door and put her arm around his waist to help him into the apartment she shared with her mother.
Fortunately, her mom was out of town that night. By some luck, Amy DeLuca had gone to Albuquerque the day before for some kind of New Age convention. Maria wasn’t sure of the specifics, but she was glad that her mom wasn’t home to question why she was lugging a bleeding alien through their living room at two in the morning.
She got him into the hall bathroom and sat him on the closed lid of the toilet. “Move your hand, lemme see,” she urged. He winced as he removed his blood-covered hand from his wound and Maria gasped. “Oh my God, what happened?” she asked.
“Gunshot,” he answered.
“Someone shot you in the head?!” she asked in astonishment. “God, Michael, who?”
His eyes clouded over as he looked down. Softly, almost inaudibly, he responded, “Hank.”
Maria wished that had surprised her. Michael’s stepfather was such a jerk, though . . . it wasn’t such a stretch to think that he’d take out his rage on Michael. All the young man seemed to serve as in that household was a monthly check and Hank’s personal punching bag. Though he’d curved his physical attacks as the boy grew old enough to fight back, Hank was still verbally abusive to Michael. Maria had long worried about how this effected him.
“What happened?” she asked as she started to gently clean around his wound with a warm washcloth. He winced, but let her continue.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Michael answered in reply to her question.
“Michael, you come to me with a gunshot to the head and ask for my help, then you refuse to even tell me what’s really going on? This is serious, Michael. We need to get you to the hospital. And we need to call the police and have them go pick up Hank. That bastard can’t get away with this,” she said angrily.
“No Maria, we can’t do any of that,” he said. She thought his voice sounded pained as he told her this. It struck her immediately as odd.
“And why not?” she inquired.
“He’s dead . . . I think,” Michael said.
“But . . . but . . . how?” she managed.
“Me . . . I did it. It wasn’t his fault,” he said as he motioned to his wound. “It was mine. I shot him first. I dropped the gun as soon as I did it and he must have managed to pick it up. He hit me as I was running out the door.”
Maria’s eyes grew wide in shock. She wasn’t sure what to say. Michael had shot Hank? But why? What in the hell was going on here? She was sure that there was more to this story than Michael was saying, but she decided now was not the time to press him about it. He was losing a lot of blood and she had no idea how bad this wound really was. From the looks of it, though, she was shocked that he was even sitting up straight.
“You need to see a doctor,” she said again.
“I can’t,” he said adamantly. “They’ll arrest me the second I walk in the door. I swear, Maria, I think . . .” his voice trailed off as his eyes cut down to fix on the corner if the tub a few feet away. His next words escaped in a tortured whisper. “I think I killed him.”
“No, Michael, no,” she replied as she tried to comfort him. Her hand reached down to squeeze his tightly. “I’m sure you didn’t.”
“You can’t be sure . . . you don’t know,” he said. She watched his face darken with the pain that these thoughts brought to him. He hated the thought that he’d done such a terrible thing, even to a man who had done nothing but abuse him for the entire time he’d been in his life. A part of Michael still out hope that a tiny part of Hank loved him, wanted him around . . . to think that he’d destroyed that chance was as upsetting as the thought of taking someone else’s life.
“It’s going to be okay,” Maria assured him.
“How?” Michael asked. He turned his face up to look at her and she saw him pleading for an answer. He needed her to know how to fix this, how to make things right. She wasn’t sure that she knew how, but she knew that she had to try.
“If the police really are looking for you then we need to get out of town,” she reasoned.
“Well, you can’t very well get out of here alone. You can barely even walk. Besides, you don’t have a car and I do.”
“No, you can’t leave,” he said firmly.
“What? Michael, we have no choice,” she argued.
“Maria, no. If you leave . . .” he sighed and looked away again. “I’m leaving Roswell tonight . . . and I’m never coming back,” he told her. “If you come with me then you’ll be an accomplice. You can never come back here either. We’ll both have to run. I don’t want that for you, Maria. You deserve more than that.”
Looking down at him, she understood what he was saying. She knew that helping him would put her in as much danger as he was in. If he really had killed his stepfather with that bullet, then getting him out of town would make her a criminal right along with him. She’d never be able to come home again. Her life would change forever. On the other hand, if she let him go alone or try and make it to the Evans’ by himself, there was no way he’d make it. He would either be dead or in jail by morning. To Maria, neither of those things was an option.
“I’m going,” she stated.
“Maria . . .”
“No, I’m going,” she repeated. “You need someone to help you and you’re already here so it might as well be me. We’ll get as far from here as we can, then I’ll find someone to look at your head. Come on, let’s get a move on, we’re wasting time.” She helped him up and led him back to her room. He followed without any further protest.
He sat on her rumpled, sea green bedspread and watched as she pulled out a duffel bag and started to fill it. She took only the bare essentials, quickly filling the bag and zipping it up. “Okay,” she said as she turned back to him. “Wait here while I go put this in the car.” He nodded and she left the room with the bag and her purse. He heard her go out the front door. Moments later, she was back.
“Okay, now we’ve got to get out of here before they have a chance to set up any road blocks. It won’t take long before we’re cornered into this town and there’s no way out.” Michael nodded and allowed her to help him up and lead him out to her mother’s red Jetta that was already running in the driveway. She got him into the passenger’s seat and closed the door, then came around and got in on the driver’s side. She was about to pull out when she felt him reach up and grab her arm.
“Wait, Maria . . . are you sure?” he asked. She looked over at the guy beside her and in an instant she knew her answer. He needed her so badly; his life depended on her at that very moment. And yet, he was willing to let her out of this still. He knew that she was the last option available to him, but he was willing to forsake that to keep from turning her life on end. It just showed her how much she really did mean to him. There was no way she could let him down after that.
“I’m sure,” she replied. Their eyes met for a brief moment and they were both still. Then, she snapped back to reality and realized that they had no time to waste. She had to get them out of Roswell . . . and fast.
They drove through the dark and deserted streets, him with a makeshift compress held to his wounded head, her with her eyes peeled for signs of trouble. She wasn’t sure if she even breathed until she saw the sign for the highway up ahead. As she turned onto the road that would lead them out of this city, Maria took one more glance in her rearview mirror. The place that had always been her home faded in the distance behind her. She looked for a second, knowing she might never see it again, then looked ahead again and turned onto the highway. There was no turning back now.
* * * * *
“Hey Gina, you got a second?” she heard someone ask. She turned to see Claudia, one of the other waitresses, standing behind her.
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I need a favor,” Claudia said.
“What kind of favor?” she asked.
“I need you to work my shift on Saturday night,” she replied.
“I’m working dayshift on Saturday,” the redhead told her.
“I know,” Claudia said, “But couldn’t you work both? Please? My boyfriend wants to take me to the mountains and I really want to go.”
She looked at the girl and wondered not for the first time what she was doing in this town. Claudia was easily 25 years old. She had worked in this bar for over a year and had no other ambitions in life. Claudia was content to wait tables in this smoke-filled place for the rest of her life. She could derive all the pleasure she needed out of life from weekends at the bowling alley and cookouts on Sunday afternoons and the occasional trip to the mountains with her boyfriend. That was life here and that was okay with Claudia and the others. That was just the way things were.
Gina sighed as she realized that this was the way things were for her, too. She was one of these girls. She was expected to take this life as it was and not want more. That sometimes seemed like an impossible task.
“Okay, sure,” she told Claudia. With a shrug, she said, “I could use the money anyway.”
“That’s great!” the other woman squealed. “Thank you so much, Gina! I really appreciate it.”
“Sure, no problem,” she replied and gave the girl what she hoped appeared to be a sincere smile. They were then back to work, wiping down tables and sweeping floors and soon it was time to call it a night at last.
“Thanks again for taking my shift, Gina,” Claudia said as they stood on the sidewalk outside the bar after closing. The others who had helped close were already headed for their cars. Claudia was waiting on her boyfriend and Gina intended to walk as always.
“Sure, it’s no big deal,” she assured her.
“Well, if you and your husband ever want to do something and you need me to take a weekend for you just ask.” The tall blonde flashed her teeth at her companion and a sudden vision of Isabel Evans filled the redhead’s mind. That was a name she hadn’t let herself think about in quite some time.
“Well, there’s Rick. I gotta go,” Claudia said with a wave. “Bye!”
“Bye, see ya,” Gina waved after her, then turned to start walking home. It wasn’t long before they’d pulled off and she was alone in the dark streets of this sleepy town. They’d picked this place, Camden, West Virginia, at random, really. It wasn’t too small of a town that they stood out, but it also wasn’t so big that they couldn’t keep an eye on everything that happened around them. It had been just the kind of place they were looking for.
Still, Camden was far from perfect. Most of the girls that Gina knew were like Claudia. They’d either dropped out of school or just barely finished. They all seemed to have bleached hair and long fingernails and a perpetual habit of smacking their gum in the ear of any person trying to hold a conversation with them. True, they were all pretty nice, but they just weren’t her kind of crowd. She longed for just one person that she could really talk to . . . just one soul that she could really call a friend.
She had that person, of course. He was in bed in the apartment she was walking towards, hopefully sleeping by this late hour. He was calling himself Danny, but changing his name and his hair and his clothes could never hide the man she knew from her sights. Somewhere under all the falseness still lay the boy she’d fallen in love with back in a town she longed to return to and longed to forget.
He’d broken her heart in that town; she couldn’t lie to herself about that. So many nights she had lay awake and cried over his rejection of her that she eventually had no more tears left to cry. The night that he’d finally ended things still played out in her head all the time. It was still the most hurt she had ever been, and still she hated him for that. She wondered sometimes if she could ever forgive him and move on . . . or if she’d just keep sleeping in the bed beside him and trying to make herself dream of a time when he made her happy and nothing else mattered. The answer to that question still alluded her, and she could only hope that she’d find it eventually. Until then, she’d just go on. It was all she could do.
With the heavy, world-weary sigh of a person twice her age, she walked on towards home.
* * * * *
“Mom, Michael’s here, I’m leaving,” Maria called to her mother as she opened the front door to greet the boy who approached the front steps.
“Have fun, sweetie. Don’t stay out too late,” Amy DeLuca called back to her daughter.
“Okay mom, see you later,” Maria replied and headed out, closing the door behind her.
She smiled at Michael as he approached. When he’d reached her side, she tilted her head up to kiss him, then said, “Hey you.”
“Hey,” he replied. She heard something in his voice that told her something was wrong.
“What is it?” she asked.
He shook his head and replied, “Nothing, it’s nothing. Everything is fine, how’re you doing?”
“Michael, don’t give me that shit. Something’s wrong,” she stated as she turned to look straight into his eyes.
“Maria, it’s fine,” he assured her as he took her hands in his. “Really, fine.”
She still didn’t quite believe him, but she knew that what he was worried about would come out in time so she just nodded an okay.
“We better get going if we’re going to catch the movie. You driving?” he asked.
“Nah, you drive,” she said as she handed him the keys to her mother’s car. He took them and they walked together to the car and got inside. Before long, they were on the road.
“I’ve never been to a drive-in movie before,” Maria said as she flipped through the radio stations in search of something to listen to.
“You haven’t? I have once,” he said. “With Max and Izzy. But that was a long time ago.”
“This should be fun,” she said with a smile. He smiled back and nodded, but he seemed like he was somewhere else. She made herself ignore that, though, and kept looking for a decent song on the radio. She finally stopped at one. A whiny, female voice filled the car.
“This is chick music,” Michael complained.
She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “And?”
“And I can’t drive when we listen to chick music. It distracts me,” he said.
“You didn’t have trouble focusing when we were making out during this song the other night,” she teased.
He couldn’t help but smirk. “That’s different.”
She laughed a little. “Well, I’m glad you think so,” she said. “Okay, well turn the station if you want. I can’t find anything else.”
He looked over at her and let his eyes stay on her for a moment. “No,” he finally said, “that’s okay.”
“Michael, you can change it. It’s okay,” she assured him.
“No, this is fine,” he said.
She shrugged. “Whatever.” His strange behavior was getting stranger and she wondered how long it would take him to tell her what was on his mind.
Later, at the drive-in, they were sitting in the car giving little thought to the movie that played on the huge screen in front of them. Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were fighting for intergalactic justice, but all Maria cared about was the guy who was currently kissing the breath out of her.
Michael had his arms around her waist as she sat across his lap with her arms around his neck and her lips locked with his in a frenzied kiss. She could feel his arousal pressing against the backs of her thighs and it made her kiss him deeper. She already had a pretty good idea where she’d like this night to go, and it seemed he felt the same way. When she lowered her hand to the front of his pants and cupped him through the denim material, though, he pulled his mouth from hers.
“Maria, wait,” he said, his breathing ragged as he struggled for air.
“Wh . . . Michael, what do you mean? It’s . . . it’s okay. We can . . . I’m ready . . . I *want* to . . .” She smiled as she lowered her kiss-swollen lips to his neck and started kissing her way up towards his ear.
He took her by the shoulders and pulled her back. “No, we can’t,” he said as he looked at her. The look of hurt that passed over her face almost made him stop, but he knew this was the best thing. This had to end eventually and he wanted it to end before they were both too far-gone.
“I don’t understand, Michael,” she said weakly as she looked at him.
“Maria . . .” he sighed and ran a hand through his spiky hair. “Here, sit over here,” he said as he edged her off his lap and back onto the seat beside him. She was still watching him, waiting for an answer to his unusual behavior. He looked at her and forced out the words. “We can’t do this anymore.”
Shock, hurt and confusion mingled in her eyes before she asked, “Why?”
“I . . .” he wasn’t sure what to say. There had to be words that wouldn’t hurt her, but he didn’t know of any that would insure that she got his message. She was getting way too close to him and he had to put a stop to that right now. “I don’t want you to get hurt, Maria.”
“Why would I get hurt?” she asked.
“Because . . . because I know that you want the first guy you . . . well, you know, you’re first . . . you want him to be special. And I’m not.” He looked to her for a reaction.
She smiled slightly and assured him, “You are very special, Michael.”
“No, Maria, I’m not. I’m not special in the way that you want me to be . . . need me to be. I like this . . . what we have, what we do. I like to kiss you, Maria, but that’s all this is. That’s all this can ever be.”
Suddenly his words hit home. He was telling her that she was just a distraction, just an amusement for him. She was nothing important in his life. She was nothing to him like he had become to her.
“Get out of my car,” she stated vehemently.
“Maria, I’m sorry,” he said as he saw the tears in her eyes and regretted his actions immediately.
“Get out!” she screamed. He could do nothing but obey. He got out of the car and she scooted into the driver’s seat. The window was down and she looked out at him coldly. “You’re a real asshole,” she spat at him.
“I know, I’m sorry,” he replied sincerely.
“Fuck you, Michael. Fuck you! Never, *ever* talk to me again! Ever!” And with that she had sped away. He knew he’d never be the same as he watched her go. And he never had.
* * * * *
He heard the door creak as she came into the bedroom. It was chilly and the heat barely worked in their apartment so she shivered as she stripped out of the jeans and T-shirt she wore at the bar and into a pair of sweats. He felt the bed lean slightly with her weight as she sat on the edge, then scrambled under the covers. Her feet brushed his leg and he felt how icy they were.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
“You’re cold,” he said matter-of-factly.
“It’s pretty chilly out there tonight,” she agreed.
“You shouldn’t have to walk home in that,” he said.
“It’s okay, I’ll survive,” she replied.
“C’mere,” he said softly and before she knew it he was holding her in his arms, her back pressed to his chest. It was a bit of a shock, but she soon settled into the embrace and started to warm up in the process. They may have been posing as a married couple and sleeping in the same bed, but the two of them were far from intimate. Even these slight touches roused something in her that she didn’t know even existed for him anymore. Or at least she had hoped that it didn’t.
“Go to sleep, you need your rest,” he whispered against her ear. She wanted to respond, but something told her not to. If she started talking then the whole thing would vanish. He’d realize that this was wrong and so would she and he’d move back to his side of the bed and leave her cold and alone on her side. She didn’t want that. So, she stayed quiet . . . and they slept.
* * * * *
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