Disclaimer: I donít own the characters.|
Summary: A companion piece to ďFadeĒ and ďBreatheĒ
|Itís finally going to be over soon.|
Michael and Isabel and Tess have tried to heal me, but itís not working, Iím not letting them, though they donít know that. I was hurt, caught off guard by one of the other aliens. They think maybe thereís something strange about the wound, or the alien that caused it. They donít know that I donít really want to get better. I donít know if their powers would work on me anyway; I have changed so much, I donít think I can even heal myself anymore.
Itís actually a relief. I am too tired to fight this. I didnít think I would ever feel this way, but I really want to die.
*** I wish they would stop trying. Isabel has been trying to get into my head for hours, but itís no use.
A few days ago I told them everything. I tried to explain what I thought was happening to me. I told them that they needed to leave soon, and that I wasnít going to go with them. It was a relief to finally say the words.
Tess was angry and disbelieving. Michael and Isabel told me they couldnít leave without me, that we had to stay together, but they looked worried. I could feel their concern for me, it had been a tangible thing for months, but they had both been helpless in the face of my silence. What could they do? We had been told that we had a destiny. They knew I wouldnít leave them to be with Liz, but at the same time, I was slowly disappearing before their eyes. They didnít know what to do. Neither did I. There was no point in talking about it.
I donít blame them; sometimes I feel like Iím just being pathetic. But I havenít been able to change whatís happening. I have tried to be what I was intended to be; a good leader, responsible, shrewd, calm. Iíve been all those things. But I havenít been able to reconcile my destiny with my desires, and it has slowly worn me down. I feel so helpless and lost now, I just want it all to end.
I feel sad for Tess. She spent her entire brief life searching for me, believing in only one thing, that we were meant to be together. Maybe if I hadnít fallen in love with Liz, if I hadnít found what itís like to really know someone, I would have responded to Tess. But by the time she came, it was too late. Tess canít accept that.
I have tried to reach her on some level, but her emotions are just not there, or they are so shut down, after years of living with Nasedo, that I canít get through. She just looks at me, her blue eyes uncomprehending. She doesnít understand why she canít have what she wants, what she was conditioned to want since before she was born. She canít imagine anything else. She wonít even try.
The thing is, I know that she only sees me for what I am supposed to be, what I represent. Not who I am. I canít live with that.
Though I donít know who I am either. Maybe thatís the problem.
God, I used to get so frustrated sometimes, I just wanted to scream. I tried to figure out a way to make this work, to accept my destiny, to commit to living this new life that was handed to us so abruptly. I tried to figure out a way out of it, too. But there is no way out. Except one.
Some idiot said it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Yeah? Try it. Is it really better to know what the sun feels like, if then you have to be in darkness for the rest of your life?
The answer, for me, is yes, but it is not without consequences. Without Liz, I wouldnít really have known what it was like to be alive. My life didnít start until I realized I didnít have to be alone anymore. So I guess I have to say that I would rather have those precious moments of light and warmth, than a whole lifetime of darkness. You can only pray that your time in darkness is mercifully short.
Maybe that makes me weak.
What about the others? Iíve thought about them a lot. I know that Michael and Isabel and Tess are all strong enough without me now that they can do what we were meant to do. These last few months, I havenít been all that helpful anyway, which has been a blessing in disguise. Michael and Isabel and Tess have found out that they are even stronger than they think and can do things they never imagined were possible.
But Iíve just grown more and more tired. I donít care anymore about what happens to me. I just want it to end soon. Iím haunted by ghosts. I dream about Liz, dreams that make me wish I would never fall asleep again.
I saw her come into her bedroom and turn to close the door. She locked it carefully, and I noticed how slowly she moved, like she needed to focus on every little thing to make sure she got it right. Then she started to strip off her clothes, one piece at a time. There was a rhythm to it, pauses in between each motion, deliberate, anticipating; it was like she needed to rest for just a moment, in between. I remember thinking that I should feel different, watching Liz undress, but something about watching her felt ominous, like she was looking forward to seeing something that I didnít want to see.
She moved as though she hurt somewhere inside if she werenít very careful.
She went over to the mirror, and her reflection became crystal clear in my mind. And what I saw was so awful that I woke up choking, gasping for air, staring into the darkness. I can still see her emaciated body, with a handprint, my handprint, glowing obscenely across the middle of her tiny frame, her mouth lifted into a secret smile as she touched her feverish, silvered skin.
The most chilling part of the dream was that she looked at herself with such detached interest, her head tilted to the side, like she was studying the human skeleton in biology class.
I told myself afterwards that it had to be just a dream. But I swore, after that night, that I would never fall sleep again.
I fought it as long as I could. But a few nights later, I saw her sitting on the lawn chair on the roof above the Crashdown, looking up at the sky. It was cold. Her body was so lost in her clothes and blankets, she looked like a tiny bundle of bones wrapped in layers of cloth. Her eyes were huge, and she didnít move at all. At first, she seemed so calm, so peaceful, I thought maybe she was going to be okay, but then I started to sense that something was wrong. She had been just too still, for too long. Then I felt a growing sense of horror as I realized what she was doing.
She wasnít just sitting there, looking at the stars. She wasnít looking at the stars at all. Her focus was entirely inwards.
She was trying to stop breathing.
I woke up, sick and shaking. My cheeks were wet with tears. But I told myself that it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I have discovered that the human will to live can be quite devilish, and I thought maybe the dreams were just a biological ploy to scare the hell out of me and convince me to live, for her sake. I told myself that Liz could never feel that way about dying; she is too spirited, too passionate, too strong. She would never give in without a fight.
And then this happened. I was distracted. I got careless. I was too tired.
Iím getting weaker. The other three are going to use the healing stones and have built the circle around me on the floor. I should have known they would do this. I will have to tell them what I am doing. I am afraid to admit it. I have failed in my destiny, and I have failed at being human. I just want it to end. There isnít anything left for me here.
It will be hard to face Michael and Isabel; I love them both so much. I wish we could have stayed in Roswell, been part of a family, and lived without the fear of our secret being discovered and used against us. I wish that I could have stayed with Liz. We almost made it happen, too; it was almost in our grasp, until we used the orbs and learned of our destiny.
Well, fuck destiny. I hate that word now. The aliens who made us what we are created monsters and didnít realize it. They made us human, but gave us predetermined lives based on when we were completely different life forms, on a different planet, in a distant solar system. They didnít realize that they were interfering with something they didnít understand, couldnít even imagine.
They didnít know what it meant to be human.
I didnít know what it meant, either, until I saved Liz that day, touched her skin and felt life pulsing under my fingers, saw her look at me, and later, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was knew who I was, when I held her in my arms.
When you can taste the stars in someoneís mouth, when you can feel that your very soul is becoming entwined with theirs, nothing else should matter.
How can you describe what it feels like to know that there is a harmony to life, a fluid energy connecting everything? How can you describe what it feels like to be open to it and not afraid? For just a brief moment, I started to get a glimpse of myself, who I really was, and I wasnít afraid of the truth. But itís gone now. And the loss has slowly been killing me.
Iím not making sense anymore.
Look, all I know is, I have been in pain for so long. I lost the one person in this world who made me feel alive, and I am alone again, and I canít stand it. I just canít stand it.
Here they come.
*** Michael stands outside the circle and looks at Isabel and Tess, kneeling with their stones, their heads bowed, and Maxís body on the floor where it has been for so long.
He hesitates, briefly, before putting his hand up to the invisible print. The stone smoothly moves aside and suddenly a flash of light blinds him for a moment, followed by a crack of thunder so close that it shudders through his body. His heart pounding, he peers out into the darkness and the rain, and the hairs on the back of his neck rise when he sees an indistinct form on the ground.
She is lying curled up on her side, like a small child asleep. He looks at her for a moment, and then gently, carefully, slides his hands under her shoulders and knees and picks her up. She is limp in his arms, and as her head falls back against his shoulder he can see blood, which is quickly washed away by the rain. She feels weightless. Her expression is so peaceful, though, and her mouth is lifted in a small, gentle smile.
*** Michael says it so quietly and gently that I donít believe Iím really hearing it at first. I can only stare at the body in his arms.
ďYou have to help her, Max. Youíre the only one who can.Ē
Is this a trick, something that Tess is creating in my mind? No, I can hear her sobbing nearby, this is not something she wants to happen. I tentatively reach out and touch a sleeve, feeling the fabric between my fingers. It feels real.
I was sitting on the ground, wearily bracing myself to face the three of them in the darkness, in that place of rocks and sand, when I heard a voice, Lizí voice, saying my name. In the dim light, a figure appeared, stumbling, her eyes unfocused, blind. She looked weak and sick, and was using the rocks to try and to stay on her feet. I thought I must be hallucinating, but then I realized from their expressions that the others could see her too. Then she spoke again, her soft voice full of grief and love, and I thought I would die from the pain that tore through my heart.
Iím sorry, Max. I couldnít find you. I didnít know where to go. I wasnít strong enough to get there. I love you.
I choked back a cry when she collapsed. I didnít have the strength to move, so I looked at Michael and silently pleaded with him. He stared at me for what felt like an eternity. Then he turned and left the circle.
Now I look at Michael again, holding Liz in his arms, and he just looks at me. I donít have any choice. I have to come back.
Moving hurts so much, but I push myself up off the sandy floor, wincing. My knees are so shaky that I almost fall, and tears of pain and weakness fill my eyes. Suddenly Isabel is there, supporting me under one shoulder. Iím trembling so hard I can barely breathe. I take the last few steps toward Michael, and I reach out and touch her face. Itís so cold.
ĒShe was outside, in the rain.Ē Michaelís voice is soft and wondering. I look up, and there are tears in his eyes. He doesnít know what else to say. There is nothing else to say.
I carefully gather her body to me, keeping my face close to hers. She feels so fragile. I am too tired to stand anymore, so I slowly sink to the floor, cradling her in my arms, murmuring to her, stroking her face and shoulders, trying to awaken her so she will look at me and I can go inside and try to heal her. But, somehow, I know I donít have the strength to help her. I wipe the blood from her face, and rock her gently back and forth, feeling a surge of fear and panic in my throat.
ďStay with me, Liz. Please. Stay with me.Ē
I know she is dying, or dead, and that itís because of me. I know it. And there is nothing I can do.
ďSheís still alive.Ē
Michael says it gently, crouching next to me.
ĒHow the hell do you know?Ē My voice breaks on the words, choking on fear.
ďSheís still bleeding. If sheís bleeding, she canít be dead.Ē A flash of the old Michael comes through in his voice; he knows the irony of that statement. He puts his hand on my shoulder, and I am suddenly calmer. I take a deep breath, and look at him. He looks steadily back.
ďWhat can we do?Ē
I feel helpless; nothing is happening the way I thought it would, everything has changed, and I have no idea what the outcome will be. He doesnít answer. But he looks up at Isabel, and she comes forward and sits down on the floor. She looks at me, and actually smiles. Then they both turn their focus on Liz. Michael rests a palm on her forehead, Isabel puts a hand over her heart. They close their eyes.
I feel like I donít have anything left in me to give her, but suddenly, I can feel energy flowing through all of us, like a warm breeze. I can see Michael and Isabel in my mind, standing in the sun, the three of us facing each other. I have Liz in my arms. We look at each other and suddenly I can feel their love for me, for both of us, and I feel their forgiveness. And without words, I tell them that I love them, too, and that I forgive them, too. And suddenly, the sun is blinding, I canít see anything, I canít feel anything but Liz in my arms, and the warmth wraps around both of us like a blanket.
Itís time to make my own destiny. Even if it ends right here, these few moments of freedom make it all worth it. Maybe this is what death feels like, but for the first time in what seems like forever, Iím not afraid anymore.
*** I wake up slowly, and just lie still and breathe for a while. I donít remember going to sleep. I struggle against the cobwebs in my head to remember what happened, where I am, how I got here.
I realize that there is a body lying next to mine. She shifts slightly, sighs deeply, and nestles closer. I can feel her shoulder blades against my left hand. With the other, I gently brush a lock of hair from her face. She is so beautiful. From the languor in my body, it feels like we have been asleep for hours. I rest my hand on my chest, on top of hers, and fall back asleep.
Hours later, Iím awakened by a sound. I open my eyes, and she is propped up on one elbow, looking at my face, tears tracing a path down her cheeks. The sound I heard was a sniffle. I smile. She looks at me disbelievingly, then smiles softly through her tears, lays her head down, and cries.
*** It has been a year.
It took months for both of us to recover our strength, but as long as weíre together, weíre both fine.
When we arose from our long sleep, the others were gone. I donít know what Isabel and Michael did about Tess; I just hope they are all safe. But they left the orbs behind, and a glowing note on the wall. Stay in touch, it said. We both laughed.
Theyíll be back. Maybe they donít know it yet, but theyíll be back. Even Tess. They wonít be able to help it.
This might be a strange thing to say, but itís scary to try to face the world without fear. You have to make it your own.
I have a destiny; itís with Liz. I know I said that to her before, but unless you know who you are, you canít really know the truth, even if you speak it.
But Liz always knew who she was, and she wasnít ever afraid of the truth. Thatís what saved us both.
But having a destiny doesnít mean you donít have choices. I donít know what to do yet with my freedom. All I know is that it feels pretty incredible. Iím not Max, the leader of a race of aliens. Iím not Max, destined to marry my bride from a previous life in a different solar system.
Iím just Max. And I know who I am now. I know who I am.
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|