|"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"|
|Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, but thanks to Ms. Metz, Mr. Katims, and the WB for letting us play.
Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show, except the final scene in MITC in Liz's room never takes place.
|Michael threw yet another uneasy look at Maria's profile as she drove, about the tenth time he'd done so in the past twenty minutes. The silence that filled the small car was thick and uncomfortable, made doubly so by the fact that it was so unnatural coming from Maria. She'd given him the silent treatment before, but usually even her silent treatments weren't very silent. A cutting remark usually burst free from her every so often after very short periods of quiet. But this time was turning out to be different. She actually hadn't spoken a word to him since they'd gotten in the car. He'd been thinking that maybe this would give them a chance to talk and get this whole thing settled, but after making two attempts at conversation and receiving a glare and a disbelieving snort for responses, he'd fallen silent himself. |
He wasn't really quite sure where to go from here. Normally whenever they had a fight he would just wait her out, and she'd come to him after a couple of days or so and tell him she'd decided to forgive him for his boneheaded stunt, but next time he might not be so lucky. Usually next time he was, though.
Looked like maybe his luck had finally run out.
The thing was, he didn't want to just wait her out this time. He wanted to fix this. He hated thinking that she was hurting because of him. Of course, right now she was acting more angry than hurt, but he recognized that for the defensive cover-up it was. He ought to. He'd used it enough himself.
She just seemed to be stuck on the fact that he was sharing things with Liz that he'd never let her see, never mind that it wasn't on purpose. The thought occurred to him that maybe it would make her feel better about that if he could try to let down his defenses and give her a chance to see flashes from him. But that wasn't even an option he would consider. As much as he dreaded the thought of Liz finding out everything about the way he'd grown up, he hated the thought of Maria seeing that stuff even more. He just couldn't do it. There had to be another way to make this right.
Maria felt Michael's eyes on her for like the hundredth time since they'd gotten in the car, and continued to ignore him. She guessed she was freaking him out with her silence, but she didn't really care. Let him be off balance, she thought spitefully. She certainly was. Her emotions kept see-sawing so wildly she could hardly keep up with them.
Michael was being so sweet and patient with her tonight, and so attentive, in a clueless Michael kind of way, that sometimes she wanted to simply throw herself into his arms and beg him to tell her that it was her he loved and that everything was going to be okay. But every time she felt a softening towards him, she'd remember the way he and Liz had lied to her all week, and she'd get angry all over again. An anger that was all out of proportion to the situation, but she couldn't seem to control it. She almost relished it, actually. It felt much better to focus on her anger than it did to dwell on the painful aspects of this whole thing.
Thinking about that stuff only led to feelings of exclusion and hurt bewilderment. And questions. Millions of questions. Like, what did it mean that they were connected like this? Why was it so strong? If Michael really loved her, then why couldn't he let her see the things he'd let Liz see, instead of just trying to hide the whole thing from her? She understood that they hadn't deliberately shared these things with each other, that it had been against both their wills. Even if she hadn't known Michael well enough to know that this wasn't something he would choose to do, their behavior this past week was enough to prove what a sore point this was with them. But willing or not, the fact of the matter was that now Liz knew all these things about him that she, herself might never know unless by some miracle he chose to tell her about them.
It was the ultimate cosmic irony really. Here was this connection that she would absolutely kill to have with Michael, but instead, Liz was the one who possessed it, and she didn't even want it.
Life could really suck sometimes.
But, the good news was that if all that Future Max stuff kept Liz and present Max from getting back together, it looked like Liz could have the same thing with Michael. He could be like her back-up connection, Maria thought with dripping sarcasm.
She felt a wave of depression hit. Yeah, life could really, really suck.
After uneasy glance number 101, Michael looked away from her profile to glance out the back window, and saw that the headlights of Kyle's car had fallen further behind since the last time he'd checked.
"If you don't slow down you're gonna leave the others behind," he commented. "How fast are you goin' anyway?"
She barely even spared him a glance.
Leaning over to look at the speedometer he shook his head and said with deliberate provocation, "Typical female. Can't even drive safely when you're upset. I knew I shoulda made you let me drive."
When she did nothing more than shoot him a dirty look, Michael began to get a little worried. She must be more hurt than he thought if he couldn't even goad her into a fight with a remark like that.
He studied her frowningly, then sighed. "How long are you gonna stay mad over this, Maria?"
She tried to keep the words from leaving her mouth, she was rather enjoying the upper hand her silence was giving her, but they popped out anyway. "Maybe till the mothership comes to take you home?" she said smiling sweetly.
Encouraged by the fact that she'd finally broken her silence, he tried to soften her further by saying, "Look, we're both sorry we didn't tell you about this, okay? We know we messed up."
Screwing up her face while shaking her head, she asked acerbically, "What's with this 'we' stuff? You're broadcasting in stereo now, or what?" Her gaze sharpened. "Can you hear her right now?"
Impatiently, he answered, "Of course not. Weren't you listening this morning? We can't hear each other unless we're connected. I just meant- that I've heard Liz say that hiding this from you was the wrong thing to do," he shrugged a shoulder, "and I agree with her."
"Of course you agree. Why wouldn't you agree? You two are like, sharing a brain now, right?" she said acidly.
Narrowing his eyes at her, he said tightly, "Are you just deliberately tryin' to piss me off? I am trying to apologize here. Do you wanna hear it or not?"
"By all means," she waved her hand to motion him to go right ahead. "But seeing as how you're new to this apology business, I feel I have to warn you that a simple, 'Hey, sorry I lied' is not gonna cut it."
Scowling, he asked, "Well, what d'you want from me? Blood?"
Smiling viciously, she purred, "Don't make offers you aren't prepared to back up, Spaceboy."
He almost smiled at her use of the nickname. It made him feel like everything was going to be alright. Lips twisting, he asked, "Want me to just open up a vein right here?"
She smirked. "I said I wanted blood, not ice water."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "You sayin' you think I'm cold, DeLuca? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I could prove you wrong," he said suggestively.
"You aren't gonna get a chance to prove anything until you get yourself off my list, Guerin," she shot back, exhilarated at the familiar by-play. It was the first time things had felt normal between them for days.
Growing serious, Michael was silent for a moment, then said uncertainly, "Well, what do you want me to say, Maria? I'm sorry we kept this from you. We haven't been dealin' with the whole thing very well, I guess. We knew you were gonna flip out over it, and you've already been totally flipped out this week over your mom and Valenti, so..." he trailed off with a small shrug of his shoulder.
"Oh, I see," she said with a sage nod. "So you were just doing me a favor by covering up the whole thing. Giving me one less thing to worry about."
"What, you're not buyin' it? It's the truth, Maria. Maybe it was a stupid thing to do, and it only ended up makin' things worse, but we put off telling you 'cause we didn't want to hurt you. So, fine, be mad at us for lying if you want, but we did it for a good reason."
She snorted. "You are so full of crap, Michael. And you totally suck at apologies. The reason you didn't tell me is because you didn't want to have to deal with any of it. The connection, Liz, or me. Liz, on the other hand..." she shook her head. That one really hurt. With Michael, it wasn't such a surprise. He'd lied and kept things from her before, and he probably would again. But Liz...Ever since the Future Max thing, things had changed between her and her best friend. It seemed like they no longer shared everything with each other, and it made Maria really, really sad to think that they weren't as close as they used to be. Shaking her head as if to clear it she said,"Well, that's between me and Liz." Her lips twisted bitterly. "Although, I guess nothing will ever be just between me and Liz anymore, will it?"
Michael made a sound of exasperation. "Yes, Maria, there are things that will be just between the two of you. Liz and I don't know every single thing about each other, and if we have our way, it'll stay that way. You're makin' this thing bigger than it has to be. It's just a connection. That's all."
Unaccountably irritated at his attempt to downplay it, she said snappishly, "No, Michael, it is not 'just a connection'. It's like some kind of super-connection or something. You said yourself, it's so powerful the two of you can't control it. And connecting without meaning to, knowing all this stuff about each other without even trying, and- and... reading each other's minds? That is not 'just a connection'. What I want to know is what makes this thing so strong? And why does it even exist in the first place?"
"Because Max changed something inside her," he answered by rote.
Shaking her head in argument, she replied, "Then why isn't her connection with Max this strong? Why is she even connected to you in the first place? She isn't connected to Tess and Isabel like this, right?" He shook his head in answer, though it had been a rhetorical question. "So, why you? It means something, Michael. That you're connected like this."
Hearing her voice the same thoughts he'd been having since last night, his heart quickened, and he wondered what conclusions she'd come to.
"What do you think it means, Maria?"
Shaking her head, she answered gloomily, "Nothing good."
*~~~~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~~~~*
Tess stared broodingly out the passenger side window of Kyle's mustang as the moon-washed desert landscape rushed past, still aggravated by the fact that she hadn't gotten to ride in the jeep with Max and the others. When she'd asked if she could go with them, Max had given her some song and dance about Liz thinking she'd been dream-walking on her own this week, and she and Isabel wanted to talk about it on the way to Dexter. The story might very well be true, but Tess didn't see why it was necessary for them to discuss it tonight.
It just irritated her that she seemed to keep getting paired up with Kyle tonight. Not that she didn't enjoy spending time in his company. She actually loved to spend time with Kyle. He always made her laugh and forget for awhile that she was different from everybody else. But she'd thought tonight would give her the perfect opportunity to get closer to Max, and it seemed she was being thwarted in that at every turn. The only reason she was having a decent time in spite of it was thanks to Kyle. If she could just ignore all the destiny stuff she might actually be able to relax and have a good time. It felt really good to be a wanted member of the group. But it was impossible not to think about destiny when Max was so close, and she had to watch him with Liz. She couldn't help but see their being together as a threat to everything that was supposed to be hers.
She couldn't believe that Kyle had apologized for not being Max when he'd asked her to dance. She hadn't known she was being so obvious. She'd really have to watch that. It wouldn't do for Max to know how much she still wanted to be with him. If he did, she was certain he'd promptly turn to run in the other direction, and she needed his friendship too much to risk that happening.
Tess was hoping that when they got to the club Max would ask her to dance. But if it looked like he wasn't going to, she decided she was just going to have to be bold and ask him. Surely he wouldn't turn down a simple dance with a friend. After all, that's supposedly what he and Liz had been doing at the restaurant.
Kyle took his eyes off the road to throw a quick look at Tess. She'd been quiet ever since they'd gotten on the road, and he wondered what she was thinking about. He grimaced slightly. Probably the alien commander.
It annoyed him that she couldn't just let all this destiny business go when it was so obvious that it was never gonna happen in this lifetime. But at the same time, he could really empathize with her. He knew exactly how it felt to have something you'd come to think of as yours ripped away, and have to look on helplessly while it was made clear that it had never really been yours to begin with. It was a painful reality to deal with, and he'd spare Tess from it if he could. He'd really come to care about her, and he wished he could protect her from any further hurt. But this was something she was going to have to deal with on her own, and the only thing he could do was try and help her in any way he could. That is, if she would let him.
"So!" he said brightly to pull her from her thoughts. "How 'bout those Mets?"
"Huh?" she shook her head in slight confusion as she came back to the present. "Kyle, you know I don't watch baseball."
"Well, it was either that or the weather. Wanna talk about what a chilly, but relatively clear night it is?"
She smiled. "We could I guess, but what else is there to say about it?"
"Well...it's really very lovely weather for Roswell in December," he said with mock-haughtiness, as though they were discussing it over tea.
"Never having been in Roswell in December, I'm afraid I'll have to take your word for it. But I'm sure I must agree, it is very lovely weather," she replied with the same proper attitude.
Faces returning to their normal expressions, they looked at each other and grinned.
How did he always manage to do that, Tess marveled. Make her go from hopeless and depressed to happy and playful in a matter of seconds. It made her wonder how she'd ever dealt with all this Max and Liz stuff before Kyle had come along. Nacedo had certainly never helped. He'd always just lectured and pushed, only making her feel under more pressure to succeed, no matter how bad the odds had seemed of things working out the way they should.
Her heart filled with gratitude at having Kyle for a friend. This time last year she hadn't had anyone who really cared what happened to her. Now she had two. Three if you counted Sheriff Valenti. She wished she could just be happy with having Max as a friend and not have to worry about all this maneuvering and planning to try and make him more interested. It was just so exhausting. But the state of their relationship seemed to play such a big part in the fate of their world that she couldn't give up on Max, even if she wanted to. Which, for the most part, she didn't.
In the meantime, she wanted to hang on to her friendship with Kyle with both hands. She didn't want to lose him either.
"Thanks, Kyle," she said with soft affection.
Mildly surprised, he asked, "For what?"
"For always making me smile."
*~~~~~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~~~~~*
Alex and Isabel attempted to have a quiet conversation in the back seat of the jeep, but the obvious tension that was emanating from the front of the car was beginning to affect even them. They weren't quite sure why it was there, though. Max and Liz hadn't said a word during the entire trip and they could only wonder if they'd had a fight or something.
Alex looked at her questioningly, and she shrugged her shoulders uncertainly.
Max and Liz were oblivious to the murmurings coming from the backseat as they fought to keep their hands to themselves. Liz's were clasped tightly together in her lap, and Max's were wrapped around the steering wheel in a strangle-hold. Their eyes kept reaching out to each other and connecting heatedly, but that was as close to physical contact they could allow themselves with Alex and Isabel in the jeep.
Between needing Liz so badly he ached, and trying to keep up a constant watch on the road behind them, Max was wound so tightly he was ready to jump out of his own skin.
It was going to be an incredibly long and uncomfortable night, if they didn't manage to get some alone time soon.
Their eyes met yearningly again, and Liz knew that he was dying to touch her as much as she needed to touch him. It was in the midst of this extreme state of deprivation that she realized that they hadn't kissed since yesterday. The realization seemed to deepen her craving for him to an even greater extent.
If they didn't find somewhere to be alone when they got there, they were definitely going to explode before this incredibly long night was over.
Telepathy or not, they wouldn't have been surprised to know that in that, they were in emphatic agreement.
|Part 30 | Index | Part 32|
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