|"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.
|Liz awoke to the sweetest feeling of contentment and security she’d ever known. She’d only felt its like one other time in her life, and she thought she could live happily until her dying day if she could have nothing else besides waking to this feeling every morning until that day came.|
Her slight movements as she snuggled deeper into Max’s chest made his arms tighten reflexively around her just the slightest bit, and a smile tipped up her lips at the unconscious gesture. It was as if, even in sleep, he was determined to never let her go. Waking in his firm embrace felt like heaven. It made her feel cherished and precious to him knowing that he had held onto her so tightly throughout the night, without letting her get so much as a mattress-span away from him.
She tilted her head back slightly to look up into his face, boyish and innocent in sleep, and her heart swelled with loving affection.
He was so beautiful, she thought with a sigh. He would probably blush furiously if she were to ever tell him that, but it was the truth. Now even more so, with the delicate flush of sleep tinting his bronze skin, his hair laying tousled over his forehead in an adorable mess, thick, dark lashes resting with feather-like softness against his cheeks, and lips...
Ah, those lips.
Liz couldn’t stop herself from lifting a fingertip to trace them with the faintest of touches.
His lips were carved perfection. Whether they were tipped up in his familiar half-grin, frowning in that brooding way he had, or most especially when they were loving her, his lips had the power to lift her heart to the highest peaks and open her up to an incredible world of sensation, or make her aware of his every trouble or worry, usually without even the benefit of a word.
Gentle, passionate, and expressive, she mused, as she lightly followed the outline of their perfect curves. Magic lips...
A silent giggle lit her features upon remembering the whimsical notion she’d had a few nights ago.
Whimsical, yes, but there was no denying that what he kindled inside her with those lips was definitely pure magic.
With her slumberous gaze fixed on his mouth, her thoughts turned dreamily towards memories of passionate encounters between them, and desire came stealing over her lazily.
She had some vague idea in mind of waking him with a little gentle magic of her own, when her sleepy morning reverie was interrupted by the sound of Michael’s bedroom door opening.
He strode out, dressed in sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, and seemed to studiously avoid looking at the two of them curled up underneath the blankets on his sofa-bed. Liz watched as he made his way silently to the kitchen and sluggishly began to go through the motions of putting a pot of coffee on to brew.
Liz looked back at Max with a sense of disappointment. It would’ve been sweet beyond measure to rouse him with tender kisses, and begin their day in a sleepy haze of passion, but the opportunity was lost now.
The situation would’ve had the potential to quickly slip out of control anyway, she admitted wryly to herself.
She threw a glance toward the kitchen to find Michael leaning against the counter while staring fixedly at the filling coffee pot. She hated to leave the warm haven of Max’s arms, but she should really go try to talk to Michael while they had a chance to speak privately. She didn’t know when they would get another chance today between work and school.
They’d made several startling revelations the night before, not the least of which had been what they’d learned from the dream the three of them had shared. Michael hadn’t been able to tell them how he knew the girl, Dreyah had been his sister in their other life, he’d just said he was sure it was so. And who knew? Maybe it was. The four aliens often seemed to just know certain things by instinct that they later found out to be true. But it must really be tearing Michael up to think that he’d once had family that he’d left behind on their planet, and to not know what had become of Dreyah.
That wasn’t what Liz needed privacy to discuss with him, though. There was the small matter of this other sister revelation she wanted to find out about.
Giving Max a soft look of mild regret, she leaned down to place a gossamer kiss atop his perfect lips, then eased herself out of his arms, trying not to wake him. She suffered a tiny pang when he didn’t seem to want to let her go, but she finally got herself untangled, and slipped out from under the covers. Gently tucking the blankets back around his sleeping form, she left him with a tender brushing of his hair off his forehead.
Shivering in the early morning chill of the apartment, she grabbed one of the extra blankets Michael had laid out on the chair for them and wrapped it around herself, before following the same path Michael had taken to the kitchen.
“G‘morning,” she greeted him softly.
He glanced at her, then immediately looked away and busied himself with getting out the milk and tobasco to flavor his coffee.
“Morning,” he returned gruffly, feeling a little uncomfortable with her after all his disturbing self-discoveries from the night before.
The blanket trailing the floor behind her, Liz moved to take a seat on one of the barstools, and watched silently as he got out a loaf of bread and began making toast.
After throwing a quick glance over at the couch to check on Max, she said quietly, “Listen- we need to talk.”
He didn’t spare her a glance as he moved to the fridge for butter and his favorite strawberry jam.
“No- we don’t,” he refuted, knowing instinctively that she wanted to bring up the thing with the flashes.
“Yes we do, Michael,” she insisted. “You can’t just expect me to forget what I saw when we connected last night.”
Stopping what he was doing, he turned to look at her and said without heat, “You know what, Liz? I actually do expect you to do that. This was something you had no business seein’ in the first place, and I’m still really ticked at you for not backing off of it last night when I told you to. I know we can’t seem to control what we see in each other’s heads, but you didn’t even try,” he accused. “You were deliberately trying to find out more when you knew I didn’t even want you seein’ as much as you already had.”
Biting her lip, Liz dropped her eyes a bit guiltily. She couldn’t really blame him for being mad. She knew if the situation were reversed she probably would be too. But then, she didn’t have any skeletons that were this huge in her closet.
“Look, I’m really sorry I did that, Michael, but it wasn’t deliberate. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing. But.. now that I’ve seen it, I can’t just let this go. It’s too big. I mean, you just suddenly have sisters popping up all over the place, and you never said anything to anyone. I can understand about Dreyah- you didn’t remember her. But what about that little girl, Michael? Who was she? What happened to her?”
His eyes stormy, he said, “We are not having this discussion, Liz, so just drop it, alright? This is none of your business.”
Her bottom lip tucked between her teeth, Liz looked at him silently, but there was just no way she could not pursue this. She couldn’t understand why he would keep something like this a secret anyway. Surely, at least Max and Isabel had a right to know.
“Why haven’t you told anybody about this, Michael?” she asked bewilderedly. Studying him closely for a moment in hesitation, she said carefully, “You know... I felt how much this hurt you. When we were connected. You should- you should really talk to somebody about it. If not to me, then maybe Maria, or- or Max. I can’t believe you haven’t told him and Isabel about it before now. I mean, how is it even possible that you have a sister on this planet they don’t know about?”
Michael felt completely exposed and vulnerable at knowing that how much she’d seen of his feelings, and he grew angry at her persistence. No way would he ever tell Maria or Max about this. She didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Michael,” she prompted at his silence.
His jaw tight, he quietly burst out, “She wasn’t really my sister, okay? She was just some girl that lived in the same foster home as me for awhile. That’s all you need to know, Liz, so just drop it now. I mean it.”
Stubbornly refusing to give up because she somehow knew he needed to get this off his chest, she asked, “Why did you say you were her brother then? She couldn’t have just been ‘some girl’ if you would do that, Michael.”
“Liz,” he gritted warningly.
“What is the big secret? Did this girl... did she like- die or something?” she asked, almost dreading to know the answer.
“No,” he ground out in answer, then, so low she almost didn’t hear him, “Not that I know of anyway.”
His answer made her more curious than ever, and she asked, “Then what is it? What happened? Where is she now?”
He just looked at her with silent ire, his hands curled into fists as if he’d like to wrap them around her throat.
Her chin tilted up obstinately, she told him, “I’m not gonna let this go, so you might as well tell me, Michael. You know I can find out anyway. In fact, I’d say it’s likely if we keep working on this connection, unless we discover the secret of blocking our thoughts from each other. Is that really the way you want me to find out?”
Michael felt trapped by the truth of what she was saying. It seemed like he only had two choices. Tell her now before she got a chance to see it in living techni-color, or just stop connecting altogether. Somehow, the second wasn’t an option he would consider. Even though the thing was turning his life completely upside down, he had to know the reason for their connection.
Striking out angrily at being cornered, he spat, “Fine! You wanna know all the ugly details? I’ll tell you. But if it tears down any pretty little illusions you’ve got going on, just remember you asked for it!”
Apprehension fluttered in Liz’s stomach at the dire warning, and she braced herself for whatever it was she was about to hear.
“I got put in three different homes in the month after we came out of the pods. Did you know that?” he began belligerently. “Nobody would keep me ‘cause I kept running away. Sara was in the third one. She’d already been there eight months, and the Jessups were talkin’ about adopting her. She–“ he faltered, and took a deep breath. When he spoke again, his voice had lost some of its harshness. “She kinda took up with me as soon as I went to live there. Started callin’ me her brother. And- I sorta didn’t mind. I liked the idea of bein’ her big brother. She reminded me of someone. I didn’t know who at the time, but...now I think maybe it could’ve been Dreyah,” he said quietly.
Liz reached across the bar to lay her hand on his arm in sympathetic understanding, and suddenly she could almost ‘see’ what he was telling her. Not really flashes, but just like, maybe she was actually seeing his memories.
Michael removed her hand from his arm in a slow, deliberate move. She’d forced him into the telling of this, it was a little late to try and be understanding now. Besides, telling her was bad enough, she didn’t need the visuals to go along with it.
Chastened, Liz took her hand back, and waited for him to continue.
Sighing heavily, he went on. “I ran away from there a couple of times, but Sara begged me to stop, so I did. I’d been there a month when Mrs. Jessup got sick. They never really told us exactly what was wrong with her. I think she had some kind of surgery, and she didn’t do so well with it. Anyway, she was in the hospital for almost two weeks. While she was gone, Mr. Jessup started acting... different,” he said grimly. “He’d always been pretty affectionate with Sara, I guess, but it was like he had his hands on her all the time. It got so bad, she started tryin’ to avoid him. I think she knew something was off, but she was too young to really understand what was goin’ on.” He stopped and gave Liz a piercing look to see if she was getting the picture, then his eyes fell away in shame.
Remembering this stuff made him sick to his stomach, and he felt dirty by association. He was sure Liz would never look at him the same way again after she heard all this. She might not look at anything the same way again. He knew he certainly hadn’t after it had happened. And he felt like he was destroying something innocent and pure in her with each ugly word that fell from his lips. It made him angry. At her for forcing the issue and making him tell this, and at himself for even having this inside him in the first place.
Though her stomach was now churning over what she was sure he was going to say next, Liz urged softly, “Go on, Michael.”
He looked at her for a brief moment, the muscles in his jaw bunched, then he crossed his arms and fixed his eyes sightlessly on a point across the room, trying to distance himself as he finished his dirty little tale.
“I did what I could to...kinda run interference, but he was always givin’ me chores and stuff to do to keep me busy. It was a relief to be able to go to school just to get out of the house. Sara started sayin’ she didn’t know if she wanted him to be her daddy anymore, and we just kept praying for Mrs. Jessup to come home so things could go back to the way they were. But then... a couple of nights before she came back... he- he came into Sara’s room.” He swallowed with revulsion at the memory. “She started yelling for me, and when I found him in there I got mad ‘cause he was scaring her, and I asked him what he was doing. I wasn’t really sure what was goin’ on either, but I knew he shouldn’t be in there. I told Sara to come sleep in my room, and he let us go. I think- I think maybe he was embarrassed.”
His lips tight, he rubbed at his eye, wishing he could just stop there. That wasn’t all there was to the story by any means, but he was sure Liz got the idea now. As he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, he thought she looked as if she were prepared to patiently sit there forever and wait him out. And now that he’d started, it was like something was compelling him to finish, like it was a poison or something he had to purge. He’d never told this to another living soul, and if he’d ever even considered it, Liz would have been the last person he would’ve thought to tell it to. But for some inexplicable reason, at the moment, he couldn’t imagine telling anyone but her.
Clearing his throat, he looked at his shoes as he started again. “Mrs. Jessup came home, and for a couple of weeks we thought everything was back to normal. But then he started doin’ it again. Coming into her room. And every time he did, she yelled for me. She said he threatened to spank her if she didn’t stay quiet, but he’d never spanked her before, so I guess she didn’t believe him. She told Mrs. Jessup she was havin’ nightmares, and after the first few times, she started just lettin’ Sara sleep in my room every night. That worked for awhile, until she stopped havin’ her ‘nightmares’, and Mrs. Jessup told her she was gonna have to learn to sleep in her own bed.”
He ran a hand through his hair agitatedly. “We didn’t know what to do. We wanted to tell her what was goin’ on, but he told us if we did, they’d come take Sara away, and we didn’t want to be separated. So we started sneaking out at night.” He smiled tightly. “It made him furious, but he never punished Sara. He started threatening me if she didn’t do what he wanted, but I wouldn’t let her stay in that house at night. So- we kept sneakin’ out, and he kept punishing me for it. But he never did anything at night to stop us from going. I guess he didn’t want Mrs. Jessup to hear and find out what was going on,” he sneered in disgust.
He chanced another glance at Liz to see how she was taking all this, and found her looking at him with an expression of caring concern.
Michael swallowed tightly. How could she be looking at him like that, he wondered in incomprehension. Wasn’t she hearing what he was telling her? He couldn’t understand why her face wasn’t filled with the same kind of revulsion he felt inside.
Liz was horrified at what she was hearing, but if she’d known Michael felt as though her disgust should be directed at the part he’d played in any of this in any way, she would’ve been still more appalled. Her heart was absolutely breaking for him, and for the unknown Sara, for having to live such a fearful nightmare when they’d been hardly more than babies. She’d known he’d had it rough growing up with Hank and everything, but she never would have dreamed he’d been scarred by a brush with this type of abuse. She wondered worriedly how this all ended. The had obviously ended up being separated anyway.
Catching his searching look at her, she swallowed and asked tentatively, “Did he... did he ever, um- you know, do anything? When he went to her room?”
Avoiding her eyes, Michael hesitated before reluctantly replying, “I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I think she would’ve told me.. i-if he had. I’ve always hoped she yelled before he had a chance to do anything.”
When his words fell to a halt, she gently urged, “Tell me the rest of it, Michael.”
They locked gazes for a moment, and Michael could see no hint of judgement of any kind in her dark eyes. A slight crease appeared between his brows, and his eyes fell away. Pulling in a deep breath he went on to finish the story.
“When it started gettin’ cold at night we knew we were gonna have to do somethin’ else. We were sleeping wherever we could find a place. A kid in the neighborhood had a treehouse we stayed in a lot, and there was a park not too far away, or if we didn’t have any other choice, there was an old abandoned house a few blocks over. Sara didn’t like staying there, though. Said the place scared her. It wasn’t really safe anyway. Place was barely standing. It finally got too cold to stay in any of those places, and I didn’t know what else to do except go to Mrs. Jessup and tell her what was goin’ on.” His voice roughened as he said, “Sara asked me if that meant they were gonna come take her away, but I promised her it didn’t. I don’t know how Mrs. Jessup could’ve been so oblivious to what was goin’ on in her own house, but I really believed she cared about us. About Sara anyway. She kept mentioning adoption, but they never really did anything about it. I don’t know, maybe deep down she knew her husband wasn’t fit to be a dad, but she sure never admitted it.” His jaw hardened, and his fists curled into tight fists. “When I told her what was happening she went ballistic. She accused us of lying. Said she wasn’t gonna have anyone who could make such filthy accusations in her house.” He shook his head in disbelief. “She never even confronted him about. Didn’t even ask him. She called Social Services that day. And the next day they came and got Sara. The day after that, social workers from Dade county came and got me. See, she recommended,” he drawled the word bitterly, “that they didn’t keep us together. She told ‘em she’d never had a day’s trouble out of Sara before I showed up. And she advised them not to ever place me in another home that had other kids.” He gave an almost soundless gust of humorless laughter and made an ironic face. “I don’t know if they listened to her or what, but I went through three more homes before I got stuck at Hank’s, and none of them ever had any other kids.”
Liz looked at him with compassionate eyes, her heart going out to him. It didn’t seem possible that she’d known him all this time, and she hadn’t known he’d been through such a traumatising experience. This was the kind of thing that could scar a person for life, and she saw Michael in a completely different light now. She couldn’t imagine being betrayed like that by someone you were counting on to make everything right. Especially at such a tender age. It was no wonder he had so much trouble now reaching out to anyone whenever he needed help with something.
“What ever happened to him? To Mr. Jessup, I mean. Do you even know?”
He smiled sarcastically. “Oh, now there’s the kicker. You’re gonna love this part,” he added in a caustic aside. “I went back to find him a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what I thought I was gonna do, but I’d had a pretty rough day with Hank, and I just got fed up with things, I guess. I think I had some idea that if all I could do was stick out my situation with Hank, the least I could do was go make sure the Jessups didn’t have some other poor kid he was inflicting his sick self on. So I hitched a ride over to the next county. They weren’t in the same house anymore, but I did some checkin’ around. Seems like Mrs. Jessup must’ve finally wised up. Or maybe she kept her blinders on till the end and told herself it was because he was neglecting her or something, who knows?” he said bitterly. “Anyway, they got divorced. Less than a year after Sara and I left. And good ol’ Mr. Jessup- well, he didn’t waste any time goin’ right out and finding himself some hot young thing fresh outta high school to marry. His very own child bride,” he said, his mouth twisting with disgust.
Liz had never felt such intense loathing for another human being. Especially not one she’d never even met. But she was filled with an almost blind hatred for this unknown man who had been the cause of so much pain for Michael.
“Why didn’t you try to tell someone else what he’d done, Michael? The man deserved to rot in jail. Or at the very least, someone needed to force him to seek counseling. He was obviously a really sick individual.”
A little surprised by her vehemence, Michael tilted his head in a tight shrugging motion and replied, “The way Mrs. Jessup reacted kinda cured me of the idea that any grown-ups would listen to me. I figured they all must pretty much stick together.” A wicked glint entered his eyes. “But he didn’t get off completely scot-free. I left a few little surprises for him when I paid my visit 3 years ago.”
Her brow lifted. “What did you do?”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “Just a few of the things I could manage to do with my powers back then. Let’s just say him and little wifey probably didn’t get to have too much fun for awhile after I left,” he said with a vicious smile.
Sharing his feelings of vengefulness, she said, “Well, I’m sure it couldn’t have been nearly what he deserved. I hope he never had any kids of his own. There’s no telling what he went on to do after that.”
Michael shook his head. “No kids. At least- not back then anyway.”
Accepting that with a slight nod, she looked at him closely and asked tentatively, “Um... do you know what happened to Sara after that? Where she is now?”
His eyes fell away, and he shook his head shortly. “Nobody would ever tell me anything back then. I tried tracking her down after I got my emancipation, but she got shuffled around few times, and I guess somebody must’ve changed her name or something, ‘cause I just kind of lost her trail. I thought about hiring a private detective, but I’ve never had the kind of money that would take.” He shrugged a shoulder slightly. “Doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not like I’d actually want to see her or anything. I’d just kinda like to know where she ended up. Make sure she’s okay, you know?”
Liz shook her head slightly in confusion. “Why wouldn’t you want to see her? It sounds like you really cared about each other.”
His expression cynical and droll, he said, “Yeah well, that was a long time ago, Liz. We were different people then. I’m probably the last person on earth she’d want to see now.”
Still confused as to what he was thinking, she asked, “Why would you think that?”
He gave her that patented look of his that said he thought she was being dense and said, “Because, Liz. She probably hates my guts after what I did to her.”
Frowning deeply, Liz tilted her head a bit, and looked at him searchingly. “What you did to her.” she repeated. “What is it you think you did, Michael?”
Angry that she was making him spell it out, he said harshly, “I betrayed her, can’t you see that? I let her down. She trusted me to do the right thing, to make everything better and keep us together, and I didn’t do that. I promised her they wouldn’t take her away if we told Mrs. Jessup. I should never have done that. I shouldn’t have told. I should’ve just taken her with me and run away. I’d already done it a hundred times. I don’t know why I didn’t just do that!” he said with bitter regret.
Liz’s eyes darkened with his pain. Shaking her head gently, she said, “Michael, you were six years old. Not even that old, really. If you want to get technical, you’d only been alive on this earth for a couple of months. How do you think two little kids like that would’ve been able to survive on their own?”
His jaw worked silently for a moment, then he said shortly, “I don’t know how. Maybe we couldn’t have. But at least she wouldn’t have been alone. Who knows where she went next? She could’ve gone on to someplace even worse, and she didn’t have anyone to look out for her there.”
Her face reflecting concern, she said in protest, “That wasn’t your fault.”
“Yeah? Well then, whose was it?” he asked, sounding angry.
Unable to believe he was serious, she said emphatically, “It was his. Mr. Jessup’s. And Mrs. Jessup’s too. How could you think anything else?”
His eyes were turbulent as they looked into hers, and Liz was sure that deep down he did know that. But then they clouded over with guilt and he looked away as he said, “All I know is, I didn’t do right by her. She probably feels the same way about me as I do about Mrs. Jessup. And I wouldn’t blame her.”
Disturbed, Liz just looked at him for a long moment. How could he possibly feel as if he were in any way responsible for what had happened, she wondered in bewilderment. Could he honestly not see that he’d been every bit as much a victim as Sara had been in all this?
Leaving the blanket behind as she slipped off the stool, Liz walked around the counter to stand in front of him, and laid a hand gently on his arm.
Her eyes dark with earnestness, she said, “Michael, what you did does not compare in any way with what that woman did. You were only doing what you thought was right. It was the only option you had left. You couldn’t have known she would turn on you like that. Nobody could have,” she finished grimly, thinking what a blind and cowardly woman she must have been. She tilted her head so that she could see into his down-turned eyes. “How could you think Sara would blame you for that?”
As if it had been timed to happen that way, a few brief images flickered in her mind and provided the answer to the question.
She saw again the scene where the social workers had come to take Sara from the house, but this time they were inside the house, telling her she was going to have to come with them. Then came an image of Sara looking at Michael in confusion and fear, and exclaiming accusingly, “You promised! You said I could stay with you! I don’t wanna go! Please!” Over and over she cried the same words as Liz saw them physically carrying her from the house, until her cries gave way to nothing more than Michael’s name, said in the most pleading, heartbreaking manner.
Liz caught her breath at the wave of helpless despair that accompanied the flashes, and Michael roughly jerked his arm out from under her hand.
With a sound of infuriation, he said, “I don’t want you seein’ that stuff, Liz! Cut it out!”
It maddened him that she was getting such a deep glimpse inside him, and he was virtually helpless to stop it. And the strong sense of saddened sympathy he felt from her got his back up even more. He didn’t want her pity!
Ignoring his look of censure, Liz forged ahead determinedly and addressed the flashes anyway.
“She was just a little girl, Michael. She didn’t understand then. But I’m sure if she remembers it now, she knows you did the only thing you could back then. She wouldn’t blame you.”
Shortly, Michael said, “Just forget it, Liz. I don’t know why we’re even still discussing it. You know the whole sob story now, so let’s just drop it!”
“No. Michael- listen to me,” she said quickly, catching hold of his arm to keep him from turning away. When she realized what she was doing, she hastily dropped her hand.
He’d deliberately adopted a bored expression, but Liz didn’t let that deter her.
“You can’t go around thinking you’re somehow to blame for what happened. Y- you just can’t, okay? It’s not even remotely the truth. You have to know that. What you did... it may not have worked out ideally in the end, but you did save her, Michael. It isn’t realistic to think the two of you could’ve made it on your own, and if you hadn’t told when you did... well, you couldn’t have held him off forever. It’s a miracle you kept him away from her as long as you did,” she said, shaking her head a little in disbelief.
When she thought about it, that really was amazing. She couldn’t imagine the strength it must’ve taken for a six-year-old boy to stand up to a grown man and actually succeed in holding him at bay. Thinking of all the physical punishment he must have taken tore at Liz’s heart. Her lips curved a little sadly as she looked at him with a newly-born sense of affectionate admiration.
Always tough. Always the protector. Even from the beginning.
She wanted to reach out to him again in comfort and empathy, but she wisely kept her hands to herself, and instead gently said, “How can you think she could blame you for anything after everything you did for her, Michael?”
Michael swallowed tightly at the look on her face as she gazed up at him. Just as he’d predicted, it seemed she was looking at him differently, but not in the way he’d expected. She wasn’t reacting at all the way he’d imagined she would. Where was the disillusionment and distaste he’d thought he’d find in her eyes when she learned this about him? There wasn’t a trace of anything like that. And in spite of what he thought he’d felt in her before, she didn’t look as if she was pitying him either. He didn’t know if he could put a name to the soft emotion he could see shining in her eyes, but it filled him with a warmth that was somehow soothing. Her gentle understanding and acceptance seemed to make something inside him loosen its grip on him, and for the first time, he allowed himself to wonder if what she was saying might be true.
He knew it was irrational to think he and Sara could’ve made it on their own that young, but he’d just always felt such a sense of failure towards her that he’d always thought there had to have been something else he should’ve done back then. But maybe Liz was right, maybe there just hadn’t been anything else. There really hadn’t been all that many options open to a clueless six-year-old. He didn’t know if he could let himself off the hook in thinking Sara saw that way, though. Especially if she’d gone on to an even greater hell.
As if she’d read his thoughts- which he couldn’t see how she’d done since they weren’t connected- Liz said, “And even if the worst happened, and she went to another bad home, how much worse would it have been if Mr. Jessup had...had succeeded in- doing what he wanted to do,” she forced the words out sickly. “If he’d gotten caught, she would’ve been taken away anyway. But you kept that from happening,” she looked at him searchingly to see if she was making an impact, and thought he at least looked like he was listening. “And what if she didn’t go to a bad home? What if she ended up with parents who loved her, and she grew up happy? Don’t you think she would thank you for that?”
Inwardly, Michael shook his head. Liz’s naivete was showing through with that one. He had enough experience with foster homes to know that while they weren’t all as abusive and oppressive as the Jessups’, or even Hank’s, they were always lonely. And he couldn’t imagine anyone being lucky enough to find one where they fit in and felt wanted. He’d always believed that the only ones who happened to fall into that kind of situation were those rare sort of people who seemed to lead a charmed life. He and Sara hadn’t been lucky enough to be born that kind of people. Max and Isabel had.
The foster parents he’d come into contact with had mostly just been do-gooders that had always made him feel like some charity case they were doing a favor for. And then there had been those like Hank, who were just too lazy to hold down a steady job and coveted that monthly check from the state. He guessed there were people out there who had genuine motives for taking kids into their home. The Evanses were proof of that. And Max and Isabel had found them.
He doubted Sara had been as fortunate. He found it hard to believe that any good could have come from the situation at the Jessups, and he didn’t know how Liz could entertain the idea either. Hadn’t what he’d just told her done anything to show her what it was really like outside her sheltered little life in Roswell?
Michael fixed her with an unwavering gaze, and as if he were imparting some great truth that she was unaware of, he said, “Everybody doesn’t always get a happy ending, Liz. Real life doesn’t work like that. You keep going on always expecting it to be that way, and you’re gonna end up disappointed.”
“May be,” she said quietly, accepting the possibility of his ‘truth’. “But if you go through life always expecting the worst, you’ll miss seeing all the good, Michael,” she told him, offering a truth of her own.
They looked at each other silently, both aware that they couldn’t be coming from two more opposite poles. But in an odd way, that felt right. Fitting somehow. The feeling didn’t make sense to Michael, and he dropped his eyes in confusion.
Looking at the floor, he gave a slight shake of his head. He was amazed at how easy she’d made all this to tell her. He didn’t know how she’d managed to do that. But it felt like a profound weight had been lifted off his shoulders with the telling of it, and he found himself feeling grateful to Liz.
The corner of his lip curled up in the semblance of a smile, and he said with gruff appreciation, “You’re alright, Parker.”
Liz grinned slightly. High praise indeed coming from Mr. Stone Wall. “You aren’t too bad yourself, Guerin,” she returned fondly.
A brief smile later, they both dropped their eyes shyly to the floor.
Michael cleared his throat and said, “Well...um, I’d better go get a shower. We’ll probably have to try and space them out if everyone wants hot water.”
She nodded in response.
“Help yourself to coffee and toast,” he told her on his way out of the kitchen.
A couple of minutes later, she heard what she presumed to be the bathroom door closing as she was looking through the cupboards for the cups.
Several moments after the muffled rain of the shower sounded through the door, Max silently came up behind her
Liz put down the two coffee mugs she’d found and leaned back into him as he slipped his arms around her waist, and gently pulled her back against his chest. He dropped a soft kiss on the bare flesh at the juncture of her shoulder and neck, and lingered there for a moment before saying with quiet soberness, “You were great with him, Liz. Thank you.”
Tipping her head back to rest on his shoulder, she laid her arms atop his at her waist, and sighed. “How much did you hear?” she asked softly.
“Most of it, I think,” he admitted, brushing his cheek against hers meditatively, then brought it to rest against her hair.
Caressing his forearm lightly with one hand, she said, “He’d hate it if he knew.”
“I know,” Max agreed with mild regret.
When he’d woken to hear Michael telling Liz about his life before Hank, Max had been slightly stunned. Michael had never even told him and Isabel much about his life before they’d found each other again.
Almost immediately, that ugly, plaguing feeling of jealousy had sprang to life in Max. Was it not enough for the two of them to have the capabilities to share their every thought and emotion without the close-mouthed Michael sharing things verbally with Liz that no one else knew, Max had wondered bitterly. And in an extremely weird sort of flip-flop, it had suddenly been Liz Max had been jealous of.
At one time, he had been as close to Michael as he’d thought the other boy would allow anyone, and never once had Michael shared these details with him. He’d asked, but Michael had never been willing to disclose them. After only a few minutes of listening to him disclose them to Liz, Max had realized that he hadn’t exactly been willing to share them in that moment either.
And then, as his story had unfolded, all thoughts of jealousy had quickly fallen away to be replaced by those of horror. Max couldn’t believe Michael had undergone such a horrible ordeal almost as soon as they’d come out of the pods. It made Max feel incredibly guilty. Not only because of the fact that while Michael was suffering through such an abusive experience, he and Isabel had been taken into a loving home, but also because he hadn’t done something more that night to make Michael stay with them when the Evans had found them in the desert.
Max had known he should let them know that he was awake, but he’d been afraid that if he interrupted them, no one would ever get Michael to tell this story again. And Max was almost positive this was something he’d needed to tell. To someone. He was extremely grateful to Liz for being that someone. And for handling it so well.
He just couldn’t believe Michael had been carrying this around all this time. It explained a lot of things about him.
“We just- shouldn’t tell him,” Max said, craning his head back a little to look at her against his shoulder. “That I heard, I mean. If he ever wants me to know, he’ll tell me himself.”
Liz nodded in agreement, but she silently fretted that Michael would find out whether she told him or not. It seemed an impossible feat for them to keep secrets from each other right now. But she told herself that if that happened, Michael was just gonna have to deal. She was actually glad Max knew about it. She thought having this new insight into Michael might somehow help to mend the rift between him and Michael.
They might have gone on to discuss Michael’s revelations in more detail, but both were aware of the fact that he could step out of the bathroom any minute now and catch them talking about it, so they stood there silently for a long moment in one another’s embrace, subdued and contemplative.
Finally, Max gently turned her around to face him, and lovingly framed her face with his hands.
Brushing her cheeks lightly with his thumbs, he rested his forehead against hers and said, “I’m really glad you were here for him, Liz.”
Max wasn’t quite sure how she’d managed to get Michael to spill everything he had, but he thought she’d said all the right things, and hopefully Michael had taken them to heart. He wasn’t sure the other boy would have listened to him if he’d tried to tell him the same things she had. Her tender-hearted concern and understanding had probably been exactly what Michael had needed, and Max loved her all the more for her gentleness and easy acceptance.
Pulling back a little to silently communicate his love through the warmth of his eyes, he tipped her head back and bent to give her a tender kiss of appreciation. Their lips came together and clung at the meeting of their mates, and they moved against each other in soft, languid motions that sent a soothing wash of warmth over the both of them. Mouths dropped open slightly to allow the gentle greeting of tongues, and they slid together sweetly as the kiss continued in a lingering, unhurried fashion.
So involved with each other were they, that they almost missed the sound of the bathroom door opening, but when it finally penetrated their awareness, they regretfully drew apart. They faced Michael in a state of slight breathlessness, and he grimaced at catching them thus.
After a final feathery caress of her cheek with his thumb, Max let Liz go and stepped away from her, an action Michael noted with a slightly lifted brow.
His gaze darted suspiciously toward the sofa-bed and he asked Max, “When did you get up?”
“Just a couple of minutes ago,” Max answered nonchalantly. “You through in there?” he indicated the bathroom with a nod of his head.
Still eyeing him leerily, Michael nodded and stepped out of the doorway.
“I’ll only be a minute,” Max told Liz. “You can have the next shower if you want.”
“Okay,” she replied, giving him a soft smile.
After the door had closed behind him, Michael met Liz’s gaze for a brief instant before looking away, and the hint of vulnerability she saw in his eyes tugged at her heart.
“I didn’t tell him anything, Michael,” she assured him gently.
His head came up and dipped toward his shoulder in a show of indifference, but he ruined the effect by saying sternly, “It never leaves this room, Liz, you got that?”
Feeling a little guilty for misleading him, she answered, “I promise I won’t say anything. But- you should really think about telling him, Michael. And... maybe Maria too,” she suggested tentatively. “You told me, and the world didn’t end or anything. What would it hurt to let them in a little bit too?”
He narrowed his eyes at her and said impatiently, “I only told you because I didn’t have any other choice. But it’s not gonna go any further than this, alright?” He hesitated, and added a qualifying, “Not...not right now.”
Telling Liz really hadn’t been nearly as bad as he had thought it would be, Michael silently conceded, but he didn’t still didn’t think he’d ever be able to tell Maria about this. It would leave him way too vulnerable to her, and he already felt vulnerable enough whenever he was around her.
Happy that he’d conceded at least that much, Liz said, “Just think about it, that’s all I’m saying.”
Meeting her eyes in another darting glance, he nodded shortly, then crossed the room and moved past her to snag one of the mugs she’d retrieved, and pour himself some coffee.
No one else alluded to the incident as they got ready for school and had a cursory breakfast. Instead, they talked about everything they’d learned the night before about Liz and Michael’s connection, and about the dream they’d shared. They all figured Isabel was going to trip out when she heard about it. And they were right.
“This is so exciting, you guys!” she enthused when they briefly filled her in upon their arrival at school. “I’m so bummed I wasn’t there. You dreamed about Vilaandra too, though?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “She was there when Rath and Zan were practicing their powers, and then at the end when the four of them were fighting.”
Frowning, Tess said, “And this...Shaan, or- Dreyah girl was there, but Ava wasn’t?”
The seven of them had gathered in the empty band room before classes so Max, Liz, and Michael could relay the dream to everyone at once. Kyle had elected to skip the meeting, telling Tess she could just fill him in later.
Glancing at Michael and obtaining a silent go-ahead, Liz broke the news to the group for the first time. “Yeah, um- Michael thinks maybe she was his sister.”
“What?!” Maria said, startled, and threw a quick look at Michael for confirmation.
“What makes you think that?” Alex asked, looking at Michael in slight consternation.
Michael took in the curious gazes trained on him, and gave a single dissatisfied shake of his head. “I don’t know. I just- feel it. In this dream, and in the one Liz and I had the other night... when she was together with Rath... I don’t know, there was just something...” he shook his head again in frustration. He wished he could come up with something concrete to validate the truth of what he felt, but all he really had to go on was this instinctive certainty that he was right. “I just feel it, that’s all,” he finished shortly.
“So what happened to her, then?” Maria asked gently.
Locking eyes with her, Michael answered lowly, “I don’t know.”
It pained him to even contemplate it. Because any explanation he could think of made him feel lonely and depressed. Either something must have happened to her before the incident that had claimed the lives of the Royal Four, or she was still alive back on their planet. Otherwise, why hadn’t she been cloned too, and sent to Earth with them? She’d obviously been capable of fighting with them. The idea that they had witnessed her death in that dream they’d had last night had been haunting him, and it filled him with grief to think of the loss of that obviously spirited, giggling girl he’d seen in both dreams of her. The family he never knew he had.
“Well, maybe you can find out. If you guys keep having these dreams,” Maria said soothingly. “Are you gonna try it again?” she asked, addressing the question to all of them.
Max looked at Liz questioningly.
“I’m up for it whenever you guys are,” she replied readily.
“Do you think maybe I could get in on it too?” Isabel asked eagerly.
Max shrugged uncertainly and said, “I think Liz is the key here, and I’m not sure how we’re connecting in our sleep, but I guess if it didn’t work that way for you, Is, you could always just dreamwalk one of us and see it.”
Isabel nodded excitedly, anxious to get through the day so they could try this. She couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of their home planet, and of her alien counterpart.
“What about me?” Tess asked stiffly, feeling a little irritable and out of sorts. It troubled her that they hadn’t seen Ava in any of these dreams. She wasn’t sure what it could mean that she had never been present in any of them. But more troubling still, was the fact that Max and Liz had spent the night at Michael’s apartment with practically no supervision whatsoever. Just what had the sleeping arrangements been, Tess wondered suspiciously. It all sounded far too cozy for her peace of mind. And the fact that they had mentioned nothing about their slumber party plans made it sound even more questionable.
Again, Max deferred to Liz for her response in this rather delicate matter, and Liz forced herself to say, “Sure, Tess. We can try.” It didn’t seem like an entirely safe proposition to connect with Tess while caught in the oblivion of sleep, but what else could she say? No, Tess, you can’t do this because I’m afraid you might see something that will give away me and my secret boyfriend?
“So– Michael’s place? Right after school?” Isabel asked, to set the plan.
Michael shook his head. “No, I gotta work. It’ll have to be after 7:00.”
“7:30 then?” she said in modification.
Everyone agreed, and Maria asked, “Would it be okay if I come? I’d kinda like to be there this time.”
“Yeah, of course it’s okay,” Michael assured her, touching her lightly on the back.
She smiled up at him, then asked somewhat wryly, “Alex? Will you come keep me company while these guys are having their little interplanetary flashback?”
Just as he nodded his agreement, the bell rang signaling the beginning of classes.
“But first, on to more important things,” Alex quipped dryly. “Like learning the correct enunciation for ‘My yellow pencil is broken’ in French.”
The others smiled as they filed out of the band room, then separated to head for their respective classes.
More important things, indeed.
|Part 47 | Index | Part 49|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|