Fanfic - Michael/Maria
"In Darkness, See Forever"
Part 1
by Mnemosyne
Disclaimer: If only I could lay claim to them...
Summary: AU fic. What if, in ADDITION to Future Max, Future Michael had paid a visit to the past?
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: R
Author's Note: This idea has been kicking around in my head for a long time, and I wanted to finally write it. Just for your information, the Lethe is the mythical River of Forgetfulness of the Ancient Greeks, which lies between this world and the afterlife. I hope you enjoy! Muse-ic: New Wave 80s rock.
"Just one step at a time,
And closer to destiny.
I knew at a glance
There'll always be a chance for me
With someone I could live for;
Nowhere I would rather be.

Is your love strong enough?
Like a rock in the sea?
Am I asking too much?
Is your love strong enough?"

-Bryan Ferry
"Is Your Love Strong Enough"
(from the motion picture soundtrack LEGEND)


Like the rest of her, Maria's blood was warm.

It ran over his fingers and down his chest like honey, and if it had been honey, he would have grinned and joked with her about times and places for things like that.

Instead, he ran.

"Don't you die on me," he hissed at her fervently. "Don't you dare. Not now. Don't you DIE on me!"

Her normally vibrant eyes were blank and distant as she gazed up at his face. Skin that was usually so pink and healthy was slowly turning ashen gray.

"Baby..." she whispered.

"Shhh, don't talk," he said as they flew through the desert on the wings of his feet. "Save the strength."

Maria nodded, slumping in his arms, her eyes drifting shut.

"OPEN!" he shouted at her. "Keep your eyes OPEN!"

Obediently, she opened them again, and went back to staring at him as if he were an apparition.

In that moment-- that time and place-- Michael Guerin hated himself more than ever.

"I never should have let you come," he whispered hoarsely. "I should have made you stay at HQ."

She didn't answer, but her small hand twitched against his chest.

"I told you there'd be too many," he whispered, fighting back tears. The embankment that led to the pod chamber was growing near. He only hoped they could reach it in time. "I told you I couldn't protect you!"

Her weak hand slid up his chest to rest on his cheek, over the long, jagged scar that stretched from his eyebrow to his jaw. He gazed down at her.

"Love," she murmured.

"Love," he whispered in return.

Maria smiled faintly, and her eyes started to close once more.

"Dammit, OPEN!" he cried, frantic, and started to hike up the rocky hill towards the pod chamber.

She opened them again, but it was noticeably more difficult for her.

"You just wait, baby," he whispered soothingly. "I'm gonna take you back, and we're gonna find you a nice hospital-- nice and clean, with fresh sheets and sterile walls-- and they're gonna fix you up good and perfect. You'll see. Just you wait and see. Just you wait."

She nodded minutely, resting her cheek against his chest.

Blood from the two bullet wounds that had seared straight through her ran freely down his arms, and he wanted to curse out loud for his inability to stop it. Slow it down, yes, but not stop. Why the hell couldn't he have been the healer!

Stumbling through the pod chamber, he cuddled her close as they entered the granilith chamber. The flourescent stalactite structure looked obscenely placid to him.

Michael staggered to the crystal depository, grabbing two.

"We'll be out of this soon, baby," he murmured as he carried her back to the granilith. "And you're gonna get better, and those pretty eyes are gonna sparkle for me again. Ain't that right?"

Maria smiled up at him faintly.

"I love you, Maria Deluca-Guerin," he whispered.

"Love..." she whispered hoarsely, her fingers stroking his scar. Her gold wedding band stood out in stark contrast against her pale hand.

Michael nodded and slotted the two crystals into the base of the granilith. There was an odd swirling sensation in his stomach; a feeling of becoming incorporeal. He panicked for a second, because he could feel Maria disintegrating under his fingertips.

Then, they were whole again, surrounded by the swirling mists of the granilith.

He grinned down into her face, letting the tears roll down his cheeks. "It's gonna be all right, baby," he murmured. "I promise."

Maria nodded.

As the mists of the granilith picked up speed around them, he leaned forward to kiss her full, pale lips. He felt a faint response from her mouth, and smiled.

She was going to make it.

He kissed her harder as, with a bright flash of light, he felt himself disappear.



When he tumbled forward out of the granilith again, Michael panted for a few seconds on the rocky floor before he realized he was alone.

For a moment, he didn't know what that meant.

Then, softly, he began to moan.

It started quietly, but quickly grew in intensity, until it became a full-fledged wail of agony.

"MARIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAA!" he screamed out to the echoing cavern.

The granilith only trafficked in life. It wouldn't transport the dead.

Sobbing like a baby, Michael crawled back to the granilith, pounding at it's circular base.

"YOU STUPID BASTARD!" he bellowed. "She was alive! SHE WAS ALIVE!"

He slammed his fists over and over against the unforgiving metal, until his own blood mingled with hers.

Eventually, he dragged himself away to the corner, and vomited. For several long minutes afterward, he gasped for air, his stomach still heaving.

"Alive...!" he sobbed, throat brick dry and burning. "She....was alive...!"

He thought of what her final moments must have been like. Had she died in his arms as he disappeared? Or had she been so close to death, the granilith hadn't recognized her, and had left her behind, to die alone and cold in the dirt?


He couldn't let himself believe that.

Please, sweet God, let her have died in his arms....


The granilith needed time to regenerate, and Michael didn't know if he had the willpower to go back anyway. To face her cold, sightless corpse.

So instead, he walked.

He made it to the city limits by nightfall, and the first thing he did was break open a fire hydrant to wash his hands. The power of the water would have bowled over a weaker man, and he almost let himself be knocked down. But he remembered how his Maria had always joked with their friends and called him her "big, strong hunk of man."

So he made himself stand.

He was dripping and chilled by the time he started walking again, and he could still feel the heat of her blood on his hands. Like Lady Macbeth, he thought bitterly. Out, damn spot...

Maria had liked Shakespeare, the tragedies especially. At night, by candlelight, she would lie beside him as he read the male parts, and she would recite the female roles by heart. She loved to play Juliet, but her favorite role was Desdemona. "Because she tamed a wild one," she told him one night, her fingers furrowing through his hair as he nuzzled her belly button.

"Not as well as she thought she did, though," he'd told her, kissing across her belly as his long fingers molded her hips. "It came back to bite her in the end."

"Eh, what do playwrights know?" she'd joked, and they'd laughed as he nibbled down her thigh.

//More than we thought, Maria,// Michael murmured to himself as he stumbled down the dark side streets of Roswell.

It was inevitable where his feet would take him, and he didn't try to fight the compulsion. Yet when he found himself on the street beside her house, he stood motionless, staring at her bedroom window. He could see her-- the young teenage her, who had never gutted a Skin or felt the force of an explosion-- curled up on her bed, attempting to make sense of a chemistry book. The look of consternation on her face proved to him that she was probably having little success.

Michael allowed himself a smile, and realized he wasn't breathing. She was there, a matter of yards away... Living... Breathing... A red, welling heartbeat and bright green eyes.


He moaned her name, soft enough that she couldn't hear him through her double glazed windows. But something must have told her he was there; some secret vibe that existed between them, regardless of time and space.

Because she looked up.

And he fainted.


"Come on, Uber Spaceboy. Wake up."

A cool cloth was touching his cheek, and he moaned softly. "Maria...?"

"Yeah, it's me. Open your eyes."

Her voice was gentle, and he grinned. She was using her mothering tone. She always got that way when he'd done something especially hairbrained.

"Hey, ba-" he began, opening his eyes, but cut himself off when he saw her.

The young her.

He groaned as memories flooded his psyche. Her blood on his hands... her limp body... gray, gray... lips silvered by death, not healing...

Bringing his hands to his eyes, he forced himself to swallow down his tears. The look on Young Maria's face told him that she didn't particularly trust him, nor did she look ready to change that point of view if he burst out crying. //Calm,// he told himself. //Calm.//

"So... You're from the future, aren't you?"

Michael quickly pulled his hands away and looked at her sharply. "How...?"

Maria snorted, and rested the cool cloth across his forehead. "We've had experience with your type around here."

He was lying on her bed-- he wasn't going to ask how she'd manhandled him into the house; her strength was one of Maria's many mysteries-- and he gazed up at her. "What do you mean?"

"Your buddy, Future Max, paid my gal pal Liz a visit a few months ago," she said, eyeing him carefully. "Mumbling some mumbo jumbo about how she had to fall out of love with his younger counterpart to save the world. Am I ringing any bells here?"

Michael gave her a confused look. Yeah, Max had talked about that kind of thing, but never seriously, and NEVER in Liz's presence. Since Tess had left, things had gotten harder on the small group of friends and their allies, but they'd been surviving.

"I...don't know what you mean," he said softly. "My...Our Max hasn't gone back in time. He's made noises about it..."

"Maybe you beat him to it, and just ended up here at a different time?"

Michael nodded slowly. "Maybe..."

"Or maybe you're just from a completely different timeline. Maybe you're from the timeline Future Max created when he changed our history."

Michael wasn't paying much attention to what she was saying. He was too preoccupied watching her lips move. Maria's lips had always been one of his favorite of her features.

"You have lips that were made for kissing," was one of his favorite ways to compliment her, because it always made her blush.

"Tell that to the kids who called me Fish Lips in grade school," she'd answer.

"Give me their names, and I'll go teach them the error of their ways."

"How about you just convince me you're right instead?"

They'd always smile at each other then, and lean in...


A hand was waving in front of his eyes, and he snapped back to reality to find a very perplexed Maria staring at him.

"Okay, you just went, like, totally spacey on me," she said. "Like, more than usual for a Spaceboy. You okay?"

He nodded a little. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Can I...?" He made a motion to indicate sitting up.

"Yeah, yeah, sure," Maria said, standing up so he could swing his legs over the edge of the bed and sit up.

"Thanks," he said, sighing and leaning forward on his knees, head hanging.

There was a brief silence.

"So," Maria finally said. "What are you doing here?"

There was a long pause as Michael tried to pick the words. //I came to save your life? Then she would ask where she was, and what do I tell her? I could lie...//


Maria had lie-detection capabilities. She'd know immediately.

Instead, Michael looked up and gazed into her eyes, hoping she'd see his sincerity when he said, "I had reasons. But they didn't work out." He almost started crying again, but swallowed the hot lump in his throat and forced his eyes to remain clear.

Maria gave him a suspicious look. "Well, that's a cryptic answer," she said. "How typically Spaceboyish."

He smiled wanly.

"So do I get to find out why there's blood on your shirt and you're soaking wet?" she asked, very softly.

Michael looked down at himself, and winced as he saw the blood on his shirt. Her blood.

Looking up again, he shrugged helplessly.

Maria nodded slowly. "I see."

Michael sighed. He didn't want to leave her. Sitting here, in this room, smelling the familiar scents that were so indicatively her... He felt certain that he would lose his mind.

He started to stand, however, the word "goodbye" stalling on his lips.

But she stopped him.

"Are we still together?"

The question was said so suddenly, and with such quiet force, he knew she had been thinking it for a while.

Slowly, he sat down again.

"Yes," he murmured, nodding, his eyes locking with hers and holding them. "Yes, we are. We're married."

The sudden pleasure that sprang up in her eyes made his heart lurch painfully.

"Married? You married me?" she chirped excitedly.

He smiled gently. "We married each other."

Maria chewed her lip nervously, a habit she'd never broken. Even under heavy fire, with bombs raining down around them, it was how she calmed herself.

"Tell me?" she asked quietly.


"It wasn't a big wedding," Michael was explaining a few minutes later, as Maria sat cross-legged on the bed in front of him. "Just you, me, the rest of our friends."

"Where did we go?" Maria asked excitedly.

"A little chapel near the Grand Canyon," he answered, smiling at her eagerness. His Maria had always been so easily excited. He'd loved to tease her with good news, until she was virtually begging him to tell her. "Minister Rawley. You almost walked out because you didn't want to get married in a church that seated less than fifty people, but Liz talked you out of that."

Maria blushed, and Michael continued, smiling as the memories flooded back.

"You were wearing a simple white sundress with lemon yellow flowers along the seams," he told her. "It had thin straps. Linguini straps."

Maria laughed. "Spaghetti straps."

He grinned. "Yeah."

"What were you wearing?"

"Blue jeans, a button down and a suit jacket Max loaned me."

"Ooh, snazzy. Very rustic."

"Well, it was a pretty impromptu thing."

"We went all the way to Arizona for an impromptu thing?"

"No, we were all in Arizona on vacation. We got married because we wanted to." He smiled gently, reaching out as if to cup her cheek.

"You liked the Canyon sunsets, and you told me that you wanted to have our eventual wedding picture taken against that sunset. And I asked you, why not the whole wedding?" He chuckled. "You liked that idea. A lot."

Maria blushed again.

"Your mother cried through the whole ceremony," he told her, "and she hugged you so hard when it was over, you almost crushed your bouquet. Valenti managed to sidetrack her, though."

"I can imagine."

Her eyes were dancing as she pictured it. Michael knew she was envisioning it perfectly-- the orange and salmon horizon, with the pale violet arch of sky immediately above them... A small white chapel on a long, empty stretch of dusty highway, just off the main tourist routes. A round, friendly minister who wanted nothing so much as to bind two lovers in holy matrimony.

"I remember our vows," he said suddenly, surprising himself even more than her.

"You do?" she asked quietly. "Did we write them ourselves?"

He nodded slowly. "Yeah." He smiled. "You said that if we weren't going to have 300 guests, we were still going to make it memorable. You even made the minister read you first, just for added interest."

Maria's eyes were soft as she watched him tell the story.

"What did I say?" she murmured.

Michael contemplated her for a moment, then began.

"You said, 'Michael... I have loved you since I first saw your eyes.'"

He reached out to pick her hand up gently from where it rested in her lap, and began to stroke his thumb across her knuckles thoughtfully. "'Your eyes were so dark, but so deep," he continued, "like oceans. I never saw them, because you never looked at me, but the first time I ever looked at your face-- REALLY looked-- I wanted to swim in you. It was like a riptide, pulling me to you.'"

He swallowed as he went on. "'Then that night when I held you, when you came to me in the rain, and I saw your tears... I knew your eyes were oceans, because only oceans could have held so much salt water for so long. But holding you, breathing with you, it was like I built a raft, and I could float in you. Like you'd finally given me enough pieces of solid structure to hammer together a ship and sail the Ocean Michael Guerin.'"

Maria was watching his hand as it touched hers, but he saw the tears on her cheeks anyway; her mouth moving, as if in time with the words.

"'Then, Michael Guerin,'" he continued, "'you told me you loved me. And even though you turned your back, and even though you walked away, and even though I could have killed you for saying it and not letting me return the same... Michael, in that moment, I could have walked on water.'"

He stopped then, and she looked up quickly, tears in her eyes and on her face.

"Oh, God," she whispered. "I... I wrote that. Just... just the other month. In my journal, after the Duprees... When you found your sister, and..."

She swallowed, looking down as she tried to calm herself. When she looked up again, her eyes were still full of tears, but she was smiling.

"I can't believe I actually used them," she whispered.

Michael reached up to stroke her cheek, letting his rough fingertips brush away some of her tears. Her skin had never changed. He'd grown coarse and calloused as the years passed, but Maria had always stayed smooth.

"You made me cry," he murmured in return.

She laughed, trying to ease her tears. "I did?"

He nodded, smiling.

Her eyes found his again, and she blinked away some of the tears. "What did you say?"

Michael sighed, and squeezed her hand, bringing his other hand down to join the first.

"Michael?" she asked, slightly concerned. One angelic hand came up to touch his shoulder, and he winced as he remembered nights under satin. "Michael, are you okay?"

//Breathe,// he told himself. //Breathe, goddammit!//

He nodded. "I'm...I'm fine," he stammered, looking up and finding her eyes. "Just...memories, you know?"

Maria nodded, eyes soft, her hand rubbing his shoulder tenderly.

Michael sighed again.

"I...I said..." He swallowed, steadying himself, before beginning.

"I said, Maria Deluca, I don't know the first thing about words. I never understood why they were so important. Love? What's that? It's four letters joined together to form a definition of something indefinable. "Love" is something easily boxed and shipped and mass-produced. It has no strength."

He looked up then, finding her eyes, and there, on that bed, he could see the sun setting behind her through the window of the chapel. The smile on her face. The halo of her golden hair. Life reliving itself all over again.

"But what you and I have, Maria," he told her, lost in the memory, "is more than four letters and a meaning. What we have defies meaning. What we have defies letters, words, dictionaries and scholars. Poems could never be written about us, because poets don't have enough passion. Essays could never be written about us, because rationality goes counter to what we are together. Songs could never define what we form, because their notes could never be pure enough."

He reached up to touch her cheek again, and his memory-Maria smiled as her real counterpart did.

"But none of them matter, right?" he continued. "None of them can know what it means to be us. Between us, we redefined the word "love." We recreated it, made it our own. Our "love" stands for so much more than four simple letters and a meaning. Our love is eternity."

Both Marias were crying, and he could feel the tears on his palm. His beautiful Maria, crying.

"Shhhh, don't cry," he murmured, stroking their golden cheeks. They pressed their faces into his hand, and he ran his thumb over their cheekbones. "Love."

"Love," she murmured in return, coalescing into one.


"How long were we happy?"

She was cuddled up against his side now, and he stroked her back soothingly as he leaned against her headboard. "We've always been happy," he told her. "Even in the bad times, we've always been happy."

"Did we have a good honeymoon?"

"We were made idols of the honeymooner community."

She laughed softly, her small hand rubbing his stomach. His Maria did that a lot, when he was tense, or when they just wanted to touch one another. He would lie on his back, and she would sit beside him and slide her hand over the hard muscles of abdomen. Sometimes he'd touch her knee, or rub her thigh, or just hold her free hand. But usually, he would just lie there, and let her touch him. Her eyes were all he needed in those moments.

"When...did the fighting start?"

He sighed, holding her closer. It was a reasonable question, even if he didn't want to answer it.

"A few years later," he said gently. "When the Skins' reinforcements arrived."


He nodded. "Better Skins, I suppose you'd call them. Their husks didn't die. They were like us-- myself and Max and the others."

She swallowed, holding him tightly and gazing up at his face. "Is you got this?" She moved her hand up from his stomach to touch the scar on his cheek.

He nodded, but didn't wince. His Maria was always so gentle with him. She could touch that scar and make him feel beautiful. He'd told her that once, and she'd said it was because he WAS beautiful. It wasn't her fault that he never believed her.

"What happened?"

He gazed down into her face. It was so strange, seeing his wife in this girl, but without the memories that had turned her eyes two shades darker than their usual bright green.

"Lonnie," he said softly. "Lonnie happened."

Her eyes widened, but she let him continue.

"I don't blame her for trying to kill me," he said. "Let me explain," he defended at her shocked gasp. "Lonnie was more Vilandra than she was Isabel. Vilandra hated Earth. She wanted Antar. I was trying to stop her-- I was literally between her and the ship home. So she struck."

He sighed. "I'm not saying I liked her, or that I'm glad she did it. But... Lonnie had Isabel's face. And Isabel was like my sister. I could never... completely hate her."

Maria nodded slowly, understanding a little more.

"Of course, you didn't care about any of that," he said, smiling slightly. "And you killed her before she reached the transport pod."

Maria's eyes widened again. "I KILLED her?"

He nodded, stroking her cheek.

Maria looked away, disbelief written across her face.

"You also saved my eye," he murmured against her hair. "My eye and my life."

She looked up in askance.

"Max and Izzy were gone on a special envoy," he said gently. "And Tess had already left at that point. Lonnie...used a rusty straight razor out of Millaman's old abandoned barber shop, and it went deep." He reached up to trace the raised flesh with a fingertip. "Really deep."

Maria winced, and also reached up to stroke the scar.

"But you, Maria Deluca," he said, smiling gently. "You dragged me up and virtually carried me to the Med unit. And when they told you I wasn't as important as the other triage cases..." He shook his head, smiling gently. "Well, you never could take no for an answer."

Maria shifted against him. "What'd I do?"

He pulled her around, so that she nestled on his lap, her cheek pressed over his heart.

"You sat me down on a shattered table and stitched me up yourself," he murmured, caressing her hair. "You didn't have any anesthesia, and you never knew much about sewing to begin with, but you mimicked what you'd seen the nurses do, and you sewed me right up."

"So...I gave you that scar?"

"You cleaned it, tended it. You scared away infection. You saved my life."

She sighed against his chest.

"Hey," he said softly, rubbing her back. "Not a day has gone by that I haven't thanked you for rescuing my eye, so I can look at you properly."

Maria looked up at that, and smiled.

"Really?" she asked.

Michael nodded. "Really."

Maria giggled. "You're such a ham."

"Just dip me in mint jelly."

She laughed again, and snuggled down against him. Michael closed his eyes, letting her warmth ebb through him. At night, when it got cold and the blankets were in short supply, his Maria would lie on top of him like this, and he would wrap some of his shirts around her, and they'd huddle together, sharing body heat. Sometimes they'd switch positions, and he'd press her back into a corner, and shield her body with his own, forming a cocoon of perfect heat around her. And if his shoulders were cold, who cared? Her peaceful profile as she slept was enough to warm him to the core.

"Are the others okay? In the future I mean?"

Michael dragged himself back from his thoughts and sighed. "Yes...and no," he murmured. "We've lost some."

He felt her swallow. "Like who?"

His fingers furrowed into her hair. "Like Kyle. And Valenti."

She tensed on top of him.

"Valenti...died early," Michael explained gently. "There was little pain. The concussion from an explosion took him down." He sighed. "Kyle was never really the same after that. I think that's one of the reasons Tess left. I don't think she could bear to feel his hurt anymore, on top of her own."

Maria nodded, but said nothing.

"Kyle died a little later," he continued, sick with how simply he could say these things. "He was trying to save a photograph of him with Valenti. I think Tess was in it, too." He closed his eyes. "I told him not to go into the building; that he'd never come out again." He shook his head. "I don't think he cared by then."

Maria whimpered, and he rubbed gentle circles on her lower back.

"Max and Liz... They're still alive. And married. As happy as you and I, and that's saying a lot, considering what the world is like."

"What about Alex and Izzy?"

Michael reached up to rub his forehead then. "I...don't know."

"What? What do you mean you DON'T KNOW?"

"I just don't. Nobody does. They went out on a reconnaissance mission the night before last, to a Skin camp about a hundred miles from Roswell. They were due back today... But there was no sign of them."

Maria swallowed. "Oh god..."

Michael nodded. "That's why you and I were in the desert this morning. We were supposed to go find them, make sure they were okay. Rescue them if we had to..." He trailed off, closing his eyes.

"Did we?"

"Did we what?"

"Find where they were."

Michael shook his head slowly. "We got...sidetracked before we could get there."


He was starting to shiver again. His stomach was beginning to boil. He had to get out, get away...


He swallowed. "Yeah?"

"You're going to leave now, aren't you? I've scared you away."

Michael winced, and held her tightly. "No you haven't. But I have to go eventually."

She nodded slowly, and sniffled a little. "Before you go...can I ask you a question?"

Michael nodded, closing his eyes again and letting his soul hum with her voice. "Anything."

"On our honeymoon...were we...virgins?"

He smiled slowly, and started stroking her back again.

"No, we weren't," he told her.

"Did we...with each other?"


She sighed happily. "How did it happen?"

Michael grinned, pleased to be able to tell her another happy memory. "It was simple enough, I guess. I took you to see a movie; it hasn't come out yet, so you don't know it. After the movie, we drove out to the ravine on my motorcycle, and we laid down side by side on my jacket. And I told you how stars work, and you told me why wishes you make on them always come true."

He smiled.

"Then you kissed me. I kissed you back, and our hands started moving, like always. You know, I've never grown tired of touching you. I always discover something new everytime."

Maria giggled.

"But then, something changed," he continued. "Somewhere along the way, I realized that you were underneath me, and I was above you, and our clothes were nowhere to be seen..."

She sighed shakily, her body rubbing against his.

Michael held in a moan, and caressed her back harder. "I remember telling you why we shouldn't do it, all the problems it could cause. And I remember you listing every single reason why we should." He laughed softly. "You're good at debating, baby. Stubborn as hell. And when you were there, so perfect and soft, and all I wanted in the entire universe was to make love to you..." He shook his head, smiling as the memories played out behind his eyelids. "I didn't need much convincing anyway."

Maria moaned quietly against him, her fingers flexing against his sides.

"Where am I now?" she asked.

Michael forced his muscles to stay loose, and not betray his sudden tension.

"You're waiting for me," he whispered hoarsely. "In the granilith chamber. You're probably getting angry that I've left you there for so long."

Maria giggled quietly. "I think I'll forgive you."

Michael bit back a sob, squeezing his eyes closed to fight back the tears. "I hope so," he whispered.

"Will you tell my future self hello for me?"

He nodded, unable to speak from the lump in his throat and the fire behind his eyes.

She must have felt his nod, because she said, "Thank you," and snuggled down on his chest.

He kissed the top of her head.

"Michael?" she murmured drowsily.

"Yes?" His voice was barely working, but he was determined to answer her.

"Will you stay a little longer? Just until I fall asleep?"

He nodded again, still stroking her hair. "Of course."

"Thank you," she whispered. "For everything. You're beautiful."

He winced, his arms tightening around her as she spoke the familiar words...

//I look like Quasimodo.//

//He had a hunchback, not a scar.//

//I'm still pretty hideous.//

//No you're not.// Touch. //You're beautiful.//

He waited until he was sure she was asleep before he let himself bury his face in her soft, warm hair and cry.


He held her for an hour, then knew he had to leave.

//Better to do it now, before she wakes up,// he thought, as he tenderly moved her small body off his lean frame. She curled up on the bed, like a kitten, and he smiled as he remembered how she liked to purr after they made love.

He went to her dresser, where he knew she kept an extra blanket, and spread the warm, fluffy afghan over her sleeping form.

For a minute, he stood there, watching her breathe.


His Maria would never breathe again.

There were so many other things he could have told her. Hard, painful things that had tested their bond to the utmost. He could have told her about holding her through the night after the miscarriage. About how hard they'd cried together when they'd finally had a son, only to watch him die in a building collapse. About how torn apart she'd been when she'd killed Lonnie, and about how many times he'd stayed the knife against her wrist. Things that would change her life. Things that might break her; break THEM. Perhaps she would survive then. Perhaps if he did that, he could go back through the granilith and find his best friend waiting for him, without a wedding band.

His Maria was strong. She could have survived without him.

The question was... could he live without her?

It wasn't a question. It already had an answer. It was redundant to the extreme.

So he would leave her like this, unspoiled by memories of heartache. And in so doing, he could guarantee that one night a few months in the future, under a warm July sky, a lonely alien boy would finally know how beautiful love could be, as he and his lover contemplated the wonder of nature's eternity.

Moving to the side of the bed, he rested his palm gently over her temple, channeling a little power. He couldn't heal, but he could do this. He could cleanse her of his taint, so that her bright green eyes would shine clear the next morning when she woke up and wondered why she was still dressed in her day clothes, and why her homework had never gotten finished.

Eventually, he moved his hand away with a sigh. Leaning forward, he placed a slow, soft kiss on her cheek, savoring her taste.

"Love," he whispered. "Love."

Standing again, he walked to the window and climbed out onto the street. He closed his eyes and didn't look back.



She lay curled in a small ball beside the granilith when he tumbled from the swirling mist. She looked so comfortable, she could almost have been sleeping, if her skin hadn't been so blue and her chest so still.

Michael lay gasping on the floor beside her for a few long minutes, gazing at her placid face. Even in death, Maria was beautiful. Nothing could ever mar that sort of beauty. It was eternal.

Eventually, he reached out a trembling hand to touch her cheek, and moaned when he felt how cool she was.

"Love," he whispered, running his fingers through her silky hair, still vibrantly blonde. "Always."

It took a long time for him to stand, scooping up her lifeless body and carrying her from the chamber. He didn't look to watch his footing, trusting intuition and instinct to guide him.

This was not the future meant for her.

He would go to Max. He would show him Maria's blue body, and ask him how it could happen? How his Maria could be allowed to be torn from him? He would tell Max, in no uncertain terms, that it couldn't be allowed to happen.

Fearless leader needed to fix it. Any way possible.

Perhaps he'd even live to do it.

He walked through the desert with her, towards town, and wondered if he'd ever get there. Night had fallen here as it had while he was in the past, and the cool air around him made her cold body even colder. So he held her close to him, shielding her from the night air, and forming that familiar cocoon of heat. Only it wasn't perfect this time, because the source was only one.

"Love," he whispered again, as if his voice knew no other word.

Only it wasn't a word. It was eternity.

And in that eternity, he imagined he could hear her whisper, "Love," back in reply.


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