Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and situations are owned by the WB. No infringement intended.|
Summary: What if Maria and Michael met in a very different Roswell? (M&M, Maria POV, *VERY* Alt. Universe. )
|"You were supposed to grab Valenti's son."|
That's the first thing I hear when I wake up. My head hurts a little, and it's so dark that it takes my eyes a second to adjust.
I seem to be in the back seat of a car, and after a moment, I realize I'm in an old Army jeep. I haven't been in one of them in years--the government allowed people to have cars by the time I was seven and no one drives jeeps anymore, but I guess the aliens need them to drive around in the desert.
"Well, how could I when he'd already gone and climbed out the window? Besides, you were supposed to have him at the jail, not him and his sister and a bunch of other slack-jawed humans."
I resent that. "Liz and Alex are not slack-jawed!" I turn to glare at whoever said that, and my eyes meet those of the alien I hit earlier, the one who grabbed me in the jail. He looks really angry and I can guess why. I can see the shadow of a bruise on his face, even in the almost non-existent light. He glares at me, and I glare right back, too angry to be afraid.
He laughs and turns away. "Now see what we're stuck with Isabel? "
"You should fix your eye, Michael. Or let me do it." The girl, Isabel, turns around in the front seat, reaches back towards his face. He pushes her hand away. Michael. What a perfectly horribly name for a perfectly horrible alien.
"Both of you messed up." A dark-haired alien guy-the one I saw Isabel gesture at inside the jail--turns around briefly, and then looks back at the road. "How do we know that Valenti will bargain for her?"
"She's his daughter" Michael says impatiently. "That guy, what's his name, he called her sister."
"Kyle," Isabel says absently at the same time I say "Stepsister."
The dark-haired alien turns again and looks at Isabel. "You talked to him?"
"You're supposed to be driving Max" she says sharply, and then turns to Michael. "She's not even Valenti's daughter. What good will she be?"
"How do you know she's not Valenti's daughter?"
Isabel looks away from Michael and Max and glances out at the dessert. "I saw his memory of the wedding. Her mom to his dad. She's not his sister."
Michael's hand, which is wrapped around my arm--holding me in place I guess, though I'm not stupid enough to throw myself out of an old, speeding jeep into the desert that aliens inhabit-especially at night-- tightens and I gasp as a sudden rush of worry and anger hit me. I think I'm going to throw up, the feelings are that intense. I didn't realize I was that upset. I can hear myself gagging and Michael's hand moves away from my arm. He says "What do you mean you saw it?" The worry and anger are gone, or at least knocked back a bit, and I take a big breath and concentrate on not puking. And then I realize that maybe it wasn't me who was feeling that angry and upset.
"He came to the jail-and you weren't there." Isabel says this angrily, glaring at Michael. "And he was really mad and I was just trying to keep him away from me."
"You're lying." Max speaks again and his voice is flat. "I can tell. Why are you lying, Isabel?"
She sighs and says "Keep your eyes on the road Max. And I'm not the one who screwed this all up. Michael is the one who got there late because he stopped to gawk at the girl--who isn't even Valenti's daughter."
"How do you know she's not his daughter? Just because you think you saw something in his son's head? Yeah, Isabel, sure. Whatever. "
Michael turns and his hand wraps around my arm again. "He's your father, right?"
I can almost hear him searching through my memories. They float in my head: the memory of the A I got in music last year (the first A I'd gotten in a class since I was a little kid), the memory of the time Jimmy Ford took me out to eat and ditched me to make out with Cheryl Fontana in the restaurant bathroom, the memory of the wedding--the new dress I got to wear, which was nice, even if it was yellow, and I hear myself say, faintly, "Jim's not my father. He's my stepfather."
The jeep stops. I feel myself pitching forward, and I wonder if I'm going to hit my head. How fitting. Dead in a car accident. Mom is always saying that I'm not a very good driver, and that if I'm not careful I'm going to wreck the car, and then Jim will worry more about me than he usually does, and he has enough to worry about.
At the last second, I feel myself being pulled back. Michael yanks me back into the seat and glares at me again. I feel his hand drop away from the back of my shirt, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Having someone inside your mind is a weird thing.
"What did she say?" Max has turned around completely, and he is staring at Michael. He doesn't look happy.
Michael actually looks a little nervous. "He's her stepfather. They're not related by blood."
"See!" Isabel throws her hands in the air in a gesture of exasperation. I didn't know aliens could do that. Get exasperated, I mean. I didn't think they made mistakes, to tell you the truth. "Now what are we going to do?"
Max closes his eyes and sighs. "Michael, why did you...oh, this is bad. Come on Isabel, we need to talk." He gets out of the jeep and Isabel says "Now? Here?"
Max says, "Yes. Here. Now. Before we get back. If we can think of a reason why we grabbed her, or a way to salvage the situation, we have to do it right now. We don't need anyone figuring out that we messed up. We're already in enough trouble."
Isabel nods and gets out of the jeep. "Hey!" Michael says. "What about me? Don't I get a say?"
Max shakes his head. "No, Michael. You don't. Isabel is right. You were late. And the person who's sitting next to you isn't Kyle Valenti. So you get to keep an eye on her. And we'll figure out how to make this all work."
Michael mutters something very unkind under his breath and slouches down in the seat. Then he sits up again, abruptly, and turns to me. "Why did Kyle call you his sister then?"
I shrug. I'm out in the desert, and it's night. If I got out of the jeep now and ran, the aliens might not find me. And if I found somewhere warm to sleep, and if I was able to figure out where I am in the morning, I might be able to get home. Max and Isabel are distracted, they are standing about twenty feet away from the front of the jeep, and they might have a hard time seeing because Max left the headlights on. It's not much of a head start, but it might be enough.
"Forget it. You'd freeze to death even if you were smart enough to find somewhere to hide."
I look over at Michael. He is smirking at me. Then I look down and see that he's touching my arm again. He's reading my thoughts, and I jerk away from him. "Don't do that!"
He shrugs. "It's not my fault that humans are easy to read." And then he clamps his hand around my arm again. "And I don't feel like chasing you around the desert, so you're staying here."
He's tired. And he's mad at himself. If he hadn't stopped to talk to me--that was really stupid, why did he do that? And who knew I could hit so hard? He'll actually have to fix the bruise on his face. And how come no one ever mentioned that human skin is so soft? He remembers the feel of my hand, my fingers touching his, and he's wondering what the skin on my face would feel like...did he really just think that? About a human? How strange.
I can hear his thoughts. He must realize it at the same time I do--at first, his presence in my mind was simply so bizarre that I thought I was imaging his voice--but I didn't, I can hear him. What did he think human skin was like anyway? Lizard skin? I'm not the one who spends all my time living in the desert like some big reptile. Maybe the aliens have forked tongues or something. Jim says they are a lot like humans, but maybe he was lying. I didn't know that humans could sense alien thoughts too. I thought the thought- seeing process just worked one way. Wow, that sounds strange. I wonder if Jim knows about this. Wait, I can't hear what Michael is thinking anymore. Is he not thinking? Maybe he's tired, or maybe aliens are just really stupid and can't think more than one thought every two minutes or something. After all, they did mess up their plan and...
"You're sensing what I'm thinking?" He's angry again, and hearing the words spoke and reverberating around in my mind is too much, like the time Mom and Jim got home and found me and Kyle trying everything in the liquor cabinet and they both started hollering at the same time. It's an overlapping echo of words.
"Shit!" Michael's hand drops away from my arm and the awful pressure is gone, I don't hear my thoughts and his and him talking. It's not quite so loud in my mind anymore.
"You aren't supposed to be able to do that" he hisses at me and I shake my head. I feel really tired all of a sudden and kind of sick.
"I didn't mean to" I sound whiny and my voice is higher than normal. I think I must be in shock. How surprising. But then, I'm out in the desert, at night, with aliens, who are taking me to who knows where to do God knows what and it turns out that when they look into my mind I can see into theirs. I think I'm keeping it together pretty well, all things considered.
I turn to tell Michael that, then I realize that he probably doesn't care. No, he wouldn't care at all. The thought strikes me as very funny--he can see whatever he wants about me whenever he wants to, and it would take him thirty seconds to figure out all the stuff I've hidden from Mom and Jim (like the fact that I failed my last two chemistry tests, for instance) and I start giggling. The aliens have missed their calling. They could move out of the desert and start working as psychics. I bet they'd make a fortune. I look over at Michael, who is looking at me like I'm crazy and I can just seem him now, doing an infomercial on tv for a psychic hotline, and I start laughing harder.
"Michael! What are you doing?" Max sounds a little alarmed.
"Nothing. She just started laughing."
I hear Max walking over towards the jeep and I'm still laughing. Nothing is really very funny now, but I can't seem to stop laughing. In fact, I'm laughing so hard that I'm crying and I think about how Mrs. Evans, who used to live down the street from me and Mom, laughed when they told her that her husband was dead, that he'd accidentally stepped on a land mine while on patrol trying to make sure that the outskirts of Roswell were safe. She laughed and laughed and laughed and then she started screaming and they had to take her to the base hospital, and she never came back, not even to pack up her things.
I can see Max now, looking at me, and he looks confused. He lifts up his hand towards me, and I move away. I've had my mind read enough for today, thank you very much.
Then I hear Isabel's voice. "You've got to calm her down. See if you can sense anything about if Valenti cares about her too. And hurry up, I'm cold"
Max doesn't move.
"What, you mean me?" Sarcasm laces Michael's voice. "You mean you want me to do something? I thought I was just supposed to sit here, Isabel."
"Shut up and take care of it Michael."
Max closes his eyes. "Isabel. Don't. And I still want to talk to you about Valenti's son."
Max and Isabel start to argue again and I try to listen, but I'm still crying and I'm being really noisy. I'm actually embarrassing myself, but I can't seem to stop.
Michael lets out a disgusted-sounding sigh and grabs my chin, turns me to face him. "Stop it" he says, and I can hear it, him, inside my head. *Stop it, stop it, stop it.*
But I don't want to stop. I want to go home and I don't particularly want to die out here in the desert.
I can feel Michael's sigh settle around my ears. Maybe there are parts of the brain that are set aside to store alien thoughts. Sighs goes by the ears, shouts go behind the eyes.
I hear his chuckle in the base of my skull. He is rooting around in my mind again, searching through my memories. Looking for stuff about Jim.
I don't know what he's looking for. Stuff like that time Jim came and got me at school after I twisted my ankle during gym class? Or stuff like the time he found out that I'd made Mom cry and he got really mad and told me no daughter of his was going to make her mother cry? I was furious with him for that one--and angry with myself for kind of liking him calling me his daughter, and we hollered at each other for a long time until Kyle came in and told us to both shut up. That was so unexpected that we'd both started to laugh.
And there's Michael's chuckle again. He thinks that both of those memories will do very nicely, and that humans have the worst memory filing system ever. I wonder what would have happened if I'd been able to pick up a filing cabinet and hit him with it when we were in the jail office. I bet he would have stayed down then.
He wonders what would have happened if we'd talked longer, if he hadn't grabbed my hand. I wonder why no one told me that having someone inside your head was interesting in a strange sort of way. And how I was glad that there was a new cute guy in town before I found out he was an alien.
And then he's out of my mind and it's just the empty space of my own thoughts in my own head again. I look around for something to focus on and my eyes slide across Max. No, I don't want to look at more aliens. I look down at the floor instead.
Max is the first person to speak. "Did you see anything Michael?"
"Yeah. Valenti will bargain for her, I think."
"Ok. We'll just tell everyone that we couldn't get Kyle," Max stresses the name Kyle slightly, and I look up to see Isabel's face flush a little, see her eyes dart away from Max's face. "and that we took..." He turns to look at me. "What's your name?"
"Maria." Michael answers for me. "Her name is Maria."
"Right. That we took Maria instead. Michael, you get to keep an eye on her."
"Why me?" Maybe I'm imaging things, but I think he sounds sort of panicked by that.
"Because you're the one who fucked up." Isabel gets in the jeep as she says this, and Max shrugs at Michael. "She's right. Who knows what Valenti will do once he finds out we have his daughter."
"Stepdaughter," I say before I think about it, and Max, surprisingly, smiles at me.
"Right. Stepdaughter." Then he gets in the front seat and we head off into the dark again.
We drive for what seems like forever. I'm tired. I'm so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open. But it somehow seems disloyal to fall asleep, like I'd be betraying everyone in Roswell if I did. It sounds stupid, but I want to prove to myself that I can do something, that I can take care of myself somehow. But it's so dark, and so quiet, and the humming of the jeep, the sound of the wind--it's making me sleepy.
Years ago, after all the fighting ended and Mom and I felt safe enough to leave the basement, I was afraid to fall asleep at night. I worried that the aliens would come and no one would be there to protect us, I worried that they would get Mom and I wouldn't be able to help her--I just plain worried a lot. I would lie there at night, tucked into my bed, and I would try so hard to stay awake.
I fell asleep every time. It seemed like the harder I tried to stay awake, the easier it was for me to fall asleep. I never understood it, but it didn't stop it from happening. When Alex and I were out in the desert for that stupid military "training," he mentioned that something similar happened to him. It was kind of nice to talk to someone about it--nice to know that it happened to someone else too. A lot of the time, I feel like I'm always out of step with everyone around me. That's mom's legacy to me, I guess--she's always been a little different too.
Yes, I'll be able to stay awake this time. All I have to think about is where I am and who is sitting next to me, and I feel that little spurt of panic in my chest. The kind of panic that makes your heart beat so hard that your chest actually hurts, the kind of panic that makes you open your eyes and look around in sudden terror.
I can hear Michael breathing, a dark noise near me; all the nightmares of my childhood come to life, the aliens are all around me.... I curl myself into the far corner of the seat, moving as far away from him as possible.
I'm really not sleepy. Not sleepy at all.
But if I do fall asleep--maybe when I wake up I'll be back in Roswell. I'd give anything for all of this to be a bad dream that will end when I open my eyes again.
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