Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and situations are owned by the WB. No infringement intended.
Summary: M&M, Maria POV, *VERY* Alt. Universe.
Authors Note: The Pueblo people are thought to be descendants of the Anasazi, who built some amazingly beautiful cliff dwellings. For more information: http://www.indianpueblo.org/ and for pictures: http://www.southwest-usa.com/profiles/bandeliercliff.jpg http://www.aqd.nps.gov/grd/parks/band/photos.htm
I didn't wake up back in Roswell. I have been out here, in the desert, for about a week now. And things have not turned out like I thought they would, and I am confused.
I did actually fall asleep in the jeep that night, and I woke up because we finally stopped. I couldn't see the lights from the base at all, so I knew we were way out in the desert--farther out than I'd ever been before. Isabel disappeared out of the jeep as soon as we stopped, wandering off towards a large wall of rock.
Max got out and walked over towards the rock too. I just sat there and looked around. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it was more than what I saw, which was just rock and night and stars.
"Come on," Michael said. "Let's go."
He got out of the jeep and after a moment, I followed. Michael walked into the rock, which turned out to be some sort of bizarre stoneformation.
That was my first big shock. I just assumed that the aliens lived in houses like we do. I don't know why I assumed that, because Mom is always insisting that the fact that the aliens live like the Pueblos' ancestors used to must mean something, and Jim is always telling her that it just means that no one, human or alien, would want to try to build a house on sand.
Anyway, Mom was right about the Pueblo thing. The aliens lived in this apartment building type structure, except it was built into rock. Michael saw the look on my face that first night and I could practically hear him getting offended by all my gaping. "Look," he'd said, "it's not like we can build a subdivision out here. We have to make do with what we have." And I suppose they'd done ok. I mean, they had just about everything we do. But it just wasn't what Iexpected.
My first night there, Michael walked me to what looked like a solid wall of rock and stared at me till I tried to find a door. There didn't seem to be one and I ended up just standing there, staring down the hallway, listening to how quiet it was.
He cursed a bit, muttered that all humans were useless, and then he did something that opened part of the rock and pushed me inside. Aside from the interesting door thing--the only sign of non-human technology I'd seen, everything about the room I was in was normal. Bed, window with a view of dark sky, bathroom, carpet. Stone walls were the only things that separated it from one of the army's dormitory rooms in the base at Roswell.
I guessed I was supposed to sleep, but I was wide awake again and I was scared. I was inside some enormous rock with who knows how many aliens--it was like something out of those horrible survival films, with titles like "What To Do If You Are Captured," that they used to show at school or in training sessions. So far, I hadn't done anything like I was supposed to. I forgot to leave any clues that could help trackers find me, I hadn't tried to find out where we were going so I could figure out how far I was from Roswell, and I didn't know how I could find any useful information, since I wasn't sure why I was there. I'd always assumed I'd be safe, I always assumed that those films were a joke, and that nothing would ever happen to me.
Suddenly the room was too small, the stone walls too oppressive and close. I thought that if I was outside, maybe I could at least guess where Roswell was, maybe I wouldn't feel so scared. I went back over to where I thought the door was and pressed against the rock. I didn't find anything and I broke one of my fingernails. As stupid and as trivial as that was, that split fingernail is what made me start crying. I looked down at my finger, at the piece of nail that was hanging crookedly, and I just started to bawl.
Then the door opened, and I stepped back in surprise. I wiped my face and looked out into the hallway.
Michael was sitting on the floor across from the door. He wasn't moving, but I could see that his eyes were open, because the light from my window, as dim as it was, was reflecting off them. After a moment, I said his name hesitantly. I go to school with four Michaels, I say their name all the time, but his name, his version of Michael, it sounded strange. Different. He didn't reply and I wondered if maybe aliens slept with their eyes open.
I don't think I've ever felt so alone. I never felt my humanness, never really noticed it or what it meant, as acutely as I did in that moment. I am human. Do you know what that means? I never did before that night. But I understood then--I felt the weight of who I am, ofwhat I am.
There are tons of books about strangers in a strange land, and for the first time, I finally knew why my English teachers were always babbling about the theme of alienation. I was utterly alone, an alien in the midst of other aliens. It's the sort of thought that makes your head hurt, and I could feel a throbbing pain in my temples. Too much information, too much feeling--just too much, and I couldn't do anything about it.
"You'll be ok. Don't worry."
That was all he said, and he wasn't even touching me. And yet he knew I was worried anyway. That scared me more than anything else--more than what happened in the jail, more than feeling him inside my mind, more than walking into a rock full of aliens. He knew I was scared, he could understand how I felt-the aliens had feelings too. I wanted to run away, but I couldn't. I just went back inside the room and after a moment, the door closed.
I sat there on the bed, looked out the window, and thought about Michael sitting out in the hallway. And then I cried until the suncame up.
The next few days were like a surreal dream. There were just so many surprises. For one thing, the aliens were all young. Most of them were my age or a little older. I saw only a handful of people even close to Jim's age. How could that be? The aliens had been around for years--but the ones I saw would have been my age or younger during the worst of the fighting in the early 1980s--how could they have fought? It didn't make any sense.
I was actually so confused by it that I asked Michael about it. He was my unwilling chaperone--apparently Max and Isabel were still upset at him, and keeping an eye on me was his punishment, but they'd apparently managed to concoct some sort of story about how I was a better bargaining tool for them. And the aliens all seemed to believe it. They mostly avoided me--leaving the room if I came into it, whispering to each other whenever I was around.
Three years ago, an alien got caught stealing food from the base, and Jim kept it in town for a few days. We all went to take a look at it, and I peered at it like everyone else did. Now I knew how that alien felt--the utter humiliations of being a walking, talking, freak show; a spectacle that everyone wants to see and talk about, but not view as real, not view as someone with thoughts and feelings.
Oh, a few of them spoke to me. The ones who'd actually met humans--most of them knew my mother and Jim--they would ask me cautious questions, which I always answered with the help of Michael, who willing or not, was always broadcasting his thoughts to me because he was always touching me--grabbing my arm to pull me into another room, pulling my arm to get me to start moving. Jim and Mom were always careful when it came to giving out personal information--who wouldn't be?-- and I learned that Jim and Mom just referred to Kyle and I as "the kids," and so there were some shocked stares when I would mention that Jim wasn't my father.
I was in a bad mood by my fourth day there--so far, all I'd been asked is why all "my kind" did was hide inside forts and attack the poor defenseless aliens, which made me furious--but whenever I mouthed off about how the aliens hadn't been so defenseless when they killed most of the residents of Roswell--all I got were puzzled stares. So I finally broke down and asked Michael, "How come no one mentions what happened in the 1980s? After all, it was victory for all of you, right? I would think you'd want to rub it in."
"The fighting. How come no one mentions it? Even the ones who would have been old enough to fight look at me like I'm crazy. Did you have a mass memory wipe or something?"
He glared at me and I glared right back. "I don't know what you're talking about" he said slowly, carefully.
We were standing outside my room at the time--and I was so irritated at having been through another frustrating, pointless, frightening day that I forgot to be cautious. I could see that he thought I was lying and I grabbed his hand without thinking.
I could feel his shock as my memories of that time hit him. He was silent for a long time. "I thought...I thought it was an exaggeration," he finally said. "I mean, we always heard stuff, and we'd been told things by humans, but we just figured..."
And then he walked off. He didn't remind me to go inside my little cell; he didn't say anything. He just walked off.
I wanted to feel vindicated, but I was more puzzled than ever. I could hear the shock in his voice, I'd felt it in his thoughts as they went through my mind. I thought about leaving--but I would undoubtedly pass aliens on my way out into the desert, and more than trying to figure out how to get to Roswell, more than trying to live in the desert on my own--the thought of all those stares scared me. I couldn't do it. So I went into the room (I refused to think of it as *my* room) and I looked out the window. I had memorized the view already.
Max and Isabel came in a few minutes later. To tell the truth, I wasn't even surprised to hear them come in. I'd already managed to gather by then that they were respected by all the other aliens, and that it was their agreement to the plan to kidnap Kyle that got it to happen and that they were the ones who found a way to fix things when the wrong person got taken. Max asked me about the fighting and I told him that yes, it was true. He said the same thing Michael did, which is that he assumed it was exaggeration and rumor. "Go ahead and take a look," I told him, which clearly startled him.
But he did--he came over and put his hand on the back of my neck. And I could sort of sense what he was doing--it was like a nagging tickle in my mind, sort of like when you get an itch in your throat--but it was nothing like Michael's presence, which was so clear and so *there* that you couldn't escape it. After a moment, Max pulled away and gestured at Isabel.
She compressed her lips together, her mouth pulled into a tight line of strain, but she came over and did the same thing. I felt her presence even less that Max's, except for a brief spurt of fury that spilled over into my mind as she bumped up against what seemed to be one of my Kyle memories.
It didn't make sense to me. I'd always heard that aliens could sense thoughts, of course, but I just figured that Jim and everyone else who had any sort of power withheld the information about how the mind reading thing went both ways to avoid scaring people more. Having them read your thoughts was bad enough--a fear of that had been drummed into me since childhood--but knowing that they could form some sort of connection with you, that you could see their thoughts--that was even scarier. I knew that when I allowed myself to think about it, it terrified me. Sure, what Max and Isabel had done was intrusive, but it was nothing like having Michael's presence, his shadow, if you will, inside my head for the better part of eighteen hours a day. It forced an intimacy that neither one of us knew whatto do with.
"What do you make of it?" Max asked.
Isabel shrugged. "The fighting? Who knows." She shot Max a look that said, 'we can talk about this later.' "As for the rest, it's shock, probably. I mean, that sort of connection doesn't just happen--and with humans...well, you know."
Max nodded and turned to me. "You aren't really sensing Michael's thoughts, you know. You just think you are. It's just because all of this is so....new to you."
"I'm imagining it?" I couldn't help it--Max's words made me laugh. "If I was going to make something up, why would I make that up?"
Max shrugged and looked away, but Isabel's eyes met mine for a second. I could tell that she didn't think I'd made it all up, but she wasn't going to say anything. "You've been through a lot" she finally told me, and her voice was almost kind. "Everyone is capable of seeing things that aren't there once in a while."
I didn't say anything, because as far as I could tell, they weren't going to believe me, and nothing was going to be gained by my insisting that I was telling the truth. Besides, since when did I care what aliens thought of me?
"You should be able to go home soon," Max said.
I turned to look at him, surprised. "Really?"
"Yes. I sent someone to see Valenti today." Max gave Isabel a small nod. She sighed and said, "I'll go get Michael."
After she left, Max and I just stood there, waiting. I don't like silences much, and I really don't like awkward silences. I ended up blurting out the first thing I thought of, which was "So, why am Ihere?"
Max gave me an incredulous stare. I couldn't tell if he was surprised that I asked or surprised that I didn't know. When Michael came, Max suggested we go for a walk. I wanted to say no--but Michael's hand brushed against mine, and I saw that when Max asked, you complied.
So Michael, Max, and I ended up going for a walk. I really didn't want to go--Max was so remotely polite that he scared the hell out of me, and he hadn't looked happy when I asked why I had been taken fromRoswell.
"You know, you don't have to drag her around, Michael. Where is she going to run to?" Max's tone was mild, but the look he sent Michael was very intent.
"You're not the one who has to watch her eighteen hours a day, *Maxwell.*"
"I suppose I could find someone else to do it."
Something swept through Michael's mind, so quickly that I couldn't catch it. I looked at him, and he stared back at me. I couldn't see anything in his eyes, and his mind was mostly blank, filled with thoughts of boredom and hunger. "Valenti said he wanted to see her before he did anything."
The change of subject caused Max to stop so abruptly that I almost bumped into him. "What?"
Michael shrugged. "That's what he said. I'm supposed to take her out to meet him tomorrow."
Max bit his lip, and closed his eyes briefly. The gesture made him look younger, more vulnerable. "I wasn't expecting that" he finally said. "But he'll agree to what we asked for?"
Michael laughed. "Oh yeah. We could have asked for more, I think."
"No." Max's voice was sharp, and I could feel Michael's surprise. "It's bad enough that it's come to this. The sooner all of this is over, the better." He gave Michael one last, careful look, and walkedoff.
"I guess the walk is over." I suppose I sounded pretty cheerful. And yes, I was curious as to what they were talking about. But I wanted to go home more, and just the thought of it--going home!--was enough to make me not care too much about anything else. The thought of home--my room, Mom, Liz, Alex; heck, even Kyle and Jim--it was enough to make me smile. Michael's hand tightened around my arm for a second, and then he let go. I almost missed his presence--I was that used to feeling him in the back of my mind.
"You want some water?"
He was mad about something. I could tell from the tone of his voice, from the glint in his eyes. That should have made me start to realize that things had changed, it should have made me start to worry--I'd noticed him enough and I knew him well enough to know when he was upset. I nodded and took the container cautiously. The aliens were pretty stingy with food and water though, and I wasn't about to turn down anything to drink.
When I was done, I handed the container back to him. He wiped the mouthpiece off with his shirt. I almost said 'What good will that do? Your shirt is dirtier than the container' but then I realized he was doing it to prove a point, to show me how he felt about humans, about me. I felt a blush creep over my face, and I felt the sharp rise of anger. I couldn't pinpoint why I was mad, and that made me even angrier.
"I hate you" I hissed at him, and in that moment, I did hate him. I hated the desert, so bright and boring and endless. I hated the stupid rock that I'd been living in. I hated the way all the aliens stared at me like I was a display at a museum or a trained monkey, and most of all, I hated the way Michael could make me so angry for reasons that I couldn't understand.
He leaned in towards me, his hands brushing against my arms. For a moment, a moment of sheer terror and something else--a feeling almost like anticipation, I thought he was going to kiss me.
"No, you don't," he said, and he smiled at me. And he was thinking about kissing me.
I pulled away from him, fast. It was one thing to think that he might be thinking about kissing me. It was another thing entirely to see that he was. I walked back into the rocks, wanting, for the first time, the four stone walls of my little cell, the window that looked out onto nothing. Michael scared me, but more than that, I was scaring myself.
And then it was that next day, come sooner than I was ready for. Michael came to get me in silence, and we climbed into the jeep and headed out into the desert.
We drove for what seemed like an eternity, over endless hills and valleys of sand. Eventually, he stopped, and I realized we were on one of the bluffs that rise up on the outskirts of Roswell. For the first time in days, I could see the town. It was almost embarrassing, how much I missed Roswell and the people in it. I didn't know what to say to him--and when I finally spoke, my voice was almost hesitant. "Now what do we do?"
He sighed. "We wait. Do you think you can handle that?"
"Hey, that's what a Roswellian knows how to do best. Wait."
"Yep. Wait for school to get over, wait for work to end. Wait, wait, wait. I'm good at it."
"I thought work was fun for you"
"What?" I turned to look at him.
"I, uh, saw you in that café when I came to town. You were laughing." He looked away from me. "You looked happy."
I could feel my face turning red and I looked down at my hands. "Work is ok sometimes, I guess. How come I didn't see you?"
He laughed. "Why would you have noticed me? Besides, you weren't supposed to see me."
I would have noticed him, I did notice him when I finally saw him. I remembered my first thought when I saw him at the jail: 'Oh, cute guy.' I took a quick look over at him and noticed that he was staring down at the jeep dashboard as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.
"Well, you got my attention later." I tried to laugh, but it came out as a strangled little cough. "I was surprised to see you at the jail, that's for sure."
He looked over at me, and he smiled. "Yeah, I could tell." I smiled back at him, and he cleared his throat. "Have you lived in Roswell for a long time?"
Good, I thought. A question that isn't quite so...unnerving. "I've always lived in Roswell. I mean, ever since I can remember. I was born in Texas, but my mom came here with my dad right after I was born. My dad left after they'd been in Roswell for a while."
"He left you? How could...I mean, why did he?"
I smiled at that. I don't know why I did, but I know I couldn't help it. "He told my mom he was an alien hunter. Turns out that he'd never even seen an alien before. After he saw one, he freaked out and left."
"Because of the alien?"
"That's what he told Mom in the letter he left for her. She figures he just couldn't deal with being married. She always said we were better off without him."
"Do you miss him?"
"I used to. When I was little, I used to think about him a lot. Why he left, if he'd come back, that sort of thing. But he never tried to see me or anything. I got used to it. Do you miss your parents?"
"I never knew them. They died right after I was born. Max and Isabel are my cousins, I'd guess you'd say. We're all family here though. We all came here together."
"So where do alie...where did you come from?" I wanted to wince as soon as the words were out of my mouth.
He gave me a lopsided smile. "A pod."
"Really? I thought," I could feel my face turning red again, "I thought that aliens were born the same way as humans. My mom was--is--part of the diplomatic corp. She spent a lot of time out with your people (I wondered if that was the right word to use, but what else could I say?) two summers ago, and she said..."
"Yeah, I remember her. She showed us pictures of you and Kyle. And she likes to make slogans for everything. 'Work For Peace'--that's one I remember."
My mother and her idealism, plus her penchant for photo display. How embarrassing. I hope she didn't show baby pictures. "Yeah, mom likes stuff like that. When she and I first moved to Jim's house, a couple of months before the wedding, Mom tried to get Kyle and me to get along by setting up some sort of incentive program. She made a little cardboard chart, and we were supposed to put stars on for each day we had without a fight. The slogan on top of the chart was "Learning to Get Along" and I gave Kyle a black eye when he called Mom's idea lame. It was lame, but still..."
He laughed. "Sounds like it was about a successful as 'Work For Peace.' But she did try, which is more than I can say for most humans."
He gave me an oblique look, and for a second I thought he would argue with me. But he had seen my memories of the past, he knew that I wasn't lying. "Yeah. Anyway, the pods are just for travel. We're born just like you are."
"A bunch of us came here about ten years ago--but travel through space is different than regular travel, and you have to be sort of sealed or else you'd be too old to work or do anything else when yougot here."
"What?" I knew the aliens traveled to get here in the first place, and Jim (and my teachers) had explained how travel in space is different because of the distances involved and how it's necessary to slow the body down so that you don't age at the normal rate, but it was always something that I nodded at and didn't think about. But Michael had done it. He came from somewhere far away, really far away--and he came to Roswell.
"I know. All this way to end up in Roswell. Hell, not even in Roswell. Out in the desert. But that's what the pods are for. We landed, I came out of it. I was four when we left and six when welanded."
He wasn't even touching me and he knew what I was thinking. Again. It wasn't really that cold--the desert heats up during the day, even in winter--but I still felt a chill of something move across me. "You weren't here for all the fighting, then. You really didn't know aboutit."
"No. There aren't too many of us left from those days--most of us that are here now came when I did. I mean, I heard rumors--stuff from people like Jim--but you know how..." He trailed off awkwardly.
He was going to say, "you know how humans are." It made me angry, and I started to protest, but then I realized that if the situation were reversed, and he told me that he didn't know what had happened in the past--if I hadn't felt the shock of him realizing that I'd seen things that he'd only heard whispers about--I would have thought the same thing. *You know how aliens are*. How many times have I heard that over the years? How many times have I said it? "Do you think Jim will be here soon?"
He looked away from me. "I don't know. Do you want some water?"
"Sure." I would have welcomed a repeat performance of yesterday, another show of his disdain for me.
He handed me the water and I drank some and gave the container back to him. I noticed that he didn't wipe it off before he drank. I watched his throat work as he swallowed and it made something inside me twist and fall loose, a softening. "Thanks."
It was the first time he'd ever said that to me, and it was my turn to look away. "How come you live in the desert?"
He looked startled, and I was almost sorry that I asked the question. But I was too comfortable with him, I was starting to like talking to him, I was noticing things that I shouldn't, and I needed thedistance.
"I guess it's because that's what our home is like."
He shrugged. "I think so. I don't really remember much. I was little when I left, but I remember that it was a lot like this." He gestures around at all the sand. "Bright. Hot. Empty. But the sun was a lot bigger, and red."
"Do you think that...?" I wasn't sure how to end my question. I've had enough science to know that it sounded like his world was dying. I thought about what Jim had always said, what I've always heard--that the aliens' planet is beautiful, a paradise, and that they are just here because they can be.
His mouth compressed, his lips pulling into a thin line. "Forget whatI said."
"Just forget what I said, ok?"
"Why?" I reached out to him without thinking, my hand brushing his shoulder. I couldn't help it, I'm a tactile person. That's Mom's word for it. Kyle says I'm grabby.
The connection was sudden, immediate. I saw him as a child, sitting in a room. Max and Isabel and others were with him, and an older alien, one I haven't seen, was lecturing them. "The world you came from is a paradise. That is what you will say if you are ever asked. We can't afford..." There was a break as the alien came forward, picked up Michael's chin, looked into his eyes. "we can't afford to let them know that we need to be here. They fight us too much already. Will you remember Michael? Will all of you remember?"
I saw that he didn't want to let anyone down. That what he has now is all he has, he can't go home, none of them can go home, and what would happen to them if we--humans-- found out?
"I won't tell." I said the words as I thought them and they hoveredbetween us.
I was lying. I thought of what Jim could do if I told him. Of how maybe there could be an end to all of the worries that grip Roswell and everywhere else. Of how it would maybe bring more problems, different worries--the aliens are never going to leave.
He wanted to believe me, but how could he? He had just seen what I thought, he could sense the panic that had risen in me with my last thought, my knowledge that the aliens' presence on earth will neverend.
But his eyes--they called to me. The desert is the only world he has ever known. And he cannot help the connection we have.
I won't tell, I thought, and this time I was telling the truth.
I heard his acceptance of it. I couldn't help the connection we have either. I would keep his secret, and I wouldn't think about the consequences.
We smiled at each other, and I could tell he was thinking about kissing me before he did it. I saw the gossamer strand of the impulse as it formed. I did not turn away from it. It was something that had occurred to me, too, and we both knew it. But I had not acknowledged it, even to myself, until then.
It was a slow thing, a torturous wait of his doubts and mine--is this a mistake, is this the wrong thing, isn't this something that actually can't happen, will the desert open up and swallow us both? But we both still moved towards each other, hesitantly, our imaginations driving us.
His mouth was soft and the kiss was both better and more terrible than any other kiss I've had. Better because his mouth was firm and sure and because I wanted it touching mine--terrible because I felt his pleasure as well as my own and there is no way a kiss from a human can ever compare.
When we separated, I sat there in silence, waiting. He looked at me for a moment, and then he spoke. "We'd better go."
It was not what I expected him to say, and my surprise must have shown on my face. My arms were still wrapped around him, and his thoughts rose up like a tide in me.
He never went to see Jim. He lied to Max. He wanted to talk to me. He was glad he kissed me. Everything was a mess now, and what was hegoing to do?
I didn't know and I don't know how I feel about what I saw--I do not know what I will do with the knowledge of what he has done, if I will ever share it with anyone. He turned away from me, pulled away, and we drove back into the desert.
I went with him. I did not protest what he had done, I did not try to flee from him, I did not try to run for the safety of my home. I sat, a silent accomplice beside him. And now, remembering that moment, lying here in the room that is mine for who knows how long, I do not feel fear--I feel anticipation. If I opened the door, he would be out there, waiting for me. I am not ready for that step yet, but I fear that I will be soon.
I have to go home, I know that.
But do I want to?
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