Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: Future fic. Maria looks back at her past.
Authors Note: The seal on the cigarette box is real--check out a pack of Merit Ultra Lights. And I have to thank Betsy, who points out those mysteriously appearing cars :-)
|Welcome to Roswell.
Maria feels a familiar tightness in her chest as she passes by the sign on the edge of town. She hates coming back here. Hates it.
She left the summer after she graduated from high school. In fact, she left two days after graduation. She took her car and went to Santa Fe. Her mom had to ship most of her stuff to her. She found a job working in a restaurant that made the Crashdown look classy and tried not to look back. At first, she went home once in a while. Holidays, her mother's birthday, stuff like that. The streets never looked exactly like she remembered. Everything seemed smaller, vaguer. The first few times she went home, she was terrified she'd run into Mr. and Mrs. Evans. After a while, she didn't worry about that as much, and then she only had visits with Liz to get through.
After she'd gotten married, her mother came to visit her. It was easier that way, easier for everyone, and Maria liked that. But now she's back in Roswell. She's back because her mother is dying. She holds her breath as she passes by the road that leads to the trailer park-an old nervous habit she picked up when she was sixteen and doesn't even think about much anymore. Old memories should stay dead, don't you think?
She finds the hospital and blinks a little, surprised by how large it is. While everything else in Roswell has gone fuzzy and vague in her mind for the most part, the solidness of the hospital-it's always bigger than she remembers it-startles her. She parks her car and walks inside, unconsciously squaring her shoulders as she asks the nurse where the ICU wing is.
Her courage deserts her when she gets to the elevators and she heads back outside. She fumbles in her purse, fingers brushing over her wallet, her keys, the day-planner she bought last March and used for all of a week. Cigarettes, finally. She pulls them free and lights one eagerly.
Her husband doesn't know she smokes. She does it in the car mostly, and he says her car is unfit to ride in because she never cleans it out. So smoking is her little secret, and she likes that. She started smoking the summer she left-all the waitresses where she worked smoked, and she desperately wanted to fit in. Then she met Steve, who was...she can't quite remember now, she can't even remember his face really, and he smoked. So she smoked too and never quite managed to kick the habit. She doesn't mind. It's not something she picked up in Roswell, so it has no associations for her. Sometimes, she wonders what Liz would say. Maria figures that Liz would probably say nothing now, but the Liz she knew as a girl would have most surely pitched a fit or two.
Maria's nerves are frayed, so she smokes quickly. The smoke rises up off her cigarette, catching the early morning light of the sun. Actually, the smoke looks sort of pretty, a slowly unwinding haze that relaxes her a little. She glances down at the box she holds in her hand, noting the familiar lettering, the varying shades of blue stripes that march across the box, the little seal in the middle. Come to think of it, she's never noticed the little seal before. She peers at it, trying to read what it says. She shouldn't have left her glasses at home. It comes into focus finally. The logo of the cigarette company, and a tiny motto underneath. Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered.
"How fitting" she murmurs, and throws the cigarette away. She goes back into the hospital and calls her husband. Then she goes to see her mother.
Her mother is in room 2106. It's a big room and it's quiet. The only sounds are the beep of the monitors and the rattling of the blinds as they catch the breeze that comes in through an open window. Her mother was always partial to fresh air.
She walks over to the bed and takes her mother's hand. "Hey."
Her mother's eyes flutter open. "Maria, honey."
She bends over and presses a kiss to her mother's forehead, noting how small her mother is. The bed looks enormous, her mother a pale dot in the middle of it. She smoothes back her mother's hair, remembering how her mother would do that to her when she was a child. "How are you doing?"
Her mother smiles and Maria thinks she can see all the bones in her face, illuminated by the morning sun. Her mother's skin is almost transparent now, the skin of the sick-all fine and translucent, white with strain. "I'm glad you came."
Maria pulls a chair over to the bed and sits down. "Of course I came. Where else would I go? The doctor called and said you had pneumonia, that it's worse than the last time. I love you," she says, her voice cracking a little. She clears her throat quickly. "And I want you to get better."
Her mother reaches out and takes her hand. Her mother has always had small hands, and the flesh has shrunk so much that Maria thinks she can feel every bone. She notes that the scar on her mother's left hand, the one she got when she decided to try candle-making the summer Maria was twelve, looks very pronounced. "I know it's hard for you to come back here," her mother starts. When Maria doesn't reply, she continues. " I saw Liz the other day, she came by and brought me some flowers." She points to a tasteful arrangement of day lilies nestled in a corner of the room. "I have more tests scheduled at one. You should go see her then. She's not doing well."
But what about you? Maria wants to scream that at her mother. What about you, Mom? Why aren't you getting better, and what does Liz matter?-She's never very well, she'll never be very well. But Maria just kisses the back of her mother's hand instead, willing herself not to cry and says "Sure, I'll do that."
Her mother falls asleep and Maria watches her. Amy DeLuca developed cancer five years ago. First it was breast cancer, and then it spread to her bones. Sometimes, when it rains a lot and Maria's joints ache, she worries that she has cancer too. That inside her is a horde of angry cells, gone malignant, attacking her body; eating it from the outside in.
Her mother is worn out by five years of treatment, both successful and unsuccessful, but she looks younger when she sleeps. Maria can see a hint of the woman she knew as a child now that her mother's features are softened by sleep, which has eased the lines of pain etched around her nose and mouth. The cancer was only in remission once, for a period of two months, but Maria remembers meeting her mother outside of the Crashdown during that time, for a quick visit, and no longer hating the town quite so much. That changed of course, as soon as the cancer came back, and she was glad she hadn't mentioned an extended visit to her husband.
At eleven, an orderly comes by with flowers. They are from Sheriff Valenti. Maria smoothes the card with her hand, wondering about Kyle. Is he happy? Did he want to be sheriff? The boy she'd barely known in school had grown into a virtual clone of his father. She'd run into him only once since she left town, about five years ago. Actually, it was right about the time she'd found out about her mother's illness. She'd been at a restaurant, eating dinner with friends and had excused herself to go to the bathroom. The reality was that she'd needed a cigarette and was rushing to her car for one. She'd passed Kyle on her way back into the restaurant. He looked like hell and she told him so without thinking. To her surprise, he'd merely smiled at her, acknowledging the truth of what she said, and asked her how she was doing. She told him. He shook his head as she listed her accomplishments. Owning two restaurants, married, nice home in the suburbs. "Good for you." he'd said. "Guerin was an idiot, you know. Almost as dumb as Evans and his sister."
"I've got to go." That was all she could say. Even after almost ten years, she still didn't like talking about Michael. Especially with people who knew him.
Her mother cries out in her sleep. "It hurts" she calls out; a whimper of sound that makes Maria's breath catch and her heart sting. She moves over to the bed and presses the button on the morphine drip. Her mother's eyes flutter open, then close again. She knows that if she wakes her mother up, her mother won't recognize her. That's ok. It's just the pain and all the drugs they give her to disguise it. Her mother told her six months ago that the pain was "quiet, aching-just a continual twinge that never leaves you." A dignified sort of pain is how Maria has always thought of it. To think of it as messy is too hard for her.
At one o'clock, two nurses come to take her mother down to radiology. Her mother, during her earliest visits to the hospital, used to wake up if anyone came into her room. Now she doesn't stir. Maria doesn't think much of the battery of x-rays, ultrasounds, and assorted scans that the doctor ordered, but she hasn't said anything. If there's a chance, no matter how slight, that her mother could be restored, she wants it.
She never thought she would be like this, clinging so desperately to hope, but she is, she does. Her husband says it's because she's a strong woman. He often tells her "You're the strongest woman I know." He means it as praise, and she supposes it is. But it's disappointing to her-the fact that he never has realized exactly how weak she is. If she was strong, she would be able to let her mother go. But she can't.
Veni, Vidi, Vici flashes across her eyes and she sighs. She's so tired of being conquered.
Liz lives in Roswell. In fact, she still lives in her childhood home. Her parents moved to Florida about three years ago and gave Liz the restaurant and the apartment above it. So now Liz will never leave town. Maria always figured she wouldn't, but to have it so final...
She can't bear to go inside the Crashdown, so she calls first to find out if Liz is there. If she is, Maria will ask Liz to meet her somewhere else. The girl who answers the phone tells her that Liz is at home, and Maria breathes a sigh of relief. She feels sixteen again as she knocks on the door, and she half expects Mrs. Parker to answer it, to tell her that Liz is in her room "talking to Max again. She's so in love with him, you know."
Oh, Maria knows. Liz opens the door and Maria smiles at her. "Hey Liz."
"Maria! Come on in."
What scares Maria the most is that Liz has left almost everything the same. Her room never changed after she was eighteen. Maria finally had to visit with Liz in the living room once they turned twenty-five. She just couldn't bear to go into Liz's room, couldn't bear the awful lurch she would feel as she walked inside and felt the years peel away till she was young and sure the world was on her side again.
"How are you?" Maria takes off her coat and throws it on the sofa.
Liz's hair is still long, although there's some gray in it now. She still radiates a serenity that Maria envies. "I'm doing pretty good. How's your mother?"
"Not great. How are your parents?"
"They love Florida. And they keep telling me I should come visit. But you know I can't, so I just tell them things are busy with the restaurant."
Maria looks away at this. Liz has wasted the past fifteen years waiting. For this, she hates Max Evans. Michael is her burden to carry, and Isabel-she's a ghost that haunts her once in a while, always in the strangest of ways, in a gesture, a glance-but Max-Liz stopped living when he left and Maria hates him for that. She looks down at her hands, notices that she is twisting her wedding ring around and around. She'd kill for a cigarette. "Max isn't coming back."
Liz looks at her, all startled and bruised eyes, and Maria bites her lip. Maybe it's good that she said what she just did. Maybe Liz will listen. But then Liz blinks and continues to talk about the restaurant and Maria twists her wedding ring a little harder. "He's not coming back. You know that, right?"
Liz stands up abruptly and walks towards her bedroom. Maria closes her eyes, not wanting to see inside, not wanting to see the shrine to their youth, to the past.
Maria just shakes her head.
For a moment, Liz sounds like the old Liz. The Liz who was going to take the world by storm and become a scientist, solve all of mankind's problems. Maria opens her eyes.
"He was everything to me" Liz says softly, walking back towards the living room. "I don't know how else to say it."
"You were eighteen. How could he have been everything? Liz, you've never left Roswell. Do you really think this is what Max would have wanted for you?" Maria can hear the harsh sound of her voice, and she wishes, for a moment, that she could rewind time and change her tone. Liz isn't the one at fault here; she knows that.
"I'm sorry. I know you don't understand. But when he left...I just felt like I died."
Maria bites down on her tongue, hard. What she hates most about visiting Liz is that it always forces her to realize that they aren't so different. She's just better at hiding it. When she finally speaks, she hopes she doesn't drip blood onto the carpet. "Do you wish you'd never met him?"
"Oh no!" Liz sounds almost shocked. "Aren't you glad you met Michael?"
She definitely tastes blood this time. And she doesn't care if she drips it on the carpet. "No," she says. "I wish I'd never met Michael Guerin."
Things with Liz don't go too well after that. Liz always likes to talk about the past, and before now, Maria has always humored her, making mental lists of things she needs for the restaurants, or if Liz mentioned Michael, forcing herself to replay her wedding down through the last excruciating detail of how many glasses of champagne she had at the dinner. In all this time, in all these years, she's never once said a harsh word about Max or Michael. She knows that Liz views her as a lifeline to the past, especially since Alex won't stay if Roswell is even mentioned in conversation, but today-she just can't.
She can't even bring herself to apologize. She finally just tells Liz that she has to go, that her mother got the flowers and that they are lovely.
Liz grabs her arm as she starts to walk out the door, and Maria turns back towards her, her face a silent plea--no more mentions of the past.
"Sometimes..." Liz says, an almost dreamy look in her eyes, a softness in her voice, "sometimes, I think that I've wasted my life away waiting. But I've never been sorry that I knew Max, or that I loved him."
"Good for you" Maria says. "You might have been able to make peace with everything, but I haven't. Did you ever think that maybe they chose to leave? Do you ever think about that?"
Liz shakes her head, and the words tremble on Maria's tongue. In the end, she decides that enough blood has been spilled and just hugs Liz, tells her she's sorry, that she's just worried about her mother. She gets to her car, throws it into gear, and speeds back to the hospital. She lights a cigarette, desperate for a distraction, but all she can hear are her own thoughts. She can't even hold them in and she can hear her voice, tiny in the silence of the car. "Why?" Why did things end the way they did?
When she gets to the hospital parking lot, she just sits in her car and remembers.
__Fifteen years ago__
She'd just turned eighteen. Graduation was in two weeks. There was so much possibility, Maria thought she could scream with the wonder of it all. What was she going to do? That was all her mother asked her--that was all anyone asked her. "What are you going to do?"
Actually, Michael never asked her that. He lived in the now, more that any other person she'd ever known. And he wasn't concerned with the future; or if he was, he wouldn't discuss it with her. It wasn't his way.
She finally had stopped trying to analyze their relationship. Or their non-relationship. Michael didn't lend himself to any sort of real analysis. How could he? Half the time he didn't know what he was thinking. He was all action and reaction, forever running ahead when he should have been lagging behind.
It was a weird day. In retrospect, shouldn't she have known something was going to happen? It was really sunny when she woke up, and as she sat drinking the tea her mother had made (her mother was on a herbal tea kick then, there was nothing to drink in the house except tea and water-she used to drink tons of milk at the Crashdown to the amusement of Mr. and Mrs. Parker) she noticed that it was raining. A bright blue sky, beautiful sunshine, and rain. After a while, she noticed that the sky was getting darker, and it had stopped raining. It was weird, but it was pretty too. She looked for a rainbow, but the clouds hid any sign of the rain or of the sun.
The door opened and she took her feet down from the kitchen table. Her mother rarely nagged or scolded, but she did hate it when she put her feet up on the furniture.
No one has ever said her name like he did. "Maria." Three syllables. Liz always said her name with a ting of exasperation. "Maria!" Her mother always said her name like a statement of fact. "Maria." Her husband says her name like it's a song, rolling the syllables around: "Ma-ri-a"-she likes the way he says her name. Michael always said her name like it hurt him, like the words were forced up and around his throat, like it was an effort. "Maria." Even now, fifteen years later, she can still hear him that morning as he came into her house, rested his hand on her arm briefly. "Maria."
She turned towards him, not surprised by his sudden appearance. That's how Michael was. Appearing and disappearing. Sometimes he'd show up at school, sometimes at the Crashdown. Once in a while, at her house, although her mother's easy acceptance of him made him nervous. He didn't like being liked by anyone except Max and Isabel.
That morning, he'd sat down next to her and she squelched the sudden start she felt. He'd sat down next to her before after all, hadn't he? But that morning, he just seemed different. She once said that he was a vibrator-sending out these little ripples of sensation that lodged under her skin whenever he was around. But this morning, he was self-contained. She couldn't see anything in his flat eyes, and his gestures were expressionless. Before then, she could usually glean what Michael was thinking about from how he moved. A smirk and a swagger-he was worried. A distracted look-he was in his 'I'm tired of being burdened' stage. A soft light in his eyes, a gentle curve of his mouth-that was the closest he could come to telling her that she meant something. She treasured those looks best of all, even more than the dazed expression he sometimes wore when they were both gasping for air after another endless make-out session.
She just sipped her tea and waited for him to speak. They'd been together for the better part of two years now, and she knew him as well as anyone. Michael would speak when he was good and ready. Sometimes, if she was feeling up to it, she'd speak first, saying something that would be sure to set off one of the endless debates that they both relished. But she wasn't up for it that morning.
After a while, she got up and poured another cup of tea. She offered him one, and he took it. Looking back, she can't remember why she didn't notice it at the time. It was the first and only time Michael ever drank herbal tea. Before then, he'd always laughed at the multitude of tea bags her mother had lying around and said that if he wanted colored water he'd let her know. He liked soda. Maybe when-if-he'd gotten older he would have liked beer. Maybe not. Hank drank beer and if Michael hated anyone, it was Hank.
She drank half of another mug of tea before she cracked. "What's up?"
He put his mug down on the table. She noticed the economy of his movements, the controlled gestures-and then it finally hit her-something's going on.
"We found a way to get home."
Afterwards, she always wished that something dramatic had happened. The mug falling to the floor, the ceiling landing on her head. Getting up and grabbing her mother's big butcher knife, plunging it into his chest and watching his life end. She used to worry that the last thought meant she had mental problems. But when she was twenty-two she'd dated a grad student who was getting a doctorate in psychology. She mentioned the barest details of what happened to him, and he told her that it just symbolized a way for her to gain power over the situation, of forcing an ending where there hadn't been one. Gaining closure. "You know, you could just track the guy down and tell him off" he'd said to her and she'd laughed and told him "Great idea." She'd wanted to tag on "And do you know if interstellar travel is possible yet?" but she didn't. She was already sorry she'd mentioned Michael at all.
Anyway, nothing dramatic happened. She put her mug down and said "Oh?" Amazing that she didn't freak out more. But she was much more used to the unexpected at age eighteen.
"I wanted to.... I just wanted to say good-bye."
She laughed. She didn't mean to, but emotional Michael made her nervous. When she'd managed to nag him into taking her to the prom and he told her he was glad he'd come with her, she'd been so startled that she'd stumbled and jabbed her elbow into the railing of the stairs they were walking down, and then she'd started giggling. He always had that effect on her.
He didn't even look affronted by her laughter. That was one of the reasons she liked him so much. He found her little quirks interesting. He once told her that she wasn't like anyone he'd ever met, that she was so open to the world that it scared him. He'd always seen the true her-looked right past her pathetic tough act and saw the needy person underneath. And yet she hadn't scared him off. Go figure.
He came over and stood next to her, wrapping his arms around her. She leaned into his embrace, smelling the scent that was uniquely his. The scent of stale beer and cigarettes (the legacy of living with Hank), mustiness (he never had enough money for the dryer at the laundromat, his clothes inevitably dried in a wet heap on the floor of his room), and heaven. She once told Liz that what hooked her on Michael was his smell. Liz had looked at her like she was crazy, but Maria knew it was the truth. Michael had a smell that made her want to rip off all her clothes (and all his too) and roll around like a madwoman. Pheromones. She learned that from the grad student too.
They knew each other's bodies well. She slid her hand under his shirt, running her fingers down his spine, resting them in the curve at the bottom. His hands slid down under her hips, pulling her up against him.
Liz and Max had promised that they would never consummate their relationship. Max was worried that something would happen to Liz if they did. He told Liz he'd die if something happened to her. As usual, they set some sort of idealistic standard and then unblinkingly expected everyone else to live up to it.
She and Michael had never done it for a variety of reasons. Not because of Max and Liz-their idealism tended to irritate both her and Michael-but mostly because she was afraid, and Michael...he never pushed her. It was surprising, because he was actually he was the most physical of the three aliens. Max always went for the drama side of romance-the tragic separations, the big public reunions, lots of sighs and angst. Isabel liked blind adoration. Michael never wanted any of that. He had no tolerance for drama, and adoration would have given him hives. He liked making out. But in spite of that, he'd never shown any real interest in "taking their relationship to the next level" as Liz always termed it, except for a brief spell in eleventh grade that had resulted in several naked grope sessions. She'd gone and gotten on the pill just in case, but he'd disappeared for three weeks and when he came back he was in a distant phase and they'd been mostly broken up for about four months. And then there was the whole getting reacquainted with making out stage and....
"Isabel made me go away."
She'd finally gotten used to him being able to see what she was thinking. He told her it came from hearing her talk all the time. "I think I know more about you than any person has a right to know"-that was his usual grumble. She knew that his powers were hard for him to control, and he couldn't help seeing what she thought. It came from her being so close to him. And really, she didn't mind it all that much. It was one of the few signs she had that he really cared about her, that he really felt a connection to her. Max could melt locks and cure people. Isabel could make blue eyes brown and walk in dreams. Michael could blow up car engines, see what she was thinking, and let her see what he was thinking.
"Because?" Her voice was quiet.
He didn't reply, he just placed his hand on the back of her neck. It was a vaguely threatening gesture, but that's how Michael was. Vague and somehow threatening. It was all he knew.
A series of images opened in her mind. They looked a little like a kaleidoscope, because the pictures fanned opened quickly, one on top of the other. According to Michael, seeing someone's thoughts wasn't a precise science, and since he'd never told Isabel or Max that he could show Maria what he was thinking, he'd never been able to really practice it or figure out how he could get better. She told him to think about telling Max or Isabel once in a while, but 'They'd just nag me about it' was all he'd ever say on the subject.
Sometimes the images moved too fast, sometimes they were hazy. That day, they were both. She forced herself to relax and just let the images flow. That usually cleared things up, and it worked that time too. She saw herself and Michael (it seemed his memory had enhanced the size of her breasts a bit) back in eleventh grade on her mother's sofa. She saw him over at the Evans' house--Isabel was hollering at him, and then Isabel was crying. Michael and Max were always suckers for Isabel's tears, and so was Alex. Men! Then Michael was at the Evans' house, telling Max he'd taken some time to think, and then he was at the Crashdown, telling her he'd just gotten back, acting all tense. Remembering Isabel's warnings about how they had to be careful.
The images faded and she opened her eyes, gave him a wry grin. Isabel always was a mother hen, forever trying to run Max and Michael's lives, while resenting any interference in her own. And knowing Isabel, she also would have figured that only she was mature enough to have sex.
Michael pulled away from her and sat down, drumming his fingers against the kitchen table. "It doesn't matter now anyway. I'm not even supposed to be here, but I wanted to see you."
He stood up again, suddenly restless. She knew this Michael well. The impatient, worried, tense one. It was the Michael she saw most of the time. He didn't say anything, just stalked around her kitchen.
She'd stared down at the kitchen table. He was leaving. He'd just told her so. She couldn't believe it. Where was the showdown with the government? When was he going to make his big speech, tell her that he couldn't leave her? Where was all the drama? Why did the beginning of the end happen here, now, in her mother's quiet kitchen?
"Do you still think about it?"
That wasn't a big speech. She'd blinked, surfacing from her thoughts.
His mouth opened a little, then closed. He was nervous. He paced around the kitchen again, his hand arcing over the tops of the chairs. He stopped and she watched his hand rest on the kitchen counter, watched as his fingers searched blindly for a purchase.
A spoon. His fingers wrapped around it. It bent, and she felt the sudden hot sting of tears in the back of her throat. He looked up at her then and he looked helpless. It was the only time she ever saw that look on his face. Is that how he'd looked as a child, afraid and alone, not knowing who he was or where he was from?
"I love you" His voice was so quiet that she had to strain to hear it.
She'd never been able to imagine Michael saying he loved her. It just seemed so un-Michael like-making a declaration of any kind, much less one that expressed an emotion that wasn't worry or anger at being thwarted in one of his impetuous plans to find out where he was from.
In the end, there was only one thing she could say. He couldn't offer her much. Hadn't she always known that?
He'd bent the spoon backwards by that point, and he just stood there, waiting. Her throat hurt when she said the words. She was surprised he needed to hear them.
"I love you too"
She forced herself to smile at him. It was the closest she could come to admitting that she knew he was leaving; that this moment, what was left of the day-that was all they were going to have.
He kissed her then. She felt her lip split under the pressure of teeth-hers and his-and she threw a hand out, desperate to find some sort of balance. Her back crashed into the kitchen table and she felt the edge of the sugar bowl digging into her hip. She shifted, to get away from it, and Michael's arms tightened around her.
The rest of what happened on her mother's kitchen table has remained in her mind as sensation more than anything else. As for the actual act itself--it hurt. It hurt a lot. She hadn't expected that. She'd just assumed that Michael would have sex like he did everything else-carelessly, but with a certain amount of elegance.
It wasn't elegance. It was all sensation and hot possession. Afterwards, she touched his shoulder, and he flinched. "I'm sorry" he whispered, and she wasn't sure if he was sorry he'd hurt her, sorry they'd done it, or sorry that he was going to be leaving.
She looked around the kitchen. It still looked the same. She looked at her hand. It still looked the same too. His eyes met hers, and he still looked the same. Was he really going to leave?
As it turned out, he most certainly was. He spent the whole day with her, not really talking or anything, just touching her. A hand on her arm, a caress on her stomach, a brief kiss as she got up to answer the phone or to get something to drink.
She cried only once, around one in the afternoon. He wouldn't let her call Liz to tell her what was going on. "Max can't handle seeing her" was all he said, and she knew what he meant. Max wouldn't leave if he saw Liz. But Michael was going to be able to leave her.
He left right before her mother came home. He kissed her by the front door; a brief, clumsy kiss. After he'd left, she called Liz. Liz sounded so happy. She was supposed to go to some park with Max in the morning. Maria had searched for the right way to tell her what was going on, what was going to happen. In the end, she couldn't do it. Michael had known that. He knew that she wouldn't want to break Liz's heart.
When her mother came home, Maria took off. She wasn't sure where she was going, but panic had finally set in. She'd driven instinctively, heading out into the desert. She'd ended up outside the Indian reservation. She knew where to go. She doesn't know how she knew, but she did. Once she got out of the car, she walked up a gently sloping hill and looked down. She knew what she'd see.
And there they were, down below her. The three of them. Max, Isabel, and Michael. Standing there, waiting. There was a flash of light, so bright that she had to shield her eyes, and she saw the three of them walk forward. Michael and Isabel's arms were wrapped around Max, keeping him moving forward, not letting him turn around. No last glimpse of Roswell for Max.
Max stepped forward and then he vanished. Isabel moved up, standing on the spot where Max had been. Right before she vanished, Isabel looked over at Michael, and Maria could see the bewilderment on her face from where she stood, saw her throw a quick panicked glance in Maria's direction. She could almost hear Isabel saying 'Michael, what have you done?'
And then Isabel was gone and Michael was the only one left.
He did turn back, and he looked right at her.
Then he turned away; away from Roswell, away from her.
And then he was gone.
She'd closed her eyes then, not wanting to see what happened next. Not wanting to see the direction they went or anything like that. She didn't want to live the rest of her life with her eyes on the sky.
After a while, she drove home and waited for the fallout. The calls from Liz, from Alex, from Mr. and Mrs. Evans, from the police. The questions. "Do you know where Michael went?" "What happened to Max and Isabel?" "What are you going to do?"
She'd circled the days till graduation on her calendar. Marked them off one by one. And two days after she graduated, she left Roswell.
She gets out of the car slowly. She must have been sitting for a while, because her joints are stiff.
When she first tried to remember that last day with Michael, she couldn't. She would get to maybe the early afternoon, and she would start crying, would have to think of something else. It got a little easier as she got older.
But she has always carried the memory of Michael in that last moment with her. Did he love her more than he should have, or did he not love her enough?
It doesn't really matter, does it? In the end, he loved her enough to give her something, and to let her find a way to move on with her life. She isn't like Liz, she doesn't have a series of ordered memories, of a love that was perfection, but she does have something else. Maybe not something better, but it's hers.
She walks back into the hospital, heading for the ICU and her mother's room. When she gets there, her mother is awake. They talk about the doctor, the nurses, the traffic light on Main Street that always turns red five seconds after it's turned green. A nurse brings her mother some dinner and Maria laughs as her mother jokes about how her meal, a bowl of hot water and a packet of bouillon, will cost sixty-five bucks.
The door to her mother's room opens and Maria turns, a little surprised to hear a visitor come in now. The nurses were very adamant that they only let her back in after visiting hours were over because she didn't have a hotel reservation anywhere.
The light-the hazy, diffuse light that is only found in Roswell-catches the edge of a face, streaks across a head of hair. For a moment, just a moment, something she sees in that light reminds her of Michael.
And then it hits her.
He's not coming back.
Michael is not hers anymore.
He was never hers.
She swallows hard, suddenly glad that she came back to Roswell, glad that her husband has walked through the door. The smile she gives him is genuine. "I'm so glad you came!"
Alex wraps his arms around her and kisses her. "Of course I came. I love you. Where else would I go?"
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