|"The Young No Longer Speak"
|Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and the situations are owned by Regency Television and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
Category: Other Roswell Stories
|“The young no longer speak, but they have a silence that speaks for them at night.
They say, we were young; remember us.
They say, we have done what we could, but until it is finished it is not done.
They say, our deaths are not ours, they are yours; they will mean what you make them.
They say, we leave you our deaths; give them their meaning.”
Today is the twins’ tenth birthday. Birthdays should be a time of joy and celebration. But, since none of us have much experience with true happiness, our efforts to attain it for even a day always fall short. There is a heaviness that lingers throughout the day, the inescapable weight of absence. The two people who should be here are not, and thus any day which should be filled with smiles and laughter is instead plagued by uncomfortable silences. This day is even more so, because this morning Jay and Bella asked for a special birthday present - they want to know what happened to their parents.
Maria and Michael echo throughout this house, in pictures, in Michael’s art, Maria’s music. We’ve never tried to hide their lives or their love - Jay and Bella have always known who their parents were. But, we don’t talk about how they died.
It’s not that we’re trying to shield them from the truth, or from the violence of our world, though we do want to protect Jay and Bella as much as possible. The truth is, I don’t talk about Michael and Maria’s deaths because it reminds me of how badly I’ve failed. I was selfish, I made the wrong choices, waited too long to act. My loved ones have paid for my mistakes.
The five of us left have gone this long without talking about what happened. But this morning, Bella asked the question I’ve been waiting to hear from them, and I can’t deny them anything. Especially not this, no matter how hard it is for me to finally deal with it. Tess says that I spoil them, but there’s a softness in her eyes even as she criticizes my parenting, and I know she doesn’t truly mean what she says. So tonight, after our family birthday dinner, we will answer these questions. I am hoping that old cliché, “the truth will set you free,” is true, but somehow I cannot help but think they will never be able to forgive me once they know what I did.
“May God grant us peace and happiness; may He bless our beloved Jeremy and Isabella in this next year and keep them healthy and safe; may He help us to remember those we have lost.”
Kyle’s voice faded away and the room lapsed into silence. Moments after finishing perhaps the most solemn celebratory meal in the history of Earth, moments away from fulfilling Jay and Bella’s birthday wish, I wasn’t sure this was such a good idea. But then Alex was clearing his throat, and there was no turning back.
“I met your mother the very same day I was born,” he began, turning to face the twins. “She would be one of my best friends, and the connection between us was apparent almost immediately. Your grandma once told me that we were both inconsolable unless our cribs were next to each other. Amy somehow convinced my parents that Maria and I were bonded, friends of the soul or something like that. I’m not sure exactly how she did it, all I know is that my parents never had any problem with their only son hanging out with a girl. In third grade we met Liz, and the three of us were inseparable, at least until Max healed her.”
Alex looked at me questioningly, and I wondered if I had spoken out loud. Michael and Maria existed in my life, even after their deaths; Liz did not. There were no pictures of her in my house, and Alex was quite possibly the first person to speak her name to me in ten years.
“They…they don’t know who Liz is,” I started, feeling the need to explain myself to my friends, to justify my silence, to wipe away the mixture of sadness, pity, and confusion in their eyes. I tried to explain, but all I could manage to do was to repeat my earlier statement. “They don’t know who she is.”
No one was more surprised than I when Jay corrected me, “Yes we do, Uncle Max; we know Auntie Liz. She comes to visit us.”
I’m sure I turned ghostly pale at Jay’s assertion, not only at its sheer impossibility, but that he had spoken at all. Put simply, he barely ever talks. Even that is an understatement. Jay has said maybe five sentences in the years since Michael and Maria died, the last being almost two years ago when Bella knocked herself unconscious trying a new trick on the playground bars. Generally, he speaks through his sister, transmitting his thoughts to her through some kind of telepathic link. The private school they attend writes this off to the psychological trauma of losing his parents so violently. Every year, his teachers try to coax language out of him. But, as long as I keep making donations and he keeps doing genius-level schoolwork, they are content to accommodate his idiosyncrasies.
I was jolted back to reality by Tess’s voice, asking Jay if he was sure what he had seen was real. Kind of ironic, considering all the times she tried to make me see or hear things that weren’t real in attempts to force me to honor our destiny. If only I knew then what I do now, maybe we wouldn’t all be here, trying to explain to these two children why their parents are dead.
Jay didn’t respond, except to turn to Bella. “Yes we’re sure,” she answered for both of them. “She comes to see us sometimes at night, after we go to bed. She’s pretty, but not as pretty as mama. Her hair is long and thick and dark, and her eyes are almost as dark, and she glows. She tells us stories. Sometimes she laughs, but she’s always sad underneath. She misses you, Uncle Max. Why don’t you see her?”
I could feels the walls inside my mind which have kept me sane all these years begin to crumble, and I turned to Isabel, mentally begging her to help me. Maybe the two of us still share a bond like Jay and Bella’s, because she did save me, answering questions I could hardly even bear to face.
“Bella,” she said to her namesake, “Liz is…Liz died, sweetie. She died a long time ago, with your mom and dad…She’s gone.”
“We know that,” Bella wailed in reply, clutching Jay’s sleeve so tightly I thought it would rip. It’s strange, the mundane things you worry about in the midst of a mental breakdown…. “We know, and so does she, but she doesn’t know why,” Bella continued, almost sobbing. “We just have to know why.”
“Well,” Kyle said moments later, finally breaking the painful, uncomfortable silence, “We were already telling how your parents died, it won’t be hard to add Liz into the story. At least,” looking over at me, “at least if Max will be okay.”
“Yes,” I mumbled, barely able to meet anyone’s eyes. “They need to know what happened…what I did. Tell them.”
“Well, I met Liz and Alex and Maria in fourth grade. Alex was the geek my friends and I tormented every day after school…uhm…sorry again about that Alex,” Kyle began, warily eyeing Isabel to make sure she wouldn’t come after him. “Maria was his defender, the one who beat us up every day until we realized that teasing Alex just wasn’t worth it. Hey,” he continued, turning towards Jay. “Don’t give me that look. Girls mature faster than boys, you know. And your mom always was a force to be reckoned with. Liz,” this time he turned to look at me, ”Liz was the girl I was in love with.” Looking at Tess he hurriedly added, “Well, at least I thought it was love, until I met your Aunt Tess.”
Pausing to take a few sips of water, Kyle sighed contentedly as Tess ran a hand through his hair and down the back of his neck. Even now, it still somewhat amazes me that they are together. And no matter how good they are for each other, I can’t help but wish that they weren’t.
The painful nudge of Isabel’s shoe against my thigh jerked me back from my pondering of “what if” and “if only.” Either I had been zoned out longer than I thought, or Kyle’s storytelling was much more concise than his father’s, because he was already talking about our senior year of high school.
“Nobody was more shocked than Maria and I when our parents got married right before our senior year of high school. Well…maybe Tess was. After the wedding, Amy and Maria moved in, and Tess moved out. It got weird, with Tess and I living together when we were starting to get involved as more than friends. And…” Kyle trailed off, glancing back and forth between Tess and me as though trying to decide just how to explain the complexity of our Czechoslovakian interpersonal relationships to two ten year olds.
“Well, Maria and I just didn’t get along very well back in high school,” Tess finally continued. “Liz either, for that matter.”
“Why not, Auntie Tess?” Bella asked quietly. “Why didn’t you like my mama?”
“Oh, honey,” Tess replied, reaching forward to stroke Bella’s golden hair, pushing a wayward strand back into place behind her ear. “It’s not that we hated each other…well, at least I didn’t hate them….” Tess was quiet then, and I could almost see the thoughts flowing through her mind as tears welled up in her eyes. “But I wasn’t exactly a nice person back then, and I did some things I shouldn’t have, things that hurt Liz very much. She hated me for those things, even though she tried to act like she didn’t. And your mother…well, she didn’t hate me, but she didn’t like me either, out of loyalty to Liz. Maria and I did become good friends, eventually. Liz would probably hate me still though….” Tess trailed off into silence again, the pain of her memories almost tangible, her eyes unfocused as her mind revisited the past.
Suddenly, she seemed to come back to herself, and continued telling her side of our story. “I moved in with Michael, and that was almost as interesting as living with Kyle and Jim. I’m really glad I got that opportunity to get to know Michael better. Even though neither one of us liked the idea much at first, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. Michael was my brother, remember. That year was the first time I’d ever gotten to know my real family. It helped me in so many ways - to trust people, to learn how to treat others, how to deal with emotion. That time living with Michael made me who I am today.”
Stifling a yawn, Bella looked around the room at each of us. “We know what happened after high school. Mama and daddy got married right away, and then they had us two years later. We need to know what happened after that….”
After a few seconds pause as we braced ourselves for what would come next, Isabel began to speak. “Do you remember your dad at all?” she asked the twins as she nestled within Alex’s arms.
“We remember his hair,” Bella giggled. “And his scent - wet paint and Tabasco sauce.”
“He was warm,” Jay said, blushing as we all turned to look at him. As he continued, I wondered if he had finally decided the rest of us were worthy of his words. “He was always warm - we used to go curl up in bed with him when it was cold and rainy outside.”
“He listened to loud music,” Bella continued, “and he always teased mama, and he cried every time her songs played on the radio. And he made omelets for breakfast every Sunday and cracked the eggs one-handed.”
“And he loved us,” Jay said softly, and I remembered how excited Michael had been when he found out Maria was pregnant.
“That’s right,” Isabel replied, “your daddy loved you very much. He loved all of us, and he tried his hardest to protect us. Things started getting really bad when you guys were about two years old. Someone from the F.B.I. started following us after they found some files from when we were still in high school. And we still had the Skins to deal with. It seemed like every time we took care of one problem, another would follow right after. We were still dealing with our enemies as peacefully as possible, he didn’t want us to hurt anyone unless we absolutely had to, to protect ourselves. When we found out the F.B.I. was hunting us again, Michael got worried. He wanted to take care of the threat as soon as possible, to protect his family. He wanted to…well, he wanted to kill our enemies, to get rid of them once and for all. Max wouldn’t let him. Then one day, we found out Liz had been taken - abducted - by the F.B.I. We looked everywhere, trying to find Max, but we couldn’t. So Michael went to rescue Liz…. Maria and I followed him, to try and make sure he didn’t do anything stupid. I remember he was scared; we were all so scared….”
Isabel hadn’t looked up once while she told what happened that night. But now she did; she looked right at me, and I could tell she wasn’t really seeing me. Instead, her mind was sucked into the past, reliving the horror of those days. We all had to strain to hear her as she continued, “It was a trap. I don’t know how they knew we would come, but they did. Liz was nearly dead when we got there…They captured Michael while he was trying to heal her. They…they killed him. They killed him, and your mom went crazy with grief. I tried to stop her, but I couldn’t. I was alone, and I couldn’t stop her. She attacked the first person she saw, and didn’t stop until they’d killed her too. I couldn’t protect her, I couldn’t save her…they shot me with some drug - one they call “Kryptonite” - and I couldn’t use any of my powers. I tried to save her, but I was alone, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t….”
Her eyes had never left me, though I couldn’t look at her. I felt her bloodshot gaze boring into me. Startled, I jumped as her voice suddenly raised from a tremulous whisper to a bloodcurdling scream. “Where were you Max??? We needed you and you weren’t there! I needed you! Michael needed you!! Liz needed you!! And you weren’t there…. Dammit Max, where the hell were you??? Why didn’t you come??? We needed you,” she whispered once again before collapsing into Alex’s arms, his soft-spoken murmurs doing nothing to ease her sobs.
“I was in the desert,” I answered. It was time for the truth. “I was…thinking. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, not even Liz. I went…to think. And I made a decision,” I continued, my voice cracking slightly. “I decided that…Michael was right. We had to protect ourselves, our children…. Michael was right. I came back to tell you all, and I found Tess alone with two babies who wouldn’t stop crying. You were such good babies…you never cried. I knew then…knew that I was too late, knew that Michael and Maria were dead, knew that it was my fault….”
With tears streaming down my face I reached out for Isabel, cringing when she shrank back from me. “I’m sorry,” I said, reaching out for her again. This time she let me touch her, and I buried my face in her shoulder. “I waited too long to make a decision, and I left you alone, and I’m sorry.”
Turning to Bella and Jay, I told them, “You wanted to know what happened to your parents. Now you know…they died because of my weakness.”
Surprisingly, they rushed into my arms, clutching at me, crying with me. Slowly, the others left, and eventually the twins fell asleep. Not me, though. I stayed awake all night, thinking about what I hadn’t told the others…. I hadn’t told them why Liz was taken…. I hadn’t told them that when Isabel, Tess, and I returned to the F.B.I. base I had tortured one of the agents until he answered all my questions. Just by coincidence - deus ex machina at work in real life - the one I tortured was a Skin. He told me they took Liz because they knew I would come for her - they took her to get to me. He told me they had thought Michael was me, that they wouldn’t have killed him if they’d known who he was - apparently they have some moral code about not killing people with children. That’s why Nasedo tried so hard to get the four of us to fulfill our destiny. If I hadn’t loved Liz…if I hadn’t fought so hard to keep her, if I had fallen out of love with her when she walked away from me, she would still be alive. Two of my best friends and the love of my life died because of me, and their deaths have no meaning. That’s the truth I have to live with.
Or maybe not. Another thing that Skin told me before he died was what the Granilith is for.
It’s a time machine.
I’m the only one who remembers what is now an alternate reality. As I watch my children play with their cousins, I can hardly believe how everything turned out. I went back fourteen years into the past trying to change history, returning home thinking I had failed. What I found upon my return, however, proved that I had succeeded more than I thought possible.
Michael and Maria are alive here, and so are Jay and Bella. They have two younger siblings, Brian and Kate, who will be four next month. Alex and Isabel are married, and are expecting their first children - twins, of course - in December. Kyle is married too, to a wonderful woman who I loved, once upon a time and probably forever. They don’t have any children yet, though. He says he’s quite content to be the uncle who spoils the kids rotten. He doesn’t seem to have succeeded yet with my two though. They are the highlight of my life, absolute angels. Claudia and Matthew will be thirteen next month. They both share their mother’s dark hair, her “almost-as-dark” eyes, as Bella has always called them, and her passion for science.
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours