FanFic - Other
"When They Awoke"
Part 3
by Xenutia
Disclaimer: Congratulations to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims and the people at the WB who've come up with something so good I'm sick with envy.
Summary: Just what it looks like. This is an account of that night in 1989 when Max, Isabel and Michael woke from the pods, and the way they grew into the young adults we know and love. This is a story that has haunted me and emotionally imprinted itself upon me as the series told it, and Išve done the rest. Hope you like it.
Category: Other
Rating: PG
Authors Note: I donšt know if Išve got all the information right, and therešs still bits wešve not been told at all - where was Michael for the three years between 1989 and 1991, exactly? When did Tess awake, and why was she so much later than the others? - but Išve taken notes and done my best. This is a story I felt deserved to be told in its entirety, a story far too strong to be referred to only in conversations between the characters. So here we go.
In the three years since, Sheriff Valenti has not really thought again about the boy that was brought in that day. Even the cola-stain, which the cleaner had quite adamantly enforced would never completely go, had faded. He has had his own worries, a failing marriage and his own son, to think about. Kyle has grown to a strong and handsome boy, with an uncanny talent for all sports, and although he has shown no interest in accepting the badge as both Valenti and his father before him had done, he is fiercely proud.

He is working late again tonight - in a way he supposed it was his late nights that had contributed, in some way, to Michellešs departure - and it is a busy night. A call has come in from the trailer park just outside of town, a concerned neighbour reporting yells and the sounds of furniture being thrown in one of the trailers. Sheriff Valenti knows the culprit, although on the previous two occasions he was off-duty and had only heard the second-hand reports from his deputies the following day. Tonight, Jim has the pleasure of visiting the scene first-hand, and in his official capacity.

The trailer park is a sorry state of affairs, even by the standards he sometimes encounters on these calls. Of the twenty or so trailers, only one appears fit for human occupation, a fairly new holiday-camper parked on the farthest outskirts of the lot, away from the squalid conditions of the main camp. The camp itself is littered with overflowing trash-cans, evidence of these peoplešs lack of any kind of organisation or house pride, and three mangy dogs are scrapping in the gravel nearby. The trailer from which the commotion had come is perhaps the worst of the whole dishevelled lot, and the flashing beacons of the police cruisers cut deadly angles and shadows in red and blue across the face of the vehicle. A small crowd has gathered in the dirt road and are being held back by his deputies, idle spectators whose lack of involvement with the disturbance would in no way impede their ability to pretend, after the event, that they were in the thick of it. Gossip in such cases was a sad business, but it was also a consistently unavoidable one.

Valenti is the last on the scene, tonight, having arrived from a traffic violation uptown, and the trailer and its occupants have already been secured. Every one of the lawmen on duty know Hank; his drunken bouts have often caused such scenes in town, and his record has grown, over the last three years or so, from an acorn to an oak. Valenti sees the man in police restraints, cuffed to prevent him from attacking any of the officers on duty, but one of his deputies, a man named Hoskins, is studying one dirty corner of the trashed trailer. Hoskinsš broad body obscures Valentišs view of it for a moment; then the deputy steps back, shrugging apologetically to his superior officer, and Valenti understands that this case has been passed over to him. Just what the case is he does not yet have any idea.

It is the boy, of course. He has grown, by almost a clear foot, in those three years, and his jaw has set and his shoulders broadened; but the Sheriff recognises those feral, quick eyes, sadness beneath the aggression that he wears like a mask, and he recognises that posture, too, that protective huddle, from long ago. The boy, whom he later learns has been named Michael since they last met, is taken outside cautiously to make a statement. But Jim Valenti would not be the Sheriff he was if he needed a statement to tell him what had been going on here tonight. Bruises spoke more than words.

She knows from her very first day that her life is not her own. She is told that, every day of her life, by the strange man that isnšt a man at all. He changes his face sometimes, and at first it scares her so badly she canšt help but scream...but it is something she grows used to, before she can even speak.

She is given a name, any name, because names on this world arenšt important. She is called Tess because it was the first name he saw, on a magazine cover in a shop window. She wonders about this strange non-man, if he has a name, and he impatiently lets her call him Nesado - why, she doesnšt know. For him, it is as good a name as any. Nesado is what she calls him when they are alone...but secretly, she will always think of him as Dad. When they have company, she is allowed to call him that, as if he were her father, because it is what he wants people to think he is. Names come to hold a weird power and mystery for her, even as a child. And she wonders what his name is, and if she will ever find out, long before it is first instilled in her young mind just why she dreams of him. Why she dreams first of a boy and then of a man she doesnšt know. And why she never sees his face.

The dreams at the earliest stages mean nothing to her. She has no model for love, for companionship, for the desire to be with others. Nesado teaches her to neglect her emotions, and it is what she does, in the day, so well she forgets she ever felt at all...but in the night, when she dreams, she feels whole again. She feels love and safety within the boundaries of a place that never was, with a boy she can only feel, but never see. She feels warmth from him, and from others, from her family...her real family. She lives for the nights when she can sleep and be loved.

Nesado provides for her, and well - she wants for nothing. He is never angry with her or hard on her the way the parents she sees in the streets are. He never shouts, or denies her the things she wants, materially. But the one thing she wants, his time and love, she can never have. He is a guardian and she is what she is - not a girl, not a child, not even a human. She learns to use powers she never dreamed of, powers she soon learns to guard jealously, before she can even read. She knows that none of the children she knows can do the things she can, and she almost begins to imagine, as she grows older, that these can replace the family life she so desperately wanted as a little girl.

Her dreams become her refuge, stronger as she matures, more urgent as they move from town to town, searching for these people she feels she knows, but has never met. One day she is shown a book, strange shiny metal bound in rings, and inside there is an engraving. She recognises herself, and assumes that the two she sees above, the boy with the spiky hair and the girl with the feline eyes and long, blonde hair are the two she always sensed, in the background; her family. The boy pictured beside her is what she will most remember, most treasure. It is the first she has ever seen of the one she dreams of, and she wonders how accurate it is, if this is really what he looks like...if he is as handsome as he seems, carved into metal in the pages of a book not of this world. After that, though she still sees nothing, she dreams of a face based upon that image, she imagines when she wakes that she really sees him, and it becomes more a part of her secret heart than before.

Nesado knows of the dreams, and it has occurred to her to wonder if maybe this alien being was the one causing them...but he rarely speaks to her about them, rarely indicates he knows anything at all. When she is old enough, she is told a little...that she is destined for this faceless man, as the two she saw above them are destined for each other. She begins to guess at names that would suit them, the faces she saw in that book, the only glimpse she has ever had, her first proof that she will not always be alone. And she begins to guess at their personalities, a little; something in the images speak to her, tell her that the spiky-haired boy is as sharp and as ungiving as his hair, that the girl is graceful and feminine as that beautiful face promises, and that her future husband is as strong as his square jaw and gentle as his peaceful eyes. She tries not to think of the impression her own image gives, because she does not like what she sees.

The time comes when she is a young woman, and Nesado announces that it is time to move on again. They leave Alabama and the friends she has made, but this time, the move and the loss is not painful; she knows she will be with him, soon. They are finally going to find her family. Her dreams on the road are more desperate and more heated than any she can remember.

He has forgotten, by now, just how many nights hešs spent like this - hiding in the cubby-hole of a room he sleeps in, lying in the dark, hating the blackness, but afraid to turn a light on in case it should wake the man that dares call himself his foster-father. Tonight, as he lies uneasily in his camp-bed, sweating heavily in the dark heat of summer in this cramped and unventilated trailer, Michael is nursing a sprained wrist. He has had worse, had bruises under his clothes that not even Max and Isabel knew anything of, bruises which had been best hidden by making himself disappear until they faded. It looks as though he may be doing so for a few days, this time; until his wrist is healed and he can show himself in public again. He has tried, before, to heal the marks himself, knowing that Hank will not even remembering having done it in the morning, and will not miss them. Sometimes, he is lucky; the bruise is not so bad or hešs having a good day, and it works. Other days, no matter how much he may want to, his power remains unfocused, and fails. Tonight is one of those nights, and he can only bind the swollen wrist up in scraps of an old t-shirt, and lie still, waiting for the the crashing sounds in the main trailer to start up again, waiting for Hank to wake up. He may still escape tonight with no worse than this sprain, if Hank sleeps off the alcohol in his system before morning. Michael will be sure to make himself scarce long before he wakes, will disappear up to the lake for the day, where no-one, not even Max and Izzy, will find him. If Hank will only stay asleep.

The night passes, endless and cloying and airless, and he lies, hot and thirsty in his bed, unable to breathe, too afraid to go out for air or a drink in case he should do the unthinkable, and wake Hank. He watches the square of grey in his wall, the night sky showing only the faintest starlight, moonless and quiet, and waits for the thin pale light of dawn to begin to creep over his window-pane.

At dawn, holding his breath and nursing his awkward wrist against his chest, he slips out of bed, and unlatches his door, creeping like a cat-burglar trespassing on private property. A single lamp has been left on in the trailer, forgotten by them both in the heat of their arguments, and it flares brightly against his weary, unaccustomed eyes. After spending the night staring into the dark, the light hurts. Hank is asleep across the counter that serves as their kitchen, slumped forward, his greasy head and unshaven face resting in his stocky arms. He is snoring gutturally, like a blocked drain. Michael knows better than to stick around, knows the importance of being gone when the sun comes up; but this time, perhaps fascinated by how short and weak this ugly little man looks as he sleeps, he stays, watching silently. It is hard to believe that he should be afraid of this pathetic little man; hešs nothing special, hešs no prize fighter, no mastermind. But Michael is still a child, in many ways, and much as he bucks against authority, much as he pretends to be unafraid, he is. Hank is an animal, and living here is like some kind of hell invented by bored sadists, but it is all he knows. He fears that, if he fights back, Hank will wash his hands of him, and he will be sent on. Maybe someplace worse.

Or maybe - and this, perhaps, is what he is most afraid of - he would be sent someplace better.

And he knows he would never be able to cope with that.

The first day of school is something which has been long spoken of, but in that vague form never managed to hold much of either horror or anticipation in it. Now it is the day, and Max is scared to go. He has always been scared of people, even of his neighbours and his motheršs friends when they visit. Even when they buy he and Isabel candy and comment on them to his motheršs delight, he stays out of the way, hides behind his mother or behind the cushions or sometimes in his room. He is as nervous of other children as he is of adults.

Isabel is happy to finally be going. The other children she knows and plays with have been in school for years already, and it has been no secret on her part that she is jealous of them for that. She is conscientious the night before the term begins, carefully laying out her new outfit on the dresser and counting through her new books and pencils and packing them away in the crisp new satchel. She thinks her brother is weird to be so afraid. But Isabel has never acknowledged, the way he has already begun to, even at nine years old, just how different from other kids they really are.

His only source of any hope for the first day of school is a slim one, and perhaps it is strange he even remembers the way he does - he has never stopped thinking about the boy in the desert. The boy who stood on that rock, so high above them, announcing his presence for the first time. The boy who refused to go with them to the road that night, and was never seen again. Max has a tiny, foolish hope, a hope he has not shared even with Isabel, that he may find his lost brother there today. If a brother he even was.

Their mom sees them to the bus stop, and helps them climb the big yellow school bus, full of other children cheering and calling and throwing things. Isabel is in heaven, among these other children - at this age Max has no concept of hell, but it is close to the way he feels.

There are even more of these children he doesnšt know when the bus finally pulls up into the open front lot of the school, more noise, more yells and screams and things being thrown. Almost as soon as the bus has stopped Isabel is down the steps, and racing off into the playground, finding her friends, making others. Max waits quietly on the sidewalk, wanting to run home, wanting to curl up and hide the way he always hides when things seem too big and too grown-up for him, but there are too many people. His mom would only be mad if she found him back home, when he should be here, when she has insisted for some time now that like it or not he is going. So he stands clutching the new satchel in both hands, staring into the crowd, knowing that eventually Isabel will miss him and come back.

Close by where he stands, perhaps visible because of how calm and orderly they are amongst the rabble, a group of little girls stand in a ring. They are playing rock-paper-scissors, shaking their fists viciously together at each new game. Two of them, a small blond girl with red patched sneakers and a wide smile, and a dark-haired little thing in a blue dress, hold hands as they play, and they turn their smiles on each other as time and again, they win the game. They seem to be as capable of speechless communication as he and Isabel are, when they wish to be.

He is fascinated by them, and forgets to be afraid. He senses something. He has never told a soul of this power, a power he doesnšt understand, any more than he understands the other extraordinary things he can do, but he has always been able to sense things. About people, about whether they are good or bad, about the 'them' within. He watches the girls, the two holding hands and giggling like old friends, and knows they are good. Kind, and sweet, and good.

His eyes keep creeping back to the slim little girl with those huge brown eyes, like a puppy, and her long dark hair. He looks against every inclination he has. He looks because he is unable to stop, because it happens almost without his knowledge...because the things he senses from her are the most powerful he has ever felt, will ever feel. He looks, thinking she cannot see him, thinking he is as invisible as he feels...and she glances up, and, forgetting her friend, she meets his gaze.

It is here that he sees Liz Parker for the first time.

And now, she is all he sees.

The End.

Part 2 | Index
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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