Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
Summary: Future fic, UC. Maria returns to Roswell and finds one person who understands.
Category: Unconventional Couples
Authors Note: Dedication: To shimi, who asked me a question and inspired me. Thank you!
__Two Weeks Ago__
Maria stared at Michael. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to say. He seemed to be waiting for something, she could tell he was waiting for something from the look on his face.
Wasn't she supposed to be furious? She was sure she was-hadn't she read novels about the woman who'd lost it all, hadn't she seen movies about the woman who got rejected? Wasn't she supposed to scream at him, to shout that he'd ruined her life?
But all she felt was a lone start of surprise, and then, right on its heels, a bitter thought (which meant it was almost certainly true): 'Isn't this what I was always waiting for? Did I really expect the slow fade to sunset for us?'
"Ok" she told him slowly, carefully. She looked around their apartment. Almost no furniture, no knickknacks, no photos. Too much trouble, Michael had always said. What if we have to run? What if I have to run is what he meant, and that was what he was doing. Running. Leaving. Exiting. His specialty.
"Isabel needs you, right?" she continued.
Did she even need to ask the question? Of course not. Who else would it be? Who would Michael drop everything for, who had she always known that Michael would drop everything, everyone for? Who did Michael always run to when push came to shove, once it became clear that Max and Liz were forever and nothing was going to change that? Always Isabel.
His eyes met hers, and she knew he would wait for her to finish before he spoke.
"Go on and run." she finished. "Go to her, go to the one person who is willing to put up with all your distances and fury and sullen silences. Go and be happy, because what we have now isn't making either of us happy, and I love you enough to let you go."
Big words, Maria. She meant some of them, but who knew he'd have listened to her? Who knew he'd really leave this time when he hadn't before?
She knew it would be for good, that he wouldn't run back into her arms this time. She knew, and she knows why. Isabel had come to visit them a month ago, and Maria knew that the end was beginning when she came into the kitchen one morning and found them sitting in companionable silence, Michael's face relaxed and content, Isabel's dreamy and happy. She and Michael had never sat like that, in silence, totally in tune with each other.
Not one time in almost fifteen years.
No, they'd had a noisy, joyful disaster of a relationship. A roller-coaster ride of fights and arguments and passionate reconciliations. Mornings spent bickering and making up and arguing some more.
"I'm tired," he finally said. His voice was low, and she nodded, because there was nothing left to say. She was tired too.
How can she be lost? She lived in Roswell for eighteen years, eighteen long years, and she was sure she remembered how to get there. But she doesn't. She decided to take the back way, go down the roads she used to drive on as a teenager, the "scenic tour" as Michael always called it --"dust and sky and a shit load of nothing."
She finally pulls over to the side of the road and gets the map out of the glove compartment. She bought it on a whim right before she left San Francisco, still on a high from finding out that she actually still likes who she is. She stares at the squiggle of radiating lines and curves around Roswell, finally locating the road she is on and trying to figure out how it gets to the town.
After five minutes, she gives up and throws the map into the glove compartment in disgust. Stupid New Mexico, stupid Roswell, stupid Michael. Stupid Michael who is probably with Isabel now, cupping the back of her head, pulling her in closer, his eyes intense and bright, his mouth descending towards hers...
He isn't listening, but then she didn't really think that he would. She turns the car around and goes back the way she came. There wasn't anything to look at-just dirt and endless desert, so she figures she's probably headed in the right direction. She arrives in Roswell a half-hour later.
__Ten Days Ago__
It took him a while to pack. She was surprised by that. It seemed he'd accumulated more in the ten years of them living together, in the five years of on-and-off living together before that, than either of them had realized.
She'd gone and gotten boxes from the dumpster behind the building and very carefully slit the bottoms just enough so that they would break once he got where he was going, once he stopped running. Isabel never liked messes, and Maria took a grim pleasure in imaging her helping Michael take his stuff out of the car, of Michael's stuff falling to the ground, of the set of Isabel's mouth as she looked at down at Michael's life strewn everywhere. She almost stuffed some of her underwear in the boxes, just for an extra special touch, but decided that was too much. The boxes alone would drive Isabel mad, she would have to acknowledge that Maria had been part of Michael's life in some way.
She'd stayed away for three hours that morning, thinking that was plenty of time. She was sure that when she got back to the apartment that Michael would be gone, that he would have vanished silently, the way he always did. She would call Liz and tell her most of what happened, then she would cry, and then she would figure out what to do.
But Michael was still there, folding his shirts. Folding! She knew then that he wanted to say good-bye to her, and she wondered about that. Good-byes weren't really Michael's style. And then she realized that it was a sign--a sign of how final this parting was.
She closed her eyes at the sound of his voice. Yes, she could admit that they were over. Yes, she could admit that for every good time they'd had, there'd been two or three or twenty bad ones. But his voice. His beautiful Michael voice-it made her want to weep. She loved him, she loves him, and she knows that he loves her. Why couldn't it work, why was what they had never enough for either of them? Why were they never totally comfortable with each other?
He put the last shirt in the box awkwardly and she tossed her keys on the counter, wincing at the noise. He walked over to her, and she leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder.
The ending of a relationship should be marked with something. Sometimes it's tears; sometimes it's happiness. Sometimes it's anger.
Sometimes it's with love. She kissed him with all the love she felt for him, for them, and felt it in the echoing pressure of his own mouth, in his hands as they roamed over her body.
Sometimes-not all the time, but sometimes-love isn't enough. Sure, you can buy sweet little cards that promise that love is all you need--but greeting card makers do lie, you know. They have to make money somehow.
The Crashdown looks the same. Mr. and Mrs. Parker sold it ten years ago-to Alex, of all people, but he hasn't made many changes. She sits down at the same table Michael always sat at, and then moves when she realizes what she's done. When she sits down again, she turns all the little bottles of Tabasco sauce towards the wall so she doesn't have to look at the label.
"Hi! Welcome to the Crashdown!"
The waitress is maybe sixteen, and Maria wonders if she was that annoyingly perky when she was that age. She knows she was probably worse. "Is Alex here?"
The girl shakes her head. "No. He and Jane went to some concert in Albuquerque. Do you want to see a menu?"
Maria nods and the girl hands her a menu and leaves. She opens it up but doesn't really look at it. Alex and Jane? Wow. After Alex and Isabel broke up during their senior year, Alex had started dating Jane, who was the singer in his band.
Maria figured it was a rebound thing, even though Liz once told her that Isabel had been jealous of Jane. Maria had laughed and laughed till her sides hurt when she heard that. Isabel, jealous? Alex had worshipped the ground she walked on, had contented himself with the occasional dates that Isabel would allow, the time she doled out in between worry session over Max. And Michael. And now it turns out that maybe Liz was right, maybe Isabel had been jealous. Maybe Isabel had been jealous for a reason.
"Well, whatever" Maria mutters. "I still hate her."
"Still talking to yourself, I see. Well, what with being attached to the monosyllabic wonder, I guess I can't blame you. I suppose a conversation with yourself could actually be more interesting than a conversation with Michael. After all, how many ways can a person grunt a response? "
Kyle? It sounds like him-she and Liz used to say 'If it sounds Christian Slater or Jack Nicholson on a bad day, it's Kyle.' She turns to check and yes, it is Kyle.
Maria starts laughing as she takes in the hat, the gun holster, the badge tucked beside his belt. "What is this, dress-up day in Roswell? Maybe one of my old uniforms is still in the back."
"Well, if I wasn't sure it was you before, I am now. Maria DeLuca, Roswell's answer to a question no one asked. What are you doing here in town and where's your non-verbal other half?"
"I'm just visiting for a few days. Thought I'd see how everyone is doing and all that. Nice to see that you managed to find a job. Guess nepotism isn't dead after all."
Kyle laughs, which surprises her, and drops down into the booth, sitting across from her. That surprises her more. He looks...different. Older. The last time she saw Kyle was graduation, when she dragged Michael to a party out on the edge of town. Kyle had been dead drunk and he'd gone around to everyone, whooping about how school was finally out forever.
He and Max had talked for half an hour, and Maria had looked over by chance while they were talking and got a glimpse of Kyle's eyes. They were intense and almost sad and Maria knew then that Kyle wasn't as drunk as he was acting, that he wasn't as stupid as he looked, and that he had secrets of his own.
She'd forgotten all about that moment till now.
"Sooooo," Kyle says, lacing his fingers together and resting his hands on the table. "What are you doing here, really?"
"Michael left me. For Isabel." She claps her hand over her mouth as soon as she says it, surprised. She hadn't even told Liz the whole truth, figuring that Liz would find out from Max anyway, and not wanting more of Liz's pity than she'd already gotten.
Kyle leans back in the booth. He lifts his hands up, then back down, then back up again, sweeping his hat off and putting it on the table. "Guerin always was stupid. Wouldn't knew a good thing if it came up and bit him on the ass." His face flushes a little and he continues hurriedly. "Anyway, you still haven't answered my question. Why did you come back here?"
She shrugs slightly. "I don't know." She takes a deep breath, looks around the cafi. Why did she come back here? What was she hoping to prove? What did she expect to find? "I guess I just figured that it would seem real to me, you know. If I came back here, to where it all started...."
"Then it might all finally sink in."
"Yes." She is sure she sounds surprised, because she is. "How did you..."
"I played ball for the Astros." Kyle's voice is softer now, slower, and he leans forward a little. "Two seasons. I tore a tendon in my leg, and that was it. I didn't believe it, that it was all over, till I came back here. But the minute I got here, back to where it all started, back to where I started, and got out of the car, I just knew it. I was able to start accepting it."
"Can I take your order?"
The chirpy waitress is back and Maria looks at her in confusion. She's still trying to absorb the fact that Kyle--Kyle!-- understands why she came back here.
"What can I get you?"
"Uh, tea would be good."
The waitress turns to Kyle. "And for you, Sheriff?"
Kyle smiles. "Got any pie?"
The waitress rolls her eyes and nods, leaves the table.
Maria looks at Kyle. "Still eating pie, huh?"
He shrugs. "You know how it is with habits. Hard to break and all that."
She thinks of Michael, standing in front of the bedroom window in their apartment, looking at the night sky. Looking for the home he never could find, looking for answers that were never there.
"Yeah," she says. "I know all about that."
__Three Days Ago__
She'd spent two glorious days wallowing in misery. She'd gone and bought containers of her favorite ice cream and ate till her stomach hurt, and then she'd gone through all her things, looking at everything Michael had ever given her and remembering. She'd called Liz and told her that Michael had left. She left out the particulars of why, but had a good cry anyway, secure in the knowledge that Liz would find a way to make her feel better.
But she hadn't even been listening to Liz when Liz had worked her way through her "sometimes these things happen" part of her 'speech for Maria's break-ups with Michael' and was onto "and you know, sometimes the best thing is to take a little time for self-discovery."
She'd been looking out the window. It was a beautiful day in San Francisco and she'd just noticed how blue the sky was, how alive all the trees looked, how happy everyone on the street seemed to be. She'd made up an excuse, gotten off the phone, and gone outside.
She'd wandered down to Chinatown and bought bars of green and pink soap wrapped in festive paper. Tourist trinkets, but she didn't care. It felt good to be out.
She ended up by the Wharf, the most touristy of all tourist traps, but she had a great time wandering around, seeing the city where she lived through the excited eyes of a visitor.
She went to the movies. She went shopping and brought the loudest, brightest shirt she could find, and then found a pair of shoes to go with it. She went to bookstores and read books in the aisles, sitting on the floor. She ate french fries without Tabasco sauce.
That's how she passed those last five days in San Francisco-a heady, joyous rush of just living, of doing all the things she wanted to do, when she wanted to do them. And when, on her last day in town, she ended up in a store looking at maps, and saw one of New Mexico, she thought, I should go to Roswell. To prove that I can. I can do it, I can. I should. So why don't I go?
So she left. She threw her clothes in the car, slid her apartment key under the landlord's door, and went back to the store to buy the map. On her way out of town, she was surprised to realize that the last five days hadn't been bad. In fact, they'd been pretty good. Michael was gone, and it hurt like hell, but she would live.
The waitress comes back with their order, and Maria drinks her tea and Kyle eats his pie. They talk about what she's been doing, about what he's being doing, about what's going on in Roswell. Kyle pays for her tea, and she doesn't try to stop him. Afterwards, they walk outside the Crashdown and stand on the sidewalk awkwardly. Both of them glance at the UFO museum and then at each other.
"You know," she says, pausing to shade her eyes from the sun. She'd forgotten how relentless the sun could be in Roswell, how it could fill the space around you, shine onto things you didn't want to see, show you things you'd never noticed, "it was actually nice talking to you."
Kyle smiles at her, a thin, humorless smile that is at odds with the light in his eyes. "I've always been nice to talk to" he tells her. "You just didn't notice it till now."
She laughs and taps his shoulder lightly.
Flirting. It feels good. There's a smile on her face when she says "I'm going to be in town for a while. I guess I'll see you around."
Kyle tips his hat at her slightly. His father used to do that, and the gesture used to unnerve her. But that was then, and this is now.
An image-a still life, like a photograph that peers out at your from the dusty pages of a history book; look at these people who were once here, where have they gone?-flashes in front of her eyes.
Another woman and another man, years ago, standing together in the same spot, laughing slightly, able to look past the pain of their respective pasts. Two people, with nothing and everything in common, and a yearning for those comfortable silences.
She watches Kyle walk away, reaches up, touches her face. Yes, there is a smile there. She can feel it in the curve of her cheeks, the upward tilt of her mouth.
"I'll be damned" she mutters to herself. "Maybe Mom wasn't so crazy after all."
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