FanFic - Unconventional Couples
"People of the Dust"
Part 2
by Rae Vertudez
Disclaimer: I do not own the television show "Roswell." If I did, I wouldpity the cast and crew because of the horrible wrath to which I would mostlikely subject them.
Summary: Eleven years have passed since the four aliens set off to fulfilltheir destiny. Michael, Max, and Isabel return to discover that the ones theyleft behind have fulfilled their own.
Category: Unconventional Couples
Rating: PG-13
Authors Note: Massive props to the Radish Twins and the Radish List fortheir patience and understanding; I may have been gone, but thank you for notmaking me forgotten. =) Radish Power! Mr. Raddish lives! Hugs all around forE. Amos, Sam Bermise, Lah-nee, A-man-DUH, Allison Anteater, and Phil;tangerines are the life for me, and "'01, baby!" Thanks, Dr. R. How YOUdoin', Josh? ;) Thank you to the writers and producers of various televisionshows for finally getting a clue and listening to my pleas, i.e. Pacey andJoey's union, Doug and Carol's reunion, and Monica and Chandler's engagement.It's been a wonderful season; thanks for me making me laugh, cry, and hollerat my TV set. Thank you to various "Roswell" fanfiction authors whose workinspired me to end my hiatus, get off my butt, and start writing again,namely Elizabeth (the brilliant and beautiful "Persephone's Footfalls"),Katjen (the awesome "Riding Waves of Doubt [I Tremble for My Beloved]"), andKara and Emily (RE forever! ::echo:: Ever... ever... ever...). Undyinggratitude is sent out to everyone who has sent me feedback on my work, everysingle one of you. Each letter brought the much-needed smiles, support, andinspiration I've needed to continue writing. Love you all, and peace out.
Eleven years later, it was happening again, but for the opposite reason. Another life was forming, and she had no choice but to go along with it. For that reason, she called a last-minute baby-sitter and drove to the motel. She got of the car and walked up to the door. But she didn't knock. She didn't have to. The door swung open before she could even raise our hand.

"You came," he said somewhat breathlessly.

"You asked me to, spaceboy," she replied, amused by how amazed he was.

He smiled when her special nickname for him rolled off her tongue so naturally, and she had to look away. Michael smiling at her was a rarity, and, above all, a very dangerous thing. Maria walked past him into the small room, their shoulders brushing slightly, and she tried to ignore how the air caught in her throat and the dizziness she felt in head.

She stood in the center of the barren room. It looked like it hadn't been touched. The bed was still perfectly made, there were no belongings scattered about. She was about to ask why when she felt his presence behind her. She froze again, knowing that if she turned around to face him, self-control would be a thing of the past.

"Why did you ask me to come here?" she asked.

"We need to talk."

"So talk," she replied, refusing to move.

"Not with your back facing me."

She turned slowly, and their eyes locked. And suddenly, there was no space between them. Their lips were touching, and they became lost in each other, she became lost in the sea of images he was trying to feed her through touch. He was trying to show her why he had asked her to come, why he had left all those years ago, why everything. She saw everything through his eyes, all those lost years and moments.

Flash.

She saw a pool of blinding white light. She watched as figures moved into it, only to disappear through the bright haze. Noise pounded into her ears, but no particular sound could be differentiated from amongst the deafening boom of clamor. She could feel his excitement, his nervousness, his awe as he looked at the radiant glow. Someone lightly touched his arm, and a bright-eyed Tess mouthed to him the words, "Isn't it amazing?" All he could do was nod in agreement and smile.

But then he turned around to see Max and Isabel, their arms linked, their eyes empty. Maria could feel his smile disappear and a sense of hesitation rise in his chest as he remembered what and who the three of them would be leaving behind.

Flash.

She saw a battle. All the warriors were faceless, and the thunderous noise she had heard from the last flash of light was replaced with cries of anger, pain, and suffering. Inhuman cries that echoed into the blood-red morning. Bodies were stacked upon each other on the desert ground. He couldn't see very well, he was so overwhelmed with fear, exhaustion, and confusion. All he could make out were figures moving toward each other for a fatal result, all he could feel was an emotional and physical ache that traveled up and down his body with an incessant flow. He was drowning in blood and sweat, most of which he knew did not belong to him. "Tell us what to do!" he heard someone call out to him in hysterics. "Give us a command, general! Any command!"

He looked up at the sun of his home planet, much larger and closer to the atmosphere than that of Earth's sun. The fire of the star seemed to mock him, and he hated it for it. He longed for the darkness. He longed for an embrace that was light years away.

Flash.

She saw the night sky. He was gazing up at it from the metal roof of some sort of community building, his legs dangling over the edge as he stared above him, at the endless expanse of stars, planets, and the black space between them. She saw an older Isabel--her expressive brown eyes more sad and lonely than she had seen them last--sit down beside him, the strands of her soft blonde hair braided and tucked into a bun, dressed in a simple beige shift that most likely was the dress of the women there. "We don't have to go through with the wedding," Isabel told him, gently laying her hand over his. "We both don't want this."

"They want us to marry," he replied somewhat robotically.

"No, they want freedom," she corrected. "We gave it to them. And now we can go back."

Flash.

She saw Max, and almost did not recognize him. His once-somber chocolate eyes had become hard and difficult to read, and his face was more angular and his features more pronounced. He had adopted the profile of a great leader, as well as the expressions and mannerisms, and it was almost startling how well the role suited him. He sat in the driver's seat, as always, in a rental car that sped down the desolate New Mexico highway. "They have lives of their own now," he was saying to his sister, seated next to him in the passenger side.

"We're just going to say hello, Max. That's all," she insisted. "I mean, after all these years, haven't you ever wondered...?"

"Sometimes," Max mumbled, looking into the rearview mirror to see a quiet Michael staring out the window into the desert landscape, preoccupied with his thoughts. Thoughts Maria could hear. He was practicing what he would say to her on her doorstep. 'Come away with me. Let me do what I should have done years ago,' the words reverberated in her own mind. 'I should have always known that home was wherever you were.'

Maria broke away from kiss then, and she gasped for breath. Michael, his hands still around her waist, looked at her expectantly, half-frightened and half-liberated that she had heard and seen those things, that he had exposed himself so fully. He had never done that before, allowed people to look into his soul and grasp the pictures and sounds inside, but he owed it to her. God how he owed it to her.

So there they stood, waiting for her answer.

"I... I can't," she stammered.

His heart dropped, and he remembered again why he never let anyone in so deeply before. When you shield yourself, you can't get hurt. You can't get disappointed.

You can't feel stupid.

"You can't," he echoed back her words

Maria shook her head vigorously. "No, I can't. I can't leave him. He's--" She stopped mid-sentence, and brought up her widened eyes to his face.

Maria wanted to slap herself for her stupidity, for forgetting that the world did not revolve around her. For being so caught up in trying to decipher her conflicted heart that she did not bother to recall in those moments of emotional struggle that her own husband had also been, at one time, in love with someone else, someone who had disappeared.

Someone who had returned.

"He's with Isabel," she realized out loud.

When he said nothing in reply, she pulled away from his arms. "He's with Isabel, isn't he? He's with..." She fixed on him an incredulous stare. "You came to see me, Max went to see Liz, Isabel went to see him..."

Still nothing.

Her eyes narrowed at his silence, and started to back away from him slowly as fury and jealousy seeped into her. "I don't believe you... I don't believe any of you..."

"Valenti told her that he was in New York, that's all he said," he told her, his air quickly returning to its custom indifference and detachment. "But since you two live in LA, she probably gave up after not finding him there--"

Maria buried her face in her hands. "He used to work at the executive branch in New York before we got married. But he's there now for a company conference." She dropped them down and crossed her arms across her chest. "But he's not at the conference. Nope," she continued, her tone hurt and accusing. "He and Izzy are probably fucking in some hotel room right about now. Am I right? Am I?"

Michael glared back at her. "I don't know," he seethed.

She wanted to kill Michael for still loving her. She wanted to strangle him for it. "Damn it, Michael," she said, rubbing her temple. "Why did you all have to come back and screw things up? We were doing *fine*. It took a while, but we got there." He looked away and sat down on the lumpy bed, focusing his utmost attention on a blank, chipping wall.

"Liz is *engaged*, the wedding is in a *month*," Maria continued, her voice rising in anger. "Do you know what Max showing up at her doorstep will do to her? *Do you*? And you and Isabel, my god... we are married. *Married*." She grew frustrated at his lack of eye contact and moved in front of him, trying to recapture his gaze. "Michael, look at me. *Look at me.*" He looked up at her sullenly. "He and I have a child. We've worked so hard to achieve some sort of normalcy, and now things are going to fall apart!"

"So what?" he shouted back at her. "You don't love him!"

"*What*?"

"You don't love him!" Michael repeated, rising to his feet. "Not the way you love me. You just love him because he stayed and I left!"

"That's right," she agreed, catching him off guard. "That's why I love him." She released a long breath to calm herself, and her tone became softer. "Do you know who spent all his time with me during the days I couldn't pull myself out of bed? Who practically spoon fed me when I didn't want to eat? And when I first came out to LA, he called my every single day. He kept me level, grounded. Sure, I still fucked up a couple of times, but I would have done so much worse without him." He tried to look away again, but she wouldn't let him. "I *do* love him, Michael. You're right, I may not love him the same way I love you. But I do love him. I love him for how strong he is, I love how much I need him. I love how I can't imagine my life without him."

Michael wordlessly returned to his seat on the bed, staring down at the open palms of his rough, blistered hands. Maria sat beside him, and gently told him, "It's better this way, Michael. It really is. Because what would happen if I did leave him? We'd have an amazing few months together, I don't doubt that at all. But then you'd finished tying up your 'loose ends' here and get called back home... and I wouldn't be able to go with you. I couldn't drag Jordy away from her here, from her own father. And I couldn't live my life without Jordy. So then you'd leave me behind in the dust once again. Forgotten."

He turned to her abruptly. "I could never forget you."

"I know," she said, smiling sadly. "But you have to. Otherwise, we'll be just keep going around in the same circles. And I don't have the stamina to do that anymore. I'm getting too old for this game. And I have far too much baggage to play."

"This is goodbye," he whispered, not quite believing it.

Maria shook her head. "This is good luck," she replied, wrapping her arms around him for one last embrace.

Flash.

He saw an abandoned bowl of cereal, sitting atop a cluttered dresser. In the reflection of the vanity mirror, he saw the figures of two people watching television from the bed, and recognized them instantaneously. Fifteen-year-old Maria, her hair undone and with bags under her eyes, was still in her pajamas and partially buried under the comforter despite the time of day. Alex, in his custom uniform of a buttoned-up plaid shirt and cargo pants, lay next to her on top of the covers, his arm comfortably around her shoulders. Together, they watched the noon news, not really paying attention to it all. They just needed something to fill the silence.

Flash.

He saw a pair of strappy high heels that had been tossed carelessly onto the floor. A hand reached down to pick them up, and he realized it was Maria's. She was older now; he guessed around eighteen or nineteen. Her hair was disheveled, and her dress looked wrinkled, as if it had been lying on the floor all night. Her make-up had worn off: only faint traces of color could still be seen on her lips and there were black smudges along the edges of her eye. With her shoes, purse, and jacket in her hands, she tiptoed past a sleeping form in the queen-sized bed, a balding, regal-looking man in his late forties with a gold Rolex watch around his wrist. Michael could feel her weariness as she slipped quietly out of the hotel room, as well as the self-disgust that was blindingly difficult to ignore.

Flash.

He saw a microphone, and a twenty-something Maria singing into it with an amazing amount of passion and grace. She held her hands tightly over her earphones, and her eyes were closed. Her head moved to each beat of the rhythm as she belted out each lyric with great fervor. As the melody of the song faded away, she slowly opened her eyes to find the few people behind the sound booth smiling at her with great satisfaction. "That was great, Ria," a red-headed woman said into her headpiece.

Maria grinned and gave her a thumbs-up, but Michael could still detect some melancholy and fatigue in her eyes.

Flash.

He saw Alex, and almost did not recognize him. He no longer was the scrawny geek West Roswell high had all those years before come to know and take for granted. He was taller, more solid, yet he still held onto the gentle and compassionate air that had always made Alex... Alex. He was wearing beat-up, faded jeans with a scrubby, gray Knicks T-shirt and looked like he had barely slept. But one barely noticed his appearance, for he wore an expression of such awe and wonder as he awkwardly held a newborn in his hands. "You know what this means, right?" he said, grinning at his drowsy wife, who had been blissfully watching the scene before her. "We can start over. *Really* start over."

"Start over," she murmured, her eyelids drooping. "That sounds wonderful."

Alex smiled as she began to slip into slumber, and leaned over to kiss her damp forehead.

It was then that Michael knew that she had made the right choice. It didn't ease the pain, but in comforted him on a different level, that the one person he ever truly loved would have the happiness for which he had always searched. It was then that he understood what it meant to let go.

She turned around and walked away that afternoon, and never looked back. Driving down the streets of Santa Monica, streets she had passed through hundreds times, she felt like she was taking everything in as a tourist would, and, as the sky took on an orange glow, it suddenly it occurred to her that she had never watched the sunset, not one single time in her life. For some reason, this absolutely amazed her. She found an empty spot along the crowded streets and parked, and moved through the throngs of people and street vendors of the Boulevard, paying no attention to the double-takes and the whispers of "Hey, isn't that Ria DeLuca?"

Maybe she had nonchalantly seen one or two sunsets in her lifetime, but she had never truly *watched* one. Sitting on one of the metal benches near the edge of the pier, she hugged herself against the cold ocean breezes as the horizon swirled with color and the orange-red sun dropped down to the other side of the world.

"I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go," she softly sang the lullaby she used to soothe Jordan into sleep. The ball of fire sank deeper and deeper into the quickly blackening ocean. "And help us to be wise, in times when we don't know. Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way. Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace, to a place where we'll be safe..."

...

A world where pain and sorrow will be ended And every heart that's broken will be mended Reaching out to touch you Reaching to the sky We ask that life be kind And watch us from above ...

Maria closed the door behind her as quietly as possible. After lightly setting down her keys on the hallway table, she poked her head inside the den, where she usually found the baby-sitter when she returned. "Anna?" she whispered, but found the room empty.

She heard the squeak of a swivel chair coming from inside the home office, and she knew with certainty who was home. She took a moment to steady herself, and walked as calmly as she could towards the open glass double doors. With each step, the image of who sat behind the desk became fractions larger.

"Hi," she said softly when she finally stood in the doorway.

Alex looked up at her, and Maria gazed at her husband from her place a few feet away. His tender brown eyes were slightly glazed, and his slim face was somewhat gaunt and haggard... the wrinkles that had been beginning to develop these past few months along the lines of his eyes seemed more prominent and noticeable now. His suit jacket had been tossed onto the back of his chair, the sleeves of his white dress shirt were messily rolled up to just underneath his elbow, and his striped tie hung loosely around his neck. His hair desperately needed a brushing and a five-o-clock shadow had long been formed.

In other words, he looked like hell.

"Hi," he said back to her, not rising from his seat, his tone carefully kept even.

Maria crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe. "You're home early," she observed.

"I didn't feel like staying in New York," he replied, continuing their game of "Who's Going to Mention It First?"

She pursed her lips and bit the side of cheek. They stared at each other for a long while, searching in each other eyes some kind of evidence of infidelity.

"How's Isabel?" Maria inquired at last. She watched carefully for a change in his expression.

"She's doing fine," he answered, his voice and demeanor still cool. "How's Michael?"

Her emerald eyes moistened and her jaw began to quiver. "Are you leaving me?" she asked shakily.

His expression softened instantly, and he dropped his composed fašade. "Are *you* leaving *me*?"

Unable to speak, she shook her head her head no. A tiny smile appeared on his face, and he dropped his head into his hands. Maria wasn't sure if he was laughing or crying. Maybe it was both, as insane as it sounded.

Suddenly Alex felt weight in his lap and his hands were pushed away. He opened his eyes to see Maria gently cup his face and kiss the wet trails along his cheeks... slowly and surely their lips found each other, and as the mouths moved against one another, tears flowed from the eyes and met in the melding of skin.

Sitting in that office together, it easily could have been six years prior, the night when they finally embraced as lovers. That night, lying together in his lawn chair and watching the stars that had robbed them of another future, they felt they could be able to move on.

This night, however, was different. It was different in that they *would* move on.

...

We hope each soul will find Another soul to love Let this be our prayer Just like every child Who needs to find a place

...

Things changed after this night. My mother and father have always loved each other, there was no question about their devotion to one another, don't get me wrong, but up until this particular night, they always seemed a little off in things they did and said when in the other's presence. They were holding back from each another, the way that they fell into and relied on routine so easily, how they sometimes spoke in carefully chosen dialogue... They were so watchful and cautious not to offend, not to upset, not to cross any lines. They were like ghosts trying to co-exist in a space for the living. Even a four-year-old could tell. But one morning, I woke up to sunlight and a changed world.

My mother and father were happy. Happy, carefree, and actually *cheerful*. If any other person saw this, they'd be downright disgusted at their contentment. But it was me, lucky for them. I had walked downstairs aching for a bowl of Trix and found them laughing and dancing together in the sunlit kitchen to some old Billie Holiday song. Well, my mother was dancing. My father would snap his fingers every once in his while and sway his hips, occasionally twirling my mom around. You know that saying that white guys can't dance? My dad was the living manifestation of that belief.

Light poured through the large kitchen windows and beams played with the crystal mobile that hung above the sink, sending out pieces of rainbows along the floors and walls. It was a gorgeous, almost magical sight. A myriad of colors skipped along the two dancing figures, and they didn't notice my presence until I started giggling at the picture that lay before me. Dad glanced over at me, his eyes twinkling. "What are you laughing at, Shorty?" he grinned. He scooped me into his arms. "You owe me a dance, a... *tango*!" he cried out, extending one pair of our joined hands as he shimmied from one side of the kitchen to another. My mother laughed hysterically and joined us in our whirl across the linoleum floor. That was the beginning of it all. The three of us dancing amongst the rainbows.

A little sister would soon join us. She was given the name Phoenix Whitman-- no, not after the Arizona city, or the dead actor. There's this legend from the Middle East. According to the ancient Egyptians--and I'm quoting my father on this-- a phoenix was a servant to the sun god, and only one could exist at a time. When it felt its final days coming, the phoenix would build a nest, then be consumed in flames and burned to ashes, and from these very ashes a new phoenix would arise. This was said to represent the rising and setting of the sun, resurrection and life after death. It was an appropriate choice for a name, and quite beautiful actually, despite the many torturous years my baby sister endured with this moniker. Our younger brother got away with a nice, normal, non-geographical name: James, after a teacher they both once had. But that's an entirely different story, and it's not mine to tell. Sometimes I envy my siblings for having names that are rooted in my parents' pasts. But I just remind myself that I was born during a time when they were trying to forget where they had come from.

You're probably wondering what became of Michael, Isabel, and Max. Truth is, I never knew that a Michael, Isabel, and Max existed until my mother told me this very story some twenty years after she and Michael had parted ways, on another rainy day, when I was home visiting from grad school. She told me everything, going all the way back to Liz's gunshot wound at the Crashdown that one fateful afternoon. Needless to say, I was fairly amazed. No one truly is aware that their parents have lived completely differently lives before he or she was born. I don't think even Phoenix and Jimmy are.

My mother assumed that the three had gone back to their home. Mom and Dad never heard from Michael and Isabel again, and it appeared as if Max had never visited Liz, strangely enough. My parents did not know where there their alien friends were and what they were doing, and they did not want to know. And I couldn't blame them. But I've always hated not knowing and living by assumption.

Driving back to the University of New Mexico on 285 North, I saw the exit to Roswell and took it on whim. I didn't expect to find anything, really I didn't. But there it was. In the tattered gas station phone book, I found a M. Guerin living in the far outskirts of the small town. And I went to his house and knocked on his door. And he opened it and squinted at me through tired eyes. "You look just like her," he murmured before welcoming me into his humble abode.

Turns out Max had gone to see Liz all those years before. He watched from a safe distance as she had a late lunch with her fiancÚ. He choked back the hurt he felt as the man fed her a dollop of whip cream from his coffee drink and her pretty pink mouth accepted it from his finger. He suppressed the ache that rose in his chest as the man brushed a loose strand of her long, dark hair away so that he could kiss her. And he pushed away his jealousy when the lovers' lips met. Then he walked away and went home with his sister in tow, without even a hello or final good-bye. Or so Michael tells me as we sit together on his back porch, drinking the instant lemonade he has prepared. Michael, on the other hand, did not leave with his surrogate siblings. It's the irony of ironies, the one who wanted to get away from Roswell the most was the one who ended up staying. I tell him this, and he smiles slightly. "Yeah, it is, isn't it?" he says. "I wonder about that a lot."

"Why did you stay?" I ask him tentatively.

"Isn't it obvious?" he replies, turning away to watch the dust sweep across the landscape before him. "I came here to forget, to be forgotten. There are so many ghosts around here I thought I'd blend in real well."

"Is it working?"

He turns away even further, and all I can see is the back of his head. "I don't think so," he answers, his voice carefully kept low and soft to conceal its waviness.

Maybe most people *are* right. Maybe broken hearts don't heal no matter the span of time given, and me, my sister, and brother are merely living proof of some lucky draw. If that is the case, then I do not know what the moral of this story is. Perhaps there is none. But if one does exist, and you've figured it out by now, please tell me.

Oh, and be sure to write your name down, because I never seem to be able to remember things like that.

Part 1 | Index
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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