56 Days

Author: Bennie
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Alex/Leanna; Leanna POV
Spoilers: S2
Author's Note: Debbie and Hah -- I am prostrate with gratitude. (I think. "Prostrate" is the right word, right? Not the, uh, other one? Good. Lol ...)


New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
Some time in the future

"There you are! Little bugger; I've got you now."

And with that, the night janitor bent down to peer beneath the old bench, trying to see where that darn rodent was sneaking in and out of the building. Reaching back, he pulled a small flashlight off his tool belt and flicked it on, immediately recoiling from the dust and dirt illuminated by its bright beam.

"What the -" he leaned in a little more, not quite sure he believed his eyes. An envelope was stuck to the underside of the bench. There was no telling how long it had been there, but the paper was dusty, if not dirty. Curiously, he tugged at it, slightly bemused to find himself battling hardened pink bubble gum.

"'Least it's not glue," he grunted, and yanked it off in one hard jerk.

In his hands, he turned it over, but the envelope was blank. After a moment, he shrugged and opened the unsealed flap.

It was a letter, handwritten on plain white paper. No date, no dedication, no signature. When he pulled it out, several dried rose petals fell to the ground.


I just got back from the service, Alex, and I had to come here. No one knows about us there, and I didn't feel close to you the way I always did here. I looked at everyone's faces as they stood around in shock. No one noticed me, but then I'm good at blending in, aren't I? I watched them, and I could tell that no one really believed what had happened.

I know how they felt. It all happened so quickly.

It seems like yesterday that I was just another face on campus. I remember watching you settle in. Then I met you. I mean, really met you. I'll always remember this place because this is where I got to know you.

Looking back, I can see that you changed my life. You gave me my dreams. And I cost you yours.

You'll never know how sorry I am. I think that maybe, in another time, another place, we could have been good for each other, but I guess we'll never know now. And that's my fault.

I miss you.

I'm going to be leaving soon, thanks to you.

Maybe, wherever you are, you've forgiven me. Maybe you remember the good times as well as how it ended. Maybe you think of the name Leanna and smile. I hope so. I don't think I ever will.

I'm so sorry, Alex.

Good-bye


"Nut," the man said, shaking his head, and started to crumple up the letter as so much garbage.

Then he stopped, and reread it.

After a moment he put it back in the envelope. Bending, he carefully retrieved as many of the petals as he could find, and stuffed them in with it.

He searched through his pockets until he found a piece of gum, which he chewed for a moment and then used to reaffix it on the underside of the bench. It was white, not pink, but it should do the job.

Straightening up, he stared down at his hands, frowning.

He had never liked roses. They made him think of funerals. Those petals - and that letter - were a memorial of something. He was sure of it.

Suddenly he wondered if either Alex or Leanna were still walking about on the planet, going on with life, having moved past whatever had happened.

Deep down, he doubted it.

It was a relief when he heard the sound of tiny paws scurrying about somewhere behind him.

"Little bugger!" he cried out, unmindful of the late hour. "Now I've got ya'!"

And without a glance back, he walked away.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 1

She watched him move in from down the hall.

He didn't have many personal items, and it was kind of late to be starting a new semester, but that wasn't why he stood out.

He moved with purpose, whether he was carrying in boxes of equipment or the backpack he never went anywhere without.

He stared blankly whenever anyone tried to speak with him. He wasn't rude, he just waited until they got out the invitation to the party, or asked directions to wherever they were going, before telling them he was sorry, but he had a lot of work to do or he didn't know the campus well.

He kept to himself, she noticed, although every now and then a group of girls would pass him in the hall, talking and laughing excitedly about something, and then he would stop and watch them go by, the strangest look on his face, as though he was both trying to remember something and trying not to all at once.

Despite herself, she felt intrigued.

His mind, she thought, was a unique one.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 6

"Excuse me?"

She turned, startled. It was him.

"Can I help you?" she asked, recovering from the mild shock, and concentrated on looking casual and unconcerned.

He hesitated but then spoke quickly, as though he might forget the question if he didn't ask it right away. "Do I … don't I know you? You seem familiar." He looked confused but hopeful.

She shook her head and looked him straight in the eye. "Well, I live down the hall, so you might have seen me around, but other than that, no, I don't think so."

"Oh," he murmured, and hung his head, not in embarrassment, but disappointment. Standing awkwardly, he began to fidget, tapping his fingers nervously and shifting from foot to foot. He looked so downcast then, she couldn't help it. On impulse she reached out to touch his arm.

"You're new here?"

He nodded.

She hesitated. He didn't seem dangerous, or out of control, or anything she couldn't handle. She decided to take a chance. "Do you like Thai?"

He looked a little confused. She explained, "I hear the cafeteria has some decent Thai. Do you want to join me? I just need to mail some bills on the way."

He shifted the pile of books and papers he was holding to free a hand, which he held out. She marvelled inwardly when he smiled; it lit up his whole face, and she suddenly realized that she hadn't seen him smile once since he'd moved in.

Despite herself, she felt charmed when he introduced himself.

"Thai sounds great. I'm Alex, by the way."

She smiled back, and glanced down at the envelopes in her left hand before shaking with her right.

"Leanna. It's nice to meet you, Alex."

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 9

"So, tell me why you were here over the holidays," she invited. "Don't you do Thanksgiving with your family?"

He shrugged. "Usually, yeah. But I got this great offer to do this thing here even though I'm not a student, and I need to take advantage of the time I have." He caught her disbelieving look and tried to explain a little more. "See, I'm working on a computer project -"

"No!" she protested in mock surprise, as if there weren't piles of computer books covering every available horizontal surface in his room.

He grinned, but continued. "Yup. And I don't have access to this kind of computing power back home, but there's a prof here who agreed to let me use her lab to do the final computations. It's - well, it's kind of an honour, and I plan to take full advantage of it, especially if it helps me finish faster. If I have to, I'll stay over Christmas, too."

"That sounds … lonely," she said, a little shocked that the thought had even occurred to her. She'd spent countless holidays away from her family, but somehow it seemed wrong for him. He'd probably spent every holiday in his entire life with his.

"What about you?" he countered. "Did you do the holidays thing with your family?"

She shook her head. "I'm an orphan. I never knew my parents, and I was raised by an uncle who stuck me in boarding schools while he travelled."

"Wow, so which is he, rich or a spy?" She looked at him oddly until she realized he was kidding. She had to laugh.

"Neither. He did government work, sort of like an attaché, I guess."

"'Did'?" Oh, but he didn't miss a thing.

"Yeah, he died a little while ago."

"I'm sorry," he said, and she could tell that he was. "I know someone who lost her, uh, father, recently. I think it was harder on her than we realized."

She nodded. "Probably. I think it's one of those things you can't understand 'til you've been through it yourself."

"Probably."

"So, can I ask you something?" she ventured.

"Sure."

"You take breaks, don't you? I mean, you don't work morning to night." She didn't know whether it bothered her or not that every time she saw him, he was lost in his work. It wasn't like a little hard work was going to kill anyone, but there was something vaguely disturbing about the way his eyes glazed over sometimes. And the way he tapped his fingers all the time was kind of strange.

He shrugged, but looked at her with a mischievous look. "Well," he said teasingly, "I'm not working now, am I? Not since another student started distracting me for entire minutes on end."

She rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm soooo sorry," she drawled, and they both laughed. "Maybe I should just let you get back to work then."

She started to gather up her things.

"Wait," he stopped her. "Please stay for a little longer. You're right. It does get lonely."

She looked at him, and sat back down, a little bemused.

"Okay."

<\<\<\<\<\

She tried to stop by every day or so after that, either in the morning or late at night. He always seemed to be awake when she came by, and it wasn't difficult to find him because apparently he only left his room when he had to.

And he almost never had any food on hand, so she started bringing dinner with her too. She liked to surprise him at his desk when he was staring off into space, feet propped up and fingers drumming on the hard wood surface. She'd relaxed about that when he explained about being a musician.

He liked to try spicy foods, though he had to keep copious amounts of cool water on hand to get through even a small serving. When she asked why he ate it if it was so difficult, he said it reminded him of home.

He got this haunted look on his face when he talked about home.

She thought she understood. One day, when she felt more secure, she would ask him about it. About her.

There was a 'her', wasn't there?

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 15

"You mean Isabel." He grew pensive. "I … I loved Isabel. Maybe I still do. But … I guess it wasn't enough for her. I think it scared her."

She was fascinated by this insight into the boy - no, the man - in front of her. He might be younger, but he spoke with an air of experience and humility that intrigued her.

"Tell me about her," she invited. She meant it; she wanted to know 'his' Isabel, see why he was so enamoured of her.

And so he did. He talked about Isabel for a long time. Sometimes he smiled so widely she teased him until he ducked his head, blushing furiously. Other times he seemed to struggle to find the words, and she realized with some awe that he was holding back tears.

Tears of what, exactly, she didn't know. But as she listened, she watched.

And she learned what he looked like when he was happy, upset, frustrated, thrilled, angry, and hopeful. She learned that he loved music, loved to dance, and he missed his best friends who loved both as well. She learned that he admired his parents greatly, even though he wished they could have a closer relationship, and that one day he hoped to have a family of his own. She learned that while he was very proud of his computer skills, he was even prouder that he was could use them to help his friends.

"Like how?" she'd asked.

He'd paused. "Oh, the usual. Hacking into top-secret government files, hi-tech spy games, fake IDs. You know, the usual." She couldn't help but laugh, he said it so - so drolly.

And as she listened and watched, she learned something else. Something about herself.

She was jealous. Of his perfect Isabel, of his perfect friends, of his perfect life.

But even more than that … she ached to be a part of it. She wanted to go to Isabel and Liz and Maria and everyone else he talked about and tell them she had seen them through his eyes, and that she liked what she saw, and ask if they could be friends. Real friends.

And the more she thought about it, the more she wondered what he would say if she told him that.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 18

"You know, I just realized something," he said, studying her as she perched on a chair next to his desk. "I do all the talking. I don't know anything about you. Tell me about you." He grinned, and adopted a fake, dramatic voice that wouldn't have been out of place on a cheesy soap opera. "Tell me about Leanna."

She laughed a little self-consciously. "Oh, there really isn't anything to tell."

And there wasn't really. But he was looking at her with genuine interest so she cast about in her mind for something.

"Um, when I wasn't in school, I used to travel with my uncle. We never stayed anywhere long enough to really settle down, but I got to see some neat places, like France and Australia and Sweden. That was cool."

"Wow, that sounds like fun. Do you have pictures?" he asked.

"Of course. I'll bring them by sometime," she offered, and felt unaccountably pleased that he wanted to see them. "No one ever wants to see my pictures," she admitted.

"No one?" he pretended chest pains. "I don't know what I'd do if my friends weren't willing to sit through my slide shows!" he sighed melodramatically and she giggled.

"No way! Slide shows? No one makes slide shows anymore."

"I do," he affirmed. "Liz - you remember Liz?" She nodded. "Well, she had this balcony that's great for projecting the slides against, and Maria really gets into it, makes sure we have some food and drinks. It's a blast."

"Sounds like fun," she said, a little wistfully.

"Oh, yeah, it is. Actually," he straightened then, and gave her a funny look. "Did you say you've been to Sweden?"

She nodded, suddenly a little unsure where this was going. "Uh huh. Why?"

"Well, it's weird. There must be a weird "I love Sweden phase" going around, because I got an email the other day from them, from Maria and Liz, and they both asked me things like, well, like whether I'd seen any hot Swedish babes, or how I liked the meatballs. I guess I've been a little out of things, but - that is weird, right? Is it some kind of new slang or something?"

They looked at each other in varying degrees of perplexity and concern.

Finally she shrugged. "Well, if it is, it's better than," and she took a deep breath before shrieking, "'wasSSSUUUP!'"

Immediately a pillow flew through the air to hit her against the head.

"Stop! I command you to stop!" Alex yelled, trying very hard not to laugh.

Instead she grabbed the pillow, jumping up on his bed beside him and bouncing around as she pelted him with it.

"Wasssuup! Wasssuuup! Wasssuupp!" she chanted in a high, whiny voice, feeling all of 6 years old and loving it.

"That's it," he yelled. "This is war!" And without warning, he pulled her down.

"Tickle fight!"

And then she couldn't speak anymore, because she was giggling too hard.

That was a good day.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 21

"Ah, that's gooood," she breathed.

He grinned smugly. "I told you. Never fails. Foot rubs are the way to go."

She felt like purring. "Hmm, yeah, I know someone who's going to be learning these for sure ..."

She sighed then, overcome by melancholy. After a moment, he called her on it.

"Okay, what's up?"

She pulled her feet away to pivot so they were facing each other on the floor, the cast-off remnants of dinner sitting ignored to one side.

"Can I ask your advice on something?" Looking interested, he nodded and motioned for her to continue.

She hesitated. Alex had become her oasis, her place of refuge away from all her stupid problems, and now she was torn between her decision to keep him separate from the rest of her life and the desire to let him in, to let him make her smile despite everything that had gone wrong. So she compromised.

"Well, you know how I spend a lot of time off-campus?"

He nodded, and suddenly looked apologetic. "You know, I want to say I'm sorry that we don't go anywhere or do anything. I just - my work is my priority right now, you know? Besides not really having the money, I can't afford to get distracted right now."

She nodded emphatically. "Oh, I know, and I don't want to pull you away from it. Don't feel bad about that, really."

He nodded, a little sadly. "Okay, so now I'm sorry I interrupted. C'mon, tell your buddy Alex aalllll about it!" he invited, rubbing his hands together as if anticipating some juicy gossip.

She had to laugh, although she spoke seriously. "Well, there's someone I'm kind of involved with away from school. I love him, and I know he loves me. But he … we don't always see eye to eye on things, and I guess he's scared of getting close to me. It's not that I mind moving slowly, but … it hurts when I feel him pulling away sometimes, you know?" She looked at Alex then, and could have cried at the look of understanding on his face as he nodded.

"Yeah," he said. "I know how that goes."

Right, Isabel. Of course he knew. She felt a little bad for forgetting.

"I think -" he started, but then seemed to change his mind. "The way I see it, you can't live your life waiting. You have to go after what you want, and hope for the best. I mean, what else can you do?" And with that, he lifted his eyes to look straight at her.

She'd never seen him look so serious, but also compassionate. And more than ever, she felt a twinge of anger and jealousy for his Isabel.

But for some reason, she also found it easier to breathe, like she hadn't even known something had been lodged in her chest until it was lifted.

After a moment, Alex reached out.

She stared at it, and then tentatively, placed her own hand in his.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 27

"Argh!" he was yelling in frustration as she let herself in.

"What is it?" she asked, alarmed. She'd never seen Alex this agitated, and it worried her.

"I can't - I can't concentrate here!" he told her, running his hands along his temples and through his hair as he paced about the small room. "People! People everywhere, interrupting me, making noise, distracting me, and I can't work!"

"Do you want me to leave?" she asked softly, a little hurt. She hadn't been able to come by as much lately, and she missed him.

His head whipped around. "No! No, I didn't mean you. You keep me focussed," he said, and for a moment a look of confusion crossed his face. But it soon gave way to aggravation. "It's all - them!" he shouted again, gesturing wildly.

She considered what he was saying. It was true, even now she could hear music and people talking loudly through thin walls, and something thudded overhead.

I have somewhere you can go, she offered. Its a place outside town that - that another student here rents, but she's never there. Its not fancy, but its empty and its quiet. And theres power and a phone line so you could use a modem. I can even give you a ride out there.

Alex quieted then, gazing down at her in gratitude. "Thank you," he said softly.

She smiled, ridiculously pleased to have been able to do this for him. "You're welcome."

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 34

"Leanna! Come here. I made something for you!" he greeted her effusively as she let herself in through the back door.

"I thought you came out to work," she chided him laughingly. He just grinned, and grabbed her hand to drag her with him into the other room.

"What do you think? Cool, huh?" he waited for her reaction.

"Alex! I'm … I'm speechless," she said, and she was.

She had brought him pictures of one of her trips with her uncle, and felt embarrassed when he asked her why they were all of buildings and art and other people.

"My uncle didn't like being in pictures," she'd told him, "and he didn't see any point in taking them of me. So I looked for other things to take pictures of, like national monuments and stuff like that."

Well, he'd hacked into the school computer and her file to get her registration photo, and then he'd downloaded a program for manipulating pictures. And now, as she looked down over the table, she felt something shift in her again, heard a tiny inner voice speak to her.

"Alex, these are really, really good," she said in awe. "I can't even tell they're not real!"

"I think they came out pretty well, considering I only had plain paper to print them off on. This one's my favourite," he said proudly, and held it up. It was one of the two of them 'standing' in front of a white building. "It's from our trip to Sweden, dear," he joked. "Didn't we have a grand time?"

She had to laugh at his plummy tone, but it was all she could do not to cry as she looked over the picture. So this was what he saw when he looked at her …

"Can I keep this one?" she asked suddenly. In answer he scooped up a whole pile.

"I made them for you," he said, and handed them to her, looking suddenly shy. "I figured you wouldn't be here for Christmas, and I wanted to make sure you got these before you left. Sorry they're not, uh, wrapped. But, you know, Merry Christmas."

She beamed. "Thank you, Alex. They're wonderful. And tell you what - I'll get the albums, and that'll be my gift to you. In fact," she said, feeling inspired, "I'll get some proper paper, and then we'll print them off and have proper photos!"

He agreed, and they spent some time making up stories to go with some of the pictures.

She stayed for longer than usual that day, poring over the wonders he'd created for her long after he got back to work.

Finally she left, but only because she didn't want to cry in front of him.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 47

"So, you're a girl," Alex commented affably one day in the new year as they picnicked on the plastic-covered floor.

She threw a french fry at his head in mock outrage. "Last time I checked, jerk."

"So tell me what should I do about Isabel when I go home. Should I just let her go, or play hard to get, or what?"

She looked at him. He was smiling, but she didn't think he was joking. He was seriously asking her for relationship advice, she realized. Strangely enough, it kind of hurt. But he was asking her as a friend, and as a friend, she would try to help him. Plus, she didn't want to think about the other thing, about what was going to happen when he went home.

"Well," she tried, "maybe she's taking you for granted. I say, play hard to get. Stay away from her. Be, you know, confident, but kind of aloof. Girls can't resist that." As she spoke, she had to ask herself just exactly why she hated the thought of him being with Isabel. She hadn't come up with a satisfactory answer when he spoke.

"How?" he asked, reasonably. "We're part of a … well, we're a close group, even if we don't always get along. I can't just avoid her."

"Well," she mused aloud, "maybe she needs to see what she's missing … that's it!" she fairly yelled with inspiration, and turned to him with a mischievous grin. "You need to make her jealous!"

He laughed. "Jealous of me?" his eyebrows shot up comically. "I did show you her picture, right?" For emphasis, he pulled out a group shot and pointed Isabel out.

She studied the picture with uncharacteristic seriousness. "Well, what about one of your other friends? Would Liz, Maria, or … Tess" she said the last reluctantly, not wanting to see the shadow that always fell over his face when he mentioned that member of the group. "Would any of them be willing to help you out? Maybe not Maria, since you said she's so tight with Michael, but one of the others?"

He shook his head. "No one would ever believe it," he told her.

She didn't speak for a minute, and when she did, he could barely hear her over the sound of the night breeze ruffling the plastic around the windows.

"What about … what about me?" she suggested, and refused to look him in the eyes.

"You?" and she knew she reddened a little when he looked at her carefully. "You'd be willing to do that? Pretend that we like each other?"

"I don't know-" and she had to swallow the cottony feeling in her throat that made it difficult to speak clearly. "I don't know that it would be pretend," she finally got out, and closed her eyes.

It seemed like an eternity before he responded, and when he did, she startled to feel his breath against her neck.

"Neither do I."

God, the whole past few months had been crazy. And she had an idea they were about to get crazier.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 55

As she headed towards the empty house that held so much for her one last time, she found herself driving slowly, carefully, unwilling to rush any part of this special day.

They hadn't done more than kiss during those last few precious days. But oh, she dreamt of those kisses long afterwards. They set her pulse on fire, and made her think of things she couldn't afford to think, things she denied to herself. Things she admitted only in the dark.

When he kissed her, there was no reluctance, no desperation. It was just him, kissing her, welcoming her kisses in return. It was … well, it was nice. And it had never occurred to her that 'nice' could be a good thing.

Still, they both knew it couldn't last.

"I'm done," he said as she walked in. He was weary, but triumphant. It had gone quickly in the end, he explained, but there had been so many variables based on assumptions that he'd wanted to double-check his results.

She nodded, smiling for him although she felt hollow inside. "Just in time to go home," she said brightly.

He wasn't fooled. "Yes, I'm going home," he confirmed, and she both heard and saw his regret but also his yearning.

"I'm going to miss you," he said, and she smiled wider. She knew. No matter how exhausting it had been to be with him like this, she knew she'd miss him too. But he was going to go anyways.

He had to.

"I understand," she told him, and she did. After all, she had a whole life apart from him that she couldn't - wouldn't - simply abandon either.

It was only during the long, lonely drive home late that night that she thought about the small foil packet stowed in the front pouch of her knapsack, and found herself wondering if he ever thought of asking her to use it, or one like it.

And what she would have answered.

She rather thought she might have said yes.

<\<\<\<\<\

Day 56

She made sure she was in Roswell when he got home.

He didn't see her, she was very careful to stay hidden.

But she watched, and she saw him greet his parents. She watched with puckered brow as he spoke easily to them and then to the two girls who greeted him enthusiastically at school later that same morning. In Swedish, no less.

She watched him throughout the day, careful not to get too close, careful not to get caught watching him.

He slid back into his old life with ease. And for some reason, it made her feel like crying.

That night she found herself in the alleyway behind a cheesy alien-themed diner, listening to the sounds of him and several friends - female friends - prepare for one of his slide shows.

But she left before he could begin.

She got in her car and headed home. It wasn't a long drive, actually, although she'd never told him how close she lived to him. As she pulled into the driveway, she looked around but things seemed awfully quiet. Maybe too quiet.

She sat there for a moment to gather her energy. It got harder and harder to pretend these days, to pretend that the constant strain of a double life wasn't draining her at a frightening rate. Still, the first phase was all over. Only two to go, and then she could rest.

She remembered the look on Alex's face when he read her that poem, the one about "miles to go" before sleep, and she remembered feeling that she had finally found someone who understood her.

She closed her eyes, mentally preparing herself for what was coming next. The next few months were going to be hard, but now that she knew something of the timetable involved, she could move on to the next stage.

It shouldn't be too hard. Somehow or another the translation should come to light, and when it did, she'd be ready.

The sound of someone coming out to the car pulled her out of her reverie. She smiled her appreciation for his help carrying her bags inside, listening as he told her that his dad wouldn't be home until late, that there was some emergency.

Nodding, she gave him an absentminded kiss on one cheek and headed to her room.

"Thanks, and goodnight!" she called out, knowing he could hear her.

"'Night, Tess," Kyle called back. "See you in the morning."

The End


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