Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Liz POV; M/T, Mi/Ma, I/A, K/La
Spoilers: Hybrid Chronicles
Author's Note: This is a response to a challenge, to imagine what could cut Liz out of things in Roswell altogether and make her happy to leave. It wasn't really supposed to be bitter, but I suppose it kind of came out that way. Still I kind of like the ending, so I'm going to leave it.
Dedicated to: Reese because she just blew me away with her support. And she brought art.

I can do it.

I can. All I have to do is take one step at a time. Put one foot in front of the other. Left. Right. Left. Right.

I can even look down at them as I walk. Left. Right. Left. R-

I become aware of someone watching me. I can feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck. My step falters for a moment, and I take a shaky breath.

I close my eyes and count to three. One, two, three.

Left. Right. Left. Right.

That's all there is to it. I can make it. It's not that far.

"Liz?" The voice is soft, sad, regretful.

I can't help it; the tears start falling at the sound of his voice. But I don't look up.

I don't stop, I don't raise a hand to wipe them away.

I just keep going.

"Liz, please wait."

No, I won't. I won't wait, I won't let anything get between me and my goals. I have them now, and they're within reach, and nothing - no one - is going to get in my way.

No one is ever going to hurt me again.

I order my knees to hold me up. I'm worried that they may not be able to for much longer. But I'll keep going as long as they do.

"Liz, why won't you talk to me? I thought … I thought we were friends."

Thank god I have long hair. I need it to hide my raw, tearstained face.

We're not friends, I think to myself. If we were friends it never would have gotten this bad. And maybe that was the problem, we never were friends to begin with, so there wasn't really anything to fall back on afterwards.

I feel jealous, jealous that some people - some aliens - can put one up a wall at will. Literally.

Before my books seemed too heavy. Another burden to carry. Now I am glad to have them to hold in front of me, to shield me.

It's not that much farther.

I can make it.

I can see the change in light, from artificial to natural.

"I don't understand," his voice trails off, and finally, mercifully, falls silent.

I want to laugh, but that would mean acknowledging that I could hear, that I was aware. And I've come too far, cut myself off too completely.

Not that it was all my doing. I understand - and in a small, selfish way, I'm relieved - that Max and Tess finally got together. Strangely, I find it comforting. I mean, I finally did something that worked; I identified a goal, put together a plan, and executed it successfully. And maybe it is selfish, but once I got past my own pain (and let's face it, my pride), I had to admit that it's a good feeling to know you had the power to change the future and then actually get proof that you did. That something you did, accomplished something. Still, I can't forgive either of them for Maria.

I can't even forgive Maria, for Maria.

I understand that she had found something special, maybe even something lasting, with Michael. And god, I'm happy for both of them. It takes my breath away sometimes to see them together, to see their eyes light up when they're in the same room. I find it reassuring, somehow, that something good came of everything.

But I won't pretend it didn't hurt that she thought the best way to protect her investment was to make sure she never stood at the sidelines like I did. Maybe because I did? I don't know. I do know, because I know her, that it was her idea for the four of them to double date. So she could become such a close and central part of their lives that none of them could imagine life without her. Still, did they always have to come to the Crashdown? When I was working, I had to watch. And if I wasn't working, it became pretty clear that I was a fifth-wheel. Looking back, I think maybe I only imagined that I was welcome. I don't actually recall any of them inviting me to sit with them.

It's been better since I got the job at the hospital. It still hurts to see the room where Grandma died, but at the same time, I've become friends with a lot of the staff, and they've helped me a lot. The recommendations for school were great, and I believe they helped me get in. In fact, a doctor here has already put in a good word for me out East, and there's a job waiting for me there in September as a junior lab assistant. It's a huge thrill and a relief. Plus, they like me. They want me.

It's nice. But it can't replace what I've lost.

"Liz? Please?" Damn, he always was persistent. And now that Tess knows I'm not a threat, she encourages him to talk to me. I know it. She even tries to talk to me, but it's painfully polite, because really, what do we have to talk about?

I somehow manage to walk faster. My breath comes faster now, and each gasp hurts my sore throat.

It suddenly occurs to me: what if I can never escape? What if this is it, and I'm kidding myself? What if, after graduation, the bubble bursts, and I'm back where I started? I feel the walls closing in on me, trapping me.

I'm running now. Head down, arms hugging me, hair swinging out behind me as I burst out of the doors.

The walls are back there; I can breathe out here. But I don't stop running. I can't.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the others. Alex and Isabel and Kyle and Laurie. They're watching me too, and I swear if they try to talk to me I might just start screaming.

Alex finally got the girl and then found out that she was real. That she wasn't perfect, that she was smothering, and that she had anxieties and fears that he couldn't fix. But he couldn't back out now; he had discovered the joys of hanging with the popular set, and he liked it. He liked that Kyle's jock friends thought he was a riot because he could steal adult cable channels for their parties and knew how to mix drinks. He liked that when he got tired of Isabel's weepiness there were always other pretty girls waiting around to see what was so special about him, who got a kick out of flirting with him behind the Ice Princess's back.

I confronted him about the rumours once, got angry at the way he was treating Isabel. He … he wasn't receptive. I lost a friend that day, although I suppose it was a long time coming.

And Isabel, bless her own particular blend of conceit and insecurities, thought I had tried to take him away from her and failed. And I couldn't bring myself to expose Alex, to hurt her like that. After a week Alex admitted that he was in the wrong, and they sought me out together. They both apologized prettily and sincerely and of course I forgave them and nothing more was said about it.

But it wasn't enough to regain the old trust, and I think they both knew it. I started finding excuses to leave their parties earlier and earlier, and they didn't try very hard to convince me to stay.

My tears are blinding. I can't see where I'm going. I'm not sure I care.

I miss Kyle, though. I thought we were really becoming friends until the day he had one too many at one of Isabel and Alex's parties and got a little mean. He grabbed me, kissed me, and when I pulled away he accused me of taking things from him, of leaving him and then getting Tess to leave him too. And for what? He didn't even get laid for his trouble.

I didn't care that Alex and Isabel heard him, and I didn't care that they would probably tell Max that I never slept with him. That didn't matter any more. As I looked into the eyes of the first boy that loved me, I saw a stranger.

He apologized later too, but I'd already accepted that yet another of my comforting little beliefs had been exposed as the illusion it was.

And Laurie? She's openly avoided me since moving to Roswell. She formed a bond with Michael, Maria and Isabel early on, and doesn't feel the need for any more friends. She only let in others because they were close to those three, and I still think she started dating Kyle because Maria told her she should and she worships the ground Maria walks on. But she doesn't have any reason to value my company at all.

Why should she? There's no value in my friendship. Even Sean left the day his probation ended, and never called again. I guess he just saw me as a diversion too. It has been made very clear to me, repeatedly, that the only use I am to anyone is because I know stuff. Well, no one can take that away from me, and in fact I'm counting on it to take me away from them.

I need something to prove that I'm real, because I can't use any of the old tricks that used to do it. No more hurting myself, at least; my parents and the doctors made sure of that. Oh, not the doctors at the hospital where I work; I mean the ones in Hondo that I visit once a week, that no one else knows about. Mom and Dad have even decided to move east with me when I go, to watch over me and make sure I achieve all the goals I set out in therapy. That I don't get sidetracked by, what did they call them? 'Self-destructive fantasies', or something like that. I wasn't really listening; at the time, I was looking out a window at two people fighting on the sidewalk. A couple. It didn't end well, which didn't surprise me; I knew it was pointless for them to even try.

I hate 'pointless'. I like goals. I like seeing results, knowing that I have done something that no one can change, can take away from me.

I blink as something intrudes on my reverie, disorienting me.

A blaring noise. A car horn? Before I can find out something hard slams into me. I feel a fire in my side, a bright flare of exquisite pain that explodes like fireworks.

I feel myself flying. I'm not graceful. I'm a rag doll.

I hit the ground hard. Something breaks. I don't make a sound.

But in my mind I think yes yes yes yes yes yes yes …

I welcome the pain. I deserve it. It wants me like I want to be wanted.

Then there is a hand on my chin, pulling my head from the ground. Damn; Isabel was outside. She must have seen what happened.

I want to protest, but I say nothing.

"Open your eyes," she says.


"Open your eyes. Damn it, Liz."

No, I won't. You can't make me.

"You're not doing it like this."

Oh god, my parents told them about what I did to myself. They think I'm suicidal or something. That's why they're always so nice, always letting me join them when it's so obvious that I'm not wanted or needed. It's humiliating.

Oh, no, no, no, don't do it, oh god please don't do it no -

"Come on, just look at me."

A palm slides along my face, pulling my eyes open as it passes over them. My vision is filled with two brown eyes, so like my own and on the surface concerned but … so cold. I can't read them.

I can't look away. There's something inexorable about these eyes, the eyes of judgment, so like her brother's.

I feel myself drawn in, forced to connect, no matter how I fight.

I whimper. No. This is wrong. It can't happen.

I will not allow this to happen.

But it is happening. I can feel my body tingle as it regenerates, limbs itching as bone and muscle reform. I feel light-headed.

I'm still trapped by her eyes as something transfers, as the connection reverses. They widen in shock.

"No." Whispered denial.

"No!" A roar of pain rings in my ears, quickly becoming a shriek that fills my senses until I can't hear myself think.

The strength has returned to my body. I roll over, out of reach, and crawl away. A part of me wonders why there isn't more noise, why there aren't flashing lights, but it really doesn't matter. I don't need an ambulance anymore.

I try to stand.

I sway, but remain upright.

I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Behind me the shriek has tapered off and I hear whispered conversation.

Left. Right. Left. Right.

Pounding along the pavement. Following me. Coming closer.

I move faster until my feet are a blur beneath me.

I don't have my books anymore so I hug myself instead.

I try to run faster but I'm still weak. Isabel isn't Max. The healing was incomplete.

A strong hand grabs my elbow, anchoring me as I jerk to a halt and swing around, helpless to stop my momentum.

I see brown eyes. Different brown eyes, but no less familiar.

"What did you do to Isabel? She was just trying to help you."

The hand pulls away and I spin, desperate to get away.

But something is blocking my path. Someone.

I refuse to look up. I don't want to see into any more eyes.

Turning left, I take one step before I realize there's someone in front of me. I whip around. They've surrounded me. I'm blocked in from all sides. Trapped.

I refuse to look up. My chin is tucked tightly to my chest.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and I jerk away, only to bump into someone standing closer than I expected.

There is no escape.

Hot tears leak down my cheeks. My knees, after a day of threatening to give out, collapse beneath me.

I sink down, not gracefully, but like a rag doll.

I huddle on the ground, hugging my knees to my chest and burying my face in my legs.

I give up. There's no more running, no more hiding. They'll all know now.

They'll know I betrayed him and manipulated them, and they'll know why. They'll know how I saved their lives by giving up my own happiness. And that it doesn't matter any more. Not to me, anyway.

More importantly, they'll start to understand the depth of my secrets and they'll be shocked. I realize now how easy it was to stay under their radar, to hide things from them. But Isabel healed me. She healed the damage from the car, but she also healed the scars along my arms. And I feel different too. I don't feel as weighed down, I don't feel so dark anymore. I think that somehow, she healed that too, healed the pain that I thought couldn't heal.

And in the process, I think she absorbed some of that pain. I think she's feeling something of what I've been feeling for a long time now. But I can't bring myself to care, not really. She has all those people to help her, to care for her, to heal her pain as she healed mine.

Still, I do feel grateful. Even as I huddle there, my body trying to make itself as small as possible to avoid contact, I can feel something else. A newfound realization that without the pain, there's nothing left to keep me here. Nothing. The trap was all in my mind, and it's gone now.

I stop rocking. I still ignore them, pretending I don't see their anxious looks or the hands automatically reaching out to help me stand.

This time, I shoulder roughly past whoever is directly in front of me, and keep moving. Opening the cage door.

I'm leaving Roswell.

And I'm never coming back.

I'm free.

The End

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