Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Isabel/Liz. Isabel POV
Spoilers: S2, pre-Departure
Author's Note: And the weirdness abounds. This is an offshoot of Malignant, a growth if you will, but not a replacement. Maybe more of a prequel, or a companion. They are fundamentally connected, and yet in my mind, not the same. Basically, it's how Malignant would have turned out if Departure had ended differently.
Liz said something interesting the other day.
I was sitting at the counter in the CrashDown, working on an Alien Blast and thinking about things best left alone. Questions best left unanswered.
Like, what is wrong with me? Is it some genetic defect that makes me the human - or human hybrid - equivalent to a black hole, sucking everything and everyone around me into it to be crushed and destroyed? Am I nothing more than a cancer? A blight, a disease?
Grant got too close. He got infected with the very matter that makes my hybrid existence possible, and he's dead.
Alex got way too close. He got contaminated by the qualities that make me more human than alien, and now he's dead too.
My people and my family were too close to me in another life. They caught the virus that took root in my arrogance as a princess and flourished in my naïveté as a traitorous lover, and they are either dead, dying, or facing death again.
So I was studying one perfectly manicured hand for signs of this malignancy when she sat down next to me.
"Hey, Isabel, what's up?"
"Hmm?" I asked, not really paying attention. If I looked really closely, I thought I could make out a dark tinge near one fingernail no, it was ink. The pen I used earlier must have been leaking.
It was her tone that made me look up then, the double meaning that I heard in her words.
"Well, what do you know?" she asked softly, rhetorically, whimsically. But I heard the underlying darkness, felt the electric tang of bittersweet emotion emanating from her, and looked up to see her staring out the front window.
Turning slightly, I could see my brother and his girlfriend/wife standing outside the door, talking. Looking back at Liz, I expected to see hurt and regret. I was a little shocked to see a look of resigned triumph instead.
"Liz?" I said then, to get her attention. I wanted her to look me in the eyes, I wanted to see her expression more clearly. But when she did, I almost wished I hadn't.
Her haunted gaze spoke of things I thought only I and my mirror knew, of the kind of darkness that eats at you from the inside out.
The rotten core in the shiny red apple.
I don't know how long I stared at her and she stared at me, but I couldn't pull away. Damn my weak soul, but it helped me somehow to know that mine wasn't the only darkness.
"I think the real question here, Liz, is what do you know?"
I tried to ask it as quietly as possible, not wanting to attract undue attention, or push her away. Not yet.
"Too much," she tried to joke, but neither of us smiled. "What do you know?" she countered gamely.
"Too much," I whispered, not joking at all.
After a moment she nodded. Standing up, she pulled off her antennae and fidgeted with them.
"Isabel, can I can I talk to you?"
I took in the nervousness of her stance, the way her hands fidgeted with the headband, and realized that she really did want to talk to me. And suddenly I was afraid to hear what she was going to say. But I nodded and stood to follow her to the back room.
"Can you just leave like this?" I asked, not really caring, just distracting myself from the images running through my mind.
She shrugged. "I'm just helping today because it got busy. They don't actually need me."
I was quiet then, because I'd heard that tone in her voice before. Too much, lately. And it had very little to do with the other diner staff.
Upstairs, we sat on her bed and faced each other.
Finally I broke the silence.
"You wanted to talk," I said.
"Yeah," she admitted, and started.
By the time she was done, I felt slightly ill.
Maybe she wasn't there herself, but she'd held someone in her arms who knew a world where I was dead.
I know it was selfish, but I had trouble getting past that.
"Did he say how I died?"
She shook her head, and leaned back, looking depressed.
"So what are you going to do about this?" I asked. I knew Liz. She always had a plan. Hell, I think the first thing I ever really said to her was to ask what her plan was.
But now she just shook her head and looked at me, and for a moment I forgot my pain because I felt suffocated by hers.
"No plan?" I asked, in disbelief.
"Oh, there was a plan. I told you: I made Max fall out of love with me, and got him together with Tess. That was the plan."
Well, that certainly explained what happened downstairs, and her reaction to it. Suddenly I hated my brother. Oh, I'd been angry with him before, really angry, but right now
Right now Liz was shaking her head. "Don't do that, Isabel. It's done. It's over. No one's fault. Gotta move on."
"How?" I asked, and I wanted to know, because now I was remembering all of my problems too, and I wondered if she had an answer to that. Maybe that's why she called me up here. Maybe that's why I came when she asked.
"Think of what you do have left."
"Like what? He's gone," I said, and I was thankful, so thankful, that she didn't ask who, because I didn't know who I was talking about. Alex? Grant? The brother who I couldn't relate to any more? The friend I couldn't even hang around with because some stupid mating plan had screwed everything up? Hell, for all I knew, I was talking about a lover I couldn't remember but even now the sound of his name made me shiver.
"You have you. You'll always have you. No one can take that away from you. And you do have a lot of people who care about you. Maybe they can't understand what you're going through, but they care. I care."
I refused to cry. I wouldn't. I promised myself that there would be no more crying. But but her voice was so gentle.
And she understood.
"I do?" I asked. Whispered, really, because I was too choked up to do more.
"Yeah," she said, and I couldn't help myself. I crawled over and threw myself into her arms. I'm sure I looked utterly ridiculous, she's so small, but right then all I could think of was how much I needed to know, to really know, that what she was saying was true.
And something occurred to me.
I couldn't break her, she was already broken. She'd already been infected.
But she was still here. She was still here with me, and willing to stay as long as she could.
Damn my weak soul, but I was going to let her.
And I was going to think about the question she asked that day in the diner.
"What do you know?" she'd asked. She hadn't asked me, but I was going to answer.
I know I'm a cancer.
I know I can't give in to it, because I'm 25 percent of the only chance for a cure.
I know that having her with me will make it easier on me.
I know that keeping her with me will cost her more than it will cost me.
But I know that I will anyways. I will let myself need her, and I will let her need me.
I already do.
She's my cure.
And my penance.
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