Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Spoilers: Set after Departure.
Character Focus: Michael/Liz, Liz POV
Author's Note: Companion to Watch Her Fall. And thanks, Debbie, for beta-reading.
In my dream, I am falling.
It doesn't start that way. It starts with me looking out at the setting sun, a beautiful vision of reds and oranges and pinks and golds that streak across a clear sky as it darkens.
I look down, and the sight of the canyon below is breathtaking. The floor is much farther down than it looks, I know. I've thrown rocks down from here before, and I always lose track of them before they hit the bottom.
But I'm not here for the view. I turn around, and there he is. Staring at me with this incredible expression of of
I shake my head; the thought is too painful.
I don't understand how I've gotten here, to this point. I back away, feeling as though my heart is being ripped out of my chest with every step away from him.
The weird thing is, I'm glad I'm on a cliff. There's nowhere for me to run, so I don't have to make the choice. He's going to make me say it, I know, and it's a relief, even though I'll fight him the whole way.
Say what, I wonder? And why would I fight it? Fight him?
I don't know.
But then it happens. I feel a shifting sensation under my feet, and for a split second I am floating, weightless.
I reach out in panic, and I feel a rush of desperate hope as he reaches for me but it's too late. The tips of his fingers brush against mine but it's no good ... I'm already falling.
His wide eyes follow me down, his mouth open in protest, screaming something I can't hear.
The canyon walls seem to close in on me as I fall, the wind pressing against me, the weight of the sky pushing down upon me.
It hurts, but that isn't why I scream. I scream because I know what's coming. It's a long fall, so I have time to think about it and to scream myself hoarse.
Death is not always kind or quick. But it is merciful.
When I hit the rocky ground, I feel it. I feel the air rush out of me. I feel my spine snap. I feel the back of my skull flatten. I feel -
I feel the cool air drying my open eyes as the light dims.
And then, I fall the rest of the way into darkness, with one final thought to comfort me in my final moment, one name to ponder as I wake up, sore and nauseous and wishing I could force a scream past dry, cracked lips ... Michael.
I stare at the empty library shelf. To say I am baffled would be seriously understating the situation.
According to the piece of paper in my hand, codes carefully transcribed from the computer catalogue and then double-checked, there should be at least nine books here that might be what I'm looking for. Every book on dream interpretation and analysis the Roswell Public Library owns is supposed to be on this shelf. But they're all gone.
A chill runs up my spine as I contemplate the lack of dust in front of me.
Those books were here, I decide. They were. But they'd been taken away, all of them.
Resolutely I push away the paranoia and try to think rationally. Maybe they're being re-shelved. Maybe there's a special display and they're all on a table somewhere else in the library. Maybe
This is ridiculous.
I march to the front desk, telling myself that I don't feel eyes following me as I walk across the subdued library. When I get to the desk, I wait until the guy behind the counter looks up.
"Hey, Liz. What can I do for you?"
I stare at him for a moment, not even blinking. I have no idea who this guy is. For a split-second I think he's a Skin or some other kind of evil alien, and I fight the urge to scream.
"Liz? Are you okay?"
Oh, hold on. I do know him. He's in some of my classes, I think. Didn't he have a crush on Maria in eighth grade? My paranoia subsides for the moment.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Listen ... Josh," I smile as casually as possible, thanking god for name tags, "I was wondering if you can tell me where I can find any of these books?"
I hand him my list, and the small hairs on the back of my neck prickle at his immediate reaction to it. My knees wobble as he flinches noticeably and avoids my eyes.
And there's that paranoia again.
"Um, yeah," he says quickly, too quickly, as though he's trying to think fast, which just makes the pauses between words more obvious. It's neither convincing nor calming. "Those books are they're already out "
That's it; I'm officially freaked. Smiling nervously, I start edging towards the door. "That's okay. No problem. I'll, um, just try another time."
He doesn't look up. "Yeah, that, um, might be a good idea."
I turn and walk out of the library, mustering every ounce of self-control I have not to run.
When I'm outside, leaning against a tree in the bright sunlight, I stop.
What am I going to do?
His eyes are so wide as I fall, so disbelieving.
His hands are large, capable, strong. But they can't save me.
So I fall. And as I fall I scream.
Because it hurts. It hurts so much.
Something's changed with Maria.
She complains about Michael like usual, but it seems forced, like she's trying to remember how and why it's supposed to affect her.
It's pretty sad. I used to watch them together sometimes, and I'd envy them, because their relationship seemed so straightforward, so aboveboard. When she used to talk about him, she never seemed as confused about Michael as I was about Max.
I think I'm losing him, if I ever really had him. His other side calls to him in a way I don't think either Michael or Isabel's ever did, no matter how much they resist their human ties. Look how much further he went with Tess, how quickly he was drawn in. Michael and Isabel spent months away from Maria and Alex, and it only reaffirmed their fraternal bond.
I love Max dearly, and I know he loves me. This is true, this is truth, and I know this the same way I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. I feel it in my gut. But I think we don't have much more time together. I'm going to hold on to him as long as I can, because I know I'll never find anyone else like him, but I can't deny that our connection is fading.
I can't even bring myself to be angry that he hasn't noticed the changes in me. The circles under my eyes, the weight I've lost, the difficulty I have concentrating a lot of the time because I'm too damned tired to think straight I see it all in him too. He's hurting too. But I can't save him from this. He won't give me that power. He has to save himself. And I think the only way he can do that is to save his son.
I can live with that, now. I just hope he understands it before it's too late.
In the meantime, I've been living vicariously through Maria. Michael's turned out to be a pretty good guy, and I hope they can work through this. They fight and then make up all the time, after all. It's part of their charm. But the resignation in her eyes as she tells me that it's over for them seems a little too final for comfort, and the way Michael looks away when I catch him watching us is telling.
If I weren't so damn tired, I'd cry for all of us.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
I smile. I love the sound of my name on his lips. "What is it, Max?"
"I'm calling a group meeting." His eyes flash, and I know it's about his son. Something inside me tightens and it takes serious willpower to keep the smile on my face.
He nods. It makes sense. It's too public here. "How is an hour from now for you?"
"Fine." It was, too. We weren't that busy, and Dad said I could leave early because I worked late yesterday. "Have you spoken to everyone else?"
Suddenly I realize that someone's behind me, and I turn to see Isabel. "Kyle's on his way here now," she tells Max. Looking around, she sees Maria and nods. "Is Michael still here?"
I shake my head. "His shift ended a while ago."
Max thinks for a moment. "Okay, I'll check his place. Isabel, why don't you drive around? Whoever finds him, bring him along. I'll leave a note at the apartment just in case."
Isabel agrees and heads for the door. Max turns to me, expectantly, but I speak first.
"Max, I've got something I need to do first. I'll meet you out there, okay?"
He nods and kisses me before following Isabel out the door. I watch as he leaves, and I think about that kiss. It was nice. It was. It was more than nice. But it wasn't earth shattering, not really. His heart just wasn't in it, and I think neither was mine.
I wasn't lying to Max -- I do need to take a shower before going anywhere -- but I can't lie to myself. That wasn't the reason I told him to go on without me.
When I realized that he was about to offer me a ride out to the desert, I panicked. I had to get out of it. I just couldn't handle being alone with him then, not when he was preoccupied with things that made my skin crawl. I don't know if that makes me a bad person, or maybe just an ordinary human kid, but sometimes I can't handle the whole Tess/son thing. It's just too overwhelming, and it's getting harder and harder to stay calm and supportive whenever Max brings it up.
Whatever. I'll think about that later. Right now, I need a shower.
Falling, falling, why am I falling?
Maybe I'm flying.
I lift my arms, imagining that I have wings.
It doesn't help.
I'm just falling.
With a jerk I wake up, sputtering as some of the water gets in my nose and mouth.
I turn off the water and just stand there, coughing and shivering as the steam dissipates and the air turns cool.
When I feel a little more steady I step out of the tub and dry myself, trying desperately not to think of all those statistics, of the legions of people who fall and drown in their bathtubs every year. How easy it seems now how close I was
Shaking my head, I head out into my bedroom to get dressed. I have to pull myself together. I'm meeting everyone at the quarry in half an hour, and I can't show up looking like this, like I've seen a ghost.
I don't think I could handle the questions right now, not when I don't have any of the answers.
I can't find my jacket. I think I left it out on the balcony.
Climbing out the window, I head right for the table it's draped over, and shrug it on before I even notice that I'm not alone.
He doesn't answer, exactly. He murmurs something, but he's not talking to me. He's asleep, I think, and from where I stand it doesn't look like he's enjoying his nap.
On my balcony. How weird is this? But not well, uncomfortable. Which is weird in itself, come to think of it.
As I watch he starts shifting about, shaking his head back and forth in protest. I can't help but notice how tall he is, how his feet hang over the edge of the chair and one of his arms almost brushes the ground.
I can hear him clearly now. He's well, it sounds like he's moaning, but not that way. I think he's having a nightmare, and I wince in sympathy.
I jump. I could swear he just said my name. In his sleep. Is this a joke?
"Liz, god, no, Liz ..."
I feel like I'm invading his privacy or something. I know he'd be upset if he knew I was standing here listening to ... to this, whatever this is. And I'm blushing, so I know I don't want to hear any more.
Before I can change my mind, I step over to him and shake his shoulder. "Michael?"
Suddenly I'm seeing stars as a fist hits me in the face, and not the kind of stars I used to see when Max kissed me.
"Ow," Michael complains as he cradles his hand, and I can't help but think he's got it the wrong way around. Still, I refuse to show just how much it hurt. For some reason, the thought of showing that kind of weakness in front of Michael Guerin is well, unthinkable.
But I'm not going to just take it, either. "What do you mean, 'ow'? I'm the one you hit into next week."
To give him credit, he does look embarrassed and apologetic. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry. Here, let me see that," he says, and comes over to take a closer look. I take my hand off my eye to show him, and it's all I can do not to burst into tears when I see his shocked reaction. I guess it's bad.
Okay, lesson learned: if Michael Guerin's asleep? Let him sleep.
I don't have time to think about it, though, because he puts his hand over my face and I only have a moment to think he's healing me, I didn't know Michael could heal, before I'm just inundated with this - this barrage of flashes. Flashes of Michael with Maria, flashes of Isabel comforting a sobbing Michael, flashes of me falling down a huge chasm -
What the hell?
He doesn't say anything but I know he saw it too. He looks seriously disturbed. I take a deep breath.
"You've gotten really good at healing." Okay, so that was stupid. But what am I supposed to say? I don't want to deal with this right now.
Like either of us has much choice.
"Michael, what was that?"
"What do you mean?"
Hah. As if he doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about. Sorry, Michael, I'm not playing that game. "My dream," I say, stubbornly. "You're having my dream too."
"It's not your dream," he argues defensively. "It's mine."
Oh, dear god. We're squabbling like a couple of children. I take a deep breath and try to calm myself. "Do you know what it means?" I ask, praying he'll just work with me on this.
"No," he admits, grudgingly. "I I got these books out of the library -"
I can't help it. I gasp. "That was you?"
He's startled, and I can't say I blame him.
I think I'm a little shocked myself, because I start babbling. "I went to the library to find some books on dream interpretation a few weeks ago and someone had taken all of them out, and the guy at the desk looked scared when I asked him about it. It kind of scared me, actually. I even got a little paranoid for a day or two, wondering why he'd been so freaked. I haven't been back there since."
I take a deep breath and look to see how he's reacting to my story. He's smirking.
"He was bugging me," is all he says.
Heaven help us all. It could've been worse, I suppose. He could have given the guy a rash. Oh, wait "Did they help?"
"What, the books?"
"Nah, not really. Basically all they said is that you're the only one who can ever really know what your dreams are about."
"Oh." That's pretty disappointing.
Finally, I just come out and ask what's really on my mind. "Do do you know why we seem to be having the same dream? Are - are any of the others having it, do you think?"
"No, I don't know why. And as far as I know, neither Maria or Isabel are. I don't know about the others." He pauses, as if thinking about what he just said. "Well, Max was saying something about a dream he had the other day, but it wasn't anything like this."
"I don't think Kyle is. Isabel told me about some of his dreams," I admit cagily, not about to go into detail. Girl talk is sacred; at least, it is when you're trying to forge a friendship with someone you have almost nothing in common with.
Suddenly I'm wondering why we're having this conversation. I think this is the longest we've ever talked about anything and we both suck at small talk. "So, did you want something?"
"What?" he responds, looking confused, although I can see something in his eyes that tells me he's not as clueless as he's obviously trying to convince me he is.
"Michael," I say with a patience I don't really feel, "you're on my balcony. Did you come here for a reason, or just to assault me?"
"I didn't want to go home yet. Thought I could catch a nap while you were at work."
I stare at him. He sounds way too casual. Something's up. "Maria," I guess, although it's not really a question. Damn. Something in me hurts at the thought of Maria not getting her 'happily ever after'.
He just hitches his shoulders and I know he doesn't want to talk about that. "Wait a minute," he says, changing the subject, "aren't you supposed to be working right now?"
I slap my forehead. Ouch. But still "Idiot!" I groan, exasperated that I could forget so easily. "I left early," I explain. "Max called a meeting at the quarry. I think Isabel's trying to find you right now, to see if you want a ride."
He shakes his head. "I'll take my bike. It's in the alley."
Ooh, that bike. Okay, so maybe it's not the coolest thing on two wheels ever, but I've been dying for a chance to get a closer look ever since Maria told me how much riding it turned her on. I hope he can't see my blush in the waning light.
It's these damned sleepless nights, they're giving me too much time in the dark to think about about well, maybe I'm feeling a little more neglected in my personal life than I realized, because I'm standing here and practically fainting at the thought of straddling that hot, vibrating machine and rushing forward into the wind, utterly free and in control and sexy and -
Well, that's enough of that. Things are too confusing right now, and I don't want to think about it anymore. Any of it - the dreams, my stupid hormones, everything that's bringing me down these days.
But still "Can I get a ride with you?" I ask before I can talk myself out of it, because I really want to know what Maria was talking about. I probably shouldn't be driving anyways if I'm so tired, right?
"Sure," he agrees, and I head for the ladder, to get down to the alley before he can change his mind. Damned if I'm not going to get my ride now.
"Don't -" he says suddenly, as I'm climbing down. I freeze and look up at him, heart in my throat. I know what he was going to say.
It's a quiet trip to the quarry. And Maria was right about the vibrations.
When we get to the quarry the first person I see is Maria. She's watching Michael and I drive up on his bike, and for the first time in days she's smiling, really smiling.
She avoids looking at Michael to pull me aside.
"Well, what?" I ask, rather reasonably, I think.
"Was I right or what?"
Suddenly I get it. "Oh, riding the bike?" I make a big show of tossing my hair casually, as if making sure the helmet didn't crush it. "It was all right."
Maria laughs. She knows me way too well. "Uh huh. Tell me the truth. Aren't you you know " she gives me that suggestive little head movement that's supposed to say it so she doesn't have to.
"Horny as hell?" I finish her sentence, then clap my hand over my mouth. Oh my god. I really, really didn't mean to say that. It just came out, I swear.
She's practically hurting herself laughing at this point. She tries to bring herself under control, but it takes a minute, because every time she looks at my extremely red face she starts giggling again. "Oh, man, that was good," she says, wiping one eye.
I nod, suddenly feeling very conscious that we hadn't laughed like that together in a long time. Heck, I can't remember the last time I laughed like that.
I hug her to me. "Maria," I whisper, "I'm not happy."
She hugs me too, and although I can't see the look on her face, I know she knows what I mean. "I know," she says, softly, and I know that she knows how I feel because she's not happy either.
We stand there for a moment, and then she steps back so we can look each other in the face. It's all I can do not to cry when I see the acceptance on her face.
"So what are we going to about it?" she asks, almost rhetorically.
I shrug, but now that she's asked the question I know the answer. "I guess we both know what we have to do. I just don't know if I'm up to it."
She tries to smile, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "Me either." Her eyes focus on something behind me, and I turn to see the others waiting for us.
"C'mon," she says, slinging an arm around my shoulder as we trudge over. "I got your back. You know that, right?"
I smile, though I've never felt more like crying. "Right back atcha, babe."
Max has been dreaming of his son on Antar.
I find myself looking at him with a new clarity, and I can't help but think that he's not happy the way things are either. And something tells me that he's incapable of breaking it off with me. It just isn't in him right now.
As I watch him talk, his words kind of fade away. When I realize I haven't been listening, and that I don't really want to listen, I focus on the sky behind him instead. It's beautiful.
Oh my god. It's here, my dream, this is where it happens this is where I die, this is where I hurt and scream and cry and fall and die and -
Panicked, I turn to the group, but everyone's focused on Max. He's still talking but I can't hear him over the rushing noise in my ears. Why does everyone look so calm? Don't they feel it? The death in this place? My death? Can't they see? Can't they see me? Maria? Max? Kyle? Mi -
Michael. Michael's looking at me. Michael nods. Because he knows. He he sees me.
I want to smile, to show my relief, but I can't. The memory of this place, of what happens to me every night in this place, over and over, hurts too much.
But whether he knows it or not, Michael is helping me. Just by being here, by knowing, he's helping me. I feel like I can breathe now. So I just look at him, trying to convey everything I can't say, not caring that this is the same guy who used to scare me witless. Right now, I feel like he's the only thing keeping me from simply falling apart.
Suddenly the meeting seems to be over. Confused, I watch Kyle and Isabel head to where the cars are parked, leaving Max, Maria, Michael and I standing here.
It's time. I look to Maria; she nods and tries to smile, because she knows it too.
"Max," I say, just as he says "Liz." We grin awkwardly. I wait for him to continue, but he doesn't so I try again.
"Max, you know I love you, right?" There's no point in beating around the bush. And it's true.
He knows it is. He nods, and I can tell he's fighting back tears. But I can see the relief he feels too.
"And that's not going to change. But I think we both know what your priority needs to be now."
He nods again, and we hug.
"Liz," he says finally, pulling back and looking into my eyes, "Just always be my friend?"
Oh, god. I can't take it anymore. This hurts. I can't believe how much it hurts. "Always, Max, always," I choke out somehow, as we hug again. And I really do mean it. I think I know how to be his friend now, and I'm determined to be a good one.
Over his arm, I see Maria approach Michael. They talk quietly for a minute and then hug each other too. I catch Maria's eye and we both nod, acknowledging what we've just done.
And like that, that part of my life is over.
Falling, I'm falling like always, but it doesn't get any easier.
If anything, it hurts more. The wind hurts. Gravity hurts. The knowledge of what exactly is waiting for me at the bottom hurts.
Being alone hurts. I know this now. I think this is why it was so hard to leave Max. But I did, and more than ever, I feel so alone.
My senses seem sharper this time, and the impact isn't dulled by shock. I'm fully aware of everything around me, of every consequence of hitting hard ground at this kind of speed and acceleration.
It's not true what they say, you know. That if you die in your sleep, you die in real life. I've died hundreds of times in my sleep now, and as far as I know, I'm still alive and kicking.
And those so-called experts who blather on about 'lucid dreaming' are morons. Screw that. All it means is that I'm totally aware and feeling helpless because I feel like I should be able to change my dream and I can't.
In fact, it doesn't help that I know I'm dreaming at all, because for the first time I wish this was real. I wish I wouldn't wake up. If I didn't wake up, I'd never feel tired again. I'd never go to sleep again. I'd never dream again.
In the real world, I only have to die once.
And as I feel the ground below rush towards me, I start to think that maybe ... maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Somehow I end up at Michael's. I don't remember driving here, although I've got my keys in one hand and it's too far to walk, so I must have. And and I feel like I need to see him, make sure that he's there, that I'm here, that he's not up on a cliff somewhere, watching me fall into nothingness.
He is there. He lets me in and holds me for the rest of the night.
I don't sleep, but I feel better.
I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't been here, or if he hadn't let me in. I'm not I'm not saying I'd do anything stupid. I'm just saying that there were a few moments there when the thought of never having to worry about anything ever again were a little too appealing.
It scares me to think of just how appealing it seemed, how tempting. But here, with someone who knows, I can see things more clearly.
And Michael would never let me do anything so stupid.
My parents, on the other hand, are driving me nuts.
"Liz, you're not eating enough. Here, have some more."
But Mom, I don't want anything in my stomach because sometimes the pain is enough to make me throw up in the morning or after the occasional afternoon nap.
"Liz, why do you need Maria to go pick up that order?"
Gee, Dad, I'm just scared I'm going to fall asleep at the wheel and drive off the road.
But I can't say anything. What if they made me go see a doctor? I need to keep a low profile, now more than ever. For one thing, Max is too distracted to handle anything other than his son, who he says he's contacting in his dreams. Isabel isn't sure whether he is or not, but she's seen enough to say it's possible. For another, I can't bear the thought of all the attention that 'treatment' would entail, all that scrutiny. I really would go insane.
And as nice as they are, my teachers aren't helping either. I know they're having regular talks with my parents, and terms like 'depression' and 'post-traumatic stress' are being bandied about since everyone knows that I didn't take Alex's death well, and no one knows that I don't miss Tess. They think we were friends, sort of, and that I'm feeling survivor's guilt because we were fighting over a guy when she 'died' going over a cliff in Max's Jeep.
If only they knew, huh?
Sometimes I wish they were right.
"Okay, so what I'm going to do is join you in the dream, but I won't really be a part of it," Isabel explains for the hundredth time.
I can tell she's nervous, but she's trying to help so I agree to let her give it another go.
"Try to get in early," I advise, although we both know it's not going to happen. Every time Isabel dreamwalks me these days, she never manages to get in there until it's too late, until I'm already falling. And since I'm her focus in the dream, she always ends up falling next to me.
Once she tried staying with me until the end of the dream. She was such a nervous wreck after 'dying' that she was hyperventilating when she finally came out of it. I told her to stop trying.
But she really wants to try again, so who am I to turn down an alien princess?
Besides, maybe this time it'll work.
It takes an entire morning to comfort Isabel, who's beyond shaken. She doesn't understand how I can be so calm after going through that every time I fall asleep.
"Calm? I'm anything but calm," I say, smiling to take the sting out of my words, but trying to explain. "I feel like I'm screaming all the time. You just can't hear me."
I don't know why I said that. It sounds so melodramatic. But I think she knows what I mean, because she nods and in a rare demonstrative moment, she reaches over and holds my hand as I blink back tears.
She won't try again, I know. That's a good thing. But I think we're friends now, and that's good too.
Maria and Kyle are being great about the whole thing, thank god
Maria knew about Michael's dreams already, so that made it easier for me. For a while I felt guilty about spending so much time with him, almost every night, but she really seems to understand. She even asked me to keep an eye on him because it's not her place to do it anymore.
Kyle got a lot closer to both Maria and Isabel in the aftermath of the whole Tess thing. He still doesn't know how he feels about Max, but he hangs out with Michael and me sometimes, and he's teaching us some card games to help pass the time. Also, I think he's starting to see Maria in a new light, and I've been subtly encouraging him to do stuff with her more often. I don't know why I didn't see it before, but they are really good together. They seem to balance each other out.
Of course, I'm not the most objective person these days. Sleep deprivation plays havoc with your emotions, you know, and I'm prone to just start crying or getting angry about the slightest thing. Trying to keep up in school is also taking its toll on me, because my concentration is shot and it takes me twice as much time to get things done these days. And as understanding as my teachers are, there's only so much they can do, only so far they can help me along.
At one point we tried sleeping pills, but they didn't really work and they didn't have any effect on the dreams at all. I was glad to get rid of them; I didn't like them at all.
Control is such a tenuous thing, but it's important. More than ever, I need to take as much control over my life as possible.
Because what else can I do?
"I still think the dreams are prophetic."
I can't help but groan. I'm so sick of this. "So what if they are? What do we do about it? Wait for the day when we're near a cliff, throw me off, and there you go - problem solved?"
He just looks down at me. "Now you're just abusing sarcasm. No, I mean, maybe we're approaching this the wrong way. Maybe it's a warning."
"What do you mean?" I demand, unimpressed. "It's some kind of cosmic gift?"
As soon as I say the words I stop and think about that for a moment.
"Actually, in a twisted sort of way, it does make sense. Look at how many times I haven't died because of some alien power. If anything, that would be par for the course. But Michael," because I just found the flaw in his reasoning, "say it is. What good is it? For one thing, we have no way of knowing when it'd happen or how to prevent it. For another, what good is warning us about it if there's nothing you can do about it?"
"What do you mean?"
"If you can't reach me in time in the dream, Michael, how are you supposed to do it in real life?"
He doesn't say anything. It doesn't matter, though, because I've had an idea.
"There's something else, though."
"These dreams - they're not exactly evil," I muse, feeling my way through what I think might be an important insight, if I can just put it into words. "I mean, they don't feel evil, like a weapon being used against us, do they?"
"Well, maybe the only reason they bother us so much is because we let them. I mean, we're not actually hurt when we wake up. It's more just a matter of you feeling scared and guilty, and me feeling hurt and scared and, well, more scared, that's screwing with our minds."
I stop then, trying to decide if that makes sense. I think it does. Michael hasn't disagreed yet either.
So "Maybe we should stop resisting the dreams, and just go with them. Try not to let our emotional sides get carried away. If they are warnings or messaged of some kind, we need to study them, try to figure out what they're trying to tell us."
With that, I take a deep breath and wait for his response. It isn't quite what I expect.
"Holy crap," he says, and all I can do is gape at him.
I want him to say it. I want him to admit I could be right about this. I don't know why it's so important to me, but it is. At some point in the past few months, Michael's opinion became very important to me indeed.
"That makes sense," he says, and something in me shines. "Let's try it."
Everything moves in slow motion, and the detail is so sharp it almost hurts my eyes.
As always, I'm looking at the view. It's breathtaking. I step a little closer to the edge of the cliff as I speak, idly thinking that if I reached out a hand, I could touch the sky.
I look at Michael. His hair is longer, and his shirt fits him better than any of the shirts I've seen him wear.
"I have to, Michael," I say insistently, and I think I'm crying. I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. "It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, none of this would've happened -"
I can't speak anymore. I can't think clearly, either, although I'm very conscious of an acute desire to throw myself into his arms. But I don't have any time to examine this astonishing insight into my own psyche, because he's speaking.
"No, Liz," he says, firmly.
It's too tempting. I have to get farther away from him, from his long arms, his comforting chest, or I won't be able to finish. But then I feel a sense of déjà vu; I've been here before, done this before.
I open my mouth to speak and that's when it happens. The ground shifts beneath my feet, and I feel the bile rise in my throat because I know what's coming. I've been here too often not to. I can't help it, I call for help even though I know it's too late.
He reaches out for me as I reach for him but it's still too late.
I look up as always, trying for one last glimpse of him before I'm all alone again.
And there he is. But this time, something's different. This time
This time, he's falling too.
And this time, when I hit the ground, I don't have to imagine his face, or his eyes.
Because he's still with me.
Because as darkness claims me once more, he's holding my hand.
Because this time, I'm not alone.
And somehow, that makes all the difference.
I used to think I knew what heroes were.
They're the guys with chiselled features that step in, take control of a situation and win the day, right?
I've decided that a hero is someone who tries to help even though he's scared out of his mind. Who risks everything because he can't live with himself if he doesn't. Who dives into the chaos because keeping control is too big a sacrifice if it means losing everything else.
My hero jumped off a cliff so I wouldn't fall alone.
My hero. Michael.
As I tell him that I'm not having nightmares anymore, I wonder if I should tell him this.
Probably not. But that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Michael has finally admitted something I've always wondered about: he has guilt issues. Strangely enough, I find it comforting, because it's something I can understand.
I have guilt issues too.
I've always felt guilty that saving my life put so many others at risk. When Alex died, I nearly went insane with guilt. All I could remember was Future Max telling me that he'd been to our wedding celebration, and I felt like I'd killed him myself. Then, when we learned what Tess had done I was sure of it. I'd created the Tess in our timeline, hadn't I? Gave her everything she needed to accelerate whatever plan was in place to lure Max and Michael and Isabel back to Antar, humanity be damned.
No one can tell me I shouldn't feel guilty. Because Alex was my responsibility and I failed him. I don't care if it's irrational; it's true.
But that's one of the things I find so comforting about Michael. He understands guilt because he understands about responsibility and consequences.
I don't know what it is, but there's something different about him. Or maybe it's me, maybe I just didn't see it before. But it's there. And I think it's going to be worth the time it's going to take to figure out just what it is.
"Liz, we need to talk."
I sigh and let Maria manhandle me into the back room. We're not supposed to take our breaks together, but I'm not going to say anything because the place is dead right now.
"Kyle asked me to the formal," she whispers excitedly.
I stand there, blinking. What? "What?" I say out loud, when I realize she's waiting for a response.
"Kyle asked me to the formal," she repeats, and I can almost hear her gulping as she waits for my reaction.
The slow grin that spreads across my face finds its twin on hers. "And?" I tease, as if I didn't know what she told him.
"I I said yes," she chokes, as if she can't quite believe it.
I squeal and we start jumping up and down. "Do you have a dress?" When I see her shake her head, I start screaming in earnest. "Shopping! We're going dress shopping!"
She laughs, and it takes my breath away, how happy and carefree she sounds. "Well, duh!" she jokes. Then, all too soon, she grows solemn again. "What about you? Are you going?"
I shrug. "I haven't given it much thought, actually."
Maria gasps. "But we have to go together! We can't not go together," she insists, looking aghast at the very thought. "Besides," she says, with an odd expression on her face that makes me groan inwardly. I think I know what's coming. "Kyle heard that a certain tight end was going to ask you -"
"A tight end was going to ask me?" I ask, amused.
She rolls her eyes. "You know what I mean. It's a football position. And are you trying to tell me Jack Swanson doesn't have a nice ass?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," I say, as if shocked at the very notion.
"Liiiiizzzziiiiieeeeeee," she whines, stamping a foot, and I know I have to compromise fast or she'll compromise for me - and by that, I mean that she'll get her way.
"Well, maybe I'll see if Max or Michael have dates," I say quickly, smiling because now she's the one looking like she's been blindsided by a semi.
"Uh, Liz, you aren't " she starts, trying to be diplomatic. She doesn't believe I'm over Max yet, not really.
"As friends, Maria," I reassure her, and she nods.
The next day at lunch, I decide to get it over with.
Maria, Kyle and I spent lunch watching Max and Michael play a remarkably competitive game of Snap and trying not to laugh. A few of Kyle's friends ate with us but had taken off for some sports thing that was being posted by the gym, so it was just the five of us again.
"Hey, do either of you guys want to come to the dance with me?"
Huh. I thought I sounded nicely nonchalant, but everyone's looking at me like well, like I suppose I look when I'm studying something under a microscope. It strikes me as kind of funny, and I can't help but grin.
I'm smiling a lot more these days. I can't help it; I feel like I've been given a whole new lease on life. Again. And I intend to make the most of it.
"Aw, c'mon. I can't such bad company that at least one of my best friends couldn't sacrifice a few hours of his pitiful life so I can ignore him to run to the washroom with Maria every twenty minutes," I joke, getting some laughs and more than one wadded up napkin thrown at me.
Max opens his mouth, reluctantly, but it's Michael who answers. This interests me. We kind of went back to not spending so much time together now that we can each sleep okay, but I'm pretty sure we're still friends.
"I don't have to dance, though, right?"
I shrug. "Whatever." I'm not kidding. I'm really just doing this to do something with Maria, so it doesn't matter.
He nods. "Cool. I heard some guys on the basketball team are planning a prank, anyway. This way I don't have to sneak in to see what stupid thing those jocks come up with this year."
I just laugh as Kyle pretends to scowl angrily on behalf of all stupid jocks, and spend the rest of the break comparing dress ideas with Maria.
So this is how it starts: Michael and I go to the dance together, and we have a good time. He actually relaxes enough to dance a few times with me without killing my feet completely, and we make fun of some of the more idiotic outfits people were wearing (isn't there a law against orange tuxedoes?). Last but not least, we claim a table so that Kyle has somewhere to collapse after bouncing Maria around out on the dance floor.
And at one point, after the jocks Michael heard so much about get nabbed streaking the dance wearing nothing but three tube socks and a Britney Spears mask each, I notice that he's looking at me. So I look at him too.
"Are we having fun yet?" I joke.
He nods grudgingly, but being Michael, refuses to fake anything more. This is actually something I'd grown to admire about him during those many nights spent on my balcony playing cards, listening to the radio, or just watching the stars in pensive silence. Michael is deep.
"Have you had any more nightmares?" he asks suddenly.
Serious now, I shake my head. "Not that kind." I smile warmly, because as far as I'm concerned, he's the reason why. I don't care what he did or why, not really, but ever since he changed the ending of our dream I haven't had any trouble sleeping.
Well actually, that's not quite true. I have had trouble sleeping, but it has nothing to do with nightmares. It just feels lonely. I miss having him around.
"Me neither," he says. Then, in a rush, "But it feels weird to sleep alone again."
It's a little startling to hear my thoughts said out loud like that. "Yeah, I kn-know," I stammer nervously.
The conversation seems too intense now, and without discussing it we just watch Maria and Kyle jump around on the dance floor. I cast about desperately in my mind for something else to talk about.
"Do you have any plans for next year?" I ask.
If he's surprised, he doesn't show it. "Not really." He doesn't ask what I'm doing. The day I confirmed acceptance at UNM, my Dad whooped it up and bought everyone in the Crashdown free Alien Blasts.
He's still disappointed that I'm not going to make a name for myself in some Ivy League school out east, but the nightmares didn't stop early enough to salvage my grades so it's not an option any more. Plus, after the way I seemed to lose interest in school - skipping, falling asleep in class, neglecting my homework - I know he and Mom are just happy I'm showing any ambition at all.
"Did did Dad talk to you about maybe becoming a manager at the Crashdown? Only if you want to, of course," I add hastily.
"I was thinking about it."
"I hate the thought of some stranger running the place," I admit, and he nods slowly. I know then that he's going to do it, and I don't bother asking myself why that makes me so happy.
"What is it?" he asks suddenly. "There's something else."
Damn, he's good. "Can you read my mind or something?" I half-joke. Now that I think of it, it doesn't seem like such an impossible side-effect of sharing dreams.
He shakes his head. He smirks a little too, but I'm not in the mood to play games.
"Mom and Dad want to open a new restaurant in Florida," I tell him. "Apparently there are some benefits to establishing residency or something there before retiring, and they've already found a place to fix up near where my aunt lives. So they're going to stay out there for a while to set themselves up with a permanent address."
He sits up a little straighter. Obviously this is news to him. "So we're not just talking about a temp job?"
I nod. "There's more." I hesitate, and wonder if I should tell him how much I had to do with the next part - needless to say, it took some convincing. It helped that it was Michael, though. I doubt my parents would have budged if it was Max or even Kyle, but Michael had been around so much in the past year they'd begun to think of him as family, so that helped. "You ... you could live in the apartment, if you want. I mean, over the CrashDown. You'd save on rent, it'd be easier to watch the diner, and that way it's not empty half the week."
"Half the week?" And I thought I was being subtle.
"I'm coming home on weekends as a part-time manager. But I promise not to cramp your style," I tease weakly.
He stares at me, and for a moment I forget where we are. "Think you could handle living with me?"
"Yes," I say immediately, and blush. I didn't mean to sound that eager, but I really do want him to agree.
"Okay," he says. "I'll talk to your dad tomorrow."
Oh, wow. I hadn't thought it'd be so easy, somehow.
Suddenly I feel this burst of energy, so I grab his hand and drag him out onto the dance floor. When we get close enough to Maria and Kyle, I yell to get their attention.
"He said yes!"
Immediately Maria shrieks and rushes over to hug us both. Even Kyle, who probably has no idea what I'm talking about, laughs at the look on Michael's face. Michael just rolls his eyes, and I know now what they mean in books when they talk about two guys sharing a moment of masculine understanding.
I don't care. It feels right, like the pieces of some cosmic jigsaw puzzle are coming together, and I laugh too as Kyle dances goofily around us.
A couple years later, things have changed.
Maria and Kyle are engaged. They're young, sure, but Jim agrees that they're old enough to know what they want and have been through enough to deserve it. Amy was less sure, but she trusts Jim. They're both very proud that Kyle got into NMSU on a partial scholarship, and Maria takes night classes and works part-time at a local youth center.
Max kept his job at the UFO Centre because his hours are flexible and it leaves him a lot of time to concentrate on his son. He and Isabel finally broke down and explained everything (well, mostly everything) to their parents, who understand now why neither of their children will leave Roswell. They're hurt that he kept Tess's pregnancy a secret for so long, but now they think they understand him better and that's helped smooth things along.
Isabel met a guy and they're getting pretty serious. Jesse's a lawyer who works with her dad, and he adores her. She's still in school but they're getting married soon.
Michael's basically taken over the Diner and he's even expanded, with my parents' permission. The CrashDown Diner and Bookstore is doing better than ever, and it helps that Michael's getting really good at rescuing damaged merchandise. We never lose books or magazines to rips or coffee stains and our kitchen is always clean and well-maintained. It's almost amazing how much money we save because of Michael's 'abilities'.
The fact is, I'm pretty darn impressed with Michael Guerin these days. I only see him weekends, it's true, and even then I'm working either at the diner or on my schoolwork, but the evidence is everywhere. And I'm not the only one who's noticed, either, from the gossip going around town. It makes me downright possessive.
Michael and I have been getting closer over the past year, and I think we're ready to take things a step further. How do I know this? Well, I'm looking at him over a candlelit table, and I can tell he's working up his nerve to ask me something. I just need to make sure he goes through with it tonight.
"Uh, how's the chicken?" he asks.
"It's great, Michael, but you know that."
There's silence for a while as we eat. Usually I'm the one to initiate conversation, but tonight it needs to be Michael. If - when - this happens he does not get to say this was all my idea.
"How's school? Get that paper done?"
"School's fine, and I handed it in yesterday before I came home, you know that."
I sip the wine he keeps on hand for me. He sticks to water, pop and juice.
"RA still giving you a hard time? 'Cause I could -" I stop him before he can offer yet again to 'take care of' the poor residence advisor who thinks it's his mission in life to get me to at least one party at the dorm while under his care. He's a nice guy, but he doesn't understand that it's far more important for me to get home on weekends than to get drunk and cut loose. Michael despises him, and has absolutely no qualms about showing it.
"Reggie's under control, Michael, you know that."
Finally he loses it. "Why do you keep doing that?"
I smile, enjoying my little game. "Doing what?"
He stares at me, finally catching on that I'm up to something. "Liz," he growls forbiddingly, eyes narrowing. "What are you up to?"
"Waiting for you to make a move, actually," I admit, and laugh when he drops his fork suddenly on his plate. Whoo hoo! I shocked the unshockable Michael Guerin.
"What are you saying?" he asks, quieter this time. More intense.
"I got tired of nightmares a long time ago, Michael," I tell him, trying to think of how to put this. I'm treading on dangerously cheesy ground, but I have to trust that he won't make fun of me. "Don't you think it's time to start having a few dreams come true instead?"
It's all I can do not to hold my breath while he thinks about that. We shared nightmares once. I wonder if his dreams are anything like mine now?
"Are you saying we should date and stuff?"
I nod. He thinks about it some more.
"Okay," he says finally, and I have to laugh, because that's just so Michael. Any minute he's going to say -
"Done eating yet?"
It's a good thing he knows me too well to be really offended, because I couldn't stop laughing right now to save my life. Of course, to be pulled over to the couch and onto his lap? Now that - that I'd do just about anything for. That, and the chance to fall asleep in his arms as often as possible.
When I'm in Michael's arms, nightmares don't stand a chance.
Who says a little hero-worship isn't healthy in a relationship?
The years since that day have been eventful, to say the least.
Max stumbled onto the ability to pull things out of his dreams, although I think it's more just a matter of it being easier to convince his mind of the impossible when he isn't limited by the doubts of consciousness. At some point he decided he was ready, and he pulled his son through. He just bypassed physics and spaceships altogether, and just used his mind. It's pretty awesome to contemplate, but I have to admit that I was surprised the others didn't think he could do it. I never doubted him, not once he let me connect with him to see if I could help boost his energy.
I could, and can. Kyle can too, and I'm proud as anything that we were able to help him, especially since Michael and Isabel had to pull out of the link to fight off Khivar and Tess as they tried to recapture their prize.
Maria was upset that she couldn't link in, but it was a blessing in disguise. She was the one who cared for us all - including Max's son - in the three or so days when we were all practically comatose following the 'rescue'. I shudder to think of what might have happened if she hadn't been there.
(And of course, there was that memorable time when Khivar and Tess teleported themselves to Earth, and she was waiting for them with the bulldozer. But that's another story.)
Isabel got engaged to Jesse not long after Maria married Kyle, and they're all quite happy, none more so than Jesse, who finds being chosen over an intergalactic king rather flattering.
At first I was worried I wouldn't be able to accept Max's son, but I think that it helps that we aren't competing for his father's attention. As it is, it took me a little longer maybe than it did for the others, but I've created a solid bond with him. And you know what? It was worth the work, because that little boy loves his Aunt Liz. His first word might have been "Dada," but his first sentence was uttered the day I caught my boyfriend watching Braveheart with him. It was funny as anything - one minute I'm scolding Michael soundly, and the next I'm joined by a boy barely out of diapers cheering me on by shouting "Bah Mi-cull! Bah Mi-cull!"
It was bedlam by the time his father came to pick him up, I admit. But the whole thing was so darned adorable, I simply had to get it on tape. And it only gets better, because he still likes to entertain me by zapping "Bad Michael" and making him 'dance'. God, I love this kid.
At any rate, my university years have been some of the best of my life. I'm ready to graduate now, surrounded by family and best friends, and I'm happier than I ever could have believed living with someone of such taciturn disposition.
"Must be that hero-worship thing," Maria jokes, while I bat my eyes in my best southern belle imitation and Michael mock-growls. I'm the only one who knows it isn't a joke.
But that's not the end of my story, I know. Every now and then I look into the night sky, and I feel something. Not quite anticipation, but this sense that there's something else in the cards for me. Something left unfinished.
So I wait.
"Michael, are you listening?"
I stifle a chuckle. Max sounds so so miffed; even after all these years, Michael knows how to push his buttons.
"Sure man," Michael nods solemnly. I think I'm the only one who sees the twinkle in his eyes. "And I think it's a good idea."
"I'm just worried that maybe he isn't ready," Max sighs. "What if he uses his powers?"
"Max, relax," Maria says soothingly. "He knows better than to use his powers in public. And he needs to build socialization skills," she adds, secure in her growing capabilities as a social worker.
"It's getting cold," Isabel comments, then, as Maria leans back into the arms of her husband, Deputy Kyle Valenti. Sometimes I wonder if Isabel wishes Jesse was more involved with this part of her life, but he doesn't know everything and he's content not to, so she doesn't bring him to these meetings. She does like to get home to him afterwards, though.
Max takes the hint. "Okay, to sum up, the reports of UFO activity over Arizona have been attributed to insects flying through electrical fields, Larek says the trade agreements are going well, and my son is going to daycare. If there's nothing else, let's go home."
We're heading back to the cars when it happens.
"Oh wait," Max calls out. "I almost forgot. I talked to Jeff Parker the other day - "
I freeze. Oh, god. Don't say it. Don't say it, Max!
" - And it looks like we have something to celebrate," he finishes happily.
Damn it. I love Max, I do. He's one of my dearest friends and always will be. But at this moment I could cheerfully strangle him.
"Max, stop," I rush in, hoping for a little damage control. "It's nothing."
He blinks in surprise but shrugs, so everyone continues back toward the cars. Well, not quite everyone. A glance lets me know that Maria is only postponing the interrogation, and a strong hand holds me back right now.
Michael's not as patient as Maria.
I look longingly towards the cars. They're all about to pull away, and I know they're trying to give us some privacy.
"Michael, it's nothing," I say again. "Really," I add, as convincingly as possible.
"If it's nothing, then you can tell me about it," he counters. Darn it, why couldn't I have fallen for a pushover?
I take a few steps away from him towards the bluff rather than the cars, letting him know I'm just taking a minute to compose my thoughts, not making an escape. I pretend to concentrate on the fabulous view, but really I'm trying to make sense of my jumbled thoughts.
I'm not prepared for this.
"Tell me," he says. When I don't answer, he keeps talking. "What is it, are you pregnant or something?"
I almost laugh. "No." I let a little sarcasm tinge my tone. "Like I'd tell my father but not you? Really, Michael."
"So what is it?"
Maybe casual is the way to go. "Oh, I got a sort of job offer. But I'm not going to take it, so it doesn't matter," I explain vaguely.
"What kind of job offer?" he pushes. God, what a stubborn man. I try to put a little more distance between us, trying to reassert a little control.
"Well, it's Dr. Armand," I admit, realising there's no point in lying. I did an internship under Dr. Armand, and I knew he'd recognise the name once he talked to Dad or Max anyway. Which he would. "He starts teaching at Harvard next year, and he wants me to apply for grad studies there next year, so I can keep working in his lab."
"Liz!" He sounds stunned. "I don't get it."
Wait, what doesn't he get?
"This is your dream. You should be happy."
"So what's wrong?" He sounds so sincere, so caring. I know it sounds silly, but for some reason it means more to me when he does this because he's not generally demonstrative, so when he is, it seems to have more impact. Being the level-headed and rational individual I am, I immediately burst into tears.
"Liz?" I can hear the panic in his voice, and I know he needs an explanation.
"Everyone and everything's here, Michael. My life is here, in New Mexico. I'm not leaving."
He doesn't believe me, not entirely. "And? There's something else. Tell me."
I make a point of looking him straight in the eye. "Don't you get it?" I say, pronouncing each word separately. "My life is here. My family is here. My friends are here. You ... you're here."
It won't be enough. He's going to argue with me.
"Liz," he starts, "You can't stay here for me. I won't let you. It's too good an opportunity."
Oh, he's good. But not that good. "That's all it is, an opportunity. It might never happen," I argue back. "I like what I have here, damn it!"
I watch him as I back away, unable to bear close contact with him right now. "I'm not leaving you!" I shout, knowing that later I'll appreciate the irony.
"Liz," he tries in a different tone, trying to sound persuasive. "Liz, you don't owe us anything. You don't owe me anything. You don't have to stay here for us."
It's a pretty speech. But that's all it is. And it has one glaring flaw. "I do. I have to, Michael. It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, none of this would've happened -"
I can't speak anymore; I'm crying too hard. I feel smothered by all the guilt for all the things that have happened because I didn't die when I was supposed to.
A flicker of understanding passes over his face. "No, Liz," he persists.
I don't want to argue about it, but as I open my mouth to tell him that ... it happens.
The earth moves.
He looks like the wind's been knocked out of him. In that split second between standing and slipping, I feel a rush of recognition and that familiar sense of déjà vu at the expression on his face, the way he's standing, the hand that he's holding out towards my own.
Our fingertips touch, and the jolt is as sweet as it is brief.
And then I'm falling.
At first I can't quite accept it. Could I have fallen asleep? Am I dreaming?
No, I'm not.
I'm very much awake, and I'm conscious of two very strong emotions running through me.
There's a profound sense of relief because the waiting's over. Somewhere in my mind I think I've just crossed this off of some cosmic To Do checklist.
But stronger, much stronger, is the overwhelming, mind-numbing and gut-wrenching fear.
I don't want to die. This hurts, just as much as it ever did in my dreams. And it's only going to get worse.
"Michael," I whimper, but the wind steals his name from my lips.
A second and an eternity later something slams into me.
It's not the ground; it's coming from the wrong direction. It's it's Michael.
It hurts when we come into contact, but I don't care. It's nothing, because he's holding me and I can see his face and he's falling with me, and as stupid and corny and selfish as it sounds, it means the world to me.
"I'm not leaving you," he shouts to be heard, and I laugh as I hear my own words thrown back at me. I'm screaming and crying, but I'm laughing. And I really, really don't want to die. Not like this, and and not if it takes him too.
I can't let him die. And suddenly, my brain suddenly starts working.
"Michael!" I scream as hard as I can. "Teleport!"
It takes a moment for understanding to flash across his face. But it does, and I'm only momentarily discouraged by the look of uncertainty that follows.
We're falling, fast. By my estimation, we have about seven seconds to live. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three - "Just try! You can do it!"
I don't know if he heard me, but his eyes are closed and he's holding me even tighter to him and I have to trust him.
- and then I feel a wrenching as if my body's been jerked through a wall and what a strange sensation and where did I come up with that analogy and what happened Michael?
Because suddenly the pain is gone and I don't hear the wind and everything is still.
He doesn't open his eyes immediately, and I'm too numb to tell whether the arms wrapped around me are warm, or if the chest in front of me pulses with life.
"Michael?" My mouth is dry and my lips chapped, but I have to try.
His brow lowers the way it does when someone interrupts the hockey game. Wild relief floods through me, leaving me light-headed.
I lick my lips again. "Michael? We're okay."
Finally, finally he opens his eyes, and I see bursts of light and colour and there must be a symphony playing because I can't hear myself think.
But I think I'm smiling, because his eyes - those wonderfully warm and sensuous eyes - brighten too and he leans down.
He kisses me, and I don't care that our lips are dry and cracked and I can taste something coppery that tells me one or both of us bit something hard enough to break the skin.
Michael's kissing me, and all's right with the world.
I want to protest when he pulls back, but I'm too weak to do much more than moan.
It's fascinating to watch the emotions passing over his face as he looks up and realises just how far we've fallen. I can't help but laugh as the shock knocks him off balance and he ends up pulling me down on top of him as his knees give out.
Then we're both laughing, and he's looking at me with these shining eyes. "You -" he chokes out, and I hold my breath in anticipation of whatever marvellously romantic thing is going to pass through those utterly kissable lips.
Maybe it's the shock, but as sensation rushes back to my body I'm aware of a couple things. First, that 'pins and needles' have never been fun and I doubt they ever will be. Second, I want this man more than I have wanted anything in the world, and I mean in every way possible.
"You," he starts again, "are going to Harvard."
Huh? Harvard? What the hell's Harvard but an utterly meaningless word that's too damned far away from this being I worship beyond logic and measure? Where's my romance?
"Michael, we're alive. You saved our lives." Again. "And you're thinking about school?"
"You're going," he says stubbornly.
This is unbelievable. "I'm not leaving you," I remind him, my face buried in his chest, willing him to believe me.
"No," he says. "I'm not leaving you."
I look up at him, and it's coming back to me in waves of jubilation and awe just why I love this man. Forget the nonsense I just said I wanted. It may not have been pretty, but he just let me know he loves me, completely and without compromise. Maybe it's selfish of me, but it's why I love him and it's why I'll let him do it.
I even love the arrogant lift of his eyebrows when he thinks he's won an argument and he's negotiating the terms of surrender. It's downright cute how he puts so much into these victories of his that are really mine, but I'll never tell him.
"I'll come to Boston," he states, as if he's the final word. And in this he wins because I wouldn't dream of denying either of us anything right now. "We'll visit Roswell every chance we get," he concedes graciously, "but you're going."
"We're going," I correct him gently.
He grins. "We're going," he agrees.
After a moment he winces, and I guess he's feeling the cold rock underneath him because he tries to raise himself. Without letting go of me, of course, because the darling boy seems to think he's Superman or something.
Biting my lip to keep from laughing at the admittedly ridiculous thought - hey, I know how we got down here, I'm just in denial, okay? - I roll myself off of him and we help each other to stand.
I watch him as he looks around, taking in the situation. "Uh, Liz?"
"Do you have any idea how to get out of here?"
It's on the tip of my tongue to suggest he get us out of here the way we got down here in the first place, but I close my mouth before such a stupid idea has the chance to escape. Taking a deep breath, I take a moment to look around myself.
"No. But sooner or later someone will come looking for us," I say, trying to sound reassuring.
He nods. "It could be a while."
That strikes me as funny. Maybe the shock just hasn't worn off yet, but I really can't take anything that seriously right now. "No kidding. Wouldn't that be ironic? We survive the fall, then die of exposure?"
He must be feeling that mad rush of energy too, because suddenly his tone changes, and he's looking at me in a way that makes my knees weak and my heart rate pound even harder.
"Well, you know what they say about body heat."
"What?" I ask, as if I didn't know.
"It's the best way to prevent hypothermia."
Oho, so that's how you want to play it, is it? Well, two can play at that game. I peer at him suspiciously, as if I don't know exactly what he's up to. "Michael why are you looking at me like that?"
He's the very picture of boyish innocence. "I'm just pointing out that it's a well-known fact that close body contact could mean the difference between life and death," he rattles off, almost primly. I think he learned that tone from me.
"Oh, reeeaaallly," I say, and the effort it takes not to laugh and kiss him (and not necessarily in that order) is incredible. But he's really enjoying 'convincing me', so I let him have his fun. "I had no idea you were such an expert in first aid trivia."
His eyes widen and he nods even more vigorously. "Yeah, and you know what else? There's a proven connection between near-death experiences and se- and intimacy."
It's too much; I give in. "Are you for real?" I gasp, with one last-ditch attempt to look angry that I know is something less than convincing. "We almost died, we still need to be rescued, and you're ... horny?"
He doesn't miss a beat. "Oh, yeah."
Like that, his eyes are so dark with emotion it takes my breath away, and I become aware that I am, quite simply, too far away from him.
Now there's something I can remedy easily enough.
I used to hate the sound of my voice echoing off of canyon walls.
It sounds different now. Less panic, more ecstasy. Not a bad substitution.
I told him once that I was tired of living a nightmare, and I am. I have dreams, damn it, and I know he does too.
And we're going to live them.