Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell. Nor do I huddle over a secret collection of rare and valuable paintings in my hidden vault and giggle maniacally. (But someday …)
Character Focus: Michael POV, Mi/L
Spoilers: You gotta be kidding. I mean, Michael and Liz discuss art.
Author's Note: If you're racking your brain by the end, trying to recall just why some of the stuff in here sounds so darn familiar? Check the Notes at the end, 'cause it's not like I make this stuff up, you know? LOL …
This fic won "The Itsy Bitsy Fic Bit You Wish Would Have Continued" in the Boardello of Fanfiction's S.T.D. Awards.
So here I am at a museum. And not, thank god, the UFO one.
We're all here; it's a school trip. Pretty lame, if you ask me. But I'm not going to complain. We get a whole day off school just to walk around and look at stuff a bunch of dead people painted. Well, dead people and people that no one'll care about until they're dead.
I don't get a lot of it, although one or two make me think I wasn't the only one who saw visions before picking up a paintbrush.
Maria and Alex are cracking up at one exhibit and I make a point of walking away. For some reason I just don't want to hear what it is they find so funny about a picture of a dead guy in a bathtub.
I frown. It really isn't funny. I know this because I can see the painting, even from all the way over here, and I don't feel like laughing. I turn away before they see me and try to share the joke.
I end up in a room that has some sculptures in the middle and only a couple paintings on the walls. I dimly recall some guide talking about the need for space around some works, so that nothing competes with them. It ruins the whole effect, he'd said, before running off to pull some grubby child's fingers off something.
The painting on the far wall catches my eye. I don't look at the little card next to it; I don't care who painted it or why or when. But there's something about the way the colours move together to pull my eyes around the canvas that makes me glad there's nothing next to it, because it'd ruin the effect.
Without really thinking about it, I walk towards the wall, wondering if it still plays those tricks on your eyes when you get closer.
It does, and I back away, to find the right distance to look at it.
"It's inspired by The Starry Night."
I turned to see Liz staring at it in fascination. She isn't looking at me, just the painting, and I turn back to it too. Damn, but there goes any chance of peace. "What?" I grouch deliberately, hoping she'd get the message and leave me alone.
She speaks quietly, almost reverently, and it occurs to me that although she wasn't in any art class that I knew of, I'd seen her at the school's shows for student works. I wonder if she's ever seen anything of mine. I've never mentioned anything to anyone.
"Today's exhibits are all by local art students. This one is inspired by The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh."
The way she said it, it rhymed with "Bach", and I heard the wonder in her voice.
"How do you know?" I ask. Didn't that guy do flowers?
Out of the corner of my eye I see her hold something out, and after a moment I take it.
Looking down, I realize I'm holding a book. An art book, with little notes scrawled in the margins and dog-eared pages. When I pull the cover open, the pages part as if eager to show me the well-worn section on Van Gogh. Flipping through it, I find the flowers and allow myself a second of self-congratulation before moving on.
Then I see it. I recognize the painting immediately, which is good because the caption underneath is almost completely obscured by cramped writing. She'd left notes all over the page.
"You're supposed to leave white space," I say without thinking.
"Nothing." I study the small page in front of me and wish I could see it full size. Somehow I just know it would be big. Something like this has to be.
"I'm going to see the real thing some day."
I look at her then. There's something in the way she says that, and the way she waits for my response, that gets to me. Like what I say will actually matter to her.
"I don't know. But there's so much out there, I want to see it all."
I just nod. I know what she means; I've spent too many years dreaming about what I couldn't have not to.
She smiles and I know I've said it wrong. But she doesn't correct me, just nods and agrees. "They have an incredible collection."
I nod too, feeling a little violated, like she knows something about me she shouldn't, but kind of fascinated too.
"Rome," she says, and I can't help but smirk.
"Let me guess," I drawl, "the Sistine Chapel."
"Among other things, definitely," she agrees, ignoring my tone. I'm mildly impressed. My attitude alone would have Maria screaming at me by now. Isabel well, Isabel just wouldn't be having this conversation.
She begins listing those other things. "The Baracco, the Borghese collection, all the National Museums, the fountains "
I stare at her for a moment, a little shocked at the combination of excitement and regret in her expression.
"You sound like you're planning a trip" I say, and the world seems to shift under my feet because it sounds like a really long trip. Far away.
In my mind, when I think about our group breaking apart, it's always us leaving. Never them. Oh sure, Alex went to Sweden and Liz went to Florida, but those were just ... visits. And they both came back to Roswell, right? It never occurred to me that when - or if - I came back, Maria wouldn't be waiting for me in case the destiny thing fell apart. That Alex and Liz and Kyle wouldn't be around to ignore whenever I felt like company.
Yet here I was, standing right next to Liz, and in her mind she was already thousands of miles away.
"I want to see the Millesgarden in Sweden and the National Art Gallery in Greece and the Ethnographic Museum in Morrocco and the Metropolitan in New York and -"
I interrupt her then, because every time she names another one something twists inside of me. And New York has bad associations.
"Since when are you so into art?" I ask rudely.
She looks at me and I feel guilty.
"You don't have to be an artist to appreciate history and culture," she says, and I know she's hurt but won't say so.
I can't think of anything to say then, so I turn back to the painting. After seeing the one in her little book, this one doesn't seem quite so grand anymore.
She's still standing there, and it's like we're in a little cocoon, apart from the noise of the rest of the place.
I clear my throat, feeling a need to break the silence.
"I want to go to those places too," I admit, and immediately wish I could take it back. But she doesn't laugh.
"I think you should," she says instead. And her tone is deadly serious.
"Oh, come on. We both know -" I start, but she shakes her head impatiently. She knows what I'm going to say.
"I know," she says, with a quick glance around to make sure we're alone, "you have battles to fight and enemies to watch out for. But Michael, have you ever thought about what you're fighting for? When you're out there as you probably will be some day, and dealing with all sorts of unknowns, wouldn't it be good to have a picture? Or even just something that has meaning for you, something to hold and look at, to make you remember and to keep things in perspective?"
All I can do is stand there and blink at her. I think that's the most she's ever said to me at one time. And she has certainly never been so forthright. I look at her, look into her eyes, and for a second I think I can see what Max and Maria and the others see in her.
I think about what she said. "Yeah," I answer, grudgingly. "I guess." And it occurs to me that the museum has a gift shop.
"Good. You remember that." And apparently she feels her job here is done, because she gives the painting one last look, and starts to walk away.
"Liz," I say, quietly, but I know she heard me because she stops walking. "Did you tell him that?"
She turns and looks at me, and I can feel her sadness hit me from ten feet away. "Uh-huh. But "
I nod. I think I understand. "He said it was impossible, didn't he?"
We stand there for a moment. I speak first.
And I wonder exactly what I'm referring to. I guess she thinks she knows, because she blushes a little and shrugs.
"Yeah." She turns to go again.
"You said there's a good museum in New York?"
"An excellent one."
"That's not so far." And who knows, I may end up there on alien business some day anyhow. No point in wasting the trip.
"Something to think about."
She grins then.
As she walks away, I hear Maria and Alex in the next room, laughing hysterically about something else now. Isabel and Max have joined them.
They're getting closer. In a moment they're going to walk around that corner and see me.
Quietly, I walk in the other direction. The gift shop's over here anyways.
And as I stand in line for the cash register I look at a poster of the New York skyline, and think about the importance of perspective.
1. The painting of a 'dead guy in a bathtub' is an homage to David's _Marat Assassinated_, based on the murder of one of the figures in the French Revolution, painted in1793. Last I heard, it's held by the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
2. The Starry Night is probably Van Gogh's best-known painting, in which he turns a landscape into a scene of intense emotion and drama, the trademark brushstrokes curling and waving to create a sense of horizontal movement set against the vertical lines of a steeple and a tree; amazing. Simply an amazing piece of work.
3. According to the experts at http://www.vangoghgallery.com, "Van Gogh" is tricky to pronounce. "The "Van" is a bit like "Fen" with the V sounding like a half V and half F. The "a" isn't quite like a short "e"." In 'Gogh', "the first G sounds a bit like a guttural H, the "o" sound stays the same pretty much the same (but not as harsh sounding as the "o" in "go") and the final GH is sort of like a guttural CH."