Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Liz/Isabel
Author's Note: Liz and Isabel mourn what they've lost, together. Alternating POVs.
Ugh. So grimy. So dirty.
Her nose wrinkled as she took in the odour of grease that suffused her entire being. Well, that's what working in a diner will do to you.
She needed a shower. Desperately.
Closing the door behind her, Liz immediately headed for her closet, ripping off her uniform on the way to throw it in the hamper and kicking off her shoes.
With those out of the way, she shimmied out of her panties and unhooked her bra with practised ease, grabbing a towel off the door before heading into the washroom.
She felt so dirty. And it wasn't just the grime. She hadn't felt clean since
She slapped herself. That was what she promised herself she would do any time such thoughts even threatened to surface from their carefully buried depths. She was resolved.
But it was still a shock to see her decision reflected in the mirror.
Her face looked pale under the fluorescent light, so very pale, except for the welt that stood out in bright relief against one cheek.
She stood there for a moment and just concentrated on breathing.
And then, with a sob, she turned on the water, pushing the hot faucet as far as it would go, and stepped into the tub.
Isabel lay in Liz's bed, silent.
She had needed to speak to Liz. Really, really needed to speak to her. Alone.
Max was at home, talking with their parents about getting a new car. So she had taken advantage of the situation to sneak out. But she hadn't been able to walk into the Crashdown, with all the memories and the noise. So she had let herself in the back way, and settled down to wait for Liz to come home.
Except that Liz's room was slightly chilly, so she climbed under the quilt. And it was so cozy, and that scent - was that perfume? She couldn't identify it. Something airy, something fresh, something innocent.
The old Isabel would have laughed at that, at the irony, at the illusion.
The new Isabel just closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to remember what innocence felt like.
And so she was half asleep when Liz burst into the room and made a beeline for her closet.
Stunned, and a little groggy, she just watched as Liz stripped.
God, but that brought back memories.
Isabel waited for Liz to see her, to realize that someone was in the room. But she didn't. She never looked over. She just grabbed a towel off the back of the closet door and headed into the washroom.
Isabel decided to wait until she'd had her shower. Liz was always easier to deal with when she had her armour on. The hair she took pains to keep neat and shiny. The skin she kept clean and clear. The clothes that shielded her from the world.
Naked, Liz had confided once, she felt vulnerable.
Isabel could understand. She'd hated showering for gym for years, ever since she'd 'developed' early. In fact, she distinctly recalled one day early in 8th grade when she'd ended up next to that girl Max and Kyle Valenti always stared at. She'd felt a shaft of pure envy run through her as she watched (little) Lizzie Parker wash her boyish figure that was cute and perky and didn't require an elementary school to stock women's sizes in athletic wear.
Even now, Liz was well, perky. Isabel sighed and looked down at the generous flesh that required under wires and stiff material and straps that dug into her shoulders to look anywhere near perky.
Well, she'd just wait until Liz got out of the shower then. She smiled wryly; she always had appreciated good hygiene in the people she associated with, anyway.
Wait - what was that?
Isabel stared at the not-quite-closed door that stood between them. She knew that sound. That was the sound of flesh hitting flesh.
Was someone in there with Liz? No, the room had been empty when she came in through the windows, she was sure of it.
So what and then she understood. It was like earlier, when she'd started thinking about things better left alone when you're by yourself and emotionally volatile. Liz had found a way to distract herself from them. But what if what Liz just did wasn't working? What would she do when it wasn't enough?
A little afraid, Isabel stood up then, shifting from foot to foot indecisively. For a moment she just listened, and then she heard it, a low sob that sounded too painful to be human.
It sounded too painful to be anything but human.
Deliberately she removed her shoes, not really caring if they got wet but it wasn't like she could borrow some to go home in; Liz's feet were just as tiny as the rest of her.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door, and stepped inside the small room.
Liz felt a chill pass over her.
A draft? She must not have closed the door all the way.
She didn't care, not really.
She just concentrated on letting the water burn away her pain.
Oh god, she felt so alone maybe Max no, not Max. Not now. He couldn't possibly understand. Or maybe he'd understand too well. Anyway, he had enough to deal with, without trying to take on her burdens as well. Besides, she thought a little resentfully, he got his closure, didn't he? She never got to confront Tess before he let her go.
She sighed. That wasn't fair. And she wasn't angry, precisely. She just felt so alone
Maria was out of the question. She wouldn't do it, she wouldn't bring her best friend down just when things were going well for her. Maria was blissfully happy now, for the first time in a long time, and Liz was damned if she was going to be the one to burst the bubble. And, if she was honest with herself, she was a little afraid of the way Maria would look at her if she knew the truth.
And Sean Sean was wonderful. Really he was. So many times in the last few months, it occurred to her that he made her happy. And she could make him happy too. But there was so much of her life she couldn't share with him, and besides, she had Max back now, and she wasn't going to let go. She just wasn't. Maybe their relationship wasn't the stuff of fairytales anymore, and maybe it was more heartache than sunshine but but it was theirs. And it was real. It hurt, it wasn't easy, but it satisfied something in her. Something she needed; something that would inevitably have come between her and Sean, and he deserved better.
It was just that she felt so alone, so hurt like Kyle. Maybe too much like Kyle. Kyle needed someone to lean on right now, someone to be strong so he could grieve. She would definitely go to him later, maybe tomorrow, and maybe they could work through this together then, but right now right now she needed
Isabel spoke quietly, not wanting to startle the small girl behind the plastic curtain.
She was concerned. She could hear Liz gulping for air on the other side, and a moment ago she had heard a sound she couldn't quite identify, but it fuelled her already dark imagination.
"Isabel?" she heard. Liz sounded hoarse, as if she'd been screaming rather than crying. Her voice was dull, uncaring and barely surprised at the intrusion.
"Liz, we need to talk." Isabel tried to speak gently.
"No. No, we don't," Liz replied immediately. She was lying, she knew, but suddenly she was afraid of what Isabel was going to say.
Isabel recoiled. She hadn't expected that. For some reason, she had thought Liz would be more accommodating, or at least, not rude. Well, Isabel could work around that. "We are going to talk." Her words left no room for argument, although Liz tried.
"No. Get out of here, Isabel. I'm in the shower, for god's sake. Go away."
Isabel closed her eyes and counted to ten, but it didn't help. She was getting impatient. She knew they needed to talk. She knew it. And Liz knew it too, but she'd been avoiding Isabel lately. Hell, they'd been avoiding each other.
And Isabel was tired of it.
She pulled the curtain to one side; if she and Liz were going to argue, they were going to do it face-to-face.
But when she saw Liz huddled on the floor of the tub, blinking pitifully up into a spray much too hot to be comfortable, she forgot what she was going to say.
"Oh, Liz " she said, honestly chagrined. This was not how she imagined this going at all. And suddenly she wanted the other Liz back, the one who stood up to her when pushed, the only one who could get in her face and really yell at her without backing down.
"I-I-Isabel," Liz said then, and Isabel saw fresh tears stream down her cheeks, quickly merging with the spray but not fast enough to hide.
"She betrayed us."
Liz watched Isabel looking down at her and hugged herself tighter.
She hadn't meant to say it, she hadn't. But it was what she was thinking, and when Isabel looked at her like that, she said the first thing that came to mind.
Oh, the expression on Isabel's face
"I'm sorry," Liz said, and she did mean that. She meant it in so many ways, and on so many levels.
Isabel sank down onto her knees, and the two girls stared at each other over the wall of the tub.
"I am too," Isabel answered. Then, breathing deeply, she admitted: "I miss Alex. I want him back."
Liz nodded. Oh god, she wanted him back so much it physically hurt.
Slowly, fearfully, Isabel continued. "The thing is, I miss her too. I want her back too."
Liz looked at her. Hard. "Even though everything that happened since Alex's death she probably did out of guilt?"
Isabel nodded miserably. "I didn't know that at the time. And part of me keeps screaming that it's all a mistake, that she loves me, that it didn't happen, that she's going to come back and make me feel guilty but so good, and and "
They stared at each other.
Then, so quietly Isabel almost couldn't hear her, she spoke. She shared her awful secret.
Isabel felt the world shift beneath her.
She'd expected anger, hatred, frustration. She came here hoping to resurrect the Liz that would point a finger at her, that would yell at her, that would make her angry in turn, that would make her think, make her defensive, make her feel strong, make her feel again.
She wanted Liz to tell her that this was wrong, all wrong, but then take pity on her and agree that everything could be okay, would be okay, someday.
She wanted someone to tell her that Tess had manipulated her into feeling something, into accepting comfort in ways she'd never thought to ask for, not before.
She had thought Liz regretted what happened after Alex died. Especially now, as the truth came out about Tess's complicity. Isabel had assumed that Liz didn't want the reminders that she had accepted so much, learned so much, from the enemy.
But as she looked at the girl who was closer than a friend but no sister, she realized she had it wrong. Liz needed her as much as she needed Liz.
Liz just didn't know how to ask, or how to fit this new need into her neat, orderly life.
Isabel couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry at this new revelation or the accompanying notion that maybe the comfort she hadn't dared to seek was the same comfort Liz needed right now too.
Without really thinking about it, she reached out to touch Liz's cheek.
Oh god, she thought, and closed her eyes.
She'd missed this.
Liz leaned into the caress, and remembered another time.
Isabel ignored the water splashing at her, and used her fingers to explore Liz's forehead, eyelids, cheekbone, jaw line.
It would be so easy to fall into each other, just the two of them. But it never was just the two of them, was it? There was always someone else.
Someone coming between them. Max, Alex, the others. Not on purpose, all with the best intentions.
But once, once there was someone who brought them together. Whose intentions, in retrospect, were suspect.
It had been a few days since the funeral. Liz was studying everything Alex had left behind, trying desperately to put the pieces together.
Somehow, she thought the answer was right in front of her. If only she knew how to see it.
The sound of the doorbell broke her concentration, and with one backward look of equal parts despair and determination, she left her room to get the door.
It was Tess.
Stunned, and not a little confused, Liz let her in after checking to see that she came alone. She had.
"What do you want, Tess?" She kept her voice neutral, but Tess flinched anyways. "If you're here to talk about Max and me - " she started, fully intending to refute any charge levelled her way. She wasn't in the mood to take any crap about him right now.
"No," Tess said quickly, nervously. "This isn't about him at all. It's just I thought " and she fell silent.
Somewhat taken aback, Liz just sat down and watched Tess fumble uncharacteristically with whatever it was she was trying to say.
"What is it, Tess?" she asked finally, when it seemed that Tess wasn't going to continue without prompting.
"I want to know what I'm feeling," Tess blurted out then, and looked down.
Immediately, Liz was on her feet and angry.
"What the hell?" she stormed, glaring scathingly at the blonde in front of her. "Alex is DEAD, Tess! What do you think you should be feeling?"
"I don't know!" Tess shot back, standing up so they stood face to face. "I don't - I don't understand. Any of it. When Nasedo died I was scared. I didn't want to be left alone in a world where - where no one wanted me, no one! But that was it. I didn't really feel anything. So what the hell is this? How come every time I think of what happened to Alex - " and she stopped yelling suddenly and just looked at a rather dazed-looking Liz for a moment.
"When I think about Alex," she gritted her teeth, forcing the words out, "I feel I feel bad." And now she glared back, defiantly daring Liz to laugh.
"Bad?" Laughing was the last thing Liz felt like doing. She found herself studying the other girl, sensing that something really was different about her. Alex's death really had affected her
Then she snapped out of it. "Wait a minute. Why did you come here?" she asked, no demanded. "To me?"
Tess shrugged, but it was an expression of helplessness rather than arrogance. "Isabel was in love with him. Max is too hung up on what you said." Liz flinched, but quickly recovered. "Michael is busy right now, with Maria. And Kyle " a note of anxiety coloured her words. "Kyle isn't the one to talk to about this, he he doesn't really like to talk about stuff. He'd just want to fix the situation, not understand it. No - I can't talk to Kyle about about this. And," she shifted gears, "I don't think the Sheriff would really understand what I'm asking."
She looked directly at Liz. "You were the only person left to ask. And I figure that you, of all people, wouldn't have any trouble telling me what you thought and then leaving me alone to deal with it."
Well, she probably had a point there.
"Sit down," Liz finally offered.
It had been some days after the funeral, and Liz's words were haunting her.
Isabel found herself walking by the Crashdown over and over again, wanting to confront Liz, corner her, force her into taking back all the things she said after the funeral, taking it all back, but afraid to walk in and get lost in memories of Alex at the counter, in a booth, in the back room
She made her way around to the back, pausing at the ladder, but steeling herself to walk in through the back door. Once inside, she turned before she could take in the couch where Alex liked to sprawl and rushed up the stairs to the Parker's residence.
She faltered as she neared the top of the stairs, her eyes glued to the second door on the right.
Inside that room, she had lain with Alex. Not in a sexual sense, but the way he had cradled her body and comforted her mind while she searched for her kidnapped brother struck her as a far more intimate act.
Again, she yearned for that comfort, for that sense of belonging, that connection.
Slowly she made her way towards Liz's room, but paused outside the door when she heard voices inside.
"What what was that?" Liz, breathless, panting.
"We ki- connected," Tess answered, in a tone of wonder.
"But, we were fighting. I ... I don't understand." Uncertain.
"Well, I sure as hell don't." Defiantly.
"Did you put that in my mind?" Indignantly.
Isabel stared at the crack of light visible at the bottom of the door. Were they ?
Strangely, though, it didn't bother her that much. The entire world had turned upside down, what was one more bit of weirdness? And in a way, it made a twisted sort of sense. There'd been a lot of tension between the two of them for a long time now, and not just over Max. Something had to give.
She closed her eyes, conscious of a painful ache somewhere inside her, a feeling of such loneliness that it threatened to overwhelm her. On the other side of that door, two rivals were dealing with grief and a hundred other hurts together, and she felt more alone than ever.
Not really thinking it through (she was so tired of thinking all the time), she opened the door and stepped through. On the other side she made sure it was locked before looking towards the bed, where Liz and Tess lay entwined, flushed and panting.
"Isabel?" Liz's eyes were huge. Tess rolled off of her and pleaded with large blue eyes.
"Don't worry," Isabel said. "This is none of Max's business." If she saw a flicker of - something - in Liz's eyes, she ignored it to focus on Tess's obvious relief.
"Thanks, Isabel," she said, and sank back against firm pillows. "Um, I don't really know what to say," she started to explain, but Liz interrupted.
"Isabel, is something wrong?"
Isabel paused, trying not to laugh. Something wrong? Everything was wrong. But Liz meant well, she knew, so she bit back the retort that automatically rose to her lips.
"I need to talk," she said instead.
Liz listened to Isabel talk, aware but not really thinking about another dynamic in the room. Tess didn't speak, didn't make sympathetic noises or draw Isabel's attention away from Liz towards herself. But something about her presence was ... soothing, in a way. Protective, even, and Isabel responded by pouring her heart out.
She talked about a thousand little things, some to do with Alex, others to do with Max or Michael or her parents, but mostly, all the ways living a double life exhausted her.
Finally, spent and feeling lonely, Isabel crawled onto the bed with them. Liz hugged her, feeling a little silly but sensing that Isabel needed physical reassurance that she was still alive, still there.
As she listened to Isabel talk, Liz thought about how everything can change in a second.
About how Alex could finally have his life on track, and lose it all in a stupid car crash.
About how she could use science to find so many answers, but discover that sometimes the really important questions have no answers.
About how Tess's reaction seemed so much more real, more focussed, than hers, even though of them all, Tess had the least contact with Alex, and the least to lose by his death.
About how she and Isabel could scream hatefully at each other and a few days later, cry in each other's arms.
About whether answers were what really mattered.
Liz remembered how her mother would hold her like this when she was a child with a child's fears and problems, how she could make everything better with a kiss on the forehead.
Without really thinking, Liz bent her head to kiss Isabel on the forehead. But just then, Isabel looked up to see why Liz hadn't responded to her last comment, and their lips met instead.
She kissed me. Liz kissed me. Or maybe I kissed her. I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. But it's nice.
And Isabel knew Liz's concern about her distress was sincere; sincerity was written all over her face, was conveyed by every gentle stroke of her hand.
From behind her Tess began rubbing her back, soothing her, letting her know that it was all right, not to panic. She was safe here. Nothing would happen to her.
No one could get to her here. Tess, her alien sister, was watching over her, and would protect her, with her life if necessary.
Isabel didn't know how she knew this, but she knew it with a certainty she hadn't known herself capable of. She literally felt it emanating from the small but powerful girl.
With renewed confidence she leaned into the kiss, pulling Liz towards her, losing herself in an elusive scent that somehow reminded her of her childhood.
She barely noticed the tears that reddened their cheeks and smeared under the friction of their closeness.
But for the first time in what seemed an eternity, she felt enticingly aware of the warmth of someone in her arms, and of arms around her.
And she let herself sink into that awareness, serenely unafraid, much as a drowning man might await the sirens who lured him out of his depth.
Oh god, she kissed me. I'm in the shower, and Isabel Evans just kissed me. Again.
It was nice.
More than that, it was needed, she finally realized.
Tess Harding had taken something away from them, stolen their innocence, and they needed to reclaim it.
Maybe nothing would change; Liz was still going to be with Max, and Isabel would still go through life with a ghost hanging over her and anyone lucky enough to earn her trust.
But they needed resolution.
They never got to say good-bye to Alex, never got to confront Tess, and with the Granolith gone, might never get to meet the people who created an artificial destiny and somehow expected it to pan out. But they could resolve this. They started it, and they could finish it. And maybe they could find some small oasis of peace in the midst of chaos.
Liz opened her eyes and reached out to turn off the shower.
Water and soap couldn't help her now. They couldn't clean the taint she felt.
But maybe Isabel could.
The water dripping mingled with the sound of their breathing.
She held out a hand.
Oh god, I kissed her. She's in the shower, I'm getting soaked, and I kissed Liz Parker. Again.
And this time she wasn't trying to forget, this time she was trying to find herself.
And this time, they didn't need Tess to encourage them, to watch over them, to tell them it was okay. Everything would be okay.
It was her promise to them. Her false promise.
Maybe, in some twisted way, she had acted out of guilt when she brought them together, watched over them, protected their secret. Maybe she had finally realized what she had deprived them of, and was trying to make reparations.
But she could never atone for what she did.
Only Liz can help me. And I want to help her.
Isabel pulled away, needing to see Liz's face, to make sure she hadn't misread any signals.
For a moment they were still, then Liz turned off the water and opened her eyes. Isabel stared at her in wonder.
When she looks at me, I can see everything I feel reflected back at me.
Isabel took her hand to help her stand. Remembering the towel, she pulled it off the rod to wrap it around the smaller girl, hands lingering, reluctant to pull away.
Their breathing echoed in the small, tiled room.
Then Liz tugged at Isabel's hand, and they walked through the door.
Main Title Index Category Index Character Index Rating Index