Banner by Debbie
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Michael POV, Michael/Liz, various UC
Spoilers: Not a chance.
Author's Note: Thanks to Debbie and Ash for the encouragement! You guys are great.
I'm not a part of her life anymore. I have no right to wonder what she's doing, who she's with, what she's doing with them.
But the thought persists.
We left. Fifteen years ago we left and thought we were never coming back. It was for their safety and ours. When they protested, we swallowed our pride and pain and pretended to have found each other.
I remember the day we told them. Alex reacted first. After everything she'd done to convince him that she really did want him and wanted to be with him, he'd finally let Tess in. That took some doing, too, because Isabel had burned him bad. He stood there for just a moment and then left, unwilling to draw out the agony. As far as I know he didn't speak to Tess again until we told them we were leaving for good - when he finally understood. "That's why?" he'd asked her then, and she'd nodded sadly. He didn't argue, just smiled crookedly. I never saw him again.
But we did come back, and rented a place on a beach near Ogunquit, Maine by the month. Isabel and Max had visited here on a family vacation once, and thought it would be a good place to reintegrate into human society. The first few weeks were fairly peaceful. Then five days ago Tess revealed that she had found Alex, now a pharmaceutical company rep in Florida, and wanted to see him.
She came back the next day, so upset that she came and cried on my shoulder for hours. She'd found him at a cemetery, she told me, and watched him place flowers on some graves. She didn't want to interrupt what was obviously a private moment so she waited until after he left to look at the markers. It only took her a minute to piece together the names and ages and dates of death, and she realized that she was standing over the remains of a woman and her children. A family. Alex's family.
She tracked down some back issues of a local newspaper instead of following him home then, and discovered that they'd been killed in a freak accident. On their way to pick Alex up at the airport after a business trip, their cab driver had a stroke and drove into oncoming traffic. They had died immediately, but Alex wasn't so lucky. Tess found out from a concerned neighbour of his that he'd quit his job and was drinking his way through the death settlement. He was dying slowly, from the inside out.
Still, she found the courage to visit him. Her eyes widened in pain as she told me about it, describing how gaunt he was and how the house smelled like bourbon, and how he looked at her with this puzzled look on his face. She'd reached out for him, to speak to him, but he'd recoiled from her touch with such horror that she'd turned and run.
When she had the courage to return later, she found him on the floor. He'd had a heart attack, and although he was still alive when she grabbed his hand, his last words were a plea to let him go. So she did, but held him until his body stiffened in her arms. As she sat there on the floor and cried, she was struck by the absence of pictures and mementos around them. Of his family, of his parents, of Liz or Maria; it looked like he'd cut all ties to Roswell. Unbearably saddened, she left then and came to tell me - us - that she was going away.
She didn't know when she'd be back, she said. She just needed some time to think.
I drove her to the airport and waved good-bye as she left for Melbourne, Australia. It was the farthest away she could get, she explained, and I just nodded. As I watched her leave I was struck by the realization that somehow, she was moving on. That she would survive.
And I had to wonder: would I?
She wasn't the only one who couldn't forget. My brother in arms if not in blood, the one who I fought with the hardest, the one who resisted my every decision whenever the chance presented itself, surprised the hell out of me when he told me where he was going, and who he was going to.
I knew, when he looked at me, that he was worried that I wouldn't understand why he wasn't going to her. And I'll admit I was a little shocked when he didn't go to Maria; somehow, I had thought that if anyone would be able to salvage anything from the past, it might be those two. I got the shock of my life when he explained, almost defiantly, that he was going to track down Kyle - Kyle, of all people - to see if they couldn't make it work. That he'd denied himself for so long, for too long, and life was too short to care what people thought, if Kyle Valenti felt anything for him at all.
I remembered the way Kyle had looked at us when we told the humans we were leaving together. As in, 'together'. He watched Alex turn and walk out, and the way Tess fought back tears, and quietly told Liz and Maria that he would see them back at the Crashdown. That was the last time I saw him, too.
So now I listened, and I was careful not to say much, because I didn't want to push away the only brother I'd ever known, and I really did want to see him happy. And after thinking about it a little, I was able to go to him and give him my blessing. Still, I had to ask about Maria. He'd talked about her a lot while we were away, and I knew he missed her.
He was quiet for a minute after I asked, a little shocked at my insistence that he not hurt her, and then he looked away from me as if he didn't want to look me in the eyes. He mumbled something about how she had a different destiny and then he left to track down the current Sheriff Valenti of Roswell, New Mexico.
I dropped him off at the airport a day after Tess left. I waved as he boarded, and reflected on how this didn't get any easier.
I would miss him, I knew. But I couldn't deny that he looked happier, more alive than he had in years. He had something to look forward to, and a world of possibilities awaited him on a tarmac a country away along with a bright-eyed man in cowboy boots.
And I thought: I can't call her. I can't.
When I pulled into the driveway, Isabel was waiting for me. As far as I had known, she wasn't interested in tracking down anyone except Liz, to thank her for being like a sister to her. And she was going to, she assured me as I stood mutely by, but
She spoke quickly and I didn't interrupt her. She had something she needed to do, and she wanted my support.
I listened as she told me what she'd found out, that Maria had relocated overseas after losing her mother to cancer almost 5 years earlier. My pulse quickened in alarm when I heard that she was in Switzerland pursuing an experimental treatment for herself, but Isabel promised me that she had every intention of making sure Maria lived a long, healthy cancer-free life.
With her, if possible.
I studied the face of the woman I'd thought of as a sister for most of my life. Oh, we'd found out that we weren't biologically related a long time ago, but that didn't change how close we were. And I saw the way her eyes brightened when I didn't protest, and remembered that in all our conversations, she always referred to Liz as the human sister she'd always wanted, never Maria.
I thought of the way Maria had looked at us before we left. Alex had been devastated and Kyle disappointed, and the betrayal she had felt was written all over her face. She had looked so vulnerable then, and I hated myself, all of us, for doing this to her. She'd opened her mouth to speak but then shook her head and walked out to sit in the Jetta, reluctantly waiting for Liz but desperate to leave. As Isabel clutched my hand and whimpered, I looked at Maria's silhouette through the window, saw her wrap a strand of long hair around one finger and then release it. And I had no doubt that she was going to cut it when she got home. Isabel had used her powers to grow it for her, and Isabel had betrayed her. The hair was a reminder of that, and it would have to go.
Now, Isabel admitted that even if Maria didn't feel the same way, she still wanted to be a part of her life. And maybe Maria would feel the same way, so it couldn't hurt to try, could it? Her eyes pleaded with me for understanding, for reassurance, and I gave it gladly.
I wished her happiness with a sincerity that surprised even me. And I told her I'd come visit both of them soon, when everyone was settled in.
I waited with her until the cab came; she confessed that if I came with her to the airport, she might not be able to get on the plane.
So I waved to her from the doorstep of the small house we'd rented here because she'd liked the seaside, and thought about someone else. Someone I hadn't spoken to in 15 years. And I felt alone.
But I thought: I can't call her. I shouldn't. I won't even look her up.
I didn't. I packed everything I owned into the trunk of a used car I'd bought cheap and fixed up. I don't know why I didn't just buy a new one, but this one, a deep red mustang convertible, had caught my eye and my imagination. It was the first thing I saw that I really wanted since coming back, and the others had indulged me.
I turned in the rental key, picked a direction, and drove.
I ended up following the coast southwards for a few days, until I tired of the ocean. I headed inland, and something about following the sun captured my fancy. So I drove west when possible and north when not.
I checked in with the others after a week. Australia was hot but beautiful, Roswell didn't mind its sheriff living with a man, and a clinic in Switzerland had lost a patient for good, Isabel managed to tell me through happy tears. Then a blessedly vibrant Maria grabbed the phone to demand I visit. I said maybe later in the year, after I'd gotten a chance to look around this part of the world first. I told her I was sorry about Alex, and felt very alone as I listened to Isabel comfort her. She hadn't seen Alex in years, and didn't know he was gone until Tess had called to commiserate. The three of them were planning a trip back to the United States soon to visit his grave together. I should come, she said, and we should stop by Roswell too.
Before she hung up she mentioned that Liz wasn't far from where I was. I knew I shouldn't, but after a moment I asked anyway. She was with the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Maria told me, but had just headed to South Dakota a few days earlier for a consultation.
I looked at a map after I got off the phone, and discovered with some shock that Maria was right. In fact, I realized that I had spent the past week following Liz Parker around the country. I had driven southwards from Maine towards Atlanta, but then turned around about the same time she left to fly north. This scared me, almost as much as the knowledge that if I continued the way I was already going, I could be in South Dakota in half a day.
The feel of her haunted me when I closed my eyes, made my palms sweat.
That night I watched the local news on a cheap TV in a cheap motel, and I saw her. She was speaking to a reporter and reassuring residents of the area that reports of an epidemic had been greatly exaggerated. I didn't catch the name of the disease; I just listened to her speak, and studied her face.
She looked tired but relieved, and I knew because I could read her - the way only a handful of people around the world could read her - that she had been more worried than she let on to the reporter. Her hair was pulled back, and my pulse quickened as she casually pushed back a strand that eluded capture. I focussed back on their conversation when she mentioned that her team would stay in the area for another day to finish up their testing and confirm their results, and then they were heading back to Atlanta.
I switched off the TV and sat there in the dark. She was leaving in a day. A day.
If I wanted to see her, it was now or never. I knew myself fairly well, and if I let this go, I would let it go for good. I don't backtrack, and I would deliberately drive in any direction other than the one I just came in.
It made my head spin; I could see her. I could. But I shouldn't.
There were a thousand reasons why I shouldn't. I had hurt her terribly when I left, I knew. She had finally begun to believe in me, to trust that I loved her and only her. And then I had thrown destiny in her face, after telling her a thousand times that it meant nothing to me. My heart had beat painfully that day as she calmly watched first Alex, then Kyle and finally, Maria, leave us standing there in the dry heat of a New Mexico summer day.
She didn't scream, didn't protest, didn't ask any questions. She hugged the others quickly and managed to smile, a brittle smile that hurt to look at. She faltered when she came to me, but I don't think anyone noticed that she took an extra moment to bury her head against my shoulder. She shuddered before releasing me but walked steadily out to where Maria was waiting impatiently.
As I watched her leave, I thought about the way her hand had travelled around my back where no one else could see what she was doing. I didn't say anything then, but later sat in the dark and stared bitterly at the silver band that she'd slipped into my back pocket.
I'd given her the ring only weeks earlier, privately, after driving out to the bluffs to watch the sun set together. That ring symbolized everything I felt but couldn't say.
I pulled it out now, from where it had hung on a chain around my neck since that day. For fifteen years I had used to study it to calm myself down, to remind myself what we were fighting for.
Now I looked at it and thought about what giving it, and taking it back, had represented.
And I thought: she won't want it back.
But I called the news station that had shown the interview anyway, and they promised to pass along a message to her. And I waited. I waited all night for the phone to ring. I waited to tell her I was sorry, and I didn't mean it, and I'd never bother her again but please could she forgive me.
It never rang.
And the next morning, as a watery sun rose over a dusty horizon, I had some breakfast at the motel diner before heading to the office to return the key.
It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting, but I knew who it was before I saw her. I knew the moment I heard her voice.
"I'm telling you, I checked his room, and he's not there. Is there somewhere else he could be?" she asked, and I had to brace myself against the wall when I heard the panic in her voice.
Of course she hadn't called me. She knew me too well. She knew that if she'd called me, I'd have taken control of the conversation, I'd have said my piece and maybe I'd listen for a minute, but then I'd hang up and I'd disappear. So she came to me instead, because I'd denied her once to her face and she knew that I couldn't do it again.
I panicked for a moment, feeling the sudden urge to flee, to slip back out the door before she saw me, and just go. She'd never catch me.
"Try the diner," the clerk offered helpfully if belatedly.
Nodding, she turned around then, and that's when she saw me. She stopped dead in her tracks and only the swing of her hair told me she wasn't a statue, hadn't always stood in the middle of a cheap motel lobby in the middle of nowhere.
She looked tired. She looked older. She looked like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. She had lines around her eyes and ragged nails. The harsh weather had dried her hair and she wasn't wearing any make-up.
She was beautiful.
Finally I could move, and I thought that before she spoke, before she broke the spell and my heart, there was one thing I needed to do.
I reached into my shirt and pulled out the ring. Without losing eye contact, I grasped the ring with one hand and tugged the chain with the other, snapping the thin silver instantly and letting it fall to the floor, unwanted and now useless.
Shaking, I held out the ring, and struggled to remain standing as she stretched out a hand, palm up, to receive it.
She looked at it in recognition and awe, and then at me. I prayed she could see everything I wanted and needed to say in my face, and waited.
She tried to put it on her finger then, the same finger I'd placed it on so many years ago, the index finger of her right hand, the same finger I wore its companion on. She laughed a little when she had trouble getting it on, and without thinking I was there and I was pulling it off and concentrating and then before she could stop me I grabbed her left hand and slipped a now perfectly sized ring on her third finger.
She gasped then, and looked at it. Looked at me. And I saw surprise and pain and happiness and weariness and something I couldn't identify flit across her face. And I had to speak.
She smiled at me then, and against every cynical instinct I'd honed over the years, I felt it: hope.
Then I saw the shadow clouding her features, reflecting some internal debate.
My mind gibbered with fear. It reminded me of all the reasons why she should take that ring and throw it in my face. It suggested all the reasons why she might not be free to take it, and all the reasons why she might not take it even if she could. It laughed at the notion that maybe, like me, she'd waited all these years to be together.
But the thought persisted.
And when she stepped forward to pull me into her embrace, reached up to pull me down to kiss her, all other thoughts dissipated like mist before a breeze. I crushed her to me, and I knew I'd never let her go again.
It's been a long time since day we gave up ourselves for a greater cause. And it's been even longer since I first declared my love for Liz Parker.
Today we marked another milestone, ten years since the day we followed an ancient Earth custom and proclaimed our intent to be together.
My sisters were there, three blond women who have bonded on a deeper level than I could have thought possible, united in grief and something more profound than friendship. Tess had married years ago, a quiet Swiss man who understood her need to remain close to Maria and Isabel, who stayed together. They, along with my brothers from Roswell, stood up for Liz and I at our wedding ten years ago and they are standing up for us now, as we reaffirm our vows.
Some things were different. Hale Valenti, son of Jim and Amy Valenti, filled in for the old sheriff now. Jim died in his sleep three years ago, exhausted from years of watching his wife waste away. 13- year-old Hale stood next to Kyle with quiet pride and obvious affection for his brother and guardian, determined to do the memory of their father justice.
The pews were fuller this time around, though. Along with various friends and business acquaintances of Liz's, we had enough family to fill the procession and the front row.
Alexander DeLuca-Evans, 10, sat with his grandmother Diane, fidgeting under Maria and Isabel's watchful gaze. I don't know who fathered my nephew, but it doesn't matter. Isabel and Maria are attentive mothers and Tess's husband Erik is devoted to him. Grandfather Philip died when Xander was 6.
Our daughters, Peri, 9, and Robin, 5, sat with Liz's parents across from the Evanses, and I had to smile as Peri pouted masterfully. She and Xander had been up to mischief all day, and I didn't doubt that the grandparents had separated them purposefully.
But the best part was when the minister finally finished his speech so that Liz and I could speak to each other. Neither of us wanted to draw this out, and our vows were simple.
I went first.
"I lost you once, when we were children. I found you ten years ago, and every day since has been the best of my life." I paused for a moment, enjoying the way she was looking at me. And for the first time in public, I admitted my weakness and strength to the world.
"I love you, Liz. Now and forever."
She smiled then, and her eyes shimmered with emotion. But when she spoke her voice was clear.
"I never said good-bye when you left for a reason. I knew you'd come back if you could. And when you did, I knew it was going to be forever. These past ten years have been incredible, but I bet the next ten are going to be even better." She leaned forward then, to kiss me on the cheek.
"I love you too, Michael. Now and forever."
Behind us our friends and families cheered for us, and we retired to the other room for the reception dinner and speeches.
Max spoke as best man, and Maria spoke as maid of honour, but eventually everyone had a chance to stand and congratulate us. As happens when there are secrets in a room, Liz and I listened both to what was said and what was not, and exchanged frequent smiles. At one point Charles Whitman, who Liz had insisted on inviting, stood and spoke as he felt his son Alex would have, and I had to admit I missed him too.
Still, it all paled next to how content I felt. How excited. How happy I was - am - to be Liz Parker's husband.
That thought will persist, I know.
And for that, I am thankful.
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