Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Michael POV. Mi/M, M/L, K/M, Mi/L (You know, CC then UC)
Author's Note: Michael has a lot going on in his head. But is it a dream or for real? For someone who reminded me that "escaping a near-death event is a frequent lust-trigger", lol. Seriously, Debbie, thanks for beta-reading.
In my dream, she's falling.
It's always the same. We're up somewhere high, somewhere lonely. The day is hot but the air blowing over us is cold. I'm begging her not to ... something. I don't know what, but from the way my chest hurts I know it's something big.
And then it happens. She turns to me, and I can see the tears she won't let fall. Her mouth moves, but I can't make out what she's saying. She reaches out to take my hand, and I feel my heart leap in my chest.
I think: This time I'll save her. This time, she won't fall.
The ground shudders and shifts under her feet. Her arms flail as I try to grab her hand, but it's too late. I'm too late. All I see is her eyes, wide with disbelief, staring into mine as she drops into empty space.
I yell, and lean forward to watch her fall.
She falls silently.
I wake up screaming.
They're getting to me. The dreams, I mean.
Hey, I'm no stranger to nightmares. I spend half my life running from one nightmare to the next. But these ones - there's something different about them. I don't understand them.
So I head to the library and get out every book on dream interpretation I can find. The idiot behind the counter, some jerk I remember from art class last year, acts like we're friends or something. "DeLuca must be on one of her kicks," he says, grinning, and I'm tempted to pound him in the face with the stupid scanner he's running over the books. But I'm in a hurry and I just give him a look instead. He finishes checking out the books in record time.
I spend the rest of the day going through them.
"Falling," I say out loud, trying to get a feel for the word. "When a dreamer feels they are not in control of their future."
I think about that. It fits, I guess. I've never been more uncertain about my future, not that I can recall. I told Maria that now was all I could give, and that's true. I can't make promises about the future, and I won't.
Except in the dream, it's not me falling, it's her. What does that mean? That I'm worried about her future?
Now I'm back to the prophetic stuff. Is it possible that I'm having a nightmare about something that's really going to happen? I suppose it is. But the last time I thought dreams might be for real, I was wrong. Izzy wasn't pregnant. This is reassuring. If there's no reason to think that my dream is something that's really going to happen, then it's totally metaphysical. Metaphorical? Whatever. No reason to freak out.
Another entry catches my eye.
"A mountain," I read, "symbolizes ambition, spiritual ascent. To climb a mountain is to ascend in life, to enter a new stage or phase of being." And now that I think about it, I'm sure I read something earlier, something about canyons being a kind of trap or deep problem.
Okay, now this is interesting. I mean, in the beginning of the dream, we're standing on a mountain together. So if the mountain in my dream is important, maybe we're enter some new stage of life together, and her falling represents my fear of of her failure?
This is crap.
I already have the next book open when that one hits the floor with a thud.
The next time I wake up sweating and shaking, Maria is there.
"Michael! Michael!" she shouts, and my face is sore. I think she slapped me. I blink and the room comes into focus. It's dark, and I can see the moonlight reflected in her eyes. She's scared.
"What?" I ask, like I didn't know. Her eyebrows narrow, and I know she isn't buying it. But for some reason, she decides against getting angry. It's too bad; angry Maria I can handle. Sad or scared Maria reminds me too much of myself, and when I see that look on her face, that look that says that everything she's ever been afraid of is about to come crashing down, I want to run away.
I will never admit this out loud. I love Maria, and she loves me, and we're together. End of story.
"Michael," she says, so softly I can feel the hairs on my neck raise, "Did you have a nightmare?"
I really don't want to talk about it. So instead, I do something stupid. "No, I did not have a nightmare." And then I wince, because I know I'm going to regret that.
Her face hardens, and oh yeah, I'm definitely going to regret it. There's nothing Maria hates more than being shut out. "Fine," she snaps, and turns away. After a moment of listening to her breathing, I jump when a pillow smacks me on the face.
"Ow! What the hell was that for?"
I can't see her face, but I can guess at her expression when she answers and the room temperature dips ten degrees.
"I thought you might find it easier to sleep on the couch if you had a pillow."
"It's my apartment!" I protest, but I already know it's futile.
Groaning, I take the pillow and climb out of bed.
Stupid dreams. They're messing up my life.
I leap forward, reaching, grasping, feeling the tips of her fingers against mine, trying desperately to find purchase.
Our hands part, and she falls.
But this time, her mouth opens, and I hear her call out as she drops out of view.
It's not Max she calls for.
It's my name that echoes in the canyon.
Oh god, no
Maria's pissed off at me, even more than usual. She's stopped sleeping over and by some unspoken agreement we avoid each other at work.
I'm not sure what it is, but we just seem to be rubbing each other the wrong way. I was almost expecting it when she told me she wanted to start taking things slower.
If I wasn't so exhausted and tense all the time, it would probably worry me more.
The next day I find myself watching Liz as she works.
For the first time, I really notice how tiny she really is. Now she's always been small -- I use my height to intimidate her all the time, and I remember bending down to hold her the time Pierce took Max. But she's lost weight. She has shadows under her eyes and in the hollows of her cheeks, and she practically swims in her uniform.
Swimming ... one of those books asked if the dreamer was sure about 'falling' as opposed to 'drowning'. In a dream, anything is possible, and they do have different meanings. But no, there was none of the slow-motion effect you'd expect with drowning. The girl in my dream was definitely falling.
I let my mind drift, trusting my hands to prepare and cook the food automatically.
So maybe I was a bit hasty before. Maybe there is a canyon and maybe that is important. But if she's the one falling into it, then it's still her canyon, not mine. So why am I the one getting the dreams, and what am I supposed to do about them?
My neck prickles like I'm being watched, and I look up - and straight into Maria's dull eyes. She's taking Isabel's order, I see, and Isabel is studying me too.
She's shaking her head like she's disappointed or something. What's up with that?
I turn back to the grill.
I'm on my knees, my hand reaching out uselessly, but she's gone.
I pull back and huddle on the hard, windswept cliff or plateau or whatever it is, and cry.
I freeze. This is new. This point in the dream I start shaking, and I scream into the wind even though I can't really hear myself. But I'm always alone. Suddenly I'm scared to turn around. What if it's her? What if she's all broken and bloody from her fall and she blames me?
But it's Isabel, and she looks and sounds more real than everything around me, so I know she's dreamwalking me. She looks stunned when I throw my arms around her, but doesn't push me away.
You can't lie in your dreams. You can be knee deep in fantasies that are impossible and don't reflect any known aspect of reality, but you can't consciously, deliberately, lie. And right now, I don't have it in me to try. "Ih-ih-izzy, I couldn't save her, I'm so sorry, I tried, I tried, really I did, but she always falls, she always looks me in the eyes and just - just falls, and I can never reach her and oh god please help me I can't take this anymore, I can't lose her again, I can't -"
I don't realise I'm blubbering incoherently until she pulls back slightly and makes me look at her. Her face is very serious, and I focus on that, on her, my breath catching as I struggle to listen.
"Michael, wake up."
The sound of ringing brings me back completely. I pick up the phone.
"Isabel." My voice is neutral. I don't know yet whether I'm angry that she invaded my privacy.
"How long have you been having this dream?"
I hedge. "A while."
She sighs. "Maria is really upset, you know."
"But do you know why?"
Like anyone could ever really figure out Maria. It's probably a good thing Isabel can't see me roll my eyes. "No."
She presses it. "Well, how would you feel if she woke up screaming some other guy's name?"
Something cold runs up my back. "What?"
"You mean you don't know? You wake up screaming her name."
Oh, god. "Does anyone else know?"
Isabel pauses. "Just me and Maria, I think. Somehow I doubt she told anyone else."
"Good." And then I yawn, because it's really early in the morning and I haven't been sleeping well. "We'll talk about this later, Izzy," I promise, because I know she won't leave me alone if I don't.
And after I hang up the phone I stare at my ceiling, trying to figure out this new piece of the puzzle.
Damn it, what does it mean?
It's a little slow today and Liz and Maria are taking their breaks together.
Maria's avoiding me and it's freaking me out. I mean, she's 'avoided' me before, but always in this coy way that makes it clear I'm supposed to chase her. And she's never exactly been shy about telling me what she thinks, whether it's about the way I handled the Isabel dreams or the Courtney situation or anything else I'd rather not think about.
Now her back slumps as she talks to Liz, and I can't help but notice the way Liz glances over at me, eyes hooded and jaw set, clearly trying to hide her reaction to what Maria is telling her.
I know what's coming. I think I deserve it, too. I'm a jerk. A failure. I should have known it couldn't last. I'm just not wired that way.
A glance at the clock tells me I'm off in a few minutes. Good. I'm not waiting around here for this. With a swipe of my hand the place is clean, and it only takes me a moment to put stuff away. I set the last plate of Space Fries on the counter, ding the stupid bell and then the apron is on the hook and I'm on my way out the back door before anyone can stop me. I just want to go home.
That thought stops me in my tracks.
Home what is home, anyway? Is it some dingy little apartment I can barely afford, that still smells like the people who had it before me? Is it some planet I can't or don't want to remember? Is it the people I grew up thinking were my family? Is it what I thought I'd found with Maria? Maybe it's none of them.
What it all comes down to is, I have nowhere to go.
I lean against the brick wall in the alley behind the Crashdown, trying to absorb the coolness of the bricks, and it occurs to me that there's somewhere no one would think of looking. Somewhere nothing bad ever happened to me.
Turning, I grasp the sides of a familiar ladder, and place my foot on the bottom rung.
Taking a deep breath, I begin to climb.
"Michael " her voice calls to me as she falls into the dark chasm.
"No, no, no," I sob, unable to believe it. I thought this time, this time I was close enough. I really did.
But I'm never close enough.
I jerk upwards, wincing as my hand hits something. "Ow!"
"What do you mean, 'ow'? I'm the one you just knocked into next week."
Fully awake now, I take in the sight of Liz standing a few feet away, hand over one eye, trying not to cry.
"Oh, shit, I'm sorry. Here, let me see that." It's harder to get off of the deck chair where I fell asleep than I expected (who designs these things anyway?), but in a moment I'm standing in front of her. She pulls her hand away and I can see she's going to have one hell of a shiner unless someone does something about it.
I guess I better do something about it.
Without really thinking, I place my hand over the area, realizing again just how small she is. My hand looks huge and clumsy and I force myself to keep the contact as light as possible before trying to build a connection.
Part of me didn't really expect it to work. But it does, so fast it makes me feel a little dizzy.
And I see flashes - mostly of Liz sitting with Maria in the Crashdown, hearing Maria say with this tone of utter finality, "It's over. I love him, but it's over." I see Max, but it's fuzzy. He's closed off. And there are a few of me, and I'm standing over her with this look of sickening fear on my face, moving farther and farther away.
I stumble back, breaking the connection and tripping on the chair behind me. I can't look at her.
She - she knows.
"You've gotten really good at healing," she says, voice neutral. She's holding off feeling anything about this until she knows more. I can tell. It's all in the way she's speaking, quiet but intense. But it makes her impatient. "Michael, what was that?"
"What do you mean?" I feel stupid but I want her to be the one to say it.
"My dream. You're having my dream too."
"It's not your dream," I argue like an idiot, trying to buy time. "It's mine."
When she doesn't answer I dare to look up. She's not looking at me, she's looking off into the distance. "Do you know what it means?" she asks.
"No. I I got out these books from the library -" I stop when she gasps.
"That was you?"
At the look on my face, she explains, "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 can't help it. I grin. "He was bugging me."
She laughs then, and it's something to hear. I can't remember the last time I'd heard Liz Parker laugh. It was actually kind of depressing to think about.
"Did they help?" she wants to know.
"What, the books?" She nods. "Nah, not really. Basically all they said is that you're the only one who can ever really know what your dreams are about."
"Do do you know why we seem to be having the same dream? Are - are any of the others having it, do you think?"
I shake my head. "No, I don't know why. And as far as I know, neither Maria or Isabel are. I don't know about the others." I pause. "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," Liz giggles, and I have to wonder just what Isabel saw. And then I decide I don't really want to know.
"So did you want something?" she asks.
She looks at me then rolled her eyes. "Michael, you're on my balcony. Did you come here for a reason, or just to assault me?"
I stall. "I didn't want to go home yet. Thought I could catch a nap while you were at work."
She stares at me. "Maria," she guesses. I shrug. Whatever.
We're quiet for a while until I look at my watch. "Wait a minute, aren't you supposed to be working right now?"
She slaps herself on the forehead. "Idiot!" she chides herself, and looks at me, clearly exasperated with herself for forgetting something. Personally, I think it's understandable, considering everything that's happened in the past couple minutes. "I left early. Max called a meeting at the quarry. I think Isabel's trying to find you right now, to see if you want a ride."
I shake my head. "I'll take my bike. It's in the alley."
She nods and bites her lip so I know she's thinking about something. I wait her out. It's kind of a novel sensation, actually. Waiting in silence.
"Can I get a ride with you?" she asks then, surprising me. I'm relieved; I thought she was going to say something about Maria.
She hops up on the brick wall then, to climb down her ladder.
I spoke before I could stop myself. She looks up from the other side of the wall, already partway down. Her face is solemn. She knows what I was going to say.
It's a quiet trip to the quarry.
Max is talking, something about his son, and how he's been dreaming of him and Antar.
Maria listens intently, carefully avoiding me. But she doesn't seem angry. I'm not sure whether that bothers me or not. Isabel and Kyle seem distracted, but not by each other. It's reassuring.
Wait. Why would I put it like that? Like it matters to me?
I stop to think about that for a minute. Am I jealous? No ... no, I don't think so. I guess I just don't want them coming together over what happened with Alex and Tess. Maybe that makes me a jerk, but it doesn't seem right somehow, and I hope it doesn't happen. Not like that, anyway.
Half relieved and half depressed, my mind wanders. Something about this place unnerves me and I feel restless.
And then I get it - this is the place in my dream. I'm sure of it. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. I turn to look at Liz, and I can tell that she sees it too. She looks at me, frowning, but we don't say anything.
Finally Max is done and Isabel and Kyle immediately head back for the cars. The four of us are left standing there, looking at each other. There's this sense of something unfinished.
"Max," Liz says, at the same time Max says "Liz." Everyone sort of grins a little, even me and Maria, although we're pretending as if we can't hear them.
"Max," Liz says again, "you know I love you, right?" He nods, and I can see something glistening in his eyes. "And that's not going to change. But I think we both know what your priority needs to be now."
He nods and even I have trouble swallowing as they hug. That's gotta hurt.
"Liz," he says when they pull apart. "Just always be my friend?"
Obviously this means something, because now they both look like they're going to just break down. She nods and says something under her breath as they hug again, longer this time. I'd leave, but I don't want to bring attention to myself. And I still have this feeling, like there's something else coming.
"Michael?" It's Maria. She stops there. I think she just wanted my attention. She doesn't know what she wants to say yet.
I smile but it feels awkward. I have an idea where this is going. "I know," I say, so that she doesn't have to.
She says it anyway. "I love you, I do. And I know you love me, so don't think this is me being insecure or anything. But it doesn't feel right anymore."
I have to ask. "Is it because ?"
She looks a little confused, and then shakes her head. "No, it's not just the dreams. It's a lot of things."
I nod, and when she hugs me, I don't fight it. I bury my face in her hair one last time, and try to memorize everything about her.
"Friends?" I ask, because I can't imagine life without Maria DeLuca in it.
"Friends," she says firmly. I can only hope we both know what we're talking about.
And like that, that part of my life is over.
She falls, dropping farther and farther away until I can't see her, until I can only hear her voice.
I wake to the sound of someone hammering on my door. Cautiously, I make my way to the window, to see who's out there.
"Michael! Michael, open up."
In a second I'm at the door and it's open and she's in my arms and she's crying.
"I can't take it anymore. I can't. It's like - it's like I die again, every night, every time I close my eyes," she sobs, and all I can do is hold her tighter.
Somehow I manage to close the door behind her and maneuver us both to the couch.
"Shhh," I say, and I rock her in my arms. I don't think either of us is going to get any more sleep tonight.
And we didn't. Not that night, and not very much in the nights since either.
It's worse on Liz. I only have to deal with the guilt; from what she tells me, she doesn't wake up until after she hits the ground. She also has to deal with parents who notice that she's exhausted all the time and teachers who want to know why West Roswell's best prospect for Ivy League fame is falling asleep in class, only to wake up yelping in terror.
As for me, I used to cut class to sleep in. Now I find myself in class because I can't sleep. It's funny to watch the teachers try to figure me out. It really is.
Isabel's trying her own particular brand of dream therapy, where she watches and tries to interfere, hoping to break the cycle. The problem is, she can't seem to enter the dream until its too late. When she tries from Liz's perspective, all she can do is fall with her. She has, too, once or twice, but she's such a wreck afterwards that we told her to stop.
Max is distracted a lot these days. He thinks he's contacting his son in his dreams, and for all we know, he is. Isabel dreamwalks him every now and then to 'meet her nephew' as she says, but it's really to keep an eye on him. She tells me that there's no way of knowing if the dream contact thing is for real or if he's losing it. But considering what's happening with Liz and me, we give him the benefit of the doubt. And he's ready to be helpful, just as soon as someone comes up with something for him to do.
Kyle and Maria are being pretty decent about the whole thing. They even drive Liz around because she's scared she'll fall asleep behind the wheel. Maria only had to connect with me once to know this is for real, and not some excuse for Liz and I to spend time together or something like that. It's true, we do spend a lot of time together now, but it's mostly because no one else, not even Isabel, really understands what we're going through.
If anything, Maria feels really bad for us. And maybe a little relieved that she's not on the front lines. I understand. I'm glad she doesn't have to go through this with us.
Sleep deprivation isn't something to take lightly. Everything gets harder to do when you live in a fog, and concentrating on something - anything - takes a lot of energy.
We've tried taking pills, but here's the thing about over-the-counter sleep aids that the average person doesn't know: they don't keep you asleep. Oh, they'll help you fall asleep, and you might be groggy after waking up, but they're really designed just to get you under, not to keep you under. Plus, and the thought makes me break out in sweats, I'm scared that we'll find something that will work but all it'll do is trap us in the dreams for hours on end.
The thought of watching Liz fall, of knowing that she's lying somewhere below, body crushed, for hours and hours
But I refuse to give up. There has to be a solution. We just have to think of it.
I'm sure of it.
And hey, who knew Liz Parker and I would ever find something in common?
"You know, I just had a crazy thought," Liz says one night.
We're sitting on her balcony, playing cards and trying not to think about how wonderful it would be just to get one night of uninterrupted, dream-free sleep.
"What's that?" I ask, rearranging my cards. If she doesn't pick up that next eight, I'll be calling gin in a moment.
She picks it up, and I try not to growl in protest.
"Remember that whole thing about how Max came back from the future?"
"Uh huh." We really don't have many secrets any more. At least, not from each other. We've connected too many times, spent too much time together. So I know all about the Future Max disaster, and I know how guilty she feels that in the reality she helped to create, Alex died too young.
Personally, I hate that once again, it was her saving me. After I found out about that whole deal, I felt so guilty about not catching her in our dream that night that I spent the next morning in the bathroom bawling my eyes out -- not that anyone will ever know. Ever.
Liz is still talking. "Well, if you think about it, it's proof that reality as we know it exists in multiple dimensions."
Huh? "Right," I say, and rearrange my cards again. Maybe there's another eight coming soon.
"So maybe this is a side effect of messing with the time-space continuum, like on Star Trek."
I roll my eyes. Oh god, if she starts up with those damned Scotty jokes again ... that pair of Tribble slippers she and Maria gave me is more than enough reminder of being an alien, thank you very much. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that maybe in another reality, I did fall off a cliff. And something happened, wires got crossed somehow, and we're reliving it or something."
I look at her, trying to see if she's putting me on. She looks pretty serious though. "So say this is possible," I ask, "what does it mean? How do we fix it?"
"Damned if I know," she answers. She frowns, and looked me straight in the face, utterly serious. "Michael?"
"I still think the dreams are prophetic."
Liz groans. We've had this argument before. In fact, in the past couple months of dealing with this thing, I'd say it's come up oh, every day or so.
But this is the first time she snaps at me about it. "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?"
I look down at her. "Now you're just abusing sarcasm. No, I mean that maybe we're approaching this the wrong way. Maybe it's a warning."
"What do you mean? It's some kind of cosmic gift?" She frowns. "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." Then she sighs. "But, Michael, 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?"
I don't have an answer for that.
"There's something else though," she says suddenly. It's kind of cool watching her think; I can practically see the gears turning in her head. Of course, I'm feeling kind of happy to be around her these days. Between her tutoring and my actually going to class, I've been getting my highest marks ever. It's almost worth the hell we're going through to see the expression on a teacher's face every time I ace an assignment.
"What?" I'm honestly curious.
"These dreams - they're not exactly evil. I mean, they don't feel evil, like a weapon being used against us, do they?"
"No." Again, a conversation we've had several times. A year with Tess showed us how to think outside the box when it comes to alien powers. Telepathic terrorism sounded like a pretty reasonable explanation for a while there. Words like 'demoralization' and 'divide and conquer' took on whole new meaning for us, especially with Max distracted as he is.
"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."
This is still familiar territory. I motion for her to get on with it.
She speaks matter-of-factly. "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 messages of some kind, we need to study them, try to figure out what they're trying to tell us."
"Holy crap," I say, and she looks at me, surprised.
"That makes sense. Let's try it."
Everything's moving in slow motion, and the detail is so sharp it almost hurts my eyes.
The sky is a pure, cerulean blue. Cloudless. Next to it, the stone and desert scrub look almost colourless, although there's a purity to the blandness that takes on a beauty all of its own.
She's a couple feet away, closer to the edge of the cliff. She's saying something.
I'm hyper-aware of everything around us. I think her hair is a bit longer than I've ever seen it, and I don't think I've ever seen her in clothes like that, although I'm not sure I'd recognize anything she'd worn before anyway.
She looks at me, and I'm aware that the Liz I hear speaking is not the same Liz I see looking out of her eyes.
"I have to, Michael," she bursts out. "It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, none of this would've happened -" She's crying now, and I ruthlessly suppress my immediate instinct to pull her to me, to tell her it's going to be okay, even if it won't.
I wonder if it's me, or the dream me, that is thinking this.
She steps away from me, and something my chest starts to flutter as I recognise her stance. It's almost time. I don't have to look down to know that she's standing too close to the edge. The ground under her feet is more like mud or clay than rock, and I bet it's been eroding from the underside until what's left is nothing more than a shelf, a thin lip that probably would've already broken under someone larger.
I can see the beginning of panic cross her features as the ground shifts beneath her. She twists, arm already reaching out instinctively for me, as mine reaches for hers. It's too late; she's already started to fall, and only her fingertips touch mine.
No. I won't let this happen, not again. I won't. I can't.
The guilt it's the guilt. It's always the guilt. Guilt for killing Pierce, for letting Max get captured, for letting Alex die, for not being the kind of son Hank wanted, or the kind of boyfriend Maria needed.
And for the first time, I admit it to myself. I feel guilty for not wanting to save Liz that day in the Crashdown. So many times, I've wished that Max would have just let her die. And every time she does something to show she considers us friends, every time I find myself doing something in return, that little knife in my gut twists. Because even as I smile, I wish it was all different. Even while I comfort her, that little voice in my head whispers that none of this would be happening if she had just died like she was supposed to.
I can't say that anymore.
I don't want her to die. I can't even imagine life without her. This is why I have to save her - not because I'll feel guilty if I don't, but because I want her to live.
All of this flashes through my mind in a split second, as I lunge forward in that oh-so-familiar gesture of futility. And I still miss her hand.
She still falls.
But this time I fall with her.
"Michael, wake up!"
Ohhh, I hurt. I hurt all over. Did anyone catch the license plate of whatever truck hit me?
Somehow I manage to open my eyes. This hurts too, and I immediately close them.
"I know you're awake. Now get up, I need to talk to you. Something's changed."
Geez, and I thought Maria was bossy.
I groan, but let her help me sit up.
"Is this," I stop to lick dry lips and swallow. "Is this what you feel like when you wake up?"
"What, like I've just slammed into a brick wall? Yeah. It goes away in a minute. You're not really hurt."
She's right, even as she talks the pain starts to recede. Thank god. I don't know how she does this every day.
"Michael, are you listening? You ... I can't believe you ... but you did ..."
Okay, this is seriously weird. Liz, at a loss for words? I force myself to look at her then, and when I do my mouth goes dry again. The way she's looking at me ...
"Michael, that was the most incredible thing anyone has ever done for me."
"What? Kill myself too? Whatever turns you on, Parker."
She shakes her head in exasperation. "No, I mean, coming after me like that. You knew you couldn't save me but you did it anyway. Why?"
I let the silence come between us for a moment before speaking. "I couldn't be that person anymore. The one who stands there, feeling guilty but not doing anything about it. And that ... that seemed like the only thing I could do."
"Be there for me?" she interrupts, trying to clarify what I'm saying so she can understand.
"Yeah, I guess." She's right, the soreness does go away. Now I just feel like I do every morning. I still don't feel rested but I am enjoying the feeling of having limbs that aren't so much splatter on a canyon floor though. That's definitely an improvement.
"Whatever it was, I still think it was incredible. And while you're still weak and unable to defend yourself, Michael Guerin, I'm going to say it: I think you're pretty incredible too. Thank you." And before I can do something to show I'm not helpless, she leans into me and gives me a big hug.
And for some reason, I don't push her away.
It's nice to look at Liz Parker when she's not falling off a cliff.
These days I'm even more of her hero than before, and for good reason.
It's been a week since our experiment, and we haven't had the nightmare once. I'm not sure why we haven't told anyone yet, but we keep finding excuses not to.
All I know is, I don't want things to go back the way they were before.
I don't want to go back to feeling scared and guilty all the time. I like who I am now, and the people around me seem to like the 'new' me too. Maria and I are still friends, which is good, and it doesn't hurt anymore to see her with Kyle. Isabel hasn't found anyone new yet, but she wants to learn more about herself, to learn to like herself, before even thinking of getting tangled up in any new relationship. Max is determined to be there for his son even if he can't 'be there' for him. He thinks that if he can maintain their psychic connection, he may not lose his son to what we jokingly-but-not-joking call the Dark Side.
I'm even doing pretty decent at school these days, and I kind of wish someone had told me that it's a lot more fun to be a student when you're doing well. I would've tried this a long time ago. Well, maybe not. But maybe I would have; it's possible.
Liz is losing those shadows under her eyes, and she's laughed more in the past week than I think she has in the past couple years.
And I think ... so have I.
There may be something between us. I don't know. It may just be a side effect of being around each other so much, but maybe it's really there. Whatever it is, I'm not going to rush it. We're going to figure it out on our own time.
I made myself a promise though. I've already decided that if the time comes that I bring it up, I'm going to be honest. The fact is, I think I still have it bad for Maria, and I'm pretty sure Liz still loves Max. And the truth is that neither of us have real good track records with these things.
But if the past few months have taught me anything, it's that there's no going back, so you might as well move on.
When you're ready, that is.
And I think I could be. Some day.
"Michael, are you listening?"
I wasn't, but I nod anyway. "Sure man, and I think it's a good idea."
It's been a couple years since we were kids in high school and fighting all the time, but Max still looks mildly shocked whenever I agree with him. And it still cracks me up.
"I'm just worried that maybe he isn't ready," he frets. "What if he uses his powers?"
We're all older now, and it hasn't always been easy. There was the time Max figured out how to bring his son back to Earth during one of their dream meetings, and he did and Tess and Khivar came after him. But we won. It helped that Liz and Kyle had some powers themselves, and that Max, Isabel and I had gotten a lot stronger.
"Max, relax," Maria pipes up. "He knows better than to use his powers in public. And he needs to build socialization skills."
So speaketh the budding social worker. Her husband, Deputy Valenti, nods as she speaks. I don't know whether he agrees or not, but Kyle knows better than to disagree with her openly about something like this.
I smile at one of the few memories from the war with Khivar that I like to remember. The image of Maria on a bulldozer is one I'll cherish for a long time. But that's another story.
We're all raising Max's kid together because he's a handful. Asks 'why' a lot and zaps you if you don't answer. He likes to zap me mostly. He and Liz get a big kick out of it.
Liz and I ... it's still weird to think that there is a "Liz and I". It didn't happen right away. We were shared an apartment together for about a year before one of us even brought up the idea of being more than convenient roommates. It's still 'new' to us. I don't know if it's a 'forever' kind of thing, but it's good.
"It's getting cold," Isabel says. I can't blame her for wanting to get home. The guy she's dating right now is an awesome cook.
So it's probably not what she's thinking, but hey, I'm hungry. And I refuse to think about how she's really going to warm herself up.
"Okay, to sum up," Max says, real quick. I guess he doesn't want to think about it either. "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 all start to head back to the cars. Yeah, it's corny, but we still hold our meetings out here at the quarry. It's reassuring somehow.
"Oh wait, I almost forgot," Max calls out to get our attention. "I talked to Jeff Parker the other day, and it looks like we have something to celebrate," he says with a smile. I turn to Liz, but she doesn't look happy.
"Max, stop. It's nothing," she says, giving him a look. He's confused now, I can tell, but it's obvious she doesn't want him to say any more, so he shrugs in apology and motions everyone to keep going.
I pull her back. "Liz?"
She checks to see if anyone is still in earshot. They're not. "Michael, it's nothing. Really."
"If it's nothing then you can tell me about it." I'm standing between her and the only car left now to make a point. We're not leaving until she tells me what it is.
With a look of mixed annoyance and resignation she walks away in the other direction instead, pretending she's looking at the sun setting. It's an amazing view, but I don't care right now.
"Tell me." When she doesn't speak, I start guessing. "What is it, are you pregnant or something?"
I probably shouldn't have sounded so hopeful. Having a baby is not in our plans right now. I've been acting manager of the CrashDown Café and Bookstore for a couple years now, and with any luck I'm going to be in a position to buy out her parents in a few more when they retire, but that's still years away. Liz is getting ready to graduate with a degree in science, and she's been talking about going to teacher's college. And even if we had the money, we've watched Max struggle as a single father and I know we're not ready to try ourselves. But what else could it be?
"No," she says, rolling her eyes. "Like I'd tell my father but not you? Really, Michael."
I have to grin. Good point. "So what is it?"
"Oh, I got a sort of job offer. But I'm not going to take it, so it doesn't matter."
"What kind of job offer?" I'm fighting to keep my voice neutral. I don't like the way she keeps edging away from me as she speaks.
"Well, it's Dr. Armand." I'm with her so far. Dr. Armand is a prof she did this summer internship thing for last year. I wait for her to continue. "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!" I'm stunned. This is great news. Why the hell does she look like it's a death sentence? "I don't get it. This is your dream. You should be happy. So what's wrong?"
She bursts into tears, and for a moment I'm seventeen again and she's a girl and I'm scared to death because she's crying.
She starts pacing. "Everyone and everything's here, Michael. My life is here, in New Mexico. I'm not leaving."
There's something she's not telling me. "And? There's something else. Tell me."
Finally she looks me in the eye, and I can tell she's getting frustrated. "Don't you get it?" She says it again, very slowly. "My life is here. My family is here. My friends are here. You ... you're here."
Oh, wow. "Liz -" My heart is hammering so hard it's a wonder it just doesn't leap out of my chest. "You can't stay here for me. I won't let you. It's too good an opportunity."
"That's all it is, an opportunity. It might never happen," she argues. "I like what I have here, damn it!" She backs away from me. "I'm not leaving you!"
"Liz," I say, my mind racing. What's going on in her head? Does she still think she needs to sacrifice herself for us? "Liz, you don't owe us anything. You don't owe me anything. You don't have to stay here for us."
"I do. I have to, Michael," she bursts out. "It's my fault. If it wasn't for me, none of this would've happened -" and then she's crying, and I can't believe I never realised she felt like this. God, how many years has she been carrying this around with her?
"No, Liz," I start to say, wanting to find just the right words to make it better, to convince her that she's wrong.
She opens her mouth to say something else, to argue, but something's changed, and she looks at me, frightened.
Suddenly I can't breathe. There's something familiar about this. She's too close to the edge. She looks up at me then too, her eyes wide, and I can see her mouth shape my name, although I can't hear it over the sound of my blood rushing in my ears.
She sort of lurches, and I know it's because the ground is shifting under her feet.
I reach out at the same time she reaches for me. Our fingertips touch, but it's too late.
Her last words echo in my mind as I jump after her.
The wind is loud, so loud, and it hurts like something solid as I pass through it. But I don't fight it. I just try to go faster, willing myself to reach the small figure below me. A second and an eternity later I'm on top of her. It hurts when I hit her, and I know it hurt her too. But then she's facing me, and holding me back, and we're falling together.
"I'm not leaving you," I yell, and she looks at me, and I swear she's laughing. She's screaming and crying, but she's laughing.
"Michael!" she shouts in my ear, and in my mind I hear my name echoing in the canyon below. "Teleport!"
What? What is she - oh, the dreams! Max brought his son to Earth in a dream. Maybe I could do the same. But I've never felt less like dreaming in my entire life. Maybe it has something to do with our impending deaths.
She's screaming something else but I block her out. I close my eyes, I hold her tighter, and I concentrate.
I wish she'd be quiet. I'm trying to concentrate.
"Michael? We're okay."
Huh? I open my eyes then, into the most incredible sight in the world.
Liz is looking up at me, and her eyes are wide and wet and her hair looks like she's been zapped and her lip is bleeding where she bit it and her cheeks are black where her makeup ran.
But she's smiling. At me. I can't help myself. I have to kiss her right now. Hey, I can think of worse ways to go.
Wait a minute. We're not falling anymore. We're ... I pull back to look around.
We're at the bottom of the canyon. Standing at the bottom of the canyon. Not splattered. I look up, and the shock of seeing just how far we fell is enough to knock me off my feet.
Liz falls on top of me because I haven't let her go yet, and now she's laughing, and I'm laughing, and if we're a little hysterical it doesn't matter because we're alive and together.
I look at her then. "You -" I swallow, trying to moisten an extremely dry mouth. "You're going to Harvard." It's not a question.
She looks at me, clearly wondering if I didn't hit my head after all. "Michael, we're alive. You saved our lives. And you're thinking about school?"
"You're going," I tell her, and I'm no going to give on this. I'm not.
Evidently she can sense this. She sighs and rests her head on my chest. "I'm not leaving you," she mumbles, and I close my eyes because those words are forever etched on my brain now.
"No," I say, "I'm not leaving you."
She lifts her head then to look at me. Intently.
I nod as if the matter's settled. "I'll come to Boston. We'll visit Roswell every chance we get. But you're going."
I grin. "We're going."
We lie there for a moment, just enjoying being alive. But the adrenaline begins to wear off and I can feel the rock underneath me. It kind of hurts, now that I've noticed it.
She rolls off of me a little and we try to stand. It's a little hard at first, because I refuse to let go of her, but we stagger to our feet. I look around, and this is the first time I've ever seen the reservoir this close. The water doesn't look as pretty from here. Although maybe that's just the part of me that still can't quite believe I'm not dead.
"Do you have any idea how to get out of here?" Because I'm sure as hell not going to try to get us out of here the same way we came down.
We look around. Finally she sighs. "No. But sooner or later someone will come looking for us."
I nod. "It could be a while."
She laughs. Music to my ears. "No kidding. Wouldn't that be ironic? We survive the fall, then die of exposure?"
"Well, you know what they say about body heat."
"It's the best way to prevent hypothermia."
She nods thoughtfully, and then she looks at me suspiciously.
"Michael ... why are you looking at me like that?"
I'm the picture of 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."
"Oh, reeeaaallly," she says, eyes narrowing. "I had no idea you were such an expert in first aid trivia."
I nod earnestly. "Yeah, and you know what else? There's a proven connection between near-death experiences and se-and intimacy."
"Are you for real?" She looks outraged, but her voice lowers, and I swear I can see a little smile playing around her mouth. "We almost died, we still need to be rescued, and you're horny?"
Correction - I only thought I was. But hearing her say it like that ... "Oh, yeah."
She just looks at me in amazement, then leans in so that I can see the expression on her face. And oh boy, if there was some way of measuring this feeling, I think I just set a world record.
I used to hate hearing the sound of my name echoing in a canyon.
Now, I kind of like it.
I think it's time for some new dreams.