“So where does she go?” Isabel asked curiously, liberally dousing her fries with Tabasco Sauce and slapping Max’s hand away.
Maria shrugged and bit into a sandwich. “She says she likes to meditate.”
“Meditate?” Michael interrupted, his tone incredulous.
“You got a problem with that?” Alex asked. Actually, he thought it was weird, but he wasn’t going to just sit there while Michael said anything rude about one of his friends.
“No,” Michael said, taken aback. Sometimes he forgot how protective Alex got about Liz and Maria, but something always happened to remind him. He flexed his jaw slightly in memory.
“I don’t believe it,” Isabel cut in then, thoughtfully.
“What do you mean?” Max asked then. He usually stayed out of any discussions about Liz, but he happened to agree. He didn’t believe it either. His heart sank as he thought about Liz shutting out the people closest to her again.
“Have you looked at her lately?” Everyone looked at Isabel then, except for Max, who avoided her eyes. His sister was the only one who really cared or noticed how the others dressed or looked, half-joking that if they she was going to be seen with them then she had standards to uphold. But he was the only one who looked at *Liz *, not at what she looked like, and was embarrassed to realize that he could describe the texture of her hair and how many times she bit her pencil before a test, but couldn't swear that she hadn't come to school in mismatching plaid or polka-dotted burlap.
“She did look different in gym yesterday,” Maria said slowly, trying to put a vague idea into words.
“How?” Max asked, a little more sharply than he intended. He couldn’t help but remember the last – and only – time he’d seen Liz in the girl’s locker room, and felt his ... temperature rise suddenly. He looked around quickly, but luckily no one had noticed.
Maria ignored him. “She looked ...”
The five of them turned then, and Maria and Isabel automatically shifted to make room for Tess and then Kyle.
“Actually, yeah,” Maria said, surprised. Isabel nodded in agreement. That was it, exactly.
“Could you be a little more specific? Liz always looks good,” Michael said, and Maria looked at him through narrowed eyes.
“And you notice this on how regular a basis?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m not completely oblivious, Maria.”
“Just as long as you don’t get any ideas,” she said, leaning into him as one of his arms stole around her waist. The gossip mill had buzzed for days about ‘Michael’ kissing Liz in the hallway, in full view of everyone, and it infuriated her that she couldn’t deny it, couldn’t explain about Michael’s genetic double.
“Ahem,” Max said, a little pointedly.
“So she’s been working out,” Tess shrugged, opening a container of yoghurt and frowning.
“Well, she’s not on any of the sports teams,” Kyle commented, casually handing her several packets of sugar that had ended up in his lunch bag instead of hers. They smiled at each other as he continued. “I’d have heard.”
“Maybe she just likes to jog or something,” Isabel suggested, and Max shot her a quick smile. It was true, Liz wasn't terribly competitive when it came to anything other than school. He slumped a little, wishing she could be a little more competitive about him. Clueing in on the effect the conversation was having on her brother, Isabel decided to change the subject.
“Hey Kyle, how did the try-outs go?”
Kyle tried to smile modestly. “Captain.” He half-stood to bow comically while the others cheered and clapped.
And the conversation turned to other matters. But privately, everyone wondered.
And behind a nearby tree a small figure dumped the contents of her tray into a garbage receptacle and turned to walk away, knowing that in the mood her friends were in, she'd sit down to an interrogation, and she wasn't ready yet.
Instead she headed off campus, hoping that he'd be available for some unscheduled time together. She had some strong emotions to work off.
“Control your breathing. Let each muscle relax but be alert. Be aware of your surroundings.” Blindfolded, Liz listened to every word, also taking in the muffled noise of traffic, the almost noiseless padding of bare feet on the mat around her, the buzzing of a fly somewhere over by the windows.
“Be prepared for anything.” The low male voice was soothing, almost hypnotic. The padded floors and walls dulled the sound, made it difficult to pinpoint the location of the speaker.
Suddenly she spun and kicked out, her heel thudding into a hard body that was clearly moving towards her. There were two successive thumps as he fell back against the floor but immediately regained his feet.
“Way to feel the Force, Luke” he chuckled, and she nodded proudly. “Okay, I think that’s enough of that for today. Why don’t we finish with some sparring?”
Pulling off her blindfold, Liz turned a brilliant smile on her teacher. “Sounds good.” She followed him over to another mat, a large round one in the centre of the room, where they bowed respectfully and proceeded to attack each other in a lightning display of kicks, hits and once or twice, flips.
Afterwards, they stretched to cool down and collapsed on the mat in companionable silence, and Liz accepted a bottle of water gratefully, pouring some over a scrape on her arm until the oozing slowed.
Suddenly it occurred to her that she really knew very little about the man she tried to beat up every day. The gym, or dojo as he called it sometimes, was a cocoon in which she could and did ignore anything other than the way her body was capable of moving. She came in, exchanged ordinary pleasantries, and focused on her lessons.
She’d actually gotten to know the storeowner downstairs pretty well because they’d met at Roswell Business Association meetings before. She lived in a small apartment next door, and had invited Liz to take a shower there and join her for tea. It had become something of a ritual after class, although the length of time she had to devote to it changed daily. Justine was 21 and raising a small son on her own, and hadn’t had a chance to make many friends since moving to Roswell a few months earlier. For her part, Liz appreciated the time to unwind and simply relax, without friends or family or school to worry about. But she still knew very little about her mentor, and suddenly she wondered if she didn’t take too much on faith.
Now, she decided to find out. “How long have you been in Roswell, Jay?”
If he was surprised by her sudden interest he hid it well. “A little over two months.”
“That’s how long I’ve been coming here,” she mused, and he nodded.
“You came in the week I opened.”
“Good timing,” she said, and he simply nodded again.
“You never told me what it is I’m learning,” she said after a moment of silence.
“You never asked.”
“I’m asking now.”
“It doesn’t have a name. It’s a mixture of several disciplines that I put together, taking the most practical elements – for you – from each one.”
“Oh.” She thought about that for a minute, and asked something that she’d wondered about for some time. “Why did you agree to give me personal lessons? Why not tell me to go take a class at the ‘Y’?”
“Do you remember the first day you came in?”
She nodded. She’d been early for her assessment, and while she waited for him to finish a class down the hall she’d decided to try some of the moves she remembered from the TV show. After running through the 20 minute routine once, she had noticed some of the equipment in the room, and started incorporating various items into her movements, automatically adapting the graceful movements into an aggressive attack on wood and padding as her system pumped out adrenalin and endorphins.
She’d lost all track of time, and when she finally became aware of her audience she tried to stop her running leap at a tackling dummy ... and ended up skidding out of control along the smooth floor and smashing, limbs flailing, into a wall.
Embarrassed, she had scrambled to her feet as nonchalantly as possible, but then she caught her reflection in a mirror on the far wall. She was shocked to see herself sweaty, dishevelled and even bloody, and she looked at her hands in bewilderment, trying to remember when she’d broken the skin across her knuckles or scraped her right shoulder and thigh raw so that red smears stained her side and one leg.
She couldn’t help but notice something else, however. She looked happy. And thinking about it, she couldn’t deny that she felt better, more alive, than she had in months. Maybe longer.
Gathering herself together, she turned to the man by the door. Young, maybe in his mid twenties, he was medium height, dressed casually in sweats and a t-shirt and rather nondescript in appearance. But his eyes were bright and he moved with catlike grace and undeniable confidence.
Liz looked up at him guiltily. “I’m sorry, I was waiting, and –”
“Don’t apologize!” he exclaimed. “Just please tell me you’re” and he consulted a piece of paper in his hand, “Liz Parker?” And looked up with a hopeful look in his eyes.
“That’s me,” she admitted, and grinned to see someone so happy to see her.
“Excellent! I’m Jay Wyndham,” he said, and then looked at her. “So what exactly is it you want to learn? Why are you here, Liz?”
“Why were you there?” the priest interrupted, curiously.
Liz thought for a minute. “I’m not really sure,” she answered slowly. “I’m not sure many of my friends would believe me if I told them this, but I believe in intuition. And that day, mine was telling me that I was exactly where I needed to be.”
She could almost see the priest nodding. “I see.”
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|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|