Rating: PG; nothing graphic, darn it. Fluff, fluff, fluff.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Liz/Isabel, Isabel POV
Spoilers: Yeah. As if. Uh … that would be a no.
Author's Note: For Zoe, the violent nag (;)), and Trixie, because she asked - although she knew not what for, methinks. *g* And thanks, Debbie, for reading it over for me.
It seemed significant that such an important day would be marked by a storm, but Isabel didn't bother wondering why.
She breathed on the glass in front of her instead, frosting it, painting it white against the darkness of a Boston winter night's snowfall.
With one finger she drew little swirls in the condensation, swirls and happy faces and stick figures. When she was done, she leaned back to admire her work.
It was not great art. And Liz was going to kill her for leaving fingerprints all over the windowpane.
Her lips curved slightly at the thought of an angry Liz stalking through the apartment with paper towels and glass cleaner, muttering dire imprecations and empty threats.
For now, though, she just looked beyond the glass and into the darkness beyond, wondering again just how Liz managed to get an apartment with a picture window on a graduate student's budget. Overlooking a park, no less.
Maybe it was part of the divorce settlement. Liz and Max were nothing if not predictable; they'd split quietly, if emotionally, and Max would have made sure she was taken care of before taking off for parts unknown.
Her own divorce had been worse, far more acrimonious. More accusations. More bitter recriminations. The last time she'd seen Jesse, he'd looked at her with haunted eyes and asked if he'd ever known her at all.
She hadn't answered. Which was answer enough, she supposed.
She hadn't known where to go after that. Michael had been the only one in New Mexico with a steady address, and staying with him was out of the question. Max was still with Liz at this point and they hadn't had room for a guest.
Liz had offered their couch, anyway, and she'd declined graciously. Very graciously, because they'd parted on bad terms and she'd hadn't expected Liz to be the one to extend a hand.
Max never said as much, but she'd always thought he was relieved. Things had been strained between the two of them since she'd dreamwalked him one night without warning. She'd wanted to talk with him privately, so she'd contacted him the only way she knew that couldn't be overheard - and in the process, inadvertently interrupted a rather carnal fantasy involving acts that would be illegal in many places, performed with and on a rather surprising sequence of people.
She'd apologized immediately and promised she wouldn't tell, but he'd had difficulty looking her in the eye ever since.
So she'd travelled for a while as she waited for the divorce to come through. Alone. She still had the money left from her parents' estate, and the hotel bills barely made a dent in it.
Frowning now, she placed one hand against the window and then pulled it away. With a touch of one finger it glowed silver, glinting eerily against the dark, much like the one outside the old pod chamber.
A silver handprint. That's what her father had seen on Maria's cheek the night a freak kitchen accident had taken off half her face. Max had gone home for dinner - a tentative arrangement struck with their mother - and Michael had shown up mid-meal, caring about nothing except getting his dying girlfriend to Max's healing hands.
Michael never regretted saving Maria, and in some ways he felt closer to Max, like he understood him better for what he'd done for Liz, what he'd risked when he saved her life. But later, he would admit to feeling a little guilty for his role in what happened.
Diane Evans had sent her husband to see what was taking Max so long, and he'd stepped outside in time to see his son collapse, sweating and shaking, his hand falling away from Maria's now-perfect cheek but leaving behind a telltale mark.
Max called Isabel over and the truth had come out that night. It wasn't overly dramatic. There were no raised voices. No shouting. Their mother didn't know what to think. Their dad had listened very carefully and then said he needed time. Had asked to talk again in a week or so. But the next day he'd collapsed in his office, dead before he hit the floor. The doctors said it was inevitable, that Phil Evans had been a prime candidate for a stroke for years, but they still felt responsible.
That day they'd also discovered that their mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer months earlier. Without her husband's support, she faded fast and didn't respond to treatment. She died after 'not blaming' them for his death so forcefully and so often, they knew she did.
It was a bad time all around. Isabel's divorce had been finalized by then and she'd spent most of it alone. More than alone - lonely. There was a difference, one she'd never really appreciated before.
At first, after her mother's funeral, it had seemed like a good time to rekindle her relationship with Jesse; he had been very close to her father himself, and grieved both her parents along with her. And it was nice to be welcomed back in the apartment and held and she knew he really was making an effort to spend more time at home than in the office. The sex, always good, was almost incandescent. But then the awkward silences started again, along with the questions that he couldn't forget and she couldn't answer.
Their reconciliation lasted three months. She hadn't seen him since.
Max had sought out Liz in much the same way, working out his grief on and through her, smothering her while maintaining an emotional distance that became a wedge between them. Even Michael, never one to involve himself in other people's relationships, tried to tell him that his need for control was pushing her away. But Max took the advice badly, and the four months the brothers didn't speak were hard on everyone.
Things improved somewhat when they married the summer following Diane Evans's death. Eloped, really, because Max was excited by the idea and Liz was charmed by his excitement.
At first, Liz had once confided in the dark, it was flattering how jealous he got of the time she spent away from him. It was romantic how he would connect with her, maybe not emotionally, but letting her absorb information unnaturally fast so that they could spend entire days together without threatening her grades. She loved that he only had eyes for her, that he never seemed to notice the inexplicable number of women that found reason to become quiet Liz Parker's friend after meeting her husband.
Of course, he noticed how many men found reason to become friendly with her. And too soon, it became too much. They only ate what he cooked or what he chose at the restaurants he picked. She wore what he liked, even the lingerie he bought in lieu of the old t-shirts she much preferred. She chose courses that he approved of, avoided professors and students and faculty gatherings he disapproved of, and assiduously kept him informed of the smallest alterations in her schedule.
One day, she realised that he liked to make love by the fireplace (or on the couch, or the table, or the counter) because he couldn't sleep in their bed if it was messy.
Even that, she'd figured, she could live with. He'd relax as he learned to feel more secure in their relationship, as his mourning for his parents grew less acute. But then she'd discovered that he was using his powers to try and get her pregnant, even though she wasn't established professionally yet, even though she wasn't ready yet in any sense of the word. But he'd figured out that having children wasn't as dangerous as Tess had told them, and he was eager to try again.
She finally confronted him about it. "It wasn't," she said later, with a meaningful little pause that meant she had no intention of going into detail, "pretty."
Isabel could never get Liz to tell her exactly what happened the night he moved out, but she could guess. She figured that he'd cried and promised to change, but that their marriage was over the moment he'd touched his wife in anger and frustration.
It was probably a good thing that she hadn't known about it until much later.
"I think I hate him sometimes," she admitted once, but Liz shook her head knowingly.
"No you don't. Neither do I. But sometimes there's just no going back."
Isabel had thought about that. Carefully. And despite the inherent simplicity of the phrase, she thought it described much of her life rather neatly.
She'd met with Max over coffee once, after the divorce, to wish him well and casually suggest that for the first time in his life, he was free to follow his every secret heart's desire, without strings or guilt. He'd looked back at her with an odd glint in his eyes, and hugged her before getting up to leave.
But first he smiled crookedly and asked her to take good care of his not-so-secret heart's desire. She'd gazed at his retreating form until he'd gotten lost in the crowd, and wondered just exactly what he meant by that. And then she'd gone back to Liz's, back to Liz, and known.
Isabel smiled as the streetlights created a halo of light around the falling snow, and wondered when they'd come on. She'd been lost in her memories and hadn't noticed how dark it was getting. She marvelled, too, that the thought didn't bother her as much as it used to. She didn't mind the dark so much now, and all the mysteries that came with it. All the important mysteries had long been resolved.
"Did I ever tell you," she'd asked once, "that I didn't like you in high school?"
Liz had looked at her with sad eyes. "You didn't have to," she'd said, softly. "It was obvious."
That had shocked her. She was just trying to be clever, and had actually been about to explain why she'd never said it - because it wasn't true. She certainly hadn't expected such a reaction. "What do you mean, it was obvious?"
Liz had shrugged. "Everyone knew," she elaborated vaguely, as if it didn't matter anymore, although it so plainly did.
"Everyone was wrong," Isabel had declared. "I didn't not like you. But I was scared of you, and I could never figure out why exactly."
"Scared? Of me?" Liz had laughed at the idea. Hard. "Why?"
She'd smiled and changed her mind about talking right then. So, without answering, she'd pushed Liz back against the pillows, tickling her, growling playfully and nipping strategically, and that was the night they'd put the past behind them.
Well, not entirely. Liz called her parents often. And they stayed in touch with Michael and Maria, visiting together if the two of them were together, separately if they weren't. And although Isabel was more likely to visit Michael and Liz to visit Maria, sometimes they switched.
Liz seemed to get something out of 'guys nights' with Michael, Kyle and Sean that Isabel didn't. When asked, she admitted that sometimes she felt like Michael understood her, and her choices, more than anyone else. And, she'd add cryptically, she and Kyle had a lot in common. He understood other choices that she'd made all too well.
Sean … was Sean. And over the years, the others had begun to see what Liz saw in him almost from the beginning. Amy's diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's back in '04 had hit him hard, and he'd decided that Maria needed him more than he needed to cause trouble. He'd had a serious talk with the Parkers and they'd mentored him so he could take over Amy's business, so she could 'retire' without losing her house or medical benefits. Unlike Jess, he'd also joined the "I Know An Alien Club" at some point, and with Liz's help, became part of their strange but close-knit family.
He never got comfortable with Jesse and Max, though. Jesse, because he was a lawyer and Sean still had issues with law and authority; and Max, because he was Max and Max never really learned to like any of Liz's ex-boyfriends.
Isabel wondered if the way the group fractured then hadn't been more significant than she'd realised. But maybe she was looking at things backwards; maybe Max hadn't grown away from Michael and the others, maybe Michael had grown beyond Max when he'd become friends with Kyle and Sean.
The cloud on the window had faded, and all she could see was the ghost of her handprint, surrounded by the ghosts of equally whimsical figures. And if she let her eyes drift upward, she knew she'd see herself superimposed on and over them.
Instead she let her head drop, to study the hand resting in her lap.
Just a hand.
But also a hand that could destroy, that could kill, that could change the very nature of reality. A hand that scared her sometimes, enough that she liked winters here for the simple reason that she could cover it and the other like it, put them out of sight, safely away from the people around her. People she might hurt.
Sometimes she marvelled at the bravery of someone who would take such a hand. Who knew what it was capable of but would welcome its touch anyway. Who asked for its touch.
She didn't look up when she heard the deadbolt slide back, or when the door opened to let in a cool breeze that ruffled the inevitable pile of papers on various surfaces about the room.
She listened carefully, smiling as boots were kicked off and placed neatly on the mat to dry, as outerwear was removed methodically and hung neatly on the hooks reserved for them. Her eyes drifted shut as compact feet made their way lightly across an old wooden floor to stop behind her, and her head rolled back against a welcoming shoulder.
"Sorry I'm late," she heard. "Vic - you remember Vic, the guy who was so excited about resolving the Heisenburg conundrum once and for all that he ran into a door, got a concussion, and forgot his big breakthrough? Right, him. Anyway, he pulled me aside outside the lab to rave about the, and I quote, 'heavenly creature'," and warm breath tickled the side of the neck, "who dropped me off this morning. I had to burst the dear man's bubble, of course, and explain at great length that she was, in fact, taken. Very taken."
Isabel smiled inwardly, irrationally proud to hear the possessiveness that gave the gentle words bite. But she frowned at the sound of indecision, of self-doubt, that the teasing couldn't completely hide.
She opened her eyes and twisted around to make eye contact. "She most certainly is."
Her reward was a bright smile. "Well, that's a relief." But the smile faded slightly, hesitantly. "Because, you know, I never want to assume too much. If it seems like I'm smothering - "
She interrupted before that bed of rattlesnakes got too roiled up. "You're not." Then a thought occurred to her. "Am I smothering you?" Because, her mind raced, maybe she was asking too much. It wasn't too late. They could postpone this. It'd be special even if they put it off for years. Maybe Isabel should just find a job instead, something to keep her out from underfoot, something to keep her from getting too clingy.
A deep kiss was her answer, and it was the only answer she needed.
When they broke apart, hands having migrated in very interesting ways, she laughed, a low, sexy chuckle. "Maybe we should have these little discussions more often."
"Sure. But I think we need to time them a little better. The guys are going to be here any minute."
Her heart beat faster, but she tried to hide it, to stay calm. "Is Maria coming too?"
Liz nodded. "She told me she wouldn't miss it for the world, that this was going to be one hell of a summit meeting and she wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren about it one day."
Isabel was scandalized. "She wouldn't!"
Liz laughed, because of course she would. "Listen, I ordered some pizzas. They should be here soon. Why don't you go get ready and I'll wait for them?"
Isabel smiled gratefully. She'd learned how to relax, more than she'd thought was possible actually, but there were still times when she still needed the psychological boost, the little extra confidence that came from knowing she looked good.
She was still smoothing her hair when she heard voices in the living room. With one last critical glance at her make-up, she made her way out into the suddenly bursting apartment, laughing at the sight of Michael balancing four pizzas, a case of soft drinks, and a handful of Tabasco bottles.
Dinner was an informal occasion, and a cheerful one.
A pattern had developed over the years, where reunions meant sharing the good news, the everyday announcements, as well as (and preferably before) anything more dramatic. It had been Maria's idea, actually, because "We're friends, dammit, so let's start acting like it." She didn't have to say that she missed Max and regretted losing him from the group, because they did too.
So Sean handed out his latest enterprise, a line of household goods adorned by aliens that got 'beamed up' when the material moved, thanks to new holographic technologies. Then Kyle brought gifts from his father, who was currently touring smaller venues throughout middle America with the Kit Shickers and sent his apologies that he couldn't be there this night. Everyone laughed as Kyle screwed up his face in mock disgust at the thought, then cheered as Michael stood up next, wearing his cap. They listened politely to the opening of his speech, the one he had given at a security convention in Albuquerque a month earlier, and clapped appreciatively when he sat back down. As head of security for a major pharmaceutical conglomerate, they knew, he had a lot of responsibilities. And they were proud of him.
Maria got a standing ovation when she officially announced her new job as advice columnist for a newspaper syndicate, and Liz took a bow when Isabel told everyone about her latest article to be published, reporting her semi-ground-breaking findings that shed new light on understanding anaplasia and neoplasmic metastasis.
And then Isabel looked around and noticed that the pizza and drinks were gone. It was time. "We want to thank you all for coming," she said, and there was quiet. She smiled when Liz took her hand.
Isabel looked around at her friends - her family, really. Part of her was sad that Max couldn't be there, but it was probably for the best.
"Before we start, I want to say something. As much as we want this, we don't want to make anyone do anything they don't feel comfortable doing. So, if anyone has any concerns, or wants to pull out -"
"Hardly a reliable method," Kyle quipped, earning a dirty look from Isabel while everyone else laughed.
"As I was saying, we discussed this and we'd understand if any of you have any doubts." At that she paused to look around, noting the way Maria smiled reassuringly and Michael nodded and Kyle shrugged good-naturedly.
Liz spoke then. "Sean?"
Sean flushed slightly and ducked his head. "I don't mind - helping. You know that. But are you sure you want my help? I'm not an alien. I'm not even a human changed by an alien."
Isabel smiled reassuringly. "First of all, that's not even an issue. And besides, I'm still alien, you know. That should balance things out regardless." Sean nodded, relieved and pleased not to be counted out.
"Okay, then," Liz got everyone's attention. "We have an appointment for tomorrow morning at a private clinic where we've already made all the arrangements." Noting some surprised looks, she explained a little further. "A friend of mine works there and agreed to let me have the equipment and enough privacy for what we need."
That intrigued everyone, but no one asked for details, knowing she'd give them more than they wanted. Inwardly, she chuckled, because it was probably true. "Anyway, there are plenty of sleeping bags if anyone wants to stay here, or there's a hotel not too far away with some vacancies. I checked."
"You would," Michael joked, and ducked the hard cushion heading straight for his head. Liz had had a lot of practice over the years, and her aim had gotten pretty good.
"The weather's getting worse," Kyle spoke up. "I'd prefer to stay here, if it's all right."
"What are you doing?" Sean asked Maria.
"Staying here, of course," she said, surprised he'd even asked. "I haven't come all this way just to miss out a prime opportunity for girl talk!"
Michael spoke up. "We claim the study."
"You two are back together?" Sean asked, letting Liz and Isabel know with a nod that he wasn't going anywhere either.
"In all the ways that count," Maria said coyly, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. Everyone laughed while Michael reddened and took that as his cue to start laying out the bedrolls. He disappeared into a small room off the main area, and a moment later the sounds of a desk being moved to clear some space on the floor made Liz wince noticeably.
"I'll make sure he doesn't leave any marks on the floor," Isabel promised, and Liz was embarrassed to be so predictable. But she nodded in relief and headed into the small kitchenette where Maria was already scooping out ice cream for their reunion tradition.
The evening wore on as everyone reacquainted and shared stories, old and new, and didn't end until Michael finally picked a heavy-eyed Maria up and carried her to bed amidst whistles and hooting. The others took that as their cue, and Kyle and Sean took a beer each and settled in front of the fire to discuss sports and the New Mexico dating scene a while longer, while Liz and Isabel settled in for the night.
In their bedroom, Liz smiled contentedly, happy to be alone with Isabel again. The small apartment really was bursting at the seams, and she felt the loss of privacy keenly. "We should get a larger place," she murmured at one point. "We need more rooms."
Isabel turned to face her, barely able to make out her features in the dim light. "Are you serious? I know you like living here."
"Well," Liz hedged, "I do. But that doesn't mean I can't be happy somewhere else."
"What about your work?"
Liz didn't answer for a minute. "I only need a couple more years here. Three, tops. I was thinking that maybe we should consider getting another apartment for now, and then - then, if you want, we could consider moving back."
"Back to New Mexico?"
Isabel was intrigued; this was new. "Tell me," she invited.
Instead, Liz rolled over and climbed out of bed, holding out her hand. Isabel scooted over so she could be pulled out of bed too, and then followed Liz over to the window next to the bed. Not quite as large as the picture window in the common room, this one nevertheless featured a rather cozy reading niche. Isabel shivered as Liz pulled her down on the bench with her and lifted her hand to the cold glass.
"Liz?" she asked, uncertainly.
"Look," Liz said, and after a moment Isabel turned to look at the window. Earlier, alone, she'd looked at the window, at the images it captured and reflected back to her. Now, with Liz, she found herself looking through the clear glass, noting almost absently how much snow had fallen that evening.
"What are we looking at? You're tired of snow, is that it?" she asked.
Liz shook her head. "No, I was looking at the snow."
"What about it? It's white and cold and -" her nose wrinkled in dismay. "And if it doesn't let up, we're going to be looking at a blizzard."
"But look at it, Isabel. It's so white, you can't see anything else."
"A whiteout," Isabel mused, remembering how much trouble she'd had getting around in winter conditions her first year here, but also how strangely exhilarating it was not being able to see what was right in front of her but moving forward anyway.
"Yeah. My point is, I was looking at the snow earlier, and I thought it looked so clean. Like a blank slate. All the bad stuff was erased, you know?"
"Or just covered up," Isabel countered.
"Maybe. But maybe that's all you can ever do, cover up all the bad stuff that happens and treat it like a blank slate. I want to do that now."
"Right now?" Isabel asked archly, but inside her mind was racing. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she was eager to try something new, and it was a novel sensation. To go out into the world and confront it, rather than hide from it - how daring.
"Starting now. What do you think?"
Isabel leaned her head against the wall, leaving her hand on the glass to warm it. "I think it's a great idea."
Each fell silent, lost in her own thoughts and dreams.
After some time, Isabel looked up and smiled. Liz still looked like a kid when she bit her lip. "Liz?"
"Do you care who the father is?
There was no hesitation. "No." Then, "Do you?"
Isabel shook her head. "They're all good guys. I'm just glad we're using someone in the family, you know?" She winced at her choice of words. "You know what I mean."
Liz nodded. She knew Isabel hadn't meant to bring Max into the conversation, and decided to let it go. She didn't particularly feel like talking about him right now anyway. "Do you care that we may never know which of them it is?"
"No. I like it that way. Besides, it's our baby."
Liz sat up straight, eyes impossibly bright, as she savoured the words. "Our baby." She bit her lip in excitement, and something about the expression of sheer joy on her face made Isabel laugh, just so she could share in it.
Still smiling, Isabel asked the question that was really bothering her. "Do you mind that I'm the one who's going to have it?" She felt a little selfish, but then again, Liz did have her career to think about, so maybe it wasn't entirely selfish after all.
"Him or her," Liz corrected. Then, "No. Besides," she grinned impishly, "I could always have the next one."
Isabel raised her eyebrows. "Next one?"
They both laughed then. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Liz suggested, shifting so she could lean into Isabel, who wrapped an arm around her securely and nodded.
Silence fell again, and they enjoyed the quiet for some time. There was no noise coming from the front room and the snow effectively muffled the presence of nearby traffic, and each basked in the other's warmth.
"A new start," Isabel murmured, and Liz's hand covered hers where it pressed protectively over her flat belly.
"A family. Our family."
"Love you too."
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