Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: Part 4/4 in the Undaunted Series. Michael POV. Many thanks are owed to Debbie and Bennie for their wonderful beta skills, support, and tireless answering of "What about this? Does it work?" This wouldn't have gotten finished without you.
Feedback: Always welcome!
I'm in the desert. The sun, so bright as it reflects off the rocks, hurts my eyes. And the warmth it feels good. Strange, but good. Max and Isabel are with me. Ahead of me. I reach out my hand to stop them, to get them to wait, but they just disappear. And I'm alone.
With a jerk I awake. I'm not in the desert; I'm in the room I now share with Isabel -- wherever it is we're being held. My arm is still outstretched and I lower it slowly to my side. The dream recalls my earliest memory. Breaking free of the goo of my pod and crawling into a brand new world. Isabel and Max and I ventured out into the bright sunlight. But Isabel and Max were braver than I was. I hid from our future together and lost my family. My cowardice that day set me on a path so very different from theirs. That decision changed the course of my life forever.
If I had made a different decision that day, would I have ended up here on this bed? It's something I've thought about a lot. So much time to do nothing but think. Honestly? Yeah, I think I would have. For once it wasn't my recklessness that landed us here. It was Max's; it all started the day that he decided to save Liz Parker's life. Things started to happed after that; I think his decision sent us down the path that led here. Not that I'm blameless.
For years Max and Isabel tried to rein me in when I was ready to go racing after a clue to our alien past. Time and again I risked our lives for answers we didn't always find. I tried once to recall all the reckless decisions I made in Roswell; I lost count. There's something else I've thought a lot about here. I think I was trying to make up for hiding in the desert, for making that one bad decision. By not making any. If I didn't think, just took action, I wouldn't miss an opportunity. If I hadn't thought, just acted, I would've been with Max and Isabel. Not stuck in that trailer with Hank.
Hank. There's still some bitterness when I think about him, how he treated me all those years. What he taught me. Rage. That's what I learned from Hank. Rage and how to focus it. I rub one hand over the other, feeling the knuckles where there should be scars but aren't.
When we first arrived here, we had a brief moment to revel in our homecoming before we realized the guards who met us carried weapons. We tried to fight but it was useless. We were captured and separated. I was thrown into a small windowless room. Not a dungeon cell, but it felt that way to me. We were the Royal Four. We were destined to rule this planet, not rot away in some dark corner of it. I was mad. No, I was so far beyond mad, I don't think there's a word for it. I tried everything I could think of to escape that room. I tried to summon my powers to blast against the walls and door, but couldn't even access them. I don't know why. That fed my rage. I threw myself at the walls determined to break them down by hand. That accomplished nothing except shredding the skin from my hands. One of the white-clad figures entered the room and healed my hands. No words. No explanations. No scars. That only made me madder and I threw myself at the wall again. It became almost a game. I would tear myself apart and they would fix me up. Over and over and over and . That cycle went on for far too long before I accepted that it was useless.
A small sound breaks into my thoughts. I'm grateful for it. I roll to my side and see Isabel sitting on the chair. Her gaze is focused on my hands. I know she isn't looking at the knuckles; she doesn't know about the scars that aren't. She's imagining my palms, dotted with small crescent shaped scars. Where her nails drew blood. I push myself up into a sitting position and try to catch her eye. She looks away. Isabel hasn't looked directly at me since I was moved into this room after the birth.
God, the birth. I haven't even fully processed that yet. And it's been weeks. We haven't talked about it, Isabel and I, and I'm ok with that for now. I wouldn't even know what to say. I couldn't take the pain away for her no matter how much I wished to. I hope we can talk about it someday. Talk about the flashes of emotion I've seen in her eyes before she turns them away. Embarrassment, shame, guilt. I understand all those emotions. And the desire to hide them. I hate that she feels the need to hide them from me. But I understand. That's her way. Locking everything away behind her ice queen façade. I --
The door opens and every muscle in my body tenses. The door is opened regularly to bring us our meals, but this isn't feeding time. I spring from the bed; my first thought is to protect Isabel from whatever happens next.
"Max?!" Isabel whispers over my shoulder. And it is. Thin, hollow-looking, but it is him. In his arms he carries Tess. She looks even worse than he does; her eyes reflect too much knowledge for her young age. I hope I don't look as broken, as ragged as they do. I know Isabel doesn't. What happened to them? Was it worse for Max because he was King? And because she was his bride? As soon as he steps inside our room, the door closes behind him.
Isabel pushes past me and throws her arms around them both. I can hear her sobs. Joy. Grief. I feel the same. I place my hand on Max's shoulder, give it a squeeze. Max meets my gaze and in his eyes I can see hints of the old Maxwell. I know then that we have a chance. I press a kiss to Tess's brow. I'm glad she's safe.
Max gently lowers Tess to the mattress. Isabel is at her side, fluffing pillows, tucking her in. She finally has something to do, something to focus on and I'm glad. Once Tess is taken care of, Isabel curls up beside her. Max and I perch on the side of the bed.
The four of us look at each other. I've wondered what was happening to Max and Tess, wondered if the four of us would ever be together again. And now that we are, I don't know what to say.
Max breaks the silence. He speaks quietly, looking anywhere but at me or Isabel as he tells us his story. When he finishes, he tells of Tess's ordeal, too. She grips his hand as he speaks; I see a tear run down her cheek. By the time he tells of the guards hustling them from their room to ours, Isabel is crying, too.
I listen with half an ear to Isabel's story as she talks through her tears. I know most of it already; after all, I'd had some contact with her during the early days of our imprisonment. My mind is still focussed on what happened to Tess. Of all of us, I think she's suffered the most. Her expectations were so high; they'd been fueled by Nasedo most of her life. She had envisioned a future here. And she was the most disappointed.
My own expectations had been just as high, but I was used to disappointment. Tess's small hand grabs mine. It's my turn, I guess. Her fingers tighten around mine as I tell of my battle with the wall. Isabel whimpers at that, but I don't stop. I can't, or I'll break down, too.
I do brush my hand over Isabel's cheek after I finish my story. My throat is tight but I manage to croak out a few more words. "What happens next, Maxwell?"
Max shakes his head. "I don't know, Michael, but we have to do something."
Silence falls over us again. We are all together again. But what now?
We're all talked out and trying to figure out how four of us will fit into a room meant for one or two, when the door opens again. Instead of one of the usual white-clad figures, this one wearing a dark blue, official-looking uniform.
Max and I scramble to our feet. This is new. What are we supposed to do?
"Come. It's time to talk."
The figure turns and retreats from the doorway.
The four of us look at each other. I don't think we have a choice. Isabel helps Tess up, wrapping one arm around the still-weak girl to support her. Max takes Tess's hand; I take Isabel's. Together we step to the threshold.
I turn my head and look into the room we're leaving. That's our past there, behind us. Filled with joy and pain, good and bad, it can't be undone. But that doesn't mean we have to repeat it.
And then I turn back to the hallway outside the door. Our future lies there, before us. I don't know what it will bring, but I know we'll face it as a group. I take a deep breath and tighten my hand around Isabel's.
The four of us step through the door together.
Back to Unending (part 1)
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