Disclaimer: Are you kidding? Of course not.
Distribution: Guilty Pleasures. All others please ask first.
Author's Note: Based on Uriah's point that past-life discussions of the Podsters should include mention of their *human* pasts just as much as their alien ones. I took her idea and ran with it. This chronicles Grandpa Dupree (did we ever learn his real first name?) and how his meeting someone in the past might affect Michael's life. Also - there is apparently a disagreement about when the Crash occurred -- July 2 (my birthday!) or 4. For this story, I've used July 4.
Feedback: Yes please. Even short notes mean a lot to me. I accept constructive as well as positive remarks.
Thank you hah and Bennie for your insight and beta-reading skills.
Michael poured soda into a chipped glass, and followed up with a liberal dash of Tabasco. Then, after tossing the soda bottle back into the fridge and kicking the door shut, he went back to his living room and flopped down on the sofa. He picked a worn journal out of the stack on his coffee table and flipped it open.
Gareth M. Dupree was neatly printed on the inside cover, same as all the others.
Laurie had lent him the journals her grandfather had kept in the bomb shelter, and he'd been slowly reading through them, as work and homework and alien-related disasters permitted. It was freaky and yet reassuring to read about this man's life, this man who was him, but not him. It made Gareth real and, by extension, it made Michael feel a little more real himself. He had a history, something tangible. Not just some mythological alien past he couldn't even remember.
But Gareth's past was neatly written down, in full, vivid detail. Michael had already read through his adolescent years and into his early adulthood. He'd been 22 at the time of his first abduction, the first time he'd made note of missing time and unexplained experiences. There weren't too many clues, other than the sketches, about what those abductions might mean for Michael though. He already knew from Hal what the pureblood aliens had looked like, so the drawings didn't add much information. And the only other thing Gareth remembered of his abductions was a vague recollection of some sort of medical examination. This, Michael supposed, was probably related to the hybridization process. Were they just checking him out as a potential donor? Or were they already starting the process of harvesting Gareth's genes or essence or whatever was necessary to create Michael in the future? Michael shrugged mentally. Still, it was interesting to get an idea of what the abduction experience was like for Gareth -- it matched what little Brody had said about it, so he assumed it was legit. Hell, he *knew* it was legit -- all he needed for proof was a mirror.
Michael casually flipped a few pages as he sipped his soda, but he stopped in surprise as a date caught his eye: July 5, 1947. The time of the Crash.
Gareth Dupree slowly opened his eyes and looked around. He was slumped in the seat of his car, which was parked on the side of the road. In the middle of nowhere.
He sighed in resignation. Looks like it happened again. At least this time "they" had given him the chance to get his bearings as he recovered from the abduction. He'd never forget the time he'd come to only to find himself actively *driving* down the road, having no idea which road he was traveling, and trying to negotiate traffic while still reorienting himself. Not an experience he cared to repeat.
So. Time to figure out where he was and how he could get back home before his wife panicked. Assuming she hadn't already -- he had no idea how long he'd been gone, after all. He always explained these absences as "business trips". He'd once tried to tell Ada Jane about his abductions, but she had clearly thought he'd been making it up. So he'd dropped the subject and had never brought it up again.
Gareth looked around. Not much to go by -- just flat desert, stretching for miles in either direction, with a small woods off in the distance behind him. He had pretty much decided to just drive in the direction his car was facing, figuring that eventually he'd reach *somewhere*, when a line of Army trucks passed him on the road. Quickly, he started his Studebaker and pulled onto the highway behind them before they could speed out of sight. They, at least, had to know where they were going, and he could ask for further directions when he got there. Wherever "there" was.
It wasn't long before the military trucks led him to a small town. "Welcome to Roswell, NM" the roadsign proclaimed. It wasn't much to look at, but there was food and shelter, and, presumably, people with maps. He was apparently only one state away from his home in Tucson, Arizona -- a vast improvement over the time he woke up to find himself in New York -- but New Mexico was pretty big and Gareth wasn't sure where Roswell was located.
First order of business: Something to drink. Being under the summer desert sun -- for God only knew how long -- had made him thirsty. And he'd need to eat soon, too. The angle of the sun indicated it was late afternoon, but on what day? Gareth parked his car in front of the first place that looked promising: Parker's Bar. A pretty, dark-haired girl approached him as he dropped onto a barstool at the counter.
"What can I get for you, sir?"
Gareth quickly scanned the chalkboard on the wall behind her, where the establishment's limited choices were printed. Although he was starting to get hungry, the only offerings seemed to be sandwiches. He wanted something more filling. Deciding that food could wait until he found a place that served hot dishes, he simply told her, "Cherry cola if you've got it. With lime."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
He shrugged. "Never was much of a drinker. You got a problem with that?"
She didn't seem affronted by his curt tone. "No," she responded with a smile, before turning away to fix his beverage.
His simple request didn't take long to prepare. "Here you go, sir," she said, placing his drink on the bar.
"Hey--" Gareth spoke quickly, before she could leave. "What's today's date?"
The girl looked at him a little oddly, but she answered him readily enough. "July 5. Why?"
"Oh, I just I just wondered," he mumbled, scratching his eyebrow. He'd only been gone one day this time. Shouldn't be too difficult to explain such a short absence to Ada Jane, although the fact that he'd disappeared during a national holiday would make things a bit tougher.
The waitress cut into his thoughts. "So, what brings you to Roswell?" she asked as she polished the bar. "You a news reporter?"
He took a sip of his drink. "How do you know I'm not a local?"
She looked at him appraisingly. "Roswell's a pretty small town, if you hadn't noticed. And my family's been here long enough that we know everyone. Any strangers that come to Parker's Bar are either in the military, which you clearly aren't, are just passing through, or have come here for a reason."
"I'm of the passing-through variety. Why'd you think I was a reporter?"
She shrugged. "Been a few of them in town since something mysterious crashed near Pohlman Ranch yesterday."
"Yeah. Don't know what it was, only that it fell from the sky. Military's involved in cleaning it up. I s'pose we'll hear the official report from them."
His blood ran cold. Fell from the sky. And he'd shown up here on the same day. No. It couldn't be.
She saw the recognition in his eyes, and the fear. "Does that mean something to you?" she asked gently.
There was trust implied in her face, and he almost responded to it. Then reality reasserted itself. If his own wife didn't understand, there was no way he was going to explain his beliefs to a stranger. He shook his head slightly. "It's nothing."
"It doesn't look like nothing," she persisted.
Gareth looked into her eyes. "Look, I said it was nothing."
She didn't say anything, no protest or snappy comeback for his brusqueness. But he could tell by her expression that she was a little bruised by his response. He didn't know why he should care what this barmaid thought of him, but somehow he did. He softened his expression a little. "Sorry. It's just that if I told you what I was thinking, you'd probably have me arrested or clapped in the loony bin."
Her voice was soft. "No, I wouldn't."
And he believed her.
No one had ever offered to listen to his crazy theory before, and her earnest interest and concern touched him in a way that no one, not even his wife, had. And he suddenly found, even after all this time, he was still feeling a little confused about how he felt about the whole alien abduction thing. He actually wasn't ready to talk, not yet. Not about that.
He shook his head silently, and she smiled in acceptance. "That's all right, sir. We all have our secrets."
"Call me Gareth." Despite the fact that he was already feeling drawn to her, Gareth surprised even himself with that blurt. He was usually a somewhat distant person, not prone to giving strangers his first name. But "sir" or even "Mr. Dupree" seemed at odds with the growing sense of connection and acceptance he was feeling from the dark-haired girl in front of him.
She smiled again and held out her hand. "Veta. Veta Parker."
Gareth shook the offered hand, feeling her tiny fingers disappear beneath his relatively large palm. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised by her name. "Parker?" He nodded his head toward the sign hanging in the window. "This your family's place?"
Veta nodded. "My uncle's. My cousin Claudia and I grew up almost like sisters, and we're the ones who help him run the place the most."
"What about your husband?" He'd noticed the ring on her finger.
Her smile dimmed a little. "Killed in the war," she said simply.
Gareth nodded in understanding. War widows were, sadly, all-too common these days. "Well, Veta," he said, "as nice as your little place is, I'm going to want supper soon. Could you tell me where I could find a hot meal around here?"
She stopped to consider. "There's the diner down the street. Most folks eat there. And there's also a steakhouse -- it's more expensive, but quieter."
Well, assuming the aliens hadn't robbed him, he had enough cash in his wallet for a steak. His business was pretty successful now and, anyway, he felt he deserved a decent meal. "Thanks," he told her. "I'll take the steakhouse." Gareth paused a moment, catching her gaze. "I don't suppose you'd join me?"
Veta shook her head. "I have to stay here until closing."
Gareth quelled his disappointment and told himself it didn't matter. He'd eaten alone before, after all. And he'd only just met Veta. With a careless shrug, he responded, "All right. Well, if you'd do me one more favor and tell me how to find a motel and a phone, then I'll be on my way."
She did as he asked, and then, with no graceful way to prolong his stay in the bar, Gareth nodded his thanks and left.
Max slid into the seat opposite Michael in the booth. "What are you doing here, Michael?" he asked, grabbing a menu and scanning the familiar choices. "Isn't it your night off?"
"Do you see me working?" Michael dipped a french fry into Tabasco sauce with his free hand.
Max shrugged. "It's just that I thought you'd be sick of this place by now."
"Didn't have time to go to the store this week," Michael grunted. "Still need to eat. So here I am." His eyes went back to the journal.
"Fair enough." Max looked at the worn leather book in Michael's hand. "What are you reading that's so interesting?"
Michael flipped the book around and showed him the name on the inside cover. Then, without a word, he went back to reading.
"And I thought you were always more interested in your alien roots," Max joked. "So, you learning anything interesting?"
Michael shrugged, his eyes never leaving the page in front of him. "Nothing that would interest you, Maxwell."
Gareth handed the waiter his menu and leaned back to await his order. He was glad he'd chosen the steakhouse -- it was quiet and the dim lighting felt soothing after the glare of the desert outside. It had been quite a day, even if he couldn't remember half of it, and it seemed prudent to give his body a rest. That's why he'd decided to stay the night in a motel before heading for home. He'd called Ada Jane and had managed to come up with a suitable work emergency to explain why he'd disappeared during the Independence Day festivities. So, all responsibilities dutifully attended to, he could now relax, enjoy his meal, and go to bed. In the morning he would head for home.
He turned his head at the sound of the voice. A familiar face came into view, looking a little uncertain.
"Veta! What are you doing here?"
"Well it's just that I well, I wanted to know if the invitation to dinner still stood."
"Yes, of course. Sit, sit." He gestured to the empty seat across from him. "I thought you had to work."
"I asked Claudia to switch with me."
He nodded, not sure what else to say, trying to understand the relief he felt at seeing her again. Then he gestured for the waiter to return so Veta could order.
As they sat gazing at each other, a small pang of guilt stabbed him. Even if his wife didn't always understand him, she was a good person and he didn't want to hurt her. "Veta--" He cleared his throat. "Veta you know I'm married, right?"
She nodded. She must have seen his ring, just as he had noticed hers earlier. "I know," she murmured. "I don't want to interfere with that, honest. It's just that I I had to see you again."
"I'm glad you came," he admitted. "I, uh, I wanted to see you again as well."
Veta raised her head and looked into his eyes. Are we crazy? her eyes asked. He returned the gaze steadily. Maybe, but I don't care.
As they ate their salads and, later, their steaks, they talked of everything and nothing. Gareth had never been much of a conversationalist, but with Veta he felt extraordinarily at ease. They spoke of their childhoods, their hobbies and interests, their families. He learned about her childhood in Roswell, her brief life with her military-leader husband, her friendship with some of the local native people, and her exuberant, sometimes off-beat cousin Claudia. She listened with interest when he spoke of his life, and didn't criticize him, as so many people did, when he described his dreams for the future and his past mistakes.
Finally, over a slice of chocolate cake, he broached the subject he had avoided earlier.
"Veta, what do you think crashed here yesterday?"
She laughed a little. "Oh, you wouldn't believe me."
She suddenly looked a little uneasy, and shifted her dark eyes around the room, as if to make sure no one else was listening. "I heard rumor that it was a UFO." She coaxed her face into a more lighthearted expression. "Silly, isn't it?"
He felt the chill again, as he heard Veta confirm his earlier assumption. Gareth looked at her soberly. "What would you think if I said you were probably correct?"
Veta stared at him, and for a moment he feared he'd been wrong to bring this up with her. Just because she encouraged his business dreams didn't mean she'd accept a tale of alien abduction. But then the look of surprise softened into her earlier expression of curiosity and encouragement. "How do you know?"
And so, taking a deep breath, he told her. He told her about his missing time, the strange beings he remembered so clearly, the medical exams he only vaguely recalled. And how he felt his being in Roswell at the same time as such a mysterious crash was surely more than coincidence. Veta listened in silence, encouraging him from time to time with nods of understanding. She did not run away screaming, nor did she threaten to call the police or a mental hospital.
When Gareth was done, he felt drained -- and yet strangely uplifted. As if his burden of having these strange and sometimes fearful things happen was somehow lessened by talking to someone who, if she didn't fully understand, at least believed and supported him.
By then the restaurant was empty except for the two of them, and the staff was eager to close up. Reluctantly Gareth paid the bill and escorted Veta out the double doors. They walked to his car and stood awkwardly a moment, unsure what to say.
"Well, thanks for joining me," Gareth said gruffly. He wasn't good at long good-byes, and he knew he would likely never see Veta again.
She nodded. "I had a wonderful evening." I wish I had met you a long time ago.
"Me too." You're so different from me, and yet no one has understood me better.
Then, before the moment could drag out too painfully, he bent and placed a quick but heartfelt kiss on her lips. "Goodbye, Veta."
"Goodbye." For one brief moment, she wrapped her arms around him in a fierce hug. Then she released him and stepped back as he got into the car and started the engine. Gareth drove away quickly, watching her motionless form through the rearview mirror until the darkness swallowed her up.
The next morning he was up bright and early. He had a long drive ahead of him and wanted to get as far as possible before the summer sun made the desert route too miserable.
"Checking out, sir?" asked the clerk, as Gareth handed over his room key.
The clerk made a note in the register and then rummaged for something under the desk. "You have a package, sir."
"A package?" Gareth was surprised. Who knew he was here and why would they send him a package? Unless no. The aliens wouldn't send a package to his motel. Would they? He tried to quell his alarm.
"Yes, sir. A young lady left this for you just a few minutes ago." The clerk handed him a small box tied with twine.
Veta. Gareth's fears vanished, but his curiosity was piqued. What was she giving him? He thanked the clerk, asked for the necessary directions to Tucson, and then took his prize out to the car.
A quick flick of his pocketknife, and the twine fell away. Inside lay a silver ring and a note.
I've been sitting here, staring at this piece of paper, trying to think of the words to describe what I'm feeling right now. And failing. I know I only just met you yesterday, but in that one night of conversation I feel like I know you so well -- and yet I could spend forever with you and never know you at all.
I know we both have our responsibilities and commitments, and I understand we will likely never see each other again. Forgive me if I'm being too forward, but I didn't want you to leave without one final token. This ring is a gift -- but a gift with a history. I think I mentioned my friend Riverdog last night? He's pretty young, younger than I am, but he seems a lot older somehow. Anyway, I was visiting him a few months ago and, without warning, he gave me this ring, made by a fellow tribesman. In his typically cryptic way, Riverdog told me that I should give it to the person whom I knew but didn't know, and who would always be with me, though always apart. I thought he'd been spending too much time in the sweat lodge. The only person I could think of who fit that description was my late husband, and I thought Riverdog was crazy for wanting me to give a ring to a dead man. But now I see he must have meant you. And even if he didn't, I still want you to have the ring. It seems to suit you.
So that's why I'm giving you such an odd parting gift. Even if you choose not to wear it, I hope you will keep it as a token of our well, I guess I would have to say friendship, although it felt like something so much larger than that.
Have a safe journey and a happy life. I will remember you, always.
Gareth looked at the silver ring in his hand, admiring the simple but appealing design. Then he slipped it onto the first finger of his right hand. A perfect fit.
Michael carefully refolded the yellowed sheet of paper and tucked it back into the journal where he'd found it. He turned the page.
Instead of the next entry, the page was covered by another series of drawings -- pencil sketches. Head-and-shoulder views of a dark-haired, dark-eyed young woman. The features weren't an exact match, but her appearance reminded Michael strongly of someone. In his careful handwriting, Gareth had printed a name along the top: Veta Parker.
At the bottom of the page, in different ink and a shakier hand, a postscript had been added: Died August 28, 1962, cancer.
Liz pulled another journal off her bookshelf and curled back up on her bed to read it. She liked to do this from time to time -- reread her old journals to get a sense of how she had changed over time, and to remember past events. This one was from the beginning of her sophomore year. She laughed ruefully as she re-read the entry where Max had told her he was from "up north". It was hard to remember she had once been surprised by the idea of aliens in her life. It seemed so normal now.
She paused at the next day's entry, however.
So anyway, after I saw that Ms. Topolsky was looking at Michael's records, I thought it would be good to warn him. So I looked up his address in the phone book and walked over. Wow, is his foster father a creep! But you know what was really weird? While Michael and I were talking, even though the whole thing was kind of awkward, I felt like I almost knew him from somewhere. Does that sound strange? I mean, it's not like I'd ever interacted with him before, except to serve him hamburgers and stuff. But now that we were actually talking it was just the strangest thing. It made me kind of nervous, and I just can't explain it .
A cool breeze disturbed the night and Liz pulled the blanket up a little higher in response. Then she settled back to curl up against Michael's warmth again. They were sitting quietly on her balcony, watching the stars, not saying much.
Liz broke the silence first. "Nickel for your thoughts."
Michael quirked an eyebrow. "What, is the government taxing thoughts now, too?"
"Nah," She leaned up to give him a kiss. "You just deserve more because well, you just do."
He sighed. "I doubt it. Anyway, it's nothing big. I was just thinking about some stuff I was reading today."
"Yeah, me too."
They looked at each other in mild amusement. "I suppose now you'll want to trade stories or something," Michael murmured.
Liz thought for a moment. "No. Not really. It's too strange. I'd feel weird, I think."
Michael felt relieved. He felt the same way about Gareth and Veta's story. It seemed almost like his alien destiny or like some sort of soulmate thing, and he didn't like that. He wanted to be with Liz because she was *Liz*. Not because of the past or any other reason. Not that he really believed it *was* destiny or any crap like that, but he didn't want her to think of it that way.
Liz interrupted his thoughts. "Why, did you want to talk about what you'd read?"
He gave her a kiss and pulled her closer, his hands beginning to work their way under her shirt. "Nah. I'd rather do something like this. "
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