Isabel had brought the phone over hoping I wouldn't notice. She was always doing stuff like that, bringing things to my place that everybody else had. A phone. An ice cube tray. Coasters.

When I found it, she insisted I get it connected and give her and Max my number. I told her that was fine so long as she paid for it. No one called me anyway, I didn't see why I needed it. So she paid for it, we got it hooked up, and it collected dust.

I gave her and Max the number. They never used it. Why would they? We saw each other every day.

Liz had the number, too. But they didn't know that.

The first time it rang was the night Max and Liz came back with the orb. I finally found the phone buried under the dropcloth where I was painting.

I picked up the receiver. "Yeah."


"Liz," I said. "Hey." Her voice sounded - wrong. Full of static.

Because you're used to hearing her in your head, Guerin.

"How'd it go?" I asked.

"I was thinking of coming over," She said softly.

"Oh," I said. My heart sped up.

"Yeah, um - yeah, come over."

"I'll see you in a little bit," She whispered.

I nodded, then realized she couldn't see me. "Right," I mumbled.

She hung up and I stared at the receiver in my hand. She called me. We could communicate within each other's minds and she called me?

And her voice sounded... different.

Maybe she changed her mind about you, Guerin.

No way. I shook my head. I'd talked with her out in the desert until she fell asleep and then I watched the colors of her dreams for a while before I said goodbye. She wasn't going to -

Chill out, Guerin. She's just coming over. She's been here dozens of times.

So why was I nervous?

I felt like I had to be doing something. I turned and walked deliberately to my stack of CDs, grabbing a handful.

"No," I muttered, tossing one. "No -" Toss. "No -" Toss. "No, no, no..."

What are you doing?

I paused, my hands ready to toss the next CD case onto the couch. I flipped it over and looked at the cover. Metallica. Liz hated Metallica. I tossed it on the couch with the others.

What are you doing, Guerin?

Just - shut up, I argued, tossing all the CDs on the couch. Where was that John Coltrane album I'd found in the dollar bin?

I flipped through another batch before I found it. I opened the case and lifted the disc, setting it on the kitchen counter. I touched the mercurial surface once, and the disc started to spin. The warm tone of Coltrane's saxophone filled the room.

I pursed my lips and concentrated. The volume diminished slightly.

Now I just had to brush my teeth -


Okay, stop. Stop. I shook my head, took in a deep breath.

You're acting - weird, man. Just stop it. You're Michael. She's been here before. This is just like the other times. Right?

Right. I exhaled all at once.

Except that this time I know I'm in love with her.

I crossed the room to change my shirt.


There are some things that need to be said out loud.

I'd been thinking about it since last night. Since Michael found me in the middle of the desert, farther than either of us had ever been able to reach before, and told me to stop.

He didn't care if Max and I found anything or not. He just wanted me to stop. And after we'd found the orb, he'd stayed with me long after Max fell asleep, talking to me about everything, about nothing. I'm sure he was there when I fell asleep.

I'd known for weeks that I was in love with him. I just wanted the right time to tell him. The perfect moment. When everything was calm, quiet, when it was just the two of us. No Max. No Maria. No alien crises. None of that has anything to do with why I love him.

I almost told Max during the drive home.

You can't wait for the perfect moment. And you can't make the perfect moment happen. I learned that last night, when I felt Michael reaching out to me, out of nowhere, telling me to stop, that he didn't care what we found, that it didn't matter.

When Max and I were driving back to town, I realized I'd been stalling for time.

I was afraid of telling Michael how I felt.

It's different to hear it. It makes it real.

Up until now, how I felt about Michael had been my secret. Not even ours, but mine. I kept it to myself, examined it, nurtured it. It had started out like this beautiful, delicate, exotic thing opening inside of me, this sweet, private secret, and now...

I nearly told Max on the drive home. In the car, when he kissed me. Inside the cafe, when he was doing damage control, trying to explain our actions to our parents. I was afraid he was going to lean over to kiss me and the words were just going to fall from my mouth.

It was getting out of control. I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. I didn't want to. I couldn't stay with Max.

So then what happens? Do we tell Max? Do we tell Maria?

Max would never forgive Michael for sneaking around with me. But it would kill him to know I'd fallen in love with him.

And I hated that, hated that this feeling, which should only be about me and Michael, would send a shockwave through our group of friends.

On top of all that, I didn't know what Michael was going to say.

I tried to shrug it off. He was different since he came back. He'd be able to handle it.

You sure about that, Liz?

No. I'm not.

My hands closed around the handrail and I climbed the stairs to his apartment.


I heard her footsteps on the landing outside my door. I unlocked the door from across the room.

She reached for the doorknob and the door drifted open. She looked surprised.


"Hi," She whispered, smiling a little.

We stayed that way for a second before her eyes swept across the room. I'd lit one candle instead of the multiple ones Isabel had illuminated when Liz and Max were in the room. Seemed less ostentatious. The John Coltrane CD was on continuous loop. I'd grabbed a black T-shirt. Faded blue jeans. Got the last bit of paint off my hands.

"Nice," She said, nodding her head a little. She took her jacket off and laid it by the door.

Why was I still nervous?

I tried to shake it off. She was staring at the painting, propped up on the table.

"It's not, you know, done or anything -"

"It's the orb," She said quietly. "The one we found last night."

"Yeah," I said, moving behind her, my hands on my hips. "I started it last night."

"It's good," She said softly. She looked at me a little more closely. "Were you painting all night?"

I couldn't stop thinking about you.

"I, um -" I swallowed once. "Couldn't sleep."

The orb was the center of the painting. I'd opened a can of red paint for it and wound up including some of the other symbols in the piece. It was a swirl of chaos.

She reached out and pointed at one of them. "Why's this one in black?"

I pursed my lips and shook my head a little. "I don't know," I said, frowning a little. I didn't know why when I painted it. I had to open a new can of black to do it.

"It makes it stand out," She said, tilting her head a little. "Makes it look more..." she shook her head, her voice trailing off.

Ominous, I thought.

Four squares linked by two lines. I shook my head. What's ominous about that?

I looked down at her, still staring at the canvas. She smelled sweet. Like flowers and musk. I remembered how I knew what body wash she used and my heartbeat sped up.

She took a deep, sudden breath, and then her head turned to her right, almost looking at me.

"I missed you," she whispered. I didn't answer.

I couldn't tell her how I felt about her.

I didn't know what she would say.

The candlelight played a dance of warmth across her hair. It accentuated the curve of her mouth. God, she was beautiful.

The tip of her tongue appeared for a second and wet the inner edge of her lips, then disappeared. Her mouth opened a little.

An invitation. I could hear her breathing.

I almost moaned out loud.

Instead I spun her around and kissed her.


His mouth was on mine and his arms were around me, pulling me up against him -

God, this feels good, gasping a breath before returning to his kiss. I could feel his palms heating up and felt a quickening inside me. My heart was racing.

His mouth moved to my neck and found my pulse, his tongue flickering once, twice over my skin and I moaned, my entire body shaking. He crushed my body against him and my hands were pinned against his chest, feeling the muscles under his shirt, and under that his heartbeat hammering -

It was too fast. I wanted to tell him how I felt.

"No, Michael -" I whispered. "We shouldn't -"

"I don't care," He whispered. One of his hands ran down my spine to the small of my back, the other sliding up the front of my body from my waist to my lips. He kissed me again, his fingers hovering at the edge of my lips, and I melted into him.

Tell him.

I could feel it welling up inside, the ache that he didn't know, the fear that he'd bolt -

Once I told him, it was real. Most couples only had to deal with whether the other person said the same thing back.

We had to worry about Max. Isabel. Maria, I thought, the hope in my heart curdling with guilt. My best friend. And Max - if he knew I loved Michael, that would kill him. And I didn't want to think what that would do to Michael -

His hand on my back pressed me against him, hard, my back arching, lifting me off the floor, obliterating my thoughts. I clutched him tighter and whimpered a little bit, kissing him again. He was still too far away -

I had to tell him.

I don't know how.

"Michael, if Max finds out -"

He didn't let me finish. Just smothered my lips with his kiss, fiercer, more urgent, determined to keep Max out of this. God, his kiss was -


I started to cry. I had to tell him. I wasn't strong enough to do this anymore. Max was going to know. Maria was going to know. My best friend. It was going to kill her.

I took a breath, tried to tell him. I love you -

Nothing came out. I was too afraid of what he'd say.

"I can't," I whispered.

"What is it, Liz?"

He sounded exasperated. My composure broke.

"What about Maria," I said. I could feel the tears falling. "What about Max - what if he kisses me and sees me with you? Michael, I can't -"

I can't hide that I love you anymore. Not from Max.

And not from you.

"Liz," He breathed, trying to pull me back. "Relax, alright? Just-"

He didn't want to hear it. He wanted to keep it the same. Me with Max. Him with Maria.

And the two of us just our little secret.

"You're not listening!" I cried, pushing against his chest.

"Fine!" He roared, shoving in return and walking away from me.

That was a shock. I felt my lower lip start to tremble.

This should be so simple. It should be so easy. All I had to tell him was that I loved him.

That everything was going to have to change because I wasn't strong enough to hide it anymore.

I put my head in my hands and tried not to cry.


I stormed over to the other side of the room, knocking over my art supplies. Paint spilled and slashed its way all over the floor, marking the gap between the two of us with an pool of red. I thought I heard her crying.


We never fought. Not since I came back. We didn't yell. She was making me yell. What was the matter with her?

What's the matter with you, Guerin?

I looked at her from behind the table. She was on my couch, her head in her hands, dark, soft hair falling over her shoulders and onto her face.

Why did she have to bring up Max?

I wanted tonight to be special. I wanted to tell her that I loved her. That I knew it last night, that I didn't think it was possible, it was tied into my powers somehow and she helped me do things I'd never done before -

I had to get a handle on this.

"Liz -" I shook my head. Control. "What do you want?"

Her hands fell to her lap. Her mouth fluttered open and then shut when she raised her eyes to look at me. She stared out the window and started rocking a little bit, back and forth, back and forth. Her lower lip trembled.


"What do you want?"

I bit my lip and stared out the window. I'd messed everything up. He was angry. I was crying.

This isn't what you came over for, Liz.

I pressed my lips together. No. It wasn't.

"Come on, Liz," he said softly.

I heard the possibility in his voice, in the softness. The possibility that we would figure something out. I opened my mouth and took a breath.

"I don't think I can keep acting like I'm not in love with you," I whispered.

I was shocked at the words. Just like that.

I just opened my mouth and said them.

I looked across the room at him.

He was frozen behind the table. "What?" He whispered.

My heart sank.

He wasn't saying anything. His eyes were locked on me.

Say something. Please say something -

I whispered his name.

The table went flying, slamming against the far wall, and he was kissing me, lifting me up off the couch, his hands in my hair, on my face. He breathed words into my mouth.

It took a minute for my brain to process it.

"Say that again," He whispered, his hands tangled in my hair, his mouth hovering over mine. "Say that again."

"I love you," I whispered, tears rising in my eyes.

He kissed me before I could say it again.


Chapter Index

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