Wake up. Wake up. Wake up -

Hands were on my body, holding me down, hurting me -

"Liz," My mother's voice said. "Liz!"

I opened my eyes and gasped for air, blinking and trying to focus.

I was in bed. In my bed.

The hands I thought were holding me down belonged to my mother. She was gripping my shoulders tightly, shaking me awake.

"Mom," I whispered.

Her grip relaxed slightly. "You had a nightmare, sweetie," She said softly. Her voice sounded tired. "You were screaming."

I raised my hand to my forehead. My head was pounding so hard that it hurt. I tried to remember what happened, what -

Michael. He was here when I fell asleep -

I twisted my body, looking around the room. He was gone.

Of course he was gone. He would have woken me up from the dream before Mom got to me -

"Are you alright, honey?" She asked softly.

I looked back at her. "Y - yes," I whispered. "I'm - I'm okay."

She tilted her head slightly, her hand stroking my cheek. "It must have been pretty bad," She said gently. "You didn't even wake yourself up."

My headache was getting worse. I pressed my fingertips to my temples. "I'm okay," I said. "Really."

Her hand drifted up to my hair, stroking it softly. She tilted her head and smiled weakly.

"You want to talk about it?" She asked.

I stared down at my quilt. Something was reaching out to me. Trying to hurt me. Trying to kill me...

It's just a dream. Relax.

I shook my head.

She let her hand drop from my hair and looked at me. "Alright," She whispered, taking in a breath and rising up from the bed.

"Call me if you need anything, sweetie," She said. "Okay?"

I nodded dumbly and stared at the colored squares on my bed, trying to remember what scared me so much, what I was dreaming about -

She opened the door and turned, pausing in the doorway. "You know, it's not too late to change your mind," She said, slipping her hands into the pockets of her robe.

I blinked and looked up at her. "About what?"

She took a breath. "About coming with me tomorrow," She said quietly. "When I drive down to Florida."

I closed my eyes. "Mom," I said, trying to think over the pounding in my head, trying to keep the whine out of my voice. "I don't -"

"I know," She said quickly.

I looked up at her.

"You've outgrown it," She whispered, smiling weakly. It faded from her lips quickly. "All grown up."

I stared at her. She wanted me to go with her so badly. She just wanted to spend time with me, to make sure I was alright...

But I'd promised Michael I wouldn't leave.

"Sorry, Mom," I whispered. "Maybe next year."

She blinked and nodded slightly. "I'd like that," She said.

The silence stretched out between us. The light was pouring in from the hallway, framing her silhouette in the doorway. And for a second I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her about Michael, that I was in love, that he needed me, that I couldn't leave him...

"Well," She said quietly, placing her hand on the doorknob and stepping into the hall. "Tell me if you change your mind."

I won't. I can't -

"Okay," I whispered.

She smiled again, that weak, tight smile, and pulled the door closed behind her. I listened to her footsteps fade slowly down the hall and heard the soft click when she shut the door to their bedroom.

I breathed out slowly and looked around my room, at the moonlight bathing my possessions in a thin sheen of silver. I hadn't had a dream like that since I was small.

It seemed so - real, I thought, trying to piece together what happened. It was terrifying, that much I remembered, someone wanting to hurt me, to kill me, and it -

It hurt, I realized, bringing my fingers back up to my temples, trying to rub the headache out of existence. My muscles were tight, only now starting to relax, and my heart -

I felt like I'd run a marathon, I thought, letting one of my hands drop from my head to my chest, pressing the heel of my hand against the skin, hoping that would help to alleviate the dull throb in my chest...

And Michael wasn't here.

I blinked, brushing loose strands of hair away from my face, wondering if that meant anything. I told him I slept better when he was here, I thought ruefully, trying to shake the sinking feeling in my chest...

I shook my head. He just went home. That's all. He's fine.

Why didn't I believe it?

I breathed in slowly, closing my eyes and trying to ignore the fading pain in my head, focusing on him, reaching out to him...

He was in his apartment. He was hurt. {Michael. Michael -}

I felt the shove immediately, slamming me back into myself. I opened my eyes, gasping at the intensity of it. The panic rose up and over me like a tidal wave.

Someone else was there with him.


"Oh my God," I whispered.

I threw off the covers and reached for my clothes.


"I'm glad we understand each other," He said, extending Max's hand to help me up.

I stared at his hand for a second and glared up at him. His hand dropped to his side.

I reached for the armrest on the couch, trying to pull myself up -

I doubled over almost immediately, clamping my mouth shut, trapping the scream in my throat. It hurt to move. It hurt like hell. He'd stopped his assault, but everything in my body was still screaming from it -

"How're you feeling?" He asked, the smirk twitching at his mouth.

I lifted my head and stared up at him, hunched over, my hand white-knuckled on the couch.

"You know I'll kill you for this," I whispered.

His eyes narrowed. After a few seconds, he shrugged.

"Fair enough," He said, turning away and moving toward the kitchen. "We can address that after the special unit's closed down."

"Not soon enough," I muttered, grimacing and pulling my body up onto the couch, sliding back against the cushions, my eyes focusing on the ceiling.

I heard him rustling through my things and thought about telling him to stop. Then I almost laughed from the stupidity of it. He knew the only thing I had to hide.

I closed my eyes and let my head fall forward, looking down at my shirt.

There was a hole right over my heart. A hole about the size of a hand.

I touched the edges of the fabric, felt the blackened, tiny fibers, frayed and charred against my fingertips. I caught the faint smell of smoke.

That's how he kills, I thought. He heats their bodies up until their organs give out...

"You're late on your electric bill, Michael," Max's voice said.

I looked up at him. He was leaning casually against the kitchen counter, a letter in his hands. His eyes flickered to my hand on my shirt and then up to my eyes. I let my hand drop.

He's watching me, I thought. Catching me looking at his work -

I wondered if he'd felt Liz trying to communicate with me. I blocked her as fast as I could. I didn't want him hearing us...

"Opening my mail's a federal offense," I muttered.

He grinned.

"Sue me," He said.

He tossed the paper down and crossed to the right side of the room, turning his back to me, staring at one of my paintings propped up against the wall. His head tilted from side to side.

I could do it now. Kill him now. Just kill him, and...

But we needed him in Washington. If he didn't stop the Special Unit, they'd just find someone else to come after Max, after Isabel and Tess and me, after all of us...

All of our names are on that list, Michael -

"It's good, you know," He said thoughtfully. "Very good. Nice use of line in the corner there -"

"Shut up," I said.

He craned his head around to look at me. "No one likes a sore loser, Michael." He turned around to face me. "I'll go to Washington as soon as I'm sure the girl believes you."

"I'll tell her tomorrow," I mumbled, looking back up at the ceiling, fighting the urge to touch the pendant. He knew everything else. I didn't want him to know about that.

I heard a low chuckle and tried to ignore him as he came closer.

"Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today, Michael," He said, smiling slightly. "Or some insipid bit of earth folklore like that."

"What's that supposed to mean," I snapped, looking at him. He stopped and folded his arms.

"You're telling her tonight, Michael," He said evenly.

"Didn't I mention that?"


I blinked and tried to control my breathing. I needed more time to think of something. Some way to work around him -

"I can't," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "She's sleeping. She's in her house. I can't just go there in the middle of the night."

"Oh," He said, nodding. "Right. Of course."

"I'll tell her tomorrow -"

"Tomorrow?" He said. "Tomorrow."

His hands were on my shirt, pulling me up off the couch, jerking me up to eye level with him.

"Do you think I'm stupid?" He snapped.

I tried to keep my balance. Tried to keep my stare even. Think. Think of something -

"Tonight, Michael," He said softly. "You will tell her tonight. Come on," He said, reaching for my arm. "Let's go."

I shook his hand off and backed up. I could warn her, tell her to get out of her house, that he was coming. I tried to reach out to her, to warn her -

Nothing. I couldn't reach her. I couldn't even find her -

"No answer?" He said, his eyes hardening. "What a shame. We'll have to tell her in person."

I blinked. "Look," I said, my voice urgent. "She won't buy it. She'll ask questions -"

"Your problem, Michael," He said, shaking his head. "Not mine."

"Look, I'm telling you, she won't believe me," I said. "It's not like -"

"You better make sure she does believe it," He snapped. "Tell her you have to focus on developing your powers. Tell her you have to follow your destiny."

"Little late for that," I whispered.

"Damnit, Michael," He hissed, advancing on me, "I don't care how you do it. I don't care if you hurt her feelings, break her heart or beat her senseless. I don't care what you do, but this ends tonight. Understand?"

I shook my head, turning away from him. I almost laughed. He didn't have any idea -

He whipped me around, his hands on my shirt, pulling me around to face him.

"One last thing," He whispered, leaning closer to me. "No connecting, or communicating, or whatever the hell the two of you call it. No mental chit-chat."

I shook my head. "You don't -"

"If I even think that you're backstabbing me, Michael, I'll just kill her. Right here. In front of you. And you can tell Max whatever you want."

I stared at the dark, empty eyes. He would do it. And I wouldn't be able to stop him -

"Are we clear, Michael?" He whispered.

My front door opened.

"Michael, are you -"

Both of us stared at the girl standing in my doorway. He reacted first.

"Liz," He said.


I stopped on the threshold. I couldn't move.

Max was there. Max. Glaring at Michael, his eyes hard and glittering with rage, his fists bunched up in Michael's shirt -

And when he saw me, his look didn't change.

Max moved first, shoving Michael so hard that he flew backwards, his body crumpling on the floor. I screamed out his name and tried to reach him -

Max grabbed me by the arm, snapping my body around to face him. He looked furious. He looked the same way the night we went after Michael, I thought, the night that he hit him -

"How could you do it," He whispered. "How could you be with him -"

"Max," I whispered. "Max, I -"

"Don't lie to me!" He yelled, his grip like a vise on my arm, twisting me around. "I know all about it," He hissed. "I know you've been lying to me for months. That the two of you have been screwing around..."

"Max," I whispered, tears welling up fast, burning in my eyes. "Max. Please. Please. We didn't -"

"Didn't what," He snapped. "What, you just couldn't stay away from each other? You just couldn't stop? Is that it?"

"You're hurting me," I whispered. "Max, please -"

"Please," He said, his voice catching. He let go abruptly and I stumbled back.

"That's funny," He whispered. "Please."

My heart caught. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Max -

"I'm sorry I saved your life," He whispered.

He blurred in front of me and I blinked, the vicious look in his eyes coming back into focus, the cruel curve of his lips...

Michael moved between us, pulling me behind him. "Leave her alone," He whispered.

Max's eyes flickered away from me, locking on to Michael.

"I'm done with both of you," He whispered, backing up, moving for the door. "You two deserve each other."

"Max," I whispered. "I'm sorry. Max, we didn't -"

"Don't," Michael said sharply, his arm moving back, his hand slipping down to take my hand.

Max paused, staring at our intertwined hands. Rage flickered across his face.

"We don't have to explain anything to him," Michael said slowly.

I bit down on my lip.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'd do it again. I'd do all of it over again, but I'm sorry -

Max licked his lips, his gaze flickering up to Michael. He raised his hand and pointed at him.

"Remember what I said," He whispered. "All of it."

He glanced at me, a look of contempt and disgust, and then he was opening the door and moving through it in one fluid motion.

The slam from the door echoed through the room, and then everything was silent.


Neither of us moved for a minute, staring at the door. When I heard her speak, her voice was a cracked whisper.

"Oh my God. Michael. Oh, my God..."

I swallowed hard, turning around to her.

"Yeah," I whispered. "Pretty much."

"How did he know," She whispered, her eyes wide and unbelieving, still focused on the door. Her hand hovered over her lips, trembling. "Michael, how does he know about -"

I let go of her hand, placing my hands on her shoulders, trying to steady her. "I don't know," I whispered. "I don't know how he -"

"Did you tell him?" She asked, finally looking away from the door, her eyes locking onto mine. "Did you -"

"No," I said firmly, shaking my head. She thought I would tell him?

Then I remembered what she'd said in the pod chamber, before she ran away. She'd asked me to tell him...

"He, uhm -" I broke off, taking a breath. "He found my sketchbooks."

She stared at me. "He found your sketchbooks," She repeated. "How did he -"

I sighed and let my head drop down, letting go of her shoulder and stepping aside, gesturing behind me at the stacks of books next to the couch.

"Oh, my God," She whispered. "This is how he found out?"

I bit down on my lip, my hand dropping from her shoulder, my hands on my hips. She stepped forward, walking closer to the semi-circle of books surrounding the couch.

She picked one of them up, staring at the image before letting her hand drop slightly. I glanced at the image.

It was one of her asleep.

Asleep on my couch.

I closed my eyes.

"He looked at all of them," She whispered.

I ran my hands through my hair, my fingers digging into my scalp. Think, Guerin. Think -

"He brought them all around him," She whispered, glancing at the semi-circle of books. "And he looked at all of them..."

"Yeah," I whispered, letting my hands drop. "He did."

"What happened," She whispered. "I mean, how did he -"

"I don't know," I stressed, my voice too sharp. I pressed my lips together and tried to focus. "I came home and he was just - here."

She looked back at the couch. "Poor Max," She whispered.

My eyes flew up to her.

"No wonder he's furious," She whispered. "To find out like that..."

I closed my eyes and tried to control the fire in my hands.

"I wonder how long he sat there," She whispered.

Control, Guerin. Control -

"I can't believe this," She whispered, tears in her eyes. "I can't believe this..."

I blinked. "I know," I whispered, trying to keep my voice even. "Me either."

She looked up at me.

"I'm going to go talk to him," She whispered.


I shook my head. "No," I whispered. "Liz, don't -"

"Michael, I have to talk to him," She said, her voice rising. "I have to explain -"

"Didn't you hear him?" I asked. "He doesn't want to talk to you. He doesn't want to talk to either of us," I whispered, moving closer to her, blocking her path to the door. "It's over, Liz."

"No," She whispered, shaking her head. "No, I can make him understand, he was just angry..."

I looked down, taking a deep breath.

"I'm sorry, Liz," I whispered.

"He'll listen to me. Michael, I know he'll listen if I explain -"

"Explain what?" I demanded. "You think he's going to understand if you tell him how we feel about each other?"

She looked away.

"No, Liz," I said. "He won't. You heard him," I said, waving my hand at the door. "He's done with both of us."

Her lips pressed together tightly. "I don't believe that," She whispered.

My hands rose up to my face, pressing down roughly against my skin. "Liz," I said. "Listen to me -"

"Come on," She said, her voice determined. "We're wasting time. We need to find him -"

"Liz!" I shouted.

She froze, looking up at me.

"He doesn't. Want. To talk to you," I said, my hands dropping. "That's it. That's all."

She blinked. "But we have to," She whispered. "I can make him understand. I know I can. I just have to find him before he... "

She paused, her eyes dropping to my chest. Her voice trailed off.

It took me a second to realize she was staring at my shirt.

At the hole burned into my shirt.

"Oh my God," She whispered, her hand rising up to touch it, her voice shaking. "Michael, what did he do -"

My hands cupped her chin quickly, turning my face up to look at me, away from the burnt edges. "It's nothing," I whispered quickly. "Don't worry about it."

"Don't worry about it?" She breathed, her hands covering mine, trying to pull them away. "Michael, did he hurt you?"

"I don't want to talk about it," I said.

Her eyes grew wide. She looked like she was going to cry again.

"He did," She whispered, her hands moving from my hands to my face, touching me gently. "What did he do -"

I closed my eyes, breathing deep, trying not to feel her touch on my skin...

"It doesn't matter," I whispered.

"Yes it does," She whispered back. "It matters to me."

I opened my eyes and looked at her. Her eyes were wide with desperatation, soft and concerned.

For me.

She loved me so much. It was amazing Max didn't know, that he didn't see it every day, that he couldn't feel it in his bones...

"It matters to me," She repeated, her fingertips touching my cheek. "I love you."

My words died on my lips.

I can't do this. I love her too much. I can't do this, I can't -

She moved up quickly to kiss me, faster than I could stop her, her lips warm and soft against mine, her mouth sweet and open and my arms were crushing her body closer, listening to the whimper that slipped past her lips and into the hollow of my mouth, her body relaxing and melting against mine, her hands tender and delicate on my face and my hands were slipping up the soft
silk of her skin, into the deep softness of her hair and I -

I pushed her away from me, swallowing hard and stepping back. She almost stumbled.

"I can't," I whispered, my voice cracking. "I can't."

Her eyes were wide, her arms still reaching for me. She stepped toward me. "Michael," She whispered. "What is it?"

I shook my head, backing up from her.

"I can't. I'm sorry. I can't -"

"Michael," She whispered. "Michael. You're scaring me. Michael -"

"We have to stop, Liz," I whispered, looking at her.

She froze in place.

"What?" She whispered.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry -

"Michael," She whispered. "What - what are you -"

"We have to stop, Liz," I repeated, barely hearing my words over my heart hammering inside my chest.

"We have to stop."


She stared at me, her mouth open, fumbling for words.

"We can't," She finally whispered. "Michael, we can't -"

"We have to."

"Why?" She demanded, the tears in her eyes catching the moonlight. "Why do we -"

"Why do you think, Liz," I whispered, my voice choked. "Because of him."

She blinked.

And then she understood.

I watched the realization slip slowly across her face, her features crumpling underneath the weight of it, her breath stopping -

"It's over," I whispered.

She stared at me, trembling, her head shaking back and forth in silent refusal. "No," She breathed, backing away from me.

"Liz," I whispered, taking a step toward her. "Please -"

"No!" She shouted, pointing at me, blinking furiously, tears spilling down her face.

I closed my eyes and tried to breathe.

"You can't tell me that," She whispered, still backing up. "Not after everything we've been through, everything that's happened. You can't," She whispered.

I looked up at her. Her breath was coming shorter, faster.

"You can't," She whispered, her whole body shaking violently. "You can't -"

She was hyperventilating. I moved toward her. Calm her down, Guerin. Calm
her down -

"It's okay," I whispered, my voice cracking. "Liz. It's okay -"

She shook her head, backing up faster, moving away from me. "Don't," She whispered. "Don't -"

She took a final step, her legs colliding with the stacks of sketchbooks and her body twisted, hurtling down and hitting the floor -

I reached her as she tried to push herself up and away from me, my arms circling her waist faster than she could react and I pulled her up, clutching her body to me and she was struggling to get away, her arms pushing at me.

"Let go," She whispered, breathing in quick, rhythmic gasps. "Let go -"

I ignored her, pinning her body to me, one arm wrapped around her tight so she couldn't get away, the other smoothing her hair down because I knew that comforted her, whispering it's okay, it's okay until I almost believed it and she finally cried out and fell against my chest, her fingers clutching the fabric of my shirt and I tried to envelope her, cover her completely, drown out the truth and the lies and the whole time she kept whispering the same thing over and over and over...

"No. No. No."


I opened my eyes. I was on Michael's couch, curled up against him, his arms wrapped around me gently, his lips pressed against my forehead. He hadn't let go of me since I'd fallen.

At least he stopped saying it was okay.

"Why didn't you tell me," I whispered softly, looking up at him when he didn't answer. He was staring at the door.

"You could have communicated with me," I whispered. "You could have told me he was here -"

He closed his eyes.

"I tried to reach you, and I couldn't find you -"

He pressed his lips together tightly before taking a deep breath and looking back at me. I felt myself falter, staring up at his eyes. They were so warm, I thought, warm and deep and...

Resolved. That was the word.

"I didn't want you to get hurt," He whispered.

I blinked, trying to make sense of it. "So you blocked me out?" I whispered.

He licked his lips and nodded, staring at me intently.

My gaze dropped to his shirt, to the hole that gaped like an open wound...

"That makes sense," I whispered, the fabric blurring before me.

He exhaled slowly, as if he was relieved. I blinked and his shirt sharpened back into focus.

He was trying to protect me. He was always trying to protect me.

I reached up for him, wanting him closer, and I felt my mind opening up to him, trying to connect with him -

He grabbed my arms and gave me a mental shove all at once, pushing me out of his mind, breaking the connection -

"No," He said, his voice sharp. "No."

I looked up at him.

"Not anymore," He whispered.

"But - but he's not here," I whispered, shaking my head. "He won't know -"

"I'll know," He said.

My lips parted and then closed. His features blurred in front of my eyes and I looked down at the couch.

We made love on this couch, I thought, my breath catching in my throat. Here, right here -

"Do you, uhm - do you need anything?" He asked.

I looked up at him.

"Water, or Kleenex, or -" His voice faltered. "Sorry," He whispered, looking away.

I nodded. "Yes," I whispered.

He turned around, moving slightly to get off the couch. "What," He said quickly. "What do you -"

"You," I whispered, my voice cracking.

His mouth opened. Nothing came out. He started to shake his head.

"Michael. I need you," I whispered.

"I have to do this," He said, his voice tight. "Please don't make me say it again."

"So he knows. He's - he'll understand eventually, Michael, I know him, I know he will -"

He sighed loudly, moving his hands to his face.

I broke off, falling into silence. I felt like we'd been going over this for hours.

And I still didn't have any answers.

He stared at the door, his fist pressed tight against his lips, and I knew that he was trying to control the fire rising up in them and I knew that because I'd memorized everything about him and I'd memorized everything I could because I loved him so much and I was losing him and I couldn't find a reason, he wouldn't talk to me and I couldn't think of any way out of it, any way to stop it -

I blinked and stared down at the sketchpads that covered the floor in front of us. I'd knocked them over when I fell, and now most of them lay open, different sketches of me staring up at us -

How did he know to look for the sketchpads?

I blinked.

"Nasedo told him," I whispered suddenly.

Michael jumped. I could feel him turning to look at me. "What?" He whispered. "What did you say -"

"Nasedo must have told Max," I breathed, looking up at him. "He's the only one who knew."

He frowned at me, his lips open. Then he exhaled quickly, leaning forward and burying his face in his hands.

"When he left the chamber, he said - he said that he wasn't done with me," I whispered slowly, my eyes flickering back to the sketchpads. "He must have meant -"

"Maybe," Michael whispered, his hands dropping and falling loose. I couldn't see his expression. "It doesn't matter."

The silence spread out between us.

"Why now?" I whispered slowly. "I mean - he's known for months, Michael. That's why he kidnapped me -"

"I don't know," Michael snapped.

I blinked past the hurt swelling up in my chest. He didn't mean that. He didn't mean to sound like that. He's just upset -

"But why would he tell him now?" I asked.

Michael looked away from me.

"What," I whispered. "What is it?"

"Maybe -" He looked at me and then down at his hands. "Maybe he thinks we need to focus on..." He sighed and shook his head, his voice trailing off.

"Focus on what?" I asked. "What does he -"

"I don't know," He whispered.

I blinked, staring at him. He looked broken. Exhausted.

Set off those orbs, and you have no idea who you may be leading straight to us.

You don't know who else you may contact in the process.

Do it at your own risk -

"Oh my God," I whispered.

Michael looked over at me. "What," He said. "What."

"He said that - that if you used the communicators," I whispered. "That some others might come to find you..."

He blinked and stared down at the sketchbooks.

"Yeah," He whispered. "He did."

"She even said it," I whispered. "That - that hologram, that woman. She said your - your enemies are here, that you have to learn how to fight them...

His lips pressed together into a pale, think line. I stared at him more closely.

"You think they're coming," I whispered. "Don't you."

He didn't answer me.

"That's why you keep saying we have to stop," I whispered. "Because you have to be able to work with Max..."

His hands moved up to his face, rubbing his skin roughly.

Say it, I thought. Just say it -

He took in a deep breath and let it out, turning to face me.

"Yes," He whispered.

I stared up at him.

I had my answer.

"Okay," I whispered. "Okay."


"What do you mean," I said. "What. What's 'okay' -"

"I mean I - I understand that," She whispered.

I blinked. She understood?

"I hate it," She said, shaking her head and looking down at the sketchpads. "I hate it, but I understand it."

I didn't know what to say.

She looked down at her hands, her fingers knotting together. "Maybe - maybe he'll understand eventually," She whispered. "Maybe if he's with Tess..."

I looked down. I could feel her looking up at me, looking for a sign, looking for hope...

I couldn't give her one.

"Okay," She whispered. She stood up slowly and stood in front of me, her arms out.

I looked up at her.

"Give me a hug," She whispered.

My heart hurt. Not like when Nasedo was hurting me.

This was worse.

"Liz -"

"Come on, Michael," She whispered, her voice catching. Her lower lip trembled. "Just hold me."

I stood up slowly, looking down at her.

She was so tiny, I thought, She was so small...

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close to me, gently. She pressed her body close against me, her arms pulling at the fabric on my body, clutching me as close as she could...

"I love you," She breathed against my skin. "I love you."

I closed my eyes, holding her tighter, breathing in the scent of her skin, the silk of her hair, feeling the pounding of her heart ...

She let go first, stepping back, her hands fluttering up to her face, brushing away tears. "Okay," She whispered, her lips pressed together tightly, turning to go.

"Wait," I whispered. "Liz..."

She turned around and looked up at me.

I brought my hands up to the thin rope of silk that hung around my neck, pulling it up and over my head, holding it out to her.

"Here," I whispered. "Take it."

"No," She said, her voice tight. "No. I won't."

"Liz. Just take it -"

"I can't," She said, her voice catching, shaking her head. "I can't. I gave it to you. It's yours. You can't give it back."

I stared at her for a second and then looked at the pendant. "Alright," I whispered, covering the pendant with my other hand, focusing on the small carving in my hands, feeling the warmth build slowly between my palms, the light filtering out through my fingers -

I lifted my hand. The pendant, slightly smaller, lay in the center of my palm.

A small ring lay next to it.

I picked it up and held it out to her.

"Here," I whispered. "This is yours."

She stared at me for a moment and then looked at the ring, stepping forward, her hands rising up and taking it from me, looking at it more closely, turning it over to look at the eternity symbol etched into the outside, at the words engraved on the inside, the same words written on the back of the pendant...

"It's beautiful," She whispered.

"Good," I said quietly.

She was still staring at it when I moved in front of her, taking it from her fingertips and lifting her other hand, slipping it through the tip of her ring finger, sliding it past the small knuckles to rest against her hand.

She looked up at me, her eyes filled with wonder and softness and -

I'd thought we might be standing like this one day. Just the two of us, alone, slipping a ring onto her hand, the look on her face…

But this wasn't how I imagined it.

"I, uhm -" I swallowed hard and looked down at her hand, at the thin band of wood on her skin.

"I wanted to make sure it fit," I whispered, stepping back.

She looked down when I moved, tracing the ring with her fingertips before looking back up at me.

"It's perfect," She whispered.

I closed my eyes.

I'm perfect, she whispered, pulling me close to kiss me, her skin warm and glowing under my touch -

I opened my eyes and stared at the floor, at the distance between us. It was only a few steps…

You're saving her life. Remember that. You're saving her life -

"Thank you, Michael," She whispered.

I nodded.

"I better go," She whispered.

Don't. Don't -

She moved toward me quickly, her lips pressing softly against my cheek, her hands warm and gentle against my skin.

"Goodbye, Michael," She whispered, her voice choked, her face wet with tears.

She walked to the door, opening it and stepping through it, closing it behind her.

I stood in my apartment, the sketchbooks torn and scattered around me, the moonlight filtering through the windows, the pendant suddenly small and alone in my hands.

"Goodbye," I whispered.


Chapter Index

Main Authors Offsite Recs
DC Slash Harry Potter Ros. Hetero Ros. Slash Ros. Other