I got down the stairs and out of the building, but I don't remember how.
The first thing I remember was standing outside underneath the streetlight, my heartbeat fast and furious inside my chest.
It's over, Liz -
I felt - strange. Hollow. Empty. Blindsided. I blinked and looked around.
Everything looked the same.
How is that possible, I wondered blankly, how is it nothing looks different, that it looks unchanged, exactly the same...
It was surreal. This is a dream. This has to be a dream, I thought, staring up at the stars, and then my fingertips found the thin band of wood resting against my hand, still warm from his touch, and I knew it wasn't a dream.
It was true. Everything he said to me, Max knowing about us, everything...
I started running, the buildings and streetlights blurring before me, my breath burning in my lungs and my muscles screaming for me to slow down. I didn't stop until my hands touched the mattress in my room, touched the pillows and the sheets we'd shared just hours before...
And then I couldn't move. The tears were coming and I watched them fall, trying to muffle the choking sounds in my throat so my parents wouldn't hear...
"I can't," I whispered to the empty room. "I can't."
You have to, I thought. You both have to.
I sat on the quilt, staring at the ring on my finger, the light from the moon and the string of lights shining into the room. I can still feel him, I thought, I can still feel his arms around me -
I heard a sound from the window and looked up immediately, his name rising up from my lips -
Max was crouching on my rooftop.
Staring at me.
My eyes dropped back to my hands. I heard the soft sound of the window opening and moved my hand with the ring under the quilt.
He left the window open behind him, folding his arms and staring at me.
"I was wondering what happened," He said slowly.
I tried not to cry. Tried to keep my voice even...
"We broke up," I whispered.
There was a pause and I looked up at him.
He looked so different, I thought. Angry. Cruel. Determined...
"Good," He said suddenly, his voice cold, his eyes locked on mine.
I stared back at the quilt. He'd said that to hurt me.
Are you surprised?
Go away. Go away. Just go away -
"So," He murmured, letting his arms drop and walking over to my dresser. "It's over, then."
The quilt blurred in front of me. "Yes," I breathed, saying it for the first time. He turned around, a hand cupped behind his ear.
"Sorry - what?" He asked.
I blinked and looked up at him, anger starting to burn inside me.
"You heard me," I whispered.
We stared at each other for a moment, neither of us looking away. He moved first, nodding, looking down at the floor.
Was that a smile -
"Okay," He said. "Good."
I felt my heart constrict. Good. He was acting so callous about this whole thing, as if he didn't care -
"I thought you wanted me to be happy," I whispered.
It was a stupid thing to say. It was stupid.
I just couldn't help it.
"You brought this on yourself," He said, his eyes turning black and dangerous. "Both of you did. Remember that."
I bit down on my lip, my thumb slipping across the ring.
I know. I'm sorry.
Just let me have him back -
"I'm glad I found out," He said. "I'm glad I found out who I can trust."
My hands were shaking. I closed my eyes. Get out. Please. Just go away, just get out -
"I'm going to tell you something, Liz, and I don't want to say it again," He said. "Are you listening?"
I nodded and heard the bed creak, just enough to let me know he was leaning down on the mattress.
"Look at me," He whispered. I felt his breath, warm against my skin. I opened my eyes, fighting the urge to move away -
"You don't tell anyone else about this," He said in a low, dangerous voice, his dark eyes locked onto mine. "Ever. Not Alex, not Isabel, not even Maria. No one.
"And I don't want to discuss this with you under any circumstances," He said slowly. "Ever."
I opened my mouth to say something.
"Shut up," He snapped.
I blinked. My heart was pounding and my hands shaking. I don't know him, I thought. I don't know him at all...
Maybe this was the price for being up on that pedestal so long.
"We don't discuss this," He continued. "Not tomorrow, not next week, not in ten years. The only way I can stand to look at either of you is to pretend it never happened.
"Do you understand?"
Anything to get him to leave.
"Yes," I whispered.
He didn't move for a moment, his eyes locked on mine. Then he stood up. "Good," He whispered.
He moved through the window quickly, leaving it open behind him. I heard his footsteps on the rooftop, heard the creaking of the fire escape.
And then he was gone.
I sat down on the couch, staring at the amulet in my hands. She believed me. She thought it was over.
He made me leave her, I thought, the frustration and rage starting to crest inside me, my hands starting to glow faintly -
I blinked. It wasn't just Nasedo I was mad at.
"The hell with it," I whispered.
I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate.
I opened my eyes a few minutes later.
I was outside the Babe Magnet.
I slammed the door open with one arm and immediately stopped. The place was almost empty. It was dark except for a few candles that flickered on a couple of tables.
I blinked. That's weird. Usually it's crammed with people...
Or maybe they knew you were coming and they all bailed, I thought, the glow in my hands intensifying. "Damnit," I snapped.
I scanned the room quickly. Three women were over in one corner, sitting around one of the tables.
"Who're you," I snapped, storming towards them.
"It's - it's me, Michael," One of them said, standing up and stepping toward me. She sounded concerned, and familiar -
My pace slowed but not by much. First things first.
"Where's Whiteotter?" I snapped. I was five steps away from her. Four. Three. She started to back up.
"Where. Is. Whiteotter," I muttered.
"She's gone, Michael," She whispered.
"Gone," I repeated. "What do you mean, gone?"
"She waited here for you," Em said, waving her hands. "Michael, I swear, she was here by the computer waiting for you -"
I glanced at the flickering screen of the laptop on the table. The other two women were staring at it.
"What's with the laptop?" I demanded. What the hell were they -
"E-mail," One of the other women said softly. Ivy, I think. "Some of it good, some of it not so good."
I shook my head. It doesn't matter. First things first -
"Where'd she go," I growled.
"Michael," Em said softly. "Do you want to talk about -"
"I'm going to ask one. More. Time," I hissed, leaning forward. Em broke off in mid-sentence.
"Where is she?" I demanded.
Em looked down, not answering me.
"Fine," I snapped, glancing at the table before turning around to leave. "I'll find her myself."
I turned around. Ivy was standing up. "She went home, Michael," She said slowly. "She went to find Liz."
I blinked. "She went to find Liz?" I repeated. "Why? What's she going to -"
"She didn't say," Ivy said quickly. "She just said she had to talk to her. She wanted to help -"
"She could've helped before," I snapped. "She could have warned us.
"And she didn't."
No one said anything.
"All of you know, don't you?" I whispered. "You all knew what he was doing, and you didn't do anything to help -"
Silence. Nothing but averted eyes and deep breaths.
"Thanks for nothing," I muttered, backing up and turning around to leave -
I paused, staring at the bar.
It was covered in pictures. Me and Liz and all those other people...
The night Novi took the pictures, I thought, remembering how annoyed I'd been, how I just wanted to get out of there and go home -
Home. Where was home? My house, earth, some planet I'd never heard of but was somehow supposed to save...
I moved to the images, reaching out and taking one of them down. She was smiling, her arms wrapped around my waist...
God, she was beautiful.
"You can have that," Someone whispered behind me. I looked down. Novi smiled weakly.
I blinked. "Thanks," I muttered.
She nodded. "Look, you, ah - you may not want them, but - Whiteotter left some things for you."
I felt the fire flowing back into my hands. "She lied to us," I snapped. "She said that everything would be okay -"
"What makes you think she's wrong?" Novi interrupted suddenly, her voice sharp.
I stared at her for a second and then shook my head. Was she kidding?
"Forget it," I muttered, slipping the picture into my pocket. "I'm sorry we ever came here -"
"She got you this far, Michael. Both of you."
"So what's she gonna do now, huh?" I snapped. "How's she gonna fix this?"
She took a deep breath. "I don't know," She said slowly. "But that doesn't mean there isn't a way to do it."
I almost laughed. "So - what am I supposed to do," I snapped. "Just wait?"
"You might want to use the summer to build your powers," Em said slowly.
I glared at her.
"Just a suggestion," She murmured.
I blinked, remembering the last time I'd seen her - when she was laying the tarot cards out for me, her hands hovering over the cards...
"The King of Swords crosses you...he can be an obstacle, but he can also be working for your cause in ways which are not yet apparent."
"He sits in judgment as a storm gathers around him. He is a wise man, who, like you, holds the power of life and death in his hands, in his choices."
I'll kill her. Right here, in front of you. Do you understand?
"He is an authority figure, perhaps in military or governmental concerns, and he is very careful - his every step is measured. I think that you do not realize that he could just as easily be yourself.
Is that what we are now? Murderers?
"...your struggle with him will be painful to you and others," She finished, looking up at me.
I thought it was Max, I thought.
I thought she was talking about Max.
Her hand hovered over a card of a woman on a throne. "The Queen of Swords is above you. She looks out over the storm, and she is sorrowful, worried because of it... she symbolizes privation, separation," She said.
"You will be separated from her."
I closed my eyes.
Promise me you won't leave.
Michael, I would never -
Promise me, Liz. Just say it -
I will never leave you.
"You knew," I whispered, staring at Em. "You knew everything that was going to happen."
She shook her head. "No, Michael. I didn't. If I'd known, I would have warned you," She said. "But I didn't. I just read the cards."
I stared at her for a second. She looked like she was telling the truth...
"Where's this stuff she left for me," I said, looking down at Novi.
"Over there," She said, pointing at the end of the bar. I looked over and saw two boxes filled to the top.
Books, I thought, my vision sharpening. She left me books?
I walked to the first box and picked up the first book. Buddhism for Beginners.
"What the hell is this?" I said, holding it up. Em took it from me, staring at the title.
"This doesn't... oh, wait," She said, peering at the box. "This is Kyle's box."
I blinked at her. "Kyle? Kyle Valenti? Does he - I mean, does he know about -"
"No," Ivy said smoothly. "No. He doesn't know about you and Liz, never been here, etcetera etcetera. I'm taking the box into town."
I licked my lips. "Fine," I muttered. "As long as he doesn't -"
"That's your box," Novi said, pointing to the second one.
More books. I took a breath and picked up the first one.
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," I read.
"It's supposed to be good," Em suggested helpfully.
I put the book back into the box and turned around to face them.
"Explain to me," I said evenly. "How high school books are supposed to help me."
They looked at each other. Ivy sighed.
"We don't know," She said.
I stared out over the ocean.
The sun had just gone down. They had beautiful sunsets here, I thought, pushing strands of hair back from my face. The sky turned pink, and orange, and red...
God, I miss Michael.
I pulled my knees up tighter, sitting on the hard, wooden beach chairs that dotted the sand as far as the eye could see. Soon it would be dark and the last of the families would go home. That's when I walked the beach, all the way down the stretch of beach and then all the way back. It helped to be that close to the ocean. It helped me not to think...
Tears welled up in my eyes and I wondered if it was ever going to stop, if I was ever going to feel better...
Maybe I don't want to feel better, I thought. Not if that means forgetting everything...
Someone sat down on the beach chair next to me.
I glanced over. There were hundreds of chairs on the beach. Did she have to pick this one?
"Did you enjoy the sunset?"
People did that here. Just started talking to you. Maybe it was the fact that I was in the minority, being under the age of 65. I seemed to remind everyone of their granddaughter, or their daughter, or themselves, long ago...
Not that she was that old. 30, maybe, tops. She had dark, wavy hair and green eyes. And she kept smiling at me...
I smiled a tight, weak smile, hoping it would kill the conversation, hoping she would go away.
"You look upset," She said. "Want to talk about it?"
I took a deep breath and stood up. "No. Thanks," I said, rising up from the chair -
"I'd offer you a martini if I could," She said. "God knows I need one."
I paused, turning around to look at her more closely. "I'm sorry -"
"A chocolate one, actually," She said.
I blinked. "Who - who are -"
"It's me, Liz," She said, looking up at me. "It's Whiteotter."
"What are you doing here," I whispered, backing up.
"I live here," She said, waving her arms at the beach. "Well. Close to here, just a few hours -"
"No," I said quickly. "What - why are you here?"
"I came to talk to you," She said, her voice soft and sad. "Are you alright?"
"I don't want to talk to you," I whispered. "Leave me alone."
"Look, you lied to me," I said, shaking my head.
She took a deep breath and looked down at the sand.
"I know. And I'm sorry," She said.
I should have left. I should have screamed at her, thrown something -
"I didn't -" She sighed, looking out at the ocean. "I didn't realize how intense it was going to get until I was in it," She said.
"And then... then there was nothing I could do."
I watched her looking out at the open water, the wind from the ocean blowing her hair back, her eyes red and tired...
"You look different," I murmured.
She looked up at me. Hope flickered in her eyes. "Yeah," She said. "Like I said... I live here. This is what I really look like."
I blinked. "In your - timeline," I said, hesitating over the word. "Right?"
"So I'm - I'm in - your timeline now?" I asked. "What does that -"
She opened her mouth and closed it again, pursing her lips. "It's probably best if we don't think about it too much," She said, smiling slightly.
Any other time I might have argued with her, asked questions, demanded some facts.
I was just too tired.
"Okay," I whispered, staring down at the sand, surprisingly cool under my feet. The temperature was dropping.
"Have you talked to anyone?" She asked slowly. "I mean, about..."
"You mean about Michael," I said evenly.
There was a pause.
"Yeah," Whiteotter said. "That's what I meant."
I breathed in deep and let the air in my lungs out slowly. "No," I said quietly. Who would I tell? My mom? My aunt?
That wasn't going to happen.
"So you don't -" She paused. "You don't really have anyone to talk to," She said slowly.
"Look - what's there to talk about?" I asked, waving my hands. I looked out at the horizon.
"We broke up. It's over. End of story."
The silence stretched out between us as the waves crested and pounded against the shoreline.
"Stories like that aren't ever over," Whiteotter said slowly. I looked down at her. She was looking at the waves.
"They just circle back around," She said slowly, turning her face up to look at me. "That's all."
"What are you saying?" I asked slowly.
Her fingertip traced the wood grain on her chair. "Do you want him back?" She asked.
I blinked. "You of all people should know the answer to that," I said, my heart pounding fast inside my chest.
She smiled and looked up.
"Well, then," She said slowly. "We'll have to see what we can do."
on to volume two!
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|