"Can I help you?" The deputy asked, not looking up from his paperwork.
"Yes, I'd, uhm - I'd like to see one of the prisoners?" I asked, shifting my weight uneasily.
"Visiting hours are five to six," He muttered, pointing at the wall without looking up. I glanced over at a sign that said the same thing in big black letters.
"Oh. Right," I said quickly. "See, I was just hoping I could -"
"No exceptions," He interrupted, flipping some pages. He hadn't even looked at me yet. I took a deep breath and lifted two boxes up on the counter. His eyes flickered over to them suspiciously.
"I'm sorry, deputy," I said, smiling and stretching out my hand. "We haven't been introduced. I'm Liz Parker."
He straightened, reluctantly, and shook my hand. "Deputy Lopez," He said, nodding at the boxes. "What's that?"
"Oh - just some desserts for the station," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "My Dad runs the Crashdown Cafe, and he believes in supporting our local officers."
He frowned. "The Crashdown?" He asked. "So you're Jeff Parker's girl?"
"Yes! Yes I am," I said, nodding and smiling widely. "Free coffee to all of Roswell's finest."
He shook his head and put the pen down. "See, now, if more people had the respect that your father does -"
"I know," I said in a low voice, leaning forward. "It's just awful."
"We wouldn't have the problems we do today," He said. "You know what I mean?"
"Absolutely," I said, nodding. "I completely agree."
He leaned back and reached for the pen again, tapping it against the desk. "I notice there's two of these," He said slowly.
"Yes, I was - I wanted to bring one down for the station," I smiled. "And perhaps the other to, uhm, Michael Guerin?"
The tapping stopped. "Guerin?" He frowned, staring down at me. "What's a nice girl like you want with him?"
"He's -" I stared up at him, confused. "Well, he's our cook. At the café. And I thought that -"
"Now you listen to me," He said, leaning down and pointing at me with his pen. "That boy's nothing but trouble. Your dad ought to be more careful about who he hires, Miss Parker. That boy had a meltdown today and it took a bunch of us to get him back under control -"
"Is there a problem, Lopez?" Someone called out across the room.
The deputy straightened immediately. "No sir, sheriff," He said, turning around. Valenti was standing outside his office, a folder in his hand. "Just explaining our visiting policy to this young lady."
Valenti glanced at me and back at the officer. "I think I can handle this, Lopez," He said easily. "Miss Parker, you can come on back."
I reached for the boxes quickly and glanced at Lopez. He was frowning at Valenti -
"Here you go," I murmured, pushing one of them across the desk to him. He looked over at me, suspicious.
"Just for you," I whispered, smiling. "Enjoy."
I hadn't taken three steps when I heard him opening the box.
"Oh, boy," He murmured. "Chocolate."
"Miss Parker," Valenti said, crossing behind his desk and sitting down in his chair."What can I do for you?"
"Hi, sheriff," I said. "I, uhm - I was hoping to see Michael."
"He's in cell three," He said slowly, glancing at the box for a moment. He stood up, walking to the window.
"We had a situation here this morning," He said carefully. "Mr. Guerin, in his infinite wisdom, decided to attack his court-appointed attorney."
"What?" I whispered. "Is he alright?"
"He's got a nasty bump," He said. "Not that he cared about it much."
"Okay," I said, my voice quiet. "Well, can I - can I see him?"
He shook his head, staring down at his desk. "It's our policy to suspend visitation rights for prisoners who act out, Miss Parker," He said. "It tends to make them more... compliant."
"Sheriff," I whispered. "It's Michael -"
"I can't have him pulling another stunt like that in here," He said. "It endangers him, and others, and it just makes my job more difficult. Understand?"
I blinked. "Yes, I - I understand," I whispered, frowning. "But -"
"Now, unless you can convince me that your presence is going to calm him down, maybe get him to think a little more clearly about his situation, maybe tell him some good news..." He stared at me. "Then I suggest you go home."
I stared at him, confused, and then it dawned on me. I glanced around the room and then back at him. He nodded once.
He thought that someone was listening…
"Yes. I can do that. Tell him something positive, I mean." I stared up at him. "About, uhm, work. At the cafe."
He smiled briefly and then nodded. He took a deep breath, picking up the keys, and his shoulders relaxed. "Alright," He muttered, flipping the keys into the palm of his hand. "This way, Miss Parker."
"Uhm, sheriff," I interrupted, moving in front of him. "Look, I was just wondering, is there, uhm - is there any way I could talk to him alone?"
He stared down at me. "I think that'd be alright," He said. I couldn't read his expression.
"Thanks," I whispered, looking down at the box in my hand. "Thank you."
"Sure," He said easily, opening the door. "What'd you bring him?"
"Double-fudge chocolate cake," I murmured, walking into the hallway. "Tobasco's in my purse."
"Wait a minute," He said. "Amy's double-fudge cake?"
I glanced up at him and nodded, smiling a little. He shook his head as he pulled the door closed behind him.
"Lucky damn dog," He said.
"...Michael. Wake up. Michael."
I opened my eyes and blinked. Valenti was crouched next to me, nudging my shoulder.
"I'm up. I'm up," I mumbled.
"Finally," He muttered, shaking his head and standing up. "You're worse than Kyle."
I swung my legs over the edge of the mattress and stopped dead. "Ow," I mumbled, bringing my hand up to my eyes. I was still woozy from that hit I took yesterday -
"You alright?" He asked, concerned.
I waved in his direction with one hand, pressing down on my eyes with the other one. Even the moonlight streaming in through the window hurt. "I'm fine," I mumbled, pressing harder. "Just - gimme a sec, alright?"
"Okay," He said. I heard his footsteps walking outside the cell, heard the turn of his soles on the concrete floor. "You've got a visitor."
I groaned loudly and ground my hands deeper against my eyes. "I don't want to see anyone," I called out. "Tell 'em to leave me alone, alright?"
No answer. Just footsteps. Damnit, Valenti. He was going to get them, and I didn't want to see anyone.
"Hey," I called out, reaching up for the edge of the top bunk, pulling myself up. "I mean it. Valenti -"
My voice faded. Liz was standing there. Holding a box. No sign of Valenti.
The sound of the prison door slamming shut resounded through the hall. She jumped slightly at the noise, looking down the hallway for a moment before turning back at me. She smiled weakly.
"Hey," She said.
"What're you doing here?"
"I, uhm - I brought you something," I said quickly. "From the crashdown. It's Amy's double fudge cake," I said, opening the lid. "See?"
He moved past me to the open hallway. "Valenti!" He yelled. "Hey!"
"He's, uhm - he's gone," I murmured, moving into his cell. I put the cake box on the top bunk and looked around. I could feel the anger pulsing through him -
"Out," He demanded. "Go. Get out."
I took a breath and turned around. "I'm not leaving," I said evenly.
"Get outta here, now, or -"
"Or what? You're in jail, Michael," I said. "This isn't your apartment. You can't throw me out. We have to talk."
"You -" He pressed his lips together in a white line and shook his head. "Know what? I may be in jail, but you're in my cell," He snapped, grabbing me by the arm and pushing me back into the hallway.
"Michael -" I protested, struggling against him. "What's wrong with you -Michael!"
He shoved me away from him, slamming the cell door behind me. His palm pulsed once against the door and I heard it lock -
"Get the hell out," He snapped, turning back to his bunk. "Go home, Liz." He crawled onto the mattress and flipped over on his side, turning his back to me.
I stared at him in shock. "You know what," I whispered, stepping closer and gripping the bars of the cell. "You are the most infuriating, unbelievable, ungrateful -"
"Get out!" He roared, twisting around and glaring at me. "Look, we're done. I'm done -"
"I'm not," I said loudly, my voice breaking.
He stared up at me for a moment, his mouth moving wordlessly. Then he twisted again, falling back on the mattress, his eyes cold and flat, staring at the bunk above him.
"Michael," I whispered. "Just - talk to me."
He pursed his lips and shook his head slightly. "There's no point," He said. "It doesn't matter."
"What doesn't matter?"
He rolled his eyes and brought his hands up to his face, pressing his hands against his eyes. "You," He said, his voice hard. "Me. Anything."
I stared at him, trying to understand. He sat up slowly and ran his hands through his hair, letting them drop and hang over his knees.
"Look, it just... it doesn't matter anymore, Liz."
"I don't understand that," I whispered. "I don't even understand where that comes from. It doesn't make any sense-"
"Aliens and humans don't mix, Liz," He said evenly. "It doesn't work. And the sooner you deal with that, the easier this is gonna be."
"I don't want easy," I whispered. "I never did."
He closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Just let it go," He said.
"But I don't understand -"
"Look, I can't explain it and even if I could, I wouldn't," He said. "Alright? So just… let it go. Go home."
I stared at him. He looked so frustrated. And defeated...
"I think I liked it better when you were yelling," I whispered, a weak smile flickering across my lips...
He didn't smile back and I felt it.
I took a breath. "So this is, uhm - this is about you not being able to explain something," I said slowly. "Is that it?"
"Liz," He said dangerously. "Don't."
"I just want to understand," I said, my voice growing stronger. "It makes it easier."
"I thought you didn't want easy," He shot back.
"I mean it makes it easier to take," I said, my voice sharp and trembling, staring down at the concrete floor.
I felt him look up at me.
"It's just, uhm -" I heard the catch in my voice and swallowed. "I just wonder if it's… you know. Me. If maybe it's, it's something I did..."
"No. It's what we did," He said, his voice flat and unforgiving. "Us. You know that. I thought you understood -"
"Okay, but... why can't we just talk, Michael?" I whispered.
He rolled his head back. "Because. We can't," his voice frustrated.
I bit down on my lip and stared down at the concrete floor. "I know you said we can't, but... sometimes I just want to. Pretend," I whispered. "You know?"
"That won't help," He said evenly.
"How do you know?" I whispered. I heard him take a slow breath.
He took a breath and raised his eyes to mine.
"Because sooner or later we'd have to stop," He said quietly.
I flinched and stared down at the floor, watching the lines in the concrete blend together, everything blurring together into a mass of grey. I closed my eyes and opened them again, staring at the sharper lines, the black spots on the floor that weren't there before...
"Okay," I whispered suddenly, my voice shaking, backing away from the cell. "I'm, uhm - I'm gonna go."
He was standing up, frowning. "Liz-"
"No," I whispered. "I'm - I'm just gonna go. I'll, uhm, I'll tell Valenti -"
"Liz," He said, his voice stronger, hands on the cell door. "Come on..."
I looked at him in amazement. He was worried about me. His eyes were soft, and warm, and -
"What is wrong with you?" I whispered, shaking my head. "You, you tell me to go away, you tell me to get out, go home and then you're standing there looking at me like that? Stop looking at me like that," I whispered.
"I don't understand," I whispered, backing up. "And you, you won't tell me, and you won't talk to me and I can't, I just - it just hurts too much, Michael, I can't -"
I heard the sound of the lock going back and he pulled the door open, moving for me. "Liz, come on. You can do this-"
"Don't tell me what to do," I whispered fiercely, backing up. "Don't. And don't say you're sorry, just - I just want you to tell me why," I whispered. "Why won't you talk to me?"
He was shaking his head, his face a mask of sorrow, stepping closer to me. "Look. Liz, I just - I can't."
"You mean you won't," I whispered.
He stood still for a second, staring at me, and then his arms dropped.
"Fine," He mumbled. "I won't. What difference does it make?"
"It makes a big difference," I said, my voice louder than I intended. "You used to tell me everything, Michael, we used to tell each other everything, and now-"
"And now I don't," He said, his voice cold. "I have my reasons."
"What?" I demanded, shaking my head. "What reason could you possibly have, Michael?"
He stared at me and then up at the ceiling, shaking his head in frustration. "Forget it," He muttered, moving back into his cell. "Forget I said anything."
"So that's it," I said, feeling the tightness in my throat again, the burning in my eyes. "Just - forget everything."
"We're done," He snapped. "End of discussion."
I stared at him, my mouth open. "You think you can just do that, Michael? Just say 'end of discussion' and it just happens?"
"What do you want me to say, Liz?" He snapped. "You want me to lie?"
I blinked, staring at him.
"Maybe," I whispered. "Yeah. Maybe I do."
He stared at me in disbelief for a second.
"I can't believe this," He snapped suddenly, starting to pace, glaring at me through the bars. "You. You want me to lie to you."
"You know, I'm curious," He interrupted. "You think that'll make you feel any better? 'Cause it won't-"
"You don't know that," I interrupted. He twisted away from me, shaking his head. "Maybe - maybe if we just -"
"We can't keep doing this!" He shouted suddenly. I cringed and bit down on my lip.
"You don't have to shout," I whispered.
He sighed loudly and turned around, glaring at me. "I - look. We can't pretend, Liz. I won't do that."
"I'm not asking you to -" I pressed my lips together and took a breath. "I'm not asking you to pretend. I just - I just want to talk to you." My voice dropped to a whisper. "Like we used to. Before everything went... crazy."
There was a pause. He stopped pacing and glared at me. "Talk," He said flatly.
I looked up at him and nodded.
He waved his hands. "Talk about what? I mean -"
"Whatever you want," I whispered, taking a step toward him. "Nothing. Anything."
He stared at me for a second, his hands settling on his hips. "Just talking," He said quietly.
"That's it," I whispered. "That's all."
He scowled. "It won't change anything," He said, his voice determined. "And I won't change my mind."
"I know," I whispered.
"You're sure," He said, his eyes locked onto me. "You're sure this is what you want."
I wasn't. I didn't.
"Yes," I whispered.
He blinked, thinking, and finally nodded.
"Alright," He muttered, stepping back, waving his hand in a wide arc before sitting down on the lower bunk. "Come on in."
She stepped into the cell slowly, sitting down on the edge of the mattress. It creaked in protest. I looked up at the small window on the other side of the room.
"So," I mumbled. "How do we do this?"
She looked over at me quickly. "Oh, uhm - I don't - I don't know," She said. "I didn't really think you'd agree to it."
"Yeah. Well," I muttered, looking down.
"Right," She said quickly, nodding. "Right."
I waited, staring at moonlight filtering through the window. She didn't say anything.
I took a breath and pointed up at the cake, still on the top bunk. "So, what's in the box, again?" I asked.
"Oh, it's - it's double-fudge cake," She said quickly, standing up and picking it up. "I, uhm - I brought tobasco, too," She said, touching her purse. "If you want..."
"Right," I said, trying to smile. It came out as more of a scowl. "Thanks."
"Sure," She said quietly, sitting back on the mattress, holding the cake in her lap.
I rubbed my hands together, remembered her touch on my skin and stood up, running my hands through my hair before leaning against the wall.
"Maybe - maybe we could do those interview questions," She said suddenly.
"The interview questions," She said excitedly, standing up and setting the cake down on the lower bunk. "You know, the, uhm - the ones we did before you took off to find the dome?"
I stared at her. "The get-to-know someone thing?"
"Yeah," She said quickly. "What was it, ten questions or something like that? Wait. What was the first one... something about - your favorite food. Or ice cream. Was it ice cream?"
"You want to do an interview," I said slowly. "Of me."
Her gaze flickered up to me, worried. "Well - I mean, maybe -"
"You already know the answers," I muttered, shaking my head and walking past her. "This is stupid -"
"Okay, well - what if - what if we asked new questions?" She said quickly, moving next to me. "You know, stuff you always wanted to know, but you just never asked?"
I let my head roll back. "Look, Liz -"
"Maybe it - maybe it won't feel stupid," She interrupted. "Once we start. Okay?"
I took a breath and looked down at her. "Fine," I muttered. "Fine. But the questions are only non-alien stuff. Nothing current. Nothing crisis-oriented. Alright?"
She was already nodding. "Yes. Alright. Fine," She said.
We both stared at each other. She was smiling, her hands knotted together. I fought the urge to smile back.
"Well, go ahead, sparky," I muttered, moving past her to the mattress. "You seem to have one ready."
I swear she clapped her hands as I sat down. "Okay," She said, skipping a little as she moved to sit next to me.
I stared at her for a second and shook my head. She looked ridiculously proud of herself. I waved my hands. "Shoot," I muttered.
"Okay," She said again, sitting up straight. "Where'd you get your rings?"
I looked over at her. "Where'd I - what?"
"Your rings," She said, pointing at them. "You wear them all the time."
"Yeah, I - I know I wear them all the time," I muttered, standing up. "What kind of question is that?"
"Well - what's wrong with it?" She asked. "I mean, isn't that a good question? It doesn't have anything to do with -"
"No. No, it's fine, it's just -" I shrugged and shoved my hands into my pockets. "It's just - weird. That's all."
"Well, that's my question," She said, folding her arms.
I blinked, frowning at her, and shrugged. "Some guy gave 'em to me," I mumbled, looking down.
"On the reservation," I said. "Look, what difference does it make? They're just rings. They don't mean anything."
"So why do you wear them?" She asked. "I mean, you, uhm - you never, uhm… you never take them off," She finished quietly.
I glanced over at her. She was staring at the mattress, brushing some dirt off with her hand. I scowled and let it go, looking back at my hands.
"I don't know," I muttered. "He said they belonged to me."
"He said that?"
"Yeah," I mumbled. I let my hands drop. "Some old indian guy."
"How old were you?"
"I don't know. Eight, maybe. I was looking for stuff." I looked over at her. "You know."
She nodded, thinking. "Spaceship stuff," She said.
"Yeah. So I'm out there by myself, 'cause Max and Is are in school, and -" I shrugged, twisting the thick silver ring on my hand. "And I just walked out to the reservation. I was totally lost. And then I saw some of the lights, and just - walked over to them."
She was quiet. "Did they drive you back into town?" She asked.
"Yeah," I said. "That was - you know. Nice of them." I stared out the window. "And before I got out of the car, he gave me both the rings. He just said, 'Here. These are yours.'" I thought about it for a second and shook my head. "Crazy old guy."
"Did you see him again?"
"No," I said, shaking my head. "He was pretty old. He must be dead by now."
"Well. It was still nice of him," She said quietly.
"Yeah," I said. "It was."
It was quiet for a second. When I looked over at her she was smiling. "What?"
"Nothing," She said, shrugging. "Just that - that worked pretty well."
I blinked, staring at her. She looked down, shyly, and then reached for the box, opening it and holding it out to me.
"Cake?" She asked.
"Your turn," She said, her voice muffled through chocolate cake.
"I don't have a question," I muttered, grabbing some icing off the cake and swallowing quickly.
"Oh come on," She teased. "There must be something you wanted to ask."
"Tobasco," I mumbled. She passed the bottle to me and I turned it over a handful of Amy's double fudge cake.
"Don't you get tired of it?" She asked. "The tobasco, I mean."
"No," I mumbled, shoving the cake into my mouth and chewing. "Next question."
She shook her head, laughing. "God, haven't they fed you anything?" She asked.
"Nothing good," I muttered.
"Wait," She said. "You have, uhm - something."
I looked up at her. She was pointing at the corner of her mouth. I brought my hand up, running it over my mouth. "Thanks," I mumbled.
"No, it's - it's still there," She said, smiling awkwardly. "Here. Hold on -"
She reached behind her, picking up one of the paper napkins she'd brought with her, leaning across the cake and running it over my skin. I stared at her, leaning close to me, watching the determined smile on her lips -
"There," She said, smiling broadly and leaning back. "Got it."
"What was that?" I said quietly.
She blinked, putting the napkin on the floor. "What was what?"
"That - that cleaning me thing," I snapped. "Don't do that."
Her eyebrows went up. "Okay," She said slowly. "I won't."
We sat in silence for a moment, staring at our hands, glancing at the cake. I stood up and resisted the urge to wipe my hands on my pants. "So, uhm - a question," I muttered nervously, sucking the chocolate off my fingers. "Right?"
"What?" She asked, staring up at me. "Oh! Right. Question. Yes," She said quickly, wiping her hands on a napkin and brushing her hair back over her ear. "Go ahead."
"I, uh -" I stared at her for a second and then turned to the window, staring outside. I didn't have a question. It was hard enough to think when she was around, let alone think of stupid questions - "Favorite TV show," I muttered lamely.
"Nova," She said, smiling. "Definitely Nova."
I pursed my lips and rolled my eyes. "Oh, come on," I groaned. "Come on. What is it really?"
"It's Nova," She insisted, looking insulted. "It's very informative, and educational, and-"
"Fine," I shrugged, waving my hands. "Fine. If you don't want to play-"
"I didn't say that, I just said that-"
"I just thought we were going to be honest with this," I said, folding my arms in front of my chest. I was enjoying myself immensely. "I mean, what's the point if we're just gonna make up answers?"
She stared up at me wordlessly for a moment and then rolled her eyes. "Fine," She said, bringing her hands up to her face.
She sighed, letting her hands drop, a wry smile on her face. "Buffy," She muttered.
I couldn't help grinning.
"Don't laugh," She said.
I choked back a laugh. "Sorry," I mumbled, waving my hands, trying to cover my mouth. "I'm sorry. That's the one with the, uhm -"
"Vampire Slayer," She muttered, folding her arms.
"Right," I grinned, nodding. "That's what I thought."
"What's so funny?"
I shrugged. "Oh, I don't know," I smirked. "Just that your life isn't crazy enough with aliens, you gotta watch a show about vampires."
She stood up, her mouth open. "You know, for your information, it's not just some gore-fest," She said, moving towards me. "Although the fight scenes are amazing -"
"Really," I grinned, watching her walk toward me. "Alrighty then."
"And it's incredibly well-written," She argued, but she was smiling. "The characters are very well-developed-"
"And hunt vampires," I finished, laughing. "I mean, come on -"
She reached out and shoved me playfully. "You're not supposed to make fun of me," She muttered, her eyes narrowed. "That's not the point-"
"Can't help it if it works out that way," I grinned. "Sorry."
"Fine. What's your favorite show, then, Mister Enlightened?"
"Easy," I said, spreading my arms open. "Hockey."
"Hockey? What - that's not a show," She sputtered.
I shrugged. "It's all I watch," I said. "Sorry."
"What kind of hockey? I mean - what team?"
"Any team," I said. "Have you ever seen hockey?"
"It's just a game, Michael. It's not like it's difficult -"
"Ohhh, you are so far off base," I said, backing up and shaking my head, walking over to the cake. "You don't even know. It's the only thing worth watching. You should go sometime." I scooped up some icing with my fingertips.
"Right," She said behind me. "A hockey game in Roswell."
I turned around, the sarcastic remark ready, and paused with the cake halfway to my lips. She was smiling, standing in the pool of moonlight streaming in through the window, and her hair was slipping over her shoulders and -
"What?" She asked. "Are you alright?"
I blinked. "Fine," I mumbled. "Great."
Her gaze flickered over to my hand. "Are you going to eat that?"
I glanced down at the icing and brought it up to my mouth, turning away from her, licking my fingertips. "So, maybe we should, uhm - maybe you should go home," I muttered. "Get some sleep."
I felt her gaze on my back for a second and then heard her footsteps coming closer. "No. I'm having a good time," She said, walking over to the cake, swiping some icing up with one fingertip.
"Besides. We still have cake." She slipped her fingertip into her mouth and I caught a glimpse of her tongue over the icing -
"Right," I said, moving past her quickly, standing by the window. "Fine. Good."
"It's your turn," She said behind me.
I turned around, staring at her fingertip slipping over her lips, her hand dropping over the flower pattern of her dress -
"Flower," I said quickly.
"Flower," I repeated, trying not to stare at her. "Favorite flower."
She looked at me for a second and sat down on the mattress, pushing the napkins to one side and crossing her legs. I took a breath and studied the ceiling.
"Hmm," She said. "Well, it used to be roses."
"Lemme guess," I muttered. "Red?"
"No," She said. "I never liked red. Everyone else liked red."
"And you wanted to be different," I said slowly.
"Well - I don't know. I wasn't setting out to be different. It just seemed so… expected," She said, looking up. "You know? Like that's what we were all supposed to like."
"Okay," I muttered. "So…"
"I liked white roses, for a while," She said quietly. "They were - I don't know. Pure. Innocent, I guess."
My eyebrows went up. "Innocent," I murmured. "Fascinating."
"Nothing," I said quickly. "Nothing. Keep going."
She looked at me suspiciously for a moment and then looked across the cell again. "I guess I'd have to say... the phalaenopsis snow leopard," She said, smiling wistfully.
"Parker. I said flower," I snorted.
She rolled her eyes at me. "It is a flower, Michael. It's an orchid."
"Well why can't you just say that?" I snorted. "What's with all this science stuff? I mean, why can't you just say, oh, I don't know, 'a daffodil' or 'a tulip'?"
"Because it's important to be specific," She said, but she was smiling. "There's thousands of different orchids, Michael."
"Who names a flower after a leopard," I muttered, rolling my eyes.
"They named it that because it's got these beautiful white blossom and it's got these tiny, tiny little spots of dark pink right in the center," She said quietly. "They're so hard to grow, Michael, you need a greenhouse and everything -"
"Wait. They need their own house?"
"Yes, Michael," She said, grinning at me now. "They're tropical. They can't just grow on the street."
"My mistake," I said drily. "'Cause Roswell's just, you know, full of orchids."
She sighed loudly. "Look. I went to this place in Florida. It was this botanical garden, and it's just full of orchids -"
"I thought you just said they only grew in greenhouses."
"Who's telling the story?"
"Right," I said, rolling my eyes and waving my hands. "So sorry. Continue."
"It's called the Selby Botanical Garden," She explained. "My aunt took me. It's in Sarasota, and it's right on the water, and it's - amazing. It's got over 6,000 orchids."
"That's a lot of orchids," I deadpanned. She didn't even notice.
"It was so beautiful," She said, her voice soft. "They were just everywhere. Purple and pink and yellow and… they were so bright, you know?" She said suddenly, turning to me. "They were so exotic. Most of them have only one long spike that grows straight up and curves around, and the blossoms grow at the end of the spike, and the flowers, they're just…" She shook her head. "I'd just - I'd never seen anything like them. They were just -"
"Beautiful," I said quietly.
She looked over at me quickly.
"You, uhm - you said that," I muttered, looking down.
She didn't say anything for a moment. "Yeah," She said. "They are, but they were more than that. They were all so... unique, I guess is the word. And so different from anything else I'd ever seen, and exotic, and…" She shook her head, looking down. "I don't know, they just…"
I looked over at her. Her eyes were downcast and her hands were circling over each other.
"What?" I asked.
She closed her eyes for a second and looked up at me.
"They made me think of you," She said quietly.
I felt everything all at once. My blood rushing faster, the nerves in my hands and my lips singing, the closeness of her, the scent of her shampoo, flowers and musk and…
I swallowed and focused on her hands. Her fingertips were tracing the faint circle on her ring finger.
She looked up at me suddenly and let her hands drop to her sides.
"Sorry," She whispered.
I turned away from her and stared out the window. I felt sick. I ran my hands over my face and hair, breathing deep.
"I didn't …" She paused. "I didn't mean to…"
I didn't answer. Just stared out the window.
"I guess I should go," She said, her voice quiet. After a moment I heard her moving to the mattress, picking up the cake and napkins. I closed my eyes.
"I'll just, uhm - I'll just take the rest of this to the deputies," She said quietly. I nodded and turned around, my hands on my hips. She smiled depreciatingly and turned away -
"Liz," I said. She turned around.
I waved my hands at the cake. "Thanks," I muttered. "For, uhm -"
"Oh," She said quickly. "Sure. No problem."
"You, uhm - you probably shouldn't come back," I said slowly.
She bit down on her lip. "I know," She said carefully.
I frowned. "Does that mean you won't?"
Her eyes flickered up to mine, caught. "I don't know," She said slowly. "That depends."
"On how fast we can get you out of here," She said quietly.
"We?" I said suddenly. "What we?"
"We. Max and the rest of us. You didn't think we were going to just let you sit in here -"
"Liz, let them take care of it. Stay out of it."
"I'm not going to argue with you," She said quietly. "We think we know where the bones are, and tomorrow Max and the rest of them are going to try and - find them. Fix them. Something."
"Fix them? What does that mean?"
"Look, just - let us deal with it," She said. "Alright? Please?"
I scowled and shook my head. "Alright," I muttered. "On one condition."
"What," She said, frowning. "What?"
"That you keep yourself out of it," I snapped. "Okay?"
She stared at me. "And you'll be careful," She said. "In here. Right?"
I pursed my lips. "Fine. Deal."
"Good," She said briskly. "Deal." She stepped through the doorway and glanced back at me. "Are you gonna close the door?"
"In a sec," I said.
She smiled faintly and walked down the hallway. I heard her knock against the door and then bang harder when no one answered. After a minute I heard footsteps outside and the creak of the door. Seconds later the slam of the door resonated through the hallway.
This time, I didn't mind it as much.
I paced in my room. It was three o'clock.
I'd gotten up early and stayed by the phone most of the day. Whitaker had said she didn't need me in her office, although she didn't explain why. I didn't care. I just wanted someone to call and tell me that everything was okay, that they'd gotten the bones and hidden them somewhere, that Michael could come home…
I ran for the phone when it finally rang, pushing the buttons. "Hello," I said. "Hi. Hello?"
"It's me," Max said. "We did it."
"Oh my God," I whispered, smiling. "Max, that's - that's great! How did you -"
"I'll explain it later," He said. I could hear the smile in his voice. "Look - you think we could get together at the crashdown later? After you close?"
"Yeah," I said quickly. "Of course."
"Good. I'm on my way to Michael's."
"Oh," I said. "Wait, so… so he's already out?"
"Yeah," Max said. "Valenti released him about an hour ago. I'll see you later tonight."
I listened to the click and the sharp buzzing of the dial tone and sat down heavily on the bed.
He'd been out for an hour. And he hadn't called…
I put the receiver down slowly and paced around my room for a minute, stunned.
Aliens and humans. We don't mix, Liz. Not anymore -
I was so confused. He kept telling me one thing, and I kept feeling another, and he wasn't making any sense...
I wanted to talk to someone, and there was no one to talk to. No one who would understand…
I looked up suddenly. There was someone...
I reached for my jacket and walked out, closing the door behind me.
I knelt down on the soft grass and looked up. I hadn't been here in a long time. Not since she passed away, and even longer than that...
Everything from that tree, from the ash tree, it's - larger than life. It's unique. It's magic, Liz…
I turned the ring over in my hands, staring at the inscription, the eternity symbol on it. The words blurred together into a dark mark on the wood…
Promise me that you'll follow your heart. Wherever it takes you. Trust it…
I blinked, staring down at the ring. "I don't know where it's taking me anymore," I breathed. My hands were trembling. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do…"
Aliens and humans. We don't mix, Liz. Not anymore -
I closed my eyes, rubbing my fingertips over my eyes quickly, holding the ring in my hand.
One thing I can tell you....if it isn't complicated, he probably isn't a soul mate...
I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't think of anything else. I bit down on my lip and tried to say the words.
"Just - send me a sign," I whispered against my hands. "Please."
I held my breath.
I opened my eyes, looking up at the ash tree and then around me. Nothing different. I closed my eyes again and shook my head. Stupid. What were you expecting, a message?
I stood up quickly, brushing the dirt off my knees quickly, my breath coming in ragged breaths, the tears welling up in my eyes…
I stared up at the ash tree, framed against the blue of the sky. It was so big, bigger than I remembered it, its branches stretching wide over me. It was… comforting, somehow. I walked closer to it and sat down, my back against the trunk, touching the wood grain, tracing it with my fingertips…
I sat there until the sun went down and the stars came out, and nothing happened.
Nothing at all.
"So I thought if I could age the bones, it would totally take suspicion off Michael," Max said, smiling.
I looked up at him. He looked so relieved. So thankful it was over. I started to ask about maybe starting some training, starting to work on our powers together, and changed my mind. It didn't matter. He wouldn't listen. Besides, I was out of jail, and everyone was having fun…
I wondered where Liz was and smothered the thought.
"Thanks, Maxwell," I said. He smiled and tossed the knife over to me.
"Better sew the holes in your pockets, soldier," He said.
I stared up at him.
You're a soldier, Michael. You're the warrior. The protector. You have to know that if one of them comes after Max, you won't even hesitate to protect him -
I shook my head and stared down at the pizza. I hadn't seen Nasedo yet. Max said he hadn't showed up at Las Cruces. That was probably a message, I thought. Typical.
"Hey! What's the big celebration?"
I stared up at Courtney and immediately looked at Maria. What the hell? Maria was supposed to make sure she was gone -
"Uhm - tradition," Maria said quickly, smiling up at her. "School starts Monday. It's kind of like our last hurrah."
"Cool," She said, waiting for an invite. No one said anything.
"Well," She said. "See ya." She looked at me as she passed. "Hi, Michael."
I stared at her and then Maria. "Sorry," She said. "I didn't know that she was still here. I'm sorry."
"We gotta be more careful than that," I muttered, getting out of the booth and crossing to the counter, sitting down and flipping a pizza box open.
"Sooo," She said, leaning next to me and smiling. "I hear ex-cons are really great in bed."
I took a breath, trying not to shake my head. She wasn't listening. She hadn't listened all summer.
I didn't mean to humiliate her. I just wanted her to listen to me.
Even that didn't make her stop.
I was walking back home, turning the corner, when I saw Max. He looked happy.
"Hey," I said quietly, avoiding his gaze.
"Hey," He said. "Let me ask you a question. I know what you said...that things couldn't go back to the way they were..."
I looked away from him, turning to the window of the crashdown.
Michael was talking to Maria, his back turned to me. She didn't look happy. I took a breath and looked down at the ground.
"…but pretend they could," He said, stepping closer to me. "For just one second..."
I looked up at him, shaking my head slightly. Don't ask me. Please. You already know everything, Max…
"Could you and I go back, too?" He said quietly.
"I can't -" I looked up at him. "I can't pretend, Max."
He nodded slightly, his face suddenly sad, and I wanted to tell him I was sorry, that there was nothing I could do about loving Michael, that it was just -
He touched my arm gently, and I saw everything from last year, him kissing me in his apartment, the kiss at the end of the blind date, the way he looked at me...
And through all of it, I felt Michael, the intensity of his touch, the softness of his lips, the warmth of him sleeping next to me, the way he looked at me when he touched me -
"What?" Max asked.
I looked up at him, smiling in surprise.
He gave me the sign. Max gave me the sign I was looking for...
"Nothing," I whispered. "Good night."
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|