Disclaimer: Still don't own anything.
Distribution: Guilty Pleasures and the RSA. All others please ask first.
Characters: L/T, M/K, L/Ma, T/I, L/Mi
Author's Note/Summary: 5 vignettes on what might (or even should) have been going on under the surface of HoM. Some involve the same people and thus are mutually exclusive. Pick your own favorite version. ;) For "Second Best" it helps to have read my other Liz/Maria fics "First Kiss" and "First Time", but it's not essential. Thank you hah and Bennie.
Feedback: Yes please. Even short notes mean a lot to me. I accept constructive as well as positive remarks.
Answering Destiny's Call
What made me think I could get away with loving someone I wasn't supposed to love? Someone with a destiny?
Maybe it was because it seemed my beloved had chosen to ignore that Destiny in order to be with me. It made me overconfident-- I thought I had cheated Fate. Love had truly conquered all.
Last week I saw the person I loved in the arms of their pre-destined mate. I suddenly realized how much I'd been fooling myself, how blind I had been to the realities of the situation. Things had been going so well, I had forgotten about memory retrieval.
But now they were remembering, and I knew that the day would come when those two would remember the love they had once shared for each other. And I would be left alone; I would lose my beloved to a past and a future I could not share.
I knew it was coming, but it still hurt beyond words to find them finally together. I saw them kissing at the prom. There it was, the harsh cold reality. They had finally heeded the siren call of Destiny.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak. All I could do was react -- get the hell out of there as quickly as I could. A litany of sorrow and betrayal ran through my head, words I would never be able to say aloud.
How could they? More specifically, how could *she*??
She knew I loved her.
I thought she loved me.
Secrets and Lies
You know, it really sucks to have to keep a secret in this town. It's so rinky-dink, everyone knows everyone else. So you gotta work twice as hard to hide things.
Things like Max.
Yeah, we've been together for a while now, but neither of us is really interested in sharing that tidbit with anyone. Life in the locker room would be hell for me if it got out that my Friday nights consisted of making out with Max Evans. And he's not too keen on being known as the first queer king of his planet.
So tonight, when Maria suggested that I was gay, I had to cut her off and shut her up as quickly as possible. Not that I managed to say anything more intelligent than "No. No." Real swift, I know. But it seemed to satisfy her anyway.
Of course, Max chose that moment to walk in, and I just couldn't help myself. My head turned involuntarily to look. Damn. He looked so hot in that tux. Fortunately, Maria seemed to be watching him talk to Liz, or she probably would have seen right through me and known my earlier "No" was a lie. She's flighty, not stupid.
On the other hand, Evans and I *were* able to sneak in a moment together right under everyone's nose. Being guys made a convenient excuse for us to stand side-by-side in the back row while Maria's cousin took the group photo. We managed to sneak a glance at each other -- I only hope to hell that wasn't the moment Sean snapped the picture.
We've gotten pretty good at hiding what's going on. Not just by stealing secret moments. We also still make a point of acting semi-hostile around each other -- we glare at each other, or at least make some snarky remarks when other people are watching. It's what people expect of us.
But I just couldn't maintain the facade when I saw him sitting there on the bench by himself at the prom. What the hell happened? He looked so beaten, and it just killed me to see him so low. I wanted to go talk to him, but Tess beat me to it. She told me to leave, and what could I do? I couldn't exactly tell her that he needed me right then, could I?
And he couldn't ask me to stay, either.
You know, it used to be kind of a game, to see how well we could keep things hidden.
I'm not sure I want to play any more.
For months now, Maria and I have had an agreement.
When we're not dating anyone else, we'll be together.
Sounds kind of like a cop-out, but it works really well. It means never having to worry about being alone. It means having a guaranteed person to kiss for New Years, or someone to share your bed when you need it.
We started our pact after we slept together for the first time last October. Maria was hurting from Michael's betrayal with Courtney, and I had just made Max hate me. We decided the hell with it, we didn't need either of them. We could provide for each other a lot better than either guy could manage.
But, just in case, we left a loophole. If either one of us found someone else, then she and I would cool it down for as long as the other relationship lasted. But nothing better came up for a long, long time, and I began to feel like we might never have to be separated. She knew me so well, and I her. I knew her thoughts, her feelings, and her body.
Maria and Michael started to get closer again, and for a little while I was afraid I would have to give her up. I have to admit I was selfishly glad when he bailed on the Prom; it meant I could share the special evening with her. I helped Maria get ready, and it was like we were the couple going, even if no one knew it but us. Putting the flowers in her hair wasn't the same as giving her a corsage, but it felt like it to me.
No, it seemed like nothing would come between us, and that loophole was unnecessary.
When Maria announced at the dance "we're a couple now", I thought my heart would burst with happiness. I never thought I'd hear her say it out loud, to acknowledge that what we were seemed to be growing more permanent. It wasn't the transitory thing we had first started with. She said it in front of Michael, too, as if to prove the point.
And then, not ten seconds later, my world crashed down. The lure of Michael in a suit was apparently stronger than anything she felt for me. It apparently meant more to her than the previous six months we'd spent in each others' arms, in each other's hearts.
Before I knew what was happening, I was left alone on the dance floor.
Maria had been my first kiss. She had been my first time. But it seemed I was still only second best.
What happened? How did I get to this point? So many small, seemingly insignificant steps have brought me here. "Here" being in Max's arms, under Max's lips.
I should have been with Isabel.
All my life I'd been told I'd be with Max. But he didn't do anything for me. Isabel did. Last year, when I first moved here, we just clicked. I felt a chemistry with her I had never felt for anyone. I certainly didn't expect it.
It didn't take long for us to become a couple. All during that long summer and into the fall we were together. She was everything to me. And that bond saved my life.
How else could she have heard me cry out when Whittaker kidnapped me? Nothing but the strength of our love could have boosted my plea that far or allowed her to receive my message. She heard me and she found me and she held me.
And that's when it all started to fall apart.
Only a victim of violent attack can know the scars it leaves behind. Long after my visible wounds had healed, I was still all torn up on the inside. I could no longer bear to have Isabel touch me. When she held me close, I only saw Whittaker holding me down. When Isabel tried to caress me, I remembered the Senator's fist. So I pulled away.
Said I needed to heal. It didn't seem like much at the time.
Defeating the Skins a few months later made me feel a lot better. I was almost ready to return to Isabel's open arms when Lonnie and Rath kidnapped me in New York. They permitted Nicholas to do more of his mind-rape, and it set me back. Worse than before. How could I possibly let anyone in again? Rationally, I suppose I knew Isabel would never do anything so awful, but I couldn't shake my fears. So, instead of accepting her comfort and love, I stayed away.
I spent more time with Max. Max was safe. He didn't push any of my buttons. No emotions for him, no threat for me.
I watched Isabel turn to Alex. Skinny, nerdy Alex whom she had always shunned. I should have acted then, stepped up and told Isabel that she didn't need Alex -- that I would accept the touch of her lips and hands and heart again. But fear held me back.
What if I wasn't really ready?
So I kept silent. Kept silent as she got Alex to take her to the Prom. Kept silent as she swept by in that gorgeous low-cut dress, as if she were flaunting the breasts I used to touch, making sure I knew what I was missing.
And that's when it hit me. My God. What had I done? I had given up something more precious than the Granolith -- the love of my true soulmate.
So that's why when Max said he remembered our first kiss and leaned in to demonstrate, I let him. I was in too much shock and grief to protest. It didn't matter anyway. Nothing mattered. I had made my choices long ago -- wrong choices.
And now it was time to pay the consequences.
Man In Black
When I saw him, he took my breath away. Wow. It's a good thing I don't love him for his usual fashion sense, considering his penchant for paisley shirts and ratty T's. Yet here he was, dressed head to toe in sleek black, looking like a million bucks.
My jaw dropped and I'm afraid I drooled.
But then I snapped my mouth shut and tore my eyes away. Maria. He was here for Maria. Not for me. We had agreed that he should take her, and that I should go with Max, to make everything look normal.
It was my idea. It was even my idea that he take some dancing lessons. That didn't make it any easier to restrain myself when he finally showed up.
But I saw the glint in his eye as he looked in my direction, throwing glances over the top of Maria's head as she ran to confront him. And I knew I would be getting a visitor to my balcony tonight after the dance.
I wondered if I could find a moment to persuade him to keep the suit on for me.
I was already imagining how much fun it would be to strip all that black off of him.
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