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Still Breathing

Reply to Jade Drofsny

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list September 14, 2004

Title: Still Breathing
Author: Jade Drofsny
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters
Rating: PG-13
Couples: Max/Michael
Chapter: 1 of 1
Archive: Yes
Summary: Sometimes Michael has trouble breathing.



I didn't hear you leave
I wonder how am I still here?
I don't want to move a thing
It might change my memory.

I am what I am
I'll do what I want
But I can't hide
I won't go
I won't sleep
I can't breathe
Until you're resting here with me.
I won't leave
I can't hide
I cannot be
Until you're resting here with me...

     -- Dido

      "We have to kill him, Max!"

      The stunned, hurt look on Max's face at Isabel's outburst almost made Michael relent his own position on the matter. Almost. He wanted Max to be right. He wanted to believe that everything was okay in their small world of Roswell. But the facts spoke for themselves. And not even Max, good and powerful and purposeful as he was, could change them.

      He was listening. Michael could see that. Max was listening to Isabel. If she said it, it was true. There was a twinge of pain in that, for Max never listened to him. He got a perverse satisfaction in adding his voice to Isabel's and overruling their fearless leader. Maybe for once, Max would listen. Maybe for once, Max would act.

      Isabel gave him a ride home, leaving Max to ponder their mutiny and their next step. They were both quiet for most of the ride. Michael, his ribs aching, didn't feel like talking. And Isabel felt that there was nothing left to say. They were both tense, both tired and both wondering what Max would do.

      She insisted on seeing him safely inside, a reversal of the usual rules, but then the usual rules didn't apply to them. And Isabel could take care of herself. He wasn't so sure about Max. Since the White Room and Agent Pierce, Max had become quieter, sadder, more distant from them....from him. And neither he nor Isabel really knew what to do about it. He pushed and jeered and bullied while Isabel offered quiet, unswerving support to all of Max's decisions....until tonight.

      "So, what are we going to do?" Michael asked as Isabel, in an uncharacteristic burst of domesticity, changed the sheets on his worn bed. Characteristically, she ignored him.

      "Get in," she said, her task done.

      He complied, pulling his shirt off and accepting her ministrations on his sore ribs.

      "Is...."

      "We're going to do whatever Max says," she replied firmly, pressing gently on his ribs, one last time, just to make sure.

      "What if..."

      "Let's not borrow more trouble, ok?" she snapped. "I think we've already had enough for tonight. Just get some rest. " With that, she slammed a cold glass of water on the table near the bed and headed for the door, turning to face him as she checked the lock. "Max may be cautious, but he's not a fool," Isabel said. "Just try some trust for once, ok?"

      Michael nodded, sighed and rolled over to sleep. He barely heard the door click shut and the rattle of Isabel trying to make sure that the lock was secure. Like that would stop a Skin. His dreams were filled with images of Max and Isabel frying before his eyes, dying mottled and gray like Nasedo. Turning to dust while he watched. And all the while, he stood helplessly by, one hand raised to ward off destruction. One hand that was not strong enough. One hand that could not save his friends, his family, his future.

********

      If he had his doubts about their ability to survive during the night, the morning filled him with even less confidence. He stopped by the Evans' house to check on Max and Isabel, only to find his fearless leader engaged in business as usual. As was his custom, Michael used the window as his entrance into the household. Max, busy organizing his schoolbooks for the day, didn't even turn around at the noise.

      "That's just great!," Michael said as he levered himself into the room.

      "What?"

      "Someone is breaking into your house and you don't even turn around to see who it is. I could have killed you!"

      "Michael," Max sighed, "don't you think I know what you sound like by now? I knew it was you."

      "So you say," Michael grumped, sitting on the bed and staring up at his fearless leader. "Well?"

      "Well, what?" Max seemed preoccupied with his history book and wouldn't look Michael in the eyes.

      "What are we going to do about Brody?"

      Max, whose shoulders already looked like they bore the weight of the world, slumped even further into himself. Keeping his head down and his eyes focused on his task of organizing books, he murmured, "Maybe we don't have to do anything."

      "YES we do! We do have to do something. And if you won't, then I will!" Jumping to his feet, Michael grabbed Max by the shoulders and shook him, forcing him to look up. "I'm not going to sit and wait until they come for us," Michael spat, "I'm going to get them first before they get us!"

      "Michael...."

      "Don't tell me to wait, because I won't. I'm going with you or without you," Michael stomped to the door of Max's room.

      Max was there before him. He barred his friend's exit and gripped Michael by the shoulders, pinning him with a worried stare. "We don't know for sure that Brody is a skin. We don't know for sure that he is out to get us. We don't know anything for sure."

      "Max, waiting until we're sure means waiting until we're dead!" Michael pushed Max away and began pacing. "I'm going to take care of it. You don't have to do anything."

      "No, Michael! If I can't convince you to wait, then I'll go and...and I'll take care of it," Max's voice faltered. He scooped up his books and prepared to start his day, the weight of two worlds on his shoulders.

      Michael watched his best friend, taking note of the gaunt features and haunted look. He sighed. There was always something slightly irresistible about Max. Michael moved to stand in the doorway, blocking the other boy's escape. Michael. Bigger. Stronger. Tougher. But inside....inside...he was soft. And wanting. And needing.....Max.

      "You're not going there," Michael pushed him firmly back into the room.

      "What?!"

      "You're not going," Michael repeated. "Because you can't kill. You won't kill. And if you don't...they'll kill you. And I won't let that happen."

      "Michael...." Max began.

      "Maxwell, you're all I've got. You and Isabel are my only family. And you...you're my only real friend. I can't lose that. I won't." Michael planted his feet firmly on the floor and crossed his arms, standing sentry at the door.

      "I'm going," Max's voice was filled with authority. "Isabel's right. Something has to be done. But killing someone.... Pierce was an accident. Something we couldn't control. But this...deliberately ending someone's life without knowing for sure why. That's wrong. I can't live knowing I made that happen."

      "Yes, you can. You can. Because you won't be doing it. I will."

      "Michael, we're connected. It's the same thing. If you kill, I kill."

      "No, Max, it's not. We're different. You're here to heal and I'm here to destroy."

      "No..." Max shook his head, placing his hands on Michael's shoulders, a caress of absolute denial.

      "It's okay. It's okay. I can handle it. I can handle it all...as long as you're all right. As long as you live and breathe...and don't hate me."

      "I could never do that." Emphatic denial. The leader, the brother, the friend, assuring Michael of their bond. "I could never, ever do that, no matter what happens, no matter what you do...or I do. Michael, I love you. You and Isabel and me, we're together, like one person, we're connected."

      "Then let me do what has to be done. For all of us."

      "No. Not alone. Never alone. I'm going with you. We'll do what needs to be done together."

      Michael stood between Max and the door, placing a restraining hand on his friend's chest. "Meaning we'll do whatever we have to?" he asked.

      Max sighed and looked his friend in the eye. "Yes."

      "Okay." Michael stepped aside, throwing a companionable arm around his friend as they left the house for the short walk to school. "Ready when you are, fearless leader."

      They walked in silence for a few moments, each contemplating the near future and their probable past. Max drew a deep breath of clean, earth air and turned to face his second-in-command. "Tonight. I'll meet you and Isabel across from the Center at 9:00 pm and we'll do....whatever needs to be done together."

      Michael nodded and started off in a direction away from school.

      "Hey!" Max yelled. "School, remember?"

      "Not if I can help it," Michael grinned and ran toward the Crashdown.

********

      Later that night....

      He couldn't believe it when Max used his powers on them. His secret powers. And broke his word. Max never broke his word. Except that one time, for Liz. All right, so Max was right and Brody wasn't really a threat. Maybe. And maybe just wasn't good enough where their lives were concerned.

      Worst of all, Max placed himself in danger. Again. And ignored Michael's advice. Again. And tried to get himself killed. Again. It had to stop. It had to stop now or Michael wouldn't be able to sleep, to breathe, to live. He was the fighter, but he couldn't fight the grief or fear clawing up his insides.

      He pushed the fear aside and held fast to anger as he catapulted himself through Max's window to pound some sense into his fearless leader once and for all.

      "What in the hell did you think you were doing?!"

      Max turned to identify the intruder, but he already knew who it was. He couldn't face another confrontation, so he tried reason. "Michael, it worked out all right."

      "That's not the point, Maxwell! The point is that you didn't know that when you went in WITHOUT ME and put your life and our existence at risk. Again."

      "It's my life."

      "No, it's not! It's not just your decision. It's not just you, it's all of us."

      "Michael, I'm so tired of fighting with you. I just can't talk about this right now. It's over, okay? It's done."

      "No, Max, it's not. It's not over. It'll never be over until we're home...or we're dead, whichever comes first. And the way you're going, my money's on dead."

      "Michael, please...please stop saying that. In the first place, this IS home."

      "No, it's not! It's not my home. I have no home here. And neither do you, really. Just what do you think Mom and Pop Evans would do if they found out their baby boy was an alien? Their baby boy and his sister. Huh?"

      "Michael, I know they're not really our parents. I know that we have another mother. But Mom and Dad have raised Isabel and me and they love us and we love them. We do have a home here. And I'm sorry you feel you don't. Isabel and I we're your family and you're ours. And Roswell is our home for now. Maybe forever. We don't know what's out there."

      "Max...."

      "And we don't know that what's out there will be any better than what we have here."

      "Yes, it will," Michael insisted. "It has to be. It has to be better. And you have to live to see it. That's what this is about."

      "No, Michael, this is about your paranoia and your rushing into things without thinking, without planning," Max explained. "It's dangerous!"

      "And healing Liz Parker wasn't dangerous?" It was an old question, an old wound.

      "Michael...."

      "You know it was! You knew it was dangerous. And you did it anyway. I couldn't stop you....I couldn't stop you from rushing in to do something that could have gotten you and all of us killed. Just like I couldn't stop you last night."

      Max sighed. When would his friend understand? "Michael, it was Liz. It was Liz and I couldn't just stand there and do nothing, no matter what the cost."

      "So now you know how I feel."

      "What?" In some inner core of his soul, Max knew exactly what Michael was saying, but he couldn't acknowledge the truth of it.

      "You know how I feel when I see you doing things that are dangerous, things that could get YOU killed. Things that could put you in another white room or worse. And I can't stand by and do nothing. I won't stand by and watch you die. You can't make me!" Michael was frantic with fear.

      Max stared at his friend, his brother, his second-in-command. His liquid eyes filled with tears. "Michael, I..."

      Michael's passionate, insistent mouth on his suddenly stilled all protest.

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