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A Single Vowel in the Metallic Silence
Reply to Elizabeth or visit her websiteSent to the Roswell Slash Archive December 19, 2000
Title: A Single Vowel In The Metallic Silence
Summary: Season Two (or Summer after Season One) speculation. Kyle knows all about the aliens. What changes will that bring?
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters; I just own the words of my story. The title of the story comes from a poem by Margaret Atwood.
Distribution: Please ask.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.
--from "Variations on the Word Love" by Margaret Atwood
Yesterday he leaned forward, breathing. He was careful to keep his head above his heart because he'd learned the hard way what happens if you don't. He rubbed the old scar on the left side of his scalp. Five stitches. It was an embarrassing way to start his high school football career--resting from a wind sprint, leaning too far forward, passing out and hitting cement. He got teased about it for weeks--until the season started and he scored three touchdowns in the second game. That's when Kyle Valenti, Star Athlete, was born--the beginning of the last reality that was particularly his.
Coach ended his recollection of past humiliations with a shout of "Gotta hustle! Hustle, Valenti! That's what it's all about. You see Dave over there?"
He nodded, still breathing hard. This is Dave's first year on the team and he is so eager to please that Kyle gets tired of being around him. All that hope is exhausting.
"4.2 on the 40," Coach told him. "You did 4.5. Suck it up Valenti, or you won't be starting this year."
He wanted to say 'Don't make promises you can't keep' but he just nodded and concentrated on pulling air into his lungs. Sweat dripped in his eyes and he wiped it away impatiently, wondering why Coach felt that the best way to motivate someone was to tell them how awful they were.
He was used to Coach though. "Coach" changed often--assistant coaches are a dime a dozen at high schools where football is a serious sport. They come, they holler, they leave to coach a team of their own. Kyle had been through four coaches over the two summers he'd been playing varsity football and he knew he'd outlast this one. The real Coach, the one that is too busy to attend summer practices, will show up the first week of September, only a few weeks away, braying and smelling like Old Spice and faded glory. The real Coach thinks his dad is a "stand-up guy" and will pull Kyle aside at least once during the season and ask him if his father can fix a parking ticket or a speeding ticket or maybe a DUI.
Beside him, Tommy had just finished the 40 and trotted back to what had become the end of the line. His chest heaved as he stood next to Kyle. "Shit," he said, and every syllable was punctuated with a wheeze. "I gotta quit smoking." Kyle nodded and shrugged. Tommy always said that and yet he always drove away after practice in his mom's station wagon, surrounded by a hazy cloud of smoke from Marlboro Reds.
His turn at the front of the line came around again. At the mark he pulled up and took a deep breath. He waited, knowing what would come next. He liked the fact that practice never held any real surprises.
Coach yelled and he ran.
His lungs worked. His heart pumped. His leg muscles screamed. He really wasn't thinking. For once, he wasn't thinking at all. Running is his freedom and yet he sucks at it--he isn't half as fast or half as good as most of the other guys on the team.
He stopped, the white line safely under his feet. He took a deep breath and looked towards the end of the field.
Coach slapped him on the back. "4.3! I knew you could do it."
Kyle wasn't really listening.
Across the field, the sun shone down on a person in the brown dead grass, a person who cast a shadow of gold. Kyle thought of the person that shadow belonged to and felt the gentle pressure of fingers on his wrist, felt questions and thoughts that he didn't know he'd considered in his mind. He walked to the end of the line and wondered if the shadow would still be there when practice was over. He was pretty sure that it would be.
One day late in June--almost July, but not quite, found him sitting in the Crashdown. He was included now, because of nearly dying and the knowledge that brought with it.
Max talked gloomily of destiny and choices, and Isabel looked pained. Tess looked fairly happy (by then Kyle realized that Tess was only happy if Max looked miserable, which in his opinion, didn't bode too well for any future the two of them might have), and Maria was there but it was obvious that she wanted to be somewhere else. Liz looked like she'd stubbed her toe or something, and Alex looked like he always does--slightly nervous, shooting frequent glances at Isabel. There was a lengthy discussion on what to do that involved Max and Tess arguing and lots of Max/Liz looks. Then Liz talked about how Tess's destiny compared to the destiny that Liz shared with Max (according to Liz, it didn't). Kyle was bored out of his mind.
But when Liz phoned him and told him they were all going to meet again and did he want to come (the hesitation in her voice meaning "Please say no"), he'd looked over at his dad who was so pathetically eager for news on the aliens that Kyle finally understood all the stories he'd heard about his grandfather and his obsession. All the talk about destiny was making him wonder if his destiny was simply to end up another victim of alien obsession. That made him nervous. But just for his dad, he said he would meet with the others -- and also to piss Liz off.
And so he went and met with them again. But he was sick of it. He was sick of the endless discussions of destiny and sick of hearing how "they" had to try to decide what to do next.
He interrupted one of Tess's speeches. He was also tired of always being told to sit next to her. "So, all this is your destiny, right? Everything you're talking about--the orbs and all that and flashes and whatever. The whole see-into-my-soul and save-the-universe shit."
Tess rolled her eyes. "Haven't you been listening?"
Isabel tilted her head in a movement that might have been acknowledgment. Michael's eyes met his for a moment. Max looked down at the table for a moment and then over at Liz. "Yes," he finally said. "Now we're trying to decide what to do about it."
Kyle forced himself to take a deep breath. No one ever said that aliens were supposed to be smart, after all. "Here's the thing. If all this is destiny--that means it's going to happen no matter what. You won't be able to change it, even if you want to. That's why it's called destiny and not choice." Max drew back as if someone had slapped him and Tess smiled, thinking that Kyle was on "her" side. Isabel gave him another politely blank look and glanced at Michael. Liz's eyes filled with tears. Alex stared at Isabel. Maria stared at Isabel for a moment and then got up and left. Michael just looked at him.
There was muted discussion (that was another thing that drove Kyle crazy--why, why, why did they always meet in the Crashdown? Wasn't having a meeting about alien destiny in public sort of a stupid idea?) and then everyone stood up and left.
Kyle continued to sit at the table and let himself gloat for a moment. After a while, Maria came over. "You sure know how to piss people off. You wanna hear the specials?"
He doesn't mind Maria at all. She isn't as pathetically deceitful as Liz is ("Kyle, what you saw...it wasn't what you thought you saw. Kyle, I just want to make sure that you aren't planning on talking to everyone. Kyle, you have to understand how important everything is. Don't you see what's at stake?") and Maria has made it pretty clear that she wants very little to do with aliens or anything related to them.
She told him the specials and he half-listened. He had just noticed that Michael hadn't left after all, was in the back of the cafe, working in the kitchen. He could see his gravity-defying hair through the window, caught the glint of Michael's gaze as it wandered over to him, watched him talking to Maria.
"I'll just take a soda," he told her. She nodded and walked over to the counter. He looked over at Michael who was still watching him. He turned his gaze back to Maria who was walking back towards him, and made sure that he leaned out and leered at her, just enough so that Michael could see him. Michael was easy to piss off and Kyle had so little fun left in his life--he had to take what he could get.
She placed his soda on the table. "You know, you really did upset Max and Liz and Isabel and -- who knows--maybe even Michael. This isn't easy for them."
"Oh boo-hoo," he told her with a smirk. "God forbid the creatures from the unknown should have any problems."
He could see the faintest hint of an answering smile in her eyes. Apparently Maria still hadn't entirely forgiven Michael for his declaration of "love."
After Max healed him, Kyle lay on the floor of the museum while his father busied himself with removing dead bodies and fretting over what would happen next. Maria and Alex stayed behind after the others left-Liz, of course, went too - she couldn't bear to let Max out of her sight. The two of them stood there talking. They weren't particularly quiet and Kyle figured they'd forgotten he was there. Alex had his arm around Maria and he told her "Don't worry, everything will be fine." Maria laughed. "Sure, Alex. Michael supposedly loves me. Loves me so much that he doesn't want me around. Oh yeah, things are looking up!"
Kyle finished his soda and after a while he broke down and ordered a piece of pie. As he ate, he listened to the crashing noises coming from inside the kitchen. Michael, it seemed, was either cleaning really hard, or was breaking all the dishes the Crashdown owned. He wondered if that would come out of Michael's paycheck.
Maria came back to ask him if he wanted anything else and he looked at the check for a second, wondering how a piece of pie and a soda could cost so much. He looked up to see Michael standing next to his table, wearing his extra-angry look.
He sighed. "Maria, your boyfriend is looking for you." He nodded at Michael. "Hey Lurch."
"He's not my boyfriend. He has destiny calling him. Right, Michael?" Maria's tone was honeyed and poisonous and she left the table. She didn't look at Michael and he didn't look at her.
Michael sat down in the booth across from him. Kyle shook his head in mock sadness. "Michael, Michael, Michael. You're just making friends left and right these days, aren't you?"
"Shut up," Michael said. "Just shut up. Don't come around here anymore and stop spouting off about things you don't understand. You're making things worse. A lot worse."
Kyle laughed. "Oh, ok--but I gotta tell you, this hurts. I mean, I really enjoy spending all this time with you. I'm going to be heartbroken if I can't listen to more tales of alien angst. But I understand. I mean, after all, *you're* telling me to go away." He paused. "Go to hell, Guerin. I don't care what you want or what you think."
Michael stiffened, his lips compressed into a thin line. His hand reached across the table and grabbed Kyle's wrist. "I swear, Valenti...."
Kyle thought he heard his fork hit the table, but the faint rippling tide of sound couldn't quite pierce the haze that filled his mind. When Max healed him he saw nothing but light and felt nothing but an end to pain. But when Michael touched him, he was pushed into something that stung his mind and made everything inside him shut down and open up at the same time, something that couldn't be and yet was.
He knew that the world was still going on around him, near him. He was still breathing, he was still *there*, inside the Crashdown. But behind his eyes and inside his head he had a picture show pressed into his brain and he couldn't leave it. He wouldn't and couldn't push the images away because the light he got and the feelings he got and the world he saw all belonged to someone else and it forced an understanding on him, it forced him to see. And he wanted to see.
When he was little, he had a View-Master and he would sit on the floor in the living room, place the viewer against his eyes, and click through pictures of Disney movies. The only light that reached him was filtered through something else and all the images in front of him were what he had to see because there was nowhere else to focus. Sometimes he would watch pictures until he started to feel fuzzy and out of focus himself, as if what he had been looking at had made him less real, and then he would push the viewer down and stare out the world, blinking and surprised.
What he saw with Michael was just like that, only more, an infinity of more. The click of it all was too fast but there was emotion and intensity behind the pictures and he felt the helpless and needy thrill of the voyeur, felt the call to understand someone better than he understood himself.
He saw a hand, Michael's hand, watched it lift into the air. He felt the idea behind that movement; felt that things had to change, that something had to be done. He saw light--blinding light, light so strong that it should have stung his eyes and made him turn away. But he looked right at the light and felt the force behind it. And then the light faded and realization hit--understanding hit. There was a wave of loathing and pleasure in the power that he held and behind the last lingering rays of light there were more pictures and he wanted to see them too, tried to push open his mind's eye as wide as he could.
He saw images of Michael's past, symbolic and real pictures of empty halls and desert and cold eyes. He felt pain blossoming from hands and heard words that brought weeping at first and then resignation later and then, at the end, felt the wish and hope that destiny merely means someone seeing who you really are.
There was a snap--as if his mind had reached the limit of all it could absorb and there was a sense of the outside world coming in, a sense of disbelief, of questions that were forming so quickly they couldn't be spoken and then the haze across his mind fell away as quickly as it had begun and he was back inside the world and outside of Michael's head. Kyle looked down at his hand, at the fingers that circled it. It was as if the light around him, near him had sharpened, focused. He was aware of the bones inside the fingers that held his wrist in place, he was aware of the skin that lay over those bones, he was aware of the feel of that skin against his own. Where those fingers touched pushed the memories of what he'd just seen and awareness radiated outward into him and onto Michael.
Michael's fingers moved off his wrist and he let out a noise that sounded almost like a sob. Kyle heard that above the din and noise of the Crashdown. He thought that maybe Michael was speaking. He thought that maybe he was saying something. He thought he heard something over and through what he was and what he'd always known himself and his life to be, something almost like a song. He didn't want to hear the melody.
He left the Crashdown and he did not go back. He didn't intend to ever go back. Maybe he was running from something. Maybe he was running from himself.
He didn't care, and he ran anyway.
One day in late July he shuffled his feet across the ground, not sure how to start a conversation. He ran into Liz strictly by chance--he was running and saw her, waved to her. He needed to talk to someone. He was waking up at night and in the morning feeling as if he was surprised to be where he was, who he was. He looked around and saw that no one was watching him or Liz, that no one was speculating on what they were doing together. He and Liz were old news in Roswell.
She was biting her lip and her eyes were slightly downcast. He used to think that was endearing. He took a deep breath, mumbled through pleasantries to her and with her and then got to the point. "When you were with Max...did you see things?"
Her eyes flew up to meet his and her expression was more than a little guarded. "Yes...I did."
They were sitting on the bleachers by the football field. It was the first time he and Liz had been alone in months. She'd come by his house after she'd left the desert, but it was only to thank his father and ask where Maria and Alex were. He'd stayed in the kitchen while Liz spoke to his father and felt the last of his feelings for her evaporate.
He swallowed and looked at the slowly browning grass of the field in front of him. "And was it...?"
Beside him, she shifted, her feet resting against the metal of the bleacher in front of her. "Intense. Yeah, it was. Did you..."
She meant, did you see anything of Max when he healed you? Did he see anything of you? Are you having dreams?
He did, he does. He still dreams of white light and confusion and exhilaration and sorrow. He dreams of uncaring eyes, an endless procession of them. He dreams of hands touching him, not with restraint, but with something infinitely more dangerous to himself and to maybe everyone else.
He kicked his feet against the bleachers and flinched a little at the noise. But the sound wiped away his recollection of memories that weren't his for a moment or two.
"Did you dream about Max?" she whispered and she sounded pained.
He looked at her for a moment, at her frightened eyes and her pleading expression. He thought about fingers around his wrist and the shock of afterwards, the way he sat at home telling himself he'd imagined it all and that it was no big deal.
"No," he told her. "It's just all that stupid talk about destiny...and how you and Max, you know, saw stuff...I was just wondering."
She sighed beside him and he went back to watching the grass die.
And then yesterday he'd decided to walk home after football practice. He thought he'd seen Michael standing at the end of the practice field as he ran endless sprints to nowhere. In fact, he was sure it was Michael. He'd know Michael anywhere. That thought scared him but he decide he wasn't going to think about it.
He was going to walk home because he'd had just enough time to convince himself that nothing was going on. That nothing had changed. That a little talk with Michael would just prove that.
He'd come out of the locker room and looked at the practice field without hesitation. It was almost a relief to finally turn his gaze to where it wanted to wander.
Michael was still there. Kyle walked past everyone, nodded and said "See you tomorrow" to Coach and walked back onto the field. He turned around once and watched his old world continue to revolve without him. It was kind of depressing to realize he wasn't the star of his old reality. He wondered if anyone noticed he'd left it.
Michael started talking as soon as Kyle was within earshot. "I don't like you. I never have." He took a deep breath after he spoke and Kyle watched as Michael's hands clenched into fists and then relaxed, a pattern that was repeated endlessly.
This, Kyle thought, *this* is what I was so worried about? Michael? I was crazy. "Well," he said, "that's sure gonna keep me up nights. But I guess I'll survive somehow. Glad we had this little talk. See ya."
He started to walk past Michael, but Michael's hand grabbed his arm and Kyle's first thought was "more." He was going to see more, know more, feel more and he wanted to. Around him the world turned and turned some more, spinning dizzily through space, and on its surface Kyle stared at Michael for an eternity. Just looking.
The hand that held his arm could soften its grip and slide down, over the bones in his wrist, wrap around his fingers, slide up and over to his chest and touch the faint scar left by a bullet. Those hands could rest over a spot that had once been silver and maybe turn it that color again. The mouth that twisted and frowned now could relax and open and there were promises resting in the throat it guarded and those eyes full of heat and fear could clear and focus and an eternity passed in only a moment and Kyle was still staring and Michael's hand hovered over his arm.
"What did you do to me?" Kyle meant to sound accusing and angry but instead his voice was filled with questions and wonder.
Michael shook his head and Kyle watched as Michael's hand moved convulsively, sliding down towards his wrists, hovering over his skin, fingertips just skimming the surface.
"Nothing," he finally said. "I didn't do anything."
Kyle pulled away from Michael and started walking across the field. He recited the stats from all of last season's games all the way home and remembered a long ago conversation with Liz when he walked in the front door.
When he and Liz were dating (Was it only last summer? It sometimes seems like a million years and another Kyle or two ago) he used to go to the Crashdown and wait while she closed up. Her father would count the money in the cash register, she would mop the floor, and he would sit and drink soda and wonder if she would finally let him do more than slide his hands over her shirt that night. Her father would tell him to have her home by eleven and go upstairs and he and Liz would leave.
Once, when he and Liz were walking to his car, he asked her why there was still a light on inside the Crashdown.
"Oh, it's just Jose," she told him. "He has to clean the grill and it takes a while. My dad gave him a key, so he locks up when he leaves."
He nodded because he didn't really care; he was just making conversation to fill in the silences that always seemed to need filling when he was around Liz. He didn't think anything of their conversation and he was surprised he remembered it. But it burst into his head as he walked through the front door after practice yesterday, so clear and strong that he thought he could smell Liz's perfume and he was sure that if he'd looked down he'd see her shyly smiling up at him. It was a shock to find himself standing in his front hall. He is sure that if he really wanted to, he could realize why he remembered that long-ago conversation.
He probably already knows why he did.
And now he is outside the Crashdown and he isn't running anymore. The lights that arc around the outside and the top of the diner are off. The lights are out inside as well, and he looks in the window and sees that all the chairs are neatly stacked on all the tables and it all looks so perfectly normal that he just stands and stares for a moment, wondering when he stopped noticing that Roswell hasn't changed at all, that all of the changes that he thought were around him have only taken place inside him. He shoves his hands into his pockets and walks around to the back of the diner.
The door has been propped open with a broken chair and a faint ribbon of light washes out onto the dead grass. He thinks he should maybe pause and take a deep breath, some sort of hesitation to mark the moment, but as he thinks it he is walking inside and now he stands in the deserted kitchen of the Crashdown. Michael doesn't look surprised at all. Michael walks over to him and leans in towards him and his gaze, his heavy and angry gaze, reminds Kyle of things he may have once dreamed about, may still dream about.
Maybe he once saw these things but maybe someone else did and maybe he can't tell where his own memories end and those that he (saw? felt?) begin. Maybe he doesn't really care.
Michael opens his mouth and Kyle watches the line of his jaw, watches the words as they shape and form. "What are you doing here?"
He takes a deep breath, pauses. His heart hammers in his chest and something inside him knows what he is going to say. Something inside him thinks that his words have just been waiting for their time. *Don't you know?*
He doesn't think he says it, doesn't think he wants to think it, doesn't think he wants to do anything but run back into the past where he knew who he was and he knew the role he had to play, where he almost liked the role he had to play.
He wants to run and run and maybe end up where he is now. Maybe he wants to lean forward. Maybe he wants to let his mouth whisper across Michael's ear. Maybe that terrifies him. And maybe he still wants to do it anyway. Maybe he does.
In front of him, Michael's eyes widen as what Kyle has said (thought? whispered?) drifts to him. His eyes, those strange dark human-alien eyes look at him and then...
And then his hand rests against Kyle's chest for a moment. Once there was a hole there, once there was a hole filled with lead, and it made Kyle gasp and struggle for air. Once he couldn't breathe and he knew what the sum of his life meant.
But the edges of the hole collapsed and disappeared and Kyle felt the world turning again and it's finally done turning and now he stands on the edge of the world and he is finally ready to move forward. There's a pause in the air and it's full of humming and static and it's just the way things should be at the beginning. It's time. And so he leans in towards Michael. It's what he wants to do, after all.
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