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Reply to GalePosted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 11, 2001
AUTHOR: Gale Dumont
SUMMARY: Alex, Kyle, and the beach, with a decidedly different ending than the last time.
ARCHIVE: American Pie; Guilty Pleasures, if Pilar wants; RSA. Anywhere else, please ask.
SOUNDTRACK: "Everything", Jill Phillips; "Sand And Water", Beth Nielsen Chapman. Really, just put those two on repeat.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For Bennie, who reminds me that just when I think I'm getting good at this UC stuff, I still need work. And for Livia, just because.
In the dream, you're at the beach. It's a warm summer day -- the kind New Mexico doesn't ever get, even on its best day. Probably the lack of cool blue waves and tall, leggy women in bikinis. There's no one else around as far as you can see; the sound of cars on the highway is soft, distant. Alone in the world, just the way you like it.
Just you and Alex, and the beach.
This never really happened, of course; New Mexico isn't really beach-friendly, and that one time you *did* go to California, when you were five, you didn't know Alex. The beach is real, and so is
Alex, but not the two together. Never concurrent. Maybe this is some weird new alien power you're developing. All lucid dreaming, all the time. Couldn't hurt. It would be better than those dreams you've been having lately, the ones with burning wreckage and the nagging sensation that what you're carrying for Tess isn't luggage.
But those dreams are unpleasant. They have no place here. So you forget them, and concentrate on other things.
"Kind of warm out today," Alex says, not looking up from his book. He's wearing shorts and a plain white t-shirt, dark sunglasses. You wonder, idly, if he has a headache. Maybe he should go in. All this sun can't be good for him --
Which is ridiculous. He's a guy, for chrissakes. He can take care of himself. He doesn't need anyone to baby him, least of all you.
"You're used to cooler weather than this," you say, and mentally smack yourself for saying anything so inane. "After Sweden, this must be like a sauna."
Alex turns his head to look at you. It's impossible to tell with the sunglasses, but he seems a little...sad. "I've never been to Sweden, Kyle."
"Nope. Never been outside the country." He moves as if to go back to his book, then turns to stare out at the water instead. "It's so pretty here."
You look out at the water, too. "Yeah," you say finally. "Yeah, it is. We should really go sometime."
He looks at you, and there's no mistaking the sadness in his expression this time. "You know I can't do that, Kyle."
And there it is again, that wrenching tug at something in the center of your chest. It isn't fair. He's not supposed to make you feel bad. You're supposed to be safe here, both of you, and he's ruining it. "Don't say that."
"Why not? It's the truth." He puts the book aside and takes off the sunglasses, putting them to the side. His motions are all very careful, like he's trying not to upset you.
Like he's trying not to upset you.
"Kyle --" he starts, speaking with the same slow, precise manner that he's using to move, and you suddenly want him to just shut the hell up. Please, Alex. Please just stop talking.
"No," you say, and look away from him, back out at the water. There are storm clouds rolling in, you realize; thick black ones, fat with rain. They're far off, but getting closer every minute.
You wish you weren't so far away from everyone else, now. There are no shelters to hide in, not even a car, and Alex can't get wet. You can get soaked through to the bone, washed away if that's what they want, but not Alex. Not again.
"Kyle," he says again, more urgently, "please. Please listen to me, okay? This is a dream --"
"I know that. What do you think I am, stupid?"
That makes him smile. "No," he says softly, tenderly. "No, not stupid. Just scared. And sometimes that's the same thing."
Oh, God. This is so much worse than when your mother left. She's still out there, you see. Maybe she has another family, another life -- maybe she's a lesbian living in Sacramento, or a rich man's mistress, or a research assistant -- but she's still --
-- alive. She's still alive. And Alex isn't.
"No," you say again. Your fingers clench helplessly.
He nods. "Yes," he says, still tender. "I'm dead, Kyle. Stop running from that. Please."
"I'm not running!" you burst out, and that's when you start yelling. Makes sense to yell here, after all; back in the real world, someone would hear and start to worry. But here it's just you and a dead man, so it's all right.
"I'm so tired of all this cryptic shit! A year ago, my life made sense. I was playing football, and basketball, and yeah, my dad paid more attention to Max than to me, but so what? I knew who I was. I knew what I was doing. And then I got shot, and everything got so goddamn fucked up. Nothing made sense. I was supposed to be dead, but I wasn't, and if I wasn't dead then what was I still doing here?
"So I found Buddha, and that made things a little better. I mean, it wasn't as good as having everything make sense again, but *that's* not going to happen, so you take what you can get, y'know? And it makes sense, kind of, to know that wanting things is the cause of suffering, so if you stop wanting, you stop suffering. Except that you don't. You just know *why* you feel terrible. It doesn't do a damn thing to stop it.
"I wanted Liz, and Max took her away from me. Except that he didn't. I know that now. I'm not angry about that anymore -- okay, yeah, I am, but I get it. They're...for each other, in some weird wordless way that has nothing to do with me, and it makes Liz happy, so good for them. I wanted Tess, and Max took *her* away from me, too. Except that he didn't. She made her choice, and the rest of us have to pay for it. Everything she did, all because she *wanted*..." You drop down onto the sand and look at Alex. His expression is unreadable again. "He knocked her up, you know that? Tess. Nobody's talked to Liz in a week, not even Maria. I think we're all scared to."
"I know," he says gently.
You take a deep breath and look at him again. "And I wanted you, and now you're dead."
He smiles at this. "So...what? You think I'm dead because some higher power decided to punish you for something?"
It sounds a little stupid when he puts it like that. You fold your arms over your chest. "Well. Yeah."
He laughs and looks back at the water. "Idiot," he says, but you know he's teasing. "Kyle, I'm dead because Tess was mindwarping me, the same way she was mindwarping pretty much everyone. My brain happened to give out under the strain, and I died. Simple as that. It wasn't punishment. It wasn't deliberate. It just happened."
"That doesn't excuse what she did."
His tone hardens. "No, it doesn't. And if there is such a thing as a cosmic balance system, it'll make sure Tess is paid back, don't worry. She's got too much to make up for."
"That doesn't make it fair, either."
"No. It doesn't." He looks back at you. "It wasn't punishment, Kyle," he says again. "And it wasn't one-sided."
Did your heart just stop beating, for a second?
No. Couldn't be. You're not that lucky.
The clouds are starting to break up, you realize. The sun's coming out again. About time.
"Kyle..." He stops for a minute, then points a few yards over to your right. "Look. Look at that."
Where there was nothing but bare beach a few moments ago, there are now people. You recognize them, of course. They're your people now. Good or bad, they're yours.
Isabel's lying on a towel, Ray-Bans firmly in place, wearing...well, technically you could call it a bikini, you suppose. Maria's in a one-piece with a sarong around her waist, trying to drag Michael toward the water; Michael's not having any of it, and has firmly planted himself in the sand. Liz and Max are sitting and talking very quietly. She's smiling and looks comfortable around him for the first time in months, which is good.
Alex smiles at them. "My friends," he says, and there's no mistaking the love in his voice. "I used to think that we'd get to do something cool after we graduated, y'know? A road trip or something, somewhere they didn't use 'alien' as noun *and* verb. It would have been so great..." Then he shrugs a little nervously, like he forgot you were there. "Can't happen now, I guess, but that doesn't mean I can't say goodbye my way. Quietly. No loud production numbers. Just...just a nice day at the beach."
"Not goodbye," you say, feeling so damn helpless. "Don't say that, Alex. Please don't say that."
He starts to speak, glances over at you, stops. "Not goodbye, then," he says finally. "Good travels. Keep warm, pack lightly, that sort of thing --"
" -- and you'll see us when we get there?"
Alex grins. "Well, them. I'm not too sure about you, Valenti." That earns him a whack on the shoulder, but he doesn't mind. He's still grinning.
"Some days, I'm not too sure about myself."
Alex climbs to his feet and puts his book in his bag -- a backpack, you notice, the camping kind, designed to carry a lot of stuff for long distances. It looks pretty full, but that's okay. You're in there somewhere, probably a lot of places, and that makes the ache in your chest ease up a little. Not go away -- it's never going to go away entirely; you know that now -- but fade to a whisper. And you can live with a whisper.
"C'mon," he says, holding out a hand to help you up. "I've got a few other people to talk to tonight. Can't wait around for you forever, Valenti."
"Would you?" He looks at you, puzzled, and you add, "Would you have waited around for me?"
Fond amusement this time. "If you'd asked. And even if you hadn't."
You want to say something but don't. You're not sure your throat is up to the task. You take his hand instead and get up, then use your other hand to brush sand off your butt. The two of you start towards the others. They haven't noticed you yet, but that's okay. There's plenty of time for that. There's plenty of time for a lot of things, here.
And, still holding Alex's hand, you make your way toward your friends.
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