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A Dream Towards Waking

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Posted to the Roswell Slash list August 19,2000

Title: A Dream Towards Waking
Author: Ivy English
Rating: R
Category: Tess/Liz
Distribution: Please ask
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine
Feedback: Is very much desired and always appreciated.



There is some dream about you even now Which I'll not hear at waking. ~Bilhana, "Black Marigolds"

It has been two weeks, ten hours, and five minutes since The Day.

She knows the days because she marks them, meticulously and solemnly, on a calendar, drawing large red x's through each small square. She's not sure if she's counting toward or away, and she supposes it doesn't really matter. There's no difference, not anymore.

The calendar has photographs of America's Beauty. June displays a desert, the sand red and rippling, with rocky peaks that jut up against the sun-streaked horizon. It's beautiful, and it's empty, and it reminds her of everything that her life is- was- is supposed to be.

Beautiful. Empty.

She wanted that once. She wanted it in the way that one wants the only thing they've ever known, they only thing they've known to feel. Is that what her destiny really is? A pretty dream, devoid of all substance?

Is that all she is? Beautiful? Empty?

It scares her that she can't tell. It scares her that she feels what she does. It scares her that one person could so easily shatter the pretty dream she spent ten years building, ten years believing.

It scares her that she wouldn't care.

Nasedo calls her once a day. She counts down to that call, too. It's the only time the phone ever rings, the only time any noise echoes through the vast empty house he left her in. When she answers, he asks, unfailingly, Is there anything to report?

As though her life- their lives- were nothing more than a story on the evening news.

So far, her answer has always been no. And then he pauses, and asks almost hesitantly, Do you need anything?

She says no to that question, too, but it's a harder no to say. What she needs he can't give her. What she needs he can't understand. Another silence will follow, and then he hangs up. No good- byes, for he is beyond such human formalities.

Tess must not be, because she always whispers a farewell into the dead line, before setting the receiver gently in its cradle.

***

The days have a rhythm to them, and it's almost comforting.

She goes to school, and keeps to herself. At lunch, she eats with Max and Michael and Isabel. They have given her inclusion, hesitantly but resolutely, into their lives, and it seems like she should be happy. But she feels nothing. They talk of the orbs and the message and look at her strangely when she doesn't join in. And then she'll open her mouth and try to speak, try to pretend that she's been listening, but nothing comes out.

That scares her, too. It scares her because she's never had problems with lies before. She's always been able to act the part, to be who and what she needed to be. If she can't do that- what will happen to her? Who is she? Is there anything left beneath the layers of deception and false illusion?

Sometimes, Max or Isabel or both will ask her to dinner. Sometimes, she accepts, even though she knows they ask her only out of pity. They can't imagine going home to silence and emptiness. They can't imagine being alone. Tess wants to scoff at this- she's been alone, after all, her whole life- but the truth is (truth being a new thing she's trying out rather wonderingly) she is lonely. So she goes to their warm, comfortable house and eats warm, comfortable meals with their warm, comfortable parents, and it gives her something to bring back home with her to help her through the long nights- although it, too, is not what she wants.

Every third night, she indulges herself.

Every third night, she eats at the Crashdown. She sits in a corner booth and orders cherry cola and a meal, and she watches Liz glide from table to table, smiling and laughing and easily balancing plates and glasses as she banters with the customers. Sometimes Maria is working, too, but Tess doesn't notice her much. Her eyes are too entranced with Liz.

This is what she wants. This is who she wants. She can't deny it anymore, not to herself, and it's getting harder to keep it silenced and inside. She's not even sure she wants to.

*****

How did it happen? Tess wonders, sometimes. She came to Roswell with thoughts only of Max, her body and her desires still trembling from dreams that left her gasping and shaking when she woke from them, her ears echoing with Nasedo's words and instructions and warnings. She went to school that first day filled with anticipation and resolve. Then she'd seen them.

In the hallway, their arms wrapped around each other, his forehead resting on hers- it took her a moment to recognize her Max, gazing into the eyes of another girl. It was strange to see his face, the face that had haunted her dreams for so many nights, for the first time. It felt like a memory. It felt like a premonition. Then her eyes had drifted to the girl.

What had she seen? There shouldn't have been anything that set Liz apart from the dozens of angelic, shiny over-achievers she'd known in her other schools. Liz was too bland. Liz was too polished, too self-contained, too controlled. She was a human, for Christssakes. She was pretty, but there was nothing in her brown hair or small frame that lifted her to the realm of stunning. Really, Tess thinks, there was nothing, and she repeats this to herself like a prayer.

But that's a lie, and she's given those up. She knows exactly what it was. She recalls the precise moment she knew that she could never go back, that her dream would never be the same. Standing in that hallway, watching the saccharine display of affection, she'd seen Max's eyes thoroughly fixated on Liz, his entire countenance spelling out his every thought.

Liz, at first glance, had appeared no different. But when Tess looked again, wondering what it was about this human that Max found so thoroughly endearing, she saw Liz's eyes slide a little to the left, and for a brief instant, they changed. And what Tess saw in that moment- it spoke volumes, and it told her nothing. She knew only that there was nothing ordinary about this girl, and nothing simple, and that it was something no one else had ever seen.

But she'd seen it.

She'd seen the fire flicker through Liz's eyes in that moment. After, she felt dizzy and her blood seemed to burn as it coursed through her veins, and every time she closed her eyes, she saw the fire again. When Tess slept that night, she didn't dream of a desert cliff or Max's body on hers. She dreamed of Liz.

And in the dream, the fire in her eyes never went out. In the dream, it spilled over and consumed them both.

*****

Max looks at her differently now.

He wants to understand her. He asks her questions and she gives him vague answers, knowing that he is trying to break her down into small, manageable pieces that he can assimilate and define. She doesn't want to be defined, for there is a fire within her, as well, and it's something she's not sure he can ever understand.

More days pass. More x's fill her calendar. When June is half-filled, school ends, and the days that follow are long and endless.

Sometimes she thinks she should answer Max's questions, let him see her as he wants to. The old dream is still within her reach- it wouldn't take too much for her to believe in it again. These are the thoughts she has in the part of the day when the sun is the brightest and the shadows disappear. In that part of the day, there's nowhere to hide.

*****

Look at Max. Look only at Max. Follow the Plan.

Open head, insert lurid vision. Watch his eyes glaze over, and feel nothing but grim satisfaction.

She hadn't lost her touch.

Then she made the mistake of looking at Liz- she knows... she suspects... she's hurt...

No.

Look at Max... only at Max...

Follow Max in your car.

Wait for him to come out of the Crashdown...

She watched him hold Liz, watched him whisper words to her. Tess felt the flames teasing her skin, enticing her, drawing her closer.

No.

Look at Max look at Max look at Max.

He kissed her, and she felt nothing.

It doesn't matter. This is how it's supposed to be. This is what is meant to be. You don't have a choice. You never did.

Liz stood before her at her house, her hair hanging dark and loose. Tess opened the door, invited her inside.

"We need to talk."

"About what?"

"Have you ever been in love, Tess?"

For the briefest second, her throat had gone dry.

Lies are your friend, Tess. They always have been.

So she lied.

"The two of us should just, you know, talk about it and get it out in the open."

Tess knows lies well enough to know when she's being lied to, and Liz is lying to her now. It doesn't bother her. She is past feeling, past caring. She is a numb, empty vehicle of Destiny.

And yet... she can't help herself.

"And I like Isabel, but I like you. And the last thing I want to do is wreck that."

Funny how the truth can come is so many different forms. Which truth will Liz see?

When she manages to sufficiently regain control and recover her senses, Tess can observe Liz with some impartiality. She sees that Liz's cool, controlled composure hasn't cracked. Her voice hasn't betrayed a hint of what she feels.

Why does she do it? Why does she lock it all inside?

Maybe she's saving it. Maybe she only needs the right person to help her let it out.

Tess wants to see the cracks. She wants to help create them. She wants... oh, she wants so many things. But it's never been about what she wants, has it?

But she dreams of Liz again that night, and in her dreams, she sees all the hidden parts of Liz that no one else has thought to seek.

*****

She has grown so used the sameness of the days that it feels strange when her routine is disrupted.

She was awakened from sleep that morning by the phone. It was Max, and he wanted to see her. Alone.

They haven't been alone since The Day. She's not sure they have anything to say to each other. Max still wants Liz; she can see it in his eyes. What does he want from her?

They drive out to the desert, to a place she's never been before. "It's the old highway," he tells her when she asks where they are. "I brought Liz here once. It was the first time we did anything fun and spontaneous, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. And then a wild horse ran into the road, and I crashed the Jeep, and we ended up in the midst of another crisis."

"Which was?"

"I was knocked unconscious. At the hospital, they took my blood. They had to switch my blood with Alex's- it was before he knew the truth. But he did it anyway, because he believed in Liz. Then I made her lie to him again. I felt terrible about that."

That doesn't surprise her. Max is always trying to control things, and then feeling terrible about it. She thinks, in the moments when she recalls vague breaths of memory of another life, that he was always like that. It's what made him such a wonderful leader, and a less-than-ideal husband.

"That's how the woman- Topolsky- found out?"

Max nods. "Liz and Alex were the ones to expose her. Although-" he shakes his head. "Turns out not to have made a difference. They still found us. They still...." his voice trails off.

"It's okay," Tess says. "Nasedo is good at what he does. They won't find us again."

He looks at her then, and pulls the Jeep off to the side of the road. "I still don't know you," he says. "Why don't I know you?"

Tess looks away. "Nobody knows me."

"I want to." Tess turns to him. No, she realizes, he doesn't. He wants to understand her- and that's a very different thing.

But it doesn't matter.

Like she's said, like she's known all along, it's not her choice.

"Okay," Tess says dully. Max takes her face in his hands, and she lets him kiss her, and she pretends to enjoy kissing him back. But again, she feels nothing but resigned acceptance.

This is what is meant to be.

This is what I deserve.

But she doesn't pretend to herself that she's happy. Her thoughts are not with Max. Her thoughts are with someone else, and she'd almost feel guilty if not for the fact that she knows his thoughts are focused on the same person.

They break away at the same time. Max is looking at her with the same expression he'd worn the last time they'd kissed, shock, confusion, and muted horror distorting his features. "Liz," he breathes, and it takes her a moment to realize what lies behind the shock, confusion, and fear.

She'd slipped. She'd erred. Nasedo was right to warn her of the dangers of frugal emotions, and what they inevitably did to one's judgement.

She'd forgotten about the flashes.

Tess looks away. "So you know." She gets out of the Jeep and begins to walk. She doesn't know where she's going, and she doesn't care, she just has to get away from him, from that kiss, from that life she doesn't want. But he gets out and follows her.

She's weak. She can't even run, can't even make a valiant effort to get away. She lets him catch up to her, and when he grabs her arm, she stops.

"I don't understand, Tess." She can see that he really doesn't, and it's driving him mad. She almost feels sorry for him.

"Now you know me," she says quietly. "More than anyone else, anyway."

"Does she know?"

"Of course she doesn't. I'm not like you, Max. I don't let my personal feelings cloud my judgement." Oh, the lies, they're coming back now, just in time. It's so tempting to slide beneath their soft warm weight, to let them cover her, hide her.

"Why?" he asks. "If this is how you feel... why go to all the extremes? Why go after me so determinedly?"

Tess carefully disentangles her arm from his slack fingers. "I don't know," she says. "Because I was supposed to... because we didn't have a choice... I don't know."

She doesn't know anything. Not anymore.

They stand there for a long time, looking at each other. The midmorning sun is shining brightly, raining down on them, and his face is framed and backlit by the blazing glare. Looking at him for too long, like that, makes her eyes ache. There is too much of him, and she realizes that he's the same man he once was. He's a good person, worthy of love. He could grow to care for her, and it would be all right.

But maybe she's the one who's not the same. Because it wouldn't be enough for her, no matter how many lies she told herself, or how much she tried to mold herself to the part. She doesn't want her life to be shaped by Max. In that life, she'd never be happy, and her happiness- something she never used to give any thought- is suddenly terribly important to her.

Some part of her thoughts must have been clear in her eyes, because he nodded. She could see his acceptance, and it wasn't bitter. It wasn't angry. It simply was.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. And she is. She's sorry things can't be different, for all of them. She's sorry that her pretty dream wasn't enough to hold them, that it couldn't be real.

"I know," he says. "I'm sorry, too." He touches her arms then, lightly, and she nods, and steps into his embrace. She sheds some tears, for Max, for herself, for a history they can't repeat.

It just isn't meant to be.

When she steps back, she can smile.

So can he.

Together, they walk back to the Jeep, and then he drives back to Roswell. When they reach her house, he pulls into the driveway, and then looks at her hesitantly. "Liz won't talk to me."

Tess nods slowly. "I'm sorry."

"Don' t be. When she walked away from me, I think... I think I knew it was the way it had to be. I'm not what she needs. I never have been." Max's eyes are very intent now, and Tess is almost uncomfortable under his gaze. "Before she knew the truth, when I used to just watch her, I always thought that she seemed to exist in a different universe than the rest of the world. There was everyone, and there was Liz. I used to want to be able to reach that universe with her. But I never did- I only pulled her out of it, and into this world. And she can never be truly happy here." Max shifts his eyes to the steering wheel, but not before Tess sees the pain in them. "I want her, but more than that, I- I want her to be happy."

"I'm not sure I understand, Max."

He looks at her again. "The first time I saw you, I thought the same thing."

She doesn't know what to say. She manages an "oh" and then puts her hand on the door handle. Max places a hand on her arm, stopping her from getting out.

"Talk to her," he says, his dark eyes glittering.

Tess nods shakily, and then springs from the Jeep, racing inside. From the front window, she watches him drive off. There are tears in her eyes, but she doesn't wipe them away.

Talk to her.

She walks to the kitchen and makes herself a sandwich. She sits at the kitchen table and eats it, not tasting a single bite.

Talk to her.

When she finishes eating, she pours herself a glass of milk. Looks around the interior of the house and thinks that she really needs to move, to find somewhere smaller to live.

Talk to her.

Maybe she can talk to the Sheriff about helping her sell the house. Nasedo won't care. These material items are, to him, merely props. They mean nothing to her, either, but for a different reason.

Talk to her.

Finally, she listens to the voice in her head.

Maybe...maybe she will.

*****

But she doesn't get a chance, because later that night, the doorbell rings, and it's Liz. She would have called it fate, if she still believed in such things.

"Liz," she says, the surprise reverberating in her voice.

Liz looks at her steadily. "Can I come in?"

"Sure."

"Thanks. Um, we need to talk."

The conversation has already begun to echo the one they'd had the last time Liz came here. Tess closes the door behind them and watches Liz move uncertainly around the room. She seems filled with a strange nervous energy that makes it impossible for her to remain still. Tess has never seen her like this before.

"About what?"

Liz finally stops her restless pacing and faces Tess. "That thing you can do... that mind control thing... have you been doing it to me?"

Tess blinks. "What? Liz, what are you talking about?"

Liz's mouth moves silently for a moment. "I've been having dreams," she says finally. Her voice is lower than usual, almost choked. "I need to know if you're making me have them."

"Dreams about what?" Tess asks, but a part of her already knows the answer.

Liz looks away. "You," she whispers.

Tess is stunned. She doesn't know how to respond. Liz looks at her again, and Tess's amazement increases when she sees the fire raging in Liz's eyes. Her face is flushed, and strands of hair have escaped from her ponytail. There is a wildness to her, spilling out of the cracks of her control.

The cracks are there, she can see them. They exist because Liz has been dreaming about her.

Liz has been dreaming about her. Her mind is still stuck on that part of it.

Have Liz's dreams been the same as hers? She wants to ask, but she doesn't. Liz is still waiting for an answer. But Tess still can't speak.

"Look," Liz says shakily. "If it's you, I just- I just need you to stop. Making me have them, I mean."

Tess is trembling. She nods, still unable to speak. She knows she hasn't been giving Liz dreams- not even she can do things like that.

They stand silently for several long moments. Tess can scarcely breathe. She wants to take it back- wants to tell Liz she had nothing to do with the dreams- wants to tell Liz she's had them too. But she can't, because she's too afraid of what it means, of what it will do.

But she doesn't want it to end like this. She doesn't want Liz to leave, hating her even more.

"Can I get you anything?" she asks quietly.

Liz slowly shakes her head. "No, I- I should go." But she doesn't turn to leave. She doesn't move at all.

Tess sees so much in her eyes. She wants to drown in them, to tear down the final vestiges of control and let everything that is Liz wash over her, and cleanse her of the past. She wants to begin again, to be a new Tess, a Tess shaped by Liz's small hands. She wants their lives to be shaped together, into one.

She wants it so much that she aches. But she settles for goodbye.

Liz nods at her farewell. "Bye, Tess." She takes a few steps towards the door, and stops. "Wait."

Tess waits.

Liz blinks, as though she's surprised herself by turning back. "You said before that you wanted to be friends."

Tess nods.

"Did you mean it?"

Tess looks at her seriously. "Yes. I did."

A faint smile appears on Liz's face. "Maybe we can do that, then." She pauses. "Be friends." The fire is dancing now, playfully, the flames darting out to whisper on her skin and then fade away at the last moment, before they can touch her.

Tess smiles. "Yeah," she says. "I'd like that."

Liz nods. "So would I."

Tess walks her to the door, because she's no longer afraid. Before she leaves, Liz shocks her by giving her a brief, fierce hug that's over before Tess has even realized that it happened, and then she races down the driveway to her car. "I'll call you tomorrow!" Liz shouts over her shoulder, and waves as she drives away, grinning like a child.

*****

When she sleeps that night, she dreams of Liz. Only this time, the dreams aren't something she has to wake up from.

This time, the dreams linger over into waking.

THE END

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