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If I Could Stir

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Posted to the Roswell Slash list October 4, 2000

Author: Ivy English
Rating: R
Category: Tess/Liz
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, etc.
Dedication: For Ash Jay, and all her delectable awesomeness.



If I could break you
I could break a tree.

If I could stir
I could break a tree-
I could break you.
~H.D. "Garden"

*~*~*~*~*

Even when she's gone, I can still see her.

Poets are always waxing about love and beauty, as though they were synonymous. Hear anything enough, see anything enough, and you'll begin to believe it. I did.

I can't say that I love her. That's something too distant for me to grasp, too large for my simple human mind to comprehend. Love- I think- is too all-encompassing to ever really be understood, least of all by those who claim to be in it.

That's like, I don't know, trying to see your reflection from inside the mirror.

It just doesn't work.

But I do know this- together, we are nothing less than beautiful.

*~*~*~*~*

I don't ask how it happened, and I rarely think about it. When I do, I can't see all of it; instead of a neatly plotted memory, complete with exposition, character development, climax, and all the things that follow, I have only fragments of thought and touch and sensation and feeling, none of it quite matching up, like pieces from a dozen different jigsaw puzzles all come together into one confused jumble.

When I think of how it began, I close my eyes and see her. I can always see her.

But there is no character development, not in our story. We are not characters, and we do not develop. If anything, I believe I've regressed. I have become the child who spends her day in wait of one precious moment, the child who eats her dinner to get to dessert. I have, essentially, effectively, become one-dimensional.

When I stood before Max that day in the cave and heard him say those words, the but you mean everything to me, the line that would have had most girls melting and trembling, I wanted to laugh. I am sixteen years old, and despite what I'd told him in the van the night before, I was not in love. Despite the precariousness of our existence, despite everything that I'd seen in the past year, despite all of it, I didn't believe it possible to exist for one person. Least of all him. Least of all me.

I should have known better than to condemn him so quickly. The Fates, it would seem, like nothing better than to turn these things around on us, to make us offenders of the very same sins we rail against. I exist for her now, for the moment she slips through my window, for the calm that settles over me the instant her hands touch mine.

*~*~*~*~*

I should have hated her. I should have hated her. Shouldn't I have hated her?

I think I could have been happy with Max, had she not entered the picture. He loves me, he idolizes me, he would do anything for me. How could I not be happy with that?

I wasn't, though. Happy, that is. But I was content, and for most people, that's as good as it gets.

And then she came-

I say this to Maria as we're closing up one night, and she nods understandingly. "Everything was going so well," Maria says, "until she came, and everything-"

"Changed," I finish for her, my voice dreamy and distant.

"Yeah," she agrees, not noticing my tone. "Everything changed. And frankly, I hate it."

I don't.

If I told Maria the truth- the urge to laugh strikes again. Tell Maria? Maria is more enamored with meandMax than I am. Hell, Maria is more enamored with Max than I'll ever be. She might not know it, but Michael didn't miss her efforts to shape him into a Max-replica, and neither did I. Perhaps we'd all be better off, I think, if only Maria had been the one shot in the Crashdown that day.

I don't say this to her, because she is still my best friend even if she doesn't know a thing about the person I've become, but Michael's decision to leave her had nothing to do with Pierce, or Tess, or any supposed destiny.

There are many things I don't say these days. I can't. Silence is my only defense.

It's easier to keep quiet than I thought it would be, and in some ways that's no surprise. I'm good at keeping things hidden, at keeping myself hidden.

I have to be. I've been doing it for years.

So I simply smile at Maria, a sweet innocent Liz Parker smile of perfection, and nod my false agreement. "It's probably for the best, though," I say, with perfect Liz Parker optimism. "I mean, we always knew it couldn't work." I pat her reassuringly on the back and tell her that I'll finish closing up, because it's late and the time is near and I'm getting anxious and antsy and I don't want to see Maria right now. If she stays much longer, I'll start to resent her presence, I'll start to hate her hair that is blonde like hers but nothing like hers, not even close to being like hers, and the moment I lose that control, it's all over.

*~*~*~*~*

I'm sitting in bed when she arrives, and I'm reading a book, as though I haven't been waiting. As though my body hasn't started shaking with anticipation, several times, forcing me to close my eyes and inhale deep lungfuls of stale summer air until I've regained control. I'm pretending for no one, because she knows as well as I do that I haven't been reading, that my mind has been wholly fixed on her arrival.

I envy that assurance.

I know she wants me, or she wouldn't be here. That much is patently obvious. But how we feel about each other- that isn't something we talk about. We don't have the luxury of forcing answers from each other, not when those answers will most likely be things neither one of us wants to hear.

Despite that, I can't help but feel that the balance in our relationship (if it can even be called that- perhaps torrid, scandalous, disreputable affair would be a better choice of nouns and adjectives, though it all depends on how you look at it) is decidedly tilted in her direction.

She sits at the foot of my bed, her hand resting lightly on my quilt-covered leg. I want to throw the quilt off- I'm only beneath it, really, because I didn't bother with clothes after my shower, and this desert town gets cold at night- and I want to pull her down beside me and feel her tremble with the suddenness of it. But I don't, and I won't, because that would be indecorous, and Liz Parker is not indecorous. Old habits die hard.

"Hey," she says, smiling at me. I feel my heartbeat pick up, just a little, and then a little more when her hand slides even higher. I'm cursing the quilt now, and my grandmother for making it, which, I should think, proves beyond a doubt how far gone I am.

"I missed you," she says, and I momentarily forget my raging hormones. We don't say things like that, and it isn't that I don't want to, or that I don't think them. But putting the thoughts to real, spoken words- that's a boundary I've never dared cross.

I never expected her to cross it. Not first.

"Oh," I say, intelligently, because those four little words have rendered me virtually speechless.

And then she's sidling up the bed towards me, and her words aren't the only things leaving me speechless.

Before her, I'd kissed only two people- well, three really, but the one time with Michael was a mere transgression, a slip borne of curiosity and sexual tension the night he returned my journal. It never happened again; Michael made sure of that.

Michael's unusual blend of arrogance and wounded-puppy charm made him the best of the three- Max's kisses were constantly interrupted with declarations of my perfection and don't ever leave me's, while Kyle, rather startlingly, tended to prefer hugs and cuddling to making out. But even Michael, for all his rebel-boy appeal, has nothing, absolutely nothing, on Tess. Her touch, the sureness of her hands, the way her mouth feels on my lips, my skin- nothing can compare to it. I suspect- I fear- that nothing ever will.

Her lips leave mine to travel to my neck, and I close my eyes, gasping slightly.

My hands reach out to cup her face, and she raises her eyes to look at me. She smiles again, and I smile back this time, fighting the rising waves of emotion and desire. It's tempting, and alluring, to give in and float with the tide, but I know the smallest shift of the wind could make me drown. "Tess..."

Tess, Tess, Tess- I could whisper her name a thousand times and never tire of it; I love the way it sounds falling from my tongue. I love the way she says my name, the way she whispers it into my ear and then my mouth. They sound alike, I think, short and simple and monosyllabic. They both can sound remarkably like a hiss if you say them just so-

She kills my train of thought by pulling back the quilt. When she sees that I'm unclothed, she raises a slender eyebrow, a light smirk touching her lips. "Well," she says. "This certainly makes my job easier."

I nod, the nervousness waning as the hormones take control again. "I guess I missed you too," I tell her, reaching out to lightly touch the edges of her shirt. She takes the hint and pulls it off, then slides under the quilt next to me. I reach for her, but she stops me, catching my hand in hers and regarding me with a solemn look.

This is different. We don't do this, we don't stare into each other's eyes or cuddle or whisper words of affection; we might hold each other, but only after.

For it is sex with us, plain and simple, and neither of us tries to pretty it up and say we're making love. I despise that term. It drips of romance and flowers and high school poetry. Making love is what I would have called it had I slept with Max, because sex with Max would have been all about candles and declarations of love and exploding stars- or that's what we would have pretended. In reality, of course, sex is never any of those things, and it would have been nervous and fumbling and awkward and uncomfortable and I sincerely doubt any pleasure would have been had- on my part, that is.

Pleasure, for guys, is a sickeningly easy thing to achieve.

I can't complain, though, because I've never had problems obtaining pleasure, not with her, not even the first time. I'm a girl, she's a girl- so to speak- and that simplifies the equation, I suppose.

I don't know what's different about tonight, what lies behind the look or the way her hands are gently stroking my arms. I don't know and I don't want it. I'm too close to the edge already; the moment this becomes something more than sex- at least, on the surface- I'll fall. And she won't be there to catch me. She'll be with Max.

That's something we don't talk about. Max.

It's not a good subject.

He thinks I don't know that he's with her, because a part of him still believes, or wants to believe, that I'll come back to him and he can pretend he's human and safe. Doesn't he understand that I don't want human, that I gave up safe a long time ago? Doesn't he realize that the alien was all that drew me to him, that it was the only hope he had of keeping my affections?

Of course he doesn't. And I let him keep his hope, his lies. I'm living in a labyrinth of lies these days, you see.

Now that I've started thinking about Max, I can't stop, and it's doing a hell of a job of killing the mood. The words are out of my mouth before I can snatch them back and stuff them down. "Did you see Max today?"

She blinks, her blue eyes registering surprise. I've never asked her about Max before. She draws her hand away, and the sudden loss of warmth is something of a shock.

"Yes," she says, calmly. "I see him every day. You know that."

"Yeah," I say. "I do." I roll over onto my back and stare at the ceiling. I hate her. I do. I hate the force she has on me and I hate that she makes me feel things I didn't know I had it in me to feel and I hate that she's opened me up to sides of myself I'd probably be better off never knowing about. I hate that I want her, so much that it reduces me to this. I hate that I love her, and I hate that she doesn't love me back enough to give up on Max and destiny, that she can't see the things that are right in front of her eyes.

I hate her.

I hate her.

I love her.

Damn it.

This is why I don't think when I'm with her.

"Liz?"

The moment she says my name, I know I've lost. There was a battle here and I hadn't even known it, I still don't know what it was for, but I know without a doubt that I have lost, that I am lost. Perhaps I never had a chance, perhaps this has been a mere exercise of mind control for her- it's a thought that's crossed my mind more than once.

I realize I don't care.

I roll over until we're facing each other, shoulder to shoulder, and she's smiling again, like she can see what I'm thinking, and maybe she can. The skin of her stomach is warm against the palm of my hand; I trace a few light circles and then slide my hands up. Her eyes are closed now. I've never done this before, I've never made the first move, I always leave that up to her. I feel too much and worry too much to be the aggressor. I find that I like it. It feels- intense. She murmurs something that I can't quite make out and pulls me down against her, and I don't feel quite so lost anymore. I feel strong.

"It doesn't matter," I say, kissing her, and I don't know what I'm referring to. Max? The situation? The senselessness of all love, but most of all the unrequited variety? It's a poetic thought and one well worth contemplating-

Her mouth leaves mine and her hands push me back against the bed, none-too-gently (I guess my time as the dominating vixen is up) and then her lips are traveling down my neck, over my collarbone and then lower still-

Contemplation, it seems, will have to wait.

*~*~*~*~*

I'm still awake when the first weak grey lights of morning streak their way feebly through the sky; Tess is curled up, cat-like, around my body. She always sleeps after, though I seldom do. She sleeps restlessly, shifting, tossing, making soft content mewling noises in the back of her throat and stretching her hands like claws. It's indescribably feline, and unbelievably endearing. In sleep, she seems almost innocent.

Soon, I know, she'll wake. She'll smile at me, her usually sharp eyes softened at the edges. She'll kiss me before she leaves, and I'll watch her go, because I'm a masochist at heart. (Aren't we all?) How could I sleep? How could I miss that moment? For the rest of the day, it's all I will have.

I've never stopped her, never asked her to stay. It's another of those silent rules, another sticky thread in the tangled web we've woven around us.

And that's why I do nothing, why I only watch her go, why I let her go to Max. If I could stir from this bed, if I simply reached out my hand to stop her- I don't know what she'd do.

There's always the chance that she'd stay. That she'd crumble and weep and tell me between breathless kisses that yes, this is what she wants, this is what she's wanted all along.

That is, of course, the lovely romance-novel version.

Regardless, it is a possibility.

There's also a chance that she'd do nothing, only gently disentangle her arm from my grip and leave as she always does, perhaps giving me one soft, pitying look on the way out.

I could handle that. It's not what I want- but I could take it.

And then there's the chance that I'll go too far, and she won't come back.

*~*~*~*~*

I'm slowly wiping a rag across a table in the Crashdown, thinking (as I always do) of her, when I see Max striding towards me with a purposeful air. But then, Max always looks purposeful, and earnest. It would be part of his charm, if he had any.

"Max," I say, continuing to scrub the table, though it's far past clean. "What's up?" I fervently hope that he's not here to beg and grovel; I honestly don't know what I'll do if he is.

"We're having a meeting," he says gravely. "At the reservoir. This afternoon."

"We?"

"The six of us."

In other words, Tess won't be there.

In other words, this "meeting" is about her.

"What time?" I ask, trying to keep my voice level. Calm.

"Three. Is that all right? Can you get off of work?"

If the meeting is about Tess- I don't want to know what that means. I know they still don't trust her, not that this has stopped Max from courting her in what he considers to be a proper, gentlemanly manner.

Not that it would stop him from going to her in the night and filling her ears with his cries of pleasure- if she'd let him.

She doesn't, of course. The nights are saved for me.

I try not to smile, because Max is looking at me, waiting for my answer.

"Three's fine," I tell him, tossing the dishrag from one hand to the other. He nods, but he doesn't leave. I move to another table and begin to fill a basin with dirty dishes, hoping he'll take the hint and leave. He doesn't- but then, he never was good at subtlety.

"Liz-"

"I'm kinda busy, Max," I tell him, sweeping past him into the kitchen.

I can feel his eyes follow me, and I know he's still looking long after I've disappeared from view.

*~*~*~*~*

Beneath a glaringly, impossibly blue sky stand the six of us, with enough sexual tension vibrating between us to power a small town for a week.

Actually, the tension is all theirs. I'm sitting, not standing, drawing circles in the sand that mirror the circles I draw on her skin every night. I know without looking that Max is watching me, and I know that logic dictates that I should at least pretend to give a damn, but I simply can't work up the motivation to listen.

It's much more entertaining to watch them. To watch them pointedly ignore each other and yet still manage to make their desires plainly obvious- these are my friends, the people I know best, but I don't recognize any of them.

Are they the ones who've changed? Or is it only me? Maybe they've always been like this, and I've just never been able to see it.

"I don't trust her," Michael is saying when I finally tune in. I barely resist the urge to roll my eyes; how many times have we heard that one?

"I don't, either," Isabel says softly, her voice less certain than Michael's. Regardless... she's not going to change her mind, I can see that.

"You know how I feel," Maria mutters.

"I think she's still controlling my mind," Max says somberly. What? "She said she wasn't going to do it anymore- but she must be, because I'm still seeing the fantasies." He allows a note of pathetic pleading to enter his voice at the end, as though he thinks it'll help his case.

"Fantasies," I say, a little too loudly. They all look at me; it's the first thing I've said since we started. I think they'd forgotten I was there.

They don't get it. They blame Tess and call it distrust; they hate her for, as Maria'd said, bringing change, or so they think.

But it wasn't change she brought, not exactly.

She simply revealed some things, opened us up to truths we'd learned to ignore, to things about ourselves we'd learned to hide.

And while I'd embraced the sudden freedom, they just wanted to keep hiding.

"Fantasies," I repeat, my voice rising. They're staring at me now, and I like it. I smile slowly as I stand up. "And when do you see those fantasies, Max? When you're cramming your tongue down her throat in the Jeep? Or when you're alone at night, kicking at the walls in sexual frustration?"

Shock. Disbelief. Oh, this is fun. I've crossed a line, I think, some delicate, invisible line, and there's no going back.

"Liz," Max says, his voice strangled. "I don't-"

"Don't what, Max? Oh. Right. I'm not supposed to know about that." I pause, my smile widening. "Whoops." I begin to laugh, and it echoes out over the edge of the canyon and sinks down to the water below. "I know everything, see. Have you asked her why she won't come to you at night, why she won't let you act out those little 'fantasies' of yours? Maybe you should, Max, maybe you should. She's a lot better at truth than you are."

I pause. This is my big moment, and I've got a rapt audience at my disposal. "But since she isn't here," I say, giddily, choking back a laugh, "I'll tell you." I pause again, for dramatic effect. "She's with me, Max. Every night." A giggle escapes, and so do my last shreds of lucidity and control. "Doing all those things you wish she'd do to you." I begin to advance, and Michael and Isabel step back, but Max doesn't move. "Why don't you kiss me, Max, kiss me, and maybe you'll get a flash of it, and then you can have it all, sweet safe little human me and all the sex you can dream of, all wrapped up in one." I reach him, and I don't kiss him, of course I don't kiss him, I begin to flail at him instead. I hit him, but not very effectively, because I'm convulsing with hysterical laughter.

It takes the four of them- Michael, Isabel, Maria and Alex- to subdue me. Max can only stand silently, slack-jawed with shock.

I try not to laugh too loudly at that. It isn't his fault.

Exactly.

I tear away from their restraining arms and head for the road. I'll make the five-mile journey back to Roswell on my own, and when night falls I'll be in my room. I know she'll find out what I've done, of course she'll find out.

Isn't that partly why I'd done it?

I don't know if she'll come.

But I'll be waiting.

*~*~*~*~*

I'm putting the finishing touches on a picture of her when she finally comes; it's a horrible drawing, the dimensions and perspective completely distorted and disfigured, but I can't help but be pleased by it. I never used to draw, before.

She enters my room and sits down, wordlessly, on my bed. I don't look up. I erase a line, redraw it, erase again. It's not going to come out right, I realize, and I realize at the same time that it doesn't matter, that the imperfection is what I like about it.

"You're late," I say, finally looking up. She's regarding me solemnly, her eyes glittering in the dim light from the lamp by my bed.

"I was waiting for Max to leave," she says, and I tense. "He came to see me. He was very-" She pauses. "Upset."

Upset. I try not to smile, imagining Max. Even in the midst of utter devastation, he'd only be- upset.

"So you know, then," I say, putting my sketchpad down. She glances down at the picture and smiles.

"Of course I know," she says, looking back up at me. "How was it?"

"It was interesting," I say, smiling softly, looking away for a moment. When I look back at her she's tracing circles on my quilt. The same circles. "Are you upset?"

"Upset?" Her hand stills. "Why would I be upset?"

"But I thought-"

She takes my hand. "Don't think, Liz."

"But you wanted Max," I whisper. "That's why we kept this a secret, why you were with him during the day-"

"Was it?" Her thumb is stroking my hand.

Tracing circles.

"That's not what I wanted," she whispers, smiling. "That's what you wanted."

I don't know how to respond to that. That wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to be with her-

"I'm glad you told them," she continues, and I realize that she's serious. "I was wondering when you would. I knew you were different, you know." Her hand slides up my arm, leaving a trail of electric warmth. "Max was too... easy."

Easy.

"But you- I thought I'd finally found a challenge."

A challenge. My mind's spinning.

"I wasn't sure, though. And I had to be sure. That's why I stayed with Max. But it wasn't ever about Max, Liz. It was about you." She pauses, and moves a little closer to me. "Max is- he's broken, you know. You broke him."

I still can't speak. "Oh," I whisper. The clever, multi-purpose response.

"Don't worry," she says softly, smiling. "He'll get over it. He'll be fine. It had to happen, it was going to happen either way. I would have done it, if I had to. Now he can move on."

"And what happens to us?"

She smiles. She looks so happy, and though I'm still not completely sure what's just happened here, I'm happy too.

"Whatever we want," she says, leaning in to kiss me. She pulls back again, breathlessly, and touches my cheek. I'm reminded of last night, and this morning, of those softer, sentimental moments that we'd shared. They make sense to me now. This was meant to happen, I needed to fall.

She'd broken me, you see. But in the process, she'd made me strong, and I'd been able to put myself back together.

"I'm glad," she whispers, "I'm glad I met my match." She's waiting, I realize, for me. I have to tell her, to accept this, to admit that I want it. To complete the circle.

"I'm glad, too," I tell her. And then I'm kissing her, pushing her back against the bed, pinning her down.

She'd broken me, and I think she could break me again, if she wanted to. I'll never leave her. I'm sure of it. There's just something about her-

But I think- maybe- I could break her, too.

THE END

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