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Aftershocks

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Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list January 29, 2001

Title: Aftershocks (1/1?)
Author: Northlight
email: temporary_blue@yahoo.ca
Summary: Maria's changed, Liz is dealing - or not.
Rating: I've been reading dark and/or smutty stuff for so long I think my self-ratings have been permanently thrown off. PG13, maybe?
Distribution: If I've said yes before, take it. If not, ask and I'll say yes. Eventually, "http://www.geocities.com/northlight12/ros.html"
Disclaimer: WB and 20thC Fox with various others.
Date: Jan. 27, 2001.
Note: This fic was supposed to be... different (and have an actual ending). But none of the characters were cooperating and, well, lets just say it wasn't pretty. I don't even know if any slash content can be seen in here... *sigh*



Maria came back different. It wasn't anything Liz could name, but her Maria had been gently shuffled aside at some point to allow room for a slightly different shade of Maria. Liz Parker turned one of the brightest minds in Roswell towards her best friend, as if observation and a careful mental dissection would spill out Maria's secrets, neat and compartmentalized and easily digestible.

Glossy photos spilled out across the freshly scrubbed counter in the Crashdown, and Maria was suddenly more the other-Maria than the Maria-who-was. She sat next to Liz, one elbow on the counter, blonde head resting against her hand. She took each picture in hand, careful, gripping the edges, pads of her fingers avoiding the image's surface. She looked at them each in turn, smiled, distant and lost, before passing the photo to Liz.

It took a conscious decision on Liz's part not to smear her fingers across the surface, not to twitch her fingers and crumple the visual record of the birth of the not-quite-Maria who had returned to Roswell. Liz's smile felt stiff and fake and her Maria would have noticed and demanded and laughed and cared until Liz told her what she felt. The first picture held Maria and another young woman: hair such a bright red it had to be dye, wide grin exposing slightly crooked teeth and a tanned arm flung around Maria's shoulder.

"That's Cricket," Maria said, and Liz felt like crying, laughing, _something_. 'Cricket?' incredulous, disdainful. That odd looking girl with her grin and hair and name and how could Maria be smiling? For a minute, Liz nearly hated _Cricket_ with an intensity reserved until that point for evil aliens and government organizations with murder, torture and dismemberment firmly fixed in mind. Liz reminded herself that she was mature and reasonable. She picked through her reaction, thorough and critical. Jealous? Yes. Was there reason to be? No. She was here, and Cricket was not and she was Maria's best friend, always, forever, and take _that_, you _bitch_! Mature, reasonable, she reminded herself.

Liz found words that sounded appropriate, tested them against her lips before letting them fall. "She looks nice," polite and happy for Maria and her pleasant vacation and new friend -- and were those cracks forming in her cheeks, drawn tight with her frozen smile?

Maria was laughing. "Yeah, she's great! I wish you were there, Liz. You'd have loved her! We had such an awesome time. Cricket showed me around town, we went to museums, and clubbing and to so many festivals and parades that I just about drowned on cultural diversity. She even taught me some French, although Cricket says my accent is atrocious, but it'll probably improve if I keep at it. I'll practice over the phone with her, and next time I see her in person--"

Smile and nod, smile and nod. "Wow, that's so cool, Maria!"

"Yeah," Maria sighed suddenly. "I miss her already, Lizzy."

Swallow. Breath. Smile. "You have me," Liz said.

Maria's eyes were different, sometimes, since she had come back home. They were her other-eyes when she looked at Liz, as if she were thinking and feeling things that Liz could never possibly comprehend. Maria was bubbly and open, and Liz knew everything about her, even the things Maria didn't want her to know. And Liz couldn't understand what she was seeing in Maria's eyes right now.

"Yeah, yeah, I do," Maria replied, herself again as she leaned over and hugged Liz.

...~*~...

New-Maria did things that Liz's Maria hadn't.

They changed together in the back of the Crashdown, and Maria's eyes were wild things, scuttling between Liz and everything else. The blonde shook off Liz's concerned hand. "Maria?"

"I'm okay, Liz. I'm good." She stood, pulling her uniform closed across her chest. She smiled new-Maria's smile, stepped back, turned and fled. The bathroom door slammed shut behind her retreating back.

The memory of tears clung to Maria when she joined Liz behind the counter, the familiar weight of trays falling into their hands. "Sorry for that," she shrugged, apologetic, "I'm a bit off today. Didn't get much sleep last night."

And it wasn't okay, because familiar-Maria wouldn't have acted like this and Liz would have known what was wrong and what to do with her Maria. "It's okay," Liz answered, because she knew enough of this Maria to know that the other woman didn't want her to push.

Max was in his regular booth, and Liz settled a cherry cola and the day's special in front of him. Noise thundered around Liz, a nearly physical blow. She could feel impatience and hunger thick and oily against her skin. She was a good girl, dutiful and polite and a professional even when dealing with irritable customers and their wailing children. Liz ignored her customers, leaned in towards Max. His eyes widened slightly, tongue wet and quick against his bottom lip. "Does Maria seem... different to you?"

Max blinked, shook off his disappointed expectations. "Different how?"

Breath hissed out from between Liz's pursed lips. "Different, Max. Just different."

His eyebrow quirked. "You're asking me? I haven't exactly talked to her since she's been back. And you know her better than I ever will, Liz." A pause as his alien mind, seeped in suspicion and fear and the torture that still rang through his dreams, flipped through all the possibilities implicit in Liz's question. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." And maybe it was nothing. Maybe they were just growing up, growing apart, becoming the adults they had waited their entire lives to become. Maybe she was just imagining this new-Maria with all her strange quirks and moods and glances. Liz turned away from Max, walked away.

...~*~...

Michael had been old-Maria's passion. She'd loved him, maybe. She had certainly lusted after him. He had been that first, passionate romance that romance novels, movies and television shows had told them was awaiting all deserving young women. Liz thought that Michael certainly didn't deserve Maria. But she had kept that thought to herself, because all considered, Maria with Michael was... safe.

Liz opened her bedroom door to find Maria standing there, admitted by Mrs. Parker. Maria's eyes were red rimmed, her full lower lip trembling. "Oh, Lizzy!" and her face was buried in the curve of Liz's neck and shoulder.

"What happened?" Liz gasped, wrapped her arms around Maria and held her tight and close.

Maria sniffled, pulled away so that she could see Liz's face. She nudged Liz's door shut with her foot. Still holding onto each other, they shuffled towards Liz's bed where they settled down at its foot. "I broke up with Michael."

Liz's thought process momentarily stuttered to a stop. "Why?" she managed to gasp out, because Maria had been clinging and pleading and needing Michael for so long that Liz had thought her friend would never let go of him.

"I had a lot of time to think this summer. Cricket, she pointed some things out to me that I'd refused to see before then. We're always finding something or _someone_ to keep us apart, or on edge, or at odds. And it doesn't feel good or peaceful, and Cricket reminded me what it's like to just have fun and not be worrying about Michael. I came back home with that peace and freedom still strong in my mind, and I just couldn't stand the thought of falling back into pattern with Michael."

"But..." Liz had to struggle to remember how to breath. "The two of you, you were so..." floundered, unwilling to speak the lie as much as Liz willed herself to state it. "I'm just so surprised, Maria. Cricket," she choked on the name, "doesn't even know Michael, I don't see where she can come off saying--" Maria was looking at her, and Liz cut off her protests.

Maria patted at Liz's hand. "Strangely enough, I thought of the two of us, I'd be the one who was more upset."

"I'm just sorry that things didn't work out like you hoped," Liz managed.

The bed shifted as Maria fell back into the mattress. Liz watched for a moment, flushed and closed her eyes as present and past met. She remembered she and Maria, young, before Max and Michael, aliens and fear and lies. Liz remembered the heat of Maria's body, curled next to her own, the strength of the sobs that tore through her body. They lay together and Liz had felt her world narrow and expand and she had hurt for Maria and known she would do anything for her. She hadn't thought of that in years, because the Liz-who-is had taken the meaning of that moment from the Liz-who-was and found something not quite safe in the memory.

"Liz?" Maria's voice was soft, cautious.

"Yes?"

"I..." a sigh and Maria fell silent. And the silence was safer, so Liz let it stay.

...~*~...

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