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Beholden to Yesterday, Part Twelve
Reply to Trixie or visit her websitePosted to the RoswellSlash mailing list September 8, 2001
Title: Beholden to Yesterday (12/12)
Disclaimer: Joss owns them. so does jason
Summary: Need a refresher?
Dedication: to Shayla, cause she's a doll and cause she's supported this fic since the beginning. Also to Dru for always having such an abundance of pretty words and quotes in her feedback:) You always make me feel great, sweetie!
I stand at the threshold of the desert, the wind whipping my hair around my face, making it cling to the skin in sweaty knots. Maria's Jetta is parked somewhere to my left, but I can't see because my eyes are closed. A cigarette dangles loosely from my fingers and I pause briefly to inhale the dust in the dry air, letting it seep into my throat and lungs.
I hate Roswell. Just as much as I love it. I remember when I drove into town- it seems so long ago nowwith my boots and my blank eyes. I skinned my palms and fell into the dirt and Liz picked me up and brushed me off and made me feel again.
Can I just forget all that?
Can I just leave this sticky haven behind and return to the musky night of Sunnydale? God, I don't even know anymore. I hear a car drive up behind me, and turn, shading my eyes from the orange sun blanketing the sky.
Isabel steps from her brother's Jeep, dressed all in black, her hair pulled tightly back from her scalp in a sleek ponytail. She's beautiful- in an annoying way, and I ignore her briefly, bringing the burning smoke to my lips and spinning back so I can stare at the horizon.
She comes to a stop beside me and is silent. "Michael tells me you're leaving," she finally utters coolly, gazing into the middle distance.
"He would be right," I answer, tapping the ash onto the sand and watching the thin grains sift and swirl over the black soot.
"What about..." she pauses and then sighs. "What about you and Liz? I thought you two were the picture of happiness?"
I laugh softly, and crush the cigarette underneath my shoe. "I wouldn't call it happiness," I retort. "And I don't think you would either. Let's just get this out in the open now... did Max tell you to find out what's going on?"
She smiles coldly, and touches my shoulder. "Max won't even talk about you and Liz, much less want to know all the intimate gooey details about your relationship. I'm just asking because... because frankly, Liz is being even more sickeningly depressed than usual and it's bringing everyone down."
I grin with my sharp teeth and scuff a tuft of grass with my foot absently. "It's so nice that you're concerned, Isabel."
"Are you leaving?" she inquires point blank and I swallow.
"Yeah, I'm leaving. Tomorrow. I have to get back home."
"I thought you came here to get away from home," she says quietly.
"I did. But that's over now. I have commitments back there."
Isabel reaches for my pack of cigarettes and withdraws one with shaking hands, lighting it with her finger, which produces a spurt of blue flame. I watch, fascinated. She doesn't seem to notice, and draws deeply on the smoke, coughing slightly. "I don't understand the appeal of these things," she says, handing me back the tube of nicotine. "I don't understand why someone would want something that could hurt them. I don't get you and Liz. Or Liz and Max." She pauses and laughs bitterly, "Or Michael and Maria."
I wonder for a second what exactly happened between them all before I came. Her eyes glaze when she mentions Michael and Maria, and I think maybe she feels more for him than she'll ever admit.
She continues sadly, confused. "Maybe I just don't like seeing people lose control."
She's so brittle, I think. Her emotions are ready to explode, and she can barely contain them underneath her skin. She reminds me of me, and my belly hurts as I begin to walk back to the Jetta. "I'm sorry you don't get it," I say. "But I'm leaving. I'm going to miss this place, but I have to go. Tell your brother it's been real. And Isabel?"
She glances up, and her eyes are shiny. "Yes?"
She nods, and shrugs. "I'll never be like you or the others. That's ok. See you, Buffy."
"See ya," I say, stepping into the car and turning the key. I watch her in the rearview mirror as I drive away, and she gets so small- just a pinprick in the distance, and I think how sad her eyes are, and how much I hate myself for what I'm doing to Liz and how much I love Angel and then I have to pull over because I can't breathe anymore.
I have a smoke to calm myself down, and watch the way it's grey tendrils furl into the bright sun.
I hate this desert.
It's so full of ghosts.
Maria is bouncy. She bounces from the kitchen to the tables with enough spring in her step to propel her to the stars. I have to smile watching her. Michael watches her too- with a satisfied grin gracing his lips. I wonder if they did it, and decide that they probably did. She has that morning after glow which I know all about.
I slap her ass lightly as she passes me and she winks.
"What did you do last night?" I ask leadingly and she laughs innocently.
"Something good girls should never ever do," she whispers and looks over her shoulder at Michael who blushes and goes back to the deep fryer with studied concentration.
I giggle and turn away, going into the kitchen to grab a coke. My forehead is sweating, and I can feel the weight of my hair on my neck. Michael glances at me with his usual carelessness and says, "So when are you leaving?"
"Soon," I reply, taking a large swallow of the fizzy beverage. It hits my stomach like hot rocks and burns like a bitch. Choking, I press my forehead to the fridge, it's cold metal like ice cream on a sunny day.
"Shouldn't gulp those things so fast," Michael cautions mildly, flipping a burger and salting a batch of fast browning fries.
"Shut the fuck up," I warn him, and he looks startled.
"What did I say?"
"Nothing," I sigh, suddenly weary. "I just... look, I'll miss you. I thought we should get that out of the way."
"By telling me to shut the fuck up?" he laughs. "You have *such* a way with affection."
I smile gently, shaking my finger at him. "Whatever. You're just feeling like the big ass man on campus cause you got laid."
"Oh, that is so none of your business," he returns, snatching the soft drink from my fingers and taking a long drink. "Besides, I don't call it getting laid."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I sing song. "Making love. Of course. Michael Guerin would never, ever, ever use such a crass term as "getting laid."
He blushes slightly and scowls at me. "Not in connection with Maria, that's for damn sure. She'd probably castrate me."
"Like it would make much of a difference," I tease, and light a cigarette, uncaring of Mr. Parker's strict rules of no smoking near the food. I figure I can get away with it, this once. For a moment I wonder if maybe I should quit, and then dismiss that idea. Shakily, I draw on the smoke, feeling it curl into my lungs with a reassuring familiarity.
"Those are gonna kill ya," Michael observes quietly. "Seriously."
"Oh seriously, they're going to kill me?" I mock. "Thanks for clarifying that."
He throws down the can suddenly, and grips my shoulders. "Listen to me," he snaps. "I don't want you to die. I kind of like you. Smoking is bad for you. Don't you listen to those public service announcements?"
Startled by his fierceness, I don't know what to say. "No... do you?"
He shrugs. "I guess not. Lousy example. But... Buffy... will you quit?"
"Sometime," I whisper, and touch his face. "I promise."
He smiles. That toothy grin that I never get to see. "Good. Now gimme a hug. I don't want to get all mushy."
"I don't care what you want," I murmur and draw him forward with all my strength, gripping him against me. I feel tears prick my eyes and blink them back. "Take care of Maria. And please... can you look out for Liz? I don't trust Max to do it."
He sighs, and hugs me tight for a moment. "I promise. But don't expect me to like her, or anything."
I grin, and hastily brush a kiss to his upper arm- it being the only place I can reach. "I don't expect that. Thanks, Michael."
He shrugs and I see his lower lip almost tremble. "You've been a good friend, Buffy."
"So have you," I nod, and turn to leave the kitchen. Stopping for a moment, I look him straight in the eyes. "I won't be back, you know."
He shakes his head. "I know. And I don't blame you. You take care of yourself."
"I love you, buddy," I smile, and leave the kitchen. Tears threaten to spill from my eyes. He was so like me, in ways I never even dreamed. I just hope he finds what he's looking for. In Maria... in the stars... in this dirt covered town in the middle of nowhere.
Stopping outside where Maria is taking orders, I touch her arm. The heat is oppressive, and she's sweating faintly. But her smile is still bright, and she laughs breezily at me. "Playing hooky?"
I feel a rush of affection for her and hug her briefly. "Something like that. I'm gonna go home, ok?"
For a moment I think she understands. Her smile fades and she gazes at me seriously. Her nod is brisk. "Ok. I'll cover for you. But... but remember how I told you the heat isn't as bad when school starts? That was true, you know."
My heart breaks a little. "I know. I know you'd never lie to me, 'Ria. And I'd never lie to you. I told you Michael would come around. After all... who could resist that fine ass?"
She raises an eyebrow. "No one. Least of all Spaceboy. When are you leaving?"
"Tonight. Tomorrow. Sometime in that time frame."
She leans in close and holds me. She smells like citrus fruits. "I hope you'll be happy someday, Buffy."
"Me too," I whisper. "Goodbye Maria."
I see the sheen of tears in her eyes, but she's not going to let them fall. I know she'll be fine. She has Michael, and she's a survivor. It's in her blood. "Bye, Buffy. Don't let the man get you down."
I laugh at one of our jokes and waggle my fingers at her. "Damn the man."
"That's right. See you, babe."
Her smile is like sunshine. She's going to be great. "See ya."
My room is dark when I return, and I know he's there.
"Hey," I say as I enter, dropping my headband on the carpet.
He steps from the shadows by the window and he's so beautiful that I feel the rise of tears in my throat. How can one person mean this much to me? He doesn't ask how my day was, which is just as well. I knew he wouldn't.
"I got you packed," he informs me quietly. "I had an idea you wouldn't want to do it. I hope it's ok."
"It's great," I bite off and then say abruptly, "Angel, what's going to happen when we get back? Nothing can be the same anymore, can it?"
He shakes his head. "No. It can't."
"Because I... I killed you," I taste the words on my tongue. They're sour and strange and vomit curdles in my stomach, making me think of Acathla's hungry mouth and Angel's gasps as he felt the wall of metal in his chest. Stop.
He winces and inclines his head. "Because... because of everything that happened. Things will be different. But that doesn't mean they have to be bad, Buffy. You'll be able to get on with your life"
"What if I say I don't think you're something I could ever go on from? That you're permanent?"
He doesn't answer at first, and his eyes are bleak with knowledge. Of what, I don't know. Perhaps of the Hell I sent him to- where demons ate his insides for breakfast and where he knew- his love had run him through.
"It's never going to be permanent," he tells me sorrowfully. "Someday you'll die, and I'll still... I'll still be walking the night. We're never going to be able to have a normal life together."
"I don't think I want normal," I reply staunchly. "Normal's for the Brady Bunch. Can't we just... take each day as it comes? I don't think... I don't think I can lose you again. Please... Angel?"
His groan is tortured, but he comes towards me, and then he's catching me in his arms, and his lips are on mine. I can feel the pressure of his mouth and I moan, leaning into him. He takes away the dust that's been choking my throat. Things start to get blurry as his palm slides underneath my shirt, and it's cool insistence burns against my stomach.
"Angel..." I murmur. "Angel, Angel, Angel..." and it's so good saying his name, whispering it into his lips as his tongue drowns in my mouth. I love him, and I don't think I can survive this. He's going to kill me and that's ok.
I repeat my whispered words of so long ago, "When you kiss me I wanna die..." and then I hear a gasp, and spin around, catching a glimpse of the shining hair and the betrayed eyes before Liz runs out the open door, heading for the street.
Angel's hands are on my face and back as he murmurs, "It's ok. Go after her." His breathing is harsh, and my own hitches just listening to it.
"I'm sorry." I offer this softly, and he brushes a gentle kiss to my bruised lips.
"I love you."
"I love you too. I'll be back."
He smiles sadly. "I know, Buffy."
I walk outside, somehow knowing she'll be there. And she is. Her slight figure is bent on the ground as she sits, shifting from side to side as if she can't stay still. She looks up when she hears my quiet footfalls, and her voice is grating in the emptiness of the street.
"So I guess you're really leaving?"
"Yes," I acknowledge, and realize for the first time that I truly am. That Roswell is melding into my past, and there's nothing to do but go on. But damnit it hurts. I feel the blossom of pain well in my chest and force myself to breathe out.
"It's always..." I pause and sit down beside her. She doesn't move, but she doesn't lean into me like she would have done so many times in the past. I continue, my throat aching. "It's always been him. But that doesn't mean that I don't love you, Lizzie." My voice cracks. "I do."
Her eyes are bright with tears as she glances momentarily in my general direction. "That's the first time you've said that..." she scratches her calve in an absentminded yet strangely angry gesture. "And now you're leaving me."
"I don't want to," I say truthfully. "But I'm no good for you, Liz. You know that." I laugh softly, but it comes out harsh, and she winces. "I'm messed up. We're both too fucked up for each other."
She cups my face suddenly and forces me to look at her. Her lips touch mine, slide over my mouth with all the chasteness of a virgin kiss and all the burn of a kiss between two lovers. She tastes salty, and I weep against her lips, trembling. Her fingers brush my cheek and she whispers, "No one's ever touched me like you, Buffy. I... I love you. Have a good trip home. When it gets really sweaty and gross here... I'll, I'll think of you. Go back to Sunnydale... and please, be happy."
I nod, choking on my sobs as I hold her against my heart. She's so tiny. So dear- to me. "You promise me that you'll be happy too."
She shakes her head and laughs. "I can't. I can't, Buffy. I'm not the type to just move on. But I think you will... and I'm glad. No one should be unhappy forever."
"Including you," I admonish with gentle insistence, and she burrows her cheek against my neck, just for a moment.
"I'm going to miss you."
I feel the tears swelling in my swollen eyes and gaze off into the desert night. "I'm going to miss you, too."
So much, unsaid. Too many words. Too many feelings. I can't say them, and neither can she. God, I love her. It grew and grew, and now it's so much of my heart. She's right- I will move on. But I know, that parts of me will always be caught in the sand and sun and dust- with her. Those lazy nights spent curled up in the messiness of my sweat soaked sheets will always toll like the sweetest bell in my memory, but I have to leave. I press my fist to my mouth to stop my tears and stand, my bones creaking.
She stands with me. Her shoulders are back and I can tell she's making a special effort to be strong. But when she goes home and she's on her balcony, she's going to cry. I can't think about that right now. Some things are just too much.
"I guess this is the part where we say goodbye," I whisper, and it's like a gunshot. I expect to see blood pouring from a wound in her belly, but she just nods, as if she's dead.
One breath. One kiss. I tripped that day and she caught me, and how can it be over? But it is.
Her lower lip wobbles, but she manages a smile, and she looks so beautiful that I lean forward and kiss that curve of the lips. "I'll see you, ok?"
She smiles again, bravely. "Yeah. I'll see you, too."
She turns, and walks away. I watch, and feel everything inside of me shifting, breaking- collapsing.
With one last look, I decide I can be just as strong as her.
So I turn. And I walk into the hotel.
Angel's waiting with the suitcases packed. I think he guesses I won't want to stay any longer than necessary. His eyes search my face and all he does is lightly touch my shoulder as we leave. I'm grateful to have someone who knows me so well.
Angel and I drive in the cloak of brilliant night. His hands grasp the steering wheel with a precision I envy and I stare out the window into the endless red of the desert. It's sands shimmer and roll, casting strange shadows against the sky.
Everything's just beginning. I can feel it.
We drive. We drive for a long time, until we come to Sunnydale.
Not once do I look back.
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