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A Trick of the Light
Reply to Whirling Girl or read her other stories at FicoramaAdded to the Roswell Slash Archive November 3, 2000
Title: A Trick of the Light
Summary: Tess and Liz and Max
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters
Distribution: Please ask.
The same, the same, the same again
To steal the time and haunt the graves
Just because it's there
Don't mean you see it anywhere'
Maybe it's a trick of the light
-Gomez, "We Haven't Turned It Around"
Isabel and Michael are dead.
It happened so suddenly. One minute we were all in the Evans' jeep, on our way to the reservation, where we were going to meet Nasedo. Then I heard Isabel scream, and a flash of light blinded me for a moment and I heard a sickening impact, and the last thing I remember was an awful smell.
The next thing I knew, I was lying in a ditch at the bottom of a grass-covered slope. I could feel the heat of a fire against my cheek.
I turned my head slightly, feeling dizzy, the stars whirling overhead, and then I saw them. Michael and Isabel, lying together just a few yards away. I could see them in the light of the fire, their faces pale and peaceful in the flickering light. They weren't moving. There was shadowy figure standing over them, it's back illuminated by the flames. A hand raised over them and suddenly I was afraid and I tried to scream, I tried to raise my voice, I tried to make a sound, any sound, but nothing came out. There was another blinding flash and I felt a force like a stiff wind, the feeling of an impact in my body, a huge and terrible noise, and then everything disappeared.
When I woke again, it was to absolute silence. An acrid smoke burned in my nostrils and I choked, gagging, and rolled over onto my stomach, but I still couldn't hear anything. I lifted my head painfully, squinting through smoke, tears stinging my eyes, and there was no one where Michael and Isabel had been. There was no one.
I crawled to my hands and knees, retching and shaking. I could hear, very faintly, the sounds of my sickness, but it was like they were both far away and deep in my own head. Some time must have passed, because the heat I felt on my face before must have been the jeep in flames. Now it was just a smoldering hulk, upside down at the bottom of the grassy bank, lying a few yards away.
For a few moments I couldn't remember how I got there, or where I was going. I couldn't remember who I had been with, and since there was no one around, I thought I had been alone. It took me a few minutes to feel the shock subside, and remember that I had been with Max and Isabel and Michael, and realize that they were gone.
I stood up, swaying, my knees shaking hard, and realized that I felt weak and lightheaded, and a warmth was stealing over me like a blanket, urging me to lie back down. The grass looked so comfortable and soft, and a distant voice in me kept saying something over and over and I finally stopped my musings to listen.
Where's Max? You're bleeding. Where's Max? You're bleeding. There's so much blood. You're bleeding. Where's Max?
I looked down, and I was covered in blood. I looked at my hands, at what was dripping off of them, black in the moonlight, a scream beginning to form in my throat, when I looked up and a saw figure walking toward me, it's face in shadow, and then there was a roaring in my ears and the world tilted sickeningly and I felt hands on me as I fell into darkness.
I woke slowly, surfacing, pain at the edges of consciousness but held at bay by the thick ooze I swam in. Images began to form in my mind, of Michael and Isabel, of thick smoke in my lungs, of a dark figure blocking out the stars, and fear sent my heart rate higher and I was suddenly awake, gasping. I started to sit up too quickly and immediately felt a searing pain in my head, clutched my hands to my temples and barely kept myself from vomiting. Tears flowed thick and viscous out of my eyes and I sank down against a headboard, realized I was under covers in a bed, pillows scattered around me. Suddenly someone was next to me. A cool hand touched my forehead.
Max? I whispered silently. But I knew it was him.
He didn't answer. Or if he did, I couldn't hear him. And he hasn't spoken to me since.
I still don't know what happened, exactly.
Nasedo made it possible for me to live on my own, before he was killed. After we learned who we were, in the cave, I stayed with Sheriff Valenti and Kyle at first. The Sheriff helped us keep our secret. Then I stayed with Michael for a while. Then, after the accident, I came to Michael's empty apartment and I haven't left.
I hardly ever see Max. We're still in school, it's our junior year, and sometimes when my timing is off I pass him in the halls, but I try to avoid him as much as he avoids me.
He avoids Liz, too. It's weird when your world has shrunk down to two people, neither of whom you can touch. My life triangles around them. The geometry of distance.
The funerals were hard.
From what I overheard, in bits and pieces, we were in a severe car accident. Michael and Isabel's charred remains were found underneath the overturned jeep. Max and I had been flung free. Max was found, wandering, in shock, on the roadside, carrying my unconscious body.
Michael's father wasn't there, for the funeral. The Evans were. And Liz, looking beautiful and sad. And Maria and Alex, looking lost. And Max. I can't even describe how he looked. I watched him, I couldn't help myself, as he stood, unmoving, during the service. He never looked up, not once. He didn't touch Liz or acknowledge her when she touched him. I knew then that something had happened to him, something that didn't show on the outside.
I can only guess at the rest. It's like trying to piece together the broken fragments of ancient pottery, or the scattered bones of an extinct creature.
Recreations of the dead.
I know Nasedo was there. I know he was killed. I could feel him there, and now I can't feel him at all.
I know there was another alien there, too. I think he/she/it was killed by Nasedo. But not before he/she/it killed Isabel and Michael.
According to my internal inventory, I suffered a severe concussion, several broken ribs, a punctured lung, contusions, lacerations and blood loss that would have killed a normal human being. I lost my hearing for a few days afterwards, probably from the explosion that I saw. It was interesting to walk around and only be able to hear my own screaming in my head. Max healed me, barely, and left me with a concussion and some lovely scars. Maybe because he didn't want to make things any more suspicious than they already were. Maybe for other reasons.
I'm grateful, though. The scars are a reminder that I'm different now.
The orbs were destroyed as well. And the book is at the bottom of the reservoir where I threw it, watching the ripples and feeling them wash over my raw wounds, the pain constant and barely tolerable and slowly driving me toward the edge myself. But I'm not there yet.
I think Max was also killed in that accident that was no accident, even though he is still walking around.
I don't know what it did to me. I'm still waiting to find out.
I wander among the graves now, talking to both of them, looking for clues about my life and what it is supposed to be.
Recently, every so often, someone knocks on my door. I don't know who it is and I don't want to find out, so I don't answer. I don't have a phone either. If it's something important, they can leave me a note. No one ever does.
It's the summer after junior year. I can't believe I'm still in high school. I'm supposed to be on another planet, finding out who I am, who I used to be. I was supposed to become someone new, someone different. Someone. I didn't ever really think about that before, when I knew where I would be, when I knew what was meant to happen.
Now I think about it all the time. I wonder what it would have been like to have a choice.
I'm not in pain anymore, but it took a long time for me to heal. My powers never developed in that direction. And the other powers I had once, I don't think I have them anymore. I haven't tried to use them. I broke a dish last week, and threw it away. I stood over the garbage can, looking at the broken shards, and watched myself cry.
I live in Michael's apartment, and it's much cleaner than it was when he lived here. The refrigerator doesn't smell. There are no posters on the walls. The couch has a different cover on it and there are curtains on the windows. I painted the walls different colors and I keep plants on all the windowsills.
During my late night wanderings I pick flowers from the gardens of the few wealthy residents of Roswell who can afford to water their gardens, and arrange them in jars in both small rooms.
Like I said, at night I wander.
I wander past the Evans' home. I never stop to look at his window but I know he feels me go by, if he feels anything at all.
I work for the Sheriff's office now, as a receptionist. I get to hear all the calls that come in, listen to the deputies in a small sleepy New Mexico town look for adventure and excitement. Drunken brawls, domestic disputes, stolen property, kittens stuck in trees, lightning strikes.
UFO sightings. But there haven't been any of those since the night of the accident.
I'm slowly getting used to the idea that I'm still here.
Someone is knocking on my door again. I wonder who it is. Then they try the doorknob. That's different. No one has ever done that before.
If they had, they would have found it unlocked.
The door opens slowly, and a face appears around the edge, and I look with mild interest at who has the temerity to open a door to someone else's apartment when they don't answer.
"Hi." She says softly.
I respond with a look. I can't imagine what more we have to say to each other.
But she asks me if she can come in, and I say yes, and walk around the counter to my small kitchen and I put water on the stove for tea. I take two mugs out of my cupboard, and two teabags out of the box, and then I remember the time when Liz came to my house so long ago and I offered her tea. I look up at her, and I see that she remembers it too. I find myself smiling, just a little lift to the corners of my mouth. It's a completely unfamiliar sensation.
She smiles back. It looks as strange on her as it felt on me. But I feel better.
We sit in silence and I'm surprised to be with someone who can take silence. I live in a silent world now, but I don't know anyone else who does.
The water is hot and I pour the tea and we drink it slowly, our hands warming on the mugs, our eyes distant, sitting across from each other at my little counter. We don't speak. When her tea is gone, she sits for a few more minutes, then glances at me, slides off her stool, and walks to the door.
She stops on the way to touch the fresh flowers, leans over to catch their fragrance. She leaves, and the silence is different after she is gone.
Now she doesn't even knock before she turns the knob, she just opens the door, and gives a small knock as it swings in, to let me know she is there. I listen for her steps now. Sometimes I put the water on ahead of time.
Sometimes she comes late, and I know that she has been working because she will be freshly showered and her long hair will be damp.
Tonight is a late night. She comes in, I make tea, we sit in silence, she gets up to leave, and I stop her.
"Wait." My voice sounds strange to my ears. I guess I haven't used it in a while.
She waits. I go to my room and grab two sweaters and hold one out to her. She looks at it for a moment, and then slips it on. I pick up a small pair of shears from the table by the door and we leave together.
We wander. She doesn't seem to have a problem with stealing flowers, and a couple of times I think I caught the flash of her teeth in the darkness. There's no moon tonight, and the darkness is warm and velvety.
We pass the Evans' house, and she looks at the darkened windows, and I catch myself stealing a glance too. She stops walking. We stand there on the sidewalk together, a bundle of flowerstalks in the crook of my elbow, and she suddenly reaches out and takes my hand and I feel something, inside, stirring like a sleeping animal. She reaches across and takes the shears from my other hand, flashes me a mischievous smile, and crosses the front of the Evans' yard to the side, behind some trees, where there are roses hidden against the wall of the house. I follow.
She is inhaling their scent as I walk up to her, butterflies suddenly in my stomach as I realize how close we are to his window. She takes a stem in hand, hissing as a thorn catches her, and clips it off, the quiet snick of the shears sounding unreasonably loud. She turns to me. I reach out and take the stem between my fingers, and she pauses, looking at me solemnly, before she releases it.
I bring it to my face and rub my cheek against it, feeling the dew clinging lightly to the petals, and the rich smell envelops me for a moment. I look back at her and realize that she is out of focus because there are tears in my eyes.
We stop by the graves and leave the bundle of flowers lying on the ground, between them.
We walk by the café and she goes home. I slowly walk back to my apartment alone, shears in one hand, rose in the other.
I wonder if Diane Evans notices her garden gets raided periodically. I wonder if she tells Max. I wonder if he knows who it is.
I can't believe I'm still in Roswell. There is nothing keeping me here. I could wander the world and never be attached to anything, except that I couldn't leave the planet. It would be the biggest prison in history, possibly.
Though it depends on how you look at it.
Can I really ever just be human, live a human life, when my horizons were so much bigger once? Can I just settle down somewhere, find someone to love and who loves me back? Who would be with me, when there is so little of me to be with?
I guess I'm beginning to like my life, just a little bit, and it's scaring me to death.
I like Liz.
I don't know how to explain it, but when she comes through the door, I feel complete. I haven't asked her why she comes. I think she needed me as much as I have come to need her. Or maybe she just thought if she couldn't save Max, she could save me.
Maybe she has. All I know is, I feel safe when I'm around her, I feel, I don't know, right, somehow. I think we were both drowning, and we have been clinging to each other and trying to reach the surface again.
I watch her sitting at my counter.
"Why?" My voice sounds like a vulture's croak. I really should try talking more.
She doesn't answer, but is obviously surprised by the question. She looks at me steadily, silent, until I walk around the counter, and she slides off the stool, and we meet halfway and wrap our arms around each other and the shock of her touch forces a sob out of me that sounds too loud in this small place, and we are both crying, our bodies shaking, our mouths on each other's skin.
She calls her parents on her cell phone and tells them she is sleeping over. I lend her a t-shirt. We fall asleep instantly, side by side, and wake up curled around each other like tadpoles.
We spend most waking and all of our sleeping moments together. We raid gardens. We go swimming late at night in the reservoir, the stars reflected on the water, our splashings echoing off the rock walls.
We hike down the steep trail, strip off our sweaty clothes and leave them on our favorite rock, jutting out over the water. We dive in and strike out across the reservoir, long crawl strokes, side by side. It's a ritual I have come to love almost as much as hot tea; the blood sings through my body, the moon gleams on the water and breaks into a thousand lights as we cut through the surface. At the other side, we cling to a rock, breathing hard, and laugh out loud, our voices echoing across the water.
I listen as the sound of the wavelets fades against the shore. Suddenly I realize what I need to tell her, what I need to say, what I feel. I don't understand it yet, but I'm not afraid of where we are going, what we are going to find, which surprises me. I guess the worst thing that could happen is death and I've been there already, and it's not that big a deal.
"I love you." I whisper.
"I love you too."
She reaches out and traces a scar on my shoulder, white against my white skin. She leans in and kisses me on the mouth and it feels like a prayer. I kiss her back and I can feel the animal inside me uncurling and stretching its claws out against my spine.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
The same distance between one point and another in any direction is a circle.
He circles around us sometimes, like a moth circles the light. But he won't get any closer. He regards us curiously, from a distance, when we meet at our lockers or between classes, to talk, her dark head and my light one close together.
I talk more, Liz talks more. Maybe we are both starting to heal.
We have found something together, something that makes us both whole. Something precious and complete.
I know it's there. It's just hidden, like moonlight on the water hides the depths underneath. It's just a trick of the light.
It's the harvest moon, and it rises, huge and russet, over the ridges, then lights the entire sky as it gets higher and the hours pass. Late that night we make another raid on the local gardens. We are both full of energy, chasing each other around, throwing handfuls of leaves at each other, stifling our giggles.
Then suddenly we are in Diane Evans' garden, and his window is open, and before I have time to think about it, we are leaning on the sill and whispering his name through the curtains.
We hear him get out of bed, walk across the floor, and suddenly he is standing there in front of us. He wasn't asleep. I am surprised by the changes in his face.
I look at Liz, and she takes my hand. I can hear our breathing, quick and light, our energy still high though our faces are solemn. He regards us for a long moment, then without a word he climbs out of the window and follows us.
We hike down the trail, skipping over the rocks, eager to reach the water. He follows, slowly, and by the time he reaches the shore we have already stripped off our clothes and dived into the water. We swim across and race back, matched stroke for stroke, and pull up, laughing.
We look at each other, and I grab a handhold on the edge of the rock and cling to it for a moment, hanging by one arm, feeling the stretch in my muscles as I pull my upper body out of the water. Then I drop back down and we tread water a few feet from the edge and look up, and he is standing where we left him, barefoot, looking lost.
"Come with us." We whisper.
He shakes his head. But he sits on the edge and lets his feet dangle into the water, as Liz and I race across and back again, and then splash around for a while before drying off and getting dressed and heading back home. He never says a word, but I can feel his loneliness.
He comes with us now, when we raid his mother's garden and then go to the graves, he comes with us to the reservoir and sits on the rock and looks up at the stars while we play. I think he just wants to be near us. I think he might be trying to surface, too.
Tonight as we drove home, when Liz turned the wheel to head toward his house, he said one simple word.
"Please." He looked steadily at us, then down at his hands.
I made three cups of tea, instead of two.
Afterwards, we gave him a blanket, and he was asleep on the couch before the light went off.
I woke up some time near dawn, and he was standing in the doorway. Liz stirred against my shoulder and looked up at me, then turned her head. I could hear him breathing quietly. I could sense his uncertainty and fear. Then he spoke, hesitant, his voice a raw whisper, the first words he had spoken to either of us since the others were killed.
"I can't feel anything anymore."
In the moonlight coming through the window I could see the edges of the broken shards in his eyes.
Liz and I reached out to him at the same time, and he came forward and climbed under the covers next to us. Suddenly he was shaking, fighting the tears, fighting the pain, not succeeding. He curled up and cried himself to sleep, our hands in his hair, our hands on his skin.
We have been together for a year now, and nothing has changed, and everything has changed, and nothing has changed. We need a bigger bed.
We have found a balance, all three of us. We were all broken pieces, and together we are whole.
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