posted on 9-Jun-2002 4:04:16 PM by shelbecat
Author's Note: Maria, Liz, and Alex are the aliens in this one. Initially it was supposed to be about them and how Michael, Max, and Isabel found out, but the story didn't turn out to be about the three of them so much as it did about just Maria... and Michael of course! Sometimes I'm writing and it just twists and turns in a direction I didn't expect. Maria has undergone a dramatic change and no one can quite figure out what happened. She hasn't met Michael yet so they are just getting to know each other in the fic.


Part 1

Liz Parker waited impatiently by her best friend's locker. Maria was late, again. This was completely out of character for Maria, but then, Maria's character had undergone quite a dramatic transformation lately so she supposed that nothing should surprise her now.

She looked up to see Maria walking towards her. The sight of her best friend never ceased to shock her these days. She was dressed all in black; a long black skirt brushed the toes of her ever-present black combat boots, topped by a black short-sleeve tee. She was wearing her hair in dreads this week, it seemed to be something new, and ever more drastic, every time Liz looked these days. The mass of blond locks was pulled back into a thick ponytail, only drawing further attention to her face, lined deeply with shades of dark makeup. He eyes were rimmed with black eyeliner, her lashes heavy with mascara. Lipstick, such a deep shade of purple that Liz swore it was black as well, emphasized her lips. Silver jewellery around her neck, wrists, and fingers completed the outfit.

"Yo," Maria said to Liz as she opened her locker.

Liz struggled to hide the look that crossed her face as she repeated, "Yo."

Maria grabbed her books from her locker and slammed it shut. Turning to walk away again she was stopped by the sound of Liz's voice, "Maria, wait."

She stopped, not turning around, and waited for her friend to catch up with her. Maria sighed inwardly; Liz had been on her case ever since she got back two weeks ago. She had spent the summer in L.A., things had changed, no big deal. But to Liz, Maria was "different" and she wouldn't let up until she understood why.

"Are you working today?" Liz asked breathlessly, catching up to walk beside Maria.

"Uh, yeah I think so," Maria replied.

"Oh, well, maybe we can get together after, have a girls night?"

Maria glanced at her best friend, the look of hope on Liz's face turned her stomach. She knew Liz was only trying to be nice, but desperation was just not attractive. Maria shrugged, "I don't know, I might have plans." Picking up her pace to move away from her friend she called back over her shoulder, "We'll talk later, okay?"

Liz slowed to a stop, staring after Maria as the swift moving current of students crowding the hallway engulfed her. She shook her head and turned around to go to her next class when she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder.

"No luck again?"

Liz looked up and smiled at the voice, Alex, her other best friend. The three of them had grown up together and always seemed to be able to share anything with each other, but lately… Liz shook her head and looked at Alex sadly, "I just don't get what's up with her."

Alex shook his head as well, his eyes mirroring Liz's concern, "I know Lizzie. Just give her some space."

"She does not need space; she needs a friend."

Alex wrapped his arm around Liz's shoulders, "I know that, and you know that, but Maria doesn't know that, and until she's ready, we can't push, okay?"

Liz nodded, and gulped as she felt her face flushing hot with emotions. She moved out of Alex's grasp and shook her head to clear it, "Okay, we'll leave it, but I swear Alex, if she doesn't fess up soon we're going to hold an intervention or something."

Alex smiled after his friend as she walked down the hallway. He was worried too but he was more concerned with pushing Maria even further away from them. They had always been close, ever since the three of them walked out of their pods at the age of six; at least that was the age the social workers placed them at. Although they were adopted into three different families, they had shared almost everything growing up, including a birthday. Their parents basically treated them as three siblings and tried to keep them together as much as possible.

As close as they were, they were also vastly different from each other. They had always each had their distinct roles in their relationship, fuelled by their inherently different natures. Liz had always been the responsible one, sensible, levelheaded. She was a "geek" according to the student classification at West Roswell High. Actually Alex thought she was pretty well rounded, but if you got straight A's around here a certain label was going to be applied no matter what extra curricular activities you took part in.

Where Liz was the geek, Alex was the dork, he guessed. He was smart too, but more into computers than science and math. And music, music was his passion. He played bass guitar and had finally managed to start a semi-successful garage band called "The Whits". Maria was their lead singer, something he wasn't sure if she'd be into anymore. She had always been an entity unto herself. She was totally aware of the latest trends and usually paired them with something vintage, creating her own unique look. She was semi-popular, held back from cheerleader status only because she refused to give in to the ways of the masses. This year though, everything was different.

Maria had gone to stay with her father in Los Angeles for the summer. He hadn't been in the picture since she was seven, but suddenly, last May, he had called her and sent a plane ticket for her to come and live with him for a few months. She had gone, more than willingly, she hadn't seen him in almost 10 years so the obsession with wanting to find out everything about him was understandable.

Then, two months later, just two weeks ago, she had returned to Roswell, looking all gothic. At first Liz and Alex had laughed at her, thinking it was a joke, but they quickly realized that she was dead serious about her new look and that her attitude had taken on a serious edginess during her time away. Things had been tense between them ever since.

Alex shook his head to clear it from the depressing thoughts and quickened his pace to get to his next class. Things with Maria would work themselves out in time; she was fine. She was always fine, right?

[ edited 24time(s), last at 16-Sep-2002 9:01:15 AM ]
posted on 10-Jun-2002 9:23:45 AM by shelbecat
Lovin' the feedback! No, I'm not Shelly - I'm Sherry... close though!

Just feedin' the beast...

Part 2

Maria had to work right after school but she desperately needed a cigarette first. She looked around to see that Liz wasn't lurking around somewhere spying on her and ran around the corner of the school building where the "tough" kids hung out.

Maria approached the nearest group of three guys, one of whom was just finishing up a sale to another student. "Hey, can you hook me up?" Maria called.

The guy looked at her between wisps of hair that hid his eyes. He was dressed all in black as well; it was "their" colour. Maria knew it and wore it just so everyone would assume she was a part of that group.

"How many you want?" the guy mumbled.

"Five," Maria said, holding out a handful of change. The teen took the money from her hand, pausing look at it, giving the impression of counting it. Maria knew full well that he had the I.Q. of a cactus and she probably could have slipped him half of his asking price and still gotten what she wanted. It was the right amount though anyway, she wanted to be considered part of this group and she wasn't about to go pissing off their cigarette supplier – a very important man in this circle.

He handed her the cigarettes and she asked him for a light, which was produced by one of the other guys. Just then the third called out, "Hey Mikey, nice jeans. Was there a sale at Goodwill?" The three guys burst into childish laughter and Maria looked over her shoulder to see who the object of their ridicule was. She saw a tall boy with brooding features walking around the corner of the school, obviously ignoring the insults from the guys she was with. She looked back at them, pondering the effects of putting them in their place, but then decided against it and ran after the tall boy, inhaling on her cigarette as she ran.

"Hey, wait up," she called, hurrying to catch up to the retreating figure.

He didn't stop so she sped up her pace and pulled abreast of him, "Whoa, Mikey, where's the fire?"

The boy looked down at the small girl beside him but didn't stop walking. She was keeping up with him, puffing away on her cigarette, and he couldn’t figure out for the life of him what she could possibly want. They walked along in silence for a minute, heading toward the exit of the parking lot.

"Those things will kill you," he finally said.

"It talks," Maria replied, her voice sarcastic but her eyes smiling.

The boy looked down at her again, "Did you want something?"

"Maria," she said, holding out her hand to him.

"Michael," he replied, ignoring her hand.

Maria threw her half-smoked cigarette ahead of her on the ground, crushing it out with her next step in a practiced movement. "So, Mikey, you go to school here?"

"It's Michael, and no, I just hang around the classes for kicks."

Maria nodded, taking in his sarcasm, "Well, how come I haven't seen you around before?"

He shrugged, "I guess you weren't looking."

She had to smile at that, he wasn't exactly the type of boy she would have noticed last year. He looked… what was the word… hard, she thought. He was tough, but it seemed like a front; an act he was putting on to hide a core that was hardened from years of some painful source. No, she probably wouldn't have noticed him before, but this year was different, she was different, and she was looking for something, no someone, different in her life.

They reached the corner of Birch and Main, and Maria slowed as they crossed the street. "Well this is me," she said, pointing down Birch Street towards her house.

Michael nodded and gestured further down Main, "I'm this way."

Maria started to walk backwards down her street, not taking her eyes off of the boy for a second. "Well, see 'ya Mikey," she called, turning around to run down the street before he could correct her again.

Michael Guerin shook his head at the retreating girl, what was her deal? He turned to walk down Main Street. He knew who she was, but only by name. He also knew that she didn't look like that the last time he had seen her and he had to admit that he was intrigued, if only a little.
posted on 10-Jun-2002 9:02:59 PM by shelbecat
Okay - I could get used to this... I feed you fics - you feed my ego... sound good to you? LOL - I swear that has to be the main reason I write at all - I love the feedback! That and if I didn't the voices would drive me absolutely mad (mad I say... mad!!!).

I was going to wait 'til tomorrow but... I'm a sucker for great compliments *happy*


Part 3

Maria hurried home and changed into her Crashdown uniform. She took quick drags on her second cigarette as she walked to work, shoving gum into her mouth as she arrived to mask the scent. Not that she cared what anyone thought; she just couldn't handle any grief from Liz about this habit too.

She walked into the back room just as Liz was attaching her own headband. Liz glanced up at Maria as she entered. If she squinted her eyes just a little she could imagine that it was the same girl she knew before the summer. From the neck down she looked like the same old Maria, but it was impossible to ignore the alterations that had taken place from the neck up. Maria used her glamour powers liberally with this new image and her hair had gone from dreadlocks this morning to a slicked back bun surrounded by sharp spikes of hair. He make-up was less severe, with red lipstick and only half as much eye makeup. That was still three times as much as Liz would have ever worn and she knew Maria was only wearing this little because Mr. Parker had asked her to 'tone it down a bit'.

Liz leaned against her locker while Maria open her own and placed her bag inside. "So, are we on for tonight?" she asked.

Maria kept her head hidden behind her locker door. Shit, she thought, I didn't think of an excuse for mother hen. Maria leaned back and turned to face Liz, "Um, I don't know."

The look on Liz's face was utterly pathetic, "C'mon, I bought ice cream and rented Steel Magnolias?"

Maria sighed but couldn't stop herself from smiling. Shaking her head she said, "Okay, fine. Steel Magnolias it is." Moving to walk past Liz into the restaurant she added, "But it better be Chunky Monkey."

Liz laughed and followed her friend out of the back room. It may have been only a small development but it was something nonetheless. At this point Liz would take whatever she could get.

~~~~~

That night Maria trudged up the stairs behind Liz after their shift ended. She followed Liz into her room and sat on the bed massaging her feet while Liz changed.

"Do you want some clothes?" Liz asked.

"Sure," Maria replied.

Liz reached into her closet, picking out a blue top and pair of jean shorts. She tossed them to Maria who caught them and promptly changed them to black garments in her size. Liz snuck a look at Maria as she dressed; gasping when she saw the shoulder tattoo she was sporting on her back.

"What is that?" she cried, pointing at Maria.

"What?" Maria asked, turning around to feel with her hand along her back where Liz pointed.

"That," Liz said, walking over to touch the odd looking tattoo.

"Oh, that," Maria said with disinterest, God you'd think she had never seen a tattoo before. "It's a Japanese symbol. It means harmony."

"Did you do it yourself?"

"No, I got it done in L.A."

"Why?" Liz couldn't understand why someone with Maria's power would submit to having their skin pierced with a needle when a simple wave of her hand could have created the same thing.

"Because," Maria said, obviously wanting that to be the end of the conversation. She pulled Liz's newly black shirt over her head and turned around to face her friend.

Liz pressed her lips together. Her brain said to just forget about this and have a nice evening with her friend. "Maria I just don't get you anymore," she said. Oops, she thought, I guess my brain wasn't speaking loud enough.

Maria tilted her head at her friend. Was Lizzie actually going to call her on something for once? This might actually be fun, she thought. "Yeah, well maybe you've never gotten me," Maria chided.

"That's ridiculous and you know it. We've been best friends since we came out of those pods, and now you're different." Liz paused, her face already feeling flush, and the argument had barely started. "Something happened to you this summer, something to make you… like this, and I want to know what it is."

"Like this?" Maria questioned. "Liz, I changed my look, okay? That's it. Is that such a crime?"

"It's not just your look, Maria. It's your whole attitude. You are completely shut off from us, from everyone. I'm not the only one whose noticed it."

"Oh yeah, I bet my Mom didn't notice it," Maria said, turning to sit on Liz's bed.

"What?" Liz asked, lowering herself to sit beside her.

"Nothing," Maria mumbled.

"No, what did you say?"

"I said it was nothing," Maria answered, her voice suddenly growing louder. "You know what?" she asked, standing up to take off the clothes Liz had given her. "I came up here because you said you wanted to hang out. I didn't come here to be attacked."

Maria pulled the top over her head and reached for her alien uniform lying on the bed next to Liz. Liz laid her hand on top of the dress, grabbing Maria's arm with her other hand. "I'm just worried about you," she said softly. "Alex and I both are."

Maria stopped to look at her best friend for a moment. She would never understand if I even tried to tell her, she thought. "Well don't be," she said, yanking the dress from beneath Liz's hand. Pulling it over her head she wriggled out of the shorts and grabbed her sneakers from the floor.

She turned to leave, clutching the still unbuttoned dress to her chest. "Wait," Liz called after her. "Maria don't do this, I care about you."

"Save it," Maria threw back at her, hurrying out of the Parker household.

Liz sat back on her bed, staring after her retreating friend. Well that was a success, she thought grimly. She allowed herself to fall back onto the bed. "What happened to you?" she whispered into her empty bedroom.
posted on 11-Jun-2002 1:04:03 PM by shelbecat
Part 4

Maria woke up the next morning in a fairly good mood. It lasted for about five seconds until the events of last night came rushing back to her.

After leaving Liz's she had walked home dragging hard on her third and fourth cigarettes, lighting one off of the other. She just wanted to get inside and relax; take a bath and go to bed. When she opened the front door she knew that wasn't going to be likely.

Her mother was on the couch, straddling her new boyfriend. 'Jake' had been coming around a lot lately. Her Mom said he was a "nice man" and that Maria should be nice to him. Maria saw right through his act to the horny middle-aged boy inside and just knew he would eventually break her mother's heart. Anyone who was 40 years old, had never been married, never held a steady job, and still found time to hang out at the local pub every evening was not exactly a prize catch in her eyes.

Maria swore under her breath as her mother fumbled to button her shirt and detach herself from Jake's claws.

"Maria," she gasped, managing to bring herself to a standing position. "What are you doing here?"

"I live here," Maria responded.

Her mother was not impressed with Maria's attitude lately. She didn't know what her father had done to her but she had no intentions of putting up with it. "Well I've got company, make yourself scarce."

Amy looked back at Jake with lust in her eyes. He rose up to grasp her about the waist and lift her onto him. Carrying her, he walked into Amy's bedroom and slammed the door shut. Maria turned at the spot where Jake had been sitting and threw a fireball at the cushion. The couch erupted into flames, which she immediately extinguished with a wave of her hand, erasing any traces of her rash actions.

She went into her bedroom, turning her stereo up loud to drown out the sounds seeping through the walls from her mother's room. She kicked her shoes off and reached into her dress pocket to remove the guilty pleasure she had stopped to buy on her way home. The guys at school weren't the only ones she knew who could fix her up, and she sat back against her open window to savour the joint.

Maria wasn't against trying anything once; cocaine had been the flavour of the month in L.A. She tried it but found it left her with no control over her powers. She had given the other kids quite a light show with brilliant flashes emanating from every orifice of her body. Luckily they were all stoned at the time and didn't remember any of it the next day. She'd also dabbled in LSD and some other pills to make her feel happy or sad, whatever the order of the day was, but she kept coming back to marijuana. It wasn't as easy to get in Roswell but she had a source and used him frequently. Cigarettes were usually enough to get her through the day but if the pain got particularly bad she turned to weed.

She thought about her mother in the next room, giving herself over to that piece of filth completely. There was no love lost between Maria and her mother. It was hard to believe now that before she left for L.A. she had actually cried for her. That had changed quickly the night her Mom abandoned her there.

Maria reasoned with herself that it wasn't really her Mom's fault. She had no idea of what Maria's father was going to be like. But that was her job, wasn't it? She was responsible for keeping Maria safe from things like that, even if she was 17 years old.

No, Amy hadn't acted like the responsible parent when she had left Maria in Los Angeles, even though she had begged to come home. It wasn't until she returned at the end of the summer that she found out that her Mom wasn't out of town on a cruise, as she had told Maria she would be, but rather busy entertaining Jake for two months.

Maria brought herself back to the present, shaking her head and getting out of bed. Thoughts of her Mom combined with the attack that Liz had orchestrated were enough to keep anyone down, but she felt strangely drawn to school anyway. She showered and used her powers liberally to slick her hair into a whip-straight look, with bangs just hiding her eyes. She dressed in black jeans with large cuffs and her standard boots. She topped it with a vintage long-sleeve Megadeth T-shirt that she had left over from her old life. You just couldn’t knock vintage, no matter what look you were shooting for. Passing up her chains and bracelets, she fastened a dog collar with little spikes around her neck and adorned her fingers and ears with a liberal amount of hardware.

She grabbed an apple on her way out the door, finishing it and starting in on her last cigarette as she approached her street corner. She saw the figure standing against the light pole but didn't pay him any attention - until he fell into step beside her. She looked up in surprise at the boy from yesterday. Smiling she looked straight ahead again and took another puff on her cigarette. He cleared his throat and she threw it to the ground, snuffing it out before she even knew what she was doing. Maria's eyes widened at her own actions and she tried to put her finger on what impulse had made her do that. She still felt a craving for a smoke yet she had wasted it. Weird, she thought, shaking her head.

They walked along in silence until they reached the school. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs to let her pass, turning to walk in another direction. Maria took a few steps and then stopped turning around to catch Michael looking at her as well.

"Later, Mikey," she said, repeating her move from yesterday and hurrying away before he could respond.

Michael stood silently at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes fixed on her back. A small smile formed on his lips and he turned to go to his class. She was a mystery that one - an intriguing, all-consuming mystery. And he was determined to solve it.
posted on 12-Jun-2002 10:41:30 AM by shelbecat
You feed me, I'll feed you! Keep those comments comin'!

Part 5

Maria walked to her locker, stopping when she saw him standing next to it. Alex. Great, she was sure he was going to give it to her worse than Liz had.

She needed her books so she had no choice but to walk toward him. She reached for her locker, swirling the combination, desperately avoiding his gaze. Alex cleared his throat just as she swung her locker open and glanced at him. He was waving a tiny plastic white flag that looked like it had come from a Lego set.

Maria burst out laughing at the pleading look on his face. Alex smiled back at her; he always knew how to make her laugh.

"Look," he said, his voice taking on a serious tone. "I know you and Liz had a… thing last night, but I'm not taking sides, okay?"

Maria nodded at him. It hurt her to know that her two best friends were worried about her but she just needed to work through this a bit. No one would understand what she had been through and she didn't relish the idea of trying to explain it all to them.

Alex nodded at her and moved away from her locker. Maria turned her head to get her books as his place was filled with another presence.

"Hey gorgeous," the voice said.

Maria froze at the sound of the voice. She turned her head slowly, whispering through clenched teeth, "What do you want?"

The boy standing next to her smiled; a semi-toothless grin born of the excellent personal hygiene regiment he employed. "I think you know exactly what I want sweetheart," he reached out to place his grimy hand on her arm

She slapped it away. "Not that," she hissed. "You'll get your money. Give me a couple of days."

The boy looked at her with a vengeance burning in his eyes. "Tonight," he muttered. "But if you don't have it I'm coming to collect either way."

He pushed himself away from the lockers. She grimaced at the putrid smell he left behind. Getting mixed up with him had to be the single most stupid thing she had done in her entire life. She knew exactly what he meant by collecting either way – she could pay him or… She shook her head firmly as she grabbed her books from her locker. She would just have to pay him then – avoid the "or" at all costs.

~~~~~

That afternoon Maria stopped to buy her nightly supply of cigarettes, increasing it a little in case the impulse to waste some hit her again. Just as she paid her supplier she turned to see her "impulse" walk by and hurried to catch up with him. They settled into an easy pace, Maria choosing to stuff the cigarettes into her pocket rather than light up in front of him, even though she was dying for a fix right about then.

It was Friday afternoon so Michael hesitated when they reached her street corner. It had only been two days since she entered his pathetic little life but surprisingly he found himself unable to get her out of his mind and did not look forward to a weekend without seeing her.

Maria was thinking similar thoughts and cut him off before he could say anything, "So, do you eat?"

He looked at her quizzically. "Uh, yeah," he answered sarcastically.

"Great, I'll see you at seven then," she said, starting to back away from him.

Michael had a confused look on his face and took a small step toward her, "What? Where?"

She smiled at him as she turned around, "Figure it out Mikey!"

Michael ground his hands into fists at his sides. God, she was tormenting. How was he supposed to figure out what that meant? And why did she insist on calling him Mikey? He walked away towards his apartment, shaking his head at the enigma that was Maria Deluca.
posted on 13-Jun-2002 2:46:48 PM by shelbecat
Part 6

Maria continued home, the worries about the boy from earlier that day momentarily forgotten. She knew she should have never allowed herself to get into him for any amount. And it wasn't as if she couldn't have paid him at any point; a few moments alone with a couple of scraps of paper and she could create any amount of money she wanted. Not paying him wasn't an act of stupidity; it was indifference. When Maria returned from L.A., she was already so hooked on marijuana that she was just looking for a local dealer to hook her up. She hadn't cared much about what happened in any aspect of her life lately; so caring about whether she paid her dealer or not was pretty far from her mind.

Now, however, she had a slightly different outlook on the situation. Last night, when she had picked up her latest bundle of weed, one of Johnny's regulars had warned her.

"He wants his money, Maria, "she had cautioned.

"He'll get it," she had responded.

The junkie shook her head, almost losing her balance from the dizziness that the simple action brought on. "No," she slurred. "If he doesn't get it he'll take you instead."

Maria hadn't needed any further explanation. She was well aware of Johnny Eagle's reputation for having his way with any girl he desired.

She brought herself out of her reverie. Well, she was just going to have to pay him then – simple. She tore a blank page from her exercise book and ripped it into four pieces. Closing her eyes briefly, the paper transformed into hundreds. She tossed the money next to her uniform on the bed and starting getting ready for work. Undressing she stood in front of the mirror and swept her hair back into a ponytail. She pulled out two sections near the front and let them fall across her face. Sweeping her fingers along them she transformed them to jet-black. She waved her hand to reapply her makeup and stepped into her uniform. Stuffing the money into her pocket she turned to leave. She had more important things than one Mr. Johnny Eagle to worry about; she had to figure out the best way to work her feminine wiles on Mr. Mikey Guerin.

~~~~~

Maria worked steadily until 7:00. Not noticing what time it was until she walked up to his booth.

"Welcome to the Crashdown," she said out of habit. "Can I…" her voiced tailed off as she raised her head to take notice of her customer. "Well, well… Mikey," she smiled at him. "You figured it out."

"Yeah, and it's Michael, okay?" he responded.

"Sure whatever," she said absently. "So what'll it be?"

"Uh," he said, fingering the menu. "What's good?"

"The waitresses," Maria deadpanned, bursting into laughter when she saw his face pale.

He stared at her for a moment before laughing along with her. "Okay, okay, just bring me a burger and fries," he said. "And a cherry coke," he added.

"Ahh, a man after my own heart," she responded at his drink request. Cherry coke was a staple among the alien trio.

"Huh," he asked.

"Nothing," Maria smiled, turning to pass his food order to the cook and filling a glass with cherry cola.

Liz had watched the interaction between Maria and the guy sitting in the booth and curiosity overwhelmed her. Guilt had been plaguing her all day and she had been looking for an excuse to talk about last night.

"He's cute," Liz said, leaning against the counter where Maria was working.

"Yep," she responded.

"Listen… about last night," Liz started.

Maria turned about, her hand held up to stop her friend. "Forget about it okay? I have."

Liz opened her mouth to continue, the closed it again. She looked at Maria hesitantly.

Maria smiled, "Really, I be pissed at me too."

She started to walk away when Liz said, "So do you wanna talk or…"

"Don't push it," Maria said but with a smile still on her face.

Liz smiled back, she could give her that much, it was a start at least.
posted on 14-Jun-2002 11:09:43 AM by shelbecat
A bit more feedback this time - I keep forgetting to change the subject to show I've posted a new part! Off to do that now - enjoy!

Part 7

Maria volunteered to finish cleaning up the Crashdown after they closed that night. She had been able to steal about 15 minutes earlier to spend with Michael but all in all it wasn't a very impressive first date, if you could call it a date at all.

Maria sighed as she looked around the messy restaurant. She knew how much Liz hated her using her powers at work but she was just too tired to deal with manual labour tonight. One quick wave of her hand left the restaurant sparkling, cleaner than it had been in years, she thought to herself. She waved her had again, leaving a little dust and grime in the corners so as not to make Mr. Parker too suspicious of her newfound cleaning abilities.

She exited through the back entrance, turning to lock the door behind her. She was startled when she felt hot breath on her neck. She turned around quickly only to be pinned against the door by a forearm sporting an eagle tattoo – Johnny Eagle.

Maria raised her eyes to meet his, crystalline blue-green staring into cold steely grey. She willed herself not to show fear, to remain in control of the situation. "I've got your money," she said, reaching into her uniform pocket.

Johnny pressed his arm harder against her throat. Maria coughed at the sudden pressure, struggling to take enough air into her lungs. "The price just went up," he snarled.

Maria clutched the money in her hand and waved it in front of Johnny's face. It took every ounce of restraint that she possessed not to blast his ass but she remained calm. Johnny reached up with his free hand to grab the bills but didn't release his hold on her. He stuffed the money into his pocket and before she could even gasp another breath he was pressing down on her, harder this time. His hand was free again and he pushed her legs apart, finding her centre and plunging his fingers inside of her.

Maria was choking; any impulse she had to use her powers washed away by the complete lack of oxygen to her brain. She thumped on his chest with her fists, clutched the arm pinning her down with her hands, and tried to pull her body away from his invasive fingers.

Tearing her delicate skin where his rings ripped into her, Johnny finally, mercifully, pulled out and let the gasping girl fall to the ground. He reached into his pocket and grabbed the bills she had given him. Satisfied that she had more than paid her $350 debt he reached into his jacket again and threw a small bag at her feet.

"This should get you through tonight, darlin'," he whispered. He spit on the ground near her body before walking away into the darkness of the alley.

Maria lay on the ground for 10 minutes before moving. Slowly, painfully, she reached down to assess the damage Johnny had inflicted. She winced as she moved her fingers over her rough skin, letting a sob escape her lips when she removed her hand to see wine-red blood staining her fingers. She closed her eyes and pressed her hand back onto the source of her anguish. Concentrating, she was able to heal herself in a few seconds. She staggered to her feet, the physical injury nothing but a memory now, but the emotional scars bleeding as profusely as the wound had. She bent over again to retrieve the bag left behind by Johnny. Through all of her pain she actually felt grateful to him for at least providing her with a means of solace.

She started the walk home, stopping in the park between her house and the restaurant to roll her first of what would be many joints in the next few days. She yearned for an escape, a passage out of the miserable existence that had somehow become her life. She lay back on a picnic table, content to smoke herself into a stupor before attempting to face her mother. Not that she'd even notice that I was late, she thought to herself.

Unwillingly her thoughts drifted back to that night a few months ago when she had needed her mother so much and a few simple words had changed their relationship forever.

She was in L.A., staying with her Dad; a complete stranger to her. She had only been there for a week when he came home one night announcing that he had to leave on a business trip and would be gone for six weeks.

"Maria, feel free to stay here with Kimberley," he had offered.

Kimberley was his tartlet, 24 years old with more plastic surgeries under her belt than Maria knew the names of. She was a nice catch, sure, for a 24-year-old man – not a 40-year-old father. Maria hated her and it was killing her to even be civilized to her when her father left them alone. Now he expected her to spend six weeks alone with her? Maria didn't think so.

"That's okay, I'll just go back to Roswell," she said.

"Okay, whatever you want," her father offered no argument. "Maybe you can come out again when I get back, before school starts."

"Yeah, maybe," Maria had agreed.

Maria called her Mom that night, telling her of her father's plans and that she wanted to come home.

"Well, can't you stay with his play-toy?" Amy had asked.

Maria was stunned for a second, "But I want to come home."

"Well Maria that's all fine and good but I made plans. I'm leaving for a cruise tomorrow and you can't come back and stay here by yourself."

"I'm 17, I'm old enough to stay by myself, Mom. It's not like you're there every night when I'm home anyway," Maria countered.

"Don't push it missy. The cruise is for six weeks Maria. You cannot stay here by yourself for six weeks."

"But…" Maria begged.

"No buts," Amy's tone was final. "Your father paid for that ticket, now stay put and I'll see you in August. I love you."

Amy hung up before Maria could get another word in. She stared at the phone for a full five minutes, wondering if there was any point in calling her mother back again. He mother sounded pretty firm about her not coming home, and she definitely wasn't staying here with Kimmy.

A sharp pain ran through Maria's core and she clutched her blankets to her face, muffling her sobs in the thick cotton. She was completely alone; both her mother and father had made it completely clear that they didn't want her around. She had nowhere to go. She mulled over her situation for a few minutes before adding another statement to her predicament – nowhere to go, and no one to care. That didn't have to be such a bad thing, she decided. As long as she sent Liz and Alex a postcard every few weeks, no one else would even bother to wonder where she was.

Maria got up and started packing her belongings. She took only a small bag, pushing her packed suitcase to the back of the guest room closet. Kimberley didn't seem to be one for housework and Maria doubted she'd notice it while her father was gone.

She wrote her father a quick note, thanking him for the trip and saying that she was cashing in her ticket for a return trip to Roswell. She left the mansion in the hills of L.A. and started walking. Not knowing where she was going and caring even less.
posted on 15-Jun-2002 6:33:28 PM by shelbecat
Part 8

Maria finally managed to stumble home around 3 am, after finishing half of the weed Johnny had given her. Her mother was passed out in her room; Jake wrapped between her legs, and didn't wake when she entered.

She slept for 12 hours, waking up an hour before her shift started at the Crashdown on Saturday. Maria sleepily rolled over and picked up the phone to call Liz.

"Hello," Liz answered.

"Hey Lizzie, it's me."

"Maria!" Whoa, I sound way too excited, Liz thought to herself. It was just that Maria hadn't called her for any reason in the past two weeks.

"Yeah," Maria rolled her eyes at her friend's exclamation. "Listen, I'm not feeling well, can you get someone to cover for me?"

"Oh," the disappointment was evident in Liz's voice. So Maria didn't want to talk after all. "Um well, Agnes already asked to leave early so we're going to be short as it is. Can you come in for a couple of hours at 8:00?"

Maria shook her head, unfortunately getting stoned didn't make her immune to guilty feelings and before she could stop herself she agreed to Liz's proposal.

She hung up the phone, getting out of bed to draw herself a bath. Her Mom was nowhere to be found and Maria figured she was already over at Jake's, getting ready for her ritual Saturday night out on the town. She stepped into the hot water, pulling a chair filled with her marijuana paraphernalia close to her. She kneeled in the tub, stopping to roll a joint and light it before sinking back into the rose scented water.

"Ahh," a blissful sigh escaped her lips. She was going to stay here until she was wrinkly as a prune and high as a kite, no matter how long it took.

~~~~~

That night Maria showed up for work, her makeup applied liberally but not enough to hide her bloodshot eyes. No amount could mask the effects of the afternoon she had spent "enjoying" herself.

She threw her coat into her locker, slamming it loudly behind her. She walked out into the restaurant, swaying slightly as she stopped to pick up an order pad from the counter and approach the nearest table where a family was just finishing their meal.

"Welcome to the Crashdown. Can I take your order?" she asked them

The confused patrons looked at their waitress and then the father pointed to his meal, "Um, we're almost done."

"Oh, so that'll be all then? I'll get that for you right away," Maria responded, moving away to walk behind the counter.

Liz was just picking up an order from the kitchen window and watched in horrified amazement as Maria reached for a glass, dropped it and then bent down to wave her hand over it, transforming it back into one piece. Liz slammed the plates she was carrying down onto the counter and grabbed Maria's shoulders, lifting her off of the floor. She pushed her friend into the back room and sat her on the couch.

"What do you think you are doing?" she questioned angrily.

Maria giggled a little, "The glass …" Her giggles were fast becoming uncontrollable. "The glass was in many pieces," she said, looking up a Liz with wide, red-rimmed eyes.

"Maria, you can't just do that… wait, are you… high?" Liz asked, her eyes as wide as Maria's.

"Yessir," Maria responded. "Real good too."

"What the… what ever possessed you to come here like this?" Liz moved to sit beside her friend, placing her hand on her forehead to check her temperature. She had no idea what Maria had taken or what affect it could have on her. Alex had taken a few sips of beer once a year ago and was convinced that pink lions with purple manes were chasing him down Main Street.

"Makes me feel good," Maria murmured, pushing Liz's hand aside to stand up. She promptly lost her balance and fell back onto the couch. On the second try she was able to successfully make it to a standing position and moved towards the restaurant again.

"Oh no you don't," Liz said, jumping up to grab Maria's arm. She reached into her locker and gathered her coat and purse. Pushing them into Maria's arms she said, "Sit down over there and wait for me."

Liz walked back out into the restaurant, looking for Alex. He had been there a moment ago but now there was no sign of him. "Shit," she swore under her breath. Taking a final glance around the room her eyes settled on a familiar face. That guy, the one that Maria was talking to last night. Liz hesitated, looking over her shoulder toward the back room. She didn't know how well Maria knew that guy, but she couldn't leave the restaurant unsupervised, her parents were out of town and they were already short a waitress before Maria had decided to get stoned.

Liz made up her mind and approached the boy sitting by himself in a booth, "Um, Mikey, right?"

Michael shook his head, was he wearing a nametag with Mikey on it or something, "Michael."

Liz smiled nervously, "Oh sorry, Maria said…" She shook her head, who cared what his name, was she had a real problem. "Look, um, can you do me a favour?"

"And you would be…"

"Oh, sorry, I'm Liz, Maria's friend. I need you to help me with Maria."

Michael's expression was amused, watching the girl stammer over her words, but instantly changed to one of concern when he heard Liz's favour. "Why, is something wrong?"

"Uh, no… well, yes… it's just," Liz reached down and grabbed the boy by the arm. "Come with me."

Liz pulled Michael across the restaurant and into the back room, "She just showed up stoned and I…" Liz stopped as she entered the empty back room, staring at the open door leading into the alley. "Oh shit, I shouldn’t have left her alone."

Michael moved around to look at Liz from the front, leaning in to grasp both of her arms with his hands, "Wait, you said she was stoned?"

Liz tried to concentrate on the boy standing in front of her; she didn't know how much she should tell him, "She doesn't normally do this. I mean, well, I guess I wouldn't know much what she does anymore anyway. She hasn't been herself lately. It's like I don't even know her anymore."

Michael was exasperated, this girl obviously thought something was wrong with Maria, what was she babbling about knowing her for. "Is something wrong?" he enunciated each word slowly.

"I don't know, she looked pretty far gone to me. Can you just try and find her and bring her home?"

Michael nodded, moving toward the door. Liz called after him, "No wait, bring her back here." She had no idea if Maria would start using her powers again and she wanted her where she could keep an eye on her.

Michael stepped through the door into the black alley. Liz shook her head as she walked back into the restaurant. She had no idea what her friend was trying to do to herself but there obviously had to be a larger problem at the root of it. Once Michael got her back here she intended to find out exactly what it was.
posted on 17-Jun-2002 9:11:59 PM by shelbecat
Hey Brandy and Aurora - thanks for reading. Aurora - don't pee your pants - I'll give you some more!!! And hey, you're in Mississauga and I'm just in Brampton - small world hey?

This next part is the entire reason I wrote this fic - I wrote this scene for an old fic and never used it but I loved it and had to write a fic just to include it - hope it was worth it!

Part 9

Michael had only one idea about where Maria could be headed. If she really was high when she showed up for work then he figured it was more than just a one-time experiment and she was probably into it heavy, if not an addict.

Michael ran to Johnny Eagle's hang out. He knew there was only one place to get "hooked up" in Roswell and this was it. He walked in just in time to see Maria receiving a baggie from a guy in a black hooded sweatshirt.

Maria turned when she heard someone enter and quickly turned away. Michael walked up to her, grabbing her arm and pushing her out of the building. Once outside he turned her around to face him, "What are you doing to yourself?"

Maria winced at the force of his hand on her arm. Surprise registered in her brain that he didn't sound angry with her, rather like he pitied her.

"Leave me alone," she said, yanking her arm away.

"No, I won't," he said, reaching out to hold her arm again.

"I don't need your pity," she spat at him.

Michael stared at the girl in front of him for a moment. Slowly he swallowed and said, "It's not pity. It's empathy."

His voice was so quiet that she could barely hear him and she surprised herself by actually wanting to know what he was saying, "What?" she said, leaning in closer to him.

He looked up to meet her eyes before letting go of her arm and lowering his head again, "I said, it's empathy."

"Empathy?" confusion registered on Maria's face before she gasped. "Oh."

Michael shook his head, raising it ever so slightly to just meet her gaze, "You know you aren't the only one who's had a fucked up life."

Maria felt incredibly foolish at that very moment but his voice wasn't condemning, it was filled with such a quiet regret that she was stirred into silence. She stared at his lowered eyes, reaching out with her hand to touch his face, "Mike…"

Michael raised his head. "I swear, if you call me Mikey one more time…" he threatened playfully.

"…cal," she finished, smiling at him.

A smile spread across his face and he leaned in to receive the kiss she offered.

“FREEZE!”

Maria turned around to see the barrel of a gun pointing directly at her.

Michael pushed her behind him. “What do you want man?”

"Money."

“Sure, sure.” Michael reached into his back pocket for his wallet.

"Not your money," the perpetrator spat. "The money that little bitch owes me."

Michael turned to look over his shoulder at Maria. She was staring at the supposed thief, Johnny Eagle, with a "deer caught in the headlights" look in her eyes. He turned back to face the Johnny, Michael knew exactly who he was, "Listen, buddy, we don't want any trouble."

"Oh yeah, well you've got it anyway. Her little habit got a bit too expensive. I want my money right now or someone's going to see what this shiny piece of metal can do," he said, gesturing with the gun in his hand.

"I paid you, you bastard," Maria finally spoke up.

"Listen, I don't know how you did it, but there was nothing but scraps of paper in my pocket when I got home," Johnny responded.

Maria was stunned, she was so terrified when Johnny had assaulted her that she must have activated her powers and changed the money back once it was in his pocket. She had never done something like that without being aware of it before.

Michael didn't think about his next move, instinct took over and he brought the hand that was resting on his wallet around to his front. It was balled in a fist, his armed coiled to strike. He caught the dealer square on the jaw with his first punch.

The guy stumbled backwards, reeling. "You’re going to regret that… Mikey," he snarled.

The gun dropped to the ground and he lunged at Michael. Michael pushed Maria aside and prepared to strike again. Before he had a chance he felt something penetrate his side and Johnny's hand retracted again. Michael grabbed his side as he felt warm fluids rushing out of him. He fell to his knees as Johnny grabbed his gun and raced down the alley. Maria stepped forward and waved her arm in the direction of the retreating figure. He fell forward hitting his head hard on the pavement and passed out. She rushed to Michael’s side.

“Are you okay?”

Michael moaned, “I think he got me.”

Maria looked at Michael’s face and could see the colour draining quickly. He was hurt, bad. She helped him lie down on the ground, cradling his head in her lap.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’ll call an ambulance.”

She turned to grab her cell phone and felt Michael’s head roll off of her lap onto the ground. She grabbed his head with her hands and shook him.

“Michael, Michael, wake up!”

Maria scrambled around to his side. She shook him again, harder.

“Michael, can you hear me?”

He was unconscious, Maria looked at the wound the knife had made in his side. It was deep, long and bleeding profusely. She covered the gash with her hands and concentrated.

* FLASH *

She was thrown into Michael’s head before she could steady herself. Flashes of him playing in the sandbox, on the swings, jungle gym… always alone. More flashes and she saw him standing with two little kids, a boy and a girl. Several flashes of the three of them, always together, a painful look on his face whenever he was leaving them. Another flash and she could see him at home. Cowering in the corner from a shouting man. Again, as a teen, standing up to fight back but getting punched repeatedly. Flashes of a dark scene, so black she could barely make out the figures, then images of Michael smoking, passing out. She knew with certainty that he wasn't smoking cigarettes.

* FLASH *

Maria fell backwards away from the figure lying on the ground. She had made connections to heal people before but nothing was ever this powerful. She looked up to see Michael sitting up, shaking his head. He was still holding his side where the cut had been.

She crawled over to him and sat down. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. That guy, he had a gun," Michael mumbled incoherently. Then his head snapped up and he looked at her with concern, "Did he hurt you?"

“No, you protected me,” Maria smiled at him.

“Where’d he go?”

She grinned, “He tried to run away but tripped and fell down. He didn’t get up yet so I think he’s passed out.”

Michael looked to where she pointed at the prone figure lying on the ground. A look of confusion crossed his face, “But we were fighting and… wait, not a gun, he had a knife too." Michael glanced down at his side. Blood stained his shirt and hand. “Oh, god, he got me.”

Maria reached out to take his hand away from his side.

“No, he missed, just got your shirt.”

Michael looked to see a 6-inch tear in his shirt. “But the blood.”

“I know, I panicked too at first but I think he must have cut himself. You’re still in one piece.”

She stood up and reached for Michael’s hand to help him to his feet. He stood up but let his hand linger on hers. “What really happened?”

Maria looked up at him, “I told you.”

Michael’s voice dropped to a whisper. “What really happened, Maria?”

“Michael, don’t.” Maria’s head dropped. He reached out to touch her chin, lifting her head to look her in the eyes.

She wouldn't meet his eyes so he let his hand fall away. "It's okay, you don't have to tell me," he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

Maria was shivering. More from the realization of what had just happened than from the cool night air. How was she going to explain this one? He said it was okay but there was no way he was just going to let this pass. Her head was screaming thoughts at her so quickly that she didn't hear him speak.

"Maria," he said loudly, shaking her by the shoulder.

She jerked her head to look at him. He gestured to her cell phone where it still lay on the ground next to her purse. "The police… did you call them?"

"Um," Maria shook her head to clear it. "Uh, no, I didn't."

"Okay well then we'd better before he wakes up," Michael said.

"He's not going to wake up," she responded before she could stop herself.

"What?" Michael questioned, already bent down to pick up the phone.

"Nothing," she said quickly, cursing at her carelessness.

Michael dialled 9-1-1 and told the operator where they were and what had happened. Maria stood with him nervously near the man on the ground while they waited for the police to arrive. At one point Michael turned away from her and she bent over to touch his hand, causing it to rip open and bleed onto the ground. It was the best she could do to try and make her earlier explanation to Michael believable. When the cops arrived they checked the man for vital signs, something the teens had failed to do, and pronounced him dead.

Maria had been standing by quietly while an officer spoke to Michael but when she heard the announcement her knees gave way and she fell to the ground, collapsing into uncontrollable sobbing. Michael rushed to her side, gathering her in his arms. Here was a girl he hardly knew that, admit it or not, had somehow saved his life tonight. Michael wasn't sure what she needed to get over the mountain of healing that she now faced, but he was determined to give her whatever that may be.
posted on 19-Jun-2002 9:04:34 AM by shelbecat
Glad to see you're liking this!

Part 10

No one in Roswell was sad to see the demise of Johnny Eagle, least of all the police department. A quick survey of the scene verified Maria's story that he had tripped and hit his head, small bits of gravel were imbedded in his forehead, surrounding a cut that had bled a puddle onto the ground.

The police also examined the cut on his hand and, satisfied that it explained the presence of blood on the otherwise uninjured Michael, they were glad to let the teens go home.

"We may have some more questions for you so don't leave town, okay?" Sheriff Valenti told them. Smiling a little he said, "We have to say that to everyone."

Maria was unresponsive, sitting on the ground with her knees pulled into her chest, a vacant look in her eyes. Michael took note of this and answered for both of them, "We won't Sheriff. Can I take her home now?"

"Sure," kneeling down to stare into Maria's eyes he continued, "it's okay miss, he won't be able to bother you anymore."

Maria turned her eyes towards Jim Valenti's, he put on a good act of playing the innocent Sheriff but Maria knew it was just that; an act. He had found about her, Liz, and Alex being aliens about two years ago when a rogue FBI agent had tracked them to Roswell. The Sheriff's son, Kyle, had been dating Liz at the time and the four of them were together in the Crashdown one evening when the FBI agent cornered them at gunpoint. Jim had been suspicious that something wasn't right about Kyle's girlfriend and had stopped by the restaurant just to set his mind at ease when he found them being held against their will. He had burst in, drawing fire from the agent. The agent died but not before Kyle was shot in the crossfire. Alex had healed him and both Sheriff and son had been indebted to the three teens ever since, and helped them keep their cover.

Maria knew that Jim Valenti recognized what had happened here tonight; the drug dealer was dead by her hands. She also knew that he would cover for her as much as possible but she was still filled with an overwhelming sense of shame. She was wordlessly asking him to put his career on the line to cover for her actions, actions born of her idiocy at getting involved with Johnny Eagle in the first place.

It was all just too much for her to bear. Maria stood up quickly, swaying at the sudden rush of blood to her head. Michael grabbed for her arm to steady her but she pulled away from him. "I've got to…" her voice caught as fresh tears poured from her eyes. "I've got to go. I'm sorry," her last words were a mere whisper as she turned and ran from the alley.

She gained a little ground on Michael but he quickly ran after her, only a few paces behind her when she reached the park just down the street. He stretched his arm out to grab at her jacket, causing her to stumble to the ground and sending his body flying through the air beside her. He landed face down on top of her, his arms supporting his weight from crushing her tiny frame beneath him. She looked up at him for a second, her eyes full of a hesitant confession. Telling herself that she couldn't admit anything to him she rolled to her side to get away, finding that she was trapped in a cage of his arms.

"Let me up," she demanded.

"Promise you won't run," Michael asked.

Maria stared at him for a full minute, before nodding slightly. He rolled onto one arm, freeing her from his clutches. She sat up but didn't get to her feet. Turning to look at him lying beside her she shook her head ever so slowly, lowering her eyes to stare at her hands in her lap.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

Michael sat up, sitting cross-legged opposite her. "For what?" he questioned.

"For tonight," her voice was so quiet that it was difficult to discern.

"Why? Cause you were high?" Michael scoffed at her admission, "Forget it, you've got to hit the bottom before you can come up the other side."

Maria snapped her head up to looked at him, "What did you say?

Michael swallowed hard but a determination grew inside of him and he pressed on, "I said, you have to hit the bottom…"

"I heard you," she impatiently interrupted. "What did you mean by it?"

"Just that I've been where you are and I know what it's like to be hooked."

"You've been…" her voiced trailed off as the visions from her connection with him flooded back and she remembered seeing him smoking up.

"I told you that you weren't the only one who had a fucked up life," he reminded her.

"You and Johnny?" she asked.

Michael raised a hand to reveal two fingers crossed over each other, "Like that."

"When? Why?"

Michael sighed and stretched back on the grass so that he was sideways to her, his legs sticking out in front of him. He wasn't proud of the life he had led up until the age of 16 but he had been able to turn it around and now it was something he was finally able to view with a little perspective. He told Maria of how social services had taken him from his parents when he was five and placed him in foster care. He had jumped from family to family, always having to move before ever getting comfortable in one place. Finally when he was 10 he had settled with Hank, his last foster father.

"Oh, you should have met him, he was up for father of the year," Michael said with a wry grin on his face.

Maria was listening intently, ashamed to think of her problems as insurmountable as she heard this boy recount experiences that no adult should have to go through.

He continued, explaining how Hank had abused him but would always put on this great show whenever the social worker would drop by. He had a friend of a friend that would let him know whenever the "surprise" visits were scheduled so that they never caught him drunk or saw the bruises that peppered Michael's body.

"So, I started going out more and more. Just to get away from him. And when I was fourteen, I met Johnny. He was 16 and I just thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread. And he seemed like he really liked me, you know? Like I finally 'fit' somewhere. Before I knew it I was hooked," he finished sadly.

"So how did you get out?" she asked timidly.

"Max and Isabel."

"Who?"

"My saviours," Michael responded. "Max and Isabel Evans, you probably know them from school?"

"Oh, yeah sure. I think I have a couple of classes with them."

"Well, anyway, we've been friends since grade school. They always let me stay over there whenever Hank would go on a binge, covered for me at school if I didn't want to go in with a black eye, just whatever." Michael paused; fascinated by the neat circle of ground he had cleared of grass while he relayed his story. "When I was 16 they finally decided that they had seen enough of my devil-may-care lifestyle and basically tied me up for the whole weekend," he laughed as he remembered it. "You should have seen them, so sure that they were doing the right thing but terrified that I would get out of the ropes and kick their ass."

Maria had to join in his laughter. She knew who Max was and could see how he could fear Michael's obvious strength. "Isabel too?" she asked, still giggling.

Michael smiled, "Well, she just basically told me off a lot. Max was scared though; I think he almost wet himself!"

"Ha ha ha," Maria fell back on the grass, clutching her sides in pain from laughing so much.

"Then when they finally untied me, I actually felt good about what they had done but I would still go over to Max's bedroom every night for a week and just stand outside staring in at him. It totally creeped him out, he slept with his baseball bat in his arms."

"Oh, stop it," Maria gasped, struggling to get back into a sitting position.

Michael smiled at her, "Glad to see you find my pain so amusing."

Her face suddenly took on a sober expression, "No, it's just…"

"Kidding," Michael teased, reaching over to push her back onto the grass. "It's good to laugh about it sometimes. It makes it seem controllable, like I finally have the upper hand."

Maria was lying beside him now, looking up at the stars in the midnight sky. Michael raised himself up on his elbow so lean over her, "Penny for your thoughts."

She smiled, "I feel like I owe you an equal explanation."

"You don't owe me anything," he replied.

"No, but you've been so open with me, you hardly know me, why?"

Michael stared down into her eyes for a few seconds. He leaned in closer, before whispering, "Because I want to get to know the real you, the one you've buried."

Maria took him into her. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down to rest on top of her. Michael rolled over, pulling her with him so that she now rested on top. She kissed him again then pushed back a little, "So you really want to know who Maria Deluca is?"

"Absolutely."
posted on 19-Jun-2002 2:01:40 PM by shelbecat
I just realized that I didn't update the fic title when I posted part 10, and rather than change it now and have you thinking I posted again... I decided to change it AND post another part! Aren't I just the nicest?

Part 11

It was a warm evening, typical of late summer in Roswell, and Maria and Michael spent the entire night talking under the stars. She relayed her entire L.A. story to him, every horrifying detail, and felt as if a weight was lifted off of her shoulders which each new anecdote she told.

When her Mom had made it clear that she wasn't wanted in Roswell, she had left her Dad's, no particular destination in mind. There was a bus stop just down the hill from her father's house and she got on the first bus that stopped. When the streets looked busy enough to get lost in she got off.

"I must have walked around for hours before I found the diner," she told him. The diner was called "Coffee Break" and was straight out of the 50s, chrome stools at the counter and everything. She was nursing a cup of coffee in a corner booth when the group of teenagers had entered. The diner was surprisingly busy for so late at night and there was nowhere to sit. Seeing Maria sitting alone, the obvious leader of the little group, a girl with coal black hair and a look much like Maria's current one, approached her.

She slid into the booth saying "Mind if we join you?"

Before Maria could respond, the other three teens with her had slid in as well.

"Hey Slim, couple of coffee's, yeah?" an overweight, acne-ridden boy of about 15 yelled toward the counter.

"Wait your turn, Cal," the man behind the counter yelled back.

Maria looked at the small group in surprise. She hadn't been in L.A. for that long, and their forwardness was a bit off-putting. The black-haired girl stretched her hand across the table toward Maria.

"I'm Kat," she said.

Maria took it, responding with only, "Hey."

"Okay, a shy one," Kat observed. She introduced the other three teens, "Shiff, Cal, and Kansas."

Maria observed the group of invaders surrounding her. Kat was tall, slender, with straight black hair cascading down her back. She sported piercings in her eyebrow, nose and tongue, along with several up and down both ears. She was dressed in a long black shapeless sheath that she somehow wore like a second skin. She was pale, like a vampire on Buffy, Maria thought. Her make-up consisted of black; black eye shadow, liner, mascara, lipstick – everything except blush, which Maria through was probably white to accentuate her paleness.

Shiff was as tall as Kat, or taller, and was dressed in fatigues. Army Surplus Store much, Maria thought. He had sandy brown hair and kind eyes. She surprised herself at that observation, what did she care what emotion his eyes portrayed? He was free of piercings and seemed to have a certain aloofness about him. Like only his body was there at the table with them while his mind was somewhere completely different.

Cal, your typical acne-speckled, overweight, angst-ridden, the-world-is-out-to-get-me teenager, to sum it up nicely. He was wearing an oversize jean jacket, not an easy feat with his enormous bulk, and grey sweatpants. Piercings dotted his face so that, between them and the acne, Maria found it hard to image a real person underneath.

Kansas, what kind of a name was that? Certainly, what kind of a name was Shiff either, but then they didn't look like your typical Americana teen. Kansas was petite, shorter than Maria, and very blonde. It looked real too, Maria thought to herself. She wore a less severe make-up job still consisting of mostly black. She was wearing a jean jacket covering a simple white T-Shirt and a short black short above knee-high black boots. She was sans piercings save for several along one ear. Her face looked innocent. Immediately Maria knew where her name had come from. She bet any money that this chick was not long off the Greyhound direct from Kansas itself.

Slim had arrived with their coffees and Maria took this opportunity to excuse herself from the group. She was wedged in beside Kansas, with Cal perched backwards on a chair at the head of the table, so she was not free to leave.

"Where're are going in such a hurry?" Kat asked her.

"Oh, I just got to go," Maria replied, still half-standing, hoping Kansas would move over to let her out.

"Sit, have more coffee, we're going to a party in a few if you're game?"

Maria looked at them with confusion; they were inviting her to a party? She had just met them. Actually she wouldn't even describe their minimal interaction as meeting. "No, really…" she insisted.

Kansas spoke up, her voice so soft that Maria barely heard her at first, "C'mon, it'll be fun."

Maria looked down at the blonde girl. The look on her face was welcoming but she saw something lingering in her eyes, trepidation was the only word that sprang to Maria's mind. Slowly she sat back down in the booth.

"We don't bite," Kat added. She took another sip of coffee and then mumbled, "Well not unless you want us…" She burst into laughter at the look on Maria's face before she could finish. Maria laughed along with her, deciding that for now at least they weren't the worst company she could pair up with.

"So chica," Kat continued, "what's your story?"

Maria paused at the sound of the memorable phrase. She had always referred to Liz as "chica" and never known anyone else who used the word. It was odd to hear something so familiar coming out of this stranger's mouth.

She shrugged, "Well, I'm from R… uh, Richmond, Virginia."

"You don't have an accent," Kansas spoke up.

"Uh, no, we uh… I used to live in New York but my parents split and I went to Virginia with my Mom while my Dad moved out here." Once the lie started it was easy to keep it going. The fabrications poured out of Maria's mouth before she was even conscious of what they were. "That's why I'm here, visiting my Dad."

"So, you got a name?" Kat asked.

Maria smiled, "Alli – with an I". The name jumped to the front of her mind and was spoken before she could stop herself. It was a combination of Alex and Liz, not something Maria had ever thought of before, but somehow it just felt right tonight.

"Well, Alli-with-an-I," Kat said, "we have some serious partying to do. Have to get you up-to-date on the L.A. scene, chica."

Kat stood up, pushing Shiff to move him out of the booth. Cal and Kansas got up as well and Maria grabbed her bag to follow them. They walked out of the diner into the balmy Los Angeles night, Maria once again not knowing where she was going, but this time feeling confident that "Alli" would give her a welcome escape from the life where she wasn't wanted. On July 5, 2001 she left Maria Deluca in the "Coffee Break" diner in Los Angeles, California. It would be months before she resurfaced again.
posted on 20-Jun-2002 2:44:39 PM by shelbecat
Okay, so I'm sure that only 2 people are reading this but I guess that's better than none right? Here's another part for you ladies...

Part 12

"Alli" followed the gang of four to their party at a nearby house. The house wasn't much to look at on the outside but inside it was pretty. Yeah, pretty ugly, Maria thought to herself looking around. People were draped over the furniture that was scattered haphazardly around the room. Those who couldn't find a seat were sitting, or lying, on the floor. Everywhere people held some form of "escape" – Marijuana, hash, and mirrors of cocaine among them. Those who weren't busy getting high, already were, and held a cigarette between their lips with a drink nestled by their side.

Kat moved swiftly through the body-littered floor, Cal right behind her. Kansas picked up Maria's arm and pulled her along through the crowd. Music was blaring from a stereo set up in the corner and she watched in fascination as Kansas' lips mouthed words to her, the sound drowning in the music before it reached her ears.

Maria followed obediently behind her to the back of the room and into another smaller, darker room. Her eyes struggled to adjust as the door was closed, effectively blocking all light, and mercifully noise, from the front room. As she looked around she could see fewer people in here, all sitting on the floor. A girl sat in the corner playing a guitar, a guy by her side singing harmony to her melodies. Candles were the only source of light and Maria almost stepped on a few people before Kansas stopped tugging and pulled her to the floor.

She sat back against the wall, pulling her bag closer to her side. As she surveyed the room she felt a peacefulness envelop her. Maria felt very much as she had when she emerged from her pod over 10 years ago. She didn't know a soul here, save for the motley crew she had arrived with, and no one knew her. In fact, not even her newfound acquaintances knew one fact of information about Maria Deluca. Alli, with an as-yet-undetermined last name, was a new girl in L.A., with no one to answer to, and no one looking for her. She was free to party here as long as she wanted and devil-be-damned what anybody had to say about it. A determination settled in her stomach at the resolve that she was going to experience every stimulation Alli's life had to offer. Any excuse at all to leave her old life behind for a little while.

Kat sat down in front of Maria and Kansas, opening her clutched fist to reveal three fat, freshly rolled joints. Maria stared at the foreign objects for a few moments, before following Kansas' lead and selecting one for herself. She tried to light it, failed, and finally swapped with Kansas who showed her how to hold the flame in place while inhaling deeply. She sampled the merchandise, exploding into a fit of coughing as the first wave of acrid smoke brushed her lungs. Kat burst out laughing while Kansas looked at her with concern, rubbing her back until she got her breath back.

"Here, let me show you," she offered. She inhaled deeply on the joint, holding her breath for a few seconds, before gently exhaling. "Now you try."

Maria followed suit, this time at least managing to hold her breath before the same coughing fit took over again.

"Chica, you never tried this before, man you've been missing out," Kat said to Maria.

Maria smiled at her and took another puff. She was already beginning to decide who she liked in this little group she had met, and Kat was definitely not high on the list. The three girls sat in silence, listening to the guitar music, as they finished their joints. Maria felt fine, thinking to herself that marijuana wasn't such a big deal, until she was finished and tried to move. One twitch of her head and she was spinning. Kansas giggled at the sight of Maria's face turning a little green and the feeling of paranoia set in. Kansas saw that Maria didn't smile back and reassured her, "It's okay, you'll get paranoid something wicked on this stuff. I'm not laughing at you, promise okay?"

Maria smiled back at her but the words did little to ease the voices shouting in her head. After about an hour the guitar player abandoned her post and Shiff retrieved the guitar from its stand. Him or Cal joined the girls in their corner of the room, Cal handing out cigarettes to everyone. Maria took one, setting it on fire when she held the flame against it for too long. Kat burst out laughing again and Maria decided that she definitely didn't like that girl very much.

Shiff starting strumming on the instrument and Kat immediately joined in humming. Maria turned to look at her in surprise; she had never met someone who could hum like that… off-key! She took another puff on her cigarette, the smoke no longer bothering her already irritated lungs. She listened to Kat for a few more seconds before reaching over to take a sip of the drink Cal had brought with him. The song was familiar to her and when the next verse started she joined in, quickly drowning out Kat's pathetic attempt at entertainment with her clear alto voice.

There's no one in town I know
You gave us someplace to go
I never said thank you for that
Thought I might get one more chance

So what would you think of me now?
So lucky, so strong, so proud
I never said thank you for that
Now I'll never have a chance

May angels lead you in
Hear you me my friends
On sleepless roads the sleepless go
May angels lead you in


Kat quieted as Maria's voice rang clear and true through the small room. Others turned to look as well, the veil of marijuana-induced happiness lifting for a brief moment as they allowed the blissful sweetness of her voice to wash over their sorry souls.

Maria quieted as the song ended, only then noticing the awed faces of the people sitting around her.

"Wow, you're really good, "Kat said appreciatively.

"Thanks," Maria said, smiling. Maybe Kat wasn't going to be so bad after all.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Jun-2002 2:46:54 PM ]
posted on 21-Jun-2002 10:45:30 AM by shelbecat
Thank you two - blantant pleading for feedback on my part and still only the 2 of you - I think I'm right *happy*

Anyways, I'll write for just one person - I am that much in need of self-fulfilling feedback!

Part 13

After the party, "Alli" followed the group back to their "home". Home was a corner of an abandoned warehouse where four discarded car seats provided protection from the cold floor of cracked concrete. A man, who Maria could only assume was both homeless and mentally unstable, stood up from where he sat on one of the seats as they approached. Cal tossed him an apple and yelled, "Thanks Joey."

Maria looked like she was going to be sick from the mere experience of being in this place but Kansas once again anticipated her feelings and led her by the hand to one of the seats. "This one's mine," she said. "We can share."

Maria smiled down at the girl, wondering if she was going a little mentally unstable herself for actually staying here, but joined her on the seat.

"That was Joey," Kansas explained. "He watches our stuff for us if were not here and we bring him back some food or whatever. He doesn't like to go outside so it works out good."

Maria looked around to see that the little corner was indeed very homey. The four seats were arranged in a square with an old trunk set up in the middle. Kat pulled half-burned candles out of it and set them up around the perimeter, casting a mellow glow over everyone's faces. Cal pulled more fruit from his backpack – Maria had no doubt that it had been stolen at some point that day, but at this point she was too hungry to care where her nourishment came from.

"So Alli, how long you planning on staying in L.A.?" Cal asked her.

Maria shrugged, hungrily sucking the bittersweet juice from her grapefruit before it dripped away. "I got a ticket home for the end of August," she said.

Kat looked up from her own orange, "August? Well you can stay here but you've got to pitch in."

Maria stared evenly at the girl. What was her deal? Alli had done nothing to piss her off, yet she was being a complete bitch. Maria figured that she just couldn't help it—some people were just born to be ugly, on the inside as well as out. "What do you need?" she asked.

"What?" Kat questioned.

"I said, what… do… you… need…" Maria sounded out the words slowly as if Kat were stupid. When the expression on Kat's face revealed that the insult had been effective she continued, "Like… money, food, what? Just tell me and I'll get it."

"Well Miss Virginia, this ain't no Richmond, let me tell you. You aren't just going to walk down the street and get money from a stranger for nothing. It's pretty hard to squeeze blood from a turnip."

Maria laughed to herself, "squeezing blood from a turnip" was a popular expression used to describe an impossible situation. However, for an alien of her magnitude, squeezing blood from a turnip wasn't anywhere near the realm of impossibility and she knew that no matter what task Kat assigned her, she'd deliver.

Maria stared back at the girl, not speaking and not changing her expression in any way. Kat looked away, defeated at the realization that her insults bounced directly off of Alli. "We need money, every day, so we can buy food. Otherwise we steal it."

"Food, hey?" Maria knew full well that Kat's "food" probably came in a powder or weed form on most days, but she didn't press the issue. In the morning she'd gather some paper and make enough money to buy food. Real food, Kat could find her own money for drugs. The high wasn't that good, she tried to convince herself as she settled down on the car seat next to Kansas for a fitful sleep.

~~~~~

The next day passed fairly uneventfully. Maria got up before everyone else and was back with bagels and coffee before they awoke. Kat stared at her for a minute but when Maria produced cream cheese to accompany the food she smiled, "Alright, I don't know what your deal is but if you can get this for us… you're okay in my books."

Maria sat down with her own coffee. She had no real desire to win Kat's approval – it just felt better to know that she had won the little war Kat waged.

That night there was another "party" to go to. Before they left Kat and Kansas cornered Maria and applied their makeup to her face liberally. The only clothes Maria had with her were a pair of blue jeans, a long flowered skirt, and two pastel tops. "Somehow I don't think I'll fit in," she said.

Kansas laughed, reaching into the trunk to pull put two garments. "These should fit," she said, offering them to Maria. The girls held up a blanket to shield her from the others in the warehouse and she changed into the black denim skirt and three-quarter length black top. They barely fit but a quick pass over them with her hands and the clothes melted against her body as if they were made for her.

When the girls offered their approval, Alli decided that she would be dying all of her clothes black, first thing tomorrow. Well, actually Maria planned to turn them black with her powers but she figured they'd believe her if she said she bought a package of dye. There was a bathtub in the corner with still running water so she could put together a plausible story.

"The hair," she said, holding up her wavy blonde hair for their inspection.

"Braids," the two girls said at the same time.

Alli screwed up her face at the suggestion but sat down to let them work and soon realized that they meant a serious of small braids spread along the front of her hair. They secured the braids with a clip at the base of her neck, leaving her natural hair flowing beneath them.

Maria hardly recognized the girl that stared back at her from the piece of broken mirror Kansas offered her.

"You look really good, Alli," Kat commented.

Alli, Maria thought, so this was what Alli looked like. She liked it.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Jun-2002 2:55:51 PM ]
posted on 22-Jun-2002 2:58:24 PM by shelbecat
Thanks Aurora and Brady - my faithfulls. And of course to Kari and Mon who have already read all of these parts but still stopped by to say hi - thanks!

Here's the last part that I have pre-written - now I have to get off my ass and write new parts - yikes!

Part 14

The party that night was the same as the last, so were the ones they went to every other night that week. Maria was now providing the group with food every day, leaving Kat with extra money to do with as she pleased. Maria wasn't sure where she got her money from, begging or hooking, and didn't care. She shared her own self-made money with Kansas and while the others assumed they were out all day begging, they actually sat in a nearby park or just walked around window-shopping. When questioned about where she got the money, Alli replied, "I've got my ways." Kansas was too meek to question her.

One night, about a week after Maria joined them, Kat came home with a "surprise".

"So where's the party tonight?" Cal asked her when she entered.

Maria had been anxiously pacing their small area, surprising herself by how much she was looking forward to the daily supply of marijuana the parties provided.

"Nowhere," Kat replied.

"What?" Maria snapped.

Every turned to look at her, Kat was the first to realize why she was so anxious, "Relax, I've got a fix for ya," she said.

"That's not…" Maria mumbled, shutting up when she saw that none of them believed her anyway. She took a seat next to Kat, peering over her shoulder as she unloaded the "surprise" from her bag—a small bag containing a white powder, followed by a razor blade, and a short straw. She motioned toward Kansas who was already rummaging through her things for a small piece of the broken mirror. Placing it down on the trunk, she kneeled in front of it, eagerly waiting for Kat to divide the treat.

Maria watched in fascination as the powder was expertly separated into five neat rows on the mirror. Kat picked up the straw and leaned in to inhale the first. The others followed, leaving one row for Maria to consume.

She hesitated, "Wha… what is it?"

Kat looked at her through eyes dilated from the drug, "Coke… and I don't mean the Cola," she said, laughing at her own joke.

Maria looked at the others to see that they were watching her with hunger, salivating for their next hit.

"I'll pass," she said, staring at the damaging substance in Kat's hands.

Kat shrugged, "Your loss sister," she said, separating another pile of the powder into even rows. She made five again this time, leaving two for Maria after everyone had taken their second hit.

By now the effects were visible in everyone and Maria felt a sadness settle over her. The pathetic wenches looked so happy, like their miserable existence suddenly had some purpose, even if it was only to put the white death to good use. She looked back at the rows of cocaine, innocently staring up at her. Behind them she could see her reflection in the mirror. Her heart froze when she realized that it was Maria who was voicing these objections. Alli, the girl peering back at her from the cocaine bars, would have no hesitations about what course of action to take here.

Maria reached over and took the straw Kat offered, leaning in she made eye contact with Alli and stared for a moment, two halves of the same person merging under the watchful glare of Alli's new friends. Maria closed her eyes, and quickly inhaled the rows, one in each nostril and flopped back on the car seat.

She instantly knew that taking the drug had been a bad idea. It burned a path from her sinuses, absorbing into her bloodstream and following her veins to the superior vena cava. Entering her right atrium the poisoned blood was quickly rejected as such and her heart exploded in a shower of pain. Her body convulsed, her back arching as her heart pumped again and the blood fell into her right ventricle where it shot into her pulmonary artery, pulsing toward her lungs. When it reached it's temporary destination all of her breath was expelled from her body in a brilliant show of moistened air, hanging above her body before settling on the other four teens in the room.

They watched in a transfixed stupor, partially caused by the cocaine high they were all flying on. Kansas started to cry as Alli's body convulsed again and her lungs, disgusted with the useless blood her heart had sent, pushed it careening along the pulmonary veins into her left atrium. There the powerful muscle pumped the vile substance into the powerful left ventricle and out into her aorta, which carried the blood to the far reaches of her body. Alli's body shook as light shone from every orifice of her tortured body, even seeping from beneath her fingernails. Her skin bubbled in blisters as capillaries brought the blood close to the skin's surface.

The other four were horrified at the sight in front of them. Each was too embarrassed to speak to the others, wary of the teasing that one who spoke of such elaborate hallucinations received. As quickly as the effects of the cocaine were seen, they disappeared. The second, third, and fourth pump of Alli's heart brought cleaner and purer blood to her body, healing the blisters and dimming the radiating light.

Maria lay back on the seat, acutely aware of every violation suffered by her body. She closed her eyes, willing her body to be anywhere else but in front of these people. Slowly her eyelids creaked open, green eyes peering at four awed faces.

"Man, what a trip," Cal said, rubbing his eyes with his hands.

"I know, hey?" Kat joined in.

Maria smiled, joining in their laughter, they were too stoned to believe what had just happened, she barely believed it herself.

She reached for one of the joints that Kat produced from her bag, not feeling any further effect of the cocaine. This was a safe drug, she thought. "Nice joint," she mumbled, and in the moment immediately following her body's betrayal, she gave herself over to marijuana completely.
posted on 24-Jun-2002 12:38:19 PM by shelbecat
Liking this? Want some more?

Part 15

The rest of the summer passed in a blur for Alli. Or more like a haze – drug induced no less. Maria was gone – when Alli looked in the mirror now she no longer saw a stranger but her new self staring back. After the cocaine incident she had given up using her powers. Alli was born on July 5th; she didn’t walk out of a pod 10 years ago and had no alien powers at her disposal.

One day in late August, Alli was sitting outside smoking when Kansas joined her. “Can I?” she asked, gesturing toward the cigarette pack resting on the concrete step.

“Mm-hmm,” Alli mumbled, handing Kansas her lighter.

“So,” she said, sitting down and lighting her cigarette, “were you even going to say goodbye… Maria?”

Alli choked on her cigarette, “What?” she sputtered.

“Maria Deluca, that’s your name, right?”

Alli looked down at the item Kansas was holding in her hand. “Where’s you get that?” she asked, her voice betraying anxiousness that Kansas had never heard before.

All of the courage Kansas had worked up to come out here suddenly evaporated and she was left stammering, “I... I’m sorry, I was just… last week… a shirt… looking for…”

Alli snatched the airline ticket from Kansas’s grasp. “Mind your own business,” she muttered.

Kansas stared at the girl sitting beside her. Her once glorious blonde locks now streaked with black at Kat’s hands. She pondered her next move, knowing it could either drive Alli/Maria away forever or force her to open up. She held out her hand as if to shake, “Cindy Joe McKay.”

Alli turned her head to look at the sudden stranger sitting beside her.

‘Cindy’ smiled, “What? You didn’t think my name was really Kansas did you?”

Alli laughed at the odd turn of events that had just happened.

Kansas spoke again, “So, what’s say we introduce Cindy to Maria?”

Alli smiled, “I’d like that.”

~~~~~

“C’mon, get your stuff,” Maria urged Cindy.

Cindy, as she now allowed only Maria to call her, was lying on her car seat, wasting away the day watching their stuff while the others were out. It was the day after their secret identities had been revealed and Maria had just returned from some unknown outing. Cindy’s story included running away from home after she failed most of her grade 10 courses. At first she had only wanted to escape the inevitable trouble she would get in from her parents, but then she had gotten all the way to L.A. and quickly ran out of money. Kat and Shiff had picked her up one night and let her stay with them. Cal came along a few months later and the four of them had made a life for themselves for the past year. She was too ashamed to call her parents to ask for money and it was just easier to stay here.

Maria had felt sorry for her but Cindy assured her that it was no big deal. The truth was evident in her eyes though - she was a lonely scared 16-year-old who had lost her way on the streets of L.A. Maria saw in Kansas what Alli no doubt would have become, and to be truthful it scared her a little. Roswell might hold a mother who didn’t want her around all that much but it also held friends who loved her. She was actually looking forward to going back tomorrow.

Now tomorrow was here, departure day, and she had just gone out to run a last minute errand. She was grabbing Cindy’s clothes out of the trunk as the other girl looked at her with confusion.

“Why?” she asked, watching Maria grab her suitcase and start piling things into it she sat up. “What are you doing?”

“Packing your stuff, c’mon we don’t have much time.”

“Al… Maria,” Cindy said, still finding it hard to adjust to the name change. “My stuff?” she questioned suddenly realizing what items Maria was packing.

Maria turned from what she was doing for a minute, coming to sit beside Cindy on the seat. Reaching into her own bag she produced two identical paper folders, similar to the airline ticket she had held yesterday. “One way to Kansas City, via Roswell,” she said, looking expectantly at Cindy.

“One way…” Cindy repeated, reaching out in a daze to touch the ticket.

Maria handed her the ticket, “If you want it…”

Cindy’s eyes clouded with tears and she grabbed Maria in a fierce hug, “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

“No, what you did for me was so much more,” Maria responded.

“But…”

“Yes, you can accept it,” Maria said, silencing her objections. “And via Roswell might take longer but I wouldn’t mind some company.”

Cindy brushed away her tears, standing up to help Maria pack. The girls finished quickly, they didn’t have much between them, and Cindy wrote a quick note to the others. She told them simply that she was going home and thanked them for everything they had done for her. Maria, now embracing her alienness again, made some more money and left it in the envelope for Kat. She kept this hidden from Kansas, not willing to explain that much about Maria Deluca, and the girls left the warehouse; leaving L.A., Kansas, and Alli behind.
posted on 26-Jun-2002 9:14:06 AM by shelbecat
Ha ha ha Aurora - glad to see you are liking this fic so much!

Here's another part - back to M&M scenes!!!

Part 16

Maria's retelling of her L.A. experience to Michael took hours. Of course she left out any mention of using her powers to help her survive life in the warehouse, but confessed every shameful detail about the start of her marijuana addiction.

She ended with, "So then I came back to Roswell and found Johnny. I just needed… Oh God." She sat up from where she was lying on the grass next to Michael and buried her head in her hands.

Michael raised himself up on one elbow and reached across his body to rub her arm, "What?"

Maria turned her head to stare at the boy lying beside her. He had no idea what she had done tonight, what she was. Stumbling to her feet she mumbled, "I've got to… I've got to go."

"Maria, wait," he said, following her to a standing position. She was already hurrying away from him, across the park in the direction of her house. "Maria," he called, running to catch up with her.

He grabbed her arm as he neared, turning her to face him. "Michael, let me go," she said softly.

"What? What's up? One minute you're telling me about L.A. and then…"

Maria jerked her arm away from him, raising her voice to say, "I killed someone tonight Michael. Don’t you get that?"

"What?" he asked incredulously. "No, that guy… that piece of dirt," Michael said, screwing up his face at the very thought of Johnny Eagle, "he attacked us and then he had an accident or whatever. You didn't kill him." Michael stared at the small girl standing in front of him – she looked so scared, terrified even. Sure someone had died in their presence but blaming herself – where was that coming from?

Maria stepped out of his grasp, shaking her head as tears coursed down her cheeks, "No, I did." She stopped speaking, biting her lip to quell the sobs threatening to escape. "Please, I can't explain. Just…" she looked up into his eyes, "I'm trouble Michael. Stay away from me."

Maria turned and ran out of the park. Michael didn't follow this time; something told him that she needed to be alone right now. But her words? Saying those things about herself? He turned in the opposite direction and started walking to his apartment. His hand idly fingered the slit in his T-Shirt as he walked. That was another thing that didn't make sense – he was so sure that Johnny had knifed him, but yet… he raised his shirt to verify that his skin was still intact. He shook his head as he walked, he was too tired to sort through his muddled thoughts tonight, or today he thought, looking up to see the beginnings of sunrise on the horizon. Later, after sleep, then I'll figure out exactly what happened in that alley.

~~~~~

Michael groaned as the pounding noise increased. God, who was hammering at this hour? He pushed his face further into the pillow and then heard a voice accompanying the hammering.

"Michael?" the voice yelled. "Michael come on, I know you're in there."

"What the…" he muttered under his breath. He rolled over, pulling his pillow from his face to open his eyes. 12:08 blinked at him from the alarm clock on his night table. Suddenly he realized where the noise was coming from and clumsily lifted himself from the bed to make the noise stop.

Absently rubbing his hand over his bare chest as he walked through his living room, he called out, "Relax, don't blow a gasket." Opening the door he revealed a very red-in-the-face Max standing there.

"Michael, we are seriously late… you just got up?" Max's eyes were bugging out of his face.

Michael didn't have to turn from where he was retrieving a drink from his fridge to know exactly what the expression on Max's face looked like. Laughing he turned, "Relax, give me five minutes."

The bug-eyed expression he had expected was there all right, but as soon as he turned it changed to a narrow-eyed questioning glare. "What's that?" Max said, pointing towards Michael's chest.

"What's what?" he replied, looking down to where Max pointed. Seeing what Max saw he muttered, "What the f⊕%k?"
posted on 3-Jul-2002 2:52:39 PM by shelbecat
Okay I think this should be long enough to get me off the hook for a while!

Disclaimer: Somewhere In Between belongs to Lifehouse, not me.

Part 17

Maria's eyes opened and she shot straight up in bed. Her body was shaking and she was covered with a cold sweat. She looked around her at the familiar sights of her room, the alarm clock displaying 12:08, the Stained poster hanging on her wall. She placed her hand over her heart, willing her breathing to slow.

Her fitful sleep had been plagued by recurring thoughts of last nights events—the look of determination on Johnny's face when he pulled out the gun, the courage Michael had shown, followed by his painful surprise when Johnny stuck the knife in his side. Then she relived her own terrible satisfaction that Johnny wasn't going to get up from where he had fallen. She'd known it before Michael had ever seen him lying there. From the very moment she stuck out her arm to trip him, she knew it was going to be much worse than a fall. She had felt her own blood boiling with rage at the sight of Michael's blood pouring from the wound in his side and she hadn't hesitated to throw all of her energy at the perpetrator.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and rested them on her carpeted floor. Leaning over she retched into the garbage bucket that she had placed by her bed last night. Her stomach had nothing left to expel, but the urge to rid herself of her criminal actions was stronger than her bodily actions and she continued to dry heave.

Finally she was able to still her stomach and make it to her feet. She had heard her Mom leave hours ago and knew she'd be gone until at least 6. She stumbled into the kitchen and filled the coffee maker with water and grounds. It was easier to just make it herself, but perking it always tasted better.

She rummaged in her coat pocket for the bag of weed she had bought last night, realizing with disappointment that Michael had made her ditch it after they called the cops. She cursed under her breath at him, all the while knowing it was far better to lose a small stash than get caught with it on her. She settled for her cigarettes, lighting one and taking a long drag.

The thoughts that had haunted her dreams were not lessened by her awakened state and she grasped at her temples with both hands, willing her brain to just stop moving for a moment. Unable to sit still, she paced back and forth across the kitchen, dragging longer and harder on her cigarette while the coffee bubbled away on the counter.

I can't be losing sleep over this, no I can't
And now I cannot stop pacing
Give me a few hours, I'll have all this sorted out
If my mind would just stop racing


She just had to think; sort through the muddled thoughts clouding her brain. She started a conversation in her head, 'Okay, I killed Johnny, right? Oh my God, I killed Johnny.'

Yes, but you had no choice. He was going to kill you.

But he didn't.

No, but he would have, look what he did to Michael.

Yeah, but I healed Michael, no repercussions.

Are you sure?

Of course. He's suspicious but…

But…

Oh my God.

Maria slammed her fist into the stucco-covered wall of the kitchen. "Jesus," she said out loud, slamming her back into the fridge and sliding down the cool metal surface. She clutched her fist to her chest in pain and drew one last time on her first cigarette of the day. Grabbing her pack from her housecoat pocket, she lit a second off the first.

Cause I cannot stand still
I can't be this unsturdy
This cannot be happening


All right, all right, all right… calm down, don't freak, she said to herself. She looked at her knuckles, already starting to bruise, the skin torn where the stucco spikes had ripped into her flesh, and raised her other hand to heal it. She stopped herself before she could do it, feeling the pain ripping clean lines through her muddled brain. Her thoughts lined up like the little tin soldiers that Alex had made them play with when they were little. Ready for battle. Preferring the pain to healing she repeated out loud, "Okay, this will be okay."

"So you healed him, he'll have a handprint probably, right?"

"Maybe not."

"Yes he will."

"Okay well then you'll just tell him…"

"Tell him what? That you got paint on your hands."

She buried her head in her hands as the hopeless situation she faced was brought into clearer light.

This is over my head but underneath my feet
Cause by tomorrow morning I'll have this thing beat
And everything will be back to the way that it was
I wish that is was just that easy


She curled tighter into a ball, only moving to slam her fist into the floor whenever the pain dimmed a little.

Cause I'm waiting for tonight
Then waiting for tomorrow
And I'm somewhere in between
What is real and just a dream
What is real and just a dream
What is real and just a dream


Liz found her sitting in the same position an hour later.

~~~~~

Sheriff Valenti had come into the Crashdown for lunch and immediately asked Liz how Maria was doing. When it was obvious that she had no idea what he was talking about, he had filled her in. The words, "She killed a man last night," sent Liz rushing out of the restaurant, yelling to her father that she'd be back whenever. Alex was eating in a booth by the door and she grabbed his arm as she flew by, his half-eaten hamburger still grasped in his hand.

When they got to Maria's, Liz went directly to the kitchen while Alex started in the living room. She saw Maria's crumpled body right away and murmured, "Oh God," before yelling, "Alex, in here!"

Alex found Liz crouched down in front of Maria, pushing hair moistened by tears out of her face. Her eyes were distant, vacant, and a cold fear like he had never felt before coursed through his body.

Wordlessly he picked her up in his arms and carried her to her bed. Liz followed behind, a cup of hot coffee in her hands. She laid it on the bedside table and sat on the bed, propping Maria's body against her own. Alex went back to the kitchen while Liz forced a few sips of the hot liquid between her lips.

Alex returned a few minutes later with a sandwich, pickles and peanut butter on toasted whole wheat – her favourite. She managed a few bites before pushing it away and moving her body to lean against her headboard.

"So, you up for some share time," Alex asked, receiving a hesitant laugh from both girls.

"Sheriff Valenti told us what happened last night," Liz added.

The look of fear crossed Maria's face again. "No sweetie," Liz said quickly. "It's okay, he was just worried about you."

Ales moved to sit on the bed as well, "We want to help. You can tell us anything, you know that."

"Not... not this…"

"Yes Maria, this too."

She looked deeply into his eyes, seeing a faithful trust that was mirrored in Liz's gaze. "All… all right," she started hesitantly.

Would you catch me if I fall out of what I fell in
Don't be surprise if I collapse down at your feet again
I don't want to run away from this
I know that I just don't need this


Maria relayed the events of last night to Liz and Alex. Explaining why she had been at Johnny's in the first place required a shortened version of her L.A. adventure, one they were happy to finally hear, pacified by her telling them that she'd fill in all of the details later. Right now the three Roswell aliens had a slightly larger problem.

~~~~~

Across town Michael was pacing in his apartment. After Max had pointed out the silver smear on his side he had tried to wipe it away and, when unsuccessful, had taken a shower to try washing it away with soap and water. It was only when he had removed his pants that he had clearly seen the full extent of the silver mark – the "fingers" hidden by his pants until then. Unconsciously he had moved his hand to trace the brand on his side, suddenly overwhelmed by a powerful sense of déjà vu. Last night, after the fight with Johnny, his hand had kept reaching back to his side, convinced he would find a bleeding stab wound. Now he recognized that the handprint was in the very spot that he thought he had been stabbed in and was given new reason to doubt Maria's explanation that it was Johnny's blood on his torn shirt.

He had gotten rid of Max, saying that he forgot that he had to work, and locked the door behind him. Now it was two hours later and he was still pacing in his living room, trying to sort out the actual events of last night from the story he now knew Maria had fabricated. Muttering that there was only one way to find out the truth, he grabbed the keys to his bike and drove to her street. He had seen her coming out of one of the houses there a few days ago and figured that if he had to, he would knock on every door until he found her.

~~~~~

"Maria, we cannot tell him!" Liz repeated.

Maria had been insisting that the only way to alleviate Michael's suspicions was to tell him the truth. Finally Alex interjected, "Look ladies," he drawled. "Relax, we don't even know if we have a problem right?"

Maria and Liz looked at him expectantly.

"All right, the only silver handprint we've ever seen was on Kyle, we've never had one ourselves, maybe it was a freak thing. You know, only beefed up jock boys get it or whatever."

His last comment brought a smile to the girl's faces as they remembered how "well" Kyle had taken the news that there really were aliens. Their shared joy was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell and Maria's face paled visibly.

"I don't suppose that could be your Mom?" Liz asked hopefully.

"Who forgot her key?" Maria said, "Doubtful."

"Chill," Alex said, "it's probably just the Jehovah's Witness."

He went to answer the door, swinging it open to reveal Michael standing there. "Uh, does Maria live here?"

"And you would be?" Alex asked politely.

"Michael… you're Whitman, right? Alex."

Certain that turning him away was not an option, Alex opened the door wider. "Come in. Oh Maria," he called sweetly, walking back to her bedroom.

Opening her door, he stepped inside and closed it behind him before whispering, "It's him."

"Oh s⊕%t, oh s⊕%t, oh s⊕%t, oh s⊕%t, oh s⊕%t," Liz said, wringing her hands nervously while Maria just sat there with a stunned expression on her face.

"Look," Alex said, sitting on the bed to take each of their hands. Turning to Maria he said, "Can we trust him?"

Without hesitating, Maria nodded.

Liz sucked in her breath sharply, unwillingly to hear what she knew Alex was going to say next.

"Breath," he cautioned. "I say you find out if he knows anything and then, if he's suspicious, we tell him."

"Alex, no," Liz moaned.

"Well, what do you suggest Liz? We tie him up and never let him see the light of day again? We told Kyle and Valenti and they actually ended up helping us a few times. Besides, if Ria trusts him then that's good enough for me."

Maria stood up from the bed, willing her shaking hands to steady. She ran them through her hair, straightening it with the same black wisps she had worn last night. She grabbed a black tank top from the floor and turned her back to change while Alex looked away. Liz watched with a pained expression as Maria hid her beautiful features behind heavy makeup with a wave of her hand. When she turned around again, the Maria they had grown up with had retreated and the "Alli" girl she had described was present again.

She moved to the bedroom door, opening it to walk into the living room. Alex and Liz fell into step behind her, the three of them hesitating slightly when they saw Michael stand nervously from the couch.

"Hey," Maria said quietly.

"Hey," he replied. Shuffling his feet he asked, "Can we talk… in private?"

"It's okay, Liz and Alex are friends," Maria said.

"Okay but…"

"Whatever it is," she insisted.

Michael paused again, seeking out each of their eyes before slowly lifting his shirt to reveal the mark that was about to change his life forever.

At the sight of it Maria's breath caught in her throat, while Liz said, "s⊕%t," and reached for the wall to steady herself.

Alex shook his head, remembering how Kyle had screamed like a girl when they told him the secret and muttered, "Oh boy, here we go again."
posted on 16-Jul-2002 8:45:27 PM by shelbecat
Sorry, sorry, sorry - it's been so long with no update - I've probably lost my only 4 fans!!! Please hang in there - I'll finish it eventually... promise!

HUGE thanks to Gimpy for making me this FAB image - I love it!

Sherry

COF

Part 18

Liz took a seat next to Alex on the loveseat, looking across the living room to see Michael perched on the edge of the couch while Maria spoke to him from a nearby armchair. She closed her eyes briefly, unwilling to see the events unfolding before her. Their secret would be known by six people in a few short minutes. She didn't know if she could handle this one additional person finding out – five was such a nice number. Such an even number, well odd actually, but still even – half of 10, 1/5 of 25. Math, logic… those things made sense to her. Five made sense, not six, six was wrong.

She looked over at Alex to see if he shared her anxiety and saw him drumming his fingers quietly on his leg, his mouth reciting the words to an unsung song. She watched him for a moment, struck by how he could be so nonchalant about the situation.

He noticed her gaze and turned his head to flash her a reassuring smile. "Relax," he whispered.

"How can you be so calm, when, when…" Liz gestured toward Michael and Maria to illustrate what she was so agitated about.

Alex shrugged, "She trusts him Liz, that's good enough."

"She trusts him? You really believe that?" she questioned, her voice rising to a high-pitched squeal that was barely audible.

"Yes, I do," he insisted, squeezing her hand lightly in an effort to calm her. "In the room just now, when she was talking about him, she was herself again right? You saw it?"

"Well sure," she agreed, "but…" she pointed at Maria again and this time Alex followed her gaze.

The person he saw before him wasn't the Maria he had grown up with. He had been so happy to see her resurface in the bedroom that he hadn't noticed her retreat again. He watched her now, mesmerized by the stranger sitting there. She spoke with a listless voice, patiently explaining the mysteries of their life to Michael. Sadly, the realization that she had recoiled into the shell she called… "What was her name?" he asked Liz.

"Alli," Liz replied. "For Alex and Liz remember?"

"Oh yeah," he replied. "I was thinking 'Lial' and that didn't make sense."

"Like Alli does?"

"What? Alli's a name," he replied.

"It's not that," she said impatiently. "Why did she have to make up a name in the first place? And even if she did, why did it have to stick? I feel like if I called out to Maria right now no one would answer."

"I don't know…" Alex mumbled.

"Alex, look at her," Liz whispered forcefully. "My God, why didn't I see it before?" she wondered aloud. "It's like she a different person, like she's split in two."

He chuckled a little, "What, like split personality? Come on."

"Well no, not fully, but that's where it's leading." Liz chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully for a minute before turning to Alex again, "A split personality is like this dominant trait, or rather group of traits, taking over. Alex, if we don't get her back before she hides completely we might lose her forever."

The gravity of Liz's words hung heavy in the air between the two best friends as they stared at the third member of their alien circle sitting across from them. She was confessing her deepest secrets to a boy she barely knew and she looked as if she couldn’t care less. Liz shook her head, praying that they'd be able to get Maria back before Alli moved in permanently.

~~~~~

Michael lifted up his shirt to stare at the handprint on his stomach for the hundredth time that day. He was sitting on a picnic table in the park, near where Maria had told him about "becoming Alli" just last night. He wasn't sure exactly how he had gotten here; he had left her house hours ago and just started walking, no specific direction in mind.

His fingers lightly touched the silver-tainted skin once more and he ran his hand through his hair quickly. An alien… she was a real-life, honest-to-goodness, Roswell alien. It was just unfathomable. He had always secretly believed that there was more to the 1947 crash than the government let on, but to find out that it was all true, that a spaceship carrying beings from another planet had actually crash-landed just outside of their town, was just too much to take in.

He recalled the words she used to explain it, facts, figures, numbers – patiently repeating herself over and over again as he asked his questions. It was at least 20 minutes before he realized that she was removed, detached, speaking to him with her voice, but not her heart or mind. He had left then, leaning down to kiss her quickly on the cheek, telling her that he wanted to think things over a bit, struggling not to let the fear in his heart reveal itself on his face. He wasn't afraid of her, rather for her. So she had a secret – big deal. Lot's of people had secrets, hell, he had his fair share that he wasn't ready to spill yet. But, her face…

Michael sighed out loud and leaned back to rest on his elbows. He thought about the girl he had met just last week. He remembered thinking that she was an enigma then, "That's the understatement of the year," he muttered under his breath. She seemed scarred, abandoned, but there was a spark, however small that he could sense if not see. Every time they spoke, he felt like she was teasing him, pushing and pulling to see how far she could goad him. And he had liked it. Thoroughly enjoyed the little game they were playing… until Saturday. Finding out she was hooked on weed wasn't a big deal to him. He embraced it as something that he could help her with, but seeing her completely withdrawn today… something told him that it was more than revealing her identity; more than even killing a man. Maria was lost, in herself, and he didn't have the slightest clue how to find her.

~~~~~

Maria was finally able to convince Alex and Liz to leave her alone, hours after Michael had left. She was expecting her Mom home at six and used that as an excuse to get them out. Once they left she walked purposefully to her room where she changed into a pair of shredded black jeans. The largest tear high on the back of her leg left little to the imagination and she fastened it with a safety pin in a surprising display of modesty. Pairing it with a black mid-rift shirt she ran her fingernails across the upper section, tearing it into little strips. Adding additional safety pins to provide just the suggestion of inappropriateness, she checked herself in the mirror. Running her hands through her hair, she transformed it into a mess of tousled curls. Waving her hands across her face she removed all traces of her earlier makeup, leaving just her eyes lined with heavy, black strokes.

Turning to grab her wallet, she added a silver, snaking bracelet to her bicep and threw several silver chains around her neck. She carefully selected a silver hoop earring from her collection and bit her lip in concentration as she threaded it through her belly button. With no numbing of the skin, the area quickly inflamed in bright red strokes. She didn't want to remove the pain, but the marks ruined "the look" so she ran her fingers across her stomach absently, leaving a perfectly centred ring hanging there.

Satisfied that her look was complete, she exited through the back door just as her Mom entered through the front. Maria knew that there would be no questions about where she was going, or when she'd be back, but avoiding her mother altogether was far better than being ignored by her, so she slipped out silently.

She lit a fresh cigarette as she hurried away from the house, her feet instinctively leading her to Johnny's until she realized that that option was no longer available to her. Even if his flunkies were still running out of the same place, highly doubtful with the cops crawling all over it last night, she wouldn't be welcome. She dragged frantically on the cigarette as an addictive urge caused her body to tremor. She leaned up against the closest building, closing her eyes to steady her hands, before removing another cigarette from her tattered pack. Her hands quivered as she lit it, snapping her lighter shut as the knowledge of the only available fix became startlingly clear.

She turned to walk briskly through the darkening streets, slowing as she neared the high school. The guys that she regularly bought her cigarettes from hung out here, strange considering they usually didn't bother to venture into the actual halls of learning. Maria walked around to the side of the school, approaching the same group of three guys again. She asked for a pack of cigarettes and paid as normal. Once the transaction was completed she spoke up, "So, you got anything stronger?"

Irving, the obvious leader of the little group, looked at her sharply. He was naturally weary of anyone who stepped outside of their natural buying habits. But, it had been happening all day, what with Johnny Eagle being dead, and Irving wanted to please. Secretly he aimed for the fame that Johnny once held… he just needed a cool name.

Deciding that Maria was enough of a regular to trust, he nodded, "Whatcha up for?"

"Uh, I don't know… maybe… E?" Maria gulped as she asked for the pills. She honestly didn't know what to ask for, except for cocaine, which she wasn't putting herself anywhere near again.

"How many?"

"Uh…" Not having a clue as to how many she'd need, she offered him $20 and took the pills he handed her in exchange. She turned away quickly and walked blindly through the school parking lot and back onto the street. Another cigarette calmed her nerves enough to allow her to retreat back into the thoughts consuming her brain. She was anxious although except for the little interaction with Irving you'd never know it.

Her feet led her unknowingly to the park where she had revealed all to Michael the previous night. He was the last person she expected, or wanted, to see sitting there, and when she saw his reclined form on the picnic table she threw her cigarette on the ground in front of her, squashing it before she could stop herself.

"F⊕%k," she said loudly, causing Michael to sit up quickly.

"Jesus," he exclaimed.

"No, Maria," she said, snarling at him. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?' he asked, thoroughly confused.

"That!" she exclaimed, pointing to the extinguished cigarette that she wanted so badly on the grass in front of her. "Every f⊕4king time I see you, I just… squish 'em. Ahhh," she growled moving to take a seat beside him on the table.

He stared at her as she fished in her pocket for something. Her hair hid her face as she bent over slightly, but he admired the pale skin peeking through the torn jeans. She found the item she desired and he saw the flash of white on her palm as she tossed the pills quickly before swallowing them.

"What are those?" he asked, knowing that he wasn't lucky enough for it to just be Tylenol.

"E."

"Maria! How many did you take?"

She glared at him, "Three. Jeez."

Michael stood up to grab her by the shoulders, "You are only supposed to take two!" He pulled her toward him, pushing her head between her legs, "Throw up," he commanded.

"Michael," she shouted as she struggled out of his grasp. Twisting free she tumbled to the grass and quickly jumped to her feet. "What's your problem?" she asked, her voice still loud, as she brushed off her jeans. Seeing a grass stain near her knee, she ran her hand over the fabric, vaporizing it.

Michael stepped back from her, uncomfortable with the "magic trick" he had just witnessed. Shaking it off, he spoke to her, "It's not safe to take three. You should… puke or something."

"Chill," she said, sitting down on the picnic table as a sudden wave of dizziness washed over her. She fumbled for her cigarettes, the pack suddenly seeming to weigh a thousand pounds. She looked up at Michael who had seen her sit down heavily and was now standing over her. There were three of him and she reached her hand out to touch him, missing completely as she aimed for the Michael on the right.

"Maria," his voice pounded on her brain like waves crashing on the shore. She closed her eyes, turning her head away from him as her body convulsed and she fell off the picnic table onto the grass.

Michael was at her side in a second, holding her body still as she convulsed uncontrollably. He watched in an amazed horror as her skin transformed into a prickled, red surface, bubbling with thousands of tiny bumps. Her body shook violently between powerful convulsions, causing her to arch her back against the ground, her teeth clenched together tightly.

As quickly as the episode started, it was over, and she collapsed back onto the grass, rolling over to shield her face from his gaze. He sat by her side quietly, the sobs escaping her body assurance that she was going to be okay. His mind raced with a million questions about what had just happened but he hadn't one clue which to start with.

He turned to her, gently placing his hand on her shoulder. She flinched away from him, mumbling, "Don't."

"Maria," he insisted gently, turning her over and slowly prying her hands from her face.

Opulent green eyes stared back at him from the dark black circles she had drawn there. Michael felt his breath catch in his throat as he realized that he was looking at two people at once, Alli lying on front of him, and Maria staring out at him from behind her lashes.

"Don't look at me. I'm a freak," she whispered, the words escaping between gasps as tears shook her body.

He pulled gently on her shoulders until she was in a sitting position, and then pulled her to his chest, cradling her in his arms. She resisted at first, stiffening her body at his touch, then felt the warmth of him seep into her own body, and gently relaxed her muscles. Her sobs increased as she felt his hands rub small circles on her back.

Michael sat there for an hour, holding the girl who had had the greatest effect on him in his short lifetime until she stopped crying. Then he helped her to her feet and took her back to his apartment where he offered nothing but acceptance and comfort. No judging, no questions, just a friend and a safe place. He knew what she needed right now, and he was prepared to do anything to give it to her.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 31-Jul-2002 3:42:30 PM ]
posted on 30-Jul-2002 1:07:08 PM by shelbecat
Hey all - I'm still here. I know I haven't posted in a while but I foolishly started another fic in the middle of this one and somehow got sidetracked. It's Polar (I know, I know - how could I!?!) but I'm finding it hard to keep myself focused on this one.

Never fear - I will be back, hopefully soon.

Hang in there!

Sherry
posted on 31-Jul-2002 3:17:44 PM by shelbecat
See, told you I'd be back!

Here's Part 19!

Sherry


Part 19

When Maria woke up she had a brief moment of sweet release from the misery that was her existence before her eyes opened to the clouded sight of a male hand lingering against her arm as someone gently pulled a blanket over her shoulders. She sealed her eyes against the torment of the outside world and retreated into the inner sanctum of Alli to prepare herself for interacting with the boy who was trying to save her.

She painfully recalled the display of powers she had showcased earlier that day when her alien body reacted to the Ecstasy. Granted she had taken too much of the drug, but once again it was her alienness that had betrayed her, leaving her dependant on the saving graces of Michael Guerin.

She knew where she was, though she had only a vague recollection of getting there. She lay on the couch in Michael's cramped living room, her acute senses picking up the sound of him moving from the living room to the kitchen. She ventured another opening of her eyes, this time greeted by the sight of him placing a sandwich and steaming bowl of soup on a tray before turning towards her.

He saw her open eyes before she had a chance to close them again and said, "Hey sleepy."

Caught, Maria eased her body into a sitting position, stretching her arms over her head as she yawned loudly. The sound from her mouth surprised even her and Michael laughed at the expression on her face as he set down the tray of food on the coffee table.

She stared at him, feeling vulnerable for an instant before she remembered her Alli defensive block and snapped her walls into an erect position. With a defiant look on her face she refused the sandwich he offered, scowling when he placed it on her lap anyway.

Michael retrieved a second meal from the kitchen and placed it beside her tray. Sliding to the floor, he extended his legs beneath the coffee table and ate a quarter of his sandwich in one bite. Maria watched him for a moment before he noticed her and mumbled, his mouth half full, "What? Just cause you're too proud to eat…"

He let the sentence hang unfinished in the air between them. Turning back to his meal he allowed himself a satisfied smile as her defiant nature took over and she pointedly took a bite of the sandwich. That was all she had intended to eat, just enough to show him that she wasn't too proud, but the turkey and mustard combination tasted like the most exquisite gourmet meal and she hungrily finished half of it before sliding to the floor beside him to try the soup.

They ate in silence, Michael content that she was nourishing her ravaged body and Maria happy that he hadn't yet called her on her stupidity from that afternoon. After waiting for her to finish, Michael removed the dishes to the kitchen, piling them with the others already there. He'd have to resort to paper plates if Isabel didn't drop by for a visit soon, he thought.

Returning to the living room, he realized that Maria hadn't spoken since she woke up when she asked, "What time is it?"

"Almost midnight," he said, glancing at his watch.

She nodded, knowing it had to be late. She saw her jacket draped across the back of the couch and reached up to pull it towards her, rummaging in the pockets for her cigarettes and lighter. She had the same defiant look in her eyes as she lit one and took a long, slow drag. Her eyes closed as a satisfied smile spread across her face. Opening them to see Michael still standing over her, she spoke through the cloud leaving her mouth, "And I'm not putting it out."

"Whatever," he shrugged, pushing the blanket on the couch aside as he sat down.

She took another drag, her face again assuming the look of utter satisfaction before her brain unwittingly took over and her hand dropped the flaming tobacco into the bottle of Snapple he had given her.

She cursed under her breath as Michael struggled to keep his face straight. She glared at him, knowing it was her fear of being judged by him that caused her to extinguish every smoke she tried to have in his presence. Still, it was beyond frustrating to crave nicotine so badly yet have her own body deny the fix because she was afraid of what he thought of her.

Trying to shake off her irritation, she stood up and walked over to Michael's stereo. "So, music?" she asked, not waiting for his response before beginning to rummage through his CD's.

"I thought we could talk actually," he replied.

She ignored him, instead saying, "You got anything good or what?" as she flipped through the piles. Selecting one from a stack she spun it on her finger, the sounds of Lifehouse drifting from the disc.

Michael was naturally taken aback by the new power she so shamelessly exhibited but he once again swallowed his amazement and sat forward to lean his elbows on his knees. "So, I guess we're not going to talk about it," he muttered.

She sighed as she turned her head to look at him, "About what?"

"About this," he said. "You and me. You and Johnny. You and drugs."

Maria dropped the CD to the floor, abruptly ending the music. She glared at him for a moment before moving to grab her jacket from the floor.

"There you go, run away again," he said bitterly as he stood to walk into the kitchen.

He kept his back turned as he heard the door of his apartment open. When it wasn't slammed shut behind her, he turned to see her straddling the doorway, one foot inside the other out – one pointing to her complete destruction, the other to her salvation.

He suddenly realized that arguing with her only gave her an excuse to run, gave Alli the fuel she needed to rule Maria. As he approached the girl standing in the doorway, he was struck once again by the sight of two girls within one body. A spinning pinwheel of emotions crossed her face as he watched her expression change from a scared Maria to a rebellious Alli and back again.

He reached out his hand slowly to touch her arm, unsure if the human contact would send her running. She turned her face to look at him and he knew he was looking at the weaker of the two spirits inside of her. Her voice cracked as she struggled to speak, "I… I can't seem to find me." Her face crumbled as sobs racked her body.

Michael moved to embrace her, stopping when her body stiffened as his arm snaked around her back. He didn't know the right words to say so he clumsily offered, "You're still in there. You've just got to fight a little harder.

Maria shook her head, her breath escaping in ragged gasps as she said, "I cant… I… it hurts."

Michael looked at the crying girl standing in front of him. He knew that she was on the edge – what strength she had left fighting to keep Maria at the surface while the smooth-talking Alli tried pulled her into the darkness. He moved his arm from her back to grasp her hands tightly in his own.

"Maria, listen to me," he urged. "You are still the same person. This Alli façade is just that – a wall you've put up to hide the truth behind." He looked into her eyes as she raised her head. "You have to face yourself. What you've become… what you've done."

"But I don't even know who I am anymore."

"I can help."

"No you can't," she said, pulling her hands from his and raising her voice quickly. Her natural defences reacted to the fear of letting someone too close and she finished, "You don't even know me."

"But I want to," he replied softly.

Maria looked up at the tenderness in his voice and wondered why she hadn't noticed that his eyes were such a deep chocolate brown before.

When Michael saw no resistance on her face, he stepped forward to give her the hug he had been holding back. "Come here," he whispered, pulling her into his arms. Maria cried softly on his shoulder as he rubbed her back gently. He buried his face in her hair, "Don't cry, we'll find you together."
posted on 7-Aug-2002 9:23:41 AM by shelbecat
Okay, see I haven't deserted you - I wrote two more parts but they are trapped on my laptop and I can't remove them. Whose stupid idea was it to make a computer without a floppy drive!?!

Not to worry, I SHOULD be connected to the Internet tonight so I'll just post 'em direct from there. And I've got to buy a USB drive (I'll just add that to my "short" list of things to to today *happy*)

Hang in there - more soon! And thanks for the fb and bumps!

Sherry
posted on 7-Aug-2002 9:40:41 PM by shelbecat
And as quick as that... here I am!

Oh, and a HUGE thank you to the kind person who rated this fic!!! THANKS!

Part 20

Michael put Maria to bed and sat quietly by her side for over three hours. Finally, when he thought he could keep his eyes open no longer, she stirred. At first, the sounds that escaped her throat were nothing more than low moans, but slowly they increased in volume, and clarity, until she was screaming "Give it to me. Why won't you give it to me?"

The sheer volume of her voice chilled him directly to his core and at first he didn't know how to react. As her writhing body betrayed its addiction, he struggled to keep her still on the bed. She pushed against him with a strength he didn't know possible and eventually won him over, pushing him aside to leap to her feet.

Her hair spread out from her anguished face in a spray of tangles. She thoughtlessly tore at her clothes until they hung in even more pronounced tatters around her frame. Michael sat stunned on his bed as Maria paced his small bedroom, cursing under her breath, stopping periodically only to shout at him, "Where is it? Give it to me. I need it."

Although this was far different from any detox he had ever known, he recognized it for what it was and sat quietly – unwillingly to infuriate her rant any further. After a 20-minute period that seemed more like two hours, she calmed herself long enough to find her cigarettes and light one. She appeared to be past the worst of it as she sat in a corner of his bedroom and smoked the entire thing. The fact that she was able to finish it at all did not escape Michael's attention and he wondered what had suddenly made this particular nicotine craving any different.

Maria, sitting with her back to him, knew exactly why she was able to consume the full cigarette and it frightened her. The reason was that she no longer feared what he thought of her – if he would judge her. When she had tried to leave his apartment earlier, his acceptance of her, and his reassurance that he was going to stand by her, had removed all traces of the insecurities she had felt in his presence. That in itself was not what frightened her. What scared her even more was that she had let someone get close to her. Her entire life, only Liz and Alex had ever been close enough to know who Maria Deluca really was. After this summer, not even they knew the person she had become, and the anonymity of her new persona brought a certain comfort with it. As if she was hiding behind this wall she had called Alli, able to look out at the world unseen, while others bounced of the cold exterior she had constructed.

Suddenly that was all gone, and she felt her ability to resurrect her barriers impeded. She sat in her corner and smoked her cigarette until the filter caught fire between her lips. She extinguished it in the palm of her hand, thankful for the sudden sensation brought on by the burning embers. She stood and turned to face him again, feeling nakedly exposed to his judgement while at the same time eagerly anticipating whatever words he had to throw upon her.

Michael had watched her entire escapade silently, patiently waiting for her to allow him to enter the sanctuary she had so carefully constructed. When she stood, he followed suit and walked across the room to meet her. No words were spoken as she allowed her self to be lifted by his strong arms and carried back to his bed. He laid her gingerly on the cool sheets, smoothing her hair from her face as he took his place beside her. He manuvered her shivering body until her head rested on his chest where he stroked her hair tenderly until sleep swallowed her once again.

~~~~~

When Maria awoke again, the smell of coffee wafted across her nose and she blindly wondered what miracle had occurred for her mother to be out of bed before her. She opened her eyes to the sight of a strange room and within seconds the complete events of the past day and night came flooding back to her. She sat up, conscious of the very limited clothing that covered her body, and demurely pulled the sheet up to covered her near-naked body.

She noticed her cigarettes sitting on the bedside table, a clean ashtray lying beside them. She suspected that it was a new purchase by Michael since it hadn't appeared during any of the previous times she had smoked in his presence. She shakily lit one of the craving-quenchers and held it to her lips. The impulse to jump out of his bed and run to Irving for a fix of something stronger was intense, overpowered only by her weakened physical state.

She stood and gazed at her dishevelled appearance in the mirror on Michael's wall. Resting the cigarette on the ashtray for a moment she reassembled the torn remains of her top, leaving only a few rips across the bodice. Her jeans were in a relatively wearable state and she simply refastened the safety pin near her rear so that she wouldn’t fall out of them completely. She smoothed her hair into a slicked straight look and tied it in a knot at the base of her skull. Removing the streaked makeup from her face, she reapplied mascara and near-black lipstick with a quick wave of her hand.

Retrieving her smoke, she tentatively open the bedroom door and stood there unnoticed for a moment, watching Michael as he pensively leaned against the kitchen counter, sipping deeply from the cup of coffee in his hand. A tendril of smoke spiralling upwards from her lips caught his attention and he looked up to smile at her standing there. He wordlessly poured her a cup of coffee and handed it across the kitchen divider to her waiting hands.

He joined her at the counter and they sat quietly through the entire mug until he finally offered, "It's Monday you know. School."

"What time it is?"

"11," he said smiling.

Smiling back she nodded, "I guess we're skipping?"

Michael laughed a little, "Yeah, I guess. Will your Mom wonder where you are?"

"Not until six at least," she replied.

"Good, so that gives us time."

Maria furrowed her brow at him, "For what?"

"You'll see," he said, standing up to rinse his mug in the sink. He grabbed both of their jackets from the couch, tossing his keys in his hand as he walked to the door. Pausing with his hand on the knob he looked back at her, "Coming?"

Maria shook her head at his mysterious actions and got up to follow him. He exited the apartment and she turned and ran back into the bedroom to rescue her cigarettes and lighter. Content that they would be enough to get her through the next few hours, she followed him outside where he handed her a second bike helmet. She donned it and climbed onto his motorcycle behind him.

"I've never ridden before," she admitted to him, nervously looking for a strap to hold onto.

"Relax," he said, reaching behind his body to grasp her hands and fasten them tightly around his waist. "And hang on tight."

Michael sped out of his driveway and out of Roswell towards the desert. He wanted to show her something special, something secret, a place where he had found his own salvation a few years ago – a place where he hoped she could find her own.

~~~~~

Maria climbed off the back of the motorcycle when it came to a stop, already stiff from sitting in the unusual position. They were in the desert, at the top of a rock outcropping that overlooked a vast expanse of sand and cactus plants, with the city of Roswell a vague image in the distance. Michael moved behind her, dragging a cooler full of food and rinks from behind a particularly large rock.

Maria turned at the sound. "Where…" she started to ask before he stopped her with his explanation.

"I borrowed Max's jeep this morning," he said smiling. "While he was still sleeping."

"Ahh, so don't tell him," she asked, returning the smile.

"Something like that."

Maria laughed as she accepted the bottle of water he handed her. His hand lingered on hers for a second as the unfamiliar sound of joy escaping her lips struck both of them with its strangeness. He turned quickly, not wanting to make the moment any more uncomfortable and busied himself with displaying the food contents of the cooler on a blanket he had also brought.

Maria sat by his side and ate the sandwiches and potato chips he had supplied. They talked a little about the beauty of the desert scenery before the conversation waned and they were left sitting in a surprisingly comfortable silence. Michael was lying down on the blanket, his head support by his jacket balled up against his helmet. Maria sat on a rock just above him, smoking her cigarettes with abandon.

"So what is this place?" she finally asked.

"Just a place," he replied.

"Okay, then why did you bring me here?"

"I used to come here when I needed to just get away from everything that was going on. When I needed a little solitude from the madness. I thought you'd like it."

"Oh."

Michael paused, unsure of how much he should push the next part of the conversation. He decided to go for it, thinking he could always back off if he sensed that she was getting upset. "When I was, you know, addicted… I would come out here to avoid the urges I was getting. If I didn't bring anything with me, then there was no way to get any out here and by the time the shakes would start I was too weak to drive back to town. It took a lot of energy just to make myself drive out here, but once I was here it really worked. I just thought…"

Maria dragged hard on her cigarette as she listened to the words Michael spoke. He continued, "I thought that maybe you could use this place too. I could bring you if you didn't have a ride."

"I have my own place," she answered flatly.

"Oh."

The silence that settled between them was now far from comfortable and it took a few minutes for Michael to again drum up the courage to talk to her. "Does it work?"

"Sometimes."

He fumbled with the ring on his index finger as he wondered when she was going to submit to the fact that he actually had this addiction thing on common with her. He desperately wanted her to be better but knew it would take an immense amount of time and patience. Something he was willing to commit if only he could get some sign from her that she was willing to let him help her.

Meanwhile the gravity of his words weighed on her like a rock pushing her deeper under water. She knew where he was coming from and the similarity that had with her own situation. Still, the irrational fear that this commonality gave him a certain closeness to her was overwhelming and she found herself struggling just to inhale the smoke from her cigarette.

He was so deep in his own thoughts that he didn't hear the raggedness her voice assumed as she stood up and reached for her helmet. Tears, unseen by him, dripped down her face, as she asked, "Can you take me back now?"

He looked up at her voice, surprised to see her standing by the bike, ready to go. "Sure," he said, getting to his feet. "Is something wrong?"

"No," she answered monotonously. "I forgot I was supposed to meet Liz and Alex after school. They'll be worried."

"Oh, sure," he answered. "Just let me clean up…" Michael threw the remains of their lunch into the cooler and returned it to his hiding spot behind the rock. He put on his own jacket and helmet and joined her on the bike. "Where are you meeting them?" he asked.

"At school," came the muffled reply from behind the helmet visor.

Michael nodded and 20 minutes later they pulled up outside of West Roswell High. Maria climbed off the back of the bike, removing her helmet to fasten it in its resting place.

"I got it," Michael said, standing up to take the helmet from her hands.

"Thanks," she said, turning to walk away. "See you around."

"Yeah," he replied, watching her shivering shoulders as she walked away from him. He repeated softly, "See you around." Shaking his head he climbed back on his bike and drove towards his apartment. He was replaying the events of the previous night in his mind when he remembered how she had shivered uncontrollably as she paced his room. Suddenly recognizing her shivering from a few minutes ago as an obvious sign of another urge, he slid his bike into a 180-degree turn, speeding back towards the high school. He only hoped that he wasn't too late.
posted on 14-Aug-2002 9:09:24 AM by shelbecat
Thanks for sticking with this story, I know it's taking me a while but I'll finish it - promise!

Sherry


Part 21

Maria walked around the side of the school to the location of her grief relief. Irving and his boys were there as usual – peddling their wares for the downtrodden class of West Roswell High. She stumbled a little as she neared the group, pausing to regain her balance against the school wall for a moment. Irving looked up from his latest transaction to see the shaking blonde girl approach. He had missed her yesterday and wondered if she had found another source in the small town. He motioned to his boys to finish up the deal they were in the middle of and walked to where Maria was still bent over against the school.

"Something I can help you with?" he asked, his face breaking into a Machiavellian grin not unlike that of a Cheshire cat.

Maria grimaced as a powerful wave of shivers crashed over her body and looked up into the eyes of her worst nightmare. She nodded as she stumbled over her words, finally managing to stutter, "The… the… the usual."

Irving held up a pack of her usual brand of cigarettes, already having selected them when he saw her approaching. He handed them to her before prompting, "And…"

"W…w…"

Irving felt a new emotion course through his sinful body at the sight of the struggling girl before him. He suddenly felt remorse for her pitiful soul and relented in his teasing questions to pull a bag of weed out of his inside pocket. Pushing it into her hand he snatched the bills she offered him in exchange and turned away. He was only one step into his retreat when the same emotions turned his body around and compelled him to help her to her feet. He reached into another pocket, this time pulling out a prepared joint and a lighter. He lit the poison and held it to her shaky lips.

"This one's free," he mumbled, wary of his flunkies watching his actions from the rear.

Maria sucked greedily on the acrid smoke, feeling the instant transformation inside her body take place as the drug washed over her starved nerve endings. She sensed a resurgence of strength build inside her, and knew that the small amount of satisfaction would be enough to sustain her until she could get to her safe haven.

She stood unsteadily, moving with unsure steps away from Irving and his gang. The would-be-leader watched her go and called, "Your welcome," after her retreating figure.

Maria heard him but her mind was consumed by one thought and one thought alone. She had to make it across the street to her mother's work, get the car, and get to where she had to go before the effects of this teaser wore off.

~~~~~

Michael sped towards the school at an insane pace that was still not fast enough to intercept Maria's flight. He spun his tires in the dirt near Irving's shop and leapt off of the bike.

"Come here you little punk," he growled, grabbing Irving by the collar and pushing him up against the side of the building.

Irving's body shook worse than Maria's had at the sight of the larger boy bearing down on him. He raised his hands in surrender, "Easy man," he yelped as Michael's hand closed tighter on his throat.

"You know who Maria Deluca is?"

Irving nodded, now unable to speak due to the absence of air supply to his lungs.

"Was she here?"

Another nod.

"What'd you give her?"

Irving opened his mouth to speak, faint gurgling noises coming from his constricted airway. Michael loosed his grip enough for the smaller boy to gasp a lungful of air then repeated his question.

"Cigarettes," Irving finally responded.

Michael pushed harder on Irving's neck, sending his eyeballs reeling backwards in their sockets. He released the pressure as soon as he witnessed its effectiveness, staring coldly into the creep's eyes as he muttered, "And…"

"Weed," Irving admitted, immediately raising his hands to rub his neck as Michael released him.

"How long ago?"

"I don't know."

Irving panicked as Michael lunged toward him again and stuttered, "M… m… maybe five… five minutes."

Michael turned away to cast his disgusted gaze across the remainder of the drug-dealer world of his high school. Irving was relaxing against the wall, trying unsuccessfully to light a cigarette, when Michael turned on him again menacingly.

He lifted the dirt bag up by his collar, pinning him to the wall about a foot off of the ground. Michael's lips curled back to reveal bared teeth as he growled, "If I ever catch you so much as looking in her direction again, I will personally see to it that you never walk again, let alone deal. Am I clear?"

The trickle of urine running down the front of Irving's pants was answer enough for Michael and he dropped him to the ground with an unceremonious thud. Satisfied that he had made his point with the gang, he sat back on his bike and left them in a cloud of dust as he sped out of the parking lot towards the Deluca home.

~~~~~

Unbeknownst to him, Michael passed Liz and Alex on his way to Maria's. Worried when she hadn't shown up for school that day, they were on their way over to her house to see if she was okay. Michael spent about five minutes pounding on the front door and peering through all of the windows before he saw Liz and Alex walking up the driveway.

Surprised to see the dishevelled boy playing "Peeping Tom" in the Deluca windows, Alex called to him, "See anything good, Michael?"

Michael ignored the comment and ran up to the pair, panting as he asked, "Did Maria find you?"

"No, we haven't seen her since yesterday," Liz responded. "Is something wrong?" she continued, a note of fear creeping into her voice.

Michael ran his hand through his hair, rubbing it forcefully on his crown before he sighed, "I think she's back at it."

"Back at what," Alex asked.

"Does he know?" Michael asked Liz.

"Know what?" Alex asked, growing increasingly agitated.

"Yeah, but I thought she was over it."

"Hardly," Michael responded.

Alex impatiently tapped Liz on the shoulder, "O-V-E-R W-H-A-T?" he enunciated clearly, giving her a look that said he was not amused at being out of the loop.

Liz sighed, "Drugs, Alex. Michael seems to think Maria is back on drugs."

Alex scoffed at her suggestion. "No, see," he explained to Michael. "She told us that she only tried them in L.A. And she just went to Johnny's the other night for fun, so…"

Alex's eyes clouded with the knowledge that Maria telling him that she had just gone to Johnny's to try some new product was a complete fabrication. "How bad?" he asked Michael, his face now mirroring the other boys in its seriousness.

"She's hooked. Trying to kick it, but failing miserably. I had her at my place last night." Michael raised his hands to field off the unspoken objection forming on Liz's lips. "Nothing happened," he emphasized. "But she's detoxing and extremely vulnerable. I only dropped her off at school because she said she had to meet you guys. I didn't realize Irving was her dealer."

"Wait?" Alex said, motioning with his hands for all activity to cease. "Irving's a dealer?" Alex's face contorted with obvious brotherly anger for the evil influence Irving Malkovich was having on Maria. "Where is she?"

"I don't know," Michael replied. "She said she had a place, somewhere private she could go, but I don't know where it is."

"We do," Liz replied, looking at Alex pointedly.

"I'm going to get my car," Alex instructed. "We're going to find her, bring her back here, and then I'm going to fuse Irving's butt cheeks together."

Alex ran out of Maria's driveway and down the street to his house. Michael stood silently by Liz for a moment, before asking, "Can he really do that?"

~~~~~

Michael sat quietly in the backseat of Alex's car as they followed his earlier path out into the desert. He noted that they passed within meters of the turn off towards his private outcropping before following a well-hidden track around a sand dune and coming to a stop beside another vehicle.

"That's her," Liz said when she saw the Jetta parked there. The engine was still running with the driver's door swung open. "Up here," she said to Michael, moving to follow Alex who had already started to climb up the rocky slope.

He stopped about halfway up and paused beside a large bolder. Michael watched intently as Alex waved his hand over the rocky surface to reveal a hand-shaped indent where a smooth surface had lain before. He placed his hand into the imprint like a key, causing the bolder to shudder and then slide to the side.

The images that these three aliens had bombarded his eyes with in the past 48 hours were too numerous to count and Michael found himself already accepting the fact that they could do spectacular things without much surprise. He followed them into the hole revealed by the bolder and down a slight slope into a large room. In the centre of the room sat a large pointy object. Strange markings on the walls around the perimeter caught his attention and he was struck by the obvious similarities to primitive cave drawings native to the area.

Alex broke his reverie then by calling, "Over here."

Michael followed Liz as she ran around the circular room to the opposite side of the large object it housed. He slowed about 10 feet from her body, unsure if he was prepared for the sight that greeted him. Maria sat against the wall, a green cloud forming a protective bubble around her. She held her legs tightly to her chest and stared down at the floor in front of her at some unseen object. Michael moved a little closer, hearing but not really listening to Alex and Liz call out desperately to her. He watched as they joined their hands and projected an equally brilliant light towards her dome. It bounced off, reflecting harmlessly back towards them.

Michael stepped closer still to watch as Maria raised her eyes to stare at her alien counterparts. He could now see the bag of weed spread out on the floor in front of her. Next to it were the other supplies needed to form a joint. She didn't have even the most basic strength necessary to utilize them and so the cure for her physical anguish sat unused at her feet. Trailing her eyes away from Liz and Alex she opened her body a little, moving her left arm to pick up one of the objects on the floor. She moved her left arm to meet her right, hovering it in the air above the skin before slowly pushing downward. Michael knew without clearly seeing that she was using a razor blade, intended for chopping her weed, to stop her pain in another fashion. He walked slowly towards her, gently laying his hand on Liz's sobbing shoulder as he knelt in front of Maria.

He watched for a second to see how badly she had already cut herself, relieved when he saw only a small cut with a trickle of blood leading down her arm. He called out to her softly, "Maria."

Maria pushed harder on the blade, sending a stream of dark liquid coursing down her wrist where it pooled in her hand. He tried again, "Maria."

This time she pulled on the blade splitting the skin further abroad on her delicate wrist, the pool of blood now overflowing from her palm, between her fingers and onto the floor. Michael was deaf to the desperate cries of Liz and Alex as he knelt closer to the bubble and changed his tactic. "Alli," he said.

Maria's hand stopped where it rested, the razor still at the ready for another slash. She slowly raised her head to meet the eyes of the boy she had tentatively grown to trust over the past few days. She stared at him as his brown eyes bore straight through her barrier and directly into her soul.

"Put down the razor Alli. It's over," his soft voice commanded.

Maria slowly released her grip on the blade, allowing it to clatter noisily to the stone floor. She kept her eyes locked on his as her shield evaporated and Liz scrambled to stem the flow of blood from the jagged wound. Michael removed his eyes from hers only long enough to stand and help her to her feet. He picked her up in his arms and, with Alex's help, followed Liz down the rocky incline.

This time Michael was determined to help her successfully – and he didn't plan to let her out of his sight until she was better.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Aug-2002 10:27:07 AM ]
posted on 20-Aug-2002 9:25:39 AM by shelbecat
Hey there - hopefully this part marks a turning point for Maria. The poor girl - I can't just keep putting her through that stuff!

Part 22

Michael led the teens back to his apartment, proposing that they keep Maria there until she regained consciousness. Liz called Mrs. Deluca, making the excuse that Maria was studying at her house and would be staying the night. She fed the reverse story to her parents, while Alex did the same. Michael was glad for once that he didn't have real parents to worry about.

The three teens sat like zombies in Michael's living room, watching TV blindly as they munched on pizza that might as well have been cardboard. Their thoughts were consumed with the internal struggle going on in the next room, one they knew they were powerless to affect. The eerie silence between them was broken about four hours later by the sound of a guttural moaning coming from the bedroom. The hair on Michael's neck stood up straight as he turned his head toward the source of the sound. The door was lying open about halfway and he watched now as Alex tentatively approached it, swinging it fully open.

The sight of the tortured girl crouched on the bed stole the very breath from his mouth. Maria was sitting on her heels, her hands pressed into the bedspread in front of her. Her eyes were flashing with a wild array of lights as her untamed hair billowed around her. She actually growled as Alex approached the bed, shrieking loudly as she vaulted herself off of the bed and onto his body. He stumbled backwards, falling to the floor as she pounced on him.

"Where is it?" she growled. "I know you have it, Irving. Give it to me."

"Irving?" Liz questioned.

"She's hallucinating," Michael explained curtly.

Alex wasn't harmed, and he was frightened more by the look in her eyes than the physical violence she inflicted on him. He remained absolutely still as Liz and Michael approached her from either side, moving with deliberate movements so as not to alarm her.

"Maria," Liz said quietly.

Maria panted heavily as she jerked her head back and forth between the two approaching predators. Her actions were animalistic, carnal and Liz was actually terrified that she might do something to harm one of them. She was contemplating what power she could use on the girl to deflect her attention from Alex when Michael snapped his fingers loudly.

"Hey," he called.

Maria snapped her head in his direction, snarling at him as she did. Liz looked up to see that Michael was standing by his desk with Maria's cigarettes in his hand. He held them out to her now, "Is this what you want?"

Maria raised herself up from the crouched position she was in and walked slowly over to Michael. He thought he had actually fooled her into thinking that he had her weed before she reached up and slapped the package from his hands.

"What do you think I'm stupid?" she screamed. "F⊕%king nicotine! You think God damned nicotine is what I need?

Maria took a step back from Michael, raising her hand out towards his chest. Liz had just helped Alex to his feet and the two of them looked up just in time to see Maria's actions. Liz screamed "No," as her and Alex raised their hands in the same fashion.

Maria sent a bolt of energy surging into Michael's chest. The force picked him up and flung him through the air, crashing him into the opposite wall. At the same moment, Liz and Alex trained all of their focus on Maria and sent an equally powerful blast in her direction. The strength of their energy wasn't nearly as powerful as hers but it was enough to knock the wind out of her and she slumped to the floor, gasping for her next breath.

Liz walked towards her as Alex checked on Michael. Neither of them expected the voices they heard from behind them, "What the hell was that?"

Both of them turned to see two very surprised faces staring at them from the doorway. The only thought that went through Liz's head was that now eight people knew.

~~~~~

Liz pressed a cold cloth to Isabel's head. "I think she'll be alright," she said.

"Just heal her," Alex instructed.

"I think we've had enough alien happenings here for one night," Michael objected quietly.

The five of them, Michael, Liz, Alex, Max, and Isabel, were sitting in Michael's living room. Well actually Isabel was lying on the couch where Max and Michael had placed her after she fainted. Max and Isabel had stopped by Michael's to see where he was since they hadn't heard from him since Sunday morning. When no one answered the door they had just walked in – right into the middle of the alien showdown.

That had been twenty minutes ago and Max was now sitting quietly on the couch, trying to comprehend the information that Alex had just told him.

"So, you're like an alien?" he said.

"Yes," Alex sighed. It was the fifth such question Max had asked in the past 10 minutes.

"And like, you're from a different planet, right?"

"Uh-huh."

"So, like you're an alien."

"Give the man a prize," Alex deadpanned. He turned to Michael, "Is he slow or something?"

Michael cracked a small smile at the comment but shook his head at Alex disapprovingly. "Put yourself in our shoes, man. Not only do you drop this on us, but then you throw in a freaked out crazy alien-girl and things get a little strange."

"Hey man," Alex said, holding up his hands as if to defend himself. "No one asked you to get involved with Maria."

"Actually someone did," Michael replied.

"Who?"

"Maria."

Alex stopped his nasty retort and nodded at the taller boy. "You're alright, Michael," he said quietly.

Isabel was just waking up and looked around frantically for Max as soon as she did. Alex moved to sit by Liz as the two of them prepared to explain their story once again. Michael listened to the beginning of it and turned to walk into the bedroom.

After Liz and Alex had hit her, Maria had lain on the floor for a moment, breathless. In that instant, the chaos of Max and Isabel seeing them had erupted and there was no time to worry if Maria was going to try and attack someone else. Michael had lit a cigarette for her, pocketing the lighter himself, before handing it to her. All the while Alex was explaining things to Max, Michael had watched her closely from the bedroom doorway, concerned that she would try and harm herself again.

Now, he approached her slowly. She had crawled over to the bed and was leaning against it. He copied her actions, curling his legs beneath him as he crouched down beside her. He stared at her quietly for a minute, noting with an ache in his chest that he was looking clearly at Maria now, all traces of Alli had finally left her face. While that was the goal they had been hoping to attain, he could only imagine how painful it had to be for her to have no defences against the reality of what she had become.

He saw a slow tear roll down her cheek and reached out to brush it away. She raised her eyes to look at him and the sadness revealed there overwhelmed him. He froze in position as she raised her own hand to press against his chest.

"I hurt you," she mumbled.

"No," Michael said, shaking his head. "I'm okay, really." In actuality he felt like his chest was collapsing in on itself and knew that she had most likely broken one or several of his ribs.

"I feel pain," she murmured, her hand still resting on his body. "I can heal it."

"No," Michael said suddenly, jerking his body away from her. The instant look of disappointment on her face told him how she had interpreted his reaction. He hurried to reassure her, "No, sweetie. I'm not afraid of what will happen. The handprint is kind of a nice reminder." He smiled at her as he absently rubbed his side where the handprint lay. "I want you to save your strength. Heal yourself."

"I can't," she moaned.

"Maybe not with powers, but you can do it. I know you can."

"Too… hard."

"Come here," Michael said, moving forward to pull her into his arms. "I know it's hard, okay? But look at what you've accomplished so far. You lived on the streets, you fought back against Johnny, you even sent Alli packing. Now there's gonna be some pain, but it's nothing you can't handle. Trust me."

Michael pushed her quivering body away from him to stare into her eyes. "And if you find that you can't, I'll be right here to hold you."

Tears were already forming behind her eyes and her best efforts to keep them hidden were futile. She leaned into his body again, his soothing words acting like a balm to her injured spirit. She knew that Alli was gone, the defences she had worked so hard to erect, suddenly destroyed. She was ready to go back to being Maria Deluca but wasn't sure if she knew which road to take to get there. Hopefully, with Michael's help, she'd get herself pointed in the right direction again. Hopefully.
posted on 21-Aug-2002 11:55:17 AM by shelbecat
See - the problem is that I don't know where to go with this now. If anyone wants to leave me suggestions I'd be more than happy to take them into consideration. I went and sort of figured out an ending that I like so now I've got to make the move from here to there - OH NO!!!

Sherry
posted on 23-Aug-2002 12:14:50 PM by shelbecat
Well huge thanks to Kari for reading what I wrote and convincing me that this next part wasn't weak - now we'll see what you all think. And Brandy, I'll still be waiting to talk to you about what comes next!

Part 23

The next morning Liz convinced Alex that she could handle the Maria-watch on her own and made him go home to get ready for school. Convincing Michael to leave took a bit more effort.

"Michael, I'm serious. I can handle this," she pleaded. "Besides, you miss too much school anyway."

"How do you know how much school I miss?" he retorted.

"Because I'm a geek, it's my job to know."

Michael snarled at her weak argument but picked up his books anyway. As he headed for the door he paused and turned to her once again. "You know, if anything happens…"

"I'll have you paged. I know, now get!" Liz saw that he was still unsure about leaving Maria in her weakened state and tried a different tactic. "Listen, Maria and I have always been close. We talked about anything and everything. Lately she's been… removed. Today will give us a chance to get some of that back. I think it'll help her."

Michael nodded, completely understanding how important friendship was in overcoming something as deep as Maria found herself in. He still left his apartment grumbling, more because of having to go to school at all than having to leave Maria. He knew she was in capable hands with Liz but he still dreaded the hours that had to pass between now and the time when he could hold her in his arms again.

"Whoa man," he said as he got on his bike. "Where the f-uck did that come from?" he wondered aloud as he drove away towards the high school.

~~~~~

Michael pulled into the school parking lot next to Alex's car. Alex was just locking the doors and turned around when he heard the bike pull up.

"Hey," he said, nodded in Michael's direction.

Michael was just removing his helmet when Max and Isabel approached the two boys.

"Hey," Max called.

"Hi Alex," Isabel said softly.

The Evans siblings looked as if they hadn't slept a wink last night. Michael recognized the shell-shocked look in their eyes and wondered how it could have been only 48 hours since he found out himself.

"Hey man, you look like shit," Michael said.

"Thanks," Max scowled.

"So, are you guys…" Alex started.

"We're fine," Isabel interjected, assuring Alex with her words, even if her eyes said otherwise.

"Sure?" he asked, unconvinced.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I'll admit, I was a bit freaked, but after a few sleepless hours, Max talked some sense into me."

"Maxwell?" Michael asked.

"Oh, I just realized that you guys aren't really that different from us, and you just have a secret that you're trying to protect. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, just a special thing."

"Yeah, like a gift," Isabel added.

"Well I never really thought of it as a gift I guess, but…" Alex responded slowly.

"It is," Isabel assured him, moving to walk beside him as they moved toward the school.

Max and Michael started following behind. Michael snickered and cast a humour-filled look in Max's direction. "A special thing?" he repeated. "Too funny Maxwell, too funny."

~~~~~

Liz carried a tray carefully into Michael's bedroom. Maria stirred at the sound of someone entering and opened her eyes sleepily. She was exhausted, completely wiped. She felt as though she had been awake for days and only just squeezed in a moment of rest. Her limbs felt heavy and throbbed with the sudden flow of blood as she moved into a sitting position.

"Hey," she said to Liz, smiling through the stiffness at her friend.

"Hey yourself," Liz responded. She set down the tray and handed Maria one of the steaming mugs of coffee sitting there.

"Java?" she asked. "Extra honey and Tabasco brewed right in."

Maria face broke into a wide grin at Liz's description of her favourite beverage and she reached gingerly outwards to grasp the cup. She held it tightly and took a sip, allowing the heat to seep into her hands, relaxing the tendons there as the warm liquid coursed into her body and worked its magic.

She watched Liz gather her own cup of coffee in her hands and take a seat on the chair by the side of the bed. She motioned with her head for Liz to join her on the bed, and moved over to make room. Liz shuffled in beside her and the two girls lost themselves in their coffee mugs for a minute before Maria spoke softly, "I'm really sorry."

"What?" Liz looked up, surprised at the words.

Maria focused intently on her hands, "I'm sorry, for all the shit. The past few days, weeks…"

"Maria," Liz said sternly. "Don't apologize. You were sick, you needed some help."

"Ahh, still," Maria moaned. "I must have looked like a freak."

Liz giggled a little, "Actually you did freak us out a bit last night. You should have seen Alex's face when you pounced on him."

"I pounced on Alex?" Maria asked, confused for a moment before the memory came flooding back to her. She started giggling as well, "Oh my God. He must have pissed himself."

Liz giggled louder, "Well…"

Maria joined her, gasping for breath. "Really? Oh God."

Liz was wailing with laughter now, "And then… and then…" she struggled to get out. "He couldn't fix it so I had to!"

"Ooh, gross," Maria groaned, holding her coffee away from her body, and her stomach with her other hand as she struggled to regain her breath. "Oh, stop, stop!"

Liz slowly calmed herself enough to take another sip of her coffee. Aside from her own laughter boosting her spirits, it felt great to see Maria smiling again. Maria's smile stuck on her face as she tried to recall additional events of last night. A few moments later her smile rapidly faded.

"Oh no, did I do something to Michael last night? Like, throw him?" She winced when she said it, already sure of what Liz's response was going to be.

"Um, yeah, but he's okay," Liz hurriedly said. "I think you might have broken a few rids, he was pretty sore, but I healed him."

"You did?"

"Yeah," Liz smiled. "Do you remember offering to do it?"

Maria shook her head. Liz continued, "Well you did, but he wouldn't have you waste your energy on him." Liz let a silence settle over them for a minute before asking, "You really care about him don't you?"

Maria blushed, unable to hide anything from the girl she secretly called a sister. "I don't know," she started. "It's like we have this intense relationship. If you can even call it that, I mean I've only known him for like a week, but I've already slept in his bed!"

Liz had to laugh at that one. "True," she said.

Maria smiled, "I do care about him. And he seems to care about me, I'm not sure." The smile faded out again as she pondered that thought.

"Oh he does," Liz interjected.

"Really? Did he say something?"

"Yeah, last night, Alex was telling him that he didn't have to stick around if he didn't want to, like no one asked him to get involved with you, and Michael said, 'Yes they did. Maria did.'"

Maria couldn't stop the grin that spread across her face. "I didn't though."

"I know sweetie, not with words, but you did ask him, just by letting him help you. It's obvious that he cares about you. I could see it the first time I met him at the Crashdown. I'd keep him around if I were you."

"Well, I'll see," the happiness faded from Maria's voice quickly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Maria shrugged, "I don't know. I just don't think he's going to want to have anything to do with a recovering addict."

"Maria, he told is, he's a recovering addict himself."

"Well yeah, but still, I mean, why would he want to go through that again?"

"Well, maybe he wouldn't, but he is. You should have seen him yesterday. He was a rock. Never fading, he told me and Alex exactly what to do."

"Maybe," she mumbled, draining the last of the coffee from her mug. She crawled down to the foot of the bed and stood up. Wordlessly, she walked into the bathroom, and turned the shower on. Liz sighed as she got up herself to clear away the coffee mugs. She hadn't really expected Maria to be miraculously cured this morning but when she was laughing and joking a few minutes ago, it had given her renewed hope that the old Maria was coming back.

Now, she was putting herself down and clamming up again. "Great," Liz muttered as she dumped the coffee mugs on the counter and waved her hand to clean them. She began stalking around Michael's apartment, grumbling under her breath and waving her arms erratically, pointing them at every ounce of dirt she saw. Everything her hands touched was tidied, straightened, or cleaned. As she vented her frustration at being powerless to help Maria, Michael's apartment was slowly transformed from a high school student's garbage dump, into a state of cleanliness resembling the finest show room.

When Liz had finally calmed herself enough to sit quietly without scrubbing any additional surfaces, Maria exited the washroom. She looked up and audibly gasped at the sight before her. Working from the same ripped clothes she wore yesterday, Maria had created a pair of jagged-edged capri's from her jeans that just brushed the tops of her heavy black boots. Her top was completely shredded into something resembling a bra, exposing a new tattoo, surrounding her navel. Another tattoo circled her bicep, one Liz wasn't certain about but prayed was self-inflicted as well. From that distance she couldn’t be sure, but would have sworn it was a little chain of skull and crossbones symbols. Maria's hair was platinum blond with jet black streaks dividing it into dramatic sections. She wore it straight with two small sections from the sides pulled behind her head and tied into a knot at the nape of her neck. Her outfit was accented by severe black makeup surrounding her eyes, creating dark circles in an otherwise pale face.

Maria heard the sound leave Liz's mouth and looked up at her. "What?" she snapped.

"Uh… um… nothing," Liz stammered.

"What, did you think I was going to come out all flowery?"

"I… no… well I…"

Maria actually softened her features at Liz's obvious distress and took a couple of steps closer to her. "Look, I'm going to try and be better, but I can't just change everything overnight. Besides, I kind of like this look. It fits somehow."

"But you look like…"

"Alli?"

Liz nodded silently.

"Well, Alli is a part of me," Maria explained. At the sight of the panicked look crossing Liz's features she quickly continued. "What I mean is that I pulled her from somewhere inside of me. She didn't just come out of nowhere. Maybe I need to strike a balance."

"Do you still want to… you know, smoke up?"

Maria's face twisted into a grimace, "Worse than I want to breathe," she growled, turning to walk into Michael's bedroom.

The panicked look on Liz's face only deepened, and when Maria returned moments later, she was standing up with her hand on the phone. She looked up as Maria entered the room saying, "But I won't."

Liz pulled her hand away from the phone before Maria caught her being so weak. She silently chastised herself for assuming that just because Maria hadn't returned to her old self fully, she was still going to pursue dangerous habits.

Maria took a seat on the couch next to Liz, pulling a cigarette from her pack and lighting it. Leaning back she took a long drag. Liz wrinkled her nose as the acrid smoke wafted over her. She didn't like the smoking either but if it kept Maria away from weed than so be it. She stole a glance out of the corner of her eye at the girl sitting next to her. She might still look like Alli, but her eyes revealed the truth of the situation. From behind the dark makeup and violent clothes, lay the real Maria. She was back, Liz knew it. Now she just had to be patient and supportive during the recovery.
posted on 27-Aug-2002 1:59:31 PM by shelbecat
Hey new fan!!! Love it!

Here's some more for ya!

COF

Part 24

Since Michael's apartment was seriously lacking in the food department, Maria and Liz walked over to the Deluca home around noon. Liz watched in amazement as Maria filled her empty stomach with long overdue nourishment. Half a pizza disappeared into the small girl's mouth before her body rebelled and she sat, stuffed on the couch.

They were still lounging there hours later, absently watching the continuing saga of Bo, Hope, and Billie on Days of Our Lives, when a sudden pounding on the door startled Maria into a standing position.

"What the…" she mumbled as she moved towards the front door. She opened it to see Michael's retreating back hurrying down the front steps and across to the front of the house. At the same moment, Liz turned around on the couch to peer out through the window. Just as she popped her head over the sofa edge she saw a face looking back at her, hands cupped over the eyes that peeped through the glass. At the sight of each other, both of them yelped and fell backwards – Liz off of the couch onto the floor, and Michael backwards onto the lawn.

Maria moved out onto the front doorstep to watch a startled Michael jump back from the glass, landing on his ass with his heavy boots uprooting the Deluca flower garden. "Doing a little gardening, Mikey?" she called teasingly from her perch.

Michael looked up to see her standing there and scrambled to his feet. He bounded up the steps, grasping both of her forearms in his hands, "Where were you? Are you all right? You weren't supposed to leave," he gushed.

Maria twisted out of his grip to walk back into the house, "Jeez, relax will you? Don't worry Dad," she drawled. Pointing to Liz she continued, "Mom here was watching me all day."

Michael was panting, he tried to explain himself to an obviously peeved Maria. "I just… I went to my place and you weren't there, and I just… I thought…"

"You thought I was off making friends with Irving again?" Maria finished for him. When Michael nodded, she spat, "Well thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Maria," he started, taking a step towards her.

"Forget it," she mumbled, grabbing her cigarettes from the coffee table and stalking off to her room.

Michael's eyes followed her retreating path, noting for the first time that she looked like Alli again today. He sighed loudly, running his hands through his hair as he turned to look at Liz. "She been like that all day?"

"No," Liz answered truthfully. "She was pretty good."

"Oh," Michael nodded, a sad look crossing his face. "So it's me then," his mouth twisted into a grimace as he pounded a fist into the palm of his other hand forcefully.

"Oh, no," Liz hurried. "No, I'm sure she's just… she's just tired. It's hard you know."

"I know," Michael said, meeting Liz's eyes full on. "I know," he repeated softly.

Liz winced at his words. Of course he knew, all too well. She stood up to walk over to him. Touching his arm lightly she forced his eyes to her face, "Look, she's having a hard time, but she seems good – determined. I think she just reacted to your panic. I'm sure she'll be fine."

Liz turned away from him and gathered her coat and purse. "I'm gonna go, okay? Give her a few minutes and then go talk to her. I think she missed you today," she said, smiling at the blush that began creeping across Michael's cheeks. As Liz moved towards the door she said over her shoulder, "Make her coffee with honey and Tabasco, she loves it."

"Okay," Michael called, repeating to himself, "Coffee with honey and… what?" he exclaimed. "I will never get used to this," he muttered as he searched the unfamiliar Deluca kitchen for the coffee supplies.

Twenty minutes later he was knocking softly on the one closed door that he assumed was Maria's room. "Not now Liz," a muffled voice called.

"It's not Liz," he called back.

There was no response for a minute and then he heard a click as the door was unlocked. He pushed it open slowly, balancing two cups of steaming coffee in one hand. He entered the dimly lit room, realizing that he had never been in here before. Of course you haven't, his mental voice chided. You've only known her for a week.

But it feels like a lifetime, the voice continued. And it was right. It did feel like he had known her for a lifetime. Like he could anticipate her moves and emotions before he was even aware of it. An instinctual knowledge that she was going to react a certain way to something. He had known it driving over here from his empty apartment, he realized suddenly. He had known that if he acted out at her when, if, he found her, that she would take offence, yet he had gone ahead and done it anyway.

"Stupid," he muttered.

She turned her head quickly to look at him. His skin paled visibly and he was grateful for the dark surroundings to hide his embarrassment. "Uh… nothing. I was just talking to myself," he mumbled.

"Ah," she nodded. "Do that often then… Mikey?"

His brow furrowed at her comment but he let it pass. She was trying to irritate him, and doing an effective job, but he deserved to be in the doghouse, and he resolved to take whatever she had to throw at him.

Well… to a point. "Coffee?" he asked, offering a mug to her. She eyed it cautiously, wanting to refuse it partly for spite and partly because she knew regular coffee would taste like crap.

At her hesitation he explained, "With honey and Tabasco. Liz said…"

She was unable to hide the small grin that settled on her face as she eagerly accepted the mug. She took a sip, still wary that it wouldn't be any good and then placed her hand over her mouth as her grin spread fully.

"Good?" he asked, smiling at her efforts to hide her joy. He took a seat at her desk, drinking his own coffee, no honey and Tabasco for him, just cream.

"S'ok," she grumbled. She reached over to her cigarettes, lighting one and taking a long drag, followed by a hungry sip of coffee. Michael watched her, appreciating the satisfied feeling that the vices gave her. He had never smoked himself, even through all the weed he had inhaled. Hank once told him that his parents had died of lung cancer and it was enough to turn a six-year-old from smoking for good. Now, he knew that Hank had probably made it up, as he tended to do whenever he wanted to "teach little Mikey a lesson", but the impression stuck and he avoided nicotine.

'Mikey', he recalled painfully. The name that Hank had called him in anger and Maria now used so nonchalantly. He hated it. Hated the sound if it, the memories it brought, the thoughts of wanting to kill the bearer of the words. He wanted to explain all of that to her but felt that now wasn't the right time. She was delicate, fragile, balanced on a fine line between regaining her health and spiralling out of control forever.

He broke out of his daze to watch her thoughtfully. She was flipping through songs on a CD just by pointing her hand at the stereo. An Avril Lavigne song poured from the speakers and Maria tapped her foot absently to the tune.

I wake up in the morning
Put on my face
The one that's gonna get me
Through another day
Doesn't really matter
How I feel inside
Cause life is like a game sometimes

But then you came around me
The walls just disappeared


Michael listened to the lyrics, watching her sing along quietly. Suddenly she snapped her head up and waved her hand at the stereo. The music stopped, the resulting quiet deafening in its suddenness. He watched her face, his eyes, now adjusted to the dark, able to read the frantic look displayed in her eyes as she shakily reached for her coffee again. Putting it to her lips, she raised her gaze over the edge of the mug to peer across the room at him. He made a mental note of the last few lyrics he had heard, 'But then you came around me, the walls just disappeared'. 'Is that supposed to be revealing?' he wondered. He'd have to remember to ask Isabel if she knew what the song was later.

"Didn't like?" he asked, teasingly.

"I just don't feel like music anymore," she shrugged.

Michael nodded his head, pretending to understand, all the while chalking it up to another mystery of Maria Deluca. He took the last mouthful of his coffee, laying the mug on her desk slowly. "Look, about before," he started.

"Forget it," she interrupted.

"No," he pushed. "I was wrong. I shouldn't have assumed, it's just…"

"It's just that you thought I was gone back to Irving. It's fine really, I get it."

"God damn it, Maria," he swore. She looked up at him, surprise registered on her face. "Will you stop putting words in my mouth? I was worried about you."

"I know, you said that," she spat back at him, standing up and moving towards the door.

Michael was on his feet and across the room before she reached it. He stepped in front of her, blocking her exit. He gripped her forearms in his hands and shook her body violently. "Listen to me," he growled. "I know what you are going through. I know what it feels like to want weed more than oxygen. What it feels like when you could scratch your skin right off your body if you don't get it. When your head feels like it's going to explode and you pray that it will to end the agony. I know," he paused to shake her again. His eyes were blazing and she stared at him, actually fearful of his outburst. "I know," he seethed, his voice fading. "God damn it," he whispered, removing his hands from her arms, "I know."

The duo stared at each other for a long moment, Michael's veins were pumping with adrenaline and he felt victorious in his recent conquest. He stared at her face, waiting for the comeback that he was sure she was preparing.

As Maria listened to Michael's assault she felt her blood boil with anger, the harsh words stinging like acid on her wounds. Right in the middle, right when he said 'I know', her anger dissolved into shame; an overwhelming flood of guilt at dragging him into her life last week, and basically forcing him along for the ride. She knew he was willing to travel the path with her, but she could have pushed him away days ago and he would have been free of it. The painful memories that her experience brought him were made clear to her and she desperately wanted to turn the tables and make him feel better for a change.

She stared at his face, watching closely as his confidence faded and he pulled his lip between his teeth in nervousness. As it slipped out slowly, she was transfixed by the moisture glistening on its surface, quickly evaporating in the coolness of the room. She licked her own lips slowly, salivating for a taste of him. She leaned in slowly to meet his face in the tension-filled space between them. Her lips brushed softly across his and she pulled away for a brief second before he sought her out again and she submitted.

Michael pulled her body closer to his, pressing the small of her back with his hand to eliminate the distance separating them. Maria sucked at his mouth, first on the top lip and then the bottom. Her tongue danced against her teeth and her lips parted slightly, ready for him to enter. When she felt his own mouth open she slowly snaked her tongue toward him, enjoying the rough feel of his against her lips before he accepted her invitation, exploring her depths savagely.

They were quickly losing themselves in each other, consumed by the embrace when a voice broke the silence, "Maria!"

Maria pulled back from him suddenly, "Shit, that's my Mom" she said under her breath.

Michael was still reaching for her lips with his own and opened his eyes now, surprised to see her already striding across the room.

"She will not be cool with you in my room," she explained, opening her bedroom window. "You mind?"

He smiled at her, shaking his head, "Sure," he agreed, walking across the room. When he reached her he paused, leaning over her to whisper in her ear, "Can I see you later?"

"Mmm," she whispered, cringing as his breath tickled her ear. "I've got homework," she murmured, angling her head to allow him to place small kisses along her neck.

"I do homework," he mumbled.

"Your place, 7:00," she instructed.

He pulled back from her to gaze into her eyes, wishing that it was 6:59 at that very moment. "So, I should go then."

"Yeah."

"Out the window."

"Yeah."

"Until seven."

"Yeah."

Michael crushed his mouth to hers again, stopping before the instinct not to took over completely and moved past her to slide through the opening. He turned once outside to lean back in where she met him with another lengthy kiss.

"Maria!" the voice called again, closer this time.

"Go," she whispered, pushing him away as she slammed the window shut. She turned around to collapse against the wall, her only coherent thought that this was better than any artificial high.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 28-Aug-2002 1:30:10 PM ]
posted on 28-Aug-2002 1:15:56 PM by shelbecat
I have the next part all ready so I figure I'll just go ahead and post, and anyone that was slow gettign here will have two to read!!!

Part 25

When Michael left Maria's house he drove straight to the Evan's. Letting himself into the kitchen without knocking, he hardly registered a glance from Max.

"Hey Michael," Max mumbled, his mouth full of a blueberry muffin.

"Maxwell," he responded, grabbing a muffin off the freshly baked pile sitting on the counter. Sometimes he yearned for this, a mother who made cookies and cleaned house, while the perfect little kids were off at school earning an education. 'Nah,' he thought. It might suck not to have a mother or father figure in his life, but the benefits of being on your own far outweighed warm muffins. At least, that's what he kept telling himself.

Shaking his head to clear it from the disturbing thoughts, he asked, "Can I use the computer?"

"Sure," Max responded. He got up to lead the way to his bedroom where the computer resided. Isabel had never been much for surfing the net while Max was a closet computer game geek. "What do you want it for?"

"Just looking something up," Michael responded, opening a browser and entering 'But then you came around me, the walls just disappeared'. He punched ENTER and tapped his fingers idly on the desk as the search engine returned a link to an Avril Lavigne fan site. He quickly located what he was looking for and hit print.

Shoving the paper into his pocket, he stood up, "Later Maxwell."

"Where are you going?" Max asked, surprised that Michael didn't want to kill more time just hanging out.

"I got a date," he said, grinning as he walked out of Max's bedroom.

Max stared after his best friend with a shocked look on his face. Could Michael actually be falling for Maria? Was it possible that he cared about something other than his motorbike?

"Wow," Max muttered under his breath, taking a seat at the vacated computer. He looked at the screen and burst out laughing. "Avril Lavigne?" he spit out. "She really is having an effect on him," he mused, closing out the window and starting another game of Mine Sweeper. Maybe this time he'd beat his high score.

~~~~~

Michael watched TV absent-mindedly, tapping his foot edgily on the carpet as the clock hands crept towards 7:00. At 6:55 he was up and pacing to his kitchen. He grabbed a drink from the fridge, gulping half of it down before setting it aside. His hands made a mess of his hair as he distractedly peered out the front window before making the return trip to the couch. By 7:00 he had made the round trip another two times and was just getting to his feet again when he heard a knock on the door. He bounded across the room, stopping just at the door to take a couple of deep breaths. He ran his hands through his hair again in a pathetic attempt to tame the damage he had done earlier.

A final breath and Michael pulled open the door to reveal the object of his desire. She stepped inside, wordlessly laying her books aside to stare up into his eyes. She felt herself falling forward, into the glistening brown pools that stared back at her, and she reached out her hands to stop herself against his chest. "Like chocolate," she whispered, almost inaudibly.

"What?" he murmured back.

"Nothing," she replied, licking her lips ever so slowly as she fantasized about the taste of him that would soon sit there. Unable to control herself for one moment longer she quickly reached up to wrap her arms around his neck. Without asking, she vaulted herself upwards, Michael catching her in his arms. Her lips fell upon his as they turned around in the doorway. He pushed her up against the wall, regaining his hold on her body as her kisses rained down frantically.

He stepped backwards, assuring his footing before walking slowly to the couch across the room. Reaching it he kneeled on the soft cushions, Maria's hold on his neck the only thing preventing her from sliding off. He lowered her body gently, detaching her arms from his neck with his hand. He hovered over her panting figure, supporting himself with one arm as he gazed down at the angel before him.

But then you came around me
The walls just disappeared
Nothing to surround me
And keep me from my fears
I'm unprotected
See how I've opened up
Oh, you've made me trust


He looked into her open eyes, recognizing the significance of the song she had been so quick to shut off earlier. She was changing before his very eyes, opening herself up to him, slowly granted, but still opening. He knew he had to be careful with her. He felt like he had her trust but had to be careful to keep it.

Because I've never felt like this before
I'm naked
Around you
Does it show?
You see right through me
And I can't hide
I'm naked
Around you
And it feels so right


As she stared up into Michael's eyes, Maria thought about how vulnerable she was at that very moment, and yet felt a surprising lack of her usual fear. Somehow she knew he was different, the past few days he had shown her over and over again that he would be there for her. That he was 'in' this, no matter what happened.

I'm trying to remember
Why I was afraid
To be myself and let the
Covers fall away
I guess I never had someone like you
To help me, to help me fit
In my skin


He breathed in heavily. She was looking at him with such desperation, a hunger burning in her eyes that he knew only he could satiate. He submitted to her pleas, slowly falling onto her until they were once again locked in a prison of passion.

The homework lay on the floor, forgotten.

~~~~~

Without discussing it, Michael waited for Maria on her street corner the following morning, walking beside her on their way to school. The process repeated itself that afternoon, only this time he didn't leave her at the corner, rather walked her to her house where they squeezed in a quick make-out session before her shift started at the Crashdown.

He followed her there as well, eating something for supper before heading home to kill a few hours. At closing he was back, walking her home where he stood outside her window until she begged off Amy's questions about her day and joined him. They kissed through the window until fatigue overtook them and they finally had to whisper goodnight. The next day they followed the same routine, and the day after that, and the day after that, settling into a life that could only be described as going steady.

When Max said that very thing to Michael he scoffed at first, "Yeah, whatever."

"What?" Max asked, not surprised that Michael hadn't recognized a steady relationship for what it was.

"We're just… friends," he replied.

"Yeah, sure," Max said sarcastically. "Did she say 'I love you' yet?"

"What? No," Michael exclaimed, twisting his mouth into a grimace. Behind his façade he repeated the words he had been struggling to work up the courage to say to her for a week now; the elusive 'I love you', so simple, yet so difficult.

Michael pulled at his eyebrow. "No," he repeated.

Max laughed at the expression on his friend's face. It looked like a cross between seasickness and stage fright. "Michael, you wouldn't recognize going steady if it came up and hit you in the face."

Max walked away from his friend who looked after him thoughtfully. "Not true, Maxwell," Michael said softly, "Not true."

~~~~~

A few Saturdays later, Maria was lounging on Michael's couch, absently changing the channels with her mind. She was wearing a long black skirt over her customary boots. She had previously refused to take them off in his apartment unless he cleaned the floors, and had to finally submit to doing it herself with her powers. As a reward, he still let her wear them around the house, anything to avoid having to clean up himself.

She was wearing a skin-tight, short sleeve, white top, the only "colour" she had allowed re-entry into her wardrobe. Her hair was blonde and whip-straight, a look she had finally settled on keeping for a while. Her make-up was still composed of thick, black eyeliner, mascara, and dark lipstick, but she allowed some natural colour to grace her cheeks, instead of white-washing it away. A tight black collar encircled her neck, complimented by another on her bicep.

She absently kicked her feet against the couch as she impatiently waited for Michael to finish showering. They were going out for lunch, a substitute for a Saturday night date, since she had to work at four.

"Hey Mikey, do I need to light a fire under you or something?" she called.

At that very moment, Michael exited the bathroom, rubbing his hair roughly with a towel. He turned to toss it back onto the bathroom floor and she smiled approvingly at the sight of his rippling abs. "What did you say?" he asked.

"I said," she started slowly, standing up to walk across the room to him. "Hey Mikey," she enunciated. "Do I need to…"

"Could you not call me that?"

She stopped in mid-sentence, surprise registering on her face. She smiled teasingly, "What? Mikey?"

"Yes, stop it, please," he said firmly, turning from her to walk into his bedroom.

She followed him, a puzzled expression now encompassing her features. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing," he said, exasperated. "I just hate that name okay."

Something told Maria that she should just drop it but she ignored the voice of reason and pushed onward blindly. "Why? I've been calling you that for weeks."

Michael turned around rapidly and snapped at her, "I know. And I've told you a thousand times to quit it, but you just won't. Now can we just drop it?"

"What's your problem?" she snapped back.

"Nothing, it's… it's my crap."

"Your crap?" she questioned.

"Yes," he said bitterly. "My crap. You're not the only one with shit to deal with you know."

"Whoa," Maria replied, holding her hands up in front of her body in self-defence. She turned on her heel and stalked back to the living room, scalded by the hot words he had thrown at her.

Michael closed his eyes for a minute, taking deep breaths to calm his racing emotions. He shouldn't have snapped at her. She didn't know, and she was fragile. 'Screw that,' his brain screamed. He had asked her to stop, repeatedly. She was being… she was being… Michael sighed audibly, she was being Maria, he realized. Teasing, pushing, two of the very things he had fallen in love with her for.

He walked into the living room, ready to apologize for his cruel words. He saw her sitting on the couch, a lit cigarette in her hand. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

"Save it," she spat.

"Maria," he pleaded, walking over to where she sat.

"No," she said, standing up to move away from him.

"Let me explain."

"Why should I? You think I don't know that you got shit going on? Do you?" she was shouting now. "Cause I do Michael. I'm not quite that cruel," she finished. Laughing bitterly, she added, "Close, but not quite."

"Ria," he said quietly, using the nickname that she loved to hear him say. "I never said you were cruel."

"Yes you did."

"All right, maybe I did, but I didn't mean it," he paused, looking down at his hands for a long minute.

Maria stood by the window, sucking painfully on her cigarette, increasing the ash hanging off the end of it until it threatened to fall to the carpet.

"My foster…" Michael stopped, grimaced, and then, "Hank, used to call me that. Mikey."

"Wha…" she moaned softly.

Michael laughed roughly, "For years that name meant pain, heartache." He turned to look at where she was standing. His voice cracked as he said, "I can't stand to hear it coming from your lips."

A tear slowly rolled from his eye but he seemed unaware of it as he shakily watched his salvation approaching. Maria extinguished her cigarette in her hand and picked up his hand gently. She pulled him to the couch, pushing him down to straddle his legs, facing him. She leaned into his tear-streaked face and, with feather-light kisses, traced the descending rivets.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered against his cheek.

"You didn't know," he mumbled, his face contentedly buried in her hair.

"No, but I didn't listen. You were right, I was only thinking of myself."

"I don't think that."

"But it's true," she insisted. "Ever since…" she paused, struggling to find the right words to say without blatantly asking for his pity once again. "I'm just trying to hold on, you know? I can't even think about the next hour, the next minute, without fearing that I'll lose it completely. And that's not an excuse, but I was just being blind to what you were feeling. And I'm sorry."

Maria finished, tears beginning to drip down her own face now. Michael reached up softly to brush them aside. "You don't have to worry about me," he said.

"Yes I do," she moaned. "I love you."

A deafening quiet descending upon them and the two destined lovers stared into each other's eyes for an endless moment. Finally, his shaking voice started, faltered, and then succeeded in confessing, "I… I love you too."

All tears forgotten, they embraced once again, the recent disagreement fleeing their memories.
posted on 30-Aug-2002 2:51:03 PM by shelbecat
Hey there,

Part 26 is here and Part 27 (the last one) is all ready to go. Hope you like the ending!!!

Sherry

Part 26

On the one month anniversary of their first meeting, Maria called Michael and told him to get dressed, "Wear something nice!" she commanded, and drove over to his house to pick him up.

When he answered the door he was freshly showered and wearing the only "nice" clothes he owned, a pair of dark khaki's and a blue shirt. Isabel had forced him to buy the outfit for his job interview at MetaChem last year, and it had lain in the back of his closet ever since.

Maria's eyes travelled over his appearance approvingly. She rather liked his constant wardrobe of black jeans and the two extremes of tight T-Shirts and loose fitting button-ups, but this was nice. He looked… adult.

He was not only pleased by her appearance, but somewhat shocked. She was wearing all black, as she still tended to do, but the characteristic long skirt or jeans had been replaced with a straight, knee-length black skirt. The ever-present black boots had been exchanged for knee-length, slim-fitting boots that added three inches to her tiny frame. She topped the outfit with an off the shoulder, three-quarter sleeve cream sweater. He hair was still blonde and straight, but fell haphazardly against her shoulders rather than straight down her back as it usually did these days. Her make-up was reduced to thin black eyeliner and mascara. Lipstick too, of course, but a much lighter shade of burgundy, far from the vampish deep purple he was accustomed to.

"Whoa," he murmured.

"You like?" she asked nervously.

Michael raised his gaze to meet hers, unbelieving of the beauty that stared back at him. She was a butterfly, emerging from her cocoon after months of hiding. His very breath was stolen as he struggled not to overreact, scare her off.

"You don't like?" she said slowly.

"No," he yelped. She giggled nervously, still staring at him as if on display. "I… I…" he stammered. "I love it," he managed finally.

"Really?" she squealed, throwing herself into his arms.

He laughed and hugged her to him, pulling back just a little to kiss her. "You are so beautiful," he whispered in her hair.

Maria smiled at his confession. She hadn't felt very beautiful lately, her entire being felt soiled from her experiences and even the best days with Michael couldn't wash away the dirt and grime left on her soul by her encounters with Johnny and everything he represented. Tonight was a turning point. A month was a long time to date someone, the longest relationship she had ever held, and in that month she had slowly grown from depending on Michael to appreciating him. She knew how much he had risked for her, how much of his own happiness he had sacrificed to take this journey with her. She wanted to repay him somehow, give him a gift. She wanted to give him Maria Deluca, not the Alli-tainted version, but the real, true girl that she had grown up with. And she was determined to do it, by peeling away one painful layer of Alli at a time, she was going to reveal herself to him.

She had never been more petrified in her entire life.

~~~~~

She took him to 'Il Fornello', the finest Italian restaurant in Roswell. He balked when he looked at the menu, not just because of the prices, but because she had made it explicitly clear that she was paying those prices this evening.

"Ria," he whispered harshly. "This is just wrong. Let me pay." When she shook her head firmly, he pleaded, "At least go double."

"No," she whispered back across the table. "You always pay, I want to. Besides you can buy the supplies for later."

"Supplies?" he questioned.

"You'll see," she said, silencing him with a serious glare. A smile played on her lips, erasing all effectiveness of the look, but he nodded anyway, still hating having a girl take him out but knowing she wouldn't budge once she set her mind to something.

Maria hurried him through the courses, at first gently suggesting that he finish his appetizer quickly so they could get their entrees, then telling him that chicken parmiagian wasn't any good cold, so hurry up. Finally, he looked up, exasperated when she suggested that his gelato would melt if he didn't pick up the pace and responded, "What do you want me to do, inhale? Hand me a straw and I'll see what I can do."

She opened her mouth in shock, more at not knowing how to respond than at his actual words, and then burst out laughing. "Sorry," she giggled.

"What's up?" he asked, smiling as he took a small spoonful of his dessert and licked it slowly.

"Just hurry," she whispered. "I… I've just got a surprise."

He raised his eyebrows at her expectantly. Hoping to hear more, but seeing that she had no intentions of telling him anything. "Fine," he sulked.

"Trust me, if you knew what if was you would have skipped the entire meal, okay?"

Michael eyed her suspiciously, then decided that whatever the surprise was it was obviously worth it, and scooped the remainder of his ice cream into his mouth. "Let's go," he said, standing up to reach for her hand.

"Michael, I've got to get the bill," she squealed.

"We'll pay at the bar," he commanded, pulling her behind him. He walked three steps and then stopped, his hand pressing against his forehead.

"What's wrong?" she laughed.

"Ice cream headache," he moaned.

"Come on," she giggled, moving in front of him to pull him behind her. She paid the bill and led him to the car. She tossed him the keys as they approached, preferring not to drive, and confident that she could entrust him with her mother's prized Jetta.

He pulled out of the parking lot, heading towards his apartment. "Turn here," she commanded suddenly.

Michael looked up at the sign proclaiming 'Marie's Mini Mart' and stopped in front. "What's in here?"

"You'll see," she teased, getting out of the car. "Come on," she called, pulling open the door to enter the store.

He followed her inside, watching with bewilderment as she proceeded to pull a tub of ice cream from the freezer, followed by a can of whipped cream, and bottle of chocolate sauce. "Sundaes," she explained, laying the items on the counter.

"We just ate ice cream."

"Yeah, but I want this kind."

"Weirdo," he muttered, pulling out his wallet to pay for the surprise.

"Wait," she said suddenly, racing back to grab a bottle of cherries from the shelf. "Finishing touch," she announced, adding the item to his pile.

Michael shook his head, scowling at her odd purchase, all the while beaming inside. He loved it when she was spontaneous, fun, he could forget that there was anything bothering her at all and just enjoy her enjoying life. He took the bag from the cashier and followed her back to the car. They drove the rest of the way to his apartment in silence, content just to enjoy the end of their date.

"You know, you won't really have time for another sundae," he said, as they parked and walked inside. "Your Mom will expect you home in 20 minutes."

"No she won't, she's in Reno."

Michael's eyes bulged out of his sockets and he swallowed roughly to wet his suddenly dry mouth as the gravity of her words sunk in. "So, you can stay a bit later?" he asked hopefully.

"Yeah," she giggled. "A bit. Put that on the counter, I'll be right back." She walked into the bathroom, concealing a small overnight bag that she had stashed in the car by her side. She stared at herself in the mirror for a long minute before beginning to change. She had planned tonight down to the smallest detail. She was ready to give Michael the real Maria Deluca; the only question was whether he was ready to receive her.

She changed her clothes and opened the bathroom door. Candles that she had strategically placed around his apartment over the last few days, suddenly burst into flame just as the lights dimmed. The TV he was watching switched off and a preselected CD started playing on the stereo. The transformation was nerve wracking and Michael sat up suddenly on the couch, exclaiming, "Wha…"

Maria stepped out into the dim room. It took a minute for him to realize that she was standing there and when he turned, the sight of her sent him falling back into the cushions. She was standing in the bathroom doorway, her frame silhouetted by faint candlelight from behind. She was wearing a red satin tank-style lingerie top, paired with matching, short, red satin shorts. Her hair was different than he had ever seen it. It hung loose around her shoulders in soft curls, creating a halo around her head as the light filtered through it. 'She's an angel,' was the only coherent thought in his brain.

He stood and approached her slowly. As he neared he could see that her black makeup was absent, the only addition to her complexion a faint red lipstick. She looked up at him, her body exuding confidence while fear trembled in her eyes. He couldn't speak, his mouth opening a little, then closing, before falling open again.

She couldn't stand his silence. Her nerves took over and she turned away from him, reaching her hands back to sweep them along her hair, transforming it back to straight. "You hate it," she said, reaching to close the bathroom door that divided them.

"No, I…" he started, putting out his hand to hold the door. He stopped her from closing it, staring at her unbelievably. "You have never looked more beautiful," he said softly.

Her face welled up and tears threatened to spill over from her eyes. He stepped to her, pulling her against his chest gently. "Don't cry," he whispered, smoothing his hand along her back.

She tilted her head back from his chest, the tears still evident but not at risk of falling. "You are the greatest boyfriend ever, you know that?"

"I know," he smirked back at her.

"Come here," she said, moving past him to point him to the bedroom. "I want to show you something."

"What?"

"Me."

Maria pushed him ahead of her into the bedroom, lagging behind just long enough to retrieve the sundae supplies from the kitchen. When she had said she wanted one, she didn't tell him that she had to intention on actually eating it. She approached him now, teasing, "Why do you still have so much clothes on?"

He smiled sheepishly at her as he slowly pulled at his shirt. "No, me do," she pouted, laying the ice cream aside to unbutton it herself. Michael let his hands fall to his sides, staring at the red-clad stranger in front of him. He supposed she wasn't really a stranger, this side of her was always in there, but he had never really thought about what it would be like to meet her.

He liked it but…"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked. She had just stripped his shirt from his body and was now peppering his chest with kisses.

"Mmm-hmm," she murmured.

"Ria," he said softly, the emotions she was stirring in him quickly fading his resolve. "Ria," he repeated, pushing her gently away from his body. "We don't have to DO this," he offered.

"I know," she whispered. Smiling at him, she continued, "But I want to. I want to be with you. This is right, Michael. I know it."

Who was he to argue with such logic? He allowed himself to be led to the bed where she removed his pants to reveal a pair of tight Jockey shorts covering his manhood. She gazed at the underwear excitedly, "I was hoping it'd be those."

He laughed at her admission. "I aim to please," he said as he lay back on the bed.

Maria approached him, laying the bag with her sundae supplies beside him on the bed. She crawled on top, straddling him with her legs. "Let's see," she mused, removing the tub of vanilla ice cream from the bag. Opening it, she stared at it for a moment before pouting, "Oh no, I forgot a spoon." Raising her eyebrows at him seductively she continued, "Guess I'll just have to improvise." She scooped up a little ice cream on her finger, running it slowly along her tongue. "Mmm, want some?"

Michael nodded and Maria scooped more onto her finger, this time bringing to his hungry lips. She allowed him to suck gently on her finger before returning to the tub once more. She scooped a large dollop with two fingers and placed it directly on his abdomen. He jerked at the sudden coldness, twisting his body to escape her clutches.

"Cold?" she asked.

"Uh, kind of."

"Hmm," she said, staring at his chest thoughtfully. "Maybe this will help." She picked up the bottle of chocolate sauce and held it in her hands for a minute. When she squeezed it onto him he squirmed again, this time squealing, "Ah, hot."

"Baby," she teased. Whipped cream followed the chocolate, topped by a cherry. She sat back on her heals to admire her work. "Well, I'd say you look just about good enough to eat, Mr. Guerin."

Michael smiled at her, watching with anticipation as she leaned down, pulling her hair aside, to lap at the creation she had made. Her soft tongue made contact with the hot and cold patches of skin she had caused and sent his nerves screaming. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stand to be 'played' with. He was just about ready to do some playing himself.

She licked away most of the sundae, vanishing the messy remains with a wave of her hand. "You wanna try?"

Without warning he reached up to grab her shoulders, flipping her body over until he towered over her, staring menacingly down at his girlfriend. "All right Deluca, prepare to suffer."

She squealed in excitement as he made his own sundae on her stomach, a much smaller one she noticed. "I really want to get to the next course," he offered as an explanation.

At that she quieted, waving her hand over her own belly to remove the ice cream. She looked up at the surprise in his eyes, "Me too," she whispered huskily.

Michael fell on top of her, cradling her in his arms as they rolled on the bed. He bit feverishly at her lips, aching for access. She allowed him, eagerly exploring his mouth with her own. He paused to stare into her eyes as he slowly lifted the hem of her top. She nodded, wordlessly giving him permission, and lay still as he lifted it over her head. He lovingly fondled her, painting a trail of kisses along her breast as she kneaded his shoulders with her fingers.

The two lovers found something special that night. More than just a new side of each other, they found themselves. Or rather, the reflection of themselves in their partner. It was glorious, revealing, and uplifting. Maria felt like she was back in her own skin again, with a new addition - she now had aspects of Michael intertwined with her. She kind of liked it.
posted on 3-Sep-2002 11:32:15 AM by shelbecat
Author's Note: Well this is the last part of Consequence of Feeling – a fic that has been almost 3 ½ months in the making – that's the longest ever for me! I started it because I had a leftover scene from You Can Take My Breath Away and really wanted to use it (see Part 9 for the scene). I'm forever thankful to Gimpy for her input into the fic – at times she became my Maria and without that I think the story would have died about 2 months ago. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did – I'm planning a sequel so stay tuned!

Part 27

The next morning Maria woke slowly, her brain fumbling to make sense of the smells and sounds it received. She opened her eyes groggily, peering through tired slits to see an unfamiliar room. She opened them wider, looking around frantically for a moment before she realized where she was and flopped back into the pillow contentedly.

Memories of the previous night came happily flooding back to her and she smiled uncontrollably. She gathered the top sheet, lying in a crumpled mess on the bed, around her naked figure. She grinned as she remembered the antics that had ripped it from its position last night. Satisfied that her 'toga' was in place, she padded to the kitchen, following her nose as it sought out the smell of coffee.

"Morning," she mumbled, taking in the sight of a very scantily clad Michael hopping from one foot to the other in front of the stove.

"Hey," he replied. "You know, bacon really splatters," he laughed.

"Come here," she instructed, waving him closer to place her hand on the hot specks of grease burning his chest. A small light emanated from her palm and the pain disappeared. He smiled at her lovingly, lifting her hand to place a kiss on her magical fingers.

"You know I hate it when you do that," he said teasingly.

"Well you should just stop getting hurt then," she threw back at him.

"Whatever," he sighed. "Coffee?"

"Um, I don't think so."

"What?" he asked, his mouth falling open.

"What do you think?" she replied at the look on his face. "Give it here," she commanded.

"I should have known," he mumbled, shaking his head at her as he turned back to his cooking. A minute later and the bacon was done, complimenting the eggs and toast he already had warming in the oven. They ate silently, each just content to enjoy the company of the other.

"So, Liz called," Michael finally offered.

Maria looked up, coffee in hand, waiting expectantly for him to finish. "She said she'd figured you'd be here," he smiled.

"She knows me too well," Maria agreed.

Michael smiled in return. "Anyway, she said her and Alex wanted to take Max and Isabel out to the Granolith chamber today. They wanted us to come."

Maria fingered her mug thoughtfully, "I didn't figure Liz for moving that quickly."

"Well they've known for a month."

"I know, it's just, she freaked so much when I wanted to tell you."

"You sort of had to tell me, there's a difference. Besides, I was so cool with it, why wouldn't you just tell everyone?"

Michael had to hurriedly apologize as a dark look that crossed her face. "No, I didn't mean that, Ria. You know I'd never tell."

"I know," she said softly. "It's just sometimes I wish we could tell. I mean, even our parents don't know. It's just hard, you know?"

"I know. Well, I guess I don't, but I get what it's like to have a secret that you can't tell. At least you have Liz and Alex… and me?" he finished, a hopeful note in his voice.

She couldn't help but smile, even if it was slightly sad. "I know. Thank you," she whispered.

"Anytime," he responded, kicking himself mentally for ever bringing the subject up. "Now go get showered, they'll be here in 30 minutes."

"What? You could have told me!"

"I just did!"

"Grrr," she growled at him as she leaned in to kiss him lightly before making her way to the shower.

Michael stared at her retreating back. He felt like he had just won the lottery.

~~~~~

When Max's jeep pulled into Michael's driveway he sung out, "Ria, come on, they're here."

"Coming," she replied as she exited the bathroom.

He looked up at her and once more she took his breath away with her appearance. She was wearing a short black sundress with a rainbow of coloured flecks running through it. A light purple sweater, picking up on a matching colour in the dress, kept her warm from the early fall air. Her hair once again fell around her shoulders in tousled curls. No makeup save for a light lip-gloss graced her face. A small pair of hoop earrings and a thin chain completed the outfit.

He walked towards her slowly, "So is this what I can expect every day now?"

"If you like it."

"Are you kidding?" he teased.

She smiled at him, sobering her expression slightly, "You know, I might still wear some of my old clothes sometimes. I actually liked a lot of it."

"Hey, no objections here. That's the girl I fell in love with remember."

Maria grinned until she felt like her face would break as she followed him out of the apartment. When Liz, sitting in the front seat of the jeep, saw her coming, she jumped up and squealed.

"Maria, oh my God!"

Maria laughed as Liz ran up and embraced her. "Easy girl," she giggled.

"Oh my God," she gushed. "Michael what did you do to her?"

Michael looked down at the small girl by his side. Smiling, he admitted, "Nothing, she did it all herself."

"Well, whatever happened, you look great."

"Thank you," Maria said, smiling as Liz turned to walk towards the jeep. "And thank you," she whispered at Michael.

"For what?" he asked, pulling her back from Liz to hold her in his arms.

She stopped for a second, tilting her head at him thoughtfully. "You know, there's this saying. 'You can never feel the arms that hold you, but you always know that they're there.'" She looked up into his eyes as she dropped her voice. "Thanks for holding me."

Michael was speechless. Her thank you had been so sincere that he felt like even acknowledging it with mere words would destroy it. He leaned in and kissed her full on the lips. He broke free, smiling as he heard Isabel call to them from Alex's car, "Get a room!"

Maria released herself from his grasp and turned to look at her friends. Suddenly the thought of spending the whole day with them was unbearable. She wanted nothing more than to get back here tonight and crawl into bed with her boyfriend. She reached out to playfully grab Michael's ass as she ran to the jeep. "Come on Guerin, let's get this show on the road!"

Michael laughed and followed her to the jeep. The six of them drove out into the desert, a smiling Maria clutching the hand of the boy she loved, the wind whipping her hair around her face. She had never felt happier.

The End.